§ 3.32 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
We are now at the beginning of a two day debate on foreign affairs. This covers, of course, a very wide range of problems—most of them, alas, not resolved—in Germany, in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East, in North Africa, in Indonesia, and elsewhere. All those separate issues will, no doubt, be discussed, yet they are all dominatd by the main question which preoccupies us all and overshadows them all. That is the main question in all our minds, the relations between the Communist countries and the West.
I do not want to go into the way in which the present position has come about. The conflict of ideas was, of course, caused when the Communist ideology was born, but it has only come to dominate our lives since the last world war and now, varying from time to time in intensity, it has lasted for twelve years. I do not think that with all our characteristic of self-depreciation we can blame ourselves for the sharpening of this position. Indeed, after the war, the British people, of all parties and all sections, had the warmest feelings of affection and admiration for the Russian people, who had resisted so bravely and fought so loyally against Hitlerism. In fact, we did our best, I think, to overlook and explain away some of the earlier incidents which caused anxiety and alarm to many. However, we must look at the position as it is today, and so far as possible, objectively.
On both sides groupings and alliances of nations have taken place with the result that the two sides face each other with daily increasing power and continual reinforcement of their arms by novel and 1214 terrible weapons. I hope that the House will not expect me today to discuss the character and location of these armaments. That would be more suitable to our debates on defence. What I am now pointing out is something with which I think everyone will agree, that there is a continual growth of these great forces, more and more strongly armed, using more and more skill and technique and productive resources in the construction of the instruments of destruction.
So, at the very time when man's control over matter has reached the highest point in the history of civilisation, the world is confronted with the uncontrolled accumulation of more and more powerful armaments. What could be the greatest era of progress seems to many to be perpetually threatened with something like self-destruction. All this has, very naturally, created a sort of disillusion and a sense, even, of despair among many. I have felt, on my return to England and on my journeys during the last few weeks. a growing anxiety and a readiness to grasp at almost any plan that may seem to offer a way out.
I am also conscious of another feature at home. The older ones among us who remember the period before the last war may be, perhaps, too much obsessed by the danger of falling into the same errors which misled us in the 'thirties, when we preferred to avert our eyes from the threat rather than to face it boldly. But a long time has passed since then and it is understandable that a younger generation are worried by the dreary prospect which seems to lie ahead if this state of tension continues unabated and the conflicting pressures grow year by year.
Somehow, we must strike a balance between these two moods. We shall certainly need, during the years that lie ahead, courage and faith, but it is right that we should try to fortify these with hope. Alongside the great division between the Communist countries and the West there has also been all the turmoil and confusion caused throughout the world, in many parts of the world, especially Asia and Africa, as a result of the last war. Out of this has emerged the tremendous acceleration of nationalist aspirations.
All this has its dangers; nevertheless, it is welcome for it has, indeed, been the deliberate British policy for over a 1215 century to encourage these movements. The rise of national consciousness in Asia and Africa is in itself a good thing, although it may very easily be exploited for evil purposes. There are many difficulties and dangers, but, taken as a whole, I am sure that the balance is on the right side. These pains are growing pains, signs not of decay, but of progress.
There is one feature of this development which I felt particularly during my Commonwealth tour. Some of those countries in the East and the Far East, long asleep, in their new awakening have been captured by Communism. Thus, China has fallen to Communism, both in theory and in practice. In other cases, totalitarianism has come about in one form or another whether through personal dictatorship or Communist theory, but this has happened only, or at least mainly, in the countries where there was no development of sound constitutional progress before. These were the countries where in all the post-war confusion there was nothing solid to build on. There is, however, stretching right round the world, one institution which stands as something sound, solid and unique. I mean, of course, the Commonwealth.
I do not intend to detain the House today with an account of the journey from which I have recently returned, but, at the same time, I find it impossible to exaggerate the impression that has been made upon me by the experience of visiting five countries in as many weeks. Of course, in the old Commonwealth countries—Australia and New Zealand—one knew of the strength of their loyalty to the Crown and of their friendship for the old country and their devotion to our constitutional tradition. Even so, I am bound to confess that I did not fully realise the fervour of these feelings. These do not detract from but rather enhance the pride of these countries in their own achievements, especially in their agricultural development and, more recently, in their great industrial development which, in the last few years has been on a scale which is hardly understood here.
There is something else, too. I have been deeply impressed by their earnest hope that it will be from British sources that their populations will be increased 1216 and by British capital that their industries will grow. Perhaps in our day-to-day life we are not sufficiently conscious of what the old Commonwealth countries mean and feel about us. At all events, I felt a sense of exhilaration, so great was the demonstration of fervent devotion to the causes which Britain and the British people have served and will continue to serve throughout the world. And, of course, what I saw in Australia and New Zealand is equally true of Canada.
But what was perhaps even more remarkable—and I wish specially to bring it to the attention of the House—were the feelings which I found in the new Commonwealth countries, if I may call them that—those who have only recently joined the ranks of that free partnership. I wish I could paint to the House a picture of the thousands of people gathered in Shah Jehan's great courtyard in the Red Fort. Here, there was something more than the traditional courtesy of the Indian people. I felt both then and in the meetings which I had with the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Nehru, and his colleagues, a real sense of partnership in the truest sense of the word.
Mr. Nehru used a phrase, in receiving me, about the unique relations between Britain and India, and, indeed, this is true. We can leave to the judgment of history the precise evaluation of every incident in the long story or the praise or blame for this or that action of British Governments in India, but I am quite certain of this: that it is no way to win the sympathy of Indians today to denigrate the achievements of individual men and women of British blood in India.
They know, as we know, how much they owe to these men who for many generations have gone out from many modest homes, often from the rectory or the manse and have given their lives to India. They know and they take pride in the creation of the Indian Civil Service, which, before the transfer of power, was largely Indianised and by which alone the orderly transference of power became possible. They cherish the principle of municipal and parliamentary government. They believe in individual freedom, the right of every man to think what he likes and to say what he likes, and within the law to do what he likes.
In this great world issue, therefore, India—and the same is true of Pakistan 1217 and Ceylon—stands with us against the Communist philosophy, for this is based upon a material view of life which is totally abhorrent to these people who, above all, cling to the spiritual foundation of their lives.
There are, of course, differences, even big differences, of emphasis and approach. The Indian Government and the Ceylonese, for instance, are against the various military groupings. Pakistan is not. After all, there are some differences of approach even in our own country to these questions. These are what I would call tactical differences. The strategic objective of all the Commonwealth countries is the same—to maintain peace and to build up the prosperity of the whole upon a basis of individual freedom and parliamentary government and not upon a basis of totalitarian control.
I must say that I found it profoundly moving to feel that these great countries, with their immense populations, so different in creed, colour, tradition and history, should now be free and willing partners with the old Commonwealth countries, anxious to work with them for the mutual benefit of themselves and of the world as a whole.
Here, therefore, extending right across the globe, we have a powerful instrument for strengthening the principles of the free world. There are some who may have thought that the passing of the old British Empire marked a decline similar to that which has been the fate of other great empires in the past. Here, however, I am sure that something unique in history has taken place, and that the best of the old empire is continuing into the new Commonwealth.
I have allowed myself this digression because I wish to examine the forces acting for good or ill on both sides, and it may be that the influence of the Commonwealth which I have just described will be of the greatest value in the ultimate resolution of what seem now to be almost hopelessly divergent concepts.
I must turn from this, however, to the harsh realities of the moment. As I see it, there are certain clear alternatives before us as a people and as a Government. We could, of course, throw in our hand altogether. In other words, we 1218 could accept, either from high principle or from less respectable motives, the pacifist solution. We could disarm unilaterally. There have always been some people in this country, by tradition, who support the pacifist view, but I do not think that it would commend itself as a policy to any Government likely to be formed in Britain.
There is a variation of this which is equally dangerous. It is that we could unilaterally abandon nuclear weapons. I think that there are hon. Members who favour this view, and I have certainly drawn this conclusion from the number of letters and resolutions which are sent to me from time to time. But this unilateral nuclear disarmament is not a tenable position, either. For if the British were to abandon this weapon only to shelter under the American nuclear power, this seems to me to have little moral value and it is, indeed, somewhat disingenuous. If, on the other hand, it means that the whole of the West is unilaterally to abandon nuclear defence, then I think we must see that this would put us completely at the mercy of the Soviet.
It has been argued that both sides should abandon nuclear weapons; if the Soviet get rid of theirs, we should get rid of ours. Even here we must be careful, for if this were not accompanied by corresponding reductions in what are called conventional weapons—terrible weapons, as many of us know—it might again put the West at a fatal disadvantage. The reason is simple. There are over 200 Russian and satellite divisions in Europe, facing the West. N.A.T.O. would find it difficult to collect even a quarter of this number over the whole front.
There are vast numbers of conventional Russian bombers that could use very high explosive bombs—still conventional weapons. There are flotillas of surface ships, there are great quantities of submarines, and the military value of these, following the abolition of the nuclear weapons, would immediately double, treble, even quadruple, in a single day, and the position in which Europe and the West would be left would be one of hopeless inferiority.
What, then, can we do? Is there no hope? Are we to live for ever in this sort of twilight between peace and war—a twilight that, in some ways, is more like 1219 a nightmare? I am sure that we must try, and I am not without hope that we may succeed, in making at least some progress towards relieving the pressures and tensions upon the world. But we must approach the question practically. At any rate, apart from all the bad, one good thing has developed, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) put it very well, I thought, in the debate that we had before Christmas. He said, in effect. "Both sides have a joint interest in peace."
This is because the balance of power is such that neither side dare attack the other without self-destruction. It is for that reason that I am so anxious that, while the threat of armaments and, indeed, of ever-increasing armaments should be reduced, and the burden lessened, this balance should be preserved.
At present, we are faced, as we were faced last year, with a deadlock in the disarmament discussions. But the Paris Conference made the sugggestion that there should be a meeting of Foreign Secretaries to try to break the deadlock, and this was a proposal in which the British Government took their full share. At that time, and since, there has been quite a lot of correspondence of different kinds between the heads of Government.
I know that there is a feeling that we have been rather slow in answering our letters, but, of course, it is right that we, in the United Kingdom, should not only consult our N.A.T.O. allies, but should also keep the Commonwealth in the picture. This makes letter-writing rather a lengthier process than if one is responsible only to oneself. Nevertheless, I feel that we have made considerable progress in the last exchanges, including the last letters that President Eisenhower and I have written to Mr. Bulganin.
It is very easy to accuse me of dragging my feet on the path to the summit, but I can assure the House that if one is a member of a caravan, it is best to try to keep the whole company moving together. At any rate, I am not ashamed of our share in these recent developments, or of what we have done, at the Paris Conference and since, to bring ourselves and our allies to the present position, and I would like to tell the House just where Ave stand today.
1220 I want a Summit Conference—but I do want it to be successful. Now, of course, there can be conferences of different kinds. It has been suggested that if we cannot agree upon an agenda or a procedure, we should just have a meeting, the purpose of which, I think, is described as trying to break the ice. For those who advocate this, I should like to give the House a picture of what happened at the first Geneva Conference, at which I was present.
What actually happened was this. Each of the four Powers was represented by four or five leading figures in the front row, and supported by 20 or 30—or sometimes more—experts in the rows behind them. We met in an immense room in the old League of Nations building, at a table which, I would guess was roughly the size of about three or four billiard tables put side by side, all equipped with the familiar mechanism of microphones, speakers and translating equipment. There were, in addition, a considerable number of spectators of various kinds, who seemed to be around in the back benches of the hall.
In effect, the members of the conference did not confer. They made a series of speeches to each other, in a strict rotation, each taking the chair for one meeting. These speeches were nominally secret, but immediately at the end of each session, by some mysterious means, the full text of the speeches made by each delegate reached the three or four thousand journalists assembled in Geneva. There were, of course, a good many very pleasant photographs taken, and some agreeable dinners organised. Indeed, it was only at the dinner parties that anything like discussions began to take place, but as they were usually bilateral that also had its limitations on the idea of a conference. There was only one occasion when we did—and I remember it yet—move into a smaller room and something like the kind of conference I would like took place; and this—if I remember aright—was an attempt to break a particular deadlock on procedure that had arisen.
Perhaps this 1955 meeting was not entirely useless. It certainly did not seem so at the time. At least, it produced what we then called the Geneva spirit. I think that there was something genuine there, but there was no concrete result, 1221 and a good atmosphere or spirit very soon disappears unless it is accompanied by some result, however small; and what it leaves behind may well be a situation worse than before, because positive disillusionment is more dangerous than the preservation of even the most tenuous expectations. I really do not want to have that again.
Then there is another suggestion—that we should have a conference with an immense agenda of, perhaps, 18 or 20 topics—although we know quite well that the positions of each side are absolutely rigid upon a large number of them, and that there is very little possibility of agreement developing in the course of argument. If we had that, we should have, of course, a very long meeting, but it would not, I think, be a meeting, of real negotiation leading to an improvement.
Then there is the view which, I am sorry to see from his recent speeches, Mr. Khrushchev seems to take: that the agenda should be whatever the Russians want, and that they should have a veto on anyone else's suggestions. I am sure that the House will agree that this is not a reasonable view.
We believe that our best hope lies in some serious preparatory work, for this would have two purposes: first, to lay down a procedure, and to choose an agenda calculated to achieve concrete results on specific issues; and, secondly, to do some preliminary work in disentangling the points of disagreement, and revealing, perhaps, the most promising areas of a possible agreement—and to do this before the heads of Government actually met. I earnestly hope that, on consideration, the Russian leaders will feel that this is the right course.
There has been, in addition, a good deal said about the machinery for this preparation. We originally proposed a meeting of Foreign Ministers. The Soviet Government appeared to dislike this. I therefore said—for I am sincere in wanting this meeting—that if they did not wish this method I, personally, would be prepared to use ordinary diplomatic channels. This certainly has the advantage that the meetings can go on from day to day without spectacular failure or success on any particular day, which is not true of meetings of heads of Government for four or five days, after which 1222 they have to leave. The last letter from the President of the United States has shown that he, also, would accept this method. Of course, the ambassadors would have to refer to their Foreign Secretaries for guidance as the preparatory work proceeded. It is clear, therefore, that we are not making conditions of a purely polemical kind.
I am bound to say that if, in all this correspondence, people attack you there is rather a temptation to answer back occasionally, but we are not anxious to do that. We are not wedded to any one particular procedure. We are wedded only to one simple thought—that we must have a proper preparation if the summit meeting is to have a fair chance of success.
Then it will be asked: what are the subjects which are most likely to offer a chance of success? This, of course, is just what the diplomatic or any other preparatory method would have to decide. I would rule out nothing in principle; but, in practice, we may find it necessary to concentrate on subjects which seem likely to have a good chance of leading to some success. I must say that the general subject which seems to me to offer this chance of progress is that of disarmament in its widest sense.
Last summer, at the meetings of the Disarmament Sub-Committee, it did look at one time as if some sort of agreement, even a limited one, was not far off. It failed, for reasons which, I think, were not internal to the Committee, but probably developments outside.
At any rate, this is a field in which business may perhaps be done, because it is one of practical arrangements and not theoretical or ideological disputes. It is also one where, if any progress could be made, it would make by far the greatest contribution to the restoration of hope to the peoples of the world. If we could achieve even a modest advance here, an agreement even on quite a small scale, it would open up further possibilities.
Before leaving England, I made a reference in a broadcast speech to one method of trying to relieve tension between the two sides, and that was a solemn pact of non-aggression. I noticed in my travels that this was well received by Commonwealth countries both old and new. At the same time, I must repeat 1223 the warning I gave in that same broadcast. The words I used were:Peace can't be secured just by words; we need deeds as well.And this is still true.
We might, in addition, deal with some subjects less polemical in character—trade, individual contacts, interchange of information, and so forth; all of which are of great importance if there is to be some ultimate power of living together between the two sides. Then, perhaps, if we had any success, even a modest success, at the first meeting, further meetings might follow with similar preparation.
I put forward these thoughts in a rather more sanguine tone than perhaps a sceptical or even purely realistic appraisal might justify. I want to make it clear that I do not think that we would gain the slightest degree of relief if we were to return to what used to be called a policy of appeasement. I do not think that we would gain at all by just throwing in our hand or abandoning our duty out of weariness or selfishness. It is because I feel so sure that we should continue with our job that I want to leave nothing undone which would make us all feel in our hearts and minds that we have not taken every chance, or that we have neglected anything; and so that there may be some hope ahead to reward our fortitude and our patience.
The older ones among us who have seen so many sorrows, and lived through them, as well as many triumphs, must have the imagination to realise how heavily all this weighs upon the younger men and women in our country, and all the more, as I have said, because of this fantastic paradox, that men have been forced to make their lives so threatened and precarious when they might make them so secure and happy and full of promise.
Nevertheless, I feel that we must not allow ourselves to be discouraged. If we hold on to our duty, if we can keep a balance of power between rival forces—although, I hope, at an ever descending level, but still a balance—if we maintain the strength and solidity of our alliances, if we continue in our work with the neutral and uncommitted countries, to win them over because of the greater attractiveness of our way of life, then I do not 1224 think that we need take too gloomy a view of the future.
We have been fortunate to inherit from our ancesters, from those who went before, the foundations of a new and incomparable instrument for good. That is the Commonwealth as it has now developed. Let us cherish this. We have, I believe, confidence—or we ought to have—in the superior and higher moral basis of our principles. We have, I hope, trust in the spiritual values of our civilisation. And if we have all these things, and believe in them, then we must have confidence that, under Providence, if war is avoided, the principles of Communism, which offend us so, will eventually become blurred, blunted, and, perhaps, softened. In the long run the revolutionary fervour will cool and men and women, reaching an ever-increasing intellectual standard, cease to be content with the crudities of a purely material philosophy.
If we do not believe this, then I am bound to say that neither by force nor by negotiation can we secure the triumph of our own principles. But if we do, if we have faith and courage, I believe, as I have said, that we have a right to add to these—hope.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
In welcoming the Prime Minister back from his Commonwealth tour, I should like to say that we are glad that despite the "local difficulties" he went ahead with it. It is quite clear that what he saw and did in the course of these few weeks made a deep impression upon him. He came back with renewed enthusiasm for the Commonwealth, and he came back, certainly so far as international affairs generally are concerned, in a more hopeful and constructive frame of mind. We, for our part, welcome the change.
I think it was particularly valuable that the right hon. Gentleman visited and spent a week or so in India, for there is no doubt that before his visit relations between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of India were by no means all that they should have been. I hope that what the Prime Minister has said today about the significance of India in the Commonwealth will not be lost on hon. Members opposite. I have no desire to dwell on the past, but there were occasions when observations from the benches 1225 opposite certainly did harm to our relations with India.
We on this side of the House warmly welcome the Prime Minister's affirmation about the significance of the Commonwealth in world affairs. I would certainly agree with what he said. The Commonwealth is not an alliance, nor is it a bloc. It is a group of nations with remarkable diversity who have, all of them, evolved peacefully from colonial status to freedom and independence.
I believe that the very diversity, the very looseness of the association of the Commonwealth, is, in the framework of world affairs, an advantage, because no other country or group of countries can possibly feel threatened by the Commonwealth or desire to form, as it were, a counter bloc.
I would add, however, to what the Prime Minister has said on this subject, that the unity of the Commonwealth, indeed the possibility of its playing a really significant part in the world, depends on the acceptance by all the Governments of the Commonwealth of certain principles or ideals. Some of these have been mentioned by the Prime Minister, and, of course, one would agree wholly with what he said about the belief in freedom, in democracy, in self-government. But that carries with it at least one corollary. We must see to it that the remaining Colonial Territories proceed as fast as practicable to the same freedom, self-government and independence. Any hesitation on our part along that path cannot but do damage to the unity of the Commonwealth.
The second principle which I think we must accept and apply in all our policies within the Commonwealth and outside is that of racial equality, for ours is a multiracial Commonwealth and no other policy in this vital matter can possibly make sense or command assent.
The third principle I put to the Prime Minister is the principle of non-aggression and adherence to the ideals of the United Nations Charter. The fourth principle is that of economic co-operation, including economic aid from richer to poorer countries.
I say these things, having been privileged to take part in the recent Commonwealth Parliamentary Con- 1226 ference, in Delhi, and I draw those conclusions from the debates which took place on that occasion. It is essential that our policy here at home should continually be based upon these principles. It is easy to point to exceptions here and there, but the fact remains that the more these exceptions arise the greater the strain upon the Commonwealth, and the more we can adhere to these principles the greater its significance and its power for good in the world.
The existence of these principles is in no way inconsistent with the fact that there are, of course, differences in foreign policy within the Commonwealth. They are well known. There is, for example, the non-alignment policy of India as contrasted with the adherence to N.A.T.O. of the United Kingdom and Canada.
While I was in India I tried to explain to a predominantly Indian audience, or, at any rate, to a largely Indian audience and to other Commonwealth delegates, the reasons why we in this country felt it necessary to support and accept N.A.T.O. Sometimes one is criticised for saying in another country what is not always acceptable to that country, but I think it is right that misunderstandings in India and in other parts of the Commonwealth about the nature of N.A.T.O. countries should, as far as possible, be cleared up. But I also endeavoured to make it plain that while we felt it necessary to belong to N.A.T.O., nevertheless we not only accepted but positively encouraged the non-alignment policy of India.
There is, in my view, no inconsistency here at all. N.A.T.O. is necessary in Europe, but it is the most natural thing in the world that India should wish, in view of her history and position, to pursue a non-alignment policy. It may be, and, indeed, it has been, very helpful on occasion that a great country which is also a member of the Commonwealth is able as a result of this policy to act as a bridge between East and West, between the Communist bloc and the free countries.
The reasons why we support N.A.T.O. are so well known in this country that there is really no need for me to repeat them in any detail whatever, but since most of my speech will be devoted to the need for trying to reduce tension, to settle 1227 disputes and to achieve genuine co-existence, and since bitter experience has led me to realise that when one talks of such things one is so frequently described as an appeaser, or as soft, or as unrealistic, or as opposed to defence, I wish very briefly to emphasise certain facts at the start.
They are these. We support N.A.T.O. and the Atlantic Alliance. We believe it is necessary that the democracies of Western Europe and the United States should act together, should join together to form a regional collective defence pact. There is nothing inconsistent between this and the United Nations Charter—on the contrary. In a sense the Charter itself, because of the veto, because of the difficulty of being sure that one will be defended by United Nations action, makes it inevitable that smaller countries faced with the danger or the threat from outside should join together in this way.
Nor do we believe in neutralism. This must mean, as, indeed, the Prime Minister said, either sheltering behind the United States, or the destruction of N.A.T.O., and neither of these things commends itself to us. However tempting it may be occasionally to think how nice it would be if we could be in the position of Switzerland or Sweden, contracting out of any danger, contracting out, as we would hope, of future wars, and thereby no doubt improving our standard of living, I do not believe that is a possible path for this country.
Nor do I believe in the possibility of a so-called third force or new power bloc. The fact is that very few other countries would be interested in making such a bloc with us, and, quite candidly, I think that it is far more important to build bridges between existing blocs than it is to form new ones.
Nor do we favour unilateral disarmament. At our conference in Brighton last year a resolution asking us to pledge ourselves, the future Labour Government, neither to test, use or make nuclear weapons was defeated overwhelmingly by a vote of eight to one. I say all that simply to get out of the way what is irrelevant, in my opinion, in this debate.
Having said that, however, I want to emphasise with all the strength I can command that, in our opinion, a defen- 1228 sive alliance on it own is not enough today. What I described some months ago as the Maginot Line mentality in international politics is wrong and dangerous. Why do I say that? It is necessary. I think, to explain, because there are those, certainly if not here in other countries, who genuinely believe that any move from the present position is dangerous.
To them my answer is, first, that as things are today, despite N.A.T.O. and despite Western defence, there is a very real danger of conflict breaking out. There are still too many unsettled problems and unsettled areas where conflict may arise almost at any moment. The two most obvious are, of course, in Central and Eastern Europe and in the Middle East.
The second reason is this. When one contemplates the possibility of conflict arising, say, in Eastern and Central Europe, it is not enough to reply, "Well, we can rely on the deterrent." It is not enough to say, "Well, we have something which can answer anything the Russians use. If they act we can retaliate." That is not the kind of situation which is likely to arise. The problem is far less an all-out attack from Russia than an outbreak of fighting in a part of the world—may be in Europe or the Middle East—where the very use of the deterrent, the massive retaliation policy, must be called in question. It follows, however, that any conflict of this kind, so long particularly as our policy is principally dependent upon the doctrine of massive retaliation, can lead very easily to a third world war and the destruction of humanity. That is the second reason.
The third is that with every year that passes the danger increases that nuclear weapons may come into the hands of more and more countries and less and less responsible Governments. Next, I would say, even apart from these very grave considerations, if we do nothing, if we simply rest behind our N.A.T.O. Alliance, then we can be sure of one thing: we shall be losing the propaganda battle in the cold war. That kind of attitude will not make any impression on the uncommitted areas of the world.
Finally, we cannot rest as we are, because, if we do, the faith of the Western world in N.A.T.O. will continually be undermined. There is no denying that in 1229 the N.A.T.O. countries today widespread dissatisfaction exists and there is a general feeling, not only here, but in Western Europe, that the alliance has failed to achieve either a foreign policy or a defence policy which is clear, sensible, and appropriate to the present state of international relations.
This is well illustrated by the exchange of letters on the Summit Conference in recent weeks. There have been no less than ten such exchanges since the middle of December. Marshal Bulganin has sent three letters, and, I think, we must credit him also with the peace resolution of the Supreme Soviet on the same subject. The Prime Minister has sent two letters, and we can add as a third contribution his broadcast. President Eisenhower has sent two letters and M. Pineau has sent one letter.
We on this side of the House ask the question: why should we not have agreed to summit talks straight away? After all, either the purpose of the Russians was genuine and they really wished to have some kind of alleviation of tension, to reach some kind of agreement, in which case everybody would agree that we should lose no opportunity of discussing the matter with them; or let us assume the worst and that they were purely concerned with propaganda. Do we win the propaganda battle by refusing to go to a Summit Conference? Of course not. We must, I would agree, recognise that there are unquestionably propaganda aspects to what the Russians say. But the method of dealing with them is not to refuse to answer, not to refuse to go, but to recognise them and expose them for what they are, if, indeed, that is the case.
There has also been during these weeks a very regrettable confusion over the purpose of this conference. I ventured to say some weeks ago that there were two possible kinds of Summit Conference. First, there was the conference which was supposed to put the final seal on everything that had been discussed before—the apex type of conference. Of course, if we had that in mind, then there was a strong case for preliminary meetings at official level to start with and then at Foreign Ministers' level before the heads of Government meeting itself.
But it seemed to me fairly clear that the Russians had not that sort of Summit 1230 Conference in mind. They had the other kind of conference in mind, which I call—and the Prime Minister referred to it—the ice-breaking type of conference. I do not agree with him that an ice-breaking conference necessarily means something that gets nowhere, but it is a conference which begins rather than ends the process of negotiation.
I was glad to notice from the Prime Minister's speech that he now seems to have accepted in large measure that idea for the conference. He spoke of the need for serious preparatory work. If this means settling where the conference is to be, when it is to be, and who is to be there and what is to be discussed, I would agree. That, of course, must be done. But I do not quite agree with him that we should expect to get far with the discussion of the actual proposals themselves, simply because I do not think that that is the Russian approach to this problem. Nor is it, I believe, necessary, if we take the view that the Summit Conference is an ice-breaking conference and that, as the Prime Minister suggested this afternoon, we have made the same suggestion before. It should be followed, after negotiation at, so to speak, low level, by further Summit Conferences.
Where are we now? We are certainly very much nearer the summit than we were. I hope that we could speedily settle the date. It is important to do this, otherwise there might be almost indefinite delay. We on this side feel that there should certainly be a conference in May or, at the latest, in June. I do not propose to bother to discuss where it should be. That is not really of great importance. The Soviet have suggested Geneva, and probably that is the best place. As to the question of who should be there, I personally feel that it would be a great mistake to have too many countries represented.
I think that there is much in what the Prime Minister said about an almost interminable round of formal speeches. If the Russians desire, as they well may, to have equal numbers on their side so that if Britain, America and France are on one side, then they wish to have, say, Poland and Czechoslovakia, I hope very much that no opposition whatever will be raised to this proposal. There is much to be said for it. It would make it necessary for even the Soviet Union to 1231 do a little consultation. We are sometimes handicapped by the amount of consultation that we have to do.
I would also not object, if this is put forward, to the idea of having, say, one uncommitted State present. If that is felt to be desirable, the country that I would like to see present would be India. I think that India's presence in the conference on Indo-China, for instance, at Geneva in 1954, was extremely valuable.
I now turn to the question of the agenda. The Prime Minister said that what Mr. Khrushchev had been saying recently implied that the Russians insisted that they alone should determine the agenda. Frankly, if that were the case, we agree that it would create an almost impossible position. But I cannot see in anything published on this subject any reason why we should draw that conclusion.
President Eisenhower, in his recent letter, said:… if there were to be a top-level meeting, I would be willing to discuss your proposals in good faith if you would so discuss mine. Your answer is that I must be prepared to discuss your proposals, but that as regards mine there must, you said, 'be unanimous agreement of all participants as to the necessity for considering such proposals.' In other words, you demand the right to veto discussion of the matters I believe to be vital to peace".I have looked up the relevant letter from Marshal Bulganin. It might perhaps be interpreted in that way, but, candidly, I do not think that it is the correct interpretation. This is what Marshal Bulganin said after describing the possible subjects from their side for the agenda:Moreover, the meeting could discuss—as noted in the proposals of the Soviet Government of January 8th—the other constructive proposals designed to halt the 'cold war' that might be tabled by other parties to the talks. It goes without saying that all participants should be in full accord as to the necessity of considering such proposals".It is a matter of opinion as to whether the word "such" refers only to proposals by other countries or includes the Soviet proposals. I think we should assume that the latter is much more likely than the former.
May I say something specifically about the agenda? It seems to me that Marshal Bulganin's original proposals, which were put to the United Nations and subse- 1232 quently to the countries concerned, are really not a bad list. He proposed discussing the suspension of nuclear tests, a nuclear free zone in Europe, a non-aggression pact, the renunciation of the use of force in the Middle East, and what he called cultural collaboration.
I would venture to say that we could easily re-word these proposals and pick out four subjects which seem to me to dominate the international situation today. For the first, I would say not just the suspension of hydrogen bomb tests, but breaking the disarmament deadlock. I do not see how the Russians could refuse to accept discussion of that. Secondly, I would say not just a nuclear-free zone in Europe, but disengagement in Europe. Thirdly, I would say peace and security in the Middle East, not just the renunciation of force. As to cultural collaboration, it is harmless and it might be of some value as a subject of discussion.
What, then, should our attitude be on these various subjects? So far as non-aggression pacts are concerned, we must accept that the Prime Minister made a faint advance in putting the suggestion forward, but let us be clear that a nonaggression pact is only of value in changing the atmosphere, leading the way to other agreements. In itself, frankly, it has little or no value whatever. All of us who lived through the pre-war period, which is still relevant in this connection, would agree, I think, on that particular point.
The Prime Minister said nothing about the Middle East, but I wish to make a few remarks on one aspect. We have recently had the union of Syria and Egypt, on one side, and of Jordan and Iraq, on the other. For my part, I think that we should accept these unions of Arab States as conforming, naturally, with the desires of the Arab peoples. We should be hopeful that they will lead not to any aggression or excessive nationalism, but rather that this degree of unity will bring about speedier and more successful economic development and, perhaps, in the case of Jordan and Iraq, bring rather nearer a solution of the Arab refugee problem.
For the Summit Conference itself, I venture to say that there are three things which we could discuss there with the Russians, which I should like to have 1233 discussed—and let us not underestimate the danger of an outbreak m the Middle East. The first thing I would suggest as a suitable topic for discussion is a guarantee of the existing frontiers between Israel and the Arab States a guarantee in which not only the three Western Powers but the Soviet Union, also, should be invited to participate. Here, I confess that I found quite astonishing the remarks of the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Lord Gosford, in another place, about Her Majesty's Government's attitude on this matter of the frontiers. On 29th January, he said in another place that the Government still stood by the Guildhall speech of Sir Anthony Eden on 9th November, 1955.
The House will recall that, in this speech, Sir Anthony Eden was proposing that the frontiers should be adjusted or altered so as to be somewhere between the 1947 United Nations' Resolution proposals and the existing frontier. There was at the time considerable agitation on this side of the House about the whole matter. Frankly, I find it astonishing that after all that has happened in the last eighteen months, Her Majesty's Government should go back to that. It is, of course, out of the question for Israel to accept this proposal.
What, then, is the purpose of raising the hopes of Arab nations that they will, nevertheless, get this sort of settlement? It can only do harm. There is, no doubt, room for mutually agreed adjustments between Israel and the neighbouring Arab States. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is what he said."] With respect, he did not. He said quite specifically that it should be somewhere between the 1947 United Nations' Resolution and the existing situation. That is not at all the same thing as adjustments agreed between Israel and the Arab States. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will deal with this matter when he speaks tomorrow and clear up what certainly has been, to put it mildly, a source of confusion in Israel and the Arab States.
Secondly, there should be discussion of an arms embargo or, at least, the control of the delivery of arms to the area. Heaven knows, it is difficult enough for us to do much to prevent an outbreak in this part of the world, but that is one thing which could be done. I would add 1234 merely that any such agreement or discussions must, of course, be on the basis that the balance of security between Israel and the Arab States is not impaired.
The third thing which I think we should discuss with the Russians is an economic development plan for the area as a whole. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has, on a number of occasions, suggested that there might be contributions from the oil revenues of the various Arab States which receive them, together with contributions from the oil companies, paid into a fund for the use of the whole area. I would very much like to see that idea followed up.
I turn now to disarmament. I was very glad that the Prime Minister was comparatively optimistic on this subject. The problem, of course, is how to break the deadlock. But he did not give us any indication of how that was to be done. I venture to put to him this proposal. We should, surely, try to break the deadlock by taking the point at which the difference between Soviet Russia and the West is smallest. There is really no doubt about what that is. It is on the suspension of thermo-nuclear tests. After all, the Russians have offered suspension for two or three years. They repeated it in Marshal Bulganin's first note proposing a Summit Conference. They have agreed to controls to ensure that there are no such tests.
We, also, have said that we are prepared to suspend tests, but we insisted on linking this with something else. We insisted on linking it with "other provisions of a first stage disarmament agreement" and, in particular, acceptance in principle by the Russians that there should be a cessation of the use of fissionable material for military purposes or, as it is commonly called, the cut-off.
That is, of course, to put it mildly, desirable; it is not only desirable but, in the long run, essential, but it was a great tactical error—to put it no higher—to refuse to accept the Russian proposal and insist, as a matter of form, upon their accepting the further stage in principle. What did we get out of it? Even if they had accepted it, should we really have been any nearer a subsequent agreement? From this side of the House, I press the Government very strongly that they should come out now and say 1235 that they are prepared to accept the Russian proposals for the suspension of tests for two or three years, under proper controls.
We go further than that. We believe that it would improve the atmosphere at present that we ourselves should, unilaterally—this is one respect where we do favour, if it can be called that, unilateral action—offer, in order to improve the atmosphere, to suspend our tests also for a limited period. We hope that this also will be said by the Government.
This brings me to one other matter in respect of which I believe that a gesture on our part could be helpful in present circumstances, that is on the question of missile bases. The White Paper on the subject has not yet been published, and we cannot very well discuss the matter in detail, but I would say that these things seem, at any rate, to be clear. First, while it can readily be argued, with cogency, that there is no essential physical difference between the launching of missiles which do not have to be manned and the launching of bombers with hydrogen bombs which have to be manned, nevertheless the fact remains that, at this moment, when the United States is asking us for missile bases, we are entitled to take into account the whole international situation at the time.
We believe that this presents an opportunity for negotiating a fresh agreement, apart from the original agreement on the bomber bases. I think it fair to say that we can bear in mind that owing to the recent Russian discoveries the United States is perhaps rather more dependent upon us at the moment for the establishment of these bases as compared with our dependence upon her.
We believe, therefore, that at least two conditions should be laid down: first, the British Government must have effective control over, and an effective veto over, the use of these missile bases, without any possible misunderstanding; secondly, we must go further than that, and the view of my hon. Friends and myself is that the Government should say that they will not go ahead with any physical preparations for establishing these missile bases until we have talked with the Russians, until after the Summit conference. I cannot see that we should 1236 be suffering any very grave military disadvantage if we were to make this gesture, but surely it is something which might very well help towards the conclusion of the disarmament agreement about which the Prime Minister was so hopeful.
I turn, finally, to the third and, to my mind, most important subject of all, that of disengagement in Europe. The Prime Minister may be right in hoping that in disarmament the greatest opportunities now arise. I venture to believe that it is certainly just as likely that progress can be made in the sphere of European disengagement. For over a year the Opposition have pressed for a plan of disengagement, for a plan for European security involving the reunification of Germany. As long ago as February, 1957, the Foreign Secretary told us that a working party was set up to study again the problem of European security and reunification and was expected to report back to N.A.T.O.; but no progress appears to have been made. I must say that whenever we have mentioned these proposals, they have received, to put it mildly, the frostiest answer from the Government; but the case for disengagement in Europe, is, in my opinion, overwhelmingly strong and I venture to spell it out this afternoon.
First, let us not forget that there remains on both sides of the frontier between East and West Germany very substantial pressure for reunification. Anybody who has been either to West Germany or to East Germany must know that that is the case. Further, that being so, we cannot rule out the possibility that at some future time the East German people, infuriated perhaps by the Communist Government, which appears [...]ow to be becoming much tougher than before, may do what they did in 1953—may, in fact, stage a riot, a minor revolution against the existing régime.
If that were to happen today or next year, when West Germany has forces of her own, the danger of the situation must surely be apparent to everybody, not only to us but to the Russians as well, because it would be extremely difficult, I think, for any West German Government to restrain their forces from going to the help of their comrades on the other side of the frontier.
There is also the possibility—one cannot altogether regret it—that there may 1237 be further movements within the satellite States, among the Hungarian, or Polish or Czech people. We certainly wish them to have greater freedom, though I think we must recognise that so far as foreign policy is concerned they will probably be closely associated with Soviet Russia for some time to come.
Nevertheless, nobody can say that in that part of the world there is stability. Yet if there were to be another Hungarian rising or another Polish revolution, can we say that that is not without its dangers? Do we wish again to go through the appalling dilemma that we faced in the autumn of 1956, when we had to choose between what seemed to be an inevitable third world war or leaving the Hungarians to their fate?
I would go further than this. If trouble were to break out in Central and Eastern Europe, what shall we be faced with unless something is done to stop the existing trend? We shall be faced with troops on either side armed not only with conventional weapons, but with nuclear weapons. We are confronted with a White Paper which informs us, or implies, as I see it, that we are to rely on massive retaliation for almost anything that happens. At least, there is no indication in the White Paper of what we do in the case of minor incidents.
It is not surprising that, faced with the dangers of an outbreak giving rise to this chain of circumstances—first a conventional clash, then nuclear weapons, and then the ultimate weapons—Mr. Kennan, for instance, should have fallen back on the idea, with which I do not at all agree, of just having a lot of Home Guards in Europe. I think that the answer is not Home Guards in Europe, but disengagement in Europe; and the key to disengagement in Europe, the most important thing of all, is the withdrawal of foreign forces both from Western Germany and from Eastern Germany, and, I would also say, from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
We must recognise one thing at the start. It really is no good going on thinking in terms of any European settlement unless it involves a neutral zone or belt and the agreement on the part of Germany, in the event of such a plan succeeding, to withdraw from N.A.T.O. There is not the slightest hope of the 1238 Russians agreeing to any such plan except on those conditions. Why should they, because the only consequences would be simply to advance the Western forces further towards the Soviet Union?
More recently we have had the plan of the Polish Prime Minister, the Rapacki Plan. I should like to say a word or two about it. In my view, this involves some advance. For the first time, Poland and Czechoslovakia, as well as East Germany, are equated with West Germany. It has at least one other merit in that it involves a pilot scheme for local disarmament, at any rate of nuclear weapons.
But I recognise that there are powerful arguments against it. We should certainly be at a disadvantage because of the point made by the Prime Minister, that the Russians would be superior in conventional weapons, though I attach very little importance to this in the context of the plan, because I do not think we can assume that if there is no such plan the Russians will not have nuclear weapons. Secondly, it may well be said that there are technical difficulties about distinguishing between nuclear and conventional weapons.
But I think that the major argument against the plan is that it does not involve real disengagement, and it does involve our giving away the threat of Germany being armed with nuclear weapons—something that none of us wishes to see, but it is a threat to the Russians. The plan involves our giving away this valuable bargaining counter for far too little in exchange. Finally, I regret the exclusion of Hungary.
But I would say that the Rapacki Plan should be regarded as the start and the basis for discussion. It really is not good enough just to say that we see difficulties about it. What we should do, and should have done long ago, is to put forward our own proposals for disengagement. I must briefly spell them out, because experience has led me to realise that if one does not spell them out one is open to grave misunderstanding. Here is what we should like to see done. First, there should be a gradual withdrawal of foreign forces from East and West Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Before reunification?"] I am putting these points in 1239 order; if I am pressed I would say withdrawal of foreign forces before reunification, though there must be an agreement negotiated as a whole.
Secondly, there must be an agreement to limit and control the conventional forces—and no nuclear weapons—permitted to the nations covered by the agreement. Thirdly, German reunification. Fourthly, a security pact underwritten by the great Powers and guaranteeing the frontiers of the countries in this neutral zone. Finally, and if everything else is agreed, an agreement for Germany to withdraw from N.A.T.O., and for Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact.
These are the proposals which we have put forward. They have been criticised, they have been brushed aside, and very frequently with totally different arguments. For instance, we are told that they are dangerous for the West, on the one side, and that there is no chance of the Russians accepting them, on the other. Both these criticisms are very unlikely to be true. Of course, in an absolute sense, there is a weakening of N.A.T.O., but it is no use judging these things on an absolute basis. The question is whether the balance of security is affected, and I say that, provided that, as I have always maintained, American and British forces should remain in Europe, there is no reason whatever to fear that the balance of security would be altered.
There are, after all, immense gains from a plan of this kind. The danger, first, of a nuclear clash is greatly reduced. We should have achieved German reunification, we should have achieved the prospect at least of greater freedom for the satellite countries, and we should have introduced an experiment in controlled disarmament which is probably the best in this field that we can hope for at the moment. Finally, we should perhaps have prevented—I do not say for a moment an outright attack, because nothing will do that except complete disarmament, elaborate controls, and so on—but we should have enormously diminished the danger of outbreaks of friction in that part of the world, because, fundamentally, we should have solved the problems and dangers that exist at present.
1240 As for the Russian attitude, I think that there is a fair prospect that, with one exception, and I agree that it is an exception, there is quite a chance of the Poles and the Russians going with us. The one exception to the five proposals is that, at present, they are not ready to consider German reunification. I admit that. Mr. Gomulko made that quite plain in an interview with The Times lately.
I ask the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, however, to bear in mind that we are at the beginning, as I hope, of a negotiating stage. We are at the beginning of bargaining, and it is very unlikely that we shall get agreement at first. We have to go to the conference table and see where we get. I myself believe that there is at least this powerful argument to put to the Polish Government and people—that if foreign forces are to be withdrawn nothing will really stop the unification of East and West Germany, and that it is far better that this should come about in an agreed manner and under proper controls, and together, as part of it—because I think that will be necessary—a settlement of the eastern frontier of Germany on the basis of the Oder-Neisse line. It is far better that it should be done that way than in circumstances which might themselves give rise to serious anxiety, and even to the danger of war.
We may be told that this is all very hopeful, but that the Russians are not likely to agree to it. My answer to that is quite simple. It is no use talking in these terms until and unless we try. It does not really lie in the mouth of the Foreign Secretary, who has always turned down this proposal, to say that the Russians will not agree, until he has first discussed it with them. It may take a very long time to negotiate any agreement of this kind—it took ten years to negotiate the Austrian agreement—but that is no reason for not starting immediately.
These, then, are the immediate proposals which the Opposition, constructively, we hope, put forward for discussion at the Summit Conference. We are well aware of the difficulties of reaching agreement, but we dare not, any of us, refuse to try. If it be said that this is all very well, but we must consult our allies, and they are very difficult, I would 1241 say "Yes, we must consult our allies, but consultation must not be allowed to produce or justify paralysis." We stand by the alliance but not as satellites, but as partners. After all, the whole case for our possessing thermo-nuclear weapons as restated in the Defence White Paper, is to give us influence and prestige and a measure of independence vis-à-vis the United States.
It is up to our Government to exercise that influence. They claim that the effects of Suez are over and that, once again, they are on good terms with the United States. Let them show the country that they really are and that they can speak out freely on what they feel. We believe, and so do many millions here and in Western Europe, that chance after chance of taking the initiative for peace has been missed. We say, "Let us delay it no longer. Let the Government come out boldly and give the lead for which the whole world is waiting."
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I have listened with very close attention to the speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has just made. I think that we on these benches can appreciate the dilemma in which he found himself. He was anxious to make the sort of speech which he ought to make as Leader of the Opposition, in which, to some extent, he succeeded, and he was anxious, at the same time, not to incur too much criticism from certain sections of his own party.
I will follow up later in the course of my remarks one or two of the points which the right hon. Gentleman made, but I would say to him now that a suspension of nuclear tests by itself is not disarmament. It does not make the world safer, unless it is accompanied by a cessation of production of fissionable materials for war purposes and the control of existing stocks. It does not even prevent the entry of a fourth nation into the magic nuclear circle.
No doubt, our principal attention in the course of this two days' debate will, quite rightly, be focused upon the summit talks, to what extent they are likely to succeed, what sort of subjects are likely to be discussed and the varying degrees of success likely to be achieved, according to the different opinions held 1242 on both sides of the House. Sometimes I wonder to what extent we in the Western world are in danger of becoming almost the victims of our own phraseology. We use certain phrases so often that perhaps we give them a meaning quite accidentally which we do not really intend them to convey.
Let us take a phrase which has been used very often already in this debate—"reduction of tension." Of course, there is tension—tension on the Continent, tension in the world. It would be very stupid indeed to pretend that it was otherwise, but, at the same time, I wonder whether we are not in danger of giving the impression that the tension on the Continent of Europe is a very great deal more dangerous and a very great deal more acute than it is. I do not suggest for a moment that the situation is anywhere near stable, but I do not believe that the tension on the Continent of Europe is any worse now than it was seven or eight years ago. Indeed, I think the situation in some respects is probably better. At any rate, under this so-called tension there is today a very great deal of prosperity in Western Europe, and, moreover, we are witnessing Western Europe engaged in an extraordinary political, social and economic experiment almost unprecedented in history. All this has happened under a state of tension.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that there is a great deal of tension in the Middle East. One of the things which worry me most about the situation in the Middle East is that if we were to allow the whole of our attention to be deflected to the Continent of Europe and ignore what is happening in the Middle East the tension would become very much worse. In my view, the Middle East is in danger of becoming very much the same as Europe was in the 1930s. Country after country might easily be sucked into the Communist orbit, and nobody knows exactly what will be the reaction of the Western Powers at any given stage.
The second thing that ought to be said much more often and which has not been said nearly enough is that it is not we and it is not N.A.T.O. who have created the tension. It is not N.A.T.O. which is holding down Belgium, Holland and the Scandinavian countries. The third thing which we should remember 1243 is that the one constant factor in Soviet tactics since the creation of N.A.T.O. has been attempts by one means or another, and sometimes by a combination of different methods, to break up N.A.T.O. That has been Russia's objective No. 1.
Let me in this context look for a moment at the background of the present phase in the war of nerves. First, we had the Sputniks. Then we had the testing of the inter-continental ballistic missile, or whatever it is called. Next we had the deliberate increasing of the tension in the Middle East by the Soviet Union accusing the United States of America of being behind an alleged Turkish threat to Syria. Both those threats were quite absurd. Then we had the usual suggestion that there should be talks to reduce the very tension which the Soviet Union a few weeks earlier had itself largely created. Then we had the proposal of the atom-free zone, with various other proposals from Poland and elsewhere about disengagement, and now we have had the proposal for the summit talks.
On thing is clear from the speech made by Marshal Bulganin before the Supreme Soviet on 21st December—and this ought to be mentioned. He made it clear that his condition for the summit talks was that the Western Powers must recognise what he called the status quo in Europe.
An atom-free zone plus recognition of the status quo would seem to me to give the Soviet Union, were we to agree, the maximum military advantage with the minimum political risk. It is in that context that I wish to say a word about the theory of disengagement and to take up one or two points made by the Leader of the Opposition. I may be wrong, but my view is that the Soviet Union would not agree to withdraw its troops from the satellite countries into the Soviet territory unless it was certain of two conditions: that when the Red Army had withdrawn, the satellite countries would continue to be Communist in their régime or, alternatively, that if any of the satellite countries—or, worse still, two or more of them at the same time—began to choose freedom, the Russians would be able to come back with the Red Army and do another "Budapest" without the Western Powers intervening.
1244 The theory of disengagement is extremely attractive superficially, but it bristles with snags. Let me put this to the Leader of the Opposition. Suppose that the N.A.T.O. Powers were to withdraw altogether from Germany in return for Soviet agreement to withdraw into Soviet territory and that for the neutral bloc so created there were to be presumably, some kind of agreement that there should be no attempted coup from outside to upset the Government of the countries concerned. Then in the event of an attempted Communist coup from Eastern Germany upon the Western zone of Berlin, under any new so-called agreement it would be offside, to use a football expression. But would it be offside and who would blow the whistle if a future Hungarian or Polish Government were faced with serious anti-Communist riots, which had nothing whatever to do with N.A.T.O., any more than had the events of November fifteen months ago, and the Communist Government in Warsaw or Budapest asked the Soviet Union to come back with troops to help to restore order? What would be the position then of the N.A.T.O. Powers? We should either have to accept the coup lying down, or we should have to resort to the ultimate deterrent.
It may sound curious to the Leader of the Opposition, but at least the advantage of the present position is that there is no neutral zone. The forces of East and West are poised on a line and everybody knows that at the moment one side goes over the line it is bound to get into trouble. So long as there is a single British soldier or American G.I. in Berlin, the Soviet Union knows perfectly well that an attempted coup would automatically involve Great Britain and the United States. That is the advantage of the present situation. I am not saying that there are not disadvantages—of course there are.
But I do not like the idea of getting into a position in which there is a neutral zone which can easily become a kind of Tom Tiddler's ground, with the Western Powers either being unable to do anything at all or else obliged to resort to the nuclear deterrent, in which event there would be every kind of speculation as to the kind of circumstances in which that would happen. That degree of uncertainty would be very dangerous 1245 indeed, much more dangerous than the present situation.
Nor do I believe that we should for one moment contemplate making any kind of agreement with the Soviet Union which formally, so to speak, wrote off the satellite countries in perpetuity behind the Iron Curtain by recognising what is now called the status quo. That would be morally and absolutely indefensible.
Incidentally, the whole disengagement theory which we have had so far from the Leader of the Opposition and others has completely begged the main issue of the problem of Germany. We cannot try to ease the tension on the Continent of Europe unless we deal with Germany. To agree to disengage but at the same time to leave out the whole question of East Germany would lead nowhere. Nor can we make concessions in any future negotiation with the Soviet Union unless Russia for its part is prepared to make some concession over the unification of Germany.
I want now to turn to one other phrase which by frequent use has been rather misunderstood. I refer to the phrase "taking a fresh initiative". From time to time, the Western Powers have put out very reasonable proposals—notably the disarmament proposals of last summer, which obtained 57 votes in the United Nations, with nobody except the Communist bloc voting against them. That was an almost incredible degree of unanimity in an assembly which is divided on almost everything else. When the Russians blocked those proposals, we were at once told that we must take the initiative and break the deadlock.
What does "taking the initiative" mean if the Russians continue to say "No"? It means making a fresh concession. I repeat that we cannot make any further concessions on the Continent unless the Russians for their part are prepared to include something about the unification of Germany. This is what I call the "gold watch" trick, and the Russians are very good at it. They take somebody's watch, and when he asks for it back, they say, "In return for giving you back your watch, we demand a corresponding concession from you", quite irrespective of the fact that they should not have taken the watch in the first place.
1246 The hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) put this argument much better than I can put it myself in an address he gave which was published in International Affairs in January, 1956. I am sure that the hon. Member will not mind my paying him the compliment of reading a short sentence from it, because it is so very well put. He said:In Europe at least the West cannot afford to surrender anything—it has no cards to throw away, while Russia has a number of inessential positions which she can sacrifice for the sake of public approval or gains elsewhere. Public memory is so short that few people see the irony of a situation in which the burglar offers to return a small part of his loot only on condition that he receives something of the same value in exchange.I compliment and congratulate the hon. Member upon putting it so well. No doubt when he speaks this evening we shall see whether or not his views since those halcyon days of January. 1956, have changed.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that there must be adequate preparation for summit talks. To go to summit talks with all the build-up of publicity but without careful preparation would not be a good plan at all. If the least little dividend comes out, of course, the talks are worth while. I still think that it would be worth while to make the effort even if nothing happens, but I am anxious that the British public, and the public the world over, should not be bluffed into believing, merely because summit talks take place and four, five or six major Powers are represented, that inevitably a rabbit must be produced out of the hat, that there must inevitably be enormous dividends, and that all these problems of the world, which are pretty tortuous, will be solved. That attitude could be very dangerous.
One thing that can be emphasised with great advantage, not only here and in Europe but among the uncommitted nations—and it can be best done by summit talks, whatever their outcome—is that we are using words that do not mean the same thing on both sides of the Iron Curtain. "Peaceful co-existence", for example, on this side means "Live and let live" but on the other side it still means the cold war.
As to the missile bases, I could not fit together the two parts of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. In the first part he was 1247 extremely emphatic and definite about the need for N.A.T.O. defence, but later he began to veer off on missile bases. It seems to me strange that members of the party opposite, who in the old days were great internationalists, always assume when they talk about mutual defence that the obligation for mutual defence is a one-way traffic. It is always the other nation. It was the same case in the 1930s. Collective security for the Labour Party meant that somebody else provided the security. Now it means that somebody else must provide the missile bases.
Does the Labour Party believe in the nuclear deterrent? If it does, where are the bases to be? If it does not, then of course the answer is that many other N.A.T.O. countries do; and if we disclaim our responsibility and say, "Include Britain out; no missile bases for us," are we any safer? We cannot be neutral in our geographical and political position at the centre of the Commonwealth. We are either in it or we are not. It is no good our saying that we can make our own terms with the Soviet Union about missile basis or anything else and that we should leave out the United States.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The hon. Member is a little confused about our attitude. What we are saying is that since we have to negotiate an agreement about missile bases with the United States we should take the opportunity to secure two things: firstly, that control over these bases is with us, that is to say, we have the absolute veto, and, secondly—and I am quite frank about this—that if they want us to have missile bases, and I agree that we have the other bases anyhow, they should agree to certain things that we want, in particular summit talks first.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman wants summit talks first, before there is agreement on the missile bases, unless his idea is that we should go into summit talks under the protection of American nuclear power and then, if he thinks that there is some political dividend to be made out of the talks, discard American nuclear protection.
We cannot do a "dicky" deal with the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is not in the least interested in any disarmament agreement which does not include 1248 the United States. Therefore, I believe that on missile bases, on the general question of defence, on the cold war and, above all, in the approach to summit talks, we must stand together with our allies. If we do, there is a good chance of avoiding a hot war. Certainly we ought not to lose the cold war. If we fall apart now, we shall certainly lose the cold war, and in so doing we may well provoke a hot one.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
The hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) completely misunderstood the reference in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to his proposal for disengagement in Central Europe. The hon. Member seemed to argue that because we were seeking to secure the withdrawal of Soviet troops in the East and N.A.T.O. troops in the West we were indifferent to the position of Western Germany in relation to reunification with Eastern Germany. That is not at all what my right hon. Friend said.
My right hon. Friend was putting his case for disengagement. The hon. Member will find from the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow that in his third point my right hon. Friend specifically referred to the question of reunification. There is not a single one of my right hon. and hon. Friends who does not take the view that the proper thing is for Western and Eastern Germany to be reunited. So far from seeking to go back on that, we believe that the development of a base of security in Central Europe through this proposal of disengagement would be more likely to bring about the reunification than the present situation. If the hon. Member is completely sceptical and cynical about the good intentions of Russia in any circumstances, I can well understand that he is not prepared to enter into any agreement with the Government of that country, because he takes the view that they will not honour their bond.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I was merely trying to make it clear that the Russians would say that disengagement meant recognition of the status quo, and that that does not mean the reunification of Germany.
§ Mr. Henderson
As far as I have been able to gather from Soviet statements, I do not believe that it is the policy of the Soviet Government that in no circumstances can there be a joining up of East and West Germany. It may be that the Soviets are not prepared to agree to free elections, as they did undoubtedly at the Summit Conference of 1955. Since then, I hey have referred to negotiations between the two Governments with a view to amalgamation, but I have never seen it suggested that they are opposed to eventual reunification.
I must also point out that the sentiments of the hon. Member's speech seemed very different from those of the Prime Minister. Speaking for myself, and, I hope, for my hon. Friends, I welcome the sentiments which were expressed by the Prime Minister. I agreed completely with him when he expressed the view that the main concern of all of us is the question of relations between East and West. We have only to appreciate the state of the international scene to realise how dangerous the position has become. We all realise that the vast expenditure on armaments, and the constant development of more and more lethal weapons of war, are causing concern to vast sections not only of our own public opinion, but that in other countries as well.
The Prime Minister referred to the disillusionment after twelve years of almost continuous disarmament negotiations. The failure of the Summit Conference in 1955 and the Foreign Ministers' Conferference in that year, the recent advent of inter-continental ballistic rockets capable of travelling 5,000 or 6,000 miles, whether it be with nuclear warheads or high explosive warheads—all these things are making people realise that the position is getting out of control.
I believe that today considerable numbers of people are beginning to despair of securing disarmament by agreement. They see both East and West building vast stockpiles of nuclear bombs, to which the White Paper published two or three days ago referred. After ten or twelve years of constant negotiation they see complete deadlock over disarmament. Some of them are beginning to be attracted by the idea that a Government or a person should take the lead indeed, if it be necessary, this country should do 1250 so. As the Prime Minister said, many are attracted by the idea of unilateral disarmament.
In my view, to advocate such a course would be an abdication of our national responsibilities and would still leave our country exposed to the dangers of domination and aggression. None the less, the revolt in men's minds against the use of the hydrogen bomb intensifies the importance and urgency of securing an advance in disarmament. This problem was discussed at the previous Summit Conference, and today the Prime Minister suggested that it was perhaps in this sphere that the best opportunity lay of achieving agreement at the proposed Summit Conference. I believe that the reason why the previous one was abortive in 1955, as, indeed, was the Foreign Ministers' Conference, was because of the way it was organised.
Today, I read once again the communiqué issued after the five days' Summit Conference. It referred to an "exchange of views" and instructed the Foreign Ministers to continue the consideration of three items. Then, after three weeks' discussion, again ending in deadlock, the Foreign Ministers issued a communiqué which referred to… frank and comprehensive discussion of the three items entrusted to them …There was exchange of views, yes; there was frank discussion, yes, but no settlement. Surely the time has come to make a beginning and to settle at least some of the differences which now divide East and West.
Great expectations were aroused following the Summit Conference in July, 1955, but, as the Prime Minister said, these have been dissipated and the armaments race has been intensified. The time has come to end this barrage of letters and to move from words to deeds. I agree with what the Prime Minister said in his letter to Marshal Bulganin, that if a Summit Conference is to be fruitful there must be a real desire on both sides to achieve agreement. Above all, what is needed is to make a beginning, and this should be made at such a conference.
I was glad to hear the Prime Minister suggest that he would be in favour of more than one meeting at the summit if necessary. I believe that one of the great mistakes made in 1955 was that, although a directive was issued to the Foreign 1251 Ministers, they were not instructed to report back to the Summit Conference. All they were told to do was to report back to their respective heads of Government. What should have happened, and what I hope will happen at the next attempt to secure agreement between East and West if the Summit Conference is not able to settle all the issues dividing us today, as is more than likely, is that the conference will not be terminated but will be adjourned, and will meet whenever necessary in order to make further progress.
The Prime Minister referred to the importance of disarmament, and I hope that on this vital problem the Western heads of Government will show their own sincerity of purpose and will test the sincerity of purpose of the Soviet Government by a new approach. During the debate last December both the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister made it clear that Her Majesty's Government were not bound by the proposals published in July and put forward on behalf of the four Western Governments represented on the Disarmament Sub-Committee. Without going back on those proposals, which were approved by a considerable majority of the General Assembly of the United Nations, I hope that they will consider carefully the proposals made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon, and will seek to reach agreement, at any rate in a limited sphere.
My right hon. Friend suggested again that we should propose a suspension of tests. In fact, he indicated that the Labour Party was prepared, as a gesture, to agree to unilateral suspension of tests for two or three years. The hon. Member for Windsor seemed to suggest that this was an impossible proposition unless it was accompanied by an agreement to cease the production of nuclear weapons. The hon. Gentleman, and others, missed the purpose of this proposal. All those interested in disarmament would like to see the production of these terrible weapons of war stopped at the earliest moment possible, but at present we cannot get that agreement.
Therefore, we say that as one of the steps which will break the ice and enable both sides of the conference to move to further agreement, and as an indication 1252 of our sincerity of purpose, we should agree that the tests should be suspended for, say, two years. I cannot understand why there should be any difficulty for those concerned with the technical point of view, because the White Paper has stated that even this country has vast stocks of nuclear weapons. Also, President Eisenhower has stated that not only has the United States considerable numbers of nuclear weapons, but that in his view they have more than the Soviet Union. Therefore, I cannot think that if it is the defence of our country which is worrying hon. Gentlemen opposite it would be seriously prejudiced by suspending tests, when we all know that at present the West has enough nuclear bombs in its possession to destroy our civilisation, as my right hon. Friend said.
I have another suggestion which I hope will be considered by the Government and which, although it may not take the matter very far, will have a psychological effect and help to build that confidence which the leaders of both East and West are concerned to establish in order to make progress. Why cannot we agree that all patrol aircraft armed with nuclear bombs should be ordered not to fly over European and United Kingdom territory for the two years during which we should suspend nuclear tests? I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that we should not go back on any agreements which we have made with the United States, and I would also agree that there can be little difference between sending a bomber with a hydrogen bomb from a base in this or some other country and launching a rocket with a nuclear or high explosive warhead from a base in this or some other country.
But as an indication of our desire to relax international tension and open the way to a series of agreements we should, for the time being, not only suspend the tests, but suspend the construction of the three or four rocket sites without which we have managed up to now. I agree that the West would be taking a risk, but so would the Soviet Union and it would be well worth while if it helped to bring agreement. If the summit talks were a failure, it would be possible to revise these undertakings.
There are two other proposals which the Government should bear in mind for discussion at the Summit Conference. 1253 The United States Government attach the greatest importance to organising safeguards against surprise attacks. Now that the Soviet Government as well as the four Western Governments have expressed their support for such safeguards, surely the time has come when a working party of technicians should be established to consider the implementation of those proposals. That is something on which there is already agreement on principle and I cannot understand why there need be any difficulty about establishing machinery to work out the technical details.
Reference has already been made to the other proposal, which is of much greater importance than some people seem to imagine. Many of us remember the Kellogg Peace Pact. It was a general instrument by which the signatories undertook to renounce war as an instrument of national policy. What Marshal Bulganin and the Prime Minister have each proposed is a pact of non-aggression to be signed by the Soviet bloc and the Governments of N.A.T.O.
The fact that all the countries concerned are already committed, through their membership of the United Nations, not to go to war, not to commit aggression, but to renounce war as an instrument of national policy does not lessen the value of achieving such a pact. For the first time in the history of the world there would be two opposing blocs signing a pact undertaking not to commit an act of aggression against one another, and renouncing war as an instrument of policy in their relations with one another.
I strongly support the Prime Minister's proposal and I hope that he will not be deterred by the lack of enthusiasm which appears to be manifested by many of his supporters. I agree that, by itself, such an agreement would be of very limited value, but I regard it as one of a number of agreements which we all hope will emerge from the forthcoming Summit Conference. We all know that N.A.T.O. will not attack the Soviet Union and its associates and I believe that the Soviet Union has no intention of making war on the West. If that is the case, and we accept the existence of the nuclear weapon as a deterrent, the time has come to end the present deadlock and to secure a greater measure of relaxation 1254 of international tension. A series of limited agreements would help to achieve that end.
I for one do not believe that the people of the United States are either militaristic or aggressive. They are just as peace-loving as the people of this country. Their whole history supports that view. I remember the regret in the early 1920s because the United States had not been associated with the maintenance of peace in Europe before 1914. There was regret that in 1919 the United States Government would not join the League of Nations. There was regret that there was not a pact of security in Europe to which the United States was a member and which might well have prevented the Second World War.
Now, when the United States are associated with the maintenance of peace and security in Europe, there are people who say—it has been constantly said by the leaders of the Soviet Union—that the people of the United States are aggressive, imperialistic and seeking to foment war. Just as the people of the Soviet Union want to live in peace, so do the people of the United States and of this country want to live in peace. I hope that in the great opportunity that now presents itself, not only to the West but to the East, it will at long last be possible to change the term "peaceful co-existence" from platitude to reality.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Commander J. W. Maitland (Horncastle)
I wholeheartedly agree with the last part of the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson). He will agree with me that our own summit talks—that is to say, the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition—started extremely well, and I believe that we may have an extremely good debate.
The Leader of the Opposition said one or two things which I particularly noted and upon which I want to comment. He said that a defensive alliance was not enough, and with that I entirely, agree. All speakers so far have made clear what enormous pressure there is on the Foreign Secretary of any British Government, who is probably called upon by the State to perform one of the most arduous and frustrating jobs possible.
1255 There are many reasons for that. One is that since the war Great Britain has not had anything with which to back her diplomacy. By diplomacy I mean the science of converting the individual self-interest of another country into a self-interest which is mutual to that country and ourselves. In the present age of nuclear stalemate we dare not use force, and in our present circumstances the exertion of economic pressure is beyond our power. Other people know that as well as we do. In dealing with the many unsettled areas to which the Leader of the Opposition referred, it is just that fact which has hamstrung and handicapped us in our negotiations.
Moreover, this state of affairs is bound to continue. If, as I hope, the summit talks succeed in creating a state of disarmament in the world—and I believe that the success of the summit talks lies simply and solely in the hands of Russia—we shall still find ourselves hamstrung in dealing with the difficult parts of the world by not having any sanction to back our diplomacy. In the present state of nuclear stalemate there can be no such sanction, because we dare not use force, and in the case of world disarmament we cannot use the sanction of force because by definition it will not be there to use.
At first sight that appears to be a rather agreeable proposition, but when we think it out a little further we realise that a world without any sanctions is a very difficult place to live in. That is the position which confronts a Foreign Secretary of a British Government in his day-to-day work. Discipline is essential if we are to live not only in peace but in contentment. Contentment is vitally necessary to seal peace, otherwise someone will soon find a way of bringing back war, even if it has been outlawed.
That is very clearly recognised in the concept of the United Nations. The Security Council, with its permanent Great Power members, is, in effect, charged with the duty of maintaining order in an armed world. But the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the sterling area in particular, are specially vulnerable under conditions where diplomacy cannot be enforced. Many nations, both small and large, are envious of our potential wealth. The fact that a nation is small does not mean that it 1256 is virtuous. In these days we do not want to see an increase in Nasserism, but there is a great temptation that with the deadlock that exists between the Great Powers who should maintain the discipline of the world that may happen.
I was very glad to hear what the Leader of the Opposition said at the beginning of his speech. Armed or disarmed, we have an absolute right to protect the interests of our nationals—to maintain their security and freedom, and prevent the encroachment of frontiers. How are we to achieve that at present, during the period of run-down, and in a disarmed world? I have never had much faith in what is called "limited war." I have never been able to envisage circumstances in which it would arise. Even if the perfect set-up for a limited war arose, how could this country, linked as it is to the sterling area—not all of whose members would be participants in the war—survive economically? How could even the sterling area itself survive? We had a fairly severe lesson in 1956.
I wonder how often since the war British Governments have been held back from carrying out some action which they thought they should properly take—not initially economic in character—because of anxiety about our gold reserves?
So I think we cannot back diplomacy by the threat of a limited war, although it might be possible for the United States to do so.
The United States might even go in for Dr. Kessinger's conception of a limited nuclear war. But that is a counsel of failure. We may be driven to that; it may be the inevitable outcome; but it is certainly not the answer to the problem. Neither do I believe—as some rather starry-eyed people do—that the ordinary day-to-day discipline of the world can be controlled by an international body. I have always been a little cynical about international United Nations armies. It would be very difficult for them to know when they were going to act, and at what point they should step in. There would always be a considerable taking of sides in any limited war that such an army might be intended to try to stop.
§ Mr. A. Henderson
Does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that the United Nations Emergency Force is doing a good job of work on the Arab-Israeli border?
§ Commander Maitland
I do—but the same situation does not arise every time. I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that in time we shall probably have a United Nations force, but I say that in the day-to-day work of a British Foreign Secretary, faced with the necessity to give a lead to the great British Commonwealth of Nations, it would be extremely difficult to call in aid a force of that sort for the various things that he needed, or to have it as a sanction behind his normal diplomacy.
The real power today is economic power. Who can doubt that the power behind America's diplomacy is economic? It is not her guns, aeroplanes or hydrogen bombs which enable her to get what she wants if she wants it; it is her great economic strength. She can buy, or bribe, or threaten with exclusion from her great market. For the moment, therefore, the power behind American diplomacy is economic. But it will not go on for ever. It is only for the time being.
The power of Russia is building up to an enormous economic and commercial potential. We hear stories of mass trading in goods, as instanced by the buying up of rice or of cotton from Egypt. All these factors are beginning to make a very big hole in the economic sanctions which the United States can put behind her diplomacy. It may well be that Russia will maintain the present state of stagnation, caused by the fear of hydrogen weapons, until she is in a position to replace it with overwhelming power in the economic and commercial sphere. If ever we allow that to happen, we can say goodbye for ever to any hope of maintaining freedom in any portion of the world.
I read with great interest the speech of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in San Francisco. The speech was criticised by hon. Members opposite, who I do not think could have read the whole of it. It was a most valuable contribution. My right hon. Friend said, in effect, that unless we stop trying to cut each other's throats commercially in the West, and if we do not make an absolutely positive effort to integrate our economy with that of America, we shall be overpowered, not by the hydrogen bomb, not by the menace of armaments, but by the 1258 economic pressure which Russia could exert should she desire so to do.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
I presume that my hon. and gallant Friend is referring to the suggestion of some form of economic merger. Would he not agree that such a merger could take place only were there to be some form of monolithic superstructure State incorporating all the worst features of the centralised Communist system?
§ Commander Maitland
The last thing I should attempt would be to define any sort of structure. I maintain that we are in an extremely advantageous position when it comes to encouraging integration. We have, as it were, one foot in Europe and one on the American continent. We have just entered a free trade area, or we are hoping to do so, and, incidentally, the history of how the European Free Trade Area came into existence is fascinating. For the first time in history one can see what Kipling described as "the ties of common funk" being translated into ties of mutual interest. If that can happen in the way it has in the European Common Market, if we can make it happen in the Free Trade Area, and if we can use it politically as well as economically, we shall have achieved something on this side of the Atlantic. We have a strong position on the American Continent—when I say "we" I refer to Canada, as part of the British Empire—and I believe that we should be able to bring into force agreements to stop this commercial throat-cutting. We could prevent America from lending dollars to the West and refusing permission, for example, for us to sell goods to them. Those are the sort of things which make for efficiency.
§ Commander Maitland
I am trying, in a humble way, to appeal to America not to be so economically stupid.
I say that we are in an extremely good position not only to say that America is being economically stupid but to show her that she is. We have few advantages in the world today, and we should make the most of what we have. With the Free Trade Area on the one hand and America 1259 on the other, we, with our friendly relationships with the countries concerned, are the only people who can do that. In that lies our hope for the future. If Russia says there will be war, then there will be war. If Russia says there will be peace and disarmament, there will be peace and disarmament. But the problem of re-creating an effective diplomacy will be with us all the time. In a world of imponderables, it is sometimes worth while to examine something which we think can be done. It may be difficult to achieve but achievement is worth while, since it would add to the strength and power of our diplomacy. I believe that we, with America, should consciously make a supreme effort to improve the economic position of the West.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
The speeches of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition were on a very high level and worthy not only of the right hon. Gentlemen and the great positions they hold, but of consideration by all people as affecting their position during this time. The fate of the world depends on the decisions of the leaders of various Governments.
Since 1946, foreign affairs debates have not been so much concerned with our relationships with other countries as dominated by one consideration: what is the position of the Russian Government, what is their power, what are their ambitions and the danger of which we are all conscious? I was particularly grateful to the Minister of Defence for setting out the position so clearly again this year. The right hon. Gentleman did so in the remarkable White Paper issued last year which, I understand, was drafted entirely by himself.
In that White Paper, there was a statement which I wish had commanded more attention throughout the whole world. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that, in spite of the vast sums of money spent not only by us but by our allies, the Government could not guarantee immunity from danger; could not guarantee the safety of any individual should nuclear war occur. We have been spending on defence, certainly since 1950 and the Korean War, roughly one-third of the Budget. In seven years that has come to the enormous sum of between £11,500 million and £12,000 million.
1260 That is the position of every country in the world. Owing to this tremendous danger, Governments have to admit that they cannot carry out their primary duty, which is to guarantee the safety of the people. This year, the right hon. Gentleman has directed our attention much more firmly to what is the true position, the one which we are discussing today, although this is supposed to be a debate on foreign affairs. The right hon. Gentleman begins with a startling first paragraph which rightly calls the attention of everybody in this country to what is the position:The world today is poised between the hope of total peace and the fear of total war.If I may humbly say so, I absolutely agree. The important words are "total peace" and "total war". We cannot today be quite sure that any particular outbreak in any particular place can be localised. The danger is that if total peace is broken it may result in total war.
The right hon. Gentleman then goes on, in the second paragraph, to state that, in spite of protestations, there is still mutual distrust by Russia of the free countries and by us of Russia. Yet I am sure that the ordinary people everywhere, in Russia as well as here, have only one desire, that there shall be total peace throughout the world. No one does not dread war.
We have been living under this tremendous threat of war during the whole of my life. It was about 1907 or 1908 that we began to realise the possibilities if the ambitions of those responsible for affairs in Germany were satisfied. Except for one short period between 1918 and 1929 we have lived under this tremendous threat. That is the position which has been fully brought out in this White Paper by the Minister of Defence.
The right hon. Gentleman then goes on to show that we are maintaining the position of so-called peace merely because there is a sort of balance between the power which we exercise on the one side and the power that might be exercised on the other. That may be maintained for quite a long time, but it is a melancholy prospect for those who are to come after us. I would draw the attention of the House and the country to paragraph 8 of the White Paper. It repeats what was said by the Prime Minister on 2nd 1261 March, 1955, when he was the Minister of Defence. These are the words:The ultimate aim must be comprehensive disarmament by all nations, coupled with comprehensive inspection and control by a world authority. Nothing less than this makes sense. That may seem a long way off. But it is just as well to recognise it and proclaim it as the final objective.I noticed a phrase used by the Prime Minister today, and it was quite obvious that he must have had that idea in mind when he commended the courage of the people and the desire that we should go on maintaining our position. Very rightly, he said that that was not enough; we must provide hope for the people. Unless that objective is achieved, I can see no hope for the young people of the future except to go on just watching one another. Whatever new yeapon is produced by one side, the other side will try to produce a better. All the time there is the threat, and all the time we realise, in the words of the Minister of Defence that in spite of having spent much money on defence, nobody can be assured of his own safety or of the safety of anybody else. That is the only hope that I can see for the whole world.
The British Government, having made this declaration, must ask other nations and Governments of the world whether they will join us. It might very well be found that there is a consensus of opinion that this provides the one and only hope for the world.
I turn to the proposals that have been made for partial disarmament. They are set out in the White Paper in paragraph 15, about nuclear tests being immediately suspended, the production of fissile material for weapon purposes being stopped, and so on. We cannot at present, when there is mutual distrust, rely upon anybody carrying them out. We must be quite sure that other people will abide by their promises as we shall abide by ours. It is necessary, therefore, to create a supra-authority to see that partial disarmament is observed. What is wrong with a supra-authority to see that there is complete disarmament? I should have thought it was easier to see that disarmament was complete than that it was partial. I commend that point to the Minister.
Why not ask other Governments whether they could not agree with the 1262 declarations that have been so clearly made in that White Paper? I see that the Foreign Secretary is here. Let me remind him that a similar declaration has been made on more than one occasion by himself. Particularly would I draw attention to the one he made two months ago in India, which was broadcast, and the other which he made in London at the International Parliamentary Union.
I come to the summit talks. I should have thought there would be agreement at once that it is desirable to hold those talks and that it was not necessary to waste so much time before replying in detail to the letters that have been passing. I should have thought the right thing to do was to say that the sooner we come together the better. The whole world is waiting for some relief from the tremendous perils which threaten it. I do not see that it helps to insist that there should be very careful preparation, or a meeting of Foreign Secretaries, or even of the diplomats of the countries. If we are to have the summit talks, should we not better wait for the discussion which will arise there? If we say that we will talk only about certain limited topics we shall have spoiled the whole purpose of the talks. I like the use of the phrase, "it is necessary to break the ice," in which we are all now fixed. It is much better for us to get together and see how far we can agree on general principles.
I still prefer what was wisely said in the House in 1953, by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W.Chnrchill). It is to be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT for 11th May, of that year. I will quote one paragraph, although the whole last part of the speech on this subject is not only worth reading, but worth studying. The right hon. Gentleman said:I must make it plain that, in spite of all the uncertainties and confusion in which world affairs are plunged. I believe that a conference on the highest level should take place between the leading Powers without long delay. This conference should not be overhung by a ponderous or rigid agenda, or led into mazes and jungles of technical details, zealously contested by hordes of experts and officials drawn up in vast, cumbrous array. The conference should be confined to the smallest number of Powers and persons possible. It should meet with a measure of informality and a still greater measure of privacy and seclusion. It might well be that no hard-faced agreement would be reached, but there might be a general feeling among those gathered together that they might 1263 do something better than tear the human race, including themselves, into bits."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1953; Vol. 515, c. 897.]I listened to the Prime Minister's description of what took place at Geneva. I am perfectly sure that what took place there in that large room, in which many people were sitting, was not what was in the mind of the right hon. Member for Woodford when he spoke from the Dispatch Box. Quite obviously, what he thought of was a meeting just of the heads of Government. Each of them knows the great problems confronting us. It would be an informal talk between them. If they could arrive at a general agreement on any one particular matter, it would be so easy to say, "The details of that have to be settled by other people; thank goodness we can agree upon the general principles, or even upon one of them."
That is why I think it would be so much better if the heads of Government had agreed to meet without all this correspondence going on and without some saying, "We want an agenda settled in this way," others saying, "We want it settled in that way," and the others saying, "We do not want an agenda at all." If they have any idea of having a conference, is any subject to be excluded? For example, will the subject of what I call the Polish Plan be excluded? I have said that it would be better for them not to meet if they are not to discuss the very questions that cause trouble.
I do not quite accept all that has been said by the Leader of the Opposition. One may have great advantages from a conference; one in particular, which the right hon. Member did not mention, I shall refer to a little later. One advantage I can see would be that at once there could be closer trade relations between this country and those countries which are free from occupation by Russian troops. Thereby we could start a better understanding between this country and those people.
I can also see a very considerable danger. If this is to happen, one sympathises even more than ever with the people of France. The distance even between the eastern border of France and the Atlantic is one which might very easily be covered, and very quickly. One always sympathises with the French 1264 people, even when one disagrees with many of the acts they have been committing since 1945—when one remembers how much they suffered in 1870, 1914, and again in 1939. In a matter of that kind there should be very close consultation with the French people about what their desires might be.
There is another point on which I can see difficulties—the American point of view on conferences. Is the position of China to be discussed? It is extraordinary that at a time like this the Government responsible for 600 million people—over a fourth of the population of the world—should be ignored completely. What is more, merely because of America's anger at what took place in the Korean War, and, still more, at what happened to the assistance she poured into China at one time, she not only refuses to trade with China—she never had much trade with China—but asks us and her allies in N.A.T.O. not to trade with China. She more or less says to us, "If you do trade with China, we shall regard it as an unfriendly act." Are we to go on like this forever, trying to turn our backs upon a fourth of the people of the world—a fourth that, in another 25 years, or less, will be a people to be reckoned with by the other peoples of the world? They are making tremendous strides. It is nonsense to look at the present position without considering those who will come after, especially the youth of the world.
When we are discussing with Russia what shall be the future, do we realise that while we are discussing our own position we also have a responsibility for the smaller nations? I wonder what steps are being taken to ascertain what their views are and what they would like. After all, Belgium did not ask to come into either of the two world wars, nor did Holland, nor Norway, nor did Denmark come into one world war, but all of them have suffered. I know how they voted at the United Nations on partial disarmament. I should like to know whether the Western Powers, particularly this country, are in close association with those people, whose fate is really in the hands of the mighty Powers.
I turn to a subject with which I promised to deal. Let us assume that the heads of Government do not get very far at a conference in discussing partial disarmament. I never thought that they 1265 would get very far. That has been proved by the failure of all the conferences held so far, for the very good reason put forward by the Minister of Defence, that there is such a mutual distrust of one another at present. Could we not turn our minds away from an arms conference and see how far we could get by talking about something else, particularly trade? Why could not the conference begin by saying, "What do you want? What can we supply to you and what can you supply to us?"
I have always felt that the best way towards peace is the one that has been a trade route between peoples. That was one which built up the might of this old country and certainly was responsible for the tremendous influence this small island has had upon the rest of the world. Might that not commend itself to the Government, that they might begin their talks by talking trade?
My last words are about the Middle East. I welcome particularly the agreement that has been made between the Kings of Iraq and Jordan. They are not only closely related themselves, but so are their peoples. I agree that if we meet at a conference one would like to see Russia joining with us in guaranteeing the territories of these various countries
It should be remembered that the Arab countries are extremely independent and that it is we more than anybody else who have been responsible for creating them. I am glad that these two countries have come together and I foresee great possibilities. We know that the King of Iraq and his Government are anxious, above all else, for the development of the resources of Iraq—I do not mean the oil resources, but the soil resources. Five thousand years ago, that part of the world carried a tremendous population. The old waterways have been closed, but they can be reopened.
There is in Iraq a shortage of labour. On the other hand, in Jordan there is labour which cannot find work for itself within Jordan. It may well be that herein lies a solution both for Jordan and for Iraq. I would refer particularly to the refugees who are in Jordan. Might they not be encouraged to enter the new life with far greater prospects which would be opened up for them by going to Iraq?
1266 It would be well for our Government and for the American Government to make inquiries of those two Governments to see whether we can help in any way. Whether help is needed in money, guidance, technical advice or technical assistance, it would be well worth giving. It would be well worth while not only for those people themselves, but it would be well worth while for the whole peace of the Middle East to give every assistance we possibly can.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Sir Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)
I was delighted to hear both the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) give their commendation to the fine speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. As I am a fellow Godfather with the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton, I would sign a pact of nonaggression with him and link my opening remarks to some of the criticisms made by the Leader of the Opposition of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I think it was not quite fair when the Leader of the Opposition accused my right hon. Friend of giving no practical solutions or suggestions for the present situation.
If I understood my right hon. Friend correctly, he said, "Let us go to these conversations with an open mind. Let us choose the subject most likely to offer practical results. That should be disarmament, for disarmament is the key to other problems." At the same time, if I remember my right hon. Friend's speech correctly, he said that any effective disarmament agreement must link the Russian conventional forces to nuclear disarmament, for, unless the vast Russian conventional forces were reduced, the balance of power would be fundamentally upset. My right hon. Friend claimed that the peace of the world could be maintained by the balance of power being continued but at a lower level of armaments.
For my part, I see no reason why Russia should not agree to such a proposition. An agreement on arms would he of immense value to the Russian people. Also, I should have thought that the large Russian conventional forces could be more profitably employed, from the 1267 point of view of Russia, in the industry of the country.
I have promised to be brief. I wish to raise only two questions. The first is whether we can possibly devise any means whereby we can protect ourselves from sudden atomic attack. Secondly, if we cannot do this, can we devise any means whereby we can prevent local wars developing into atomic wars? I am afraid we must accept the fact that no safety exists at the moment against surprise atomic attack.
The Russians possess a rocket with a range of 5,000 miles, and so the inhabitants of New York or Detroit, Chicago or San Francisco now know that at any moment a rocket with an atomic warhead, perhaps fired over the Pole, can turn their cities into a mass of burning radioactive rubble. The Americans will shortly possess a similar rocket. Therefore, I suppose, the inhabitants of Moscow or Vladivostock or of the oil well area around Baku know that a similar fate awaits them.
At the same time, we are told of the development of new and secret devices—for example, of the submarine "Polaris", which from the mud and ooze of the seabed will be able to fire, undetected by radar, rockets with ranges of 1,500 miles. We must therefore accept the fact that American submarines could deal secret blows at the Russian oilfields or Russian submarines at the American defences in Panama.
Lastly, we have to accept the fact that the power and prestige of the United Nations—I say this with sorrow—would be quite unable to restrict a powerful aggressor once he had struck. We have vividly in mind the memory of Hungary. The United Nations produced its censure, and speaker after speaker uttered denunciations of Russia, whilst at the same time the Russian guns continued to batter Budapest and the Russian tanks crushed under their tracks the barricades of the patriots.
The only possible solution to the problem of sudden atomic attack is, I think, disarmament strictly supervised by international teams. If that does not at the moment seem possible, can we devise a means of preventing local wars from developing into atomic wars? We should ask ourselves frankly, and with complete sincerity, what either side wants.
1268 I imagine that, if an official of the State Department were asked to say what was his maximum objective, he would reply that it was to push the Russian troops behind the Russian frontier, to allow a free and reunited Germany to choose a position in N.A.T.O., and for America to maintain her bases throughout the world. On the other hand, if one were to ask a member of the Politburo, he would surely say that he would like to see the American troops out of Europe, Germany in a neutralised zone, and the United States disbanding its bases all over the world, from Okinawa to the Mediterranean.
Is either side frankly willing to make a concession from this fixed line? We find ourselves in a situation aptly described by Walter Lippmann as "Peace by stalemate". Is either side willing to upset the present balance of power? Into this situation of peace by stalemate has come the so-called Rapacki Plan, with the idea of creating in Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland a zone free of atomic weapons. If we accept this proposition we have to ask ourselves whether Europe can actually be defended. If American troops retire to the seaboard of the Atlantic, to the Netherlands and France, and to the South behind the Alps, with Russian troops remaining in Eastern Germany, Russia would enjoy a great preponderance of conventional arms and, above all, would enjoy the advantage of defence in depth which the Western Powers would not have. At the same time, the atomic power of the West, the one counterpart to the overwhelming superiority of Russian forces, would have been seriously diminished.
If we ask ourselves that question and a doubt exists about whether Europe could be defended from such a situation, we have to ask ourselves whether it would be possible to maintain N.A.T.O. as an effective force once the suspicion had crept into the minds of Europe that Europe could not be defended. Should we not find ourselves in a situation similar to that existing before the war, when the unbalance of power caused by the absence of American troops produced a situation tempting to aggressors?
Those are the questions that we have to ask ourselves. In conclusion, we have to ask, is there no hope? I believe with 1269 my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that there is hope, in spite of the difficulties. If we are to believe the writings of Mr. Djilas, the Yugoslav, who is now in gaol in Yugoslavia, we are told that the Russian governing circles are now becoming stratified; that the men in them obviously want to protect their jobs in the existing framework of society, and to ensure, I presume, that no revolutionary movement takes place. I suppose that their womenfolk want to enjoy the comforts of the ruling class—the silk stockings and the large cars now believed to be making their appearance in Moscow.
Therefore, I claim that any form of society, whether capitalist or Communist, has something to fear from war which may bring revolution, and that this desire not to fight a war should be encouraged. It is being encouraged. I think, by the Russian peace propaganda. While this peace propaganda is designed primarily to soften up the West, it surely has an equal impact on the people of Russia themselves, who will be less and less willing to believe in the aggressive force of the West when they themselves desire peace so much.
At the same time we should encourage the desire, by every means in our power, for the interchange of visits among men of science and men of letters. I have no fear of such interchanges. Surely, the main force and stamina and virtue of our democratic society lies in the fact that it can carry out changes without revolution. Like all living organisms, we are not a static body. The forms of democratic society are continually changing, and we obtain those changes, as I say, without revolution. Therefore, our form of society has, in the long run, far greater virtue, stamina and stability than has the Communist society.
Whilst this deadlock persists, let us, as the Prime Minister says, not hesitate to talk, to encourage interchange and greater knowledge of each other, so that, in the course of time when, perhaps, words have apparently- produced no results, a time and mood for action may bring us to the peace that the whole world desires.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)
As the main point that I want to make will contain my reply to 1270 the speech made by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr), he will, perhaps, forgive me for not following him at once. Before coming to my main theme, I want to refer to a matter of some urgency, and I am glad that the Foreign Secretary is present to hear me make this point.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred to the two unions in the Middle East—of Syria with Egypt, and of Iraq with Jordan. In the past few days I have discovered that there has been a rising crescendo of anti-Israel propaganda from Bagdad. I regard that as rather dangerous. Iraq, of course, is the only country concerned that has not an armistice agreement with Israel, and if this union of Jordan and Iraq is to be aimed primarily at Israel it will not make for stability in the Middle East.
I believe sincerely that the continued existence of Israel in the Middle East is tremendously important. Apart from its religious significance, I believe that Israel is setting the economic pattern for the whole of the Middle East, and that its position should be safeguarded. I would like the Foreign Secretary to comment on this new development—the flood of anti-Israel propaganda that has started coming from Iraq since the union. That union could be a tremendous new factor for good on the economic plane in the Middle East, but if directed primarily at Israel it will upset the very precarious balance in that area.
I want to devote my main remarks entirely to Europe. The Times, in its leading article this morning, discussing today's debate, said:The function of diplomacy over the next few weeks should be to give more precision to the thinking of the Governments concerned on the next stage of evolution for Central Europe.It went on to say:… for that, if anything, is what a summit talk will usefully discuss.It is a matter for great regret that, in discussing the Summit Conference, the Prime Minister hardly mentioned Europe at all. He was absolutely right, of course, in saying that since the war the problem that lies at the heart of all our international affairs has been the relationship between the Communist and the non-Communist part of the world. Since the war, these two different worlds have, in fact, become two huge power blocs, snarling at each other across the Iron 1271 Curtain, fearing each other tremendously, and each accusing the other of aggressive designs.
The position has got steadily worse. In our foreign affairs debate on 6th December, 1956, I discussed this. I apologise for quoting myself, but I then said:As year followed year, East-West relations seemed to become more insoluble. Indeed, we reached a point where the West accepted the insolubility of the problem and established N.A.T.O. and built the whole of its foreign policy for the time being on the premise that East-West relations could not be solved. We could not get even a modus vivendi, let alone a settlement of the problems between the East and the West."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1956; Vol. 561, c. 1507–8.]I said that the tragic, hopeless jig-saw of Central Europe seemed to be unchangeably frozen—and how often that word "frozen" has occurred in the debate today—in the area where the two different worlds met.
In this apparently hopeless situation war was, of course, unthinkable. If anybody had any doubts about that, Hungary showed quite conclusively that war was out of the question. On the other hand, the only other alternative, diplomacy, achieved nothing at all. There then occurred three events which, I believe, radically changed the seemingly intractable situation as a result. The hopeless rigidity of the immediate postwar decade has been replaced by a degree of flexibility that has brought real hope of a change in Europe today.
I have been to Eastern Europe once or twice recently, and I believe that the bleak, blank hopelessness of a few years ago has gone, and that there is now a new, eager belief among the people of Eastern Europe that their liberation will come by peaceful evolution and peaceful change. The three events that have transformed the hopes and possibilities in Central Europe are, of course, the death of Stalin, the Hungarian revolution, and the hydrogen bomb, and I want to say just a word or two about each.
When Stalin died there was an obvious and immediate thaw in the freeze-up. A number of hitherto intractable problems—Trieste, Austria, etc.—were solved almost overnight. Russian leaders came to England, got on well with the Conservative Party, and made great efforts to get to know the West. Perhaps more important still, in the Kremlin there was 1272 a dispersal of power. Instead of being centralised in the hands of one man, it was dispersed. Although there has been a bit of reconcentration since then, they have not got back to the Stalinist set-up.
The Twentieth Congress in Moscow shook the Communist world to its very foundations, because it destroyed for ever, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said in a pamphlet, the belief in the infallibility of the Russian leadership of the Communist world. However we may assess these changes that occurred when Stalin died, they do add up to a more flexible attitude on the part of Russia. I believe that this greater flexibility, not only on the part of Russia but of the West as well, is probably the key to the whole situation.
The second event that has changed the situation was, undoubtedly, the Hungarian revolution, and we can now see that a little more clearly in the perspective of time. It followed the Polish ferment a few months earlier which, in its turn, followed on the Eastern German rising some time earlier. I believe that the Hungarian revolution taught the Russians the profound lesson that there is precious little loyalty towards them among the ordinary people in the satellite countries.
Events in Budapest certainly showed them that the satellite armies are not reliable. There have been unmistakable signs that Russia's more flexible leadership is now experiencing doubts about the wisdom of the policy of surrounding Russia with a wall of satellites. There are unmistakable signs that they are considering the idea that, perhaps, a wall of neutral States would give greater security.
The third factor is the hydrogen bomb. Statesmen have said for many years that the next war would destroy civilisation. I suppose that now, for the first time, that is really true, and that the next war would destroy civilisation. It would certainly destroy the attacked; it would certainly destroy the attacker; and if the war were in Europe it would most certainly destroy the country it was sought to protect.
This tremendous new fact, I believe, has changed one of the basic tactics of international Communism. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made the point today and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. 1273 Bevan) made it in our last debate on these matters, that for the first time in its hundred years of history international Communism can no longer profit by war, and, as has been said already in the debate—and I make no apology for repeating it—there is now a common interest in both East and West to preserve peace, For the first time there is that common interest.
To sum up this changed situation, there is a more flexible Russian leadership; there are doubts in Russia about the satellite policy; and there is the common interest in the preservation of peace. That, I believe, has changed the situation in Europe and it has made a situation in Europe in which some sort of evolution can begin.
What a wonderful opportunity. It is the best opportunity since the war. What a wonderful opportunity for someone, a statesman somewhere, to take the initiative in this changed situation. Who in the whole Western world is big enough to take the initiative? Who has got the flexibility in the whole Western world and who in the whole Western world has the courage to use this changed situation to point a new way for Europe? I believe, although I have often disagreed with him, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale is the man in the Western world who could take the initiative and point a new way. At any rate, he was the first, as far as I am aware, to talk about "disengagement". I believe that he actually coined the word "disengagement".
As I see it, disengagement is Europe's only hope. Indeed, in the long run it is the only hope for survival. He would be a very brave man who would dare to assert that peace can be maintained forever by this precarious balance between two adjacent Power blocs in Europe. Because there is only a balance if they go on increasing their arms, first one and then the other; and the whole of history has shown that there will be no lasting security in that.
Thus, as I see it, disengagement is the only hope for survival, quite apart from being the only hope of German reunification. I do not think that either side has any aggressive intentions towards the other. The danger is from incidents, and when both sides, as they are now, are 1274 armed with atomic tactical weapons, an incident could not be localised. It would, it seems to me, become an East-West war from the very start in Europe.
I do not think that there is any other way for Europe than that of the disengagement of the two Power blocs, and there is no other way—let us face this quite clearly—to achieve the reunification of Germany. The German problem is the festering sore in the heart of Europe—indeed, in the heart of mankind. Although there are others, this is the worst danger spot. It is the greatest single danger to the peace of the world; and there is no hope whatever of the reunification of Germany so long as the two Power blocs have their armies in the West and the East of Germany.
Let us recognise that and face it. Why is this so? Hungary, and, before Hungary, Poland, while it has shown many things, has shown quite clearly that, if the Red Army withdraws, the Communism régime of the country will change. It will remain Communist, of course, but it will change and will become more liberalised. I think that recent events in East Germany have shown that not only at the centre, but throughout the whole of East Germany, there is a real desire for a liberalisation of the régime.
That desire, I believe, is felt not only in East Germany but throughout the whole of the satellite countries. If the Red Army were withdrawn from those countries a great degree of liberalisation of the régimes would follow. I believe—some of my colleagues may not agree with me—that that is the reason why we need no longer insist upon free all-German elections as a condition precedent to reunification.
I believe that the sensible evolution of the German problem would be this: first, and this is fundamental, the withdrawal of the two armies; secondly, for a period of two years, two separate States existing side by side. One would be a Communist State, but a Communist State which would become increasingly liberalised. As the East German régime became liberalised I am quite sure that it would evolve within four or five years into a German federation, and I envisage that that would exist for a few years. As the final stage, the complete reunification of 1275 the two separate German States. Let us be realistic: the only hope of German reunification is along those lines.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
Does the hon. Gentleman think that the Russians would permit a liberalised State to emerge?
§ Mr. Short
I hope that the hon. Member has followed me. I said that it was absolutely fundamental, as a start, that the Red Army should withdraw. I think that Poland and other countries have shown that there is a real desire for some liberalisation of the régime. As I said, it would remain a Communist régime, but it would be very much changed from what it is at present.
I would make two other points quite briefly before I leave this matter. Of course, if the German problem is resolved, as I think it will be and as I hope it will, it would involve recognition of East Germany. I want to be perfectly clear about this. I believe that the non-recognition of East Germany is doing untold harm to the possibility of a peaceful solution in Europe. This is really blackmail by the Adenauer Government. No Government dare recognise East Germany. But it exists, as does the other part of Germany and as do the other satellites.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ormsby-Gore)
The hon. Member will recollect, of course, that the Socialist Party in Germany also refuses to recognise it?
§ Mr. Short
I was going to mention that.
The West's attitude to East Germany is quite unrealistic. Like the State of Israel, it is an historical fact. It is there, and in East Germany are 18 million people. What are we achieving? We turn our backs on East Germany. We say, "You are wicked and we will have nothing to do with you." All that we do by that is to push the East German people further towards Moscow, culturally, socially, economically, and in every other way.
Last week, we had a debate here on the question of trade with East Germany. We had a very unhelpful reply from the Government. I believe that if we can get trade going between East Germany and Britain—and we, together with 1276 Franco Spain and the Republic of Ireland, are the only countries in Europe which have no sort of trade agreement with East Germany—it would help considerably, for I am quite certain that under the surface in East Germany there is an almost pathetic desire to move nearer towards the West. Yet we spurn them, we turn our backs on them and have nothing to do with them, and by so doing we achieve the opposite of what we hope to achieve. Apart from the ethics of a policy like this, which injures the ordinary people in the country concerned more than anyone else, it is a very unintelligent policy from the point of view of our own self-interest.
The Minister of State asked about the attitude of the S.P.D. in West Germany. I hope that he has read the article in the last issue of Western Union, by Fritz Erler. If he has he will see there is a change. Fritz Erler is a very influential member of the S.P.D.
§ Mr. Short
Yes, he is the deputy-chairman.
I believe that there is no hope whatever of achieving a peaceful solution of the German problem if the two German States, or the one State which emerges, is left free to decide its military alignments after the armies are withdrawn. I know that this implies some limitation of sovereignty. That is the price Germany will have to pay. I believe that the Germans will be willing to pay that price.
Professor Kennan made the same point in one of his broadcast talks. He said this:So long, therefore, as it remains the Western position that the hands of a future all-German Government must not in any way be tied in the matter of Germany's future military engagements, I see little hope for any removal of the division of Germany at all—nor, by the same token, the removal of the division of Europe.I think that only a genuine permanent neutrality, guaranteed by both East and West, would induce Russia to withdraw from Germany, and it would be the only sort of arrangement which would induce the Communist régimes in Eastern Europe to agree. It is the only hope of any sort of liberalisation of the Communist régimes in Eastern Europe.
1277 Obviously, any settlement in Europe has to be a bargain between Russia and the West, and, obviously, Russia would look at the bargain from its own point of view. We would do the same, I imagine. It has got to be a fair bargain, and there has to be sufficient physical force outside the neutral area to guarantee neutrality. It is tremendously important that there should be the force from outside, from France and the East, to guarantee neutrality.
Now a word about the Rapacki Plan. I do not believe that the Rapacki Plan could be accepted alone, because without any withdrawal of the Red Army or the N.A.T.O. Army it would simply freeze the status quo of Europe and we should be back to where we were seven or eight years ago. The Eastern countries and many people in this country regard it as a first possible step towards disengagement, but I think that it would be a very dangerous first step to take. It is no use taking a first step if that first step is going to make subsequent steps more difficult, and, as I see it, it would be so because it would freeze the status quo.
If the Rapacki Plan could be accompanied by the substantial withdrawal both of the Red Army and the N.A.T.O. Army, a new day would dawn for Eastern Europe. It is a piece of imaginative statesmanship which should be taken up by the West as a basis for discussion, and perhaps from it some sort of real disengagement could emerge in Europe. The source of the Rapacki Plan is somewhat significant, coming as it does from the satellite or the Communist country with the greatest amount of freedom. I hope that the West will take it up, will use it as a basis for discussion, and that from the discussion will emerge a tearing down of the Iron Curtain and its replacement by a broad band of friendly but neutral States. This alone would give the assurance of peace.
All Europe—indeed, all the world—is crying out for a leader of sufficient stature to seize the opportunity which is now before us, but in this situation, where the opportunity is so great, American leadership is almost moribund. The most that the British Government can do it is to paddle along on the lowest common denominator of the Western alliance, and that is not really good enough. Surely 1278 somebody at this moment—the most hopeful moment in the post-war era—must break through this power stalemate by taking a new and striking initiative which will seize the imagination of the peoples of Europe. Europe is, after all, the key to world peace. The failure of Britain and of the British Government to provide such a leader is the real tragedy of the present day.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Brigadier Sir John Smyth (Norwood)
The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) has made some very interesting observations, with one or two of which I agree and with the remainder of which I do not agree. I agree particularly with what he said about the hydrogen bomb being such a big factor for peace in Europe as a whole. However, I think that perhaps he drew the wrong deductions from that observation. I believe the observation to be true, but the deductions to be wrong. He was unduly optimistic in thinking that the Russians would withdraw from Eastern Europe and would leave entirely free those countries which she at present occupies. I think that if Russia did withdraw from any of them, she would undoubtedly leave behind a very strong Communist régime.
Running through almost all the speeches this afternoon has been the factor in foreign affairs which we know to be so fundamentally important, and that is the enormous effect that nuclear power and the hydrogen bomb have on the whole of our foreign policy today. That factor has been mentioned in almost every speech. The other point that has been mentioned by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) is the White Paper issued by the Ministry of Defence, which refers to the fact that today we have a choice between total war and total peace. I believe that choice lies entirely with the Russians We should never commit aggressive war—
§ Sir J. Smyth
We can provide, and are providing, the deterrent.
Some interesting remarks were made about a Summit Conference, and I rather agree with the Leader of the Opposition's suggestion that it might be a good thing to attempt an ice-breaking Summit Conference. The Prime Minister interested us with his description of the Summit Conference at Geneva which he attended, of all the tremendous organisation and paraphernalia that lay behind it—the hordes of journalists, the hand-outs which were issued after every speech, and so on.
One realises how extraordinarily difficult it will be even now to stage a conference of anything like that shape or dimension. I have had the experience of attending a completely different so-called Summit Conference which was the opposite of this carefully prepared conference. It was a conference, during a very dark stage of the war, between Chiang Kai-shek, who was then leading China, and Wavell, representing the British and American powers in South-East Asia. That was entirely a two-man conference. There was only one other person present with the two leaders, and that was the interpreter. I was the only other person there. There was no prepared agenda, and the two men talked quite frankly to one another of the vital factors that they had to discuss at that stage of the war.
That, I think, is the other extreme—an ice-breaking conference. I do not say that anything particular came out of that conference—certainly nothing of comfort, because there was nothing of comfort that could be said at that stage of the war. But I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it might be possible in the first instance, without expecting anything very concrete to come out of it, to have an ice-breaking conference and a get-together between the two leaders.
I am certain that we are all agreed on one thing and that is that there is a fierce desire among all hon. Members and among the greater part of the country that we should live in a peaceful world and that another war should never be allowed to start. I think I can safely start from that premise in the knowledge that everyone will agree with me. I do not think we should exaggerate, as I 1280 think the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central did, the state of tension which exists today. After all, it has produced a state of peace for ten years, and that is something to be thankful for. We must not change that state of peace unless we are certain that the change that we make will be for the better and not for the worse
A great deal has been said and written about the nuclear deterrent. The principle of the deterrent is not new. We have been trying to observe the principle of the deterrent for almost the whole of this century. We tried to observe it before the First World War. We fondly hoped that the British Navy and our little Army would deter the Kaiser from starting world aggression. But the deterrent we could offer was not sufficient, and the Germans decided that they would take a chance. As it turned out, they were wrong, with a terrible cost to us, to them and to the peoples of the world.
The same thing happened between the wars. We saw Hitler building up the power of Germany. We were trying to observe the rules of the new League of Nations, and we hoped that the example that we were setting in disarmament would be followed by the rest of the world. Hitler invaded the Rhineland and took a chance. No action was taken to retaliate, and so the seeds of yet another world war were sown. Once again Germany turned out to be wrong. I am certain that if we had been absolutely clear, as we are today in the new Defence White Paper, about the things for which we would stand and for which we would fight, neither of those two world wars need have happened. If America had come in and made her position absolutely clear beforehand, then I believe that both those world wars could have been avoided.
Today we have in the hydrogen bomb a weapon which makes it more possible than ever before to ensure that the next world war of which we are afraid is never allowed to start. But it must be made clear beyond any possible doubt that we have the deterrent, that our deterrent is effective and that we can use it if necessary. I think that the Minister of Defence was perfectly right in saying, as he did in the White Paper last year, that any major aggression by Russia in Europe would be met by mass 1281 retaliation with every weapon at our command, and he followed it up a little more firmly in the White Paper that he has just issued, so that we are clear beyond any possible doubt what the effect of another world war would be. If we had made ourselves clear in that way in 1914 and 1939, we might have avoided the terrible holocaust of the two world wars that we have suffered.
The Soviet Union knows perfectly well that we would not launch a major war. I am certain that that is the case. However, we have to recognise these factors. Britain and no other Power in N.A.T.O. can afford to go it alone today. The defence of the West must be a combined effort. I am certain that any idea that we can go it on our own is completely impracticable and out of date.
The other factor that I think ought to be made absolutely clear, and about which I perhaps do not agree with the Minister of Defence in the White Paper, is this. I should say that Russia is probably ahead of us at the moment in the sphere of inter-continental rockets. If that is the case, or even if that is not the case, our counter is the medium-range ballistic rocket of shorter range. Of course, if we neutralise the inter-continental rocket, then our medium-range rockets have to be pushed forward or they would not have the range—which is a purely mathematical factor—to counter the Russian rockets.
I think some very sensible things about the hydrogen bomb situation and the factors that some of us disagree about have been said by one or two people, particularly by members of the Labour Party. I would like to quote one or two of them, as there is considerable disagreement about them. I would like to quote Mr. Attlee, now Earl Attlee, for whom I have great regard and respect. On 4th March, 1955, at Oxford, he said on this subject:It is no use telling the Russians that we would not be the first to use the hydrogen bomb in a war. If you want deterrents, you have got to use them. I have never found that a generous gesture brought any response from the Russians.In other words, he meant that one must talk from strength and not from weakness, and with that I profoundly agree. He said in the News Chronicle on 16th February, 1955: 1282If there is any idea that I was preaching unilateral disarmament, it is absolute nonsense. I was discussing the inference to be drawn from the coming of the H-bomb and was concerned to refute the idea popular in pacifist quarters that it is possible to isolate nuclear bombs from other weapons and outlaw them.The House will remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) also made some very wise remarks on that matter at Derby on 6th March, 1955, which were quoted in the House by the Foreign Secretary last April. He said that any idea of separating war with conventional weapons from war with nuclear weapons… would be an open invitation to the Communists to commit aggression throughout Europe, sweep forward to the channel ports and then destroy our cities by thousands of super V.2s with non-nuclear warheads.I feel most sincerely that it must be either one thing or the other.
There was a long letter in The Times today which countenanced war with conventional weapons. It said that we must not have war with nuclear weapons; so let us agree that if war comes we will fight it in Europe and elsewhere with conventional weapons. I believe that that approach is fundamentally wrong. We must not admit that any sort of war can be countenanced. Once one started to admit that it is all right to have a war with conventional weapons, then we should eventually have another holocaust with weapons twice as powerful as we saw at the end of the last war. The result for us would be extinction just the same, only by slower degrees. So war must be outlawed with all the force that we command.
Finally, I feel that in the debate so far we have had a remarkable measure of agreement. I thought that the Leader of the Opposition started his speech with several fundamental points of agreement about N.A.T.O. and the nuclear deterrent and really formed the basis of what I am sure will be a very useful foreign affairs debate. I was surprised that he even went so far as to say that he agreed with missile bases in this country, provided that we retained the veto, as, of course, we always would.
It was unusual for a foreign affairs debate to start with Commonwealth affairs, and I should like to take this opportunity—which I think has not yet 1283 really been done in the House—to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister upon his wonderful Commonwealth tour, which I am sure has done an enormous amount of good.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Oram (East Ham, South)
The hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) began his speech, as have many hon. Members, by a reference to summit talks, and I propose to follow him in that example, if in no other. It is understandable that this matter of summit talks should be very much to the fore in hon. Members' minds, and rightly so, because millions of people throughout the world are only too conscious of the dreadful fate looming ahead, and they fervently want the leading statesmen to get together and, at last, talk together words of sense.
In my view, however, we should make a mistake if we spoke too much about achieving summit talks and too little about what is to be said and offered at the talks. After all, summit talks are merely the mechanism of advancing policy. They do not in themselves spell success. What is very much more important, in my view, is that we should devise the policy which Britain's spokesmen shall put forward at the summit talks when they come about. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) said, what is desperately needed is a new initiative, a new policy. In spite of the kindly remarks which have been made about the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon, I confess that I listened in vain for any signs of a new initiative anything like the kind of initiative needed to meet our dreadful world situation. I believe that Britain is in a unique position to give the lead for which the world waits.
I hope that the talks will not be confined to the four Powers who were present at the 1955 Geneva Conference. The new talks, if they are to be effective, must be representative of the real forces in the world. That means, of course, that the four Powers—the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union—must be there. But, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) said, we ought also to think in terms of a more effective balance 1284 of forces at the new summit talks. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) raised the question of China as a subject for discussion at the talks. I would go further and suggest that a Government representative of such a large proportion of the world's population ought to be present at the talks.
Further, the talks will be ineffective, or much less effective than they might be, if the Prime Minister of India is not there. If Mr. Nehru could come to the summit talks, the hope and possibility of a world settlement would be immeasurably increased, for not only would he bring his own great personal gifts of wisdom and statesmanship to the summit, but his presence would be taken throughout the world as a recognition that the coloured peoples are now a power of the utmost significance in world affairs.
I come now to consider the new initiative to which I referred. In my view, the most hopeful point from which we can begin to tackle the problem is best expressed in the word "disengagement". We have heard a great deal about disengagement in the debate already. The idea of a neutral belt in Europe is a concept which has, in recent months, received support from an interesting and varied group of people. Not only has it often been advanced from the Front Opposition bench, but more recently, in the Rapacki Plan and the Reith Lectures, powerful additions to the number of those who support the general principle have been made. Only last weekend we heard of the resignation in America of Mr. Stassen. One is led to believe that his resignation has more to do with his disagreement with Mr. Dulles over the question of disengagement in Europe than with his wish to be Governor of Pennsylvania.
However convincing the arguments about disengagement in Europe are—and I find them very convincing—the thought is constantly brought to my mind as I listen to those arguments that disengagement in Europe is not enough. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central gave the House a most interesting examination of the European situation; he pointed to Europe as one of the principal danger areas of the world. All that is very true, and I can 1285 fully understand that the great problems of Europe loom large in people's minds today, but we have only to mention the names Korea, Vietnam and Formosa to be reminded that it was only very recently that the potential clash between the Soviet world and the non-Soviet world was seen as an Asian problem, not to mention the tense situation in the Middle East which had, of course, crucial significance in even more recent days.
The clash between the great rival ideologies is a global one, and, in my judgment, the solution can be found only in global terms. The concept of disengagement, being the most hopeful idea in the world today, ought not to be confined in our minds to Central Europe; It ought to be applied to that vast crescent of countries which stretches from Scandinavia in the North, through Central Europe, Yugoslavia, the Middle East, through Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, to the countries of South-Eastern Asia and Formosa in the Far East. I believe it is useless to talk of disengagement from any one sector of that vast crescent unless we are prepared to negotiate about all the other sectors at the same time.
It may be said that we cannot do everything at once, so why not make a beginning with the most vital sector and try to make progress there? That is an attractive line of argument, but I believe it to be fallacious. The negotiators on either side of the table, when confronted with, perhaps, a limited proposition about disengagement in Europe, would surely say, "But is this a trap? My opponent is putting forward what seems to be a concession on his part and he is asking for a quid pro quo in order to get a settlement. But if I agree, and even if he keeps the bargain, what is to prevent him from switching his attack to some other sector of the front?" In other words, it seems to me that negotiations about disengagement from one sector such as Europe would be bedevilled, on the one hand, by the Soviet fear of what lies behind the policies of S.E.A.T.O. and the Bagdad Pact and, on the other hand, by Western fears of Soviet intentions in Asia and the Middle East.
If the Western negotiators at the summit talks were bold enough, as I think they should be, to propose a global crescent of disengagement such as I have 1286 described, if they put forward proposals for a ban on atomic weapons throughout that vast area and put forward proposals for a limitation of conventional armaments within those countries and if they sought agreement with the Soviet Union about the delivery of arms to that series of countries from either the Soviet or the Western bloc and also about the maintenance of foreign forces and bases within that neutralised zone, I believe that we would measure up to the danger of the world situation.
That would, of course, involve international teams of inspection under United Nations auspices, which, in turn, could lead to the stationing of United Nations forces in the countries of the crescent. That would apply the lessons which the world painfully learnt during the tragic experiences of Suez a year and more ago. I believe that international forces should be put into those countries which I propose should be neutralised.
If that proposal were to have any hope of success, it must not rely merely on military, political and diplomatic moves. It seems to me fundamental that if world peace is to last, it must be based upon sound economic foundations. In the countries which I have named, with a few exceptions—notably in Scandinavia the besetting domestic problem of them all is that of dire poverty. That fact, apart from their geographical situation, is another reason why these countries form the testing ground between the rival power blocs of the world.
Those countries contain the danger spots, because men live there in hunger; and men living in hunger are always liable to rebel violently when the chance and the leadership come their way. In the world such as we know it today, violence anywhere along that vital stretch of the earth's surface can quickly lead to violence throughout the world. That is why I believe that those who talk at the summit, if they are to succeed, must boldly tackle this challenge of world poverty and must deal with it particularly in that sector of the world to which I have made special reference.
Many attempts have been made to measure the degree of poverty and to express it graphically, but the fact which has recently impressed itself most vividly on my mind in this connection is that in Britain, with all the economic 1287 and social problems with which we wrestle from day to day, we are saving and investing each year something like £30 per head of the population. That is one-and-a-half times as much as the average inhabitant of South-East Asia has, not for investment, but for all purposes of life—for food, clothing and shelter.
It would be fantastic if the leaders of the world got together but failed to bring within their terms of reference the problem presented by such contrasts as that. The leaders of the world should be prepared to establish an international development fund, under the United Nations, with resources available for those countries which are non-aligning neutral States. That is why the great hope of finding a solution to world problems must lie in disarmament. That must be the supreme objective of the statesmen of the world when they meet.
For this country, that must be not only the final objective. Disarmament must be a constituent part of our opening moves in the negotiations. We as a country shall come to count for little in the councils of the world if we do not solve our own economic and social problems here at home. We cannot do that while we try to support the present crushing burden of armaments upon our economy. That is one among many other overwhelming reasons which appeal to me why this country should cease the vain and frantic search for security by manufacturing the hydrogen bomb. In my view, the hydrogen bomb adds nothing to our security. It only increases our vulnerability. It makes us weak because it saps our economic strength. The very testing of these horrific weapons is causing unknown dangers to the present and future generations by the assembling of poisonous clouds in the stratesphere above us.
While those clouds are assembling up there, here on earth the clouds of war are assembling in the minds of men. I believe that in the hearts of millions of men and women throughout the world there are earnest, fervent prayers for release from the dreadful menace of war. Yet, despite all this, despite the dreadful threat, the world lives on in hope, and I myself, as I am sure do many other hon. Members, certainly on this side of the House and probably throughout the 1288 House, and despite also frequent deep moods of despondency, also live on in hope. In hope of what, I ask myself. Frankly, we hope for very little while this Government remain in office. I wait, as I believe the country is earnestly waiting, for the day when this Government will have the common decency to go. My hope lies in the achievement of an alternative Government formed by men and women who sit on this side of the House, and I conclude with a warning to that prospective Government, to its prospective Prime Minister and its prospective Foreign Secretary—
§ Mr. Oram
—that that Government will fail in world affairs, that these men will fail in world affairs, unless they can prove themselves big enough to meet the tremendous challenge of the days in which we are living. I believe that they can be big enough, if they will renounce the hydrogen bomb, if they will negotiate, as I have suggested, a global crescent of disengagement and if, above all, they will give a lead to the world in economic affairs which will mean that the hungry peoples are given the food that they need. By that sort of policy and in that sort of way, I believe that the Government which will succeed the present Government will lead the peoples of the world to peace.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
The hon. Member for East Ham, South. (Mr. Oram) spent some time on the subject of summit talks, and I should have thought that he might have obtained a grain of satisfaction and hope there. He seems to be almost as despondent at the prospect of his own party taking office as he is at the presence of this Government.
In the first two speeches which initiated this debate, there was a large amount of common ground as to the desirability and procedure of summit talks. Whatever view one takes of summit talks, it would obviously be fatal if a British Government, whatever its political colour, attended them without the support of the Opposition.
I want to dwell for a few moments on an aspect of foreign affairs that is less comprehensive and less far-reaching than 1289 that of summit talks, but which comes into what we might describe as the adjustable element of diplomacy. There is so much in the field of summit talks that is not adjustable, despite our efforts, that I ask the House to consider for a few moments a lesser field.
In a way, it seems curious that we should expect and anticipate an agreement with our political opponents during summit talks while we are in fact witnessing such a wide field of disagreement within our own allies and with our own friends. I would ask the House to consider for a moment the events of the last eighteen months. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister took office, there had to be an inevitable period of patching up alliances and re-making friendships, and I think that it would be less than generous for anyone, taking the context, to deny that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary achieved a large degree of success initially in patching up these friendships.
By now, however, there should have emerged a rather clearer pattern of the organisation of allies on whom we thought we could depend in Europe and the Middle East, and with whom we could pursue a common policy. I am suggesting to the House that one of the root troubles, and not the only one, has been the inability of European countries to unite. It is possible that we achieved so little because we were trying too much. We seem to be clinging to many inherited responsibilities without having inherited the power to maintain those responsibilities.
§ Mr. Astor
One of my hon. Friends says "Without the will." I do not think that the will is lacking, but I think the power is. I am not suggesting in any way that we should retreat from our three alliances—first, that of the Commonwealth; secondly, our association with America; and, thirdly, our alliances with our European friends. All I am suggesting is that we should rearrange the emphasis.
I feel that, without in any way abandoning our Commonwealth ties or our friendship with America, we could do much to strengthen our position in Europe, for, in fact, the strength of our union in Europe is not in conflict with, 1290 but rather is complementary to, our position in the Commonwealth and our relationship to America. If one takes the view that we are an active and lively European country, not exclusively, but in essence, we must be sure of our position in relation to the two major nuclear Powers, and I should like to dwell on this for a moment.
On the one hand, we have the United States of America, which shares our view of democracy, and, apart from being generous, I think has been far-sighted, considering the youth of its country. Considering that less than a hundred years ago America was involved in one of the most deadly civil wars, it has come a long way since then. I am suggesting that in the field of colonial dependency and colonial development—call it colonialism, if one likes—and in our approach to Russia, we will never speak the same language as our American friends, and that we must be both aware of this and sensitive to it.
Hon. Members who visit America may feel that when we talk of Colonial Territories we are much closer to our European allies than we are to the Americans. On the other hand, we have the colossus of Russia, which, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister reminded the House today, is not only a nuclear Power, with tens of millions of people, but has large conventional weapons, with its dedication to pursue and exploit Communism the world over, and its connection with the Orient directly, as with China, or indirectly. In between those two Powers, we are, as it were, squashed and dominated.
We live in a world where the power of the Slav and the Oriental is on the increase, and our significance, our survival, our ability to maintain political independence, apart from our standard of living, are dependent on surviving with Europe as a whole. It is perfectly possible that in 25 years the people on these benches will feel much more European than we now contemplate. To put it another way, as our world status declines and has declined, so our dependence ors Europe increases and has increased.
We refer somewhat arrogantly to backward countries. If I were a citizen of what is called a backward country, I should be cynical about the amount of co-operation which European countries 1291 have been able to achieve. Politically, history will judge Europe on the fact that it has not been successful in co-ordinating its own ideas about dependencies.
It is very easy when one has no responsibility—as is the case with me—to say, broadly, that one ought to associate more closely with Europe without giving specific matters in which that could be done, and I will enumerate three. Firstly, there is no locality in the Middle East or Europe which we defend which is not also a responsibility of N.A.T.O. and of other European countries. A situation has arisen in which two European countries, Germany and ourselves, are in direct conflict over who is to pay for what is really a N.A.T.O. responsibility.
I should have thought that there was scope for setting up a N.A.T.O. defence fund, into which all could contribute according to production and population, to pay for N.A.T.O. responsibilities. I accept that that means giving more sovereignty to N.A.T.O., but that is a price which I should be prepared to pay.
I was not clear what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition meant when he referred to Germany's position in a disengagement policy. I hope that when he winds up the debate tonight, the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) will make it clear whether the Opposition consider that Germany should be united and unattached to N.A.T.O. and unattached to Russia and left on its own in a void. If that is what the Opposition suggest, there is no indication that in a few years the German problem will not be exactly what it was in the 1930s and in the early part of the century. The conception of increased co-operation in European defence is not in conflict with the belief that disengagement is possible later.
Secondly, we could come much closer to Europe in the field of economics. In this the Government are far behind public opinion. The public is much more ready for this sort of co-operation than the leaders of either party suspect. The present position which we are advocating, which involves excluding some part of our production, not only will not work, but is known by the Europeans not to be workable. The sooner we get down to a practical solution, the better.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
Does my hon. Friend think that we should go into the Free Trade Area, which involves our submission to a supra-national institution, and will he develop what he said about giving more sovereignty to N.A.T.O. in view of our relations with the Commonwealth?
§ Mr. Astor
If my hon. Friend had waited, I was coming to that. I was trying to deal with the political aspect last, because that is most difficult. The way to approach this matter is through defence and economics and through colonial policy.
The day will soon arrive when Europe will have to have some united view about the Arab world. It is a reflection on the statesmanship of Europeans over the last 100 years or so that we do not have anything like a common view of the whole Arab world. It is the European countries which are involved with Islam and the development of the Arab world and there is scope for some development and some progress there. I realise that we have to face the difficulty that the approach of the French is different from ours, but unless we can come to some agreement with European countries which are being forced by failure to rearrange their ideas, I cannot see how our dependencies can continue to prosper.
Thirdly comes the point about which my hon. Friend asked, the question of sovereignty and whether we should enter the Free Trade Area. The idea of entering the Free Trade Area while excluding agriculture is completely unacceptable to Europeans. Many efficient and progressive people in industry and agriculture are much less frightened of this proposal than some of the spokesmen against the proposal indicate. Those who are a little cosy and comfy—perhaps a little too cosy and comfy—are attacking the proposal, but we cannot expect to enter the scheme on the terms which we are now advocating.
I want briefly to deal with the critics of the suggestion. They are very interesting and one sees the force of the idea which I advocate when analysing the critics. The critics are those who are largely restricted and who fear competition in industry and agriculture. Their voices should not carry too much weight with us. There is also the suggestion that the critics are other Commonwealth 1293 countries. I believe that it is the nineteenth century imperialists who are the critics. It will suit the Commonwealth if the banker of the sterling area is the leader of a buoyant and prosperous Europe.
The belief that on the one hand there is Europe and on the other the Commonwealth is rubbish. Those who purport to speak for the Commonwealth in point of fact speak for that element of it least likely to survive. Among the other critics of a closely co-ordinated, efficient and integrated Europe are the Communists, because the one thing which the Russians do not want is a prosperous and unified Europe. There is this funny alliance of the extreme restrictive side, the Communists, and some rather old-fashioned imperialists. When those three work on the one side, it almost certainly means that they are wrong.
I feel deeply that unless we are more decisive in our relationship with Europe, the Europeans will not allow us in. We are suspect in the eyes of many Europeans. They do not think that we mean business. I am not very clear whether the party opposite would mean business if it were in power. It has not indicated that it wishes to become more closely associated with Europe. Those Europeans upon whom we can rely are deeply suspicious that we are playing a game and trying to get in upon unacceptable terms. If European unification works successfully, as appears likely, the terms upon which we shall be allowed in later will be worse than they would if we took the plunge now.
§ Mr. C. R. Hobson (Keighley)
Would not the hon. Member agree that the French Government have also made conditions which, if they were agreed to, would preclude a Common Market in Europe? It is not only the people of Britain who view the Common Market with a certain amount of concern.
§ Mr. Astor
I agree that some of the conditions that the French have made are extremely difficult, but they could probably be made to retreat from them. I am not suggesting that the blame for our not going in lies entirely with us. Other countries are concerned, but I am speaking only from our point of view. My right hon. Friend the Member for 1294 Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), at the height of his power, was more sensitive than any other statesman to the potential power of all the European countries, and he was an enthusiast for this idea. He nurtured it—one might almost say that he conceived it. Since he has been precluded from carrying on this work, however, the whole impetus has slackened. Although some members of the Government are keen on the idea, the initiative has waned.
I hope that the Foreign Secretary takes the view that to this limited extent closer association with Europe is complementary to and not in conflict with the other two loyalties—to the Commonwealth and to America—upon which we depend.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)
I will not follow the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. J. J. Astor) in his discussions about Western European Union. Although I feel general sympathy towards the idea, I doubt whether we shall get very far with it in the context of a Europe divided against itself and engaged in a hideously expensive and mortally dangerous nuclear arms race. I am interested in trying to find the terms upon which we can end that situation and unite Europe. Until then, these partial experiments have not a very bright future. I want to address myself to what I regard as the main issue, namely, the foreign policy of the Government, of which the military expression is the Defence White Paper which is before us.
I agree with those who say that the tone of the Prime Minister today was a conciliatory one, and I welcome that fact. But it is not a matter of tone, or even of saying, "Yes, we will have a Summit Conference if it is prepared"; we want to know with what policy the Government are going into that conference. On that point the Prime Minister said next to nothing, for the simple reason that the Government's policy remains that which was expounded on 20th December in this House, and which was challenged, bitterly contested and voted against by my hon. Friends. So long as that policy remains, there is no hope of a Summit Conference producing results. It is not compatible with coming to terms with the Soviet Union.
1295 If it is true, as the Defence White Paper says—and I believe it is—that:The world today is poised between the hope of total peace and the fear of total war,"
I am very much afraid that without realising it the Government have chosen the path that leads to total war and have turned their backs upon the road to peace. The Government fear even a partial peace with the Soviet Union more than the inevitable consequences of continuing their preparations for a total war until disaster overcomes us.
The contention that they fear even a partial peace with the Soviet Union is borne out by the fact that they consistently reject any proposals made as a first step to coming to terms. They reject the idea of banning hydrogen bomb tests, with inspection posts, and no other conditions—no packet deal—and that has effectually prevented progress in that direction. It is no good the Government behaving like a sort of super Heinz 57 varieties salesman and talking about the Vote of 57 nations in the United Nations Assembly, because everybody knows that when Great Britain, the United States, France and their clients get together they can muster an overwhelming degree of solidarity in the Assembly. The Assembly only becomes interesting when the Great Powers are divided and the small States say what they think—as they did over the Suez situation. I did not notice the Government paying much attention to what the small nations said on that occasion. They had better go easy with their flourishing of the 57 varieties argument.
They will have none of the Rapacki Plan or the plan for disengagement, although that is the most hopeful and constructive proposal which has been put forward for a long time, especially as it has been developed by hon. Members on this side of the House with the suggestion that Hungary should be included, and that it should be accompanied, or very soon followed, by a progressive thinning out and progressive withdrawal of foreign forces from the area covered by the nuclear weapon-free agreement—together with adequate control, which is something that the Polish Government have already accepted.
The Government are against the idea of unifying Germany within an all- 1296 European treaty based on the Charter, which is the policy of the Labour Party. That was the policy adopted at the Blackpool Conference in 1956, and it was recalled in the foreign policy resolution voted at Brighton. It has been mentioned several times in the House. This policy excludes neutrality for Germany as much as it excludes the engagement of Germany in military alliances. The Charter is an alternative both to alliances and neutrality, alliances and neutrality being based upon the assumptions of power politics and the Charter being based upon a system of different relationships and different assumptions.
The basic assumption of the Charter is that the Great Powers, who are the permanent members of the Security Council, will always regard it as a lesser evil to settle their differences by peaceful means rather than risk going to war with each other, and that they therefore have a common interest in preserving the peace by co-operative instead of competitive action. It is on those lines that we must try to work out the idea of the inclusion of Germany in an all-European collective security treaty based upon the Charter.
It is not possible to combine this idea with the preservation of N.A.T.O. or the Warsaw alliance. We cannot add up total war and total peace and divide by two. We cannot have arrangements in one part of Europe based on the assumption that the Soviet Union shares with us the desire to prevent the outbreak of war and to preserve peace, combined with arrangements in other parts of Europe based on the assumption that the Soviet Union wants to make war against us and that therefore we must prepare for war against it. We cannot run the two things in double harness. It does not make sense. It is not a basis of negotiation, and we shall not get far on those lines.
The Government do not go in for these refinements. They stick to N.A.T.O. They say that unless the Soviet Government allow a united Germany to enter N.A.T.O., there will be no settlement. Everyone knows that the Soviet Government will not do that any more than we would agree to a similar arrangement the other way round. The Defence White Paper seems to imagine that this policy can be continued indefinitely. It says so. On page I it states:There is no reason why all this should not go on indefinitely".1297 It is true that the Defence White Paper then contradicts itself by saying on page 3:… it must be recognised that, however carefully the balance of armaments is held … there always remains a possibility that some unforeseen circumstance or miscalculation might spark off a world-wide catastrophe.But, like Lloyd George said of Stanley Baldwin, having stumbled on a truth, they pick themselves up and carry on as though nothing had happened and completely ignore this possibility.
I have on previous occasions quoted Field Marshal Lord Montgomery as saying that at any moment, in trying to win the cold war, either side might without meaning to start a world war that neither side wanted. Recently there have been some very horrifying analyses of just what is the result of these arrangements for piling up nuclear arms and setting them on a hair trigger, under the quaint delusion that we are thus "deterring" war. It is like deterring a fire by scattering powder magazines about the place and then chucking matches and torches around. In the New York Herald Tribune of 27th January, Captain Liddell Hart, who is, after all, a professional in these matters, points out that… a misinterpretation of code signals by aircraft loaded [with nuclear weapons] might all too easily lead to the starting of nuclear war and thereby to the almost instantaneous destruction of civilisation. The likelihood of such a 'fatal' accident has been much increased by recent efforts to quicken the bombing forces' readiness for retaliatory action, in order to shorten the time of take off and dispatch with their bomb loads. The risk of accident, and particularly through overstretched nerves, naturally becomes multiplied when intermediate Commanders and bomber crews are kept in such a keyed-up state. It is extremely difficult to devise precautions against misinterpretation or misuse of code orders that is compatible with quick action. The quicker the action required, and aimed at, the more difficult any adequate precautions become.He then quotes alarming instances where signals were misread during the First and Second World Wars with considerable loss of life, including the bombing of Rotterdam, after orders had been given for the German Air Force to lay off and where 28,000 houses were razed and a great number of people killed. He states:Beyond the risk of genuine misinterpretation of code signals is the risk of intentional 1298 misinterpretation. Impatient subordinate commanders have often turned a Nelson-like blind eye to restraining orders—and it has happened much more often than history records. … at a time of crisis, when passions are inflamed, a world catastrophe might be precipitated by some intermediate commander, and even by a bomber crew, who felt that the heads of the Government, or allied governments, were 'selling the pass by cravenly pursuing appeasement. Fatal action might also be produced by a mistaken belief that hostile aircraft carrying H-bombs are on their way to deliver a surprise attack on some American base or bases. That risk becomes much greater with the advent of missiles that reduce the time of flight and warning to a matter of minutes. According to Washington reports the fear of such a 'Pearl Harbour' stroke has led the United States Government to authorise local commanders to unleash their own nuclear weapons if they believe that their bases are in 'imminent peril' of destruction. Such 'conditional advance consent' goes far to nullify the possibility of effective control by Government. Mr. Macmillan's talk of retaining an 'absolute veto' sounds unrealistic.He can say that again.
Then there is Mr. C. L. Sulzberger, the well-known Paris correspondent of the New York Times who on 15th February quoted the case of the bombing of Sakiet, which has created a lot of trouble for the French Government in Tunisia. He says that the order was given by a French colonel without the French Government knowing anything about it. He goes on to say:The question therefore posed is this: if one Colonel can cause so much damage by one misguided decision involving only conventional weapons, what can other Colonels commanding nuclear and missile detachments do to menace future world peace? … in this era of cold war is it not possible for human error to creep in, for a man to believe he is about to be attacked when such is not actually the case? We know already of two tense moments when we thought Soviet aerial armadas were on the offensive—once towards the United States, once over Turkey. Both were false alarms. What can the unhappy world do as it continues arming to the teeth, about restraining impulsive officers equipped, unhappily, with normal brains and sensationally abnormal weapons?Since then we have advanced a little further along this path. On 16th February the Observer had a dispatch from its Washington correspondent saying that, in view of the necessity for instant action, a system had been devised whereby there was direct communication from American commanders in the field at each missile base to the President, wherever he might be by day or night. The President could be "buzzed" whenever a commander was convinced beyond 1299 a shadow of doubt that Russia was actually attacking.The President then knows that when he is buzzed 'this is it,' and he simply presses a button which buzzes back to the commander and gives permission for immediate retaliation.We remember that at one time no less a person than the United States Secretary for Defence, Mr. James Forrestal, went off his head only a week after he left office—in the super-heated atmosphere of Washington people had not noticed that he was getting a little sensitive—and ran out into the night screaming, "The Reds are coming," because a fire siren went off in a village nearby. Suppose he had still been on the job and taken his holiday a week earlier? He might have touched the buzzer. Or some American commander might at any time go haywire and touch the buzzer.
This, what might almost be said to be setting the survival of humanity on a hair trigger, is presented in the Government White Paper under the jolly title of "Britain's Contribution to Peace and Security." I believe that there is legislation which forbids the selling of goods under false and misleading labels. This would seem to be the political equivalent of selling rat poison labelled as chocolates, and something ought to be done about it.
To strike a more serious note. The "Pearl Harbour complex" of the Americans is very dangerous. It is military logic run mad. It forgets the political background even for so-called surprise attacks. The Japanese are great specialists in surprise attacks. They attacked at Port Arthur without formal declaration, and that is a form of attack which has since become standard. They did it again at Pearl Harbour. But in both cases there was a long pre-history of worsening relations and threats of war, and that kind of thing. The same applies to the attacks made by Hitler and Mussolini. There is no such thing as a surprise military attack coming out of the blue, against a background of normal political relations. Even less true is it if the States concerned are trying to implement obligations they have accepted in the Charter for the settlement of their differences peaceably by jointly preserving the peace and controlling disarmament arrangements, and so on.
1300 The real problem is not that either the Soviet Union or the United States wants to go to war. I do not think that either does. It is crazy to imagine that they do. If the great Powers continue to try to deal competitively with some minor disturbance of the peace either in Europe or in Asia they may embroil themselves in war or get into situations from which they cannot withdraw and go from bad to worse, until finally they touch off a world war that neither of them wants. Having nuclear arms and setting them on a hair trigger is not the way to prevent war, but the way to make peace accident-prone and to make sure that when the accident occurs it will be fatal.
Why do the Government prefer the prospect of total war by pursuing this policy to the risk of any kind of peace with the Soviet Union? The basic attitude of the Government towards the Soviet Union was expressed by the Prime Minister in his speech at Brighton on 12th October, 1957, when he said:Nobody can deny that only the possession by the West of the hydrogen bomb has restrained and still restrains the Soviet Union from open aggression.Not only can that be denied, but when the Prime Minister said it, it had been denied by a great many people with considerable claim to know what they were talking about. Let me start with Mr. George F. Kennan. I have often quoted him in the House, but, of course, no one paid much attention. He said that the Soviet leaders do not think in military terms when it comes to spreading Communism. (They do, of course, when it is a matter of defending their national security or keeping their end up in the jungle of international politics. Hungary is the latest case in point.) He pointed this out in the Readers' Digest of March, 1950, and repeated it in his book The Realities of American Foreign Policy. He said something like it in the Reith Lectures, when people began to sit up and take notice He is supposed to be the great authority, the crack expert, in the American diplomatic service about the Soviet Union. He devised the whole policy of containment, which has now developed into a Frankenstein monster that has already gone too far. He said that the Soviet leaders have no national interest in war because they are trying to build up a well-founded industrial 1301 society. They do not want any kind of smashing up such as they had in the last world war. He said this even before nuclear weapons were invented.
Secondly, he said that as Marxists, the Soviet leaders believed that it would be improper to use the Red Army to impose Communism on other countries, because that would imply that capitalism was a flourishing concern which had to be overthrown from outside, whereas the Communist contention is that capitalism is bound to perish of its internal contradictions at the hands of the workers in every country.
Vice-President Nixon pointed out at Philadelphia on 17th January, 1956, that ever since the last world war Communism had spread over a large part of the world without the Russians firing a shot, by political and economic means, which are quite as effective and much cheaper than military means. That, he said, is the way the Communist nations operate. He added that what we have to fear is defeat, not in a hot war but in a cold war. I have quoted United States General Douglas MacArthur before in this House as saying that both sides kept the cold war going through fear, although neither side wanted war and although both were terrified of the idea. He is not a pacifist, a Red or anything of that sort. Then there was General Twining, the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs Committee in Washington who, when he got his appointment on 15th August last, gave an interview to the Washington journalists saying that the Russians did not "want any part of war," but were aiming at industrial supremacy. I believe that to be true. Khrushchev has repeatedly said that the Soviet leaders were aiming to overhaul and outstrip the most advanced of the capitalist countries in economic and social development.
That is not an ignoble ambition. I do not think they will manage it, or at least it will take them a long while. I know something about what makes most of those people tick. In Geneva it was part of my job to do liaison with the Soviet Union at the League of Nations, and I saw a great deal of the Russians. They really believe that their system is superior to what they regard as the waste, disorder and injustice of capitalism. They believe that, given peaceful co-existence and a lowering of trade barriers, and all the rest of it, their system will prove 1302 irresistibly attractive to the workers of other countries.
I believe they are wrong, partly because they do not realise how high are the standards of life among the workers of the old Western industrial democracies, and partly because they disregard and seriously underrate the efficacy of democracy as a system of Government. Nor do they understand the value of democracy as a way of life. People who have once got used to democracy and political freedom, and who can get up, as I am doing now, and say what they think of the Government and even of their own party leaders, would not accept the Russian system where they would have to put up with what they were told from on high or else. That is something which the Russians find very difficult to understand.
I do not see what we are being nervous about. We have nothing to fear from that kind of competition. We have achieved a very high level here, not only in standards of life but in democracy that works, in traditions of freedom and independence, which are the fruit of a long tradition, going back to Greece, Rome, the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the American, English and French Revolutions. We cannot get rid of all that in a moment. That is why the Communists of this country have never been anything but a rather bad joke and a minor nuisance.
We in the Labour Party are just as much in favour of democracy as are hon. Members on the Government benches. I spent some time in Moscow and I was asked to lecture on the Labour Party to the Academy of Social Science attached to the Central Committee of the Communist Party. My audience was composed entirely of young, picked people, future cadres of the Soviet Communist Party. I lectured to them in Russian. I think only the hon. Member for Arundel and Shoreham (Captain Kerby) and I in this House could have done that.
I was friendly, because after all it was rather sporting to let me loose on them. But I did not pull any punches. I explained that, however tough we got with each other in this House, there was always something more than mere form in the convention that we considered ourselves on both sides of the House as people who were united in our ultimate 1303 aim although we differed strongly on the methods. I said that that was more than a convention. We regarded each other not as enemies but as political opponents, and the Opposition and the Government together formed one system of Government, by a process of co-operation in competition, action and interaction. They listened and asked questions, and we parted friends. The more they are prepared to let us go and talk like that, and the more their people come here, and are prepared to look at things, and so on, the better, and the less this bogy of Communism as a fearful monster which is going to descend and devour the world need detain us, because it is a bogy.
Unfortunately, that is not the view of the Government. The Foreign Secretary, on 20th December, made some remarks about this. I am sorry that he is not here at present, but I hope he may answer this point when he winds up the debate. He gave an account of the meeting of 44 Communist Parties at the Fortieth Anniversary of the Revolution in Moscow. Twelve of them signed a manifesto, although the Yugoslavs refused to take part. They produced a document reiterating the position which Communists adopted and which Socialists used to adopt until social democracy came along—in the days of Marx and Engels, namely, that bourgeois democracy was no good and that the only way to achieve a revolution was by the dictatorship of the proletariat. They have been saying that for a hundred years. Marx said that there were some countries, including England, where capitalist democracy could work. Lenin denied that, but Khrushchev resuscitated it at the Twentieth Congress. Those 12 Communist Parties said that in existing conditions Parliamentary democracy could be the path to Socialism in some capitalist countries, but they said that in other countries revolution was still the only way.
There is nothing very new in all this. Incidentally, in my lecture in Moscow I commented on the fact that their idea of how Parliamentary democracy can be used to produce Socialism was that the Communist Party should lead the revolutionary masses to victory in the elections. I said that the Communist Party in this country is incapable of winning a single election in a single constituency and that 1304 if they looked to them to lead the masses—who, unfortunately from their point of view, are not revolutionary anyway—to Parliamentary victory, it was like expecting a spastic to win gold medals at the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games were on at the time.
But the Foreign Secretary took all this with portentous seriousness, and said:the Kremlin have never departed from the belief that Communism should be imposed on the world, if necessary by violence. That is the Communist doctrine."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th December, 1957; Vol. 580, c. 741.]Does he really think that the manifesto of the 12 Communist Parties denoted the intention of the Soviet Government to impose Communism on the world by violence?
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I hope my hon. Friend has not forgotten that this obsession is expressly repeated in the White Paper on Defence published this week.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
I was going to mention that. I know it sounds a little ridiculous, but it is this kind of thing which is the mental and moral foundation of the whole of this vast accumulation of armaments and the whole of this panic terror against trying negotiations. The Americans are several degrees worse than we are in that respect. I was going to say a lot about the Americans, but I do not want to detain the House much longer.
I believe that today the danger is not of any great Power wanting to attack any other. I believe the danger is war breaking out by accident through our attempting to deal with minor disturbances of the peace competitively instead of co-operatively. In that situation United States policy, as conducted and understood by Mr. Dulles and the Pentagon, is more likely to produce the fatal accident than Soviet policy. I believe Mr. Dulles takes a very dangerous line. He has already boasted about his brinkmanship, going to the brink of war several times, and he is a man I would not regard as a Talleyrand of diplomacy. The idea that the peace of the world depends on his adroitness and finesse in a delicate situation is one which fills me with alarm and despondency.
Mr. Dulles does not want a Summit Conference. He has made that as plain 1305 as he can in the famous Life article sent round just prior to the N.A.T.O. Conference and in his letter to the New Statesman. I noticed that the Observer, on 16th February, included a dispatch from its Washington correspondent, who also put the situation very clearly when he said:For the sake of world public opinion, Mr. Dulles feels he must pretend he is not opposed to a Summit meeting. In fact, he does not want anything of the kind and he would want it still less if he thought it could lead to any of the agreements the Europeans seem to favour, such as disengagement or a denuclearised zone. In this he has the full backing of the military and the powerful conservatives who control Congress.He is in a difficult spot, exactly the same position he has been in for some years. I will hand him this—he is a very consistent man. As it exactly fits the situation, I permit myself to quote Business Week, a warm admirer of Mr. Dulles, which said, on 23rd October, 1953:Mr. Dulles thinks the odds are a thousand to one against a settlement of any major cold war conflicts any time soon. His reason is simple: a negotiated settlement means two-way concessions. The concessions the United States would demand from the Kremlin would be substantial. The concessions Mr. Dulles would be willing to make would be trivial. Take Germany, for instance. Dulles wants Russian troops to clear out of East Germany. But in return he could offer the Russians only some guarantee …"a guarantee" of course means an assurance which the Russians are no more likely to accept from Mr. Dulles than he is from them,against German, or West German military aggression. Dulles will not agree to neutralising Germany, scrapping the West European Army, or any other concession the Russians would be likely to demand. He would not even guarantee any border west of Russia's own frontier against political or even military penetration from the West.That casts a rather sinister light on his refusal to consider anything like the Rapacki Plan or disengagement, or any nuclear zone. His policy, in fact, is still one of anti-Communist intervention disguised as liberation. I think it is a pretty dangerous policy. Mr. Dulles is in a spot, as the Business Week points out and as the Observer points out; his problem is to convince public opinion that the United States is not more anxious to pursue the cold war than are the Russians. He is working overtime, with slight success, to persuade opinion to that effect. He has found a way out, a 1306 gimmick. He cannot say "No" to the Summit Conference, but he certainly does not want it to be held. He has therefore found a compromise. He says that he will prepare it.
Of course, he has already had a success in this direction. He prepared to death the Disarmament Conference, which at one time came very near to agreement, because Harold Stassen and the President were ready to accept the idea of abolishing hydrogen bomb tests as the first step, until Mr. Dulles, I am afraid with a good deal of support from our Government, managed to "raise the ante," as they say in poker, and insist on a package Seal until everything was confused and stalled.
The Prime Minister has always been very strong on this business of preparing the Conference, and he mentioned it in his letter to President Bulganin, in which he said that he thought the 1955 Summit Conference had failed because it had not been sufficiently prepared. It was rash of him to say that, because what happened was that the Summit Conference was held in July and they got on quite well. President Eisenhower was a little handicapped because he had no policy: there had been a row between Harold Stassen and the Pentagon, and the only thing they agreed on his doing was putting forward the idea of aerial inspection, which was a little "up in the air". But the British, French and Soviet Governments agreed on certain lines of approach and the Eden plan looked very much like a favourable starter. The plan proposed a thinning out of troops on both sides of the demarcation line in Germany.
Next, they had a Foreign Minister's conference in Paris to prepare for the further success of this project. The Foreign Ministers on that occasion were the present Prime Minister, the everlasting Mr. Dulles and whatever transient and embarrassed phantom had been thrown up by the French Government at that time; I believe it was M. Pinay—the present one is M. Pineau. They prepared so successfully that the conference failed before it started. On the results of their preparations being published, the Manchester Guardian, on 29th October, wrote:One cannot help hearing of the Western proposals with a sinking feeling. They are too obviously a gamesman's move.1307 The article went on to say that they werecynical and hypocritical and appeared to be designed to achieve nothing but deadlock.I am sorry not to be as full of the milk of human kindness as probably I ought to be, but I have a very serious suspicion that in this case preparation may also serve to obscure the issues, to pull things out, to manœuvre so as to make sure that when it fails nobody will know who is responsible. I therefore think that we should insist upon Her Majesty's Government putting forward some constructive policy proposals, and I believe that those which have been put forward on behalf of the Labour Party are constructive proposals and could lead to an agreement and provide a basis of negotiation.
Some of us, of course, go a little further than the leaders of our party. I should like to put it this way: in our party there are whole-hoggers and half-hoggers, but there are no Gadarene swine. We are all making our way as best we can towards the uplands where the sun of peace shines, whereas right hon. and hon. Members opposite have their heads well down—and with fearsome grunts in the Defence White Paper are heading at a gallop for the steep places.
Where I want to go a little further than my Leader is that I think we must face the fact that in order to get a basis of negotiation we have to get tough with the kind of America represented by Mr. Dulles and the Pentagon. I believe that millions of Americans will thank us for doing so. I also believe that since the hydrogen bomb, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said on 23rd July, is a weapon which it would be suicidal and insane to use and is useless for negotiation, and as it is also worse than useless as a deterrent, we should renounce the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb. That would enable us to bargain with the United States because we should no longer need their protection. We could then tell them, "You must either come to terms with us on how to make peace, or we shall refuse to be committed by you any longer to going to war, and that means that you must take your forces out of this country and we shall get out of N.A.T.O."
1308 That would be the situation if we accepted my basic proposition, which is that none of the great Powers wants war, that they are all afraid of going to war and that what is needed is one country to throw down its challenge to fear and to put forward a basis for settlement which takes into account our common obligations in the Charter of the United Nations to preserve the peace.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, North)
This is one of the extremely rare occasions on which I have considerable sympathy with both Front Benches, because the amount of brainwashing which appears to have gone on during the debate—and I am not referring only to the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus)—is sufficient to make any Minister or Front Bench Member on either side of the House quail, however stout he may be.
The speech of the Prime Minister provided one of the few moments of inspiration in this debate today. The picture of the Commonwealth as he sees it, and the idea of a reviving faith in the Commonwealth, is one that I find extremely pleasing. My only regret is that it should need to be a reawakening of faith; that for so long we have put other things first, and the Commonwealth second, third, or fourth—or as a heading "any other business" on the agenda. I hope that this is significant, and that it means that not only was the Commonwealth the No. 1 consideration for the purpose of my right hon. Friend's speech, but that it is now the No. 1 consideration in policy making. I should like to see certain definite consequences flow from the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon.
Having said that, I still can find no clear picture of the sort of rôle that the Prime Minister sees this country playing in the world. I hope that I do not sound too presumptuous in saying it, but I feel that the vast majority of our people feel, deep in their beings, that in its policy this country is automatically tagging along behind the United States; that we are being dragged along in the wake of American economic imperialism, which may be terribly good for America, but which is not necessarily terribly good for Britain or for the Commonwealth.
1309 The proposition of an economic merger of Britain, America and Europe has been called, so I am told, imaginative. I would not use quite the same word. I would suggest that it is catastrophic to the individual contribution that the sovereign, independent States of the Commonwealth can make. I therefore look on that issue with an extremely jaundiced eye.
I should have thought that if the Prime Minister's speech could be taken as a starting point, the consequences in policy should be that Britain, together with the Commonwealth, should now rather more positively try to act as a bridge between the extremes of the policies of the United States on the one hand and of the Soviet Union on the other. We, as the heart of the Commonwealth, can play a great rôle. Through our link with India we have a special feeler, as it were, in Moscow, and through Canada we have a special advocate in Washington. This is the rôle that we can play if the lesson of the Prime Minister's speech is learned. The lesson that I learned from it is that there is a need to find some form—and I do not want to get dragged into definitions now—of association between Britain and the Commonwealth on the one side and Europe on the other.
In saying that, I do not mean that I want to invent a new purpose for an American-dominated North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I want to see existing European organisations, such as W.E.U., come to life, and want to see the existing European institutions used for the benefit of Europe, of ourselves and the Commonwealth. If this is the lesson that can be learned from the Prime Minister's tour, then that tour will not only have been an extremely pleasurable experience for the Prime Minister but profitable for ourselves and the rest of the world.
This sort of co-operation between the Commonwealth and Europe can enable us to impart a much more decisive sense of leadership to world problems than we have been able to do since the war. More particularly since Suez, our foreign policy appears to have been uncertain, ill-defined, unambitious and without any clear sense of direction, and it is on the particular subject of the Middle East that I now want to speak.
1310 It is not very profitable to speak at length of the reasons behind the decline and the erosion of the British position in the Middle East. Events in Abadan, the Sudan, Egypt, the Canal base and the Canal itself are well known to everyone in the House. But surely the fact still exists that as the British position has declined, so have turbulence and danger increased in the Middle East.
Just now I mentioned the Sudan. There was a time when we were very closely connected with the régime in the Sudan. I would ask the Foreign Secretary what is our relationship with the Sudan today. Have we any treaty relationship? Have we any obligation at all to the Sudan, or is our relationship one of suspended animation? What is our position in Cyprus? What is our approach to Nasser at the moment when he is apparently conducting aggression against his neighbour?
As to Cyprus, perhaps one fact should be placed on record for a start. Cyprus is a Crown Colony, and the internal administration of the island of Cyprus must essentially be the responsibility of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Nevertheless, and I think ill-advisedly, matters internal to Cyprus have been brought into the region of foreign affairs, starting with the London Conference in the summer of 1955. That was a regrettable decision. Nevertheless, this is now regarded as being a foreign policy matter.
Recently the Foreign Secretary has hawked a plan around the capitals of Europe, I believe quite unnecessarily. It may be that there is a need to discuss these matters, but surely we have highly-paid ambassadors who are capable of conducting this sort of operation. Or are they so inefficient that they are not to be used? I should have thought there was a need for the Foreign Secretary to sit behind his desk more and leave it to the ambassadors on the spot to conduct negotiations. If there are conversations which need to be carried on after that, surely it is possible for some of them to be conducted in London.
In the meantime, what has happened to this plan? Presumably there was a plan as a basis for discussions both in Ankara and in Athens. Judging by the result, I should imagine that the plan has been turned down by both the Turks and the Greeks. But we cannot leave this 1311 matter of Cyprus suspended in mid-air, awaiting decisions from some other Governments. There is a need for an urgent decision—not just a decision to make a statement but a decision on policy in relation to Cyprus.
I believe that if this plan which has been hawked around has been turned down, as appears to be the case, there is only one possible conclusion that the Government can or should reach, and that is that we should stay in the island, that we should maintain law and order whilst advancing the cause of local internal self-government. These are the lines along which the Government should now be thinking. For my part, I would welcome greatly a statement along those lines as soon as possible.
I would draw to the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs that this matter of leaving a decision over for the moment, although convenient perhaps, is placing an unnecessary burden both on the administrators in the island of Cyprus and on the troops themselves. We read in one newspaper the comment:Who are we fighting today, Sarge?I do not know how accurate a reflection that was of the situation, but it is impossible for administrators to carry through their task effectively unless they know what is the policy of the Government. I hope that the right decision will be made public as soon as possible.
I have a number of questions which I should like to put to the Government, not on Cyprus but on other matters relating to the Middle East. What is our relationship with the Sudan? If the Sudanese need assistance from outside, are we in a position to support them with troops if need be? In this case, what has happened to the troops who recently flew to North Africa on an exercise—a well-timed exercise perhaps? Are they available to go to the support of the Sudanese Government if they are required?
About a year ago when the House was recovering from the effects of the Suez intervention, there were great thoughts passing through the minds of most hon. Members about how we could trim Nasser's wings and control him or influence his policy. My hon. Friend the Members for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. 1312 Fraser) made a number of powerful speeches and wrote a number of articles regarding the Nile Waters Agreement. What has happened about that agreement? Has any initiative been taken by this country to call a conference of the Powers concerned to see whether the agreement can be renegotiated? This is a chance for the British Government to take the initiative and achieve some worth-while results.
This is a foreign affairs debate. So far, perhaps naturally, there has been no official comment from the Front Bench on our attitude towards the two new unions of Arab States. The Government need to define their position in relation to at least one of these unions at the earliest possible moment. I hope that we shall be able to continue our happy relationship with the new union of Iraq and Jordan and carry on the tradition of friendship which has been established over a long period of time. I hope that this union will enable part of the problem of the Arab refugees to be settled. The wealth which is at the command of the Iraqi Government and the economic status of the Iraqi nation may well draw away the refugees from their camps into employment in other parts of the new union. I hope that the Government will soon be able to pay its respects to this new union and to welcome it as a friend and ally.
The moment one mentions the Arab States the question, of Israel crops up. Do the Government believe that the Tripartite Declaration is now effective or is there need for further consultation between the three Powers who made up the Tripartite Declaration? Surely a redefining of our position is needed at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. Williams
I am merely asking the Government for their views. In view of the change of situation in the Middle East which has developed because of the joining together of Egypt and Syria on the one hand and Iraq and Jordan on the other, the Government owe it to our allies and to this House to make their position clear in the shortest possible time. What is our position in relation to the very small sheikhdoms and States in the Persian Gulf? Are we satisfied 1313 that our treaty relationship is as good as it can be and that the treaties are up to date? My suspicion in relation to the Sudan is that our commitments and treaty relationships are less than they should be, which may be true in the Gulf. If this is so, I should have thought that now was the moment to revise these treaties and get a more satisfactory arrangement for a longer period of time if possible.
Finally, may I deal with the Aden-Yemeni problems? There were consultations towards the end of last year which appear to have been unsuccessful. There have been suggestions from the other side of the House this afternoon that this matter should be referred to the United Nations. I should be extremely sceptical and cynical about such a course. I do not believe that it is wise to leave this matter to run on as a festering sore. I should have thought that initiative needed to come now from the Government to get a solution. In any case, it would be helpful to have a rather firmer statement than we have had heretofore making it clear what our position is in Aden and making it clear to the Yemenis yet again that there is no possible doubt about our position and sovereignty in that territory.
To return to my starting point, I believe that the Prime Minister presented a picture which might show a change in our line of policy, or which could do so. I should like to see that carried through, because I do not believe that the people of this country want to see Britain being a merely faint and pale echo of American foreign policy. There is, I believe, a very firm and deep suspicion in the country that Britain is too concerned to play "little sister" to the American "big brother". Our foreign policy, such as it is, appears to be aimed at keeping the world divided into two, each camp remorselessly opposed to the other, rather than trying to impart a sense of decisive direction at the centre of power.
There is no harm in having a second centre of allegiance in the free world, because one can add to that allegiance some of the countries of Europe beyond the Iron Curtain who might value freedom and would be more willing to come in with a Commonwealth-European setup than with the extremes of American 1314 policy. I should have thought that, if the Prime Minister's tour has taught us anything, it has shown that we can shift policy away from dividing the world into two camps towards giving people hope that there is a third centre of interest which might be of some value in saving the world.
This country, if it is given the willpower and sense of direction from the top, could sway the destiny of civilised peoples as effectively today as at any time in our history. But this calls for vigour and vision. I ask whether those on the Front Bench can convince us that they have these two qualities.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
This has been a most remarkable debate in one respect, at any rate. I do not remember another debate when there has been so much applause on the benches opposite for speeches made on this side, or so much applause on this side for speeches made by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
The speech we have just heard from the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) was no exception. I found myself agreeing with a good deal of what he said and, in particular, with what he said about his own leader. I say this with no pleasure at all, and out of no party spirit whatever; but I feel that we have not had a lead from the Prime Minister this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman made some remarks about the Commonwealth. I approved, as much as did the hon. Member for Sunderland, South, what he said about the Commonwealth. The only sadness I had in my heart was that he had not discovered all these things long ago. Nevertheless, he said them, and I am genuinely grateful for that.
What had the Prime Minister to say about the state of the world today? He said nothing concrete at all. We did, however, have a most remarkable speech from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in which he set out in black and white exactly what he thought should be done. I venture to say that he was speaking not only for the whole of his party but for countless thousands, perhaps millions, beyond the confines of our party. True, those confines are becoming ever larger nowadays, but he spoke even for those beyond our 1315 party when he said what should be done. If the Prime Minister was incapable of thinking of what should be done, then I ask him, with all the sincerity I can command, to study that speech and endeavour to put it into operation when he has a chance.
One of the greatest criticisms we can sincerely and rightly offer of the Government, not only for their present attitude but for their attitude for a long time past, is that they have lamentably failed to show any initiative. There are all sorts of ways in which they could have shown it, yet they have been tagging along behind various letters of Bulganin, and behind Khrushchev, when he has cared to communicate with the outside world on the subject of foreign affairs; and all the time they have allowed the Russians to get away with the idea that they alone want to come to an agreement and reach peace. This is a tragedy, because everybody here wants exactly that, probably with even more sincerity than the Russians. Our great criticism is that the Government have allowed the Russians to get away with it too easily. They really should put some drive into their policy.
There is one small way in which that drive might be applied, and, at this late hour, I will, in a few words, say what it is. Why do they not spend a little of the money they spend, for instance, on defence, upon seeing to it that real scholarships are given on a large scale for Russians to come here? I do not believe that we should have anything to lose by that. I am convinced that, if Russians come here—at least, when Russians do come here, I notice it—they will be impressed by the freedom which exists in this part of the world. This is something which we should encourage for all we are worth.
As to the summit meetings, of course, we all say, and the Prime Minister now says, that we want a summit meeting. He said, "I want it to be a success." Who does not? That remark was either a platitudinous piece of stupidity, or else it meant something. I hope I am not being unduly suspicious when I say that I think it meant something rather sinister and it meant that the Prime Minister had reservations. He is going on talking about the preparations which must be made before we can agree to a summit meeting.
1316 The Government say that if we have a conference and it does not succeed, we will be worse off than ever before. This is a hoary old Foreign Office fallacy. I just do not believe it. Every parrot in the six continents has been uttering this cry for the last fifty years. It simply is not true. We must get together and try to hammer something out whenever we have the chance.
If the Russians really want the conference to succeed, they will take very good care that there is proper preparation. If they do not, what then? If they simply use it for propaganda, are we incapable of using it for propaganda? Can we not go and extract every ounce of propaganda out of it in exactly the same way that the Russians generally do?
For a long time, a great gulf has been fixed between the Eastern world, as we now call it, and the Western world. Gulfs, however, are like ditches on farms. They tend to fill up: and every shower of rain that comes, as anybody who has ever had to clean out farm ditches knows, tends to fill the ditch. Little pebbles, clay, sand, and all the rest go down to the bottom of the ditch. That is happening almost visibly to the great gulf between the Western and Eastern worlds.
We seem to be going nearer to the Eastern world in economic matters while the East is coming nearer to us in political matters. It may be said that they are straws in the wind, but Molotov, apparently, is still alive, as are Zhukov and Malenkov. As far as we know, they have not yet been shot. That is an advance. It is only a small one, it may be said, but, nevertheless, it is an advance.
When Khrushchev recently took his foot off the safety valve, one of the most striking things that happened was the demand by the Moscow University students that there should be Question Time, on the British House of Commons model, in their Parliament. How did they know that there was such a thing as Question Time? How did they understand it? They must have listened to the wireless and studied these things. It simply shows that freedom will out, even if slowly and if it takes a long time. I submit that this process is going on all the time. We must do what we can to 1317 ensure that it is not only showers, but real torrents of rain, that operate on the banks of the gulf between us, so that gradually it is filled up.
I say to the Government that indolence is not enough. They seem to me to be an indolent Government who have lost the will to go ahead and drive. I urge upon them, therefore, vigorous and sustained action as well as patience. Let them go on trying to fill up that ditch. We have had no sign today that they are doing this.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
We would all agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) that this has been a serious and constructive debate. It was opened by two remarkable speeches. I say nothing at the moment about the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, but there is no doubt that the speech of the Prime Minister was one of his more impressive performances. We know him in this House in many rôles—Archie Rice and Jasper Maskelyne, for example—but on the whole, I think, we prefer him in his rôle of a statesman. He was, I think, trying to fill that rôle this afternoon.
One cannot help but be struck and confused by the striking contrast between the tone of the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon and the tone of his speech on 20th December, in our last foreign affairs debate. It may be, as he himself suggested this afternoon, that he has been greatly influenced by the views he heard during his Commonwealth tour—I hope so. It may be that he has been even more influenced by certain events nearer home.
I do not think that the Prime Minister can blame people like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brigg if they are not sure how much of what he said this afternoon he really means. We know the right hon. Gentleman's versatility as a quick-change artist too well to take his posture from time to time as clear evidence of what he is really thinking, and on that I think that some of his hon. Friends feel the same way about him.
For example, I should like to quote from a speech which he made to the 1318 N.A.T.O. Council, only two months ago—on 16th December last year. He said:We must make the people understand that if they have to go on with the struggle—and they have to, that every step has been taken, that no opportunity has been missed. In the psychological warfare—for it is that—between us and the Russians, I would go to any length in discussion, debate and argument that would prove our sincerity.I do not want to make too much of that phrase "psychological warfare", but I do not think that anyone can deny that the statement which the Prime Minister made to the N.A.T.O. Council, and the speech which he made to us here in December, were pervaded throughout by a spirit of deep pessimism as to the possible outcome of talks with the Soviet Union. His speech to us today was pervaded by a spirit of optimism. He used the word "hope" many times, and attempted in very general terms to show how it might be justified.
What I think we on this side of the House shall expect to hear from other members of the Government who speak later in the debate are more concrete and detailed proposals which are based on this spirit of hope which he expressed to us this afternoon in these general terms. There is, at least, one advantage in the speech which he made this afternoon, and it is that he no longer made any pretence whatever that the present situation is satisfactory. The Prime Minister himself, and even more others who have spoken later from both sides of the House, stressed very strongly the dangers of standing still in the present position in the cold war.
It is generally recognised now, I believe, that there are certain factors in the present situation which, if persisted in, will face us with immense and perhaps fatal dangers. A continuation of the arms race will bankrupt even the richest nation in the world, without any decisive gain either in military security or diplomatic influence. The instability of the present status quo, above all in Central Europe, is now recognised, I think by nearly everybody, as a real danger to peace. Nobody can deny this after the explosion in Hungary, two years ago. Nobody can feel that such an explosion will not take place in a still more sensitive area at any time.
The division of Germany and Europe is now recognised by the Government to 1319 be an immensely dangerous thing, yet the Government are still producing no policy for ending the division of Europe, except unconditional surrender by the Soviet Union; namely, the overthrow of the Communist Government of Eastern Germany by free elections, the advance of N.A.T.O. to the Polish frontier and the adhesion of a United Germany to N.A.T.O.
Thirdly, I think it is recognised more and more widely that the spread of atomic weapons to more and more countries in the world is absolutely inevitable so long as the cold war continues. Britain has already set the precedent inside the Western Alliance, and she cannot complain so long as this situation continues if other countries closer to possible sources of explosion are demanding the same rights that she is taking for herself.
There has been no reference to the bombing of Sakiet, but I believe that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House should reflect very carefully on some of the implications of that incident. Here was perhaps a very lowly staff officer, somewhere hidden in the French forces in Algeria, who, on his own initiative—if we are to believe the French Government—committed an act of war against a friendly State. He did not have an atomic bomb to drop at that time, but can we be sure that such a person would not use an atomic bomb if he had one available?
The spread of atomic weapons to other countries will not only enormously increase the danger of an unnecessary world war, but will also make it far more difficult to reach agreement. There is something to be said for a balance of power, so long as the elements in the balance are fairly small in number. It is impossible, and the whole lesson of history is that it is impossible, to construct a stable balance of power if the power of total destruction is distributed over a score or more of Governments.
I believe that the Prime Minister was stating a literal truth when he said that there is now a common interest of all Governments which should far over-ride their conflicting interests. The question which faces us all as human beings and as Governments, Communist or non-Communist, is how we can put this infernal machine into reverse before it topples us all into the abyss.
1320 There is no question but that to reverse the machine means a revolutionary change in the policies and postures of both sides in the cold war. Is it possible for the two sides to seek security in cooperation with one another rather than in conflict? Is it possible for the two sides in the cold war to create the fundamental precondition for the working of the United Nations, namely, that the great Powers agree on at least enough of the major questions to permit the establishment of a degree of world order?
There is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of my hon. Friends that by far the most hopeful field in which we can explore the possibility of co-operation is that of disengagement and that Central Europe is the right place, geographically, to start. The concept of disengagement in its most general form involves the withdrawal of the troops of the opposing sides from a danger area and the establishment of joint control over the countries or peoples thus exposed.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition put forward a detailed plan for disengagement in Central Europe, I think for the first time in the House, in December, 1956, about fourteen months ago. At that time, the Government were so little interested in his proposal as hardly even to comment on it, but it is quite remarkable how much support has developed for this conception, particularly during the last few months, support which cuts across national boundaries and which, I believe, also cuts across the dividing line in the cold war.
At the N.A.T.O. Council meeting last December, it was made clear that at least three of the N.A.T.O. Governments were interested, in principle, in exploring this possibility, the Governments of Canada, Norway and Denmark. Even in countries whose Governments are not yet converted to the idea there is a growing mass of public support. In the United States, not only publicists like Mr. Kennan and Mr. Lippmann have given it very powerful support, but in the last few weeks we have had interest and support for the idea expressed by leading members of the majority party in Congress, Senator Humphrey and Senator Mansfield.
1 was interested to see Senator Humphrey recalling in a letter to the New York Times the other day that the 1321 Senate sub-committee on disarmament, in its recent report, had unanimously advocated greater flexibility in approaching the problem of Central Europe. He said:Our sub-committee report foresaw a 'relocation and possible reduction of Soviet forces in Eastern Europe and United States forces in Germany'.The most influential sponsor of this conception, to date, has been Mr. Stassen, and we must all regret that his rôle is, at any rate temporarily, reduced inside the United States Administration. I am none the less certain that his approach to the problem of disarmament and disengagement will commend itself more and more widely to opinion in the United States as the months pass.
In Germany—the country of the Western Alliance most concerned in disengagement—the two major opposition parties—the Social Democrats and the F.D.P.—have committed themselves wholly to the conception. The President of the West German Republic—President Heuss—has supported it, and a growing number of Ministers in the Christian Democratic Union feel that Chancellor Adenauer should show more flexibility and more readiness to consider the possibility than he has shown so far.
But, to me, the most impressive fact is that it is quite clear that the German generals take disengagement for granted in the near future. General Heusinger has decided to set on foot a territorial army whose only conceivable rôle—given the vision of N.A.T.O. policy described by the Minister of Defence in the recent White Paper—would be to act as a territorial defence in an area of disengagement, and there are reports that a majority of German generals are against receiving atomic weapons for very much the same reason. That is a very powerful and impressive gathering of support for disengagement on the Western side.
Now let us look at the Communist bloc. It seems to be beyond dispute that at least one Communist Government have committed themselves to this principle, namely, Poland—and it may be that other Governments are interested. Indeed, the Soviet Government have proposed disengagement in various forms repeatedly over the last eighteen months. It is very important that the Western Governments and people should now 1322 realise that opinion in the Communist world is no longer monolithic, and that there is a tremendous ferment of ideas which extends right to the centre of the politbureaux of every Communist Party in the world. It is vitally important that we should encourage this ferment to give the enemies of rigidity every opportunity for pressing their case with conviction. We must do all we can to prevent the Philistines from consolidating.
What has struck me most of all is that this is now an international debate, which, in many cases, is replacing the cold war as the central feature of world politics. Superimposed on the pattern of the cold war which is familiar to all of us is another struggle, cutting across the Iron Curtain, between those who want to exploit the conflicts between East and West to reinforce the status quo, and those who want to exploit the common interests between East and West to change the status quo.
One of the most interesting things that I have read recently was a report by the Berlin correspondent of The Times about German reactions to the recent purge of the East German Communist Party by its leader, Herr Ulbricht. The correspondent suggested that Herr Ulbricht was acting as a sort of agent of Adenauer and the West, on the grounds that:The Poles may safely be allowed a little licence, but the East Germans never. In his firm rule over what must be regarded as a Soviet forward military area, Herr Ulbricht has probably prevented a conflagration that could commit and envelope West Germany and much else … Herr Ulbricht has again ensured that they—and N.A.T.O.—will not be confronted with this awful predicament—for a while.The hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) asked me earlier whether the Labour Party were not in favour of recognising the permanence of the status quo in Eastern Europe. Quite the reverse; it is he and those who think like him who are committed by the logic of the situation to preserve the status quo in Eastern Europe, if necessary by retaining the rigid Stalinist methods of control over the Communist parties there.
The plain fact is that so long as a divsion of Europe continues along the present lines, the security of the West and of the world depends on the ability of the Communist rulers to maintain total control over the hapless people under their rule.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
If the hon. Member looks at HANSARD tomorrow, he will find that I did not ask him that at all. I asked whether his party was in favour of the nuclear deterrent.
§ Mr. Healey
The hon. Member asked me many questions. We believe that nuclear weapons have a deterrent power which should be made use of in Western defence policy. If the hon. Member asks me to say whether I believe—as apparently the Minister of Defence does—that there is a sort of gadget called, "the nuclear deterrent" which is so awful and effective that it could be used to prevent any sort of action anywhere, I tell him frankly, "No." Nor do I think that the N.A.T.O. commanders believe in the nuclear deterrent in this sense.
I have said that there is growing this conflict, which cuts across the cold war frontiers, between those who want to exploit the conflict between East and West in order to reinforce the status quo and those who want to exploit the common interest of East and West in order to change it. The question to which my party wants a clear answer in terms of concrete proposals is: on which side are the British Government in this great new international debate? There is no doubt, as so many speakers have already said, that the position of Her Majesty's Government is probably now decisive in the way in which the world will go in the next few years. American policy is paralysed by the weakness of her President and by the strength of her Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Healey
I will answer that question when I come to discuss disengagement.
Her Majesty's Government are in a good position now to break the deadlock on the Western side and thereby break the deadlock between East and West. It is well known, and has been made clear in this debate, that Her Majesty's Opposition are completely in favour of a policy of disengagement, but this need not be a party issue. There are many respected personalities in this country, not all of the Labour Party, who 1324 support disengagement. For example, two Air Marshals, Sir John Slessor and Sir Ralph Cochrane, and the "high priests" of the British establishment. The Times and the Economist, have both recently committed themselves to disengagement in principle.
An earlier Conservative Prime Minister himself put forward disengagement in 1955, and perhaps the most moving statement of the general case was made by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill)—I am sure we all hope that he soon recovers from his illness—at Aachen, in 1956. Most striking of all to me is that the present Government are committed unilaterally to disengagement by their defence policy. The present Government have made clear—the Defence White Paper only underlines it—that they propose to withdraw more troops from Germany unless Germany provides a sum which, in another context, the Prime Minister described as "a mere £50 million"—something too trifling to justify the resignation of a Chancellor of the Exchequer.
More important still, the whole argument of the Minister of Defence for Britain's nuclear deterrent is based on the assumption which he expressed publicly in the defence debate last year, that as soon as America has an inter-continental striking power she will lose interest in the defence of the European continent. If that is what the Government really believe, if they believe that America will, sooner or later, leave Europe and that British troops must be withdrawn front Europe unless someone else will pay to keep them there, why do not they tell the Foreign Office what the Ministry of Defence is thinking?
Instead of embarking on a policy of unilateral disengagement, which has really been going on for some years, why, for once, do the Government not play the bargaining cards before they throw them away? Let us try to see whether we cannot get some reciprocal withdrawal from the Russians in return for the withdrawal which we seem to believe that the major Western Powers are likely to carry out in any case.
I believe that the British Government should commit themselves now to negotiate with the Soviet Union on disengagement, and that they should make 1325 it their main duty in the days and weeks immediately ahead to persuade their allies of the validity of this policy. It is necessary to be clear as to the type of disengagement which we are envisaging here. Not only Britain but Europe, too, is indebted to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for putting forward the first detailed proposals which have been put forward at all. There is no doubt that the carrying, out of the full programme of disengagement is likely to involve the solution of many of the most intractable problems that have faced East and West in the last ten years.
As my right hon. Friend said, it is unlikely that once we start we shall complete the process in a period very much shorter than ten years. We must—I hope that this point to some extent answers the question put by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. J. J. Astor)—reach agreement on how the political processes are to develop which are set in train by the military evacuation of the disengaged area. That means, of course, that it would be impossible for Russia and the West to reach agreement on withdrawing their troops from Germany unless they had first reached agreement on the way in which Germany was to be unified.
I believe that there would be little difficulty in reaching agreement on German unification provided it was in the context of a troop withdrawal. The extremely thoughtful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) should be taken very seriously. It would also be necessary to reach agreement between Poland and Germany on the permanence of the Oder-Neisse frontier, and to reach agreement with Germany, and between Russian and the West, on the type of armed forces which the disengaged countries would be able to possess—certainly not nuclear weapons—and the machinery by which the possession of those weapons was to be supervised and controlled.
In other words, disengagement involves a revolutionary experiment in international co-operation. There is no doubt that neither side will agree to disengagement unless it is convinced that disengagement is viable and permanent. It is inconceivable that Russia and the West, 1326 if they felt that the situation was likely to arise in which they would like to return, would be willing. The idea that the Russians or the West would exchange the clear instability of the present situation for a situation which was more unclear and perhaps even less stable, is ludicrous. Disengagement would only work if both sides were convinced that it could be made permanent. I believe, and so do my right hon. and hon. Friends, that it can be made permanent, and we have spent a lot of time inside and outside this House in showing how some of the problems can be dealt with.
It seems obvious that, precisely because disengagement involves so many difficult problems, it can be reached only by stages. Like everything else, including disarmament, it is impossible to get agreements on a package plan which involves the whole thing. It will have to be negotiated by stages, each of which leaves the balance of power unimpaired, though at a lower level, and which includes the possibility of physical control, and, indeed, of physical sanctions if control fails.
For that reason, I think that it may perhaps be found desirable to leave to a later stage in the discussions the question of the total evacuation of foreign troops from the area and the question of the political neutrality of the countries concerned. It may be necessary to start by trying to establish a zone of arms limitation with mutual inspection by both sides, and it seems to me that even now it would be wholly in the interests of N.A.T.O. and of the Soviet bloc in this stage of the cold war to establish such a zone, because it would at least rule out the possibility of a major land attack—it would be the best possible protection against that type of surprise attack—and it would enable both sides to reduce their troops in the area.
If I may, I should like to conclude with a word about the problems which. I think, face us immediately in the Rapacki Plan and the negotiations before the Summit Conference. As my right hon. Friend said, it seems that the Polish Plan provides a useful basis of discussion, and in certain respects it goes very much further towards meeting Western demands than any proposals previously put forward by the Russians. 1327 To my mind, the most important aspect of the Rapacki Plan is that it concerns an area in which, for the first time, the Russians would be making concessions roughly comparable with those of the West; in other words, it adds Poland and Czechoslovakia to East Germany, as against Western Germany on our side.
On the other hand, I do not believe that it is technically possible to limit any arms control scheme to atomic weapons. Nuclear warheads are as easy to hide as footballs, and I could guarantee to hide 400 footballs in London alone so that there would be little chance of anybody finding them. Certainly the atomic warheads could not be found unless one had the right to look at every other sort of weapon, too.
It seems to me, therefore, that if we once accept the principle of the Rapacki Plan we are immediately involved in a discussion of control which extends to conventional weapons as well as nuclear weapons. There is, of course, also the political argument that a plan limited to atomic weapons would be unfair to the West because the West needs them in Europe whereas Russia probably does not.
On the other hand, I believe that it is possible to take the Rapacki Plan as a basis for British counter-proposals, and I should like the Minister of State to tell us whether Britain is considering making counter-proposals now, because they must be made in public in advance of the Summit Conference if they are to have their full effect.
I believe that practical counterproposals for a zone of inspection and a reduction of armaments in Central Europe would be wholeheartedly welcomed in many quarters east of the Iron Curtain, not least in Poland, and I believe that success in such a first step would encourage progress and would create a momentum and an atmosphere of confidence in co-operation which would make progress possible faster and further as time proceeded.
It is quite possible that Russia may reject such a proposal, but we know for certain that she rejects our present policy. I do not know how on earth the Government can claim the fact that Russia may reject the policy as an argument for not 1328 having it when, for ten years, they have had the experience that the Russians will not accept the policy which they are still putting forward.
The plain fact is that if Russia rejects sensible and reasonable proposals along these lines she will get all the odium in the world for the failure of the conference. If she rejects our current proposals we shall get the odium, as we have had it already.
I am not a pessimist. I believe that the Russians will accept negotiations along these lines. There may be some Russians so blinded by Communist dogma or past experience that they will never consider co-operation with the West, but I believe that the majority of Russian Communists, like the majority of Western democrats, base their foreign policy on a reaction to circumstances created by others. It does not spring fully formed out of some ideological centre in a Communist brain. By our own behaviour we can influence and direct the trend of Soviet foreign policy.
It is already clear that the Russians recognise the tremendous danger to themselves as well as to the rest of humanity involved in the indefinite spread of atomic weapons. I believe that they have learned, from their success with the Sputnik, that they can influence the world far more successfully by exploiting the resources within their own frontiers than by using force to extend those frontiers.
I believe that the British Government, by taking concrete, precise action along these lines, could now encourage forces in Russia and throughout the world which want to halt the race to destruction, which will give humanity a chance to survive. I think we must all admit that, unless the race is halted soon, what should have been a milestone in the history of human progress may prove to be a gravestone.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ormsby-Gore)
We have built up in this country a sort of tradition that debates in this House should take the form of a verbal gladiatorial combat. Each side lays about the other, expressing in more or less violent terms each and every point of disagreement, whilst studiously ignoring areas of general agreement. I know that the resulting equation is supposed to give a 1329 rough indication of the balance of opinion in this country. No doubt on some occasions it does, but on other occasions it emphatically does not. When that happens as a result of a foreign affairs debate, I believe it can do great damage to this country all over the world.
Contrary to any impression that may have been given during some recent debates, although I quite agree that it is riot the impression given by the debate today, most of us would admit that there is a fundamental agreement on many important features of our foreign policy and that we disagree mainly about tactics rather than about our objectives. We wish to see a lowering of tension between East and West in order that the peace of the world should be more secure. We are persuaded that under present conditions the strength and unity of the Atlantic Alliance must be preserved.
We may, of course, differ as to how this is to be done. All three parties have accepted the most distasteful necessity of our maintaining the nuclear deterrent and the Labour Party confirmed this at its recent party conference. But I admit that there are widely differing views as regards the proportion of our defence effort which ought to be allocated to the deterrent and the proportion to be allocated to conventional forces.
There is, again, broad agreement on disarmament, although there are as always spectators who are convinced that they could have played the hand more effectively. Frankly, I believe that we are in much the same position when we come to discuss our relations with the Soviet Union and the methods we should use in negotiating with them. It is the same with discussions about disengagement. The objective we all strive for is a diminution of potentially dangerous points of friction, and a climate of affairs in which political change can gradually come about without the risk of violence.
I do assure hon. Members opposite that when we disagree with them over their precise approach to summit talks or their ideas about a neutral zone in Europe it is not because we do not wish to see the results that they hope will flow from their proposals, but because we sincerely believe that such proposals will not, in fact, bring about those desirable 1330 results. It is in this context that I would like to speak about these two main topics. First, the trends of Soviet policy and what our reactions to it should be; and, secondly, our attitude to disengagement.
Now, no one will deny that the death of Stalin has altered the Soviet approach to international affairs. Some of the effects of this change are encouraging for the West and we should not belittle them. Let me take some examples. First, it is clear that the relationship between foreign Communist parties and Moscow is in some cases less than that of a slave to his master. One cannot imagine, for instance, in Stalin's day a relationship of the sort that now exists between Warsaw and Moscow.
This may well stem from Khrushchev's admission of the possibility of different roads to Socialism, and no one can yet foresee the final consequences of that important admission. The infallibility of Moscow's leadership was called in question by Khrushchev's secret speech at the Twentieth Congress, and this has undoubtedly weakened the control exercised by the Central Party on its satellites.
Moreover, there are signs of discontent not only in the satellite countries, where it is widespread, but also among certain classes in the Soviet Union itself. The intellectuals and the students are, apparently, highly critical of the restrictions to which they are subjected, and are, within limits, permitted to express these criticisms. This critical attitude is, of course, encouraging and exciting from our point of view, although I am sure that hon. Members on all sides of the House will appreciate that, so far as Russia is concerned, it does not yet amount to anything like effective pressure being exerted on the present Soviet leaders to alter their international outlook.
But far the most encouraging sign is the fact that Communism has all but lost its intellectual appeal, both inside and outside the empire it controls. Above all, the young, contrary to the prophecies of many modern Cassandras, are showing an increasing resistance to Marxist indoctrination. We saw it in Hungary where, in spite of ten years of Communist rule, it was very largely young men and women—who had lived only under dictatorship from the day they 1331 were born—who swarmed into the streets to fight, with little more than their courage, against the Russian tanks.
We see it daily on the border between East and West Germany, where the refugees still swarm in large numbers out of the workers' paradise into the forbidden land of free men. Here, again, we find that over 50 per cent. of the refugees are young people under 25 years old.
Again, there is growing evidence of intellectual ferment within the Communist world, with "revisionists" who challenge in a most sweeping manner the doctrines of Marx and of Lenin. There is the increasingly severe action taken by the authorities against "hooliganism," a term used rather indiscriminately to describe all young people who fail to conform. I am bound to say that I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) might easily find himself qualifying as a rather elderly "hooligan."
There is the fact that the very process that has enabled Russia to become a modern industrial giant has also produced an increasingly important class of managers and technicians, who can be expected to exert some pressure on Kremlin leaders from below. The leaders were bound to be pulled away from the old Stalinist forms and practices even if Khrushchev had never arrived on the scene, and we can expect this trend to continue.
Nevertheless, I repeat, Mr. Speaker, those are hopeful signs. But, though we may be entitled to feel encouraged at the apparent loosening of the Soviets grip on some of the satellites, and at the ferment we know to exist both within the Soviet Union itself and in other countries of Eastern Europe, are we to conclude from this that the basic objectives of the Soviet Government's policy have changed, or are likely to change in the near future?
This is, at least, open to question. From the recent literary bombardment from Mr. Bulganin one might well get the impression that the Soviet intention is to have only those items on the agenda that they themselves wish to discuss, and to exclude all items put forward by the West. I know that the right hon. Gentle- 1332 man the Leader of the Opposition disagrees with that view, but, if I had the time, I could quote quite a number of excerpts from the text which would bear out the impression that that was the answer that was being given by Mr. Bulganin—
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)
Does the right hon. Gentleman know what speculation there is in the Soviet Union this evening on the terrific ferment in this country against this Tory Government?
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I think that to pursue that question would take me very far from the path I am following.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, we still hope that progress can be made with the preparations for this sort of conference. He said quite bluntly that he wanted a Summit Conference.
But it is not unreasonable that prudent people should have some reservations about the Soviet's real intentions when they put forward suggestions for inviting 30 or 40 heads of States which give the meeting the character of a glorified international garden party. Certainly, such a meeting would be totally incapable of carrying out serious negotiations.
Fundamental Communist doctrine makes provision for setbacks and the Soviet leaders have done much since the autumn of 1956 to make good the ground that they lost, and many of their recent initiatives would be consistent with the continuance of such a policy. The economic resources at their disposal are now greater than ever before, and judicious use of these, together with the impact of the Sputnik, have already enabled them to blur many of the memories of Budapest not only in some of the satellites, but also in some of the so-called uncommitted countries of Asia and the Middle East.
While there may have been a change of tactics in the Kremlin, there is as yet little evidence of a real change of strategy. The change of tactics has led to certain stresses which, on the whole, work in our favour, but these do not seem to have affected the fundamental objectives of the Soviet Government.
How, then, should we react to this Soviet attitude? Clearly, we must do all 1333 we can to encourage the hopeful trends that I have tried to describe—the loosening of ties between Moscow and the satellites, the realisation by at least some of those who live in the Soviet Union that the alternative system is not at all ac described in Soviet propaganda.
Let me take one or two examples of what I think we might do. We know what an enormous pent-up demand there is in the Soviet Union and the satellites for knowledge of the outside world. One important way in which we can hope to foster that independence of thought which I have described is by encouraging the peoples of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to increase their links with the rest of the world and to come and see for themselves what goes on outside the Curtain.
One of the main links is, of course, the commercial one. In recent years, Anglo-Soviet trade has considerably increased. We want to increase it still more. There is a very great range of British goods which could be exported to the Soviet bloc without restriction. There is, for instance, the heavy equipment needed for the large construction plants which the Soviet authorities have planned. Then there are many consumer goods which we in this country have long taken for granted and are ready to export. We hope that the authorities in the Soviet bloc will take advantage of these opportunities to encourage trade between us.
This, however, is not the only link which can be strengthened. There is the work of the Soviet Relations Committee of the British Council. The Committee has arranged numerous exchanges between British and Russian personalities, teachers, doctors, town planners, and so on. It has recently, as the House knows, sent an invitation for 300 students and young people from the Soviet Union to visit the United Kingdom this year. Last night I had the pleasure, in company with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), of meeting some of the 50 Russian student teachers who have just spent five weeks in this country—
And a good lot they were.
1334 We all hope that this sort of exchange can be expanded. This, I believe, is work of considerable importance, but, unfortunately, the Soviet Government still place obstacles in the way of progress along these lines. Very few Soviet tourists are granted exit visas to the West, and although the Soviet authorities have revised their exchange rate we all know that tourism in the Soviet Union is still extremely expensive.
Then the Soviet authorities place great restrictions on the sale of foreign newspapers and books in the Soviet Union, and they jam the Russian service of the B.B.C. In all these ways, the Soviet Government at present obstruct the development of closer relations between our peoples. But in spite of these difficulties, we shall certainly continue to do what we can to increase the contacts between our peoples and those of the Soviet bloc, whether by encouraging more trade and closer trade relations, or by exchange of visits by students, teachers and others.
At the same time, we must also neglect no opportunity of genuine negotiation with the Soviet Government, to probe their intention and to see whether changes in world conditions have encouraged them to seek agreement regarding some of the outstanding points of difference between us. We would welcome a summit meeting—the Prime Minister has said that today—if it led to such a result. But I would not expect any such result to flow from a hurried dash to the summit, as has been occasionally advocated.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I am coming to that point now.
Those who accuse the West of crawling to the summit seem to favour a method of proceeding exactly calculated to guarantee the failure of a meeting. From such a failure would, I feel, flow a reversion to the status quo and to the precise position and the identical atmosphere which they claim urgently needs changing. We certainly wish to proceed on the assumption that further discussions will reveal a real hope of making progress.
We must give also the Soviet leaders no encouragement to think that if they persevere long enough with their negative 1335 attitude they will succeed in dividing the nations of the West and forcing them into a position where they have to make concessions on issues of vital importance. In short, we must continue to make it clear that we in the West are determined to resist any encroachment and that we have the strength to do so. Thus, N.A.T.O. must remain, as I think is generally agreed in the House, the corner stone of our policy and we must do all we can to strengthen this alliance. Her Majesty's Government are working and will continue to work to this end with their European neighbours and with the United States of America.
I know that such a policy is often labelled a policy of strength. It is implied that such a policy is barren, or immoral or ineffective. The suggestion is that we are continually building up our military power in order to bludgeon the other side into concessions. This is a total misconception of our policy. We do not intend to hold a pistol to the Russians' heads and say that they should do this or do that, or we shall blow them to pieces. If the violent, implacable and warlike elements in the United States ever existed except in the imagination of Communist propaganda, such a policy would have been pursued years back, when the United States alone had the atom bomb, and for years after, when they alone could deliver it.
That kind of policy is totally alien to free democracies and we will never pursue it. What we intend to do is to maintain our military strength to prevent ourselves being placed in a position where we have to make vital concessions under the threat of overwhelming force. In view of recent history, I would have thought that most of us would have realised the dangers to which the democracies would lay themselves open if they tried to negotiate from a clearly weaker position. We do not want, to use a well-known phrase, "to go naked into the conference chamber". We do not mean to use our strength for blackmail, but to resist blackmail.
But in devoting so much of our thought and energies, as, unfortunately, we still must do, to providing for the security and defence of the free world, we must not neglect the development with our allies of our economic strength, nor fail to harness the dynamic forces which have arisen 1336 in Western Europe. And here I am referring to the efforts now being made by ourselves and other European nations to found an industrial Free Trade Area in Europe.
I now want to turn to the question of disengagement, a term which is used to describe a variety of ideas and proposals for the withdrawal of forces or weapons from an area in Central Europe. I thought that the hon. Member for Leeds. East (Mr. Healey) ran a good many of these plans together and pretended that they were supported by all the people he mentioned. There is, for instance, as we know, the plan which he has outlined in great detail in his pamphlet, and which was also outlined for us by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon.
That is a plan for creating a militarily neutral belt in Central Europe by the removal of all Soviet and Western forces from the Federal Republic, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. We have always been ready to consider any proposals for bringing about conditions for peace and security in Europe. But we must be quite sure that the proposals are compatible with the security of the members of the Atlantic Alliance and whether they would really increase or decrease the risk of war by miscalculation. That is really the acid test, and in this context we cannot afford to forget the example of Korea. Is the situation brought about at the end of the process likely to be more stable or less stable?
All the schemes which have so far been put forward—I stress the words "so far put forward"—seem to us to contain a number of snags. They seem often to pay too little attention to the fact that the Russians have one overriding objective in Europe. It is a quite simple one—to disrupt N.A.T.O. and secure American withdrawal from the Continent, so that European countries, faced with overwhelming forces, may have no effective means of resisting Soviet pressure. There has been a series of Soviet proposals which are compatible with this end. So long as the Russians pursue these aims, the safety of Western Europe must depend upon the coherence and stability of the N.A.T.O. Alliance and on the ability and will of its members to retaliate effectively if the vital interests of any of them are threatened.
§ Mr. Healey
The hon. Gentleman quoted the example of Korea to suggest the dangers of disengagement. Surely the situation in Korea was that the Americans took their troops out and then said, ex cathedra, through the Supreme Commander and the Secretary of State, that America had no strategic interest in the area. That is why the Russians went in. To their amazement, the Americans reacted. I am sure that the lesson of Korea for the West is that one must have political guarantees if one leaves an area, and the lesson to the Russians is that, even if we have not, it is risky to go back.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I am sure that that is a lesson we should all learn from Korea. I am saying that we should learn those lessons from Korea. Simply to put forward a variety of schemes for withdrawal, as is sometimes done, without taking into account precisely that kind of consideration, is extremely dangerous.
Recent events which we have seen in Hungary, for instance, and the recent measures taken by the Russians to consolidate their hold on their satellites, do not suggest any disposition on their part to withdraw their forces from Eastern Europe. There are those, I know, who take the contrary view, who say that the satellites have now become a military, economic, and above all, a political liability and that, therefore, the Russians now have a greater incentive to withdraw their forces.
This thesis I find very hard to accept. It is, surely, far more likely that the lesson the Soviets learnt after Hungary was that their physical control over the satellites is more essential than ever, for the prospect of even one of them turning its back on the Communist bloc would set for them a disastrous precedent and one precisely calculated to do the maximum amount of damage to their prestige throughout the world.
It is not true, as is sometimes suggested, that the Soviet Government have offered to withdraw their forces from Eastern Europe if N.A.T.O. forces are withdrawn from West Germany. What they have suggested is the withdrawal of United States forces from the Continent in return for a similar Soviet withdrawal from Eastern Europe. This 1338 is a very different thing. I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite would not accept it.
Although the States of Eastern Europe differ from one another, it is uncertain whether the Communist régimes imposed upon them under the shelter of the Soviet Army could long retain their power if the Soviet Army were to be withdrawn and if the local peoples could be certain that it would not come back. I do not underestimate the power of the local Communist organisations, but the decisive factor is the ability of the Soviet Army to intervene. The Soviet rulers are well aware of this.
But let us suppose that the Russians were prepared to withdraw from Central Europe in return for a Western withdrawal from Germany and that both sides then guaranteed the integrity of this neutral belt. All the evidence suggests that there would be a violent resurgence of national feeling to throw off the Soviet yoke and this would be followed by a serious risk of the Russians returning in force to quell the revolt.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
The West would then be faced with the grave decision of imposing sanctions to fufil its new commitments of guaranteeing the integrity of the satellite countries.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
We have had examples of it. The Russians actually withdrew from the city of Budapest.
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
They were not prepared to see a régime of a very different colour coming into being and, therefore, they returned. I am saying that this is a risk and we must face this risk if we are to try to work out a plan which is to hold good in Central Europe. I believe that we should have taken on a much wider commitment while, at the same time, we should have restricted our ability to honour it. Such a plan for disengagement would involve new and incalculable risks for members of the 1339 North Atlantic Alliance, and I believe that most of them would find these risks unacceptable. I think it would be equally unacceptable to the Russians.
I now come to the proposals for a nuclear-free zone in Europe which the Polish Foreign Minister has put to Her Majesty's Government and a number of other N.A.T.O. Governments. Her Majesty's Government are ready to study all proposals designed to reduce international tension. In his reply to Mr. Bulganin's letter of 11th December, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred to Mr. Rapacki's Plan. He said that while it was open to certain obvious objections, some of which have been enumerated by the hon. Member for Leeds, East, Her Majesty's Government were studying it with a view to seeing whether there were any elements in it which could be made the basis of some alternative proposals.
But we are members of an alliance and we cannot, and will not, act alone. This is not to say that we have not formed our own views on these questions. It would, however, be wrong to reveal the results of our studies before we have completed consultation with other members of N.A.T.O. and ascertained their views. It is also our intention, in due course, to reply to the Polish Foreign Minister direct.
At the same time, I should tell the House that the consideration of these proposals by Her Majesty's Government has shown that they involve serious military and political difficulties. Instead of leading towards the reunification of Germany, which remains the firm aim of Her Majesty's Government and of all our N.A.T.O. allies, they might tend to solidify the present division of Germany.
However, we have this week received fuller details of the proposals from the Polish Government and these are, of course, being carefully studied by us. I would just add that the latest proposals include two interesting new features. In the first place, there is an indication that the Polish Government would favour detailed negotiations on the form of control which would be necessary, and secondly, there is the idea of linking the proposals with reductions in conventional armaments on both sides. These may be favourable trends and we will discuss the whole matter urgently but thoroughly with all the other Powers concerned.
1340 I have been set the extremely difficult task of finishing precisely at the hour of 10 o'clock—
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
—but I would say, in conclusion, that in discussing these vital matters we should all be aware that the problems of mental and physical adjustment now confronting the whole of mankind are infinitely greater than at any period in human history. The fantastic acceleration in the speed of communications, the staggering power resources, for good or evil, which have now become available to us, and many other revolutionary advances, have posed the dreadful question whether human ingenuity can quickly enough devise institutions and attitudes of mind to meet this challenge.
The risks are certainly awe-inspiring, but so are the opportunities. Nor must we conclude that, because the risks are so great, precipitate and ill-considered action is what is required. We need great patience, steady nerves and a firm conviction that man's longing for freedom cannot, in the end, be denied.
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.