§ 3.49 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)
The opening speech in a foreign affairs debate must necessarily be selective. I have no doubt that during the debate hon. Members will raise a number of matters which I shall not be able to cover, but to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will give his attention at the end of the debate. But, even if one is selective, such a speech must deal with many parts of the world and with many problems, and in the hope of giving coherence to the picture I want at the outset to state a guiding theme.
When we discuss international affairs we must necessarily say a great deal about restoring or keeping the peace. This involves frequent mention of the necessity to resist aggression and to keep up our defences. But we all know that human affairs cannot be rightly ordered by defence and by the use of power alone. The sole purpose of such activities is to make it possible for a nation to be able to use in peace their creative energies for the production of wealth and to turn their minds and hearts to the wise use of it.
We understand this in home affairs, where the maintenance of peace and order, although essential, is only one item and we spend much of our time discussing trade and the production of wealth and the economic and social uses of it. As the world becomes more civilised, we shall hope to see a similar development in foreign affairs and that the emphasis will need to be less on defence and the use of power and increasingly on the fruitful co-operation of nations for productive ends. I stress that because it is necessary for me to begin by giving attention to a part of the world where at present it is power and force which occupy the forefront of the scene.
The House will remember that in 1954 there was in Vietnam a partial and limping settlement. I call it that because South Vietnam and the United States were not parties to it and because the free elections to which it referred and on which the reunification of Vietnam was to depend were not possible either 1860 in the Communist dominated North or in the disturbed South. There emerged what one might call a de facto settlement with Vietnam divided into North and South at the 17th parallel.
Yet even that limited settlement could have been helpful to both North and South. For a time both parts continued to endeavour to put themselves in order and to make economic and social progress. Those possibilities remained open until, in 1959, there was a call by the Government of North Vietnam for an intensification of the Vietcong activities in the South and for full-scale guerilla warfare against the Government of South Vietnam. Not only did the Northern Government call for that; they then proceeded to help it with more weapons and military advice, as was made clear by the majority report of the International Control Commission in 1962.
Faced with that situation, South Vietnam appealed to the United States for help, and the United States responded. But it is important to notice that in 1959, when this pressure from the North began, and even as late as 1961— nearly two years later—there were still only 700 members of the United States Armed Forces in South Vietnam. I think it important to remind the House of this, because it cannot be claimed that the action taken by the North was the result of a considerable United States military presence in the South. The action from the North preceded the arrival of United States forces in any considerable degree in the South.
It was not until 1964, after United States vessels had been attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin, that the United States struck back at the territory of North Vietnam itself. In 1965, came the incidents where United States forces were attacked at Pleiku and QuiNhon. The House knows the passage of events since then.
It might be argued—and in Communist quarters it is argued—that the whole problem could be solved if the United States simply withdrew its forces and left North Vietnam and the Vietcong to deal with the whole situation. I suppose that it might be said that that solution has the merit of simplicity since it would leave nothing to negotiate or to confer about. But for the United 1861 States to do that would be, in the first place, a breach of its clear undertaking to South Vietnam. It would leave the problem of what would happen to the very many Vietnamese who do not wish to live under a Communist Government, and we should notice that when the de facto division between North and South occurred 1 million people moved down from the North to live in the South.
It would further be an admission that what is, in fact, the aggression from the North had succeeded. I assure the House that that event would be regarded with profound alarm by all the non-Communist countries in that part of the world. I have noticed from the very many letters which I have received about this matter, and which my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite have sent to me from their constituents, that, although many of them ask urgently, and naturally, that Her Majesty's Government should do everything possible to get a peaceful solution, very few indeed ask for the complete and unconditional withdrawal of the United States forces.
I make that point because if we reject, as I think we should reject, that solution, we must ask: what is the position if United States forces remain in South Vietnam and are continually struck at and those strikes are aided and directed from the North and often carried out by people who have been sent down from the North for that purpose? It does not seem to me possible to ask the United States, in that situation, to say that its forces are to be struck at in that manner and that they are to be bound by the condition that they could never in any circumstances strike at the territory of North Vietnam from which the attacks on them are directed.
I put these points before the House because I believe that they are essential features in the situation, though unwelcome. It will follow from what I have said that many hon. Members will ask themselves, "If this is so, is there not grave danger that, with strike and counter-strike, there will be a continued escalation of the war with growing danger to the people of the world?". On that matter, we should notice this. As I have told the House, there was a period of nearly five years, from 1959 to 1964, between the time when the northern pressure and aggression on the South began 1862 and the time when the United States first struck at the territory of North Vietnam.
That is one piece of evidence to weigh. Another is the statement by Mr. Adlai Stevenson, on behalf of the United States Government, to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, that if there were "a prompt and assured cessation" of the aggression the United States would be prepared to withdraw its forces and cooperate in a programme of aid for South-East Asia.
More recently, President Johnson has expressed the matter thus:It is and it will remain the policy of the United States to furnish assistance to support South Vietnam for as long as is required to bring Communist aggression and terrorism under control'. The military actions of the United States will be such, and only such, as serve that purpose—at the lowest possible cost in human life to our allies, to our own men, and to our adversaries, too.I do not feel that that can be regarded as the language of a man or a nation eager to engage in a reckless escalation of the conflict. There is close and continuous consultation between London and Washington on this matter, and, of course, Her Majesty's Government form and express their own judgment of events as they occur, but I repeat, that on the evidence and the record, I think that it would be wrong to argue that the action of the United States is the action of a country engaged in a reckless escalation of the conflict.
I think that at this point I ought also to say something about methods of warfare. If this debate had occurred a few days earlier, I should have been expected to deal particularly with the use of gas. As the debate occurs when it does, I might perhaps refer more to the terrible incident in Saigon the other day. There is no doubt that cruelties have been committed by both North and South Vietnamese forces, apart from what might have been done on the battlefield, or against men in action.
In 1963, 2,000 unarmed civilians were killed by the Vietcong, and nearly 2,800 in 1964. Recently, at the village of Kinh Mon, a policeman was murdered by the Vietcong and his body cut into pieces. At the funeral, the Vietcong exploded an anti-tank mine, killing one of the mourners, and wounding a score of others. At Pleiku, two bus loads of 1863 people, civilian men, women and children, were murdered as a pure act of terror by the Vietcong. I am not going to continue the list. I mention these episodes only so that the House shall see the horror and cruelties of this war in proper perspective.
Surely one lesson that we must draw from every story of horror that can be produced by anyone from any quarter is the imperative need to try to reach a settlement of this dispute? On that matter, Great Britain had a special responsibility, as one of the two cochairmen of the Geneva Conference on Vietnam of 1954, and accordingly, as far back as 20th February, we addressed to the Soviet Government, our fellow cochairman, a proposal that we and they jointly should invite all the Powers concerned to state their views on this whole matter in the hope and expectation that out of that something like a basis for settlement could be secured. We deliberately made this a modest proposal, since it was known that the two cochairmen did not view this matter in exactly the same light, and it was important, therefore, to search for what measure of agreement could be found.
We had the Soviet reply after about three weeks. It came immediately before Mr. Gromyko's visit here. It was simply a suggestion that we and the Soviet Union should issue a statement which was entirely a condemnation of the United States, and a demand for the withdrawal of its troops. It seemed to me that, apart from anything else, for us to have done that would have been a complete misunderstanding of the rôle of co-chairman. It is not for co-chairmen as such, I think, to engage in propagandist statements. They should endeavour to reach statements on which they can agree, and which might help to promote a settlement.
But, unhappily, this attitude expressed in the Soviet reply is similar in tone and substance to the other comments from the Communist Powers concerned with the conflict. For example, on 7th March, Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia gave an account of the "Indo-Chinese People's conference," and described the line taken by the Communist representatives from Vietnam who said. in effect: 1864We absolutely refuse a conference on our country, we absolutely refuse a negotiated solution, we demand that the Americans leave without conditions.Similarly, on 10th March, the Commander-in-Chief of North Vietnam said:The United States Government must stop at once its acts of provocation, sabotage and aggression against the democratic government of Vietnam, end the aggressive war in South Vietnam, withdraw United States troops and weapons from there and let the South Vietnamese people settle their own affairs by themselves in accordance with the programme of the South Vietnamese Liberation Front. The problem of peaceful reunification of Vietnam is the affair of the Vietnamese people, it will be settled by the Vietnam Fatherland Front and the South-Vietnamese Liberation Front.The House will notice in that statement not only that it is not thinking in terms of conference or negotiation at all, but that the affairs of Vietnam are subsequently to be settled exclusively by Communist organisations, and that by these proposals no non-Communist in Vietnam would have any chance of taking part in framing the future of his country.
On 12th March, the Chinese Government spoke in similar terms. When Mr. Gromyko was here my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I pressed him most earnestly on the question of what possible basis he saw for conference, negotiation, talk, call it what one will, about Vietnam, but he, too, stuck to the position that the first, and, indeed, only, essential, was unconditional withdrawal by the United States.
I think we should notice that this Communist attitude at the present time—and I stress "at the present time"—differs very markedly from the attitude over the question of Laos in 1961. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition told the House on 24th March, and later told television viewers, that he had on that occasion employed British diplomacy to bring the Russians and Americans together to make an honourable settlement, and I think that he was implying that we had only to imitate his course to get that result.
But it is important to notice that although in December, 1960, the Soviet Government themselves proposed a conference on Laos, it was five months after that that the conference was convened, and that it then took the conference 14 months to reach agreement. I in no 1865 way criticise what the right hon. Gentleman did then, certainly not, but he started with one substantial advantage which is not present in this situation at the moment, namely, that the Communist side actually wanted and proposed a conference.
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
My right hon. Friend has referred to what was said by the representative of Cambodia. Has he seen an agency report which has come out of New York, dated 31st March, of a statement by the former Foreign Minister of Cambodia, who is now the representative at the United Nations, about the recent conference in Cairo of non-aligned nations, that Cambodia and Yugoslavia had proposed to President Ho Chi Min the reconvening of the 1954 conference and said:President Ho Chi Min favourably responded to the initiative of the non-aligned countries stressing that his Government expect action and is ready to take part in a conference of the participants of the Geneva Agreement."?
§ Mr. Stewart
My right hon. Friend will have noticed that I laid great stress on the words "at present" when I was describing the Communist attitude. I was about to lead to the point that there are these very recent reports. If there is a change there, as I shall show the House later, we have a changed situation but, in view of some suggestions that all that was needed was an initiative to bring the Powers round the table, I want to emphasise that until this very latest development the attitude of the other side has been, as expressed by the remarks which I have quoted, that it did not want a conference or anything else, and I was saying that in 1953 both sides wanted a conference and expressed their wish for one, but even so it was not until July, 1954, that agreement was reached at Geneva.
What we have had to struggle with during these last weeks is a situation where the repeated attitude of the Communist side was that it saw no need for negotiations or a conference at all. It has sometimes been suggested that this attitude of the Communist Powers can be blamed on us; that if we had been prepared to engage in phrases condemnatory of the United States, or to dissociate ourselves from its actions, we 1866 should have got a better response. But I think that we should notice what response others have been getting—France, India and Yugoslavia.
The French approach glanced at, but no result from it; the Indian ignored and the People's Daily, in Peking, saying on 22nd March of the Yugoslav initiative,The Tito clique serves Americaand going on to say that President Tito had no right to express opinions about Vietnam. However, having said that, I trust this will not discourage any nation or group of nations that feels it can help in bringing about such a settlement from any initiative that it may think wise. Later, I will say something of the action that we are taking.
Hon. Members will have seen the report of a further initiative by a group of nonaligned nations. Her Majesty's Government view this initiative with sympathy and are in earnest agreement with its aim of reaching a peaceful solution for the serious situation in Vietnam.
The Communist attitude has been difficult, indeed, impossible, so far, but I most earnestly hope and trust—and there are now some signs of more ground for hope than even a day ago—that this attitude is not final. In that situation we shall still seek a settlement. Since our fellow co-chairman will not at present act with us, we intend, as I explained during my recent visit to the United States, to act ourselves as co-chairman and to invite an expression of views from all the Powers concerned, and we shall endeavour to get from them by persistent inquiry what can be the basis for a settlement.
Similarly, as the House knows, Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker will be visiting capitals in the Far East, because we believe that approaches to try to break through the wall of resistance we have so far met should be made by a considerable variety of means, not merely by ordinary diplomatic exchanges but by inquiries of any kind that seem likely to prove fruitful.
I will mention another possibility. As far back as 2nd February we made another proposal to the Russians, this time in connection with our duties as co-chairmen for the conference on Laos. The proposal that we made was itself a limited one, simply that we should carry 1867 out the duty imposed on us as cochairmen for Laos to make recommendations for the future of the International Control Commission for that country. Although that was a limited proposal it was a definite proposal and we await the Russian reply that could get talks started on one aspect of South-East Asia —talks which can be widened if there is willingness to widen them, to deal with the main anxiety facing us at the present time.
Hon. Members may have seen an article in this morning's Press pointing out that there are precedents for a conference starting with one limited objective and being widened to deal with a greater problem. It is natural and right that while we are engaged in these activities we should be in close consultation with our ally, the United States. It would not, I think, serve any useful purpose for us merely to strike attitudes without any regard to whether we were keeping in touch with our ally. That would be a neglect of our proper duty as co-chairmen.
It might be said that the United States Government should spell out more fully what was required as a satisfactory assurance by North Vietnam that it was prepared to cease attacks on the South, or that the United States should describe the exact process through which a ceasefire might be reached, or that it should describe more fully how it pictures the future of Vietnam, for all these things must at some time be part of the discussion.
It is difficult for the United States to do this so long as there is no indication from the other side of its preparedness to consider a settlement on any terms. If and when there is a clear indication to that effect, when the other side communicates in any form that it desires a cessation of hostilities, or considers there is room for negotiation, then the door would be open and there would be something which could be regarded as a basis for negotiation; and then the thoroughly sound proposition that this whole problem must have a political and not merely a military solution could become alive and real.
The various inquiries and initiatives that we are taking in the forms that I have mentioned, and in others that may 1868 appear to be fruitful in the future, are directed at getting that indication and opening that door, at making it possible to secure not merely a military but a satisfactory political settlement of this vexed and agonising and threatening question.
Before turning from South-East Asia, I think that the House would expect me to say a brief word on events as between Malaysia and Indonesia. Indonesia is carrying out what is now called a confrontation—a harassment —of Malaysia, and is ostensibly doing that on the ground that Indonesia objects to the incorporation in Malaysia of certain territories in Borneo. I think it important to remember that there is a clear United Nations verdict that the incorporation of those territories in Malaysia was in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, and that Indonesian observers present at the time agreed with that conclusion. In those circumstances, there seems to be no justification for this process of confrontation, as it is called.
If one looks at the comparative size, population, and resources of Indonesia and Malaysia it clearly cannot be maintained that Malaysia is a threat to Indonesia. If the Indonesians are anxious —and I would concede that this may be a real anxiety—about the presence of a considerable proportion of British forces in that area, they have only to bring the confrontation to an end and that anxiety can be removed.
I have had to say a good deal about the necessity for resistance, but, following the theme that I tried to set at the beginning, I think it important to say that when one is dealing with the Communist world one must not think only in terms of resistance.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
May I interrupt my right hon. Friend? Before he leaves the question of Malaysia, I wonder whether he would explain how it helps Britain's mediating rôle in Vietnam if British troops, sent to Malaysia to protect Malaysia against Indonesian attack, spend their time in training South Vietnamese Army personnel to counter guerrilla activities in Vietnam?
§ Mr. Stewart
I think that my hon. Friend had better develop what he has 1869 to say about that if he catches Mr. Speaker's eye, but I would point out that such complaint as he is making has not been raised by any of the parties to the dispute as a serious element in it.
I was saying that in so far as Communism is a power which tries to extend its domain by force it must expect to be resisted. In so far as it is a doctrine which says that mankind can be led forward into the kind of world that science makes possible only if it will submit to the domination of the Communist Party and the apparatus of the one-party State, it -is a doctrine which we, for our part, reject. But in so far as it is a protest—historically, this is an important aspect of Communism—against backwardness, and in so far as its aim is the modernisation and development of some of the poorest countries in the world, then that is an aim which we can share and an aim in the fulfilment of which we can work with Communist countries.
I wish to say a word about particular Communist countries. First, China. We wish to have good relations with China. It was the last Labour Government which established relations with the present regime in China. We recognise that she is a great Power whose influence is growing and we support her claim to her rightful seat at the United Nations. We are anxious to continue that growth of trade with China. We maintain scientific and cultural contacts and we have a Mission in Peking.
It is disappointing that the political content of what we have been seeking to do here is still small, and it is true that as long as China's attitude to world affairs is dominated by hatred of the United States China will not be able to take the place in the world to which its size, industry, the ingenuity of its people and great cultural heritage entitles that country.
I think that the House will remember the tribulations which China went through in this century and the last; not only the tribulations but the humiliations to which China was often subjected by Western Powers. We have to remember that to understand China's attitude today, but in the end—this is something all nations have to learn—we cannot build policy on past grievances, however justified. We 1870 must hope that when the bitterness of those memories fades, China will be prepared to co-operate in the solution of problems which at present it seems determined only to exacerbate.
As to the Soviet Union, one thing I noticed in the conversations with Mr. Gromyko was that although we could not agree on a common line of action as co-chairmen, he was anxious to keep the function of co-chairmanship alive. We have noticed, also, that the Soviet Union was very ready to co-operate in the establishment of the Peace-keeping Committee which is seeking to solve the difficulties of the United Nations and that it is also anxious that fruitful discussions on disarmament should be proceeded with.
When Mr. Gromyko was in London I told him how essential it was that the direct discussions on disarmament should not be allowed to lapse and I pressed him to agree that the 18—Nation Disarmament Conference at Geneva should meet again soon. Mr. Gromyko promised to let us have an early reply. It was handed to our Ambassador in Moscow on Tuesday. In it the Russians suggest that the problem of disarmament should now be referred to the United Nations Disarmament Commission. This reply has also been given to the Americans and communicated to the President of the Security Council.
In our view, the issue of disarmament is so vital that we must be ready to discuss it in any forum. We are still of the opinion that the Geneva Conference is the most useful, experienced and businesslike body for detailed consideration of the problem of disarmament and worthwhile negotiations on the subject. We should not want to see it superseded, but since disarmament could not be discussed at the 19th Session of the General Assembly, we should certainly be prepared to take part in a joint debate if this turned out to be the general wish of the United Nations.
I am glad to see that Governor Adlai Stevenson, on behalf of the United States Government, has said that the United States would participate constructively if such a meeting is approved. We shall have proposals of our own on disarmament to put forward; there will be Russian proposals which Mr. Gromyko described and, no doubt, proposals from other sources.
1871 I wish to say a word about the smaller Communist countries of Eastern Europe. It is gratifying to note that trade with them is growing, as are personal, educational and cultural links. We were glad to welcome a group of Bulgarian Ministers here recently and I shall be paying a visit to Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia in the coming month. As to the general question of relations between Communist and non-Communist groups, I think it important all the time that we should not suppose that the division between Communist and non-Communist is the whole picture of mankind.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
What my right hon. Friend is saying in relation to the Communist world is very interesting. Can he tell us what representations he made to the United States Government that they should alter their attitude on the representation of China at the United Nations?
§ Mr. Stewart
I have not myself taken up that subject with them at present.
I was saying that we must not suppose—
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I do not want to press my right hon. Friend too far on this. I know the difficulties, but he had a word to say about China not basing its policy on past grievances. In this respect it is not, is it, a past grievance? The United States has insistently refused to recognise China's existence for 16 years, and still does.
§ Mr. Stewart
We have shown quite clearly what is our view on the desirability of recognition. The question which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) was taken up before I took office, with the United States in December, and no doubt that is a matter to which we shall return.
I was saying that we must not suppose that the division between Communist and non-Communist is the whole picture of mankind. At no time, I think, is it more important to remember that than when we are looking at African problems. The countries of Africa, though they differ as much one from another as do the countries of Europe, are united in their desire to assert quite clearly their newly- 1872 won independence. One way in which they do so is by their natural refusal to be neatly lined up and docketed as either pro-Western or pro-Communist, and we must accept that.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition once spoke of the difficulties of the United Nations being due, I think he said, at any rate in part, to the selfishness of some of the newer illations in using the United Nations for selfish purposes. It is not wholly unknown for older nations to use international institutions for rather narrowly conceived purposes. I think that we must expect that nations that have newly-won their independence will have a very strong concern for their own status, their own dignity, their own interests, and one must approach that with sympathy. These African countries are also united in their need for aid. It is quite natural that they should not want to receive all, or too great a proportion, of aid from countries which were formerly colonial Powers. That is also an aspect of their newly-won independence.
In so far as the aid they get from Communist countries helps their economic development we welcome it. Our own aid is considerable. Forty-two percent. of all our overseas aid goes to Africa; and it is for African countries themselves to judge from what quarters they should receive aid, and under what conditions. When we look at any African group or leader or party the first question we ought to ask is not "Is he pro-East or pro-West?" but rather, "Has he the confidence of his people? Does he desire to bring them forward to liberty and social progress?" If the answer to that question is "Yes", we should seek to be his friend.
The demand for economic progress and social justice rises in Africa. We want to see it combined with democratic institutions. If we want to see that, it is important for us to show in our own country that we do not regard the democratic machine merely as a machine to be worshipped for its own sake, but to show that it can be used to solve economic problems and to produce social justice. Further, if we wish to have any status at all in Africa we must make it quite clear at home and abroad that we reject in any form any doctrine that is based on race or racial superiority.
1873 Not only in Africa but in the Middle East as a whole we see this combination of an urge towards reform and an assertion of independence. I believe that even the severest critic of President Nasser would not deny the considerable work of reform that he has carried out in his own country. One may deplore that, like earlier reforming leaders in history, he has chosen to combine that with military adventures which do not help his own country and which, indeed, jeopardise the work of reform that he is striving to do there.
One aspect of this is the continued effort at subversion in the Federation of Southern Arabia, aimed at frustrating our policy of bringing that country forward to full and early independence. But this development of social and economic reforms which can be seen in Egypt can also be seen in greater or lesser degree in other Arab countries. Israel is a country which is an outstanding example of providing a free and enriched life for people from all over the world who have experienced persecution and difficulty. When Mr. Eshkol, the Prime Minister of Israel, was here recently I made it clear to him that we are firmly determined to maintain friendly relations with Israel and that our desire to be on friendly terms with the Arab countries cannot be bought by estranging us from Israel. In another part of the Middle East, in Iran, also, we see a substantial attempt being made to bring that country forward into the modern world.
Yet in these countries, all in different ways and different degrees seeking to reform and modernise themselves, the scene is bedevilled by hostilities which have their roots in the past and which are not, in my judgment, essential or inescapable results of any present facts. In those circumstances, our task is at all times to discourage violent solutions of problems to play our part in helping programmes of economic and social reform.
§ Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
Would the right hon. Gentleman add to the wise words he is speaking that this country is most anxious that in all these countries the rights of individuals should be preserved and that the regime, however idealistic it may be in its reforming aims, should not be based on concentra- 1874 tion camps and imprisonment without trial?
§ Mr. Stewart
I think that there is a limit to what we can go round telling everybody. I have said earlier that if we want countries elsewhere to admire and practice democratic institutions perhaps the most useful thing we can do is to show how well we can make our own democratic institutions work here.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire) rose——
§ Mr. Stewart
I have almost finished.
We have all over the world a ferment of desire for progress and reform and a ferment of nationalism. The problem is whether the world can be carried through this ferment without violent conflict breaking out. The world's instrument for that purpose at present is the United Nations, now afflicted with difficulty over its finances and the future of the organisation of peace keeping.
Chapter VI of the Charter of United Nations provides for peaceful settlement of disputes. Chapter VII provides for the enforcement of United Nations decisions where peaceful settlement has failed. It is our view that there are situations between Chapters VI and VII, situations where it will be possible to get peaceful settlement in time but where in the meantime it is necessary to have some kind of force to keep order and to preserve the peace. Cyprus and the Congo are examples of that.
We believe that in the organising of peace-keeping operations the prime but not the only rôle lies with the Security Council and that the General Assembly, also, has a part to play. We shall bring forward in the Peace-Keeping Committee the detailed proposals giving expression to that principle. Meanwhile, the offer of logistic support for the United Nations peace-keeping operations, which I made on 23rd February, was intended not only for its value in itself, but as a manifestation of our determination that the United Nations shall reach a solution of this problem.
These, then, are our principles and aims: to resist aggression, which means close and continued consultation with our Allies; to understand and whenever possible to co-operate with the Communist world; to help new nations progressively to shift the 1875 emphasis of international affairs from defence to welfare and to uphold the authority of the United Nations. They are not aims we can achieve alone; and we should notice here our relations with our nearest neighbours on the Continent of Europe. We are a European country. Our future is bound up with theirs. This is as true in economics and in politics as it is in defence.
It is possible to envisage a situation in which two of the groups we find in Europe —E.E.C. and E.F.T.A.—could become one group. Such a development, although —for reasons which the House knows—it is not as yet practicable, is a development that would in itself be welcome. But since it is not at present practicable, it seems to us right and sensible to concentrate on immediate measures that bring those two groupings closer together, which as the House knows, I developed in a speech in Brussels not long ago, and which I need not repeat here. It seemed to me that those measures had the further advantage that they could bring these two groupings in Western Europe closer together without in themselves erecting any barriers to better understanding with Eastern Europe.
I mentioned at the outset of my speech, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the part played in international affairs by the true concept of power and of welfare, of keeping the peace and of using the peace constructively. I have tried to show that in many fields—in Europe, in the Far East, in the Middle East, in Africa and in the structure of the United Nations—there is much for this country to do both in keeping the peace and in helping to promote human welfare—promoting it by material aid, by scientific co-operation and by the services of skilled administrators and technicians.
It is the tragedy of human affairs that that aspect of international politics which is concerned with defence and power stands plainly in front of us at present and can be described plainly enough and starkly and is such that the tenderhearted may recoil from it, while the more constructive and hopeful aspects of international affairs, which necessarily lie more in the future, cannot so easily be described with precision and are such that the cynic may easily sneer at them.
1876 But we must have faith. We must work for the future. Resolution and readiness to defend are one essential. Imagination and capacity to create are the other. If resolution fails, the opportunity to create is lost. If resolution had failed us in 1940, all our hopes for the present would have failed with it. But if imagination fails, defence has lost its purpose and courage has been in vain. It is the combination of resolution and imagination that can bring us up the long road that leads from a world disorganised, excessive in armaments and deficient in prosperity to a world so organised that the creative energies of man can leap forward to exalt the welfare of nations and the dignity of human life.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
This is the first time since the right hon. Gentleman took office as Foreign Secretary that he has been able to open a foreign affairs debate. I am quite sure that I speak for the whole House when I say that we are immensely grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the manner and the matter of the speech that he has made to us today.
I accept at once the theme propounded at the beginning of the right hon. Gentleman's speech when he said, in effect, that diplomacy today is a blend of strength and conciliation. Although it may be unfortunate and a sad commentary on mankind that strength has to play so large a part in this equation, nevertheless this is so. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in saying, too, as I think he really said, that the pursuit of peace is today an act of faith but that what we want to try to do is to make it a reality on the ground.
Therefore, I will try, during my speech, to follow the right hon. Gentleman's example. I will examine, perhaps a little more than he did, the strategy of power and diplomacy in the whole context of what still remains the Communist threat to the free world. I agree, however, with the right hon. Gentleman, and I echo his remarks, when he said that while we have to sustain resolution and persevere, because otherwise free men would be overrun, nevertheless we also have to use our imagination, otherwise mankind will never take itself out of the situation into which we seem to have got ourselves 1877 in this twentieth century, when men ought to know better than they apparently do.
Inevitably, as has been foreshadowed, the greater part of the Foreign Secretary's speech was concentrated upon Vietnam and Asia. I will turn to that situation first, saying, too, that I found myself agreeing with almost everything that the right hon. Gentleman said on the analysis of the situation in South Vietnam. If we are to avoid false conclusions and, therefore, subsequent errors in action, we must be clear in our minds why this war started at all. I was very glad, therefore, that the Foreign Secretary answered the question so clearly.
It is quite apparent to anybody who had anything to do with those matters in those days that from the day when the Geneva Agreement was signed in 1954, North Vietnam was determined not to observe and honour the agreement. North Vietnam placed in South Vietnam cells of subversion. It started infiltration, and that infiltration has lately turned into what can properly be called an invasion.
The Prime Minister said the other day that there has been a change of policy by North Vietnam. I am not sure that I agree with him. I think that this policy has been pursued all the time, although now it is certainly a change of degree and what was rather sporadic infiltration has now become something more of the nature of an organised invasion. The House must be clear that but for this action of North Vietnam, there would have been no war.
As things were, had not South Vietnam sought American aid, that country would have been taken over. There can be no doubt about that. That was the position, and it is the position today that were the Americans to withdraw, South Vietnam would no longer exist as an independent country.
The Foreign Secretary was right and fair to point out that in that part of Asia there is a parallel case. But for the protection of the sea, Malaysia would today be subjected to the same procedure; infiltration almost indistinguishable from invasion. Therefore, Malayasia would be in the same plight. There, the native elected Government have appealed for and received British support because they could not by themselves meet the threat; and if they could not meet the threat 1878 Malaysia would have been taken over by Indonesia.
What I am asking is that the critics of the United States should remember that we in Malaysia are in a precisely similar situation to the Americans in South Vietnam.
§ Mr. Warbey
I wish to come back to the point that the right hon. Gentleman has just made about Vietnam, when he talked about preserving the independence of the State of South Vietnam. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the Geneva Agreements laid down clearly in the final declaration that Vietnam is one country and that there are not two States, a State of North Vietnam and a State of South Vietnam. Why does the right hon. Gentleman go on persisting with this nonsense and pretence that there are two separate States in Vietnam?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
In reply to the hon. Member, who no doubt, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will speak later in the debate, there can be no united Vietnam if one half tries to dominate the other. That is the answer to the hon. Member and that is what is happening. One half of Vietnam is being threatened and invaded by the other. On that basis, there can be no peace. Therefore, we are trying to do in Malaysia what the United States is, in effect, doing in South Vietnam, and that is, at the request of a small country, coming to the aid of its Government and preventing domination.
If, today, we concentrate our attention in this debate largely on Vietnam rather than Malaysia, it is because the Chinese are in support of the North Vietnamese invasion and all the implications of that for the future. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the war in Vietnam in the widest setting, both military and diplomatic, and that is what I shall try to do.
During the last five years or so, the Western world, as agents for free peoples, have had one great strategic success, and that is that the Communist bloc has been split in half. There has been another further great gain, and that is that the right hook which could have been delivered by the Soviet Union against Europe was held. It is worth recalling why this was held. It was held because it was opposed by military strength which would seem to be overwhelming. Until it was understood by the Soviet Union that 1879 that strength was overwhelming and that, therefore, aggression could not pay, diplomacy was unable to act, and it was only when the Soviet Union understood that aggression could not pay that diplomacy came into its own and we were able to establish between the Western world and the Soviet Union a co-existence which was tolerable. I think that it is worth remembering this lesson.
I would echo the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Gentleman about China. We on this side of the House have advocated Chinese entry into the United Nations. I also echo what he said about the kind of facile distinction sometimes made as if the world were divided only into Communists and others. That, also, is true. But the question today is whether China is still possessed of the Communist devil and whether under the ideology which the Chinese are practising today it is prepared to use force to expand right through South-East Asia and beyond.
There is no doubt that the Chinese are capable of delivering what I might call a left hook at the free peoples of the world through South-East Asia. If China is planning in terms of the use of force it may think that it may gain very important advantages—first of all, the domination of South-East Asia and the use of South-East Asia for its surplus population; secondly, the isolation of Australia and New Zealand from the Indian Ocean; and, thirdly, the confrontation and blackmail of a weakened Indian sub-continent, against which it has already demonstrated its power. There are also temptations for the Chinese, as we know, further afield.
If the Chinese have such aims—and I profoundly hope that they have not—and if the way were left wide open to them without any resistance, then the balance of power in the world could be turned fatally against the free peoples. One's hope must be that China, as was the case with Russia before, has recognised, and will recognise, the folly of aggression in a nuclear age. But the right hon. Gentleman was right to remind us that there is no guarantee at present that this will be so, and that is why certain countries in South-East Asia formed the S.E.A.T.O. Alliance, 1880 bringing to their aid the countries of the West, where the power lay.
I suggest, it I may, that hon. Members, and particularly some hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, should try to realise what the Americans are doing. [HON. MEMBERS: "We know."] The Americans today—
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton) rose——
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I am about to make a point which I dare say the hon. Member has not yet appreciated. What the Americans are doing is this: they are holding the aggression from the North southwards in advance of the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty area and, therefore, in advance of an area in which Britain has a direct commitment to intervene. Have the hon. Member and his hon. Friends understood that? When I negotiated—
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr (Rochester and Chatham) rose——
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I will give way when I have completed this argument. I am not trying in the least to be controversial.
What I am trying to do is to establish a fact which the whole House ought to understand, and, in particular, hon. Members below the Gangway opposite—that America is holding an aggression in advance of the S.E.A.T.O. area. When we were negotiating the Laos agreement, I was all the time all-too-conscious of the fact that it needed only the penetration of Thailand by the Vietmin or Vietcong to activate the S.E.A.T.O. Alliance, and in that case, if that happened, there would be an escalation of the war between the great and nuclear Powers. The Americans are doing a service to the whole of the free world in holding this aggression in advance of the S.E.A.T.O. area.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
As we know, there is a trade in small arms which goes on between most countries in the world, but I have to check this with the Government; perhaps the Prime Minister can 1881 say whether the Americans are supplying many arms to Indonesia at the present time. I should very much doubt it.
§ Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what freedom exists in South Vietnam? He has spoken at great length about the defence of the free world. It would be enlightening to some of us if he would tell us what freedom exists in South Vietnam, which we are supposed to be defending.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Whatever internal conditions exist in South Vietnam or any other country, they are no excuse for external aggression.
I should like to continue, perhaps with a little less interruption, this point, which is a valid point, about the Americans holding aggression in advance of the S.E.A.T.O. area when requests are made for the Americans to define their limits of action. It is quite apparent from what was said by the Foreign Secretary that they cannot do so. The limits of the war must depend on and can be defined only in terms of the intentions of the aggressor. It is right that the objectives of the United States should be understood not only by their allies, but by possible foes, and I was glad that the Foreign Secretary reminded the House of the statement made by Mr. Adlai Stevenson and of another statement made by President Johnson.
If I may I want to read to the House two more statements which were made. The President of the United States said. on 25th March:If aggression is stopped the people and Government of South Vietnam will be free to settle their own future and the need for supporting military action there will end.That was preceded by a statement by Mr. Rusk, on 4th March:The United States seeks no bases or special position or rights in South-East Asia Our troops could come home tomorrow if the aggressors would go back north and stay at home.That is the position of the United States. It is the same as our position in Malaysia. None of us wants to have troops on Asian soil, but we are both in obligation to countries who have asked us in to to defend them under treaty obligations. Our troops could be removed, like the Americans, if the aggression were to cease.
1882 The question, therefore, is not whether the United States wants to establish a foothold in Asia. The answer to that is an emphatic "No", as these quotations prove. The question is whether the Chinese are bent on aggression, using North Vietnam as a tool, or whether the Chinese can be brought to underwrite a peace which is real—this is the question—and thus enable the United States to withdraw.
When we begin to think in terms of a political settlement I believe that there are two considerations which are overriding. There must be effective policing forces on the ground to stop the infiltration of guerrillas and arms. Anything short of that, and the war will begin again. The only thing that would happen if there were an inadequate policing on the ground would be that South Vietnam, by reason of lifting their guard, would be put at a fatal disadvantage in the future. From the start, if there is a peace settlement we must be clear what the policing force is to be on the ground.
Equally important is the political machinery in control of the police force. In neither South Vietnam nor Laos have the independent commissions, consisting of neutral countries, been allowed in the past to function in Communist-held territory. That is true, and that is the reason why in Laos the peace may break.
§ Mr. Warbey rose——
§ Mr. Warbey rose——
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The hon. Gentleman may have a chance later to state his views. I happen to have been through the whole of the Laos Conference, to have followed it extremely closely, and nobody can deny that the independent Commission of neutrals was not allowed to operate in Communist-held territory.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I must ask the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) to refrain from interrupting when the right hon. Gentleman has not given way.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
What I am therefore suggesting the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary should remember is this. One's conclusion must be that the policing cannot be undertaken exclusively by neutrals in future, and that in any policing machinery that there is and in any controlling commission it is certain that there will not be success unless the United States and China are part of the controlling machinery.
The Foreign Secretary recalled the Laos negotiations. He said that he thought that at that time the Communists wanted a settlement and a conference. I must say that I do not remember that. I remember pressing them hard for many months before they would agree, but there was one factor at that time which I thought made the situation a little less favourable than it possibly is today and that was that the Russians were actively intervening with a supply of arms. They are not yet doing so in Vietnam. Do not let him take Mr. Gromyko's "No" as really meaning "No" —not until he has repeated it about 100 times at stated intervals. It is an automatic reaction on his part, and had we accepted it in the last Government we would never have got agreement about anything—Laos, the Test-Ban Treaty, or a relaxation of tension over Berlin. I hope, therefore, that the Government will continue to search for a settlement. I hope they will not get out on a limb, away from the allies; I was reassured by what the right hon. Gentleman said.
The only thing I notice was that I do not think Mr. Gordon Walker is going to visit any country in the S.E.A.T.O. Alliance. I am not sure whether the Prime Minister can say whether that is true. If it is true, I hope that it will be remedied, because Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and other countries are vitally affected by this. We are, in this case, talking and are negotiating, or are proposing to negotiate, about their security and future. I hope, therefore, that he will go to S.E.A.T.O. countries.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
As his itinerary has been 1884 finalised, it is my impression that he will be visiting Thailand, but I will make sure about this and answer the right hon. Gentleman tonight.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
It is important that we should keep in touch with our allies. Therefore, I find myself in complete agreement with the right hon. Gentleman's approach to the situation in South Vietnam and I turn to another area which falls into the strategic picture. It is the Middle East, and the right hon. Gentleman touched on this subject. There again, the use of infiltration and subversion, backed by force and ambition, is assuming new dimensions. The former Foreign Secretary expressed the Government's intention of getting on better terms with Nasser, rather, I think, with the implication that we in the Conservative Government had failed in our duty. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman can report any progress, and I would welcome any evidence—
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
Before my right hon. Friend continues, is he aware that he has referred to the President of a country, the head of a sovereign State? Should he not refer to him as President Nasser and not just Nasser?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I think that the former Foreign Secretary expressed the Government's intention to get on better terms with Nasser—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and there was a slight implication that we in the Conservative Government had failed in our duty. As I said, I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman can report any progress. I will, in this connection, put some questions to him.
Is it true that whereas in about the autumn of last year there were 30,000 troops in the Yemen there are now 47,000 troops there? Is the right hon. Gentleman able to give an estimate of the number? Is there any other explanation of this, therefore, than that the Egyptians are making this a base for operations, either against Saudi Arabia or Aden and the Gulf, or both? The right hon. Gentleman has lately had visits from the Shah of Persia, Iran, from the Prime Minister of Israel and the Rulers of the Gulf, and he knows the apprehension that these ambitions are causing.
1885 Some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have sometimes been critical of Britain's presence in the Gulf and they have been sceptical, I think, of our assessment of the Egyptian intentions. But is it now understood that if Britain were to move out of this area of the Gulf the vacuum would immediately be filled by Egypt, with the widest and most dangerous repercussions over the whole of this inflammable area? I feel bound to include a word on the Middle East. It is the gateway to Africa in this strategic picture, because here the Russians are assisting the Egyptians with arms in the knowledge of the Egyptian expansionist intentions.
It is, of course, one of the techniques of the Communist countries, when they are up against a hard front—as they have been in Europe—to switch to another one which is softer. The Prime Minister is now well aware of the massive activities of both the Russians and the Chinese in East Africa—indeed, over most of the African continent—certainly not aimed at promoting stability in the newly independent countries.
Will the Prime Minister, when he replies—or the Foreign Secretary at another time—make it plain that if there is trouble in the Yemen—and it looks to me very much as though it is brewing—the men and materials are ready against any increased attacks upon the Aden Federation? In view of the precarious situation in the Middle East and the increased activities which we have to undertake in the Far East—and in particular the difficulties of supply—will he give a categorical undertaking that Her Majesty's Government mean to maintain the Simonstown Agreement, which seems to me to be absolutely vital in this general strategic context?
This debate has concentrated very largely east of Suez, so I will not seek, except in the barest outline, as did the right hon. Gentleman, to forecast the possibilities in the evolution of Europe. The threat to Europe which brought the N.A.T.O. Alliance into being has been eased. I believe that it is unlikely to be resumed in the stark and dangerous form which it took in the post-war years. But one cannot rest the security of a nation or nations on instinct, and so 1886 long as Berlin is divided and so long as East Berlin is denied self-expression, the threat to peace remains in Europe, even though it is less than it was.
N.A.T.O. may be reorganised, but it must remain as an alliance, with American participation in it, and at its centre there must be nuclear power, because it is inconceivable, as I think both sides of the House agree, that if there is war in Europe and if there is a premeditated or an unpremeditated aggression enlarging into a big campaign there would not be a nuclear exchange. Therefore, N.A.T.O. cannot lift its guard, although it may reorganise itself, so long as there is the possible danger of the centre of Europe being dominated by one great Power, and historically that has always been the greatest danger to ourselves. The evolution of Europe, the reorganisation of N.A.T.O., Britain's relations, economic and political, with the Continent—on which I was glad that the Foreign Secretary said a word—are subjects which we can, with advantage, debate another day. Every development, almost every day, underlines the truth of what I tried to express the other day when I said that the world pattern of the foreseeable future was one of great constellations of economic and physical power. I think that the Foreign Secretary said very much the same thing. Europe will be one of these constellations of power, and the case for economic co-operation will compel us and others to join forces in order to meet the competition from the United States.
If there is co-operation on the widest scale and we develop large joint units of production, we shall have a market complementary in size to those of the United States or, later, of the Soviet Union. Gradually perhaps, but certainly, Europe will, with the encouragement of the United States, assume greater responsibility for its own defence. I must tell the Prime Minister that I do not think that it will be a pattern which will include an A.N.F.—I think that is already dead—but that it will be a pattern in which the United States, France and ourselves are nuclear Powers contributing nuclear weapons to the alliance, with the ultimate right to withdraw, and that this is the pattern on which we shall build the future of the 1887 European and Atlantic force. The Prime Minister has been to Bonn and the United States, and he is to go to Paris. We look forward another day to being given the Government's thoughts on the future of Europe and the future of N.A.T.O. in the Western Alliance.
The right hon. Gentleman touched on the giving of aid. I thought that he almost made the giving of aid the reward for passing some kind of political examination. I hope that he did not mean that. We should get into dreadful confusion if that were so.
On the question of disarmament, I am bound to say that the proposal of the Russians to transfer the talks on disarmament back from the Committee of 18 to the Commission in the United Nations is a retrograde step. It cannot possibly be anything else. In my opinion, it means that disarmament has been parked by the Russians sine die.
The Government came into office holding out great hopes of change for the better. So far we have had some exemplary communiques but very little information. The Foreign Secretary has given us more today, but we shall soon be justified, on these other matters, in asking for the results.
I have tried to put the problem of Vietnam into the world strategic setting, military and diplomatic. I think that it is deplorable—as I said at the start and as the Foreign Secretary has said on a number of occasions—and unworthy of Man that we have to talk in terms of force and of deterrents. The whole weight of British diplomacy should be turned today to trying to see that disputes are negotiated and that they do not leave the table before a settlement is reached. Let us recognise—I hope that the whole House recognises—that diplomacy must stem from strength and that no results in law or order or peace will be achieved unless that is so.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
In answer to the Leader of the Opposition's last sentence, I would say that if we want to negotiate with China from a position of comparative strength, the sooner we do it the better for the West.
1888 I know that many hon. Members want to speak in the debate, so I shall try to be appropriately brief. I start by answering taunts which have come from Tory benches against those of us who have put Motions down about Vietnam, taunts that we are anti-American and that the right policy for loyal allies is to act in universal co-operation with the United States and to support whatever they may do. What is the record of the Tory Party in this regard? The Prime Minister referred the other day to Suez. Over Suez, they flouted President Eisenhower, they concealed their plans, they drove him into leading the whole world, all our N.A.T.O. allies, and almost all the Commonwealth, against them. Over Katanga, they opposed and sabotaged the policies which the United States was striving to uphold. The Leader of the Opposition's Berwick speech was a virulent attack on the United Nations, and it came at a moment of crisis, when the United States was straining every nerve to hold the U.N. together and build up its authority and strength.
We believe that, over Suez, President Eisenhower rendered a great service to the British people, to the Commonwealth and to the world. We hope that, by our Motions—put down in loyal friendship for the American people and in loyal acceptance of the great ideals for which they stand—we may have rendered them some service in the grave crisis through which we are living today.
We had four main points in mind when we put down our Motions—gas; napalm, white phosphorous and the other terror weapons; General Maxwell Taylor's statement on 23rd March; U Thant's appeal for a cease fire and a negotiated peace.
I shall not spend long on gas. I was at the first gas attack at Ypres in April, 1915, and I remember well the passionate anger which swept the Western world. The futile use of vomiting gas in Vietnam was, I believe, the first time that gas has ever been used in Asia. Delivered from aircraft, it was wholly unsuccessful on the three occasions on which it was used; it achieved no military result at all. But it opened up a dangerous possibility of escalation in unconventional weapons of various kinds—the Russians 1889 are strong in gas and germs. It gave the Communists the biggest propaganda weapon with the Asians that they have had for many a day. We know now that the use of gas was undertaken without the knowledge or approval of President Johnson, and I think we can be certain that it will not be used again.
The terror weapons—napalm, white phosphorous, Lazy Dogs—are made more terrible and more indiscriminate by the fact that they are delivered from the air. I do not say that they are worse than the atrocities committed by the Communist guerrillas. I have no doubt that the facts given by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon are approximately right. Over a period of years I lived at very close quarters with the Communist revolt in Greece, and I know the frightful things which guerrillas, who are always desperate men, will do to intimidate the civil population.
But look at the other side. How will the simple people of Vietnam react when a village is bombed because it flies a Vietcong flag and 34 children are admitted to have been killed or when a ship is attacked at sea and soldiers in South Vietnam uniform are found dead on the deck and civilians blown from the deck are drowned? Or when a great forest—as happened yesterday—25 miles from Saigon is set alight by napalm bombs? How many innocent peasants will have perished in that conflagration? For how long will their villages be impoverished and perhaps ruined by the destruction of their trees? A British journalist who has seen these raids wrote of napalm, white phosphorous and Lazy Dogs:These weapons are doing the Communists' job for them by alienating the sympathies of the South Vietnamese.We all detest, we all condemn, the ghastly vengeance of the bomb outside the U.S. Embassy the other day. But these things happen in guerrilla war. They happened in Ireland. They happened in Palestine with the Irgun. Terror begets terror, and it will inevitably increase, as it has increased since 7th February, while fighting still goes on.
That brings me to General Maxwell Taylor's statement on 23rd March, when he said in terms:There is no limit to the potential increase of the war in Vietnam.1890 As I read the various reports of what he said, it seemed to me to constitute a plain demand for unconditional surrender by the Vietcong, and a threat of unlimited war to back it up. The concept of unlimited war was first launched in modern times in 1939. In Vietnam it holds the prospect of escalation in the violence used—indeed, that escalation has already begun—but it holds the risk of still more serious escalation than that.
In January this year, Mao Tse-tung gave his famous interview to Mr. Snow, in which he said:There will be no war with the United States, unless American forces invade our Chinese soil.At that time, the Soviet Government were negotiating with President de Gaulle with a view to common action for a negotiated peace in Vietnam. Today, Chou En-lai is in Albania saying that China will give military help to North Vietnam if the American attacks go on. Marshal Chen Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister, this week wrote a formal letter to the Foreign Minister of North Vietnam, in which he gave a pledge that China would send arms and forces whenever the Government of Hanoi asked them so to do. I know Chen Yi—it would be very rash to disregard his solemn warning.
Suppose that 100-bomber raids go on. Suppose they reach nearer to Hanoi. How long will it be possible for Russia not to send the anti-aircraft missiles, manned by Russian troops, for which, beyond all doubt, the Government of Hanoi have already asked? A wider war is all too possible if present military operations go on unchecked.
Here is a statement written on Monday of this week from Peking by a Special Correspondent of The Times:China's commitment to events in Vietnam is not at all matter for speculation; it is absolute and unflinching and will not be deflected even by nuclear threats.The Special Correspondent also says:The Chinese are convinced that the uprising in the South has popular support; that no political action other than guerrilla warfare was open to opponents of the Diem règime; that this régime was imposed by the Americans and that all its successors have rested on American power and lacked popular support. They further believe that the Geneva agreement did not provide for a permanent division of Vietnam and that the countries meeting in Geneva foresaw elections to unify it, which the Diem Government refused.1891 I do not agree with every word there, butt what it says about the Geneva Declaration is, as has been mentioned already, perfectly true. The Declaration signed by Sir Anthony Eden did provide for elections in July, 1956, to unify the country.
The United States issued a White Paper on 18th February of this year which argued, as the Leader of the Opposition appeared to argue, that this was a plain case of international aggression by one sovereign State against another sovereign State, and that, in effect, there is no real civil war in South Vietnam at all. But on the American figures in that White Paper of 18th February, at most one-fifth, and more probably only one-tenth, of the Vietcong forces have come from North Vietnam. However great the reinforcement from the North, this is a civil war in South Vietnam.
That brings me to the fourth point with which I want to deal—U Thant's contention that continued fighting, while it may bring escalation, holds no hope of victory, or of an acceptable solution, for either side. After the bombing of the United States Embassy on Tuesday, the United States Deputy Ambassador, Mr. Alexis Johnson, who was injured by the bomb, issued a statement, reported from Saigon:If the Vietgong expected that the action would intimidate American Government officials they are thoroughly mistaken.Those identical words are used by the spokesmen of Hanoi after every 100-bomber raid.
Mr. Walter Lippmann is reported in The Times on Tuesday, as saying that… it was manifest that the bombing had not changed the course of the war. The President was now under pressure to extend it to population centres round Hanoi and Haiphong and to be prepared to send 350,000 American troops to South-East Asia.'The article in The Times goes to say:Mr. Lippmann did not doubt that American air power could devastate North Vietnam and, in the event of Chinese intervention, do great damage to China. He went on: 'But if we had an American Army of 350,000 men in South Vietnam and extended the war in the air, we would have on our hands an interminable war without the prospect of a solution. To talk about freedom and national independence amidst such violence and chaos would be to talk nonsense.1892 Further fighting will not bring a settlement nearer; every battle proves that U Thant is right.
I rejoice that the Government are working for a conference now. I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on the efforts he has made. His talks with Mr. Gromyko, his decision to go on acting as a Co-Chairman even if he has to act alone, his visit to Washington, his decision to send Mr. Gordon Walker on a mission to the East—all these have shown new and very welcome drive, initiative and courage. President Lyndon Johnson's statement last Thursday, after his talk with my right hon. Friend, was an immense advance. If the Vietcong, Hanoi, Peking should still refuse a conference in the hope of driving the American forces into the sea, they will deserve the universal condemnation of mankind.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will consider one point. The conference should come before the cease-fire, as it did in 1954, and the subsequent political arrangements should follow after that. If we seek to settle the results before we summon the conference, it will mean an indefinite and a most dangerous delay.
I offer one final suggestion to my right hon. Friend. World opinion, even in the nuclear age, is potentially by far the greatest force in international affairs. Today, the Foreign Secretary has told us that 17 Governments—some of them are the Governments of great nations, among them India—are issuing a joint appeal for a cease-fire and a negotiated peace. President Ayub Khan of Pakistan made that same demand in Peking two weeks ago. The Prime Minister of Canada voiced the same opinion earlier this year. President de Gaulle, who knows almost as much about Vietnam as U Thant, has been saying it for many months.
I hope that my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary will concert their action with that of France and of the other Governments who have declared the interest and the aspirations of mankind. It is the vital interest of every nation that this cruel war should stop and that reason should find a settlement which gives the Vietnam nation the peace with freedom which they desire. The whole House will wish my right hon. 1893 Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary God Speed in their efforts to this end.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I join in the congratulations which have been offered to the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) on his first speech as Foreign Secretary, but I must strike a note of disagreement, or at least scepticism, as aganst the coalition between the two Front Benches on the American policy in Vietnam. I certainly do not do this because I am in any sense anti-American. No one would be more pleased than I if I could convince myself that this policy is likely to succeed, but I have doubts about the ultimate success of this policy and I would like to put them to the House.
I would not expect the Americans to leave South Vietnam unilaterally. Nor do I deny that there is aggression and infiltration from the north. I am as horrified as are the Foreign Secretary and the Leader of the Opposition by the bombing of the United States Embassy and the other atrocities committed by the Vietcong. Again, I realise that this country has a limited rôle to play. There is not a great deal we can do. I must confess that at times in the Foreign Secretary's speech I felt that he was rather giving away prizes to the good boys of the world who were behaving according to how the British think they should behave. Putting it bluntly, a great deal of the world does not mind whether the British think they behave well or badly. I am afraid, also putting it bluntly, that to most of the world we are known simply as a nation which owes a great deal of money. Therefore, I do not put any very great stress upon what we may do, but that does not prevent us from expressing our view in the House to the best of our ability.
If American policy in Vietnam is to succeed, it must have a definite objective, the means must be reasonable to the purpose, and it must show some signs of succeeding. I reject many of the comparisons which have been made with situations elsewhere. I notice that many of those who were not at all opposed to appreasement in bygone days have been very frightened of anything which could possibly be labelled appeasement now. But in Europe, for instance, both in the days of the Nazis and in the days when 1894 perhaps Russia was threatening Europe, the situation was different. There the attacks were made or were threatened against defined sovereign States with stable Governments resting upon popular support. At least there is some doubt about the popular support of the South Vietnamese Government. At least there is some doubt about the stability of the country. There is some doubt, as the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) said, about how Vietnam came to be divided.
Then it is said—I think that it was said by the Leader of the Opposition—that we must always most strenuously resist any attempt from without to support a revolutionary movement. I would agree with him, but it is really hypocritical to pretend that our views on this subject are not coloured by the type of revolutionary movement within the country. Some of us remember the Spanish War. Very different views were expressed on infiltration in the days of the Spanish War. We must be honest with ourselves over this.
The case of Malaysia is quoted. There again, I should have thought that it was different. We can claim that there is a stable Government in Malaysia resting on popular support. There is a defined frontier and, to my mind, our defence of Malaysia has an objective which we can achieve.
Before I come on to quote some American views on this matter, I should like to touch on the question of napalm and gas, which was raised by the right hon. Member for Derby, South. Of course, logically it is just as unpleasant —far more so, probably—to have one's guts torn out by high explosive as it is, say, to be gassed or to be deluged with napalm. However, in the public opinion of the world, as the right hon. Gentleman said, one of the strengths of the western nations is that in a very torn and tattered state of morality they have stood up for certain standards, even illogical ones. There is no doubt that we should protest very violently—and rightly so—were napalm used by Communists in a situation in which they were involved. I think that we were right to protest about its use in the Yemen. Therefore, I do not think that we can shut our eyes to the effects of this act on public opinion throughout the 1895 world, as the right hon. Gentleman said, quite apart from its inherent brutality.
It is, to say the least, unfortunate that most of the new and interesting weapons of destruction should be tried out on Asiatic people. Not only atomic weapons, but now Lazy Dog and napalm are used in Asia. We should not delude ourselves that this will escape the notice of people, not only in other parts of Asia, but perhaps in Africa and South America, too.
Nor do I feel that in supporting our Allies—and support them I agree we should—we should be more American than the Americans themselves. The right hon. Member for Derby, South quoted from an article by Mr. Lippmann. I had intended to quote some of the very passages which the right hon. Gentleman read. In addition to what has been already read to the House, Mr. Lippmann pointed out that in his view the South Vietnamese Government are losing control of the country; in fact the policy is not succeeding. He finishes by saying this:In South-East Asia we have entangled ourselves in one of the many upheavals against the old regime, and we shall not make things any better by thrashing around with ascending violence".I do not know enough about it to know whether Walter Lippmann is right or wrong, but he is an experienced and well-informed commentator. I think it is right that the people of this country, who in my opinion are deplorably ignorant about the state of opinion in the world and the facts of world affairs, should have it drawn to their attention that in the New York Herald Tribune there are extremely critical articles, by a very experienced commentator, of the policy of the American Government.
Then there is the New York Times. On 29th March, it began a leading article in this way:The limited American air war against North Vietnam is now entering on its eighth week. It is not too soon to ask what it has accomplished and why it has not accomplished more.The article goes on to point out that, in the view of the New York Times, this policy is not succeeding. It then says:Hanoi, which a few weeks ago privately indicated agreement to French and United 1896 Nations proposals of negotiations—while refusing a cease-fire—now rejects such proposals.I should like to ask the Foreign Secretary whether this is true. Was there a moment when it appeared that some proposals for agreement might have been more acceptable to the North Vietnamese than appears from the situation now, or, indeed, from the Foreign Secretary's statements at the Dispatch Box today? I do not know enough about this, but it is alleged in the New York Times. I emphasise that this is the New York Times. It is not the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) or the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) who is writing these things. Many of the things said in the New York Times would have aroused very great ill feeling in this country had they come from certain quarters below the Gangway opposite. This is a highly responsible paper. It goes on to make a plea that there should be what it calls "persuasive peace proposals".
Today, the New York Times contains a further leading article which begins in this way:The sense of doom that seems to lie over the Vietnamese conflict was given a horrible symbol in the terrorist attack on the American Embassy in Saigon.The war escalates, and it can do nothing but escalate since both sides continue on courses that must crash because they are opposing, adamant and dependent on force … the conflict has been moving not like a vicious circle but like a vicious ascending spiral, ever since the reprisal policy begun after the Vietcong attack on Pleiku last month.This is the New York Times, not the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton, who will appreciate that his views, even if he happens to be right, are often suspect. Not very long ago negotiation was a promising possibility according to the New York Times anda serious peace offensive might bring desirable results".I should like to know the answer to these statements. They are not irresponsible and they can be paralleled in the Christian Science Monitor and other American papers.
Furthermore, it seems to me that the great skill of President Kennedy's handling of the Cuban affair was that he did not push the Communists right up against a wall. He left them a way out. I very much hope that the Americans 1897 will do the same here and will not force the Communist countries to lay the whole of their prestige on the table, as it were.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Is the right hon. Gentleman making enough allowance for the statement by President Johnson and Mr. Dean Rusk which I quoted? Is not there a way out for the Communists in that the Americans have made quite clear that if there is an honourable peace they will withdraw their forces from Asia?
§ Mr. Grimond
I agree with the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition that the Americans should say that they are willing to open negotiations before a cease-fire and are proposing aid to South-East Asia. I applaud this and believe it to be useful. I know that the Leader of the Opposition has great experience of this part of the world and was instrumental in having the last agreement reached, but the importance factor about the situation then was that the prestige of the world Powers was not directly involved. As we know, it is very much easier to settle a situation which fundamentally grew out of French difficulties in that part of the world than it is to settle a situation where the prestige of America, Russia, or China for that matter, is directly involved.
I welcome what the Foreign Secretary said about his determination to go on as a single co-chairman and try to get the parties together, but exactly who might be invited to the conference? Which of the Asiatic Powers would be invited? I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would have the support of everyone in this country if he pressed the Russians very hard on this matter. I agree that they should be asked again and again.
They have a responsibility, and they should not be allowed to slide out of it. It is true that one of the dangers of the situation is that in the end we may find that the main beneficiary is China and that if Russia is put into a difficult situation she might be driven back to a more extreme position than any in the last four or five years. We may find that the cold war has hotted up in satellite countries. I do not think that Russia can avoid that danger by avoiding her responsibility as co-chairman.
1898 Much as I respect and like him. I doubt the utility of Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker's visit. I should like to have the reaction of our representatives in the area and their answers to the question of how far this is a genuine civil war and how far it would die out at once if infiltration from outside ceased. I should like to know their view about a future form of Government which might give some stability in South Vietnam. It may be that talk about freedom and democracy in such an area is rather nonsensical. The people there must be in a state of perpetual terror. The best we might hope for is a Titoist regime which, if free from China's influence, might not be altogether a bad thing. Personally, I am always sceptical of people who do a rapid tour round various countries and come back thinking that they are leading experts on them. I was caught this way myself once, and once I was in the company of Mr. Gordon Walker. It is a little unkind, but, true, to add that at the moment Mr. Gordon Walker is a little accident prone.
In addition to the proposals made by the Foreign Secretary, I think that we might have some valuable experience to give to the Americans on how to cope with the military situation. We had this sort of situation in Malaya. You cannot cope with it by bombing. You must have troops on the ground. I suspect that this is one of the lessons which the Americans must yet learn, if they are to police the frontier that too would need many troops on the ground.
As to the forthcoming visit to Paris, there is, again, a lot of talk about joining the Common Market. My party is pleased to hear it, but we cannot drift into negotiation again with uninformed public opinion and without a clear understanding of what is involved. If we are sincere about the Common Market, we should make a firm declaration that we intend to join it—not to associate with it, not to move on parallel lines which never meet—but to join it. We should also declare that we appreciate the political implications of this move.
When I hear the Prime Minister talk about this, and I read the conditions laid down by the late Hugh Gaitskell or hear that Britain will join but cannot give up her sovereignty, it seems to me that that we are laying down conditions which 1899 would make it impossible to join. Joining means some diminution of sovereignty and, in the long run, some restriction on freedom of action. We have already done that in N.A.T.O. and our other alliances. If we cannot sign the Treaty of Rome, without any negotiation, because that is against the Treaty. We should, of course, have to have negotiations with our Commonwealth and E.F.T.A. partners. But we should have to have broad negotiations, followed if we joined with detailed discussions on particular matters.
I do not think that for the next year or two we shall be able to join. Therefore, what can we say to Europeans and what can the Prime Minister say to President de Gaulle? I should have thought that he could convince President de Gaulle that we are now determined to be good Europeans, and that meant that we are really coming in as partners with Europe, that our relations with France are one of the key matters in getting into the Common Market, and that in the defence field we are prepared to coperate deeply both over conventional and nuclear weapons. But we should make clear that when we say that we are not looking for a Third Force or a Gaullist Europe and that we mean to do this within the context of N.A.T.O.
There is another matter which I do not think the Prime Minister should himself raise with President de Gaulle, but one that should be raised soon, and that is the question of agriculture. I have an ugly suspicion that it may well prove in the next year or so that practically the only reason why Europeans want us is because of their agricultural policy, and their agricultural policy may be extremely unacceptable to this country. There is a danger in this. It is ironical that it was some of the farmers of this country who most bitterly opposed entry into Europe, They would not have had to put tractors across the roads of southern England if they have been in Europe now. They would have had all out of the Price Reviews they wanted, and more.
It has been said that there may be trouble in the Yemen, but another part of the Middle East where it is possible that there may be trouble is Israel. I should like the Prime Minister to tell us how seriously he regards the dispute between the Arabs and Israel over the 1900 Jordan waters. Does he maintain that the Tripartite Declaration is still in force? It has always been said to be in force. It is one of the very vaguest and most dangerous undertakings in which this country has ever been involved. If we want to guarantee the frontiers of Israel, we should have a much more precise guarantee on a much wider basis. If the Arabs succeed in diverting water from Israel, and Israel takes steps which involve crossing the frontiers this country is under an obligation to send troops to reinstate the frontiers on behalf of the Arabs. We are entitled to know whether that is the view of the Government, and how dangerous they consider the situation is.
I have addressed some questions to the Government about Vietnam. I do not think that the House is at present in a condition to do much else. I have expressed some doubts about the likelihood of success of the American policy. I should like to see even more strenuous efforts made to achieve a negotiated peace. I close in this way. I still believe that this country's main priority in foreign affairs lies across the Channel. It is our relations with Europe and with N.A.T.O. which really matter, and the sooner we can scale down our obligations in the Far East the better it will be.
By all means let us fulfil those definite undertakings which we have given, but let us realise that a vague peace-keeping rôle in the Indian Ocean is not a rôle which we either can or should pursue.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
I follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) in congratulating the Foreign Secretary on his very fine debut in making his first speech in the House as Foreign Secretary, and I couple with that my congratulations and strong support to the Prime Minister for the rôle he is seeking to pursue as peace-maker.
No doubt, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already found out that the rôle of peace-maker, certainly if it is carried on outside the glare of publicity, is liable to be underestimated and even misunderstood. None the less, the situation confronting us today only enhances the importance of the work which both he and the Foreign Secretary are seeking to do.
1901 I understood the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party, when drawing attention to the situation in the Middle East and the dispute over the Jordan waters, to say that this country might be brought into a very dangerous situation if hostilities broke out. I was rather surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to the responsibilities of the United Nations. There is a United Nations police force stationed in the Gaza Strip today. The Security Council is seized of the matter. As one who has consistently supported the United Nations over the last 20 years, I am disappointed not only that no account is taken of its responsibilities in relation to the Middle East, but that it has not even been invited to take part in a settlement of the dispute in South-East Asia.
It is true that Ambassador Stevenson said a few weeks ago that, if circumstances justified it, the United States would take the South Vietnam dispute to the Security Council. I cannot help feeling that it is a great mistake to bypass the Security Council if we really believe in the establishment of the United Nations as the organisation with the main responsibility for safeguarding the peace of the world.
I am glad—it may not be altogether agreeable to some of my hon. Friends below the Gangway—that Her Majesty's Government declined to be associated with any public criticism of the actions of the United States Government in South Vietnam, or to express publicly their dissociation from the Americans in the terrible situation confronting them in South-East Asia. Whatever may be one's views about the origin or the extent of the aggression between North and South Vietnam—I agree to this extent with the Leader of the Opposition—I do not accept the view that the United States has no business to be in South Vietnam.
We are ourselves partners in S.E.A.T.O. The United States Government, endorsed by a joint meeting of the United States Congress composed of the Senate and House of Representatives by a vote of 500 to 1, approved the recognition of South Vietnam as what is called a protocol State under that Treaty. This means that, in the event of aggression against South Vietnam, the powers in 1902 S.E.A.T.O. are obliged to consider giving that State economic or military aid, whatever is required.
§ Mr. Warbey
It is important to establish the facts. Is it not a fact that this was a unilateral decision by the United States Government, about which neither we nor the other S.E.A.T.O. countries were consulted, and that it was taken at the time when President Johnson had announced a punitive expedition against North Vietnam?
§ Mr. Henderson
I would not know whether the last Government were consulted, but it is the fact that the present Governments of Australia, the Philippines and Thailand have actually sent military aid into South Vietnam. All I am saying is that, if we examine this question from the point of view of international law and practice, no case can be made for insisting that the United States Government have no authority and no basis whatever for having sent their military advisers into South Vietnam.
Having said that, however, I must add that I have been most perturbed about the weapons which have been used in this war. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South, I am one of the few Members of the House who experienced gas attacks during the First World War. I have an instinctive revulsion against the use of gas, especially when, for the first time since 1915, it is used as an instrument of national policy, as it has been in the war in South Vietnam. But there it is. The war in South Vietnam is establishing for all to see that modern war can not be carried on with kid gloves. The cruelties and brutalities of war will come if nations use war as an instrument of national policy. Whoever starts the violence which is characterised by the sort of thing taking place in South Vietnam today bears an awful responsibility.
But let us face the facts. One has to take a balance sheet of horrors. There were the aerial bombing attacks on radar stations in North Vietnam. Napalm bombs have been used. Even chemicals have been used to burn up the forests. United States pilots—this is a matter for great regret—have been given power to use their own discretion 1903 in choosing the targets which they bomb. Those of us, on either side of the House, who have any experience of war know very well that it is a desperate last step to give pilots discretion to choose their own targets. Pilots should be under planned direction as to which targets they should attack.
On the other hand, while women and children have been killed in aerial attacks by United States and South Vietnamese bombers, women and children have been killed in South Vietnam by the Vietcong mortar attacks on their villages. Dynamite has been used to blow up villages. A 250–lb. bomb has been used in Saigon. Most people who went through the London blitz have a very good idea of what such a bomb can do.
All this establishes the utter futility and inhumanity of war and is another argument for emphasising the importance of the disarmament conference to which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary referred. I was sorry that the Leader of the Opposition thought fit to denigrate the offer of the Soviet Government to transfer the discussions on disarmament from the 18-Nation Conference to the United Nations Disarmament Commission. He gave no reasons for his criticism. I think that the proposal represents a step forward by Russia.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
Will my right hon. and learned Friend be kind enough to clarify one point which is not clear to me and may not be clear to the House? He talks about the balance of terror, about the methods which have been used on both sides. He rightly expresses detestation of methods being used not only by the Vietcong, but by the South Vietnam Government and the United States. How does he square that detestation with his earlier statement that he felt it right that the Government should not in any way dissociate themselves from the policy of the United States Government?
§ Mr. Henderson
Perhaps I have not made myself clear. All these evils are inherent in war. That is why I support very strongly the actions of the Government in seeking to bring this fighting to an end. That seems to me to be the vital basis of their actions. I would 1904 like to see what President Johnson calls a return to the essentials of the 1954 agreements because, if those agreements had been observed by both sides, the war would not have taken place.
The basic agreement was made between representatives of North Vietnam and South Vietnam. I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party was a little confused on this aspect. A definite agreement was made, signed, sealed and delivered, containing definite and positive and clear terms which, unfortunately, have not been observed.
First, neither South Vietnam nor North Vietnam was to be utilised for the service of aggressive policies and it is the case, put forward and supported by the majority report of the International Control Commission, that North Vietnam has been utilised for such aggression against South Vietnam. Whether the aggression is direct or indirect, whether it is through training, supplying ammunition and even personnel, it is a contravention of the agreement that North Vietnam entered into not to allow its zone to be used for the service of aggressive policies. To that extent, therefore, the North Vietnam Government are responsible for the initiation of this struggle.
On two other points there is a very different story. The second agreement was that no foreign troops should be stationed in either zone. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary explained that it was not until 1959 that the Americans started to send in their advisers. First of all, 900 of them were sent at the request and invitation of the South Vietnam authorities. None the less, that was a contravention of the agreement. On the other hand, President Johnson has made it clear that, in the event of a return to the essentials of the agreements, there will be no question of retaining the American troops in South Vietnam.
The third agreement was that there should be a free general election within two years of the signing of the agreements in July, 1964, and the responsibility for not holding the election does not rest upon North Vietnam but upon South Vietnam supported by the United States Government. It is evident, therefore, that if we are to get a political 1905 settlement—and there will have to be a political settlement—sooner or later that provision will have to be observed.
§ Mr. Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)
Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that President Diem, of South Vietnam, said very clearly on a number of occasions in 1955 and 1956 that he would be prepared to join in free, country-wide elections if he could have clear guarantees that North Vietnam would allow elections in its part of the country under free conditions?
§ Mr. Henderson
The difficulty there is that the South Vietnam Government under President Diem refused to meet the representatives of North Vietnam in order to discuss the conditions for a general election, although the Agreement itself provided that an election should be held under international supervision. That would mean the International Control Commission.
That brings me to another point made by the Leader of the Opposition with which I agree. I do not think that it should be left to India, Poland and Canada. I think that the Commission should be strengthened by the addition of representatives of China, the Soviet Union and—I would go further than the right hon. Gentleman—of this country and France. I believe that the experiences of the 11 years since 1954 have made it abundantly clear that paper agreements are not sufficient and there must be some kind of guarantee so that the agreements can, if necessary, be enforced.
I hope that what the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are seeking to do will be directed to the reconvening of the Geneva Conference at the earliest possible moment. I very much doubt whether a cease-fire is essential before that meeting. For example, the last conference was held when there was still fighting and the same thing applied to the 1962 conference on Laos.
I do not believe that the Government of North Vietnam will ever publicly say that they will stop infiltration. Nor do I believe that the United States Government will ever go further than saying that they will be prepared to go into a conference. What is essential is that there should be a cessation of activities. If the North Vietnam Government were 1906 to stop all these guerrilla activities, the United States Government could stop bombing attacks and this, it seems to me, would create the climate for an international conference which might prompt the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to issue invitations to the Governments concerned to take part in such a conference. I believe that an invitation to the representatives of the Vietcong should also be issued.
There is a precedent for that. At the 1962 conference, representatives of Pathet Lao, Colonel Kong and the Royal Government met. The leaders of the Vietcong should be at the conference, even though they could not be formally received as delegates at the conference table. Along these lines, it may be possible to extract the world from a dangerous situation which might well escalate into something very much more serious and I heartily support the Government in the action that they are taking.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
I always enjoy the speeches of the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson), who speaks with great sincerity. I thought today that he had some excellent advice for the House. I hope that he will forgive me if I do not comment on what he said about the Far East, although I am very interested in that part of the world, but talk about other things instead.
I should like to say at the outset that the Foreign Secretary made a courageous, eloquent and realistic speech. It was statesmanlike and constructive and I warmly welcomed it. I cannot embarrass him, because he is not here, but I will go so far as to say that it was one of the best speeches which I have heard a Foreign Secretary make in the 20 years that I have been in the House.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that both in manner and matter it was admirable. The right hon. Gentleman can certainly be sure that so long as he continues along those lines he will have the loyal support of Her Majesty's Opposition in conducting foreign policy.
I have always been a very strong believer in a bipartisan foreign policy and I must confess that I had very 1907 serious doubts during the last few years about whether such a thing would be possible if the Labour Party won an election. But I have to confess that many of my doubts have been swept away and that, naturally, gives me great pleasure.
There have been many right about turns in many important aspects of British foreign and defence policy. What the explanation of this is I do not know, nor do I intend to try to find out. I simply welcome the fact that many aspects of foreign and defence policy are now broadly along the lines on which we conducted them, and on which we hope to see them proceed.
Without, I hope, scoring any partisan points, I will draw attention to some of these about turns, because it is important that people should understand just what their nature is. About Germany, for example, we were quite clearly told by the Prime Minister, as reported in The Guardian of 23rd February, 1963, that he was in favour ofthe factual recognition of Eastern Germany and her frontiers with Poland and Czechoslovakia.There has been a change so far as recognition is concerned and, I think, a change in the right direction. I happen to be one who thinks that there is a good deal to be said for recognition of the OderNeisse line.
The Prime Minister also said:We are completely, utterly and unequivocally opposed now, and in all circumstances, to any suggestion that Germany, West Germany or East Germany, directly or indirectly, should have a finger on the nuclear trigger or any responsibility, direct or indirect, for deciding that nuclear weapons are to be used."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January, 1963; Vol. 670, c. 1246.]Yet the Foreign Secretary recently said in Brussels:We are moreover determined that it shall be solved in such a way as to allow all who participate in an Atlantic Nuclear Force equlity of control over all the weapons placed at its disposal.There has been a substantial change. The Leader of the Opposition expressed the view today that the Atlantic nuclear force was dead. I very much hope that it is. It made no sense to me politically, and even less sense militarily, but I must say that what the Foreign Secretary said in Brussels about giving equality of control over weapons, including nuclear 1908 weapons, of course, to all who participated in the Atlantic nuclear force was inconsistent with the promise given by the Prime Minister which I have just quoted.
There are other aspects of the Government's foreign policy which bear singularly little relation to many of the promises made before. An example is disengagement, about which the hopes of many hon. Members opposite were raised. It was thought that it would be possible and even quite easy to meet the Soviet Union half way in Europe, that we could disengage quite simply and that there were no serious problems standing in the way of such a policy. Yet it has been made quite clear that this is a thoroughly complicated problem, and no progress whatsoever has been made with disengagement. Western Germany, which had great anxieties about this, was given some powerful reassurance by the Prime Minister himself.
Those are only three examples of some of the remarkable changes which have come over hon. Members opposite since they have achieved power, and I warmly welcome them. I do not do so in any partisan spirit. I welcome them on the ground that I believe that the Government are now doing the right things in these respects—this also applies to the independent British nuclear deterrent—in the national interest, and, so long as they do that, the Government will, naturally and automatically, have my support and the support of my hon. Friends.
I want briefly to turn to the problem of Europe and to ask a few questions about where the Government stand on European policy. The Foreign Secretary said—I did not write down his exact words, but this broadly what he said—that this country was a European country economically and politically and that that must also apply to the defence of Europe. I was very glad to hear that. He also said that he would not be a party to taking any steps which would divide us in any way from the countries of Eastern and Central Europe. I welcome that, too. I have always believe that Europe must be regarded as a whole, although that, of course, is a long-term policy. I was, therefore, glad to hear those remarks.
But where does the Labour Party stand with its European policy? It is certainly 1909 divided about it. Until 1962, when it held its party conference, it was broadly in favour, quite clearly, of Britain going into Europe on terms which could be see to be fair and acceptable. But there was a marked change in 1962 and five conditions were laid down and agreed at that Year's conference.
Some hon. Members may have forgotten what those conditions were and it is just as well that they should be clearly on the record. The first was that there must be strong and binding safeguards for the trade and other interests of our friends and partners in the Commonwealth. That is absolutely fine and everybody is in favour of it. But the Prime Minister went rather further when, on 6th February last year, he asked my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition togive a pledge that no Government of which he is the Head will consider entry into the Common Market on any terms which would reduce Britain's existing freedom to trade with the Commonwealth?'On behalf of my party I give that pledge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th February, 1964; Vol. 688, c. 1390.]The truth of the matter—and I do not think that there is any serious doubt about this—is that there is nothing inconsistent in the efforts which we made to join the Six, on terms which we are very close to getting, and our trade interests with the Commonwealth and Commonwealth trading interests with us. I sincerely believe this to be the case. I went to Australia and New Zealand during the course of these negotiations and many of the anxieties I previously held were removed.
I myself am in no doubt that Mr. Marshall, speaking on behalf of New Zealand, as Strasbourg, during the negotiations, was expressing a view which was correct when he said that it should be possible, even where New Zealand was concerned— much the most difficult Commonwealth country to satisfy about trade —to get terms acceptable to the New Zealand Government and people. I do not know whether that position still stands.
The second condition agreed in 1962 was the freedom, as at present, to pursue our own foreign policy. That is fine. I am very much in favour of Britain pursuing a British foreign policy, but I am also very much in favour of pursuing one in conjunction with our friends and allies. 1910 The more we can do that and the more we can establish common interests with them, the better pleased I shall be, and I hope that we shall not be too insular about it.
Thirdly, the Labour Party asked for the fulfilment of the Government's pledge to our associates in the European Free Trade Area. That was common ground to all of us.
The fourth condition was the right to plan our own economy. We are planning our own economy. It is not on the lines along which I would like to see it proceed and I do not know whether it is still the view of the Government that their determination to maintain their rights to plan the British economy is a stumbling block which would make it impossible to negotiate with Europe to get into the Common Market. If that is so, we should be told why because then we would know that negotiations would be impossible.
Fifthly, there was a request for guarantees to safeguard the position of British agriculture. This, again, was common ground. I think that it is quite definite that much of the opposition of the farmers of this country to entering Europe has been removed and that they now look on entry in a more favourable light.
These five conditions were laid down. I do not know whether all of them, or only some of them, apply today, and I think that we are clearly entitled to know. The Foreign Secretary, in his speech in Brussels, from which I have just quoted a short extract, seemed to indicate that there has been a definite modification of the Government's attitude to negotiating with the Six should that prove possible again.
On the other hand, the Prime Minister, in a Written Answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway), who asked whether these five conditions were still the basis of Her Majesty's Government's policy, said:The five conditions we stated in October, 1962, reflect essential aspects of British policy, but we cannot usefully turn these into precise bargaining conditions for a new European negotiation until one is in prospect."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1965; Vol. 708, c, 319.]With respect to the Prime Minister, that is a prize piece of mumbo-jumbo which 1911 evades the Question. He would not have got away with that reply had the Question been reached. He would have come under very heavy pressure to give a more direct answer to a very important Question.
If one can draw a conclusion from the Prime Minister's reply to my hon. Friend, it would be, I think, that there has been no modification of the Government's attitude to negotiate with Europe over the Common Market. [Interruption.] I gather that there has been no change. I did not know that the hon. Gentleman bad been told that there had been no change. I find that extremely depressing.
§ Mr. Mendelson
The hon. Gentleman has been told by the Government many times that this is still our policy. He must not pretend that he knows less than he does.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I assure the hon. Gentleman absolutely that I am not pretending. I find this piece of news very depressing indeed, because I think that two and possibly three of the conditions laid down in October, 1962, mean that there cannot be any new negotiations. That is why I find it depressing to be told that there has been no modification of them. Frankly, I do not believe that that is so. I detect quite clear and very welcome signs that there has been a definite modification in the position of the Labour Party about possible negotiations.
I have made these few remarks as a convinced European. I thought that the breakdown of the negotiations was a tragedy of a major character. We were, without doubt, very close indeed to getting an agreement which the British public would have accepted with little demur. We have as much to offer Europe as Europe has to offer us. I have never thought that there was anything inconsistent between our obligations to the Commonwealth and our obligations to Europe. They can be perfectly well dovetailed with advantage to both.
Unless the Government make it crystal clear—this was said by the Leader of the Liberal Party earlier this afternoon—that they accept the economic and political objects of the Rome Treaty, Britain's part in European unity will be only on the fringe. The Channel Tunnel, Concord, E.L.D.O., E.S.R.O. and many other 1912 important things are only on the fringe of Europe. I do not see how there can be negotiations again unless it is made absolutely clear by the Government that they accept the economic and political objects of the Rome Treaty.
I see that the Prime Minister has now come into the Chamber. 1 hope that before he goes to Paris for very important discussions with President de Gaulle he will make this point absolutely clear, because to leave it in doubt seems to me absolutely wrong.
I have always rejected—and I admit that this could be a serious stumbling block in further negotiations—the third force idea. I am a firm believer in what the late President Kennedy called the twin pillars of the civilised Western world —the twin pillars which have the same function. Europe, I believe, will be weaker and poorer without Britain.
§ The Prime Minister
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman and that I missed some of the important things which he said. So that I can deal with it tonight, would he repeat the point which I have just been told he made concerning an about-turn in relation to East Germany which I was supposed to have done in 1963? Would he mind wearying the House by repeating it? I should be glad to hear what it was.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I was referring to a report in The Guardian on 23rd February, 1963, in which the Prime Minister was reported as saying that one of the measures which might be taken to achieve access to West Berlin and to maintain its freedom—which is of the greatest importance—would be factual recognition of East Germany and her frontiers with Poland and Czechoslovakia. I did not read this, but The Guardian commented recently thatMr. Wilson's emphasis is quite different from what it was two years ago.That was my point.
I was saying that I have always thought that there was probably a great deal to be said for recognition of the Oder-Neisse line. This is one respect in which we might follow in the footsteps of France, although I have not positively made up my mind about it. I am wholly opposed to the factual recognition of Eastern Germany. I am glad that the 1913 Prime Minister, when he was in Western Germany, made it clear that he is, too, although that seems to be quite inconsistent with the views which he is reported by The Guardian to have held in 1963.
§ The Prime Minister
I remember that report very well—there was another in The Times on the same day. It is based on an answer which I gave to the students at Cardiff University. It was an agency report. It contained about two-thirds of a complete sentence. Fortunately, since I was being televised for a "World in Action" programme, I was able to get the full text. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there has been no change in my policy or in my party's policy on this matter.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I am delighted to hear that. I have no wish to pursue the point. The Prime Minister has made his position clear in this respect, and it is a perfectly tenable one.
I conclude by saying that, while Europe is left in doubt about what the Government's real attitude to a possible resumption of negotiations is, there is no hope of our getting an invitation to negotiate again. There will not even be an invitation to take part in attempts being made to co-ordinate more closely political unity and foreign policies and defence inside the Six or in talks in which the Prime Minister has made it absolutely clear he would like the British Government to take part. Because his attitude to a possible resumption of negotiations and to the Rome Treaty is not clear, we will not get this invitation to take part in these very important talks. I greatly regret it, but that is the case.
M. Spaak was right when he said a few days ago that the longer negotiations are put off, and the more the Six develop their economic and political unity, the harder it will be for Britain to join. That is why I beg the Prime Minister, when he speaks tonight, to clear up the serious and inevitable doubts in our minds about the Government's real policy towards Europe.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)
The hon. Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) would be both surprised and distressed 1914 if I were to say that I agreed with anything that he said. Least of all can I agree with the astonishing claim early in his speech, which he presumably soon forgot about, that he would make a non-partisan speech. The whole speech, except for a few bits towards the end, was one long sneer at the Labour Party and the Labour Government—either because, according to him, perhaps through force of changing circumstances, some aspects of policy may have been slightly modified, or because, like any other party which is alive and has any significance, including the Conservative Party, there are differences of emphasis within the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Driberg
Yes. I challenge any hon. Gentleman opposite to deny that. However, it is refreshing that both he and I should be called to speak after listening to the wisdom of the galaxy of right hon. Members who have preceded us. I agreed with much that was said by most of them. I was amused by the observations which the Leader of the Liberal Party addressed to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus), about the axis between Gorton and the New York Times, and it occurred to me that one might on that point say that one would rather be Left and suspect and correct, than Right and wrong.
It is, indeed, rather remarkable how often over the last 20 to 21 years—starting perhaps in December, 1944— quite a small group of us who have ventured, usually on foreign affairs, to be critical of Her Majesty's Government, or of some of the policies of the United States Administration, have later been proved correct; or if not proved correct—because that, perhaps, is never possible, except hundreds of years hence in the light of history—at least we have found that the often unpopular and derided views which we have expressed have come to be very widely accepted.
One outstanding example of that—not on foreign policy, of course—was the courageous action, very soon proved correct, of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he and our late friend Aneurin Bevan resigned from office in 1951. Minorities are not always wrong; 1915 and the minority in this case, the case of the subject which has been overshadowing this debate today, the subject of Vietnam, is, after all, a pretty substantial minority. The Motion in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) and others has now been signed by more than 100 hon. Members, mostly on this side of the House, but some from the Liberal bench opposite.
This cannot be dismissed as some romantic or sentimental gesture by a few disgruntled Left-wingers or anti Americans. I agreed most strongly with what the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said about the silly accusations of anti-Americanism. If it is anti-American ever to be critical of the policies or conduct of our American ally, then Senator Mansfield and Walter Lippmann are anti-American, too, which is rather an absurd proposition.
Of course we are not anti-American, but, of course, one should never accept an extension of the appalling Chauvinistic slogan, "my country right or wrong", to "my ally right or wrong". We are all entitled to criticise each other, though naturally one does so with some restraint, bearing in mind that the main object which we all have is not so much to score off the Americans, or to "have a bash" at them, as to bring about a cease-fire, and get a settlement by political and diplomatic means—which, as my right hon. Friend said, must come about in the end.
In our Motion we deplore the use of napalm and of gas. In view of what has been said, I do not think that I need defend our mention of the use of gas, which has been subjected to some very ignorant ridicule in the Press and by hon. Members in another Motion. As will have been apparent to those who were present this afternoon, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies was answering Questions on this subject, the kind or kinds of gas used experimentally in Vietnam, with the Vietnamese people, or some of them, as guinea-pigs, is apparently very different from, and much more toxic or noxious than, what one might call the ordinary tear-gas often used to disperse riots.
1916 I thought that one right hon. Gentleman was absolutely correct when he said that the use of even a relatively mild form of gas not only shocks the conscience of the world and gives a tremendous propaganda point to the Communists throughout Asia and elsewhere: it also opens the door to a possible escalation both of the war in general and in the use of unconventional weapons, the use of worse gases, and so on.
Subject to that, I agree that napalm is a far more appalling weapon than a non-killing gas. I first saw it used in Korea. It was a horrifying sight to stand on a hillside and watch a whole village, about a mile away, engulfed in a sheet of liquid flame which ran through all the houses, consuming everything. It is the most horrible kind of indiscriminate weapon that can be imagined—or almost the most horrible kind, short only, I suppose, of nuclear and atomic weapons.
Our Motion also draws attention to what appeared to be an alarming statement by the United States Ambassador in Saigon, a statement which— I think my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister himself would agree—has not been entirely clarified by his Answers to us in this House on Tuesday. I do not know whether he will be able to say anything more about that in his speech tonight. I hope and believe that he meant in those Answers that, so far as he can, President Johnson himself is still exercising some restraining influence over the military operations in Vietnam. If he is doing so it may be because some time ago, when the late General MacArthur was dying, President Johnson visited him in hospital. The President, so one reads, himself recalls that, when they fell to talking about the Far East, General MacArthur said to him, "Son, don't ever get yourself bogged down in a land war in Asia"; and I am sure that that was extremely good advice.
§ Mr. Michael Alison (Barkston, Ash)
I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's reference to the legitimacy of what he calls friendly criticism which it is proper to make as between friends. As it is clear that the Government have not dissociated themselves from the use by the Americans of napalm and gas, may we take it that the Motion to which the hon. 1917 Gentleman has referred is explicit, friendly, and constructive criticism of the Government as well as of the United States?
§ Mr. Driberg
I was about to come to the last line or two of the Motion, so the hon. Gentleman has wasted a minute or two of somebody else's time by that intervention. However, I am glad that he was eager to find out more about the Motion. It calls on the Governmentto dissociate Great Britain from these actions and views…That is, of course, referring to the use of napalm and of gas—as actions—and to the comments of the United States Ambassador in Saigon—as views. I hope very much indeed that the Government have done so, or will do so. So far, it is true, the Government have not seen fit to do so publicly—though I think that all of us, certainly on this side of the House, were gratified when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said publicly in America that the United States Administration must pay some decent regard to human opinions. I think that that was on the very day after this Motion was tabled and after the news about the gas and the threat of escalation.
I cannot answer for all my hon. Friends, but I would not myself venture to say that Her Majesty's Government ought to have made a public dissociation from these actions and views at any particular moment in time, because I do see that the one possibly valid argument against such a public dissociation is precisely that it could have the opposite effect to that which we all desire. What we all desire, as I was saying a little earlier, is not just to "have a bash" at the Americans. That is childish. What we all desire is to get the killing stopped and get everybody, including the Americans, round the conference table.
One can certainly engage in a remonstrance of this kind, and it can on occasion be quite useful to do so, but I would not expect Her Majesty's Government to come out with a violent, flaming denunciation of the atrocities committed by the United States: that would be unrealistic and stupid and would not have the effect of getting the Americans into the mood of agreeing to come to the conference table.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
I think that the hon. Gentleman used the word "dissociate". Is it possible to dissociate oneself from something other than publicly?
§ Mr. Driberg
I am not sure I think it may be. I am trying to make a serious and honest speech. I am not trying to make party points. I think that it is possible to dissociate oneself by saying so either publicly or privately.
No one knows what my right hon. Friend said on his recent visit to Washington, but when the news of our telegram and of this Motion reached him, and, above all, when the news of events which prompted the telegram and the Motion reached him, he may well have said, "I do not know about your nation, but our nation will not stand for this kind of thing very much longer". That is probably why he did make that slight public remonstrance. Of course, Her Majesty's Government have not gone as far yet publicly in dissociation as some of us would like, if it were possible for them to do so, but one must grant them a certain margin on the timing.
All the same, with all due respect to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I would recall what happened at a crucial moment in the Korean War, when it seemed that that war was going to escalate— a word not then in vogue —and when it seemed that General MacArthur would do something exceptionally foolish and bomb, possibly with atomic weapons, the main land of China. It will be remembered by everybody here—certainly by hon. Members who were in the House at that time—that the then Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, flew to Washington immediately, on the very night that this alarming report appeared on the tape.
Mr. Attlee had talks with President Truman— and this, I think, is highly relevant and significant—and at the end of those talks a joint communiqué was issued saying quite frankly that the two leaders had agreed to differ on a number of points. They were not unanimous and were not afraid to say so. Hence —although, as I have said, one must leave the timing of any actual statement of dissociation to the judgment of Her Majesty's Government—I certainly hope 1919 that some such definite dissociation will become increasingly manifest—unless, indeed, there is a sharp modification of the methods used in South Vietnam by the South Vietnamese and the Americans.
I could, of course, agree with hardly anything that was said by the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition. What I found particularly insufferable was his patronising little lecture to those of us who sit below the Gangway on this side, about whom, too, he generalises in his usual rather shallow way. The shallow naive character of his thinking on this subject—I will not use a ruder word about him, since that might be out of order here as elsewhere—was illustrated by the brisk, but still patronising, way in which he said, "We must really get clear why this war started". Of course, it was all done by a few naughty agitators and infiltrators and trouble-makers from the North.
The right hon. Gentleman did not attempt to sketch the historical background, starting perhaps even with the conduct of the French in 1945—because, after all, it was they who really started all the trouble in Saigon. The French double-crossed both the Nationalists and the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, Lord Mountbatten, who had extracted a promise from the French that they would take no action at all without consulting him first.
They broke that promise, they took action at two or three o'clock in the morning, they raided the town hall, which was the Nationalists' headquarters, and that started the whole evil chain of events which has gone on ever since, with immense loss of life and wealth to the French, with immense loss of life and damage to the people of Vietnam, with immense loss now as well to the Americans, in an appalling series of errors and disasters. But the Leader of the Opposition thinks that it all started with a few agitators from the North.
The right hon. Gentleman shares, really, the late Mr. Dulles's mythological view of life—that peasants everywhere, all over Asia and Africa and, of course, Scotland, would always behave quite well and keep their place and touch their caps to their betters if only it were not for the naughty trouble-makers who 1920 come and stir them up and put ideas into their heads.
§ Sir T. Beamish
When I gave very high and most sincere praise to the Foreign Secretary for one of the best speeches I have heard, the hon. Gentleman accused me of sneering at the party opposite. Is he not now sneering at my right hon. Friend?
§ Mr. Driberg
If the hon. Gentleman likes to call it sneering, I am sneering at the Leader of the Opposition—but I did not preface it by saying that I was not going to. Since the hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred again to his praise of the Foreign Secretary, I must assure him that, despite his saying that this would not embarrass the Foreign Secretary because he did not happen to be in the Chamber at the moment, it will be extremely embarrassing to him when he reads it in the morning, or hears about it later. I think that it may give him a sleepless night in Paris. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend will not welcome that meed of praise.
However, perhaps I can get back to my speech and finish it. I am sorry that it has gone on so long. I was just dealing with this Dulles mythology which seems to be shared by the Leader of the Opposition. One point which has not so far been sufficiently stressed in this debate, either by other speakers or by the Foreign Secretary in opening it, is the impossibility that there has been, over the last 10 years, of getting a stable settlement in South Vietnam. The simple cause of this failure has been the appalling nature of the regimes which have been propped up very largely by billions of American dollars—a whole series of corrupt, autocratic, bullying, tyrannical regimes.
The most notorious of all was the regime of Diem, which embarrassed the Americans so much that President Kennedy sent a Senatorial Committee, a bipartisan Senate Committee, to South Vietnam to investigate the situation. This Committee reported just over two years ago, in February, 1963, through the Senate Majority Leader Mansfield, that it felt "deep concern over the trend of events" in Vietnam:All of the current difficulties existed in 1955, along with hope and energy to meet 1921 them. But it is seven years later and two billion dollars of United States aid later.The Republic of South Vietnam then appeared to this Committee "less, not more, stable than it was at the outset," and "more removed from, rather than closer to, the achievement of popularly responsible and responsive Government." Then—and this is significant, in view of what has been said in this debate about the Vietcong—the Committee added:The pressures of the Vietcong guerrillas do not entirety explain the situation. In retrospect, the Government of Vietnam and our policies"—that is to say, the policies of the U.S. Administration—particularly in the design and administration of aid, must bear a substantial, a very substantial, share of the responsibility.One cannot just blame it on a few agitators and infiltrators from the North. There is a popular revolution in South Vietnam as well as in the North. They have been given no alternative to Communism to believe in: they cannot believe in a regime like that of Diem and the notorious Madame Nhu, with her cynical and inhuman remarks about "barbecued monks", and so on.
I quote now from a letter which appeared last week in an English-language newspaper in Tokyo:Year after year, the great United States and its powerful allies have chosen to believe in rulers instead of believing in people, in the principle of fuehrers and gauleiters instead of in real democracy. They countenanced rigged elections, filched funds and the ruthless suppression of liberal opposition and religious freedom.This letter, which is from a non-Communist South Vietnamese who is known to many people in this country, ends:And the Laotians, the South Vietnamese, the South Koreans have had nothing to live for, nothing worth dying for. You simply cannot carry out a revolution with fossils—he they only mental fossils—of another age.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)
Before dealing with one or two points raised by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), may I join with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) in adding my praise to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary for the speech with which he opened the 1922 debate. Over the last 30 or 35 years I have heard most of the speeches of Foreign Secretaries drawn from both sides of the House. The right hon. Gentleman sustained the reputation of the great Office which he holds. I liked his text of resolution and imagination in foreign policy. He opened on that note and he ended on it. When I see emerging a fusion between both Front Benches in the conduct of the foreign policy of this country 1 think there is greater hope for the future.
I do not resent the Motion of the hon. Member for Barking, and it may quite well represent the views of a substantial majority of hon. Members on that side of the House. I do not resent the fact that the name of the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker), whom I have known for many years as a colleague and a personal friend, heads the Motion. When I saw the headline "Gas used by the Americans in Vietnam" I should have been greatly surprised had there not been a Motion on the Order Paper in the terms of this Motion.
The right hon. Member for Derby, South told us that he was in the first gas attack in the Ypres salient in 1915, and I well remember the horror and shock in the world when this new weapon of war was unleashed. Later in the battles of the Somme I suffered myself. Fortunately, it was tear gas, not the chlorine or phosgene gas referred to by the right hon. Member for Derby, South, or the gas with which it is feared that propaganda tries to frighten the world and which may be the sort of gas used in Vietnam.
This debate coincides with a Question which appeared on today's Order Paper, which some hon. Members may have heard answered, put down to the Colonial Secretary, asking whether he wouldenumerate and identify the number of occasions in the last five years on which gas had been used as a weapon to maintain order in dependent territories".I think the answer was something like 104 or 105 occasions. The right hon. Gentleman, who has a sensitive mind with regard to the use of words, used in his answer the expression, "tear smoke". The right hon. Member for Derby, South referred to the horrors of the Ypres gas attacks. Fortunately, what I suffered was from a form of gas which was useless. It was the kind of gas which Americans 1923 have used on this occasion, but the interesting thing is that the Colonial Secretary justified the use of what he called tear smoke as a device which was preferable to the indiscriminate use of batons or firearms to disperse riots.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that, in the reply which my right hon. Friend gave, he indicated that the gas he was asked about was not exactly the same gas as was used in Vietnam and, in relation to the type of gas used in Vietnam, there were definite harmful effects and permanent effects on people who had been affected by it?
§ Sir R. Cary
I thank the hon. Member for his intervention. It comes as news to me that there are permanent harmful effects from the gas already used. I referred to the gas from which I suffered as tear gas, leaving no permanent effect, and I imagine the sort of gas used by Americans on the Vietnamese is the sort of gas used in our dependent territories in dealing with riots.
I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House have been concerned about this. It is a staggering thing that we got through the whole of the Second World War and the Korean War and never once did even the worst person in those years—Hitler himself—in his extreme madness descend to the use of this horror weapon, gas. And one can think of the organisations on both sides which could have have been used to produce this weapon had the participants turned to I.G. Farben and I.C.I. It is a strange thing. Napalm was used in Korea, but not gas, and suddenly, right from the Ypres Salient— "Wipers" as I prefer to call it—
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that it was better to use napalm than gas in any conceivable circumstances? I would suggest that any such weapons are equally evil and wicked, that all war is bad and wrong, and that we should be against the whole thing rather than against selected weapons.
§ Sir R. Cary
The hon. Lady is answering the question posed by her hon. Friend the Member for Barking. He said that the main object was to get people round a conference table to stop the use 1924 of weapons in Vietnam, to make people talk for peaceful purposes and to bring to an end this unwanted small war which could escalate into something bigger. But what concerns me most at the moment is the propaganda use which will be made of what is said by the hon. Member for Barking and his right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South.
An immense struggle is going on in the Far East, so much so that the quick match to war may have been moved from the European scene of 1914 and 1939 to the Far East with an explosive power which cannot yet be predicted. No doubt hon. Members on both sides of the House will have followed the articles by Patrick Keatley, the well-known correspondent of The Guardian, who is carrying out a tour of India and Far Eastern countries and writing frequently in The Guardian. He gives an account of the propaganda broadcasts against our interests from Peking at the moment, and against the interests of the Free World. It has to be read to be believed.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr
Has the hon. Gentleman heard the broadcasts from America on what is called the Free American Radio? They are most interesting.
§ Sir R. Cary
I am dealing at the moment with Mr. Patrick Keatley's work, although I am aware of what the hon. Lady is speaking about. My concern is that in this vital area of India and the Far East, although we have a case for propaganda, Patrick Keatley is only able to report that we have a few crackling, fading signals from the B.B.C. and that east of Suez it is the voice of the New China which is heard most clearly and with increasing sympathy by 450 million people in India alone. The broadcasts go out from Peking every night in English, French, Urdu, Benghali and many other tongues spread throughout the vast subcontinent of India and neighbouring countries.
Having listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary making that splendid speech today, I hope that the hon. Member for Barking will allow me to say that I thought his observations on the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition were contemptible and unworthy of a good debate in this House of ours. My right hon. 1925 Friend the Leader of the Opposition happens to have been one of the best Foreign Secretaries we have ever had. He gave up that important task to become Prime Minister of this country, and I sincerely hope that on a second occasion he will enjoy the privilege of becoming the country's Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Driberg
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, may I ask him whether he heard the scathing condemnation by the Foreign Secretary of the Berwick speech of the Leader of the Opposition?
§ Sir R. Cary
No. I did not hear that. In a world where walls have ears even I cannot hear everything. So great is the amount of material that one cannot pick up every point, so when the hon. Gentleman asks me if I heard that particular denunciation I must tell him that my memory fails me. There is one point to which I would like an answer. The last debate on foreign affairs was on the 17th and 18th December, but between that and this debate there was another which cannot be divorced from this subject which took place on 3rd and 4th March on defence. The final speech in that debate— and one really cannot discuss either subject without fusing these two questions of defence and foreign policy, as they are being fused in this debate— was by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence. He was interrupted by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) who said:As to the Indian Ocean, I entirely believe that we are right, as I said in my speech, to be in Malaysia helping a new nation to be born…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1965; Vol. 707, c. 1654.]He went on to say that when the position in Malaysia had been stabilised it was our duty to withdraw from our commitments in the Indian Ocean and the Far East. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party said something to the same effect this afternoon—that we have to scale down our responsibilities and interests in the Indian Ocean and the Far East. On that occasion, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Defence agreed with his hon. and learned Friend that when the position in Malaysia was stabilised we should tend to withdraw our interests and commitments from the Indian Ocean and the Far East.
1926 I ask this question: are we to leave Australia and New Zealand to fend for themselves in the Far East which may become more dangerous and could, as the hon. Member for Barking has pointed out, escalate from Vietnam into something larger? Could we subscribe our worth to the S.E.A.T.O. agreements if we were deliberately to contemplate withdrawing from our Indian Ocean and Far Eastern agreements and obligations, moral and written? I beg the right hon. Gentleman to clarify the words used by his right hon. Friend the Minister for Defence at the conclusion of the debate on 4th March.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
Political leaders tend to repeat their speeches, once as tragedy and the second time as farce. The speeches we had from the Leader of the Opposition when he was Foreign Secretary, and later Prime Minister, could be described as tragedy, for at that time he had the power to act upon his fantastic picture of the world. Fortunately, today, we are able to enjoy the humour of his words because they have only a farcial significance.
As the right hon. Gentleman spoke today I was amused to note, and mentally to tick off one by one, the similar sentences and passages which I had previously noticed in documents issued by the Psychological Warfare Branch of the American Defence Department and in some of the hand-outs of the State Department. These were some priceless ones and, to begin, I will mention two of them.
One was when he revived what I thought had been forgotten among my childhood memories, namely, the yellow peril. He talked about China having an ambition to overrun South-East Asia and to use it for its surplus population. That picture of the expanding yellow peril I recall in the dimmest days of my childhood. I am astonished to see it being revived seriously today by one who has claimed to have some expertise in matters of foreign policy.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
Would the hon. Gentleman consult the Russian leaders and ask them what they think about the yellow peril?
§ Mr. Warbey
Yes. I have talked to the Russian leaders on this subject. They are well aware that the Soviet Union is primarily an Asian rather than a European Power from the territory point of view, for it includes within its borders citizens whose skins are of various colours; yellow, light and dark brown, and so on. The Soviet Union is very well aware of the necessity of avoiding any kind of propaganda which could have any suspicion of a racialist character. The Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition is not so cautious in these matters.
I come to the right hon. Gentleman's other, main point, about Vietnam. The situation in Vietnam can, according to the right hon. Gentleman, be summed up like this: the Chinese have encouraged and assisted the North Vietnamese Communists to invade South Vietnam. This as it were, the historical summary which the right hon. Gentleman makes as a result of all the briefing which he obtained while at the Foreign Office and when Prime Minister. The situation in Vietnam can be summed up by saying that the Chinese Communists are encouraging and assisting the North Vietnamese Communists to invade South Vietnam, according to the right hon. Gentleman.
Not even the American State Department believes that. Certainly, the American Ambassador in London does not believe it, because he said something very different when I talked to him about the Vietnamese question some months ago. Certainly, the American correspondents who have been to Vietnam do not believe it. Certainly, Senator Mansfield, who headed a commission to South Vietnam and who, upon his return, wrote a long report on the subject, does not believe it. Certainly, half a dozen other senators do not believe it. Most university leaders in the United States as well as university leaders in this country certainly do not believe it, and, likewise, the leading publicists do not believe it. The Guardian, The Times and other responsible elements in this country certainly do not believe it.
I could have told the right hon. Gentleman the facts, had he been in his place, on the basis of a little personal experience. I was in Hanoi a few weeks ago. It is not the Chinese who have been assisting the North Vietnamese up till 1928 now, and assisting them, I might add, first, with their economic development, with some excellent modern machinery, and, secondly, with some purely defensive weapons against attack, attacks which began on them, against the North, last year and which have been continuing—attacks which the Americans began against North Vietnam on 7th August of last year and which they continued, with the aid of the South Vietnamese Air Force and saboteurs, sporadically during the following months and then have re-energised during the last two or three weeks.
These American attacks on North Vietnam are regarded even in the State Department and in the American Defence Department not simply as retaliation for some alleged aggression by North Vietnam against South Vietnam. They are regarded in the American Defence Department as a means of trying to win a war which they have lost in South Vietnam, in the military sense,because the people whom they theoretically went to support, the Saigon Army, are no longer in a position to defend the American forces in South Vietnam, and moreover because the South Vietnam Army is melting away, is going over to the other side and is no longer willing, on American orders, to go on killing their brother Vietnamese.
§ Mr. Blaker
I was interested in what the hon. Gentleman said about the Chinese arms which had been supplied to the North Vietnamese.
§ Mr. Warbey
If the hon. Gentleman is to intervene in my speech he must please repeat my words with some accuracy. I said nothing about Chinese arms in North Vietnam.
§ Mr. Blaker
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman if I misheard him, but I had the distinct impression that he referred to the supply of arms for purely defensive purposes by the Chinese. I wanted to ask him, seince he says that they were supplied for purely defensive purposes. why they are being found so far south in South Vietnam?
§ Mr. Warbey
I can answer those points, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will do me the courtesy of listening to what I am saying. Indeed, I am grateful for his intervention, because it brings 1929 me back to what I intended to say about my visit to Hanoi, where I was able to see for myself the assistance which the North Vietnamese have obtained.
For the development of their economy, and to defend themselves against American attack, the assistance has come mainly from the Russians and East European countries; the Russians, Czechs, East Germans, to some extent, incidentally, from the West Germans—I had a look at the markings on the machines— and very little indeed from the Chinese. As far as there has been any assistance to North Vietnam to enable it to defend itself against he Americans, such assistance has come primarily from the Russians and East Europeans. I say this to correct the right hen. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in case there are some people who have been misled by the nonsense which he talks.
I now come to the speech of my right hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) referred to a bipartisan policy. I do not think that there has been any demonstration of a bipartisan policy in the House today, but he referred specifically to the two Front Benches when he said that. I would say that it has been on the basis of the statement of the view that, in present conditions, we dare not openly criticise our American allies. This seems to me to be the sum and substance of the bipartisanship between the two Front Benches. This is a point which I wish to take up.
If one looks at previous history in our relationships since the war, with the United States, without going back into the 19th and 18th centuries, when relationships were varied and complicated, one finds that not only when Lord Attlee flew to Washington in 1951, but also in 1956, on the occasion of the invasion of Egypt by the British Government in collusion with the French and Israeli Governments, our great friends and allies had the courage, because they felt that it was their moral duty in the eyes of the world—even Mr. John Foster Dulles personally had the moral courage—to say to Britain and France, in front of the whole world, "You are wrong in invading Egypt. You have committed a wrong which stinks in the nostrils of world public opinion. You 1930 must withdraw." This is what John Foster Dulles said to us in 1956. Why have not we the courage to say the same to the Americans in 1965?
The whole world outside our narrow little North American and Anglo-Saxon world, especially in Asia and Africa, knows that what is happening now in Vietnam is that a great Power is making war on a little country. Some hon. Members sometimes seem to forget that. Of course, the Americans have their excuses and their pretexts, but this is the fact of the matter. The United States, by its own unilateral decision, is conducting acts of war against a small country in South-East Asia. They are conducting those acts of war in the North of Vietnam and in the South and they are conducting them with the most horrifying of modern weapons; all the great arsenal of modern weapons is at their disposal.
The horror weapons in use in Vietnam were brought into Vietnam first by the French and then by the Americans. They are the ones who introduced them, whoever uses them, whoever set off that 250–1b. bomb outside the Saigon Embassy and killed not only a number of Americans but some Vietnamese civilians, women and children as well. It was a horrible thing which happened the other day. That bomb was probably made from explosives or bombs introduced into Vietnam either by the French or by the Americans, captured by the South Vietnam liberation army and made up into another weapon.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Does the hon. Member accept the Foreign Secretary's statement that about 1 million refugees came from the North to the South? If things are so bad in the South, why does he think they came?
§ Mr. Warbey
I cannot go into the whole past history, but as this has been mentioned, the hon. Member has only to turn up the historical records. All these things are on the record. He will find that, after the 1954 Geneva Agreement, Ngo Dinh Diem, who subsequently became President in Saigon, insisted that the Roman Catholics north of the 17th parallel should come down to the South. Of course, he wanted them because he and his family were ruling 1931 what was predominantly a Buddhist country, and needed some extra support in the South.
The North arranged for them to be evacuated from the North to the South and there was a good deal of propaganda to say, "These poor people, what a terrible life it will be for them, staying in the North under the Communists."
§ Mr. William Yates
I have visited the Tonkinese people in camps north of Saigon. I did not get the impression that they were forced to come down. I thought that they came of their own free will.
§ Mr. Warbey
I did not say that they were forced to come down. I said that Ngo Dhin Diem arranged for them to come down. [An HON. MEMBER: "Insisted."] Yes, insisted. I am not suggesting that there was not a spontaneous desire on the part of a large number of these people to go from the North to the South and to get away from Communist rule. Fair enough; but this was a movement of people conducted, in the circumstances, in a very reasonable way. It was not a flight of refugees, as it has been represented by some people.
I noted that my right hon. Friend did not say that this afternoon. It Illustrates one of the key problems of Vietnam and one which the foreign Powers who have intervened in Vietnam have never been concerned about, namely, the welfare of the people of Vietnam themselves. It was the same in the case of Korea. None of the great Powers, and especially not the United States and the Soviet Union, consulted the wishes of the people when they decided to partition Korea contrary to the Cairo Declaration.
In 1945, the people of Vietnam tried to express their wishes for a free and independent country, free from any foreign domination of any kind. The French came back again, brought back by us and by the Americans and then, in 1954, after a great deal of fighting, they tried again, with the Geneva Conference, to give to the people of Vietnam peace, independence and unity, for which they had been asking all those years. This time they thought that they had got it at last, because they had got a large number of countries, including 1932 some great Powers, to sign—or, if not to sign, to adhere to—a declaration to that effect.
As my right hon. Friend knows, tile Geneva Declaration of 1954—and its essential clauses were repeated in a remarkable leading article in The Guardian only yesterday—laid it down that Vietnam should be one independent country, and not be partitioned into two. It laid down that the people there should enjoy peace and independence, and the right to settle their own affairs and elect their own Government. It laid it down that they should have no military alliances with any foreign Power and that no foreign troops, no foreign bases should be introduced into their country. That, in essence, is what the Geneva agreement laid down, and that is what was accepted and adhered to by Mr. Anthony Eden, as he then was, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government.
All that is on the official records, although the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in a letter that he wrote to me last August, has since publicly repudiated Lord Avon. In that letter he said:…the British representative did not sign anything at all at Geneva. Like other participants, Mr. Eden took note of the Final Declaration of the Conference…This is a lie, written to me by the Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister, on 7th August, and this lie has been used as the basis for a great deal of subsequent propaganda in Vietnam—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I understood the hon. Member to be referring to a letter written by a Member of this House—
§ Mr. Warbey
With very great respect, Mr. Speaker, I do withdraw the expression "lie", because it is not a Parliamentary expression. I will substitute the word "untruth".
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
The hon. Gentleman has made a very 1933 serious charge. He will no doubt have noticed hat this afternoon my right hon. Friend welcomed the Foreign Secretary's speech, and particularly his long historical analysis of the situation. Does the hon. Gentleman, therefore, repudiate his own Foreign Secretary?
§ Mr. Warbey
I will come to that. I do not know why the noble Lady is in such a hurry. I am dealing with her right hon. Friend at the moment and, when I have finished with him, I will come to my own Front Bench.
I am establishing that we have here an untrue statement about an important matter relating to Vietnam, made by the then Prime Minister in a letter written to me. Curiously enough, it happened to be on the same day as the American Congress voted full powers to President Johnson to undertake any warlike action he thought fit in the Straits of Tongking and in the area of Vietnam—a very remarkable coincidence.
The coincidence is all the more significant because subsequent events show how, step by step in this whole history, the Americans have sought to justify their actions in first of all intervening in a civil war on the wrong side—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, on the Fascist side. If they are to intervene at all, they should intervene on the popular side—on the side that has popular support. I would prefer them not to intervene at all, but if they want to intervene or give any assistance I would prefer them to take the advice given by my right hon. Friend—only he gave it in reference to African leaders.
I would want my right hon. Friend to extend that advice to Asian leaders as well. It was that we should recognise that these African leaders who enjoy the confidence of their people have the right to the support of the Western as well as of the Communist countries. That is what my right hon. Friend said about Africa, the African countries and the African leaders who have risen to popular support by methods that I would say have not always been as respectable as those used by Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, and who, moreover, have fought against the great colonial Powers and have been put in gaol for many years for doing so.
The advice I would give the United States of America and to my own Govern- 1934 ment in this respect is that they should apply these very wise principles not only to Africa, but to Asia; not only to Kenya and Uganda, Tanganyika and Ghana, but to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. They should apply them not only to Yugoslavia and Poland and Roumania, which have now become countries with which we can have respectable dealings and whose Communists are now recognised as being leaders, first and primarily, of a movement for national liberation from foreign intervention, and, secondly, as social reformers eager to raise the living standards of their people and get rid of foreign and internal exploiters—only in Vietnam they happen to be called Communists, or the Lao Dong, or Workers' Party.
Incidentally, the National Liberation Front in South Vietnam is by no means controlled by the Communists, but includes Buddhists and other sections which are ten times more representative of the people there than that tiny military junta in Saigon which the Americans are now driven to support because there is no one else who will suport them. That is the situation there and we have to understand it.
I am sorry that when my right hon. Friend talked of Vietnam he did not apply the same principles as he is willing to apply to the Africans; did not apply the wisdom expressed in a leading article in the Observer the other day, recognising and comparing the position of Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam with that of Tito in Yugoslavia, and other Communist representatives in Europe, or the other leading article in The Guardian, which recognised that the National Liberation Front in Vietnam is the key to the civil war and must no longer be treated as though it were an irrelevance.
Those are the facts or life in Vietnam which have to be brought home to the people here at home and in the United States. I am sorry that instead of giving some of those facts of the situation in Vietnam, my right hon. Friend should instead have preferred, although in much milder terms, more moderate and reasonable terms, but nevertheless in terms, to give the kind of version of the events in Vietnam which we are getting today from the American State Department.
1935 I would hope that we can have a real investigation, a real fact-finding mission to Vietnam. I should be very glad to help my right hon. Friend. I have presented my report to the Foreign Secretary. I have tried for eight weeks to present a report to the Prime Minister, but he has been unable to see me. I should be very glad to help him to find what he called the other day "a line to Hanoi". I should be very glad indeed to supply him with some true information to set beside the false information which is being supplied through the American State Department and the American Embassy and through sections of the Foreign Office and used to brief our Foreign Secretary and our Prime Minister these days. I should be very glad to assist in correcting these false reports which are coming in these ways.
If Mr. Gordon Walker does go to the Far East, and if he hopes to carry out a genuine fact-finding mission and exercise a genuine mediating rôle on behalf of the British Government, I would hope that the British Government, through my right hon. Friend, when he winds up the debate tonight, will make it clear that we are not merely partisans of the Americans or of this military junta in Saigon; that we are genuinely trying to be mediators and that therefore, we are not and cannot be partisans; moreover, that Mr. Gordon Walker, when he goes to Hanoi, will be going in that spirit, as a mediator and with a genuine desire to find out what the true facts are and what the true desires of the Vietnamese people are, and with a desire to see how they can be effectively implemented with our assistance.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)
The Foreign Secretary's speech this afternoon was one of the very best and most sincere speeches I have heard since I entered the House 10 years ago. When that speech was followed by the excellent speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, hon. Members became aware of how much harmony there was in this vital theatre of foreign affairs. It was obvious that both Front Bench speakers had but one object—to come to a peaceful settlement in as many arenas as possible.
1936 What a pity it was that, as the evening came, that sincerity disappeared. The Foreign Secretary's speech was forward-looking. How unfortunate it would have been if he had looked behind him, for below the Gangway he would have seen white-faced anger and sullen opposition to what he was saying. I sincerely hope that the Foreign Secretary will understand that he has the full support of this side of the House and of hon. Members sitting immediately behind him.
Then came the speech of the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg). We are used to hearing that type of speech from the hon. Gentleman. The word "sneer" cropped up. The hon. Gentleman is the master of the sneer, but that word could well have been kept out of this afternoon's deliberations. The hon. Gentleman reached a very low standard in this debate, but he did not hold that record for long, because the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) introduced an even lower standard, particularly when he tried, by innuendo, to suggest that it was the French and the Americans who made the powder which caused this dreadful havoc when the bomb was lately exploded. I do not know what satisfaction the hon. Gentleman gets from that, but it must be a satisfaction which, thank God, is denied to most Members of the House.
This "Government" below the Gangway opposite is a dangerous "Government" below the Gangway, and I sincerely hope that it will not have any effect whatsoever on those on the Government Front Bench who, since the election, have shown a much better understanding of foreign affairs than we could have hoped for.
I intend to speak about an arena which so far has not been mentioned. I want to speak about our general policy with regard to Spain. It is an important arena and it is one in which I believe much delay has taken place. We heard at Question Time that a White Paper is shortly to be published. I do not say this in any party spirit, but I sincerely hope that that White Paper comes forward quickly and that today's announcement will not be used, as has sometimes happened in the past, merely to delay the discussion of this very important subject.
1937 Last October, I was a member of an all-party delegation which visited Gibraltar. We saw for ourselves what was happening there. We saw what has been widely reported in the Press. We saw some of the frontier incidents, when motor cars were held up for six or seven hours. We went into Spain. We went as a united delegation. We had with us an hon. Member opposite who is a very important and very honoured trade union representative. During our stay there, he was able to obtain the considered opinion of trade unionists on the Rock.
Wherever we went we found one thing, that this was a united people who looked upon themselves as a part of this country. It did not matter whether they were business men or trade unionists, and it did not matter much whether they were the Spaniards who were actually coming in to work; all of them seemed to appreciate what the Government's rule could give them.
All hon. Members would do well to obtain and read the speech made by Sir Joshua Hassan, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, which went out over radio and television on 11th March. In that speech, Sir Joshua expressed not only the feelings of the people of Gibraltar, but also the sentiment which I am sure is shared by vast numbers of people here. I want to quote one or two important passages from the speech:And let us be quite clear in our minds that it is we who have to make the sacrifices.He was speaking of his own people on the Rock.Assistance will come. Of that there is no doubt.I believe that those are the sort of words which express the thoughts of the people who live there. They cannot contemplate the people of this country or a Government of either side of this House letting them down.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr
Does the hon. Gentleman share the views of the Leader of the Opposition that the British Government should send frigates to Spain?
§ Mr. Lagden
If the hon. Lady will contain herself, I will come to that subject. I would not miss it for the world.
The words which I have quoted seem to me to show that the people on the 1938 Rock feel that we are with them. Sir Joshua Hassan added:They will no doubt take into account the desirability of maintaining good relations with another European country and also the fact that British subjects are being subjected to an economic blockade…I beg Her Majesty's Government to take this matter seriously, because for any British subject anywhere to be subjected to an economic blockade is a far more serious matter than it might seem to be on the surface.
I am not anti-Spanish, but when any nation wants to establish an economic blockade against English people or against our Colonies it is high time that any Government, of whatever complexion, acted on behalf of the people of this country. If they do, I am sure they will receive their reward for so doing. I was delighted to read the day before yesterday that the Foreign Secretary had called the Spanish Ambassador to see him. I sincerely hope that when the Prime Minister winds up the debate he may find it possible to tell the House something of what occurred at that meeting. The Spanish Ambassador is a very fine diplomat, and I have reason to believe that much could be done by his intervention with his own Government.
I should be extremely grateful also if the Prime Minister could tell us whether he has received, as I imagine he must have done by now, a report from Sir Percy Selwyn, Senior Economic Adviser to the Colonial Office, who some months ago visited the Rock to gather information. Can the House be told what his report contained and whether it was helpful?
After having said something about the way we should treat other Governments when they start to knock our people about, I ask the House to consider whether the blame is entirely theirs. Here we come to the point which the hon. Lady the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr) mentioned. When the Prime Minister first came to high office, I thought—if I may he forgiven for using a word which recently has caused so much trouble—that he was a little drunk with power. One of the first things he did was to have this little fuss over no frigates for Spain. Naturally, the Spanish did not like it. The Prime Minister may 1939 have been right or wrong—I am not prepared to argue that now—but the Spaniards did not like it, and he must have known that they did not like it. But not being content with that, the right hon. Gentleman then cancelled the naval manœuvres agreed between our ships and the Spaniards, and they did not like that either.
§ Mr. Lagden
It is not a question of whether I did. The point is that they did not like it, and the Prime Minister must have known that. If the Prime Minister had been man enough and stood up and said—and I am sure that the hon. Lady would have liked that — "The Spaniards can take this from me", that would be one thing, but he said that the reason for the cancellation was insufficient time to prepare the manoeuvres. Yet those who have been to Gibraltar since have been told on the highest authority that long before the Prime Minister gave that reason for the cancellation the whole plan had been prepared, the i's dotted and the t's crossed, and all our people who were to take part in the manoeuvres and all the Spaniards knew it.
§ Mr. Lagden
No, not now. If a person goes to the Dispatch Box, as the Prime Minister did, and deliberately tells untruths—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—he must expect—
§ Mr. Lagden
I wish you had been here, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, half an hour ago when Mr. Speaker, if I understood him correctly—
§ Mr. Lagden
I withdraw the word "untrue" and substitute "unfortunately not accurate". If a person does this he must be prepared for other people to take even worse action. The Spaniards reacted extremely badly. Their reactions 1940 are quite uncalled for in every way, but there was a great deal of irritation from the Prime Minister at that time.
§ Mr. Will Griffths rose——
§ Mr. Lagden
Let us get together. The two nations, ourselves and Spain, have had a long friendship. Let us get together quickly, because it would be a bad thing if the thousands of people who leave this country every year to enjoy what Spain has to offer in the way of holidays go there with this cloud hanging over the heads of the two Governments. I hope that when the Prime Minister replies to the debate he will be able to tell us that since the Spanish Ambassador visited the Foreign Secretary, and since the preparation of the White Paper has started, things have greatly improved and that we shall be able to go forward this year with the happy associations which we have had in the past.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am obliged to the hon. Member for giving way. The point that I wanted to put to him was simple. He said that the Prime Minister gave reasons for the cancellation of British participation in the naval man œuvres which the hon. Member had been informed on the highest authority in Gibraltar were inaccurate. This is an extremely serious charge to make against the Government. I put it to the hon. Member that he has an obligation to the Government, the Prime Minister and the House to name the highest authority to whom he referred.
§ Mr. Lagden
I would be most happy, if the Prime Minister wishes that, to do so—and I do not want any jeer or cheer —in private, because it would not be in the interest of everybody to do it in public.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The hon. Member has been in the House a long time and he knows that the weight which is attached to an hon. Member's speech and statements of that kind very much depends upon his quoting the authorities to whom he attributes the statements. It is a matter of considerable importance.
§ Mr. Lagden
I also know that when an hon. Member who has been in the 1941 House some time offers in the public interest to give the information to the Prime Minister or to the Foreign Secretary that is usually accepted.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
I invite the hon. Member to agree with me that the truth about this unfortunate dispute between Gibraltar and Spain is that it has been in existence long before the present Prime Minister made any reference at all to frigates. I invite the hon. Member, with great respect, to say with me that all Gibraltarians would say that this trouble has gone on from the time of Her Majesty The Queen's visit in 1954.
§ Mr. Lagden
I agree entirely that this has gone on for the length of time the hon. Gentleman mentions. I did not wish to convey, and I willingly withdraw it if I did, that it was caused by the Prime Minister. What I wanted to suggest was that the unfortunate actions which he took fanned the fires and made the heat far greater.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Walter Padley)
This really needs to be put right. Party political points ought not to be made about the plight of Gibraltar. For six long years, when the party opposite were in Government, Spain restricted movement from Gibraltar into Spain.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is this a question?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I think that it looked like becoming a speech. I was waiting to see whether the Minister of State would make an intervention. We cannot have so many speeches under the guise of interventions.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)
The difficulty in speaking in a foreign affairs debate is that, however inadequate hon. Members are on other subjects, everyone is an authority on foreign affairs. I am sure that there are at least 315 Members on this side waiting to take over as Foreign Secretary.
1942 Hon. Members on both sides will have found some comfort in some of the remarks of the Foreign Secretary today. I was intrigued by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who said on several occasions that he echoed some of the things said by my right hon. Friend. I began to wonder whether he was the original "Little Sir Echo". He echoed my right hon. Friend's remarks at point after point, and, in the circumstances, I feel that my right hon. Friend ought to take warning that, with too many friends opposite, he cannot afford to have enemies.
In our approach to this debate, we must get rid of prejudice, emotion and hypocrisy. When I speak of hypocrisy, I refer to hon. Members who say such things as, "We do not care what form of government they have so long as the people have democratic freedom and individual freedom". These remarks come from those who, for generations, have denied just such rights to so many millions of people.
I take to task my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey). I do not think that he does a service to the cause which he wishes to promote. When prejudice enters into it, as, I submit, it enters into his argument, it does no good for his cause. I cannot for the life of me see how he can argue that material which is found in South Vietnam with Chinese markings on it can possibly be for the defence of North Vietnam.
I want to see both sides of the picture, because I do not believe that there is only one side to it. Hon. Members cannot expect us to regard the Vietcong, who, apparently, dress in black pyjamas, as people one would really expect to see in white robes, with wings and a halo. One cannot expect to find that sort of thing on either side of the fighting in South Vietnam.
It is important to find out the cause of the struggle. However difficult it is to overcome the present problems in South-East Asia, troubles will still arise if we allow the same state of affairs to continue. At the risk of derisory laughter from the other side of the House, I will say what I believe to be the basic causes of trouble in the Far East today.
It will take a long time to live down the atomic bomb on Japan. I know that 1943 there are arguments for and against—it may have been right; it is not for me to say—but one can only look at the effect it has on the people concerned when white people use weapons of this sort on people who are not white. Another factor to be considered is that of the countries which fought in the last war two came out with added possessions, and one was America. Those possessions happen to be on the perimeter of the Far Eastern area. It may be right. I do not know. I am not saying that it is wrong. All I am trying to do is to see things as the people of China and other Asiatic people see them.
If those things are not sufficient, there is the fact that, for years, the Americans have backed Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan, maintaining a large army there, and for what purpose?—the avowed intention of returning to the Chinese mainland. For years, the Americans have refused to accept China into the United Nations, I am glad that this country has made it quite clear—hon. and right hon. Members opposite have joined in this—that we believe that only by bringing China into the community of nations can we hope to exert any influence of her whatever.
After the war, Russia was an aggressive nation. I believe that there has been a change of heart in many ways in Russia. Many of the things which Russia did after the war were done out of a basic fear. I may be wrong—I do not know—but that is my belief. Again, I believe that many of the things happening in the Far East today are done basically out of a sense of fear. The Chinese fear complete encirclement by the Americans. The Americans are terrified lest they lose the last base in the Far East from which they could mount an offensive against China.
The only way to bring peace in the Far East is to overcome these fears. They will not be overcome by bombing North Vietnam. What is more, there will be no military victory for either side in what is taking place there now, not for North Vietnam, for South Vietnam or for the Americans.
It has been argued that the people of South Vietnam are behind the Government and that the Americans are backing a lawful Government which has 1944 popular support. I should like to think so. I should like to be able to subscribe to everything the Foreign Secretary has had to say about it, but, try as I may, I just cannot subscribe to it. I doubt that, without looking at the morning post from day to day, one can tell who controls the Government in South Vietnam.
It is a difficult situation. Many of the things that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said had a considerable amount of sense. He did not come to tell us what the situation was as though he knew it from A to Z. Anyone who pretends to have the answer to the problem is deceiving the House. But hon. Members opposite should be very careful when using an argument about the need to support a democratic Government in South Vietnam. That does not come very easily from a party which, apparently, could not diagnose a democratic Government in Abyssinia, or in Austria, or in Czechoslovakia and other places.
§ Mr. William Yates
Which hon. Member on this side, or which Member of the Opposition Front Bench, has said that either we or the Americans were supporting a democratic Government in South Vietnam?
§ Mr. Crawshaw
I understood the Leader of the Opposition to say that the Americans were supporting a popular Government. I understood him to use words to that effect. It is fair to say that the right hon. Gentleman was suggesting that we were supporting a Government that was representing the people. I do not want to put it higher than that.
In the old days, we talked about the Czechs as being people in a far-off land with whom we had no concern. How, therefore, can we talk today with such affinity for the people of South Vietnam? To my way of thinking, it is because we are still pursuing a policy which has brought wars throughout the world for generations.
I believe that there are two prerequisites before we should enter anyone else's country. First, we must ask ourselves whether we have a moral right to be there. Without a moral right to be there, whatever military success we have, we will never win that country heart and soul. I do not see, judging from what I 1945 have read and heard, that we have such a right to be in South Vietnam. I wish that we did. I wish that I could give wholehearted support to the Government on this point, but I think that they are deceiving themselves.
The second prerequisite is military. We have heard about the remark, attributed to General MacArthur before lie died, about not getting bogged down. Does anyone consider that, in terrain like that of South Vietnam, either with conventional weapons or even by pouring in millions of men, we shall ever win a war there? This is just the sort of territory which lends itself to independent fighting, and behind it is China with her vast manpower. I ask myself, therefore, why the Americans are holding South Vietnam.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
The hon. Member says "face". I believe that in 1965, when there are so many vital things in the world to win, "face" plays a considerable part, but does anyone really believe that the Americans are negotiating from a position of weakness? We all know that they are negotiating from strength. If the Americans are convinced that they cannot by fighting against North Vietnam stop the fighting in South Vietnam, what are they hoping for?
We have seen them going north towards the Chinese frontier. What would the Americans feel like if China were bombing Mexico? [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite laugh, but it is because people laugh at things like that that we get landed in positions like this. The party opposite has a tremendous responsibility to bear in this matter. This situation has not arisen only this week. It is something to which it contributed over the years by the idea that one should hold on to a land irrespective of whether one is required or wanted there by the people.
I do not believe that view to be correct. I do not believe that it ever brings victory or good results. If the Americans do not make a success of what they are doing at the moment, what is the answer? Do they continue to bomb North Vietnam? Are they doing it in the hope that China will send in troops? The fear I have is not of the fighting in 1946 North and South Vietnam, but that China will send in troops. Is that what the Americans really want?
Let us remember that the situation now is not the same as it was two years ago. China has made an atomic explosion. Within the next year or two it will probably have an atomic weapon. What worries me is that perhaps America has now decided that it cannot allow that to happen. If that is so, there will be only one answer to this escalation, and it is a terrible thought.
I have sat in the House day after day while Questions have been put to my right hon. Friend on this subject. I have had to hold myself down because I realised that by saying certain things when diplomacy is in a delicate situation one can do more harm than good. But I believe that the situation is now such that one ought to speak plainly, and to ask the United States, "Are you anxious to bring in China in order to destroy her atomic power?"
§ Mr. William Yates
I am certain, from my visits and lectures in the United States, when I have met very important people in the universities, that the United States does not on any account want to get into a confrontation with Communist China, with all her millions, in Vietnam.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
The hon. Gentleman misses the point. If the United States gets into a confrontation with China now it does so with atomic weapons in its possession alone. If it goes in for that confrontation in another two years' time it will do so on an equal footing with China. That is what worries me. Does the United States think that the time has come for this confrontation? I hope that the hon. Member is right. Nevertheless, when one knows that certain implements of war have been used without the knowledge of the President it makes one shudder a little as to the outcome.
I believe that several things are expected in an alliance. Loyalty—yes. But I do not believe that it is loyalty to allow an ally to bog itself down, to bring discredit on the alliance as I believe the United States is doing in Vietnam. I believe that one of the things expected in an alliance is that one should say to that ally firmly, "We think that you are wrong in what you are doing. We 1947 do not believe that you are keeping this war going solely for the benefit of the people of South Vietnam".
Let us face the facts. The people in Asia want a good meal every day. For 18 years the people in both North and South Vietnam have not known what it is to have a day's peace. Here we talk about democracy. Do they care whether it comes from the West or whether it is Communism as long as they get food? These are the ways in which we shall win in the Far East—not by bombing but by bringing help to these countries long before we have to start doing it in order to buy them with the object of saving them from the Communists.
We are now in the middle of a decade organised by the United Nations to give help to the impoverished nations, a decade in which we are asked to give 1 percent. of the country's output. We have managed to give only percent. Is this the way that we shall win the hearts and souls of the people in the Far East?
We can win them. This country still has a great part to play in the world, but it will not be played by playing second string to an ally whom we believe to be on the wrong road. The time has now come when we should say firmly, but in a friendly way, "If you go any further, you cannot expect to take us along with you." I hope that the Foreign Secretary will say just that.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
When the late Mr. Ernest Bevin had been Foreign Secretary for a year, he won such constant applause from the Conservative benches that Conservative Members were asked in private not to applaud him in the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary won for himself in one afternoon the affection which Mr. Bevin took a year to win. I will not go any further or embarrass him any more with any praise.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) dwelt upon the situation in Vietnam, as have many other hon. Members this afternoon. This was inevitable, but in a sense the Rubicon there has been crossed. While the House may deplore, as the hon. Gentleman did, or praise the action of the United States Government, and while some hon. Members opposite may go out of their way 1948 to praise the North Vietnamese Government, the fact remains that nothing that has been said here or that will be said here is likely to bring an end to the existing conflict, or to alter the settled plans of the United States of America, or North Vietnam, or China. Therefore, anything said on this subject, whether sentimental, angry or regrettable, can hardly be constructive.
I should like, therefore, to turn to a part of the world which is threatened, but not overwhelmed, with disturbances and war, the Middle East, and where it may still be possible for Her Majesty's Government, in association with that of the United States, to arrest the steady decline which appears to be going on unabated.
Anyone impartially looking round the countries of the Middle East will be struck by the fact that Arab unity, of which we all heard so much in the past, is further off today than ever, and, what is more, is perhaps less desired by many Arab countries. In the Lebanon we have what amounts to the Switzerland of the Middle East, whose leaders wish to keep out of the turmoil of international politics and look after their own prosperous affairs.
In Syria, regrettably, we have perpetual plotting, and the country is more than ever in need of a respite from the eternal strife which has shaken it in the last few years. In Jordan we have a king, by any standards a brave young man, attempting to modernise and raise the standard living of his tiny State. In Saudi Arabia and the oil sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf there exists a great desire for the oil to continue to flow and for its benefits to be felt.
I freely admit that I have made a series of rather sweeping statements and have omitted to mention the imperfections which exist in many of these countries, the corruption and the length of time it takes for the money to percolate from the top to the bottom. Nevertheless, I contend that this is a time when the Middle Eastern countries in the main wish to look after their internal affairs and increase the efficiency of their various administrations without being bothered by the gigantic shadow of Arab unity which they are incessantly made to feel is over their heads.
But the fact is that they are not allowed this moment of rest. They are 1949 not allowed that period which is necessary for construction and advance, for President Nasser will not allow it. From the Persian Gulf to the Dead Sea and from Aden to Teheran his schemes are in opposition to any period of rest.
The House has grown used to the policies of Nasser. Hon. Members have grown used to his vituperations and his schemes, to his threats and blandishments, and we have come to regard him as a Permanent figure in the Middle Eastern scene. As he has survived in the past so, some will argue, will he continue to survive, and as he has proved ineffective in the past so in future will he prove ineffective. It is, therefore, thought to be quite all right to leave the Middle East slowly simmering in the belief that as nothing has happened there in the last nine years nothing will happen in the next nine years.
This, I contend, is a dangerous misconception, and it would be wise to realise that while Nasser is by no means comparable to Hitler in terms of power, his actions are as unalterable as those of the Third Reich and he has declared them as simply as Hitler ever did in his "Mein Kampf ". They are simply that Egypt should dominate the Arab world and its neighbours and that Egyptian sovereignty should dominate the whole of the North African coast of the Middle East from Morocco to the Gulf.
To accomplish this aim he needs above all things money, and in the last few years, with this object in view, he has constantly interfered with those countries rich in oil which he hopes will eventually pass under Egyptian domination.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Will the hon. Member accept that those of us who in the last two years have had the opportunity to see Nasser privately, while admitting that it is possible to be naive, feel that any comparison between Nasser and Hitler is grotesque?
§ Viscount Lambton
All I would say is that for the President of an Arab country to keep troops in another Arab country, to use napalm bombs against them and to use the most hideous weapons of war makes him comparable with Hitler.
It is not my intention to dwell upon the implications which would arise if he followed out his oil aggrandisement and brought about an Egyptian coup d'etat in 1950 Libya. I would merely say in passing that in my opinion—and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will take note of this —not nearly enough was done by the last Government and not nearly enough has been done by this Government to counteract anti-British propaganda there. Considering the benefits likely to flow to Her Majesty's Government through the rich oil strike which has been made by British Petroleum in Libya, I suggest that we do not spend anything like enough money or allow our embassy there anything like adequate resources either to present the case for pro-Western association or to combat the very effective and clever Egyptian propaganda.
I return to my main point. Nasser and the Government of Egypt are still bent upon conquest and domination. Such are the threats to his country of the population growth, such are the commercial problems and such is the gravity of the economic problems which face him, it is almost as necessary to him as it was to the European dictators before the war to keep on the move and perpetually to take the initiative.
This has resulted in a change in the balance of power in the Middle East in the last few years, for all the evidence suggests that by attempting to include the Yemen against its will in his Arab empire Nasser has seriously weakened both his internal position and his external position.
§ Mr. William Yates
If he has done that, how will he go on with this terrific expansion about which my hon. Friend is speaking?
§ Viscount Lambton
If my hon. Friend will wait, I was about to come to that point.
Externally, it has been necessary for Nasser to bomb those whom he describes as his blood brothers. He has used against them the very weapons which I referred to when answering the intervention of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). I cannot help observing how all this was unremarked upon and unprotested against by what I might call the "red wing" of the party opposite in the past. It has been necessary for Nasser to maintain an army of over 40,000 soldiers in territory which is becoming increasingly 1951 antagonistic to him. This has without doubt had its effect in the Arab world. After all, it is not convincing to preach blood-brotherhood and at the same time shed one's brother's blood. It has resulted in certain other Arab countries looking askance at their total involvement with Egyptian policies which Nasser so passionately desires.
Internally as well Nasser cannot afford to pay the price of failure, or he would have to pay exactly the price which those who went before him paid and, perhaps, will be turned out of office in the most savage way. Therefore, the strain which the war in the Yemen has inflicted on the economy and the mutterings internally which it has caused make it more essential than ever to Nasser that he should have some military, financial or economic success which can divert the attention of the Egyptians from the realities of the situation.
Without doubt, military success in the Yemen would be ideal, for it would have inevitable and serious repercussions in the Aden Protectorate and the trucial coast. But all the signs are that such success is further away and that even those who once gave their support to the Egyptians are now desiring to withdraw it so that the Yemenis can put their own house in order.
§ Mr. Jenkins
In the hon. Gentleman's reference to the use of napalm, is he alluding to the report given on 8th July, 1963, which was subsequently found by the United Nations mission in the Yemen to have no substance in fact whatsoever?
§ Viscount Lambton
I cannot refer the hon. Gentleman to the exact date. Is he saying that napalm has never been used at any time in the Yemen?
§ Viscount Lambton
Perhaps we will merely agree to differ on this subject.
It is possible, I believe, that Nasser will have to look for other fields of diversion. As I have said, Libya was the obvious opportunity, and so would be Iraq if it had not a war on its hands with the Kurds, which might yet further stretch and weaken the military power of Egypt.
The disadvantage of any further takeover of any country would be that it would further upset those Arabs already affronted by Egypt's conduct in the Yemen, and I do not believe that at this moment Nasser is in a position to incur further disapproval.
There remains unfortunately, but fortunately for him, one subject which is sure to create a diversion, the obliteration of Israel, and it may well be that the tension which we have seen rising in the Middle East in the last few months reflects the desperate need of Nasser for a diversion to take the eyes of the world off his failures.
I think that it is of the greatest importance that we should realise precisely what Nasser's aims and intentions are, and what position this country is in at the present time. What do we stand for today? What is our policy in the Middle East? Do we still believe in the Tripartite Agreement which pledges support to any country that is attacked, or any country against which warlike operations are made?
It is difficult to know, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will enlighten us further tonight, what has happened to the Tripartite Agreement, whether it is alive, or whether it is dead, whether it is living, or whether it is dying, but one thing, above all, which I believe is essential is that the Government should attempt to guarantee the peace of the Middle East, against either the Arab or the Israeli aggressor.
Unless some action is taken, there will, I believe, be a general deterioration in the situation and a slow drift towards action against Israel, followed by retaliation, followed by an uneasy peace, followed by war. It is surely wise to attempt to prevent such a melancholy chain, and I suggest that now is the time for the initiation of policy by the Government. I believe that they should not wait until 1953 the situation has deteriorated as it has in Vietnam, for by then it will be too late. The time to move is while peace yet exists, and not when war comes and makes inevitable the acceptance of unwise decisions.
I think that we should look carefully at the situation with regard to the waters of the Jordan, because I believe that these are liable to be the most likely pretext for a war in the future. There are three countries which can divert water from the Jordan. Of these Syria is no doubt the weakest, and its Government most subject to extreme pressure. At the same time—and this is a problem about which we may hear much in the future—the source of the River Dan is an extra complication, for while it is shown on the maps to be rising in Israel, geographicaly it would appear to be rising in Syria.
If, therefore, at some future date the Syrians were to divert these headwaters, the situation would be overwhelmingly complicated, for Syria could legally argue that if territorial lines were drawn which excluded from its territory the River Dan, they could not divert something which was not in their territory. Equally, Israel could argue that as the River Dan was marked in her territory, the frontier lines were wrongly drawn, and must be reorganised. I merely mention this complication because it seems to me that we are fast approaching a crisis, that in some way or another an attempt will be made to divert water from Israel, an action which the Israeli Government will inevitably regard as one of agression, and one which they will inevitably react against by the use of armed force.
In this event, Israel will be cursed throughout the Arab world as the aggressor, and while, if Israel uses force, the probable immediate result will be the extension of the territory under the United Nations, and the creation of a Ghaza strip type authority in the areas of the headwaters, in the long term I am afraid that a step will have been taken towards the outbreak of an Arab-Israeli war, with all its unforeseeable consequences. This, I believe, is something which should be prevented. Now is the time for Her Majesty Government, in association with America and France, to see whether they cannot bring about 1954 some sort of agreement which would favour neither side particularly, but which would do something to guarantee peace for the Middle East.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
This debate is of vital importance not only to this country, but to the world at large. The position at present, particularly in South-East Asia, is one of great importance and grave danger. This is not a time for a bipartisan policy between the Opposition and the Government Front Bench. The first note against this was struck by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), who, in dealing with this matter, drew attention to many of the differences that exist and will continue to exist, and also the need for an independent policy at the present time.
I feel that in 1965, in the present world situation, we have moved a long way since Suez and since Korea, but we have also moved a long way in the production and manufacture of more weapons of a deadly nature. There has also been an extension of nuclear weapons under pressure by some sections of the Armed Forces. Therefore, because of this situation we are in a most desperate and dangerous state.
If I may turn for a moment to our rôle which has been referred to as "east of Suez", many of us, particularly on this side of the House, quite fail to see where this rôle east of Suez fits into a British Labour foreign policy. We feel it is in our own interests that we should not extend, or attempt to extend, our sphere of international influence into the Far East, but that we should be playing a part in bringing about a peaceful settlement rather than extending bases, sending V-bombers and continuing wars which are taking place there, but which, in many cases, are wars of liberation being fought by people trying to find a new democracy for themselves.
I am not one of those who believes that everything that happens in North Vietnam is right and that everything that happens in South Vietnam is wrong, but I am a signatory to the Motion which has been signed by 104 Members of this side of the House, and some Liberal Members, which abhors the attacks that the 1955 Americans have made into North Vietnam, the use of napalm bombs, and the use of gas. We have done this because we feel that if the United States has taken action which is wrong it should be condemned and we feel that in the interests of world peace we should speak out. When we hear the Leader of the Opposition talking as he did this afternoon about Members below the Gangway criticising the Americans, and when we think of the speech which he made about the United Nations and which inflamed the Congo situation, and when we think of the attitude adopted by him and his hon. Friends in relation to Suez, then, surely, if we consider the United States to be wrong, it is time to make our own criticisms.
I believe that Britain has a vital rôle to play east of Suez, but it is a rôle of conciliation and negotiation and an attempt to see whether we can bring mediation to South-East Asia. I think, therefore, that it was wrong that this afternoon my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary should refer only to the atrocities which have been committed by North Vietnam against the South. Let us face the fact that atrocities have been committed by both sides. No one could regard, except with horror, the destruction the other day of a school and a village. If one condemns the atrocities of one side, those of the other side should also be condemned. Hon. Members have said that there are two sides to the problem and we should look at the matter from a global point of view.
I think that the extension by the United States of bombing in the North was an action similar to that proposed by General MacArthur during the Korean War in 1951. Such action would precipitate the entry of China and the Soviet Union. It is no use saying that these Powers will not be brought in when we know that they could be involved, and that the whole of South-East Asia—Indonesia, Malaysia and stretching to the Inidan Ocean with India and Pakistan—could be embroiled in a conflagration which could destroy the world. Because of that we must speak out now and say to the Americans, not only privately and diplomatically, but, if necessary, publicly, that their actions are not leading to the right kind of solution.
1956 When, with some of my colleagues, I went to the American Embassy last week to protest about the use of gas and napalm bombs officials there tried to tell us that they were defending democracy in South Vietnam. It is evident that so such thing as democracy exists in that area. No attempt has been made since the 1964 agreement to break up the large landed estates an dto give the peasants land, with the right to develop in their own way which they have been denied and which they seek. When we stated that seven-tenths of the country is controlled by the Vietcong it was not denied by the American representatives. Because of this situation and because the Americans cannot see that Asian people, who talk of democracy, do not know whether they are talking of the democracy of Selma Alabama, or Brookland, New York, Her Majesty's Government have to speak out.
I welcome the initiative being taken to reopen the Geneva talks and the fact that Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker is going to South Vietnam. It will not be entirely satisfactory if he is going only on a fact-finding tour. Most of the facts are already known. He should try to promote some form of mediation and endeavour to persuade the Americans and the North Vietnamese to regard the situation from the point of view of a possible world conflict. After President Johnson's dissociation from the use of gas, I feel that he is not entirely in control and that elements of the Pentagon are running the show. We want to see the issue taken out of the hands of the military and put into a political context. After all the fighting is done, after all the destruction that could take place in South-East Asia. which could even lead to its extension into China, this conflict will still have to be settled by negotiation.
Finally, we will have to get Governments which are popularly based with the desires and aspirations of their people and we will not get a settlement unless we get Governments of that nature. Therefore, our rôle east of Suez needs to be drastically revised and I hope that when the Prime Minister replies tonight he will have something more positive to say on that.
Another aspect which is vitally important in this situation is the question of the United Nations. If the United 1957 Nations were functioning on a real world basis it could be brought into effect on this issue. I deplore the weakening of the United Nations at this time. Whatever differences nations big or small may have, whether over payments or anything else, they should not at this stage in our history do anything to damage the United Nations.
That goes as much for the Soviet Union as for the United States of America, Great Britain, or any other country. It is absolutely essential, in a world where we could be thrown into anarchy, for the United Nations to be strengthened, not weakened. We still need a real United Nations force that could prevent such actions, whether in the Congo or Vietnam.
What makes this issue so serious and frightening is that there is still the shadow of nuclear weapons over us and over the world as a whole. I am a unilateralist. I still want to see Britain playing her part as an independent nation in the United Nations and the world, free from alliances and in a position to be a real force in diplomacy in this world. I would deplore any nuclear testing at the present time, whether underground, above the ground, or in any other form. With the number of weapons we have at present, that is totally unjustifiable and a threat against the world and the people who live in it. To live as we do, under the shadow of the bomb, creates in our world and in our society a neurosis of which we must try to get rid.
The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) mentioned the Middle East and the problems existing in that area. There are problems there, as there are in other parts of the world, but they will not be solved today or tomorrow. Consider the position if, with the proliferation of nuclear weapons, both Israel and the United Arab Republic come to possess them. That is the kind of thing which we must try to prevent. The Labour Government was elected on a policy of a nuclear-free zone in Europe, to try to bring about a lessening of tension in that area. That is the policy which should still be pursued by the Labour Government. We all know about the problem of the German elections and other things which are in the way, but Britain, sooner or 1958 later, must grasp this nettle and get genuine negotiations started.
The British public are sorely concerned about nuclear weapons. Many of my hon. Friends and I have received numerous letters, petitions and correspondence on this issue. Because we live in a democracy we find ways of expressing ourselves and getting our opinions over to the nation. It is peculiar, therefore, that while hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about democracy, as soon as anybody takes some action of which they do not approve they either sneer or denounce it. This is detestable at a time when we live in a world which is precariously balanced between annihilation and peace.
One can only hope that in the weeks to come the episode at the American Embassy in Saigon will not be used by the Americans to escalate this problem further, or to use the incident in the way that such incidents have been used in the past, for example, at the time of the Irish troubles. We all agree that it was a serious and deplorable incident. We deplore all atrocities, but in civil wars these things do happen.
Until the civil war in Vietnam comes to an end and until a way of mediation is found, I fear that these things will continue. It is to be regretted that the Americans are extending it further and further into North Vietnam, for such action can never produce a solution.
Many of my hon. Friends and I have protested against nuclear weapons. We will be doing the same again at Easter. We protest with a genuine desire to see a victory, not of one side over the other, but a victory which will see the emergence of a world in which sanity prevails. We must stop talking about this or that weapon, tactical or otherwise. We must seek a means which will secure a genuine desire for disarmament.
When this time comes we will be able to really start tackling some of the problems in Africa, Asia, South America and elsewhere. These countries do not want weapons, but food and a decent standard of life. In the twentieth century the peoples of these countries see that with modern methods and communication they could, if we were willing, have a chance of a decent standard of life today and not tomorrow. We must start thinking 1959 about building a world in which peaceful co-existence is a cornerstone. The United Nations must be a reality in tie fullest sense of the word and negotiations must be genuinely conducted.
On the issues which we have discussed today, Her Majesty's Government must speak out, even if doing so means attacking an ally or taking an opposite point of view from a friend.
§ Mr. Will Griffiths
If Her Majesty's Government make every effort, through diplomatic channels and in every possible way open to them, to persuade the Americans not to escalate the war and if the Americans refuse to co-operate, would my hon. Friend consider it right for us nevertheless to stand by the Americans, whatever the consequences?
§ Mr. Orme
Certainly not. In fact, such a position arose we would have to face using our ultimate veto, which is the alliance itself. We could not, in such circumstances, shirk our responsibilities. Fortunately, we have not reached that position, although I agree with my hon. Friend that the Americans must be made to realise that such a thing could happen.
Millions of people in America want to see a peaceful solution of this problem and to avoid the danger of escalation. Since the Americans claim to be the plainest speakers in the world, I suggest that we speak plainly to them. The time has come, irrespective of loans and other economic considerations, to speak plainly. World peace supersedes all these things. Peace is what we want more than anything. We do not want it by capitulation; we want it by negotiations. We want to see the position which I have been trying to describe, the kind of world towards which we are trying to move, a world of sanity.
We walk about at times on a beautiful morning, and it appears to be good to be alive, but then we read some of the things which are happening and some of the insane things which people are saying and planning to do, and we realise what a dangerous society we live in, with apparently sane men making insane suggestions. We should move away from that. I think that when the people elected a Labour Government they took 1960 the first step in that direction. I hope that my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench will understand the tone and the meaning of my speech.
Those of us on this side of the House who signed those Motions did not do so in favour of one side or the other. We were expressing an honest point of view, that we want a foreign policy which is real and which can be developed in the interests of this nation and of every nation. We do not want to try to pose in the world as a first-class Power, when we can be doing much better things in the normal run of a normal nation. These are the things for which we are working and it is to that end that I am speaking. It is in that spirit that I hope that the Government will take the meaning of what I have been trying to say.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) spoke with great vigour. I should like to say how much we all appreciate the sincerity with which he was speaking. I do not agree with all his views in any way, but I appreciate that he holds them strongly. In particular, I cannot understand him saying that there is no east of Suez rôle to be found—or that none should be found—in Labour foreign policy, that our only rôle in that part of the world should be conciliation. Can he really say that to our friends in Malaysia, or about our solemn treaty obligations to Thailand?
Can we say—certainly the Government do not, and I am glad that they do not—that we as country have no immensely important rôle in that part of the world, where Britain has obligations of a serious nature which must be discharged? With respect, I think he is wrong in that criticism of the present Government.
§ Mr. Maudling
I think I took the hon. Member's point. If we are to help the Malaysians we must have a military rôle as of now, of that there can be no question.
The hon. Member also said that we must speak frankly and openly to the 1961 Americans. I agree with that, and I think that everyone agrees, but where there appears to be some disagreement is about what we should say to them. That has been argued today. The Foreign Secretary made an opening speech which was of great clarity and distinction. It has been accepted as such by my hon. and right hon. Friends. Some suggested that it was given a bipartisan reception, but that was repudiated on the other side of the House. To be quite frank, the Foreign Secretary's speech has been criticised more from that side of the House than from this. We found convincing his analysis of the situation, both in its historic origins and its present facts: the deductions to be made from policy and his arguments. We thought that it was not also true of his hon. Friends. The right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) was in agreement with him. I am not quite so sure what the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) did agree with. I think he was full of reservations. Subsequent speeches from the hon. Members for Barking (Mr. Driberg), Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) and Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw)—in fact, all the other four speeches from the Government side —showed a great degree of disagreement with the Government's policy.
I hope, therefore, that the Prime Minister will tonight make it absolutely clear what the voice of the Government is at this present moment, because the situation is too serious for ambiguity, too serious for misunderstanding, too serious for allowing any of our friends—or even those who are not our friends—in various parts of the world to have any misunderstanding at all about where Britain stands at this moment.
I should like, first, to deal with what has been the main subject of our discussion today, and that is Vietnam, and to analyse what seem to me to be the basic interests of the countries primarily concerned. First, of course, there are the people of South Vietnam themselves, whose interests must be peace and freedom from Communist aggression. When the question was raised about whether it is a matter of Communist aggression from the North, I thought that the most formidable fact was the Foreign Secre- 1962 tary's reference to a million refugees—a million refugees in a country of this size—from the North to the South at the conclusion of hostilities a few years ago. Surely, this is the fundamental fact of the situation. Surely, it is clear what the people of South Vietnam want.
Then there is the American interest. Here, again, there is some difference of opinion about what the Americans want. The Foreign Secretary made it clear that the Americans went to South Vietnam a few years ago when the aggression was clearly under way from the North. Of this there can be no doubt at all in my mind, from the evidence adduced by the right hon. Gentleman, but there is some difference of opinion, apparently, below the Gangway opposite. The hon. Member for Ashfield talked of aggression by a large Power against a small nation. The aggression comes from the North—of this there is the clear evidence of the Commission and American documents, mentioned in the Foreign Secretary's speech.
Let us be clear of this: the Americans can have only one interest in being present now in South Vietnam, and that is to protect that country against Communist aggression, to help those people—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] If hon. Members opposite say "nonsense", do they or do they not agree with their Foreign Secretary? What else are the Americans doing there? Does anyone in his sane senses think that the Americans, this great powerful progressive nation, are spending their blood and their treasure in maintaining a position in the South-East Asia because they want to extend their own territories and to earn money? What possible motive can they have other than the defence of South Vietnam against the aggression of the Communists?
§ Mr. Will Griffiths
I speak for myself, and I say that there is a civil war going on and that the Americans have intervened on one side.
§ Mr. Maudling
And I say, following the Foreign Secretary, that the Americans, at the request of the people of South Vietnam, are protecting them against aggression from the North, and are generally supporting free peoples against Communist aggression. This must clearly be the American position.
1963 Let us look at the position of North Vietnam. It is clearly their desire to complete the occupation of South Vietnam as well. It is quite clear from the evidence that is available in large quantities that from the start they never really accepted the Agreements; that from the beginning they set up these cells, these inter-penetrations of the people of South Vietnam, and have steadily built up—
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that in the Geneva Agreements it was decided, first, that the cease-fire line along the 17th Parallel should not be regarded as a territorial or political frontier, and that within a short time thereafter, within two years, there should be free elections in order to get one Government for the whole of Vietnam? Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that the Americans were there to assist in the carrying out of those objectives of the Geneva Agreements?
§ Mr. Maudling
As the Foreign Secretary made clear today, the Americans were not there at that time in any substantial numbers. That was a very important point in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman overlooked it.
The interest of the people of North Vietnam, or of the Government of North Vietnam, is clearly to extend their own influence over the southern part of the country. I do not imagine that they want to be a satellite of China. Why should they want to be? Clearly, in their desire to extend their influence southwards they must be limited to some extent, first, by the desire not to be too deeply committed to their vast Chinese neighbours, and, secondly, I should have thought increasingly, by the effect they must be feeling from the retaliatory action of the Americans. It is important to bear in mind, which possibly has not been mentioned today, that from the point of view of the Government of North Vietnam there must be considerable disadvantages in their present course, which progressively should have an effect on the posture which they take towards negotiations.
The next interested party is China. I suppose that, from the Chinese point of view, the present situation gives an opportunity to score off both enemies of China, both the main Chinese opponents—the 1964 United States and Russia. If the United States were forced to a humiliating withdrawal, that would suit the Chinese. At the same time, if this should come about apparently largely by Chinese assistance, this would give the Chinese an advantage in their struggle within the Communist world against the Soviet Union. Therefore, I should have thought that the Chinese interest must be to keep this struggle going by all means short of open war, by all means short of conflict which would bring them into direct confrontation with the United States Forces.
Next, the Soviet Union. What is the Russian interest in this conflict? I should have thought they must be interested in anything which tends to weaken the influence of the United States, but can they really be interested in anything that strengthens at the same time the influence of China? After all, one of the historic facts of recent years has been the development of this split within the Communist world. It is impossible for anyone to tell how permanent it is. It is difficult for anyone to judge how lasting or how deep it is. It certainly exists. One can see all the time evidence of this growing difference of interest between the Soviet Union and China. Therefore, one cannot feel that the Soviet Union really wants to see a conflict continuing if the result would be to strengthen the Chinese influence.
Of course, there is from the Soviet point of view the very grave danger, which I am sure they understand extremely well with their knowledge of modern weapons, of the escalation of the conflict into something on a broader world scale which would involve themselves as well. The continuation of the conflict must surely face the Russians all the time with this very serious dilemma of the degree to which they give aid to the people of North Vietnam. The evidence of what they are doing at present is conflicting. Certainly it must be a continuing problem for them to know precisely how far to go. They, too, therefore, despite the apparent stony composure of Mr. Gromyko, have, and must surely in the real analysis have, an interest in seeing some solution to this problem.
There is, finally, the interest of the United Kingdom. This surely is based upon the international engagements we have in South-East Asia, the solemn 1965 obligation to the people of Malaysia, the solemn treaty obligation to our treaty partners in Thailand. It is true that we have no direct part in the actual operations in South Vietnam, but we are engaged in Malaysia and would be engaged directly in any aggression against Thailand. Surely, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said this afternoon, the fact that the Americans are in Practice keeping this conflict well away from the borders of the S.E.A.T.O. area must mean that the British and American interests are intertwined inextricably in this part of the world. If the American position should collapse and if the Communist tide should sweep on, surely there cannot be any doubt where the next waves would start moving, where next they would go after they had overwhelmed South Vietnam—Thailand, Malaysia, Burma. The tide would move on. If the barrier of the American position were removed, then we should certainly he facing with very little delay problems of the greatest urgency and difficulty for the people of this country, problems involving support and aid to people in that part of the world to whom we have pledged our solemn word.
Therefore, I am convinced that the British interest in this part of the world is bound up with the American interest, and we must stand shoulder to shoulder as allies and as people fighting the same cause.
What about the American policy? It has been discussed from many angles today—supported and opposed. They really have only two alternatives, either to withdraw or to react as they are doing. They cannot just stand still and watch the situation crumble in front of them. I am sure that there is no other choice. Until there is some sign that the North Vietnam Government will stop their aggressive actions, I cannot see that the Americans have any alternative whatsoever.
President Johnson, in a speech which has been quoted several times today, made it clear thatThe United States will never be second in seeking a settlement in Vietnam if based on an end of Communist aggression.I am sure that that is a very right position, as I am sure Her Majesty's Government are right in supporting them in it.
1966 What can the Government do? We welcome the measures which they are taking to try to probe the situation, to try to find more about people's thoughts in that part of the world, the various ways which the Foreign Secretary described, the mission of Mr. Gordon Walker, and other ways. All these ways of finding positions and attitudes must be valuable, but they must not be a sign of weakening. That is very important.
The course upon which the Americans are set in this part of the world is a dangerous course. It is a terrible part of the world to fight a war. Wars, as has been said today, are terrible anyway, but possibly more terrible in the jungles of this part of the world. It is a terrible task and great dangers are being faced.
I believe, however, that the dangers of the alternative course are even greater —the danger of withdrawal, the danger of lack of unity, and the danger, possibly the worst of all, of ineffective agreement which people think is binding and which shortly collapses and all the tasks which we have undertaken prove once again to have been in vain. These are possibly greater dangers than the admittedly great dangers which the Americans are now facing.
It is essential that the Prime Minister should make it quite clear where the Government and his party stand on these matters. The hon. Member for Barking made a speech, to which I listened with interest, in which he was very offensive about my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and very obsequious about his own Government. He did his best to work his way out of a Motion on the Order Paper about the use of gas in Vietnam in which he and many of his prominent hon. Friends called upon Her Majesty's Government dissociate Britain from the actions and views of the Americans.
The hon. Member said today that this need not be done in public, of course—it was no time for that—but I ask the hon. Member how we can dissociate ourselves from other people's actions unless we say so honestly and openly. The Motion…calls on Her Majesty's Government to dissociate Great Britain from these actions and views, in order to be able more effectively to mediate in this conflict.1967 How can the Government do something more effectively unless they are seen to be dissociating themselves? This is a quite deliberate and clear proposition or challenge to the Government that, in order to play the pant which the hon. Member and his hon. Friends want them to play, the Government must openly and deliberately dissociate themselves from American actions and views. I hope the Prime Minister will make quite clear the attitude which he takes. I am sure that I know what it is. I hope that he will make his position and that of Britain in this part of the world very clear.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he disagrees with the statement made by the Foreign Secretary in Washington on gas warfare in Vietnam?
§ Mr. Maudling
As I understood it, his statement was that the Americans should pay proper attention to the views of the rest of the world. That seems to me to be an unexceptionable statement. If it has any implications, they have not yet been explained by the Government, and perhaps they will be later if the hon. Gentleman wants to know what they are.
§ Mr. Driberg
May I intervene?, The right hon. Gentleman has referred to me, and he interrupted me. Throughout his speech so far he has referred to the people of South Vietnam as though he identified them with the Government of South Vietnam. Does he really suggest that the people of South Vietnam are living in ideal conditions under a perfect democratic Government?
§ Mr. Maudling
The hon. Gentleman misheard me. I referred several times to the people of North Vietnam. Whether he thinks that they are not the same as the Government of North Vietnam, I do not know.
I turn now to Malaysia, where a potentially dangerous situation exists. We on this side strongly endorse and welcome the support which the Government are giving to Malaysia. It is particularly important that the economic help which Malaysia needs should be forthcoming. Although Malaysia has large sterling balances and big natural resources, it has a big economic strain, with, for instance, a very high level of taxation for that part of the world. Last 1968 autumn, at the meeting at Kuala Lumpur, I arranged to meet the Finance Ministers of Canada, Australia and New Zealand to concert Commonwealth economic aid to Malaysia. I hope that this is proceeding and that the Prime Minister will be able to assure us—perhaps he may not know offhand—that it is going ahead.
I am surprised that there is no mention of Japan in our discussions of South-East Asia. Obviously, Japan is not a factor in a military sense, but these are political and economic problems of great importance. South-East Asia lies in a triangle bounded by the Indian subcontinent, Australasia and Japan. Japan is a country of immense economic strength and potential political strength. It is important not to overlook the contribution which the Japanese can make to events in this part of the world, a contribution which, I believe, they would be willing and anxious to make. I mention it only in passing because I believe it to be a mistake to underestimate how important this contribution could be.
I had a number of observations to make about the economic aspects of foreign policy, but, as time is short, I shall concentrate on one first of all, having in mind that the Prime Minister is tomorrow going to talk to General de Gaulle. I hope that he will talk to General de Gaulle fairly clearly—I am sure that he will—about the question of international liquidity and the position of the dollar. There are dangers for the whole structure of N.A.T.O. and the Western Alliance in the present monetary situation, possibly as serious as some of the more obvious military or political dissensions.
There is no doubt that the dollar is the bedrock of our international monetary system. It is the source of access to gold for the convertible currencies of the West. It is a currency of immense strength. The United States economy is the dominant economy of the West, and American prices are and probably have been more stable than those in any other country of the West for several years.
The dollar itself is a strong currency, but there has been a good deal of talk in recent years about the so-called weakness of the dollar based upon the United 1969 States overseas deficit which has persisted for some years. Of course, the origin of the American deficit is not a trading position; it is the degree of American investment abroad and the degree of American aid abroad. Those who have been urging the Americans that they must abolish their deficit have been pursuing a dangerous course, because the Americans could at any time solve their problem at the expense of the rest of the world. In my view, they have been very forbearing in not doing so. But we have seen from the recent movements which the Americans have made and their effect in the Eurodollar market how serious can be the effect on the European economy and how serious can be the effect on the balance of payments of many countries if the Americans are driven into a corner in this way. There is no need whatever why the Americans should be so driven into a corner.
It is true that there is a basic difference of view about certain aspects of the situation between what is known as the Anglo-Saxon world and the Group of Ten or some European members of the Group of Ten. It is becoming more and more urgent that a solution should be found to this problem of international liquidity, which we raised as a Government in Washington in 1962 and have pursued ever since. In the meantime, unless solutions can be found, there must be an end to monetary aggression. I am sure that if any European countries find that a surplus of dollars is troubling them, they should try to solve the problem by means appropriate to their own economy and not by means of upsetting the general economy of the Western world as a whole.
I want now to say something about the Middle East. The situation there has been raised by a number of hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton). This is clearly a part of the world where very considerable movements are taking place. The position of Nasser in the Yemen is very difficult to follow. I imagine that it is getting more awkward from his point of view. His dominance over the Arab world seems to some extent to have been diminished as a result of the recent contretemps with West Germany. There 1970 is a good deal of movement in the Arab world, and there are dangers.
We would like to hear from the Prime Minister how the Government view two problems in this area. First, to what extent—for there seems to be some difference of opinion about it—do they think that the troubles in the South Arabian Federation derive from deliberate actions by Egyptian agitators and Egyptian policy? Secondly, what is their view upon the potential dangers of the Jordan waters dispute? The Prime Minister has recently seen the Israeli Prime Minister.
It is difficult to understand this problem of the Jordan waters, because much of it is so technical, but, as far as I can judge, the potential damage to Israel by the diversion of the waters by the Lebanon and Syria could be very large. It is alleged that such a diversion would be wholly contrary to the agreement reached in the 1950s as a result of Mr. Johnson's intervention. It seems that, if this is so, a potentially very dangerous situation could arise between Israel and her Arab neighbours. What is the Government's assessment? Do they consider whether any useful initiative could be taken by this country to prevent what could potentially be a very awkward situation developing in that part of the world?
Finally, I want to say a few things about our relations with Europe, to which the Foreign Secretary referred. The right hon. Gentleman said that we are part of Europe. With this we agree very much. We on this side believe that this country is part of Europe and that its future lies with Europe. It was for that reason that my hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) laboured so hard to achieve an agreement for our entry into the European Economic Community —a labour that was very nearly completed. In fact, it was because we were so near to agreement that it became necessary for other people to impose a political veto. Had agreement not been so closely at hand, the political veto would not have been required.
The position now clearly is that there can be no prospect of immediate further negotiations. That chapter closed in 1963 with the end of the Brussels negotiations, but it was only the end of a chapter and not of the story. It is of fundamental 1971 importance that we should not take this setback as anything more than temporary.
We must find ways—and the Government, I agree, believe this also—of working with the French and our other continental neighbours on joint projects such as the Concord and the Channel Tunnel —about which, incidentally, we have not heard recently. We must try to find ways and means in which E.F.T.A. and the Community can work together, and we must try to avoid actions or policies on our part that make the gap between us wider than it need be.
These are all practical steps, but probably we should go further. We should be trying to prepare the way with the clearest thinking we can achieve and the most vision we can summon up as to what is likely to be the shape and sort of settlement of a united Europe that we are all looking forward to.
The Community itself is evolving very fast. Upon the foundation of the Treaty of Rome a great superstructure is being built of law, practice, doctrine and economic activity. It is the whole Community—its superstructure and not merely the fundamental Treaty—that we must keep our eyes fixed on. First, we must look to joining the Community as it will be in the future and not just as it might have appeared a little while ago. Secondly, we must recognise that the European problem is economic, political and military and that these three aspects of the problem are bound always to be tied together.
I do not know whether the Prime Minister intends, or to what extent he intends—perhaps he will enlighten us this evening—to discuss with General de Gaulle the political problems of Europe. It appears that progress towards political integration among the Six is on a different scale and an entirely different time schedule from that applying in the economic aspect. I do not know to what extent he intends to talk about the military problem, or whether he intends to mention the A.N.F. Perhaps he will tell us; it would be interesting to know.
It must be recognised that the growth of the Community, based on the Treaty of Rome on the economic side, has been at a different pace from that of the equally important and growing vision of 1972 the European military and political setup, and the military development is, of course, bound to tie in with any rearrangement of N.A.T.O. which we are bound to achieve within the next few years.
I think that it was my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) who referred to the famous five conditions. I want to ask the Prime Minister only one question about his attitude to Europe. I had gathered this afternoon that there was some doubt about the five conditions, but the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) authoritatively confirmed to us that the five conditions are still the policy of the Labour Government. What I want to know is whether the Prime Minister still believes, as he did in 1963, that the whole philosophy and basis of the Treaty of Rome is anti-planning and based on the promoting of free competition. Does he still believe that this is so, and, if he does, does he think that it is a bad thing? If he does not believe in a system based on free competition, it is difficult to see how he can reach any agreement with the European economic system, which is and will continue to be based on the very free competition which is proving so successful.
I have endeavoured to cover some of the main issues which have arisen in the debate. Obviously, it takes far longer than I have had available to deal thoroughly with such a wide range of problems. We hope to hear from the Prime Minister this evening whether he can tell us something about what he expects to discuss in Paris. I hope that he can say something about the Middle East. I hope above all that he will make it clear that the speech of the Foreign Secretary this afternoon about our attitude to Vietnam is the view of the whole Government and of at any rate the majority of the right hon. Gentleman's party.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
I should like, if I may, to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) on his maiden speech as Foreign Office spokesman for the Opposition. He seemed unequally happy in his rôle. There were parts when he was extremely 1973 lucid and happy, especially when he got back to his old subject of liquidity. I was interested in some of his philosophising towards the end of his speech. I had a very different impression of what the right hon. Gentleman's attitude to the breakdown of the European negotiations was just two years ago. There were manly people who thought that he greeted that breakdown with feelings much short of enthusiasm.
We realise that the right hon. Gentleman is going through a difficult reappraisal, for reasons which it would be inappropriate to go into tonight. We have just had an account of his philosophising to the Conservative ladies of Barnet, which I read very carefully to see whether it could tell me anything.
§ The Prime Minister
It would be a change, after the last 13 years.
I want to make this one point on this subject, if hon. Members will permit me. I want to follow the right hon. Gentleman into the depths of liquidity and other subjects, but I was saying that I was interested in his speech this week in Barnet, when all we got was that the Conservative Party was a party of the Right. We entirely endorse that.
The interesting thing about his speech tonight was that there was quite a bit of foreign affairs, but, to judge from his kind of anatomical posture, he seemed to be directing drastically all of his speech to my hon. Friends below the Gangway. [Interruption.] I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman that wherever else he may look, he will get no votes in that direction. We are not going through these agonies.
Like many other right hon. and hon. Members who spoke this afternoon, the right hon. Gentleman devoted a considerable part of his speech to Vietnam, and I will come to that in a moment. Before I do so, I should like to refer to some of his concluding words about the talks which my right hon. Friend and I shall be having with President de Gaulle and the French Government tomorrow. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the problems of liquidity and the need to discuss these matters with the President. It is not usual, as the right hon. Gentle- 1974 man knows, to say in advance what will be on the agenda, what we shall be talking about, but I shall be surprised if economic questions do not come up. Perhaps I may put it like that.
I agreed with everything that the right hon. Gentleman said about the problem of world liquidity and some of the recent dangers to the expansion of trade, the freeing of the channels of trade, particularly in the West, as a result of what, from time to time, looks almost like undeclared war in the monetary field. it is a war free of atrocities. It is a war where it is difficult from time to time to know exactly what is going on, or who is doing the firing. It is all taking place behind a smokescreen.
But, certainly, there is no doubt at all that recent decisions on the Continent of Europe—indeed, in France—have had an effect on our Western liquidity position and that this has led undoubtedly to counter-measures being taken by the United States. I do not think that it is any secret, because the whole House knows that, when these things have been done, at any rate part of the fall-out has affected this country and the sterling area as a whole.
I therefore agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the need both to deal with the short-term situation which he has described and to look at the whole problem of world liquidity. Three years ago, as he said, he put forward his own scheme. Admittedly, it was rather limited, because probably he felt that he would be able to get acceptance for it. In the end, even that proved not to be possible, for reasons which we all understand. When I was on the benches opposite I made a number of speeches on this problem. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the need for an imaginative advance in this direction is no less great than it was then. In many ways it is even greater.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to problems about our relations with Europe, on which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke this afternoon. When, towards the end of his speech, he referred to developments in Europe—economic, political and military —I was not sure whether he was advocating, as I think some of his right hon. Friends have, progress towards the 1975 creation of a European political unit and of a European military unit.
I hope that there is no change in the position of right hon. Gentlemen opposite in support of the N.A.T.O. Alliance as a whole on an Atlantic basis as far as our political and military relations are concerned, and that they are not putting forward any idea of, for example, a separate European deterrent, or a separate European grouping, apart from a unified N.A.T.O. grouping as a whole. I hope that this will be made clear, because words which the right hon. Gentleman used left me in some doubt about what he had in mind.
Before turning to some of the main themes of the debate, perhaps I should refer—it is one of the main themes—to questions raised about the Middle East by the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Liberal Party, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet and other speakers. The Leader of the Opposition asked about the hopes expressed by Mr. Gordon Walker, when he was at the Foreign office, of some improvement in relations with the United Arab Republic. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that this expressed hope by Mr. Gordon Walker implied that, to quote the right hon. Gentleman's own words, the late Government were not doing their duty. I do not think that he has the point of what Mr. Gordon Walker had in mind.
I do not propose to say this in a controversial sense. If I wanted to be controversial I could be, but I am not putting it in this spirit. The Government start with one advantage in this matter. We have no responsibility for the Suez operation, which, undoubtedly—I am not saying it in an argumentative way—has muddied our relations with the Middle East for a very long time. I will not press this point now, as there may be other occasions for debating it, but there was reason for hoping—and this is what Mr. Gordon Walker had in mind—that we could achieve some improvement in relations with Egypt, perhaps quite a substantial improvement.
We have made it clear at every point, and this has been said throughout the dialogue which has taken place between 1976 the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Gordon Walker, and the U.A.R. Ambassador, that while we would like to see better relations with Egypt, as I am sure we all would, we are not going to change the general basis of our policy in the Middle East, for example, by sacrificing our ties with Israel or with Iran, or with other countries with whom we have established good relations. Within that, I hope that we may have better relations with Egypt than we have had up to now.
I believe that some improvement is possible, but there is one condition on which we have insisted and must continue to insist, and that is that any really significant improvement is ruled out as long as the U.A.R. itself, or U.A.R. inspired individuals or organisations, continue to endanger stability, indeed to endanger life itself, in South Arabia. This is a condition which must be satisfied before we can really move towards a significant improvement. Given this condition, I believe that there can be that improvement.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Yemen. In answer to his question I must say that we understand that there are not far short of 50,000 Egyptian troops in the Yemen at this time. The right hon. Gentleman asked about our attitude to any possible flare-up of fighting in the area of South Arabia for which we have a responsibility. I hope that we have made our position clear about this; indeed I did from the Opposition Front Bench during the debate last June. We are engaged in a deep, searching defence review, including rôles and commitments. I do not want to prejudice the result of that review, but I say now, as I did last year, that on all we know at present, we need to have a base in this area if we are to discharge our rôle of giving assistance to Commonwealth Governments when they ask for it. But, again as I said last year, and as I hope we have all learned, perhaps the hard way, over the last 10 to 12 years, we cannot have an effective base unless it is held with the agreement of the Government of the country in which it is situated.
I would be going outside the scope of the debate if I were to talk about the future of Aden, or about the hard and patient efforts which my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary is making towards constitutional advances not only in Aden, 1977 but in the surrounding areas. The House knows the supreme difficulties he faces, and enough of what he has been doing to appreciate and applaud the work that he is carrying on.
As we are talking about the Middle East, I must refer to the point made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party about the Jordan waters—this was referred to also by the right hon. Gentleman—because this is one of the immediate causes of tension in that part of the world. The House will understand that I can hardly go into this subject in very much detail. The right hon. Gentleman knows the great complexity of it, the Johnston plan and all the rest. Our position is that we are involved as well wishers of all the countries concerned, and as a Government interested in the peace and stability of the area. The threats of diversion are a matter for concern to us in that rôle and we have expressed the view, and shall express it, that there should be the greatest restraint and care about any plan to divert water on a scale which would deny to Israel water which, in that area, is life itself. Anyone who has been there knows what water means to Israel. The diversion of water would be a very serious matter indeed.
At the same time, we have made clear to the Israeli Government our strong feeling that if anything happens which they regard as provocative, as excessive, as dangerous from the point of view of cutting off the life-giving supply of sweet water, they should not try to settle the problem by recourse to any imposed solution, or to any military solution, but that they will take the issue to the United Nations so that it can be settled there—does the hon. Gentleman wish to say something? I heard a snigger.
I must refer now briefly to the situation in Cyprus, because, as the House knows, the report of the mediator has just become available and we are giving the most careful consideration to it, as are all the nations concerned. There is just one point I should mention before I continue. As the report makes plain, Her Majesty's Government have indicated their willingness to do everything possible to facilitate the mediator's efforts. Clearly, the report is likely to contain difficulties for all parties—any report of this kind must. We hope that it will lead to useful discussions and that we shall make progress, but as 1978 regards our sovereign bases the report correctly sets out our position now. It is our clear view—and this is contained in the report—that since these bases lie outside the territory of the Republic they do not form part of the present dispute.
Nor can I leave the Mediterranean without referring to Gibraltar. I think that the restrictions which the Spanish Government have applied on the frontier during the past six months have caused increasing anxiety on both sides of the House. Throughout this period we have made persistent efforts to secure the restoration of conditions there to normal. I think that we have shown great patience and great restraint and every desire on our part not to rough it up with Spain itself, but to act on the narrow Gibraltar issue.
Unforunately, these efforts have so far proved unsuccessful. As my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary informed the House this afternoon, arrangements are being made to present a White Paper to the House during the next few days which will set out a great deal of the history of the present situation, but I wish to make it clear that while Her Majesty's Government have no desire whatever to quarrel with Spain they will not be bullied into abandoning our interests and obligations in Gibraltar.
Does the hon. Gentleman want to help in this matter? I thought I heard him mutter.
§ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
I mentioned the fact that very early on the Government cancelled naval manœuvres with Spain and I wondered whether this was conducive to good relations with that country.
§ The Prime Minister
I think that the same point was made by the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden), in a different context. What is happening in this Gibraltar situation has nothing to do either with the cancellation or with the question of frigates, about which we had the controversy last year. This was a decision which was taken by the Spanish Government in response to the action by the late Government, which we supported and do support, to give a measure of self-government to the people of Gibraltar. This is what the Spanish Government were angry about, and are 1979 Still angry about, and it has been made clear.
We shall continue to try to persuade the Spanish authorities to remove these unreasonable restrictions which have been imposed on the Gibraltar frontier. Meanwhile, we shall continue to stand by the people of Gibraltar in their present difficulty and do everything necessary to defend and sustain them.
I turn now to South-East Asia, on which most right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen who have spoken today have concentrated so much of their remarks. Before I come to the situation in Vietnam, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition asked a question about arms supplies to Indonesia.
§ The Prime Minister
Someone else raised it when the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, but the position is that there have been no supplies of arms by the United States for about 18 months past. Before that, some spare parts for C.130 aircraft were supplied, but these were stopped early in 1964.
The Malaysian position is well understood, namely, that we do not seek any continuation of the problem we are facing there. We would be only too happy on every ground, including that of the deployment of our forces, cost and everything else, to see this matter peacefully and quickly settled. As the right hon. Gentleman said, there is nothing to mediate about here at all. This is a straight issue of the refusal of Indonesia, so far, to accept the fact that Malaysia has been formed and the way in which it has been formed, with the support of the United Nations and of this country. Infiltration, confrontation, aggressive raids across the frontier, are totally unnecessary, and so long as they continue we must stand by Malaysia in accordance with the alliance, under our Commonwealth position. We must stand by Malaysia.
I have been again asked today whether the Government would take the lead in mediating in this matter. I have made plain that this is not a rôle for us. Other countries in Asia have tried, and made assays in this direction, but it should be clearly understood that if we were 1980 to undertake such a rôle, it would only lend support to the doctrine that the Indonesian Government are only too ready to put about, that this is still a colonial State and we are an imperial Power. I think it important that we do nothing to lend support to that view.
Turning to Vietnam, today my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary went into considerable detail about the history of this tragic situation. Of course, it is possible to have different interpretations of the historical background. One thing, I think, must be said now quite clearly. It is that the 1954 Geneva settlement, which we all welcomed at the time—I do not underrate the tremendous difficulties faced in getting the settlement, or the achievement on the part of those who succeeded in getting it—hardly could be said to have provided conditions for a permanent solution to the problem.
In the first place, neither the United States nor the then South Vietnam Government signed it. In the second place, although it seemed reasonable to many of us at the time—I remember supporting it—the hope of an early election, covering the whole area, particularly if one felt it would, or could be conducted in a democratic way—was far too optimistic a hope in the conditions of that area. Democracy was not ingrained in the southern part of the country. Nor could one claim that the then South Vietnam Government fulfilled the requirements of democracy in the sense that we understand it. Having regard to the characteristics of the country in the North, conditions were not there for an election as we in this House would understand a democratic election.
My right hon. Friend set out the facts leading to the present grave situation. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition, judging from the reference he made this afternoon, misunderstood what I said at Question Time recently, when I talked about a change of kind rather than degree in the fighting there. I think that the change of kind was the clear admission, the clear evidence, that the Government of Vietnam were intervening in what until then was regarded by many as primarily a civil war aggravated by external intervention.
The change in kind dated from the degree and type of response of the Americans stationed in that area. Until that 1981 time any response was by South Vietnamese. It was not until there were attacks on American military positions that it escalated in this way. From that time it was right to say that it was not only a change in degree, but a change in kind on both sides so far as the fighting was concerned.
This afternoon, my right hon. Friend gave some of the evidence for the implication of North Vietnam and there is other evidence following the interception of vessels from the North. I am not concerned tonight to go so much into the question of the history of this, who is responsible and how it has come about. Hon. and right hon. Members have mentioned atrocities, cruelties, the murder of defenceless civilians, torture and horror. I think that all of us have been appalled by some of the photographs which we have seen in the newspapers; and, again, this has occurred on both sides.
Of course, none of us will really make progress in this matter simply by making declarations about our horror. This week we have been shocked by the bombing of the United States Embassy in Saigon. I think that what all this adds up to is to underline particularly the revolting consequencies of a war in this kind of area and to emphasise the vital need to end the fighting. So far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned I repeat, as I have said many times before, that we have made absolutely plain our support of the American stand against the Communist infiltration in South Vietnam.
That is the point from which we started. The people of South Vietnam, like the people of North Vietnam and every other area, are entitled to be able to lead their own lives free of terror, free from the danger of sudden death, or from the threat of a Communist take-over, and the Government of South Vietnam are entitled to call in aid allies who could help in that purpose. Her Majesty's Government have not disguised their anxieties about certain developments within this war, but I said in the House two weeks ago that anxieties were better expressed directly and privately than by public statements. It makes us feel good to make public statements but we are more concerned with securing the end which we all want.
1982 I do not believe that the House is in any doubt about my right hon. Friend's statement in Washington, a fortnight ago. He made it clear that he supported the United States policy in Vietnam and expressed the view that these actions, as opposed to the object of them, should be carried out in a way acceptable to world opinion. I take the view of the right hon. Gentleman. We shall speak frankly whenever this is needed, but let there be no doubt about where we stand on the general policy.
No right hon. or hon. Gentleman on either side of the House should feel that he has a monopoly of anxiety about the problem, or the danger of escalation and of other countries joining in. It is really this possibility, in view of the terrible things that are involved in modern warfare, which justify the patient efforts of Her Majesty's Government in trying to work towards a peacefully effective and defensible settlement.
I expressed to the House a week last Tuesday anxieties which my right hon. Friend and I felt, together with hon. Members on both sides of the House, over Press reports about certain statements made in Vietnam. As I have told the House, my right hon. Friend was able to secure complete satisfaction on this point so far as the policy and objective of our American allies are concerned. This afternoon, my right hon. Friend has quoted the objectives as stated by the President of the United States when he said that the United States seeks no wider war, but looks forward to the day when the people of South-East Asia will not need military support and assistance against aggression, but only economic and social co-operation for progress in peace.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) expressed warm congratulations to the Foreign Secretary and welcomed the discussions that he and I had with Mr. Gromyko, my right hon. Friend's visit to the United States and his talks with Mr. Dean Rusk and the President, and the public statement made by my right hon. Friend in the United States, and the decision to send Mr. Gordon Walker on a fact-finding tour, as a new initiative; but, of course, this is not new. We have been working steadily towards a 1983 peaceful settlement of the problem for a long time past. It may be true that we have only just surfaced so far as public announcements are concerned, but I have already pointed out that what has guided our action—and sometimes it has been very difficult to be restrained in these matters—has been the desire to get the right answer.
We would have liked to proceed in agreement with my right hon. Friend's agreement with Mr. Gromyko, as fellow co-chairman. We waited three and a half weeks for a reply to the initiative which we had taken in Moscow. I am not saying this in criticism, because we understand the difficulties which the Soviet Union was facing at this time, in common with others, but, as Mr. Gromyko's visit made it plain that at present, at least—and my right hon. Friend stressed the phrase "at present" —it did not feel able to join us in this kind of initiative we felt that we must go on alone.
We could, of course, on finding that the Soviet Government would be unable to join with us, have said that the rôle of the co-chairman had no present part to play in solving this problem. We decided that if we cannot operate on a joint basis we must take the initiative; and that is why my hon. Friend is taking the initiative which he announced this afternoon and why Mr. Gordon Walker is visiting South-East Asia. There is the need to find many more facts. I hope that it will be possible for him to find out the attitude of Hanoi and other centres concerned; and I confirm that he will be going to Thailand. [An HON. MEMBER: "And Australia?"] I want to get to the centre of the trouble which is not Australia, and, therefore, I hope to get him to these areas as quickly as possible.
I hope that every Member of the House will wish him success in a mission whose only object is to get peace in a troubled area.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Edward Short)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.