HC Deb 27 July 1955 vol 544 cc1212-35

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.]

4.51 p.m.

The Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden)

I want to take this opportunity to give the House a general account of the Geneva Conference, which has just concluded, and some estimate of its results. Our objectives at that Conference have been many times declared, notably in the invitation sent out and accepted last May. What I think the House would like to consider this afternoon is how far these objectives have been realised, and I also want to give some explanation of the various proposals put forward by the United Kingdom delegation. Indeed, I want to deal with those in some detail, and that is not because they were themselves more important than the proposals, some of them very imaginative and far-reaching, put forward by other delegations, but because in my judgment this House is always entitled to a full account of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in these important matters.

I should like also to take the opportunity to thank the House and particularly, if I may, the leaders of the Opposition for the restraint they showed in not asking for a debate before the talks began and in not pressing us to catalogue too definitely our intentions in a meeting of this kind. That certainly helped us in our work.

First, of course, we wanted to improve the atmosphere of international relations and to bring an end to the state of tension between East and West. This we tried to do at the Conference itself by discussion, both candid and conciliatory, of the real international issues which divide us, about which I will say something in a moment. We tried to do it also by frequent private discussions outside the Conference room. I believe that the latter had real value in removing some of the distrust and some of the mutual suspicion which had been the root cause of many of our difficulties for so long. They also drew closest to the purpose which my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) had in mind when he proposed such a meeting. As so many times before, his was the foresight and the instinct of what we should do.

Ten years have passed since the heads of Governments of the four Powers last met at Potsdam, a period which will be in the minds of some right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when the change of Government took place during the Conference. In that time there have been many changes, not least among the personalities concerned. Therefore, it was right that the new leaders should meet and get to know each other. Their meeting has certainly changed the climate of international relations.

Now for the practical issues of the Conference—First to reduce tension, second to secure the unity of Germany and the right of a unified Germany to determine her own future in freedom. There is no doubt that this is the dominant issue in Europe today. So long as Germany is divided, there can be no real security or mutual confidence in Europe. At Berlin our delegation put forward, as the House will remember, a plan for free elections, for the formation of an all-German Government, and for the negotiation and the conclusion with that Government of a peace treaty. That is what we did at Berlin. It is necessary to recall that we have never asked that Germany should be integrated with the West. To do so would not be consistent with Germany's freedom of choice. Germany, under our plan, would in fact have three choices—association with the West, association with the East, or neutrality.

Admittedly—and I have said it in the House many times—we do not believe that it is a practical policy to try to impose neutrality on Germany. We also accept, and I think that we must accept it if we are to face the European scene fairly, that a united Germany today would probably choose of her own free will to associate with the West. But the principle is there all the same. The choice would be Germany's alone, and that has always been our position. It is not, therefore, quite just to say that the position of the Western Powers is that Germany must anyway be integrated with N.A.T.O. The position of the Western Powers is, in the main, that Germany must make her own decision when she is united, but we still believe, and we repeated at the Conference, that this plan for freedom of choice by Germany is the right one.

But, of course, we recognise—and I think that the House must recognise—that there are other considerations which we have to take into account. I am quite sure that Dr. Adenauer and the Western German Government are also ready to do so. Russia—and indeed Europe as a whole—has the right to expect that the unification of Germany shall not create a danger for Russia or for Europe. We have tried to meet this problem, which is really the cardinal problem of Europe today. It is for this reason that we put forward at Geneva certain proposals which we believe are practicable and which are designed to ensure that the legitimate interests of the Soviet Union will be safeguarded.

I must make some mention of these proposals to the House. The first was a European Security Pact, of which the Four Powers who held the Conference at Geneva would be members, with the addition of a united Germany. Under such a pact each country would undertake to go to the aid of any one of them if attacked by another. The guarantees would be reciprocal, that is to say, for example, we should guarantee the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union would guarantee us. The pact would not be linked with existing frontiers but would be solely concerned with resistance to acts of aggression. There is nothing particularly novel in that, as it is the same principle as that which underlies N.A.T.O.

The Russians may prefer a wider pact with membership embracing a larger number of countries. If so, we are ready to examine that, although we think it best to start with the simpler proposition. I think it is also a fact that if those countries are agreed and united in a pact of that character it is unlikely that any other Power in Europe would wish to start up any major trouble. If it is desirable that the membership should be wider, that is not excluded.

The next proposal we made was intended to provide some physical guarantee against a war in Europe, and that is why we suggested an agreement on the total forces and the total armaments on each side in Germany and in the countries neighbouring Germany. In our view a united Germany would be a partner in such an arrangement, which would also provide for reciprocal control and make provision for joint inspection of the limitations which the Powers had agreed upon. I think the House will see that that is a far-reaching proposal capable of making an important contribution to confidence in Europe.

Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)

May I intervene?

The Prime Minister

Must the hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Warbey

Yes, because this is a point about which there has been a good deal of puzzlement. I think the right hon. Gentleman might be able to clear it up at this stage. He talks about agreement for the limitation of forces and inspection on both sides in Germany. If there can be a united Germany, how can there be two sides within Germany? Would he make that point clear?

The Prime Minister

What I was suggesting was that there would be limitation—let the hon. Gentleman put the word "Germany" out of his mind in this context. What I was suggesting was that there should be agreed limitation on the forces and on armaments in a certain area of Europe. I said, in fact, Germany and the countries neighbouring Germany. I suggested that in that area, the countries having agreed on the number of the armaments, that mutual inspection would be agreed upon. There is nothing whatever in the existence of a united Germany to make that either easier or more difficult. It does not affect the problem either one way or the other. I hope that has cleared that.

Finally, we also suggested that we should examine the possibility of a wholly demilitarised area between the East and the West, to interpose, as it were, something in the nature of a protective pad between the armies facing each other in Europe. All these proposals, with others, were accepted for examination by the Foreign Secretaries. They are capable of adjustment and development, and they are of the utmost importance to the twin problems of Germany united and European security.

I called them twin problems, because in my judgment they will only be solved together. In all our discussions day by day, hour by hour, the Soviet representatives maintained that a system of European security must come first. They argued that the two fragments of Germany should take their place in the new system, and the unity of Germany could come later and by degrees. We could not accept this argument, and I will tell the House why.

We are convinced that no European security is possible on the basis of a divided Germany. That is the deep difference between us at this time. All the parties at the Conference clearly understood the significance of it; all, I am convinced, would like to solve it. Admittedly that is not going to be easy, but I think it possible in time that some solution on the lines I have already indicated may provide a way through.

If some hon. Members are pessimistic enough to believe—and, of course, it is a possible view to take—that no reconciliation of our views on these points can ever be realised, I would recall for a moment the position at Berlin last year, not, after all, so very long ago. Nothing then seemed less likely at the end of that conference than that the position of Austria would be settled by an agreed treaty within 18 months. On the contrary, it seemed then—I confess I certainly thought it—that the problem of Austria would never be settled until the problem of Germany was settled.

But there has been a remarkable change of climate in these last few months. It is not so long ago that we were told that if the Paris Agreements were ratified that would mark the end of any possibility of negotiations with the Soviet Union. Well, despite this, the four Heads of Government have now met with results that each of them considers encouraging. So, despite the difficulties of the German problem and the security of Europe we must continue to seek a solution. If we keep pushing up against our difficulties long enough we shall, in time, find a way through, provided the climate of international relations remains as Geneva has created it.

In this context, I must say something about disarmament. Far-reaching plans have been tabled, as the House knows, at the Five-Power sub-committee of the United Nations which has been sitting in London most of this year. Important progress has been made, and the latest Soviet proposals come much nearer to those which we and the French advanced some months ago. But in this business of disarmament, after many years experience of it, I believe there is much to be said for starting with practical and limited objectives at the same time as going on to work out far-reaching plans.

It was in that spirit that we put forward at Geneva what the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) may have been thinking of, a proposal about which there was for a while some misunderstanding, though I think it has now all cleared away. We suggested—and we still suggest; we have not changed our proposals —that in view of the known practical difficulties of devising any adequate system of inspection and control—and anyone who is interested in this topic will soon find what those practical difficulties are—and in view of the fact that the disarmament proposals finally depend on being able to find such schemes of control, that a start should be made now with a limited experiment in the control of armaments in Europe. The suggestion was that on either side of the line which divides the armies of the East and West—and this has nothing to do with the wider scheme I outlined to the House earlier, but is purely one small practical experiment on either side of the line—we should establish a system of joint inspection of the forces which now confront each other. We should do that in specified areas and to an agreed depth on either side and with joint inspection teams who would operate there by mutual consent.

This would provide us, if it could be agreed, with some valuable, practical lessons which we could then apply later over a wider field. Of course, this proposal relates only to disarmament. It has nothing to do with any plans to unify Germany or to build a European security pact. If it comes into being it will be an arrangement between the Governments concerned only for a limited period. It would not in any way prejudice the unity of Germany or European security. It is a small practical exercise which I still think is worth carrying out, because if it works there will be a growth of confidence which would encourage countries to go forward and tackle the more complicated issues of wide control.

Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)

Could the Prime Minister tell me whether he en- visages the West German Government as providing members for such inspection teams?

The Prime Minister

Yes, certainly.

Mr. Healey

And the East German Government?

The Prime Minister

That is one of the things that would have to be discussed, but what I visualise is joint military teams from the two sides who are carrying out this inspection. I would rather not be committed at this moment to the whole of the problem which the hon. Gentleman has put to me, although it is in my mind. It would be in the main a military exercise arranged by the commanders on the spot once the general directives were given to them.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)

Would it also, in the view of the Prime Minister, cover atomic weapons in the area to be inspected?

The Prime Minister

They could go and see what was happening on either side of the line. The purpose of the business would be to see what could be done by teams of inspection and whether they can work together as teams of inspection. Some hon. Members of this House may recall that at the end of the war there was a suggestion that the administration of Germany might have been a joint administration rather than zoned, and politically there was a great deal to be said for it, although administratively it was thought to be most difficult to work and it was not done. That is the kind of thought that lies behind this suggestion: to see whether a certain number of countries, working together from either side, cannot in practice work out a reasonable and a limited system of inspection. That is the thought which I want to leave with the House.

As the House may have seen from the directive to the Foreign Secretaries, that proposal together with those tabled by the other three delegations, have been referred to the Foreign Secretaries and to the representatives of the Five Powers in the Sub-Committee of the United Nations. I have already welcomed at Geneva the bold and imaginative proposal of President Eisenhower at the Conference. If such an arrangement could be agreed upon as he there suggested, the whole atmosphere of international relations could be transformed. M. Faure put forward a number of constructive suggestions, some of them very far reaching in character. Finally we welcomed the advance which the Soviet Government themselves have made towards the Anglo-French proposals on general disarmament.

All this will be studied both by the Sub-Committee and the Foreign Ministers. I think it right that both bodies should be concerned with this task. There are some aspects of disarmament which concern primarily the four Governments, others which have a wider application. What we must do is to use every method to get the results we want.

I wish we had had more time at this Conference to discuss another question to which I attach great importance, though again this is probably psychological rather than political; that is the question of increasing contact between the peoples of our countries at every level. There is much that could be done here. We would like to see increased facilities for tourists, for students, for journalists. We made certain proposals about this which will be examined in the autumn, at the same time as the trade question.

In a few moments I want to sum up my impressions and give the House a certain important item of information. Before I do that, however, I would like to say something about the situation in the Far East. This was discussed in our private meetings. I do not myself think that any more formal discussions would have been helpful in the absence of some of the principals.

The situation in the Far East is more dangerous than that in Europe, definitely more. Even so, there are some problems in diplomacy which time can certainly cure, and this is one of them. Every country concerned must help in this way. For this purpose I am sure that our talks at Geneva were useful. We have to enlist all the help that we can. Meanwhile the House will have been pleased to note that conversations are to begin on 1st August at Geneva between the United States and Chinese representatives. That is all to the good. The talks will be at the level of Ambassadors and they will begin by dealing with certain current practical problems, not of the first order of magnitude. We must all wish them well. They could be a helpful beginning and Her Majesty's Government have been glad to play some part in these developments.

Finally I would like to give the House some personal impressions of the result of this Conference. I find this very difficult to do because, at a meeting like this, atmosphere has its part to play as much as negotiation, perhaps even more. However, making all possible reserves, I believe that we have reduced tension and that we have created a situation in which the Foreign Secretaries can get to grips with major political problems this autumn. Now they will have to start preparing for what must be very hard work indeed. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will not mind that, I know.

No doubt some people will complain that the practical results of this Conference have been small. That is true, but it was never to be expected that the problems of Europe could be solved in the short time at the disposal of the heads of Governments. What we have done is to set in motion a long process of negotiations. It would be rash to expect rapid and far-reaching results. It may well be that limited solutions will prove the most practical method of approach and then perhaps, as confidence grows, we can advance towards more ambitious proposals. That may be how it will work out. Meanwhile Geneva has given this simple message to the whole world: it has reduced the dangers of war.

Now there is an announcement which I wish to make to the House. In Geneva my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I had several meetings in private with Mr. Bulganin, Mr. Krushchev and their colleagues. We discussed very frankly our anxieties about the great problems which divide the world. We also considered how to maintain and strengthen the personal relations which we had established at Geneva. As a result of our discussions we have agreed upon the terms of the following communique for announcement in Moscow and in London this afternoon: During the Geneva Conference the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union discussed the importance of strengthening relations beween their two countries by maintaining the personal contact which they had established at Geneva. The Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R., Mr. Bulganin, and member of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., Mr. Krushchev, have accepted the invitation of Sir Anthony Eden to visit the United Kingdom in the spring of next year.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

The Prime Minister

I think that the House has shown that it is glad to hear the first information of this visit and that both the House and the country will welcome it, as a step towards ending that state of mutual distrust which we call the cold war.

5.19 p.m.

Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)

The House is indebted to the Prime Minister for the report which he has given of the proceedings at Geneva. We have all heard with great pleasure the announcement which he made at the end of his speech. I am sure that both sides of the House will be delighted to know that Mr. Bulganin and Mr. Krushchev are to visit the United Kingdom. We are glad that they are coming, and hope they will stay some time so that they may get to know us well, and that those of us who have the opportunity of seeing them may get to know them. I am delighted that it should be so; it is a good thing.

The Geneva Conference has, I think, been useful and of value. The Prime Minister himself in March, when he was Foreign Secretary, did not appear to be enthusiastic about a meeting of the Heads of Government, but the next day the then head of our Government said that he thought it was a good idea. I imagine that since the former Foreign Secretary has become the head of the Government he has become more reconciled to the idea and is now quite pleased with it.

Anyway, it came off, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that his right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), and also my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, deserve credit for the way in which they pressed the idea. The personal contact between the Heads of Government has been all to the good, and so has the personal contact between the Foreign Secretaries and between all the people who were there. It must have improved relations. It is not only the meetings in the official gatherings and the official discussions; it is the unofficial gatherings, the meetings by the wayside, the meals, and the little parties, that make all the difference. I myself had an opportunity for social contact with Mr. Bulganin in 1936 at County Hall.

The Prime Minister

Mr. Bulganin remembers it.

Mr. Morrison

I am glad to hear from the Prime Minister that Mr. Bulganin remembers it. He was then in the more modest position of Chairman of the Moscow Soviet, and he came to study London local government and London transportation. I believe that one of the indirect results was the building of the Moscow underground, of which the people of Moscow are very proud.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

And rightly so.

Mr. Morrison

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) is correct when he says "rightly so." As a matter of fact, I am rather proud of London's Underground, too, and rightly so, and a lot of other things which are knocking about this city.

One of the encouraging things about the Geneva proceedings was the absence of the old unpleasantness or abuse on every side. There was an assumption between the main spokesmen of sincerity on the part of the others which was of great value. The Conference really constituted a great public debate, with considered contributions being made by the Heads of Government. It can, of course, be argued whether it was right that it should have been so public, and certainly it was risky, but I think that, as a whole, the publicity did not do any harm in this instance at Geneva.

What has come out of it is agreement upon an agenda for the Foreign Ministers to consider in the autumn. It might be said that that is not much to come out of this high-powered conference, but, believe me, it is. We had experience of this sort of thing at the time I was at the Foreign Office. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), then Under-Secretary of State, spent weeks and weeks in discussion at the Palais Rose in Paris in an attempt to obtain an agenda, but those taking part really never got to the substance of the thing at all. It was "tactics, tactics all the way" which is no good. An agenda was never agreed. That is not the only instance, for there have been other occasions when it has not been possible to get an agenda.

Now the Foreign Secretaries have terms of reference for consideration; they have an agenda. A number of items on the agenda indicate various possible approaches. There is nothing conclusive about the agenda. All this means that there is a great deal of work to be done; there are many alternatives, and, of course, it will take time. There is much to do, and we must not underestimate the difficulties which will have to be faced.

Nevertheless, the situation is better than it was, and all the nations participating in the Conference are to be congratulated on the good temper there. This includes the representatives of the Soviet Union, who made their contribution, as did our own representatives, and the President of the United States, who certainly brought a feeling of good fellowship, particularly between him and those whom he knew previously, as well as the Prime Minister of France.

It is sometimes argued that regional pacts such as N.A.T.O. are wrong and ought not to exist, but I think it reasonable that there should be such pacts. Indeed, a pamphlet has recently been published under Soviet auspices by Mr. Dmitri Melnikov, in which he justifies regional pacts. Therefore, that argument seems to break down and N.A.T.O. seems to be justifiable, as are other things. Indeed, in a way the Soviet Union has a regional pact in Eastern Europe, really much stronger than N.A.T.O., and much more integrated. That is permitted. Therefore, my answer to the question whether such pacts are justified is that I think they are.

It is, nevertheless, the case that the Eastern bloc must constitute a very great strain on the Soviet Union from the point of view of political leadership and administrative responsibility. I would not put it past possibility that there may be a loosening of the grip of the Soviet Union on the satellite States and possibly on Eastern Germany. Let us not exclude the possibility that the Soviet Union itself may tire of the great burden which it involves, especially if the tension continues to relax. After all, that happened in Austria; unexpectedly, all of a sudden, it was agreed to accept that which had previously been refused.

If in addition to that we can get disarmament, which is really the biggest single key to international peace, it will make a great difference. I could not quite follow the scheme which the Prime Minister briefly outlined to the House. I wish he had devoted a little more time to it and given us a little more detail. No doubt the Foreign Secretary can pick up the matter later on.

What I should like to know is the kind of geographical area which it is in mind to cover for the experiment in disarmament. If it is strictly only Central Europe —there may be something to be said for it; I am not saying that there is not—that is quite limited and it is debatable whether it would be good enough. If it is to cover the whole of the Powers in the Western European Union—excluding the United States, presumably—we and France would be involved in armaments limitation, but would the Soviet Union? If not, our balance would be thrown out of gear. On the other hand, is it likely, or reasonable to expect, that the Soviet Union would come into the experiment on the basis of a strict European affair, which would put the Soviet in difficulties vis-à-vis the United States of America? I should have thought that it would be difficult about that.

On the face of it, and without further information, these are the problems that I see, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will later on give us more detail and more information, including the geographical area. Certainly disarmament is the biggest single problem, and we need a sound and fair scheme with international inspection; that is absolutely necessary and important.

It is good that the Russians have dropped their old idea of a percentage all-round reduction, because it was an impossible proposition which made relatively no difference to the situation. The Russians have recognised that, I dare say that they knew about it all along. I am very glad that they have now abandoned that idea and are prepared to talk in terms of relative figures between the bigger Powers, the smaller Powers, and so on, so there is a greater possibility of encouragement in that direction. Disarmament would be the greatest single contribution to peace. It would give the nations a greater sense of security and a lessening of fear.

Of course, that disarmament, when it comes and is agreed, must include the hydrogen bomb and the atomic bomb. Real disarmament must be achieved so that the nations do not have at their disposal enough arms to start another great war, and so that the view of the Foreign Secretary when he said "there ain't gonna be any war" may be correct. I saw that Mr. Cudlipp in the "News Chronicle" said that by engaging in Cockney the Foreign Secretary will upset some of his supporters in the Bromley division of Kent. That is next door to me, but I do not mind as long as it does not affect South Lewisham.

That view might be all right, if we can get to that point of disarmament, but at the moment we can be over-optimistic and I am not too sure that the Foreign Secretary was not a little too optimistic in saying that at this stage. It reminded me, with a shiver—although the circumstances are different—of the return of Mr. Neville Chamberlain with his piece of paper which he said meant peace but which did not. Things are better than that, but I am not sure that they are as good as the Foreign Secretary said. Of course, what he said will encourage some of my hon. Friends to continue to press the Government for an inquiry into the period of National Service. We must try to remove the power to make large-scale war, and our Government and others must push on, for there is more hope.

However, the economic consequences of disarmament ought to be studied. There are two economic consequences, one possible and one that might be troublesome. There could be an economic consequence whereby, as proposed by the French Prime Minister, we could devote part of the savings to helping the backward areas of the world. The other one is one on which the Government should set its civil servants, or experts, to work—not that we shall have disarmament in five minutes but there is nothing like being ready. There might be an enormous decrease in the work and operations of the British industries involved in armament production. If armaments stop, there will be serious economic consequences which will have to be taken into account, problems of employment, problems of the use of engineering installations and plant. It would be well if the Government put their backroom boys to studying how to handle that situation, if and when it arises.

I could not agree more with the Prime Minister than when he said that there is a great need for contacts between peoples. That is important, and if we could get free and individual visits all round among all these countries, irrespective of their political systems, that would be useful. If we could only get freedom of the air and broadcasting, without any jamming against each other, that would be a good thing, too. What is important is that the people of every country shall know what the peoples of other countries are thinking, and that when Governments make pronouncements, or engage in arguments, we should be able to know what the pronouncements and arguments are.

In this connection I should like to welcome the existence of the Soviet Relations Committee of the British Council, of which the Chairman is my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) and of which the Vice-Chairman is the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe). I gather that good work has already been done in welcoming people from the Soviet Union to this country and that contacts are being developed. That body is well worthy of adequate and reasonable support from Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister mentioned the Far East. Another contribution to peace which I hope is not far distant will be a change in United States policy towards China by recognising the de facto Government in China by according to her admission to the United Nations and the Security Council. We have seen some change in the mental attitude of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union's spirit at the Geneva Conference was much better than anything which we have experienced before. I believe that the United States is no less capable of change and that it may well change in its policy about China at a not too distant date. That would be a real contribution to Far Eastern peace and to the general peace of the world.

With regard to Germany, we all have to face the fact that Western Germany is now a sovereign State and therefore has the right of self-defence. If it has the right of self-defence, it must have the right of collective self-defence, and it is important that its democracy should develop. Of course, there is a greater degree of armament in Eastern Germany, and has been for some time, and in those circumstances we could not give Western Germany sovereign powers without any armaments at all.

That is a principle which cannot reasonably be resisted, nor do I think that the principle of a unified Germany can reasonably be resisted. It is reasonable in itself and it is right in principle, as is the question of free and democratic elections, with a free Press and free speech at the time of the elections and at other times. Those are rights, and it is wrong for people sometimes to say that those elementary rights, which ought to be universal, cannot be given unless something is given in return which it is not desired to give.

Those are things to which Germany has a right in order properly to function as one of the democratic States of the world. I hope that a united Germany will cooperate with the West, but it is quite clear and has been made abundantly clear this afternoon and previously, that a united Germany will be free to do what she likes in foreign policy and to take what course she thinks is wisest.

I understand the Soviet fear of the possibility of German aggression, and so we must do our best to satisfy the Soviet Union on that score if we can. I do not think that neutralism, that is to say a neutral Germany, solves the problem. If it is a neutral Germany which is armed, there arises the problem of how to keep Germany neutral. If it is a Germany unarmed, there arises the problem of how to keep it disarmed. In neither way is neutralisation really the solution. There may be a demilitarised zone, as has been mentioned and we should like to know a little more about that. Would that demilitarised zone be on the west and the east of the eastern frontier of Eastern Germany—I should have thought that that would be a fair place for it—or is it intended that it should be somewhere else?

The next possibility, as the Prime Minister said, is a security pact. It could be a direct pact between N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw organisation. There could be this idea of the five Powers, which seems to me to be the simplest and the most attractive, and is probably the quickest to achieve. It could be a pact of all the European countries, but that is rather elaborate and would complicate the machinery and the administrative set-up very much indeed.

At all events, whatever happens, all these things are worthy of consideration, and we must not under-estimate Russian apprehensions about Germany. We must do all we can to satisfy her. What we cannot agree to—and I gather that the Soviet Union does not now press it—is that the United States should now depart from Europe as well. It is profoundly important that United States troops should be in Europe.

There is the possibility of the new and better chapter for which we hoped far back in 1945 at the end of the war, and for which our late colleague Ernest Bevin worked with great energy. We have now reached a point from which the Powers had moved away, and that is encouraging. It is the duty of everybody to try hard to develop further good relations and peace —ourselves, the United States, France, Germany, and the Soviet Union, for I am sure that the people of Russia want peace just as much as do the people of the United Kingdom want peace. Indeed, they have much to gain from it, for the natural resources of the Soviet Union are enormous, and the U.S.S.R. has all the material resources out of which to make a great and prosperous country.

We shall watch the work of the Foreign Ministers with interest. We shall support them, including our own Foreign Secretary, if we think they are right, and we shall not hesitate to criticise them if we think they are wrong. At any rate, we wish them every success, just as we would say to the Government, to our own people, and to the world, "Let us hope that all this means good luck to the cause of peace."

5.43 p.m.

Mr. Richard Sharpies (Sutton and Cheam)

I am sure that the whole House will welcome the statement that has been made this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Perhaps the most significant thing which he said was that the Conference at Geneva has reduced the danger of war, and if it has done that, then it has achieved perhaps the greater part of what was intended.

I feel also that the whole House will welcome the visit of the Soviet leaders when they come to this country next spring. I should also like to say how glad I am that my right hon. Friend gave the highest priority to the solution of the problem of Germany, because it is my belief that, unless we can solve the problem of Germany, we can have no lasting peace and no lasting solution to all our problems.

After those few words, I hope the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) will excuse me if I do not follow him in the arguments which he advanced this afternoon. I should like to take this opportunity of coming down from the summit for a moment and speaking briefly of the meeting of 190 Members of Parliament which took place in Paris last week—190 Members of Parliament from the N.A.T.O. countries.

To my mind, there were two special features of that meeting. One was that it was the first time that Canadian Members of Parliament and Congressmen from the United States had come together with their opposite numbers in Europe for a free and frank discussion of their mutual problems. It was supposed at one moment that the American Congressmen might not be able to attend, and they even had to go to the length of passing a special Bill through Congress before they were allowed to do so.

It was a great pity that no members of the United States Senate were present at that meeting, but the Vice-President of the United States in fact sent a telegram to the leader of the American delegation explaining why it was not possible for members of the American Senate to go to that meeting. It appears that in the American Senate there is a majority of one, and I believe that it is sometimes difficult to tell on which side that one is likely to vote in any particular division.

I think that a measure of the success of that meeting was that we had only one motion before us; indeed, only one was considered, and that was a motion which referred to the possibility of having another meeting next year and suggested that meetings should thereafter continue year after year. The measure of success of the conference was that that motion was passed unanimously.

Further, the conference did not burden itself, I think rightly, with the setting up of a vast organisation and a vast secretariat, but contented itself with arranging for one part-time secretary, who happens to be British, to be appointed, to make the arrangements for the next meeting, which we hope will take place next year. Neither did we become involved in any long discussion about rules of procedure and matters of that kind. In fact, we had no rules of procedure, and seemed to get along perfectly well without them.

The second feature of that meeting was that it took place at the same time as the talks at the summit were going on at Geneva. At the same time as those talks were going on at the top, we had that meeting of Members of Parliament from the N.A.T.O. countries going on, as we might say, at the base. I am a very firm believer in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Indeed, it would be very surprising if I were not, having myself worked for two and a half years in the Organisation before I had the good fortune to be elected a Member of the House.

I was particularly glad that before the Prime Minister went to Geneva he made it quite clear in a speech which he made that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation formed an integral part and fact of our foreign policy, and that nothing said at Geneva would in any way alter our attitude to N.A.T.O. It is my belief that there is nothing that the Russians would like better, in spite of the better will that there is today, than to see the disintegration of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I believe that they would, perhaps, be prepared to pay a high price to see that Organisation disintegrate, and I hope that nothing that is done now or in the future will allow that to happen.

There is no need for me to remind the House that our security—and probably the fact that no war has taken place up to date—has very largely been due to the fact that we have had this Organisation in being. I believe that as time goes on the importance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will increase and not decrease. I should like to see an extension of the Organisation, not only in the military sphere, because we already have the military organisation. As those of us who were in Paris saw, we have a very efficient and a very good military organisation already in being.

I hope that more attention will be paid to the other Articles of the Treaty, particularly to Article 2, which calls for the political and economic integration of the North Atlantic Treaty area. My right hon. Friend spoke of the hope for more personal contact between the peoples of the East and West. I hope, too, that we may see more contact between the peoples of the North Atlantic Treaty area. I believe that the meeting which we had in Paris was a good example of what can be done in that direction. For many of the Canadian Members of Parliament it was their first visit to Europe, and the first chance of seeing for themselves the problems of Europe.

I should also like to see the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have some common policy for counteracting the propaganda which has been coming, and which, I regret, still continues to come, from the East. I am sure that we need a common policy to counteract that propaganda. Let us hope that it will now die down, but just the same I think that there is need for a common policy on that score.

I came away from the meeting in Paris with the feeling that in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation we had a living and vital body, something more than a simple military alliance. I believe that the other Members of Parliament and Congressmen came away from the meeting with the same feeling. If that meeting has done something to strengthen the unity and the common bond between the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, it will have achieved its purpose. I hope that it will be the first of many similar meetings in the future.

5.54 p.m.

Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)

I hope that the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) will excuse me if I do not discuss the N.A.T.O. meeting in Paris. On the way back from Geneva, I looked in on those assembled there and they seemed to be having a very nice week. But I think that we ought here to concentrate on what I believe to have been an epoch-making Conference. I know that one should not use clichés like that, but I have a feeling that Geneva was the symbol of the expression of a fundamental change in world relations, a change which, I believe, will have—and I agree very much with my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison)—and should have, profound effects on our own policy in the near future.

Very few of us could disagree with anything that the Prime Minister said in his account of Geneva, and, from this side of the House, I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on one part of his and of the Foreign Secretary's rôle there. Those of us who were at Geneva last year were, of course, aware that the Foreign Secretary, as he then was, was the hero of the first Geneva Conference. He was the man who rescued the world from drifting into war in Indo-China by patching up the peace with Mr. Molotov. It would have been quite human in this Conference, I think, to resent the fact that the right hon. Gentleman, a Briton, did not play the prominent rôle which he played last year —quite human, but I am very glad that there was no sign of it.

We realised in this Conference the fact that the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary was not required to mediate between a present Russia and an absent America, for we must remember that a year before the Americans at Geneva were refusing even to speak to a Russian or a Communist. The fact that we were not required to mediate was surely a sign of an improvement in world relations, and I am not depressed because Britain, in that sense, played a minor rôle, or that Geneva was, as it undoubtedly was, Eisenhower's Conference.

I should also like to add my tribute to the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). He was so right when we look back at the speech which he made. There were a lot of wise people who said, "They will not be able to do anything. It will all be left in the hands of the professionals." The right hon. Member for Woodford said, "For God's sake let us get the men together without the paraphernalia of the experts, because it does make a difference."

What was proved at Geneva was that those who were there felt in an extraordinary way that though we had the Foreign Secretaries and huge retinues of officials present, we also had the four big men. I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will excuse me for saying that when the Foreign Ministers met, they were very likely in the morning to get into difficulties which could only be resolved in the afternoon by their Heads of State saying to them, "Do not be silly; do not stand on protocol." The personalities of the Heads of State offset the routine atmosphere of the Foreign Office, and I was glad that the Conference took place with the Heads of State for, without them, there would have been another Berlin. There would not have been this change of approach without Eisenhower.

A year ago, I did not think Eisenhower had it in him to do what he did at Geneva this time. I think it showed that he realised that the American people had really taken a decision for peace. America has had some very dangerous advisers. There have been plenty of people in America, and a few in this country, who have said that force is the only language which the Communists understand. Thank goodness the mood has changed, and that, simultaneously with the change of mood in Russia after Stalin, we had a change in the American mood back from the insanity of the so-called "negotiation through strength" to a realisation that peace cannot be attained simply by threatening and refusing to negotiate.

This brings me to the point which I want to put to the House about the Conference. Some people say that the importance of the Conference consisted simply in the fact that, after all, the H-bomb was here and has made war impossible. I suppose that is what the Foreign Secretary had in mind when he said, "There ain't gonna be any war." I agree with him that the H-bomb has made war impossible, if what is meant by war is using the H-bomb as an instrument of policy, because that means that no one can start a war today with any hope of winning it. Therefore, in the conventional sense, the H-bomb makes war impossible.

I do not believe, however, that the importance of Geneva was that the H-bomb had made war impossible. That had happened before Geneva. The men at at Geneva surely saw that. Each side met the other and discovered that it agreed on that point. Each had made up its own mind, but each was still believing that the other side might be insane and might want to launch a surprise attack. I think that it was this personal contact between Mr. Eisenhower and the other side which finally dispelled from the minds of both sides the belief that one might spring a surprise world annihilation upon the other.

That seems to be the great thing which Mr. Eisenhower achieved; he broke this fear—by meeting and knowing personally each of the Russians; by his contacts at the buffet after the sessions; and also by bringing over Admiral Radford, when he was told that they regarded the Admiral as a "Preventive warrior," to meet the Russians face to face. To my mind this has meant a real break in the cold war, and we should thank Mr. Eisenhower for that. He has done a job which no one but he could have done. It is not something which a British Prime Minister could have done, because the great issue was whether America would recognise this fact in time—and I believe that she has.

I suggest that certain consequences follow. If it is true that war is impossible it is also true that there cannot be negotiation from military strength—for what does negotiation from military strength mean? It means that one side says, in the last resort. "If you will not give way I have the power to enforce my will," and if both sides now appreciate that they have to deny themselves that ultimate threat, then negotiation from military strength is ruled out. Ironically enough, however, it is denied to those Powers with nuclear weapons but can still be used by small Powers which are still fighting with conventional weapons. Small nations can threaten to use their military power, but great nations, with nuclear weapons, dare not do so.

That can be put in another way. If it is agreed that war is impossible, each side can veto any proposal of the other, and there is no way of lifting the veto. Let me give one example from the Far East. I have no doubt that the Chinese and the Russians now have to face the fact that the Americans are going to veto the release of Formosa, for the time being, to become part of Communist China, and if they are determined to veto that they can stop it happening. Equally, we have to face the fact that in Europe the Russians can veto the integration of a united Germany into N.A.T.O. If they do so, and if war is impossible, we must accept that veto as a fact.

That is the most important thing after Geneva. In the old days, we thought that all mountains were movable if we had sufficient force behind us to threaten the other man. Now, since we have not got that force, each side must accept the ultimate veto of the other side to any main proposal. We must accept the Russian veto of our plans for Germany, and the Russians must accept that whatever changes take place in relation to Formosa, America is ultimately going to say, "No, you cannot have it, for the time being."

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