That this House do meet Tomorrow at Eleven o'clock; that no Questions be taken after Twelve o'clock; and that at Five o'Clock Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House without putting any Question.—[The Prime Minister.]
Motion made, and Question proposed.
That this Mouse, at its rising Tomorrow, do adjourn till Tuesday, 27th April—[The Prime Minister.]
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
I speak now because this is the only course open to me in view of the fact that under this Motion the House will adjourn for the Easter Recess. I rise to draw attention to a number of matters connected with the statement which the Foreign Secretary made yesterday.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is entitled to debate the Motion but he must confine himself to the matter of the date. The Motion says, "27th April."
§ Mr. Donnelly
Certainly, Sir, and I am coming to that in a minute.
The point is that the House is to adjourn until 27th April, and yesterday the Foreign Secretary made a statement which has an effect on the Geneva Conference which is to open on 26th April. I do not think the House should adjourn at this particularly critical time when that very important statement has been made, without some satisfactory answers to some questions which I should like to enumerate as a catalogue for the Foreign Secretary. These are the sort of questions to which this House is entitled to an answer before it adjourns. These are the sort of things that ought to be discussed next week in any debate concerned with this matter, and this is the only opportunity of raising these questions which is open to me.
It is within the recollection of the House what were the particular circumstances surrounding the statement made by the Foreign Secretary yesterday, which exacerbated the international situation, and upon which this House has a right to say something before 26th April. It might have been possible, in other circumstances, for me to have resorted to the ordinary procedure of Standing Order No. 9 for moving the Adjournment of the House yesterday, but, in view of the 1154 fact that this was a very long and grave statement, many of us did not want to say things off the top, so to speak, at such a time, or on the spur of the moment, which might have international implications. Therefore, it is quite right that we should have a day on which to examine the Foreign Secretary's statement, and, at the same time, that we should have proper and adequate time in which to make our views known to the Foreign Secretary before he leaves for the Geneva Conference.
The sort of question which I should like to address to the Foreign Secretary, and on which the House is entitled to an answer, is this. Why was that statement made particularly yesterday? Why was it made yesterday—and can we have an answer to this?—before the Geneva Conference starts? Why was it made without any consultation with the French in advance? Why was it made after an agreement between the Foreign Secretary and Mr. Dulles so that Mr. Dulles was able to fly to Paris with a fait accompli with which to present the French Government? That is the first point.
The second question I want to ask and which I should like to have cleared up is this. What kind of consultation took place with the Asian countries likely to be assembling at the Geneva Conference? My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in taking the lead in this matter, quite rightly pointed out that no kind of South-East Asian pact can be of any value unless there is co-operation from the Asian countries—
§ Mr. Speaker
It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman is not addressing himself to the Question before the House. The Question before the House is, "That this House, at its rising Tomorrow, do adjourn till Tuesday, 27th April." The hon. Member is really making a speech on foreign affairs. He is entitled to say that foreign affairs are in such a condition that the House ought not to adjourn until 27th April, but he is not entitled to make a speech on those matters.
§ Mr. Donnelly
The point I am seeking to make is that this House should not sanction the Foreign Secretary's visit to Geneva, and, therefore, should not adjourn, until we have been satisfied that there were proper consultations with the Asian countries concerned. I think I am quite entitled to make that clear. I do 1155 not think this House should adjourn without giving serious consideration to this matter, and I am not prepared to abdicate my right as a Member of Parliament to question this statement at this time.
Now I come to the third question which I wish to ask the Foreign Secretary, and which I think ought to be answered before the House adjourns. The right hon. Gentleman said yesterday that India was informed. I am not prepared to sanction the Foreign Secretary's agreement to these proposals or his sponsorship of them until I am satisfied that the Indian Government was consulted. There is a great deal of difference between information and consultation, and my information, according to a cable received today, is that there is nothing known in Delhi about the proposals announced yesterday. I should like the Foreign Secretary to confirm or deny that, before we sanction his journey to Geneva on 26th April.
Was the Government. of Burma consulted, because Burma is in a very critical position so far as this part of the world is concerned? It is very important that no step should have been taken in this matter until we are satisfied about the position regarding Burma. The Burmese Foreign Minister is in London at the moment, and I want to ask whether the Foreign Secretary took advantage of his presence in London to consult him?
Another question which I should like to put to the Foreign Secretary before he goes to Geneva is whether he is aware of the implications of his statement in countries other than the Commonwealth countries? Has he seen the advantage which has been taken of his statement by the "China Lobby" in the United States of America—
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
On a point of order. Is not the hon. Gentleman very wide of the Question before the House?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is making a submission that the House should not adjourn tomorrow until 27th April; that is what I understand him to be doing. His argument on the question whether we should adjourn until 27th April or not seems to be that, if the hon. Gentleman were to succeed, that might prevent the Foreign Secretary from going 1156 to Geneva. Of course, as a matter of fact, it would not do anything of the kind.
§ Mr. Donnelly
With respect, I am prepared to come to the House on Monday to discuss this matter, and I am quite sure that very many more hon. Members are, no doubt, after they have had an opportunity of meeting tonight and deciding What to do. I am objecting to the Foreign Secretary going to Geneva without many of these questions being satisfactorily answered, and I am perfectly entitled to make that submission to the House.
The Foreign Secretary must appreciate that this matter has implications far outside the Commonwealth and about which many of us are concerned, and these sort of things arise out of his statement, and have not yet been cleared up. Here I have a copy of the tape machine record timed 1.45 a.m., containing a message from Washington, which says:Diplomatic sources state here today Chinese Nationalist officials and United States authorities have discussed informally the possibility of General Chiang Kai-shek's forces, Formosa, invading South China.It goes on:This is supplemental to the South-East Asian pact proposalwhich the right hon. Gentleman announced yesterday. It is very important for us to make clear in this House that we are not prepared to underwrite any military operation by General Chiang Kai-shek.
Another example of the kind of implication which this statement of the Foreign Secretary has, unless it is made perfectly clear before he meets the Chinese representative at Geneva, is this. The Government, when the late Ernest Bevin was Foreign Secretary, recognised the Chinese Communist Government. Many of us may not approve of that Government, but it is the People's Government. It is the de facto Government of China. Does the Foreign Secretary now realise that his statement made yesterday represents, in effect, a withdrawal of that recognition or, at least, an action prejudicial to that recognition? Does he not realise that it has undermined considerably the particularly privileged position which was built up in diplomatic relations with regard to China, thanks to the initiative of Ernest Bevin at the Foreign Office?
1157 Thirdly, I should like to ask for clarification on this point before the Foreign Secretary goes to Geneva. Does he think that the statement he made yesterday will help the Korean war? I should like to know if he thinks that. Does he think it will help a settlement in Korea? Does he think it will have any military effect on the Indo-China war? Does he think it will reduce the tension in South-East Asia immediately, and just prior to this very important international conference?
This morning, in an editorial in the "Manchester Guardian," many things are set out which I think represent the views of responsible liberal opinion throughout the country. I think that some of these things stated in this editorial should be brought to the notice of the Foreign Secretary before the Geneva conference, and these are my reasons for making this submission to the House.
These are some of the questions which I should like to have answered before the House adjourns. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by this treaty? Is it backed up by troops, and, if not, what value does he think it will have before the Geneva Conference? If it is meant to be backed up by troops, what kind of troops, and where are they to come from? Are we sending the right hon. Gentleman to Geneva with a blank cheque? I think the House is entitled to an answer.
Next, what backing will this Treaty have? The right hon. Gentleman talked about "a common commitment." What does he mean by "a common commitment." Does it mean that he will be negotiating on our behalf at Geneva in the knowledge that the United States Congress is likely to send troops to Indo-China as well? Has the right hon. Gentleman any reason to believe that the United States Senate is preparing to commit American troops to Indo-China? I should like to have an answer to those questions.
If he does not mean that these troops are involved in Indo-China or Southeast Asia, does the right hon. Gentleman mean that this is an application of the policy of massive retaliation? Only the other day the Leader of the Opposition spoke in very moving terms for the people of this country on the subject of the hydrogen bomb. We discussed that here in a spirit which was marred only by the remarks of the Prime Minister. 1158 Does the Foreign Secretary mean that at this critical time he will be negotiating at an international conference in the belief that this is part of a policy of massive retaliation? Is he an acceptor of that policy, if it is applied to the South-East Asian Pact? That is the sort of question on which this House ought to have answers before the right hon. Gentleman goes to Geneva with a blank cheque on our behalf.
I come to my fifth and final question. When the right hon. Gentleman is negotiating at Geneva, and when the South-East Asian pact is discussed, what kind of authority is likely to control any forces that are associated with them?
§ Mr. Reader Harris (Heston and Isleworth)
On a point of order. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) seems to be suffering under some sort of delusion, which is that the Foreign Secretary only goes to Geneva—[Interruption.] I do not know whether the Labour Party think they are the only people entitled to speak. Other Members can raise points of order besides the Labour Party. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Harris
The point of order I am trying to put is that the hon. Member for Pembroke seems to be under the delusion that the Foreign Secretary goes to Geneva only if he has the permission of the hon. Member for Pembroke. I am sure that is not the case. Surely the hon. Member is not entitled to ask these questions—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh.']— and if he is, are we all to be allowed to get up and demand answers to our political problems? If so, we can keep; he debate going for a very long time.
§ Mr. Speaker
When there is a Motion of this sort on the Paper, any hon. Member is entitled to argue against it, but it has been pointed out that to use the opportunity of talking on the Motion to raise every conceivable outstanding public issue as an argument against the Adjournment would be a misuse of the procedure. I understood that the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) was about to draw to a close and show us his reasons for saying that we should not adjourn until 27th April.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Further to that point of order, surely 1159 the statement we had yesterday from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the very important statement today on the international situation are matters of great interest to the country and to hon. Members on both sides of the House, and we are entitled to debate, at length if necessary, whether or not the House should adjourn until 27th April and whether it would be better for us to sit next week to examine at leisure the two statements of world-wide importance that have been made. Is it not of great interest to the country that we should have the fullest opportunity in this House for considering those two pronouncements?
§ Mr. Speaker
No question of order arises. If a Motion of this sort is proposed by the Government, any hon. Member is entitled to oppose it. What I am saying—and I hope the House will listen to this—is that arguments for not agreeing to the Motion, that is to say, for coming back at an earlier date than 27th April, may show that there are matters of such importance that the House should not adjourn to that date. That is a valid argument. It does not carry with it a detailed exposition of particular points of policy. What must be urged is that there are matters of sufficient importance. The merits of them cannot be gone into on this Motion.
§ Mr. Donnelly
I was in process of drawing to a conclusion when the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) interrupted. I am seeking to elicit information on the eve of a very great international conference, and to preserve the rights of hon. Members in all parts of the House. I do not think that any hon. Member would wish those rights to be withdrawn from Members. There may come another day when hon. Members now on the Government benches may be very anxious to use a similar kind of procedure to draw attention to some vitally important matter.
A very grave statement was made and, naturally, because of its implications, it has gone unchallenged because, on the spur of the moment, many of us have had no time to study it. Many of us would have liked to say a lot of things but were unable to do so because we had not had information in advance. It is not desirable to make statements on international affairs when the situation is as dangerous 1160 as the present situation without some sort of premeditation. I accept all that is involved in saying this.
The House ought to be aware of what it is agreeing to, and of the grave implications involved, before it adjourns. It ought not to accept this sort of situation without more information. The British House of Commons has a right to be consulted on this issue before the Foreign Secretary leaves.
§ Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)
I do not want to speak for more than three or four minutes, but I am rather reluctant that the House should go away on holiday until something really definite has been done for the old-age pensioners. [Interruption.] Yes, we must get down to earth on these matters. The old-age pensioners will not enjoy their holiday, because they have not the wherewithal to do so. The House should think twice before going away and should ask the Government to give very serious consideration to making an immediate statement.
There were certain indications in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that something might be done, but we want to be quite sure that something will be done for the unemployed. [An HON. MEMBER: "For the old-age pensioners."]. I mean the old-age pensioners. I raised the subject of the unemployed in 1929, on a Motion similar to the one now before the House. Now I am speaking on behalf of the old-age pensioners and the war pensioners.
There was an implied understanding, when we gave those "blinking" judges their increased salaries, that the war pensioners and the old-age pensioners would be looked after. There has been a breach of faith. We are not doing anything for the old-age pensioners and the war pensioners, and I am very anxious that we should have a statement from the Leader of the House that something will be done for them immediately we return.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The Motion before the House is that at our rising tomorrow we shall adjourn until 27th April. That is only 10 days, or one Parliamentary week and two week-ends. In normal circumstances no one would think this an unreasonable Motion for the Gov- 1161 eminent to propose, or for the House to agree with, but the conditions in which we are asked to agree to this Motion are not by any means those of a normal situation. This situation has been rendered abnormal by the two statements which the Foreign Secretary has made, the one yesterday about certain Anglo-American conversations, and the other today about the European Defence Community.
If the Foreign Secretary—if I may put it so crudely—had kept his mouth shut and had had no conversations with the American Secretary of State, Mr. Foster Dulles, if he had not reached an agreement with him about the matters which the Geneva Conference would be called upon to discuss, if he had not made an announcement full of complexities and full of ambiguities about these matters in advance of the conference, many of us might have been perfectly content— realising the difficulties of the situation— to allow the Motion to go without challenge.
But as my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) has already pointed out, by the time the House reassembles—if we agree to the Motion now before us—the Foreign Secretary will already be fully launched upon the negotiations at Geneva which will, presumably—I hope they will—be secret and not public diplomacy for the time being. It is impossible to believe that any good can possibly come out of a publicly-reported slanging match at Geneva.
What does it mean, then? It means that, having made a statement which raises a great many questions in people's minds, first about what the right hon. Gentleman's statement means, and secondly, about the desirability of those parts of it which we understand, he will go to Geneva and will, by the time we come back after the Easter Recess, be already fully engaged in secret negotiations about that agreement. In that situation, surely the House will hesitate a long time before it agrees to adjourn without having the position much more clearly explained to them than has been done so far.
I do not want to go into the merits of the matter in any way. I am sure that would be quite wrong. Nor would it be reasonable to expect the Foreign Secretary to debate the merits of it in advance 1162 of the Geneva Conference. I am sure that my hon. Friend never expected him to do so. But it is quite plain from what he has said, and from what is in the minds of a great many of us, that we just do not understand what exactly is the agreement which the right hon. Gentleman has made with Mr. Foster Dulles, and which, presumably, he will be bound to support in advance when the Conference takes place.
I think that the House of Commons would be abdicating its responsibility if it allowed that to happen. The hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris), surely in a moment of unusual inadvertence, committed himself to the somewhat surprising view that it was wrong to think that the Foreign Secretary needed the permission of the House of Commons to conduct foreign policy in the name of the people of this country.
§ Mr. R. Harris
I did not say with the "permission of the House," but with the permission of the hon. Member for Pembroke.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Gentleman really must not talk like that. If he will stop to consider for a moment what the facts are, he will realise that the House consists of some 625 individual Members, and that its consent or lack of consent amounts to no more than the sum total of these individual opinions. If, therefore, he concedes that the Foreign Secretary would be going to Geneva in a very lame capacity unless he went with the full support of the House of Commons behind him, then by that very concession he concedes to my hon. Friend, and to every other hon. Member of this House, the right to raise these matters and to debate them. I am sure that, on consideration, he will agree that his intervention was unfortunate and unwise.
§ Mr. Harris
I am not by any means convinced that the whole House is not behind the Foreign Secretary. It is my impression that the whole of this side and most of the other side of the House are behind him. It is only a few people who cavel at the matter.
§ Mr. Speaker
This altercation as to how many hon. Members are behind the Foreign Secretary has nothing to do with the 27th April.
§ Mr. Silverman
I certainly would not propose to debate it, because, even if it were in order, I should regard it as completely irrelevant.
The hon. Member may be perfectly right. Perhaps my hon. Friend is the only Member of this House who has any doubts on the subject. That may be so, but, even if he were, he would still have an undoubted right to voice them. But, as far as I can see, he is by no means the only one.
To come back to the point that I was making. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman realises—whether he agrees with it or not—'that this is a serious and substantial point. It is exactly the sort of point that I have heard him make time after time from the Front Bench on this side of the House on occasions when the House has been about to adjourn in advance of international conferences of the greatest importance, and when he has considered that the House has not been given sufficient information. He has said it time after time, and was quite right to say it. I am sure that the time will come when he will say it again. Meantime, it is our turn to say it today.
The right hon. Gentleman knows already from what has taken place—and he must have been fully conscious of it yesterday—that his statement was by no means so crystal clear in all its details and implications as, presumably, will be his statement when he comes back after the Geneva Conference to tell us what the conference has decided.
Maybe the right hon. Gentleman, if he can take part in this debate, will be able to persuade my hon. Friend and myself and others who have doubts that our doubts are not so well-founded as we thought they were; but unless some of the questions which arise are answered, there are many of us who will think that the House ought not to accept this Motion.
For instance, the right hon. Gentleman was asked yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition whether he would remember that the Asians would have to be associated with us in this, and I think he indicated in his answer that he realised the importance of that. I am sure he also realised that this is a very ambiguous matter. Which Asians in what countries? Asians on which side?
1164 Unlike the United States of America, we have recognised the present Government of China. It is important to know whether the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the contemplated pact on South-East Asian defence is to be negotiated with the Chinese Government as one of the Asian Governments. It is a vital matter. I think I would know what my answer would be. I do not know what other people's answers will be, but no one can say that it is not vital to the discussion of the whole thing whether China is to be taken along in any arrangement for the security of South-East Asia, or whether China is to take the place in a South-East Asian community as Soviet Russia is expected to occupy in the corresponding arrangements for security of Europe.
Some of us would think that a disastrous way to try to win some security and stability in a highly dangerous world situation. Exactly the same thing applies about the statement which the right hon. Gentleman made today about Germany. He made an announcement about our association in implementation of an agreement to which the British Government put their hand in September, 1951. But September, 1951, is two and a half years ago. A great many things have happened during that time, and some very important things have happened in these last three or four weeks, with a most important and direct bearing upon this whole matter of the organisation of collective security in Europe.
I know that that has nothing to do with the Geneva Conference and with the agenda of the Conference, but I should be very surprised if, not in the official meetings, but in some other way, advantage were not taken of the presence of distinguished representatives of so many Governments to discuss that important matter, as well as other important matters. We are entitled to know in what spirit the Government are approaching these matters, before we are satisfied to go home for 10 days and to come back to find that the Foreign Secretary has already launched upon unknown seas, with an ambiguous chart and with an object unstated—
§ Mr. David Logan (Liverpool, Scotland)
Does the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) suggest that, in regard to the critical 1165 position we are in at the present moment —for which Her Majesty's Government must take full responsibility—and when we are about to negotiate, or are negotiating and meeting to try to get a friendly proposition put forward, that the plans of those talks ought to be revealed at this stage before the meeting takes place? I credit the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne with being more astute than that. I know that if I were to ask him about plans, he, as a lawyer, would not reveal them until he had worked them out.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am very much obliged for my hon. Friend's intervention. I say "my hon. Friend" in more than the conventional sense. We have been very close personal friends for a great many years and I have the utmost respect for his sincerity and ability. He heard me say, however, that if the right hon. Gentleman had made no statement yesterday and no statement today, I certainly would not have been opposing this Motion now. I said that at the beginning.
What I am saying it that the right hon. Gentleman chose, or felt bound, to make these two statements. One of them, at any rate, is a most ambiguous statement, and, knowing that he will not be here when we come back, I should like to know what that statement means before the House adjourns. I am sure that my hon. Friend will realise the importance of that. After all, in these very weeks we are dealing with perhaps one of the most critical points—I hope that I am not exaggerating, or perhaps it would be better to say that I hope I am—in all human history, certainly in all the history of the Western world and civilisation as we understand it. It is surely not too much to ask the right hon. Gentleman, before we are sent away on our holidays, to tell us exactly what it was he had in mind when he made his statements of yesterday and today.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)
I do not know whether I can contribute anything to this discussion. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) expressed, in terms to which I certainly take no exception, his concern about the Geneva Conference and what I was to do there in the light of my statement yesterday. I think that he will perhaps recognise, and that the House also will 1166 recognise, that, while I fully understand his concern for the success of the Geneva Conference, my concern is, at any rate, no less than his.
I do not think that it would be egotistical to say that, but for the efforts in which at any rate I participated in Berlin, there would not be a Geneva Conference at all. All this indignation now being shown against me in certain parts of the House—
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Gentleman will allow me the consistency which has been attributed to me on both sides of the House. I have changed my mind in no way, nor has the United States Secretary of State changed his mind. We are both sincerely anxious to bring about the success of the Geneva Conference.
Perhaps I may be allowed to say that sometimes the language in this House is difficult to understand. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly), speaking earlier, said that it was not wise to speak on foreign affairs without premeditation. After yesterday, it is rather interesting to hear that observation, but I have duly noted it and will be very careful of what I say.
When the hon. Member says that we are in a particularly privileged position in China, I must say that I was utterly amazed that any British subject could say such a thing. There is no country which treats British interests anything like as badly as China does at the present moment. I can only describe it as a measure of blackmail. As I have said, they know perfectly well my opinions because they have been conveyed to them. If anybody thinks that our people have been privileged in the treatment which they have received from the Chinese, he has only to read in the newspapers this morning the gloriously brave stories of some of our soldiers.
I am going to Geneva to do my best to get a settlement on Korea and Indo-China, but I am going without any illusions at all as to the kind of people the Chinese Communists are. I withdraw not one word of what I said yesterday. I apologise for not one syllable. I believe that if we handle this thing wisely and with patience, we may be able to make 1167 a real contribution to the peace of South-East Asia. That, at any rate, is my purpose. If the hon. Member for Pembroke doubts my sincerity, I would ask him to believe that there is in our record of service to peace at least as much to our credit as he is ever likely to produce.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
The Foreign Secretary has dealt with the statement he made yesterday, but questions have also been put to him about the equally important statement which he made this afternoon. Before we accept this Government Motion, I think that it is reasonable to ask the Foreign Secretary just to bear in mind —and this is the only opportunity we have of expressing them—the thoughts that are in the minds of at any rate some Members on this side with regard to the very important statement which he has made on the international situation.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman would agree that that statement—which involves the commitment of British troops on the Continent of Europe—was not made specifically in the interests of this country. There is no need to pretend that there is any mystery about this. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would agree that the primary reason for his statement this afternoon was to induce the French Government to ratify E.D.C. I am not concerned to argue whether that is a good or a bad thing, but it is right that we should not conceal from ourselves that the only reason the Foreign Secretary has made that agreement committing British troops to this association with E.D.C. is not directly for the benefit of this country but as an inducement to the French Government to ratify E.D.C.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I think that we are going far beyond the Motion:That this House, at its rising To-morrow, do adjourn till Tuesday 27th April.We cannot argue that other matter.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I accept your Ruling, of course, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I was not proposing to do anything more than was done by my hon. Friends, which is to indicate why we are opposed to this House adjourning until 27th April.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I did not stop the hon. Member giving reasons, but stopped 1168 him going into details. That I cannot allow.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I only want to say that, following upon the Foreign Secretary's statement yesterday, Mr. Speaker allowed reasons to be given as to why, because of that statement, it is undesirable that we should adjourn for 10 days. I am endeavouring, with respect, to give equally analogous reasons why, following an equally important statement made this afternoon, some of us might wish to oppose this Motion, and would not wish to go away without further clarification of this afternoon's vitally important statement by the Foreign Secretary.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I did not stop the hon. Member giving reasons, but stopped him going into great details, which I cannot allow.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I can conclude in a very few sentences. What I want to put to the Foreign Secretary is this. It would be wrong to conceal from ourselves that the statement made this afternoon is intended to affect the French. As we all know, the French are completely divided about the wisdom or unwisdom of ratifying E.D.C, with which is involved the rearmament of Germany. The Foreign Secretary has his own views on that matter, and he knows perfectly well that my hon. Friends also have their views on the matter. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to recognise the merit of this point of view, that we should not in this country take steps which we would not otherwise take, simply for the purpose of bringing pressure on the French Government. There is a cleavage of opinion in France as to whether, in the interests of France, it is desirable—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Gentleman is ignoring my Ruling. If he continues to do so, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. Fletcher
May I, consistent with your Ruling, put this point to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? I would myself oppose the adjournment for this reason. Whatever might be tie merits of the Foreign Secretary's statement this afternoon, the timing of it seems to me particularly undesirable. It seems to me particularly undesirable that this House should go into recess for 10 days, bearing in mind that the Foreign Secretary has recently taken the initiative in convening a meeting of the Disarmament Commission of the 1169 United Nations, and that a sub-committee is going to meet at a very early date.
We hope that the Foreign Secretary will be able to tell us that that subcommittee will meet at a very early date, and I hope that the meeting will take place in Europe, either in London or Paris, but not in America. I am sure we all share the hope that the work of that sub-committee of the Disarmament Commission will produce beneficial results. It is an urgent matter. In view of the development of the hydrogen bomb and certain démarchés from Russia and so forth, this is a matter of considerable urgency.
It is particularly unfortunate that the House should adjourn without bearing in mind that it would seem to some of us, at least, to be very undesirable at this juncture to do anything to precipitate the French ratification of E.D.C. as long as there is some possibility that the work of the Disarmament Commission of the United Nations may bear fruit. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be able to say that he has sufficient confidence, in the initiative which he himself has recently taken, in the Disarmament Commission of the United Nations to do nothing in connection with German rearmament which might forestall a fruitful outcome of the meeting of that subcommittee.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I was shocked this afternoon when I heard the Foreign Secretary involve the country in yet another commitment. I think the majority of the House thought that he was talking about another new armoured division. Those of us who are in touch with the situation in Germany know that there are on the Continent of Europe at present 4J divisions, three of which are armoured and the majority of which are largely under establishment.
The Foreign Secretary now comes to the House of Commons and announces, as if it is a brand-new policy, that he is to transfer the command of one of these armoured divisions to the Supreme Allied Commander and that he is making an additional contribution to the defence of Europe, when he knows that it is nothing of the kind. The only practical way in which any British Government can strengthen public opinion in Europe and convince people that we are determined to stop there is so to mould our mobilisa- 1170 tion machine and the supporting depots that once we are there we cannot come back, because the heavy equipment is there as well. Our mobilisation machine is organised in such a way that if things go wrong, the 12 divisions which are to support the 4⅓ divisions which are already there—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I hope the hon. Gentleman will come to the point whether we should adjourn or not. That is really what we are discussing, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will keep to that subject.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I was listening most carefully, and I could not see any connection at all between what the hon. Gentleman was saying and the subject of the Motion before the House.
§ Mr. Wigg
In that case, I shall endeavour to help you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
The facts are that the House today is being asked to go into recess for a period of 10 days, and on the eve of our departure the Secretary of State has come to the House and has announced that the Government are placing under the control of the Supreme Allied Commander a British armoured division and are endeavouring to persuade opinion on the Continent of Europe, and, indeed, world opinion, that that is a gesture of our determination to stay on the Continent of Europe. I say that it is nothing of the kind. Yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman came to the House of Commons and made a statement which might involve us in putting reinforcements into South-East Asia.
§ Mr. EMrys Hughes
Could the hon. Gentleman say whether or not he agrees with the suggestion of the Foreign Secretary that this only means one armoured division? Does he not agree that this means immense expenditure in the future, and that if this policy is continued, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not be able to bring about a reduction in defence expenditure?
§ Mr. Wigg
What it does mean is that the Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Office are playing the old game, which 1171 has been played many times in this century, of politics with British troops' lives, and that is what we object to. We are entering into deeper commitments which we have not the strength to fulfil. We are strained to the utmost. In the same fortnight the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told the House that during the coming year we must ensure that we obtain some definite relief from the defence burden. Therefore, we have two commitments. The two statements do not add up. The French are realists. They are not going to be deceived by this. The only people who are being deceived are the British public.
§ Mr. Wigg
I congratulate you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and indeed I hope the Foreign Secretary may emulate your example. I am saying that we should not go away for our Easter holidays in a situation of this sort with these two statements which do not add up. We have got additional commitments, the extent of which we do not know, because, obviously, if events go seriously wrong in South-East Asia we may have to put in reinforcements. There is only one place from which they can come. We shall have to mobilise the Reserve, because at the moment we have not got a battalion. We are talking about armoured divisions as if they grow like apple blossom in the spring. They are just not there.
We have failed to get any elucidation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We ought to have from somebody in the Government an explanation which will make sense of what the Chancellor said in his Budget and of what the Foreign Secretary has said in the last two days. The Governments which have mutilated the Armed Forces of the Crown under the pressure of the cry for economy at all costs have always been Conservative Governments. The Geddes Axe and the May Committee, the effects of which are still to be found in the Armed Forces, came as a result of a demand for economy from a Tory Administration.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I hope the hon. Member will help me out. It is very unfair of him to go on like this.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am trying to help you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but it would help me and, indeed, the House if the Government would make a statement. It will satisfy my hon. Friends if the Government will explain how, at one and the same time, during the present financial year, we can cut down our expenditure on defence and undertake unlimited commitments, or potentially unlimited commitments, in South-East Asia and in Europe, and also maintain 80,000 troops in the Canal Zone.
§ Mr. Wigg
With respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that during the coming year the defence policy is to be looked at again. Today, on the eve of our departure for Easter, the Foreign Secretary has told us that we are undertaking additional commitments, but we have not been told 'how that is to be done.
I do not want to strain your generosity, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but the House will be failing in its duty if it allows the Government to depart without some explanation of what is about to take place. We are, presumably, going into the Geneva Conference on the edge of a knife blade. We hope that it will lead to all-round pacification, and will release forces instead of committing them further, but if it does not do so the troops themselves have the right to know where reinforcements are to come from—or are we to deduce that the Government are engaged in an almighty bluff, because no reinforcements are available, and that the transfer of the command of our armoured division from its British Commander to the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe is also a gigantic bluff—a paper transaction—calculated to deceive French opinion?
Is that the position, or is there to be a re-examination of our whole defensive policy to enable us to increase our fighting strength and, at the same time, decrease our expenditure? We should be given some information about these matters.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I have every sympathy with hon. Members opposite and with any hon. Members on this side of the House who are in favour of the Adjournment Motion. I 1173 want to explain why there is something to be said for adjourning. Most hon. Members are already very weary, especially the Scottish Members, who have had a prolonged discussion in Committee on the Housing (Repairs and Rents) (Scotland) Bill. I have every sympathy with Scottish Members who have stuck to their duty, who are greatly fatigued, both mentally and physically, and are longing to be "o'er the Border and awa'."
Before we adjourn, however, the Scottish Members would like an assurance from the Secretary of State for Scotland that he will withdraw this Bill. During the 23 meetings of the Committee some very elaborate and important arguments have been put forward, which, I am sure, have convinced the Secretary of State for Scotland that he should cease to be a protector of the Scottish property owners. He should, therefore, be given an opportunity of making the statement —which will be received with acclamation in Scotland—that this shameful Bill will be withdrawn.
Having dealt with that aspect of the matter, although I sympathise with hon. Members who wish to be away, I would remind them that we must have a sense of duty to our constituents. During the last two days exceedingly important statements have been made, which have been received with a great deal of doubt not only by the House of Commons but by important sections of the Press. When an important British newspaper like the "Manchester Guardian" publishes a long leading article, headed "A Blank Cheque," and asking a series of questions about the policy of the Government in relation to South-East Asia, the House should be given some answers, instead of a series of cliches, platitudes and unconvincing generalities such as we receive from the Foreign Secretary when he is trying to hide something.
I want to press him to answer one or two questions. First, I want to ask the question which I tried to ask yesterday. To what extent has India been consulted about these important international arrangements?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If the Foreign Secretary answered that question he would be out of order on this debate. It is not one of the reasons why we should or should not adjourn until 27th April.
§ Mr. Hughes
I ask for a further statement from the Foreign Secretary, who has been so courteous and obliging in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) and my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), to satisfy other hon. Members who have questions to ask. With his customary courtesy, I am sure he would be prepared to answer such questions before the House adjourned. I shall not readily agree to the Adjournment until an attempt has been made to answer some of these questions.
The position of India in relation to the possibilities of an extension of the war in Indo-China is of immense importance to Asia and the rest of the world. The Foreign Secretary ought to abandon his mystification and elaboration of generalities, which mean nothing, and tell us whether he has had any consultations with Mr. Nehru about these important matters, which so vitally affect the people of India and the Dominions. Is the agreement which the Foreign Secretary is to discuss in Geneva likely to commit us to another extension of war in Indo-China, such as we have had in Korea?
Those are questions which ordinary men and women are asking. We have had so many revelations in the last two days about things which the Cabinet has not been told, and about secret agreements, that there are pressing questions which will be pursued for answers. The question of our attitude in the Far East justifies keeping the House sitting, even over the whole Easter holiday if necessary. I was not satisfied with the very cursory and superficial way in which the Foreign Secretary dismissed the Government of Communist China. He said, "I do not like the Chinese Communists." He does not trust them. He is making enemies of the people with whom he is going to negotiate, before he meets them.
The people whom we have to meet across the conference table at Geneva—the people who represent the Government of China—should be treated with respect. We should try to understand their point of view. I had an opportunity of penetrating into China and talking to some of the Chinese Communists. I believe that Communist China wants peace and a settlement of the Indo-China question. I also believe that there is an overwhelming public opinion in this country which is 1175 entirely against our being drawn into any elaboration of the so-called defensive military arrangements of the United States of America in the Pacific.
These are important points, and although some hon. Members have had an opportunity of asking questions, some have not, although they are entitled to have them. We want to know what our relations with China will be, and whether we shall be drawn into another infernal war in China in the same way as we were drawn into the infernal, senseless and completely futile war in Korea. We are entitled to have a statement from the Foreign Secretary, and those of us who take a certain view are also entitled to say, "Not a gun, not a man, shall go from this country in support of any policy which will mean putting back the reactionaries in Indo-China, dragging Chiang Kai-shek back on to the mainland of China, and reopening the civil war."
These are immense possibilities, and it is contrary to the spirit of democracy that the House should be sent away without further explanation of them and after hearing only one of those superficial statements of the Foreign Secretary. He should give us some more elaborate reply to the question I put to him after his statement. He brushed aside his new agreement about what are to be our military commitments to E.D.C. by saying that the armoured division would have been in Europe anyway. However, these armoured divisions cost money, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has explained, this expenditure increases. I do not see how the Government can reconcile the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Monday with the statement that has been made here today.
We have to remember that all those various diplomatic agreements we entered into in our history and that ultimately landed us in war looked harmless to Members of the House who were not on the alert. Today, we should be on the alert, because if this immense burden of military expenditure is not reduced we shall not raise the standard of living, we shall not obtain any increase in the real value of wages, and we shall be compelled to sacrifice the social services. It is nonsense to delude the old-age pensioners with the economic problems in which the Government are involved when 1176 the Government are prepared to enter into vast new commitments on the Continent of Europe.
Even if hon. Members are tired from discussing the ridiculous legislation the Government have put before us and that we have been considering in the last few months, if they have any sense of responsibility to the country in general and to their constituents in particular—indeed, a sense of responsibility to mankind—they will demand a more definite and more convincing declaration of the Government's plans and views before the House adjourns than any that has been made hitherto.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
The Prime Minister told us a little earlier that owing to the pressure of Government business the Government could not spare any of their Parliamentary time to discuss House of Commons matters. If the House agrees to this Motion there will be no Parliamentary time to discuss the Government's foreign policy before the Geneva Conference meets, no time to discuss before then the very important announcements to which my hon. Friends have referred and that have been made by the Foreign Secretary in the last 24 hours. It would be entirely wrong for the House to disperse without some further information from the Foreign Secretary about the two new commitments the Government have taken on, that have been announced today and yesterday.
For some time the House has been discussing the need for a reduction in Britain's commitments and a reduction in our overseas military expenditure. As many of my hon. Friends have reminded us, the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently told us that it is vital to reduce this country's defence expenditure, and, in particular, its overseas military expenditure, in the coming year. Yet in the last two days, just before it is proposed we go away on holiday, the Foreign Secretary has announced that we are entering into new commitments in the Far East and in Europe, although the extra cost that they will involve, and the extra cost in manpower, are not explained.
The Foreign Secretary suggested that those who are opposing this Motion are attacking his sincerity. I am sorry that he is not here now. I do not attack his 1177 sincerity at all. I believe he is going to Geneva sincerely to seek negotiated settlements, to enter into genuine negotiations. However, I should have thought that he would have understood the point of view of those who say that it is unwise to go to Geneva having just taken on new commitments that may inhibit genuine negotiations.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs cannot fail to see that the timing of these announcements just before the Conference is obviously for the purpose of influencing those discussions. It is disingenuous to say that these conversations between the American Secretary of State and the British and French Governments, and the suggestion of new military alliances, 10 days or so before the calling of an international conference to obtain a negotiated settlement of problems like those of Korea and Indo-China, are not negotiations obviously held with the object of influencing and even inhibiting the negotiations to take place at Geneva.
If this Motion is passed the House will have no opportunity of discussing what is involved in these announcements. We should like to know before we disperse whether the announcement about what is called S.E.A.T.O., which is an organisation for South-East Asia similar to N.A.T.O., means or does not mean that the Foreign Secretary is prepared to underwrite the colonial rule of other Powers in South-East Asia, or whether that is specifically excluded. The Foreign Secretary said nothing about that yesterday, not any more than he said whether General Chiang Kai-shek is to be brought into these negotiations.
Is he entitled to become a member of S.E.A.T.O. or not? If he is, have the other Commonwealth countries in that part of the world, India and Pakistan, been consulted about that, and other countries to whom invitations are to be sent? This is a very important matter of British military and foreign policy. It has already been decided, because the Foreign Secretary has committed the Government to enter into these negotiations that may involve additional military commitments and possibly additional overseas military expenditure.
With the dispersal of the House now, and the meeting of the Geneva Conference on 26th April, the House will not have the opportunity of getting a reply 1178 to these vital questions or of expressing the views on them of the people of this country, the majority of whom, I am absolutely certain, are utterly opposed to entering military alliances with General Chiang Kai-shek and people of that kind, and utterly opposed to this country's underwriting the colonial rule of other Powers in South-East Asia.
We have had another announcement today about British association with E.D.C. We are also being denied by the Adjournment of the House the opportunity of asking some very vital questions about these new commitments which put British troops into the European Army although the Government still resist entering into E.D.C. as one of the E.D.C. Powers. There are certain rules that have been established about E.D.C, to be observed if it comes into being and if the Treaty is ratified. Certain things can be done in E.D.C. only on the basis of unanimity, and the Powers that enter into E.D.C., if it comes into existence will have control over one another's periods of conscription and amounts of military expenditure, and so on.
We are denied the opportunity of discussing now whether this new British commitment to E.D.C. means that the E.D.C. Powers will have a say in the period of National Service in this country. One of the strong reasons for French opposition to E.D.C. is the idea that leaders of the German army should have a say about the period of conscription in France; but that is involved, as the Foreign Secretary knows very well, if E.D.C. comes into existence. All those who enter this contract of E.D.C. have a share in the control of one another's military arrangements, including the amount of military manpower each calls up, the period of conscription each operates, and the amount of the defence expenditure of each Power.
Do the association of Britain with E.D.C. and these commitments involve the Germans and the French having some say in the period of British conscription? Will Germany and France have some say in the amount of British defence expenditure? If they will not, it is difficult to understand how this association has brought us any closer to E.D.C.
We should, of course, have military forces on the Continent anyway. This 1179 handing over of one armoured division as a token to be commanded by the so-called European army, if we are not undertaking any of the obligations set out in the E.D.C. Treaty, can be regarded only as a bogus manoeuvre to try to push the French Parliament into the ratification oT a Treaty which they do not want to ratify. It is a crying shame that the British Parliament should not provide an opportunity for analysing the implications of the announcement and what is involved in handing over one armoured division to the so-called European army.
§ Mr. Swingler
Yes, that has been said in the House in recent weeks. There is no guarantee at all against ex-Nazis holding important appointments in the new German army which may be raised, and if we add a British armoured division to it, the situation envisaged by my hon. Friend may well come about.
The announcement has been made as if the British Government were committing themselves in some way to E.D.C, but when we analyse it we find that we are not taking on any of the obligations which we are pressing the French Parliament to undertake. We are pressing the French Parliament to enter into contracts with a new German army which will involve them in a partnership and joint multilateral control of all their military arrangements. How does this tie up with the Chancellor's plea that we must reduce defence expenditure during the coming year?
That is the Chancellor's reason for saying that he cannot give satisfaction to my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) by doing something for the old-age pensioners. The reason why nothing can be done for the pensioners is the load of defence expenditure to which attention has been drawn in recent weeks. On the eve of Parliament going on holiday we have the Foreign Office committing the country to new military obligations which may involve 1180 increased defence Budgets, which runs contrary to everything that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his Budget speech.
We are right to draw attention to these facts. If the Government argue that they are so pressed with their business that they cannot offer any Parliamentary time for discussion of these vitally important matters, Parliament should return earlier or other arrangements should be made to provide more Parliamentary time so that hon. Members may express the views of the people on these very important matters.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
It is many years since I spoke in the House. Although a maiden speech, once made, is made for ever, I ought, in the circumstances, to foe careful about the proprieties, so I shall address myself very precisely to the terms of the Motion.
My difficulties are very largely personal. When I was last in the House it was not the custom of Junior Lords of the Treasury and unpaid Whips to give ready permission for Government supporters or other hon. Members to disappear. I thought that this time I should be able to look forward to regular Recesses and spend a little leisure and obtain a little mental recuperation in other parts of the world, in spite of one of the statements that we heard this afternoon.
Here is my difficulty. Suppose I wish to take advantage of the tremendous improvements in the nationalised airways and go cheaply to Paris for a day or two. Dare I do so in view of the doubts which have been sown in the minds of political thinkers in France by the events in this House in the last couple of days? A few weeks ago it was possible to go to Paris and to explain frankly and honestly how political opinion in this House was divided on the subject of E.D.C. and co-operation between France and this country, and also the different emphasis put on the conception of a united Europe, the sort of emphasis stressed by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) and the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) and other elements on both sides of the House.
It was possible to paint to French politicians and electors a fairly clear picture 1181 of what the political opinion in this country was, but in the last couple of days we have had this regrettable sequence of events as a result of which it would appear to the French that there is some connection between the announcement which has been made and the proposal now before the House that we should, in unseemly haste, be rushed off out of the way so that we cannot ask the sort of questions on this subject which the French themselves are asking.
It may be that the usual channels have normal and reasonable explanations for why we ought to adjourn just before Easter, but I do not think that people of the political liveliness of the French will understand why the House should submit to this treatment when they have recently exercised the democratic privilege of punching their Prime Minister on the nose in public because they did not like his attitude to German rearmament and to the European Defence Community. They would be encouraged if some hon. Members of this House stood out until we had had some more information from the Foreign Office which would enable us to answer the sort of questions which are likely to be put to us.
We have to ascertain whether the statements made yesterday and today reveal some sort of bargain by which this country is committed to sending its sons to fight a reactionary war in Indo-China to induce the French to accept German rearmament. I will give an example of the sort of questions which one gets in France from ordinary French people. The last time I was in Paris a cook, having discovered that I was connected with politics, came to me and asked me a very serious question. Her grandson was in Indo-China, and she asked me for my opinion of the war in Indo-China and whether I thought that it would end soon or would end badly. Do I have to tell her this time that the likelihood is that my own son will have to go there as well? Do I have to tell her what really seems to be the case in this matter?
Others ask about the contribution which the British are likely to make to E.D.C. The French are going to ask whether this House accepts the same surrender of sovereignty which the French are now being asked to accept. These 1182 are very serious matters which are exercising the minds of French men of all political parties.
Someone may say to me, "It is extremely nice of your Foreign Secretary to offer an under-established armoured division which was already there. Thank you for nothing, but will you submit to the same control over the period of National Service?" I gather from gestures made on the Government Front Bench that there is no question of this country accepting any of the humiliating conditions which our leaders seem so anxious to force upon the French.
From time to time this House discusses whether the period of National Service should be reduced. Under the proposed E.D.C. Treaty a unanimity rule operates which would make it possible for a revengeful German Government to hold out against the opinion of the rest of the members of the European Defence Community. The rest of the members might decide that tension had lessened and that there was not so much danger of war, that there was danger of economic com petition from the Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia, and that we might begin to pay attention to economic matters as well as to military matters. If every member of the Community, except the Germans, decided that the time was ripe to reduce the period of National Service—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Member as he is making a semi-maiden speech, but I think that this has very little to do with the Motion on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Parkin
I will try to cut short my remarks, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I began by pointing out my difficulty, and I am not in the least trying to take advantage of my comparative inexperience in debating questions of this kind.
I am anxious to get an answer to the questions that any hon. Member of the House will be liable to have addressed to him if he crosses the Channel for £11 tourist return following the adjournment of the House. If we were told that the Government's view is that the House ought to adjourn, but hon. Members are recommended not to be abroad for the time being, or not to get into contact with politicians in any other country because 1183 they would not be able to answer the questions put to them, and the Government might be embarrassed or they might be embarrassed, I could understand that. I hope that I am in order in pressing my doubts and difficulties about crossing the Channel to contact the French at this time.
I know that these problems have been worrying the French. They do not consider it fair that they should be asked to accept limitations on sovereignty which no British Government would ever dare lay before this House. That they are being asked to accept. There is also the question of the arrangement for the commander-in-chief and the fixing of National Service, which Britain will never accept, and they are beginning to wonder whether they were right in the first place, and whether all the idealism which has been directed towards the formation of a United Europe is not being dissipated in this bogus conception of a Europe of Six—this little reconstruction of the Holy Roman Empire.
These are questions which will be asked of any hon. Member who dares to cross the Channel. They will wish to know whether the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) and the hon. Member for Aberdeen, East (Sir R. Boothby) will persist in their association with the idea of a united Europe as set forth by M. Daladier, or whether they are going to fall into this trap of E.D.C., which may very well put back for a generation the realisation of the hopes of those who really have a united Europe at heart.
I hope that before this Motion is agreed to. and before hon. Members accept the risk of allowing the House to rise, we shall have answers from the Foreign Office which will enable us to answer the sort of questions which will be asked of hon. Members as soon as the House adjourns.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)
The Motion that we should adjourn until 27th April gives me an opportunity of pressing for an answer to a supplementary question which I asked on Monday last and which, I thought, was relevant. A number of hon. Members, including myself, put down Questions, hoping that we should get on Monday a statement arising out of rumours which have been flying about 1184 concerning the visit of Mr. Dulles. We were then told to wait till Tuesday. I ventured to ask this supplementary question:Will the Minister make it clear that we have not been a party to any arrangements by which there is a threat to the Chinese that, in the event of their doing something in the Indo-China campaign we shall join with the Americans in retaliating by wiping out enormous numbers of the Chinese people with the hydrogen bomb?The answer I was given was, in effect, that I should wait till Tuesday. The exact words were:Mr. LLOYD: I have already said that my right hon. Friend is having discussions with Mr. Dulles about the preparations for the Geneva Conference. I do not think that it is in the public interest to make any further answer today."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 786.]Nothing has been said.
This is a serious question about which, I believe, I am not the only one who is very perturbed and much exercised both in mind and in spirit. I think we ought to have a chance of discussing this, too, before the Foreign Secretary goes to Geneva, and before decisions are taken which may commit us irretrievably, one way or another, to a course which may lead to a quite disastrous situation.
1 believe that there is a serious reason to fear the worst on this matter, for it is apparent that in these last few days we have had reason to ask ourselves whether the great satisfaction expressed by Mr. Dulles on leaving this country was due to the fact that he had succeeded in lining up a large number of countries, including ourselves, in treating the forthcoming Geneva Conference as a process by which, in fact, we are warning the Chinese to lay off Indo-China— or else.
One asks oneself: or else, what? One then remembers the recent American discussion about the "new look" on world strategy in the reduction of ground forces so as to concentrate more on measures for what, I think, they call "massive and flexible retaliation." One wonders whether all this synchronises with the massive explosion of hydrogen bombs in the Pacific Ocean. It looks as if we were being drawn into a process by which, in the last resort, the logic is to confront the Chinese with the alternative, "Clear out or else the hydrogen bomb is coming on you."
1185 It may be said by some, of course, that Chinese intervention in the war in Indo-China is so wicked that we ought to take that proposition so much for granted that there can be no discussion of it one way or the other; but it seems to me to be a proposition which ought to be most urgently discussed. There are at least two possible views about the war which is going on in Indo-China. Looked at in one way, it may seem to be an unprovoked Communist aggression supported by Chinese intervention, but looked at the other way round, it could quite well appear to be a war by reactionary forces to sustain French colonialism, which is now being backed by American intervention. I only want to say that that is a disputable proposition which leaves it by no means overwhelmingly obvious that the Chinese are so far in the wrong that anyone would have the right to drop a hydrogen bomb on them if they persisted in their present course.
I do not pretend to see, any more than, I suppose, anybody else could pretend to see, a total solution to all the problems which are perplexing the whole world from out of South-East Asia. But it seems to me that we are being drawn into very dangerous territory where we ought not to go without discussion in the House before finding ourselves committed.
Just occasionally out of a confused situation one sees, or one thinks one sees, a little part of the picture, perhaps belatedly, but none the less with a blinding clarity. I, for my part, feel that any line of policy which contains within itself the fact that we are using, or are associating with, as allies, those who are using, the threat of dropping a hydrogen bomb on closely packed, thickly populated Chinese towns and villages, is something morally so intolerable that, as a people, we cannot be associated with it.
It is to me a terrible fact that if the Government exercise their majority, as, no doubt, they will, we are on the point of adjourning, of going away for a holiday, and that we will not come back until after we have started upon a conference in Geneva out of which all these matters may be irretrievably settled without a chance of discussion in the House. Therefore, my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) was unchallengeably right, and I very much 1186 hope that he will take the House to a Division on this matter.
§ Mr. John Baird (Wolverhampton, North-East)
I was very worried by the statement yesterday from the Foreign Secretary, and I am convinced that a large number of people are also very worried about it. Therefore, I welcome this opportunity of trying to get clarification.
§ Mr. Speaker
We are discussing, not the statement made yesterday, but whether we should adjourn to 27th April.
§ Mr. Baird
My next sentence, Mr. Speaker, was leading up to that.
I am worried because I believe that before we have an opportunity of discussing this matter again, an irretrievable step will have been taken which will raise a barrier in the Far East. The House is adjourning for 10 days, and I believe that when we return the Foreign Secretary will be out of the country. We will not have an opportunity of discussing foreign policy and there will be no opportunity for the House to discuss the serious question before the Geneva Conference.
It is true that the Foreign Secretary intervened for a few minutes this afternoon, but instead of clarifying the position and convincing me that we should adjourn, his remarks have made me even more worried. By his short statement, the Foreign Secretary seems to think that everything the Chinese have done is black, and everything his friends have done is all white and all right. If that is the attitude we are taking at Geneva, there is little chance of our being successful there.
I am convinced that our attitude today on the Far East must be different from that of the Americans, who seem to see the picture as all black and all white. If we on this side, at least, were living in China or Indo-China, our sympathies would be with the People's Governments and popular movements there. The reason why I do not want the House to rise in these circumstances is that we have had no indication from the Foreign Secretary that he understands this feeling, which exists in the country, of sympathy for the struggling peoples of the Far East.
There is, at least, a certain flexibility in that area of the world. It does not yet have that rigidity which one finds in 1187 Europe. Even in India and Burma and some of the other countries we have an attempt to act as a bridge between the two different ideologies. It seems that as a result of the statement yesterday by the Foreign Secretary, there is a danger that that bridge will be destroyed and we will be creating out there another Iron Curtain, which will bring war nearer and make the possibilities of a negotiated settlement almost impossible.
It is all right for some people to say that the statement yesterday was only an announcement that we were to discuss the need for examining the possibility of an Eastern N.A.T.O. It is true we are only talking at present of discussing these things, but those who have been in the House for some time know that all Governments are apt to issue these statements before an Adjournment. I do not say it is done deliberately, but events arise during a Recess and before the House can discuss them when we come back there is a fait accompli. That has happened time and time again in foreign affairs.
I am afraid that what today is simply a discussion will be a reality when next we have an opportunity of discussing the matter in the House. We saw What has
§ happened before. I feel like using the phrase "double-cross" as far as the Americans are concerned, but I do not want to go as far as that. I believe that in the past there has been a bit of sharp practice in international affairs so far as our friends in America are concerned. We saw what happened when the war was extended in Korea. We saw what happened over the Japanese Peace Treaty.
§ I for one do not want to see us when we come back being tied to a new Eastern organisation similar to N.A.T.O. on the side of the suppression of the desires and aspirations of the common people of the Far East. What these people want is the hand of friendship, not a military alliance to contain them. Therefore, we should not adjourn until we are able to be more satisfied with the statement from the Foreign Secretary.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. P. G. T. Bnchan-Hepburn)
rose in his place and claimed to move,"That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 275: Noes, 109.1191
|Division No. 72.]||AYES||[5.37 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Carr, Robert||Fisher, Nigel|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Cary, Sir Robert||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Channon, H.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Fort, R.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Clarke, Col Ralph (East Grinstead)||Foster, John|
|Arbuthnot, John||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Cole, Norman||Fraser, Sir lan(Morecambe & Lonsdale)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Colegate, W. A.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Galbraith, T G. D. (Hillhead)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Gammans, L. D.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Garner-Evans, E. H|
|Baxter, A. B||Crookshank, Capt Rt. Hon. H. F C.||Glover, D.|
|Beach, Maj Hicks||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Godber, J. B.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Crouch, R. F.||Gomme-Duncan, Col A.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Gough, C. F. H.|
|Bennett, F. M (Reading, N.)||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Gower, H. R.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Davidson, Viscountess||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||De la Bère, Sir Rupert||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Deedes, W. F.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)|
|Birch, Nigel||Digby, S. Wingfield||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Bishop. F. P||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Harden, J. R. E.|
|Black, C. W||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA||Hare, Hon. J. H.|
|Boothby, Sir R. J. G.||Doughty, C. J. A.||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Drayson, G. B.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Brains, B. R||Drew, Sir C.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hay, John|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H||Duthie, W. S.||Heath, Edward|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Eocles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Higgs, J. M. C.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)|
|Bullard, D. G.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Erroll, F. J.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Fell, A.||Holland-Martin, C. J|
|Campbell, Sir David||Finlay, Graeme||Hollis, M. C.|
|Hope, Lord John||Marplra, A. E.||Shepherd, William|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Maude, Angus||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Horobin, I. M.||Maudling, R.||Smithert, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. lves)||Mellor, Sir John||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Molon, A, H. E.||Spearman, A. C. M|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Monckton, Rt. Han. Sir Walter||Speir, R. M.|
|Hurd, A. R.||Moore, Sir Thomas||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Neave, Airey||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Nicholls, Harmar||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Jennings, Sir Roland||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Storey, S.|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Jonas, A. (Hall Green)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L, W.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Summers, G. S.|
|Kaberry, D.||Nutting, Anthony||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Kerby, Capt. H. J||Odey, G. W.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Kerr, H. W.||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Osboroe, C.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Langford-Holt, J. A||Page, R. G.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Peyton, J. W. W.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Lindsay, Martin||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Tilney, John|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Pitman, I. J.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Turton, R. H.|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Powell, J. Enoch||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Price, Henry (Lewlsham, W)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Low, A. R. W.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Profumo, J. D.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Raikes, Sir Victor||Walker-Smith, D. C|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ramsden, J. E.||Wall, P. H. B.|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Rayner, Brig. R||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|MeAdden, S. J.||Redmayne, M.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C|
|McCallum, Major D.||Rees-Davies, W. R||Watkinson, H. A.|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Remnant, Hon. P.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Renton, D. L. M.||Wellwood, W.|
|Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Ridsdale, J. E.||WilIiams, Rt Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|McKibbin, A. J.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Robertson, Sir David||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Roper, Sir Harold||Wills, G.|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Russell, R. S.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Scott, R. Donald||Mr. Vosper and Mr. Oakshott.|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R|
|Adams, Richard||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Baird, J.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Bann, Hon. Wedgwood||Fernyhough, E.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Beswlck, F.||Fienburgh, W.||Lewis, Arthur|
|Bevan, Rt Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Finch, H. J.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Blackburn, F||Fletcher, Eric (Istington, E.)||Lipion, Lt.-Col. M|
|Boardman H.||Follick, M.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Bowen, E R.||Forman, J. C.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Bowlen, F. G||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mallalieu, J. P. W (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hardy, E. A.||Manuel, A. C.|
|Brown, Rt Hon. George (Belper)||Hargreaves, A||Mikardo, Ian|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hastings, S.||Monslow, W|
|Burton, Miss F. E||Hewitson, Capt. M||Morley, R.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hobson, C. R.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W)|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Holman, P.||Mori, D. L.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Nally, W.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Orbach, M.|
|Daines, P.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Oswald, T.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Padley, W. E|
|Davies, Stephen (Marthyr)||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Paget, R. T.|
|Deer, G.||Janner, B.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Delargy, H. J||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P T||Parker, J.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Parkin, B. T|
|Donnelly, D. L||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Peart, T. F|
|Plummet, sir Leslie||Sparks, J. A.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Reid, William (Camlachie)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Weitzman, D.|
|Richards, R.||Swingler, S. T.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Roberte, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Sylvester, G. O.||Wigg, George|
|Ross, William||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Willey, F. T.|
|Short, E. W.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Williams, W. R. (Dreylsden)|
|Shurmer, P. L. E.||Thornson, George (Dundee, E)||Yates, V. F.|
|Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Tomney, F.|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Turner-Samuels, M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Simmons, C. J. (Brierlsy Hill)||Usborne, H. C.||Sir Richard Acland and.|
|Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Viant, S. P.||Mr. Emrys Hughes|
|Sorenson, R. W.||Wallace, H W|
§ Question put accordingly,
§ "That this House, at its rising Tomorrow, do adjourn till Tuesday, 27th April." and agreed to.