§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
Perhaps I may preface my remarks by saying that I hope that the Foreign Office w ill survive the onslaught of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell).
This foreign affairs debate has been prefaced by a very important visit by the Prime Minister and his leading colleagues to Washington. The Prime Minister returned on Thursday last and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and myself made a request for a statement to be made. It would certainly have been easier to base a foreign affairs debate upon a fuller statement of what the Prime Minister has achieved. However, it has not been vouchsafed to us.
I will, therefore, be opening the foreign affairs debate as I used to do in the old days, in the time of "Ernie" Bevin, in the 1945–51 Parliament. I shall, of course, concentrate chiefly in my opening remarks upon the interpretation we can or cannot put upon the Washington talks, with a view to eliciting from the Prime Minister what has been achieved, and getting from the Prime Minister a statement of what Government policy is.
In the time of "Ernie" Bevin, foreign affairs debates consisted of what he used to describe as a tour d'horizon. This involved an enormous speech and a look at almost every country in the world. I remember him coming to me after one of his most noble efforts and saying, "I have got rid of this … brief; come and have a beer." It was in those moments that "Ernie" Bevin was most affectionately regarded by this side of the House. There is always the difficulty in foreign affairs debates of avoiding a tour d'horizon. I shall not be able to avoid it altogether, because there are parts of the world about which I wish to put questions to the Government. I think that it is absolutely essential.
The Opposition deliberately did not indulge in foreign affairs questioning in the debate on the Address. This is the first occasion when we have been able to put foreign affairs points to the Government, including the whole question of the Washington talks and the deterrent. Therefore, I shall be putting such points in the assurance that Members on both sides of the House will 402 take advantage of the debate to air the questions of foreign policy, as well as the questions of defence, which naturally arise.
We note that in general terms the Government are following the main lines of the foreign policy which we laid down, but we are anxious to hear what are the plans for a multilateral force, of whatever sort it may be, and what the Prime Minister proposes to do with the British nuclear deterrent. What we do or say during the rest of the debate will depend upon the Prime Minister's speech, and we shall decide our actions at the end of the debate entirely on what the Prime Minister says in the course of this afternoon.
Meanwhile, we are patiently awaiting the return of the Foreign Secretary to the House. We must also point out the difficulty of making contact with his other Parliamentary colleagues, the Ministers of State responsible for disarmament and for United Nations affairs, who are not only not in the House but evidently are to be very seldom in this country, either. We do not regard their appointment as an improvement upon the arrangements which we had in our own Government, which, we believed, better served the interests of Parliament and the interests of the country. We therefore have to rely on the Prime Minister and the other Ministers of State to keep us informed on the vital issues of life and death which are involved in the conduct of foreign policy.
In his Guildhall speech the Prime Minister said that he would ask the British people to make only one sacrifice, and that was the sacrifice of illusion. We trust that that is so. We have our own ideas about what illusions are, and some of them may come out in the debate this afternoon. There is one illusion which the Prime Minister has. I do not believe that he can save money, as he claims, on defence and yet have an Atlantic nuclear force, because I do not believe that that will be practical politics, or that it will work out in the long run. I think that he will be paying the piper and not calling the tune.
What about our basic aims as the Opposition? Power and the balance of power between nations and alliances still plays the decisive part in world affairs. This is not the ideal condition, but it is 403 the condition which we must acknowledge as existing. The test which we on this side of the House apply to the new Government's policy can be summed up under three headings. First, will it keep Britain strong and ensure our national defence and security in a nuclear age? Secondly, will it enable us to make our full contribution to the strength and unity of the Western Alliance? Thirdly, does it uphold our many worldwide responsibilities for the maintenance of peace and security outside the N.A.T.O. area?
I shall be dealing in my speech with the far-flung British responsibilities overseas outside the N.A.T.O. area—the age of Soviet-Chinese tension, the age of the Chinese development and explosion of her own bomb; and I shall ask questions about the position of India and India's defence. This, therefore, is not just a debate about N.A.T.O. It is a debate about our far-flung and widespread responsibilities.
I come to the first issue, the effect of the Washington talks on Britain's position as a nuclear Power and our relationship with N.A.T.O. I should like to make it clear to the Prime Minister and his right hon. and hon. Friends that we on this side of the House welcome any reaffirmation which he may give us of close and friendly ties with the United States and with Canada. We welcome any report, as a result of his recent visit, which brings those ties closer together. We should also be glad to hear of any indication of the strengthening of the unity of N.A.T.O. and any plans for the revision or reaffirmation of the N.A.T.O. Alliance which are of a constructive character. I want to make it clear at the outset that the Opposition wish to take a constructive view of any constructive plans with which we can find ourselves in agreement.
If decisions are to be taken—and we shall hear that from the Prime Minister's speech—it will be difficult or impossible to revise them later. Their results cannot be measured in a superficial way. Above all, I implore the Prime Minister not to try to settle everything in 100 days. These decisions may affect this country for 10, 20 or more years ahead. One of the great mistakes of the Government has been the mad rush to St. Helena which the Prime Minister is himself pur- 404 suing and in which, in 50 more days, he will be incarcerated.
We want to be clear in the debate on the vital question whether the House is called upon to decide, in particular, on the position of Britain. What sacrifices is Britain called upon to make for the nuclear course which the Prime Minister is following? What does he propose to give away and what, if anything, does he hope to get in return as a result of his bargaining? The communiqué at the end of the Washington talks, which we have had vouchsafed to us in circulation, says, like all communiqués, practically nothing. It makes it clear that President Johnson and the Prime Minister have agreed to postpone action on all the major decisions until further discussions have taken place with the allies concerned. As we heard at Brighton in the Prime Minister's intemperate remarks about an alleged Press leak, there is evidently no secret pact between President Johnson and himself.
It is wise to take time to make these decisions—and we do not grumble about that—but after the blaze of publicity in which the Prime Minister departed, with a whole caravan of correspondents, there is reflected in the Press and public opinion a considerable feeling of disenchantment and disillusionment, and we should like to hear from the Prime Minister what is the constructive achievement of the Washington visit. Nobody listening to the Prime Minister on 23rd November, shortly before he went to Washington, could doubt that he was highly critical of the original concept of a multilateral nuclear force. He has argued on several occasions in the past that it would encourage German nuclear ambitions and that it would, therefore, he unacceptable to the Soviet Union; that it would make disarmament more difficult; and that it would threaten the unity of the Western Alliance. That is a formidable indictment, and the Prime Minister knows that he has spoken on those lines.
As early as 3rd July, 1963, the right hon. Gentleman referred to such an international force as "nonsense" and "nonsensical". As far as we can judge—and we hope to hear more—he is seeking to modify the idea of a multilateral force limited to mixed-man surface vessels so 405 as to reconcile different views and pressures inside and outside this country, inside and outside this House and inside arid outside his own party. As the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) wrote in Tribune:Even in the two months' life of the present Government they have already made pronouncements, particularly on matters of foreign policy and defence, which indicate that they don't feel themselves bound by past decisions which the party made and which they personally supported.We should like to ask whether what has emerged from all this travail is the idea of an Atlantic nuclear force in which all British nuclear forces, both existing and planned, would be pooled under the common ownership and command of N.A.T.O. We should like to ask whether that is the plan and whether it will, in fact, be tinder the command of N.A.T.O., or whether there will be collaboration or other form of command, because we have heard so many different versions of what may happen. What will interest my hon. Friends most, I think, is the position of Britain in this matter, but before I come to that let me look for a few minutes at the position of our allies.
The rôle attributed to Germany in any Mantic nuclear force is clearly a matter of exceptional importance. On this side of the House we fully accept German claims to equal rights and status in the N.A.T.O. Alliance. We are convinced that responsible German leaders sincerely mean to uphold the treaty obligations which the Federal German Government freely undertook not to develop its own nuclear arms. It must be admitted, nevertheless, that anxieties as to the possible course of events in future years are persistent and profound. The Prime Minister has himself spoken of the impossibility of giving Germany a finger on the nuclear trigger—and I need not quote him from the sources which I have here.
We are entitled to ask the Prime Minister how he proposes to solve the problem of meeting the German demands for some further influence different from and presumably in excess of the part which they already play in N.A.T.O. In our debate on 23rd November my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition described the arrangements made within N.A.T.O. for the pooling of the forces—the arrangements made at Omaha and elsewhere. We should like to know what 406 extra influence the Prime Minister designates for Germany over and above that which already exists in N.A.T.O.
At the same time, what proposal has he for preventing or forestalling national nuclear forces—a policy with which we are all in agreement? We also need much fuller information about the attitude of the Federal German Government towards a revised multilateral force and the views which they have expressed both in Bonn and in London. We understand that the Prime Minister is to go to Bonn in January, and we should value some Preliminary information before he goes. It appears from our own contacts that the Germans are still insistent on some form of surface vessel force. How far have they been weaned from these ideas and how are the ideas developing?
So much for Germany. The position of France in this nuclear context is still also a major consideration. President de Gaulle and his Administration have threatened that a N.A.T.O. multilateral force in any shape or form is totally unacceptable to them. Of course, General de Gaulle has used similar threats before. But the fact remains that no future design for Europe can be imagined without France, or, for that matter, without Britain. We should, therefore, like to know from the Prime Minister and his colleagues what plans they have for discussions with the French Government on this subject and whether efforts have been made, or will be made, to overcome the objections of President de Gaulle and the French. We are fully aware—and the House must be aware—that instead of setting up a nuclear force which would fortify N.A.T.O. we might end by splitting the alliance wide open. That would be a disastrous result from all the permutations and combinations in which we as a nation appear to be engaged.
I would ask, further, what are likely to be the relations with the Soviet Union. I understand that Mr. Gromyko is coming here, but not until March. Meanwhile, the new party leader, Mr. Brezhnev, speaking in Moscow on 3rd December, again reaffirmed the strongest Soviet opposition to a multilateral force in N.A.T.O., whatever its composition might be. He insisted that relations between Russia and the West would certainly be affected if the project were to mature.
407 On the strength of what he said in the past, and what we have heard from the other side of the Iron Curtain, does the Prime Minister now regard a multilateral or Atlantic nuclear force as a bar to reaching further agreement with the Russians? There is also the very important question of how the control of those forces will or will not operate in practice. Do the Government envisage the United Kingdom having a veto on the use of the nuclear weapon in addition to the present purely American control over the actual firing?
What other form of joint control do the Government envisage by the participants in the force? There are so many varied reports about the nature of control that can or might be exercised that we should value a clear definition by the Government of what they have in mind.
In a recent television broadcast Mr. McGeorge Bundy, the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, said that no proposal would be submitted to Congress without the very clear understanding that there would be no nuclear assault by the multilateral force without the permission of the President, and he added:We are willing to consider the suggestion that this agreement should have in it a Clause which says somewhere, if and when Europe is fully unified and has a political authority that could take an enormous decision of this kind, that the arrangements proposed ought to be open to review.We should like to ask the Government, from the mouth of the Prime Minister, whether any such proposal was discussed in Washington, or whether any such proposal is in mind.
In the New York Times of the day before yesterday there were a variety of other proposals for control, some of which say that the Americans should not come in, and others of which say that there should be a French general in control. All this leads to intense confusion about the nature of the control that may be exercised in the force. The Prime Minister must this afternoon clear up this matter, otherwise the credibility of the Western deterrent will be called into question.
Those are some of the questions in the international field to which answers must be given.
408 I come now to the question of our own British security and the radically altered position which, as far as I can see, the Prime Minister has taken up in relation to our nuclear force. Having established that he accepts our nuclear armoury, we want to know what he intends to do with it. Since taking office the Prime Minister seems to have learned a lot about the vital character of our nuclear force. He seems to have surrendered the original idea, of which I have reference here on 16th January, 1964, of not accepting the purchase of the Polaris equipment from America. He seems to have gone back on his contemptuous words when he referred to ourso-called independent, so-called British, so-called deterrent."—[OFFicIAL REPORT, 16th January, 1964; Vol. 687, c. 437.]Having in the past devalued Britain's nuclear power the Government are now finding that our possession of these forces is the absolutely essential basis of their whole negotiating position. The Prime Minister is not only retaining the British nuclear deterrent, represented by the bombers, but he is apparently not going to consider cancelling the Polaris equipment. He owes it to our defence policy, while in office, that he has these nuclear assets which the Conservative Government rightly insisted on developing.
Naturally, we on this side welcome this more realistic attitude and this change of mind, but there remains one fundamental question which must be answered. Having apparently accepted that we must have nuclear forces, thus involving the expense and responsibility, is he going to abandon our ultimate vital right of independent control of such forces? Do the Government expect Britain permanently to renounce all right of control over her own nuclear force in any new multilateral or mixed-manned experiment or arrangement? This would be, as the Washington correspondent of The Times said on 10th November:An act of national abnegation, surely unprecedented,"—which he goes on to say—appears to have begun.Our position on this side of the House has been made perfectly clear. We stand by paragraph 9 of the Nassau Agreement, where we explicitly reserve the right, which President Kennedy fully accepted, for Britain to withdraw our 409 forces for our own purposes in any supreme national crisis.
We read in The Times today of the speech of the Foreign Secretary at N.A.T.O., in which he said that we should commit our nuclear forces irrevocably for the duration of the alliance, and we should like further explanations from the Prime Minister as to whether that is British policy. If it is, then the House of Commons should told about it, and not bodies outside the House itself.
Nothing has occurred since the Nassau Agreement to diminish the crucial importance of the guarantees which we then obtained. In our present dangerous world it unhappily remains the fact that the independent control of our own nuclear deterrent provides the only ultimate defence against nuclear attack or blackmail, and if this power were to be surrendered, or if we forfeited our vital right of control, the threat both to our national security and to our influence would be very great. This is not only a question of our national defence. It is a case of the independence of our views in foreign policy.
Before I leave this subject I should like to add this: if the Americans are to have the sole final veto, does not the pooling of British nuclear forces, which renounces all right of control, mean the transference of these forces from our control to that of the United States? Is it the intention, as some reports have suggested, that American electronic locks should be built into the British Polaris submarines contributed to a N.A.T.O. nuclear force? Do the Government accept this and all it means in relation to the future of any international, or nuclear, or N.A.T.O. force, such as the right hon. Gentleman may have in mind?
I now come to Britain's far-reaching defence commitments beyond the limits of the N.A.T.O. area. The emergence of China as a nuclear power has given a much sharper edge to these complications, and poses new questions for the future. Will the Prime Minister tell us how he proposes, if he commits our V-bomber force irrevocably to an Atlantic nuclear Power, to meet the situation and its needs east of Suez? Do his plans provide for the possibility 410 of switching such British forces to the Middle East and Far Eastern areas where the threat to peace is increasing at a time when the immediate danger of war in Europe is less? I ask that because there is no doubt that any experience, in office or out of office, of the British position in the world would show that our real anxieties at the moment are east of Suez and not in Europe.
Those are only some of the questions to which we expect an answer from the Prime Minister today. We agree with him that our first aim must be to prevent the proliferation and dissemination—
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
The right hon. Gentleman has used the phrase "east of Suez", and it has been used in the House before. Is he suggesting that the communications system for the Polaris submarines ordered by the previous Government would have enabled them to be deployed east of Suez?
§ Mr. Butler
I should not like to give an answer which gave the impression that the technical capabilities of the Polaris submarines could be used in such a way. I think that that is a matter which will have to be decided in the future, but not on present experience.
What I am asking is whether any of the bombers could be so used in the Middle East or Far East where they would, I think, be a very powerful addition to the British arm, and a very powerful addition to the cause of world peace.
I have been into this question of the East as well as the N.A.T.O. area, and I come now to the question of non-dissemination and non-proliferation of nuclear arms. This is an objective with which we agree, and which, we trust, the Government will push ahead in the future. The communiqué from the Washington talks rightly stresses the urgency ofa world-wide effort to permit the non-dissemination and non-acquisition of nuclear weapons, and of continuing Western initiatives towards arms control and disarmament.The need for such initiative is more than ever present today. China's emergence as a nuclear Power must clearly have far reaching effects on the balance of forces in the Far East.
§ Mr. Warbey
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in giving way. He has twice referred to China's emergence as a nuclear Power. At what date does the right hon. Gentleman expect China to become a nuclear Power in the sense in which the United States or the Soviet Union are nuclear Powers?
§ Mr. Butler
I cannot be expected to give a final opinion on that to the House. If the Government could give us an opinion I should be very grateful, because they are in possession of more information on this subject than we are. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman himself will give us his own opinion.
I want to ask the Prime Minister some questions about the position of India. The inducement to develop an Indian nuclear arms programme cannot be ignored, but that, of course, would defeat and destroy our whole object of trying to prevent nuclear dissemination, as well as imposing a crippling burden on India's own economy. There has been some talk of a Western or a United Nations' guarantee for India against a nuclear threat from China. Perhaps the Prime Minister could tell us whether he discussed this with President Johnson and whether there was any discussion of this with the Indian Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, when he was here recently. If he can give us any further information about the defence of India we shall be extremely grateful.
On the general subject of non-dissemination and disarmament, we hope to hear more from the Government. The Socialists' election manifesto spoke of a new break-through in the disarmament negotiations. Great expectations have been aroused, and we hope to hear more before long from the newly appointed Minister who is in charge of disarmament. But so far as we can see, the Government would do best to build on the initiative which I outlined at Geneva on 25th February this year. I will just summarise them as follows, because my right hon.
412 Friend will be speaking later in this debate, and he will be able to develop further our own plans for disarmament.
It is perfectly clear that we should press ahead on the following lines: an agreement for further dissemination; an agreement for observation posts; a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty; the increased use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes; a freeze of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles; the early physical destruction of some armaments; and improved procedure for the disarmament conference; new proposals for verification; and, finally, proposals for international peace-making which were developed in a Private Member's Motion on Monday before last and which led to a very interesting debate in which constructive ideas were expressed on both sides of the House.
The Prime Minister owes it to the House to tell us now, whether in the disarmament field, there is to be this breakthrough, or whether, as I believe, they will build patiently upon the initiatives that we have taken.
I want, during my closing remarks, to have a glimpse of literally two minutes each at a variety of subjects in the field of foreign affairs. The first relates to Malaysia and Viet-Nam. I think that we can take it for certain that the whole House supports our efforts to stand up against and, if necessary, reply to and counter the Indonesian threat to Malaysia.
On the question of Viet-Nam, I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether he has arranged with President Johnson for any additional help by the British to the American effort to stop Communist subversion in South Viet-Nam and whether there is to be any strengthening of the Thompson mission, or any other method of improving the situation in Viet-Nam, because what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and I found when we talked to President Johnson and Mr. Rusk was that the Americans feel that there is something linked between their help for us in Malaysia and our help for them in South Viet-Nam. I should like to say, finally on this, that I hope that we have in no way entered into any commitment for extending the war into North Viet-Nam.
413 I come for the next two minutes to the Middle East. The Prime Minister agreed with me at Question Time that I could raise in this debate the question of Government policy in relation to the Middle East. We are opposed to the use of force, or the threat of force, anywhere in the world, and we are opposed to this particularly in the Middle East. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government made a broadcast attacking the policies of Ernest Bevin in the Middle East, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister what is the official policy of the Government?
I should like to ask him, in relation particularly to Israel, whether he endorses the statement made by the former Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Macmillan, on 14th May, 1963, in which he said, supporting President Kennedy's pledge on the Middle East:We regard the United Nations as being primarily responsible for the maintenance of peace in the area. If any threat to peace arises we will consult immediately with the United Nations and will take whatever action we feel may be required."— [OFFICIAL REPORT. 14th May. 1963; Vol. 677, c. 142.]If the Government would endorse that statement, then I think that it would give great satisfaction to Israel and would be a stabilising factor in Middle East politics.
The last thing I want to ask about the Middle East is whether the conference of the Yemen, which brought such hopes of an early settlement between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Republic, is likely to come to anything, and, if so, whether there is any likely early withdrawal of the Egyptian forces.
I want to ask one question about Cyprus. When I was at the Foreign Office, Cyprus was occupying our attention hourly and every day. Latterly, there has been a slight abatement of the urgency of the Cyprus problem, and we are all thankful for that. Is it true that an announcement will be made after the United Nations Assembly by Senor Galo Plazo, the mediator, and if so, have the Government any statement to make on that subject in relation to Cyprus policy? We would only say that we do not think that any true and final settlement of the Cyprus problem can be achieved unless we have regard to the needs of the minority in the island, 414 and believe that that must be borne in mind in any settlement that is made.
We would further like to insist that the bases have never formed part of Senor Galo Plazo's mediation. We regard the existence of British bases as vital to our future in the island. If we can receive some assurance from the Government on that, we should imagine that a settlement of the Cyprus problem is on the right lines.
On the subject of the Congo, all I have to say is this. The Minister of State has said, in dealing with the terrible situation in the Congo, that he will rely on the official Government forces for the possible rescue not only of British civilians, but also of others who are in need there. We must remember the needs of the Asians and the others involved, after the terrible slaughter that has gone on in the Congo.
I raised at Question Time the question whether we could he helped by the Red Cross, by the Organisation of African unity, or by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I was informed that there is a hope of keeping contact with the Organisation of African Unity. Besides the arrangements made with the Congolese official forces, I hope that the Government will keep closely in touch with those forces. They told me that a Beverley aircraft was standing by in case of need, and I trust that, in case of need, we may be able to intervene and save valuable lives, and especially the British subjects involved.
I do not think that we have any complaint about the Minister of State's statement. I only hope that it will be followed up by the Government in the previous way and that they will keep us and the House informed.
In closing, I would remind the House that while this debate has taken place largely round the question of a multilateral force we must always remember our own situation in Europe. We have every cause to complain that relations with the European countries have been rendered extremely difficult owing to Government action. As the correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor said on 24th February:There appears to be a curiously insensitive attitude to the feelings of others, particularly if they happen to be foreigners.415 This is a very serious matter in relation to the future of Europe, and I ask the Prime Minister, or the Minister of State, whether the Government will support the initiative taken by both Labour and Conservative Members at the Western European Assembly meeting in favour of early conversations about political union in Europe and the inclusion of Britain in such talks, which are absolutely vital to the future of Europe. Whether we discuss our Atlantic posture, or the Far East or the Middle East, or any other part of the world, we remain fundamentally Europeans, and it is absolutely vital for us to take the initiative in relation to political union if we get the chance.
The House will be glad to hear that I have no more tours d'horizon to accomplish. I have touched as shortly as I could on a variety of foreign affairs subjects, but what I think this debate will turn on is our judgment of the Prime Minister's proposals—whether they preserve our own national security and integrity, and whether they further the alliance on which our joint security depends. We shall await his words in order to make a judgment upon what we consider to be his own interpretation of our national security, and decide our actions accordingly.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
I think that the whole House will agree that the right hon. Gentleman put his very long series of questions and observations in a very agreeable and moderate way. If we were able to revive the very pleasant custom which existed in his relations with Ernest Bevin I would say that at the end of that speech he earned his beer, and I would be very glad to join him in it.
He referred, not too roughly, to the fact that the Minister of State responsible for disarmament and the Minister of State responsible for United Nations affairs were in another place. He seemed to regard this as a little inconvenient. I think that the right hon. Gentleman was saying this to get the reply that he knows he will get. I am sure that he will not mind my saying that we, in Opposition, had to deal for three years with the fact that the Foreign Secretary himself was in another place, and not 416 just Ministers of State. In forming a Government it would have been quite easy to arrange for my right hon. Friend to be recommended to go to another place, but I thought that it would be an extremely offensive thing to do to the House, to say that we were going to keep the Foreign Secretary in the Lords. I hope that hon. Members opposite will be able to restrain their patience a little longer. They may expect to see my right hon. Friend fairly soon. If I had adopted the simple course advocated by hon. Members opposite, my right hon. Friend might have been in the Lords for as long as the Leader of the Opposition was there, which we thought was a monstrous treatment of Parliament.
The right hon. Gentleman also referred—and this was extremely helpful—to the question of an initiative on disarmament, and to our plans for further progress there. We read in the election a statement by the Leader of the Opposition that they had some great new dynamic initiative in disarmament. It was a little disappointing to learn that the American Government did not know anything about it, and even more that the then Foreign Secretary, on his famous and, I am sure—for him—unusually communicative train journey, also had not heard of this particular initiative on disarmament. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will help us. We have been looking all over for it since he came to office. We have opened cupboards and desks, and turned up the carpets. If he can tell us where we are going to find this it will be extremely helpful.
The right hon. Gentleman raised many questions about Washington. I hope to deal with them in my speech. He asked some important questions about Vietnam. I dealt with the first in answer to a Question yesterday. I can tell him quite clearly, in answer to his further question, that there has certainly been no commitment for extending the war into North Vietnam. I can give him a clear answer on that.
I hope that I can deal with his question about the Middle East quite simply. We certainly endorse what the right hon. Gentleman the then Prime Minister said, some two or three years ago, in the quotation made by the right hon. Gentleman. Again, I can answer his question on 417 Cyprus quite simply. As far as we are concerned—and I think that this was the understanding of the previous Government—the bases are not in the terms of reference of the United Nations conciliator. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the question of British V-bombers and Polaris submarines. I hope to be quite clear about this, and I am hoping to deal with this subject in a way which will be acceptable to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Should they wish to pursue the matter further—and I have a feeling that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has his speech already prepared on this—I will have a further opportunity of talking, if I manage to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, at the end of this two-day debate.
The former Foreign Secretary referred to my remarks at the Guildhall about sacrificing illusions and delusions. I hope that by the time we have finished the debate tomorrow night we will have dealt with some illusions and delusions on this subject.
The House will agree that recent developments in world affairs require all of us to re-examine the lines of policy on which we and our allies have been working, to restate our objectives, to determine our priorities and chart the course which may well determine our policy for the next 10 years not only in Britain or in the Alliance, but in the world.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that with decisions of this degree of importance there must be no question of rushing them. It is clear to everybody that the problems that we are facing today and are likely to face in the future, as compared with those of 15 years ago, or 10 or even five years ago, or, perhaps, even compared with a year ago, have changed in their nature, intensity and, not least of all, in their geographical location. There has been an evolution in Soviet thinking on war and co-existence, which we have debated in past debates. The Chinese have exploded a nuclear device. The United Nations has more than doubled in size as the Colonial empires have passed into history. We now have a situation in which Africa has more votes in the General Assembly than any other Continent.
These are the basic facts that we are facing in the world. But there is more to it than that. Since none of the traditional 418 spoils of war that some people used to talk of are obtainable with nuclear weapons, it is legitimate to hope that the nuclear bomb may have eliminated the likelihood of war between nuclear Powers. This nuclear stalemate has already offered the possibilities of a more rational form of co-existence between East and West.
Again, the political emancipation of Colonial Territories, while inevitable and desirable—and both parties have frequently contributed in an historic sense to this emancipation—has highlighted the fact that political freedom in their eyes is only a beginning, and, as I remember quoting in a little book that I wrote called "War on Want", 11 years ago:Democracy is a word that rumbles meaninglessly in empty bellies.a factor which has a growing emphasis in many of these countries in their attitude to world problems.
It is common ground that we need to take a fresh look at the world around us, question the basic assumptions on which we have been operating for so long, decide what are the problems and challenges of the second half of the 1960s and of the 1970s, formulate fresh policies when needed and start to re-deploy our resources so that we can meet them.
In these two days I think it inevitable that a great deal of the emphasis will be on defence, but we have to relate our decisions in the field of defence to the broader objectives of our foreign policy and we have to relate both to the realities of the economic position which Britain faces and has, indeed, been facing for the past few years. I think that the objectives for which we are all working in world affairs are clear, and I do not believe there will be much controversy about them. We have to find means of strengthening our relations with our Allies and with our Commonwealth partners, reconciling the divisive trends that have recently developed. In doing this we have not only to avoid measures which lead to the spread of nuclear weapons, whether within or outside the Alliance; we must frame our policies in such a way as to provide copper-bottomed guarantees against such proliferation.
In our policies within the Alliance and outside it we must do everything in our power to enable us to take advantage of 419 the opportunities which I believe now present themselves for reducing tension between East and West. In particular, we must be on the watch for any opportunities for a new breakthrough in disarmament whether in the broad field of comprehensive nuclear and conventional disarmament, on which—I think the right hon. Gentleman was making this point—so much patient effort has been expended, or in other directions where, perhaps, quicker results might be obtained.
We must ensure that the most effective machinery is created for stopping small wars from escalating into big ones, for quarantining small outbreaks of militarism or subversion, and we must be prepared to bring new thinking to the strengthening of the United Nations peace-keeping machinery. Because of Britain's world role we have to examine and, wherever necessary, strengthen our own ability to contribute to this task, whether by our own contributions to peace keeping within the United Nations or by our own direct actions, again whether within the regional alliances or within the Commonwealth, because we have this capacity in a peace-keeping sense which exists simply because we are there. We have in addition to deal swiftly and effectively with the problem of providing some international safeguards to non-nuclear Powers against the danger which results from new nations developing nuclear power. Any approach to world affairs that does not recognise the problem created by the Chinese detonation of a nuclear device is unreal and already outdated.
So much for the objectives, though I do not pretend for one moment that what I have said is exhaustive. We could all add very desirable objectives to what I have said. I said that we must look at this not only in relation to the field of foreign policy but also in relation to economic realities.
Taking first our own expenditure in money and in resources on defence programmes, whether of manpower or equipment, the plain fact is that we have been trying to do too much. The result has been gravely to weaken our economic strength and independence without producing viable defences. Planned defence expenditure in the pres 420 ent year represents 7.1 per cent. of our gross national product. This is a higher figure than in any other major Western country, with the exception of the United States.
There is built in to our defence system an unavoidable rate of increase—in the absence of changes of policy—which will mean, year by year, a crippling increase in the call on money and on resources. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for the Army, the other day, gave some alarming figures, which I do not think will be disputed, about the immediate rise that is ahead of us in the cost of equipping various Army units. Here there is an inexorable law that in terms of military expenditure the rise in costs is rising far faster than any conceivable increase in the gross national product.
As the House knows, the current year's Estimates amount to a fraction under £2,000 million for defence—a very small fraction indeed. Assuming the continuance of existing contracts and commitments, and assuming no change in policy, the Estimate for next year is bound to show a substantial increase, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman knows, and this figure is likely to rise to about £2,400 million five years from now, quite automatically, without any effective strengthening of our forces. I hope, therefore, that there is a general realisation now that reappraisal and retrenchment are necessary.
Nor can we ignore the direct strain on overseas expenditure. Overseas Government expenditure has been running at about £500 million a year. Gross military expenditure overseas, including defence aid, accounts for about £350 million. When we compare these figures with an estimated deficit this year on current and capital account together of some £700 million to £800 million, as has been estimated, it is possible for the House to get these expenditures into perspective in relation to our balance of payments problem. I am sure that the former Chancellor was as well aware of this as anyone.
Here I must draw attention to the special problem of our military expenditure balance on current account with Germany. Under the previous agreement which expired on 31st March last the Germans undertook to offset the cost of our troops in Germany to the amount of 421 £107 million over the two years, 1962–64. At that time the expenditure on our troops was running at about £70 million a year so that the net burden on the balance of payments was about £33 million spread over the two years. This year—I still have not been able to find out what happened following the negotiations of the right hon. Gentleman the former Chief Secretary, the foreign exchange costs of maintaining our troops in Germany will be about £85 million—that is the estimate—against which we can at present see no firm prospect of receiving more from Germany, by way of offset payments, than perhaps £25 million to £30 million. This means a gap falling or our balance of payments of something of the order of £55 million to £60 million—far more than under the previous agreement. I am certain the House will agree that this is an impossible situation. However, we hope to have further discussions and negotiations about it.
The problem we are facing derives from the fact that alone in the world—apart from the United States and the U.S.S.R. —we are trying to maintain three rôles. There is the strategic nuclear rôle. There is our conventional role within N.A.T.O., our commitment to the defence of Europe, to which we are committed by interest and by treaty. And there is our world rôle, one which no one in this House or indeed in the country, will wish us to give up or call in question.
Let me say right away, because I do not think that these facts are fully realised here or abroad, how great is the burden we are carrying not entirely on our own account, nor for our own interests alone. We have a major rôle in he Middle East, defending interests which are not exclusively ours, at a cost of about £125 million a year. We have numerous other contractual commitments in the Middle East and in Asia. We have to be ready at a moment's ,notice—I fully endorse what the right hon. Gentleman said about Malaysia—to respond to the needs of our Commonwealth partners, not least some of the newest self-governing countries within the Commonwealth. All of us have lively memories of the successful operations mounted in the early months of this year—to the efficiency of which I paid my tribute at the time—though every one of us realised how desperately the thin red line—and what a former Minister called the thin blue line—was stretched.
422 We should be abdicating from what I regard as our duty to the Commonwealth and to world peace and we should be abdicating from any hope of real influence in the world, if we were to think that this rôle could be abandoned. Indeed, in its fulfilment it may well be necessary, in certain respects to develop our strength, but in the way we do it and in the detailed control of expenditure, we have to apply imaginatively and ruthlessly the principles of cost-effectiveness and value for money.
May I turn for a moment to the balance between these three rôles because I am going to argue that they have got seriously out of balance. It is a continuing problem. Yesterday's danger leads to commitments and expenditure programmes which inevitably are not reduced when today brings a fresh threat, and the combined effect of both makes us less able to react effectively to the challenges of tomorrow.
I am going to leave on one side for the moment the whole question of Britain's nuclear rôle because that will be the centre of a good deal that I shall have to say later in my speech. We have to ask ourselves whether in our weapon programme—particularly some of the highly sophisticated weapons now in use, to say nothing of others on order—we are over-ensuring against a balance of dangers which is continually shifting, dangers, some of which may be receding.
Ten years ago few would have questioned the need for a maximum buildup to provide security in Europe and to equip all our Services with the most sophisticated and expensive weapons for this purpose. Through our rôle in N.A.T.O. we had to be prepared to meet a major war on European soil. Neither the Labour Government under Lord Attlee and Ernest Bevin nor the Government which followed could have allowed themselves to take this threat lightly.
But through a succession of more and more advanced aircraft and successive developments in missile techniques—whether home produced, as with Blue Streak, or imported from an ally—vie have added year by year to the cost per man in terms of money, in terms of resources and in terms of strain on scarce scientific and engineering resources. And we cannot say that this mounting cost has led to greater security.
423 However that may be argued, the relevant need of this kind of expenditure is thrown into doubt in a world where two major powers confront one another with an overwhelming destructive power through inter-continental missiles. It is thrown into question, too, by the fact —as is generally agreed and as I think the right hon. Gentleman emphasized—that the balance of danger is shifting away from the terrain of Europe to newer areas, and certainly areas where the weapons appropriate to Europe may not be the most effective; may indeed be tar too sophisticated for effective use.
If we were thinking purely of our ability to contribute our full share to a major war in Europe the case for the most sophisticated modern aircraft is undeniable. If Soviet defences, for example, were to be penetrated, the high-flying bombers of only three or four years ago are a dangerous anachronism. The United States Defence Secretary, in his evidence to Congress last year, made it clear that even the fastest and most advanced bombers in the United States Strategic Air Command could no longer be regarded as the spearhead of the deterrent, their rôle being to follow when the missiles have done their deadly work.
In certain areas of the world, therefore, perhaps it is right that while some weapons must become more sophisticated. we should recognise that in other areas military effectiveness depends on more, simpler and earlier, rather than on fewer, more complicated and later. In short, we need a radical reappraissal of our three rôles. In the light of this, we may need to look again at our weapons programme and see what weapons systems are really going to be needed, and what our mix of various kinds of weapons should be.
The Government's conclusion from the first long, cool look at this whole problem is that, on the interpretation so far put on our three rôles, we cannot do all that so far has been thought ideally desirable without fatally weakening our economy and, correspondingly, weakening our real defences.
I want to make it quite clear that whatever we may do in the field of cost effectiveness, value for money and a stringent review of expenditure, we cannot afford to relinquish our world rôle—our rôle which, for shorthand purposes, is some- 424 times called our "east of Suez" rôle, though this particular phrase, however convenient, lacks geographical accuracy.
I was glad to see last week in Washington the full recognition the United States gave to our unique rôle as a world peacekeeping Power. They recognise, I know, the importance of the bases we provide in case of need, simply because, as I said, we are there. Our maritime tradition, our reputation, our mobility, despite inadequate equipment, above all our Commonwealth history and connections, mean that Britain can provide for the Alliances and for the world peace-keeping rôle a contribution which no other country, not excluding America, can provide.
Because of our natural and inevitable preoccupation with the military problems of Europe, to which I shall shortly be coming, there are some defeatists in this country and some cynics abroad who have it all wrong; who say that Britain can never play a major rôle because, in terms of a continental army, we can never hope to compete, for example, with continental Powers and that in our contribution to the conventional forces of N.A.T.O. we must always be, in a sense, a second-class contributor. But none of our continental N.A.T.O. allies, nor any of our associates in the Middle East or Asian alliances, can compete with us in the range of the contribution we can make in those vast areas beyond Europe.
Obviously our overseas rôle depends on having adequate bases both for our peacekeeping forces and as an essential link in communications with areas still further afield. In the debate on 17th June, speaking from the Dispatch Box opposite, I made it clear then that our peace-keeping rôle would mean… bases where we can get them, not by force but by agreement …But as I underlined,In the long run, the security of a base depends on the willingness with which it is accepted by the local population."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th June, 1964; Vol. 696, c. 1404.]I expressed hope then that we have learned one lesson over the years—that a base held against the wishes of the local Government and the local population is a wasting asset.
If we are to fulfil our overseas rôle—and this is the view which I expressed in the debate in June, and I repeat it now 425 —we need most, if not all, of the bases we now hold, but we need to be accepted in those bases. To assist in creating conditions in which this would be possible must be one of the major priorities in our overseas policy, and to do this we must satisfy local governments and the peoples of those areas that our presence is of advantage to them as well as to us. This is what I mean when I talk about the indivisibility of our Commonwealth, foreign and defence policies.
We cannot maintain a world rôle on military strength alone. We must have acceptance, and acceptance of the British rôle depends on the image we present in our relations with foreign and Commonwealth countries. We have to show our Commonwealth partners that we are a loyal ally. This we are doing at heavy coat, and both parties have supported it. W have to show them, too, by our conduct in the broad issues of world affairs, that we are at one with them in the things that matter to them—in fighting oppression and racialism—and that our aims and interests are in harmony with theirs.
While I am not striking a controversial note today, I maintain that the difficult decisions which we have had to take—for example, in relation to South Africa—have had a good deal of importance in the extent to which we could gain acceptability in the Commonwealth, and this of itself affects our own strength for maintaining this rôle.
So when we argue about our right to a central place, whether in the Alliance, whither in the United Nations, whether in world affairs generally, about our influence, about our presence at the top table and all the rest of it, let us recognise that our rights depend on this worldwide rôle, that it is a distinctive rôle and that no one else can do it.
This is something our allies recognise. I vas, as I said, tremendously impressed last week with the extent to which our American friends recognise this. I inform the right hon. Gentleman—and I am not seeking to raise any temperatures here today—that our American allies are not so impressed with our claims to be a world power or to have a seat at the top table if we base those claims on matching our nuclear policy with theirs. They are perfectly capable of doing the arithmetic of megatons. What does impress 426 them is our ability to mount peacekeeping operations that no one else can mount.
If this argument is right, it must lead to a re-examination of the balance between the three rôles from which I began and also to a further look at our equipment programmes. Every programme which has not gone past the point of no return—and by "the point of no return" I mean that point in a production programme where it would be more costly to scrap it and replace it by a cheaper equivalent than to go on to the bitter end—must be examined both for its relevance to the kind of war we may be called upon to fight or to prevent and for its relevance to our economic situation.
Defence is taking too big a share of our real resources in terms of foreign exchange, scarce types of manpower and load on the most advanced industries. To give some figures, it has been estimated that about 1½ million men out of a total labour force of about 24 million are required to man and equip the Services. That may not seem a very high proportion, but if one takes the proportion of skilled workers, it is very much higher. Defence uses one-fifth of all qualified scientists and technologists who are engaged on research and development, and defence accounts now for about 40 per cent. of all research and development expenditure.
Every one of us realises, facing the kind of economic problems we have been facing, the need to redeploy some of this into the civil field—above all, into export industries. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor in a statement three weeks ago emphasised the importance of redeploying some of the skilled manpower now working on production programmes of this kind so that they can repair deficiencies in civil industries, particularly those that have a big contribution to make to exports. We are now engaged in that process.
I cannot today anticipate the results of the review that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is making in consultation with his colleagues. But these programmes must be cut, and they must be made more relevant to our developing needs. It would be wrong and unrealistic to raise too many hopes for this coming 427 year, because the 1965–66 Estimate largely reflect decisions taken a year or sometimes many years before; they represent the cash flow of decisions already taken, and there are sometimes more costs in readjusting a programme than even continuing it unchecked, at any rate for a year or two. But we must get our expenditure down both in money and in real resources to a lower proportion of our G.N.P. than existing policies, unchanged, would involve.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
I find myself in very large agreement with a great deal that the right hon. Gentleman has said, and I do not want to import controversy into this at all now. But the right hon. Gentleman is talking of the importance of our world rôle, and is inclined to say, I think, that the nuclear role is too large and the conventional rôle is too small, but I am sure he realises that the conventional role is much more expensive. We would like him to give the House the proportion of expenditure on the nuclear and on the conventional rôles.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman has raised an important point, but, if I may say so, he has put it more in global terms than in terms of the three rôles. I was indicating that within each of these rôles we have to get a very big shift in balance, relating our expenditure on particular weapons to the particular service we may be called on to fulfil. This is a problem much more within the conventional rôle than as between rôles. I would particularly round this off by saying, as I have said, that when we have done that the total must be smaller than it is at present.
In this connection I would draw the attention of the House to the references in the Washingon communiqué to the possibility of joint production and joint research and development projects with the United States. The House will know that there are some orders that have been placed or to which we are committed by the previous Government because they felt that to buy a particular American plane would be cheaper in relation to its effectiveness than to develop that plane in this country with ourselves having to absorb the whole of the R and D costs.
428 That is why we had the discussions in Washington leading to the reference in the communiqué with a view to examining the possibility of manufacturing in this country under licence some of the aircraft we have been talking about, and the right hon. Gentleman was talking about buying from the United States. This would, of course, be satisfactory, providing more employment for our aircraft factories than if we were to buy the planes from abroad, but it does not solve the problem of our design teams in the aircraft factories who still have a job to do. They would not continue it, and that is why we have pressed for acceptance of the idea of joint R and D projects between Britain and the United States. I am sure that, in many respects, it will be agreed that the United States are very advanced in airframe design, but the House will agree that we still lead the world in the design of aero engines. Some joint research projects of this kind could be extremely beneficial, and could not only save us money but save the Americans money as well, because they have a problem which is not always recognised here but of which I heard a good deal when I was in Washington. Discussions are now going on both in regard to joint production and joint R and D.
May I go on to say what all this means for the Alliance and for our overseas discussions. We have had the first round of talks in Washington. The next step will be discussions with our partners in N.A.T.O. The Ministerial Council is meeting in Paris this week and, as the House will know, I have accepted an invitation to visit Bonn early in the new year, and soon afterwards I hope to go to Paris and Rome.
The House will expect me to report on the discussions in Washington. Here may I stress certain difficulties which I am sure the House will understand. Before our talks last week it would not have been possible for me to speak in any detail of our plans and relations to the problems we shall be discussing. No previous Government have ever done so, and I am bound to say, without getting too heated about it, that right hon. Gentlemen opposite did put us in some difficulties with their demands in the debate of 23rd November for more information than we could legitimately give. I have to admit frankly in relation 429 to that debate that even I have never said less in 47 minutes than I did on that occasion—and, frankly, I cannot say that I enjoyed the experience.
Nor can I today give a full account of all that was said on both sides in those discussions. As both the President and I made clear, last week's meeting was the first in a series, not only between ourselves but between each of us and our allies; between both of us and our partners in the United Nations and the wider world community. I have referred to our plans for discussing with our N.A.T.O. partners; the House will be glad to know that, in the wider setting, Mr. Kosygin has acccepted my invitation to visit London for talks in the New Year. He is also anxious that I should visit Moscow, and the House will feel, I think, that with all that is going on it is desirable for more frequent meetings to take place between all of us in the Alliance, and more widely.
Therefore, what I thought it would be useful to give the House this afternoon is as full a statement as possible of our own position, particularly with regard to the problems of the Alliance and our proposals for dealing with those problems. The House will understand that it would be wrong for me to set out in any detail the position of our partners in those talks—they were confidential—but I am aware that there has been a great deal of speculation and comment about the proposals that we were understood to be making, and I frankly accept the need for a definitive statement of our position to be made. The House will, I hope, bear with me while I state in some detail what our proposals are.
Before doing so, I want to say a more general word about the discussions in Washington. The discussions ranged very wide and, in the time available, we covered the whole of world affairs from current problems before the United Nations—Article 19 and the rest—to the China bomb, disarmament initiatives, the position in South East Asia, as well as the problems of the Alliance.
I should like to emphasise again, as I have done since my return, the positive and outward-looking nature of the discussions. We were completely agreed about objectives, and particularly about the need to prevent further proliferation of nuclear weapons; on new initiatives 430 for world-wide agreement to promote the non-dissemination and non-acquisition of nuclear weapons, and of continuing initiatives towards arms control and disarmament, particularly in the light of the recent Chinese explosion. It was against that background that we examined the problems of the Western Alliance and, in particular, the problems of the strains and stresses which have developed within the Alliance, and the urgent problem of increasing the share and concern of members of N.A.T.O. in the matter of strategic nuclear questions.
As the House knows, for two years there has been almost continual discussion within N.A.T.O. about the problem of strategic nuclear weapons. The previous Government of the United Kingdom was committed under Clause 7 of the Nassau Agreement to the statement that…the purpose of their two governments with respect to the provision of the Polaris missiles must be the development of a multilateral N.A.T.O. nuclear force in the closest consultation with other N.A.T.O. allies.There was no commitment to any particular form of multilateral force, but I think that it was clearly envisaged in the discussions following Nassau that any mixed-manned force would be, in one form or another, a naval force, and there has been widespread agreement that a mixed-manned submarine force is not feasible.
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
There was no such assumption in any of the talks. In fact the word "multilateral" in that Agreement at that time subsumed the idea of a multi-national force at the same time, so there was no question of the Nassau Agreement giving, as it were, special priority to a mixed-manned naval force. This might help the right hon. Gentleman. It is just as well to get it right.
§ The Prime Minister
Let me say straight away that certain of our proposals had involved discussions of a force which did not involve anything on the high seas. I am bound to say this and I think it important. I am not trying to say it in a controversial sense, but not every interpretation put on the Nassau Agreement —particularly in the heat and excitement of an election or the pre-election period—necessarily commended itself to some 431 of those who were parties to the Agreement. While it is certainly true that in the last few months the late Government in this country were putting forward constructive proposals in Europe for mixed-manning of a non-naval kind and were receiving some degree of acceptance in those discussions, I felt—and I have some reason for saying this—that in the discussions which immediately followed the Nassau Agreement there was an assumption that it would be in one form or another a naval force.
There was at that time a lot of discussion about a mixed-manned submarine force. Now there has been widespread agreement that a mixed-manned submarine force is not feasible. Most of us would agree with the statement attributed to the naval aide to Herr von Hassel, the German Defence Minister—himself a former submarine commander—who said that he would rather swim. I think those are about the same views taken by our own defence Services represented by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. So for the greater part of the time, certainly on the American side—I agree there was no commitment at all by Her Majesty's Government on this—the proposal for a mixed-manned surface fleet held the field. This matter has been very fully debated in this House on a number of occasions. It is certainly the case that Her Majesty's former Government had given no final or binding commitment on a force of this kind.
In the debate on 23rd November I repeated the widely held view that there were fissiparous tendencies in the then Administration with the then Minister of Defence and the then Foreign Secretary each prepared to go to the stake on this question—but separate stakes, not in agreement. But, having regard to the commitment made in Nassau and while the matter of joining the fleet was held over pending technical experiments in mixed-manning, it would be difficult to satisfy our allies that we were not committed to something on those lines, if technically feasible.
On one thing I think there was complete agreement between right hon. Gentlemen opposite and ourselves when both of us stressed the totally unacceptable nature of any scheme in which, either at the outset or at a later date, 432 there was any question of the American veto on the use of the strategic weapon being withdrawn, or made subject to any system of majority voting. For any combination of N.A.T.O. allies by a majority vote to override either the United States or Britain would, I am sure both sides of the House will agree, involve proliferation which would be unacceptable. This has been our position all along.
On 31st January, 1963, in the debate on Nassau, I stated in the clearest and most unequivocal terms our total opposition then and for all time to any new fingers on the nuclear trigger. It applies equally to all countries and it would be no less acceptable if the nuclear decision were in the hands not of one new Power but of a majority in some consortium, for a nuclear Power would have been created, and we are totally opposed to that proposition. The House is in no doubt that any such development would be regarded as highly provocative by those with whom we hope to negotiate with a view to easing East-West tension.
I have previously told the House of the discussion which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I held in Moscow last June while, of course, we were still in Opposition. We said quite clearly to Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Gromyko that while we were on general grounds opposed to the proposal we felt that it could not be said that it meant proliferation or the addition of any new fingers on the trigger—which the Russians feared—as long as the American veto remained absolute. Frankly, I have always thought that talk of removing this veto was totally unrealistic.
What it would have envisaged is that the situation might arise that the President of the United States, with the great responsibility he bears, had decided in some crisis not to press the button which would bring the American strategic missile force into action, but his hand would be forced by a majority vote among the nations which had joined the multilateral force, with the result that those American missiles committed to N.A.T.O. would be fired while America still officially remained at peace, or was at any rate not engaged on her own account in a nuclear war.
Though we may regard this as unrealistic, I believe that there has been 433 talk on the Continent of Europe suggesting that over a period of time this veto could be progressively relaxed and this horrible decision made the subject of a majority vote—be it by simple majority vote or some system of weighted qualified voting, it makes no matter. This is why I am glad to be able to draw the attention of the House to the sentence in the communique which says that:They"—that is, the President and I—agreed that the objective in this field is to co-operate in finding the arrangements which best meet the legitimate interests of all members of the Alliance, while maintaining existing safeguards on the use of nuclear weapons and preventing their further proliferation.Those words are of supreme importance. Although some of us would feel that any other solution was impossible, this is the first time that this has been clearly stated. This would apply whatever form of arrangement were adopted by agreement among N.A.T.O. allies.
The right hon. Member mentioned the broadcast by Mr. McGeorge Bundy in which he referred to the possibility that some time in the long distant future there may be a new European grouping of political unity. I want to make quite plain as far as we are concerned that even if that were to happen we would still regard it as a proliferation. But in our discussions we were thinking only of exceptional circumstances where that unity was so absolute that the war-making power had passed to the European grouping from individual nations. I think we are a very long way off a situation in which that ultimate situation was reached in which the power of a nation would be surrendered to a group.
Having dealt with the question of the American veto, I now turn to our own proposals. Our proposals were based on three objectives. First, we aimed at finding a solution which would foster the strength and unity of the Alliance as a whale by taking account of the position of those non-nuclear members who want to exercise greater influence on nuclear planning, policy and strategy. Second, we aimed at ensuring that, as far as possible, the nuclear forces committed to N.A.T.O. should be united under a single unified system forming an integral part 434 of the defence structure of the Alliance as a whole and covering, as far as possible, strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. The control system should be closely linked with N.A.T.O. It should allow for new participants—for example, France, if France does not join at the outset.
Third, and I emphasise this, we want to promote increasing consultation within the Alliance on the policy of the Western Powers in regard to nuclear weapons in any part of the world. Although the present nuclear Powers are committed to consult the North Atlantic Council, if time permits, before they use nuclear weapons anywhere, there is no continuous consultation about deployment of nuclear weapons or situations which might require their use. We ourselves—and other European countries—have almost as great an interest in the use of the United States' strategic nuclear forces as in any nuclear forces that might in future be committed to N.A.T.O. Peace is indivisible; nuclear war is still more SO.
We further propose the creation of an Atlantic nuclear force.
§ The Prime Minister
We, the Government. This would have the following components. First, the British V-bomber force except for those aircraft which are needed for existing commitments outside the N.A.T.O. area. Those are reserved. Second, the British fleet of Polaris submarines to which I referred in the debate on 23rd November. Third, at least an equal number of United States Polaris submarines. Fourth, some kind of mixed-manned and jointly owned element in which the existing non-nuclear Powers could take part, and, fifth, in the circumstances I have mentioned, any forces which France may decide to subscribe. I shall say a few words in a moment about our ideas about the mixed-manned element.
The national element in the Atlantic nuclear force will be committed to that force for as long as the Alliance lasts. The force would be under a single authority in which all countries taking part would be entitled to be represented. The United States, the United Kingdom, 435 and France, if she took part, would have a veto over the use of all elements in the force and over any changes which might at any time be proposed in the control system—that is, Britain and the United States. Any other country participating would also have a veto if it wanted, though collectively they could, if they so desired, exercise their veto as a single group. In other words, European countries could either have a single veto or, if they wanted to do it on some group basis, that would be a matter for them.
The authority governinig the force, acting entirely on instructions from Governments, would have these duties: to provide the force commander with political guidance; to approve the force commander's targeting and operational plans for the use of all weapons of the force; to take the decision to release nuclear weapons to the force commander; to develop agreed policy on the rôle of all types of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons; and, fifthly, to consult and discuss possible contingencies anywhere in the world which could give rise to the possibility of nuclear weapons being used. There would be co-ordination of targeting by the Atlantic nuclear force with the targeting of all United States forces in the Atlantic area.
To ensure that the new arrangements could not result in, or be accused of leading to, dissemination of nuclear weapons, and in particular to ensure that they could not be represented as bringing any new fingers nearer to the nuclear trigger, the charter of the force should have clauses under which the nuclear members would undertake not to disseminate nuclear weapons, and the non-nuclear members would undertake not to acquire them or to acquire control over them. This would mean an undertaking—this goes beyond the Brussels Treaty—by all non-nuclear Powers not only that they will not manufacture nuclear weapons, but also that they will neither own nor control them. There should be a further prohibition of nuclear weapons passing into the control or ownership not only of individual nonnuclear countries but also any group of such countries which may be formed.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I have waited for the Prime Minister to come to the end of this part before rising to ask him one or two questions. It is terribly 436 difficult to follow this and get what he is saying right. He said, for instance, that there will be a single authority governing this force. Is he contemplating something different from the N.A.T.O. Council and the present N.A.T.O. authorities? That is one question I want to ask him. What about national contingents? We are to contribute a national contingent to this force, as I understand it. Will the Germans be able to contribute a national contingent in the same way and therefore have weapons to some extent under their operational control?
§ The Prime Minister
First, on the question of the authority controlling the force, we feel that there are strong arguments for it not being the N.A.T.O. Council as such. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to think a little longer about this. He might take in his breath and think about what might happen if it were in the N.A.T.O. Council. We can certainly debate this. We have not an absolutely fixed view on it, may I say, and perhaps my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence tomorrow may go further into this matter, as the right hon. Gentleman has raised it. However, I think that there are arguments for keeping the actual control—the authority—something different from the N.A.T.O. Council.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Surely the whole purpose of this was to unify the N.A.T.O. Alliance and to assist it? This is something outside, which it seems to me as first glance might seriously split it. I cannot pursue this, but it seems to me to be a very strange announcement which the Prime Minister has made. However, I must not go further now, because I want to study it more closely.
§ The Prime Minister
Yes, I think that the right hon. Gentleman should. I think that he may come round to this view. If not, we are certainly prepared to debate it with him. There are certain difficulties. It would be very closely linked to N.A.T.O., but the controlling authority need not itself be the N.A.T.O. Council. As I say, this is the view we have taken, but we are not absolute about it. We are prepared to listen to argument from our allies about it and are prepared to listen to argument from the right hon. Gentleman about it, but there are reasons for it.
437 Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman asked about the question of a German national contribution. He mentioned Germany. The same question would obviously apply to other European Powers. There would certainly be no German national nuclear contribution. It would merely be in the question of the mixed-manned element, which I want to come to in a moment.
On the subject of the mixed-manned component, in which existing non-nuclear countries could be enabled to take part in manning and managing nuclear weapon systems, this again would have to be done in such a way as to avoid transgressing the principles of non-dissemination. There have been discussions in Europe—indeed, initiatives have been taken by the previous Government in this country—about a possible land-based component. We have made it clear for our part that we should not wish to contribute to a surface- ship component over and above our national contribution to the force, though we are prepared to continue discussions about a land-based component which right hon. Members opposite started. It is our view that the creation of a new strategic force of surface ships armed with Polaris missiles is the least desirable way of applying the mixed-manned principle. If the total Western missile strength were increased, I would further say that we would assume a corresponding reduction in total national missile strengths, so we arc not talking about adding to the West's total missile strength.
I will not further weary the House with our suggestions about the form of the command structure, though my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, if he catches your eye, tomorrow, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, could deal with this question, and it rather sounded from the question asked by the right hon. Gentleman as though he would like my right hon. Friend to go into this in some greater detail.
Her Majesty's Government believe that these proposals meet the requirements of the objectives I have outlined and will further meet the legitimate requirements of our N.A.T.O. allies in such a way as to provide an absolute guarantee against proliferation or dissemination, a guarantee against the transfer of nuclear striking power from nuclear to non-nuclear Powers, a guarantee against the acquisi- 438 tion by non-nuclear Powers of a nuclear potential in any shape or form, direct or indirect.
They are not, and should not be regarded as being, provocative to any outside Power, nuclear or non-nuclear. On the contrary, we regard them as a powerful contribution to an effective series of world-wide agreements to promote, in the words of the communiqué, non-dissemination and non-acquisition of nuclear weapons and of continuing initiatives towards arms control and disarmament. They should also create conditions, we hope, in which all further proposals for the acquisition of nuclear power by any of our N.A.T.O. allies could be stilled and ended.
I put forward this afternoon in some detail—and I apologise for wearying the House and for speaking at this length—the proposals which we put forward in the Washington discussions and which we shall be discussing with our allies. As will be clear from the communiqué, while we regard these proposals as the best way to meet the problems of the alliance and to prevent dissemination, our American friends feel that both these new proposals and existing proposals—that is, the proposals for the surface fleet—should be further discussed with our allies, to discover on what basis agreement could be reached.
While this has been agreed, it would be wrong for me to suggest that the United States Administration have dropped the previous proposals for a mixed-manned surface fleet. At the same time, as far as we are concerned we have entirely reserved our position on whether such a fleet should be created and we have expressed our views on it, which I have just given. We have made no commitment whatsoever on this point; a fortiori, we have positively made no commitment whatsoever about any possible British contribution to such a fleet if it were to be created.
To sum up, then, the whole emphasis of our talks and of our policy is on stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and providing the maximum consultations about the use of those which exist, in terms which have been made familiar in recent public discussions—indeed, I share a responsibility—to place an absolute ban on any more fingers on the 439 trigger: our eyes are directed to more fingers on the safety catch.
We shall now pursue the discussions as we have agreed with our partners in N.A.T.O., but this will only be part of the continuing discussions aimed at wider initiatives on disarmament and arms control. My colleagues and I had useful discussions on this question in Washington with a view to further disarmament and arms control initiatives being taken. My right hon. and noble friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs who is responsible for disarmament and who was in Washington a week or two before us—I am sure that right hon. Gentlemen are just as interested in disarmament as they are in nuclear weapons—had very lengthy and detailed practical talks with the head of the United States Disarmament Agency. I hope that the House will not underrate the importance of the appointment of a Minister working full time on this problem, and working for so long and in such close harmony with our allies, in this case with the head of the United States Disarmament Agency.
The recent Chinese nuclear explosion, much as we regret it, lends the greatest urgency to action to prevent any further spread of nuclear weapons. International agreements on this must be our first disarmament priority, because although I have spoken mainly about non-proliferation in Europe, if the Chinese explosion were to lead to other Asian countries, in self-defence, seeking to become nuclear Powers, if we were to get new nuclear Powers in Asia, we really would be beyond the point of no return in the matter of proliferation. This is why I stress at the outset the urgency of providing international safeguards to non nuclear Powers against nuclear threats and nuclear blackmail, and to do it collectively. This is one of the most important initiatives that we must now take.
Next we must see, in the light of further scientific developments, whether the partial nuclear test ban treaty cannot soon be extended to underground tests. Another possibility for agreement lies in President Johnson's proposal for a freeze of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. With this might perhaps be usefully com- 440 bined some destruction of existing bombers and missiles on either side and also—we feel strongly about this—we could seek to combine with President Johnson's proposal international agreement to regulate the trade in arms and particularly to ban the bloody traffic in secondhand arms. These are only the most outstanding of the many measures which we shall now pursue. We are equipping ourselves to take advantage of any opportunity for progress that may arise over the whole range of disarmament.
In particular, we are taking steps to establish and maintain regular contact with outside experts in this field in this country, through seminars and other means of consultation, so that informed unofficial opinion can play its part in the making of a policy of disarmament. We also intend to set up a research unit in the Foreign Office to make comprehensive studies of the problems at issue and to keep in touch with those outside who have much to contribute both here and abroad. It is vitally important, if progress is to be made, that all the latest scientific information, whether from Governmental or non-Governmental sources, be available to the Government so that there is no danger, as has sometimes been alleged in the past, of policy lagging behind scientific advance, particularly in the seismic field.
I apologise for having gone on for so long, but I have been trying to cover a lot of ground. There is one final matter which my right hon. Friends and I regard as of great importance, with which I should like to conclude my remarks. The House will recall that on 16th January this year in a debate which we, sitting opposite, initiated on defence I proposed to the then Government that there should be joint talks between the Government and the then Opposition on the nation's defences and on the security not only of Britain but of our allies. In so far as my hope was to put defence and the nation's security above politics, we did not make much progress, and both sides must perhaps bear their share of the responsibility for this—or, to be more realistic, shall I say that each of us will, no doubt, blame the other for it.
I was challenged at the time to say whether this was a proposal that I 441 should feel right only as long as we were in Opposition and whether, if we came to Government, we would take the same view. I believe this proposal is intrinsically right and is in accord with the national interest. Oppositions as well as Governments have the right to their own conception of what is the appropriate policy for Britain, and should be free to express their views. I did not feel in Opposition, and I do not feel now, that such freedom would be in any way inhibited by talks of this kind. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite were until recently in full possession of all secret information available to the Government, and I see no reason why they should not continue to be taken fully into the Government's confidence on these matters.
I would hope, therefore, that we can enter into discussions quite soon to discuss the possible guide lines for future defence talks of this kind. The Government will still have the responsibility and duty of deciding their own defence policy, and we shall do so. It would not mean that we were in any sense committed to the Opposition's ideas about policy. I hope that I have shown this afternoon that we are not. Equally, the Opposition would be just as free as they are today to criticise any policy which we put forward. But I believe there are certain issues of defence policy where there would be great good to the national interest if there were some pooling of information.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to clear up one matter which he mentioned earlier? As I understand it, the components which we are providing for the Atlantic nuclear force will be irrevocable. I think the right hon. Gentleman said that a proportion of the V-bombers would not be contributed to that force. Could he say a little more about their rôle? Will it be a nuclear or a non-nuclear rôle?
§ The Prime Minister
I said "irrevocable" as long as the Alliance lasts. As far as the others are concerned, I should like to put this against the context of what I was saying about the need for giving every type of guarantee to non-nuclear Powers in Asia. There should be international talks to see that any bombers for as long as their life lasts— 442 and this may not be very long—should be able to discharge an international rôle. In other words, we have got quite enough on our hands with the Atlantic nuclear alliance. We might then want to start talking about alliances outside the Atlantic area, but certainly, as I made clear, not all the V-bombers would be committed to N.A.T.O. The previous Government, who committed their bombers to N.A.T.O., reserved all the V-bombers that were required outside the European area.
§ The Prime Minister
I am sorry, but I have gone on for too long. I am aware that I have gone on for a very long time.
§ The Prime Minister
I have said all that could be said on this point this afternoon, for this reason. Previous Governments have never answered any questions about the rôle of bombers outside the N.A.T.O. area. I intend to follow the line that has been taken. I would, however, merely say that we have an obligation to see what we can do with any V-bombers outside the N.A.T.O. area, to see that they are available for international police work and international guarantees on the lines that I was suggesting earlier.
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Gentleman is not with it. We had better leave him out of it. This is an important matter affecting the security of this country and of the Commonwealth. I do not wish to be drawn by the hon. Gentleman into saying more than I have said. If I thought it possible to do so I would, but I am not going to be drawn by him into saying more than I have already said.
I express my apology for the length of my speech, but I believe that the issues that we are debating today are of transcendent importance. Our approach to these issues at a time of great fluidity in foreign affairs and in defence will, as I have said, govern the pattern of world affairs for a decade and perhaps more than a decade ahead. I think the House 443 will agree that we find the nature of these problems challenging, presenting all the nations of the world with an unrivalled opportunity to move in security to disarmament and peace. I do not believe that at any time since the war Britain has been presented by the conjuncture of world events with such a great opportunity to play her full part in this most important of all tasks. It is the firm intention of Her Majesty's Government, as I am sure it will be of the whole House, to see that we seize this opportunity and in so doing exercise an influence—an influence for good and an influence for peace greater even than at any time in our history.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)
Mr. Dennis Walters. [Interruption.] Order. I hope that hon. Gentlemen who are not leaving the Chamber will resume their seats. I have called an hon. Gentleman to speak. Mr. Dennis Walters.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)
In craving the customary indulgence of the House for a maiden speaker I am conscious that this occasion reminds me slightly of an experience which I had some nine years ago when I had to follow Sir Anthony Eden, as he then was, at an open air meeting on Wandsworth Common. The circumstances, as you can well imagine, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, were very different and the surroundings were very different, but there is a similarity in the massive departure of my audience.
I am also conscious that my predecessor as Member for Westbury spent a long and devoted period in the House and, for the last three of his many years here, served the House with great distinction as Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means. I now have the honour to represent the constituency which he served so well and in which so many sides and aspects of British life are reflected, a constituency which is one of the most beautiful in England and which I am very proud to serve.
Wiltshire people are outward-looking in their attitudes and feelings and I believe that they would approve of the fact that practically my first remarks in the House should be devoted to foreign 444 affairs. They are aware that the security and prosperity of Britain depends on the national situation and upon this being handled skilfully and wisely. One of the most valuable inheritances which the present Government have received from previous Conservative Administrations is their record of continuous and successful efforts to work for peace and for the reduction of world tension. People in this country have come to recognise that one has to work for peace continuously, that one needs patience and vision, and, moreover, one cannot buy peace by easy and lazy compromises. Britain, which has contributed so much to the world, must continue to assess and reassess how, given the changed and changing world power structure, her influence should best he used and most effectively exercised. In this connection, hoping that the House will bear with me, I should like to make three points.
The first is with regard to our relations with France. Some people are somehow trying to pretend that France does not exist. Because they cannot agree with certain aspects of French policy they conceive of Europe or the world without major French influence. This is not possible, indeed, it is nonsense. In making our future arrangements with Europe it is essential to remember that, geographically, France is the heart-land of the Western European system. Neither in terms of defence, of trade and industry, of political organisation, nor of the international exchange of ideas can we make Europe work or establish our own relationship with Europe unless we can establish our relationship with France.
No one would pretend that President de Gaulle is an easy man to deal with, no one worth dealing with is easy. But if Britain approaches President de Gaulle with an understanding of his character and sense of history we may find that we have more agreement on policy than we have yet realised, particularly in the resemblance between his idea of an "Europe des patries" and the British desire for a united but not a federal Europe. I hope that this point will be made in any negotiations on the political future of Europe which may take place, and which I hope will take place.
My second point concerns the reduction of our forces in Germany. There are, of course, many valid reasons why one 445 should wish to cut down our strength there. Keeping 55,000 soldiers bottled up in Germany is a great waste of man- power in a world situation where, as the outlook look in Europe becomes more secure, the outlook in the Middle East and the Far East becomes visibly more hazardous and uncertain. At the same time, any considerable thinning out should be logically accompanied by a new demarche to the Soviet Union, and this does not seem an appropriate time for such an initiative. There is as yet inadequate information about the new Russian leadership, and, moreover, such action would tend to strengthen those elements in Germany which are unsympathetic to the Atlantic concept at a time when we are approaching the German elections. Any initiative of ours in this field must have the understanding and support of Germany.
My third and last point is with regard to our immediate relations with Europe. I lope that the Government, and, in- deed, the Opposition, where they have the opportunity, will make the maximum and most effective use of our existing bridgeheads in Europe—E.F.T.A., W.E.U., the Council of Europe and the O.E.D.C.— in order to build up our relations and restore the confidence of Europe in Britain's intentions and sincerity in wanting the maximum co-operation at a time when such confidence has been badly shaken since the present Government came into power.
In this respect I trust that the recent economic crisis may have been instructive to the Government for, as everyone knows, it was our European and American allies who came to our help and lent us the money necessary to tide us over the crisis. In my view, this should have brought home better than most academic arguments the fallacy of the theory of self-sufficiency in the 1960s. And it dramatised a fact which should never be forgotten, namely, that Britain is part of Europe and that Europe, in turn, can only fulfil its world rôle within the Atlantic partnership.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mir. Colin Jackson (Brighouse and Spenborough)
This is my maiden speech and I understand that there is a tradition in the House that one should be non-controversial. Against that background I 446 should like to congratulate the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) on his opposition to the spread of nuclear weapons. It was certainly very pleasing to hear him, on this, entirely endorsing the Government's actions. I should also like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on strongly condemning the Conservative habit of having a Foreign Secretary in another place.
I should like to carry on in this nonpartisan fashion, but I feel that one or two hon. Members might ask why, representing the constituency of Brighouse and Spenborough in the heart of Britain, I should be talking about foreign affairs. Perhaps I should make one or two short points in explanation.
First, one of my most distinguished predecessors, the late Mr. John Edwards, was a man who was deeply respected in the House and who was passionately interested in world affairs and particularly in the link with Europe. Secondly, my immediate predecessor, although on the opposite side in political matters, was also a most hard-working constituency Member and a man interested in international relations. Thirdly, I should not like hon. Members to think that Brighouse and Spenborough is known only as the centre of most superb brass-band music without rival anywhere else in Britain. I should like them to recall also that we are deeply interested in the export trade and that prosperity and peace are vital therefore for the business which we have in hand.
In the time available to me I shall refer to two aspects of international relations which have already been touched on today, first, the Arab world, and secondly, the possible future conduct of China. There has been a brief reference from both sides to the Arab world, and this, to my mind, indicates a weakness in foreign policy thinking in this country.
It is extraordinary that the British people have for centuries had a deep interest in, and got on successfully, with, the people of India; we have played a remarkable and constructive rôle in the emergence of Africa, but something always seems to have gone wrong in the relations between the Arab world and Britain. We have not been the only nation to bungle our relationship. There was the famous, or infamous, remark of 447 a Western delegate at the United Nations, that he hoped that the Jews and the Arabs would settle their problems in a true Christian spirit.
This kind of attitude does not really help. I recall what was said by the late Mr. John Foster Dulles after, to adopt the phrase of hon. Members opposite, the little local difficulty of Suez. Mr. Dulles said, after the evacuation of British and French forces, that there was a vacuum in the Middle East and that, unless the Americans filled it, the Russians would move in. At that time, I was in Syria, and I recall the Syrian Foreign Minister saying, rather plaintively, in conversation with me, "I am not a vacuum. I do not want to be filled up. I just want to be an Arab in the Arab world".
It is most important for hon. Members on both sides to recognise the aspirations of the Arab people from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean. I believe that, basically, we in Britain do not want to run the Arab world, but we want to make sure that no one else does. If we can have a satisfactory union of the Arab States, this will be in our interests. It will be difficult. There are fissiparous tendencies among the Arab States. There is the natural desire of Egypt to dominate. But we should show a great deal more sympathy for the Arabs than we have hitherto.
In one particular field, I hope that the Government will apply their mind to positive foreign policy endeavours. I am thinking of the Arabian Peninsula. We have a new Government in Riyadh. King Feisal is a more progressive and enlightened man than his predecessor, and I hope that the Government will take every opportunity to strengthen ties between ourselves and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, where we have direct responsibility in the Trucial Omanate States, in places like Sharjah and Dubai, we should very much accelerate our economic aid programme.
I know, for instance, of the trade school in Sharjah. I know also of the medical teams in the Gulf. But this is only a little. We need to move this area up to a higher standard of living by economic aid so that, when, eventually, there is a wider Arabian federation, the Trucial Omanate States will be ready to come in on level terms. This will be a 448 greater guarantee for our oil revenues than any military forces.
There has been reference to the Yemen. I hope that the negotiations, now in the early stages, between the Royalists and the Republicans will come to fruition. I hope that, if a coalition Government comes in the Yemen, Her Majesty's Government will move very swiftly to enter into diplomatic relations with it. If we have this improved relationship there, we shall probably go a long way to solve the South Arabian Federation problem. It is inevitable, in the long run, that Aden and the Sheikdoms will want to be linked more closely than they are now with the rest of the Arab world. They are Arabs. This one cannot deny and should not want to deny. We should try not to put ourselves in the dilemma of saying that, if they do join the Arabs, they leave us.
It has always been a matter of pride in Britain that we are not sticklers for rigid logic. We try to see which way history is going and get in front of it. We have been something of a chameleon with principles, and I hope that we may have a compromise here, accepting Aden as part of the Arab world while, at the same time, according it the benefit, if not of full membership of the Commonwealth, of associate membership.
In the present situation of the Arab world, I hope that Her Majesty's Government and hon. and right hon. Members opposite—this is a non-party point—will show more sympathy, not being exclusive in friendship. We have a great tradition in this country of having people who know the Arab world well. I hope that this sort of approach will spread through our political attitudes towards the Middle East.
My second point has a much wider context, the rôle of China in future international relations. It seems to me that China, a country which I have visited, has two twin themes in her foreign policy today. First, there is the pursuit of the idea of the Middle Kingdom, the reclaiming of the territories which China lost at a time of weakness in the nineteenth century. Second, there is China's desire to lead in the Afro-Asian world.
To my mind, the quarrel between Russia and China is irrevocable for the simple reason that, if China wishes to 449 achieve the frontiers of the Middle Kingdom, if she wishes to reclaim what she once possessed, the Russians will have to account for a very large percentage of the lost territories. There was the dispute last year over the KazakbstanSinkiang frontier. But I believe that the dispute between Russia and China goes deeper. There is also the Amur river basin and the trouble over the Vladivostok area.
It is essentially not an ideological dispute, although one hears the verbiage about Left-wing dogmatists and Right-wing deviationists. In fact, it is a matter of history and geography, and the Chinese and the Russians are enmeshed in a problem from which there is no escape.
Chinese ambitions in the Afro-Asian world are vitally important. Can China conduct her twin actions together? China, the nation with the lean and hungry look, the Cassius of the globe, is very active in Africa. She sends out radio broadcasts. She has her embassies. There are the great demonstrations in Peking, and so on. China is trying to say to the people of Africa, "You are black. We in China are yellow. The Indians are brown. Follow us, and take no notice of the Marie Antoinettes from Moscow to San Francisco". This country, through Her Majesty's Government, could give the lie to the Chinese claim that the world is bound to be divided according to race and colour.
I sincerely hope that, in their formulation of future policies, the Government will not be obsessed by financial problems. It is not for me to say where those financial problems originated—I must not mention the Conservative Party in this context—but I believe that we should not be obsessed by the need to balance a budget. We should not try to keep our overseas aid to 1 per cent. but should try to go up to 2 per cent.
The British rôle in world affairs is not based on securing nuclear submarines from America on hire-purchase terms. Our rôle is fundamentally a moral one. At our greatest, we have been able to command the loyalty and friendship of people of every colour and creed all over the world. We face the danger of a divided world, the rich North and the poor South. The people are looking to Britain for a lead, looking to 450 us in the Commonwealth to take the lead, and looking to us to prompt the Germans and the French to do more. The rôle which we could have, an honourable rôle, in leading the crusade to close the gap would be one which would give the Government a name in history of which they could be proud and which all of us in Britain would support.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)
I am grateful, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak for the first time in a debate on foreign affairs. I must say that I was deeply impressed by the arguments forcefully deployed in the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) and the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr.Jackson). The last speaker has led smoothly to what I have to say, which will be about overseas aid.
I should like, first, to say a few words about my predecessor, Sir Gordon Touche, who was the Deputy-Speaker. He was for 33 years a Member of this House, first for Reigate and then for Dorking. I have listened to hon. Members speaking of him with affection and respect and referring to the contribution which he made over many years to the smooth working of the House of Commons, especially in Committees. I know that he had, and still has, many friends on both sides and also among the permanent staff.
In the Dorking division—and, indeed, over much of Surrey—there is a great personal good will towards Gordon Touche and his family. Much of it stems from the quiet way in which, regardless of political party, he helped many people with their personal problems. He will remain a permanent part of the Dorking scene. I vividly remember being introduced on one doorstep as "Sir Gordon Touche, who will succeed Sir Gordon Touche".
I am fortunate to represent the Dorking constituency. It is one of the loveliest parts of green-belt Surrey. I know that you, Mr. Speaker, will agree with this assessment. How attractive it is in the summer, with cricket matches in full swing in every village—the hills and woods and, in between, the well-run farms. We hope that the Government's policy about the green belt—brought into question by a recent decision in Kent—will safeguard the beauty of the Dorking 451 countryside and villages. For they have become one of the favourite areas of recreation for Greater London.
But we, too, have our problems. More houses are needed, especially for the young families who live there and who have come there to work. Some of the main roads can no longer cope with the traffic. The most important step required is an early decision to go ahead with the south orbital road which carries the east-west traffic.
Here, I would make a special plea to the Ministers and local authorities that, when they are planning houses and roads, they should safeguard the amenities of the small towns, the villages and the countryside round Dorking. For these bring much delight to those who live there, to those who come as visitors and to those who just pass through. This they can do, if they will bring to bear on these two problems sufficient architectural skill and imagination.
Mr. Speaker, I turn now to foreign affairs. In the early part of his speech today the Prime Minister spoke of his concern with the "war on want". Later, he spoke, also, of Britain's world role. Thus, he has recognised the need to bring overseas aid right into the middle of a foreign affairs debate. I believe that, in this first full-scale debate on foreign affairs under this Government, it is right to discuss overseas aid. It is one of Britain's main external responsibilities. Also, the Government have taken a new initiative in this field by setting up the new Ministry of Overseas Development to work in collaboration with other overseas Departments. What Britain can do to help developing countries is important, not only to them, but to the rest of the world—to our interdependent world—and to our own people, for we are being asked to put aside an increasing part of our national effort for this purpose.
This House has, I know, fully accepted the urgent need of the poorer countries for help from the richer industrial countries. Because of her history, Britain has special responsibilities and special opportunities to help. This is not, I think, at issue between the parties. There is agreement that we should put 452 out the greatest effort that our economy can sustain to help the poorer countries to get on their way towards—to use the current phrase—self-sustaining growth.
I should like, Mr. Speaker, to make two points only: first, on the rôle of the new Ministry of Overseas Development; and, secondly, on the rôle of British private enterprise. First, I welcome the creation of the new Ministry and I wish the new Minister well. I expect that the scope of her Ministry will soon be rather more clearly defined. But if, as I believe, it is to co-ordinate and stimulate all our own efforts to help developing countries, then it has a very heavy responsibility.
Last year our Government aid was running at just under £150 million and our private investment was just over that figure. These are large sums, and the Government have pledged themselves to make a substantial increase. It is clearly our duty to our own people, who have generated this money, and to the poorer countries, which so desperately need our help, to ensure that this aid is as effective as possible. I am well aware of the disenchantment felt by many aid-giving countries over the results of their efforts. This is an additional reason for having a strong organisation here to deal with this subject.
This means, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, the gathering of a strong and experienced team for this new Ministry—a team of people who will have, or will gain, firsthand experience of the problems of the developing countries and will be able to work closely with their Governments. At the centre, this new team will need to make a new and objective assessment of the impact of all our aid. It will need to co-ordinate requests for aid, to assess the capacities of the asking countries to make full use of the help they seek and to ensure that, once we make a grant or loan, we do everything in our power to ensure that it achieves its objective. In addition, the team will have to work closely with international organisations and other groups which are concerned with aid to the developing countries.
The team based on London should, in my view, be supported by representatives of the Ministry posted to our high commissions and embassies in the main areas of our aid programmes. Such field staff 453 should help to ensure the closest understanding and collaboration with the receiving country, from the planning stage onwards. Just as important is that they should continually gather field experience of the use of our aid. This should help our Government to lay out their efforts to the best effect. I hope that the Government will give the new Minister all the support she will require if she is to succeed in building up a team full of vitality in Stag Place.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I come to my second point, the role of private enterprise. As I have said, our private investment in the developing countries is running at just over £150 million a year. Our effort is, therefore, half public and half private. Britain has a mixed economy and the Prime Minister and the First Secretary have each, recently, stressed the importance of the private sector. I hope that the new Minister of Overseas Development will make it abundantly clear that she welcomes the great contribution which our private enterprise is making to helping the developing countries to get their economies on their way. I would ask her to go further, and to undertake to give all the assistance in her power to help the receiving countries to create conditions in which British private enterprise can work with them to strengthen their economies.
Our private enterprise has much to offer. It finds its own capital, it brings its own managerial and technical "know-how" and its own equipment, and, above all, it helps on the spot to train local people at all levels. Moreover, it has an in-built incentive to avoid waste of time and effort. It has quickly adapted itself to the changing needs and aspirations of the host countries. I have had some experience of this during my overseas visits and have seen British private enterprise in these countries adjusting itself to the new views of the leaders of those countries. These are some of the reasons why many recipient countries, which are now developing fastest—for example, India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Malaysia—have gone out of their way to try to attract private enterprise from outside.
I have some personal experience of the natural sensitivity of the developing countries where questions of economic 454 independence seem to be involved. I respect this feeling. But, already, the views of many countries are changing, as they grow more confident in their own independence and in their ability to work with overseas private enterprise. Indeed, some of them seem to find that private enterprise is a more resourceful, as well as an easier, partner than some foreign Governments which try to interfere in their internal affairs.
The Minister may well find difficulty in the months ahead in securing increased funds for Government overseas aid. I hope that this may serve as an additional reason for making special efforts to encourage private investment.
There is a long list of actions which could and, in my view, should be taken, now that there is one Minister coordinating all British efforts in this field. If I may, Mr. Speaker, I shall mention only four of them. Perhaps I can let the new Minister have my other suggestions privately.
The first is to set up in this country, in partnership with the private sector, a review body to examine the possible fields for British private investment in the developing countries, and to equip our overseas posts to help these reviews by their work on the spot. The second is to strengthen our Commonwealth Development Corporation, to extend its successful rôle in going into partnership with British private enterprise. The third is to review the usefulness of the schemes which the United States, West Germany and Japan offer to their private sectors for insuring against political risks in overseas investments. The fourth is to work vigorously for the adoption of a bilateral or a multilateral investment code by developing countries seeking overseas capital.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I wish the Minister good fortune—and I hope that this message will be conveyed to her —in securing the full-hearted support of other overseas Departments. On this, I believe, her success must depend. I hope that the Government will give her the strong team which her responsibilities call for.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon (Preston, South)
In rising to address the House for the first time, I would ask the indulgence 455 which the House always gives so generously to a Member making his maiden speech.
I can claim, in all humility, that I am by no means inexperienced in public life. During the last 31 years, from the age of 24, I have served as a member of a local authority. Having during this period been a member and chairman of every important local government department, I am proud to express my profound belief in the efficacy of local government, and also my belief that, because of the integrity and dedication of its officials and members, it represents an establishment in our country which is the envy of the world. Any failure on the part of the Mother of Parliaments to recognise its great value to our country at any time in the future would represent a flagrant injustice to one of our great powers for good.
I am, for many reasons, proud to be the Member of Parliament for Preston, South; proud, because any town is as great as its people enable it to be. Proud Preston is well named, because it is loved and well served by its townspeople, who, with their great love of country, their sterling character and their tremendous industrial endeavours, have nurtured down through the years the growth, development and traditions of an honourable Lancashire town.
It is true to say, also, in the words of Shakespeare, that its people have "endured the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune". It was once said, with a great degree of truth, that Lancashire's thread was England's bread. The recession in the cotton industry and the consequent loss of the people's ancient skills and crafts, combined with the loss of permanent employment and earning capacity, added up to a serious setback to the industrial hopes and aspirations of great-hearted people. Happily, because of diversified employment, new industries and new skills, the people are once again recognising the meaning of the word "dignity".
I have said that I am proud to represent the people of Preston, South in Parliament. I should be less proud had I not followed a worthy predecessor. Mr. Alan Green worked hard for the people of Preston, South, as a constituency Member, as a Minister at the Board of 456 Trade and as Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I am told that, in the interests of trade, he travelled 100,000 miles in one year. One would be churlish indeed not to refer to dedicated service. God willing, I hope to emulate this service, if not surpass it.
As in local government, it must be recognised in our calls for world government that dignity for each human person, irrespective of class, creed or colour, is the only sure basis for maintaining the peace of the world. When America and Russia agreed upon a partial test ban, the world earned a victory. The victory belonged to all men of honest purpose. Nobody had conceded. Only insanity had lost. The nations of the world had voted for security.
One day in the not too dim-and-distant future they may vote for love of one another. Together, the nations of the world must condemn the sin of genocide. Together, the nations of the world must see a kinder light. In the absence of this spirit of love and tolerance, millions of human beings will be annihilated. The ultimate aim must always be a disarmed world in which international disputes are settled through a universally respected United Nations.
In this fearful world in which we live, even the most obdurate statesmen must come to realise that universal peace is the highest state to which we can aspire on earth. There will always be world poverty, fear, hatred and disease as long as the threat of war remains. The sum affixed to the United States stockpile business is annually more than 20 billion dollars and the defence bills of all the Western countries together, although rather less, are colossal. Collectivity is, I believe, the first step to both realistic defence and practical disarmament.
Britain is one of five nuclear— nations with whom the responsibility rests most heavily to prevent other countries from possessing, testing and producing such weapons. It must always be realised that the possibility of effective disarmament slides further and further away as each new country procures a trigger. Effective disarmament slides further and further away as each country already in possession of nuclear weapons selfishly grapples to retain this highly expensive and dubious mastery.
457 With much comfort can an hon. Member, coming to such an important debate as this, read the words on the portals of this Chamber:God be merciful unto us and bless us".With the advent of Christmas one could with feeling, and as being germane to the discussion, also say the words,'"Gloria in excelsis Deo'—Glory be to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will".Two decades have passed since man foisted on his fellow men the power of the atom. That man has not since Hiroshima and Nagasaki resorted to the we of these weapons is the world's greatest mercy and blessing. To continue worthy of these matchless blessings is our imminent struggle, and in the future will be our greatest achievement or our greatest catastrophe. This House, the Government, this debate, will help to decide.
For two decades the Government of Britain have shared the burden of banishing from the world these weapons of self-destruction. By our ultimate decision we help to ban nuclear weapons or we help to amass them. With all the sincerity of which I am capable, I say that no nuclear strike at present possessed by Britain assures security to Britain. Our utmost contribution to the horror of global conflagration would be disproportionate—in comparison, a backyard thunderflash. The Nassau Agreement recognises that the security of the West is indivisible, and so must be our defence. I believe that we must plan and help man a genuine multilateral nuclear force within the N.A.T.O. Alliance.
Nuclear defence, mercifully perhaps, is not enough. We must share the conventional burdens of N.A.T.O.'s strength. We must never be part of an alliance which retaliates to threats by brandishing nuclear arms or nothing at all.
I am most grateful to my fellow hon. Members for the generous and sympathetic hearing which they have given me.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
It is unusual for an hon. Member to follow four maiden speakers, but that is my privilege this evening. The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon) delivered a fine speech with great sincerity. He had obviously taken 458 a lot of trouble thinking out what he would say, and it gives me great pleasure to congratulate him on his maiden speech, which I am sure will be of considerable interest to his constituents. I notice that he did not refer to the Preston football team. I hope that they will have better luck this year. I am sure that the whole House looks forward to hearing him many times in the future.
Other maiden speakers have been my hon. Friends the Members for Westbury (Mr. Walters) and Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) and the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Jackson). Their speeches were all delivered in expert style. Many of us who have been here for some time have noticed in this Parliament that the maiden speeches are quite the best we have heard since the end of the war. Perhaps hon. Members have had practice in fighting by-elections. The speeches are all delivered with great expertise. I am sure that the whole House congratulates all four maiden speakers.
We had a very long speech by the Prime Minister. Had we been given a statement by him even as late as yesterday it would have been of great help to the House in today's debate. The subject was involved and complicated. I hesitate to say too much about his speech until I have had an opportunity to study it. It is unfortunate that at present the Minister of State has no support on the Front Bench from any of the Service Ministers. There is not even a Government Whip present. If the House is to debate these matters, he should be supported by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen from the Service Departments, because these are important matters. Surely the Ministers cannot be content with reading tomorrow's HANSARD. They ought to be here listening to what hon. Members say —hon. Members on both sides of the House.
I felt some relief at what the Prime Minister said. Indeed, I was probably happier than many of his hon. Friends sitting below the Gangway, who looked rather miserable. The Prime Minister spoke of the percentage of the gross national product-7.1 per cent. — on defence being unduly high. I do not think that it is a very high bill for us to pay for our share in the defence of the world. It is 4 per cent. or 5 per cent. 459 less than the amount in the United States, and the level in other countries, such as France, is also rising.
The Prime Minister said that we shall require bases. I would have been happier if he had said what bases he would like to acquire. He did not mention a specific base, and before the debate closes tomorrow I should like to know what bases will be retained, and what extra ones will be brought in if necessary.
The Prime Minister also referred, very casually, to the possibility of United States aircraft being manufactured in Britain. Could it be confirmed that these are the Phantom aircraft which were considered during the summer by the previous Administration? I think that a figure of 175 has been mentioned. The aircraft industry is going through a period of grave anxiety. The hon. Member for Preston, South, has in his constituency English Electric and many other firms. A number of workers and executives are concerned about their jobs in the future, and we ought to be told a little more about this possible arrangement with the United States.
The right hon. Gentleman also spoke about research and development projects. Until about eight years ago I spent most of my working life in the aircraft industry. Time and again I tried to come to an arrangement with the Americans whereby projects could be manufactured here as a quid pro quo for orders placed in the United States, but no progress has been made in that direction. It is most difficult to do any deal with the United States on sharing research and development. I hope that it will come about, because it will be a great help to the feelings in the Western Alliance if it does. The Americans are very jealous even of their civil airlines buying British products. They do everything to baulk it. They go out and bribe customers, and almost give aircraft away rather than see the British obtain orders. I should like to hear more about this before I can feel satisfied on that part of the discussions.
The Prime Minister said that technical teams were at work on a weapons programme. I am sure that there can be no secret about this, because we shall read it in Aviation News in a week or 460 two so I think that it would be better if Ministers told the House what is in their minds.
We were told that our V-bombers will play a rôle in Europe, and that a number of them will be retained for operations elsewhere. That was the best news of the debate. I have heard so many insults thrown at the V-bomber programme over the last three years by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that I felt that all they wanted to do was to put a match to them. They continually belittled them. Everybody has belittled them, except Soviet Russia. I have never heard her belittle the effectiveness of the V-bombers.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that he has never said that. I am prepared to accept his statement. He is a previous Secretary of State for Air, and would know better.
We are told that the V-bombers will have an effective rôle to play, and this is quite encouraging, but will they be used in their nuclear capacity or in a conventional rôle? A squadron of Victor bombers is now based in the Far East in Malaysia, and is undoubtedly playing an effective rôle in keeping down the ambitions of Indonesia towards Malaya.
I should like to know whether those which are to be kept out there will be nuclear or not. It is fundamental to the matter that we are discussing to be told whether they will have a nuclear rôle. They may be used, for example, in the defence of India. We do not know. We hope not, but we must be told more about this. One cannot expect the information overnight, but there is a good deal more that the House should be told.
The Prime Minister did not refer to the Royal Navy. He skirted round this, and did not refer to his speeches at Plymouth and Chatham during the General Election campaign when he talked about having a bigger Navy. He avoided that one this afternoon, and I think that the House would like to know whether the proposed order for the first aircraft carrier is to be proceeded with. If we have a rôle to play in the Far East, there is undoubtedly a great need for an aircraft carrier, expensive though it may be.
461 The Prime Minister said this afternoon that we live in a troubled world, that the emphasis is inclined to shift to different parts of the world each year. and that we need a reappraisal of where to concentrate the effort. In my view, the state of affairs in Borneo and Malaysia will be long and drawn out. I do not think that it will be a question of a few weeks, or a few months. We have to be prepared to continue to play our part there, as has been done up to now by the solders and their officers with great brilliance. In small numbers they have played an effective rôle, and a rôle which no other nation could have played in the same way. They have to be careful about not going over into enemy territory. They have to be careful not to be provocative, and, at the same time, they have to keep the peace. The British have played a magnificent role out there.
I should like to see Australia and New Zealand, who have troops in Malaya, sending troops to Borneo where the actual fighting is taking place. This would provide great support for our men, and I know that Australians and New Zealanders would like to be given the opportunity to go in to help. Australia and New Zealand would be far happier if they felt that they were playing a more effective rôle in Borneo than they are doing at the moment.
As this operation continues, we have to be prepared for the Indonesians becoming more proficient in using the equipment supplied to them. They have been given first-class aircraft and submarines, and when they become competent in handling this equipment they will be a force to be reckoned with. This could become a real danger area—an area where there may be nuclear blackmail because of Chinese progress in the nuclear field, and we have to be on guard against it.
The situation in the Congo during the last few weeks has been disastrous. I was surprised, and indeed hurt, that there was no initiative from the United Nations to rescue the white people held there. Belgian paratroopers, in American aircraft which took off from a British base, went in to help, but there was no real initiative from the United Nations to sponsor something to bring about the rescue of these people. Much abuse has been thrown at the countries which took part 462 in this operation. Even Britain was abused for lending the base at Ascension Island.
When there is trouble like this in the world, and hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of white people are involved, it is up to the United Nations to take the lead in bringing about a rescue, rather than leave it to individual nations to take the initiative and in the course of doing so aggravate the feelings of some countries.
We still have bases in Cyprus, and I imagine that we shall stay there for the time being. Perhaps we can be told a little more about the situation in that country.
The Prime Minister referred at length to the cost of maintaining British troops in Germany. It is certainly considerable, and the Germans just have not played fair in making their contribution towards paying for these forces. Neither have the Americans. Whenever the Germans have been prepared to order equipment from Britain as part of the payment to us, the Americans have stepped in and browbeaten them to order equipment in the United States. It is all very well to talk about sharing research and development with the Americans. The fact is that over matters like this Britain has been done down for years, and it is about time that we received orders from N.A.T.O. When did we last get a N.A.T.O. order for aircraft or weapons? I cannot remember one of any significance. We must consider first things first when looking at this overall problem.
Do not let us forget—and the Prime Minister referred to this today—that in the early months of this year British troops based in Aden went into East Africa, at a few hours' notice, at the request of the leaders of the new countries and brought about peace there which has been sustained since. I would not like to say that this will not happen again. I hope that it will not, but it may well do so. The Chinese and Russians are pouring aid into Zanzibar, and the situation there is bound to fester and deteriorate as time goes on.
What depresses me is that, after spending about £30 million to help Kenya along in her independence, we hear of highly responsible British journalists—in one case a man from the Sunday Telegraph—being expelled at 24 hours' 463 notice. This is not good enough when we have gone short to provide aid to countries and to leave things in an orderly state. It is not good enough to hear of British subjects being treated like this.
I was disappointed by the lack of initiative on the part of Her Majesty's Government. The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs was not prepared to do anything about it. Surely, if British subjects are in trouble anywhere in the world, the nations creating the trouble will have far more respect if the Government take vigorous action, provided that it is fair and reasonable, in making their case. We made a much stronger case with Russia over an attache was expelled. To see British journalists of the Sunday Telegraph turned out of Kenya in the disgraceful way they were turned out does not help our cause at all, particularly when Britain is pouring millions of pounds of its resources into that country in the form of aid.
I want to refer to China and India. This is a very serious problem which I think we shall have to face sooner or later. The Chinese have now got their first nuclear weapon. We are told that they have their first test weapon, and the second one may be very near. I had the privilege, before the war, of spending five years in China trying to teach the Chinese something about aviation. I am still very fond of them as a race. They are delightful people. I found them honest and straight, and do not underrate their intelligence and adaptability. Many people think them old-fashioned and not capable, but they are really very competent when they take on a project like the nuclear bomb.
We were shown a year or two ago that India is in no position to defend herself. I should like to be satisfied that we are prepared, in conjunction with the United States and any others, to play our full rôle and not with just a few Britannia aircraft troop carriers and in other ways in defending that great country.
Many things were said before and during the General Election which, when the heat has gone, cannot be carired through in the normal course of Government business. I detected that today in the Prime Minister's speech. It is the first time I have heard from him a more subdued 464 speech and a more responsible one than any of his previous utterances have been since the new Parliament came into being. Before the election, he was saying that there was no point in our doing much east of Suez [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] In so many words he was saying that if he had to send 1,000 men east of Suez they would have to come out of Germany. It is all in HANSARD if the hon. Gentleman is prepared to look it up. But there has been a shift of opinion and emphasis today.
§ Mr. David Ennals (Dover)
I wonder whether the hon. Member is aware that in a number of speeches recorded not only in this House, but elsewhere—I recall a speech on 3rd March which he delivered in the United States—the Prime Minister made a great point about the importance of the rôle of this country east of Suez in peace-keeping functions and in our Commonwealth functions.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The Prime Minister has made a great many speeches, but they do not all tally with each other. That is the point I am making. If the hon. Gentleman does some research, he will find that I am correct in what I am saying—that there has now been a shift of emphasis in the Far East on the part of the Government. Personally, I am delighted to hear it.
We have a rôle to play in the Far East which cannot be carried out by any other country. Looking at it from a selfish angle, we know that a great many British people work in South-East Asia and that a large amount of our overseas payments come from that part of the world in the form of rubber and tin. We have obligations to Malaysia. Of all the independent countries which have evolved since the war from the Colonial Empire, Malaya has impressed me the most in adapting the Westminster method. We have to stand by those people, come what may; and I am sure that we shall do so.
In referring to the nuclear possibilities of China, we have to couple that with the French. We cannot ignore the French in this matter. President de Gaulle may be a difficult customer to deal with, but the French have a very high regard for him. He has "produced the goods". I was over there a short time ago and went to one of three technical universities where there were 3,000 students, all living 465 in, being taught radar, engineering and so on, and there are others to come. There must be a great deal of wealth in France to undertake projects of that size. Do not let us under-rate the French technically or in any other way.
Whatever we do about nuclear weapons I cannot see President de Gaulle agreeing to give up his. I do not think anything would persuade him to do this. I wish that he would come into line, but he will not do so and neither will the Chinese. I say that before we give any real independence from this country we have to be very careful of the implications of what the French may have in three or four years' time, if we have not got it. I do not like seeing Britain pushed around by any nation—the French, the Chinese, or the Russians. I think that it is generally agreed in the House that, bad as nuclear weapons are, they have kept the peace for the last 20 years.
As I understood the Prime Minister today, if the Polaris submarines are merged into a force—and I also understood him to say that the Americans would put an equal number into that force—I do not see how this can be of any saving to Britain. It will cost just as much if we keep them out of this authority which is just on the fringe of N A.T.O. I hope that we will be told a little more by the Government where the savings may come from. Before we can really consider these matters we must be told what the weapons programme is to be.
It is now two months since the Government said that they wanted to get out of the Concord business. The trade unions have now taken over from their respective Governments and we are told that there is every likelihood of it going on. But these matters cannot drag on indefinitely. The Government must make an early statement on what weapons they are to keep and which they are to cancel.
I do not take the view of most hon. Members opposite that the Polaris submarines, when completed, would not be independent. They will be independent provided that the Americans live up to their side of the contract during their construction. Once the vessels are launched and fitted with British warheads they will be independent.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, I can quite see that they are not independent while they are being constructed because we are dependent on the Americans for some of the equipment. But, once they are constructed, they are independent, or, at least, I think they are.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about the capacity of the Soviet Union and the United States in destruction. Of course, we have only a small percentage of the "kill", if we can use that word, in nuclear weapons, but the real thing is that both the United States and Russia have an enormous "over-kill". If one has to be killed by a bullet it is equally bad as being killed by a nuclear bomb.
When we consider that the V-bomber nuclear destruction capacity today is the equivalent of all the explosives dropped by the R.A.F. right through the whole of the last war, much more—and the four Polaris submarines would have a capacity of about 2,500 Hiroshima bombs—we see that it is tremendous. Hon. Gentlemen talk about the small contribution of the British deterrent, but that is not so at all. It is a very effective contribution. Do not let anyone under-estimate what the British deterrent is really worth when one measures destruction. It is a horrible thought.
I have no confidence in the M.L.F. whatever. It would be disastrous from many points of view. I cannot see it working. The mere idea of having 24 large ships of 6,000 to 10,000 tons, with 16 nuclear weapons on board, steaming on the ocean and being spotted and followed wherever they go, is ridiculous.
I cannot think of anything which will aggravate the world situation more than a multilateral force. It would be very expensive, and a great drain on the manpower of the nations contributing to it, because men would have to be taken away from other ships in order to man them. These men would have to be very skilled, and the ships would be costly. It would aggravate our relations with the Russians, which have been improving in the last year or two. Even with the new leaders of Soviet Russia the situation has not deteriorated.
The Prime Minister spoke about his discussions with Mr. Khrushchev this summer. But he is not dealing with Mr. Khrushchev now, and the new Russian leaders may have other ideas.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
To be fair to the Americans, I do not think that the M.L.F. as originally envisaged was so expensive. It was to be made up of merchant ships of about 10,000 tons each—admittedly carrying Polaris weapons—each with about 200 crew. It would not have been a costly procedure. Our share would have been about £15 million.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
My hon. Friend cannot have studied the matter. It is the machinery that goes into the guts of the ship that costs the money. Admittedly, it would not be as expensive as a nuclear submarine, but 24 ships would be very expensive, and a great deal of money would be involved in running them.
It would aggravate the situation with the French. I can see no good coming out of it at all, and I hope that the Prime Minister will not make a token contribution by agreeing to put in a few hundred British sailors and a few officers, saying, "We have to look after our friends on the Left. We will not do very much, but we will make a token contribution." I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make it abundantly clear that we will not have anything to do with it, because, as I see the matter, it can only worsen the world situation.
The Prime Minister talked about discussions between the leaders of the respective parties on defence matters. That is fine, if we go the whole way, as the Americans do, and have proper committees in which back benchers as well as Privy Councillors can participate. Back bench Members are just as concerned about the defence of our country as are Privy Councillors. The one Liberal Privy Councillor will probably be in on it, although he was not looked at this afternoon.
I cannot see much joy coming out of this idea unless it embraces the idea of a committee which can keep back bench Members informed by giving them figures and secrets, after Members have taken some form of oath. I do not know what the oath would be, but most of us take an oath when being sworn in. If this idea goes forward I would like to see an all-embracing Standing Committee set up. The Paymaster-General has often put this 468 idea forward. Members of Parliament have great difficulty in obtaining information on these important matters. We have to read all we can and try to decide how much to believe when we have read it. I find that American magazines give most information on these subjects.
I hope that the Prime Minister will not rush into something during the next few weeks. I would not be surprised if the President of the United States had not said to him, "Go back to Europe and see what you can do with the French, the Germans, the Italians and the others. See how far you can get them to agree to this business". While the Prime Minister is doing that he may have a great deal of trouble from those on his extreme Left, when deciding which way he will play it. Before any firm decision is taken about giving away the British deterrent, I hope that the House will be given much more information than it has had so far.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
First, I want to associate myself with the congratulations offered by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) to the four hon. Members who made their maiden speeches tonight. They were well up to standard. Indeed, I am not sure that the standard of this Parliament is not a little higher than it has been in previous Parliaments—at any rate, higher than when I made my maiden speech.
I hope to refer to the remarks of the hon. Member for Macclesfield a little later, but I would start by suggesting that the speech of the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), and the speech of the Prime Minister, followed by certain remarks of the hon. Member for Macclesfield, highlighted the basic difference of opinion between the Opposition and the Government on the nuclear concept.
As I understand the position of the Opposition, judging from what they have done in recent years, they seek to retain a national nuclear force. It is true that they put it into N.A.T.O., under the operational control of the Commanding General of N.A.T.O., and, following the Nassau Agreement, reserved the right to withdraw the V-bombers in a national emergency. I hope that the hon. Member for Macclesfield will not make a 469 practice of claiming a monopoly of interest in the V-bomber force. If the Labour Government had not designed, developed and started production of the V-bomber force the late Government, during the last 13 years, would not have had any bombers.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I am delighted to share the V-bombers with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I only wish that in more recent years he had been able to persuade some of his hon. Friends to take the same point of view.
§ Mr. Henderson
The hon. Gentleman is being unjust to my colleagues. We are saying that at the end of this decade the V-bombers will be obsolescent. We are moving rapidly into the nuclear missile era. Whether or not we like it the V-bombers will be more or less obsolescent, if not in the late 'sixties then in the early' seventies. We have merely suggested that the country should face that situation.
I hope that I shall not get the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden into trouble with his colleagues when I say that I thought he made a constructive speech. He made one startling statement, however, which exemplifies the difference between the two sides of the House. First, he talked about Polaris missiles, and then about the V-bombers, being used east of Suez. He said that we would, therefore, require to retain them as our independent nuclear deterrent. Am I to understand that the Opposition can ever conceive of a situation in which they would launch their nuclear missiles—bombers or otherwise—on any country east of Suez, without reference to our allies?
It we are to have proper relations with our allies, we must secure and maintain those relations by the proposition put forward by my right hon. Friend this afternoon. He said that we will take our V-bombers and our three or five Polaris submarines—and no doubt the tactical bombers which will now have a nuclear capacity—and put them into an Atlantic nuclear force. We are not scrapping our V-bombers or our submarines. We are not even handing them to someone over whom we will have no control, because we will be an equal partner in the ownership and control of that nuclear force.
Why do we say that that is a good thing? If we seek to maintain our 470 own nuclear force—and as a good Britisher, if I may claim that privilege, I feel some pride in the fact that we are a so-called nuclear Power—the people of Germany, Italy and other countries, who have pride in their countries, will also seek to become nuclear Powers. We say that to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in other countries we should make the gesture of handing ours over to this international or allied organisation—an organisation in which we will be an equal partner with other countries—thereby indicating to those other countries that there is no need for them to seek to have a national nuclear force.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Did not the Prime Minister go out of his way to emphasise that he intended to keep out of our contribution to N.A.T.O., or to the new force, a force of bombers adequate to look after our Far Eastern interests? Did not he also decline to deny that these might have nuclear armaments?
§ Mr. Henderson
He did decline to answer that, but the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) has misquoted the Prime Minister. If the hon. Gentleman had listened carefully he would know that the Prime Minister said "international obligations". My right hon. Friend never said that this limited number of bombers, whatever it might be, was to be kept out of the Atlantic nuclear force in order to be an instrument of national policy. On the contrary, he said it would be used to allow us to carry out international and Commonwealth commitments. There is a very big difference.
§ Viscount Lambton
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that we should not have the right to contribute these planes to CENTO?
§ Mr. Henderson
In so far as it was in consequence of action to be taken under the Charter authorised by the Security Council—because the words used by my right hon. Friend were "international commitments" — they would be used wherever it was authorised by the United Nations. I should have thought that an exception 471 which would have been welcomed by the Opposition.
The Prime Minister went on to refer to a mixed nuclear element. I have great misgivings on that point. I realise that there are political advantages, but I do not know of any military advantages. I have talked to many military experts and I have not found one who attaches any great military importance to this mixed-manned force, but there may be political advantages. Germany and Italy and other countries may become partners in this force and if they have contributed financially and in other ways it would be difficult to say to them, "You are not to be allowed to have any manpower involved operationally in this Atlantic force". Therefore, I think that this matter requires a great deal of consideration.
The Prime Minister was quite clear. He said that decisions would not he rushed on the proposals under discussion. I was happy to have that assurance, because I can think of political disadvantages if a mixed-manned element is provided. We know that the Soviet Government have expressed very deep resentment and opposition to the idea of a mixed-manned force. I believe that it might even prejudice the advance towards German reunification. It would be tragic if the political situation in Europe became so poisoned, as a result of going on with this idea of a mixed-manned element, as to prevent the reunification of Germany or result in the Soviet Union and other Communist countries refusing to co-operate with us over disarmament.
Disarmament negotiations have been going on for ten to fifteen years. Today, as we know, there exist overwhelming powers of destruction. Stocks of nuclear weapons are being built up. As was said by the hon. Member for Macclesfield, it does not matter whether a man is killed by a bullet or by a hydrogen bomb, except that the explosion of a hydrogen bomb would kill a great many people. It would require many rifle bullets to kill as many people as might die if a hydrogen bomb was exploded. This is the position we face.
The leaders of our country, the United States and Russia—our former Prime Minister and his predecessor, my own 472 leader—have said time and again that the most urgent problem which faces the world today is the problem of disarmament. It would be tragic if anything were done to prevent the possibility of disarmament and I am glad, therefore, that the Prime Minister said that there would be no hurried decisions.
My right hon. Friend enumerated some possibilities regarding disarmament—agreement over the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons; the extension of the ban on nuclear tests to cover underground tests; an agreement to freeze Budget expenditure on armaments; an agreement to have the so-called "bonfire" of bombs. These are not the essence of comprehensive disarmament, but they may well be partial measures which would lead to a climate in which comprehensive and general disarmament might be possible.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that none of them is very new?
§ Mr. Henderson
The hon. Gentleman may make a party point if he wishes. I have not said anything about them being new, I have put some forward myself in the last two or three years as the hon. Gentleman will know. I was not trying to score a party point. I do not care who secures disarmament so long as we start on the road towards it. When the lives of hundreds of millions of people are at stake, why do we want to fiddle around with party politics? I say again that I do not care who achieves disarmament so long as we start on the road to disarmament. My point is that we have not yet started. Therefore, I do not want anything done by any Government in this or any other country which would delay or jeopardise the possibility of making a start on disarmament. I hope that in the mission he is to undertake the Prime Minister will be successful in that respect.
The hon. Member for Macclesfield referred to the situation in the Congo. To some extent I share his criticisms of the United Nations. On the other hand, do not let us be under any illusion about this matter. The United Nations is not a corporate body, nor is there one mind able to make a decision. When we look at the course of events in the Congo, it is extremely disturbing as it becomes more and more evident that in the 473 United Nations there is a vacuum which becomes apparent at times of crisis. What happened in July 1960? The Security Council took a decision to send a United Nations force to the Congo. The force was there from July, 1960, until the last United Nations soldier was taken out on 30th June, 1964. The turbulence which has characterised that country ever since started within a week of the last of the United Nations troops leaving the Congo.
Why was the United Nations force taken out? Because a large number of countries which are members of the United Nations refused to pay their assessed dues needed to pay for that force. I agree with the hon. Member for Macclesfield. I would say to the members of the General Assembly and the representatives of the countries belonging to the United Nations that they cannot have it both ways. They must make up their minds what they want. Last week there were most outspoken criticisms by the representatives of the Soviet Union and of other Communist countries, and a large number of African representatives, of the Belgian Government, the United States Government and our own Government. A great rescue operation was described as a military operation, carried out by Belgian paratroops, aided by United States transport squadrons, with the connivance of the United Kingdom.
The United Nations cannot have it both ways. If its members are not prepared to organise a standby force which can be made available to deal with crises such as occurred when 2,000 or 3,000 hostages were used as a pawn in a civil war, they cannot blame other countries connected with those hostages from taking action to rescue them.
The Minister of State said the other day that discussions were taking place in the United Nations on the question of standby forces. I hope that Her Majesty's Government intend to play their full part in those discussions. One of the troubles is that the United Nations Charter in this respect has not been carried out, because under Article 43 it is possible for member States to make special agreements with the Security Council for the provision of men and materials.
474 It is not stated in that Article that they may be used only for enforcement action under Chapter 7. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will indicate their willingness to provide a standby contingent or, if that is not acceptable, certainly to provide logistic support. It is interesting to note that in July of this year the Soviet Union sent a memorandum to the Secretary General suggesting that discussions take place on the question of special agreements for the provision of personnel in connection with a standby force.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Macclesfield referred to China. I am sure that he does not think that even if we deployed the whole of our V-bomber force we would wish to take on China alone. We on this side believe in collective security. For the last 40 years the party which I support has believed in a system of collective security within the framework of disarmament. We cannot safeguard our security or that of other Commonwealth countries and deal with it on the basis of our own resources.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman misunderstood me. I did not say that we would go to the aid of India alone. Naturally, that would have to be done with other nations, but we would play our full part.
§ Mr. Henderson
If it came to that, I agree that we would play our full part, but there is another way to look at this problem. We will never get general disarmament while China is kept outside the conference room. We will not achieve universality so long as China is kept out of the United Nations, and I hope that she will be brought in without delay. China may be able to teach us a few things, but I am sure that we could teach her a good many things, too.
When I was in Africa, some time ago, I saw a rogue elephant running through the bush. I was told that while it was on its own it would get up to all sorts of mischief and cause damage. There is every reason for China to be in the United Nations. She should be in on the disarmament discussions at Geneva and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will not be afraid to make overtures to Mao Tse-tung with this in mind. I do not know whether this is acceptable but I would not object to 475 Mao Tse-tung being invited to London, the ground having been properly prepared for him. We cannot go on considering China as an outcast.
My right hon. Friend has undertaken a great peace mission. Great responsibilities are placed on him and, although he is not in his place at the moment, I wish him godspeed in the great work for peace to which he has set his hand.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Chataway (Lewisham, North)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) emphasised again by his speech how much more convenient it would have been had we had a statement from the Prime Minister yesterday. if the Prime Minister was prepared to give this information today, surely he could have given it yesterday.
There is bound to be a good deal of disagreement about what the Prime Minister said. The right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton put a strange construction on that part of the Prime Minister's speech which dealt with the V-bombers, which were not to be added to the Atlantic nuclear force but retained for use east of Suez. The right hon. and learned Gentleman understood the Prime Minister to say that those V-bombers were to be used to further our international obligations and he took that to mean that we would deploy those forces only in support of objects which had the approval of the United Nations Security Council. If that were the arrangement, it would be impossible to use our V-bombers in support of Malaysia, and the same would apply to the defence of India against China.
§ Mr. A. Henderson
Perhaps when the hon. Member gets home he will be good enough to read Article 51 of the Charter, where he will find it stated that there is a right of self-defence which is not affected by obligations incurred by members of the United Nations.
§ Mr. Chataway
I understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point to be that we were somehow to be limited in the use to which we could put our V-bombers by the remarks the Prime Minister made today.
476 Most hon. Members will wish to look in some detail at the speech of the Prime Minister before coming to a conclusion about his proposals. I was interested, and somewhat relieved, to find that the Prime Minister was not taking up any dogmatic determination to renounce our ultimate control over our nuclear weapons. I was reassured by what he said about our obligations east of Suez.
This Government are bound to be under the suspicion that they are primarily interested in these negotiations with somehow appearing to get rid of Britain's ultimate control over her deterrent. They are bound to be under the suspicion that they are more interested in finding a form of words which seems consistent with their pre-election pledges than in anything else. But if the Prime Minister says that the purpose of his plans is to strengthen the Western Alliance, even if one-third of hon. Members opposite are opposed to the Western Alliance, we must accept what the right hon. Gentleman says.
If the Prime Minister tells the House that in these plans he is anxious to get a share of control over the Western deterrent which divides power more equitably between the two sides of the Atlantic, then, even if one-third of right hon. and hon. Members opposite are opposed to the Western deterrent, we must accept what the Prime Minister says. If, however these two objectives are to be achieved, clearly a precondition for the Government is for them to make plain that they understand the legitimate concern there is on this side of the Atlantic that the ultimate safety of Britain and Western Europe should not solely be in the hands of the United States.
This is an argument that has been deployed very often in the past few months in relation to this country, and that concern is perfectly legitimate. However few hon. Members would say so in such a debate as this, it is a concern which must be shared by a lot of hon. Members opposite. It is also a concern in Europe that is not confined simply to General de Gaulle or to the so-called Gaullistes in Germany. In Western Europe there must be anxiety to ensure that the system of control over the Atlantic deterrent is such as really to 477 share ultimate power between Europe and the United States.
For the success of this plan it is necessary for the Government to persuade Europe that they understand this problem and are concerned to solve it. For the success of this plan, as for other and I think more important reasons, it is one of the urgent priorities of this Government to shed their anti-European attitudes. The Prime Minister has a lot of leeway to make up. I do not want to dwell now on the appalling muddle over the import surcharge or the Concord. They were, of course, a miserably bad start, and did no more than confirm the anti-European reputation that the Prime Minister and many of his leading colleagues have acquired in the past few years—
§ Mr. Chataway
The hon. Gentleman says "nonsense", but perhaps he would agree that Mr. Boyd of The Guardian is not usually unduly hostile to the party opposite, nor does he usually misrepresent the attitudes of the Labour Party, yet in June of this year lie posed the question as to why the Labour Party was so contemptuous of Europe—
§ Mr. Chataway
The hon. Gentleman thinks that I have not brought it with me, but if he were interested I would be very willing to read the entire article. It is headed "Aspects of Politics". It is dated 30th June, 1964— "Labour and Europe" by Francis Boyd:Why is it that Labour, which has long prided itself on its internationalism, should be so contemptuous of Western Europe?I do not know whether 20 words make a quotation where five do not. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the article was concerned to try to find an answer to this puzzle. It is not for me to give answers this evening, but I suspect that the answer is rooted in some of the 478 anachronistic ideologies that swirl in the muddy depths of the Labour Party.
The Government must recognise that they have acquired this reputation particularly during the course of the Common Market negotiations. The present Prime Minister then distinguished himself as one of the most waspish, and, I think, one of the meanest critics of the European Common Market. He sneeringly referred to it on many occasions as "the rich man's club". He never talked of the agricultural system within the Common Market without referring to Schacht—Hitler's finance minister. It is very difficult, looking through the right hon. Gentleman's speeches on the subject, ever to find a mention by him of the agricultural system without a mention of Schacht. The right hon. Gentleman asked, in our debate on 8th November, 1962, whether, if we joined the Common Market, Krupps would be coming to take over our steel industry.
The Labour Party of that time stirred up many of the Commonwealth difficulties, particularly in relation to the African part of the Commonwealth, where they encouraged African Commonwealth members to reject the very generous offer of A.O.T. status that was made, and which most of those African countries are now seeking to negotiate for themselves. One could go on with these examples, but I am sure that it would be accepted by most right hon. and hon. Members that if the Government wish to be accepted in Europe, they have a great leeway to make up.
The argument today is not about joining the Common Market—that option is not, at the moment, open to Great Britain. The arguments for working and for hoping for future British membership of a European community are as strong today as they were strong then. But there is one opportunity open to this country, one European issue that is becoming very much alive, and that is the issue of European political union. I was delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) gave to this issue such importance in his speech today. He urged on the House that it should be recognised that the attempt to reach political union in Europe was fundamental to so many other ambitions that are common to people in all parts of this 479 House. Only today, the Common Market has finally reached agreement on cereal prices, and this will clearly mean an enormous amount in the development of the Common Market. It is likely that it will hasten the move towards European political union.
The Foreign Secretary, within four or five days of his taking office, briefed the Press, if one understands aright the reports of the diplomatic correspondents, to the effect that this Government like their predecessors, were anxious to take part in talks on political union. That has been confirmed by Government spokesmen on one or two subsequent occasions, but I must say that the impression in Europe is that the Government are paying no more than lip-service to the idea, and have no interest in the development of European political union.
I notice that that impression, which I find to be common in Europe, was confirmed by the Washington correspondent of The Times who, reporting last Monday, said:The talks between Mr. Wilson and President Johnson ranged far and wide, but appeared only rarely to touch upon political union in which Mr. Wilson did not seem to be much interested.I suggest that two of the most urgent priorities for this Government in their relations with European countries at the moment are these. First, they should make it abundantly clear that we want to take part in talks about European political union and that we really want to be members of such a union. The second is for the Government to do their best, and as soon as possible, to eliminate the impression created by their attitude during the Common Market negotiations.
The sooner the ridiculous five conditions are renounced the better. Clearly, so long as the party opposite rests its European policies on those five conditions it will be impossible for it ever to take part in any of the developments in Europe. If we are to see the growing sums that Europe spends in overseas aid used to their maximum advantage, there must be greater unity. If we are to see the ideas and ideals of Western Europe count for what they ought to count in the years to come, we cannot afford the present fragmentation between European states. The arguments both political and economic 480 for a unified Europe are as strong today as they were two or three years ago.
One may hope that more and more people are coming to see that. I believe this is the case. Our relations with Europe are certainly relevant to the narrow purpose, with which we are primarily concerned today, the Government's professed desire to see a fairer distribution of power over the Atlantic deterrent. The Government will be enormously helped if they make it plain right from the start that they associate themselves with Europe, and that they recognise that Britain is and must be a part of Europe and not simply a satellite of the United States of America.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
The hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) accused my right Friend the Prime Minister of some waspish sentiments. The speech of the hon. Member was the one lone wasp we have heard in this debate. He made reference to the fact that if my right hon. Friend said that the Labour Party adhered to the Western Alliance we would have to accept it even though some of my hon. Friends are alleged to be against it. He spoke of our alleged anti-European posture and to a number of ancillary matters. If he will do me the honour of listening to some reflections which I wish to offer on his speech I hope that his mind may be set at rest.
I begin by saying a warm word of congratulation to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Many people before the General Election said—it was widely believed and a number of people voted on this basis—that if Labour won the election it would lead to a neutralist Britain. No contention has proved more wrong more quickly than that. If anyone looks at the history of the Labour Party he may see that this was inevitable. There have been two major watersheds in the history of the Labour Party. The first was in 1935 when Hugh Dalton and Ernest Bevin were responsible for seeing that those who followed a pacifist policy in the face of the rise of Mussolini and Hitler should not control the destinies of the Labour Party. Reference has been made to Ernest Bevin already—he was one of the great Foreign Secretaries in British history—his victory of 1935 made possible the Labour victory of 1945.
481 Then there was the long argument which went on in 1960 and 1961. The result of that argument was decisive in making possible the Labour Government of 1964. Not only all my right hon. Friends who sit on the Treasury Bench but the whole country will always be in debt to a man whose courage at that time and whose sacrifice made that victory possible and whose self-sacrifice probably prevented him from being here today. He will always be in our thoughts.
These are grave days in the history of this country, probably much graver than the public realises. It is not merely a question of the £ sterling being in the balance; it is of the whole national purpose being under appraisal. When one is considering an exercise of this vast magnitude, or indeed any exercise, it is always essential to state the central strategic objective. What is the central strategic objective in the present situation? Obviously, in the wide sweep, it is to secure a healthy society here at home and an influential voice in the affairs of man. This can be done only if it is based on a viable economy and on a wise defence and foreign policy. The crux of that is the economy, but that is outside the scope of this debate.
I propose to say a word or two about different aspects of defence and foreign policy. There are three aspects to which I propose to speak. First, there is the objective in Europe itself. Secondly, there is the problem of the Orient, which has been referred to at considerable length in this debate. Thirdly, there is the question of which the hon. Member for Lewisham, North spoke, our relations as a nation with Europe.
First, what is the problem as far as it concerns Europe? In the first place, it is to secure a viable defence against the problem which is posed by the continuing hostility of the Soviet Union. Of course, it is quite reasonable to contend that the hostility of the Soviet Union is diminishing. Certainly significant steps were taken before Mr. Khrushchev fell from power which indicated that the Soviet Union was moving towards a genuine desire for some form of limited détente in Europe. There were very significant developments such as the visit of Mr. Adzhubei to Bonn which was intended to be a forerunner of Mr. Khrushchev's own visit.
482 Since then there has been a change of Government. It is too early yet to say what policies are likely to be followed by Mr. Brezhnev and Mr. Kosygin or whether, indeed, they are the gentlemen with whom we shall have to deal. It may be Mr. Shelepin or Mr. Podgorny. I agree with the Prime Minister on the need to perform a reconnaissance. I think he is absolutely right to do that to see how the land lies. But I enter two caveats. First, it is only too obvious that we should be extremely cautious and not expect too much too quickly.
We have to remember that it was four years from Stalin's death in 1953 until June, 1957, before the internal debate in the Soviet Union was resolved and we got a positive Soviet foreign policy. There was a general standstill on Soviet foreign policy. This may well be the case, or it may not be the case, again. The point I emphasise is that it is important not to be optimistic lest we should be disappointed.
The second caveat I enter is that it is very important not to repeat the mistakes made by Mr. Harold Macmillan in 1959 when he got out on a limb from our allies. That led to the fiasco in May, 1960, and may ultimately have had an influence on the breakdown of the Brussels negotiations in January, 1963. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will not be making this mistake, but I make the point because it is important for us to remember.
As to the Russian problem in Europe—I use the word "problem" rather than "threat" because there is a movement away from the old implacable hostility of the Soviet Union—we are likely to be with it for a number of years to come. It will not be until the Russians are out of East Germany, out of Poland, out of Bulgaria, out of Roumania and Hungary and behind the River Bug that the Russian problem in Europe will have finally disappeared. I see an hon. Member shaking his head. These are not my words. They are the words of somebody else.In correspondence with the Yalta Agreement the Soviet Union, under the pretext of guaranteeing the independence of Mongolia, actually put that country under its rule…In 1954 when Khrushchev and Bulganin arrived in China, we raised this question but they refused to talk with us. They have appropriated part of Roumania. Detaching parts of 483 East Germany, they drove out the local inhabitants to the Western area. Detaching part of Poland they included it in Russia and as compensation gave Poland part of East Germany. The same thing happened to Finland. They detached everything that could be detached.That was Mr. Mao Tse-tung on 10th July, 1964, addressing a Japanese delegation. It was not Mr. Dulles who was expressing that point of view. It was a good staunch comrade.
We must preserve a viable Western defence, and the problem is likely to be with us for some time to come. In any easement that takes place on the part of the Soviet Union, we must remember that the watershed was Cuba and that it was the glint of American resolution at that time and the maintenance of the Western nuclear deterrent in the years before which have enabled people to walk the streets of West Berlin in freedom and, indeed, to sit in this House and speak in freedom, too.
The second aspect of the European problem concerns our own relations with the Alliance. This stems from the fact that the Alliance first came into being as a preponderantly American-led venture, with Britain as a senior junior partner. Since then we have seen the resurgence of modern Europe. It is only right and proper that, with Europe growing in vitality and influence, as it is, the European nations should demand a greater political say in the affairs of the Western Alliance. Yesterday it was France. Today it is Western Germany.
Perhaps I may say one word about each of those two countries. First, France We may not agree with all of the President's policies, but France exists. It is only 20 miles from our shores. What happens in France is of vital concern to the people of this country. It is not so long ago that a British Prime Minister spoke of Czechoslovakia as "a far away country of which we know nothing". How much nearer is France and how much smaller the world is today and how bitter was the lesson that we had of insularity at that time.
As to Western Germany, it would do us no harm nationally to have a look at ourselves in the mirror at our national psychology in regard to our relations with the Germans. It so happens, as 484 many hon. Members know, that my own constituency was called upon to play a part—a small but important part—in the pilot scheme in the Anglo-German rapprochement. I naturally feel a sense of vicarious pride that my constituents dealt with the problem with great maturity and a great deal of common sense. The many thousands of young Germans who come to my constituency each year could not be more model citizens, and I wish all troops were as good as they are.
What is the specific problem as to the international nature of the Alliance? In the course of his speech this afternoon, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister went a long way to answering many of the questions which have been posed. When hon. Members on both sides have had a chance of studying his speech in closer detail tomorrow in its printed form, they will see how far my right hon. Friend has actually gone. He showed that those who have contended that there were any secret commitments are quite wrong. What he has done is perfectly clear. He went to Washington and expressed our doubts about the multi-manned surface fleet and he offered, instead, a proposal for an Atlantic nuclear force, which may be dressed up in A.N.F. uniforms, or whatever one likes. To that would be contributed the British Polaris submarines and a proportion of our V-bomber force.
If the report in The Times is clear about what our Foreign Secretary said yesterday to the N.A.T.O. Council of Ministers, these commitments will be irrevocable. What we want to be clear about is what is meant by "irrevocable". In the actual control of this Atlantic nuclear force, presumably there will be, as my right hon. Friend said, a supreme authority. How does the veto in the control of the nuclear weapons operate? As to the British contribution, do the British submarines and the British V-bombers have an electronic lock on them operated by the spokesman of the supreme authority? If that is so, does that electronic lock also have a second safety catch in the form of action by the American President? These are the type of questions which will have to emerge later.
It is clear from my right hon. Friend's proposals that he has entered into no 485 commitment up to now. Although the Americans may have felt that something was implicit in what my right hon. Friend was putting forward, nothing has actually been said or done irrevocably.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Is it not equally clear that, just as the Prime Minister claims to have entered into no commitment with the United States, so, in spite of all the publicity that has been given, Mr. Johnson has not entered into any commitment with the Prime Minister?
§ Mr. Donnelly
I quite agree. What has happened is that my right hon. Friend has gone there with an alternative proposal to the mixed-manned surface fleet. Mr. Johnson has said, "This is very interesting. If you can persuade the Germans to accept this, this may well be acceptable to us, the United States of America". The Prime Minister's idea is not only the British contribution, but that there will be a land based mixed-manned contingent which would allow presumably German participation and also French participation at a later date leaving the door open for France.
Here one enters into some self-questioning, which is only right and proper. Far be it from me to speak for the French Government, but any hon. Member can assume what is likely to be their answer at the present stage. For the Germans, in my view, the mixed-manned surface fleet has come to represent a form of symbol today which is comparable to the British and American contributions to any Atlantic nuclear force. I think that it may well be that the Germans will not accept no mixed-manned surface fleet as being a satisfactory solution.
I advise my right hon. Friend to be extremely cautious about getting into any situation where he is committed irrevocably against a mixed-manned surface fleet, because if that situation arose it might lead to an impasse in the Alliance which, in the long run, might be extremely detrimental to the national interests of this country and of the West as well. After that, we might easily find ourselves in a situation in which the Germans, having been rebuffed by us, turned to a new form of love affair with the French. The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) 486 touched upon this earlier and, in so doing, warned against the growth of Gaullism in Germany.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
My hon. Friend will permit me to quote from the Labour Party election manifesto:We are against the development of national nuclear deterrents and oppose the current American proposal for a new mixed-manned nuclear surface fleet (MLF).Would not my hon. Friend agree that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and he himself are equally bound by this declaration?
§ Mr. Donnelly
First, nobody is saying that we are in favour of it. Secondly, no country, least of all this country, can permanently fly in the face of the opinion of its principal allies. if my hon. Friend stays in the House a long time he should study Emerson—A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.…It is extremely dangerous to enter into a situation where one is out on a limb, and where there might be an impasse in Europe which would be demaging to the national interests of this country, but I do not think there is a single hon. Member on this side of the House who has had the temerity to question that statement.
I turn from Europe to say a word about the Orient, and in passing I should like to say a word or two about the situation in the Gulf. As I said in our last Foreign Affairs debate in the last Parliament, the Gulf, and as my right hon. Friend rightly implied, is not merely a British interest. It is also a Western interest and, indeed, the fact that the Pax Britannica still exists in the Persian Gulf is an Arab interest as well, so far as enlightened Arabs are concerned. Therefore, there can be no question of walking out upon that obligation.
Then let me move further East. Considerable reference has been made to China today. In the course of this year the Chinese have staked claims to Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, Burma, Vietnam, Korea and Malaya, to say nothing of several hundred thousand square miles of the Soviet Union. This poses a very serious threat in the Orient. The explosion of the Chinese nuclear bomb, even without a means of delivery, and in 487 a comparatively primitive economy at the moment, poses a very serious problem. On top of this there is the prospect of a Communist President in Indonesia. One has only to look at the map of South-East Asia to see that the threat posed to Australasia is very serious indeed.
We have to address ourselves to this problem in three different ways. First of all, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke about a section of the V-bomber force which would be kept for the Far East—or, at least, for areas outside N.A.T.O. areas. This is obviously what he was speaking about, and how right he was. We have got to be perfectly clear that there may come a situations—I hope it will never come—in which the Indians will be threatened with being overrun by the Chinese. In that case we have got to face the same kind of threat in much more difficult circumstances in the Far East as we faced in the fluid situation in Europe in 1947 and 1948. We have got to have the means to convince the Chinese that an attack on Calcutta or Rangoon or Kuala Lumpur or Singapore would be regarded as an attack on Berlin was regarded as an attack on Washington, Paris, London or Bonn. This is the inevitable consequences of pursuing a responsible policy of containment.
Then we have got to examine how this nuclear umbrella is raised over India. If we leave the Indians entirely at the mercy of the Americans, we put them in a very difficult situation. Therefore, it is very important for the British to have participation in some new organisation, perhaps under the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation or some organisation to be created. We must address ourselves to the possibility of some kind of multilateral force in the Orient. It may be necessary to include Japan, too, because in the Japanese we shall be facing a problem in the next 10 or 15 years comparable to the problem of Germany now.
It is quite proper that the other European countries should share that burden, too, because if the Western Alliance means anything it should become a worldwide alliance and the whole concept of N.A.T.O. ought to be extended much wider. This containment policy will not be pursued only by nuclear weapons. It 488 has got to be supported by conventional weapons. This means that although we may want to fulfil our obligations East of Suez, as the phrase runs, the question arises whether this country has the will and the ability to fulfil its obligations. "Will" is the predominant word. In these circumstances, the question really is one of troops and where they are coming from.
I expressed a view on this subject in the past and I do so again. I do not think there is any particularly honourable position occupied by Britain in the Western Alliance when this is the only leading country which seeks to get out of its military obligations by avoiding National Service. I think there will come a day when the British Government will have to face the implication or abdicate its rôle in the Orient. There is no alternative to this. We have got to face the fact that we have got to have the troops. If we have not got the troops we have not got the influence. Very often the people who shout for the most influence are prepared to make the least contribution.
Beyond and above all that, there is the question of the social challenge of Communism. This is far more subtle than in the comparatively sophisticated economies of Western Europe in 1947 and 1948. All I would say about that is that when we think of Communism we think of how much we have got to lose, but when the Asians think of Communism they think of how much they have got to gain. Until we have got that concept straight we shall not be able to face up to the long-term implications of this challenge. It is a challenge to our practicality, our vision and our humanity.
This brings me to the crux of the whole of this argument. Our contribution inevitably must be marginal until our base is wider. This is where the hon. Member for Lewisham, North rightly touched upon the crucial point. The industrial base here is not wide enough. The military base here is not wide enough. Even the political base here is not wide enough. In the long run, if this country is not to become an unimportant little England off the Continent of Europe, it is inevitable that it should join political forces with the Continent of Europe. By that I mean full integration. There is no long-term alternative.
489 I do not know in what circumstances or under what terms Britain would join it. I cannot see that far. All I am saying tonight is that within the lifetime of most people in this Chamber this will come about and there is no practical alternative other than Britain being reduced in the course of 20 years to the position of another Holland. That is the crux of the whole argument. That is what British politics is going to be about in the next decade, more than any other single issue.
I began by saying what is the object of the exercise. I have spoken for rather longer than I had intended. I will merely say this in conclusion. We are at the moment of reappraisal and of great opportunity. The opportunity is comparable to the one in 1947 and 1948, only it is a world-wide opportunity. At that time it was the Americans who came forward with the Marshall Plan, and Mr. Bevin grasped their offer with both hands. There is an opportunity now for Her Majesty's Government to produce a comparable initiative in the affairs of the Western Alliance which will be of lasting benefit to the Alliance. It can be comparable in every way in its permanent value to the Marshall Plan initiative. I wish my right hon. Friend all success.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Aidan Crawley (Derbyshire, West)
It is a pleasure to follow in the debate the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly), because he is one of the most independent Members in the House. I am sure that his congratulations to the Prime Minister were genuine because he has always held firm and clear ideas about defence. I shall touch on several things which he mentioned in the course of my few remarks. I should like, first, to go back to the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson), which illustrates so clearly the difficulties of debating a detailed speech like that of the Prime Minister's at short notice. There were two things which I thought I clearly understood from the Prime Minister's speech. I hope that same right hon. Member opposite will tell me or the House if I am wrong about them.
The first idea was quite clear. It was that the Prime Minister was not going 490 to abandon the whole of the British deterrent and that he was quite definitely going to keep some of it, some of the V-bombers, for use east of Suez. Then the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton raised doubts on this very point, but surely there is no point in retaining V-bombers for use east of Suez unless they are part of the deterrent. There are two few of them to use as conventional weapons with effect. They were built to carry nuclear weapons and to act as a deterrent and I took the Prime Minister to mean that these V-bombers could certainly be used by the United Nations if the United Nations were intervening and called for them and also could be used to respond to requests from other parts of the Commonwealth—if they came from Malaysia, or if India were threatened by any form of nuclear threat.
§ Mr. Crawley
The Prime Minister is not in the Chamber. He is beyond the Bar of the House. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is shaking his head."] I am told that the Prime Minister is shaking his head. I hope that it will be made clear to us what he meant. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman meant that he would retain part of the British deterrent for use under various conditions in the Far East in face of a possible nuclear threat from China. I very much welcome this statement, not merely because it was a change, but also because it seemed to serve not only British interests but the interests of peace in the Far East. If this was not what the right hon. Gentleman meant—and there was undoubtedly a good deal of confusion in the House about it—I hope that now or later he will at least make this plain.
Another point in the Prime Minister's speech which I thought I understood was about the Atlantic mixed-manned force. But I am not clear why it is called "Atlantic". I thought at first that the Prime Minister meant a naval force to be used literally in the Atlantic, but he then spoke about a mixed-manned land force as well. What is the Atlantic force to be? Is is to be a new N.A.T.O. force under N.A.T.O. command to operate in the N.A.T.O. area, or has it 491 some relationship to the Atlantic? I noted that the Prime Minister said that in any such force, if constituted, Britain would not only have a national contingent but would retain her own veto. Therefore, whatever the Prime Minister says, he is not abandoning control over our national contingent if we can exercise a veto. We might have to exercise it by withdrawing our contingent and this means that we retain control of it.
The most important general impression from the Prime Minister's speech was that he is seeking not only to strengthen the Alliance but to strengthen the deterrent. This is not only important in view of the nuclear disarmers and unilateral disarmers who have been among his supporters but it is also important for this country and its position in the world. Yet, if we are to judge the right hon. Gentleman's proposals, it seems to me that for a moment we must look below the immediate negotiations to the real object which the right hon. Gentleman and the Government have in mind.
We have to ask the simple question: why is the deterrent necessary? It is necessary because the Western Powers since the war have failed to be able to collaborate with the Communist Powers. It is necessary because the Communist Powers, whatever changes are taking place in some of them, are still determined to spread Communism throughout the world and in this determination are backed by formidable nuclear power. The whole purpose of the right hon. Gentleman's negotiations, or rather the underlying assumption of these negotions, is that if there were not a Western deterrent the Communists would now dominate and rule Europe and much of the rest of the world. The Prime Minister's policy and object is, through strengthening the deterrent, to continue to prevent Communists from spreading their power throughout the world and to continue to give protection to all countries that wish to resist Communism.
If the Government are to succeed in this policy—and I am not sure how far some hon. Members opposite share it—it seems to me that they must tackle the challenge where it is most dangerous. Here I absolutely agree with the Prime 492 Minister that the most real and immediate danger is in the Far East. It is true that there is a balance of nuclear power in Europe and that both the Atlantic Community and the Soviet Union have nuclear weapons which have reached annihilation point; what we have to do in Europe is to hold the balance and reduce the power through disarmament. But no such balance exists in the Far East. There is no doubt that either Russia or the United States could destroy great parts of China, but the fact is that Russia will never do anything to stop China from spreading Communism in Asia with every means at her disposal. And many of the directions in which the Chinese are spreading Communism are not the prime responsibility of the United States. As nuclear power grows, China will threaten not only Malaysia but India as well.
The Chinese are not making nuclear weapons for nothing. They are not making them to challenge the United States or Russia but, as they constantly remind us, to act as a great encouragement to the revolutionary peoples of the world. That was their phrase just after they exploded their bomb, and I doubt whether non-nuclear people will be comforted by the additional assertion that these weapons are a great contribution to world peace. Those revolutionaries to whom they will give immediate encouragement are, of course, those nearest their own borders.
A Government who have been guilty of the horrors in Tibet, where I think the horrors were on a greater scale than anything that has happened since the Nazis, a Government who still declare day after day their belief in world war, even if it is a nuclear war, to spread Communism, and a Government who, as an African Communist pointed out to me, urge their supporters not to worry if hundreds of millions die in such a war, because they will be born again—such a Government will not hesitate to use nuclear weapons if they can do so without immediate retaliation. And there are wide areas in Southern Asia where no organisation for retaliation now exists.
In particular, of course, this means India. I suppose that, for the next few years, the British deterrent alone—I mean 493 not used alone but used at India's invitation or under the United Nations—could guarantee the security of India because China's nuclear weapons will not be very effective. But I doubt that we have any understanding with India, and it may be very difficult to secure. Yet I am sure I carry hon. Members opposite with me in saying that the integrity and progress of India can make a vital contribution to world peace and is one of the vital factors in the world situation today.
I hope, therefore, that the Prime Minister, as he is considering the whole question of the Far East, will draw the Americans in to organise some form of proper guarantee for India against possible nuclear attack. It will take time. It may mean ourselves contributing something to the American effort in other parts of Southern Asia, but, unless we do it, there will be a dangerous gap in the whole strategy of the deterrent.
If the Chinese nuclear threat is the first challenge which the Government have to meet in their policy of holding Communism through the deterrent, the second challenge is much more subtle and diffuse. Because, hitherto, the deterrent has worked, Communists all over the world, the Communist Powers in particular, had been spreading Communism and penetrating other countries by other means. Long before Mr. Chou En-lai talked about Africa being ripe for revolution, the Russians were picking the fruit and finding quite a good harvest not only in Africa but in South America and the Middle East.
When we remember that as late as 1956, the only officially accredited Russian in Africa was a doctor serving in a hospital in Addis Ababa who was there because of a treaty which the Emperor Menelek had made with the Tsar Nicholas, and when we reflect that now there are more than 110 Iron Curtain missions in Africa, more than 60 educational and cultural treaties made with African countries, innumerable trade treaties, and so on, we can see what enormous strides the open and official diplomatic Communist offensive has made in a very few years; and, of course, as every African State has soon discovered, the Russians and the Communist Powers are interested in more than establishing diplomatic relations.
In almost every country of Africa—I happen to have seen this at first hand 494 —penetration, well and carefully planned, is going on. The pattern is repeated with extraordinary regularity. In practically every independent African country, the trade union movement has at one point been split. Sometimes, the split has been healed, but even in such a country as Nigeria the most powerful trade unions are actually affiliated to the Communist World Federation of Trade Unions in Prague. The same is true in Morocco, and right throughout Africa, due to steady penetration and policy, trade unions have been split or the split is potentially there.
Every nationalist party—this is true and has been true of the Middle East, too—contains within it individuals or groups of individuals sympathetic to Communism who are not only wooed by the Communists but very often paid by them. As everyone in the House knows, these people are working within their own Governments to establish a different type of Government, a more Marxist type of Government, and working for subversion.
Lastly, there are all the students who have been attracted back to the Iron Curtain countries. Only a small proportion of them have yet returned home. The great majority of these students were those who failed to qualify for education either in their own countries or in Western countries and they are, therefore, of a low standard. Most of them are not yet on higher education but are being trained as party workers, sometimes as guerrilla fighters or saboteurs, but very often as good party organisers. All these people will begin to come back to strengthen the hand of the trade unionists and nationalists who are already on the Communist side.
It has been fashionable lately to say that this Communist expansion and penetration has received a rebuff. It has been fashionable to say that, because Mr. Ben Bella in Algeria or President Nasser in Egypt has actually banned the Communist Party or arrested Communists, and because African nationalism is very strong, the whole movement has been checked and that Africans, like the Arabs, will develop their own new civilisation and new ideology.
I regard this as a very complacent view. From Moscow or Peking, the progress of Communist expansion must look extraordinarily promising. The Russian plans 495 have been very carefully laid and are long term. They were put into operation, first, by the late Professor Potehkin and they have been carried through, and are being carried through, by the African Institute in Moscow. In one writing after another, Communists accept the new nationalism in Africa as a phase in the liberation of the African, as a phase in his development into a true Socialist and a true Communist. They support any nationalist Government and give it particular support if it will suppress all institutions which protect the individual. Even extreme Right-wing Governments which destroy democratic institutions get support from the Communists. They also accept non-alignment as a first step in the liberation of newly independent countries from the West and, in an Orwellian sense, try to make them more nonaligned in their own direction.
If one looks at the Casablanca Powers, from the Russian and Chinese point of view, and sees how greatly dependent they are on Soviet aid—Chinese aid is very small—when one sees that the governmental methods that they adopt are closely modelled on those of the Soviet Union, when one sees this in Somalia and other countries, in some of which there are no institutions protecting individual freedom, when one looks at Tanzania and at what has happened in Kenya, one cannot but come to the conclusion that Communism and the effort of the Communist Powers is gaining ground. I think it is very likely to gain more ground. I do not think that we are at the moment necessarily winning the battle.
It is likely to gain more ground, first, because the students will return, and there are many thousands of them. I have spoken to many of them of various political colours. Although probably the majority of them may be disillusioned when they come back from behind the Iron Curtain, there will be in every country a nucleus of really dedicated Communists. They are often professional men, doctors and lawyers. They are not nationalists. They have moved far beyond that. They are dedicated Communists who are returning to Africa to convert their own nationalist Governments to the true world Communist outlook. This process has only just begun. As more and more students go back and strengthen those who are there, we shall 496 find this whole struggle intensified, and we shall get an increased effort by the Communists in all the new territories.
Then we have the advent of the Chinese. I have always been a little puzzled by the great success of the Chinese in stimulating revolutionary activity in Africa and South America. The aid they give is tiny. The number of projects which they have been able to put into operation is insignificant. Also, I have not found that Africans or Arabs get on particularly well with the Chinese. I do not believe it is a question of colour. I believe that it is the passionate belief of the Chinese in violent action, revolutionary action, as a means of gaining power which attracts all the extremer elements in all the new countries, which attracts all the elements which are still power hungry. They suddenly see a chance of overthrowing their first nationalist Governments and gaining power themselves,and they will jump at any help—it is mainly financial and not very great—which the Chinese can give.
Whatever the outcome of the Russo-Chinese scrap, I am sure that within Africa, South America and the Middle East the rift will not affect the progress of global Communism. What the Chinese advent has done is to give an enormous impetus to the whole revolutionary movement. That is why I believe that the whole struggle will intensify.
Therefore, if the Government are to succeed in their policy with the deterrent of halting the progress of Communism, they must meet this second challenge. What can they do more than is being done? I do not believe it can be done through aid. I agree with everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) said in his maiden speech about the organisation of aid, but the fact is that Communist progress is being made in those countries in spite of the massive aid that the West is now giving. We give between 20 and 30 times as much aid in nearly all these countries as the Communists do.
Aid is necessary, but the Communist threat will not be halted by seeking countries' political allegiance through aid. It cannot be done through the Commonwealth, if only because many Commonwealth countries are battlefields in this great struggle themselves. For the same 497 reason, it cannot be done through the United Nations. I believe that there are only two ways in which we can improve our position and that of the West in this great struggle all over the world.
The first is to stand up for our convictions. Democracy may not be exportable, but it is still the best hope of civilisation. Autocratic power may be growing, but checks on it will always be necessary if we are ever to break away from tyrannies and if these new dictatorships are one day to emerge with a more liberal outlook. It is surely for this country and all others to keep the spirit of democracy and that protection of the individual alive. We do not do that if, when Mr. Richard Beeston is turned out of Kenya, only a feeble protest is made.
If we arc to keep alive the things we stand for, if we are to make the world safe for what we stand for, we have to assert our convictions at every opportunity, even if we cannot do anything about it. We have to make our beliefs felt. The only other thing which I am sure we can do—which is much the most important thing—is to strengthen the one community of which we are a part, in which democracy can still grow, in which democracy has great tasks to do in overcoming old nationalisms, in overcoming parochialisms. I mean, of course, the community of Western Europe. I think that hon. Members opposite were frightened of our joining Europe partly because, as one of their advisers once said in a book, some of its Governments were clerical, partly because they thought that it might strengthen capitalism and partly because they feared that it might no leave them free to run their own economy in the way they wanted. Surely, if they have learned anything in the last two months, it is that we are truly interdependent in so many ways.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
My hon. Friend is making an interesting speech which we ought to heed. But I do not think it ought to be on the record that it was only hon. Members on the other side who resisted our joining the Common Market. I want to ask my hon. Friend whether he does not think, after the 12 months which have elapsed since we were prevented from joining by de Gaulle, that the terms of the Treaty of Rome are the terms upon which we ought to go in. Certainly, closer association is 498 desirable, as the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) and my hon. Friend said, but not necessarily under the strict and narrow terms as laid down in the Treaty of Rome.
§ Mr. Crawley
I do not think there can be any question again of our trying to enter the Treaty of Rome. I never suggested that. What I was going to say very simply is that it is clear from the division which exists in Western Europe now that there will be an opportunity within the next two or three years of a British initiative. There will be an opportunity for Britain not only to put forward its own ideas on the political organisation of Western Europe, but also of the economic integration of E.F.T.A. and the Common Market. Britain should take the initiative and we should put forward our own ideas for both these new phases in the European development. If we put them forward as British ideas I believe we shall not only carry the people of this country with us but we shall carry the majority of the European countries, too.
If we do not do it, not only shall we not play the part which we ought to play in the world, but we shall not be setting the example, which particularly the developing countries need, of a democracy which is growing and changing and which is vital. After all, if democracy or even liberal ideas are ever to return to the developing world again it will not be because of money or because of propaganda. It will be because they see a community which they respect and with which they have ties, building a new and better civilisation. That is indeed the greatest contribution which can be made to the new world.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I agree with the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Crawley) in one thing and one thing only—I think that it is right that we in the House should be very careful to make proper protests when journalists who are pursuing their job properly in other countries, whether Commonwealth countries or non-Commonwealth countries, are expelled. We should protest in the name of freedom, and protest very strongly.
I am glad to have the support of any hon. Member or right hon. Member 499 opposite on that proposition, because I was once expelled from France as a journalist amid universal approval by hon. Members opposite. I got no support whatever. I am glad to see that they are converted. But I make this point seriously. I think that Her Majesty's Government should have made stronger representations to the Kenya Government about that matter.
The hon. Member complained that the Prime Minister had not made a statement earlier in the week which could have provided a prelude to the debate. I do not think that this was the kind of negotiation which could have been dealt with in that way. As has been said by many right hon. and hon. Members, no hard-and-fast agreements were reached at Washington, and, therefore, the Prime Minister could not have made a detailed statement at the beginning of the week. It was much better that he should present the whole of his case in its context.
No one should be misled by the gloss which has been put on the Prime Minister's speech by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West and, even more, by my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly). If anybody thinks that the Prime Minister's speech resembled what my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke said it resembled, I hope that he will put that idea right out of his head immediately. Having listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke, I am extremely gratified to know that his finger is not on the trigger, as we should all be blown to pieces very speedily. Roughly the same comment applies to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West.
The hon. Member found it very mysterious that the Chinese have been so eager to secure nuclear weapons. I find it most reprehensible that they should wish to do so, but I do not find it mysterious. Maybe the Chinese hold the view that the best way for them to be safe in this unsafe world is to have nuclear weapons. Maybe they hold the view that the best way for them to have influence in this unsafe world is to have nuclear weapons. Maybe they think that the best way to exercise their national pride—and they have it, too—is to have nuclear weapons. In that case, they are merely 500 voicing exactly the programme on which the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West fought the election and got into the House.
It is a fact that the reason why not only the Chinese, but, unfortunately, other nations are trying to secure nuclear weapons is precisely that some of them are foolish enough to agree with the case put by the Leader of the Opposition at the General Election. If we have a British Prime Minister going up and down the country at an election making the central feature of his election campaign the demand that the only way for this country to be safe, to defend herself and to have influence in the world is to have nuclear weapons, then every other country in the world is entitled to say the same.
One of the reasons—although there are many reasons—why the Leader of the Opposition is disqualified from dealing with these important matters at this critical moment in the history of the world is that during the election he became an advocate of the uttermost proliferation of nuclear weapons, when the major problem facing the world is how we are to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I yield to few in admiring the prose of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), whether written or spoken. But surely the essential point is that the Leader of the Opposition was maintaining in his campaign—and before, and, I think, since—that this country possessed a nuclear deterrent. The argument about proliferation is about those who do not possess it and are seeking to get it. We have a deterrent.
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Member speaks for the Leader of the Opposition with great authority. When he came to the House, we were told—I do not know whether rightly or wrongly—that he wrote the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition. No man in our Parliamentary history ever started on a political career beneath so dark a cloud. He has done his best since to rescue himself from this situation.
But it is no defence. There is to be an election in Germany soon, and it would be possible for Dr. Erhard to campaign in Germany on the same cry which the 501 right hon. Gentleman used in the election. They do not have a nuclear weapon at the moment, but all the arguments which were used by the right hon. Gentleman during the election campaign for saying that we must have nuclear weapons and preserve an independent nuclear deterrent, to preserve our influence in the world, could equally be used by German politicians, by French politicians, by Chinese politicians, and Indian politicians, and by all the nations of the world.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
Every argument which the hon. Gentleman is using against my right hon. Friend could be used against Mr. Johnson, the President of the United States. The Leader of the Opposition and President Johnson are in the same position, because they happen to have nuclear bombs at the moment.
§ Mr. Foot
I understand that. There arc two super-nuclear Powers in the world. We are a minor nuclear Power compared with their strength, and if we insisted on the programme which the Leader of the Opposition was advocating at the time of the election, we would encourage, instead of helping to prevent, the spread of nuclear weapons. To conduct a whole election on the cry, which the right hon. Gentleman did, about nuclear weapons was the most irresponsible campaign that has ever been conducted by a British statesman.
§ Mr. Foot
The Prime Minister's case was different. This Chamber is for debates, so hon. Gentlemen must not complain if I answer the speaker who went before me.
The Prime Minister said today—and I think that he was right—that there have been a huge number of changes in the world which should provoke and encourage Members on both sides of the House, and politicians in all parts of the world, to reconsider their approach to international affairs. That is a very powerful claim.
If we look at the world, I think that we should look at some of the notable facts in it. The most notable fact about the nuclear world in which we live is that, according to Mr. Robert McNamara, the United States Secretary of Defence, the United States has overwhelming nuclear 502 power, not merely in comparison with this country, but in comparison with the Soviet Union, and in comparison with the whole of the rest of the world put together.
That, surely, is the first central fact from which we should start. If it is the case that the United States already possesses overwhelming nuclear power, it seems strange that one of the main propositions of leaders of the Western world is that we must add to that nuclear strength. I do not think that it is necessary to add to it. Indeed, I do not think that it is the main proposition that is put by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, West said that the main proposition of the Prime Minister was how we would add to the strength of the deterrent. I do not think that that was his proposition at all.
§ The Prime Minister
I made it clear that it is our view that if there is to be an addition to nuclear striking strength through the creation of an Atlantic nuclear force there should be a corresponding reduction in national missile strength in the West so as not to create a further imbalance between East and West nuclear strength.
§ Mr. Foot
I cannot give way. I have given way half a dozen times already.
The Prime Minister is not proposing that we should add to that nuclear strength. Some people have been proposing that we should do so, and the idea behind the M.L.F., originally, was that we should add to that nuclear strength, which is the point that I was making. Even if I did not have other objections to it, this seems utterly irrelevant, because it does not deal with the real problems.
What are the real problems? My right hon. Friend says that we must reconsider some of our attitudes to this question. Included in that reconsideration, we must ask our allies, including the United States of America, to make some reconsideration of their policies. The U.S.A., in my view, should reconsider some of the policies to see where they are leading, whether they can be successful in 503 achieving the objectives which the United States wants, in Vietnam, for example. Does the United States think that it can win the war in Vietnam, or has it come to realise that in this respect, if in few others, President de Gaulle was speaking very wisely when he said that the only solution to the problem was to seek neutralisation.
There are other matters to be considered. I believe that there has to be reconsideration of the whole attitude towards Communist China. This is part of the answer to what the hon. Gentleman has just said. If we try to exclude a quarter of the human race from its dealing in international affairs, this, at any rate, makes the situation more awkward, and so, on these matters, we are entitled to ask that our allies should reconsider them.
I am not objecting to the Prime Minister not having raised all these matters and pressed them in his first meeting in Washington, but I hope that he will continue to press them in his further meetings with the United States Government. It would be absurd to demand that in going to Washington to deal with the matters that he had to deal with immediately, he should have pressed the United States to alter its policies on all these other matters. I think that they should be pressed, but I am not complaining that he has not dealt with them all at that conference.
To take my right hon. Friend's main proposal, I do not believe that hon. Members opposite have examined it sufficiently clearly to see what it is. On the Atlantic nuclear force, as I understand it, my right hon. Friend said that in every part of the proposal for that Atlantic nuclear force provisions are made to ensure, first, that there shall be no proliferation of nuclear weapons inside the Alliance and inside the proposal, and, secondly, to ensure that it shall not inhibit an agreement for non-dissemination outside the Alliance. The whole of this proposal is not merely a proposal for reorganising Western defence, but, even more, it is a proposal for trying to assist the prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons.
My right hon. Friend said it in his speech before he went to Washington. He said it in his speech at the Labour 504 Party conference at the weekend, and he said it with renewed emphasis today, but in greater detail—that in his opinion the next major step to be achieved in international affairs is a non-dissemination agreement, an agreement to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. That is the objective of the Government, as I understand it to be from all that he has said.
If all our defence plans are to be made subordinate to that purpose, and if we are to pursue that aim in the meeting which my right hon. Friend has with the leaders in Europe and also in the discussion which I am glad to see that he is to have with the leaders of the Soviet Unnion, and if he is also prepared to press those proposals in response to the latest proposals that we have had from the Polish Government in the last few days—and I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will be eager to make a hopeful response to those proposals—if, in all these negotiations, the Prime Minister makes it the paramount aim of his foreign policy to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, then I believe that he will have a great response throughout the country, and I hope that he will get the response throughout Europe and the world that he deserves.
Many of us have criticisms to make on detailed items of policy on Vietnam, the Congo and other questions which I could deal with, but which I have not the time to deal with now. But my approach is certainly very different from most hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in the debate. I do not give tuppence about these proposals for defence arrangements, but I am passionately concerned about making sure that the proposals for defence arrangements do not interfere with what is the only real defence for this country.
There is only one defence for this country above all other countries, and that is general worldwide disarmament. We do not expect that we can get it all at once. Recent events in China and elsewhere have made a non-dissemination treaty the most important item of all. Therefore, I very much hope that my right hon. Friend will pursue the paramount aims which he has outlined with all the determination which he revealed in his speech today, and which he 505 has revealed in earlier speeches and references to this matter.
At the end of his speech my right hon. Friend said that he would make proposals to the Opposition for talks about defence between the Government and the Opposition, and, presumably, the Leader of the Liberal Party. We are not quite sure what is to be the form of this proposal, but I think that it is an unwise one. I do not think that it assists the process of achieving the ends which my right hon. Friend has described, because the paramount aim of securing a non-dissemination treaty cannot be assisted by a party whose leader is such a passionate advocate of the dissemination of nuclear weapons. The Leader of the Opposition must answer for his responsibilities.
§ Mr. Foot
It is not nonsense. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has used words to the effect that he is against the spread of nuclear weapons, but in all the speeches that he made in the General Election—and the hon. Member who seeks to interrupts so avidly admits it—he is not opposed to that idea.
§ Mr. Foot
I am being fair. If hon. Members opposite do not like it they will have to put up with it. They should stand up for what they said in their own election speeches. They went up and down the country, on every platform, saying that the only way that we could be safe, and the only real defence that we could have, was by retaining our nuclear weapons.
People in other lands may believe them; they cannot complain about that. But we have a right to complain, because we say that it is hypocrisy for this country to say that we are doing everything in our power to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons when the main item of the policy of the Opposition is that we should cling on to our nuclear weapons at all costs.
Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will reconsider his suggestion that there should be consultations with the Opposition on this matter—or any other matter. If he wants helpful advice, there are plenty of us on this side of the House 506 to give it. We are prepared to provide not only the government, but the opposition as well. The Tory Opposition have shown themselves to be in such a decrepit state in this Parliament that we are ready to assist in all these matters. Let my right hon. Friend have negotiations with those who understand, as we do, that the only defence for this country is general disarmament.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
In many ways I am sorry that my task tonight is not merely to answer the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot). Despite the fact that in the middle of his speech there was a certain obscurity about the way in which he was going to reconcile his obviously conflicting views with those expressed today by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the rest of his speech was quite clear. It is clear that he is wholly opposed to Britain having nuclear weapons. He is quite entitled to express passionately the views he did on this subject, but I know that he will agree that he is very much in the minority, not only in this House but in the country. One thing I can say. At least he was, in part of his speech, perfectly clear, which is, I am afraid, more than I can say about his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
Before I come to the matters which have been discussed in this debate perhaps I may have the pleasure which is always accorded to those who wind up such debates as this of congratulating those hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches, my hon. Friends the Members for Westbury (Mr. Walters) and Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) and the hon. Members for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Jackson) and Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon). My hon. Friend the Member for Westbury spoke about Europe, as indeed did many other hon. Members. He stressed that the Government should make the maximum use of existing bridgeheads in Europe, such as E.F.T.A., Western European Union and the Council of Europe, and demonstrate that they have a real interest in Europe and are part of Europe.
I heartily agree with my hon. Friend. I congratulate him on his speech. He spoke with authority and fluency. He 507 was at one time personal assistant to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) so perhaps that is understandable. The hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough has an obvious knowledge of the Arab world, and he spoke with considerable fluency. I note that he is a barrister, a lecturer and a broadcaster. Therefore, perhaps, one can understand where he gets his fluency. The hon. Gentleman spoke without notes which on the occasion of a maiden speech is something much to be admired.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dorking, who has had a distinguished career overseas, spoke of the need for overseas aid, and I know that all who listen to him paid particular respect to the views he expressed. Lastly, the hon. Member for Preston, South. Perhaps I can tell him how much we on this side of the House appreciated the way in which he spoke about his predecessor, Mr. Alan Green. This is a good indication of the characteristics of the hon. Member and reminds us of the fairness and friendliness which we know so well is exhibited by his brother, the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon). If the hon. Gentleman keeps up that reputation, I have no doubt that he will be as popular in this House as his brother undoubtedly is. I am sure we all congratulate the hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches and look forward to hearing from them again.
I listened extremely carefully to the Prime Minister's speech. He said, in particular, that he was going to make a definite statement about Her Majesty's Government's position in regard to Atlantic nuclear defence after the Washington talks. I regret to say that much of what the right hon. Gentleman said was delivered very fast and much of what he said was clouded in obscurity. In fact, had the right hon. Gentleman listened to the debate this evening, he would have found that there were great arguments taking place across the Floor as to what exactly he did say. Undoubtedly it would have been much more convenient for the House had the right hon. Gentleman been able to make a statement about the position yesterday. What he said was 508 very complicated and requires very careful examination and study.
Tomorrow we have another day for this debate and, if they catch Mr. Speaker's eye, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition will speak first and my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) will wind up the debate. They will undoubtedly have many searching questions to ask the Prime Minister on what he said today. I do not, therefore, intend to say very much tonight, except that I certainly agreed with the Prime Minister when he talked about the changes that have taken place. Indeed, undoubted changes have taken place in the last decade in the defence pattern —for that matter, in the political pattern —of East-West relations.
On that basis it is right that the Western Alliance as a whole should be rethinking its strategy. My hon. Friends and I welcome that rethinking. As the Prime Minister acknowledged, we helped to initiate it. It is on the groundwork which we laid that the Government are seeking to gain support for reform and revision of the existing structure.
As the Prime Minister said, one of the purposes agreed in the Nassau Agreement was the development ultimately of a multilateral N.A.T.O. nuclear force, although I should emphasise that by multilateral in the context of the Agreement, it did not mean mixed-manned. There is no doubt that leaders of the Conservative Party were among the first to grasp that the time had come to make a forward movement towards international developments in the nuclear sphere, and the assigning of our V-bombers to N.A.T.O. was the first step.
What we also felt, however, was the necessity for a minute examination of all the complexities of control, political as well as military, and for the exercise of extreme patience—rather than allow ourselves to be rushed into hasty and irrevocable decisions.
The Prime Minister's disclosures today, though obscure in many details, have, in fact, been hasty. They were not fully considered and, unless we are mistaken, they are fraught with risk. There are several questions which I hope the Minister who will reply tonight will answer. It appears from what the Prime 509 Minister said that the irrevocable aspect which he mentioned is not total but qualified. He said that it would be the life line of the Alliance. This is obviously an important matter which needs much further clarification.
Does the Prime Minister still intend to renegotiate the Nassau Agreement? It so, what does he mean by "renegotiation"? What is the position about paragraph 9 of that Agreement because we have seen reports and read in the newspapers today details of what the Foreign Secretary said in N.A.T.O.? If the reports are to be believed, it appears that the Foreign Secretary said that paragraph 9 had gone. If so, and if it is the intention of the Government to get rid of paragraph 9, I must give notice that hon. Members on this side of the House will very much oppose it.
My next question was also asked by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly). Is it the Prime Minister's intention that American electronic locks should he built into the British Polaris submarines contributed to a N.A.T.O. nuclear force? This question was posed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), but, as tar as I could understand, it was not answered by the Prime Minister. It was difficult, listening to what the Prime Minister said, to find out exactly what he meant by "control". His comments were far from clear. Does he mean that all the participants would have a veto? If so, how can the force possibly be a credible deterrent?
Another matter that will need to be cleared up is this. Is it intended that this force shall be within N.A.T.O. or outside N.A.T.O.? If it does not receive the full support of N.A.T.O., is it intended that it shall be extra-N.A.T.O., so that N.A.T.O. itself will deal with conventional weapons and this will be a separate force dealing with the nuclear aspect? If that were so, I think that it would cause considerable scare. I put these questions—more questions will be put tomorrow—but I ask the hon. Gentleman to attach importance to my question about paragraph 9 of the Nassau Agreement.
One of the matters discussed today by the Prime Minister and by the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis arid Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) 510 has been disarmament. We are told that the Government place disarmament as a priority in their foreign policy. I am glad that they do so, for so do we—and so have we for many years. General and complete disarmament—and by that I means comprehensive, multilateral, verified disarmament—is a vital goal to which all sane people in today's world inevitably must strive. As I have said before, this is not idealism. In the nuclear climate of today, it is the sanest form of realism.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
Does not my right hon. Friend think that it would be a good thing to have on the record the answer to the charge made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), who charged that my right hon. Friend encouraged others to take on nuclear bombs? My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition signed the Test Ban Treaty, but the answer should be on the record before the opportunity is allowed to pass.
§ Mr. Thomas
I think that everyone understands that what the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) was saying just now was not accurate at all. Everyone who knows my right hon. Friend knows that throughout the time he was Foreign Secretary and throughout the time he was Prime Minister it was one of his major objectives to make progress in disarmament. I did not think that charge worth answering.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
If the then Prime Minister's case is as it was during the election, that the only way for this country to be safe and to have influence in the world was to have nuclear weapons and an independent nuclear deterrent, why should not other countries say the same?
§ Mr. Thomas
That is not the point. My right hon. Friend very properly felt that by being a nuclear Power we should contribute more than if we were not a nuclear Power towards achieving disarmament, and, in fact, events have proved that to be so.
I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton when he said that the subject of disarmament is so serious and so significant that it should not be sullied in the cockpit of party politics. Although I only intervened shortly, the right hon. and learned 511 Gentleman chided me. I submit that I asked a perfectly fair, and not a polemical, question, but I think that I could fairly say to him that although I have no doubt whatsoever about the sincerity of the wish of right hon. and hon. Members opposite to try to achieve progress in disarmament, I must say that I do deprecate their frequent use of disarmament as an instrument for party advantage.
It was the right hon. and learned Gentleman who brought this matter up. Perhaps I may be allowed to quote what the Prime Minister said in a speech in Belper on, I think, 9th January, when he stated:The Tories have never really taken disarmament seriously.Does the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton endorse that statement? Having had many conversations with him on the subject, I am sure that he does not.
§ Mr. A. Henderson
I have had many conversations with the right hon. Member and I know how sincere he is in regard to this problem, but I cannot say that of all the members of his party.
§ Mr. Thomas
Very well. I will accept that from the right hon. and learned Member. He knows very well that if one were to select members from any party one could make an indictment against them but not against the political party. His own party's manifesto devoted a considerable amount of space to new prospects for peace and relaxation of tensions in the world, but there was no mention whatever of the signing of the Test Ban Treaty. Why was that? Was it not because the leaders of the Labour Party suspected, as now they know, that the prime mover in that success was Mr. Harold Macmillan and that without the pressures he brought to bear the negotiations leading to that Treaty might well have broken down?
Our activities in the disarmament field were described in the Labour Party manifesto as minor and subordinate. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister appears to say "Yes". Now that the Government have access to the records, now that they can read the papers which have been prepared, the British ideas which were presented and initiatives taken 512 in discussion with our allies, I hope that we shall hear no more about the minor and subordinate role they allege that we played in disarmament.
§ The Prime Minister
Apart from the fact that we have been unable to find the disarmament initiative about which the Leader of the Opposition spoke in the election and we still hope that he will tell us where we can find it, will the right hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Peter Thomas) tell us what initiative was taken in the spring by the then Foreign Secretary and how many new ideas there were in that which were not contained in my Belper speech and the memorandum handed to the then Foreign Secretary by my right hon. Friend who is now Foreign Secretary?
§ Mr. Thomas
This is incredible. I do not know how the Prime Minister has the gall to ask a question like that when the three main points which he brought before the House today as their priorities for disarmament are as old as the hills in disarmament negotiation. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite are now quite clearly at grips with reality. They know that there are serious obstacles to rapid progress on all aspects of disarmament. There are far-reaching issues of our security which are raised whenever one raises matters of disarmament. Decisions must be weighed with considerable care and deliberately for to take risks and gamble with the nation's security would he criminal folly.
The Prime Minister referred to the Minister of State whose sole activity will be disarmament. I think he said at a meeting in Brighton the other day that that Minister will be working full-time on initiatives which Britain will be proposing. So far as the appointment of the noble Lord is a gesture to the world of Her Majesty's Government dedication to the cause of disarmament, I certainly welcome it. I certainly wish the noble Lord well, but gestures are not enough and initiatives by themselves are not enough. Experience has shown that success in this field of disarmament can be achieved only by patience, determination. hard and often repetitive work and, above all, tempting though it may be to broadcast novel British initiatives, if we are not to undermine the structure of the Alliance on which the security of the West is based we must move in concert with our allies.
513 I have only a few minutes left and therefore I shall have to cut down considerably what I hoped to say tonight, but I add this about disarmament. I notice that many hon. Members opposite have talked about a break-through. The Labour Party manifesto said:The time is opportune for a new break through in the disarmament negotiations.I certainly agree with that. In the last 18 months we have had a partial Test Ban Treaty. We have had an agreement not to place nuclear weapons in outer space. We have had a declaration on the cutback of the production of fissile material. Ever since these agreements, we strove hard to find new areas of agreement.
What were the propositions we made? First, we made proposals for a comprehensive test ban treaty. That was No. 1 of the proposals the right hon. Gentleman put forwad today. Secondly, we supported the plan of the President of the United States for freezing the production of nuclear delivery vehicles. That was No. 2 of the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman put forward today. Thirdly, we proposed the early physical destruction of some armaments, the bonfire. That was No. 3 in the proposals the right hon. Gentleman referred to this afternoon.
We put forward other proposals. We put forward proposals for observer posts against surprise attack. We did not hear anything about that today. We put forward proposals for improved verification. Bat, above all, time and time again we strove for an immediate agreement on non-dissemination of nuclear weapons.
We got much support from the neutrals in the proposals we put forward, but on each proposal we met inflexible objections from the Soviet Union and its allies. We reached agreement on an agenda, which was quite a new move in the disarmament negotiations. We proposed small working groups and committees of experts to study problems more intensively so as to release the plenary session from the burden of time-consuming technicalities. All this shows how determined and anxious we were to effect a break-through during that period. I think that it will be agreed by any fair-minded person that it was certainly no fault of ours that little progress was made during that time.
These are some questions I want to ask the Prime Minister and the Government. How do the Government propose 514 to make a break-through? For instance, has the Prime Minister responded to the Chinese Prime Minister's message to him proposing a Summit Conference to discuss nuclear disarmament? Did he discuss this matter with the President of the United States? What is the result of this consultation? What is the result of the consultation he said would have with friendly Governments? Are the Government in favour of such a conference? On 26th November, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne), the Prime Minister said that he did not consider that the disarmament process could go far without Chinese participation. The same was said today by the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton. Does this mean that the Government have lost faith in the 18-nation disarmament conference? I certainly hope that they have not. I think that it has a great part to play. If they are losing faith and they think that more is required, what alternative do they suggest?
In the last Foreign Affairs debate on 16th June the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Gordon Walker, then the right hon. Member for Smethwick, showed considerable enthusiasm for a variant of the Gomulka Plan for freezing nuclear weapons in an area of Europe. He said that here was a fair chance of agreement and he welcomed it as a first step to a larger plan. I noticed that this was not mentioned by the Prime Minister today. Are the Government still interested in this? If so, what is their reaction to the suggestion which Mr. Rapacki made in the General Assembly of the United Nations this Monday that there should be a conference between East and West European States, together with Russia and the United States of America, to work out a policy to freeze nuclear weapon levels in Europe? Are the Government in favour of such a conference? They certainly would have been if they had been in Opposition. Or do they think, as we thinks, that the matter could more profitably he discussed in the 18-nation disarmament conference?
We heard from the Prime Minister today details of proposals for new European collective defence arrangements. What is the Government's view today on the subject of disengagement in Europe, a subject on which they were so enthusiastic in the past? Today we heard from 515 the Prime Minister details of how he expects defence expenditure to be very much higher next year. We therefore take it that the suggestion which he made earlier this year that there should be a freeze of defence expenditure at the 1963–64 figure has now gone.
I wish to refer only briefly, because of shortage of time, to the major question which has been referred to by practically everyone who has spoken on this aspect of defence in today's debate, namely, non-dissemination. The Prime Minister said that non-proliferation of nuclear weapons was a No. 1 priority for the Government. I agree. This is the most hopeful and most important next stage in the field of collateral agreement. But this is not new. It was a major objective of ours for a long time when we were in government. We pressed hard for an agreement to be reached on the lines of the Irish Resolution of 1961. It was and still is, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, in our interests to get this agreement signed.
One objection, and only one, has been put forward by the Russians and their allies, and that is the United States proposal for the multilateral force and in particular the participation of Germany in it. That, according to the Russians, was the sole obstacle to agreement. We have heard the same argument put forward by hon. Members in this House. It is not, in fact, a valid objection. It is a purely political objection, and when it is made by the Russians and their allies it is always accompanied on each occasion by a tirade of unfounded accusations against the Republic's intentions and desires to acquire nuclear control and knowledge.
I have no doubt, and I am sure other hon. Members have no doubt, that the German Government do not wish to acquire nuclear control. Their desire is, for their own security, to acquire the right of co-decision in global strategy. That is why they were interested in the M.L.F. Time and time again we pointed out in the disarmament conference that, accepting the misgivings of the Russians, unfounded though they were, the best course for the Russians was to conclude a non-dissemination agreement immediately. By so doing they would ensure that any 516 M.L.F. or any A.N.F. that might be created by the Western Powers would be in accordance with the agreement. At Geneva I pointed out to the conference that it would be politically impossible for any parliamentary Government to sign an agreement inconsistent with a previously concluded formal agreement on non-dissemination.
The Prime Minister appears to think that his proposals—and certainly he is supported by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale—will actively contribute to the achievement of a non-dissemination agreement. I cannot understand why he says that. Indeed, I cannot believe that it will. I agree that there will be no proliferation within the membership of the association, but the same can be said of the M.L.F. in particular if provision were made for the nuclear Powers to retain the right of veto. But I fear that Russian objections would still remain. They have, indeed, already expressed their opposition to the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman has put before us. I have no doubt that they will continue to do so while they consider it politically expedient to attack the participation of Germany in any form of collective defence arrangement.
But whether I am right or wrong, the saddest thing is that the Government, in an attempt to facilitate an agreement on one collateral measure—that is how the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale interprets this—are apparently prepared to deprive us of the main thing that will ensure that we shall have a major voice in negotiations for all disarmament measures in the future, and that is our present position as a nuclear Power. As I said, the Prime Minister's disclosures were obscure in many details. They appear to be hastily reached, and it is possible that they are fraught with difficulties and risks.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) said, much depends in the debate on the attitude which is expressed by the Government to paragraph 9 of the Nassau Agreement. In this present dangerous world it unhappily remains the fact that the independent control of our deterrent provides the only ultimate defence against nuclear attack or blackmail. It is still equally true that our position as a nuclear Power enormously reinforces Britain's authority and influence on world affairs. 517 If this power were to be surrendered, or if we forfeited our final right of control over it, the threat both to our national security and our influence abroad might well be grim. We on this side of the House will certainly oppose any such surrender.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Thomson)
Like the right hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Peter Thomas), it is first my great pleasure to offer congratulations from the Government Front Bench on the remarkable number of very good maiden speeches which we have heard today. They were speeches from the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters), my hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Jackson), the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) and my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon).
My heart went out to the hon. Member for Westbury, making his maiden speech as he did at the end of two major Front Bench speeches and to a large audience of departing Members. This was exactly my experience when I made my maiden speech. All I can say to the hon. Member is that he showed no signs of the intimidation which I very much felt on that occasion.
I should like to congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Brighouse and Spenborough and Preston, South on their speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough has the record not only of delivering a fluent maiden speech without any help from notes, but also of having delivered the first maiden speech in which the Middle Kingdom of China figured prominently.
My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South made a speech which affected the whole House by its sincerity and its desire for peace.
The hon. Member for Dorking asked that I should convey to the rest of the Government that they should give the strongest possible support to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development in her efforts. I can certainly give the hon. Member that assurance. I only hope that he will be able to persuade his hon. and right hon. and right hon. Friends to give her the same degree of support. There seemed to me to be some degree of ungallantry 518 in the way in which my right hon. Friend was pressed in the House at Question Time the other day.
We are at the halfway stage of our two-day debate. Before the debate is ended, it will be looked upon as one of historic importance in the House. What my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has done in his opening speech is to reassert Britain's rôle of constructive leadership in world affairs in new and important ways. The proposals which he described came down to this—a British lead for a better Western system of security and a British lead for an ending of the spread of nuclear weapons.
This was by itself an answer to the point made latterly by the right hon. Member for Conway, who was asking for indications of the kind of initiative in the general field of disarmament which we were seeking to take. It is widely recognised in circles outside those which normally support this side of the House that the kinds of policies announced by the Prime Minister are those best suited to Britain's rôle in the modern world.
The Economist, which is not distinguished as a supporter of the Labour Party—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It has shown a remarkable change, as I am about to show, since the Labour Government became imminent and actual—said on 31st October, talking about our approach to the problems of the Atlantic Alliance:What is certain henceforth is that Britain, for the first time for two (or one might say, fifteen) years, is likely to be a major factor in the outcome. If the Labour Government is really determined to strengthen the Atlantic Alliance, it is hard to doubt the result. …The fact that for once there is a choice is a mark of the influence that Britain can gain by the mere prospect of contributing to the collective purposes of the alliance instead of opting out into a pipe-dream of a world after Britain's heart.My reply to the right hon. Gentleman, who seemed to claim that the only way for Britain to have a rôle in the world was to maintain independent control of a deterrent, is that all the evidence is that, since my right hon. Friend took charge of the present Administration, Britain, for the first time for years, has been able to engage in a rôle of leadership which it was not able to do under the previous Administration.
§ Mr. Thomson
I am very sorry, but I cannot give way. The right hon. Gentleman took a few extra minutes, and, though, I do not object to that, it does not give me time to give way.
While the Atlantic Alliance and the other defensive alliances of which we are members contribute to stability and to the maintenance of a military balance, our ultimate aim is to order the world in such a way that the threat of war is eliminated. Our alliances are the beginning rather than the end of British policy. They are the basis from which Her Majesty's Government can work, through the United Nations and in other ways, to build a permanently secure world.
Our first priority is to go on working for a relaxation of tension in relations between the Western and Communist worlds and to take advantage of the improved atmosphere to find areas of common interest which provide the basis for practical agreements.
§ Mr. Thomson
I am not suggesting that there is not a great deal of common ground between the two sides of the House on this. I am suggesting that we are being more effective and making the most of present opportunities.
It is generally accepted by both sides of the House that a situation has been reached in recent years in which the Soviet Union and the West share, in particular, an interest in reducing the danger of war and holding down the cost of the arms race.
The right hon. Member for Conway and his right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) criticised our appointments of a Minister in charge of disarmament and of a Minister in charge of United Nations affairs as not being particularly helpful contributions, in their view, towards these purposes. The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden said that these two Ministers were not usually to be found in this country. This week, the right hon. Gentleman can have the pleasure of listening to my noble Friend Lord Chalfont speak in another place on the subject of disarmament, and next week, if he cares to go along to another place, he will be able to hear my noble Friend Lord Caradon speak about the United Nations.
520 Both my noble Friends, apart from playing a very constructive rôle in the work of the Government in key positions overseas at the United Nations and at the Disarmament Conference, will play their full part as Ministers in the work of Parliament.
The right hon. Member for Conway has already discussed the points made by the Prime Minister about disarmament, and I think that, in the time available to me, having regard to the fresh points which have been raised during the debate, I should pass on to other matters, and, in particular, to the points raised by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden.
The right hon. Gentleman asked for information about the Government's attitude to developments in Europe. The Government will work for European co-operation on the widest basis, within the framework of an Atlantic partnership. We attach great importance to E.F.T.A. and will work to strengthen it. We desire increasingly close political and economic co-operation with the Six. What form this may eventually take is impossible to say at this stage. There are many factors involved, but our immediate aim will be to work by all available means to achieve a closer co-ordination of policies.
Her Majesty's Government wish to participate from the outset, and without commitment, in any discussions among the E.E.C. countries on closer political co-operation. Our approach is constructive and, naturally, we should not try to veto any talks among the Six. But I say to the right hon. Gentleman, who laid proper stress on this matter, that the political unity of Europe is, in our view, a wider concern than simply the concern of the Six, and Britain is a major European Power. It is in the interests of all that the creation of new economic or political barriers in Europe should be avoided. This is why we express a strong desire to take part in any decisions on the political future of Europe.
Perhaps I ought to say, in connection with this, that we are very conscious of the need to give our partners in Europe and other countries in the world a clear picture of our policies at this stage. When economic conditions are difficult our image in the world at large inevitably suffers. This seems to me to be the 521 precise moment when our information activities overseas become even more important than they usually are, and Her Majesty's Government will give a great deal of emphasis to our information services as one of the instruments of our foreign policy.
The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden asked for information about the latest situation in Cyprus, and I gladly give it to him. I am glad to tell the House that the cease-fire in Cyprus has been maintained and the island is relatively quiet. We consider that the United Nations force in Cyprus has contributed greatly to the stabilisation of conditions and to the reduction of tension between the two communities. I should like to pay tribute, as I have done on other occasions, to the work of our soldiers playing their part in that United Nations force. Things may be quiet now, but there have been times of great difficulty in the past.
Her Majesty's Government have informed the United Nations Secretary-General of our willingness to support the extension of the force's mandate for a further period of three months. If the Security Council takes a decision to this effect, and if continued British participation in the force is desired by all the Governments concerned in the same manner as at present, we are prepared to maintain our contingent at its present level of between 1,000 and 1,100 men, and to continue to pay all its expenses. We are also willing to make a further voluntary contribution of 1 million dollars towards the cost of the force, and we hope that other Governments will give comparable financial assistance.
As regards the formulation of a solution of the problems concerning Cyprus, about which the right hon. Gentleman asked, our position remains as stated to the House by my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary on 24th November and 1st December. We now await the report of the United Nations mediator, Senor Galo Plaza, and we hope that the forthcoming General Assembly debate on Cyprus will result in a constructive resolution.
The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden and my hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough asked me about the attitude of the Government towards the situation in the Middle 522 East. I should like very briefly to expand the assurance that was given by the Prime Minister in exchanges earlier today. Her Majesty's Government wish to reaffirm the declaration made by the former Prime Minister Mr. Harold Macmillan, on 14th May, 1963, in the course of which he said:Her Majesty's Government are deeply interested in peace and stability in this area and are opposed to the use of force or the threat of force there as elsewhere in the world. … We regard the United Nations as being primarily responsible for the maintenance of peace in the area. If any threat to peace arises, we will consult immediately with the United Nations and will take whatever action we feel may be required."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th May, 1963; Vol. 677, c. 142.]
§ Mr. Thomson
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) is perhaps a little hard of hearing. It was seven years after that. I think that we ought to take it as a sign of progress and hope. These changes do occur.
I want to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough that Her Majesty's Government very much sympathise with the natural desire of the Arab peoples to be independent and to run their own affairs without outside interference. Equally, we respect the right of independent Arab States to make their own friends where they want. We fully intend, as I have said, to fulfil our commitments to those States which have treaty relations with us. We are at the moment in consultation with the U.A.R. in the hope of improving relations with that country. We much regret that, due to no fault of the present Government, relations during the last eight years between our two countries have not been all that they should be. We sincerely wish to put these relations on a sound and friendly basis not only because we value that for its own sake, but because it will help to reduce tension in the area.
There are, of course, a number of obstacles. There is the continued hostile propaganda from Cairo Radio, there is subversion directed against the Federation of South Arabia from within the 523 Yemen, and there are some other outstanding questions. There are also doubts, no doubt, on the part of the U.A.R. with regard to particular aspects of the policy of the British Government. We hope to be able to discuss these doubts frankly, to remove suspicions and misunderstandings, and then to overcome the real difficulties one by one. As I have already made clear on other occasions, our desire for friendly relations with the Arab States does not affect our wish to maintain friendly relations with Israel.
I am sorry that time will not allow me to deal in any detail with all the many points raised by hon. Members who contributed to the debate. I would tell the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden and other hon. Members who raised the question of the Congo that Her Majesty's Government are keeping in the closest possible touch with developments there, not only with a view to safeguarding as far as we can the remaining British lives which are at stake there, but also with a view to doing anything we can to promote conciliation and an end to bloodshed. My right hon. Friend Lord Caradon, at the United Nations, yesterday made a speech in which he did what he could to encourage the Organisation for African Unity in its present efforts to end the bloodshed in the Congo.
More than one hon. Member has asked why the United Nations itself could not have been more active in this matter. The fact is that the United Nations was forced to leave the Congo because of lack of financial support from the member countries of the United Nations. I think that the tragic events recently in the Congo are the strongest possible proof of the advantages of the United Nations being able to establish for itself some kind of stand-by force which could undertake rescue operations of this kind.
As the House knows, Her Majesty's Government are very actively pursuing the possibilities of a more effective peace-keeping rôle for the United Nations. This country will be eager to give any assistance which it is felt that the United Nations would want from us. We are investigating closely the possibility of giving logistic support to any possible stand-by force.
524 I come back to where I began, to the view which I expressed that this is a historic debate in which the Prime Minister—although his speech may require a little close study before one comes to final views on it—has lifted our eyes to a new level of possibilities in terms of Britain's rôle in world affairs. What has troubled the British people— I do not say this in any party spirit—and, I think, the people of many countries in the world since the ending of the Second World War, is that revolutionary changes have been taking place in the nature of the international community of which we are members.
I apologise to the House for ending with what will be a number of platitudes. I take some consolation from a recent remark of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence—who is in Paris today—that politics is largely a matter of choosing the right platitude at the right time.
I want to express the view that one of the radical changes in the nature of our world is that it has drawn us together and that nearly the whole of mankind are now neighbours in one world community. The whole world is our country now, not in the Utopian sense in which idealists use the phrase, but in the most literal sense. The long-term task which faces us is to move towards some form of world order, of world government, in which we shall be able to adapt our political institutions to match the reality of the changes which have taken place in the international environment in which we all have to live. I do not know whether this can be regarded as a brave new world, but I think that in some very important senses, to which most of us are still adjusting ourselves, it is a brand new world.
For the first time in the history of mankind—and I am talking about the last decade—major war is no longer a rational instrument of State policy. For the first time in the history of mankind, man has the means of destroying himself. For the first time in the history of mankind, man has the means of liberating himself and emancipating himself from the hunger, poverty and disease which have been the common human lot over many centuries.
525 This is what I mean by saying that it is a new world with new circumstances which we have to face. These are awe-inspiring changes, and it is hardly surprising that we should fumble our way towards adjustments to them. A country like Britain, with its great history and great experience of world affairs, and still great influence, ought to have a very considerable rôle to play in facing these changes. But I think that in some ways our history is a handicap to us. For many generations, if not for centuries, we have been in the first rank of military Powers in the world. It is difficult for us to adjust to a situation in which world war is world suicide and the final fateful decisions about these things are taken in Washington and Moscow and are in the hands of the two super-nuclear Powers.
This country has also been a worldwide empire, and to surrender that position, however skilfully we have done it, is not an easy task. I do not want to suggest that any quarter of the House has a monopoly of wisdom or foresight in charting the changes which we must accept. But I claim that Labour Governments in British politics since the Second World War have made and are making a decisive contribution to adapting Britain's rôle to the realities of the modern world and to enabling Britain to play the part of constructive leadership to which our influence entitles us. The 1945 Labour Government have gone down in history as the author of the greatest voluntary transformation of Empire into Commonwealth, by its action in giving independence to the Indian sub-Continent. I believe that the 1964 Labour Government could very well earn its place is history for the greatest voluntary transfer of military power to a system of collective security which helps to stabilise peace and to limit the spread of nuclear weapons.
When Lord Attlee took his historic step in India, the Opposition of the time had many doubts about the wisdom of that step, and yet within a few years Conservative Governments were taking proper pride in giving independence to new nations in Asia and in Africa.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
We spent five years before that Labour Government came in preparing for the independence of India.
§ Mr. Thomson
If there had been a Conservative Prime Minister instead of a Labour Prime Minister in 1945, I doubt whether the years of preparation would have been followed by the courageous and decisive active action which was taken at the time.
In the light of the little bit of history which I have been trying to give, I take the view that whatever the Opposition do at the end of the debate tomorrow, the historic proposals made by the Prime Minister today will before long be accepted by the whole nation as a sensible advance in collective defence and in promoting a more peaceful world.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Lord Commissioner of the Treasury)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.