§ 3.32 pm.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
I beg to move,That this House, recognising that the hydrogen bomb with its immense range and power as disclosed by recent experiments constitutes a grave threat to civilisation and that any recourse to war may lead to its use, would welcome an immediate initiative by Her Majesty's Government to bring about a meeting between the Prime Minister and the heads of the Administrations of the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for the purpose of considering anew the problem of the reduction and control of armaments and of devising positive policies and means for removing from all the peoples of the world the fear which now oppresses them and for the strengthening of collective peace through the United Nations Organisation.I move this Motion in no party spirit; I seek no party advantage; nor do I offer any criticism of this or any other Government. I move it without any feeling or expression of feeling of panic—because we do not panic in this country—but because I believe there is need for a calm and realistic appreciation of the position of the world today, and often a realistic approach means that urgent action is necessary.
We believe that civilisation today is in grave danger. The immediate cause for this debate is the explosion of a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific. There are matters that might be raised on that—the question of the freedom of the seas, the question of the continuation of the experiments and the question of consultation—but I want, in the time which I shall keep the House, to deal with what I consider to be the main issue before us.
In our view, we face today a new situation in the history of the world. I do not think we have any need to go into any detailed scientific matters; indeed, I have no qualifications for that. I think the broad fact is that scientists working under the direction of Governments have evolved a weapon which is capable of destroying the great cities of the world, or, if not of destroying them, at least of putting them out of action. It has been stated that the bomb that was discharged would put out of action the metropolitan area of New York City; that is a very great extent. It is capable, too, of being increased in size. It could devastate the area of London, and it could, equally, 37 devastate Moscow, Paris, Sydney or any other of the great cities of the world.
Besides this, it is quite clear that the area of danger in the explosion of these bombs is very great. The fate of the Japanese fishermen is a proof of that. We are all sorry that these innocent fishermen should have suffered, but they will not have suffered in vain if they have brought home to people the great extent of the danger. In fact, it would appear that whole regions can be made unsafe for human beings, animals and perhaps also for vegetation.
It appears that this new instrument of destruction can be made far greater even than the bomb that was exploded the other day, and it can be made in quantity. We do not know how far these effects may spread. Further, the means of delivery of these weapons by aeroplane or by rocket are constantly being improved. The range is being extended, the height at which aeroplanes can fly is being extended, and the means of defence lag behind.
We know that the United States of America has this weapon; we believe that the U.S.S.R. has this weapon, and in a few years it may be that many other States will have this weapon. I would recall to the House the speed of this development. It is less than nine years since the explosion at Hiroshima. When I was in office, the hydrogen bomb was considered to be something in the remote future, but now it has come, and there seems to be a constant acceleration and constant anticipation of the time at which we imagine that these developments will take place. We do not know what other developments may be in store for us.
Our modern civilisation expresses itself particularly in the great cities—the cities of a million or of two, three or more million inhabitants. They offer targets of immense vulnerability. We have very great industrial cities, and they are today exposed to destruction by a single blow. The White Paper on Defence envisaged atomic warfare, and thereafter a broken-backed warfare. It may be that warfare between States armed with the hydrogen bomb will be succeeded by a broken-backed civilisation.
We have reached a culminating point in the development of warfare. At one time, war was waged between armed forces, and the suffering of the civilian 38 population was generally incidental. Sometimes there were dellberate ravages and blockades, but broadly speaking the attack was directed by one lot of armed forces against another. That would be true going back to the period of what one might call civilised warfare, the wars, for example, of the Prime Minister's great ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough. We have travelled a long way since then. Attack on the civilian population has now become primary.
Consider the changes in our lifetime. I can remember the South African War. We can trace the changes up through other wars, first the Great War and then the Second Great War. All the time the restrictions on warfare have been steadily evaded. About 40 years ago, the kind of action that was taken in the last war would have been thought absolutely abhorrent to civilisation, yet it is less than 40 years since the Zeppelins were over London. See what a long way we have travelled since then.
Let us consider the effect of this invention. Does it make war more, or less, likely? The question merits very close examination. It is contended that the existence of this weapon will itself prevent war. I recall the Prime Minister pointing out often in the years since the ending of the war that the existence of the atom bomb in the hands of the United States was a deterrent, preventing the U.S.S.R., with its great superiority in numbers and conventional weapons, from sweeping right over Europe in a major act of aggression. I thought he was right then. But as soon as the U.S.S.R. got their atom bomb the force of that deterrent was lessened. There was the certainty of retaliation, and. what is more, the possibility of anticipation. The whole position has changed.
We see the same sequence in the production of the hydrogen bomb. There are those who contend that the possession of the hydrogen bomb can be an instrument for preserving peace. It is suggested that the threat of instant retaliation by the use of this weapon can be employed to prevent a resort to armed action anywhere. This idea can be detected in the speeches of some statesmen in the United States of America.
This is a profound delusion. The more absolute the sanction the greater the reluctance to use it. Undoubtedly, in 39 the 19th Century, the existence of the highly flexible instrument, the British Navy, did much to preserve peace, but no very serious results would have followed from its use. Suppose an act of aggression took place now in some part of the world, say on the Burmese border by China. Can one imagine the immediate use of the hydrogen bomb against the capital city of another country? It would amount to a bluff. The danger of a bluff is that it may be called. Therefore, although we may have this sanction, I do not think that it will by itself prevent wars. Indeed, there is a danger that people may chance making war in the belief that the weapon will not be used. The threat of its use is very dangerous because it may provoke anticipation.
I cannot think of any democratic statesman initiating this warfare. One must always remember the difference between democracies and authoritarian States. The advantage of unexpected, immediate action is always with authoritarian States. The attack on the American Fleet by the Japanese is one example. We could not imagine a similar unnotified attack by the United States of America against the Japanese Fleet.
Another suggestion is that hydrogen warfare is so devastating that neither side will ever resort to it. Well, I should like to believe it. The fact is that once there is war, absolute war, in the modern age, and if the existence of a nation is at stake, any weapon will be used in the last resort. We have seen it. I have said that we have been compelled to use weapons that we would not have thought of using 40 years ago. Who can doubt after reading "Hitler's Last Days" that even at the very end of that war, if Hitler had had an atom bomb, he would have used it, even if there had been retaliation? He was completely reckless and anarchistic. He would rather have seen destruction. That is shown by his self-destruction. He would have rather seen absolute destruction if he had failed to get his end.
The danger here is that in the use of this weapon there is obviously immense advantage for the side that gets its blow in first. It would be a terrible decision for any leader to take to launch this weapon. I recall, as many of us can. 40 the fateful days of 1914, when peace and war hung in the balance. Eventually, there was mobilisation on both sides, and the fact that mobilisation had started prevented any settlement, for each side was afraid of the other side getting ahead. If that was so with ground forces, it would be doubly so in the case of the hydrogen bomb. That is why we say in our Motion:any recourse to war may lead to its use.Great wars often spring out of small wars.
A further thought to be borne in mind in imagining that the existence of the hydrogen bomb makes for safety is that it predicates sanity on the part of those who have to control it. In the history of the Roman Empire there were quite a number of lunatic emperors. We have only recently seen a great nation, Germany, put all its resources into the hands of a paranoiac. There is no guarantee that in this country at some time there might not rise to power a fanatic who hated the human race and believed that all civilisation might be destroyed. That wise statesman Mr. Acheson said the other day, when answering the contention that the United States of America could not afford another Korean war, that they could not afford a war of a different kind from the Korean war. We say that the world today cannot afford to have any war, for a small war may grow to be a great war. What is to be done? I see that the Western Powers are seeking to activate the Disarmament Committee of the United Nations. I welcome that, and we all wish it every success, but I have not a very great deal of faith in the banning of particular weapons, for the reasons I have already stated.
The hydrogen bomb is, I agree, a thing almost of itself, but then there is atomic energy in its various forms. The banning of one weapon exalts another, and so on down the scale, each time with perhaps a different balance of advantage to different States. Even when we come right down to the primitive weapons of our ancestors, there is still the question of numbers.
Therefore, we are asking for high-level talks between the Prime Minister, Mr. Eisenhower and Mr. Malenkov to discuss not just the question of the hydrogen 41 bomb and of disarmament, but to discuss the problem that faces the world in the existence of the hydrogen bomb.
Why do we ask this? What prospect is there of anything emerging? I believe that the minds of people all over the world are disturbed at this hydrogen bomb explosion. I am sure that is true of the United States of America. It is true of this country, and I sense from toe recent note by Mr. Molotov that that is also felt in the U.S.S.R. I think that it is a worldwide fear and that it will grow, and I believe that it should be encouraged to grow. I want every man and woman in the world to be acutely aware of the danger in which they stand, the danger that confronts civilisation.
I suppose that most of us in our time have read of the great civilisations of the past, and reading with a knowledge of the event we say, "What fools these people were not to realise what was happening."—those little Greek Republics all quarrelling despite the warnings of Demosthenes and with Philip of Macedon ready to overwhelm them; the rival emperors struggling for power in a Roman Empire with the Barbarians ready to break in and usher in those centuries which we call the Dark Ages.
Great civilisations have been destroyed, sometimes from internal weaknesses, sometimes from external attacks. The Roman Empire came down through the forces of the uncivilised world. The destructive force today is something which we have ourselves made, and it is operating in a one-world civilisation more closely linked than ever before. Would not a visitor from another planet say just the same of us, "What fools to keep quarrelling in face of this danger"? Russia is engaged in building up her social system and an economy which we do not like, very different from our own. It is not our way of life, but it is their concern. I am sure that Mr. Malenkov and the rulers of Russia do not want to see their experiment blasted with hydrogen bombs. After all, they have gone a considerable way in developing it. They have large well-to-do classes interested in its survival, and I am sure that the view of the ordinary citizens of Russia, and, I think, of the leaders of Russia, is a feeling of the fear of what may happen.
42 We in the West have our way of life, our different economies, and we do not wish to see them destroyed. But the threat that we meet hangs over democracies and autocracies—Communist countries, Socialist countries, semi-Socialist countries, capitalist countries—and unless there is some change I believe that the danger of its happening is very real.
The forces of destruction will keep piling up. We cannot stop these things. It may be that the knowledge of how to make these weapons may get more and more extended. Incidents leading to war continue; the burden of armaments presses on the nations and causes impatience.
The only way open to us seems to be to make a new approach to world problems with the consciousness of this great danger. After all, all other problems are really dwarfed by this. But I do not think it can be done just by discussing weapons. One must discuss causes. Inevitably there must be compromise. But I think that there must be a real effort to effect some understanding, to live and to let live.
In our Motion, we reaffirm our faith in the principles of the United Nations Charter. The time has come to make the United Nations organisation a reality. I want to see us return to the high hopes that were entertained at San Francisco and to get the nations united in a determination to substitute peaceful means for the arbitrament of war.
We have asked for a meeting of the three statesmen without in any way suggesting that other nations are not interested—great nations like France, Canada and others—but we feel that any extension, suggesting one here and one there, would lead to counter-propositions and possibly to unending wrangling.
We are asking for the first step. We have a great responsibility, for our scientists played a leading part in this fateful discovery. America—and we believe Russia—have the bomb, and we ask this as a first step for a new initiative, a lead to the world. We want these three men of great experience—there is no one of greater experience in these matters than our Prime Minister—to have a frank discussion of the whole problem. No one exceeds the Prime Minister in his appreciation of history. He will recognise, I 43 think, that we are standing at a vital moment in the history of the world.
We used the word "immediate" not to suggest that we can get this meeting in two days or three days, but to stress the point that this thing is urgent. I do not believe that time is on the side of the survival of civilisation. I believe that every month increases the danger. Great civilisations have gone down in ruin before. No doubt the people of those days thought, "Well, the worst will not happen. There is plenty of time. It will last our time."
We believe that now is the time. Common people all over the world are aware of their danger. We believe that such a meeting, backed by the conscious desire of all men and women to be relieved of this fear, may make the turning point in world history. It is not too late. We ask the House to support this Motion. More than once Britain's courage and British initiative have saved Europe. British initiative may well save world civilisation.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Sir Winston Churchill)
We are, I think, all agreed in admiring the thoughtful and inspiring speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and we are agreed with almost everything that he said. My difficulty is that I do not feel that he has bridged the gulf between the awe-inspiring facts which he mentioned and the practical method of solving them by the Motion—moderate, and certainly well-intentioned—which he has placed upon the Paper.
There is a gap between the evils and perils which we can all see, which have often been stated, and not only stated this afternoon, and the practical steps which can, in the circumstances, be taken. It will be my duty this afternoon to inflict upon the House, instead of very agreeable sentiments, a number of unpleasant facts which lie around us and about us and with which we have to deal. I hope that I may have the indulgence of the House, because the questions are full of complications, and I only wish that they could be solved by eloquent and passionate appeals.
Nevertheless, I cannot feel that this is a day of tribulation. We are all naturally concerned with the prodigious experiments which are being carried out in 44 the Pacific, but I do not think that there will be any difference between us that we would rather have them carried out there than in Siberia. We might, I think, reflect for one moment, at the beginning of this debate, on how we should feel in this House this afternoon if it were the Soviet Government instead of the United States Government which were carrying out this test series of hydrogen explosions and were circulating to the world films and photographs of what they look like. Indeed, before we come to anything else, let us all thank God for sparing us that. It would, indeed, be a dark day if the Soviet Government were able to confront the free world with this sort of demonstration and to tell us what they would like us to do about it, and about quite a lot of other things as well.
I in no way detract from the sombre picture which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has painted, but our present position is certainly not as bad as it would be if circumstances were altered as I have suggested. In fact, I believe that what has happened, what is happening, and what is to happen in the near future in the Pacific Ocean increases the chances of world peace far more than the chances of world war. I also believe that we have time—though not too much time— to survey the problems which now confront us and the whole world and to talk them over in their new proportions, not only in public discussion but intimately and privately with our American friends and allies. That, of course, is what we shall do and what we have been doing.
When saying this, I must also repeat what I said last week—that I shall not ask the United States Government to stop their series of experiments, which will go on throughout April. After full consultation with our technical experts, I can repeat the assurance which I gave,that there is no foundation for the suggestion that these explosions are 'incalculable,' in the sense that those making the tests are unable to set limits…"—even if not exact limits—to the explosive power of the bomb, or to calculate in advance what the main effects will be."—(OFFICIAL REPORT. 30th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 1846.]The biological aspect of experiments of this character also requires profound study. Hitherto the physical has been the 45 main subject of discussion. If it were proved, for instance, that a very large number of hydrogen explosions could, in their cumulative effect, be detrimental to the health, or even the life, of the whole human race—without any need for a declaration of war upon itself—the effect would certainly afford a new common interest between all men, rising above military, political or even ideological differences. That aspect, the biological aspect, must certainly receive the constant study of scientists in every country. I am assured by our scientists, I may say, that the remainder of the series of experiments contemplated in the Pacific could not possibly affect appreciably such an issue, as some of these biologists have led us to suppose.
§ The Prime Minister
We must not forget, moreover, that no one has more interest in being right in this particular matter than the people of the United States, who have the greatest need to take all precautions, since the Marshall Islands are much nearer to them than to us, or indeed to most other nations. My own impression is that this biological aspect tends to be greatly exaggerated.
I hope that the House will not expect me to answer all the questions that have been asked, or that have been raised in our minds, by recent events in the atomic or nuclear sphere. Such a task would far exceed the limits of mortal strength and Parliamentary time. I am not a technical authority. I remember Mr. Asquith, as Prime Minister, saying, "I am not a business man, but I have often been called upon to give business men advice when they were in a difficulty."
I certainly cannot claim to be a technical expert. I can only deal selectively with some of the main points which occur to me. Besides, even since this debate was arranged an immense amount of information about the 1st March explosion has been published in the United States. Admiral Strauss, in his masterly speech of Wednesday last, which was reported verbatim in some of our newspapers, gave a tremendous account which everyone can read for themselves. I hope, however, that the public realise that all 46 the photographs which are appearing in the newspapers, and the films which may soon be released, are related not to the explosion of 1st March, 1954, but to that at Eniwetok atoll of 2nd November, 1952.
All the facts about this were, until quite lately, kept secret under the MacMahon Act. The secrecy imposed by the Act, which only Congress can alter, has indeed proved decisive. However, as a result of the action taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in past years, we have made atomic bombs of our own. He has not replied, in contemplation of these difficulties by merely wringing his hands. He took practical, secret and effective action, and we stand, at any rate, on that basis today. Our technical knowledge has long been respected by the United States experts. We have, in fact, by our prolonged study and recent experiments in the atomic sphere, obtained an independent position. Canada has also from the beginning played an important part.
There is, I believe, a widespread desire among American executive authorities and scientists to interchange information with us and with the Canadians. But, in spite of this, the fact remains that the first authoritative disclosure of the results of the explosion at Eniwetok atoll 18 months ago was made by Mr. Sterling Cole, the very able successor to Senator MacMahon, the Chairman of the Joint Congressional Atomic Energy Committee. It was made in his speech at Chicago on 17th February. This was printed and published, though very shortly, by many British newspapers.
Mr. Cole said, for instance, that the thermo-nuclear test of 1952 tore a cavity in the floor of the ocean—a crater measuring a full mile in diameter and 175 feet in depth at its lowest point. Actually, I believe it was much more than 175 feet because the ocean floor was blown up so that it fell back into its place again and the pulverisation must have extended much deeper. Mr. Cole said:…if it occurred in a modem city the heat and blast generated in the 1952 hydrogen test would cause absolute destruction over an area extending three miles in all directions from the point where the hydrogen device exploded.47 Finally, after describing the medium damage,the area of light damage would reach 10 miles from the point of detonation. In other words, an area covering 300 square miles would be blanketed by this hydrogen explosion.Mr. Cole also said that security prevented him from commenting on where the hydrogen weapons armament programme now stands—that is, the American programme—and from outlining the directions in which it is moving.But I can assure youhe said,that it is movingHe added a remarkable comment with which I am in entire accord—namely, thatit is more sinful to conceal the power of the atom than to reveal it.This seemed to show some of the pressures that he was under, and his own courageous reaction to them.
He continued:Russia's capacity to deliver a crippling atomic or hydrogen weapon attack on the United States at present might be debatable; but beyond any question the Russians would be able to do so in one, two, or three years from nowThat, no doubt, is not only or even mainly because of the progress of Russia's science but because of the great distance which separates Russia from the United States—an advantage which we in this island certainly do not share. It is also affected by the character of bomber areoplanes possessed by the different countries.
I was astonished at some of the facts which Mr. Cole disclosed, and still more that his statement did not supersede all other matters of public interest here and in other countries. The fact that it seemed hardly to have been noted was the reason that I used very strong expressions in answering some questions in the House in the latter part of March. I hope, however, we shall not go too far in the opposite direction now, for nothing could be less helpful to us in our problems than panic or hysteria, especially when, as I have said, the actual physical results are of a favourable character to the free world. The House may rest assured that all the new facts that are being brought to our knowledge—and they are pouring in from public statements in all directions—are the subject of continuous study by Ministers and their technical advisers.
48 Speaking more generally, we must realise that the gulf between the conventional high explosive bomb in use at the end of the war with Germany on the one hand, and the atomic bomb as used against Japan on the other, is smaller than the gulf developing between that bomb and the hydrogen bomb. That is now in large-scale production, I believe, in the United States, and also, we believe, to a less degree, and possibly in a less potent form, it is in large-scale production in Soviet Russia. No words which I could use are needed to emphasise the deadly situation in which the whole world lies. These stupendous facts, although at present to our advantage, glare upon the human race. That is why I felt myself so much in agreement with what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said.
With all its horrors, the atomic bomb did not seem unmanageable as an instrument of war, and the fact that the Americans have such an immence preponderance over Russia has given us a passage through eight anxious and troublous years. But the hydrogen bomb carries us into dimensions which have never confronted practical human thought and have been confined to the realms of fancy and imagination. The hydrogen bomb has been talked about in scientific circles almost as long as the atomic bomb, but nothing has emerged of a practical nature until the experiments at the atoll.
Admiral Strauss tells us that the Russians were the first to begin active and large-scale researches and work upon it. The United States conducted its first full-scale experiments at Eniwetok atoll 18 months ago. The first hydrogen explosion in Russia took place on 12th August, 1953, and its pressure waves were recorded and noted by instruments reporting both to the United States and Britain. According to the best intelligence that I have been able to acquire, the Soviets were well behind the United States even before the American explosion on 1st March of this year. But, on the other hand, they are much closer on the heels of the United States in the development of hydrogen bombs than they ever were in atomic bombs. We do not know what the Soviets are doing inside their vast ocean of land, and I shall make no predictions today.
49 It does not, however, follow that the hydrogen bomb is peculiarly favourable to the Soviets. Their enormous expanse of territory, which seemed to limit the atomic bomb to a very large number of military and quasi-military targets, is no longer able to give the same immunity to the far wider effect of the hydrogen bomb and the clouds of radioactive dust and vapour to which it may give rise. To us, in this overcrowded island, and to the densley populated regions of Europe, the new terror brings a certain element of equality in annihilation. Strange as it may seem—and I beg the House not to disdain it—it is to the universality of potential destruction that I feel we may look with hope and even with confidence.
Turning to our relations in these matters with the United States, the United States Government are bound by their laws unless and until Congress alters them. We have no agreement with them which entitles us to claim any form of joint authority. They are acting entirely within their rights as agreed between them and the late Government. I am always ready to bear responsibility where I have power, but if there is no power there can, I think, be no real responsibility. Whether we like it or not, that is the position which we found when we came into office two and a half years ago.
I have no more wish than the right hon. Gentleman to deal with these awesome issues on party lines, and I acknowledge the public spirit which has animated the right hon. Gentleman and his principal colleagues. But that is not the mood of his official party Press or of many of his supporters. Attacks are being made on the Government, and particularly on me, from various quarters, which I ought not to ignore. Let me quote the words used by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) on television last Friday. He said:I am attacking the British Prime Minister, the British Foreign Secretary, and the British Government because of their failure to demand from the Americans full information about this bomb.But this is only one of the attacks made in the Press and on the public platform by Members of the party opposite. I must say that I do not see why blame of this kind should be put upon Her Majesty's Government.
§ The Prime Minister
I have never seen much which the hon. Member was able to rise above. I do not really see why I should be blamed. When, after the Election in 1945, I quitted the office of Prime Minister which I had held during the war, our position was very different. I feel that it will be in the national interest, and can do nothing but good on both sides of the Atlantic, if I now make public for the first time the agreement which I made in 1943 with President Roosevelt, which was signed by both of us at Quebec. President Eisenhower has informed me that he is content that I should do so. The House will find this document in the Vote Office when I sit down. I thought it right to lay the facsimile before the House, but here are the salient facts. I wrote them out myself those many years ago.It is agreed between usFirst, that we will never use this agency against each other.That might even appear to have a jocular aspect, as we were all such close allies, fighting, but it was meant to show that the agreement extended far beyond the limits of the war—Secondly, that we will not use it against third parties without each other's consent.Thirdly, that we will not either of us communicate any information about Tube Alloys"—They were called tube alloys; that was the code name—to third parties except by mutual consent.Fourthly, that in view of the heavy burden of production falling upon the United States as a result of a wise division of war effort, the British Government recognise that any post-war advantages of an industrial or commercial character shall be dealt with as between the United States and Great Britain on terms to be specified by the President of the United States to the Prime Minister of Great Britain. The Prime Minister expressly disclaims any interest in these industrial and commercial aspects beyond what may be considered by the President of the United States to be fair and just and in harmony with the economic welfare of the world.Then followed detailed arrangements to ensure full and effective collaboration between the United States and Britain and Canada, including the setting up of a committee in Washington to consider combined policy. The House will find all this set out in the document.
That was how things stood when the Socialist Government came into office. Any changes that have taken place from that position in the interval are their 51 responsibility or their misfortune, and not mine. Her Majesty's Government are bound by them, nevertheless, and that was the position I had to put before the House last Tuesday. When we think of the importance which attaches to Clause 2 of the original agreement which I have read, namely, "that we will not use it against third parties without each other's consent," and also to the provisions for the constant interchange of information, it seems odd that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who rose and intervened the other day, and who was an important member of the Government which agreed to abandon these all-important provisions and precautions, should not have realised that he shares, also, a direct measure—
§ Mr. Attlee
I do not understand the right hon. Gentleman saying that we abandoned any precautions. We did not abandon any of these agreements; we carried them on with the United States Government. Unfortunately, the Senate passed the MacMahon Act, which prevented them carrying out those agreements.
§ The Prime Minister
I have to say, about the right hon. Gentleman to whom.! alluded, that I hope he will be specially helpful now, in consequence of what happened. I do not say that there were not many reasons and facts operative at the end of the war which were different from those during its course, but considering that the abandonment of our claim to be consulted and informed as an equal was the act of the Socialist Administration—
§ Mr. Attlee
I must ask the Prime Minister on what grounds he says we abandoned any claim. We did not abandon the claim; we made the claim, and I believe that the United States Administration were fully prepared to carry it out. They were prevented by the action of the Senate, which passed the MacMahon Act, which prevented them giving the information. We did not abandon anything.
§ The Prime Minister
They abandoned the agreement, or took action which enabled the agreement to be destroyed. [Interruption] Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite must not show so 52 much uneasiness in the matter. I feel they have no ground for reproaching their successors with the consequences. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I have nothing to withdraw.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
On a point of order. There is doubt about statements that have been made with regard to the facts. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has denied allegations that have been made. Before the Prime Minister proceeds, should he not accept that denial or otherwise?
§ The Prime Minister
I am coming to that aspect a little later, but I will transpose what I have to say to meet the wish of the House. I return to the Quebec Agreement as a whole—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]. Why do not hon. Gentlemen opposite listen? Why do they say "No," especially when they do not know what I am coming to? When I visited the United States two years ago, I showed this document that will soon be in the Vote Office to Senator MacMahon, whom I had known for some time, and who was a man of the highest honour and outstanding patriotism to his own country. [An HON. MEMBER: "So is McCarthy."] He said at once, "If we had seen this agreement there would have been no MacMahon Act."
That was a remark made in a private conversation, and I should not have repeated it here if he had not a few weeks later said in public, on the occasion of our successful atomic experiment in Australia:The achievement of an atomic explosion by Great Britain, when an accomplished fact, will contribute to the keeping of the world peace because it will add to the free world's total deterring power. This event is likely to raise in still sharper focus the problem of atomic co-operation between ourselves and Great Britain. The British contributed heavily to our own war-time atomic project. But, due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, the nature of the agreements which made this contribution possible was not disclosed to me and my colleagues on the Senate Special Atomic Energy Committee at the time we framed the law in 1946. Now we may consider rethinking the entire situation with all the facts in front of us.Alas, he died, and we and his fellow countrymen can mourn his loss.
§ Mr. Attlee
I regret that the Prime Minister made an attack on me in this matter. I never reproached him with any 53 of the terms of the Quebec Agreement with regard to the industrial side of it. The right hon. Gentleman said that we had abandoned it. He now tells me that Senator MacMahon did not know of the Quebec Agreement. Surely, that is not a reproach on me. If it is a reproach on anybody it is on the United States Administration. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that I did not go by myself. I went with Lord Waverley to try to settle these matters. We had an agreement with the Administration, and we were informed they could not carry it out because of the Senatorial action in the MacMahon Act. Surely it was not for me to send the MacMahon Committee or Senator MacMahon this information? If the right hon. Gentleman is making any attack, he is making it on the Truman Administration.
§ The Prime Minister
I did not intend —[HON. MEMBERS: "What? Did not intend what?"] I did not intend—[Interruption.] I have no doubt whatever that before the MacMahon Act was passed he ought to have confronted the people of the United States with the declaration. That is what I believe will be the view of history.
§ The Prime Minister
I did. I made reference to it in a former Parliament. I hesitated to make a public disclosure as a private person, but I did communicate with Mr. Truman on the subject, and he strongly appealed to me not to do so—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—but I frequently urged the right hon. Gentleman to make this agreement public. This matter can be looked into and debated at length, but I am quite certain that if the agreement which I made had been made public, it is very unlikely we should have had facilities withdrawn from us.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
It is important to get this clear. I understood that the right hon. Gentleman had made a private and secret agreement on this matter with President Roosevelt, which was not published. Of course, we were aware of it—those of us who were entitled to know—but at the time it was surely a secret, confidential agreement. Is the right hon. Gentleman 54 suggesting that my right hon. Friend, notwithstanding that, should have published it over the heads of the United States Government? He does not know what action we took with a view to the non-passing of the MacMahon Act, or to its modification later. Is he suggesting that, he having made a secret agreement, my right hon. Friend should have broken faith and published it?
§ The Prime Minister
I am of opinion that the agreement should have been circulated in confidential circles in the first instance to the American Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The war was over, and there was no reason at all why this solemn agreement, signed by President Roosevelt and me, should not have been brought into proper consideration—
§ Mr. Attlee
What possible reason had I to suspect that the United States Government, with a Bill affecting an agreement like this with us, had not informed their own supporters and Senator MacMahon? I did not know. They did not tell me. How could I know?
§ The Prime Minister
I think it would have been an obvious precaution to confront them with that agreement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Resign."] Anyhow, they were not confronted with it—
§ The Prime Minister
I do not see what all this anger is due to if it is not through a feeling of considerable regret that other action was not taken at the time.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
The right hon. Gentleman is dragging us down to the gutter.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman said that I referred to the quid pro quo which was given in the new agreement—namely, giving up the right to commercial and industrial production. It can, of course, be said that in the fourth article of my agreement with President Roosevelt I abandoned all rights to the control of industrial and 55 commercial nuclear power and left them entirely to the President of the United States. He was to act in accordance with what he considered was fair and just and in accordance with the welfare of the world; whereas the Socialist Government regained these rights in return for sacrifices in the share of the control of the military aspects.
I was, however, quite sure when I drafted this passage that it would never be in the interest of the United States to keep a monopoly of commercial atomic energy. The exchange which was made by the late Government lost us all right of control and even of information on the military aspect. As for the commercial, that has now, after 11 years, been offered to the whole world by President Eisenhower's proposals made in the address to U.N.O. of 8th December last.
§ Mr. Attlee
The right hon. Gentleman now says that we abandoned control over the military in exchange for advantages on the industrial side. We never had advantages on the industrial side. There was no bargain of that sort. I think it is a pity in this debate that all the time the right hon. Gentleman is attacking us for not developing atomic energy. I never mentioned the Quebec Agreement and giving away the industrial advantages. I was too loyal.
§ The Prime Minister
As for the commercial, that has now, after 11 years, been offered to the whole world by President Eisenhower's proposals made in the address to U.N.O. on 8th December last.
§ The Prime Minister
In these proposals not only are knowledge and rights in the commercial sphere freely extended, but even what is thought to be an increasing proportion of the nuclear stockpile is to be transferred from war destruction to peace and plenty,
§ Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
No wonder we are in the mess we are in today. Why don't you get out? [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
There is so much noise going on that I cannot hear what 56 the Prime Minister is saying. I ask hon. Members to contain themselves a little.
§ The Prime Minister
I therefore still feel that I was right in the choice which I made on the commercial aspect.
The question which has long confronted us is our relations on this subject with the Government and peoples of the United States. Intimate talks, of course, there have been both with President Truman and President Eisenhower. Private conversation is one thing; formal action is another. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is the same thing with you."] In 1951, when I was a private person, I asked President Truman to agree to the publication of the Quebec Agreement, because I was cross-examining the right hon. Gentleman, then Prime Minister, in the House upon the subject at that time. He appealed to me not to make such a request in public and, being in a private station, I deferred.
President Eisenhower, like his predecessor, is equally bound by the MacMahon Act and the determination evident up to the present, of Congress, to maintain it. British representatives are bound by what happened in the time of the late Government. We have no means but friendly persuasion of inducing the Americans either to desist from their series of experiments, even if we desired them to, or to supply us with secret information about them, and generally in the atomic sphere we have no means of compelling them, if their law forbids it.
The President is seeking from Congress more latitude in the application of the MacMahon Act. I trust that nothing will be said in the House today which will arouse needless antagonism—
§ The Prime Minister
—in Congress or throughout America. Nothing could be more disastrous to peace than a grave dispute—[An HON. MEMBER: "You have started it."]—between Britain and the United States. I have not started it at all. I have obtained sanction to make public the solemn agreement made between President Roosevelt and myself.
§ The Prime Minister
If there is nothing in the point, why is there so much excitement? Now let me say only—
§ The Prime Minister
Yesterday, the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) wrote in one of the Sunday papers:On Monday, when the H bomb will be debated, Sir Winston must tell Mr. Eisenhower and Mr. Dulles that they can either scrap their new H-bomb strategy and join with Britain in the plan for high-level talks or else face the prospect of 'going it alone'.
§ The Prime Minister
If this line of thought were adopted, it seems almost certain that "the agonising re-appraisal" of which Mr. Dulles spoke in another connection would follow. If the United States withdrew from Europe altogether— she might withdraw from Europe altogether—and with her three-quarter circle of hydrogen bases already spread around the globe, she would face Russia alone, as she certainly could.
I cannot doubt that war in these circumstances would be nearer than it is today when the anxiety of the United States, to their abiding honour, is so largely centred upon the safety and freedom of Western Europe and the British Isles.
It is a delusion to suppose that a declaration of our neutrality would make us immune from danger from Russia. The very inferiority of Russia in atomic and hydrogen weapons would make it necessary for them to use to the utmost their enormous preponderance in conventional warfare. A simultaneous counter-attack on Western Europe would be the only form of immediate reprisal and of securing territorial hostages, which the Soviet Government could take, so although we still have the Channel, the British Isles would be laid open to every conceivable form of air attack. These facts should surely be weighed by the House before light-hearted and lightheaded suggestions of challenging the United States "to go it alone" are given the slightest countenance.
58 I can repeat that we have full confidence in the humanity and sense of fair play of the United States and of their desire to maintain the close and friendly relations with us which are the foundation of our alliance and of the security of the free world.
I now come to the Motion on the Order Paper. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."] I do not have to sit down until I choose to or the rules of order require it. We do not dissent in principle from the Motion which the Opposition have placed upon the Paper, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—on having procured agreement to it. We shall not divide against this Motion provided that it is clearly understood that the word "immediate" does not commit us to action at an unsuitable time or lead only to courting a polite deadlock or even providing a refusal.
That indeed would not be a help, but a disastrous hindrance to the hopes and desires which are widespread on both sides of the House, for an easier relation ship between both sides of the world. Nothing would be simpler than for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to propose to the State Department in the United States and to the Soviet Foreign Minister that a meeting of Heads of States and Governments should be held forthwith; and if an unfavourable answer was received from either of them reporting the same to the House with appropriate expressions of regret. We must try for something better than that.
It seems to me moreover that, with the Geneva Conference impending at the end of this month, you could hardly pick a more ill-chosen moment to propose a meeting of the Heads of State and Governments. I had certainly thought that we must see what happens there before attempting to use what is, after all, a very unusual reserve procedure.
It must also be remembered that the position of a President of the United States is intrinsically different from that either of Mr. Malenkov or me. We are only Heads of Governments. The President is the Head of the State, and he may well take a different view of his duties in time of peace to that which his predecessors took of their duties in time of war.
59 When in May last year I suggested a personal and to some extent informal meeting of this character, the situation was different from that which exists today. Stalin had just died, and Malenkov had newly assumed the leadership in Russia. I thought it would be a good thing if friendly, personal relations could be established between leaders and if we could form a clearer view of what was then called the "New Look" I am still in favour of that, but the topic has changed.
A far more precise and definite objective is now before us, and there is also perhaps—I say perhaps— a new vehicle of procedure. The President in his speech to the United Nations after the meeting at Bermuda, when he had shown it to me, though it was entirely on his initiative, had already proposed a new consultative and co-operative machinery, limited, it is true, to the industrial atomic sphere in which all those Powers directly concerned in atomic production, including of course Russia, are to take part. I think that it was a most important event.
It is quite true that the present objective is to develop the industrial possibilities and commercial possibilities of atomic energy and to wean the nations away from the destructive side, even at the expense of the military stockpile. This profoundly conceived American thought, to which the most powerful man in the world has given eloquent expression, seems to offer a chance to the United States, Russia, Britain and the British Commonwealth—I am speaking of the circle of atomic Powers—travelling farther together, perhaps even into the domains of hydrogen warfare.
For instance, if Russia, the British Commonwealth and the United States were gathered round the table talking about the commercial application of atomic energy, and the diversion of some of their uranium stockpile, it would not seem odd if the question of the hydrogen bomb, which might blow all these pretty plans sky-high, cropped up, and what I have hoped for, namely a talk on supreme issues between the Heads of States and Governments concerned, might not have proved so impossible as it has proved hitherto.
When President Eisenhower told me and my right hon. Friend the Foreign 60 Secretary at Bermuda what he was going to say to U.N.O., I at that moment felt the hope that this might lead to the kind of consultations which are now set forth in the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman has spontaneously proposed. But that is only one idea, and other more direct and quicker methods may be found. We shall not weary in the search for them.
Meanwhile, in accordance with the Agreement reached at Berlin, we have thought it right, together with the United States and French Governments, to propose the calling together of the Disarmament Commission of the United Nations, in order that comprehensive solutions of the problem of disarmament may be considered. Her Majesty's Government have been preparing the ground for this initiative for some weeks, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will tell us more about it when he closes the debate tonight.
As we go forward on our difficult road, we shall always be guided by two main aims of policy. One is to lose no opportunity of convincing the Soviet leaders and, if we can reach them, the Russian people, that the democracies of the West have no aggressive designs on them. The other is to ensure that until that purpose has been achieved we have the strength necessary to deter any aggression by them and to ward it off if it should come. We shall continue at the same time to seek by every means open to us an easement in international tension and a sure foundation on which the peoples of the world can live their lives in security and peace. I thank the House for its most considerate attention.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
This House, I believe, has never listened to two opening speeches in a great debate which were in greater contrast than the speech from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, without one word of party rancour, without one word which even sought to take party advantage, rising high above these considerations, and certainly speaking for this nation, and the extraordinary speech to which we have just listened from the Prime Minister.
I certainly do not propose to follow the Prime Minister in the extraordinary 61 charge which he levelled against my right hon. Friend and this side of the House in general. He evidently thought he was casting a bombshell on the Opposition side of the House. If this is a bombshell, the Prime Minister can cast as many of them as he likes. What it amounted to was the charge that my right hon. Friend, during the period of his Premiership, did not intervene in a dispute between the American Executive and the American Legislature over the MacMahon Act.
Just think what the Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, would have said about my right hon. Friend had he attempted to intervene in that way. What charges would he have levelled against my right hon. Friend for attempting to intervene over the heads of the then American Administration in a dispute with the American Senate? Of course, the right hon. Gentleman would have been quite right in such charges. Any more totally disastrous course than to attempt to interfere between the two branches of the American Government, I cannot imagine. That was the only point of any substance whatever—if it was of any substance—which the right hon. Gentleman put forward.
As this debate proceeds, both in this House and in the country, we shall see that it is really taking place between those who do not feel that the great detonations in the Pacific of the last few weeks and those that I suppose, are still to come, have really changed anything very much, and those who believe that they have changed almost everything. The Prime Minister put the former view forward in its extreme form. He seemed to say that of course there had been a hydrogen detonation a year ago, there had been one in Russia, the thing had been building up for a number of years, and really what had happened in the Pacific in March had not made any great difference. If one thinks only in terms— in, curiously enough, purely materialist terms—of the actual explosions, that may well be so; but what has happened is something much bigger than that.
What has happened is that the peoples of the world have, for the first time, realised what it is to live in the world of the hydrogen bomb. It is always that— the subjective factor, the psychological factor, the political factor—which is 62 decisive. It is not the bomb itself which menaces our existence today. That is not what destroys us. It is men's use of the bomb.
After all, the bomb did not make itself. Human beings made it. I cannot help recalling those words of that great British physicist Professor Aston, who adjured us "not to interfere with the angry atoms" We did interfere with them, perhaps inevitably, perhaps even rightly, but now that we have done it, what matters is that the peoples of the world should realise what it means to live in a world where the power of almost ultimate destruction is for the first time in history in human hands.
That realisation matters in terms of practical politics, because things which may have been chimerical, fanciful, Utopian before that realisation may become hard practical politics after it. That is why we believe that on this occasion, by chance, as it were, this particular one in the series of tests, or hydrogen explosions, has been a matter of the very utmost importance. That is why, I take it, my right hon. Friend has put forward—the Opposition as a whole has put forward—this Motion, which calls on the Government to take immediate action. The word "immediate," which the Prime Minister cavilled at, in the Motion seems to me in many ways perhaps the most important part of it.
What do we ask the Government to do? We ask them, first, to take up what, after all, is not our idea. I say this to his honour: It is the Prime Minister's own idea of nearly a year ago, of top level meetings between the heads of States and Governments. We ask the Government to take up that idea from that great speech by the Prime Minister last May, a speech so startlingly in contrast with the words which we have heard from him today.
But we ask the Government to take it up, of course, in the new setting and the new circumstances of today, which are very different to those of a year ago, and to take it up this time with a definite agenda—the agenda suggested in the Motion, which is an agenda of disarmament, the limitation of armaments, and the attempt at understanding. Our Motion was right to put it in the form of the limitation of armaments. It might be 63 easier—perhaps more popular—to talk about banning the bomb. "Banning the Bomb" is an excellent slogan. It is certainly something which we all wish to do, but in my view it does not go far enough.
The trouble with saying that we should ban the bomb, nuclear weapons and what you will, is that it stops halfway. Those are not the only horror weapons in the world today. There is bacteriological warfare, there is nerve gas, and there are those weapons which are quaintly called "conventional" weapons—the tank, the napalm bomb, and the many other weapons which can create horror and devastation. Therefore, surely we have to go back to the older conception, the conception of 20 years ago, of the early 1930's, of attempting a disarmament convention and a scaling down of all weapons. If we do not go to that length, if we attempt to pick out weapons, inevitably we give an advantage to one side or the other. If we ban unconventional weapons, we benefit Russia. If we ban, or limit very strictly, the so-called conventional weapons, we would give an advantage to the West. Therefore, we must surely approach the problem by a general attempt at the limitation of armaments.
No doubt that has failed often in the past; but here is an instance, it seems to me, of something which, because of the vast public reaction to the hydrogen bomb, may have come into the realm of practical politics. But disarmament cannot stand by itself. As my right hon. Friend said, it must be closely linked with the attempt at international understanding.
That brings me to a subject which my right hon. Friend also mentioned: the Russian Note. I was glad that he regarded that Russian Note as a Russian reaction to the hydrogen bomb. That is very likely true—none of us can know for certain. But I put this to the Foreign Secretary. No one supposes that the Russian Note can be accepted as it stands. If we accepted it as it stood its principal effect, as I read it, would be to put General Gruenther in command of the Russian armies! I scarcely think that that is exactly what the Russian Government meant! Although why we should object to it I do not know. I think he would be a very good general in command of a very good army. But 64 I doubt whether that, at any rate, comes into the field of practical politics even now.
The actual terms of the Russian Note are not the most important thing; the important thing is that the Russian Note proposed some new consultations, some new attempt at understanding on the part of the Russian Government. That is natural enough. The Russians themselves could hardly be indifferent to these detonations of the hydrogen bomb. They are human, too, and that is something which we might very well remember. It is true that they have got the bomb themselves, or so we are told, but having the bomb is today not very much of a consolation. It means that in the warfare of the future, as a nation perishes itself it may be able to kill its enemy. That is the extent of the consolation which any nation has in the warfare of the future.
It seems to me highly probable that the Russians are also shocked—shocked by the detonations of their own hydrogen bomb as well as by those of the American bombs, and that they have been shocked into making this new approach. It would be nothing but foolishness if the Western Powers were to reject that Note out of hand and without reasons given.
The second specific thing which we should ask of the Government is that they should give us an undertaking that the Russian Note will be most carefully considered—that they will proceed by the procedure known to this House as that of reasoned amendment rather than rejection of this Note.
§ Mr. Strachey
I cannot agree with my hon. Friend. I think it does need some amendment; but the Government should proceed in that way.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not suggesting that the Note should be accepted lock, stock and barrel without examination. I agree with my right hon. Friend about that. I only made the remark with the object that we ought not to approach negotiations in the spirit that inevitably there is something wrong with it.
§ Mr. Strachey
In any case it would be profoundly unfortunate if the West were to follow the example which was set by the person who was said to be the 65 spokesman of the American Administration in rejecting that Russian Note almost before we had even seen it.
Here I must come to a subject which is bound to occupy us in this debate— our attitude to our American allies. We have been adjured several times—and rightly so—that we must not be anti-America. Surely in this debate none of us wants to be anti anything. We do not want to be anti-American, anti-Russian or anti any other nation; what we want to be is pro-human. But that surely does not mean that we should, or we can, avoid criticism of particular acts of a particular American Administration.
We are sometimes asked why we seem always to criticise the acts of the American Government rather than the Russian Government. If that is so, surely it is just because we are allies of America. It is not very much use in this House criticising the acts of the Russian Government. We do not flatter ourselves that anything we say here is likely to have an immediate or a direct effect there. We are closely allied with America, and it is quite inevitable—it is actually our duty—to speak out when we consider the actions of our great and powerful ally to be misguided.
In any case, on this issue we should certainly not be using terms as severe as those used by Americans themselves, as those used, for instance, by that most distinguished American, the ex-Secretary of State, Mr. Dean Acheson. We come now to three aspects of American policy which today must be giving every Member of this House profound concern. There is first what is called the American "New Look," the new strategical concept which has been announced by Mr. Dulles, Vice-President Nixon and other spokesmen of the American Government. That concept has been criticised most strongly by Mr. Dean Acheson in a notable article. As I read Mr. Acheson's article what, in effect, he said was that this New Look was one of two things. Either it represented little or no change in the actual principles of American action, in which case it was bluff, and most foolish bluff; or it was a proposal for retaliation by the dropping of nuclear weapons should there be acts of local aggression, such as those in Korea or in Indo-China.
66 I agree wholly with Mr. Acheson, because such a conception is utterly repugnant to us in this country. It is far too dangerous. Instead of preventing local wars, which unfortunately actually exist in the world today, it is designed to spread them—to make them into world wars, world atomic wars, or world hydrogen bomb wars. Therefore, the third thing which we press on the Government is that they should make it perfectly clear that we must dissociate ourselves in this country from the American strategical conception of the New Look. The detonation of the hydrogen bomb has brought public realisation of the acute dangers of that whole conception.
But the American strategical New Look and the detonation of the hydrogen bomb are only two of the three matters which concern us today. There is also the fact that the American Administration appears to be adopting as a principle— the well informed correspondent of "The Times" says so—of acting first and consulting with its allies afterwards. It did so in the case of the New Look, and it did so in the case of the hydrogen bomb tests. It has also done so in the equally serious case of the policy in regard to Indo-China. It has been announced that, in the view of the American Government, concerted United Nations action may in certain circumstances have to be taken in Indo-China. I understand on the authority of "The Times" correspondent they have actually coined a phrase for this: they call it "unilateral concerted action"—a very strange phrase indeed.
The theory is, we are told, that if action is quickly taken a vacuum is created into which unwilling allies are drawn. But the vacuum into which the unwilling allies would be drawn is just what would be created if the ultimate action were taken of dropping a hydrogen bomb without prior consultation.
In these circumstances of grave concern, which we must all feel about present day American policy, surely it is the duty of Her Majesty's Ministers, with the heavy responsibility which is on them today, to consider what action can be taken? We have made two suggestions from this side of the House. I make a third, which I suggested in a supplementary question to the Prime Minister last week. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken to us today about the fact that 67 during the war he made an agreement with the then President of the United States that no nuclear weapons—atom bombs as they were then—would be dropped anywhere by the United States without consultation with this Government. In what I can only call his most unworthy charges against my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister said that we had at some time abandoned that position. We had done nothing of the sort but, of course, that position was altered by the passage of the MacMahon Act.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Is that so? I thought the MacMahon Act affected information in paragraph 3, and that in paragraph 2 there was obligation to consult with us and get our consent before they used it. Is that correct?
§ Mr. Strachey
My hon. and learned Friend may be right there, but certainly the suggestion from the Prime Minister was that this position had been in some way compromised, and that the way in which it had been compromised was by the MacMahon Act. However, it may be that the position still stands. What I am arguing is that so long as United States bombers have bases in this country, we have the strongest possible grounds for asking for the reaffirmation of that undertaking on the part of the American Government. That seems to me to be the position today.
When I mention American bases, I cannot be accused of seeking party advantage, because it is true that the previous Administration was in power when those bases were established. But they were established in very different circumstances from those which exist today. They were established when the menace of Russian policy was immediate. They grew out of the Berlin airlift, which grew out of the Berlin blockade. They grew out of the events in Czechoslovakia. Events today are of a different character. The Korean War then occurred, and a truce has now been agreed to in Korea.
In the circumstances of today, with American policy such as it is, with the situation such as it is today, I suggest strongly to Her Majesty's Ministers that they should inform the American Government that, so long as there are American bomber bases on the soil of the United 68 Kingdom, we must have the assurance that no nuclear weapons will be dropped from anywhere on anywhere by the United States without the prior concurrence of Her Majesty's Government.
That, I suggest, is the third definite and specific piece of action which the Government could take in present circumstances. Indeed, there are really four actions which I suggest. One is the holding of a top level conference, the second is the repudiation of the American New Look, the third is the taking up of the Russian Note, as a basis for discussion at any rate, and the fourth is the reaffirmation— if that is all that is needed—of the agreement of the American Government that so long as they have bases in this country, they must obtain our concurrence before nuclear weapons are used anywhere in the world. Undoubtedly those are quite considerable demands on the American Government, but anything less than the last one above all would seem to me to leave the people of this country in the most extreme peril.
I come back now to what I said at the beginning of my speech. I suggest that this debate will turn on whether one thinks that the public realisation of the effects of the detonation of H weapons in the Pacific has changed the situation. We believe it has. We believe it has made possible a British initiative in the world today which would not have been possible earlier. There was nothing with which I disagreed more in the speech of the Prime Minister than his statement that we must not go ahead now in case the American and the Russian Governments would not follow our lead and would not accept an invitation to a conference.
That is really a suggestion that we must not go ahead in case we are snubbed. What does it matter if we are snubbed? Is it to be said that Great Britain lost the opportunity perhaps of saving the world in case she got snubbed? I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary that if he took that initiative, which the Prime Minister himself said he could easily take, and issued invitations to a conference, and if the American and the Russian Governments refused those invitations, in the state of world opinion today the American people, and I believe perhaps also the Russian people, would sooner rather than later 69 put pressure on their Governments to accept those invitations.
So it seems to me that everything may turn on whether Britain takes the initiative and gives the lead today. Certainly no heavier responsibility has ever rested on Her Majesty's Ministers than rests on her present Ministers in this matter. Let them so act that the words of the prophet Micah may not be fulfilled. We must act lest "Zion be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem become heaps"
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. J. E. S. Simon (Middlesbrough, West)
I find myself in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) at any rate in this respect, that the events of 1st March mark a turning point in their political effect and in the public reaction to them. In themselves they represent nothing new. It was not the first hydrogen bomb that had been exploded. We knew that America had a hydrogen bomb, we knew, too, that its effect was far more powerful than the atom bombs which had been exploded previously. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition himself said as long ago as March, 1950, in speaking of the hydrogen bomb, that it differs in degree, more than anything else from the atom bomb.
Nevertheless, with a sharpened public awareness of the dangers in which we stand, this is a fitting moment for reappraisal of these grave problems. But it is also encumbent on us to make sure that we do not unnecessarily fan the emotional fire or promote over-hasty judgment.
The fact that America has possession of a hydrogen bomb need not in itself alarm us. From 1945 until 1949 she had possession of the atom bomb, sole, undisputed and invincible; and in the face of great provocation she held it as a weapon still sheathed in the scabbard. Those were the years which saw the Iron Curtain descend on to Europe, the years that saw the ex-enemy countries of the Balkans withdraw into the Russian hegemony in breach of all treaty and armistice obligations. Those were the years that saw Greece and Turkey and Iran threatened. They were the years that saw the rape of Czechoslovakia, an ancient, mercantile, artisan civilisation very like ours in many ways. Finally, those were the years that saw our own 70 troops in Berlin, there by indefeasible right freely granted by Allies, blockaded as if in war.
Yet with all that provocation the United States held in reserve this instant weapon which, on the face of it, would have solved all the problems. There was even one hon. Member opposite who was advocating during those years a preventive war. But the Americans held their hand. At this moment, when we consider that the Americans have the hydrogen bomb, it is right to bear those facts in mind; and to bear in mind that if they did not act hastily and selfishly then, they are far less likely to act now in such a way, when their lead is so much shorter and Russia also has the hydrogen bomb.
Nevertheless, although there is no occasion for panic or for striking emotional attitudes, and no occasion for a profound revulsion in our approaches to the problems, it is right that we should re-appraise them in the light of the greater destructive effect of the hydrogen bomb.
There are three methods by which we can ensure that the hydrogen bomb will not be dropped. The first is the method of surrender. If we are prepared to concede all those values which are threatened, if we are prepared to give up those defensive positions so carefully wrought, and built up with such infinite anxiety and care, then unquestionably we shall be spared.
As to surrender, I do not believe that the people of this country contemplate any such thing for a moment. After all, in 1939, and still more in 1940, we were prepared to face the destruction of our cities and the death of our young manhood because we believed that there was something more important than death and destruction. That was the survival of our civil liberties and of our national heritage.
§ Mr. Simon
There might well be with the hydrogen bomb no survival, but that is not the point. We believe that there are certain conditions in which survival would not be worth while; we believe that the loss of our freedom would be such an immeasurable disaster that to win our security on terms of surrender is something that we cannot contemplate—certainly when there are alternatives available, as I believe, and I know the hon. 71 Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) believes equally.
It is not only a question of surrendering the main citadel of our fortress. There is equal danger that the outworks which have been carefully prepared might fall into the hands of the enemy who threatens our security. There is great danger, in particular, in changing real measures of security for mere paper guarantees. A leading article in "The Times" today put the matter far better than I could hope to do when it said:But it is even more bedevilling to imply, as some do, that only the will to talk is needed on the western side for peace to be forthcoming.It would be quite vain to give up our careful preparation of such measures of security as N.A.T.O. and E.D.C. in exchange for mere hope of pourparlers with the Soviet Union. The very relaxation of will would spell a surrender.
The second alternative is deterrence. I agree with the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) that the latest Soviet Note may be a reaction to the hydrogen bomb. If that is so, it is surely an indication that the American possession of that weapon does act as a deterrent to a breach of the peace—that is, if one can accept the Russian approach as having any measure of genuineness. But if it is a deterrent, as I believe it to be, then to call upon the United States to cease experiments to ensure that they can keep the lead in this way is to surrender to the Soviet Union a very valuable safeguard.
On the other hand, I find myself in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition when he says that a deterrent of that sort is very much less effective in the hands of a democracy than it is in the hands of a dictatorship. The mere fact that the atomic bomb was held back in the face of intense provocation and of inroads upon free peoples from 1945 to 1949, still more in the face of the Korean aggression, and the fact that the United States did not even cross the Yalu River to bomb the bases from which United States and United Nations troops were attacked, show, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, that the deterrent value of the atomic or hydrogen bomb is only residual. It is not a final deterrent; and. 72 who knows, the lead may be shortening. One day there may be an attempt by wicked, remorseless men, eager for the triumph of their own faith, to get in the first blow and reduce our civilisation to a shambles.
Therefore, I suggest that we must consider the third alternative, which is control. The right hon. Member for Dundee, West suggested that we should return to the methods of 20 years ago. I suggest that that is a profound mistake. The error that we made during those years was in thinking that mere disarmament was sufficient. Apart from anything else, it engendered a mood of pacifism. I say that in the face of hon. Members opposite who hold that faith profoundly. It weakened the will of a great number of people in this country to resist things which we knew in our hearts were wicked: and it took us the best part of a year, from 1939 to 1940, under the inspiring leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, to recover the spirit to resist the things that as a nation we knew to be evil.
Therefore, I suggest that mere disarmament is not enough. Certainly it must come. Certainly we want to see these terrible weapons, indeed all weapons, taken out of the hands of those who might misuse them. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that disarmament merely of the hydrogen bomb, or indeed of atomic weapons, is useless. That would merely deliver power into the hands of the big battalions. It would mean that the great populous nations could conscribe their peoples to march, and no one could withstand them. There is an old saying,In the land of the blind the one-eyed is king.It is not sufficient merely to renounce the use, or even to deprive people of the use, of atomic and hydrogen weapons. We must see that all weapons of destruction are equally and contemporaneously dealt with. But even that is not sufficient in itself. What is needed is to ensure that those weapons are yielded up into some international institution which will keep the peace. In this country, in our own history, we saw a similar state of affairs to that which we now see in the world. In this country we enjoy the security which we have because on the warring barons, the over-mighty subjects, 73 was imposed the King's Peace. In the same way, we want to see the peace of the world imposed on the warring nations. They must yield up to some other body their right to judge in their own quarrels and to vindicate that judgment by force of arms. It is not much that they have to give up—only, as I said, the right to judge in their own quarrels and vindicate their judgments by force of arms.
The opportunity lies ahead, because 1955 will be the year for revision of the Charter. I do not believe that it is necessary, if the Soviet Union really seeks peace, that she should enter N.A.T.O. The United Nations itself is available as the proper instrument for the organisation of world peace.
§ Mr. Simon
The hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) asks, "Why should N.A.T.O. be there?" N.A.T.O. is an essential element in our security; it is part of our system of deterrence. It would be folly indeed to cast that away until we have built up what I suggest we need—an instrument of effective control.
In the United Nations the most vital element which stands in the way is the veto. The veto is the very embodiment of the claim to judge in one's own quarrels. It was on the veto that the Baruch proposals fell. It is the outward and visible sign of that inward and invisible disgrace—the claim to judge in one's own quarrels and disputes.
I suggest that, in a moment or reappraisal like this, it is most important that we should see what our ultimate objective is; and that we should not fall into the danger of proposing hasty paper guarantees or thinking that mere disarmament is sufficient. It is not. Side by side with disarmament we must erect really effective measures of international control. Once the international situation begins to become slightly more mollient, who knows, we may ultimately achieve that objective. It would be no more difficult, on the face of it, than to secure some of the other concessions without which we cannot hope to survive.
I suggest that the international situation today may resemble one of those Canadian river scenes at the time when 74 they are felling timber. One sees great trunks of trees jammed in the river, grinding together. Nothing can move. But the eye of the skilled lumberman can pick out the one trunk whose movement will release the whole mass and send it speeding down the river; and—this is the point—it will not stop at the next bend of the river, but will go tumbling down until it rides on the peaceful waters of the lake. That may be the situation today. Once the initial log jam can be moved, we may go right on, provided we know our objective. Mere disarmament, and talks, however immediate and however high the level, are not sufficient. What we want is the transformation of the United Nations into an organ which will judge the nations' quarrels and vindicate its judgments.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
In the main I have little fault to find with the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon). The only thing I would say about it on an occasion like this is that it was perhaps a little too conventional.
There is no doubt that, after listening to the Prime Minister, we have to clear our minds of a lot of thoughts that we had before he made that speech. As I listened to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, I thought that for once he had shown quite clearly to Her Majesty's Government that it is not always the duty of Her Majesty's Opposition to oppose.
There may be faults to find with the Motion on the Order Paper. The Prime Minister found only one fault, with the word "immediate," but I do not think that indicated a great difference in view between the two right hon. Gentlemen or the two sides of the House. What did emerge as the debate proceeded was that the level that my right hon. Friend set was destroyed to a large extent by a portion of the speech of the Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend, as the House must recognise, was paying courteous compliments to the Prime Minister and putting on record the belief he had almost in the omnipotence, in certain respects, of the Prime Minister's experience and knowledge displayed during the war when they were colleagues, although perhaps not 75 displayed to the same extent after the war.
Later, the Prime Minister changed the whole tone by publishing a document, which I have now had an opportunity of reading, which, in my mind, gives rise to a very significant question. I believe this question will be debated in the newspapers of the world tomorrow. Why did the Prime Minister today publish that document of 1943? It seemed to me that it was only published so that he could follow it up with an attack on my right hon. Friend and his Government, not with another document—if there is one we ought to see it—but with innuendoes and insinuations that the Labour Government under my right hon. Friend had thrown over a wise agreement made between the Prime Minister and President Roosevelt in 1943 and had done something detrimental to this country's future. As soon as that suggestion is made, how is it possible for succeeding speakers on this side of the House to adopt an entirely non-partisan attitude?
I say to the Foreign Secretary, who in all probability will himself be guiding the fortunes of this country perhaps at no very distant date, that a disservice has been done to him and to the Foreign Office by the tone of the speech and the contents of the speech which the Prime Minister made this afternoon. This document is a State document of high importance. It is tantamount to a treaty, and all treaties have to be laid before the House. This document has never come to the notice of the House —it has been brought to the notice of only a few of the leaders in Government —until today. Therefore, we are entitled to pass a few comments upon. it.
I am not so sure that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was wise in his remarks about the Prime Minister. As I read the document—I admit that it was made in war-time—it put the fate of this country in certain respects absolutely in the hands of the President of the United States of America. It is true that we were engaged in a war when this was done, but even during that war commitments were made in free consultation between the two countries. However, to say, as the document says, "We, Great Britain, surrender all commercial rights arising out 76 of the development of atomic energy to the judgment of a President of the United States," who is mortal like the rest of us —the President concerned passed away not long after the document was signed— is not something which the House would have agreed to in peace-time, although I admit it must have been agreed by the Cabinet during the war.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Much too late in the day. It has been vindicated only after Britain has exercised her right to set up her own atomic research stations. It is a fait accompli that President Eisenhower is now accepting.
The document goes on to say that there should be complete interchange of information and ideas on all sections of the project between the members of the policy committee and their immediate technical advisers. That has been vitiated. How? Is it the Prime Minister's case that it was vitiated by the action of my right hon. Friend? Is it contended by Her Majesty's Government that the right embodied in the document has been surrendered—or "abandoned," to use the word employed by the Prime Minister— by my right hon. Friend and his Government? If the Prime Minister believed that, he must have known it before. Why did he not come to the House and say so before today?
With the best will in the world— because I have, quite independently of my own party, supported certain actions by Her Majesty's Government in foreign policy—I can only conclude that the Prime Minister made use of the document today in order to attack the Leader of the Opposition and the Labour Party. I can understand his irritation when some of my hon. Friends write in the Press or say something on the air which is ungenerous and, indeed, non-factual, but surely the Prime Minister is too great a man, and his reputation is too secure, for him to pay such attention to those remarks or to come to the House today and use the occasion for an attack on not only my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Grossman) or my hon. Friend 77 the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) but the Leader of the Opposition and his Government colleagues.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I did not come to the House today with the fixed idea of making a speech, and I have no notes other than those which I made as the debate went on. It seems to me that the issue is one which concerns millions of simple people who know nothing about the hydrogen bomb but whose fate is at stake. I merely want to put my own point of view, speaking on behalf not only of all my constituents, but, as my right hon. Friend did, of millions of people who do not know what their fate will be and who will decide their fate.
We shall come to a General Election very soon, and these issues may be issues at that election. If they are, how are they to be used? Will they be used in the partisan manner adopted by the Prime Minister today, a manner which one of his prominent supporters showed all too clearly that he could not tolerate, or are we to discuss them in what I referred to at the beginning of my speech as a non-conventional way?
I do not believe for one moment that the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister, Her Majesty's Government or the American Government can bring Russia to a point of view which will help forward peace and destroy hydrogen bombs once and for all. How, then, can we do it if diplomacy cannot do it? I do not believe that military force of this nature will be able to do it. I agree to a certain extent with the Prime Minister that it may be that for a short time the possession of this bomb in the hands of America will be a deterrent to any aggressive ideas that Russia may still harbour, just as I believe, as my right hon. Friend said, that the possession of the atomic bomb in the hands of America warded off the aggressive ideas that Russia undoubtedly possessed. If we want any illustration of what those ideas amounted to, we have only to look at Czechoslovakia and the Berlin blockade, which showed us all too clearly, far clearer than any number of written words, what Russia would do if she were permitted to do it.
78 But who among us here today believes that the hydrogen bomb in its present form in American hands will settle the matter in that way in five years' time? Who knows? If by chance the balance of these forces changed, what would happen?
I come to the only suggestion that I can make, and I hope that the House will accept it as something which may be possible. I do not know whether it is possible, but we have to experiment. I should have thought that the Prime Minister himself, who mobilised spiritual forces not only in this country but also in other countries during the war, even those under enemy domination, might feel this to be a practical proposition. I should hope that it might be desirable for Britain so to express her view on this matter— I am talking not only about the hydrogen bomb but also about general disarmament—that we might go even over the heads and leaders of Governments and States everywhere. I still believe that a spiritual message has force to it as it had 2,000 years ago. It is true that we have not the same teachers or exponents of those spiritual forces today, but, nevertheless, I believe that we can reach even the Russian people.
Hon. Gentlemen may say, "What is the use of that?" This is my reply. I do not know, I can only go by what I read and hear, but I believe that in Russia, on the death of Stalin, there was an unexpressed feeling in the minds of the people. They cannot express their feelings in dictatorship countries as people can in democratic lands. But I know enough of Germany to say that even during the war, under a tight military dictatorship, there were many people who listened to broadcasts from London. Otherwise I assume that the B.B.C. would not have broadcast them.
Who can say today how much the reception of ideas from this country helped to destroy the will of the German people to continue the fight? We do not know. We cannot assess it—[Interruption]—My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) — who seems to scoff at this idea—is probably guided by more material factors, the kind of thing one weighs in evidence in a court of law. I do not believe that we can deal with this question only on a diplomatic basis. If we do, then I say 79 that all the efforts of the Foreign Secretary at Geneva will be in vain.
Why does the right hon. Gentleman go to these conferences? He must go with some set idea. He hopes—although I should not be at all surprised if he were sceptical—that at some time he may be able to say something, or to offer some idea which even Mr. Molotov will accept. When we remember that Mr. Molotov proposed—I am told with a smile on his face as he delivered the note to the British Ambassador—that Russia should come into N.A.T.O., surely it is not impossible for the Foreign Secretary to go to Geneva and perhaps to suggest something equally improbable and get it accepted by Mr. Molotov. But be that as it may, I am not underrating the difficulties confronting the right hon. Gentleman.
We can continue this debate on a different level. We can, for example, suggest that it was dishonest of the American Administration to allow the MacMahon Act to be passed, knowing that this agreement was in force and saying nothing. No doubt any business man, dealing with a matter like this in a business fashion, would say, "This is not fair. This is not proper business." But it has happened and all we can do now is to look to the future.
I do not suggest for a moment that we should surrender all our other material guarantees. I believe in mobilising the opinion of the West in a very substantial fashion, as the Foreign Secretary well knows. But I believe we must do something more. After the First World War, when I was a young man and the Foreign Secretary was a young man; when, with many of our comrades, we took part in what we then thought was a devastating war, I remember how dumbly—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman not so dumbly as he is more schooled in these matters—we accepted the Covenant of the League of Nations. Whatever we may now say about the United Nations Charter, the Covenant still remains as true today as the Ten Commandments. All that is necessary is for people to carry it out. Just as we go on teaching the Ten Commandments to people all over the world, so we have to go on teaching the people, through wireless and the printed word—and even the spoken word—that war with the 80 hydrogen bomb pays nobody, even if war ever paid anybody.
I am not without hope. I shall remain optimistic until my death, whatever other hon. Members may say about the possibility of this idea. I believe that this message if used, with persistence and sincerity, can go over the whole world and produce more tangible results than such diplomacy as is embodied in this Paper thrown on the Table today by the Prime Minister.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)
This is one of the most important debates that we have had in this House since the Labour Party took the courageous action of supporting the United Nations when the attack on Korea took place.
I believe that we must understand the minds of the people with whom we are dealing. The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) said that the Ten Commandments were being taught all over the world. Unfortunately, they are not being taught in Russia at present. If they were, every word he said would be absolutely true.
I wish to address the House on the attitude of Communist Russia in the context of the hydrogen bomb. In their teachings the Communists have set out their objective, which is world domination for Communism, and for which they will fight, whether openly or underground, either in a bloody or a bloodless war. These were the words of Lenin, published and edited by Stalin. Just as Hitler, in "Mein Kampf," warned the world of the objective of Nazism, so we have been told what is the objective of Communism.
Coupled with that, as some hon. Members have already pointed out, Russia possesses an enormous preponderance of conventional arms and manpower, and, in the past, has shown she is prepared to use them. They have been used in aggression across the frontiers of Finland, and across the frontiers of Poland, in 1939. Aggression was started across the frontiers of Korea, both north and south.
When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met the Russians in the first instance, after the 1939–45 war was over, an effort was made towards co-operation. Sentiments expressed in this House this evening were expressed at the Berlin 81 Conference, and even before, at the Conference at Yalta. Hostages were given then and some have never been redeemed. Through negotiations in the United Nations we have tried to redress the preponderance of Russian armaments. That was the background until two or three years ago.
Because of the failure of negotiations with the Communist countries, the United States and this country began again to develop atomic weapons. They were developed against a background of abhorrence and distaste, both in this country and in America. No Christian or democratic country likes producing such weapons, but, nevertheless, they were produced. But production in itself is not sufficient. There must be the will to use these weapons. For many years there was not, on the Allied side, the will to use these weapons.
There was propaganda from the Communist side to attack the will to use these weapons. There was a great campaign to ban the bomb. Then there was the "Peace Conference" campaign. This was all propaganda against the will to use the atomic weapon and designed to reduce its threat. That propaganda became less and less successful as the Russians became more obviously unable to co-operate.
§ Mr. Roberts
The result has been that the United States have produced their new look policy of instant retaliation with the greatest power they have. They have shown, for the first time, the will to use the bomb—whether it be hydrogen or atomic—in certain circumstances. The result of that policy has been that the Communists have again worked up propaganda against the will to use the bomb. We are seeing some of the backwash of that propaganda in the debate today.
The fact is, as the Prime Minister said, that the hydrogen bomb has been known for some time. We know that Malenkov said that one had been exploded in Russia; but the debate comes after the statement of the United States about their policy of instant retaliation. That is the position.
I wish to consider what would happen if the advice of some hon. Members 82 given at Question time last week, and in some of the national newspapers such as the "Daily Mirror," were followed and we were to ban or outlaw the hydrogen bomb. The first reaction would be that we should immediately place back into the power of the Soviet Union the enormous mass of conventional weapons. They would be able to dominate Europe and Asia at the same time.
The second and possibly the more important effect would be that the United States would become isolationist. Once they realised that their advance in this field had been rejected I believe that they would become isolationist. Then we should be at the end of a European Continent dominated by Communism. When we talk about negotiations and disarmament, I have never heard anyone answer the question whether we are satisfied that the Russian Government, if there were a system of inspection and control, would not keep some weapon somewhere under the ground—
§ Mr. Roberts
One has to remember the type of mentality we are up against in the Communist mentality. It is not the mentality of the hon. Gentleman. It is one which is prepared to use any means to obtain its ends. We should merely move into a period of doubt and lack of faith.
There was a letter in "The Times" today which emphasised that there are some aspects of Communist control such as the concentration camps, lack of freedom, and the rest of it, which would not be tolerated by the average Englishman in this country.
§ Mr. Roberts
I do not believe that these things can be contemplated. I want to make my position clear. If the alternative to the threat of a deterrent weapon were domination by Communism, I should be prepared to accept the policy of the threat of atomic weapons.
I turn to criticisms levelled, both in the House and outside, against the attitude of the United States. I believe that their statement dealing with the "New Look "policy mentioned by the right hon. 83 Members for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) and Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) was a courageous announcement. It cannot be easy for any Government of a Christian and democratic state to make such a pronouncement. It was a most important announcement, because not only did it deal with the weapon but it also introduced the conception of "immediate retaliation."
I wonder what would have happened if such a policy had been announced in 1914 or 1939. If the Kaiser had known that in the event of aggression there would have been immediate retaliation by America, and not a lapse of three years or more, that would have been a most effective deterrent. Also, if, in 1939, there had been a statement from the American Government, I believe that we should have been spared a great deal of what happened.
I go further and say that if at the out-break of the war in Korea this policy had been enunciated that war, with all its misery, would have been avoided. It is profoundly important to realise that we have got something now from the United States Government which we should have been most gratified to receive in the past. I do not believe that we have sufficiently expressed ourselves to show to the American Government that we appreciate the stand they have taken. The majority of our people realise the safe guard which this declaration has given us.
I come briefly to consider what action the Government should take in future. There is the problem of consultation. It is more important for us to have consultation with the American Government than with the Russian Government at present, because we have already seen, at the Berlin Conference, the sort of attitude which the Russian Government have taken up even when they knew of the existence of the hydrogen bomb. No doubt their instruments would tell them what was going on. Consultation with the American Government should be one of a personal basis rather than one of open diplomatic negotiation. We have seen in the United Nations the result of open diplomacy. At this stage of these delicate negotiations they would be better left to personal relationship between the heads of Government.
84 I turn to the statement made today by the Prime Minister about the secret agreement at Quebec. There are two aspects. The most important is that certain organs of opinion in the country—whether Members of the House or daily newspapers—have been attacking Her Majesty's Government and the American Government because we in this country do not possess the power to veto any action which the United States Government might take about the atomic bomb. The document published today shows that at one time we did have a power of veto. It appears that we said:Secondly, that we will not use it against third parties without each other's consent.
§ Mr. Follick
Is it overlooked that at the time there was a threat to use the atom bomb in Korea, the Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister, went to Washington himself? Surely, he refused to give consent then to the atom bomb being dropped.
§ Mr. Roberts
That may be so, but that is not the point which I am trying to make, which is that at one time there definitely was an agreement under which this country could veto its use. At present, there may not be, but if there is any criticism it does not lie at the feet of Her Majesty's Government.
I would draw the attention of the House to a book which was published last year entitled, "The Private Papers of Senator Vandenburg," of which there was a review published in the "Evening Standard" on 12th January, 1953. I wish to quote an extract from that review referring to the secret agreement which has been published. It was stated, in the "Evening Standard" review:Another aspect of the secret Churchill-Roosevelt agreement went much further and was even more startling. On behalf of Britain, Churchill had been given the right to prohibit the Americans from using the bomb.What follows is particularly interesting:He—Vandenburgh—decided that it—the British veto—must be abolished at all costs and at the first possible minute. Attlee's Government wanted Marshall Aid. Vandenburgh made it clear that he would not support aid for Britain unless Britain's bomb veto was destroyed. 85 Without his support in Congress there would be no Marshall Aid. In January, 1948, he triumphed. At a Washington conference, according to Vandenburgh papers, Attlee's Government surrendered the veto which Churchill had secured.Whether that is right or wrong, I do not know. All I am saying is that that appeared in the "Evening Standard" in January, 1953, and it cannot really come as a surprise to hon. Members; it certainly was known. As I understand, the object of this White Paper is to refute any criticisms which may come either from the other side of the House or from outside that Her Majesty's Government have in this respect been in any way culpable.
I believe that we must move forward towards being able to have consultations with the American Government on a more equal footing. The Prime Minister is in the difficulty that so far as we know we have not started production of the hydrogen bomb in this country. When the Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister he had the courage to produce the atom bomb in this country at a time when public opinion was so revolted at the idea that it was obviously difficult for him to make any statement about it. Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman took that course, which, I believe, was the right course for him to take.
If it was right then, I believe it is right now for Her Majesty's Government to take the same steps to protect our position in the future. I very much hope that if the Government are proposing to even the weight in this matter they will not do what the right hon. Gentleman opposite did but will tell the House what is in their minds. I believe that that will be one of the most powerful factors in assisting consultation.
There is another point which I do not want to develop too much, as there is not the time; other Members wish to speak. If we accept the principle that the hydrogen bomb can dominate the peace of the world by its existence, buried in holes in the ground, shall we say, in Canada or in Russia, just as the gold buried in the vaults of Fort Knox can dominate the whole of our economic policy, I believe that our whole problem of defence will take on a new look.
Also, if I am correct in thinking, as I sincerely do, that the advance in these 86 weapons will make a national war impossible, then the enormous defence programme which we are preparing—the long haul which we are having to discuss at Budget time and on other occasions, may be relieved to some extent because if national wars become impossible enormous national armies will be unnecessary and we shall be able to begin to see advantages in that respect.
Secondly, it will force Communism to rever; to its more classical role of attack on the capitalist State, namely, to force from inside insurrection or revolution. To meet that it will, of course, be necessary to have mobile forces on land and sea and in the air. Nevertheless, bearing these things in mind, there is a possibility that out of this will come a new look in defence which may lead to a lessening of the burden, not only in this country but also in other parts of the world.
Another point which I do not wish to develop at this stage, but which must be discussed later, is that if the hydrogen bomb is to supersede the atom bomb that may release atomic energy into the world of industrial production. If maintenance of the secrets of atomic energy no longer becomes necessary because of the greater secrets of the hydrogen bomb some of what we have been discussing in our consideration of the Atomic Energy Authority Bill will become a reality.
I believe profoundly that we have to face either the threat, and the continued threat, of Communism or else we have to accept the threat of the hydrogen bomb as being a factor, and a dominant factor, for peace. Secondly, I believe that we must realise that the policies of Her Majesty's Government and those which were produced by the previous Government will always be attacked by those who have Communist leanings or who have Communist propaganda behind them. We are up against that attack all the time, day and night.
There are also other people who may have the desire to disrupt and break down Anglo-American relations. They may choose this time as an opportunity to further that desire, but I believe that to be unworthy and it will recoil on those who attempt it. I am particularly glad that the Leader of the Opposition did not use the occasion this afternoon to turn this matter into an attack upon Her Majesty's Government. I believe that 87 inside and outside the House it is necessary to look upon this as a national problem. That does not mean that if national newspapers and others outside criticise Her Majesty's Government they should not be answered; but we must try to look upon this matter as one in which we are all involved.
The burden which the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the Cabinet have to carry must be very heavy and a heavy responsibility as well as a very unwelcome one. I am satisfied that, in the hands of the Prime Minister and his colleagues, we have the greatest and most firm hope of emerging from this difficult path into a time of sounder and more stable peace.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I should like to come back to the terms of the Motion and say at once that I agree with it. I wish to go further, however. I thank the Leader of the Opposition for introducing it today. I agree with its terms and the principles and proposals which it puts forward, and I wish to express my admiration for the restrained language in which those proposals have been couched.
What is more, we listened today to a speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition which was on the very highest level. It was a statesmanlike speech. It rose far above party politics, and it dealt with the problems, not only of this country or even of the free peoples, but of the peoples of the world. It was a speech which I would say dealt with humanity as a whole.
I wish I could say the same about the speech that we heard from the Prime Minister. I have a very great admiration for the right hon. Gentleman, who occupies a unique position, not only in this country, but in every country throughout the world. No one can compare with him in dealing with these mighty problems, when he chooses to do so, on the highest level. He uses language which not one of us could ever equal, and puts forward his proposals in a manner which will remain a treasure of the English language for all time.
I am sorry that today he began—if I remember rightly—with words to the effect that today is not a day for tribulation. I wish it were not, but I am afraid 88 that the right hon. Gentleman will come to regret what has happened. No one has suffered more from the slings and arrows of fortune, many of them outrageous, than the right hon. Gentleman, who is an old campaigner. He, better than anyone, ought to know that there are occasions when he should ignore the slings and arrows and march forward on the great path which he has set himself.
Undoubtedly, the hydrogen bomb has accomplished one thing. It has brought home to people everywhere, not only in this country but in every country, the grave danger in which we all are. It is a threat not only to peace, but a threat to civilisation itself, and I hope that the information released through the American Press by the American Government will become a topic of conversation in every town and village throughout other countries. I am hoping also that that information will get through to Russia, because I think that if the people, apart from Governments, could express their desires and wishes directly, it would clearly be shown that their wish is for peace in our time, and that war should not only be abolished, but should be made illegal and a criminal offence on the part of anybody embarking on it.
I think the desire of all people's is not only that hydrogen bombs and atom bombs should be controlled and so controlled as to be abolished, but also— and it is a very human desire—that all arms should be abolished as well. We know that time and again that proposal has been made by all kinds of Governments and by various countries.
A great effort was made in 1930 and 1931 by that very great man the late Mr. Arthur Henderson, predecessor of the present Foreign Secretary at the Foreign Office, but the trouble was that, when that proposal was put forward at Geneva, M. Tardieu, representing France, asked, "What would you abolish?" There was no fear in those days about atom or hydrogen bombs, but we had, of course, the bombs dropped from the air, either by Zeppelins or aeroplanes, and there were those tremendous guns. Paris itself had suffered from guns which had been firing over enormous distances from the German lines. When the suggestion was made that we should abolish both guns and bombs, M. Tardieu said, "I seem to remember that, before gunpowder was 89 invented and before there were bombs and guns, wars did take place."
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was quite right today in saying that, if we abolish the weapons of mass destruction, we only enhance or exalt the position of the weapons that are next to the most destructive; and so it is. The world is anxious to see all of them abolished. There should be no national armies whatever, and we should not merely do away with hydrogen bombs and atom bombs. That being so, I feel that, again to adopt the words of the Leader of the Opposition, a new approach is needed.
How can we possibly accomplish what we all desire to see? Assuming—and it is a very big assumption, of course, at present—that an agreement is made between the free countries and Russia that hydrogen and atom bombs should be done away with, who is to see that that agreement will be carried out? That is the difficulty. Who is to see that the agreement, once it has been made, will in fact be maintained? One recalls so many international agreements that have been made time and time again dealing with the laws of war.
The first great book on the subject was Grotius's book, issued immediately after the end of the Thirty Years' War, and after one of the most ghastly holocausts ever perpetrated up to that time in a religious war, which is always worse. As Grotius wrote in his book on the laws of war, one of these laws has been observed almost from time immemorial. Indeed, long before there was news of it in the Bible, it occurred in Babylonia, and certainly the Romans were very careful about it. It was the rule that a herald should be sent before the war actually started in order to declare war. Grotius has a whole chapter dealing with this matter of the care that ought to be taken and the methods to be used to warn the enemy that war was about to start unless something else took place.
We, of course, have followed that course in the last two mighty wars. We sent an ultimatum to the Kaiser, and again we sent an ultimatum to Hitler, warning them that, unless they agreed to certain terms, war would inevitably come. But Germany was not bound by anything like that when she invaded Belgium, 90 although she had guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium. Germany had no qualms whatsoever in striking at Poland when she did, and nor had Russia. Nor had Germany when she invaded Norway. But the most outrageous example was the attack upon the United States Fleet at Pearl Harbour by the Japanese from the air, when actually the representatives of Japan were talking to the President in Washington, who was assuming that the peace would continue. At that very moment the bombs were dropped in order to destroy as much as possible of the American Fleet before the war really started. One remembers these things.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), in a supplementary question to the Prime Minister the other day, pointed out that the Geneva Convention had made it clear that the use of gas and microbes and the dreadful things like that was forbidden and illegal, and the hon. Gentleman was obviously suggesting that we might bring the atom bomb and the hydrogen bomb under the same rule. Might I remind the House that the use of gas was made illegal as long ago as 1856? It was first discovered during the period of the Crimean War, and scientists at that time produced this terrible weapon. It so affected Governments of the day that, in the Declaration of Paris, they said that gas should be banned forever. It was to be completely illegal to use it.
Nothing further was said about it until the famous Hague Conference, which was called together in 1905. One of the most important points in the Hague Convention in 1906 was again a declaration that the use of gas was completely illegal. It was signed by Germany. It had been signed by Prussia in 1856; but neither the signature of Prussia in 1856 nor the signature by Germany in 1906 saved the Canadian soldiers, or ours, or the French, on that terrible morning. I have to call attention to these things to show that agreements in themselves are not enough.
Perhaps I may now turn to the noblest document ever written, the United Nations Charter, and remind the House of what was contained in it. The words were written by that very great statesman, philosopher and general, General Smuts. It was signed by all the nations, 91 in Conference. I hope they understood it, and I hope still more that they read it. This was done in 1945. Here are the words:We, the peoples of the United Nations,"—not merely the Governments—determined—to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, andto reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, andto establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from Treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, andto promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, and for these ends—to practise tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, andto unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, have resolved "—etc. For what purpose?To ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest.I wonder when that will become the recognised law and rule of the world, and be as much an obligation upon nations and Governments as it is upon us to maintain law and not to bring ourselves within the jurisdiction of the criminal courts.
Until that happens, what are we to do? We cannot merely go on hoping for that to come. We have to take such steps as we can at the present time. Until then, let us try to follow paths which I hope will lead in the same direction as those which were obviously in the mind of General Smuts when he framed those words; and which ought to have been in the minds of all the Governments—more than 50 of them—who signed them solemnly when the world was crying out to them to sign, having had six years of war.
The first step is emphasised in the Motion. There should be a meeting of the heads of the United States, of Russia, and of this country, we representing not merely the United Kingdom, but the British Empire and Commonwealth, thus 92 speaking with a greater voice than can be attained by the President of the United States of America or by whoever represents Russia. I have advocated this and pressed it since 1947. The Prime Minister himself put it forward in February, 1950, and again in May last year.
Why should we still wait? I agree with the word "immediately" that has been used by the Leader of the Opposition. Why not now? Now is the time when the whole world is deeply concerned and shocked at the possibility of what may happen. One is concerned about the extent to which the harm can go; whether it be 300 miles or not, I do not know. I have no knowledge of these things but I can gather, from what has been said in America and by the Prime Minister today, what would happen if one of these bombs were dropped here in this House, with the business going on all around us. For a distance of three miles, between 1½ million and two million people, certainly in the middle of the day, would be going about their avocations peacefully. There would have been no declaration of war and no movement of troops. Suddenly, from the air, the whole area would be wiped out.
Does not that make an impact upon the imagination of people, wherever they may be? Is not this the moment to bring the others together and to say, "In the name of humanity, come along. Forget your past speeches. Forget what you have been wrangling about and what happened in Berlin or in Yalta. Let us come to the big thing that concerns humanity, the abolition of war, if we possibly can do it." What else? I was delighted to hear from the Prime Minister about the agreement that was made between him and President Roosevelt in August, 1943, and which said that we agreed, as between the United States and the United Kingdom—which I take it means the Commonwealth—
First, that we will never use this agency against each other.Secondly, that we will not use it against third parties without each other's consentTo me, those are the two mighty things in the agreement, far bigger than anything else. It may be that the third is also big.
93 We said, in other words, "We know how horrible this is. We will never, whatever be the circumstances, use it against one another." Could not that be extended? The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) asked for a renewal of the declaration. This was an agreement between two great men, President Roosevelt and the Prime Minister. Why cannot it be embodied in a treaty between the United States and Britain and the other members of the Commonwealth?
I should like to go further and make a suggestion to the Government. I understand that the Foreign Secretary will be replying to the debate. He has very courteously sent me a note saying that he has been called away. I make the suggestion that this agreement be extended to the free nations, and certainly to the 14 members of N.A.T.O. They should agree among themselves that this weapon is so horrible that they will never use it against one another whatever be the circumstances at any time. There should be a mutual regard for ourselves and for civilisation.
§ Mr. Davies
I should prefer to go on without interruption. Speeches have been very long.
I will suggest another thing. So far as I know, these bombs are at present being manufactured in Russia and the United States, and nowhere else. Until, of course, it is perfectly clear that Russia will not—I think "cannot" is a better word—use them, we cannot expect America to do away with hers. So long as these two countries have them, they are the leading Powers on either side, could it not be left there? Could not we and the other countries belonging to N.A.T.O. say that our contribution shall be on another line, and that we shall take no part in the manufacture of these bombs, thus showing our condemnation of them?
I began very rightly by paying my tribute to the Prime Minister for the fact that he can better express the situation than any of us. I ask the House to forgive me for quoting some wonderful words from a book which is familiar to many of us in this House, "The World Crisis: 94 The Aftermath" which was written by the present Prime Minister and which was published in 1929. There are moments when the Prime Minister has vision such as has not been attained by anybody since the major prophets. He has the power of moving the masses and of affecting us all in an amazing way. This is how he described the situation in 1929 when there was no thought of atom bombs or of hydrogen bombs. On page 454 of that book it states:It is established that nations who believe their life is at stake will not be restrained from using any means to secure their existence. It is probable—nay, certain—that among the means which will next time be at their disposal will be agencies and processes of destruction wholesale, unlimited, and perhaps, once launched, uncontrollable."—What an amazing prophecy—Mankind has never been in this position before. Without having improved appreciably in virtue or enjoying wiser guidance, it has got into its hands for the first time the tools by which it can unfailingly accomplish its own extermination. That is the point in human destinies, to which all the glories and toils of men have at last led them. They would do well to pause and ponder upon their new responsibilities.Then come words worthy of that great speech—which is always talked about— by John Bright, the great orator of this House.Death stands at attention, obedient, expectant, ready to serve, ready to shear away the peoples en masse; ready, if called on, to pulverise without hope of repair, what is left of civilisation. He awaits only the word of command. He awaits it from a frail, bewildered being, long his victim, now—for one occasion only—his Master.That is the position with which we are faced. There is no one more capable than the Prime Minister, if he will put his mind to it, of finding a solution to this tremendous problem. He was a mighty war leader, but I am certain that his greatest ambition has not yet been achieved. He would like to go down in history, in which he has a great permanent niche, as the man who brought peace on earth and good will towards men.
This Motion which I support is far and away above politics. I agree with the right hon. Member for Dundee, West that this is a great moral and a great human issue. This is a mighty opportunity for this great country which has led the world for at least 300 years. Although power has passed away from 95 it today, it has a greater moral leadership and a greater responsibility to humanity than it ever had before. I only hope that the Prime Minister will take this opportunity and will lead us towards that peace which we all desire.
§ Mr. Richard Fort (Clitheroe)
I find it difficult, following the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), who, towards the end of his speech, quoted some magnificent words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. He said in words which were certainly new to one of my age that what this debate today presents to us is a moral problem.
Whatever else may be said against the hydrogen bomb—and very much must be said against it—it has undoubtedly brought not only to us in this House and to our fellow countrymen, but to peoples throughout the world, a realisation of the great problems of war and peace, which in this instance, may land us, and, indeed, all living people, in utter annihilation.
While these thoughts are still in our minds, and before the apathy that will follow the horrid surprise that we have all experienced these last few days, let us think, as we are doing this afternoon, how we can take this opportunity and this state of mind and turn it to the advantage not only of our own country but of mankind as a whole.
This debate has been marked by one of the historic documents of our time, the Articles of Agreement signed between the late President Roosevelt and our present Prime Minister at Quebec, in August, 1943. That document deals with the use of the bomb against third parties and what ought to be the relationship between this country and other countries—at present only the United States and Soviet Russia—regarding the use of this hideous weapon.
The Articles are, indeed, one of the missed chances of history. One can say no more than that. No chance, apparently, was given or taken of turning them into a more permanent treaty after the war. As we have heard this afternoon —and it has certainly been common gossip in the United States—Senator MacMahon, when promoting his Act in 1946, was entirely unconscious of the 96 Articles of Agreement. He was trying to do what he thought best in the interests of his country, and also of other countries, by staving off what he feared might be a very much more severe Act than he himself promoted and which, finally, was passed by Congress. History is made up of lost chances, and this was one of the great lost chances. If it were true that the Articles of Agreement were reasonable arrangements for consultation and I think they were, in respect to bombs based on uranium, then they are 50 times more true of the hydrogen bomb.
Some hon. Members seemed to think that the hydrogen bomb was merely an extension of the uranium bomb. It is, in fact, something of almost an entirely different character, although it draws its force from the same source. We were all appalled to see those photographs in the newspapers the other day—the 'huge fire-ball hanging over the earth like a sun pulled down all too near, followed by an evil mantle lying over hundreds of square miles of earth. That is the picture which we have in our minds.
The difference between that force and the force produced by even the largest of the conventional uranium atom bombs is very great. Even the earlier atom bombs, such as those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—which, we have been told, have been replaced by even more powerful but similar instruments—with their single blow did rather less damage than was inflicted on Tokio with conventional fire bombs a little earlier.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
Would my hon. Friend make it clear that none of these weapons can be manufactured without a basis of fissionable material?
§ Mr. Fort
My hon. Friend is entirely correct. Only those countries which have been able to make fissionable material can make either type of bomb. Once they had the fissionable material they can, with additional chemical and mechanical processes, go on to manufacture this horrible hydrogen bomb.
Not only is the damage caused by the blast and heat of the hydrogen bomb very much larger but, by so arranging its constituents, hundreds of square miles could be for decades rendered so radioactive as to be, for all practical purposes, as desert as the worst parts of the Sahara or the 97 Great Australian Desert. After one of these bombs had gone off it would be impossible for any human creature to live in the area. The force of the older type of atom bomb was so much less that that complete barrenness could be achieved, only throughout a more limited area.
The uranium atom bomb is a horrible implement of war, but it is in the same category as the more conventional types, such as the high explosive which we all know only too well. When we talk of the hydrogen bomb we are talking about an implement the like of which mankind, literally, has not seen before. One can scientifically predict that its effect upon the world will be quite unlike the effects of any other weapons since the invention of gunpowder, or even earlier.
We therefore have to face the practical as well as the moral problems with which this implement confronts us. When I hear some of the moving speeches made in the House I feel perhaps more like John Henry Newman when he wrote in the hymn:The distant scene I do not ask to see, One step enough for me.I have tried to think of one step—how best to take advantage of this present state of mind as soon as possible. I believe that there are two things we must do. The first is that what will stop anyone—whether our enemies, alas, since 1946, the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics or our allies, the United States— letting off this bomb is the fear of what the other party can do—the ghastly results of the sort which I have just described.
Until we can work out a more abiding relationship we must continue in our efforts so that neither side will feel that by letting off this ghastly implement they will be able to gain such an overwhelming advantage as to win a war in a short time. We have to prevent that. For fear that the other side may get a jump ahead we cannot stop our research work, but while continuing that work, we have to keep ourselves in a state of constant openmindedness in preparation for negotiation. We have tried to do that since the war. The most thorough thought was given to the matter by the committee originally set up by Mr. Baruch in 1946. In trying to follow that committee's recommendations we and the United States Government faced the immediate 98 problem of how to enforce any conventions.
Enforcement means inspection all the way along the line from the moment the uranium ore comes from the mine to the time when the material leaves the atomic factory to be placed in store and permanent watch kept upon it. Not only did the Government then headed by the present Leader of the Opposition express its willingness for that type of inspection and allow inspectors from Russia or any of the other interested powers into our factories, but the United States Government took exactly the same view.
For my part, I think that it is either evil intention or short memory that leads to this constant criticism that the United States have refused to try to negotiate in this field. They started with the Baruch proposals. Then, in the last few months, we have had General Eisenhower's proposals for the control of the commercial use of fissionable material. Fortunately negotiations with regard to those proposals do not seem to have come to the same frustrating end as did the Baruch proposals.
We have tried to reach an agreement which will allow thorough inspection— anything else is merely misleading mankind. It seemed to me, from the Prime Minister's proposals, that there were two ways in which we could try to carry on. One is to follow up President Eisenhower's proposals, which have the great virtue of practicality. That is, to try to build up from the commercial use. The other is for the high-level meeting which is the subject of the Motion before us and which my right hon. Friend has accepted on behalf of this side of the House.
While I am quite sure that strength is necessary so as to deter anyone from using the bomb while negotiations are going on, I believe that there is one step which might well be worth considering in order to show our determination to carry through negotiations. That is one which was originally made by 12 of the most eminent physicists in the United States—that we and the United States Government should make a unilateral declaration that we would never use the hydrogen bomb except in retaliation for its use by the other side.
I know that, strategically, that is a very severe handicap to undertake, but, in view 99 of the difference between the hydrogen bomb and the older type of atomic bomb, we should still have in our hands a very powerful implement that we could use, namely, the older type of bomb, and, at the same time, we should be indicating clearly to the world our recognition that we had in our hands the most frightful weapon that man has ever devised.
We should also be putting upon the enemy, Communist Russia, the onus of taking a similar step—in which case, what better opening for negotiation could there be? —or leaving on them the responsibility of declaring to mankind that they themselves could stand back and regard with indifference the use of this terrible weapon.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I do not intend to speak for very long, because I want as many back benchers as possible to have a chance to take part in this debate. I want to deal with some aspects of this problem which have not yet been mentioned. We are discussing this matter because civilisation is threatened. This afternoon we have heard speeches from which it appears obvious that many hon. Members have completely failed to understand the position that the world is in today. I do not believe that any of the hon. Members who have spoken today can visualise or understand the relationship of the hydrogen bomb to the destiny of civilisation.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition on 6th March, 1950, speaking in the debate on the Gracious Speech, said:The public are naturally concerned over the danger to civilisation from this weapon of mass destruction. The hydrogen bomb is something which is in the future, of course." —That was just three years ago—It differs in degree, more than anything else, from the atom bomb." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 70.]In order to get through the number of points I want to mention in a space of 10 or 12 minutes, I shall have to put a number of questions rather than try to build a case. I regret that today I am forced to do that. I also regret that I was obliged to rise to my feet during the speech of the Prime Minister, for whom, despite our differences, we all have affection. I was forced to rise to my feet 100 because, as a mere back bencher watching these events, I expected a great man to jump at the possibility of leadership. But instead of assuming leadership, he tossed his reputation into the earthenware pot of verbosity and party differences. We have heard these platitudes for so long, and the time has come when platitudes should be spoken no longer.
I heard a cheap remark about Russia not knowing the Ten Commandments. I should like to tell the hon. Gentleman who made that remark that, while I was in Russia on the issue of East-West trade, I took a Quaker friend of mine to a church which was more full than any church in London would be on the same day. Incidentally, some people called us fellow travellers and Communists when we went to Russia on that occasion, but I now find that we have great allies on the other side of the House. Do not let us descend to these differences. For the Russian, the Englishman and the American, civilisation and Christianity can be destroyed. What are we to do about this problem?
§ Mr. P. Roberts rose—
§ Mr. Davies
I cannot give way now. I want to make a short and succinct speech. The Chairman of the Congressional Atomic Energy Committee, Mr. Sterling Cole, who was mentioned by the Prime Minister today—I mentioned him in a supplementary question—announced to the world that the testing ground danger zone in the Pacific has expanded more than sixfold, from 50,000 square miles to 315,000 square miles. He said he said he could not estimate the possible radiation and contamination. Could not the Prime Minister have given to the House today some facts on those lines?
I asked a question which was not frivolous. I should like to know whether the ship in which Her Majesty the Queen is sailing is anywhere in or near this area of radiation. Have we any responsibility to say to the United States at this moment, "Please hold your hand until we have consultations"?
Russia has asked to join N.A.T.O. Cheapjacks of international politics have scoffed at that idea. If we think that she is bluffing at this juncture in our civilisation, and if we consider that we are politicians and statesmen, we must now demonstrate to the ordinary people of the 101 world that we want to call that bluff. I ask the Government what they are going to do, and what they are going to tell the people of Britain and of the world as a whole about this approach by Russia to join N.A.T.O. The "Yorkshire Post" on 19th March said:Atomic power has presented the nations with alternatives as stark and dramatic as those put forward in any old morality play.I have heard hon. Members talking about the Navy as if it were still in the days of the Battle of Trafalgar. I asked for a debate on this subject, and I was laughed at when I asked what is the effect of atomic explosions on ocean currents and on the movement of fish. For all the talk in this House, the Japanese are the only people in the world who have experienced, in Hiroshima, what an atom bomb can do. I am tired of the phrase "this free world," because we are not allowing the scientists to be free, but if we want to win Japan to the free world, are we going to do this by making 315,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean radio-active so that they have to test every fish which comes to their shores by a Geiger counter? These are the problems that we have to examine, rather than the size of our Armies in Europe at the moment.
General Ridgway on 19th March admitted that Russia has these weapons. Incidentally, I found this out for myself: the Prime Minister should have told us. On 23rd March the Prime Minister said in this House:I do not consider that any change in our procedure "—listen to this for leadership—is called for at the moment, nor can I think of one that would be helpful." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 1053.]It was obvious today that that great Gentleman had taken a brief from someone else instead of using the dynamism of his own imagination to speak for Britain and for the free world.
We are fostering a self-deception. We are spending huge sums of money on conventional war machines. The Japanese ship "The Lucky Dragon" has to be destroyed. Yet we talk about building huge battleships. One of these bombs on the narrows about 20 fathoms deep, between Dover and France would flood from the Zuider Zee to Le Havre. Could we move troops in that?
102 Whether or not be believe that Russia is a rogue elephant, we are forced, by the circumstances of the position, to talk. The 1954 White Paper on Defence talked of "broken-backed warfare," Never before in the history of this great nation has a White Paper talked in such terms. A man with a broken back cannot think, and the possibilities of democracy winning in such warfare do not exist.
We have a right to be consulted in these matters. What will be the effect of this "New Look" in American foreign policy? Does it mean that a hydrogen bomb will be dropped on French Indo-China without consultation, or that we shall be drawn into a war in which no British blood should be shed and in which we have no interest? Is it not time that Western man realised that Oriental man, too, wants a share of the world's goods? Do not call it mere Communism; it is the natural evolution of the desire of these people for some of the good things of the world which Western man has hitherto possessed.
Hagridden with fear, on 17th March President Eisenhower uttered these words —listen to them, Mr. Speaker:I think there is too much hysteria about.The President then began to list the fear of the Americans.We fear the men in the Kremlin, we fear what they will do to our friends around them. We are fearing what unwise investigators will do to us here at home as they try to combat subversion or bribery or deceit within. We fear depression, we fear the loss of our jobs, all of these with their impact on the human mind make us act almost hysterically and you find hysterical reaction…That was what the President said on St. Patrick's Day, 1954.
Why should this fear exist? I believe that Britain has something to contribute to the world—a profound common-sense, and a sense of negotiation. Whatever America or anybody else may think, if this House of Commons now demanded that a lead be given, neither America, France nor Russia could resist it. That demand should be made. If it is not, and if one of these wars comes along, there will not be enough lamp posts in Europe for those so-called statesmen and politicians who made the error. [Laughter.]Hon. Members opposite think this is funny. We see the lack of imagination of those hard-faced people among the 103 party opposite, who are walking across the history of Europe without ever thinking of the mass of people who have to do all this fighting.
This bomb has a biological aspect. It is fantastic and childish to compare it with gunpowder. It represents a biological change in human outlook and upon the reproduction of the race. If the men of the world do not do something, the day may come when the women of the world refuse to reproduce their own kind for fear of being atomised by morons who, in the 20th century, have not the courage to face this problem as Christians.
When Christ was crucified on the Cross, he said:My God, my God, why hast Thou for saken me?I sometimes think that he was visualising what the 20th century would bring to the world, when politicians, statesmen and the mass of mankind have not the courage to use this energy for life instead of death. We can do something about it. We can force the world to do something about it. If this House of Commons had had the right leadership today we could have called the nations of the world together and halted the frenetic steps we are taking towards war and hysteria. If we do not do it, the people, one day, will.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
In considering this intractable problem which all of us face this afternoon, I do not believe that any useful purpose can be served by a surrender to emotionalism. Therefore, what few observations I have to address to the House will be, as far as I can make them, simply practical in character, dealing with the nature of atomic energy and how best the terms of the Motion, which I believe will be acceptable in all parts of the House, may be interpreted.
I found the speech of the Leader of the Opposition quite unexceptionable. In the period at his disposal—and he spoke for no more than 30 minutes—he dealt with all the frightful and frightening consequences to mankind of an extension of the power of nuclear fission, as applied to armaments. We have been talking today of the hydrogen bomb, which can 104 destroy vast areas, and we have limited our observations to the destructive capacity of the bomb as we know it today. In my view, however, this frightful weapon will increase in its destructive power in geometrical and not arithmetical progression. What is most likely to happen in the next ten years, in my view, is that the increase in the destructive power of this weapon which has been developed during the course of the last decade, will be multiplied many times over.
With those few comments of a general character, I shall address myself to one practical aspect of the Motion, namely, the words:devising positive policies and means for removing from all the peoples of the world the fear which now oppresses them…That practical means can be achieved only if there is a supra-national control of the manufacture of the nuclear materials which go into these frightful weapons of destruction. I am sorry to be exacting in this matter. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr C. Davies) spoke of the control of atom bombs. That is a very disingenuous expression. One cannot control atom bombs; one cannot control hydrogen bombs. What civilised mankind—and I hope that Russia may ultimately be included within the ambit of that expression—has to consider is how it can control the manufacture of the material which is common to all these weapons, namely, fissionable material.
Fissionable material can be manufactured only in very large and expensive plants. We had evidence of that in the war years, when our principal scientists engaged in this branch of research left this country and went to remote places in the United States of America, where enormous plants were constructed for the production of fissionable material. In the passage of time that fissionable material was put into a bomb—not a very large one—which was exploded for the first time in Mexico. Then, later, larger bombs were exploded in the Pacific area, and later still dropped with devastating effects on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I shall not go into the moral aspects of this matter but shall address myself to the practical problem of fissionable material. This same fissionable material is, to use a colloquialism, the charge 105 which sets off the devastatingly greater power inherent in the hydrogen bomb. But here is the character as well as the fundamental of the problem: that same fissionable material is used to make the very products which are used for peaceful purposes, such as radioactive isotopes, and the same fissionable material may be burned beneath the boilers of a power house, to raise steam, in order to drive the turbo-alternators and make electricity. It is exactly the same fissionable material.
My case is that, in the ultimate, it is no good talking about control of the hydrogen bomb or control of the atom bomb. What we have to control, on an international scale, is the manufacture and production of the base material, which is the fissionable material. Fortunately, it can be made only in very large plants; it can be made only in plants that cost tens of millions of pounds, the location of which could easily be ascertainable by international observers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) rightly referred to a scheme produced by Mr. Baruch in 1946 for international control and inspection of these plants. I suggest that inspection in itself will not be sufficient. What obviously will be eventually required, if the final product in its most refined form as we know it at present, the hydrogen bomb, is to be controlled, will be international management of the plants that make fissionable material. That is the only ultimate solution, that the few plants of this character that there are in the world—and whether there be two or three in the United States, and whether there be two or three in this country, and whether there be two or three in Russia, there are probably not more than 10 or 12 plants in the entire world—should be internationally managed.
It is quite futile for hon. Gentlemen opposite to say we in Britain have not yet got the hydrogen bomb. It is only a matter of a few months of developing by formulae and in conjunction with fissionable materials, all of which are widely known and recognised, before a British hydrogen bomb could be produced. It is the management of the plants that produce the fissionable material that must be the critical factor in this debate.
106 The Prime Minister stated, I believe, that he would readily accept this Motion provided that the word "immediate" were not construed as meaning a definite period of time. Of course, my right hon. Friend—and I strongly support him here—must judge what is the most propitious moment for an advance to be made to the other principally interested Powers, namely, the United States of America and Russia. I do not share the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) that we could regard any rebuff to an advance we might make as something not serious and to be taken lightly. A rebuff, at the wrong moment, might destroy all ultimate opportunity for reaching the kind of agreement for international management of the production of fissionable material, which all of us so earnestly desire.
It is a question of the propitious moment to make an advance. It is the question also that, if we are to control the manufacture of fissionable material, it takes not two to make the bargain; it takes three to make the bargain; and unless Soviet Russia is prepared to allow British scientists and engineers and American scientists and engineers and Russian scientists and engineers under a form of tripartite agreement to control the management of the plants that produce fissionable material it is impossible, in my view, to implement the terms of the Motion that all of us so fervently desire to see brought to fruition.
I have spoken quite shortly of what I conceive to be a practical aspect of this problem. I hope that I shall command the general support of the House when I say that there need be no inhibition about the progress that could be made during the next year in this vital matter. Russia is as frightened as the United States of America and the United Kingdom of the implications of the hydrogen bomb, and I earnestly hope and fervently pray that, at a reasonably early date, there may be some suggestion from the Russian side, some formula advanced, some reasonable compromise adumbrated, as to how a tripartite form of agreement, and a refinement of the Baruch proposals of 1946, may be applied to this vital and fundamental issue of international management of the plants that produce the fissionable material.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) has made a speech that will have found a response on both sides of the House. In the debate we have heard speeches that have alternatively brought cheers from each side of the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. S. Davies), who leads the Liberal Party, made proposals that were revolutionary.
I was sorry that the Prime Minister seemed to go out of his way to provoke the Opposition needlessly today. If ever an opportunity was presented to him on a silver plate by the Opposition, it was today. The Opposition made it perfectly easy for the Prime Minister to accept friendly approaches, made by my right hon. Friend who leads the Opposition, and to speak unitedly for the great peoples of these islands. He preferred instead, for some reason best known to himself, to talk in a petty, squabbling mood about one of the mightiest issues, as he has himself referred to it in recent days.
It has been perfectly clear during the debate that everyone is frightened of the possibilities of this weapon and of the weapons which will follow in its wake. No one in his senses believes that the hydrogen bomb is the last weapon in this foolish scramble for power. We all of us know that if the scientists are allowed access to these materials they will go on devising weapons even more fiendish, which we shall see if we are privileged to live.
The alarm which spread through this country was fostered, I believe, by the hasty utterance of President Eisenhower that the scientists had been surprised at the scope of the destruction of the hydrogen bomb. Efforts have been made since then to play down the terrible havoc this bomb wreaks upon humanity, for I have a feeling in my bones that responsible people know that the ordinary masses of the world are not going to stand on one side and allow anyone to produce these bombs on a scale that will mean destruction of the world that we ought to be handing on to the next generation.
From both sides of the House hon. Members have been asking for guarantees of our safety if we have not the 108 hydrogen bomb and the Russians have it or the Americans have it. People have always talked in the same way when they have sought to justify the use of a new, cruel weapon. They have always said, "Because it exists, we must have it. We must be stronger materially than our opposite numbers." I believe that we would do well to look at our own history. The Leader of the Liberal Party referred to the fact that we have on occasions in the last 300 years given a moral lead to the world. To give a moral lead does not mean making speeches. It means that we are willing to sacrifice something ourselves in the interests of humanity. There is no lead to the world unless we ourselves pay some price. It is my deep conviction that the hour has now come when we can again show the world the way to sanity by saying that, whatever others do, we will not produce the hydrogen bomb.
There have been references to the Psalms and the Old Testament, and I trust I may be forgiven if, in this ancient and honourable House, I quote the New Testament, which rejects the doctrine of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, which does not ask for guarantees but which establishes a new, morality. It will be a long journey for us as a Christian nation if we are to wait for everybody else to be Christians before we act in the Christian faith. We are asking for guarantees which cannot be forthcoming. We ought to have the courage to tell our people that for once history has revealed that the safety of humanity lies best in the Sermon on the Mount rather than in the hydrogen bomb, and that to practise the principles of the New Testament today is our best line of defence and offers a means of life to the next generation.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
What happened to Cardinal Mindszenty and others who took that view?
§ Mr. Thomas
If the hon. Gentleman believes that Christian faith will be accepted without sacrifice, then his views are different from mine, and if he intends to wait until there are guarantees that it cannot fail, then he will not help to bring it into this country.
The House has been told that in no circumstances would we be the first to use the hydrogen bomb. I believe—I 109 am not sure—that the statement has also been made from America that they would not be the first to use it.
§ Mr. Thomas
Well, we have said that this country would not be the first to use this terrible weapon, if and when we have it—and I believe that is only a question of time. But it is only those who use it first who want this weapon, because they certainly would not use one; if they were going to use the weapon at all, they would use it in sufficient quantity to destroy their enemy at a single blow.
It is no good pretending that the old standard of defence will work. The nation might as well make up its mind that by the sword there is no security and by the bomb there is only insecurity. We are tending to destroy ourselves in the name of defence, and that is a ridiculous position. We are conscripting our young men and calling them to the colours as though we are thinking of defence still in terms of numbers. We are thinking of defence in the same terms as when the right hon. Gentleman, the Prime Minister, was at Omdurman. There has been no change in the philosophy. The Army, the Navy and the Air Force are all after their quota of young men. We are upsetting our industrial and economic life in the name of a defence which is mythical in view of the power of the hydrogen bomb.
I should have thought that the Prime Minister would have given us one of his mighty speeches. I do not expect too much from the right hon. Gentleman, but, in view of his past, we had a right to expect that he would come here this afternoon with a very different sort of approach to this problem. I am confident that the Leader of the Opposition has spoken not only for peoples of all parties in this country but for decent people throughout the world.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
There is no doubt that the attention and thought of the peoples of the world is focused at this time upon the hydrogen bomb and its effects. Although not in a panic or hysteria, the attention of thinking people in the world and in this House is directed towards this bomb 110 and all it can mean for ill, or possibly for good in the prevention of war.
The United States have a tremendous responsibility in that they have the first hydrogen bomb practically demonstrated in the world. That is a great responsibility for any nation to have, and I believe the United States are conscious of it. We, in this country, also have a great responsibility because of the political and moral influence which we can bring to bear in the world, and of the people in this land we in this great and honourable House of Commons have the greatest responsibility of all, being the elected representatives of our people who are concerned in common with all the peoples of the world.
The first point which we must face— there is no point in burking it—is that the evolution of the atomic weapon, and the hydrogen bomb in particular, was inevitable. The scientist is a purist; he must go on, he must probe, he must research, he must discover until he has found, and then he must go on again.
The tragedy is not that the scientist has gone on but that the evolution of this bomb has taken place before the peoples of the world were spiritually or intellectually ready to deal with it. The scientific development was inevitable, and the tragedy is that man's progress in spiritual and intellectual matters and in matters of experience and common sense has not kept pace with scientific achievements.
The world is thus concerned about the new weapon which has come into its hands. It has come before the peoples of the world have learned, in which ever way they will learn, that they must live in peace and fellowship. If the bomb had come later, when those salient facts were known to the world, it would have been a very different matter and would have caused far less concern.
We must face the fact that we have the bomb now when the world is not ready for it. The world has awakened in surprise to find that it has this great weapon in its midst. No nation knows what to do about it, and all are in fear of its possible consequences. May I repeat what the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) said: this is not the end. It is only a few short years since we had the evolution of the atomic bomb. Now we have the hydrogen bomb.
111 The Prime Minister said that the difference between so-called conventional weapons and the atomic bomb is less than the difference between the atomic bomb and the hydrogen bomb. Who knows what is yet to come? I am not sure in my own mind, and so far as I can understand the position, that we have gone as far as we can in research into the elementary material needed for these bombs. I believe that the whole world of science lies almost wide open for the scientist. Who can tell in the next 10 or 20 years what the scientists, in their inevitable march towards discoveries, will bring before us? I believe that it is right and proper that at this early time in this devastating set of developments we should be looking at the situation to find how we can control it, if we can, before it is too late.
The dominating emotion in all the nations of the world now and in the years through this century is fear. The Russians fear what the Western nations may be intending, although we ourselves know that they have no cause for such fear. And we in the Western nations fear what the Russians may be intending, although we do not know what they are intending. We are all surrounded by an atmosphere of fear. Of all the emotions, fear is the most dangerous and unpredictable in its results. If one takes these hydrogen bombs and places them in the hands of some nation which is in fear, it is impossible to realise what may be the ultimate outcome.
We in the Western nations have, in the years since the war, taken the line that we should, through our built-up strength and through our alliances in N.A.T.O., ensure peace by our very strength. We have at all times, and again today, made it clear to the other nations of the world that we are ever ready and willing to sit down in council with the nations of the world to arrive at a peaceful solution and to work on a basis of understanding and goodwill rather than by ever-increasing armaments.
That position stands today. We have given demonstrations of our desire for peace and to make sacrifices for it. The only reservation which we have made is that what we are prepared to do in sacrifice and gesture we ask the other 112 nations to do also in fairness to our intentions. Now, in addition to this strength which we have built up in our armament programme since the war, we have in N.A.T.O. this new and powerful weapon of the hydrogen bomb.
I want to leave this thought with the House on the matter. This, of all the times that we have had in history, is a wonderful opportunity for us to show our sincerity…in the cause of disarmament. If we, as I believe we will be, are prepared to indicate to the nations of the world, with the background of this mighty new strength that we have, that we are prepared to sit down in council to bring about disarmament, we shall have given proof permanently of our sincerity and desire for peace. That proof will be even greater and more sincere in its emphasis by the fact that we are now in a commanding position and that we come, not as a supplicant cap in hand, but as a nation and part of the great alliance of those who possess the most devastating weapon in the world; but in spite of that we are prepared to come to the councils of the world, including Russia and all others, who share our desire for disarmament.
The quality of our sincerity will be greatly heightened if, in spite of that strength which has been demonstrated to the concern of all the world, and despite the fact that we possess all that at the present time, we and the Americans and the rest of our Western allies are prepared to show Russia and her allies that such is our desire for peace that we are prepared to come and talk disarmament, provided they are prepared to meet us on a common level.
I believe that this is an opportunity which we and the United States and all the Western nations should grasp with both hands. It is even stronger now, when the Russians cannot claim to have given demonstrative evidence of this bomb, than it may be in two or three years' time. I trust that, in the cause of the permanent peace of the world, the United States, who have this bomb, and we ourselves, who have such great influence in the world, and all the rest of the Western nations will not lose this opportunity to make this contribution to a lasting peace.
§ 7.55 p.m.
Dr. Barnett Stress (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
This has been an extraordinary day and, except for the speech of the Prime Minister, who surprised so many of us, there has been very considerable agreement on both sides of the House. We have felt that the matter is of the utmost seriousness and must be treated seriously. It is not a party issue; indeed, most of us feel that it is beyond a national issue and affects the whole of the world.
We have no business to be sorry for ourselves because we live in a small island with a population of 50 million men, women and children, because the fate of other parts of the world would be just as bad and, indeed, it might be better to be obliterated and die sooner than to live in a broken-backed civilisation, such as we have heard so many horrifying things about. I am not anxious to pile horror on horror, or even to discuss the physical aspects of this matter. First, I am optimistic that if we have our way in Britain there will not be an atomic war and devastating bombs of this kind will not be used against human beings.
Despite the unfortunate—[An HON. MEMBER: "Appalling."]—shall I say "unhappy," display by the Prime Minister, we have enough agreement in the House, all of us together, for the world to know very well how those of us who represent our constituencies throughout the whole of this country feel. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and I had our names attached to a Motion of about 125 names which was somewhat more radical than the one on the Order Paper today, and we had no hestitation in making it known that we would withdraw that Motion in order that it might be possible to get the one on the Order Paper accepted by the Prime Minister and those who sit with and behind him.
We did that—and no one will accuse my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South of not being a political animal—because we were certain that this was not a party matter but one in which we must at all costs tread our own feelings underfoot, show a united front and let Britain speak to the whole of the world to make sure that this abomination of desolation never befalls us.
114 The Prime Minister made a strange statement which scared me. I am not easily frightened. I have been bombed and buried and lived through it. Also at my age it does not matter if there is not much longer to go.
§ Dr. Stross
I am speaking for myself at the moment. Now I will speak for my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who is so anxious to live, and for his children and the children of every one in the country. We have them in mind when we talk like this and express fears. I hope that no one will run away with the idea that I personally feel panicky, because if so I shall be quite prepared to meet him behind Mr. Speaker's Chair, and no doubt I could show him.
The Prime Minister said that the U.S.S.R. is ringed with bases occupied by the United States. He also declared to us that, in spite of the great land masses available to Russia, the fact that the United States possessed the hydrogen bomb would make Russia vulnerable in spite of her huge land area. That was a remarkable thing to interpolate into this debate. If we are to come together to bring peace to the world, the least we can do is not to be horribly and disgustingly provocative beforehand.
The facts are these. If all the great cities of the Soviet Union are obliterated, only 15 per cent, of the people are destroyed, but to destroy 40 of the great cities of the United States would mean the destruction of 66 per cent, of their people. As for ourselves, we know very well that we need not discuss that aspect of it.
Therefore, why did the Prime Minister want to imply this strange threat, either of bluff or otherwise, that now that the Soviet Union is ringed with bases and the hydrogen bombs are available, a great mass of radioactive material may affect them? If the Prime Minister said it because he is not sure that the Soviet Union has a realistic approach to this problem and he wants to bring them to heel or to their senses and make them rational, I shall forgive him, as, I hope, they will, so long as we get our discussions.
115 It is worth while saying a few words about what we suffer without having bombs dropped on our heads. The ultimate reality of atomic war means that we need not discuss what would happen afterwards. It would take a very long time for a new civilisation to appear. The old one would certainly be destroyed and most of us, by and large, would not have any interest.
I was influenced by hearing one part of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), who said that there might be a dearth of lampposts. He did not mean, I gather, that the lamp-posts would be atomised and there would not be enough light available for us. My hon. Friend thought that politicians, like ourselves, including Foreign Secretaries all the world over, would have to rest on lamp-posts and dangle from them. The last person in the world that anybody would want this to happen to is our present Foreign Secretary—we are very fond of him. But if we do get a war, and if at the beginning of it and throughout we use hydrogen bombs and the new paralysing gas that we hear something about—five or 10 tons of which, I think, would be enough to kill 50 million people—no politician would survive. There are nowadays many queer and specious ways of killing our neighbours, and we need not think only in terms of hydrogen bombs.
I am glad that the Foreign Secretary is present, because he will have had far more experience of what I want to speak about than I have had. I want to talk about the effect of these abominable weapons on human beings without war. The fact that they are being made and stored accounts for the world's fear, which our united action and our united voice tonight will, we hope, lift from the peoples all over the world.
We have heard words such as, "Do not become hysterical," and "Do not allow yourself to fall into panic." The world is suffering by and large from hysteria, and the worst sufferers from hysteria are the politicians in high places. Hysteria is a technical term, and I want to use it technically in the way that the Foreign Secretary will have noted it when he goes to conferences all over the world and sees how people act. He may even. 116 for all I know, have recognised the symptoms in himself.
Hysteria technically arises in individuals when they have repressed very deeply and powerfully something that they fear and something which they cannot personally face. It applies to groupings and nations just as it can apply to individuals. Today most of us, I think, would agree that three symptoms are showing in the world, following this type of hysteria which exists. One is paralysis, the inability to face up to doing something about this problem which we are discussing. We have had that for nine years, for the problem is at least nine years old. Secondly, we pick up a whipping boy, a substitute target, instead of going for the thing that is at fault; we find something else to attack, something that is not even the right sort of thing. Thirdly, there is an escapist technique so as to try to live in a sort of dream world because we do not like the world that we have created ourselves.
The world we have created ourselves, I am sure everyone in the House will agree, is a dangerous world to live in for us in our generation. It is a world in which our children and grandchildren will move about easily and which they will understand well if we allow them life, if we do not destroy the world before they get a chance to become accustomed to it
This is an atomic world, and an atomic world means that we are using cosmic power and that the dreams of the alchemists have come true. It means that matter is turned completely into energy. It is something that 30 or 40 years ago we were only beginning to dream about. Now, we are doing it. If we use cosmic force we use the very power that keeps the sun alive and, through its energy, heat and light, keeps everything as it is. If we have such powers, can our old morality and our old political forms match up to them?
We have had in the House tonight a definite attempt and an admission from all sides, except by the Prime Minister, to accept that we need a new morality and that there are different ways in which people have tried to approach it. But, whatever that morality means, everybody has admitted that it means tolerance, patience, pity and compassion. Some 117 Members have quoted the Old Testament, and some have quoted the New. I shall finish by quoting Buddha, by telling a story that I hope the Foreign Secretary will repeat some time when he finds it useful.
Buddha was talking to his Arhats—his senior disciples, the sort of Undersecretaries at the Foreign Office—and was rather cross with them. He was not happy with them because they were asking rather foolish and technical questions about the meaning of Nirvana, which cannot be put into words. He wanted them to get on with the job and to live in such a way that they would attain Nirvana without talking so much about it. He told them this story.
He told them there was once a woman who was ill. She was sick unto death. The relatives stood around her bed and they argued for hour after hour as to which doctor they should bring in to treat her. Some wanted a doctor of one caste, but others objected because they were of a different caste. And so they argued whether it should be a brahmin or one of the other type of medical men. In the end, before they could compose their differences around the bedside, the patient was dead.
That is what we are trying to avoid here today. The fact that the word "immediate" has been used in the Motion does not mean "this very moment of time." It is an expression of our view, which is shared, I am sure, by everybody in the House, that it means as soon as we possibly can get it done; for there is not much time, and there is real danger. I hope that when the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister face people who are alleged to be their opponents and when they speak to them face to face, they will remember that even one's enemy, when looked at closely in the face, may well be only one's self.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
There is no doubt of the general agreement of the House with the terms of the Motion, and there has been abundant evidence from all sides in that direction. It is, nevertheless, all the more incumbent upon us in those circumstances to make certain that we are not betrayed either by fears, by false hopes, or by easy platitudes.
118 There is no doubt also that the House is faced not only, or not primarily, with the question simply of banning the use of atomic energy in warfare, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in opening the debate said. What is really wanted is the outlawing of war itself, but that is not easy to do. There have been many approaches in the past to that problem, and what is suggested today is that a new approach is now required. The House would do well to remember in those circumstances that to approach is not to arrive. It is much easier to take the first step than it is to achieve finality.
I am not saying that for that reason it is not desirable to take the first step, but I do not think it would be right to delude ourselves, as I think the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) is deluding himself, that it would be possible for us—and these are his words, for 1 took them down—" to force the whole world to do something about it." I do not think that is possible.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) said that we should set an example by saying that in no circumstances would we manufacture the hydrogen bomb. I wonder whether that would not be just a little disingenuous. We know that our ally, the United States of America, is manufacturing the hydrogen bomb and has a store of them, and no doubt we could agree with our ally to come to our defence with the hydrogen bomb in case of need. I do not think that that suggestion is the totally clearsighted one that the hon. Gentleman tried to make it.
In the long run, there is only one thing that will bring the world as a whole to discard the use of the hydrogen bomb and of armaments themselves, and that is reason and self-interest—enlightened self-interest, if hon. Members so prefer it. There is nothing else that will do it. Are we there yet and what steps can be taken now?
My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) believes the solution lies in the international management of atomic plants. It has certainly been generally agreed that the banning of armaments or even the limitation of armaments without inspection is valueless. If there is to be international 119 management, that again raises the question of inspection. Past experience, particularly between the wars, indicates that inspection by itself is not sufficient. Indeed it failed. Why did it fail? Surely the reason is that the peoples on whom inspection was forced were not themselves in favour of that inspection. In other words, it is not until we get a change in the disposition of peoples themselves that we shall be able to have an effective control of the hydrogen bomb or of armaments as a whole.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said today, we do not expect the Russians to adopt our way of life. It is not the character of the Government that we seek to change; the disposition of the people must be changed if there is to be effective control of atomic weapons. The disposition of the peoples one to another cannot be changed overnight, but it may be changed in a remarkably short time given the necessary leadership and good will from the top. That is what we ought to aim for in the first instance. We ought to make certain —and I am quite certain my right hon. Friend is constantly on the watch for this; he has shown it in the past—that we shall take advantage of every genuine gesture from the Russians, and we shall never neglect the hand of friendship when it is extended towards us.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stress) talked about the hysteria of the world as a whole. Unfortunately there is hysteria which is induced by Government, the hysteria of hate based upon propaganda. That is one of the first things that we must seek to have removed in this drive for better relations and better understanding between the peoples Until that happens, what action are we to pursue? The hon. Member for Cardiff, West says that we should take unilateral action and give the world an example. Very soberly we have to ask ourselves, shall we be more likely or less likely to bring the world to its senses by abandoning now the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb? Should we be justified in pressing our allies at the present time unilaterally to make this sacrifice?
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister repeated today that he would not feel justified in pressing the United States of America to desist from the 120 further experiments that they have planned to carry out in the present month. I am bound to say that I agree with him, and I believe we on this side of the House as a whole would agree with him in that view. That is how the matter stands for the present.
There are one or two questions I should like to ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary through the Joint Under-Secretary of State arising out of the disclosure that has been made in the House this afternoon and in the White Paper. My right hon. Friend said that this agreement was abandoned. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition countered that it had not been abandoned by his Government but superseded by the MacMahon Act. I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether that is correct, because it is not self-evident that the first and second points in the agreement are superseded by the MacMahon Act, which, so far as I am aware, is mainly directed to the disclosure of information. In any case, is it not dear that both these points are covered by the President's prerogative and that they are not dependent upon the sanction of the Senate?
It may be said that this agreement was never ratified by the Senate and, therefore, is mill and void and has been superseded by the MacMahon Act. The point, however, seems to be that, whatever the terms of the American Constitution may be, this agreement could not have been ratified by the Senate during the war because of the very character of the agreement. It dealt with a secret weapon about which hardly anyone knew at that time. If, therefore, the agreement could not be valid and binding unless and until it was ratified by the Senate, it follows that this agreement was never binding and that virtually it was never worth the paper that it was written upon.
But that is a ridiculous conclusion. Of course, it was intended that it should be binding, and I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether it was intended that it was to be binding only for the war and then be superseded in some manner by another agreement. Is not that what has happened? I should like to ask the Leader of the Opposition what happened when the Labour Government heard that the MacMahon Act was in contemplation. He gave the House to understand in a 121 brief reference—about the brevity of which I do not complain because it was an interruption—that some action was taken. What action was taken? Were the Labour Government told that the agreement was only intended for the duration of the war? Was it to be superseded? Alternatively, were the Labour Government told that they need not worry, that they would be consulted before atomic bombs were used against a third party? Were they given that assurance, and if so, is that assurance still binding?
These matters have been raised in the House today. The House has not had time to consider them deeply, but I believe it is right to ask these questions now, and I trust that my right hon. Friend will be able to reply to them in winding up the debate.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)
The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) has asked some complicated questions about this White Paper. I suggest to him that the people of this country are not in the least interested in it. Whatever mistakes were made, if they were, are matters of the past, and this House and the people of this country are concerned with the future. To introduce the matter at all is totally irrelevant to the issue that confronts us.
In one thing I would agree with the hon. Gentleman, and that was when he said that the disposition of the people can quickly change if given the proper lead. I believe that to be true, and that was why I am sure almost all hon. Members were grateful for the way in which the Leader of the Opposition opened this debate. I was especially grateful, because so often we have discussions in this House about the issues of peace which are narrowed and detailed, and even blinkered, by the terms of a Motion —the Army Estimates, the Air Estimates, sometimes foreign affairs debates on a particular international event. And often it seems to me that hon. Members, with the human minds we have, are almost glad of the fact that the issues are narrowed and, therefore, more easily comprehended.
Sometimes we get foreign affairs experts coming into the House from both sides loaded with knowledge and with great detail, proving how right we 122 are and how wrong are the people in other countries and how impossible it is to expect agreement. It seemed to me that there was something of the same self-righteous attitude about the Prime Minister when he came to the Box this afternoon, in order first to get the issue down to something narrow and comprehensible and then to show that he, on that side of the House, in some way was superior to hon. Members on this side of the House. And whilst all these petty debates have been going on in the past, we have now reached the point described by the Leader of the Opposition at which civilisation is threatened.
The first thing we have to do is to break this combination of politicians, on the one side, who find justification for the things they are doing and, on the other, the scientists who are finding means with which we can destroy ourselves. We have had that fortuitous incident in the Pacific which has stirred the feelings of people in many lands outside the United States. I am doubtful, however, whether even now, with all the facts that have been deployed, the people of our country and the rest of the world really appreciate just how fast this progress is accelerating towards ultimate destruction.
I saw a film recently made just before the last war to encourage recruiting for Civil Defence. The film purported to show the horrors of aerial bombardment. The planes used were single-engined biplanes, Hart bombers, with 250 lb. bombs underneath the racks. That was the prospect only 16 years ago. Then, at the beginning of the war, we had the 140 miles-an-hour bomber with 1,000 lb. bombs in the bay. We thought that was a fearful step forward.
Then we all remember the announcement that we had achieved a 10,000 lb. bomb and then, with fear and trepidation, we subsequently heard the stories in the mess of how the aircraft lifted up in the sky when it released the 20,000 lb. "grand slam." That was a bomb of great destruction. Even we who were in the Service at the time used to speak of it with some awe. Finally, we had the announcement on the radio of how two bombs had been released over those Japanese cities, each having a destructive capacity of 20,000 tons of T.N.T.
It was within one year of the Japanese detonations that I saw two more atomic 123 bombs detonated which, within 12 months, had increased in efficiency by a factor of 15 per cent. That was in 1946, less than eight years ago. Now we have this instrument releasing energy of between 500 and 600 times the amount of those early atom bombs. We must know that it has not ended at this point. It has not ended with this instrument which can be effective over an area twice that of the North Sea. and the interval between the 500 lb. bomb and this hydrogen weapon is only 15 years all told. What is to happen if this development proceeds at that pace for another 15 years?
I estimated, on the basis of some data tossed to us at Bikini, that those bombs succeeded in disintegrating only between 2 per cent, and 8 per cent, of the fissionable material in them. Had the bomb casing been kept together for one fraction of a micro-second longer, the destructive power would have been increased many times. The hydrogen fusion bomb which was detonated on 1st March was probably at about the same point of development as the Bikini bombs I saw in 1946. Already we are told that in the present test series the destructive power will be increased by a factor of four times.
I agree with what was said earlier in the debate that, faced with these facts, a completely new scale of human values is needed to make sense of human relations in the modern world. It is not only the destructive capacity of this new bomb. The atom bomb, of which there are now considerable stocks, is bad enough. Thirty of those old-time instruments which I saw detonated could end social life in these islands. I saw the way in which the ocean spray went up and covered an area of many square miles. I could see immediately how the docks and harbours of the United Kingdom could be put out of action by those weapons.
Then there is the danger from what is called sabotage. I remember Dr. Robert Oppenheimer telling me some years ago how he came before a Congressional committee of inquiry and was asked what were the possibilities of preventing sabotage in the United States when, it was put to him, atomic weapons could be 124 imported into the U.S.A. in a packing case. He said to the committee, "The only anti-sabotage weapon is a screw-driver." Asked what he meant, he said that to be absolutely certain that no weapon came into the United States every packing case sent to its shores would have to be opened.
We now learn that on 1st January of this year the Federal Bureau of Investigation distributed details to all police officers of two atomic devices that could be sent through the post services. What sort of social life are we to have in a civilised community if a danger like that is to be suspected and searched for in every postal packet? In the "New York Times" of 23rd March it is stated thatThe bombs could even be brought into the country in diplomatic pouches which do not undergo inspection, or even pass through the mails.There is the question of defence against overt attack. Can it be said that the measures which are being taken in the creation of these bombs have given security to the United States? A former U.S. Air Secretary says that America is now looking down the double barrels of an atomic gun. What is their answer to this? Their answer is given in the decision of the United States National Security Council to evacuate all major target cities.
Mr. Val Petersen, their Civil Defence Administrator, said in a Press statement that the cities are finished, and, on the basis of a survey which was made, that unless evacuation was carried out, the United States would suffer 22 million hospital cases and 9 million fatalities. On the basis of those figures, Mr. Petersen made his notorious comment,Just as a practical matter, how in hell are you going to bury 9 million corpses?That question of Mr. Petersen's should be put above the doorway of every politician and every military chief in the world. Had it been over the doorway of the Prime Minister, I doubt whether he would have come along and made the speech which he made today. We might leave the possibilities of evacuation to our American friends to work out for themselves; whether it is possible within two hours' warning, which apparently they expect to be able to give in 12 125 months' or 18 months' time. Mr. Petersen himself seems reasonably optimistic. He is reported to have said thatA reasonably healthy person can cover 10 miles in two hours on his feet, particularly if incineration acts as an incentive.One is tempted to pause and ask Mr. Petersen if he had in mind the possibility of evacuating the sick and aged. But in this country, the possibilities of evacuation simply do not exist in the light of the present weapons.
One might get some grain of comfort if, accepting the grim facts of this new weapon, the fact that there is no defence, the fact that sabotage could disrupt our commercial life, it could be felt that the advent of these new weapons meant that the total arms bill was to be reduced, at least for a time, and that mankind would then have the satisfaction of spending some of the savings on some socially worth-while purpose. But the statement of the Foreign Secretary last week-end to the Ulster Unionist Council was thatDevelopment of the hydrogen bomb does not affect the fundamental policy of building Tip Western strength so as to achieve peace.A more arid and sterile statement on these matters I have not yet seen. If that is the only reaction that comes from our leaders, that we have to press on with the development of our conventional weapons, then ultimately we are lost if affairs are left in their hands.
There might be just one other advantage about this hydrogen containment policy, which reached a climax on 1st March, if it had improved the quality of our sense of toleration, if it had extended the area over which we enjoy personal freedom. But even to ask that question is to feel depressed when the whole meaning of McCarthyism becomes apparent to us.
There seems to me to be no escape from the demand in this Motion that we should try to get this meeting of the heads of the big Powers—a meeting of human beings, without an agenda and without a horde of officials. If that is right, it will then be asked, "What should they discuss?" It seems to me that there is common agreement that the banning of this bomb or any other particular weapon is not enough. We have already had arguments to show that, if these technological weapons were banned, it would give the advantage to the nation with the 126 greatest numbers. In any case, I am quite certain that, if a particular weapon were banned, the scientists could develop others, and there are many other possibilities open for development.
Therefore, we seem to be agreed that this is a matter of banning war, and how are we to do that? I believe that modern physical resources make it, at the same time, both necessary and possible. What are the fundamentals which we should try to get? I think it must essentially involve universal, simultaneous and enforceable disarmament, on the one hand, and, on the other, the building up of an international armed force. Technically, this international force is possible, and we have already had practical experience of it in different parts of the world. The international force would have the duty of enforcing disarmament on nation-States.
It will then be asked, "To whom will the international force be responsible?" I think the answer must be a reformed Security Council. I think we ought to try to make membership of the United Nations organisation open to any State that is ready to accept the obligations of membership.
§ Mr. Beswick
Certainly, I think it should be a universal organisation, open to any State willing to accept the obligations of the organisation, and one of the primary obligations must be this undertaking to disarm nationally, on the one hand, and contribute to the world police force, on the other. The new Security Council should, of course, reflect the universal membership of the organisation,
I think that is technically possible, but many will say that it is politically unthinkable. Immediately we shall get the cry that Russia will not agree. There is one thing of which I am absolutely certain. We are not going to agree with Russia unless we try a totally different approach. I think that the approach we have had from the hon. Member for Heeley (Mr. P. Roberts), for example, and the reversion of the Prime Minister to his Fulton speech, cannot possibly get agreement with the Soviet union. This constant anti-Russian propaganda pumped out in this country, and to an even greater extent in the United States, 127 is deluding even those who are pumping it out. We have got to the stage now when, if Russia says "No" to a proposition, we say that it proves that she has belligerent and aggressive intentions. If Russia says "Yes" the American and British official reaction is that it is a tactical trap. If Mr. Vyshinsky is rude, we say it is typical behaviour; if he is pleasant, as at Berlin, we say that it is part of the same old plot to split the allies.
There are some who have made up their minds already that war is inevitable, and apparently there are some on the other side of the House— and the hon. Member for Heeley is an example. There are many quotations that I could give, but I shall not go into them all. I shall mention only one, which I think is typical, and comes from Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, when speaking at a conference in London five years ago:The battle is between democracy and Communism, good and evil, call it what you will. It is absolutely certain that a showdown must come.With that attitude, there is no hope for us.
On the other hand, there are some whose fear is not of physical aggression, but of the ideas of Communism. I recently came across some words of Charles James Fox spoken in this House on 1st February, 1793, when the question in debate was whether Great Britain should participate in the war against France. Some were advocating that we should take part, and Fox, who opposed it, said that what the arch-patriots were really fearing was not French aggression, but the democratic ideas of revolutionary France. He went on to say—and I remembered it particularly during the Prime Minister's speech:… all the topics introduced into the debate were to blind the judgment by rousing the passions, and none of them were just grounds of war. What had remained, but the internal government of France, always disavowed, but ever kept in mind and constantly mentioned? The destruction of that Government was the avowed object of the combined powers whom it was hoped we were to join.That is the avowed or unavowed object which many people have—the destruction of the Government of Russia. Fox went on to say—and I agree with Fox, if Russia is substituted for France— 128I think the present state of Government in France anything rather than an object of imitation. But I maintain as a principle inviolable, that the Government of every independent State is to be settled by those who are to live under it and not by a foreign force.If we are to get agreement with Soviet Russia, we have to accept the possibility of co-existing with a Communist society. That attitude will demand a profound change of mind for many people in this country. I put it to the House, with the alternatives before us that have been described today: surely that change of mind is essential, for if the present policy is pursued it is proven that we get neither security nor freedom. Some words that Mr. Lewis Mumford wrote a day or two ago put the position clearer than I could. He said:Retaliation is not protection. Total extermination of both sides is not security. A constant state of neurotic fear and suspicion and hatred is not security.… In short, what seems like unlimited power has become impotence.There is a favourite American phrase just now about the possibility of "an agonising re-appraisal." It refers to America's military dispositions. What is really needed today is an agonising reappraisal of our relations with other nations in the world. Policies that were neither feasible nor necessary 20 years ago are now not only possible but urgent. A world organisation laying down a law abolishing war, and with physical means to enforce that law, is the minimum objective at which we should now aim. Of course, it cannot be easy of attainment, even under the impulsion of the recent events in the Pacific; but if the will is there the objective can be reached.
I often think of the days during the war when we were facing Hitler. Like other hon. Members, I give a certain amount of time to considering these matters. Hitler very nearly won that war. He got so near to it by sheer effort of will. If there were a statesman in the world showing only one-tenth of the will to peace that Hitler showed in his quest for military victory, we could secure peace.
I believe that statesman has to come from this country. There was a chance for the Prime Minister today to show himself that statesman. It is more than a personal tragedy that he has not met that challenge. It is a tragedy for this country and for the world.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Squadron Leader A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) should have sought in his concluding remarks to attack my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. It may be that in the eyes and ears of hon. Gentlemen opposite my right hon. Friend's speech did not meet with approval. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nor in yours."] The plain fact remains that in this country and, indeed, in every country there is no personage other than my right hon. Friend who is capable of leading this world to peace. [HON. MEMBERS: "Until today."] Today and tomorrow.
I intervene in this debate for no other reason than that my own division suffered perhaps more than any other area in the country during the war. We had 63 V.l's delivered in the area, and more than 40,000 houses in the area were damaged in one way or another. We feel, therefore, that we have a very special place at the receiving end of any guided missiles which may be sent to this country from the Continent or from anywhere else.
This afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition made, what I think was an excellent and an inspiring speech. He posed many of the problems which confront mankind today, but I do not think it an unfair criticism which was levelled against him by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he said that he failed to bridge the gulf between these problems and their solution.
We all know that the only hope for mankind is an agreement between the United States of America, Soviet Russia and the United Kingdom. But what are the real chances of such an agreement at the present time? The record of the Soviet Union for many years past has been a tragic one so far as contact with other countries is concerned. We all know the history of the post-war years, the tragedy of the Austrian problem, the tragedy of the recent Berlin Conference, and the tragedy of Korea.
We must never forget that the ultimate aim of the Soviet Union is a world government of Communism. Although they might make an agreement now or in the immediate future, such an agreement would be purely tactical on their part. They will never give up their ideal of 130 seeking to bring about a Communist world. Any hon. or right hon. Member opposite who really hold a contrary view must, I believe, have his head buried in the sand.
§ Squadron Leader Cooper
Are we really to understand that, in the event of an agreement between ourselves and the Soviet Union, the "Daily Worker" will cease to operate and that the Communist Party in this country and in other parts of the world will go out of existence? We know that is not so. We must be sure that, if we enter into an agreement with the Soviet Union, that agreement will stick. How are we going to make it stick? There is only one way in which that can be done, and that is by following along the lines laid down by the hon. Member for Uxbridge, through some form of international authority having at its disposal an international force with which to enforce any such agreement.
I hope that the hon. Member for Uxbridge realises what that means. It means that all the countries which are parties to such an agreement will be forced to give up part of their sovereignty. Does he really suppose that at the present time the Soviet Union would be willing to open its frontiers to an international authority for the purpose of investigating all the installations connected with the development of nuclear weapons?
I only hope that will be so, and that the talks envisaged in this Motion will take place. We must, of course, have conversations at the highest level, but we must not blind ourselves to the difficulties which lie before us. We must not hold out any hope to the people of this country of an easy solution to these problems and it may be many years before we can hope to reach a settlement. In the meantime, I am sure that the developments taking place in the Pacific must continue, if we are to be secure for any length of time that security depends upon the strength of the Western Powers and not on any show of weakness.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, South-East)
I cannot agree with the defence of the Prime Minister's speech which has been 131 made by the hon. and gallant Member for Ilford, South (Squadron Leader Cooper). Surely this was an occasion on which it behoved us to show the greatest possible unity—not only national but international unity. I cannot think of any action which any speaker could have taken which was so calculated not only to split this country itself but to split this country from the United States and to awaken in the United States the sort of bitter recrimination which originally produced McCarthyism.
The Prime Minister's action this afternoon was one of the gravest disservices to the cause of peace which I have known since the war. I think we must all be confirmed in this belief by the reaction of his own colleagues—varying from disgust to embarrassment—which was shown on faces not only behind but even beside the Prime Minister. Whatever the party opposite decides about the Prime Minister's fitness to continue as their leader, I think that my own hon. Friends might well reconsider the belief which for some time they have held that the Prime Minister is the most fit person to conduct international affairs on behalf of the British people. If he had such a claim, he has destroyed it today.
I pass from that to the tremendously important subject which we are now discussing. A great deal has been said about the American hydrogen bomb explosions in the Pacific. Surely the most important hydrogen bomb explosions were those which occurred in Russia nine months ago. The American explosions only continue the superiority in these weapons which the Americans have held ever since the war. The Russian explosions make profound changes in the whole relevance of American atomic superiority to the world situation.
The position, as I see it, is roughly this. So long as the Soviet Union has these weapons at all, we must certainly produce them. We must carry out atomic experiments to find out how they work. The fact that an experiment went wrong is a justification of the experiment. If scientists could always be certain that their calculations were accurate, there would be no need for experiments. If the Russians have the bomb, we must have it too, and it must be the best possible bomb.
132 Let it never be forgotten that, at a tune when the West was alone in its possession of the bomb, it offered to give it up to the sort of international authority which my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) wishes now to see established. For myself, I am doubtful if, when the Russians were not prepared to join that when they had not the bomb, they would be more prepared to do so when they have.
On the other hand, the fact that they have the bomb is profoundly relevant to our own use of it. It is no use talking, as the American Secretary of State has done, about the capacity for massive retaliation if, in fact, our retaliation to local crises by atomic bombing is immediately met by atomic bombing against us by the Soviet Union. The so-called American "new look" policy is totally irrelevant to the new situation. In the first place, in the "hot" wars, now being fought in Malaya, Indo-China and so on between the two camps in the world, atomic weapons are useless because there are no suitable targets for them.
Much more important still, if we rely solely upon atomic weapons and the hydrogen bomb to deter aggression, it means that every time anything happens we shall be faced with the stark choice between appeasement and atomic world war. In that event there is no doubt that the democratic countries will always choose appeasement, except in an extremity where their own survival is directly threatened.
The American Vice-President talked recently about the desirability of atomic retaliation as an alternative to being nibbled to death. But surely if one is threatened with being nibbled to death by rats, one does not blow up the house; one tries to stop up the holes through which the rats try to get into the house.
It seems to me that the Americans will slowly be forced to this conclusion by the logic of events, and they will also be forced to recognise that if they want to stop up the rat holes in the world they will need conventional weapons and they will need allies. It seems to me that the fact that Russia now has the atomic bomb eventually increases the need of the rest of the world for parity in the conventional weapons, and, in particular, increases immensely the need of the United States for allies in Europe and in Asia.
133 Here I come to my last point. There is no doubt that the present basis of consultation between Britain and the United States on the use of atomic weapons is unsatisfactory, and I cannot think that the formal guarantees which were given even in the Quebec Agreement were fully satisfactory either. Something very much more than a formal promise in one sentence to obtain another's consent before using this weapon is required if we are to build the sort of interdependence which is our only long-term defence against the outbreak of a new world war through the development of local aggression with conventional weapons.
The American "new look" defence policy, in fact, was designed for defence against taxation, not against Communism, although one is sometimes inclined to wonder whether some Republicans recognise that there is any difference between the two. From reports which have recently been received of statements by American leaders recently, it is quite clear that in fact the "new look" policy is simply salesmanship for something which is entirely different, and I think that the American administration and the American people are quite as much aware of the dangers of applying this policy as presented as we are ourselves.
It is simply another case of what the Americans now call feeding the dinosaurs —in other words, satisfying the extreme right-wing anti-internationalist section of the Republican Party. We all have our pet dinosaurs in this country, and on both sides of the House, and we must not grumble so much if the Americans insist on feeding theirs. I sometimes wonder if we all would not do a little bit better if we tried to let our dinosaurs starve to death rather than keep them going on this sort of fodder.
To conclude, I think that the fact that Russia and the West both now have the atomic bomb, although it immensely raises the stakes in the world political situation, has not essentially changed its nature. We are, in fact, faced now, as we always were faced, by a choice between successful negotiation with the Communist bloc to make the United Nations work and, if they will not do that, the integration of the non-Communist world so that the continued hostility of the Communist world cannot lead to war or aggression against it. Those are still the issues.
134 I agree that now that Russia as well as ourselves knows the full power of these new atomic weapons, we should take this opportunity of a new approach to the Soviet Union to see if we cannot, after all, solve this problem on a universal basis through the United Nations and through co-operation between all countries. But we must remain very conscious that if this approach fails, then all the pressures which forced us in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950 to develop an international unity with those who would work with us, remain just as compelling as they ever were before.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
We had been looking forward to this de-bate as an occasion upon which both sides of the House of Commons would rise to great heights in the interests not only of our own country but of humanity. I confess to some disappointment that in the early stages of the debate, during the speech of the Prime Minister, those hopes were unhappily dashed to the ground. I shall deal first with a few of the points made by the Prime Minister, so that they may be cleared up, before I go on to the main theme with which I shall be concerned.
The Prime Minister said that it was better that the trials of the hydrogen bomb should be by the United States of America in the Pacific rather than by the U.S.S.R. in Siberia, but that seems to me to be an extraordinary view to take about the facts. It may be that we are misled—it is conceivable—but it is generally accepted that the hydrogen bomb is in the possession of the U.S.S.R. as well as of the United States of America. Therefore, the situation which we have to face is not that of experiments in the Pacific by the United States alone, but experiments there and in Siberia or elsewhere by the U.S.S.R.
The Prime Minister, having been compelled, as we all axe, to face the question of the hydrogen bomb, has evidently come to the conclusion that the atomic bomb is small fry in comparison. That is a view with which I cannot agree. The atomic bomb is a serious matter, as, indeed, was what I suppose we now call the conventional bombing that took place in the last world war. I was the Minister who dealt with it at the Civil Defence end, 135 and I can assure the House that it caused us a great deal of anxiety and worry, as it did the Germans at their end.
The Prime Minister said that the atomic bomb is possibly manageable. I do not know what he meant by that—whether it was tolerable, or what—but I would remind the House that it is said that the atomic bomb which dropped on Japan killed between 60,000 and 100,000 Japanese, and it is claimed that the present atomic bomb, let alone the hydrogen bomb, is 10 times worse than those which were dropped on Japan. These, in turn, have no comparison whatever with the 4,000–8,000 lb. high explosive bombs which were dropped hi the last war. We had therefore better be careful to get it into our heads that because some beastly thing which has been invented is not quite so beastly as some later invention, it does not mean that it can be taken lightly. It cannot; all these things are very serious.
Moreover, we should not take conventional weapons of war for granted, for they have become increasingly terrible as the years have passed. So, in addition to the urgent consideration of the hydrogen bomb and its terrible effects, we need to consider, as soon as we can and in practical form, the question of all-round disarmament. Unless we get some sort of an agreement upon all-round disarmament, I am not sure that we can trust anybody not to use these other and more advanced weapons in the light of expediency and the situation at the time.
Therefore, in our Motion we ask that the three heads of State immediately concerned with the hydrogen bomb, and, incidentally, mainly concerned with the atomic bomb, should meet to seek to work out some sort of general agreement about the principles upon which these latest bombs can be managed, restricted, or abolished; and, if possible, some agreement upon disarmament from conventional weapons as well. They then might refer the matter to very high powered and influential officers to make a draft of a possible agreement, even if they, in their deliberations, had to make reservations that had to be stated in the draft. Then let the three heads meet again to consider the result, with a view to the matter's going to the final and proper authority, the United Nations. That, broadly, is the proposition in the Motion 136 we have submitted in all sincerity to the House.
My right hon. Friend, moving the Motion, said he moved it in no party spirit, and that he sought no party advantage. I think I can say for everybody on both sides of the House who heard my right hon. Friend's speech, that he said that with sincerity; that he meant it. Not only did he mean it, but it was accepted in the spirit in which he said it by everybody on this side of the House. I think it was accepted as a sincere declaration by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite—in the main, if not by all of them.
§ Mr. Morrison
Indeed, as my hon. Friend reminds me, the Prime Minister himself accepted that my right hon. Friend had moved the Motion in that spirit.
As the Prime Minister was speaking, I was watching the faces of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, because, naturally we always watch people opposite, as they watch us. It is physically easier to see the side opposite than it is to see one's own, which is sometimes a pity, and, perhaps, on other occasions, not so much. Judging by the faces of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, many of the Prime Minister's own supporters shared the deep feeling of regret that we certainly felt on this side of the House, that the Prime Minister did not see fit to continue the debate on the high level in which it was begun.
In these circumstances, I feel I must say this. Here was a great opportunity for the Prime Minister, one of the greatest opportunities in his long life and his great and long Parliamentary career. I thought that he, knowing the spirit of the House of Commons, knowing the spirit in which the debate had been approached, knowing that the House loves these great occasions when we discuss grave events and when the two sides are really trying to pull together for the good of our country and the world, would rise to this occasion and grace it with that eloquence of exposition of which he is more capable than most of us on both sides of the House. But he missed it; he let it go. Nevertheless, through my right hon. Friend, we had appealed to him, and we still appeal to him, notwithstanding the 137 faults of the speech which he made, to use his great influence and great powers to lead the nation and the world at this grave time in the history of the human race.
When we of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the Opposition, decided last week to put forward this Motion for the consideration of the House and the country, we did so with only one object— to put the great influence of our country and of the British House of Commons, which is a great influence in the world, firmly and steadily behind the Government in a new move to solve the crisis of the hydrogen bomb and all the other weapons of mass destruction which now threaten the world. No other course was open to us, for if we have influence, it is the Government and the Government alone, with the sustenance and support of the House of Commons, who have the power to act, and to act decisively, at this very significant moment in the history of the world.
This was a great opportunity for the Prime Minister to seize the occasion to demonstrate his moral authority and moral feelings in the world and to have the House of Commons behind him. We could have heard the Prime Minister at his best, but it must be confessed that he was distinctly not at his best in his speech this afternoon. He scarcely seemed to want to lead a united nation in this new crusade to save the world from itself. Yet what an opportunity there was before him to lead a united nation.
What a tragedy that he did not seize the occasion. He did not seem to wish to seize it. Despite the wish of the Opposition not to be partisan, his speech tended to mar the whole tone of the debate for a mere matter of scoring party points. I do not propose to follow him in that manner. I feel sure that he himself already regrets that speech more than any other speech of his life. The facts are on record and it will be for the public today and for history afterwards to assess them at their true value.
In the course of the Prime Minister's speech— [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] —I do not know—the right hon. Gentleman said that he had notified my right hon. Friend that he was going to publish the Quebec Agreement. He did not say that he proposed to make charges against the Labour Government. My 138 right hon. Friend has shown me a letter which the Prime Minister sent him, marked private and confidential, but it does notify my right hon. Friend that he was proposing to reprint as a White Paper and to have available in the Vote Office at the end of his speech an agreement which he had made with President Roosevelt during the course of the war. But that was all he said. He did not indicate that he would make criticisms of the Labour Government and the policy which they had pursued; and, of course, if these things are said which relate to official actions of an earlier time, it really is only fair, in the elementary sense of the term, if the Prime Minister is going to "fish about" to try to find debating material from some record or another— as, indeed, I shall show he himself has admitted—that ex-Ministers should be informed as to what is proposed to be done.
I do not say that the whole speech should be handed over to us—that would be too much to expect—but I would call attention to the situation which arose out of the revelation by the Secretary of State for War on something about the record of my right hon. Friend the former Minister of Defence in the course of discussion in this House. This was followed by Question and answer to the Prime Minister.
I would remind the House that on the 9th February, 1954, I put the following supplementary question to the Prime Minister:Would it not have been reasonable in both cases "—that is to say this case and the Yalu River case—that the former Minister concerned should at least have been informed that this proposed action was to be taken? Will the right hon. Gentleman keep in mind that the precedent set must be open to be followed by following Governments, just as I should have a right to quote anything in these circumstances, of this nature or this type of communication, that may have transpired in the War Cabinet? I am on a serious point of upholding what are proper standards and fairness in these matters as between Ministers and ex-Ministers.To that point the Prime Minister replied as follows:In view of the violent language which has been used and the very serious charges made against Her Majesty's Government, I think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was quite justified in what he did.139 Here we get to the essence of what the Prime Minister was laying down as regards doctrine. He said:But I am sure it would have been entirely in accordance with his own wishes, had the time and circumstances permitted, to have informed the right hon. Gentleman concerned beforehand, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that that is the best practice that should be followed in the future."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th February, 1954; Vol. 523, c. 1004–5.]I happen to believe in the doctrine-it may be old-fashioned, but I believe in it—that when a Privy Counsellor entering the Cabinet makes an oath of secrecy he should keep it. I think that is not only desirable as a matter of honour but desirable for the efficient and proper working of Cabinet Government itself: and that therefore the less that is said about past Cabinet secrets the better it is in the public interest and for the immediate and future proceedings of Cabinet Government.
In these circumstances, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is reluctant to deal at length with this matter, which not only involves our own private affairs as within the Government, but also our relationship with the U.S.A. My right hon. Friend would only say this —and this he has asked me to say: The Quebec Agreement was a secret agreement made between two individuals. The United States Congress was never informed of it, although it did impose obligations upon the U.S.A. Moreover, our own Parliament was not informed of it. My right hon. Friend had the task of negotiating with the United States Government subsequently on this very uncertain basis of an agreement made between two individuals. The United States Administration was in a difficult position. My right hon. Friend does not claim to make any further comment, except to say that during the period of the Labour Government the understanding and co-operation between Great Britain and the United States of America grew steadily greater. He would not have anything said to impair that welcome development.
I reinforce that the agreement made between the Prime Minister and the late President Roosevelt was of an exceptional character. It was not a treaty. It was in a way the heads of a memorandum, 140 signed by both of them. It was a personal, very personal, essentially personal—
§ Mr. Morrison
It was essentially a personal agreement and, therefore, it was of a highly exceptional character. Whether constitutionally, even allowing for the exceptional circumstances—and they were exceptional circumstances—such personal agreements between two individuals— they were no more—are desirable, whether from the point of view of the United States or of the United Kingdom, is a matter for consideration by historians and constitutional experts.
To revert to the main question, the choice that faces mankind today is no longer between peace and war: it is between peace and destruction. There will be little or no party advantage to be gained from proving to the tattered remnants of a once proud civilisation which has been reduced to rabble and disease that one party was right and the other party was wrong, because there will not be any recognisable parties left. There will be no political parties when the hydrogen bomb has done its worst and crippled humanity will have returned to the savagery from which it was, and has been, so slowly and painfully evolving.
What do we ask in the Motion? We ask a very simple thing: namely, that the Government of Britain, with the great moral authority that it possesses, with the House of Commons behind it, as a leading member of the Commonwealth, with, if it so wishes, the united strength and good will of the whole nation behind it, shall take the initiative in seeking to break the deadlock between the hydrogen powers of East and West.
The Prime Minister has manifested some doubt about the word "immediate." It is possible to exaggerate the word and to say that it might mean "the next five minutes." But I say this to the Prime Minister, because although I am very glad he has said that the Conservative Party does not propose to divide on the Motion—and I am glad that that should be so—I hope there is no misunderstanding of the word "immediate."
When we say "immediate," we mean that the Government should take immediate steps to set diplomatic action in 141 motion, in the best and most effective way, between the three Powers concerned, with a view to the heads of Governments meeting for the purpose of discussing this whole problem and in due course the related problems of disarmament in general. Therefore, when the House passes, as I hope it will, unanimously tonight, this Motion, it is our hope that 'there may be an immediate initiative on the part of the Government. That is what we mean in the Motion which we submit to the House.
Nobody doubts that we have reached a crisis in human history. Let not those who will be heirs to a devastated world, if it should fail, look back and say that we of our generation made no effective and sustained effort to save mankind. I should not like to feel that subsequent generations were to say that we did not try. It is not enough in all this pretty horrible business for us to try to score points at each other's expense. It is much too serious for that.
I do not want anyone to got jittery or nervous about it. Perhaps I more than most people, as having been Home Secretary and Minister of Home Security during the war, know what a debt we owe to our people who kept their heads during the bombing. If they had lost them and become jittery we could have lost the war. Some thought the women would become jittery, and if they had they alone could have caused us to lose the war, but, thank goodness, the women of Britain stood firm and they were all right. I do not want anyone to get jittery, nor do I wish anyone to underestimate the gravity of the seriousness of the issues before the House. I want the House to pass this Motion so that future generations will say, "At any rate, they tried."
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)
At an earlier stage in this debate, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) brought us back to Buddha, and I am not sure that, when he did that, he did not bring us almost nearer to realities than did any of the discussion that has taken place since. The hon. Gentleman suggested to the Government that when the time came for us to confront at a conference those with whom we disagreed, we might well find that those who were our opponents had by the end of the conference become our friends
142 I think I can tell the House, surveying the international scene at the present moment, that I certainly have never known a time when the dangers and complexities of the world were comparable with what they are today. I am not at the moment going to deal with any or all of them—not with the situation on the frontiers between Israel and the Arab States, not with the South-East Asian situation and not even with the difficulties in Europe, which are familiar to the House. They multiply, and it seems so often that, when there is a little easement in one place, two or three major problems appear in another.
I say to the House that it is in this spirit that we wish to accept this Motion —that intricate, complicated, baffling and dangerous as the multitude of these problems are, they dwindle into insignificance against this vast issue of 'the atomic and hydrogen bombs. I think there is absolutely no dispute between us on that score.
I must, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) did, for a few moments ask the House to listen while I make some comment on today's earlier controversy. I must do that in order to clear up certain points about which there may still be misunderstanding.
I am not sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite entirely understand—perhaps it is natural that they should not understand —how some of us on this side of the House have felt about the attacks, many of them very bitter personal attacks, which have been launched against the Prune Minister within this last week or two. I have a number of them here— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Let us try to treat this calmly. Hon. Gentlemen should let me develop this. They have appeared in papers which support the Opposition. There is one, in particular, which lies under my hand now, although I could produce a score which I think would weary and disgust the House—it disgusts me. Here is one from the "Daily Mirror" of 1st April. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I think the House should hear these things.
§ Mr. Robens
I was only asking the Foreign Secretary to produce some of the "Gestapo" speeches of the right hon. Gentleman. It would have been better if he had kept this out of it.
§ Mr. Eden
May I read these quotations? The first is as follows:There are urgent suggestions we should talk straighter and harder to America. What is Churchill's reply? We can't, we won't, we mustn't, we dare not Sir Winston is 79.Charming stuff. Here is more:Where is his leadership now? Has Britain authority? Are we to be a respected partner in the Western Alliance or a voiceless satellite of America?
§ Mr. Eden
Perhaps hon. Gentlemen do not agree with the "Daily Herald" either. This is what they have been running:There has been shock and incredulity at the powerless state in which the Prime Minister sees the British Government.[Interruption] If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite think that we are powerless, we are entitled to explain the powers which we left to the Government which succeeded us. I am making no complaint about what the right hon. Gentleman said, but hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway cannot have it both ways. They cannot say we have no control, no authority over the United States, and complain when we draw attention to the authority which we left at the time when we left office.
All I wish to say about that controversy in addition is to point out that the provisions of the Quebec Agreement were clear, that neither of us would use the bomb against third parties without the consent of the other. There is absolutely no secret about this because the right 144 hon. Gentleman, when he was Prime Minister, made the position quite plain. There was a series of questions about the new agreement, and where we then stood, and the Prime Minister, as the right hon. Gentleman then was, said:I have tried to explain twice that there was no treaty—it was a question of agreement.That is quite correct, there was not.The agreement has been changed and altered and new agreements have been made." —OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th January, 1951; Vol. 483, c. 716.]That is perfectly true. I am not arguing. It is a matter which the House can debate, if it wishes. So far as we are concerned, if the Opposition, or anyone else, wishes, any document can be made public, with the consent of the Governments concerned. I am not arguing even whether the right hon. Gentleman's agreement was better—he may think it was— than the agreement we had. I am simply saying absolutely clearly—it cannot be challenged, and no one wishes to challenge it—that there was this precise undertaking about no use of the bomb against a third party without each other's consent and that that precise undertaking does not now exist. [Interruption.]If hon. Gentlemen will be patient, I am coming to the MacMahon Act.
I really have thought a little about these things. The right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon, quite rightly up to a point, that the situation had been affected as a result of the passing of the MacMahon Act. That is true so far as the exchange of information about making the atomic bomb is concerned, because the MacMahon Act severely restricted the amount of technical information which any American Government could give, even to friendly countries. That is perfectly true.
What the right hon. Gentleman will also recall, I think, is that the later agreement did not renew the provision for consent in the use of the bomb. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There is no doubt whatever about that. At the same time, we did gain—I wish to say this absolutely fairly to the right hon. Gentleman—our freedom over the commercial and industrial use of atomic energy. Is that correct?
§ Mr. Attlee
We never got much out of that. We did get agreement for close co-operation and working. I should like 145 to say to the right hon. Gentleman—I do not want to go into the question of negotiations with the American Government —that he knows the difficulty where an agreement has been made by the President and it has subsequently come to the knowledge of the Senate, who have not been consulted.
§ Mr. Eden
I have said—I do not think I could have been more completely fair —that I am not arguing which was the better agreement. But I am bound to say that when this Government are attacked for not having any provision adequate for the control of the bomb, we are entitled to say that in the 1943 agreement we had that agreement. I am also personally ready to say that if anybody wants any later agreement published, we are perfectly ready to consult the other Governments concerned to see if that can be done.
§ Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)
On a point of order. As this subsequent agreement has been referred to from both sides of the House, are we not entitled to ask that it should be tabled?
§ Mr. Eden
When the right hon. Gentleman was Prime Minister, he himself referred to the later agreement. There is nothing new in what I am saying on that point. I am saying that if, on reflection, it is desired that this later agreement should be published, we are perfectly prepared to approach the United States and Canadian Governments, which are the Governments concerned, to seek their permission. But I really am entitled to say that we, having made this agreement, and the agreement having been changed —[Interruption.]—if the House likes to take the view, for the better—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am not expressing any opinion about the merits of the 146 agreement, but when the right hon. Gentleman persists in saying, "We came to an agreement," he knows very well, as indeed the Prime Minister said earlier on and all the time, that this was a personal agreement between himself and President Roosevelt.
§ Mr. Attlee
That was done with full discussion between the Administrations, and when I went over there in 1945, the results of our talks were published. There is, however, this point. This was a particular personal agreement with a President who is now deceased, and we had to deal with a successor Government.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is it the contention of the right hon. Gentleman that if he, as the present Foreign Secretary, came to a personal agreement with the Foreign Secretary of another country without the full endorsement of his Government and without making it known to his fellow members of the Cabinet, that would be more than a personal agreement?
§ Mr. Eden
There are no such things as personal agreements. In the diplomatic field, that is a non-existent horse which the right hon. Gentleman is riding. Any agreement made either by the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary is, of course, eventually subject to ratification by Parliament. The point I am making is this. My right hon. Friend made this war-time arrangement, which was changed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It was changed by a later arrangement, and, if necessary, though I do not want to, I could quote chapter and verse.
I think I have given the fairest offer I could possibly make to the Opposition. I have only been resisting the charge that we did not safeguard that particular position when we were in office. I am not accusing right hon. Gentlemen opposite; I am not even telling the right 147 hon. Gentleman that his agreement was not as good as ours. That is arguable, and he may think it was better; all I am saying is that we will gladly seek the permission to make that correspondence public as well as our own.
§ Mr. Attlee
I was attacked by the Prime Minister, and it was suggested that I had bartered all kinds of safeguards for no advantage at all. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the President has not got a treaty -making power in the United States, but that there is the Senate, and he knows the difficulties that arise there.
§ Mr. Eden
After all, the right hon. Gentleman made whatever agreements he did make with the President also, and we all know that. We consider that we left this country in a perfectly proper position as regards our part in it, and while we do not mind criticism, we do not consider that we should be attacked because we have now no power to stop the United States using the bomb.
In point of fact, the Leader of the Opposition knows just as well as any of us that it does not lie with any of us to say to the United States that they are or are not to do such things except on the basis of the agreement, and when the right hon. Gentleman was speaking I thought that the House should bear in mind a little—though not much credit was given for it—what we have been trying to do in these last years to make some progress with this disarmament business; not only we, I may say, but right hon. Gentlemen opposite in their day. From some of the speeches one would think that the Russians were archangels longing to join any peaceful organisation and that only we were stopping them joining up with N.A.T.O., observing atomic regulations, and all the rest of it. The actual facts, of one or two of which I must remind the House, are very serious, and must be borne in mind.
It was the late Government who, quite rightly, proposed the original Atomic Energy Commission with the United States and Canada. That was one of the finest bits of international work that I know. It was a very fine agreement indeed. In that the late Government started what was called "the Baruch plan" which later became the United 148 Nations majority plan. It provided for international ownership, management and control of atomic energy. That plan was rejected by the Soviet Union on every occasion for years, and is still so rejected. The Soviet counter-proposals were effectively dealt with by the Baruch Atomic Energy Commission.
I hope I shall not get into trouble again if I quote the Labour Party Handbook for 1945–50. [An HON. MEMBER: "No party politics."] This quotation says this about the whole of this disarmament story, and it is true:But for the Soviet veto we would now have international disarmament, and international ownership and control of all atomic development, including the bomb, and an international police force.That is the basis from which we are operating.
The same story is true of the Conventional Armament Commission, which the Soviet Government walked out of shortly before we came into office because they said the Chinese were not there—not the sort of Chinese they wanted there. In 1951 I myself moved a resolution in the General Assembly, shortly after we took office, proposing a new comprehensive scheme for general disarmament including atomic weapons. I cannot emphasise too much the extent to which I agree with the right 'hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) and with the series of other hon. Members opposite and on this side of the House who say that it is quite impossible to take this question of the hydrogen or atom bomb entirely apart from the question of general disarmament.
We have always to work for it, and we must. That is why we put down a programme for progressive disclosure and verification by stages to try to build up the necessary confidence. We did not ask for it all at once. If the Soviet Government had not rejected that approach, we should by now have made a great deal of progress. On atomic energy, the resolution said, speaking of the Baruch plan:The United Nations majority plan should stand, unless a better system can be devised.I well remember that proposal, which I put forward in Paris, and which Mr. Vyshinsky said he stayed up all night laughing at. In December, 1951, to come to a later time, we set a four-Power subcommittee in operation, in which my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State took part. That resolution went 149 to the Disarmament Commission, which met in February, 1952. In April, 1952, the United States put forward a plan, which is now published, for disclosure and verification of armament by stages. We must note what is being done as well as what is promised should be done. That plan was accepted by the United Nations, but rejected by the Soviet Government. A little later the American representative put forward a paper on "Certain Essential Principles For Disarmament." These covered international control of atomic energy, reduction of all armed forces, etc. It was rejected by the Soviet Union.
On 28th May, we put forward a proposal which was, as the House may remember, an important one, for numerical limitation of all armed forces. In that project we suggested a ceiling for all countries. That plan was rejected by the Soviet Union and accepted virtually by everybody else. In June, the French representative tried to reduce the number of stages. We had asked for disclosure and verification by five stages and the French representative suggested three. The proposal was rejected by the Soviet Union. So it is not very easy to find a way.
Then, in August, 1952, the United States representative put forward a proposal for the clarification of our suggestion for a numerical limitation of all armed forces. That was rejected by the Soviets, and, throughout, all they did was to repeat their own argument, "Let us have a one-third cut in conventional armaments, and let us prohibit all atomic weapons, and when everybody has stopped making them, let us start discussing how to supervise and to inspect so that they shall not be made in the future."
That is a position which no Government of any free country can possibly accept. We are perfectly ready to discuss any arrangement for supervision —I do not care how thorough or how far-going it is—but it must come into force at the same time or before prohibition. It is no use our agreeing to stop atomic weapons and later to agree with the Russians how we are to ensure that they will not be made in the future. There is not enough confidence in the world to make that possible at the present time.
150 So we come to the Assembly of last year when we moved the resolution, which was passed by it, to create a subcommittee of the great Powers principally concerned. It was our suggestion— because we could not get on in public— that three or four Powers responsible for these things should meet together and do the main work in private.
My right hon. Friend used one sentence which I must say seems to sum up our position as it then was. He said:We really cannot get anywhere without frank and detailed discussion about practical arrangements.I must tell the House that, so far, that is what we have been unable to get from the Soviet Government. That does not mean, of course, that we shall not go on trying to get it in the light of new events, but it is necessary that we should realise what the past records.
The President has since then made his own proposals about contributions of atomic materials, into which I do not propose to go, and I come, finally, to the Berlin Conference. There we made the suggestion that there should be talks between the four Powers, that is, this subcommittee which was set up long ago. We have been trying to get these talks going. I see that the "Daily Herald" kindly intimates that this debate and the activities of hon. Gentlemen opposite have pushed us along. Actually, we have been pushing along ever since the Berlin Conference in an endeavour to get the talks going. But, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite knows, it is no use getting them going until all parties to them are of one mind and know what they are going to do when the talks take place. We have now arranged for the meetings, and they will take place during the course of this coming week.
The question is how we are going to handle all these various problems, how we are to get on with them, knowing as we do of what we stand in the shadow at this moment. Our argument is—and I do not think that it conflicts with this Motion—that we ought to take every means in our power to make progress on these issues. The diplomatic channel is the one which is being used at present for handling the proposals made by the President to the Assembly. That is how they are being handled at the moment, and I think that work can continue. There 151 are the direct exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union of which I spoke and about which we are being fully consulted at every stage. I am confident that that work should go on.
Then there is the Disarmament Commission, which, as I say, we now hope, as a result of the initiative taken, will set up this sub-committee of the four Powers upon whom the main responsibility lies. I should have thought that a sub-committee which meets in secret was a pretty good place in which, if the Soviet Union or anybody else had new ideas or new thoughts or anything else to convey, to do it. At any rate, the United States, France, ourselves and the Soviet Union meet alone if the subcommittee is set up. There we can discuss any and every aspect of disarmament.
So far as we are concerned, we shall put forward the scheme with which the House is familiar, a detailed scheme for general disarmament in every sphere, because we want it to take place in every sphere. If it is true, as it may be true, that the events of the last few days have brought home to everyone the urgency of the task, that is exactly the sphere in which that work can be done. That is the second aspect. I do not want the House to dismiss it lightly because if there is a serious intention in the mind of the Kremlin or anywhere else to make some contribution, in that way it can be done most effectively and, in the first instance, secretly.
Then I would say that, thirdly, there is any and every opportunity that presents itself, either at the United Nations or in any other way, for talks between Ministers at any level, and finally, the meeting at the highest level of all. All or any of those means we are prepared to employ, and ready to employ, and it is in that sense that we accept this Motion. We shall employ all and every one of them, but, as a Government, we think that we are entitled to say how, when and where to put the emphasis at any given time.
There is one other warning which I must give to the House—and it is important. One cannot divorce these technical problems entirely from the general international scene. We shall not be 152 able to make progress, even at the highest level, unless some progress is taking place in the general international picture. It may be that Berlin did, to some extent—I think it did—make it easier for later discussions to take place. It was not that we reached agreement but, as a result of the atmosphere at Berlin, "there was, perhaps, a greater willingness to discuss than before.
It may be that Geneva can help that still further. I hope so. That will be the aim and object with which we shall go to the task. If so, those events, or some other combination of events, may facilitate a meeting at any time at the highest level. The moment we think there is the least chance of such a meeting being fruitful, we shall not hesitate to go for it. Why should we not? After all, my right hon. Friend suggested it. I am not criticising the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, but during the six years when his party were in power there were no meetings at the highest level.
One has to choose the time very carefully, in case there is mishandling or we receive a rebuff. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) asked, "What does it matter if we get a rebuff?" It does not matter to our dignity, but it may matter to the work we want to do, because unless one chooses the right time the opportunity may not come again. One cannot say, within a fortnight, "Let us have a second meeting."
As the House knows very well, there are, in the whole range of disarmament, technical problems of the most baffling nature. Overriding that, there is the sense that the whole House has— one has felt it throughout the debate—the sense that the country and, I imagine, the free world must have, of the need for an extra spur to our efforts as a result of the extra danger which we contemplate. I can assure the House that the Government are perfectly well aware of that. We have been perfectly well aware of it for a very long time, when we saw the peril which this atomic threat must bring. I can only tell hon. Gentlemen that we shall use every power, every influence, every initiative on which we can lay our hands, to try to promote progress on this issue, together with a relaxation of the international tension which bedevils 153 everything else. However angry we may at times get in that task I do believe that we shall have a sense of the support not only of the House but of the country.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That this House, recognising that the hydrogen bomb with its immense range and power as disclosed by recent experiments constitutes a grave threat to civilisation and that any recourse to war may lead to its use, would welcome an immediate initiative by Her Majesty's Government to bring about a meeting between the Prime Minister and the heads of the Administrations of the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for the purpose of considering anew the problem of the reduction and control of armaments and of devising positive policies and means for removing from all the peoples of the world the fear which now oppresses them and for the strengthening of collective peace through the United Nations Organisation.