§ [FIFTH DAY]
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question—[9th June]:
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament. —[Mr. Simon.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
This is the first occasion upon which it has been my duty to address the House as Foreign Secretary. It is now nearly thirty-one years since I was first elected a Member of the House and in that period I have seen the unrolling of great events. I came here, and so did many others at that time, as a survivor of the First World War. I saw the slow drift towards the second and, like every man and woman in every part of the House and in every home in this country, I share the determination that, God willing, we should be saved from a third which, if it came, might bring final destruction to the civilisation of the world. Now that I find myself allotted a small part in this vast drama, I hope that I may ask for the indulgence and perhaps the sympathy of the House.
It has been the custom for successive Foreign Secretaries, in opening debates of this kind, to give a general review of our relations with various foreign Powers and of the special problems in different parts of the world. In the end, all of these are connected, to a greater or lesser degree, with the over-riding master problem; that is, the division of the world into the great blocs—the Communist and the non-Communists. Nevertheless, I think that it will be convenient for the House to follow the traditional plan.
First, I should like to say a few words about Austria. The signature of the 594 Austrian Treaty took place on 15th May, in Vienna. I think that it was welcomed in all parts of the House. The negotiations, which were successfully concluded last month, had lasted since 1947. Their course has been difficult and often frustrating and, indeed, it had seemed that every time a solution came within sight the Soviet Government were determined to find a new reason to block agreement. The Austrian people are, however, now upon the threshold of their full freedom and independence, and for the first time since 1945 Soviet troops in Europe are to withdraw.
The Treaty itself is an improvement on the earlier draft. For instance, the former Article 16 of the draft Treaty has been deleted. This paragraph, drafted originally by the Soviet Government, would have resulted in great hardship to many displaced persons and refugees in Austria, and we are very glad to see this paragraph go. The Treaty also contains new provisions about the return to Austria by the Soviet Government of assets in the Soviet zone of Austria. These provisions result from an undertaking given by the Soviet Government to the Austrian delegation which visited Moscow in April of this year. Although Austria is to make substantial payments to the Soviet Union, the new arrangements represent a notable gain for the Austrian economy.
There is another change, the removal of restrictions on the size of the armed forces which Austria may now have. That is an important provision in view of the declared intention of the Austrian Government to observe neutrality. Indeed, the Austrian Government have stated their resolve to defend their independence and neutrality with all the resources at their command. Of course, Austrian neutrality is not a new idea. The Austrians had stated more than a year before that it was their wish to keep out of all alliances and to have no military bases on their soil.
The legislative action which Austria takes to announce her neutrality has already begun. A resolution was approved by the Austrian Parliament on 8th June asking the Government to submit to Parliament a draft of a federal constitutional law. By that law Austria, of her own free will, will declare her perpetual neutrality, her resolve to maintain and defend her neutrality and her decision not 595 to join military alliances or to allow foreign bases on her territory. That resolution invites the Government, once the Treaty has entered into force and occupation forces have been withdrawn, to communicate that law to all States with the request that they recognise Austrian neutrality.
That course of action corresponds with proposals which were discussed by the Soviet Government and with the Austrian delegation in Moscow in April and which were further considered at the Vienna Conference of Foreign Ministers, on 14th May. My United States and French colleagues and I, speaking on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, all said we had no objection in principle to the course of action suggested for Austria, but we made it clear that action must first be taken by the Austrian Parliament itself.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Swiss Government consider that their neutrality makes it impossible for them to join the United Nations at present. Will that be the case with the Austrian Government, or will they join the United Nations?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I was just coming to that question, and I am grateful to the right hon. Member for reminding me of it.
There are certain other points which will come up for discussion in connection with the re-establishment of Austria in what one might call the community of free nations. The four Powers and Austria have stated in the Preamble to the Treaty that they wish it to serve as the basis of friendly relations between them, thereby enabling the four Powers to support Austria's candidature for the United Nations. That is a part of and incorporated in the Preamble of the Treaty and I think it is of great importance to us all.
There is another action to support Austria's independence which might be taken, such as a four-Power guarantee of Austria's territorial integrity, but, of course, that will have to be considered quite separately and no undertaking of any kind has been given about that nor, as the United States Secretary of States has made clear, is ratification of the Treaty in any way dependent upon any 596 action of that kind. The present position is this, and it is very satisfactory. Austria and the Soviet Union have both now ratified the Treaty formally. I understand that France and the United States expect to complete the process of ratification very shortly, I earnestly hope that this House will see no objection to the submission of the Treaty in the near future to Her Majesty for ratification.
Speedy action is important, because the Treaty will enter into force as soon as all the instruments of ratification have been deposited with the Soviet Government. The occupation forces are to withdraw within 90 days, so it is important for the Austrians that the process of ratification should be speeded as much as possible.
A free and independent Austria will then emerge, 17 years after Hitler's occupation. The new prospect which has been opened by this event is, clearly, most welcome to the Austrian people. I was fortunate enough to see that myself and I am sure that the whole House will join with me in wishing them prosperity and success.
§ Mr. Frank Bowles (Nuneaton)
The right hon. Gentleman said that Austria would be able to defend her neutrality. Does that imply that Austria may have her own armed forces?
§ Mr. Macmillan
Yes, it certainly does. That is one of the points of importance in the form which the Treaty takes.
I should like to say a word about the Middle East. In many respects there has been an improvement, especially in the north. Nevertheless, there are areas which cause us considerable anxiety and problems about which we feel great concern. Perhaps the chief of those is the Arab-Israel question. I regret to say that the situation there has not improved. Tension continues on the Gaza frontier. Israeli vehicles are blown up by mines and Egyptian outposts are attacked in reprisal. Both sides are responsible and both sides have broken the armistice agreement. In this unhealthy atmosphere one violation breeds another, one incident follows another, and the situation daily becomes more dangerous.
The United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation, under General Burns, is doing all it can. It has our full support 597 and we join with our American and French friends in urging both sides to co-operate with General Burns according to the resolution of the Security Council of 30th March. General Burns is now trying to bring the parties together, under his chairmanship, to discuss at a higher level than the truce machinery provides—with more important figures on both sides—measures that might be adopted to reduce tension. In this task I am sure I may say that General Burns has the full confidence of the House and we trust that a meeting of this character will shortly be arranged. We are doing all we can to expedite it.
Nevertheless, the situation is of grave concern to us. We are members of the United Nations. We have special and historic interests in that part of the world and we have special obligations under the Tripartite Declaration of May, 1950. I beg no one to think, either in this House or out of it, that we do not take those obligations seriously; we do, and we shall stand by them.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Before leaving that subject, as apparently the right hon. Gentleman is about to leave it, may I ask whether, in the circumstances, it is desirable to continue to provide arms for Egypt? Is it not the case that for some time now Centurion tanks, aircraft and other weapons have been provided? Would it not be wise to suspend the export of arms?
§ Mr. Macmillan
We have tried to get what one might call an equilibrium, but we have had one or two very old contracts—some four years old—under which small quantities of arms have been provided. It is our purpose, as far as we can, to maintain the equilibrium, but it is still more important to get the truce properly regarded and an easement of tension on all sides.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Why does the right hon. Gentleman maintain that he is maintaining the equilibrium when, in fact, arms are being provided for Egypt and when Israel makes application for arms she is prevented from obtaining them in this country?
§ Mr. Macmillan
We have supplied arms, also, to Israel but it is very difficult to maintain the equilibrium precisely. If the matter were debated at greater length, I think I could show that 598 we have tried our best to maintain the general principle of equilibrium, although sometimes some of these old contracts cannot be put wholly aside if they stand three or four years behind delivery.
Before leaving that subject, I should like to reinforce what I have said. We hold this obligation as a serious one. We shall do our best to fulfil the 1950 Declaration. I should like that to be felt and known in all quarters.
I will now say something about the Turco-Iraq position, or the position further north, in the Middle East. There is great improvement there and developing strength to withstand any aggression from without. In the first place, the settlement of the oil dispute has brought equal benefits to Iran and ourselves. It has strengthened the Iranian Government and people. It has allowed a great industry to spring back into life. The visit of the Shah-in-Shah to this country a few months ago was a happy symbol of a new period of co-operation. Next to that, the Turco-Iraqi Pact, to which we have ourselves adhered, is another sign of strength and of the will to resist, and our friends in Turkey, as members of N.A.T.O., form at once the right flank of N.A.T.O. and the firm centre of the Middle East position.
With Iraq we have had many years of special friendship and of intimate relationship. Our new accord, called the Special Agreement, supersedes the old Treaty and is consistent with the remarkable growth in Iraqi strength and authority. The detailed discussions on the financial aspects, such as valuation of the bases at Habbaniya and Shaiba, which are about to be handed over to the Iraqis, are going on in a very friendly atmosphere.
We are confident that our alliance with Turkey and Iraq forms a solid base on which to found Middle East defence. However, in case any misapprehensions on the nature of our alliance with Turkey and Iraq should continue to exist—and I would observe that our Syrian friends have some doubts on this score—I would like to reaffirm what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in the debate on 30th March about this Treaty:It is a purely defensive arrangement which respects the independence of the countries concerned and their neighbours."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1955; Vol. 539, c. 381.]599 Also, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, in the debate on 4th April, said:There is nothing in the Pact which need threaten, weaken or cause anxiety to any State in the Middle East. It is directed against no one in the area, against no State or group of States. Indeed, it respects the independence of all countries and offers a specific guarantee to any States who should accede."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 4th April, 1955; Vol. 539, c. 835]
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
May I ask a question, in view of our adherence to that Pact? The Foreign Secretary has expressed a desire to maintain a strict balance in our relations between Jews and Arabs. Is he prepared now to sign a similar pact of a strictly defensive nature with Israel?
§ Mr. Macmillan
This Pact is aimed, as the hon. Gentleman knows well, against the possibility of aggression from without. We have already the Tripartite Declaration which protects Israel against any breach of the peace and I do not think that these are at all comparable in their character. I believe it to be true that all States in the area, including Israel, feel and will begin more and more to feel, that this Pact is a sure shield for their defence against aggression from without, and it is for the purpose of building that defence that this Pact was entered into.
While I am speaking about this part of the world, I would like to add how much Her Majesty's Government are looking forward to welcoming their Majesties the King and Queen of Jordan, who are coming to this country tomorrow as the guests of Her Majesty's Government.
Now I must turn for a moment in this survey to say something about progress in the Sudan. The Sudan is now approaching the time when the process of self-determination will begin. The process of Sudanisation, provided for under the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement, is nearly complete. Perhaps I might be allowed, without impertinence, to pay once more a tribute to the outstanding services which British officials have rendered in the Sudan.
It is probable that the Sudanese Parliament will, in a month or two, pass a resolution requesting that arrangements for self-determination should be set in motion. Within three months from that date, which we expect to be in August, 600 British and Egyptian troops will withdraw. At the same time, preparations will be made for the election of a constituent assembly which will choose between independence or some form of link with Egypt and will draw up a constitution compatible with that choice. Arrangements for the process of self-determination are to be supervised by an international body whose duty it is to safeguard the impartiality of the elections and generally to assure a free and neutral atmosphere. Negotiations for the establishment of this supervising body have already begun with the Egyptian Government.
It is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to honour to the full, in the letter and in the spirit, the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement on the Sudan and to refrain from influencing in any way the choice which the Sudanese people may make as to their future. Unfortunately, irrefutable evidence shows that the Egyptian Government have not in every case refrained from intervening in Sudanese internal affairs. We have made strong representations to the Egyptian Government and have told them that we have a right to expect that they should follow the same policy of restraint as ourselves. Only in this way can both Governments fulfil their trust. Meanwhile, all of us in this House wish the Sudanese people good fortune in their new adventure.
I turn now to the Far East, and I must say to the House that the events in Indo-China still demand our close attention. The Geneva Agreements remain the keystone of our policy. It was because the International Commission in Vietnam reported that it would not be possible within the prescribed time limit to give full effect to one of the most important provisions of the Geneva Agreements, that relating to the movement of the refugees—the House may remember that this was limited to a certain fixed timetable—that I took up the matter with the Soviet Government, both through the diplomatic channel and personally with Mr. Molotov, in Vienna. I am glad to say that it has proved possible to secure a two months' extension of the time limit. I only hope that no obstacles may arise to the effectiveness of this agreement.
There is a further point. The House will remember that in the Final Declaration made by the Geneva Conference it 601 was provided that consultations about the elections, which are to be held in July, 1956, should be heldbetween the competent representative authorities of the two zones from July 20, 1955, onwards.Now, although the Government of Vietnam do not regard themselves as bound by the Final Declaration, this provision is, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, an important, and, indeed, an integral part of the Geneva Agreements. We hope, therefore: that it will be possible to arrange these consultations to begin as scheduled and we shall do our best to see that this happens.
The problem of Laos continues to give us concern. I am afraid that there is no progress to report in the matter of the restoration of the authority of the Royal Laotian Government in the two provinces of the far north where the Communist Pathet Lao are entrenched. Nevertheless, I should like to say something now about the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty because at the moment, perhaps, it does not receive very much publicity. It is not spectacular and it is not provocative, but it is doing a good deal of quiet constructive work. The various sub-committees established at the recent Bangkok conference have all had useful meetings and their recommendations and reports will be considered by a meeting of the Council representatives in Bangkok in July.
Staunch support for the Colombo Plan is a cardinal element in the policy of Her Majesty's Government in South and South-East Asia. The task of raising standards of living in Asia is a tremendous one, but it proceeds steadily. As founder members of this imaginative plan, which now includes every country in South and South-East Asia, as well as the United States and Japan, Great Britain will continue to devote such of our resources as we can spare to this vital work.
I now turn to the problems of the Formosa Strait. Hon. Members perhaps will have seen with some satisfaction that in recent weeks there has been a substantial reduction of hostile actions and propaganda in connection with the Formosa problem. We all hope that this will be maintained and, indeed, extended. Meanwhile, our Chargé d'Affaires in Peking has recently been in touch with 602 Mr. Chou En-lai in order to seek clarification of the Chinese statement, made at the Bandung conference, regarding their willingness to negotiate with the United States Government. In addition. Mr. Krishna Menon, to whose services I should like to pay special tribute, has also recently been holding discussions on this matter in Peking.
All this is to the good. We shall continue our efforts in the light of these discussions to help to bring about a further relaxation of tension and to reach a peaceful outcome, and in this connection we regard the release of four of the United States airmen imprisoned in China as a useful first step. We particularly appreciate the part played in this matter by Mr. Hammarskjold.
We have noted the statement of Mr. Chou En-lai on 13th May in which he said that the Chinese people were willing to strive for the liberation of Formosa by peaceful means so far as this was possible. This has been the constant theme of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister during the earlier stages of this dispute—negotiation, not force. I devoutly hope that it will become the accepted theme and principle in these troubled matters.
After this review I must now come for a moment or two to what is the supreme issue: what are the prospects of peace—and by peace, of course, we do not mean what used to be called, or miscalled, appeasement, still less surrender. Nor do we expect that peace and security can come to us suddenly in a flash by a sort of miracle. We cannot look for that. But we can hope, I believe, for a gradual lifting of this shadow which oppresses us all.
It will need patience and perseverance, but I really believe that our hopes have never been more soundly based than they are today. For they are based upon the reality of our achievements—the achievements of successive Governments on both sides of the Atlantic; and if we now begin a new chapter in this long story with greater confidence than before, it is because of men like General Marshall and Ernest Bevin, who taught us to seek peace not from weakness but from strength. They interpreted negotiation from strength not, of course, as meaning the use of force or the threat of force 603 to secure our ends. They meant negotiating from a position of strength, of equal strength, and, above all, negotiating on the basis of that moral reinforcement which comes from unity of purpose in seeking just ends and serving honourable causes.
If these hopes are to fructify, as I believe they may, we must—and I am sure that both sides of the House will agree—be wary as well as bold. We must not lower our guard prematurely. We must not relax our efforts. This, of course, will throw a very great strain upon the democracies. It will not worry the autocratic Governments at all, but it will worry us—all the countries in the democratic alliance—because we know from bitter experience how difficult it is to keep the effort going when the danger seems rather less. Hon. Members will remember the fable of the wind and the sun, and which of them could make the man throw away his coat.
§ Mr. Macmillan
After a long Russian winter of ice and snow, the sun is beginning to come out, but I say that it is a good rule in setting out upon an expedition, if I may change the metaphor, to keep one's base secure. We have a sound base, and it is based upon a triple partnership of the British Commonwealth and Empire, the United States and the peoples of free Europe.
There has never been a time when the Commonwealth has played a greater part than today. It draws a new strength from its variety—eight independent Governments representing so many creeds and races, whose standpoint in world affairs is by no means identical but whose broad purpose is similar. Each Government plays an individual part but their collaboration is close. At the February meeting the Commonwealth Prime Ministers pooled their ideas and declared their Governments' resolve to seek, each in their own way, to relax existing tensions and to work for real peace.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already referred to the contributions made by Canada and India, which together serve on the International Supervisory Commission in Indo-China. India currently is playing a quite unique 604 rôle both in interpreting the West to the East and in searching out the paths of peace. I am sure the House will also wish me to give a warm welcome to the recent decision of the Australian and New Zealand Governments to make their contribution to the defence of Malaya, thereby demonstrating that the peace and orderly development of Malaya is of concern to the Commonwealth as a whole and that friends from overseas are ready to stand by Malaya, side by side with those from these islands.
Those are only some illustrations from the field of foreign affairs to show how fruitful the Commonwealth's contribution can be. The strength of the Commonwealth derives from the spirit which animates its peoples and I am sure that their resolve to work together for peace is one of the greatest forces in the world today.
The second link is our alliance, I would almost say our partnership, with the United States. Our relations today, I am glad to say, are of a frank and robust nature. We speak freely to each other without offence. We do not always agree in every detail, and we are not ashamed of that, for that is a true partnership, but we all recognise the immense moral and material strength of the United States, that this is the central pillar of the whole of the edifice and that if this should weaken or fall, all that we hold dear would come crashing down.
The third link consists of the nations of free Europe. It is the progress in Europe which, after many delays and disappointments, has at last brought us somewhere near the goal for which we have been striving for many years. The policy which culminated in the signing of the London-Paris Agreements is now bearing fruit. Important events last month marked the opening of a new phase in post-war European history. They brought a new sense of unity to the Western Alliance. We have only to rehearse them and they are already very impressive and dramatic.
On 5th May the occupation of Western Germany was brought finally and formally to an end. On 6th May Western European union came into being with Germany and Italy joining the old Brussels Treaty Powers. On 7th May it was my privilege to preside at the first meeting of the council in the British 605 Embassy in Paris. This was a really moving occasion, for it was the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. A spirit of harmony and real understanding prevailed. From 9th May to 11th May followed the North Atlantic Council meeting and the formal accession of Germany as the fifteenth nation, Dr. Adenauer representing the Federal Republic.
This was a well-deserved reward for the courage and patience of that great statesman. Frank and intimate discussions took place on current political matters, including the prospects for the four-Power talks. Following these meetings, the official invitation was sent to the Soviet Government. Also on 11th May, at its second meeting, the Western European Union Council agreed to accept general responsibility for the future of the Saar. After long and friendly discussions, full agreement was reached regarding the referendum and the five-Power commission to supervise it and the powers of the European Commissioner.
This is a European solution to a longstanding European problem and this good work is going on. Permanent representatives of the Western European Union Council have now begun regularly to meet in London. Their discussions include the organisation and staffing of the Arms Control Agency, which is a very bold experiment in establishing a voluntary control system, and arrangements for the first meeting of the Western European Union Assembly.
Germans are now fully participating in the plans of the West both here and in the North Atlantic Council in Paris. We are advancing, therefore, steadily towards a new high level of European and Atlantic solidarity. Despite setbacks and difficulties, Europeans have not lost their faith and these events bear witness to the good will and common purpose which have inspired them. I think we may claim that our country has played a good part in all this work.
If we have not been able to accept the path of full federation, we have always been anxious to promote the true unity of Europe by every practicable means. I am convinced that the European idea is one by which, and perhaps by which alone the German people can be kept within the European fold, the Western fold. Of 606 course, this concept is one, and perhaps the only one, by which long feuds of centuries between France and Germany may be ended, but, above all, I think that it is one which appeals to the youth of Germany and by which they may be turned from the snares of Communism on the one hand, or the dangers of narrow nationalism on the other. More and more the youth of Europe, and especially of Germany, is turning to the traditions and the fundamental unity of Europe for its inspiration.
From that I pass to a subject which is in a special way a link between the past and the future, and that is the problem of disarmament. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs told the House on Monday of the considerable progress which has recently been made in the discussions. The Soviet Union, in its declaration on 10th May, has now accepted several disarmament proposals which the Western Powers have long urged. In particular, it has adopted the proposals we put forward in conjunction with the French Government on the levels of armed forces to be permitted in the disarmament treaty and co-ordination of various aspects of conventional and nuclear disarmament so that the conversion of nuclear stocks to peaceful uses would begin when 75 per cent. of the agreed reductions of conventional armaments had been carried out.
The Soviet change of attitude is a very notable fact and is a fitting reward for years of very hard uphill negotiation. I am sure that the House would like me to pay tribute to the present Minister of Defence and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for all that they have done. However, I should not like to create the impression that we are nearing the end of the road, for a number of important questions remain unresolved. There is the question of what is called "the control organ." We insist that this body must have the powers and be in a position to ensure that the disarmament programme is faithfully carried out and carried out by all States concerned. This, of course, is fundamental. But there is, in addition, the complicated and very technical problem of the control of nuclear energy This, of its very nature, raises enormous difficulties. We have, further, to decide on what action the control organ must 607 be able to take in the event of a breach of the treaty.
Then we have to go into the question of what political problems need to be settled before disarmament can take place, for it is obvious that a great degree of international confidence is required before it will be safe and practical to begin the disarmament. To mention only one example, settlement of the German problem and disarmament are closely interconnected. Disarmament will no doubt be considered along with other political questions at the forthcoming four-Power talks and there will also be continued discussions in the United Nations Disarmament Sub-Committee at a date to be agreed. The House may rest assured that we shall continue, at whatever level discussion is begun, to do all we can to bring about an effective and comprehensive disarmament plan.
I come from that to the question of the four-Power talks themselves. There is, as the House knows, first the question of the time-table. We suggested to the Soviet Government that the heads of Government should meet in Geneva on 18th July. Yesterday, we had the Soviet Government's acceptance of our proposal. Later this afternoon I have to go to New York, where I hope to continue with Mr. Foster Dulles and M. Pinay talks which we began a few weeks ago in Paris.
We all expect to be in San Francisco for the celebration of the 10th anniversary meeting of the United Nations. Since Mr. Molotov is also to be in San Francisco, we hope to resume the informal discussions which we began at Vienna both on general topics and, of course, on arrangements for the four-Power meeting. I have heard with pleasure that Mr. Molotov has accepted Mr. Dulles's invitation for a meeting for these informal talks at San Francisco. I also hope that we shall agree to hold a short meeting of Foreign Secretaries immediately before that of the heads of Governments in July.
Next, what is to be the substance of the four-Power meeting? What is it to be about, what do we expect it to do and what method shall we adopt? It may be, and I think probably is the fact, that with this four-Power meeting we are at the beginning of a new phase in diplomacy. I have never believed, and 608 never tried to persuade anybody else to believe, that a meeting of heads of Governments could, in the short period of a few days, or even a few weeks, arrive at a full solution of the immense problems which confront the world. No one, no responsible figure, has ever made such a claim. Indeed, it would be a great calumny upon the leaders of both sides, because if the solution was as easy as that, if it took only two or three days or weeks to find it, it might be asked why the answer had not been found already.
What I think can be done, and I think will be done, is to get a clear picture of what precisely are the questions which divide each side; what are the suspicions which, rightly or wrongly, we maintain about each other; and what means of communication can be built up and established between us. What this meeting really is, and should be regarded as, is not the end but the beginning, the beginning of a new phase—I hope of a fruitful phase.
The heads of Governments can take a broad survey of the field, however wide. They should not, I think, seek to reach final agreements, but rather to agree upon the scope of the problems to be solved and the methods by which agreement may eventually emerge. They would plan the outline of the work for the Foreign Secretaries to carry on, and this, in some cases, might best be done by that method or by the use of existing international organisations such as the United Nations itself.
Nor should the four great Powers arrogate to themselves the authority to settle all the difficulties which beset all nations. They have no right to do so, they have no power to do so, without consultation with all the nations concerned; but they might well set the pattern of a whole machinery of conference and negotiation to which other nations could be invited, where they are specially concerned.
Finally, Sir, what are the prospects of this meeting? There is a kind of "new look" in the West in Europe, in free Europe, and there is perhaps, after all, a "new look" in Russia. Of course, we are right to inquire for the reason for this action or for the motives of that action; but if we spend too much time in these speculations then events will pass us by. We must take advantage 609 of every new situation and get what good we can out of it.
The signing of the Austrian Treaty, after months of obstruction; the pilgrimage to Belgrade in flattering, if rather overpowering, numbers of V.I.P.s; the invitation to Dr. Adenauer, soft phrases after years of abuse and vituperation, all these, according to how one interprets them, are either reassuring signs of a new policy towards Europe, perhaps almost a recantation or a conversion, or they may be regarded as sinister warnings of a more subtle but just as deadly threat to the safety and unity of the N.A.T.O. Alliance. One can speculate on all that for ever, without much profit in sonic cases. What we have to do is to act.
It is much more difficult now not to make mistakes. It is very nice when Mr. Molotov begins to say "Yes, yes," instead of always "No, no," but we must not be swept away on a tide of emotion by the novelty of this experience. Nor must we take refuge, refuge from our fears and hesitations, in cynicism or suspicion. Just as open operations, in war, demand much more skill and experience than the routine of trench warfare, so it is in diplomacy. We ought to welcome the opportunity afforded by greater flexibility. Of course, it will put greater strain upon our own skill and resources.
In any event, I feel sure that the House will not expect me to set out in any detail the way in which we propose to approach this series of conferences. If we can happen to find any good cards in our hands, I think it might be better not to reveal them, still less to play them, until the right moment. Every day I hear and read of proposals of almost infinite variety, all of which are claimed to be the sole key to success. We study them all. We do not even take much satisfaction in the fact that they nearly all cancel out.
But, perhaps, after all, there is no single clue or no magic formula or sudden and dramatic transformation scene by which all the matters can be solved. Patience, perseverance and loyalty—on these we must depend. The Russians will always find us ready to consider their legitimate requirements, to accord them the security to which they are entitled, and to meet their reasonable demands. But we shall be equally resolute in securing satisfaction for our own needs and, above all, in refusing to agree to settlements which 610 conflict with justice and with honour. Loyalty to our own Allies, old and new; perseverance—do not let us lower our guard until our security is achieved; and patience, because the journey will be long with many disappointments and many stumbles on the road. But, Sir, the prize is great.
§ Mr. Bowles
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a specific question? Supposing that the neutrality of Germany is proposed at the four-Power conference, what is the policy of the Government on that?
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
The speech of the Foreign Secretary, like the first page of the Gracious Speech itself, has ranged over very many international problems but without telling us very much about the substance of what the Government intend. The Foreign Secretary opened his remarks by claiming the indulgence usually claimed in this House by maiden speakers. I assure him that he can always rely on having fairness and a reasonable measure of human sympathy from our side of the House, but we would be paying a poor compliment to someone who has been immersed in world affairs for as long as he has if we were to treat him as a novice.
I will give him this measure of sympathy that, making a survey for the first time since he took office, he may well have felt that it was necessary for him to set out at length a number of things which really in fact the whole House takes for granted but which he cannot afford to allow to go unsaid on first taking office. Certainly there was in his speech a great deal with which I cannot disagree and on which I find it impossible to make any intelligent comment.
The Foreign Secretary, as I am sure he would acknowledge, has already been a little lucky, in that just after he had taken office the world achieved something which it had been seeking ever since the end of the war, namely the Austrian Treaty, something which had been talked of so many times by Foreign Secretaries of both parties as being possibly the first real sign of the beginning of a better phase in international affairs. The Foreign Secretary told us that he hoped 611 to see it soon ratified by all the Powers concerned, and certainly on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House I say that we could see no conceivable objection to it and indeed we are delighted to see it agreed.
The Foreign Secretary told us that he is going later today to New York on his way to San Francisco for the tenth anniversary of the United Nations. I welcome that. I must say that I would have been a little happier if he had himself shown that he regarded this as a festive occasion and perhaps of some significance in British foreign policy, but he dismissed it in a half phrase and I hope that that is not the amount of space that it takes up in his thinking.
On this tenth anniversary we on this side of the House would like to reaffirm our support of the principles of the Charter which, I think, has stood the test of 10 years' experience, even if some of the machinery has not proved to be workable. We would also wish to reaffirm our support of the work of the Organisation itself from day to day.
Many of us have different opinions as to how far the United Nations is really able to influence world affairs. I think that sometimes we tend to under-estimate its influence, but, however that may be, it is certainly true that the proceedings in the United Nations have always reflected very clearly, and I think very usefully, the state of the world at any particular time.
The early proceedings reflected the great hopes there were that it would be possible to organise peace on a worldwide scale. Later they reflected the decline in the universal idea under the impact of the cold war as the world seemed to be splitting up into separate alliances and blocs. Now, somewhat ironically, it looks as though the universal fear of nuclear destruction may be at last beginning to make the whole world feel akin. If that does happen, we may well find that that leads back to a renewed importance for the universal idea embodied in the United Nations Charter.
After all, the new phrase "peaceful co-existence" is nothing more than new jargon for the universal tolerance between nations which was enjoined by the 612 Charter. Already we see revived interest in the United Nations disarmament plans which, five years ago, most people would have thought were dead and very nearly buried. Therefore I think it is permissible for us now, if we are, as the right hon. Gentleman said, at the beginning of a new chapter, to hope that we may see an enhanced rôle for the United Nations.
It is true that we are not likely in the immediate future to see the security provisions of the Charter come to life, but on this side of the House we have always attachéd the greatest possible importance to the economic and social rôle which the United States has to play. That work and the British contribution to it has suffered very greatly from the cold war, the financial crisis following the Korean war and the defence burdens which we have all had to undertake.
During that particular period, successive Governments did their best to support the United Nations, but, frankly, what was done when we look at it in perspective was not very much. Now when the perspective is beginning to lengthen and we are able to lift our eyes from the immediate and disagreeable task of trying to build strength against a possible military crisis fairly near ahead, I think that we must give this economic side of the United Nations work a far bigger place in our policy. The time has come when we should stop stalling on the United Nations Fund for Economic Development. We have been a little more forthcoming on the other proposal for an International Finance Corporation, but in neither of these cases do I see any real sign that the Government appreciate that, if we are in a new phase, one feature of it ought to be a greatly increased emphasis on this type of work.
There are other bodies like the Technical Assistance body, the Children's Fund, and not only United Nations bodies but others as well, such as the Colombo Plan, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned today. The Colombo Plan gets its mention in the Gracious Speech, but once again in rather flat, routine terms which do not indicate any appreciation of the tremendous urgency of this problem.
The enormous gap in under-developed countries between the needs, particularly for capital development, and the available resources is something which ought 613 now to be appreciated. If anyone doubts this, I would refer to the statement made recently by Mr. Deshmukh about the Indian Five-Year Plan, where it is perfectly clear that, even if India were to get double the foreign aid that he anticipates, he would still be far short of the target which has been envisaged.
I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that the success of the Indian Five-Year Plan, and the subsequent developments which, we hope, will follow, will be one of the determining things for the whole of the future of Asia. It is not a question of charity, and not even a question, though this comes into it, of sympathy with a real human need. It is one of the most important determining things in world policy in the next 10 years.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that events from the end of the Korean War up to the Austrian State Treaty justify hopes now that there may be a significant change in the Soviet attitude. As regards the recent Soviet visit to Jugoslavia, it may even be a sign that the Soviet Union is now finding that it has to climb down a little from the self-assumed post of arbiter of policy over all Communist States throughout the world.
If that were to be so, it would be a great gain, although we cannot expect quick results from it. It is true that, after all that has happened in the last five or six years, we cannot be expected to take very much on trust from the Soviet Union. Still less can we be expected to jeopardise the unity we now have with our Allies whose friendship has stood the test of these very hard times.
It is also true that there has been an irritating element of pure propaganda in some of the recent Soviet moves. For instance, in the way in which they produced, as though it were their own initiative, proposals on the Austrian State Treaty and on disarmament, which were, in essence, Western proposals, which they have been blocking.
But it does not follow from that that the proposals are any less genuine. It may well be that the Russians feel—and I think feel rightly—that their previous policy is failing and that they had better try a new one. That is a problem which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will understand particularly easily, because running off with the clothing of parties more enlightened than themselves 614 is something from which their party has profited for over a hundred years.
That method of thieving is often irritating to the victim, but nevertheless the theft has been a real one, and the policies of the more enlightened parties have become part of the stock in trade of the thief. I think therefore that the time is ripe when we must think of negotiating. In any case, it has always been the clear object of building strength to negotiate at some time. Those who like myself and many of my hon. and right hon. Friends have always supported these policies in the last 10 years are, I think, beginning now to find it rather difficult to see how we can get ahead to any further stage unless some new element is added to the mere strength-building aspect of our policy.
The success of this strength-building has been very uneven indeed in different parts of the world. I want to say a word about that. The Foreign Secretary mentioned the South-East Asian Treaty, and he did his best for it, but it was not a very good best. But it is, of course, the most recent of the moves in the building of strength. We did not give it a very warm welcome six months ago, and I do not think that the performance since then alters our opinion. It certainly does not alter mine.
I am not going into greater detail on the South-East Asia problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) hopes to have a chance to do that later. The main point that I wish to make is that I still see no sign of this Treaty gaining the Asian support which is absolutely essential if it is to be worth anything significant. I believe that such security as is now enjoyed by such countries as Laos and Cambodia in fact derives far more from Asian and, in particular, Indian diplomatic success in handling the Chinese Government than it does from any accretion of Western military strength.
I should like to include in my mention of India the democratic influence of Burma, whose Prime Minister, Mr. U-Nu, I am glad to see is coming to this country. We admire the progress which he has made in his country in the face of difficulties beside which most of our post-war difficulties pale into insignificance. We believe that Burma is in a far stronger position than she was, and 615 we welcome her increased influence. Indeed, I think the lesson we have learned from recent events in South-East Asia is that the development of democratic Asian and, particularly, Indian influence is by far the best shield for the whole of that area, and anything we can do to promote that we should do.
In the Middle East, I recognise some of the advantages from the Turko-Iraq Pact to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. It is not part of my business to attack it now, and I welcome our cooperation with Turkey, as well as the new basis on which our relations have been placed with Iraq. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would agree—indeed, what he said indicates that he would—that this by itself has done nothing whatever to unite the Middle East as a whole; if anything, it has done precisely the opposite. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the various misgivings we expressed about some of the effects of the Middle Eastern situation in the debate last April.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has already referred in an interjection to the fears which Israel feels about the arms situation in the Middle East. I do not think we can accept from the Foreign Secretary what he said about maintaining the equilibrium. There were all sorts of restrictions four or five years ago on the supply of arms to the Middle East, not the least being the practical difficulty of the producing countries in actually supplying arms. Many of those have gone. The flow of arms in some respects is being increased, but Israel feels that she is unable to get the share which she requires for her security.
We have now this very serious state of tension between Israel and Egypt over the Gaza strip. Threats are being uttered on both sides, and now we gather that Egypt is not prepared to meet and talk with Israel at a high level, despite the popularity of high-level talks in other great matters. This is a very threatening situation, yet apparently all we have from the three signatories of the 1950 Declaration is a deep silence.
The Foreign Secretary reiterated today what the present Prime Minister, the then Foreign Secretary, said in the April debate. In effect the right hon. Gentle- 616 man said, if I understood him rightly—I hope he will correct me if this is a misrepresentation—that in his view the 1950 Declaration was as good as a treaty, and that we stood by our obligations. I confess that I have used that argument myself when talking with Israeli friends. I was in the Foreign Office at the time of the Declaration, and I believe it was the intention of the Government that that Declaration should have the force of a treaty.
One has, however, to appreciate that that is not understood and not accepted in the Middle East. Not only is it not understood by the Israelis, but it is also not understood by the Arabs, which is perhaps even more dangerous. If it be really true—as I believe it to be—that the intention of the British Government is that the Declaration should be equivalent to a treaty, I cannot see that there should be any great obstacle to their turning it into a treaty. The question of Israel's security is involved above everything, and it is not much comfort to the Israelis to have rather cryptic hints given in the April debate that the then Foreign Secretary would not, perhaps, oppose venturing into some new form of guarantee including the frontiers, the Jordan waters, refugees and so on.
What is required is a straightforward guarantee of security. We all know that there are considerable problems which will take a long time to solve; in particular, the refugee problem. One of the troubles, it would seem to me, is that there is so little pressure on the Arab States at the present time to solve most of those problems. I am not saying that this is entirely the fault of the British Government. It is one of the facts of life that the economic barrier between Israel and the Arab States hurts Israel but does not hurt most of the Arab States. The existence of Arab refugees hurts only the Arab State of Jordan and not the others. These are facts of life, but the result is that very little pressure indeed is at present put upon the Arab States to alter their attitude.
The real principle lying behind all this is surely that we in the Western world, and particularly this country and the United States, are deeply committed by past history to the permanence of Israel's existence in the Middle East; and that is something her neighbours in the Arab 617 world do not at present fully accept. We here, perhaps more than Israel, can make them eventually accept it. There is nothing anti-Arab in this sentiment. It is simply something which, being part of our policy and the policy of our greatest Ally, we must insist on making clear to everyone that we do not propose to alter.
I believe that some kind of security treaty, followed no doubt by negotiation on wider questions, would go a long way to putting things on the right basis. If, in fact, Her Majesty's Government are following constructive policies, either in this or in other Middle Eastern matters, apart from purely military defence against external aggression, they are hiding their light under a bushel, and I wish that they would tell us and the peoples of the Middle East a little more about the initiative they are taking.
It is in Europe that the building of strength has been most successful. I believe that there we have a real asset with which to tackle the difficult negotiations ahead. As I have already indicated, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Western European Union do no more than ward off a danger and clear the stage for diplomacy. So far as permanent settlements are concerned, all is still to play for.
While I cannot possibly attempt to cover the enormous field which might be discussed at high level talks, I wish to comment briefly on two of the questions which have been most explosive in the world in recent months. I do not suppose that discussions on Asia can go very far at any conference from which the Chinese Communists are absent. Nevertheless an expression of the British attitude may be important. On this side of the House our attitude to the Far East is well known, and I can summarise it in a very few sentences.
First, we believe that no tears should be shed and that there should be no loss of blood over the off-shore islands in the Formosa Channel. We hope that may be settled by a peaceful withdrawal but, if not, at least there should be no Power involved outside the Chinese contestants themselves. Beyond that problem lies Formosa, which is a problem of some difficulty and will take longer to solve, since at present there does not seem to be any possibility of a formal 618 reconciliation between the views of Peking and Washington. It should be our objective to put that problem into cold storage for a bit and to prevent fighting about it, rather than attempt to achieve any early formal settlement in which, I think, our success would be very doubtful.
The important thing in gaining time is to make a profitable use of it, and we might use it to concentrate on solving some of the other Far Eastern issues. On our side, in particular, that means obtaining recognition of the full status of China in the world today, both by membership of the United Nations and in the ordinary diplomatic work of the world. Were we to do that, it would facilitate what may have to be attempted at a future time, namely, the arrangement of some kind of international supervision of the status of Formosa for an interim period. I do not see how we can expect to use the machinery of the United Nations so long as one of the principal parties involved, the Chinese People's Government, is kept out of the organisation.
I hope that the intervening period will also be used on the other side, by the Chinese, to prove by action that they really believe in their own five principles of peaceful co-existence. If they did that over a period, some of the problems, particularly those relating to Formosa, which seem so desperately explosive, but which are not in their essence large-scale world problems, might fall into proper perspective and be settled. I think that we are right to do what the Foreign Secretary said, namely, to discourage the use of force for the settling of the Formosa problem. It would, however, be most unwise at this stage for this country to assume commitments in respect of Formosa which are beyond those of any other member of the United Nations. Anything of that kind can come only when there may be a general settlement in which all interested parties would be involved.
Finally, I come to the European situation which is, I believe, much the most difficult of all the situations upon which to make any responsible and worthwhile comment. European security is for us the core of the co-existence problem, and the core of European security, I believe, is still that of Germany. It is in Europe that the build-up of rival forces has been most complete, that the frontier between them 619 is most unnatural and that the stakes are highest.
These facts alone indicate that there cannot be a quick solution to the problem. I am sure that both sides are going to move with great caution when they meet on this problem. Eighteen months ago in Berlin both sides moved with such caution that the world verdict was that neither of them had really believed that agreement on German unity was possible at all. I am not saying whether or not that was a correct verdict, but it was a very general verdict, and I am sure that we should approach this conference at least with the hope of starting a process which could end later in German unity, for, without German unity, I think that a permanent European settlement is very hard indeed to envisage.
In recent weeks and months the Press of the world has been full of speculation about the different ways of breaking the existing deadlock in Europe, ranging from proposals for neutralisation, which would clearly wreck Western European security, to one-sided demands upon the Soviet Union which scarcely amount to negotiation at all and which would risk the very dangerous result of making moderate German opinion fear that the Western Powers were not anxious to help them in obtaining what, after all, is to them a perfectly legitimate objective—their unity.
Between those two unacceptable extremes there are endless possibilities, and it is within this middle range that we on this side of the House ask the Government to show imagination and a recognition that certain things which seemed impossible a year ago may now be becoming possible. The most important of these things is probably disarmament I think that there is a possibility—though, as the Foreign Secretary said, we are only at the beginning of things—that something may now be achieved in the disarmament field.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of Germany and goes on to disarmament, I wonder whether he will think it wise to express any view about the declaration reported in this morning's papers by Mr. Eisenhower and Dr. Adenauer excluding, apparently in advance, from the area of 620 negotiation one possible method of reconciliation and unification, namely, closing the door in advance to any possible neutralisation of Germany under any conditions.
§ Mr. Younger
I prefer to keep as far away as I can from general discussions of this very general word "neutralisation." I do not think that all forms of neutralisation should be ruled out in advance. Different people refer to different things when they use the word. I have not studied in detail the exact form which this statement took, although I saw it in the Press, and I cannot really think that whatever may have appeared in the Press this morning anything said in that way can close the door in advance of the time when the Powers come to meet.
I notice that Dr. Adenauer attaches very great importance to there being a measure of disarmament and that he thinks that an indispensable condition of a European settlement. I think that he is right. Indeed, it is hard to envisage any agreement of lasting value on Germany which did not in some way end the situation in which massive armies are confronting each other in the centre of Europe. The various suggestions made for bringing about "disengagement"—whether that means withdrawing troops from various areas or demilitarised zones—would, I think, only carry conviction if one saw them accompanied by a substantial reduction in the size of forces stationed just off-stage as well as those in Central Europe.
In such a context many things might be possible, and what we are entitled to demand of the Government is flexibility in searching for a way of advancing agreement without destroying the rather precarious sense of security which has been built up in Europe during these last years.
I wish to echo something reported to have been said by Mr. Adlai Stevenson in the Press yesterday. He is stated to have said that we do not want our negotiators to be too scared in advance. We want them to show a certain boldness and, in particular, not to be too scared about the German attitude. I am very glad that the initial alarm caused in some quarters when Dr. Adenauer received an 621 invitation from Moscow did not last very long. It was certainly not justified. I do not say this merely because Dr. Adenauer personally has been an ultra-loyal supporter in the past of Western policies, because I do not accept that he is essentially a better friend of the West than are his Socialist opponents. Perhaps I should put it round the other way and say that his opponents are as good friends of the West as he is. Nor do I think them less important as solid pillars of democracy inside Germany.
My belief that Germany will not readily again betray her own democracy or her Western friends and that she is aware of her own deep interest in peace, is based more on confidence in the motives and strength of the trade union movement in Germany than on the discipline which Dr. Adenauer has been able to impose on some elements of his own Coalition.
I think that to represent a Socialist victory in Germany, as some do, as being a disaster for the West is on a par in fatuity with the groans which greeted M. Mendes France, because he was not thought to be keen enough on the German treaties, and would be as quickly proved absurd. I do not think that the Germans will easily be led into any spider's parlour, and I believe that to fear that too much might put crippling limitations on our negotiators.
There seems to be unanimity in the United States, France and this country—and now, apparently, in the Soviet Union—that the possibility is now opening up of unfreezing the cold war. It will be a lengthy process because confidence has been so deeply undermined that it cannot be quickly restored. The process can however start at Geneva next month and that is the measure of the Prime Minister's responsibility and of his opportunity.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Maddan (Hitchin)
I hope the House will grant me the customary indulgence given to those making their maiden speech. This is an occasion on which I remember all the virtues of silence and the scriptural injunction that death and life are in the power of the tongue. I remember that particularly because it falls to me to follow the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger), and, on that account, I feel that my task is made doubly difficult. It is perhaps 622 also made difficult because we have listened this afternoon to a tour d'horizon by the Foreign Secretary, and what I have to say is only on a very small aspect of foreign affairs.
I wish to refer to the Gracious Speech, which mentions that the Atlantic Alliance will receive the wholehearted support of Her Majesty's Ministers. I would draw attention to the fact that, on the same day as the talks at Geneva are due to begin, another conference will begin in Paris at which this House will be represented. I am referring to the conference of Atlantic parliamentarians initiated by the Norwegians and the Canadians.
I want to say a few words to show why that conference is being held; to illustrate the needs that it has been called to meet, and to indicate what I believe our attitude towards it should be. It is significant that one of the nations who have called this unofficial conference of Atlantic parliamentarians is Canada, which, as one of our Dominions, is respected and trusted on both sides of the Atlantic. Any action which she supports or initiates should receive our special attention.
The other sponsor is Norway; indeed, it is from the Norwegians that this House has received an invitation to send delegates to the conference. Norway is a particular ally of ours. As a small country which has stood by us, she has earned our friendship and respect. In the spring of 1940 I was in that country, and although I am afraid that it was a question of quick in and quick out, I resolved to go back there in better days if I could, because of the great friendliness of its people and the respect which I developed for them in the few short weeks I was there.
Parliamentarians of Norway and Canada have called this conference to take place in Paris on 18th July, and it is hoped that the conference will go some way to meet the need for us to look beyond the military aspects of Western defence and our negotiations with Russia, to the war of ideas and the winning of the cold war. It is almost a platitude to say that if N.A.T.O. is nothing more than a defensive organisation it will commit suicide if it is successful in enabling us to reach some détente with the Russians.
It is very significant that Lord Ismay, the Secretary-General of N.A.T.O., in 623 his report upon the first five years of N.A.T.O., should have said:… if, by building up positions of strength we are able to avoid a third world war, then the contest between the free countries and the Communist totalitarian countries may be won by those who have been the most successful in solving their economic and social problems.At this moment, therefore, when these talks in Geneva offer some hope of reaching a détente with the Russians, we must turn our thoughts to the question how we shall win the war of ideas.
One of the objects of the conference of Atlantic parliamentarians in Paris is to emphasise the need for political unity in the West. That would also help our military position. Field Marshal Lord Montgomery has drawn attention to the emphasis that should be placed upon guidance in military matters from politicians. It can also be seen quite clearly that the differences of opinion between ourselves and other nations, such as the United States, are exacerbated because of lack of information about the political attitudes of the different countries making up the North Atlantic Community. On the one side, many Americans have a profound distrust—based upon misinformation—of the British Empire. On the other side, our equally profound distrust of the American political system is also based on misinformation.
We should try, through closer and more frequent contacts between the parliamentarians of these Atlantic countries, to develop a common approach and not just a series of political compromises. There is something un-English and un-Western about leaving the whole question of Atlantic unity to the experts—to the military; to the officials, and even to the leaders of our Governments. Atlantic unity will become a reality only when ordinary politicians, leaders of public opinion outside Parliament, and representatives of civilian interests get together to create an Atlantic opinion.
I hope that the conference in Paris will not be wholly overshadowed by the one in Geneva, which starts on the same date. I hope that the delegation from this House which goes to Paris will be a strong one, and that if—as is quite possible—the question of some continuing association between the parliamentarians of the Atlantic countries is mooted 624 we shall give it favourable consideration. I shall not presume to advise upon the question whether there should be some special assembly or whether we should try to enlarge the Council of Europe at Strasbourg.
It is almost certain that this question will be raised. The Canadians already have a N.A.T.O. Parliamentary Association, which has unanimously resolved that at this conference in Paris in a month's time the agenda should include a resolution that the parliamentarians at the conference:respectfully urge that the necessary steps be taken to create a North Atlantic Consultative Assembly of parliamentarians, to meet at regular intervals.If such a proposal is put forward I hope that, whatever form it is decided such an association should finally take, we shall not merely dismiss it. There is no time, in our present world situation, for what the secretary of the Durham Miners' Association has called, in this context. "halfers." We have to go the whole hog.
I hope that there will arise in our Parliament a British Parliamentary Atlantic group. We are in the centre of three interlocking circles—the circle of our Commonwealth and Empire, the circle of the Atlantic, and the circle of Europe. The conference in Paris will concern itself with the circle of Europe and the circle of the Atlantic, and I believe it is vital that our delegation should press for recognition of the fact that there is a third circle, namely, the circle of the British Commonwealth and Empire, and that that fact should be taken into account in the setting up of any organisation that may be established as a result of this conference.
This is vital not only because of the traditional part that we have played as the Mother country of our Empire, but also because, of all the great Powers, we are the one best fitted to press forward with the security of the West without at the same time alarming and alienating the Asian countries. We can do this because of the Asian dominions, which form so important a part of our Commonwealth.
I thank the House very much for its forbearance in listening to what I have had to say. The experience has been rather like a cold bath—worse in anticipation than in the event. I thank hon. Members for that.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Daines (East Ham, North)
I have been here for nearly 10 years and I have never before had the privilege of following a maiden speaker. I am grateful that the opportunity came today, especially in view of the forthright and thoughtful speech which we have had from the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan). I admire his courage. He was quite right to get in as soon as he could, but I would point out that although I have not a reputation for being bashful or shy in this House, it took me eight years before I had the courage to make a speech upon foreign policy. The hon. Member is obviously not so politically speech-inhibited as I was.
We are grateful to him for his views upon extensions of government, which I am sure we all found interesting, and we shall look forward to hearing him again. In fact, I thought how energetic his manner of speech was, especially after listening to the Foreign Secretary. I appreciate the responsibility which rests upon the Foreign Secretary; he is about to take part in a great and important conference, and every word he says has to be carefully weighed, but my goodness how his words were weighed this afternoon ! I expected to hear our old friends "explore every avenue" and "leave no stone unturned" popping out at any moment. Remembering some of the rumbustious speeches which he used to deliver at half-past nine at night, with his cohorts cheering behind him, it seems to me that he must have had a lot of rehearsals before he achieved the new garb of dignity which has descended upon him as Foreign Secretary.
I intend to dive quite deeply, and if some of my colleagues on these benches do not like what I have to say, I might as well warn them in advance that I propose to tread very much the same path as I have done in previous speeches on foreign policy.
I often muse on the parallels in history. I have read the latter and rather disastrous stages in our diplomacy towards that end of the war, particularly at Yalta and Teheran and how the great statesmen—in this regard I except to a considerable degree the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill)—guided their policy on the mistakes of the last war, seeking to avoid making the same mistakes again, not recognising that 626 the circumstances were quite different. Despite the best intentions of those statesmen, I believe that that is one of the factors that have landed us in our present difficulties.
I recollect how Woodrow Wilson, a great President of the American people, laid strong emphasis on the desire of subject peoples for national freedom, particularly the subject peoples of Europe. In the last 10 or 11 years, we seem to have become so obsessed with the ideological differences in the world that we have overlooked the essential fact that the peoples of Europe and countries throughout the world desire their national freedom, their right to run their own countries in their own way, just as strongly now as they did after the previous world war. I propose to come back to that theme towards the end of my remarks.
I am not limited like the Foreign Secretary. He touched lightly on some of these big problems. I want to pose quite simple and fundamental issues which have to be faced. It is no use our trying to fool ourselves because we want to be fooled. Has Russia changed? That is the guts of the problem we have to face. We have to avoid deceiving ourselves and living in a false heaven, as I imagine some of my comrades do. We have to face facts for what they are. In some cases the only speeches that some of us ever listen to are those we make ourselves. In the case of one of my right hon. Friends, he suffers from the limitation that the only speeches he listens to are his own.
As a student of what happened in Russia, I recognise that the whole trend of history does not necessarily change because a revolution has taken place. If we pay regard to the facts of geography, we find the same contradictions showing in Russia today as she has shown all the way through her history. There have been periods when Russia has expanded against weakness and when she has contracted against strength. That historical factor is again showing itself in the great drama that we are seeing played today. I know how difficult it is to get at facts, but a certain amount of evidence is coming through about Russia's internal economy. We can see clearly that Russia has not solved, and does not show herself capable of solving, the contradiction between her industrial 627 and agricultural expansion. Put quite simply, this means that she cannot feed her people from her own resources and expand her economy at the same time.
I would point to another contradiction which has great significance, although I am not quite sure what the answer is. I remember one of my hon. Friends telling us that if we had taken advantage of the opportunities when Malenkov was Prime Minister we would now have an entirely different situation. Let us look at the facts. When Malenkov was Prime Minister, Russia's internal policy was one of softening up and of providing more consumer goods and also giving the people more to eat and so making them happy. The external policy was tough. That is a question of fact. Under the new régime there is something quite different, a tough internal policy, for one thing. The consumer-goods policy has been thrown overboard and emphasis has been placed on rearmament. Externally we have the interesting evidence before our eyes of a change of policy, in Austria, Yugoslavia and now in Germany.
These are significant facts. I am not sure that I dare even venture to suggest an answer. It may well be that after Stalin's death the régime was not sure of itself and was prepared to pay off with a soft internal policy in order to buy time and so make sure of its position. One can only speculate. What has happened? Has Russia had some blinding light of conversion? Has there been a departure from the original dogmas and a complete reorientation of policy, to use a favourite word of some of my colleagues?
I do not believe it. Neither do I believe that Russia has the initiative. Rather it is the West that has the initiative. What has happened has happened so often before; where a policy clearly does not pay the Russians it is thrown overboard overnight. One has seen many examples of that. There was, for instance, the denunciation of Hitler before the war, while the Hitler-Stalin Pact was made almost overnight. We have to reckon with the fact that such overnight changes can still take place. I remind the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister very seriously that some of us believe that the real Russian objective is to move from her situation which is threatened by her comparative weakness and to get a neutral 628 belt right across Europe and, as the main consideration, to get the Americans out of Europe. I believe that would be disastrous not only for this country but for democracy in Europe and throughout the world.
Suppose there is a policy of neutralisation in Germany. I am glad that Dr. Adenauer and the Social Democrats have completely rejected it. Suppose, too, there were a modification of what one meant by "neutralisation"; does it follow that the Russian long-term objectives are completely unrealisable? These objectives are to clear the Americans out of Europe and to control the West German economy so as to get something like an economic balance with the United States.
I have always, certainly in respect of the last century and a half, interpreted history in the light of the simple principle that the reality of power is economic power. I believe we would be wise always to bear that in mind. I hope the House will forgive me for repeating it, but I believe it is an eternal truth. It has often happened that we have not believed to be true some of the statements made by those opposed to us and we have not faced them because we did not want to believe them. We would not believe Hitler would do what he said before the war, although he did precisely what he said he would. We can find item after item of evidence of what Russian Communism really is. Lenin himself laid down quite clearly that there comes a time in the development of their system when there must be one step backward in order to take two steps forward.
I have stated quite clearly what I think are the fundamentals underlying the summit talks. Are we going into them expecting far too much? I suppose the talks will be between President Eisenhower, our own Prime Minister, the Prime Minister of France—whoever he may be at that time—and, on the other side, one is not quite sure whether it will be Bulganin or someone else.
Let us look quite seriously at this opening which, I admit, has elements of hope in it—I do not put it higher than that. The parties at that meeting may even get so far as to define what the real difficulties are between East and West. Are we expecting too much from the Russians? I say that with the greatest care and circumspection. Under the old 629 régime, if Stalin went to talks, what he said was law. He did not have to wire Moscow to find out if he was right. Can anyone say that either Bulganin or Kruschev are in the same position to make decisions?
I think that we have to be restrained in our expectation of what may happen when we meet the Russians. I do not know whether I read it aright, but I think that there is great significance in the fact that Malenkov himself has not disappeared from the scene. Had that event taken place five years ago, he would by now have been liquidated. I have the feeling—I may be wrong—that the reason he has not gone from the front seat to the "hot seat" is that it is possible that those at present on the front seat want to create a new tradition in case they too have to leave it. It shows that they are not in a position—because of collective leadership, which is the happy term they have given it—to make the quick, permanent and vital decisions which are necessary in a four-Power talk of this kind. I therefore think that we should be extremely careful not to expect too much.
I intend now to return to that part of my speech at which I began. I believe the desire of civilised people to run their own countries in their own way is a real desire. Whether they are part of the great Slav race, whether a Hungarian and Magyar, or a Czech, a Yugoslav or a Pole, above all things—even at terrific cost to themselves—they want to run their own countries in their own way.
May I say a word or two about Yugoslavia, which I know very well? I would plead for understanding of her position. Her economy is an extremely difficult one. She has had two disastrous harvests, and she is trying to pull herself up by her own bootstrings. I do not believe that the Yugoslav people want to go on indefinitely taking a hand-out from us, the United States and France. They want to get their own economy on its feet and to give their people a full and prosperous life.
It is easy enough for us or the Americans to look with suspicion, and perhaps with criticism, at the recent invitation to Belgrade given by the Yugoslavs to the Russians. I wonder if we would feel the same if we had the pistol at our belly as the Yugoslavs have had it at theirs 630 since they had the great row with Moscow. Did we know—and I wonder whether we thought about it if we did know—that until 18 months ago, while the "heat" was on them, right down the frontiers of Yugoslavia there were shooting incidents? I recall also the terrible fact that of this small people, proud and intelligent people, brave and courageous people, 1½ million of the population of 15 million were killed in the last war. I plead for tolerance and understanding.
When I look at some of the things upon which the Government have been engaged, I hope that we are not going to make the mistake of looking upon the Poles, the Czechs and even the Hungarians as expendable. This country tried to follow that policy before the war at Munich, when we treated the Czechs as people of a far and distant land and paid a terrible price for that mistake. We must not let that happen again.
I want to tell the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), who spoke after me in a previous debate on foreign affairs, that I do not want to start another war—of course I do not—but I am not prepared to be quiet when these great problems are before us and to condone the murder and rape of these nations.
This problem has to be faced. I believe that the Americans are right to put the subject of these nations on the agenda at the conference—whatever the diplomatic finessing of Her Majesty's Government may be. In the long run, we cannot escape certain essential principles of justice and freedom. Let us by all means go into this conference and try to survey the difficulties. Let us do all we can to cast bridges across waters that run so deep, and which, I believe, will continue to run deep. Let us not expect too much, but go into the conference clear-sighted as to the magnitude of the problem; let us go in with courage, and temper our courage with judgment as to the facts.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)
I think I can fairly say that the House has thoroughly enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines). He made some robust observations and showed a commonsense approach which we, at any rate on this 631 side of the House, much appreciated. Judging by their faces, so did most hon. Members opposite, though some possibly did not. I hope that his approach will continue to find favour.
He said one thing with which I do not agree. I thought that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave a most excellent and lucid survey of our international problems. I want to refer in particular to the statement which he made—before he began that speech—with regard to the Agreements reached on atomic energy. I did not hear the text of those Agreements but I understand that a satisfactory stage of negotiation has been reached between the United States and this country on the future of the peace-time use of atomic energy.
I am sure that most hon. Members will welcome the offer of President Eisenhower to make available facilities for nuclear power to the small non-Communist underdeveloped countries. At this stage I think it is fair to say that, though when President Eisenhower made this offer it aroused great interest all over the world, the proposal has not yet passed through Congress and it may be involved, I suppose—though I do not know—in some of the McMahon legislation. Nevertheless it is a very important departure, and it is right that we should consider what should be the attitude of the British Government and of the country in general towards the way in which we might be able to match such a great offer by doing something in that field ourselves.
It would be wrong to suggest that we could ever in any sense equal it. We have neither the resources nor the great facilities that the United States can make available, but we have the skill and the research, and we should look at this subject particularly in regard to our own territories which will require those resources just as much as will the smaller non-Communist countries referred to in the President's statement.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I am very interested in what the hon. Member is saying. I felt uneasy when the statement was made this afternoon. I happen to be fairly closely acquainted with what has been taking place. If this country had the resources to finance our main engineering 632 concerns we could lead the world in the way the hon. Member mentions. We can live only by exports, and in the middle of the twentieth century we have reached the stage when the great possibilities of our engineering industry, allied with science, have given us the chance to meet world needs. Provided these Agreements do not limit our opportunities, my uneasiness will be allayed. That is what I am concerned about.
§ Mr. Neave
I hope not. As I told the House at the beginning of my speech, I did not hear the statement in full, and I have not read the text of the Agreements. Perhaps we could have some explanation of that point when my right hon. Friend replies. That is most important, and, indeed, I was putting in a plea for caution in this matter, so that we should not raise hopes too far, because there are many technical problems which we still have to face, and there will also be financial ones. I think the hon. Gentleman was quite right to make that intervention.
There is another point about President Eisenhower's plan. We must remember that it will involve us in a certain amount of competition in our own field of technical improvement and in our own production of atomic energy equipment, and that is a matter which we must also consider very seriously. During the past two years there has been a growing sense of relief that we are now developing nuclear or atomic energy for peaceful uses and turning people's minds as much as possible from the destructive power which the splitting of the atom has created.
One other point about President Eisenhower's proposal which I think is also worth commenting upon, and upon which I should like to hear the attitude of the Government, is what has happened to the proposal for a world bank of atomic or fissile material to be kept by an international agency for atomic energy? That proposal was made in 1953. There was not very much cooperation from the Russians about it, but it may be that some hon. Members will think it a proposal which has excellent points and has many advantages over the present scheme suggested by President Eisenhower, which still has a lot of hurdles to overcome.
633 My final point is with regard to our own obligations to our own territories. We were all very glad to hear the statement of the Minister of Fuel and Power on Monday on our domestic programme for building nuclear power stations, and as that subject was dealt with very fully on Monday, I do not propose to comment upon it now. It certainly was very welcome, but it is quite clear that our obligations to our own people in the Commonwealth and Colonies present rather a different problem to that which President Eisenhower was dealing with in his proposal.
For instance, he was suggesting that the non-Communist and underdeveloped countries should receive experimental reactors, and that they should be given trained officials and engineers and other forms of administrative or financial aid. They were, in fact, as I understood it, to receive these reactors at half the cost. That is a rather different problem from that which we face in regard to our Commonwealth.
I do not think that it would be right to hold out any hope that we can send out atomic reactors at this stage to our territories, because we certainly do not possess them at present. We cannot increase the production of atomic power until we have a clear idea how we can train the engineers and other people who are to run the power stations which may be set up. I think it needs a great deal of thought, but certainly it would be possible, for instance, to develop the training centre at Harwell, which is now training industrialists in this country, to train people from the Commonwealth for that purpose. We should not hold out too many hopes until we find out how our own nuclear programme is going and who are to be the people to carry out the suggestions that I have put forward.
As the House knows, there are news stories every day about the peace-time uses of atomic energy and the tremendous opportunities that are being created, particularly in agriculture. There is the treatment by radioactive materials to improve fertility of certain crops, which would be of very great importance to our Colonies. I am sure those opportunities will not be lost sight of—I hope not—by this Government in considering the whole of this question.
634 We have the opportunity to make atomic energy the servant and not the master of mankind. It is perhaps a happy augury that the International Conference on Atomic Energy will be taking place at Geneva in August, roughly at the same time as the four-Power talks.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)
In asking the indulgence of this House, which I know is always extended to a new Member, may I say that I am not making my maiden speech tonight because I consider myself an expert on foreign affairs. I should imagine that there are many foreign affairs experts on both sides of this Chamber. I am making my plea for peace tonight because that has been a subject which has always been close to my heart since I joined the Labour Party in 1919, when as a young ex-soldier demobilised from the First World War I attended a meeting addressed by the late George Lansbury. If it has been a long, long trail in reaching the House of Commons, that has not in any way diminished my desire to secure peace for the people of this country and of the world.
I am very proud indeed to represent in a new Parliament, in a new reign, the new constituency of Feltham, which, when I joined the Labour Party 36 years ago, comprised five villages—Bedfont, Hanworth, Feltham, Cranford and Heath, which were mainly engaged in market gardening and in sending fruit and vegetables to London by horse and cart. Such is the great change which has taken place in 36 years that Feltham is now a great industrial centre, with the largest airport in the world, which is sending air liners to every quarter of the globe, and with one of the largest railway marshalling yards in this country.
I make my plea to the Government today to press forward with four-Power talks and for world disarmament. I believe that everyone in this House wants peace. Every political party in this country today declares that it stands for peace, and most of the leading statesmen in the world proclaim the sincerity of their desire for peace. In the minds of common people all over the world, the desire for the maintenance of world peace is overwhelming.
I have taken part in many Elections in this country since 1919, but, in the 635 recent General Election—and I say this in no unfriendly spirit—for the first time in any Election in which I have taken part in this country, I saw peace slogans appearing on the windows of my opponents. Even when canvassing, I saw the pleasant smiling portrait of the Prime Minister with the slogan "Working For Peace," and though I knew that the people who displayed it would be voting against me, I was glad that they showed their desire for peace.
How different from the campaigns of yesterday, when my Conservative opponents generally showed a large poster of a growling bulldog accompanied by military slogans. I confess that it is much easier to canvass opponents with a slogan of "Working For Peace" and a photograph of the Prime Minister than with an illustration of a growling bulldog. The people, however, want more than slogans in order to relax world tension, because if it can be relaxed, in my opinion it should lead to world disarmament.
My party, in its election manifesto, "Forward With Labour," stated Labour's policy for peace. Tonight I wish to mention only two points in this connection to which I hope the Government spokesman will reply. One is the immediate cessation of hydrogen-bomb tests which, in my opinion, would ease world tension. The other point relates to Formosa.
I have not been able to discover what is the Conservative Party's policy on this matter of Formosa. I believe that the evacuation of the Nationalist forces from Formosa and the placing of that island under the United Nations in order that the inhabitants may make their own choice, would remove one of the danger spots of Asia. The admission of China into the United Nations would lead to the settlement of other world problems. I sincerely hope that the Government will tonight give some indication of their policy regarding the admission of China to the United Nations and the settlement of the Formosa question.
I am a social democrat. I have served in local government for nearly 30 years. I cherish democracy and democratic institutions as much as anybody in this House. I believe confidently that the 636 various nations in the world can live together. We lived with Russia from 1941 to 1945. I urged the Foreign Secretary to press forward with a policy of peaceful co-existence.
We are living in a changing age. Often, as I walk through the splendid new housing estates erected by my good friends on the Feltham Council, estates with green lawns for children to play on—and wonderful healthy, sturdy kiddies they are—I think how different conditions are from the poverty that I knew in my childhood days. Frequently, while the children are playing, giant airliners fly over from London Airport. The children are so used to these airliners that they go on playing their games without looking up. I shudder to think that, if war came again, these airliners would give place to monsters of destruction.
My generation experienced two world wars. The first war killed millions, the flower of my youth and of my schoolboy days. The second war killed millions more and brought great cities to ruin and rubble. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) in a speech some months ago declared that peace was the greatest prize of all. I echo those sentiments, and so do the common people all over the world. I urge the Government to press forward with four-Power talks and to seek world disarmament, not on the differences that may divide us, but on the great ground of humanity which is common to all nations.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I have been many years in this House, but it has never hitherto fallen to my lot to have the pleasure of congratulating a Member on his maiden speech. I am glad that on this occasion it is the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter) whom I have to congratulate. I am sure that he has won the hearts of all hon. Members by his sincerity and by a quality which always appeals to the House—his brevity.
The hon. Gentleman said that he has followed a long trail before coming to this House. I am sure that he will never regret having had the honour of becoming a Member of this House. He will find it full of kindness and tolerance, and he 637 will also discover that it always respects a man for what he is rather than for what he says. I am glad for his sake that he has survived the ordeal of his maiden speech, although I have rather cold comfort to give him, for I find that I am more frightened with every speech I make in this House. I am afraid that this first hurdle that he has just got over may be the lowest of a long series that he will have to surmount.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman, and I am sure that his words will find an echo in many hearts. The longer one is in this House the more one realises that in every quarter of the House there are true lovers of peace and of our fellow men. I look forward to hearing many more excellent contributions from the hon. Member for Feltham.
I want slightly to change the tone of this debate. I want hon. Members to project their minds away from Europe to the Far East. My theme is the need for friendship with Japan. I am neither anti-Japanese nor pro-Japanese—I am pro-British and pro-peace—but I think we are all making a very great mistake in not directing our thoughts towards Japan. After all, Japan is a first-class Power industrially, and has a very large population. It comprises nearly 90 million of the most intelligent, industrious, dynamic people in the world, highly educated and well equipped with modern industrial power, faced with grave economic difficulties that are being bravely tackled.
I believe it is criminal folly on our part to ignore such a powerful factor in world peace, and if we continue to do so we shall do so at our peril. Japan may well be the key to peace in the Far East, and the Far East may well be the key to world peace. Japan's attitude towards the West depends mainly on us. We are very prone in this country to look to our front doorstep, to look to Europe, and pat ourselves on the back because the situation in Europe has improved. I hope that the House and the country will look to the back door as well. The situation in Europe may well be much improved but the situation in the Far East is exceedingly dangerous.
In South-East Asia there is a state of fluidity and deliquescence. S.E.A.T.O. has been inaugurated but, as we heard from the Foreign Secretary today, the 638 situation in Indo-China is fraught with peril. We must, first, try to create one stable bastion, one fulcrum, one point of solidity in the Far East, and that must be Japan. Japan must be wedded to the West, not only on paper and by treaty, but also in heart and head.
I am not going to try to frighten the the House by saying that I think Japan is liable to go Communist. The structure of Japanese mentality, society and civilisation is not one which yields easily to totalitarianism. I do not think there is an immediate danger of Japan going Communist, but I do think there is a real danger of Japan being drawn into the Communist camp, for economic reasons, if she is ignored or rejected by the West. I think there is a grave danger of Japan being lost as a strong and solid bastion and of her being sucked into the Communist vortex, looking towards the mainland of Asia rather than to the outside world, if we reject Japan and do not give her economic opportunities that she needs.
The striking fact that I want to bring before the House is that Japan urgently wants British friendship, for many reasons. If I may go back into the past for a few minutes, I should like to recall that until 1855 Japan was shut away from the world. Between 1855 and the end of the nineteenth century there was the most remarkable growth that any country has ever shown. Japan, from a mediaeval and feudal nation, became a world Power. The climax and the zenith was the Anglo-Japanese alliance that was signed in 1902. That marked the emergence of Japan as a world Power; she was allied to the nation with the greatest prestige and reputation in the world.
The Japanese, maybe simple and innocent in their outlook, thought that when a Great Power signed a treaty of alliance with them, the alliance was destined to endure for ever. However, in 1922 we renounced the alliance at the behest of the United States, for reasons which appeared good to statesmen on both sides of the House at that time. We rebuffed and snubbed Japan and rejected Japanese friendship. The British military attaché at the time turned to one of the British delegates and said, "Within 20 years we shall be at war with Japan." He was wrong; it took 20 years and three days It is a sombre, solemn, and sober thought 639 that if we had not renounced the Anglo-Japanese alliance the history of the Far East in recent years would have been different.
That renunciation brought in its train the immediate triumph of the military clique in Japan as a result of a gap in the Japanese Constitution. All the time the alliance endured there were Union Jacks in every Japanese house. It was the most popular international alliance that there had ever been. The consequences of renunciation have been tragic—Manchuria, China, and all the terrible things which began in 1942.
I recall this not for the sake of a melancholy excursion into the past. I recall it because it holds a deep moral for us, which is that we cannot play fast and loose with Japanese sentiment and loyalties. Loyalties mean more to the Japanese than to any other nation. The nature and pyschology of the Japanese demand a network of loyalties and corresponding obligations. A man in Japan is judged by the way in which he fulfils the complex network of loyalties imposed upon him by his station in life, his employment, his family, and so on. Our rebuff to Japan by that renunciation left a vacuum in Japanese international loyalties.
A fresh opportunity is now offered to us. Pro-British feeling in Japan is again resurgent. At the end of last autumn I had the honour of leading a Parliamentary delegation to Japan. I am glad to see present two hon. Gentlemen who were with me, my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Sir I. Horobin) and the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney), and I know they will agree with what I am about to say. We do not judge just from our own experience. We were welcomed and treated warmly, but we also had an opportunity of talking to Englishmen and other non-Japanese persons with long experience of Japan.
Japan is aching for British friendship. It would be an outlet for the Japanese urge for national self-respect once again to be recognised as a friend on equal terms by Britain. I warn the House and the country that the right hand of friendship will not be left extended indefinitely. We must grasp it quickly or it will be withdrawn. I want action from this 640 country to make that friendship a reality. Somehow or other we must tell Japan that we want to be friends again.
There is something that the Government could do almost this very day, which would have an immense effect in Japan. I ask the House to refrain from judgment upon this until I have expounded my case. It is that the Government should permit the release of 87 class B and class C war criminals.
This brings me to the whole question of war crime and war guilt. Nothing can excuse or palliate the war crimes committed by Japanese nationals. Every Japanese acknowledges, and is prepared to carry his share of, the guilt. The Japanese do not make excuses like some other nations, saying it was the military clique or the Government. I have never heard a Japanese attempt to evade his share of the moral responsibility for war crimes.
However, the Japanese think that Japan has paid the price for those crimes, and has paid it in full. Many times more people were killed in Allied bombing of Japan than the number of British prisoners of war who died in Japanese hands. I am not at all proud of our bombing record in Japan. Whole cities of flimsy wooden structures were burnt to the ground with their inhabitants in petrol raids, and we all know about Hiroshima and the atomic bomb. However, that is not the point. Japan recognises her war guilt, thinks she has paid in full, and desires the release of these war criminals.
I was not opposed to the trials of war criminals. I take it that the object was to mark the horror of the civilised world; the object was not revenge. The intended effect has been achieved. I am not defending the criminals, for their crimes would lead to imprisonment or capital punishment in any civilised nation. They have served about two-thirds of their sentences. The House will readily understand that it is a matter of national self-respect and prestige. The Japanese want their release as a symbol of Japanese freedom and independence.
There are 87 Japanese war criminals who were tried by British courts. I am not suggesting that anything be done about the class A criminals who were tried by an international tribunal. The United States courts tried 300, and I 641 am not talking about them, beyond pointing out that the Americans are releasing those war criminals quicker than we are. The Australian courts tried 200, and I am not referring to them. I am merely referring to the 87 criminals—I say "criminals" without any qualification—tried by British courts whose release would create a tremendously beneficial effect in Japan, for it would prove to Japan that we really want friendship with her and are willing to make a new start.
I could talk at great length about the Japanese nature, but I will refrain from doing so. I merely want to say that I respect the Japanese for not making excuses for what happened during the war, and I admire them for their industry, their warmth of heart and their courage. I do not think it is right for any hon. Member of this House to be for or against a foreign country; he must consider the interests of his own country and the interests of world peace. In the interests of my own country and of world peace, I say it is high time we made a new start and grasped the right hand of friendship which Japan is for the time being extending towards us.
I am convinced that from Japan we should get no less loyalty than we get from our Continental Allies, and I believe that we might get a good deal more. As I have said, the Japanese pay great attention to loyalties and obligations. Japan is almost the only country in the world which has never defaulted on its debt. Japan has never renounced a treaty. It was we and not the Japanese who renounced the Anglo-Japanese alliance. In the interests of reality and world peace, I suggest that we should seize the great prize which is offered to us. It is not merely the friendship of 90 million people but stability in the Far East, which may be the key to world peace.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
I am sorely tempted to follow my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) in his discourse, but as the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) has referred to me specifically, along with the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Sir I. Horobin), in connection with the delegation which went to Japan last December and of which we were members, I will for a few moments 642 comment upon his speech; and, indeed, enlarge upon it.
I do not think the Japanese can say that the Labour Government were unmindful of the difficulties with which post-war Japan was confronted. At San Francisco the Labour Government showed that they fully realised that to impose heavy penalties on Japan would mean virtual starvation for her people. The San Francisco settlement was in essence a good one for that nation. The Labour Government realised that to do otherwise would have meant severe penalties on Japan.
In one sense Japan is unique. She is the only country in Asia which has not come under Communist domination or influence in one way or another. The Japanese are a united and disciplined people. There is nothing they could not make, given the raw materials and the designs, as good as anything produced by the Western nations. It is a nation of 80 million people in tight islands, having the same problems as ourselves. There is very little countryside from which the people can produce their own food. They exist chiefly on fish and, by a strange coincidence created by the last war, Japan is now in a vital strategic position which no one could foresee at the time of the last war. It is one of those things which has arisen through the Communists getting control in China.
Although the hon. Gentleman the Member for Farnham did not mention the fact, Japan's strategic position is a vital issue in that part of the world, particularly in regard to S.E.A.T.O. and to the defence of South-East Asia. That being so, let us consider some of the factors confronting Japan of which she is fully conscious. She has got to feed herself. Like us she has to live on exports and is determined to export to live. Her strategic position may drive her to make the best possible bargain for herself, but it is imperative, in my opinion, that Japan should be allied with the Western Defence Organisations and with S.E.A.T.O.
There is no nation in Asia more united and more disciplined, and while we were there we saw some things perhaps through different eyes. No nation will starve willingly, and any nation which is faced with starvation will seek alliances with which she can bargain. That is why in this debate this afternoon, much to my 643 surprise, no mention has been made of the conversation at present taking place in London between the Russians and the Japanese, which can be of profound importance if the balance were to be turned against Western influence in the Far East. Then indeed the S.E.A.T.O. pact would become null and void, because a nation with a potential which could produce the great strength which the Communist Powers need in the Far East would go over to their side.
That is why it is of such importance that we should create international goodwill, as the delegation tried to do whilst it was in Japan, in the Far East and so pave the way for a wider outlook on the difficulties of Japan. It is not part of the Socialist creed to deny any nation the right to earn its own living. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North said, they have also the right to their own nationalism and to their own standard.
In Japan, we are faced with a particular problem. She may—we do not know—drive the hardest bargains possible. It is up to the Western diplomats to make sure she does not. But how can that be done? We know the difficulties. There is the G.A.T.T. trading agreement between the various nations outside the dollar area, and the Japanese are insistent in getting into that Agreement. Thirty-four nations comprise the Agreement, but Japan needs the consent of only two-thirds of the members to participate in the scheme and to let loose among those nations the full force of her commerce and trade.
These are factors which the British and American Governments have to consider in their tariff agreements and restrictions, especially the Americans, because they hold the key of dollar credits. Those are just a few of the points upon which I want to enlarge arising from the hon. Gentleman's speech. I can well understand how he feels, especially after some of the wonderful hospitality we experienced in Japan. Some hon. Members have heard something about it in conversation. It was an experience well worth having, but I will say no more about that.
I have come to the conclusion, after speaking in several foreign affairs debates, that one does not begin to under- 644 stand foreign affairs unless one is given the opportunity to travel. Without it, it is completely and utterly impossible. It may be disconcerting for me to admit that up to the time of the trip to Japan I have never been outside the United Kingdom. Having travelled across the face of the earth by aeroplane in four days, I know now it was well worth while, and hon. Members will understand me when I say that I took full advantage of it. It was impressive to see the world pass beneath the plane and the geographical facts one studied as a schoolboy come to life as the plane grounded in country after country.
To get back to the original theme, democracy in Japan is now having a hard struggle. It is struggling for its life with what is for Japan a new form of government. The old Emperor worship and feudalism have to a large degree gone for ever, but there is still a great backroom influence. The old Nationalists who dragged Japan into war are still to be feared; but we saw the beginning of a democratic system. Japan realistically accepted the American occupation. American techniques in war succeeded, and the Japanese, being realists, accepted the position.
But the Japanese in one respect have something in common with the Western world. They never had it before. I am referring to trade unionism. My first contact with an embassy abroad was the British Embassy in Japan, and having seen how it worked I was very favourably impressed. I came to the conclusion that the Ambassador was two jumps ahead of anybody else in the country. But I also came back favourably impressed with the Labour Attaché. This was an institution created by the late Mr. Ernest Bevin, and if this is the pattern operated in other countries, then all I can say is that it is doing a very good job.
As I have said, the Japanese have this in common with the Western world; they have trade unionism, but we should not imagine that the fight is over by any means. Alongside the fight in the chancelleries and Foreign Offices of the world has been another fight, which people do not hear about—the Foreign Office knows about it—and which is still going on today. It is the fight of the free trade unions against the Soviet-dominated unions. It has been a tremendous fight, 645 The World Federation of Trade Unions, the Communist-dominated federation, is actively engaged against the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which is backed by Great Britain, by the T.U.C. and by the Americans. This struggle has taken place in all parts of the world, but nowhere is it keener or more intense than in Japan.
The industrial nation of Japan is the key to the Far East. It is capable of producing and making things which war machines, backward peoples and modern civilisation need. That is the key, and that is where the pressure is to be found. I saw it with my own eyes. I was given a job to do by the Labour Attaché when I arrived, and it became apparent to me that the struggle was keener in that country than in any other part of the world.
It is a matter of conjecture at this stage of British political life and development whether it is not feasible that a large expenditure of the sums which the trade union movement, through the I.C.F.T.U., is forced to expend throughout the world, should be charged to the Foreign Office Vote. This job of beating down all the intrigues, cross-intrigues and duplicities which Communist techniques have perpetrated throughout the world has been done by the trade unions alone. We saw it at work in Japan. The prize over there is great, and whoever wins it will control not only the minds of the people, but their skill. We must make sure that the I.C.F.T.U. wins that prize.
After my visit, I made my report to the T.U.C. Allowing for the fact that the great capitalist empire of the United States and our own employers and trade unions and the Conservative Party in this country recognise the existence of the need for, and the capabilities of, trade unions, I ask the Joint Under-Secretary whether in this struggle it would not be better to help the trade unions with finance in this great fight. The Soviet Government are not afraid to put the money down. They know exactly what they are after and what the fruits are, and we should be prepared to do the same.
I saw, for instance, in Japan demonstrations by workers—not strikes, but marches in the streets and public parks. When one knows the pattern, one can trace the characteristic leadership, the cheer-leaders and the usual technique of 646 the Communist Party, with people going alongside the procession in private motorcars leading them on to cheer and to sing the "Internationale" and their other songs. We saw that in British Guiana and in South Africa. We have been up against it in Middle European States and in Spain, and no doubt in time we will find it in the Middle East. That is something that we should tackle in association with the T.U.C. If the T.U.C. is necessary for maintaining industrial peace and if it fulfils its rôfully with whichever Government is in power—it is pledged to do that—I cannot see why the same thing should not operate internationally to tackle this problem.
It is the minds of men and the skill in their fingers that are at stake. The Communists are a united and disciplined people, and sometimes others have been bent easily to their policy and programme. In any Western policies in the Far East which might go the wrong way and provide the Communists with a great opportunity, we should make sure that we do not miss our opportunity.
I have covered as much as I want to cover of that part of the world, and I want to return to the Middle East. Since going to Japan, I have been privileged to visit Jordan. I know something of the Israeli-Arab struggle and its background since 1911 under the Balfour Declaration and what has happened in the intervening years. What I was confronted with there is something which should shake the conscience of common humanity.
One-third of the Arab population is in refugee camps in such degrading conditions that the human mind in this House of Commons cannot convey in words the misery which is being suffered. The Western nations cannot avoid responsibility for this and should do something about it. I recognise, as do other Parliamentarians and politicians, the Jewish right to a national home. I recognise that all that has gone before cannot be undone, but when one has seen, as I have, 35,000 people in one camp, in mud huts, being kept alive on United Nations charity and sustenance with nothing to do from one day's end to another but just sit in the sun among the flies and filth in the most primitive conditions that man can imagine, one feels that something must be done. The United Nations is doing a great job, and where 647 it can it has put all the children into school uniforms for the school day. When the school day is finished, the school uniforms are taken from them. The damnable thing is that those children attend school until the age of 14 or 16 and then, when they have finished school, they have nothing to do but sit in the sun, in misery.
Any civilisation which is worthy of the name cannot allow this to go on. Whatever may be the solution of the Middle East problem, a solution must be found to the untold misery that thousands of people are suffering in that area, and it must be found quickly. We hear of projects for building dams which could irrigate vast parts of the desert, but we are told that there are technical hold-ups regarding the height or the depth of the dams. If that is so, these hold-ups should be overcome.
If it is possible to bring a great part of the desert under cultivation, we should take the chance. But in taking the chance, we should also make sure that those who are now displaced persons in refugee camps become tenants, shareholders and lease-holders of the land we irrigate. It would be fatal to hand over the water which the United Nations creates by means of a dam to private landlords in Jordan and Arabia. Any efforts made by the United Nations on this scale must be seen to go, and must in fact go, to the common Arab, who has his own difficulties. That is a problem which in all conscience must be dealt with, and be dealt with quickly.
To return to Europe, I am amazed, as was my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North, at what is now taking place. I deduce some of the same reasons which my hon. Friend has deduced from Soviet behaviour of the last few years. It has taken 10 long years to get to the stage we have got now; but do not let anyone imagine that we have got anywhere, because we have not. All that we have got is a better outlook and a little more good will, for the real gains have been very small indeed.
The Austrian Pact as such must be welcomed, but let us not forget that it has taken over 400 meetings spread over eight years. Any man who had even 10 mothers-in-law to argue with could get agreement in less than 400 meetings— 648 but not with the Soviet Government. We remember in 1947 the names that were slung at Tito—"Little Monkey," "Imposter," "Deviationist"—and the new diplomatic language that the Soviet employed. What did Tito do? He decided to stand on his own. The prime reason, I am informed, was that he could not get back from the Soviet Union even the railway wagons in which he sent his produce. So he decided to stand on his own.
We have witnessed all the tortuous negotiations over Germany. We have seen the trouble they have caused even in my own party, in which have been found people who have had the courage to stand firm. If ever there was a justification for firmness, then we saw it in the last General Election; we saw it in the return of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock). [Interruption.] Justification for firmness was given up to the hilt. We in this party know. We know what some of us have had to take. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite do not have to take it. They do not have the same troubles, because they do not have the same connections. [Interruption.] No, they do not.
§ Mr. Tomney
Over-night there was a switch—so called—in Soviet policy. As yet, I am not enamoured of it. I for one should like to see some fruitful results of this so-called switch in policy, results such as the release of imprisoned Czechs, Poles, Rumanians, Hungarians. I should like to see them given the right to live their own lives under their own national flags and under Governments of their own. Until they are, we cannot say that Europe has advanced in civilisation.
I do not know what policy the Soviet Government intend to follow. We have seen the new approach to Yugoslavia. It may be that that is to be the pattern of the Soviet Government's approach to the rest of Europe and the rest of the world, and it may be generally followed. It may be that Malenkov has not lost his head like Beria and others before him. There may be reasons for all this from which we can draw hope. However, if I were one of the people of Eastern Germany, I should be feeling very shaky at the present time, because, let us make no 649 mistake about it, there is no retreat eastward for these people whom the Soviet can expend when it thinks the time has come.
We have learned today on the tape that Dr. Adenauer has rejected neutralisation. The Social Democrats have rejected it, too. The policy of neutralisation would inevitably lead to the recreation of Hitlerism in the centre of Europe. However, regarding the situation as a whole, in the light of all the experiences we have had in recent times, even in the short time of my membership of this House, whatever, if anything, may come of the proposed new talks at the summit, I am not too hopeful.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)
A great number of compliments has been paid in this House to maiden speakers, and I am sure that the House would like a bouquet to be given to an older Member. I would say straight away that I think we have heard a very courageous and excellent contribution by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) to this council of State. Give us our flowers now: we shall not be in this House for a very long time.
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member but to deal with the general philosophy of foreign affairs; and I am glad to see that he joins in the overwhelming support in this House for the idea that our foreign affairs should be based on strength. It is perfectly clear that the nations live in a world of lawlessness. We are, as nations, in circumstances very like those of citizens in a State which was a lawless State, when it was the duty of the strong man armed to keep his house, or otherwise it was a temptation to the lawless. I am, therefore, glad to see what certainly seems to be the case tonight, that there is no one on the other side, no one taking the contrary view, and that we are unanimous in batting from strength.
I want in this context to call the attention of the House to a most important article in the "Reader's Digest" of June by General MacArthur. The "Reader's Digest" has the biggest circulation in the world, with the widest influence. The article raises these most important issues of philosophy in foreign affairs. It comes, too, in the context of General 650 Eisenhower's saying that we may hope to look forward perhaps to 25 years of peace, on the principle of the strong man keeping his house.
We ought to face it, that, judging by past experience of the traditional philosophy, we have only the alternatives of either bigger and better wars at long intervals—say, 25 years or more—or, by some degree of disarmament or by banning of the bomb, to which I shall refer later, of smaller and less civilisation-extinguishing wars at no doubt rather shorter intervals. I want to underline the fact, however, that those are not the only alternatives before the world.
As to the banning of the bomb, it is perfectly clear that the bomb is owned by only two nations in effective strength. They are looking anxiously at one another, and there is no one to "bell" either of those two particular "cats," apart from themselves, and they cannot do that, and so banning the bomb is an impracticable proposition. It is absolutely clear, too, that trustfulness in treaties is an impossibility in the long run, certainly over a period exceeding 25 years. So I wish to emphasise, that we are faced also with another two alternatives, the choice between the continuation of lawlessness, which imposes on each nation the obligation to be, as it were, the strong man armed, or a system of law and a new authority in the world.
First, it seems to me, we must create the world law, and then we must create the government institutions for enforcing that world law. What the Foreign Secretary said about the Gaza strip emphasises that the United Nations Organisation has not such a world law and is not such a world government institution for enforcing it. It has not even a single rifle. The government institution for enforcing the law must take over the duty of defending the different nations.
It is precisely that which General MacArthur is saying in his article in the "Reader's Digest." It is precisely what the Foreign Secretary himself said on 2nd March, and I was very interested to see in the Labour Party's General Election manifesto a mention of a world authority of such a character. Knowing my right hon. and learned Friend 651 the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), I am sure that the fact that there was not one in the Liberal Party's manifesto was an oversight due to absence and not an indication of any change of policy.
I should like to ask whoever replies to the debate to say to what extent in the meantime we can, while maintaining in parallel the traditional philosophy of the strong man armed, keeping his house, develop the new philosophy of a world authority, either by a revision of the United Nations' Charter, when it comes up for revision, or by some other means, and explore further the opportunities of taking the other of the two alternatives, that is to say, abandoning lawlessness in the world and going over to a state of law with a Government institution and authority for carrying it out.
Let us remember that in Scotland and England that is exactly what we did. We set up a new British law. We set up a new British Government. Scottish regiments and English regiments became the British Army. We ceased to have the possibility of war between those two countries. We produced a state of affairs in which it was the British Army which was defending both nations—and not against one another but against an invader. I hope that the Government will say whether there are possibilities of exploring this much more fruitful of the two alternatives. Twenty-five years of peace is all very well for some of us here, but for our children it is too short a period to be contemplated.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Swindon)
I hope that the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) to whom I have listened, as I used to do five years ago, with great attention, will forgive me if I do not follow what he has been saying. I hope also that the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply to the debate will not think it inappropriate if I raise today, rather than try to raise next week, the question of the omission from the Gracious Speech and also from the Foreign Secretary's speech of the subject of Cyprus. It might be said by the Minister and his colleagues that this was a matter for the Colonial Office, but the Colonial Office could say that 652 some aspects of it are a matter for the Foreign Office; and I think that, on balance, this is the day for me to try to make my remarks on the subject.
I want to make as helpful and uncontroversial a speech as possible today, first, because this problem and above all the repercussions which it is having on allied unity in the Eastern Mediterranean are far too grave to be used as ammunition for party polemics in the House; and, secondly, because we have had recent indications that the Government may be thinking of making some new approach to the problem of Cyprus in the very near future. If that is so, I am sure that none of my hon. and right hon. Friends would like to say or do anything which would embarrass the Government, or any of the other parties concerned. For this reason, I shall say as little as possible about the past. I shall not go over many of the familiar arguments which the House has heard in recent months, or talk a great deal about the recent record of Her Majesty's Government.
We believe, of course, that grave mistakes have been made, and made by all the parties concerned. But if some of Her Majesty's Ministers have been on occasion very tactless, and if the Government's policies, in my view, have been very unrealistic, we can hardly claim fairly that the Greek Government have always acted with complete wisdom, or indeed the leaders of the Enosis movement in Cyprus itself. Wherever the responsiblity for past mistakes may lie, however, surely this is the moment to try to forget old recriminations and to see whether, by a new approach, a sensible and honourable solution cannot be found.
It is clear from the statements made by Ministers in recent months that one of their chief preoccupations has been the military security of the Eastern Mediterranean. Of course, there are other factors which they rightly bear in mind. We have to consider the interests of the Cypriots themselves—the Greek majority and the Turkish minority of the island's people. We have also to consider Cyprus in the context of the rest of the British Commonwealth and the repercussions which a new policy for Cyprus might have in other British Territories and in other countries. Finally, we have to consider the effect on our Allies most closely concerned, particularly our old and trusted friends, the Greeks.
653 I take first the question of military security in the Eastern Mediterranean. In a debate in the House, on 28th July last year, the noble Lord, Lord Chandos, who was then Colonial Secretary, said:Eastern Mediterranean security demands that we maintain sovereign power in Cyprus."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 549.]On the same day the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs said:…it is the considered view of Her Majesty's Government that nothing less than the continued sovereignty over this island can enable Britain to carry out her strategic obligations to Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 511.]On 28th October last, the present Colonial Secretary said:In the present troubled state of the world we cannot foresee a time when the relinquishment of our sovereignty over Cyprus would be compatible with our responsibilities for security in the Middle East."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 28th October, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 2147.]In the last debate on Cyrus in the House, shortly before the General Election, the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs said that Her Majesty's Governmentadhere to their view that British control in Cyprus must he maintained unimpaired during this period of world tension."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th May, 1955; Vol. 540, c. 1935.]Therefore, the importance which Her Majesty's Government attach to the military security of the Eastern Mediterranean has been made very clear by Ministers in recent months.
The lamentable fact, however, is that it is precisely the security of the Eastern Mediterranean and the unity of our Allies in that area which has been gravely damaged by the tension over Cyprus in recent months. Our own relations with our good friends the Greeks have suffered very badly. Greek-Turkish relations have been impaired and Greek-American relations have been disturbed, and all this at a time when events in the Balkans and the Middle East make close and friendly allied defence co-operation particularly important in that area.
At this very time in mid-June, Greek and British forces should have been taking part in a joint exercise in Greek waters arranged by N.A.T.O. and to be known as "Medflex 3." "Medflex 3" has been cancelled, and the traditional 654 visit by British warships to Greek waters will also not take place. If the smooth working of allied co-operation in the Eastern Mediterranean continues to be disturbed in this way, then surely one of the chief objectives of Her Majesty's Government's policy towards Cyprus—the security of the Eastern Mediterranean—has failed, and surely recent arguments about the military importance of sovereignty over Cyprus are becoming a little out of date.
In this age of global warfare and nuclear weapons, has not the question of sovereignty really become of very much less importance, and is not our overriding interest to have defensive arrangements which work and which permit effective and wholehearted co-operation with our Allies? For all these reasons, I hope that the Government may now feel able to look again at this military aspect of the Cyprus question and consider whether a British base, or an Allied base, and the facilities needed to operate that base could not be maintained just as effectively, and indeed more effectively, even if the possibility of an eventual change of sovereignty in Cyprus were to be admitted by Her Majesty's Government.
I now turn briefly to the problem of the future of the Cypriots themselves. There can be no serious doubt about the views of most of the Greeks in the island—and I do not suppose that either the Minister of State or any of his colleagues would seriously doubt what the Greek Cypriots would say if they were asked now to decide their future. To continue to try to keep the door closed for ever on their aspirations can only stimulate their agitation for union with Greece.
On the other hand, and this is a very delicate point, it might well be that during a period of genuine self-Government, in preparation for self-determination, some of the Greek Cypriots might well begin to reconsider their future relationships with other countries. As for the Turkish minority, I say only that, of course, their interests have to be safeguarded, and the fact that now, and for many years, there are and have been more Turks living freely and peacefully in Greece, and more Greeks living in Turkey than there are Turks in Cyprus proves that the fears expressed in some quarters are perhaps a little less justified than they appear to be.
655 After all, in the past the Turkish Government have not been unaware of the rights of majorities, as they showed in the case of the Sanjak of Alexandretta. I am sure that, in the end, provided that the freedom of their compatriots in Cyprus is properly protected, Turkish Ministers will realise that a settlement of the Cyprus question is a major Turkish interest as well.
I turn now to what I consider to be, from a long-term point of view, and from a British point of view, the most important aspect of this whole question. On 28th July, 1954, the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs said:…there are certain territories in the Commonwealth which, owing to their particular circumstances can never expect to be fully independent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 28th July, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 508.]He added that that applied to Cyprus.
Surely, that is a very dangerous and unrealistic doctrine. It strikes at a fundamental principle, because today the whole basis of the development of the British Commonwealth is that colonial people, when they reach political maturity, shall be granted the right of self-government and self-determination, which includes, of course, the right to leave the Commonwealth itself if they desire to do so.
It may well be that there are some Colonial Territories—St. Helena, for example and one or two very small islands dotted around the world—where complete independence might be impossible for purely practical reasons. I have no doubt that the people in those places are as well aware of that as we are, but that argument certainly cannot apply to Cyprus. Whatever the effect on local administration or living standards, no one could claim that Cyprus would not be viable if it were taken away from the control of the British Colonial Office.
This new doctrine that there are exceptions to the general rule, that there are certain places which, for strategic reasons, cannot have the right of eventual self-determination, is a dangerous, unrealistic doctrine. It is one which in the past could have been equally well, and equally unreasonably, used in the case of many other countries—the Sudan for example, about which the Foreign Secretary spoke this afternoon, and perhaps in regard to Ceylon or even India. It is certainly an untenable doctrine in the case of Cyprus.
656 I hope that I have dealt reasonably fairly and helpfully with some of the considerations which must have been in the minds of right hon. Gentlemen in Her Majesty's Government in recent months—their preoccupation with security, with the future of the Cypriots, and with the implications of the Cyprus question on the British Commonwealth at large. I know that this is not an easy or simple problem, I know that the Government are anxious about it and are very worried—as Governments always are and must be—by the possible results of creating precedents and by repercussions which there are bound to be if they now end what "The Times" very aptly described as "The British front of silence" in favour of a new and brave approach. But there are many signs that a new and courageous policy might evoke a generous response.
I had the privilege not many months ago of meeting a number of leading Ministers in the Greek Government. That Government are certainly as anxious to get out of the present dilemma as we are. The Greek people hate the deadlock which, temporarily, has disturbed our traditional friendship. The Cypriots—at least the great majority of them—are disillusioned and worried by the events of the past year, which have got no one anywhere.
In this situation we beg the Government to mark the start of a new Parliament by telling the House that they have decided to try again to find a way out of the Cyprus deadlock. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I venture to suggest three propositions for his consideration. First, could the Government not take an early opportunity of making it clear that the Cypriots, like other colonial peoples, are entitled to look forward, after a period of real self-government, to full self-determination in the future? Until that at least has been made clear it is difficult to see how any political progress can be made in Cyprus or any progress with the Greeks or other interested parties.
Secondly, could the Government not now make it clear that our primary military interest is in having an effective base available to us and our Allies in Cyprus, and that that matters far more than questions of sovereignty? Next, will the 657 Government look again at the Constitution offered some months ago to the Cypriots and see whether they can go very much further in giving the Cypriots an opportunity for real, representative government as a step towards self-determination within a specified period?
Finally, can the Government at this moment, when they resume responsibility for the people of Cyprus and for our relations with our old and trusted friends in the Eastern Mediterranean, make a real effort to ease tension by talking over the whole problem in a free and friendly way with those concerned?
I have stuck closely to my notes because I was deliberately trying to be careful in what I said. This is a difficult, complicated and sickening problem. It is a tragedy that our relations with our Middle Eastern Allies should have been bedevilled as they have. I do not want to put responsibility for mistakes specifically on the right hon. Gentleman or anyone else, but can we not now make a real effort to get the problem settled in a friendly, sensible and democratic way?
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
This is to be another maiden speech, but I first wish to congratulate the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Francis Noel-Baker) on the way in which he raised the great problem of Cyprus, on which I intend to follow him in a few moments.
First, I should like to record my grateful thanks for the way in which members of the staff of the House have been extremely helpful to all new Members. It gives one great assurance to be helped with the geography of the House, the bar, Dining Room and other places which I cannot express in Parliamentary language. We are very grateful, and I wish to express thanks on behalf of all the new Members. I also wish to thank the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay), who took me round the premises on the first day I was here.
We are asked to make sure that our maiden speeches shall not be of a controversial nature. I will follow the example of the hon. Member for Swindon and do all I can not to become controversial on the subject of Cyprus: but first I am here as the representative of the people of The Wrekin Division and before I speak on that subject, I wish to present to the 658 House the reasonable claims for Government attention made by the people of The Wrekin.
There are nine points which the people of The Wrekin have asked me to raise as their Member. I crave the indulgence of the House while I go through those nine points. First is the matter of franchise under the postal vote system. In an enlightened country like this, surely it is possible for some method to be found whereby people might record their votes if they happen to be on holiday or away on business at the time of an Election? I beg the Government to consider legislation on that matter at the first available opportunity.
Secondly, I beg the Government to be mindful of widows who at the moment receive a 10s. pension. I look forward very much to the report which has been promised by the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. Thirdly, I am in agreement with the Opposition concerning the question of National Assistance. I am not fond of the word "assistance," either public, private, or national. I therefore support the suggestion that the name of the Ministry should be changed to the Ministry of National Welfare and Insurance—welfare first and insurance afterwards. That may seem a small point of wording, but to many people it is very important. I also ask the Minister to pay special attention to those who, when the increased scales of National Assistance came forward, said that they had not received an additional increment.
Fourthly, I ask the Treasury whether in some way they can make funds available to the county council of Shropshire for the improvement of the roads around The Wrekin. Although motor buses and cars use them, it is wrong to call them roads for they are nothing but tracks. I hope that during the course of the next five years something can be done to make those roads better than they are today. Probably in the past The Wrekin has been considered a rather degrading poor relation of Shrewsbury, but so long as I stand here as the Member for The Wrekin, I shall do all I can, publicly and privately, to press its claims.
I must congratulate the Government on their financial prudence in managing to put by a certain sum of money for 659 hospital building for the first time in 16 years. Of course we in The Wrekin point out that we are a highly industrialised area and I am convinced that Wellington will be a city within 20 years. We are making a priority claim for a new hospital. I agree that there are other people and other areas in the country who may need a hospital before we have one, but it is no use saying that this matter should be left to the hospital board in Birmingham. I have spoken to the Ministry about this question and I have been told that there is no national priority list for the building of new hospitals. I believe there should be one. If there is to be one, I expect to see The Wrekin very high on this list. It is no use saying that there is no staff available, because, if a hospital is built which is adequate for the needs of the people in or around Wellington on Oakengates, there will be staff available. I am not saying that we are dissatisfied with the present arrangements. We accept them gratefully. Now, however, we are making a claim for the future.
Sixthly, playing fields. Surely the authorities responsible for building large housing estates realise that there are bound to be children? Although the authorities are forever condemning parents who allow their children to play in the streets, they never seem to try to find ways of providing playing fields for children on the new estates. This is especially noticeable at Ketley Bank and at Mannerley Lane. It is a problem which the planners of new estates must bear in mind, and if we can have any help in this direction from the Government, we shall be grateful. Luckily Sankeys of Hadley, a famous free enterprise firm, in celebration of its centenary decided to provide one of the finest playing fields I have ever seen, and this shows the sense of responsibility on the part of those who run industrial affairs in our area.
Seventhly, I am mindful of promises in past Gracious Speeches and in this one concerning water schemes, sewerage and also the present proposed legislation to protect those who work with agricultural equipment and with dangerous machinery. I hope all these promises will be fulfilled during the next five years, and if I am obliged to goad my right hon. 660 Friends on the Front Bench from time to time, I hope they will forgive me.
Eighthly, I am mindful of an agreement made with the Ministry of Education by the Catholics in 1944, and I ask the Minister to consider sympathetically the application for meeting the needs of the Catholic community in our area.
Ninthly, subsidence. Unlike the constituency of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler), whose constituency sounded like a cheese—subsidence underneath and noxious vapours above it—we are fortunate in The Wrekin in being blessed with the fresh air coming across from Wales. However, we have had serious accidents through children falling down disused pit shafts, as well as damage to property, so I hope that Her Majesty's Government will consider favourably those who suffer in this way.
I submit, Sir, that these are reasonable requests to the Government from the people of The Wrekin. They look forward to the fulfilment of the promise of a doubling of our standard of living in twenty-five years and they hope that Her Majesty's Government will continue their efforts in this respect. The industrialists believe that the period can be shortened to ten years, but they point out that this means that the present Government must continue in existence.
Now, with the permission of the House, I will refer to foreign affairs and, more especially, to the Middle East. It is hard for me not to be controversial, because I am so by nature. What is left of my military career remains in a safe in General Headquarters Middle East with an epitaph on it to this effect: "Honest Bill, he meant no ill, but he would not hate the Egyptians." This, of course, ended my military career, and I have attempted many things many times, but at last I am able to make a plea for the Arab people.
First, however, I must refer to the island of Cyprus and to our relations with the Greek Government. It is no use adopting the attitude of Madame la Marquise—everything will be all right—because it will not. Disraeli did not like that attitude, which is a kind of ancient Whig attitude. Lord Melbourne was supposed to have said once: "If anybody is telling you to do something, then you 661 should do nothing at all." That is a fallacious attitude to adopt towards our foreign policy. It is nineteenth century Toryism and not part of the Toryism of today. Of course everybody understands that, even hon. Gentlemen opposite.
I am trying not to be controversial, but we must be straightforward about Cyprus. We must face the facts which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swindon put dearly before us. Three-quarters of the population speak Greek, they speak Greek dialect in their homes, their inheritance is Greek, they have the Greek Church, they look for their culture, not to London where they are restaurateurs, but to Athens. Athens is their cultural centre. The other one-fourth of the population is a charming Turkish minority, and of course there is also the small British minority in the island.
It seems to me extraordinary that we cannot come to some agreement with our great ally Greece, a country which we diked and understood so much during the war. It may be difficult because of certain strong feelings which people may have about the constitution of Cyprus, but we should try to consider both parties. I want to suggest a plan which, though a novel one, may be worthy of the consideration of the House. I offer it in humility in addition to the suggestions made by the hon. Member for Swindon.
The Cypriot people are Royalists. In almost every small home are to be found pictures of the Greek and our Royal Family. There is, therefore, a way of neutralising Cyprus from international affairs and from discussion in the United Nations, which was threatened recently. The way it can be done is through a meeting of the Greek and British Governments to declare that Cyprus should be deemed a Royal Estate, held in joint sovereignty between the Royal House of Windsor and the Royal House of Greece.
There could then be a Royal Greek Governor and a Royal British Governor, and the Duke of Kent might be the latter. I would like to see the Royal Governors in Kyrenia and in Nicosia. There would also have to be a small local legislative assembly which could send three or four representatives to the Greek Parliament. The Cypriots could then say, "We can discuss anything we wish with our Royal Governor and we also have representa- 662 tion in Greece." In that way they would have union with Greece. The Greek Royal Governor and his Minister would be responsible for education, church affairs and labour relations, whereas the British Royal Governor would be primarily responsible for internal security, defence, the protection of the Turkish minority and public works. This is not an outrageous suggestion, since most of the services would carry on as they do now, but different people would be responsible for them. It seems to me a pity that such a lovely island should become a source of estrangement and embitterment between us and the Greek people.
I do not suggest that the plan is in any way complete. It is obvious that there are faults and flaws in it, as any person trained in international law will realise. There is the question of the administration of justice under Greek law, Roman law, or under the present common law. There are other grave diplomatic complications as seen by those trained in such matters. However, I offer the plan in humility. I should like the pageantry from time to time resulting from there being two Royal Governors on the island. It is not, after all, such a novel proposal, because Richard Coeur de Lion was King of Cyprus.
The attitude of the Services in the Middle East is another pressing problem. It is particularly a pressing problem because many of our Service personnel are now going into Jordan from the Canal Zone. I am definitely worried about the attitude of average British personnel towards the Arab people. I am even worried about the attitude of the intelligent British towards the Cypriots. Here is a true story. An Englishman and his wife in a car at the fountain of Lapithos had a puncture. As it was a hot day, they wondered whether to repair it themselves or get someone from the village to do it for them. Three boys from the village came along and offered to help in changing the tyre. The man asked them if they would like some money, and the boys replied, "No thank you. Do not worry. We are only too glad to do it for you." The gentleman turned to his wife and said, "I say, dear, these people are quite civilised." That is the attitude which as was explained to me by the mayor of the town afterwards, causes complications and so much rancour in the minds of the 663 people. It is very unnecessary. I hope hon. Gentlemen will do all they can in their correspondence to help to make Service personnel understand the people in Jordan and Cyprus.
I want also to refer to the sad plight of those in the Middle East who, driven from their homes, have spent another year under the trees in Beirut, those who struggle to live at the north end of the Huleh Valley, and those who under today's sun will be carrying water up and down the grey city of many steps, Amman, taking water to their homes which are no more than caves. Their suffering goes on. We must realise and applaud their fortitude and forbearance, and hope that, as Allah is compassionate and merciful, they will receive a just reward. I warn everyone, in the words of Omar Khayyam, a name which means "tent maker," that:The Moving Finger writes; and, having writMoves on…It moves on very slowly. The Governments of Britain and America should think carefully now before anything else goes wrong. These people ask us in humanity for our help and consideration, and I am glad to have this opportunity of pleading their cause.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)
I wish to congratulate the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) upon the somewhat original maiden speech which he has just delivered. It would be hypocritical to say that we do not miss his predecessor on these benches. Mr Ivor Owen Thomas had a habit of raising points of humour and points of order in the House which will be sadly missed. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has to some extent followed the precedent of Mr. Thomas in that he has been a little out of order, or, rather, out of place, in speaking from the Gangway, which is not generally done in this House.
I am sure that his constituents will very much appreciate the fact that he raised his nine points, which, presumably, he had promised to raise at the first opportunity, but I can assure him that he will have to sit on the benches opposite a very long time and to prod the Government Front Bench a great number of times before he will get satisfaction on them. He was courageous in 664 intervening in a foreign affairs debate, even though he did not confine his remarks entirely to foreign affairs. He will not always find it so easy to catch Mr. Speaker's eye in such debates, I feel sure, but when he does we all look forward to what appear likely to be most controversial contributions.
I would also extend congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) upon the first contribution that he has had the opportunity of making since his return to this House. We look forward to his participating in our debates, as he did in previous Parliaments.
I wish to deal with the question of the Middle East. The Foreign Secretary appeared not fully to appreciate the distrust and suspicion which Government policy has aroused there, and not to realise the extent to which our influence has declined among Jews and Arabs alike. I have had the advantage of visiting the Middle East since the General Election. It was a most disheartening experience to find oneself attacked equally in Israel for lack of support and lack of permission to purchase arms as in the Arab states for similar reasons. In the case of Israel, I think it is largely due to our refusal to satisfy the Israeli demand for security. Following the further commitments that we have made with the Arab States, Israel is desirous of having a defence pact with Great Britain and the United States. That alone would give her the assurance of security which she desires, and without it the situation in the Middle East must continue to be that of a state of tension.
I regret to say that there has been a lack of consultation with Israel and the Arab States on our policy, and there has been a lack of information for them about our proposed policies. Israel was not informed of the action that we were taking in regard to the Iraq-Turco Pact, and the Arab States which were not parties to it were not informed or consulted either. With such lack of consultation, it is natural that there is suspicion and fear about our next move.
It would have been far better if the assurances which the Foreign Secretary read out today, which were given in the speech of the Prime Minister when he was Foreign Secretary, had been given prior to our signing the Pact. That 665 would probably have prevented the greater disunity which has developed in the Arab world and the attempt to formulate a rival agreement on the part of Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) referred to the lack of faith of the Israelis in the Tripartite Declaration of 1950. I confirm that that is so, but equally I found that in the Arab States there is suspicion of our sincerity about our commitments with them.
I was very surprised to find in Jordan that many Arabs asked me whether our present Treaty with Jordan would be implemented in the event of an aggressive attack across her present frontiers. That is to say, they were not satisfied that the present Treaty applied to the existing frontiers of Jordan, but thought that it might be interpreted by us as relating to the former frontiers. Of course, I pointed out that the present Prime Minister had stated in the House that the Treaty applied to the present frontiers of Jordan. I ask whoever replies to the debate to reaffirm our unquestioned determination to carry out our commitments in our treaties with Arab States, especially with Jordan.
This afternoon, the Foreign Secretary, in dealing with the Middle East situation, had no constructive proposals to put forward. I admit that it is extremely difficult to be constructive in the present situation. Only by outside efforts can peace finally be brought to the Middle East, efforts through the United Nations and especially through Britain and the United States. I regret that it does not appear that mediation as such is on the cards at present. There does not appear to be any immediate basis for mediation. I say that because Egypt persists in the view that she is still in a state of war with Israel, and Israel acts accordingly.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby said, the Arabs refuse to accept the permanency of the State of Israel. Until they are convinced that the Western Powers will maintain Israel as a permanent State, that Israel is there to stay, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to bring about a peaceful settlement between the Jews and the Arabs. The Arabs blame the United States and the United Kingdom for not implement- 666 ing the 1947 Resolution on the partition of Palestine. They overlook the fact that they opposed it at the time and probably want implemented only those portions of the Resolution which suit them. It is equally important that we make clear to the Arabs that there can be no return to that Resolution, because of the action which has taken place since 1948, the development of the situation in the Middle East, particularly the establishment of the State of Israel, and there can be no going back on that.
Until that is made clear and the Arabs have been convinced of it, I am afraid that the refugee problem will be equally difficult to solve, because it is as a result of the refusal to accept the permanency of the State of Israel that the Arab refugees maintain their wish to return to their homes in Palestine—as they call it—and refuse to accept resettlement in the Arab countries. They are still encouraged by their spokesmen and by their leaders to believe in their ultimate return to Palestine.
Of course, that is in spite of the fact that they are living in appalling conditions. I do not wish to deal with that, because my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) described those conditions in vivid terms, and they have just been referred to by the hon. Member for The Wrekin. The fact remains, however, that they maintain that even if they have to go on living in these frightful conditions for years and years, they would prefer that to surrendering their right to return to their former homes.
Resettlement must come, and can only come, from without. It can only be imposed, because no Arab Government could support resettlement today and remain in power. There is no doubt about that. Therefore, it is only through the United Nations that resettlement, which is the only solution, can come. I hope that the United Kingdom delegation to the next United Nations Assembly will receive instructions from the Government to press for a constructive programme of resettlement, and will make clear that future relief must ultimately be supplanted by resettlement. I suggest that the period for relief must be fixed and during that a resettlement must take place.
If some pilot scheme of resettlement could be started and experience gained, with compensation offered and land pro- 667 vided, and an opportunity given to the refugees to be resettled, we should then see whether the refugees will not accept it in far larger numbers than at present appears probable because of the pressure put on them by their spokesmen and Governments. I know that it will require great patience and persuasiveness, after the demoralising conditions to which they have been tragically subjected, to convince the refugees that they cannot return to Palestine or that certainly that the vast majority cannot return.
There is another aspect of this refugee problem which has not been touched upon this evening. Those existing in the camps in these bad conditions harbour the idea that the responsibility for their tragic state rests with the Western Powers, and that provides a fertile field for the spreading of Communist influence. I found that in all the camps which I visited, and I visited several. I was frequently told that they knew that Russia would provide the Arabs with their independence in Palestine again, and would enable them to return to their homes. Certainly the Communists are exploiting the situation in the Arab States.
I suggest that the Pacts which we have recently made may be aimed at building up this northern tier of defence against Communist aggression, but that the danger may be as great from within the States as from without, not only because of the conditions which exist in the camps, and for which U.N.W.R.A. is not entirely responsible because it is probably doing as good a job as money and circumstances permit—but also because of the appalling poverty which still persists in the Arab States and to which the present tension and economic boycott between them and Israel contribute.
Until the refugee problem is solved, there can be no peace settlement in the Middle East. Settlement has to come by steps, and the first, of course, must be relief of frontier tension. The pressure for retaliation on both sides of the border is very strong indeed. It is particularly strong at the moment, because elections are pending in more than one country, and it becomes a matter of party politics. A strong policy appeals to the electorate. It is somewhat surprising to find how incidents are justified by those who are ultimately responsible for them. They 668 justify them on the grounds of retaliation, and provocation, and there is that on both sides.
If these incidents continue, there will be considerable pressure by the extreme elements in these countries for strong action, and it may be that the extreme elements will gain the upper hand. That is especially the case in Israel if it is left in a state in which it feels that it is isolated, if it feels that it is separated from the West because of our increasing commitments with the Arab countries and our failure to make a defence pact with Israel.
It is impossible to visit the Middle East today without becoming convinced of the immense difficulty of achieving any settlement. No peace settlement can be brought about quickly or soon; but we must not be defeatist. I suggest that the settlement must be based on the acceptance of five facts.
First, there must be acceptance of the permanency of the State of Israel, and equally, of course, of the independence and integrity of the Arab States. Both parties must be convinced of that. Secondly, the inconsistency of the present demarcation line must be remedied and the frontier must be free from incidents. Relief of tension is dependent on removal of the present anomalies which have frequently been cited in this House. The demarcation line has been drawn across farms, separating a farm from its water supply, and in some cases it has even been drawn through houses. The demarcation line in itself contributes substantially to the incidents which take place, and one incident leads to another.
Thirdly, the situation in Jerusalem must be changed. Jerusalem cannot remain divided as it is today. The United Nations suggested the internationalisation of the Holy City as the solution, but nothing has been heard of that suggestion for some time. Fourthly, the commitments of the West must be equal as between Israel and the Arab countries. The guarantees of adjusted frontiers must be equally and severally given and they must be impartially observed.
Fifthly, resettlement is the only solution of the refugee problem. That must, in my view, precede the peace settlement, which is dependent upon its prior solution. Resettlement through the United 669 Nations must be accompanied by adequate compensation on the part of Israel, the principle of which she has already accepted. There may be some opportunity, perhaps on the basis of the reunion of families, for a certain number of refugees to return home where practicable, though that can only be on a small scale.
In sum, peace between Israel and the Arab States which we all desire to be brought about can be achieved only through an empirical approach to both sides from the West. It cannot be imposed or brought about by pressure. It must be made worth while to achieve for all who are concerned. That means adequate guarantee of security against renewal of conflict, convincingly backed by sufficient military aid for defence purposes. This guarantee of peaceful existence must be supported by an improving standard of living made possible by economic aid on an extensive scale; and without that peace cannot be brought to the Middle East.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
I hope that the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) will forgive me if I do not go deeply into the affairs of the Middle East, except to say that it seems to me that the anchor of security and the basis of any hope for lasting peace in that area is bound to be the British position in Cyprus. That is a matter which has been referred to in most moving and persuasive terms by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker), whom I inn sure we all welcome back in theHouse though I for one, as a personal friend, would rather have welcomed him to the benches on this side. He is the son of a family well known in Greece, and he and I share a very deep affection for that country and its people.
Before adverting to the Cyprus problem, I propose to set out a context in which I believe we might formulate a new approach to our difficulties in that part of the world. But we must first look at the wider panorama before us. I could not help thinking, as I followed the outline of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary this afternoon, how very greatly we are in debt—all of us on both sides of the House—to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for his enterprise and efforts exerted over several years. He 670 has set the consolidation of the West as his steadfast aim. He has worked for it throughout disappointments and discouragements, through tedium and ill-health, with devotion and faith in the outcome. His gifts have brought results for which we are all deeply grateful.
When I think of his steadfast purpose, I cannot help recalling George Meredith's lines in "Marian"—how she was "as steadfast as a star." The poet concluded:She can wage a gallant war,and give the peace of Eden.The Gracious Speech made it clear that the policy of Her Majesty's Government is to advance and establish yet more safely the free community of the West. I should like to suggest that there are already two first fruits of the consolidation so far achieved. There has been the meeting in Vienna and signature of the Austrian Treaty. There is to be the "summit" meeting in Geneva.
There has also been a by-product. This has been what the Foreign Secretary described this afternoon as that "pilgrimage" to Belgrade—the pilgrimage of Mr. Krushchev and Marshal Bulganin.
That in turn is not only a by-product of the consolidation of the West, but a reflex of the rising prestige of the Commonwealth which we have witnessed in the past several years. It has grown as consultation within the Commonwealth has been so intensified as to produce something almost recognisable as a Commonwealth diplomacy. We have seen India and Canada, one might say on the two flanks of the Commonwealth, playing a great and critical part not only in the maintenance and supervision of the truce in Indo-China, but in damping down the menace of war over the Formosa Strait. We have likewise seen the Commonwealth ease the harshness of the war of ideas.
At all events Marshal Tito, to whose shrine the Russian pilgrimage was made, found in a Commonwealth Prime Minister, Pandit Nehru, a friend worthy of his ideological station. That friend, in turn, is now being feted in the U.S.S.R. It is not insignificant that Mr. Malenkov, who has returned to the world stage as Soviet Minister of Fuel and Power, is now showing Pandit Nehru a five megawatt nuclear reactor and boasts that the Soviet Union will have a 50 megawatt 671 reactor working before our own is in operation at Calder Hall.
I cannot feel that these events are altogether accidental. I believe that they reflect a very important contact that was established between the free world of the West, through the Commonwealth, and the twilight world of Socialism that borders the Iron Curtain, when Marshal Tito himself paid a visit to New Delhi. There he found a welcome in the free world; there he found a statesman with Whom, on terms of confidence, he could exchange many ideas that they found they shared; there he learned that the Prime Minister of India looks not to Russia, not to China, but to Britain for consideration and help in the development of nuclear power; there he could see for himself that the Commonwealth is a free association, where the free movement of ideas enjoys unrestricted currency. I believe that the experience that Marshal Tito gathered in New Delhi has contributed substantially to the turn of events which we have seen quite recently in Europe.
I believe that the consolidation of the West and the rise in prestige of the Commonwealth—the emergence, as I have said, of something recognisable as a Commonwealth diplomacy—are to be observed as a single pattern, certainly as springing from a single free spirit. That is why, in reading the Gracious Speech, I was particularly happy to observe two pledges.
There was the pledge to pursue the work of consolidating the West—the N.A.T.O. Alliance, the American Affiance and Western European Union; and there was the pledge to deepen and enhance consultation within the Commonwealth. It is because these two matters are so interwoven that I beg the indulgence of the House to touch a little on Commonwealth affairs in what had, by general agreement, been planned out as a foreign affairs debate.
It was said by the great Bacon, to whose wisdom you, Mr. Speaker, directed our attention not many days ago:It is a miserable state of mind to have few things to desire and many things to fear.As we look out on the panorama of Commonwealth affairs there are many 672 doubts that cloud the horizon. But first a ray of light. I should like, if it is proper, to pay a tribute, perhaps a little presumptuous, to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for his choice of a Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. The noble Lord who is now Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations formerly sat for my constituency of Lanark.
We in Lanark—and I found this during the Election—are deeply conscious of our ties with the Commonwealth and with the world overseas. There is, indeed, a Lanark in Ontario. There are a Biggar and a Carmichael in Saskatchewan, a Carstairs in Alberta, a Lamington in Queensland, a Braidwood in New South Wales, a Blackwood in Victoria, a Hamilton in North Island, New Zealand, a Douglas in Cape Province in South Africa, a Blantyre in Nyasaland, a Chapelton in Jamaica. These are ties of soil and kinship which we feel deeply in Lanarkshire, just as we feel deeply about Commonwealth relations, although we are not always very precise in the terms of our thinking.
It has been said thatIf a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.One of the first doubts that crosses the Commonwealth horizon at the moment must be in the Mediterranean. There will be none in this House, I am sure, who will not join in welcoming the visit of the Prime Minister of Malta to London. But his visit is going to raise one question: What is the natural future to which a self-governing Colony can look forward in the Commonwealth if it is too small to be a viable and, therefore, fully Sovereign independent State. I believe that this Parliament now starting its work must, during the coming five years, face up to three broad Commonwealth problems of that type, and in facing up to them will be sustaining and helping to develop a Commonwealth foreign policy, while also deepening the whole process of consultation within this magic circle of sovereign nations.
Then there is Cyprus. The hon. Member for Swindon—I must not in Parliament call him my hon. Friend, but he is a personal friend; we were colleagues 673 during the war—made reference to that island. One is reminded of the adage:Let men beware how they neglect and suffer matter of trouble to be prepared; for no man can forbid the spark, nor tell whence it may come.Again it was wisely said:In great oppressions the same things that provoke the patience do withal mate the courage.I believe that in the Cyprus problem we are concerned with something much more profound than the wholly natural and fundamentally healthy aspirations of the Greek-speaking, Greek-thinking and Greek-feeling population of that island to be united with the land where their culture flowers. I believe that in this twentieth century of great multi-national States we face a hangover here from nineteenth century nationalism. What is arising in Cyprus can arise elsewhere.
I believe that we have to think out how in our Commonwealth system of many nations and of States composed of more than one nation there shall be a place for this fervent—one might almost say "violent," but I would prefer not to—aspiration for national unity and ask ourselves how that aspiration is to find its natural place in a multi-national system of multi-national States.
Then one might perhaps, at the risk of being misunderstood, phrase the Cyprus problem in a different way. One could put it in this form: if Cyprus cannot join Greece, why should not Greece join Cyprus? That may be a provocative way of turning the problem upside down.
§ Mr. Maitland
Of course, it is quite right that England did join Scotland and thereby made Britain Great. But the British still talk about the British-American and British-Egyptian treaties as "Anglo-American," "Anglo-Egyptian;" but education will follow in due course.
We have to ask ourselves, and I believe that this Parliament has to consider seriously in the course of the next five years, what are to be the Commonwealth's relations with friendly neighbours and allies nearby. There is Greece in the Mediterranean. But in three oceans we meet Holland. We confront Holland in the North Sea and the Atlantic; we confront Holland in the Caribbean; and we confront Holland in the South Seas.
674 Holland is a nation of sober, vigilant, watchful people, energetic, creative, hardworking. They were once described as "those Low Countrymen who have the best mines above ground in the world." At some stage we must determine what should be the form of our Commonwealth's relations with such neighbours.
I believe that it is possible to set a simple and general aim. Indeed, in the context of foreign policy there is much to be said for modesty of purpose. I believe that we should be making an advance and a constructive proposal to our neighbours if we made it known that we seek to establish a passportless freedom of movement for persons and property between nations that are members of the North Atlantic Alliance. Were we to do that I believe that there would be—or there could be—a rapid transformation of the scene as between ourselves and the Greeks regarding Cyprus.
The frustrations that beset the people of Cyprus, as I see it, are the frustrations which in fact make them feel that they cannot come and go to Greece as they wish, and vice versa. The fact that that may not be altogether true is irrelevant; the point is that they feel it. The day when it is possible for any Greek from the Kingdom of Greece and any Cypriot to take ship at an hour's notice to the land of the other will be the day when the agitation and the ferment of nationalism which affronts our multinational principles in the Commonwealth will begin to diminish and fade out. At all events, if we stated as our objective the attaining of this total freedom of movement as between the peoples whose countries are members of the North Atlantic Alliance we should, in the context of Greece and Cyprus, clear the air. We should clear it for the initiation of administrative reforms which I hope, and I am sure, that we shall have an opportunity of debating in this House.
Administrative reforms are due in Cyprus, where it is necessary to remove the existing suspicion that we seek to de-Hellenise the island. Were we to state that our objective was to institute administrative reforms, we might well create an atmosphere in which a fair constitutional offer could receive reasonable consideration.
675 Just as after the war Europe clamoured for the intervention of Britain on the Continent and for Britain's leadership in the whole process of integration, I believe, from my contacts abroad, that there is now emerging—certainly in Europe and, I believe, elsewhere too—the thought of nations friendly to ourselves that they might well, upon the beckoning of a finger, seize the opportunity to establish some organic relationship with our Commonwealth.
I believe that the world is moving toward bigger and not smaller units, and were we to show, in the unfolding of our Commonwealth policy and in consultation with our fellow members of the Commonwealth that we think in terms of an expanding, and not a contracting, circle; that we live in a Commonwealth of freedom, where people are free to adhere as well as to depart; were we to spread that idea, or even discuss it publicly amongst ourselves, great hopes would arise in many quarters where small nations fear the colossi of power focussed in Communist Eurasia and the United States of America. I think that so we should consolidate old friendships and adorn our system.
I believe that we could start in quite a modest way. We could begin by setting freedom of movement within N.A.T.O. as our first main goal and seek as a start to resume the pre-war practice of cross-Channel trips to France without passports and to make them not just day trips, but month trips and perhaps year trips. Beginning thus, I believe as a Scot that we should be pointing the way for the British people to find their place in the sun.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I have no doubt that there is a good deal of sense in some of the things said by the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland). But the hon. Gentleman rather destroyed the general feeling of comfort—at any event in my mind—by his allegations. First, he said that England joined Scotland—which on the whole I found rather an offensive suggestion and not historically supported—and, secondly, that an emergent nationalism, which we have all seen in various areas of the world, is, as he described it, an out-moded nineteenth century doc- 676 trine—it is nothing of the sort; it is much more one of the essential issues of the twentieth century. To say that we can deal with it by having passportless trips to France, was, on the whole, I thought, putting it a little lightly. I do not wish to follow the hon. Gentleman's observations further.
I rarely intervene in debates on foreign affairs: I think I have done so on four occasions in the last ten years. I do so tonight merely because of a matter which has been worrying me for a long time and upon which it would seem that I disagree with the prevailing mood on this side of the House, and, I suspect, on the other side also. I thought it better, therefore, that I should say what I feel.
It is customary for hon. Members of this House to make trips to foreign parts, to spend a few days there, and to come back and make a report. I wish to discuss an area of the world which I visited four years ago and about which I have thought deeply before attempting to talk about it in this House. I refer to the Middle East. Every hon. Member who has spoken today about that area, which is vital to us and the free nations of the world, would appear to have assumed that the effect on Israel of what we do or say is the first issue which we must resolve.
Everyone talks about the Middle East problem as if it were simply a matter of Israel's relations with her neighbours. I do not think that is true, although a tremendous problem exists in that respect. I will be quite frank, and say that my own sympathies shifted considerably while I was there, and since. But although it is an issue on which passions and prejudices are so easily roused and stay with one for a long time, I do not think it a good thing for hon. Members to approach the question of the Middle East as though we were speaking for an Israeli foreign policy.
It seems to me that so often speeches about the Middle East made in our debates on foreign affairs would be relevant were we putting the case for the Israeli Foreign Office, or arguing the line which the Israelis should take. Were I an Israeli, no doubt I should be thinking on the lines urged in this House on many occasions. But we are not. We are debating what shall be Britain's foreign 677 policy. We are, therefore, bound to consider British interests rather than Israeli interests, and where they conflict we are bound primarily to consider the problems of security for the free world rather than the interests of Israel as a State.
I hope I do not offend the susceptibilities of anyone when I say that the interests of Israel are a matter for Israel now that she is a national State. She must argue them for herself. It is not a matter for us when we debate British foreign policy. That is where it seems to me that several speakers today, as on other occasions, have gone wrong. I agree in some respects with the impressions of the refugee problem and the outstanding issues between the Arab States and Israel brought back by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies). Where I disagree is in thinking that it would be right, or that it is any part of our purpose, or that it would be a good thing for us to preface our foreign policy in the Middle East with a determination to force on to the Arabs views which they do not at the moment desire to hold.
I agree entirely that until the refugee problem is solved, until there is resettlement, it will not be easy, if at all possible, to get a peace treaty and to talk to the Arabs of terms they must accept. In fact, any Arab politician, no matter how good and sound he may be on other matters, would be in great danger, were he to admit the acceptance of such a view.
I think that we must expand and build up a much closer friendship between ourselves and the Arab countries than has existed for a long period, at any rate in recent times. To talk to them at the moment as though they have to do something on the lines suggested would, in my opinion, be making a great mistake and running the risk of our foreign policy depending on something which is not our immediate concern.
I was concerned at the exchange between the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). That sort of enunciation means that what we must do is to maintain the equilibrium there, as though that is our purpose and as though we have a policeman's job to do in the Middle East. We have nothing of the sort. It may be our desire that the equilibrium should 678 remain, but it is not our purpose to maintain it, as was said by the Foreign Secretary.
Our purpose is to develop foreign relations and policies there which will contribute to our main purpose in the world, which is, first, the security of the free world, and, secondly, the development of British interests in the world. Whether or not the equilibrium is maintained is a by-product of that which may or may not be good. At any rate, it is a different question, a by-product, and not our main purpose. I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary was led into laying that down as our purpose. The idea that Britain should be the policeman of the trouble spots of the world was outmoded at the end of the last century.
One of the troubles of all Foreign Secretaries is the view that we have to conduct foreign affairs debates on the basis of a grand tour by the Minister, who is not specific about anything, but only touches lightly on matters all over the place. Of course, the Foreign Office always hopes that the Foreign Secretary will not be specific, and, as a result, he throws in every single cliché which one has ever heard. I must say that today the right hon. Gentleman excelled himself.
When the Prime Minister was Foreign Secretary he used to throw in all the clichés, though there was usually a connecting sentence or two. Today we did not even have that, and before the right hon. Gentleman finished he was stumbling over the stones he had not unturned in the roads which he had already explored. No doubt the Foreign Office regards that as very suitable because he has not said anything dangerous.
I think that such a procedure is a waste of opportunity, and that it would be better if Foreign Secretaries were to deal with two or three vexed questions and really give us a statement of policy about them. I think that this is one such question, and I should have liked the right hon. Gentleman to have said more about it than he did, but I will say what I think we should do.
I think that we should begin by getting out of our minds the idea that it is our business to make a choice between the Israeli case and the Arab case, and that it is our business to maintain the peace of the Middle East by policing methods. I, like everybody else, hope that there will 679 be peace in that part of the world, but I believe that only time will bring it about. If for a period of time certain other things are done, peace will probably come between these States, always assuming, of course, that the Israeli State is able to last. What we want is time and an absence of incidents on the border.
The existence of incidents is a dangerous thing for us because it complicates our foreign policy. If the Egyptian proposal that the United Nations should police the border were adopted, it might well help to prevent incidents. Were the United Nations to police the border around the trouble area it would not be so easy for anybody to step across the border, create an incident, and go back again.
When all has been said and done, the outstanding thing is that for Britain, in these times, that area is vitally important. It has the richest oilfield in the world. I am told that from the Arab part of the oilfield alone, leaving out Iran, about 150 million tons of oil are taken every year, to the value of some £300 million. To retain that oil must obviously be a vital consideration for British foreign policy, and it would be out of the question to let other countries get away with it.
Apart from retaining it for ourselves, we must deny it to a potential enemy. After all, we must realise the geography of that area, how near to Russia it is, and how vulnerable it is. I am told that it would be practically impossible to deny it to an enemy, and that to get an oil well working again would take only a couple of months. If we had to pull out of the area we could not, for all practical purposes, deny the oil to an enemy.
Secondly, the whole area of the Arab world is a tremendously important potential economic market to this country. We hear a lot about other areas in the Commonwealth which we can build up as markets for our goods, but here is a tremendous ready-made market for us. It already has vast sums of money and a potential rate of development. It also has an enormous population. The Arab has an old culture, and he is capable of tremendous advance if given the opportunity.
It seems to me that we should treat that area as being a great deal more important for Britain than we do. Of course, 680 it is an area which, economically, we could lose very easily. That is another reason why I am reluctant to see us so tied up as the Foreign Secretary tied us up today. With the political troubles in Egypt, the Germans got into that market very quickly and easily. Were we to subordinate our interests to other interests in that area, we might well find that we had allowed the economic potential to pass to somebody else to exploit and develop, and that, as a result, we had lost it permanently.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord John Hope)
Is the criticism which the right hon. Gentleman is making of my right hon. Friend's policy that this country should not take what action it can to prevent the outbreak of war between the Israelis and the Arabs?
§ Mr. Brown
Of course I did not say that. I said that it should not be laid down that our main purpose in the Middle East is, as the Foreign Secretary put it, to keep the equilibrium. Our main purpose should be to secure the defence of that area and to build up British interests in it. The maintenance of the equilibrium may well be the business of the United Nations. It does not seem to me to be the main purpose of British foreign policy, which is what we are discussing.
§ Mr. Younger
Will my right hon. Friend clarify whether his criticism of what the Foreign Secretary said and, by the same token, of what I said, implies that he wishes in any way to weaken the force of the 1950 Declaration, or whether he wishes to stand by that Declaration to the letter, as has been said by both Front Benches?
§ Mr. Brown
The Tripartite Declaration of 1950 is all right with me, and, from inquiries I have made from Arab friends of mine, I can say that it is accepted by the Arab States. What I am quarrelling with is the interpretation which every speaker seems to put upon the situation.
Everyone talks of our settling the Israeli-Egypt problem; of our securing the permanency of the State of Israel; and of our doing something about the relationships which exist there. That attitude seems to me to replace the Tripartite Declaration and the United Nations responsibility by British responsibility and British interests, and I regard that as extremely dangerous.
681 The second aspect of this question which worries me is the importance of this area to the free nations. We often talk about negotiating from strength. My hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) made it very clear today that, despite the Jeremiahs who warned us that the contrary would happen, very many benefits have flowed to the free world since we began seriously negotiating from strength with the Russians. It is vitally important for us to be able to negotiate from strength in the Middle East.
That area has a very vulnerable frontier. It has an easily infiltratable backdoor. However good may be the present defence arrangements which have been built up with such difficulty—however good the Turco-Iraq-British Pact, even if it included Persia and Pakistan, as I hope it will, giving a kind of semicircular line of defence or barrier between the free world and the East—there will still be an extremely vulnerable frontier because it will lack defence in depth. At its middle there will be practically nothing at all, so long as the other Arab States are not included in the defence arrangements. It is, therefore, an essential part of British foreign policy to build up a defence arrangement in the Middle East which will bring in the Arab countries behind this very thin line, even if it is extended, as I have described, by the inclusion of Persia and Pakistan. When we talk about the Arab-Israeli conflict we have to remember that Egypt is half the Arab world and has to be taken into account in formulating British policy.
Another reason why that area is so valuable to us is that it offers tremendous opportunities for building up a standard of living of millions of people who are now having a very miserable time. If we were to take advantage of those opportunities we could establish an enormous amount of good will. I know that some people say, "Ah, but look at the old pashas, the old landlords and the reactionary people." I can only say that the position in the Arab world is changing, and Arab politics do not now depend upon the old reactionary landlords. Younger men are emerging who have been educated here, and who are social 682 reformers. To some extent the Egyptian national revolution is a social reforming revolution.
If we follow the correct policy in the Middle East it will be possible for us to go along with the changing ideas, along with the younger men, and along with the social reformers in that area, and help to effect a very considerable revolution in a tolerably short space of time which will very considerably change the defence possibilities of that area. I have a tremendous admiration for General Nuri Said, whom I met once while I was in the Middle East, and who impressed me as an exceptionally wise and able statesman, especially in an area where it is not easy to find such qualities. It is a very great combination in one man. But even so exceptional a man as Nuri Said will not be there for ever; he is getting old. He desperately needs some sort of public opinion behind him, and unless we help these new leaders or the good old men by building up better conditions which will create a public opinion to back them up we shall run the risk of even good men like Nuri Said disappearing from the scene, as he once did, in fact—and being replaced by other people. In that case all our best intentions will be undone, as happened over the Portsmouth Treaty, negotiated by Ernest Bevin, because these leaders will not be able to maintain themselves in power.
There has been a considerable improvement in British-Arab relationships. I am prepared to give some of the credit for that to the Conservative Party, provided that it is realised that if we had done, in Egypt, Iran, and Indo-China, what they have done, they would have called it scuttling.
None of the party opposite, if he were standing where I am standing, would be patting us on the back for doing what they have done. They would have gone about the country, as they did once before, smearing us, and especially my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), for all they were worth, talking about scuttling, and making it as difficult as they could to carry through our policy, and doing a great deal of damage by making the people in the Middle East think that the arrangement was not to be a permanent one.
683 I do not take that line. The Conservative Party has been lucky enough to preside over these improvements, and that is merely the luck of the draw. It would be better for both parties if they took that line, especially upon foreign policy. The Government's withdrawal from Egypt; their handing over Habbaniyah and Shaiba; their arrangements in regard to Jordan, have all contributed to these improvements, and in so far as they were carrying out Labour policy there is all the more reason for giving them a pat on the back. These improved relationships have contributed to the creation of new beliefs—or a revival of old beliefs—on the part of the Arabs in regard to British friendship for the Arab States.
I am an organiser of so-called unskilled workers, and because I have that background I am not likely to go round sneering or turning up my nose at the wretched Arabs because, for the most part, they are fellaheen, with no skills, standing, or responsibility, and being attracted to other people because they are more sophisticated, mature or anything else. The Arab is an excellent and an attractive fellow and he has an almost inherent belief in Britain's friendship for him. That belief recently became rather shaken, but I believe that it has now been re-established, together with a much clearer realisation of where the Americans really stand than existed in 1951.
This is the time to capitalise what we have done, and all the improvements out there. There is less suspicion now about an Arab approach to the West, and to the idea of associating directly with the West, than there used to be.
My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East spoke about the Communists making use of the refugees in Jordan. I saw that myself. The Communists make use also, in Israel, of anything we do on the other side, and can be relied upon to play a double game either way. They will make the utmost propaganda and will exploit to the utmost whatever we do on one side or the other. It is, therefore, all the more important that we should be able to justify what we do. The Arab is now more willing to accept association with the West, but the younger and educated Arabs who have emerged are not prepared to go on being the camel drivers or truck drivers for 684 our Defence Forces in the future. They want to have their own defence forces and Army.
The very first thing we should do is to encourage some form of federation or unity among the Arab countries in order to strengthen the defence arrangements that we are building up there. Men like Nasser in Egypt, President Camille Chamoun in the Lebanon—whom I know personally and who has done so much—and General Nuri, are diverse examples, different types of men and politicians who, in their different ways and backgrounds, are willing to approach this business of association with the West in a very much more realistic and practical way than before. It is for us to enable them to come along.
I press this matter on the Joint Under-Secretary of State because I am told that Her Majesty's Ambassadors over there are discouraging the idea of an Arab pact with Iraq. It might well be possible to have the existing Turco-Iraqi-British Pact and an Arab defence pact, in which I am sure Iraq would participate, existing together. I hope we can get Iraq into both, and can secure the synchronisation of an Arab defence pact with the existing pact. That would be a relatively simple thing, and might well lead on to a real defence organisation for the area, which cannot exist until the other Arab countries come in. If we want that, we must encourage it.
Am I correctly informed that our Ambassadors are discouraging the idea of an Arab pact with Iraq side by side with the existing Pact? If so, I think they are making a very great mistake and are putting the younger and more practical politicians who would come along with us, into an extremely difficult position.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. R. H. Turton)
I will reply to that question at once. If the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that Her Majesty's Government are trying to dissuade Iraq from joining a pact with her neighbours, that is quite untrue.
§ Mr. Brown
I am very glad to hear it, because it shows that the information that I have been given is not accurate.
I hope that the pact will come about, because in that way we can save that vulnerable and vital area for the free 685 world and shut another back door to Britain. We can build friendships for Britain in the Arab world which we need more than anything else in that area, and that will pay enormous dividends for us and help us enormously in our economic problems. I am wholly in favour of it.
I have ventured to make this intervention and to disagree with my hon. Friends on a number of points because I hold very strongly these views about the best method of approach to the complex problems of the Middle East.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I enjoyed very much the earlier part of the speech of the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). When I heard the same points a second and then a third time, I found that my enjoyment was decreasing very slightly.
§ Viscount Lambton
No, but I was entertained by them the first time. The right hon. Gentleman was slightly unfair to the Foreign Minister in saying that the right hon. Gentleman had covered too much ground and that he should have confined himself entirely to one or two questions about which he should have expressed a definite policy. After all, there are hon. Members on both sides who wish to have the points in which they are interested answered, or at any rate expressed, by the Foreign Minister, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend did quite right in going over so wide a field at the beginning of such a debate.
I shall leave the subject of foreign affairs now and make a speech which I had intended to make earlier in the week but for the fact that there was a statement to be made yesterday on the subject of the House of Lords which I wished to wait for. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the composition of the House of Lords, a subject which Her Majesty declared in Her Most Gracious Speech would be given further consideration in the coming year.
There have been two debates within recent months on this subject in another place. The first was upon a general Motion put down by the Lord Samuel, and the second was to decide whether or not it would be possible for the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. 686 Benn) to remain in this House upon the death of his father. If these debates achieved nothing tangible, at any rate they illustrated by their high standard the value of the second Chamber. It is because of the high esteem that I hold for the House of Lords and for the whole system of bi-cameral government that I hope that some measure of reform will be proposed within the year.
There was a most interesting feature in the debate on Lord Samuel's Motion, in that practically every peer who spoke, who had served in some great office of the State or had knowledge of the machinery of Government expressed the need for reform, while opposition came from the back benches. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that those who use the House of Lords as a working-place find that it is becoming intolerable, while those who use it as a luxury find that it is delightful.
A notable exception was Lord Jowitt, who made a curious speech. He did not pretend that the House of Lords was working well, or that he was not in favour of certain reforms, yet, somewhat apologetically, he had to declare that the Labour Party was not in favour of talks to find a solution to the problem. The reason for his speech is, I am quite sure, the Socialist belief in one-chamber Government. They believe that all they have to do is to sit still, that time is on their side and that in a few years the second Chamber will become unworkable.
At the present moment it is said that 100 peers a day use the House of Lords. What these noble Lords do is another matter; whether they collect their post or read the newspapers I do not know, but certainly a very large number of them are not at any time in the Chamber. Upon occasion I make use of what is, I suppose, the only privilege left to an heir to a peerage—to sit at the steps of the Throne. I must confess that on those days it is not a privilege that could excite envy.
If anything, the scene resembles the last night of a rather unsuccessful play. The benches are empty, the atmosphere is apathy. It is difficult to see how such a, setting could be conducive to good government. Lord Samuel quoted irrefutable evidence of the reduction of committee work, and Lord Salisbury of the difficulties of government. The danger is, 687 that these warnings should pass unheeded, and that the House of Lords be judged by its past record and by the attendance at an occasional debate of national interest.
Within the last 40 years, the House of Lords has changed almost beyond recognition. The type of man of whom it then consisted has disappeared; the honour of a peerage has declined, and those who seek to preserve its past character seek to preserve but a shadow. I am sure there will be many hon. Members here today who believe that I am wasting the time of the House; that this reform has been spoken of for years and years and nothing has become of it, and that the same fate will await any proposal made today. I am not certain that this is the case and that there is not—at any rate within the House of Lords—a general awareness of the need 'for reform which, if it can be achieved without loss of dignity and a total diminution of the inherited right, may be more generally acceptable than is supposed.
The last all-party conference broke 'on the delaying powers of the House of Lords, and other conferences have broken down for similar reasons. Any complicated scheme would merely produce further difficulty. I am sure that the best schemes are always the simplest. I do not think that its powers could be increased without embittering the whole subject of reform. That they should be is perhaps an ideal, but inevitably a Labour Government would decrease them and again bring the subject into turbulent debate. As the House of Lords is by no means an ideal second chamber today, nor has been for the last 40 years, all that can be attempted with any chance of success is to improve the present system and to gain for it that popular respect which, above all else, is the strength of a second chamber.
As to actual reform, I would suggest, first, the creation of life peers, and secondly, a reduction—either by voluntary agreement or by election—of hereditary peers. The first proposal is long overdue. I will not go into the history of Lord Wensleydale or the objections of Lord Lyndhurst, but simply say that times have changed and that the House of Lords would be enriched by men who at present will not go there on account 688 of the financial burdens which they fear they will lay upon their sons or because of the penalties of a peerage which in recent years has removed Lord Hailsham from this House and which casts uncertainty upon the future of the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), myself, and several other hon. Members.
This present disinclination to go to the House of Lords is disadvantageous to both Houses. Let us take the case of the present Foreign Minister and imagine that in 15 years' time, perhaps for the first time in his life, he decided to follow the example of the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and retire from high office. What is he to do? If he goes to the House of Lords, where his experience and talents could not but add to the dignity of debate, he jeopardises the career of his son who has just entered this House. It may be said that he could do service here, but I think that there can be too many ex-Ministers in this House. Many back benchers opposite will agree with me when they find that they have both an official Front bench, an unofficial Front Bench and a retired Front Bench at the same time. With all respect, I suggest that the proper place for an ex-Minister is the House of Lords, though not, of course, for Prime Ministers.
I believe, also, that right hon. Members opposite would have less qualms about accepting such honours if they were confined to themselves alone. Indeed, I find it very hard to discover any argument against the creation of life peerages unless it be that the membership of the House of Lords is already too large. With that I would agree. It is for that reason that, at the same time as the principle of life peerages is accepted, there should be a reduction in the number of hereditary peers with voting rights.
How this reduction could be brought about is another matter. If it could be voluntary and a certain number of peers would contract out, so much the better. If it were by election on the Scottish system, I cannot see the harm, as a great number of peers never attend debates. At the same time, and inclusive in the scheme, peers should be able to decline once and for all to sit in another place 689 and be able to stand for election to the House of Commons.
I do not wish to go into detail today. That, after all, is the task of the Select Committee which is about to sit to consider the position. I merely illustrate how it is possible to strengthen, without at the same time uprooting, the Second Chamber. The issue is clear. The Upper House is daily declining in effectiveness, calibre and talent. If this continues we shall soon in fact, if not in theory, have a single-Chamber Government, or at any rate a House so ineffective that it will make a convenient pity for a Government whose activity it is designed to check.
Therefore, I ask hon. Members, especially on this side of the House, to reflect that if they oppose reform for fear of endangering the Constitution, the ultimate result in all likelihood will be exactly the opposite of their desire. The sole hope of retaining the Second Chamber is to improve it, to strengthen it and to give it the chance to achieve that respect which alone can justify in the public mind and give it a secure place in the Constitution.
I expres again my regret for intervening with this subject in a debate which has been devoted to other matters, but I assure the House that I have done so only because I believe that reform is long overdue.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
Perhaps the House will forgive me more readily than usual if I decline to follow the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton). I would, however, like to say that the speech to which we have listened was of only a little less value to our proceedings today than the oration with which the Foreign Secretary opened the debate, an oration which was very unworthy of the ocasion. It was limp, listless and, as one of my hon. Friends said, stuffed with clichés and altogether lacking in a sense of occasion. In fact, it made one regret the rapier wit and flashing style of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in that office.
After all, the occasion which we are celebrating in the debate is the consummation of 10 years' hard work in 690 Western policy, and it certainly deserves more notice than it was given by the Foreign Secretary. The policy which was initiated by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and by Ernest Bevin almost 10 years ago has at last reached a decisive point. It is at last bearing fruit. I do not believe that there has been any occasion in history when the vindication of policy has come so rapidly or so completely as this.
On 5th May, only a few weeks ago, the instruments of ratification of the Paris Treaties were deposited. On 11 th May the Soviet Union, for the first time for 10 years, moved great strides towards the position which the Western world had been putting forward on disarmament ever since the United Nations began. On 15th May the Austrian Treaty was signed, a Treaty which had been in draft for years. On 26th May Mr. Kruschev and Mr. Bulganin made their pilgrimage to their Canossa at Belgrade. A few days later the invitation came to Dr. Adenauer, for years the target of Communist propaganda as a "Fascist hyena," and in a few weeks' time the Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of the great Powers are to meet for what looks like being the first serious session of negotiation since 1945. Surely this occasion deserved a rather different speech from the flaccid, limp, tour d'horizon which we heard from the Foreign Secretary today.
Why is it that we are now faced for the first time since 1945 with a possibility of a real change of temperature in the cold war and of real and fruitful negotiation with the Soviet Union? Surely, the reason is that for the last five years Soviet policy has had as its main aim to prevent the inclusion of Germany in the Western Alliance. So long as people inside the Western world were trying to secure that aim for Russia, why should Russia make any concession herself in order to achieve it? Now that Germany is in N.A.T.O., now that we have the Paris Agreements, Russia can only achieve her aims by making concessions herself. I do not believe that Russia's basic aims in Europe have changed at all, but what has changed is very important indeed. For the first time since the end of the war it seems possible that Russia is now prepared herself to pay a price for the achievement of those aims.
691 What I should like to discuss is on what conditions we can negotiate sincerely with the Soviet Union for a settlement in Europe, which after all is by far the most important problem dividing the two camps at present. The Soviet Union, in her statement to the United Nations on disarmament about a month ago, restated her main aims in Europe. Quite simply, they are to get Germany out of N.A.T.O. and to get N.A.T.O. out of Germany. Those have been her aims ever since 1949. There is no change there. What has changed is that she appears now to be ready to consider making some concessions, some sacrifices, herself in order to achieve them.
If Germany left N.A.T.O. and N.A.T.O. troops left Germany and there was no major concession on the Soviet side, the defence of these islands would become impossible. That is why—rightly in my view—we have always refused to consider acceding to Russia's demands in the past. Perhaps it is worth making the point that now that the occupation in Germany is over, now that Germany is a sovereign State and is herself a member of N.A.T.O., Russia can achieve both her aims at one blow if Germany can be got out of N.A.T.O. In the past it was possible for N.A.T.O. to be in Germany without Germany being a member of N.A.T.O., but it is very difficult under present conditions to conceive of a situation in which Germany could leave N.A.T.O. and yet N.A.T.O. troops still remain in Germany.
The question we must face, not only as the Parliament of Britain, but also as members of the Western Alliance, is whether there are any conditions, any demands, we can make on the Soviet Union whose acceptance would justify us in meeting the Russians at least halfway in the achievement of their aims. What price must we ask of the Russians?
I make a short digression here. There is a feeling growing in some quarters in most of the Western countries that the local defence of Europe is no longer necessary or important because the thermo-nuclear deterrent by itself would be sufficient to prevent any change in whatever status quo might be agreed in Europe for evermore. In my view that belief is a sort of deadly atomic radiation sickness which is totally contradicted by the real facts of the thermo-nuclear age.
692 Surely the real fact is that as Russia approaches equivalence with the Western Powers in her thermo-nuclear striking power, the Western Powers will not be prepared to unleash their atomic power against the Soviet Union in any circumstances which do not directly threaten their own survival as peoples. In other words, with the approach of so-called atomic saturation, the atomic deterrent is only a deterrent against atomic aggression on an atomic Power. It loses almost all its value as a deterrent to local or conventional aggression, particularly against countries which are not atomic Powers or allied with atomic Powers.
It has been suggested, for example, by a former British Chief of Air Staff, Sir John Slessor, that we can make a settlement with Russia on Germany by a kind of atomic Locarno, by agreeing to drop atomic bombs on one another if any one tries to upset the neutrality of Germany. But what nonsense that is when we know today that the unleashing of atomic war may mean death not only for ourselves but the annihilation of future generations. Surely it is inconceivable that any country will use the major atomic weapons except in the very last resort. Certainly no atomic guarantees can provide any safeguard against changes in the status quo through diplomacy or even changes in the status quo through subversion.
The fact is that with the approach of atomic saturation the local defence of these islands and the local defence of Western Europe becomes more important than ever, and it is less possible now than it has ever been for us to accept the demands of Russia that we should let Germany leave N.A.T.O. and take our own N.A.T.O. troops out of Germany unless Russia makes very far-reaching withdrawals on her own side.
On the other hand, I do not think we can rule out of hand the possibility that Russia is now beginning to consider the question of far-reaching withdrawals. My own view is that the only kind of withdrawal which would justify the West in agreeing to withdraw out of Germany on its side would be a Russian withdrawal to the status quo before the war; in other words, the withdrawal of Soviet power to within the frontiers of the Soviet Union itself. I believe it is this possibility that we must begin seriously to consider.
693 My hon. Friends the Members for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) and Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) referred to this possibility, but rather in moral than in practical diplomatic terms. However, I believe it is a possibility we must start to consider as hard-headed diplomatists. If the Russians really want the dismantling of Western bases in Europe, as they say, they must be told that the only condition on which that is conceivable is that they go back into the Soviet Union itself and liberate the satellite countries.
I believe, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North suggested, that Kruschev's pilgrimage to Belgrade was the first tentative feeler by the Soviet Government in this direction. I think Kruschev wanted to see whether Titoism offered any pattern for the other East European States which might possibly be introduced there. However, I think we must be extremely cautious here. Soviet control of the East European States does not depend on the presence of the Red Army in Eastern Europe—there is, in fact, no Red Army in Czechoslovakia today. It depends on the control of the East European communist parties by the Russian Communist Party. And that control again does not depend on the Cominform—I believe it is highly likely that the Russians will dissolve the Cominform within the next four or five weeks. It depends on the absolute subservience of the Communist satellite leaders to orders from Moscow. After all, the Comintern was dissolved during the last World War when the National Organiser of the British Communist Party was committing espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union.
We must face the fact that the only way in which the withdrawal of Russia from Eastern Europe can be guaranteed is by the fulfilment of the pledges given to the West by Russia at Teheran, at Yalta and Potsdam to hold genuinely free elections in the satellite countries. Perhaps we are a very long way from that at the moment. I do not want to suggest for a moment that there is any chance that we shall reach agreement with the Soviet Union on it in the next lot of talks, but I believe it is a point which should be put by the Western Prime Ministers to the Soviet Government. Certainly, the Soviet Government 694 must be told that if they want what they say they want in their series of diplomatic documents, namely the dismantling of foreign bases in Western Europe, we consider that the dismantling of Soviet bases in Eastern Europe can only be secured by free elections in all the satellite countries.
I hope that the Foreign Secretary, in particular, will not be too hesitant about raising these points. After all, he has been chairman of the European Commission of the European Movement for many years. I should not like to embarrass him, particularly in his absence, by reading out some of the resolutions to which he lent his prestige when he was in opposition. However, I hope he will not forget his obligation as a person to the peoples of the satellite countries and will not ignore his responsibility as a statesman to raise this issue, if only privately, at the highest and most discreet level in the next series of talks.
My own view is that the only major disengagement possible in Europe would be one along these lines, a disengagement which looks towards the creation of a Pan-European bloc between the Soviet Union and the United States, which would be the only unit which could conceivably form any sort of third force or independent bloc between the two. However, as I say, it is very unlikely that we shall reach any final agreement, even in principle, along these lines in the next series of meetings.
I think there is a danger, to which the Foreign Secretary himself gave colour in his speech, that, having failed to reach our major aim in these talks, we shall be satisfied simply to tinker around with the existing system and try to make coexistence more comfortable on the basis of a divided Europe and a divided Germany.
Nothing could be more dangerous than that. We must never forget that, now that Western Germany is a sovereign State, if she can be weaned away from the Atlantic Alliance, Russia will achieve all her European aims for nothing, and that the major interest and desire of the West Germans is for national unity, the liberation of the Soviet Zone of Germany. At the next conference we must make a very serious attempt at progress along these lines. I do not believe that we shall satisfy anybody in Europe that we are 695 sincerely trying to liberate the Soviet Zone if we stick now, after the Paris Treaties, to the very rigid position which we took, quite rightly in my view, at Berlin a year before the Paris Treaties were finally ratified.
Nobody in Western Germany believes that Russia can reasonably be expected to agree to the full Western position as it was laid down at Berlin, because it would have meant the advance of N.A.T.O. to the frontiers of Poland and Czechoslovakia, in practice if not in theory. On the other hand, I do not think anybody in Western Germany, except the Communists, believes that the West can be expected to accept the Soviet position at Berlin, which would have meant that the Iron Curtain should advance to the frontiers of France and Holland.
However, between those two extremes of the very rigid positions taken by Russia and the West at the Berlin conference a year ago there is an immense variety of possible compromises. I believe that the West must put one of the compromises, or, if necessary, several of them, at the coming talks with Russia, and I believe that we must put them publicly at the beginning of the talks. The type of compromise possible, of course, is demilitarisation of part of a united Germany, or the imposition, with German consent, of some restrictions on the diplomatic and/or military freedom of a united German Government. Those are possibilities which we can reasonably consider now.
But I believe that it is very important for the West to make some proposal along those lines publicly at the beginning of the talks, if not before. Otherwise, the Russians will take the initiative from the word "go" and, when we finally uncover our counter-proposals towards the end of the conference, their real significance will be lost on the Germans. Let us never forget that if the Russians could be sure that the West would take the blame for the break down of talks on German unity at Geneva, break down of the talks would suit the Russians better than any form of success. It is only by making sure that if the talks break down the Russians carry the blame that we can have any chance of making the Russians make the concessions on which success will be possible.
696 I want to make one final point. It may be that the pessimism of my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North is justified and that the Soviet Union is not yet prepared to make any of the concessions on which either major or minor agreement could be reached at the Geneva conference. It may be, as some journalists and others have suggested, that the Russians have no intention at all of talking seriously about German unity at this conference because they hope in future to do a bilateral deal with the Germans on unification at our expense. This is a danger which has always been present in our minds.
One of the reasons why the majority of Members on this side of the House so strongly supported the Paris Agreements was that we believed that they would give Germany a type of interest and confidence in her membership of the Western Alliance which would make it progressively less likely that she would break away from the West and do a deal on her own with Russia. I ask the Minister of State when he replies to say a little more than the Foreign Secretary said at the beginning of the debate about how Her Majesty's Government propose to develop the Western European framework in order to give Germany this type of interest with the West.
All the Foreign Secretary did, if I may say so, was to read us a diary of his appointments from 5th May to 12th May and then to unleash a few of those extremely vague and empty phrases which he is so experienced in using and which he has used again and again at meetings in the European Movement, at Strasbourg, and ever since. What we want to know is how the Government propose to make a reality of Western European Union about which they made such a great song and dance when the Paris Agreements were first being drafted last Autumn.
As far as one can tell, nothing whatever has been agreed so far about the arms production pool. The arms control agency is in its most embryonic form and there is no sign whatever that the Government are moving closer to Western Europe to make a reality of Western European union, except in fact as a makeshift to get Germany into N.A.T.O. I hope that the Minister of State will say something about that.
697 In conclusion, I believe that we are now at a possible turning point in the affairs of the whole world. The policy which we have pursued for the last 10 years with such patience and firmness is paying off. A real chance of a settlement with the Soviet Union which will give us peace and peace with honour—is opening before us. If we are to achieve this, we shall need vigour, imagination, dynamism and flexibility. I hope that the Minister of State can show that somewhere in the Government these qualities exist, because they were nowhere apparent in the speech with which the Foreign Secretary opened the debate.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Smithers (Winchester)
There are about five minutes left to me, and therefore I propose to put the notes of my speech ceremoniously in my pocket and not to make it. I should not have risen to intervene in the debate were it not for the fact that the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has spoken in the terms in which he did of the speech of the Foreign Secretary this afternoon. The hon. Member for Leeds, East has a very great knowledge of all these matters. In my opinion, he has perhaps a more detailed knowledge of foreign affairs than any hon. Member on the other side of the House. I think, therefore, that it was peculiarly unworthy of him to have attacked the Foreign Secretary for his speech in the present circumstances.
The hon. Gentleman knows very well what the circumstances are. He knows very well the flashing wit and brilliance of which the Foreign Secretary is master, and which he could well have used. He knows very well that the Foreign Secretary this afternoon preferred to put first service to this House and his country, and that he made a matter-of-fact and factual speech upon a large number of matters about which many hon. Members wished to have information. The hon. Member fell considerably below himself when he suggested that the Foreign Secretary should make a speech on major matters which divide us from those on the other side of the Iron Curtain when my right hon. Friend's bags were actually packed and he was just about to step into an aeroplane to fly to New York to meet the Americans and to San Francisco to meet 698 Mr. Molotov. I do not think that was a statesmanlike proposal to make.
§ Mr. Healey
If the Foreign Secretary's bags were already packed, and if he really was just going into conference with his Western Allies and with the Soviet Foreign Secretary, that was just the moment when he should have had something to say to us. In fact, he gave us not one piece of information in his speech which has not been available to readers of the Press for weeks.
§ Mr. Smithers
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, which seems to me completely to vindicate the Foreign Secretary. It shows that, however great the hon. Gentleman's knowledge may be, his judgment does not bear comparison with that of the Foreign Secretary.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
It is customary to say on occasions such as this that the debate has ranged very widely. Today we have had the unusual experience in a foreign affairs debate of hearing a full-length speech on the future of the House of Lords, a speech to which I do not propose to reply. The House has also enjoyed hearing three admirable maiden speeches, one of which was from my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter), who made a sincere plea for peace in the tradition of the party to which we belong. I think that his speech pleased the whole House.
We also heard two maiden speeches from the benches opposite, one from the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) and the other from the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates), who showed a very free mind. He showed that in future he does not intend to be any slave of the Whips, which is a characteristic which is always warmly appreciated in one's political opponents. We should like to offer him our warm encouragement in carrying on in the same spirit in which he made his maiden speech.
The debate has also shown the keen desire of Members on both sides that the forthcoming talks shall succeed. It is clear that the prospects will improve if the Government pay serious attention to the kind of constructive suggestions and discriminating criticism which has been 699 made from these benches during the debate. It is true that there is a wide area of agreement between the parties on foreign affairs. Where this can happen without violating anyone's conscience or principles it is welcome; but, as this debate has shown, that does not mean, I hope, that we on this side of the House will let the Government get away with anything. They have made mistakes in the past. We do not rely on them not to make mistakes in the future, and we certainly do not intend to let them relax or become complacent.
It is clear from the speech of the Foreign Secretary, and from other statements, that the Government are determined that the British public shall not expect too much from the forthcoming talks. We have been warned that it will be a long business. We were warned today, quite superfluously, that it is not a question that can be solved in a day, and the French, and particularly the American, spokesmen have been taking the same line for some weeks past.
I confess to feeling a little irritation sometimes with this kind of talk. It is natural enough that the Western Governments should be frightened of raising excessive hopes in Western minds, and should be anxious to avoid being blamed unfairly if the talks fail; but there is some danger of underestimating the intelligence and experience of the people of the West. They are not innocent children in this matter. They have had experience for 10 years past of the difficulty of negotiating with the Russians.
I am sure that the Government will not necessarily be judged harshly if the talks fail. They will be judged on their performance at the talks, which we shall watch most vigilantly and carefully. They will be judged by the extent to which they show themselves prepared to judge proposals on their merits, even if they come from the Soviet delegation. That is a good reason for looking at them twice but not a good reason for not considering them most carefully on their merits.
The Government will be judged, too, by the extent to which, if they cannot accept the Soviet proposals, they give fully and clearly, valid reasons why, preferably in non-diplomatic language, so that we can all understand and appreciate them. And perhaps the Govern- 700 ment will be judged, above all, on whether they put forward reasonable counter-proposals.
I should have thought that in the meanwhile there was some danger in playing down the possibilities of these top-level talks. This may well give the false impression that the Government are more anxious to find excuses in the event of failure than they are determined to go to these talks with the intention of succeeding. I think also that it may tend to make the Government themselves feel, in underestimating the possibilities of holding these talks at top level, that it is not these talks but all the other talks which will proceed out of them later that matter.
They may start looking at these top-level talks simply as a kind of sorting office for dispatching downwards to Foreign Secretaries and officials problems which are, in fact, insoluble without some progress at the top level. I think it is generally agreed on both sides of the House that there is a small margin by which we have a better chance of making some progress at the very top level than at any lower levels, and certainly the prospect of making progress, in so far as it exists or appears to exist, is at that top level rather than lower down.
Among a number of speeches this afternoon, the House appreciated two very courageous and straightforward speeches on the subject of Russian intentions from my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney). If I may say so, I think that there was some danger of my hon. Friends underestimating the degree to which their views carry conviction among their colleagues on these benches. Of course, I think that we all agree it would be disastrous to think that the longterm aims of the Russians had changed or that their basic cast of thought had changed, or that the negotiations which we are about to start with them will be the kind of negotiations which one could have with, for example, the Indian, the United States or the French Governments.
Certain hon. Members here, I believe, may remember meeting some of the Soviet leaders last autumn during a very interesting visit which we made to the Soviet Union as representatives of this House. They will remember the talks 701 which we had in the Cabinet room in the Kremlin with Mr. Malenkov and Mr. Molotov. I think that we were all struck by the courtesy and charm of those two Soviet leaders. They really made us feel quite at home. They made us feel that surely it should be possible to do business with them, as with anyone else.
Yet, of course, we could not forget that two months before, in that very room, perhaps in one's own chair, Beria had been sitting; and that these two genial men, rightly from their own point of view, had been planning his death. Eight Soviet leaders out of Stalin's first Politburo of 13 sat in that pleasant room and subsequently were killed, or committed suicide, or died in suspicious circumstances, as the result of acts of their colleagues against them.
We have the plain duty of negotiating with these men and of trying sincerely to reach agreement with them. But also we have the duty, in the cause of freedom and peace, of sizing them up realistically, without sentimentality, and without wishful thinking. We should constantly remind ourselves that they pursue power in strikingly uninhibited ways, and that their sense of duty, which is often strong, not only permits them, but obliges them, to use deceit and sometimes violence in the cause in which they believe.
I agree strongly with my two hon. Friends that it would be wrong to think that these men did not still feel that sense of purpose; that they did not feel they knew what was good for the rest of the world; and did not still feel it was their duty to try to direct history in the way they thought it should go. And so, at these coming top-level talks, we cannot hope for the same openness and trust that we could in negotiations with some other country. I hope, therefore, that at these talks the Government will not trade points of substance for promises or general assurances. I hope that the agreements reached will be strictly reciprocal and, so to speak, self-executing; not overtaxing the good faith of the Soviet leaders.
That being said, I hope that I can still carry my hon. Friends the Members for East Ham, North and Hammersmith, North with me in saying that there are great opportunities in the present situation. After all, these actions of the Soviet 702 Union which we have seen, and which were clearly listed by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), are actions and not words or Just propaganda. The offers to Austria and Yugoslavia and the invitation to Dr. Adenauer are all actions. That is the acid test of Soviet intentions, the only real way in which we can be sure of judging them truly.
It is still possible to put a sinister interpretation on what the Soviet has done. It is always possible to put a sinister interpretation on the actions of any great Power, and we have evidence that the Russians are adepts in so doing. But the plain fact is that the recent actions of the Soviet Government have reduced world tension. They have normalised the relations between the Soviet Government and Governments which resist Soviet ideology, and, what is more, they have acutely embarrassed Communists all over the world.
I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East was exaggerating or being optimistic when he said that the Soviet Union must be considering perhaps quite wide ideas of retreat in Eastern Europe and, possibly even more probable, the dissolution of the Cominform. There seems to be general agreement that this happier state is due to the success of the negotiationthrough—strength policy of the Government. If that be so, I am sure that the Foreign Secretary did no more than justice in paying a tribute to the firm foundations laid by Mr. Ernest Bevin immediately after the war. In so far as the Government have carried on this policy, we give them credit. As the world situation improves, however, I find myself remembering more and more the courage of Ernest Bevin, the man who took those first and hardest steps along that road.
If that be so, and we are faced with this more hopeful and more fluid situation, now is the time for a Western policy which will show the Soviet leaders that their new line will profit them more than their old line. Surely it would be disastrous were the Western Powers at this moment and in this new fluid situation, to stick to the more rigid diplomatic formulae which was appropriate at an earlier time.
703 The Russians might then well conclude that their old unco-operative line got them almost as far as the new and more promising line which they are taking at present. After all, it would be quite easy for the Western Powers, congratulating themselves on their positions-of-strength policy, to begin to regard the build-up of those positions of strength as an end in itself and not, what it surely is, an instrument for reaching agreement and for negotiating with the Soviet Union.
History has shown how often positions of strength have been built up and then, when that has been achieved, demands have been raised and negotiations refused. Therefore, we on this side of the House ask that the Government should show a genuine desire to reach agreement at these talks. By that we mean that in order to reach agreement with the Soviet Union and to gain great prizes, such as German unity, the West must be prepared to consider making concessions acceptable to the Soviet Union. That is inevitable.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East said that we should put such counterproposals forward at the beginning of the talks because, otherwise the Soviet Union might be presented with a propaganda victory. There might be more than one view on that, but, looking back over the past years, I am struck by the fact that at one conference after another since the war the Soviet Union has achieved some clever propaganda victories. At the end, however, surely the real reputation which the Soviet Union has achieved is merely that of winning clever propaganda victories.
I do not believe that its sincere wish for peace and its sincere championship of the forces of liberation and freedom are any better, owing to that reputation, than they were before this long line of propaganda victories. I should like to see the Government play their cards with out too much reference to this propaganda point, and with the sole purpose of trying to reach agreement. That might well mean holding these cards very close indeed to their chests.
For one reason, we do not want Government secret decisions and plans appearing in the Press of our Allies in the United States and France too soon. I do not think that we can attribute to our Allies, with all their many virtues, 704 the virtue of keeping secrets longer than absolutely necessary. One cannot altogether blame the American columnists. Nowadays they have to publish the secrets quickly or they might be scooped by the United States State Department. The seriousness of that point might be brought to the attention of Mr. Dulles at some stage.
It would be a good thing if confidential, off-the-record talks could be held between statesmen at top level, but only in the certain knowledge that there will be no premature publication of them by any of the delegates present. We surely ought to have worked out by now, if the Government really intend to be flexible, a perfectly clear picture, in cooperation with, as far as possible, our Allies, as to what is and what is not practical in the way of counter-proposals at these talks on disarmament, on Germany, and on the possibility of a European security pact.
On Germany, I trust that the Government will not rule out in advance all forms of what is very vaguely called neutrality for Germany in exchange for free elections. I hope that the Government have made a close examination of the many different forms which the conception can take. Some forms are far less harmful than others. I hope, too, that the Government have studied in detail all possible forms of withdrawal and disengagement of troops, not necessarily the withdrawal of all troops from Germany, but perhaps all of the troops some of the way or some of the troops all the way or of some of the troops some of the way. There is an infinite variety of detailed possibilities upon which it is the Government's duty to clear their minds and obtain the views of their Allies.
I hope that the Government have studied all the implications of the conception of a European security pact, bearing in mind that they must not weaken the relative power of the West. It is very difficult for outsiders, who do not know the potentialities of modern tactical weapons, to judge the facts, but surely it is wrong to assume that there is no concession which we could make, in exchange for free elections in Germany, which would not weaken the relative power of the West, vis-à-vis the 705 Soviet Union, and would not leave Germany either too weak for her own comfort or too powerful and independent for the comfort of her neighbours.
The establishment of free elections would be an immense prize to the West, not only because of the retreat of Soviet troops but because of the rolling back of the Iron Curtain—which has already been rolled back twice recently—the exposure of the East German satellite Government for what it is, and the impact of that event further East and upon world opinion. Surely it is worth hard thinking about, in order to maximise the chances of agreement—the proper principle in all cases being that of reciprocity.
The principle of reciprocity is about the only idea left in foreign affairs which is equally and similarly interpreted in the East and in the West. The ideas of coexistence, of non-interference in internal affairs, of freedom and even of peace, are sources of tremendously different interpretation, as we well know, upon the two sides of the Iron Curtain, but the simple idea of tit for tat seems to have survived. Given this basic principle of reciprocity. I cannot believe that no opportunity exists for reaching a practical agreement upon this question. We expect the Government to go into these negotiations with a genuine desire for agreement, having studied all the possibilities on their merits, in co-operation with their Allies—and prepared to make concessions upon a strictly reciprocal basis.
I turn now to a subject which was referred to only very sketchily by the Foreign Secretary, namely, the problem of South-East Asia. In support of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East, I say that it was noticeable that the Foreign Secretary spoke at much greater length upon subjects such as Austria, where the facts are known and where no acute crisis impends at the moment, than upon subjects of an immensely critical nature, such as the Geneva Agreements. I submit that it is not of much value to Members to present them with facts which they know, or, if they are not lazy, can find out for themselves without difficulty, while skating over subjects such as the implementation of the Geneva Agreements.
I had the chance earlier this year of discussing these agreements both with President Diem of Southern Vietnam and 706 Ho Chi-Minh of Northern Vietnam. The negotiations and compromise which ended the fighting earned for the Prime Minister the congratulations of both sides and, outside a narrow group in Southern Vietnam, there is a wide respect in South-East Asia for the work which the Prime Minister did at the Geneva Conference. Indeed, if I thought it would not embarrass him, I should like to quote to him some of the opinions expressed about him by leading Communists in Northern Indo-China.
This is an urgent and critical question. Next month there are to be talks between the two sides in an endeavour to reach agreement upon an electoral law to be applied in respect of the elections laid down by the Geneva Agreements, for elections which are to take place next year to unify the country. Most reports suggest that unless a miracle happens the Communists are likely to win free elections in Vietnam which, of course, would be a severe humiliation for the West.
It need not have been so. The anti-Communist Forces had the opportunity in South Vietnam to pull themselves together to try to win these elections in July next year but they have so far lamentably failed to grasp their opportunity. The situation in Saigon is extremely squalid, as anyone who reads the newspapers can see.
The position has been made worse by a series of clumsy and often conflicting interventions from outside by the United States and the French Governments. These events give easy plausibility to the Communist allegation of colonialism in this country. What should the Western Powers do in those circumstances? They can do what I am not quite convinced it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to do, to give general verbal support to the Geneva Agreement without taking strong diplomatic action to support them. If that happens, the Geneva Agreements will certainly be nullified. The South Vietnam régime will not make any agreement about an electoral law at all. They do not even seek agreement. They can claim that legally they are not bound to reach agreement on the electoral law. They know that so far as they are concerned free elections will be the end of their régime. Unless a strong initiative is taken by the 707 Western Powers they will not reach agreement on an electoral law.
Surely it would be disastrous if this happened, because the prestige of this country and the prestige of the Prime Minister personally are bound up with the fulfilment of the Geneva Agreements. He was the architect of the Agreements and he was co-Chairman of the Geneva Conference to which the International Commission still reports. Our prestige would be damaged, not only locally and throughout South-East Asia, but perhaps throughout the world. If we or the Americans or the French take the line that South Vietnam is a free country and we cannot compel it to fight these elections, that will be widely, and perhaps rightly, regarded simply as a trick. It will not save southern Vietnam from Communism.
The Communists in the North called off the fighting on the promise of free elections. I would ask the Minister to say when he replies whether the Government assume that if the free elections do not take place the Communists will not restart the fighting? Can we assume that? It is a very dangerous assumption. It is conceivable, and it is not alarmist to suggest, that the Communists might consider the Agreement torn up, and very large and powerful Communist armies in the north could strike south over the 17th Parallel, which is guaranteed by the Manila Treaty.
What is the position of the British Government then? Do we resist such an attack, and if so, with what armies and with what moral justification? Alternatively, do the Government think that if the Communists restarted guerrilla fighting in the South that the South Vietnam régime would survive? I do not think that these speculations are altogether academic. Admittedly the alternative policy might also have a hard and humiliating result. If we use our influence with the Americans, the French, and the Vietnamese, to enforce the Agreements we might pave the way for a Communist victory in the elections.
If, however, the majority of these people will vote Communist anyhow, for how long can we support régimes which they do not support—in fact, impose on them régimes in a partitioned country in violation of the Geneva Agreement? I hope that the Government will give us 708 an assurance on this point, and that they will take to heart the lessons of this miserable, squalid business in South Vietnam.
I would say that the first lesson is that a great deal of this situation sprang inevitably from the decision of the French in 1946 to try to re-establish their influence by armed force. From that day, it seemed to me that French influence in Indo-China was doomed. We, in Britain, avoided a similar mistake on a vaster scale in Asia, as a result, if I may say so, of the General Election of 1945, which gave my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition a chance to adopt an alternative policy which has since borne wonderful fruit.
The second lesson to be drawn from the situation there is that resistance to Communism in Asia cannot succeed without the basic minimum of courage and honesty among the non-Communist Asians themselves. The West can provide military, economic and diplomatic aid in great quantity, but there comes a point at which further aid defeats itself by weakening the will of the non-Communist Asians to help themselves, and by giving substance to Communist charges of intervention and colonialism—especially if the aid is given tactlessly and shovelled out in dollars and francs rather than through the splendid machinery of, for example, the Colombo Plan and the United Nations Specialised Agencies. These mistakes have been made time and again by the Americans and French in Vietnam. If these people cannot defeat their own Communists within their own boundaries with the scale of help they are getting from outside no one really can very well do it for them.
My final point on that is that it is surely a mistake—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) has already said—to think of this matter too much in military terms. Surely it is wrong to visualise the non-Communist régimes in Asia as defenceless against a heavily-armed, menacing Communist aggressor. It is true that the psychological effect of China's huge armies over the frontier must have been considerable, but those armies did not actually move into Indo-China. Arms and instructors did come in, but the overwhelming advantage in arms, planes, technicians and money was on the non- 709 Communist side. What was lacking was not further military support from the West but the will to victory in the non-Communists themselves, and a lack of moral conviction about their cause.
There will, of course, be an additional vital gain if we stick to these Geneva Agreements—it will enable us to intervene more effectively in the tragic problem of the 600,000 refugees from the North. We welcome the concessions on the subject of refugees made by Mr. Molotov and Ho Chi-Minh, and announced by the Foreign Secretary. I think that the concession stems from the desire of those people to maintain the Geneva Agreements. If we stand by those agreements ourselves we shall have a better moral and legal standing for intervening effectively on behalf of the refugees.
It has, of course, been the Big Four talks that have dominated the debate today. We all profoundly hope that the West and the Soviet Government will make progress at those talks—and particularly, perhaps, on the subject of disarmament. Here, after all, is surely the best road to an immediate and quick increase in the economic welfare of every country, probably, of the world. Between the two parties there are differences about economic policies, but I am not sure that we should not be on common ground in agreeing that for an immediate increase of the standard of living of our people there would be no substitute—if it could be done without jeopardising our security—for the cutting down of the appalling bill that we have to meet for defence at present.
If that is true of us it is even truer of the Russian people themselves. Their standards of living are below ours; for them the burden of defence is far higher. Why cannot they, at these talks, really agree with the West on a comprehensive, multilateral disarmament proposal? It can be done, and it is perhaps the most important thing of all. Thus it may well be that this new diplomatic phase, as the Foreign Secretary described it, may be humanity's great chance, and that these talks, for good or ill, will dominate foreign affairs and the prospects of peace for many months—perhaps for many years—to come.
I hope that the Government will pay attention to the careful and constructive 710 suggestions and criticisms which have been made from this side of the House, because it is the heartfelt wish of us all that these vital talks shall succeed.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)
As is usual on these occasions, this debate has ranged very widely indeed. We have travelled from four-Power talks to another place, to Cyprus and even to the roads of The Wrekin Division. I should like to say straight away how much I have enjoyed, and how much the House has enjoyed, listening to the excellent maiden speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) and The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) and of the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter).
We have had a plethora of advice, all of which will be carefully passed on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—that is all to which unfortunately he had no time to listen as he had to leave to catch his aeroplane. We have had a plethora of advice on how to conduct the four-Power talks which are to begin at Geneva next month. The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) and the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) made a number of interesting suggestions, but, particularly after the injunctions I received from the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) to be discreet, I am sure that they will not expect me to deal in detail with those suggestions at present. My right hon. Friend will shortly be discussing all these problems with his American and French colleagues. I hope that the House will understand, therefore, that I am not in a position to say at this stage precisely what line Her Majesty's Government will take.
There is, however, one general comment which I should like to make on what the right hon. Member for Grimsby said. The right hon. Member and the hon. Member for Woolwich, East said that we should adopt a flexible position. I agree with them that the Western Powers should adopt a flexible position. Indeed, I do not think that anyone could say that the position of the United Kingdom has been exactly rigid in the last few years. We have shown the very greatest flexibility and the utmost desire to talk matters over with the Soviet Union 711 where there was any prospect of fruitful discussion.
There can hardly have been a period in the world's diplomatic history when there have been so many conferences as there have been in the last two or three years. If I may venture upon a prophecy, I would say that if the conference at Geneva offers hope of positive results, there will be a great many more conferences in the future. But, having agreed with the right hon. Member for Grimsby and the hon. Member for Woolwich, East that we must be flexible, I would invite them and the House to agree with me that we must combine flexibility with firmness. For if readiness to talk and patience in negotiation get results, so equally do unity and firmness in standing up for one's principles. The most recent and spectacular example of this occurred only a few weeks ago.
The House will remember the threats which were uttered by the Russians about what would happen to us all if the Paris Agreements were ratified and Western Germany joined N.A.T.O. We were told that the Russians would never speak to us again, that there would be no deal over Austria, no deal over disarmament, no point in having talks about Germany, that the Russians would cut themselves off from us, would meet bloc with bloc and hurl themselves headlong into the armaments race. What happened? Within eight days of the ratification of the Paris Agreements becoming a certainty, Mr. Molotov had invited the Austrian Chancellor to Moscow and had offered to sign a treaty over which the Soviet Government had been holding out for seven long years.
Only four days after the admission of Western Germany into N.A.T.O. the Soviet representative at a Disarmament Conference came out with the statement which adopted several of the key proposals the Western Powers had been urging them to accept for years and which the Soviet Government had been stubbornly resisting all those years. Four days later, Mr. Molotov informed the Foreign Secretary at Vienna that the Russians would be glad to attend a four-Power conference. Most recently they topped all that off by inviting Dr. Adenauer to a cosy chat in Moscow.
712 That is not a bad list, and it is no small achievement for the Western policy of rebuilding our unity before we confer and not after, for the policy of negotiating from strength and not from weakness. I take it, therefore, that when we are invited to be flexible in our attitude towards negotiation, we are not being asked to abandon our unity with our friends and Allies which has been so laboriously built up by successive Governments over the past years and is now just beginning to bear fruit.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East made a very wise and prudent observation that we should not trade points of substance with the Russians for vague promises and general assurances. I am sure the House will agree that to do this would be to cast away our best and greatest opportunity for getting a settlement. It would invite a repetition of those years of frustrated endeavour which followed 1945, when Mr. Bevin laboured so endlessly and patiently, but always with the handicap that the Western world had cast away that strength which is the only solid basis for negotiating the settlement we desire.
In speaking of negotiation from strength, I do not of course mean that we are thinking in terms of an imposed settlement or diktat. I say this not because there is likely to be any misunderstanding in this House on this question, but rather because there has been some misrepresentation of our attitude in these matters in recent Soviet commentaries. When in this House we talk of negotiation from strength, I am sure we all mean—I hope I can clear up any real misunderstanding in the Russian mind on this—negotiation from an equality of strength. It has been that equality, or balance of strength, which we have lacked in the past. Now we have achieved that balance, the prospects for real negotiation are greatly improved.
That, of course, does not mean that we think the problems which have divided the world for so many years can be settled at one conference, or in one week. What it means is that we look to Geneva as the beginning of a process of gradual and progressive settlement and easement of tension. The message I get from the debate is that the House looks at the Geneva Conference in that same light, as the beginning of the process and not as likely in itself to produce a spec- 713 tacular settlement of all the issues. The hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) and the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney), in some typically robust speeches, said that the Russians had not in any way changed their policy. I should prefer on this occasion not to follow those hon. Members in that speculation. I notice that "The Times" in its leader this morning saidprospects are different from a few months ago. Generally they are brighter.I think that is the view generally held and expressed in this debate.
Not only have we been able to solve such a hitherto insoluble problem as the Austrian State Treaty, but even the still unresolved problems do not seem to be in quite such an eruptive state as they were a few months ago. We have heard it said—it emerged from some speeches in this debate—that the principal issues which now remain, Germany, European security, the Far East and disarmament, are all inter-related. Certainly the recent Soviet proposals in the Disarmament Conference suggest that is the view of the Soviet Government, and I think there is much to be said for that inter-relation. Dr. Adenauer has recently developed some interesting and far-reaching ideas on the connection which must lie between a settlement of the German question in freedom and a general and effectively controlled system of disarmament.
When we consider the problem of reunifying Germany, certain hon. Members of this House are not unnaturally inclined, as was the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, East, to cast around 'for some concession or compromise which we could honourably offer to the Russians. I do not complain of that, but I do say—and I think that the House agrees with this—that we cannot compromise about freedom. We cannot offer Germany half-free elections or a half-free choice of whether she wants to throw in her lot with the Western democracies after she has been reunified. The House will have read the wise words on the subject of the neutralisation of Germany which were recently uttered by the French Foreign Minister, M. Pinay.
Equally, I am sure we cannot impose neutrality upon Germany. I would only repeat the two simple but succinct questions which my right hon. Friend the 714 Prime Minister asked on this subject in the House some time ago. He asked, "If Germany is to be neutral and unarmed, who is going to keep her unarmed? It Germany is to be neutral and armed, who is going to keep her neutral?" These two questions have never been answered, and I do not believe there is an answer to them. Neutralisation imposed as a condition of reunification upon 80 million Germans living in the heart of Europe would not only be a nonsense; far worse than that, it would be a constant source of danger to Europe and the whole world.
It is no doubt because there can be no compromise about freedom of elections and freedom of choice for a reunified Germany, and because, too, a neutralisation imposed by the four Powers is a non-starter, that Dr. Adenauer has advanced the idea of a German settlement in freedom within the context of a general disarmament agreement. There is much to be said for this viewpoint. Indeed, whether or not we admit that we cannot get one without the other, there is no one in this House or outside it who would not heave an immense sigh of relief if both these settlements were to come together.
Now I turn to the issues in Indo-China which were raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich, East. I would like to give the House a short account of the tasks and achievements of the International Commission. In Vietnam the major purposes of the agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Vietnam was the disengagement, concentration and withdrawal by stages north and south of the military demarcation line of the opposing forces of Vietminh and French Union. This was completed without incident and according to the provisions of the agreement a month ago, and it was no small achievement. The supervision of this extremely complicated process—for there was no front line and the opposing forces were mixed up with one another all over the country—was the major task of the Commission in Vietnam and its execution reflects considerable credit upon the Commission.
The feature of the agreement which has attracted most attention in this country has been the provision for the free movement of refugees between north and south or vice versa. Here, although the Commission has been able to reduce, and 715 on occasion to expose Vietminh violations or evasions of the agreement, it has not been able altogether to prevent them. Nevertheless, many thousands of refugees have left North Vietnam with the aid of the Commission who would undoubtedly never have got away without it.
In Laos the tasks of the Commission have been complicated by disagreement about the interpretation of those provisions of the agreement concerning the authority of the Royal Government of Laos over the two northern provinces of that country. The Foreign Secretary referred to this in his opening speech. For some time, too, the Commission was also handicapped by transport difficulties, but these have since been alleviated by the supply of additional helicopters.
Although these two difficulties have prevented We Commission from doing all that it might otherwise have done, it has nevertheless accomplished much valuable work. We hope that it will eventually be able to secure compliance by the Vietminh and Pathet Lao with the provisions of the agreement relating to the two northern provinces.
In Cambodia the task of the Commission has been the easiest of the three, and, so far as military withdrawals are concerned, these are already completed.
I now come to the question of elections in Vietnam about which the hon. Gentleman had some comments to make. The final declaration of the Geneva Conference on Indo-China provides that the general elections to be held in Vietnam in July, 1956, shall be supervised by an international commission composed of representatives of the member States of the present International Supervisory Commission in Vietnam, namely, India, Canada and Poland. This electoral supervisory commission has not yet been set up, and agreement has still to be reached on its functions and terms of reference. However, in reply to the direct question put to me by the hon. Gentleman, we are proceeding on the assumption that elections will take place as laid down in the Geneva Agreement in July, 1956.
As the House knows, our policy is to do all we can to uphold the authority and prestige of the international supervisory commissions in Indo-China and to support them in their efforts to make the 716 Geneva Agreements work. They can do no more. Their task in doing that has been by no means an easy one, nor for that matter has ours; but, by and large, I hope the House will agree, and give them credit for it, that they have done all and more than they could be expected to do in seeing that the Geneva settlement is carried out. But what they cannot do, and are not called upon to do, under the Geneva Agreement is to intervene in the internal situation and internal affairs of the State of Indo-China. All they can do is to ensure that elections take place. The International Supervisory Commission should not and cannot try to win the elections for whichever side we should like to win.
§ Mr. Mayhew
What steps are the Government taking, first, to get the supervisory commission set up immediately, and, second, and most important, to ensure that there is a real will on the southern side to reach agreement on the electoral law for elections next year?
§ Mr. Nutting
We cannot order the Government of South Vietnam about. With regard to getting the supervisory commission going, the hon. Gentleman will know that under the Geneva Agreements the two parties in Vietnam, the Vietminh and the Government of South Vietnam, must agree on the powers and functions of the supervisory commission which is to supervise the elections. It is upon that that we are stuck at the moment, but we shall certainly do all we can to lever that along and get agreement so that the supervisory commission can take up its duties.
§ Mr. Mayhew
The right hon. Gentleman says that he has no power to order the South Vietnam Government about. That is the crux of the problem. The French signed the agreement before the South Vietnam Government became independent. Now that Government is independent. If the Western Powers seek refuge in saying that it is independent and cannot be influenced, the Geneva Agreements will fall.
§ Mr. Nutting
I am not saying that we cannot influence it; I am saying that we cannot order it about. We shall use all our influence to get the South Vietnam Government to agree upon the early establishment of the supervisory commission, but, as I say, to be fair, it does not rest with them alone. The Vietminh 717 have to he brought to agree to the authority as well.
Now I turn to the Middle East. The right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Grimsby and Easington both refuse to accept from the Foreign Secretary that we do in fact, maintain a balance in arms as between the Arab States and Israel. The right hon. Member for Easington, in particular, said in illustration of his contention that we in Britain were supplying more to the Arab States than to Israel. He must not think that we are monopoly traders in arms to the Middle East, for this simply is not so.
Both Israel and her neighbours are perfectly able to receive, and do receive, arms from other countries, including some over whom we could not expect to exercise any influence, let alone order them about, even if we wished, such as—
—Czechoslovakia, as I am reminded by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North. I really do want to assure the House that the balance of forces on the frontiers of Israel does not constitute any danger to the Israelis. Besides this, I would remind the House of the obligations which we owe to defend Jordan in the event of any attack upon her, obligations entered into by the Party opposite. The Arab Legion, which has a British commander, and the small British forces stationed in Jordan cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as excessive for the purpose of defending Jordan, still less as constituting an element of menace to Israel.
The hon. Member for Enfield, East echoed the suggestion which has come before from the benches opposite that we should counter-balance our obligations to the Arab States by a formal treaty with Israel. The right hon. Member for Grimsby said that it was no good saying that the 1950 Tripartite Declaration was as good as a treaty for the Israelis and that we must turn this into an effective and formal guarantee followed by negotiation. With respect, I submit that that is putting the cart before the horse.
When we last debated the Middle East, the Prime Minister said that if a settlement between Israel and her Arab neighbours could be reached, we would be 718 willing to enter further engagements to back up the arrangements arrived at. What we want to do is to get stability first and then guarantee it, not to enter into a formal treaty commitment to perpetuate the present instability. Meanwhile, the Tripartite Declaration holds, and we hold firm to all our obligations under it. I hope that there is no illusion on that matter in the House, or outside it. This is an obligation to resist any attempt to alter the present demarcation line by force.
But a treaty of guarantee inevitably presupposes that the arrangements guaranteed are permanent and have been freely accepted by both parties. It is all very well for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to belittle the effectiveness of the Tripartite Declaration and say that it is not as good as a treaty, but the fact remains that it has served its purpose since it was made in 1950, in that no attempt has been made by either side to alter the frontier by force since the Tripartite Declaration came into effect.
It is true that there have been numbers of regrettable incidents and retaliations on this border, but we are doing and will continue doing everything we possibly can to bring the parties to a meeting under General Burns's chairmanship to discuss this regrettable and dangerous situation on the frontiers. In passing, perhaps I might correct what the right hon. Member for Grimsby said about the Egyptians having refused to join a meeting with Israel to discuss the Gaza situation. This is not so. We are still hopeful that a meeting can be arranged and we have done and will continue to do all we can to bring about a wider settlement of these problems.
The right hon. Gentleman said that if we were doing anything, then we were hiding our light under a bushel. As one of my illustrious predecessors he must well know that it is not always advisable, when one is trying to bring an end to a long-standing feud, to proclaim to all the world everything one is doing or trying to do at each and every moment one tries to do it.
The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) raised the question of Cyprus, as did my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin. The hon. Member for Swindon drew attention to the 719 bedevilling effects of the present situation on N.A.T.O.'s defence arrangements in that part of the world. He expressed the hope that we would do something to bring about a solution of this problem with Greece, including an offer of a more liberal constitution to the island. He will not expect me to invade the province of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies by dealing with the constitutional problem particularly as I understand that there may be a debate on colonial affairs a little later on.
However, I draw his attention to one important point. The Greek complaint, if I may so call it, is not that we do not offer this or that constitution to the Cypriots; it is that we do not hand over the island of Cyprus to Greece. That is their complaint. Therefore, I cannot accept the view that the unhappy situation, the explosive situation if he likes to call it so, which has arisen over Cyprus is in any way the fault of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
Surely the right hon. Gentleman agrees that it is quite unrealistic to suggest that the only line which the Government could take to make the Greeks happier is the immediate cession of the island? I did not suggest that, and nor did anyone else.
§ Mr. Nutting
The hon. Gentleman may not have suggested it, but that is precisely what the Greeks have suggested.
I do not want to stir things up any more than they are already stirred up over this question, but I would invite the hon. Gentleman to read some of the outpourings of the Greek radio and Press against this country, and some of the direct incitements to violence which they contain for the Cypriot people to rebel and to adopt a policy of violence against the present administration. To say the least of it, these are not the sort of things which one expects to hear from a country with whom one has normal relations, still less from a country which is our Ally in N.A.T.O. Besides, as the hon. Gentleman himself admitted, there is a third party involved in all this business—Turkey. There is, as he said, a considerable Turkish minority in the island of Cyprus, and we are responsible for safeguarding their interests.
720 Not least of the unhappy and unfortunate situations which have resulted from this Greek campaign over Cyprus has been the deterioration of the relations between Greece and Turkey. This is having its disruptive effect not only within N.A.T.O., but also within the Balkan Alliance, which gave us all so much encouragement to hope that an ever closer co-operation would develop between Turkey and Greece.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland
Would my right hon. Friend clarify one point? Would he say whether in the last six or seven weeks there has been any change in the general tone of the Greek broadcasts to Cyprus?
§ Mr. Nutting
There has been a slight improvement, but nothing to be particularly pleased or gratified about.
Surely the House will join with me in regretting that outside influences are trying to persuade the Cypriots not to work with us for the constitutional development of the island. Of one thing I am certain—that to work for this is in the interests of the Cypriot people themselves, and that no greater disservice can be rendered to them than the present attempts by some people in Greece to stir up trouble and violence in the island of Cyprus.
To sum up, the tasks of Her Majesty's Government in the field of foreign affairs are really fourfold. They are, first, to work for an easement of tension and progressive settlements between East and West leading to general disarmament; second, to go on building up the unity and cohesion of the Western world; third, to help to settle outstanding issues such as those between the Arab world and Israel; and, fourth, to help in the great work of fighting ignorance, poverty and disease among the less fortunate of our fellow men.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby said that he hoped that as future settlements emerged the United Nations would not be ignored, but would play an enhanced rôle in world affairs. I can assure him that the Government share this hope. As my right hon. Friend said, we do not arrogate to the Four Powers an exclusive right or power to arrange the world's affairs. In all our dealings we shall seek to strengthen the United Nations.
721 At the same time, I am sure that the House will agree that the business of trying to get settlements between East and West and continuing the unification of the Western world, and of Western Europe in particular, are in no way incompatible. On the contrary, they are complementary. To succeed with one will help us to succeed in the other, as we have already seen in the brighter prospects now opening before us for the four-Power talks which flow from and follow the recent successes in the field of European co-operation and integration.
We in the Western world are united with our friends not only for military purposes but also for co-operation in its broadest sense. We hope that out of this unity, which we have built together within the free world, will grow an ever wider unity and co-operation throughout the world as a whole.
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, might I ask him if tomorrow he will have a look at what I said and if he will ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can make a slightly more helpful answer when we debate this subject next week?
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. R. Thompson.]
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.