§ 3.35 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
Before attempting to summarise the results of the Bermuda meeting, Mr. Speaker, I should like to say a few words abouts its general character.
The meeting took place not at my suggestion, but on the proposal of President Eisenhower. It was he, also, who suggested that it should take place on British soil. I would like to express my appreciation of his action in both respects. That there was need for such a meeting is, I think, clear. There had been in recent months the serious deterioration in Anglo-American relations. It was not the purpose of the meeting to go back over the past, except so far as the lessons to be learned might help us for the future. We had no intention of crying over spilt milk, and certainly not of wallowing in it. Nevertheless, both sides spoke with absolute frankness and sincerity to each other, and this was wise, because it is only by complete frankness that we can hope to rebuild and strengthen a partnership so vital to the future of the world.
The fact that the President and I were old friends was, of course, an advantage. We had a number of meetings in plenary session with our advisers and we had a number of private talks. Both were valuable. It is not easy nowadays to hold conferences of this kind in a relaxed atmosphere, but, so far as it is possible, the place of meeting, and the conditions. were helpful to us. It would, of course, be absurd to suppose that in a few days' time we could find solutions of all the immense problems which confront us, but we covered much ground and we reached a number of decisions which are set out in the communiqué.
I take a little pride in the fact that the communiqué was not cast in the kind of rather high falutin' language which is sometimes thought necessary at the conclusion of such meetings. It set out in a precise form a number of specific points which had been dealt with. I want, also, to make it clear that there were no secret engagements. Our object was to create a situation in which normal diplomatic machinery can work effectively and smoothly and this, of course, includes visits by senior officials across the 38 Atlantic. There are a number of problems upon which much detailed work remains to be done, but I think that we can claim that the broad agreements reached have given guidance upon which progress can be made.
Nor would I attempt to conceal the fact that on some matters we were not in agreement—and this is not to be wondered at. But, even so, I think we understand each other better as the result of our talks. For instance, on China trade we explained our position very frankly to the Americans. I think they realise much better now what are our difficulties, and further detailed consultations will, I hope, bring us nearer together.
We discussed very frankly the present position and the future of the United Nations. I explained to the President our anxieties about its recent developments which spring, of course, from the distortion of the structure originally intended. This is due to the persistent use of the veto in the Security Council—[HON. MEMBERS: "By whom?"]—and this, in turn, has led to responsibilities being placed upon the General Assembly which were not originally contemplated. All this brings with it many new problems.
I made plain our view that just trusting to the United Nations is not a substitute for a foreign policy. For the United Nations, like any other human organisation, is no more than the sum of its partners. Nevertheless, as the communiqué records, we recognised the value of working through the United Nations and reaffirmed our adherence to the principles of the Charter.
I think that the truth is really this. If the broad policies of the leading countries in that organisation can be brought into line, and, above all, if Britain and the United States work closely together, I have every hope that they will be able to bring sufficient influence to bear upon the working of the United Nations to counteract some of the less responsible and more volatile emotions that seem sometimes to influence its members.
It is certainly in the interests both of the United States and the United Kingdom that members of the United Nations should face the problems of the world with responsibility, and it is the duty of our two great countries to lead and not 39 to follow. Thus, the organisation can help not merely to preserve peace but to promote justice. And if there are perhaps differences in emphasis and approach, I think that in these general propositions the President and I are in broad agreement.
Before I proceed I should like to say a word about the meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister. I am deeply indebted to Mr. St. Laurent and his colleagues for their willingness to go to Bermuda to suit my convenience. We had two excellent days of conversation of that intimate character which we always have within the close family of the Commonwealth. These discussions are always informal in the sense of being off the record, but they are all the more valuable, and they were particularly useful following on our talks with the United States. The power and authority of the Canadian Government are continually growing in international affairs, and we are glad to recognise this. In general, I can perhaps best sum up our discussion with a phrase which Mr. St. Laurent used in public, which I think was a good one. He said:We found that our anxieties were your anxieties.Perhaps I may at this point add that I am very hopeful that we shall be able to arrange a date in the course of this summer when a full Commonwealth Conference can meet in London. It is always difficult, with the many preoccupations of the various Prime Ministers to find a date which suits everyone, but I feel confident that we shall be able to do so.
I must now pass to the main topics which I discussed with the President at Bermuda. First, Europe. We explained our general views on the closer association of the United Kingdom with Europe. We made it clear that the proposed reductions in our actual forces to be maintained in Europe in terms of men did not mean any decision to reduce in any way our reliance on N.A.T.O. as the main pivot of the defence of the Western world, or to withdraw from our European responsibilities. I shall have a word to say later on the purely defence aspects.
The Americans were sympathetic towards our plans for a greater concentration of the many deliberative and advisory bodies in Europe. We discussed 40 in some detail the problems of the common market proposals of the Six Powers and our plan for the development of a wider area of industrial free trade. We made clear to them the many anxieties which we have in working out these ambitious schemes, particularly in relation to our overseas dependencies.
We reaffirmed our determination that, if it should be found possible to create this wider area for inter-European trade, it was not our purpose to see the growth of high tariffs and discrimination, but, on the contrary, it was our hope that the increased wealth which might follow the development of Europe as a whole would increase rather than decrease the market for goods of outside countries. This point of view, I should add, was particularly welcomed by the Canadians, as it certainly will be by other Commonwealth countries.
In general, the Americans well understood both the need for greater European unity and the special problems which confront the United Kingdom, as the centre of the Commonwealth, and as responsible for her overseas territories, in associating herself with these new developments, and I feel sure that we shall have the sympathy of the United States and of Canada, as indeed, I believe, of other Commonwealth countries, in what we are trying to do.
I will now turn to the Middle East. The President made it abundantly clear to me that the United States, so far from wishing to reduce British influence in the Middle East, is anxious to see it reinforced. It was also clear that our basic aims in this area are identical even if at times there are divergencies on how to achieve them. The wide ranging talks—conducted with great frankness—have gone a long way to reconcile those divergencies, and that process will, I believe, continue.
There are two urgent and immediate questions. First, there is the Canal. Secondly, there is the protection of Western oil interests.
On the Canal, our discussion was somewhat handicapped by the fact that the Hammarskjöld-Nasser negotiations were going on at the time of the Bermuda meeting, and the position was then, as it still is, obscure. But we found the United States as convinced as we are that 41 no settlement could be regarded as satisfactory which did not conform fully to the six principles laid down by the United Nations Resolution of 13th October and did not take full account, and just account, of the users' interests. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Israel?"] I will come to that in a moment.
Copies have reached us of a draft memorandum which the Egyptian Government have given to Mr. Hammarskjöld and to certain diplomatic missions to Cairo. As it stands, this is an unsatisfactory document, but I do not think that it would be wise for me to enter into detail about it at a time when we are discussing it with other Governments and, in particular, with the Government of the United States.
I am convinced that the handling of this matter will benefit from the close measure of agreement which we reached with the President and Mr. Dulles at Bermuda. It is greatly to our advantage that in dealing with the Egyptian Government the United States Government are taking a positive and leading rôle. Meanwhile, British shipowners are being advised to avoid using the Canal. Similar advise is being given by the American Government, among others.
I now turn to oil. It is clear that the Middle East oil will for many years to come continue to be of vital importance to Western Europe, and, in view of the rising quantities required, we must, in any case, quite apart from the Canal, develop all possible means of transporting it. It was in this context that we considered how best to protect these oil supplies and the peace and stability of the oil producing areas.
Here, let me warmly welcome the United States decision to become a member of the Military Committee of the Bagdad Pact. It is a recognition both of the staunch way in which the Bagdad Pact has held together in recent troubled times and of its rôle as the northern shield. It is our intention and that of the United States to strengthen the Bagdad Pact in every possible way. We also found the Americans fully appreciative of the rôle we are playing in the Persian Gulf and of the importance of our policy of keeping faith with the States and Rulers with whom we have treaty relations and to whom we have strong and binding obligations.
42 At the same time, we recognise the importance of the friendship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. In dealing with the problems of this area, we are, of course, aware of the phenomenon which, for want of a better phrase, might be called "emotional nationalism." We are agreed on the importance of dealing with it in such a way as not to drive it into the arms of the enemy of all true nationalism, and of Moslem nationalism in particular, and that is international Communism.
As I have said, two new projects for increasing the flow of Middle East oil are under consideration, including a new large pipeline through Turkey. At our Bermuda Conference, we considered the desirability of a policy by which projects of this kind be given the additional protection of a treaty between the interested Governments to reinforce the usual agreements now made between the companies and the countries of transit. This would certainly be a source of stability and give confidence all round.
Apart from these two questions, we also considered the immediate and urgent problems of Gaza and Aqaba. The United States Government agreed with us that the continued presence of the United Nations Expeditionary Force in the Gaza strip is essential if any solution of permanence is to be achieved. We both considered that the United Nations Force should not leave until its mission had been completely fulfilled.
As regards the Gulf of Aqaba, both our Governments considered that there existed a right of innocent passage for all ships through the entrance to the Gulf even though the entrance passes through Egyptian territorial waters. This does not in any way run counter to Egypt's legal rights. On the contrary; and our two Governments consider that under the armistice this applies equally to Israeli ships and the vessels of other nations plying to Israel. The presence of the United Nations Force at Sharm el Sheikh is an added guarantee that this rule will be respected.
We also considered the longer term problem of a Palestine settlement, and here we both had, regretfully, to conclude that while our common interest continued to lie in bringing about a permanent settlement the chances of achieving this 43 are not at present too hopeful. It will, therefore, be necessary to concentrate on the solution of individual problems as they arise, on trying to keep the atmosphere calm in the hope that, with the passage of time, a more general settlement can be achieved. Here, again, the continued presence of the United Nations Force can play an important rôle.
Before I pass from the Middle East, I ought, perhaps, to mention one other matter. I have seen it suggested that some kind of bargain was struck in which the decision to release Archbishop Makarios was included. There is no truth whatever in this allegation. It would have been quite unsuitable to discuss this matter with the President, and I did not do so.
The position and importance of Cyprus in the strategy of the Middle East was, of course, referred to, as was the N.A.T.O. initiative for conciliation, since the United States, as a member of N.A.T.O. is concerned, but no reference was made either by me or the President to a decision which must rest wholly within the responsibility of the British Government and with no one else.
I now come—
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
In response to an interjection by one of my hon. Friends about the passage of Israeli ships through the Canal, the right hon. Gentleman said that he would come to that matter. As he is now proposing to leave that part of his speech dealing with the Middle East, would it be possible for him to say a word about it now?
§ The Prime Minister
I thought that the hon. Gentleman was referring to the Gaza and Aqaba problems, with which I dealt separately.
§ Mr. Silverman
The right hon. Gentleman said something about the Canal and something about advice given to our shipping, but nothing about the passage of Israeli ships.
§ The Prime Minister
I thought, when the hon. Gentleman was interrupting me, that he was referring to the Gaza and Aqaba problems. With regard to the passage of Israeli ships through the Canal, that, I think, is covered under the first of the six principles adopted by the Security Council.
44 I must now come to the complicated question of nuclear bombs and their tests. It was not possible to enter into any explanation of what we decided at Bermuda without some examination of the background, and, since I have had such a very large number of Questions on the matter, I hope that the House will forgive me if I have to spend a little time upon it.
In 1947, the British Government decided to manufacture the atomic bomb and to rest their strategy largely upon it. This decision was taken under the Labour Government and by the authority of Mr. Attlee. In 1954, a still graver decision fell for the British Government of the day to take. It was taken under the premiership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill). This was the decision to embark upon research, development and limited manufacture of the megaton bomb, commonly known as the hydrogen bomb. This was frankly placed before the House in the Defence White Paper of February, 1955, and debated, as the House will remember, at some length on 1st and 2nd March that year. It had the support of Mr. Attlee and the majority of his colleagues, as is clearly shown by the terms of the Opposition's Amendment to the Government Motion.
I will read it:…while recognising that thermo-nuclear weapons have effected a revolution in the character of warfare, and that until effective world disarmament has been achieved it is necessary as a deterrent to aggression to rely on the threat of using thermo-nuclear weapons "—That is the preamble. Then it goes on to censure the Government's proposals.
It is interesting to see that on that occasion the Opposition were far from unanimous. About 60 Socialist Members, although present in the House, as the vote on the substantive Motion shows, abstained from voting for the Amendment. Why? Because of these offending words. The abstainers included the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) about whom the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh) wrote the following words:I have been bewildered by Mr. Bevan's rapid changes"—45 this is quoted from a newspaper—of policy on the H-bomb. Make it. Make it, but let the enemy use it first. Do not make it at all. He has said all that in a matter of months.We shall be discussing this in greater detail in the Defence debate in a week or two, but I shall he interested to learn, possibly this afternoon, what is now the official view on nuclear power. At any rate, nuclear power is the basis on which Britain's defence plans must at present rest, and the only question that remains, therefore, is whether this process, initiated by Mr. Attlee as regards the kiloton bomb and carried further by my right hon. Friend as regards the megaton bomb, shall be brought to fruition, or whether we are to hesitate at this last stage when the necessary tests have to be made before production is carried out.
Many hon. Members opposite—both above and below the Gangway, no doubt from sincere and conscientious motives—ask me almost daily to abandon the tests. What I should like to know—and I think that the House and the country have a right to know is whether, if the Leader of the Opposition had to make this decision today, he would cancel the tests which are shortly to take place. If so, would he face the consequences to defence? Would he cease to base our defence upon the medium bomber and, later, upon the projectile which is to carry the megaton bomb? If he abandons it—and I quite understand that he might do so from conscientious motives —what defence does he believe possible, short of a general disarmament agreement covering both conventional and unconventional weapons?
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept the logical consequences of abandoning the tests, which means abandoning the weapon? Those consequences are the permanency of conscription and the need to raise far larger armies at home and throughout Europe in an attempt to hold the position and, even so, the acceptance of permanent inferiority, both in numbers and armaments. Every British Government since the war have taken the view that, first, the kiloton and now the megaton bomb are essential to our defence, short of a general disarmament agreement. I am not now talking about a limitation of tests but of the need to possess the weapon. And by a general disarmament agreement I mean an agree- 46 ment that covers conventional as well as unconventional weapons. Any other decision must put us in a position of hopeless weakness.
So much for the bomb, as part of our armament. I now come to the question of the possibility of limiting the tests. I want to stress again that the abolition of tests is different from their limitation. I am dealing only with their limitation. We have always said that we would be prepared to enter into a general disarmament agreement covering conventional as well as unconventional weapons. Last year we said that we would consider the possibility, even without a disarmament agreement being finalised, of a limitation—though not an abolition—of tests of nuclear armaments. In July last year Sir Anthony Eden gave a further undertaking. He said this:As I said on 7th June, Her Majesty's Government are prepared to discuss methods of regulating and limiting test explosions which take account of their own position as well as that of other Powers. It would no doubt be preferable that this matter should be pursued within the context of a comprehensive agreement on disarmament. For our part, however, we should not exclude other methods of discussion acceptable to those concerned.Later the same day he said:If, however, we cannot make progress in that way "—that is, in the context of the Anglo-French proposals—I do not exclude dealing with it in some other way by itself."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th July, 1956; Vol. 556, c. 586–8.]What does that mean? It means that we would see whether we could make proposals for limiting tests even outside a general disarmament agreement.
Later, on 20th December, he said that we were working on proposals to that end. Those proposals were, in fact, worked out by Sir Anthony Eden, but I must quite frankly tell the House that, in practice, the form in which we had thought of them—that is, a simple agreement as to the permissible yield of fissionable material without any detailed arrangement for control—would not work. These proposals were shot down not merely by our American friends, but by our own technical advisers. Why was this? For the simple reason that the scientist is always ahead of the politician. What might have seemed possible some months ago is now confirmed as not being watertight.
47 I will try to tell the House why. Scientific advances in nuclear energy and nuclear weapon development have been exceedingly rapid. Only seven years elapsed between the discovery of fission and the use of the atomic bomb in war. The next seven-year period saw the development of the thermo-nuclear bomb, in a form which not only might produce complete local devastation but also large quantities of fission products which contaminated the atmosphere. We are now in the third seven-year period and, once again, we are seeing another profound change—the development of high yield weapons, in which much of the energy comes not from fission but from fusion.
This means that the harmful contamination, external and internal, which comes primarily from the fission products, is greatly reduced. The proposals to which Sir Anthony Eden referred were based on the assumption that the total yield of the explosion was a reasonable measure of the fission products discharged into the atmosphere. It is now clear that that is not necessarily the case.
What is more, I am assured by our own scientists as well as by the Americans that there is no feasible method of properly measuring at a distance how much of the yield of a particular explosion is due to fission and how much is due to fusion. That is not all; our scientists believe that if a deliberate attempt were made to run a test explosion in such a way as to avoid detection is would almost certainly be successful. So far as we know, no such attempt has been made. On the other hand, there have been instances in which our scientists were unable to be certain whether an explosion had taken place or not.
It was for these reasons that we agreed at Bermuda that the approach which we had originally envisaged would not do. But it would be an error to say that the Bermuda communiqué once more attached the concept of test limitation to a comprehensive disarmament agreement. That is not so. We said that it must be accompanied by general nuclear control. Such a system would at least have to include watertight measures of policing any test limitations which might be agreed upon. The President and I agreed to go a step further while waiting for 48 any general agreement. We said that we wouldconduct nuclear tests only in such manner as will keep world radiation from rising to more than a small fraction of the levels that might be hazardousSo far as our own tests are concerned, I have been asked to say that there will be no perceptible radiation outside the test area. This is my answer. I am satisfied from the medical and biological point of view that the radiation effects of this explosion will be insignificant.
§ Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)
The House is appalled at this shockingly bad news. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] By inference, the Prime Minister has informed us that there can never be any limitation agreement upon thermo-nuclear weapons. Will he categorically state that if there were a thermo-nuclear explosion inside the frontiers of Russia no seismograph, barograph, barometer or geiger counter would be able to detect that explosion?
§ The Prime Minister
No, Sir. I think that even my untutored imagination could think of at least two ways in which it would be possible to do so. Our tests must go on. To abandon them now would be to abandon the whole defence strategy upon which our policy is based and to put ourselves in a permanently weakened position. I am not prepared to recommend this to the House, and I can hardly believe that, if the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition held my position, he would recommend it himself.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am sure that the House will be obliged to him, for the information which he has just given. I think that the right hon. Gentleman must recognise that the anxiety felt, not only by hon. Members on this side of the House but by hon. Members on the benches opposite, and throughout the world, about nuclear test explosions depends very largely on the fact that the atmospheric radiation involves a danger to health. Will he not agree that a great advance could be made if it could be agreed with the Soviet Union and the United States of America not to hold test explosions which are detectable, and which do, therefore, involve this type of atmospheric radiation?
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Gentleman is very well-informed, but he really does not understand this; and I am bound to say, quite frankly, that I should not attempt to expound it to the House if I had not subjected myself to the most careful learning over this during the last few weeks.
I want to come both to this point and the whole—I warned the House that this would take some time, but it is a serious matter.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn) rose—
§ The Prime Minister
I must just finish this.
If our tests must go on, the efforts to achieve, first, general disarmament must continue. By "general disarmament" I must say again that I mean conventional as well as unconventional. But if general disarmament cannot be reached we are still ready to consider, as I have already said, any practical scheme for the limitation of nuclear weapon tests; though not, of course, without conventional disarmament; the abolition of nuclear weapons.
To abolish them without dealing with conventional weapons would leave us and the Western Powers at the mercy of Soviet Russia. But even if we cannot get limitation of nuclear weapons, we are prepared to consider the limitation of tests. Meanwhile, we are ready to make a start ourselves. We would agree to file information with the United Nations of any tests that take place. We would agree to permit limited international observation. All we ask is that the Russians should do the same. That, surely, is not asking a great deal.
Against this, the Russians—and those in this House who appear to constitute themselves as their protagonists—produce an offer of abolition of all tests, if we will abandon ours. There is something really rather hypocritical about the fervour with which this last minute conversion is reached. I have not seen many protests at the great Siberian explosions all this time, and it is strange that the great agitation for the abolition of tests should come just at the moment when the work of many years of British scientists is reaching fruition.
I must now say something about the question of the possible danger—
§ Mrs. Castle rose—
§ Mrs. Castle rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is not in order for the hon. Lady to remain standing, if the Minister does not give way, and he has not done so.
§ Mrs. Castle rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order—and that she cannot intervene in a debate unless the hon. Member who has the Floor yields to her. It is disorderly for the hon. Lady to remain standing, if the Minister does not give way.
§ Mrs. Castle
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman's courtesy is committed in this. When he replied to my Question —
§ The Prime Minister
That leads me to say something about the question of possible dangers to human health. In the first place, I can assure the House that the Government take this matter very seriously. We have obtained the best possible advice. The closest watch is kept, and we have regular and up-to-date measurements.
As the House knows, last year we obtained a very valuable and authoritative Report from the Medical Research Council and this dealt primarily with this country. But we are members of the Scientific Committee of the United Nations, which is studying the position over the world as a whole. I will deal later with the internal radiation hazards from strontium 90, a new hazard peculiar to nuclear fission. I will, first, say something about the so-called external radiation, that is to say, radiation from all 51 sources, natural and artificial, which impinge upon the body from outside.
It is this external radiation which constitutes the main genetic hazard and the possible threat to future generations. External radiation is not in any sense a new kind of hazard, and, as I shall explain, only a very small proportion of this is attributable to bomb tests. Ever since Creation, men, from the most primitive to the most modern, have, during the course of their ordinary lives, been exposed to what are called cosmic rays, and also the radiation from soil and rocks and substances within their own bodies. This has been going on during all our lives and during all the lives of our fathers and grandfathers back to Adam himself.
According to the Medical Research Committee's Report, cosmic rays— [Interruption.] If this is a serious question, perhaps hon. Members would care to hear some sense. Cosmic rays, and other natural sources of radiation, which none of us can avoid, were estimated to give an average dose of one-tenth of a roentgen a year, or three roentgens during the thirty years of an average reproductive life— I take this phrase from the statisticians.
Modern civilised man has added by his own inventions, to the amount of dosage received in a normal lifetime, and especially in recent years. These include X-rays, which are used now by doctors and dentists, and such things as luminous watches; and now the development of atomic energy in industry, which is so important for our future. All these new man-made sources of radiation give us an additional dosage which, in this country, is reckoned to add at least a quarter to the three roentgens we already receive from the natural background. Unless, therefore, we are prepared to abandon X-rays in medical treatment, and many other features of our civilisation, we must expect to be exposed to about 3¾ roentgens each every thirty years. That is 3¾ units— I am trying to give the proportion of this— three from natural cosmic rays and three-quarters from the inventions of modern life.
Now, as regards test explosions. Estimates have been made of the addition to the external radiation to which the human race will be subjected if test explosions 52 go on at the same rate as in the past few years. The estimate is that in the course of time— and a long time— the external radiation from fall-out will build up to an exposure per generation of not more than one-hundredth part of what man would receive in the same period from natural sources alone.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. May I ask him, following what he said about the number of radioactive isotopes to which a person may be exposed by X-ray, whether he is aware that the isotopes used in X-ray have an average life of three days in the case of gold for injection and about nine days in the case of iodine? It is a question of the will of the person. Meanwhile, we are poisoning the atmosphere. All mankind is having to suffer from the explosions.
§ The Prime Minister
That is a perfectly good point. I was trying to give a comprehensive picture. We get three units, whether we like it or not. We get three-quarters of a unit which, I admit, we could do without, if we abolished X-rays. But we get three whether we like it or not. The total amount of external radiation made by all these tests, if they go on as at present, and over a period of years will be one-hundredth of three units. I am trying to keep this in some proportion.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill (Warrington) rose—
§ Dr. Summerskill
I can assure the House that I only want to help. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted from this Report, which we are all asked to accept. May I ask him his opinion of the conclusions of the Report, when it says thatif the rate of firing increases and particularly if greater numbers of thermo-nuclear weapons are used, we could within the life-time of some now living, be approaching levels at which ill-effects might be produced in a small number of the population.
§ The Prime Minister
I was coming to that when I was to deal with the question of internal radiation. I am trying to deal with this matter with all the information that I have been able to absorb— quite 53 heavy dosages of it. I say it is obvious that to this one-hundredth of the three units, which is the most from the explosions up to now, the explosions we propose to make shortly could add not more than a small fraction— a tiny fraction— of the total explosions already made by Russia and the United States.
The position, therefore, is that the contribution to the external radiation hazard from bomb tests is very small, almost negligible. This is very important because, as I have said, it is the external radiation which constitutes the main genetic hazard. It was for that reason that the Medical Research Council, in its authoritative Report to which the right hon. Lady the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill) referred, said thatThe genetic effects to be expected from present or future radioactive fall-out fired … at the present rate and in the present proportion of the different kinds are insignificant.That is from paragraph 359 of the Report.
Apart from the external radiation— and this is much more serious— to which bomb tests make a very small contribution, there is the internal radiation due to the absorption into the body from food or drink of substances such as strontium 90 which are part of the fall-out. I do not want to minimise this, which must be closely watched. But it is fair to say that the average levels of strontium 90 at present measured in human bone in the United Kingdom are less than one unit and that is one hundred times less than what, in the view of the Medical Research Council, is the maximum allowable concentration in bodies of individuals of the population.
In conclusion, let me repeat that the Government take this matter very seriously. They will keep it under continuous review in the light of any new advance, both in this country and elsewhere. But I think that, following what I said at the airport the other day, in the light of all this we shall add very little to this danger by the tests we are about to make and we shall gain enormously in strength and in the defence of our country.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
As Japan is much closer to Christmas Island than this country is, could the Prime Minister say a word about the justification for the apprehen 54 sions which are being expressed by the Government of Japan?
§ The Prime Minister
I think that the apprehensions are really very small. They have no ground for them; they are 4,000 miles away and I really think that they are not apprehensions which they need feel. I think I am justified in saying that we should continue the tests, that we should continue this careful watch upon what is happening and that our addition to it, while it will make a great addition to our strength and is the basis of any sensible defence in the future, makes really an insignificant addition to the figures I have given.
While we must not underestimate these risks, whether of external or internal radiation, we really must not exaggerate. It would be wrong not to give the closest and most continuous study to the problem and continue our efforts for a practical system of limiting the tests which I have described already, but it would be equally wrong to try to excite hysterical or unbalanced fears; and to do so for political purposes would indeed be to plumb the depths of cynicism.
So much for the nuclear deterrent. It is a grim subject, but paradoxically enough, it is not without its compensation. I do not always agree with the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man), although I always read his writings in the popular Press with profit. He told us this the other day:It is the fact that both sides can make the H-bomb and deliver it which has driven the statesmen to try to settle their differences. That is why I say …This is the hon. Member speaking, not me—that the H-bomb should be the last, not the first weapon to go.I would assume that if the H-bomb is to play this beneficent rô the hon. Member might agree that it might just as well be tested to see whether it would work.
This brings me to the general talks which we had at Bermuda on the matter of defence. We explained to the President the plans already announced for the streamlining of our Forces in Germany. We also reviewed the commitments of the United Kingdom in other parts of the world and discussed the economic and military burdens these placed upon us. We made it clear that Her Majesty's Government intend to carry out their 55 defence responsibilities and to continue and extend that close and intimate cooperation with their allies upon which in our opinion the defence of the free world depends.
The President agreed that for their part the United States Government would assist in the economical and efficient development of the collective defence efforts, and one way of doing so would be by supplying the United Kingdom with guided missiles which are being developed in America. These weapons should be available to us here in the fairly near future. They will make a great addition to the deterrent power based in this country and to the strength of N.A.T.O. as a whole.
From the point of view of the United Kingdom it was particularly satisfactory that the United States Government were able to provide us with these weapons, because they will be available some years before those which we have been developing for ourselves. Therefore, this agreement will save us both time and money and I hope that the House will agree that it is a satisfactory one.
In this connection, I must draw the attention of the House to an article which appeared in this morning's Daily Herald, which, I believe, still has some connection with the Labour Party. This is what the article said:Does the American control of the nuclear warheads mean that the President— and not the British Government— will decide when these missiles will be launched and at whom they will be launched?If so, the rôle of Great Britain in the Anglo-American Alliance— which every sane citizen desires to nourish— ceases to be the rôle of partner. We become the mere instrument of policy made in Washington.Let me compare the agreement made by Mr. Attlee and the Labour Government over the American bombers now situated in our islands with the agreement I have concluded over the rockets. The American bombers are American machines, manned by American airmen, armed with the kiloton and now the megaton bomb. They are under the sole control of the Government of the United States. There is the agreement that they are not to be used without the consent of the British Government. That was what the Labour Government decided. I do not criticise them; I think it was right.
56 Now I come to the rockets. They will be provided under an agreement the full details of which have still to be negotiated, but they will be the property of Her Majesty's Government, manned by British troops who will receive their prior training from American experts. The rockets cannot be fired by any except the British personnel, but the warhead will be in the control of the United States— which is the law of the United States— and to that extent the Americans have a negative control; but it is absolutely untrue to say that the President and not the British Government will decide when these missiles will be launched and at whom.
So long as we rely upon the American warheads, and only so long, that will remain a matter for the two Governments. [An HON. MEMBER: "Then the Daily Herald is right."] No, the Daily Herald said that it is the sole discretion of the President of the United States. That is a lie.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
The right hon. Gentleman should realise how many of us feel about this. It is an intense humiliation that we are entrusted by an ally with a weapon, but are not to be trusted with the ammunition. Surely no major country has ever accepted such a humiliation.
§ The Prime Minister
I do not know whether this is a humiliation or not. At present, we accept having placed in our country both the bomb and the means of delivery. They are in the country— both the bomb and the machine. Under this system we obtain the full control of the projectile, of the rocket itself, thereby putting us ahead. We are not precluded from making our own warheads. Meantime, we have the American warheads under the same agreement between the two Governments as governs the present bombers.
§ Mr. R. R. Stokes (Ipswich)
The Prime Minister said that the main object, in the end, is to save us the expense and trouble of making our own. Anybody who knows anything about these guided missiles knows that they are of no use without the warhead and that the warhead is the most expensive and complicated part. That being the case, and the missiles being useless without the warhead, will the Prime Minister tell us whether the President is 57 contemplating the introduction of legislation in the United States to enable us to pool our nuclear knowledge?
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman knows that that is quite another matter. He knows that the President and the American Administration are bound by the law as it stands, but, meanwhile, we get the advantage of having the rocket, which we have not yet fully developed, and we gain a great deal of time.
I am informed that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that the warhead is the most expensive and difficult part. It is the rocket which has been the most difficult part for us to develop. If we have that, we are put some way ahead, and we enter into no commitments which preclude us from developing our own mechanism. I therefore think that this is a good agreement and, on reflection, will be thought to be a good one.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
We want to try to understand what the Prime Minister is telling us. Is he telling us that instead of the R.A.F. strategic bomber force which we had understood we were to maintain, in order to maintain our military independence, an independent force, with its own H-bombers and its own H-bombs, we are now to have an Anglo-American rocket which is a joint operation? If that is so, he cannot deny that this reduces our independence of America.
§ The Prime Minister
As usual, the hon. Member is very clever with words. I will answer him exactly as he asked the question— not instead of but in addition to.
I explained to the President of the United States our approach on the broad problem of defence. In case there is any question of Privilege, I hasten to add that I did not give him a preview of the White Paper on Defence. We had a broad, general discussion and we were able thereby to make an exchange not merely of reminiscences but of plans and projects.
I apologise to the House for the length of time I have taken, but it is not entirely my fault. I have tried to give way to all interruptions, as far as possible.
§ Mrs. Castle rose—
§ The Prime Minister
To sum up, the meetings at Bermuda were certainly useful. They could not achieve, and they were not intended to achieve, sudden or dramatic decisions of policy, but I think that we did some useful work. The President's warmth of emotion and outlook and real affection towards this country have never been doubted by those who know him well, but we were able, by putting forward our own views forcibly as well as frankly, to do something to strengthen the friendship between our two countries, and to strengthen it upon the only basis which is honourable or likely to be lasting; and that is a partnership founded on mutual confidence and understanding.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
The Prime Minister has added in certain respects to the Bermuda communiqué particularly in the matter of missiles and hydrogen bomb tests. He has not added, I think, very much in relation either to Europe or to the Middle East, but for at least some further elucidation we are appreciative.
The right hon. Gentleman began and concluded his speech by referring to his personal relations with the President of the United States, and in the communiqué it is stated that he and the Presidentconducted their discussions with the freedom and frankness permitted to old friends in a world of growing inter-dependence.The Prime Minister went a good deal further than that and described this Conference asa fine one in a fine atmopshere, exactly what he had dreamed of";and he spoke of his friendship with the President beingrenewed in a wonderful spirit of co-operation".No sensible person would deny the immense importance of good personal relations between the leaders of the British and American Governments. Indeed, my own impression is that in the United States the most shattering effect of the Suez operation was the breach that it made between those personal relations which had hitherto remained friendly. I 59 also notice that although hon. Members opposite seem to approve of the Prime Minister's desire for good relations, nevertheless more than 100 of them still keep their names to the Motion on the Order Paper.
[That this House congratulates the Foreign Secretary on his efforts to secure international control of the Suez Canal, and deplores both the Resolution of the General Assembly calling for immediate and unconditional withdrawal of British and French troops from Egypt, and the attitude of the United States of America which is gravely endangering the Atlantic alliance.]
Perhaps after the Prime Minister's speech, or that part of it, they will now be sensible and withdraw their names. [Interruption.] I understood the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse) to say "Wait and see", in a sinister tone of voice. I imagine that he means that he is waiting and seeing. However essential good personal relations are between the Prime Minister and the President, I am sure the Prime Minister will agree that by themselves they are not enough. Indeed, there is some danger that if too much emphasis is placed upon them, differences and difficulties may very easily be glossed over. While the atmosphere of a conference of this kind is important, we must, of course, judge it not by the statements made about its character but by the extent to which there has been a real co-ordination of policy.
Of the eleven points mentioned in the communiqué only three contain anything at all clear or firm— the decision by the United States Government to participate in the Military Committee on the Bagdad Pact, a decision which, incidentally, I understand was taken some days before the Bermuda Conference; the statement on nuclear tests; and the statement on the guided missiles which are to be made available to Great Britain. I must say that, despite what the Prime Minister has said on these last two subjects, it seems to me that it is exactly here that there is the greatest confusion and anxiety about the communiqué
I should like to make a few general questions and comments to begin with, and I ask the Foreign Secretary, who is to reply, whether the conclusions set out 60 in the communiqué are in any way linked together. Was, for instance, the decision of the United States to join the Bagdad Pact linked in any way with other commitments and an acceptance of their point of view, shall we say, on nuclear tests, or were those decisions associated with any others? The Prime Minister gave us a reassuring reply, which I was glad to hear, that the release of Archbishop Makarios was in no way due to anything said by the United States. In passing, however, I should like to ask for some indication from the Government as to what they propose to do in order to carry forward discussions with the Cypriot people on the Radcliffe constitution. Time is passing and a decision on that really must be reached as soon as possible.
The Prime Minister said that there were no secret agreements, and there again we are glad to have his assurance, but there has been mention in some reports that joint planning and intelligence is to be resumed with the United States. I do not think that one would describe that as a pact; it is really an arrangement; but I should like to know whether that is the case or not.
I was glad to hear that the Prime Minister had raised the matter of our trade with China and to hear him indicate that the United States Government seemed to understand our point of view better. I might mention in passing that we have very good grounds for pressing this matter in the light of the fact that French exports to China trebled last year and a large part of those exports were apparently steel and tractors which are covered by the embargo.
I welcome the Prime Minister's announcement that he hoped there would be a Commonwealth Conference in the summer. As he knows, we have pressed for that ever since the Suez fiasco, and we would for our part warmly welcome it. Finally, I should like to add my word of appreciation, on behalf of the Opposition, of the Canadian Government's readiness to make available the uranium that we shall need for atomic purposes here.
I pass to the question of Europe. Here it seems that nothing precise at all has emerged from the Conference. We are told that both Governments support N.A.T.O., that both are in favour of a greater degree of European unity and that 61 both expressed sympathy for Hungary. Was sympathy all that could be managed so far as the Hungarian people are concerned? I must say that when one reads every day in the papers about the black represssion which is now descending on Hungary and hears news of execution squads at work, and one learns that one by one or dozen by dozen the leaders of the Hungarian revolt, whom we were praising so recently, are being dragged from their homes and shot, and hundreds and thousands of men and women are being deported to Russia— [HON. MEMBERS: What would the right hon. Gentleman do?"] I am surprised that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are apparently objecting to what I am saying. If they will wait for a moment I will make my suggestions. I should have thought that on this matter at least we might be prepared to register some agreement in this House because we all of us, I think, felt extremely deeply on this matter, and I am expressing my regret that nothing other than sympathy apparently can be offered.
In the case of Poland, there is not much doubt that the Gomulka régime, which is greatly preferable to the previous Communist régime and is attempting to stand up to Russian pressure, is in very considerable danger.
In response to the interruptions, I would put three suggestions to the right hon. Gentleman. First, I should like to know what exactly the United Nations is continuing to do in Hungary through the International Red Cross. I have always believed that a good deal more could be done in that way than was in fact done last autumn. When we last heard about this matter, there was a real danger that the whole of that relief action would come to an end.
Secondly, I should like to ask whether the question of credits for Poland was discussed. I think that there is no doubt that if we wish to give the Gomulka régime some support, some feeling that they have friends in the West, the most important thing that we can do is to make available credits to them so that they are not quite so dependent on economic supplies from the neighbouring Stalinist-controlled countries.
My third suggestion is this. I have asked in the House before, and elsewhere, 62 that if we cannot— as we all recognise we cannot— use force in this matter, is there no diplomatic action that is possible in this connection? I repeat again my suggestion that we should put forward a proposal for the withdrawal of foreign forces both from Western Germany and from Eastern Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. That should be associated with a disarmament or control of armaments agreement so far as the national forces in those territories are concerned, and it should be supplemented or accompanied by a treaty or pact of mutual security underwritten by the great Powers.
I honestly believe that that proposal provides some opportunity of at any rate making some advance in this particular problem. I realise full well that it is unlikely at the moment that the Russians will make any favourable response, but I urge the Government not to lose sight of the possibility of this suggestion in the longer run and at least to give the peoples of those territories some hope and some feeling that they have not been forgotten.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Will my right hon. Friend make it clear whether he is suggesting that we should withdraw our troops from Western Germany without any prior consultation with the West German Government?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I have explained before that, of course a plan of this kind would have to be discussed both with the West German Government and with our other allies. Indeed, there are supposed to be some discussions going on about what can be done about German reunification, and I ask the Foreign Secretary whether this particular proposal is being discussed and whether there is any prospect of agreement on it, so that it can at least be put forward.
§ Lieut-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
The right hon. Gentleman suggested earlier in his speech that there were three matters on which he could offer some solution to this problem. It seems to me that one only of these was a suggestion and that the first two were questions seeking information on what the United Nations is doing and on other points connected therewith— in fact no solution whatsoever.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
If the hon. Member wishes me to put it slightly differently, I will say "Will Her Majesty's Government do rather more to assist the International Red Cross in its work in Hungary and will they themselves offer credits to Poland as well as press the American Government to increase their credits?"
I come to the only other matter referred to in connection with Europe, and that is the matter of European unity. Here, of course, the Government from the start have been very much inclined to flourish this idea of European unity as a great new foreign policy which they are going to develop. But since the right hon. Gentleman became Prime Minister, there has been precious little advance towards greater European unity, and his statement today certainly threw no further light on this matter.
All that has happened since the Government came into power is that we have told our European friends that we are going to withdraw a certain number of our troops— a suggestion that they all cordially dislike— and we are now engaged in quarrelling with them about the exact implications of the Common Market and the Free Trade Area. I ask again when the Government are going to make up their minds about the implications of bringing in the overseas territories into the Common Market. We have pressed them over and over again at Question Time about that, and it is becoming quite urgent now that we should hear from the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer what their decision is.
The only other point about Europe that we have heard is the Foreign Secretary's so-called "Grand Design." Frankly, all that amounts to is a process of minor tidying up and I am very doubtful, from what I have heard, whether the other European countries are in the least enthusiastic about it. If the Prime Minister really means what he says in those general phrases about the need for closer co-operation in Europe, we are entitled to hear from him exactly what he intends to do about it.
I pass to the question of missiles, on which the Prime Minister spoke at length. I still have a certain number of questions to put to him. I understand that we are ourselves to have the missiles under our control— the missiles, apart from the war- 64 heads; that any question of using them is a matter for joint Anglo-American action, and that, therefore, although the United States has a veto on the use of the weapons, so have we. In other words, there is a double veto. That, I think, is to some extent reassuring, and disposes of a good many fears that had legitimately developed as a result of the communiqué that this was only a way in which the United States were to get these missiles, as it were, on to their existing air bases.
I must, nevertheless, ask certain other questions. What research are we in this country intending to do on missiles? I am not speaking about the warheads, but about the missiles. Are we abandoning our plans for research and development in that field? If not— and I gather that the answer from the Prime Minister would be in the negative— and we are proceeding to develop this middle-range or intermediate-range missile— which is said to have rather longer range than that of the Americans— to come into use rather later than those which the Americans are making available to us, could I ask the Prime Minister— because I think that everyone will want to know the answer— where exactly is the saving to be?
It is perfectly obvious that if, in any case, what we are engaged on is not to come into operation for some years after the American missiles, we are not likely to make any saving by going on with them and having the American missile as an intermediate device. It may be desirable on defence grounds, but there certainly seems no economy in it at all.
Secondly, I want to ask whether, on this matter of missiles, the Prime Minister proposed that there should be joint research teams. It seems so obvious that there is a waste of effort and of very valuable scientific manpower in the whole of this business. If he did raise it, is there any possibility of the United States agreeing to it, or must we go on, despite all the talk of integration, each on our own path, at great expense to both countries?
I come to my third question about missiles— the question of atomic secrets. It seems to me that the continuation of the American law on this matter is the gravest handicap of all to proper integration and economical production in both 65 countries. I agree also with what one of my hon. Friends said in an interjection quite recently; there is, whether we like it or not, a question of status here involved.
I appreciate, of course, that the Americans having got ahead of us immediately after the war, and Congress having passed that particular legislation, that is the position today. Nevertheless, from every point of view, it seems to be enormously important that we should try to induce the Americans to change the law in this respect. If we could do that then, of course, there would be no particular problem regarding the American veto. If they were prepared either to have joint atomic research— and I mean, of course, into the application of atomic energy as well— or were prepared to make available, without keeping to themselves the key of the cupboard, these atomic weapons, that would be profoundly important.
I want the Foreign Secretary to tell us whether the Prime Minister asked the President whether he would try to persuade Congress to change the law. After all, we have a situation in America which is, perhaps, almost unique, in which the President's authority with Congress is quite extraordinary, particularly in matters of defence. Is it really so certain that if he appealed to Congress it would not be prepared to make some change here? That, incidentally, also has a considerable bearing on the issue of the hydrogen bomb test, to which I now turn.
I do not think that any hon. Member will deny that the tests which have been carried out in the last few years have led to widespread anxiety over the world as a whole. It is an anxiety felt, not only in this country and not only, believe me, in this party. There is widespread anxiety in Europe, in Asia— even in Latin America. The reason for it is not the defence considerations that are involved, though indeed they are serious enough— that the H-bomb arms race should continue. It is not because of that, but because these tests may be dangerous to international health. It is precisely for that reason.
We cannot ourselves look at this problem as though it were simply a matter of our own defence. We have to consider the repercussions on public opinion in the world as a whole. The 66 world as a whole is definitely worried and frightened at the prospect of a continuation of these tests into an apparently indefinite future. We are all accustomed now, alas, to the idea of non-combatants being killed in war, but up to now they have been mostly civilians of the countries engaged in the war. Now we have a possibility that tests conducted thousands of miles away may cause eventual death to civilians in other countries, in any part of the world, in peace time, decades after the explosion has taken place.
I accept entirely what the Prime Minister said. He was, I think, largely quoting from the Medical Research Council's Report on the comparative effect, so far as scientists have been able to discover it, of the explosions that have so far taken place, I would, however, put this to him. First, he himself admitted that there was reason for real anxiety about the strontium 90 which seems to be the real danger, because as a result of these explosions there is accumulating in the stratosphere what amounts to a poisonous substance which, over a period of twenty or thirty years, will fall, through rain and in other ways, to the ground, be absorbed in plants and vegetation, and be consumed by the human race, which, in consequence, will suffer from bone cancer and possibly from other diseases as well.
That is a grim prospect, and I do not think that we can dismiss the problem as though it did not really exist, and that there was no need to worry about it. On this issue the scientists are by no means reassuring, as the Medical Research Council Report itself makes perfectly plain. The Prime Minister said, "Well, if the tests go on at the same rate, we have no reason for grave anxiety". How can we be sure of that? Does he really suppose that when we have let off our particular bombs no one else will let off any? I will come to the question of agreement in a moment or two, but is it not clear that what really worries the world at the moment is not just, alone, one more test explosion, but the prospect of these explosions going on and on as more and more countries decide to make their own atomic weapons?
If that is the case, the rate at which the explosions take place will be increased, and consequently the danger 67 from strontium 90 becomes a far more serious one than we have yet contemplated. It is for all these reasons that we regard this question of the tests as a unique one, as an urgent one, and as one separate from general disarmament. It is for this reason that we have pressed over a period for the handling of the whole question of an agreement on the tests independently from the rest of a disarmament agreement.
The Prime Minister has referred to, and quoted, what Sir Anthony Eden said about this. There is no point in my quoting it all again, but I am bound to say that, seeing that Sir Anthony Eden made this considered statement as recently as 20th December,We have been at work on drafting these proposals, and it is my hope that within a very few weeks we shall have our proposals ready in that respect."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th December, 1956; Vol. 562, c. 1456.]whatever the Prime Minister may say, the Government's attitude at the moment, is a very retrograde step from the attitude of Sir Anthony Eden. I can only regret that the Prime Minister who, on various occasions— as I think, wrongly— has been inclined to defend the record of his predecessor's Government, should, on the one point where it seems to me they were rather more progressive, have decided to go completely counter to them. The Prime Minister has explained, in not very clear terms, what they are prepared to do now. I should just like to get this matter clearer.
I understood the Prime Minister to say that he was prepared for an agreement on tests separate from— I believe he said — a wider disarmament agreement. I wonder whether he will give us an assurance on this now. It is an extremely important point. With what exactly is he tying up agreement on tests and precisely why must it be tied up with the other matters, whether it be control of nuclear weapons, or conventional armaments? It will help the House very considerably if he will answer that now, instead of our having to wait until the Foreign Secretary replies at the end of the debate.
§ The Prime Minister
I made a very careful speech and I think that everything that I could say in it I put very clearly. I made it as clear as I could. There will, I hope, be an opportunity for the Foreign Secretary to take even a little 68 further than I did— after all, I was dealing only with Bermuda— a possibility of a limiting-tests agreement, separate from general agreements. I made it clear that we were perfectly willing to do that. We tried one method. I described the method, and that was open to the Russians to take. Of course we will work at that. The Foreign Secretary will explain in greater detail exactly what we propose. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will answer the question, "Would he or would he not go on with the tests?"
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I will deal with that. I shall answer it later.
The Prime Minister has now said that he is prepared for separate agreement on tests, but, of course, that is not in the least what the Bermuda communiqué said. On the contrary, it said in the first paragraph of Annex 2:In the absence of such an agreement"—that is to say, a comprehensive disarmament agreement—the security of the free world must continue to depend to a marked degree upon the nuclear deterrent. To maintain this effectively, continued nuclear testing is required, certainly for the present.Lower down, in paragraph 3, not very consistently, it says:… in the absence of more general nuclear control agreements of the kind which we have been and are seeking, a test limitation agreement could not today be effectively enforced…Where do we stand?
§ The Prime Minister
In making these pronouncements, which are not merely heard here but which go all over the world, I tried to be very careful. The Foreign Secretary will deal with the latest stage of the negotiations on this point.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I take it from what the Prime Minister said since he used the words "negotiations on this point" that at least the outcry in this country about the departure from the Eden principle has had some effect. If so, so much the better. On the points about the difficulty of detection I did not exactly understand the Prime Minister's answer to the very pertinent question by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds East (Mr. Healey). We can quite understand that there may be some small tests which do not create a great deal of radiation or a very big 69 explosion which are not detectable. We are concerned as I said earlier with the effects on health. Is it the case that tests which have a seriously deleterious effect on health which for instance add to the quantity of Strontium 90 which will eventually fall to the earth can now be made and that we may not know by any device available whether those tests are taking place?
§ The Prime Minister
I do not want to be drawn into these very difficult technical points, beyond what I said, very carefully prepared. I point out that the right hon. Gentleman has not had time to read my speech, which was very complicated. I drew the distinction between fission and fusion methods. It is upon that that the degree of injury which may be done depends. I also went on to say that it was impossible by any known method of testing, except by being present, to know what form, whether fission or fusion, was being used.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I am not so much concerned with the technicalities. Of course they are very important. What we want to know is whether it is not possible to make an agreement which at least would limit or prevent altogether— as we would like to see— any tests which are detectable and, secondly, if that were done, whether there would still be a danger to public health from undetectable tests.
§ The Prime Minister
It is not possible under present conditions, I am sorry to say, to make any watertight agreement, unless made in good faith between the parties concerned, without at least a limited degree of observation and control.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I am afraid that the Prime Minister has still not answered my question. I can only hope that the Foreign Secretary will attend to it when he replies later. I want to emphasise again that it is the effect on health with which we are concerned. Of course, if the Prime Minister means that it will be possible undetected to make tests which are seriously dangerous to world health, the prospect is very grim indeed. If that is the case, the urgent necessity of establishing some effective control over these tests so that they can be detected is all the more important.
§ Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East) rose—70
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I have given way rather a lot. There is one other matter about which I want to ask a question.
§ Mr. Braine
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. He has been seeking to clarify the situation. Would he help to clarify it a little himself? Would he say, pending international agreement either on tests or on disarmament of conventional and nuclear weapons together, whether he would continue the manufacture and testing of the bomb?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I must ask the hon. Gentleman to be patient. I am coming to that. He need not worry.
The communiqué speaks of tests continuing and of the necessity of their continuing. What is the need for the continuation of tests once we have established that we can make the bomb? Is it really necessary to continue accumulating bigger or, may be, smaller and better bombs to blow up the world? Is not one enough for that purpose— or two or three? Is there to be no limit to this business? Frankly, I do not understand why the President and the Prime Minister committed themselves to that sentence. I should have thought that it was sufficient to have the bomb and that that was enough as a deterrent. If it is not enough and we have to have more tests, it is up to the Prime Minister to justify them, and we have heard nothing this afternoon which throws any light on that subject.
The fact is that, despite the slight exception, the slight qualification which he made in his reply to my question just now, we are faced, instead of the idea of agreement, with the prospect of unlimited tests until they are brought to an end by at least a more general measure of disarmament. It is precisely because many of us— I believe all of us— realise the enormous difficulty of getting general disarmament— while realising its immense importance— that this fills us with such depression.
It is not surprising that The Times the other day wrote rather sardonically:We are back where we started, which means everyone is free to go on putting strontium in our bones as often as he likes.I recognise, of course, that the previous Prime Minister did not commit the Government to proposals for abolition but only for limitation of tests. We should 71 like to see the abolition, but I should certainly regard an agreement towards limitation as at any rate a step forward.
Now I come to the question which the Prime Minister quite properly put to me as Leader of the Opposition about our own attitude to the existing tests. I want to emphasise that this is a separate question, or at any rate can be a separate question, from whether or not there is to be an effort to reach agreement, because the question of our tests may very well come up in any negotiations that take place; but we could certainly go into such negotiations without any commitments one way or the other. It is the apparent unwillingness of the Government to take the initiative in sitting round a table and saying, "What can we do with this problem?" that really worries us so profoundly.
However, I will now address myself to the question of these tests. The Prime Minister is perfectly right. Our party decided to support the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb here, and we decided to do that, quite frankly, because we did not think it right that this country should be so dependent, as it otherwise would have been, and as it still is in certain respects, upon the United States of America.
I think it is as well to restate this. We felt that a situation might conceivably arise in which Soviet Russia might threaten us in some way or other and in which we then, faced with this threat, had to turn to some future American President and Congress who might— one cannot be sure of this— not be too well disposed to us. We might have to say to them, "Will you now please threaten to use the ultimate deterrent? We have not got it." Could we be sure in those circumstances that the American President and Congress would be prepared to risk the wholesale destruction of American cities merely to meet our point of view, merely— or perhaps "merely" is not the word— even to save this country from what might be Soviet domination? I put that plainly and frankly because I think the whole House and the country must understand our reasoning in this matter.
This is all mixed up with the present law regarding atomic secrecy in America. If, in fact, that law could be changed, 72 this situation would not arise. We would then have these weapons at our disposal and we would have the assurance that we ourselves would be able to threaten retaliation, if it became necessary, without being dependent upon some future decision of an American President and Congress. That is another reason why I urge the Prime Minister very strongly to do his best to persuade the American President to urge Congress to give us a change in the law.
We have to consider also in this matter what exactly would be the implications of not going ahead with this proposal, with our own tests. It is difficult, I say frankly, for the Opposition to be exactly sure of the precise military significance of these tests. The Prime Minister told us— and I am not objecting, because there are, no doubt, very good reasons of secrecy— nothing of the nature of these tests, although there has been a certain amount of rumour about the matter in the papers. But I cannot see, as Leader of the Opposition, exactly what the consequences upon our defence strategy would be. That is one handicap for which we suffer on the Opposition side and from which any Opposition is bound to suffer.
We also do not know precisely what the health consequences would be if we were to go ahead or if we were to refrain from going ahead. We do not know exactly what the political consequences would be. But I do urge that we should not consider, as seemed to be the case with the Prime Minister's statement, that this is just going to be a matter of getting our explosion over and then no other country being involved. It is the case that France — M. Spaak announced the other day— intends to explode some atomic or thermo-nuclear weapon in 1960. It is reported that Sweden has decided to manufacture these things. We certainly cannot be sure that, in the long run, West Germany will be content not to have nuclear weapons, despite the Paris Agreement. All this chain reaction is possible.
I am not saying myself that in these circumstances we ought, unilaterally and unconditionally, to stop the tests. I frankly doubt whether that action on its own would be of any great value. I do not think that we would get anything 73 for it. But I must say, too, speaking again without the knowledge that the Government have, that I would not commit myself to going ahead with these tests in all circumstances and whatever the position may be.
After all, the choice might be this. If we went ahead with the tests, then there might be an endless succession of tests by other countries with the prospect of very grave damage to the human race as a whole. If we stop the tests, that all disappears. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I am saying this might be the issue. I would ask hon. Members on the back benches opposite who, if I may say so, are no better informed than I am in this matter, to search their own hearts. Suppose they were in a position where they had to make a decision and where, if they allowed the tests to go on, there was this fearful prospect ahead, and, on the other hand, if they stopped them they knew they could get genuine agreement —[Interruption.] I have been asked a hypothetical question. I am doing my best to reply as honestly as I can. I say that if that were the choice, I should have thought that any Government in this country would have to trunk very seriously indeed before going on with the tests.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
May I put this question to the right hon. Gentleman? He is an economist and a most skilled one. Which Power, apart from the three major Powers, has the know-how, the build-up, at this stage to create an atomic explosion?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I understand that the French are, in fact, proposing to set off an atomic explosion in 1960. I should have thought that all experience shows that this kind of knowledge spreads, and it is virtually certain that unless international agreement is reached and things are done to stop it we shall have eventually much smaller countries— because these things will be made much cheaper — going into this kind of business. This is a matter which must be decided by the Government who alone have the full knowledge at their disposal.
I turn to the Middle East on which I wish to ask the Government a number of questions. The Prime Minister spoke of the close measure of agreement which had been reached with the American Govern- 74 ment. I am bound to remind him that Mr. Dulles certainly did not use language of that kind. For instance, he was asked in his Press conference:… there were no understandings, for example, on what policies the two Governments might pursue in the Middle East under various contingencies depending on the Hammarskjoeld mission in Cairo?Mr. Dulles' answer was:No; although in the course of the long, extensive talks which we had and particularly some informal talks that took place, we talked about a great variety of subjects, and I believe those things were touched upon, but they did not lead to any agreement.We really must know whether the Prime Minister is right or Mr. Dulles is right upon this matter, because there is a very marked contrast between them.
The Prime Minister spoke of the Bagdad Pact and the American decision to join the Military Committee. I recognise that this decision has been welcomed by the Iraq and Iran Governments and it has been treated by some as an indication that America intends to get tough with Nasser. There is precious little sign of this at the present moment. But while recognising that there may be some arguments in favour of this action, I would just ask this: does it, in fact, make any difference in practice whether the Americans join the Military Committee or not? After all, the Eisenhower doctrine, whether we like it or not, has declared that America will come to the help of any country that wants help and which is attacked by a Communist power. The only difference, therefore, appears to be that they will now come to the help of Iraq if she is attacked by a non-Communist Power. I do not know whether that makes any serious difference. I should like to know whether there is any new obligation accepted by the American Government in this connection.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Does not the Eisenhower doctrine go considerably further and in a more dangerous direction than that? It is not merely the obligation to come to the aid of a Middle Eastern Power if attacked by a Communist Power, or perhaps by some other Power, but also to be involved in an obligation of military intervention even if there were local revolts attributable to what we are pleased to call international Communism. Is not that a very dangerous situation indeed?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I myself would doubt whether that interpretation should necessarily be put upon the Eisenhower doctrine. I would myself take the view that the real danger in the Middle East does not lie in Russian armed aggression and attack from the North. The great danger is much more in the generally disturbed nature of the whole area, particularly the continuation of the Arab-Israeli dispute.
In my view, how we judge this decision of the American Government depends far more upon the political than upon the military consequences of it. One surely cannot ignore what is the attitude of Saudi Arabia, Syria and the other Arab States towards the Bagdad Pact. I have always thought that it was a great pity that the previous Government made the Bagdad Pact the pillar of their whole policy in the Middle East. While I recognise the case for the Northern tier agreement, it seems to me that it was this attempt to impose something on the Middle East as a whole which was so unpopular. We all know perfectly well what the attitude of India is towards the Bagdad Pact. This is a pity, because, in my view, the future prospect in the Middle East depends, indirectly at least, to a very large extent on the kind of relationship and co-operation which can exist between the United States and India in jointly handling the problems of the area. I cannot help feeling that it would have been very much better if the conference at Bermuda had devoted rather more attention to the real problem here of the solution of the Arab-Israeli dispute and the economic development of the whole area.
On the subject of the control of the Canal, there are two questions: first, the payment of tolls, and, secondly, the future structure of control. In both these, our position today is far weaker as a result of the Suez fiasco, for in October we were paying dues in London, not in Egypt, and our ships were not interfered with; they were going through. In October, there was undoubtedly a real prospect of agreement on the basis of the HammarskjÖ ld letter to Dr. Fawzi, written on 26th October, which was a follow up, as the Foreign Secretary knows, of the Security Council's decision of 13th October.
Where exactly do we stand in this matter now? What was agreed with the 76 United States? Is it the case that America has agreed that if Nasser does not do exactly what we want a firm line is going to be taken? Is it the case that American ships or our ships will go through the Gulf of Aqaba, come what may? It cannot be left very long. We cannot for very long have this state of indecision as regards British shipping. The Prime Minister says that he does not want British ships to go through and that the Americans are being asked also not to send their ships through. How long is this to go on? It can be a very grave disadvantage to us in our world export trade. In any case, how precisely is this advice to be enforceable? Exactly how are we to ensure that ship-owners do not send their ships through? What powers have we? What powers have the Americans?
I need not say very much about the Arab-Israeli dispute, because on this we had a debate quite recently and, in fact, the House is very largely agreed. Our view, although we differed strongly, of course, of the Anglo-French action, always was that we could not return to the status quo ante. We believe that the Assembly Resolution should have contained not only a demand that the Israelis should withdraw but simultaneously a demand that Egypt should renounce belligerency, and a demand that both countries should accept the United Nations Force until a permanent settlement was reached. I myself regret, as do the Government, I think, that that decision was not taken by the Assembly. If it had been, we should be in a very much stronger position today.
But we have to face matters as they are. The latest proposal of Nasser is to link the question of Israeli shipping with the whole subject of the resettlement of Arab refugees, the return of land, and so on. I hope that the Government are not going to accept that. I hope that they will insist that Colonel Nasser abides by the Security Council's Resolution of 13th October.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. May I ask what he means when he says "insist"?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Insist in these particular negotiations, to start with, which presumably are being conducted with Nasser by 77 the American Government. As to what one can do eventually, I myself have always held the same view, that here one's weapon is not force; one's weapons are economic pressure and, eventually if necesary, a boycott of the Canal. I have said all along that if one could get no satisfaction from Colonel Nasser those were the weapons one should use. If the United States could be persuaded to use its very real power in this respect, there is not very much doubt that Colonel Nasser would come to heel.
Finally, I pass to something to which the Prime Minister did not refer, but of which I must make some mention. I mean the so-called Bromberger revelations, which have appeared in the Paris Press. This book, judging by extracts from it which have been published, is clearly no scandal sheet. The Observer said yesterday that it consisted mostly of authorised leaks, principally from the French Ministry of Defence, and went on to say:A number of French Service officials saw, commented on, and in some cases corrected, chapters of the book as they were written.I am less concerned with the story of the action itself and the rather depressing picture of the then Prime Minister which it gives. I am more concerned with the preparations for the action. The House will probably be aware of what the document says. It says that the French became aware of the Israeli decision to occupy Sinai, which involved a detailed knowledge of what action was going to take place, on 14th October. It says that a French staff officer flew to London on 15th October, and describes the knowledge of this business in the following terms. It speaks of how M. Bourges-Maunoury, the French Minister of Defence,hearing the news of the intention to attack, drove at once to the Hotel Matignon. He brought to the Prime Minister, M. Mollet, on a silver plate, the long-awaited occasion for an intervention in Egypt ".The Observer, quoting the book, goes on to say that on the next day the French staff officer who went to London and saw Sir Anthony Eden.Placing both hands on the map showing the Israelis in Sinai and the Egyptians in the Delta, pointed out to the Prime Minister that the intervention must obviously take place along the Canal. 'Good idea,' said the Prime Minister, but in his mind this military suggestion for a deployment had become a political concept.78 The Observer continues the account by saying:On October 16th, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister went to Paris. The authors show that the decision was taken only when the French agreed to accept the British thesis that they must enter in the guise of impartial pacifiers to separate the combatants, The French obtained agreement… Sir Anthony Eden returned to London to give his instructions to his Chiefs of Staff '. Recalling that on 30th October the Prime Minister told the House of Commons that the Israeli attack came as a complete surprise, the Bromberger brothers comment: 'Sir Anthony Eden was not lying. Only his truth was 15 days out of date'.This is a very sorry story indeed. It is in the recollection of all of us that Sir Anthony Eden on 20th December said:I want to say this on the question of foreknowledge, and say it quite bluntly to the House, that there was not foreknowledge that Israel would attack Egypt— there was not."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th December, 1956; Vol. 562, c. 1518.]How do we reconcile what has now been said in this apparently truthful document —[Laughter.] I am surprised that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should laugh. He was not, I think, then a Member of the Government, so we will forgive him for his laughter; but I shall be surprised if he continues to laugh very much longer about this.
Sir Anthony Eden has gone. Lord Salisbury has gone, but the Foreign Secretary remains. Did he not play his part in this shabby affair? And the Prime Minister— did he know nothing of what was going on? Did he think that his predecessor was telling the House the truth on 20th December, or did he know that this was not so but remained silent with his colleagues while the House and the country were deceived? There is only one way now of clearing up this matter, and that is the appointment of a Select Committee of the House. For that, we ask on behalf of the Opposition and of the country generally.
Over this debate as a whole—
§ Mr. John Eden (Bournemouth, West) rose—
§ Mr. Gaitskell
— there still hangs the shadow of the Suez disaster, for disaster it was. If the Prime Minister and his colleagues had been guiltless in this matter we could have some sympathy for them in their attempts to clear up the mess, 79 but this is not so. They must share the blame, and the blame for the consequences of Suez.
The Prime Minister is a master of brave phrases. He gives them to us almost every week. He promised great things on European unity. There is no sign of any forward move here. He told us of the agreement on the Middle East. Where is it? He promised us economies in defence and at the same time a bolder front to America. We do not seem to be having either of them. We seem, in fact, to have fallen between two stools. We do not seem to have the economies and we appear to be more, if anything rather than less dependent on our American friends.
The Prime Minister said at the end of his television broadcast in January:Britain has been great, is great and will stay great provided we close our ranks and get on with the job.There has been precious little sign of greatness for us in the Bermuda story or in anything else that has happened since January. As for closing our ranks, the ranks seem to be opening rather than closing— and I do not mean only on the Front Bench opposite. I mean in the country as a whole, which is now plunged into the worst industrial dispute since the war and which faces, undoubtedly, a very grave economic and financial situation.
The fact is that we cannot base our policy on hard-worked Ministerial contradictory slogans. With every day that passes, the country is beginning to understand more clearly than ever the complete lack of coincidence between these slogans and any effective policy. The Government would be well advised to get out before their certain defeat becomes a rout.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
The Leader of the Opposition has had to deliver three speeches this afternoon. In two of them he was successful but in one, I think, he was a singular failure. His analysis of the general situation was, obviously, non-party and incisive. His comment on the vexed problems of atomic energy was in the highest tradition of the House. We have to examine all these grave problems, which affect every single one of us and on 80 which the House is in no position as yet to come to a final decision.
At the end of his speech, the Leader of the Opposition had to let off the usual party slam-banging, a certain amount of big drum beating, a certain amount of tap dancing and, of course, at the end, the demand for a General Election, with, I suppose, the hope that he and his right hon. Friends would take over the Administration of the country, a task in which they have lamentably failed whenever they have had the opportunity before and of which, obviously, the right hon. Gentleman is more terrified than of any other prospect, even that of the hydrogen bomb, which might come upon him just now.
The right hon. Gentleman's last remarks were, of course, of the most vital importance to all of us. We are at present in the midst of grave and terrible industrial disputes. It is there that really the weight of our discussions today should be directed, because it is useless to talk about the genetic dangers to the people twenty, thirty, forty or fifty years ahead if we are faced with something like an economic collapse within the next few years or even months. I fear that the House is apt sometimes to go into an escapist mood on these recondite and difficult scientific problems.
The danger from any atom bomb war is not so much the danger of the destruction of a certain number of individuals many years hence, but the annihilation of civilisation within the next few hours. The real danger of the atom bomb is its explosion and not its far-reaching genetic effects. An all-out atom bomb or hydrogen bomb war in the world would destroy civilisation; it would go far to destroying the world. The dangers with which we are faced are far more the immediate dangers of imminent destruction than the far-away genetic effects on a few individuals many decades hence.
The House is in deep waters in these problems, because they are not yet fully thought out, even by the scientists. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, the scientific advances in this sphere are proceeding so rapidly that they altogether outstrip the political formulae with which we attempt to control them. In a word, the effect of the atom bomb is, of course, an explosion and then the fall-out.
81 The effect of the hydrogen bomb is self-annihilation; thus the more successful the bomb, the less the fall-cut. Its danger, therefore, is not so much from the genetic and health point of view.
The more successful the hydrogen bomb, the less danger it will be in that respect to the human race in the far future. It is paradoxical that the genetic danger is from the atom bomb, from the kiloton bomb and not from the megaton bomb. The atom bomb is a far more dangerous weapon in that way than the hydrogen bomb, and as the hydrogen bomb is perfected, it becomes less and less dangerous from the years-head point of view because its self-annihilation becomes greater and greater.
The danger is not so much atoms for war, but atoms for peace. We are putting these things into the hands not merely of the large Powers, but of the small Powers. They are being not merely encouraged, but subsidised, to take them up. Inevitably, this will demand some kind of control more far-reaching than any of the controls which we have so far envisaged, not for the bombs, but for the reactors.
The danger is far greater in the great industrial programmes of the use of atomic energy now being planned and developed than from the tests of these weapons, which are being made, inevitably, in very small numbers, affecting very small releases of dangerous materials and, on the whole, very carefully controlled and which, indeed, could be controlled altogether. There is a great deal still to know in these matters and I am sure that none of us would raise any objection to the comment by the Leader of the Opposition upon the most penetrating and full review of this matter which was given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
The issues before us are, however, so varied and numerous that it is difficult to make a selection among them. Obviously, each of us cannot discuss them all. I would wish to speak only of two, which were touched upon but not developed to any great extent in the speeches we have heard so far, one of them foreign and one domestic. The foreign issue is the triangle of dispute between Greece, Great Britain and Turkey, the problem of Cyprus, and the immediate problems, which were touched 82 on by the Leader of the Opposition and will, no doubt, be developed further during this debate, of the steps which are to be taken after the release of Archbishop Makarios.
I have no quarrel with the release of Archbishop Makarios. I would say that the thing has not gone far enough, for this reason, that I think events have altogether overrun the Radcliffe Report and the constitution there envisaged. I think that it is clear that the issue before us is partition and that until we face that issue clearly and begin to discuss it we shall get nowhere. We are altogether out or range of argument which can go for an indefinite length of time while the Archbishop parades the world, demands Enosis, and is refused access to Cyprus alone, where we go on in some constitutional state suspended between heaven and earth, neither one thing nor the other.
I say that if, within a month, sensible progress were not made on the Radcliffe Report, the Government should set up forthwith a commission and send it there to see whether it would be possible to discuss what alone will bring matters in the island to a sharp focus, an area under Greek sovereignty and an area under Turkish sovereignty. Unless we are willing to face that we shall not find that the release of Archbishop Makarios has done anything but, as Lord Salisbury said in his resignation letter, extend the area of uncertainty and prolong the period of dispute.
Some time ago another Greek was faced with a difficult situation, when Alexander the Great met the Gordian knot. It could not be untied. It had to be cut. This knot will have to be cut, and the only thing to do is to let the axe of partition, now swinging, fall. For Makarios — I repeat, Makarios— has decreed that it shall fall. I do not think that we can negotiate with that man on small issues only. We shall eventually have to come to great issues and resolve them. This problem will now be solved by the axe alone— and it is Makarios, in his Seychelles statement, who has proved that the axe must fall.
I shall now touch on only one further aspect of affairs. It was touched on by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition just before he sat down. That is, the disputes which are at present 83 bedevilling and paralysing this country. Our industrial machines are masterly, are capable of doing all that we wish. They can produce heat, light, power, energy in indefinite amounts. The psychological machine by which all those are controlled is archaic— this process by which there is a demand for 5 per cent. or 7½ per cent., and then the demand that the Minister should intervene, and then the two sides split apart, and then the Minister intervenes, and then the two sides come together and then separate, and then there is the demand for a court of inquiry to be set up. If we were to try to run our machines in that way they would be destroyed within a few hours.
The difficulty of handling those machines themselves is nothing compared with the difficulty of deciding how the psychological machine is to be handled. It is up to us as pioneers, the forerunners in industrial affairs, to devise a technique by which this problem of control can be examined, worked over, long before it comes to this stage of mutual long-range slanging and emergency committees. One such has just been meeting, for instance, aboard the "Queen Mary" and demanding that some action be taken to let the crew itself get home. Meanwhile, the union in question folds its arms and says, "Of course, we cannot call our people together over the weekend." Meanwhile, this great liner, a triumph of modern engineering, ploughs her way across the Atlantic while nobody can decide at what port she should arrive. That is the very negation of our hopes of progress and of a higher standard of life.
It is quite a long time ago, I think about a quarter of a century ago, that I ventured to suggest that the unions were now an Estate of the Realm— a phrase which, after a reasonable period of meditation, is beginning to emerge into common parlance. They have the hall-mark of an Estate of the Realm, its very touchstone, for they can vote supply. This House votes supplies of money without which the affairs of State cannot be conducted. The trade unions are an Estate of the Realm because they can vote or withhold supplies of labour, without which, also, the affairs of the State cannot be conducted.
At present, their power is divorced from responsibility. They have this enormous 84 power, but the responsibility for using it is by no means fixed, and it is certainly being most casually exercised; I do not say by one side, but by both sides.
§ Mr. Elliot
No. It is certainly not being casually exercised by the Government. It is not the Government who decide whether the "Queen Mary" is to go to Cherbourg or Southampton.
§ Mr. Lewis
What I was trying to point out was that all these industrial disputes have arisen because of the Government's deliberate policy of purposely forcing up the cost of living and deliberately acting against every pledge which they made at the last Election. It is that which has caused all the industrial disputes.
§ Mr. Elliot
That shows how unfitted this House is to discuss industrial problems. Every word that the hon. Member has said is inaccurate. We have only to look in this morning's issue of The Times to see the downward curve in the value of the £ We can see how it has sagged— [HON. MEMBERS: "Because of the Government."] Not under one party only. The curve has gone unbrokenly downwards under the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. Until the Government set about resisting that tendency it will go on. Of course, the moment they do so they will be accused in unmeasured terms by hon. Members opposite of exactly the sort of thing that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) spoke about just now.
But until the Government deal with that the £ will continue to slide, and the cost of living continue to rise, demands for higher wages continue to be made, in this spiral, and at the end of the day there will be the collapse of our whole system.
§ Mr. Elliot
That only shows how impossible it is for this Chamber to discuss industrial affairs. The hon. Member is speaking from the point of view of politics, by which matters are run by the Government, with an Opposition willing and anxious to take their place. But that process breaks down if we apply it to industry. It would be of no advantage to the nation that every five years 85 the managers should move over to the lathes and the workers at the lathes should move over to the counting house, following the practice in political affairs.
Many years ago my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) lent his great authority to the suggestion of an industrial parliament. I think that we shall be driven to some course of that kind, a parliament where these matters can be examined and worked over, in an atmosphere quite different from that of this Chamber and with a technique quite different from that of this Chamber. Here, Government and Opposition seek to replace each other. That is not the method by which industrial problems can be worked out. Sooner rather than later we shall be driven to that.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether this point of view is new? Has he forgotten that in the Elections of 1950 and 1951 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and his colleagues were using the argument of the "money cheat" against the Labour Party and then discovered that inflation goes on irrespective of the colour of the Government? He seems to think it entirely novel.
§ Mr. Elliot
Not at all. The hon. Gentleman has only to look at the curve of the £ to see its continual movement, and it is a problem which is continuing. I will concede readily to him that it has gone on under successive Governments. It certainly will not stop as long as hon. Members, representing or claiming to represent organised labour, bring forward the sort of argument which has just been brought forward by the hon. Member for West Ham, North.
§ Mr. Elliot
When the hon. Member got up and dusted his clothes after lying down in front of the lorry, he received no such unanimous vote as would lead us to believe that he has succeeded in gaining 86 the confidence of the workers whilst we on this side of the House have not.
§ Mr. Elliot
The hon. Member must not delay me further. There are others who wish to speak and he and I will create a great deal of if we do not allow this section of the argument to terminate so that other hon. Members may take part in the debate.
I say that the method of examination of our industrial problems will have to be reviewed and altogether recast.
We were, of course, greatly heartened by many of the things said by the Prime Minister at the Bermuda Conference. Many of his points indicated a convergence of views beyond what we had been led to expect and certainly beyond that which the communiqué indicated, as, for instance, that the United States as well as ourselves had been willing to advise ships to avoid the Canal. Thus the United States was beginning to bring to bear the economic pressure which the Leader of the Opposition demanded.
But it must be a conference of equals is we are to make the alliance work at all. A conference of equals demands that we in this country should be solvent and strong. We are not getting stronger this week. We are getting weaker this week, and until we solve our industrial problems we are not on the road to greater equality with America or to creating a greater impression in Europe but rather to less equality with America and to a weaker position in Europe.
Europe is not anti-American. I have had the honour of being present recently at two meetings of N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians, one in Washington a few weeks ago, one in Brussels last week. The members there were enthusiastically in favour of the closest co-operation with America and, indeed, the most eloquent speech was delivered by M. van Cauwelaert, the veteran Belgian statesman recently elected head of Benelux. He was second to none in his desire for an Atlantic community and for its extension and development. But until we 87 solve our industrial problems we are not going towards but away from leadership in Europe. Disraeli once said, "The keys of India, my Lords, are not in Kandahar and not in Delhi. They are here." The keys of equality with the United States and with Europe are not in Cyprus or in Suez. They are not on the Nile. They are on the Thames, on the Clyde, and on the Tyne, and there our great industrial undertakings are at present running to a standstill. Unless we solve these problems all our diplomacy will fail; and, it may well be, democracy itself will fail.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Mikardo (Reading)
if I do not follow the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) in his remarks, I am sure that he will well know that that is not in any sense out of any discourtesy towards him but because I want to deal with a subject different from that which he raised. It is a subject which was touched upon almost in passing in the speeches of both the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. It is one of the subjects which was discussed at Bermuda. It is the embargo on trade with China.
In accordance with the traditions of the House, I want to declare an interest in the matter, which is that over the last few months I have been professionally advising a number of British manufacturers of specialist engineering equipment on the possible uses of their products in China and on the possibility of finding a market there for them. Some of these manufacturers, very laudably, are engaging in research to try to find new outlets for their goods, to replace the markets of the Middle East which have been closed to us by the idiotic behaviour of the Government in the Middle East over the last few months.
My concern with the China market began many years before I had any professional interest in the matter. Ever since the ending of the Korean War, I have felt it to be extremely foolish, as many of my hon. Friends have done, to continue an embargo which was designed solely and specifically to limit the ability of the Chinese to fight the Korean War. The embargo, as the House will recall, sprang out of a decision at the General 88 Assembly of the United Nations on 18th May, 1951, which provided for… economic measures to support and supplement the military action of the United Nations in Korea.It was clearly never the intention of the General Assembly that the embargo should go on after hostilities ceased. It was clearly never the intention of Her Majesty's Government that it should go on. They said so quite plainly on many occasions.
For example, the Lord Mancroft, in another place, said on 28th April, 1953I think quite clearly it would be reasonable to say that the restriction upon strategic goods which was put upon China as long as the warlike activities were pursued in Korea, cannot possibly be extended to any general overall peace plan stretching far and away beyond Korea."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 28th April, 1953; Vol. 182, c. 50.]That was the clear intention of the Government, expressed on that and many other occasions, that this embargo should not go on indefinitely after hostilities ceased. But that intention, however clearly stated, has never been fulfilled. In fact, the embargo is practically the same today as it was during the Korean War. During the last four years only two items have been taken off the embargo list. They are small passenger cars and, rather incongruously, sodium peroxide. One item— fork-lift trucks— has been added to the list.
Here we are, therefore, at this time severely damaging British export trade for the purpose of preventing the Chinese from doing well in a war which finished nearly four years ago. I hope that the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, if they have been able to spare the time in the last few days from rows in the Cabinet, have noticed a Motion on the Order Paper, supported by over 100 of my right hon. and hon. Friends, on the subject of the embargo on trade with China:
That this House deplores the damage which British export trade suffers as a result of the China embargo: endorses the appeal made recently to the Government by the Federation of British Industries and other industrial and commercial organisations and regrets that the Prime Minister has not been able to announce, as a result of the Bermuda Conference, at least a modification of the embargo
89 That Motion was placed on the Order Paper because we are disappointed that in respect of trade with China, as clearly in respect of some other matters of which we have heard this afternoon, the Prime Minister got less than nothing out of the Bermuda conversations and did substantially worse in respect of trade with China, as in respect of some other things, at Bermuda than his predecessor Sir Anthony Eden did at Washington a little over a year ago.
It was painfully obvious in the reference made by the Prime Minster to this part of the Bermuda discussions, and it is obvious from the fact that no mention is made of those discussions in the cornmuniqué that what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon was no more than a pathetic euphemism to cover up a total failure on his part to make any impression on the Americans in this matter.
The Motion on the Order Paper to which I have referred notes the representations which have been made and they are very welcome even if they are somewhat belated, belated by a couple of years at least— to the Government by the Federation of British Industries, by the Association of Chambers of Commerce, by the National Union of Manufacturers, by the London Chamber of Commerce, and by a number of other similar trade associations.
One never expects the Government to take much notice of back benchers, either on their own side or on that of the Opposition, but even the representations of respectable organisations such as these were not apparently sufficient to put some guts into the Prime Minister when he was discussing these matters with the Americans at Bermuda. I know why those various trade associations have at last come round to adding their voices to ours in protest against the China embargo. It is because they have at last come to realise that our imposing of this embargo does not do much damage to the Chinese, but does tremendous damage to British exporters.
I was in China last year with some other hon. Members from both sides of the House, and I had the opportunity of taking a good look round many Chinese industries, especially the heavy industries such as coal mining, steel, engineering 90 oil refining, cable making and a number of others. In all these I saw a huge array of new equipment of many kinds and derived from many different sources.
There was a great deal from the Communist countries of Eastern Europe. I saw Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Czechoslovakian and East German equipment. I also saw, in and around Peking and Shenyang, Anshan and Fushun a good deal of equipment made in France, Sweden, Switzerland, Western Germany and Japan, and also some industrial equipment which is made in the United States of America, in Chinese factories and research institutions.
I do not profess to know how all this stuff got there, though I could hazard a shrewd guess in a number of cases. One reason it has got there is the particularly idiotic provision that some goods which are embargoed for China are permitted for the Communist countries of Eastern Europe, which is one reason why two-thirds of the Polish merchant marine is engaged all the time in ferrying stuff from Gdynia to the China ports.
Everyone I know in the export trade— and I know quite a number of people— and many hon. Members on both sides of this House as well as many other people, know about the Chinese getting stuff from other countries in the Western world which our manufacturers are prohibited from supplying. It is painfully obvious from many Questions and Answers about this matter in the House that everybody knows all about these things except those two starry-eyed innocents, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. They alone, the two heavenly twins alone in all the world, pretend not to know that into China is going West German, French and other equipment of types that our manufacturers are prohibited from sending there.
I will quote one example, not an isolated one but an outstanding one. Last year, when there was much argument about selling British tractors to China under the exceptions procedure, one British manufacturer was denied an export licence of a certain type. He asked, "Why do you deny this? The West Germans sell the Hanemag,' which is a similar tractor to mine." The Board of Trade said, "Oh no, they do not, they 91 are not allowed to do so by the international agreement and the Paris Consultative Group. There cannot be any Hanemags in China." So the manufacturer came back with a big picture of a lot of Hanemag tractors in a warehouse in Peking, and then the Board of Trade relented and issued the export licence. What a way to run the exports of a country that is dependent on its export trade.
There is another way in which British exporters are being damaged by the behaviour of the Government. Proposals about British exports to China are submitted by the Government to two strangely named committees with the ugly titles of Cocom and Chincom, which are committees of the Paris Consultative Group. It is those committees, not this House, which decide what British manufacturers can export and what they cannot export. Those committees make their decisions in secret. They are not reported to this House or to any other of the Parliaments of the countries which are represented, and right hon. Gentlemen of this Government have refused to answer question about the deliberations or the decisions of these committees.
These committees include representatives of West Germany and of Japan, two of our most intense competitors in overseas markets, and especially so in engineering products. The net effect of what is happening is that these competitors are immediately informed. unlike this House, about the export plans and intentions and hopes of British manufacturers. The consequence is that they can make their own dispositions in the light of what they are told, and what we are never told, about the export intentions and hopes of British exporters of engineering goods. Again I ask, what sort of a way is that in which to run the exports of a country as dependent on them as is this country?
I hope that the Government will not tell us— if they bother to reply on this subject at all— that the situation is alleviated to any worth-while extent by the use of the exceptions procedure introduced last year. Goodness knows, that procedure is better than nothing, but a British manufacturer could not rely on it. He cannot find out, because a Government Department will not tell him, what goods are included in the exceptions procedure. and he cannot give any guarantee 92 to a Chinese buyer that if goods are sold under this procedure, and an export licence is issued, in future one will be issued for any replacements or spares required.
We cannot expect any importer of any nationality to adopt a piece of equipment as standard if he cannot be sure that supplies of it, and spares for it, will not be cut off arbitrarily at some time in the future. That alone is enough to ensure that the exceptions procedure is not of much use either to the potential importer or to the British exporter.
I dare say that we shall be told by the Government that the situation is not too bad because our exports to China went up in 1956 as compared with 1955, but that an argument would not hold water. In fact, our exports went up in the first half of the year, but in the second half and in the first quarter of 1957 the orders have dried up. with the consequence that there is very little in the pipeline and the future looks bleak. Moreover, even if over the whole year we showed some increase, we were in that year sadly outdistanced by our principal competitors. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition quoted one figure, the French exports, as illustrative of this, and perhaps I might develop the point.
Our total trade with China, taking imports, exports and re-exports, went up in 1956 compared with 1955 by 15 per cent; but that of Western Germany went up by 25 per cent.; of Switzerland, by 36 per cent; of Japan, by 40 per cent.; and of France, by 115 per cent. In 1955, our exports to China were 21 per cent. of the total of those five principal exporting countries, and in 1956 our share dropped to 11 per cent., a little over half in proportion.
When Sir Anthony Eden returned from Washington and Ottawa, at the beginning of last year, he promised that Her Majesty's Government would call a meeting of the China Committee of the Paris Consultative Group to reopen the whole question of the embargo. That promise was made quite clearly by him and was reiterated in the House on a number of occasions over the next few months by a number of Ministers. However, that meeting, which was promised over and over again, has never been called. In fact, the Government have 93 gone back completely on the firm promise given by the former Prime Minister. Indeed, the present Prime Minister has gone much further than his predecessor ever did in deferring in most abject and servile fashion to the instructions of his master's voice in Washington.
Some people may ask why the Americans are so intransigent about this matter. There are two answers to the question— a political one, and a commercial one. The political one is the familiar one that the Americans in general have a blind spot about China, a sort of unreasoning phobia which over-rides every political judgment which they may make in their more reasonable moments.
The commercial reason is more subtle and more interesting. American business men know that, sooner or later, all these restrictions on trade with China will be lifted and the Chinese market will be open to all corners, including all American comers. Many American manufacturers have been in contact with the American Government Bureau of Commerce on this subject for a long time. These American business men are taking good care that British manufacturers do not forestall them in that market. They are taking jolly good care— it is one of the reasons why they insist upon our putting an embargo on our manufacturers— that when the gates are opened they will be able to dash in ahead of our own people In a number of ways and through a number of agencies, these American manufacturers are studying the Chinese market and preparing for their entry into it.
The American manufactruers are doing a good deal of this work in and around Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, our Colony, the Americans maintain a consulate about ten times as big as would be required merely to fulfil normal consular functions. If all the American vice-consuls in Hong Kong fairly shared out between themselves the normal work of issuing visas and stamping consular documents, each would be hard put to it to find twenty minutes' work a day. Hon. Members can make their guess about the other things that these people are doing apart from their normal consular activities. British business men who have had experience of American competition can also make their guess about what all this American apparatus in Hong Kong is doing.
94 It is fairly obvious that all the Bermuda discussions in this matter, as in most others, were no more than a series of brusque rejections by America of timid requests put forward by Great Britain, and, in particular, as a result of this, British exports, which have already suffered grievously from the effects of our aggression against Egypt, have now to suffer still further because of the timidity and incompetence of the present Government. Among those who will be glad to see the Government go are some who would normally be their most keen and vociferous supporters, the exporters of this country.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
I am sure the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) will extend to me the courtesy which he asked to have extended to him by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), in that I do not propose to follow him in the remarks that he has been making about China and trade with China. I want to address my remarks to something which is very close to my heart, the general matter of Anglo-American relations.
Before he began to skip through the book of the Bambergers, the Leader of the Opposition leaned over the Dispatch Box and fixed me with a baleful eye when speaking of the hundred or so Conservative hon. Members who last November signed the Motion referring to the endangering of the Atlantic Alliance Perhaps it was a coincidence, but I am indeed one of the hundred or so hon. Members who put his name to that Motion. My name remains attached to the Motion, and it has remained attached to it until now I have an opportunity of explaining to the House why it was ever there.
I have personal ties in the way of connections by marriage and blood with America which make it essential and inevitable that I should ever want to see the closest connection, politically or otherwise, between the two countries. I have some knowledge of the United States, though there are probably many hon. Members who have a greater knowledge. My knowledge is not based upon forming a view from American tourists, though I think there are many people in this country who base their opinion of America on what they see of tourists, and, 95 if they do, I can only ask them to reflect upon what other people think about our tourists when they meet them abroad. Any hon. Member who has received any of the hospitality and generosity which is almost inevitably given when one visits the United States of America will realise that in that country there is a great, expressed desire and need for friendship with Britain.
However, in visiting the United States in August, I formed the opinion that there was a complete blind spot in the American assessment of the world situation. This was not only on the part of the man-in-the-street. On the part of the politicians, journalists and business men to whom I spoke there was this complete blind spot in their conception of the problems of the Middle East. It was mixed up somehow with the strange sense of history which is taught to Americans, the odd twin devil which is in them in relation to their belief of the evil and wicked colonialism which they managed to throw off. Therefore, they felt that the dangers to the Middle East to which we were drawing attention were not ones that affected them and were not ones of any real seriousness and gravity. And to an Englishman who travels in the south of the United States and sees the treatment meted out to the coloured citizens, it is irritating to be lectured by somebody from the north-east coast of America about the conduct of the so-called "colonial Powers ".
Therefore, I very much believe that, in leading up to November of last year, American policy over the Middle East had, indeed, gravely endangered the Atlantic Alliance, which I believe to be a most essential matter if we are to have real peace in the world.
There is a view in America which most of us would consider childish and absurd, that Washington is always at the beck and call of the English Foreign Office, that behind each desk in Washington lurks some Foreign Office official, that Uncle Sam is always dancing to John Bull's tune it is a childish and absurd view, but one very generally held in the United States— and that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is the political adviser to his old chief general, General Eisenhower.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minis 96 ter if he persuaded the President to change the law. Surely the right hon. Gentleman knows enough of the United States to know that that kind of announcement, that the Prime Minister of Great Britain is trying to persuade the President to change the law, would have the immediate opposite effect upon legislators in Congress. There is a certain section of United States opinion which in everything sees the wicked hand of Britain behind every policy of the United States Government, as is clearly to be seen in the attitude of the generals in the last war towards the Mediterranean policy and to other difficulties which then faced us.
It is with a great sense of humiliation that I have heard some persons in my own party beginning to think the same about America. It is tragic that in the immediate past the easiest way to raise a cheer at a political meeting or elsewhere has been to attack the United States; the easiest way to sell an article has been to publish one attacking the United States. It is a humiliation that we are not adult and wise enough to appreciate that that is utter and absurd nonsense. It gives a poor impression for a country such as ours continually to blame others for the difficulties we meet.
Nevertheless, I heard with great satisfaction what the Prime Minister had to say about the frank speaking which, he said, took place between himself and the President at Bermuda. That is the only language the Americans understand and appreciate. It is that sense of reserve, which accounts for our inability to sell motor cars, let alone our inability to sell ourselves, which has done so much damage to us all over the great Republic of the United States.
I have read various criticisms in the Press about the guided missiles agreement, and there were criticisms by some hon. Gentlemen who intervened today. If our policy is, as it must be, to create sufficient wealth to become totally independent and really masters in our own House, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove said, then an agreement such as this, which will enable us to cut the cost of defence and the burden which rests upon us, is sensible and intelligent.
There must be a veto in the use of such rockets by the fact that the rocket itself is possessed and controlled by our 97 own authorities and the fact that in future we can at least anticipate production and supply of our own nuclear warheads.
§ Mr. Rawlinson
I understood from my right hon. Friend that the quicker they could be supplied the better, that by having the use of these weapons we can cut conventional forces. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), as I have heard on many occasions, is a great authority on these matters, and though I have spent longer in the Army than he has spent in the law— and he certainly talks a lot about lawyers — I do not wish to cross swords with him over a technical matter. However, my understanding is that by the provision of these weapons we shall be able to reduce conventional weapons and so reduce our burden of costs.
I also welcome— although it was not in the communiqué — what I heard about the pool of planning and intelligence. Such arrangements will help to clear up the differences. The tour of Vice-President Nixon in Africa has done much good in lifting the fog of ignorance in America about the real colonial task and the colonial achievements of this country. It is an ignorance, as I have said before, for which we ourselves are very much to blame. But above all, I welcome the spirit of co-operation which appears to have arisen from the Bermuda Conference. Anglo-American relations needed and, indeed, got the jerk which came to them in November, 1956.
Out of that will come a better relationship. No one can doubt the fact that the President has, as the Prime Minister said, a real and genuine sense of admiration and respect for this country. The danger lies at levels lower than that of the President. An alliance, is not a romantic or emotional union but a business partnership, a partnership made in the interests of both parties. If one partner manages to get on well with and to like the other, that is to the interests of both.
There is no doubt of the need for this close association between both sides of 98 the Atlantic. It did not grow merely out of association and friendship created by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and President Roosevelt, and it has not grown out of one or two meetings or the friendship between President Eisenhower and the Prime Minister. It has grown out of patient work done by everybody. If we as two nations, the United States and ourselves, cannot agree, what hope is there of any other nations agreeing? I end as I started by saying that I believe it is in the interests of us all and it is the great desire of us all that there should be unity and alliance between the two great races.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
The hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) appears to be well satisfied that the outcome of the Bermuda Conference has been to make up for the very bad jerk which, he maintained, Anglo-American relations received last November. I wonder whether other hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree with his assessment of the situation. It is quite apparent from what he said that there is considerable disagreement within his own party about the real meaning of the Bermuda Conference and its real significance for this country.
In one aspect it is certainly a ratification by the British Government of the extension of the Truman doctrine into the Eisenhower doctrine. The Eisenhower doctrine extends the Truman doctrine in two senses, in the military— strategic sense and politically. In the military-strategic sense it is the extension of American military power beyond the area bounded by Turkey. The fact that the United States has joined the Military Committee of the Bagdad Pact is merely a confirmation of that aspect of the matter.
In the view of Mr. Dulles, the Middle East constituted a gap in the ring of containment which he built around the Soviet Union. The United States is now busy, through the Eisenhower doctrine and in joining the Military Committee of the Bagdad Pact, completing that ring. In that sense, the Eisenhower doctrine is based upon the rather facile but outmoded theory that Communism can be contained by building a "Maginot Line" around it. This "Maginot Line", based upon the 99 occupation of forward bases as close as possible to the Soviet frontiers, has already been proved to be quite futile in the case of the Middle East itself, because it is so easy to infiltrate, outflank or overleap the line by other than military means— by economic, diplomatic, ideological, social and political means. In that sense, in supporting the extension of American military power into the Middle East we are merely adopting what must be in the end a totally futile military-strategic policy.
We are also adopting the extension of the Truman doctrine politically, in the sense that the Truman doctrine followed the inability of this country to maintain its position in Greece and Turkey and the decision of Mr. Bevin at that time to call in the United States to take up that position. Today, the present British Government do not have even to call in the United States; they are more accommodating than Mr. Bevin was. The Government give way in order to allow the United States to come in. By pursuing the ridiculous and foolish policy of attempting to go it alone in the military sense, in Suez, the way was opened wide for the Americans to come in. Now all that the Government can do is to accept that position and try to put a bold face upon it.
The correspondent of the New York Herald-Tribune, Mr. Joseph Alsop, writing on 22nd March, said:British power and influence in the Middle East, which have always been over-estimated in London, have now altogether ceased to exist. They have therefore got to be replaced by American power and influence, if anything at all is to be saved from the wreck. Fortunately, the members of the inner circle of British policy makers have faced these unpalatable facts. It is a hard blow to British pride. It will cause much friction before it is all over. But they are now willing to commit the protection of their Middle Eastern interests to American hands.That is a fair description of what has taken place. The best that can be said of the Prime Minister is that he has made a realistic assessment of the appalling collapse of British influence in the Middle East which has followed the Suez adventure, and has therefore gone running off to President Eisenhower to make it easy for the Americans to come in and take up the power position which we formerly occupied.
100 Here again, we have a continuation of the process which was started by Mr. Ernest Bevin, who, at the end of the last war, was so worried about the possibility of the Americans handing over bits of the British Empire and spheres of influence to Russia that he decided that the best thing to do was to start handing them over to the Americans. It was started in Greece, and it has been continued since. The present Government have continued to hand over to the Americans large areas of British power and influence in various parts of the world.
In respect of not one single item does the Bermuda Conference represent a gain for British influence or independence in return for what has been conceded to the United States. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) analysed the communiqué and showed how, point by point, the American point of view has dominated the outcome of the Conference. On matters such as the future of Germany and the future development of Europe, including the possibility of some new political initiative which would open the road both for German reunification and for some relief to the Hungarian people, it is quite clear from the flatulent and rather shame-faced words of the communiqué that the more sensible ideas which have been put forward in responsible quarters of both parties in this country have now been over-ruled by the Americans, and that we are to stay put and make no attempt whatsoever to adopt a new initiative in Europe and relieve the appalling situation which now holds good there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) referred to the utter failure to extract a single concession from the Americans in respect of trade with China. Here is a total and abject defeat. Although this matter clearly must have been raised by the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary, no advance whatsoever has been made from the position as it was after Sir Anthony Eden's meeting with the President over a year ago.
On the matter of nuclear weapon tests, that is quite clear once again— in spite of the long explanation which the Prime Minister attempted to give us this afternoon— that the American viewpoint has 101 prevailed. It is very interesting to compare the text of the section of the communiqué dealing with nuclear weapon tests with the statements made by President Eisenhower upon this subject as far back as the Presidential election campaign. The phrases are almost exactly the same. The arguments against any postponement or even limitation of the tests, outside a general disarmament agreement, are precisely those used by President Eisenhower when he was engaged in his controversy with Mr. Adlai Stevenson.
Those statements, made at the time of the Presidential election, must have been in the mind of Sir Anthony Eden when he was making his statement to the House on 20th December. They were made before Sir Anthony Eden made his statement to the House on that date. The views of the scientific advisers of the Government must also have been made known to Sir Anthony Eden well before 20th December and he must have taken into account the views that had been expressed earlier by President Eisenhower in the United States.
It is therefore quite clear that, as at 20th December, the view of the British Government. taking into account all the scientific advice which they had up to that moment, and also all that President Eisenhower had been saying in the United States during the Presidential election campaign, was that it was possible to find a way of entering into agreement for the limitation of these tests separately from any general agreement.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Commander Allan Noble) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Warbey
The hon. and gallant Gentleman shakes his head, but his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has quoted from statements made by Sir Anthony Eden on 20th December.
All I am saying is that three months later there cannot have been any new scientific advice which was not available to Sir Anthony Eden. Therefore, the only change which has taken place in the situation with regard to nuclear tests is that the Prime Minister has gone to Bermuda and that there President Eisenhower has said, "We are not going to have these tests stopped until we get a complete and comprehensive disarmament agreement, including total control 102 of nuclear weapons." That is what happened at Bermuda and there is not the least doubt about it, whatever gloss the Prime Minister may attempt to put upon the position.
In respect of one item of the communiqué after another, we find that the American view has prevailed and that the British view has been swept aside.
We have got something in return for the price we have paid. We have the guided missile. We are to get guided missiles, but we are not to get the warheads. I should have thought that this was really as clear a symbol as we could have of the relationship which this Conservative Government have now established vis-à-vis the United States. It is the clearest symbol we could have of the relationship of a junior partner with a senior partner the clearest symbol of the relationship of a satellite to a master Power. We are allowed to play with the fireworks, but we are not to hold the real keys of power. That is the situation in which we are placed, and I am not surprised that many hon. Members opposite are deeply concerned about the way in which, at Bermuda, Britain has once again accepted this satellite rôle vis-à-vis the United States.
This is a shocking situation when we consider the very high hopes that were developing in the world during the period extending roughly from 1954 until last summer. During that time there was a general slackening of world tension, a cooling off of the cold war, and with this a certain fluidity which appeared in each of the two main Power blocs; a certain tendency for members of those blocs to break away from their sovereign masters, the dominating Power in the bloc, and to show a greater degree of independence and determination to go their own way and try to exercise their own influence in the world. It happened in Eastern Europe with Poland and Hungary, and it was beginning to happen in Western Europe, with this country and France, and so on.
These were very hopeful and good signs indeed, because, surely, the only way in which the prospect of real peace for the world could begin to emerge was that this appalling rigid division into two monolithic Powers should somehow begin to dissolve a little and allow a greater easing of the situation than is 103 possible when there is a sharp division between the two blocs. Unfortunately, the junior partners, or the satellites, on both sides tried to go too far. Britain and France tried to go it alone in their own way over Suez and failed. Hungary tried to go it alone but, unfortunately, tried to go too far, much further than their Soviet masters could afford to allow them to go in the present political and military situation in Europe. What were the results? Why, both Britain and France, on the one side, and Hungary, on the other, went too far and used the wrong method in order to assert their independence. They have both had to return, cap in hand, to their masters to make their apologies and to adopt again satellite status.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
I understand the criticism of the hon. Member regarding the American attitude to the Anglo-French action in Suez; that makes sense. But am I to understand—and, if it is so, it is a new approach from the benches opposite—that the hon. Member is highly critical of the Hungarian attempt to attain liberty last year?
§ Mr. Warbey
Not at all. I am sure the hon. Member cannot have followed what I was saying. I was saying that unfortunately—and this is where the parallel comes in—both Britain and France, on the one side, and Hungary, on the other, went too far, in the sense that they tried to do more than was in their power to do. Hungary tried to get right out of the Warsaw Pact, right out of the Soviet military bloc, and in so doing the Hungarians went further than was possible with the power at their disposal. That is what I am saying.
What was the result? It was that the Soviet Union clapped down with ruthless repression upon this attempt by the Hungarians to assert their independence. Do not let us forget that the Hungarians went a great deal further than did the Poles in this respect, and therefore we did not witness the same ruthless severity to the Poles as to the Hungarians. If hon. Members like to regard it in this way, the Poles were a great deal wiser than the Hungarians in considering just how far it was possible to go in the situation in which they found themselves. The British and French Governments were utterly 104 unwise in measuring how far they could go and what means they could use in order to assert their power and influence separately from that of the United States.
The unfortunate result for both sides is that they have had to return to their sovereign masters and make their apologies. It is, I think, highly significant that precisely at the same moment as the Prime Minister was visiting President Eisenhower in Bermuda, Mr. Kadar was visiting Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Bul-ganin in Moscow. Both the "prodigal sons" were returning home and saying their "Pater peccavi" at the same time.
This is what happened, and this is where I shall part company with those hon. Gentlemen opposite who may have agreed with me up to now in resenting the satellite status which has been reimposed upon this country by their Prime Minister. The reason that this has happened is, of course, that this country has to make a choice. If we wish to restore our independence and greatness, we have to recognise that it can no longer be done by the assertion of military power. We have to recognise that there are other powers in the world today which count, besides military power. There is economic power, ideological power and social and moral power. This country still has a chance to give world leadership and to assert true independence, if we rely upon our own real sources of power But if re rely upon the old-fashioned methods of nineteenth century imperialism, if we rely on attempting to make ourselves again one of the world's dominating military powers, we are bound to fail.
If we try to do it alone, we shall fail, as happened in Suez. If we try to become even stronger than we are at present and do it alone, we shall break our back economically. Therefore, if we follow that way of asserting our power, inevitably we shall follow in the way the Prime Minister has gone, the way to Bermuda; the way to accepting American leadership and American domination. The only way in which we can assert any kind of military power and influence in the world is as a junior partner of the United States. So long as we rely on that method, that is the way we must go. I would say the same thing to any right hon. or hon. Member of my own party who held that view.
105 We cannot have it both ways. If we desire to be independent but propose to rely on military power, either we shall fail or we shall, in the last resort, have to accept that our foreign policy as well as our military policy will be decided in Washington. That is the alternative with which we are faced. But there is another way. There is a way of asserting our economic and social power and our material influence in the world. That is the way which is being followed by one other member of the British Commonwealth with a great Prime Minister, the way of India.
I believe that this country has an opportunity—I am afraid not under the present Administration, but under another administration—of giving a lead to the world, which could have an electrifying and catalytic influence, if we were to come out and stand side by side with the growing social forces in Asia and Africa and the Middle East. If we would show sympathy and understanding for their aspirations and help them to increase their influence in the world if we would stand together with them in an association of understanding, then we could give leadership and exercise independence.
That is the only possibility for this country in the world today. I should like to sec this country coming out and setting itself at the head of a great coalition based on the Commonwealth, on the overseas territories of the Western European countries and on Western Europe itself—a coalition which, however, would not be based primarily on the assertion of military power but on human power, on moral, ideological and economic power. If we were to do that, I believe that it would be a coalition for peace which would help to bring true peace to the world.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) read through the communiqué and said he could find in it no gain for the United Kingdom and all gain for the United States. It is true that in it there is no gain for the hon. Member for Ashfield, but that is not quite the same as saying that there is no gain for the United Kingdom.
The hon. Member instanced, for example, the joint declaration on policy regarding nuclear tests. I listened with 106 great care to the speech of his leader on that subject this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, after a long introduction, eventually made clear that, other things being equal, he was in favour of the continuation of our test as, indeed, the chief defence spokesman of the party opposite had done on the television on Saturday night. It is, therefore, quite wrong for the hon. Member for Ashfield to pretend that this is in some way a sell-out of the views of his party because, in fact, two leading spokesmen of his party on the subject have entirely denied the basis of his argument.
§ Mr. Warbey
What I was saying was that it was a sell-out of the views expressed by Sir Anthony Eden as lately as 20th December.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
I know that the hon. Member reads a great deal into this very short and not revealing communiqué, but his view is based on all sorts of assumptions which he put forward as axioms and which he established merely by stating them. It is untrue—I will not say untrue, but quite wrong—to draw those inferences from this very short communiqué. I should like to draw what I think is a much better inference, and a much more hopeful one. It is a very short communiqué and, therefore, I think every word matters.
I should like to bring the debate back to the part of the world which, I suppose it would be generally admitted, was the chief subject matter of this Conference, namely, the Middle East. We heard today, and we read in the communiqué, I think all of us with tremendous hope, that both President Eisenhower and the Prime Minister had agreed—in a sense it is more important that the President should—that the United Nations forces should remain not just for a week or two, but for a long time in the Gaza Strip.
Perhaps even more important, the President of the United States, in contradiction to a great deal of literature which has come out of the United States recently, particularly literature on international law, has agreed and declared that the United States recognises the right of free passage through the Gulf of Aqaba. I do not think we perhaps all realise that that was by no means a foregone conclusion of this Conference. There has been a lot of learning of a 107 rather pedantic sort in United States universities, and particularly in the law schools, which was completely contrary to that doctrine. It was said that the Gulf of Aqaba, and particularly the straits at the mouth were a configuration of land which made the right of free passage by no means a certain legal right.
Now we have, in an international document, the President of the United States denying that school of thought. I think that is a gain—a gain not merely for the United States, not merely for the United Kingdom, but for the peace of the whole area and for the justice of the whole area which, perhaps, in some senses, is more important than the peace.
The hon. Member for Ashfield looks upon this Bermuda Conference as a sort of fearful tug-of-war, or as one in which people were supping with long spoons and the President and the Prime Minister were bargaining in some game of chess. I beg hon. Members to reject that idea. It was not a battle between two great Powers, but a common exercise in which both parties had to give way to reach agreement. That is quite a different concept and a different picture from the one which the hon. Member for Ashfield asked us to accept.
Although in those two particulars I think that the Conference, if we can judge from the communiqué, was successful, there is one other aspect about which I am sure we are all worried. That is the Canal. We were told today that advice has been given that British shipping should avoid the Canal for the time being. In some quarters, that has been hailed as a masterly stroke on the ground that it will exert some form of economic warfare—pressure, perhaps, not warfare —which is now the mode. If it is possible to do that in respect of the Canal, why is it that we were told by all the experts on all sides how vital the Canal was for British shipping? If it is indeed possible to solve this terrible problem by the process of avoiding the Canal, how is that reconcilable with the view which I was taught, and which indeed, I now hold, that the Canal is a vital lifeline to us and that we cannot afford to dispense with its use?
It seems to me that the two views do not fit. It may be that as a very temporary measure, but only as a very 108 temporary measure, it is possible to deny ourselves the use of this waterway in order to exert some economic and financial pressure, but as anything beyond the merest short-term policy it seems to be totally inconsistent with the views of the experts which I have hitherto adopted and to which I still adhere.
However, there is hope for the future in the communiqué because, in paragraph 9, it uses some very precise words which I think, must mean something because they are so extraordinary. The communiqué says,Agreement on the importance of compliance both in letter and in spirit with the Security Council resolution of October 13 concerning the Suez Canal….I draw the attention of the House to those rather strange words,both in letter and in spiritbecause to my mind they very much strengthen what otherwise might be regarded as something of a pious aspiration. I cannot believe that the Prime Minister and the President would agree to the insertion of the wordsboth in letter and in spiritif they did not intend to see that that was carried out.
After reading for some years White Papers, communiqués and diplomatic documents, one gets a sort of nose for smelling out what is a pious aspiration and what is meant in deadly earnest. It seems to me that the drafting of that paragraph should give all of us ground for hope that the President of the United States is determined to see that the six principles embodied in that Resolution do not go by default. I ask those of my hon. Friends who, perhaps, so far have been critical of this point, in view of the wording and on a fair judgment of that wording, to be patient for a little longer. It is a serious matter, and I do not think it is good enough to say that we shall avoid the Canal for the future, because the time will come when one can no longer cut off one's nose to spite one's face.
I promised to be brief because other hon. Members wish to speak. In conclusion I should like to support the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) about Anglo-American relations. When I first came into the House the complaint from both the Foreign Office and some, but not all, 109 Members of my party was that the Americans would not go into the Middle East. They were said to be dragging their feet. It was said that they would not help us with the immense task of the pacification of that area and that they did not understand the Middle East and how vital it was to us, because their minds were turned to the Pacific, to China and Formosa, as, during the war, when it was said they were more interested in the Pacific War than in the Atlantic war. That was the impression which I was given, and I think it was correct.
When, after long and difficult travail, the Americans have been induced to go into the Middle East, it ill befits us to grumble about that. It seems to me that it is a poor spirit that never rejoices whichever way the Americans behave, and it seems to me that we are in danger, as my hon. Friend said quite rightly, of falling into the trap that it is the mark of a nation that is not sure of itself always to be blaming its chief ally. That is something which the French are sometimes thought to do and which, indeed, they sometimes do, and I am afraid that it looks as though we are doing the same thing.
I regard the decision of the Americans to adhere to the Bagdad Pact and its military clauses as most important and valuable. I do not in the least mind our interests and those of the Americans getting mixed up in the Middle East. I am not at all frightened of them commercially, because I think there is room for both nations in the great expanding commerce of this world. What I am frightened of is that America should become isolationist. It is its isolationism which we have to fear far more than the expansion of America.
I held that view five years ago and I still hold it today, although it is no longer as fashionable as it was. I prophesy that it will become fashionable again because, as with other great nations, policy in America goes in waves and although at the moment America is co-operative, non-isolationist and anxious to go out into parts of the world where we have been asking them to go for so long—a fact in which I rejoice—it may not always be so. My prophecy, with which I end, is that maybe in four years and maybe in eight years, if there is a wave 110 of isolationism again in the United States, as there may well be, we shall look back very much with regret and nostalgia on the day when my right hon. Friend, who has just re-entered the Chamber, induced the President and other Americans to go into the Middle East in order to make in that difficult area a real partnership between two great nations of the world.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I should like to tender my congratulations to the Prime Minister on his brilliant speech this afternoon. It was a first-class performance. For if ever a man was batting on a sticky wicket, he was. He was faced with the resignation of one of his principal colleagues, and of course his party had to be summoned and rallied lest a Division should be called tonight.
But the Prime Minister is a Parliamentarian of no mean stature and as one would expect, he grappled with the problem in traditional fashion. He attacked the Labour Party and the Daily Herald, and unerringly he put his finger on our weak spot. The party to which I have the honour to belong is not unanimous and was not unanimous when it was faced with this appalling problem of the hydrogen bomb, which hangs like a shadow over the modern world. In 1955 the party was divided. I voted with Earl Attlee and with the majority of the party, for my attitude was that we live in a world of the hydrogen bomb and it is no use behaving like an ostrich and pretending that the hydrogen bomb is not here. The problem of the hydrogen bomb must be tackled; it certainly cannot be ignored.
But when the Prime Minister talks about plumbing the depths of cynicism in relation to defence, does he forget that he came to the House for that memorable debate in February, 1951, and talked about a thousand Russian submarines in the Atlantic? Does he remember the Motion put down by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) which, while approving the Labour Government's policy, tried to drive a wedge in the party by exploiting the differences and doubts which existed over rearmament?
Nevertheless, the Prime Minister was making a very good point by attacking the Labour Party on its lack of agreement. It was a googly. If that were not 111 enough, he thought, he would attack the Daily Herald. The reason for it is that the Prime Minister has something to hide —a very great deal to hide. He told us, for example, that the missiles would be available—I quote his exact words—" in the fairly near future ". I have three Questions to the Prime Minister on the Order Paper for tomorrow, but I will withdraw them if he will be kind enough to answer them now. Would he be good enough to tell the House and the country what he means by "the fairly near future"? Is it two years, as suggested by The Times, or five years, or is it ten years?
We have some evidence in addition to what the Prime Minister told us this afternoon, for I have armed myself with a copy of the report issued by the State Department on 26th March of the Press conference of Mr. Secretary Dulles when he returned to Washington. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will trouble the House by reading the whole of the question put to him. In order to be absolutely fair, I will read the question and answer. The question was:Mr. Secretary, at yesterday's White House briefing of the Congressional leaders on the Bermuda Conference, to what extent was the possibility or the prospect of the United States providing guided missiles for France discussed?The answer of Mr. Secretary Dulles was:Well, it was discussed only in a very casual way. A question was asked as to whether there was a possibility that guided missiles might be supplied to countries other than the United Kingdom, and the reply made was that we were not actually giving any consideration to that because the whole project was still in an experimental stage.Mr. Dulles then went on:These missiles are not actually flying yet, and we cannot predict with absolute certainty as to when they can be made available even for the United Kingdom. It seemed that the United Kingdom was the first place to start in this business of deploying these missiles to areas from which they could, if need be, serve most effectively as a deterrent, and this seemed to he the best way to start.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
Would my hon. Friend give the exact date of this? This is vitally important to us and to the country.
§ Mr. Wigg
This was published in Washington and republished in The New York Times. It is headed: 112Washington, March 26th—Following is the record of Secretary of State Dulles' news Conference today, as released by the State Department.We have now established on the authority of Mr. Secretary Dulles that this intermediate ballistic missile is not yet in operational production.
The Prime Minister made a point which carried me with him when he said that this matter must be seen in the context of the steps taken by the Labour Government. I think he is absolutely right. It is unfair and dishonest to prise this out of its defence setting. Several years ago, under the pressure of events, the Labour Government, against all the tradition of our party, agreed to the stationing in this country of the B 47, an aircraft roughly comparable to our V-bombers although not so good as our V-bombers. I understand that our V-bomber is 10.000 feet higher over the target than the B 47.
The rôle of the B 47s, flying from their bases in this country, was to deliver fission or fusion missiles on targets in the Soviet Union. That was a state which clearly infringed our sovereignty. We were not the sovereign Power that we had been, no matter how much we pretended. We had surrendered some of our independence when the B 47s were stationed on this island and when the decision whether they should fly off and the targets that they should attack was to be taken by a Power other than ourselves. The decision was not with us.
The reason we went on developing the V-bombers, first the Valiant, then the Victor and subsequently the Vulcan, was that we never could be sure that there would be identity of interest in the selection of targets as between Britain and the United States. Therefore, we had to go on with the V-bombers because when the day came that we had first the fission weapon and subsequently the fusion weapon, our selection of targets might be different.
I want hon. Members to note this. Let me emphasise, in my anxiety to be fair and above all truthful, that the Prime Minister said we must see it as part of the development of our defence. In the Bermuda communiqué the Soviet Government are informed years ahead of it becoming an actual fact. The Times stated last week that we were two years 113 off the operational development of this missile. I think that is an understatement; I think that it is five years, and it may be very much more than five years.
Let us take the period as two years. What does the country think of the head of a Government who inform the Soviet Government, about whose intentions they are clearly doubtful, that two years from now thermo-nuclear weapon sites will be erected in this country from which targets 1,500 miles away can be attacked? What will be the Soviet answer to that? It will remove its vital targets beyond the 1,500-mile mark and it will proceed to take counter action, so that if there is any possibility of rocket sites being used in this country to alack the Soviet Union, or targets in Eastern Germany which the Russians think important, then whatever the target for Tomorrow night may be, the target for tonight will be this island.
The only conclusion that one can reach from the White Paper is that it was decided that sites should be established for missiles not yet in operational production; and that the Prime Minister is not sure, despite his phrase "fairly near future", when they will be available. That, surely, is a policy directed in the interests of the American Government and not of the British people.
I will go on to elaborate what I mean by that. Until now we have had the B 47 with a range of 1,500 miles, and this aircraft is now being superseded by the B 52. We have had an example in the last few weeks that the B 52 can undertake an operational rôle to any place on earth, provided that it can be tankered. Recently, the Americans gave a demonstration of a B 52 flying round the world and of tankers taking off and refuelling it over Africa, over the Atlantic, and over this country. So the importance of Britain to America has changed and is changing. What America wants here are tankers to refuel the B 52 on its journey out and its journey home. In other words, the importance of Britain to America is not as a site for the B 47; it is as a petrol station for the B 52.
Then there is the additional desirability of rocket sites on this island. Where else can they be? For them to be anywhere on the Continent of Europe is to expose them to being over-run by the Soviet 114 Army. If ever we get to the stage when we fight that sort of war, this island is the most important rocket site in the world because it is just under 1,500 miles from here to Moscow. We can attack Moscow from here and we can attack Eastern Germany. Therefore, one can readily understand from the American point of view the vital importance of offering to supply the intermediate ballistic missile for use in this country.
What sort of partnership is it? What sort of alliance is it which puts the missiles in this country but says that the lock of the door must rest in American hands? The decision when the warheads are to be used and how they are to be handled rests not in British hands but in American hands. That is a very queer form of partnership. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) talked in terms of our being satellites. That is a gross overstatement. We are not satellites; we are vassals. We are the petrol station, and we are the bombing site.
Let me take that matter a little further. The Prime Minister this afternoon—I do not know what his intelligence services are like—gave quite a bit away. He informed us that we were not to have the British equivalent of the B 52. We were, he said, going to stick to our missiles and when we had them they would be delivered by medium bombers; so are we to have our medium V-bombers and the rockets?
Of course there are hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who, I regret to say, think that we can swing from conventional war to push-button war just like that, and who think that by so doing we can save a lot of money. First, I do not believe that in the modern world conventional and unconventional weapons are in two completely watertight compartments. I have no great technical knowledge but I have tried to inform myself of these things, and my understanding of the matter is that the ballistic missile is not a very accurate weapon. I do not believe that this country has begun to solve the problem of inertial guidance. When we have solved that problem and have the economic resources which are available to the United States and are as far advanced as the United States, and if by some miracle we find a short cut and can produce a missile as good as that 115 produced by the United States, I question whether we can be sure of covering 90 per cent. of the targets.
The margin of inaccuracy is so great that it is absolutely vital that the manned bomber should be retained if one envisages a strategy based on the nuclear attack. I do not believe that the United States are retaining the B 52 because they are in love with the B 52 but because they are not sure of the accuracy of the intermediate-range ballistic missile and, perhaps even less sure of the inter-continental ballistic missile. I am informed on fairly good authority that so far as one can see ahead there will be a very important and vital rôle for both the medium bomber and the long-range B 25 bomber.
For the Prime Minister to have given advance notice to the Soviet Union of our intentions in this way, years before the missiles are available, and at the same time to announce that we are limiting the development of our push-button concept to the V-bomber seems to me not to be approach from the defence angle at all. It makes me believe that this afternoon's statement, and the statement in the White Paper were made for purely political reasons.
We were to have had a Defence White Paper today. We have not had it. Goodness knows when we shall get it. It may be on Wednesday, it may be in years, but of one thing I am convinced, and that is that either the fourteenth or fifteenth postponement of the Defence White Paper is tied up with the Bermuda communiqué. The Prime Minister frowns, but when we read the White Paper I think that we shall find that the more things change the more they remain the same. The bill will be about as much as it has been in previous years, and the effectiveness of our defences will be even less during the coming year than in previous years.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) puzzled not only myself but, I think, a number of my hon. Friends as to what exactly he was trying to prove in the course of his extremely varied discourse. He made several interesting points about the atomic warfare of the future, and about the rôle of light and medium bombers. but how they fitted into his 116 attack on the Prime Minister, someone else may have understood but I certainly did not. I do not really know whether he understood himself.
For instance, at the end of his remarks he said that he thought that one of the reasons for the Defence White Paper being delayed was the Bermuda meeting and the communiqué that was issued after it. The only point he picked on in the communiqué that concerned defence was in relation to the future provision of projectiles and atomic warheads, but as he had already said that these were not, in his opinion, to come into any sort of use for several years, I cannot understand why he should think that they should have such a delaying effect on the Defence Estimates for 1957.
§ Mr. Bennett
That may be so, but to say in one breath that nothing in the communiqué will have any effect on our defences for some years to come and, in the next, to say that the White Paper was held up, because of that aspect—well, if the hon. Gentleman understood that, he is about the only person, on this side at least, who did.
I should now like to refer to one or two of the points made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. His speech had some surprising contents, and I think that not the least surprising was his attempt to censure the Prime Minister for not being sympathetic or active enough about Hungary. After listening extremely carefully to what he suggested, I am still not quite sure just what he said we should do about Hungary which would relieve her suffering.
The right hon. Gentleman painted a tragic, graphic and unhappily true picture of patriots being shot day by day, and of a black curtain of repression; of people being dragged out of their houses and shot. He said that the Prime Minister and President Eisenhower really should have done more about this; that sympathy was not very much good. Having painted this 117 tragic picture, he was asked, very pertinently, by hon. Members on this side what he would propose to alleviate these sufferings, and he gave what he called three suggestions to prevent what he had been complaining about, namely, people being shot in Budapest today and the day after.
His first suggestion was to give credits to Poland. I do not see the relevance of that to the present sufferings of the Hungarian people. His second suggestion was that we should stimulate rather more charitable aid by the International Red Cross. I do not think that Her Majesty's Government, the Opposition, or anyone in the country would quarrel with that. They all agree that everything possible ought to be done, through the International Red Cross, to help. But, again, I would not have thought that anything that could be done by the International Red Cross in pursuance of the aid which it has been giving could possibly be said to be likely to save the lives or alleviate the sufferings of those Hungarians now being either shot or deported.
His third suggestion was, I think, the most astonishing of all of these remedies. It was that we should now, presumably with American and West German consent, and with the consent of all the other N.A.T.O. Powers, offer to withdraw all foreign forces from Western Germany on condition that the Soviet Union reciprocated by removing all her forces from Eastern Germany, Poland, Hungary, Roumania and Bulgaria.
I do not know whether any hon. Member opposite took that suggestion very seriously. To be fair to the right hon. Gentleman, he did say a moment or two later that he quite agreed that in existing circumstances there was not the slightest hope that the Soviet Union would comply with any such suggestion from us, even if it were practical for us to make it. So the right hon. Gentleman having admitted that he saw no prospect of that suggestion being adopted, it is a little hard to understand what relief this is meant to bring to the suffering people of Hungary at present.
Before leaving that part of my remarks, perhaps I may say that I have a particular personal recollection that, towards the end of December, anxious and unhappy as all of us in this House were about the fate of people in Hungary and 118 of the inability of the United Nations to do more than pass resolutions, I asked, in a Question, how many of those resolutions the Soviet Union had paid any attention to at all. The Answer I got was, as I expected, that she had not paid attention to any at all. I then asked whether Her Majesty's Government intended to continue, through the United Nations, to carry on with the task of trying to make the Soviet Union comply with some or all of the resolutions.
It was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) who then said that the best way to get the Soviet Union to comply with the resolutions and get out of Hungary was for Britain and France themselves to obey United Nations resolutions and get out of Suez. That was last December. We have got out of Suez but, so far as I know, that has had not the slightest effect on what the Soviet Union has done in Hungary. It is only further evidence of how disgraceful and untrue was the Socialist suggestion that the action of the Soviet Union in Hungary depended in any way at all on what we did in Suez. That has been abundantly proved in the event.
The whole House, I think, sat silent, and intensely interested in what the Prime Minister had to say about the effects of the H-bomb on the future of the human race. I frankly confess that, although I tried very hard, it was extremely difficult—with the little knowledge that one has—to be able to grapple with all the implications of the changing forces resulting from the different developments of the bomb.
One could certainly say this much. After listening to what my right hon. Friend had to say he would indeed be a very foolish, obstinate or prejudiced person who would not realise that this is not just a simple matter of saying, "We will make a gesture, stop the tests and all will be all right, because we will then only have to make an agreement." Hence, I could not help feeling, when listening to the Leader of the Opposition, that not only had he written his speech before he heard what the Prime Minister had to say but was quite unable to make any changes in it, because a lot of it had no bearing on the new technical situation which my right hon. Friend described today.
119 On both sides we have been extremely anxious to know what is the policy of the Opposition with regard to the H-bomb and the tests because, although we on this side do not for a minute countenance the view, the Opposition frequently claim that it is only a very short question of time before they will be called upon to form Her Majesty's Government. Therefore, the country is entitled to know what is the right hon. Gentleman's policy concerning this weapon as the months immediately ahead unfold.
On television on Saturday night, we had from the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) a typically forthright speech. I do not want to say too much to compliment the right hon. Gentleman, because one has had bitter experience of the fate of those Members opposite who earn so much praise from this side. Nevertheless, he spoke on television in a perfectly clear manner, which no one could misunderstand, to the effect that in existing circumstances we had no alternative to pressing ahead with our tests while, at the same time, neglecting no opportunity to make agreement on limitation which could be upheld, and upheld by all nations and not simply by one side.
In one of the newspapers, however, either yesterday or this morning, there was a violent condemnation of this by the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus), who repudiated flatly that the right hon. Member for Be1per had any right to speak in those terms and that Labour policy was precisely the reverse and was utterly against the continuation of the tests. One came to the House this afternoon, therefore, very anxious to know which of those two voices, above and below the Gangway, was the voice of the Labour Party.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)rose—
§ Mr. Bennett
I will give way presently.
Today, the Leader of the Opposition, for his part, tried to fulfil the rôle, which he has done frequently in recent months, of balancing on a very fine tightrope, looking anxiously from side to side to make sure that his own position as Leader of the Labour Party remains predominant. Today, although we all listened with extreme keenness, it was for some time difficult to know whether the 120 Leader of the Opposition was coming down on the Belper or on the Gorton side. At frequent intervals, as he was questioned from this side, he led up to what he wanted to say, went back again, then made another little suggestion, glanced around and then withdrew from it again.
The right hon. Gentleman reminded me of somebody who tries to bathe in cold water on a wintry day, who puts in one foot first, withdraws it, then puts in the other, and takes a considerable time before he crawls in, for nobody could claim that the Leader of the Opposition took the plunge. Yet we on this side are entitled—just—to form the interpretation that he has come down—just—on the side of continuation of the tests.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Both my right hon. Friend and myself, as members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, are bound to apply to the current situation the policy decided upon by annual conference. The annual conference of the Labour Party last October passed a resolution saying:This conference declares itself opposed to the continuing of nuclear explosions and expresses its fear as to the dangers facing humanity as a result of continuing radio-active contamination of the world's atmosphere and requests that the Labour Party should work towards the abolition of all atomic weapons.
§ Mr. Bennett
I am extremely interested in the hon. Member's re-reading of something which I have read before, as most hon. Members have done, but that is a point which he should make either to his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition or to his right hon. Friend the Member for Belper. It is not one which he should expect me to clarify. He must get his clarification on his own side of the House.
§ Mr. Bennett
I was asking clarification concerning the Labour Party as a whole. All that the hon. Member has read out is the best possible evidence, taking into account what was said today by the Leader of the Opposition and what was said on Saturday on television by the right hon. Member for Belper, that there is considerable confusion of thought among the party opposite. We on this side are entitled, all the more so for that reason, to find out what the possible 121 alternative Government intends to do with these tests.
We have found out today that if the Leader of the Opposition just manages to keep on the tightrope, his party would go ahead with the tests unless—and this was the saving clause which he put in —there was a series of miracles and everybody throughout the Government and the House became convinced that, if they stopped these tests, nobody else would ever conduct any further tests.
That was the one escape clause inserted by the Leader of the Opposition to try to save his face below the Gangway. If, suddenly, something developed and all the Powers sat down and promised never again to have any tests and agreed to international inspection and control, he thinks that Her Majesty's Government should drop the tests. That is such a sufficiently unlikely contingency that we must, as I have said, assume that the Opposition are in favour of continuing the tests this year in the existing circumstances.
There is one other feature which I have noticed today, and which is a little hard to fathom. We have heard phrases about the "intense humiliation" vested in the United Kingdom because we are to have projectiles from the United States and to allow America to supply us, presumably, with both atom and hydrogen bomb warheads.
§ Mr. Mason rose—
§ Mr. Bennett
I cannot give way again. There will be plenty of opportunity for the hon. Member to speak if he catches Mr. Speaker's eye.
The inconsistency, which has been abundantly shown from the other side today, is that while we are being attacked for our humiliating position because, in the years ahead, we are to rely upon hydrogen and atom bomb warheads from the United States, we are, at the same time, being attacked for conducting hydrogen bomb tests and making a hydrogen bomb of our own. What is the answer? Are we to be humiliated and take the weapons from America, or are we to make our own? That is another matter on which we require a measure of clarification.
We must assume that the technical arguments advanced today by my right 122 hon. Friend the Prime Minister are correct, no matter what party we represent, because, obviously, the Prime Minister was giving information on the advice of the most responsible scientific advisers. Anybody who cared to give any attention to the technical arguments advanced by my right hon. Friend would realise that technical progress in the development of these appalling weapons seems now to have reached a stage when we can no longer rely, even for the purpose of limiting tests, simply on an agreement to stop them, because it has now been shown that tests might be carried out without it being possible to detect them.
Furthermore, if I understood the scientific jargon aright, it is now possible to have a sort of test which it is extremely difficult to determine whether it is a clean or a dirty nuclear test. Therefore, even though we might make an agreement, we would not be able to know whether, say, the Soviet Union, when it claimed to have made a clean test, had not, in fact, made a dirty test. In those circumstances, it is inescapable that merely to sit down and write out an agreement which in no way provides for international inspection, observation or control of any kind is a complete fallacy, in the technical conditions that prevail today.
I should have thought that, far from taking any retrograde step, with scientific knowledge in its present state, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made the only practical suggestion, that no agreement even to limit tests can be practical unless we can get the nations, at the same time, to agree to a fair measure of international inspection and control.
In this, I certainly pledge myself to the full in support of the Prime Minister. I believe that millions of people throughout the country, when they know these facts, and to whatever party they belong, will also agree with the Prime Minister. One is at least grateful that on the benches opposite there are, too, if not all, at least a number of hon. Members who are sufficiently patriotic and sensible to take the same view.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
I should like to deal in detail presently with the points raised by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett). I should like, at the outset, to refer to an 123 important point made by the two previous speakers on the Government side, the hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) and the hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke), both of whom referred with some concern to a phenomenon, which, frankly, has worried me, in the Conservative Party. It is a sort of neurotic inferiority complex which is expressed in the form of anti-Americanism, treating the United States as a scapegoat for anything which happens to go wrong with the policy of the British Government. I believe that the observations made by the two hon. Members are relevant to the problems at present facing this country.
I believe that a major factor leading to some of the disastrous blunders made by the British Government in the last six or nine months is the unconscious or subconscious, and, in many cases, all too conscious, neurotic, morbid sense of inferiority and determination at all costs, by some unexplained means, to prove that Britain is a great Power. There is no doubt at all that the Suez debâcle was largely the result of this sort of feeling among hon. and right hon. Members opposite.
What did they prove? Day by day we get more evidence of the real diminutive stature of the members of the Government who were responsible for this disastrous adventure. The latest series of revelations, based on official French sources, in the newspaper Figaro, show the Government's policy during the two months before the new year was a sorry mess of duplicity, incompetence and spinelessness such as we have seen in this country at no other period since the Munich period in 1938 and 1939.
We see it now openly admitted that the Prime Minister of this country at that time was a tired, sick man, a man in no fit state to take this type of decision, and yet the Front Bench opposite now is filled with right hon. Gentlemen who knew this and did nothing whatever to prevent the disaster which they saw approaching. Indeed, the present Prime Minister, one hears, was even chairman of the "pretext committee" of the Cabinet whose main responsibility was to try to organise the juridical and propaganda aspects of this disastrous episode in order to allay concern among Britain's allies. We know 124 the result. That Prime Minister has gone. We have a new Administration now, led by the right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate today.
The right hon. Gentleman is an interesting phenomenon. He talks like General de Gaulle, and there is no doubt that it is because he talks like General de Gaulle that so many of his hon. and right hon. and noble colleagues supported him for the post he now holds. He acts, however, in quite another way. He acts much more like M. Mendés-France. All the time he is talking about making Britain a greater world Power and supporting the Empire he is slashing all our foreign commitments, breaking all our obligations to our allies, in the reasonable and, I quite agree, plausible and perfectly valid hope of restoring some economic basis for Britain's strength in the world. Some of his hon. and, more particularly, right hon. and noble Friends have seen this now and have consequently resigned from the Government, and I have no doubt that as time goes on others of his colleagues will take similar action.
I do not myself object to the sort of action over which the most noble Marquess resigned from the present Administration the other day. I say it is a perfectly sound and valid objective for any British Government to try to cut Britain's commitments according to our cloth and to drop foreign obligations and burdens which it is no longer in our present power to hold, and I wish the right hon. Gentleman good luck in trying to persuade the more neurotic nationalists among his colleagues to accept this policy as a reasonable one in present circumstances.
What depresses me is the fact that there is no sign whatever that, having achieved this reduction of British commitments, the Prime Minister is able or willing to use British influence in the world to lead the world into a better state. If Britain is to be great in this changed situation in the second half of the twentieth century, then she can be great only by leading other countries in the world as it exists. My own feeling is that the communiqué issued at the end of his meeting with the American President reveals, I am afraid, a total incompetence to lead or guide this country in that sense.
I should like, following the hon. Member for Torquay, to deal with two aspects 125 of the talks at Bermuda., two which, in my opinion, in spite of the obvious urgency of other problems such as the Middle East, are fundamentally most important problems facing not only our country but mankind as a whole.
There is no doubt that the whole nature of the modern world and of politics in the modern world has been revolutionised by recent scientific developments. Scientists have now provided us with a bomb which is capable of destroying a nation and a small number of which may be capable of destroying mankind on this planet. Scientists are also providing us with means of delivering such bombs from any one point on the globe to any other point on the globe, not only the long range manned bomber, but intermediate range and intercontinental ballistic missiles, weapons which constituted one of the main subjects of the talks between the Prime Minister and the President.
There is a fundamental problem facing us in this country and mankind in all countries, and that is, we are either going to control these powers in the next generation or we are going to perish. I believe that the way in which Britain can hope to lead humanity more than in any other at this present time is the way of controlling these new powers which have been made available to us by the scientists.
At the present time these new powers in their extreme or absolute form are owned by only two Governments, the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and both those Governments refuse to consider any form of international control, not only control under the United Nations, the universal control in which their political enemies as well as their political friends are associated, but even—and this was the main subject of the Prime Minister's talks with the President—control by their own allies with whom they are committed to work in world affairs, and in defence if war should ever occur.
Fortunately, at the present time only those two Powers have these new weapons, and there is for the time being an uneasy balance between them, the so-called atomic or thermo-nuclear stalemate, and we have still a few years before this uneasy balance is broken, but broken it certainly will be, because, however much they may wish, the United States 126 and Russia, to maintain these powers as national monopolies, they cannot hope to do so. Britain is only the first of a large number of other countries which are determined and capable of achieving comparable destructive powers.
I do beg the Government, and I beg my hon. and right hon. Friends, too, to realise that the few years during which this atomic stalemate between Russia and America continues may be the last chance we get, certainly the best chance we get, of establishing a type of international control over these new weapons which will be capable of dealing with the vastly more complicated, difficult and dangerous new problems which will arise as other countries than the United States and Russia and Britain become capable of producing them.
I should like to deal with the problem as, I think, it presented itself to the Prime Minister at Bermuda a week ago. Because America maintains these weapons as an exclusive, secret, national monopoly, all her present allies in N.A.T.O. are in the humiliating and dangerous position of depending for their security on a weapon which they do not control. All of us in this House, apart from a small minority of pacifists, are agreed that there is only one step we can take to correct the situation in the short run, and that is, we must achieve these weapons for ourselves. That is what the Labour Government first decided to do in the case of the atomic bomb, and it is what the Conservative Government, with Labour support, decided to do in the case of the megaton weapon a few years ago. But here comes the difference between the two parties on this issue. I believe that Britain's determination to achieve this power is justified only if her aim when she has it is to use it not only to defend herself but to try to help to solve the problem of international control of these weapons as far as America, Russia, herself and other countries which may later acquire them are concerned.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition pointed out earlier today that France will probably explode her first weapons in two, three or four years' time. Sweden is on the point of deciding to produce them. It is impossible to imagine that Western Germany will not have them in five years and, certainly at the latest, in 127 ten years, and that within a generation any reasonably sized industrial Power is likely to have some atomic weapons.
As the right hon. Member for Kelvin-grove (Mr. Elliot) pointed out, it is not possible to produce atomic energy for peaceful purposes without producing atomic explosive which can be used for warlike purposes, Imagination reels at the prospect of a world of thirty or forty independent thermo-nuclear equipped States, none of which is prepared to accept any sort of international restriction and control over the use it makes of these terrible powers—a world in which dictators like Nasser or Peron might have these weapons, Governments which are not subject to rational and moral inhibitions.
I hope that to start with an attempt will be made to try to achieve control inside the Western Alliance. One of the reasons why I and many of my hon. and right hon. Friends supported Western European Union and the Paris Treaties which brought it into existence was the hope that within this small group of Powers we could develop techniques for the control of armaments which could be adopted later within a wider circle and perhaps finally for the whole world. I am disappointed that the Government, since the party opposite came into office, have failed to use Western European Union as a pilot scheme for the control of armaments in this way, but I think that the Prime Minister had an opportunity to tackle the problem again when he met the American President in Bermuda last week. The problem came up in various aspects, both on the question of missiles and on the question of H-bomb tests, and I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman missed his opportunity in each case.
Let us take the case of the missiles. In about five years' time, perhaps in ten years according to the New York Times military correspondent, the United States will have the medium-range missile in operational use. It is a missile with a range of roughly 1,500 to 2,000 miles. In other words, it is of no value to the United States vis-à-vis its present main enemy, the Soviet Union, unless it can be fired from bases on this side of the Atlantic. That means that Britain on this issue has a new bargaining power which she has not previously possessed.
128 I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will pass this question to his senior, the Foreign Secretary, who will reply to the debate.
I was not clear from what the Prime Minister said whether we had agreed that the Americans should also station their own missiles in this country or whether we had simply agreed that the missiles here would be British missiles with American warheads. Can the Foreign Secretary tell us quite definitely that no agreement was reached with the United States that she should station in this country her own missiles which she could fire without our consent? If the Prime Minister agreed to that, it would be the most disastrous and humiliating sell-out in recent years, because we should be giving the Americans a vital base from which to use the weapons without receiving anything whatsoever in return.
§ Mr. Healey
A similar, though not so acute question, is whether missiles will come to Britain which will only go off if the Americans will allow us in an emergency to use their warheads. As has been said, it is as if our uncle, not trusting us, gave us a gun but kept the bullets in the cupboard to which he has the key. I am not surprised that the Americans do not trust this British Government in view of the fact that they broke a formal promise to the United States by using American N.A.T.O. equipment for operations in Suez which were carried out by deceiving the American Government and by going contrary to our obligations—operations which, incidentally, the present Prime Minister still supports and attempts to justify.
It still remains the case that these new weapons are effective only if the Americans agree to it. I would most strongly support the argument of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that, under no conditions should we have accepted this agreement now, five years before we get the missiles under a new American administration and a new President, as they will be by the time that the missiles are actually available. It was absurd to make this commitment to the United States without getting from 129 the President an undertaking that he would ask Congress to revise the Atomic Energy Act which at present forbids us getting the information or the weapons from the United States.
I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he will answer this question. It will be generally agreed that the missiles themselves will not be operational over here for five, six or seven years, but there are test missiles already in the United States, some of which have been fired. Will British research teams be allowed to go now to the United States in order to start designing the warheads to fit into the missiles when they become operational? In that case, we might hope to have our own warheads at the same time as we get the missiles. I understand that the design of these warheads is extremely complicated and that the problems involved can be solved only if the missiles are available at the same time. Will British research teams be allowed to cross the Atlantic to start designing the warheads to fit the missiles that we ultimately are to have?
Even now it is not too late for the British Government to put pressure on the United States in the intervening years, before the agreement becomes effective and is fully negotiated, to ensure that there is an amendment to the American Atomic Energy Act to allow the Americans to share their knowledge with us— but not without controls. It is important to develop means of distributing the knowledge and at the same time controlling the use made of the knowledge. Unless we can control this as allies, there is little chance whatsoever that we shall be able to work out these controls between ourselves and the Soviet Union and other countries that may ultimately develop these powers.
This brings me to the question of the H-bomb tests. In spite of his interesting discourse this afternoon, I do not think that the Prime Minister was fully candid with us in describing the technical situation on which the policy must be based. As the Leader of the Opposition said, what worries us on this side of the House —indeed, what worries everybody in the world about the H-bomb—is that the H-bombs so far exploded release a large amount of fissile material into the atmosphere which ultimately falls out over a period of decades, causing some slight 130 genetic damage and some very serious damage through strontium 90. The Prime Minister said, and in this he was much less than candid, that medical experts maintain that so far the damage done to the average person by the fall out of strontium 90 from existing tests is only one-hundredth of that which is considered dangerous by the scientists. The point is he did not tell us that the strontium 90 released by past tests will continue falling out for another 15 or 20 years, and it will fall out at roughly the rate it has been falling out so far, so that by 1970 people now alive will have absorbed 10 per cent. —not 1 per cent.—of what is considered by the medical people to be a dangerous dose.
The situation is worse than that, because the scientists say that some people, particularly infants, absorb strontium 90 much faster than grown people because they have less calcium in their bones, and there is a sizeable proportion of the population of the world which by 1970 will have absorbed from past explosions 30 per cent. of the dose which is considered dangerous.
I suggest that this puts the whole problem of H-bomb tests in a very different perspective from that in which it was presented to us by the Prime Minister earlier today. It seems that if tests go on at the present rate, although the genetic damage may remain negligible in relation to that from natural causes, the damage in terms of bone cancer and leukaemia caused by the ingestion of strontium 90 is liable to be dangerous by medical standards after another four or five years' testing at the present rate. The House should also remember that in a few years' time other countries will be testing at the present rate in addition to ourselves. This is not alarming or hysterical talk. We are, in fact, racing into a situation which could be very serious indeed after a continuation of present practices for another five or six years.
The Prime Minister may try to disguise these facts in speaking to the House, but they are well known outside this country, and in particular they are well known and much discussed in countries which do not carry out such tests, particularly among the vast population of Asia and Europe and Africa. As long as we continue the tests with the kind of levity which the Prime Minister showed this 131 afternoon, we are doing ourselves diplomatic damage all over the world. I would suggest that it is the belated consciousness of the diplomatic damage we are doing ourselves which is responsible for the very different tone the Prime Minister adopted this afternoon compared with that which he adopted before he went to Bermuda and when he was actually there.
The first point I want to make is that if we could get these weapons and the knowledge that goes with them from the United States, then we would not need to carry out any tests because we could rely on the operational knowledge which they have already achieved, as we rely on the weapons they have already produced. That adds strength to my plea for an amendment of the American atomic energy laws which would permit a sharing of these weapons within the N.A.T.O. alliance.
I would go further than that. If we cannot get these weapons, and if we have to produce them ourselves, and if we have to test them under the best possible conditions to reduce fall-out, what steps can we take in return as our obligation to humanity in order to lead towards the ultimate international control of the weapons and the tests? Because the conduct which we adopt as the first Power outside the two big Powers to achieve these weapons may set the pattern for all the Powers after us who are coming into production over the next five, ten, fifteen, twenty and thirty years.
I would suggest, first, that for the tests already planned we should invite all our allies to send representative groups of scientists to observe the tests, and that we should also publish in full the results of the tests so as to break down the wall of national secrecy which at present surrounds all these affairs, and is one of the main obstacles to getting international agreement in dealing with these problems.
We should lose nothing but gain a lot by throwing our tests open to the world. After all, the Russians have already produced their own bombs and exploded quite a number of them, so there is nothing we can tell them that they do not know already. In any case, if we treat these tests, and the bombs which are tested, as a deterrent, a deterrent is worth nothing unless people know what is 132 its power. In fact, publicity is the friend of a deterrent and not its enemy, and the rigid secrecy which at present surrounds nuclear weapons and nuclear warfare is an enemy of the very purpose for which the weapons are being produced, which is as a deterrent.
Defence against these weapons is one of the strong arguments for having tests, since it depends on knowledge of their effect when they are exploded. Therefore, I do not see what objection we could have against all countries in the world having enough knowledge about these weapons at least to be able to prepare and devise some defences against them.
My first point then is that we should throw our own tests open at least to our allies, if not to the whole world, for inspection, as we have already agreed to do if the Russians do likewise. It seems to me that we would lose nothing by offering this unilaterally.
Secondly, I believe that we should put forward a scheme for international limitation of the tests. What the Prime Minister has told us this afternoon, far from constituting an argument to justify the decisions taken at Bermuda, is an argument against those decisions, because the right hon. Gentleman told us that the damage caused to public health in the tests is caused by the release of fissile material into the atmosphere, but that it is possible to carry out the tests in such a way that so small an amount of fissile material is released as to be hardly detectable by our present instruments.
The secret of this problem is that the evidence of the explosion is the danger to health. If there is no evidence, there is no danger to health. We should treat this problem as a problem of health, which it is, not a problem of disarmament. Therefore, would the British Government and the American Government propose a limitation on the amount of fissile material released into the atmosphere at tests? That could be monitored, because the fissile material is one means of finding out what sort of explosion has been carried out. So I suggest that we should propose a limitation on the amount of fissile material released in H-bomb tests under a United Nations treaty, and that the technical apparatus required to monitor the explosions should be handed over to the United 133 Nations so that the United Nations, rather than the British or American Governments, should publish details of all explosions carried out everywhere. This would even be a political advantage, because it would mean that the tests carried out by the Soviet Union received as much publicity in Asia as the tests carried out on this side of the Iron Curtain.
I believe that in these two small ways we could take the lead in stopping an atomic arms race which, in the later stages, can become disastrous even if it does not actually lead to war. I regret bitterly and deeply, as I think many of my right hon. and hon. colleagues will, that there is no sign of the present Government having sufficient imagination even to become conscious that these problems exist, still less to devise solutions for them. This country will never be great if it is led by little men, and at the moment I regret that it is led by little men.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
Early in his speech the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) accused right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House of being anti-American.
§ Mr. Healey
With respect, I did not accuse them of being anti-American. I quoted two of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends as saying that.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Well, it is an accusation which has often been made from that side of the House, and when it is made I always recall the French proverb about the wicked animal which, when it is attacked, defends itself.
The party opposite has not always had a record of zeal for an Anglo-American association. Indeed, it is a significant fact, and one which is highly discreditable to the party opposite, that they first became the American party in this country when the United States placed itself in opposition to our intervention at Suez.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
N.A.T.O. was set up by a Labour Government against the wishes of a large number of the members of the Labour Party.
134 We on this side of the House welcome the safe return of the Prime Minister from Bermuda. We agree with the Prime Minister that the official communiqué of the Bermuda Conference is a workmanlike document and not, to use my right hon. Friend's words, a high-falutin' pronouncement. I am very glad about this. When the Bermuda Conference was announced I had a secret fear that my right hon. Friend would return with a Bermuda charter.
We have had enough of charters, because from the Atlantic Charter onwards and in other international agreements entered into by Socialist Governments and Conservative Governments, and in the conditions which we have accepted for the aid so generously lavished upon us by our American allies, we have accepted a very dangerous principle, that of non-discrimination, a principle which says that a country may not enter into preferential economic arrangements with friendly countries, with partner nations and with countries which are willing to trade on reciprocal terms.
Now we read in the communiqué, on the proposals for closer economic arrangements in Europe, that the President and the Prime Minister reached:Agreement on the benefits likely to accrue for European and world trade from the plans for the common market and the free trade area provided they do not lead to a high tariff, and on the desirability that all countries should pursue liberal trade policies.My right hon. Friend, to my regret, went further than this in his speech. He not only spoke of these European arrangements not leading to a high tariff, but he also used the word "discrimination" and suggested that there would be no question of discrimination in these arrangements. I thought that an article which appeared recently in the Economist was right when it said that the Common Market and the Free Trade Area could redound to the advantage of Great Britain provided—I am paraphrasing— that there was no insistence on the principle of non-discrimination against the dollar area. If the Common Market, and British association with the Common Market through a partial Free Trade Area, is not to apply discrimination against the dollar area so as to achieve economic independence for its members, then what is it all about?
135 My right hon. Friend referred to Western oil interests. I should like to say a word about British oil interests, sterling oil interests and European oil interests. The Prime Minister said that he had achieved an understanding with the United States on the importance to this country of our agreements with the principalities in the area of the Persian Gulf which are so important to us for our supplies of oil. This is greatly to be welcomed, because there was one very unsatisfactory feature of the Eisenhower doctrine and the discussions which followed the enunciation of that doctrine between the leaders of the United States and the rulers of various Arab countries.
One of the agreements reached was that the United States should double the Saudi Arabian army. One asks why the Saudi Arabians should want their army doubled. Surely not that they might fight or resist the spread of Communism. Where and how would they do that? Not, I should think, after the events of 1948 and at the turn of the year, to take on the Israelis.
Whether it would be to obtain a share of some partition of Jordan, I do not know. I should think that it would more likely be to enable them to penetrate further, to extend Saudi Arabian mischief and influence towards Buraimi and towards the principalities to which we owe protection. Therefore, I very much welcome the statement by my right hon. Friend that there is now a better understanding in the United States of how we feel about our engagements, which we intend to honour, with the States in the area of the Persian Gulf.
On the other hand, we do not seem to getting very much further, apart from the enunciation of principles, in securing free navigation of the Suez Canal for the ships of all nations. The subject of a boycott has been mentioned by various hon. Members. I am not confident that we can afford a boycott of the Suez Canal, and I am forced to the conclusion that it might become necessary for us, with the French perhaps, with the Israelis perhaps, with as many members of the Canal Users' Association as we could gather with us, and, I would hope, with American support, to insist on the right of passage for the ships of all nations through the Suez Canal under the Constantinople Convention, and to place 136 fairly and squarely upon the military junta in Cairo the responsibility for resistance.
This means that Cyprus is still of vital importance to this country. We have heard in recent days a great deal about the release of Archbishop Makarios. The archbishop is certainly a man of blood —he has certainly thrown his spiritual mantle over secular terrorism—but, of course, we have done business with terrorists before. I take more seriously the public announcement by the Governor of Cyprus that Grivas should be allowed to sneak away from all the horror that he has contrived in Cyprus.
Be that as it may, it was in the time of the grandfather of my noble Friend who was until recently Lord President of the Council that the British occupation of Cyprus began. For ten years Cyprus was the focal point of the British position in the Levant. After ten years Great Britain gained a lodgment in Egypt which lasted from 1882 until 1954. Egypt was, and, I think, still is, the key to the mastery of the Middle East. We evacuated Egypt in 1954, we capitulated in Egypt at the turn of the year, and now Cyprus remains the last bastion of British military power in that part of the world.
While the British flag still flies in Cyprus, while control over the whole of the island remains in British hands, we shall still have some say in the affairs of the Middle East, despite the surrender of British interests, in our premature evacuation of Suez, and despite the replacement of British, French and European interests by American, represented by the Eisenhower doctrine.
I am disturbed by the fact that since the decision to release Archbishop Makarios, since the statement about Grivas by the Governor of Cyprus, the Greeks have been rubbing their hands and the Turks have been wringing theirs. I have been disturbed by the many suggestions in great newspapers, and even on both sides of the House, that the solution for the Cyprus problem can be found within N.A.T.O. I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies made it clear in the House that British willingness to use the good offices of N.A.T.O. for conciliation on the international aspects of the question did not mean that we accepted the 137 right of any foreign Power or international organisation to intervene in the affairs of British territories.
N.A.T.O, which is an alliance to meet a particular threat, is not the answer to the Cyprus problem. It is quite clear, and I hope that it will be made quite clear by Her Majesty's Government, that at no foreseeable date can British control over the Island of Cyprus be relaxed.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
Does the hon. Member want to go all through the bloodshed and murders again?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Restoration of Anglo-American friendship was one of the objects of the Bermuda Conference. There are two ways in which a new relationship with the United States can come about. One of the ways is by ever-closer integration of the European and Western nations in an Atlantic community, which, as I see it, means under the hegemony of the United States. The other way is the only way which will gain the respect and support of the people of this country. It is to build an alliance and steadfastly avoid the position of a client State. That means—as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in his broadcast at the beginning of his term of office—that we must look increasingly to the Commonwealth and to Europe, and I was glad that my right hon. Friend referred to the coming Commonwealth Conference.
It is the mission of this country at present, through her unique position as centre of the Commonwealth and a leading European Power, to constitute a third interest within the general alliance against Communist barbarism. I eschew the expression "third force", because there can be no neutrality against Communism. It is as the founder of that third interest that this country can, with her Commonwealth partners and European neighbours, build a system which could prove the world's best earthly hope.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)
I will not follow the points made by the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison)—and I apologise for not doing so—because I want to deal with the Anglo-American talks in Bermuda from a rather different point of view. The net result of those talks has been to consoli- 138 date and emphasise the inferior status of this country in the Anglo-American alliance, to commit us to purposes and policies which are indefensible and which would be strenuously resisted by half the people of this country if any attempt were made to act on them, to step up the cold war and war preparations, and to take away from what little has been hitherto attempted to make peace.
First, I wish to deal with the Anglo-American alliance and our status in it. The Prime Minister talked very grandly about how "palsy-walsy" he was with the President and how our two great nations had a duty to lead and not to follow. Let us see what the position is and what the Americans think of it, because what they think of it is the significant thing in the whole affair. The Manchester Guardian on 26th March had a dispatch from its Washington correspondent recording a Press conference with Messrs. Hagerty and Hope, Press officers with President Eisenhower, on their return. This was how it was summed up:The general verdict seems to be that the Bermuda Conference illustrated and consolidated America's position in the alliance as the overwhelmingly senior partner.Mr. Walter Lippman, who is a political correspondent of great authority and very friendly to this country, and who is very well informed, had this to say of the shape of the Anglo-American alliance after Bermuda, in the New York Herald Tribune of 29th March:At Bermuda the British conceded that Western policy in the Middle East should, for the present, follow the line laid down by the President and Secretary Dullesand that the United States should have the rightto lead and administer their own rather than an agreed policy.So much for our co-equal leadership with the United States.
These summings-up from American sources of the status of this country in the Anglo-American alliance after Bermuda exactly bear out the prediction by another highly authoritative American correspondent, also most friendly to this country, Mr. Joseph Alsop. Reporting from London in the New York Herald Tribune on 22nd March he said that the Government had agreed to hand over to 139 the Americans in the Middle East, as he put it:… after a grim bout of fact-facing of the situationresulting from Suez. He went on to say:British power and influence in the Middle East, which have always been over-estimated in London, have altogether ceased to exist. They have got to be replaced by American power and influence, if anything at all is to be saved from the wreck. Fortunately, the members of the inner circle of British policy-makers have faced these unpalatable facts. It has been a hard blow to British pride. It will cause much friction before it is all over. But they are now willing to commit the protection of their Middle Eastern interests to American hands.That is the grim reality of the situation.
The Prime Minister has consolidated his position as a good satellite by the deal over the rockets. He has sold our birthright for a mess of rockets which are not even in operational production. The Americans are to remain in control of the warheads. On top of that, he pleads that our hydrogen bomb, which he insists on exploding, will be only a little one. But this afternoon he said that we shall thereby gain enormously in the strength and defence of our country.
On 5th March he went further. He said:I should have thought it was common sense to put ourselves in the position that we have been working for so long to attain, that we should not be in a weaker position than those other two great Powers."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 5th March, 1957; Vol. 566, c. 181.]I noticed that Mr. Randolph Churchill complimented the Prime Minister upon being Dulles's equal in statecraft, and added that Mr. Dulles was fully his equal in intelligence—which makes one wonder whether the President asked himself, "Which twin has replaced the Tony?" Having come back from Bermuda with the status of Eisenhower's fag—a sort of alternative Secretary of State to the egregious Mr. Dulles—for the Prime Minister to claim that by blowing up his little hydrogen bomb—if it is a little one —we shall be in a position of equality with the United States and the Soviet Union seems to me to be frivolous, silly, and quite unpardonable in a man with the responsibilities of the Prime Minister.
I well recall what a Labour Prime Minister—Mr. Attlee as he then was—said in this House, on 18th November, 1946: 140No one is foolish enough to suppose that this country can measure up in armaments against either Soviet Russia or the United States of America."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1946; Vol. 430, c. 586.]Apparently, one person is foolish enough to believe that it can be done, but it will not deceive anybody in America or Russia, and certainly it will not deceive the people of this country.
I will now turn from the status assigned to us in the Anglo-American alliance to the purposes of that alliance, that is, to the purposes of the United States—because our purposes do not count in this set-up, except in so far as, by a fortunate coincidence, British Toryism wants the same things as its big brother in Washington. Under the present dispensation in the United States, it is my belief that the Anglo-American alliance has become a sort of cross between international McCarthyism and the Holy Alliance backed by hydrogen bombs. It is simply an engine for implementing Mr. Dulles's policy of anti-Communist liberation—what I call his policy of inverted Trotskyism, or permanent counter-revolution. This policy of intervention and aggression is contrary to the Charter, incompatible with the maintenance of peace and, if pursued long enough, quite certain to land us in a world war.
Let us see how this works out in the Middle East, where we have entrusted our interests to the United States. I take again an authoritative American, Joseph Alsop, in the article which I have already mentioned. He says with pride that a new and serious American policy for the Middle East is emerging that closely resembles the old British policy, and is not based on moralistic prating. He can say that again. This new-old policy consists, as he puts it, inrallying and reinforcing the Arab leaders who are not implacably hostile to the West—the 'good Arabs' as Sir Anthony Eden calls them.A "good Arab" is a technical term. It means "an oil-bearing Arab." A good Arab is a sheikh, sultan, king or other Oriental potentate or despot who is willing to hand over the oil resources of his country to foreign concessionaries in return for a fat rake-off from the oil revenues and military protection against his own people, who might get funny ideas about using a little of these oil revenues in 141 order to raise their standards of living and raise themselves from destitution, disease and oppression. It is these "good Arabs" who also want arms to fight Israel. This oleaginous goodness must be understood in a Pickwickian and narrow sense.
That policy is the same as the Government's policy. It is the policy of British Toryism in the Middle East, and it was referred to in somewhat euphemistic terms by the Prime Minister when he said that in the Middle East we must protect Western oil interests and protect the peace and stability of the oil-producing areas. The Defence White Paper of 1956 amplifies that a little. It says that we must use British forces to put down Communist subversion even when it is masquerading as nationalism. As Mr. Alsop pointed out, the worst thing that could happen—the devil that he paints on the wall—is that there might be an uprush of Arab nationalism and even a nationalisation of oil resources.
The Bagdad Pact carries the matter a step further, or rather, the final communiqué of the Bagdad Pact Council of November, 1955. It pledges us to defend the territories of those countries against both Communist aggression and internal Communist subversion. On 27th February, in reply to Questions by myself and by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Come (Mr. S. Silverman), the Minister of Defence confirmed that in the eyes of the Government that meant that we were pledged to military intervention to protect any of the rulers of those countries against popular uprisings of any description which they themselves chose to describe as Communist subversion. Of course, we know perfectly well that these good Arabs regard the mildest stirrings of democracy as Communist subversion.
After all, the goodest of good Arabs, King Ibn Saud, who was mentioned by the hon. Member for Chigwell, still rejoices in being the ruler of the only country in the world which legally maintains not only slavery, but the slave trade. He beheaded fourteen slaves in the public market place recently because they tried to escape. According to the International Labour Office he also practises the quaint old Arabian Nights custom of throwing recalcitrant workers into pits of scorpions. He also has £100 million 142 a year in oil revenues, of which two-thirds is spent on himself and his family; he has more than thirty palaces, in the courtyard of one of which Buckingham Palace and grounds could be dropped without being noticed; he has thirty-five four-engined transport planes and an uncounted number of Cadillacs and blondes. Altogether, he qualifies as a distinguished champion of the free world under Anglo-American Tory patronage.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
One of the effects of Bermuda is that the Bagdad Pact has been married to the Eisenhower doctrine and the President and the Secretary of State have presided over the nuptials. Those Conservatives who were very hurt the other day when Mr. Dulles said that American G.I.s in the Middle East would be happier if they were not flanked by British and French soldiers can take heart and cheer up, because we have now been restored to the status of a good satellite, which is one step above a good Arab. We shall have the privilege of fighting for the American oil companies and the oil-bearing Arabs against their peoples. If we are very good, we may even aspire to do the fighting without any American assistance.
Hon. Members who like realism will no doubt appreciate that the way in which the policy will work out will be that the American oil companies will get the oil, as they did in Abadan, the good Arabs will get the royalties, and the good satellite will provide the cannon fodder. That is about the way in which it will work out. That is the rôle of leadership which is assigned to us. The point about this policy is that we are backing everything which is corrupt, reactionary, and dying, in the Middle East, and sooner or later the peoples of those countries will demand their share of this wealth which is pouring in from the West and being wasted on high living by these feudal potentates.
If we want access to the oil—and I do—we have to make terms with the new progressive forces that are growing up there. We have to stop treating as enemies the only forces with any future in the Middle East—the longing for national independence and the longing for social justice. We must get in ahead while there is still time to negotiate and 143 compromise. But, of course, that is a conception which is beyond the mental ken of right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
There is one aspect to which I wish to draw their attention. It is that if we do attempt to act on these obligations and carry out the policy of armed intervention in those countries to put down popular risings—whether we call them Communist subversion or not—we are violating international law and the Charter. The argument for that was put cogently in The Times of 13th March by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Helens (Sir H. Shaw-cross). It is true that he applied the argument only to Hungary, but what is sauce for the Hungarian goose is also sauce for the Arab kus-kus, if I may put it that way. He quoted a number of first-class authorities on the point and said:it is well established in international law that intervention by a Foreign Power is inadmissible even if it takes place at the request of a Government engaged in suppressing an armed insurrection or in pursuance of a treaty which is alleged to provide some justification.If the hon. and right hon. Members opposite imagine that the Labour Party would sit down and watch them start a war of counter-revolutionary intervention, which at the same time would be a war of aggression in violation of the Charter, that shows that they have learned nothing from history and forgotten everything. They should remember how Labour stopped intervention in Russia. They should remember how Labour reacted to the Charter-breaking invasion of Suez. They should say to themselves that the only safe course for them is to pursue a policy based on the Charter, and banish these wild dreams of trying to commit aggression in violation of the Charter.
The real, final question about this Bermuda business is what have the Government done about making peace? The answer is, rather less than nothing. That is where our party does stand for something positive which hon. and right hon. Members opposite seem incapable of grasping. We say, break this deadlock over a European settlement which arises out of insisting upon the vain and doomed attempt to include a united Germany in the Western alliance, and accept the policy which the Labour Party 144 has put forward and the German Social Democratic Party has adopted, of negotiating a European settlement based on uniting Germany within an all-European treaty based on the Charter and outside the rival alliances.
The one point on which I did slightly differ from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who put this idea forward again today, was that I am less pessimistic than he is about the possibility of the Soviet Government accepting that kind of scheme as a basis for negotiation. In the first place it has many points of resemblance to proposals put at the Geneva Conference by the Soviet Union. In the second place, when I spoke with Khrushchev in Moscow in October I showed him the Blackpool Conference resolution of the Labour Party, which put forward that policy, and in the discussion which took place there emerged the fact that the Russians would regard such a policy as a great step forward, a real advance, and as quite possibly constituting a basis for discussion.
I beseech the Government, rather than going on plunging further and further into this business of being a satellite of the United States committed to policies of aggression and intervention and piling up arms which are ruining us and will blow up the human race if they are ever used, to make another effort. Try to make peace. Do not stick to the policies which do not work and have failed, but try something else and accept the obligations of the Charter seriously for once. The same applies in the Middle East. There we shall never settle these problems unless we are prepared to try to negotiate with the Soviet Union on the basis of the Charter, which means East-West regional agreements for economic cooperation, for political co-operation and for ensuring navigation through the Canal.
The Soviet Union is not going to back Egypt blindly. It is only backing Egypt in order to win recognition of its right to be treated as a Power with Middle Eastern interests on the same footing as the United States and Great Britain. The moment we are prepared to negotiate on the basis of the Charter we can make the United Nations work. The Prime Minister said, quite rightly, that the United Nations would not work because of the deadlock between the great Powers which puts the 145 Security Council out of action and distorts the working of the Charter by putting an undue burden on the General Assembly. That results merely in deadlock and frustration. If we are to make the United Nations work, we must be prepared to adopt a genuine policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of those countries. We must try to work out international arrangements based on equality of status, giving economic help and assuring access to oil resources and the technical maintenance and development of these resources on terms compatible with the national aspirations of the country concerned.
The Government should try such a policy. It is fantastic that they should complacently go on and on sinking lower and lower as a Power, practically selling out as an independent Power and complacently preparing for war, threatening the human race with extinction and poisoning them meanwhile in peace time. The Government make no sort of effort to make peace.
The plain truth—and I will say it bluntly—is that this Government do not want war, but neither do they want peace. They want to perpetuate the cold war and the arms race because they are caught in the great Tory dilemma: whereas war would extinguish the human race, peace would be fatal to capitalism. The old social order is kept going only by massive rearmament and the political atmosphere engendered by the cold war.
They do not see it like that; they sec it in different terms, which I have not the time to explain now. But that is the underlying reality of it all. They see it in terms of the great Tory syllogism, which rests on the Tory creed, which is that there is nothing wrong with the existing social order; therefore any social unrest must be due to infiltration by foreign agents. From this comes the Tory syllogism that social unrest is Communism, that Communism is Soviet aggression, and therefore self-defence is armed intervention in the internal affairs of other countries to prop up the defenders of the old order and put down those who may threaten the old order. That is putting it very simply and crudely, but that is the way it works; and it effectively inhibits the Government from taking any serious steps to make peace.
146 This side of the House knows how to make peace. [Laughter.] Well, I have enumerated the policies for which this party stands. To add to that, we are also prepared to open negotiations on the basis of something like the Soviet proposals of 17th November last year for negotiating a general disarmament convention. We do not change our position each time the other side accepts some of our proposals.
§ Mr. H. Fraser rose—
§ Mr. Zilliacus
I cannot give way. I have only two minutes left.
Each time one of their proposals is accepted by the other side, the Government promptly change their ground, because they are scared of getting down seriously to disarmament. The Americans, of course, are worse.
If we took an independent line, and if we could deliver ourselves from the fear and hate which paralyse us and make us accept the humiliating conditions of the alliance, we could be the leaders in making peace, and both the Americans and the Russians would pay far more attention to us that anybody is likely to pay if we diminish our moral stature without increasing our military power by blowing off that miserable bomb over Christmas Island.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I will not elaborate again what so many of my hon. Friends and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said this afternoon. We are all glad, of course, that the British Government are on cordial personal terms with the President of the United States. But those who hoped for great results from the Bermuda Conference must have been severely jolted when the communiqué appeared.
It contained eleven points, and the first seven of them were hardly more than empty headlines. There is no member of the Liberal Party present; if there were, I would ask them to forgive me for saying that these first seven points read singularly like a Liberal Party election manifesto: N.A.T.O.; European unity, closer association of this country with Europe; the benefits of the Common Market and the Free Trade Area; condemnation of high tariffs; phrases about liberal trade policies; German reunification; Hungarian freedom. All are 147 respectable headlines, quite acceptable to us, though not as readily acceptable to some hon. Members opposite.
May I make one comment on these Europe headlines? Europe is still the greatest continent in the world, although in the last half-century it has started two world wars and exported imperialist militarism to China and Japan. Europe now needs, as never before, prosperity and peace. It needs, I think, although I do not think that it is very important, something like that which the Foreign Secretary pontifically describes as his grand design.
But let us have no illusions. The great issues of British policy today—war, aggression, armaments, oil, food, raw materials and trade—are not European questions. They are questions in which the whole world is involved. And let no one think that the grand design will be a grand alliance which will back us against Russia, America or the Arabs whether we are right or wrong. Suez proved that in Europe. The grand design can never work except on the basis of the Charter and within the framework of the United Nations.
The eighth and ninth points in the Bermuda communiqué, which concern the Middle East, have a little more substance than the earlier headlines. The Government agreed with the United States on the need for the speedy implementation of recent Resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly dealing with the Gaza Strip and the Gulf of Aqaba. It is something that the Government have agreed that the speedy implementation of Assembly Resolutions is to be desired. These Resolutions are founded on the armistice agreement between Egypt and Israel made in 1949. In September, 1951, the Security Council unanimously resolved thatsince the Armistice is of a permanent character, neither party can reasonably declare that it is actively a belligerent,and the Council called on Egypt to allow Israeli ships to pass through the Canal. Unfortunately, after September, 1951, the British Government, in spite of constant prodding from the Opposition, never raised this matter of the Israeli ships again. So Egypt went on taking action against those ships, which compromised the armistice, was doubtfully consistent 148 with the Charter and undermined the basic principle of the Canal Convention of 1888.
Now a new situation exists. Egypt has itself demanded that Israel shall observe the Assembly Resolution which called on Israel to withdraw her troops and scrupulously to observe her armistice obligations. And Israel has complied. Egypt, therefore, must clearly do the same. She must recognise that under the armistice, as under the Charter, she has no legal claim to belligerent rights whether at Gaza, Tiran, in the Gulf of Aqaba or in the Suez Canal.
Of course we say to Colonel Nasser that the Arab refugees must be fairly dealt with when a peace settlement is made. But the question of the refugees existed when the armistice was signed and when the Security Council gave its legal ruling in 1951. Egypt cannot claim now to bargain with the law. Last October and November, the Labour Party stood by the Charter and the United Nations Resolutions when Egypt was attacked. Now we call on Egypt to accept the only firm juridical foundation from which true peace negotiations can begin.
The ninth Bermuda point deals with a vital interest—still and always a vital British interest—the Suez Canal. Again it stresses the urgent importance of complying in the letter and the spirit with the United Nations Resolution, the Security Council Resolution of 13th October of which the Prime Minister spoke this afternoon. That laid down six principles for the future administration of the Canal, it is a pity that we did not agree with President Eisenhower about that a little sooner. For example, on 16th October, when Sir Anthony Eden and the Foreign Secretary met the French in Paris, a meeting into which we hope the Government will soon set up a select committee of inquiry.
It is a pity that we did not agree with the President on 24th October, when the Secretary-General sent us his famous letter in which he outlined a scheme, virtually agreed with the Egyptians, which would have safeguarded every valid British interest and right. It is a pity that we did not agree on those other days in late October, when the Egyptian Government put out suggestion after suggestion 149 that there should be a meeting in Geneva on 29th October, clearly to reach a settlement on the Secretary-General's very favourable terms.
Alas, on 6th October, 24th October and those other October days the Government were not in their Bermuda frame of mind. They sent no answer to the Secretary-General's letter; they made no response to Egypt's offer of a meeting at Geneva on 29th October to discuss the Canal, although they were always saying that the Canal question was very urgent indeed. Looking back, their silence at that time was a further proof that they then had other plans for settling with Colonel Nasser and knew that something else was to happen on 29th October.
Now they have no other rock to cling to except the Security Council Resolution. They must swallow their pride and take terms which may be less favourable than we were offered then. I do not think that they need be nervous about the future development of the Canal—Colonel Nasser seems to understand Egyptian interests very well. I do not think that they need be nervous about the insulation of the Canal from Egyptian politics. I think that the other user-nations—European, Asian and American—who control 72 per cent. of the traffic will insulate it very well. I only hope that the Government will in future insulate the Canal from the politics of the Tory Party, which they so singularly failed to do six months ago.
Before I leave these United Nations Resolutions about the Middle East, perhaps I may ask the Foreign Secretary to tell us a little more about what he and the Prime Minister said to President Eisenhower on the subject of the United Nations. The Prime Minister told us that in Bermuda he argued that that body was made up of its constituent members and that it would work well only if its leading Members played a leading and constructive part. It was those great truths that we tried to urge on the Government last year when they were running down the United Nations, and treating it as a remote and troublesome excrescence on the body politic in which we had no interest, and to which we owed no duty or obligation of any kind. We are very glad that the Government now want it to work well.
150 But both The Times in this country and the New York Times in the United States gave a rather different picture of what passed in Bermuda about the working of United Nations. Both papers said that there were very vigorous exchanges. They both said that our Ministers took "a jaundiced view" of the United Nations. They both said that the Americans and the Canadians rejected our arguments and roundly declared that the United Nations was a corner-stone of American and Canadian foreign policy. If what these two great newspapers say is true, it is of grave importance.
Nagging at the United Nations is a dead-end policy that will get us nowhere. Events have proved that, as in Europe, so with the Commonwealth and with the United States, true co-operation and true understanding can be built only on the basis of our full and genuine acceptance of the Charter and of all that it implies. I hope the Foreign Secretary will tell us that the Government have dropped for good and all the petulant nihilism about the United Nations in which, for far too long, they have indulged.
I come to the last two points in the Bermuda communiqué, on which interest today has settled, those which deal with nuclear tests and guided missiles. Here we leave the realm of headlines, hopes and adjurations. We come to the only real decisions that were made, and, quite frankly, they are decisions which fill us with foreboding and dismay.
We share the feeling of the editor of The Times when he wrote his savage comment, part of which my right hon. Friend quoted this afternoon:we are back where we started, which means that everyone is free to go on putting strontium in our hones as often as he likes. Once again, as so often has happened in disarmament talks, Britain has eaten her words almost as soon as they were spoken.The Government have torn up Sir Anthony Eden's proposals for dealing with nuclear tests. Perhaps those proposals were inadequate, but did the Government try to put forward something more adequate based on genuine control? Not if we understand them. It seems to us that instead of limitation, leading rapidly to abolition, we are now to have self-imposed restraint, hoping that Russia will be gentlemanly enough to join. In plain English, the Government 151 have now decided that tests shall go on and on and on.
The Prime Minister seemed to argue that the past and prospective tests had done, and would do, no harm. Is he really saying that? Every nuclear explosion causes some radiation hazard. As the Government experts said in the Home Office Manual on Nuclear Weapons, "All radiation is potentially dangerous." That is why radiologists live, on the average, five years less than other men. That is why they have a statistically higher proportion of defective children.
The Prime Minister quoted the Report of the Medical Research Council. I will quote it too, at paragraph 127:There is no known threshold for the induction of gene mutations by radiation: that is to say, any additional exposure, no matter how small, must be expected to raise the mutation rate…that is, to increase the number of defective children. Appendix N states:it appears that each unit quantity of radio-strontium absorbed by the bone confers a certain probability of bone-tumour formationespecially in the very young.
In January this year, since the Medical Research Council Report, the Chairman of the United States National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Genetic Effects of Atomic Radiation estimated that at least 6,000 defective children will be born—idiots, monsters, sterile, deaf and dumb—" as the result of thermonuclear bomb testing now going on."Six thousand "—he says—is quite a lot of babies.He added:The rate of such births will increase proportionately as radiation effects are passed on to future generations.Perhaps that estimate is already out of date, because since it was made, the United States Atomic Energy Commission has published a report on its official genetic research. It says that earlier estimates of the genetic hazard of radiation in man were based mainly on mutations in the fruit fly. Now they have been conducting experiments with mice, andthe mouse work has necessitated a revision of estimates based on fruit-fly data.152 It has indeed necessitated a revision, for they discovered that mouse genes are fifteen times more mutable than fruit-fly genes: fifteen times. Suppose human genes are fifteen times more mutable than those of mice. What happens then to that figure of six thousand?
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Morecambe and Lonsdale)
This is a serious thing the right hon. Gentleman is saying. May I call to his attention something within my own knowledge? British insurance companies. who are not backward in informing themselves about these matters, are at this moment giving the workers at Harwell and other works of the Atomic Energy Authority exactly the same rates for insurance as are given to other persons. Will the right hon. Gentleman not take that professional judgment into account?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, who, in my experience, always contributes something very useful when he takes part in debates in this House. I am much obliged to him. Of course, compared with the total number of children born, and even the total number of defective children, this figure of 6,000 estimated by Mr. Weaver in January is not at all large. Of course not, but it is a definite result of thermonuclear tests. Suppose we have to multiply it by a factor of 15 and then multiply it again by another factor of 15. Is that damage not something the Government should take into account? I think it is certain that they should.
Then, besides genetics, there is the strontium 90 of which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition spoke today. I quote a British expert, Professor Rotblat, one of the greatest authorities in the world. Writing in January, since the M.R.C. Report, he saysOne thing is certain, that each test of a hydrogen bomb will ultimately result in cancer of the hone, or other injuries, being incurred by a number of people who otherwise might have been able to live a full span of life. But whether this number is measured in tens or in many thousands we shall not know until much more research has been done.The Prime Minister does not know it is not many thousands. No one knows. We know only that some people, few or many, are condemned to death.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
Would the right hon. Gentleman consider the practical side of the problem?
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
Does the right hon. Gentleman think that if the British Government and the United States Government were to adopt his advice and prohibit from now on all thermo-nuclear tests, leaving the Soviet Union free to proceed with them, the world would be a safer place for us or for our children?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
We have never suggested that. I am coming to it in a minute. My right hon. Friend dealt with it in detail. We want an international agreement. [HON. MEMBERS: "We?"] What I am arguing is that one cannot assume that tests, past, present and prospective, do no harm. They do some harm. Some people will die from cancer; some will die from leukaemia; some will die of cancer of the eye.
The Prime Minister calms our fears by saying that our bombs will be quite small, only a megaton or two, only the equivalent of all the bombs dropped on Germany by the R.A.F. throughout six years of war. Our bombs are going to be quite clean: no outer sheath of uranium 238, which costs so little; only £100 for the explosive force that destroyed Hiroshima and took 100,000 lives; so cheap; so easy to fit on later, so devastating both in added blast and fall-out.
The Prime Minister says that we will explode them two miles above the sea—no sucking-up of the pulverised coral reefs which fell upon the luckless fishermen from Japan. But the brutal fact remains that every nuclear test will do some harm, and I want to repeat the question which my right hon. Friend asked of the Foreign Secretary this afternoon. Will this set of test explosions be our last? The United States had thermonuclear tests in 1952, 1954 and in 1956. The Russians have done the same. Will our experts be content with this first lot of explosions?
I confess that I am always frightened by the arguments of the armament experts. For fifty years they have always said the same. Their new weapons are always the only way to stop another war. 154 The Dreadnought was the great deterrent in 1907. We are desperately frightened that this will spread swiftly round the world, to the French, the Germans, the Swedes, to Italy, China and Japan, and who knows where else?
Let us look at it in the light of the other Bermuda decision about the American guided missiles that are to come to us. When do we get them? In three years, four years or five years from now? We shall make the nuclear warheads, as I understood the Prime Minister today. Therefore, for three, four or five years, at least, we shall be making and testing fission and fusion warheads for the missiles which we hope to get. These are the real results, the real decisions of Bermuda, and I find them terrible.
To my mind, still more terrible is the light that they throw on the Government's attitude towards the disarmanent discussions now going on at Lancaster House. I hope that we may debate those discussions very soon. I have always been against unilateral disarmament. I have always stood for N.A.T.O. and for rearmament and all the rest, but I have always thought that Britain, with its crowded population, with its industries and its dependence on overseas supplies, its vulnerable sea routes, its island immunity from aggression gone, had more to gain from all-round disarmament than any other Power. I have always thought, too, that Britain, if it put forward a bold, practical and detailed plan, could rally the whole Commonwealth, new and old, behind it and the world would have to listen.
The Prime Minister, when he was Minister of Defence, used these words:The purpose of our defence policy is simple: to get disarmament. That is the only ultimate hope for world peace.We shall soon be voting on a defence Budget of about £1,600 million. It will be the third since the Prime Minister used those words. He has attended many international meetings, at N.A.T.O. and elsewhere, to discuss defence. How often in those meetings has he ever mentioned what he called,The purpose of our defence policy…our only hope for peace"?How much time and labour have he and his colleagues really given to disarmament since February, 1955? Has he 155 ever read the speeches made by our ill-starred Ministers of State in the United Nations? If he had, he would have found out that in their proposals they never got beyond the stage of headline objectives, and that since he spoke in 1955 even those headline objectives have been withdrawn.
Up till then no one blamed the Russians more, or more severely, than I did. I even defended the Foreign Secretary against my hon. Friends. Since May, 1955, however, when the Russians accepted our objectives and urged that the drafting of the Disarmament Treaty should at last begin, it is we who have obstructed and gone back. That is why the Editor of The Timessaid a week ago that it has so often happened in disarmament discussions that Britain has eaten her words almost as soon as they are spoken.
We ask the Government to listen to the voices that are raised against the nuclear madness that we so wrongly call defence— the voices in this country, in Europe, in the Commonwealth and in Japan. We ask them to make a start by putting forward a concrete, detailed plan for abolishing under genuine international control all harmful nuclear tests.
We ask them to use this start as a means for real progress towards disarmament itself. We do so, recalling that just three years ago today the House unanimously agreed thatThe hydrogen bomb… constitutes a grave threat to civilisation and that any recourse to war may lead to its use."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 153.]The whole of N. A. T. O. 's plans, the Bermuda decisions and these guided missiles only increase the risk that those words are true. If the bombs were ever used in war, the Medical Research Council, in by far its most important finding, says thatatomic warfare on a large scale could not fail to increase for many generations the load of distress and suffering that all human societies would be called upon to support.But it is doubtful whether radiation is really the worst danger of the thermonuclear bomb. I have quoted the Home Office Manual,and I hope the Prime Minister will listen to what it says. In it the Government experts tell us that the blast from a 10megaton bomb would 156 leave an inner ring, seven miles across, of total and absolute destruction, everything being pulverised to dust, and an outer ring, twenty miles across, of firestorm, in which every living creature would be burnt to death. The President of the British Association, himself a pioneer in nuclear physics, said a year ago that ten thermonuclear bombs might finish Britain; that if we spent £500 million a year on civil defence for several years some remnants of an organised society might possibly survive.
Mr. Val Petersen, an eminent businessman who for six years has been Civil Defence Administrator of the United States, said in 1954 that nuclear attack on the United States would cause 22 million casualties, of whom 7 million would be dead. That was in 1954. A month ago he said that if all the 170 million Americans had air-raid shelters, at least 50 per cent. of them would die in an enemy attack. "In the final analysis," he said:there is no such thing as a nation being prepared for a thermonuclear war.It is a different kind of preparation that we need today. Serious, consistent, persistent preparation for organised disarmament and ordered peace— it is to that preparation that we ask the Government to give their hearts and minds, and we ask them to begin it now.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
Taking the debate as a whole, I think that most speakers have welcomed the results of the Bermuda Conference—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]— except for a small minority who really resent any improvement, and I think they have entirely acknowledged the success of the Conference by talking once more only about the "satellite status" of this country. I believe that, by and large, it is acknowledged that the Conference has played a substantial part in improving Anglo-American relations.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition asked a great many questions. He asked whether the conclusions of the Bermuda Conference were linked in any way, whether there had been any bargain one item for another. The answer to that is a plain "No".
The right hon. Gentleman went on to refer to the paragraph in the communiqué 157 dealing with Hungary, and he asked, in rather menacing tones, why we had not made further progress at Bermuda with regard to Hungary. He was interrupted and asked what his own proposals were. He mentioned three points. First, there was the encouragement of the work of the International Red Cross. The position there is that the International Committee of Red Cross Societies is still sending lists of its requirements to the various national Red Cross societies, including the British Red Cross. The British Red Cross has already received £50,000 from Her Majesty's Government and voluntary contributions from the public and from the Lord Mayor's Fund, and I understand that the British Red Cross is at present able to meet all the requests which it receives from the International Committee. However, as the right hon. Gentleman has made the point, I will certainly look into the matter again to see whether there is any further initiative that we can take.
As to the right hon. Gentleman's second point in relation to Hungary, he asked us whether we were ready to make credits available for Poland. That has, of course, only an indirect connection with Hungary, but I think it would be right for me to utter a word of warning to the right hon. Gentleman in that connection. The Gomulka régime is, in our view, an improvement upon its predecessor, and I think that one thing which could cause it to fall would be open Western political support. Assistance for Poland is not the sort of thing about which to make a splash at the moment if one really wants to help the Poles.
I consider that it would be a good thing, leaving the political considerations out of account, to increase the amount of trade between Poland and ourselves. It would be wrong to describe that as a purely political exercise. We are examining ways in which steps can be taken to increase the volume of trade between Poland and ourselves. The matter was discussed at Bermuda, and I think that the United States Government have upon this matter views very similar to our own.
The third suggestion put forward by the right hon. Gentleman for helping Hungary was what he called the diplomatic initiative. He said quite frankly that he did not expect this initiative to have any results, but he said he thought 158 it might help the Hungarians if what I may call the "Gaitskell Plan" were put forward at once. The "Gaitskell Plan", as I understand it, involves the withdrawal of all foreign troops from East and West Germany, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
In my view, that would mean the end of N.A.T.O. Does the right hon. Gentleman envisage N.A.T.O. surviving under those circumstances? It means the end of the Paris Agreements. In a lecture which the right hon. Gentleman delivered in Germany, he said, rather boldly, that it would not mean the withdrawal of United States troops from Europe. Has he the slightest justification for making that assumption? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I am not at all certain that he is right. Perhaps I am being unjust to the right hon. Gentleman, because, as I have made quite clear, lie did not expect this proposal to be accepted. He regarded it simply as a piece of psychological warfare. In his lecture in Berlin, he said that it was a sort of peace offensive in regard to the Soviet Union. I think that in fact the principles of this piece of psychological warfare might well do much more harm to our side than to the other side.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The Foreign Secretary has been kind enough to read this lecture, but he might be better informed of the plan involved. I made it perfectly plain that the plan must first be discussed with West Germany and our allies and that it was a necessary part of it that it did not involve the end of N.A.T.O., or the withdrawal of American troops from Europe. If the Foreign Secretary says that the Americans have already said that in those circumstances they would withdraw their troops, that is a different matter. Let him tell us. I am profoundly disappointed that he should dismiss what I and most of my hon. Friends consider to be a serious contribution as though it would in fact involve us in more damage than it would benefit our relationship with the satellite peoples.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The right hon. Gentleman's intervention has confirmed me in one point. If he says that his plan would mean the survival of N.A.T.O. and the continuance of United States troops in the Continent of Europe, I am certain that he is right in saying that it would not be accepted by the Russians.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
Hear, hear.[Laughter.] The Foreign Secretary cannot have it both ways. [Laughter.] On the one hand, he tells us that it would be a disaster to the West and, on the other hand, he tells us that it would be so advantageous to the West that the Russians would not accept it. He must make up his mind. Will he tell the House whether a retreat of the Red Army from East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia would not be a gain of immense value to the Western world?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I was examining this proposal from the point of view of its chances of helping Hungary, which was what it was put forward to do. It was one of the three things which the right hon. Gentleman said would help Hungary. All I am saying is that I do not believe that under that plan there will be the slightest chance of Soviet troops leaving Hungary.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to make rather sneering observations about European co-operation and our ideas about that. I should have thought that he would have considered it was a good thing to increase political co-operation within N.A.T.O. and W.E.U. That is taking place, pursuant to a Resolution passed by N.A.T.O. last December and at meetings of W.E.U. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have welcomed attempts to put forward the idea of a Free Trade Area linked to the Common Market. I should have thought that that was a purpose with which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would agree.
Although he disputed the title, the right hon. Gentleman did say that he thought that there was something in this business of reducing the proliferation of assemblies and organisations within Europe. Those are all matters of importance and matters on which he very well knows progress cannot be made rapidly, particularly in the economic sphere.
The right hon. Gentleman then asked where the economy would be if we were to continue to make our own missiles. This is a matter which could be much more appropriately considered in the defence debate, but it is bound to mean economies in our research, development 160 and production programme for the production of missiles.
§ Mr. Lloyd
Because we would not have to make so many for ourselves.
The right hon. Gentleman then asked whether the Prime Minister had brought pressure to bear upon the President to try to persuade Congress to change the law about the sharing of atomic secrets. My hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) dealt with that point very well. It was really an extraordinary question. I cannot conceive of any course of conduct which would be more likely to increase United States suspicions of us, or make it less likely that the President would succeed in that purpose, if indeed it was his purpose. The idea that the Prime Minister should publicly state in the House that he had brought pressure to bear upon the President of the United States to take certain action with regard to Congress—
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I did not use that phrase. I should like the Foreign Secretary to tell us whether he is really saying that the question of our having access to atomic secrets, and a proper exchange with the United States, did not figure at all in the discussions at Bermuda.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The question of the interchange of information certainly did figure in those discussions.
I come to certain questions which were asked of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to nuclear tests. The Prime Minister asked the Leader of the Opposition whether the Opposition approved of our manufacture of the hydrogen bomb; whether they would cancel the tests which are shortly to take place; and, if so, would they face the consequences upon our defence? Would they cease to base our defence upon the medium bomber and, later, the rocket projectile? Would they accept the logical consequences of the abandonment of nuclear defence, which would mean the need to raise far larger armies at home and throughout Europe, and the permanency of conscription? Finally, would the Opposition accept inferiority both in numbers and armaments to the forces of the Soviet Union? Those were the six questions which my right hon. 161 Friend asked the Leader of the Opposition.
As I understand the position, the answers to those questions were to the following effect: the Labour Party support the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb because it thinks it right that we should be independent of the United States. I infer from what the right hon. Gentleman said that until the United States give us freely their nuclear weapons he is in favour of our continuing the independent manufacture of our own hydrogen weapons. Is that so? [HON. MEMBERS' "Answer."] I gather that the right hon. Gentleman is nodding his head.
With regard to the consequences if we stopped our tests, the right hon. Gentleman did not answer the last four questions at all. He said that it was difficult for the Opposition to know what to do about stopping the tests, because they did not know the military, health or political consequences. They must know that the military consequences would be as suggested in the last four questions put by the Prime Minister. We should have to maintain much larger conventional forces, because if we had not got the nuclear deterrent— if it had not been tested, and we could not know whether we had it or not— it must mean that we should have to have larger conventional forces.
The information at our disposal with regard to the health results has been placed fully before the House, and the right hon. Gentleman should be capable of forming a view from that, and so far as the political consequences are concerned he is really in as good a position as any other individual to form a judgment. I cannot accept as valid any of his three excuses for avoiding a plain answer.
To be fair to the right hon. Gentleman, he did really give a plain answer when he said that he was not suggesting that we should unilaterally stop these tests. I am very glad that he should have said that, because that is our position, too. We believe that it would be the height of folly for us to prevent these years of work from being completed— and it is quite clear that testing is the necessary completion.
We heard a moving speech from the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) about the horrors of nuclear warfare. Of course—
§ Mr. Mason
May I intervene before the right hon. and learned Gentleman leaves that point? I feel very strongly about this. Is he aware that the Bermuda communiqué says:…a test limitation agreement could not today be effectively enforced for technical reasons, nor could breaches of it be surely detected.The Prime Minister was very vague on this issue. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, he was not."] Could the Foreign Secretary say why agreement cannot be effectively enforced and what are the technical reasons, and why could not breaches of it be detected? Does not a test today still mean a "bang"?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am going to deal in some detail with that point in a moment or two. I was dealing with the general morality of possessing the hydrogen bomb.
We have had a moving speech from the right hon. Member for Derby, South and as he made it, I looked again at a quotation which I have here from a speech which he made at Derby on 6th March, 1955, just after the debate to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred. The right hon. Gentleman said:We all revolt against the horrors of nuclear war, but nuclear war will never happen unless some nation is guilty of aggression. No one need fear our H-bomb unless he commits that crime. Mr. Bevan's policy would be an open invitation to the Communists to commit it—to conquer Europe, sweep forward to the Channel ports and then destroy our cities by "—
§ Mr. Lloyd
I continue the quotation—thousands of super V-2s with non-nuclear warheads. In such a war nuclear weapons would, in the end, be used, but we should have sacrificed the whole purpose for which they have been made—of preventing criminals from starting war. For what other reason did the Labour Government make the atomic bomb? Why should we now increase the risk by throwing this deterrent power away?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Did I not go on to say that Britain should put forward at once practical disarmament proposals and that since 1951 the Government had done nothing serious about that at all?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
— that the Anglo-French plan as drafted by him contained four major objectives— the total abolition of all nuclear weapons as soon as possible; the total abolition of all other weapons of mass destruction; the reduction of manpower to 1 million for the major Powers, and further reductions at an early stage thereafter. He knows that, as redrafted in 1956, every one of those objectives was taken out of the Anglo-French plan by us, and nothing but a lot of extremely complicated procedure remained.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I do not accept for one moment what the right hon. Gentleman has said. [HON. MEMBERS: "0h."] I would welcome a chance of debating this matter more fully. [HON. MEMBERS: "Now."]
The point is that the right hon. Gentleman said in the speech to which I referred:Why should we now increase the risk by throwing this deterrent power away?That is the point of this quotation. And the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) said:We cannot scrap our own defence programme, of which the heart is, today, the development of our own nuclear and thermonuclear weapons, until we succeed in getting world-wide disarmament. To do so would merely make Britain's voice for peace an impotent crying in the wilderness.Having cleared up the point that we must retain the nuclear deterrent, that we must make our contribution to that, we now come to the question of limitation. Here I think it is the desire on both sides of the House to try to make progress. On the advice which we were receiving up to a few months ago it seemed to us possible to have an agreement for the limitation of test explosions which would be comparatively simple to operate. As the Prime Minister said, the essential thing 164 was that it was then thought possible, by monitoring, sampling, and other devices, to tell from a considerable distance how many bombs were being exploded and what sort of bombs they were. It is now clear that is no longer the case. New techniques have been or are being developed so that if the observers or the instruments are 1,000 or more miles away —as they must be from central Siberia—the facts cannot be ascertained. As the Prime Minister said, it is quite possible that we may have no knowledge that certain Soviet tests have taken place. This means that any agreement for limiting tests must be more complex than we had previously thought possible.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am afraid that my time is limited and I cannot give way again. It means that the agreement could not be policed from a distance but only from the place where the tests were being conducted. That is why the communiqué speaks ofmore general nuclear control agreements.We shall still seek an agreement to limit tests, and we do not insist that it should form part of a general disarmament agreement. In regard to that I think the importance of the Bermuda communiqué has been underestimated. The United States Government and we ourselves accepted the proposal for registration, and we offer in addition limited international observation, provided that the Soviet Union agrees to do likewise. That, I think, is a first step towards an agreement upon limitation. Quite apart from that, we will limit tests in a manner which will keep world radiation from rising by more than a small fraction of the levels which might be hazardous. Is the Soviet Union prepared to do the same?
§ Mr. Lloyd
Is the Soviet Union ready to consider the possibility of limitation in the number of tests, the size of tests and the amount of fissionable material involved in the tests? Is it prepared to consider discussions upon the means of policing such limitations? Has it any other limitation formulae to put forward? Can we not reach agreement to a certain extent in this field with further agreement as to the methods by which 165 the remaining differences could he examined and settled?
If we are ever to have a disarmament agreement there must be some form of a board of control. Would it be possible for that board of control, pending the cessation of all tests, to be given authority to call upon the Governments to limit the tests of nuclear and thermo-nuclear explosive devices, specifying the method and the degree of such limitations? Would it be possible to require the parties to give to the board advance notice of the intention to make such tests and to arrange for limited observation by representatives of the board of the tests?
These are matters which are now being discussed and put forward in the Disarmament Sub-Committee which has been meeting in Lancaster House this afternoon. These are matters—I think it is the right place to do so—which are now being raised with the Soviet Union. This is a field in which we all hope it may be possible to make some progress so far as it is technically possible to do so, but that is quite a separate issue from the holding of our own tests.
With regard to the holding of our own tests I repeat some of the medical data which has already been given, which shows that our own tests will only have an infinitesimal effect on the dangers of radiation in the atmosphere, either external or internal. I will not repeat to the House the figures for external radiation which were given by the Prime Minister. I think it has been generally agreed that for external radiation we are still very far from anything which might resemble a danger point, but more anxiety has been expressed about the internal radiation and strontium 90.
The facts, as far as I understand them, are that 1,000 units is the maximum permissible level for adults in special occupations and 100 units is the maximum allowable concentration in the bones of the general population with its proportion of young children. The present average level is under one unit in this country. I agree with the right hon. Member for Derby, South that that will rise somewhat owing to the tests which have already taken place, but the figure will still be low. I also agree that there are exceptional cases where the concentration for particular individuals is larger.
166 The position of the Medical Research Council is the essence of the matter, and it is that if the concentration in human bones were to show signs of rising greatly beyond 10 units the matter would require immediate consideration; and the figure of 10 units there is an average. The Medical Research Council says that if it were to show signs of rising greatly beyond that figure the matter would require immediate consideration. Those signs do not yet exist. In fact, we are very far from that position. Our own tests can make only an insignificant addition from the point of view of internal radiation.
§ Mr. Davies
I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. I respect him because he stuck at the Box when other people were running away. I hope he will treat this as a genuine difference. Does he not realise that the Western world is continually using the Pacific Ocean as a private lake in which to explode these bombs? Does he not realise that protest is mounting continuously among the Asian people? The Marshall Islanders are already under an exposure higher than anywhere else in the world. If the next test will have such insignificant results as the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggests, might the bomb not be exploded in the Atlantic Ocean?
§ Mr. Davies
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman in order when he imputes that I have some ulterior motive in putting my argument? He well knows that the Asian people have protested to the United Nations and about Soviet Russia.
§ Mr. Healey rose—167
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I have said before that it is disorderly for hon. Members to remain standing unless the Minister gives way.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I presume that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is leaving the question of nuclear tests. He has not answered a question which I put this afternoon and which I must put again. Is it a fact that the undetectable explosions which he described are equally dangerous to health as the previously detectable explosions?
§ Mr. Lloyd
It depends how it is done. There are different methods, and one method might not be as dangerous as another.
I can assure the hon. Member, in respect to the China trade, that I would have dealt more fully with the point, but two minutes which I proposed to give to it have already been taken up. We put forcibly the point of view about the British exporter; it does not make sense that people who are on short time should not be allowed to sell things to China which they are allowed to sell to the Soviet Union. We have put that point of view with force. We are prepared to wait, but only a little longer, to see whether by further effort we can proceed by agreement with the United States and our other friends and allies.
The position about the Suez Canal was mentioned in a number of speeches. Our position is that no agreement which is not based on the six principles can be satisfactory. We do not think that the Egyptian draft memorandum already produced is sufficiently based on those six principles. Consultations have taken place with the United States Government, the French and other Governments, and the United States is now putting the Western view to Egypt. In the meantime, our ships have been advised not to use the Canal.
I have been asked what will happen if the Egyptian Government do not modify their present proposals at all. I should like to make it clear that comments were invited upon this draft memorandum. The question is, what will happen if no attention is paid to the comments which have been made? There are 168 various courses which could be taken. For example, the Security Council is already seized of the problem, but I think it would be most unwise, while the matter is still under discussion, to indicate what particular course we and our allies will take. I repeat again what I said the other day, that it is in the interests of the Egyptian Government to come to some arrangement which will have the confidence of the users of the Canal.
So far as Aqaba is concerned, there was full discussion at Bermuda of the declarations by both our Governments with regard to freedom of passage through the Straits of Tiran. We adhere to that position. We hope that there will be no difficulties. We think that the continued presence of the United Nations force will help. We made a decision as to consultation with other maritime Powers, and there is broad agreement between us as to what our position would be. [Interruption.] At the moment I think that that situation is taken care of because the United Nations Force is in position on the borders of the Straits of Tiran and I do not think that trouble need be anticipated there in the immediate future. We believe in the right of innocent passage through the Straits of Tiran.
As regards Gaza, we have had some reports on the result of Mr. HammarskjÖld's mission and his efforts to establish arrangements agreeable to both sides. I think that the status and function of the United Nations Force are essential features of such an arrangement. I think that there is ground for a small amount of optimism that the Secretary-General may have succeeded in achieving an arrangement which will last for some little time.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition ended his speech with a passage about what he called the "Bromberger revelations". The French Foreign Office has described all the reports of a diplomatic nature contained in the book as "of the highest fantasy". It was stated that they considered it inadmissible that Franco-British relations should be brought into question and Israeli interests harmed by irresponsible and ill-informed journalists. I have already stated to the House that we did not incite Israel to attack nor was there any agreement between us about it. So 169 far as prior knowledge is concerned, in a speech which I made on the 5th December I set out, as reported in two columns of HANSARD, the extent of our knowledge of what was likely to happen between Israel and Egypt. There really is nothing shabby in this story at all except the attitude of Her Majesty's Opposition. Nothing did more to weaken our position abroad and to make the action which we took less likely to succeed than the action of Her Majesty's Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the "Suez fiasco". I say that the "Suez fiasco" was the attitude of right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
It is still my belief that we were right to intervene. We stopped a small war from spreading into a larger one, and not even the Opposition has been able to refute the words of the Egyptian Commander-in-Chief on that point. We awakened everybody to the dangerous situation in the Middle East, and particularly to Communist penetration. The United Nations Force is now in position, and the United States Government have realised the need for more active participation in the political and military affairs of the area.
The evil consequences, such as the breaking of the pipeline and the blocking of the Canal were all going to be tried sooner or later by unfriendly Governments. I believe that the action which we took then has given an important impetus to the plans to make us less dependent in future on existing means for moving oil, and I should have thought that not even the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) could dispute 170 that. I thought that he was always rather in favour of these alternative methods—
§ Mr. Stokes rose—
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am sorry, I have only two minutes left.
I know that in some quarters I was accused of being complacent, but I still think that the effect of the military operations between Israel and Egypt has been to reduce the nervousness of Israel about impending attack, and to reduce the desire of the Arab States to attack Israel. I think, therefore, that there is a situation which does give some ground for hope in the Middle East. But, above all, what we have to do in this interim period is to try to prevent conditions on the frontiers relapsing to the situation which existed in September and October—when, as I have told the House before, 160 men women and children were killed on the frontiers of Jordan and Israel alone.
The Bermuda Conference was a friendly one. I think that great good will was shown. We had a series of frank talks in which each side spoke its mind. I believe that the meeting produced a better understanding, agreement on certain important points and a determination to work together in the future. I claim that it was a successful meeting. That is, after all, important to all of us, because on the friendship and co-operation of the English-speaking people, within their alliances, depends the security of the free world.
§ Mr. Edward Wakefield (Lord Commissioner of the Treasury)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.