HC Deb 05 November 1956 vol 558 cc1946-55

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper :


To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a further statement on the situation in Hungary in the light of action already taken by Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I will make a further statement on Hungary in reply to Question No. 50.

At mid-day on Saturday, 3rd November, a meeting took place between senior Soviet and Hungarian officers to discuss the technical aspects of the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Hungary. The Soviet commander agreed that no more Soviet troops would cross the border during the course of the negotiations. The meeting was adjourned until 10 p.m. that night. The Hungarian military representatives, who returned to the meeting as stated, have not been heard of since.

At the time these negotiations began, Budapest was surrounded by two Russian divisions. Another five Soviet divisions were in the country.

Early on Sunday morning, Soviet forces attacked Budapest. In the course of the morning, a message reached Her Majesty's Legation to the effect that at 8 a.m. a Soviet ultimatum had been given to Mr. Nagy's Government, threatening to bomb Budapest if the Government had not capitulated by noon. By the time this message was delivered, the building in which Mr. Nagy and his colleagues were assembled was already surrounded by Russian tanks. The fate of Mr. Nagy and his Government is not yet officially known. According to agency reports, they are under arrest.

The resistance of the loyal Hungarian forces has not been overcome, although Moscow radio has, of course, announced that they have been crushed. Moscow radio also announced the formation of a Hungarian Revolutionary Workers and Peasants' Government with Mr. Kadar as Prime Minister. The first act of the puppet Government was to appeal to the Soviet Forces Command to crush their compatriots, whom they described as "mutinous forces."

Since yesterday morning, these tragic developments in Hungary have been discussed by both the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The General Assembly, in calling on the Soviet Government to desist from its intervention in Hungary and to withdraw its forces from the country, have asked the Soviet and Hungarian Governments to admit United Nations observers. They have also called on member Governments to make available food, medicines and other supplies which might be needed for the people of Hungary. This resolution was opposed only by the Soviet Union and its satellites.

Her Majesty's Government have decided to make a further grant of £25,000 to the Red Cross for supplies for Hungary.

In Hungary, we are witnessing a reversion to the worst features of the system of domination of other states which the world had come to associate with Stalin. The brave struggle for freedom of a nation which was in breach of no agreements, desired only neutrality, and threatened no other country, continues against heavy odds.

Mr. A. Henderson

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that many people in this and other countries will believe that the action of Her Majesty's Government in using force against the people and Government of Egypt offered a direct encouragement to the Government of Russia to employ the brutal force that they did yesterday, in Budapest, to suppress the struggles of the Hungarian people for freedom and independence? In those circumstances, may I ask the Foreign Secretary whether the Government will not do better than give another £25,000, but will give an assurance to the House that they will do everything possible to co-operate, in order to mitigate the sufferings of the Hungarian people, by providing economic aid—

Hon. Members


Mr. Healey

Resign. That is how.

Mr. Henderson

May I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he will give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will seek to mitigate those sufferings by cooperating with United Nations agencies and otherwise in providing economic aid and welfare? Specifically, will he consider offering hospitality to a substantial proportion of the 10,000 refugees who have had to flee from the Russian tyranny?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not think that it is the time to talk of economic aid for Hungary. There is a very different state of affairs there. I believe that in these matters the plans of the Soviet Union are usually made well ahead and are carried out irrespective of what other people do.

Mr. Callaghan

Like yours.

Mr. Lloyd

The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) does no good to the people of Hungary, of Egypt, or of this country, in trying to suggest that these two actions are comparable. The action in Hungary is an intervention from without to suppress and prevent the independence of a country. Our intervention is to try to prevent a state of war between two countries.

Mr. Robens

A ghastly tragedy has befallen the people of Hungary. On behalf of Members of the Opposition side of the House, and, I have no doubt, of the House as a whole, I want to re-emphasise what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, that our hearts go out to the Hungarian people who have been stricken as a result of this terrible situation in Hungary.

I wish to ask three questions of the Foreign Secretary. First, would he ensure that there is no de jure recognition of this new Government of Hungary? Secondly, will he give the medicines, the food and other supplies which the Hungarians need until it hurts, and not count the cost in £ s. d.? Thirdly, as, in his statement, he indicated that the United Nations is calling on the Soviet Government to desist from their intervention in Hungary and to withdraw their forces from that country—and as I have no doubt the representative of the Government in the United Nations will support that decision of the United Nations—would it not be as well to carry out the United Nations decision on Egypt so that we can go to the United Nations with clean hands?

Mr. Lloyd

The question of recognition has not yet arisen because, as I say, the conflict in Hungary is not yet over. On the question of medicines, we did make a grant of £25,000 last Tuesday and as soon as that was spent a further grant of £25,000 was offered, as I have announced today. As I have said in answer to a question on my former statement, we shall be very ready to see an international force introduced in Hungary.

Mr. Clement Davies

Everyone, I should imagine, throughout the free world is deeply moved by the agony of the Hungarian people, but sympathy, indignation and relief are not enough. These people want their freedom. Although Her Majesty's Government have weakened our position as the moral leaders of the world, can they not do something in the United Nations to help these people? Could they not suggest to the United Nations that more than observers should go there—that an international police force might go there to take charge and, failing that, that sanctions should be then administered against Russia, diplomatically and economically?

Mr. Lloyd

One of the difficulties of the present situation is that moral leadership is not enough. It is precisely for that reason that we had to take effective action and we have done what lay within our power to bring hostilities to an end in a troubled part of the world. I will certainly consider what the right hon. and learned Member has said, but I do not know whether it is feasible, in the situation in Hungary, to do more than is being done. I think it will be a difficult problem.

Sir T. Moore

To get down to realities, would my right hon. and learned Friend—or anyone else—tell us what the United Nations are doing, or can do, short of starting a third world war, to stop this horror in Hungary?

Mr. Lloyd

Make recommendations.

Mr. Logan

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that Cardinal Mindszenty was allowed to have his freedom and went back to his own people, but now, as the Russians have come in, has had to seek sanctuary in the American Embassy? Can the Foreign Secretary say whether the Cardinal's life is secure in Hungary under the present régime?

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot answer that question ; I should think it is doubtful, under the new régime.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Could my right hon. and learned Friend tell the House what was the voting on the United Nations Assembly Resolution on the situation in Hungary?

Mr. Lloyd

The voting was 50 in favour, 8 against and 15 abstentions. Those opposing were the Soviet bloc and the abstainers, apart from Finland and Yugoslavia, were the Arab-Asian group.

Mr. Collick

First, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not realise that Russia would not have dared to take this action in Hungary but for the actions of his Government in Egypt? Secondly, does he not regard the contribution of the Government of £25,000 as absolutely paltry, having regard to the need?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not believe that what the hon. Member has said is correct. I think that action would have been taken in the circumstances, in any case. As I have explained, we gave £25,000 and as soon as that was spent we offered another £25,000.

Sir J. Lucas

Will my right hon. and learned Friend say whether we are going to admit some of the refugees from Hungary to this country, as an hon. Member opposite asked?

Mr. Lloyd

I can see no objection in principle to that, but it is a question of which I should like notice. It is a question of ways and means, but I can see no difficulty about it.

Mr. Collins

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that an allied leaflet, dropped over Egypt yesterday, included these words : We have the might and we shall use it to the limit if you do not give in. Can the Foreign Secretary say whether, in principle, there is any difference between that and the Russian threat to the Hungarians, except that they gave four hours' notice and we gave twelve hours' notice? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman further aware that the Egyptian people were told that not only the guilty few would suffer, but the innocent as well? Can he say whether the Egyptians were guilty of the same crime as the Hungarians—wanting to run their own country in their own way?

Mr. Lloyd

I should like to see a copy of the leaflet before pronouncing on that.

Hon. Members


Mr. K. Robinson

On a point of order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he would like to see a copy of the leaflet. I have here the official translation which was broadcast on the B.B.C. last night. It reads as follows—

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that this is a point of order. I think the hon. Member who asked the question gave a summary of what he said was in the leaflet. On the basis that something like that was done, perhaps the Foreign Secretary would be ready to answer.

Mr. Collins

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I gave some words which I actually took from the B.B.C. broadcast and I think they are strictly accurate.

Mr. Lloyd

As I said, I should like to examine that leaflet—[HON. MEMBERS : "Oh."]—but so far as the question of casualties is concerned I think that the hon. Member does little credit to the men of our Forces, who have conducted their operations against military targets with extreme skill and care for civilian life.

Mr. Bevan

I listened to the radio last night and heard this language, which will have been heard by all the people of Great Britain. Is it not rather staggering that the Foreign Secretary himself was not aware of the language? Was it with the consent of the Foreign Office, or of the Prime Minister, or was it language used only by the soldiers? Is it not desirable that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should keep a closer check on what is being said on behalf of the people of this country at present? If he is made aware of the language of the leaflet, will he not be deeply ashamed of the language which is used in the name of the British people?

Mr. Lloyd

I said that I was not aware of the language of the leaflet—

Mr. Bevan

Why not?

Mr. Lloyd

—but I will certainly look into the matter.

Mr. Bevan

Is this not further evidence of something that has gone remarkably wrong with the administration? Hon. Members must realise that their constituents have already heard this language. They heard it last night and this morning. Would it not appear strange to their constituents that in the House of Commons this afternoon, at ten minutes to four, the British Foreign Secretary is able to say to the House of Commons that he is not aware of the language used in this leaflet? If we cannot do anything at all about that lot opposite, they can.

Mr. Lloyd

I should have thought that any hon. Member's or right hon. Member's constituents would have thought it very odd if the Foreign Secretary had read every line of every leaflet issued.

Mr. Elliot

No doubt my right hon. and learned Friend's attention has been called to the statement by Mr. Lester Pearson, the Foreign Minister of Canada, that the situation would be very different if the Russians had offered to turn it over to an international police force. In those circumstances, will he give every possible support to the earliest possible establishment of this international force, so that we may set an example in this case?

Mr. Lloyd

I quite agree with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Stokes

We have heard with some astonishment that the Foreign Secretary does not know of this leaflet which has been dropped over Cairo and which, from the wording, apparently purports to be our war aims. If he is not responsible for it, will the Minister of Defence, under whose authority I suppose it was dropped, tell us what he knows about it,

Mr. Speaker

May I intervene here? The statement of the Foreign Secretary was about Hungary. There will be a statement about the Egyptian situation. I think we should keep ourselves to Hungary in the meantime.

Mr. Gaitskell

On a point of order. I should like to get this clear, Sir. In your judgment, then, we may return to this subject a little later on the other statement?

Mr. Speaker


Mr. J. Griffiths

On a point of order. Since it is your Ruling that we may return to this subject, may I ask the Foreign Secretary whether between now and five o'clock he will himself make inquiries and then either deny or admit that this statement was sent out as a broadcast?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order, but no doubt what has been said has been heard. Mr. Bennett.

Mr. Griffiths

Further to that point of order. Is it not desirable that this shall be cleared up before we close this matter, Sir?

Mr. Speaker

It is not a matter for me. It is a matter for the Minister.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

Reverting to the U.N. vote on Hungary at the General Assembly, can the Foreign Secretary confirm whether among those nations who declined to condemn Soviet aggression in this matter were India and Ceylon? If this is a fact, does it not affect the faith which we can have in their integrity and impartiality in adjudging other issues?

Mr. Lloyd

My information is that 15 members of the Arab-Asian group abstained. I have no particulars of the countries.

Mr. Daines

Does the Foreign Secretary recall the speech made by the Prime Minister in July last, when he tried to assure us that there was a "new look" about Russia? May I suggest to him that he suggest to his right hon. Friend that it would be indecent, in view of this terrible event, to go on with the proposed visit to Russia in the spring?

Mr. Lloyd

That is a different matter.

Mr. Beresford Craddock

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend a question about financial aid to Hungary? Can he say how many other countries have offered help, and how much?

Mr. Lloyd

Not without notice.

Mr. Paget

Does not the fact that the Asian-Arab group abstained on this Resolution demonstrate the extent to which we have antagonised the area of world opinion to which the Russians have shown themselves sensitive? Is not that the real tragedy of this event?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not think that relates to anything which has happened in the last week or so. It may very easily have a relation to the purchases of Russian arms this time last year.

Mr. Braine

In view of some of the assertions which have been made in Questions this afternoon, would my right hon. and learned Friend agree that there is possibly another explanation for Soviet action? Would he accept that there is a widespread view on these benches, and in the country, that the Russians were justified in drawing the conclusion, from the outcry against the firm and courageous line taken by the Prime Minister, that a good many people in the West were not willing to do more against oppression than to pass resolutions?

Mrs. Castle

Would the Foreign Secretary tell the House which nations abstained on the latest General Assembly Resolution on the setting up of the United Nations police force?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not think that that arises on this statement. I think it will arise on the next statement on Egypt.

Mr. H. A. Price

Could the Foreign Secretary confirm or deny reports that over the week-end up to 18,000 Russian tanks were deployed in Hungary? If that is the figure, is it not obvious that this manoeuvre has been a long time in the planning?

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot confirm the total except that there have been substantial Russian reinforcements which have moved in quickly.

Mr. S. Silverman

Reverting to the leaflet—

Mr. Speaker

I thought it was generally accepted that that should arise in the questions on the Middle East and not those on Hungary.

Mr. Silverman

That may well come, I have no doubt, but is that any reason that I should not ask the Foreign Secretary—

Mr. Speaker

I think it is a very good reason.

Mr. Jay

Has the Foreign Secretary noticed that the Russian Foreign Secretary has stated that Russia is carrying out a police action in Hungary? Does the Prime Minister realise that most of the British public regard him as personally guilty of this tragedy?

Mr. Lloyd

No, Sir.

Air Commodore Harvey

In view of the magnitude of the Russian forces and the build-up of the Russian forces which have entered Hungary, was it not evident, either to this Government or to the United Nations, that something was going to happen—something which has now happened?

Mr. Lloyd

It has been clear that there was a substantial build-up and that there were certain movements of Soviet troops.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I think that we should now have the statement on the Middle East. The Foreign Secretary.

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