HC Deb 30 July 1954 vol 531 cc873-903

11.47 a.m.

Mr. Cole

I was quoting from the extract of the opening remarks of my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State at the meetings in May and June of the Sub-Committee of the United Nations Disarmament Commission in which: He pointed out that so long as the accumulation of great armaments continued there would be no certainty that the danger of war would be lifted from the world and that the development of new weapons which now threatened the continued existence of mankind lent new urgency to the search for a solution to the disarmament problem. I am sure that every Member of this House would entirely agree with those words.

My purpose in this brief debate is to ensure that the emphasis which we would wish to be maintained on this subject of disarmament is maintained in face of all the other preoccupations with which we have to deal. The policy of this country and of the Western nations as a whole has been that we must perforce maintain our defences, our armaments, in a state adequate to protect ourselves, but that we are at all times willing to sit down in council with all the nations of the world in order to arrive at a reasonable conclusion for disarmament. That has been our policy, and that is a policy with which I agree and which I believe the majority of Members of this House also support.

I should like to draw the attention of hon. Members to the great difference that has come about in the sphere of the subject of disarmament. Compare the position today with those disarmament conferences which some of us can remember 20 or 30 years ago. The whole position has been changed by the onset of these rather curiously named "unconventional" weapons of mass destruction which we have today. In the past, the objective direction of disarmament was in the form of a limiting down to nothing of the number of weapons—the number of ships, the number of armed vehicles and all the rest—that went to the making of wars up to 10 or 20 years ago. Today we have an entirely new factor which makes the whole thing much wider in scope and much different from the conventional picture which we had 25 years ago.

The scientists have gone on with their work and they will be bound by it. Scientists cannot stop. If he is true to his profession, a scientist must go on ever probing and discovering, and in his investigations inevitably he will make a number of discoveries which may be used for the purposes of mass destruction. They will not be sought for deliberately for that purpose, but it will be realised that they can be so used. I think it is true to say that we were searching for nuclear fission long before it was realised that its effects could be used for mass destruction.

So we come to a new viewpoint about disarmament. Now it is not so much a question of numbers or of weapons or of single objectives. It is now necessary to create an atmosphere in which we agree to abolish the use of all these new weapons as they are found. I wish here to quote again from the report of the same speech of the Minister of State in which he drew attention to this problem: He went on to define what he thought should be the aim of the Sub-Committee's work. This should be the abolition of the use, possession and manufacture of all atomic, hydrogen and other weapons of mass destruction within a system which would include, in addition to the prohibition of weapons of mass destruction, provisions for simultaneous and major reductions in conventional armaments and armed forces to levels to be agreed. … There again, the emphasis is on the abolition of the weapons of mass destruction.

How important that is and how terrible are these new weapons was emphasized by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister not only yesterday, but during the debate on the hydrogen bomb last April, when he said: 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 48.] In short, the difference between the high explosive bomb and the atom bomb is less than the difference in effect between the atom bomb and the hydrogen bomb. Any responsible and intelligent man is bound to say to himself, "What is the next step, and what will the difference then be?" These are things which must be taken into account in any new system or agreement or co-ordination for disarmament. That is the position with which we are faced today.

In a speech during the debate on 5th April, I said—and I should like to say it again today, because I consider that it bears repetition—that the great trouble with the world is that its moral and spiritual development has not kept pace with its material and scientific development. Not even has the common sense of the nations of the world kept pace with scientific development. It seems incredible that a world which can make these vast and magnificent discoveries is unable to discover some means by which they can be utilised beneficially rather than for destroying life. It would seem that a world so clever and so intelligent in so many directions is unable to work out the simple commonsense matter of deciding to live together in peace rather than to destroy itself altogether.

I hope that this country and the other Western nations will continue to give a lead to the rest of the world in this matter of disarmament. We and the United States and the other Western nations have access to the most advanced weapons of destruction available today. That is not a legend. There have been practical demonstrations of that fact in the explosions of the hydrogen bomb in the last 12 months. We nations have this bomb; we have all that has yet been discovered, not only regarding the hydrogen bomb, but guided missiles and rockets and all the rest of it. The moral strength of such a lead as we can give will be tremendous, and very different in effect from that which might be given by a nation in the position of a suppliant with very little to offer.

I trust that we shall go on in that vein. I am proud to feel that our Minister of State opened the meetings of the Sub-Committee in May and June, and that those meetings were held in this country. I hope that we shall continue to give the lead which must be given if the world is to find a solution to this problem. It is something which we are doing for posterity. Death may come to any person at any time in the normal course of events. By having this disarmament conference in our day and time we are endeavouring to build up a system of security, peace and confidence, as distinct from the fears which actuate most countries at present. If we prove successful we shall have done something not so much for ourselves as for posterity.

11.58 a.m.

Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)

I hope that I shall be forgiven if I speak in my usual forthright manner. I must first refer to the attendance in the House today. Quite frankly, it is shocking for a debate of this character. I know that this debate should have been held yesterday, but the Whips' departments on both sides of the House seem to be losing control of their back benchers. However, that does not excuse such an attendance when we are discussing a problem concerning our fellow countrymen and countrywomen throughout the Commonwealth and the world. When the issues involve human survival, it is simply not good enough to find that there are not 20 hon. Members present.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

My hon. Friend must be careful, or he will be counted out.

Mr. Tomney

I can only hope that no hon. Member will count out the House on a day like this.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) covered ground which has been covered many time before. There is nothing new in the Report of the Sub-Committee of the United Nations Commission on Disarmament. What is in it has been said many times before and it will be said many times again. One of the reasons is that it is putting the cart before the horse. Disarmament, in a world of changing war techniques and changing economic and social conditions, cannot be decided in isolation. With nations locked in mutual suspicion and distrust it is apparent that fundamental changes in their foreign policy must be made before we can make any progress at all in disarmament.

In this respect, if we survey what has been done since 1945 and consider the cynical use of the United Nations organisation and the mistrust which has been built up by internal conquest by infiltration in what were once free countries, and if we try to view the picture as a whole, we realise the size of the job we have to do and the long way we have to go before we can reach any concrete plan for world disarmament.

It is always a good thing to try to look at these matters as they appear in the eyes of the Kremlin. The Western allies are more or less agreed. We have consciously and conscientiously used the United Nations for the purpose for which it was designed, but we have seen the agression in Korea and the cynical infiltration in other places as well. What have we to try to do? First, we have to try to bring home to the Soviets that the liberty and freedom of the countries they have invaded, by whatever method, is of vital concern to us. The liberty of the Austrians, the Hungarians, the Rumanians, the Czechoslovaks, the Poles and the Eastern Germans is something which at this stage of world development we cannot write off as something which should be forgotten. Things do not work out in that way.

If there is still in these peoples who are behind the Iron Curtain the same sense of nationalism and the same desire to be free, and to have their own Governments, as was shown in the debate yesterday about Egypt, something must be done. Until the Soviet Union can be persuaded that these nations should be free we shall never achieve any degree of disarmament. The Soviet Union feels that it is encumbent upon it to defend the territories which it has annexed.

Although the allies, in 1945, reduced their armies to a considerable extent—especially we in this country who almost placed our country in danger—the Soviets did nothing of the kind. When one remembers Casablanca, Potsdam and Yalta we can see running through those conferences the same theme, which shows that the Russians knew exactly what they were doing. They maintained 4½ million men in their army in Europe with the purpose which they have now achieved. With the armies of the satellites their forces number 7 million men—an extremely large number.

Since 1945, there have been incidents which could have touched off another war in Europe. For instance, there was the airlift to Western Berlin. If we had failed there, goodness knows what would have happened. We must find answers to the problems in Europe before we can start to go anywhere. It is not as if Britain, under a Labour as well as Conservative Government, has not made substantial contributions by way of restoring freedom to India, Burma and Ceylon. These, in the total sum, reduce our effective defence, whichever way we look at it. We have no longer any control over the manpower of those countries. This little island has shown by its inspiration and example that it is preferred to go all the way, but there has been a cynical disregard of the efforts we have made.

The plan outlined in the Report of the Sub-Committee does not differ substantially from the plan of 1946. If we are to control nuclear development to prevent people from making war then each country will have to have its sovereignty infringed. There must be a sharing of technicians and workers with no secrets, and no hidden piles of bombs should be built up. There must be a complete freedom for the interchange of working staffs. Would the Soviet agree? In view of the policy of Russia the plan falls down. The Soviet Union will not allow its sovereignty to be infringed.

This was first proposed at a time when, as far as we knew, the United States was the only country in possession of atomic secrets. Even then, the United States Atomic Energy Commission was prepared to share its secrets with the rest of the world. But the Soviet Union turned down the proposal. Why? Events have proved that Russian knew something. It was not very long before we discovered the activities of Nunn May, Pontecorvo, Fuchs and the Rosenbergs—a host of people who were traitors to their own countries and who supplied the Soviet Union with information so that, as far as we know, its position is the same as ours.

We have a long way to go before we settle this problem. Conventional armies, navies and air forces may not be used in future; we do not know. Recently, I read in a scientific journal that the Soviet Union has developed a high-speed rocket, the M.103, which is capable of covering 1,600 miles and which is guided by radar. If that is true, it means that we can manage without the bomber plane as we know it.

There is no effective defence against the hydrogen bomb except guts and courage. It has been estimated that a hydrogen bomb attack on the United States could result in 23 million casualties, including 9 million dead. How do we set about burying 9 million dead? It simply cannot be done. That is what is facing the world today.

We are no nearer a solution today than we were in 1946. Meeting after meeting has taken place and similar meetings will probably take place in the years to come, but until we find an answer to these other problems, we shall not find an answer to the main problem of disarmament. I do not know for how long our country can sustain the major burden which we have carried during the last 10 years. Had it not been for the participation of the United States on a wider scale in European affairs, the world today might have been an even sorrier place.

It is very easy, and is sometimes done in this House, to criticise the United States. Criticism is levelled against that nation by people who have a phobia against America, and sometimes by people who are genuine pacifists. In principle, although it is outmoded and has no place in modern affairs, I agree with genuine pacifism, but even the genuine pacifist must remember that his right to speak his mind, and to enjoy the liberties he has, has been dependent, in the past, upon the willingness of young British soldiers to die in battle. Let that not be forgotten when, too easily, some of our friends deride the part the United States has played.

I know that the United States is a young, vigorous and powerful nation. It may be that over the years perhaps more wisdom will apply in United States foreign policies than has applied hitherto. But there is nothing wrong with her principles. At times she has been at fault. The desire to achieve decisions quickly is something not generally known and approved of in normal diplomatic channels. There is a way of doing these things which takes a long time.

To end the few words which I have spoken to the House, thin as it is, I go back to my original theme. There can be no settlement, no progress made on disarmament, until the major issues which I have mentioned are recognised by countries which are now holding down other countries as slave States.

12.12 p.m.

Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, South-East)

My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) has made an extremely sombre speech, but I do not think the truth of much that he has said can be contested. There is no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) was quite right in saying that international disarmament is desirable. It is one way of reducing the tremendous economic burden of armaments which now presses on all nations and is a way of releasing economic strength to face the problems of poverty in Asia and Africa. It is also one way of reducing the tension which at the moment creates some danger of war. Some of my hon. and right hon. Friends believe also that international disarmament offers an alternative for solving the concrete specific diplomatic issues which at present divide the nations.

When all that has been said, we must face the question: is there, on the evidence available, any real prospect of achieving international disarmament at present? Some of my hon. and right hon. Friends believe, for example, that the alternative to German rearmament is international disarmament. I am sorry that none of my hon. and right hon. Friends who have given their names to a pamphlet which puts forward in great detail this alternative to German rearmament are here this morning to speak to the policy which they themselves have advanced.

What are the facts, unpleasant as they are, which face us at the present time? The first is that at a time when America and Britain are actually reducing their armed strength, when there have been cuts in the number of divisions which America planned to make available for the defence of herself and of the free world, and when there have been cuts in our own programme, the Soviet armament programme remains at its previous level, and the Soviet armies have increased. For that fact we have the authority of Marshal Bulganin in a speech which he made in March of this year.

There is also the fact that the Soviet Union claims to have been the first nation to produce that terrible weapon of mass destruction, the hydrogen bomb, and such Russian leaders as Malenkov and Kruschev boast of the fact that they hope to maintain superiority in that field. The Soviet Government—and also, by the way, the Chinese Government—openly declare that they are still increasing their armed strength and intend to maintain a superiority over the rest of the world.

The next fact which we must face is that there has been no change whatever in the Soviet attitude towards international disarmament negotiations in the year since Stalin died. There have been, it is true, some shifts in Soviet foreign policy since then, but no change whatever in her policy on disarmament. Any-one who has read through—as I hope all hon. Members have—the full verbatim report of the recent Disarmament Commission meeting at Lancaster House must finish their reading with a sense bordering on despair in regard to this problem.

One thing struck me very much. In France, as in this country, some of the main opponents of German rearmament claim that international disarmament offers an immediate practical alternative. What interested me about the Lancaster House speeches was to see that the French representative was, in fact, the main French opponent of German rearmament—M. Moch. When I read M. Moch's speech on the reply of the Soviet representative to the Anglo-French proposals on disarmament, I could not for the life of me see how anybody can maintain that at the present time there is any serious prospect of the Soviet Union agreeing to international disarmament.

Mr. William Warbey (Broxtowe)


Mr. Healey

I am sorry, I cannot give way.

Mr. Warbey

If my hon. Friend would allow me. It is relevant to what you have said. As you have quoted M. Moch's statement I hope you will refer—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

Order. I did not refer to this statement.

Mr. Warbey

As the hon. Member has referred to M. Jules Moch, will he also refer to the statement made by M. Moch only two days ago that he was firmly convinced that it was possible to bridge the remaining gap between the Anglo-French proposals and the Soviet proposals?

Mr. Healey

The opponents of German rearmament have often shown a remarkable capacity for maintaining two contradictory propositions at the same time, but nothing that M. Moch said in New York two days ago affects the truth of what he said at the disarmament meeting.

Let us face the situation. Britain and France have broken from the United States to take a long stride forward towards meeting the Soviet. They recounted their proposals in great detail and waited with intense interest for the reply. Mr. Malik made a reply which was a systematic distortion of the proposals. M. Moch said of it: I felt as if I were looking into one of those distorting mirrors which make the thinnest people appear fat or shapeless and give immense pleasure to children and, sometimes, even to grown-ups. Today, however, I can take no pleasure in such systematic distortion. I deplore it, since I see postponed, perhaps sine die, hopes to which we had clung, to which I had clung despite the warnings of many sceptical spirits, and also practical measures the need for which we believe is daily becoming more imperative. I do not believe that anyone who reads the Soviet reply to the Anglo-French proposals can imagine that there is any serious intention on the part of the Soviet Government to make any concessions whatever on this issue.

Many people, including the Soviet representative at these discussions, have argued that some system of international disarmament should be introduced which depends on mutual trust rather than on effective verification and control. It has been repeatedly pointed out that the whole need for disarmament arises only because nations do not trust each other. They arm because they distrust one another, and disarmament is only possible if an effective system of verification and control—and, if need be, of punishment—can be established which is proof against all the suspicions that have caused the arming in the first place.

I myself take an extremely pessimistic view about the possibility of establishing such a control organisation, at least in the foreseeable future, because I believe that the advent of atomic weapons has changed the whole picture in relation to disarmament no less than it has changed the picture in relation to strategy, as the Prime Minister said yesterday. The main contending Powers in the cold war—the Soviet Union, Britain and the United States—all now have a stockpile of atomic weapons and, what is equally important, a stockpile of the nuclear fuel with which to build more atomic weapons.

The difficulty that I see is that—and the scientists to whom I have talked agree with me—whereas it might have been possible, before the nations had these stockpiles, to transfer all the embryonic atomic development to a single international authority in the hope that then no evasion would be possible, when already at least three great Powers have a large stockpile of weapons and nuclear fuel it is almost impossible to conceive of any effective international control organisation which could be quite certain that none of the parties to the agreement had salted away some of their nuclear fuel or atomic bombs before the control organisation had been introduced.

The United States has a superficial area of 3 million square miles. The Soviet Union and China have a superficial area of 12 million square miles. Any square mile of the territory of any of these Powers could conceal, almost without hope of discovery, enough nuclear fuel or sufficient atomic weapons to destroy life on this planet, and the powers which such an effective control organisation would require in order to produce a foolproof system against the evasion of an international disarmament proposal would be far beyond any of the wildest dreams of the enthusiasts for world government. I ask hon. Members to consider this point. It is very difficult to Conceive of any effective international control system, given the nature of modern weapons and the fact that the great Powers already have a stockpile of modern weapons and of the fuel with which to make more.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)

I discussed my hon. Friend's argument—as I think, his defeatist argument—with Dr. Oppenheimer about six weeks ago, Dr. Oppenheimer being the man who made the original atomic bomb and who played the major part in devising what was called the Baruch Plan, which subsequently became the United Nations Plan adopted by the Assembly. Dr. Oppenheimer told me that he thought that the argument which is being used by my hon. Friend had been pressed much too far, that he thought a scheme which would be relatively efficacious could be devised, and he thought it absolutely vital to go on with such work.

Mr. Healey

I have the greatest respect for Dr. Oppenheimer's capacities as a scientist, but I think there is too much evidence that scientific ability is not transferable into the political field for me to have a similar respect for his abilities as a politician. This is essentially a political and not a scientific problem.

Mr. Noel-Baker

My hon. Friend is basing his argument on the opinion of scientists.

Mr. Healey

I accept the point, and I am quite prepared to sustain my position without calling on the aid of any scientists whatever, because the facts are simple enough. An atomic bomb is not a very large item of equipment. It could be hidden in a building not much larger than a garage. The fact is that most of the countries whose disarmament in this field is desired, already have a large stock of these implements, and I defy anyone to show me that it would be impossible for one or other of these countries to conceal a number of these implements before an effective international control organisation had been introduced. That is common sense and it does not require a great deal of scientific knowledge to recognise that fact.

I am not worrying too much about the possibility of international controlled disarmament, because I believe that arms are essentially the result rather than the Cause of international conflict. The problem which we must face is whether we can reduce the causes of conflict which have led to the piling up of arms on both sides of the Iron Curtain. To go into that matter in detail would take me far too wide of the specific subject of this debate, but I would say that the relaxation of tension as a result of which arms might be reduced depends on achieving a balance of power between the two worlds as soon as possible, and on drawing clear lines of division between them which can be held by force. I believe that a power vacuum between the two worlds is more dangerous than a clear line of division which is maintained by a balance of military power on both sides. That seems to me to be the decisive argument against proposals for the neutralisation of Germany.

The other great problem of disarmament is to reduce the burden which the present level of arms imposes, and that can only be solved if the Powers on this side of the Iron Curtain aim, as they undertook in the original N.A.T.O. Treaty, at balanced international forces rather than adequate national forces. I hope that when the Minister replies he will say a word or two about progress in this respect, because it is the only field still open to us through which we can hope for some alleviation of the burden falling on this country.

I want to conclude with a point which was discussed at some length at the meetings at Lancaster House and to which so far no reference has been made today. I mean President Eisenhower's proposal for an international atomic pool to which all the existing atomic Powers should give a proportion of their nuclear fuel for distribution to the countries which need power. It seems to me that, against the sombre background which has been sketched by other speakers as well as myself, this proposal for an international atomic pool offers by far the brightest hope of some progress in the various fields in which we need it.

In the first place, I think that if the countries on this side of the Iron Curtain—since Soviet Russia has declared her refusal to participate—set up such a pool, they would learn techniques of co-operation in the atomic field which might well be transferable to the field of atomic disarmament if ever Soviet policy changed sufficiently to make this possible.

In the second place, I think it offers the best possible means of winning the confidence and friendship of uncommitted Africa and Asia towards the creation of that international society which I think is our common aim. In the third place, I believe that some such scheme offers the only speedy method of alleviating the poverty from which Africa and Asia suffer at present. The difference between the standard of living of the Asian and African peoples and of the American people is a difference of one to 30, and that is exactly the difference between the power available to the workers in the two countries.

I believe that if only by some such scheme we could make atomic power available to the peoples of Africa and Asia, we should be able to make a really effective and rapid impact on poverty in those areas. Moreover, I am convinced that the Soviet Union, although she is not prepared to co-operate in international schemes of this type, will make such power available on her own terms to the satellite countries and China, and unless we can hold out to the non-Communist countries, including Africa, the prospect of similar advances, we shall find ourselves in an extremely dangerous political position.

I should like the Minister to correct the impression which the Prime Minister has given on many occasions in this respect that Britain is in some way formal, cold and lukewarm towards the American President's proposals. I should like him to be able to encourage us by holding out some prospect that the British Government are pressing forward with the proposal to set up an international atomic pool. The British Government should react towards President Eisenhower's proposal as the late Mr. Bevin reacted to a previous American Secretary of State's proposal, in his Harvard speech, out of which developed the Marshall Plan. The proposal for an international atomic authority offers by far the most hopeful initiative in the extremely sombre position of the present day, and I hope that the Minister of State can say something about it.

12.30 p.m.

Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)

I should like to express my gratitude to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) for having persisted in securing a debate upon this vital subject. If my expression of gratitude is short it is because of the limited time at my disposal and not because it is not sincerely meant. Having read through the Report and the verbatim record, and after what I have heard, I should also like to take the opportunity of saying how much I appreciate the energy, ability and sincerity of the Minister of State in taking the lead and initiative at the recent Disarmament Conference.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey) said that the speech made by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) had been a sombre one. If that speech was a sombre one, the speech to which we have just listened was one of absolutely inspissated gloom. The pessimism which afflicts my hon. Friend arises not so much from the facts contained in the Report and the verbatim record as from the attitude of mind in which he has examined them. He has pinned his hopes upon arms. He was a formidable supporter of the Labour Government's rearmament programme. He thought that through armed strength we could negotiate peace, but now, at the end of four years of struggle and sacrifice, in which we have added arms upon arms, his only solution is to thrust arms upon others and to build up a new stockpile of weapons in the centre of Europe.

I admit that the problem of trying to reach agreement with the other countries of the world in this connection will be a difficult one to solve. What appalls me, however, is the way in which some people seem to derive satisfaction in pointing out the difficulty of negotiating with the Soviet Union. In this connection I recall a statement which the late General Wavell, as he then was, made during the last war. He said: If things are going badly; if there are difficulties to face, think just how much greater are the difficulties for the other side. I invite my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East—who brings a great deal of knowledge, learning and sincerity to bear upon this problem—to think a little more about the possible alternatives to not persisting in trying to reach agreement with Soviet Russia, however discouraging it may be and however keenly we may feel the setbacks.

Let us think of the possible alternatives to disarmament. Inevitably, failure means an ever-increasing weight of armaments. The armament programme upon which we embarked four years ago has not brought us one whit more security, and not a single man or woman in this country feels more secure as a result of the heavy weight of armaments which we now have to bear—

Mr. Paget


Mr. Beswick

Not one man or woman in this country feels more secure today than he or she did four years ago.

Mr. Paget

I do, for one.

Mr. Healey

Would not my hon. Friend agree that most of our people think that the shift which has taken place in Soviet policy during the last two years means increased security for the people of these islands? Does not he also agree that many people—although, perhaps, not himself—believe that this shift in policy is a direct consequence of the determination of the Western peoples to unite and rearm?

Mr. Beswick

It may be that we have a better chance to reach agreement now than we had four years ago, but I still say that the average man or woman—and that excludes my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—does not feel one little bit more secure than he or she did four years ago.

I want to make a brief reference to the hydrogen bomb in connection with the present technique of warfare. The Prime Minister, yesterday, based the Government's case for quitting Egypt upon the difference which the hydrogen bomb had made to the military facts of life. He said it was impossible to hold Suez because the hydrogen bomb could be used against that base. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition rightly asked whether that consideration did not apply to Cyprus as well as to Suez. The hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) asked, quite rightly, about Portsmouth and Southampton. I thought that the height of absurdity was reached, however when the Foreign Secretary said, later, that in the event of war we intended to return to Suez.

Are we to assume from that that whilst the hydrogen bomb makes the Suez absolutely impossible to hold in time of peace, it is possible to do so in time of war? The fact is that the whole method of reasoning is clouded and distorted by the conception of these new weapons of war which confronts us. It is not possible now to make an absolutely logical and rational speech within the framework of modern military facts. The lesson I draw from all this is that we simply must try to reach an agreement to limit our armed forces.

I do not think that the disagreement between the two sides is so great as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East tried to make out. The nature of the disagreement is a question of procedure rather than of objectives. That point was very well made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton. The other difficulty is that, with all the various proposals that have been put forward, one side or the other feels that at any given stage in the process of disarming it will be left relatively weaker than the other side. "If we have prohibition of weapons before control," say the West, "that will place the Soviets in a stronger position." "If we have control before prohibition," say the East, "that will give the West the opportunity to examine all the territory which, hitherto, we have so closely guarded, and after all that we may not get the prohibition which we set out to achieve."

Then we have the arguments about the limitation or reduction of conventional forces. The Russians make what appears to be a simple and straightforward suggestion for a one-third reduction of these forces. Our argument is that if a proportionate reduction of that kind were made we should be left, at the end, in a relatively weaker position than they. The weakness of the Anglo-French Paper—which I should have supported, on the whole—is that we begged the question by suggesting only a "major" reduction. If we agree to a major reduction in principle we shall get bogged down in trying to decide precisely in what form and in what amount the reductions shall be.

I want to state my own conclusion as a result of reading these documents. I believe that national arms of any kind are incompatible with the conception of security. I feel that it would be easier, now, to reach a measure of agreement upon a scheme of total disarmament. It would be easier to do that than to try to jockey about between two sets of proposals, with each side trying to achieve a proportionate reduction the net result of which would be to leave it relatively stronger than the other side. When I was reading these documents I occasionally had the feeling that it was not disarmament that we were all really after but a more economical way of achieving national armed security. We seem to want to have both sides disarm, but also to be left in a relatively stronger position than our opponents in the end. As that is what the other side is also trying to achieve it seems obvious that we shall not be able to reach agreement in that way.

That was the background for those discussions. I think it was the wrong background. The background should have been the knowledge that at the United Nations organisation we were building up a different concept of securing peace. If we could have in the background some supranational armed force charged with the duty of enforcing international law that might well be a way of bringing about national disarmament and some genuinely secure peace.

I address my concluding remarks especially to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East. I hope he really is my friend. The very last thing we should do after this conference is to give way to cynicism and defeatism. That is the very last thing we should do. Let us not readily assume that Russia does not want an agreement equally with ourselves. Let us not readily assume that Russia is not concerned with security equally with ourselves. If this is not the right way of getting disarmament and security it is up to us—all of us—to try another way and yet another way until we can one day secure the abolition of national armaments.

12.41 p.m.

Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)

I am quite sure that no one here can now accuse the Labour Party of being composed entirely of starry-eyed idealists, especially after the speeches of two of my hon. Friends this morning. Nevertheless, they have been salutory, because it is very often true that those who explore the possibility of ensuring peace fail to face acute and ugly facts, and so I am obliged to my hon. Friends who have brought us face to face with facts that emotion sometimes inclines me to evade.

On the other hand, there is evasion of another kind of which, I think, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey) has himself been guilty today. Facts are not always of so sombre a nature, and we are not always so suicidally inclined, as my hon. Friend seems to think. Otherwise the outlook for humanity at the present time would be melancholy in the extreme. There is such a thing as human reason. There is such a capacity as human good will, and although I do not place too high an estimate in regard to those two factors in the operation of human affairs, yet, nevertheless, they do operate sometimes powerfully so.

I say that because, underlying the argument of my hon. Friend that the present explorations of the possibilities of disarmament were more or less failures, was the assumption that so long as we had a vast mass influenced and, indeed, dominated by the Soviet Union one could do nothing about international disarmament, until either by force or by some other means the Soviet Union changed its point of view. I appreciate that because I think the cardinal weakness of the Communist sphere, approximately controlling one-third of the world, arises from a firm belief in its dogma as being the solution of all our evils and the conviction, therefore, that it must implement that dogma in practice.

On the other hand, I would point out that such a human error is not a new one. There have in the past been people wedded to dogma, theological and otherwise, which they have pursued and sought to impose on others. Sometimes they succeeded, but not indefinitely. In the course of time the attempts to impose dogmas have suffered erosion, steadily, subtly, but nevertheless definitely under the influence of other factors in human affairs. I apply that consideration to the Soviet Union. I deplore with others this blind identification of the human race with one particular dogma.

Nevertheless, I believe there are factors operating even now to modify this more than 30-years-old adhesion to that dogma. There is the factor of fear, a common fear afflicting the whole world at the present time. At this stage in the world's history there are other relevant factors inducing hope and not despair that have not arisen before at any other stage in the world's history. Never before in the history of mankind has there been such a wide agreement about the burden and menace of armaments as there is today. There have been in the past a consciousness of the burden of arms, and complaints, grievances and resentments at the burden of arms, but never before has there been such a widespread appreciation of the menace and burden of armaments as in our own time.

A second factor is this. Never before in the history of the human race has the race itself been threatened with complete destruction, and that factor affects all of us, no matter what ideology we may profess or the philosophy or religion we may hold. I am perfectly certain that the Russian peoples themselves, including their leaders, begin to appreciate this. The hydrogen bomb has exploded inside every ideology, and it is expecting too much to assume that the leaders of the Soviet world at the present time are unaware of the fact that if war comes it will devastate their régime, their amazing sociological experiment, quite as much as that of the world to which we prefer to give our loyalty. This, I believe, has been ignored very largely by my hon. Friend who has spoken in such a melancholy vein today.

I discern in the Report of the disarmament conference that met this year certain encouraging signs, by which I mean that there are indications in that document of an approach, however slow it may be, which I would describe as the human rather than the ideological approach towards this acute problem.

No one, of course, denies that the problem of disarmament by progressive stages is an acute, complex and a baffling one. It would be even if we had not this resistance on the part of the Soviet world. One has only to appreciate, for instance, what a progressive reduction of arms at this juncture would entail even if the Russian world did not exist. It would mean inevitably a tremendous amount of economic dislocation both here and in America.

That problem can, of couse, be met if only we begin systematically to divert the energy, the skills and the economic resources we have towards meeting the tremendous needs of the malnourished two-thirds of the world. It cannot be done instantaneously, it has to be prepared for; and we can prepare for it as much as we prepare for war. We could as well visualise the possibilities of constructive progressive disarmament as we visualise preparing for our mutual destruction. So I am not without hope.

The third factor is this. Surely it is a hopeful sign that the disarmament conference should have been held at all. At this point I, too, would also and very gladly pay my tribute to the work of the Minister of State in the conference and in preparing the Report. The Report and the work of the conference are a sign of encouragement. Surely it is better to proceed that way than otherwise, and surely it is better than merely saying we can do nothing at all about disarmament.

If we can get people to meet together to discuss these vital matters the needs of the world will be brought home to us clearly and sensitively, and we must welcome such meetings of human minds. I hope that in the days to come there will be more opportunities for meetings of not only those of the Western world but also with those with men belonging to the Soviet world, so that in thus coming together we may foster the exchange of thoughts, have meetings of minds, even if often there is frustration. Never is it truly futile; for the human mind is much greater than all the ideologies that come from it. It is on this that I pin my faith, and therefore I believe that the conference at Lancaster House recently was not without cumulative effect and influence.

It may be that there is little as yet apparent to support my faith in this respect. But what is the alternative?—tragic fatalism. Therefore, I do not be- lieve that we can do nothing even in present circumstances, and that because we must accept this monolithic tyranny, that there is no value in human contact with it. I will not accept it because I am convinced that some day, somehow, mankind will release itself from its present overlying burden of mass frustration and imposed ideologies. I therefore hope that is the note which the Minister will sound, for the world needs not a note of morbid fatalism but one of faith and hope if ever it is to achieve sanity and peace.

12.50 p.m.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

As I listened to some of the speeches today they brought to my mind an observation made by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede)—when Cain killed Abel he was just as dead as if an atomic bomb had been used. I think that that is a point which we might bear in mind when discussing these things.

There have been many proposals for disarmament and every one of them has proved futile. I believe that they will prove futile again because I believe that they are based on a fundamentally false premise. Man's desire to defend himself is the result of his insecurity. Armaments are not the cause of insecurity; they are its results. Where the world is unstable, armaments will be built up. When we get stability and confidence in frontiers, armaments will be reduced.

The instability which has caused war has been far more often in history the result of too few arms than of too many. That happened after the last war. We had a very insecure situation because we demobilised too quickly and the Russians did not. We have a vastly better security today and a vastly more stable world than existed when war broke out in Korea. That is because we have armed, because we have corrected that unbalance, and because we have given frontiers the look of security. There was not a war in Korea because the Americans had armed forces there; there was a war in Korea because the Americans had withdrawn their troops. There was very nearly a war on the frontiers of Europe for the same reason.

When I hear this talk of disarmament I am reminded of a story which was told about the last major disarmament con- ference. It was a description. "The cock looked at the eagle and said, 'Let us abolish talons.' The eagle looked at the lion and said, 'Let us abolish teeth.' The lion looked at the cock and said, 'Let us abolish spurs.' And then up spake the bear and said, 'Let us abolish all these things and have one great hug.'" That is not a bad description of a disarmament conference.

The power of survival of the more advanced communities lies in their technical superiority. If we disarm, then the more primitive community has more clubs than we have. Our security in the West lies in our technical superiority.

Nuclear disarmament is not available today. Conceivably it was at the time of the Baruch Plan, but now it does not require Oppenheimer or any one else to tell me that nuclear weapons can be concealed and that no nation would trust the other to have destroyed its pile. The reason that nuclear weapons will not be used, if they are not used, will be because both sides will be aware of the other's capacity to use them. Any defence which we have against nuclear weapons will be the knowledge of the other side that if they use theirs we should use ours.

That is where I come to the point which I wish to make: disarmament has invariably proved futile, but agreements as to the use of arms and weapons have proved most effective. They differ from disarmament in that they accept the reality of the existence of arms. Where we have three conditions, the rules of war work. They have saved the world a vast amount of suffering. Those three conditions are these: first, a mutual interest in the performance of the obligation undertaken; secondly, a sanction—that sanction being the capacity of both sides to retaliate in kind; and thirdly, a definition.

We have the mutual interest. It is to nobody's interest to annihilate each other's cities. We have the sanction, for we both have atomic bomb piles. What we do not have at the moment is the definition.

The Hague Convention provides that it is illegal to bombard cities behind the lines by any means. That requires re-definition. The profitable thing to do today is to re-negotiate the Hague Convention. We have all the conditions exist- ing today which can make the Convention a success—mutual interest and the existence of the sanction. All we require is the definition. We have the existing agreements upon which to work as a start. I urge the Minister to try to see whether something useful cannot be done on those lines.

12.58 p.m.

The Minister of State (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)

I think everybody will agree that the small attendance is not a measure of the importance which attaches to the subject. In spite of the small attendance, we have had an extremely interesting debate in which there has been a certain amount of controversy, but not on party lines.

I will make a very brief reply because I am on record—perhaps too much on record—about these matters; and I can only say to hon. Members who felt that they needed to hold this debate that I must pay tribute to them for their patience and endurance. I thank them for the kind remarks which have been said about me personally.

If I am to speak briefly, it will not be possible for me to deal with all the points which have been raised, and I will not pursue the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. D. Healey) into his conception of balanced forces and balanced disarmament. Dealing with his question about President Eisenhower's proposals, the President said a few days ago, in reply to a question, that he regretted the Russian refusal to take any part in these proposals, but he certainly did not wish the scheme to die. That is a statement which we most cordially endorse, although it is a great pity that the Soviet Union have found themselves unable to come into the scheme; because although it dealt only with a small part of the field, it might have engendered a degree of confidence which would have led to something bigger.

I turn next to our objectives in discussing disarmament. On the security aspect, I find myself very much on the side of the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney), the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) about the sense of security in the world today. There is a greater security in the world than there was four years ago; I do not think there is any doubt about that. Indeed, there is great force in the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton.

But should we draw from that the conclusion that we should cease any disarmament efforts? I do not think so. I acknowledge that we cannot deal with disarmament in isolation. For any disarmament plan to work it must be accompanied by a general reduction in tension and the causes of tension, but I have always felt that if we were able to reach a measure of agreement on plans for disarmament, that of itself would begin to lower world tension. If we can manage to reach agreement between the two sides upon these matters, that of itself will help towards a solution of other problems.

As for Her Majesty's Government's position in this matter, I think we can claim that we have tried to give a lead in continuing these discussions and in trying to produce some results. The meetings in London were a result of our initiative and our desire to get the Disarmament Commission at work. As I think I have told the House previously, I felt that if we could divide the problem into three fields, we might come to an agreement. The first was to try to agree on the scope of the disarmament treaty—in other words, what we wanted to prohibit and what we wanted to reduce. And then from that proceed to try to agree on the extent of the reduction. If we can deal with that, we shall have done something.

We then should try to reach agreement on the general powers, functions and nature of the control organ. If we succeed in doing that, then the bringing into operation of any plan of disarmament would be made very much easier. The easiest thing to do is to try to agree on the scope of the treaty and then on the control organ; if we can do that, I think that the timing of the whole business would be easier to handle.

Unfortunately, we were not able to persuade the representatives of the Soviet Union really to discuss at all the paper on the scope of the treaty nor the paper on the control organ. Therefore, we had to proceed upon the Anglo-French proposals. I entirely endorse the tribute paid to M. Moch. We found that our minds had been working very much along the same lines independently, and the Anglo- French memorandum was the result of that work.

In this subject there are two basic principles which I feel we have to observe. First, that the treaty is comprehensive. I do not believe that the singling out of one particular weapon is going to add to security. As the Leader of the Opposition said on 5th April: 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 40.] I think it is true that the hydrogen bomb is more horrifying than its predecessor, and its predecessor more horrifying than the blockbuster, and so on. I do not think that there is much to choose between all these things when it comes to World War III. Civilisation is going to destroy itself whether or not the hydrogen bomb is banned. I think it is bound to end in the destruction of society as we know it. Therefore, I feel the principle of the scheme must be comprehensive. We have comparative agreement on that point. That is common ground. We must prohibit certain things, reduce other things, and we must have a system of international control.

The second point of principle is that the prohibitions and reductions must be effectively supervised and safeguarded. I think that if we have done nothing else in all these talks, we have narrowed the field of controversy between us. I think that we have brought into relief the differences between the Soviet Union and the Western countries. All these really lie in the timing, in the scope, and in the functions of the control organ. I think that is in itself a degree of progress.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South-East took a very pessimistic view about the capacity of the control organ to make things absolutely foolproof. That obviously is true, but I think that one has to decide whether one ceases to make any attempt for that reason. These frightful things have to be delivered as well as produced. In any case, if we are pretty confident that we can establish a system of control which will of itself break down the division between one half of the world and the other, we are making a contribution towards peace.

I feel that if we can get the Soviet Union and the other countries concerned to accept the kind of system of international control that we have in mind, that of itself would make recourse to war most unlikely. It is a tremendous thing to ask. It does mean a totally different conception of national sovereignty, and it means that countries have to submit all their industrial processes to be under the supervision and examination of an international body of people, who, I hope, would be of outstanding qualities and qualifications. That means a totally different conception of national sovereignty.

Mr. Beswick

I think that this is most important. In the paper itself we suggest managerial control which is virtually the same as the Lillienthal proposals, which were unacceptable to the Russians. The Russians in their paper say that they accept continuous inspection. Would the right hon. Gentleman say what is the difference between continuous inspection on the one hand and managerial control, if that means something less than ownership?

Mr. Lloyd

Surely these are two fundamentally different ideas—complete ownership and management by an international body and the international body simply being permitted to inspect. To meet the difference between these points of view, I hoped to put forward the idea that there should be something which I described as akin to managerial control. By that I mean that in each place dealing with atomic production there should be in parallel with the actual management a unit or cell provided by the international organisation. Although they would not actually take the decisions, they would know exactly what decisions were taken.

I know that it is a very difficult conception to explain, but I think that it is the only way of bridging that particular difference, and it means that on every decision that is taken by the national management there has to be also in on these decisions the international control organ representatives. There are very serious practical difficulties, which anyone can see. In all this problem it is very easy to see the difficulties.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman who opened this debate suggested, with regard to the Anglo-French proposals, that we ought to go a little further to try and meet the Soviet point of view. I would remind him of what I said when introducing the proposals. I repeat the way in which we have sought to meet the Soviet Union point of view. First, our conception includes specific provision for the total prohibition of nuclear weapons, and secondly, the plan provides that conventional armaments and nuclear weapons shall be dealt with together. Thirdly, when the treaty comes into effect those who have ratified it are committed from that moment to a process which ends, and is bound to end, in comprehensive disarmament.

Fourthly, we have made it abundantly clear that disarmament, and not just disclosure and verification, is our essential objective. These are four objectives to meet the objections which the Soviet Union have repeatedly put to the proposals which we have put forward at previous meetings.

I ask hon. Members to pay attention to the point that in the Anglo-French proposals, once they have been ratified, a process begins which is not within the capacity of an individual country to hold up without repudiating the treaty itself. In that way the timing is decided on by the international control organ. One would have thought that if this were agreed and ratified, the people of all countries would have confidence that this process is bound to end in disarmament.

Mr. A. Henderson

I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will associate himself with what Ambassador Patterson said. Surely the Anglo-French proposals are not inflexible and are but the basis of discussion, and there would be readiness to modify them by agreement.

Mr. Lloyd

I am coming to that particular point which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has mentioned. He suggests that we should agree to prohibit the use of the hydrogen bomb except in retaliation. The trouble is that we should not be there to retaliate. I think that the most we can do along that line is to agree not to use it except in defence against aggression. Aggression is the thing which we seek to stop. I think that until we have a comprehensive scheme, internationally supervised, for eliminating the use of atomic weapons, prohibition except in retaliation would simply add to insecurity and not diminish it.

Then the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that we should agree to a ban on the manufacture of nuclear weapons as soon as the control organ reports that it is ready to carry out its responsibilities. That is really very near to what is in the plan itself. We have said that after the constitution and positioning of the control organ, which shall be carried out within a specified time, certain measures shall enter into effect. Really, that is a standstill. Then, as soon as the control organ reports that it is able effectively to enforce them, the following measures shall enter into effect: (a) one-half of the agreed reductions of conventional armaments and armed forces shall take effect; (b) on completion of (a) the manufacture of all kinds of nuclear weapons and all other prohibited weapons shall cease.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked whether there was any flexibility in our proposals. Certainly there is. Although percentages and timings are given in the White Paper, I do not suggest that they are put forward as the laws of the Medes and Persians. The difficulty about the whole thing was that we could not get any process of negotiation whatever on the plan which we put forward. I do not accept that as a final position; I do not accept defeat on this. I do not think we can accept defeat upon it.

My own view is that the Soviet Union has not moved an inch to meet us since I began to take part in the disarmament discussions at the end of 1951. We have tried to meet the Soviet objections and have tried to get understanding, but although the Soviet Union has not yet moved to meet us, I do not give up hope and I do not despair.

What we have to do now is to try to mobilise world opinion on this matter. We have produced a blue print for disarmament which in spite of all its incredible difficulties, is workable and could be made effective. We must now present our case on that to the world and permit an interval of time for the Soviet Union to consider fully the implications of our discussions and the exact position in which we now are.

I do not for one moment believe that the Soviet refusal to answer my questions about the control organ is necessarily a final decision. We have got to mobilise world opinion, which, I think, may in time have its effect upon the rulers in Soviet Russia. After all, our interests in these matters are the same. Whether a Russian, an American or an Englishman, one wants to survive. There is that great common interest between all the countries of the world, and I believe that time may induce a reconsideration by the Soviet Union of the present position. I assure the House that at the forthcoming meeting of the United Nations we shall do everything we can to concentrate world opinion upon this matter.

Mr. Noel-Baker

May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman one question, which I have put to him in earlier debates? Would the Government consider asking the Assembly to give the Commission an instruction to prepare proposals in the form of a definite draft treaty, whether or not the commission is fully agreed on all the clauses of that treaty? Then it will be shown to the world that the technical difficulties—which are very real, and to which some of my hon. Friends have drawn attention today—can, in fact, be solved.

Mr. Lloyd

The right hon. Gentleman has many times brought forward this point of view. I have frequently said that I am in general agreement with him. I think he will see in the form of the memoranda tabled at the Sub-Committee that we are gradually moving towards his conception. But it is important, if we can, to move together and to try to keep as large a measure of agreement as possible. I certainly do not despair of there being in draft one day a disarmament treaty, but it would be a mistake to force the process. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be content with the way in which we are moving towards something which will become a draft disarmament treaty in time. More important than that, of course, is to get agreement.

Mr. A. Henderson

May I remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman of one point in my speech? Will he not say a word as to whether the only way to break this deadlock, which he admits has existed throughout the recent discussions, is by raising it at the highest level and asking Prime Ministers to attend the next meeting of the General Assembly to see whether something cannot be done to break the deadlock?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not control the movements of the leaders of countries, and that is not for me to pronounce upon. I am not sure whether failure to reach agreement at a very high level might not be a great setback and whether it is not better to go on with this rather patient work of clarifying positions and continuing the process of education. What the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said is well worthy of consideration. All I can say is that whoever represents this country at the United Nations next time will seek to concentrate attention upon these matters.