§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Godber]
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
We welcome this debate on the situation in Hungary. I know that there are many hon. Members who wish to speak, even though they are not all here at the moment, and accordingly, I shall try to confine my remarks within a certain limit of time.
The struggle in Hungary continues. There has been little change in the situation in the last two weeks. It seems that the mass deportations have stopped. There are reports of large bodies of armed resistance fighters still in the field, but I think that it is probably correct to say that most of the resistance at present is passive.
The Kadar Government have given up all attempts to come to terms and have embarked upon a campaign of severe repression aimed at breaking that resistance. They have outlawed all workers' councils above factory level and are arresting the leading members of such higher councils. House-to-house searches are going on, and reports indicate that, in Budapest at least, indiscriminate arrests are taking place all over the city.
Courts of summary jurisdiction have been set up to try persons on such charges as that of concealment of arms. They have been ordered to pass the death sentence on all found guilty. There is no appeal against the verdict of these courts, and the sentences passed are carried out within two hours.
But the spirit of the people in face of this ruthless oppression remains unshaken. Although there has been some movement back to the factories, very little work is being done, and attempts by Kadar's militia to take control of the factories have been unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the fact must be faced that the Hungarian economy is running down. The mines are reported to be flooded and the oil wells to be out of action. Obviously, there will be a substantial task of reconstruction to be done to get things going again.
1318 There are reports of a movement of some Soviet troops out of Hungary, but I think it would be unwise to 'regard this as the beginning of a withdrawal. It may be due to the need for regrouping or to bring in fresh troops. There is no doubt that power still rests with the Soviet military commander and that Soviet troops are available in large numbers to back up Kadar's militia.
It is now eight weeks since the Hungarian people rose against the Communist tyranny. It is more than six weeks since the beginning of the ferocious attack upon them by upwards of 10 Soviet divisions. It is about five weeks since the Hungarian workers started their passive resistance and general strike. History has few parallels for the courage and endurance of Hungarian national resistance. It has been remarkable for its solidarity, its thoroughness and its versatility. By their bravery, the Hungarian people have shown not only indifference to personal danger in the face even of armoured forces, but also their utter distaste for this Communist régime imposed upon them from without.
There has been much tragedy and suffering. On the other hand, there has been inspiration and ground for hope. The idea that time is always on the side of a Communist régime, an idea which was shaken by what happened in Eastern Germany in June, 1953, has been shattered by recent events in Hungary.
As a consequence of those events, there have, of course, been serious human problems to be tackled. Her Majesty's Government have done all they can to meet the desperate situation which has been caused by these events. Here, I am speaking in a sphere which is really the responsibility of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary. Immediate grants were made to the British Red Cross Society to enable it to begin its work in Hungary and Austria. Money has been made available to the United Nations and to the British Council for Aid to Refugees. In accordance with our national tradition, these sums have been much exceeded by voluntary contributions.
The total raised by the four principal funds now stands at £2,076,000. The Lord Mayor of London, supported by local authority appeals throughout the country, has raised £1,600,000. The British Red 1319 Cross Society has raised £315,000, the Save the Children Fund £86,000 and the United Nations Association £75,000.
Perhaps our most important contribution has been to allow 11,500 refugees to enter this country without preliminary examination. This is a greater number than any other country except Austria has been able to take. The position, however, is that, despite the great efforts made to get refugees away from Austria to other countries—between 50,000 and 60,000 have been moved—there are still some 72,000 in Austria The flow into Austria still continues, although it has now slackened off to a rate of about 1,000 a day. The American airlift, which is designed to take 21,500 in all, is only just beginning to get under way.
It is impossible to give any firm estimate of how many of the refugees still in Austria wish to come to the United Kingdom. The experience of those on the spot is that it is probable that about 10 per cent. will express a desire to come to this country. Clearly, therefore, there is still a further contribution that we can make.
In the course of this operation, there have been certain surprises. One is the composition of the refugee parties. Many thought that the refugees would come over in families, or in groups of aged or orphans. In fact, 77 per cent. of the refugees are males, 89 per cent. of them are under the age of 38, and 67 per cent. are between the ages of 18 and 38. There have been hardly any unaccompanied children at all.
Another feature, which was not altogether expected, was the number of refugees who came to this country regarding it as a staging area to go on elsewhere. They do not want to stay here: they want to go on to one of the immigration countries overseas. As a result of the refugees being interviewed by the placing officers of the Ministry of Labour, it is estimated that more than half of those in this country want to go on to another country. No authority here places any obstacle in the way of that. However, they can only go to countries which are willing to receive them, and many receiving countries feel, not unnaturally, that the best contribution they can immediately make is to take refugees from Austria and not from this country.
1320 At present, Canada is the only country which is taking refugees from the United Kingdom. I should like to say something about what Canada is proposing to do, because it affects the position of the refugees in this country. The Canadian authorities have already committed themselves to receive at least 10,000 Hungarian refugees in Canada before the end of January, and in the spring, when the normal requirements for labour in Canada expand rapidly, it will be possible for the Canadian authorities to increase the number of Hungarian refugees, who can be readily absorbed into the Canadian economy, and to do that rapidly, also. They are prepared to take into Canada after 1st April next—perhaps even a little earlier—up to 5,000 of the refugees now in the United Kingdom, a large number of whom, as I said, came here in the hope that it would be possible for them to go on to North America afterwards. It may be that labour conditions in Canada will justify the acceptance of more than that figure of 5,000.
The refugees so accepted will, in effect, be those who wish to go there. There is no question of special selection. I hope that when this becomes known among the refugees it will have a reassuring effect and, in particular, that it will induce them to learn English and to take employment here while they are waiting for re-emigration to Canada. Their taking of employment here will in no way prejudice their chance of going to Canada in due course.
As the congestion in the reception centres has diminished, Her Majesty's Government have decided that it will soon be no longer necessary to suspend the flow of refugees and that it will be possible to receive a further limited number. The Canadian Government's willingness to take up to 5,000 from us will, of course, make it easier for us to take about that number from Austria. Her Majesty's Government accordingly propose that the intake of refugees should be resumed early in the new year.
The precise date of the resumption and the rate of flow will be fixed in consultation with the British Council for Aid to Refugees. The matter will be kept under review from time to time. The situation in Hungary is constantly changing, and none of us can see very far ahead, but I hope that the House will agree that the actions of this country in regard to the 1321 Hungarian refugees have been in accordance with our traditions and are actions of which we can all be proud.
I should like to pay tribute to all the voluntary bodies, which have worked with great energy, led by the Lord Mayor of London, the local authorities, the Red Cross and the British Council for Aid to Refugees. It is also right, I think, that we should pay our tribute to the great efforts made by the Austrian Government and the people of Austria to deal with this situation.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
While the right hon. and learned Gentleman is dealing with the difficult situation in which the Austrian Government, in particular, are placed—with over 70,000 refugees still to deal with, and more coming in—can he say whether any significant proportion of the £2 million or more raised in this country is available, or is likely to be available, for the relief of refugees in Austria itself?
§ Mr. Peter Remnant (Wokingham)
Since they have done a very great deal in connection with the reception of these refugees, would my right hon. and learned Friend feel disposed to include the Women's Voluntary Services in his thanks?
§ Mr. Lloyd
Certainly. I apologise for that omission.
My right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary has given me the answer to the question asked by the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey). The answer is that 33⅓ per cent. of the fund is available for use in Austria or in Hungary.
So much for the present situation in regard to the refugees.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
Does the Foreign Secretary know the number of people who have been deported by Russia?
§ Mr. Lloyd
No, I have no information that I can give the right hon. and learned Gentleman now. A certain amount of information has come in, and I will see 1322 whether it can be assessed in terms of numbers.
Dealing with the future of Hungary, it is a matter of speculation as to how soon the Soviet rulers will realise that their troops have won only a pyrrhic victory, because they will not succeed in imposing on a country of 9 million inhabitants—who have behaved as the Hungarian people have—a system which it clearly has no intention of accepting. Meanwhile the Soviet Union has sustained a tremendous political defeat. The decision which it has to take is whether it proposes to hold the Hungarians down by brute force or to accept the principle of self-determintion, to which it so frequently gives lip-service, particularly in criticism of ourselves, and whether it is prepared to accept the principle of competitive co-existence.
Much has been said recently about the efficacy of United Nations action in a variety of fields. The events in Hungary have been much discussed in the United Nations. They were first raised in the Security Council on 28th October, and, after a rather protracted discussion, a Resolution calling upon the Soviet Union to desist from intervention and to withdraw their troops was vetoed on 3rd November. The voting was 10 in favour, with one abstention —Yugoslavia— and the vote against was that of the Soviet Union, which amounted to the veto.
At a special session of the General Assembly, on 4th November, the abortive Security Council Resolution was put forward again, with the addition of clauses requesting the Secretary-General to investigate, to appoint observers and to report back with suggestions of measures to end Soviet intervention. All members of the United Nations were called upon to assist him. That Resolution was passed by 50 votes to 8 against, with 15 abstentions.
On 9th November, two further Resolutions were passed. The first expressed deep concern at the non-observance of the Soviet Union of the previous Resolution. This was passed by 48 votes to 11, with 16 abstentions. The second Resolution on that day called upon the Soviet Union to cease illegal action against the Hungarian people, and dealt with the relief measures for refugees. It was passed by 53 votes to 9, with 13 abstentions.
1323 On 21st November, in the ordinary session of the General Assembly, a Resolution was put forward calling for the immediate withdrawal of Soviet forces, the admission of United Nations observers, and an end to the deportations. That was carried by 55 votes to 10, with 14 abstentions. Another Resolution was passed on that same date, urging Hungary to permit observers to enter its territory. That went through by 57 votes to 8, with 14 abstentions.
On 4th December, a Resolution calling upon the Soviet Union and Hungary to admit observers to Hungary by 7th December was passed by 54 votes to 10, with 14 abstentions. Finally, on 12th December, a Resolution condemning the Soviet Union, calling upon it to desist from intervention and to make immediate arrangements for withdrawal, and requesting the Secretary-General to take any initiative which he might deem helpful, was passed by 55 votes to 8, with 13 abstentions.
The voting on many of these Resolutions has shown a double standard as compared with the votes on Suez. Some of those very anxious to condemn Great Britain and France have been singularly reluctant to show themselves opposed to the action of the Soviet Union in Hungary.
In the face of this record, no one can deny that there has been great activity by the United Nations in debating this matter and in seeking to bring pressure to bear upon the Soviet Union and the present authorities in Hungary, but their activity has not yet had any impact on events because, unfortunately, not the slightest respect has been shown to any of these Resolutions by the Soviet Union or by the Hungarian authorities. I really must say this, even if it causes offence to hon. Members opposite. France and Britain are keeping faith with We United Nations by effecting the withdrawal from Port Said. We are entitled to demand that the Soviet Union should pay the same regard to these Resolutions of the United Nations, passed by such large majorities.
It has been suggested that the present would be a suitable time to seek Russian agreement on a European settlement. We are ready to explore any possibilities which may exist of obtaining a satisfactory settlement, and have this very much 1324 in mind in considering the Soviet Note of 17th November, in which certain proposals were made about disarmament and a reduction of forces in Europe. Although these proposals were prefaced by a violent attack on our policy, which suggests that they were intended primarily for propaganda purposes, we would not, on that account, ignore them. They are, as I have said, being studied to see whether they contain any new constructive ideas which might usefully be followed up. So far, however, the Soviet Union stands in flagrant breach of all Resolutions in the United Nations calling on them to desist from intervention and to admit observers.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
With all these Resolutions and masses of paper, was it not possible for the United Nations to have sent—I do not say an armed force—a properly constituted committee to the frontiers of Hungary and to have demanded admission? They are too mealy-mouthed for words. I do not know why they do not get on and do something effective.
§ Mr. Lloyd
That was a suggestion which was considered. It was suggested, I think, when I was in New York, that United Nations observers should be sent to Hungary, whether or not they received permission to go there from the Hungarian Government. But the responsibility in that matter was not ours. The responsibility was that of the Secretary-General, and it must be for him to take that sort of decision.
If, in spite of the attitude of the Soviet Union towards these Resolutions, it is nevertheless urged that a new offer on Germany might be made as a bargain for Soviet withdrawal from Hungary, I would ask the House to consider what this would imply. In Hungary, the Russians intervened because the population claimed the right to choose their own Government and independence for their country. That is exactly what we proposed for Germany, in Berlin in 1954, and in Geneva in 1955.
We want to see a freely elected all-German Government which is free to conduct its own foreign and domestic policies. If the Russians considered that such a Government would be a threat to their security, we have offered guarantees to them to reassure them; but it can hardly be contemplated that, to secure freedom for the Hungarians, we should be willing to consider restrictions on the 1325 freedom to which the Germans are equally entitled and which we are pledged to secure.
I can, however, assure the House that Her Majesty's Government would be ready to consider carefully, and in consultation with our allies, any further proposals which the Soviet Government put forward, which represent a genuine and constructive contribution towards a general European settlement.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean that he is not proposing to discuss with our N.A.T.O. allies the Note of 17th November?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I meant just the contrary, and I think I made it clear at Question Time, too. It is certainly a matter which must be discussed, and discussed, also, in connection with the new United States disarmament proposals.
As I was saying, to discuss these sorts of possibilities today, or to put them forward as alternatives to compliance with the United Nations Resolutions seems to me to undermine the position of the United Nations in this matter. I think it would be highly dangerous to say that one set of rules exist for people who are prepared to pay attention to the views of the United Nations, and another for those who do quite the reverse.
Therefore, I hope that the message which will go forth from all quarters of the House this evening will be admiration for the grave resistance of the people of Hungary; sympathy with them in their terrible plight; determination to do all we can to alleviate their sufferings; determination to help the refugees to the utmost of our capacity; and, finally, a demand for compliance with the Resolutions of the United Nations, which we have consistently supported.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
I am glad that the Leader of the House, taking into account the obviously strong feeling existing in all quarters of the House, was able to rearrange the business for this week so that we could have this debate. It would, indeed have been very wrong if we had departed for our Christmas Recess without having several hours' discussion on what I think most would agree is one of if not the most 1326 significant developments in Europe since 1945.
Whatever differences may exist between us about the exact circumstances in which the Russians intervened in Hungary with armed forces, or however much we may differ on what should now be done, I am sure that there is general agreement, first, that the courage and endurance, pertinacity and faith of the Hungarian people is worthy of the highest admiration; and, secondly, that we cannot but condemn utterly the ruthless action of Soviet Russia. With that we must couple, also, the action now being taken by the Kadar Government in setting up tribunals, imposing the death sentence and engaging in an internal repression programme which certainly seems very sinister.
On the causes of this matter, and, in particular, on the impact, such as it may have been, of the Suez situation on Hungary, I do not propose to speak this evening. I would assure the Foreign Secretary that he need not have apologised in any way to us when he said that there was a striking contrast between the agreement of the British and French Governments eventually, at any rate, to the cease-fire and to the withdrawal of their forces, and the utter refusal of the Soviet Government to take the slightest notice of the United Nations. I would say that we who pressed the Government very strongly to agree to the cease-fire and the withdrawal have both the right and duty to emphasise this contrast.
I should like to say a few things, but very few, about the nature of this rising. The facts, I think, are known to all of us and there is no need to repeat them, but two characteristics seem to me worth singling out. First, it is quite evident that this was a spontaneous revolution, and that all the propaganda about it being inspired from outside sources, or that it was a carefully laid Fascist plot, is just propaganda.
I do not think that there is any doubt at all that behind it lay a very great deal of economic distress. All the evidence that is coming out of Hungary now shows that the extent to which Russia has exploited Hungary in these post-war years is very great indeed. The standard of living of the Hungarian people obviously has been kept down in the most ruthless manner. But as for the rising itself, I do not think there is the 1327 slightest doubt that it was provoked on 23rd October by the fact that the police opened fire on a peaceful demonstration in Budapest. From then onwards what had been merely a demonstration developed swiftly into a revolution.
The second characteristic of the rising is the extraordinary part played in it by young people, by the youth of Hungary. It has been led by students and factory workers, the very classes of the community whom one would suppose might have most easily fallen to Communist propaganda. One can add, too, as further evidence that not only the students but the factory workers have themselves been right in the van of this movement, the extraordinary courage shown by the workers' councils in recent weeks. So let nobody say that this is something which comes from outside. It is something which comes from the Hungarians themselves, and it has been led by their youth.
Whatever we may feel about what might or might not have been done—and I shall have something to say about that in a few moments—let us at least record these consequences of the extraordinary developments of the last two months. Many of us in this House, and, indeed, in the country generally, have, in the past few years, felt a sense of profound depression about the situation of people living under totalitarian dictatorships.
We have been influenced by literature on the subject, notably by that very remarkable novel "1984." We have been influenced by what we have heard from others. We have been influenced by the apparently complete suppression of the 1953 rising in East Germany, and we came to the conclusion, perhaps wrongly even at the time, that it was almost impossible for a free people to resist the enormous power of a totalitarian dictatorship.
The great thing that the Hungarian rising has done is to remove that burden of depression from our minds. We now know that whatever the régime, however ruthless the dictatorship, however tight its control over propaganda, it cannot suppress the flame of freedom, it cannot suppress the demand for liberty. The fact that young people, not only in Hungary but, so one understands, in Soviet 1328 Russia itself, are demanding a greater degree of freedom is an immensely encouraging fact for those who believe, as all of us here believe, in democratic institutions.
The second consequence is, of course, that behind the Iron Curtain itself, in the other satellite countries, what has happened in Hungary is bound to have, and I do not doubt is already having, a most profound influence. The situation there is a completely new one. It is a situation which, I must admit, I did not, a few years ago, expect to develop so rapidly, if at all. We had the rising in East Germany, as I said just now, which was suppressed. There were the Poznan riots and the developments in Poland. Now we have the rising in Hungary, in addition to all that. It is quite clear that everywhere behind the Iron Curtain there is a ferment of new developments, a changing situation, and all of that has been given a tremendous impetus by the Hungarian revolution.
The third consequence is the devastating effect which these events have had upon the reputation and position of Communist parties everywhere else in the world. I will quote but one extract, if I may, to illustrate this. It is an extract from something written by Mr. Fryer, who was employed on the staff of the Daily Worker, but who resigned from that newspaper. This is what he wrote in the New Statesman about Hungary:The Stalinists put their faith in T54 tanks and a four-day bombardment of Budapest; they support the export of socialism in high-explosive form. I preferred and I still prefer to put my faith in the Hungarian people… From start to finish the Daily Worker—or rather the Stalinists who control it—have lied, lied, lied about Hungary…Shame on a newspaper which can spit on a nation's anguish and grief. Shame on party leaders who can justify with smooth clichés and lies the massacre and martyrdom of a proud and indomitable people.That is very well expressed, and perhaps all the better for coming from an ex-Communist.
I now turn to the question of what more might have been done. For our part, of course, we entirely support the action of the Government in letting in the Hungarian refugees, the action of the Home Secretary in relaxing the rules which normally apply, the help which has been given in relief work, and the support given to the demands of the United 1329 Nations. But there is the question—we have to face it—could more have been done? Here, with respect, I feel that attacks upon the United Nations for failing to do this are misplaced. They are misplaced for this reason, that nobody is proposing any alternative. There is no suggestion that N.A.T.O. might have been able to act if the United Nations were not involved. As far as I know, Her Majesty's Government have not proposed, either in the United Nations or outside, any other course of action.
That being so, it is obviously highly superficial to criticise the United Nations in this matter.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
There is no proposal that we should have acted on our own, as there was in the case of the Middle East.
The reason, which we must face, is that, as we all know, a proposal to intervene by force would have involved a very great risk of the third world war. It may be regrettable, but we must simply say that; and it is that which has inhibited the United Nations, N.A.T.O., Her Majesty's Government, and every other country in the free world. The fact is that none of us was prepared to take that risk.
I know that some people have suggested, as I think Señor de Madariaga argued, that, after all, the Russians, also, are frightened of the third world war. It may be so. But the fact is that there are certain situations in which we would be prepared to take that risk, ghastly as it is, and there are other situations in which, frankly, we are not prepared to take the risk; and this happens to be one of them.
What else can now be done? I venture to put forward a few suggestions to the Government, and I very much hope that a member of the Government will be able to answer one or two of these proposals. My first suggestion may seem a comparatively small one. We had the privilege recently of welcoming the Leader of the Hungarian Social Democratic Party, Anna Kethly. I myself was fortunate to hear her speak, and to speak with her, in Copenhagen. Later, she 1330 addressed a meeting of our party in the House of Commons.
At present, Anna Kethly is in New York. She wishes to address the Assembly of the United Nations. I ask the Government to support that request. There are precedents for this, and I cannot really see that any harm can be done by lending our support to her demand.
As regards the question of United Nations observers, there is, I think, much to be said for the Motion on the Order Paper—
§ [That this House notes with distress the refusal of the Kadar Government to admit the Secretary-General of the United Nations to Hungary; supports the efforts of the United Nations to secure the entry of observers and the Secretary-General into Hungary; and urges Her Majesty's Government, if these efforts should not be promptly successful, to suggest that the members of the United Nations which have voted for the dispatch of observers to Hungary should instruct their diplomatic representatives in Budapest to meet and agree a report on events and conditions in Hungary for submission to the General Assembly of the United Nations.]
§ —which supports the demand of the United Nations to secure the entry of observers, but adds that, if these efforts are not promptly successful, members of the United Nations which have voted for the despatch of observers should instruct their diplomatic representatives in Budapest to agree a report on events and conditions in Hungary and submit it to the General Assembly of the United Nations.
§ I ask the Government to support that proposal in the United Nations. Again, it may seem a small thing, but I do not think we shall handle this matter successfully by any one single dramatic move. We must think in terms of many different things which, taken together, may sufficiently influence the Soviet Government.
§ I was very glad to hear the announcement of the Foreign Secretary that the temporary ban on refugees is to be lifted early in the new year. I am sure that will give widespread satisfaction in the country. There are, however, two other matters which I think we must consider. I happened to meet quite recently some 1331 people who were associated with the Hungarian doctors who had escaped to England. I believe that there are 30 or 40 of them. The persons concerned have lived here for a long time, and they were much distressed to find that, under the normal rule, these Hungarian medical men, and perhaps, women, who were, of course, fully qualified, may not practise in this country for three years. They are refugees. They have no money, they have nothing. They have no means of studying. They feel, not unreasonably, that since they have been practising in Hungary, they might be allowed a concession here.
§ I would ask the Government to look again at these restrictions on the professions. I have never felt very happy about them. I remember the way they operated before the war, when applied to refugees from Nazi Germany. I feel that, in the special circumstances of these Hungarian doctors, something might be done to help; perhaps the period could be shortened, or perhaps the Government could make free grants available for them to study. I do ask that the matter he looked into.
§ I now turn to the position of Austria itself. The Foreign Secretary rightly gave full praise to the Austrian Government, and I certainly associate myself with what he said. Here we have a situation where there are 72,000 refugees still in Austria and, as I understand, it is the plan of the United Nations that about 60,000 should remain there. There is a financial problem. How are the Austrian Government to pay for the housing, feeding and general care of these 60,000 refugees?
§ The United Nations is, in fact, asking for cash contributions. I would ask the Government to say what they are prepared to do in the matter. What are they prepared to offer in the United Nations, on behalf of the United Kingdom, to finance the maintenance of the refugees in Austria?
§ The most recent report to the Assembly of the United Nations deals in some detail with what the International Committee of the Red Cross is doing in Hungary. I will not read it all, but in a sense it is rather encouraging. Three different assistance programmes, I believe, are actually operating. One is 1332 for about 173,000 children under the age of six, another is for about 50,000 children between the ages of six and 16, and from the middle of December there will be the distribution of food packages to 100,000 persons who are, broadly speaking, without means of support or are living in particularly difficult conditions. It is, however, clear from the report to the United Nations that the supplies now available for this work will last only until 15th January. In other words, if assistance is not given by then, either in cash or in kind, presumably this work will have to come to an end.
§ I want to ask, first, that the Government should undertake that they will give full support to the maintenance at least of the International Red Cross programme in Hungary and that they will do everything they can to see that additional supplies are available. But I would go even further than that. In Hungary the people are facing a pretty grim prospect. Winter is upon them and it may well be that cold and starvation are what they face. Here, surely, is an opportunity for the outside world to help. The International Red Cross is there. It has these relief programmes They could be extended very widely indeed. Surely this is an occasion when we want a big, imaginative gesture.
§ I appeal to the Government to go to the United Nations, to take the initiative and say that we will put down—I do not know what the exactly appropriate figure would be—say, £1 or £5 million for this relief work. It would make a tremendous impression and I have not the slightest doubt that we would find other members of the United Nations being prepared to pay in as well.
§ If, through the United Nations and the International Red Cross, we can really come to the help of the Hungarian people in these ways during this winter, it would also have an enormous political significance.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
Does the right hon. Gentleman know whether the United Nations has the people trained and ready to do the work as well as giving the money? Money of itself would not do the job.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The Red Cross is actually doing the job, but is doing it for the United Nations. That is the 1333 position. I understand from the report that the work certainly could be expanded. As to how fast it could be expanded, I hope that the hon. Member will not press me. He probably agrees with the general idea and I urge the Government to push ahead with it.
The last point to which I want to refer is the question of policy, to which the Foreign Secretary also referred. I said, earlier, that there is undoubtedly a new situation in Central and Eastern Europe. I can sum it up in a phrase. Only the Red Army, it is clear, now maintains the Communist régimes in Central and Eastern Europe. That is a new situation. and it seems to me that in the light of that situation we really ought not to be, say, legalistic—I hope that the Foreign Secretary does not mind that word—thinking in terms that we ought not to do something outside the United Nations. [Laughter.] I hope that hon. Members will listen first to what I am suggesting.
The Foreign Secretary was inclined to say, "Well, so long as the United Nations was there, no other initiative of any kind was possible." We have never said that—[Interruption.] I hope that hon. Members will not try to draw me into saying once again what we have said, because I do not want to do that this evening.
What I want to suggest is this. There is a new situation in Central and Eastern Europe. Undoubtedly, that is a much more awkward and difficult situation for the Russians than anything they have had in the past. Undoubtedly, that being so, they are likely to look afresh on proposals which, so long as they give them adequate security, may involve the withdrawal of Soviet forces from these countries. They face a dilemma, either to stay there and use the power of their armies and repress everything, or to risk a serious loss of face in the defeat by popular risings of the Communist régimes.
It may be that, faced with this dilemma, the Russians will consider now proposals which they would not have considered at all a year or two ago. That is why some of us suggest—we do not, of course, ask for an immediate reply—a new look at this problem. We suggest that the idea of a large neutral area, which would be guaranteed by a security pact and 1334 from which armed forces would be withdrawn, both on the Russian side and on our side, is something which really offers a considerable opportunity for achieving two things at the same time: the freedom of the peoples in the satellite countries and the security of that part of Europe.
That may be ambitious and I shall not ask for a precise answer tonight, but I beg the Government not simply to sit back and say that they will look at anything that the Russians propose. Is it not time that we took the initiative here? Is it not time, at least, that we discussed in N.A.T.O. plans of this kind? This is probably the most important and effective proposal that can be made.
It has been suggested by the French Foreign Minister that Hungary might be given the same neutral status that Austria has. That is part of the same idea and at least, if that could be achieved—if we could say to the Russians that we were prepared to include Hungary in a treaty similar to the Austrian Treaty—I would certainly be glad. I hope, therefore, that the Government will proceed, either in that more limited field or in the wider field which I have suggested, to see what can be done.
In short, my feeling is this. In paying very sincere tribute and honour, as we all do, to the amazing courage and endurance of the Hungarian people, let us not content ourselves with mere expressions of sympathy and praise. Let us try to combine these expressions with something a little more concrete. That is why I have made these various proposals and I hope that the Government will respond to them in the spirit in which they are put forward.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
I should like briefly to refer to two specific points. The first is in some ways a personal one but it is a matter to which I think it is proper to make reference. The House may be aware that a suggestion has been made by the three legal societies associated with the three parties that legal observers should be allowed to go and witness the trials at present taking place in Hungary.
It is notable that this is the first occasion in history when those three bodies have worked together. It is even more notable that it is the news from Hungary which 1335 has brought them together for united action. That is a perfectly genuine and serious proposal. It has, I believe, been described in one quarter as being by way of a stunt. It is quite wrong to say that. We have every intention of going, if we have the opportunity, and I know that I have the support of my two predecessors in the office of Attorney-General in saying that.
While it may be very optimistic indeed to suppose that there is the slightest chance of the request being granted, I can say that the Hungarian Legation in London is taking the proposal quite seriously and that I do not at all despair of something coming of it. That being the case, it would be wrong for me this evening to prejudge the trials and what is going on in Hungary. After all, we ought to adopt our own principles and say that if we are going there to see what happens we ought at least to reserve final judgment until we know more about it.
I think, however, it is right to say that reliable reports suggest quite definitely that justice may not be being done according in any way to what we in this country or other civilised countries regard as justice. If that is not so, it is very easy for the Hungarian Government to say, "We will let you examine the matter. Come and see what is going on and judge for yourselves." If they refuse our offer, the world will be able to draw its own conclusion.
The second specific consideration that I want to mention is the importance and value at the present time of the British Broadcasting Corporation's European Service. From the information which is available, there is no doubt at all that that service is doing most valuable work again now, as it did during the war, and that it has appealed particularly to the younger people in places like Hungary. There is clear evidence that it is being listened to by them, and I think we may well say that it has contributed in part to what they have done. I hope that we may be able to have an assurance from the Government tonight that they appreciate the importance of that service and that they intend to support it.
There are well-informed people who at the present time are concerned that the Government do not appreciate the importance of the B.B.C.'s European Service. It is even suggested that at 1336 this very moment, which one would have thought a very inappropriate moment, the Treasury and the Foreign Office are planning to cut it down drastically. I hope that we shall be assured that that is not so. A few days ago there was a debate here on information services. I understand, for I was, unfortunately, not present, that debate was limited in such a way that the B.B.C.'s services of that kind were not comprehended in it. I think that it has, therefore, been suggested that the views which were expressed in that debate, as to the importance of information services at the present time, did not extend to the B.B.C.'s European Service. The only reason why they did not was, I understand, that it would not have been in order to have discussed that service in that debate.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
There is no question of cutting the B.B.C.'s overseas service to Hungary or the satellite countries.
§ Sir L. Heald
I am much obliged to my right hon. and learned Friend, but we are afraid that the cutting down in other directions may, at some future time, be equally disastrous. Suppose, for instance, trouble arose in the far North. It might well be that in Sweden, Finland, places of that kind, the reception of good advice and encouragement from here might be very important indeed. Therefore, I am wondering whether, if we are only not cutting down the service to Hungary, we are considering the matter in a rather shortsighted way.
Some people say we cannot do anything practical to help Hungary. I think that is one thing we can do. We can give them help and ecouragement through our B.B.C. services, which, whatever anyone who does not know about them says, are regarded by the people in those countries themselves as of real value. I understand that the B.B.C.'s European Service comes under the Foreign Office Vote. I am not speaking from any personal knowledge of the matter, but I remember having heard in the past that there is a little tendency there to regard it as the ugly duckling, and there are people who think that the present Postmaster-General would be an admirable person to co-operate with the B.B.C. European Service as well as with other people—
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
This is a really vital question. Is my right hon. and learned Friend seriously suggesting to the House that we should, through the B.B.C., encourage the Hungarians to continue fighting, without being able ourselves to give them any assistance? That is frightfully important. My right hon. and learned Friend's speech may be interpreted in that way.
§ Sir L. Heald
I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend. He is certainly quite right in raising that question and giving me an opportunity of making it perfectly clear that I would be, I hope, the last person in the world to suggest that we should encourage people to set up a hopeless resistance.
What I have in mind is quite different. Where people are behaving in a heroic way, where they are undergoing great suffering, where they may be, as it appears, undergoing injustices as well, it is surely an admirable thing that they should be able to know that people outside know that they are brave, know that they are suffering. I cannot believe that that is not a good thing. It is certainly a fact that there is the strongest evidence coming back from Hungary that it does do an enormous amount of good.
I would, however, certainly accept the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) and make it perfectly clear that the stirring up of insurrection or anything of that kind is quite a different thing altogether. I believe we can trust those doing the job to understand that.
I understand that at the present time the Poles are doing more broadcasting to Europe than we are. It seems to be a reason for being wary before we cut down our European Service. I believe that at the moment Russia is doing more broadcasting to Europe than is any other country. The order of those broadcasting the most to Europe is Russia first, the "Voice of America" second, Poland third, and the B.B.C. fourth.
Finally, I would suggest that in the reorganisation of N.A.T.O. at the present time there should be recognition of the importance of a service of that kind. Its immense importance should be recognised, because it is of enormous help to have a connection created between countries by services of that kind, along- 1338 side their military alliances and cooperation. I hope, therefore, that the Government appreciate the importance of the broadcasting system in relation not only to Hungary but also to all the other countries which may be affected by it, and I hope that they will give it careful attention.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
All the speeches which have been made in this debate have been commendably brief, and I intend that mine shall not be an exception. I desire to speak mainly because I have some knowledge of the Hungarian people. I visited their country frequently up to September, 1939. Like others, I came to admire their spirit of independence and their rugged personal qualities. Certainly the Hungarian people are not the sort of people who will submit indefinitely to the foreign yoke.
It is quite evident, I think, that the Russians have based their Iron Curtain policy on a profound under-estimation of the fundamental qualities, not only of the Hungarian people, but of the other satellite nations. The uprisings of both the Polish and the Hungarian peoples must indeed have come as a most unpleasant shock to the Russians. Ten years of suffering and hardship exhausted the patience of the Hungarian people, as indeed it would have exhausted that of any other nation in similar circumstances. It may well be that the Russian miscalculation accounts for the brutal manner in which they set about smashing the Hungarian freedom forces, composed, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition indicated a few minutes ago, virtually of the whole of the Hungarian nation, the workers, the students, the armed forces, with a ruthless and relentless lack of restraint, including the mass deportation of thousands of young men and women.
That action on the part of the Russian authorities has created a most appalling refugee problem. Nearly 150,000 men, women and children have had to flee from possible death and imprisonment at home to an uncertain life abroad. The tragic fate of these people, as the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend agreed, has become a responsibility of the entire civilised world.
1339 A great deal has been done, of course. The efforts of the Red Cross societies and of thousands of voluntary workers in this and in other countries have done a great deal to alleviate the sufferings of these people, but a great deal remains to be done. I hope that the Government will give very serious consideration to the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that we should do much more to rebuild the shattered economy of that unhappy country. I hope that they will give the most earnest consideration to his concrete proposal that this country should be prepared to provide anything up to £5 million as an example to other countries in the United Nations.
I believe that a great deal could be done in due course, by the provision of raw materials and credits and other forms of economic aid, in order to enable the Hungarians to rehabilitate their country. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. C. Osborne), asked whether the United Nations have the experience and the officials to carry out this work of rehabilitation. I am not sure whether U.N.R.R.A. was actually wound up, but certainly it had plenty of experience in rehabilitating countries. As we all know, it did a wonderful job in the post-war years. I hope that it will be possible for the United Nations either to revivify U.N.R.R.A. or to establish some other similar type of international organisation for that purpose. I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that it should not be left to a small country like Austria to have to meet the main burden, although we know that she has not hesitated to strain her resources almost to breaking point.
We are often asked what the United Nations will do in the face of the obstinate refusal of the Soviet Union to respond to the Resolutions passed at the General Assembly. I hope that the United Nations will continue to insist that the Secretary-General as well as United Nations observers should be allowed to visit Hungary in the near future so that they may see conditions as they are and report to the General Assembly so that the General Assembly can be fully informed of both the political and humanitarian aspects of the problem.
I know that there are hon. Members opposite who seem to sneer whenever anyone mentions the United Nations, but 1340 what is the alternative to the United Nations, with all its weaknesses and all its deficiencies, none of which can be placed at the threshold of the United Nations itself but at the threshold of the Governments which compose the United Nations, including our own?
I would face this question of what the United Nations should do. I hope that in addition to insisting upon the Secretary-General and United Nations observers being admitted into Hungary it will be possible, pending that, for Her Majesty's Government to consider sending a senior Minister to Austria to co-operate with Vice-President Nixon in ascertaining as many of the facts as possible about the tragic situation, not only in Austria itself, but across the border in Hungary.
If I am asked what the United Nations can do, more than pass resolutions, I would submit that Article 41 of the Charter should be implemented if the Soviet Union continues to defy the United Nations. As hon. Members know, Article 41 provides for sanctions other than military sanctions to be employed against any country which is in defiance of the United Nations. At any rate, I hope that we can rely on Her Majesty's Government to support any proposal which may be carried at the General Assembly to impose sanctions under Article 41.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)
Is it not the fact that under the Charter only the Security Council can decree sanctions and that the recommendations of the Assembly are not binding on the members of the United Nations?
§ Mr. Henderson
It is quite true that Article 41 provides for a decision by the Security Council, and it is equally true that the Charter provides that a permanent member, such as Russia, could veto a decision by the Security Council. It is equally true that the General Assembly, under the "Uniting for Peace" Resolution, has authority to come to a decision. Hon. Members can call it a recommendation if they like, but it would be in effect a decision if carried by two-thirds of those voting in the General Assembly calling upon member States of the United Nations to implement the provisions of Article 41.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
Can the right hon. and learned Member deal with the difficulty that sanctions might do more harm to Hungary than to Russia?
§ Mr. Henderson
I do not think that it necessarily follows that if economic sanctions, complete or partial, were employed against the Soviet Union, or if the diplomatic representatives of perhaps 60 nations were withdrawn from Russia, there would be any hardship on Hungary. [An HON. MEMBER: "There might be on us."] It depends whether we are prepared to avoid taking over our responsibilities under the Charter because it might be embarrassing to us. That is not the way to make the United Nations work.
As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, we now face a new situation in Europe. We must continue our efforts to solve the European problem. As I read events in Eastern Europe, it seems to me that whilst Soviet Russia is prepared to give a large measure of independence to her satellites and to countenance an increasing measure of internal freedom and allow more than one road to what they regard as Socialism, she will not tolerate any breach of her security arrangements under the Warsaw Pact.
Incidentally, it is interesting to remember that in the constitution of the Soviet Union provision is made for full self-determination for the benefit of all the people who compose Soviet Russia, and that it was only some months ago that the present Russian leaders agreed with Mr. Nehru, the Prime Minister of India, that every nation was entitled to the right of self-determination. But to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact and to adopt a status of neutrality is forbidden by the Soviet Union, and it would be repressed by force—overwhelming force, if necessary, as we have seen in Hungary. Nevertheless, it may be that recent tragic events will provide a new opportunity for the West to help the cause of national independence and human rights. It must be obvious to the Russians that they cannot rely on the 100 million people in the satellite countries as potential allies in the event of war.
I should like to make some practical suggestions. I very much hope that a meeting between President Eisenhower, 1342 the French Prime Minister and our own Prime Minister will take place in the near future so that we can once again restore Western union. In addition, as soon as conditions are favourable, I hope that this meeting will be followed by a five-power conference, to include the Indian Prime Minister. It is particularly important that the Asian communities should be represented at such an important high-level conference.
It is with such a five-Power conference in mind that I endorse what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition suggested, that the time has now come for collective consideration by the West of policies that take into account, first, Russian security, and, second, national independence for the satellite countries. believe that we need to proceed with our efforts to bring about an acceptable system of security for Europe, within which there could be provision to achieve the two objectives that I have just mentioned.
Western thinking, to my mind, should be directed to the following related matters, upon which some progress might be possible as time develops. First. I suggest that Western Germany should reaffirm that force will never he used by a reunited Germany to change the Oder-Neisse frontiers. It is interesting that in the recent communiqué issued in Warsaw reference was made to the need to keep Russian troops in Poland because of a possible threat to those frontiers.
Secondly, there should he a N.A.T.O. declaration that it will not allow force to be used from the West to change the Oder-Neisse frontiers. Thirdly, the satellite countries should become independent and neutral, free from any military alliance if they so desire, and with their neutrality guaranteed by Russia in the East and N.A.T.O. in the West. Fourthly, there should be a more flexible approach to the question of German reunification and its relationship to N.A.T.O.
I want to make one reference to disarmament. It seems to me that the other key to the solution of the European problem lies through a drastic reduction of armaments. It is particularly encouraging, therefore, that the United States has recently indicated that it is no longer insisting on a complete system of aerial inspection. The recent offer of 17th November by the Soviet Union to agree 1343 to a limited scheme of aerial inspection, extending 500 miles on each side of the East-West German border, if accepted, would to my mind be a useful step in the right direction. I think that we should also welcome the American readiness to begin a parallel examination of both arms control and a European political settlement. This might well lead to a solution of the European political problem which for many years has proved so intractable.
My last word is this. History has shown that no nation will tolerate indefinitely being deprived of its individual freedom and national independence. It may be that the Russians will crush the physical resistance of the Hungarian people; I do not believe that it will destroy their minds or their aspirations.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
I shall confine my remarks to the refugees themselves, and particularly to the part that the Council of Europe has played in this matter, a part which is in great contrast in its immediate effectiveness compared with what has been done by other international bodies which apparently are impotent in this matter.
One of the earliest actions taken after the black Sunday of 4th November was that the Committee on Population and Refugees was called to meet in Vienna to discuss the problem and to see for itself on the spot what was going on. At the first meeting on Monday, 12th November, a telegram was sent to the Committee of Ministers' Deputies who were known to be meeting on that day in Strasbourg. It was known that there was a surplus from the Council of Europe Budget for 1955 amounting to well over 100 million French francs. A telegram was sent urgently requesting the Ministers' Deputies to set aside all, or a large part, of that sum of money for Hungarian relief work, and to turn it over either to the Austrian Government or to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
We were somewhat horrified when we received a reply that this matter was under consideration and would be reconsidered on 3rd December. We felt that 1344 such a delay in such an urgent matter was quite unjustifiable. At any rate, on 3rd December the Committee of Ministers set aside 100 million French francs from the surplus of the Council of Europe Budget and it is to be paid to the Austrian Government to use for relief work.
One of the recommendations made by the Committee on Population and Refugees to the Committee of Ministers, which has since been endorsed by the Standing Committee of the Council of Europe, reads as follows:To invite member States to negotiate agreement with the United States Government, the Governments of Australia, Canada and other governments overseas, which have undertaken to receive Hungarian refugees, to ensure that refugees who have been selected for asylum in European countries other than Austria will not be prejudiced thereby from final resettlement in the United States, Australia, Canada or elsewhere overseas.The point behind that recommendation is that it was our experience, speaking to refugees themselves and to officials of the United Nations High Commission, the International Committee for European Migration and other responsible bodies on the spot, that a great many refugees were reluctant to choose to go to Britain, to Sweden, to France or any other European country because they felt that by so doing their chances of eventual emigration overseas would be prejudiced. This was because they knew that other countries in Europe were subjected to a quota system for immigration, certainly into the United States and also into many Commonwealth countries. So that recommendation was deliberately added to the list of recommendations to be made to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
Somewhat to my dismay, on Monday this week I saw a letter in The Times written by a man who is a Hungarian interpreter and apparently has been doing considerable work in refugee camps in this country. He writes that in the course of those duties he has worked in a camp which has temporarily housed 850 Hungarian people. It is a small sample, but what he states is significant. He endorses what we all knew in Austria when we were there, that a large majority of these Hungarian refugees want to get overseas into Canada, 1345 other Commonwealth countries, the United States and elsewhere, in fact as far away from Europe as they can possibly get.
This person also says that a number of these people carry pamphlets issued by the I.C.E.M. organisation saying that acceptance of temporary asylum in England or elsewhere does not prejudice their further chances. In fact, a translation of one of the pamphlets would lead anybody to believe that the recipient of the pamphlet, the Hungarian to whom it had been given, would within a few days be sent on from Britain to Canada, the United States or wherever he wished to go. That, of course, is not the case, and there are very considerable delays.
The letter in The Times goes on to say that:To pacify these sentiments the camp officials contacted the United States Embassy in London, but the only information they were able to obtain was that nothing can be done for these Hungarian refugees in England until Congress meets in January.At the same time, they know that at least 3,000 Hungarian refugees have left Austria and have been flown direct to the United States and to Canada, and it is not surprising that these people who were persuaded, in order to relieve the pressure on Austria, to accept their first asylum in Britain, are becoming a little uneasy, particularly if they already have overseas relatives whom they want to join.
I should like to ask the Minister of State whether Her Majesty's Government will emphasise this difficulty, to the Commonwealth Governments particularly, and will also notify the United States Government officially that this attitude is creating very real difficulty in the process of relieving the strain on Austria by dispersing refugees, at least temporarily, to other countries in Europe.
With reference to the Commonwealth side of this matter, I should like to quote a paragraph from a letter written by a man whose family has given shelter to two Hungarian refugees. He says:We have two refugees with us who want to go on to Australia but find—I have a letter from the Australian High Commissioner—that they must pay their own passage.That cannot be right. There must be some mistake in that case, because international bodies have already undertaken 1346 to pay the passages of people from Hungary who wish to emigrate. It is obvious that a misunderstanding has occurred, and the sooner it is cleared up the better for all concerned, for the Hungarians themselves, for the Austrian people who have been very hard put to it to find accommodation for this enormous flood of refugees, and for our own good reputation in this country and in the Commonwealth.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Ron Ledger (Romford)
Looking around, I see many experts on foreign affairs. I must say immediately that I can make no claim to such a qualification. However, there is one important reason why I take part in this debate, and that is that three weeks before the revolution began in Hungary I returned to this country after having spent seven weeks there. During the time I was there I had an opportunity to speak to politicians, leaders of the co-operative movement, leaders of industry and trade union organisations in factories, and, on the last day but one, their society of lawyers.
During that time we discussed many things concerned with Hungary's economic problems and with the new attitude to freedom and it is because of those discussions and because of what I discovered that I want to make one point tonight. It relates to the question of the use of refugees for propaganda purposes. It seems to me that there is a danger that we may use the refugees here for propaganda purposes, which will not help those in Hungary who are still fighting, not necessarily with guns, for democracy, for greater freedom, and to get the Russians out of Hungary.
From all that I saw in Hungary I can say that uppermost in the minds of the Hungarians was the desire to get rid of the Russians. Their hatred of the Russians and of any nation occupying Hungary is something that we do not know. I have never encountered a hatred like it. Here I want to qualify a statement by an hon. Member who referred to the "ten years of suffering" of the Hungarians. Most Hungarians talk of "a lifetime of suffering" under various dictators. Very few could understand freedom as we understand it.
1347 We ought to have clearly in our minds exactly what we are aiming to do through the debate, through this country, through the Government, through N.A.T.O., and through the United Nations to help these people, not the refugees, who are being helped materially, but those Hungarians who have stayed behind to fight the battle for freedom in whatever way they can.
I want to give an example of what I describe as dangerous and unhelpful propaganda. My attention was drawn to a report in a local newspaper about a Hungarian family consisting of a man, his wife and two children. According to the report, the wife said that she would rather have bacon and eggs in England than chicken in Budapest, though not that there was any chicken in Budapest, because she had existed mostly on dry bread.
One thing that struck me in Hungary it struck the tourists that I met there, and there were about eleven coachloads from this country, and it has also struck British businessmen in Hungary—was the almost magnificent appearance of the children. My own wife commented on it, saying that we were proud enough of the children in England but the people of Hungary had every right to be proud of their care for their children. Indeed, I did not see a hungry person in Hungary, and I think that people will agree with me that on television and in the cinemas they have not seen a picture of a Hungarian who looks really hungry.
In order to make sure, I interviewed last night the lady to whom I have referred. I did not want to tell the House that I did not think it right that a person should say that she lived on dry bread unless I was sure that the facts were correct. The lady agreed that she had forgotten that vegetables were cheap and plentiful in Budapest, but she had not thought it important to mention that. However, I feel that if the newspaper report had said that she lived on plenty of vegetables and dry bread, even that would have presented a different picture.
I mention that because those who are still in Hungary fighting for democracy may hear of such reports and propaganda. If they do, they will not believe that we are their friends or that we are trying to help them in their democratic aims. They may come to believe that all we seek to do is to establish something like 1348 their pre-war régime, and I found nobody who wanted that. Even the most ardent opponents of Communism, and there were plenty of them, stressed that they did not want to return to the landlordism of the past and the old type of capitalism. They made that quite clear. At the same time, I think that of all the people we spoke to, not one in ten professed to be an ardent Communist and certainly very few of them were members of the Communist Party.
I feel that within the Communist Party in Hungary there were many men and women who were working hard for democracy, who were opposed to Stalinism, and who were glad to see the back of Rakosi and Gero, but who were pleased that the Twentieth Congress had allowed them a greater measure of freedom and given them a chance to fight for it.
While I was there, I read a number of reports in their papers criticising the privileges given to the Communist Party leaders and the trade union leaders, and calling for greater freedom. Indeed, before I left, I wrote an article for a paper in which I warned the Government there that although they talked of freedom, they were failing to impress the people of Hungary that they were intending to give them freedom, and I suggested that there might be trouble unless they could get the full co-operation of the people, which they could only do by proving that their intentions were good.
It is my belief—and this appears to be backed up by the refugees whom I have met here, who include a doctor friend whom I met whilst I was in Hungary—that this revolution, which started with a demonstration by students and workers, became, in the main, a revolution against the Russians. That was the main objective —to get the Russians out. If we start to make this an economic issue, I believe that we are really on the wrong road and we shall not help these people. Of course, their standard of living was not as good as ours. Certainly, not everyone in Budapest could have a chicken or meat; but it will be a disastrous thing if these refugees are being told, as the one whom I saw last night was told, that every family in England has a joint of meat every day on the table. This lady, here for 1349 the first time, did not know that we have things like slums in this country and houses without water and without bathrooms.
That recalls an incident which occurred to me when I was in a shop in Budapest. I was buying apples, and a lady touched me on the arm and said, in good English, "I understand from the way you speak that you are English." I said, "Yes."—She said, "I do not suppose that this sort of thing happens in England." I said, "What sort of thing?" "Here", she said, "they put all the best fruit in the front, but when they serve you they take it from the back". They simply do not believe that these things can happen in England.
My doctor friend who is in this country is going to be very surprised at some of the things that he will find. Nevertheless, our standards are indeed much higher than theirs; one has to admit that. We have to be careful not to imagine for one moment that any pretence is being made there that they ever had the highest standard of living. There were plenty of people who told me that their standards were low, but there were those, like some of the doctors whom I met, who said that they had qualified before the war and had only been able to get a job as a bus conductor before the war.
We must not pretend that everything there that was bad was the result of the régime which they recently had. I think that we ought to assist these refugees in every way and help them to understand our conception of freedom, but we should do it in such a way that we convey to the Hungarians who have stayed at home that we will really help them in their fight for democracy, but we leave them quite free to choose the type of democracy they want. We do not want to suggest the terms under which our aid will be given, that there must be no Socialism, that the landlords must be given their land back, because in that we shall fail. It is significant that the revolutionaries, who have been an extraordinary mixture from the extreme Left to the extreme Right, in their call for a change of Government have called for Communists as Prime Ministers of those Governments.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
Surely the hon. Gentleman recognises that in 1946 Hungary had free elections and elected a Coalition Government which had a policy of wide agrarian reform. So far as we know, that expressed the wishes of the Hungarian people.
§ Mr. Ledger
I am not denying that they had free elections, but there were free elections before the war in many parts of the world, yet apparently the interpretation on "free" varied from one part of the world to another. I am not suggesting that we should leave them to their old type of election. Indeed, there was plenty of talk while I was there of their having a choice of candidates. I do not want to make comparisons since 1946 and to suggest that the present régime is better than that in 1946. I have said, "Let them choose themselves", but let them be absolutely certain that it is our intention to leave them to choose the type of Government which they want and not lay down the condition that they must return to capitalism or landlordism, which is something that they definitely told me they did not want.
§ Mr. Ledger
Of course they are not. So long as one stays away fom Hungary one can rest fairly contented in one's mind on that fact, but when one goes there one finds that the tendency is rather towards Socialism. I am certain that whatever happens and however much freedom they are given, they will still remain a Socialist society.
I am not an expert in foreign affairs, and I do not know a great deal about treaties and the big Power meetings that take place, neither have I a considerable amount of faith in them. My heart does not give a leap when the Big Four or Big Five meet to discuss the future of the smaller Powers. Indeed, I tremble for the smaller Powers, and I think that the course of history has shown that we should tremble for them.
I believe that an opportunity is opening up for the Government of this country to take a lead in bringing peace to Europe. I think that we should make it quite clear that we can act outside the U.N. without acting contrary to it. That is important. I cannot understand why Members on the 1351 Government side laugh when the Opposition mention this fact. We can act outside it, and here I think there is a wonderful opportunity for the Government giving a lead, possibly through N.A.T.O., in creating in Europe a neutral zone which will include these European States.
I think that will go as far as it is possible to go towards giving these people the independence they want and the right to choose their own form of Government. Further, I think that it gives a greater opportunity for a lasting peace in Europe. I sincerely hope that the Government will not lose the opportunity which has been presented to them.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
I will be brief. The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Ledger) suggested that we should tell the Hungarians that we will help them in their fight for freedom. How? That is what I ask. That is what I asked of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald).
I think, as this tragedy unfolds before our eyes, that most of us on both sides of the House suffer from an almost unendurable sense of frustration. I am the last person to jeer at the United Nations; but the fact remains that Resolutions passed by the General Assembly, and persistently ignored by the Soviet Union, lose effect with repetition.
The Assembly has passed Resolution after Resolution and each has been less valuable than the one before, so that they are now almost a source of embarrassment. The fact must be faced—and it is better to face it, especially on the part of those who believe in the ultimate destiny of the United Nations—that so far it has proved far less successful than the old League of Nations, which did much better work in many respects before the war, even in the case of Abyssinia. The Resolutions which the Foreign Secretary enumerated have liberated no one, have stopped neither the terror nor the deportations, have done nothing to relax the tension, and have failed to get observers or the Secretary-General himself into Hungary.
About charity there is a very much better story to tell, and we were all glad to hear from the Foreign Secretary what is being done. It has been great, and 1352 it has done much good; but it remains charity. No long-term solution of the problem with which we are now confronted will be found merely by accepting refugees from their native land. That is a salvage operation. That is a charity operation. It is no solution.
I think that the present danger is acute. It is now apparent that the Hungarian rising is no flash in the pan, and that guerilla warfare is likely to continue and expand on a massive scale. There has never been anything quite like this in history, as an epic of human resistance to physical terror. It shows, as hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, that in certain circumstances the driven human spirit can rise above everything: and that is a source of encouragement.
At the same time it is formidable and really dangerous, and we must not run away from the danger. In his famous tract on the subject of guerilla warfare Mao Tse-tung said:Guerillas are like fish; and the people are the water in which the fish swim. If the temperature of the water is right, the fish will multiply and flourish.That is what he wrote about guerilla warfare in China. The temperature of the water in Hungary is right. We have to face the possibility that this resistance, this guerilla warfare, may go on for a long time; and, if it does, the danger will mount. If it continues, the Russians may be driven to a policy of total frightfulness, because half measures will no longer do, and it is not merely a question of seizing key points in cities, at crossroads and railroads, etc.
If that happens, can the West simply write off Hungary, and stand on the sidelines until all Hungarian resistance is finally crushed by brutal force, over what may be quite a long period? I think not. If the Hungarian resistance asks for arms when its own supply is exhausted, which is not yet, can we refuse? I do not know. But I am sure of one thing; it would place the West in a fearful dilemma, because if we stand aside and say, "We will do nothing; we have encouraged you, and offered to help you, but we will do nothing", that will be terrible. If, on the other hand, we supply the Hungarians with arms, immediately the risk of a third world war comes over the horizon.
1353 In this affair we have an inescapable responsibility which we must face. It arises, not only from the decisions taken at Yalta and Potsdam immediately after the war, but from our own propaganda. Some of it, although not all, may have been unofficial. The fact remains that since the war we have encouraged rebellion against Soviet oppression in the satellite countries of Europe. It may have been ill-advised—I am not arguing that—but that it has taken place there can be no doubt. That is what gave rise to the frightful sense of disillusionment and bitterness after the East German rising, when the East Germans felt that they had been completely let down.
Does the choice really lie between moral force alone, becoming increasingly ineffective; and military force, carrying the appalling risk of total war? I do not think that that is the choice. The alternative to war is negotiation. That has been mentioned on both sides of the House this evening, and it is something which no statesman should be allowed to forget.
What should the methods be? We must face the fact that the Security Council of the United Nations is not an effective instrument of collective security today, and in my opinion it never will be so long as the veto power remains. While the United Nations does valuable work and is a moral force in the world, as an instrument of collective security it will fail, and is bound to fail, so long as the veto power exists. Neither is any purely national policy any longer any good. We cannot "go it alone" any more. The events of recent weeks have surely taught us that. We cannot go it with France. The truth is that even the United States can no longer go it alone. What remains? There remains N.A.T.O.
Here I take slight issue with the Leader of the Opposition. I do not think that to put some burden of responsibility on N.A.T.O. is in the least derogatory to the United Nations, because N.A.T.O. is a legitimate regional group or organisation within the United Nations, for which the Charter specifically provides. For two years N.A.T.O. has been largely immobile. We have talked a lot about German reunification. We have talked a lot about the liberation of the satellite countries of Europe. And we have done absolutely nothing. Our policy, if such it can be 1354 called, has been to accept in practice the division of Europe by the Iron Curtain; and to assume that the withdrawal of Russian troops from Eastern Europe would make no difference. That assumption has been proved to be fallacious by the events of the past few weeks. It makes a tremendous difference when those Russian troops are withdrawn.
The suggestion I want to put forward this evening is that we should evolve, in N.A.T.O., a common constructive policy for Europe as a whole, because Europe is the direct concern of N.A.T.O., and such a policy has hitherto been conspicuous by its absence. Here again, as in the Middle East, we have failed to act together in advance of events, and have reacted separately as events have caught up on us.
Yesterday it was Poland. The result of that was encouraging, but it took us completely by surprise, and we had nothing to do with it. Today it is Hungary—at the moment total tragedy. Tomorrow it could quite easily be East Germany. Supposing a situation arises in East Germany, as it easily could—and this is why I say the present position is so inflammable, explosive and dangerous—comparable to that in Hungary: does anybody suppose that West Germany would do nothing, would sit back? It is extremely likely that the West Germans would not.
We must therefore seek, together, a negotiated solution for the whole problem of European security. That is the issue which has been raised on both sides of the House this evening. I suggest that the proposal of the Prime Minister for a demilitarised zone in Central Europe should be revived and re-examined. He put it forward at the time of the summit Conference. I thought it was a good proposal at the time, and I still think it is. It might at least result in a withdrawal of Russian troops which would enable Hungary to achieve a position comparable to that of Yugoslavia or Poland; not necessarily to that of Austria at the moment—that might be too ambitious—but certainly to that of Yugoslavia or Poland. What an advance, and what a colossal relief, that would be.
Here I am trying only to put forward some proposals which are constructive because we can pass endless resolutions, 1355 and groan and sigh and accept refugees, but none of those things is the real answer. We must really strive to do something effective.
What is the alternative? It is a situation of explosive danger, continuing indefinitely. That is what frightens me. I ask myself whether this is what the Russians really want. I hardly think so. The post-Stalinist policy was beginning to be rather a success; then events which led to the reversal of that policy turned it into a miserable failure. It surely cannot please the Kremlin when they survey the scene that now confronts them. They have received the moral condemnation of the world, and their strategic position in Eastern Europe has been undermined to an extent to which it has never been undermined since the war. Can that please them? The answer must be "No."
If a settlement negotiated by the West, from strength and not weakness, could be achieved, I believe that in it would lie the best and, perhaps, the only hope of Hungary, and of world peace. Therefore, I suggest that proposals for such a settlement should be made by the N.A.T.O. Powers. I do not see why we should wait, as my right hon. and learned Friend seemed to imply in his admirable speech, upon Russian proposals. It seems to me that we should submit our own proposals for a security pact for Europe, including the withdrawal of forces on both sides of a defined line. In other words, we should go back to the Prime Minister's original suggestion, which I have always thought to be a very good one.
At all events, it is up to the N.A.T.O. Powers to work the thing out together, and then put forward proposals for submission to the Soviet Union. They may fail. If they do, what will have been the harm in trying? If they fail, we must not disguise from ourselves any longer the shattering fact that a third world war will have been brought within the bounds of possibility. It may come to that. In the meantime, is it not worth making a real effort to see if we can produce proposals which will result in the alleviation of the Hungarian agony; and ultimately, perhaps, lead to peace Europe?
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)
I wish to express a great measure of agreement with the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby). I do not agree that the instrument should be N.A.T.O. but that is a mere technical difference, and not really important. If it works, so much the better.
I very much agree with the hon. Member's proposition that we have three alternatives—force, which means war, which means suicide; the conducting of a cold war with hot air, which is a perfectly futile proceedings; or negotiation. This negotiation should look to a European settlement and to the freeing of Hungary as part of a general European settlement.
I should like to contribute to the debate an account of some of the things that I learnt when I was in the Soviet Union, Poland, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, during the last half of October and first half of November. In Poland, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia I spent a great deal of time discussing with the leaders of those countries what was happening in Hungary. In Poland and Yugoslavia, at any rate, the leaders are just as passionately opposed to Soviet policy in Hungary as any of us. They, too, regard it as a crime against humanity, a violation of the Charter and a gigantic blunder on the part of the Soviet Government. The one thing that they are anxious for is to get the Russians out of Hungary.
Before I suggest what should be done I should like hon. Members to consider for a short time why the Russians have taken this action. First, the Soviet Government are largely responsible for the Rakosi régime and all the horrors committed by it. They are also responsible for Rakosi being succeeded by Geroe—a carbon copy of Rakosi.
They are responsible for listening to Geroe's appeal to use Soviet troops against a demonstration of the Hungarian people which was peaceful to start with, on 23rd October, and turned hostile only after a criminal speech by Geroe telling the crowd that they were counterrevolutionary scum—of which they took rather a dim view. However, the situation was not irreparable even then. The Nagy Government was formed; it became 1357 a coalition Government and formulated a programme of neutrality, withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact and departure of Soviet forces and the institution of free elections—which everyone knew would result in a non-Communist Hungary.
For a time the Russians wavered, and it looked as though they would swallow it, as they had swallowed the events that had happened in Poland. They did not like them, but they did so, and, when they did, they did it handsomely and in a big way. There were two factors which turned the balance the other way on this occasion. First, the Nagy Government was crumbling. It could not hold the situation. It was clear that there might be considerable disorder and throat cutting in Hungary.
There then came into operation the Soviet conditioned reflex. I do not mean what I am about to say to be taken in a party sense, but the Soviet leaders are, quite literally, the Conservatives of Communism, because their society is forty years old and there is hardly anybody left except the old people who know of any different society. They find it almost impossible to envisage that the Communist order of things can be so unpopular among the peoples of other countries that it can lead to large scale popular revolt. They immediately jump to the conclusion that it is due to infiltration and subversion by foreign agents, and that it must therefore be counterrevolutionary, Fascist and the rest.
The second thing that altered the situation was the Anglo-French military action in Egypt. From the Russian point of view this changed the international context of their dilemma and made their security risks very much greater if they left Hungary to work out her own destiny. It seemed to the Russians like a collapse of the whole policy of the moderates of trying to come to terms with the Western Powers. It looked to them like a gesture of defiance from Britain and France—as though we were saying, "We shall treat you as a negligible quantity and a potential enemy in the Middle East. We shall carry on and take the law into our own hands and impose our own will".
In those circumstances, the Russians said to themselves, "If we let Hungary go, what guarantee have we, first, against 1358 it becoming a hostile Hungary and, secondly, against it joining the Western alliance? Thirdly, even if Hungary remained neutral, what if the next event were a similar upheaval in Germany?" That is one of the factors which bulked very large in the situation. There was a great ferment in East Germany at the beginning of these events, and Dr. Adenauer used all his influence to exert a calming effect upon the East Germans and their supporters in Western Germany. The Russians thought, "If the East Germans go the same way we shall have a united Germany, still allied to the West, and still rearming, and the whole balance of power will be decisively changed against us".
These two calculations—first, the security calculation and, secondly, the conditioned reflex of the Russians about upheavals in Communist countries—were due to the fact, as Tito said, that they have much too little faith in the Socialist forces among the peoples of these countries and much too great faith in what they can accomplish by force.
Why is this policy a blunder as well as a crime? Those people, who are so misguided by their own propaganda and conditioned reflexes as really to believe that they were merely putting down counter revolutionary bands in Hungary, in aid of the Hungarian people, must, by this time, realise that this is a classic case of the old Russian saying "miedviezhaia usluga" or, in other words, "The bear's good deed".
One of Krylov's fables has become a proverb in Russia. It is about a bear which became friendly with a man. One day it found the man asleep with a fly sitting on his nose. The bear said, "I cannot have my Hungarian friend bothered by this counter-revolutionary fly," so he raised his paw, swatted the fly and crushed the man's skull. That, more or less, is what the position must look like to those simple-minded enough —and believe me, there are people in Moscow simple-minded enough—to believe that they were merely putting down counter-revolutionary bands on behalf of the Hungarian people.
From a strategic point of view, various people, including the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East, have said that the Russians have wrecked their strategic 1359 position and the whole system of alliances and know now that there is nothing left of the old hold of the Soviet leaders over the minds of the Communist leaders in the satellite States. They can appeal to their national interests to maintain the alliances as they have in the case of the Czechs and, still more, in the case of the Poles, who are bound to the Russian alliance as long as we go on arming Western Germany and do not recognise—let alone guarantee—their frontiers with Germany. Politically, they have started a first-class crisis inside the Communist world and there is a tremendous controversy going on and getting hotter and hotter, in which Tito has taken the lead. I would call this almost Tito v. Stalin, round 2.
Thirdly, but not least, the Soviet Government have at a stroke lost the position they have been building up for three years. They had the moral and diplomatic initiative in the business of peacemaking and disarmament offers. They have gone a long way down in that. Yet I am absolutely convinced from the things I saw and heard in Moscow that the) genuinely want to come to terms with the West. They do not want the arms race; they do not want the cold war. They would like to negotiate settlements and this policy, from their point of view, is a fearful blunder into which they have slid without quite knowing what they were starting and out of which they would like to get if they could do so without losing face and producing even worse consequences. The conclusion, of course, is that we should try to negotiate a settlement that will get the Russians out of Hungary.
At this point, I will say a word about the United Nations in relation to the use of force. The whole Charter is based on the principle that we cannot legally, within the Charter, order or decree sanctions against a great Power which is a permanent member of the Security Council. The Foreign Office Commentary on the Charter says quite plainly that the reason for that is that otherwise we might find the majority of the United Nations committed to fighting a great Power, which would start a world war and go counter to the purpose of the United Nations. That. I think, is a plain, elemental, fact.
It is no use trying to get round it by talking about economic sanctions through 1360 the Assembly, which has no power to commit anyone to apply them. The whole point is, "Do you want to start a world war, or do you not?" The Charter says," No, you cannot coerce a great Power. You have to rely on the great Powers in the long run finding that it is a lesser evil to negotiate compromises with each other than to have eternal deadlock and, still more, than to have a war."
The point is that since, in Europe, we cannot hydrogen-bomb the Russians out of Hungary, nor cold-war them out of Hungary, we have to negotiate them out of Hungary. Since the position in Hungary is very closely linked with what happens about the unification of Germany and about the whole alliance system in Europe, we shall have to tackle the problem of Hungary as part of a general political settlement in Europe.
From that point of view, I am very glad to see that the Americans have put forward reasoned proposals in reply to the Soviet proposals of 17th November The Soviet Government then made proposals for disarmament, control and withdrawal of forces. The Americans have come up with counter-proposals which go a long way to agreement on that basis and also, according to The Times correspondent in Washington, on 17th December, the Americans are prepared to work for a single package agreement by "parallel examination of both arms control and a European political settlement." Mr. Dulles is reported in the same sense in today's Press.
This country is still a great Power in Europe. I believe that we should contribute to this discussion by putting forward some proposals of our own for a political settlement in Europe. I should like to propose that we should suggest to the Security Council a resolution giving instructions to the United Nations Secretariat to prepare a basis for a four-Power conference. That basis should be prepared by the Secretariat. It is important to get a technically competent, impartial, all-round preparation—calling in national ad hoc experts by all means, but having the thing done primarily on an international objective basis—and have them bring in as elements in working out this agreement, first, the Soviet proposals of 17th November and, then, the American counter proposals and, thirdly, I should 1361 like to see British proposals for a political settlement in Europe.
I would recall what my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) said in the House on 27th February. We all regret his absence today, owing to illness. My right hon. Friend said:I do not believe that the choice before Germany should be neutrality or continued division. Nor do I think that the choice before Germany should be to join one bloc or the other. I should like to see a unified Germany, as a result of free elections, admitted to the United Nations and becoming a party to a European regional agreement with the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union.… Such a European agreement must be conditional upon control, limitation and inspection of arms,…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1956 Vol. 549, c. 848.]The Labour Party, at its Blackpool Conference, adopted a very similar proposal calling for:A general security pact for the whole of Europe, designed within the framework of the United Nations Charter …within which Germany should be unitedby free and democratic elections",withProgressive withdrawal of N.A.T.O. and Soviet-controlled forces from Germany.…The conclusion of an agreement on those lines through four-Power negotiationscould well be the starting point for agreement on a policy of general disarmament and could provide a hopeful basis for the free development of democratic institutions in Eastern European countries.I hope that in exchange for getting an agreement, through the Security Council preferably, through N.A.T.O., or any other way, between the Western Powers and the Soviet Union on this kind of basis of negotiation, we could reasonably ask the Soviet Government to take unilateral action in the matter of Hungary on lines which would not run counter to their various declarations, but merely suggest that they take those declarations seriously and carry them out.
We should suggest, for instance, that the Soviet Government should be willing to declare that, while they would not accept unilateral denunciation of the Warsaw Pact, it would be quite proper to go ahead with negotiating a European Treaty, plus disarmament, plus withdrawal of forces, within which Hungary could take her place on the same terms 1362 as Germany, that is, outside the rival alliances, which in any case should be subordinated to the working of the treaty and the obligations of the Charter. In the meantime, they should recall their 30th October declaration about the withdrawal of troops from countries which did not want them to be there and say that they were quite prepared to act on that on request.
As far as Hungary was concerned, they should negotiate with those immediately responsible for the formation of a coalition Government headed by Nagy on the one hand, and, on the other, for the withdrawal of all or most of the Soviet forces and their replacement by units taken from countries acceptable to the Hungarians as well as to the Russians themselves—for instance, Finland, Poland. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. They should then invite United Nations observers, and take the initiative in an international scheme for economic aid to Hungary. The Hungarian coalition Government would then get on with having free elections and, as soon as this general treaty had been negotiated, there should be withdrawals of forces both to the East and West, and Hungary would be free.
Those, roughly, are the lines on which this problem ought to be tackled. We cannot tackle it piecemeal, or in terms only of propaganda and denunciation. although I agree with all the denunciation, for this is a terrible business. Above all, let us take a political initiative in this country and through our Government. Let us make a constructive contribution. Time is against us in this matter. One more incident and we have "had it"; we can take no more incidents. We must work for the negotiation of a settlement, and I beg the Government to show some realisation of this. I ask them to take some initiative and to put forward a policy for negotiating an agreement.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)
In discussing the tragedy of Hungary our minds almost inevitably turn to the heroic courage and the endurance shown by the Hungarian people. That is very natural. It seems to me, however, that the Hungarians have many more qualities than pure heroism, tenacity and endurance. I visited Hungary many times between the wars, travelled over most of the country and met many of her people. One or two 1363 incidents stand out in my mind which showed me the quality of the people more than anything else.
Before the First World War some golf enthusiasts in Budapest decided to build themselves a golf course above that lovely city. Not unnaturally, they obtained a golf professional from Scotland. The only name by which I ever knew him was "John Willie". Shortly after that, the war broke out and the Germans ordered the unfortunate Hungarians, who had been dragged in against us, to intern all British people in Hungary. "John Willie" was duly interned, he was interned in the golf club, and throughout the war he was treated as a welcome guest. Little extra rations of tobacco and sugar, for instance, found their way to "John Willie". That showed something of the generous heart of these people whose dreadful predicament today we so much deplore.
I remember, too, the death of a young Hungarian who was in an official position in this country and who grew to love Britain. He was on leave in Budapest when the Second World War broke out. He could not face the prospect of fighting against his British friends, so he chose the highest building in Budapest and threw himself from the top storey. He was killed.
I could give many other instances of their qualities—their admiration for Britain, which everyone finds on visits there, their admiration and imitation of our institutions and even our houses of Parliament, and their intense love of freedom which, as we have seen from the incidents of the last few weeks, still persists. Oddly enough, it persists, as right hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, among the young, who have never known anything but tyranny.
What can we do for them and how can we help? The kindly, generous, hospitable, understanding British people have done and are doing a great deal through the International Red Cross and other reputable agencies for those who escape from Hungary, but what about the country itself, which was referred to many times by the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus), and what about the people who are still left in Hungary to carry on the struggle?
1364 Whatever may be said of the United Nations, it has proved itself useless on this occasion. Some of us expected that, some of us have grieved for it, but it remains a fact that the United Nations has proved itself useless. Resolutions and condemnations are no substitute for military strength and moral courage. We have now found to our cost that no nation, or group of nations, is willing to provoke the possibility of a third world war when either very powerful or very ruthless nations—either America or Russia—are concerned. They are prepared to do so only when they are dealing with nations like France and Britain, which have a civilised view of the rule of law, or possibly with Colonel Nasser, whose military strength they do not fear.
I agree with the hon. Member for Gorton that in considering how to help Hungary we are driven inescapably to the problem of what to do about Russia. I am flattered by the fact that in an article in The Times this morning the distinguished leader writer more or less set out the ideas and views which I have about the problem of Russia. We must have both set them down about the same time. Off and on, I have spent nearly three-and-a-half years in Russia and I believe that I know something about the Russian people, their mentality and certainly their Government. The people themselves are intensely kind, hospitable and generous to a degree. They know nothing except what they are told and they are frightened to believe anything else.
While the people may be frightened—and this is an important fact—their Government are frightened, too. Ever since 1917, when they won power almost by a miracle, they have been frightened of losing it. This was confirmed during the last war, when, again, they emerged almost by a miracle or, rather, by a combination of two factors: the assistance given by blood and tears from Britain during the war and the unbelievable stupidity and brutality of Hitler's behaviour after the invasion. The Russians were ready to greet their deliverers with open arms, but instead of generous treatment they were given a treatment which they found a shade worse than the tyranny they were then enduring.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Would not my hon. Friend agree that there are Russians and Russians? As for their kindly disposition, it would be hard to find any Hungarian refugee in this country who thought the Mongolian troops who came to Hungary had any kindly instincts at all.
§ Sir T. Moore
It is, of course, difficult to decide who the Russians really are. As a generic term, "Russian" includes 20 or 30 different races of different degrees of civilisation and different degrees of humanity. I was trying to concentrate my argument rather than to talk about the different kinds of Russians.
The Russian Government know, I think, that, internally, their régime literally depends on the terror power of the gun, on the terror threat of Siberia and on the terror control of wages, of food and the roofs over the heads of their people—for that is about all they can expect. They know, equally, that externally, their regime depends on their overwhelming military strength and on the vague attractive idealism inherent in the philosophy of Communism.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) said the Russians may be driven to initiate a third world war. I do not believe they will ever do so of their own volition, unless through the madness of a drunken dictator. There are two simple reasons to justify that belief. There are two kinds of war—a nuclear war and a war with traditional weapons. The Russians know that a nuclear war involves instant retaliation, as General Gruenther very properly pointed out the other day and as Field Marshal Lord Montgomery has repeated. A war of traditional weapons involves lines of communication, and our experience of the last few weeks shows that when those lines of communication are exposed to the determination of the satellite States, with the goal of freedom facing them, it will be very difficult to maintain them or, indeed, to maintain them in Russia itself.
Russia knows that she is practically universally detested by all civilised communities and is therefore driven to maintain this satellite buffer to ward off a feared military onslaught. To help Hungary, to help Poland, to help the Ukraine —and all those other satellite prisoners who are waiting and watching for an 1366 opportunity to escape from their prison—we are forced back to considering the problem of Russia. At the moment, our Western policy seems to be based on preserving equal if not superior strength in both nuclear and traditional weapons as a constant threat—or as a constant source of defence. There is, however, this other policy which Mr. Nehru advocates, and to which President Eisenhower is now, apparently, being persuaded—the policy of what might be termed conciliation.
Let us consider those two alternatives. My own opinion is that conciliation has failed. In one form or another it has been tried for the last twelve years—practically since Yalta. We therefore have to consider the other. As far as I can see, neither side can stand indefinitely the economic and financial strain of constantly mounting and competing costs. It cannot go on indefinitely, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East has said. If it does go on we here shall certainly wreck our Welfare State, endanger full employment and all those other requirements of the civilised life which we have come to value. I am doubtful, too, whether the United States is prepared to shoulder the burden much longer, especially as there is a growing isolationist movement there.
On the Russian side, as I know—and as all hon. Members who have visited it know—her agriculture and her factories are denuded of the minimum manpower necessary to bring about that Utopia which those in power constantly offer to their people as a sort of carrot. They want those men from the army and from the great forces stationed in the satellite countries—they want them on the land and in the factories and the yards. They want them in order to carry out, if they can, the constant promises of a better standard of living which they have given to the people.
What are we to do? East and West are being driven into this economic struggle, the end of which might easily be as fatal as physical destruction by arms. There is only one way, though I do not say that it might be any more successful than have the other efforts. That way would be for the N.A.T.O. countries to say to Russia, in effect, "We want peace, not self-destruction. We imagine that you want the same thing. If you are so fearful of attack, we are prepared to guarantee to come to your assistance 1367 with all the force and power at our disposal if you are attacked, provided that that attack comes from outside the satellite States; and, of course, we would expect reciprocal treatment."
§ Sir T. Moore
I do not see that that is relevant at the moment.
That approach would inevitably be accompanied by an agreed measure of disarmament, both nuclear and traditional, by the withdrawal of Russian troops from the satellite States—including the Baltic States. We, in turn, would undertake to withdraw all forces from Western Germany and other N.A.T.O. bastions and forts in Europe, although it would, of course, be necessary for each country to maintain an adequate force for its own internal security and for overseas commitments.
That is one possible suggestion that might meet with success, but it must be put in hand quickly. The foundations of Soviet power are beginning to crumble, not alone in the satellite States, but, as we have been told, in Russia itself. If that is true, it may well be that, in terror at falling, the Russian rulers may, like the maddened Hitler, try to bring down the world with them. That is why urgency is the most important factor in all this business. I hope that Her Majesty's Government, as one of the chief components of N.A.T.O., will take steps to bring these suggestions to the notice of their colleagues.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
The hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) has spoken of the existence of military blocs. In particular, he referred to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I should have thought that one of the lessons to be learned from the Hungarian tragedy is the complete obsolescence of the idea that international policy can be furthered by means of military blocs. However, I will deal with that point in a few minutes.
We are all agreed that the tragedy now being enacted in Hungary is all the more appalling because of the feeling of helplessness experienced on all sides of the 1368 House. In the main, this debate has so far been harmonious and constructive. I hope that I will not disturb that atmosphere too much, but I must make some reference to the link, which, on this side, it is agreed there is, between what has happened in Suez and what has happened in Hungary.
Before dealing with that, may I say that as, I think, a known opponent of Communism I am glad that the events in Hungary have now stripped Communism naked of any pretence of belief in freedom, democracy, or even the elementary human decencies. What has happened, and is happening, there is an overwhelming defeat for the Soviet Union. especially in the uncommitted areas of the world. It has been amazing—and here I might get some support from the other side of the House—to note how India, after what I believe to have been some prevarication on this issue, has been compelled, through the force of public opinion in India, to denounce what has happened in Hungary.
For that reason, profound importance attaches to the present visit of Mr. Nehru to the United States. Those facts must have been apparent to the leaders of the Soviet Union when they went into Hungary. Their amazing stupidity in the face of those facts must have its explanation in the deep divisions that must exist internally in the Soviet Union, and we in this House should do and say nothing which would tend to discourage the emergence of any moderating influences that might be trying to gain power in the Kremlin.
I want now to refer to the point that I made at the outset, namely, the fact that this development in Hungary has exposed in the most brutal way the obsolescence of military force as an instrument of national policy. That is the painful and humiliating but, nevertheless, salutary lesson that has been given to both Britain in Suez and the Soviet Union in Hungary, and if that is sufficiently realised in the Soviet Union and by our own Conservative Government, it will obviously give a new impetus to the new proposals for disarmament.
One of the basic reasons for the unrest not only in Hungary, but in Eastern Europe as a whole, and indeed, elsewhere, has been the tendency to combine too rapid industrialisation with a too heavy 1369 armaments programme. The Russians have confessed as much on this point. More consumer goods have been promised. For those reasons, I think that the prospects of a further advance on the disarmament front are promising.
I want for a few moments to try to put my finger on some of the origins of the tragedy in Hungary. If we trace the origins from the very beginning, from the end of the war, I think we find them in the misplaced optimism of Hungary and of other countries, as well as the misplaced optimism of the Western Powers in the immediate post-war years, concerning the aims and objectives of Stalin's policy. We allowed the Russians to get a foothold in Eastern Europe, and we found, too late, a Red Army of occupation, plus an admittedly brilliant and dedicated Rakosi, the Communist leader in Hungary, plus a divided opposition in Hungary, and, ironically enough, generous American economic aid, which had a tremendous influence in Hungary in stabilising the currency and allowing the Communists to cash in economically. All those things helped the consolidation of Communist Party power.
In July, 1950, there were 4,000 Social Democrats and trade unionists arrested in two days in Hungary. None of them was tried. All were accused of collaborating with the Labour Party in Britain and with the American Federation of Labour. The Hungarian National Council of Trade Unions was set up, and the right to strike was denied to the workers. Piece rates and work competition were the order of the day. The chief functionary of that trade union organisation, Antal Apro, said that the only function assigned to the trade unions was to intensify work competition and to do everything possible to protect the party leadership against attack.
I was interested in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Ledger), who sought to emphasise the need not to over-exaggerate the situation, but if he had heard Anna Kethly speaking at our party meeting the other night he would realise that it is impossible to overpaint the picture of the exploitation of the workers in Hungary.
After Stalin's death in 1953, there was a change in Hungary. It was, indeed, a turning point. There is any amount of 1370 evidence to support that contention, in Hungary and elsewhere. We had all kinds of manifestations. There was the Austrian Peace Treaty, the healing of the breach with Tito, exchange visits here there and everywhere, and no lack of confessions of shortcomings and promises of better things. That. I think, is the explanation of the difference between what happened in Poland and what happened in Hungary.
I wish to link, and make no apologies for doing so, what happened in Eastern Europe and what happened in Egypt. On 30th October the Soviet Government promised the withdrawal of Soviet tanks from Budapest and to examine the possibility of withdrawing Russian troops from the other countries signatory to the Warsaw Pact. On 3rd November came the Soviet order to occupy Hungary.
The question I ask, to which I should like an answer or, at least, the Government's estimate of what the answer is, is this: what happened between 30th October, when the Russians agreed to withdraw their troops, and 3rd November, when the Soviet order came to occupy Hungary? It is very significant that the only international event of world-shaking importance which happened between those dates was the British and French bombing of Egypt.
The Government were extremely sensitive about this point when it was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker); they were extremely sensitive to the charge that the two incidents were related. Whatever the truth might be about that—and this is no time to debate that particular issue—it is undoubtedly true that our action in Egypt served to blur the differences between ourselves and Soviet imperialism at a time when they should have been glaringly clear to the whole world.
We were then morally bankrupt and politically disunited from our allies at a time when moral rectitude—which was scorned by the Minister of Defence—and political unity with our friends might have done a great deal to prevent the cruel march of events in Hungary. I believe that time will prove that that was the greatest tragedy of our adventure in Egypt. Yet, paradoxically enough, events in Hungary might have done something 1371 to repair the damage done by our stupidity in Egypt. Soviet barbarism in Hungary might have caused the Arab world to hesitate a great deal before seeking the embraces of that particular bear.
Internationally, both Britain and the Soviet Union have suffered humiliating defeats. Both have sought by military means, with guns and bombs, to solve their problems. It has been proved for all the world to see that military blocs are outmoded weapons in the solution of international problems. Colonel Nasser has thumbed his nose at thousands of millions of pounds worth of British arms, and the Hungarian people have spat at Soviet tanks.
That is the lesson we must learn. As a result of the use of Soviet tanks, bombs and artillery in Hungary, and our use of them in Egypt, there is now more turbulence in Central Europe and more turbulence in the Middle East than there was when we started out. We have still, in the event, to get round to negotiation.
This is the message we are trying to give the Government. It is up to them now to take the initiative, to give a lead on disarmament. Before these events came, a reduction in our defence expenditure was imminent, and it is now more than ever necessary. If we can get agreement among all the Powers to cut armaments and spend every penny of the money saved on economic rehabilitation in the underdeveloped areas of the world, that will do much more to safeguard world peace than anything else we could possibly do.
I end on this domestic note. We still have a tiny minority in this country who tend to apologise for and to pander to the Soviet Union and all its doings in Hungary and elsewhere. This tragedy in Hungary will have done a good deal if it has served to open the eyes of those people. Let me say this, brutally and frankly, to the small minority in my own party who have been wont to pander to that particular doctrine. If this tragedy has served to dispel that tendency, if it has served to get rid of the apathy in the trade union movement, which has allowed Communists to get control in vitally important parts of it, good will have come out of a wretched evil.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
With much of what the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) said one could not possibly disagree. I welcome particularly what he said in summing up his impressions of this terrible tragedy in Hungary, that it had stripped Communism of any pretence of belief in freedom or even in human decency. I join issue strongly with the hon. Member, however, when he went on to suggest that our action in Egypt had been responsible for Soviet action in Hungary.
§ Mr. Hamilton indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Peyton
Perhaps I am putting it too strongly. I hope I do not put it too strongly in saying that the hon. Member suggested that it had at least given the Russians the excuse.
I would say to the hon. Member that the methods employed by the Soviet Union in Hungary have been wholly different from ours in the Egyptian issue. If the Soviet Union had been in any way influenced by the action which we took in the Middle East it would at least be reasonable to ask that they should follow the same standards as we have subsequently set. They have refused to have any regard for Resolutions of the United Nations and have maintained a refusal to admit United Nations representatives. Those points alone distinguish this whole action entirely from anything that we did in the Middle East.
I want to revert to a point which was made by the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus), who, I regret, is no longer present. Indeed, he was in some part echoing what my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) had said—namely, that we must negotiate. Of course we must negotiate. It is, however, only right and fair that we should assert that the Western nations have together for years been trying desperately to negotiate.
At the end of the war, we in the West all hoped that we might continue, as we did during the war, to co-operate with the Russians. Throughout this past gloomy decade, those hopes have been constantly disappointed by the ruthless and cynical policies which have been persistently pursued by the Soviet Union.
1373 The House will perhaps forgive me if I say how I welcome the difference in tone of this debate in contrast to those other rather barren debates which we had upon the Middle East. I realise, of course, that feelings were very strong on both sides of the House and I do not wish to go into the issues which were then discussed. I differ very strongly from the views which were held by hon. Members opposite, but I wonder how much the nation is indebted to the House of Commons for its conduct over those six weeks. The Opposition has undoubtedly privileges and rights in this matter, and I do not challenge them, but how far is it wise for an Opposition to pin Ministers down to the Government Front Bench? How far is it right and wise for the Opposition of any party to pin Ministers down at a time when very great affairs are in process?
§ Mr. Warbey
Will the hon. Member at least pay some attention to the views expressed by the Prime Minister of Ceylon, the Prime Minister of India and the Prime Minister of Canada showing how the Opposition clearly played its part in helping to save the Commonwealth from dissolution?
§ Mr. Peyton
I am afraid that the hon. Member has misunderstood my point. Certainly all the arguments can be made clear, but I do not know whether the House of Commons is ever wise to engage in a policy of attrition against Ministers. I think that that is an issue. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite hope eventually to be on this side of the House.
§ Mr. Peyton
The right hon. Gentleman is no doubt full of hopes that it will not be very long until he is sitting on this side of the House. Very well, I do not believe that it is right for any Opposition, regardless of party, to make it impossible for Ministers to carry out the business of Government.
§ Mr. Bevan
This seems to me to be rather irrelevant to what we have been discussing and it is quite out of accord with the gratification which the hon. Member expressed about the previous part of the debate. What he is really suggesting is that whereas dictatorships 1374 destroy Parliament by armed force we should be allowed to destroy it by acquiescence. There is always the argument, whenever there is high feeling, that the Opposition should not pin the Government down. The same argument was used against Charles James Fox when the Government threw away the American Colonies.
§ Mr. Peyton
I am not saying that anybody should destroy discussion but that the House of Commons, and particularly the Opposition, should not abuse the rights which accompany its responsibilities.
The point that I seek to make in the debate is that we made a mistake during the Middle East debate, and that perhaps we would make a mistake now if we attempted too much to look at one event in one place, taken out of both its geographical context and its time context. I think that we all admit that we are facing all over the world the problem of militant Communism. It may well be good to suggest negotiation. We must all he prepared to accept the alternative of negotiation rather than resort to force. Nevertheless, it has at no time been made sufficiently clear that in Eastern Europe, as in the Middle East, we are facing the undoubted menace of militant Russian Communism and we, in the Western nations, are constantly finding ourselves at a disadvantage.
The Communist policy is at all times clear. The policy of the West has never been sufficiently clear or sufficiently concerted between the various Powers. We have a more or less agreed policy in Western Europe, but only in Western Europe. In the Middle East there was a lamentable lack of any concerted policy between ourselves and our allies, and in these tragic events in Eastern Europe again there is that same lack of any substantial agreement.
What will happen if the events of Hungary spread? What will happen if they are repeated, as is only too likely, because it is historically the Nemesis of tyrants that they cannot relax the pressure on the people whom they control. History is full of examples showing that when a tyrant relaxes pressure is the time when an outbreak will take place. I do not suggest that it is more than a possibility that events in Hungary will be 1375 repeated in Poland and in Eastern Germany. But can any of us on either side of the House say that we in this country are agreed, let alone agreed with our allies in the West, as to the policy which the West should properly pursue under those circumstances?
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has said on one or two occasions, with telling effect, that he believes that opinions are stirring and changing in Russia. He believes also that it is impossible ultimately—and this must be the root of our common faith —for the Russians to win in Hungary, in other words, to defeat the human spirit. I share that belief with the right hon. Gentleman, but that is no comfort to the Hungarian people. It offers no relief to the Poles or the East Germans, should they find themselves in the same tragic circumstances as Hungary is now passing through.
Affairs in We Middle East and this appalling series of circumstances in Hungary have one common root, and that is the terrible Communist conspiracy which has been torturing the world ever since the war. Here I want to make a point relating to the suggestion made by the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson). He suggested that we on this side of the House were constantly sneering at the United Nations. I want to say clearly that it is not my desire 10 sneer at the United Nations, and I am certain that it is not the desire of my hon. Friends. Undoubtedly that impression has been given simply because we have thought that hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House have been too ready to place a glib reliance on the United Nations which neither the events nor the facts have warranted.
We are in a dilemma here. Let us face it. There is the Communist bloc in the United Nations, and the Communists now stand revealed absolutely naked without any pretence of any belief in either freedom or human decencies. That is the great dilemma for us and for the United Nations to face. Let us also recall that the United Nations is a human institution. It will take many years before it grows in tradition and strength and prestige, as we all hope it will, and we have to be patient with it.
§ Mr. H. Hynd
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point, does he not recall that in the case of the trouble in Egypt the United Nations passed a Resolution asking both sides to withdraw, and thereby stop the fighting, and that we vetoed it?
§ Mr. Peyton
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but I do not want to go into that now. Instead I want to call the attention of the House to a masterly article written by Professor Gilbert Murray in the Sunday Times last week, which he ended by saying that the great danger is that we shall all look on and see the civilised world rebarbarised. I have said before that we must attempt to negotiate, but let us remember as a fact that the record of Communism is an evil one. It is one of bad faith throughout its history.
Consequently, I would say to the Government that we should by all means seek a new initiative by negotiation, but before we do that—I apportion no blame whatever here—let us establish a measure of agreement, urgently necessary in circumstances of great peril, among the nations of the West who share a common faith and common ideal. If we do not, it will be to our peril.
Also, in seeking negotiations, agreement and, from this cloudy future, the elusive prize of peace, let us remember that we are here dealing with something which has revealed itself to be evil, and that if one seeks to compromise with evil, one does not in that way do anything to establish or strengthen the cause of what is right and just.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
While I was one of those who pressed for a debate on Hungary, and while I should have had a very uneasy conscience if we had dispersed for the Christmas Recess without having debated the subject, I am well aware that there is precious little that we can actually do. Mere words are tragically inadequate. However, the least we can do is to try to ascertain whether all practicable steps are being taken. I wish merely to put a few questions to elicit what is being done and what might be done.
Throughout the debate one theme has been the obvious desire for a settlement 1377 of the Eastern European problem by negotiation. I do not know whether the Soviet Union is willing or anxious to negotiate, but I should have thought that the chances would be increased if the Soviet Union found that she was losing, and continuing to lose, the diplomatic war, and that public opinion was continuing to turn against her in the uncommitted countries of the world as a consequence of her aggression in Hungary. If that be so, then any steps which, while not having an immediate material effect on conditions in Hungary, help in the war of ideas are worth consideration.
A number of proposals have been put forward. The first may seem to some hon. Members to he impracticable. I understand that the Secretary-General of the United Nations was authorised to go to Hungary himself. I believe that he is a brave man and anxious to do anything possible to uphold the authority of the United Nations, but what he can do is greatly limited by the Resolutions passed and by the fact that he has no executive power. He cannot go unless the country is willing to accept him.
However, I cannot find anything in the Charter to prevent a resolution being passed authorising the Secretary-General to go to Hungary whether the Government there wishes it or not. I do not know what would happen. Presumably he would land there. I doubt whether even the present Government of Hungary would use physical force against him. It may well be that they would send him away again. However, the incident would help to focus attention upon the way in which the United Nations has been defied. The effect would have been more dramatic if it had been done immediately upon defiance of the first United Nations Resolution, but even now I do not think it is too late.
There is also something to be said for the proposals contained in the Motion on the Order Paper suggesting that diplomatic representatives in Hungary should be asked to prepare their own report, as Hungary has refused to accept observers. The report could be brought before the United Nations Assembly. That would also help to focus attention, and it would have its effect upon countries like India and other so-called uncommitted countries.
1378 If those proposals fail, we may have to consider Article 41. I should like to know what is the attitude of the Government on the subject of Article 41, and whether discussions are taking place with other Governments represented at the United Nations. That Article was drawn up specifically to deal with the case where measures should be taken not involving the use of armed force. Whilst I concede the many difficulties involved, I should like to be satisfied that Article 41 is not being ignored merely because it might do us economic harm.
On the subject of the B.B.C. broadcasts, I do not believe that the Soviet Union is entirely insensible to public opinion, and I support wholeheartedly the remarks of the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald). If I may say so, the comment of the Foreign Secretary during his speech appeared to indicate that the Foreign Secretary had missed, or partly missed, the point. If I understood him rightly, he said that broadcasts would continue to the Eastern European countries. But that is not the whole point; it is to the other countries of the world that the overseas broadcasts are so important.
If we believe in this war of ideas at all, it is not sufficient merely to continue our broadcasts to Eastern European countries. The effect on the Soviet Union would be just as great if we had the right kind of broadcasts to Russia and other countries throughout the world, particularly to the countries of the Middle East and India. I am convinced that we should increase and not lessen this policy of making known the stark facts on what has been happening in Hungary and that we should continue to do so until there is a change of policy.
I wish to say a few words on the humanitarian subject of the refugees. A great deal has been done, and is being done, by the Government and by various voluntary organisations, but I should like to be satisfied that everything possible is being done. The problem for Austria is almost overwhelming. Can we not give her more financial aid and step up the work of bringing refugees out of Austria? I am not entirely satisfied that the fullest possible use has been made of voluntary offers in this country to take refugees. I am not sure that the fullest possible use has been made of the local authorities.
1379 I gain the impression—I hope that I am wrong—that in France this subject has been dealt with rather more enthusiastically and realistically than it has been in this country. My hon. Friends and myself saw the Home Secretary on this subject. I will not go into that in detail, but I hope that something will be said about the steps that have been taken to deal with the bottleneck and the other problems that have led to curtailment of the acceptance of refugees from Austria.
I know that places are being found for a considerable number of refugee students at the universities, but I should like to know whether the numbers are limited as the result of the financial circumstances of the universities. Are the necessary grants being made to enable the students to be taken and places found for them at the universities, because this is a very exceptional wave of refugees and the proportion of young people is very much higher than in any other case that we have known since the war?
Finally, on the subject of refugees, I should like to refer to a point made earlier in the debate. Unfortunately, there has arisen the impression that refugees who come to this country will thereby forfeit the chance of moving on elsewhere, Many of these refugees want to get as far away from Eastern Europe as they can and hope to go to the United States or various countries in the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, there is the impression that if they come to England or another European country, they will have less chance of moving on.
It is most important that something should be done to correct that. I want to refer to a letter which was quoted earlier in the debate, that from Dr. Kellerman which was published in The Times on Monday. The conclusion of the letter was:I am quite certain that nothing would contribute more towards easing the present misery of the Hungarian refugees in this country than a clear-cut and precise statement from the United States Government, translated into Hungarian and distributed in every refugee camp, setting out the United States Government's policy as regards the admission of Hungarian refugees into the United States.If this is not done, and done quickly, the officials in charge of these camps will have an extremely difficult task on their hands and our prestige and reputation for being an honest and trustworthy nation will be damaged beyond repair, because I have heard already many a voice to the effect that 11,000 people have been lured to England under false pretences.1380 If that disturbing observation is at all justified—and I hope it is not—what steps are being taken to correct that unfortunate impression?
In conclusion, this is not an occasion on which we should count the cost. The long-term effect of the heroism of the Hungarians is very difficult to calculate. The extent to which they have been willing to go to achieve self-determination and to gain personal liberty is beyond estimation, and it is clear that our indebtedness to the people of Hungary cannot easily he repaid.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
We have all approached the debate with heavy hearts and very conscious that above all else we must be beware of pity, unless we are certain that we can translate it into action. The contributions to the debate have been constructive throughout, and I hope that I shall follow the example. Before referring to what the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) said. I want to make a few comments about what has happened.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) referred to the kindly nature of the Russians in their own country, I could not help but interrupt him, because last Saturday evening I spent about four and half hours with sonic of the refugees now residing in my constituency. The behaviour of the Mongolian troops which the Russians moved in to replace those Russians who had handed their arms to the freedom fighters—which is apparently what the first lot did—beggars description. I should like to recount one incident which might illustrate as well as anything the sort of thing which the Hungarian refugees have been suffering.
There was apparently a group of several hundred women walking down a road. In the opposite direction came a line of tanks. Those tanks could have avoided the women with the greatest of ease by going on either side of them. They did not; they ploughed straight through them. That is the sort of thing that has been going on. The Russian troops had been indoctrinated with the idea that they were defeating a wicked Fascist plan of the West to prevent the Hungarian revolution. They honestly believe that in five years' time they will control the whole of Europe.
1381 I never knew before what the phrase "fighting mad" really meant until I heard what the refugees had to say. Who can blame them for being fighting mad, for believing that what they tried to do was to stop a great wave of tyranny from sweeping right across Europe, and for begging us to act now before it is too late and before that happens? The eldest of the people to whom I spoke was 47 years of age and the youngest 18. The average age of a group of twenty or so of them was 27. Many of them were girls. There are only two married couples in the whole camp, which has some 250 people in it. The girls fought side by side with the men.
Those refugees believe that what happened to them is going to happen in every other European country. They even go so far as to say that unless the West acts now Europe will be over-run and that these islands will be threatened. They say that they would be proud to see all their relatives in Hungary destroyed rather than that we should do nothing. Through an interpreter I spoke to these people. He was one of the most excellent interpreters I have ever come across. He was a young Hungarian who left Hungary some years ago and whose parents now live in France. He has given up the whole of his Christmas vacation from Cambridge University to be with these people and to try to help them. Through him I tried to convey to these Hungarians the following problem.
Are we right, in an endeavour to save Hungary, to risk humanity in Europe? That seems to me to be the question that hangs over the whole of this debate, and that is why I say, let us beware of pity unless we are certain that we can implement it. The problem that faces us is whether or not we should dare say to the Soviet Union, now or at any other time. "Unless you not only stop what you are doing and get out of all the satellite States and back into your own territory we are prepared to drop a hydrogen bomb on you." Unless we are prepared to say that, then we had better say nothing at all.
The compassion that we have for these refugees is a matter about which we can do something, and I want to say a word or two about it in a moment.
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman really trying to convince the House that in view of what has happened in Poland and Hungary the Russians would attempt, in face of those risings, to over-run Europe?
§ Major Legge-Bourke
No, I am not. What I am trying to convey is what these young refugees themselves think. I am trying to tell the House the spirit that is running through these people and to emphasise the difficulty that we are going to have in making them understand our approach to the problem which confronts them.
If the free world wants to remain free it must make up its mind whether it believes that there is the slightest chance of negotiations ever succeeding in stopping this process. Once every so often. as Lord Rosebery, a former Prime Minister, once said, the Russian Empire feels the desire for expansion, and the action taken by the Western Powers to try to prevent that has much the same effect as pruning has upon a healthy young tree. Time means less to them than to us. We tend to see things in terms of our generation only t they look further ahead. They do not mind if it takes a century, so long as it happens in the end.
I do not know whether the right ethic for us to accept is:Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereofor whether we should say. "Rather than see our posterity condemned to be overrun by these brutes we in this generation should take the supreme risk." None of us in this House—certainly no one who has not the advantages of the Government, with all the advice that only a Government can have—is really qualified to judge, but I would say that the duty of the Western world is to make up its mind here and now whether it has forever banished the idea of using military force to stop the Russians coming any further West or spreading into any territories which they are not entitled to occupy, or whether it should concentrate now and for always upon negotiations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) made a great plea for reopening negotiations. I agree with him. I personally believe that the other alternative is a risk that the world cannot afford to take.
1383 But if the Government said tonight that the Americans had agreed to take what we would all regard as appropriate action I should back the Government, because I believe that they have information which would entitle them to say that. But my own guess is that no British Government will dare to say that, certainly if the American tradition is carried on in the way in which it has always been carried on before. The Americans never act until it is too late, and they never take action in time to prevent a catastrophe. They never have done so yet and I do not believe that they ever will it is not in their nature. I hope that no one will think that I am screaming at the Americans by saying that, but we must face the facts.
Neither country likes war. We are sometimes prepared to take action to prevent a war or to stop a war. The Americans themselves usually join in a war much too late, and on the winning side. We might as well face these facts and not pretend that they are otherwise.
I now turn to the actual condition of the refugees themselves. They have three great needs at the moment. The first is for Hungarian literature, especially newspapers. I do not know what is amusing hon. Members opposite. If the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) would carry on his conversation somewhere else, if he does not want to listen to me. I should be very grateful.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
The right hon. Gentleman has never paid me a compliment before. I am beginning to wonder whether he is coming over to this side or whether I shall be going over there.
I would make a special plea to the Government to see whether anything can be done to provide the Hungarians here with newspapers printed in their own language. They are experiencing a great lack of information as to what has been happening since they left Hungary, and they are totally unable to have newspapers printed in their own language. It would be a great help if the Foreign Office or some other Department could make some arrangements in this matter.
1384 I understand that the organisation of the camp to which I have referred is, roughly, that the British Council is paying £3 a week per head for subsistence, with is. 6d. a day pocket money. That pocket money, paid on a Friday, has usually vanished by Tuesday. Until they get into profitable work again, these people are going to be at a loose end for most of the week.
In addition to needing newspapers, they have a very great need for sports and gymnasium equipment to give them exercise. We want to avoid people who are collected together in camps with nothing to do having little opportunity of taking physical exercise. Those of us who from time to time during the war had to experience periods in base area camps know how easy it was to become what we called "browned off". No doubt the Hungarians have a more descriptive word.
It would be a great help if we could do something about providing cigarettes which would be more to their choice than those manufactured in this country. This is a great difficulty as they are used to rather strong tobacco—probably Balkan or even Russian tobacco, I do not know. They find that the cigarettes they get here very insipid and their pocket money does not permit them to buy very many after the weekend.
These are minor details, but they refer to a few of the creature comforts about which we can do something. Tribute has already been paid to the W.V.S. and its work in providing clothing, but some camps still have not two towels per refugee. As I gather from the Foreign Secretary that we are prepared to take in more refugees, these things have to be realised. The voluntary organisations have to be relied upon, but encouragement from the Government would help.
The camp in my constituency, which belongs to a growers' co-operative, is already tending to run into debt as a result of the slowness with which funds come through. I am not blaming anyone about the slowness of the funds coming in. I hope that the Express newspapers will be a little more charitable to the British Council over this matter of refugees. The British Council deserves commendation for what it is trying to do. It is important that voluntary associations should not be put in an embarrassing position if that can be avoided. I hope 1385 that the funds which are being raised will not all be spent in Austria or in sending supplies to Hungary, but that we shall not forget the great need for them in this country.
I conclude on a rather different note. I am afraid that ever since the decision was taken to set up the State of Israel, the United Nations was, in my eyes, virtually discredited. At that time I made a speech in this House. I have never quoted myself in this House before, but I feel that tonight I must do so. On that occasion I said:The longer we remain members of the Security Council the longer our prestige is going to go down in the world. The time has now come when we have to take very rapid and decisive steps to try and bring the Western countries and the British Commonwealth and Empire together, We should accept the fact that so long as we remain members of the United Nations, we shall do nothing but harm to ourselves, very little good to anybody else and only serve the ends of the Soviet Union which is determined to split the world into two."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 10th December, 1948; Vol. 459, c. 763.]I said that in a speech on 10th December, 1948. Later the Korean trouble came, and obviously one could not have attacked the United Nations while that campaign was running.
In the light of what the United Nations has been able to do politically over Hungary, I feel that the time has come when this country ought seriously to consider whether or not we should remain a member of that organisation. The welfare work of the United Nations ought to go on and there must be an international body for that, but I believe that politically the United Nations is as dead as a doornail. The sooner we face that and concentrate on making N.A.T.O. into something, the better.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
At one time in his speech I thought that the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) was going to declare war simultaneosuly on the Soviet Union and on the United States.
Apart from temporary aberrations of that kind, taking us back to earlier centuries, I feel that the mood of the debate has been a sad one and that all of us are trying to think, in contemporary terms, whether there is anything we can do to help in the Hungarian situation.
1386 I know of nothing which has more stirred the conscience, the sympathy and the imagination of millions of people in this country, unless I go back a long way to the days of the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Civil War was the prelude to the Second World War, and the questions which we are asking now are: what is happening in Hungary, and what winds are blowing over the world at the present time? We know that this is something affecting far more than Hungary.
I have just returned from the Balkans. In fact, I have been in Belgrade. Our reactions to the Hungarian situation are very vivid, but when one finds onself in Yugoslavia, a territory adjoining Hungary, the awareness which one has becomes sensitised a hundredfold.
This is a very complicated tragedy which the world faces. In visiting Yugoslavia, one finds not only that tensions between nations are increasing but, also, that tensions within nations are often taking ugly forms. We are all delighted that Marshal Tito and his Government should say that the workers' councils in Hungary must be supported, but it is a sad thing—and one must try to understand its meaning—that rigid monolithic Communism is being insisted upon not only inside the Soviet Union but inside Yugoslavia, for Marshal Tito is applying the same rules inside his country.
It is true, as the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) said, that the Soviet bloc is not yet accepting the authority of the United Nations. It is also a fact that, in the end, France and Britain accepted its authority in the Suez Canal dispute. One point which those who try to understand how the Communist mind works must realise is that the Suez adventure is related in the Communist mind to the Hungarian situation. It was impossible for an orthodox Soviet leader to believe that France and Britain would go into the Suez area without the United States being indirectly informed. The Soviet leaders did not know how devoted to private enterprise are hon. Members opposite. We know, and we know how capricious they can be.
Although there was no open agreement with the United States we must accept the fact that the Soviet Union said, "Of course, N.A.T.O. is involved. Of course, 1387 the whole West is involved." They were trying to think out, on rigid theoretical grounds, what would come next. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Aberdeen. Shire, East, when he makes his usual speeches, not to damn the United Nations with faint praise so completely, because the United Nations made a considerable contribution in at least stopping that part of the damage and bringing a hope that we could start thinking again.
When the news of the Hungarian revolution first crossed the frontier there was terrific excitement, as we all know. For instance, a former vice-president of Yugoslavia who found that his country, with Czechoslovakia and Roumania, had refused to agree to United Nations observers visiting Hungary, took his political life in his hands. He was already in conflict with the Government, but he sent out to the world an article protesting against Yugoslav policy at that time. As it is a crime for a citizen in Yugoslavia to disagree effectively with the Government's international policy, he has just been sentenced to three years' solitary confinement. The indictment was made in public—the trial was held in private.
We have to ask ourselves: what is happening in the world, not only in relation to tensions between nations but to the tension within a nation? We all regard Yugoslavia as being a much milder Communist State than is Soviet Russia. What is the fear? Is not the fear now abroad, hunger—and there is plenty of material not only of men and women driven by hardship—but of men and women everywhere hungering for liberty, and it is contagious?
What can we do to make, not only the Russians less afraid, but the Marshal Titos less afraid'? What can we do to stand by the best spirits in every country who have tried to match the courage of the Hungarians by taking every risk themselves? Knowing the agonies, what can we do? I hope that Her Majesty's Government will take the initiative immediately on one specific point that we have talked about in this House scores of times, though nothing immediate or vivid enough has been done.
We have to get in contact with Western Germany. To that end we have to use national relations and party relations. It may be that there are some hon. Members opposite who have friends among 1388 Conservative Germans, and there are probably those on this side with friends among Socialist Germans. If only we can be absolutely certain that Western Germany would agree to be part of a neutralised zone we could begin clearing that up ourselves. But we have to take the initiative and say to Soviet Russia. "Will you accept this as a starting point —that you will have a unified Germany and a neutralised Germany?"
The importance of this is that we must give Khrushchev a victory somewhere. Behind Khrushchev, behind those elements in the Soviet Union that have been tentatively seeking to thaw the cold war, there are other Russians. There are the military Russians, who think solely in terms of military power. There are the Zhukovs, and the others. Their type exists, not only in Russia, but in all countries. I am sometimes terrified, when I hear hon. Members opposite talking of international affairs, at the thought that they still think that anything can be solved not with a cruiser or a tank, but with a bomb.
There are Russians who are like that, too, those whose case against Khrushchev and Malenkov is that they tried to ease the tensions, and, by trying to ease the tensions, brought on the sequence of events—Poland, Hungary, the theoretical and ideological quarrel with Marshal Tito. We have to get rid of the illiterate notion that everyone inside Russia thinks alike. First, there is the Khrushchev group, trying a policy of easement. Immediately behind that group one finds not the liberal Russians but the 100 per cent. military Russians, who are the greatest danger of all. But behind them, again, there are other Russians.
There is no sense in imagining that all the blood baths that took place under Stalin resulted simply because he was a madman. On that point I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus). I apologise if I misunderstood him, but I got the impression that he thought that everyone inside Russia had been so conditioned by forty years of Communist values that when they looked outside and saw, for instance, a rising in Hungary, they were convinced that it was merely counter-revolutionary.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
I was trying to make the point that there was a struggle precisely between the moderates and the 1389 Stalinists who acted on conditioned reflexes, and the two events, the crumbling of the Nagy Government and the Anglo-French invasion or bombing of Egypt, produced a situation in which the conditioned reflexes of the Stalinists came out on top.
§ Miss Lee
I am glad that it was not quite as I understood it to be.
The important thing is that people talk inside Russia as well as in this country, and we should make the first move from the West—ourselves, perhaps with our American friends, but let us get it started so that, inside Russia, the conversation changes and the people begin to say. "Look, there is the possibility of a neutralised, a united Germany." We can then begin to proceed from this nightmare world of fear into which we have got.
Then we can ask the Russians whether they will make a counter-move. I think we are all agreed on that. That is the practical way to meet the problem of the Hungarian people. We have got to think of a world policy, and we have got to begin it somewhere. I am certain that Germany is the place where we can begin it, in order that the great majority of people in Soviet Russia, Hungary and everywhere else, who so desperately want peace, can be given the beginning of hope that their Governments will negotiate instead of fighting one another.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)
During the ten years in which I have had the honour to sit in this House, spread over about twenty years, I have hardly ever spoken in a foreign affairs debate, and I certainly would not do so now if I did not feel an irresistable urge to say something about this desperate situation in Hungary today.
The perfidy of Russia and the Russian army needs no description, but we must try—indeed, I think that this is the great purpose of this debate—to offer a few constructive points which might help. I should like to say something which I do not think has been said in so many words, and that is that I hope that nothing in the existing situation will induce the Government to weaken in any way the forces of N.A.T.O. or of the British Army as they are in Germany today. It would 1390 be the greatest possible mistake, at a time when Russia is under the greatest internal pressure, for us to show any weakness of that kind at all.
I hope that we shall go most carefully into the suggestions which have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) about the further and better use of N.A.T.O. As the Hungarian nation fights on, it will become increasingly apparent that something will have to be done beyond the mere offering of first aid. The United Nations ought at once to expel from its membership the Kadar Government, which is a treacherous and unconstitutional Government. I should like that to be done with the utmost despatch. After all, if the Secretary-General is not allowed to enter Budapest, why should the Hungarian Government be tolerated at the United Nations at all?
Beyond that—and I am taking the line which my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) adopted earlier—I should like to see the Secretary-General present himself, dramatically, with a large body of supporters at the frontier of Hungary, and demand admittance. If that were done, it would be very difficult indeed for the Hungarians to refuse admission. One knows how it is; when the prospective guest writes and asks if he may come and stay, there is plenty of time to find reasons for saying. "No"; but if he knocks at the door and asks to come in, it is very difficult to refuse him. The neighbours are apt to hear of it and think badly of one. I believe that the effort really should be made.
The Communist Party in this country is trying to discredit the great Hungarian leader Cardinal Mindszenty and make it appear that he is a reactionary and Fascist influence. The House may be surprised that I should detain it by any mention of this matter, because I do not imagine that any hon. Member thinks that any such allegation is true. Nevertheless, what we say here has a profound effect and goes far beyond these walls, and I should like to take the opportunity to refute the suggestion most categorically.
On 3rd November the Cardinal, before he had to seek refuge in the American 1391 Embassy, made a very important broadcast, which, most fortunately, the B.B.C. and other people were careful to monitor. In the course of that broadcast, he said:I, in accordance with my position, am outside parties and will stand above parties. I hereby warn everyone not to indulge in factional strife and divergencies after the splendid unity of the October days.There was something else the Cardinal said which I think may give help to the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Ledger), whom I thank for his courtesy in remaining here throughout the debate, after having spoken some time ago. These next words from the Cardinal may ease the hon. Gentleman's mind:We want a classless society and a State where law prevails, a country developing democratic achievements based on private ownership correctly restricted by the interests of society and by justice.Those are not the words of a Fascist reactionary. They are the words of one who has proved himself to be one of the greatest and most devoted leaders that any nation could wish to have.
Let us remember that it is eight years ago on Boxing Day that Cardinal Mindszenty was imprisoned and suffered the living martyrdom about which we know so much. It is not without significance that Boxing Day is the feast day of the first martyr of the Christian era, St. Stephen, the Patron of Hungary. I hope that by those few words I have given the lie to any suggestion that Cardinal Mindszenty is a Fascist reactionary.
I now wish to ask my right hon. Friend whether he could do something which would be of assistance, I think, to everyone. Could he have published a Blue Book, similar to what was arranged, I believe, with regard to Poland and Rumania, which would set out all the various declarations on the subject of Hungary which have been made since the beginning of the insurrection? It would be of great help to us all in dealing with these matters to have something in chronological order. In considering a subject like this, about which there is not the constant clash of party opinion to keep the details always in the forefront of our minds, it is difficult, after going away for a month, as we shall soon, to pick up all the points of importance when we come back. I believe that it would be most helpful if such a publication could be issued.
1392 I do not propose to keep the House any longer, except to say a word of thanks to Austria for the magnificent neighbourliness which she has shown to Hungary in this terrible time. We do not always realise that Austria is a country which knows the jackboot of Russia, and knew it only very recently. Austria can see the Russian tanks patrolling the frontier from her own land, and she knows only too well how easy it would be for the Russians to enter and occupy her land again if they chose. Notwithstanding that, she has shown the most admirable courage to do what she has done for her poor, prostrate neighbour. I hope we shall not forget that and I rejoice that a great deal of the money which is available for the refugees will be spent in easing what must be an almost intolerable burden on the economy of such a small country.
We are all about to depart for the Christmas holidays, some of us to our comfortable homes, others to the winter sports and others to sunny climes. There will not be much sunshine or comfort in Hungary, but there is no need to give up hope. I believe that Hungary will fight on. No matter how difficult we think it is to act, we should keep on trying and never for one moment let up in our attempts to do our best to find a solution to her porblems. I believe that with the unquenchable spirit of the Hungarians and the determination of the rest of the world to make the United Nations really act, we shall, in the end, achieve a good solution in Hungary.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. W. T. Proctor (Eccles)
This has been a very interesting debate, and the House has found itself united in its sorrow at the present situation in Europe and in its desire to do something constructive. My own feeling is that our first need is that the Russians should follow exactly the course that has been followed by us in the matter of Egypt, and obey the United Nations.
The first real thing that could be done is to appeal for a cease-fire. What we want is an immediate ending of the killing in Hungary. No better message could go out to the Russian Government from the House of Commons than an appeal for that and an appeal to both sides—because there are two sides in this conflict—to try to settle this matter by something better than the gun.
1393 Several disasters have happened to the world in the last few months. The most tragic is undoubtedly the tragedy in Hungary. Death has overtaken a number of thousands of people—Hungarians, Russians, Egyptians, British and Israelis. We can do nothing to restore those lives, but we can be very sorrowful that in this twentieth century that is the kind of society that we have on an international plane. We must devote ourselves to trying to create something better.
Great material damage has been done in Hungary, to the City of Budapest, and to the war-scarred cities in the Middle East. That can be repaired. If the world would only act as one great society, it would be possible for us quickly to restore all the material damage that has been done and to enjoy greater prosperity than we have ever seen. It is, however, necessary to recognise that we must get a world society in order to be able to do that.
One hon. Member opposite seemed to indicate that the only course open to us was to threaten Russia with an atomic war. I say that that would be a great disaster. We must, above everything else, try to make sure that humanity does not commit suicide in these present painful circumstances.
Having lived throughout the period from the Russian Revolution in 1917, I can remember the tremendous thrill that there was in this country when the Tsarist regime finished. Many great changes have taken place in Russia. We saw the rise of Stalin, and many of us spent the greater part of our political lives denouncing his dictatorship and all his works. I never dreamed that I should live to see the day when I should hear from Russian leaders the denunciation of Stalin and all that he stood for, more absolute than any that I had heard from anybody else in the world. I feel that we have not made the best of our opportunities to take advantage of these changes in Russia.
There is an immortal story of the time when Khrushchev denounced Stalin. It is said that when Khrushchev was speaking and detailing all the wicked things that Stalin had done someone in the audience sent up a question which read, "What were you doing when Stalin was doing all these things?" Khrushchev 1394 read the question out and said, "Will the questioner come to the platform?" No one moved. In order to make certain that he was understood he moved to the front of the platform and read the question again, and again asked, "Will the questioner come to the platform?" No one moved, and Khrushchev said, "That is what I was doing when Stalin was doing all these things."
That story illustrates exactly the point that the Russian Communists and Communists in the satellite countries were in great danger of their lives during all those years, but what the Russian leaders forgot when they denounced Stalin was that there are Communists in the outside world who are under no compulsion and no fear and who yet gave Stalin the most enthusiastic support throughout that period. The denunciation of Stalin by Khrushchev undermined the position of every Communist in the free world. Outside, in the free countries, Communism is absolutely discredited, and Russian actions in Hungary have of course increased the horror which is felt.
What are we to do in these circumstances? War is not the solution. War is the immediate, complete suicide of all humanity. I feel that we must try to make contact with the Russian leaders. They are not in such a strong position as they were. It is a revelation to all of us that if the satellite countries were free tomorrow they would not be supporting the Communist regime in the same fashion as Stalin was able to get Communists throughout the world to support it. We should try to negotiate with the Russians in the present circumstances.
One great step which I believe would be a solution to many of our problems is the unity of Europe, and I do not exclude Russia from a united Europe. But we have to face the prospect of being ready to give up our own sovereignty to secure a bigger and more workable area than we have at present. My hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) suggested that we should negotiate on the basis of a neutral Germany. I would regard that as absolutely disastrous.
I believe that we should negotiate on the basis that there should be a united Germany inside a united Europe, which I think would be of less potential danger to Russia than a neutralised Germany 1395 with the right to an army, an air force, a navy and all the paraphernalia of war on her own again. I think that the solution is E.D.C. with Britain inside it. It should be possible for us to ask the Russians to sit down with us and to ask them what forces there shall be in the whole of Europe, detailing where they should be and who should control them.
We should do everything we can to remove from the minds of the Russians the fear which they have of attack from outside. I believe that that is the only feasible explanation of the tragic action which they have committed in Hungary, namely, that they fear that it might be a base for the capitalist world. So we should try to convince the Russians that we have no evil intentions towards them and no aggressive intentions whatever.
I believe that one of the great tragedies of history was when Lenin decided that he would not accept the Social Democrats as representatives of the working class. As a result Hitler slipped between the Communists and the Social Democrats in Germany. One of the most disastrous decisions in history was to create Communist parties throughout the world. Today, however, they are discredited, and I would like my hon. Friends on this side of the House to consider whether it is not possible to negotiate with the Russians on the basis of the Social Democrats being recognised as the true representatives of the working class in Western Europe.
Whilst the Government have responsibility for making every effort to contact the Russians about a settlement—because all the problems of Europe could be settled in Moscow, provided that Moscow had the right spirit—this duty is shared by the Opposition. I have never been over-enthusiastic about the delegations that we have been sending to Russia. The Labour movement has just made a general decision not to send any delegations there. I believe, however, that this is just the time when we ought to send delegations to Russia. I beg my hon. Friends to consider whether or not we should not contact the Russian party on behalf of representatives of the working class, putting the humanitarian case for a change of policy on their part and for co-operative existence instead of competitive co-existence throughout the world.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Humphrey Atkins (Merton and Morden)
I must be brief at this time of night and, therefore, I hope that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the outcome of the issues in Europe. Instead, I will confine myself to making one suggestion, touched upon by the Leader of the Opposition and one other hon. Gentleman opposite during the course of this debate.
During the last few weeks I have felt conscious, as I think everybody else in this country has, of two emotions about Hungary. One has been the admiration, which has been expressed far better than I can express it, of the magnificent struggle which the Hungarian people have put up. The second is the sense of frustration in that we would all like to do something to help, but do not know what to do.
It is there that I want to enlarge on a suggestion made already. In his opening remarks, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary enumerated the ways in which this country is helping in a practical way the unfortunate victims of the troubles in Hungary. Where, with great respect, I must join issue with him is when he said that everything possible was being done. I do not agree. Of course, I agree that we have been generous in our acceptance of refugees, and that we have contributed money to be used both within and without this country to help the victims of those troubles, but I do not think that we have done nearly enough in that direction, by which I mean the direction of helping not the people who have escaped from terror, but those who are still suffering in Hungary.
I heard my right hon. and learned Friend say that the International Red Cross was distributing food parcels and other necessities to the people in Hungary. I was horrified to hear him say that there were only about 100 grown-up people—he mentioned the number of children, but I have forgotten it—who were receiving assistance from the International Red Cross. I have no idea how many people in Budapest or anywhere else need assistance, but I am sure it runs into hundreds of thousands.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I think it was I who referred to the International Red Cross.
1397 I am not sure whether the Foreign Secretary did or not. I mentioned the figure of 100,000. Perhaps I might help the hon. Gentleman by saying that, even so, that total is only about 4 per cent. of the population, so it is not very much.
§ Mr. Atkins
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not suppose that anybody in this country knows how many people there are in Hungary needing the very necessities of life. The Hungarian economy has been dislocated to a tremendous extent. We have heard of coal mines being flooded and transport being disorganised. It is clear that the unfortunate people who have not managed to escape stand in dire need of food and clothing, and I am sure that we could do more to ensure that help gets to them.
I do not mean that we should place at the disposal of the Hungarian Government a large sum of money as a gift. I mean that we should organise the arrival in Hungary of large quantities of goods in kind. It may be said that if we tried to do this either through the International Red Cross, or by joining with other nations, the goods might be refused entry when they arrived. I admit that that is a risk but it is a risk which we should take. The goods might also be admitted and then misappropriated; that is also a risk. The most hopeful prospect is that they might be admitted and distributed to people who need them. Whatever happened, we should have shown that we were prepared to do something to help the victims of the terror in Hungary.
If the affair could be well managed and publicity were given to it, then, to borrow the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris), when we came to knock at the door with our gifts, it would be very difficult for them to be refused entry, and the people in Hungary would take as much care as they could to ensure that they were not misappropriated.
Whatever the fate of any help that we managed to send, we should have shown that we were not going to sit idly by while people were in need but that this country, and others who, I am sure, would join with it, were capable of helping in an act which is nothing more than 1398 Christian charity to people who are in great need and deserve what help we can give them.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
We are reaching, probably, the end of our discussions about foreign policy before the Christmas Recess. For my part— I expect that I am also expressing the views of the right hon. and learned Gentleman—I am heartily glad that it is so. If the Foreign Secretary gets the permission of the House, as I am sure he will, he will be winding up the debate with a great sense of relief.
There are some aspects of this subject which are not as melancholy as others. For example, those of us who are defenders of Parliamentary institutions can take comfort from the thought that dictatorships find it very difficult indeed to change from one form of Government to another, which must give a great sense of relief to the patriots on the other side of the House in their private agonies at the present time, for they know full well that if they find the burden too heavy for them it will be taken up by someone else who will be able to carry it on a little better and a little longer. That might reconcile hon. Members to the existence of the usual channels. That we sometimes find very irritating, because if the channels were blocked up we should have to fight our way through to some other form of government. So that is perhaps a minor satisfactory reflection that we can cling to this evening.
There is another aspect of it that I should like to mention before coming to the main subject. We were taken to task, as we have been on several occasions within the last few months, not only by newspapers but by hon. Members on the other side of the House, about the way in which the Opposition have conducted themselves in this crisis. We were taken to task again this evening, by the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). He said, "We pinned Ministers down." It was a sombre thought. I agree that we never pin them up. He said that we harass them and make it impossible for them to do their public duty. This comes very strange from hon. Members opposite —very, very strange indeed. I have been through many crises in this House and I have never yet complained of being 1399 pinned down or harassed. The hon. Member must realise, when he reads the newspapers tomorrow morning, that another explanation has been given for what happened over the Suez crisis.
It has just been given by the Foreign Secretary of the French Government, in the French Chamber, and it adds another chapter to the serial story which unfolds itself in more and more melancholy fashion to hon. Members opposite. M. Pineau told the National Assembly today that the profound split in British Parliamentary and public opinion was the main reason for the abrupt Anglo-French decision to stop military operations in Suez. One could not have it from a better source. It is not only that they did not have a victory—I am sorry that the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse) is not in his seat, because even that has been snatched from him now.
We now have it on the authority of the French Foreign Minister that the war in Egypt was concluded because of the insistence of Her Majesty's Opposition that it should be brought to an end. I suppose that we shall have some more revelations as time goes on. Unfortunately, the House will be in Recess when the next part of the serial story comes out. It may be that by the time we resume after the Recess we shall have the story almost complete. We shall not have it from the Prime Minister. He probably will not be here then, but we shall probably have before the end of it the full story about collusion. But now we know, and I hope that hon. Members opposite realise—
An Hon. Member
On a point of order. Is it in order, Mr. Speaker, for the right hon. Gentleman to conduct a debate on the Middle East?
§ Mr. Peyton
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that when I was speaking rather more briefly on this topic than he has done, he observed very 1400 sharply that what I was saying was wholly irrelevant. I hope that he will forgive me if I now say the same to him.
§ Mr. Bevan
On the contrary, if the hon. Member will study HANSARD tomorrow, he will find that he is mistaken. What I did say to him was that it was foolish to rebuke the Opposition for doing their duty by the House of Commons. Every time there have been crises in British history, Oppositions have been rebuked for the same reason, and if the Oppositions had been more frequently listened to then we should be better off. If Charles Fox had been listened to, we might still have had allies across the Atlantic.
However, I know that this is unpleasant to listen to. I am trying to put it as pleasantly as possible. Hon. Members opposite will now be able to realise that they did not come out of Egypt because of the United Nations, or because there was a United Nations Emergency Force, or for any of the other recondite reasons which have emerged from time to time from harassed hon. Members opposite, but because the Opposition would not agree to their staying. It was a split in British Parliamentary and English public opinion and, of course, very properly so.
One of the truths that has to be recognised is that in a society and democracy like Great Britain a country really cannot go to war unless it has the people behind it, and it cannot sustain a war unless it has the people behind it. Wars are no longer fought by mercenaries over the heads of the mass of the people and have not been so fought since the American Civil War. If we are to have a war, it has to be a popular war, and, of course, we would not have agreed with it.
It is quite apparent that if the Government entered upon an adventure of this sort without first making sure that they enjoyed the support of the vast mass of the population, it was bound to fail. It is, therefore, true, and I make no more of it, that it was the Opposition, the "sharp division of opinion," which made Her Majesty's Government sensitive to the Resolution of the United Nations and which, eventually, led to our having to pull out of Egypt.
1401 I can see the pained expressions coming across the faces of hon. Members opposite, but I am bound to make one more reference to it, to put it on the record. The Lord Privy Seal, winding up the debate on 6th December, made a statement which is strictly relevant to Hungary. The charge has been made on several occasions that the Russians were given the excuse, or the cover, to do what they did in Hungary because of what we did in Egypt. To what extent what we did led them to do what they did will continue to be a matter of speculation.
The Lord Privy Seal made a defence which is one of the most extraordinary to which I have ever listened. I want to read it to the House. He said:However, I should like to remind him"—that is, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker)—that there is no connection whatever between the Russian assault on Hungary and our own action in Egypt.I have again checked the speech which I made in the House on this subject, and to which he made no allusion in his speech, and in which I gave our own information, which was that long before we decided on our action "—that is, the landing in Egypt—or took our action … the Soviets had themselves decided, by a statement of their Foreign Minister and by the moving of their own tanks to subdue Hungary. I would tell the right hon. Gentleman that on 24th October the Soviet tanks intervened at 4.30 a.m. On 26th October Soviet tanks crossed the border from Russia—not from Roumania only, but also from Russia. I have checked from our own Intelligence that during the following days, by 29th October, there were no fewer than tour Soviet divisions in Hungary in addition to the two which we originally estimated."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1956; Vol. 561, c. 1575.]So the charge is reversed. It is not now that Russia went into Hungary because we went into Egypt, but, rather, that we went into Egypt because we knew that the Russians were going into Hungary. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is the argument. Let me finish the argument. The situation is this. If we knew —and that is the Government's case here —that it was the Russian intention at that time not to pursue the policy of withdrawal that up till then they had announced and that the Russians intended to invade Hungary, then why did the Government not drive the Russians into 1402 moral isolation by not taking the action in Egypt?
The Government cannot have it both ways. This has been the whole difficulty in which the House has found itself all the evening. The difficulty we are in is that we are, unfortunately, not able to condemn the Russians wholeheartedly in such round terms as we should like because of the blood guilt on our own hands in Egypt. In fact, this has been brought out in the debate. Is not the main case of hon. Members on both sides of the House that the only weapon we are left with to assist Hungary at present is that of morally isolating the Soviet Union? Is that not what has been said?
Most hon. Members have said that it is no use, of course, trying to liberate the Hungarians by war because no nation wants to be liberated today; they want to liberate themselves. They do not want to be liberated from outside because nations have had experience of being so liberated. Like Private Angelo, they do not want to be liberated again.
§ Mr. Bevan
Hon. Members know very well that not a single one of them would rise in his place this evening and tell the House that, in his view, what we should do is to intervene militarily in Hungary for the purpose of rescuing the Hungarians.
Therefore, what we desire to do is to bring the full force of world opinion to bear upon the Russians because of their behaviour in Hungary, and the case I am making is that the full force of that public opinion has been muted, if not mutilated, by the fact that we are not able to speak in the same tones as other nations are able to employ. We have had it from the Lord Privy Seal himself that, with the knowledge that the Russians were going to do this, we took the action we did in Egypt. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Hungary?"] I am speaking about Hungary. That is the whole point. What the hon. Member wants to do is to start history where his own guilt ended, and not where it began.
Hon. Members on this side of the House, without any qualification whatsoever, condemn Russian policy in Hungary. We consider that it is wholly unforgivable.
1403 I have always found it extremely difficult to understand how the Russian Communists reconciled their complete disregard for the welfare and life of the individual with even the tenets of their own philosophy. It has always seemed to me to he fundamental to the Socialist faith—and this is shared to some extent by Communism—that the individual member of society is frequently the victim of social circumstances; is not by any means the master of his fate in society; is born into under-privileged and under-educated classes; is born illiterate and is prevented becoming literate; is born poor, suffers because of his poverty and dies earlier because of it; and others are better off because they happen to be born of rich parents.
If this be the case—and it has always been central in Communism—I have never been able to understand why it is not accompanied by a sense of pity for the individual. I have never been able to reconcile the obscene conduct of the Russian Communists under Stalin—the assassinations, tortures, imprisonments and the impounding of helpless people in camps—with their philosophy, and I have never understood how the Russians could do so. The only explanation is that it is not part of their Communism at all, but of Byzantinism.
§ Mr. Bevan
Power corrupts everybody, and we are trying to exempt hon. Members opposite from corruption. In fact, it looks as though they are going to lead pure lives for a long time.
It has always seemed to us that the conditions which now exist in Poland and Hungary were bound to arise. It is like seeing unfolded a film which one has already seen made. In 1944 and 1945 the Red Army went beyond its sociological frontiers. Where it conquered it stopped; but what it conquered it could not hold. It has always been clear that it could not hold it. Those Central European nations were too much a part of Europe, and had themselves—if the Russians want to use the words—been tainted by bourgeoisdom. Some of them inherited the institutions of Western democracy and, therefore, it was quite impossible for them permanently to be 1404 reconciled to the kind of Communism that Stalin practised in Russia.
I have always held the view—and have expressed it more than once—that the time would come when the Russians would find that these areas were socially indigestible. It is not true to say that they have been held down by the Red Army. The Eastern European Communist countries which are most stable are those where there is no Red Army. The fact is that it is the existence of the Red Army which renders Communism intolerable in those nations where it exists.
It is the physical presence of Soviet troops that makes the people of Hungary light so bitterly; not only Communism, but the fact that their national pride and independence is affronted by the presence of Russian troops on their soil. We have only to look across Europe to see that there is greater stability in those Communist countries from which the Red Army has retreated than in those countries where the Red Army has stayed.
It seems to me that in those circumstances the best kind of service we can render to Hungary is to try to find a way by which this whole thing can be unlocked. Hon. Members opposite have inclined to be very defeatist these last few weeks. They think that they have come to the end of their glory. They say, "England is now a second-class nation. We have demonstrated to the world, by the futility of our conduct in Egypt, that the flame has passed from us and been taken up by someone else, but now we have to consider ourselves as a second-class Power and shelter under a higher wall than our own."
I do not take that view. I do not take the view that Great Britain is a second-class Power. On the contrary, I take the view that this country is a depository of probably more concentrated experience and skill than any other country in the world. I may be wrong, it may be that I am looking at the facts slightly askew, but I do not see that what is called the extinction of the British Empire is necessarily followed by the rise of another empire, that we are a second-class Power and now have to defer to first-class Powers, because the fact is there are no great Powers—there are only frustrated Powers.
We are not in a situation where great empires are quarrelling about spoil and 1405 inheriting the corpses of those they have extinguished. It is not true. It is not correct. The great Powers of the world today, as they look at the armaments they have built up, find themselves hopelessly frustrated. If that be the case, what is the use of speaking about first-class, second-class, and third-class Powers? That is surely the wrong language to use. It does not comply with contemporary reality. What we have to seek are new ways of being great, new modes of pioneering, new fashions of thought, new means of inspiring and igniting the minds of mankind. We can do so.
That is why I rather deplored the barren speech we had from the Foreign Secretary, at least that part towards the end, this afternoon. He talked as though we could make no general suggestions about settling the European situation because that might appear as though we were giving prizes to the Russians for being wrong. In other words, he said, "Why should we think of bartering anything at all in Europe in exchange for Russian retirement from the Eastern States?" I have been convinced for some time that a great deal of Russian opinion has been moving in this direction. It is fairly obvious from the situation in Poland that there is no decision in Russia to over-run all the satellites by armed force if they do not give in to her.
The Polish settlement itself is evidence, if not of uncertainty in the Soviet Union, at least of no monolithic attitude towards all the satellites. When I was in Moscow, some years ago, I said to some of the Soviet leaders that I thought that their policy of holding down the Eastern European States would not pay dividends either in terms of safety or in terms of influence.
The cordon sanitaire that Stalin created around himself becomes increasingly irrelevant when one considers modern weapons and that one no longer has to deal with the possibility of massed marching armies, but projectiles and heavy bombers. Therefore, the cordon sanitaire, as a cushion between Russia and the rest of the world, has now become irrelevant. If this be true, and if it is also true, as it is, that the Russians are bound to meet increasing embarrassment in those areas, the essence of diplomatic wisdom is to find it possible for them to do so as quickly as possible.
1406 It is no use, therefore, saying that we must not bargain. Of course we must. I would be delighted, indeed I would be proud, if the initiative came from here. If it does not come from here, it will come from somewhere, and, once more, we shall be reacting to somebody else's initiative instead of making them react to our initiative.
For example, I believe that the first new idea which will emerge from this reassessment of Suez is not necessarily the same thing as Prime Minister Nehru has been advancing—the policy of neutralisation—but another conception which might be called the policy of disinvolvement, the policy of disengaging. Up till the Suez crisis we were building up our alliances right up to the Russian threshold, in Europe and in the Middle East, and the nearer we reached her, or the nearer she reached us—because it was a reciprocal operation—the more and more points of friction we created.
What is infinitely more serious is that we tried to build our forward positions in those parts of the world which are most politically, economically and socially unstable. That is obviously a foolish thing to do, because, as the populations in those areas are disturbed by a variety of influences, some coming from us and some coming from the Russians, naturally those forward positions become uncertain and our own prestige becomes involved.
Thus the Bagdad Pact involved a complete change of relationships in the Middle East and—here I may be on controversial ground—our attempts over four or five years to build an armed Western Germany into N.A.T.O., in my view, produced an area of disturbance, of fear, of social dislocation, where we ought to have been building up serenity and stability.
What I am asking the Government to do is to see whether we can approach this problem from a new angle, not to push the cold war up against each other but to try to establish cool areas between each other, to try to sec whether it is possible for the great Powers to agree that there shall be nations who would have to agree about this themselves quite independently. We should not impose it upon them. I should imagine that there are a number of nations now which would rather have the tranquillity of disinvolvment than have the fear of being involved.
1407 It seems to me that the Central European countries are just the areas where we can start. It has been mentioned by Shepilov, it has been blurted out by Khruschev. Let us find out how much there is in it. Let us explore how far the Russians are prepared to go in this matter. Let us assume that not only is Russian policy malignant, but, also, that it might be stupid, not only that the Russians have misbehaved themselves in Hungary but that they might not have understood the Hungarian situation. Whenever I meet Russian representatives, the thing that impresses me about them is not their infallibility, not their wide knowledge, but their sheer ignorance of what is happening in other parts of the world.
It is now clear that they were ignorant of what was happening in nations on their own doorstep. It is quite clear that they did not for one moment estimate the extent to which their own conduct had undermined their influence and prestige in Hungary. They could not possibly have weighed the extent to which Hungarians would resent them if they went on as they had been doing.
What does it all add up to? It does not add up to the apocalyptic conclusion that we are dealing with someone who is 100 per cent. evil, against whom we are to pit our policies, so that the angels of light are fighting the angels of darkness. All history would be simpler if it were always merely a quarrel between right and wrong. Unfortunately, quite often it is a quarrel between two sets of rights.
I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues now to take the initiative in this matter, to see whether it is not possible for us to "feel out" the Russians, by any means they like, either through N.A.T.O. or the United Nations, or by any other means, to discover whether the Russians are not now prepared to come to terms with us that would be satisfactory and honourable to both countries and contribute to the peace of the world.
§ 10.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
I ask the leave of the House to speak again. After 74 Foreign Office Questions being on the Order Paper today and after having made the opening speech in this debate, I am not at all sure that if permission were refused I should be greatly disturbed.
1408 However, I think it can be said that we have had no great party controversy during this debate, at all events, not on the scale of other debates during the past few weeks. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) did towards the end of his speech try to revive the flickering flame, to use the bellows to warm things up to a sort of Yuletide atmosphere; but I am not quite certain that even he succeeded. He did give us a lecture on the duties of Government in paying attention to the Opposition. I do not recollect that during the years 1945 to 1950 he really paid so much respect himself to that duty. In these matters, example is better than precept, and some of us on this side remember what happened during those years.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman ever paid attention or respect. And I am not sure that we shall do very much better either.
He did say that he would seek to liberate us from the corruption of power. I seem to remember another prophecy he made, I think, in the year 1949 or 1950, the prophecy that never again would there be another Tory Government. Really, his prophecies do not disturb us perhaps as much as he would wish.
He made a reference to the situation in Egypt and the question of a connection between our action there and what happened in Hungary. That might perhaps lead one into an area of controversy, and I can only say what my own belief is upon that matter. I do not believe that, once the Nagy Government had declared for neutrality, for withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact, and for free elections, there was any chance of their ever being preserved from the fate which met them. I do not believe that anything which was happening anywhere else in the rest of the globe had any effect upon that consequence.
I turn to some of the points which were raised during the course of the debate. The right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) asked if I could give him some figure about the number of deportees. The best that I can give him is that the number runs into some thousands.
1409 The Leader of the Opposition asked about Anna Kethly addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations. My information is that a resolution would be required for that to be possible. There is the point about the precedent that it might involve. I understand that there is some support from at least two countries for that, and as far as we are concerned we certainly would have no objection to that happening. Indeed, we would give it our support. The right hon. Gentleman's second point concerned the report to the United Nations by diplomatic representatives in Budapest. That idea had already occurred to us, and I would prefer if the right hon. Gentleman would leave it at that for the moment.
He raised the question of assistance for refugees in Austria. We have already contributed to the Secretary-General's fund—not very much I think, some £15,000—but one of the disappointing facts is that only two other countries have followed our example. The United States and Canada are the only two other countries who have contributed to the Secretary-General's fund.
We have also been able to give some small assistance to the Austrian Government, but one must face the fact that the largest help is that which comes from the Lord Mayor's Fund, one-third of which is available. The Lord Mayor has already sent £150,000 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Austria.
The suggestion was made that we should take some bold initiative and contribute large sums to the International Red Cross for its programme in Hungary. We are helping by our contributions to the British Red Cross and by the funds which have been raised, but I will certainly consider the possibility of further help so that the programme does not suffer.
A suggestion came from another hon. Member regarding a reconstruction programme, and the example of U.N.R.R.A, was put forward. It is rather too early for us to think in terms of another U.N.R.R.A. programme, because I do not think the conditions yet exist in Hungary in which it would be possible to carry through such a programme, and I am not at all certain that that would be accepted there by the powers that be.
The Leader of the Opposition mentioned the question of doctors. My right 1410 hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary will examine that with the Minister of Health. I think that we shall be broadly sympathetic to the view put forward by the right hon. Gentleman.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) mentioned the question of broadcasting. I want to say again that there is no question of reducing the broadcasts of the B.B.C. to the satellite countries. In fact, over the past few weeks there has been a slight increase in the broadcasts to Hungary. I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend that although it may be possible to make economies elsewhere with regard to the overseas services of the B.B.C., it would be wrong to make them in broadcasts to that part of Europe.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander May-don) spoke of the misunderstanding under which certain of the refugees have come to this country during the past few weeks. We have been into that matter and I think it is quite true that some were led to believe that by coming here they could go on almost at once automatically to the United States of America. That misapprehension was not due to anything that we have said. We are doing our best to correct that idea, because the United States, as I have said earlier, is giving preference to the refugees coming direct from Austria.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) suggested that a Blue Book should be published dealing with the chronology and statements on these matters. I will certainly consider that. His points of detail will receive attention.
I come now to what I consider the most interesting part of the debate. It does not detract in any way from the sympathy which we feel about what has happened in Hungary and the desire of all sides of the House to do everything that we can to alleviate the lot of Hungarians in Hungary and those who are refugees. Although what I am now going to say does not in any way detract from that desire, that real feeling which is the feeling of the British House of Commons, I think that, for us, the most interesting part of the debate has been the look into the future to attempt to decide what policies we should seek to adopt.
1411 Her Majesty's Government have repeatedly put forward plans designed to procure a settlement of the German question and thus greater stability in Central Europe. The Prime Minister took a large part in this at the Berlin Conference in 1954 and the Geneva Conference in 1955, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer did so at the second Geneva Conference in 1955. Her Majesty's Government have repeatedly taken the initiative in putting forward plans designed to procure a settlement in Europe. I gave a quite false impression in my opening speech if hon. Members thought that we were going to confine our activities simply to the examination of the proposals put forward either by the Soviet Union or by the United States.
I think that the timing of each initiative must be left to the Government of the day in consultation with their allies, and I am not going tonight to commit Her Majesty's Government to any sort of timetable in this matter. I agree, however, with much of what has been said about the choices which lie before us. In my opening speech, I emphasised the importance of not undermining the position of the United Nations. I felt that might be a thought which would receive some support from the other side of the House.
I thought that, because of recent events, the United Nations had acquired new authority, and I was anxious for an opportunity for that authority to be tested in the Hungarian situation. I was not being cynical with regard to that. I felt that, perhaps because of what we had done, it might be said that the United Nations had received new authority. I thought that, before one started negotiating away the position, it was important that the Soviet Union should be faced quite straight with its disobedience to the mass of Resolutions of the United Nations. However, I agree that, although that is one side of the matter, that does not mean that we should abstain from the contemplation of initiatives outside the United Nations.
I think that the discussion today about developments in the post-Stalin era has been extremely interesting. I thought that there were indications earlier in the year, arising out of internal developments in the Soviet Union, of a certain move towards a more liberal structure of 1412 society within the Soviet Union. I think there was a debate in July in which the Prime Minister indicated some of the respects in which that was taking place.
I think that we got certain evidence of reforms in their judicial procedures. Confessions were no longer to be used in evidence. There was the right to change employment. There was the right to own property. There was the right to talk more freely with foreigners. There was the development of certain personal freedoms. There was the development of a new professional class. All these things indicated a certain movement in the structure of society in the Soviet Union which gave hope of a more general liberalisation.
It was only the beginning. There was only some evidence that that was taking place, and there was no evidence at all that it was extending to political thought. It was confined to other matters. Nevertheless, I think that it gave one ground for greater expectations. I felt, as I believe many people felt, that that would have its effect in turn upon the satellites, that it was impossible to have that sort of development within the Soviet Union without its having a corresponding effect upon developments within the satellites. Six months or so ago one thought that the auguries for a gradual détente were good.
One matter which one did not take sufficiently into account at that time was the consequence of Soviet meddling in the Middle East and its decision more than a year ago to sell arms to Egypt, the progressive demonstrations of its intentions to make trouble in that area, its arming of Syria, etc. All that was probably a factor, a danger, which was not sufficiently realised. It was of a much greater extent than we had thought, and without doubt that has been one of the major causes of the setback to the improvement in international relations which six or nine months ago we felt we were entitled to expect. It was that Soviet meddling, mischief making, trouble making in the Middle East which produced the situation in which the Prime Minister of Egypt acted as he did and the Government of Israel acted as they did.
The other factor which could not have been foreseen and which has had an impact on the debate has been that the development in the satellites took place 1413 rather more quickly than had been expected or foreseen, that instead of there being a gradual process towards liberalisation, freedom and self-determination, as soon as there came signs of a change in the Soviet Union, the satellites began very quickly to desire to cast off the oppression which they had borne until then.
In Poland it was done one way, in Hungary, owing to the circumstances to which reference has already been made—it may be personalities, it may be the actual fact that a particular incident was suddenly aroused into something worse than intended—that process has resulted in the tragedy that we have all seen. There has been this setback due to those two factors, but that is no reason for longterm pessimism.
I believe that the political weakness of Soviet control of the satellites has been proved. Its military strength is as great as ever. I am not much impressed by the argument about its strategic weakness having been shown up. We would make a great mistake if we underestimated the military strength of the Soviet Union at the present time. In war, however reluctant populations are to conform, they usually do so if there is sufficient military power at hand. We should make a great mistake if we believed that Soviet military strength had been greatly sapped by what has happened. Nevertheless, I believe that its political strength has been enormously weakened.
Some very pointed questions were asked about what would happen if we came into a phase of prolonged guerrilla warfare and about who would be willing to supply arms and who would not. I believe that further progress is still pos- 1414 sible, but I am absolutely certain that the one thing which it would be folly to do would be to dismantle the N.A.T.O. alliance or N.A.T.O. defence at the present time. If we were to do that, or be manœuvred into something which would result in the dismantling of N.A.T.O., we should be dismantling the structure which has produced the present position in which, on the whole, Western Europe is more secure than it has ever been before and the Soviet Union is weaker in Europe than it has ever been before.
One error we must avoid is believing a solution lies in dismantling the N.A.T.O. alliance and discarding the policy which has checked the Soviet advance and helped to preserve the European desire for liberty.
I say again that it does not rule out further initiatives. Her Majesty's Government will certainly bear in mind the opinions which have been expressed, in what I believe has been a very thoughtful and helpful debate, about what are the possible and desirable initiatives.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.