HC Deb 26 July 1960 vol 627 cc1427-56

10.4 p.m.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing those of us who are anxious to return to the question of disarmament to do so. The whole House will be agreed that it would be quite wrong for us to be satisfied with the very short debate that we were able to have on this important matter before Private Business was taken. Although in the brilliant speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) a great many of the important issues were put, it would be quite wrong for the speech of the Minister of State to go unanswered. Many of his comments are of a kind that we on this side cannot accept.

I want to begin by making it clear that disarmament is not, and ought not to be, a party matter. In so far as the British Government delegates at the Disarmament Conference talks are putting forward a fighting campaign for disarmament, they will have the full backing of every Member of the House.

It is therefore with very great regret that I have to say that I am afraid that the Minister of State's explanation this evening as to why these talks have ended in confusion was too smooth and too superficial by half. We will all agree that when the Ten-Nation Disarmament Conference met early in this year with two plans in front of it, the Western proposals and the Eastern ones, it could be argued that both these sets of proposals were to some extent unsatisfactory. They were both too extreme, though in opposite directions. On the one hand, it could well be argued that the Soviet Union, in its proposals, was asking for too much too quickly, and therefore the possible charge that it was being unrealistic and that the proposals had been propaganda pro- posals did lie against it. On the other hand, what the West offered was so little that it was doubtful whether it was, in fact, offering anything at all.

It is important to bear that in mind, because I think that is part of the explanation of some of the apparent propaganda which has been conducted from the Russian side. It is a tragedy that after all the discussions that went on among the Western nations before the conference opened, the proposals which were produced were such a mockery of a genuine offer of disarmament as to cast doubt from the very outset whether the Western nations were approaching this solemn and urgent question in the spirit which the General Assembly desired they should do when it debated this matter in September of last year.

I ask the House to consider for a moment, as the Minister of State did, these Western proposals. He said that, these proposals were not so bad, after all. Therefore, I suggest that we should examine them for a moment now, because I believe that they are the key to the failure of this stage of the disarmament talks. We must remember that Her Majesty's Government were a party to the preparatory talks as a result of which these proposals were drawn up, and, therefore, in the eyes of this House, this country and the world, the Government must bear its full share of responsibility for them.

The main starting point of disarmament in the Western plan consisted of the demand for prior notification of the launching of vehicles in outer space, and this was made the item, above all other items, which was given priority before any disarmament of any other kind took place at all. Yet everybody knows that it is in this field of outer space in which the Soviet Union has the lead. Therefore, from the very outset, the Western Plan struck what I might describe, to put it mildly, a tactically very unwise note by starting the disarmament talks by trying to curb the one field in which it could be said that the Eastern nations had the lead. This was violating the principle which the Minister of State himself and other delegates from the Western side supported time after time in speeches in the disarmament talks—the principle that all disarmament should proceed on the basis that reductions from either side meant a parallel sacrifice and left a parallel security.

What is much more serious than that is the fact that this plan, if we examine it objectively and clearly, irrefutably demanded the establishment of far-reaching control without any disarmament of any reality at all. What it called for were so-called reductions in the manpower levels to 2½ million men for the Great Powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, a level of forces which, the Soviet Union pointed out, was higher than the manpower level she has in existence at the present time. And yet the agreement to accept those manpower ceilings was made dependent on the establishment of procedures for "initial and continuing verification".

That means simply this, before any disarmament could start at all or any real discussions on disarmament could start, the Western Powers were demanding the establishment of control procedules for vertification of existing manpower levels in the Soviet Union. They wore demanding the entree into the heart of the Soviet Union military secrets. It was, in fact, establishing licensed espionage and, as such, was absolutely bound to be rejected by the Soviet Union. There was not even the beginning of the basis on which disarmament could be discussed, because al sides had agreed on the formula, no control without disarmament, no disarmament without control.

Finally, we turn to stage two of the Western proposals, in which after a lot of studies, about verification of one sort and another, we come to actual measures of disarmament, and what are the measures of disarmament which the Western proposals put at stage two? First of all, the prohibition of the basing of weapons of mass destruction in outer space. Secondly, on site inspection of la inching sites—two fields in which the Soviet Union is known to have a superiority. Thirdly, aerial inspection against surprise attack, a field again in which we know the Soviet Union is very sensitive. It is this proposal put forward by President Eisenhower at the Geneva talks in 1955 as what he called the "curtain raiser" to disarmament, the test of Soviet sincerity, which led to the breakdown of the previous disarmament talks, because we know that the Soviet Union will not accept aerial survey of the kind—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Just a moment—without the beginning of genuine disarmament; because this is merely to accept U.2. flights. Of course it is. One thing which was made quite clear was—

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe) rose

Mrs. Castle

Let me finish this. I have a lot to say.

Aerial survey has its place in disarmament. The Soviet Union has admitted that, but it only has its place where evidence has been given of Western genuineness about disarmament, and there is no proof of Western genuineness about disarmament, when we are talking of manpower levels of 2½ million men, which is not disarmament by the Soviet Union, but which would mean for the Soviet Union rearmament.

Therefore, it is apparent to any objective person that we shall not get acceptance of aerial surveys by the Soviet Union in stage two of a disarmament plan which gives no disarmament of the kind which in the Soviet Union's eyes is proof of the genuineness of Western intentions. Therefore, it is quite clear to any objective observer—and many American commentators have said this; many American Democrats and others have said—that the Western proposals were a farce and could not possibly provide the basis of agreement. But the only answer that the Government have given is, "Look at the Russian proposals. They are totally unrealistic." I agree that they were, in the form in which they were put by Mr. Khrushchev in his initial suggestion of total disarmament within four years. It was a quite impossible programme to realise within that time limit.

At the same time Mr. Khrushchev, in his speech to the General Assembly last September, said to the assembled Powers, "This is our idea of how we should set about complete and rapid disarmament, but, if you do not want to go as quickly as that, there are other ways of showing your willingness by more gradual stages. If you want to go less quickly, why not go back to the Soviet proposals of 1955?"

He repeated that offer in September last year. These Soviet proposals of May, 1955, were, as we know, the Anglo-French proposals which were put forward by, among others, the British Government delegate. They were accepted by the Soviet Union on 10th May, 1955, with the addition of far more detailed headings for the establishment of a control system.

When the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said today "The Soviet Union showed no willingness to face control in the earlier stages," he must know that that is not so. According to the reports of the first part of the ten-nation talks—we have only had verbatim minutes of the first part; we have not yet seen the minutes of the second—those who go through those minutes carefully will see that Mr. Zorin was challenged in March or April this year, "Do you still stand by the Soviet control proposals of 1955?" He said, "Yes we do." If that is so, why do we not go back to those proposals which we had welcomed earlier?

Why not go back to our own plans of 1955? I say seriously to the House that our failure to do so is the second reason why profound cynicism and doubt have been spread in many quarters about the genuineness of Western intentions on disarmament. The burden of proof that the West is really in earnest this time about disarmament rests with us, because of the history of what happened in 1955.

I remember that in May this year, when we had a debate on foreign affairs, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition challenged the Foreign Secretary and asked why, if they said that the Soviet proposals were unrealistic, the Western Powers did not revive the proposals which they themselves had put forward. These were comprehensive proposals, balancing nuclear disarmament and conventional disarmament under inspection and control. My right hon. Friend asked, "Why not go back to those proposals as the starting point for negotiations if you think the Soviet plans are unrealistic?" The Foreign Secretary brushed him aside with an astonishing phrase and said almost scornfully that he hoped that my right hon. Friend was not reviving "the old 1955 heresy". He added that the Soviet proposals would have meant the dismantling of N.A.T.O. without there being any kind of control. I do not think that in any debate on this subject there has been a greater travesty of the truth from the benches opposite.

If anybody cares to turn up the Blue Book of the disarmament talks it will be seen that the proposals put forward by Mr. Gromyko in May, 1955, contained detailed headings on control. It is not true to say that those proposals would have meant the dismantling of N.A.T.O., without control. What Mr. Gromyko suggested was the setting up of international control organs with an international staff. That staff was to have "unimpeded access to records" and "unimpeded access at all times to all objects of control." He suggested that the best way—

Mr. Ormsby Gore

That was at a later stage. In the first stage they did not have access to all the armaments which were to be controlled. That was after 50 per cent. of the disarmament had already taken place.

Mrs. Castle

Perhaps I might in reply to the hon. Gentleman ask him this question. If the Soviet proposals were so unsatisfactory, why was the Soviet change of attitude on 10th May, 1955, welcomed so glowingly by the Western delegates? They had challenged the Soviet Union to accept the Anglo-French proposals of 1954. The United States delegate said, "Come on, now; stop beating about the bush. Say, 'Yes' or 'No'." To everybody's surprise, the Soviet Union said, "Yes.".

What did Mr. Moch say to that? He said, "The whole thing looks too good to be true." What did the United States delegate say? He said," We have been gratified to find that the concepts which we have put forward over a considerable length of time have been accepted in large measure by the Soviet Union." What did the United Kingdom delegate say? He said that the Western proposals had now been "largely, and in some cases entirely, adopted by the Soviet Union." Mr. Nutting added, "We have made an advance that I never dreamed possible on Monday last."

What did the Soviet delegate say? He said, "Let us get down to it and discuss your proposals." What did we do? We adjourned the conference. When it met again after the Geneva Summit talks, at which all that had happened was that President Eisenhower suggested that all we needed in the disarmament field was an aerial survey—a glorified mass U.2 reconnaissance, which he knew was unacceptable to the Soviet Union—what happend? The United States delegate got up and shocked the world—and shocked the British delegate, too, if the right hon. Gentleman had the honesty to admit it—by saying, that the United States Government claimed the right to reserve "all its pre-Geneva substantive positions." The Anglo-French proposals were withdrawn, and have remained withdrawn to this day, and that is a serious blot upon the disarmament record of the Western Powers.

It was because when the Soviet Union said "Yes" to the Anglo-French proposals the Western Powers ran away from them that there has been this deep doubt in the Soviet Union that if she did give way on some matter which she considered vital to her security, some aspect of control, she would not get any real disarmament in return. We know that site is spyminded—I happen to believe that she is pathologically spyminded—but we are dealing with realities and trying to make progress, and when one is trying to make progress one does not play upon the one anxiety which one knows will impede progress.

Whenever the Soviet Union is asked to accept some fundamental breakdown of the secrecy which she considers vital to her security, she is suspicious that if she does so the disarmament which she has been promised will not follow, as it did not follow in 1955. Why cannot we return to those proposals? If the Soviet acceptance of them was welcomed so warm-heartedly, what has changed to make us run away from those proposals to the farcical ones which we put forward in March this year?

The reasons are not technical ones about disarmament. They are political ones. Why is it that we will not go back to the manpower ceilings we said we should have? The Western proposals then said that the ceilings for Russia and the United States should be "at most"—those were the words used— 1½million men. The Soviet Union is willing to go back to those proposals. The relative proportion for France would be about 650,000 men. One of the reasons why we dare not go back to the Anglo-French proposals is that France has made it clear that she wants at least 1 million men to wage her war in Algeria. That is one of the political facts which stand between us and the solution to the technical problems of disarmament.

The United States will not go back to 1½ million men because she needs at least 2 million to man the 250 N.A.T.O. bases, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South pointed out earlier. We will not go back to the Anglo-French proposals because, if we were to make any substantial progress in disarmament, we would very soon be brought up against our other ally, West Germany.

One of the most alarming political obstacles to disarmament was expressed by the West German Foreign Minister the other day, when talking to the Bundestag. He said that the West German Government was opposed to any disarmament programme which would lead to disengagement within a limited European area. Yet somebody some time has to get down to the brass tacks of implementing that section of our proposals which relate to the creation of zones of arms limitation in Europe and in other countries which may be affected.

Finally, the real political obstacle to disarmament, which we shall fall over very quickly if we really get down to this tricky subject, is recognition of the Peking Government. Very early on in disarmament talks one must bring in other Powers. One cannot get beyond the early stages of a disarmament discussion among the nations already round the table before one knows whether the rest of the world will come in. If one brings in the rest of the world it is no good bringing in Chiang Kai-shek. It does not matter what happens on Formosa—it can under-write treaties as much as it likes; the real signature which matters is that of Peking.

The Foreign Secretary was challenged again yesterday about when the West is to get down to solving this problem and when the British Government will take the initiative in getting the United States to realise that it cannot continue to live like an ostrich with its head buried in the sand, pretending that 600 million people do not exist. We cannot have disarmament without the recognition by the United States of the existence of the Peking Government. The Western Powers are betraying the possibilities of disarmament as long as, rather than face this political obstacle, they go on piling up Polaris missiles in Europe instead.

I suggest that if one examines carefully, as some of us have done, all the evidence and all the plans that we have had before us in such detail over the past few weeks, one will find quite clearly that the obstacles to disarmament at the moment are not technical but political. The technical solutions are there and could be built upon.

It is a favourite trick of the Western nations to keep returning to the theme that control and inspection are the key to disarmament. Of course they are. But then they add that the Soviet Union has never get down to the question of control. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, "hear."] That is not true. Anybody who says, "hear, hear" has not read the new Soviet proposals that were proposed after the adjournment for the Summit talks which never took place.

It is quite obvious from the evidence that on paper at any rate—and I am not putting it any higher than that, for we are all talking about paper offers on either side—the Soviet Union is prepared to accept sweeping measures of control provided it gets evidence and proof of serious progress towards disarmament.

Mr. Ormsby Gore

May I draw the hon. Lady's attention to a particular feature of the Soviet plan? It refers to the control arrangements and the wording is: The control organisation will have the right to inspect without hindrance all enterprises, plants, factories and shipyards, previously engaged wholly or in part in the production of rockets, aircraft, surface warships, submarines… and so on. I asked Mr. Zorin what was the significance of the words "previously engaged." I asked whether they would allow the investigation of other factories not previously engaged, but perhaps clandestine factories which were making these arms. We had no satisfactory reply. I therefore say to the hon. Lady that although these provisions are superficially fairly attractive, in certain particulars they are not sufficient and that when challenged to explain them the Soviet Government refused to do so.

Mrs. Castle

My answer to the right hon. Gentleman is that the Western Powers spent the whole of the first section of these disarmament talks playing on a new formula by M. Moch, a formula which was just as unrealistic as, he complains, the words "previously engaged" are. M. Moch's formula was that in order to get control of reductions of any kind, one must not only have the verification of the reductions themselves, but be able to get a verification of the situation before the reductions were made. His formula was X plus A, X being the existing situation and A being the reduction, presumably leaving one with Y, or something of that kind to represent what is left.

Clearly, if it is made the definition of control that the existing situation must be established before any disarmament of any kind can take place, that is asking the Soviet Union to give the Western Powers access to all her military secrets before disarmament takes place.

Mr. Ormsby Gore

We have categorically stated on behalf of the United Kingdom that we are prepared to accept precisely that control.

Mrs. Castle

Perhaps the British Government are, but we are now talking about what is a basis acceptable to both sides. It is quite obvious that the Soviet Union has been wrestling with what is a very difficult problem—which comes first, the hen or the egg; which comes first, control or reductions. If we start by saying to the Soviet Union that we will reduce our arms to a figure higher than we already have, provided that they allow us full verification of the military facts of their existing situation—

Mr. Ormsby Gore

I must ask the hon. Lady to keep somewhere near the facts. The facts are as stated by Mr. Khrushchev himself, that the present strength of the Soviet armed forces is 3.6 million men. We say that they should reduce in the first instance to 2.5 million. That is not fixing a force level miles from the existing figures. That is 1,100,000 below their existing figures.

Mrs. Castle

That is not the figure that Mi. Zorin gave in the ten-nation talks. Mr. Zorin's complaint was the one which I am now making, namely, that the figure of 2½ million is higher than the one towards which the Soviet Union is now moving with the further reductions which she is now making. She has announced a reduction of 1.2 million and says that she is already in process of making that reduction. I am not taking her word for it, but merely using the arguments which were used in what was supposed to be an attempt to reach agreement. Mt. Zorin said, "When our current reductions have gone through, we shall have a figure lower than 2½ million; you are asking us for access to the military secrets of the Soviet Union before you will accept even the manpower figures which you yourselves were prepared to accept in May, 1954."

I challenge the right hon. Gentleman. Why not go back to the proposals of May, 1954? Why not go back to those manpower figures?

Mr. Ormsby Gore

The control arrangements in the 1955 proposals are no., satisfactory, and in any case I could also tell the hon. Lady that the Soviet Union, in these present negotiations, has made it quite clear that it regards the 1955 proposals as partial measures which are now unacceptable.

Mrs. Castle

I invite the right hon. Gentleman to re-read Mr Khrushchev's speech to the General Assembly last September, when he said, in effect: If you do not want to go as fast, or as far as this, we will start with the 1955 proposals.

Mr. Ormsby Gore

The proposals which we have put forward are very much more far-reaching than those in 1955.

Mrs. Castle

Do you call 2½ million instead of LI million more far-reaching? Of course it is not. The manpower figures alone show an increase.

Mr. Ormsby Goreindicated dissent.

Mrs. Castle

It is no good you shaking your head.

The Deputy-Speaker

Order. I think that it would be as well to address the Chair.

Mrs. Castle

There is a serious problem here. I suggest that the real answer is the establishment of confidence which will enable some of the secrecy to be abandoned. I do not believe the Western proposals are of a kind to engender confidence, any more than the record of what happened in 1955 engenders confidence. One must start by proving that there are grounds for believing that the Western Powers want disarmament. Until that point has been reached, control could start with measures against surprise attack to prevent the concentration of forces, which would be part of any mobilisation effort, or any preparatory effort for the launching of a sudden war.

This was put forward by Mr. Gromyko in 1955 and is in the first stage of the new Soviet plan. It suggests that there should be established control at airfields and ports to insure that these were not being used for military purposes", and that the destruction of missile launching sites should be carried out under the supervision of the International Control Organisation. There should be international control over the destruction of rocket weapons and the rest of it.

If, instead of trying to force down the throat of the Soviet Union a formula which is unacceptable, we should think out methods of control which would guarantee us in the interim period against surprise attack. We could then begin our disarmament reductions and create the atmosphere from which we could go on to the next stages.

Mr. John Hall

I am trying to follow the hon. Lady's argument on this serious subject. Can she tell me how the type of controls she is now describing would work unless one were able to have a comprehensive inspection of the territories of Russia as a whole? Can she tell me also what it is to which the Russians object in open inspection when the Western Powers are willing to allow precisely the same facilities as we are asking for from the Soviet Union?

Mrs. Castle

The Soviet Union would reply to that, as she has replied in the ten-nation talks, that she does not believe that there is a certainty—I will put it that way—that if she allowed this control and this inspection, that she would, in return for dropping her guard, get any real disarmament.

Mr. Hall

Russia would get the same information as we would get.

Mrs. Castle

This is a matter for the decision of any sovereign State. It has the right to say that if it is abandoning security—what it considers to be its security—it is going to be certain that it will get something in return. The only answer that the West has put forward is President Eisenhower's sudden switch from the Western proposals in 1955 to the aerial survey ones.

Now that we are resuming our disarmament talks, the only proposals that we have put forward are M. Moch's formula that there must be verification of the armaments, manpower and the rest of it in the Soviet Union before we even get manpower ceilings of 2½ million. That is no very dramatic proof that if the Soviet Union dropped her guard she would not once again be faced with the sort of walk out on actual disarmament with which she has, in words, been promised.

We all agree that it is a very great pity that the Soviet Union walked out of the ten-nation talks. I deplore that. I deplore any hindrance to the discussion of disarmament which might lead to progress, but I must say that some of the speeches made by the Western delegates when the Soviet Union walked out were rather unhelpful. Incidentally, it is interesting to see that when in the sessions of 27th and 28th June they wanted the world to know what had happened, the record of the proceedings was got out the same evening, whereas we are still waiting for the records of the talks which led up to that breakdown. It is rather strange that the one set of documents could be rushed out in time while we are still waiting for the others.

Of course, some wild things were said. M. Moch for instance, proceeded to give the Western answer to the walk-out. He said that Russia was not willing to accept neutralisation of all bases fixed or mobile, land, air or floating. That is not true. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that that is not true, because the Soviet proposals of 2nd June covered in their first stage the destruction of submarines and surface naval carriers, the destruction of missiles and planes, the inspection of launching sites for rockets and all the things which M. Moch said that the Soviet Union would not entertain.

Mr. Ormsby Gore

There was nothing in the first stage of the proposals about the elimination of bases on Soviet territory, and I think that for the benefit of the House we must all recognise that M. Moch has been a Socialist for far longer than the hon. Lady and knows a great deal more about the disarmament negotiations than she does.

Mrs. Castle

I stand by my point and I do not care where the answers came from—from whatever side they came. It really is not any answer to say that M. Moch is a Socialist. I am concerned with what he says and not with what label he carries, because this is more important than party or political labels of any kind.

I repeat—and the right hon. Gentleman has not denied it—that in the first stage of the Soviet document the Russians called for the destruction of all means of delivering nuclear weapons, including strategic and tactical missiles, pilotless planes of all types, military aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons; surface naval vessels that can be used as carriers of nuclear weapons; submarines of all classes and types and all artillery systems.

I should have thought that one of the most serious of all nuclear bases at the moment was the floating base, the submarine, and one which we ought to be glad to get rid of because it is a field in which we have often said that the Soviet Union has predominance. I regret that the Soviet Union walked out of the talks before the American proposals were produced, but I do not think that if they had stayed the new American proposals would have enabled any greater agreement to be reached, because they contain the same fundamental flaw that the control formula demanded from the Soviet Union is the one which is unacceptable until some disarmament has taken place. The new American proposals repeat once again that they must have verification of a forces level of 2½ million men as a first step before they will even consider the reduction to 2.1 million men. That is control without disarmament, and we cannot get away from it.

I believe that the Soviet Union's walkout was a political step, because disarmament had got deeply involved with the wider political problems. The problem which the Soviet Union was encountering was that of her relationships with China. We have to face the fact that unless we get the Soviet relationship with China clearly in our minds and take stops to meet the problem which this creates for her, we cannot make any further progress with disarmament. Clearly, what is going to happen is that the Soviet Union will go to the General Assembly and ask for a new disarmament body to be set up. I think it is true that we shall not get any further with disarmament with the present composition of the Disarmament Conference.

If we have the five Powers on both sides acting as a monolithic bloc, we shall have the same eternal second reading debates of each other's proposals which never really test the sincerity of either side. Clearly, we need a new disarmament body containing China and also India among its membership. It should have a neutral chairman and a form of procedure which would enable the conference to move from the second reading to the committee stage. I ask the Government to support such a suggestion at the disarmament debates in the General Assembly.

This will bring us at once against the question of the recognition of Peking. Are the Government going to refuse to accede to the demand for the composition of a new disarmament conference because of this act of political blindness? A though the Soviet Union may be pathological in its attitude to security it is matched by the pathological condition of America over the recognition of China. Surely it is time we had an independent British initiative about this. I agree that in the ten-nation talks we have had the five Eastern Powers acting as a monolithic bloc. They have been gibed at by the Western delegates for echoing each other's words. But the West has been a monolithic bloc as well. Cannot we move into a situation in which the United Kingdom would take an independent initiative? We have been told—I do not know whether this is true—that the British delegate has been anxious to move more quickly than the American delegate. I have heard it said in complimentary terms of the right hon. Gentleman that he did not think the American proposals were satisfactory. He has told us earlier that he thought some of the Soviet Union objections to the American proposals regarding foreign bases, for example, were valid. But he never said so in the Ten-Nation talks. The delegates have been acting as two monolithic blocs, and we must get away from that if progress is to be made.

We want a United Kingdom initiative which will recognise this, because I beg this House to realise this: whatever may be the faults of Mr. Khrushchev, he has one great merit in this situation. He is fighting an ideological battle on the Eastern front which alone contains the possibility of the salvation of the world. Do not let us underestimate the fact that from the very moment when the Soviet Union broke with Stalinism and, Mr. Khrushchev for the first time breaking with orthodox Marxism, said that another war would mean the destruction of all States, not merely capitalist ones, a ray of hope came into the world. In spite of all the things Which Mr. Khrushchev has done and written in the last few months, the stupid loud-mouthed and unnecessary insults he has hurled about, the truth is that 'he has been steadfastly consistent in what he has been saying during his tour of the People's Democracies and his arguments with China. He has reiterated the theme that it is possible to negotiate with the capitalist States to prevent a third world war and that—what is more—we must prevent a third world war.

Never let us forget that he is under intensive ideological pressures, not only from China but from Mr. Suslov and other right-wingers in his own country. Unless we back him up, we may live to regret it when he has given way to someone much more implacable, leaving us with no alternative but to go on with the arms race, which Mr. Kennedy of the United States seems anxious to pursue even before he becomes President, building into the programme of the Republican Party of the United States the demand that there must be no "price ceiling on security," a demand for the equipment of European States with the Polaris missile. If that makes hon. Members laugh, it does not make me laugh.

It is time this country started to insist on the West negotiating seriously on some of the issues which must be solved if we are to have the survival of this more enlightened Soviet policy. We must solve the problem of Berlin, because, until we do, there will be no real progress with disarmament. I make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. Why not, as one possible solution of this burning question, propose that Berlin should become the capital of the United Nations? The Soviet Union has suggested that Berlin should become an international city. We have objected to that on the ground of the inadequate security it offers to West Berlin. Why not let Berlin become the capital of the United Nations? The people of Berlin have a right to security and to freedom. This we have promised them, and that we would protect it, but not at the expense of driving us into a situation which would endanger the security of us all.

Let us build in all our Government actions on all the hopeful peaceful factors in the world. Let us do everything in our power, for instance, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. We should welcome the great speech of the Prime Minister of Ghana the other day. He called for the creation of a non-nuclear third force in Africa, with the rejection of foreign bases in that territory and the rejection of the policy of taking either side in the cold war in which we are now plunged back again. The West really must face the problem of foreign bases in the disarmament talks. Instead there are moves to increase the number of foreign bases. We hear that Western Germany is to seek foreign bases in either Portugal or Angola. If she does, Mr. Khrushchev will seek bases in Africa and Latin America. Two people can play at that game and the only goal that road leads to is the inevitability of a third world war. Let us therefore recognise the helpful things and build on them, even if it means Britain being the sole voice among the Western Powers to demand it.

In this troubled period through which we are passing, there has been one ray of hope. Perhaps the most encouraging symbol which we have had at this dangerous time has been the picture of Ghanaian troops under a British General going to the defence of European lives against the Congolese. There we have in embryo the new world society struggling to be born out of danger and violence. Let us not fall back on the smug generalities of the cold war. Let us look for hope and have the courage to build on it.

10.56 p.m.

Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)

The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) began her speech by saying that she had a great deal to say, and she proved as good as her word. I agreed at any rate with her opening sentence in which she expressed gratitude to the Chair for allowing one or two more speeches on this great issue of disarmament, because I am sure that on all sides of the House we are agreed that disarmament is the greatest problem calling for solution in the world today.

Yet I doubt whether the cause of disarmament, if I may say so to the hon. Lady, is very much furthered by recriminations over the past, especially in matters of detail and especially by people who were not present at the discussions. To form a judgment of these highly complex matters by studying the pages of a blue book is as difficult and as risky as to form an opinion on the findings of a court if one has not been present to see and hear the witnesses oneself.

I could not possibly accept the hon. Lady's extreme denigration of the Western proposals. I agree at once that they were not nearly as good as the British proposals which were tabled last September, but the hon. Lady sometimes seems to overlook the fact that we are one of a group of nations and that we must take into consideration the views of those with whom we are associating. I remind her that the American Colonies gained their independence long before Ghana and that they are just as entitled to have their own views.

The hon. Lady developed at some length the Soviet case for resisting inspection of any sort. We all know that they resist it, but what she did not explain was the reason. There is no need to be reticent about it; it is a perfectly understandable reason. The Soviet Government, at the sacrifice of a great deal of liberty and at the cost of a great deal of inconvenience to their inhabitants, are able to maintain a secrecy within their borders such as is unknown in the Western countries. It is quite unnecessary for Mr. Khrushchev to send an agent to find out where the rocket sites are in this country. All he has to do is to look at the newspapers and to see where the Aldermaston marchers go. That has always been one of the difficulties. We must be frank about this. One of the difficulties is that if the Soviet Government accept inspection they are making a real concession, whereas if we accept it we are making nothing like the same concession.

I want to look at this question from a rather broader standpoint for a few moments. As the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) said, it would be very hard to imagine a greater contrast between the atmosphere in which we are holding this debate and the atmosphere in which we debated the same subject four months age. Then we had high hopes. My right hon. Friend said that the chances the a of disarmament seemed better than at any other time since the war. I would go further and say that they seemed better than at any other time within living memory.

We must face the fact that since then we have had a very great set-back. No useful purpose would be served in pretending otherwise. And yet I would not agree with those who say that the initial stages of the ten-Power meeting were a complete failure or a complete waste of time. I agree with my right hon. Friend that in the circumstances, the discussions then were bound to take the form of a general debate on disarmament. What everybody hoped was that out of the Summit Conference would come a series of directives which would form the basis of more detailed negotiations when the Conference resumed. The lack of procedure and the lack of a standing chairman has been criticised, but it did not matter very much at that stage of the Conference. It would have mattered a great deal afterwards had the Conference gone on to try to negotiate an agreement.

There was, however, one disturbing feature about those talks to which I should like to refer and which so far I have not seen mentioned in public. I refer to the ease with which some of the delegations, though not, I am glad to say, the British delegation, were persuaded into pursuing hares of a technical nature. One example, which has been referred to today, is the idea of a satellite filled with nuclear explosives which, by pressing a button, somebody would bring down upon his adversary's territory. At this time of night, I do not propose to have a long technical digression. I would, however, say that that concept is at present far nearer to the realm of science fiction than to reality.

It is, I understand, a fact that if such a satellite were to be brought down with any accuracy, the rocket which fired it into space would have to be ten thousand times as heavy as the satellite itself. Although nothing is impossible, and we know that these terrible things are brought about, it is not likely to be produced overnight or in the immediate future. In any event, there are much easier and cheaper methods of achieving the same object.

Who is it who starts these hares? That is something about which I feel disturbed. It can presumably only be the military or the scientific advisers of some of the delegations. If that is so, those men are doing a great disservice to peace. They should be exposed, if necessary, and removed from public employment.

If it comes to that, there is an even worse feature of the present negotiations. I refer to the way in which so many statesmen seem grievously alarmed at the prospect of a sudden, devastating nuclear attack. I want to say a word about this, because there is great danger in negotiating under the belief that one is threatened with instant peril. Fear is a bad counsellor at the best of times and negotiations concluded under the duress of fear lead only to agreements which are unlikely to be lasting.

The suggestion, as I understand it, is that a potential aggressor despairing of a cheap victory might be tempted to risk everything in an all-out nuclear attack. If one thinks of this for a moment, one realises how unlikely it is. The only conceivable object of such an attack would be the destruction of the power to retaliate. That would involve, if we imagine Russia attacking the West, the sudden and simultaneous destruction of, I suppose, at least 500 objectives and possibly 1,000.

In order that it should be simultaneous, it would have to be brought about by missiles. Because of their limited accuracy at long ranges, they would have to have thermonuclear charges. One has only to consider the risks that that would bring to the continent that carried out the attack. I am not in a position to assess it, but I am certain that I am right in saying that the consequences of radioactivity and fall-out throughout the whole world, including the aggressor's country, would be so serious that it is not a project likely to be undertaken.

Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)

Is it not just possible the hon. and gallant Gentleman is missing the point? Can he conceive what would have happened if Hitler had possessed the hydrogen bomb in 1945?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman there, but that was at the end of a great war when Hitler was faced with destruction. What we are considering now is somebody starting in the middle of peace an attack of this nature.

I would say that the conclusion which I have reached—I have given a good deal of thought to this—is that this operation is something which is not on, given a reasonable degree of vigilance, such as exists, and a reasonable degree of dispersion, such as exists. I think this is of considerable importance for the future of disarmament negotiations, because I believe one of the things we should do is to make a much calmer assessment of the case for disarmament before negotions are resumed. After all, the case is a strong one; it is an overwhelming case: it is a case which gains nothing by exaggeration and it may lose a great deal by distortion.

At the same time it is, of course, the political will which is the dominating factor, and it is, therefore, pertinent, although, I dare say, quite in vain, to ask what it was that prompted the Russians to walk out of the Geneva Conference, and, indeed, if it comes to that, what it was that determined Mr. Khrushchev's words and actions at the abortive Summit Conference. I confess I find it impossible to accept Mr. Khrushchev's own explanations at their face value. It may be true, as was hinted by the hon. Lady, that he was under great pressure to find excuses for a return to the more rigid forms of cold war practised in the days of Stalin. If that is so—I have no idea whether it is so or not—I think it is very disturbing for two reasons.

To begin with, that fact must have been known, so one would suppose, to the American State Department. That being so, one would have expected that the utmost care would have been taken to see he was given no possible excuse for taking the line he did take. It is also disturbing for the future because one wonders what form and what shape of Government we may see in Russia in the years ahead.

On the other hand, I have even heard it said that all Mr. Khrushchev's previous gestures, all his friendliness, were so much play acting and that his sole intention was to lead some of the peace-loving nations, such as the people of this country, into believing they were about to move into easier times and then dash their hopes, and that thereby he hoped to drive a wedge between ourselves and some of our allies. If so, he grievously miscalculated. However. I do not accept that view for a moment myself. I do not accept it because I do not believe that men of the experience and the astuteness of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister or the astuteness of General de Gaulle, and the other Heads of State who had had preliminary talks with Mr. Khrushchev would have been deceived over that period.

I thought before the negotiations began, and I have often said, that the best contribution those of us who are anxious to see the cause of disarmament furthered could make, but having no responsibility for the negotiations ourselves, would be to place the best possible construction on the words and actions of the statesmen with whom we disagree. In other words, that we should do the thing which Mr. Speaker invites the Sovereign to do on our behalf at the beginning of each Parliament. I still think that is a sound piece of advice, but I am bound to admit that there are times when it is extremely hard to carry out.

I do not agree at all with the criticisms made by the hon. Lady and to a very mach lesser extent by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South—the criticisms of the Government in these affairs. No one did more to create the right atmosphere for these discussions to begin than the Prime Minister. The events that have destroyed that atmosphere have been wholly outside Britain's control. Since then, I suggest to the House, no single action has been better calculated to get us back on to the right lines again than the Prime Minister's recent letter to Mr. Khrushchev. What a remarkable letter that was. It is the latest of a series of letters which I believe will find their place in the history of modern diplomacy.

I agree, however, with the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South and also, if I interpret him correctly, with my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, that during this pause we can usefully consider improvements both in the corn-position and machinery of the Disarmament Conference. I think that we all agree that when the Conference is resumed it should be resumed in a closer association with United Nations machinery, and I remind the House that that original proposal to remove the Ten-Power Conference from the orbit of the United Nations came from Russia and not from us. It was a mistake, and we should go back to the United Nations.

I agree with the hon. Lady that it would he very desirable, if it could be achieved, to have a permanent neutral chairman, but who is he to be? Although it would be a great departure from precedent, the only suggestion that I can make is that the Secretary-General himself should take the chair. To do that involves quite a new concept of the functions of a Secretary-General of these great international bodies, but he has the impartiality and he certainly has the secretariat. Whether he has the time or not is a different matter.

On the other hand, I think that he might make himself responsible for the periodic and fairly frequent issue of factual and impartial reports on the proceedings of the Conference. We all know the great difficulty that there is about reporting these conferences. It is unnecessary for me to enlarge upon these difficulties now, they have been discussed so often in the House. One solution is to get an independent rapporteur, and who more suitable than the Secretary-General?

As to membership, it is of course true that sooner or later, if we are ever to have disarmament, China must be brought into the negotiations. I do not think that anyone denies that.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

The hon. and gallant Gentleman's Front Bench denied it yesterday.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

The hon. Member is entirely mistaken. My Front Bench has never denied anything of the sort.

Mr. Rankin

Yesterday afternoon the Foreign Secretary was questioned on this matter. He admitted, of course, to being in favour. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has done that, and so have the Government—regularly since they came to power—but they have done nothing about it at the United Nations.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

I do not agree in the least with the hon. Member. I said, and I repeat, that everybody agrees that sooner or later China must be brought into these negotiations.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

What does the hon. and gallant Member mean by "everybody"?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

All nations and all parties to the negotiations.

Mr. Silverman

Does the hon. and gallant Member seriously advance to the House that the American State Department, President Eisenhower, or either of the Presidential candidates, are in favour of this? Does he exclude them from the category of "everybody"?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

I do not exclude them. If the hon. Member will study stage two of the Western Plan he will see that this is dealt with.

Mr. Silverman

I am more interested in stage three.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

What I said was that it is agreed that sooner or later China must be brought in. The practical difficulty is to decide when.

I would say to our American friends that they must realise that this is a river that they have to cross if we are ever to get a disarmament agreement. I do not think anybody would deny that. What advantage is gained, if any, by trying to put off the crossing is a matter on which I have the greatest misgivings. Indeed, I think we must be frank when speaking to America about this and say that the willingness of the Americans to agree on this matter is bound sooner or later to be taken as a test of their sincerity in regard to disarmament altogether.

Arising from an interjection from the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), I very much hope that the rival Presidential candidates in the United States will refrain from taking up a rigid position on this matter until after their election is over, because, although the cause of disarmament is not dead, it is, in my judgment, certainly dormant until after the Presidential elections.

I think that all we can say now is that this debate will have served a useful purpose if it shows the world that at any rate the people of Britain and Her Majesty's Government are in deadly earnest in their determination to secure a disarmament treaty.

11.17 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

There were many points in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) with which I agreed. I am sure that there is a greater interest in disarmament in this country than there has been for many years. There is a great deal of interest in the subject outside the House. Before the House meets again after the Recess very important bodies, such as the Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party, at its conference, will decide what is to be their future policy. I believe that the Labour Party policy will be more logical, clearer and more justifiable if the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress go out for unilateral disarmament.

Before the House meets again the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress may find themselves pledged to a new kind of policy. I, for one, fervently hope that that will come about. I do not believe there can be any halfway house; one has either to accept the arms race or one or one has to come out for a bold measure of unilateral disarmament.

There has been too much of a tendency in this debate to place the whole blame for the increase in internationaltension—as the hon. and gallant Gentleman said—on Russia and Mr. Khrushchev. In his speech the Minister of State seemed to assume that the trouble began at the Summit Conference. But there were events leading to the Summit Conference. Where was the turning-point when Mr. Khrushchev became less conciliatory and the attitude of Russia hardened? It was undoubtedly the incident of the U2. That was the turning-point when certain elements in the Kremlin seemed to challenge Mr. Khrushchev's old position, and then we found that the Russian attitude hardened.

If the letter which the Prime Minister has sent to Mr. Khrushchev is likely to have an effect in bridging the gulf, then it is justified, but, as I have said in a Motion in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends, the blame cannot be laid upon one side alone. [That this House would welcome an announcement from the Prime Minister that, following his letter to Mr. Khrushchev, he proposes to write a letter to President Eisenhower informing him that a considerable number of people in Great Britain are exceedingly doubtful, since the incident of the U.2, whether the flights of United States aircraft over or near Russian territory are justified; that they believe that United States policy has also contributed to the increase in world tension; and would welcome some assurance that the United States of America is prepared to adopt a foreign policy more likely to lead to understanding with Russia, to bring China into the United Nations and end the fear that the nuclear arms race may lead to a third world war which could destroy civilisation.] It is time that the Prime Minister decided to send a letter to the White House pointing out that there are dangers in American policy and that, at the present time, it is as much a cause of increased tension as anything that has come out of the Kremlin.

I am very anxious to know where we are going from here. I have followed the policy of the Prime Minister with great interest ever since he began his new approach to the Soviet Union. When he first took office he delivered a very interesting speech over the radio on a Sunday. He said that the step that we should adopt was a non-aggression pact—indeed, he called it a solemn non-aggression pact. That was to be the first step towards a more friendly relationship with Russia.

What happened? He went to Moscow, and I heard him deliver many interesting speeches there, including those which were more adulatory of Mr. Khrushchev than I have ever delivered in this House. I heard him make a speech at the British Embassy in Moscow in which he 'talked of Mr. Khrushchev as the great leader of one of the greatest constructive efforts in history, saying that it was no mirage that was before Russia but that Russia was pointing the way to the Promised Land. What happened? When he met Mr. Khrushchev in Moscow, Mr. Khrushchev looked up what the Prime Minister had said in his broadcast speech, and the Prime Minister was surprised to find that he was faced with his own proposal for a non-aggression pact. He then discovered all kinds of reasons for retreating from such a pact.

That has been the history of disarmament conferences. The Russians have accepted proposal after proposal which has then become a subject of argument, with the result that we are in the present state in which nobody knows what is to happen next. Are we to continue with the arms race?

It is more than 10 years since the Labour Government embarked upon its rearmament programme. The argument put forward then was that in three years we would be able to talk to the Russians from a position of strength. But since then Russia has made enormous technological advances both in rocketry and in the development of the hydrogen bomb. It cannot be denied by the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East that if this goes on another 10 years there is no hope of the West being in a pose ion of superiority.

Yet we are acting as though we were the in-can at the tail of the American dog. We know that the first explanation of the disappearance of the U2 was a lie. The Americans first of all sent round a story that it had been lost somewhere in the wilds of Pakistan. Then they had to admit that it had been shot down over Sverdlovsk. After that incident, I wonder at the credulity of hon. Members who assume, as the Prime Minister did, that the American version of the plane that was lost in the Arctic must be accepted. If the American State Department could lie about the U2 it could lie about the RB-47. I wonder why it has been accepted in this House that the Russian version of this incident is wrong and the American version is right. I believe, with The Times, in its leading article on the flight of the RB-47, that What can be said with confidence is that no weather information or mapping details can possibly be worth the risk. If such were indeed the RB-47's mission, then those who sent her on it were either so unimaginative as not to be trusted with such authority or irresponsible. I believe that those who sent the RB-47 were irresponsible in authorising another flight into that area near Russian territory at this moment of international tension, which brings me to the problem of the American bases here.

Obviously, the Prime Minister is not satisfied with the situation, otherwise he would not be seeking a new agreement with President Eisenhower. I remember well the warning uttered by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) when he was moving the Motion of censure on the Labour Government in 1951. He pointed out the enormous risks and dangers that we had undertaken as a result of having American bases here. This was before the hydrogen bomb and the international ballistic missile. The right hon. Gentleman, in his graphic way, said that we had incurred enormous risks because if only a fraction of the atomic bombs that were supposed to be in the possession of Russia fell on this country we would experience what we had never known before. Ten years after that we find ourselves and the Russians in possession of these rockets and the hydrogen bomb, and we face the possibility that this country could be wiped out within a few hours.

In the last two defence debates a word frequently used was "suicide". and the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East was right in saying that Russia would have every reason to fear before starting a hydrogen bomb attack on this country. But the same applies the other way, and I cannot see how we can seriously argue, when, as The Times said, the authorities who are in charge of the American bases are irresponsible, that the continuation of the bases in East Anglia and Oxfordshire is in the interests of the 50 million people in this country. We should be welcoming the whole idea of the American bases being taken out of this country and being sent back to America. Last week, presumably trying to help the Prime Minister out of his difficulties, we had an American general saying that the British people would feel a greater sense of relief if they knew that bombing planes were able to fly over Russian territory than they would if the missiles were somewhere in Montana or Wyoming. There is a growing feeling in this country that the American bases do not protect us at all. I hope that the time will come when the Opposition Front Bench will say unequivocally that we stand for the removal of the American bases and for a position of neutrality.

The case of Berlin has been mentioned. What is to happen about Berlin? Does anyone think that Berlin can be saved by any measure of nuclear warfare in Germany? What would happen if the Russian headquarters were moved into Berlin? Would we bomb East Berlin or West Berlin? I fail to see how we can possibly remain in Berlin if it comes to a showdown. The sensible solution is for Berlin to be made a free city. We should stop talking nonsense and imagining that we can protect Berlin by threats of nuclear warfare on the Continent.

There is a growing realisation in this country—and, I hope, in Western Europe—that the time has come for an entirely new re-thinking on the whole of the international relationships in the nuclear age. We cannot possibly defend this country by the hydrogen bomb. The hydrogen bomb is a weapon of suicide. We can go on talking as much as we like about continuing the arms race, but it can only bring us into greater peril.

I rejoice that outside this country and in the democratic organisations in the country there is now a demand for a new policy, a demand for the end of the entire concept of strategy based on the hydrogen bomb, and which realises that there is only one way in which we can save the people from the horrors of nuclear war and that is by a policy of neutrality, a policy of retreat from the strategy which has obsessed the country during the last ten years.

Mention has been made of President de Gaulle and him manpower plans. Our manpower would be better deployed on building up our economy and abolishing poverty and creating a higher standard of living. I have no doubt that that is the policy of Mr. Khrushchev. Those who have followed his arguments in the last few years are aware that those arguments are fundamentally sound. It is absolutely essential in the interests of the U.S.S.R. to put into industry, into 'housing and into creating a higher standard of living in Russia the immense energy which is now being wasted on armaments.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)

Does the hon. Member think that there is any possibility of Russia's embarking on a policy of unilateral disarmament?

Mr. Hughes

Russia began unilateral disarmament when she unilaterally decided to stop hydrogen bomb tests, receiving no response from the West. Whatever Russia decides, that is not our point of view. We would be safer by unilateral disarmament than we would be by proceeding with the policy which leads straight to national suicide.

Mr. Gower

If we would be safer, would Russia be safer also?

Mr. Hughes

If the hon. Gentleman goes on he will soon become a pacifist. He is beginning to realise the logic of my argument. I am not pro-Russian. I am not pro-American. I am a humanitarian.

The demand is coming from humanity in all the countries of the world—East and West—that the time has come for an end to this policy of the arms race. Sooner or later that demand will find an expression in politics in this country which no party and no Government will be able to ignore.