§ [THIRD DAY]
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [6th November]:
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.—[Mr. Vane.]
Question again proposed.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:but humbly regret that, in view of the grave international situation and the division in the Commonwealth resulting from your Majesty's Government's policy of armed intervention in Egypt, the Gracious Speech contains no reference to any proposal by Your Majesty's Government to convene forthwith a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers so as to bring to bear all the resources of the Commonwealth in support of the authority of the United Nations.From the time of the announcement of the ultimatum by Her Majesty's Government and others to the Egyptians on Tuesday, 30th October, until the Prime Minister's belated announcement of his orders for a cease-fire on the following Tuesday, 6th November, which brought the seven days war to an end, our anxieties in this House were inevitably concentrated, I think rightly, on the immediate fighting area and upon the repeated requests which were being made throughout that week by the United Nations to Her Majesty's Government and to the French Government to desist from the operation.
There is still a great deal that has to be asked and said about what Her Majesty's Government have done and should now do in Egypt. I will return to these matters rather briefly at the end of my remarks. The cease-fire, which all of us must hope will be fully maintained by all parties, has enabled us in the meantime to spend rather more time than we could last week upon considering the 266 wider implications of what has happened in Egypt. In particular, it gives us the opportunity to consider how we can make a start in repairing the dreadful damage which has been done to Britain's position among her friends and Allies and in the wider community of the United Nations.
It is the purpose of the Amendment, while not excluding in any way any other kind of international action, that we should give the highest priority to attempting to restore some measure of unity within the group of countries with which we should be and normally are most intimate, the Commonwealth, and that we should at least seek to restore a sufficient measure of understanding so as to enable us within the Commonwealth to respect one another's point of view, even if there still remain differences, and thereby to enable the Commonwealth to be once again what it has certainly been in the last ten years, a force for peace and stability within the United Nations.
Before I speak in more detail of the Commonwealth situation, I should put in perspective this point that I am making. It has long been recognised throughout the Commonwealth that no one centralised foreign policy for the Commonwealth is attainable, and nobody seriously aims at anything so rigid. It is recognised by all of us that we have such widely differing geographical positions, economic requirements, and so on, that these must be reflected in the differing arrangements which the respective countries seek to make with other countries in the world. Since the war, this has been particularly noticeable in the strategic field. It is within the knowledge of every hon. Member that there are a number of military groups and pacts covering in one way or another most of the Commonwealth and that even Britain does not come fully into all of them. There are different members belonging to different groups. There is, of course, also an Asian element in the Commonwealth which has followed a policy of remaining uncommitted militarily and which belongs to none of these military organisations at all.
I am therefore not calling for any rigid uniformity. With, I think, the single exception of the South African racial policy, which unfortunately seems to be on quite a different plane, there has 267 always been, despite our differences, an underlying understanding between all of us in the Commonwealth about the common aims which we are seeking to pursue in our differing circumstances and following our different paths.
What has happened to Commonwealth relationships in the last ten days is quite different from the differences to which I have been referring. It is my duty this afternoon to remind the House just how far this rift has gone in this short and catastrophic period. The differences have been put in dramatic form in the proceedings of the United Nations, so perhaps I may refer firstly to that side of the matter.
Ever since this episode started, there has been a series of resolutions put forward in the Security Council and in the General Assembly of the United Nations, embodying major issues for British foreign policy. What has happened to the Commonwealth in the Assembly throughout this time? In the main, as Her Majesty's Government naturally like to emphasise, we have had the support of the Australian and New Zealand Governments, though it is fair to note that even Australia abstained on one of the Security Council votes where we cast our veto. Moreover, although both those Governments have supported us, it must be common knowledge that the two countries are just as deeply split on this issue as we are in the United Kingdom.
There have been many reports in the Press about this. I read one report very recently regarding Australia which said that out of eleven leading daily newspapers in Australia only four supported their Government in voting alongside Her Majesty's Government, and in some of the papers today are reports of, demonstrations in Melbourne exactly on the lines which have become familiar in this country. This is the rather cold comfort that Her Majesty's Government can offer to us all in the way of Commonwealth unity behind their policy.
The fact is that, apart from procedural resolutions, in all these ten days in the United Nations the United Kingdom has never voted together with any of the Asian members of the Commonwealth. We have usually been in opposite lobbies, always excepting the occasion when the United Kingdom abstained and its Asian 268 colleagues were supporting a resolution. Twice these Asian members have been sponsors of very powerful resolutions aimed against the British Government's policy, resolutions which in each case have obtained overwhelming support. In the one case there was a positive vote of 59 and in the other a positive vote of 65.
This process culminated last night in what has been described as the "Bandoeng Resolution," which demands our immediate withdrawal. That obtained a positive vote of 65 and included the votes of both Canada and the United States of America.
I would like to make one comment on this deep and continuing divergence with our Asian colleagues. On this side of the House we have noticed throughout our debates an extraordinary tendency on the part of some hon. Members on Government benches to behave as though the disagreement of the Asian members of the Commonwealth were something that just had to be taken for granted. There has even been laughter and sneering at the very mention of the name of India, let alone that of Mr. Nehru. I really cannot imagine that that attitude is shared by Her Majesty's Ministers.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
I am one of the people who has rather taken that attitude. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame".] I did so quite honestly. When one thinks of what Mr. Nehru and his Government did at Hyderabad, Kashmir and other parts of India, it is not right that we should pay much attention to him.
§ Mr. Younger
I am glad that the hon. Member has seen fit to confirm my view that there are hon. Members opposite to whom this matter, if not of very little importance, is one which they take for granted and on which they do not feel in any way critical of their own Government. That is not the view we on this side take of the matter. What I was about to say when the hon. Member interrupted me was that it may well be—it would be very natural if it were so—that in trying to get agreement among the members of the Commonwealth the most difficult thing often is to obtain agreement between the countries of Asia and the older members of the Commonwealth whose circumstances and experience in recent history 269 has been so very different. It may well be that that is the hardest of the tasks facing Commonwealth statesmen, but it is also infinitely the most worthwhile. In a period when relations between Asia, Africa, Europe and America are all in the melting pot and changing at a tremendous speed, it is the inter-continental nature of our Commonwealth which makes it so great and useful a conception. I believe that if that were to go, Commonwealth influence for peace would be reduced to a shadow.
So much for what has happened inside the United Nations, but the news coming out of Asia has been equally disquieting. As everyone must know, there have been repeated condemnations in all the Commonwealth countries both from official sources and the whole of the Press of what her Majesty's Government have done. I will not weary the House by going through any long list of those statements. I will pick out one from the Indian Government, an official statement reported in The Times on 1st November, and from that I will pick out only two phrases. That statement referred to the action of Her Majesty's Government as:a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and opposed to all the principles of the Bandoeng Conference.It also said:This aggression is bound to have far reaching consequences in Asia and Africa and may even lead to war on an extended scale.One could find fifty such statements from all the Asian Press of the Commonwealth without the slightest difficulty.
Moreover, it is a well known fact, frequently reported in the Press, that in each of these countries, almost from the first day there has been talk of that particular country leaving the Commonwealth. There has been ample confirmation, too, of the fact that the only thing which so far has held those Governments in check from taking any step of that kind has been their knowledge that there is powerful opposition to the policy of Her Majesty's Government in this country and that the British people should not be identified with the policy of the Government.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
Could the right hon. Member say why the Government of India and other Asian Governments have not so thoroughly condemned the Russian action in Hungary?
§ Mr. Younger
Apart from the fact that I think they have all done so in some form or another, and, therefore, the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) is wrong on his facts, the question of any inter-connection between the two issues—which, I can assure him, is not advantageous to the Government—is something with which I propose to deal later in my speech.
As to the remark on which the hon. Member rose, my statement that the only reason why these countries are not yet reaching the point of leaving the Commonwealth is that they are not yet prepared to identify the British public with the policy of the British Government. I should like to add that there is in today's newspapers confirmation of that attitude from no less a person than the Prime Minister of Ceylon, one of the responsible statesmen faced with this issue.
In Pakistan there were headlines in the weekend Press reading, "Hate Britain Riots Erupt in Pakistan" followed by a report that the Government were mobilising the Moslem members of the Bagdad Pact to organise economic sanctions against us in aid of Egypt. It is only a few weeks since Ministers in this House were telling us that there were two pillars to their policy in the Middle East, the Bagdad Pact and the Tripartite Declaration. They have repudiated the latter and the former has ended in this situation.
There are also fairly numerous reports from the Federation of Malaya and Singapore of deep fears of anti-British reaction among the Moslem Malays—a group of the population in that area who, above all others, were likely to be favourable to the British connection
Finally, by no means least, there is Canada. I suppose we have no stauncher friend in the world, a friend of medium and rapidly growing power and influence in the world, whose attitude in international affairs since the war has earned her the deep respect of every continent. I speak with personal feeling, having been at almost every United Nations Assembly for the whole of the first six years of that organisation. I do not believe any country, however great, has made a bigger contribution to the upholding of the. Charter than Canada. Her efforts, in which she never ceases, to reconcile the sometimes conflicting policies of her two greatest Allies—Britain and the United 271 States—have never led her to forget her over-riding obligations to the Charter whether she was trying to exercise restraint on excesses of United States policy in the Far East, or as now, alas, on excesses by the United Kingdom in the Middle East. Never at any stage has she lost sight of the fact that it is the fundamental interest of all of us to build up the authority of the United Nations.
What is her record? It is true that she abstained once in this week in company with us. That was the only occasion on which we have found ourselves together, for she voted for the so-called Afro-Asian or Nineteen Nation resolution which called upon us, among others, to comply within 12 hours with the provisions of the United States resolution. She voted for it and we opposed it. Last night she voted for the Bandoeng resolution and we abstained.
What is more humiliating than the votes on those resolutions involving the principle of the matter is that Canada, having taken the trouble and shown the foresight that she did in introducing two resolutions, one at a fairly early stage, proposing a United Nations force, designed expressly as a possible way in which the trouble in Egypt could be stopped whilst allowing Her Majesty's Government some way out, we supported neither—neither the first Canadian resolution nor the second. Both in the United Nations and here in this House we have haggled, we have quibbled about administrative details, and the Prime Minister was still doing that in his statement to the House yesterday.
All this is fact; it is not opinion, it is on the record for the world to read. This is what has happened to the Commonwealth in the last ten days. I must emphasise that the issues which have been at stake have been no mere question of tactics or methods, they have been the issues of peace and war, of allegiance to or repudiation of the United Nations Charter. It is on that that the differences have arisen. What is to be done to try to put this right? Not just some change of tactics, not just some deft diplomatic trick which might see us through another week or two in Egypt—although, goodness knows, a little deft diplomacy would be welcome. What has shocked and split the Commonwealth is Britain's violation of the Charter.
272 This is the charge which is being made against Her Majesty's Government throughout Asia, in Canada and, incidentally, in the United States too, out of the mouth of President Eisenhower last week. It is also the charge being made in this country, not only from these Labour benches, but by all-party bodies like the United Nations Association—of which I believe the Prime Minister is an honorary president—by the churches and by hundreds of thousands of men and women of all parties and of none.
In very recent days—in the last three or four days—the new line of the Government has been—I emphasise "the new line"—"We did it all to strengthen the United Nations." "If", they say, "a United Nations force is created, it will be due to us; we will be the people who have raised it." It is rather as though the North Koreans had boasted that they were responsible for the formation of the United Nations command in 1950.
I can say with complete conviction to hon. Members opposite that however it may sound to them when they get among some of their Tory stalwarts in the constituencies, in the world at large this new line of argument will only increase their already large reputation for hypocrisy. One of these days, as the dust settles and all the details come out—and some are already coming out—of what has been said and done in recent weeks, right back at least to 26th July, by Her Majesty's Government in various capitals and in various conferences, and when that is compared with the statements made day by day over these last ten days in the House, one statement scarcely ever giving just the same reason as was given the day before, I believe that the indictment will be such as no British Prime Minister has had to face in this century. When all these details are available, as they will be, we shall have to have an inquest on them.
For the moment, I content myself with stating what I think is beyond any doubt—that at this moment nobody in the outside world believes a single word of this argument of the Conservative Party.
I have talked about the key issue being the violation of the Charter. We have been told by some people in the course of these debates—and we were told it by that really rather disgraceful character, the editor of The Times, in an 273 article some weeks ago—that it is a great mistake to approach any of these problems from the point of view of legality and that to do so is mere pedantry and is to ignore the realities of power and the realities of national interest.
I am not going to take the House into any legal argument today, but I must challenge that proposition—the proposition that to be interested in the legality or otherwise of our Government's action under the Charter is to be a legal pedant. The steady narrowing down of the grounds which are considered acceptable under international law as justifying the use of force, a development which was brilliantly described in another place by Lord McNair only a few weeks ago, has not been due to legal pedantry. This great legal change over 50 years has not been due to the lawyers or to the pedants. On the contrary, the main documents embodying that change, the Covenant of the League, the Kellogg Pact and now the United Nations Charter, are the world's recognition of the intolerable consequences of resort to modern war for settling disputes. They are a recognition that, in an inter-dependent world, once force is invoked nobody can be sure where it will stop. They are the recognition of reality and not legal pedantries at all.
I cannot believe that when Her Majesty's Government took their reckless decision nine or ten days ago they foresaw even one-tenth of the consequences which are already seen to be flowing from their action. Let me refer to one or two of these consequences. Did they foresee the massive Soviet political intervention in the Middle East? Did they, for instance, foresee that within a single week the Parliament of Jordan, so lately their special Ally and Protegé, would be passing a resolution of thanks, as it is reported to have done in The Times today, to the Soviet Union for having upheld the right cause and having supported Egypt in these last few days, a resolution saying that Jordan will remember who its friends are and demanding that its ally, Iraq, should denounce the Bagdad Pact? Did they anticipate that? Did they foresee the growing flood of arms into Syria which, according to our information, has greatly increased since these events began? Had they thought of the threat of volunteers from Russia?
§ Mr. Younger
This threat, I believe, could be real. I am inclined to agree with what the Prime Minister of Canada said about the larger threat of bombing this country—that we should not tremble at it. It probably was talk and bluff, although it is nevertheless a reminder of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said the other day: we should recollect that we are no longer the greatest Power in the world and may one day ourselves want the protection of the international community.
However that may be, the threat of volunteers is something which could be real. It probably is already real in some countries, and there are certainly countries in the Middle East today willing to accept Russian volunteers who would have hesitated to do so before Tuesday a week ago.
Had the Government also foreseen that in the face of this Soviet intervention it might be that Israel would be more desperately isolated in the world, less sure of effective great Power support from any quarter, than she has been at any time in her brief and stormy history? Does anybody doubt that that is her position today? It may be that, unlike my right hon. and hon. Friends, Her Majesty's Ministers and hon. Members opposite do not care very much about Israel. She has no doubt served their turn and they will now forget her; but we shall not.
In a slightly different connection it may well be that we shall never know—and I freely admit that I do not know at the moment—how far events in Egypt have contributed to the tragedy in Hungary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Humbug."] Let me put the issue in this way. Let us see whether hon. Members opposite feel they can disagree with this. We know as a fact that on Monday, 29th October, before any of these events in Egypt had occurred, the eyes of the world were on Eastern Europe. The Kremlin was rather obviously balanced between the two possible decisions, whether they would allow the Hungarian revolution to go as they had allowed the Polish revolution to go, or whether to intervene massively. We may fairly surmise, may we not—I put it 275 no higher than that—that one of the considerations in their mind was the damage which a brutal intervention on their part would undoubtedly do to the world-wide Soviet pretensions to be the champions of national independence, especially in Asia and Africa.
We know that by Tuesday night all eyes, and particularly the eyes of Asia and Africa, had switched to Egypt. We know that the news of the aggression by Western Powers against a Moslem nation, against an Afro-Asian country—and if ever a country can be so described it is Egypt—effectively blotted out the news of Soviet repression in Hungary and continued to do so right up to the cease-fire. I ask hon. Members, is there any one in the House who feels entitled to assume that this did not enter at all into the calculations of the Soviet decision?
I said earlier that I would come back, towards the end of my remarks, to the immediate problem on the ground in Egypt. Since yesterday three new things have occurred. The Secretary-General has confirmed that a cease-fire has been accepted by Israel and Egypt. There has been a fresh demand by the United Nations, backed by 65 votes, for the immediate withdrawal of French, British and Israeli troops. There has also been further progress towards the setting up and putting into operation of a United Nations force, and the Secretary-General has given the assurance that was being demanded by Her Majesty's Government that, on the basis upon which it is now being planned, it is capable of being effective.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister said these things about it:There is no question whatever in our mind of withdrawal by the United Kingdom and her Allies, unless and until there is a United Nations force to take over from us.Then, a little later on, he was asked by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson):Can we have an assurance from the Prime Minister that, in the event of the General Assembly of the United Nations deciding that neither France nor Britain shall participate in the international police force, Her Majesty's Government will not insist upon retaining their forces in Egypt?The Prime Minister replied:I do not think that I could possibly give an assurance like that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 7th November, 1956; Vol. 560, cc. 143–145.]276 Mr. Speaker, we thought those propositions of the Prime Minister untenable yesterday. They are doubly untenable today.
I should like at the same time to refer back to what the Prime Minister himself said on Tuesday, 30th October, when he first announced the decision to go into Egypt. He was pressed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition:… whether he would make it plain that it is the intention of the Government, in making this proposal"—That was the proposal for the operation—… simply to safeguard the lives of British nationals and that as soon as they are satisfied that those lives are safe the forces will be withdrawn?The Prime Minister replied—and I think that I had better read the whole sentence so that there can be no question of misrepresentation—I used the word 'temporarily' deliberately in my statement. There are some who think that we could have invoked other treaties to do what we are doing. I did not want to do that. We have based this action simply on the present situation. We certainly should not wish to keep any British forces there, and I am sure the French would not wish to do so for one moment longer than is absolutely necessary to deal with this immediate situation and the very real danger of fighting across the Canal.A little later on he said:The hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. R. E. Winterbottom) and one or two other hon. Members asked whether British troops, and other troops, will be withdrawn once the present hostilities cease. Of course that will be so; certainly."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1956; Vol. 558, cc. 1281–1347.]
§ Mr. David Ormsby-Gore (Oswestry)
The right hon. Gentleman has no doubt heard that Mr. Cabot Lodge, the United States representative, interpreted the United Nations Resolution as meaning that British and French troops would withdraw on a phased programme as United Nations troops became available.
§ Mr. Younger
I am coming to that. I am aware of that. The only comment that I would make at present is that if the hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite are basing themselves on the views of Mr. Cabot Lodge I wonder why our representative there did not find himself in the same lobby with him. In the light of the events of the last twenty-four hours to which I have referred, it is the view of myself and my hon. Friends that 277 we must defer to the policies upon which the United Nations is insisting; and that in so far as there may be any rôle at all which our troops have to play in that area, it can only be such a rôle as the United Nations request them to perform.
The Government may say that there is still danger to the Canal. I do not believe it. Nevertheless, even on that assumption, they do not control the Canal by staying there. In fact, the safety of the Canal today, as has been the case throughout the whole of these last ten days, has depended, not upon British or French military actions, but on the unwillingness of Egypt to destroy it; and a large area of the Canal is still unguarded by any of our troops and could be destroyed if that were the intention. But it is not at all likely to be the intention.
We, on this side, believe that the proposition about danger to the Canal was never more than a bogus excuse, but in these remarks today I am deliberately not going in detail over the past. All I want to say is this. Do hon. Members really believe that now, whatever may have been the case some days ago, either Egypt or Israel wish to destroy the Canal and are being prevented from doing so only by the presence of British and French troops over a very small part of the area? Then, what about the danger to British lives? Well, there were no attacks that I have heard of upon British lives in Egypt during the fighting—why should we anticipate them now during a cease-fire?
I am trying to anticipate some of the things which the Government might say. They might say that they are there because Israel has said that she will not withdraw, but how can we help in persuading Israel to obey the United Nations resolution so long as we ourselves are in defiance of it? And as to our remaining there having any connection with the settlement of the Suez Canal dispute—something which was never openly admitted in the early stages, but which came into the Government statements a few days ago—we, on this side, believe that we never had a shadow of right either to go in or to stay on that pretext. Moreover, there is surely this further factor; that there is no chance now either of the United Nations or of the world at large 278 allowing us to reach any long-term settlement about the Suez Canal with Egypt on the basis of the present military situation, or under threat of military force.
Every day that we stay in this area in a state of aggression in defiance of world opinion and the Charter, we enhance the danger of Soviet war material and Soviet volunteers pouring into the Middle East, as they are doing just now. We enhance Soviet prestige against the prestige not only of ourselves but of all the Western Powers who are seeking still to retain some shreds of association with us.
We are, indeed, making the position of our friends absolutely impossible, and, perhaps most of all, that of any remaining friends we may hope to have in the Middle East, such as Iraq; not to mention such friends as Canada and the United States. I think that the vote and the speech of Mr. Cabot Lodge in the Assembly yesterday indicates a decision by the United States that if we remain in our present stiff-necked position they can no longer support us. I believe that that is the explanation of the vote.
§ Sir Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I happen to have left a luncheon with some prominent Canadians of great authority? They take a view completely on behalf of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. Younger
The hon. Gentleman is not the only person who has spoken with responsible Canadians in London in recent days. I do not know what weight he expects me to attach to a private conversation with unnamed Canadians. I prefer the attitude of the Canadian Government reinforced by what I myself have heard.
Therefore, I conclude by saying two things to Her Majesty's Government. First, it is our demand upon them that they should now obey last night's United Nations resolution and go. They should go in such order and in such timing as the United Nations may require, either immediately and unconditionally, or in a phased programme such as that referred to by Mr. Lodge—but under the United Nations' decisions and not under our decision. They should forthwith begin to repair the wider damage that has been done to Britain, to some of which I have referred, by enlisting the help of Commonwealth Prime Ministers without 279 whose support our sadly tarnished name cannot, I am afraid, be restored. They should start now the huge task of rebuilding British policy upon the ruins in which the present Prime Minister and Government have left it.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) was so anxious to go over so much of the ground that has already been very fully covered that when he was almost approaching the end of his speech, I was a little afraid that he would forget to refer to the Amendment relating to the calling of a Commonwealth conference. I attach a little more importance to that suggestion than he did, and I propose to deal with it at some greater length than he did, though he was meant to be moving that Amendment.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the unfolding, as he said, of the story of the last few weeks, and he appeared to think that as this story unfolds it will in some way serve to discredit Her Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
We shall welcome the full unfolding of this story. We made a decision which we knew was bound to be temporarily unpopular and which could lead, as it has led, to the most violent misrepresentation. We made it in the full knowledge of all the considerations, a great many of which are not known to hon. Members opposite, and in full knowledge also of all the likely consequences.
We are quite satisfied—we are, indeed, profoundly satisfied—that the action that we have taken will prove to be abundantly right. I am sure, also, that more and more people will come to agree with the wisdom of the steps that we have taken, and not least in those Dominions and Colonies which it was, I thought, the main purpose of the right hon. Gentleman to talk about and to which, in the earlier stages of his speech, he undoubtedly referred from time to time.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the dreadful dangers in which he claimed we had put the Commonwealth relationship, but I am sure that when the whole story unfolds, there will be widespread 280 recognition of the fact that the United Kingdom, with its particular Commonwealth responsibilities, as the centre of the Commonwealth, was right to take the action that we did, and that the resolution and the strength that we were prepared to show will have led to a general lessening of tension in the world.
Our aim throughout the whole of this business has been to keep the warring parties apart. Israel had accepted our proposals. If Egypt had also agreed, then there would have been no fighting at all. We had no desire whatever either to fight Egypt or to destroy her, but we believe with unmistakable conviction that we have saved the Middle East and the Arab States from the horrors and the virtual certainty of a general war. We are quite satisfied that as more and more people are coming to that view, so it will be universally held when the full story of all these things can be generally known.
We have ceased fire, and gladly ceased fire, after a campaign in which regard for human life has been outstanding. We have ceased fire because the parties have ceased fire, and we have acted because of the considerations that we set out in the communication that was sent to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the evening of 6th November. [Interruption.] I do not know whether hon. Members opposite would like to hear a considered answer. I must say that it is a curious way in which to contribute to the unfolding of the fact if attempts are made to prevent Ministers from making their own contributions.
§ Mr. F. Beswick (Uxbridge)
I am trying to follow what the right hon. Gentleman is saying. He is saying that the Government have now agreed to cease fire because the Egyptians and the Israelis have agreed to cease fire. Was this the objective of the original assault, to get these two countries to cease fire?
§ Mr. Beswick
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving us a little more assistance. If that was the primary purpose, why did we not say so?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I do not know where the hon. Gentleman goes for his sources of information. I thought it was generally known that that was indeed the primary purpose. I was careful to add that we had acted in accordance with the terms of the communication that we sent to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the evening of 6th November.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for what happens in Cyprus, and that, no doubt, is why he is speaking today. If the purpose of the operation is what he now says it is, can he explain why we told the Egyptians in those leaflets which went from Cyprus that the purpose was to bring down Colonel Nasser?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that a very full answer was given to that point a few days ago. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This debate is on a very serious topic, and it cannot be conducted by interventions or by noise. I hope that the House will treat the debate with due care. I think it is common knowledge that the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) was heard with very little interruption.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
It is perfectly true, as the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) said, that I have a large responsibility for the affairs of Cyprus. One thing that I believe has dawned on hundreds of thousands of people who hitherto have not grasped the fact, is that if we are to be in a position to play any part at all to bring about tranquillity in the Middle East, the sovereignty of Cyprus is vital to the United Kingdom.
As I was about to say, because of our resolute action a United Nations force is being created. I was asked by the right hon. Member for Grimsby a number of questions about that force, and I can only at this stage repeat what the Prime Minister said yesterday:There is no question whatever in our mind of withdrawal by the United Kingdom and her Allies, unless and until there is a United Nations force ready to take over from us."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 143.]The British representative to the United Nations, Sir Pierson Dixon, made a lengthy intervention in last 282 night's debate in the United Nations on the two draft resolutions that were before the Assembly One, the draft resolution signed by some seven Powers, was voted on, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said; and the other, the resolution which is called generally the Afro-Asian resolution, was also voted on.
Sir Pierson Dixon made certain comments on those resolutions. He, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, said:we welcome the conception of an international force. But it will naturally be under-stood that further study will be needed of some of the features of so intricate and important a project.I cannot at this stage give any further information than that or add, on that particular point, to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday.
Dealing with the 19-Power, or Afro-Asian, resolution, Sir Pierson Dixon referred to the request for the immediate withdrawal of British and French forces. He said, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government:If these forces were withdrawn before a United Nations force were able to arrive and take control, the separation of the parties which we have achieved would break down. The risk of hostilities between the parties would revive in an acute form, and the United Nations force might arrive too late to prevent a new conflagration.He added:There would also be once again a serious threat to the security of the Suez Canal. This in fact, would amount to a return to the dangerous and uncertain conditions which have obtained in the area for many years.I must earnestly direct the attention of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to some other observations which Sir Pierson Dixon made on behalf of the Government at the same time. These are rightly regarded as matters of the first importance. I thought it was now generally recognised—indeed, Sir Pierson Dixon himself said so last night—that the idea that a shield of some kind be between the potentially warring factions is essential. If that is universally accepted at the United Nations, surely it might also be so accepted in the British House of Commons. If it is now generally accepted that the idea of a shield is essential, it therefore follows that there must be no vacuum between the withdrawal of one shield and the arrival of another.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that the shield is necessary now because of the conspiracy of the British, French and Israeli Governments—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—to provoke an attack through Eilat under the cover of British troops?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The rules of the House, I suppose, demand that I refer to the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) as the hon. and gallant Gentleman; but if I could say what I really think, I should do it in rather simpler form.
Sir Pierson Dixon, speaking for the Government, added:It is our belief that this international force should be authorised to prevent the resumption of hostilities between Israel and Egypt and secure the withdrawal of Israel forces. It is the earnest hope of Her Majesty's Government that the presence of the international force in the area will help to bring about, amongst other things, a generally acceptable settlement of the Palestine and Suez Canal problems. In the view of Her Majesty's Government the international force should remain in the area until all these problems are solved, and we think that the logic of events will make this clear.He then referred to the need for the clearance of the Canal, which was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence.
Now that we are within measurable distance of real creation of a United Nations force, we are I think, entitled ourselves to ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite one or two questions. At this moment, I limit myself to one. Do they really seriously believe that we should now be near the creation of such a force but for the Anglo-French resolute action? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I cannot believe that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have served in the Socialist Government or in the Coalition Government could believe that, whatever more gullible back benchers might feel. Instead of this hopeful sign, the first hopeful sign, for a Middle Eastern settlement for the last ten years, we should have had resolutions, denunciations and warnings, but no action of any kind, save the virtual certainty of a Middle Eastern war.
§ Mr. Younger rose—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I must finish this observation.
284 Since 1948, as the Foreign Secretary pointed out yesterday, the Security Council has held over 200 meetings on Palestine alone, nearly half of all the meetings of the Security Council. Resolutions have been passed and ignored by both sides. Tension has mounted, and it was brought to a head quite recently by the announcement of the Joint Command for Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Hon. and right hon. Gentleman can get a little temporary popularity by an outcry against the Government, but our people are beginning to understand—[HON. MEMBERS: "They are"]—and inevitable disillusion for the Opposition is not far distant. But for the surgical operation that we have had reluctantly, but resolutely, to perform, we should have failed in our duty as a responsible Government.
§ Mr. Younger
The right hon. Gentleman put a very direct question to the Opposition, as to whether we really thought there would be any chance of a United Nations force coming into being but for this operation. Is he not aware that the great and admitted difficulty of the United Nations throughout all its life so far has been to find any great Power willing to commit itself forcibly in support of a resolution? Does he not appreciate that there would have been no criticism on this side of the House had Her Majesty's Government, if necessary, taken immediate action, and asked for the sanction of the Security Council upon it, as was done in Korea—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—and that the whole dispute arises precisely because Her Majesty's Government has used force, but not in support of the Charter and not with any United Nations authorisation?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The House as a whole, the country, and many others will be very interested in what the right hon. Gentleman has just said. It is clearly quite unrealistic to compare the situation in Korea with the situation in the Middle East—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—as Russia was not a member of the Security Council at the time and therefore was unable to veto the subsequent decision.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker rose—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I must complete my argument. The right hon. Gentleman ought to know that we notified the 285 United Nations immediately of the action which we felt it necessary to take in a critical situation. At a very early date we made it absolutely clear that if the United Nations would take over the responsibility, we should be very ready to hand it over.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
The right hon. Gentleman has asked, should we have got a United Nations force? We made one in Korea, and, of course, the situation is exactly the same. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who did?"] The Security Council did, with our co-operation and help, with the support of the whole of the Commonwealth, and with Commonwealth Forces fighting in a Commonwealth Division. [An HON. MEMBER: "But no Russia."] The Government now have attacked a victim of aggression in violation of the Resolutions of the United Nations, and if we had supported the Council there would have been no veto.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South will, on reflection, realise that had the United Kingdom Government taken the action they did, then notified the United Nations and asked permission from the Security Council for that action, first the veto would have operated, and, secondly, a general war in the Middle East might well have ensued.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
The right hon. Gentleman persists in misunderstanding what my right hon. Friends have said. He has challenged us on this point and we are entitled to give a clear answer. What conceivable objection could there have been if the United Kingdom had gone to the Security Council, supported the Resolution which was carried there by nine votes to two—there would have been no veto in those circumstances—and followed it up by proposing that the Security Council Resolution should be enforced by a United Nations police force, to which we would be prepared to make contributions?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Surely the right hon. Gentleman, in the present relative calm of the situation, has not forgotten the rapidity with which the forces were moving together—
§ Mr. Gaitskell rose—286
§ Mr. Speaker
I must ask even right hon. Gentlemen to remember that this is not an argument. It is a debate. If there is an answer to what is being said, by all means let it be given later; but we cannot have speeches interrupted every time by arguments in this way.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd rose—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd rose—
§ Captain Richard Pilkington (Poole)
On a point of order. Some of us on this side of the House want to hear what my right Friend the Minister is saying. We listened in silence to a most provocative and partisan speech from the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger). Is it not possible for us to hear what the Minister has to say without this continual interruption from the Socialist benches?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
As has been rightly said, the House listened in almost complete silence to what the right hon. Gentleman said. As hon. Members opposite claim that they are anxious that people should know every side of this story, I do not think it is unreasonable that they should listen to what I have to say.
I now pass on to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech relating to consultation with the Commonwealth. He suggested that there had been a breakdown in the machinery and, even more serious, in the spirit of that consultation. I believe that to be quite untrue, and I believe also that as this story unfolds, to use his own language, so there will be found throughout the British Commonwealth a growing conviction that we took the only possible action in the circumstances.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The right hon. Gentleman said that there were many differing voices in the Dominions themselves, and he said that, I suppose, to cast doubt, for example, on the right of Mr. Menzies or Mr. Holland to speak for Australia or New Zealand in this matter. If that is true, I am equally entitled to say that there are many differing voices also in other parts of the Commonwealth, where, up to now, their political leaders have not felt able to give Her Majesty's Government their full public support. [An HON. MEMBER: "And in this Government too."] My hon. Friend the Member for Southgate (Sir B. Baxter) interrupted the right hon. Gentleman to make a comment of that kind in relation to widely-held views in the Dominion of Canada.
It is quite true that there are differences of opinion in the Dominions, as there are here, but it would be much better if we did not ourselves—I have no wish to do it—get involved in trying to interpret the rights of Dominion Governments to speak for their own people.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
You, Mr. Speaker, have quite rightly asked the House to listen patiently to what the right hon. Gentleman says, but is he not putting a very great burden upon us in suggesting that we should accept a report of a recently-held luncheon in face of the official statements of the Canadian Government? It really becomes rather intolerable.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Had I thought that the right hon. Gentleman's question would take precisely that form, I might have reserved giving way for a more formidable contribution.
Consultation between Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the Dominions and the closest and most intimate possible liaison between us are very near and dear to our hearts and their importance is constantly present in our minds. Of course, there are bound to be differences of opinion, and not by any means always on unimportant matters or matters of detail. There may frequently be—we pray that they will not be often— 288 differences of opinion on great matters of principle or policy, but this is inseparable from the free society and free association which is the main claim to fame and renown of our Commonwealth. Differences are inevitable in any society like ours unless it is to be a monolithic structure in which everyone must think and act in precisely the same way.
The right hon. Member for Grimsby referred to the fact that in certain votes in U.N.O. our differences had been more marked between the United Kingdom and Asian Dominions than in any other way. Naturally, it is deplorable when there is any difference of opinion on a public platform between any parts of the British Commonwealth and we regret it as much as any hon. Member or anybody else in any of the Dominions.
I think, however, that it would be also part of the duty of the right hon. Gentleman, in what I believe to be his own genuine anxiety to narrow the divisions and to bring people together again in a Dominion partnership, that he should from time to time refer, for example, to remarks such as that made either today or yesterday by Mr. Menzies in relation to the suggestion that India and Australia have different points of view. Australia, he added, did not believe that the interests of India must be in conflict with those of Australia or the interests of Asia in conflict with those of Europe. That is our profound conviction too.But"—Mr. Menzies added—I would think badly of myself and my colleagues would think badly of themselves, if we remained silent or neutral under circumstances in which the Government of the United Kingdom has been assailed for taking action which we regard as both practical and courageous.The right hon. Gentleman went out of his way to find many differences which had been expressed between Dominion leaders and ourselves. I would remind him again of what Mr. Menzies also said a week or two ago. After all, Mr. Menzies has had more practical experience of Middle Eastern affairs than a great many of us. Mr. Menzies said:Differences which proceeded from honest divergences upon matters of judgment could easily be fanned into bitterness by intemperate statements by observers.I am not suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman is an intemperate observer, for I have respect for the right hon. 289 Gentleman and my feeling is that he is genuinely anxious to see the British Commonwealth working together in friendliness and harmony. I hope, however, that he will always bear in mind the very real certainty that if those observations of Dominion leaders, designed to bring and to keep our people closer together, are never quoted, and observations which show differences of opinion always are, they are bound to be exploited by people whose sense of public duty is very different from that of the right hon. Gentleman.
The Amendment which has been moved by the Opposition makes the proposal that a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference should be called with a view to finding a common approach towards matters concerning the United Nations and collective responsibility. Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are always most ready to invite such a meeting if the Commonwealth Prime Ministers desire it, and they fully appreciate and deeply value these meetings and the exchange of views that they represent. There are, however, certain obvious practical difficulties on the proposal that has been made for the immediate future.
The Commonwealth Prime Ministers have lately been in London and they may well feel that in these critical days and at the shortest of notice they cannot leave their own countries. Next week the Commonwealth Ministers responsible for foreign relations are going to meet in New York. It is almost certain, and we very much hope, that the Foreign Secretary will be there. That will give an opportunity for an exchange of views on this among many other questions.
Lest the speech of the right hon. Member for Grimsby should give the impression that over Middle Eastern policy and other developments in recent months there has been virtually no consultation I must, I am afraid, weary the House a little longer with one or two illustrations of how continuous that consultation has been. From the very beginning of the Suez Canal dispute last July we have been in the closest possible touch with the Commonwealth Governments as the situation has developed.
For three months a great quantity of communications, I think unequalled—I understand from the Commonwealth 290 Relations Office that it is unequalled—has passed between us and the other members of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister himself has sent from time to time personal messages to his Commonwealth colleagues. Our High Commissioners in other Commonwealth countries have transmitted messages setting out developments as we saw them. There have been meetings, of course, between the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Commonwealth High Commissioners in London. Scarcely a day has passed since last July without some communication on the subject of Suez passing between London and the offices of the Commonwealth representatives. I am entitled to claim, on behalf of the Government, that consultation with the Commonwealth Governments has never been closer about any issue than it has been over the unfolding situation in the Middle East.
Then we had in London a meeting of 24 countries chiefly concerned with Suez, from 16th August, as the House will remember. This meeting was attended by representatives of all Commonwealth countries except Canada and South Africa, but we kept in the closest contact with them, and we ensured throughout those talks that the Canadian and South African High Commission Offices were kept in the closest touch with what was happening.
Then came the readiness—the most welcome readiness—of Mr. Menzies, the Prime Minister of Australia, to join our councils at that time, and he sat with British Ministers and gave us the benefit of his advice. He it was who led the 5-Power delegation to put the 18-Power proposals before the Egyptian Government. Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan were present at the second meeting in London at which we discussed the setting up of the Suez Canal Users' Association. We kept other Commonwealth Governments fully informed of developments. Mr. Krishna Menon came to London after that conference and had discussions with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am going to finish this because it is so easy for hon. Gentlemen to go round making generalisations to give a wholly wrong impression, and I think that for the record this story should be told.
291 A further opportunity for an exchange of views occurred when the Suez Canal Users' Association was itself inaugurated at the beginning of October. Meanwhile we had decided to go to the Security Council, and we explained fully to the Commonwealth Governments the reason for this decision and the line which we proposed to take, and again Mr. Menon had further discussions with us here and with our representatives in New York.
Throughout the last three months we have spared no effort whatever to keep the Commonwealth Governments informed of what was happening. I do not say that it has been always possible to consult them fully in advance before every decision has had to be taken, but we have done our very utmost to keep in continual touch.
The events of the last few days have confronted us with very real difficulties and responsibilities. The first news of the Israeli invasion of Egypt was received in London on the evening of Monday. 29th October.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
There was clearly no time whatever to consult the Commonwealth in advance if we were to take timely action to protect the Canal and to stop the conflict. Mr. Menzies, whose words, I think, should be listened to with respect by hon. Members, even if my reading of them is interrupted, said:Hostile armed forces were approaching each other and an extensive combat was imminent. There was literally no time to be lost. Effective consultation"—He said "effective" because a mere form of consultation would have been quite useless—would plainly have occupied a considerable time, and the position might have fallen into irretrievable disaster. In the opinion of the Government of Australia, Great Britain, whose interests are so vast, was correct in proceeding upon her own judgment and accepting her own responsibility.He added what hon. Members would do well to remember:We are not living in an academic world. The normal processes of consultation should always be followed wherever possible, but there are instances like the present ones in which events move too fast for normal processes.I think that those facts should be borne in mind. To dismiss them, as one hon. Member did, as humbug, when they 292 come from a Prime Minister who agrees with the United Kingdom Government, does, I think, cast some doubt on the sincerity of the motives of those who do dismiss them when they make a parade of their imperial outlook.
§ Mr. George Isaacs (Southwark)
On a point of order. The Colonial Secretary was looking straight at me when a moment ago he used the word "humbug." Was he suggesting that I said that?
§ Mr. Bevan
In order to get the record straight, I would ask the Colonial Secretary a question. He started his speech by saying that the purpose of the intervention was to bring the Israeli-Egyptian conflict to an early conclusion and to try to induce the United Nations to take vigorous action. Just now he said that the other purpose of the intervention was to try to protect the Canal. There were two objectives. Does he consider that the second has been achieved?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that it was quite clear that hostilities would have taken place on the banks of the Canal, and what the purpose was of our intervention. I would once more remind him of the phrase used by the Leader of the Opposition about the premature ending of hostilities in the Sinai Peninsula.
§ Mr. Wigg rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Gentleman has given way so often that I was not sure whether he was giving way to another intervention or whether he had finished his speech. Mr. Grimond.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
It is apparent from the closing remarks of the Minister that there was, in fact, no consultation with the other members of the Commonwealth on the most important act in foreign policy since the war. It may be that the amount of time available did not allow it when Israel attacked Egypt, but I think we are entitled to know whether there was any consultation with the other members of the Commonwealth about what should be done in the event of war breaking out between Israel and Egypt, for that was not entirely an unlikely eventuality.
The right hon. Gentleman said that now there was to be a police force under the United Nations, and took credit to the Government for having given them a lead in the creation of United Nations forces. That really does appear to be too much. It is rather like a burglar's claiming that his skill and violence have compelled the police to improve their methods. It would have been possible at any time during the last four or five years for this country by a little aggression to have compelled the United Nations to resort to force.
The right hon. Gentleman also said that the credit of the Government would be restored when the full facts were known. I do not think that the most important matter before us is whether the credit of the Government will be restored or not. Unfortunately, the credit of the Government is associated with the credit of the country, and what matters is whether the credit of this country can be restored. Furthermore, is the unity of the Western world, in the face of one of the most serious threats of Communism since the war, to be restored?
It is hinted that the Government have some secret reasons, not yet produced, that will convince everybody that they are right. We have already had various reasons put forward for the course of action that they have pursued, and they have not always been compatible with one another, but there may yet be a hidden reason. There may be intelligence known to the Government which is not known to people in general.
I have been asked by one or two very responsible people what the position is and, if this were the case, how far the 294 Government would inform the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition of such intelligence. I do not know, but if there are secret intelligences known to the Government, which would put a different complexion on their actions, I think that many people in the country would want that question explored and answered and would feel happier if the Government had taken the Leader of the Opposition into their confidence. If there are no secret reasons, it is merely confusing the issue and muddying the waters to hint at them now.
There are, of course, differences between members of the Commonwealth, though most people in the Commonwealth are anxious to put the most favourable construction possible on our acts, but whether the differences are between one part of the Commonwealth and another, or within the countries of the Commonwealth themselves, for us to be divided at all at a moment like this might have proved, and might still prove, to be disastrous to the Western world.
I cannot share the optimism of hon. Members opposite. In all sincerity I wish I could, because, like some of them, I quite agree that there are difficulties in relying upon the United Nations, and these difficulties have been most tragically brought home to us by the recent events in Hungary. The fact is that we all stand impotent because of the ultimate blackmail of the hydrogen bomb. It would not be in order for me to pursue the subject of Hungary, but if anything could be done, possibly by stating that as we withdraw from the Middle East and allow the United Nations to take over the Russians should do the same thing in Hungary, that should be done.
I have never held that this country would never be justified in acting on its own in defence of absolutely vital interests or in defence of peace which could not be preserved in any other way, but I cannot conscientiously say that the Suez Canal is such a vital interest that it was worth breaking up the unity of the West and fragmenting the Commonwealth in order to safeguard the Canal which, of course, was not blocked at that time. Now it is.
As to keeping the peace, if I believed that the Government really took action to restore peace on the borders of Israel I think that they would have had a very 295 good case, but I do not believe that that was so. I do not believe that any impartial person reading the ultimatum that the Government sent out could possibly say that this was purely designed to keep the peace and check the aggressor. I have the greatest sympathy with Israel. She was provoked and there have been many occasions in the past when we could legitimately have upheld her, but on this occasion we chose the one case where, I regret to say, she was the aggressor.
There are hon. Members opposite who have taken the view that some such gesture as this was needed to show that Great Britain was a great Power and was capable of forceful action, but I fear that the world will regard this not as a sign of strength but as the outcome of frustration, exasperation and irresolution. It reminds me of the sort of action which Europe used to expect of such empires as Austria-Hungary, in their latter days, something which caused war and threats of war and which sprang not from strength but from uncertainty and frustration. The Government's present action springs fundamentally from a lack of any consistent policy throughout the Middle East for years.
If there is one thing in which we can take pride it is the loyalty of our Allies in the Commonwealth and the Western world. We owe a very great debt to Mr. St. Laurent and Mr. Pearson. Whatever we may think of Mr. Dulles's behaviour in the past—and I agree that it has been exasperating and a great deal to blame for what has happened—nevertheless the President of the United States and the American nation have stood by us. It would be a mistake to think, however, that the conduct of our Government will be forgotten all over the world overnight if only this project of theirs is over quickly and can be claimed as a success.
If anyone is inclined to think that, let him consider what his feelings would be if Canada or the United States had behaved like this to us. Suppose that America or one of our Dominions, in the last week of our General Election had taken this action. Confidence in the Government's professions must be shaken. For example, the Tripartite Declaration was held up week after week as the absolute corner-stone of Government policy on Arab-Irael relations. It was 296 devised exactly to meet a situation like this, but when the situation arises it is thrown out of the window on the excuse that the Egyptians did not agree to it. No one ever suggested that they did or would agree to it.
I cannot, for those reasons, altogether blame the Americans for supporting the United Nations resolution whose purpose is to remove our forces and those of the French from the Canal. I hope that I have made it clear that I do not approve of the methods by which our forces ever got there, but now that they are there this is a very serious matter indeed. I do not by any means rule out a further outbreak of fighting. I cannot assure myself that if there were such an outbreak the Russians might not send volunteers. We owe a very great debt to the members of our Services who carried out this very difficult operation, and I do not feel at all happy about the cease-fire arrangements that have been made. I feel a little in the position of some of us after Munich, when guarantees were given to two countries of Europe which many of us felt could not be carried out, but which we could not oppose because we felt that they should have been given earlier.
While I regret the position reached, I do not feel that it can be left where it is. Our troops are siting on a comparatively narrow bridgehead in a hostile country. They are not keeping Egypt and Israel apart and they are not protecting the Canal. The Government have undertaken that no more troops will be landed, no advance made and that only the necessary stores will be put ashore. I am not an expert, but I think that that is a most unsatisfactory position for our forces to be in. We owe a very great debt to them and it is our duty not to jeopardise them by putting them in an impossible position.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
The hon. Member says that the present position is intolerable. Is he going to say that we should withdraw or consolidate? Will he say which?
§ Mr. Grimond
I am not a military expert, although the noble Lord may not believe it. First, we must impress upon the United Nations that its force must be brought in very quickly and must be an effective force. Secondly, the Government have probably to go further and say that sufficient tanks and guns must be landed and left in our positions to ensure that 297 if we do not advance we can at least protect our troops and take further action if necessary.
Another point is that we have undoubtedly crushed the Nasser myth. Personally, I welcome that. At least, we have crushed it militarily, but Colonel Nasser is still in power and is now supported, or can say that he is supported, by a great weight of public opinion. I cannot believe that it was necessary to do such damage to our own reputation to ensure some deflation of Colonel Nasser's military power. We could have done that when Israeli ships were prevented from going through the Canal or by taking action against his provocations of Israel.
A further result of what we have done is that we shall now have the Arab world seething against us. Everyone knows that the Arab States are not great military Powers. They did not intervene in this fight and I do not suppose that it would have made a great difference if they had. But the Arabs are good saboteurs, the Arabs have extremely long memories. The Arabs will now be an extremely fertile ground for Communism, and the Arabs control two-thirds of the oil reserves of the world.
Was it really the policy and aim of the Government that we should put the Middle East in this position? Can it be said that it is a good result that we have perhaps crushed the military might of Colonel Nasser at the expense of leaving the Middle East wide open for Communist infiltration, that we have perhaps made Egypt and Russia more popular in the Arab world in the long run?
Last Saturday, the Prime Minister undertook to put the Israelis back behind their frontiers. Presumably that means out of the Gaza strip. Are we going to hand that work over to the United Nations, which many hon. Members think is such a feeble body? We have a right to know if the Prime Minister really intends to put the Israelis back behind their frontiers and how he will do it.
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
But the Israelis have already said that they intend to stick to the Gaza strip and to Ismalia.
§ Mr. Grimond
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will put that point to his Leader, because that was the undertaking given by his Leader over the wireless in a scripted broadcast, presumably vetted by all his officials, and repeated in the House.
§ Mr. C. N. Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)
If the hon. Gentleman looks at the report of that broadcast—I have not the text here—he will find that my right hon. Friend said, in effect, that when we and our allies, the French, had attained those positions which we mentioned in the ultimatum, and had command of the Canal, we would then see that the Israelis left Sinai.
§ Mr. Grimond
There was a specific undertaking given in the broadcast. The over-riding danger, I believe, is the division of the West and if, by having a further meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, we can do something to restore unity, I would certainly support that as a most important step.
I believe that we should now call in our Dominions—Canada and Australia—to try to restore our position with the Africans and the Asians. I think that there have been faults on the part of the Indians. I think there are difficulties in dealing with the Asian Dominions, but I cannot accept that we can see the disruption of the Asiatic part of the Commonwealth without making some attempt to retrieve the position.
I believe that we can rely on the abiding good will of the Americans, but we have no common policy with them. It may be that we shall need to have some new machinery for consultation with our Dominions to prevent the repetition of snap decisions being taken, because if we take these again our alliances with the Commonwealth will break up. Also, there may need to be some form of quicker and more effective consultation with America.
I believe that it is impossible now to reconstitute the old frontiers of Israel and that the United Nations will have to fix new frontiers for that country, giving a firm guarantee. In that, no doubt, we shall have to play our part.
§ Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)
Would the hon. Member direct his mind to a point upon which he has only touched? A practical issue will face us if we have 299 to withdraw before the new troops come in. The hon. Member talked about overlapping. What is his view about that?
§ Mr. Grimond
That we go to the United Nations and say, "You must get this police force set up at once." Until then, in the area we hold we must maintain sufficient troops to prevent, for instance, reconstruction of the airfields and the outbreak of war again. How this can be phased with the arrival of U.N. troops I do not know, but it is not a situation out of which we can pull and leave a vacuum.
I hope that we shall now set about resettling the refugees and I ask the Government what is happening to those who were in the Gaza strip.
In the long run, I think that we shall need international agreement about the oil. I do not think that we can leave this entirely to private contracts. We may have to face many "Suez situations" throughout the East if we do. We must have the contractual rights of the supply companies and the consumers guaranteed under some system of international agreement.
However, these are long-term problems. I agree that if, out of all this, we get an effective United Nations police force it will be a great gain. I am surprised at the enthusiasm which this proposal has received. It has been cheered by the most unlikely people who, a week or two ago, would have said that it was totally impracticable. For my part, I still think it is a very long shot. I imagine that the force will be under the Security Council, and we all know who are the members of that Council. But where will it make its headquarters and who will recruit it?
§ Sir Henry Studholme (Tavistock)
Does the hon. Member realise that it is only because of the action of Her Majesty's Government that there is now to be this force?
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
The international force will be under the authority of the General Assembly, with an advisory committee of seven members, of whom four are Commonwealth countries.
§ Mr. Grimond
I am glad to hear that, but I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that this is a complex and difficult matter, especially if the force is to be used in what I believe is a very explosive situation on the Canal.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
If I may interrupt, one point which worries me is where is this international force to go? Is it going to the Canal? Is it going to the old armistice frontiers? I have read that it is going to the latter, but I cannot see how it will get there.
§ Mr. Grimond
Like the hon. and learned Member, I can see great difficulties, but I imagine that the force is going to the Canal. However, I may be wrong.
I foresee great difficulties to be met in the future. We should at least be grateful to the despised United Nations for many of its decisions. What this incident should do is not only to shake up the United Nations, as has often been said, but also our own thinking about our international obligations. Are we really sincere in our protestations about loyalty to the United Nations? How do our various commitments to N.A.T.O. and our allies fit in with the United Nations conception? [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Hungary?"] If we are to gain anything—and I think that we shall have great difficulty in salvaging much—from the wreck, there must be a shake up not only in the United Nations, but also throughout this country.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
The first duty of anyone speaking after the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) is to congratulate him on his first appearance as leader of his party in this House. I am sure that he will uphold the tradition laid down for so many years by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). The House certainly did not spare the hon. Member in his "maiden speech", and throughout his remarks he had the full cut and thrust of the active interest which the House shows in this problem. I am sure that his plea for a general consideration of this problem at this time will be echoed throughout the House.
We are in the presence of an immense problem, every aspect of which will have 301 to be considered. The Amendment quite rightly speaks of a Commonwealth conference, but before we consider that we need to go a little further into our own ideas and principles. I should say that, at present, our three objectives are, first, to maintain the Commonwealth; secondly—and to me this is of vital importance—to maintain the Anglo-American alliance, and, thirdly, to contain the growing expansion of the Soviet empire.
That last objective is also very important, as we see by the events in Central Europe, which the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland referred to in his speech. The question has been asked whether that action of the Soviet Government was accentuated by the action recently taken by Her Majesty's Government. I do not think anyone can deny that the scale of that one intervention shows that the preparations for it were long-established, and I do not myself believe that military interventions of the Soviet Union are touched off by small causes, at single points and by single events. These are long-contained policies which we see coming to fruition, carried through with a ruthlessness which shows that there is no hesitation whatsoever in putting them forward in the areas where they are being put forward—and there may very well be an intention to expand those actions beyond those areas.
In considering the general position, I am sure that we must take note of the massive intervention by the Soviet Union in the Middle East in the past year, which has overleapt all the frontiers. The sale of arms was a sympton, and we now realise that it was on a very much larger scale than we had thought, and that the penetration was much deeper than we had conceived. There are the recent events in Syria, for example—the destruction of two big pumping plants. That was no casual raid by Arabian saboteurs, but a long-thought-out, highly organised operation of war. Those were not trivial installations; they were equivalent in power to the electric light station of a modern town.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the blowing up of the pumping stations and the cutting of the pipelines in Syria were carried out by Soviet infiltration, can he 302 explain how it is that the British Foreign Secretary protested to the Syrian Government, saying that these actions had been carried out by the Syrian Army?
§ Mr. Elliot
It is well known that the Syrian Government in fact did not approve of the blowing up of those installations; that it was carried out, not by a Government instruction, but obviously by some force within the force, by some State within the State.
That is exactly the point I was trying to bring home. The infiltration is not merely a matter of physical infiltration, the consignment of a certain number of arms, but the preparation for a widespread taking over of whole Governments. The events in Syria show very clearly that at any rate in one of the Middle Eastern States this has reached a fairly advanced stage. These were not, as I said, small installations; they had a capacity of 1,500 h.p. or more, and it takes 10,000 h.p. to move the oil across the deserts through the pipelines.
I say that these actions were carried out against the will of the Syrian Government, and the fact that there is a force within Syria capable of taking an action like that against the opinion of its own Government shows very clearly that we are here dealing with an infiltration which has gone on for some time and which we must certainly consider when reviewing the circumstances which have led up to the present outbreak.
It was said that the sale of Russian arms might have been counterbalanced. I do not think that the sale of more arms to Israel offered a good or practicable solution. The idea of a bucket of arms for Syria, a bucket of arms for Egypt and two buckets of arms for Israel was not the way in which the solution could be looked for. The very fact that the Canadian Government had signed a contract for the delivery of a large consignment of most modern fighters to Egypt and that it is the Canadian Government which has condemned Israel for its present action shows how complicated the situation has become.
The suggestion that this was simply an aggression out of the blue by Israel seems to me to ignore the plain facts. Where is the treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel which has been broken? There is no such document. There was a state 303 of war between the two countries—a state of war which was continually invoked by Egypt itself. It was in virtue of that state of war that Egypt claimed the right to arrest the passage of Israeli ships through the Canal.
Egypt cannot have it both ways and say simultaneously that, on the one hand, they are at war and, on the other, that they are at peace. They cannot claim that they are at war and therefore have the right to stop Israeli ships passing through the Canal, and then say that they are at peace and therefore cannot be attacked. À la guerre comme à la guerre. If a man draws the sword he must expect the enemy to draw the sword against him—and not always at the most convenient moment.
§ Mr. Elliot
Everyone knows the end of that quotation. Anybody who, like myself, has been brought up in Scotland, can complete a Biblical quotation. But the hon. Member must not assume that every sentence that refers to a sword is drawn from the Bible.
§ Mr. Elliot
It is not a quotation. I must be allowed to make my own sentences, even if Holy Writ has anticipated them to some extent.
We are, however, in the presence of a very serious situation. We have been arraigned before an international body of the highest competence, of which we ourselves are members; we have argued our case, and it has not found favour. It is a very serious situation, I quite agree, and I wish to face the fact and make a proposal with regard to it. Let us face the weight of the case. It is no use trying to get out of it by some quibble of one kind or another. This is an intimate problem for all of us; it affects the life of every one of us. It may concern the very survival of our country.
We claim, as was said last night by the Foreign Secretary, in his very able broadcast, that it was a case for action. There is always the argument either that action is wrong or that it is the wrong time to act. I have been through all this before. I remember well, and so do one or two other hon. Members—such as my right 304 hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), whose father was closely concerned, both on the opposite side to myself—that tense moment when we had to consider whether action was to be taken against Hitler.
On that occasion the Empire was split, as it is now; the country was split, as it is now. Many of those who now are strongest in their claims that no steps should be taken without the consent of all the Commonwealth were then the most vehement of our condemners for not giving a lead, for not going forward and "calling Hitler's bluff." We of the then Government waited. It is true that we then obtained a wide measure of unanimity in the country—and we have been blamed ever since. We have been called guilty men. Well, let us consider that. It is an accusation which those of us who were concerned in those actions will always have to take into consideration. Because we would not take the action which was then suggested—
§ Mr. Elliot
I think right—but it cost 20 million lives. I do not think, however, that we could have taken a risk of that size with a House of Commons such as we have seen it in the last few days, when the life of our country was immediately at stake, and we were in mortal peril. I do not think that was a course which any Government could take. I think the Government, in spite of all the difficulties, had to wait until they could get practical unanimity in the nation and in the Commonwealth before they could take that desperate hazard. I am only saying that we should remember that that was another occasion on which there was a divided House, a divided nation, and where we deferred to those wishes. As I say, we brought the nation into action 305 as one, but at a cost which Europe still remembers. It certainly is a very serious situation. It may be considered always wrong to take action. There is always a strong argument against it. But if we never take action, we go from bad to worse.
It may be said that Nasser is not a dictator like Hitler; that this is a cardboard figure; that he is a small man. But the Soviet Union is a dictator like Hitler. The Soviet Union is strong and active and, it may well be, a greater menace to the world even than Hitler was. We have seen recently the kind of action which the Soviet Union is willing to take; the disregard of public opinion, of world opinion, which it is willing to incur. How different would be the situation—hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite denounced us—but how different would be the situation were the Soviet Union to say today, "We have been called upon to cease fire. We have done so. We welcome an international force. We will defer to world opinion over Hungary." But there is not a scintilla of a suggestion of that kind, and it only shows a very wide difference—[Interruption.]—I am trying to make a serious speech, but it is difficult because the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) has a pleasing voice which carries without the slightest effort throughout the whole of the Chamber. Let him be merciful to those of us who have not that advantage.
A wise Frenchman has said, "If you live long enough you will see everything and the reverse of everything." We were speaking of Hungary. I remember as a very young Member of this House at the end of World War I, when Hungary lay at the feet of the allies of the day, visiting that country. I visited Budapest, which was under military occupation. The allied forces were supreme throughout the city. What did I see in that city? I remember seeing there from the balconies the election meetings which they were having—free elections—with the contestants putting forward their case without the slightest interference. Free contests were going on and free men were voting freely, though they had suffered terrible losses and had been the cause of terrible losses to their neighbours. That is the difference between the 306 present position in Hungary and the time when the West was in control of that area. The position in Hungary today is terrible. I agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland that one of the tragedies of the present situation is that we are inhibited from considering, far more actively, taking action on this dreadful menace which, as I say, may well be extended.
I do not wish merely to say these things without bringing forward some positive suggestion. The crux of the whole thing is that we have diverged from one another, not merely in the Commonwealth, but with the United States. We are at loggerheads with the United States at this moment.
One factor in coming to that position has inevitably been the Presidential elections. During that time there is only one slogan, one maxim, on the desk of everyone who has any concern with the United States, and that is, "Keep out. Do not interfere. Do not say anything which may be taken in any way as an attempt from the outside to prejudice the course of the election one way or the other." But it certainly has led to a very wide gap.
Mr. Dulles has been blamed. I do not blame Mr. Dulles as much as some people do, because I think he has done his utmost to interpret faithfully the views of his country to ours, and to ascertain the views of our country and interpret to his. But no one can deny the difference and the divergence. We have seen the plea put forward by Mr. Cabot Lodge, which at first sight looked distasteful and even unreal. It is now stated that his proposal for a withdrawal, an immediate withdrawal, of our troops which are on Egyptian territory has been further interpreted as a withdrawal to go step-by-step with the evolution in the command which we exercise there just now. That we should be perfectly capable of examining and interpreting. But it shows how wide is the divergence when a phrase like that; coming over the tape or the wireless: could be taken—as, indeed, I certainly took it at first—as a request for an immediate withdrawal, without further ado, of our troops, and the restoration of a vacuum into which inevitably would pour forces from either side.
I agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland that this is still a 307 very explosive situation. A cease-fire means one thing, that after the cease-fire there should be a stand-still, and certainly an exploration of the line on which the various parties stand. I never in my life saw a truce which was not concluded between two sides. But this truce has been concluded by a series of unilateral declarations to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and it will need a good deal of clarifying before the true situation is apparent.
I do not believe that the immediate evacuation of our troops, as was in fact demanded by the Bandoeng Powers resolution, would be an advantage. I think it would be no advantage to the world if the ring of steel round Budapest were paralleled by a ring of steel round Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, as it might be, if certain new forces were available in those areas. This is not a situation in which merely after blowing a whistle everyone lays down their arms.
The Israelis have taken a desparate risk. Her Majesty's Government may be composed completely of dunderheads noodles, chuekleheads—but no one ever said that about the Jews. These men have staked their heads on the result of their action, and, believe me, anyone who has had anything to do either with Jews in general or the Israeli leaders in particular—and I have known several of them, including Dr. Weitzman, Ben Gurion, and Moshé Sharett, many of their leaders—know that these are not men who ignore the casting up of odds before they determine what they are to do. To use a Biblical quotation if I may—Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulted whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand.That is their calculation, leaving out altogether Her Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. Elliot
Really, the hon. Member will find nothing about the Soviet Union in Holy Writ.
I say that the Israelis are fighting with a rope round their necks. It is that, among other things, which has undoubtedly led to the desperate character of the adventure on which they are engaged. It will make them difficult men 308 to handle—impossible without a competent force.
I now come to my proposals. I think that we have to consider going even further than the terms of the Amendment. As was stated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, an opportunity for a consultation amongst the Commonwealth will take place at the forthcoming Assembly of the United Nations which is now coming together.
§ Mr. Elliot
No, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies said that there would be an opportunity for a meeting of Ministers—
§ Mr. Elliot
I beg the pardon of the House—the Foreign Secretaries at the forthcoming Assembly of the United Nations. I would go further. I would suggest that on this occasion the Prime Minister himself should for a time lead the delegation of this country and should take advantage of that visit for a consultation at the highest level with the President of the United States. I think it would serve a double purpose. I think that a consultation at top level with the United States is overdue.
To the newly-elected President of the United States we extend all our congratulations and all our sympathy, for he is taking on a weight of responsibility paralleled by no other man alive; and I think that a consultation between a man newly-elected, coming to this tremendous power, voted into it for four years, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, is one of the most urgent and immediate necessities of our time. The fact that by happy good fortune that could be combined with a meeting with Commonwealth Ministers, and others, at the United Nations, is an added advantage, not a disadvantage.
§ Mr. Elliot
Because I think that no one can deny both the adroitness in debate and the cold courage of the Prime Minister. We do not wish to have this decided in a corner or to shirk any of the issues. We are free men and we want it argued out in the face of all the world. 309 We are not at all afraid to go to Washington or anywhere else supposing that there exists a case on which we hope to get world opinion.
§ Mr. Bevan
I was only trying to elicit what the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting. The proposal in the Amendment is that there should be a meeting of Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth for the purpose of trying to reach some accord, or at least some mutual understanding, about what has been happening, and what can be done. If the Prime Minister leads the British delegation to America he will not be meeting the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth. Is it not desirable that he should meet them first before attempting to present his views to the President of the United States?
§ Mr. Elliot
I should have thought that the mere question of logistics, to use a favourite term, would make that almost impossible. Ships are actually sailing now to the Assembly, which is just about to be convened. These are all matters of great urgency. I do not think that we could organise a Commonwealth conference in time to deal with the urgency of the situation with which we are faced. Besides, we here are in no position to lay down what other members of the Commonwealth should do. I suggest that we should make a gesture, by our own Prime Minister leading our own delegation to the United Nations and there carrying out the arguments and discussions which would inevitably follow.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
Could not my right hon. Friend also suggest that the other members of the Commonwealth might also like to send their Prime Ministers to lead their delegations on this really vital issue?
§ Mr. Elliot
I would not go quite so far as that. Let us make the proposal ourselves. Prime Ministers attract Prime Ministers as magnets attract iron. We shall find that if a consultation at that level is taking place other important figures will inevitably move towards it; how important these figures are it is a little difficult to say. I am sure however that to deal with the intensity of affairs in which we are, some such discussion is absolutely necessary. Because we are not at the end of this—this is the beginning. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yes, 310 and they began before this present disturbance arose. We are at the beginning of enormous changes, and what is the end we cannot say. We are going to move into a period of turmoil in an area of the world which has not previously known such an atmosphere of tension and of potential hostilities.
We of the West have regarded these areas as under our aegis, under our umbrella. We have to get rid of that idea altogether. New forces are at work; new ideas are afloat in those regions, and certainly thought will be as necessary as action in dealing with their problems. I make a plea for thought and that talks should be conducted, at the highest level; that is to say, in the first place, between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I have always listened to the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) with interest and respect. He, at least, has a honourable record in connection with the United Nations and support for law, and therefore he speaks with more authority in this debate. Without wishing to be discourteous, I find myself often in agreement with many of his observations, but at the conclusion I am not always perfectly certain which side he is on.
I had hoped today to address the House without indulging in any recrimination or any provocation. I think that the time for recrimination is over. My right hon. Friends have made the case with such ability that there is very little more to say. Indeed, I think that there would be nothing more to say but for one thing. I think that the right hen. Gentleman will agree on this, that the House of Commons is entitled to the facts. Day after day Ministers have come to the House and denied us the facts. Day after day Ministers have come here and misrepresented what we know to be the facts. In the debate today, the Colonial Secretary has got up and made his usual rumbustious and carefree speech on one of the most tragic days of our recent history. He has given no information at all about consultation and has certainly conveyed the impression that he desires to suppress the information and is unwilling to give it to the House because it would prove too shocking if he did.
311 I must, therefore, call the attention of the House to one or two dates. It was on 25th October that Her Majesty's Government first received information of the Israeli mobilisation. So far as I have been able to find out by a careful tracing of all the speeches that have been made—and there have been many made on the subject—all that the Prime Minister ever said to the House was that we urged restraint.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that the day before the new Government of Jordan had been formed and one of its first actions was to set up a joint military command.
§ Mr. Hale
What on earth that has to do with it, I do not know. It is a fact well known to every Member of the House, and how it is relevant to the Israeli mobilisation in this sense, I do not know. The hon. Member presumably makes the point, which has been made by 50 or 60 speakers in the course of 50 or 60 speeches, that Israel had submitted to a great deal of provocation and the unified command was no doubt a threat to her existence. I do not think there has been a single speech made on either side of the House in which that fact can be denied. [Interruption.] I think it would be more courteous if hon. Members would allow me to finish my sentence and complete the thought before making interruptions which place one rather in the situation of a harassed master at a school of mentally retarded juvenile delinquents. We ought to be discussing this on rather high grounds of policy.
On 25th October, Her Majesty's Government received information of the Israeli mobilisation. Was any communication sent to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers then? We have asked that time after time. We have received no assurance. It is known that M. Mollet was in touch with Israel during that period. It is known that when M. Mollet came to London on 30th October he did so with the decision that the French were going into it alone unless we went with them. These facts are at least known and not contradicted. [An HON. MEMBER: "How do you know?"] If the hon. Member would read the French Press he would find ample information 312 on the subject. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the Italian Press."] It was on 29th October that the Foreign Secretary came to the House and announced to the House that information had been received that Russian tanks had ceased to withdraw from Hungary and were manoeuvring on the border.
I beg hon. Members—I am not trying to be provocative; I hope in a few minutes' time to cease to deal with the controversial part of this matter altogether—to consider just what that situation was. There had come to us in the preceding week or fortnight news which was perhaps the best that the world had received since the end of the war. There had come the news of a triumph of the spirit over oppression, perhaps greater and finer than can be seen in all the long history of human persecution. Men were emerging from the tomb in which they had been buried. Men were coming out to a new light and a new liberty.
Let us at least be fair about this up to a point. It had been due to a relaxation of the terrorism of the Stalinist régime that this had become possible. It had at least been due to a modest amount of—I do not like to use the word—liberalising of the dictatorship that this had occurred. A new dawn was rising in the East. There were new hopes. The people could greet their old friends on 29th October.
But on 30th October Her Majesty's Government did this. I do not believe there is a man on either side of the House who believes that the object of the intervention in Egypt had anything to do with parting the combatants. We know on all the evidence that the object was the Canal. We know that the Prime Minister had been pleading with America to come in and had pleaded with the Commonwealth countries to come in and had been urging military action ever since he so unnecessarily called up our forces in July.
That was the position on that vital day when so much hope of liberty came. It used to be said under the Nazi régime that there was one advantage, and one only, of being immured in the living tombs from which one had little hope of emerging; it was the one place under the Nazi régime where a man could speak 313 freely. Byron understood that when he talked of the:Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind!Brightest in dungeons, Liberty! thou art,For there thy habitation is the heart"—We started this. What is the measure of our responsibility? I do not know; but if we share only a small percentage of the responsibility for the crimes which have happened since, the burden upon us is one of which we can only acquit ourselves by a conscientious attempt in the future to redeem the errors of the past and a conscientious attempt—
§ Mr. Hale
I have just been talking on that subject. Does not the noble Lord agree with me? I have always admired his honesty and integrity. I have always done that, and so have other hon. Members. The noble Lord has just walked into the Chamber. If he had listened to the debate, he would have heard what I have said time after time. I respected him the other day when adulatory hon. Members were cheering the Prime Minister but the noble Lord retained his seat, sitting tight-lipped as did so many others who were not noticed by the Press, and as indeed did one of Her Majesty's Ministers. I repeat that I have always respected him for his integrity.
I was one of those who in 1947 and 1948 urged the establishment of a permanent Commonwealth Conference—not with any legislative functions, of course—because I had found on those limited visits which I had been able to pay to Commonwealth countries, at my own expense—the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has never during eleven years invited me to make a visit, although I have conveyed its greetings and messages to Commonwealth Parliaments on two occasions—that there were many subjects on which I believed that there ought to be permanent consultation. However, the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) says that he does not worry much about the opinion of India. Many of us do.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
The hon. Gentleman must not misquote me. I said that I cannot see how India can take part in these discussions at the 314 present time in view of her attitude over Hyderabad and Kashmir in the past. That was my statement.
§ Mr. Hale
That is, of course, a devastating attack upon the Government. How can we discuss Hungary after Egypt? How can we discuss Egypt after Cyprus? How can we discuss Cyprus after Kenya? Where docs the argument end? Let me remind the hon. Member that it was Mr. Nehru's wisdom, patience and courage that helped to bring the armistice negotiations in Korea to a satisfactory conclusion—
§ Mr. Hale
—and solved the problem of Indo-China. We get some tittering from the other side of the House when Mr. Nehru's name is mentioned. He is one of the great men of the world. He would be the first to say that there was a greater than he who preceded him, whom right hon. Gentlemen opposite used to call "a half-naked fakir".
This lack of consultation has done us infinite harm in Asia. Anyone who has been in touch with Asian opinion knows what the Asians were thinking long before this expedition was decided upon. They were saying, "This is an act of colonialism. The Prime Minister of England is using language to Colonel Nasser, a coloured man, which he would never use to a European Prime Minister." They were saying, "These are threats against a weak country by a strong country." They were saying, "This is a relic of the old imperialism."
I think that was an over-simplification, and I do not by any means agree with it, but it must be understood that this was the position. It was rather unforgivable of Mr. Foster Dulles to make his reference to colonialism. It is one of the new experiences for hon. Members in this House that after eleven years in Parliament we can now criticise Mr. Foster Dulles without having Tory shouts of "anti-Americanism".
I was one of those who raised the question in respect of Guatemala. My right hon. and noble Friend Earl Attlee, opening a foreign affairs debate, mentioned Guatemala with the moderation which he always used in his speeches. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) said that 315 it was a long whine against America. That was the attitude then.
The worst thing in the world today—if we are to get the United Nations right and working, let us start with the first thing—is the American colonialism in China, which has held the bar against any major reform. Is there an hon. Member who would say that he thinks that Chiang Kai-Shek should be representing 500 million Chinese on the Security Council at a moment like this? Do hon. Members realise the anxiety of the Chinese for resurgence and their desire to take part in international life? That will not be realised, perhaps, by anyone who has not been to China and has not talked to those kindly, cultured, decent people who have lived for so long in the shadows and are now trying to emerge. Anyone who has done that cannot but be convinced that their Communism is not Russian Communism.
The Chinese have established a very curious contradiction in terms. They have something approaching both a democracy and a dictatorship. They have their full freedom of criticism. It may very well be that one could not alter that régime. They have party systems which are different from ours. However, there is no question that they are much more anxious to be in the Indian orbit than the Soviet orbit in foreign affairs.
If we are going to start again—I hope we are going to start again—without undue recrimination, one of the first things that we have to do if we are to have China seated at the Security Council is to say that we will not worry so much about whether our policy is going to be political or economical but will start doing the thing because it is right. I believe that a foreign policy based on that principle might have some hope of success.
China is a nation of 500 million people, many of them, of course, still living in acute poverty. I think that some of the claims made about the magnitude of the economic recovery have been absurd. There are areas of China to which few people have gone since the revolution, but we can see their educational institutions and everywhere we can see modern Russian machines, modern Bulgarian machines, modern Hungarian machines, but nothing from the United Kingdom because of the silly blockade.
316 So a new generation, arising in what will become one of the most powerful countries in the world as time goes by, will not be touched by our thought, will not know our literature, our traditions and the contribution that Britain can always make, or always could make, to international moral standards. It is a tragedy and we should say that that state of affairs will come to an end.
I want to return to dealing with the Middle East, and here it may be that I shall strike a discordant note. I have never seen why someone should not nationalise a canal if they so want. If there is a breach of treaty obligations, that is another matter. One has to have consultations and seek to revise the treaty. However, I have always taken the view—and, indeed, I am pleased to see how some of my old views are now becoming popular—that there should, be international canals, internationally owned and internationally defended.
If hon. Members care to read a pamphlet published in 1947 and called "Keep Left", they will find that suggestion, but of course we did not say what places in the world we wanted nationalised. One says that Panama must be nationalised and the Straits of Gibraltar, the Dardanelles and, possibly, the Barian Sea and that one must try to establish a new rule of law and get it accepted. It is easier to suggest these things than to get them carried out, but at least I have always taken the view—and it seems to be a reasonable view, although all experience contradicts it—that if one is to have foreign policy at all, it is a good idea to know which way one is going, to know one's ultimate objectives, even if they are not all immediately practicable.
There was a rule of the House that one did not criticise the head of a friendly State. I remember that when I wanted to say that King Farouk was a dirty old lecher I came under rebuke. That rule seems to have fallen in abeyance. I urge the House to remember that Egypt is a country of about 20 million people, most of them very poor. King Farouk was ejected by a coup d'etat and replaced by a military dictatorship. No one knowing my views would expect me to regard a military dictatorship very highly, but it is the Government of that area, and, in the words of the famous tribute 317 paid to our Prime Minister, the best one Egypt has got at the moment.
If our interest in Egypt had been a constructive interest, if our interest in Egypt had been an interest in the people of Egypt, then indeed it might have been worth while. What is the history of this matter? It is of a foreign policy in the Middle East dominated by Standard Oil and its subsidiaries. Here I now begin to see the Labour Party returning to its old traditions. We shall have a debate on oil. We used to talk a lot about oil. It is extremely important to talk about oil and this great international cartel which in power transcends half a dozen small countries.
The situation in the Canal was not on the whole a very satisfactory one even before Colonel Nasser made his rather foolish and rather provocative nationalisation statement. We are told that it was under international control. Of course it was never under international control. It was run by a company with headquarters in Paris and doing extremely well and paying an annual dividend about six times as much as the original capital. In spite of the fact that the value of the franc has come down to 1,025 to the £, the over-all value of the shares has increased.
There are nine directors of whom six represent shipping interests and three the Government. The company did not undertake the international control. Until the present Minister of Defence decided to evacuate Egypt, that task was undertaken by the British soldier. The British taxpayer paid the cost of defending the Canal and the company in Paris collected the dividends. That is not international control of the Canal any more than Standard Oil has international control of the Saudi Arabian oilfields.
The Prime Minister came to the House some time ago and said that he had established—and it was a cornerstone of his policy—in that area the Bagdad Pact, a conference of five countries which would meet and provide an effective barrier to Russian infiltration in Egypt. It was the old theory of the cordon sanitaire. If one is to have a cordon sanitaire it must at least be a cord. It must at least hang together or its members hang separately.
Today we heard the news that the four other Bagdad Pact countries have met 318 and passed a resolution asking us to get out of Egypt. Those countries include Pakistan, a Commonwealth country which up to now has been by far the most docile Commonwealth country we have ever had. I do not recollect any previous disagreement with Pakistan on international affairs. So the Bagdad Pact has gone.
Later there came the trade negotiations with the Soviet Union. There followed—and personally I do not blame Her Majesty's Government for this, because they were absolutely helpless over the Aswan Dam—Washington's decision to take no action, and then Mr. Dulles coming along with the World Bank behind him and offering 200 million dollars for the Aswan Dam. I complained at the time, because we did not attempt to consult Commonwealth countries and colonial countries approaching Commonwealth status.
Riparian nations in the Commonwealth were not consulted. However, one wanted to help the people of Egypt and had it been done in that spirit, it might have been an act of real statesmanship. Had there been a conference and a plan to settle the conflicting needs of the countries involved, it might have been very good, because, behind this picture of Colonel Nasser—and there is no value in referring to the head of a State as a barrow-boy or a cardboard dictator, or making up these phrases if one can avoid it—are the fellaheen.
Five thousand years ago in that lovely and fertile narrow gorge of the Upper Nile, the fellaheen began with their shadouf, their balancing stick of bamboo or some other wood, loaded at one end with some dried mud, to bucket out water from the Nile and irrigate the surrounding lands. The record of Egypt can be summed up in the one sentence; there came the days of Egypt's fame; there came the whole story of the Pharoahs and their power; Egypt at one time was one of the dominating countries of the world; there came the Roman occupation, the withdrawal into Africa, the years that the locusts ate and, centuries after, the British occupation which lasted 70 years; and at the end of that 5,000 years the fellaheen in the Upper Nile today is still there with his shadouf and his little tripod, bucketing out his water and pouring it on to his land.
319 That is the extent of the progress which civilisation has given to him. In the poorest of continents, he is still one of the poorest. Yet, a few miles up the Nile, one can see under the Anglo-Egyptian condominium the Gazeira scheme from which, with a little help and a little organisation, they have been able to attain a standard of prosperity enjoyed by no other peasant in Africa.
The tragic approach which has been made from time to time to the problem is exemplified in one thing more than any other. We rush in with the offer of £50 million or so to Egypt—at least the United States do. We rush in with an offer that means something to Colonel Nasser—something which I believe has been a major ambition, because I believe that he does want at least to help his own people, whether he is right or wrong about his methods. We rush in without any consultation, and yet up the Nile and the Blue Nile there is Ethiopia with all its problems, Ethiopia with its mud still going down the Nile and forming the soil which gives the Sudan and Egypt their prosperity, Ethiopia without the necessary afforestation to protect its hillsides and give it prosperity. No one thinks about Ethiopia because Ethiopia is not a threat, Ethiopia is not a menace, Ethiopia is not a Power.
Last night I turned to an old book that I had not turned to for many years. It was first published in 1902 and recently reissued. It is John A. Hobson's study, "Imperialism". If hon. Members will pause for a moment on the situation today in Hungary and the Middle East, they might listen to these words and feel that the Asian view on our policy was not perhaps so unfair as has been sometimes suggested:Aggressive imperialism is virtually confined to the coercion by stronger or better armed nations of nations which are or seem to be weaker and incapable of effective resistance. Everywhere some definite economic or political gain is sought by the imperial aggressor. The chivalrous spirit of imperialism leads neither Great Britain nor any other state to assail a powerful state however tyrranous or to assist a weak state reputed to be poor.I do not think there is a more classic statement of the events of the last few weeks, because those of us who are loudest in demanding United Nations action in Egypt are a little appalled at 320 the consequences of United Nations action in Hungary. Let us face it. The right hon. Gentleman referred to Munich. It is a long time since I blamed the appeasers of Munich. It is a long time since I condemned the action, because I thought that when Mr. Chamberlain said that he was the one man who could look into the abyss and realise the consequences of action, at least he was saying something which was moving and which was true. We all of us in the last day or two have been brought to look into an abyss much worse than that envisaged in 1938. Most of us would recoil from the prospect if it were humanly possible to do so.
Therefore, we are brought to two propositions. I must conclude now because I have been speaking for 27 minutes and I had not intended to exceed that time, but there are two things I want to say. What is the foundation of an effective foreign policy? Treaties? They are constantly torn up. We have torn up one or two. There was the Tripartite Declaration quite recently. Alliances? Secret diplomacy still persists. The United Nations? It is impossible for the United Nations to act with sufficient speed in an emergency. Though I am all for standing by the United Nations, it is folly not to recognise that if Russian tanks crossed the Elbe there is nothing the United Nations could ever do in time, and France would be occupied before their deliberations were finished.
One of my right hon. Friends said that he did not think it was possible to agree a foreign policy in the Commonwealth. I do not myself call myself Christian. We call ourselves a Christian country and certainly I have found in the New Testament as good a foreign policy as I have ever found in a party pamphlet. I base that foreign policy on one statement that I copied yesterday from a United Nations publication recently issued. They are the opening words:Out of the world's 900 million children two-thirds—or 600 million—lack adequate food, clothing, shelter and protection against disease. All they can look forward to is a short life burdened by privation and debilitating ills. Because most under-privileged children live in countries with the least means of improving child health standards, international aid is both essential and welcome.Mr. Speaker, you do not make friends of people by lending them money. I have 321 lent quite a lot in my time, when I had some money, and I made a lot of enemies by that process. Mr. Speaker, you do not make permanent friends of people because you are in a common jam together, but you can make friends of the people of the world if you preach a doctrine of love instead of a doctrine of hate, a doctrine of sympathy and help instead of a doctrine of power.
This House was confronted yesterday with one of the direst problems it has ever been called upon to confront. I mentioned it in my opening remarks, and I will not repeat it. We finished on a little note that we would send a little help to refugees. People went away with a pious satisfaction that something at least had been done, that we had shown our sympathy with the suffering, and yet Europe is full of refugees whom we have neglected since the end of the last war. There is an organisation to look after them but it has no money. Year after year it has published reports that its work is frustrated by the failure of people to give help.
We gave £80,000 to this organisation, and we are a country that can spend £1,500 million on armaments. I am not attacking the present Government on this; my own Government was pretty bad. This has been the policy for the last ten or eleven years. If we go on with this policy we stand condemned as whited sepulchres before the whole world. For the refugees we give the equivalent of 1d. per year for every person in the Kingdom. There are 850,000 refugees in Arabia, and 200,000 in the Sinai Peninsula, and for them the figure works out at ¼d. per year per head that we give out of our goodness to the poor and suffering of the world.
When we decided to spend £1,500 million or £1,600 million a year on armaments. I remember that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) expressed dubiety whether we should get value for it. He said at the time, in a speech which I should not like to recall now because of the circumstances in which it was made, that there was such a shortage of minerals and of material and labour that all we should do would be to put prices up; but I do not think that he, in his most brilliant and thoughtful moments, ever thought that we should get less. I do not think that he thought that we should be told, after 322 four or five years of this stupendous rearmament in which we nearly doubled the normal post-war expenditure and multiplied by twelve or thirteen the prewar expenditure, that we had not got any aeroplanes or army and that if we wanted to take on one of the weakest countries in the world we should have to call up reservists and train them for three months.
My right hon. Friend, in his brilliant speech last week, made reference to the hydrogen bomb. We have now reached the stage when arms are useless, utterly useless. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member has got hiccups, I suggest that he goes outside and puts a key down his neck. Does the hon. Member wish to intervene in Hungary with armed forces?
§ Mr. Hale
I am not talking to the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) but to someone behind him.
Let us face the fact that it would require very terrible circumstances indeed in which any Government of Great Britain could envisage the possible use of the hydrogen bomb. We have reached a stage where we failed to divert Colonel Nasser from his purpose. In those circumstances, we are entitled to wonder what is the good of it. Let us at least start by a substantial cut in what is a grossly wasteful expenditure and let us apply that money to the ends of decency.
Let us send our lads out, this time as messengers for health, as scientists who will try to bind wounds and cure disease, as men who will apply modern science to the 50 million people in the tropics who are suffering from yaws and the 150 million people suffering from malaria. Let us try to wipe out the great scourges that afflict mankind. If we do that, we shall have started a foreign policy which will win us the enduring respect and the love of many of the peoples of the world
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
I hope that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) will forgive me if I do not follow the theme on which he has spoken. I would not attempt to match either his speed of delivery or the wit which he so often brings to the House in his speeches.
323 I would intervene very briefly to put a somewhat different view from that which has so far been put from these benches in these debates. When the Government announced that British troops had been committed to the Middle East the country was naturally bewildered and the House was deeply divided. At the time, I supported the Government, not on the merits of the case then but because our troops were in transit and, set against the background of a divided House, any dissent in the party responsible for Government would have put our troops in an impossible position.
Now the Government have had occasion and time to deploy not only their troops but their arguments. We have reached, as it were, the end of one phase of this operation. It would be less than honest and less than generous not to pay great tribute to the courage and resolution shown by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, and their colleagues, in carrying out what they considered to be the right policy: cold, cool courage. It will be less than honest not to say that if, out of the confusion and of the situation that we now find, there is a better possibility of U.N.O. realising that it must have force, that is a partial success. I think every hon. Member would agree that if that does emerge, that must be considered a success.
Hon. Members opposite would not agree with me when I say that the majority of the country, on the evidence that we have at present, is behind the Government in this action. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is my belief. It is entirely hypothetical, and one does not know. I am sure that the vast majority of my hon. Friends are behind the Government, and I believe that the Conservative constituency associations are also behind the Government.
There comes a time when, if one does not agree with the Government, one has to make one's position clear. It is said that there is never a good time to be a rebel, but if one takes that view one might as well keep eternal silence. I should only like to say that, as the Government deploy their reasons and their evidence, I am more of the opinion that 324 their policy was unnecessary and wrong. [An HON. MEMBER: "Go over to the other side."] To suggest that I should be on the other side is a suggestion that this is a party issue. It is not. It is too important for that. If we take the view that the Government's action was unnecessary we must accept that if no action had been taken there were many very grave risks. I accept that.
To take the view that the Government were wrong—I hesitate to use the word "moral" because in politics the word does not mean very much—to say that the Government were morally wrong, is to suggest that they have put the whole status of England in a worse position than it was some weeks ago. I accept that that, I am afraid, is the position. Against that background, which is my sincere and very deep feeling, I can only hope that the Government will show as much courage in extricating our forces as they had to have in sending them in. I hope that the method of extricating our forces may provide some way in which we can find unity. I hope that those who are critics of the Government can agree with that.
I have intervened only to make one point to the Government: it seems essential that the withdrawal of our troops must be under some arrangement with U.N.O. I question whether this House is competent to decide on the details of the phasing of the exit of our troops and the entry of another force, and of the composition of the other force. With events moving so fast, I do not think we are able to judge the exact details.
I do urge the Government to realise that we are not in a position to lay down too many conditions. Naturally, every effort must be made to see that our troops are safe, but the idea that we are either materially or morally in a position to make too many conditions would be wrong. I only hope that that is in the back of the Government's mind in the negotiations which we hope are going on.
It would be a credit to the House if we could find some unanimity in the method of extricating our forces. For my part, I think that a more or less complete concession to what U.N.O. demands is, unfortunately, the inevitable consequence of a policy that was neither necessary nor right.
§ 5.48 p.m.
The Rev. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)
The House of Commons is the proud possessor of many fine traditions. One of them is its willingness and preparedness to acknowledge moral courage. As the speaker following the hon. Member for Sutton (Mr. J. J. Astor), I applaud the moral courage of his speech, to which we have just listened. In my political life I have always held loyalty to be one of the cardinal virtues. Therefore, I can appreciate that it must be very difficult for people who are jealous of party loyalties to speak as the hon. Member has spoken, when the tone and message of the speech are not in agreement with the general outline of his party's policy.
While I am referring to this matter, perhaps the House will allow me to refer with sincere gratitude and real appreciation to the moral courage of the former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs who, too, showed the moral courage which the House is always prepared to admire.
We have all been witnesses of, and indeed in one sense participators in, something closely resembling a Greek tragedy, according to the Euripides tradition. A Greek tragedy is supposed to evoke feelings of terror and of pity. Many of us have known how those two basic emotions have been evoked during these last ten days. It seemed sometimes as though as a nation we were being driven inexorably and inevitably to a terrible disaster.
If my recollection of the tragedies of Euripides is correct, towards the end of those Greek tragedies a special dramatic contrivance known as the deus ex machina appeared and the appearance of that intervention was for the purpose of solving the seemingly insoluble. On Tuesday some of us felt that the Prime Minister appeared in that guise, but it was a very short-lived release from the tragedy which seems to be heightening and intensifying day by day.
I hope that I do no injustice to hon. Members opposite, but generally their theme song during these debates has been one which could be summed up in the phrase, "The end justifies the means". I say this to their credit, none of them has seemed to indulge in any fictitious glorification of the means adopted—but they have insisted throughout that at least the end for which they and the present 326 Government are striving has justified and will justify the means necessary for that action.
That is a very dangerous political philosophy to adopt. It has the element of something very Machiavellian in it. I personally believe that a much wiser approach and a much sounder philosophy was uttered by a great Free Churchman fifty years ago, when he said:What is morally wrong cannot be politically right.I take my stand on that.
What were the means that the Government felt to be necessary and inevitable in the present circumstances? They flagrantly ignored the United Nations Charter—a very dangerous approach to any international problem—they delivered an impossible ultimatum to a nation which cannot be spoken of in the same breath as Britain in the military sense, and when, as was obvious, that ultimatum could not be accepted, they immediately commenced military operations. When the first bomb dropped, probably on some military airfield in Egypt, it jettisoned not only dynamite, but also the good name of this country. The repercussions of that first bomb and the bombs which followed it have yet to be fully evaluated.
What were the ends, what were tie objectives which the Government had in mind? They have been stated in this House time after time. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have insisted that the chief objective was to bring about a cessation of hostilities between the Israelis and the Egyptians. At the present juncture that has been achieved. Surely, however, this present cessation of hostilities—even though the United Nations police force is now being set up and may well be taking up its position, as all of us agree it should be taking its position in the near future—does not ensure—because people remember for more than a few months—that the Egyptians and their fellow Arabs will not remember for years to come the humiliation which has come to them as a result of this act of aggression on the part of Israel. We have not come to the full reckoning of that, nor of its implications, in our debates.
The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and other hon. Members have reiterated time after time that they were very concerned about British lives and 327 British interests and about the freedom of the Canal. It is true that so far as we know now lives of British nationals have not been jeopardised to any great extent, but the whole point is that the bills for this tragic disaster will be coming in for years and years to come. It may be that someone three years hence will have a dagger in his back for what has been done in these last ten days. History unfolds itself in very strange ways in this world. We must not think that because up to the present stage there has been no serious loss of British lives everything is finished. There will be an aftermath, and he will be a very brave man who would confidently prophesy how this will affect even British lives in future.
The announcement made by the Minister of Fuel and Power yesterday at least gives the lie to the claim that British interests have been safeguarded. The oil supplied to Britain and Western Europe is not freer now. We have already had a 10 per cent. cut, and everyone knows that that is just a precursor of more serious and drastic cuts to come in the very near future. In an evaluation of the means which have been used in this terrible business, we should not lose sight of the considerations which I have put before the House. Let us for a short time think of some of the consequences of the action of the Government. I felt very sad indeed that some of the cynical references made here to the United Nations were made, at least on two occasions in two speeches, by my hon. Friends. Cynicism is not very compatible with Socialism in my understanding of those words.
I must regret the references to the United Nations by the Foreign Secretary in particular. I exempt the Prime Minister to some extent, but I have been very saddened by some of the references by the Foreign Secretary to the United Nations, and particularly by the intonation of his voice when making them. In this House we can fasten on to the intonation of the voice as well as the content of the remarks. Let us get this perfectly straight: the United Nations as an organisation is as strong as the constituent nations make it. If Britain sabotages the United Nations and weakens it, how can it possibly function as a powerful institution? We must not think of the United 328 Nations as something abstract and divorced from the nations which make it up.
We have rendered a great dis-service to the functioning of the United Nations during the last few days. I can well believe that our alliance with America will stand the test of the misunderstandings which have occurred during the last days. It is as much to the interests of the Americans as it is to ours that that alliance should be indissoluble. But no one should pretend that real harm has not been done to the good will which is felt in many quarters in the United States towards Britain and Britain's particular problems and difficulties in these days. To see that one has only to read some of the letters in The Times and the Manchester Guardian, written by Americans who proudly claim themselves as Anglophiles, and who have been saddened to the very foundation of their being by the way in which we have acted during the last few days.
I thoroughly agree with the part of the Amendment which stresses the importance of summoning without any further delay a conference of the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth. So far as I can see, it is very difficult to know how much harm has been done to the Commonwealth as a body. Our old friends, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, will remain our friends whatever happens, but some hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock), who is listening to me now and has already made his personal position clear, must remember that the words spoken in this House travel all the way to India and to Pakistan.
The Rev. Ll. Williams
All the words spoken in the House travel to the East. I deprecate very much the scurvy way, the cheap and the sneering way in which some people have seen fit to refer to Pandit Nehru. We have not so many friends in the world today—I say that with regret—that we can afford to lose the friendship of a leader like Pandit Nehru and a nation like India. We shall need a bridge in the East. China is on the way towards no one knows what in future development. No one understands 329 the Chinese better than the Indians. No other nation has a closer affinity with that strange people, 600 million of them, who are marching forward to some strange destiny. We may well need the friendly good offices of the leaders of the Indian nation in the future in that respect.
May I refer very briefly, because I admit immediately that this is very speculative, to the tragic events in Hungary? I say without any equivocation that we have plunged ourselves, open-eyed, into very serious disaster from the moral standpoint, but both quantitatively and qualitatively what has happened in Hungary is much worse. Qualitatively it is worse because at least in our military attack on Egypt we confined ourselves, by and large, to military airfields and other military targets, and also because we have not tried to interfere with the Egyptian people's ideas of how they should be governed. I think it is right and fair that that should be said—that the nature of our, I think, follies in Egypt do not compare with the savage brutality which has been revealed in the Russian attitude towards Hungary. Quantitatively, it is worse because, although we have no official estimates, it is very likely that the casualties in Hungary are infinitely greater than the casualties in Egypt.
It is very difficult, I admit immediately, to discuss the causal relationship between our military intervention in Egypt and this terrible business in Hungary. Some of us may overstress the causality. Some of us perhaps tend to minimise the possibility of a link between the two tragic events. I find myself in the middle position. I believe that they are linked, but only perhaps in a psychological sense. Egypt was a smokescreen for Hungary. It was, I am certain, not an instigation of Hungary. That may be regarded as a quibble, but we are dealing with imponderables and no person can speak dogmatically on these things, about which we have such scant information.
I want to bring my remarks to a close by bringing the subject to a sharper focus. It would be impertinent of me to probe into the domestic matters of the Conservative Party, and I do not intend to do so, except to make this reference. I believe that most hon. Members opposite have been troubled because they feel as all decent people feel—that we have 330 been standing and are now standing on the brink of a disaster. But they have been actuated, understandably, by considerations of party loyalty and loyalty to leaders.
Nevertheless, I cannot speak without bitterness about one section of the Conservative Party. I am not unmindful of the fact—goodness knows, all of us have sufficient imagination to know—that any Prime Minister carries on his shoulders a terrifying burden of responsibility. I have thought very often and very sincerely about that burden on the Prime Minister. But I must speak my mind. I feel that his shoulders are too weak to carry the burden any longer, and that that burden has been made heavier by the pushing and the prodding of the people who, notoriously, are known as the Suez group. How can any statesman carry a heavy burden of responsibility when he has been harrowed and harassed and driven by people who do not share that responsibility but who, in their political thinking, are a danger to the destiny of this nation?
I finish on this note. It may not be too popular, perhaps, to quote any words spoken by Mr. John Foster Dulles, but he used one expression which has remained with us because of its dramatic impact. He referred, albeit in another context, to the need for "an agonising re-appraisal". I am one who loves this country. We are sometimes taunted that we do not love our country, and the obvious reply is that we may not love the same things in our country as do some hon. Members opposite; they may love other things in our country. What I love is the Welfare State and the fundamental decency of the British people. I am not concerned about military might. These taunts are, therefore, pointless and serve no useful purpose.
All of us, surely, are mature enough at this time not to harbour the idea, "My country right or wrong, in all circumstances and in any circumstance". That surely is something which we have left behind long enough ago.
We are a divided nation, and we really must try now to see what oar position in the world is. We are not the military power that we were. Economically, we are not as powerful as I should like us to be. We must have an appraisal, a 331 re-appraisal of what we can do, and, as I see it, our greatest contribution for the future will be to reveal the moral leadership which I am certain this country is still capable of revealing to the world.
That is why I feel so genuinely, so terribly sorry that during these last few days the present Government stand condemned for what they have done. I do not want to speak too much in a party sense on this issue, which concerns the destinies of nations and not the fluctuating fortunes of Elections, but I feel terribly sad that an opportunity was granted—and was missed.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Mr., Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
In following the hon. Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams), I would like to say at once that I do not hold to the philosophy—indeed, I think that today very few people in the free world do—of "My country right or wrong, I serve thee." The chief burden on all of us who are faced with today's ghastly problems is concerned with preventing a third world war. My approach to this Middle Eastern problem has been entirely along that line, and as I listened this afternoon to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), I could not help but recall the saying that the more things change the more they remain the same.
In 1936 this country faced a situation somewhat similar, in my view, to the situation in which we now find ourselves. The question then was whether we and the French should act together to prevent the German occupation of the Rhineland. I was then a soldier at Aldershot, and I remember so well the words of the generals ringing in my ears, when they said that war with Germany was inevitable. I remember how one May afternoon in 1936 I went over to Chequers to meet Stanley Baldwin and my aunt, and when I was talking with him at that time I could see what weighed so heavily with him. It was the adverse effect that any action he might take would have, first, on American public opinion and on opinion in the Commonwealth, and secondly—and he was a sincere man—the great difficulty he would have in committing a divided country, especially a democracy, to war. Looking back on those events, I am convinced 332 —and I do not say this lightly and with-our feeling—that had Baldwin taken a different course and come to a different decision the Second World War would probably have been prevented.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker rose—
§ Mr. Ridsdale
I would prefer to make my speech in my own way. I believe that action, if taken then, would have been the stitch in time to save nine and would have prevented the Second World War.
Against this background of history I have been judging the events of the last nine days, and I am convinced that the action that our Prime Minister has taken has averted a third world war in spite of the present difficulties. In common with many other people in this country, I must say that I admire the superb moral qualities in the Prime Minister, because I know with what great difficulty he must have come to this decision, as indeed all of us do who conscientiously support him.
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite have been speaking about Asia. Some of them may have experience of Asia, others may have made visits there. In my twenties I lived in Japan, and to the best of my ability I tried to understand a race very different from ours. If there is one thing more vital than anything else in dealing with oriental countries I should say it is that in order to bring them with us we must not wash our dirty linen in public.
I know the sincerity of right hon. and hon. Members opposite in bringing forward the views which they have expressed, but unfortunately in the East that is taken as weakness. If there is any reason why India, Pakistan, Iraq and Ceylon and other countries in the East are not following us today it is because this country is speaking with a divided voice.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East) rose—
§ Mr. Ridsdale
No, if I could make my speech in my own way I should prefer it.
I would remind hon. Members opposite of what happened in Europe before the war when we spoke with a divided voice. Alas, some of the then leaders of 333 the Opposition, those experienced Labour statesmen, are no longer with us; they have confessed their shortcomings. Those were the years when Mr. Lansbury, then Chairman of the Labour Party, said that the best way to peace was to lay down our arms. I must say that it was that attitude which was taken up by the German Ambassador, Ribbentrop, who telegraphed back to his Government and said that this country was soft. [Interruption.] I will ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to weigh their words when talking about—
§ Mr. Warbey rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot have two hon. Members on their feet at the same time. The hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) has not given way.
§ Mr. Warbey
I thank the hon. Gentleman very much for giving way. I merely wanted to ask him this. When he was talking about the divided voices in this country before the war, would he include among those voices the voice of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) who was attacking the Chamberlain Government?
§ Mr. Ridsdale
It was a very different voice from the voices of other people on the other side of the House who did not wish to rearm the country at that time.
The point that I am making is that we have seen the example and consequence of disunity in Europe and how it led to the Second World War, but have hon. Members opposite weighed the consequence of disunity in Asia? In 1932 when the Japanese invaded Manchuria we tried to preserve the League of Nations by getting the Americans to act with us. Unfortunately we failed. We tried throughout the whole summer of 1941 again to get the Americans to act with us against the Japanese intention to move southwards in the Pacific. We failed to obtain that unity. In 1950, at the time of Korea, American policy and British policy were out of step. Again we saw the result in an aggressive move in Korea.
If we are to prevent the Third World War it is not enough to have a divided 334 House and a divided country. Let those who talk about India, Pakistan and cither Commonwealth countries not corning with us weigh some of their words, because in the same way as in the past actions of disunity have caused wars, I believe that one of the great factors which may bring on the Third World War, whether we like it or not, will be our failure to act with the Americans and with the Commonwealth, and that failure, above all else, is caused by the utterances of hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
May I ask the hon. Gentleman a question? He has spoken of events in 1936. I voted in an all-party committee with Sir Austen Chamberlain for action in the Rhineland. That action could have been taken under the Covenant or the Locarno Pact with the League of Nations approval. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Goebbels explained in 1938 that Hitler went into the Rhineland because Britain and France had sabotaged the League of Nations over Abyssinia? Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that the Labour Party Conference in 1935 voted by a majority of 93 per cent. for military action against Mussolini to stop the invasion of Abyssinia?
§ Mr. Ridsdale
The point that I was making was that our failure in those years before the war arose from the fact that the Labour Party, although it may have voted, never supported the defence of this country. By this very disunity in the country, the Second World War was started.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
I should like to take up one or two points which have been made by the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale). I suggest to him that during the 1930s the Labour Party had collective security as one of the foremost planks in its programme, so that there would be a collective force, the kind of international police force which is being lauded by the party opposite.
I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that when Japan invaded Manchuria at the beginning of the 1930s it was the then Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon as he then was, who refused to agree to the 335 suggestion put forward by the American Secretary of State that economic sanctions should be applied against Japan. He also said—I forget his exact words—that the more things change, the more they remain what they were before. It is the purpose of my speech to make some points along those lines.
We are facing as a country one of the greatest crises that we have ever had to face. The second Commandment says that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children until the third and fourth generation. I do not want to enter into any ecclesiastical arguments about personal salvation, but we must be aware by looking around us today that we are in some ways having to pay the price of the mistakes of our forefathers, even centuries ago when they instiuted, for instance, the slave trade.
I will not go any further into that, but I should like to refer to The Hague Conference of 1899 which was called on the initiative of the then Tsar of Russia. I should like to quote from Lowes Dickinson's "International Anarchy". He refers to German documents published after the First World War and says that Lord Salisbury, our Foreign Minister, in conversation with the German Ambassador at a private interview, gave himthe distinct impression that this country will take part in the Conference, and will recognise to the full the peaceable intentions of the Russian Tsar, but in the discussions will assent to nothing which may limit the further development of the fighting efficiency of the English Fleet or compel England to submit important English interests to the decision of third parties.I suggest that the action of the Government during the past three months has been precisely along those lines. They hold that Britain has special interests in the Canal. I do not deny that, but the supreme difference between the Government and the Opposition is that we believe that international difficulties of that kind should be settled by a third party and that we should not resort to force.
Indeed, the Kellogg Pact, to which we were signatories twenty years ago and which is still binding, laid down—and we agreed—that we should renounce armed force in settling our affairs. But in this case the Government have prepared deliberately for the use of force in support of our interests in a foreign country. 336 That is the difference. To the world and to many of us here it seems that the Government used the Israeli attack against Egypt in Sinai last week as an excuse to use force, as indeed they had prepared for it at the end of July and the beginning of August, to settle an international dispute, instead of referring it to the International Court or to the United Nations.
I am old enough to have remembered as a boy the Russo-Japanese War of 1903. I quote again from Lowes Dickinson:The result was a crushing victory for Japan, and, as future historians may have to record, a turning-point in the history of the world.Reference has already been made today to the over-running of South-East Asia by Japan in six weeks in 1942. Hong Kong, the Philippines, Borneo, Indo-China, Indonesia, New Guinea, Malaya and Burma were over-run by Japan in six week. We cannot afford to antagonise Asia. We cannot afford to think that anybody who is not of the white race is some inferior kind of being. That is impossible today.
The League of Nations, at the end of the First World War, gave Britain and the world a great hope. Many hon. Members here will recall those weeks before the day in November, 1918, when the Armistice came, which we shall be celebrating on Sunday. Nobody can forget the hope that surged through Britain, and through Europe particularly, at the suggestion of President Wilson that we should try to form some kind of international organisation. The League of Nations failed because the countries in it were not prepared to support it to the full. At the end of the Second World War, the United Nations organisation was formed.
All these three institutions to which I have referred, The Hague Conference of 1899, the League of Nations in 1920, and the United Nations organisation in 1945, were organisations to support the rule of international law. That, I think, is why we on these benches, being so hurt, have voiced our opposition to the Government and the party opposite most strongly, because the party opposite has resorted to war in support of Britain's interests in the Suez Canal instead of referring them to a court of law or to an international court of some kind.
337 The Government, in 1954, decided that it was necessary to withdraw from the Canal Zone the British forces which had been there for many years and, I think, totalled about 70,000 or 80,000, because to hold the Canal under modern conditions, with the hydrogen bomb always in the background, was an impossibility. Two years later, we have gone into the Canal Zone again without thinking, I would suggest, of the inevitable consequences. In July, 1956, the Prime Minister succumbed to the pressure of the so-called Suez group within his party, and from that moment he and his Government, as I think, were preparing to move info the Canal Zone, with force, to control it.
In September, 1956, after two days of dramatic debate here, it was not until the last moment that the Prime Minister agreed to refer the dispute to the United Nations. It was an equivocal acceptance of the principle, but nevertheless he made it. It certainly seems to me that last week the Government and the Prime Minister used the excuse of an Israeli invasion of Sinai to do what they had already prepared to do and hoped to do, and intended to do until that date in September to which I have referred.
The great issue seems to me to be the flouting of international law and of solemn pledges not to resort to force in such a situation. We have incurred irreparable consequences. One of those consequences, I suggest, is that we are branded as an aggressor. As one or two speakers on these benches have already made clear, we are as patriotic as hon. Members opposite. This is our country. We love our country—of course we do. We are proud of our country and of its institutions. But we believe that the honour of our country has been stained by what has happened in recent days.
We have disrupted the Commonwealth. We hope it may be possible to heal the breach. But undoubtedly this aggression in Egypt by Britain and France has raised acutely once again the clash of colour, the clash between the white races and the coloured peoples of the world. It is reminiscent of nineteenth century imperialism. I am not blaming our country for that; those were days when the conception of international law as we 338 have seen it emerge in the twentieth century had not dawned.
The Government say that they went into the Canal to keep it open. We were told yesterday that the Canal is blocked, and it may take months to re-open it. The pipelines from Syria have been cut, and we have been given instructions to cut down the use of oil fuels and petrol in this country. The Government are trying to avoid introducing petrol rationing. I suggest that before many days are over, we shall all be deluged with complaints from garage proprietors because the Government have thrown on their shoulders the responsibility for administering a terribly difficult ordinance. The dollar cost of American oil will be terrific. I am not a financier, but it seems a simple assumption to make that we shall face an extremely difficult situation in our balance of payments.
The gravest consequence of all has been the stain on our national prestige. The Bagdad Pact, of which the Government were so proud, is today in ruins. We never believed that it was worth as much as they thought it was, but it is they, by their action last week in going into Egypt, who have destroyed the Pact which the present Chancellor worked so hard to get.
Before I sit down, I should like to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Sutton (Mr. J. J. Astor) for his couragous speech this evening, and to other hon. Members opposite who have taken a courageous stand in these last few days. We know how difficult it must be for them. We respect them. I particularly refer to the hon. Member for Sutton because both he and I are West Country men.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
The only comment I should like to make on the remarks of the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) is that he has advocated, and rightly so, that these matters should have been referred to the United Nations. Surely, that is exactly what we did. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We acted under one of the articles of the Charter in trying to reach agreement on the Canal. We then called together the 24-nation conference, which resulted in complete agreement on the proposals which should 339 be put before Egypt by 18 nations. That was endorsed by the Security Council.
What has happened since? The Security Council asked Egypt to arrange for discussions on those 18-Power proposals, but so far nothing has happened.
§ Mr. Hayman
Surely, what the ordinary person will think about the Government's action in regard to the 18-Power proposals is that Britain and France intended to insist on those proposals being implemented to the full without being regarded as a basis for discussion. Many of us think that the Indian proposal might well have been accepted by Egypt.
§ Mr. Craddock
I cannot accept that. Her Majesty's Government did subscribe to those proposals, and certainly were willing to use them as a basis of discussion. We cannot disguise the fact that Egypt has made no attempt whatever to get together with the nations concerned to discuss these proposals, or indeed to put forward any others.
§ Mr. Warbey rose—
§ Mr. Craddock
I am speaking only for a short time, and unless the hon. Gentleman has an important point to make, I am not prepared to give way.
During all these lengthy and protracted debates that we have had on the problems of the Middle East, in August, in September and then last week, I did not on any occasion attempt to intervene, acting on the principle that the situation was such that one should follow the old saying, "Least said, soonest mended".
Last Sunday evening, however, the Leader of the Opposition made a broadcast, on sound and vision, and on that occasion he issued to my colleagues on this side of the House a curious invitation. He invited us to desert the Leader of our party—our Prime Minister—and to appoint another gentleman in his place. The Leader of the Opposition went on to say that if we did so, the party opposite would support the Government side of the House to the full.
§ Mr. Craddock
I listened to the broadcast. I see in the Press today that the main purpose of the Opposition in tabling the Amendment is to give hon. Members on this side an opportunity to 340 respond to that invitation on Sunday evening.
Let me make my position quite clear; it is important that many of my hon. Friends should do so. I have, and do, and will support the Prime Minister wholeheartedly in all that he has done in recent weeks. I should like, briefly and without indulging in any polemics or party politics, to give my reasons for so doing. Long before this so-called Suez Canal crisis arose, when Colonel Nasser seized the Canal, I took the view that we were in a period absolutely comparable with that of 1933 to 1939. My hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) has made a brief reference to that, and I want to extend that reference, because it is the basis of my agreement with the actions of the Government in the present crisis.
In 1933, I remind the House, Hitler came to power. At that time we had the League of Nations, with no support or membership on the part of the United States of America. It was a weak institution, its members quarrelling amongst themselves. In 1936, as we have already been reminded, Hitler marched across the Rhine. In his speech of 2nd August, the Leader of the Opposition likened Colonel Nasser to Hitler and Mussolini. He has been contradicted on that on his own side of the House, but I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. At that time Hitler and the German army were weak. Hitler had not had time to build up the German strength to what we knew it to be in 1939. If the League of Nations had acted then and stopped him crossing the Rhine, I am quite certain that it would have made a vast difference to the events which followed.
Then we had, as the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) reminded us, the Abyssinian crisis. The League of Nations imposed sanctions on Italy. I was in the Middle East at that time and I saw Alexandria harbour filled with warships. There were only British warships. I think it was said in this House at that time we were the only country to move a man or a ship on that occasion. In the result, there was not very much effect. I believe profoundly that at that period the inability of the then League of Nations to act was really the cause of the 1939 war.
§ Mr. Craddock
I am not forgetting them. I am obliged to the hon. Member, but I am only trying to give the House, briefly and, I hope, honestly, my reasons for supporting the Prime Minister so strongly. As I say, I believe that we are in a position comparable to those years.
It may be asked, where is the comparison? I believe that the comparison lies in this direction. We all know that the ambition of Colonel Nasser has been to become the leader of a great Arab world, not only in the Middle East, but right along the coast of North Africa, and indeed probably further south in Africa. I do not suggest that even if he did attain that position, Colonel Nasser would then start a world war such as Hitler did—he would not do it. But we well know, and there is abundant proof, that practically ever since he came into power he has been the tool of Soviet Russia.
I do not believe, nor do I subscribe to the view, that Soviet Russia has abandoned her ideas of ultimate world conquest. I am not persuaded by the recent so-called apparent friendly attitude of the leaders of Soviet Russia, nor am I persuaded by visits of such institutions as the Bolshoi Ballet, that Soviet Russia has altered her ultimate intentions. I believe that if she got a chance, she would attack Western Europe and this country, if the occasion suited her and the conditions were such that she felt that she could carry the attack through quickly. That is my view, and I suggest that it is not an unreasonable one.
We might have to face Soviet domination of the whole of the Middle East, including the Suez Canal, and the whole of North Africa—indeed, Western Europe and ourselves—flanked on many sides by a mighty Power. Above all, our vital supplies of oil from the Middle East, which would be necessary for a war effort on our part and on the part of Western Europe, to combat such a move would be entirely cut off.
§ Mr. Crossman
I follow accurately what the hon. Member is saying. How does he make his reason for supporting 342 the Government compatible with the Government's indignant denial that their moving of troops to Egypt had anything to do with Colonel Nasser's régime and their assurance that they were solely concerned to put a shield between the Israeli and Egyptian armies? If that is the Government's view, is the hon. Member not embarrassing them by giving a lot of other reasons which the Government do not themselves give?
§ Mr. Craddock
If the hon. Gentleman had waited he would have heard me explain that, or, at least, try to do so I want to be very brief, because I promised Mr. Speaker that I would speak for only a few moments, because there are many hon. Gentlemen who want to catch Mr. Speaker's eye. Therefore, without any discourtesy to the House, I must say that I propose not to give way again. However, I shall follow the question which the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) has put.
In my view, what I have outlined is the situation which might very well arise. What would happen, supposing that it did? There would be no time for the United Nations organisation to come to the rescue of Europe or our country before we were overwhelmed. Therefore, I believe that the answer to the hon. Member for Coventry, East is that the Prime Minister has rendered great service, not only to this country but indeed to the whole world, by focusing the whole world's attention on that vary danger. By sending troops, with our French allies, into the Middle East, as has been done, I believe the Prime Minister has undoubtedly focused world opinion on the danger presented by that whole area.
The absolute necessity, if the United Nations organisation is to be an effective force for world peace, is, to use the common phrase, that it should have teeth. That is the finest service which any Prime Minister of any party could render in these difficult times. That is what the Government's action has succeeded in doing.
In due course, I believe, the country will, after reflection, agree with that view, and above all it will be thankful that in these difficult and dangerous days in which we live we have a man of such tremendous courage as the Prime Minister.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)
The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock), like many others, is rather embarrassing the Government by praising them and by the reasons for which he praises them. What appears to be perfectly obvious is that the general opinion on the Government side of the House is that the real object of sending troops into Egypt was not to separate the combatants but to do what the Government intended to do originally—to get the Canal back from Nasser. The secondary object probably was to discredit the Nasser régime altogether. That at the moment appears to have been done fairly successfully.
Since that has been done, what are we to put in its place? I cannot see that we have achieved anything at all by discrediting Nasser, because we have made more enemies than friends in the Middle East as a result. If we cannot make any friends out of this policy, then it seems to me that, apart altogether from the ethics of it, it is a bad business altogether. Not only have we destroyed our moral standing in the world but we have also destroyed our friendships there, and, as far as one can see, the Bagdad Pact, too. It was in a ruinous state before, and though I, for one, have never been very much in favour of it, and shall not really regret its passing, yet the Government had great faith in it, and it seems to me that what they regarded as one of our props in the Middle East has also gone.
Our troubles in the Middle East have been due to the vacillations of British policy over many years. They are not due to the United Nations or to anybody else recently. These troubles had their origins a long way back in time. We failed ever clearly to define what we meant by the Balfour Declaration. Had we said clearly and unequivocally what we meant, and that we meant that there should be a State of Israel, at least there would have been a clear understanding. If that was what we meant, we should have said it, instead of leaving the issue to be fought out and the State of Israel to be established by force, as it was.
There have been failures on the part of British Governments comprised of all parties. The State of Israel having been established, and we having accepted that there was a viable State of Israel, the 344 British Government of that day should have done something further towards the stabilisation of the Middle East. They could have done what it may still be possible to do. Israel, the only stable democratic force in that area, could have been admitted a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. This may not seem very acceptable to some hon. Members. Some hon. Members may be pro-Arab and anti-Israel. However, we have always said that membership of the Commonwealth is open to any democratic country which may care to join.
Had Israel been admitted to the Commonwealth that would have guaranteed her frontiers, and it would have made perfectly plain to the Arab world that Israel was there to stay. Thus many of the troubles which we have had since could have been avoided. We should not even have had our troubles about Cyprus or about having a base in the Eastern Mediterranean. We could have had a first-class Commonwealth base in the best strategic position in the Middle East, a much better one than we have at present.
It may not be too late to admit Israel to membership of the Commonwealth even now. I suggest that even now we offer that to Israel, on condition that she withdraws her forces from Sinai. It would give her the protection of the British Commonwealth, and would give a guarantee to her neighbours that they will never have to fear aggression again from Israel. Israel, for her part, would not need to think any more in terms of counter-action against the Arab States, because the guarantee of her safety would be her membership of the British Commonwealth.
That would be a contribution to doing what we are trying at the present time to do, to find means by which the dispute can be finally settled. Does anybody believe that the sending of a police force will settle the situation in the Middle East, any more than the Armistice Commission has done? I do not believe it will.
At the moment it looks as though we shall not withdraw our forces from the Middle East and as though we shall use any pretext to keep them there. We must have a clearer undertaking from the Government than any they have yet given us that they are prepared to accept and implement the decision of the United 345 Nations that we should withdraw our forces, irrespective of the time at which the United Nations forces go in their place. We ought to leave it to those United Nations forces to endeavour to make peace in the area. It means that we have to retrace our steps if we possibly can, and it will be very hard to retrace our steps, and to regain the position in the world which we have sacrificed.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am very sorry. I will call the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) next. When I called him I was looking in the wrong direction. I ought to have been looking at the other side of the House, but my attention was distracted.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)
I agree with those hon. Members on the other side of the House who have said that this is a moment when one must search one's conscience. In company with a good many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House and a good many of my constituents with whom I have spoken, I have been doing a great deal of heart searching. If I do not impugn the motives of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, I would ask them in their charity not to impugn my motives or those of my hon. Friends who take a view contrary to theirs. This is not really a party matter. I have been surprised by the number of people, not only on the benches opposite but among my constituents who are not Conservative supporters, who are inclined to the view that the Government, faced with an exceedingly difficult decision to make, took the right course; contrariwise, a large number of people who normally support my party have had grave misgivings and have had the courage and sincerity to express them to me.
Nevertheless, I take issue with those who suggest that because there is disunity, and after all the Government alone have had the responsibility of taking a decision, it follows that we must be wrong. One hon. Member who spoke 346 sincerely from the heart suggested that there was a link between the action we had taken in the Middle East and what has happened in Hungary. That has been said so often that I think the contrary view must be put. I do not believe that hon. Members imagine that, prior to our action in the Middle East, the Soviet Union had suddenly become a reformed character. It is not the first occasion that Soviet tanks and guns have been used against people desirous of liberty. My mind travels back to the East Berlin rising and to the Poznan riots.
I ask hon. Members to ponder a point which I think is just as valid as the contrary one which they have advanced. It is that one reason why the Soviet Union has suddenly thrown off the mask is that she has discovered, in the outcry against the Prime Minister's courageous action, that a great many people in the West, from America to Britain and elsewhere, are content with no more than passing resolutions in the face of aggression.
If we are to judge for ourselves the decision that the Government took, we must consider the background. If I may, I will take one line of argument and then go on to another. It is suggested that the Government have behaved immorally because they acted in a situation which was likely to lead to war—and in fact war had actually broken out—and did not first consult the United Nations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members applaud that sincerely, but they forget that in the case of Korea the United States, with forces on the spot and weighing up the situation at that time, took action on her own and was subsequently supported by the United Nations—but only because of the accident that Russia had absented herself from the Security Council.
§ Mr. Pargiter
Is not the hon. Member aware that the State Department had written off Korea and had withdrawn its forces, but General MacArthur forced the issue against the Department's advice on the ground that it was vital to American security?
§ Mr. Braine
I am concerned not with the motives but with the realities of the situation, with what actually happened.
There are times when a responsible Government must take a decision irrespective of the consequences. Only last year in 347 the case of Quemoy, the offshore island, President Eisenhower asked Congress for authority to intervene outside the United Nations in the event of a Communist attack because he knew perfectly well that if an invasion took place the conflict might spread into a general conflagration but effective action would be blocked because the Soviet veto would operate.
§ Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
I, too, have been troubled on this point, but surely what we are getting at is that it is not that we acted outside the United Nations that causes us moral doubts but that we acted in such a way outside the United Nations as to cause the United Nations later to express its disapproval of what we had done.
§ Mr. Braine
My hon. Friend raises a point which he might like to elaborate later if he is called to speak. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but it is a point to which I will return later if my hon. Friend, who has been making so many speeches on the subject, would be a little patient and let me develop my argument.
My answer to him is that we cannot consider this issue in a vacuum. My mind travels back to 1947 when the Labour Government were unable to handle the Palestine Mandate. I make no party point about that. The situation had been transformed because the war had driven large numbers of Jewish refugees out of Europe into Palestine. The Labour Government, unable to handle the situation, handed the Mandate over to the United Nations. That body made a partition plan that the Arabs would not accept. I remember being in Hamburg at that time, during the very week when British ships were shipping illegal Jewish immigrants under armed guard back from Palestine to, of all places, Germany.
§ Mr. Braine
Certainly. Indeed, I took the opportunity to visit what was then the largest camp in Europe for Jewish refugees. It was situated at Belsen in barracks outside the former extermination camp. I spoke to a number of those who were in the camp. There were men there of every European nationality, the 348 pitiful remnants of the concentration camps. One man told me that his wife had died in Theresienstadt and his parents in another terrible place, and that he did not know where his child was. When I asked him, "What are you going to do now?", he replied, "What can I do? There is only one place for me to go, and that is Palestine."
Those who went to Palestine and founded the Israeli State were dedicated people who understood the simple paradox that so many people today fail to understand—that sometimes in order to live one must be prepared to die. That is only one side of the medal. In order to establish Israel, a million Arab refugees were driven out of land which their ancestors had occupied for centuries.
§ Mr. Crossman
No, it is not true that in order to establish the State of Israel a million Arab refugees were cleared out. Surely, the hon. Member will be fair and say that after the attack by the Arab armies, a disastrous war ended with a million refugees. Surely, the hon. Member did not put the matter quite correctly.
§ Mr. Braine
I would accept that from the hon. Gentleman, who has dealt with this subject with great courage and candour through the years. I read in the New Statesman and Nation on 6th September that he said the argument on this subject startedwith the awkward fact that our own Labour Government sowed the seeds … in the Middle East of the harvest of hate which Sir Anthony has been reaping.
§ Mr. Braine
I am not attributing blame for the hatred and the tension, because I think that the whole world is to blame. All I am concerned with is that the present Government were faced with a situation where, from 1948 onwards, the United Nations had deliberated scores of times on this dreadful situation. Here were two peoples gripped with fear, less than 2 million Israelis surrounded by 40 million Arabs. Resolution after resolution was passed and was ignored. Egypt herself was in defiance of the Security Council. She regarded herself as still at war with Israel. That was her excuse for refusing the passage of Israeli ships 349 through the Canal—under international law she regarded it as her right to refuse those ships passage through the Canal because she was at war with Israel. Thus, I join issue with those who say that Israel committed aggression on Egypt. Technically, yes, but if the case of Egypt was that Israel was at war with her, what Israel was doing was taking reprisal for the sufferings and pressures which she had endured for long years.
I am not concerned with taking sides but with an existing and explosive situation where war had broken out and within a matter of hours the Canal might have been over-run. There would have been prolonged fighting, the conflagration might have spread to other Arabic States, and from there throughout the Middle East, and our other commitments—to Jordan for example—might have forced us to participate, and to participate in far worse circumstances.
I say that having brought the Israeli-Egypt war to an end in seven days is a massive achievement. I do not regard it as immoral. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) may laugh, but I would suggest that in the perspective of history this Government have done what so many other Governments have failed to do; they have acted when faced with a situation which might have led to a third world war. The right hon. Gentleman may laugh, but in the end the nation will judge.
§ Mr. Crossman
May I say one thing to get the record right? The hon. Gentleman now says that the great achievement of the Government is that they have brought the Israeli-Egypt war to an end in seven days. Is it his point that our Government contributed towards assisting the Israelis in liquidating the Egyptian Army by bombing the Egyptian bases? Is that his feeling, or in what sense does he think that our Government can take credit? I have read Mr. Ben Gurion's speech and my impression is that he thought he had something to do with ending that war in seven days.
§ Mr. Braine
I will not be led along that line of argument. I am concerned with the facts and the geography of the situation. The Israelis were sweeping forward. Within a matter of hours of the Government taking the decision they 350 did the Israelis might have crossed over the Canal. Who will say that they would not have done so? Has the hon. Memer for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) any special knowledge? I believe there was that danger. There was certainty a danger that the major forces of the Egyptians which were not committed might be thrust forward over the Canal eastwards, and that the conflict might then have become so confused that it would have been impossible to stop it. Anyone with any knowledge of that area must know that the only place where it was possible to interpose, and to interpose successfully and quickly, with the minimum danger to the lives of our own men as well as to the combatants, was the Canal.
I end on this note. I am not in the least ashamed of the action that Her Majesty's Government have taken. [An HON. MEMBER: The hon. Gentleman ought to be."] I started by saying that I was not imputing motives. But I go so far as to say that I think the whole world is in the grip of fear, and that a lot of people are trying to excuse their own fear by attacking this Government for having had the courage to act to stop a war. That is my honest belief. We can talk about law, but law is meaningless unless we have the power to enforce it. We can talk about morality and virtue. There has been a great deal of talk on that subject during the course of this debate. The greatest of all human virtues is courage, for it is the only virtue which guarantees the rest.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Having listened to the hon. Member for Essex. South-East (Mr. Braine), I entirely agree with him that the world is in the grip of fear but, having followed him closely, I believe that it is also in the grip of the most profound and pompous ignorance.
Before coming to the House, the hon. Gentleman would have done well to establish the facts and to ask himself why it is that the Government will not vindicate themselves? If the hon. Gentleman will listen to me for a couple of minutes, I will explain why I ask this question. The Government can easily vindicate itself before the bar of world opinion. This afternoon I interrupted the Secretary of State for the Colonies to ask him whether 351 the shield of which he boasted was placed as a result of a conspiracy between the British, French and Israeli Governments. The question whether there was a collusion or a conspiracy does not depend on whether I hold the view or not. It is held throughout the civilised world and it can be established one way or the other quite easily.
I have put questions on the Order Paper and I hope that I shall get replies. I have asked the Minister of Defence on what day and at what time the G.O.C. Middle East Forces was first told that major operations were pending by the Israelis against the Egyptians. I have put down another Question to ask the time at which the Officer Commanding British troops at Eilat told Middle East Headquarters that such an attack was impending.
I have just come back from the Middle East. I was in Egypt less than a fortnight ago. The one thing I discovered when I returned was a profound and colossal ignorance of the most simple facts. There were rumours in the Middle East about the Israelis mobilising. And yet the Government would have us believe that they were taken by surprise. Surely no hon. Gentleman opposite would deny that the British Government had time to protest and that there must have been accurate information that something was "cooking". I ask why the attack upon Egypt was launched from Eilat—it is called Eilat on the Israel side and Akaba on our side. At Akaba are stationed the 10th Hussars and one company of the Middlesex Regiment. It is inconceivable that an operation of this magnitude could have been launched without the knowledge of the O.C. troops in that area.
What happened? From the attack from Eilat the Israelis repeated the Rundstedt operation—they achieved tactical surprise by the use of desperately difficult terrain and, later, they linked up with another movement across the frontier at Nahel and, again repeating the technique of the Germans in 1940, there was a pushing on of light units—probably not more than a handful of troops—in order that the first step in the psychological war could be taken. There was an announcement on the radio that Israeli troops were within ten miles of Suez.
352 The Israelis then drove northwards, following the lines of the major raid of 28th February, 1955, and got in behind the Egyptians—the Egyptian airfields were neatly bombed; I pay tribute to the gallantry and efficiency with which British and French aircraft carried out the affair—and the poor old Egyptians once again had had it.
There have been nine occasions in the last hundred years when operations have been the subject of public inquiry. After the Jameson raid a Select Committee of this House was set up to inquire into the events which led up to it. The only difference between that raid and the present one is that in the Jameson raid warlike actions were undertaken by private individuals, and in this case warlike operations have been undertaken without a declaration of war, a fact which itself is a breach of international law. When German generals did that they were arraigned before the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal as war criminals, yet the Government have asked British officers to undertake this, a task which must rest on their consciences for the rest of their days.
There is an even better example than the Jameson raid. There was the Report of the Royal Commission on the Dardanelles and Mesopotamia, inquiring into the origin, inception and conduct of that operation of war. I suggest to the Government that they should appoint either a Select Committee or a Royal Commission. If they will not do that, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition or another of my right hon. Friends, speaking with the authority of the party, will give an undertaking that as soon as the Labour Party assumes office, such an inquiry will be made in order to establish the facts.
The crisis which has faced us in the last nine days is not primarily a political one; it is a crisis of misappropriation—and by that I mean not dishonesty, but the wrong arrangement of the priorities of our defence forces. On 26th July, Colonel Nasser nationalised the Canal. I say now what I said then, namely, that I am in favour of the internationalising of all important international waterways. I also think that the methods employed by Colonel Nasser were a mistake. I would point out to the Government that opinion among educated Arabs is the 353 same all over the Middle East. They believe that Colonel Nasser acted wantonly and without regard to Egyptian interests. In 1968, the Canal would have fallen into Egypt's hands like a ripe plum.
When Nasser nationalised the Canal, educated Arab opinion throughout the Middle East thought that it gave the British and French Governments a first-class chance to negotiate a new Canal settlement, perhaps for a period of another hundred years. But the Government did not do that. We had mobilisation over the August Bank Holiday weekend. At that time, I raised my lone voice to say that when I heard hon. Members on both sides of the House calling for strong action they made me sick. They made me sick then, and they make me sick now, because this country was not then in a position to take strong action. There was not a single swept-wing fighter squadron in the Middle East.
Let us go a little further and consider the question of tank-landing ships. If any hon. Members want the facts of the matter, let them turn to the fifth volume of the history of the last war written by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), and read his description of the Anzio operation. They will see how it was held up. The right hon. Gentleman describes how 88 tank-landing ships were necessary for two divisional operations.
How many tank-landing ships had we on 1st August last? After an expenditure of £6,000 million by the present Government, we had two tank-landing ships in operation, and 28 in reserve, 25 of which were leaking when they were taken out of their mothballs. The truth is that on 1st August the Government wanted to "have a go" but they could not. They then waited until they had mobilised and had realigned their reserve forces, and until they had pulled back the Parachute Brigade from the Middle East in order that it might undergo essential training.
What else had they? There is not an hon. Member opposite who has had any military experience who does not know that in war the one thing that must not be done is to use specialist troops in a rôle other than that for which they have been trained. We had put the Parachute Brigade into Cyprus in order to deal with the internal security problem there, so that when, on 1st August, we needed 354 the parachute troops—and the Prime Minister may have wanted them for a quick drop—they had to be pulled back to this country and trained before they could undertake any operation. The truth is that we had to wait five or six weeks because the Government had so mis-spent the moneys voted for defence that we were not in a position to undertake the operation which the Government, in their political judgment, thought necessary.
If hon. Members opposite think that I am being a little unfair and that, after all, six weeks is not too long to carry out mobilisation, I would ask them to undertake a little more research and study the first volume of the history of the First World War, and see how the mobilisation plans were carried out in 1914, when our defence expenditure was merely a drop in the ocean compared to what it is now. We then mobilised six infantry divisions, each consisting of 18,000 men and 9,000 horses, and one cavalry division, consisting of 9,000 men and 9,000 horses—60 per cent. of all the men were reservists; and 120,000 horses had to be impressed. We started on 4th August; the first troops were conveyed to France on 9th August, and contact with the enemy was made by C Squadron of the Fourth Dragoon Guards at first light on 22nd August. In eighteen days we did the trick. Now it takes us six weeks.
Then, of course, we have the operation of 29th October. I have indicated what I believe happened. I do not say that the Government are wholly responsible. I think that the criminals in this matter—and I use that word advisedly—are the French. The Israelis have trebled the area under their control—says Mr. Ben Gurion—as a result of their operations in the last week, but they have paid a very heavy price for it; they now have the French as allies. I hope that they have a little better luck than we have had.
If hon. Members doubt what I am saying, let them look at the history of French duplicity in the Middle East over the years. Let them look at the actions of M. Franklin-Bouillon, who carried out negotiations behind the back of a British Government with Mustapha Kemal. They will find that in 1922 British troops and the British people faced a crisis at 355 Chanak which took us to the edge of war. I do not believe that the Israeli raid was anything more than a well-organised, well-equipped and well-planned attack to liquidate the Fedayeen and the dumps which were being built up. I do not believe that it was a major operation destined to go across the Canal.
If my demand for a Royal Commission or Select Committee is accepted by the Government, I think that it will be established beyond any shadow of doubt that there was not a single military adviser of the Government who thought for a moment that the Israeli Government ever contemplated a great and sustained major operation against Egypt. Their lines of communication would have been far too long. Those who have seen the Israeli army on its manoeuvres have a pretty shrewd idea of its weaknesses, and I do not believe for a split second that this Government ever thought that operations on a major scale were on the go.
Here again, I think that the French, as usual, have not only double-crossed the Israelis by failing to make it clear that their operations were going to be boosted up into a major operation, but they have double-crossed us. I do not think that we were told all the story. But, as I say, these are simple questions of fact. The Government can tell us tonight what the truth is. The world can be told the truth. If I am wrong, let the Government say so. But my interpretation is that the Government heard that the French had got in and what they were up to only two or three weeks beforehand, but I believe that right hon. Gentlemen opposite were sufficiently intelligent to have been able to see what was involved.
I believed in the N.A.T.O. shield. I was the Parliamentary Private Secretary to my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) when N.A.T.O. was first brought into being and I know when war intervened N.A.T.O. was established to secure the peace of Europe. It was a defensive alliance. I have also followed with great care the way in which N.A.T.O. has been equipped. With great generosity the United States of America authorised dollar expenditure for offshore purchases and supplied Britain with 515 of 356 all the Hunters we have, besides 100 Seahawks; she also allowed offshore purchases to France, and all that country's Mystère IV's and Thunderstreaks were supplied on the same basis.
But before America authorised these purchases we had to undertake that we would not use offshore equipment supplied for N.A.T.O. for any other purpose without the permission of the American Government through the Supreme Commander. Last Saturday I asked the Minister of Defence a Question of which I had given him notice, because I did not want any snap questions and answers across the Floor of the House. I asked how much of the equipment supplied for N.A.T.O. had been used in the Middle East without permission. Of course, I understand that "smart Alec." He said he could not give an answer. I do not believe him. Neither do the Americans, because on Sunday I read in the papers the statement by the American Government warning Britain and France that they must not use N.A.T.O. equipment without the permission of the American Government.
The seriousness of this can be seen when one reads with care the menace contained in the Russian Note to us. They threatened us with rockets, and I am convinced that that was no idle threat. The Russian T.2 has been in mass production for a considerable time. This country has not even begun to solve the problem of inertial guidance. We have no answer to the rocket, nor have we a rocket. Nor is there any prospect of this country manufacturing a rocket.
I think that the Americans hold an overwhelming supremacy with the hydrogen bomb and the means whereby to deliver it. But the Americans have no rocket, and if tonight the Soviet Union undertook those warlike operations in Europe, about which we have been wondering ever since the Korean war, and undertook them as a result of the action of this country and France, Europe would be defenceless. It is a terribly dangerous position because can we ever go again to the Americans, with this Government in office, and ask them for offshore purchases? Can we ask them for equipment? Can we pledge our word of honour that the equipment will be used for a certain purpose when in fact we have broken our word?
357 That is not all the story. I hold the view that this country has sustained a political and a military defeat the magnitude of which cannot yet be understood. If hon. Gentlemen opposite think I am being unfair or unpatriotic, very well, they must think so, but I would say this. Ever since I came to this House I have fought, sometimes against my own colleagues, to get some realism into our defence policy. Even when we last had a defence debate I abstained from voting. I was in a minority of one.
But I believe that the weaknesses for which we now suffer must be understood by the people of this country. That is the only hope we have, now that we are morally and politically bankrupt and defeated in a military sense. Make no mistake, the world has taken note of the fact that we went into the Canal Zone with carefully laid down military objectives, none of which we have attained. If hon. Gentlemen say, "Well, that is a political and not a military defeat," may I refer them to the textbooks, which tell us that war is only diplomacy by other methods. The Prime Minister jumped the gun. He sought a solution by other methods and he has failed.
To be a supporter of Israel now is a popular thing. It was not always popular, as I know to my cost. I remember being caught by the jacket in a corridor of this House by the late Mr. Ernest Bevin because I dared to encourage some of my colleagues to abstain from voting when planes were shot down in this same Sinai Desert. I remember being spoken to rather abruptly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison). In my small way I welcomed the coming of Israel as something to make up for the terrible tragedies of the war, those terrible tragedies of the concentration camp and the gas chamber. As long as I live I shall never forget the little grotto behind the Tomb of David in Jerusalem where lie the ashes symbolising the remains of millions of Jewish people who went to the gas chambers.
But I think that the people of Israel have made a terrible mistake. They have become caught up with the Machiavellian, corrupt decadence of, above all, the French. They have destroyed the basis on which Israel could ever become viable. 358 My mind goes back thirty years, to the time when, as a young sergeant, I found myself at Easter time in Jerusalem and I went to the First Station of the Cross. There, above the place where Pilate sat, were written the words:Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.That, in all charity, I hope applies to the Government. It applies to the Jewish people. For in sorrow must I say that I regret that after 2,000 years of wandering, of the ghetto, the concentration camp and the gas chamber, the Jewish people have learned nothing.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Morecambe and Lonsdale)
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has acquired a reputation in this House for fair speaking and wise thought about military matters. He has made a great study of the soldier and I think that all hon. Members will agree that he has done much good for the soldier in many ways. But I hardly think that his proposal that a Royal Commission or a Committee of Inquiry should sit on these matters is very sensible, or one which would commend itself to either Front Bench.
There is no war crime here. There is no parallel with the Jameson Raid. It is legitimate enough for Parliament to discuss what the Government have done, but there is no question for a Royal Commission to inquire into what the Services have done. Surely, that is quite out of the question. Nor can it be right to suggest that generals and soldiers, in carrying out their orders, have committed crimes, or have committed anything like the crimes which brought the German generals to Nuremberg. Surely the hon. Gentleman does not mean that; it is so out of relation with all the facts.
The hon. Gentleman likened the present action of Her Majesty's Government to the Jameson Raid. He said that those who took part in it would have their consciences troubled for the rest of their lives. As a South African, let me tell him that only about 800 people actually took part in the Jameson Raid. Every survivor of that time is proud of the fact, and there are at least 8,000 who say they were in it. I cannot believe that the action of the troops in these later days will lie on their consciences.
§ Sir I. Fraser
That is no reason for having a Royal Commission. We may as well have a Royal Commission on the action of the Labour Party over Korea, because exactly the same conditions applied. There was no declaration of war.
May I turn to the Amendment before the House? I shall vote against it, not because I think there is no sense in it. I think there is some. It is also very artful. But I shall vote against it because it is quite impracticable, which makes me suspect that it was put down for other reasons than the hope that it would be accepted. We could not conceivably get the Dominion Prime Ministers to come rushing over here in a few days or weeks for consultations. They were here only a few weeks ago. I think that the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) is far more appropriate and that we should see whether it is possible to suggest, even with his other duties and responsibilities, that the Prime Minister go to the forthcoming U.N.O. meeting in New York and meet President Eisenhower. The presence of our Prime Minister might attract other Prime Ministers, Mr. Menzies and others. But this present Amendment is clearly impracticable, which seems a good enough reason for voting against it.
But in voting tonight many of us will have other reasons for our action. Since I have not had the opportunity of saying a word about this crisis in the last week, I hope I may be permitted now to explain myself and my thoughts to the House, as well as to many of my constituents who will expect me to reflect their view and the view of many others who, from time to time, have expressed their views to me and have been good enough to take some small account of my view also.
I came out of the First War grievously wounded with no reason to think well of war. I turned to the League of Nations with hope, and time showed that hope was in vain. I do not think that was anyone's fault. It was just that mankind was not ready for it. I came out of the 360 Second War, having spent most of my life trying to heal people's wounds and fully conscious of the grievous damage done by war, and I turned with hope to the United Nations, as we all did.
Anyone who is honest with himself cannot but admit that we have been disappointed; not that we all of us have not done our best to give it a good start, to encourage it, to help it by sending some of our most able Ministers to speak at it and by spending large sums of money to support it. But mankind is not ready for judgment of human affairs entirely by moral standards. I am afraid that is a fact. It has been borne in upon me for some years and now demonstrated most vividly that something more than moral standards is required.
We have to come back to the simple issue that good behaviour in a village is a very good thing, but the final sanction of that good behaviour in the village is the presence of the policeman and that it is just as well that the policeman should carry a truncheon in case he should need to use it. That fact is evident even to the most law-abiding person. Whereas we are not yet able to live peaceably in our villages without a policeman, although we call upon him so seldom, we as a world are not able to live together peaceably without some kind of force which can be brought to bear at the right moment and at the right place to try to settle our disputes.
I am not a constitutional lawyer, nor am I versed in all the text of the United Nations Charter and the subsidiary documents, nor in its practices and customs, but I suspect that we have not broken the law of the United Nations by the action that we have taken. I suspect that it permits a nation to make its own decisions on its action on certain matters from time to time and that the actions of the last week are legal.
Now let us turn away from legality to morality or equity. They are not quite the same thing. There may be some things which are legal but which nevertheless may be immoral or inequitable, and to judge whether they are we must look a little more widely than at the precise point of the quarrel or even the immediate time of the quarrel. We are pledged to try to give a chance of life and of survival to the Israeli nation. We have undertaken that. We founded it, we nursed it, we guarded it, we handed 361 it over at the proper time to the United Nations and we have done what we could by international agreement and arrangement to give it life and to sustain it.
We all of us are under some obligation to see that the experiment survives and has a chance of success. One of the requirements which morality puts upon us is to do just that. Another moral requirement is to try to behave in international affairs as we would wish others to behave, but we cannot judge our action in the one without taking into account our action in the other. I do not think that an impartial inquiry would show that the Jewish people had committed aggression. There is, first, the point that they were already at war with Egypt. There is the next point that they were in fact threatened not merely by words but, I suspect, by plans and deeds. Time will probably show that. I do not believe that we committed an aggression in going into Egypt as we did. I believe that looking back at the matter from a long distance as a historian does, it will be seen that we were engaged in a minor preventive war.
This brings me to deal with the morality, very briefly, first, of a preventive war. I respect the views of my constituents and others who think that force is not permissible at any time. I respect it, but I do not agree with it. I think that there are occasions when force is needed and is equitable, proper and right, and the most notable of these kinds of occasions are when the use of some force may promote peace. That is the justification for the policeman's use of force. That is the justification for our use of force now.
Another possible reason for a justifiable use of force would be for survival, and I do not think that it would be morally right for us to stand by and see our nation throttled to death and starved of resources without which it could not survive without our lifting a finger at an early stage to stop it. How much better to lift that finger at an early stage than at a late stage when it is so much more hazardous, so much more costly and so much more dangerous. That was why I found myself supporting Her Majesty's Government when this action was 362 premeditated. Of course, I did not know about it before it was announced.
§ Sir I. Fraser
I hope that it was premeditated, because anyone who goes into battle without premeditating would be a fool. I hope that you will never do that, Sir. When this was first brought to public notice—perhaps that is a more correct way of putting it, because I did not know about the previous plans—I supported it on the grounds I have given, but when battle was joined I supported Her Majesty's Government for another reason in addition, and that was my belief that when our troops are engaged in war it is a good thing for those at home to stand by them. I will not elaborate that, because I do not want to make right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite cross—there has been too much crossness about this altogether. I think that anyone who discourages unity and support for Her Majesty's Forces when they are engaged in mortal combat is very much to be censured. I feel that so strongly that I must say it.
Let me say a brief word about the results of what has happened so far. I believe—and I think that the historian looking back from, say, 2000 A.D. will see—that this week Israel was saved from extinction. I believe that she has been saved. I believe that she would have been extinguished, not necessarily in that week but in the weeks that followed, if we had not intervened. That is point number one. It is an important one for the world as well as for our morality. I think it is possible that we have now inspired-jogged—the United Nations into realisation of its weakness, and if mankind is now ready to make up a force which can intervene, and intervene swiftly and timely, then I believe history will show that we have rendered another notable and signal service to mankind. I do not believe that any but incidents of the kind that we have recently witnessed could have jogged a dilatory, talkative Assembly and a thwarted, frustrated Security Council into the degree of thought which they have now reached in this matter. That, I think, is the major gain to be put on the credit side of the events of this last week.
I should like to say a word about the U.N.O. force which is said to be coming 363 in. I am very glad that it is now apparently in concert with United Nations opinion that we are to stay there and come out phase by phase as a United Nations force goes in. That is highly intelligent and highly sensible. To have followed the course recommended by the Labour Party would have been to come out before the United Nations force was ready and to leave a vacuum—which must be filled—to the danger not only of both Israel and Egypt, but of the Middle East. I am glad that it is now generally recognised, even by U.N.O. itself, therefore, by implication, that our action was right and that we are to come out phase by phase instead of ignominiously and in a futile manner.
Secondly, I hope that the United Nations force will be a military force. It may be called a police force and its function may be to police, but it must be a military force. It must be well armed and well generalled and it must have more than side-arms or rifles, otherwise it will have no chance of carrying out its task.
The hon. Member for Dudley told us that it took the British Expeditionary Force four days to reach France and 22 days to join battle. He blamed the Government because we were not ready earlier to intervene in Suez. Even with the preparations that have been made in the last few weeks, which I applaud and of which I approve, it still took us some five or six days after the warning expired before the troops landed—and they were in an island nearby and were ready.
How long will it take an adequate force, properly armed and instructed, properly cohesive and integrated, to get to the Middle East? It is all very well to say that the Canadians will fly a battalion in—that is very good of them and much appreciated; but one battalion will not suffice. Who else can fly anything in? Who has the forces ready? We must be realistic in this matter and see that after the efforts and sacrifices we have made—and, I consider, right sacrifices—we do not hand over our charge until we are quite certain that we hand over to an authority that can keep the peace.
I earnestly hope that the cease-fire has left our troops in Port Said and the French troops on the other side of the water in a viable position. I say no 364 more about that than that once it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government, with the assent of U.N.O., to stay there until they come out phase by phase, they should be sure that our troops are in a position that can be held, and held comfortably. A soldier cannot sit on a bit of ground no bigger than his bottom. He must have room to move around, and he must have room to provide himself with air cover in case he is threatened.
The whole British people, and especially all our old soldiers, sailors and airmen, who know something about these matters from experience, will have nothing but the highest sense of admiration for the troops, from the top downward, of both the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) referred to the suggestion by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) of appointing a Royal Commission to establish the facts in this situation. In my view, one of the things that has bedevilled the situation from the outset has been the lack of facts or the giving of contradictory so-called facts by the Government side.
The hon. Member referred also to the Amendment and said that its terms were impracticable and that, therefore, he would vote against it. I would be inclined to go some way with the hon. Member in that direction, but what is quite clear is that there must be some kind of top-level meeting among our Commonwealth erstwhile friends.
I deprecate the suggestion of a top-level meeting between our own discredited Prime Minister and President Eisenhower. I have never in any event been very much impressed by the importance of top-level conferences. Even when my own party was pressing the Government to have a "Big Four" meeting, I was never very optimistic about the outcome. In the event, I was probably right.
The hon. Member referred to this as being a police action and said that we cannot expect the law to be obeyed unless we not only have the policeman but the policeman also has a truncheon. I remind the hon. Member that our policeman does not have a gun. That is the important distinction that we on this side make.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Indeed there is. I remind the hon. Member that on the Death Penalty (Abolition) Bill his hon. Friends made a great distinction between the two, and they will do so again when the Homicide Bill is before the House.
Little reference has been made to the speech of the Colonial Secretary. It was almost the only speech on the Government side which has made no reference to events in Hungary. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the misrepresentation of the United Kingdom case. If there has been any misrepresentation, it has been due primarily to the lack of information from the Government. If, as the Colonial Secretary said, the whole story has not yet been unfolded, we impress upon the Government the need for a White Paper dealing with the leaflets, for instance, which was asked for from this side of the House but to which, as far as I know, we have as yet had no reply. That is just the kind of information we want if we are to get the facts in perspective.
The Colonial Secretary said that as these mysterious events unfold opinion will come round to the Government's side. Almost every hour brings a defection from that side of the House. We have had one hon. Member coming out openly today for the first time in all these debates. I do not know whether he will abstain from voting, but at least he spoke against the Government. Another hon. Member who is waiting his opportunity to speak has come out openly against the Government. The hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Sir F. Medlicott) has already written a letter to the Prime Minister saying that he is not supporting the Government. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs has resigned. The Prime Minister's public relations officer has given up his job. All of this is the cumulative effect, to use the Colonial Secretary's words, of the nation's mature assessment of the situation.
The most ludicrous point in the Government's case is that good will come out of the present situation in that we will get a United Nations force. That is the biggest bit of humbug of all. All that will happen is that it will go on record 366 that this force has been established to stop precisely the kind of unilateral military action that the Government have taken. It will be recorded in the annals of history that we have an international police force to stop the kind of national gangsterism practised by this Government. That is what will go on the records historically.
The right hon. Member for Kelvin-grove (Mr. Elliot) repaired the Colonial Secretary's omission to some extent in that he made some comments on events in Hungary. It may be that Russia needed no incentive from the Tory Government to do what she did. I have fought Communists in four Elections in this country, and I have never thought that there has been the slightest deviation from the long-term policy of the Soviet Government. What our Government have done may not have encouraged the Russians one way or another, but what is undoubtedly true is that we can no longer say to the Russians, without being charged with hypocrisy, "You are military aggressors putting down ordinary humble workers"; because our Government are tarred with the same brush.
The military victory for which hon. Members clamoured was certain from the outset. I talked to one hon. and gallant Member opposite and he said, "Give us a week." Of course they would get the military victory in a week. We had only to watch the almost hysterical jubilation on the other side of the House when the Prime Minister made what turned out to be a premature announcement of a cease-fire being ordered at Port Said. There was immediate hysteria and jubilation on the other side of the House.
We have had our victory, the result of the expenditure of £9,000 million by this country in the last six years, and I do not know how much by France and Israel. We have won a victory over an illiterate, poverty-stricken, feudal little country. Is that something of which we should be proud? What a wonderful achievement!
Against this victory we have to offset the irreparable long-term damage which has been done to our reputation in the world. Let hon. and right hon. Members; opposite not underestimate the deep 367 cleavage of opinion within our Commonwealth. The most discouraging and disturbing aspect of it is that it is very much a colour line-up. At the very time when we are trying to convince people that the Commonwealth is a multi-racial unit for the first time in the history of the world, we get a cleavage within that unit based largely on colour.
One of the interesting omissions from the Government's case about this episode is that the closure of the Canal will, in my view, hit the Asiatic countries harder than it hits us. There has been very little mention of that hardship imposed on innocent parties by the unilateral action of white imperialist countries. Whether the damage done to the Commonwealth is temporary or permanent, I should not like to say. We all hope, I think, that it is temporary. The same comment applies to the alliance with the United States of America. But what will be much more enduring is the hatred of the whole Arab world. That will be a long time dying as a result of this action. What I call the international floating voters will take a long time to forgot our action in this connection.
The Government case has been as much damaged by the varying reasons advanced for it as by the action itself. Here the ostensible reasons have been, first of all, to get between the combatants; secondly, to stop the war—to put out the fire, as I think it was put. We do not normally put out a fire by spraying it with petrol. The third ostensible reason was to safeguard the Canal, the fourth was to safeguard our nationals and the fifth was to help poor Israel.
If the Government were paid by results they would be on National Assistance by now. Not one of those objects has been achieved as far as I can tell. Are we between the combatants? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] The fact is that the combatants could start again tomorrow. Indeed, the fighting has not yet stopped, and one of the biggest dangers today is that the Government do not know whether it will stop or where it is going. We are existing on a day-to-day policy. We expect a statement from the Prime Minister day after day and we do not know what it will contain. The Canal is blocked, although to maintain the Canal open was one of the major causes of our intervention, if not the major cause.
368 I do not want to use too strong language, but the most hypocritical claim of all was that we went into the Middle East to help poor Israel. Let us have no crocodile tears about this. We recall the five or six years of the prevention of Israeli ships from going through the Canal with not a finger lifted by the right hon. Gentleman to allow them free access. We recall the Prime Minister's Guildhall speech. We recall that Israel was not invited to the Suez Conference. There is strong circumstantial evidence—I put it no higher than this—that there has been active collusion between Britain, France and Israel on this issue—and that is another fact which will have to be brought before the light of day. There is a strong volume of opinion in America which is convinced that collusion took place. We shall not be satisfied until we get the facts.
Even if that suggestion were untrue—let us put the best light on it—I would say that Israel's provoked aggression was a Godsend to the extremists on the other side of the House because it gave them the very chance they wanted to teach Nasser a lesson and to get control of the Canal. Let me be quite frank to the House on the crucial question of the Canal. I believe that, along with other international waterways, it should be under some kind of international control. It is an interesting philosophy to come from the Conservative Party that what is of international concern should be internationally controlled. Do they apply that nationally? Do they think that what is of national concern should be nationally controlled?
If they apply this principle internationally, ought they not to apply it to the Panama Canal, the Dardanelles, Gibraltar and the oil itself? If they are concerned to establish a United Nations force and to propound the idea that what is of international concern should be internationally controlled, then let the Government declare themselves on the suggestion made in the Manchester Guardian leading article this morning that we should give this United Nations force access to our bases in Cyprus. As that article points out, the events of the last few days have shown the extreme importance of substantial air power for this organisation. If that be the case, what finer base could they have than one in 369 Cyprus? I should be glad if the Government would give an answer on that.
In any event, whatever the constitution of this United Nations police force and wherever it might be based, the all-important thing is to get it speedily set up. The Foreign Secretary is to discuss the organisation and constitution of this force. As my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, let there be no bickerings; let the Government issue no ultimatum or lay down conditions about it. Let us get it set up as quickly as may be.
I would conclude with this. We are over there now, but we will go into international consultations, international negotiations, with blood-stained hands. I can only thank God that this party took the stand which it has taken in the last few weeks. I am not one who is clamouring for the resignation of the Prime Minister. That is not the solution. The resignation of the Government is the solution, and then we shall get a Government that can, at least, go to the United Nations and say, "We negotiate and consult with clean hands."
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Sir Alexander Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
Two or three hours ago, in a speech more restrained than that to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton), the hon. Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams) said that the wealth of this country in relation to that of the rest of the world was very much less than it used to be. That is a fact which we have to face, and shape our policy accordingly. There was a time when we really policed the world. It was a self-appointment, and I am bound to say that it was a pretty good appointment. I think that we kept the peace of the world for a long time fairly successfully.
In those days our bankers were financing the world, our industrialists were equipping the world, and our Navy ruled the seas. Alas, those things do not apply today. Today, there is a Channel which our Navy cannot control, because things other than ships can cross it. Today, our weapons are few as compared with those of other countries, and our resources for the getting of those weapons are only a fraction of those of the United States and Russia. And there 370 is the hydrogen bomb and the rockets to which the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) referred.
I have always been against the use of force in this issue—alone, or alone with France. In so far as the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary know of my existence at all, they must know that I feel that, because I have made it very clear all the way through. I may very well be wrong. There are many facts which are not known, and cannot be known, to us on the back benches. But what is, to me, very clear, is that if I were wrong, as so many of my hon. Friends may think, or if I am right, as I still think, it could only have been right to use force as a temporary holding operation.
If I see a man trying to commit a felony and I am courageous enough, or he is small enough, I will go and seize him; but it is not for me to do anything but hold him until the police come along. It is not for me to mete out punishment to him, or for me to dictate to the court what his sentence should be. I therefore think that in this issue it is now vital that this matter should be handed to the United Nations without any delay at all.
Now I come to almost the end, but to the difficult part of my speech. There has been talk that we are to impose conditions. I believe that this is no time for conditions, and I am bound to ask my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade if he will give an assurance—as I so profoundly hope, and as so many of my hon. Friends so profoundly hope that he will—that we will hand over unconditionally as soon as the United Nations forces come in. The situation to day is so grave that I believe that that is the only solution, and it is the only wise solution which I could happily support in the Lobbies tonight.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
We have heard a most courageous speech by the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman), which follows equally courageous speeches, and action, delivered or taken, earlier today by other hon. Members opposite. Indeed, this movement of declaration or of resignation is becoming almost a snowball, and I greatly fear that if it goes on very much longer the snowball may fall upon the 371 right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, who is, I understand, to wind up the debate tonight. Indeed, the fact that we are honoured with his presence here in a debate of this character at all is doubtless due to the fact that the Government's ranks are so rapidly thinning that he has to hold the fort for them.
This movement on the opposite side is one which we welcome greatly. It does credit to those who are taking part in it, but I can only say this, even to those who have announced their position today. We understand that they felt that they could take no action whilst our troops were actually in transit or engaged in operations, but it is a very great pity that some of them did not declare themselves in time to stop those operations taking place altogether. That would have been very good indeed, not only for the welfare of our men but also for the good name and standing of this country.
This afternoon we had from the Colonial Secretary an attempt to explain why it was that most of the countries of the world had been against us in our actions during the past week. He tried to explain why it was that only one statesman in the whole wide world outside Britain and France has wholeheartedly supported the British Government during the past ten days. Apart from Mr. Menzies, I do not know anywhere in the world of a statesman, either in government or in opposition, who is wholeheartedly backing the actions of the British and French Governments.
All that the Colonial Secretary could say was that when the full story was unfolded people would then understand. It is a pity that the Colonial Secretary did not begin to unfold some of that story today; that he did not begin to enlighten hon. Members, who day after day have called for the facts and have been denied them. Nevertheless, some of the story is beginning to unfold.
We now know, for example, what at the beginning of August we only suspected—that the British and French Governments planned to use force to seize the Canal and solve the Canal problem at the beginning of August. The President of the Board of Trade will be unable to deny that. He will be unable to deny it, because it was said by M. Pineau in the French Assembly that they were stopped 372 from using force only by Mr. Dulles. And President Eisenhower has said in a television broadcast to the United States that some of their allies—and everyone knows that that means Britain and France—wanted to use force to solve the Suez Canal problem at the beginning of August.
That is the beginning of the story. Then it moved away from what appeared to be the sphere of force into the realm of negotiation. After pressure from this side, and from elsewhere, it was referred to the Security Council, and it looked for a time as though the whole question was subsiding, that the heat was coming off and that the matter would be settled by peaceful negotiations with Egypt. Indeed, the latest information that we have on the subject is first that the Foreign Secretary was prepared to give serious consideration to the Indian compromise plan, and secondly that the Egyptian Government had proposed a meeting in Geneva on 29th October, a significant date, for hon. Members will recall what happened afterwards—not negotiations in Geneva, but the Israeli attack on Egypt which launched this whole business.
What was actually happening in the meantime while public opinion was being lulled to sleep, and while everybody thought that the Government had departed from the course of insanity and had come back to reason? The military build-up was going on all the time, in Malta and Cyprus, in preparation for what actually took place last week. As the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) said, it must have been premeditated. It would have been wrong, he said, if the Government had not made ample preparations for the action which they took last week. Of course, it was premeditated.
The information was let out by Mr. Ben Gurion in Israel, and M. Pineau in the French National Assembly, on almost identical days. Mr. Ben Gurion said, "At last Israel has found a true ally in France", and M. Pineau told the French Assembly, "We have some cards up our sleeves which we shall play when the moment is ripe." The moment was ripe when Israel mobilised and when the British Government officially told them not to attack Jordan. By shining the red light against the road to Jordan they shone the green light on the road to 373 Egypt. That is a little of the story which the Colonial Secretary might have unfolded this afternoon and which I do not think the President of the Board of Trade will be able to contradict when he replies later this evening.
What was the purpose of all this? What were the objectives, and how far have those objectives been realised? Some hon. Members opposite are concerned about that aspect of the matter. The hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), who I hope may have an opportunity to state his views, is concerned, as, for example, is the Daily Telegraph today, to know why this operation was called off before even our military objective had been realised. The Daily Telegraph says:The talk prevalent in some quarters about 'victory' and the unqualified achievement of objectives is notably unguarded. The original purpose of the Anglo-French forces was defined as the occupation of key points along the whole length of the Canal, thus making it an effective buffer line between Israel and Egypt. But the standstill has been declared when, apparently, only a part of the Canal has been brought under control. No reason for the halt short of our original conception has been stated.I am sure the hon. Member for Preston, North and his hon. Friends will be very much concerned to ask the Government to state the reasons why they halted before these military objectives were realised.
Why, in fact, was the cease-fire ordered? This House has not yet been told. We still do not know the reasons. Perhaps the President of the Board of Trade will tell us this evening. Certainly, it could not have been ordered because our military objectives or our war aims had been achieved. What were our war aims? As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has said, they change from day to day. Some of them have been clearly stated. First, we have been told that the purpose was to put an end to hostilities between Israel and Egypt. We have achieved that, at least for the time being. We ended the hostilities between Israel and Egypt by furnishing military aid to the attackers and helping them more quickly to defeat their victims.
We were also told that our aim was to separate the combatants. We have put in a tiny little wedge at the top of the Suez Canal, and the combatants, if they 374 wanted to, could be at arms at any moment throughout the whole length of the Canal except that tiny wedge at the top.
We claimed that we were going in to protect British lives in Egypt. Not a single British life in Egypt has been threatened by the Egyptians. In fact, I must say that under the greatest provocation the discipline of the Egyptian population during these last ten days has been simply fantastic. British correspondents have paid tribute to it. But British civilians in Egypt were only threatened by British bombs which might have fallen upon them.
Then we were told that the aim was to protect our shipping, £50 million of it, according to the Prime Minister, heading for the Canal. The next day we were told that the ships had been routed round the Cape. That is how we saved that £50 million worth of British shipping, not by our military action in Egypt. Then we were told that it was to keep the Canal open; and we blocked it. Then we were told that it was to secure our oil supplies; and we made certain that those oil supplies would be reduced by some 75 per cent. by the blocking of the Canal and the sabotaging of the pipelines. Or perhaps the President of the Board of Trade will tell us the amount of oil supplies coming into this country at the present time and expected during the next three weeks.
Then there was the secret war aim—not publicly proclaimed by the Prime Minister, but known to everybody as the secret and special personal aim of the Prime Minister, namely, to topple over Nasser. Has that been realised? I am sure the hon. Member for Preston, North will be very upset indeed that that war aim has not been realised and that today Nasser is still there.
§ Mr. Warbey
I regret to say this, because Nasser is a military dictator and I do not like military dictators, but instead of toppling Nasser and slapping him down the Government's actions have built him up. Today, he is the hero of the Arab world instead of being only the petty dictator of Egypt.
Since then there have been two additional war aims—belated ones which 375 were revealed at the last moment. One is to get the Israelis to go back to their own frontiers. We have heard what Mr. Ben Gurion has had to say about that. Of course, the British Government have not, and cannot, achieve that war aim. I regret very much indeed that Mr. Ben Gurion has said in effect, "What we have, we hold." This is going to do great damage to the cause of Israel, and, as one of those who helped to do what little he could, politically and otherwise, to bring the state of Israel into existence, I can only say that if they try to hold on to the fruits of an undoubted act of aggression, they will forfeit their friends throughout the world.
The other war aim, which we have only just been told about, is to create a United Nations police force. This, if I may say so, is almost too funny for a tragic situation. This is to say, of course, "Long live the gangster. Long live the murderer. They have created the police force."
I hope it will have happened that out of this evil done by the British and French Governments good may yet come. That is the only hope for this country and for the world. But, if this good is to come, the Government must, of course, having begun to retrace their steps, retrace them fully and wholeheartedly. Let them comply fully with the conditions put by the United Nations. Let them not haggle about it. Let them agree with the United Nations when and how our troops shall get out.
Let them not pretend that we have any claim to be a part of the United Nations police force. None of the great Powers has any such right. All of them have sinned one after another—Russia, Britain, France and America—America by her action in Guatemala in getting rid of a Government there and putting in a stooge Government and a military dictator who has since used force. None of the great Powers has shown itself fit to be a member of the United Nations police force.
Let us not haggle any more about it. Let us make sure that at least this good comes out of it, and, in order that it may come, let this Government go.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
I will not follow the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) in his aŕguments directly, because many of my hon. Friends wish to 376 intervene, if there is time, and I do not wish to detain the House for long.
No one would claim, I think, that our problems and anxieties in the Middle East are at an end. The Russian threats of aggression or of intervention in that area cast a sombre shadow of which we are all only too conscious. Yesterday, the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond)—to whom, if I may, I would add my felicitations to those already expressed—asked a question of the Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend's answer, or perhaps I should say, lack of answer, must temper any optimism which any of us may feel. Nevertheless, with that reservation, a very important one, I acknowledge at once, I should myself submit that events so far have seldom so justified the policy of a Government as they have done in the Middle East, and in very quick time.
In one week, we have achieved much of what we sought. I sincerely believe that the courage and resolution of the Prime Minister have already brought many benefits to this country and the world. Ten days ago, the Government—it will be agreed, I should imagine—were faced with an extremely difficult choice. The choice which they had to make was a straightforward one between two alternatives: first, we could have left this whole matter of the Israeli-Egyptian war to the United Nations, or, as the second choice, we could act ourselves in concert with the French. Much the easier choice, of course, was to leave it to the United Nations. No one would have criticised that, but nothing would have happened. The United Nations would have passed resolutions, as it has done about Hungary, but, as in the case of Hungary, it would not have acted because it had nothing to act with; there was no international police force. The only forces available which could act were the British and French forces in the Mediterranean.
What are the results so far of this intervention? To begin with, there is a small but beneficial result to those concerned. We have, I suppose, saved many Israeli lives because we put the Egyptian Air Force out of action on the ground. Secondly, we have limited the size and area of the war, because our prompt action has prevented the intervention of other Arab States on the side of Egypt, 377 and possibly, too, has prevented the Israelis from invading Jordan. Thirdly, we brought the war to an end within a week. [Laughter.] I do not know why hon. Members opposite laugh.
§ Mr. Fisher
It may be that the Leader of the Opposition thought it was a premature result, but nevertheless it certainly would not have occurred if we had not been there. I believe that my right hon. Friend never said a truer word than when he observed that in order to prevent a big war it is sometimes wise to take strong action to stop a small one.
What were our objectives and motives in taking the action we took? They were motives which were deliberately introduced by hon. and right hon. Members opposite, and by the Leader of the Opposition in particular. I believe we had two motives. The first was to protect vital British interests. The whole standard of living of our people depends on the oil of the Middle East and on the Canal to bring it through. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is blocked."] That is temporary. I find nothing morally reprehensible in a Government seeking to defend the living standards of its own nationals. I should have thought that was the first responsibility of any Government.
The second motive, and just as important, was that we took effective action to reduce the size of the conflict and bring it to an end. In that we have been completely successful, 100 per cent. successful, in a week. We went into Suez in order to divide the main forces of the combatants from each other. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to say "Rubbish", but that was the only place for us to go in and we were the only people capable of achieving that at the time.
§ Mr. Fisher
Certainly the main forces of the combatants are separated. I should have thought it would have been obvious to hon. Members that law, both domestic and international, is often quite ineffective 378 without a police force to implement it. That is the job which we have done on this occasion.
As the Prime Minister said in the House a week ago, and as Sir Pierson Dixon said in the United Nations, of course we will willingly, gladly, hand over this task and responsibility to a United Nations force as soon as one can be organised to take over the job properly. I hope that we shall stay there until such a force arrives in sufficient strength to keep the peace in the Middle East. In bringing these hostilities between Israel and Egypt to an end, we have had absolutely no help at all from the party opposite. Instead, we have had the bitter hostility of hon. and right hon. Members opposite, the unedifying scenes in the House of Commons all through last week and then the disgraceful and politically inept broadcast of the Leader of the Opposition. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It was politically inept because it has rallied most of us round our own leader. I believe that all these things will prove a boomerang to hon. Members opposite.
I have never before in this House said things personally unfriendly to hon. Members opposite because I have many friends on the opposite benches, but I must say that, with a few notable exceptions, I believe the Opposition have put themselves in an absolutely impossible position by the attitude which they have taken, a position in which, in order to save their own political reputations, they have had practically to hope for the failure of this country and this enterprise. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] Oh, yes; in the result it is not, of course, this country which has failed, but the Socialist Party which has failed this country. In support of my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) I must say that Mr. Nehru frequently finds himself in the same position.
One of the least endearing features about some hon. Members opposite is that they seem to think that in so many international situations their country is invariably wrong.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
This is an old taunt, but there were a great many countries which took part in the General Assembly vote. Is the case of the hon. Member that this country was the only one in step?
§ Mr. Fisher
I do not want to go into that at this late hour. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We have been into all these arguments again and again. I am merely defending the Government, as I think I am perfectly entitled to do. The Government's policy was a courageous policy and a strong policy, carried through by a strong Government. How wrong some people were who nine months or a year ago thought the Prime Minister might make a weak Prime Minister. How wrong they were.
Of course, there were risks in this policy, and I do not deny that. One of the risks was that our policy would be misunderstood abroad, and deliberately traduced at home. Those things happened. The Government accepted those risks, and the Prime Minister himself bore the burden of the insults which were hurled at him all last week across the Floor of the House with a cool dignity and courage which enhanced his stature in the House as it lowered the stature of those who insulted him.
§ Mr. Fisher
Very soon this country and the world will, I believe, begin to reap the rewards of this policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "We are already."] We have accepted the risks. I believe we shall soon see the prizes. Already there is the prize that the war between Israel and Egypt is at an end. That is the first prize.
When the international force materialises our own forces can come home. I repeat what other hon. Members have said, that one of the most important benefits that may come out of this enterprise can be a permanent international police force for the world, a police force permanently organised and permanently in being, which will give the United Nations the power to act as well as to talk. That would be of great benefit not only to ourselves but to the whole world.
Another result important for the world as well as ourselves can be the internationalisation of the Canal, with, of course, free passage through it for Israeli ships. I myself should prefer our own forces to remain there until that objective is achieved. Certainly the international force should not be withdrawn until it has been achieved.
380 Lastly, I believe that we can get out of this enterprise a complete settlement of the whole of the Middle East, and with it a great enhancement of British authority in an area which was rapidly falling under Russian influence. I am proud to have supported wholeheartedly from the outset a Government who by their courage and resolution have brought about the prospects of such benefits to our country and to the world.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
It was my intention to say something about democracy in this House, but I have not the time to develop that subject tonight, and I shall look forward to having a chance of speaking on that on another occasion. We are considering the world. We ought to consider also what is happening on our own doorstep. Now I shall produce evidence to show the worsening of the situation.
Many explanations have been given of how this situation was brought about. I believe that most of what has been said has contributed to it, but fundamentally the issue has been caused first of all by the American House of Representatives, secondly by the Senate, and thirdly and in particular by the American Standard Oil Company. In the short time available to me tonight I propose to prove what I have said.
Oil is the blood-stream of modern life, and no large industrial country can keep going unless it can have a guaranteed supply of oil. Consequently, oil brought about a change in the centre of gravity of power in the world. For fifty years now that centre has been the Middle East. The authorities in this country have a terrible responsibility for this situation there, because they have taken no action worth talking about to deal with it, and now they are risking the lives of millions of our people—to safeguard the oil for them.
Oil has determined the centre of the struggle for power and to a great extent determined the foreign policy of all the large industrial countries. If anyone doubts me, I refer him to one or two pieces of evidence which I will quote briefly because of the very limited time that the sons of ordinary people have to speak in the House.
381 M. Clemenceau said,A drop of oil is worth as much to France as a drop of blood.In 1916 the British Government, at great risk, attacked the Rumanian oilfields in order to undermine Germany's military power. Oil is required for power for most forms of transport and is an element in many by-products required by industrial countries. It has been responsible for producing more millionaires and greater profits than any other form of industry. It has produced its Sir Basil Zaharoffs and its Sir Henry Detterdings and it is no coincidence that they have all been knighted. [Laughter.] What is the joke?
§ Mr. Victor Collins (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
I suggest that some of those hon. Members who have been recently knighted have today made very useful statements.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
If my hon. Friend's intervention was intended to be helpful, I cannot see it. This is what we have to face when some people are trying to be just too clever.
I repeat that it is no coincidence that many of the big millionaires who made their money in oil have received what my hon. Friend seems to know nothing about. It is the British, French, German and, above all, American oil companies who are fundamentally responsible for the world situation today. They have extracted the maximum amount of oil from the Middle East and have put relatively little back into those countries, except in order to extract more oil. The result is that the whole of the Middle East is economically backward and the natives are living in appalling conditions. The treatment meted out to the workers in the Middle East is a disgrace to the countries I have mentioned.
I intend to produce evidence to prove that this is the fundamental reason for the Suez situation. All this accounts for power politics and the fact that the lives of millions of people are being risked in the manoeuvres and intrigues for oil in the Middle East. The oil companies of the world for generations have taken millions of pounds in value out of the Middle East and have put relatively little 382 back except in modernising plant to extract more oil to make greater profits and make more millionaires.
I refer hon. and right hon. Members who are sufficiently interested to check the facts to a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the House on 15th February, 1955, which is well worth reading. The right hon. Gentleman, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that the Government's holding in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, originally £5 million, was at that time £233 million. By 1955 a £I share had gone up to £11 and its market value was £50. People talk about inflation. Here is an example of inflation, and it is typical of what has been going on in the Middle East.
Now I shall quote the one-time Secretary of State of the U.S.A. If anyone doubts its authenticity, I will gladly let them see the quotation if they will come to me after the debate. Mr. Harold Ickes said on 25th March, 1945:Here we are, your country and mine, in a dither over Russian influence in the Middle East, which means nothing but Iranian oil. When I was in London in September, I found there was no difficulty in arriving at mutually agreeable understandings between our two countries with respect to our oil interests. I wanted to try the same procedure with Russia, but so far we have done nothing except to waste time and get closer and closer to another brink of another disaster.My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) should hesitate before becoming involved in oil controversy. I ask my right hon. Friend if he remembers the Lord Beaverbrook-Cordell Hull-Harold Ickes oil agreement of 1945? That agreement would have provided for the international control of oil. Had it been completed we would not have been faced with the situation we are in today. But what happened? First it was submitted to Congress, which opposed it. Then it was submitted to the Senate, but forces behind the scenes insisted upon its withdrawal.
Does my right hon. Friend also remember the watered-down agreement which he signed with the late Hector McNeil, Harold Ickes and other United States officials? This is the explanation of why the world is in its present situation. Many of us, when on the Terrace of the House of Commons, have pointed to the real government with the clock: the mighty oil companies have been determining 383 policy behind the scenes. It was the Standard Oil Company, together with the other oil companies, which insisted on that international agreement being withdrawn from the Senate.
Could we have a White Paper showing the negotiations which took place? First, the Beaverbrook negotiations and, secondly, the negotiations in which my right hon. Friend and others were involved? Could we be given the whole history, and at the same time could we be told the profits made by the millionaire oil magnates through extracting oil from the Middle East? In such a White Paper could we have a report of what took place during the last war when these oil magnates were negotiating while our boys were fighting all over the world? Could we be given the reports of the British Ambassador from Teheran on what took place between August and December, 1944, and all post-war history of oil in the Middle East?
That brings me to my next point. In 1946 a friend wrote to me from Abadan an indictment of the treatment of the natives of the Middle East. Never have I read a blacker account of the treatment of men and women. So concerned was I at this report that I saw the late Mr. Ernest Bevin and handed it to him. I have here the confidential letter from the Foreign Office indicating that it was going to go into this matter.
This is part of the explanation of the present situation. Because the natives at that time had never organised themselves they were treated in a far worse manner than were the people of this country during the industrial revolution. This House needs to be reminded that if the policy of the International Federation of Trade Unions or of the Co-operative Alliance had been applied this would never have occurred because, both before and since the war, those two organisations have said that conflicts over oil resources are an ever-present threat to world peace.
I have here further evidence of the intrigue and manoeuvring which has been carried on by some of these oil magnates, with whom some people seem to be very friendly. I now wish to quote from the American newspaper Time of March, 1947. It says:In the subterranean world of petroleum it is the international oilmen who play the blue- 384 chip game. The players must back their gambling spirit with refineries, tankers, filling stations—and millions in hard cash.It goes on to say:The concessions were wangled from wily old Ibn Saud Arabian American Oil Company … jointly owned by Standard Oil Company of California and the Texas Company.So one could go on giving examples of the stakes played for by these people, many of whom have been brought here and feted in certain centres in this great capital. The time has arrived when the people of the old world—especially in this centre in London—ought to insist that the resources of the world should be owned by the people of the world, and the whole of the world's resources used for mankind's benefit. The time has arrived when, no matter who they are or how highly placed they may be, these people should be swept out of power so that never again shall mankind be faced with a situation of this kind, with this Government risking the lives of millions of our people during the past two or three months.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
When my right hon. and hon. Friends decided to put the Amendment on the Order Paper we had two considerations chiefly in mind. One was that in a crisis of this magnitude it is the duty of the Opposition to try to secure the general welfare of the nation, and the other to try to make sure that when the Opposition succeeds the Government the situation is not irreparable. The Amendment, therefore, is aimed primarily at trying to undo some of the mischief that has already been done and to prevent more from being done.
My right hon. Friends and I were alarmed by statements that came from the Commonwealth about what may be the intentions of members of the Commonwealth. I have a good many friends in India, and I was shocked by some of the statements made, which at first sight appeared to show that very great influences were at work in India and Ceylon to get them to withdraw from the Commonwealth. And, as we all know, it is awfully difficult, if not impossible, to get nations back once they have gone out.
I was most influenced by a statement made by an Indian statesman whom I 385 have the honour to know quite well, Rajagopalachari, who is an Indian ex-Minister of influence, and whose economic views are no means those of myself, but who has powerful influence in the Congress Party, although he has now retired from active life. He has been advising Pandit Nehru to take India out of the Commonwealth as a consequence of the policy pursued by the Government in the last few weeks. The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations must be very well aware of the agitation which has been going on.
The first thing we wanted to do was to give the House of Commons an opportunity of saying something, or doing something, which might express the wish of the House of Commons that the Commonwealth should continue as strong as ever it has been and to make it still stronger. I am afraid, however, that we have not got that from the speech of the Secretary of State for the Colonies this afternoon. I was rather surprised at the reasons he gave for not accepting the Amendment. He suggested that it would be awfully awkward to arrange it; that the timetable might be difficult.
One of the most astonishing and encouraging features of the last ten days has been the fact that the Security Council was able to meet so quickly, and that the United Nations Assembly and Security Council have been in almost constant session. It would seem, therefore, that there should be no mechanical difficulties in the way; and one would have thought that at a time of such peril as this, when there are so many ominous portents coming in from abroad, the first thing the Prime Minister would desire to do would be to surround himself with the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth and to obtain their counsel. After all, he seems to have been having very bad advice these last few weeks.
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite will not, in the privacy of their own hearts, suggest that the counsel which the Prime Minister has been obtaining and acting upon has been invariably sagacious. One would have thought, therefore, that in these circumstances the Government would have considered it to be a highly desirable thing to get the Commonwealth Prime Ministers together. Of course, we are satisfied that 386 if they did, they would hear something that they would not like to hear. But in these days, when the Opposition cannot influence the Government very much—at least obviously and openly, because party alignments in the House of Commons make party loyalties very difficult to bend or break—it would have been the best thing to have called in people from outside who would be able to give advice from a variety of points of view. We are rather shocked, therefore, that we obtained from the Secretary of State for the Colonies so lame an answer to the Amendment which we have moved.
In any case, there is nothing in the Amendment which does not state the facts. How does it read?… in view of the grave international situation "—does anybody suggest that it is not grave?—and the division in the Commonwealth resulting from Your Majesty's Government's policy of armed intervention in Egypt"—Does anyone suggest here that divisions in the Commonwealth have arisen from any other action? That is the second statement of fact made in the Amend-men—the Gracious Speech contains no reference to any proposal by Your Majesty's Government to convene forthwith a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers so as to bring to bear all the resources of the Commonwealth in support of the authority of the United Nations.I ask hon. Members opposite, if they set aside for a moment any consideration of party prestige, is there anything in that Amendment to which they can take exception?
Are the facts wrongly stated? Are they stated in exaggerated form? Is it not, in all the circumstances, a very modest and moderate Amendment? Indeed, we were hoping to hear from the Government a statement almost immediately to the effect that they proposed, as soon as may be, to act upon the Amendment. Instead of that, we had this afternoon a speech from the right hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] We are getting accustomed to this. Hon. Members opposite are shouting down their own doubts. It is noticeable, however, that as the doubts arise the shouting also dies.
I was saying, before the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister came in 387 just now, that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies did not in any way satisfy us. In fact, he once more got on the escalator. I wish that he would realise that a catalogue is not a description. We had a long catalogue of the occasions on which the members of the Commonwealth had been consulted in the last few months, but, of course, on the one single occasion when it was most important to consult them they were not consulted at all.
As we said on a previous occasion, the reason they were not consulted was that it was not possible to consult them in a project which had to be carried out so secretly and so quickly. So we asked them to repair that. Because, after all, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger), who opened this debate on behalf of the Opposition, in what I thought was an admirable speech, pointed out, diversity which is to some extent a part of the weakness of the Commonwealth is also in circumstances of this sort a source of strength. No one will deny for one moment that the relationships between Ceylon and India and Russia and Egypt are different from those of Great Britain. Would it, therefore, not have been a very important thing to have had a confluence of views of various kinds brought to bear upon this problem?
I have tried to say before that I regard these problems as entirely novel and that they will be with us for some time to come. I do not quite honestly believe that there exists any body of statesmen in the world at the present time fully equipped with all the answers to all these problems. If that be the case, why have we denied ourselves the advice of people who are so easily available and who can draw upon so big a pool of knowledge from different parts of the world?
Furthermore, there is another argument which I should like hon. and right hon. Members opposite to consider. They have said over and over again—in fact it has been the leitmotiv of this debate from the beginning in speeches from the other side of the House—that the great difficulty about the United Nations is that it is too powerless, that it is composed of so many disparate elements that it is unable to come to any coherant de- 388 cision and carry it out. Surely, if that be the case, it is all the more essential that a body of opinion like the opinion in the Commonwealth, a body of nations, should act in as much concert as possible in order to give significance, meaning and coherence to the United Nations.
Ought we not to try to avoid a state of affairs in which members of the Commonwealth speak with so many different voices in U.N.O.? Therefore, if we are to deal with what remains of this problem now, it seems to me that the first thing we ought to do is to get the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth together in order that we might be able from now on at least to have as common a policy as it is possible to work out in the circumstances facing us. That is what we have to say about this Amendment. We hope that we shall have from the Government a rather better reply than the speech which we had this afternoon from the Colonial Secretary.
As has been said more than once, this is like a serial story. Day after day it unfolds itself, almost like those old serial stories of the cinema when we had to leave the cinema, full of apprehension because we saw Pearl White hanging on to a precipice. I have never seen anything so like the drawn faces which we used to witness among those leaving the cinema when they had a whole week to wait before knowing what was going to happen to her as the faces of members of the 1922 Committee in the course of the last few days.
We had a further instalment of the serial story tonight. Hon. Members opposite have never been able to make up their minds on what was the object of the Prime Minister's first project. We do not blame them; we cannot make it out ourselves. We do not know which is the mask and which is the reality. We believed at first, and it subsequently transpired to be the case, that going in to separate the forces of Egypt and Israel was a mask and behind that mask the real intention was to achieve the objectives which the Prime Minister has had in mind ever since last August—the seizure of the Canal and, of course, the downfall of Colonel Nasser.
Now and again the mask becomes the reality because hon. Members say, "What a wonderful thing it would be if, as a result of our intervention, we put teeth 389 into the United Nations and had a United Nations police force". We want to know from the Government today, is the mask now to become the reality, or is there another reality behind the mask?
Last night the Foreign Secretary made a speech on the radio and I have been trying to understand it. Probably it is my fault if I do not understand it; the right hon. Gentleman will probably explain. Speeches from the Front Bench opposite are so blurred; there is something going on inside their minds quite different from what they are saying. They make speeches like a boy spelling and not being quite certain whether the "I" comes before the "E" or the "E" before the "I". So he makes both look the same.
I will read what the right hon. Gentleman said. This is very important because one or two hon. Members opposite have indicated that what they will do tonight will depend on what the Government say in reply to the debate. The Foreign Secretary said:Having taken this action,"—that is, landing in Egypt—… we are not going to be deflected from seeing that it achieves the results we desire.What are the results? Are they confined to a United Nations force? If so, why not say so? If from this emerges a United Nations force, in so far as France and Britain are concerned, from that point on are they then prepared to leave all the matters to the United Nations?
The Foreign Secretary said:In addition to the short-term objectives"—mark what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said—of stopping hostilities and separating the combatants we want a permanent settlement of the situation in the Middle East.So do we. But is a permanent settlement in the Middle East a condition for getting out of Egypt or is it to be a purpose pursued by Her Majesty's Government through the medium of the United Nations? We want an answer.
To continue the quotation:We must ensure the withdrawal of Israeli forces, and a proper determination of the frontiers between Israel and the Arab States, which all will then respect.So do we. Is that a condition for the withdrawal of forces from Egypt? Is that one of the objectives which we still 390 have for remaining there? It is essential that we should know.We want the future of the refugees assured".So do we. But do we stay in Egypt until that is done?We want satisfactory arrangements made for the operation of the Suez Canal in accordance with the 1888 Convention".That takes us back to August. Are we making that a condition for withdrawing our troops from Egypt? We want to know, and hon. Members on the opposite side of the House want to know.We want to make plans for the economic development of the area to redress some of the great inequalities of wealth which now pervade it.So do we. Is that a condition for withdrawing from Egypt?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said,These are not easy problems. I believe that we have made them more soluble by our action; but they will only be solved if the United Nations make up its mind to take over from us in a real and effective way the tasks which we have begun to discharge.It is quite simple. All the right hon. Gentleman has to say is this: that provided the United Nations sends in a police force under conditions determined by the United Nations at a time to be determined by the United Nations, with no other conditions whatever, Her Majesty's Government will take the troops out of Egypt.
We want an entirely unequivocal answer to that, because unless we get it we shall never know which is the reality and which is the mask. We are prepared for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they wish, to declare a limited dividend on their operation and to say that whatever may have been their original intention, they will have achieved the existence of a United Nations police force in the Middle East. What we want is for them to say tonight whether they are going to be satisfied with that limited dividend; or is the ambiguity of that language once more concealing intentions which they have not revealed to the House?
We are entitled to know. We ought to have an end to this equivocation. It has been going on far too long. The Minister of Defence today, in answering a question, italicised the doubts in our 391 own minds by saying that we were not going to leave the Suez Canal to the authority of one nation. Does he mean that the troops remain there until we get a satisfactory settlement of the Canal problem? Is that what he meant? If he did not mean that, why did he use that language?
All the while, we are having these sentences dropped, or these blurred paragraphs from the Government, concealing from us and from the world what the real intentions of the Government are. And the time has come for it to stop, because we really do object bitterly to British lives being risked, and lost, for reasons concealed from the House of Commons. They are being concealed all the time. That is the first major point which we want to obtain from the Government this evening.
Furthermore—and I am, myself, deeply worried by this—I do not believe that it is possible to separate the events in Hungary from the events in Egypt. I wish that hon. Members would consider this very seriously. The country is becoming deeply troubled by what is now happening, and from some of the news it does look as if uglier events are going to supervene.
§ Mr. Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
It is a pity that some of the right hon. Gentleman's friends went to the Russian Embassy party last night.
§ Mr. Bevan
We are, indeed, on the edge of peril. I have been looking at the timetable of these events, and they have a most macabre appearance. I have believed, and I have stated here on more than one occasion—I have sincerely believed that profound changes are taking place in Russian society. I believe that there are deep divisions among Russian leaders. I do not believe that the Russian Government are any more monolithic than are the Government sitting on those benches opposite.
I believe that there are serious divisions, and protracted divisions—although rather less hopeful than those in the party opposite. I believe that these developments obey a tempo which attends upon world events just as much as upon events in Russia itself. If the world enabled Russia to relax; in other words, if 392 moderate elements in Russia can find in the world a congenial condition in which to press themselves, they will do so. If, on the other hand, the world is uncongenial, then those developments in Russia are retarded.
This calendar of events all goes to show that, as Russia was dealing with an entirely unexpected situation in Poland and in Hungary, the Russian leaders were equivocating; the elements that were making for a tolerant attitude were in the ascendancy. For example, who suggests, for a single moment, that the Russian leaders' descent upon Warsaw, and then their departure from Warsaw having had to accept the independent Government of Gomulka, was what they expected when they arrived?
Would they have subjected themselves to an affront so sharp as that if two things were not happening at one and the same time—changes in Russia herself, and changes in the attitude of the people around her towards Russia? Is that not clear from this timetable, from the fact that even after the invasion of Egypt by Israel, even after the ultimatum sent by Her Majesty's Government to Egypt, the Soviet Prime Minister was still speaking about the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary. [Interruption.] Yes, certainly. Hon. Members really ought not to accept so dismal, indeed, so ominous a conclusion that no change for the better can ever be expected from behind the Iron Curtain. It really is a grim prospect for the world if that is so. All we are saying on this side of the House is that Her Majesty's Government ought to direct their policies to encouraging moderation instead of giving an example of brutality such as we have seen.
As the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies said, as events unfold themselves we shall know the whole story. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) suggested this afternoon that we should have a Select Committee, such as sat, for example, on the Jameson raid. So we should. Only in that way could the facts become known, because the facts are now being concealed from us.
All the Opposition can do at the present time is to try to mobilise as much pressure on the Government as we possibly can to drag it in civilised directions. I myself am not going to say any- 393 thing which will make it more difficult for the Government and for hon. Members opposite to try to retrace their steps. These are very ugly days. People all over the world are getting frightened. There is a lot of ignitable material lying about and we never know whether the conflagration is going to become universal.
We have had from hon. Members opposite today a number of speeches in which they have expressed their disagreement with the Government's policy—brave speeches. There comes a time in the life of every hon. Member when he has to choose between what he considers to be the welfare of the country and the claims of his own party. I believe I have as much right to speak about that as has any hon. Member in this House. I do not believe that it accords with the dignity, the status or the well-being of this nation that any man in any part of the House should set the loyalty of his party before what he considers to be the well-being of the country and the world.
It is never an easy thing to part from colleagues. It is a long and agonising process to go through to decide to make up one's mind that one must take a decision which may be misunderstood by many.
§ Mr. Bevan
I do know. I am not sure that that knowledge has yet penetrated to the hon. and gallant Member. What I know is this. When hon. Members opposite go into the Lobby this evening, all I hope is that they will be able to come out of it genuinely believing that, having cast their votes, they will have served the best interests of their country; but if there are any hon. Members opposite who feel that the time has come when the solid façade of the party should be broken in order that common sense and dignity may creep in, now is the opportunity for them to do so.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)
I rise to say a few words in concluding this debate and, in doing so, may I say that I am conscious that the background of the discussion we have had concerns much more 394 than the future of either political party. It concerns perhaps much more than the future of this country, because the decisions which are taken, whether they are taken in London or New York, in Paris or in Moscow, are going to shape in a very special sense the future of the world in which all of us have got to live.
The Amendment that we are discussing tonight proposes a Prime Ministers' conference. May I say that I accept that as a serious and positive contribution, and I do not challenge or question the motives which lie behind it, even if I do not—and I shall say why—advise the House to accept it. It is a suggestion simply that we should add another, and very important and historic, forum for discussion of these great events.
The first thing I would say about the Amendment is that probably there has never been more discussion within the Commonwealth than is going on at every level at this time. The suggestion here is for a conference, and I accept that the intention of hon. Members in all quarters with regard to such a conference or any such discussions would be to put the accent on the amount of agreement within the Commonwealth rather than upon any divisions of opinion which might take place. It is not suggested, and it has never been suggested, that all countries within the Commonwealth should find universal agreement on all issues. As the right hon. Gentleman himself said, it is perhaps part of the strength of that great body that we do hold different opinions and come from so many parts with such diverse interests in the world. The Commonwealth is not like the Soviet Union at all; that is the body where one finds a single and common opinion on foreign policies. The Commonwealth is something quite different. What all of us hope for in the Commonwealth and what we generally, in the long term, though not necessarily in the short term, achieve is some general measure of agreement.
As to the calling of a conference at this moment, I would only say that I do not believe that this is a moment when the heads of Government of the various Commonwealth countries—and I draw a distinction between them and the Security Council in this matter—should necessarily leave all their countries and assemble together. What is in fact happening is 395 that consultations and discussions are going on at the highest levels. They are going on, especially at the United Nations today; and last night, on the Argentine resolution, every Commonwealth Government, with the exception of South Africa who had special and particular reasons, was agreed in supporting that resolution which urged the Prime Minister's proposal for a United Nations police force. No less than four members of the Commonwealth are upon the committee forming the plans for that force, and every member of the Commonwealth, again apart from South Africa, has offered to contribute to it. It is, therefore, not true to say that on all occasions, particularly on this great issue, we have been opposed to the views of the Asian members of the Commonwealth.
There is another matter upon which the Commonwealth is agreed, and I think it is well that we should emphasise it. From Eastern Asia to Western Canada, all members of the Commonwealth are agreed on warning the Russians of the dangers of extending the area of conflict. I think they are agreed on the one main principle, that is, the vital Commonwealth interest in the Middle East. It is common ground—at least, I believe it to be common ground—that an Arab-Israel war in that area would be calamitous to all the interests of the Commonwealth. It is common ground amongst the members of the Commonwealth that we should stop it, and it is common ground that we should see that it does not start again.
I believe that the final judgment in the Commonwealth on these events will be determined by our success or failure in these tasks, and our ability or otherwise to persuade other nations to discharge their responsibilities in these matters, and that it is these, far more than the timing of any conference, which will govern our future relations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), and others, as they were perfectly entitled to do, hung much more upon the Motion. Indeed the debate, as it was expected to do, has ranged over the whole problem of the Middle East.
I recognise the sincerity with which the views opposed to my own are held. I hope that hon. and right hon. Members 396 in the House will at least do me the credit of believing that I hold with equal sincerity—indeed, passion—the view that the Government's action has been right in these matters.
I wish to put the arguments before the House as simply and sincerely as is in my capacity to do. I should like to start by saying something about the vital character of the area which we are considering and the background to the events of the last seven days, because I believe that they have been somewhat omitted by the right hon. Gentleman.
Of course, the Middle East is vital to the Commonwealth—vital for the oil interests, certainly; vital because it is the bridge between Asia and Africa, and vital because men have also made it the gateway between Europe and the East. I do not believe there is any hon. or right hon. Member who would suggest for one moment that any member of the Commonwealth could contemplate the continuation of a war between the Arabs and Israel in that area of the world. There is no country of the Commonwealth which is not vitally affected and very few countries outside the Commonwealth which are not affected in some very important manner. In that area, the Israelis and the Arabs have lived in a condition of war or near war for many years.
The Labour Party renounced the Palestine Mandate. I am not criticising that or quarrelling with it. All I am saying is that it may be impossible for the West to renounce its responsibilities in that part of the world. Somebody has got to take that responsibility. Somebody must assure some kind of peaceful coexistence, at the least, between the people who inhabit it. I do not question the good intentions of either Government or any Government in this matter, but if ideals or moral precepts or good intentions could solve the problems of the Middle East they would have been solved long ago.
I do not know how many resolutions have been passed, recommendations made and committees established. I believe that the Security Council has had something like 200 meetings on Palestine. But in the lands of which we are speaking resolutions are, perhaps, not much read or discussed—certainly they are not much agreed; and the Israelis who have been 397 farming their land have watched the Arabs across their frontier raiding them as opportunity occurred. I do not suppose that we need be too much shocked by warfare of some kind in that area; it has certainly gone on since Biblical days. It is not a new thing in the area. Always there has been a history of war, of pillage and of destruction.
There is, however, a new factor. The new factor is that in the modern world there is provided the massive power of modern weapons to back internecine strife of that character; and the Egyptians, regardless of the poverty of their people, have devoted their resources to the purchase of arms on a vast scale from Russia. The weapons of mass destruction were placed in the hands of Nasser. And there is one other weapon that was used—the weapon of propaganda, the radio, the incitement to revolt.
The right hon. Gentleman compared Nasser to Hitler and Mussolini. I do not quarrel with that—I agree that it cannot be pressed too far and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman sought to press it too far; but I think that Nasser intended to achieve his aims not simply by conquest, though conquest he intended, as I shall show, in the case of the Israelis, but by internal revolution stirred up by propaganda in the Arab world. There is one thing above all that he intended: he intended the extermination of the State of Israel. That was his firm purpose.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Here in this House we need be neither pro-Jew nor pro-Arab. Nor do I think we are. I think all of us, whatever our race or religion, have risen above that in the debates which have taken place here. But let us be quite clear what Nasser intended. He stated it in no uncertain terms on 14th October, 1955, when he said:Arab loathing of the Jews is so great that any talk of peace is idle.Those were the words of Nasser himself in that area of the world.
On 11th April, 1956, the Egyptian Minister of Religious Properties broadcast as follows over the Cairo Radio:There is no reason why the faithful Fedayeen, hating their enemies, should not penetrate into Israel and transform the lives of its citizens into a hell. Yes, brother and sister Arabs, the Fedayeen will be victorious because their 398 motives are holy and their aims are of the highest. They will be victorious because they are more diligent in death than Israel in life.Those were the words being addressed to Israel, and there was no stopping at that. There was a trade blockade. There was the stopping of the Israeli ships in the Canal. There was the blockade of the Gulf. There was the accepted and declared war.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why, after all that, the Prime Minister assured the House that we stood by the tripartite commitment to defend Egypt against attack from Israel?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I wish to follow this up, because I think this argument is important. I refer to those things for this reason. Not to raise the past, because that does not refer to the past. That is the situation at this moment. Let us by all means judge those words as they sound to us in the House of Commons here in England, but let us try to imagine at least how they sounded to the Jew, his wife or his children, as he ploughed his land looking north to Syria, east to Jordan or south to Egypt.
It was at this stage and in that situation that Egypt announced the formation of the joint military command between those three countries, and Israel found herself virtually surrounded. It was at this stage that Egypt restarted raids across the frontier. I do not applaud or defend the Jews, and certainly I do not defend the last statements of the Premier, Ben Gurion. I do not defend them, but I do not believe that one can be so naive, in view of that history, as to call the Israelis the burglars and the Egyptians the householders. Israelis can claim, at least with some force of logic behind them, that their intention was to strike the dagger from the hand of the assassin. I do not believe there is anybody in this House who doubts that it was the intention of Egypt, declared and avowed, to annihilate the State of Israel.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
The question, of course, arises as to what we should have done at that moment. We have debated it in many debates. We shall go on debating it, and I have no doubt that historians will debate it in the future. Of 399 course, we could have done nothing at all. Or we could have pursued the advice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) and withdrawn our Ambassador from Tel Aviv, had a naval demonstration, or started a blockade. We could have used all the moral pressures which reflect a fruitless and frustrating policy over eight years. Egypt and Israel—and we must face the facts of it—were locked in combat, and locked in combat across the Suez Canal. [Laughter.] Hon. Members think it a matter for laughing.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
It is the simple truth that the battle was joined between the Israelis and Egypt. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Syria and Jordan would have joined in, or that the Egyptian Air Force would have inflicted massive retaliation. War would be raging today. Rightly or wrongly—and I concede the sincerity of those who hold a different view from us—we decided to intervene. I sincerely believe that if we had relied then upon resolutions rather than upon resolution, it would not simply be Budapest in flames tonight but Tel Aviv, Cairo and the whole of the Middle East.
I want to try to deal with some of the comments which have been made in the course of the debate. The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) hung on the debate a full discussion of our Middle Eastern policy, as he was entitled to do. He thought that we haggled and niggled about details. I say to him in all sincerity that we do not believe that it is details that we discussed in these matters. We believe that it is fundamental to a solution of these problems that any force that is put into the area should be effective and able to carry out the policies and the functions which the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was outlining to the House just now.
It is not a detail to press for that. It is not haggling to ask that these things should be fulfilled to ensure that the force that is to be put in should be capable not only of keeping the war stopped but to carry out some of the other long-term projects to which the right hon. Member referred and to which I shall be referring in a little more detail presently.
400 The right hon. Gentleman then claimed that the issue which was really being debated in the House of Commons was the issue whether we gave allegiance to or repudiated the United Nations Charter. That is not the issue. The issue is how and in what way force can be put behind the rule of law. And, whatever differences we hold about the solution, it is a great and worthy issue to be discussed inside or outside the Commonwealth.
The right hon. Member for Grimsby and the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and others turned to the question of Hungary.
§ Mr. Bevan
Before the right hon. Gentleman goes to Hungary, can we ask him whether in fact it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to withdraw their forces from Egypt immediately the United Nations asks them to do so? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly. Or whether there are any other conditions attached to their withdrawal in addition to the actual existence of United Nations forces?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made that absolutely plain yesterday. All we ask for is an effective United Nations force capable of carrying out these functions.
§ Mr. Bevan rose—
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I have answered. I have made it absolutely plain. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), who made his first contribution as Leader of the Liberal Party, struck a rather more practical note. He sought to face the issue. [HON. MEMBERS: "You face it."] He made it absolutely plain that any idea of an immediate withdrawal was an impractical proposal. He produced a devastating answer to the interpretation of the Afro-Asian Resolution which had been put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham) rose—
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
The truth is that any force which is put into this area must inevitably face large and grave problems. The Israeli and the Arab armies are facing one another. I believe it is the 401 wish of every hon. Member in this House, wherever he sits, to ensure that the handover to the United Nations forces is done properly and done to forces effective for the purposes which we have in mind.
My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. J. J. Astor) paid a tribute to the Prime Minister and his courage. I can assure my hon. Friend that if we showed courage in intervening, if we showed speed and effectiveness in action, we shall show equal decisiveness in securing the development which all of us wish to see in the effective introduction of a United Nations force into that area. I regret that we differ from him on some matters. I think he will recognise that one of the penalties for courage—and he showed courage in his own speech—is that one may sometimes have to differ from one's friends.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) recalled us to the facts of life. He said that never in history can decisions be made in this field other than in an atmosphere of controversy. The arguments against action, the instincts against action, the preference for debate and discussion and resolution, for anything other than decision, are often overwhelming. Yet there come moments in history when the dangers to the future of one's country and the Commonwealth are too great to brook delay. Sir, whichever way one takes the decision, there are grave risks. I believe we chose aright. My right hon. Friend also referred to the United States of America, and I agree very much with the sense of what he said.
My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman)—who is a friend in many real senses as well—said that at one time we policed the world with the British Navy. He said, and said rightly, that plainly we cannot do all that today. I do not think anyone would quarrel with that statement, but someone must police these areas of the world. We cannot leave them without any police force at all.
I say this to my hon. Friend: Of course we wish to hand over to an effective force. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made that plain. My hon. Friend said that we should do it on no conditions. But surely there is one condition which we should lay down, namely, that there should be a force, that it should be 402 effective, that arrangements should be made for the takeover and a proper plan produced.
§ Mr. Bevan rose—
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I am trying to tell the right hon. Gentleman. Of course Her Majesty's Government must take the responsibility for seeing that those conditions are satisfied.
What, then, has been achieved? In seven days a cease-fire has been secured in that area. There is something else as well. There is one explanation of the Russian dismay at these events. Her plans included, and I think are now shown to have included, the take-over of the Middle East, using Nasser as her instrument. Certainly our intervention disclosed that they had been armed to the teeth by Russia. The truth is now apparent. We intervened to stop the war, and we perhaps stopped it in the nick of time, before the Egyptian air force, organised by Russia, ran amok in the Middle East. If we stopped war prematurely, we make no apology either to Russia or to the Opposition.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
We intervened with the minimum of casualties. We are not to be compared with the Russians in Hungary. They started a war; we stopped one. The Russians sought to seize territories; we seek no sovereignty in that area. We seek no sovereign rights; we ask only for one thing—we ask our friends and neighbours for Heaven's sake to face the facts and realities in the world, whether they are great Powers or small. We must secure what we think is not contrived by the passing of resolutions or attacking those who seek to keep the peace.
A great task has to be done, and we have created an opportunity for the United Nations to do it. We share then objectives—the withdrawal of Israeli forces; the protection of the Canal, and a long-term settlement of the problem. I recognise the differences that divide us on these matters. I would only say that 403 I, for my part, have been proud to share in these decisions. I believe them to have been right, and I am happy to have taken what part I could in taking responsibility for them in the days that have now passed.
§ Mr. Bevan rose—
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Edward Heath) rose in his404
§ place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That those words be there added:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 262, Noes 320.407
|Division No. 1.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Fienburgh, W.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Albu, A. H.||Finch, H. J.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Fletcher, Eric||MoGhee, H. C.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Forman, J. C.||McInnes, J.|
|Anderson, Frank||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||McLeavy, Frank|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Gibson, C. W.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Baird, J.||Gooch, E. G.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Balfour, A.||Cordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mahon, Simon|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Greenwood, Anthony||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Bence, C. ft. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.)||Grey, C. F.||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Benson, G.||Griffiths, David (Bother Valley)||Mason, Roy|
|Beswick, F.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Blackburn, F.||Grimond, J.||Messer, Sir F.|
|Boardman, H.||Hale, Leslie||Mikardo, Ian|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Hamilton, W. W.||Monslow, W.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hannan, W.||Moody, A. S.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hastings, S.||Mort, D. L.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hayman, F. H.||Moss, R.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Healey, Denis||Moyle, A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Mulley, F. W.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Herbison, Miss M.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Burke, W. A.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hobson, C. R.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Holman, P.||O'Brien, Sir Thomas|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Holmes, Horace||Oliver, G. H.|
|Carmichael, J.||Holt, A. F.||Oram, A. E.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Houghton, Douglas||Orbach, M.|
|Champion, A. J.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Oswald, T.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Owen, W. J.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hubbard, T. F.||Padley, W. E.|
|Clunie, J.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Paget, R. T.|
|Coldrick, W.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Hunter, A. E.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Irving, S. (Dartford)||Parker, J.|
|Cronin, J. D.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Janner, B.||Peart, T. F.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Pentland, N.|
|Dairies, P.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St.Pncs,S.)||Popplewell, E.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement (Montgomery)||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Probert, A. R.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Deer, G.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Randall, H. E.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Rankin, John|
|Dodds, N. N.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Kenyon, C.||Reeves, J.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Reid, William|
|Dye, S.||King, Dr. H. M.||Rhodes, H.|
|Edelman, M.||Lawson, G. M.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John. (Brighouse)||Ledger, R. J.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Ross, William|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Royle, C.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Lewis, Arthur||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Lindgren, G. S.||Short, E. W.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondde, W.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)||Willey, Frederick|
|Skeffington, A. M.||Thornton, E.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)||Timmons, J.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Slater, J. (Sedgefield)||Tomney, F.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Turner-Samuels, M.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Snow, J. W.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Usborne, H. C.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Sparks, J. A.||Viant, S. P.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Steels, T.||Wade, D. W.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Warbey, W. N.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)||Watkins, T. E.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Stones, W. (Consett)||Weitzman, D.||Woof, R. E.|
|Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)||West, D. G.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Swingler, S. T.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Sylvester, G. O.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)||Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearson.|
|Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Wigg, George|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Currie, G. B. H.||Hay, John|
|Aitken, W. T.||Dance, J. C. G.||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Davidson, Viscountess||Heald, Rt. Hon Sir Lionel|
|Alport, C. J. M.||D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Deedes, W. F.||Hesketh, R. F.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Doughty C. J. A.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)|
|Ashton, H.||Drayton, G. B.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Atkins, H. E.||du Cann, E. D. L.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Hope, Lord John|
|Balniel, Lord||Duthle, W. S.||Hornby, R. P.|
|Ba[...], Anthony||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Eden, Rt. Hn. SirA.(Warwick&L'm'tn)||Horobin, Sir Ian|
|Barter, John||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Howard, Hon. Creville (St. Ives)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Errington, Sir Eric||Howard, John (Test)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Erroll, F. J.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)|
|Bennett, Or. Reginald||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Fell, A.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Finlay, Graeme||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Fisher, Nigel||Hurd, A. R.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Fort, R.||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)|
|Black, C. W.||Foster, John||Hyde, Montgomery|
|Body, R. F.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Fraser, Sir Ian (M'Cmbe & Lonsdale)||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Braine, B. R.||Freeth, D. K.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Gibson-Watt, D.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Glover, D.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Bryan, P.||Godber, J. B.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Gough, C. F. H.||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Gower, H. R.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Graham, Sir Fergus||Kaberry, D.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R, A. (Saffron Walden)||Grant, W. (Woodslde)||Keegan, D.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Kerby, Capt. H. B.|
|Carr, Robert||Kershaw, J. A.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Green, A.||Kimball, M.|
|Channon, H.||Gresham Cooke, R.||Kirk, P. M.|
|Chichester-Clark, R,||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Lagden, G. W.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Cole, Norman||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Gurden, Harold||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Leavey, J. A.|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Leburn, W. G.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maiden)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Harvey, Air Cdre, A. V. (Macclesfd)||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)|
|Cunningham, Knox||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield)||Oakshott, H. D.||Speir, R. M.|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Longden, Gilbert||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Osborne, C.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Page, R. G.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Panned, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|McAdden, S. J.||Partridge, E.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|McCallum, Major Sir Duncan||Peyton, J. W. W.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|McKibbin, A. J.||Pitman, I. J.||Teeling, W.|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Pott, H. P.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Powell, J. Enoch||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Profumo, J. D.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Raikes, Sir Victor||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Ramsden, J. E.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Rawlinson, Peter||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Maddan, Martin||Redmayne, M.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W.(Horncastle)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Remnant, Hon. P.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Renton, D. L. M.||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Markham, Major sir Frank||Ridsdale, J. E.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Rippon, A. G. F.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Marples, A. E.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Marshall, Douglas||Robertson, Sir David||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Maude, Angus||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Robson-Brown, W.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Roper, Sir Harold||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Russell, R. S.||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Moore, Sir Thomas||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Whitelaw, W. S. I.(Penrith & Border)|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Nabarro, C. D. N.||Sharples, R. C.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Nairn, D. L. S.||Shepherd, William||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Neave, Airey||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Soames, Capt, C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Heath and Mr. Wills.|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being after Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.