HC Deb 24 May 1962 vol 660 cc699-728

4.45 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Edward Heath)

The dilemma with which the House is very often faced on the occasion of our debates on foreign affairs has been vividly illustrated this afternoon. I do not wish to enter into the constitutional arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), although I recognise the strength and passion with which he holds them.

When we discussed this matter at business time last week, the Leader of the Opposition, as has already been mentioned, asked that the debate should cover the Berlin situation, the N.A.T.O. Conference and the defence decisions taken there, the disarmament negotiations and the position in South-East Asia. There is, of course, a danger, which we all recognise, in dealing with these matters piecemeal and concentrating on questions which are hitting the highlights at the moment. There is an obvious danger for those who speak from this Dispatch Box. Hon. Members are at least in the position of being able to devote their speeches to one subject, if they so wish. But when speaking from the Dispatch Box one is open to the accusation, either that one does not cover enough subjects—let me hasten to add that my hon. Friend the Minister of State, when winding up the debate, will endeavour to deal with those on which I do not speak now—or with the alternative accusation that one has covered so many subjects that there is no detail or substance in those with which one has dealt.

There is, I think, a more important danger. It is that the impression is created that we are producing or handling a defensive foreign policy; that we and our friends in the West are only reacting to the individual events as they occur in the trouble spots of the world. It fails to recognise that our foreign policy should be, and is, a positive one in a much broader sense, and in the ordinary way one would have liked to direct the attention of the House to those broader aspects of positive foreign policy.

The problems which we have been asked to discuss are, of course, important in their own right, and indeed, in some cases, as has been said this afternoon, they are vital. But they are individual tactical problems in our foreign policy as a whole. I should have liked to put these individual problems in the broader setting which I have been mentioning to the House. But it is quite obvious beginning the debate at this time, and knowing that so many hon. Members wish to discuss these individual problems, that I ought to put that background more briefly than otherwise I should have done. I had been looking forward to explaining the broader aspects of foreign policy on this occasion to the House, but there are other matters that I wish to touch on in addition to those mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition.

When we are looking at foreign policy in its positive sense, it is related to the three dominant features which have emerged in the post-war years. The first are the possibilities as a result of the technological revolution of our time, of increasing the wealth and strength of individual countries throughout the world. The second feature is the sudden development, change and modernisation of individual societies, particularly throughout Africa and Asia. The third factor in the situation is the present attitudes of the Communist countries of the East as compared with those of our own Western group.

Against these factors, the positive object of our strategy ought to be to increase the prosperity and strength of our own group in order that we can foster and maintain independent societies and countries wherever we can. I emphasise "independent", because the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) a moment or two ago cited the nature of the Government in Thailand, which I do not want to debate at this particular point, as being a reason why action should not have been taken there, as I understood him. The position which I am putting to the House is that the object of our foreign policy should be to help where we can to maintain the independence of these countries and especially where they ask for help to do so.

Particularly, in this strategy, there is the position of the West and of Europe. Europe has an increasing voice in these affairs. It is quite natural that as Europe regains its strength so this should happen. It is also quite natural that as it grows and develops so stresses and strains emerge, some of which we have seen in recent weeks.

I do not want to anticipate the debate which we are going to have shortly about European affairs, presumably both political and economic. I want to say one thing before we come to that debate. We have the right and the duty to play a full part in the creation of modern Europe. It has been a disappointment to Her Majesty's Government that the members of the European Economic Community were not able to reach agreement in April on the question of political union. We shall welcome it when they are able to continue their negotiations among themselves about the political future of Europe. We understand the difficulties. I do not wish to comment on them today. Above all, we want to see these difficulties in proportion. What we believe is that we will be able to play a useful part in working things out with them when the time comes for us to do so which, as the House knows, we have already suggested.

In increasing our own prosperity and helping to increase the prosperity of others we have played a very full part in all the international organisations. I do not wish to deploy that today because I wish now to come to the other matters in which the House has shown interest.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

May we take my right hon. Friend's observation this afternoon that he is hoping that the Six will get together and continue their own negotiations on the political set-up in Europe to mean that he is not now going to press the case for us being brought in should the Six decide to resume these negotiations?

Mr. Heath

No. I said that I hope that they would be in a position to resume their negotiations and we felt that we had a full part to play when they were able to adopt the suggestion I made in London just over a month ago that the time was now approaching when we should be able to play our part.

I have emphasised the importance of a positive policy of helping to increase the wealth of other countries throughout the world. The second object is to support their independence. This brings me, without developing that theme as I would like to have done, to the question about which the House has just been speaking in Committee. That is the position in South-East Asia. The situation in Laos is a dangerous and disappointing one to Her Majesty's Government, and indeed I think to the whole House. Last year, in the course of a year's hard and difficult negotiations, considerable success was achieved at Geneva. Agreement was reached on virtually all the details of an international settlement. In that we would all pay tribute to Mr. Malcolm Macdonald for the week which he did together with the other delegations there in creating this agreement between all of them.

Unfortunately, the three parties in Laos have not yet come to terms which would enable this agreement to be put into effect. That has been the position for some months, to the great disappointment of all of us. During this time Her Majesty's Government have been using all their influence, as I believe everybody in the House knows and agrees with, to bring the parties together so that they should be able to form a Government of national union and then consider the agreement reached at Geneva. In this success appeared to be very close when Nam Tha fell. There is still a dispute about the circumstances.

Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)

Is it not a fact that Boun Oum and the Rightwing section of the people concerned in the conference refused to receive Souvanna Phouma when he called upon him after the Geneva Conference and that there was no hope of agreement at the time of the moves and countermoves in Nam Tha?

Mr. William Warbey(Ashfield). Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree with this undeniable fact—[Laughter.]—that during the time of the fall of Nam Tha General Phoumi and Prince Boun Oum were out of the country seeking military help for the continuation of the conflict?

Mr. Heath

I do not see the relevance of whether either the Prince or General Phoumi was away. I would have to check the dates carefully to find whether General Phoumi was away at the time that Nam Tha fell. I think he went away after the fall of Nam Tha. The situation was certainly better before the fall of Nam Tha in moving towards an agreement between the three Princes. The fall of Nam Tha produced two results.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)

Would the night hon. Gentleman comment on what I have been putting to him for several months and what is now dealt with in a message from Washington this morning, in Which we learn that the American Administration is now convinced that the Central Intelligence Agency has been up to its old devices again and must share a large part of the responsibility for the situation in Laos. The message goes on to say that the swarm of C.I.A. agents in Laos deliberately opposed the official American objective of trying to establish a neutral Government. Will he tell us, in view of the work which the C.I.A. has done in places where Britain has vital interests— Burma, Laos, Cuba and elsewhere— what representations we have been making to the American Government against these activities, of which the whole would has been aware?

Mr. Heath

I have told the right hon. Gentleman before that neither I nor Her Majesty's Government can have any responsibility for the activities of the C.I.A., nor can we be expected to have knowledge of their activities. Of course, we have seen the report in The Times today reporting the views from Washington. What I do know is that the policy of the President of the United States and of the American Administration is to find a political solution to the problem of Laos to help to create a neutral Government, to support Prince Souvanna Phoutma in so doing, and bring all the pressure possible upon General Phoumi and Prince Boun Oun to take part in that tripartite Government. That is the policy of the American Administration, and I am quite certain that the Administration is doing its utmost to pursue that policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not the C.I.A."] We cannot be responsible for the activities of the C.I.A.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

What representations have Her Majesty's Government made to the American Government against these activities, which were being carried out by an agency under the authority of an allied Government and which were obviously endangering the peace of the world?

Mr. Heath

My noble Friend is the Co-chairman and we, together with our allies in S.E.A.T.O., are in the closest touch, but the responsibility for this organisation rests with the American administration.

The first thing that happened as a result of the fall of Nam Tha was that the forces of the Pathet Lao were moved some 30 miles further on towards the Thai frontier. It was therefore no surprise in those circumstances, when the Royal Laotian Army crossed the frontier into Thailand and the Pathet Lao were pursuing them, that the Thai Government should feel that its own territorial integrity was threatened by the forces of Pathet Lao, which were advancing towards them and which obviously we know have been supplied from outside sources and therefore need be considered a threat.

The hon. Gentleman asked me the other day why these forces of the Royal Laotian Government were allowed to cross the frontier and then go back again. There is nothing in the Geneva Convention which prevents that or which puts the onus on the Government of Thailand of interning those forces and detaining them there. That is the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question.

That was the first effect of the fall of Nam Tha. It was, I hope the hon. Gentleman will realise, the first time that the cease-fire had been broken for a year, and it was a major break of the cease-fire. Of course, there had been minor disturbances, but it was the first major break in the cease-fire.

The second thing that followed the fall of Nam Tha was that as it was the first major break in the cease-fire, it was naturally asked whether the Soviet and Communist powers had changed their policy in Laos. Everyone was entitled to ask that question: whether, after a year, the Soviet and her supporters had grown impatient and had changed their policy. This again naturally made the Thai Government extremely anxious.

The Soviet Government had made it plain previously, while final attempts were being made to reach a settlement, that there would be no major breach in the cease-fire. Therefore, when this happened, it looked as though there may have been a change in policy; and, in- deed, that the whole position in South-East Asia might be threatened. It was in those circumstances that the Thai Government felt that they needed reassurance, and indeed, asked for it. They asked for it, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, in the S.E.A.T.O. Council, on 16th May, on which this was discussed. The Thai representatives there said to the S.E.A.T.O. Council that they believed that the circumstances following the fall of Nam Tha "constituted a threat to the Kingdom of Thailand and the safety of the Thai people," and it was in those circumstances that they asked for help and support. The United States Government promptly agreed to meet the request of the Thai Government.

Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)

As this is a vital point, would the right hon. Gentleman produce the evidence? In fact, did not the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Thailand declare, as reported in The Times on 16th or 17th May, that they did not make a request for troops, but that the United States offered to send troops?

Mr. Heath

My information is that the Thai representative made this request to the S.E.A.T.O. Council on 16th May. He was entitled to do that. That was the reply which he received. But surely the main point is: was he entitled to make the request? I have been trying to demonstrate to the House that in the circumstances that then existed he was entitled to do so because of the break down in the cease-fire and doubts whether this meant a change in policy.

The second question is whether those countries which were asked for support were entitled to give it. Her Majesty's Government are allied with Thailand under the Treaty of Manila, and under Subsection 2 of Article 4, if there is a threat to one of the members, then those members are entitled to consult together and to agree on measures which should be taken in the common defence.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek) rose

Mr. Heath

I know what the hon. Member is about to say because he has said it already. That agreement does not mean that unanimity is involved. The S.E.A.T.O. members can agree if they wish to take action by individual countries, which individual countries wish to take, and if they agree to do that, then the individual members can take the action in response to the request, and that is what has been happening.

Mr. Davies

With all due respect, the article says that Each party recognises that aggression by means of armed attack in the treaty area against any of the Parties or against any State or territory which the parties by unanimous agreement may hereafter designate …". There is a reference to "constitutional processes". In other words, in the Treaty we have the very words "by unanimous agreement". What is the right hon. Gentleman trying to do?

Mr. Heath

I am trying to refer the hon. Member to the fact that I am dealing with subsection 2 of Article 4 and not with subsection 1 of that Article, from which he has been quoting. The hon. Member is quoting from subsection 1 of Article 4, which deals with armed attack. I am referring him to subsection 2 of Article 4 which deals with a threat to the area. The circumstances are different and the action taken is different.

Mr. Daviesrose

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. Surely the hon. Member knows that if another hon. or right hon. Member has the floor he cannot intervene in that way.

Mr. Heath

Therefore, as Her Majesty's Government are allied with Thailand in the Treaty of Manila, and as subsection 2 of Article 4 provides for this action, Her Majesty's Government responded to the request.

Mr. Shinwell

I asked the Prime Minister this afternoon whether in the course of the debate he would arrange for the right hon. Gentleman to inform the House when the request was received to send forces to Thailand in order to resist aggression or the threat of aggression and what were the terms of the request.

Mr. Heath

I have told the House exactly what happened. At the meeting of the S.E.A.T.O. Council this statement was made by the Thai representative.

The representative asked for support in those circumstances. As a result, the Prime Minister shortly afterwards informed the House that if that request were received Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to take certain action. That request was later received. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] It was received yesterday. Following that, the Prime Minister has authorised the action, of Which he had already told the House, to be put in hand; as he said in his Answers, arrangements are now being discussed with the Thai Government.

That is the reason why Her Majesty's Government have taken this action in Thailand, but what, surely, is important also is that the negotiations should be got going again in respect of Laos, because that is the key to the whole question. For this reason we are glad that Prince Souvanna Phouma has agreed to go back to Laos and is on his way there. The Foreign Secretary was able to discuss these matters with him in London last Saturday, to discuss the situation fully and to assure him of Her Majesty's Government's support for him in his attempt to form a Government of national union. Prince Souvanna Phouma informed the Foreign Secretary that he was hopeful of arranging negotiations very shortly after his return.

What we also hope is that the Soviet and Communist Powers who are concerned in Laos will share the aim of Prince Souvanna Phouma and will help to bring about this national Government. The Soviet Government refused to meet our request about restoring the cease-fire and enabling the International Control Commission to do its work, but since then Mr. Khrushchev has publicly stated that the policy of the Soviet Union continues to be to work for a neutral Laos of the kind for which we have been working over this past year. He has also confirmed to the President of the United States that the understanding on this reached with him at Vienna is still valid, and therefore if the Soviet Government are still pursuing this policy and if the Chinese and North Vietnamese genuinely accept the same policy, there is still hope of securing a peaceful and satisfactory settlement in Laos, always provided that a Government of National Union can be brought about.

I have been dealing with an area in which a number of countries, for the most part poor and without long traditions of Government of a modern form, have suddenly achieved independence and have been beset by problems in the months and years since. We all know that the Congo is another area which has had problems arising from similar circumstances. The situation in Katanga has been quiet since last December, and the relations between Katanga and the United Nations have greatly improved. This is to be welcomed. I do not wish to go over the details of the present position in the short time which we have, but I should like to say something about the problem which faces the Congo and the United Nations at the moment.

We were disappointed with the first round of talks between Mr. Adoula and Mr. Tshombe. It may be that in these negotiations too much emphasis was placed on maintaining positions rather than on negotiations to reach a settlement. But the constitutional position is a matter for the Congolese themselves to settle, and the imposition by the United Nations of a settlement is certainly not a thing which falls under their present mandate. Nor do we conceive it as our duty to indicate to the Congolese what the solution can be, but if our experience can be of avail to them in any way, we will gladly offer it. We will gladly offer it to Mr. Gardiner, the Chief of United Nations operations, in the work of conciliation which he is doing. It seems to us that a compromise ought to be possible betwen Mr. Adoula and Mr. Tshombe.

There are, after all, three questions between them. The first is the question of Katanga having been declared an independent State. We have always stated that we could not accept Katanga as an independent State, but it has been reported that before leaving Elisabethville Mr. Tshombe said that he recognised that Katanga did not possess its own sovereignty. Our view has always been that the future of Katanga lay as an integral part of the Congo State, and if his own views are now changing in this direction, it is certainly a step towards a settlement. It does not mean that the present constitution is immutable. In fact, Mr. Adoula himself has agreed that some amendment of it is necessary. It is clear that Congolese opinion, not only in Katanga, is moving in the direction of greater autonomy for the provinces.

Secondly, there is the argument over the status of the Katanga gendarmerie. The control of the military forces of the State is in our view unquestionably a federal matter. There is no dispute over this. But the settlement of the question of the gendarmerie must go hand in hand with the restraining of the national Army of the Congo.

Thirdly, there is the question of finance. This is a vital element in any settlement. Katanga at the moment is withholding from the Central Government revenue Which without doubt ought to be divided. It has also, by expropriating certain firms, prejudiced the Central Government's enjoyment of revenues from those firms. But in these circumstances, and the three problems which I have described, I think that a compromise could be based on the Central Government being allowed to enjoy a rightful share of the revenue by arrangement with Katanga, with, at the same time, a reorganisation of the constitution in a less centralised form. As Mr. Tshombe is again in Leopoldville, we hope that it will be possible for the leaders to reach agreement on a settlement. There is, of course, still much to be done, but there will no doubt be means of helping Katanga and the Congo should they be able to reach a settlement.

What is quite clear is that stability will not be restored over this large part of Africa until its economic health is assured. I have mentioned two cases in the context of trying to increase wealth and prosperity and at the same time to maintain independence. The third principle of foreign policy is that of defending ourselves and our Allies. I should like to quote from the speech which Mr. Khrushchev made in Bulgaria as recently as 15th May. He asked, What kind of international situation do we have? He gave the answer, For our socialist countries, we consider that it is good. It is possible that one or two of his audience may have looked slightly dubious at this point, because he went on to say, You will say: 'What is there so good about it, if there is such a rumpus in the world?'. Yes, that will also go on … As long as both capitalism and socialism exist, as long as we do not have a uniform society—which means a socialist, communist society—we shall go on having struggles. There are other quotations which I should like to give the House, but I will deny myself this because of lack of time. That is the background against which we must see the defensive alliances of which we are members.

Here I wish to meet the request of the Leader of the Opposition that in the debate we should also deal with N.A.T.O. and the last N.A.T.O. Conference at Athens. In recent years the advance of the Soviet Union towards nuclear parity with the United States has caused a great deal of heart searching amongst some members of N.A.T.O. They have been anxious in these new circumstances about the ability of the Alliance to protect them. Their main anxiety—and many who have talked with them in Europe will recognise it—has been that the Americans might be so reluctant to risk the devastation of their own homeland in a nuclear encounter that in certain circumstances they would regard parts of Western European territory as militarily expendable rather than use nuclear weapons to defend them. That anxiety exists, and it must be recognised. There has also been a feeling that the non-nuclear members of the Alliance have known too little about the arrangements for the deployment of nuclear weapons in N.A.T.O. and the plans for their use.

At the N.A.T.O. Council meeting in Athens, some important decisions were taken to allay these anxieties. I want to emphasise that these did not concern the basic strategy of the Alliance or the levels of conventional forces. They were designed to provide the Alliance as a whole with further assurances about the determination of the nuclear powers to defend Europe, and their object was to give more information about the way in which they would achieve this aim. Above all, the decisions which were taken at Athens make it clear, as the President of the United States said on 17th May, that the United States cannot distinguish the defences of Europe from their own. At Athens the United States undertook to provide N.A.T.O. with an adequate supply of nuclear weapons for the defence of N.A.T.O. territory. The United States Government and Her Majesty's Government jointly undertook that their strategic nuclear forces—which, of course, at the moment are not under N.A.T.O. command—would continue to cover as fully as possible military objectives which threaten the Alliance and with which the existing N.A.T.O. forces cannot deal.

Secondly, a nuclear committee, which is open to all the members of the Alliance, was set up to receive and exchange information about the general organisation of N.A.T.O. nuclear defence. This will put the N.A.T.O. Council in a better position to take decisions about the future of N.A.T.O. forces, their size, their development, their arms, as well as about the strategy for which they will be designed.

Thirdly, the Council reviewed the action which it would be necessary for member countries to take in the various circumstances in which the Alliance might be compelled to use nuclear weapons.

Mr. George Brown (Belper)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he really meant what I understood him to say, that the Council decided to supply N.A.T.O. with nuclear forces? It sounded to us on this side of the House that that was what he said.

Mr. Heath

What I said, I think, was that the United States Government undertook to provide N.A.T.O. with an adequate supply of nuclear weapons for the defence of N.A.T.O. territories. That is the first part.

Mr. Brown

That is what I thought the right hon. Gentleman said. I used the word "supply" and he said "provide". But America undertook to provide N.A.T.O. with nuclear weapons for the defence of N.A.T.O. territory, for which, presumably, N.A.T.O. is to be responsible.

Mr. Heath

I said that this made no difference to the control at all. I made that quite plain, and then I went on to the nuclear committee and, thirdly, the action which the countries would have to take. There were those three points and I thought that I put them absolutely plainly, In working out these arrangements Her Majesty's Government played a prominent part, and we regard them as a significant achievement in N.A.T.O. history. I would emphasise again for the right hon. Gentleman that they imply no alteration in existing arrangements for authorising the use of nuclear weapons. The power to do that remains firmly in political hands, and that is where we intend it should remain. What the Athens meeting did was to give all members of N.A.T.O. clearer information about the nuclear problems of the Alliance. Thus, they can share more fully its nuclear policies to the advantage of the Alliance as a whale, and we hope that, instead of having anxieties about the situation, the knowledge will breed confidence and that confidence will make for strength.

The remainder of the discussions were about Berlin—at least they were of a political nature and particularly about Berlin.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

Are we to understand that at Athens there was no discussion at all about the size of conventional forces?

Mr. Heath

I know that the hon. Gentleman has raised this matter with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence in Questions and that my right hon. Friend has told him that there was no discussion in Athens of the kind he is suggesting about orthodox weapons and that that is a matter being dealt with in the review.

Mr. Wiggrose

Mr. Heath

I really cannot keep giving way. I have already left a lot out of my speech in order to meet the needs of the House. That is the situation, and if the hon. Gentleman wants to make a speech he will no doubt try to catch Mr. Speaker's eye.

I will now talk about Berlin and the situation there. The tension has eased since the talks which my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary had with Mr. Rusk and with Mr. Gromyko. At that time the Russians were dropping metal chaff "in the air corridors and they were tabling military flight plans which conflicted with the times and heights of advertised flights by Western civil aircraft. Since Mr. Gromyko returned to Moscow there have been no further incidents of that kind. Mr. Rusk continued to have talks with the Soviet Ambassador in Washington and more are to follow. It cannot be said that these talks have yet produced a basis for negotiation. It is their purpose to do so, but it cannot yet be said that that has occurred. But they have at least been carried on in a reasonable and cordial atmosphere, and I am sure that the whole House will welcome the prospect of their continuance.

The best thing would be if these talks cleared the way for a permanent settlement, but if that is not possible then we should have to be satisfied with a modus vivendi which would enable East and West to live more comfortably with their differences over Berlin than they have been able to do during the past three and a half years. The main problem is still the question of access to West Berlin.

The Western Powers stand by their essential requirements, and Western troops must remain in West Berlin as long as the population want them there as a guarantee of the West's commitment to protect the city's freedom. We all welcome the relaxation of the tension which has occurred. No doubt many hon. Members will ask themselves why it should have occurred. Indeed, we all ask that question. It may be that the Soviet Government have came to realise that the problem of Berlin is not likely to be resolved in an atmosphere of recurring crises.

It may be that there is now a greater understanding of the vital interests of the West, but it would be unwise of us to draw too much comfort from the present lull. We welcome a decrease in tension, but it would be unwise to take the lull for granted. Certainly it does not lessen our interest in serious negotiations. At the same time as we have been dealing in Athens with strengthening the West and relieving these anxieties we have been making a serious, and, indeed, a very great effort, to come to agreement with the Soviet Union about disarmament and nuclear tests. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, who has just returned from Geneva, where he has been handling these matters, will in his wind-up deal in great detail with these matters.

I should like to make two points on the problem of nuclear tests to the House before hon. Members take part in the debate. First, the Western nuclear armoury is the basis of the deterrent power of the West, and it is the prime duty of the Western Governments, and must be, to ensure that it remains effective. We know the record of the Soviet Government. If it had been possible to secure an effective treaty banning further tests, the West would have been prepared to accept the fact that the Russians had already had another series. But we cannot afford to accept a moratorium which the Russians could again interrupt, or an ineffective treaty which they could circumvent. This would amount to letting them become two series ahead and would provide the Soviet Union with nuclear attack and defence capability so powerful as to encourage aggression. Therefore, it is to guard against this situation that the United States Administration are carrying out their present programme of tests in the atmosphere as well as tests underground. It must remain the prime duty of the Western Governments in these circumstances to defend their own resources in the deterrent.

The second point I want to make is this. It has been argued in the House and by the Soviet Government that an effective treaty banning nuclear tests is possible without international control. The Russians claim that all nuclear tests can now be detected and identified by instruments outside the country where the tests take place. Our best advice is still that in the present state of technical knowledge there is no way of making sure that some of the seismic disturbances originating on Soviet territory are the result of earthquakes rather than of man-made explosions except by on-site inspection.

My noble Friend the Foreign Secretary, when these statements were made by the Soviets, asked whether there could not be consultations between scientists in order that they could compare the information which they had. The other members of the Disarmament Conference made the same suggestion, and it has been made in the House of Commons by right hon. Gentlemen opposite and other hon. Members. In answer to this the Soviet Government have refused to allow an exchange of information of this kind or a meeting of scientists in order to reconcile differences where they exist or to show that the Soviet Government are right in their belief.

That, surely, was a fair suggestion to make and one which could have been dealt with, for then we should have seen whether there exists scientific information which allows identification in all circumstances from outside the country to be carried out. But the best advice we have at the moment is that that is not possible.

Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)

Will the right hon. Gentleman make clear whether Her Majesty's Government are now prepared to accept the proposal put forward by the neutrals at the Geneva Conference that any on-site verification should be carried through by an impartial international body of scientists and not by those representing various Governments?

Mr. Heath

The Minister of State will deal in detail later tonight with the neutral proposals and reactions to them.

To conclude what I was saying in this very important part of my reference to tests, our own scientists are vigorously pursuing the study of methods of detection and verification. So are the American scientists, and we are constantly exchanging information. Our scientists are prepared to examine any ideas to see whether it is possible to achieve a settlement of this problem, but the ideas must be supported by experimental data and observations which can be tested. These the Russians have so far failed to provide.

I have of necessity covered a very great deal of ground, I am afraid rather rapidly, in an endeavour to deal with the points for which the Leader of the House asked. I have dealt with the trouble spots which were mentioned by hon. Members. I have tried, albeit all too scantily, to state them in the context of what I was hoping to elaborate as a more positive foreign policy rather than a reaction to individual items spread across the world. The defence aspect of which I have been talking is only one aspect of foreign policy. If a détente and an agreement could be reached there would be liberated resources which we and others could use for the first two purposes which I explained in our foreign policy. Until then we must maintain our defences and alliances. At the same time, we must try to create here and with our allies a sound economic basis on which we can promote the political strength and prosperity not only of this country and of our own continent, but also of the developing people:; throughout the world.

5.33 p.m.

Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)

It was unfortunate that, owing to the late start to the debate, the Lord Privy Seal had to cut down his speech, because it was clear, I think, that the parts he had to cut out were the more interesting ones. Certainly, I, and I think the whole House, have for once learned very little from his speech. I think that he added nothing at all to the knowledge in the possession of the House, but, to be fair, I do not think that he has subtracted much.

One thing which struck me while listening to the right hon. Gentleman was how delightfully simple things in the world look from the Foreign Office. Everything is neatly arranged, nothing is ever done wrong on our side, all the trouble comes from the other side, and we do not have to do very much to put things right. When there are awkward things, such as the C.I.A. activities to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) referred, and which we must go into thoroughly today, the Lord Privy Seal brushes it off and says that he is not responsible for the C.I.A.

Of course, the right hon. Gentleman has no Ministerial responsibility—at least, I hope he has none—but his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary is co-Chairman and has a responsibility concerning Laos, and these damaging activities have been taking place in Laos. Has the right hon. Gentleman no views on this at all, or are those particular activities not visible through the particular brand of Nelsonian telescope which he uses when looking in that direction?

I begin with the question of Laos. Although we are in general agreement with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the objectives in Laos and about what we are trying to achieve there, I must say that I was amazed at his account of the recent military operations in the Nam Tha situation. It just did not square with the accounts of any observer in any responsible newspaper in the Western hemisphere. It is, perhaps, rather important, in discussing Laos, of all countries, to avoid oversimplifying the issues and dividing people between, shall we say, those who follow the right and those who follow the wrong? Unfortunately, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree, the situation in Laos cannot be summarised in the familiar terms of television "westerns", with the "goodies" and "baddies" conveniently identified by their respective addictions to white shirts or black shirts, white hats or black hats. I think that the right hon. Gentleman was trying to identify the "goodies" and "baddies" very clearly.

That was the point of view of the late John Foster Dulles, a few years ago. When there was a neutralist ruler in Laos he was removed by the agents of the C.I.A. and the then American Government thought that was what we wanted to see in the world. Of course, this has been the cause of a lot of the trouble. The American position today has very considerably changed. America now accepts, as we do, the principle of a coalition Government representing the Royalist Right wing, the Communists and the neutralist groups under the premiership of Souvannah Phouma. That was the agreed basis, as the right hon. Gentleman reminded us, of the long-drawn-out negotiations in Geneva last year and again this January.

The main reason why we have had this trouble and the House has asked to debate this subject is that that agreement has not been carried out. The main reason why it has not been carried out is that Boun Oum and the hatchet man, Phoumi Nosawan, refused to give up the key portfolios of defence and internal security, although all of us in the West were asking that they should be given up. When we put this to the Lord Privy Seal at Question Time, he staunchly refused to apportion blame among the three princes, as he puts it. He knows perfectly well where the fault lies and why this coalition Government was not created.

It is only fair to point out that the United States Government who have no illusions on this matter—I am referring to the Government heads, not the wolf cubs in the C.I.A.—have put on continuous pressure, including the withholding of aid payments to the Royalist Laotian Government, to secure agreement and the fulfilment of the Geneva Agreement. It ought to be said, and I say it, that so far as the White House and the State Department are concerned I am completely convinced of American sincerity in this matter of attempting to secure this coalition Government.

There is, of course, every reason to believe that what has been the clear White House and State Department line has not been received with undiluted enthusiasm by some senior United States military people recently in Laos. We have reports from Washington this morning confirming what many of us have known to be the case, that for a very long time the C.I.A. has been taking part in activities which are completely opposed to the policy and doctrine of the United States Government. There is no doubt about that. I must say again categorically that in our view there is no chance of peace in Laos except on the basis of honouring the agreement for a coalition headed by the neutralists. I go further and say that unless this is pressed on the recalcitrant palace group with a great deal more vigour there is real danger that the threat to peace in Laos could escalate in a matter of hours into a threat to the peace of Asia and, indeed, the peace of the world. There is no doubt about that.

I come now to last week's fighting. We have had the Lord Privy Seal's description of it. What he has consistently ignored is the flood of messages which have been reaching responsible newspapers in this country and in America showing that what happened first was the tremendous and provocative build-up by the Royalist forces right up against the Communist Pathet Lao positions. I do not think that the Foreign Office would deny that. I shall not weary the House with all the quotations from newspapers—from The Times, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph and others—but I do not think there will be any dispute about this part of the problem. I do not think, either, that there is any question that this provocative action by Boun Oum and Phoumi Nosavan has been taking place in the face of the most categorical warnings and pressure both by Her Majesty's representatives and by United States official representatives in Laos.

It has been further alleged, of course, that it was not only a question of a provocative build-up, but that there had been forays into Communist-held positions under the cease-fire agreement; that, in fact, there was a deliberate breach of the cease-fire by Right-wing forces, and that this was based, as the Economist said last week, on … a desire to wreck the Geneva formula and embroil the United States in a shooting war designed to make Laos safe for the General and his friends. I am not in a position to know whether it is true, but there is this allegation, and there is some evidence to support it.

It has been authoritatively suggested, too, that the fighting has been greatly exaggerated. It is curious that we have as yet heard nothing from the Government about the extent of that fighting. On 15th May, the Daily Telegraph said: But doubts are growing that Prince Boun Oum's troops were ever heavily attacked. An American official said this afternoon that the 12-man military assistance group attached to the Royalist garrison in the town was evacuated a few hours before the action began. It is estimated that defenders out-numbered attackers by at least two to one. What no one will dispute has been the speed with which the Royal Laotian forces got away from the action, a speed with which even the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway), with his sub-four-minute mile, could not compete.

That is why one really must ask for more information. The Government must have some information as to whether there really was fighting, and to what extent there was fighting, in this area; not least, I think, because on past occasions there have been clear statements made by the Laotian Government about alleged attacks and incidents which, when investigated, in one case a United Nations independent commission found no evidence at all to support the allegation, and, in the other case, it was withdrawn by one of Boun Oum's own Ministers, who said that there had never been any trouble of any kind. Therefore, we must at the very least suspend judgment about what has actually gone on there.

Of course, those are not the only strange occurrences. Last week, I understand that Mr. Speaker and the House had some difficulty in deciding whether there was a definite matter of urgent public importance before the House as affecting the interests of this country. Whatever the arguments for that there may have been, there would have been no doubt in the minds of any hon. Member that the Royal Laotian Government and the people of Laos were last week facing a very definite situation of urgent public importance affecting Laotian interests. That was the basis on which the Prime Minister made his announcement this afternoon.

Yet, at that moment, Prince Boun Oum and Phoumi Nosavan set off on a goodwill visit to Formosa. If their stated reason for that visit be correct, that it was a goodwill visit, the most that one can say is that this reflects an extraordinary degree of frivolity. It suggests that we are all taking Laotian problems seriously, but that the rulers of that country are not. But was that their reason? I strongly suspect—as, I think, many others will—that the real reason was to get Chiang Kai-shek to reactivate the Kuomintang forces that have been operating in Burma, some of whom were moved from Burma to Thailand, and to get them to intervene in Laos. I hope that the Government will tell us something of the visit to Taipeh, and the reports they have had over the past few months of the activities of K.M.T. troops in Burma and Siam. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will agree that here lies one of the most dangerous elements in the situation.

I turn to the request of Laos for military assistance, the request to the United States, not under S.E.A.T.O., under standing bilateral arrangements. I say at once that no one in this House would be prepared to tolerate a threat to Thailand's integrity. I think that that should be made clear. The United States was quite right to guard against any such threat, and so are we. If that is the question, I do not think that there can be argument about it—and I shall come to that point in a moment—in relation to the Prime Minister's announcement. What we have to be on guard against—and this point was put by my right hon. Friend last week—is any involvement with Right-wing forces in Laos.

It is no secret that General Sarit is utterly opposed to the neutralist solution, of Laos under a neutralist Government, and to the policy of Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government and, of course, he is committed to the hilt to supporting his nephew Phoumi Nosavan. I was a little surprised when the Prime Minister did not seem to understand that avuncular relationship, and the concern which some Heads of Government feel for the future welfare of their nephews.

Some hon. Members, of course, will see in all this a deep-laid plot. I think that some of my hon. Friends, particularly after this morning's account in The Times about the C.I.A. agents in Laos, will say that this is all a deep-laid plot to get American troops involved in action with the Communists. They are right to have suspicions about that. I think that there may have been some plot, but I personally do not believe that the United States Government are in any way involved in it. It may be the intention of the Siamese Government that they should be, but I believe that the reaction of the American Government is, in fact, one of the best assurances that the plot will not be carried out —

Mr. Warbey rose—

Mr. Wilson

I should like to finish what I was saying, and it is possible that, when I have done so, my hon. Friend will find that I have anticipated what he wants to say.

As I said, the position is that the Government of the United States are under very heavy pressure in their own Congress and Senate, and by their own Press, to drop the neutralist policy in Laos and go in for a get-tough policy such as is being followed in Vietnam. They are certainly under heavy pressure from Thailand. I have reason to believe that the motive of the American Government in taking the action they are taking is to isolate a possible threat to Thailand from the problem of intervention in Laos, and that this is the best assurance that we shall now have greater vigour shown by the American Government in pursuing an independent Laotian policy.

I turn now to the statement made by the Prime Minister this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman said of the Thai appeal that such a situation constitutes a threat to the Kingdom of Thailand and the safety of the Thai people. If that is true, we are right to send help; even the token help that is being sent, and token help it is, of course. It is, as the Prime Minister appreciates, [...] purely political gesture of practically no military value at all, and he made no pretence about that. I think that the planes were in Thailand about a fortnight ago and left just before the trouble started. If it is regarded as a satisfactory political gesture to send them back into Thailand I, for my part, do not object. If there is a threat, or if there is said to be a threat, to the Kingdom of Thailand it is right for us to do so but, equally—

Mr. Shinwell

Is my right hon. Friend suggesting that he is not certain whether there is a threat or not? He is not very clear about the threat. There may or may not have been a threat. But now he suggests that, irrespective of whether the Thailand Government make a request for forces to be sent, we should intervene.

Mr. Wilson

I understand that the Thailand Government have made a request to S.E.A.T.O., and I understand that S.E.A.T.O. has not made an agreed recommendation, but has left the matter to its individual members That is how I understand the position.

I think that that is the fact, but certain things follow from that. If there is a threat to Thailand—and there must be, or the Prime Minister would not have made his statement this afternoon—it is the duty of the Government to report it without delay to the Security Council of the United Nations, and the fact that they have not done so, and have refused to do so, casts some doubt on the Government's position. I repeat, it is absolutely vital to divorce the question of the protection of Thailand from the Laotian problem.

I conclude, on Laos, by saying that, first we need renewed vigour to get the coalition we have been discussing. I gather that there is some improvement in the position now that Boun Oum and Phoumi Nosavan are now willing to agree about portfolios. Secondly, the Government, as co-Chairman should, in view of the emergency, recall the Geneva Conference. In my view, they should immediately and quickly reactivate the International Control Commission. One of the things that will be vitally necessary will be to disband Boun Oum's Army and to run it down to police strength. An independent control commission would ensure that this was done.

Thirdly, the Government should press on the United States the need for action to insist that their Kuomintang allies should stop their mischievious and dangerous activities in Burma and Thailand. No less urgent, it is vital that the Prime Minister should make a personal communication to President Kennedy to ensure that he puts his C.I.A. house in order so that clearly defined American policy is not frustrated and sabotaged by these irresponsible elements. It is a serious thing to suggest that while the American Government have officially cut off aid from the Laotian Government, the C.I.A. has been making grants in aid out of its secret appropriations. If this is the truth the Prime Minister, rather than to have sent aeroplanes, might have done better to have sent the Comptroller and Auditor General to look into the C.I.A.'s affairs. This has been an extremely dangerous development.

I hope, also, that at the earliest possible moment the Government will look into some of the economic problems in that area. It is time that the economic problems of the Mekong Valley area were taken as a whole and I suggest that we must start to build up its economic and social strength with land reforms, with priorities and a Mekong Valley Development Authority. This idea has been put forward by some of the more imaginative and realistic Americans and I hope that the House will impress on the Government the need for action in this direction.

Before turning to the situation nearer home, in Asia, there is one issue we cannot ignore. I refer to Hong Kong and the issue of the starvation in China. Yesterday, President Kennedy announced measure's for moving refugees from Hong Kong and I wish today to deal with the question of food for China. I know the arguments in favour of doing nothing—that it is all China's fault, that they have had the wrong priorities, collectivisation, that they have been playing politics with food production, that grain has been diverted to Albania and all the other arguments. Indeed, it is always easy to find reasons for passing by on the other side.

I know, equally, that there is strong feeling in America about these questions. I realise that they have not yet recognised the existence of China and no doubt we shall be told that if we wait hunger and discontent will so weaken the Communist hold over the people of China that Chiang Kai-shek will be able to walk 'unimpeded into Peking. This approach to this challenge is as dangerous as it is immoral. Does anyone think that Chiang Kai-shek would have a bloodless victory, or that it would be possible to avoid a bloody civil war which might engulf the world?

It can be argued, as people have, about the virtues of total blockade in total war and about the effects on the morale and will to win, but all history shows that he who engages hunger as his ally engages a very treacherous partner, that nations who seek to use starvation as an instrument of national policy soon find that bitterness and desperation works against them. Have we not yet learnt the lesson of the Russian famine?

I suggest, therefore, that with our Commonwealth partners and the fund of good will in the United States—and the amount of that good will might surprise the cynical—we should take the initiative now in promoting a world food programme for China and other areas in a similar plight. If we do this then let us do it sincerely and as a worth-while action, but do not let us make food a pawn in a political game.

I now turn to the Lord Privy Seal's remarks about Berlin. I think that we are agreed here about our objectives. They have been stated frequently, that no settlement can be accepted which does not guarantee the people of West Berlin the right to live in the kind of society which they choose, or which does not guarantee, with safeguards more binding than paper treaties, freedom of access to and from the West. To get such an agreement we should be prepared to be flexible about accepting Germany's Eastern frontiers and for giving some degree of recognition, as a fact, to the present situation in Eastern Germany pending effective moves towards reunification. All of us will welcome the flexibility that the West has recently shown in the proposals for a 13-Power international access authority to control the autobahn and air corridors.

Dr. Adenauer's reaction to this was, in fact, a calculated act of sabotage. It would be easy for the Russians now to turn even more difficult on the ground that the United States did not speak for its Western partners. However, the hopeful feature—the only one, perhaps—is that America's firm reply to Dr. Adenauer has made it clear to the Russians for the first time that American policy of Europe is not dictated by Dr. Adenauer. This is a welcome development from the days of Foster Dulles. I suppose that we must accept, with advancing age, more and more unhelpful statements from the German Chancellor. I have considerable sympathy for Herr von Eckhardt, who must issue statements to say he had not said such and such, that he was not there, that he was mistranslated, that he had not meant it, or that he had been misunderstood.

The Lord Privy Seal's statement today entirely failed to present the Berlin issue in its wider setting of Central European security. This is why we have pressed so often for a nuclear-free zone in Central Europe and measures for scouring an area of controlled disarmament. This could be a powerful solvent to the Berlin question. These matters are equally relevant, but the Lord Privy Seal did not even refer to the Rapacki plan, or to the conclusion of a comprehensive disarmament and security treaty at Geneva.

On the question of disarmament and tests, I am tempted, as was the Lord Privy Seal, to cut down my speech because I can think of many reasons for omitting this part of it. But a commitment was given that this matter would be debated and I intend, therefore, to deal with it. I will not dwell at any length on the negotiations at Geneva, the more so as we are hoping to have a full debate on this subject before the Summer Recess, when the position at Geneva becomes clearer. It is more important to go for a full disarmament agreement than to be satisfied with a test ban, even if we could get it, because a test ban agreement raises nearly all the problems of inspection, and so on.

We have two drafts of a comprehensive agreement, the Soviet one and the American one, and, despite their big differences, they have important points of contact. There are, of course, important difficulties. The biggest difficulty still is that of whether inspection relates only to arms destroyed, as the Russians suggest, or to arms remaining, as the West suggests. Obviously, the inspection must relate to both. Perhaps the next step would be for the Government to take the initiative and to table their proposals for bridging this gap.

I come to the question of tests and the test ban. Our position is virtually this: we oppose nuclear tests. We bitterly condemn the Russian decision to end the self-policed moratorium last autumn. We would have equally bitterly renounced the Americans had they been the first to breach it. Our resolution at Blackpool was clear. We appealed—and, indeed, the United Nations, with infinitely more authority, has done likewise—to all Powers to refrain from further tests. What has happened since? We have had 37 more tests from the Soviet Union, including one of 57 megatons and another of 30 megatons. We have had the Western appeal for negotiations for a test ban and the rejection on 23rd November by Mr. Tsarapkin of the eighteen Articles previously agreed over the long period of three years.

Then came America's decision to hold her tests. I know that this is a very difficult problem, particularly on this side of the House, and one would feel a little more confidence in the sense of responsibility in the Tory Party if it gave a little more thought to these problems. It is an extraordinary thing to find such monolithic unity in the Conservative Party on this question. We, at any rate, do not claim that.

If we take the view, as we as a party do, that while we for our part reject the ignis fatuus of the independent British nuclear deterrent and we support the Western Alliance having, in the United States, the nuclear deterrent as long as the Russians have it—if that is the view, and it is our view as a party—then, if the Russians are still free to test and are testing, we cannot in principle and for all time oppose all American tests. We cannot say that the Russians can go on testing and that at no point must the West test. All we can do, and this was our statement at Blackpool, is, first, to demand that all the Powers concerned … concentrate with renewed energy on negotiations for general and complete disarmament". Secondly, we can and must, and we have the right and the duty to, consider, if the Americans decide to test, whether their decision is justified as to timing, as to the effect on negotiations, and whether the further twist given to the arms race and the possible damage done to negotiations are justified or not by the claims of military necessity. This is What we did. We, and all of us, pressed in the House for delay in taking a decision about the American tests in order to give Geneva a chance.

Speaking for myself, I went further. I took the view that the United States should have delayed further to give the proposals of the eight uncommitted nations for neutral inspection a chance. That was my view. The Americans did not take that view and, looking back on it, I must say that I was wrong in thinking that a further delay would have enabled the neutralist proposals

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