§ [SECOND DAY]
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [30th October]:
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows: —
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.—[Mr. Aitken.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that it would be for the convenience of the House if I now state what I believe to be the arrangements for grouping topics in this debate. Today, it is desired to discuss foreign affairs and tomorrow to concentrate attention on social conditions, housing, health and welfare, When the debate will be opened by the Government, and on Friday to go on with the genera] debate, beginning with a discussion on the recent breaches of security.
I cannot select Amendments yet, but should I select the official Opposition's Amendment I understand that it is the desire to discuss that on Monday and bring the debate on the Address to an end at 10 p.m. that night.
§ 2.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
The House will understand if, because of the overriding urgency of the problems of Chinese aggression and of Cuba and its aftermath, I fail to deal with a very wide range of other problems which are urgent—some, indeed, critical Even if Cuba and the Chinese attack had not occurred, there would be enough in recent developments in world affairs to occupy a full debate. So I regret that I can only refer in passing to some of these issues very briefly. Other right hon. and hon. Members may take them up, but in any case we shall hope to probe them further by questions over the next few weeks.
First, I want to refer to the shipment of fighter aircraft to South Africa. I do 150 not think that I need repeat the arguments we have used, or my own repeated attempts to get details of the shipments of tear gas and tear gas-making equipment to South Africa. I have always been met with the reply that it would not be in the public interest to give any information about it. I will simply state that it is our view that this country should immediately institute an embargo on the shipment of all arms and military material to South Africa.
Secondly, and similarly, I must express our condemnation of West Germany's decision to ship arms, particularly armoured vehicles, to Portugal in return for permission to train a number of pilots in Portugal. At the moment the Portuguese are facing growing resistance to their oppressive policies in Angola and Mozambique, and with their military machines in greater and greater difficulties in those areas it is tragic that the West Germans should have agreed to make themselves willing accessories by supplying arms.
Thirdly, there is the Middle East. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred yesterday to the revolution in the Yemen, and its connection with the Government's unwise and unpopular policy in Aden calls for a very full statement by the Government at the earliest opportunity. Far more than the Yemen is involved. We ask where the Government stand on this matter. Have they recognised, or do they intend to recognise, the new Government in the Yemen?
Fourthly, there is the Congo. With agreement apparently as far away as ever, with the Adoula Government weakened, Mr. Tshombe as intransigent as ever, and with the smouldering dangers which we can all recognise from past experience, a heavy responsibility rests on Her Majesty's Government and on the Government of Belgium for their refusal to give full backing to the United Nations in proposals for settling the Congo problem.
One cannot get away from the fact that undue sensitiveness to the requirements of certain financial interests have once again been at work here, and it is clear that national and international interests of this country are being wrongly sacrificed in this way. I also ask the Lord Privy Seal what information he has 151 had about the sinister build-up in recent weeks of the Katangan Air Force. From whence do these aircraft come and by what route?
It has been suggested that in this matter—and it has been a pretty powerful build-up—West Germany, which is rapidly becoming the universal provider of weapons of all kinds for trouble spots, is once again responsible. What information have the Government obtained about this and what have they done to stop it? If these aircraft are used in a further outbreak of fighting they are likely to be used against United Nations Forces, and in all probability against Commonwealth forces.
Fifthly, I want briefly to refer to Southern Rhodesia, which was also mentioned by my right hon. Friend. The resignation of the outstanding proconsul of our age, Sir Hugh Foot. gravely weakened our standing at the United Nations as a result of our policy in Southern Rhodesia. As my right hon. Friend said, we intend to return to this subject at a very early opportunity and have a thorough debate, both on the situation in Southern Rhodesia and on the consequential effects at the United Nations.
While on the subject of resignations, we have also the strange case of Mr. McDermott, late of Berlin, whom many hon. Members know and respect. The Government owe the House a full explanation, because official statements are confusing and contradictory and until we have a full statement we cannot begin to say whether justice has been done; but we can certainly say today that it manifestly has not been seen to have been done.
Southern Rhodesia is not the only issue on which we are dragging our feet at the United Nations. Another subject was raised in the debate last night, and I hope we shall get a reply about it. My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) made a powerful plea that this country should now, after all these years, ratify the Genocide Convention. Why do we not ratify it? The case is the more urgent today because of the resurgence of evil, Nazi anti-social doctrines in this country, and the Government can do something to make their position plain by ratifying this Convention.
152 Now I turn to the crisis in India. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition spoke for all of us, I am sure all of us in the House, yesterday, when he condemned in utterly unequivocal terms the Chinese aggression in India. I think that the whole House was impressed, too, by the forceful and indeed moving words of the Prime Minister in this part of his speech, in contrast, perhaps, to the faltering tones of the later part of his speech. But, on India, the Prime Minister was deeply moving, and we welcome his categorical assurance about military aid.
Hon. Members will have read and studied all the competing theories and explanations of the Chinese action. There are those who say that if the world insists on treating China as an outlaw, China will behave like one. This may be true, but even outlawry does not excuse rapine and murder. There are those who say that, with India and China, locked as they are in a race for economic development, the outcome of which may be decisive for human freedom in Asia, China has chosen this moment to strike at India so as to force her to divert vital economic resources to arms production.
Others may say that this is simply a desire to humiliate India in the eyes of her Asian neighbours, or to demonstrate to Russia China's disapproval of the jet fighter deal with India, or to turn to exterior channels the ideological struggle in the Communist world about coexistence. There are plenty of theories, but in my view such theorising is pointless. There is no explanation except that of simple naked aggression in this case, and this after the most cynically given pledges and agreements solemnly entered into by the Chinese Government.
There is one theory which I frankly reject. I do not believe that this is a concerted Russo-Chinese offensive. The timing might not be entirely coincidental, of course. Just as Hungary followed the confusion in the Western world which was created by aggression in Suez, so I think that the Chinese took their chance to press home their attack, to escalate their attack, when they saw what was likely to happen in Cuba. Too many Western claims of diplomatic defeat for Russia over the question of Cuba might well drive Russia into active support for 153 China, support which the Kremlin, unlike the lackeys of King Street, have so far been slow to give.
The facts, at any rate, are clear—3,000 Indians killed or missing, many thousands of square miles of Indian territory occupied. The weather might delay a further advance on some fronts long enough to give the Chinese a chance to press India to sue for humiliating and insecure peace, but the fact remains that if aggression is not halted there is nothing to prevent the Chinese from moving on ruthlessly and relentlessly into the Brahmaputra Valley and the hills and plains of Assam, because the capture of the area of the North-East Frontier Agency, as we all recognise, would open the road to India.
There is no doubt where our active sympathies and our interests lie in this matter. India is a Commonwealth country. More, let us have no sneering about India's neutrality. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister's forthright words on this yesterday, because at crucial moments in the history of the past ten years that neutrality has enabled India to exert decisive influence in securing peace, first in Korea, and at a critical moment in Indo-China.
The first need, which we all recognise, is for urgent military and economic help. The Prime Minister yesterday made no reservation about this, and we welcome that. I want now to make a suggestion which I hope will be seriously examined by the Government. We know the problem. The Indians fear to accept military help as a gift because it prejudices the Indian position as an uncommitted nation. That is one point. Equally, to limit the aid that we or the Americans give to what the Indians can afford to pay for would force India, which is in acute balance of payments difficulties, into a tragic dilemma—having to decide how much she could afford for arms and how much she could afford for development.
I ask the Lord Privy Seal to consider offering to institute a massive programme of lend/lease. In the last war lend/lease came to be a phrase for military aid in a form which was frankly the handing over of military supplies. That is probably a form which the Indians could not accept, but. of course, President Roosevelt's original idea was that we 154 should be supplied with a given amount of equipment—say 100 tanks or 1,000 guns, or 1 million rifles—which, when we no longer needed it, when the war was over, we would return; then, either the original if they were still available, or, if they had been lost or destroyed, replacements, which could be made at our post-emergency leisure, would be returned to America.
That was the principle upon which lend/lease was based. Why should we not offer to open up some of our stores of obsolescent military equipment—and there is a tremendous amount of it—and lend/lease it to the Indians on a return basis? One could think, for example, of transport. We must have very large numbers of military transportation vehicles in some form of mothballs or packaging, or some kinds of guns which might have been relevant in the last war but which would not be relevant now, small arms and many other things. Why should we not offer generously to lend/lease these to the Indian Government and why should not the Americans do the same? This could enable us to make a contribution commensurate with India's needs without raising any problems for India of the kind I have mentioned.
The other urgent need is that the Western nations who are concerned with the programme of aid for India, the so-called consortium, should now come forward with massive and immediate aid to reinforce India's balance of payments position. As we all know, India's development plan is in the gravest danger of grinding to a standstill within a matter of months if support is not forthcoming. No one in the House will for a moment underrate the consequences of that for the future not only of India but of the free nations in Asia. We can and we always have to find the millions of £s for the weapons of war, but in terms of human freedom an equivalent expenditure of millions of £s for the weapons of peace and economic development is even more vital.
As my right hon. Friend urged yesterday, it is a question of not only aid but of trade, and this we shall be debating next week, as the Lord Privy Seal knows. Suffice it now to record our concern that at this time of all times the Six at Brussels should be looking at the problem 155 of Indian exports to Europe through the eyes of selfish protectionism.
The next point on which I must press the Lord Privy Seal is what Her Majesty's Government propose to do to secure the re-establishment of peace on honourable terms. A formal reference to the United Nations is impossible because of the continued and senseless exclusion of China from her rightful place in the United Nations. I think that we all noticed that even yesterday India once again voted for China's admission.
But because that is impossible it has been suggested—and I understand that India would accept this—that U Thant should be asked to intervene in a personal capacity. That is one suggestion, and another alternative might be to get a group of nations—Canada, Poland, Burma and Indonesia, or perhaps a group of completely uncommitted nations, to act as conciliators.
As for the justiciable issue of the boundary line, this should clearly be referred at the International Court at The Hague. Meanwhile, China should withdraw to the positions her forces were occupying on 8th September. Even so—and India would accept that as a cease-fire position, as she has made clear—China would still (be occupying tens of thousands off square miles of territory which has been traditionally regarded as part of India.
I now turn to Cuba and the Cuban aftermath. Here we are concerned not so much with holding an inquest as with drawing lessons for the future. Our relief at the statesmanship shown by both sides this weekend should not blind us to our duty as Members of this House to recognise the dangers that we faced last week and to draw guidance from them for the future. As my right hon. Friend and I both said last week, and since, all of us understand quite well the strength of feeling of the Americans on hearing of the erection of missile bases in Cuba. Cuba is a specially sensitive area for them: 140 years of the Monroe Doctrine makes it no easier for them to accept a neighbour who has turned to philosophies so alien to American thought.
We may think that the Americans are oversensitive about it. We may condemn —as we rightly condemned—the attempted invasion of Cuba in April, 1961. But, as the Prime Minister said 156 yesterday, the strength of American feelings on this point is one of the ineluctable facts that we have to deal with. Those feelings were immeasurably heightened not only by the construction of these missile bases but by the way it was done. Even discounting whatever element of hysteria there may have been in the American Press, there were real grounds for strong feelings. The arms build-up sharply distorted the existing nuclear balance. A fifteen minutes' warning of nuclear attack reduced to three minutes' notice may not seem so striking to us who have been living under four minutes' notice for years, but that is not how it is viewed in the United States.
Having regard particularly to the feelings aroused by the statements made by Mr. Gromyko and President Kennedy, and having said all this about our recognition of the strength of American feeling, we said last week that we greatly regretted the action that had been taken, and the way it was taken. One false step could have plunged us into nuclear war, and we can only express our relief at the merciful deliverance and the statesmanship shown this last weekend.
On television, on Monday night, the Foreign Secretary did me the courtesy of debating this issue with me. I do not get many chances of debating with the Foreign Secretary for reasons that the House will understand. But, like my right hon. Friend, I said on television that I feel that the attitude of some of the American commentators on the weekend's events is unrealistic and dangerous. Simply to represent what happened as one more chapter in the John Foster Dulles legend of good and evil—a firm stand by the good forces and a climb down by the evil ones—is really dangerous, and we welcome President Kennedy's rejection of it.
The Russians have not returned empty handed. They have secured what might have seemed impossible a month ago, namely, a guarantee by the United States of the territorial integrity of Cuba. There will be no invasion. This is important. This is a very statesmanlike decision by the President. However unhappily, the Americans will accept a Communist State, or what they regard as a Communist State, a few miles away. Moreover, having established that missiles 157 placed near, and directed at, the heartland of a major power are aggressive and unacceptable, the Soviets are now armed with an argument that they will not hesitate to use in very different geographical settings and political settings. To talk of a Russian diplomatic defeat when free nations face perilous situations in so many areas of the globe, from Berlin to the Himalayas, is dangerously provocative.
Now I turn to the question of consultation. We cannot accept that this crisis was confined to the American hemisphere, and that we and our N.A.T.O. allies were not concerned about it, or about any measures taken to deal with it. Had a naval incident led to war we should have all been in it. America's N.A.T.O. bases would have been activated. We are allies not only in N.A.T.O. but in C.E.N.TO. and S.E.A.T.O. No one knows where nuclear war could have spread, because nuclear war, like peace, is indivisible. In the confused dither into which the Government were thrown last Tuesday—with their somewhat hurt feelings alternating with a natural desire to repair any damage done to the alliance—in that confused situation nothing sounded more strangely in our ears, and, I am sure, in American ears, than the statement that whatever happened in the Caribbean had nothing to do with N.A.T.O. I quote from the Daily Telegraph report of a statement apparently put out by a Government spokesman:In the Government's view, America has acted unilaterally, not as a N.A.T.O. power but as guardian of the Western Hemisphere.This was burying their heads in the sand.
We are allies, and we should have been not merely told but consulted—and the Government know that I am saying what they feel but dare not say—not only because we are members of N.A.T.O.,—certainly not because we are members of some cabalistic nuclear club—but, if for no other reason, for the reason that we have troops perilously and tenuously stretched out in many of the danger areas of the world—in Berlin, in North Africa, in Kenya, Aden, Singapore and Hong Kong—and the danger of any incident in this hyper-charged world is not only the danger of nuclear escalation but also of 158 geographical escalation. If there was one statement above all others which caused us anxiety, it was the statement in The Times, last Wednesday, by its Washington correspondent. I shall ask the House to bear with me while I read this very important despatch. It says:This meeting" —a reference to the meeting between the allies—was the first consultation between the allies since the construction of ground-to-ground missile sites in Cuba was reported, but it does not mean that the United States will in future act in concert with the allies. The partial blockade, or quarantine as the Administration prefers to call it, has created an entirely new situation for the alliance as well as for the Soviet Union.In ordering his naval units to stop and if necessary fire upon ships of all flags, President Kennedy has dramatically emphasised his determination to act alone to defend United States and allied interests, wherever they may be threatened. The President has chosen to see the crisis as a direct confrontation of United States and Soviet power and, in effect, has assumed the supreme political authority that was always inherent in the American nuclear deterrent.If allies and neutrals should see a certain national arrogance in this posture, that is not the way the Administration views its actions. The firm belief is that as the leader of the alliance, with control of most of the nuclear power available to the West, it has a right and a duty to defend itself and its allies—even to the extent of bringing about a nuclear exchange.This is a very important statement. We must ask whether the Government accept this as a correct statement of the United States position, or whether it misrepresents the Washington view. Do the Government agree with this statement? Has the decision when and how to defend her allies passed from the area of consultation and agreement to the area of unilateral decision? This question, and the Government's attitude to it, are absolutely vital to the whole future of our defence and foreign policy. The House has the right to demand an answer from the Government to that question.
On the question of consultation, we had some words from the Prime Minister yesterday. Few explanations of the lack of consultation have been thinner than those of the Prime Minister yesterday afternoon. He told us that he knew on Monday morning, twelve hours or more 159 before. Why, then, did the Foreign Secretary say on T.V. on Monday night that there was no time for consultation? There were twelve hours or more. On the Prime Minister's statement yesterday, there was plenty of time. There was time in any case to brief Mr. Dean Acheson and to fly him to Paris. Was the position that the Prime Minister was just told, or was he consulted? Was he given the opportunity of commenting, of advising, of warning, of supporting? Did he comment? What did he say?
Last Tuesday the Government were not so silent as they are this week. They were piqued. I would not put it higher than that. They did not say anything in public, but they caused anonymous complaints to be put out through un-named spokesmen lurking in penum-bral recesses somewhere in Whitehall. The B.B.C, news on Tuesday evening said that the Government were hurt at not being consulted. The B.B.C, did not think up that phrase for itself. The phrase was given to the B.B.C, by the Government. Who was it? Was it Mr. Deedes going to town? The Government must take responsibility for the statements that were put out.
All of us recognise the difficulties about secret diplomacy. We have had it over Berlin. We had it last week. We understand that there are many occasions when the Government cannot say very much. Our worry is that their failure to say anything at all might conceal one of two possible explanations. It may be that it covers active and constructive diplomatic pressure behind the scenes, or it may simply conceal a state of dithering paralysis. We can never know. All the public evidence last week suggests that it was the second, but we should like to know more from the Lord Privy Seal.
In saying all this about consultation, what we are concerned with here is not the conduct of the United States but the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. We are concerned not with the actions of our ally (but with the functioning of our alliance. Years ago the Labour Party called, and called very clearly, in its defence statement for urgent action to clarify the position of the alliance in relation to the vital decisions of war and peace. We made some very clear 160 pronouncements about what ought to be done in N.A.T.O. to improve the arrangements for consultation. We realised the urgency. I do not think that the Government ever showed any signs of it. However, will the Government now realise how urgent it is to review the whole functioning of the alliance in the light of the events of last week? I hope that there is one solution they will not try to pursue. Let them not seek a solution in the still more dangerous idea of a separate Western European deterrent.
There is another question. It is not the question why the United States failed to consult Britain. It is why we apparently now count for so little that she did not feel under any obligation to consult us. The fault lies not in our allies but in ourselves—and this after eleven years of Conservative Government. History is catching up with us. It may be that the Government feel—it would be perfectly understandable if they did; I give them this point—that after our failure to consult or even to inform our allies over Suez, and the deception of' our allies at that time which accompanied that failure, we could not complain last week at being rather tardily informed about action in the Caribbean. I do not know. The Government may well feel that. However, we on this side of the House, who condemned both Suez and the deception, have the right to ask.
If there was one thing which emerged clearly from last week's events, it was the shattering of a lot of Ministerial illusions and Ministerial hypocrisy. The House will remember the futile controversy the Government had with the United States on Britain's nuclear deterrent last summer. My right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) was pursuing this point. At that time we drew attention to some very dangerous Ministerial pronouncements. The then Minister of Defence said in The Times of 23rd June:Britain has the unchallenged right to use its nuclear force independently or to withhold its use if the Government thinks it right to do so.We were claiming the right to independent action without consultation.Mr. Watkinson, Minister of Defence, told The Times yesterday that, although the target plan of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command was completely integrated with that of the American Strategic Air Command, Great 161 Britain retained political freedom to withdraw the force for national purposes. …Wearing an air of relaxed confidence, the Minister of Defence said he was quite clear about the issues.That relaxed confidence was just three weeks before the massacre.
However, we were told that policies did not die with the victims of that massacre and this policy has not been repudiated by the Prime Minister or by any other Member of the Government. If this was the attitude of the Government, that we are free to use the nuclear deterrent without consultation, this is perhaps a partial explanation of what happened last week. I should like to ask after last week whether the Prime Minister himself is equally confident today about this matter, or for that matter equally relaxed.
Again, how often have we been told—it is on the record time and time again—that Britain must have the so-called independent nuclear deterrent so that we shall be there when the vital decision is taken. We have a special relationship. We are not as other men are—we are a nuclear Power! Does the right hon. Gentleman still maintain this thesis?
There is another point. The fact that we have the so-called independent nuclear deterrent has been a fatal bar to the hopes the whole world has of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. The Government are an obstacle to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. During the Recess the dangers of the spread of nuclear weapons must have multiplied to such an extent that even the Government can see them. China is on the threshhold of becoming a nuclear power. In the Recess we read that Egypt has fired a rocket with a range more than sufficient to enable it to undertake a rocket bombardment of Israel. One thing we know about this is that this rocket was created by German technicians from the Stuttgart Rocket Institute. This is one of the things that worries many of us, and it is one of the things that worries us about the French nuclear deterrent with the co-operation of German technicians. Make no mistake about it. Whatever the Treaties may say, Germany is in the nuclear and the missile business already on an agency basis in Egypt, France and elsewhere.
162 Yet, despite all these dangers, the Government insist that we must have the independent nuclear deterrent. Why? Are they simply holding on at all costs to the discredited 1957 White Paper with all the waste and cost involved. At Llandudno the Foreign Secretary was moaning because we cannot afford Blue Water. The Secretary of State for War has decided to out down on the Gurkha Regiment because of some imagined balance of payments difficulties with Nepal. Is this the reason, or is it the one I warned the House against in the Foreign affairs debate on 24th May, that we know we do not need our bomb any more and that it does not make any difference to consultation, but we do not want at this time to upset President de Gaulle by working to limit the number of nuclear powers to a figure which would exclude Britain and exclude France? I talked then, as the Lord Privy Seal will remember, about trading the birthright of nuclear security for a miserable pottage. No one knows better than the Lord Privy Seal that we are not even getting the pottage.
There are many more things one could say about this question. It would perhaps be unkind to press them. I will conclude on what I hope is a happier note. We have paid tribute to the restraint of President Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev last weekend, but tribute must be paid in at least equal measure to another world statesman, U Thant, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I myself was very glad to hear the Foreign Secretary pay has tribute to U Thant on Monday night on television. It was an unstinting tribute. However, I must ask this: do not all the events of last week put in a rather strange perspective the churlish speech of the Foreign Secretary about the United Nations last December? Not only the Foreign Secretary, but equally the Prime Minister, who by his speech in the censure debate and hon. Members opposite by their votes added their little meed of anti-United Nations spite. How does that all seem today after the events of last week? Where would we be today without the decisive intervention of the United Nations, including the patient work of African and Asian members of the United Nations, who were the subject of such calculated scorn last December? Then last week Her Majesty's Government sent their 163 little contribution of £4 million to the United Nations bond issue. The House should demand that as a thank offering, if not as conscience money, the Government should now quadruple that contribution forthwith.
Let us realise that last week's events have given us unexpected and, some might say, undeserved opportunities. They have given us opportunities for disarmament. I join my right hon. Friend in pressing, as he did yesterday, the Soviet Union to agree to the now very small, very minor, concession which would give the world a nuclear test ban. As the House knows, the West has proposed a treaty banning all tests other than underground tests now, immediately, and without the need for verification in individual countries. If this could be accepted—I see no reason why it should not be—we should at least have freed the world and the world's children from the dangers of fall-out, and none of us would wish to underrate that achievement. Still more, we should have prepared the way for the final step in banning all tests, a prohibition on underground tests guaranteed by inspection.
Nor do we regard the negotiation of a comprehensive multilateral disarmament agreement as impossible. Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends and I have spent a great deal of time this summer—'perhaps not quite as much time as the Minister of State at Geneva; perhaps we have not needed quite so much patience; perhaps we have not had quite such difficult people to deal with—examining the texts of the American proposals and the Russian proposals and attempting to see where the discrepancies lie. Our view is 'that the gaps between them are not unbridgeable.
Last week underlined the dangers, as we all know, but it did more: it created the opportunities. The exchange of letters—I am not referring to the letter of the Prime Minister to Mr. Khrushchev; the Prime Minister thinks it was that that settled the whole problem; I think he will be alone in thinking that, but if it makes him happy we should not wish to spoil his pleasure; I refer to the exchange of letters between President Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev—left a great number of problems still unsolved. Now is the time for negotia- 164 tions, but now is the time certainly to solve a number of problems.
One of the first and most urgent is to sharpen the defences against surprise attack. Last week we came very close to knowing how urgent that was. Now is the time to press in danger areas, because the neutralising of the Caribbean area dealt with only one danger area, for the creation of areas of controlled disarmament, for areas of military disengagement. In debate after debate over the last few years my right hon. Friends and I have pressed the need for nuclear-free zones—in Central Europe, in the Middle East, in Africa. We have pressed for the implementation of the Rapacki Plan, or at any rate our variant of the Rapacki Plan. The Prime Minister claims that the Russians for the first time have accepted the principle of inspection by what they are doing in Cuba, but the Rapacki Plan involved inspection and the Russians accepted it. The problem we all have to face is that neither in Cuba nor in the Rapacki Plan is there any question of inspection within Russian territory. This is still the problem we have to get over.
But, surely, the Government will agree—and we have pressed this so often and got no answer—that the need for nuclear-free zones has been clearly shown, and, apart from those areas I have mentioned, after last week, why should not we propose nuclear-free zones in the Americas? Why should not the whole of the Americas, apart from the United States itself, become a nuclear-free zone—the whole of Central and South America and the Caribbean—in return for the creation of zones covering comparable geographical relationships with the Soviet Union? This is not vapid idealism but hard, stern realism, the need for which was suddenly brought home to every thinking man and woman who bore the anxieties of last week.
It is clear that, after last week, the whole House, the whole country, the whole alliance, the whole world, have a great deal of new thinking to do. The Prime Minister stressed the need for new thinking over the problems of the future. We were disappointed with that part of his speech. We agree about the need. He posed a number of questions to us; he had no answers.
This particular opportunity may not come again. We believe that at this 165 time it is essential for Britain not only to be consulted but to initiate, particularly in the sphere of disarmament, and, despite the humiliation that I think we all felt last week, I believe that the world still looks to us for a lead, and we on this side of the House believe that that lead can be given.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Edward Heath)
Yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition dealt very fully and soberly and fairly with the crisis we have gone through in Cuba, and with the conflict between India and China. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave the House a very full and detailed account of the events that had occurred in both of these matters, and I have little to add today to the narrative of those two affairs.
The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) has, quite naturally and rightly, devoted a great deal of his speech also to these two matters, and raised other points arising out of them with which I hope to deal. But before he did so, he mentioned a number of other matters which he described as of considerable importance, with which I agree, but with which we are not able to deal in the context of one speech.
One was the ratifying of the Genocide Convention. There was an Adjournment debate just before we rose for the Summer Recess which very fully dealt with the reasons why Her Majesty's Government had regretfully had to refuse the ratification of that Convention, even though they were fully in accord with its purpose. Further, I understand that there is to be an Adjournment debate very shortly on the question of the resignation of Mr. McDermott.
With some other matters—the question of arms for South Africa, German exports to Portuguese territories, as well as the Congo and Southern Rhodesia, my hon. Friend will deal when he winds up this debate, but here I want to say something of another matter raised by the right hon. Member for Huyton—the position in the Yemen.
I would not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the Republican revolt that occurred in the Yemen was connected with the constitutional changes 166 that had been proposed in Aden. There will, in any case, I understand from the Leader of the House, be a debate shortly about these changes in Aden, and no doubt the House will prefer to leave that matter until that debate takes place.
The Republican coup in the Yemen has opened up a period of uncertainty in the area which has not yet been cleared up. The views of Her Majesty's Government are quite clear. Stability in this area is of very great importance, but the nature of the Yemeni regime is entirely a matter of internal Yemeni affairs, and the attitude of Her Majesty's Government is one of strict non-involvement in the dispute inside the Yemen. Our only desire is to have good neighbourly relations between the Yemen, and the Protectorate sheikdoms, the Federation and Aden itself, where so many Yemeni workers go. We have long desired this. We were not always successful in obtaining it under the rule of the late Imam, and our desire now is that there should be good neighbourly relations between the Yemen and the Federation and Aden.
I would answer the right hon. Gentleman by saying that so far no action has been taken about recognition by Her Majesty's Government of the new regime. I should like to emphasise that this in no way implies hostility to the regime; it does, in fact, reflect the doubts we have about the situation in different parts of the Yemen and about the control of the Government over the whole of the country. These doubts are also shared by many other countries today which do not yet find themselves in a position to recognise the Republican Government. There is uncertainty about the position of the Imam Muhammad, who was originally reported to have been killed, though it is now believed that he is alive. There are also indications of opposition to the regime in the eastern part of the country.
One particular incident may have disturbed the House; it certainly disturbed our friends in the Federation. I am glad to say that this has now been cleared up. Aircraft from the Yemen attacked and damaged two villages in Protectorate territory. This meant that immediate defensive measures had to be taken. The Republican authorities have since dealt with this in a broadcast.
167 They have stated that a full examination will be carried out; that compensation will be paid where it is proved that damage has been done, and that Yemeni pilots have strict instructions now to stay within the Yemen's frontiers. We therefore hope, as we understand the Yemeni Government are determined to ensure, that there will be no further incidents of this kind affecting the Protectorate or the Federation.
The right hon. Gentleman then turned to the question of the Chinese aggression against India. Yesterday afternoon, the whole House was united in the shock it felt at this Chinese aggression. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained the views of the Government, to which the right hon. Gentleman has just paid tribute, as has the Leader of the Opposition who spoke most strongly about it. In fact, I think that there are no differences between us about the feelings of the whole House over this aggression.
It was only seven years ago that China signed the principles of co-existence with India, and those who believe, as has been suggested in one or two quarters, mostly outside this House, that if China were a member of the United Nations she would be bound by the Charter, which would prevent this, must, I think, also recall that the principles to which China gave her signature included mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, and peaceful co-existence.
It is, therefore, as right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have said, deplorable that this aggression should have occurred. The Chinese have embarked on an invasion of India from a number of widely-spaced and different parts. The invasion has clearly been premeditated, and carefully planned. We join in the intense regret of the right hon. Gentleman opposite that the Indians should have suffered heavy casualties in the fighting.
Her Majesty's Government have been in contact with the Indian Government since the beginning of this invasion to see how we could best help. The Indian Government asked us for small arms. The first consignment was on its way by air within a few hours of that 168 request from the Indian Government. We are now examining urgently other inquiries that have been made about different equipment. We have been heartened by the support of the United States Administration for the Indian Government in a similar way.
Naturally, the House will not expect me to give particulars and individual details of this help in public, but I can assure the Leader of the Opposition, who raised this matter yesterday, that we will do everything possible to help India in this situation, both with aid of the kind I have described, and also in relation—a point to which both the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Huyton attached great importance, and which I look forward to debating with them next week—to trade with this great country.
The right hon. Gentleman put forward a most interesting suggestion that there should be an arrangement similar to that of Lend-Lease for dealing with this situation in India. It is true, as he said, that the Indian Government have reaffirmed their desire that these transactions should be on a commercial basis, but we will, of course, examine speedily the suggestion put forward by the right hon. Gentleman and discuss it with the Indian Government to see whether this is a method by which we could help them further, and to see whether it is a means which would be acceptable to them. I shall also certainly bring the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about aid through the consortium to the notice of my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Commonwealth Secretary.
We also, quite naturally, discussed this situation in a general way with the Pakistan Minister of External Affairs, Mr. Mohammed Ali, when he was here. My right hon. Friends got the impression from him that Pakistan recognises that the invasion of India is a matter of grave concern to the whole sub-continent and, in those circumstances, we feel quite sure that Pakistan will not wish to take any advantage of this situation.
The Chinese have suggested the withdrawal of the armed forces of each side 12 miles from what they call the "line of actual control." The right hon. Gentleman asked me what were the 169 views of Her Majesty's Government as to how to bring this deplorable episode to an end. The Indian Government have responded to the Chinese suggestion by offering to accept the return of the Chinese forces to the positions which they occupied before the latest series of attacks. This would be a precondition for the opening of discussions.
I think that the House will agree that India might well have felt it necessary to demand further assurances than a withdrawal to the position before this present series of attacks was launched. The fact that Mr. Nehru has asked for no more than this is surely yet another proof of his readiness to show every restraint and his preparedness to discuss his differences with China.
Other suggestions were put forward by the right hon. Gentleman. We will gladly examine these with the Indian Government to see whether they would wish us to take the sort of initiative he described. The Government have the most profound sympathy with Mr. Nehru and the Indian people. We fully understand the position they are adopting, and we urge the Chinese Government most earnestly to show a proper understanding of the situation before events have moved too far, and to respond to the actions that Mr. Nehru himself has taken.
The right hon. Gentleman devoted the remainder of his speech to the question of Cuba. Here, again, I would not wish to go over in detail the chronology of these matters, but I should like to follow him in reminding the House of certain points and, perhaps, in considering certain questions that arise from this.
We had known since July that the Soviets were greatly increasing military aid to Cuba but, until recently, the evidence was that the equipment must be considered defensive. But the first point I should like to repeat, because I do not believe that it can be repeated too often, relates to the many assurances given by the Soviets that this was, in fact, the case. The latest assurance was given on 18th October by Mr. Gromyko to President Kennedy in his office, that Soviet assistance to Cuba pursued solely the purpose of contributing to the defensive capabilities of Cuba. He went on to say that if it were otherwise the Soviet 170 Government would never become involved in rendering such assistance.
That was a very firm undertaking by the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, but no sooner had it been given than the President of the United States received the information which is so well known to the House.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I am not quite clear on the dates about this. Is it not President Kennedy's view that he had evidence to show that this statement was wrong at the moment when he was interviewing Mr. Gromyko in his office? I would like to know whether I am right in saying that that is President Kennedy's claim and, if I am right, why did not President Kennedy confront Mr. Gromyko with it there and then?
§ Mr. Heath
I was not aware that that was the claim of the President of the United States, because I did not believe that the full assessment of the information available had been made by that time. However, the information is now well known to the House and I do not wish to go all over it.
There are two points to which I wish to draw attention and which we should consider. The first is the deception by the Soviet Government about the existing situation. That, surely, is one of the most important things to emerge from this episode and which we, in working hard to reach agreements and arrangements with the Soviet Union, must always have in the forefront of our mind. The second is the fact that this information, when it became available, showed a clear threat to the vital interests of the United States itself. This, I think, has a bearing on a great deal of what the right hon. Member for Huyton had to say about the action which President Kennedy took.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
Without for a moment, of course, extenuating the duplicity of the Soviet Government, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether President Kennedy was informed that the weapons were defensive or that they had merely a defensive capacity in the sense that other nations regard certain weapons as being of a defensive character? I am merely asking 171 whether the American President was told that these weapons had a defensive capacity?
§ Mr. Heath
I quoted the words used by the Soviet Foreign Minister and I leave the hon. Gentleman to draw his own conclusion from those words.
The question of deception is surely important, also, when we look back to what happened regarding nuclear tests. There we saw the resumption of nuclear testing, without notice, in the face of firm undertakings by the Soviet Government that they would never be the first to resume testing. Thus the attitude of the West has been fully justified in its insistence that there should be means of inspection and verification in agreements we make or propose to make with the Soviet Union.
I must say a word about the direct threat to United States interests. The missiles were there. That can no longer be denied or suspicion cast upon it. They were, in fact, offensive and a threat to a large part of North and South America. There was, therefore, the need for the President to act speedily. The right hon. Member for Huyton regretted the way that the action was taken. He would, presumably, therefore imply criticism of the President for the way in which he took the action. He would, presumably, also imply that time was to be taken up with full consultation with the whole of the alliance before he took the action which he did take.
We believe that the time element was important—so important that it justified the action which the President took. He imposed a limited quarantine on the sea, a surveillance of Cuba and he called on Mr. Khrushchev to eliminate the threat by dismantling the bases. He also stated that an attack from Cuba on any country in the Western Hemisphere would be treated as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States requiring full retaliation on the Soviet Union. The President, therefore, in taking this action, stated his own policy and the American Administration's policy clearly and firmly.
Secondly, the President limited the use of the quarantine only to preventing the build-up which was then rapidly going on. He took the matter at once to the Security Council with the request for the bases to be dismantled. He at once 172 obtained support both from the Organisation of American States and from all his European allies.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman could clarify one point. The Prime Minister said yesterday that he received a communication from the United States Government on the morning of Monday, 22nd October. In that communication was there merely information concerning the contents of the President's speech on that evening, or did the American Government ask whether the British Government were prepared to support the action of the American Government?
§ Mr. Heath
I think that it has always been made clear that we were informed of the action which the President of the United States proposed to take. That has never been questioned. That position is quite clear.
The right hon. Member for Huyton also asked whether there was consultation after we were fully informed about the action which was to be taken. As I have said, on informing his allies and the Organisation of American States the President obtained full support from all of them. There was then full consultation with N.A.T.O. through the N.A.T.O. Council during the events of the crisis through Mr. Acheson and Mr. Finletter. After that there was consultation with us and with other allies who must, of course, speak for themselves. As far as we were concerned there was consultation which gave us all we wished for in our relations with the United States and our position in the alliance.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
This was on Tuesday. The right hon. Gentleman would not wish to misrepresent the question, or the point I was making. I was concerned with consultation on the Monday—before the announcement was made at midnight. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the British Government support or repudiate the statement put out by Whitehall] spokesmen regretting that the Government had not been consulted? Do the Government stand by that statement?
§ Mr. Heath
On the first point, I have said that that is the position. On the second point, I cannot comment without going back and checking up what has 173 been said, as alleged was said by the right hon. Gentleman, by Whitehall spokesmen.
The right hon. Gentleman has already misquoted my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister by saying that my right hon. Friend claimed that the whole thing had been brought to an end as the result of my right hon. Friend's letter to Mr. Khrushchev. The Prime Minister made it plain that Mr. Khrushchev had made his announcement by the time the letter had reached him. If the right hon. Member for Huyton is prepared to misquote the Prime Minister he may very well be making other misquotations as well.
The essential question which the right hon. Member for Huyton asked was whether our view had changed about the position over consultation as far as the arrangements for the Western Alliance are concerned. To that I can say quite clearly and firmly that our views have not changed in any way about the arrangements for consultation in all matters affecting the Western Alliance. Obviously, it should be our purpose, as it has been in the past, to make these arrangements as effective and speedy as possible.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
I would like to help the right hon. Gentleman if I can. The House can be quite certain that the American communication to us contained more information and was less guilty of deception than were the Government at the time of Suez.
§ Mr. Heath
I am always grateful for the hon. Gentleman's offers of help, but perhaps we might have a little consultation beforehand about it in future.
I now turn to the conclusions we could draw from this matter and what lessons could be learned. It may, perhaps, be too early to do this, as the Leader of the Opposition suggested yesterday. Many questions remain unanswered. One of the striking things in the discussion of modern foreign policy is the fact that there is so little firm information on which it can be based. Not least is the lack of information from the Soviet Union.
The right hon. Member for Huyton emphasised, and rightly so, the strong American feelings about the Caribbean and the question of weapons there. In 174 those circumstances what really was the purpose of the Soviet Union in embarking on this particular venture? Those who were taking part in the handling of these matters in these past few days must constantly, in order to judge policy aright, ask themselves that question.
It looks as though the main object of Mr. Khrushchev was to make a dramatic increase in the Soviet power to strike a heavy nuclear blow at North America. But what was the purpose of doing that? Was it so that he could then approach the next round of East-West negotiations, perhaps on Berlin and on other matters, from a position of much greater strength than he has got at the moment?
Perhaps the House will recall that on 11th September, Mr. Khrushchev announced a moratorium on the Berlin negotiations until after the United States Congressional elections. That would have taken him to the middle of November. Did he perhaps hope that he would have the building up of the bases and missiles in Cuba complete by the middle of November and that he could then use them as a lever to force the West, or to attempt to force the West, to abandon the commitments which they had in Berlin or elsewhere?
Was that really the purpose which lay behind a venture which was bound to involve so many great risks in the face of the well-known American feelings in this area described by the right hon. Gentleman? If that was the purpose, then it has not succeeded, but then what were the pressures operating on Mr. Khrushchev when he took the decision to build up the missile bases in this way? Is there still a group operating which is opposed to the concept of peaceful coexistence which Mr. Khrushchev has so frequently and so forcefully put forward? Is there, perhaps, a remnant of the anti-party group, or a Stalinist group, or a group among the leaders of the armed forces, who brought pressure to bear so that this venture should be carried out?
That we cannot tell, but is that the explanation? Or is it, perhaps, that the Soviets themselves are seriously misinformed about Western intentions? Are they misinformed about Western determination and Western will-power? Do 175 they, perhaps, believe too much what the local Communist parties tell them, too much in the demonstrations they see of those Who believe in unilateral nuclear disarmament, or those who believe in policies much closer to Soviet policy? Or did the Soviets think that America would not notice the missiles placed in the bases in Cuba?
Despite the remarkable Soviet achievements, do they entirely overlook the magnificent technical achievements of the United States and the Western world? If so, that is a serious miscalculation. Or did they calculate that the decision was a great risk, but that they could safely take it because they bad every intention of withdrawing should they be found out in building up these missile bases?
There are some who say—I think that it was said in this House—that the United States should be urged to abandon brinkmanship. Surely, if that was the case for taking this action in preparation for withdrawal if found out, it is the Soviet Union which should be urged not to take risks of this kind. Perhaps one could ask if the Soviets really set out to give a false impression to the President in the statement which Mr. Gromyko made. Or is it possible that Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Gromyko believed that the preparations were purely defensive, but that the leaders of the armed forces ensured that they became offensive? Is this a possible explanation of what occurred?
These are questions which have to be studied before one can come to a conclusion on the real purpose of Soviet policy, but we can already see certain things emerging from this position. First, that the attempt to alter the delicate balance of power on a massive scale, on which the peace of the world has uneasily been resting, has failed, and the balance remains. Secondly, if this was a direct challenge to the determination of the United States and of the President of the United States, the President accepted the challenge, and that, too, has failed.
This is of immense importance for all countries of the West which depend on the Western Alliance for their security and their freedom, and it has surely exploded the myth, which has been 176 sedulously propagated by those who support Soviet policy, that the present American Administration would never stand up to the pressures when they really came. This, too, is of the greatest importance. I hope, therefore, that the Soviet Union will realise the importance of the deductions which can be made from this position, particularly in regard to the other trouble spots of the world.
The third thing we can be certain about is that the President of the United States was not willing to bargain away the interests of European defence against the interests of American defence, which surely must be the significance of his refusal to entertain the proposal put forward by Mr. Khrushchev about the Turkish bases. This itself should help to set at rest many of the anxieties in Europe about the reliance which can be placed on American support for European security.
Fourthly, the appearance of recognisable Soviet long-range missiles in the Caribbean has alerted the whole of the countries of the South American Continent to the realities of power politics in the modern world. To see this in action by the Soviet Union may well be to them what the rape of Czechoslovakia was to Europe in the last but one decade.
But this matter is still not finally concluded. The arrangements for international supervision of the dismantling arrangements have still to be worked out. U Thant is now in Cuba, and the right hon. Gentleman quite rightly paid tribute to the work which he has done. He is endeavouring to reach agreement with Mr. Castro, and we understand that Mr. Mikoyan, the Deputy Chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers, plans to arrive in Havana tomorrow evening, leading a Soviet Government delegation. They have requested over-flying rights in this country to allow Mr. Mikoyan to make the journey, and these have been granted.
Can we now look to the future? In this crisis, America acted firmly and courageously, but also with care and restraint.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
I happened to be in America during the last two months, and I should say that there is a very much simpler explanation of the missile bases which were established in Cuba than that which 177 the right hon. Gentleman has sought to put before the House. Is he aware that there is an election taking place in America, and that a great deal of public pressure over the last two months has been directed on President Kennedy to invade Cuba and put Cuba in its place?
Had the right hon. Gentleman been a member of Castro's Government instead of a member of this Government—[An HON. MEMBER: "He would have been executed."]—I have no doubt at all that he would have been demanding from his friends, whether British, American, or Russian, methods of defence for his own country. Indeed, throughout America there was a warlike atmosphere towards the invasion of Cuba. The explanation may be as simple as I have said, that the Cuban Government asked for defensive weapons against the possibility of invasion.
§ Mr. Heath
I think that perhaps the hon. Gentleman should endeavour to live up to the high standard of debate set by his leaders. The President of the United States stated on 13th September that there were defensive weapons in Cuba, if built up to a very large degree, and that there was absolutely no justification for any sort of attack upon or invasion of Cuba. That was the position of the President of the United States.
The importation of offensive missiles to use nuclear warheads with a range as far as Canada and Peru was obviously an entirely different question. If we look to the future, the Americans, as I was saying when I was interrupted, behaved courageously and firmly but with restraint. When the right hon. Gentleman said that one should not speak of a diplomatic defeat for the Soviets, I would say to him that in the later stages of the crisis the Soviets also acted with great care and restraint because they then had a full realisation of how seriously vital United States interests were being challenged.
From this fact that care and restraint were exercised by both sides grows the possibility now of an alleviation of tension between East and West—at least temporarily, and, one would hope, permanently. It is both British and American policy to work for this. In that, I think that we have the agreement of the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends. The most promising area lies in the realm 178 of disarmament which was mentioned in the exchanges both by Mr. Khrushchev and President Kennedy, particularly perhaps in the sphere of nuclear tests, and in providing assurance against surprise attack. I do not intend to go into great detail here any more than the right hon. Gentleman did, but one or two points stand out.
We cannot, in the light of recent experience, accept a moratorium on nuclear tests in any environment without some arrangement for effective inspection of unidentified events. This is a limiting factor, but, on the other hand, it does not preclude a partial agreement to stop tests in the atmosphere, underwater or in outer space. Nor does it preclude comprehensive agreement covering underground tests as well, with arrangements for a minimum amount of international supervision which, as we have constantly tried to show, could not be perverted for purposes of international espionage. Nor does it preclude scientific consultation, as has often been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, to ensure that the maximum number of underground seismic events are identified and the need for inspection is kept to a minimum.
On disarmament, the vital point is that as armaments are reduced the balance between the two sides is preserved. We would prefer to see this balance at a lower level, but we must be sure that the balance exists. Here again, the question of verification is of the greatest importance. From Mr. Gromyko's speech in the United Nations Assembly in September it became clear that he had moved one step in our direction. He has accepted the principle that some nuclear weapons should be retained by either side during the first two stages of disarmament in order to meet this point of preserving the balance of forces.
We are ready to resume negotiations on disarmament at any time and to work patiently towards agreement, but it must be on the basis of the principles about balance and verification which have already been agreed in theory between the United States and the Soviet Union. Surely we can all agree that the Cuban crisis has strikingly illustrated the need to maintain those two principles. In the meantime, while negotiations proceed we are very ready to consider what special measures might be taken to reduce the 179 possibility of misunderstanding and misinformation on either side about the military disposition of the other. This would help to reduce both the chances of any surprise attack and any ungrounded fears that such an attack might take place.
One of the lessons of the recent crisis is the important role which an international organisation can play in such cases at points of special danger. Again, the point has clearly emerged that the Soviet Union has accepted international supervision of the dismantling of missiles. Let us therefore hope that this can be taken as a precedent for dealing with the matters of tests and disarmament which I have been discussing in the last few minutes.
Her Majesty's Government do not abandon the hope and belief that Soviet policy is based on the avoidance of war. Any Governments with first-hand knowledge of nuclear weapons and of what nuclear weapons can do must be against war. We believe that the Soviet Union understands this and understands it well. It has formed the basis of the doctrine of peaceful co-existence. It has been proved once again by the manner in which the Soviets have dealt with this crisis when they found themselves to be in a false position in Cuba. This may lead, therefore, to a more careful and realistic assessment and appraisal and greater caution by the Soviet Union.
This, then, is where our hope lies. Having been through this crisis, there should be greater caution and a more realistic appraisal. If this is achieved it is some compensation for all the anxieties which all have gone through during these last few days. With caution and with realism we can have a reduction of tension and then the opportunity for competitive co-existence. This is a challenge of competition in other spheres, in peaceful spheres, in economics, in technology and, indeed, in culture; where we can gladly accept the challenge and accept it in good heart because we believe that we can meet this one successfully for the good of our countries and for the prosperity of the peoples of the world.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I share the relief at the outcome so far of the Cuban affair. Whether some of the optimism about the future 180 is justified or not seems to me to be a very much more difficult question.
I think that we should spare a moment of sympathy for those who have to make these sombre decisions in situations unparalleled in world history. Whether any good can come of this depends upon what lessons are drawn from these events both on this side of the Iron Curtain and on the other.
One of the first questions we have to ask ourselves is, how did this situation in Cuba ever arise? Anyone who looks at the history of Communist relations with the democracies must see that nearly always Communist successes are due to mistakes by the democracies. Surely it is very strange that this island within 100 miles of America, which gained its independence through American action —action of rather a doubtful kind—and which has benefited greatly from American aid and trade, should nevertheless have become Communist.
The answer is not difficult. It is, in fact, well known. But I do not think that we have drawn the proper conclusion. It is not enough to give aid or, indeed, to trade with the poorer countries of the world. Such help is wasted unless there are in these countries Governments capable of using such help and of seeing that it is employed in raising the standards of the people. The West is far too ready to go on pouring money into the hands of corrupt or incompetent Governments and to feel that by doing that it is building up the free world. It has too long ignored the fact that our type of democracy does not necessarily suit all countries. In fact, it is very difficult to reconcile in the poorer countries the need for swift economic improvement with our brand of democracy.
We have paid too little attention in those emergent or underdeveloped States to developing the kind of government which can give conditions for progress, and I think we have given too little attention to the need for education, a sound civil service and an uncorrupt judicature. I know that there are great difficulties in this. It is argued that it is not for us to interfere with existing Governments. But I do not accept that we are bound to aid and sustain dictatorships of the Right any more than we 181 are bound to sustain and aid dictatorships of the Left. One of the least happy aspects of American policy is the contrast between their toleration of Right-wing dictatorships and their violent reaction against Castro.
Another important point arising from the lead in to this Cuban incident is the question of recognising in time the claims of people to run their own affairs free from American or British attempts to delay or suppress them, however well intentioned those attempts may be. These lessons have immediate application in Asia and Africa. One has only to look at the state of affairs in the Persian Gulf today to realise that similar situations may arise there at any time. We cannot afford to be associated with reaction. I would say this to our American friends. It may well be that, just as they have taken a hand in Africa, where Britain is, perhaps wrongly, suspected of being an old imperialist power, we can give some help in South America, where there are, again perhaps wrongly, suspicions of American motives. If there were any need to give further point to this, consider what the situation would be in India if we had maintained British rule there. Instead of being united in the defence of freedom and democracy, I strongly suspect that half the Indian people would say, "This is an opportunity to get rid of the British".
That is the first lesson to be drawn from the Cuban affair. Let us ensure that these situations do not recur. Let us remember that, although Communism is totally obsolete as a doctrine for stable and moderately efficient countries, it is still relevant to countries which are impoverished and which hover continually between chaos and dictatorship.
The second lesson to be drawn from this incident is the absolute futility of the British independent nuclear deterrent—
§ Mr. Grimond
—and how disastrous has been the policy initiated by the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and Secretary of State for the Colonies, which was supported at that time by the Opposition Front Bench, and how absurd were some of the arguments levelled at my party at that time for sug- 182 gesting that this was a totally out-of-date policy. Even this summer the present Minister of Defence said that it was monstrous for Liberals to suggest giving up our so-called independent nuclear bombs.
One of the great illusions about the British H-bomb was that it put us in a special relation to the United States, that it was the pass key to consultation. It was said that without it we might have to go naked into the conference chamber. With it, we never got into the conference chamber at all. We may have been informed of what the Americans intended to do, but we were not in any normal sense consulted.
The question of consultation is not simple and it is not confined to the final nuclear crunch. As has been said, it is perhaps hardly for our Government, in view of what we did at Suez, to complain about lack of consultation. One can understand the Americans saying, "What about security?". Some security on this side of the Atlantic does not seem too good; to have a spy trial every six months is not the way to impress one's allies with one's ability to keep secrets. I have no doubt that there is general consultation on policy but I should like to know whether it is effective and whether there is consultation before any offensive action is taken. I am not talking about nuclear action. Is there consultation and is it effective before force of any sort is envisaged?
I agree that this crisis in Cuba, or any other crisis, may well involve the whole world, but I think there is a distinction between a crisis of this sort, which the Americans may say, rightly or wrongly, is largely their business, and a crisis in Europe. Whatever we may think about the need for world consultation, the Europeans are entitled to full consultation before force of any sort is used in Europe and particularly before the use of nuclear weapons is contemplated.
How can this be arranged? There is a N.A.T.O. Committee considering what one might call the standing orders for nuclear weapons, the guiding lines, as they are called. I hope that it is making progress and that we shall hear more about it at the end of the debate. As the ultimate decision on nuclear weapons is at present taken in Washington, there 183 might well be a political as well as military group at the highest level. What we must make clear is that policy with regard to European situations must be concerted. Incidentally, the Cuban incident and the invasion of India show how absurd it is for any country to pretend that it can pursue independent foreign and defence policies.
Let the Government have no illusions about this. If we do not have an assurance about better consultation over European defence, at any rate, the demand will grow in Europe either for a European deterrent or for some detachment from American policy. I should be opposed to either of these moves, but they are absolutely inevitable unless we can give people an assurance that better consultation exists.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is aware that.there is in Washington the Standing Military Group to which these matters are referred from time to time.
§ Mr. Grimond
Yes, and I said specifically that I think that a standing political or diplomatic group should be added to it.
There is a divergence growing up between the British and, I should have thought, the European view about nuclear weapons on the one hand and the American view on the other. We must face this. To begin with, it seems clear that the case for thinking that the nuclear balance of power deters the Russians or Americans from adventures has been gravely weakened. It used to be argued that the risk of escalation was such that neither the United States nor Russia would run this risk in areas known to be sensitive to the other. This has proved to be an illusion. The Russians have run that risk. Nuclear weapons may deter the United States or Russia from using their nuclear weapons. There is no reason to suppose that they deter them from using their conventional strength.
I think that the conclusion to be drawn from this is that the case for a shift in our policy towards greater conventional strength is now overwhelming and that our proper contribution and role is through conventional arms. Here again, let us consider the case of India. This is a 184 case where we might be asked to give aid, and it will certainly be conventional aid. It is clear that, if the nuclear balance is effective at all, it is effective against the use not of conventional weapons but of nuclear weapons.
We must then ask ourselves how serious the Americans were in what has been reported as their intention to use nuclear weapons if they did not get their way. It seems to me that there is a divergence here between their view and the majority view in this country that a first-strike nuclear attack is almost incredible. Such a first strike would mean that our whole defence policy has failed because it is a policy of deterrence and not strictly of defence at all.
It has been reported that the American attitude is that nuclear weapons can be used as an extension of other weapons, that it is possible to contemplate using first-strike nuclear weapons in a situation like Cuba. It has been reported that they were prepared to use rockets with nuclear warheads against Cuba. This is a serious divergence of view. If it is true that the Americans were prepared to use first-strike nuclear weapons against Cuba, the sooner it is pointed out to them, in all friendship, that this is not the European view of nuclear weapons the better.
Then, clearly, within the doctrine of deterrence we must make allowance for national reactions. To the Russians, the U2 was intolerable. To America, the Caribbean bases were intolerable. The Americans withdrew over the U2 and the Russians withdrew over Cuba. It must be said, however, that the Russians have not gone away empty-handed from Cuba. They have a guarantee that it will not be invaded, but I understand that there is no guarantee that it will not be armed. I do not know whether the Government can give us any information about this, but there seems to be some doubt over the status of the American base in Cuba.
We must look very carefully at the situation which now arises and at the lessons to be learned from it. A great many hopes have been expressed about test bans and disarmament and there may be a general outbreak of good will. I certainly share these hopes, but I should not like us to be deluded. There 185 seems to be no likelihood that, because the Russians accept United Nations inspection in Cuba, they will accept it in Russia. To believe this is to ignore their passion for secrecy about their own bases. It is to ignore the difference between inspection somewhere else and inspection in Russia It is to ignore the lesson of the U2.
I do not think that the Lord Privy Seal suggested this, but it has been suggested—indeed, to some extent, it was suggested by the Prime Minister yesterday—that this is an important concession by the Russians. It does not seem to me a concession at all. If we want a test ban—and I was glad to hear what the Lord Privy Seal said about this—we must accept that it will come about without inspection on Russian soil, This means—and I think that the Government accept this—-that we may get a ban on atmospheric tests but that we shall not get a ban on underground tests with inspection. I would accept that.
As for disarmament, I hope that we shall resume discussions and that we shall consider some of these ideas for geographical arms control or disengagement. But, again, do not let us delude ourselves. The origin of the Cuban affair may have been that Russia felt that she was falling behind in nuclear strategy at a moment when the Communist world wished to make a move on Berlin and on other subjects. If so, unfortunately, Cuba may be the prelude to a further upward spiral in the arms race. We should not be too sure that we shall find it easy to get an advance on disarmament unless we are prepared to make fairly substantial concessions.
Lastly, there is the question of further Russian moves. No doubt the same debate on Cuba is going on in Russia as is going on here. No doubt the Russians are wondering what lessons are to be learned from the Cuban affair. One lesson that they may draw is that the Americans react so strongly to any threat that it may be wise to leave things as they are. But they may draw another lesson. They may say 'that what the Americans can do in Cuba Russia can attempt elsewhere.
If the Communists could not defend Cuba short of general war, the West is in exactly the same position in some parts 186 of Europe. One very obvious part is Berlin. I believe it absolutely vital to associate the United Nations with Berlin. The United Nations has come out of the Cuban situation very well so far, but it lacks an inspectorate to do the sort of work which it is now being asked to do. We should press for an amendment of the Charter to allow the United Nations to recruit and train people for this sort of job, and members of this force—again I was glad to hear what the Lord Privy Seal said about this—should be stationed in danger spots. Berlin is a danger spot, and a United Nations presence, even an agency, might be moved into Berlin. The sooner Berlin is taken out of the East-West controversy, if it can be, and the sooner it is accepted that it should be available as a capital neither to West nor East Germany the better. If eventually it ends up as a United Nations city, that may be as good a solution as any.
I wish to ask two questions about the lamentable attack by China on India and to associate myself with the sympathy expressed to the Indians. It is suggested that the reason why this matter has not been brought to the United Nations is that China is not a member of the United Nations. Is this a valid reason? Surely there are provisions in the Charter to allow the United Nations to consider situations which threaten world peace.
§ Mr. Grimond
As the hon. Gentleman says, Korea was not a member.
I am interested to know why this dispute has not been brought to the United Nations. I do not wish to go into details over this matter, but, if it is because of some inhibition over the Indian attitude to the United Nations on Kashmir, could not the Government bring their offices to bear so that both these issues are brought to the United Nations? The Indian border is a place where a United Nations inspectorate may be of great value.
Secondly the Prime Minister said yesterday, almost casually, referring to the Indians:What they ask us to do to help them we will do."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1962;Vol. 666, c. 34.]187 I am not complaining about that at all. But it is a fairly far-reaching statement and I think that we should be told what in fact it means. Does it mean that we would give armed support? Does it mean that we would give support in the air, or allow the Indians to recruit Gurkhas? Does it mean that, if asked, we would place an embargo on trade with China? This statement has been made, and we should have a further elucidation of its meaning.
The events of the last week might well lead the world to despair. We shall, no doubt, weather many more crises. But if these crises go on—Dien Bien Phu, Korea, Cuba—no one can be certain that they will not end in a nuclear war. There have been moments when the story of mankind does seem to be a tale told by an idiot, for no one can really think otherwise than that the Russian adventure in Cuba or the Chinese attack on India were anything but the acts of rash and mad men. But to take this view is to ignore the underlying contest between Communism and the free world. In this contest there is no room in any major nation for neutralism. As Mr. Kennedy said, the Russians dislike the democracies, not for what they do but for what they are. And, of course, the threat to Communism from India is not what it does but what it is. It is an example of freedom and democracy in the Asiatic world.
Yet in spite of all of its present aggressiveness, I think that Communism is burning itself out and, given time, the economies and the attitudes of East and West will grow together. We may look back on this period as a strange aberration, as a time when we believed that the world was so deeply divided that we must put atomic and nuclear weapons at each other's doors. This will pass, given time. But it is going to take time and we have to keep the peace. We have to keep the peace and gain time without allowing Communism to exploit our failures. This is the task to which this country should address itself. An essential part of such a task is that we should abandon the old idea of national sovereignty and the sovereign right of individual States to commit 188 suicide. Here the British Government could take an effective lead by abandoning our pretence of being a nuclear Power, of nuclear sovereignty, by giving up any independent deterrent and by working for general Western policies which have some chance of drawing assent, not only from the established and old nations in Europe and America, but from the rising nations in Africa and Asia. This is the only hope that I can see of keeping the peace long enough for the aggressiveness of Communism to die down. It is a sombre prospect, but it is a prospect. Our contribution is not to pretend any longer that we are an independent leading nuclear Power but instead to show that we have some knowledge and experience to contribute to world affairs.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Brigadier Sir John Smyth (Norwood)
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) made some interesting remarks on the present situation and the crisis that we hope we have partially resolved. But, when the right hon. Gentleman went on to give his own ideas about how we should meet such a crisis in the future, I could not get his whole scheme and plan into any sort of coherent whole. He has again given us his ideas about a nuclear deterrent. I feel that there may be something to be said for those people who say that we ought to give up our nuclear deterrent and rely on the Americans. But I think nothing of the point of view of those who come to that conclusion and then, when we have handed over our destinies to the Americans and the Americans do something which they think to be in our best interests in order to stop a nuclear war, say that they ought not to have done it. If we are not to have a nuclear deterrent or to rely on the American nuclear deterrent, I do not know what conclusion we can reach.
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland always advances his alternative that we should increase our conventional forces. He must realise that the first point that arises in that connection is that it means a return to conscription. If we are to have greatly increased conventional forces, particularly in N.A.T.O.,it means a return to conscription. I have often 189 put that fact to the right hon. Gentleman, which is something he must face. I cannot accept the idea that if we have a conventional war, if we accept the idea that we could have a large-scale conventional war, it would not lead to a nuclear war. His idea regarding that is entirely misconceived in my view. I believe that there is only one alternative to total war, and that is total peace. We must not allow any sort of war to start. A conventional war inevitably will lead to a nuclear war.
The right hon. Gentleman put forward one idea which I do not think is based on any facts. He said that the Americans were contemplating a nuclear rocket attack on Cuba. I have never heard that suggested before and I think the idea absurd. It would not have got them anywhere and would not have achieved any object. It could not have been the prelude to a landing on the island. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has got hold of the wrong end of the stick.
I do not want to follow the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland further in his speech. I wish to confine my remarks to the conflict between China and India, having been in the Indian Army myself for thirty years, and knowing something about the terrain in which these operations are taking place. Today I had a letter from an ardent supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He said that the lesson of the crises through which we have just passed, in Cuba and in India, was that Britain should adopt a policy of what he called "positive neutrality". But what other policy has Mr. Nehru been adopting all these years, rightly or wrongly?
From a military point of view, there is no doubt that this policy of neutrality, combined with the lamentable quarrel with Pakistan over Kashmir, resulted in the great military weakness in the Indian Ocean area which I have called attention in this House on many occasions. That has put a much greater defence burden on Great Britain and it has meant that the troops of India and Pakistan are located in all the wrong places. They have been located, or were until just recently, largely with the idea of a conflict between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. Had that not been the case, a far larger proportion of the Indian and Pakistan armies would have 190 been right forward on the frontier, and I do not think that then the Chinese would have enjoyed the initial success that they did enjoy.
I think, therefore, that the letter of the British Prime Minister to President Ayub Khan last week was very timely, suggesting that he should maintain the status quoin Kashmir. Pakistan at the moment would agree that all troops, Indian and Pakistan, should be withdrawn from Kashmir and handed over to a United Nations force, and I feel that if the Chinese continue to press their advance into India it may well be in the interests of India and Pakistan to accept that idea and to allow the United Nations to take the military control from their hands in the two areas of Kashmir.
Turning to the Chinese advance and its objective, I think that the method of their attack on India follows the modern Communist pattern and not the Nazi pattern. Hitler at least tried to build up a situation before an aggression whereby he might get some public support when the aggression started. The Chinese did not bother to do that at all. They simply claimed 50,000 square miles of Indian territory and when, naturally, the Indians refused to give it to them, quietly and without any declaration of war or anything of that kind, they advanced on a broad front along the Indian frontier.
Although in that country, of which I have some knowledge, the initial advantage of surprise and better communications has lain with the Chinese, enabling them to bring up weapons, particularly some tanks, against the Indian front-line posts, I do not think that the advantage will remain with them. Because now they will get into much more difficult and mountainous country with much worse communications. The winter is setting in and, merely because of that, movement will become much more difficult. When the winter ends and the spring thaw begins, movement will be even more difficult in that area. So my view would be that the Chinese, having gained so much ground, will now decide to consolidate. But whether they decide on that or decide to press on, it poses a very serious situation for India and Pakistan.
Yesterday the Prime Minister said:Our connection with India covering so many generations, was not severed by the 191 constitutional changes of 1947."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1962; Vol. 666, c. 33.]My right hon. Friend instanced the links of trade and commerce between the two countries and the fact that Indian students come to this country to study. He did not mention a very important factor; the close links that have continued between the former British officers of the Indian Army and the Indian regiments in which they served. That applies to the Indian Army and to the Pakistan Army. In 1947 the Indian Army as we knew it was torn apart. Units were disrupted and the new armies of India and Pakistan were created. They needed a tremendous amount of encouragement—which, at their request, was given to them by the former British officers in full measure—to build up their new armies.
In doing that the liaison which I have mentioned was led by two very distinguished field marshals of the Indian Army, Auchinleck and Slim. Auchinleck particularly represented Pakistan having commanded a Punjabi regiment and Slim represented India having commanded a Gurkha regiment. This comradeship was built up and maintained by the annual newsletters that every Indian unit that I know of sends back each year to its former British officers, by the annual dinners held in this country and by the visits which officers pay between this country and India and Pakistan. I know that some hon. Members were in Edinburgh when the regimental band and the pipes and drums of my old Indian battalion went the other day to play at the Edinburgh Tattoo before very large and enthusiastic audiences. Then on 14th September a rather unique occasion occurred on Horse Guards Parade, when the band and drums of my regiment beat retreat before Mr. Nehru and Field Marshals Auchinleck and Slim and the officers of the regiment.
It is these sort of things which have built close relations between this country and India and Pakistan and have been extremely helpful to both countries in doing so.
I think they have contributed to the present efficiency of the Indian Army units, and have taken the political bitterness out of the most regrettable squabble over Kashmir. It is not that there has 192 been a military revolt of any sort. It is that the comrades in arms of the old Indian Army, the British officers and the Indian officers and the Pakistan officers, have got together to see that this disagreement over Kashmir did not result, as it might have done at one time, in a passage of arms which might have had very serious repercussions indeed.
What can we now do to help India? As the Prime Minister said, we want to give India every help we possibly can in the crisis which faces her today. I do not think for a moment that we want to consider sending British troops to India, as one of my colleagues suggested yesterday. It would be like sending coals to Newcastle. India has got almost unlimited men, and extremely fine fighting men at that. However, the Indians do need very urgently modern weapons, and it is no good sending those modern weapons unless we send with them personnel who can really explain them to the Indian units and teach them how to use them.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
Surely what my right hon. and gallant Friend means, does he not, is that we should send officers, n. c. o. s and men for the purpose of giving them expert knowledge and encouragement, but such men as we sent would be non-combatant? Is that not what my right hon. and gallant Friend is really saying, that we ought to do in that way?
§ Sir J. Smyth
Yes, I agree, but it would be out of place to send British fighting units from here to India at the present time. In any case, they could not fight in those very difficult mountain conditions unless they were first to have expert training.
There is something else which I believe that the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations could do at this present time to help and advise India in two important matters. As the House may know, the Naga hill people of the North-East frontier of India have sent over a deputation, which is in this country at the moment. They are very much at loggerheads with the Indian Government. I am informed that some seventeen battalions of the Indian Army are taken up at the moment over this 193 dispute with the Naga tribes. The Indians want all the battalions they can possibly lay hands on, and I think that our Government could, perhaps, take a hand at the present time in trying to resolve that quarrel.
Secondly, relations between India and Nepal are not too good at present. I think we are in a position to help diplomatically in 'that. As I have said before, when I was talking about the Gurkhas in the last Session, we could subsidise Nepal at the present time by taking our full quota of Gurkha soldiers, who are Nepal's only export. If, later on, India wanted the help of those particular Gurkha battalions we should, in that case, give it them. But I hear that we are intending to reduce by 50 per cent. our Gurkha troops, and I say again, as I have said before to the House, that I think that this is a very bad time to do it, both from a military point of view and a political point of view, and I urge the Government, if they really intend to do that, to think again right now, particularly in this crisis which is upon us.
In conclusion, I have made mention of what the old British officers, the retired British officers of the Indian Army, have been doing—and I think they have done well—to help their own old units in India and Pakistan. The Gracious Speech indicates thatA Bill will be introduced to increase the pensions of retired members of the public services and their dependants.That goes for the British Service retired officers and the retired officers of the Indian Army as well. This is not a party political matter at all. It is a matter which, I believe, concerns the whole House. I feel that it is rather a blot on our escutcheon that the people who come off worst under retirement pensions today are, first of all, those elderly retired officers who fought for this country in two world wars—they come off a long way the worst, they and their widows—and secondly, the ones who fought for us in the Second World War. Of course, and this sounds somewhat fantastic, those who have not fought at all come off best under the present retirement pensions. I hope that the Government, when bringing that Bill forward, will bear that fact in mind.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
We are indebted to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) for giving us the benefit of his experience as a practical soldier in India, but, if he will forgive me, I do not propose to go into that field since I have no qualifications to offer any advice about it.
My entry into politics was very largely in order to stop any more wars. The First World War brought a great shock to many young people, who were thinking that the world would always go on as it always had, and then they were brought up sharply against the causes of that war. Whatever may be the rights and wrongs of it, there is no question that the causes of that war were very largely economic rivalry between the great nations, with Germany pushing down towards the Persian Gulf—which is still a critical centre—and with the consequent reactions of the other nations who saw in that a kind of economic aggression. Therefore, I have always taken a very keen interest in how we can prevent war.
One lesson I have learnt is that we cannot prevent war by washing our hands of it. There is no possibility, as India is finding today, of being peaceful simply by being neutral. Denmark found that out in the last war; Norway found it out in the last war. The mere fact that we do not want to fight does not mean that we shall not be involved in war. Therefore, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said, we can have only total peace. Litvinov once said, "Peace is indivisible." So is war indivisible. That is what Cuba showed us last week. There was no likelihood of its being a little local incident; it was going to mean world war.
The early wars were between France and Germany, and they caused two world wars. That now, I hope, is gone for ever by the coming together of those two countries in the European Community, where they no longer have independent armies, and where the idea of an independent army seems quite impracticable on the Continent.
The crisis shows that any clash between the two major forces in the world, East and West, will lead to nuclear war. I do not think anybody 195 can be in any doubt about that, and this idea that we can get an agreement not to have any nuclear weapons and not to have any nuclear wars and that we can start a nice little war of the old kind and carry it on for four years without a major clash of nuclear arms is a fantastic piece of imagination. The fact of the matter is that we have reached a point in world affairs where we have to have peace or world suicide.
Naturally, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I am quite sure that Russia does not want war. But she wants a lot of things. It may be that if she puts her hand out too far to grab these things it could result in war. This is a kind of creeping aggression. It has always been human nature that people try to see how far they can go without stubbing their toes. It is rather remarkable that, in this case, Russia made no secret of these bases, and that is a point on which no one seems to have concentrated in this debate. These bases were flagrantly erected in Cuba. They were meant to be seen. There was no question of camouflaging them and they were therefore put there to be seen. Why?
My own view is that Mr. Khrushchev knew that there was an American election going on. There were two purposes. First, there was the atmosphere in America. If these bases were erected and Kennedy did nothing it was quite obvious that the elections would be blown sky high, that Kennedy would be finished as President, and that the whole of American politics would be in the melting pot. So there may have been a political purpose of that kind, but it was a very dangerous purpose, because Russia knows as well as, if not better than, we do of the temper of American politics and the atmosphere of McCarthyism that is growing up again, with even Nixon providing McCarthyism. To put a provocation of that kind on the doorstep of America was obviously provoking and asking for trouble.
As my right hon. Friend said it is a great tribute to the strength of President Kennedy, who had probably learnt from earlier experience, that he did not take any panic action. I think that the action he took was a very wise one. It was also a wise one that Mr. Khrushchev took. Everyone was apprehensive that 196 a Russian ship would be sunk, and in past decades the sinking of a ship in those circumstances would have meant immediate war. Mr. Khrushchev has given ample proof that he does not want war, but he may want lots of things if he can get them without war.
One thing which has been demonstrated by this action is that there is a point at which America will be provoked and be prepared to go the whole hog. Mr. Khrushchev now knows that, and so—it may be my view only—I am convinced that this has saved the situation in Berlin, because if there was anywhere where the other allies of America would not have been expected to back America it would have been the situation in Cuba, but anywhere in Europe we would have the whole Western world united. This case of Cuba has shown that the Western world were prepared to stand together even if it meant going the whole hog.
I should be the last person to blame the Government for the situation, because they had nothing to do with it. It was not the Government who created the bases in Cuba. Clearly there is no point in blaming the Government.
On the question of consultation, we are now told that if the bases were erected there would be four minutes warning. When it comes to the point of a war that is going to start within four minutes, it does not leave much time for consultation. When we think of the amount of consultation required to get a little disarmament, we can see that in that kind of consultation there is no question of war because we are still round the table, but Russia took it out of the field of consultation and into the field of action. What has concerned me in the last few days has been that people who had been so keen on nuclear disarmament have been lobbying M.P.s and carrying placards saying, "Hands off Cuba". What does that mean? That Cuba ought to have nuclear bases? In other words, they are fighting in this country so that Cuba shall get nuclear bases.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I hold no brief for the demonstrators, but I think that my right hon. Friend in talking about them ought to have taken the trouble to have a look at them. He would have noticed that 197 although one of the placards said "Hands off Cuba", another placard said "No nuclear bases anywhere". I am sure that he does not want to be unjust. When he charges the unilateralist disarmed, he is perfectly entitled to be as opposed to them as he likes, but he must not libel them.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The point is that they must agree that it was Mr. Kennedy who was stopping bases being established in Cuba. Just imagine putting these dangerous missiles within the power of Castro, because presumably Castro, if he had so desired, could have seized the bases and missiles and used them. Fancy putting the Whole possibility of world war in the hands of a person like Castro. Let me say that Castro took over Cuba with the support of a great many people who believed that he was getting rid of corruption and of the slave-owning mentality of people dominating the plantations.
It is true that in Cuba he has done a great deal to give the peasants the houses and things which they previously had not got. But we must realise that in doing so he has got into tremendous economic difficulties, and it is said that his imports from Russia have gone up from nothing to £ 200 million in a year. How does Castro pay for this? His sugar crop has collapsed because he out down the sugar plantations in order to turn over to other kinds of crops. The crops failed to some extent, and Cuba is in a very desperate economic position. When a person gets into a desperate condition, the last thing to give him is any weapon. He is entitled to feel sore about America and the way he has been treated, but to place the whole question of world peace in the hands of a desperate man is to put him into the position of being able to say, as Hitler did, "If I am going down, the whole world is going down with me". Nuclear weapons are not the sort of thing that one can trust to anyone in that way. It seems to me that no one can justify what Russia did in this case. We can point to the Turkish bases and bases all over the world, but the fact is that Russian action nearly precipitated a nuclear world war. No one can justify that.
I remember when Hitler's war took place an hon. Member tried to tell me about all the things that had been done 198 wrong to justify Hitler going to war. I said that nothing justified Hitler plunging the world into war. There is nothing to justify Russia plunging the world into war. A number of people in this country seem more anxious to justify Russia than Russia is anxious to justify herself. They seem to be quite disappointed that Mr. Khrushchev did not go on with the challenge and bring about war. It is a terrible situation when people get so carried away with enthusiasm for a particular doctrine that they are prepared to see the world blown to bits in order to justify them saying that everyone else, including their own country, was wrong, except their particular friends.
It is important in this question of nuclear weapons to see whose finger is on the trigger and who is going to press the button. We see quite well that with a four-minute interval, while in theory consultation as desirable, in practice it will prove impossible. If ever we reach the point when there is to be a nuclear strike there will be no time for consultation. It will be just one shot and a second shot and then the world is up in flames.
It is very important to find some way of being sure that whoever has his finger on the trigger is a responsible person. I do not think that one person in the whole world—even the President of the United States—is big enough, or wise enough, to be entrusted with the destiny of the world. It is, therefore, important to avoid that situation arising.
I think that one of the most serious things to be charged against Russia is that she forced the President of the United States into making a decision of that character. No person ought ever to be put into the position of making a decision which involves the whole world's life and existence. If we are to avoid this, the nations of the world, including Russia and America, must agree to stop the business of building armaments and threatening each other, however justified they may feel they are. We have reached the stage when war has bcome impossible. Statesmen ought to realise this. We ought to devise some other way of settling disputes which arise in the world.
My view is that these disputes fall into economic, territorial and political 199 categories. As the Lord Privy Seal said, we can fight in the normal way in the economic field and accept that challenge, although I do not think that we are doing too well at the moment on our side of the fence. The territorial category is rather more difficult because, clearly, there will have to be adjustments in some parts of the world in regard to territory and frontiers. That, however, is a matter for legal decision and arbitration at the International Court at The Hague, or through some international legal body.
We must get agreement on the principles which are to be followed in that regard. There is, incidentally, also the question of assisting the countries now emerging to nationhood. There also disputes will arise later about territory and some machinery must be set up soon to arbitrate and adjudicate about alterations of territory.
In the political question, which engages the attention of many people at the moment, I think one of the problems of Americans is that they have become obsessed by the Foster Dulles mission against Communism. What Russia is doing has nothing to do with Communism; it is Russian imperialism, Russian aggression. To call it Communism is to mix philosophy with a nation's policy. If Russia called itself a Christian nation, look at the problem with which we should be faced. We should be denouncing Christianity because Russia called itself a Christian nation. Obviously, this is only a name which Russia has given its philosophy and it has nothing to do with realities. These things should be carefully separated, because there could be nations which developed what we call a Communist philosophy or a Communist method of government which have nothing whatever to do with Russia. Why should we force them into the hands of Russia simply because they have a philosophy which is different from ours?
This, I think, is the mistake which America has made in regard to Cuba. Cuba may or may not have aspired to become a Communist satellite, but America did not go the best way about preventing it. America has to realise that people from such countries have a right to govern themselves. My experi- 200 ence of South America is that countries there do not want to be "pocket boroughs" of the United States. They are quite glad to have assistance, but they want Britain and other countries to come in in order that they will not be entirely colonies of the United States.
It is difficult for the United States to understand that not everyone wants to be a puppet. They should realise that there was a revolution in Cuba, which had a perfect right to get rid of some of those who had been dominating Cuba and a perfect right to develop a better system of society. If then the United States had helped them they might have avoided this crisis. Nevertheless, I agree with what the Lord Privy Seal said—although it may be a heavy price to pay, it may be that since we were over the brink in this case and were able to crawl back to safe land this kind of thing may not be tried again.
I believe that Russia may be in a better mood to discuss things. I think it good that the United Nations has been accepted by Russia and America. That is a step forward. I do not agree with the Leader of the Liberal Party who said that the agreement to have supervision in Cuba was no advance at all. I think it a very great gain that the principle has been accepted that United Nations judgment will be accepted. There are many parts of the world where, once that principle has been accepted, a dangerous situation could be prevented if we have impartial people willing to go in.
I do not think that can happen in Berlin. In Berlin, like Cuba, there is a point beyond which Russia cannot move without bringing about a world war. She herself has made the wall; she had better keep to her side of it.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
Most hon. Members will agree that the speech of the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), for its clarity and what he had to say openly and straight to the House, was a very valuable one.
It is often difficult in these debates to pursue the line of thought of hon. Members who have preceded one as well as covering other things which are just as important to the House. The debate on the Address in reply to the Queen's Speech is an occasion on which we can turn our minds to very urgent matters 201 for which we have asked for Government legislation. I also wish to continue on the line of questioning the whole basis and background of the dispute over Berlin and, thereafter, to discuss my visit to the kingdom of the Yemen last year and some of the lessons I have learned from my friends who come to see me, and to question the Minister on some of the points concerning the Government's policy about the Yemen.
The first and only question which almost everyone has been asking was, why did Mr. Khrushchev make a fundamental breach in Soviet foreign policy by placing missiles in another country which could at any moment pass into the hands of a third party? This was a fundamental breach of Soviet foreign policy for as long as I have observed it. Why did this happen and why did he think he could gain from it? Unless we examine this problem we shall not be better off in our understanding of the Soviet Union, nor in our relations in trying to help our friends in the United States and to provide ourselves with some security in the days to come.
We have been through a nightmare. I remember in the village church at home in Shropshire on Sunday seeing the public baptism of two small children and holding my own child and wondering whether the world we live in would last. We have all had a most tremendous shock. I can only suppose that in some way it may have been the same kind of shock which certain leaders in the Soviet Union felt over the U.2 incident. That shock on their side of the Iron Curtain was a very serious one. It was so serious that it disrupted the Summit Conference. Now we on our side have had an equivalent shock. Surely both of us must realise that in the end if we made the mistake there would be nothing for us nor for our children to enjoy—no future worth having.
Why, therefore, did Mr. Khrushchev decide to allow nuclear rockets to go to Cuba? I shall refer to what I said last year in the debate on the Address. It seems a good idea to look back on these things. There is no doubt that Mr. Khrushchev, when he exploded another atomic bomb during the Belgrade Conference, did soto impress his own 'Pentagon' … his own Army leaders.… "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November. 1961; Vol. 648. c. 625.]202 Therefore, our next question was this. I think that it was put by the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) when he asked whether, in fact, those weapons were sent there by the Soviet Defence Ministry and whether Mr. Khrushchev really did not know the ultimate consequence of sending weapons to that part of the world. In any case, what was the point of them? They were useless and therefore the sending of them must have been a political idea.
We have to go back one step further and try to examine what Mr. Khrushchev and what the Soviet people so earnestly desire from the Western world and what they have earnestly desired for the last three years. It is an agreement on Berlin and East and West Germany. Therefore, was there not some temptation for Mr. Khrushchev following the obvious breakdown of the Foreign Ministers' Conference in Geneva? People who were there said quite frankly that the Conference broke down absolutely on the failure to come to any agreement whatsoever either on the recognition of East Germany or of any system for the international administration of West Berlin or the access rights thereto. The fundamental point of all was the statement made that on no account would Great Britain, France or the United States consider any solution which meant the withdrawal of British troops from Berlin. That was put very clearly from the Dispatch Box. It was said that the position of British troops in Berlin was not negotiable.
Was there, then, a temptation for Mr. Khrushchev really to try out the will of the allied Powers by sending this equipment to Cuba prior to going to the United Nations, as he probably will go, and offering a quite sensible-looking treaty over East Germany? All that I can say about the matter is this. If the leaders of the nations of the world give undertakings to one another and those undertakings are designed purely and absolutely for deceit, we shall, in the end, have another crisis identical with the one through which we have just passed. Therefore, we must come to the ultimate conclusion that all undertakings given by major Powers one to the other must be supervised or verified by some independent authority. Otherwise, how are 203 we to re-establish international confidence, confidence between the Soviet Union and the United States? Ask any American today whether he would trust Russian promises and the reply is, "What, trust their word? Shucks. I would not dream of doing so."
Quite frankly, after the experience through which we have passed and also the experience which the Russians had over the U2 crisis we are now in a situation where world confidence has been so damaged that it is going to need all the skill and dynamism of this Government and of the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth to get the two great Powers back to a feeling of sanity and to get ourselves away from the nightmare conditions through which we have passed.
Who is to provide the verification? There seems to me to be only one organisation which can do it, the United Nations, and we must find the means of helping it to do this sort of work. When obligations are entered into between two Powers, whether it is for a nuclear-free zone in Germany or undertakings are given that no more atomic weapons shall go to the Middle East or anywhere else, somebody must verify that the two Powers are carrying out those undertakings, and, in my opinion, it must be the United Nations.
People smile when one talks about joining (the United Nations associations. A funny smile spreads over their faces. They say, "We are a very busy family", or "We cannot join". I hope that one thing has been teamed from this particularly disastrous time, and that is that the United Nations and its associations are one of the ways of preserving peace. I hope that many more people in this country will tend a hand with the United Nations and its associations.
We have now got the question of international confidence on our hands, and I hope that the Government will try their best to re-establish methods of diplomacy between the United States and the Soviet Union, especially over Berlin.
I do not think that I can contribute any more to the debate on these matters, but on the Yemen I think that I can help the House. There is no doubt that this magnificent and beautiful Kingdom 204 of the Yemen off the southern shore of the Red Sea is an important part of the world, but no mention has been made of actually how it involves the world Powers. The Russians have built the new port of Hodeida. It is known, too, that the Russians are interested in refining petroleum and distributing it and are also exploring for petrol in the Yemen, if they can get the concession. No one has mentioned that there are 400 Communist Chinese who are building the road from the City of Sanai to the port. In view of our own position in Aden, it behoves us to make a little closer examination of the situation in the Yemen today.
The Lord Privy Seal said that Her Majesty's Government were not hostile in any way to the new regime of Brigadier As-Sallah. That is a very graceful and nice way of not contributing to any rising of tension between the two borders, the border of Aden and the border of the Yemen. But surely we could go a step further and say quite frankly that we are not hostile, indeed that we are certainly friendly, and realise that the Government there does, in fact, control the country de facto and that we will recognise as a friend whoever controls the country, and give that recognition without further questioning.
The Lord Privy Seal has gone a little further. He says that the Imam Muhammed Badr is still alive. But it is some time since the revolution took place. Does not he know or cannot he tell from Foreign Office sources whether the Imam is alive or not, because the airy-fairy suggestion that he might be alive and that there is a little trouble with the tribes in the north is not good enough for me? It might be for others. I hope that when the debate is wound up tonight I shall hear from the Government Front Bench that Her Majesty's Government are going to re-examine very carefully the possibility of giving recognition to the new regime. That regime wants our help.
The Yemen was the last medieval remnant in this world. One could walk into the square and see men stumping around with fetters on their ankles. Prisons are expensive, and this method is cheaper.
A person could wander through the streets with Marie Theresa dollars on his back and no one would rob him.
205 The laws were strict. If a person committed robbery by day he lost his right hand. If he committed it by night he lost his right foot. It was the last relic of the medieval system in the Middle East and it had to go—there was no doubt about that. Everyone knew it.
Who were the Zeidi Imams anyway? They were just people who had been there for some time ruling the country. Anyone who has seen this magnificent country knew that the system could not possibly last. It is terribly primitive. There are not many cars about—one does not see petrol stations. The birds are magnificent and even political. For example, it is one of the few parts of the world where one can still see the great Lemmegier eagle. A pair of them are on Mount Jebel Sabr. When the Imam bought an llyushin aircraft for Yemani Airlines, an eagle came down upon it and made a hole in it. It had to land at Ta'aiz for repairs. The journey from Aden to Ta'aiz takes eleven hours and is about a hundred miles. It is an extremely wonderful and fascinating country if one has time to go and see it.
What should Her Majesty's Government do, bearing in mind that they have complications in the American arrangements with Saudi Arabia? I would have thought that now that King Saud has resigned power and handed over to Prince Faisal, Her Majesty's Government might like to come round and give recognition again to Saudi Arabia. The Buraimi dispute has been going on long enough. Indeed, a by-product of the Yemeni revolution could be recognition of King Saud's regime as well: or is there a deal which entails no recognition of either rÉgime? This problem might be more clearly explained by Her Majesty's Government.
As far as I can tell from the Yemeni people I have visited and know, I am certain that they want all the help that this country can give in technology, water supplies, agriculture and even in simple things like telephones. Any help, both material and moral, that we can give we ought to give willingly. We do not want the Cuban mentality to develop out there.
My point follows clearly what was said by the right hon. Members for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire 206 (Mr. Woodburn) and Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). Why deny help to this republic? For what purpose? It is all very well to say that we give a lot of help to Aden. In addition, when we do recognise the new republic I hope that we shall also drop the idea of enforcing federation on the emirs of the Aden Protectorate. That matter could also do with another look by the Government.
I welcome the Gracious Speech for all that it has to say, particularly in relation to agriculture—My Government are resolved to maintain a stable, efficient and prosperous agricultural industry. They will lay before you proposals on … agriculture.That is what I want. It follows a Private Bill which I withdrew and which has now been taken over by the Government.
In the meantime, I beg the Government to think again about forcing federation on the emirs of Aden and to give, willingly, openly and fairly, our country's recognition to the new Republic of the Yemen.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) has made, as he always does, a fascinating speech. His ideas are fresh and original. He is not dragged behind the cart of any official policy on either side of the House. He looks at things for himself, works out his own ideas and lucidly and courageously tells the House what they are. The House of Commons ought always to be grateful for that. I shall not embark on a discussion with him, because there are more hon. Members who would like to take the House into their confidence about all these matters, but I may have a word or two to say relevant to some of the things with which he dealt.
We are having a very quiet debate. The references to Cuba in the Gracious Speech are modest and restrained. The leading speeches on both sides of the House, including that of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party, have discussed matters in a quiet, rational way without excitement. I think that the House has derived a great deal of advantage from what they have had 207 to say. But how different an atmosphere it is from the atmosphere in the country seven days ago!
Who could have anticipated then that when the House came to discuss these matters it would be discussing them, as it were, as though rising from bed after a nightmare and feeding, perhaps, that however vivid and terrifying the nightmare may have been it was, after all, something that had not really happened, and that we could all take up our ways of life as, in effect, one would try to do if, indeed, it had been an unreal vision in the night.
But it was not an unreal vision in the night. We were on the verge of the ultimate catastrophe in the fear of which we have lived for years. It would be a very great mistake not to look with the most unrelenting clarity and realism into what really occurred. I hope that night hon. and hon. Members will bear with me. They may not agree with anything or much of what I say. But I hope that they will realise that after all we are still a free democracy and that if we are not consulted by anybody else about these matters we are still free to consult one another and to do so honestly and with all the integrity we can command.
I shall have a word to say later about the reasons and the alleged justification for what the United States did, and I am not pretending for a moment that she has not got an arguable, plausible case. Of course she has. But what did she do? People have paid her compliments since for her firmness, courage and determination, all of which were manifest enough. But manifest in what?
The naval blockade of Cuba was a plain, naked, brutal act of war. Nobody denies that really. They may excuse it. They may palliate it or justify it. It may be that they are right in doing so. But nobody denies that it was an act of war by a very large and powerful country—I suppose indubitably the most powerful country in the world—against a virtually undefended country, and a small one. I am not forgetting the Russian bases out of which the whole dispute arose. I am talking about what Cuba would have been without those bases.
§ Mr. Silverman
I take the point. I hope to deal with it in the course of my argument. I take it that nobody so far disputes anything I have said.
§ Mr. Wigg
I would not have interrupted but my hon. Friend was on a completely false premise. The blockade was not a plain, brutal act of war. It was an honest endeavour on a very limited scale indeed. If my hon. Friend says that this was a plain, brutal act of war, I can give him some much better examples.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not disagree with what my hon. Friend says, except on one particular point. Certainly what the Americans did was honest. Certainly it was an honest endeavour to do something they thought they were justified in doing. My hon. Friend should be the first Member of this House to realise that there are a great many people who believe that acts of war in appropriate circumstances are honest endeavours and are perfectly justifiable. But that does not prevent them being acts of war, and the blockade of Cuba was a naked, brutal act of war.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am sorry to be dogmatic, but no one who knows anything about international law is in any doubt about it. The official Labour Party statement that what was done was of doubtful legality was a masterpiece of understatement, as the Labour leaders themselves well knew. But this act was not only an act of war against Cuba; it was an act of war against every maritime nation in the world.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not want to conduct this purely as a dialogue, but it seems to me that there is still some force in the doctrine of freedom of the seas. The United States came into the First World War not out of sentimentality nor out of fear or hatred of the German militarism of the day. She was prepared to tolerate 209 that. She came into the war because she was claiming for herself in wartime the right to send her ships on the high seas carrying arms to belligerents.
For America to interfere with the right of nations to send their ships wherever they want to send them in peacetime, carrying anything they like—I do not speak of the surrounding circumstances for the moment—is something which is nothing but a hostile act directed against any ship which is under the threat of being stopped, searched, and perhaps sunk by American naval vessels.
If we had chosen to assert our right—I am not saying that we could have done—and if the World Chamber of Shipping had done after the blockade what it did before the blockade—declare its refusal to withhold its ships—would they have been subject to halting, search and perhaps sinking? Would we have tolerated that? Perhaps we would. Maybe we would have done a "Khrushchev" and said that the safety of mankind was not worth reacting to an act of war, as it plainly was.
I hope that hon. Members will remember that I am describing in this part of my speech what the situation was. It is not to apportion blame or to condemn this country or to believe that country. I want only to show what the thing was about, and we must do that before we can consider whether it can be justified. That is what it was about. If the Russians had insisted on sending their ships and one of them had been sunk and war had broken out, as under international law it might well have done without any reasonable amount of complaint, as a result, although we had not been consulted and although we had not consented and although we may ourselves have been protesting about it, while the American nuclear bases were on our territory under American control, willy nilly we would have been part of that war whether we wanted to be or not.
However people may doubt it today and however they may pour scorn on what they may think an exaggerated picture which is too alarming and too despondent, that is what we were all thinking a week ago. That is what we were all afraid of a week ago, and it is because it did not happen that we all 210 feel so relieved today. Do not let us be too ready to suppose that all these matters with which I have been dealing are purely figments of my own morbid imagination. If they are, we were all subject to them right up to Sunday afternoon. That was the risk which the United States Government took.
Now let us see why they took it. I will try to state their case and I hope that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will agree that I state it fairly. I say at once that I do not agree with them, but that does not prevent me from appreciating what it was. They were saying, "This is a small island less than 100 miles from our shores. We have tolerated the build-up of Russian arms on its territory for nearly a year. We were content to put up with that, showing our restraint, and although we were not happy about it and as a Government we were subject to very heavy pressure from our people to prevent it even at that stage, nevertheless we held back. We did not move; we did not attack; we did not blockade. We did that until a sudden and revolutionary change took place in the character or category of the arms which were being built up so close to American shores. This is what compelled us." They did not say "justified us". They said "This is what compelled us to interfere and to interfere at once and to interfere in the way that we did". They said that because they said—and it has been said throughout the debate—" Cannot people understand how terrified we were? These new weapons were sufficient not merely to control any invasion bases in Florida but to cover the whole continent, South America, Canada and the United States almost to the Pacific coast and if not quite to the Pacific coast, certainly a long way."
That is what moved the Americans. They would also say that they were moved not because it was done in secret —because it is common ground that it was not done in secret and it was not camouflaged in any way—but because it was done deceptively in that up to the very last moment the Russians were pretending that they had not acted as far as the Americans now say. The Americans would say that they had been told by the Russians that there had not been any dramatic change in the character of the arms build-up, but that that was not true so that they objected not 211 merely to its happening, as they were entitled to object, but also to the duplicity with which Mr. Gromyko treated President Kennedy when he saw him.
I am not absolutely sure that I have the dates right—I had an exchange with the right hon. Gentleman earlier about this—but I think that I have. I think that President Kennedy would say, "I was a long way off and in the middle of an election campaign and I heard the news on the Saturday "—so the Prime Minister told us yesterday—"and I came back at once. I had the evidence then." I may be mistaken, but if he had the evidence at the moment when he was talking to Mr. Gromyko—
§ Sir D. Glover
The United Nations and the United States. I have all the dates. President Kennedy got the information for the first time on the 16th, a Tuesday. He saw Gromyko on the Thursday, the 18th. He had the clarification not on the Thursday but on the following Saturday, and he made his statement on the Monday.
§ Mr. Silverman
It may be. As I said, I am not sure of my dates and I may be mistaken, but I think that the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) is supporting my case, which is that President Kennedy had the evidence on the 16th—further clarification may have come later—and saw Mr. Gromyko on the 18th. If that is so, it is the greatest pity in the world that he did not challenge Mr. Gromyko then and face him with the evidence.
§ Mr. Wigg rose—
§ Mr. Silverman
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) will forgive me if I do not give way, but I do not want to base too much on this. For the purposes of my argument, I am perfectly prepared to assume that he did not know until after Mr. Gromyko had gone back home on the following Saturday, the 20th.
§ Mr. Wigg
What I am after is something rather different. Surely there are two phases. In his broadcast, the Presi- 212 dent complained of the clandestine establishment of the missile bases. The bases are one thing and the missiles are another. It was the missiles and the warheads which made him act. It looks as though up to a point he was prepared to accept the missile bases. That distinction ought to be drawn.
§ Mr. Silverman
I thought that that was what I was saying. I said that as far as I understood the American case it was that the Americans were perfectly prepared, reluctantly and with anxiety but still prepared, to accept the bases, but that it was the dramatic change which took place on or about the 16th or 18th or 20th, anyway in that week, which changed the situation. I do not want to base any argument on whether the President had the evidence with which to face Mr. Gromyko. Let us suppose that he did not and was genuinely surprised and genuinely felt that he had been surprised and that this deception reinforced the general anxiety about the whole thing and the determination of America to protect itself.
I am sure that if he were challenged and asked why he did not consult his allies, or refer the matter to the United Nations, and were asked why he committed an act of war without taking any of the measures provided by the Charter or by the North Atlantic Treaty for removing the thing of which one complains without going to war, his reply would be, "Because every country has the right to take its own steps in its own way, almost regardless of international law, regardless of allies, regardless of the United Nations, regardless of anybody; if you feel yourself attacked, you are entitled to defend yourself with your own forces according to your own discretion as a sovereign Power".
That is what the Government said in 1956 about Suez. The Americans did not send us a telegram of support. On the contrary, they joined with the Russians to pull us out. Their argument was, "In a dangerous world like ours you must not commit an act of war taking your own case into your own hands, being judge and accuser and executioner altogether". The hon. Member for The Wrekin had very little to say about America, but I 213 remember that in 1956 he, as I did and as the whole of the Opposition did, thought that the American view in 1956 was right. If the Americans were right about Suez in 1956, they cannot be right about Cuba in 1962. One cannot have it both ways and say, "It is wrong when somebody else does it but right when I do it".
I am not astonished at the Government, because in 1956 the Government thought that the Americans were wrong and it is quite natural that they should say that they are right now. But the Americans did not think so. Much as I appreciated the speeches yesterday and today from the Opposition Front Bench, very statesmanlike speeches, I could still have wished that they had said at least half of what they said to a British Government in 1956 in the same circumstances to a foreign Government in 1962.
That is the situation. Apart from that consideration, how far can the American case be justified? I ask the indulgence of the House. I know that what I am saying is not equally popular everywhere. Some people have made a great mystery about why the Russians sent arms and bases to Cuba, but is there really any mystery? The hon. Member for The Wrekin and my right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), perfectly legitimately and rightly, both criticised the Americans for their handling of the Castro revolution in the first place. It is all very well to say that the Cuban sugar crop is failing. The first thing the Americans did when they wanted to get rid of Castro when he had established himself in Cuba and had got ride of Batista and all we remember of him was to stop buying Cuban sugar. For many, many years the whole of the Cuban economy had been inextricably tied up with the American economy. If those economic links had broken and nothing had taken their place Cuba would have starved, and Castro would have been got rid of—which was what the Americans wanted.
They may think that they were justified in that, for all sorts of reasons that we need not go into, but were they really surprised when, Cuba's economy having been thoroughly undermined in this way and she being on the verge of starvation and international bankruptcy, 214 she looked round the world to see where she could find friends? If we drive a man into the arms of our enemies because he has nowhere else to go, can we blame him?—or should we blame ourselves?
There is no need to pay the Soviet Union exaggerated compliments for its altruism; I have no doubt that it welcomed enthusiastically the first opportunity it had ever had since 1945 to do one single thing within striking distance of the United States of America that the United States of America had done, and is still doing, all round its own shores. Who ought to be surprised? Who ought to complain? Who ought to make mysteries about it? As Nye Bevan once said in this House, "Why in the world gaze at the crystal when you can read the book?" It was a perfectly natural reaction for Cuba to seek help from the Soviet Union, and an equally natural reaction for the Soviet Union to give it.
It is all nonsense to say that this was all the Russians' fault. Of course it was not. To listen to some of the things that are said one would think that it was not the Americans who had blockaded Cuba but the Russians who had blockaded Formosa. The two things are exact parallels. I know what the Americans 9ay by way of discriminating between one and the other. They say, "But our bases have been there for a long time. Yours is new, and because yours is new and is for the first time within striking distance of our shores, therefore the balance of nuclear power has been altered." What a balance! Alaska, Britain, West Germany, Turkey, Persia and the Far Bast—all these remain, and the bulge would still have been quite noticeably on the American side if the Cuban base had remained.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I am a little in doubt as to what my hon. Friend means by "help". As far as I understand it, Russia sent £ 200 million worth of exports to Cuba to help her economic-ally. In what way does establishing bases on Cuba—thus endangering the peace of the world—help her?
§ Mr. Silverman
I am afraid that in his anxiety to be an advocate my right hon. Friend is abdicating his duty as a judge. Cuba had been invaded—not by way of an official invasion by the Americans 215 but with American support—not many months ago, and the threat of invasion had not been withdrawn. The menace had not been abandoned. There was a constant pressure in America, especially during the ejection campaign. President Kennedy was being challenged in his speeches in the Presidential election campaign. He had been attacking Eisenhower for having been weak, ambiguous and vacillating in his dealings with Cuba. He bad said, "If you elect me as President you will see greater activity. You will see something done. We will bring Castro down". During the Cuban trouble he was constantly under attack from his opponents. Quite naturally they jeered at him and recalled those speeches. They said, "What have you been doing?" The threat of invasion was mounting all the time. When my right hon. Friend asks what was the point of sending nuclear deterrent weapons—
§ Mr. Silverman
Ail nuclear weapons are attacking weapons. We cannot defend with a nuclear weapon. We can deter with a nuclear weapon, but we cannot defend with one, and nobody has ever said that we could.
It may be asked why Mr. Khrushchev sent them. If that question is asked, we are bringing right into this debate—and I do not want to do it—the whole issue of the purpose and value of nuclear weapons. If you will excuse the word, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I think that Mr. Khrushchev was a damned fool to send nuclear weapons. But, then, I do not believe in nuclear weapons. I do not think that they are a deterrent to war at all; I think that they are an incitement to war, and so they proved on this occasion. The one thing that made the United States of America willing to risk the whole safety of the human race was her discovery of deterrent nuclear weapons within ninety miles of her shores. So much for the deterrent. This is what brought about the threat of war, and the threat of war was removed as soon as the deterrent was removed. There is no great difficulty in understanding that.
What lessons are we to draw from it?
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
The hon. Gentleman apparently finds great difficulty in distinguishing between the defensive weapons hitherto supplied to Cuba and the new nuclear deterrent bases. Would he care to comment upon the fact that whereas all the South American nations had hitherto objected to American interference, or projected interference, with Cuba's independence, the moment these bases were known to be established every South American nation took a stand opposite to that which it had hitherto adopted, took the gravest possible exception to what had happened, and backed up America's action?
§ Mr. Silverman
If the hon. Member is trying to tell me that the South American states are delighted with what the United States did and are greatly relieved about it and will now be more friendly towards the United States than they were before—although he may have information to that effect, I can only assure him, without willing to debate the matter, that his information is very different from mine.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not think that it does, but we will leave that question to another occasion.
Let me draw my own deductions from what has happened. The first I have already drawn, namely, that it is worth while to re-examine the whole argument for deterrent nuclear weapons, whether they are called offensive or defensive. The second conclusion that I draw is that this has been a classic demonstration that if, in our modern world, we attempt to take the law into our own hands, the result is more dangerous to the world than anything we are seeking to prevent in that way.
When my right hon. Friends campaigned the country in 1956—as I am sure they would willingly do today, because they have not changed their minds about it—they said that in our modern world we must have law rather than war in dealing with disputes and causes of disputes, and situations which might lead to war. That the law is defective we all know; that this means enforcing these decisions we all know; 217 that these decisions are often reached for possibly dubious political reasons rather than strictly judicial or equitable ones, we know. But with all its limitations this inadequate attempt at third party judgments in disputes between nations is the only thing that stands between the safety of the world and mass human suicide. Therefore, we cannot allow anyone, not even America, to take the law into its hands in this way.
The third conclusion I draw is that the difference between the Americans and the Russians on this issue is merely that to the Americans Cuba was worth a world-wide third war on a nuclear basis if they could not get their way without it—or are we not to believe that?—whereas to the Russians Cuba was not worth it. Any attempt to infer from that that the Russians would always take that view in other circumstances is the most dangerous illusion in the world. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Simply because it was not worth it. I do not know what they would consider worth it. It may be that there is nothing that they would consider worth it, and I hope that that is their view. I have yet to meet anyone who thinks that he can rely on that being their view.
The only real defence I can think of—? I should say the only real excuse, because it is not a defence—for President Kennedy in the action he took is that he knew full well that the Russians would give way, that he had utter and complete confidence in the patience and restraint of Mr. Khrushchev. I have—I have said this before—a good deal of faith in his patience and restraint. I think that they have stood between us and world war on more than one occasion in the last seven or eight years. Even I would not have paid him quite so high a compliment as President Kennedy did. I would not have carried it quite to that extent.
I come to what we have to concentrate on now. This has already been dealt with in the debate. I am glad to find myself in agreement, almost for the first time in my life, with both Front Benches at the same time.
§ Mr. Silverman
My hon. Friend is not doing himself justice. I did not say that that was my view. I said that the only defence for Kennedy's action is to assume that that was Kennedy's view. I went on to say that I would not have paid him that compliment because nobody could be sure that it was true and nobody had the right to take the risk that it was true, because, if there had been a miscalculation, the price was so overwhelmingly catastrophic as to make the gamble insane. The gamble of risking everything on the assumption that the Russians would do nothing mischievous was an insane gamble to take.
Mr. R. H. S. Grossman (Coventry, East)
I agree with my hon. Friend about this, but were there not two insane gambles? The first was Mr. Khrushchev's insane gamble that he could send nuclear weapons to an island ninety miles off America and not produce the threat of nuclear war. Ought we not to say that both the treatment and the counter-treatment were insane and that we should stop it in future?
§ Mr. Silverman
There may be a good deal to be said for that. One possible answer—I know that my hon. Friend at any rate will have the patience to hear it, whether or not the Front Bench does —is that the Russians are able to say, "We have always shown this restraint. We have these bases almost at our frontiers. In Alaska we have them within 300 or 400 yards of Soviet territory. We did not blockade. We did not protest. We did not lose our heads about it. We did not threaten to go to a nuclear war unless you took them away". The Russians are in a better position than the Americans about this and the attempt to make the two balance requires the construction of a very idiosyncratic pair of scales, otherwise they will not balance.
I was agreeing with the conclusions that everyone has reached. These weapons are too dangerous even as an instrument of quasi diplomacy, and they ought to be abandoned. We should concentrate now on trying to get a test ban, which we probably will get quite easily. I understand that it was almost agreed last July but it had to wait for 219 political purposes of democracy in America until the election was over, because otherwise the Americans might not stand it. I understand all that was agreed long ago. We should concentrate on doing away with these dangerous bases wherever they are.
I finish by asking the Government in all seriousness one question, and only one. We know that at the end of the day, when we knew who had won, the Government sent a letter to the victor pledging their undying support. If it had gone the other way, if this extravagant reliance on the restraint of the Russians had turned out to be mistaken, and if as a result a war had broken out between the Soviet Union and the United States of America, what would the Government's attitude have been? We are entitled to an answer to this question. It is not so hypothetical as all that.
Would we, having American bases on our territory, have sent the letter of support to the United States of America that we sent a few days later when all the fun and games had come to an end? Would we still have been an unquestioning, loyal, reliable ally in a cause whose justice we could not have fully shared and in which our own interests were not directly affected? It is not very difficult for a country with even a modicum of modern nuclear weapons to put the population of this country out of existence altogether. Would we have dissociated ourselves? Would we have been out? Did the Cabinet consider this? Did it come to any conclusion about this? It is its duty, if it did not consider this, to say so and, if it came to any conclusion, to tell us what it was.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
I have listened to the debate with great interest, probably for the principal reason that whilst all these events took place, instead of being an the United Kingdom, I was in the United States of America and also attending the United Nations as a delegate from this country. I therefore heard every word of the discussion in the Security Council. I heard a great deal of the private discussions which went on behind the chair, as it were. I had private consultations with the ambassadors of the United States to the United Nations.
220 I am astonished at the amount of misinformation I have heard from both sides of the House during the debate. If it will not bore the House, I think that real value will be gained by recapitulating some of the things that have been said so far. Although I disagree with a great deal that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) said, I must say that he has got the chronological facts nearer accuracy than most other people.
The fundamental date in this crisis is 16th October, on which day the President was informed by his security agencies that there was a probability—no more than that—that the Russians were erecting nuclear strike weapons on the island of Cuba. He immediately asked for verification of this. No doubt during this period breaches of sovereignty took place. When the President saw Mr. Gromyko on Thursday the 18th he had had no verification. Therefore, all he knew was that there was a story from his security agencies that nuclear weapons were being erected in Cuba. He did not accuse Mr. Gromyko, no doubt remembering what had happened over the moratorium on nuclear tests, when the Russians used the moratorium for twelve months to prepare for tests and the day the moratorium finished started their massive series of tests, proving that they used the moratorium only as a screen to prepare for a series of tests.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The fact that Mr. Gromyko gave an assurance to President Kennedy seems to suggest that the President must have asked him about it, or did he give this assurance to the President without being asked?
§ Sir D. Glover
What probably happened was that the American President, having this knowledge, was worried. He probably said that there was a build-up of arms going on in Cuba. He probably said, "Are these arms defensive?" Mr. Gromyko said that they were defensive weapons and that the Russians were not putting any offensive weapons into Cuba. This assurance must have been sufficiently strong, for the American President then went away and continued his election campaign, which is not the action of somebody who thinks that there is an immediate crisis blowing up.
221 However, by the following weekend the security surveillance and aerial photograph had produced sufficient hard evidence that not only were the Russians erecting nuclear bases in Cuba but that some of the bases were very nearly operational. This is where the question of speed came in. It must be remembered that all these bases are not inter-continental ballistic missiles. Many are semi-mobile missiles which many people have seen at the arms display on Moscow's May Day and which can be erected in about forty-eight hours. These are the ones—the 1,000-mile range ones—that were probably operational at the time that President Kennedy made his broadcast to the nation.
The President made his broadcast and said that he was imposing a blockade because he did not know whether these missiles had their warheads and that the next ship arriving in Cuba might be the ship carrying the warheads. Therefore, it was perfectly prudent to say that he would impose a blockade. It must not be forgotten that simultaneously with imposing the blockade President Kennedy sent this matter to the United Nations and demanded a meeting of the Security Council, with the proposition to the Security Council that the Russians should withdraw these missile bases from Cuba and that, immediately on their willingness to do so, he would then withdraw his blockade.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne made a very powerful, what I call legalistic, speech on this problem. Here was the very heart of a nation being threatened, and threatened suddenly through deceit, through double-dealing, from a nation with the power to go on reinforcing. If the Americans had allowed these missiles to become fully operational, 'they would have been in no position to negotiate, because the bases would have been a threat to the United States of America. Further, is not the regime in Cuba so secure, so sovereign and so responsible that 5,000 Russian technicians could not maintain the bases against the Cuban Army if it wished to capture them? This was a situation in which these weapons might easily have got into control of the Cuban forces at a very early date.
§ Sir D. Glover
No, of the Cuban forces. Whilst the weapons were under Russian control I think that there was some chance at least of their not being irresponsibly used, but that control might not have continued. Therefore, I am quite convinced that any responsible Government faced with that problem had to take early and immediate action.
I have been at the United Nations for the last six weeks. During that time I have been more.frustrated, stimulated, aggravated and—
§ Sir D. Glover
I asked for that; I should not have given that opening.
During that time I have found in this organisation very little of the heart-beat of the Charter. I have found an enormous amount of self-seeking by individual nations and groups of nations. I have found neo-colonialism—indeed, colonialism; horse-dealing and horse-trading. But the fact remains that if the United Nations had not existed the world today might easily be at war. If ever there was justification for the Organisation, it appeared in the debates in the Security Council during the crisis over Cuba.
First of all, if U Thant, who is the Acting Secretary-General of the Organisation—and whom I believe to be a very great man—had not, having listened to the debates in the Security Council, sent a letter to both Premier Khrushchev and President Kennedy, so giving both those Heads of State the opening for negotiations, they would both have found it far more difficult to negotiate.
If it had not been that in the United Nations the American delegate could show photographs to the delegates of the world, not so quickly would the world have been seized of this as a very real threat and not a chimera of the imagination of the American State Department. If it had not been for the United Nations, the willingness of Khrushchev to pack up his weapons, crate them and cart them home—under supervision—could not have been expected, because no other form of supervision that I can think of except supervision under the United Nations would be accepted by the Americans, the 223 Russians or, perhaps, even by the Cubans. Therefore, although one may have great criticisms, and rightly so, of the United Nations, I say again that if it has ever justified its existence it has justified it during the last ten or fourteen days.
I would, at the same time, pay an enormous compliment and tribute to U Thant. who, I believe, is one of the shrewdest, soundest and most mature statesmen we have in the world today. Very few other people could have handled this matter, lowering its emotional content all the time and getting it on a solid basis of sense and common sense as did the Acting Secretary-General of the United Nations.
I have said that the United Nations has done a wonderful job over Cuba, but I am not at all certain that it is equally good in all fields. I refer now to the Congo, and there we have to face the fact that when experts are given a problem to solve in which they have no actual interest except their own prestige—and that applies to the people appointed by the United Nations into the Congo—dangers are bound to develop. I have been to the United Nations and have listened to and discussed these matters, and it is now my considered opinion that the United Nations is now desperately seeking a solution, however temporary, which will allow it to withdraw from the Congo with some aura of success.
I spoke to one leading neutral Minister. I had better explain to those who do not know that the heart-beat of the United Nations buildings is on the 38th floor, where work the Acting Secretary-General and the under-secretaries—or what one might term the Cabinet Ministers. I shall not mention the name or country of this neutral Minister, because that would not be fair, though if I did it would carry even more weight. Referring to the Congo, he said, "They are becoming very aggressive on the 28th floor".
I am sure that is so. The money is running out. They have to back Mr. Adoula, and therefore he must succeed. Therefore, to my mind, the United Nations is no longer neutral in this affair.
224 These facts need stating, because decisions will be reached and, when they are reached, we shall have debates in this House. I hope that a solution to the Congo problem, with justice to all and bringing a federation, will be produced by the efforts of the United Nations, but, in honesty, I feel that I should report as a delegate from the House to the United Nations my views on how the negotiations are going at present.
I am sure that the China-India affair is even more serious than the crisis over Cuba. To revert to Cuba, when I was at the United Nations in New York, living, as it were, with the crisis, I never thought that it would blow up in the atmosphere as, now that I am back in this country, I find that everyone in Britain, and certainly everyone in this House, thought it would blow into last week. I never sensed it last week, but I have sensed that little cloud of the India-China affair which I think will probably prove in the long run to be the more serious business.
I wonder now, and I wondered last week, whether China's action in India affected Russia's action over Cuba. It was, I think, the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) who said that the Russian and the American ways of life are gradually getting closer together; that there is more identity of interest. There is certainly far more complementariness about the American way of life and the Russian way of life today than there is between Russia and China. Throughout the ages, China and Russia have always been competitors, not complementaries. China's population will burst at the seams over the next twenty or thirty years, and one unoccupied area is on her immediately northern boundary—in Russia.
These two nations will find it very difficult to remain friendly. As Russia realises the change in the world's balance of power, what more natural than Russia appreciating that the hard crunch between capitalism and Communism is modifying as the years go by, as her system modifies. Perhaps it was that when this heat was on and Khrushchev realised what was going on on the frontier between India and China, he 225 suddenly thought, "Perhaps we had better not go too far in our quarrel with the United States."
We have been through a great crisis. As I say, when I was at the United Nations I did not think that it would ever blow up into a shooting war, but the danger was constantly there. The United Nations played a great part in solving this problem, but, in solving it, the question of inspection has been accepted. If it could be accepted over Cuba, why cannot other forms of inspection of nuclear weapons and disarmament also be accepted? I believe that there is a real desire on both sides to bring about a lessening of tension and a reduction in the burden of armaments.
Very often, when a person has had a thrombosis he realises that the strains and pressures he was under before—
§ Sir D. Glover
Yes, if he survives. We have had a thrombosis and we have survived, but I believe that the probable mood of the Government in Russia and of the Government of the United States, and the mood of the free world, is such that this is the time, whilst the thoughts and fears are firm and clear in our minds, for a great initiative and drive towards getting disarmament and the banning of nuclear tests, and so on, under way. I believe that this is where the British Government can give a lead, and be in the forefront of this desire and determination to overcome the threat that confronts the people of the world.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) has paid a great and generous tribute to the United Nations, and to U Thant in particular. I am sure the House will welcome the observations of an hon. Member who was present at the United Nations during the crisis, but he, like the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates), posed a question to which we have not the answer. Why did Khrushchev place missiles in another country which could fall so easily into the hands of a third party? Whatever the number of Soviet technicians there might have been in Cuba, these terrible weapons might so easily have fallen into Castro's irresponsible hands. We know not the answer to that problem.
226 During the last week we have lived through a terrible crisis. In my short life, so far, I cannot remember any such tense atmosphere as we had then. We had a terrible shock. There was a general feeling of helplessness—indeed, of hopelessness. One heard of, and saw, demonstrations of students and schoolchildren who were manifestly dismayed by the developments, and thought that their own young lives might be curtailed in the next few days or hours. We prayed for this to stop. It was like seeing some terrible film of a canoe being carried further and further towards the rapids and praying that the film would stop and that the disaster would not take place. In the event, nothing did happen, and perhaps the most important thing we can do is not so much to retrace in detail what did happen before the event but to try to learn lessons for the future.
I marvel that no major and irreparable harm was done to civilisation as we know it by the actions of the last week or so. Even for the wisest and most experienced of statesmen—certainly during an election time—the atmosphere of tension created was not an additional help to making a wise decision.
In these events there were two essays, and we must not forget that there were two, in "brinkmanship". First, there was that of Mr. Khrushchev in placing these missile sites in Cuba. He could only have expected one of two reactions; appeasement or a match being put to the beginning of a nuclear war which might have ended our civilisation. Then there was President Kennedy's essay, and he certainly went to the brink in what he did. What we must try to discover is how best the world—the West and the East—can seek to avoid these essays in "brinkmanship" in future.
The Prime Minister yesterday traced in detail the events and the letters that passed in this period of crisis, ending with the promise by Khrushchev about the dismantling of missile sites in Cuba. Despite the feeling of helplessness and pointlessness that many of us may have about further negotiations, the most important lesson that we can draw is that negotiations must continue. The disarmament meeting at Geneva must certainly go on. I hope that before long 227 the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs will be able to bring back some fruits from those disarmament talks. Despite the deceit in the diplomacy of recent weeks, that is the most important forum from the point of view of the future of mankind, and I hope that lessons have been learned from this Cuban adventure which will lead to further disarmament. Khrushchev does not seem unduly concerned about loss of face. That may well be an Oriental concept that has been exaggerated by the commentators and newspapers of the Western world. Certainly Khrushchev is not worried if he takes a certain step and in due course has to withdraw from that step. It is abundantly clear that Khrushchev does not want nuclear war. But he had no qualms about introducing nuclear weapons to a hitherto nuclear-free area. Indeed, we in the West have done the same thing in the past. The tragedy about introducing nuclear weapons to a hitherto nuclear-free area is that this was an essay in "brinkmanship" which might well have caused the beginning of a nuclear war as a natural reaction from America. It is not for the actual placing of the missile sites in Cuba that I condemn Mr. Khrushchev but rather for doing so knowing full well the reaction that could be expected from America and the fact that it might have started a nuclear war.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Will my hon. Friend make the same criticism of the establishment of a nuclear base in the Holy Loch?
§ Mr. Morris
I do not wish to pursue that point at the moment. [Laughter.] There is no need for my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) to laugh. Certainly if a missile is placed in a hitherto nuclear-free area in the full knowledge that a nation may immediately react by threatening to start a nuclear war, then I condemn it. Of course, the comparison does not follow. As regards the sating of the Polaris missile in the Holy Loch, despite the grave doubts that many of us have, there was no thought of imminent reaction from Russia or that it would be followed by the commencement of a nuclear war. Certainly I condemn Khrushchev for siting missiles in Cuba because he did 228 it knowing full well that there might be this reaction from the American nation.
On the question of winning or losing, I am glad of the restraint that has been shown in many quarters and that no one is seeking to give credit of winning or losing to one side or the other. The restraint that has been shown generally is highly commendable. But we should be aware that Mr. Khrushchev has gained an advantage in that he now has the independence of Communist Cuba guaranteed by America. To the predecessors of President Kennedy that may indeed appear as a strange twist of the Monroe Doctrine. Certainly it appears that he now has this advantage that he did not have before. He now has the independence of Cuba guaranteed, which is a great step forward so far as Cuba is concerned compared with the situation in the Bay of Pigs a year ago.
Turning to the control of weapons, despite what I said earlier about the danger of these weapons falling into Castro's hands, Khrushchev kept his finger on the trigger and did not allow the weapons to fall into Castro's hands. I do not think he has shown any desire to allow nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of any of the satellites. Certainly he kept a firm hold over these weapons in Cuba, and he is to be commended for that.
If I may deal now with President Kennedy and the question of consultation, I think this is the most unhappy aspect of the whole affair. Despite the cluckings of the Prime Minister yesterday, there was no real consultation with this country so far as I can gather. We were informed from time to time and, having been informed, we gave our support. I gather that at a later stage there was some kind of consultation but certainly before the decision was taken there was no consultation and no suggestion of a joint decision at all. It may well be difficult for Government spokesmen to tell us what is in their minds and how they really feel about this issue. It is more open to us, perhaps, on this side of the House to make statements of this nature. But surely the Government cannot be happy with the turn of events last week when decisions were taken and Her Majesty's Government were only a mere post office to 229 receive proposals and decisions which had already been taken by America.
That is most unsatisfactory and I am sure that the Government, despite the fact that they cannot say so in this House, must be humbled by the fact that that special alliance" of which the Prime Minister used to be so proud has gone by the board. In the pre-1959 era he was proud of this special relationship and of the fact that he was able to come and go at Summit gatherings, that he was a sort of honest broker between Moscow and Washington. The old fur hat which he used to wear has certainly gone back into mothballs and will not be used for a long time.
Lord Home spoke on television the other night, and that again is an unsatisfactory way of conducting foreign affairs in this country in that debates between the Foreign Secretary and the shadow Foreign Secretary do not take place in this House. They take place on television. Lord Home said that there had been a great deal of activity behind the scenes. That may or may not be true, but how can we challenge it? We do not know the answer. What a wonderful alibi for the Government when it appears to all of us that there has not been the consultation we desire, and they can say that there has been this great activity behind the scenes.
When we look at the activities of the Government in a field in which they cannot shelter behind this sort of excuse —I refer to home affairs and matters affecting the British economy—we know the palsied hand which is at the tiller of the British economy, and we are worried lest it may be the same palsied hand which is at the tiller of foreign affairs. The Government cannot use the excuse of behind-the-scenes activity in home affairs but they do use that excuse in connection with foreign affairs, and we are unable to challenge the excuse.
We were constantly being informed of the decisions that were being taken, and at the end the Prime Minister took a decision—and what an important decision it was—on the Saturday to send a letter to Moscow. He said yesterday that the purpose of the letter was to range the British Government squarely and publicity with President Kennedy, the climax having been reached. Why 230 at that late juncture was it necessary to send that letter? If the Prime Minister wanted to assure Russia that America was in earnest and that there was the possibility and danger of war, why was it not sent earlier? If he wished to show that he was squarely and publicly behind America, could not that letter have been sent earlier? Could not he have made it clear that unless the Russians withdrew their missiles from Cuba there was a real danger of war? If his opinion was that America was not merely saying something but also meant it, the sending of this letter, to which apparently there was no reply, on the Saturday seemed to me to be rather late in the day and served no useful purpose.
Clearly, this situation is not good enough for Britain. We were told of the need for speed and that there was no time for consultation and that this was a case without precedent. But Suez had no precedent, certainly none since the time of Palmerston. Here was a very important issue which might have led not only to the loss of lives in America and Cuba but might have involved the whole world in war. We are not here concerned with four-minute or sixteen-minute warnings, short periods which render consultation impracticable, if not impossible. These things went on over days—at least a week. There was ample time to send Dean Acheson to France, but apparently there was not enough time, despite the speed at which these developments were taking place, for proper consultation so that a joint decision between this country and America might be taken.
It seems to me that the American intelligence and intelligence in the Western world were rather late in becoming aware of Russian developments in Cuba. I understand that large unidentified cargoes had been transported in ships for many months from the Baltic shores to Cuba. Having regard to the pride that the Americans take in their intelligence services, why did not we know about this much earlier?
I wish to make one or two proposals about the future. First, as a beginning, Cuba should be made permanently a nuclear-free territory, and its freedom should be guaranteed in this way. Secondly, now is the time to consider 231 disengagement in Europe. In view of the fact that these terrible missiles have been developed to such a great extent—we now have inter-continental missiles—and having regard to the tension engendered by the siting of these missiles in Cuba, is it not time to consider once again the other shorter range missiles which are sited in Europe and which might well be dispensed with in the interests of decreasing world tension? Having regard to the development of intercontinental missiles, it may well be advantageous to look in earnest once again at the siting of all these other shorter-range missiles if only to try to discover whether an effort can be made to decrease world tension.
Thirdly, Russia seems to have accepted the principle of United Nations verification of the dismantling of these weapons. This acceptance should be grasped with both hands. It is a very important principle and we should not allow this acknowledgment by the Russians of the importance of the verification of the dismantling of these bases to go by the board. Perhaps their acceptance is limited to what is happening in Cuba and in certain other territories, but here is an opportunity for a major break-through in the interests of disarmament. If this principle can be accepted and acknowledged generally in the world, we might take a major step forward in the interests of disarmament.
Fourthly, I turn to Cuba itself. Certain hon. Members have suggested that Cuba has been driven into its present situation. We should consider this matter again most seriously and earnestly to discover whether there are ways to allow Cuba to co-exist. It is now in the position of a Communist State. Is it not possible to discover whether its continued and growing isolation can be cut down and diminished? I am certain that there will be trouble in Cuba in future if this isolation is continued and I hope that some effort will be made to discover whether Cuba can be allowed to co-exist.
Lastly, I return to the point which I made earlier about the mechanics of joint consultation. I should think that the whole House is dissatisfied about the lack of consultation, with which I have dealt already, but I would say in addition that, having regard to the 232 lessons which we have learned, we should study immediately the mechanics of consultation and try to ensure in future that no decision is taken without proper consultation. Whatever doubts we may have about what has happened, we must start again building up trust. In view of the terrible deceit of the recent weeks, that may be exceedingly difficult, but a beginning has been made on both sides. There is a need for faith on our part in Mr. Khrushchev that he will dismantle these weapons in Cuba. The Russians, for their part, must have faith that America will keep its pledge and will not invade Cuba. This is a beginning, and I hope most sincerely that we can start again on the most difficult task of ensuring that this world does not burn up in a nuclear war.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
Until this debate began yesterday I was a little afraid that the relief which we all felt over the turn of events in Cuba might obliterate what I regard as a much more serious threat to world peace in the long run, namely, the Chinese invasion of India. Like the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson), I was greatly impressed by the Prime Minister's tribute to the passionate sincerity of Mr. Nehru's neutralism. Mr. Nehru is learning the hard way that the world as he conceives it to be is very different from the world as it is in fact. The trouble is that one cannot just say "I am going to be neutral" and leave it like that. A country can be neutral only if it is able to defend its neutrality from its own resources, or if someone else will guarantee its neutrality. There is no other way of remaining neutral.
I see the point of the right hon. Member for Huyton when he says that we should be a little careful about the method of payment by India for the weapons which India has asked for, because she feels that if it were done in a particular way it would, so to speak, prejudice her uncommitted status. But that is hair splitting. It is clear that India could not resist the Chinese invasion without arms and assistance from the United States and from us, and, therefore, she has, at any rate for this period, ceased to be uncommitted.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
Hair splitting or not, this is a strongly held view of the Indian 233 Government and we must accept that. That was why I put forward the proposal about lend-lease, which I hope the hon. Gentleman will think is worth examination.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's point. All that I am saying is that, while I realise how sensitive she is about it, the moment India accepts, as she must, military assistance in some form or another from the United States and from us, she can no longer claim that she is completely uncommitted.
The Leader of the Liberal Party was anxious that there should be no discrimination in favour of Right-wing dictators as apposed to Left-wing American dictators in Latin America. I am all for that. The same thing could be applied in reverse nearer home. There has been naked and open aggression by China against India. I have been waiting to see people whom I might call banner-minded marching about with placards reading "China, hands off India". I have had letters from all sorts of people about Cuba, but I have not yet had one about India's plight.
I think that there has been a certain amount of prejudiced thinking about Cuba. There has been a lack of understanding among certain sections of the public about the extreme sensitivity of the American reaction to a build-up of missile bases within 90 miles of the American mainland. Here I exclude the speech of the right hon. Member for Huyton today and the speech of the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, in which they put the point very clearly. But I repeat that in the public mind and in certain sections of the Press there has been a lack of understanding about the natural sensitiveness of the Americans at the build-up of these missile bases. Suppose for the sake of argument that there were a Communist coup in the Irish Free State or in Belgium or in Holland and that there were unmistakable proof of the siting of missiles pointing at England from about 90 miles away. I have a feeling that the very people who in recent weeks have criticised the Americans for being trigger-happy would be the first to ask Her Majesty's Government in no uncertain terms what they were doing about it.
234 There has also been a tendency to confuse the real issues. Of all the transparently specious arguments used over the Cuban crisis, the prize must go to those who try to equate the N.A.T.O. base in Turkey with the new ballistic missile site in Cuba. That is not comparing like with like. To make such a comparison is completely to ignore the whole history of N.A.T.O. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who is not present at the moment, made this false comparison. The base in Turkey is part of the general N.A.T.O. defensive system. It was started only after half Europe had been swallowed up by the Soviet Union in 1947, and it has been there ever since.
I ask the House to consider what the result would have been if the Russians had succeeded in doing what I might call an Aladdin's Lamp deal, swapping the new bases for the old. If it had been successful in Cuba, it would have been repeated elsewhere. All that the Russians would have to do would be to provoke a new crisis in Berlin and say, "We will call off this crisis provided the rocket bases in England are dismantled". This process would then be repeated again. They would engineer tension in the Far East and say, "We will call off this one provided the rocket bases in Alaska are dismantled". Before we knew where we were, piece by piece the whole defensive system of the free world would be dismantled in return for the Russians agreeing to relax tension which they had no right to create anyway. This is a variation of the old gold watch trick which deceives no one in a train after a good day's racing.
There is something else that I wish to say, and I am surprised that this point has not been brought out. If ever there were justification for the deterrent value of nuclear weapons it has been provided by the events in Cuba. It is a strange paradox that precisely because of the frightful nature of the weapons which both sides held, at the crucial moment the maximum restraint was shown. I should have thought also that events in Cuba were a strong argument —here I disagree with the Liberal Party —for Britain retaining an independent nuclear deterrent. I ask members of the Liberal Party to answer this question. Suppose the "balloon had gone 235 up" in one form or another. Do they think that the British people would have felt more safe or less safe if Britain had no independent nuclear deterrent at all?
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
In what respect would this country have been able to make use of the independent deterrent to which the hon. Gentleman refers if the worst had happened in this Cuban incident7 I cannot see what effect the possession of an independent deterrent had one way or the other. That is the point which my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) tried to make. It just did not make any difference.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
My point is that I still think that the possession of a deterrent does deter in certain circumstances. I do not say that it would do so in all circumstances. But it could, and it did, in Cuba. I still think that it could do so in Britain and that it is a good plan at any rate for the time being —some other plan may come up later —that Britain should have an independent nuclear deterrent.
There is another lesson to be learned from Cuba and I hope that it has been learned by the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament. I should like the members of that Committee to ask themselves this: if the United States had undertaken to disarm unilaterally in the nuclear field—that is what a certain section of C.N.D. often asks should be done—do they think that the Soviet missiles would now be loaded under U.N.O. supervision?
Perhaps the "Iron Duke", the Duke of Wellington, was an unconscious prophet when, just before the Battle of Waterloohe ordered the rocket troop to store its cherished weapons and use ordinary guns instead; and when someone urged that the change would break their Captain's heart, the implacable reply was, 'Damn his heart, sir; let my order be obeyed.'I quote from Philip Guedella's life of the Duke of Wellington. No hearts will be broken when the nuclear weapons are loaded on to ships under U.N.O. supervision. But I must add that in any previous period in history, certainly pre-1914 and probably up to 1939, ordinary guns would by now have been used in 236 a situation such as we have had over Cuba. In fact there would, I think, have been a shooting war.
The question is, how can we best use the pause we have secured out of the Cuban situation, to which reference was made yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister? Can we use the pause to cash in on the sanity of man? I hope we can. The restraint and the statesmanship shown by President Kennedy, supported by the firm, calm, objective attitude of the Prime Minister and his colleagues, has paid a dividend. Can we take this one stage further? Can we use the shock which the situation in Cuba has, so to speak, administered to mankind to establish some kind of nuclear test agreement? I think that there is just a chance that we may. We must do everything to try to secure this. If we can get some sort of nuclear test agreement signed and upheld as the result of the events in Cuba, perhaps good may come out of evil and we shall have begun to do something which millions the world over are longing to see achieved.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)
I take a rather different view of the Cuban situation from that of the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe). To me the capital fact about the situation is that the United States committed a major, premeditated, sustained act of aggression and was not only not opposed but supported in doing so by the Government of this country; although this Government had not even been consulted before the American decision was taken. There is no doubt that the partial blockade of Cuba constituted a resort to force in violation of the United Nations Charter, which forbids a resort to force without the authorisation of the Security Council, except in defence against an armed attack. In 'this case the only armed attack which there has been was the armed attack eighteen months ago on Cuba, which was mounted, paid for, organised and launched by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States Government with the connivance and knowledge of the Administration.
That, too, was not a spontaneous, spur of the moment piece of policy. The Kennedy Administration acted on a plan 237 taken over from the Eisenhower Administration and modelled on the successful aggression committed against Guatemala by the late Mr. John Foster Dulles and his brother Alan Dulles, who were respectively American Secretary of State and head of the CIA. In that case the Guatemalan Government, a lawfully elected democratic Government, had started a land reform scheme which interfered with the landed interests of the United Food Company. Whereupon Mr. Dulles organised, paid for and launched from Nicaragua a so-called rebellion of State Department rebels armed by the United States. They were supplied with aeroplanes and supplies of arms to Guatemala were blocked. A military dictator was installed. Mr. Dulles claimed that he had foiled an international Communist conspiracy in the Americas. In the case of Cuba this adventure failed and the aggression was defeated. Ever since the United States has attempted to encompass the destruction of the regime in Cuba by every means short of open war. It has been what I would call in a state of chronic cold aggression, plus the subsidising of wholesale sabotage, such as the burning of crops and the blowing up of houses, public works, communications and so on; with semi-official propaganda proclaiming openly that the United States would never accept the existence of this society and vowed to destroy it.
This conduct by the United States, backed by the boycott and the breaking off of diplomatic relations, threw Cuba into the arms of the Soviet Union. Had the Cuban revolution been left to take its own course without there being attempts from outside to overthrow it, it would have developed on different lines.
In the circumstances it was not only the right but the duty of the Cuban Government to arm in self-defence and to seek help from the Soviet Union, which was entitled to give such help and did give it. In doing what was done, neither Government violated the rules of international law nor transgressed the United Nations Charter.
By saying this I do not wish to convey that I approve of sending deterrent missiles to Cuba, because I detest the whole nuclear deterrent strategy. I detest the 238 idea of weapons of this sort being placed in bases in the countries of other nations. I want to get rid of the American rocket bases in this country and in Turkey and I do not want Soviet rocket bases in Cuba or in any other country.
I am saying, however, that from the point of view of those who believe in the nuclear deterrent strategy there is no legitimate cause for complaint if someone pays them the compliment of imitating their conception of defence. There was no justification whatever for the American hysteria and bellicosity. There was no more danger to America from these bases in Cuba than there was for the Russians from the American bases in Turkey. This is not a defence of this policy, because I disagree in both cases.
But suppose the United States had chosen to behave correctly as a member of the United Nations, in that case she would have brought the matter before the U.N. Security Council, which I am quite sure could have coped with the situation. The outcome would have been a far better bargain than anything which we are now likely to get, and would have resulted in a better situation. The whole question of getting rid of bases all round as part of a disarmament programme would have been raised in an acute form. It would have guaranteed a satisfactory international status for Cuba. Instead, as the result of all this I am afraid that we may slip back to a situation where Cuba once more is exposed to further attempts by America to encompass her destruction, with no satisfactory international guarantees for her safety.
As for the argument about the deceit of the thing, power politics means the use of force, and that carries with it fraud, because fraud is part of the techniques of successful force. I detest all that. But I do not see much point in the pot calling the kettle black. The United States lied their heads off about the U2flight over the Soviet Union Which wrecked the Summit Conference, and the display in the United Nations over U.S. aggression against Cuba eighteen months ago made Ananias look like George Washington. As for our own Government, when they perpetrated that piece of aggression at Suez, first they lied to this House about collusion with the French, which they swore had 239 not taken place although it had; and then they double-crossed their ally, the United States, by keeping information from the Americans. They proceeded to go ahead with their aggression believing that the United States would be too busy with the Presidential election to do anything about it. It is no use our being holier-than-thou and hypocritical about these things. This bind of politics—power politics—is bad, it is full of deceit, bad faith and treachery of every kind.
The real question is, where do we go from here? I come now to what seems to me—although people have paid little attention to it—the ominous fact that we were brought to the brink of world war by American Charter-breaking aggression without even being consulted. My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) quoted some passages from The Times Washington correspondent's dispatch on Wednesday, 24th October. I do not think that I am summarising that dispatch unfairly when I say that the United States claims the right, as the leading member of the alliance with a virtual monopoly of nuclear power, to take life and death decisions unilaterally, and when the situation is urgent without even consulting her allies, even up to and including plunging them into a nuclear war. This is the American idea of defence. We are to be defended to death without even being asked whether we like the idea. Now the rallying cry from Washington to all the members of N.A.T.O., C.E.N.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O. is, "The United States expects every ally to do its duty by accepting annihilation without representation"—and this Government think that that is all right and in order.
I am surprised at the surprise displayed as the realities of this situation impinges on the minds of the public, because this has been the position all along. In proof of that I venture to quote what I wrote in a C.N.D. pamphlet entitled Anatomy of a Sacred Cowwhich appeared two years ago. In it I said:In N.A.T.O. the United States, as the ally with the monopoly of decisive weapons, control of the purse strings, bases in the territories of its minor allies and supreme command of their forces, takes all the important decisions unilaterally. When the decisions have to be taken in a matter of minutes it neither could nor will attempt to consult its allies (indeed the late Mr. Dulles gave Congress the assurance that the United States would never let a veto 240 by a foreign power interfere with any measures the United States considered necessary in self-defence). When those decisions involve issues of life or death the United States will put its own interests first and treat its satellites and protectorates as expendable. There is no use blaming the Americans for this. They are only applying the harsh logic of power politics to the realities of the situation. If the position were reversed our own brass hats and power politicians would treat the Americans in exactly the same way.What is surprising is that with the facts as plain as that—because that was written two years ago and accurately describes precisely the situation reported by The Times Washington correspondent on Wednesday—and the Americans having behaved accordingly, there is still all this prattle about dual control and about consultation and about a special relationship with the United States. The only special relationship in these matters is that between the gentleman's gentleman and his master.
It is a favourite illusion of the Labour and Liberal Parties to talk about collective political control of N.A.T.O. It is simply an impossibility, like squaring the circle. In nuclear warfare one must be ready at the drop of a hat to unleash nuclear weapons, and we cannot have 15 fingers on the trigger. There must be someone who must decide at once. Fifteen Governments cannot do that.
The time has come for us to face the facts. It is time we had an agonising reappraisal not only of our own position in the American alliance but of what the alliance itself—i.e. N.A.T.O., C.E.N.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O.—is all about. Because the one thing which is clear is that in this alliance the things for which we can be committed to war are decided by the United States. The nature of the global policy of the United States has been quite accurately revealed by its actions over Cuba, by its actions over Guatemala, by its actions over Southern Vietnam, by its actions in Laos. I have referred to the recent report by The Times Washington correspondent, but the problem goes a little farther back, because this has not all happened overnight. What has happened is that we have only just become aware of it. On 19th May last year The Times Washington correspondent reported thatThe events in Cuba and Laos have persuaded the Administration not only that the post-war truce lines must be held, but 241 that the peripheral areas must be kept, even in a semi-colonial status and with the force of American arms if necessary. The earlier promise of elasticity, and with it a self-provided room for manoeuvre seems to have gone and may well be replaced by something not unlike the old Dulles system.I believe that is true. I believe we cannot get over it by trying to tinker with methods of control within N.A.T.O. I believe we have to remedy the situation on a deeper level, by applying the principle for which the Labour Party has stood for a long time, and that is that our foreign policy must determine our defence commitments, and not the other way round. As it is our foreign played as the reality of this situation policy is reduced to a plantonic exercise which has no practical validity or binding force.
What does matter is that our defence commitments bind us to defend—that is to accept annihilation without representation for—American policies with which we disagree. Certainly the Labour Party disagrees totally with American policies in the Far East, the Middle East and Europe. We stand, for instance, in Europe for a policy of disengagement, a policy of partial recognition of Eastern Germany and the final recognition of the Polish frontier, and for settling the problem of Berlin, in exchange for those two things, by an international guarantee with East German participation for the independence and freedom of communication of West Berlin; for taking both halves of Germany into the United Nations, and out of the rival alliances, together with some of Germany's Eastern neighbours as well; for withdrawing nuclear weapons and bases and foreign forces from the whole of that area, and for putting the conventional forces of the Powers in that area under international control, reduced and limited.
We do not need nuclear weapons to make the Soviet Government negotiate on all this. The Soviet Government broadly agree with these policies. We both advocate negotiating on the Polish Rapacki Plan, for instance, which goes a long way in the direction of Labour's policy.
What we really need is not so-called nuclear deterrents against the Soviet Union but effective political deterrents against our bellicose allies. The way to do that is to point out that N.A.T.O., 242 C.E.N.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O come into operation only in the case of unprovoked aggression, and to warn our allies that this means that unless they come to terms with us on how to settle with the Soviet Union, on how to make peace, we will not be committed by them to going to war, and that we will not consider that they have a right to invoke NA.T.O., C.E.N.T.O. or S.E.A.T.O. if they get into trouble as a result of policies which we regard as dangerous and provocative We should tell them that to keep the alliance they must agree with us on how to make peace, and we should show that we meant business by taking, if necessary, unilateral action in removing American bases from this country and pulling our troops out of West Berlin and Germany.
If our allies do not like it they should come to terms with us on how to make peace, instead of sticking to policies which we know will make agreement impossible, quite apart from what will happen if we are frogmarched into the European Economic Community at the price of accepting the intransigent and annexationist policies of the Bonn-Paris Axis and the claims of Adenauer and de Gaulle for nuclear weapons; if our Government do that and get away with it, we shall probably have reached the point of no return on the path to the third world war.
The time has come for the people of this country to take their fate into their own hands and not to go bumbling on or letting the Government go bumbling on on the basis of regarding the social challenge of Communism as a military threat to peace. The Government confuses "negotiation from strength "and" anti-Communist containment" with "defence" and the balance of power, with the collective security system of the United Nations, which in fact is destroyed by N.A.T.O. We have to clear up some of our basic concepts and have the courage, if necessary, to stand alone for peace against those who would drag us into war.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I felt myself going through an agonising reappraisal as I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus). There 243 are moments in this House when one wonders how one manages to suffer a speech one does not want to hear, and one does it in the hope of catching the eye of the Chair; but really, the agonising tedium of the Pravda-like lecture in the bombastic tone from which we have just suffered is something for which an hon. Member needs to be fortified by some stimulant which in fact one has not received. Indeed, there is something almost paranoiac in the astounding memory for detail which the hon. Member has and at the same time the astounding confusion of thought with which he delivers his continuous peroration.
Having said that, may I try to turn to some matters which I believe are matters of the very greatest import for the future of this country.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Yes, I think that is all one need deal with at the moment, although I may say that some of the matters with which the hon. Member dealt over a wide panoramic vista are matters with which I want to deal briefly in reply. Although I know many of us may take a different view, the speech of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) was in marked contrast to that which we have just heard. Although I seldom agree with him, nevertheless I have a high respect for the way in which he delivers his speeches, and not only for the delivery but always for the controversy of their content and the point of his argument. It is unusual, if I may say so, for me to be heard to criticise quite so sharply as I have what we have just heard said by the other speaker.
The future position of India and China is a very much more important issue, albeit the case of Cuba was important enough. It is some years now—I think, three or four—since I intervened in a foreign affairs debate. I made my maiden speech on this subject. I was, in fact, brought up in a family all of whom served in what were then Colonies, and I was brought up from childhood with men like Sir Edward Stubbs and 244 others who have been great colonial governors in the past. It is for that reason that I want to deal briefly with some of the points arising in China, India and the Middle East.
The reason that I have ventured to intervene in this debate was because I climibed on the Suez bandwagon in 1953 and it was rather like being on an escalator when one cannot get off. I got off, I am glad to say, sooner than some of my brethren. I thought that in the more tranquil field of transport and home affairs and other matters I might make a more effective contribution. Consequently, although I have kept a close interest in and listened to many of these debates, I have not sought to make an actual contribution in the House.
I have, therefore, seen the position that has been arising over India. The philosophy of India—and I appreciate very much its arts, architecture, outlook and religion—is a philosophy to which the Prime Minister rightly pointed the way yesterday, when he said that owing to their spiritual approach to these matters and their religious views they were therefore rather inclined to try to find peaceful means, and, therefore, a policy of non-alignment. It is very true that they have created great impatience among many of us, certainly those in the Conservative Party, by the policies that they have pursued, understandable though they may have been.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir Mott-Radclyffe) pointed out, I think that they must now realise where those policies have led them. They have led them into the present position in which they have tried to continue the conflict over the Kashmir issue with Pakistan, and at the same time they have thought that they were able to arrive at some sort of accommodation with China and, indeed, with Russia as well. In fact they must now realise that the Communist States are not interested in India except by domination, either physical or economic domination, of that great continent.
Tonight I was glad to hear that Mr. Krishna Menon had been dismissed from his post as Minister of Defence. I have felt that the position in which he has been responsible largely for the defences of India has been a great mistake. Menon is really far to the left of what he has led 245 us to believe. I believe that the future of India means that they must arrive at a partnership in a real sense with Pakistan and that they must become once again a true partner with Britain, which means that they must look carefully to then-policy of non-alignment.
I believe that we can help them greatly in this. I am sure that most of us in this country would like to restore to India the position which they ought really to have as the foremost leader in Asia. This we can only do if we can assist them economically by trade means. If we can give them the assistance which will make a reality of the India Development Plan, then we shall be able to give them stability of an economic kind, and that, in turn, will do more to remove the danger of internal Communism in India than anything else. They really must now try to appreciate our point of view, that we cannot in this House of Commons offer them the facilities of long-term, stable trade, which means that in turn we must go primarily to our industrialists and traders and invite them to assist India by assisting in that trade. But we cannot do that unless we can assure those who engage in trade long-term stable conditions in that country.
I am absolutely satisfied that it is the intention of China over the years ahead, by one means or another, and not necessarily in the present conflict but in future ones, to take over India. The only true expansion for China with its fast growing millions is to work down through the back door, and I am referring to a tiny little country, which few of us have heard about, and whose Prime Minister I had recently the pleasure of meeting there, and that is the State of Bhutan. It is very backward, there is nothing there except agriculture, but this is the way in which they will end up in the plains of India. It is not only the plains of India that China has her eyes on, it is also the control of Pakistan. I invite Pakistan to realise that they are in just as much danger in the future from China as India is at the present time and therefore to sink their differences with India to secure a joint defence force. That is where we come in.
We have had in India recently—and two or three of them are great personal friends of mine—a number of senior naval and air force staff assisting the 246 Indians in the selection of their staff and the development of their strategic ideas, and that has been going on in past years and right up to the present time. I am quite convinced that we can give the requisite staff and information to assist the Pakistanis and the Indians in obtaining such a force and the men to train them. As has been rightly said earlier, we do not need to give them soldiers; they have plenty of them. I support what was said by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth), who has great experience as a serving soldier of great distinction in India which will command the respect of the whole House, that this is certainly not the moment to decide to reduce the number of Gurkhas, and I certainly hope that we shall subsidise the Gurkha battalions at the present time, whether they are to serve Pakistan or India.
I think it has been true, as some hon. and right hon. Members have said, that the United Nations, whether we like some of its behaviour or not, has come out extremely well recently over its efforts over Cuba. I hold the view that there could be the creation of a really effective international force. Where do I think this could most effectively be used? I believe that it could be most effectively used in order to set up a protectorate, without giving a decision on this subject at the moment, under the trusteeship of the United Nations for Kashmir. I believe that if we could persuade India and Pakistan, through our good offices and those of America, to decide, without deciding proprietorially, that at any rate for the immediate future the United Nations could put in an emergency force to take Kashmir under its trusteeship, this at least would get Kashmir away from this issue and away from the hands of China, as they will otherwise take it over with the rest of India and Pakistan. When one has been born and almost milked on the approach of the Chinese, one has seen how the Chinese are now coming forward in what can only be called a revival of the old ideas of a great imperialism. Their form of Communism means expansion.
I suppose that all our lives are sometimes influenced by great men whom we met when we were young. In 1934 it 247 was my pleasure to be a student under a man named Robert Birley, a Nobel history prize winner and at the present time head master at Eton. I well remember his lectures in which he not only forecast the 1939 war and the unity of Europe afterwards with the gradual demilitarisation of Germany, but went on to say that in the latter half of the century it would be the yellow peril and the reviving imperialism in China which would be the great issue which we should have to face. As they get their economic power and strength back I believe that this House will face, not one debate, but many debates.
There are difficulties about the McMahon Line. This is not actually an easy issue constitutionally. Constitutionally it is unfortunate that the Chinese have some right on their side as to the particular line of demarcation. I am not saying that they have the right promptly to walk across and to seize 50,000 square miles of territory, but if we want to find a difficult issue, difficult from a purely constitutional point of view, this is one. The actual line is not easy. It would have been best, of course, if it could have been referred to the International Court at The Hague, but it is clear that the Chinese will not do that.
It is now quite clear tonight, according to the Press, that the Russians have come in on the side of the Chinese. As reported in the Evening Standard, they have stated in terms that they are withdrawing their offer of planes to India and sending back to India students from India who have been studying in Russia. This was easy to foresee. I think it quite plain that we shall drive the Russians into that position where they will have to seek to support China. Although China is not a member of the United Nations, I think tactically the Americans would have been much wiser to let it become so. Then we could have referred the whole matter to the United Nations. I still believe that this issue is referable to the United Nations as a naked act of aggression and we should support the sending in in due course of an emergency force to deal with the emergency.
These matters, to my mind, link up with the situation in the Middle East. Just as I forecast the difficulty there, I forecast that we shall see in the ensuing 248 weeks and months ahead—certainly within twelve months—naked acts of aggression by Nasser. I hold the view that there is little difference between Nasser and Castro. Nasser is as unprincipled a dictator as one could find in the world. I have little doubt that at this time he is preparing to secure for his own benefit powerful nuclear weapons, or other extremely powerful weapons if not actually of a nuclear nature, for two purposes. The immediate purpose is to find an excuse to take over from King Ibn Saud and the other purpose is to threaten Israel. If he can do the two one after the other in great rapidity, he may be able to get over the difficulties of inter-Arab unity. By this means he would get the benefit of the whole of his faith acting together against the hated Jew.
I know that some in this House do not agree, but the original Suez group was not a bad group. At least we were not fools, and many people think we were entirely right. I am thinking of the original Anglo-Egyptian Agreement in 1954. We begged the Government not to come out of Suez until we had French and American agreement. In those days the House voted against us, and that was that. Just as I said then, I say now, please do not trust Nasser. Do not think that he will go to the United Nations before he commits this act—he will not.
Do not forget who his allies are. They are people like Ben Bella and Nkrumah. Unfortunately, Nkrumah has come out tonight against India and in favour of the Soviets. Egypt cannot get economic strength from its own country. It has to seek economic strength from the oil wells of Saudi Arabia and so forth. It will go forward to bring on another crisis not very different from that of Cuba. That is the next on the list.
I hope that the Government will bear in mind that it may prove a difficult year, but, if we realise that these things can happen and that there is little good faith today in the Afro-Asian countries with their alignments which can change extremely fast, in the next few months we can be at least forewarned and forearmed. I beg the Government not to trust Nasser, because if we put trust in him or in his associates we shall be in grave danger.
249 I end with a few words about consultation. It is true that there is no point in consultation if we are going to do anyway what we intend to do. I do not consult if I intend to go in and win a case. I win it the way I seek to win it. The United States informed us, and informed us in good time. Deep consultation is worse because then, if one has to consult in full and in detail, one may be impliably bound to do what one's partner does and one may be thrown into all sorts of difficulties. I personally never minded two hoots whether over Suez we consulted or not. because we had our knowledge of the Middle East, which in my view was far greater than that of America and other countries, and we were entitled to take the action we took. The American nation today says, "We now realise how right you were about Suez." [An HON. MEMBER: "They are not saying that"] Dozens are saying it today.
I believe that in future consultation on these issues about the Middle East and India will be possible, true consultation well in advance. I hope that we may be able to maintain the peace of the world by that means, but when a dagger is pointed at the heart of a country only 90 miles away, that country does not consult Out of courtesy it may inform, but it takes action. If we had consulted, would it have changed their view? Not a bit, because they were too deeply involved; but in these countries of the Middle East there is no deep involvement for Britain and America. I am sure that we can have all the consultations necessary and all the time necessary to sort out these great issues on which depends the peace of the world.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
May I remind the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) that it helps us sometimes to feel very much whiter and cleaner when we are blackening the character of someone else? I am not one who wants to blacken the character of anyone. I like to feel that the man who is sitting on the other side of the hedge is as honest as I am.
We are this evening discussing the Gracious Speech, the things which are in the Speech and some things which have been left out. During the last few hours we have been discussing mainly 250 the position in Cuba. Many things have been said with which I agree and many with which I disagree. I was glad to hear an hon. Member speaking so highly of U Thant and his great work for the United Nations. I wish that we could make the United Nations stronger. I wish that we talked more about the United Nations, not denigrating it but extolling it for what it is worth. If we paid more attention to it and made a greater contribution to the organisation, it would be more effective than it has been.
During the past week we have been on the edge of a precipice; almost thrown over. But by some miracle disaster has been prevented and a great feeling of satisfaction has come over the world because Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Kennedy have more or less come together.
Let us help them in every way we possibly can to build the peace of the world. I believe that they have created the right atmosphere. We are breathing it in this Chamber tonight. There is a feeling of peace and tranquillity compared with the atmosphere of a few days ago. Let us do nothing that will dispel that atmosphere. Let us think twice before we say anything that will upset what has been done. I am glad of some of the remarks I have heard in the debate about this predicament.
I did not rise to talk about Cuba. There are two great omissions from the Gracious Speech to which I wish to draw attention. Nothing has been said about them but I am convinced that during the next twelve months we shall hear a great deal about them.
First, there is the position in Malta. It is very serious—more serious than the House seems to think. We have neglected Malta. Her Prime Minister has been here seeking our assistance and he has gone away almost empty handed. Malta has depended for 150 years upon our defence programme. We have used the island as one of our great fortresses. We have refrained from allowing her people to establish other industries because we wanted to use the island and their labour in order to defend ourselves and our route to the East.
A few years ago we decided to run down our defence services and that has 251 had a material effect on Malta. That effect has been much the same as was the effect of the depression on South Wales. When the mining industry was stricken, it made South Wales a distressed area. When we now withdraw our services from Malta we create a distressed area. What are we doing about it? Who has the responsibility for the position created there?
The United Kingdom High Commissioner in Malta said recently at a Press Conference that there will be 3,500 fewer people working in the naval services in three years time than there are at present and that in addition others in the Army and Air Force services are to be redundant. This will make Malta like the distressed area of South Wales in the 1930's.
The Maltese Prime Minister came to Britain knowing that we were responsible for the position and seeking assistance. What did he get? He was offered £100,000. I asked if this was a serious offer to an island with thousands of unemployed. When he arrived back he said that he had not come to Britain for a silver collection, and I understand his attitude. In his report to his Government he said:My Government, whilst reiterating its refusal to accept the unilateral decision of the United Kingdom Government, has at no time budged from its rightful stand, based on the fact that if the British Government wants to persist at all costs in its policy of implementing that decision it should not in any case continue on the basis that might is right and start the run down before adequate remedial measures have been taken and before those measures have given good results by alternative employment for the men discharged.In the same speech he brought a direct charge against the British Government for their responsibility for the position of Malta.
Our reply to him when he asks for assistance is to offer £100,000, although in three years' time there will be 4,000 more unemployed in the island. Surely we should do something more than that? This is the George Cross island. These are the people who suffered so much during the war in order to help us. Now, when the trouble is over and we no longer require their services, we dismiss them with an offer of £100,000. It is not good enough and I hope that the 252 Government, during the next twelve months, although this matter was omitted from the Gracious Speech, will have regard to the position of Malta.
I have been there and I know the position. The people are gravely disturbed about what we are doing. They were gravely disturbed about the methods adopted during the recent election. They could do nothing about it. If those methods were adopted here I believe that we would nullify the election.
§ Mr. Awbery
I do not want to go into the details of the election. The position was that the Church was used in every way possible to denigrate the Labour Party and stop the people from voting for it. They were told that there would be no forgiveness for them if they voted for the Labour Party. This had a great effect.
§ Mr. Awbery
Mr. Mintoff made no charges against the Church or against anyone else. He put up his case and in order to prevent the Maltese Labour Party from coming to power these measures were used against it. Despite them, the party obtained 16 seats, while the Government has only about 21. Thus, despite the great opposition, the Labour Party did exceedingly well. I hope that it will win the next election.
Mr. Mintoff told the Prime Minister of Malta before he left for this country what the reply would be from the Colonial Secretary. The Prime Minister had to go back and make excuses to his people. He says that he is not prepared to take the responsibility. He says that the responsibility for the position in Malta must rest where is belongs—in the hands of the British Government.
I ask the British Government to take note of that. What we offered was chickenfeed. I believe that the Maltese Prime Minister was right in calling it a silver collection. Instead of saying to the Maltese, "You helped us in a serious time. You sacrificed a great deal. You have helped us through 150 years to defend our life-line to the East. Now 253 we are prepared to make sacrifices to help you", we offered £100,000. I regret deeply that this problem has been omitted from the Gracious Speech. I had hoped that something would be said about the help we should give.
The second item omitted from the Gracious Speech is the serious position of our shipping industry. It is too close to us for us to see. Marshall, the economist, talked about people—I presume that the had statesmen in mind—who had a telescopic faculty; they could see things miles away but not things on their doorstep. That is the position now. We can look miles away and see difficulties there but we cannot see a thing on our doorstep. There is not one word in the Gracious Speech about the serious position of the shipping industry.
The industry is, as our sailors would say, "in the doldrums" That position is getting more serious. It has been deteriorating for six years and has never been as bad. We have to turn sooner or later to the earning capacity of our shipping because we depend upon it for foreign earnings. Have the Government a blind eye? Six years ago the industry was earning £221 million a year. Last year this figure was down to £52 million. We are getting into a serious financial position because we are neglecting the industry and are doing nothing about it.
I understand that some of the smaller shipping companies are either laying up their ships or going out of business. I know that the big companies are paying dividends in some cases. Those dividends come out of their reserves. But if the shipowners can pay dividends out of reserves, the men who work the ships cannot. A sailor cannot draw on reserves like the shipowner. I hope that the Government will understand that. In our estuaries and ports there are more idle ships today than there have been for a long time. A month or so ago, 150,000 tons of shipping a month was being laid up, and shipowners see little sign of any improvement in this vital industry.
I am concerned with shipping because I used to be a trade union official representing dockers, and dockers depend on shipping. The fewer the ships which come into our ports, the less work there is for dockers and the lower their wages. If the shipping position improves, the position for dockers will improve as 254 well. There seems to be no end to this trend which has been going on for a number of years. When I have put down Questions about the number of ships laid up, I have always had the same reply and the Government have always seemed to be quite satisfied. If I put down such a Question now, I would be told that our total tonnage had risen by 3 million tons in the last ten years. But our share of world tonnage is declining.
The Government seem to be standing by idly doing nothing, but other Governments are taking action. Brazil says that part of its trade must be carried in its own ships. The United States and France subsidise their mercantile marine. Other Governments say that their own ships must carry some goods into their ports at certain freights which are uneconomic. I am not asking that we should retaliate but that the Government should hold some inquiry into the position of this vital industry upon which the life of the country depends.
The industry cannot rehabilitate itself. It must go to someone else, but to whom can it go if not to the Government? The industry is asking for help this evening. I agree that the industry's structure may need overhaul and reorganisation. The ships we have are old and out of date and may not be of the right type. Perhaps we are not building the right type for carrying oil and ore. Perhaps we are not organising our coastal shipping as we should. Perhaps if coastal shipping were co-ordinated with the road and rail networks we would not have the trouble on our roads which we now have.
Some hon. Members will have read the Rochdale Report, which talks of closing ports. While some ports are being closed, others are being cluttered up with ships. If there were proper co-ordination of coastal shipping, road and rail and deep sea traffic and a plan for the nation instead of some parts of it, we could achieve something worth while.
§ Commander Anthony Courtney (Harrow, East)
I have great sympathy with the latter remarks of the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery). Would he agree that one of the most important things we should urge on the Government is the prosecution and development of nuclear propulsion for 255 marine purposes, which shows such promise in the Atomic Energy Establishment at the present time?
§ Mr. Awbery
About three years ago we were invited to see a model of a nuclear-propelled ship in an office in Whitehall. We were very hopeful that something would be done, but when a Question was put to the Minister of Transport three or four months ago, about what progress had been made with nuclear-propelled vessels, the reply was that practically nothing had been done.
The seamen and the dockers are willing to co-operate with the shipowners and if the Government will get together with those bodies to organise a committee to inquire into the position of the shipping industry, something can be done. I ask the Minister of Transport to give this matter his careful attention, for we might otherwise find ourselves in the course of the next three or four years not a first-class, but a fifth or sixth-class maritime nation.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I am very glad that the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) has got us with the sea in our nostrils, because in referring to the general theme of the debate, especially in relation to Cuba, I should like to emphasise that aspect of the matter. Listening to those who have tried to interpret why the Russians decided to send nuclear weapons to Cuba, I have been surprised that no one has referred to the possibility that the Russians might have regarded Cuba as of considerable importance to their naval strategy in the Atlantic.
If they were under the impression, rightly or wrongly—and I do not propose to argue whether they would have been right or wrong—that a Communist-declared territory in Cuba was about to be invaded by the United States, or was likely to be invaded by the United States in the foreseeable future, I could well understand the Russians trying to do something to prevent that from happening. In trying to assess where we stand at the end of this crisis—perhaps in the lull in this crisis would be a better way of describing it—one has to think very carefully about what to use as criteria. I am extremely 256 grateful to both my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal for having referred to something which gives excellent criteria against which to judge this matter. This is the first time I have ever heard either of my right hon. Friends mention it, although I tried to draw the Government's attention to it in a debate as long ago as 12th February, 1959.
What I have in mind are the five principles agreed between India and, first Russia and, later, China. When those five principles were mentioned, I wondered for a moment how many hon. Members realised what they were, because we have never debated them in the House although they are profoundly important. They are first, mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty; secondly, non-aggression; thirdly, non-interference in internal affairs of an economic, political or ideological character; fourthly, equality and mutual benefit; fifthly, peaceful co-existence.
How do we stand today when trying to assess the Cuban situation against those principles? If we try to draw up a balance sheet, we find that on the whole the balance comes down in favour of the Soviet Union. I agree with those hon. Members who have said that we would be wrong to suppose that this is a great victory for the United States, courageous though the action of the President may have been—and I am not trying to detract from that in any way.
Let us see what the balance is. First, America has been obliged to accept the first principle which I have just enunciated, that of mutual respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Cuba. Secondly, America has accepted the second principle, that of non-aggression against Cuba. Thirdly, America has accepted the fifth principle, that of peaceful co-existence with Cuba and with the Soviet Union. We still do not know whether the United States has accepted the third and fourth principles which are important and to Which I shall return in a moment—non-interference in internal affairs of an economic, political or ideological character, and mutual benefit. I think that that balance sheet shows a considerable gain to the Soviet Union as a result of this crisis.
The Soviet Union in respect of Cuba has accepted in nuclear terms—and, as 257 I see it, only in nuclear terms—respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the United States. In other words, the Soviet Union has shown that it is not prepared to start a nuclear war against N.A.T.O. on the issue of Cuba. Secondly, again only in nuclear terms, the Soviet Union has agreed to pursue peaceful co-existence. Those seem to be the only two limited gains which the United States can justly claim from this crisis, and they are gains only if the Soviet Union ever intended to bring Russo-American relations to the point of nuclear war, and I do not believe that it did.
If it had intended to bring us to the brink of nuclear war, it would have taken steps to conceal the work it was doing in Cuba and not to do it open to all concerned who cared to fly over and have a look at it. I believe that it was done openly deliberately to deter the United States from attacking Cuba, because to the Soviet Union a Communist Cuba is vital to its naval strategy in the Atlantic, the Atlantic being strategically dominated by the United States and the N.A.T.O. Alliance and the naval forces attached to it.
This is of immense importance. We have known what it is to have an offshore island which may be very troublesome. Our history with Southern Ireland is not one long, uninterrupted chapter of peaceful relations. We have known what it is to have this sort of trouble on our own doorstep and it ill-becomes us to start preaching to the Americans about how they should now behave.
I am not surprised that some people, even in the Soviet Union, may have been led to believe that an attack on Cuba by the United States was not impossible. Americans have been going round Europe saying, "If you knew what that place Cuba is! That awful man Castro! "One has heard that sort of thing being said and Americans have said, "We cannot let that go on" and have made similar remarks. I am not suggesting that those views come from the White House or anywhere else in Washington, but too many Americans have been going round Europe giving the impression that they were boiling up for some action to deal with it.
I rejoice that the President has taken the line he has over this issue, and I hope that the great support which we 258 endeavoured to give him in this action and in ensuring that N.A.T.O. did not come apart as a result of it will mean that in future Britain's voice will be heard a little more attentively before deciding how to run the world.
That brings me back to the two principles which I mentioned in particular of the five principles agreed by India and China. The most important of all is the question of equality and mutual benefit. The nations of the world, whether they are backward or highly progressive and modern, resent it very deeply when they are treated as inferiors. Nothing more infuriates backward nations than to be considered poor relations, and looked upon with a condescending air by those who are well-off. I strongly suspect that when Mr. Nehru achieved agreement on these five principles, nothing was more important to him than the embodiment of the fourth principle, of equality and mutual benefit, and the insistence by him that India must be given a free chance in the markets of the world by countries which are better off.
I believe that I am one of the few members on this side of the House who have done their best to try to understand the predicament in which Mr. Nehru found himself when he took over command of an independent India. I thought that he could conceivably have read the work of Stalin on The Problems of Leninism, and the particular passage in that book in which Stalin says:Where do you strike at imperialism? Where the chain is weakest. Where will the next blow come? Some say India. Why India? Because there you have a young and revolutionary proletariat.Mr. Nehru has had to play a cautious game, without appearing to ally himself too closely with the West or with the East because, without a politically stable India, he knew that he could never challenge a Communist threat. Now we have a Communist threat materialising vigorously on his northern frontier. We should ask ourselves why this has happened. What is it that has led to this, especially when we remember,. as the Prime Minister rightly emphasised in his speech yesterday, that the Chinese so recently agreed to the five great principles to which I have referred?
I wish I were sure that Chiang Kai-shek had nothing to do with it. I wish that I was certain that Chiang 259 Kai-shek's men had not infiltrated into Tibet before the Chinese decided to move in there. I wish I was absolutely certain that the United States was not in on this, too. I believe that at one time there was a prospect of a working agreement being arrived at between East and West along the lines of these five principles. Let us remember that twice in the General Assembly of the United Nations—once on 14th December, 1957, and again on 21st August, 1958—all of us, including the United States, voted in favour of those five principles.
I do not believe that the United States particularly liked them, because the third and fourth principles fly in the face of the policy upon which the United States have endeavoured to insist ever since the war. They imply the right to discriminate in trade in favour of or against whichever countries one likes. Those two principles are contrary to the policy which the United States have followed in trade. Now, especially to a nation such as India, it is vital that it should be able to preserve its right to do these things. The unconditional, most-favoured-nation clause in trade agreements into which the United States have entered has always meant that the richest countries have been given the predominant position and the weakest countries the inferior position. That is an insufferable condition to be imposed upon the world by a nation which does not need to do it anyway. America is strong enough without having to exert herself in that way.
Therefore, I hope that as a result of our standing by the United States in the very unpleasant situation in which they found themselves last week, they will listen to us a little more on the question of the kind of trade policy that we should be allowed to follow. I hope that they will listen to us and at least give us credit for knowing a little more than they do about the way in which Europe works. I hope that they will not keep on insisting upon a political system in Europe which is consistent with their own, simply because it works in their country. In other words, I hope that they will drop the idea of imposing federation on Europe as they have been trying to do ever since 1945, and that we shall be able to reassert our trade policy.
260 I am delighted to see members of the Liberal Party nodding with vigour, because it is just this imposed free trade which is not free trade at all. It is the most frightful denial of freedom that a nation can impose upon another nation, to deny it the right to discriminate in trade in favour of whom it likes. That is what has been happening over the past years. Although I would like to go into the whole question of the Common Market, since there is to be a debate about it next week I shall refrain from doing so.
The crisis over Cuba never had the slightest chance of becoming nuclear war, in my opinion. What has nauseated me has been the behaviour of those who had been all too ready to castigate the appeasers of the 1930s and yet who, the moment we have a real test of nerves in the nuclear age, went into such a state of blue funk that they were making anything that Neville Chamberlain ever did look like Horatius holding the bridge. This pathetic group of people, who priggishly tell us all what wicked men we are for facing the realities of life, are now cringing. I find such an attitude nauseating, and I suppose that pity is the only thing that we should exercise towards such people. Let us pray that we and the churches find some way in which to bring home to them the fact that life is not just a set of circumstances in which a person needs only to look after himself. Let us hope that we shall inspire in these people a spirit of service to their country and their God. It seems to me that something is going wrong in our national character when some people can behave as they did last week.
I thank the House for giving me the attention it has done. I am sorry that nobody from the Foreign Office has been on the Front Bench while I have been speaking. This is supposed to be a foreign affairs debate, and I think that a representative from the Foreign Office should be present. I hope that the Foreign Office will not advise the Lord Privy Seal to put up these fatuous skittles for him to knock down again as reasons for what Russia did in Cuba. If that represents the mind of the Foreign Office at the moment, this country is in a pretty shocking position.
§ 8.18 p.m
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
I ought to apologise 'to the House on this occasion because 'this is the first time in the eleven years that I have been a Member that I have had the audacity to address it on foreign affairs. I have never done so before because I have always found the subject very difficult. It seems to me that Her Majesty's Government, of whichever party they may consist, can determine their policy towards other nations overseas only in accordance with the way in which those countries act towards us.
But I must take part in this debate because I, like the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), have been rather sickened by people who have written pestering me to tell 'the Americans to keep their hands off Cuba. I shall tell the House why I have been sickened. According to my reading of the newspapers—and I presume that there is some truth in them—'the Americans have been assured time and time again that there were no bases in Cuba. This was not so. People came to me and protested, and when I showed them photographs they said that they were fakes. They were certain that they were fakes. They were not fakes. The bases were there.
This sort of thing has no place in the modern world with the weapons which nations now have and with the United Nations and the Security Council and all means of communication and observation. I regret this sort of conduct internationally, someone conveying the impression that he is not doing this when everybody knows patently that he is. When the cards were thrown down Mr. Khrushchev magnanimously agreed to take away the bases that his officials had assured the Americans were not there. I 'think that Mr. Khrushchev was a great man in what he did.
I hope 'that in the future neither the Americans nor the Russians will adopt this regrettable attitude. I do not think that the Americans have ever done it. They have placed their bases, their resources and their retaliatory measures all round 'the world. They have done this openly. The Russians know where they are. There has been no secret about it. I hope that in future Mr. Khrushchev and the Russian Government will not attempt 262 to pretend that they are not doing it, because when the cards are thrown down it is obvious that they are. I hope that as a result of the events of the last week or so this sort of thing will cease.
It is regrettable that action was taken before the matter was brought before the United Nations. It would have been better if it had been brought before the United Nations. Nevertheless, it is not in me to condemn Kennedy because, after all, we are trying to bring about disarmament and limit the spread of nuclear weapons. The very people who talk most about abolishing hydrogen bombs and nuclear weapons have by their attitude recently demonstrated that: they were condoning the Russian missiles in Cuba. To me this does not make sense. I do not believe that my country and its allies are always in the wrong. I never have believed this. My country is sometimes in the wrong, but it is not always in the wrong. In this case if there is wrong and right there is wrong and right on both sides.
I believe that the United States has come out of this far better than the Soviet Union, except that Mr. Khrushchev has recovered his position and made certain gains. I do not begrudge him any gains he has made as a result of the magnanimous gesture of a great man. He proved himself to be a great man when he agreed that, if the United States recognises Cuba, the missiles are out. Let us hope that we can get many of these missiles out of many countries besides Cuba.
My main reason for intervening in the debate is the report in the Glasgow Herald about the examination of the possibilities of an international trading estate at Prestwick. Whether it is because my political background is Welsh Radical Liberalism I do not know, but I have always believed that the best way to achieve international peace is to create efficient and smooth machinery so that goods produced in the world can be moved about most easily. Conflicts between nations have always arisen because one nation has made the trade of another nation very difficult and awkward and has pursued nationalistic policies tending to injure the trade of other nations.
There is a proposal to have an international trading estate at Prestwick so 263 that people can buy goods free of duty. If people are travelling by jet between one country and another they will be able to buy goods at Prestwick free of duty, as they can at London Airport and at other international airports on the Continent. I long for the day when we can travel about Europe and about the world with fewer formalities when crossing frontiers. I long for the day when this is brought about through the strength of the United Nations and the expansion of confidence among nations, when one statesman does not pretend to another that he is not doing something which in fact he is doing.
When that sort of behaviour ceases and there is more confidence, I look forward to the day, perhaps not in my lifetime but in the lifetime of my children, when people and goods will cross frontiers much more easily than they do today. As long as nations pursue nationalistic trading policies, very often to protect the uneconomic production of things which could be more easily and more economically produced or serviced somewhere else, it will be very difficult to obtain world peace and the expansion of the United Nations towards world government will also be hindered.
We shall be debating the Common Market next week. We hope that by our entry into the Common Market many trade barriers will be broken down. Why not make a start in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation? Why do not the Government make a start with the Americans? The Gracious Speech says that the Governmentwill strive by all possible means to ensure the security and increase the prosperity of all countries in the free world.The greatest contribution that this manufacturing nation can make towards increasing the prosperity of all nations is to expand our trade with those nations. To expand our trade with those nations is to abolish some of the obstacles to trade between ourselves and those nations. This is what we should be doing.
Looking back over the events of my lifetime, it occurs to me that it is unfortunate that the idea seems to have become rooted and regarded as almost infallible that a country can raise the standard of living of its people only if it becomes a country manufacturing all 264 sorts of goods rather than producing food or clothes. It must become a mixed economy of all sorts of things.
I do not understand why the standard of living of the people of a country engaged mainly in agriculture, such as New Zealand, which produces food of excellent quality for the industrial centres of the world, particularly this country, cannot be as high as the standard of living of the people of a nation engaged in manufacturing goods. Perhaps because I was reared in the countryside but have spent my life in industry, it has always seemed to me to be extraordinary that I, helping to produce motor cars, have had a high standard of living, whereas people helping to produce food for me between the wars had a very low standard of living. The whole balance of social and economic justice seemed to be wrong.
A person producing food had to work for fifty-two weeks of the year, winter and summer, out in the fields in all weathers producing meat, milk and other things for me to eat. I was working in a factory in the warm, with air-conditioning. My wages were about twice his. This always seemed to me to be unfair. There was something wrong in the order of things when the income of the producer of food, even a farmer, was inferior to the income of those producing manufactured goods.
This is the situation in the world today. In many instances the poor nations, the under-developed nations, are the nations which are producing the world's food. These nations think, quite understandably, that they can raise their standard of living only by pursuing nationalistic economic policies and by producing the goods which we have produced and which have given us our high standard of living.
When as a young man of 21 I came out of my apprenticeship with the company I had worked with, a man who had been works manager of the company gave me this warning, "They will be after you to go to Burma to do a three-year term. Do not go. You cannot get engineering production in Burma. It is too damned hot. You stay here. You will achieve something here, but you cannot achieve anything in that temperature and climate." That was back in 265 the 1920s. I do not know whether it was true, because I did not go to Burma.
The progression from the period of the Ottawa agreements, this increasing protectionism—we are not to blame for it; we did not initiate it—this pursuit of nationalistic economic policies, especially in the post-war period, is doing much damage to the smooth work and the strength and unity of the countries of the free world. There is much friction in this country, especially on the Clyde. American practices and the American subsidising of not only the construction but the running of ships is something against which the shipbuilders on the Clyde, however efficient and able they may be, cannot possibly compete.
The Gracious Speech mentions this country's increasing contribution to the N.A.T.O. Alliance. I hope that we make an increasing contribution. I wholeheartedly support the N.A.T.O. Alliance with the United States.
What are we doing about shipbuilding? I was at a launching on the Clyde not long ago at which Sir Harold Yarrow, the chairman of a famous shipyard and Admiralty research station in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small), was present. My hon. Friend was invited, but. unfortunately, because of another engagement, he could not attend. I heard Sir Harold Yarrow state emphatically that the only thing that could save the British shipbuilding industry was action by the Government.
I believe that my predecessor, the late Baron Kirkwood, in debating the appointment of an Archbishop of Canterbury—my right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) will probably remember this—made a promise to the then Prime Minister, Mr. Baldwin, that if he gave him two battleships for the Clyde he would give him his Archbishop of Canterbury.
I have never been one to advocate the building of battleships, but I would be prepared to make many concessions to the Prime Minister if he would convince the Americans that we could make an increasing contribution to N.A.T.O. naval defence by the provision of more ships. I would very much like the Government to say to the N.A.T.O. authorities, "We do not think we can make 266 a great contribution in the nuclear field, but we could build a large number of frigates, destroyers and submarines for the N.A.T.O. fleet". We have the shipyards, the men, the resources, the capability and the capacity. We have the Yarrow Admiralty Research establishment, where wonderful work is done. The scientists there are ready to build an experimental nuclear merchant ship or warship, but how long those men will stay if the Admiralty cannot take steps to build such a nuclear vessel, I do not know.
The world will not await a slothful Administration which feel they cannot risk going ahead with this very difficult problem of building an economic merchant vessel. I do not think the first one will be economic and it is nonsense to think in such terms, but as a maritime nation we cannot afford to sit back while the Americans and the Russians—and probably the French in the near future—develop nuclear-propelled ships.
It has been suggested that we should take our troops from West Berlin. I may be wrong—as I say, I have never before spoken on foreign affairs here but, as a citizen of Great Britain and as one who believes in the freedom of the individual, I think that it would be a major blunder were Great Britain or any of the other Western European Powers to withdraw from Berlin. I have been to Berlin, and I have thirty-six colour slides of the wall. How anyone can defend the position in West Berlin is beyond my comprehension.
I have a colour shot of a cross, with a wreath on the ground, where a person jumped to death from a top storey. Beyond that is a brick wall blocking the entrance to a church. The body of the church is in East Berlin, but as its entrance is in West Berlin the East Ber-liners built a wall in the entrance. How in the wide world can anyone who can think politically at all talk of withdrawing from such a situation? It is quite out of the question.
I am absolutely certain that if we or any other of the nations were to withdraw from West Berlin it would be such a sign of weakness that anything could happen. We must stay. I am not a great student of history, but I should not imagine that even in the Thirty Years' 267 War in Germany—which, I understand, was a very cruel war—or even in the Inquisition, was anything so blatant done as has been done in Berlin. There is this wall, these huge trenches, and all this barbed wire to stop free men and women moving from one part of their own country to another. I am shocked when anyone in this House suggests that we ignore that situation and walk out.
turn now to India. I have only one point of disagreement with my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson). In my private life I do not like the idea of offering a neighbour only something that is of no use to me. For instance, I should not like to offer a neighbour half a dozen blackcurrant bushes that were thick with "big bud", and I do not like my right hon. Friend's idea of letting India have some old guns and tanks—
§ Mr. H. Wilson
No, the point is that I understand that we still have very large quantities of, for example, Bofors guns which are written off for future fighting but which might be extremely valuable in the kind of conditions in which this war is being fought. I should have thought that field guns appropriate to the Second World War but not in future wars would be of great value—bridging and transport equipment, for instance. It happens that we do not need it but, even if we did, we should give it.
§ Mr. Bence
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for clearing up that point, which I, and no doubt others, misunderstood.
There must in Great Britain's arsenal be a tremendous amount of material that we keep in reserve for localised conventional conflict in defending any part of the Commonwealth from attack. We should immediately put all this stuff at Mr. Nehru's service in the defence of India. We should, at the same time, get the nations of the free world to give everything they can to support India's effort to resist China's aggression.
This may well be the beginning of expansionism by China, with its huge population. It should be resisted, and it should be seen that the free world, and especially Great Britain and the Commonwealth, are prepared to play a very large part in the defence of the integrity 268 of members of the Commonwealth. It may well be that China will move into wider spheres than India.
I do not know whether Mr. Nehru will read the report of this debate, but I should like to say to him that here, again, trade is very important to this country—as it is to India. I am very sorry that India's nationalist policies have made serious inroads into British merchant shipping in the Indian Ocean. I have no interest to declare; I want only to see our country's shipping and manufacturing institutions prosper, and I always resent actions by other Governments that tend to lower the prosperity of those institutions. Perhaps the Indian Government have been a little hasty in some of their forms of nationalistic protection of their own shipping industry. We can give India a lot of service and experience, and it is unfortunate that the prosperity of the British India Company and other companies is being hit very hard in the Indian Ocean trade.
I hope that Her Majesty's Government will, as is stated quite clearly in the Gracious Speech, do everything possible to ensure the security and increase the prosperity of all countries in the world. In the short time that they have before handing over this country to another Government, I hope that the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues will press on a little harder amongst our allies and friends in the United Nations and the free world to give a squarer deal to British industry and trade than has been the case in the past on the part of some of the most powerful nations in the Alliance.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
The hon Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) did not need to apologise for the fact that he has rarely contributed to foreign affairs debates. Speaking for myself, I hope that he will take part in them very frequently. I hope that he will not find my compliment embarrassing, because I found practically little or nothing in his speech with which I could disagree.
I was particularly touched by his references to Berlin. I, too, have seen the same things and felt the same things. There is an even worse feature about the church he mentioned. The graveyard is over the Wall to the east, and permission has even been refused for bereaved 269 western relatives to put flowers on the graves. They have to throw them over, weighted with stones, in the hope that they will land near the grave. For that to take place in a so-called civilised community must fill everyone with a sense of burning shame.
One advantage of speaking late in a debate is that practically everything has already been said, and among all the reasons that have been given for what Russia did, and what America did, and what Russia did after America did what she did, at least one reason must be right, because we have covered practically every contingency. I shall content myself by sharing in the disgust already expressed by the two previous speakers at some of the banner-waving in the last few critical days. For those who in the past have spent a lot of time making a pretty good nuisance of themselves in the country protesting, understandably enough, against the spread of nuclear weapons throughout the world, to go round waving banners in support of a policy that would, in fact, have led to a spread of those same nuclear weapons seems to be not only illogical but nauseatingly hyprocritical.
On the question whether we should or should not express satisfaction at the outcome of the Cuban affair, I am one of those who agree that it would be very dangerous to crow over the Russians for having given way as they did. I think that it would also be remarkably foolish to do so because I do not think we have so much to crow about. The net result is that the Russians may well say to themselves that half a satellite is better than none at all. If they had not acted as they did and drawn back, it could be that by now the United States would have landed in military force and that Cuba would have gone altogether from the Communist camp. Therefore, while patting ourselves on the back do not let us be too self-satisfied, for quite apart from the fact that it would be dangerous to provoke Russian reaction by gloating, I do not think we have so much to gloat about. In any case, I do not think we are out of the wood yet in Cuba, and premature satisfaction at this stage may indeed be very premature.
My principal reason for speaking this evening has nothing to do with the 270 Cuban crisis but with what is going on in India. I have had the good fortune during the last fortnight to make a tour of West and East Pakistan from which I returned only about forty-eight hours ago. Many of the crises that we have heard about were taking place not far from those places which I visited.
Perhaps I may make one last remark about Cuba at this point. When the news about Cuba broke, it was interesting to find so few people in Pakistan who thought that the situation would develop into a shooting war. In some ways they were more logical than some of the more scarey or hysterical people in this country. The few Pakistanis with whom I spoke refused to believe that any sane man—and I have never heard Khrushchev described as other than sane—would have a major war over such a comparatively unimportant territory to Russia as Cuba is. If it was a question of the Americans staging a counterrevolution in Hungary and installing rocket bases facing Moscow it would have been a different picture indeed. In the circumstances, I think that some of the extravagant talk today about awakening from a hideous nightmare has been a little overdone.
I wanted to speak mainly on the India-China question. I was delighted to hear that Her Majesty's Government, together with other Western countries, are going to do everything possible to help Indian resistance to Chinese aggression. I emphasise this point because of one or two more critical remarks that I shall make later in my speech. I am also glad to realise that India has now carried out what has become almost a stock phrase in diplomatic language—an agonising reappraisal of her position in the world. But I do not believe for a moment that it would be wise for us to express pleasure at the fact that India has found neutrality not so successful as she thought it would be. I have never agreed with India's neutrality policy in the world; nevertheless, she is a sovereign country and she had every right to try out theories of neutrality if that was what she thought was best for her and the world. Now that this agonising reappraisal has taken place, it would not be right for anyone, either in Asia or here to adopt an attitude of "I told you so."
271 I have said that I am glad that we are going to take all possible steps to assist India in the difficulties to which she is now exposed, but I must say that if good is to come out of this evil, as we hope that good may come out of the evil of the Cuban affair, there must be some other aspects of thought and reappraisal in India herself. She has been referred to by our Foreign Secretary as a great peace-loving country, but I must tell hon. Members that, coming from Pakistan and having been to other parts of Asia where India influence is felt, this is not a view which is universally held there today. I am not talking about hotheads in Pakistan or elsewhere, but there are fairly wide apprehensions throughout Southern Asia about Indian expansionist policies. It would not be right to disguise these from the House. They are not ones that I necessarily hold, but I assure hon. Members that they are widely held among India's neighbours.
We must remember that Pakistan, rightly or wrongly—and in due course self-determination will be able to tell us this—believes that Kashmir belongs to them. Be that as it may, the great nation of India, which is lauded throughout much of the world as being peace-loving, keeps four-fifths of its Army on the borders or inside the area of Kashmir in continued defiance of no less than twelve resolutions of the United Nations seeking a solution there by self-determination. This is a fact.
Only recently the King of Nepal complained that Indian subversion from outside his borders was being constantly directed to bring down his Government, and similar fears have been expressed in the two small Kingdoms to which reference has been made today, Sikkim and Bhutan. I must remind hon. Members that it is not so long ago that both sides of the House, whatever excuses we may find on moral grounds, condemned India for taking unilateral military action against Goa. On that occasion, although there was understanding on both sides of the House as to why this had happened, there was general agreement that this was contrary to the United Nations Charter and international law.
At the time of Suez, although obviously I disagreed with his policies and with those of the party opposite, I 272 was very struck by one observation of the Leader of the Opposition in warning Britain of the possible outcome that might flow from our continued efforts in Suez. He said that if we left the field of international law and went into the jungle we must expect to meet bigger animals than ourselves. One must hope that there is a realisation in India today that, whether it is against the Nagas or against Goa or whether it is in exerting pressure against Kashmir, India, if she seeks equity, must also practise equity, not only in the eyes of this House but in the eyes of her neighbours.
Therefore, I say again that, just as we hope that some good will come out of the Cuban crisis, because we must pray that the idea of United Nations supervision and verification will be more widely accepted, I hope that India, in the unhappy phase through which she is passing, will realise that this is now a great opportunity for her to adopt a rather different attitude towards her neighbours in Asia. In other words, she should seek the leadership of Asia as the asserted greatest democratic nation there by convincing her neighbours of her good faith and not by resorting to measures which have not earned her the praise or confidence of her neighbours.
I am hopeful that the Government of Pakistan will react favourably to the suggestion that there should be a joint lessening of tension between India and Pakistan so as to free more Indian resources for the defence of her frontiers. I am glad that the President of the United States and our own Prime Minister have lent their weight to this aim. But in the ultimate resort it will not be pressures from outside which will make Pakistan join India in a really wholehearted and concerted line of defence. That can come about only when there is mutual confidence between the two countries. The whole blame in this hideous struggle between the two countries since independence should not of course be put at India's door. Although I have a particular friendship in Pakistan, I should never suggest that there have not been faults on both sides. But at this time, as the Power with the main responsibility for the tension, the main gesture must come from India if she is to gain the confidence of her neighbour. Pakistan for her part should react immediately to any such 273 real gesture because, even though there may be a temptation to feel separated from what India is having to endure, Pakistan may one day wake up to find a similar threat on her borders.
During my tour I had the good fortune to go right through the Khyber Pass, one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. It was all that one reads about in Kipling and elsewhere. But there was a grim overtone to the tour. I went right up to the Afghan frontier, very close to what is referred to as the centre of the world because there is for a short distance a border which touches Pakistan, India, Russia, China, and Afghanistan all in one corner. The Afghan guards on the other side who used to look very shoddy and untidy compared with the crack Pakistani Khyber Rifles had gone, and in their place were very smartly dressed and well-trained soldiers dressed in Russian-type uniforms.
There is constantly blaring forth from that frontier Communisit-dominated propaganda aimed against Pakistan and at trying to disaffiliate Pathan tribes which live on the Pakistani side of the border. Let Pakistan recall at this moment that she too may well have her dangers to face in future and that her interests lie An a common defence policy with India, if this can be achieved. In the happy event of the Indian subcontinent being a much firmer and better bastion of democracy in the world than it is today, it will be because India is prepared to make the necessary gestures to convince her neighbours of her sincerity, and to show that she is not making them because she is in difficulties but because, even at this late stage, she is ready to realise that only by genuine co-operation with her neighbours can her own future safety be assured.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
I think that I must have attended most of the foreign affairs debates in this House since the war. This must surely be the calmest of them all. I suppose, in one sense, we ought to be glad of that. Had this debate been held a week ago, I think that there would have been greater pressure from hon. Members to take part in it, a larger attendance and a great deal more tension than has been apparent today.
274 As was said by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett), there has been a great deal of "Kremlinology" in the speeches of hon. Members from both sides of the House, and also, indeed, from the Government Front Bench. The Lord Privy Seal speculated at great length, as have so many hon. Members, about the motives behind the actions of Mr. Khrushchev. I should have liked the right hon. Gentleman to have spent a greater portion of his speech in explaining the precise way in which he proposes to take advantage of the present opportunities to secure disarmament and a better relationship between East and West.
Today there has been much agreement among hon. Members that though the basic problems in world affairs remain, the situation at the moment is more hopeful and more fluid than for some time past. I should have liked to have heard the Lord Privy Seal say more precisely how he feels that this situation may be exploited to secure the things we want. The major constructive suggestion to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was put forward by my right hon. Friend, that we should offer India a form of lease/lend, and I was glad to note the positive reply to that from the Lord Privy Seal. We look forward to hearing from him in due course of the decisions he has taken on the matter. The Lord Privy Seal was far from reassuring regarding consultation. However we define consultation, the key point is whether the Government, had they wished, could have altered the course of events. From the record given by the Lord Privy Seal it seemed clear to me that in practice the Government could not have done so.
I was surprised that the Lord Privy Seal expressed himself as satisfied—that is how I understood him—with the present provisions for consultation in N.A.T.O. I should have thought that it was at least worth inquiring whether, in the light of the Cuban incident, we could make some changes. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) suggested the creation of a political standing committee, and that suggestion has also been advanced from these benches from time to time. In the light of the Cuban experience, this is something the Government should again 275 look into. Moreover, it is a matter on which all countries, and not only the N.A.T.O. allies, should have their say. As was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), war is indivisible and disaster over Cuba would have affected every country. Therefore, we must somehow spread the responsibility for taking the appalling decisions which on this occasion have had to be taken by two men almost alone.
I do not think that we need question the sincere wish of Mr. Khrushchev and President Kennedy to avoid a nuclear war. But surely the rest of mankind is entitled to a larger share in the control of its own fate. We cannot continue to rely for world peace on the capacity of a handful of men in two nations to keep their heads in moments of stress. We must work out some other way.
The events in Cuba have shown the need for this and have indicated one of the obvious ways to achieve it. We must recognise, as was shown during the Cuba crisis, that even now the United Nations has considerable influence for peace and there will be a greater potentiality for exploiting and developing that in the future. From what is published in the evening newspapers, we are not yet out of the wood. It would appear that U Thant has had considerable difficulty in his mission to Cuba. The Joint Under-Secretary of State may have some information on the point. This may be connected with the visit of Mr. Mikoyan, that well-known pourer of oil on troubled waters, from the Soviet Union point of view. I think that Mr. Mikoyan is a "trobule shooter", to use an expression used in the West, rather than a trouble-maker; and it may be that his visit to Cuba is in order to shoot trouble rather than to make it.
Nevertheless, this should not obscure the fact that on 24th October, which, characteristically and appropriately was United Nations Day, the Acting Secretary-General of U.N.O. took a strong personal initiative and made a strong personal appeal to President Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev which was decisive. Had this initiative not been taken, it would have been extremely difficult for either side to have made the first move in the existing diplomatic and 276 political situation. Had that move not been made, disaster would have ensued. Cuba indicated to us that we must try to exploit and develop the increasing influence of the United Nations.
A number of good suggestions have been thrown up in the debate; for example, by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland. He confused me, however, when he stated that the United Nations should amend its Charter in order to create an inspectorate to perform the kind of verification now required in Cuba. I do not quite understand what the right hon. Gentleman meant by this. If he meant that a body should be permanently in existence for this kind of work, I see no reason why the Charter needs to be amended to make this possible. I think that what he probably meant is what has been advocated several times from these benches, and that is that the United Nations should now set up a disarmament agency which should be capable not only of performing in Cuba the task which the right hon. Gentleman had in mind, and not only have the task, which everyone has in mind, of supervising the disarmament agreement if, as we hope, one is reached, but should act as a vested interest inside the United Nations to stimulate initiatives and proposals for disarmament agreement. That is a constructive suggestion in line with what I think the right hon. Gentleman had in mind.
§ Mr. Grimond
It is indeed in line with it, and I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman both for his description of me and his account of what I said. The only reason I mentioned amending the Charter was that I think that in the long run, at any rate, it may be advisable that it should be directly recruited by the United Nations and so have a certain independence of member Governments. I may be wrong about this, but I am informed that it is not within the power of the United Nations and so would require an amendment of the Charter.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I should not have thought that it would have involved an amendment of the Charter. However, we both agree on the objective to be reached, and we also agree about a United Nations' presence in Berlin.
I would also put forward again what has been put forward from these benches, the value of starting now to build the 277 nucleus of a permanent United Nations force. We want to strengthen the finances of the United Nations. I agree with my right hon. Friend, regarding the finances of the United Nations, that a £4 million contribution to the United Nations Fund is really very niggardly: we want a bigger contribution from the United Kingdom. Moreover, we want to enforce against members the levy which should be paid for the operations of the United Nations whether or not those operations are supported by the members in question. Another thing is to confirm U Thant in his job as Secretary-General of the United Nations.
There is a rather interesting contrast, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, between the attitude of the Government today towards the United Nations and the coolness with which they greeted only in December last the changes which have been taking place in the United Nations and, in particular, the arrival of scores of new members and the actions of some of those new members in the General Assembly. Of course, the principle of "one man, one vote" at the United Nations does produce anomalies and some strange voting patterns, but the fact is that if we compare the United Nations today with what it was in the post-war period we see that it is vastly more influential for peace and is a vastly more successful and vital organisation.
I think I am the only Member of the House who was unlucky enough to act as a delegate to the United Nations in that post-war period. [Interruption.]I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) was also a delegate at that time, as I well recall. Then, of course, the United Nations was under the control of the Western Powers and there were large and almost automatic majorities for Western policies, and perhaps in Stalin's day that was not a bad thing at all, but the United Nations was unrepresentative of genuine world opinion, it lacked vitality, it was deadlocked and stultified by the veto of the Security Council, and on all really critical and important matters it was also unfortunately by-passed.
Today, as we see over Cuba, the balance of power has changed, but we cannot really complain about that, and 278 the flood of new members has given it vitality and representativeness and influence which makes it out of all proportion a more effective instrument than it used to be in the old days, and these new members have a keen vested interest in the future strength and success of the United Nations, and that, I believe, will make itself felt increasingly.
Therefore, the first lesson of Cuba is to take every possible opportunity to build up the strength of the United Nations so that the national interests of its members can give way to the collective will of what may become in fact an effective world authority.
We have had a great deal of talk about disarmament. Here again I was a little disappointed in the Lord Privy Seal. Now is the time to take new initiatives, to breathe some life into the Committee of 18, to blow the dust off the draft treaties. I have no doubt about the intentions of the Government, about what they want to achieve, but I do not think they are giving enough priority, enough status, to this whole problem. It might be a good thing if perhaps the Foreign Secretary were to return to take part in those discussions on the Committee of 18. I think that there is a contrast between the resources of talent and energy which the Government devote, albeit not very successfully, to the Common Market negotiations and the resources of talent and energy which they devote to disarmament negotiations. It seems to me that this might be taken in mind by the Government and some greater resources put at the disposal of our men in the Committee of 18.
Why do not they take up the suggestion, which we want to make from this side, that there should be a Cabinet Minister specifically responsible for disarmament, with his own disarmament department, creating a vested interest inside the Administration as against the defence Departments—a vested interest in the success of disarmament? This is something that the Americans have and are urging on other nations, and it is high time that we had one ourselves.
Then we could look at the draft treaties. It is hard to believe that the gaps could not be closed. May I ask the Under-Secretary this question, which I hoped that the Lord Privy Seal would expand on? In the letter that the Prime 279 Minister wrote to Mr. Khrushchev—a letter in such a lamentably inferior literary style to that of Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Kennedy—he said that we should be able to givefirm directions to settle the main elements in the first stage of disarmament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1962; Vol. 666, c. 39.]What is meant by that? I hope and believe that it means that the Government have in mind to reach some compromise between these two treaties on the first stage of disarmament. When we look at the Soviet Government's proposal it is plainly unrealistic. For instance, it says that all means of delivery of missiles must be destroyed in stage one. They say that all bases must be got rid of in stage one. Plainly this would upset the balance of power and be quite unacceptable. The Americans say that no bases are to go in stage one. Here, therefore, I hope that the Government have in mind to make some constructive compromise. It is plain that things could be done in this field.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South has put forward a number of ideas of this kind. One, which I think is particularly constructive, would distinguish between troop bases and missile bases and possibly promote the missile bases into stage one. That is possible, and I think that it ought to be considered.
Not all the unreality is in the Soviet draft disarmament treaty. The American suggestion for the run-down of the means of delivery seems to me to be unambitious, too slow, dangerously uncertain. Again, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South has made some suggestions, and may I say that if the world does reach disarmament agreement no one will have deserved more credit for it than my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South. He says —I think that is a good point—that if the American suggestion is carried out of a mere 30 per cent. decrease in the means of delivery in stage one, followed by 35 per cent. decrease in stage two, this means that if research and development go on in the meanwhile all that will have happened, very likely, will have been that obsolescent means of delivery are replaced by modern means of delivery.
280 It must also be pointed out that the Americans are way ahead of the Russians in this field and therefore these percentage reductions might bear with genuine unfairness on the Soviet position and alter the balance against them. It must also be borne in mind that it might still leave the Americans with so many means of delivering nuclear weapons that the task of inspecting them would not be practicable. For all these reasons, I ask title Government to look into the business of stage one and of cutting down the means of delivery. It seems quite probable that a compromise could be arrived at there.
We agree with what the Lord Privy Seal said about nuclear tests. It is up to the Russians now. I do not see how one can fault the position of the Western Powers in relation to nuclear tests. There is only one thing I wish to ask the Government on this. What do they say about the suggestion put forward by the Pugwash Conference that one should develop the mechanical means of verification? The project is probably quite familiar in the Foreign Office, and if the Under-Secretary has any information perhaps he might refer to it. This might be a useful idea to overcome Soviet objections without endangering our vital interests.
One other thing which the Lord Privy Seal said about disarmament seemed disappointing. He made the point that the Soviet Union has accepted the principal of verification in Cuba—but not in Russia, as someone pointed out. One would have hoped that the Lord Privy Seal would have gone on to say that this opens a tremendous opportunity for the kind of regional disarmament projects we have put forward from this side so often. If they accept United Nations verification in Cuba, why not in Central Europe, the Middle East and Africa? This surely is a typical case in which Cuba has loosened up the situation so that keen initiative might actually produce results.
Cuba should also urge us on to disarmament in these cases, not only because it shows how near the brink we got and illustrates the danger to peace of the arms race—particularly the missiles race—but also because it helps us to get into proportion the two basic dangers of disarmament. There is the 281 danger that it may leave the other side with a military advantage on balance and the danger that in their efforts to get a meticulous military balance the two sides do not get any agreement in the end at all. Those are two dangers, and they have always to be balanced one against the other.
When we think back to Cuba and what we were actually afraid of at the time, I must say that in my case my anxiety was simply fear of nuclear war breaking out, not fear of losing the nuclear war if it broke out. I believe that second fear was probably entirely absent from everyone's mind on both sides. What does this show? It shows that in disarmament we should not constantly jeopardise agreement by an absolutely meticulous search for exact balance between both sides at each time.
Of course, we shall agree that we must do our best as far as possible not to unbalance the military situation in the process and disarmament, but in the light of the Cuba crisis and how close we got to the abyss, when we look at the negotiations and the two draft treaties I think some of the differences —not all of them, but some of them—look a little academic. In future I hope that when delegates get stuck on such a problem as the precise date when the armies come down from 2.1 million to 1.7 million, they should remember Cuba and remember that the biggest danger of all facing humanity is that they should not reach agreement and that the arms race should continue.
A third thing, I wish to suggest, arises from Cuba. There has been very little recrimination in this debate against the Russians or the Americans, but many hon. Members have quite rightly looked to the past in order to learn how to avoid dangers in future. Very proper tributes have been paid to President Kennedy, which I certainly share. Speaking for myself, however, I find it much easier to defend the blockade of Cuba than some of the earlier actions of the American Government against the rÉgime in Cuba. The policy which was epitomised by the Bay of Pigs adventure seems to illustrate once again how dangerous and foolish it is to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries.
282 China and Vietnam are wrong to assist in the training, arming, financing and infiltrating of Vietnamese rebels into South Vietnam. In my view, the United States was wrong to assist in the training, arming, financing and infiltrating of Cuban rebels into Cuba. This is a profound principle. Cuba reminds us of the obvious truth that, if we are to preserve peace, nations must learn to put up with neighbours whose way of life and ideology they detess. The United States must put up with Castro. Ho Chi Minh must put up with Diem. Khrushchev and Ulbricht must put up with Brandt. Otherwise there seems little hope for world peace in the years ahead.
What practical steps can be taken to lessen the bitter East-West political and ideological rivalry, or at least limit its effect? I recall that the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) when he was Foreign Secretary put forward a few years ago a proposal that we might spell out the proper principles for conducting international affairs in the nuclear age. He called it a "Charter of Co-existence", laying down what should and should not be permissible in civilised behaviour in the nuclear age. I think that there was something in that idea.
Earlier this year, at the Geneva disarmament talks, in a similar kind of field, the Americans and Russians actually agreed on a convention for limiting the worst effects of cold-war propaganda and subversion.
I approve also of the Foreign Secretary's statement in the General Assembly this year, when he said:This sterile business of charge and countercharge is a waste of energy, talent and wealth, when we all ought to be working for the betterment of man. So long as the free world is attacked we must respond… But Britain wants to join others in burying the cold war, in getting ahead with the modern political order in which men want to live.Those are laudable ideas. I urge the Government not just to leave the matter at a pious statement of that kind but to look again at these two projects to see if they cannot be modified and resubmitted, and whether they might not help to diminish the acute tension between East and West.
After all, it is not necessarily military disarmament which is the only kind of 283 disarmament we should look at. There is no reason why practical measures of ideological disarmament, as one might call it, should not be taken. This is a new field and, as far as I know, no one has really studied it. Why not follow up these projects?
There is another field in which experience suggests that some limited decrease may be made in tension. This is the expansion of personal contracts between East and West. In my experience, one gets from this a small but quite definite contribution to international sanity. A number of opportunities exist for the Government to go ahead in this direction.
There is a project now going to the Council of Europe for greatly expanding contacts, particularly between students and young people in Eastern and Western Europe. This is really on the initiative of hon. Members on both sides of this House. I should like the Government to give an assurance that they will, in the Committee of Ministers, give this project their warm support.
Then there is the project to come before the United Nations shortly for a World Youth Festival, and I hope the Government will support it. Finally, there is another project which has been put up to the Foreign Secretary—the expansion of contracts of all kinds between this country and Poland and other countries of Eastern Europe and, later, when the situation changes, with China. I hope that the Government will make the best of these advantages because, without naivety or sentimentality, there is no doubt that, in the long run, and to a limited extent, these contracts have in practice helped to relax tension. Surely this is the kind of thing with which the Cuba solution enables us to go ahead with fresh vigour and sense of purpose.
Personally I believe that many of the assumptions behind the East-West cold war propaganda battle are becoming increasingly absurd. I agree again with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party, who drew attention to the convergence of the social systems of the world and to the decreasing vitality of the Communist ideological message. That I believe to be profoundly true. Of course, there is a power struggle between two blocs, but the conception that the world is faced with a 284 struggle between a clear-cut ideology called Communism, on the one hand, and a clear-cut ideology called capitalism or freedom on the other, and that there will be a clear-cut victory for one side—all this is pure supposition. It conflicts completely with the enormous variety of different systems and ideologies emerging in Africa and Asia and, indeed, on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
But old habits of mind persist. The bitter propaganda struggle goes on, with the bitter tension we saw so keenly in Cuba. I hope that there are now opportunities for going ahead.
On the whole, this debate, as hon. Members will agree, has been not only calm but constructive. I have heard from hon. Gentlemen on both sides a large number of practical suggestions as to how the Government can exploit the opportunities we now have. I do not think that any hon. Member has been in the least over-optimistic. No one has suggested that these very big and basic problems do not still remain. But there is a new fluidity and new hopefulness about the situation at the moment. I hope, therefore—and I think that hon. Members on both sides will look for this —that the Government will follow up the ideas put in this debate urgently and honestly, so that Britain can make the greatest possible contribution to the prospects of peace ahead.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Peter Thomas)
I can certainly agree with the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) that this has been a very calm debate. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) said that it was quiet and restrained, and it will be generally agreed that this has been not only a calm, but an interesting and certainly a valuable debate. It has differed from most omnibus foreign affairs debates in that it has not ranged too widely, but that is understandable for, as the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) pointed out, events in Cuba and India have greatly concentrated our thoughts.
I should like to apologise at the outset to my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) and 285 to my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) and to the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) and to the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) for not having been here when they made their speeches, but I have seen a note of what they said. Apart from those, I have had the pleasure of listening to all the other speeches and I found myself in agreement with many of the views expressed on both sides of the House. By that I do not mean to suggest that there has been a constant theme of unanimity in the debate. That would be too much to hope for. Indeed, it would probably have made the debate rather dull. But, with few exceptions, the general tenor of the debate has shown that although on both sides of the House there are differences of emphasis, suggestion and method, nevertheless the divisions between us on the major questions of the day are not all that wide.
One thing which has emerged very clearly from the debate is that when we have passed through a time of acute crisis, such as that of the last ten days, we emerge with a clearer and sharper vision of the real issues which are at stake in foreign affairs and with a deeper consciousness of our responsibilities. Having stared danger in the face, perhaps we can now better appreciate what it is we are up against and what the consequences of weakness or irresolution or disunity might be.
Perhaps, as many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have said, the most hopeful aspect of the crisis in Cuba is that it may have given a new stimulus to the Russians and to the West to try to end the tensions in our relations and to find just and lasting settlements in the many areas of dispute between us. It has been generally accepted in the debate that there is one respect in which progress towards agreement between East and West is both urgent and possible, certainly more urgent and perhaps more possible than before the Cuban crisis. That is the negotiations for general and complete disarmament and for the banning of nuclear tests. I should like to devote the main part of my speech to those questions, but before doing so I 286 shall try to cover some of the other matters which have been raised.
The first complaint of the right hon. Member for Huyton was about the arms policy towards South Africa and he referred in particular to the provision of fighter aircraft. Our arms policy towards all foreign countries—and, of course, South Africa is a foreign country as far as we are concerned—is to allow arms sales to countries with whom we are in normal relations. South Africa is a sovereign country and as such has the right to buy arms for external defence.
We scrutinise all requests from the political as well as the strategic and economic aspects before they are authorised. This is the case with South Africa, and the possibility that a particular supply of arms may be used for measures of internal repression is taken into account. Not all arms, of course, are suitable for such use or are likely to be so used. These are Buccaneer aircraft, long-range naval aircraft now coming into service with the Royal Navy. Their delivery will enable South Africa to play her part in the defence of the sea routes round the Cape in which our two Governments have a longstanding common interest, as is shown by the Simonstown Base which we maintain in South Africa. I am informed that the specialist performance and role of the Buccaneers make them quite unsuitable for use in suppressing civilian disturbances.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
The hon. Gentleman did not go quite so far as to say that this was for the defence of the free world and I am glad that he did not. Is he not aware that any arms shipment to South Africa will be regarded, not only here but all over the world, as tacit and material support of its evil policy of apartheid?Will not the hon. Gentleman accept our proposal for a complete embargo on the tear gas and all the other equipment to South Africa, whether used for internal or external purposes?
§ Mr. Thomas
Tear gas is quite different. I would not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the shipment of these fighter aircraft in any way alters our attitude towards apartheid. We have made our view—and I myself have done 287 so during the debates on the South Africa Bill—abundantly clear and this does not alter our attitude towards apartheid one bit.
As for arms to Portugal, I can speak only for Her Majesty's Government, of course. Our policy is still that announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the House on 27th June, last year. We do not send military equipment to the Portuguese overseas provinces. With metropolitan Portugal we have to take into account the fact that Portugal is a N.A.T.O. ally and we are ready to meet what we consider to be reasonable requirements for metropolitan use.
The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned the Congo. I was sorry that he took a pessimistic view of the possibility of a settlement there. He said that agreement at the moment is as far away as ever. We have certainly had two dangerous and frustrating years in the Congo, but I express some hope—I do not wish to be too optimistic—that we may well be in sight of a solution by negotiation to the problems which have beset that country.
At the beginning of September, proposals for national reconciliation, put forward by the United Nations, were accepted by both the Congolese Central Government and the Katangan authorities. Her Majesty's Government warmly welcomed these proposals, and we have strongly urged that they be promptly carried out. Discussions have since been continuing in Elisabethville, in the commissions set up to work out practical steps for putting the proposals into effect. These have included the question of the division of revenues, and a cease-fire. In Leopoldville the Central Government have produced a draft federal constitution with the aid of United Nations experts.
Meanwhile, progress has been made on a number of points. The repair of the Lubilash Bridge has made possible the reopening of the traditional communications link by railway and river between Katanga and Leopoldville, and telegraph and telephone services have been restarted. Mr. Tshombe has also agreed to pay 2 million dollars to the Central Government, which I nope may be taken as indicating an acceptance of his obliga- 288 tion under the national reconciliation proposals for a division of revenues and foreign exchange with Mr. Adoula's Government.
Mr. Philip Noel-Derby (Baker, South)
I hope that the hon. Member is not implying by what he says that 2 million dollars is an adequate contribution, considering that over the first two years Mr. Tshombe received £40 million from the Union Miniere, Which, under the concession, should have been paid to the Central Government.
§ Mr. Thomas
I am not implying that it was an adequate contribution, but at least they have agreed to pay this amount to the Central Government, and I hope that it will be taken as indicating an acceptance of an obligation on their part under the national reconciliation proposals. This is an important matter.
As we have already made clear in this House, Her Majesty's Government believe that any settlement, if it is to be lasting and satisfactory, must be reached by agreement between the Congolese themselves. To this end we believe that progress must be maintained in accordance with the conciliation proposals until the peaceful reunification of the Congo is completed, so that all Congolese can join together in the vital work of reconstructing their country.
The right hon. Member for Huyton also mentioned an air build-up in Katanga. All I can tell him about that is that a report to the Acting Secretary-General by the officer in charge of the United Nations force in the Congo, published in New York on 9th October, said that evidence had been received of the construction and extension of airports and runways and the purchase and arrival in Katanga since the beginning of this year of eight light aircraft and seven trainers. But, as is so often the case in regard to events in the Congo, there have been accusations and counter-accusations. There have been accusations that the Katangese were about to make a bombing attack, and accusations by Katanga that Central Government troops were about to mount an offensive. It is very difficult to arrive at the truth, but the latest information that I have received about Katanga is that the situation there is very quiet. The right hon. Gentleman asked what we intended 289 to do about it. I can say, firmly, that no fighting aircraft in Katanga will have come from this country.
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East raised certain points about the United Nations. He said that the United Nations is the great hope for the future peace and prosperity of the world. I agree with him.
I thought that I detected at some points in the hon. Gentleman's speech some criticism of Her Majesty's Government's attitude towards the United Nations. I remind the House that we have been a loyal member of the Organisation since its inception. We have repeatedly proclaimed our faith in it. We meet our full share of its regular costs. We play a constructive part in the activities of the whole United Nations family of organisations and, not least, we make a substantial contribution to its voluntary funds for economic and social development. This very day we have bought twelve million dollars worth of United Nations Bonds in an effort to keep the Organisation solvent. I was sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman say that this is a niggardly amount. I remind him that we are the second largest contributor and that only the United States of America exceeds us in the amount of money that it spends.
The hon. Gentleman also expressed the view that the Acting Secretary-General, U Thant, should be confirmed in office as Secretary-General. I should like to say what high respect Her Majesty's Government have for U Thant. We have the highest regard for and confidence in him. We are certainly ready to support his confirmation in the office of Secretary-General, should that be his wish and that of the General Assembly.
Another matter raised by the hon. Gentleman was the action taken by the General Assembly against defaulters. It is certainly not the wish of the Government that any member should lose its vote in the General Assembly, but this is the penalty provided for by Article 19 of the Charter when arrears equal or exceed two years' contributions. If members choose to default in their contributions, I agree that they must face 290 the consequences. In our view, the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which has the effect of confirming that Article 19 applies not only to subscriptions to the regular budget but to contributions to the special accounts for the Middle East and the Congo, must be upheld if the financial prospects of the United Nations and the authority of the Court are not to be severely damaged. Therefore, we shall press strongly for the endorsement by the General Assembly of the Court's opinion.
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and other hon. Members asked about consultation in N.A.T.O., in particular about consultation if there were a question of nuclear weapons having to be used to defend N.A.T.O. territory. N.A.T.O. Ministers met at Athens in May. Among other things they agreed about a series of guide lines governing and clarifying the circumstances in which the use of nuclear weapons would be authorised in defence of N.A.T.O. territory. These are general principles only. To be more specific would be to diminish the value of the deterrent. However, these are principles upon which the member Governments of the alliance have agreed.
These guide lines imply no alteration in the existing arrangements for authorising the use of nuclear weapons. The power to do that remains firmly in political hands. As to consultation more generally in the North Atlantic Council, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is aware, the North Atlantic Council, which consists of representatives of all the member countries, meets regularly at least once a week to discuss problems of concern to the alliance. These discussions range widely and frankly over many fields, both political and military. Subordinate to the Council and meeting as regularly is the Committee of Political Advisers. The Council and the Committee together provide opportunities for immediate detailed consultation on any political issue concerning the alliance. In our view, this machinery works well and is fully used.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
Was there any meeting of the Council during the whole of the Cuban crisis?
§ Mr. Thomas
This matter has been discussed very frequently, not only today but yesterday. The hon. Member knows 291 that it was a matter which required immediate action. The President having received confirmation on the Saturday, as soon as the action was taken there was a meeting of N.A.T.O. where the matter was discussed.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Wrekin (Mr. W. Yates) spent some time discussing the Yemen in what was described by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne as a fascinating speech. I do not dissent from that description. However, I cannot add to what my right hon. Friend told the House today about recognition. We must base our attitude on the normal criteria for recognition of a new regime. My hon. Friend suggested that in some way there might be a link between recognition of the new regime in the Yemen and a resumption of diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. However, there is no connection between the two problems. The criteria for recognition of the Yemen has been stated by my right hon. Friend. As for Saudi Arabia, we already recognise the established Government but have no diplomatic relations with them. Relations were broken off, as my hon. Friend knows, by the Saudis at the time of Suez. We are willing to restore them without conditions, but the Saudis themselves insist on certain unacceptable conditions.
§ Mr. W. Yates
My right hon. Friend said that the Crown Prince, Muhammad al Badr, is still alive. If so, are Her Majesty's Government going to do anything to support him in his return to the throne, or what is their position?
§ Mr. Thomas
We have information that he is alive. The information is based on certain evidence such as photographs which have appeared in the Saudi Arabian paper and on broadcasts where his voice has been recognised. That is the extent of our information. The question of recognition will be based on the recognised criteria mentioned by my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
If the hon. Gentleman now proposes to leave the debate and go to the other part of the speech which he said he was going to deliver, may I remind him that at the end of my speech I asked a question. I should be very grateful, and I am sure that the House and the country would be very interested, if he were able to give me an answer.
§ Mr. Thomas
May I go on to the part of the speech which I said I was going to get on to and, if I can finish it by the time ten o'clock arrives, perhaps I might be able to deal with the hon. Gentleman's question.
§ Mr. Silverman rose—
§ Mr. Thomas
I should now like to turn to the field of disarmament and nuclear tests. As I said at the beginning of my speech, it is in this field that the Cuba crisis has underlined most sharply the need for progress and, at the same time, offered, perhaps, the best opportunities for a new step forward.
One lesson of the Cuba crisis stands out clearly for all to see. It is that nothing could be more dangerous than an attempt to move towards disarmament without adequate and foolproof provision for verification and control. The actions of the Soviet Government in Cuba have exposed to everyone the folly of accepting verbal assurances, even when they are solemnly given by Russia's most exalted representatives. It may be that the Soviet Union has learned from this experience that it does not pay to try to deceive the world. I hope that is so. But I certainly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin that the lesson for us is that mutual trust between nations can be based only on adequate verification to ensure that each side is carrying out its undertakings.
In the negotiations for general and complete disarmament and for the banning of nuclear tests, the central point of dispute between the West and the Soviet Union has always been the question of verification and control. The events of the last ten days should surely have convinced everyone that we cannot possibly accept agreements in which the verification is not complete enough to guarantee our security.
If this has been highlighted by recent events we can, perhaps, also hope that the chances of progress have also been increased. The Russians have accepted the principle of independent verification by agreeing that the dismantling of their 293 missile bases in Cuba should be carried out in the presence of inspectors from the United Nations Secretariat. They have recognised that unless these inspectors were present it would not be enough for them to promise to dismantle the bases or to give assurances that the promise had been caried out. We can only hope that this will be a good precedent when the detailed disarmament negotiations are resumed.
Perhaps I ca n take this opportunity of reviewing briefly the course of Geneva negotiations since we last debated the subject on 23rd July. I am sorry to tell the House that no significant progress has yet been registered either in the disarmament negotiations or in the discussions for a nuclear tests ban. The most that can be said is that the discussions were conducted in a reasonable atmosphere, and there was a relative absence of polemics. The Geneva Conference continued in session until 7th September, when discussion of these questions was transferred to the United Nations. A White Paper covering this period at Geneva has been prepared, and will be published on 14th November.
Discussion on disarmament during the second session at Geneva was again centred on the two draft plans that have been referred to so often in this debate—the American plan and the Soviet plan; which they presented to the conference soon after it opened. Whereas discussions during the first session tended to be general in nature, ranging widely over the whole field of disarmament, during this second session the conference has started to examine in detail the main problems arising in the first stage of disarmament. This is a procedure which my hon. Friend the Minister of State has advocated, and it has contributed to a more orderly and constructive debate of the complex problems with which the conference is faced. Unfortunately, the conference did not get very far in dealing with the subjects listed. To aid the discussions and to get to grips with the problems to be solved, the United Kingdom delegate tabled two technical papers on nuclear delivery vehicles and one on the cut-off of fissile material production, and these will appear in the White Paper to be published.
Both 'the Americans and the Russians made changes in their plans during this 294 second session. The American changes were constructive, and improved their outline treaty. We are continuing to consult them about improvements to the Western plan. The Russians have adopted some elements of the United States Treaty, but only in minor matters. On the basic issues separating East and West, the Russians remained inflexible. Perhaps I could say here that I was interested in the many constructive suggestions that were made in this debate by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East. I am sure that many of them will be useful.
There is one matter which I think is of interest. During his speech in the United Nations general debate on 21st September, Mr. Gromyko put forward what may prove to be an important modification in the Soviet position. As the hon. Member for Woolwich, East has told the House, the Russians have insisted on the elimination of all nuclear delivery vehicles in the first stage of disarmament, but, as the hon. Gentleman said, this is unrealistic, because it would leave the West without the protection of any nuclear deterrent.
Mr. Gromyko has now said that the Soviet Union is ready to agree that it and the United States should each retain on its own territory a strictly limited number of missiles during the first two stages of disarmament. He listed these as inter-continental ballistic missiles, antiaircraft missiles and anti-missile missiles. This means to imply Russian acceptance of what 'is usually called the concept of the minimum stable deterrent.
It is difficult on the information at present available to assess the significance of this announcement, either in itself, or as a possible indication of a general change in the Soviet attitude. That it was made in the course of an abusive speech, was coupled with unacceptable conditions, and made in New York rather than at the conference table at Geneva, would suggest that the Soviet motive was principally a propaganda one. At first sight, as my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary has said in his speech in the general debate in New York,… it seems to me it is designed to eliminate the West's present superiority in nuclear delivery vehicles without considering 295 the advantages which the Soviet Union has from its superiority in conventional forces now.I hope we are wrong. At any rate, we will carefully consider any proposal of this kind. The only way to test the implications of such a proposal is, of course, to get down to negotiation.
All these matters will be debated in the United Nations where I am sure that world opinion will speak out strongly for further progress in this vital matter of disarmament. But, in our view, the right place for the long, patient and detailed discussions which will still be needed is the disarmament conference at Geneva.
As to nuclear tests, on the nuclear test ban negotiations there has been an important new move. On 22nd August the United States and the United Kingdom tabled an Geneva two new draft test ban treaties as alternatives. In this House on 23rd July my hon. Friend the Minister of State referred to the recent advances in Western seismic research which made new proposals possible. The results enabled us to simplify our requirements for verification in relation to underground tests, although not to dispense altogether with on-site inspections. The draft treaties also reflected and took account of the principles embodied in the 8-nation memorandum of 16th April.
The first draft tabled on 27th August was for a comprehensive treaty to prohibit all tests in all environments, with international verification in respect of underground tests only. The second draft treaty covered only tests in the atmosphere, under water and in outer space, with no requirement for international verification. This treaty is recognised by Her Majesty's Government as a second best, but they supported it, in view of Soviet objections to on-site inspection, in an endeavour to abolish tests in those environments Where there is a danger to health. It would also be, we felt, a major step in the right direction.
The only Soviet response has been to offer to sign a partial treaty banning tests 296 above ground, provided, however, that it is accompanied by a moratorium on underground tests. They argue that a partial treaty by itself would, in fact, legalise underground tests. This, I suggest, is a strange use of words.
Our reasons for rejecting a moratorium on underground tests are well known. These tests can be of considerable military importance and the Soviet Union could exploit an uncontrolled moratorium to her advantage. Moreover, an agreement on the Russian lines would be in effect a comprehensive ban without any international supervision and there would be no incentive while it lasted for the Russians to make any move towards concluding a binding and permanent treaty.
Soviet objections to a comprehensive treaty have centred on the question of international verification of underground tests. Large numbers of earth tremors occur each year, whose signals cannot be distinguished from those that would be caused by a nuclear test. The right to carry out a small number of inspections is intended as a deterrent to a Power that could otherwise carry out clandestine tests that would not be identified by the instruments.
The Russians continue to claim to be able to identify the nature of all significant underground events from seismic readings. They have, however, refused any explanation of this sweeping assertion which contradicts the evidence given by their scientists in the early Geneva negotiations. They have also refused repeated proposals to bring their scientists to the negotiating table. As to their assertion that on-site inspection would be a device for espionage, I agree that this hardly bears examination. There would be very few inspections, each conducted by a small group of international civil servants who would go to a specific place selected from seismic recordings, and could be accompanied throughout by as many Soviet officials as the Soviet Government wishes—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.