§ 3.48 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
I propose to deal, first, with the position at the Conference on Nuclear Tests in Geneva. In the debate on 27th April I pointed out that of the five major matters of disagreement, three had been satisfactorily resolved. It had been agreed that the details of the control system should be embodied within the treaty and its annexes. The two Western Powers had agreed to waive their requirement with regard to progress towards measures of real disarmament, and after a great deal of discussion agreement had been reached on a draft article on the duration of the treaty.
Of the two remaining issues which were unresolved, the first dealt with the 1369 staffing and facilities of the control posts and inspection teams. The second related to the circumstances in which the inspection teams would operate. On the first point—the staffing and facilities of the control posts and inspection teams—there has been slow but steady progress.
The Russians have made some advance with regard to foreign technical staff taking part in manning the control ports. They still want the posts in the Soviet Union to be staffed predominantly by Russian technical staff. Our position is that we think there must be a sufficient foreign and international element in the staff at each control post to make it certain that the instruments are not being tampered with and that objective reports are being put forward to the control organ. The two sides have come rather closer together on this matter, although there is still some way to go. Although I am sorry that the rate of progress has not been more rapid, I repeat what I said on 27th April, that this is a matter upon which, in my view, agreement could be reached.
The next matter is the circumstances under which explosions shall take place. Inspections under the proposed agreements are of two sorts. So far as control of a ban on tests in the atmosphere is concerned, it is agreed that there should be routine and special aircraft flights to collect air samples. So far as the ban on underground tests is concerned, it is a physical impossibility to have an inspection of every suspicious earth tremor. The number is so great, the physical resources which would be required are so enormous, that it is not a practical proposition.
The Conference is, therefore, now considering the possibility of a quota of inspections of suspicious underground events. If it is impossible to have 100 per cent. inspection, then there must be sufficient opportunities for inspection so that the signatories of a treaty will be deterred from breaking it.
The first Russian position was that there must be unanimity about there having been a suspicious event and, secondly, that the decision to send out an inspection team must also be unanimous. That was their original position. From that position they have 1370 moved. They have now said categorically that there will be no veto on the sending of an inspection team up to the limited number agreed. That is all right as far as it goes, but we then come to the point of how is it to be decided that a suspicious event has taken place?
An attempt to make progress on this point has led to one of the most exasperating arguments with the Soviet representatives in which I have ever taken part. I have no doubt that it has been mutually exasperating. I have spent many hours discussing this matter with Mr. Gromyko alone and also with Mr. Herter and, so far, we seem quite unable to convince one another of our respective points of view.
The difficulty really, Mr. Speaker, has been that the data on which the scientists produced their reports last August was, as far as underground tests are concerned, solely related to one explosion. After that, and before the Geneva Conference began, there were some further underground explosions in the United States and those further underground explosions altered to some extent the scientific information. In addition, as was disclosed in the Berkner Report, a Report by a panel of United States scientists recently published in summary, it may be possible, by having an underground explosion in certain physical conditions, to mask its size.
The importance of that is that if—I repeat if—it were possible, for example, to have a 20-kiloton explosion underground without it being detected by instruments, the control system would not be of much use. A 20-kiloton explosion would be of the size of the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
As the Berkner Report points out, improved instrumentation can to some extent meet this difficulty. This new data has not in the least lessened our desire for agreement, but it does mean that the instrumentation has to be of the most modern and has to be capable of being improved all the time. That is the first point, the instrumentation. The second point is that there must be agreement beforehand as to what are the readings on the instruments which qualify a particular earth tremor as a suspicious event.
The Soviet Government have resolutely refused to consider this new data. I think that I am putting their argument 1371 quite fairly. They say that to do this would destroy the agreement reached last August by the scientists and that the proposal has been put forward by the West with the intention of wrecking the prospects of an agreement. We have spent hours trying to convince Mr. Gromyko that this is not so. We suggested a further meeting of the experts working with a fairly rigid time limit, 10 days or so, to see whether they could reach agreement on the best possible instrumentation. We pointed out the part of the experts' report of last August dealing with instrumentation which made it clear that although certain instruments are specified it is obviously not a complete list. It is not meant to be a complete list.
After a great deal of discussion, I think that I have persuaded Mr. Gromyko to permit a discussion of what would be the best possible instrumentation, but he said that although he was prepared to agree to that the experts, when discussing it, could not have regard to the new data. We said that we did not want any protracted debate between them, but, in approaching the question of instrumentation and readings, it is impossible for the experts to exclude from their minds the new data and the new possibilities. That is where the matter rests for the moment.
Those who have not been in these negotiations may be tempted to ask: why all this fuss about instruments and readings? Well, the importance of them is simply this. There cannot be a treaty unless there has been agreement as to what are the readings on the instruments which qualify an event for inspection. If there has to be unanimity as to whether or not the scientific data does this, then there is a veto built into the whole system.
The Soviet representative would be ble to prevent any inspection ever taking place in the Soviet Union, and the United States representative would be able to prevent any inspection ever taking place in the United States. We are not prepared to be put into that position. That is the importance of the question of instruments and readings upon them. Of course, in addition, there is the further most important point of what, if the quota system is accepted, the number of inspections should be. I think it not 1372 unreasonable to maintain that before we decide on the number of inspections we must know what the rules are to be.
There are certain other matters still outstanding. The Russians, although they have modified their demand for a veto to some extent, still want one on budgetary and administrative matters affecting the control organ; they want a veto on all matters connected with the administrators' functions; they want a veto on special flights by control aircraft; and they also want a veto on any technical improvements in the control system. The special flights are an important point, but this last is a vital point on which our representative addressed a direct question to the Soviet delegate on Monday, because we cannot possibly accept a veto on improvements in the technical aspects of the control system. I have tried to state quite frankly the differences as they exist. Nevertheless, I believe that the differences between the two sides are definitely narrowing and I believe that we shall also solve the problems that I have referred to today.
As regards high altitude control, the Soviet did agree while we were at Geneva to technical discussions at Geneva on the problem of control of nuclear tests at high altitude, in the stratosphere. These talks took place from 22nd June and I believe that a considerable measure of agreement has already been reached. But the talks have not yet finished.
I want to make it clear to the House, Mr. Speaker, that our objective is still a comprehensive ban on tests. It is apparent that no inspection system can be absolutely 100 per cent. efficient, but all we want is one which will be sufficiently realistic to form a proper deterrent to potential breakers of a treaty.
§ Mr. Frank Beswick (Uxbridge)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman refers to an inspectorate. Is he referring all the time to an inspectorate consisting only of Russian, American and British personnel, or has there been any consideration of other nationals and a supranational inspectorate? If so, how has that suggestion been received?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am grateful to the hon. Member for reminding me of that point. We think that it is very important that the inspectorate should not be drawn only 1373 from the three Powers who are nuclear Powers, but should have an international element. That idea has not been rejected. It has been discussed and it is well known that this is our view. I think that the argument about the figures and proportions can be satisfactorily concluded. I agree about the importance of the matter, particularly as we hope that this treaty will be one to which other countries will accede. For that reason, it is important to have an international element in the inspectorate.
In all this, we feel that there are two very important prizes to be won: first, the stopping of the tests by the three nuclear Powers. That of itself would be an achievement. Secondly, if, for the first time, we can get agreement among (he three of us on an adequate inspection system, then that will be a tremendous impetus to progress in real disarmament, because I believe that inspection and control are the key to progress in those fields. We shall do our best to push matters along in these discussions. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State is in Geneva this week, and I will do what I can when I return to Geneva next Sunday.
I now turn to the Conference of the Foreign Ministers. On 24th June, I promised to lay a White Paper. That was done last Friday. I regret that it does not contain a fuller account of the proceedings during the formal sessions, but I was told that if the White Paper was to be produced before the weekend—which was for the convenience of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite and, indeed, for both sides of the House—then it could not be very lengthy. A fuller account is being prepared and it will be published quite soon.
We are seeking to achieve three things at this Conference: First, some progress towards the reunification of Germany; secondly, the reaffirmation of the right of the people of West Berlin to choose their own system of society, and also acceptance of the need for satisfactory arrangements for the free access to West Berlin upon which that freedom of choice depends; thirdly, a reduction in tension and an improvement of stability in Europe.
I cannot claim much in the way of progress towards the first of those objectives, the wider German problem. It is 1374 true that we had a prolonged discussion of the German problems in an atmosphere of frankness and cordiality. They were certainly the best humoured discussions in which I have taken part with representatives of the Soviet Union for the last seven and a half years. Both sides put forward their package proposals or peace plans covering reunification and European security, including the relations which a reunified Germany would have with the other States of Europe.
We for our part made a genuine effort to go some way to meet some of the Soviet criticisms of our previous proposals. For example, in the context of German reunification we offered to defer free elections for two and a half years after the signature of a four-Power agreement. We proposed a mixed German committee in which the East German element could not be out-voted. In other words, for any decision to be taken, there would have to be agreement by both parts of Germany. From our proposals the Soviet Government could see exactly how we considered that European security measures and progress towards German reunification would be interrelated.
Although Mr. Gromyko said that there were some acceptable features in our proposals, the result of our discussions was that neither side was able to accept the proposals put forward by the other. We went over the ground carefully and thoroughly, but we failed to make real progress. It is quite true that both sides stated that they believed in the need for the unity of Germany, that both sides said that they believed that at some point there should be free elections, and that both sides said that at some stage there should be a peace treaty. But we were not able to agree about the timing or method.
However, I feel very strongly that the fact of this disagreement does not mean that we can put all these problems on one side and forget about them. I think that there must be a continuing review of them and that time may bring about the possibility of agreement on some of them. After all, there were more than 300 meetings before the Austrian Treaty was signed. Let us take comfort from the fact that, if we are sufficiently patient and persevering, agreement can, in the long run, be attained.
1375 The second objective was in regard to Berlin. On this matter we had a number of private meetings. The discussions to which I have just been referring, on German reunification, were very largely in formal session, at the end of each of which the speech or proposal of either side was handed out verbatim to the Press. As I said in our last debate, I have never believed that that kind of discussion is likely to lead to very satisfactory results.
But when we came to talk about Berlin, the discussions were private, and I think that they were kept secret. The four Foreign Ministers met in turn in the private house of one or other of them. We had two advisers aside, together with interpreters. There were genuine discussions and not just the reading of prepared speeches at one another. Those discussions went on for about a fortnight, really on the basis of whether we could devise what both sides would regard as improved arrangements in relation to Berlin.
On 9th June, there was a perceptible hardening on the part of the Soviet Union, and that was reflected in the speech which Mr. Gromyko made in formal session on 10th June and which appears at page 22 of the White Paper. In that speech he put forward the idea of the maintenance of the existing situation, subject to certain modifications, for a limited period, namely, one year. These modifications related to the level of Western forces in West Berlin, propaganda, espionage, and atomic weapons. But Mr. Gromyko was quite explicit that if agreed solutions to the questions relating to the conclusion of a peace treaty were not reached in the period of one year, then the Soviet Union would sign a peace treaty with the D.D.R. The Soviet case, as the House knows, is that such a peace treaty would extinguish all Western rights relating to West Berlin.
In his speech Mr. Gromyko said that the Soviet Union considered it essential to stipulate in advance that the all-German committee, or some other body established by agreement between the two German States, must reach an agreed decision on the question of the peace treaty and the reunification of Germany within one year. The Western reaction to that speech was adverse. We regarded it as a reversion to the language of 27th 1376 November last year and to the idea that negotiation must take place under duress, and with the knowledge that if, in a limited time, agreement was not reached, then the Soviet Union would take unilateral action.
Speeches made on 10th June by Mr. Herter, M. Couve de Murville and myself are set out in the White Paper, and on 12th June, by agreement with my Western colleagues, I made a statement which is set out at pages 34 to 38 of the White Paper and which was a statement made on behalf of the three Western Powers. I tried to set out our view about the threat of unilateral action. I indicated our ideas as to the possibility of improved arrangements for Berlin designed to avoid friction in future. I will not repeat to the House at length what is set out in the White Paper, but I did state that I thought that it was not beyond our capacity to devise a formula for dealing in any new agreement with the question of Western rights in West Berlin, a formula which would be mutually acceptable.
I also dealt with the way in which the level of our troops and the way in which objectionable activities in both parts of Berlin might be dealt with. I indicated the fact that we had had useful private discussions about the arrangements in connection with the procedures for free access to West Berlin. I asked Mr. Gromyko to forget his statement of 10th June and to revert to the kind of discussions which we had been having with him up to 9th June.
These ideas were further developed in the Western paper on Berlin handed to Mr. Gromyko on 16th June. That paper is also set out in the White Paper. I think that it was generally accepted as a major effort to meet the Russian point of view. Mr. Gromyko asked for time to examine it, which we readily agreed to, and he did not make his reply until 19th June. The paper which he gave us on that date is also set out in the White Paper. It was timed to coincide with the speech which Mr. Khrushchev was making to a Soviet D.D.R. friendship meeting in Moscow. We had to consider Mr. Gromyko's paper simultaneously with the advance notices of what Mr. Khrushchev had said.
There was some ambiguity about Mr. Gromyko's paper. There was the suggestion of an interim status for West 1377 Berlin put in rather different terms from those of 10th June. There was a suggestion this time of a time limit of eighteen months during which an all-German committee formed on the basis of parity should promote the extension of contacts between the two parts of Germany. They should discuss and work out concrete measures for the unification of Germany and consider questions pertaining to the preparation and conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany. There was a suggestion that if, at the end of that time, there had been no agreed solution, then the Foreign Ministers should resume consideration of the West Berlin question.
It was not clear from Mr. Gromyko's paper whether free communication between West Berlin and the outside world would stop at the end of the eighteen months or not. But this paper was given to us, as I say, simultaneously with the reports of Mr. Khrushchev's speech. That speech appeared to leave no ground for doubt upon the matter, because he said that if the all-Germany committee proved unable to agree the Soviet Union would be compelled to sign a peace treaty with a German State willing to do so—in other words, the D.D.R. He said that when such a peace treaty was signed all vestiges of Western occupation rights in West Berlin would be ended. If any attempt was made to maintain the occupation régime by force the Soviet Union would defend the territorial integrity of the D.D.R. In other words, it looked again as if the Soviet Union had reverted to the language of 27th November—a time limit for agreement between the two parts of Germany, after which the Soviet Union would take unilateral action whatever we thought.
At that point, I felt strongly that the wisest thing for us to do was to recess to consider these various statements. The Western preliminary attitude upon both Mr. Gromyko's paper and Mr. Khrushchev's speech, was put forward to Mr. Gromyko on 19th June, and after some discussion agreement was reached about a recess until next Monday. Mr. Gromyko, however, did publish that night a further statement which is set out in the White Paper, at page 42, I also had a conversation with him on the following morning, in which he definitely said to me that the Soviet position was that if at the end of the time limit agreement 1378 had not been reached then the Foreign Ministers' Conference should reconvene to make a further attempt at a negotiated statement.
It is clear to my mind, therefore, that we must go back next Monday determined to make another attempt to reach agreement on Berlin. I think that in the present state of relations between East and West it is of supreme importance that we should achieve some agreement, however limited. We cannot make an agreement just for the sake of making it if that means abandoning our basic position, that the people of West Berlin must be free to choose their way of life. They must feel confident of that freedom and must have the necessary free access to the outside world which makes that freedom of choice a reality and not a paper formula. If, however, subject to that proviso, we can reach a limited agreement as I have said frequently during our meetings, that could be a turning point and could open the way to the wider agreements which would mean so much for peace and stability in Europe.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
Do I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say that this rather important statement made by Mr. Gromyko on 19th June was not handed to the three Western representatives until after the Conference had recessed?
§ Mr. Lloyd
The paper of 19th June was handed to us in the afternoon before the recess. The further statement was issued before the Conference formally recessed, but after it had agreed to recess. There was a meeting of the Ministers on Friday afternoon at which agreement was made. We had to meet at eleven o'clock the following morning, the Saturday morning, formally to recess. The statement to which I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman is referring was issued in the middle of the night, I believe.
On the matter of a summit meeting, I think that we must proceed step by step. The next step, I think, is to make a success of the coming phase of the Foreign Ministers' conference at Geneva. It may be only a limited success, but the way will then be open for a meeting 1379 of heads of Governments. To start speculating about what might happen if our talks break down seems to me to be the best way to ensure that they do break down. In spite of occasional relapses, portrayed by some speech or statement, I think that since February the atmosphere has steadily improved. I think that we have to seek to maintain that improvement and to work quietly and steadily together for agreement.
I will deal with one final point relating to what the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) said just now. There may be some criticism of the fact that the West took the initiative to suggest a recess of the conference on 19th June. I am absolutely convinced that it was the right thing to do. We had been hard at it for six weeks, and a pause for reflection was urgently required. The House will remember, perhaps, a little bit of the atmosphere that was coming from Geneva during the week or so before 19th June. After Mr. Gromyko's speech of 10th June there was talk of the imminent breakdown of the Conference. I was determined that that should not happen. During the week beginning 14th June there had been more talk of the Conference slowly expiring.
I remember that in the pages of one newspaper which has been rather critical of the fact that we recessed, the headline on 18th June was, "Death agonies of the Geneva talks". That was not very helpful to those who were trying to keep the talks in being. In the atmosphere produced by the reports of Mr. Khrushchev's speech, against the background of the kind of reports which had been coming from Geneva, there was again the danger of the breakdown of the conference. I do not think danger would have been averted by continuing our talks for another twelve or twenty-four hours. It was much better to have a recess during which we could all think things over and get the statements in proper perspective.
I still believe that it is possible to reach agreement on Berlin even although it is not finalised at the Foreign Minister's Conference. Such an agreement will open the way for further progress, and with that belief I shall go to the meeting on Monday.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I do not propose to spend much time in discussing the Conference on Nuclear Tests. We on this side of the House are very happy to see that the Conference continues in session, and we were glad to hear from the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he is optimistic about the eventual outcome. The first most satisfactory feature to us is that the Conference is being held. The second most satisfactory feature is that, while the Conference is being held, the tests are suspended.
Therefore, even though systems of inspection and control have not yet been agreed, the position seems to be sufficiently satisfactory to the three Powers and security is not affected because in the meantime no further tests are taking place. I therefore want to express the hope that, if the Conference goes on indefinitely and no agreement on control and inspection is arrived at, the tests will still remain suspended.
I should also like to put what hon. Members on both sides of the House may think to be a rather naïve question. What is all the argument about? I understand from the experts that the two great Powers, in particular, are in a position to wipe each other out in a matter of hours—some say in a matter of minutes—and all that is happening at present is that more and more improvements, if that is the right word to use in so macabre a situation, are being made for delivering the various hydrogen bombs which do not involve hydrogen bomb tests in themselves. It does not seem to me, therefore, that any further experiments are necessary merely to reduce the doom time from an hour to twenty minutes.
I just want to know, therefore, what is all the bother about the tests? Is it not a fact that the hydrogen Powers already possess sufficient destructive capacity as to make it absolutely futile for them to perfect their weapons of destruction even further? To the ordinary man in the street it does not seem to be a very important question whether he is wiped out in an hour or two minutes. It seems to me, therefore, that it is an entire waste of time and energy and scientists' skill that we should think of the possibility of resuming tests merely to be able to 1381 create weapons even more destructive than those which already exist.
We consider that the best thing that can happen, short of agreement about inspection, is that the Conference should continue indefinitely. It is not wasting as much money as would be wasted if tests were resumed. Nor, indeed, is there the same damage to mankind. So on that aspect of the matter we are perfectly satisfied. However, when it comes to the suspension of the Foreign Secretaries' Conference, our satisfaction ends. I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it was probably a good thing to have the recess, because the only conclusion I can reach from reading the documents is that everybody had got very tired and prone to misunderstanding one another more than ordinarily.
For instance, the right hon. and learned Gentleman spent some time in telling us about the synchronisation between Mr. Gromyko's statement and Mr. Khrushchev's speech. All I can say is that if Mr. Gromyko is able to synchronise his statements with the various speeches made by Mr. Khrushchev he is a clever man. Mr. Khrushchev appears to be making a series of statements. Indeed, it was an unfortunate fact that whilst the Foreign Secretaries' Conference was on there were all kinds of noises off. There were noises off by Dr. Adenauer.
§ Mr. Bevan
It may be that the resumption of the Conference will synchronise with the silence of Sir William Haley if ink is not forthcoming.
There were noises off by Dr. Adenauer, and, of course, President Eisenhower found it necessary to make statements from time to time in which he said he was certainly not going to proceed to the summit under duress. From reading the documents one comes to the conclusion that Mr. Herter found it necessary to see duress sometimes when no duress was intended.
So these noises off I am referring to underline the necessity of getting the Summit Conference, because the noises off were not made by property men shifting the stage furniture about; the noises off were made by those who will 1382 eventually take part in the Summit Conference. Therefore, if all the statements made by heads of Government are continually to be considered by the Foreign Ministers' Conference, then the sooner we have the Summit Conference the better, so that the authors of the play may be there as well.
The reason why I say that it seemed to me there was a considerable amount of fatigue among the Foreign Ministers is to be found in this statement by Mr. Gromyko on 19th June, because I thought the statement was fairly clear. We are dealing here for the moment with the temporary situation to be created in Berlin while the mixed commission meets to try to hammer out agreement about the future of Germany, including, of course, the future of Berlin.
What did Mr. Gromyko say? He said:An agreement on an interim status of West Berlin should, in the opinion of the Soviet Government, include agreement on the following:"—and this was handed to the Foreign Secretaries—Reduction of the occupation forces of the Western Powers in West Berlin to symbolic contingents".I am prepared to agree, and I am sure that we on this side of the House are prepared to agree, that it is reasonable to regard the present forces in Berlin as symbolic. After all, there are only about 11,000 troops surrounded by hundreds of thousands of troops.
So I should have thought that there was not very much in that, but if, for the sake of saving face, Mr. Gromyko wants a symbolic reduction in a symbolic force there is not the slightest reason why we should not agree, because nobody suggests that the size of the forces in Berlin is itself a protection against any military action which may be taken against Berlin: it is an earnest of the Western Powers' desire to defend the people of West Berlin against any change in their status without agreement. So there is not much there.
The next item in that statement was:Termination of subversive activities from West Berlin against the G.D.R. and other Socialist States".We did not expect Mr. Gromyko to say "termination of subversive activities from both West and East Berlin", did 1383 we? I mean, it would be unreasonable to expect him to say that. So the only answer we have to make to that, to be able to reach agreement, is that we want the termination of mutual subversive activities from both East and West Berlin. That would satisfy our amour propre and theirs, and I should not have thought that there would be very much difficulty about achieving that.
Then there is the next item:Non-location in West Berlin of atomic and rocket weapons.In heaven's name, there is nothing in that, is there? Will anybody suggest that we are going to put atomic and rocket weapons in West Berlin?
§ Mr. Bevan
They are not in West Berlin and I believe that the Foreign Secretary, in his statement in the Conference, pointed out it was not the Western intention to do so. Therefore, there is nothing at all of substance about the provision and arrangements for West Berlin between the two sides.
So, judging from that angle, I should not myself have thought there would be any difficulty in reaching agreement when the Conference resumes about the time limit. There has been a lot of talk about time limits. Well, time limits are a good thing. One wants to work to some kind of time framework. One does not want to go on indefinitely, except at the Conference on Nuclear Tests.
Mr. Gromyko said this on 19th June, in the very statement which aroused the passion and indignation of the Western representatives. He said, about the agreement about Berlin:The question of a time-limit of that agreement is a matter neither of major importance, nor of principle to us.I should have thought we could not have had it simpler than that. He said:The Soviet Government is proceeding from the premise that it is impossible to delay a peace settlement with Germany and to preserve the occupation régime in West Berlin ad infinitum.I should have thought that that was our position, too.If the time-limit indicated by the Soviet Government does not suit the Western Powers, then we can agree upon another time-limit acceptable to all sides concerned.1384 That is very reasonable, is it not? We had put forward two and a half years. He first of all put forward a year, advanced it to eighteen months, and all he says is, "We can agree about the period." He says:Now we should try to find something of a medium nature and to reach an agreed decision. We believe that it would be possible to agree upon a one and a half year time-limit."But if not", he says, "I am prepared to discuss it with the Western representatives." This is on 19th June.
There is the further question of access to Berlin, but surely the Russians do not propose, at the end of that period, that there shall be interference with access to Berlin. Because what have they said here? Mr. Gromyko spelled it out on the following day. He said:But my colleagues know very well from our proposals and this is a fact I mentioned at our first meeting today, that if no agreement is reached within the all-German committee during the specified time-limit on the questions it has to discuss, we propose that the states-participants in the Geneva Conferences of Foreign Ministers of 1959 resume the consideration of the West Berlin question. In other words, what we propose is to consider the whole of this question again at the Conference composed of the same participants, i.e., to make this question a subject of negotiations similar to those which we hold here now.An objective examination of that would lead us to believe that the Western representatives took umbrage quite unnecessarily, because what Mr. Gromyko really said was, "Let us have a mixed commission. If we do not reach agreement about it within the agreed time-limit about Berlin, let us all meet again and consider the position." But the Western representatives say, "Ah, but there is hidden in that the assumption that by agreeing to such a proposal we, at the end of that time, surrender our occupation rights in Berlin." Where is that statement? The Russians have contended, and that is why the Conference is being held, that they are entitled to have a unilateral peace treaty with Eastern Germany and then to hand over occupational rights to the Eastern German Government. The Western position, and we agree with it here, is that juridically that would interfere with Western rights.
The two sides are at variance in this matter. All Mr. Gromyko says is, "All right, if, in the eighteen months that we 1385 have had this mixed commission sitting, there is no agreement among them, we resume the Conference and the two sides put their respective positions towards each other once more." In other words, there is no suggestion, as far as I can see, that we should abandon our occupation rights in Berlin if we agree to a time-limit. All they say is that the two sides take up their respective positions at the end of the period, as they take them up now
I should have thought, therefore, that the answer which we should make to Mr. Gromyko and the Russians is that we are prepared to agree to a time-limit and to take part in a mixed commission on the assumption that agreement on our part must not be taken to indicate that at the end of that period we have extinguished our occupation rights. That is a perfectly reasonable proposition, and I see nothing at all that should separate the two sides on this matter.
About the composition of the mixed commission, the suggestion is that there should be 25 from the Federal Government and 10 from the D.D.R., with a three-quarter majority to reach a decision. Well, that is a lot of silly cavilling. Everybody knows that they are not going to reach agreement here by majority decisions on any matters of substance. In fact, the three Western Powers, in their document, have said that if agreement is not reached the matter goes back to the four Powers. In other words, if the Federal Republic and the D.D.R. have not been able to reach agreement, negotiations are resumed between the four Powers.
What on earth is the good of sticking to the question of numbers? Why not give them equal numbers? The Russians say, "Let us have parity. Let us have one for one." Why not? There is nothing in that. I know that there are some Federal German susceptibilities in this matter, but these are far too important questions to get negotiations wrecked on trivialities of this sort.
I say that the right thing to do is to say to the Russians, "If you attach so much importance to the question of parity you can have fifty-fifty." Therefore, I see nothing at all separating the two parties on this particular issue of the immediate future of Berlin while the 1386 mixed commission is holding its meetings. But that is only one aspect of the matter and I want to come to the more substantial aspect.
We heard this afternoon a statement by the Minister of Defence about the increase in the establishment of American planes in Great Britain. This puts upon us a very great responsibility and, if I may say so to him, the right hon. Gentleman must not be so pert in his answers. The people of this nation are under considerable strain. There has been phenomenal co-operation between one sovereign State and another in this matter. We have allowed the American bases to be here now ever since 1947–48. It is an extra-, ordinary abnegation of sovereign rights to allow other nations to have bases on our soil, and we are entitled to ask questions in the House whenever there is an alteration in the political framework within which these bases are held.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence must not tell me or anybody else that we will not be told. He must accept his responsibilities in this matter. It would be quite easy for us to make it very difficult for him. Therefore, when in the House he answers perfectly legitimate questions as to what political changes are to be brought about, if he is unable to tell us at the moment he should promise that at the earliest possible time we should be told. I really think sometimes that the right hon. Gentleman acts like a frozen adolescent.
On the major question of what really has gone wrong, the Foreign Secretary tells us that there has been no agreement at Geneva on matters of substance. Did he really expect any agreement with the Russians on the document put forward by the West? He knows very well that the changes made were minor ones and that all we have done at this Conference is to put forward proposals based not upon what we understood to be the strategy of the Prime Minister, but the strategy of the other Western Powers.
But what have we been told in the House? I challenge contradiction here, either by the Prime Minister or by hon. Members opposite. We were led to believe that the visits of the Prime Minister to Moscow, Bonn, Paris and Washington indicated a new initiative on the part of the British Government. It was one of the most highly publicised Odysseys 1387 since the Greeks. The right hon. Gentleman told us in the House that, of course, he was going to proceed, if it had to be, modestly, but as long as a small step forward could be taken he would be only too gratified. He assured us over and over again at Question Time, with that air of tired wisdom which he has now adopted, that, of course, he agreed with us. It does not matter how small the step, how trivial it is, any step forward is better than none. We accepted this in all good faith.
§ Mr. Bevan
We ought never to have been so credulous.
We understood from the communication which emerged from his meeting with Mr. Khrushchev in Moscow that they had agreed to study earnestly together the possibilities of disengagement in Europe—of thinning out, although they have used various terms about it. Then we understood that he discussed it with Dr. Adenaeur, although the good doctor has said that the right hon. Gentleman was too ambiguous to be understood. I do not accept that. I think that the right hon. Gentleman can make himself quite clear when he wants to, and if he was ambiguous it was deliberate.
But what did we have from the Foreign Ministers at Geneva? A complete repetition of the same sort of thing that hon. Members and I have heard during the last three or four years from all the French politicians and the Germans, that is to say, that no progress at all can be made unless general disarmament is agreed. That is exactly the strategy which has aborted every previous approach. Did the right hon. Gentleman try to get from his colleagues a more empirical approach of the kind that we had been led to believe was to be adopted? If so, he failed signally, because all we have here was what he called a package deal; that is to say, every single item here must be considered in relation to all the other items.
The Conference said:The measures envisaged are closely interrelated and the present proposals are, therefore, to be regarded as an inseparable whole. They would come into effect progressively at the stages indicated.Yet it is the French thesis, laid down over and over again and accepted by 1388 the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, and apparently now by the United States of America, that all the stages must first be agreed before one stage can be started. That is a fine way to make the best the enemy of the better. That is the opposite of empiricism. That is the opposite of the practical, step-by-step approach which the Prime Minister led us to believe he would try to impress upon the other Governments should be undertaken. It is the opposite.
Did the right hon. Gentleman fight for his proposals? If so, where are they? Did he run away? It is not the first time that the right hon. Gentleman has started a fight and run away, but he who fights and runs away lives to run away another day. We have been told by the Prime Minister—I shall refer to it just now in another connection—that we are supposed now, because we are the third hydrogen Power, to be able to have some influence upon our colleagues. The Federal Republic of Germany is not a hydrogen Power, neither is France, but they have had more influence upon American diplomatic strategy than has Great Britain. I hope that what I am saying is not such painful hearing to the Prime Minister as he appears to find it—
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Bevan
—because I hope I am helping him.
We are pointing out to our American friends, I hope, that this time, if they have co-operation from this country, we should have some co-operation from the United States in the formulation of our policies. So far—and I think that any fair-minded treatment of the discussions at Geneva will verify this—there is no sign that what the right hon. Gentleman told us was his approach has had the slightest effect upon France, Germany or the United States. So the main reason for the failure of the Geneva discussions on the chief body of the argument is the fact that we have put forward certain proposals which everybody here knows, and all the world knows, to be completely unacceptable. We have told the Russians that a united Germany is to be free to join any security pact.
Now, we know beforehand that the Russians will not have that. That is a 1389 recipe for the continuation of a disunited Germany and for a continuation of the tension in Europe. It is true that the Prime Minister managed to get one concession from his journeys and from his efforts. Paragraph 27 of the White Paper states:Should the all-German Government decide to adhere to any security pact:(a) there might be special measures relating to the disposition of military forces and installations in the area which lies closest to the frontiers between a reunited Germany and countries which are members of another security pact;".Spelled out in ordinary English this means that if a united Germany decided to join N.A.T.O. or decided to join the Warsaw Pact, there might be—that is as far as we have got; that is what the right hon. Gentleman brought home, not the golden fleece; he almost left his own clothes behind—special measures. That is all that is left of discussions about zones of disengagement, or zones of limitation, or barriers of peaceful areas between the two sides. That is all that is left of it—" there might be special measures." So, in point of fact, at no time have we had from our colleagues among the other Powers any concession to what we assumed to be the British point of view.
Our view here, and we have stated it over and over again, is that it is a profound blunder, and that it is a recipe for failure, to try to reach agreement on so wide a front, on so many issues, before we reach agreement on any one. We believe that it is an essential condition to say that there should be an area of disengagement in Europe, including not only the two Germanies but Czechoslovakia and Poland, and, if possible, Hungary as well. We believe that this is the right form of approach to this problem, and that until we approach it in that way we will never get any agreement. But to say beforehand that a freely elected united Germany must be allowed to join any pact it likes is, in our opinion, just a non-starter, because the Russians will not agree.
When we are told that this is a frightful abrogation of German sovereignty, we reply that it is all a lot of nonsense. Nations nowadays are engaged all the while in limiting their sovereign powers in the interests of peace.
§ Mr. Bevan
Exactly, what else Is N.A.T.O. for? What else are other treaties for, in which we are becoming increasingly involved, except for limitations of our sovereignty? We say, therefore, that there is no argument for saying that we should not put forward this proposition because it would be an infringement of the sovereign rights of a united Germany. We say that if the disarmament and inspection and guaranteeing of an area in Central Europe is necessary to reduce tension there, the sooner we get started talking about it the better.
That is all I want to say about that. I am very sorry that I have to speak at this length, but there are a number of things I want to say. We have not had a foreign affairs debate in the House for some time, and there is a great deal of anxiety among some of my right hon. and hon. Friends about the situation which is developing.
We consider that the problem of general disarmament should be disentangled from a unilateral approach. It is altogether too much to put upon the Conference of Foreign Ministers, and probably too much to put upon the meeting of the Summit Conference itself, to ask that there should be any progress at those meetings about general disarmament, although, of course, it is our view that when the Summit Conference is held it should initiate disarmament discussions. Whether, however, those disarmament discussions should be initiated through the United Nations, or some other venue, is a practical question to be discussed and negotiated. But we think they should be started, because the situation in the world is becoming very much worse, and a new point of departure, a new initiative, is necessary unless we are to drift to disaster.
The Government have a bad story in this connection, a very bad story indeed. The record will probably have a very malign influence upon the development of disarmament discussions, because it was this Government which destroyed the most hopeful approach to disarmament that had occurred for many years. It has been quoted in this House before, but I might as well quote it again so 1391 that it may be put on the record properly.
The delegate of Her Majesty's Government to the Disarmament Sub-Committee in 1955 wrote to the Observer last year about the Anglo-French disarmament plan as follows:Despite…the shortcomings of the Soviet control proposals, this new plan marked a considerable advance and should have been taken up immediately and put to the test. Instead the Western Powers made two psychological errors. They suspended negotiations in the sub-committee, and, when talks were resumed later, they appeared to have retreated from their previous positions.That is not the Opposition. It is a declaration made by an hon. Member who was charged by the Government with being responsible for the British side of the negotiations in the Disarmament Sub-Committee.
The hon. Member went on:So, by the end of 1955, although still proclaiming fidelity to all aspects of the Anglo-French plan, including nuclear disarmament, the British Government was in fact visibly applying the brake on any nuclear disarmament measures likely to inhibit the new British defence policy.What was the British defence policy? That is a very serious statement to make, coming from an hon. Member who is an irreproachable witness on this subject.
The Prime Minister before that day explained the reasons why he sabotaged the plans. On 16th May, 1957, he said:I am bound to say that in discussing the matter of nuclear disarmament or the control of tests in the Disarmament Committee we shall now be in a very much better bargaining position.On 4th June the right hon. Gentleman said:… nor do I intend to put this country in a position of inferiority at the very moment when it is about to complete tests which give it a very good position."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th June, 1957; Vol. 571, c. 1083.]In other words, what the right hon. Gentleman admitted to the House of Commons was that in order to give Great Britain the opportunity of having the hydrogen bomb and testing it he was prepared to sabotage and destroy the Disarmament Committee.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. Gentleman has been waving the bomb about for 1392 the last six months and has lost his balance with it. He has been able to achieve no influence at all by his position. Indeed, we have made it clear on this side of the House, and we make it clear now—I have said so over and over again, and I want to emphasise it so that there shall be no misunderstanding—that it would be a very bad thing to try to misrepresent in the eyes of the world the British Labour Party's position in this matter. [Interruption.] I know that hon. Members opposite do not like this. In a moment I shall go on to some other things that they will not like.
Our position is simply this—and I say this to some of my hon. Friends. We do not believe that it is any contribution to the peace of the world to bring about a sudden rupture and dismantling in the Western alliances. We believe that if any action were taken by a British Government the effect of which would be to destroy the Western alliances it would not be a contribution to peace. It might, indeed, precipitate the world into war. It is a very great mistake for people to imagine that by suddenly getting rid of our friends and allies we make any contribution to peace. On the contrary, we should invite adventures of all sorts that might land us in the very place we want to avoid.
That is our position today, and it has been our position before. Therefore, in approaching this subject of the hydrogen bomb, what we have said is that any repudiation of the hydrogen bomb that involved the repudiation of the alliances would be opposed by this side of the House. That is our position, and it has always been clear.
We go on to say that if ever the time arrives when the greater authority of U.N.O. could supersede the authority of N.A.T.O. we should be more pleased than anyone else. We would, therefore, suggest that even now we should try to open up disarmament negotiations, because we believe that the world situation has deteriorated so rapidly that something ought to be done to arrest the deterioration.
What is that? The right hon. Gentleman was optimistic about the cessation of tests and agreement between the three hydrogen Powers. Where will that take us? Suppose agreement is reached. Suppose an inspection and control system 1393 is established by the three Powers on their own territory. That itself is not as far as the original scientific proposition took us, because that would provide control posts all over the world, including China.
What guarantee, however, is there that if Great Britain, America and Russia agreed about the suspension of tests and upon control posts and inspection other nations would follow suit? Is not exactly the same argument coming from General de Gaulle as came from the Prime Minister, which I quoted a few moments ago? Are not the French saying exactly what the Prime Minister told the House, that the reason for undermining the disarmament conference was that we wanted to speak with greater authority and we would not be put in an inferior position? Is that argument not equally applicable to any other nation in the world, and especially those nations which think they have the power to make the bomb? Why should they accept from Great Britain more than Great Britain will give? Why should they, in the language of Lord Hailsham, accept the status of Tibet, assuming, of course, that we are all in the status of Tibet, having been satellites of the great Powers for some years?
Why on earth should France accept an inferior position to that of the other Powers, and especially that of Great Britain? Why should Switzerland, Canada, Chine—any country on the list of those nations which may soon be able to have these tests? Is it not—this is a question to which we have been addressing ourselves for some time past—a dreadful outlook that unless something is done to stop it, nation after nation will have its own tests, adding to the radioactivity in the world, adding to the murder of children, the distortion of children and the deformities at childbirth, adding at the same time to the difficulties of ever reaching agreement and adding to the possibility that some irresponsible nation may launch the whole of mankind into destruction? Is that not something that we ought to make some exertion to stop?
What is the policy of the Government? What have they to say? What leadership is the Prime Minister giving to the world in this connection? It is only the leadership that has already led him to say that Great Britain is going to be on the same basis as the United 1394 States and Russia—the same argument that others can use. Has the right hon. Gentleman any answer? We have not heard it from him yet. So we on this side of the House say that the time has come for Great Britain to give a lead, and we believe that the lead would be followed.
I know—I say this because I want to run away from no argument—that on this side of the House there has been very considerable controversy as to the lead that we should give. However, Lord Hailsham points out to the monolithic mass on the other side of the House that as there is no disagreement among hon. Members opposite there is no disunity. Here we are faced with an unprecedented situation, a state of affairs for which mankind has no parallel, where history has no lessons, and where the wise men of the past have no guidance.
Here we are struggling to find a solution to this situation; and on the other side of the House there is no evidence of any fecundity at all—a sterile mass of obedient morons, who boast, of course, that amongst themselves they are all of one voice. They are all saying exactly the same things in connection with this novel problem as every medicine man has said for a thousand years, "Let the tribe make itself stronger. Let the tribe look after the tribe. Let us be like other tribes in the place. Do not let us be inferior to them. If they have a weapon let us have a bigger one. It does not matter what happens to the rest of mankind in the meantime." That is a tragic state of affairs.
Hon. Members opposite are making a mistake if they think that the people of the country are going to be misled by propaganda. The people of the country are deeply worried and anxious. In all parts of society there is a lot of heart burning and questioning about this. The people want to do something about it and those who feel themselves most frustrated fall back on what is a well-established precedent in Christian communities. They fall back on example rather than precept. They say, "Let us start it and do it ourselves". In other words, a large number of ordinary men and women in this country want to contract out of this awful reality. We on this side do not feel that is a state of mind 1395 to which we can subscribe, although it is held with very great sincerity.
Although there is a great deal of attractiveness in turning one's back on reality when it is grim, one does not dispose of it by doing that. One still has to face it and we have been trying to do so. We have been trying to do so honestly. In the meantime, the argument between us is being heard and I am convinced that it is being heard with increasing sympathy by a large number of people in Great Britain and the world.
What is it that we propose? We propose to the rest of the world that those who have not yet tested nuclear bombs should desist from doing so. They should not add to the number of nations possessing the bomb. We should call a halt. I thought I heard the word "nonsense." We heard it from Lord Hailsham, but that is not the position of the Western Powers.
The Western Powers do not describe it as complete nonsense, because paragraph 17 of the White Paper says:Since in 1954 the Federal Republic of Germany renounced the production of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons the Four Powers would make such arrangements as might be appropriate to secure similar measures or renunciation in the remainder of Germany and in other European countries to the East.A non-nuclear club to the East. This is not our proposal. The three Western Powers considered it desirable that in addition to Germany other selected Powers should also renounce nuclear weapons and bacteriological and chemical weapons, but not in the West—to the East. Our proposal is that all nations that have not yet made these weapons and had these tests should renounce them and agree to a system of inspection amongst themselves. If a significant number do so, Great Britain should accept the renunciation herself.
§ Mr. Bevan
When I speak of a significant number, or that all nations should be included, I do not mean Monaco and Nicaragua. I use the word "significant", because we believe in this connection that it would be possible for us to take some certain steps in the matter. We recognise that nations must be nations in the sense that they are capable of making 1396 hydrogen bombs and capable of holding tests. That is the whole point of it. Hon. Members opposite must fact this, that if they decry proposals of this sort the nation expects them to advance some of their own. The nation will not forgive them if they merely stand on one side and allow this hideous race to go on.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
How many States does the right hon. Gentleman think would be capable of joining in?
§ Mr. Bevan
If the hon. Member reads the documents that have been issued, he will see that according to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences twelve countries now have the bomb and the technical ability to make nuclear weapons, and that a further eight nations could achieve a nuclear weapons programme within the next five years. That is twenty nations in all. We all know that this hideous pace is continually accelerated. It is becoming easier and easier and cheaper and cheaper. It is the fact that all those nations who felt themselves not to be in a position to make the bomb would naturally join up immediately. They would want to enter an undertaking of this sort.
Furthermore, let us consider the position of France, because I want to face each of these issues if I can. France has said that she is going to have her explosion some time this summer. She will then be faced with this difficulty. Assuming the test is successful, France will then have to decide whether she is to go on from there not only to make the bomb but the means of delivering it, which everybody knows is frightfully expensive. Is France going to face the prospect of becoming a full member of a nuclear club at an expense to herself that will be as destructive as the bomb itself, in addition to all the other preoccupations that she has? In those circumstances, would not the French Government be only too ready to accept renunciation if it did not put them in an inferior position?
The same thing is true to some extent of China. China is going through an industrial and technical revolution, and undergoing great strain. It cannot be a source of satisfaction to the Chinese Communists that resources might be diverted from the tasks of reconstruction to have these tests and make the bomb and the means of carrying it.
1397 Not only are these weapons becoming a menace in their destructiveness, both in peace and war, but they are becoming intolerable financial burdens. There is, therefore, a greater degree of receptivity in the world to the idea of joining up and not having these tests and making the bomb than hon. Members opposite seem to think.
Already there are repercussions to the proposal which are more favourable than we expected, so we commend this proposal not only to hon. Members here, not only to this nation, but to all the world.
§ Mr. Bevan
Yes, to all the world.
It is argued that if this proposal is adopted it leaves us relying on the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. They will be the nations solely in possession of the deterrent. There is nothing new in that. Until we made the atom bomb in 1952, that was our position. There is nothing new in the other nations being in possession of a deterrent. That had been the position for a long time and nobody found it dreadful then. All we would do would be to resume the situation which existed for some years.
We believe that if we could achieve the object that we have in mind we would surround the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. with a climate of international opinion which would make it far easier for them to reach agreement about the destruction of their own stocks of weapons. If that is not the objective, then, of course, it is no use having a disarmament conference at all. The whole purpose of a disarmament conference is not only to have disarmament among the non-nuclear countries but among the nuclear countries as well. We believe that this would be a very important step to that end.
I apologise to the House for having talked so long, but there was a good deal of ground to cover. I am quite certain that I have not covered it satisfactorily, but I am also certain that we shall come back to the subject over and over again in the months immediately ahead as the education campaign deepens.
May I say here to some of my hon. Friends that in this very perplexing and tragic situation it would be very attractive indeed if we could find some easy solution. But this is no time for absolute prescriptions or simple certainties. We 1398 have got to do a very great deal of hard thinking and engage in a great deal of determined action. I believe that this generation, and certainly future generations, will not forgive us if we do not face with courage and resolution the most dangerous situation that mankind has ever had to face.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Commander Anthony Courtney (Harrow, East)
On addressing the House for the first time I am deeply conscious of the high standard of the contributions ordinarily made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. I therefore propose to confine my remarks, and to make them as non-controversial as I can, to a subject of which I have personal knowledge, namely, the present state of Anglo-Russian relations. I believe that this question of our national relations with the Russians will, perhaps, be one of the main factors in the long-term solution of many of the grave problems touched on this afternoon.
As I say, I hope that my remarks will be non-controversial and I base that hope on an experience which I had some years ago in Moscow where I happened, by coincidence, to be in company with the late Professor Laski, Mr. Morgan Phillips and the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon). I well remember that we reached complete unanimity in our views on certain aspects of the Russian situation and more particularly on the amenities of the National Hotel.
It would be foolish, I think, for any of us to say that the present state of Anglo-Russian relations is much better than lamentable. I am sure that we all feel that it is. Perhaps one can say that in the 400 years since we first made official contact with this great nation these relations have never been more susceptible to improvement. I should like today to sub-divide these relations under three headings—diplomatic, cultural and commercial.
On the diplomatic side very little progress is, regrettably, observable in either the increase of confidence or even in a more general observance of the normal conventions of diplomatic privilege and usage. In Moscow, every embassy and every block of flats occupied by foreigners is still watched by 1399 uniformed members of the militia, the successors of the blue-capped N.K.V.D. security troops which used to look after us in the British Mission so assiduously during the war. We used, actually, to call them the Y.M.C.A.
In the cultural field, negotiations have been taking place and the situation, I suggest, is slightly better. I welcome the initiative recently taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Sir F. Maclean) and by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) in forming the Great Britain-U.S.S.R. Association which, I believe, has a great future before it. I am sure that we needed some such organisation to put right some of the rather haphazard arrangements which have taken place with regard to cultural and other exchanges. Nevertheless, despite this small progress in cultural relations, it is still a fact that the transcript of this debate will be jammed by Soviet transmitters when it goes out on the B.B.C. Russian Service tonight.
On the commercial side, the initiative taken by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in going to the Soviet Union earlier this year has been followed logically by the negotiations leading to a modest trade agreement concluded by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. That is deeply to be welcomed in itself. The question of trade with Russia is an important matter, and if I may quote from my own experience of a few weeks ago in Moscow, I can assure my right hon. Friends that the atmosphere at a working level is distinctly better as a result of their efforts.
I believe that it is in this field of commercial relations that we have the best hope of progress in Anglo-Russian relations generally. In this connection, the recent agreement to export a certain quantity of consumer goods in addition to capital goods in exchange for traditional Russian exports to this country is greatly to be welcomed. I believe that trade will develop accordingly.
There remains the great difficulty of the difference of our two trading systems. On the one hand, there is a centralised, monolithic, State-controlled economy system opposed to one which is based in the main on private enterprise. I think that our ancestors in Elizabethan times 1400 experienced a similar relationship, perhaps, as the twelve gentlemen of the City of London found when dealing with the autocratic system of the Tsar, Ivan the Terrible. They solved their problem rather neatly, I believe, by creating a chartered company which had a monopoly of trade with Russia. Such standards are, perhaps, not applicable to our own day, but I wonder what Her Majesty's Government of four centuries back would have thought of the presence of some eighty Russian trade representatives in our own country unmatched by one single British business man of non-diplomatic status in the Soviet Union.
I am sure that there is much to be done in this respect. The Russians too, of course, have their difficulties. If I may, I will quote again from experience during the war. I could, perhaps, illustrate one side of those difficulties and also show the degree to which confidence can sometimes be attained between Englishmen and Russians, at least in the special conditions of military alliance. One day in Moscow in 1942 Admiral Miles, the head of our Naval Mission, accompanied by myself, paid a routine call on Admiral Kuznetsov, the People's Commissar of the Soviet Navy. We had, I remember, to discuss among other things the eternal question of entry visas for British personnel into Russia. As we entered his room we found that he had with him his deputy, Admiral Alafuzov, a great friend of ours of whom we were very fond. He spoke a little English. We exchanged greetings and he said, "Good morning, Admiral, I have to congratulate you on a victory over our common enemy." To which Admiral Miles said," Thank you very much, I have not heard this morning's communiqué. What town has the brave Red Army captured now?" "No," said Admiral Alafuzov, "Admiral, you misunderstand me. I said, 'I congratulate you on a victory over our common enemy'—the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs."
I believe that it is possible for Anglo-Russian relations to be developed on a basis of mutual interest, and I am sure that a great and imaginative effort is required on our part to match those of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his visit to Moscow earlier this year. At the same time we must try to get 1401 our Russian friends to realise that in forty years of mistrust and suspicion they have erected a series of barriers. I believe it should be our first task to persuade them that it is in their own interest to break down one by one, those barriers which they themselves have erected if we are once again to get back to the traditional basis of Anglo-Russian friendship and co-operation.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
It is my privilege to extend my congratulations to the hon. and gallant Member for Harrow, East (Commander Courtney) on the occasion of his maiden speech, a very interesting speech, as I think hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree. I am quite sure that we all shall look forward to his next speech in this Chamber.
The Foreign Minister seemed to apologise for his White Paper and the lack of information to be found in it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that another White Paper would be due shortly which would contain much more information. I looked very carefully at the White Paper which has been published. It contains, at any rate, sufficient information to show very clearly—only too clearly—the wide differences between the Soviet Union and the Western Governments on the vital question of reunification. The Soviet proposal, based on a proposed treaty with the two parts of Germany, the East German Government and the West German Government, before reunification takes place, seems to me to be a case of putting the cart before the horse. Obviously, it is not likely to be acceptable to the Federal Republic. Indeed, most of the sacrifices are to be made by West Germany without any guarantee that the peace treaty would be followed by reunification through free elections.
Nor are the prospects of reunification encouraging at the present time. According to The Times this morning, Mr. Harriman, the former Governor of New York, writing in the magazine Life about a recent interview with Mr. Khrushchev, states that he was told by Mr. Khrushchev that he would agree to no reunification of Germany which did not provide for a Communist system. If that statement be correct, it suggests that the only reunified Germany which would be 1402 acceptable to the Soviet Union would be a Communist Germany. It is to be hoped that the Soviet Government will modify their view—if it is their view—on this aspect of reunification, otherwise it seems to me that it will place an insurmountable obstacle in the path of a reunited Germany.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) in a very powerful speech, drew attention to the fact that there was one proposal common to both sides, that there should be what the Western Governments call a Mixed Committee and what the Soviet Union calls an all-German committee. The only real difference is one of procedure, but the aim seems to be the same. Both these proposals are sensible and realistic. I think most people would agree that the sooner the leaders of the two sections of Germany are brought into contact, if only to discuss the possibility of coming together, and even though they may fail to agree, it would be all to the good.
There is one difference to which my right hon. Friend drew attention, it is the question of representation. The Western Goverments have proposed that there should be twenty-five representatives of West Germany and ten representatives of the East German Republic. But surely, any proposals which emerge from such a joint committee must be joint proposals, that is, proposals agreed to by both groups on the committee. If there be no agreement, they will put forward separate proposals. Indeed, this is suggested in paragraph 11 (b) of the Western Plan, as was pointed out by my right hon. Friend. The fact that the Western Plan provides that the mixed committee must take its decisions on a three-quarter majority means that all twenty-five members from the Federal Republic, plus at least one member from the Communist Republic, would have to vote together. Does anyone seriously think that any one or two members of the German Communist Republic would vote against the majority of their group, or vice versa?
It may be that Dr. Adenauer is insisting on a ratio of 25 and 10 on the grounds of prestige. I hope this is not so, because it seems to me that questions of prestige should not be an obstacle to the establishment of the mixed committee 1403 I hope, in common with my right hon. Friend, that the Soviet proposal for parity will be accepted. Having said that, I would add that it is my view that the Soviet Government would be well advised in turn to accept the terms of reference which are set out in paragraph 9 of the Western Plan. I should like to quote them because I think they are worth putting on the record. The Western Plan provides that:
In my view the all-German or mixed committee, whichever we want to call it, should be established as soon as possible. It may fail to produce any agreed results, but none the less, it represents a step in the right direction.
- The Mixed Committee would be entrusted with the task of formulating proposals:
- (a) to co-ordinate and expand technical contact between the two parts of Germany;
- (b) to ensure the free movement of persons, ideas and publications between the two parts of Germany;
- (c) to ensure and guarantee human rights in both parts of Germany;
- (d) for a draft law providing for general, free and secret elections under independent supervision."
I wish to say a word about the position of West Berlin. I think there are much brighter prospects of securing agreement. This afternoon the Foreign Secretary seemed optimistic. My right hon. Friend, who analysed the proposals which have been put forward by the Soviet Union, indicated quite clearly that there was little dividing the two sides concerning the arrangements about West Berlin. There is no reason why the 11,000 troops at present in Berlin, representing the three Allied Governments and which my right hon. Friend called a token force, should not suffer a token reduction. On the question of free access into Berlin, I cannot believe that the Soviet Government would wish to frustrate the achieving of agreement on a different status for Berlin over the question of free access. Therefore, I believe that we may well expect that when the Foreign Ministers' Conference meets again next week there will be little difficulty in achieving an agreement on the future status of Berlin.
I think it is most unfortunate that the Conference broke up in the way that it did. It is a great misfortune that the statement published on the last page of 1404 the White Paper from Mr. Gromyko was not made in the Conference before it finally went into recess, because it seems to me to be complete justification for expecting the Foreign Ministers to have arrived even then, at those last meetings in Geneva, at agreement on an interim status for Berlin.
The other matter on which I should like to say a few words is the question of disarmament. The Foreign Secretary again, I thought, was reasonably optimistic with regard to the possibility of obtaining agreement at the Geneva Conference on nuclear tests. I think that it would be a tragedy if the Conference were to fail owing to becoming bogged down in technical squabbles. The Berkner Report, to which the Foreign Secretary referred, may be completely sound in its conclusions, but I hope that it will not be allowed to torpedo a successful Conference. Scientists are experimenting all the time, and it may well be that in a few weeks further reports will be produced which will again throw doubt on the efficacy of the proposed control and inspection arrangements.
I think that we may have to take some risk. I think that it is unreasonable on the part of the Soviet representatives to refuse the consideration of the implications contained in the Berkner Report. Their innate suspicion of the West seems to be the sort of thing that is bedevilling all our international negotiations, and has done so for some years past. I hope that the West will also be prepared to take risks. What I should like to see is what I ventured to suggest to the Prime Minister a few days ago. It is this. I believe that if the three Governments represented at Geneva would make a solemn declaration that their Governments do not intend to resume nuclear tests in any circumstances whatsoever all these technical problems and details would take on an entirely different look, and that there would be very little difficulty. In other words, I believe that such a declaration would greatly facilitate the achievement of a successful outcome at the Geneva Conference.
We hear a lot these days about non-nuclear clubs. I should like to see a non-nuclear tests club started as a result of this declaration, with the United States 1405 Government, the Soviet Government and the British Government as founder members of it. The great value to my mind of success at the Geneva nuclear test conference would be that it would be the first step towards ending the deadlock that has existed now for some time in relation to the problem of disarmament.
I agree very much with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale that the Government must take more initiative. It is only right to say that there are proposals in the White Paper relating to disarmament, suggesting that the conventional forces manpower should be reduced to 2,100,000 and then to 1,700,000. The proposal that there should be an agreement in Central Europe to renounce the production of nuclear weapons is also a step forward if we can obtain agreement on these proposals.
I should like to suggest for the consideration of our own Government that when they are putting forward a proposal for the renunciation of the production of nuclear weapons in Central Europe the three nuclear Governments should themselves agree not to supply any nuclear weapons to any of the countries in Central Europe. Even reductions in manpower would not take us very far along the road to disarmament, because today the threat to the world is not even on the basis of manpower.
I read in The Times newspaper the other day that the Foreign Secretary proposed to go to the next meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations and propose the appointment of a commission or a committee to deal with disarmament. I suppose that the object is to break the present deadlock and to bring about a resumption of disarmament discussions. I hope that if he makes that proposal, he will also propose something different from the Disarmament Sub-Committee, which has sat with so little success over the past years.
1 should like to see on that body fair representation not only for the Western Governments and the Soviet bloc but also for the uncommitted countries of the world. I believe that it is very important to avoid any situation arising in which the Soviet Government are in a minority. There is no doubt that the Soviet Government resented the fact that 1406 they were in a minority on the Disarmament Sub-Committee. Even the appointment of a sub-committee or a commission is in itself not sufficient. We need today to have concrete proposals put forward, and I hope that they will be put forward by the British Government. When I talk about concrete proposals, I mean proposals which have for their objective a drastic and substantial reduction of armaments, both nuclear and conventional, and the abolition of all weapons of mass destruction.
I should like the Government to go back, as my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, to where we were in March, 1955, when the Anglo-French plan was put forward on behalf of the French and British Governments which contained proposals of a most drastic nature for comprehensive disarmament, covering both conventional and nuclear armaments. Her Majesty's Government must take their full share of responsibility for the failures that have characterised the disarmament negotiations. There has been too much manoeuvring on the part of Governments and too much involvement in power politics, and we had an example brought to our attention this afternoon. Therefore, I would ask the Foreign Secretary, if it is true that he himself is going to the General Assembly and is going to make these proposals in respect of disarmament, to bear in mind the proposals which I have ventured to put forward this afternoon, because, as my right hon. Friend said, there is not too much time left. We are faced with this prospect of appalling catastrophe if ever the hounds of war are unleashed in the situation in which the world finds itself today.
Public opinion is disturbed, frustrated and apprehensive. It seems helpless to do anything. With Governments forging ahead and scientists employing all their ingenuity to develop more and more deadlier weapons of war, surely the time has come, without being starry-eyed or unrealistic, to tackle this as a practical proposition in the interests of humanity as a whole and to see if we can take the road which will bring us to world disarmament and a situation in which the world can expect to live in peace without the fear of catastrophe hanging over its head, as it does today.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
There was a time when Foreign Secretaries going to international conferences had some power and influence. That is not so today. This may or may not be regrettable, but that it is a fact is not open to doubt, for whenever any critical question comes before a Foreign Ministers' Conference the subject under discussion appears automatically to be referred to the heads of Governments.
This being so, it would be profoundly regrettable if the initiative which the British Government have taken in the past, to strive to get from the foothills to the summit, were to peter out in the summer months of 1959. Therefore, although it is perhaps automatic and inevitable that the skirmishes among the foothills should continue to take place, I hope that the Prime Minister will go on pressing for a Summit Conference, where some of the larger matters being debated at Geneva and elsewhere can be advanced, if not settled.
Having said that, during the rest of my speech I wish to refer merely to a segment of the foreign field which I believe to be profoundly important and the developments in which I believe to be incredibly regrettable. One of the bases of British foreign policy should be friendship with the French—as far as we can see in the future, at any rate. The fact that we have probably got at odds with them both north and south of the Mediterranean greatly disturbs me, because our interests both in Europe and Africa coincide almost exactly with those of France, as do our interests in the Middle East and the Far East.
The present attitude of criticism of France appears to have begun in the early months of the advent of de Gaulle into office. It is a regrettable trend of political and not public opinion. I want to say a few words which, I hope, will help to alter this trend of criticism. Since the advent of de Gaulle the atmosphere appears to have changed, and I believe it has done so for two reasons. The first is the feeling that de Gaulle is a potential dictator—which I believe to be totally wrong—and the second arises from a latent criticism of the French rôle in Africa, and her belief that she can conduct a policy which will bring good to her possessions in Africa.
1408 Although the timing and emphasis of France's policy may be different from those of Britain and the Commonwealth, we have a duty to respect France's ambitions and to agree that she may have an answer which might not be applicable to our territories, with their history, but which works out with her territories, background and history. I do not believe that it is possible to be the ally of a nation north of a sea and its critic and opponent south of the same sea. If we decide to ally ourselves with the French in Europe we must automatically accept the obligations of an alliance with them in the country south of the Mediterranean. Therefore, one of the basic aims of British foreign policy should be to co-ordinate and co-operate with the French both in Europe and Africa.
I want to make a subsidiary point. There has been constant carping criticism of the French intention not only to test the H-bomb, but to continue to manufacture it. I would have thought that all the arguments that we have used, and which have been generally accepted, for our having the bomb and continuing to possess it, apply equally well to France, and that this should not be a matter of profound regret to us. If one thing is sure, it is that President de Gaulle is today trying to do for France what leadership should be trying to do for Britain, namely, not to pay automatic tribute to three or four letters of the alphabet—U.N.O. or N.A.T.O.—but to accept that the basis of international relationships is the sovereignty of individual States. In the long run, only by reconciling individual sovereignties can we achieve possible stability and friendship between nations.
That is why I have such a profound belief in the way of life of the Commonwealth of Nations. It has always seemed to me that the Commonwealth manages to reconcile apparently conflicting interests—national sovereignty or the nationalism of an individual State on one side and the need for co-operation and partnership on the other. This is the kind of thing that Britain should try to promote in her foreign policy. It is through the promotion of national sovereignty and the reconciliation of national interests that we can do something to promote the peace of the world.
It is on that limited point that I intervene to criticise those who have them- 1409 selves been criticising the French for the rôle they seek to play in the world. I hope that we may be able to find a more amicable arrangement of our affairs with the French, and not only cease our carping criticism of them but support them both in Europe and in Africa, for in doing so we shall be supporting our own cause in Europe and Africa.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
From what I have recently heard I can begin my first address to the House by saying that my predecessor was respected on both sides of the House and that this respect was widely shared in the constituency which he represented for so many years.
In his interesting contribution, the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) began with a reference to France which I echo, but he went on to put forward a number of reasons from which, on another occasion, I would very seriously dissent. However. I support his general plea that we must always be mindful that our friendship and relations with France are of a special and specially important nature. Governments come and Governments go, as do policies, but the underlying basis of our friendship will, I hope, remain for all time.
This debate is specially concerned with the Geneva Conference, but because of the terms under which it is taking place, we have a welcome opportunity to branch out into a discussion of somewhat wider problems. In the recent by-election in which I was involved I was struck by the interesting fact that, in spite of what Gallup polls may report, many people asked me specific questions on foreign policy, and in particular, about the link between defence policy and foreign policy.
Not only at public meeting but, equally significant, in private, I had a good deal of contact with a number of ex-Service men of my own generation. I suppose that it was natural that those who belonged to that generation, and who had gone through the war together, would make particular contact with each other. I was deeply impressed by the fact that a great many of these people, of my own age group, were deeply disturbed by the thought that nuclear 1410 weapons will be supplied to Germany. I advisedly use the term "Germany", because most of those people did not make any distinction between West Germany and East Germany.
It is, I think, true that a large number of people, not because they are particularly Chauvinistic or nationalistic, but because they have a sense of history, are deeply disturbed by the preparations that are obviously being made to supply such weapons in the first place, I understand, to West Germany. That is bound to be followed by an equal supply to East Germany.
The present international situation seems to be particularly dangerous, because the crisis is below surface and somewhat suppressed. There is an assumption that because of the passing of time and the denial of time limits, and generally the feeling that another conference might follow yet another conference, the situation is not as dangerous as it appears. I dissent from that view. I believe that there are a number of developments now taking place which, unless they are dealt with, and in spite of a continuous series of conferences, may yet lead to disaster.
The policy that we are pursuing and have been pursuing over a number of years has been based upon the formula of creating so much strength on our side that we might be in a position to talk to the other side in terms that would undo some of the results of the last war. I am certain that that was the underlying purpose of that policy. It must be clear to everybody that it has not succeeded.
I saw the significance of the efforts of the Prime Minister in recent weeks in an early and first realisation—although not early enough, perhaps, for a good many of us—that that policy had to be abandoned and a new one substituted. For what it may be worth, I started my own little campaign by emphasising how delighted we should be on our side in wishing the Prime Minister success and how we hoped that he, would insist upon what appeared to be his policies at the time.
Why should it be that so much influence has been given to other Powers at the Geneva Conference, and where is the link between that influence and N.A.T.O. policy? One of the grave 1411 dangers of the present international situation is the belief of a good many people, some of them in high positions, in a number of countries, that we have reached the point of no return and that war is inevitable. The first consequence of such a conviction is very serious indeed. It turns every problem of international policy into a problem of strategy. It makes the generals more important than the political leaders. It leads to an attitude of mind in which political leaders are all too easily prepared to blur the frontier between policy making and strategic decisions.
Let me quote a recent example to illustrate my point. The Vice-President of the United States of America, Mr. Nixon, was in this country not long ago. I was glad to see that he engaged in serious discussion both with the leaders of the Government, as was his primary purpose, and with the leaders of the Opposition. When he returned to the United States, he gave an interview to two American newspapers. I do not believe that that interview was properly republished in sufficient detail in this country at the time.
When questioned on his discussion with the leaders of the Opposition on the policy of disengagement, Mr. Nixon said that he had had a discussion on disengagement, but felt, after having received the advice of the military commanders of N.A.T.O., who were in London at the time, that it was a policy that he could not support. There was no consideration whatever of the serious political implications of the policy put forward by the Opposition. Nor was Mr. Nixon further questioned—and this is why I quote the illustration—as to whether there were any other aspects to be considered. It appeared from that reply that the decision and view of the N.A.T.O. commanders was enough to make him abandon any further serious consideration of that policy. I do not believe that Mr. Nixon is the only international statesman who sometimes adopts this attitude.
If my analysis of these matters is correct, is it not important at this stage that in what I consider to be the helpful atmosphere of this debate, everything we say, although sometimes critical as well as sometimes approving, should in some 1412 way be helpful to the efforts of the Foreign Secretary? Is it not true that the time has come for what I would call parallel negotiations?
There are a number of people in international politics who do not wish that there should be too much success and who are against a summit meeting. The Chancellor of West Germany is one of them and there are others. I believe that in his heart of hearts, Herr Ulbricht, the leader of East Germany, is equally unconcerned about agreement between the two sides, because he also is a profiteer of the disagreement between East and West. There are a number of people, of whom the Chancellor of West Germany is one, who have stated frankly that they do not believe in serious negotiations at the present time. They do not wish any serious negotiations to take place. Therefore, they are against a Summit Conference, because it is generally agreed that there can be serious negotiations only at that level.
Why are those people against negotiations? They argue that any result of such negotiations could only help the Russians. To me, that is a profoundly mistaken view, but it makes sense from the viewpoint of people like Dr. Adenauer. It makes sense in the direction that whilst we in this country, and a great many people in America and elsewhere, have realised that there is no time to be wasted, the Chancellor of West Germany and some of his military advisers are determined that a number of years should be wasted and that he can then start negotiating a peace treaty with the East, when he is in possession of a huge West German army supplied with nuclear bombs. That strategy is profoundly dangerous to this country. It is on that basis that we should urge Her Majesty's Government to think in terms of parallel negotiations.
Whilst it may not be possible at the Conference at Geneva to talk about the wider problems straight away, and while there may be some hope of limited success, surely it should be possible to indicate through diplomatic channels that we are prepared to reconsider the future status of a reunited Germany and to begin the process of serious negotiations upon what ought to happen after the day of reunification, that we are prepared to accept a status of limitation in 1413 the interests of international peace and that we will abandon the shop-worn formula of West Germany joining whomever it likes, because we know that it will join N.A.T.O. and nothing else.
I believe that the dictatorial Communist régime in East Germany, which, in my opinion, no matter what travellers' tales we might hear, enjoys little support among the people of East Germany, would also be put in a difficult position, because once there is agreement between Britain and the Soviet Union, once there is agreement between East and West on the future terms of the military status of Germany after reunification, the problem of free elections will fall into place. It is my profound belief that it is strategic fear on both sides that keeps us in a position of dangerous immobility.
For what it may be worth, I should like to repeat my suggestion of parallel negotiations and to hear the views of the Prime Minister as to whether hope can be entertained of getting out of this dangerous deadlock, which may end, as I said before, in disaster to our people.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Sir James Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
Even if the courtesies of the House did not suggest that I should congratulate the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), who has just got over the very difficult obstacle of making his maiden speech here, I should want to do so. He delivered a speech that was interesting and assured, and if any new Member can do that in his maiden speech the road to the summit must be open to him.
I would take the opportunity, also, of congratulating my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Commander Courtney), who also made a maiden speech. It was a speech which was packed with that intimate knowledge which the House of Commons so much appreciates, but very often does not get in the speeches from its Members. I hope, too, that he will address the House on many future occasions.
I do not propose to keep the House for more than a few minutes, because I want only to put one question and make one comment on the speech which was made by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Aneurin Bevan). I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman has now rejoined us. He made a speech 1414 all of which I enjoyed and with some of which I could agree, but there was a great deal that I could not follow or agree with at all. One question I would put to him is: how comes it that a very short time ago, in another place, a proposal to form a non-nuclear club was put forward, debated and turned down by the two leaders of his party in that place? What has happened since then to make him and his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) such ardent advocates of that plan today?
The right hon. Gentleman made some jocular references to "noises off". When he was referring to Dr. Adenauer, his hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) ejaculated "Sir William Haley". It is to those noises off that I want to devote a couple of minutes more of my time. The right hon. Gentleman also asked rhetorically: what is the Labour Party's policy? He would very much like to know the answer. The sort of thing that happened in another place so recently puzzles us all the more after we have listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech today.
§ Sir J. Hutchison
No, it was not so. It was a plan to secure a club of leading non-nuclear Powers with the aim of preventing spread of the manufacture of nuclear weapons. It was opposed by the two leaders of the right hon. Gentleman's party in another place.
§ Sir J. Hutchison
The next thing I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman is: who formulates the policy of the party opposite? I have been very surprised and not a little concerned to see the apparent breathless anxiety with which the party opposite and a large 1415 section of the public hang upon the pronouncements that fall from the lips of prominent trade unionists on matters of defence policy.
Are these trade unionists the experts who are to decide the policy of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite? The function of the trade unions, as I understand it, is to look after the wage rates and conditions of work of its members; and in the course of time the trade unions have done not a bad job in that direction. It is not their affair to impose a policy in matters of defence or foreign policy upon any party in this House. If, by some freak of fortune, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were elected to office, whose policy would they advocate? The policy of Mr. Cousins, Sir Tom Williamson, or Mr. Bowman, or a compromise—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Mr. Bowman has nothing to do with the Trades Union Congress. He is Chairman of the National Coal Board.
§ Sir J. Hutchison
He was a very prominent leader in the National Union of Mineworkers.
Are these the modern prototypes of the feudal barons? And which of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite would cast himself in the rôle of Henry Tudor to silence them? Would it be the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale? The situation which has developed in this country, of highly regimented and disciplined bodies of trade unionists exercising pressure on Cabinet Ministers, shadows though they be and may long continue to be, is not democracy. This is not their affair. If democracy is to continue, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite must not only be jealous of the prestige of their party and the rights of this House, but must be masters of their own affairs.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Mark Bonham Carter (Torrington)
I will not intervene in the exchanges that have taken place between the hon. Baronet the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison) and the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) because it would be impertinent of me to do so. I would, however, join the hon. Baronet in congratulating the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) who 1416 made a most impressive and interesting contribution. I, for one, look forward to hearing contributions from him again.
The hon. Baronet made some curious remarks for someone speaking from the Government side of the House when he asked who formulated the policy of the Opposition. That is a question that we have been asking, for example, in connection with Suez, and to which we have never received an answer. Mr. Randolph Churchill gave an answer which I do not say that everybody opposite would necessarily accept, because it was a really unconstitutional procedure if it was done as he said it was.
I listened also when the hon. Baronet referred to a trade union as a "highly disciplined and regimented" body of people. I seem to remember things called unofficial strikes, which the leaders of these highly regimented and disciplined bodies found great difficulty in controlling, and which were often the subject to complaint not only on both sides of this House but elsewhere. I do not propose to enter into that particular controversy.
It will become apparent that I am not quite as optimistic about the prospects of progress at Geneva as were either the Foreign Secretary or the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, although they started from very distant points of the compass. The Foreign Secretary said that the atmosphere had steadily improved since February, while the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said that it had deteriorated, but he was rather optimistic about the prospects in the coming weeks.
§ Mr. Bonham Carter
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's correction. I was merely going to say that it did not seem to me that this view was very widely shared by our allies or to be confirmed by recent statements by Mr. Khrushchev, in particular in an interview which he gave to Mr. Harriman which was recently published, and which I found rather belligerent and not very co-operative.
1417 Moreover, in the Foreign Secretary's survey, he divided up the agenda of their talks at Geneva under three headings. He spoke of one as being progress towards the reunification of Germany as a whole; secondly, the talks which were confined in particular to the Berlin problem; and, thirdly, the conversations which they had or intended to have about the reduction of tension. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself asserted, on the first and second there was no progress, and as to the third they did not, in fact, discuss it at all as far as I could gather from his speech.
In discussing the problem at Geneva and the present situation, we must see them in the light of the general situation which has existed in the world since what is known as the Russian ultimatum on Berlin last year and in the light of the two foreign affairs debates which have taken place here since then, one in December and one in April. It seems to me that there are two things to be noted about these debates.
The first is that on the first occasion there was general agreement on both sides of the House that in any discussions which followed from the Russian ultimatum it would be wrong to discuss Berlin in isolation from the general German problem. Berlin must be seen as part of the whole German problem. Secondly, particularly on this side of the House, it was urged that the West must escape from the position of immobility into which it appeared to have become frozen, and that we must take the initiative on some issues, even if our proposals were rejected, and if only to force the Russians to state unequivocally where they stood on certain issues.
We are still discussing the Berlin situation, and we have not yet escaped the consequences of the policy of immobility which we pursued up to the time of the Berlin ultimatum. Moreover, the attempt to discuss Berlin within the context of the whole German problem is a policy which has failed. As the French Foreign Minister said in a statement on 10th June:It is exactly twelve days tomorrow that we have been discussing, among the four delegations represented at this conference, the problem of Berlin. We entered into this discussion at Mr. Gromyko's instigation, when after more 1418 than two weeks of meetings, both sides had reached the conclusion that, in the present state of affairs, it was really very difficult to envisage the possibility of an agreement between us on the German problem as a whole.This somewhat unsatisfactory state of affairs is one consequence of responding to somebody else's initiative, and this particular diplomatic battle is being fought on ground which was chosen by the Russians.
The fact is that at the time the Russian ultimatum on Berlin caught the West absolutely flat-footed. The year 1958 was a year in which there was a series of crises, each of which the Russians exploited to their benefit, or at any rate to our detriment, and it was high time that the free world re-thought its policy and made some attempt to move forward uphill rather than concentrate the whole of its energies on trying to prevent itself slipping downhill backwards.
I imagine that this was the background to the Prime Minister's Moscow visit and of the Moscow communiqué, which has been referred to in this debate. Certainly that communiqué represented to me a change of policy as sudden and dramatic, and one might say as belated, as that which followed Suez, or that which helped to lead to a solution of the Cyprus problem. But it was a change of policy, and I do not think that anyone can pretend that it was anything else. We need not try to embarrass the Government by giving their new policy a name, or, at any rate, the name that obviously springs to mind. One need only read the relevant passage in the communiqué, which states:In this connection they agreed that further study could usefully be made of the possibilities of increasing security by some method of limitation of forces and weapons, both conventional and nuclear, in an agreed area of Europe, coupled with a proper system of inspection.Of this visit our Western allies were informed, but not consulted. It was announced only a short time after the breakdown of the Free Trade Area negotiations, when hard words had been spoken and when the possibility of a political and economic division of Western Europe became very real.
On his return from Moscow, the Prime Minister went round the capitals of the West trying, apparently, to mend the broken fences, but, judging from the 1419 foreign Press, these visits were not a great success.The veritable giant of the Free World",as the Prime Minister has been described, appeared more gigantic at home than abroad, more gigantic in the columns of the Tory Press than in those of the Press of Europe, where he was depicted, and I understand was recently described at a conference of Conservative women, as a "man of Munich". This was the impression that was put over.
It must be said that very little of this new British policy found its way into the Western plan at Geneva, but it is important if this country is to change its policy as quickly as this that we should bear in mind that neither Chancellor Adenauer nor General de Gaulle are members of the Conservative Party and that they are unused to the Prime Minister's quick-change acts. They are not trained to change their policies every time he changes his. The fact that these two gentlemen are very difficult and that they do not always fall in line with our views, because they expect to be treated as equals, does not mean that we should not continue or start to try to persuade them.
After all, we employ a Foreign Secretary and a gigantic Foreign Office not to do easy things but to do difficult things. If one cannot have very much faith in a Foreign Secretary who cannot persuade his allies, we cannot have very much faith that he will be able to persuade his opponents, and this is something that we must remember.
As I have said, there has been a good deal of optimism in the British Press and elsewhere in this country about the talks that are to start again at Geneva next week. I find it difficult to share, and difficult to discover on what it is based. Reading the White Paper and, in particular, a statement made by Mr. Herter and the statement made by the Foreign Secretary at the end of the Conference, it seems to me that it ended in a fairly complete deadlock. They discussed the German question as a whole for a fortnight, and the Berlin question for twelve days. It is difficult to see what more they can say to each other when they meet again next week.
As I understand the position of our Western allies, they do not propose to 1420 go to a Summit Conference unless there is what the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour once called "a chink of light". Up to date, it seems to me, there are only two chinks of light. The first and the brightest is that of stopping nuclear tests. If a summit meeting could achieve this it would be well worth while, but in this connection one must ask whether General de Gaulle is prepared to accept such an agreement. An objection which is frequently raised and which has already been raised today to the non-nuclear club is that it will not work if General de Gaulle refuses. Precisely the same dilemma faces us in the case of an agreement to stop or suspend the tests, and I should like to know what the Government propose to do in that eventuality. It is a perfectly legitimate question to ask.
The second chink of light is provided by the project which has been described in one of the newspapers as "rolling discussions" over the next eighteen months. This may be an attractive phrase, but it is hardly a substitute for a policy. If one intends to have rolling discussions, one must want them to roll somewhere. Unless this idea is backed by a positive policy, it might provide the Russians with precisely the opportunity which they have been looking for to exploit and, perhaps, to accentuate the very real differences which exist between the Western allies.
It is fairly obvious that foreign policy is primarily a matter of priorities. I am absolutely convinced that the more flexible policy adumbrated by the Prime Minister in the Moscow communiqué represents a step in the right direction. Without some flexibility, without a serious discussion of some form of disengagement—there are many forms—we shall not achieve the first priority for all of us on both sides of the House, namely, the reduction of tension in central Europe.
The great difficulty in the Westerr position—and goodness knows, this, too, is obvious—is that we are an alliance and that we are facing a monolithic dictatorship. The great danger is that there will be discordant voices speaking from the alliance. The lesson of the last few months and the lesson of the Moscow visit is fairly familiar to us all. 1421 It is that this country cannot go it alone in foreign policy any more than it can go it alone in military policy. An initiative launched by this country without the support and understanding of our allies is just as likely to increase tension within the alliance as to decrease tension between the West and Russia.
It seems to me, therefore, that the first priority in the next few months should be to try with all our powers of persuasion, and with all the Foreign Secretary's powers of persuasion if he can muster them up, to bring our allies round to our point of view on a more flexible policy in Europe. It is only to be hoped that the distrust which has been engendered in Western Europe during the last few months will not make what would in any case be a hard task more difficult still.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
I listened to the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Bonham Carter) with very great care, and I noted what he had to say about the chances of success when the Foreign Ministers' Conference resumes next Monday. First of all, I wish to remind the hon. Gentleman of what my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary said at the beginning of the debate. He said then that the safest way to kill the chances of success of the Conference would be to be certain in one's mind that it would not succeed.
There are occasions in the lives of us all and in the life of this Parliament and nation when logical expectation is not borne out by events. Indeed, if all our lives and our suppositions for the future were always to follow a simple, scientific line of logic, life would be a very dull thing. I believe that the right attitude to have in approaching a Conference of this kind, the attitude which I myself would adopt if I were in any capacity attending it, is this. One must have two things in mind: first, a clear and unequivocal perception of the immensity of the issues involved, and, secondly, an equally strong determination that nothing in the world will prevent one using every effort to ensure that the issues and problems are settled. With those ingredients, we should have a much better chance of success at the conference than we should if we relied on an over-use of logic which, more often than not, lets 1422 us down when events ultimately come to pass.
I believe that the whole House—I am proud and pleased to have the opportunity of saying it—ought to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary for their unremitting efforts in recent years, during the last two years particularly, in trying to bring about world peace and disarmament. I pay a tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend for the long hours of patient perseverance and determination which he has recently spent at Geneva and on other occasions. Anyone who uses his imagination as well as his intelligence can perceive the anguish of mind and frustration of spirit which must come not only to my right hon. and learned Friend, but to all those present at the Conference when faced with such slow progress, if any at all.
Nevertheless, I am certain that the effort must continue. I believe absolutely—I think that this faith is shared by most hon. Members—that, during all the time that the potential belligerents talk, nothing else will happen, but danger may come when talk ceases and they retire to their own strongholds. I suggest to my right hon. and learned Friend that he might, perhaps, when he goes to Geneva next Sunday for the resumption of the Conference, care to bear in mind the old saying,'Tis not in mortals to command success, But we'll do more…we'll deserve it.It seems to me that the problem of disarmament stands side by side with the unification of Germany, the problem of Berlin, and, indeed, the whole world situation. I was very happy to hear my right hon. and learned Friend say that, if the nations can obtain an adequate system of control and inspection, that will be a great step towards disarmament. I believe that to be so. Such a step would mean more than the mere details of it. The great Powers are looking for a way forward—call it a chink of light, or what one will—something which will break down the transparent but none the less solid barrier which, somehow, has come to surround disarmament since the war and, indeed, during the years before the war as well. It does not matter very much what causes the breakage. Once the barrier 1423 is broken, disintegration of the differences will speedily follow.
I mind not that there may be long discussions about the standard and quality of instrumentation, or that there may be controversies over scientific details which are matters for the technicians, so long as there is, in the end, a start made. I believe that a start would lead to faster progress towards world disarmament, and I think that many share this view. It is not an over-optimistic view, but it is the only view which can possibly be taken by anyone who thinks it worth while taking part in the disarmament conference at all.
As I have said, the issues before us are immense, and we must face them clearly in thinking about disarmament just as we must in thinking about all world problems today. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) called the hydrogen bomb "the great deterrent". With very great respect, I think that the time has come when its proper name should be given, the true and unmistakable name which will show that we understand exactly what we are talking about. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) made certain references—for all I know, they are perfectly correct—to the speed of the results of using this deterrent. I wish to go on record as saying that the time has come when the people of this nation and the 3,000 million people of the world should realise that the proper name for this instrument of destruction is the great annihilator.
We are continuing the talks on disarmament now and we have, during all the years since the war, shown our great desire that they should succeed. I believe that we enter any conference on disarmament with two great virtues. The first is that we in this nation and this House, through those who represent us in the foreign councils, sincerely and passionately desire that disarmament should come about. I do not deny that virtue to any other nation, but I can only speak for my own country. This is not in any sense a point for bargaining or negotiation but a desire, passionately held, which will contribute to the peace of the world.
We have a second virtue—with great respect to what the right hon. Gentleman 1424 the Member for Ebbw Vale said about our bringing ourselves to parity with other nations. His criticism may or may not be justified, but the fact remains that in July, 1959, we have a great contribution to make to any kind of disarmament conference. I said in this House about five years ago that we did not have to go to any disarmament proceedings cap in hand, as beggars, and that is particularly the case today.
We are in the forefront of atomic and nuclear development and, though I regret that it is so, we are also in the forefront in the manufacture of the bomb. Therefore, if we, because of our passionate desire for peace, are prepared to go to the Conference to offer not only suspension of tests, but the natural sequence—the ending of the manufacture of the bomb—we are offering not just nothing, but something very tangible.
Therefore, I hope that as a result of these talks that are about to be resumed we shall, in due time, see a breaking down of what I believe in many ways to be a barrier not connected with any particular point, but merely with he general fear and distrust that exists among the nations. If, by whatever means there may be, we can begin to break down that barrier, we shall find that it will disintegrate and vanish.
On Monday of next week the Foreign Ministers' Conference resumes, and I was happy to hear my right hon. and learned Friend say that he was returning to it this weekend determined to make all possible efforts because he believed it still to be possible to reach agreement on Berlin and on Western and Eastern Germany. I believe that to be not only a good spirit, but good common sense. Have we ever fully realised this extraordinary and monstrous geographical situation in which we see in Germany part of one nation sequestered in the centre of another part of the nation and yet not in alliance with it? We have had similar precedents—the Polish Corridor, and other man-made—I was about to say monstrosities, but man-made anomalies of the geographical situation.
I think it is true that just as we ourselves are appreciative of this extraordinary situation—as, indeed, the Germans are, above all—so are the Americans and the Russians. The Russians with their realism, which is one 1425 of their very distinctive qualities, must know that this situation cannot remain as it is indefinitely. It must either be solved by some measure of agreement, with face saving on all sides, or it must deteriorate into something that has all the portents of danger and destruction.
I believe that the Russians are as anxious as we are to avoid that latter alternative. I am sure that, in themselves, they know that this position of Western Berlin surrounded by Eastern Germany, with the Eastern part of Berlin allied with Eastern Germany, cannot go on forever, even geographically; and that provided a face-saving solution can be found for all concerned the Russians will not prove unamenable.
In my view, the best chance of a solution at the present time would be the suggested mixed commission for Berlin and, indeed, for Germany. Like the right hon. Gentleman the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, I am not so concerned about the question of time—whether it be eighteen months, or a year or two and a half years. What is more important is that there should be a commission representative of all the Powers and of the parts of Germany and Berlin affected, charged with that one task; not with events elsewhere in the world that endanger international peace, but to find a solution of the separation of East and West Germany and of the also artificial separation of East and West Berlin.
If, at the end of eighteen months, the commission had made no progress towards a solution, nevertheless, in the course of those meetings during that period, ideas would have been brought forward, suggestions made—even if they were turned down—and it would be eighteen months or two years of research that could be of incalculable value to the Foreign Minister's Conference if, in the end, it has to be resumed, as suggested by Russia. In all these things, the great safety valve is that the parties concerned, however far apart they may be in their ideas, should talk. The moment they stop talking because there is nothing more that they can contribute to a difficult situation, we get the red light of danger.
I deprecate any suggestion of politics at this time, and I am sure that all hon. Members, whatever their views may be, will want to wish my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, and 1426 those with him at the Geneva Conference, guidance and encouragement, and the best of all our wishes—from us and from all nations—in their endeavours to find a solution of problems that so endanger the peace and comfort of the world.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I should like to endorse the final sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole), but I am afraid that either he has not been listening to what his hon. Friends have said before him or, if he has listened, his views certainly do not coincide with theirs. His hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison) referred throughout his speech to the awful problem of the hydrogen bomb, but he did not address himself to the solution of the problem caused by the existence of that bomb, or the war-or-peace problem that faces the nations, or how to control this weapon. His whole speech was devoted to what I will not call an insincere—I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman—but to a naïve or at least an ingenuous, bantering attack on the Labour Party because it has been concerning itself seriously with this very matter.
The hon. Member for Scotstoun did not say a single word to suggest a solution, nor did he say anything except to attack what the Labour Party is really doing. He asked: who decides the policy of the Labour Party? It must be as clear to him as to other hon. Members just why the trade unions have been discussing the question, why the various branches of the Labour Party have been discussing it ever since our last annual conference, or why it is again being discussed by other trade unions.
The reason for all this fresh debate is that the Labour Party takes this subject seriously. We realise that there must be new appreciations of the new developments in this terrible business, and that we must constantly try to achieve a policy that is acceptable not only to the people of this nation, but of others. The attitude of hon. Members opposite has been the same as that shown by the Conservative Press over recent weeks. They all talk about the problem of the hydrogen bomb, but only in terms of attacks on the Labour Party—electoral propaganda that has nothing to do with the real question.
1427 Why did the Labour Party discuss this subject at its recent meetings? Seven months have passed since last October, when we decided on a policy that we could then put before the country and the world. Things have moved ahead rapidly, even since the debate in another place, referred to by one of the previous speakers. France is now proposing to explode a hydrogen bomb in the Sahara desert, within the next few weeks. Never mind the problems that face us concerning the spread of control of this terrible weapon, although they are important in themselves. What will be the reaction of the people living on that land mass roundabout the Sahara desert in Africa—west, north and east—when they realise that these bombs will be dropped on territory adjoining their territories? If they protest, and protest violently about it, what will we say?
These are not the problems concerning the Tory Party or the Tory Press at present. All that they are concerned about is criticising and misrepresenting the Labour Party because we are concerned about these problems.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
Is the hon. Member suggesting that members of the Conservative Party are not interested in this problem?
§ Mr. Hynd
No. What I said was that hon. Gentlemen who have spoken from the opposite side of the House and the Conservative Press have been concerned only with the electoral tactics of this by misrepresenting what is going on in the Labour Party. I hope that in the course of today's debate some hon. Members opposite will take the opportunity of expressing themselves sincerely about this, of recognising that the Labour Party is genuinely concerned about it, and of putting forward their own proposition.
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary were challenged today by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) to tell us what their policy is. Who makes their policy? We know who makes ours. Two or three trade unions have been meeting this week. They are reaching decisions after the National Executive of our party has declared our policy. Is this high treason? Does this denote splits in the party? Of course it does not. The National Executive, after consultations 1428 with other sections of the party, is responsible for deciding the interim party policy between annual conferences. In the normal course, there will be another annual conference in October.
In the meantime, the trade unions, as sections of the Labour Party and of our population, are entitled to consider the problem, to express their opinions and to decide what their view will be when it comes to the final discussions at the next annual conference. What is wrong with that? Would it not be a fine thing if all the local branches of the Tory Party and all the Tory interests did the same?
Having asked whether it would be a fine thing, I am not so sure that it would. Judging by some of the expressions of opinion at Tory conferences, which are not decisions and are not binding on the "Fuehrer", the decisions would probably be even more reactionary than those we hear from their representatives in the House of Commons, so perhaps it is just as well that they have not that democracy in the Tory Party.
I will now turn from that, but I think that I was justified in replying to the taunts made by hon. Members opposite and making it clear exactly where the Labour Party stands.
Naturally, there are different views in the Labour Party on the questions arising from the hydrogen bomb. Naturally there are. The Labour Party represents at least 50 per cent. of a population of 50 million. It would be surprising if, within 50 per cent. of a population of 50 million, there were not variations of views as to what should be the policy in any particular direction, particularly on such a serious issue as this.
§ Mr. Hynd
Within a population of 50 million, divided into two sections there are bound to be curious elements on both sides who sometimes express themselves in curious and undemocratic ways. Within these two sections there are democratic methods of expressing views through 1429 the political parties and reaching conclusions so that, whatever party is in power, we can take some kind of collective action.
I do not make any secret of the fact that I myself expressed a view somewhat different from the final decision made by the party within the party councils. That was not because I am a rebel, or a Left-winger or a Right-winger. It was because it happened to be my view. My view was discussed, together with other views. We accepted a final decision which meant that it was, as near as possible, the common policy of a party which will be, within a short time, responsible for implementing policies such as this in the international field.
There are irreconcilable elements on that side of the country and on this side. There are people who want to ban the bomb. It is a quite unrealistic attitude to say that we can ban the bomb. We cannot ban the bomb. We cannot ban the knowledge of atomic energy. It is in fact knowledge almost universally known now, and it is easy to produce the bomb from atomic energy. In the consultations in the international disarmament conference it might be possible to reach a point—I do not think that it would be possible, but it might be—where there was universal agreement with Russia, America and all the other countries to ban the bomb, to destroy all the stocks of the bomb and to make no more bombs. International inspection teams could be set up in every country.
But why are Russia, America and the others so excited and concerned about this terrible weapon? It is because they are afraid of a war which will bring the hydrogen bomb. That is why we have the Aldermaston marches and all the rest of it and why the whole world is excited about it and terrified at it. Yet if the bomb is banned, if all the stocks are destroyed and everyone is reasonably satisfied that there will not be any more made, conventional wars might be very much easier. And once a conventional war had started, all the inspection teams would be interned and the scientists would be brought out and they would be busy seeing who could make the first hydrogen bomb.
Far from the banning of the bomb, if it were attempted, being any solution, 1430 might it not even lead to the holocaust which the existence of the bomb prevents? That is my own point of view. It is for that reason that I subscribe to the policy which has been decided on by the Labour Party in regard to trying to prevent the control and manufacture of this weapon being extended throughout the whole world.
I would go a little further. I would be prepared to say that we could surrender our own stocks of the bomb and make no more in this country as a gesture and, to give us the moral stature, ask France and other countries why they do not do the same. It might not have any effect, but at least it would give us the moral right to make the suggestion and I do not think that we should suffer from it. On the contrary, I think that we would gain very considerably, if only economically.
I am not concerned in this case with any moral plea. I do not see any difference between the morality of our allowing America to produce the only hydrogen bombs for the West and the policy we pursued during the war of asking America to produce the heavy bombers while we produced the fighters. It is not a question of morality, but of the proper distribution of labour and responsibility
I turn from that subject to the Conference at Geneva and the prospect of reaching any agreement. A great deal has been said about the crisis created by Mr. Khrushchev's first ultimatum We have heard over and over again that it was the worst crisis we had faced since 1948. That was not my reaction. When this ultimatum was issued, I felt that at least it was a chance of a turning point. After all, for twelve or thirteen years we had been in deadlock. There had been no move and no attempt to find a solution. Mr. Khrushchev issued his statement, giving a time limit and suggesting that, unless certain agreements were made which would clarify the position in Berlin and achieve a solution of this problem, which is a problem for both Russia and the United Kingdom, he would have to recognise the East German authorities, and all the rest of it.
This was the beginning of an offer. This was a chance to discuss it. It may have been a sincere attempt to get somewhere. One does not know. The great difficulty about all these matters is that 1431 we must base any action which we take on certain assumptions which we cannot possibly check to the last degree, especially when we are dealing with totalitarian States where there is no free expression of opinion, where there is no free Press and where there are no opportunities for learning what is going on. We have to make certain assumptions which we cannot possibly check. We have to work on the evidence of events.
My own view was and is that Khrushchev's offer was possibly a genuine attempt to arrive at a genuine settlement of the Berlin situation. I will give my reasons for believing that it was at least a possibility. First, since the death of Stalin there has been a wide range of changes in Soviet Russia. There has been evidence of greater splits or differences of opinion within the hierarchy of the Communist Party in Russia. Leaders have been dethroned, but this time they have not been executed. They have not been required to go into the dock to admit that they were Anglo-American Imperialist spies and have their heads chopped off. They have been demoted to other jobs. Nevertheless, there has been a change.
There was a tremendous change when the Russians withdrew from Austria. The Foreign Secretary referred to the 300 meetings at the Palais Rose before we achieved the settlement of the Austrian Treaty, but the Austrian Treaty had nothing to do with the Palais Rose discussions. The Palais Rose discussions ended in complete failure. After the failure of the Palais Rose there was a direct invitation from the Kremlin to the Austrian Government to send a delegation to Moscow to discuss a treaty. I am open to correction on this point because I am speaking from memory, but I have a fairly clear recollection that that was the position. It is, however, a detail. There were more than 300 meetings over the Austrian Treaty and they achieved no agreement.
The Prime Minister will agree with me that all the concessions which we offered were finally withdrawn and that we reached a complete deadlock. Then, suddenly, the Russians offered to give everything for which we had asked. They even agreed to hand back the industries which they had taken from the Austrians, and they even withdrew all their troops from the country. That was a great sur- 1432 prise to all the experts, who had said that it would never happen; that there would never be an Austrian settlement until there was a German settlement, because Austria was the line of communication to Southern Germany. They had said that all these negotiations about Austria would be fruitless until there was a solution of the German problem. Nevertheless, it happened.
§ Mr. Hynd
That is precisely what I am saying. It went against all logic. It went against all the logic of the experts and all the logic of the negotiations. All I am saying is that it happened. It happened after the death of Stalin, and since all those changes have taken place in Russia, including the changes in the hierarchy in Russia and the demotion of various leading personalities.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
May I ask my hon. Friend for some information? Am I right or wrong in thinking that the Austrian settlement was reached during the life-time of Stalin?
§ Mr. Hynd
No. I think I am right in saying that the Austrian settlement was reached after the death of Stalin, although I do not remember the date and I will not argue the point. If it were during the life-time of Stalin, I should be glad to have evidence that the changes in Russia were beginning even earlier than I have stated. My recollection, however, is that the Austrian settlement was long after the death of Stalin, even after the death of Beria.
Secondly, we saw the Russian gesture towards Poland and Hungary. There was the beginning of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Poland and Hungary. I believed then, and I believe now, that it was a genuine attempt on the part of the Russians to reduce their liabilities. I do not want to enter the old controversy again, but I wonder very much whether that might not have gone a great deal further but for the intervention of the Suez aggression. In any case, it happened.
When Russia had complete control, why should she be concerned to get out of Austria and to allow liberalisation in 1433 other countries of Eastern Europe, even to the extent of another Yugoslavia being created in Poland and Hungary? She was not doing it because of the high morality of Communism, or as a sacrifice to world peace. She was doing it for the same reasons for which democratic Governments often have to make concessions to various forces.
However monolithic may be the Russian dictatorship, Russia is a large land mass with many millions of population whose standard of education is rising and where more and more people are being given more and more responsibility, inevitably, as time goes on. There are great extensions to Russian universities and such people naturally expect, even within the Communist system, to have some say in what is going on or to understand what is going on. In the satellite countries—Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Eastern Germany—the same forces are pressing upon the governing authorities, as happens in democratic countries.
Even if they cannot find their expression through the ordinary democratic methods of general elections, changes of Government, changes of local authorities, free discussion and articles in the Press, these forces nevertheless exist. One remembers very well the revolt in Eastern Germany of 17th June. What was that about? That was because the Russian Government and the East German Government were diverting too much of national production to maintaining large armed forces in the occupation of the satellite countries, including Eastern Germany, and the build-up of costly weapons, and because not enough was being provided for consumer goods. The people received less. As a result, the revolt took place.
That could happen again, and it could be very serious for the Russian or the East German Government. It happened in Hungary. We remember how long it went on in Hungary, although Hungary is even more isolated than Eastern Germany. We know that these pressures exist—economic pressures and political pressures—in a totalitarian society, even though the people have not the ordinary opportunities of expression. With the vast commitments which Russia must have in respect of her large occupation armies in the satellite countries, throughout the Eastern world, and the vast 1434 financial commitments which she must have as a consequence—commitments which are infinitely greater than those which even America is having to bear—Russia is bound to be in difficulties.
We must remember that Russia's commitments are borne by an economy very much behind that of America in total output. When America is finding herself embarrassed by her armaments burden, how much more must the Russians feel that economic pressure? We have evidence in Hungary and East Germany of political pressures. There is every reason, therefore, why Russia should be concerned to get out of Berlin and to reach an agreement which would enable her to reduce her commitments, possibly in a less dramatic and less dangerous form than might have been the case in Austria.
For it must be remembered that the Austrian experiment was made by the Russians in the dark. It could have been very serious for Russia. It could have spread to other countries and it could have led to Austria becoming a strong anti-Communist force in the centre of Europe. Nobody knew what would happen Nevertheless, it was an experiment which succeeded, I suggest, to the limit of Russia's best expectations. Therefore, she has at least that encouragement to try another experiment of the same kind—an encouragement which she did not have before.
I believe that these possibilities exist and that Russia may be forced, not by us, but by her own situation, to make concessions. Hon. Members may ask, "Why, then, should she do it in the form of an ultimatum, of threats and of blustering about a hydrogen bomb war if we do not reach an agreement within a certain time limit?" Surely this is what we should expect. We should not expect Khrushchev to crawl on his knees, begging for mercy, saying, "We were wrong all the time. Forgive us. We want to play with you boys. We will let you have everything you want." Khrushchev is a politician. He has to go on the hustings.
In October, or some other month, hon. Members on both sides of the House will be on the hustings. We shall not be analysing, carefully, every detail of every policy. We shall be drawing the broad lines of policy and trying to make them 1435 as clear and simple as possible to people so that they can understand them. We have not time on the hustings to do more than that. Moreover, people do not understand if it is too complicated and if we begin talking economics. Khrushchev is doing the same thing.
Of course, I may be all wrong about this. It may be that there is no hope, that the Communist purpose is the rigid purpose of driving on with the world revolution and that all these discussions may be just a manœuvre to split us into a thousand parts before we can be swallowed one by one. It may well be that Mr. Dulles was right. Those who think as I think may be wrong. Nevertheless, we must make up our minds to take a certain line, and I think that the more hopeful line is to pursue every attempt that can be made to find out what the Russians are doing, not on the basis of unconditional surrender but on the basis which I have suggested.
I do not entirely agree with everything that my right hon. Friend said, because I thought that there were certain naiveties about some of the statements which he made. He cited the list of demands which the Russians made on 19th June. He took them one by one and said, "That is not very important. Why cannot we agree to it?" For instance, referring to the reduction in token troops in Berlin, he said," They are only token troops now. What is there difficult about the reduction?" I agree. He said that we could be prepared to recognise the East German authorities for purposes of communication and other simple things like that. What is wrong with each one of these demands? Not very much. There is no reason why we should not give them all, accepting even the final date. He suggested that there was nothing much wrong with these things.
There is, however, I suggest, a little wrong in being told that we must make all the concessions, however small, by a certain date. That is the point which I do not accept.
§ Mr. Hynd
Yes it was. I would remind my hon. Friend of what was the Russian statement:An agreement on an interim status of West Berlin should, in the opinion of the Soviet Government, include agreement on the following:1436Reduction of the occupation forces of the Western Powers in West Berlin to symbolic contingents;Termination of subversive activities from West Berlin against the G.D.R. and other Socialist States;Non-location in West Berlin of atomic and rocket weapons.These are the measures relating to West Berlin that we should agree upon in the first place.…We believe that it would be possible to agree upon a one-and-a-half year time-limit.Each one of these items is a concession to be made by the West. It may be that in the course of negotiation the Russians might say "If you make these concessions, we will make others," but that would be a different matter.
Again, my right hon. Friend suggested that Germany should not be allowed to join any military alliance, particularly such as N.A.T.O., and that it would not be a valid objection to say that it would mean a restriction of German's sovereign powers, because we are all giving up sovereignty these days through our membership of N.A.T.O., the Council of Europe, and so on. We are all giving up large chunks of sovereignty. Why, therefore, he asked, should not Germany?
It is as well, however, to bear in mind that in our acceptance of our obligations to N.A.T.O., the Council of Europe, the United Nations and all the rest, these are voluntary commitments which we accept for ourselves. We are not trying to impose them on somebody else. It is rather a different slant on things, and it should be borne in mind. It is also perhaps regrettable when one attacks too easily the attitude of the German Government in these matters. After all, it is Germany that is on the auctioneer's table and not ourselves. The German Government have to answer to their own people at their elections. They have to justify themselves and to safeguard as far as possible the interests of their own people and their own country.
It is for this reason that I am rather disturbed that in spite of the tributes that have been paid on both sides of the House, during this and other debates, to the necessity for maintaining our alliances, and of avoiding the danger of being split and decimated by Russian propaganda and activities, that is precisely what we are doing all the time. 1437 The whole of the attacks which are made on the failure to reach agreement at Geneva are not made against Russia's intransigencies. They are made against the Americans, General de Gaulle and Dr. Adenauer, not against the Russians.
The anti-Germanism which is particularly evident is especially dangerous. We had an example the other day in our Press, when Dr. Adenauer accepted nomination for the Presidency of West Germany and then changed his mind and told his party that he would not accept it. Here, the British Press, almost without exception—there were one or two honourable exceptions, but certainly without any political line-up—burst out in a denunciation of this "new Hitler ", this" new totalitarianism "that was being expressed in Germany, the C.D.U. members clicking their heels in the old-fashioned way. One of them said that Dr. Adenauer had some lack of confidence in Great Britain, yet the same article concluded:If the Germans are going to behave like this, we shall have to by-pass the Germans and make agreements over their heads with the Russians.
§ Mr. Hynd
That is so. The German Press is entitled to criticise and attack its own politicians, but what would we say if the German Press launched a united attack on the British Government and people? My own view about this incident is that, far from being an expression of the totalitarian attitude of the German people, it is one of the most encouraging indications of the growth of democracy in Germany since 1945.
Why was it that Dr. Adenauer changed his mind? He accepted nomination for the Presidency and then he changed his mind. After all, he was entitled to remain Chancellor until the next election, in 1961. As far as we were concerned, it did not matter very much. But he changed his mind because when he accepted nomination for the Presidency he did it on the assumption that as President he would manipulate the constitution to the extent that he would remain in control of Government policy, even to the extent not only of attending Cabinet meetings but presiding over them, and he was also going to appoint his own 1438 "stooge" Chancellor so that he could be sure that he controlled the policy.
If he had got away with it, that would have been a rather dangerous trend. It would be getting a bit more like the old Germany. But he did not get away with it. Even the C.D.U. Party refused to allow this. It was because he was refused permission by the Democratic Party to "fiddle" with the constitution and to appoint his own "stooge" Chancellor, that he refused to accept the nomination. Furthermore, the whole of the German Press, including his own Press, unanimously rose in indignation and warned the German people about his behaviour and reminded them of some past experiences. I only wish that kind of protest had been made in 1933. Therefore, I say that there is quite a lot in this incident to indicate that there is more confidence to be felt in the growth of German democracy than some people would have us believe.
The hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South spent the early part of his speech in lavishing tributes on the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary for their great lead in this search for peace. I only wish that I could share his sentiments. I was speaking to a diplomat in London the other day. He said that he had been in London for two years and that one thing which had struck him about British politics which he could not understand was that it seemed that the Conservative Government in office did not make any policy but waited until the Labour Party made the policy and then finally accepted it reluctantly.
I said, "What do you mean by that?" He said, "The Conservative Party opposed the National Health Service and the Welfare State. Then the Conservatives accepted it when they came into office. They opposed nationalisation of the key industries, and now, after seven years, they are operating this nationalisation rather reluctantly. For months they opposed the idea of high-level conversations on the very issue which we are discussing today, and particularly the idea of a Summit Conference. Finally, they accepted it, but rather reluctantly".
It is this reluctant acceptance that I am worried about, their reluctant approach to the whole thing. I must say that I would feel much more confident, whilst wishing the right hon. and learned 1439 Gentleman all success in the resumed conversations which are to take place, if I felt that at these conversations there were representatives of a Government who had thought deeply and sincerely and had discussed with all the elements to whom they were responsible the problems which they will have to discuss, who had genuinely intended to enter these discussions at the beginning and who were genuinely intending to press them to a successful conclusion, not merely in the interests of Great Britain or Western Germany or France but in the interests of people all over the world who are awaiting the results of this Conference with nervousness and hesitation but, I still believe, with some hope.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
The conclusion of the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) somewhat surprised me. He suggested that Her Majesty's Government are dragging their feet and that they are entering these conversations with hesitation, without forethought and without any real prospect of hope or even desire for a successful outcome. That is not so, and the hon. Gentleman knows it.
This Geneva Conference, which is now half way through its term, originated largely from the visits which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister paid to various countries in Europe and the United States. During the course of those visits he threw out some new ideas. One of the ideas which emerged was that we might have a thinning out of armed forces in central Europe as a contribution towards the relaxation of European tension.
The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Bonham Carter), who is not now in the Chamber, suggested that that idea had been abandoned. Of course it has not, because it appears very clearly in the first document in this White Paper, the Western Peace Plan for the future of Germany, published on 14th May this year. In paragraph 25 of that plan—which I need not read to the House as most hon. Members have a copy—the idea of a thinned-out zone is clearly restated and made an essential part of stage three of this carefully thought out plan for solving the problem of the re- 1440 unification of Germany, in addition to that, we have been at pains, particularly the Foreign Secretary at Geneva, to find whether there is any common ground at all between us and the East. He succeeded during the first three weeks of the Conference in finding a considerable measure of agreement.
Surely our main purpose in this debate is to discover exactly what that common ground is, and what chances there are of making further progress from the point where the Conference left off before the adjournment. We must, of course, be very clear in our own minds about the distinction between what the Russians say and what they mean. They have a habit, as we all know, of using words like national interest, democracy, peaceful, sovereignty, and integrity, in completely different senses from those in which we employ the same words. When, for example, they speak about the sovereignty of Germany, we find that in their Draft Peace Treaty, one of the documents in the White Paper, sovereignty is immediately qualified in its external and domestic senses.
Externally, a reunited Germany would not be allowed to have any foreign policy of its own, to the extent that it would not be permitted to join any alliances of its own choice. Internally, there is to be a very close grip kept by the four Powers upon the political parties which the Germans will be allowed to have. In a vague definition, they are told that any party which bears the faintest resemblance to the National-Socialist Party will be declared illegal and any other which makes irredentist claims for the return of lost territories would not be permitted. It is certainly desirable that no future German Government should be dominated by a party of that sort, but it is impossible to impose upon the German people, fourteen years after the war has ended, terms such as these and still call them a free, independent and sovereign people.
The analogy which could be drawn is that of the Austrian Treaty, but nobody proposes that there is a true analogy there. The Germans, owing to the size of their country and its geographical position, and their political and economic standing in Europe, could not possibly bind themselves by such undertakings as are contained in the Russian 1441 Draft German Treaty. Nor do I think that the Western Powers, speaking as they do at Geneva in the name of the Federal Republic of Germany, could possibly insist that they should accept, even as a basis of discussion, those terms proposed by the Russians. Those are some of the difficulties in the discussions there have been so far, but there are also points of rapprochement between the Russians and the West. One of the greatest importance, which holds out most hope for the future, has been frequently mentioned in this debate. That is the proposed mixed German committee or, to use the Russian terminology, the all-German committee, which both sides have agreed to set up as an immediate step.
Such a committee, by definition, would have the support of both the Federal Republic and the D.D.R. It should be noted that it is a great concession for Dr. Adenauer's Government to have consented to such a committee, on which, for the first time, representatives of the D.D.R., the Communist Government in East Germany, will sit side by side as if they were representatives and delegates of two separate independent States. That is a great gain. Let us make something of it. We have also agreed with the Russians that the main purpose of this committee shall be to arrange—certainly to discuss—methods by which the two halves of Germany could once more be united. In both papers, the Western Peace Plan and the Soviet Draft Treaty, we see that the first step is that the committee should expand contacts between the two parts of Germany.
All that is a great gain. The disagreements which remain on this point are, of course, important. We disagree about the composition of the committee. We in the West say that there should be twenty-five members from the Federal Republic and ten from the D.D.R., but the Russians demand parity. I cannot help agreeing with certain hon. Members opposite that this surely is a point at which we might be prepared to make some concession. The numerical representation of each side is of little importance when we ourselves have said in the same document that a three-quarters majority is necessary on the committee before any decision is taken. These two groups will be negotiating as if they 1442 were two independent countries wishing to unite together. To pretend that the Federal Republic must have two-and-a-half times as many representatives as the D.D.R. before they sit down, is simply to invite failure and the death of the idea before it is even born.
On the resumption of the Geneva talks we should put certain specific questions to the Russians in order—to employ a phrase used earlier by the hon. Member for Torrington—to force the Russians to state unequivocally where they stand. This is the main purpose of the Geneva conferences and all conferences like them, to oblige the Communist Powers to state to the whole world their specific positions. We know very well from past experience that the Communists do not go back on their word. It is a remarkable aspect of their political system that, although in our eyes they often behave outrageously, having once stated that such an attitude is the attitude of their Government there are very few occasions on which they depart from it.
These are the sort of questions which I suggest should be put to the Russians at Geneva in order to force from them some specific answers. Will they confirm that they agree with the general principles of free elections in a re-united Germany? Secondly, will they undertake that if the all-German committee works to a time limit, whether it be two-and-a-half years as we suggest, or one-and-a-half years as they suggest, and it fails in its task, that failure will not prejudice Western rights in Berlin? This is a crucial point, which has been mentioned earlier in the debate. If we read Mr. Khrushchev's speech on the subject, the answer we would suppose is that in his opinion we would lose our rights in Berlin, and that we would remain there, if at all, upon the sufferance of the Russian Government. But that is a point which needs to be cleared up. Thirdly, if a united Germany is sovereign, how can she be forbidden to conduct her foreign relations as she thinks fit?
Once we have clear answers to these three questions, we can proceed to the next stage. Apart from bringing immediately into being the all-German committee, we want to discover some temporary status for Berlin which will avoid the risk of a sudden clash that 1443 might spread further than the immediate confines of the city.
This brings me to the last point that I wish to make. Before my right hon. and learned Friend went to Geneva he referred more than once to the possibility of associating the United Nations with the special status of Berlin. Mr. Hammarskjold, in a speech in Copenhagen which was widely reported, put forward the same suggestion, but qualified it by saying that he did not wish the United Nations to be put into a position where it would have to make political decisions of a major kind. When Mr. Willy Brandt, the Lord Mayor of Berlin, was in this country—hon. Members on both sides may have met him in this House—he said that he and the Berliners would be very happy to see the United Nations associated with the special problems of their city, provided always that it was in addition to and not a replacement for the Western troops which are stationed there today.
The suggestion that the United Nations might have a rôle to play took three particular forms. One, which was so ludicrous that it was hardly worth debating, was that the United Nations should move from New York and should establish its headquarters in Berlin. The second was that the United Nations should guarantee a new Berlin treaty. The third—and this one was particularly attractive to Mr. Willy Brandt—was that the United Nations should set up some form of organisation, comparable to U.N.E.F. in the Middle East, to take over certain specific functions in the city in order to insert, as it were, a washer between the Eastern and Western Powers.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
I did not hear who the hon. Gentleman said made those three propositions to Mr. Brandt.
§ Mr. Nicolson
I did not say that any individual had made them. I said that these three ideas emerged after a general discussion of the possibilities.
With regard to the establishment of a United Nations Berlin group in the city, it was considered by many of us that it might fulfil this sort of function under the control of the four Powers who, of course, would still be present in the city. It might be put in charge of the ground 1444 approaches to Berlin, both by rail and by road. There would be stationed at the Customs points at Helmstedt and at the Berlin end of the autobahn men who would wear the United Nations uniform, would stamp the necessary passes but yet would be associated in no direct way with any of the Western Powers or, what is perhaps even more important, with the Communist Governments of both Russia and East Germany. By this simple device, the difficulty which is bound to arise if and when Russia recognises the Pankow regime as a legitimate government in East Berlin, would be avoided.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
I believe it is true that Mr. Willy Brandt, when he considered this third proposition, thought all along in terms of the whole of Berlin and not merely West Berlin. I hope that my hon. Friend is not applying his remarks only to West Berlin.
§ Mr. Nicolson
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I must made it clear that I intend my remarks also to apply to the whole city.
I have referred so far only to the ground approaches, but exactly the same system could be applied to the air corridors. I do not suggest that we should have United Nations technicians from the International Civil Aviation Organisation in the control tower at Berlin. I suggest that the officials who at present carry out the intricate work of controlling air traffic around the city should continue to do so, but under the general supervision of an officer appointed by the United Nations.
If a general agreement were arrived at, it would also be possible to station these officials within the city itself in order to ease communications between its two halves. Indeed, if such a scheme were acceptable there would no longer be two halves; there would merely be one single city, as my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. Bennett) suggested. But in the interim period it is quite absurd that the trams cannot run across the sector boundary and that it is not even possible to telephone across the width of a street which lies on the sector boundary, except by going through London or Dresden. The only reason why these elementary communications are not available is that the West German Government will not deal directly with 1445 the East German Government. If there were an intermediary in the form of a United Nations group it might be possible to solve these elementary questions overnight.
There was a fourth function to which Mr. Willy Brandt, when he was here, specifically referred, namely, the control of refugees passing through the city and across the sector boundary who come from each side and who are suspect by both sides because of the propaganda which they may carry or the espionage for which they might be responsible. Here, again, there is an opportunity for eliminating some of these sources of discord in a way which the United Nations is particularly fitted to do.
I therefore suggest that the Foreign Secretary and his Western colleagues might care to put forward these proposals when the Geneva Conference resumes, and so use the United Nations for an effective purpose and in a manner for which there might easily be found to be general agreement between Russia and the West.
§ 7 28 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
I am glad to have the privilege of catching your eye at this moment, Mr. Speaker, because I follow a speech which I found extraordinarily interesting. The curious thing is that I think that I also spoke after the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) when he made his maiden speech in the House, hot from his triumph at a by-election. His career has been comparatively short and very chequered, but, whatever happens at the next General Election, I think that everybody in the House will agree with me that this House will be the worse for his absence and that we all hope that one day some other safe and far more sensible Tory constituency will have the nous to ask him to represent it in this House again.
The hon. Gentleman made a very interesting and extremely knowledgeable proposal about the solution of the Berlin problem, and I think that it has considerable merit. He knows so much more about this matter than I and, indeed, I think many hon. Members because he has recently visited Berlin, and I would not wish to cross swords with him except to say this. I was sorry that 1446 he did not say a little more about the first of the three notions which he told us were put forward to Mr. Willi Brandt or had been discussed, presumably, in the conferences which he and his colleagues had in Berlin, namely, the notion that the headquarters of the United Nations might one day be moved from America to Berlin itself. It seems to me that this idea, which was recently put forward by the Bishop of Portsmouth in the correspondence columns of The Times, has a great deal to commend it. I did not know that it had been discussed and I am amazed that it has not been much more seriously considered.
It would seem to me to be valuable for two reasons. The first is that it would fit in admirably with the third of the ideas to which the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch devoted most of his time. That the United Nations officials could solve many of the technical problems which are likely to bother the citizens of Berlin if these changes are made is certainly true, but they could do it much more effectively if the whole city of Berlin was also the seat of the United Nations.
I have a great fear that even if the suggestions made by the hon. Member are accepted for Berlin, nevertheless there may be a gradual, almost imperceptible, loss of confidence, particularly economic confidence, and that West Berlin gradually may be doomed to become part and parcel of the Eastern orbit and could then end up by being another forgotten Danzig washed high and dry by a receding internationalism.
As that will probably be the fate of Berlin, unless somebody can think up some good ideas and get agreement on them—although there is no evidence of that yet—it would seem at least a sound and acceptable proposition to discuss that we might put the headquarters of the United Nations in Berlin. Then, whatever happened to it, it would be the United Nations capitol. Its communications would necessarily be always kept open because, presumably, the Security Council would meet there whenever it did meet, and the General Assembly could meet there if the building: were built to take it. There is much to commend this idea and I hope very much that the Government will look at it carefully. I do not suggest, neither 1447 I think, does anybody else, that that could be done overnight. It might take a great many years, but it is an admirable thing to get thinking about.
When I listened to the Foreign Secretary, and particularly when he sat down, I thought that I had seldom heard such an arid, boring and hopeless speech. I do not wish to blame the Foreign Secretary, because I imagine that that is the result of the awful job that he is now called upon to do. I was amused when my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), after making an extremely interesting and courageous speech, said that it would be a good idea if the conferences continued indefinitely. He had in mind, I imagine, that the Foreign Secretary might then spend indefinitely all his time making in Geneva his boring speeches to other people.
It seems to be universally accepted that it is better to continue these conferences indefinitely, even if there is nothing to be got out of them, on the ground that it is better to talk than to stop talking, because while people are talking about a universal ban on the testing of H-weapons, at least no testing takes place.
I wonder whether there is any connection between those two ideas. I do not think there is. It may very well be coincidental that the three great Powers. at present under extreme pressure of public opinion, have probably completed the necessary immediate tests, have no particular reason to carry out any more and are conscious of a hostile public opinion that wishes tremendously that these tests had never been carried out and that none ever will be carried out again. None of the Governments of the three great nuclear Powers wishes at present to antagonise its own and world public opinion by having another test if it can possibly be avoided. It seems to me, therefore, that by generating a continuous pressure of hostile world public opinion against the business of testing, we may more effectively deter unnecessary testing than by having meetings quietly at Geneva.
While people like the Foreign Secretary go to meetings at Geneva, they inevitably come back all the time hopefully saying that things are very much better than they were and that if only no one would criticise them, they may 1448 yet turn up trumps and produce an agreement, which they have never managed to do up to now—in other words, that it is extremely wicked and unhelpful to criticise their efforts. That tends to lead people to assume, if they believe what the Foreign Secretary said—which they do not—that a ban was about to be achieved and that agreement on complete suspensions is just around the corner. That being so, if in the meanwhile General de Gaulle should get his bomb tested in the Sahara, they might shrug their shoulders and say, "It was an awful shame that that had to happen, but it appears that this will probably be the last that humanity will have to put up with, because the Foreign Secretary, an experienced and hopeful negotiator, tells us that an agreement is just round the corner."
It may be a good idea for the Foreign Secretary to go on talking at conferences. They may achieve a lot of peripheral solutions to little technical problems such as Berlin while ostensibly talking about these bigger issues. The conferences can be justified, therefore, on those grounds and I as a taxpayer am prepared reluctantly to continue to pay my whack to send the Foreign Secretary to Geneva as often as he can go.
It does not, however, follow that we will get success at Geneva at the present series of conferences regarding the banning of nuclear tests, for two reasons. One of them, which has been mentioned already, is that whereas the three Powers which possess the bomb and have done their tests are probably quite well off in that regard and do not want to carry out any more tests, there is always another country knocking on the door of the nuclear club and that is one of the reasons—indeed, I suspect, the most relevant reason—why the three great Powers cannot get an agreement to stop tests for a period is simply that even if they wrote it down that they wanted to give up all tests for two years, within a few weeks somebody else—say, France or Germany—who was not in the club would say "We intend to have our tests, because we, too, intend to be a great Power, and to suspend them when we have done enough." And so other bombs go off. The Russians would then point out that the West, which had signed a solemn agreement that there would be 1449 no more tests for two years, promptly got one of their satellites to have a test in order to provide them with the information which they needed. That is the real reason why, since we cannot stop the incessant demand of other nations wanting to do what we have decided we must do, there is no possibility of getting a written agreement even to suspend the testing of nuclear weapons. That is extremely important, because I believe that at the rate at which tests have gone on in the past, if many more take place we may completely foul the atmosphere for present and future generations for all time.
All I would say is that there is not too much future in the Geneva discussions on suspension of tests if that alone is what is intended. The Western statesmen assembled there have repeated, as the Foreign Secretary did today, that the problem is not only the problem of suspension of H-bomb tests. It is also the problem of disarmament. We here are all agreed that total and effective disarmament of ail the nations must be our goal and that nothing less than effective, enforceable disarmament of all the nations can make peace permanent and secure and guarantee the survival of mankind.
When people talk like that, however, they forget one thing. I do not believe that disarmament is a possibility. I do not think we ought to talk about disarmament. The essential problem is something quite different. It is the transfer of arms from the national sovereign State to the supranational authority that has to enforce the law of disarmament on the nations. It is the transfer of force from one level to another which is the key to success, and not disarmament at all.
At this point I am forced to say that I cannot assume at the present moment and in the foreseeable future that Russia or America could tolerate, could possibly contemplate, the surrender of their national armies to the extent which is desirable under enforceable supranational law. This is what has to be done one day. If and when it is, it means, let us face it, that the nation surrenders its sovereignty, its power of defence, its right and its duty to defend itself, to a supranational authority which then acquires paramount power. Can we conceive that the Russians at this time would 1450 contemplate surrendering that force and that power to a supranational authority, any more than would the Americans?
This makes me believe that there is a great deal of merit in this new idea which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale so courageously discussed and which has come to be called the non-nuclear club. In the first place, this breaks through the tradition of universalism. I think there are two things which have made disarmament talks, throughout the whole of my lifetime, abortive. There have been two things. The first was the notion of transferring armaments, the transferring of power from one level to another. The other element which guaranteed failure was the insistence on universalism. This non-nuclear Power club notion breaks for the first time the thrall of universalism. It seems to me so much more sensible now to suggest that those nations which do want to have a ban applied upon them—I do not know which they are, and how many there may be nobody can tell, though we must be one of them—should get together, leaving aside America and Russia for the time being, to see if they can contrive a system by which those weapons which they all abhor can be banned from the national armouries.
I want to make my last point. I believe sincerely that it is terribly important that every effort to this end should be made, but I want to say equally categorically that I do not think it has any meaning or point at all unless and until we face the fact that it is impossible to ban one, or only a small, category of weapons, and leave it at that. If the idea is that we should sign another Kellogg Pact we are wasting our time from the start. We should be deceitful to pretend it would do any good.
The only hope is to get the nations which wish it to have denuclearisation imposed upon them irrevocably and by force if need be, and this involves surrender of sovereignty, which in my view inevitably and unavoidably involves the transfer also of the duty of defence, which leads also inescapably to giving up power to the supranational authority which will make the law or regulations for the nuclear ban, and transferrng to that authority the power to enforce the ban which then becomes the law of the "club".
1451 If this law is made for one weapon, so that it can be enforced—and if it cannot be enforced it is not reliable, and if it is not reliable it is not worth doing at all—the nation must give up, and inevitably will have to give up, the whole business of defending itself. It will then be total and effective disarmament, and it will be the supranational authority which will have the business of defending those nations. This conclusion is, I think, inescapable, and I should like to give an illustration why I believe this is so.
There was a very interesting event in Arkansas quite recently. Under the Constitution of the United States, as agreed when the States federated, there were made two basic laws which are irrevocable. One basic law says that every citizen in the club, the federation, must have equality of education. This was the law which was reinterpreted by the Supreme Court of the United States a couple of years ago. There was also another law and it was written in the Federal Constitution. The President of the United States became the Commander in Chief of all the armed forces of the United States. For this reason and this reason only, when the law of the Federal Constitution was first executed and then interpreted by the Supreme Court on 24th September last year the President of the United States could order the 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock. At that moment Governor Faubus of Arkansas knew he would be arrested if he continued to defy this law.
Here was an example of supra-State law being enforced precisely and only because Arkansas did not have an army of its own. There was only the Federal Army, which the Commander in Chief could mobilise and did mobilise and use.
I assert that had there been in Arkansas a sovereign legislative assembly which commanded its own effective army and took care of its own defence, then what is called federal law would have been a waste of paper. It would long ago have disappeared. It operates today only because these two things do operate. The Commander-in-Chief does control the only effective, paramount forces, and the States do not.
If the nations are, and I hope they are, sincere, led by Britain, in their determination to have a category of weapons banned by an enforcing supranational 1452 authority, they can bring it about only in this way; they have got to transfer the whole of their sovereignty, because if they do not do this they are deceiving themselves. They are merely signing another Kellogg Pact whereby the high contracting parties solemnly say they will not do something, and then, as the years pass and times change, the parties differently interpret the contract which they signed, and, as has always happened before, these contracts between sovereign States become mere scraps of paper.
If we achieve a non-nuclear club at this time, it will be the beginning of a supranational community which makes law upon the nations. If that can succeed we shall then have started the process out of which eventually a world government will emerge; then and then only can the people of this planet expect to survive.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
Many of us have a considerable respect, indeed affection, for the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Usborne), even though we cannot always follow him in what we like to regard, I think, as his flights of fancy, if not of fantasy, and we normally listen to his views with respect for their sincerity. So I thought he went a little out of character in the middle of his remarks tonight when he made what can be regarded only as a cheap, offensive gibe against the Foreign Secretary, a remark which was not in keeping with his usual style, and I could not follow the motives for his making it.
I, for one, was surprised that he made it. He considered that the Foreign Secretary had produced a boring, not an exciting, speech. It is fair to say that the Foreign Secretary has had an extremely difficult time, and it has been a boring time. It has been very tedious, and at times difficult. But I think everybody in this country ought to be grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend—and I gather everybody is grateful to him—because he has kept on trying to produce effective results from the Conference.
§ Mr. Usborne
I thought I said what I meant to say, that the speech which the Foreign Secretary made was typical of Foreign Secretaries' speeches, because there is a limitation on them owing to their office, and that is why a Foreign Secretary makes that kind of speech.
§ Mr. Bennett
I am grateful to the hon. Member for saying that now, but he can take it from me that HANSARD tomorrow will confirm that he did not make that rather more pleasing addition to his earlier remarks. I am happy that now he should have so generously done so.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd), who I regret is not now in his place and to whom I must be quite fair, did not criticise the whole of the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) but only part of it. However, he made two critical remarks at least which I should like to emphasise and in which he accused his right hon. Friend, quite fairly, of being more than a little naïve.
The first of these remarks was in respect of the future of Germany. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said that everybody nowadays had to face some abdication or abrogation of sovereignty from time to time. He asked why the Germans should not face the same sacrifice in sovereignty as we and others have had to face albeit in other contexts, by becoming a neutralised country, or at least in being treated differently by being required not to join one bloc or another if she were allowed to unite together in future. The hon. Member for Attercliffe made the focal criticism that that was a false comparison, because abdications of sovereignty by nations in the West have been voluntary acts. The difficulty here is that it is proposed that Germany should not have the right to choose for herself but should be compelled to abdicate sovereignty by a decision over which she would not be consulted.
The second point that the hon. Member for Attercliffe made was about Berlin. I agree wholeheartedly with him that we should have more respect for the list of Russian proposals calling for concessions from us if they embodied concessions from the other side as well. If, for instance, on the question of forces there and the fear of spying in the city some mention had been made of including the whole of Berlin, one might have had more respect for the Russian proposals. At the moment, they read like a very one-sided ultimatum of advantages to be obtained. Of course, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said, if we go through the list one by one, this 1454 or that demand does not seem unreasonable but, as the hon. Member for Attercliffe said, if we take the lot together and we realise that all apply to West Berlin and not to East Berlin they will be seen in the different light that the Western Foreign Secretaries have seen them.
This brings me to a more general remark about the opportunity which this crisis may give us to review in future our whole attitude towards top level meetings and any other sort of similar meetings from time to time to reduce tension in the world. I believe that everyone will agree that up to now it has been the Russians generally who have called the tune. We have taken matters seriously only when the Russians have made demands. They have always had the initiative. They have always launched their demands and eventually we have had to meet round the table to avert what could develop into a serious crisis.
It is time that the Russians were not allowed always to take the initiative in these international issues. We have had to get used to this stock pattern in the last decade or so of the Russians making a 100 per cent. demand for an extension of their interests in one part of the world or another. The West then get together and eventually meet the Russians. After considerable talks to and fro and the exchange of notes, the Russians withdraw about half of their demand and the West are so grateful because the Russians are being reasonable that they come to an agreement. But it is always the case of the Russians putting up something much stronger at first and when they withdraw half their demand, of our sighing with relief and accepting that withdrawal gratefully. I hope that in the case of Berlin we shall not have to follow that example again.
I have never pretended to be a "summiteer", to use the new word coined by the Press. At least, I have never been an enthusiastic one. History does not show very happy results from meetings of heads of State or Government, either in recent or more ancient times. Nevertheless, if this new attempt to secure a summit meeting could begin a new era of more or less intermittent but regular meetings between senior representatives, not necessarily actual heads of Government or heads of State, 1455 I hope that it will be in order to discuss a joint agenda and not just a crisis which has suddenly emerged from one source only, the Soviet Union. It seems that the only way in which we can resolve crises in the twentieth century may be by meeting round the table at a high level. If so, we should discuss all sorts of issues, and not merely an issue artificially and deliberately engendered by one of the parties. If this pattern is established, perhaps the difficulties which we are having to endure as a result of the latest outbreak of the cold war over Berlin may prove in the long run to have been worth while.
I had not intended, if I had the good fortune to be called to participate in the debate, to go into all the current controversy about the H-bomb issue, but in view of the challenging way in which the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale delivered that part of his speech which referred to the H-bomb, I feel that I must make some answer for back-benchers on this side of the House whom he criticised as having no ideas or imagination, of being only critical of Socialist proposals and being a monolithic group with no ideas of their own. The great majority of us, if not all of us, on this side of the House, support the Government's policy of multilateral disarmament, not merely of one type of weapon but of all. H the right hon. Member calls that being monolithic I would remind him that up to comparatively recently that was the policy too of the party opposite in debate after debate in this House.
Now, as we know, there has been some change. Firstly, and I think that I am paraphrasing his remarks fairly, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said today, on the possibility of agreement to end tests, that he was not very impressed with this because he questioned whether if we agreed to give up tests, others would follow. That is a perfectly fair point to make, but it is equally a perfectly fair point to ask why it is suggested that if we, that is the British and the so-called non-nuclear club, agree to give up the bomb others could be expected to follow. Why should it be said that in the case of tests there is reason to think that others would continue to carry out tests if we stopped, whilst at the same time saying 1456 of the renunciation of the bomb that others would follow our example if we gave up its manufacture?
To put this Socialist policy in perspective, I need not go back a long way and need not quote all the wealth of material at my disposal. I will content myself, first, with a sentence from a resolution adopted by the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party on 30th March, 1955, which said:Labour believes that it is undesirable that Britain should be dependent on another country for this vital weapon. If we were, our influence for peace would be less in the counsels of the world.So it appears that hon. Members of the Labour Party, too, were members of the unthinking monolith at that time, as we have been accused of being today.
Now let us move forward to 1957. In a debate on 16th April of that year the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) who unhappily is not here today, said:On the one hand, it seems to me Britain cannot render herself negligible in (he affairs of the world by a unilateral decision to undertake nuclear disarmament by example, but, on the other, the only really useful purpose, and the only really useful thing which can save us is to devote our whole efforts to the achievement of all-round nuclear disarmament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th April, 1957; Vol. 568, c. 2036.]Coming even nearer home, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale at the Labour Party Conference at Brighton in 1957, said something which is really topical today:If you decide in Britain unilaterally that you will have nothing to do with experiments or with the manufacture or use of such weapons—with none of which sentiments I disagree—you cannot, if you do not want to be guilty, appear to be benefiting by the products of someone else's guilt. You will have to say immediately that all the international commitments, arrangements and facilities afforded to your friends and allies must be immediately destroyed …After all, this afternoon the right hon. Gentleman said that it was not Labour Party policy to wreck or interfere at this stage, because, as he rightly thought, it would be dangerous to all our international commitments, arrangements and alliances. I want to know why as recently as 1957 he thought differently. We are entitled to ask the chief spokesman for the party opposite why. As the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and 1457 Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is with us, may I say to him that I am not surprised that a report appeared in the Press the other day that on hearing some of these sentiments by his right hon. Friend, he is reported to have said, "Come off it, Nye".
Now I move to 1958, when an interesting article by the right hon. Member for Dundee, West appeared in a pamphlet called "Scrap all the H-bombs". Here is Labour Party policy at that time:The Labour Party says that it is not enough simply to scrap the British H-bombs. That would still leave in existence the immense majority of H-bombs in the world, for they are in Russian and American hands. In fact just to scrap the British H-bomb without worrying about the Russian and American bombs might well actually endanger peace. By weakeinng Britain's influence in the world it might well make the Russian-American struggle still more dangerous…We are forced to conclude that each and all of the 'half-way house' policies have little to commend them.In view of those few quotations, and the fact that in two successive defence debates the right hon. Member for Dundee, West spoke in the most scathing terms to the Liberal representatives here who put forward a policy very much like the one which, presumably, is being put forward by the Labour Party today—that we should make an individual renunciation without interfering with our alliances—I have taken the trouble to look up in HANSARD what the right hon. Gentleman said then. Speaking of the Liberal Party policy he said:As far as I can see, that party takes the moral view that we should have nothing to do with nuclear weapons and that, luckily enough, it is safe to take that line because the Americans have ample nuclear weapons. That argument does not appeal to us and I do not believe that it appeals to any other section of the House. The House is now well seized of the fact that on moral grounds—and I speak very frankly—that is a nauseating, sanctimonious argument."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1958; Vol. 583, c. 658.]Again we are entitled to ask the Labour Party, if it is going to propound this same condemned policy as something imaginative, as something new, as something grand which bears comparison with anything produced from this side of the House, why there has been this astonishing change, not only in heart but also in mind? It is not nearly good enough for the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale to talk about a courageous review, of having to start all of us thinking, 1458 because of all the grave dangers of today, since only recently facing equal dangers, he and his colleagues were adopting a very different line.
I do not for a minute imagine that any words of mine will bring any comfort to those below the Gangway opposite, but I say straight away that my criticisms as regards hypocricy do not attach to them. From the beginning they have made it clear again and again in the House of Commons that they adopt a very different attitude, which we can respect even if we do not agree with it. This other argument that is being produced today is just about as "phoney" as it could be, as I think hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite would agree.
§ Mr. Bennett
The first hon. Gentleman I was referring to in my compliments was the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), and if he likes to look two down, I was also referring to his hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne.
§ Mr. Hughes
If the hon. Gentleman wants to know where I stand, the leader who most approximately expresses my point of view at the present time is Mr Cousins.
§ Mr. Bennett
As I am limiting myself in being controversial this evening, I will not extend it by going into further internal disorders within the party opposite, especially since I have just paid the hon. Gentleman the first compliment I have ever paid him in saying that he has been consistent throughout the years and that we know where he stands. That is a very different thing from the argument, formerly self-labelled sanctimonious hypocrisy, which we are now hearing from other hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
Since the hon. Gentleman thinks it right to pay compliments to my hon. Friends at the expense of my right hon. Friends, may I ask him whether, in talking about the consistency of the Labour Party, he has read our declaration on foreign policy adopted at Scarborough last year and the speeches made by my right hon. and hon. Friends then?
§ Mr. Bennett
If the right hon. Gentleman really wishes to tempt me, I could give many more quotation and I do not think he would find any very comforting to him to support an argument for consistency on the part of the party opposite.
My final remark in this context takes up the statement of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale when, sweeping the benches opposite with his hand, he said that we Conservatives showed a great lack of fecundity as regards any ideas on this problem. I would only reply to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, including the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), that in regard to their official party policy their essay into creative childbirth was itself certainly a very recent and sudden one, and doubtless coincidentally based on a certain resolution by a certain trade union.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I do not want to be tempted by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett) to enter into a controversy as to where individual members of the Labour Party stand with regard to the H-bomb, because it is not useful for the purposes of this debate. I will only say to the hon. Gentleman that I thought it was foolish and uncalled-for to talk about sanctimonious hypocrisy on the part of right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett
I only used the exact words which were used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) in connection with this argument. I have given the HANSARD references. The right hon. Gentleman said that the argument was sanctimonious hypocrisy on the part of those hon. Members who then put it forward. I did not invent the phrase.
§ Mr. Fletcher
But the hon. Gentleman repeated it.
What the House should know is that, whereas there may be differences of opinion on this side of the House, all my right hon. and hon. Friends hold sincere views about the subject. I believe it is a tribute to the Labour Party, which one cannot pay to the Conservative Party, that there is so much genuine concern in our party about the right solution of this grave 1460 and crucial question for the future of humanity. For my own part, I will repeat what I have always said. I believe that the foreign policy of this country must, first and foremost, be based upon loyalty to the N.A.T.O. Alliance. That should be the bedrock of our foreign policy, and I believe that within this context it is our duty to make every possible effort to seek agreement wth the U.S.S.R. for the purpose of reducing tension in the international sphere.
I believe that the Conference of Foreign Ministers has served a useful purpose in that, although it has been prolonged, it has served to reduce tension. It has served to narrow the area of disagreement between the great Powers. I do not think that it is any criticism of the Conference that it should have been protracted. Any negotiations with Eastern or Oriental Powers inevitably go on for a long time. Patience is required, and it does not matter how much longer the Conference goes on, because the longer the talks continue the less likelihood there is of international disagreement being settled otherwise than by agreement. The danger of the present situation deteriorating is far less today than it has been at any time in the past four or five years. All the indications are that Russia and the United States are desperately anxious to avoid any incident that would lead to international war.
The only reason why I intervene is to speak about the present situation in Berlin, and I do this only because I happen to have been in Berlin for a few days last week and had an opportunity of forming impressions, seeing things there and meeting a great many people, both in West and East Berlin. I agree with what has been said by many hon. Members, that Berlin is the crucial question at the Foreign Ministers' Conference and that it is not unnatural that attention should be concentrated upon it. I am not sure whether it is made clear in the White Paper—I do not think it is—that the various questions between the Western Powers and the Soviet Government were to some extent developed against the background of a threat by Russia to make a separate peace treaty with Eastern Germany.
I believe that there was no validity in that threat and that it was a complete piece of bluff. I do not believe 1461 that Russia had any intention of making a separate peace treaty with Eastern Germany, or that Soviet Russia can afford to do so. The people of East Germany are held down under their régime by the presence in that territory of about 20 Soviet divisions. It is the conviction of myself and of most people that if that military force were removed and the people of Eastern Germany were entirely free to express their views about the régime under which they live, there would be an overwhelming majority for reunification with Western Germany.
That would be something disagreeable to Soviet Russia which Soviet Russia would wish to avoid. They have the power to prevent it with their 20 divisions, and perhaps with other means as well. I am not alarmed, therefore, about the unhappy position between the two parts of Germany, although it is a very undesirable situation. It may be much better to leave it as it is than to attempt to change it. It is difficult to see how, in the immediate future, the situation in Berlin can be changed by means acceptable both to the East and the West. On the other hand, the relations between the populations of the two parts of Berlin—I am not referring to the Governments—is much easier than it was a year or two ago.
When the Foreign Ministers' Conference went into recess it was on the point of considering the latest Soviet paper on Berlin, presented on 19th June, 1959, in which the Soviet Power put forward suggestions for an interim status of West Berlin before a conference can take place in which the two parts of Germany would be represented. I look with suspicion at that suggestion. It is not obvious to me why they want an interim agreement on West Berlin for a year, or eighteen months, or two and a half years, before the talks take place with the two parts of Germany. The present position is already an interim one.
To see the reasons put forward for changing the present situation in West Berlin we must look at the three points which Soviet Russia suggested. I will take them in the reverse order. The last was to get agreement on thenon-location in West Berlin of atomic and rocket weapons.I should have thought that that was something we could agree to, if nece- 1462 sary making it mutual with East Berlin. We could also agree to the second, ontermination of subversive activity from West Berlin,provided there was a corresponding agreement about the termination of subversive activity from East Berlin.
I am, however, very worried about the first of the suggestions of the Soviet Government that there should bereduction of the occupation forces of the Western Powers in West Berlin to symbolic contingents".My belief is that at the moment we, by which I mean the Western Powers, have the irreducible minimum of military strength as a symbolic force in Western Germany just as we have the irreducible minimum in the way of right of access to West Berlin. It is difficult to see how there could be any reduction either in our right of access or in the very limited number of our military forces in West Berlin, and how that could be of any positive advantage to the Soviet Government. It certainly could not be of any military advantage. It could, of course, be of very considerable disadvantage to the people of West Berlin and to the presence of Western Powers in West Berlin.
I think it was agreed between the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend that we have a duty to the people of West Berlin to ensure not only that they have the right to freedom, but are entitled to feel confident in their freedom. We cannot forget that they live a rather precarious existence. They feel isolated, and they are isolated. Their links with the West are very attenuated. We should hesitate very considerably before we did anything which would be interpreted by the population of West Berlin as weakening of our rights of access of the Western Powers to West Berlin.
Any diminution of the size of our military forces there would be regarded by the West Berliners as a sign of weakness. If we really want to preserve their freedom it is essential that we should maintain the morale that they have exhibited over the last fourteen or fifteen years. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be particularly careful, in any negotiation about Berlin, not to make concessions to the Russians which, superficially, might seem innocuous without 1463 obtaining something in exchange for such agreement.
I see that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has now returned to the Chamber. I was saying that I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be particularly careful in his negotiations with the Russians not to make any concessions about the position of the Western Powers in West Berlin unless a really valuable quid pro quo is obtained from the Russians. There is a real danger that some concessions may be made as regards the reduction of the military strength of our forces in West Berlin which, superficially, might not seem important but which, in the eyes of the people of West Berlin, might have an effect in sapping their morale and confidence out of all proportion to the apparent value of the concession that would be made.
May I just give two or three instances of the kind of apparently trivial things that would seem to matter to the people of West Berlin. I have heard it suggested that in the interests of economy the N.A.A.F.I. canteen at Helmstadt might be closed. I hope that there will be no question of that, because that is the kind of thing which is regarded as symbolic. I have heard it suggested that, either for reasons of economy or as a gesture, there might be a waiving of our present rights to send a military train daily from Berlin to the West and vice versa, and that we might agree to send it three times a week instead.
Matters of that kind would be noticed at once by the people of West Berlin in the same way as if the general's house were not painted regularly. They would be regarded as an indication of some relaxation of our rights.
I mention these matters because I believe that it would be possible to secure an agreement with the Russian authorities about the future of Berlin without giving away points which, small as they might seem in the context of today, might have a serious bearing on the future.
I believe that all the indications are that, with patience, we shall be able to reach accommodation with Soviet Russia on the Berlin question without making any concessions that will weaken our position. I believe that an accommoda- 1464 of that kind would lead to wider measures of agreement throughout the whole field of European politics, and an eventual settlement.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Billericay)
I agree wholeheartedly with one of the points made by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher). I should like to underline it later in what I have to say, which, I hope, will be extremely short.
We ought not to expect too much from Geneva. If one looks back to the last century, to the occasions when great Powers have signed treaties, one sees two outstanding reasons why it is now immeasurably more difficult for negotiations to take place. One is ideological and the other, for want of a better word, mechanical. Treaties of the past have been concerned with resolving power and since the rise of Hitlerism ideology has joined power as an equal factor.
The Marxist believes that capitalism will destroy itself and that the economic mainspring of the West will collapse. The Marxist diplomat believes that he can afford to wait. Why agree now when, in no more than a generation, the West will be on its knees economically? That is one of the great difficulties that must face any diplomat of the West in his negotiations.
I should like to say something of the methods and mechanics of the Geneva Conference, for they seem to bear no resemblance of those conferences that in earlier times have been successful. There are three features that illustrate that. The first is that the issues today are so involved, and in matters of disarmament so technical, that our negotiators must be accompanied by large staffs of assistants and advisers, whose very presence must detract from the intimacy that is the only way to beget trust.
Every lawyer who settles an action out of court, and every trade union negotiator, knows how much easier it is to reach agreement with someone that one has come to know. In contrast with the present, one thinks of the Treaty of Utrecht, when England sent forth only two men to negotiate the Treaty. One was the Bishop of Bristol—and why he was there I am not exactly clear—and the other was the Earl of Strafford, though 1465 it is true that Lord Bolingbroke was in the background. To the Congress of Vienna, Lord Castlereagh went out almost unaided to meet the heads of State from the other countries, of which I think there were six in all—they also being unattended by the cohorts that now go forth to a summit.
Another feature is the "aeroplane diplomacy" which has increased the tempo of these gatherings. The modern world is an impatient place and wants quick results. Yet with the ideological difficulties added to the challenges of power on both sides, the initial difficulties of negotiation are all the greater. This afternoon my right hon. and learned Friend mentioned that the Congress of Vienna had about 300 meetings—
§ Mr. Body
The Congress of Vienna began, I believe in April of 1814, and did not conclude until June of 1815—fourteen months afterwards. Today, the world will expect quicker results from those going to Geneva.
The third feature is that democracy demands that its free Press, its reporters and its photographers, be present, and both sides are tempted to use the conference chamber as a forum for propaganda. That, more than anything else, puts successful negotiation in jeopardy. Yet I believe that these difficulties, which were absent from the earlier successful conferences, could be mitigated. The one practical way, of mitigating these difficulties is to increase the proportion of the meetings of Foreign Ministers which are held informally and in private. Therefore, my plea is for some greater degree of intimacy and privacy in these negotiations, because I feel convinced that that is the easiest and surest way of making this Conference the success that we desire it to be.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
On this occasion, as on the last time when we debated foreign affairs, by far the most encouraging news which the Foreign Secretary had to give us related to the discussions on a ban on nuclear tests. It seemed to me that if we are to believe what the right hon. and learned Gentleman told us this afternoon, the only serious obstacle to a ban on tests being 1466 agreed to by the three existing atomic Powers, is some doubt as to the type of control system which should be adopted to deal with underground tests. I ask the the Prime Minister to say a word or two more than the Foreign Secretary did about the dispute over underground tests.
There has been a spate of reports from the United States suggesting that there is a strong counter-reaction in the United States from those who are anxious to have underground tests in any case, because of the knowledge which may thus be gained of small yield battlefield weapons. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will agree with hon. Members on this side of the House that the advantages of having a comprehensive agreement covering tests in every sphere are so tremendous that we should go all out for a comprehensive agreement, even at the cost of some disadvantages in the strategic field through failure to develop some weapons which are not yet fully developed, at any rate in the West.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to the point made by the Foreign Secretary that, in any case, it is physically impossible to investigate every possible incident which might be caused by an underground test and therefore in this sphere, whether we like it or not, we have to be satisfied with a control system which is somewhat less than perfect. I hope very much that we shall be able to get agreement on this issue. It seems to me that this, at any rate, is one field in which a Summit Conference might be able to overcome the final obstacles not yet overcome by the Foreign Ministers and their deputies in Geneva. But the real problem which the Foreign Secretary did not comment on and about which I hope the Prime Minister will say a word or two is, what happens to a three-Power agreement to stop tests if a fourth or a fifth Power begins tests?
There is every indication that even though Britain, the United States and Russia reach agreement on a ban on tests this summer, France will not sign such an agreement. General de Gaulle has already declared his intention to carry out a test programme and to make his own atomic weapons, unless far more comprehensive measures of disarmament are agreed to by the rest of the world. I wish to ask this question of the Prime Minister and I hope he will give a reply. 1467 Does he envisage that a three-Power agreement for a ban on tests should be maintained so long as each of the three signatories observes the agreement which has been made; or is it understood that should a fourth, fifth or sixth Power start testing weapons, the test ban among the three present nuclear Powers becomes automatically null and void?
This is a most important question. It is the immediate and urgent question which we shall have to face this year and it is a question which explains the shift in the policy of my own party on this whole problem of nuclear arms. I think that hon. Members opposite who treat this matter with levity would be wise to listen carefully to what I have to say and should insist even more strongly than I do tonight on the Prime Minister answering the question which I have just put to him.
§ Mr. W. Yates
The hon. Gentleman must be careful when making these accusations. He must be more charitable. We consider this a matter of extreme and grave importance.
§ Mr. Healey
I know that some hon. Members opposite regard this as a matter of extreme importance, but I know that there are other hon. Members opposite who snigger whenever the question is raised on this side of the House. One hon. Member opposite happened to be indulging in this activity at this time.
§ Mr. Williams
All right. Does the hon. Gentleman really think that hon. Members on this side of the House are not concerned about the peace of the world? If he does, he had better get out of the House.
§ Mr. Healey
I think that hon. Members everywhere are concerned about the peace of the world, but I think that many hon. Members opposite fail to appreciate the gravity of the situation with which hon. Members on this side are trying to grapple in the proposals they put forward. I hope that the hon. Member will listen to what I have to say and weigh in his own mind whether or not it is relevant to the problems which we must all face.
1468 A new fact has been brought home to all of us in the last few months. It may not be exactly a new fact, but certainly our appreciation of it is a new one. That is how simple and cheap it is becoming to produce an atomic weapon. The United States study, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) referred in opening this debate, estimated that it would cost only about £50 million to produce the first two atomic bombs of kiloton size and that further bombs would be even cheaper. If a Power were already producing plutonium in a civil reactor as at least twenty Powers are now proposing to do, the cost of the first two atomic weapons might fall to about £10 million.
I feel that we in this country have been too complacent about this problem because we have tended to see the problem of atomic weapon production almost exclusively in the context of a cold war, and the need of this country to have atomic weapons in a war in which our adversary was a great Power, like the Soviet Union. In such a case, the cost of producing a highly developed atomic weapon system which is capable of penetrating the extremely efficient antiaircraft defences of the Soviet Union becomes colossal, involving a missile system, like the Blue Streak, which itself may be obsolete by the time it comes into operation.
What we fail to realise is that many of the countries capable of producing atomic weapons during the next ten years will not be concerned with the possibility of dropping those weapons on the Soviet Union—far from it. They may be thinking of using these weapons in a war against another country which itself does not possess atomic weapons and has no system of air defence, except a most rudimentary one.
If, for example, one were Colonel Nasser and one had the capability of producing two atomic weapons, one would need only to land one somewhere near Tel-Aviv and the other near Haifa. The same would go for a number of other small countries scattered around the world which might well see in the future the cheap atomic weapon as by far the best answer to their security problems. That is the danger which we face at the present time, the fact that small countries not concerned with the 1469 cold war at all may decide to produce atomic weapons in order to pursue purely local vendettas, but vendettas which in some way or other drag in the Great Powers.
We have had idle boasts from small Powers in the last few years—from Argentina, and recently from Iraq—that they already possess these weapons. I suggest that we should not laugh at those boasts, because, although they are untrue now, sooner or later, and possibly much sooner than we think, one small country will make such a boast and it will be true. When that situation arrives, and develops, a whole new spectrum of threats to world peace will develop with it, and we shall come to look upon the present phase of the cold war as almost an earthly paradise compared with the new world of small, irresponsible nuclear Powers which will develop.
The key to the situation, and the answer to those who support the idea of unilateral disarmament for a gesture, is that if this is a danger there is no way of coping with it unless we can establish an international system of inspection and control which can guarantee to every country that no other country is producing these weapons. If, for example, the Government of India knew that the Government of Pakistan were physically capable of producing atomic weapons, but did not know for certain that they were not using their capacity so to do, nothing on earth could justify the Indian Government in not producing atomic weapons on their side. Exactly the same argument goes for Egypt and Israel. There is no way of stopping this multiplication of small, irresponsible atomic powers which does not involve far-reaching inspection and control.
This is where the problem becomes so urgent and important today. It is comparatively simple to establish a system of inspection and control which will prevent a power which has not already produced weapons-grade plutonium from entering the atomic weapons field; all that is required is to inspect its reactors, collect the spent fuel elements which they produce and, if there is any weapons-grade plutonium amongst them, poison or denature it by scientific processes. In other words, it is comparatively simple to prevent a country which has not started upon the production of 1470 plutonium from producing these weapons, but once a country has acquired a stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium from its own civilian reactors the problem of ensuring that it does not hide that plutonium and make atomic weapons secretly becomes well-nigh insoluble. It is true that an atomic test ban, if practically all the countries in the world adhere to it, will greatly reduce the probability that a country will secretly produce weapons, but the only secure guarantee against the possibility is the control of the atomic reactors at the source.
Therefore, we have only a few years in which to establish this level of control. Within ten years, at least a dozen countries will have already produced enough plutonium to make atomic weapons, and then the problem of establishing efficient control will become at least a hundred times more technically complex and more politically difficult than it is today. That is why hon. Members on this side of the House believe that it is desperately necessary for some country to take the initiative now in trying to set up an international system for the inspection and control of atomic establishments which will ensure that no further countries produce atomic weapons. There is much to be said for establishing that control through the existing United Nations Agency, the International Authority for Atomic Energy.
A very serious danger is already developing. At present, many of the new countries entering the field of civilian atomic development buy their atomic reactors from Britain or the United States and enter into bilateral agreements with the supplier for a system of control intended to prevent them from diverting the products of the civilian reactors into weapons production. But there are already considerable differencse between the forms of control system demanded by the British, on the one side, and the Americans, on the other. Already we can see signs of commercial competition between Britain and the United States, tempting each country to try to under-cut the other by offering a simpler and less rigorous system of control, because a control system is very expensive to operate.
Therefore, I suggest to the Government that they should consider consulting 1471 with the United States to ascertain whether, apart from the other problems of controlling the diffusion of atomic weapons, it would be possible to establish a common control system through the United Nations to cover all deals for supplying reactors to countries which do not possess them at present.
It must be clear to all of us that, if this country is to take the lead in this field and try to establish a system which will prevent fourth Powers from producing their own atomic weapons, it has to say at the outset that, if such a system is set up, it will be prepared to abandon its own existing position in the nuclear club. The reason why America and Russia cannot take the initiative is precisely that they are not themselves prepared to submit to this type of system. This question was discussed a year ago when the British Government, as well as the French Government, were demanding that there should be a cut-off on weapons production in the United States and Russia, simultaneously with the test ban accepted by British and France.
I can see certain advantages in having some atomic weapons in the United States until we can have a very much more far-reaching system of disarmament which covers non-nuclear as well as nuclear weapons. If we are to deal with the problem of the spread of nuclear weapons to countries which do not now possess them, some country must take the lead. The country which takes the lead must be prepared to submit to the same controls as it demands that other countries not yet producing atomic weapons should submit to. That constitutes a very powerful argument indeed for Britain offering to surrender her privileged position, which she has held only for a few years, for the sake of preventing the further diffusion of atomic weapons to countries which do not now possess them.
I admit fully that there is no prospect that the French Government would respond immediately to such an initiative by Britain. I have the feeling that, for the French Government, the explosion of their first atomic weapon is a sort of virility symbol. Until they have had at least their first explosion, they will not feel that they have proved that they are the sort of country they hoped that they were. I am much more 1472 sanguine about the possibility that, as the months pass and the French Government investigate very closely the problems of establishing a delivery system capable of penetrating the Soviet defences—I think that the French bomb is intended mainly as a weapon in the cold war rather than as a weapon to be used against small countries—the French Government will decide that the cost alone of going into this field, especially if the Algerian war is not yet over, constitutes a very powerful argument for joining a non-nuclear club.
The real problem facing Powers like France and Britain today is not whether they are to be members of a small, exclusive group which will remain small and exclusive because it alone has atomic weapons. It is, fundamentally, whether they are to achieve equality in a jungle of thermo-nuclear Powers, or whether they are to maintain their existing equality in a world of non-nuclear Powers.
Nobody who seriously examines the consequences of the infinite diffusion of atomic weapons over the whole world can doubt that, whatever the advantages in the existing situation of being one of a few countries with atomic weapons, we should then all be very much safer to be members of a non-nuclear club.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
We have been debating very serious matters this afternoon and this evening. I have listened to almost all the speeches made in the debate with the greatest interest. The views of the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) naturally deserve considerable attention. I had hoped that the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Bonham Carter), who spoke for the Liberal Party, would enlighten the House whether the Liberal Party supported the non-nuclear club. If I understand him correctly, I think that the view of the Liberal Party is that they support the general idea of a non-nuclear club, with certain reservations. I hope that that is the right interpretation of the hon. Member's speech.
§ Mr. Bonham Carter
I thought that the hon. Member knew what was the view of the Liberal Party. I understand that he is chairman of the Conservative Party Policy Committee. The Liberal 1473 Party has supported the non-nuclear club from the beginning, since 1957, and we are delighted that members of the Labour Party have come to our point of view. I hope that this will enlighten the hon. Member as to our position.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I am grateful to the hon. Member, as I am sure are hon. Members opposite, for his explanation.
I thought that the speech of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) did not make the Foreign Secretary's task any easier when he returns to Geneva on Monday. No doubt it was not designed with that end in view. I may have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, but he seemed to create the impression that all the difficulties about the settlement over Berlin were largely the fault of the West. He said that the Soviet Union were demanding several things, none of which by itself amounted to very much, and that we in the West were being unnecessarily rigid. My own belief is that the underlying motive to the Berlin problem, from the Soviet point of view, is a desire to get the West collectively to recognise the status quo in Eastern Europe.
That is what the negotiations for Berlin are about. The Rapacki Plan, disengagement and the variations of it have all had that object in view. The object has been to get the West collectively to recognise the present situation in Eastern Europe. If the Soviet Union can persuade the Western Powers to recognise the status of the East German Government, they will be precious near the point at which the Western Powers are recognising the general status quo in Eastern Europe. There is not very much difference between the two. I put this to the right hon. Gentleman because I believe that the problems connected with Berlin are far more difficult, far deeper, and go far more to the root of all the problems which divide Europe, than he seemed to suggest in his speech.
There is another reason why I do not believe that a settlement over Berlin will be particularly easy. Viewed, again, from the Soviet Union angle, it seems to me that Berlin is a weapon of extreme value to them. It is in an awkward position for us. The Russians can play the same cards over and over again. They can make a threat about Berlin, they can 1474 name a date or a series of dates at any time, and they can compel the West to react. Indeed, the Western Powers must react if the Soviet Union make a threat that on a given date it will transfer control to the East German Government.
Then, if the N.A.T.O. Powers do not make exactly the sort of concessions that the Soviet Union wish them to make in return for calling off the threat or for postponing the date, it can always rely upon a number of people and quite a number of different political parties saying, "Oh, as usual, the N.A.T.O. Powers have lost the initiative." Too often this word "initiative" has come to mean the West making a concession in return for the Soviet Union ceasing to do something which it ought never to have begun to do.
I do not wish to prevent the Leader of the Opposition speaking at nine o'clock, and therefore in the brief time that is available to me I should like to ask some questions about this non-nuclear club. I think I am speaking for everybody on this side of the House when I say that we are not trying to laugh this off; it is quite a serious proposition. We appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties. If one has a kind of schizophrenia, when trying to cement two opposing views together, one has to find a formula which covers both angles, and that is very difficult. There are some in the party opposite who, in between the wars, interpreted collective security to mean that someone else would provide the security.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
Since the end of the Second World War some others have interpreted the nuclear deterrent to mean that somebody else provides the base—though I would not lay that accusation upon the Leader of the Opposition. Now there is an offer of a non-nuclear club.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
If I understand the situation correctly, the object of the non-nuclear club is that Britain would offer not to test or manufacture" or ultimately possess any more H-bombs and 1475 that this would proceed by stages. If so, during the early stages Britain would retain her position as a nuclear Power but would halt research and would not add to the stockpiles. She would expect other aspirants to the nuclear club to carry out a self-denying ordinance.
What I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman is this. Suppose that neither the Soviet Union nor the United States feel so moved by this offer as to join the non-nuclear club, what would be the right hon. Gentleman's view? Would he, for instance, suggest that we should make any alteration in the general arrangements by which the United States bombers have bases over here? I think not. If he did not wish to alter this agreement it seems to me that the West would be in this position, that Great Britain and her Continental allies would have to confine themselves to conventional weapons only, leaving the deterrent in the possession of the United States. That is exactly the position upon which the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale poured scorn in an I.T.V. appearance two months ago. I wonder how the right hon. Gentleman works that out.
There is one other question that I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman. Suppose that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union were to join the club, what would be the effect upon N.A.T.O. strategy, Britain having conventional weapons only? Does he envisage that there could ever be a kind of limited war in Europe with conventional weapons, neither side using tactical atomic or nuclear weapons? I think the House is entitled to have the answers to some of these questions.
Finally, I do not believe that there can be any kind of quick or clever short cut to the general problem of disarmament. I believe that at any given moment the level of armaments reflects the general degree of international fear and tension and that until we can reduce the general level of international fear and tension we cannot really deal with the disarmament problem. If we cannot, within the ambit of the Geneva Conference, get an agreement to cover both the nuclear and the conventional disarmament problems as we are trying to do, I do not believe that we shall get any further by Britain 1476 making an offer to other people by saying, "Please do not test any more bombs. Please do not make any more bombs, but, even if you do not agree, we are not going to make any more, anyway". I do not believe that is the way to negotiate, to get a disarmament agreement or to reduce international tension.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
The hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) asked me a number of questions about our recent proposals. In the course of my remarks, I shall try to enlighten him, but I suggest that he might have read the declaration itself before he made his speech, in which case he certainly would not have asked several of the questions he asked this evening.
I do not think, either, that he could have listened very carefully to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) for my right hon. Friend certainly did not give the impression, at any rate to me, that he was supporting the Russians against the West. Quite properly, he went through Mr. Gromyko's speech of 19th June with the statement that followed—I think that the Foreign Secretary said that same evening, or the early hours of the next morning—and he pointed out that there were a number of suggestions which seemed to my right hon. Friend, as they do to me and, I should have thought, to most hon. Members, very reasonable as a basis for discussion.
As a matter of fact, my right hon. Friend specifically said, in referring to Mr. Gromyko's proposal that the forces of the West should be reduced to a symbolic size, that they were already at a symbolic size. He threw in the suggestion that perhaps a symbolic reduction in symbolic forces might be agreed. In other words, a few hundred off the 11,000 would not make much difference. My right hon. Friend also emphasised Mr. Gromyko's proposal that all subversive activities and espionage from West Berlin should be stopped and he coupled with that arrangement the suggestion that all subversive activity from East Berlin should be stopped. How anyone could conclude from that that my right hon. Friend was on the side of Russia against the West, I fail to understand.
1477 The most paradoxical thing about the White Paper is the way in which it describes the ending of this stage of the Foreign Ministers' Conference. One has the picture, on the one side, that it ended in complete deadlock and that the Foreign Secretary then decided it was better to go into recess. I am not questioning the desirability of the recess, but the strange thing is that since 19th June there has been a growing hope that when the Foreign Ministers meet again they will reach quick decisions. And the reason for this growing hope was Mr. Gromyko's speech on 19th June, followed by his statement next day and the speech of 29th June, all more or less covering the same ground.
I do not think that there can be much doubt that, perhaps because they were tired, the Foreign Ministers of the West seriously misunderstood Mr. Gromyko's speech of 19th June. To say that it constituted no change in the Russian position was surely to overlook the fact that the ultimatum had been withdrawn and that there was no suggestion in it that if the mixed commission failed to reach agreement the Western Powers would lose their rights in Berlin.
This was underlined by Mr. Gromyko in the subsequent statement that he made. I believe that Mr. Gromyko decided before making the statement of 19th June that he was prepared to pay the minimum price to ensure that the United States agreed to a Summit Conference. He did so, and I think that there is now every prospect that the Foreign Ministers' Conference, when it resumes, will reach some kind of modest understanding, shall we say, which will then lead to a Summit Conference without any great delay.
I want to emphasise, however—and here perhaps I am rather more in agreement with the hon. Member for Windsor—that an agreement based on Mr. Gromyko's statement is an extremely limited one. Indeed, it is little more than an agreement to disagree. What it will involve, as I see it, is some kind of understanding on the three points mentioned by Mr. Gromyko. On one, the positioning of nuclear weapons in West Berlin, there is no difficulty. On the others, there is clearly room for discussion and negotiation, but there is no 1478 reason to believe that there will be difficulties in reaching conclusions.
Nor is it likely that there will be opposition—I can see no possible reason for it—to the setting up of the mixed commission on the understanding that if it fails to reach agreement after eighteen months—or maybe we shall settle for twenty-one months or two years eventually—we simply have another Foreign Ministers' Conference. There can be no serious objection from our point of view.
As I say, such an agreement would be extremely limited. I agree with the hon. Member for Windsor to this extent, that it leaves the physical situation in Berlin completely insecure, as it was before. There is no provision for greater security of access to West Berlin. The most that one can say is that for the time being the Soviet Union appears to have dropped its announced intention of making a separate treaty with East Germany and, presumably, then handing over control of access to West Berlin to the East German forces and officials.
On the assumption that we shall have a limited agreement, we then come to the question: what is likely to happen at the summit and what prospect is there of getting rather better results from that conference? I very much hope that we shall not open our negotiations at the summit with anything like the package deal with which we opened the Foreign Ministers' Conference. Unless we are to regard this as an extreme bargaining counter which we do not take seriously—and I doubt whether there is much to be said for that—it seems to me that there were three main errors in that package deal, quite apart from the fact that it was a package deal and that everything was linked together.
The first and perhaps most important error was that the proposal for a limited zone of controlled disarmament was not put forward on its own. In my opinion, in practical terms, this is the proposal on which we should concentrate, because I think that there is a greater chance of reaching agreement on it than anything else. It was not put forward independently of anything else. On the contrary, if one turns to the White Paper and the package deal, it will be found that it is not until one reaches paragraph 25 of the original Western proposals that it finds any serious mention at all.
1479 I will read the relevant words:Upon the establishment of an all-German Government"—that means that if such an all-German Government is established and after the whole negotiation for the reunification has succeeded—the four Powers and such other countries as are directly concerned would agree that in a zone comprising areas of comparable size and depth and importance on either side of a line to be mutually determined, agreed ceilings for the indigenous and non-indigenous forces would be put into effect.That is a very different thing from those brave words in the Moscow communiqué, when the Prime Minister agreed with Mr. Khrushchev thatstudy could usefully be made of the possibilities of increasing security by some method of limitation of forces and weapons, both conventional and nuclear, in an agreed area of Europe, coupled with an appropriate system of inspection.That is the greatest failure of the Foreign Ministers' Conference so far.
I cannot blame the Foreign Secretary alone for this. Clearly, what happened was that when the preliminary discussions took place, Dr. Adenauer insisted that there was to be no separate zone of controlled disarmament apart from and before the reunification of Germany had been achieved. Secondly, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale reminds me, Dr. Adenauer also insisted, as he had done before, that he was not prepared to agree to a zone of limited disarmament in Europe apart from a general disarmament treaty.
I believe that this insistence of Dr. Adenauer, however well intentioned it may be, is a disastrous obstacle to any real further progress to an accord with the Soviet Union. I believe that this is the one thing on which we could make progress. This need not be a party issue between us, because, in some form, the suggestion for the thinning out, the control, and so on, was put forward some time ago by Sir Anthony Eden. I believe that this proposal is one which both sides could well accept. So long as the controls are adequate, General Norstad certainly does not object to it. As far as I know, the Americans have not opposed it. It is simply the obstinacy of Dr. Adenauer, who feels that in some way it is derogatory to German prestige. I do not 1480 think that conceptions of that kind should be allowed to obstruct the path to peaceful settlement.
I mention briefly two other points in respect of which the package deal was deficient. The first is the introduction of general disarmament. We are all in favour of it, but to bring it in as part and parcel of the stage towards the settlement of the German problem is, in effect, to put off the settlement of the German problem far too long. The final point, which has been made often from these benches, was the continued insistence—the re-emphasis—that Germany, when unified, must be free to join N.A.T.O., or, for that matter, the Warsaw Pact.
I do not propose to rehearse the arguments against that insistence. It seems to me perfectly clear that if the German Government, representing the German people, agreed that to achieve reunification it was prepared to undertake not to belong either to the West or to the East, either to N.A.T.O. or the Warsaw Pact, it is perfectly entitled to reach that decision. What we suggest is that the German Government and the German people should be asked to do just that. I agree that if they will not agree, we cannot make progress, but at least we can express our opinion clearly that in that case it is dishonest and hypocritical to talk seriously about the possibility of German reunification.
I pass to the question of tests. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) made the point, which I wish to underline, that one difficulty which appears to exist is the impression, which I believe is a false one, that there are influences in America which are anxious to exclude underground tests from the agreement. The reason for these rumours is that various reports to that effect have appeared in the United States Press. Whether this is true or not—I hope it is untrue—I think it would be a valuable thing if this rumour could be firmly denied, if it could be made perfectly plain by the West that we are determined to work for a comprehensive agreement covering underground as well as atmospheric and stratospheric tests.
The second point I should like to mention in connection with tests negotiations is about the control posts. Perhaps the Prime Minister could tell us whether it is 1481 still the intention, in accordance with the experts' report, that these control posts should be set up not only in the three countries signing the agreement but all over the world so that they can really be effective. This is covered at the moment with some obscurity. If it is the case, then have the other countries where the posts would be established yet been approached?
That, of course, leads on to the vital question, the question which has been mentioned in many speeches today. What thought has been given to the problem of bringing the rest of the world into this agreement to end nuclear tests? This seems to me to be of fundamental importance. I shall, if I may, come back to it in a moment.
Before I do that there is one other thing I want to mention. A few days ago, at Question Time, some of us suggested to the Prime Minister—the idea came from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson)—that it would be a good plan if a declaration were made by the Western Powers, preferably by all four Powers—that so long as negotiations continued there would no further tests carried out. The Prime Minister said at the time that there had already been such a declaration by America and Britain. He was good enough to inform me privately that that was not so, and also, I think in a Written Answer to a Question, that in fact all that had happened had been an announcement by the Foreign Secretary, right at the beginning.
The reason why I attach importance to this is that even after the negotiations have been concluded, as we hope they will be, there is bound to be a substantial lapse of time before all the control posts can be established. The very recruiting of staffs, the acquisition of the various instruments, and so on, is bound to take time. It seems to us, therefore, that it would be reassuring to everybody if a declaration were to be made by the Powers concerned that they were not going to go on making any further tests either during the negotiations or, indeed, at any time hereafter, so that the dating, as it were, of the agreement would be from now and not from some remote time in the future.
1482 I come back to what I regard as the very grave danger, and that is the spread of nuclear weapons. The immediate issue here, of course, is what the French are going to do. There is nothing new about this. It is not a question of General de Gaulle. M. Moch, in 1957, representing France at the Disarmament Commission, made it absolutely plain. These were his words:Do you imagine that, if the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom signed an agreement binding those three countries to make no more test explosions, a country in the position of France today and of others tomorrow would be bound by that agreement, when France requires that the cessation of test explosions should be accompanied by the cessation of production and a start on reconversion? Obviously not. My country would not be bound by such an agreement.That is a statement not from an extreme nationalist, but from a very moderately minded man with very powerful international inclinations, representing not the present Government but the French Government which existed in 1957. I do not think that any of us would expect General de Gaulle to put it any more mildly than that.
That is, therefore, what we are now facing. Of course, it leads on immediately to an overwhelming case—here I do not think there will be any disagreement—for all-round, multilateral disarmament both in nuclear and conventional weapons. This is essential, and remains, as we have said in our document, as the paramount objective.
On that, I would only say that I hope that at the same conference Her Majesty's Government will do two things. I hope that they will propose that the disarmament commission or subcommittee, whatever is the most appropriate form, not 83 countries but the smaller group, will be established again in the United Nations. I hope that they will do their best to persuade Mr. Khrushchev to agree to it. But that is not enough. What we should like to see Her Majesty's Government do is put forward proposals on the lines of those which they, with the French, put forward in 1955, which were accepted after delay by the Russians and then, unfortunately, withdrawn by the British and French Governments. I will not go into the details of that. I think that hon. Members will be familiar with them. They 1483 are set out in large part in our new declaration.
But danger remains even if we manage to get multilateral negotiations going again over the whole field of disarmament. We know perfectly well that these are bound to take a very long time indeed. It is foolish to imagine anything else. Meanwhile, we must now face the very real prospect of the spread of nuclear weapons. We have known about this before, but I must confess that I did not perhaps myself appreciate its urgency until two things happened. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cousins."] One was the prospect that we were going to get an agreement on tests between the three major Powers. Until that happened, the problem scarcely arose.
The second is the information available now, as the result of the scientific study made in America, that there are no fewer than 12 countries in a position, as far as economic and technical resources are concerned, to make nuclear weapons. It will take them about five years to do this, and there are another eight countries which, in five years, will be in that position. Therefore, within a decade there is now a real prospect that the spread of nuclear weapons will be taking place all over the world in such fashion as to dominate the international scene. That is what we are facing now.
We have all been most concerned with this problem of how to get existing nuclear Powers to agree. That problem remains, but while we are working on that problem all our efforts may be brought to nought by the spread of nuclear weapons. The economic and technical capacity exists. Will countries decide to do this? The prestige issues are very powerful. Does anybody really suppose that if the French insist upon going on with their weapons programme it will be very long before some German Chancellor insists upon parity with France? I do not think that we should be realistic to ignore such a thing. We must assume, too, that China is bound to want to have weapons if everybody else is going to have them. One is bound to assume that even other countries, for fear or for reasons of national pride, will follow suit. If one country starts others are bound to follow.
This has very grave dangers, first, because, as has been said, included among 1484 these Powers will be some—let us face it—with Governments which are decidely less responsible in this matter of nuclear weapons than those who now possess the weapon. Secondly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East pointed out, it has great dangers because we shall be faced with the position where we do not have the deterrent—which I myself believe is a very effective way of holding the balance—and the danger that some countries will come into possession of these weapons and use them against those who have not got them, or are not allied with those who have them.
It cannot be denied, that the prospect of multilateral disarmament becomes more and more difficult as more and more countries have nuclear weapons. It is relatively easy—one cannot say more than that—to get an agreement so long as there are no weapons in existence, but as soon as stocks of the weapons exist we are up against the greatest problem of all, the detection of those stocks. And so long as those stocks cannot be detected, or it is believed they cannot be detected, then the difficulty of getting other countries to agree to nuclear disarmament is enormously greater. So if we can only act now before this thing happens, it may be of profound importance to the peace of the world.
Our position on unilateral disarmament has been made abundantly clear. We do not believe that that is the right policy and here, if I may say so to the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Bonham Carter), we differ from the Liberal Party, which has been in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament. We also differ from some of my hon. Friends who, as pacifists, have always taken this line. We believe that it is necessary, in the present state of the world, for N.A.T.O. to remain and for Great Britain to play a full and loyal part in that alliance, but we do say, while maintaining our attitude to N.A.T.O., that the time has come when we ought to make a real effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
So we propose what is called the non-nuclear club where, we say, if those who do not possess these weapons now will agree neither to manufacture nor to possess them, and to accept the necessary controls to ensure that this is done, we 1485 will join them, we will cease to manufacture and we will deprive ourselves of our own stocks. We have to make that offer if we are serious about this. It is no use expecting that there is the remotest chance of France, or the other countries who are on the way to having nuclear weapons, to agree to the kind of thing we ask unless we are prepared to do so as well.
There are only two arguments against this course which I need mention. Some people say that it is no good because it is quite impractical. I would be the last to deny the difficulties. I have always recognised them, indeed they are repeated in our declaration, but they can be exaggerated. I believe that all the smaller countries who are not likely to be in the nuclear arms race would certainly be willing to adhere to an agreement of this kind without difficulty. The real problem will be the 10 or maybe 20 countries, not more than that, of those who may perhaps have these weapons in the next few years. However, I believe that the economic argument will be one which will appeal to them, and that if we can meet the prestige argument, as we should by this offer, that will at any rate go some way to meet them.
It will be said that neither France nor China will agree. All I can say is that I do not believe that France would necessarily reject this provided she has parity with us. Such experience as I have of the present French Government—and I had the pleasure of seeing the President not very long ago—has given me the impression that it was the prestige issue and parity with Britain which was absorbing the President and worrying him more than anything else. One can only ask, even if it is very difficult: is that a reason for not trying?
The other objection is that the sacrifice is too great. I do not deny that there is some sacrifice at present. I believe that we started the bomb here—the atom bomb and then the hydrogen bomb—largely because we believe that we wanted to have a high degree of influence and power, if we could, with our Allies, and we did not want to be too dependent upon them. I certainly have always defended the course adopted by both Governments on those grounds. But let us reflect that as other nations 1486 come into the field, producing and owning nuclear weapons of their own, the influence and power which we have on our own is very materially reduced. We are, as my hon. Friend said, then simply one among a number of nuclear Powers, and it may well be better that we should be one among a number of non-nuclear Powers.
It is said that this will reduce us to the status of satellites of America. When Lord Hailsham speaks in those terms I wonder what our Allies in N.A.T.O. really think about it. They are told, in so many words, by a senior Minister of the British Government, that they are satellites while we are respected Allies. Government supporters have expressed their concern about our relations with France and I think that they are quite right to do so, but let them bear in mind that part of the trouble about our relations with France is the superior attitude that we adopt to the French because of emphasising our special relations with the United States. I do not deny their value. I have always been a profound supporter of the Anglo-American Alliance, but we must set this in the balance on the other side.
I ask hon. Members to think what it will mean if one nation after another comes in with more and more nuclear weapons. If, by making this sacrifice—I repeat it—we could stop the spread of nuclear weapons and enormously reduce the danger of war I believe that it would be a sacrifice worth while. That is why I say to Her Majesty's Government that they ought not to despise this proposal and regard it as impracticable. They should recognise that we are facing a new situation and consider very seriously whether, on balance, it would not be worth while taking this enormously important initiative. If we take it and fail we shall have lost nothing. If we take it and succeed we shall have done a great work for peace. If we do not try, we shall have betrayed our trust for the future.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
This debate, like the last one, takes place at a critical but by no means a desperate moment. Much depends upon the discussions now to be resumed at Geneva. It is for that reason, 1487 because there is a sense of hope as well as of anxiety, that the debate today has been attuned to this key.
I am sure that the whole House would wish to join me in congratulating my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Commander Courtney) and the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) upon their maiden speeches. We often claim that here, in the House of Commons, we have men and women capable of speaking on a wide variety of topics. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Harrow, East has the great advantage of knowing the Russian people. He made an admirable speech, and we look forward to hearing from him again soon. I was sorry that I missed the speech of the hon. Member for Penistone but I have a note of what he said. It is clear that he has a considerable knowledge of international affairs and we congratulate him on his success today.
All that has been said in this debate will, of course, be carefully studied by the Government. Meanwhile, it seems to me that the most important thing to do now is to stick to the principle "first things first." To our mind, these negotiations and this process of negotiation seem very long and tedious. With all the faults of our democratic and Parliamentary systems, we are accustomed to rapid administrative decisions and even to rapid legislation. Therefore, we are teased and sometimes disheartened by these slow-moving procedures of international negotiation. We must observe the contrast between the number of plans, possibilities and new ideas—and concessions too—which are always being thrown out from the West and the rather monolithic attitude taken by the East. There is some danger in this, for if we in the West are not careful we may, by the very fruitfulness—fecundity I ought to say—of our ideas tend to undermine our own position.
The two Conferences now going on at Geneva are both of capital importance. In answer to the charges of inactivity made by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), I think we may say that both of them are largely due to the initiative of Her Majesty's Ministers.
Let us consider first the Conference on Nuclear Tests. As the House knows, this 1488 was made possible by British initiative and the agreement which we got to call the meeting of scientists. That, again, is something for which I think we may take a little credit. Happily, without too much delay they reached an agreement in principle that an effective system of control was practical. The Geneva Conference on tests that is now being held is based on the experts' report.
In all these questions of tests we have two separate but equally important objectives. In the first place, we hope to reach an agreement to prevent the pollution of the atmosphere which might become serious if tests were to proceed on the scale of the American, Russian and even our own tests over a long period of years at an increasing rate. That is the first objective. Secondly, we hope to make a start in a process which might lead to really effective measures of conventional and unconventional disarmament alike. Thirdly, it would be of immense value if we could get a general abolition of tests of all kinds—I say "all kinds" in answer to what the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) asked me just now—fortified and underwritten by an effective system of international control.
Unfortunately, since the experts' conference there has been further scientific progress, if one can use such a word—I would say a development—which has rather complicated matters, but in general the Conference on Nuclear Tests is proceeding slowly but steadily.
I was glad to see in the paper today that Mr. Khrushchev expressed his hopes that the Conference would reach agreement. Certainly considerable progress has been made in drafting the text of the agreement. I forget the number of articles, but quite a number have already been agreed. But there are, and I must be frank about it, obstacles still to be overcome. I believe that in one or two cases the obstacles can be resolved only by the heads of the Governments concerned. Nevertheless, I think this Conference should be able to clarify the final points which may remain for settlement and present them in a form on which the heads of the Governments concerned can reach a decision.
There has been much discussion on the veto and, as my right hon. and learned 1489 Friend said, it is essential that we do not have a veto. If we do, there is really no agreement for control or inspection, because an agreement with a built-in veto has no value. However, we have recently made some progress on this.
I must be frank and say that it became clear to me earlier this year that the Soviet Government really and sincerely, I think, suspected that one of the motives that might lie behind the Western Governments was not merely to have an inspection which would be effective but to use these teams of people going all over the country for purposes of intelligence or even espionage. These suspicions exist and one may as well face them. Therefore, I have ventured again to make a suggestion, which is still under consideration, that this may be overcome by some annual agreed limit of inspection; and if that could be done, I believe that the question of control and veto is capable of resolution.
As I said before, the technical aspects have become rather more complicated than when the scientists first met a year ago. There are two separate issues which must be resolved. The first is the question of the so-called high-altitude tests, that is to say, tests conducted at anything above 50 kilometers from the earth. Of course, in theory, it is possible, apparently, to conduct them at an immense distance from the earth—in theory—but this would be extremely expensive, and I do not think very easily undertaken. But still it is possible, and on this subject separate discussions are going on at Geneva, and some progress has been made.
Then there is the question of underground tests to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and to which I have given my answer. I believe that if we are patient and work away at it, this may be included in the general comprehensive agreement. One further thing. Although I was incorrect in saying the other day, in answer to a supplementary question, that all the Powers had made declarations that while the discussions were going on there would not be these tests, yet I feel pretty confident that while the discussions are going on they will in fact not take place. As for the other question asked me by the right hon. Gentleman, the agreement as re- 1490 gards renunciation would come into force from the date of the agreement.
Of course, underground tests do not contribute at all to any pollution of the atmosphere and the high-altitude tests contribute less and less according to how far away they are. Therefore, from the point of view of the pollution of the atmosphere—the first of our objectives—the underground tests do not affect the issue and the high-altitude tests, if they are very high, hardly at all, or much less.
But, for the second objective—I agree with the right hon. Gentleman and I was glad to hear him say it—a start in international control and inspection, a comprehensive agreement covering all three sorts of tests and signed by the three great Powers who now operate in this field, is a great prize indeed; and it is worth long effort and much patience to try to gain it, for it is on control and inspection rather than on some generalised plan for this or that, that real progress in disarmament, conventional and unconventional, depends.
Even when the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) attacked me I did not mind, because he said some very sensible things as well. But I think that surely anyone in this House who looks back on the frightful destruction caused by so-called "conventional" wars, or searches his heart and looks at his home and family, must feel that disarmament, if it is to mean anything at all, must proceed on both conventional and unconventional fronts together. In this I have never wavered, and to this purpose I and my colleagues will continue to work with every method in our power.
Naturally, there have been developed in this debate a number of other ideas about what should be done regarding nuclear weapons. I will not discuss them at length now. The suggestions put forward by the right hon. Gentleman are really a kind of compromise; a kind of compromise between different sections of opinion in this country, and a kind of compromise which he hopes might be acceptable to the nations of the world. I realise the importance of these proposals; but, without being discourteous, I wish to make some observations.
1491 It seems to me that there are three great question marks. First, is this proposal a practical one? I mean, is there any real chance that the other countries will agree, at any rate until the three Powers have themselves reached some agreement—at least upon tests—upon some forward movement? If not, it is just a formula for internal use, and not a contribution to the world problems.
Secondly, what would be the conditions of this club—non-manufacture or non-possession? There is a world of difference between them. If it is only non-manufacture, there are certain limitations to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale drew attention—economic limitations and the enormous expense involved. It is true, that he said at one moment that country after country would start to manufacture, but he then devoted a considerable part of his argument to proving that even such a rich and powerful country as France would find the manufacture an almost intolerable burden. It is no good stopping manufacture unless we can stop possession. What is to prevent the great Powers that remain in the nuclear field from giving these weapons to their allies or satellites? But, at any rate, whatever the decision, it must be enforced.
We have already had a lot of trouble—weeks and months of argument—in agreeing conditions for enforcing the inspection of tests. If we are to enforce all over the world both non-manufacture and non-possession, it seems to me that this is a very formidable task, and unless these question are answered the whole concept is unrealistic.
Thirdly—and I must say that something which the right hon. Gentleman said made me feel he would be sympathetic to it—while we recognise the immense material power of the two great giants, Russia and America, is it really desirable that this power, with all its influence upon the gravest issues of foreign policy, should be their perpetual monopoly through all time uninfluenced and un-tempered from any other source?
I do not put this forward in a carping spirit, but I say that any British Government with responsibilities to themselves, to the Commonwealth and as a leading European Power, must think long and carefully before taking such a decision. 1492 I think that they would do better to concentrate on the disarmament efforts which we are making and about which I shall have a word to say.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The Prime Minister has put some arguments against our proposals. Would he answer two questions? Does he really suppose that the third argument he used would not be used by France, Germany and other countries as well; and, secondly, will he say exactly what steps he proposes to take to prevent other countries from testing nuclear weapons?
§ The Prime Minister
I was coming to that in developing the disarmament point which the right hon. Gentleman asked me to make. In regard to the first, I rather thought the suggestion—these are delicate things to raise across the Floor of the House—that perhaps after making a test agreement between the three Powers, and perhaps after the successful proof of France's power to make these tests, they might be more ready to adhere to this agreement which, of course, once made we shall ask other countries to adhere to.
1 now turn to the other meeting of Foreign Ministers at Geneva. It was to some extent the result of the British initiative. It is because we felt that a sort of deadlock had arisen last winter that the Foreign Secretary and I determined to break it. We knew, of course, that our action would incur a certain degree of suspicion and anxiety even from our allies, but these things have to be borne.
The right hon. Gentleman may say that we have achieved nothing. At any rate, we have achieved this. We are not now grappling with the result of an ultimatum timed to expire in May. We are dealing with a negotiation in July. In these negotiations the Foreign Secretary has shown great skill and patience, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman's references to him were singularly ungenerous. He has strengthened confidence among our allies, but a confidence which is based upon mutual understanding. We have a united Western position and we are determined to remain united on essentials. We are determined equally to be able to distinguish between firmness and obstinacy. That is the theme of our position in the West today.
1493 I need deal only with one or two points which have been covered already. Within a few weeks we shall see the outcome of this meeting. There it is; it is a very critical moment. I have never hoped that it would solve all these questions, but I did hope, and I still hope, that it will reduce the matters in dispute to a manageable compass, and present them in such a way that the remaining points can be presented and considered by a meeting of heads of Government. If the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is right in his analysis of the Soviet position—and, of course, we have to take into account Mr. Khrushchev's speeches as well as Mr. Gromyko's statements—this should not present an impossible task.
The right hon. Gentleman made many references to the question of European security. We have been asked what our plans are, and why no progress has been made. We put forward a plan at the beginning of the Foreign Ministers' Conference at Geneva. It was a comprehensive plan, which covered the whole process of settling and pacifying Central Europe—and was none the worse for that. It included provision for discussing a zone of limitation of armaments. This plan still represents the Western position. I wish we could make progress with it, but we cannot hope to do so until the immediate question of Berlin has been disposed of. We cannot make progress without that.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition objected that this was a package deal, and that we were not prepared to deal with the points individually. Yet curiously enough, that is just what we have been doing for five weeks. The first point to be settled in the package deal is the Berlin problem, and when we have disposed of that no doubt we shall be able then to pass on to the next. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The trouble is that the first chapter of the package has taken a long time.
§ Mr. Gaitskell rose—
§ The Prime Minister
We will get on, Never mind. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be pleased when we do
I now want to say something about the summit. Some people assume it must take place, and others that it cannot. Some people seem to regard it as 1494 an end in itself and others, more reasonably, as a means to an end. I have always hoped it would take place, for two reasons. Incidentally, I was attacked by the hon. Member for Attercliffe who asked why we had suddenly got interested in the summit. I attended a Summit Conference four years ago. This is not a new conversion to the idea of a summit meeting. I am in favour of it because I think that certain decisions can be taken only by a meeting with Mr. Khrushchev, and it may be that the Berlin question is one. This will be a first step, and we can then get on to the great questions which lie behind. But if it is the first step it may be that it can be taken effectively only at the summit.
My second reason—and I do not claim that everyone would agree—is that such a meeting, if conducted rather on the lines of the recent Foreign Ministers' meetings, would be of great value in itself. I will tell the House frankly that I believe the failure of the 1955 Summit Conference was that there were far too many plenary sessions and far too few private talks and negotiations. These discussions have been conducted under a quite different method and a considerable advance has been made as a result of the different procedure. I think that there is an advantage in that meeting of the heads of Governments and, in the case of the United States, one who is also a head of State.
On the Western side we meet continually. We make journeys and see each other, but there is a kind of gulf fixed between East and West. It was partly for that purpose that I undertook this journey to Moscow, which I think has been worth while. For the same reason, I would welcome another summit meeting taking place by the methods I have described. I would hope that we might be able to give the answers of those Governments immediately concerned to the questions perhaps passed to us by the Geneva Conference on Berlin. We might be able to give the answers also, if they are ready for us, to some of the other questions from the nuclear discussions. That would clear away the first obstacle. Then we would probably be able to define the next target to be approached. Here the question of general disarmament is far the 1495 most hopeful, and that might follow the same processes of discussion, leading to other summit meetings.
That is my answer to the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. I cannot promise anything to the House. I can only try my best. All of us have to work together as allies. If only we could succeed in making this step, in reaching a solution, even a temporary solution, and a reduction of tension on the whole problem of Berlin, we could immediately turn to those wider questions upon which, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, the whole future of the world must depend.
It is very easy to throw out all kinds of concepts and ideas when one is not in the position of having to try to carry them out. I hope that I shall not be thought cynical if I say that I do not think that Utopia can be reached in a single bound. There are many points on which, if we could begin to bridge the gap, we could make further progress. Therefore, I would be very content if I could see the kind of developments which I have tried to describe to the House.
I recognise the dangers, although I think that they may be over-estimated, 1496 of a great spread of nuclear power; but I think that the first thing is that the three Powers themselves should at least set the example of making an agreement upon tests. If that breaks down, what hope have we of making by any gestures, something which will appeal to all these other people? If it succeeds, we can proceed to the problems of general disarmament. Then we can proceed both to nuclear disarmament and to dealing with the manufacture and storing of the plutonium, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and trying to prevent the spread of nuclear power throughout the world.
I will be frank and say that I do not think that we can do anything until we can make a start. When we have made a start, we can see where we are and get on. It is easy to throw out these concepts, but it is very difficult to carry them out. I say frankly that the journey we have to go in this pilgrimage is likely to be a long one and it will require patience as well as faith.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Edward Heath)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.