§ [FOURTH DAY]
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [5th November]:
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.—[Lady Tweedsmuir.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 11.15 a.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
In the Gracious Speech, Her Majesty referred, first, to the visit which the President of the Italian Republic is to pay to this country next May. I think that one of the most satisfactory developments in the post-war era has been the steady improvement in our relations with Italy. We are firm friends, and our two Governments work closely together with mutual confidence and understanding. We look forward very much to the visit of the President as setting the seal upon this relationship.
Several references were made also in earlier speeches to the second paragraph in the Gracious Speech referring to the visit paid by Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip to Canada and the United States. I was not present in Canada, but I had the honour of attending Her Majesty in the United States and I was, therefore, able to witness at first hand the warmth of the welcome she received. I feel that I should just say to the House, of my own knowledge, that the visit was an outstanding success and a great personal triumph for Her Majesty and His Royal Highness, and I believe that it was a notable contribution to good relations between our two countries for wihch we should all be deeply grateful.
During her visit Her Majesty the Queen went to the United Nations and addressed a crowded General Assembly 470 there. I want to begin by saying something about the United Nations. In the speech which I made there during the General Debate, I referred to the Secretary-General's introduction to the Annual Report on the Work of the Organisation, June, 1956—June, 1957. In that introduction, there is a passage dealing with the rôle of the United Nations, which deserves careful study by us all. It is a very fair assessment of the way in which the United Nations is developing and should develop.
The Secretary-General points out what the United Nations is not, that the Charter does not endow it with the attributes of a super-State or of a body active outside the framework of decisions of member Governments. The General Assembly is not a parliament of elected individual members, and the limits within which its power can develop are set by the balance of the forces in the world and the facts of international life at any particular time. It cannot be transformed—I am dealing with the Secretary-General's views—into a world authority enforcing the law upon the nations. He goes on to say that it is an instrument of negotiation among, and to some extent for, Governments. It is a means of concerting action by Governments in support of the goals of the Charter.
The greatest need today is to blunt the edges of conflict among the nations and not to sharpen them. If properly used, the United Nations, in the Secretary-General's view, can serve diplomacy of reconciliation better than any other available instrument. His view is that, in spite of temporary developments in the opposite direction under the influence of acute tension, the tendency in the United Nations is to wear away or break down differences and thus help towards solutions.
On the difficult topic of one vote for one nation irrespective of size or strength, and consequently, upon the topic of responsibility or irresponsibility, Mr. Hammarskjöld confines himself to saying that the two-thirds rule, which applies to all major decisions of the General Assembly, should serve as a reasonable assurance. He wisely points out that enforcement action by the United Nations under Chapter VII has not been constitutionally transferred to the General 471 Assembly by the "Uniting for Peace" resolution. He contends that the processes of debate and vote are an essential part of the work of the United Nations, but he adds that, if it is accepted that the primary value of the United Nations is to serve as an instrument of negotiation, voting victories are likely to be illusory unless they are steps in the direction of winning lasting consent to a peaceful and just settlement of the questions at issue.
He points that there is plenty of scope in the United Nations for adjustment and negotiation, quite apart from its public proceedings. He refers to the innovations, so far as the practices of the United Nations are concerned, which have been witnessed this year. One of these with which we all are familiar is the United Nations Emergency Force. He considers that the exploration of such opportunities and the evolution of emphasis and practice is a more urgent task than formal constitutional changes.
I have gone at some length into these views of the Secretary-General because I believe that these opinions are extremely wise and they form a realistic doctrine round which opinion of all sorts can rally at a time when there has been some uncertainty in many peoples' minds about the United Nations. I do not think that we can accept the view that the United Nations should never be criticised, but we have to steer a middle course between believing in its complete infallibility and automatic condemnation of it. I think that those views of the Secretary-General do provide a sound doctrine.
The basic point is that the primary purpose in the mind of everyone taking part in meetings of the United Nations should be to serve what Mr. Hammerskjöld describes as the diplomacy of reconciliation. If these are the purposes behind the debates they will help and not hinder. I am not blaming or criticising any one country, but too often there are discussions in which it is quite obvious that the sole purpose of the participants is propaganda in the cold war or in some other dispute between nations.
If there is a genuine desire to find common ground I think that the debates serve a useful purpose. I think that the General Assembly came extremely well 472 out of the debate on the Syrian complaint against Turkey. In that case the Communist bloc did try to use that debate for cold war propaganda purposes, but they failed because the general feeling of the Assembly, including that of many Asian and African members, was against giving the affair a cold war slant. The offer to mediate by Saudi Arabia called the bluff of those who wished only to make trouble, and eventually the debate fizzled out, but with, I think, a real lessening of tension, although I think that reconciliation may still be some time off.
Connected with the United Nations there is another matter about which I should like to say a word, and that is with regard to the International Court of justice—the optional Clause of the Statute of the International Court. Questions on that were put down to me by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas) which were not reached last week, and I think that it might be best if I dealt with them in a speech rather than by Question and Answer.
The optional Clause is concerned with the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court. Very few countries have accepted that Clause unconditionally. I think that they are in fact three—Haiti, Nicaragua and Paraguay. Others, about a dozen, have accepted subject only to reciprocity—China, Colombia, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Liechtenstein, Norway, Panama, Philippines, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay. A further fifteen or so have accepted with specific reservations varying in their extent—Netherlands, Luxembourg, Australia, Canada, Salvador, France, Israel, Liberia, Mexico, Pakistan. Portugal, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Finally, there are over fifty countries which have not accepted the optional Clause at all. Great Britain has always been in the category accepting with reservations.
When our declaration was first made in 1929 it was limited to future disputes, it was conditioned by reciprocity, and there was a further condition reserving the right to require the suspension of any proceedings started before the Court in respect of any dispute which had been submitted to the Council of the League of Nations.
473 In addition, there were three specific reservations. The first was in respect of disputes in regard to which the parties had agreed to have recourse to some other methods of peaceful settlement; secondly, disputes with other members of the Commonwealth, and thirdly disputeswith regard to questions which, by international law, fall exclusively within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom.When I examined the position earlier this year, I became aware, I confess for the first time, of two matters which seemed to me to be quite unacceptable from our point of view. The first arose from the fact that a country can accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court ad hoc for the purpose of a particular case or dispute.
It can thus take another country to the Court in that case, another country which has given a standing acceptance of the Court's compulsory jurisdiction, but when that particular case is over the first country is again immune from proceedings related to any other dispute because it only accepted the jurisdiction of the Court for a particular case.
I do not think that that can possibly be described as accepting the jurisdiction of the Court on a basis of reciprocity. I am advised that when our standing acceptance was originally deposited, it was only intended to compel us to appear before the Court at the instance of countries which had likewise deposited a standing acceptance of the Court's compulsory jurisdiction.
Accordingly, one of our new reservations, which was intended to meet this point, specifically excludes disputes in which the other party has accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court only for the purposes of that particular dispute. It also excludes, for basically similar reasons, any case where the other party to the dispute has entered a standing acceptance of the Court's compulsory jurisdiction only a comparatively short time before bringing the matter before the Court, namely, if the acceptance was made less than twelve months before the matter is brought before the Court.
I do not seek to shirk any point upon this, but an example which comes to one's mind is a matter like nuclear tests. I think that it is agreed between us that there should not be unilateral cessation of tests. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I think 474 that it was agreed between us all that there should not be unilateral cessation of tests by this country alone.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
What we have proposed and urged upon the Government is that there should be a suspension of tests by us for a limited period in the hope that during that period full international agreement could be reached.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I said "cessation". Perhaps I wrongly used the word but I think that it was agreed that there should not be unilateral cessation of tests, although there might be suspension for a limited time. I was dealing with the question of cessation. It means that therefore an Iron Curtain country could say for the purpose of some dispute regarding tests that they would accept the jurisdiction of the Court and take us to the Court and get a temporary injunction. The Court might sit down for a year or two in litigation; and when the case had been decided one way or another, that Iron Curtain country could get away from the jurisdiction of the Court—it would no longer be subject to it—and we could not take similar action with regard to it should we so desire.
I think that is a quite intolerable position which cannot be defended on the basis of reciprocity at all.
The second matter deals with disputes about questions affecting our national security. The United States has made a reservation excluding disputes with regard to matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of the United States as determined by the United States. France has a similar reservation, and I think that India, before she withdrew from the jurisdiction of the Court last year, had a similar reservation.
In a recent case between France and Norway, Norway asserted that the principle of reciprocity gave the Norwegian Government the same right as France to pronounce whether a dispute concerned matters within her domestic jurisdiction or not. I think that in matters of national security we have to reserve our position when other countries do. When every country of the Soviet bloc does so and when our principal allies do so, we also reserve our position.
475 Action was accordingly taken by Her Majesty's Government on 18th April. The Secretary-General circulated our document to all the member States in May and we also communicated with the Registrar of the International Court. We followed the same procedure as on the last occasion in 1955 when a change in our reservations had been made. We have no wish to weaken respect for the Court. We believe in it and we believe in the principle behind the Court, but there must be reciprocity. I think that has always been regarded as a fundamental principle, and that is the way in which we must approach our acceptance of its jurisdiction.
§ Sir Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester, North-East)
Does the Foreign Secretary suggest that the United States reservation to which he has referred is identical with the one which this Government have made? That is the tendency of his speech. Does he really suggest that a matter like the legality or illegality of the exclusion of shipping, for instance, for the purpose of hydrogen bomb tests is a matter entirely for domestic jurisdiction? Does he think that that would be covered by the reservation of the United States in the same way as it certainly would be covered by the reservations we have made?
§ Mr. Lloyd
The question of fall-out affecting shipping from an explosion over the territory of the United States would be covered by the United States reservation. Of course, the two cases are not comparable—I admit that straight away. Although I do not want to weaken the force of the reservation, I would also say that I have not intended the terms of that reservation, nor have Her Majesty's Government, necessarily to be final. It is a matter which we want further to consider. It seems to me, however, that one has to preserve the essential rights of this country. On the question of fallout, the Soviet Union can have its tests and the fall-out can come over all the neighbouring countries if need be and there is no remedy. I maintain that if we exercise our rights, our proceedings should not be subject to the jurisdiction of the International Court unless everybody accepts the same jurisdiction.
I should like now to deal briefly with the question of disarmament. I have 476 said before that in seeking common ground for progress there are certain essential considerations. First, a comprehensive disarmament plan covering all stages of disarmament is not practical politics. Therefore, we have to seek a partial plan. Secondly, it would be unwise to seek to impose political preconditions for a partial agreement. Thirdly, nuclear disarmament and conventional disarmament must proceed together. Fourthly, control is the test for progress.
A partial agreement should extend as far as the area of control which is acceptable and practicable in the present state of the world, because verbal agreements without control are without value. Therefore, we stand by the balanced Plan which was put forward in the Sub-Committee and in the Political Committee of the General Assembly. The Soviet Union rejected that plan.
It should be clearly understood what the Russians rejected. They rejected a plan which would have included the suspension of tests and which would have included a future cut-off of production of nuclear material for weapons purposes. They rejected agreement on the ceilings for conventional forces and the beginning of some kind of control of conventional armaments. They rejected anti-surprise attack measures involving air and ground inspection, which, in my view, would have done a great deal to diminish tension and suspicion.
I regret very much the Soviet rejection of those proposals, because on every point there had already been agreement on the principle involved, except, perhaps, concerning the system of control of the future cut-off in manufacture. We were not, however, asking for agreement on a system of control straight away. There would have been time after the suspension of tests had come into operation for agreement to be worked out about the control of the cut-off in manufacture.
As the House knows, the United Nations has overwhelmingly endorsed our plan. The voting was 57 for it, 9 against and 15 abstentions. That is an impressive demonstration of world opinion in support of our proposals. It is also important to remember that they had already been accepted by the fifteen N.A.T.O. countries. That gives great force to them as a reasonable proposition.
477 Everyone will ask, what next? I hope very much that the Soviet Union will have second thoughts. I hope the Russians will recognise and accept the opinions expressed by the United Nations. This would give a great opportunity for getting on with the job.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
The decision to which the Foreign Secretary has just referred was taken in the Political Committee. Was it intended that the matter should now be referred to a plenary session of the General Assembly?
§ Mr. Lloyd
Yes, it will have to be. The resolution passed by the Political Committee will have to go to the General Assembly.
The only other aspect to which I want to refer is the Soviet statement that they will not take any further part in the work of the Sub-Committee. That Sub-Committee really had its origins in the private meetings held in the 1951 Assembly in Paris, when, after several days of open debate with Mr. Vyshinsky, in his most vitriolic form, it was suggested by some of the smaller countries that the President of the Assembly should have private talks with Mr. Vyshinsky, M. Jules Moch, representing France, Dr. Jessup, representing the United States, and myself. We had those talks for some ten days. The meetings were private.
According to my recollection, there was no verbatim record and there was simply an agreed report at the end, It was thought at the time that those meetings did a little to reduce the temperature and improve the atmosphere of future discussions. Because of that, at the following General Assembly the idea of a Sub-Committee was put forward. I think it is still a valuable idea. I have never thought that the Sub-Committee should sit month after month with verbatim records, Press hand-outs and all that sort of thing. The object of the Sub-Committee should be to afford an opportunity to those principally concerned to have private meetings, not very lengthy ones, from time to time to test out the ground to see whether there is the possibility of agreement. I should like to get back to that conception of the work of the Sub-Committee.
If a meeting of that sort made real progress, so far as we are concerned we 478 would gladly have further discussions on a higher level. But it seems to us that the best opportunity for making real progress is in a private meeting of that nature. The Soviet counter-suggestion is that all the eighty-two members of the United Nations could form a permanent disarmament commission. I cannot see the value of that. There is already a Political Committee of the United Nations, there is the General Assembly and there are debates on disarmament each year for several weeks; and I think that such a suggestion would have the effect of putting the Political Committee of the United Nations into permanent session on disarmament. Quite frankly I think that that would make any hope of progress almost impossible. It would become a pure propaganda exercise. That proposal was rejected by 9 votes to 51, with 21 abstentions.
Whatever happens about these procedures on disarmament, I hope that some action will be taken on the proposals which I myself made during the summer, repeated in this House and repeated at the United Nations during the General Debate, for some progress by working groups on the particular technical and practical problems involved. That is included in the 24-Power resolutions and I hope we shall be able to make progress with that.
Disarmament, however, is only one aspect of our relations with the Soviet Union. The dominating question and the only other matter with which I want to deal this morning is the relations between the Soviet Union and the Western world: what are they to be for the next few years? Mr. Khrushchev, in his speech on Wednesday, called for summit talks, concerning which I have just three observations to make.
Summit talks which are a failure do more harm than no talks at all. That does not mean, however, that we believe that no summit talks should ever take place. It does mean, thirdly, that we consider that they should be carefully prepared and there should be a reasonable chance of some constructive agreement resulting from them. The problems which confront the world are complex and baffling and the idea that they can be solved by a few speeches and some convivial meetings and a banquet or two 479 gives an absolutely false impression. What we want is some proof by deed that the Soviet Government genuinely wishes to reduce tension and to live at peace: in other words, that the Russians mean a summit meeting to result in action.
I remind the House that at the last summit meetings the leaders of the Soviet Union pledged themselves to the reunification of Germany by free elections. That was in 1955. They have not shown the slightest sign of willingness to implement that pledge. I do not think it is unreasonable for us to desire tangible evidence of readiness to agree upon issues like that. All sides of the House would, I think, agree that we want—
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
Can my right hon. and learned Friend concede it as possible that the Soviet Union has a different definition of "free elections" from the Western world and that no progress whatever will be made until a definition is applied to the method of free elections?
§ Mr. Lloyd
That point was discussed at great length. The importance of the 1955 Declaration was that it recognised a Four-Power responsibility for the reunification of Germany. The present attitude of the Soviet Union, as I understand it, is that they are saying that it is not our responsibility at all and is a matter which must be negotiated between the regime in East Germany and the Federal Republic. I was using that only as an example of a subject where it is not unreasonable to ask for some progress to be made.
I was about to say that everyone here very much wants to live at peace and in friendship with the Soviets. We remember the comradeship of the war, the tremendous sacrifices made to help them in their struggle, for example the Arctic convoys, the admiration we had for the courage and tenacity which they displayed and the great sacrifices which they made. There was every reason why after the war there should have been a more cordial chapter in the relations between the two peoples. In accordance with that hope, the West withdrew and gave up many hundreds of miles in Europe at the end of hostilities. In 1946, the United States, France and the United 480 Kingdom offered a guarantee to the Soviet Union against the danger of a new German aggression. We carried our own disarmament very far.
But our hopes were not realised, and from the beginning there were all sorts of suspicions on the part of the Soviet Union with regard to the West and relations did not improve. Every action taken by the West has been the consequence of some action taken by the Soviet Union—the Berlin blockade, the rape of Czechoslovakia produced N.A.T.O., the Communist aggression in Korea produced rearmament, the Soviet propaganda against her southern neighbours produced the Bagdad Pact and the delivery of £180 million worth of arms to Egypt was the underlying cause, whatever we may think about them, of events in the Middle East last year.
During the past six years there was one phase during which it looked as though there would be an improvement in our relations. After Stalin's death in 1953, there appeared to be a change. The speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) on 11th May, 1953, received a warm welcome and it led eventually to the summit meeting of 1955. After that, there was the visit of Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev to this country, and it was our belief and hope that the inauguration of more liberal tendencies within the Soviet Union, in its legal procedures, in its conditions of work, in its social services and contacts with foreigners might create a climate of opinion which would welcome coexistence that would really be peaceful and that if that climate of opinion were created, it would impose or impress that view on the rulers of the Soviet Union.
We have to face the fact that during the past twelve months the situation has changed. It has not improved. There has been increased tension and uncertainty. One reason for that has been the struggle for power which has been going on within the Soviet Union itself. I do not want to discuss that in any detail or too personally, but we all have a shrewd idea of what has been happening. The struggle for power there has added an element of uncertainty in the world situation. Next, and more important, is still the uncertainty which I certainly feel about the Soviets' actual 481 intentions. Has there been any change in their ultimate objective of world power and world revolution?
In his speech on Wednesday, Mr. Khrushchev said:Socialism and capitalism exist on the same planet and their co-existence is a socialist inevitability.Those are the words. I am not sure that I exactly understand what the last phrase means. The test is the deeds and the story of deeds is plain to see. I think that here we view this much more in sorrow than in anger. All the Soviets' current actions seem designed to cause the maximum trouble to Britain and our friends. They are pouring arms into an area where at the moment there is the greatest tension. They put forward resolutions advocating the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries and they couple with that a verbal onslaught on the Governments of the Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Iran calling upon the peoples of those countries to rise up against them.
They conduct a propaganda campaign against this country in the Middle East, the violence of which is equalled only by its lack of veracity. On the Soviet radio there are stories about General Glubb leading a large British Army into Oman and butchering large numbers of civilians. In the recent debate at the United Nations about Syria and Turkey, Mr. Gromyko deliberately attempted to inflame the situation, to raise the tension. The attempt fortunately failed ignominiously.
In his speech on Wednesday, Mr. Khrushchev said:The imperialists are trying at all costs to prolong their domination in the Asian and African countries. One must not minimise the danger threatening the peoples of the East. Immutable historic facts, however, prove that the decline of imperialism in the East is about to begin. The peoples of Asia and Africa possess disinterested friends in the Soviet Union.Never has so much suppression of the truth and suggestion of the false been crammed into a few short sentences. Let us consider the record of Governments of both parties with regard to India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma and what we have just done in Ghana and Malaya—the processes of constitutional evolution which are taking place everywhere.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I should have thought that even the hon. Member could have been proud of what has been done.
Let us take the Colombo Plan, for example. The beneficiaries of the Colombo Plan are by no means all members of the Commonwealth or in a pro-Western alliance. There are many other beneficiaries. During 1956 and 1957 the amount of external resources directed to the region of the Plan was about 1,000 million dollars, made available by the member countries in the form of economic and technical assistance. From the beginning of the Colombo Plan to the middle of 1957, the total external aid has amounted to about 3,500 million dollars. It is impossible to assess in monetary terms the economic value of technical assistance provided in the form of training of experts, but since 1950, training has been extended to approximately 6,000 trainees from countries of the area and about 6,000 experts have been provided by Colombo Plan members and United Nations Agencies.
That, I suppose, according to the current Soviet doctrine is Western Imperialism in Asia. That is only a fraction of what the free world is doing and is trying to do. What the Soviet Union has been doing is to buy primary products and in return to sell second-hand, obsolescent arms.
As for the Soviet Union being disinterested, the only empire which has steadily grown since 1945 has been that of the Soviet Union. Any attempt by the subject nations to break away has been ruthlessly suppressed, as in Hungary. Therefore, I say that it is not just the words that matter, it is the deeds. When action is taken to stop the propaganda campaigns and to stop the attempts to undermine our influence, then we can believe in their desire for a co-existence which will be genuinely peaceful.
In his last speech Mr. Khrushchev appealed for the end of the cold war. Many of us here have met him, and I certainly enjoyed the several meetings which I had with him in April, 1956. We are aware of the mercurial temperament of the present ruler of the Soviet Union. We saw it redound to our advantage the other day when in one exuberant moment at the Turkish Embassy in Moscow he blew out of the water the whole of the Russian case against Turkey over Syria.
483 To return to his speech, nothing would please us better than an end to the cold war. We did not start it, but it is no good appealing verbally for the end of the cold war until there have been matching deeds and it is impossible for us to accept the view that the Russians' objective is peaceful co-existence until that has been proved by their actions.
If the Soviet Union wants to end the cold war, let it stop seeking to undermine us throughout the world; let it stop the campaign to increase tension in the Middle East, let it stop trying to make propaganda out of its postures on disarmament; let it stop using the United Nations purely as a platform for an attack upon the West; let it show by its attitude to matters like German reunification, the Arab-Israel dispute, and the flow in arms to the Middle East that it is prepared to work for a settlement of existing disputes. It will not find us slow to respond, to help and to do all we can in making progress towards genuine peace.
In the meantime, in the context of Mr. Khrushchev's speech, in his hostility to capitalism and, as I read the speech, in his hostility to what people might call democratic Socialism, it is impossible for the people of this country to stand aside, to adopt a position of not caring, or neutrality and of acting as some sort of third force. Until there is clear proof that the co-existence that is desired is to lead to peace and will not just be a springboard for further infiltration and subversion, we have to look to our alliances and maintain our defences—and do that not only militarily but economically, politically, and psychologically.
I could not quite help getting the impression from Mr. Khrushchev's speech that he considered that Great Britain did not matter very much in the modern world, and that we were being elbowed out of the way by some other countries, such as Western Germany. He spoke of Britain and France in rather derogatory terms. Many others had made that kind of miscalculation before. We are quite accustomed to being underrated. That need not deter us at all, provided that it is a spur to greater effort.
With regard to France, I should like to take this opportunity of expressing our 484 good wishes to her new Prime Minister. The Entente Cordiale is a living reality to the people of this country. We rejoice when France is strong and sorrow when she is in difficulties. Whatever may happen, there is a very strong relationship and a deep affection and esteem, and we wish this new and young Prime Minister, facing very difficult problems, all success.
One of the difficulties of these debates is that one has to spend so much time dealing with what other people are saying or doing; but there is very much for us to do on our own. The Prime Minister, in his speech on Tuesday, spoke of the Washington discussions as having been a turning point, with the conception of an interdependent free world. That is true. It is a bold and imaginative prospect that the nations of the West should resolve to pool their resources and stand together. We do that not because we are afraid but because we believe that in unity lies strength. I look forward to the December meeting of N.A.T.O., when ways and means must be considered. But that is not the end of the road. We hope that the time will come when conditions will make it possible for that conception to extend to all the nations of the world.
In the meantime we have to be firm in the face of the dangers—and they are very real—at the same time being ready to play our part in reducing the current tensions and achieving a really peaceful co-existence, with the ultimate hope that it may lead to the wide peace of which I have just spoken.
§ 11.52 a.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
The Foreign Secretary has spoken mainly about various aspects of the work of the United Nations, and I shall do the same. I will begin, however, with what the Prime Minister said on Tuesday about my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). I was astonished that any Member of the present Government should attempt to give my right hon. Friend such a gratuitous and inappropriate reproof. Has the Prime Minister really forgotten the Tory Motion that stood on the Order Paper for four whole months? It was withdrawn only on 1st April—a most appropriate day.
The Lord President—the new Messiah of the Tory Party—has thought it right 485 to join the Prime Minister in his reproof. Has the Prime Minister forgotten that a year ago the Lord President said that he was ashamed that he was half American? Has he forgotten that he insulted an eminent American, General Wheeler, and said that he was talking nonsense about the Suez Canal? [HON. MEMBERS: "So he was."] Events have proved that it was the Lord President who was talking nonsense—and he is talking nonsense still.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The less advice that hon. Members opposite give us about Anglo-American relations the better for us all. My right hon. Friend, with his usual candour, has been discussing in America the great issues on which there has to be agreement between them and us—China, Germany, summit meetings and the rest. Candour is a quality which the Americans understand and appreciate. I am sure that my right hon. Friend has done nothing but good.
I want to say a word to the Joint Under-Secretary of State. He made a speech a week or two ago, the precise purport of which I found it hard to understand. He talked vaguely about the harsh conflict between idealism and realism—the well-worn Tory line which Benjamin Disraeli debunked a century ago. The Joint Under-Secretary said that before the war the Tory Party were landed with the idealists' League of Nations and that, like the hard-headed realists they were, they found that it would not work.
If I may say so without seeming to be patronising, the Joint Under-Secretary is one of the younger and more promising Members of the Government Front Bench. I hope that he will spend a little time in reading the speeches of his right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), published under the title "Into Battle." I think that he will find himself persuaded that the realists were the people who urged that the League of Nations should be upheld, and the illusionists—they were not idealists—were those who betrayed the pledges of the Covenant, discredited and broke up the League of Nations, and left us, without allies, to face the triple onslaught of the Nazi and Fascist dictators of Germany, Italy and Japan.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The noble Lord says "without arms"—after a Tory Government had been in office for most of twenty years.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ian Harvey)
Since the right hon. Gentleman has done me the honour of referring to my speech, I think that he should quote what I said correctly. I do not know where he got his quotations, but they are an inaccurate record of everything that I said.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
If I have misrepresented the hon. Member, I withdraw it all. I hope that he will send me a copy of his speech, and if he is right I will send him an apology in writing.
But my argument is valid. Members of his party have always contrasted idealism and realism and have said that international institutions cannot be made to work. I think it will be worth while for the Joint Under-Secretary to read what was said by his right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford, because in this year, in the Middle East, we have been facing crises and dangers which were largely caused by the violation, by another Tory Government, of our pledges under the Charter of the United Nations.
The Foreign Secretary mentioned the dangers in the Middle East very briefly. Those dangers have been real, and perhaps graver than we know. Would they have happened if, on that fatal day a year ago, our delegate in the United Nations, instead of casting a veto, had said what our honourable pledges, legal obligations and vital interests enjoined upon him to say? If he had said, "We stand with the United States behind the Charter, we will fulfil our undertakings under the Tripartite Declaration to resist aggression whether it comes from Israel, Egypt, Jordan or elsewhere"? Everybody knows what would have happened. There would have been no Sinai war; that was impossible with the three great Powers ranged against the aggressor; the authority of the United Nations would have been instantaneously restored; we could have settled the Canal dispute on terms acceptable to the British, Commonwealth and European points of view; there would have been no threats of war 487 in the Middle East this year and, perhaps—who knows?—the negotiation of a Middle Eastern settlement that would have brought those nations a lasting peace might already have begun.
I say all this because I was disturbed by what I understood to be the purport of the Joint Under-Secretary's speech. I was afraid that he might be repeating in public the current Foreign Office talk. One thing is certain; there are grave dangers in the Middle East, and some day—the sooner the better—there must be a real settlement; and, like it or not, the basis of that settlement must be the Charter, and the instrument for its implementation the institutions of the United Nations. That is really what the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Menzies, said in his remarkable speech to his party conference two weeks ago. I was surprised that the Foreign Secretary made no reference to that speech this morning. Let me remind the House of what Mr. Menzies said. He said:Russia, in spite of her own propaganda, had said expressly or by implication in Mr. Khrushchev's letter that she wanted a peaceful and free settlement in the Middle East. The time had therefore come—I am quoting from The Times—for the United Nations to test its own effectiveness and good faith, While resolutely maintaining our resistance to aggression, we must show ourselves ever willing to enter into just arrangements which will broaden the pathways to peace.Mr. Menzies went on to say that Mr. Khrushchev's letter, properly considered, might lead on both sides of the Iron Curtain toa reconstruction of thought about the Middle East,and he outlined the points that must be dealt with if real peace was to be secured. First, he said that there must bea final, guaranteed settlement of the Arab-Israel border dispute.That can only mean a frontier guaranteed by all the great Powers on the basis of the Charter of the United Nations. He said, second, thata settlement of the refugee problemmust be obtained, and that must mean large capital grants instead of the very heavy and never-ending annual subsidies which we have to pay.
488 Third, and I quote again:Co-operation and international guarantees, and not international competition, should govern the development of the areas where there are oil resources.Will the Foreign Secretary be surprised that, when I read those words, I thought of Oman and of his refusal, against the Arabs, America and Sweden to allow the United Nations even to discuss what we did there?
Fourth, Mr. Menzies said thatthe granting of aid to Middle Eastern nations without military strings was a genuine international responsibility.It should not be usedby a single helper or donor as a means of buying power.Fifth, he said:An international commission should be established to advise the Middle Eastern countries on financial and economic problems, and to act as an intermediary with third parties for constructive co-operation and assistance.That, again, can only be a commission appointed by and responsible to the Economic and Social Council of the Assembly of the United Nations. To my mind, that is imaginative, indeed, looking at the Middle East today, idealistic statesmanship; but it is realistic common sense as well. It is the only thing that has a chance of working. We on these benches have often urged it. It is useless to deny Russia an interest in the Middle East. She is a neighbour of the Middle Eastern countries for as many thousand miles as we are far away.
If they want a peaceful settlement, as Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Menzies said, we must meet them and give up trying to deal with Middle Eastern crises by a competition in pouring in vast quantities of arms. We must help the Arabs—a long, delicate, hazardous task—to compose their disputes with Israel, and we must treat the Arabs like adults who are resolved to govern themselves in their own way. We must give up trying to buy them to support us by material aid with military strings, and we must do it through the United Nations on the basis, as Mr. Menzies said, of the Charter.
I say, again, that I am surprised that the Government have never said a single word in support of Mr. Menzies' most important proposition. It is a strange example of Commonwealth co-operation in a region where both Australia and we have vital interests. I hope that the 489 Minister of State will tell us that the Government mean to do so in the United Nations Assembly which is sitting in New York today.
There is another aspect of the United Nations work about which I am very glad the Foreign Secretary spoke.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
On the point about the Australian Prime Minister, has the right hon. Gentleman also noticed his comments on Mr. Khrushchev and his proposals for influence in the Middle East in today's newspapers, which give a very different picture?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am saying what Mr. Menzies said two weeks ago about Mr. Khrushchev's offer in his letter.
§ Mr. Maitland
In this morning's paper there is a quotation from Mr. Menzies which gives a very different picture of the Australian point of view.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am not defending what the Russians have done or are doing in the Middle East. The hon. Gentleman would be making a great mistake if he thought that. I am only saying that Mr. Menzies thought, and we think, that, perhaps, Mr. Khrushchev was offering us an opportunity to settle and that we ought to take it.
§ Mr. Maitland
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way again, but I must point out that today's picture of Mr. Menzies' views is slightly different from the one to which he is alluding. I am sure he will realise that.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I do not think that the hon. Member is carrying the matter any further. If we have lost an opportunity by not acting swiftly on the matter, that would be a great mistake. I am only saying that I do not think it is too late and that I hope the Government are going to try.
I come now to the second matter of which the Foreign Secretary spoke, the International Court and the Optional Clause. Any sensible person will agree that, in the long run, the International Court is vital both to peace and to justice among nations of which the Gracious Speech so often speaks. Justice does not mean, as some people thought it meant a year ago, asserting by force 490 of arms what we claim our rights to he. It means accepting the verdict of impartial judges about the meaning of our treaties and of what the Foreign Secretary once called "customary international law."
Britain has a long and honourable record of sustained endeavour to build up a system for the settlement of disputes by arbitration, from the Jay Treaty with the United States in 1794, the famous Alabama Case in the 1860s, Lord Cecil's work on the constitution of the first Permanent Court in 1920 to the second Labour Government's acceptance of the Optional Clause in 1929, by which we gave the Court, in spite of what the Foreign Secretary said, a compulsory jurisdiction in a very wide range of cases, together with a large number of other Governments who followed our example, and accepted the Optional Clause.
British interests have been well served for many years by the policy of supporting impartial arbitration. I will give only one example. Arbitration has been a major factor in the historical development of our present happy understanding with the people of the United States. But the Tory Party has not done very much to support it in modern times. Between the wars, members of the Tory Party always fought the Court's compulsory jurisdiction. In that same spirit they spurned Nasser's offer to take the Suez Canal dispute before the Court a year ago. Now they have cancelled what the Second Labour Government did in 1929—they have withdrawn our signature to the Optional Clause.
The Foreign Secretary has made the best case he can, but I think that, all the same, he is ashamed of what he has done. I think that is why for four months he never laid a White Paper about it and never even gave the Press the text of our new declaration. I wonder if we should have had it now if the Spectator and the Manchester Guardian had not discovered and published what he had done.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
Is it the slightest use going to international arbitration when the other party does not observe the award arrived at? I have in mind, as I think has the right hon. Gentleman, the very large amount of money owing to us by Albania as 491 a result of an arbitration in our favour of which we have not yet received a penny.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member. I was quite ready for him to raise the point. It was the Labour Government that took the Corfu Channel case to the Court. We got a verdict. We have not got our £750,000, but I would not yet write it off as a bad debt. I am perfectly certain that British interests were immensely well served by going to the Court instead of using force on that occasion. The verdict about passage through channels in territorial waters will be of vital interest to British shipping all over the world, and it is of immense interest in the Gulf of Aqaba today.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
Is the right hon. Gentleman disputing the proposition that when the Labour Government made this declaration they did it really on a basis of reciprocity?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Of course not. We did everything we could to encourage others to follow our example, and at that time many did so. The present action will discourage others from accepting the Optional Clause. I regard that as a disastrous thing.
I was saying, I think, that what the Secretary of State did in not informing the House of Commons about his action in April last was a major violation of the Ponsonby convention that the House shall be informed about changes in our international obligations. It is true—
§ Mr. Lloyd
I had an idea that perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would mention this point. So far as I understand it, the Ponsonby rule extends to bringing before the House of Commons the acceptance of further obligations by treaty. In other words, the House of Commons should be told if the Government are committing the country and the House to extra obligations. It does not apply to the case of this reservation at all.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am surprised that the Foreign Secretary should use such an argument. If, without informing the House, he can withdraw from so vital an instrument as the Optional Clause, is he also saying that he can withdraw, for example, from the I.L.O., or from 492 N.A.T.O., or abjure our signature to the Charter of the United Nations, without giving the House a chance to debate it?
§ Mr. Lloyd
The right hon. Gentleman is being quite unfair about this. He is giving, or seeking to give, the impression that we took no action to inform anybody. Every member of the United Nations was informed, and not confidentially at all, and we informed the Secretary-General. I do not know how soon the right hon. Gentleman knew about it, but I always believed the thing would become a matter of common knowledge within a very short time after the Secretary-General's communication.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I knew about it when the Spectator patriotically published it on 16th August, and the Secretary of State's White Paper significantly followed six days later—but not until then.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
All I can say is that I do my best to follow these matter as closely as I can.
The Foreign Secretary will not deny that the obligatory jurisdiction of the Court is a vital factor in building up a long-term peace system for the world. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has changed our obligation without giving a chance to the House to discuss it before what he did became effective. As he does not claim that he can do it in the other cases I mentioned, I say quite clearly that, under the Ponsonby convention, he was not entitled to do it in this case either. I think that on the grave issue of an international obligation the right hon. and learned Gentleman has treated the House in a way in which it has not been treated for forty years.
I go further. I think that what the right hon. and learned Gentleman did was a smashing blow at British interests in the narrowest, most material and most conservative meaning of the word.
As he says, our declaration is based on reciprocity. It contains the reservation he mentioned, that we may at our discretion refuse the jurisdiction of the Court on any question which, in our judgment, 493 affects national security in any way; in other words, in any question at all. By reciprocity any other State can apply that reservation against us. At a stroke the Foreign Secretary has destroyed our power to use the Court as an instrument for the protection of British interests abroad. The French, who made the reservation he has quoted, have found this year that that is so.
Of course, with our vast commercial, shipping, concession, and investment interests, with the export trade that is still our lifeblood, it is a vital British interest to build up the universal compulsory jurisdiction of the Court as quickly as we can; to create a situation in which, for example, if we have another dispute in the future with Egypt about the Suez Canal, we can take Egypt as of right to the International Court and get a verdict. This may be a long and gradual business, but by their recent action the Government have done everything in their power to delay the day when such a system of compulsory jurisdiction will be accepted throughout the world.
There is another and wider sense in which the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court is vital to British interests. If we are ever to have peace and justice, the Court must come to play as great a part in world affairs as our law courts do in our society here, and as the Supreme Court does in the United States. The authority and prestige of the Court are of vital interest. The Foreign Secretary said this morning that the Government's action in no way weakens our support of the International Court. But the only compulsory jurisdiction of the Court is under the Optional Clause, and that jurisdiction is, in fact, its very life. The learned British judge said this summer of the arguments on the case of the Norwegian loans that reservations like ourstend to impair the legal and moral authority of the Optional Clause.With almost universal national support, the Labour Government thirty years ago said to the other nations, "In future, our international disputes shall be settled by the Court on the basis of the law, and anyone who will accept the Clause, as we do, can at any time take us before the Court." Today, the Tory Government say, "We shall settle our disputes to suit ourselves. We will override or disregard 494 the legal rights of other nations whenever and wherever we like." By their action the Government have done to the International Court this year what they did to the Assembly and the Security Council a year ago.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
Will the right hon. Gentleman help me to refresh my memory? When the late Mr. Ernest Bevin very courageously took action over the Berlin airlift, did he previously seek permission or sanction from the International Court of the United Nations?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I do not understand, Mr. Ernest Bevin was only taking peaceful action, using aircraft to break the illegal Russian blockade. Had he taken Russia to the Court, I am certain that we should have got a verdict against her. It was quite unnecessary, because what he was doing was within our legal rights.
I was saying that if the action of the. Government stood long uncorrected, it would be a grave setback to the cause of establishing justice in international affairs, to which the Government pay lip-service. But I am glad to think that it will not stand long uncorrected. There will soon be another Government that will put it right and will re-assert our British leadership in the world-wide effort to build up the rule of law. In the meantime, this long-concealed action of the Foreign Secretary is typical of his tenure of his present office, and will be remembered as not the least disastrous of his mistakes.
As the Foreign Secretary said, the withdrawal from the Optional Clause was due to the Government's resolve to continue at every cost with their H-bomb tests. Some day—I hope soon—we must debate the work done by the Government in the U.N. Disarmament Sub-Committee and in the Assembly now going on. I want to make observations about some of the issues of immediate importance in the Assembly debates.
The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs kindly sent me the minutes of the Sub-Committee, the verbatim records, which are published some weeks or months after the meetings have come to an end. It is a strange body, in which the five nuclear Powers, Britain, France, Russia, America and 495 Canada, sit in private, but about which each delegate gives his own account whenever he feels inclined. I have spent a large part of the last four summers in studying these records, and I say frankly that on reading this last lot I am left with a feeling of deep disquiet. It has left me with the conviction that some new system of public information is urgently required. Piles of stuff issued like this cannot give hon. Members, the Press, the commentators, a fair chance to know what is going on.
I am left with the conviction that this Sub-Committee, deeply divided, speaking for one-fifth only of mankind, will never agree. The Russians are quite wrong to threaten to withdraw, but Mr. Diefenbaker, the Prime Minister of Canada, was right, in his splendid speech to the Assembly of the United Nations, to suggest that a wider forum may he required. I hope that the Government, in spite of the Russian follies, will urge that now. I believe that it is the only way to restart discussions that may bear fruit.
Reading these records has made me feel that the Government have made tragic errors in the last three years. It was a tragic error to make our volte face in 1955 and to withdraw the objectives which were in the Foreign Secretary's Anglo-French Memorandum of 1954—total abolition of nuclear weapons, total abolition of other weapons of mass destruction, and major reductions of manpower down to 1 million for the strongest Powers and of conventional armaments—objectives which we pressed with great vigour and for very long upon the Russians. The Minister of State nods in agreement. We pressed them for very long and we withdrew them the very minute that the Russians said "Yes".
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Has the Foreign Secretary really read all the minutes when Mr. Nutting was in charge?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
If he will read them again, he will see that what I say is literally and strictly true. We withdrew as soon as the Russians accepted. We suspended—
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Of course, there was a great deal left for negotiation, but on control the Russians went quite as far as the present Western package plan is going to do. I have it here.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
If the Foreign Secretary will look at page 615 of Command Paper 9650 of 1956, he will find what the Russians said about accepting control. They said this:In these conditions, the International Control Organ shall have the following rights and powers:etc. It goes on:
- (a) To exercise control, including inspection on a continuing basis, to the extent necessary to ensure implementation of the above-mentioned convention by all States. The International Control Organ shall exercise these functions, while also enjoying the right to require from States the necessary information."—Staff recruited to carry out the work of inspection shall be selected on an international basis…(c) the Control Organ shall have unimpeded access to records relating to the budgetary appropriations…and(b)…unimpeded access at all times to all objects of control.Of course we had to negotiate about what were the objects of control, but the Russians have not held back on granting full and permanent inspection in their nuclear power plants, provided a comprehensive agreement on armaments had been made.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
They agreed. That was one point on which they brought agreement. They abandoned their plans of two separate control organs, one preliminary and another later. We went back to it in 1956, but they had abandoned it. They agreed that there should be one control organ with developing powers to be established from the very start.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I beg the Foreign Secretary not to lead himself into error. I really have studied this matter with considerable care. I say again that I regret very bitterly the withdrawal of the objectives which the right hon. and learned Gentleman put into his Anglo-French Memorandum in 1954. That volte face of 1955 has, in my view, bedevilled the discussions ever since.
It was a tragic error this year for us to reject the Russians' present proposals for the suspension of nuclear tests, with their offer of United Nations scientists' control posts on Russian soil. It was a tragic error to say that we would not go beyond the first-stage proposals, the two-and-a-half million manpower level, except on political conditions which we do not define. That is giving the Kremlin a devastating line of hostile propaganda. I think the whole truth about political conditions was stated by M. Moch, the French delegate, two years ago, when he said that the most serious political issues werepractically insoluble in an atmosphere of distrust",whereas they wouldconstitute no major problem once included in the general framework of an agreement on disarmament.I say with respect that I think the Prime Minister has made the gravest error of all in the last two weeks. The Russians have just shown us their remarkable achievements in guided missiles. The Prime Minister went to Washington to talk about them, and he spoke at length about them on Tuesday last in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
About the Russians' achievements in guided missiles, the Sputnik and the second satellite.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Then I misunderstood it. I thought that the Prime Minister's long passage about Washington was related, in everything he said, to guided missiles. The right hon. Gentleman never once pronounced the word "disarmament". He never once mentioned the Russian proposal, made in March this year, to abolish, under international inspection 498 and control, every kind of missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead. He never mentioned the many statements made by M. Khrushchev since the missiles were launched that Russia is willing to have them used by international agreement for peaceful purposes alone.
Of course, if mankind is to be saved from disaster, missiles must be abolished; and of course, thank God, there is no problem of control. If we have as much inspection as the Russians have here accepted, missile manufacture and missile testing could not possibly be concealed.
The Prime Minister's only anxiety on Tuesday last seemed to be to make more missiles with nuclear warheads more quickly than the Russians in other words, to intensify the arms race even beyond the point of frenzy which it has already reached. Perhaps the Russian proposals are all bluff. Well, then let us call it. Let us take them into new discussions in a new and wider forum, and let us take care that the nations, including our nation, know what is going on.
We have been drifting for years; every month the danger is more acute. Every year we say that we shall reach an equilibrium of strength; but every year the balance is more precarious and every year the tensions mount. Something bigger than our present partial proposals is in my view urgently required. The time may be short. A month ago Sir John Cockcroft said:It is clear enough already that our civilisation can be destroyed in a night if ever these forces (of nuclear energy) are released for our destruction.This presents the human race with the greatest challenge it has ever had; the challenge to co-operate in disarmament and to banish the threat which now hangs over the whole world.The greatest challenge the human race has ever had"—I hope the Government, with wider vision and in a bolder spirit, both in the present Assembly and in the N.A.T.O. meeting, will take it up.
§ 12.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
I do not think anyone in this House would doubt the deep sincerity of the views held by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) or would doubt his great knowledge of foreign affairs, but, if he will allow me to say this to him with great respect, I think it was a pity 499 he turned this foreign affairs debate into a kind of political dogfight. I have always thought foreign affairs should be something rather above the mere calculations—[Interruption.] If I could have the attention of the right hon. Member for a moment, I was saying that I always thought foreign affairs in this House were regarded as something rather above the petty calculations of vote getting, and to that extent I think it is a pity that the first part of his speech was completely spoiled because it was deliberately designed to catch votes.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
I apologise for interrupting the hon. Member after having spoken so long, but he said that I was vote catching. I have been begging the Government to do these things to catch the votes.
§ Mr. Osborne
When the right hon. Member reads his speech tomorrow he will find, if my recollection is correct, that it was the sort of speech of which Mr. Ernest Bevin complained as going behind his back when he was on this side of the House.
The two vital requirements in foreign affairs, hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree, are these: first, above all we must keep permanently strong the Anglo-American alliance. In my opinion, that is our lifeline and without it there can be no survival for us. The next most important thing in foreign affairs is to improve Anglo-Soviet relations because, without that, there is a continuing fear and danger of a third world war. I do not believe those two objectives are incompatible. We can do both at one and the same time.
Because I believe that, I thought the House might like me to give a brief summary of the talk I had with Mr. Khrushchev in Moscow a month ago at the Communist Party headquarters. I do this with all diffidence because I seldom speak on foreign affairs. I am far from being an expert on foreign affairs and the House knows that I am not one of those numerous budding Foreign Secretaries who are to be found on either side of the House. I will report to the House as honestly and fairly as I can what I remember of what was said on both sides in that talk.
I think it is important that we should know what sort of man Mr. Khrushchev 500 is because, whether we like him or not, he is one of the greatest factors in world affairs today. People have said to me since I came back, "What sort of a man is Mr. Khrushchev; do you think he wants peace?" That is a difficult question to answer. So far as I could see—certainly so far as I could see from the ordinary people of Russia with whom I talked, through interpreters, I admit—there is evidence of a desire for peace in that country. I found Mr. Khrushchev personally very courteous, very friendly, and good-humoured while I was discussing and saying things that rather pleased him; but when we got down to questions on which we disagreed—and we disagreed violently—he was hard, direct and forceful and did not give way anywhere.
I gathered the impression that he was the boss of Russia and knew it. Because of that one single factor I am all the more certain that he respects only strength—he despises weakness—and that is one more important reason why the English-speaking world should hang together. There is no hope for us if we are divided.
The first subject I discussed with Mr. Khrushchev was internal conditions in Russia. I thought that was the easiest way of approach because I had been there two years earlier and could make certain comments quite honestly about the differences I saw in Moscow compared with what I saw two years earlier. The differences were these: first, the womenfolk were better dressed and, so far as I could see, more dress-conscious. Secondly, in the streets of Moscow and other big cities I saw far more motor cars than I had seen two years earlier. Thirdly, so far as I could tell, in the food shops I visited the quality of the foodstuffs, and certainly the quantity, was greater than before. Fourthly, there was a tiny factor. When I had been there two years earlier the only people who clicked cameras were American tourists. I had not taken a camera because I did not think I would be permitted to take pictures, but on this visit I was surprised to see the ordinary Russian people clicking their cameras.
I said "These were tiny bits of evidence of a higher standard of comfort your people are enjoying compared with 1955." I said there seemed to be a 501 freer, less apprehensive atmosphere. People seemed a tiny bit more relaxed. Having said all that, I want to say this to my hon. Friends on both sides of this House. Despite all these improvements in conditions it is a world in which I should not like to live.
§ Mr. Osborne
At least Mr. Khrushchev invited me to go back. The Communist world as I saw it is joyless, hard and grim.
§ Mr. Osborne
I am giving a report of what I saw; the hon. Member should at least listen to it. Those conditions represent a kind of materialistic puritanism where there is a tremendous determination to get on. Samuel Smiles ought to be their prophet and "Self-Help" the book they should read. I should not like to live there, nor would the majority of people in this country.
I should like to issue this warning to my hon. Friends. Those in the West who are looking for an internal revolution there are deceiving themselves. I believe that compared with forty years ago the Soviet form of government must seem to the people of Russia a good form of government, for it has given them vastly improved living conditions. I saw that small wooden houses were being pulled down in various parts of Moscow and huge blocks of magnificent flats were being built to replace them. For the ordinary person who can remember Tsarist days, this must seem a very good system to live under, despite the lack of liberty.
I said this next to Mr. Khrushchev. Then I discussed with him the B.B.C. and its Russian language broadcasts and asked him why they continued to jam the talks from London on the B.B.C. I told him I had gone round his country and had been to Leningrad, Kiev, the Ukraine, down to Yalta, and back to Moscow, and was appalled at the ignorance of the ordinary Russian person of conditions in the United Kingdom. They know nothing about us. It is pathetic and dangerous that they know so little about us.
I said to him, "How can they know what we are like if you do not let them 502 listen?" I told him that the B.B.C. justly has a world-wide reputation for objectivity and I asked him why he did not let his people listen to the B.B.C. I said, "That would be the most important step you could take to help to improve Anglo-Soviet relations." I told him that if he would let his people listen to B.B.C. broadcasts and learn what we are like, it would be a most important step, but all I got out of him was the statement that he would not permit propaganda against his régime. I tried to tell him that this was the last thing the B.B.C. would try to do.
§ Mr. Osborne
I am trying to give a fair report and hon. Members ought not to pick out the bits which suit their prejudices and reject the bits which they do not like.
The next point I discussed with Mr. Khrushchev was the newspapers. I told him that in the five big cities which I had visited I had asked for an English newspaper to see what was happening at home and that the only newspaper I had been able to buy was the Daily Worker. After explaining to him that the Daily Worker represented less than 1 per cent. of 1 per cent. of our people, I said that it did not give a fair report of conditions in this country and that for him to encourage or even to subsidise his people to read the Daily Worker as a true reflection of conditions in this country was about as stupid a thing as an intelligent man could do.
I said to him, "Why on earth do you not let them read papers like The Times, the Daily Telegraph or the Manchester Guardian, the responsible papers, if you will not let them see our popular papers? Why do you not encourage those to be sold on your streets?" It is remarkable how many people I met in Russia who could speak English. I asked him why he did not let them read these papers to see what we are like.
I should like to ask the Foreign Secretary a question on this point. Are the Government doing everything they possibly can to see that a fair selection of books, picture-magazines and newspapers get into Russia? For example, the woman interpreter told me that she knew quite a lot about English social life. 503 I said, "I am glad to hear that. Where did you get it from?" She said, "I am a great reader of Dickens." She honestly thought that by reading Dickens she was getting a fair picture of English social life. I therefore want to know whether my right hon. and learned Friend is doing everything he possibly can to see that books, magazines and newspapers are made available there.
Next I discussed with Mr. Khrushchev the question of trade. I told him that I had been round a number of his factories and that I had seen both textile factories, of which I have a little personal knowledge, and engineering plants in various parts of his country. I told him that I found that the workers were in good spirits and that the atmosphere inside his factories was encouraging but that much of his machinery was old—far older than we should use in this country or would be used in America.
After that I made a suggestion to him which I should like the Foreign Secretary to follow up if he thinks it wise. I told him that the Anglo-American productivity teams had brought the British and American workers together and that we had learned a good deal from one another through the exchange of these teams, and I asked him why we should not have similar Anglo-Soviet productivity teams. I suggested that he should let his people come to Britain and see what sort of people we are. I asked whether he would encourage them to come, and said that if we could help one another in normal methods of productivity we could help to raise the standards of life in both countries, as a result of which we should both gain. On that point I received considerable agreement from him, and I wonder whether the Foreign Secretary thinks it wise to follow up that point.
Mr. Khrushchev, however, made an important point which I should like my right hon. and learned Friend to consider. He said that it was not his fault that the trade between the United Kingdom and Russia was no greater than it is. He said that when he came here he offered to do £1,000 million worth of trade and that it was not his fault that this vast extension of Anglo-Soviet trade had not materialised. Mr. Khrushchev warned me—and I think there is some- 504 thing in this point—that America, Japan and Western Germany were the natural competitors of the United Kingdom and were squeezing us and our goods out of international markets.
He claimed, on the other hand, that Soviet and British trade was complementary and could be increased without our injuring one another. He told me that the Soviet Union could pay in gold. There is no question about them being able to pay, for they could pay in a harder currency than dollars; they could pay in gold. But he told me—and this is a point which I want to put to my right hon. and learned Friend—that he would not accept the restrictions of the strategic list as it now is. He said that he wanted to buy for his country what he wanted and not what the Americans said we could sell to Russia. I have some sympathy with him and think that it is a point worth looking at.
After that I asked whether we might discuss something on which we should not agree quite as well—Hungary; and the atmosphere was a little colder. I told him that a week earlier I had been to the Ukraine and at Kiev, the capital, I had met the leader of the Supreme Soviet, Mr. Kofpak, who is a double hero of the Soviet Union, which is a similar award to a double V.C. This fine old gentleman told me that the people of the Ukraine had very good reasons for wanting peace. He listed them to me. The Ukraine is one republic out of sixteen in the Soviet Union. It is twice the size of England and has a population of about 45 million. He told me that as a result of the German Army's occupation and of the fighting during the war it had suffered severely. I wonder whether the right hon. Member for Derby, South would listen to me instead of talking. I listened very courteously to him. He might learn something.
Mr. Kofpak said that the Ukraine has suffered no less than 285 billion roubles worth of war damage at the hands of the Germans and that 6 million people had been killed. We cannot imagine what it means for 6 million people to be killed in that one republic. He told me that they had lost 714 cities and towns, that 28,000 villages had been destroyed and that they had lost 900 railway stations and 670 bridges. He told me, finally, that they had lost 7½ million head of cattle and 505 9 million pigs. The old gentleman said. "These are good, solid reasons why the people of the Ukraine want peace". He told me that they desired peace above all things.
I repeated these facts to Mr. Khrushchev with the same emphasis as that which I am trying to use now, and he agreed that these were excellent reasons why the people of the Ukraine wanted peace. I then said to him, "But, sir, what neither I nor the British people understand is this: having suffered the cruelties and barbarities of an invading German Army, how could you inflict the same things on the hapless people of Hungary?" I asked him: "After all you have suffered how could you do this to the Hungarian people—who are not capitalists, but Communists? How could you do this to other people when you yourselves have suffered so much?"
That led him to talk for quite a long time and, of course, I got the same answer. The difficulty is that I could not make any impression at all. One is up against a blank wall. It is like talking to someone holding fanatical religious faith. One can make no impression at all. Mr. Khrushchev said that they were not occupying Hungary as the Germans had occupied the Ukraine. He could not deny that they were doing the same sort of damage—blowing up houses and killing people. He told me that the Red Army was in Hungary at the request of the Hungarian people and of the Hungarian Government. I said to him: "Take the troops away and see what happens. If the Hungarian people and Government have invited you in, they do not need you now. It is only a minority that wants you, not the whole of the people." He then came back to blaming American arms and propaganda.
It was then that he said what I thought was the most serious thing he did say, and he asked me to report it to this House and to the people of this country. What he said is now, of course, old news. He alleged that Turkey was massing troops on the borders of Syria; that Turkey was too weak to fight alone, but was being egged on by the Americans. He warned me that it could lead to a third world war because, he said; "We shall not stand idly by and see Syria crushed." He asked me to warn the British people of the awful dangers ahead 506 that following American propaganda might lead us into.
I at once said to him: "Look, sir, there are no people on earth who would pay more for peace than would the Americans. I believe that profoundly. The Americans would go to almost any extent for peace, and no one could give more for it. Our people have had such a bellyful of two wars that we do not want another. If you think that we do want another war, you are barking up the wrong tree. Neither we nor the Americans want it." How far I got him to believe that, I do not know, That, I think, is the Foreign Secretary's greatest difficulty, and whoever is Foreign Secretary will fact that problem. That is why, if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South will allow me to say so, again with great respect, I regret that he rather turned this very difficult problem into cheap party politics.
We next discussed the inter-continental ballistic missiles. Mr. Khrushchev said: "I saw a letter that your Mr. Churchill wrote to our Marshal Stalin during the war, saying what terrible things the V-1s and the V-2s were, and what dreadful destruction they were causing in London. I warn you that, compared with the missiles that we have now made, those war-time missiles were nothing but a little child's playthings. The things we now possess are so terrifying as to make your V-1s and V-2s seem as nothing."
The next thing that he said really gave me a jolt. He told me: "We possess them in such great numbers that if they were not such dangerous things, we could sell them commercially to any nation in the world." True or not, that was his statement. He added that his scientists could drop these missiles with great accuracy over immense distances. I told him to stop for a moment because I had something to say—[An hon. Member: "He stopped?"] Yes, he stopped. I found him very easy to argue with, and to talk to. I think one gets the best results when one can talk to men and speak directly to them.
I told him that a month earlier I had been lucky enough to be in America and had been to Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, where the German scientists who used to produce the V-2s are now living. They are now producing the American inter-continental ballistic 507 missiles. I told Mr. Khrushchev: "You know, when I was there they were boasting in just the same way as you are boasting now. They were saying that they had achieved such accuracy that they could drop one of their great missiles thousands of miles away on to a target no bigger than a baseball pitch—possibly in the centre of Moscow." I said that what the ordinary people wanted was for both sides to stop making these horrible things, but that that could only come about once there was trust and confidence. I do not think that it can come about through signing bits of paper. But at least I told him that the West, also, had something up its sleeve.
He next discussed his No. 1 satellite that had been released only the day before. He took a natural pride in it, and I told him that it was a great achievement of his engineers and scientists. He said: "We have lots of other things like this up our sleeves." I thought that he was probably boasting, but his No. 2 satellite has proved pretty well that he was not.
I pass on to the House this general reflection. Whilst the West has been rocking and rolling the Russians have been getting on with the job. Satellites such as the Russians have produced are not produced unless someone works, and works hard. If we are to equal them in the production of those things, we must have a new directive in our civilisation, both here and in America.
I also reflected, and I pass it on to my right hon. and learned Friend, that the satellites the Russians had produced up to that moment could come only from a very high-precision engineering industry. If we assume that, it means that if Mr. Khrushchev were to turn that very highly-geared, high-precision industry into the making of more civilian goods and started to export into the world markets, he would certainly give us a run for our money. That is something we should look at.
I want to plead, if I may, for a complete overhaul of East-West trade regulations. It is stupid for us to pretend that there are not 200 million Russians and 600 million Chinese on the earth. There is trade to be done, and to be done to our mutual advantage. Here I should like to say to my right hon. and learned 508 Friend what I said to my Senator friends in the United States at a lunch they gave there. I was there five weeks before I went to Moscow.
The strategic list hurts this country six times as much as it does America. American exports are about 3 per cent. of their national product. They are a mere marginal luxury for America. For us, exports are 20 per cent. of our national product, and out of those exports we have to pay for the 40 per cent. of the foodstuffs that we ourselves do not grow, and for the 100 per cent. of the raw materials that we need to keep our people employed. It seems to me, therefore, that we are bearing an unfair burden in this restriction on East-West trade, and I should like my right hon. and learned Friend, if he could, to look at that and to discuss it with his American colleagues.
The last thing that Mr. Khrushchev talked to me about was the cold war in general. This is again a great difficulty for my right hon. and learned Friend. We went, as it were, all round the earth on the matters that divide us, and he blamed my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), in his Fulton speech, for having started the cold war.
§ Mr. Osborne
I said, "But surely, Mr. Khrushchev, you said yourself in your speech to the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party that it was Stalin who started this." The reply was that he had been misquoted by some American journalist, and that his speech as we had seen it in the West was not the correct speech. I then said, "Will you do me a favour and send me an authentic Russian copy of the speech and an authentic British translation?" I should like my right hon. and learned Friend to get me that as a Christmas box. I could not get it.
Mr. Khrushchev said to me—and this goes to the crux of our problem—that this speech was made not for capitalists but for Communists and that there was such a thing as capitalist truth and Communist truth. I said to the interpreter, "Please stop him on that. Truth is eternal and universal. Two and two make four in my country as it does in Mr. Khrushchev's. Let us have a copy of that speech and see what he really did 509 say." There seemed to be no way of getting from him what he really said. I could see him being very difficult to budge. I would say to my right hon. and learned Friend that I do not envy him his task in having to deal with Mr. Khrushchev.
I should like to refer to what was said yesterday in The Times editorial on this vital issue. It said:…Mr. Khrushchev was frank at one point. He did not pretend that relations could ever be harmonious; he was throwing over his own beliefs if he suggested anything of the kind. His words were remarkably similar to those used, in 1950, by Sir Winston Churchill when appealing for another talk with Russia to see whether both sides could live their life, 'if not in friendship, at least without the hatreds of the cold war.' The plan for another high-level conference is certainly not one to cause fright. It is an objective to be pursued and gained…I want to plead with my Government, difficult as conditions may be, that they will do all they can, knowing the difficulties that face them, to try to meet the Russian leaders again, because if men will only face one another and talk to one another, then half the difficulties are overcome and there might be a chance for us to live together in peace.
§ 1.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
I am sure that both sides of the House have listened with great attention to the very interesting account of the conversation which took place between the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) and Mr. Khrushchev. I do not propose to follow him in the subjects to which he referred, except to say that his final point leads to something with which I should like to deal for a few moments—namely, the importance of the leaders of the East and the West getting together once again.
I should like to remind the House of Mr. Khrushchev's solemn declaration at the great gathering that he addressed in Moscow, when he said:We hereby solemnly declare that our people have never intended nor will they plan to attack anybody with any means of destruction so long as the Soviet Union is not attacked by any imperialist country.All hon. Members on both sides of the House will be in agreement when I say that there is no intention nor is there any likelihood of any of the countries of the West, either singly or collectively, making an aggressive attack upon the Soviet Union.
510 I want to couple Mr. Khrushchev's statement with his appeal for a summit meeting. I realise, as the hon. Gentleman himself said, that merely to have a meeting and sign a document will not solve the great problems that separate East and West at present.
I also agree with what the Foreign Secretary said. I thought that he did not shut the door to a possible meeting of heads of Governments, and I think it would be a tragedy if he had sought to do so. A summit meeting sooner or later will have to take place. It is inevitable. The circumstances which exist in the world today, the problems which divide East from West, make it imperative that sooner rather than later another Summit conference should take place.
I agree with the Foreign Secretary, however, that the ground should be carefully prepared. It would perhaps do more harm than good, as the Foreign Secretary suggested, for heads of Governments to have a more or less convivial gathering at some capital city, sign a communiqué and then go back to their respective countries. Therefore, I strongly urge the Government to support in principle the eventual holding of a summit conference, but I would like to make some suggestions.
In 1955 the five heads of Government met for five days in Geneva. They had their private conversations, and at the end of the five days they issued a communiqué of which we are all aware, merely laying down certain general lines of policy and leaving it to a meeting of Foreign Secretaries to meet later in order to try to work out agreements or arrangements based on that statement of principle.
The Foreign Ministers met in Geneva later in the year. They were assembled together for three weeks and completely failed to reach any agreement. I should have thought it ought to be done the other way around. The careful preparation which is so essential should be the responsibility of the Foreign Ministers, first of all perhaps by means of discussions through the usual diplomatic channels. There should then be a meeting of the Foreign Ministers to try to hammer out and work out outlines of agreement on the various problems of Germany, of the Middle East, of disarmament and the various political problems 511 which are separating East and West today.
After that careful preparation through diplomatic channels and through a meeting of the Foreign Ministers, then perhaps would be the time for the heads of Government to meet, and not just for three, four or five days. They should go into that conference, as was done for example in 1919, looking upon the occasion as a means of securing a final comprehensive peace settlement of all the problems that are causing this division at the present time. It might take a week, two weeks, three weeks, a month, or even two months, but if it were possible to secure a comprehensive and definite peace settlement of all these various political and other problems it would be well worthwhile even for the heads of Government to spend a good deal longer on that task than they did in Geneva in 1955.
That leads me to the situation in which we find ourselves with regard to the problem of disarmament. I for one am profoundly disappointed that we are still in this state of deadlock. I with others thought three months ago that we were at least on the verge of securing a first-step partial disarmament agreement. I thought that the Soviet Union would be one of the Governments which would sign that agreement. I am therefore profoundly disappointed not only that they are not prepared to sign a partial disarmament agreement but that they have even gone further and have announced that they are going to withdraw from the Disarmament Sub-Committee.
I do not know whether the Soviet Government have been mesmerised to any extent by the outstanding scientific achievements which have been announced during the past few weeks. I hope not. I have sufficient knowledge and experience in these matters to know that scientific advancement, especially in military matters, though possibly in other things also, is very much a game of leapfrog, and while one country may be in front today, another country may in six months be still farther ahead.
I hope that I shall not be giving away any secret information when I say that, as a result of my recent visit to the United States where I had the opportunity of discussing various problems with a 512 number of people, I shall be very surprised if the United States are not in a position during the next six months to announce some really outstanding scientific achievements. I hope, therefore, that the present policy or present actions of the Soviet Government are not in any way substantially influenced by the fact that they are so pleased, and rightly pleased, with the great achievements of their scientists and engineers. I have no reason to suppose that they are, and I sincerely hope that they are not.
Speaking for myself, and this is the view that my party holds, I believe that hydrogen bomb tests should be immediately suspended, at any rate until we have had time to work out a first stage agreement or even a more comprehensive agreement; but, otherwise, I regard the package proposals which have just been accepted by a great majority in the Political Commission of the United Nations as worthy of acceptance even by the Soviet Union.
I shall not indulge in any recriminations, beyond saying that I feel bound to agree with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) said earlier, that our Government cannot escape some responsibility because of their change of ground on the occasions in 1955 to which he referred. But we still have the problem with us. After ten years of almost continuous effort to secure some kind of disarmament, we seem almost as far off as we were years ago. I ask the Minister of State to make clear that there is no question of Her Majesty's Government going back upon the proposals which are contained in the package recently approved by the Political Commission.
The other day I read an article by Mr. Dulles, in last month's issue of "Foreign Affairs," in which he said:Past efforts have usually proceeded from the assumption that it is possible to establish and maintain certain defined levels of military strength and to equate these dependably as between the nations. Actually, military potentials are so imponderable that this always has been and always will be a futile pursuit. Today, there is a new approach. It is proposed to establish a system of international supervision which will make massive surprise attack unlikely.As an example of what he means, he refers to President Eisenhower's "open-skies" concept first put forward at the Geneva Conference of 1955.
513 I hope that this does not mean that the new approach will be the policy of the West, that we are to water down even more the modest proposals which are to be found in the package, and we are still to rely upon this new approach, this "open skies" system of inspection or supervision, because, if that were so, it would he mere mockery of words to speak of it as constituting any measure of disarmament.
I cannot understand why heads of Governments should not attend the General Assembly when the General Assembly meets to consider the next stage of disarmament. I should like to see President Eisenhower, Mr. Khrushchev, Mr. Nehru, and our own Prime Minister, all attending the Plenary Session of the General Assembly and putting the case for their Governments on this problem. After all, whatever we may think and however sceptical we may be, this is the most vital problem confronting humanity today. The Governments are gambling away the future welfare of humanity in so far as they refuse to face the facts of disarmament.
There is nothing novel about my suggestion. In the days of the League of Nations, it was the practice for the heads of Governments to attend the Assembly of the League of Nations. Yet although the United Nations has been in existence for twelve years, on very few occasions have we seen the heads of Governments participating. It would be well worth while, I believe, and might have a great effect if the leading statesmen of the world were to meet and make their case at the United Nations. Whatever one may call the General Assembly, whatever we may say it is, at the present time it is the only international forum which exists representing 82 nations, and I regard it as of sufficient importance to justify what I suggest.
I hope that Her Majesty's Government will keep an open mind and not adopt a rigid attitude. I agree again with my right hon. Friend that, if the five Powers represented on the Subcommittee cannot achieve results, although it may be that one would not achieve results by turning over responsibility for the problem to 82 nations, it is desirable to consider the possibility that the five should be supplemented by, perhaps, another four or five 514 Governments from other parts of the world, I will suggest for this purpose the Government of India, the Government of Pakistan and the Government of Sweden as examples of those who might be brought in. In any event, the number might well be increased beyond what it is at the moment.
I was very interested in the announcement made in August about the change of policy with regard to the Optional Clause. If I may say so, the Clause was the subject of the first major act of policy for which my late father was responsible after he became Foreign Secretary in May, 1929. I know that one of the main reasons for his being so strong in support of this policy was that, in his view, it was based on the determination of this country at that time to fulfil its obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Kellogg Peace Pact.
I do not quarrel with the Government so much on the new reservation which is to be found in reservation (vii) referring to a country which has not itself accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. I do quarrel with the Government very strongly on reservation (v). I believe that this is a retrograde step, and I agree with my right hon. Friend that it undermines one of the principal organs of the United Nations. It is a direct blow at its prestige and influence and, indeed, I believe that it directly weakens our own moral leadership in the community of nations. Why should we, after subscribing to the Charter of the United Nations, seek to excludedisputes arising out of, or having reference to, any hostilities, war, state of war, or belligerent or military occupation in which the Government of the United Kingdom are or have been involved…"?I rather suspect that this has arisen because of our going outside the Charter of the United Nations when we sent troops into Egypt in November of last year. If we are to be 100 per cent. loyal to the Charter of the United Nations, it is inconceivable that we can be engaged in war or military occupation except as authorised by the Charter, and, therefore, from the point of view of international law, recognised as legal or lawful action. It seems to me it rather suggests that the British Government are safeguarding themselves against action in the future, similar to that of last November, 515 which may be outside the Charter of the United Nations. I think that is a very unfortunate step to take and one which I hope will be put right as soon as we have a change of Government.
I would ask the Minister of State to make two comments in his speech, first on the position of U.N.R.W.A.M. Labouisse is very pessimistic about the financial position of that Agency. I talked to him in New York when I was attending some of the sittings of the United Nations, and, while I know that our own Government have been reasonably helpful in regard to his work, I am sure that the Minister of State will agree with me that it is of vital consequence not only to the 1 million refugees individually involved in the Arab countries but also to the stability of relations throughout the Middle East and even further. I hope that he will be able to tell us that Her Majesty's Government are going to play their part and, if necessary, increase their grant in order to help in this work, which is of such vital importance to those unfortunate people in the Middle East.
The other point which I hope he will tell us about is the financial responsibility for the United Nations Emergency Force. What is the position with regard to the contributions that are due and must be paid if this Force is to be maintained? It has not yet completed its task. I should like to see it employed along all the Israel-Arab borders, and, indeed, on both sides of the borders. I believe that it has done a wonderful job of work, and it would be a calamity if it were to fail because of the fact that other Governments were not going to pay their contributions to its upkeep. Therefore, I hope that the Minister of State will be able to say something on the financial position of the Emergency Force, and, later on, I hope that my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench will seek an opportunity of discussing the establishment of a permanent force leading up from the existence of this Emergency Force. Some of us believe that that is one of the most effective ways in which Her Majesty's Government can fulfil their statement in the Queen's Speech that they are going to seek to strengthen the authority of the United Nations. I believe that the existence of a permanent force, available wherever a crisis takes 516 place, would be a very practical way of strengthening the authority of the United Nations.
§ 1.24 p.m.
§ Lady Gammans (Hornsey)
I crave the indulgence of the House for a few minutes this morning, as I rise to speak on what is for me the first occasion in this House. I do so with mixed feelings, because it was here, 16 years ago, that I listened to the maiden speech of the then hon. Member for Hornsey. If, in the years that followed, I played my part with him to some extent in home affairs, it is to a former experience that my thoughts have gone out, to a land beyond the seas which gained its independence within the Commonwealth last August. I refer, of course, to Malaya.
References have been made in the Gracious Speech to the growing family of nations that we call the Commonwealth. I think especially of the fifth country which has gained its independence within the Commonwealth since the war. There has always been a happy relationship between our country and Malaya from the early days, eighty or so years ago, when it was agreed by treaty with the Malay Rulers that we should try to bring stable conditions to a very troubled scene—a scene of warring States, of rival gangs of Chinese tin miners—and that is, in fact, what we did.
We brought stability and law and order to that troubled country. We must always remember that it was by a treaty freely negotiated between ourselves and the Malay Rulers of that time. People came from India, China and elsewhere to try their luck in that new land and make their fortunes. They stayed to enrich a very rapidly growing population. It is often said, "Happy is the country which has no history," and if by that is meant the absence of feelings of bitterness and strife, then that can truly be said of Malaya in its formative years.
Many hands have gone to found this new nation, but I think we can be justly proud of the men of our own race—planters, tin miners, scientists and doctors, and the research workers who have done so much in the field of medicine and agriculture to overcome ill-health and malnutrition; the business men and traders who risked their capital and gave their energy and initiative to open up this 517 new land, and the long line of civil servants, some distinguished, whose names are well known, and others, whose names have been forgotten, but whose work lives on in the emergence of this new nation.
Those civil servants worked in sympathy and in harmony with the people around them. They spoke their languages and they understood their way of living. They tried to pass on to them the precious heritage which we all enjoy in this country. I think it is well to remember that the pace was never forced; but there was steady progress, which went on steadily to a very rapid economic development and an ever rising standard of living.
Between the two wars, Malaya not only stood on her own feet, providing the means to build her own roads and railways, very fine public buildings, colleges, schools and so on, and, of course, her own social services, but she also made many splendid gifts, which we all remember in this country, including H.M.S. "Malaya" and two bomber squadrons. That should be remembered as part of the friendly relations between our two countries.
Then, unfortunately, came the war, and afterwards it was obvious that the years of preparation were over and a new nation was waiting to be born. Step by step, in spite of nine years of open warfare by the Communists, and in spite of the many complexities which were inherent in framing a new constitution with so many different races involved, the birth of the nation did, in fact, take place on almost the day forecast for it, 31st August this year. We in this country wish them well. We hand over willingly to them our trust, our task completed. Six million people in Malaya have attained that free and independent status reached by the two million people in Ghana last year.
There are some who say that this rapid pace within the Commonwealth can only bring disaster. Of course, there will be many difficulties and mistakes, too, are inevitable in the changing world and in these new relationships between us. Surely, this should be a challenge to us to fulfil the mission, which, I am convinced, is ours, of passing on the knowledge and help to those who need it and to make this Commonwealth of varied 518 races and creeds, which is unique in the world's history and which has always been evolving and is still evolving today, the foundation stone on which we hope that a real United Nations can he built which really works.
§ 1.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Beswick (Uxbridge)
I deeply appreciate this opportunity of extending, I am sure, on behalf of all Members who heard her speech, congratulations to the hon. Lady the Member for Hornsey (Lady Gammans) on her maiden speech. For eleven of the sixteen years to which she referred, I had the privilege of listening to the contributions which her late husband made to this House. I grew to respect the clear and informed way in which he contributed to our debates and I am sure that all of us, without exception, recalled today his speeches on the subject of our Commonwealth and our Colonial Territories. The theme which the hon. Lady chose for her maiden speech will commend itself to all Members, on both sides. We admire her courage in taking up the career which was so sadly broken for her husband and I am sure that we all wish her well in the future contributions that she makes to our debates.
Some of us on this side have for many years tried to plug the theme that the only true defence of this country, and, indeed, of any other country, lay in disarmament. We further have tried to show that the core of this disarmament problem was the transference of physical force from national States to some world authority, which in this day must mean the United Nations. It is extraordinary that that argument which some of us have tried to put over to this House is now supported by more and more people. The Foreign Secretary applauds it. Even the Defence White Paper states it in terms. Yet the more self-evident that it becomes, the further away we seem to get from its realisation.
The Foreign Secretary today started off with an explanation of the theory and hopes behind the United Nations, with which I for one would not disagree, although, perhaps, I place the emphasis a little differently. I beg the Foreign Secretary, however, not to place upon the Soviet Union all the blame for our failure to develop the United Nations and to break down the cold war. I hope that 519 he will not try to make out again that the failure of the long-drawn-out disarmament talks can wholly be placed at the door of Soviet Russia.
It is true that Russia has been disappointing on many occasions and I am particularly disappointed that she has not seen fit to accept the latest proposals put forward by this country and the United States. It is, however, also the fact that there were occasions in the past when we could have had agreement. There was such an occasion in 1955. We could, even now, have an agreement on the suspension of hydrogen bomb tests. We could have an agreement on the cessation of tests at this time before the Soviet Union has the opportunity to perfect its techniques of releasing hydrogen power from the ballistic missile. It may well be that before so very long, we shall have reason to regret that we have not concluded even this limited agreement on the suspension of tests.
There are other reasons, which I shall try to explain, why I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not harp on this theme of the wickedness of the Russians. It may sound all right in the country. It may enable us to take up a posture of self-righteousness. We may fool the people in the country, but the danger lies in the fact that we may even fool ourselves. Unless we really get down to the facts as to what has gone wrong in these negotiations, there is less likelihood of our getting a successful agreement in the future.
It was, I think, Mr. Nixon, the Vice-President of the United States, who said recently that the Red satellites would have served a useful purpose if our reaction was immediate and correct. It has certainly been immediate, but I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), who spoke earlier today, that the reaction was precisely the opposite to that which was required.
I am not referring to the comic reactions that came from some of the United States spokesmen, who seemed to think that Russia had cheated on some International Geophysical Year programme or had sent up a chunk of iron, as someone said, which had no military or scientific value—I am not referring to that. I am referring to the reaction 520 which has been embodied in the Presidential declaration. That reaction was summed up in the headlines of the New York Times:President says defense will top 38-billion limit Navy Aide predicts 'much' bigger outlay—Air Force lifts payment ceiling.In other words, as my right hon. Friend said, what has come out of this Anglo-American meeting is simply a new look upon the old arms race. That is all it amounts to.
The United States is now proposing to spend 38 billion dollars—think of it, 38,000 million dollars—on the balance of power argument, which has been disproved by everything that has happened since the war. Indeed, the article goes on to say thatHigh Treasury officials, speaking informally, cautioned us against hoping that defense spending could be held down….even to this figure of 38,000 million dollars. I take the view that somewhere we have to draw the line, for military as well as for political and social reasons.
I think that when the Prime Minister rushed off to the United States to associate himself with this reaction, we made a mistake. The reaction was wrong and we are wrong to associate ourselves with it. In the first place, I do not see why we should complain at any possible military threat that there may be in these Russian satellites. It may be that they provide a base for the Soviet Union to attack the United States, but, after all, the United States has had bases all the way round the Soviet Union for some years now from which she could obliterate Russian cities. We have had, and still have, bases from which we could wreck cities of the Soviet Union. It may well be that our planes would have no base to which they could return, but this is a prospect that we have faced for some years past. Therefore, I do not think that it is necessary to get panic-striken because of this recent scientific development.
Secondly, although the Prime Minister has emphasised that the new Anglo American arms spurt is based upon interdependence, the danger for this country is that the path from interdependence down to dependence will be very smooth and very slippery indeed. In this connection, I hope that hon. Members opposite, and, indeed, all hon. Members, will very 521 carefully read what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belpre (Mr. G. Brown) yesterday. He has taken an especial interest in and speaks with some authority on this matter. As a result of this agreement, we may get more and better H-bombs, but who is to control them? Who is to decide when they are to be used, and who is to give the order?
Were any of those things discussed in Washington? I should have thought that all our experience in recent years would have led us to regard those as among the most important parts of any further Anglo-American military integration. My right hon. Friend pointed out only too well that we could not have a situation in which the Americans made the missile and we made the bomb—complete interdependence, one dependent on the other. The techniques of this matter involve an integrated manufacture, and the result of all that may well be that we do not have the bomb, or the means of delivering it, or any political say about what happens to the bombs which the Americans will no doubt be able to stockpile more speedily.
One of the interesting and in some ways encouraging features of yesterday's debate was the way what was ostensibly a defence debate lapped over into what we are discussing today. Similarly, we cannot discuss foreign policy without also referring to defence. Something else which ran through the debate yesterday and which has been repeated over and over again in recent years so that it has become almost a platitude was the view, with which everyone now agrees, that in theory we have to be selective, that we cannot afford to do so many things at once.
I wrote a pamphlet about this three or four years ago and applied it to the British aircraft industry. I thought that it was very good and everybody is now saying the same thing, but few people are doing anything about it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) also spoke of the necessity for selection and he listed the six weapons from which he said we had to choose for the defence of the country. The six he listed were the calamitous nuclear weapon, the tactical atomic weapon, the conventional forces weapon, propaganda and infiltration, the technical aid weapon and bracketed with them, economic stability. I would add the possibility of defence through the United Nations.
522 Let us consider the list to which the former Minister of Defence referred. He said that if we over-emphasised one, if we placed too much reliance on the nuclear weapon, the chances were that we would not be able to use the others either at all, or at any rate with any effect. I agree with all those people who say that we have to choose, that there is something which we have to leave out. I have always taken the line—and I take this opportunity to say so again—that Britain should not manufacture the hydrogen bomb. I have given my reasons at length and I shall not bore the House by repeating them. I shall certainly not deal with the moral issues, nice as they are as material for a political speech. I want to consider the choice in the light of what has been said in the last two days and in the light of the requirements of British foreign policy.
On any practical assessment of the physical and financial resources of the country, it is clear that we cannot have the hydrogen bomb as well as the other five weapons to which the right hon. Gentleman referred yesterday. If we try to have the bomb, one of the others will suffer, and I accept the authority of the former Defence Minister for that statement.
The Foreign Secretary mentioned some of the things which we have achieved and which he said stood to our credit and added to our strength in the world, and he challenged the Opposition to say whether we were proud of them. I can assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we are proud of the things he mentioned. What were they? He spoke of our new relations with India, Pakistan. Ceylon, Burma and Ghana and the constructive work which has been done under the Colombo Plan. One or two things emerged from a consideration of that list. One is that almost all those new relationships were either completed or started within the lifetime of the Labour Government.
§ Mr. Braine
We are listening to a most interesting speech and I hope that the hon. Member will not spoil it. Surely he will allow that the movement towards independence and self-government throughout the Commonwealth has nothing to do with parties. It is a continuing process which began in 1867 when Canada obtained Dominion status. 523 It has continued under the present Government and will continue until all dependencies which can stand on their own feet are self-governing nations.
§ Mr. Beswick
I know that the hon. Member has a special interest in these problems and I agree with most of the things he says about the development of the Colonies. However, I was in the House for the first five years after the war when these things started and I believe that the hon. Member was not. I know what was said on the benches opposite when we did these things. Hon. Members opposite agreed with them in principle, but did not agree with the timing. They wanted to do them at some time, but not at that time and we had to do these things in spite of that opposition. When we are challenged about whether we are proud of them, I must say that we are not only proud but accept a very special responsibility for them. I put it no higher than that.
Another point which emerges is that none of those developments was dependent on physical force. Yet without exception they strengthened our position in the councils of the world, although it was argued from the then Opposition at the time that we were giving up too much and were weakening ourselves. Now and then even the horrid word "scuttle" was heard from the benches opposite. As a positive defence and foreign policy, we should have more of that kind of development instead of spending so much money on the hydrogen bomb, which has no part in our foreign policy.
There is another reason which I want to mention why it is so important at this stage to draw a line in the development of these weapons. I have said that I accept the responsibility for keeping law and order. I am not a pacifist, and I will support armed force, but somewhere we have to draw a line, and I have always thought that we should draw the line between the A-bomb and the H-bomb. But there is another reason—which is very important in connection with foreign policy—why it is necessary solemnly and deliberately to come to the conclusion that we have advanced sufficiently far in the awfulness of these weapons. It would have a profound psychological effect in our dealings with other countries.
524 I remember the first words that I heard spoken after the first detonation of an atomic bomb at Bikini. They were spoken by an American Senator. He said, "That should have been dropped on the Russian bastards." I am not saying that that is typical of Americans generally; I am saying that it illustrates an attitude of mind that is far too prevalent in the discussions that we have had on disarmament. We have been ready to make concessions to Soviet Russia, but only provided that in the end we were left on top. That has been the attitude throughout, and it has been impossible to accept that we—Britain or the West—should, if it came to a showdown, be in an inferior position in the matter of physical force.
There is another reason why this line of thought has a special relevance. I have listened to the speeches of the chairman of the Conservative Party. I do not want to emphasise his importance, but it seems to me that the worse the Conservative Party's political or domestic case gets the more it begins to harp upon this anti-Communist theme. If one reads the speeches of Lord Hailsham carefully, one finds that he rings his bell and talks louder than ever on behalf of this crusade against Russia.
§ Mr. Beswick
A crusade against Communism; I stand corrected. That is a dangerous attitude of mind, which arises from fear. I believe that fear was the motivating force for the panic declaration which emerged from Washington, and I want to see a reversal of our policy in that direction. I want us, quite deliberately, to make a selection from the weapons open to us and, having made that selection, to place more reliance upon economic aid, the United Nations, and conventional forces—until such time as we have a sufficiently strong international force to put out the brush fires. If we made that military, political and social decision it would put us in a stronger position to reach agreement on all those other matters which, I agree with the Foreign Secretary, it is essential that we settle before it is too late.
§ 1.54 p.m.
§ Mrs. Evelyn Emmet (East Grinstead)
I should like to air a matter which has been mentioned in daily newspapers and journals in recent times, although it may not be a particularly popular subject in this House. I want to refer to the position of women in foreign affairs—not just in this country but the world over. Many speakers have rightly said that we live in extremely dangerous times, but that has happened before.
Our ancestors have faced and have overcome times equally dangerous, except in one sense. Previously there have been survivors to write and tell the tale; I suppose that that was what Noah's Ark was for. But this time, if there is an inter-continental war, it may be that the thread of history will be broken for good and all and that there will be no survivors either to write or to read what is written, unless, perhaps, a super-satellite ark is called into being and some human beings are preserved therein, in which case I suppose that, as things are at present, history will be written in Russian.
Men ask themselves where we are going and what is the way out to a peaceful existence, but women ask themselves the same question. I want to stress the particular responsibility that women have, the final conclusions of which I do not think they have appreciated. The children of this world, for the first years of their lives, are entirely under the influence of their mothers. It is an absolutely paramount influence; medical and scientific research tells us so. But I do not think we realise the consequence of that position.
A mother will bring up her child as her child and may forget, in the early years, that the child is not just her child but is a citizen and a child of the nation. It is for this reason that I feel it important that every opportunity should be given to women to take their full share in the nation's work—not merely to satisfy womanly ambition, but because, if they share far more in the general responsibility of government and administration, they will have a better understanding of the future of their children, and in becoming better mothers will also make better citizens.
From this point of view, women all rejoice in the suggestion contained in the Gracious Speech that women should be included among the holders of life 526 peerages. I believe that a noble Lord in another place, in a fit of personal feeling, stated that women were unsuitable to be politicians because they were emotional. I have noticed how often it happens that, through some unconscious act of transference, people attribute their own faults to those whom they are criticising. I will illustrate this by a short story about two old ladies who came back rather the worse for wear after a party. One of them, noticing the other under a street lamp, said. "My dear, you must be drunk. You have got two noses." I believe that the noble Lord was feeling very strongly about this matter, but I do not think that we need take his summing up of women's contributions very seriously.
I have often been asked—as have other women Members—how it is that, generally speaking, women play such a small part in international affairs. It has been extremely difficult for them either to obtain the training or to have the openings that they would like in this respect. So far, in international matters men have "gone it alone." I do not know whether they think that the result has been all that good. Men have great qualities which we women lack. What does a woman like better than to look up to a man and to rest on his strong right arm? On the other hand, women also have qualities which men lack. They are the chief upholders of the nation on religious faith and moral standards.
The battle of international standards has been joined, and I wonder whether women have not something valuable to contribute there. Men are fighters by instinct—they must be, they are the creative sex and they have to surmount obstacles and conquer the stars. Women are the home and the peacemakers, and perhaps the world needs a little more of these qualities at the present time.
Women are not encumbered by face-saving devices, necessary through roots in the past. They have no business axes to grind, no personal ambitions to rule the world. Women have an easier approach across frontiers to each other through family and household interests. Those who have been to the United Nations have noticed that very particularly. I sometimes wonder—this may, he very fanciful—whether the chasms that have been created by pride and bloodshed might not be bridged by such a new 527 and simple approach. At least no one will dispute that our Queens have been, and still are, superb diplomats, and still excel at the present moment in cementing friendships.
I will not detain the House longer, but will conclude with the suggestion that men and women have complementary qualities, and I should have thought that the whole was more useful than the half. It is perhaps not unreasonable to suggest at the present moment that the qualities which women could bring to international affairs should be put to better use. After all, if disaster comes, we shall have to share the consequences.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
I do not think that the hon. Lady the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) will expect me to comment fully on what she has just told the House. I think her speech would have been better made in 1912 than in 1957. I believe that such a speech was made in that year very vociferously by the women's suffragette movement which was demanding votes for women. I think that the hon. Lady is the grandmother of five lovely children, and that the sentiments she has expressed will find a ready echo in the hearts of many hon. Members.
When all is said and done, it is not the mere male in this country who has closed the avenues to women in politics or in any part of our industrial life. We have women in the law, in business, in science and in every political sphere of activity which is open to both sexes. The fact that they do not assert themselves in the manner in which they should is, perhaps, because they do not choose to do so. They probably prefer an easier and happier life.
If one looks, for instance, at the United States one sees that the women there call the tune. Indeed, they not only call the tune but make the men pay the cost of the tune they call. It is true to say that, to a large extent, the women of the United States not only pay the bills but govern how the money shall be spent. If the old man is not earning enough the woman will soon have him transferred to another job where he earns more. I found that was very true during my visit 528 to the United States in the company of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine). I think it is a good thing.
I now come to the aspects of the debate with which I want to deal. It is very easy for us in this country, with the cosy comfort of a democracy which has been matured and has grown up for centuries, to imagine that other people in other countries think the same way about problems which equally affect us all. That is not so. They have not our background, our educational standards, our history and our tradition. In some parts of the world the people are illiterate to a degree and Governments of autocracy are the only ones able to rule and who demand the right to rule. In these circumstances, the United Nations, being the forum of world opinion, serves the paramount purpose of guaranteeing the essential principles of freedom for the nations.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) recited the speech made by Mr. Menzies some weeks ago regarding a possible solution for Middle East difficulties. This area is vital to the West. It contains the very sinews by which the wheels of industries of the West turn—oil. It has grave and complex problems, the biggest of which is, of course, the Arab-Israeli dispute which bedevils any attempt by anyone to find a solution. One has only to go to the Middle East to realise the feeling of bitterness that can be engendered immediately one raises the matter of Arab-Israeli problems to either side and the possible means of solution.
Into this cauldron we as a nation blundered twelve months ago. We blundered into the Suez adventure which has lost us considerable moral authority in the world and which makes it almost impossible for hon. Members to speak as freely as they used to do on issues of international problems even though we know that between 1939 to 1945 Great Britain tried to give a lead, often at great penalty to her industrial and financial resources, in world politics in the hope that other nations would follow.
In my opinion, that was a period during which the Government of this country can be said to have reached a point of no return. It was a period when, quite naturally, we could have expected the Government to go to the country 529 either for a mandate for their action or for approval of that action. That did not transpire. As a consequence, we are now faced with the possibility, at least for another two years, of many complex problems arising and of their being dealt with by a Government with that stain on its character.
In view of the breakdown and the refusal of the Soviet Government to accept the decision of the United Nations in regard to disarmament proposals, what we must now do is to decide where we go from here. We in the West can only assess international politics accurately if we try to regard matters through the eyes of the Soviets and to decide what they would do and what they are thinking in like circumstances. One cannot, and should not, disregard the internal politics of the Russians, the continuing jealousies in the Kremlin, and the policy which has resulted since the death of Stalin in what could be termed a collective refuge. Before then anyone who either transgressed or failed in any way to respond to what were the dictates of the party, suffered for his omission with his life. Since that period there seems to have been a collective arrangement, at least among the top leaders, that one or other shall be transferred to another job.
I am not one who thinks that Mr. Khrushchev is a simple man. Certainly somebody is simple, but it is not Mr. Khrushchev. In this respect, and bearing in mind the system which operates in the Soviet Union—the system of power politics—one would have thought that Malenkov, as heir-apparent to Stalin's authority and his closest right-hand man, would have inherited his mantle and carried on as chief architect of Soviet policy throughout the world and in Russia itself. But look what has happened to Molotov and Malenkov.
The same thing has happened to Zhukov. What were the reasons for Zhukov's dismissal? Various feelers have been put out by Western newspapers, such as Napoleonism. On the other hand, there has been a suggestion that, as a soldier, Zhukov realised that the adventurous policy of the Praesidium might lead the Red Army into a war in which it could not be victorious. It may be that his counsels were disregarded or that he was accused of defeatism. But he has had to go, and his going means 530 a departure from all the restraining influence that people of his character might have had on the political destinies of the men who rule affairs in the Kremlin.
It is all right for some of my hon. Friends to look at things as we should like to see them in the future. But there is a history to Europe as it is today. There is the Potsdam Agreement, the Yalta Agreement, and the Teheran Agreement, the disregarding of four-Power blocs in Germany and the non-unification of Germany. All are matters which can be laid fairly at the door of the Soviet Union. After all, Czechoslovakia was a democracy and had two opposition parties; and even if we take the view that Roumania, Bessarabia or Hungary were not full democracies, Czechoslovakia certainly was.
If we cast our minds back over the field of politics, we can see that the definite pattern of Soviet Communism has not changed. I think that, until Russia feels strong enough to disregard some of her fears, it will not change. In 1917 there was among the Western nations a tremendous amount of sympathy for the developing Russian revolution. It is no secret today that Mr. Ernest Bevin, the late Labour Government Foreign Secretary, was instrumental at one period in preventing intervention by Great Britain in the Russian revolution. The feeling then was that this was a genuine uprising against the tyranny of the Czar and should be given full rein. Whether, in the concept of British or Western democracy as we know it, we underestimated the force and character of the Communist revolution is a matter which history will decide. I think that we did. There are several of my hon. Friends who, in their enthusiasm at that time and since, have been apologists for actions for which normally they would not be able to apologise; all on the basis that this was a country coming to strength and fruition which should be given its chance to fulfil its destiny and to raise the standard of its people morally, politically, socially and economically.
The Soviet Union has just celebrated its fortieth anniversary since the revolution and in many ways can be said to have arrived. Do not let us minimise the achievements of those forty years. They started almost from scratch and at the present day have produced the satellite. 531 That is a tremendous achievement. Their policies have changed the face of the world and will affect generations of people for years to come.
Let us try to assess how we can come to some kind of accommodation whereby we in the Western world, with our kind of democracy and position, can live in some state of co-existence in peace with the Soviet Union. What is the basis of agreement and what are the fundamental disagreements? Where can we start? How can we expect to achieve some kind of settlement? So far as I know, there has not been any renunciation by the Soviet Union of the principles and prime concepts of the Marxist-Lenin dogmas. If indeed the Soviet Union is embarking on an attempt to become eventually the masters of the world by all the means within their power, it is a sad thing to contemplate for the future; because we shall be confronted with this state of affairs for many years to come. Therefore, the use of any influence open to us to arrive at some kind of accommodation with them is a matter for the highest diplomacy.
If we do not take a too rigid position, I believe we have some liberty of maneouvre at present; but I believe it essential to take advantage of that liberty in good time. The Government should do their utmost to try to get the United States to recognise the futility of continuing to hold on to Formosa. A nation of 400 million Chinese have adopted their own system whether we like it or not and, allied to the 200 million Russians, they represent at least one-sixth of the total world population. Looking at the facts objectively, it is better if possible to come to some kind of accommodation with them by any means within our power, but we must do it at the right time.
It will be difficult for the United States, in view of the position they have taken up since 1945, to surrender Formosa voluntarily. At one time they could have done so with good grace, but if they did it now it would be regarded as a tremendous propaganda victory for the vital Far Eastern countries and their doctrinaire Communist way of life.
This is where the United Nations should work. A plebiscite should be taken to determine to whom the country should belong. There are a lot of 532 Formosans who believe that they have enough natural resources to build up an economic State and to enable them to govern themselves. That is one of the things which should be thrown on to the bargaining counter, if we are to open discussions and have further summit talks, as one means of demonstrating the intentions of ourselves and the United States.
On the other hand, it has been said that the Russians have no legitimate interest in the Middle East. They certainly do not need oil to the extent that we need it today. We are not yet a society in which one person in four has a motor car as in America. We must remember that the Israeli State came into being chiefly at the instance of the Soviet Union. Great Britain, if I remember correctly, abstained from voting on the vital issue. Russia has, therefore, a direct responsibility for preserving peace, with us, in that area. Under the auspices of the United Nations, we should make every effort to arrive at a reasonable settlement.
Everyone who has seen the plight of the refugees will agree that it is terrible, but even so the refugees are better off under the United Nations than they were before. For the first time they get regular food, they can take outside employment, and their children get regular schooling. It is no use the United States, us and the Soviet Union continually pouring arms into an area which could explode tomorrow. We should make every effort to find a lasting settlement.
In the last few years much less credence has been given to the words "peaceful co-existence." There have been delays, procrastination and non-agreement. There have been proposals for a conference, but when secretaries were detailed to draw up an agenda it took at least six months before they could obtain the inclusion of one item. Do we all realise the number of times the veto has been used by the Soviet Union in the United Nations? NeverthelessHope springs eternal in the human breast,and at this juncture, in view of the catastrophe awaiting the world from nuclear armaments, there should be at least one further and greater effort to arrive at a conclusive settlement.
533 If Russia is now emerging as a full consumer-economic society she has less to fear than ever before. She is no longer an inferior nation depending upon outside techniques and standards. She is able to give to her people some of the results of her technological advance. As a consequence, some of her fears of being surrounded by hostile nations should be stripped off her by the logic and events and common sense. The Sputnik is a great scientific achievement. It may be that the Russians will now feel that they have demonstrated to the world that they feel more secure than ten years ago they ever hoped to be. I sincerely hope that is true. The Sputnik also demonstrates clearly that we must stop the waste of scientific, technical and industrial resources between ourselves and the United States and that we should achieve some kind of parity in scientific development to counter the achievements of the Soviet Union.
It would be ironic if, at this stage of our political development, when the Conservative Government have still two years to run, the invention of the Sputnik should rescue the Government from disaster. It could well be. The pooling of scientific resources between us and the United States could mean an immense saving in defence expenditure for us and that could save the Government in the next two years. It would be a tragic thing to the Opposition if it meant saving the Conservative Party from defeat at the next General Election.
Russia has made a number of mistakes when the ball has been at her feet. Such mistakes have been made before, and usually by nations who have not had to take cognisance of public opinion because they were dictatorships in inception and constitution. In the last five or ten years, Russia has made mistakes over E.D.C., the Brussels Treaty and in other ways. I sincerely hope that the Sputnik is not a mistake which will result in the electors of this country saving the Government from defeat at the next General Election.
§ 2.26 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) said "Hope springs eternal in the human breast" and proceeded to give the Conservative Party hope of avoiding defeat at the next 534 General Election. We are very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman on this side of the House. I sympathise with what the hon. Member said about our relationship with Soviet Russia, and I agree with him, though from a different point of view, in deploring the outcome of the expedition to Egypt. Even on a most superficial globe-trot to Cyprus and other parts of the Middle East which I visited I was ably to see at first hand something of the catastrophic effect upon that vital area of the decline in British prestige and influence since the premature withdrawal of our forces from Egypt.
The question now is whether the United States has not cut off its Middle East nose to spite its anti-colonialist face. As the successor to the reality of British and French power we have the high-sounding words of the Eisenhower doctrine. Announced in January, 1957, this provided for the economic and diplomatic support of Arab States which declared themselves against Soviet Communism. Armed assistance was promised against aggression by any country which was "controlled by international Communism." We all know that as a direct result of the removal of British power the Soviet outposts are in Damascus and Cairo. But the military junta in Cairo and the adventurers who are in charge of affairs in Damascus profess not Communism but neutralism. The Eisenhower doctrine has thus admirably provided for situations which the Soviet Government are most unlikely to permit.
The British foothold in the Middle East was dislodged under American pressure. But the United States has not even secured a toehold in our place. It is said by some people that the success of the pro-Western coup d'état in Jordan was due to the armed demonstration of the United States Sixth Fleet. It may be so, but I myself think that it should be attributed to the cold courage of King Hussein and the vigorous loyalty of his adherents in the desert and the Arab Legion.
There are now three alternatives for the Middle East. The first is a continuation of conflict, whether of words or of weapons, of warfare, military or economic. The second alternative may commend itself to the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), if 535 I understood his speech today aright. It is the acceptance of Soviet Russia as a prominent Middle Eastern Power. The right hon. Member quoted Mr. Menzies and suggested he was in favour of some kind of international regime which would welcome Soviet Russia into the Middle East. What has been reported in the Press today suggests otherwise. It has also to be noted that Mr. Casey, Mr. Menzies' colleague in the Australian Government, has spoken of the Middle East as "an area where Russia traditionally has no place."
What is the third choice? I think it is something for which we ought to work, but something which it will be very difficult to achieve, namely, the insulation of this vital region from the conflict and rivalry of the two giant empires. On the eve of the landing in Egypt, I made a speech which will go down to posterity, because it has been quoted by Mr. Michael Foot in a book entitled "Guilty Men of Suez". There is a part of the speech I made which he did not quote and in which I looked to the future. I said that we must try, not only to find the answer to Nasser, but also, the answer to Nasserism. I ask myself this question: What is it that makes a Nasser or a Syrian adventurer aspire to the command of the faithful against Israel and the West? There is a variety of answers, but I suggest that one of the reasons is that world conditions are such that a choice is imposed upon countries such as the Arab States between one or other of two giant systems competing for the control of the world's economy.
I suggested in that earlier speech that what was needed in the Middle East was a co-operative area of economic development and mutual discrimination supported by nations of Europe and nations of the Commonwealth. To achieve this, to achieve what has been already referred to in this debate, the Commonwealth or Colombo Plan type of co-operation in the Middle East—I am all for that—will require a more robust British foreign policy than we have seen hitherto in that part of the world. I think it will mean something rather stronger than tame submission to the Arab collective boycott. I was in Israel and saw British destroyers welcomed at Tel-Aviv. More recently the White Ensign was shown, though only modestly, at Haifa.
536 I wonder whether it might be possible for the Government to work for a better understanding with the State of Israel. I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Garston (Sir V. Raikes) said yesterday in his last speech to this House, a speech which was both eloquent and moving. He spoke of the importance in the Middle East of Turkey, of Israel and of Iraq. I know that Iraq is a country which has not even entered into an armistice with Israel, but I also remember that Weitzman and Feisal had quite a good understanding and at one time it looked as if there was going to be an understanding between King Abdullah and Ben Gurion. In the management of their economic affairs those two countries are an example to their neighbours. I believe that the common interest of the present might conquer the animosities of the past. Certainly if there could be an understanding between Iraq and Israel it would bar the way to the federation of Syria with Egypt, backed by the Soviet Union, over the corpse of Jordan. If we are to do anything in the Middle East one thing is certain: we must hold Cyprus.
I come now to the Amendment to the Address which stands in the name of my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) and seven of his hon. Friends, including myself.
§ [And, whilst welcoming your Majesty's Government's intention to seek a just and enduring solution of the problems of Cyprus, trust that your Ministers will safeguard your Majesty's sovereignty.]
§ What is said in the Queen's Speech on the subject of Cyprus is good as far as it goes. We would be happier if we could be sure that it was the determination of Her Majesty's Government to maintain the Queen's sovereignty of the Island and to work all-out for a constructive and enduring solution. I was very much struck when I was in Israel and other parts of the Middle East by the anxiety which was felt by our friends lest Britain should surrender Cyprus. Sir John Harding has given place to Sir Hugh Foot. I should like humbly to pay my tribute to the Field Marshal. I know he never commended himself to Eoka, I know he had dreadful decisions to take. I know he did not always commend himself to hon. Members opposite. Nor did 537 the Administrative Secretary who was recently attacked in this House, an officer whom I do not know personally, but who I have heard is a man respected by our friends and feared by our foes because of his deep knowledge of the problems of the island of Cyprus and his knowledge of the language of its people.
§ I think it is one of the unworthier traits of the British character that sometimes we are not grateful enough to the proconsuls and commanders who have done their country great service abroad. We wish Sir Hugh Foot well. He has seen service in Palestine and Transjordan and therefore he will know well the horror, the bloodshed, the conflict and chaos that can come out of partition or out of a premature relinquishment of British responsibility.
I should say that one test of the reality of interdependence between ourselves and our American allies would be that they should stand firmly behind us in the maintenance of our position in the island of Cyprus. On this question of interdependence, I hope when my hon. Friend replies to the debate we may hear a little more about the "contribution of sovereignty" which the Prime Minister mentioned in his speech. My right hon. Friend said:
in the near future…the nations of the free world must make an even more significant contribution of their national sovereignty to the common cause than hitherto."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1957; Vol. 577, c. 39.]
I should like to have a definition of "national sovereignty." As it stands, I think this is a revolutionary statement. To some it will be fully justified by the success which the Soviet Union has achieved in the development of ballistic weapons. I agree very much with the hon. Member who said we should not get hysterical. I do not believe the situation has really changed all that much.
I noticed that when M. Spaak arrived at London Airport he gave his view, and it is one to be respected, that the equilibrium of the forces remains. We have always known that there would come a time when the giant Powers would be able to bombard each other with intercontinental ballistic missiles. I do not think any revolutionary transfer of national sovereignty is justified by the present situation. I do not always agree with Secretary Dulles, but I think he
was quite right when he said at his Press conference—I quote from the official State Department transcript:
I do not exclude the possibility at all of having a highly organised military unity without political unity. We certainly had it during the war.
I am one of those who value national sovereignty. I value it as an English Member of the British Parliament in allegiance to Crown and country. I value it as a citizen of the Commonwealth, which is built on national sovereignty—the Commonwealth about which my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Lady Gammans) spoke so eloquently in that fine maiden speech to which we listened with such great pleasure.
§ Thirdly, I value national sovereignty as a European, because I believe that the variety and the independence of the nations which make up the comity of Europe is Europe's crowning glory, and I believe that nationhood must be the starting point for European unity. There must be flexibility in the new and developing unity of Europe. There must be flexibility in the new trading arrangements which we shall make. If we do not have that flexibility, I believe we shall lose the opportunity of bringing the satellite States, now under Soviet domination, back into the society of free Europe.
§ I am all for co-ordination with our allies. I am all for cutting out waste and unnecessary expenditure. But I am convinced that national sovereignty must be maintained and the essential weapons kept in national hands.
§ I ask the Government to make sure that in our desire to consolidate the Western world we do not destroy the loyalties we are most concerned to defend or jeopardise the chance that the Commonwealth may have of using its properties of healing and conciliation to restore a balance of power in the world and to help bring peace to this self-tormented generation.
§ 2.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
The hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) asked some questions about sovereignty. I believe he listened with me this week to a very interesting speech made by the Secretary-General of N.A.T.O. One of the outstanding facts of which the British public may not be 539 aware is that already a large section of our sovereignty and our right of decision has been handed over to the Military Command in N.A.T.O.
Secondly, we know that any Russian aggression—and this appears in the White Paper—will be met, whether the aggression is by conventional methods or not, by tactical nuclear weapons. This is on record. What kind of world are we living in? The hon. Gentleman has put forward a pattern of existence for the Middle East. He is using the glossary of the twentieth century with the mentality of a troglodyte.
The hon. Member demands the dignity of sovereignty for this country, but he said that he hoped we should maintain our control in Cyprus. When he speaks of maintaining our control in Cyprus he is using the language of the nineteenth century and the language of man at a different period of history.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I want to build self-government in Cyprus and to develop it towards full sovereignty.
§ Mr. Davies
I do not want to become involved in the cut and thrust of debate about Cyprus. My interpretation of the hon. Member's speech did not give it the meaning he has just suggested.
The problem before mankind is that of survival. When I listened yesterday to the defence debate, I was reminded of a speech I made in Aberdare. As I said then, we hear all the fiddle-faddle of the arithmetic of manpower and the geometry of firepower, and whether we shall have 165,000 troops or whether there will be a gap of 30,000 troops. For the men who are supposed to be leading the country to security to talk like that in the mid-nineteenth century shows me that there is complete bewilderment on the Government Front Bench and that the Western world seems to be rat-ridden with fear. I wish we could put a little faith in place of this fear. From both sides of the House this morning there has been a plea for a little faith and for an approach based on the belief that man, whether he is Communist man or capitalist man, wants peace.
540 The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne), who gave us a very interesting account of his discussion with Mr. Khrushchev, told us that the Russian people want peace. There is nothing new in that. I know that they want peace, and so do the American people; they want peace as much as does anybody else on earth.
If this is a fact, what is preventing it? It is no good hon. Members opposite saying that it is entirely the fault of the Russians that the Disarmament Sub-Committee collapsed. It might be a constructive suggestion to suggest that we should completely alter the composition of the Disarmament Sub-Committee. As India has said, four out of the five nations on the Sub-Committee are N.A.T.O. Powers, while Asia and Africa are not represented at all.
What disarmament conference can we have in the world if the representatives of Asia and Africa are not called into it in this twentieth century world? It is on the oils, greases and fats of Asia and Africa that we want to build our economies and our military machines, but we have not the vision to include these two great sections of the human race in the disarmament talks. We are still working on a nineteenth century concept; we still believe that we shall Europeanise the world and that Western man will lead the world all the time. That concept must be abandoned.
Unfortunately, we are not prepared to abandon it. Indeed, we are now to go back to Fulton, where the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) made one of the most disastrous speeches of the twentieth century. It drove the world right back to the cold war. I criticised the speech then, and I have spoken about it in the House since.
We are now to have a conference of N.A.T.O. Powers and we are to revive the cold war. This is where the fear is shown, and it arises because the Russians have shown that they have made good, co-ordinated technical progress. Why could we not have made a constructive suggestion about the Middle East? It is no good hon. Members opposite scoffing. I have heard many people shout out such words as "scuttling"; it echoes from one green bench after another.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
It has been said only once today, and that was from the hon. Member's side of the House.
§ Mr. Davies
I said that I have heard it many times. I have heard it once today and hundreds of times on other occasions.
I am convinced, and I think the majority on both sides of the House are convinced, that we can have no settlement in the Middle East without discussions with the Russians. That is not a wonderful discovery. Whatever the United States may say, this Government could give a lead.
Let us consider the position in South-East Asia, where we are being led to disaster by American policy unless we check it. The 1954 Geneva Conference was a great achievement by the previous Foreign Secretary, for whom, despite our political differences, I had a great respect. I felt that when he had done a job he deserved the praise for it. When he brought China, Russia and the United States together and worked hard to make the 1954 Geneva Conference a success, he deserved praise from all thinking people, whatever our political differences.
That 1954 Conference was a new type of conference, and a type that could still go on. The tragedy of it was that Mr. Foster Dulles just huffed like a great big bear, not wanting to discuss matters, and thinking in terms of massive retaliation. He refused to come in and just skulked and sulked in the corridors at Geneva whilst those concerned with man's survival were trying to find a formula for peace in the Orient.
We were dragged into the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation against our will. Dean Acheson, in his book, "Pacific Journey"—one of the most illiterate books from the point of view of politics, written of the Far East; I do not mean illiterate grammatically, but illiterate in political understanding—talks of the pressure America had to bring on the British Foreign Office to keep China out of the United Nations. It is revealed in that book.
We should have insisted that China, as a great nation, should be a member of the United Nations. To recognise anything else is the height of human stupidity when dealing with the explosive, volatile 542 material that is Oriental man on the march at present. The answers are difficult to find, but Anthony Eden started trying at Geneva in 1954 to approach the problem. That was abandoned because the United States of America had completely different ideas. Because of her fear of the U.S.S.R. and of national revolutions in Asia, she wanted a ring of bases throughout Asia, too.
We have had the sixth report of the International Supervisory Commission of Vietnam placed before us in this House, but we are still awaiting the seventh report. It should be here, and I want to ask the Foreign Secretary when we shall get that seventh report, because the evidence in the sixth report shows that the Commission is not allowed to work in Saigon or the South. Are we to keep the 70th Parallel as a permanent division between these people? I ask, because it is now more difficult to send a letter from Hanoi to Saigon than anywhere else in the world. It has to go through Hong Kong and Paris. The people there are being forced to be two peoples on the old nineteenth century idea of "Divide and rule".
These people of Vietnam are delightful people, whatever their politics. In both the North and the South I found that they want to live in peace, but they are pawns in the power politics of the so-called free world, and because the United States of America put in special clauses in the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty that part of the world is even being used for bases and exercises for S.E.A.T.O. forces completely against the spirit of Geneva—and no one protests. Then we have the fantastic idea that we are to have a free Malaya and, ultimately, a free Singapore and use them as bases for the S.E.A.T.O., which is neither a treaty nor an organisation but a complete farce, because there are only two Oriental nations in it, and they are of no standing at all.
These are obligations that we should face in the United Nations. We should not give up our political know-how of the movement of force in the Far East. The British—and I do not say this in any spirit of showmanship—through their traders and others, have learned over the centuries quite a lot of how to deal with these problems in the Orient. It is time that we used that know-how and honestly told the Americans that the way they are 543 trying to build up bases and forcing some of the Oriental peoples into these false pacts is spreading Communism in Asia rather than holding it back.
I turn now to China. We have seen 600 million people on the march, and I will not have it that every movement for freedom in the world is bound to be Communism and that we get subversive activity. Is it subversive activity because Cyprus asks for freedom? Is it subversive activity by the Chinese people, violently perhaps, to seek freedom? Let us remember:…The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.That is in one of the good books that' people forget and instead test hydrogen bombs on Christmas Island.
What is happening now happened in. Europe in the days of Metternich, We say that a civil uprising is subversive, but we are tied up with pacts from one end of the world to the other that could throw British troops into war. We have the hydrogen bomb in East Anglia and, because of these pacts, a foolish act could result in London being blown to bits because something was considered subversive in Vietnam, in Cambodia, in Laos or in the Philippines.
All these pacts should be reviewed and, as has been said earlier today from these benches, they had better be' reviewed, through the United Nations. For all its weaknesses, the United Nations is the only method that modern man possesses. All the painful effort over the years and centuries to get a system of world government has given us the United Nations—the only fabric we have, despite its failures.
But what are we to do? We are to rebuild the N.A.T.O. system, which will destroy the sovereignty of the British people; rebuild different regional organisations which will ultimately undermine completely the United Nations. I beg of the Foreign Secretary at least to put forward a constructive policy for the South-East Asia area and review our commitments under the S.E.A.T.O. Pact—a Pact that Asian man laughs at because he knows that it is really an effort in the twentieth century to carry on nineteenth imperialism in South-East Asia.
§ 2.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
In the few minutes that I want to detain the House I should like to reinforce the plea that my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) has just made for some sign of constructive policies on the part of the Government. At the opening of this debate we had a speech from the Foreign Secretary, the first opportunity that he has had to make a general survey to the House since we parted at the beginning of August. The only general comment that I want to make about it is that it seems to me that the speech hardly bore out what the Prime Minister had said a day or two ago about us being at a turning point in history. If the situation is even half as dramatic as the Prime Minister makes it out to be, I should have thought that either he or his Foreign Secretary would have had something rather newer and more stimulating to tell us than he has.
On a number of points that the Foreign Secretary made he has already had an answer from my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), and I particularly want to avoid travelling too much of the ground which has already been covered by my right hon. Friend. This applies in particular to the topic of disarmament with which my right hon. Friend dealt at length. The only comment I want to make on that is that whatever replies the Minister may see fit to give to my right hon. Friend this afternoon, I beg the Government not to underestimate the public unease about this.
There are many people who feel that the Russians have been extremely difficult, may indeed be wholly insincere, but who nevertheless are far from being convinced that there has been complete sincerity on our side either. When I say "our" I am not referring specifically to our Governments; I am referring to the combination of Western Powers. There has certainly been a deep feeling that the public relations aspect has been badly mishandled, and there are explanations which the public and the House are entitled to have from the Government.
Of the other points in the Foreign Secretary's speech, there are only two which I wish to take up. The first relates to his general attitude to the United Nations. I was very glad when the Foreign Secretary read out considerable extracts from 545 the introduction to the Annual Report of the Secretary-General about the general rôle of the United Nations in world affairs and expressed his approval of it and associated the Government with that analysis. Even if some of us felt that this was a little hard to reconcile with the attitude taken only a few months ago by the Foreign Secretary, it would be churlish of us not to express a note of pleasure when we find that apparently the Foreign Secretary has come round to our point of view on this matter.
There is one point I should like to make to the Foreign Secretary. Throughout the last year on several occasions he has used in public the phrase which has become well known about the United Nations having a double standard in its dealings with different nations. He repeated that as recently as when he spoke to the Conservative Conference at Brighton, which speech was apparently well received by his party. If he had referred to another part of the same document of which he was expressing such approval—the Introduction to the Secretary-General's Report—he would have had the complete answer to this.
The Secretary-General, without using the particular observation or phrase "double standard," recited what had been done in the twin cases of Suez and Hungary—twin in the sense that they happened at the same time—to show that there was no double standard at all. The difficulty in one case was the enforcement of the express wishes of the General Assembly, which had nothing to do with the General Assembly having two standards.
The matter was then summed up in the article by Mr. John Foster Dulles in Foreign Affairs when he said:It is sometimes said by way of reproach that in these matters the United Nations applied a 'double standard'—severity towards Israel, France and the United Kingdom, and leniency towards the Soviet Union. This charge has no basis in fact. The Assembly resolutions directed against the use of force in Egypt and Hungary were equally peremptory. The double standard was not in the United Nations, but in the nations.Of course, it was the hard fact of the situation that in the one case it was possible to exercise pressures short of world war and in the other case it was not, which made the difference between the two cases. If the Foreign Secretary 546 wishes us to accept his present attitude to the United Nations as being genuine, I hope he will drop any further talk on this point.
I wish to make one further point on the optional Clause. The Foreign Secretary once again did not quote the relevant passage of the Secretary-General's introduction on this topic either. On page 6 of the Introduction the Secretary-General, after deploring the fact that such a large number of nations had never accepted the optional Clause of the Statute, went on to say:Even more discouraging today, perhaps, than the decline in the acceptance of compulsory jurisdiction, is the fact that certain States have replaced or renewed their acceptances by declarations containing new and far-reaching reservations. The Court has been itself faced with the problem of late, and I cannot fail to express my own concern over the possibility that the present trend, if not soon halted, may render the whole system of compulsory jurisdiction virtually illusory.This is, of course, a direct reference to us, no doubt amongst certain others who have increased reservations to the Clause.
The next sentence is the only other one I wish to quote:The Court, like its predecessor under the League, has shown that it merits universal confidence.I should like to ask the Minister whether that view is shared by Her Majesty's Government. If it is shared, and if in fact the Government accept the reliability of the Court as a court of law, what types of case are we really afraid to take before such a tribunal? On what types of case are we afraid to accept the Court's judgment? I accept that, in the particular cases to which the Foreign Secretary took exception, there can be an element of unfairness in the sense that certain people might take us to the Court in circumstances in which they would not themselves be prepared to be taken. This, I accept would be anomalous, but have we not sometimes to make sacrifices if we are to try to lead the trend in the right direction towards the international rule of law?
Should we really be losing so very much if we were taken, let us say, by one of the Communist countries to the Court, and if we then submitted ourselves to the judgment of the Court? It would not be the judgment of the Communist country or of the opposite party but 547 it would be the judgment of the Court. If, subsequently, we wished to take that other country to the Court and were unable to do so, we should be no worse off than we are at present with all the reservations which the Government have made. I appeal to them to think this over again and see whether we have not an obligation, as this country always felt in the past it had, to try to encourage others to accept the rule of law and not give rise to such comments as I have just read from the words of the Secretary-General.
I should now like to take up something, not in a party spirit at all, from the Foreign Secretary's speech at Brighton. He enumerated two things which were the basis of his foreign policy, and I will not say whether I agree with them wholly or not. He put first, I think, the building of our alliances, and second, the possession of nuclear weapons. That is an order of priority which some might dispute. In the third place, he went on to say, reading from the account in The Times, that:That was only part of the story. We must also reach out in the opportunities existing in so many directions for strengthening our position and influence in the world.A few sentences later, he said that there was plenty of room for imaginative approaches.
This is what many of us felt, I think, to be lacking both in what the Prime Minister said the other day in the earlier stages of this debate and in what the Foreign Secretary said today. It is particularly in our relations with the Soviet Union that all of us, I suppose, are anxiously, even desperately, looking for some kind of imaginative approach. I accept at once that there is nothing more difficult than to give any confident assessment of what the Soviet Union's policy is or even what its capabilities may be from time to time. In recent weeks, we have had two major surprises, one political, in the events surrounding Marshal Zhukov, and the other technical and scientific, in the launching of the satellites. Neither of those, so far as I know, was foretold, at any rate with any accuracy, even by the greatest pundits. There may well be more surprises next week in either politics or technology.
I think we can probably agree, therefore, that we cannot base a policy on 548 hastily switching as each incident develops. That is why most of us—I will not say everyone—in the House are prepared to see the Government being fairly cautious. When the Government say, as they often do, "We must not let down our guard," in a general way most of us accept that because we are all very uncertain about what is really on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Having said that, however, I must add, and I am sure that I speak for many of my right hon. Friends in this, that we have been dismayed at the rigidity both of the Washington communiqués which seemed to many of us to be little more than an old-fashioned, cold war document, and at the tone and balance, rather than the detailed sentences, of the Prime Minister's speech the other day.
I thought that the tone of the Prime Minister's speech was reproduced, very largely, in the latter stages of the Foreign Secretary's remarks to us today when he was talking about the Soviet record since the war. It was not so much that I disagreed with the historical sequence of events which he outlined, but I again noticed the tone and balance of his thinking with regard to the Soviet Union.
It is true that, in a single sentence of his speech, the Prime Minister paid lip-service to his belief in co-existence, but the rest of his speech seemed to me to be couched in terms which I can only call the terms of religious war. He was not even referring to Soviet aggression; he kept on talking about Communism. One thought one heard an echo of the rather dangerous phraseology which appeared so prominently in the American document known as the Eisenhower doctrine earlier in the year.
I really do not believe that this is the tone to adopt, if one wishes to gain respect and sympathy for one's policy in any of the vast areas of the world which are uncommitted, nor do I think that it helps in what I might call the marginal areas, of which there are several at the moment—countries like Yugoslavia and Poland where we have found that it is possible to achieve a certain success in getting toleration and even positive co-operation, but countries which, nevertheless, claim that they are still Communist. That is not the sort of language to use if one wishes to advance toleration and co-operation in fields of that kind.
549 I think that we all appreciate, if that is the right word, that the Prime Minister is rather given to dramatising things. He used pretty dramatic terminology in his speech. He said that he thought that it was a real turning point in history…for I believe that never has the threat of Russian and Soviet Communism been so great…."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1957; Vol. 577, c. 40.]and so on. He did not explain very clearly why he thought that this was a turning point, although I gather from what he said that he was thinking that it may be a turning point not so much in our attitude to the Soviet Union as in our co-operation with the United States. But it is still something to be explained.
Perhaps he was thinking that it is a turning point because of the technical development symbolised by the Sputnik. If that is what he was thinking of, surely the lesson that he should have drawn is that we have to face quite as much a non-military challenge—a technical challenge, a challenge in the general field of science and welfare, from the Communist system. We face a challenge in research and in the development of the backward areas of the world, and that research, in particular, need not necessarily be primarily in the military field.
If we are going to talk about turning points or challenges, I confess that I much prefer the version quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South and given by Sir John Cockcroft where he related the challenge in terms of getting disarmament rather than merely joint co-operation in military research.
The Prime Minister did seem, as did the Washington communiqué to be putting the main stress on military measures Later in his speech he used the phrase that we "must develop an equal dynamism" with that of the Communists. There was no hint, and there has been no hint since, of what he was thinking in that regard. There certainly was nothing in the speech of the Foreign Secretary to suggest that he had any particular new dynamic in mind.
In the last couple of years or so, we on this side of the House have frequently put forward suggestions of one kind or another for possibly modifying the 550 Western line on some of the dangerous topics in which we are in conflict with the Soviet Union and suggesting possible lines that might open the way to compromise. Usually, we have been sneered at by some hon. Members, not always by the Front Bench, for what in effect has been called appeasement. Is this really the last word of the new London-Washington axis which the Prime Minister claims to be forging on the whole question of negotiation and of compromise?
If it is, I think that the Government are very far out of tune with much responsible thought throughout the Western world. It is not only a number of very responsible commentators in this country and in the United States who have been critical on these matters, but we have had a number of distinguished people weighing in in recent weeks.
We had a speech from Mr. Pearson, until recently one of the most distinguished Foreign Secretaries in the world and now a Nobel Peace Prize winner. In his first speech since he became a Nobel Prize winner, he talked much about the dangers of adopting an attitude of inflexible hostility to the Soviet Union. He pleaded for a recognition of certain legitimate Soviet interests in certain areas. I imagine that he was thinking very much of the Middle East and probably of Europe, too, and certain topics, in which he might well be thinking of the question of disarmament and its relation to military bases and so on.
We had, from my point of view, a less expected but no less welcome ally the other day in Mr. Menzies, whose words have been so extensively quoted. I have read what is reported in the papers today of the subsequent speech of Mr. Menzies and, although I accept that the tone of it is rather different from the tone as I saw it reported of the speech of 22nd October, I do not think it contradicts or goes back upon any of the proposals which, in fact, Mr. Menzies made.
Many of these problems, in fact, related to the Middle East, about which I now want to say a word or two. As we all know, during the three months when the House has been in Recess, there has been a big war scare over Syria, a big propaganda battle and a great many large-scale arms transactions. I am quite convinced that Mr. Khrushchev's October 551 war scare was wholly fictitious. It was a propaganda effort and I think that this was well shown up by the debate in the General Assembly. That is not, however, the last thing that we should say about it. We should consider the context of how this Russian scare was launched by Mr. Khrushchev and whether it does not contain a lesson for us.
A few weeks after the drift of the Syrian Government towards some kind of dependence upon the Soviet Union had become a matter of comment during the late summer, I think it was on 9th September that the United States issued a major warning about the spread of international Communism in the Middle East. This was a reversion to the phrases used in the Senate resolution earlier in the year. There was a reaffirmation of the Eisenhower doctrine and a statement of determination to implement it. Among other things—I think I am quoting verbatim, although I was not able to get the actual text—reference was made to the fear of international Communism pushing Syria into acts of aggression against her neighbours. Very shortly afterwards, a British Foreign Office spokesman said that Her Majesty's Government shared this anxiety.
That warning was followed by a major arms airlift to Jordan and although it was said to be a routine operation, it was a little difficult for the world to believe that in the context of surrounding events. In addition, the supply of arms to Iraq was accelerated. At the same time, moves of the Sixth Fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean were reported. I would say to the Minister that I think that this was our war scare and that it was really no more realistic than Mr. Khrushchev's.
When I consider what I believe to be the state of the Syrian Army, even if it has any Russian equipment and, at least, some Russian technicians, I cannot believe that there was in fact a major danger of Syrian military aggression in that area at the time when Mr. John Foster Dulles issued his warning and took those military measures. I find myself somewhat confirmed by the fact that in a statement by the Jordan Foreign Minister, whose country was busily receiving the airlift of arms, a glimpse of the truth was perhaps given when he expressed in public the view that Israel was by far the greater danger than Syria 552 and that his Government saw no need to take any steps of intervention against Syria at all. This is one of the great dangers of supplying arms in that area. They may be supplied for use against a supposed external enemy, but most of the countries, if they want them at all, want them for potential use against Israel.
It was at this point that the Russians weighed in with their major counter-scare. I do not think we can doubt that for the time being, and probably up to this very time, they got most of the Arab world on their side. I do not know what part Her Majesty's Government played in all this—it was mainly an American policy—but, as I have said, a Foreign Office spokesman at one stage associated himself with the attitude.
This way of handling the Soviet Union in the Middle East simply plays into the hands of the Russians. It simply lines up Arab nationalism against us. Even though we did achieve eventually a considerable victory in the United Nations, and in the eyes of the world the Khrushchev scare is totally discredited, I am not yet satisfied that this has percolated into the Arab world. It may well be that there is still a residue of Soviet success left in Arab public opinion.
Admittedly, the arms competition is very dangerous in this area, but are we to assume that there is no alternative policy to that which has been followed by the British and American Governments for dealing with the situation? I do not think we should. As has already been said by many speakers in this debate and by many of us before, and as is now being said, I understand, by Mr. Menzies, among others, we really cannot leave the Soviet Union out of these matters. There she is, fairly solidly entrenched.
If the Government are finding any means of stopping or even limiting the supply of arms by the Soviet Union to the Middle East, I shall be very glad to hear, but it is my understanding that we have absolutely no means at all of doing that and that the arms are flowing in as and when and in the quantities which the Soviet Union wants and that the Government are saying to the public that it is no use even approaching the Russians about this because their objects are so wholly mischievous that it would he a waste of breath.
553 I do not think that this can be accepted. Personally, I accept the view that any kind of summit talk requires preparation, but that is a matter of technique and we should start putting out feelers and setting negotiations in train without necessarily rushing into immediate summit talks. The Foreign Secretary said that summit talks needed preparation, but what preparation is he making? Are probings taking place?
One or two quite definite steps obviously come up for discussion if and when we can get round the discussion table with the Russians. I want to mention two which occur most strongly to me. First, can we not make some attempt to get Israel taken out of the great Power struggle, something which could be achieved if we could get even some kind of a four-Power guarantee of the frontiers of Israel and her neighbours against alteration by military force. The Soviet Union recognised Israel and voted for her admission to the United Nations. Were she flatly to refuse this suggestion, she would lose a good many points in the propaganda campaign. I am not convinced that she would turn it down. From the point of view of arms coming from the Soviet Union, the situation at the moment can hardly be worse, and this, too, should be included in the talks.
Another point with which I would have liked to deal had I the time arises from the reference in Mr. Menzies's speech to aid for the area. I was particularly interested in the fact that he advocated aid unconnected with any strings, unconnected with any military undertakings and on an international basis. Whatever else that means, it must mean that Mr. Menzies is thinking of something quite different from aid under the Bagdad Pact. All he said about the Bagdad Pact was that he hoped that we would develop the civil and economic aspects. He did not even refer to the military side and that seems to indicate that his mind is working on very much the same lines as are ours on this side of the House.
While nobody is asking the Government simply to liquidate the military aspects of the Bagdad Pact, which can hardly be done when we have led our allies into reliance upon us, it is on the economic aspects of the Middle East that we ought to concentrate if we want a solution. I ask the Government why 554 there has been no reaction to any of those points—no suggestion of making moves towards negotiations on arms—about Israel and no suggestions for economic aid at all. If I am wrong, I hope that we shall be told.
Another point on the Middle East relates to the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman which was causing anxiety in the House when we separated in August. During the Recess, the operation was completed with very small casualties, but we all recognise that small though the casualties may have been, the repercussions of that incident are not entirely local. I shall not attempt any recriminations about whether it was right or wrong to do what was done on that occasion. Most of us realise that Britain had been caught in a somewhat anomalous and out-of-date situation and that while what was being done was not desirable, it was extremely difficult to think what should have been done instead. However, surely we can all agree with what The Times said in an article on 22nd August:The basic lesson of the Oman adventure is surely that it should not happen again.The point is that it will happen again, in Muscat, Oman, or one of the other sheikdoms, unless something positive is done and unless we get a transformation of the security of the Gulf and this part of Arabia.
The very able head of the London bureau of the New York Herald Tribune has recently been doing a series of articles on the Middle East and he went into the matter in some detail. He came to the rather gloomy conclusion that while everybody thought that the situation was unsatisfactory, it appeared that the British Government were more or less sitting back and waiting for events to shape the future and were not intending to follow any of the admittedly speculative paths which had been suggested by various people. I wonder whether we can wait in this way.
I wonder whether the Minister can tell us what he now conceives to be British interests in this regard. I think that I am right in saying that our military responsibilities in the area started with the prevention of piracy in the Gulf, and they were mainly a naval and hardly a military commitment. Then they spread imperceptibly to the keeping of order in the interior. Whether that was ever 555 expedient I doubt. Operations by Western Powers in Arabia are extremely invidious and have repercussions well outside the local area.
I do not think that it is an especially British interest, as opposed to an international one, and I am not sure that it is justifiable, in these days, that purely British troops should be involved in this kind of operation. If they are protecting anything worth while at all, surely they are protecting international interests, in which half a dozen other countries should be involved.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
Surely the right hon. Member is proposing something which does not exist. Was there anything to replace the action which the British took in the case of Oman? Was there a United Nations force?
§ Mr. Younger
I do not think that the hon. Member can have heard me say that I appreciated that nobody could think up, on the spur of the moment, what should have been done otherwise on that occasion. But it was the Foreign Secretary who said that there was plenty of room for imaginative approaches, and here I am asking for one. It must be easier for the Government to know what are the possibilities than for the Opposition or the ordinary people.
During the Recess not only The Times but many other serious newspapers ran series of articles upon this subject, all saying that we could not just let this lie, and I am asking the Government if they cannot think of something rather better than the present position. I do not see that purely British military support for one entirely non-viable sheikdom against another non-viable sheikdom makes much sense, either in terms of the Arabian future or in terms of British interests and the British position in the Middle East.
That is all that I wish to say to the House. I have tried to put one or two problems in respect of which it seems to us that there is room for much more elasticity and for the contemplation of certain alternative policies than has yet been indicated in any of the Government speeches. If we are at a turning point, we are entitled to expect something more flexible than the Prime Minister's attitude of rigid ideological hostility and, in particular—what always offends me; he has done it again in the last week or so— 556 his linking of British greatness simply with the possession of the nuclear weapon. I regard this as mere histrionic talk and not a recipe for greatness. I think it is, rather, a diversion of people's minds from the endlessly difficult but necessary tasks of diplomacy and compromise which the world situation demands.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ormsby-Gore)
I must first apologise to the House for the absence of the Foreign Secretary. He asked me to say that he was unexpectedly called away to a very important meeting, and he wished me to apologise to all those present for not being in his place.
We have had an interesting and wide-ranging debate, which is the normal thing to say on these occasions, when what one means is that it has been a little amorphous. This is bound to happen in a foreign affairs debate, where we are not addressing ourselves to any particular initiative of the Government or to any particular subject in foreign affairs. We then have these rather formless debates, which are a little like those latest models of ladies' hats, which appear to be inverted velvet knitting bags.
Before I start on my more important remarks, I should like to say how much we enjoyed hearing the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Lady Gammans). She spoke with authority about the fine work that Britain has done in a part of the Commonwealth with which she had a personal acquaintanceship, and which we recently welcomed as a new independent Dominion. I am sure we all enjoyed her speech and hope to hear from her on many occasions in the future.
I have indicated that I cannot very well deal with all the many topics which have been raised, but I will try to say something about one or two of the more important ones. The right hon. Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) is also not in his place, and perhaps I should apologise for him, too. He told me that he could not be present, but asked me two direct questions, one about the financial position of U.N.R.W.A. and the other about the financial position of the United Nations Emergency Force.
I am afraid that the financial position of neither is satisfactory. To take 557 U.N.R.W.A. first, there is no danger of an immediate breakdown in the works of U.N.R.W.A., but we are concerned about the outlook for 1958. The shortfall in contributions is certainly not attributable to Her Majesty's Government. We have already pledged 2.7 million dollars to U.N.R.W.A. for the first half of 1958, and have also stated that we will contribute a similar sum, subject to the approval of Parliament, in the second half of 1958, and that fulfils our entire obligation.
We are also making an additional contribution of 200,000 dollars for the first half of the year. We are thus contributing about 20 per cent. of the U.N.R.W.A. budget, and we shall certainly continue to play our full part. Discussions are going on to see whether the contributions of other countries cannot be increased.
I think I ought to point out that throughout the work of this organisation there has never been any contribution of any sort from the Soviet Union. Of course, the same applies in the case of the United Nations Emergency Force. There, again, it is quite apparent that there is going to be a shortfall, and this is going to come up for discussion in the United Nations during the next week or two. In this case, too, it is in no way due to Her Majesty's Government who have already paid their full and complete contribution.
§ Mr. Beswick
Is it not a fact that a good deal of that contribution has been in the shape of equipment which, anyhow, we could not otherwise have used? Is there not a very special obligation upon us? After all, we said that we went to war to create this force.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I do not think there is a special obligation on us to do more than our share in regard to that force, but I can give the House the undertaking that we certainly intend to pay our share. The form of our contribution is a matter for discussion with the Secretary-General, and if he is prepared to take it in kind instead of in cash I do not think that anyone has a reason to complain.
Coming to one or two of the major items, it is, of course, quite apparent that the most inflammable and tense area at the present time is in the Middle 558 East. But I would remind hon. Members that in these kind of circumstances it is by no means certain that those who talk most and loudest achieve the most satisfactory results. The main causes of dissension and instability remain—Israel, her borders, the refugees, Jordan's state of chronic impecuniosity, to borrow a recent legal expression, and Russia's reckless encouragement of an arms race, and so on.
I will deal with the question of Syria in a moment, but before doing so I should like to draw the attention of the House to certain encouraging features in the area. First, there has undoubtedly been less violence on the borders of Israel than for some years past, and it has always been my view that a considerable period of relative calm and relaxation is essential before any radical solution has any chance of being successful.
Secondly, Colonel Nasser has conspicuously failed to restore his former influence and sway over other countries in the area. His ill-concealed, and recently even unconcealed, antagonisms to other Arab States have provoked the inevitable reactions. He has failed to make friends and influence people on a scale only rivalled by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) at a recent bankers' dinner in New York. Even his attitude to Syria—I am now referring to Colonel Nasser—seems to alternate at present between condescension and actual jealousy, and it is possible that this marked lack of success in foreign intrigue will encourage him to spend more of his time attending to the urgent and legitimate needs of Egypt. This would be a great gain for all of us, and not least the Egyptian people.
The third encouraging feature is the growing confidence and sense of unity within the Bagdad Pact. The United States is now a member of all its committees, and although I know there are hon. Members—I think that the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) is one—who think it should not do so, it has in fact given a number of countries in the Middle East a greater feeling of security. It has been suggested that the Pact is a provocation to the Soviet Union, that it is encirclement; that it is aggressive in character. These are well-worn phrases. We heard them often enough in the 559 'thirties, and there were people guillible enough to be taken in by them. As a result, many people died. Surely we are not to be taken in by them again?
Let us look at the map. Look at the forces available to the Powers in the area. Is it conceivable that the Pact could be anything but a defensive one? Is it conceivable that the mighty Soviet Union could be invaded by these forces across these frontiers? It is an absurd proposition, and no one in the Soviet Government believes it for a single moment. It is a defensive organisation and gives collective strength to the countries bordering on the Soviet Union and the knowledge that if they were threatened they would have strong and loyal friends to turn to. That is the military significance of the Pact.
It is also said sometimes that too much emphasis is placed on the military side, and there may have been some truth in this, although I think it worth remembering that it is not much good starting on interior decoration until you have made sure that the outside walls are weatherproof. But the interior decoration is now under way, and I am convinced that this increased co-operation and development on the economic side of the Pact's work is of the highest importance. Quite apart from financial help, this country has done invaluable work in providing a great variety of experts and technicians, and in these sort of conditions such help is often harder to come by than actual cash.
I will now turn to recent events in connection with Syria, about which I was asked by the right hon. Gentleman. I will try to put them in a slightly wider context than he did. He took up the theme from the moment after the events in Syria in August; I should like to go a little further back than that. I cannot understand how any fair-minded person can interpret the present tension and trouble in the Middle East as being caused by American policies and actions. If there is any imperialism at work in the Middle East today, it is surely Soviet imperialism. They have been pursuing a policy which in the past has successfully turned into Russian provinces large independent Moslem areas lying to the north of what we now call the Middle East.
560 Immediately after the war we saw the Soviet attempts to take over parts of Iran and irredentist claims to provinces in Turkey. It was Russia's expansionist policy which drew the States of the southern frontier in this area into a defensive alliance. It was fear of Russian expansionism which brought about the Bagdad Pact. It was not the Bagdad Pact which caused Russia to expand in the Middle East. Regarding the present situation, I should have thought it was clear that the Russians and their friends wish to keep the Middle East in a state of crisis and tension in order that they may pursue their own aims. An example of this, to which my right hon. and learned Friend referred briefly this morning, and which, I think, the whole world except for the Russian satellites accepts, has been the recent artificial furore caused over the Syria—Turkish situation. Let us just look at the facts.
The trouble started in August when, after having entered into extensive arms contracts with the Soviet Government, the Syrian Defence Minister laid the basis for a considerable economic agreement in Moscow. The Syrian Army was purged of all moderate elements, who were replaced by extremists and pro-Communists. All Syria's neighbours showed considerable alarm at that moment, and the President of Syria himself seems to have been in two minds. It is important to remember, in view of recent propaganda, that it was at this time and with understandable motives that the Turks made certain precautionary military moves. That was quite a long time back, in August and September.
Excitement and speculation over increased Soviet Communist influence in Syria diminished after the visits of King Saud and the Prime Minister of Iraq to Damascus at the end of September. Syria's Arab neighbours clearly felt that the best answer to the Communist threat was to give support to those elements in Syria who did not wish their country to become a satellite.
This easing of tension apparently did not suit the Soviet Government, because almost immediately Moscow began a campaign accusing the Turks of aggressive intentions. This took the form of sustained radio warfare, threatening statements by Mr. Khrushchev, a hectoring communication to the Turkish Government and letters to the Labour Parties of 561 the European members of N.A.T.O. Soviet policy was obviously designed to make the task of moderate and patriotic elements in Syria more difficult, to cause trouble between the West and the Arab world generally and to affect the close and friendly relations between Turkey and Iraq.
Nothing could have served better than the proceedings in the United Nations to show up the purely propaganda purposes for which the Soviet Government had pressed the Syrians to make their complaint. The complaint was not lodged in the Security Council, the appropriate body to consider any real and immediate threat to peace. The efforts of Saudi Arabia were brushed aside. There was little support for the Syrian contention from the other Arab States who, while assuring Syria of their readiness to fulfil their obligations under the Charter and the Arab League, showed no inclination to say that they believed a Turkish attack was possible or imminent. Finally, the whole thing fizzled out when Mr. Khrushchev, for reasons of his own, dropped the Syrian case which, up to that time, he had been espousing.
The danger of Soviet inspired subversion remains, of course. Elements in the Syrian Army, over whom the Syrian Government seem to have little control, are continuing subversive and propaganda activities designed to upset the security and stability of Syria's Arab neighbours, with all of whom Her Majesty's Government enjoy friendly and happy relations. Her Majesty's Government has no wish to meddle in these matters, but we naturally wish our Arab friends, with whom we have so many mutual interests and such long-standing ties, success in their efforts to save both Syria and themselves from being dragged into the Soviet net.
Her Majesty's Government have no quarrel with Syria or the Syrian people. They have always supported Syria's independence and sovereignty and still do so. Our only anxiety has been lest that independence should be undermined by internal and external pressures which are trying to turn Syria into a Soviet satellite. We have no diplomatic relations with Syria at this moment, but this situation was not of our seeking. It was the Syrians who broke off relations a year ago. We, 562 for our part, see no reason why we should not have perfectly normal relations with Syria and would gladly see these restored if that were to be Syria's wish.
Her Majesty's Government watch with sympathy and interest the steps being taken by the Arabs themselves to bring stability and prosperity to their people. We are ready to co-operate wholeheartedly with all those countries in the Middle East who welcome our friendship and help, but we do not propose to interfere where our friendship is not wanted. Perhaps I may here say something about Mr. Menzies' ideas about the Middle East which have been referred to by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) and Grimsby.
These are, of course, a clear and lucid exposition of the root causes of tension and instability in the Middle East. Her Majesty's Government agree wholeheartedly with what Mr. Menzies says on the results we must work for if a lasting settlement in the area is to be achieved. The question is what can be done towards the achievement of these very desirably objectives?
Hitherto, there has been no progress towards a settlement of the problem which Mr. Menzies rightly put first among the root causes of tension in the area—the Palestine problem. Not only have the countries of the region not been willing to consider any compromise on terms that the other party would be likely to accept, but strong influences have been working to keep alive a state of affairs from which they alone can gain. Mr. Menzies has made it clear where in his opinion responsibility lies.
Her Majesty's Government's views are well known and are on record in the votes cast by the United Kingdom in the United Nations and by speeches made there. On many occasions we have recommended very much the same courses which have now been suggested by Mr. Menzies. I will not repeat them. All I will say today is that we do not believe the problem can be settled by either side by force. It will require an effort of prolonged and sustained statesmanship by all concerned to bring this painful dispute to a satisfactory close.
§ Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
As I gather the right hon. Gentleman is now leaving that subject, may I remind him that the question posed was 563 what was being done with a view to trying to get the parties concerned to agree that there shall be no aggressive action on the boundaries of Israel at the present time and that both sides undertake this. Can he tell me what steps are being taken by our Government to get an arrangement in that respect?
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
It is really not a question of the British Government always having to take an initiative in these affairs. This is a subject which is continually under discussion at the United Nations. Our views on the topic at the United Nations have been reaffirmed time and time again. It is well known what our views are about trying to change the boundaries by force. I really do not think that at this present moment an individual initiative by us would be very helpful, but of course we are prepared to discuss with other members of the United Nations what might be done to bring about an improvement in the situation in that part of the world.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that an initiative from us would not be likely to promote a result, but will he consider whether, with others, we could secure the appointment of a United Nations commission to work between Assemblies, with impartial Afro-Asian participation of a responsible kind, to try to work out a solution of the sort Mr. Menzies proposed?
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I have listened to that suggestion and will certainly pass it on to my right hon. and learned Friend. I can assure the right hon. Member that there are a number of people in the world, including Mr. Pearson—who has been mentioned earlier—who are thinking out the best methods of solving this problem. We shall certainly use our knowledge and endeavours to that end, but it is really not much help to try to force Her Majesty's Government to take up a unilateral position on this subject.
Now I should like to turn to the suggestions Mr. Menzies has made for a new economic approach to the Middle East. They offer great possibilities and call for careful study. We should certainly welcome even closer international co-operation for the economic development of the area. We agree that the Colombo Plan is an admirable 564 illustration of what can be done in this field. We have already made progress in this direction in the Middle East through the Economic Committee of the Bagdad Pact. It is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to develop the economic and social activities of the Pact as far as we possibly can. I do not think it is sufficiently realised how useful the activities of the economic side of the Bagdad Pact have already been.
I should like now to say a word or two about Muscat and Oman, to which the right hon. Member for Grimsby, who apologised that he could not stay to hear the whole of my speech, referred. I should like to reply to some of his remarks.
The House will remember what my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said at the time of the rising in Oman earlier this year. Her Majesty's Government were under no treaty obligations to go to the aid of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman; but in face of a rebellion sponsored and armed from outside Muscat and Oman, which the Sultan's forces were unable to overcome with their own resources, Her Majesty's Government felt bound to respond to the Sultan's appeal.
On 29th July, my right hon. and learned Friend said:The difference between a formal obligation and the obligations of a long-standing relationship of friendship is not readily apparent to the local Rulers and people. If we were to fail in one area it would begin to be assumed elsewhere that perhaps the anti-British propaganda of our enemies had some basis to it and that Her Majesty's Government were no longer willing or able to help their friends."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1957; Vol. 574, c. 874.]Nowhere would such a misconception be more detrimental to our interests than in the Persian Gulf, the nature of our obligations in which was explained by my right hon. and learned Friend in a Written Reply on 29th July. Any discussion about the future of the Persian Gulf States is quite unrealistic if it does not take account of these facts. Her Majesty's Government certainly have no intention of defaulting in their obligations to these States. Any suggestion that we might do so would have a deplorable effect in the whole area on confidence in our good faith and gravely disturb the equilibrium there.
565 Within the framework of our obligations, however, it is our policy to maintain the greatest possible flexibility in our relations with the individual States, which differ greatly from one another in their level of development and in their local circumstances.
We naturally take a close interest in new developments in these States, with which we have had long-standing friendships, and we have been glad to note the very great advances which have been made there recently in the field of education, health, housing and social welfare, more particularly, of course, in those States which have had the good fortune to receive oil revenues, but also in the less fortunate Trucial States, where we have been assisting the local Rulers in a programme of social, economic and educational development.
Finally, I should like to deal with the most important subject which we have had to discuss this afternoon—disarmament. Our objective and our ideal is still a comprehensive disarmament plan which would involve the prohibition and eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons and the reduction of conventional armed forces and armaments under strict controls to levels needed for internal security only. We produced a programme for this sort of disarmament in the Anglo-French plan of 1954, and the execution of such a comprehensive plan remains our goal. But we cannot achieve such a comprehensive plan now, largely because the Soviet Union will not accept at this juncture the degree of control which would alone make such a plan practical.
It is not correct to say that the Soviet Union was on the point of accepting the Anglo-French plan. What the Russians did in 1955, having refused to look at the Anglo-French plan in 1954, was to come out with another parallel plan. The details concerning controls, which the right hon. Gentleman read out, were controls which applied to the Soviet plan, not to the Anglo-French plan. The two plans were nothing like identical. We therefore are agreed that we must aim at a partial disarmament plan and that view has been accepted by the other Members of the Sub-Committee, including the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. Beswick
Can the Minister tell us what was there about the 1955 Soviet plan that was unacceptable to Her Majesty's Government?
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
Not in the five minutes that I now have left, but obviously we shall discuss that again. I think that it is important to contradict the assertion that the Soviet Union had accepted the Anglo-French plan in 1955, because that is not true.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
I am sorry to interrupt the Minister again, but is it not a fact that the Soviet representative did, in his paper, accept the objectives set out in the Anglo-French memorandum of 1955: the total abolition of nuclear weapons; the total abolition of other weapons of mass destruction; and the reduction of manpower and conventional armaments to a level corresponding to 1 million men for the strongest Powers?
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
One can, of course, find items of similarity between the two plans, but without having a very much longer debate than is now possible, I cannot go into all the differences that there were between the two plans. I do want to emphasise, however, that the control arrangements read out by the right hon. Gentleman were control arrangements for the Soviet plan and not for the Anglo-French plan.
On 29th August of this year the four Western Powers on the Sub-Committee tabled a working paper containing their proposals for partial measures of disarmament. It contained our suggestions for what can be accomplished in a short space of time and without any political preconditions whatsoever. My right hon. and learned Friend gave an outline of this plan in his speech this morning. As he then said, the Political Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations has endorsed this plan in a resolution passed two days ago. The resolution was opposed only by the nine votes of the Soviet bloc.
It is now, surely, for the Soviet Government to accept this resolution, which has the support of so many members of the United Nations—57, in fact—and cooperate with those Governments, including, of course, Her Majesty's Government that are concerned with getting on with the job of working out a practical disarmament agreement—
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
May I ask if my right hon. Friend intends now, or on some future occasion, to deal with some of the points raised by myself and others of my hon. Friends?
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I am afraid that I was out of the Chamber when my hon. Friend made his speech. I did, however, get a note of what my hon. Friend said, but as I have already had more to deal with than I can get into my speech, I think that it would be better to give my hon. Friend a fuller reply on another occasion.
In view of Russia's increasing intransigence in recent weeks, it would be foolish to be too optimistic. I had the experience of working in the Sub-Committee for about three weeks in August—
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
As I was saying, in August I had the experience of working for about three weeks on the sub-Committee, and by the time that I took part in the discussions it was clear that the Soviet delegate had received instructions to cease serious negotiation and to turn the discussion into a propaganda exercise. It was a grim and depressing 568 episode, and, I know, a keen disappointment to my other colleagues: to M. Moch, that doubty Socialist who feels as passionately about disarmament as does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South; to Governor Stassen, who worked with deep sincerity and immense patience to try to achieve some measure of agreement; and to our good friends from Canada, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Ritchie, whose commonsense was a constant help to our efforts.
All of us are only too conscious of the terrible possibilities with which modern weapons confront us. We are all of us grimly aware of the dangers around us. But what we have surely learned from recent history is that if we cringe before threats and appear to be weakening in our resolve, we shall increase, and not diminish our dangers.
If a totalitarian Power becomes convinced that we dare not defend our interests, then that Power will be tempted to try to seize them from us. That is the moment of supreme danger, and that is the situation to be avoided at all costs. That does not, of course, mean that we are not prepared to negotiate and to discuss frankly our differences, but we will not surrender to blackmail. This is not a stubborn reactionary policy but one which, I believe, history has proved to be in the true interests of peace.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Finlay.]
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.