§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
Almost all the hon. Members who spoke in yesterday's debate, including, I think, the Prime Minister, said how difficult it was to talk in a foreign affairs debate which ranges over the whole world. I sympathise, and although each time the request was made that we might discuss more specific points and questions, the Patronage Secretary winced with pain, nevertheless I suggest that we should give more time for foreign affairs debates in the House which might be applied to more specific areas and problems. [An HON. MEMBER: "There has been too much waste of time."] There was much waste of time over the Finance Bill, but I will not lay the blame for that 1342 for the moment. We could have spent some time more profitably on that.
Nevertheless, this general debate was timely, because it enabled the Prime Minister, and will enable the Foreign Secretary today, to review the balance of progress in international relations as they see it. Hon. Members on both sides of the House yesterday reacted to what the Prime Minister said with a number of very good, useful and thoughtful speeches.
May I say at once to the Prime Minister that there is not, and should not be, on the two sides of the House any difference about the twin objectives of foreign policy, namely, the security of Britain and the peace of nations. The objectives are common to us all. But, of course, it is quite unrealistic to think that we can keep these questions out of party politics. They are questions of life and death, and questions of life and death raise the deepest emotions. If foreign policy is badly directed, that, too, is a matter which may be a proper cause for censure.
In the last Parliament I felt bound to criticise the Prime Minister and other right hon. Gentlemen in that they intended to abandon nuclear power—to abandon the control of British nuclear weapons. I need not go into that today—at least, not yet.
Later today I shall have to criticise the Prime Minister on the methods which he used in his search for initiatives to bring peace nearer in the Far East. When the Government are wrong it is the duty of the Opposition to say so, because that is in the national interest. But, by and large, on matters which concern the safety of the nation and the reconciliation of British interests with the interests of other countries, then it is right, I believe, that the House should seek the maximum degree of party agreement.
Yesterday, the debate very largely centred on Vietnam, and I will come to that later. But I will, first, try to define what the Prime Minister yesterday called the underlying themes of world politics, because unless they are measured rightly I believe that our diplomatic measures and our political initiatives may very easily miss their mark.
I think that there is no doubt anywhere on either side of the House that the first fact of international life which we must register today is the overwhelming weight 1343 of power of the United States and the increasing willingness of the United States to use it. It may be that at this point of time in the development of civilised man there ought not to be any need for national power and that we should now have substituted an international police force. That is arguable, but it is not so, and in the circumstances in which we live I suggest that it is altogether too easy an assumption to say that the use of military power is always wrong.
In Europe, in spite of the fact that we have progressed a long way since the last war, we still seek the American umbrella, and we should be very unhappy indeed if it were taken away. What would hon. Members give for the chances of retaining independence, let us say, by India, or, let us say, the smaller nations of South-East Asia if they were left entirely alone without the assistance of the United States or the supplementary assistance of European countries?
It is a fact that until the United Nations is in a position to provide an international force it is the power of the United States, supplemented as may be by European countries, which is the only real guarantor of countries which are weak and are threatened with aggression Certainly, many of those countries in South-East Asia and many other countries themselves believe this to be so.
The second fact of international life which I believe we have to measure is the position of the Soviet Union. It is enormously important—the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne) marked this—as well as the importance of the power of the United States in international affairs. We have to consider two aspects of the position of the Soviet Union today compared with what its position was only a few years ago. The first is that I think it is certain that the Soviet Union has concluded that a challenge to the United States power is impossible. The second is that it is confronted—and this is the accurate word to use—with the increasing power of China, although the power of China at the moment cannot be brought to bear on the Soviet Union, or only indirectly.
1344 Two things have happened. The first is that the Communist bloc has been breached. That is one aspect of change which has taken place in only recent years. It would be totally crude—I agree with the Prime Minister hare—for the West to try to exploit this break. There is no necessity to do it. A country can always harness its foreign policy to a political theory, but that will not last long and in the end the hard facts tell. It is early days for a complete reorientation of Soviet foreign policy and I say to the Foreign Secretary that I would not be unduly depressed if the Soviet Union returned to the Disarmament Conference at Geneva once more on the old pattern of trying to make propaganda against the United States and the West, but I think not.
I think that the facts of life, the fact of Russian security, when faced by a growing threat from China, and the fact of the place which Russia wants to occupy among the nations of the world which count, will mean that Russia will look more and more east and will realise where her real interests lie.
One of the disquieting features of the last nine months has been the apparent—I say "apparent", because it may not be so—loss of touch with the Soviet Union. Mr. Kosygin's visit, which was much heralded, has not materialised. The meeting with Mr. Gromyko was a failure and until lately—indeed, very lately—there have been some harsh comments about British foreign policy and Her Majesty's Government from official or semi-official Soviet agencies.
I do not want at this stage to apportion blame. I merely say that during the last few years this country was able to keep continuous contact with the Soviet Union and, what is more, through continuous contact to show results. So far, during the past year there have been no results and I hope now that contacts will be resumed because if we lose momentum to progress with the Soviet Union and stand still we will not be able to do so and there will be a steady deterioration in relations.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the contacts have been very continuous and intimate. The attacks, disagreements and the failure to show 1345 results have been entirely due to one thing—that we take a different line from them on the question of Vietnam. Is the right hon. Gentleman now saying that we should take a line on Vietnam which is closer to the line which they are taking?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I will, of course, be dealing with this matter. I am at present setting out the facts. I was saying that in recent years we were able to keep continuous contacts with the Soviet Union. We were able to operate the co-chairmanship in Asia. The contacts may have been continuing to take place, and I hope that they have because, on the understanding of the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union many great issues hang. I am anxious to see these contacts resumed and results from them. But for the last nine months we have not had such results. It is no use the Prime Minister suggesting that there have been any, because there have not.
The third fact of international life—of the same order of magnitude as the power of the United States and the change, as I foresee it, in the Soviet Union's policy—is the growing gap between the nations that have and the nations that have not. One country after another is faced with the problem, partly owing to the population bulge referred to by one of my hon. Friend's yesterday, or trying to sustain minimum standards of living and being beaten, or nearly being beaten, in the task. This situation leads to one of unrest and envy and it is one of the reasons why African and Asian nations have been tempted lately to flirt with Communism, even though they know in their hearts that the Communists are not their real friends.
In 1964, Her Majesty's Government, at the U.N.C.T.A.D. Conference in Geneva, were able to give a lead which, if it had been followed up, could have been decisive in helping the developing countries to meet the problems which are hard pressing upon them. I was rather astonished, after what the Prime Minister has said over the last few years—when he was in opposition—that he was able to make a speech on international affairs and range over the great problems of the world yet totally ignore this great issue.
The only mention of it was when the Minister of State last night, galvanised into unexpected activity by an intervention 1346 from the hon. Lady the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr)—who was so tactless as to ask him how he squared the position of appointing a "Minister of Disarmament" with a super salesman for arms—was not knocked off his perch, but shot her down in flames and blurted out the isolated sentence, "War on want". That was the only mention on the benches opposite—although I hope that the Foreign Secretary will put this right—of this pressing problem.
When, as now, prices of primary products are falling, I should have thought that there was an even greater need for arrangements for commodity price stability, on which the Prime Minister was so keen when in opposition. When the tendency for investment in developing countries is contracting—and I am sorry that Her Majesty's Government should have given a lead in this matter—and when there is a tendency for credit to become tighter, why has the initiative which was taken at Geneva last year by Her Majesty's Government been allowed to run into the sands somewhere in the United Nations?
Why is it that the zeal of the right hon. Gentleman, which was so keen in opposition, has somehow faded away now? This is a retrograde step and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will tell us that he and the Government have been active in pursuing this matter. Although nobody can see any sign of that having happened, I hope that he will convince us that it has.
These are the great themes and movements against which Britain's foreign policy must be framed. One of the first things that any Foreign Secretary has to decide is what degree of influence and authority he wishes his country to carry in the councils of the world. I believe that the minimum he should ask is sufficient economic backing to retain a presence for Britain in the alliances of collective security. It is presence which now entitles a country to a voice in matters concerning peace and war and a part in the decisions to be made.
For example, we could never have influenced United States policy in Laos, we could never have commanded the ear of both the United States and the Soviet Union in the Test Ban Treaty and we 1347 could never have influenced the Russians in their attitude over Berlin and induced modifications if we had not been making a telling contribution to the alliances for collective security.
Without that backing which, I suggest most seriously to the Government, was and must remain conventional and nuclear, Ministers may talk but few outside will listen to them. I hope, therefore, that the Foreign Secretary will insist on the minimum backing for the rôles for which he has set this country on the international stage.
At the moment, I cannot define what the minimum military requirement should be. We have not had the defence review which has been promised by the Prime Minister, although at this stage I will make two observations. First, the defence bill follows and does not precede the foreign policy laid down by the Foreign Secretary and the Cabinet. If the exercise is done the other way round—and there are disquieting signs that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is insisting on a rigid sum within which the commitments must be contained and that in no circumstances can it be exceeded—one of two things, and perhaps both, follow, and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite had better face this.
One is that obligations already assumed are inadequately met. We cannot leave forces in the different countries in which we have assumed obligations with inadequate arms, and arms that are not comparable with those of our enemies. The other consequence is this—and let me repeat it, if the Prime Minister will stop making a noise for a moment. There are two consequences. The first is that the obligations assumed may not be adequately met, but the second is the inability of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to intervene in areas of world politics where they may consider it vital that Britain should do so.
I will not review the commitments at this moment—
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The Prime Minister will surely recognise what they are. I shall have to review them now by reason of his rather foolish interjection.
There is Malaysia. We want to see a political settlement in Malaysia, but that 1348 is not in sight. Therefore, we have this commitment which we shall fulfil, and fulfil adequately. There follows a commitment in the Gulf. We do not, of course, want to deploy the number of troops we have in Aden or the Aden Federation at the moment if we can possibly help it, but, let us face the fact, if Britain were to leave that area today the political vacuum would be immediately filled and the political balance of the Middle East completely upset.
Then, again, there is the commitment in Europe. We want to see savings for this country across the exchanges, and if the Government can arrange this with our allies, all the better, but it will be a marginal difference for the whole Alliance in burden and in cost, because it will be the difference between the 29 divisions now deployed on the ground and the fewer and more mobile forces which will have to take their place to fulfil our obligation to Germany.
I therefore hope that the Foreign Secretary, while looking for modifications to our commitments, which it is certainly sensible to do, will not allow British foreign policy to be absolutely hamstrung by a rigid ceiling of finance. We must keep finance and the cost of our forces in view, but we must not make it impossible for Britain to exercise her influence in international affairs simply by setting a ceiling and saying, "That's that". The secret of authority in international politics—and I ask hon. Gentlemen to believe me, because I have had some our allies, all the better, but it will be a for this country, in the alliances for collective security.
I now turn to the more specific theatres of operation. Fundamental to all the free world's objectives is the presence of American power. I think that we have all agreed that already. It has been put most emphatically by the hon. Member for Lincoln and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), as well as by a number of my hon. Friends. When considering the future of the N.A.T.O. Alliance, it is perfectly legitimate to plan in terms of greater responsibility for the European Parliament, but if the price of that is a lessening of United States involvement the price is too high. I believe that 1349 whatever difficulties there may be—whatever difficulties, for instance, other proposals from France may bring—this central need is understood by the French, that American power must remain in Europe.
From what I have already said it will be quite clear that I believe it perfectly right that there should be a review in N.A.T.O. of the strategy of N.A.T.O., and the deployment of the tactical forces, both nuclear and conventional; and that we should aim at a reduction in the burden which the allies have to bear. But reorganisation in the structure of the Alliance is a very different thing, and one that requires the utmost sensitivity about the needs of others.
I hope that member nations will exercise restraint in insisting on their own solutions. I have in mind, of course, the French proposal that might be made, but I have also in mind one British proposal. I ask the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to think, and think again, before they insist upon an Atlantic Nuclear Force, because this is bound to split the N.A.T.O. Alliance in half. I only give that warning. It will do so. It is certain.
I turn from N.A.T.O. to the change—
§ The Prime Minister
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but put this forward quite seriously because this is a very important point. When he says that the proposed A.N.F. would split the Alliance in half, does that mean that he still supports the M.L.F.? Does he think that there is a difference between the A.N.F. and the M.L.F. in the splitting, in the fissile capacity, or has he dropped his support for both the M.L.F. and the A.N.F.?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I am quite certain that the A.N.F. would split the Alliance. I think that the original proposal by the United States of the M.L.F. as it was at that time would split the Alliance, but there might be a modification of the M.L.F., and particularly a modification of its manning, that would not split the Alliance. It is that which should be examined.
I turn to the change in the balance of power in the world that has occurred owing to the growing impact of Communist China on the Far East. Fear 1350 of Communist China was first alerted when China seized Tibet. The fear was sharpened when it attacked territory on the Indian frontier. The hon. Member for Lincoln yesterday hesitated to interpret Chinese intentions and, of course, none can be sure about them, but as far as one can see ahead I would think that the Chinese would be content with asserting Chinese sovereignty over territories which they themselves have previously maintained were part of the Chinese empire. Communists are not averse to being imperial.
There is great significance, too, in terms of calculating whether or not the war in Vietnam will escalate, in this. I do not believe that now that China is so weak, and so weak relatively to the United States, the Chinese Communists will pursue any policies which will challenge the United States power. They can, in fact, afford to wait. I have no doubt that as they grow stronger, and this is evident today, they will be willing to use the instrument of subversion, and possibly to back it up by force to try to undermine the constitutions of the independent countries of South-East Asia with a view to later domination. If they could succeed in ousting the United States and the S.E.A.T.O. allies from Asia, the smaller independent countries would be ripe for the picking—let no one doubt that for one moment.
The fear of these nations is increased very much by the growing Communist influence in Indonesia, which threatens them with a pincer movement from both north and south. So this war in Vietnam—and we must realise this in all quarters of the House—is not a "phoney" war. It is a war for real stakes, and a war conducted by real people who feel strongly about the issues.
This war in South-East Asia is a war in which South Vietnamese, Malayans, Australians and New Zealanders feel strongly enough to send their sons to die. Hon. and right hon. Members will remember that plently of people said when we were threatened in Europe how mad we were to fight and how any patched up settlement would be better than war. They wanted us to patch up a settlement with the aggressors. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who said that?"] I am not apportioning blame to either side of the House, to myself or anyone. All I am 1351 saying is that plenty of people at that time, living at a distance, said that any political settlement in Europe would be better than facing the fact of conducting a war.
These nations in South-East Asia are independent. I sometimes wish that some of those who are so vocal about self-determination would recognise that when this process has been gone through and nations are independent they have a right to their own point of view. It is quite useless to believe that this war in South Vietnam, about which the independent nations of South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, feel so strongly, can be patched up by any temporary peace. Those countries simply will not look at a settlement which in way seems to be a sham. To urge the withdrawal of America is simply a polite way of saying that South Vietnam now and her neighbours later are expendable.
In this respect our position in Malaysia is very much the same as that of the United States in Vietnam. No one suggests that we should make a political settlement in Malaysia which does not secure for Malaysia absolute independence. No one should make any such suggestion either to the Americans about Vietnam.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
Is the right hon. Gentleman telling us that the ruler in Malaysia is a follower of Hitler, like the ruler of South Vietnam?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I do not think that that interruption is even worthy of any comment at all.
This is a serious argument. This is a war in which the people who are taking part feel that their lives and the independence of their countries are at stake. The essence of the matter, when we come to the peace and try to organise a political settlement, is that it must provide security as effective as that which is given now by the United States. Nothing else will do.
Time and again the Prime Minister said that this war is futile and that it will end only in political agreement. I have no doubt that that, of course, will be true at some point of time in the future, but, equally, if the United States were not ready to fight in Vietnam the 1352 only political settlement available to South Vietnam would be that dictated at the point of a gun. This must be understood. This is why any initiatives for peace must be looked at with particular care, because they must not even seem to lead towards sacrificing the interests of independent nations.
I have said some things in the past about the Prime Minister's peace initiatives. There was, first, the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Mission. It had an outside chance of success. I do not think any Prime Minister would put it higher than that. As such, I welcomed it, the Prime Minister will remember, when he announced it in the House. But I did not know that evening and we did not know until two days or so later, that there had been no preparation whatever and that Moscow, for instance, had not been sounded. From the moment we knew that it was absolutely certain that the mission would be publicly rejected by the Soviet Union.
One has had some experience of these matters now. If one does 95 per cent. of the work behind the scenes in preparation beforehand there is some chance of success, but if that is neglected it is absolutely certain that one's efforts, however well-intentioned, will be exploited for ideological purposes by an adversary, ruthless, professional and totally unsentimental. The Prime Minister answered what he ought to have done in this respect by what he said yesterday about the possible rôle of the Commonwealth in Malaysia. He said that the Commonwealth might be able to assist in a political settlement once it became apparent that the will to negotiate such a settlement existed. That is quite right, but I wish that he applied that to South Vietnam, because there is no will to negotiate there. Anyone could tell him so, whether our Consul-General, our representative in Peking, or anyone in the Foreign Office.
It would have been open to the right hon. Gentleman to avoid the fiasco of the visit of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies). I do not know if the Foreign Secretary realises—I think he must—why Mr. Gordon Walker's visit was refused. It was refused because Mr. Gordon Walker agreed 1353 with the policy of the Foreign Secretary. Why was any visit by the Foreign Office Ministers refused? Because, of course, they support the policy of the Foreign Secretary. Why was the hon. Member for Leek welcome? He was perfectly entitled to his views, but he was welcome because in the past he has opposed American policies, such as they are, in South-East Asia and on the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty.
Why was Dr. Nkrumah invited? Because he has suggested that the preliminary to any peace must be the withdrawal of Australian troops. The right hon. Gentleman does not recognise what he has done. I said the other day that he had fallen into a trap. I ought to have put that rather differently. I expected that the Prime Minister would fall into a trap, but I am astonished that the Foreign Secretary did so. What has happened? He has put himself in a position where he has been rejected from North Vietnam and the hon. Member was partly accepted and then chucked out. He has put the Prime Minister in a position where he has been rejected in favour of Dr. Nkrumah, who, I am happy to say, has had the sense not to go.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The Prime Minister was given a full run yesterday. I am not going to give way again.
Apart from anything else, the Foreign Secretary has been put in a position in which a country is allowed to choose which Ministers it will receive. Can this improve diplomacy or increase our chances of making an impact when the time is ripe? Time is all important in these matters. This would not matter so much, but what does matter very much is that the Prime Minister's words have been exemplary, the Foreign Secretary's words have been exemplary, but their intentions are judged by their deeds. What they have done in this matter is to lend colour to the suggestion, which is totally untrue, that the British Government are for peace at any price. That is the damage which has been done.
1354 The Prime Minister fairly asked what I would do in these circumstances. I will tell him. [An HON. MEMBER: "Send British troops."] There are two rules—
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The hon. Lady had her answer from the Minister of State last night. That should satisfy her for some time.
The Prime Minister asked what I would do in these circumstances to operate British diplomacy. There are two rules, absolute rules, if there is to be success. The first is to consult the Americans at every stage—not to inform, but to consult the Americans. [HON. MEMBERS: "Suez."] We could never have influenced—[Interruption.] American policy can be influenced—I beg the hon. Gentleman to understand this—only if the Americans are confident that we are on their side.
The second rule is this. We must work behind the scenes with the Soviet Union. Unless there is continuous discussion with the United States, and we work behind the scenes with the Soviet Union, there will be no success. In the case of the Laos Agreement—although it is not an exact parallel, it is, nevertheless, a near parallel—this is what we did. At the conference, when we were there with the Soviet Union, the Chinese and the United States, we made it an absolute rule to consult the United States and then to consult the Soviet Union behind the scenes, and this is the way we got results. If these rules of diplomacy are not followed results will not happen. I hope now that at last this lesson has been learned. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the visit of Mr. Harriman to the Soviet Union is the right way to do these things, and from it I hope that something will flow.
These, then, are all the matters; and above all, timing. I shall leave disarmament. I know that the Foreign Secretary will say something about it. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. Peter Thomas), who has been with the disarmament problem from the start, will be speaking at a later stage in the debate, if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker. I must say that I found it rather difficult to keep in my seat yesterday when the Prime Minister was claiming the new 1355 things that his Government have done about disarmament. Every plan—the Foreign Secretary knows this—for every contingency is already in the files of the Foreign Office, and I am happy to say we prepared them all and they are there for him.
The non-dissemination agreement is there, based on the Irish resolution, ready for the right hon. Gentleman to adopt. There is one problem here which concerns either A.N.F. or M.L.F. It would be possible to put an annex on to this non-dissemination agreement which, I think, would satisfy the Russians that there would be no dissemination of knowledge within the Alliance. But there is another possible way of doing this. I think that a possible alternative is that the Russians might be asked to sign a non-dissemination agreement and then to opt out of it should they be dissatisfied with the working of it, if either an A.N.F. or M.L.F. ever took place, which is very doubtful indeed.
Again, all the details are there for any proposition for observers in N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact. So, too, is a complete Test Ban Treaty. Even after a year in which nothing has been done, the right hon. Gentleman will find that all these are still up to date. I hope, therefore, that at Geneva he and his hon. Friend will use them.
These, then, are some of our views on the great issues of the day and on the way British foreign policy should be set in their framework. I wish that the Government would be more active and more successful in international affairs, as successful as the Government who preceded them and the people who will soon succeed them again.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)
I think it right, in view of the matter and to some extent the tone of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, to begin what I have to say by replying to some of the criticisms which have been made of the Government's recent moves in an endeavour to solve the stubborn problem of Vietnam.
I think that it should be noticed that the tone and matter of the Opposition's criticisms of these moves have varied 1356 up and down a good deal during the last few days. On some occasions—only last week in the House—right hon. Gentlemen opposite were prepared to talk cautiously and with semi-approval. At another stage they were talking of welcoming the Commonwealth Peace Mission. Meanwhile, outside the House there were references to falling into Communist traps and exposing our weakness. Now we have at last from the right hon. Gentleman a formulation of the Opposition's position. He says that the Government were wrong to take these moves.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The Commonwealth Prime Ministers' move I accepted until I knew that there had been no preparation. The last one, I think, was totally wrong.
§ Mr. Stewart
It is clear, then, that I was formulating the right hon. Gentleman's position correctly. He takes the view now that both the Commonwealth Mission and the Davies mission were wrong. He also said that if foreign policy is badly conducted it is worthy of censure. He can make those words good tonight on this in the Division Lobby, if he really believes it. That is open to the Opposition, because the charge made is an extremely serious one. We shall want to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is merely a paper tiger, or whether he means what he says.
These attacks were developed yesterday by the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) and by the hon. Members for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) and Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir). It is up to the Opposition, if they make these charges that these moves were wrong, to show what harm in their judgment followed from them. I shall say a little later about why we believe, although they both fall far short of the highest hopes we could entertain, that they were right and yield certain positive advantages. It is up to the Opposition, if they make these attacks, to show what harm they think was done.
It is not enough to say that these moves were made—we have never disputed this—in an unorthodox and unusual manner. It is not enough to suggest that they were wrong because it might conceivably have wounded my amour-propre, that my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) was received in Hanoi and I was not. It is the more up to the 1357 Opposition to show this because they stand alone in making these criticisms. We are supported by the countries of the Commonwealth, including Australia and New Zealand, which are mortally committed there, by the United States, and by the great consensus of the Press and opinion in this country. It is the Conservative Party, and the Conservative Party alone, that takes this view.
What are the harms that the Opposition allege were done? It gave the impression, said the right hon. Gentleman—this is the Davies mission—that the Government were for peace at any price. To whom did it give that impression? Certainly not to our American allies, nor to our friends in the Commonwealth. Certainly not, after my hon. Friend had finished with them in Hanoi, to the North Vietnamese. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman or any hon. Member opposite to show any voice in the Commonwealth, in America, or among any of our friends or allies who got that impression. If it gave that impression, it gave it to the Conservative Party, and the Conservative Party alone.
The other suggestion was that it provided some propagandist advantage to the other side. Do hon. Members opposite really think that? What has come out quite plainly for the whole world to see from the Commonwealth Mission and from the journey of my hon. Friend the Member for Leek is who is to blame for the fact that we cannot get to the conference table. That has given no propagandist advantage to Hanoi or to any of those who support the North Vietnamese.
It was suggested that it would somehow give the impression that the Government were weakening. I ask again: has anybody formed that impression, except the members of the party opposite, doing so for party purposes? They cannot show that anybody, any party vitally concerned in this matter, shares that view for a moment. They have not been able to show, therefore, that this mission did harm.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept from me that there are many people in the United States, including those in the American Administration, who are extremely sceptical of the value of the Davies mission? I do 1358 not have the information that is available to the Foreign Secretary, who will know what the President and the Secretary of State said, but I give the right hon. Gentleman my word that many in the United States are extremely sceptical. Therefore, his charge that the Conservative Party is alone is simply not true.
§ Mr. Stewart
If that is the best answer we can get to the challenge—that a Conservative back-bencher says that persons whom he cannot name are sceptical of the value of the mission—I would reply that in the first place the charge was that the mission had done positive harm. It is possible that anyone would have been sceptical whether this mission would have been successful. I said myself of my hon. Friend's journey at the weekend before last that I did not know whether he would succeed, but I knew beyond doubt that it was right for him to go. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) is completely misrepresenting the position of the American Government on these matters.
I was about to say before I was interrupted that these two moves had certain positive advantages. In the first place, they have demonstrated yet again the genuine desire on our side and on the side of the United States to reach an honourable peace, and that is more important than the party opposite realises. A dictatorial country can be dragooned into supporting military operations. In a democratic country all the natural feelings of humanity and compassion cause people to ask questions and to have doubts where there is use of armed forces and the killing of men, women and children. That is why it is important, where it is the fact that it is not the democratic countries who are at fault in this matter, to make that crystal clear beyond doubt.
The second advantage which I think the party opposite underestimates is the fact that my hon. Friend was able to put the British Government's view direct to Hanoi. I do not think that we realise how much these Communist dictatorial countries are in danger of being the prisoners of their own propaganda. It is quite possible for a country like that really to believe that it is only a handful of warmongers in this country who 1359 support the Government and that the great mass of the population is surging with support for the point of view of Hanoi.
It was of great importance to make it clear that that was not so, and this is a matter which applies not only in the field of Vietnam. It is important for us to take any reasonable chance there is of making clear to Communist countries what the real views of the Government and people in this country are on these and many other matters. It seems to me, therefore, that the charges which the Opposition have been making against us with regard to these two moves are more concerned with their own search for something on which to attack the Government and put life into their own party than with any desire to secure a solution of the problem.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can say that we have not given him the fullest support on his Vietnam mission.
§ Mr. Stewart
I get the impression that the right hon. Gentleman was getting a little weary of well-doing and was seeking for an opportunity to have something with which he could disagree with the Government in this field, because the isolation in which the Conservative Party has put itself on this issue is remarkable, as is its total inability to make good the charge that the mission has done harm. Meanwhile, I say that whenever the door opens and the other side are willing to listen the Commonwealth mission is ready to go.
The noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South made the point, which has been made quite frequently, that we should not expect a response when, owing to the weather and military conditions, the other side were hopeful of victory. We knew from the start that that was a factor militating against settlement, but I think that it would have been wrong in tactics and morally wrong and cold-blooded to say, "We will let the fighting go on without making any effort". The very fact that in these months the hand-to-hand fighting was liable to increase and the slaughter and cruelty to grow made it all the more necessary to establish our desire for a just and honourable peace if that could be obtained.
1360 I should reply also to the other, opposite, criticism of the Government's policy, which was clearly expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson). I think that he will agree that he went a long way in agreement with the Government's view as to the basis on which this conflict should be settled, but he took the view that we were not able to make progress because we would not condemn the bombing of Vietnam by the forces of the United States. I therefore want to emphasise that I do not believe that that would be the right thing to do. It would be quite wrong to make a criticism of the military actions of the one side without making a criticism of the military actions of the other.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister pointed out, some of the activities on the other side are less spectacular and less easily observed than bombing, but they are, nevertheless, powerful military actions and, in many cases, more merciless and more cruel. Next, I would point out that the United States did at one time, for a short period, stop the bombing only to be told by the other side that this was a deceit. Furthermore, in the hours which my hon. Friend spent in Hanoi never at an time was it said to him that if the United States would stop the bombing the other side would come to the conference table.
Also, even if it were right, which I do not believe it would be, to condemn the American action, I am quite satisfied that it would not make one's proposals more acceptable. Let hon. and right hon. Members look at how those who condemn the American action have been treated, for instance, the 17 non-aligned nations and, most remarkable of all, Dr. Carlton Goodlett, who spoke at the World Peace Congress in Helsinki. He was most emphatic in condemning almost everything the Americans had done in Vietnam and he was insistent that the Congress should send a peace mission to Vietnam—and the Chinese said that this was yet another trick.
It would be wrong to condemn American action. It is clear on the evidence that if one had condemned the American action it would not have unlocked the door which at present remains unlocked, but in time must open.
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
My right hon. Friend will recall that when I was speaking I introduced the subject in connection with Mr. Gromyko's visit to London and I said that the Prime Minister had not given a second reason, which Mr. Gromyko always advanced as reason No. 1, which was that if the Soviet Union was to act again with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary as co-chairman the first condition was that the bombing of North Vietnam must stop. It was only in connection with that serious diplomatic endeavour that I mentioned the point and not in connection with any propaganda conference in Helsinki or elsewhere.
§ Mr. Stewart
The trouble is that Mr. Gromyko and others sometimes put it this way and say, "We cannot confer with you because bombing goes on", but they do not put it the other way and say, "If the bombing stops we will confer with you". I have discussed this many times with Mr. Gromyko.
I do not think that the House requires me to state again the principles on which we believe that this matter could be solved. I have set them out clearly to the House and I have referred to them in public elsewhere. I believe that they constitute the basis of a lasting and durable peace.
I turn from the particular question of Vietnam to a wider theme, because there are certain elements in the Vietnam situation which illustrate a general problem in the world today. I pick out three elements in particular.
First, there has been the genuine desire among people in Vietnam, after what they have gone through, after the upheaval of the Second World War and what followed, for greater freedom and for greater social justice. If the Government in North Vietnam had been prepared to leave their southern neighbours alone, we should have watched with sympathy, as we do the smaller Communist countries of Eastern Europe, whatever they sought to do to establish a better standard of life and a greater measure of social justice for their people in the area they rule. That has been one element.
The next element, unfortunately, was the disastrous attempt to squeeze this desire for social change and social justice into the rigid Communist mould. This still remains one of the terms set by the 1362 other side for a settlement in Vietnam, that the affairs of that country must be settled according to the principles of Communist organisations and no others.
The third element was that, once the method of violence was adopted, once South Vietnam was not left alone but an attempt was made violently to squeeze it into the Communist mould, inevitably, the great Powers became involved.
This is a situation which, in greater or less degree, one finds in various parts of the world, the combination of the desire for social change and of the effort, sometimes positively made and sometimes held in restraint, to squeeze the desire for change into the Communist mould, with, very often, on the edges of each particular area of ferment, the possibility of great Power involvement.
About one thing we must be perfectly clear: the ferment and the change are there and will be there for a long time, whether we like it or not. I call to mind something which I saw some time ago in one of the poorer countries of the world. I saw a man ploughing his field, with an emaciated ox dragging a wooden plough, but hanging from the plough was a transistor radio set. This is really the image of the world in which we live and the way in which the poorest parts of the world can be brought into the whole traffic of ideas and propaganda. On that set he might have been listening to pure entertainment. He might have been listening to a programme from this country, describing our own social experiments. He might have been listening to propaganda from a neighbouring country trying to persuade him that he had only to engage in an armed overthrow of his Government and all the things that he desired would be his.
In that kind of world it is no good hoping for what is sometimes called stability. There must be change, and the object of human policy must be to help change, to help it to come, as far as is humanly possible, without violence and to see that it is combined, as far as is humanly possible, with forms of Government which give some freedom to the ordinary man. I do not say that out of a British prejudice for our particular forms of Parliamentary democracy. The view is sometimes expressed that our form of democracy is all very well for us, but that we cannot expect other nations to be 1363 fitted for it. Admittedly, forms and procedures are different, but I believe that it is the right of every man in every continent to have some share in choosing his Government and to live under something like the rule of law.
I say that not only because I believe that freedom and the rule of law are desirable in themselves, but because they are essential if we are to carry through in the world the technical and scientific changes which are needed. I remind the House of what happened in the Soviet Union a little time ago, when the biological doctrines of Lysenko were for a time enthroned as orthodox doctrine and it was heretical to question them. The effect of this was severely to set back scientific development in that particular field, with damage to the agricultural programme. An evil like that cannot happen in a society in which there is freedom of discussion. That is why I say that it is of great human interest that, where social change comes, it should be confined, as far as is humanly possible, with some provision for freedom of thought. Otherwise, a shackle is put on the human mind.
Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote a fable about a country in which, owing to the power of an enchanter, every citizen had to go about wearing an iron shackle on his right leg. The hero of the story left his country, travelled through many perils, sought out and slew the enchanter, and then returned home. On his return, the first citizen he saw was wearing an iron shackle round his left leg, for, said he, "We have discovered that to wear a shackle round the right leg was a superstition". We do not want that to be the fate of mankind.
In this major problem which faces mankind, can the changes which are bound to come be kept non-violent and be combined with the growth of freedom, political and personal freedom and freedom of thought, rather than its restriction? A great deal will turn on the attitudes of the Soviet Union and China, and both of them have at different times seemed to take now one view about the problem and now another. At one time it was China which was proclaiming the five principles of co-existence.
At present, we find it in a number of practical matters more easy to approach 1364 the Soviet Government than the Chinese. In this situation, what we must do is to go on making perfectly clear what our own attitude is, that we shall help change, that in those parts of the world where we have direct responsibilities we shall positively promote it, that we shall resist, so far as we can, attempts to dragoon it and attempts to destroy human liberty.
On the subject of the Soviet Union and China, I take up some of the criticisms the right hon. Gentleman made when he suggested that we were not maintaining contact with the Soviet Union and were not showing results. As regards showing results, it is an odd coincidence that it was a year ago this week—the right hon. Gentleman's Government was then in power—that the Soviet Government first said that they would not proceed with the co-chairmanship and when the then Foreign Secretary, now Lord Butler, arrived last July for his visit to Moscow and was greeted with the announcement of this rebuff. I admit that it has been difficult during these months for us to keep up our dialogue with the Soviet Union, but the right hon. Gentleman did not at all deal with the interjection in his speech which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made.
There is one thing we could do which would produce the most cordial relations with the Soviet Union, that is, to announce our conversion to their view of the Vietnam dispute. Does the right hon. Gentleman—this is the question he was asked—urge that we should do that? [Interruption.] I am replying to a rather silly point. If the right hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that, he must accept that while we take the view which we do take and are right to take about Vietnam there are bound to be difficulties in the dialogue with the Soviet Union.
We should, however, notice that after 10 months or more of refusal, the Soviet Government have now announced their willingness to come to the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, and that will meet on the 27th of this month. It is not unreasonable to describe that as a result. As for maintaining contacts, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we have succeeded in doing that. There have been a number of opportunities and I shall myself be visiting the Soviet Union later in the year.
1365 Returning for a moment to the general theme that I was trying to advance, it can be summarised—and this is a phrase that was often used by the late Arthur Henderson—as "peaceful change". He was never satisfied with the phrase "the rule of law." He always saw that as too static and that the object was to direct and encourage the changes that are needed in the world.
The instruments that we have in the international field for that purpose are, first, the United Nations and, second, the possibilities of disarmament, one important result of which would be that the human race would have more resources to devote to the problem which, I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman and with the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), who spoke yesterday, is of first importance: that of narrowing the gap between the richest and the poorest nations in the world. I shall be saying something a little later on these subjects of the United Nations and disarmament.
I want, however, to refer briefly to one or two instances of where a policy that I have described as peaceful change can be, and is being, carried through. I could say a good deal about that in Africa, but the House will remember that when I spoke in the last foreign affairs debate I spoke at some length on that theatre, and I do not want to repeat it now.
Another area where change is of the greatest difficulty is the Middle East, and particularly the Persian Gulf, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. There are there those small States for whose defence and external relations we are by treaty responsible. It can be said that this is an arrangement that was regarded as fitting and normal in the nineteenth century, but is not considered appropriate to the twentieth century. It can also be said that the whole area is one in which international relations are delicate and in which sudden and ill-considered moves, even with the best intentions, might make things worse. We have also to take into account the fact that since those treaties were first signed, the situation has been revolutionised by the great growth in the wealth of some, but certainly not all, of these small States as a result of the discovery of oil.
1366 What we are trying to do and are now beginning to succeed in doing there is to get those States to act, not each one separately, but together, because one cannot make any plan which makes sense for their development and modernisation unless we consider this group of States as a whole, so that the richer of them can help the poorer of them. Also, one wants to get them to modernise themselves, which is partly a matter of actual physical aid and partly a matter of their increasing connection with the agencies of the United Nations, which is something which we wish to promote.
On the 9th of this month, there was a meeting of the Rulers of the seven Trucial States and of the neighbouring States of Bahrein and Quatar at which they agreed to provide themselves with a common currency and that they would work through the Trucial States Development Office for the purposes of mutual aid. That, I think, is in line with what I said was the right policy that we must think of this group of States as a whole and that they must increasingly come to do things, for themselves, neither wanting nor expecting a former imperial Power to do everything for them.
We shall ourselves, in addition to the regular contribution for aid which we make there, be making a grant of £1 million to the Trucial States Development Office. There is an undertaking for a similar amount from Saudi Arabia and it is open to anyone else, the Arab League or anyone else who wishes, to contribute through the Trucial States Development Office to the advancement of these States.
That meeting of the Rulers and the results that flow from it are a new chapter in the history of that part of the world. It may be said that it is a small part of the world, but it is one of the great pivots of interest and power and it shows how one can make work the concept of getting a change from a nineteenth to a twentieth century set-up without upheaval and without violent and dangerous pressures by great Powers on either side.
I mention these figures of aid in the Persian Gulf because the right hon. Gentleman was, or tried to be, somewhat caustic about aid. I have mentioned that we have made this assistance in the Persian Gulf. There was the recent announcement by my right hon. Friend 1367 the Minister of Overseas Development of the interest-free loans. We are following closely the work of U.N.C.T.A.D., whose Committee on Commodity Prices—this was a point raised by the right hon. Gentleman and by the hon. Member for Haltemprice—will be meeting next week.
It seemed to me that the right hon. Gentleman was in danger of inconsistency when he urged, if what he said had significance, that we should spend more on aid and he also argued that the defence bill should follow decisions upon foreign policy and not precede it. I think that, on reflection, the right hon. Gentleman will not be quite happy with that last phrase, because, surely, there must be an action and a reaction here.
It would be quite useless to make a list of foreign policy objectives, then to say that it resulted in a certain defence policy and then to find that we could not meet that defence bill without serious damage to our economy. We have, therefore, to consider at one end where and to what extent ought this country, with its duty to itself and to mankind, to try to exercise influence, on the one hand, and, on the other, what it is sensible for this country to judge that it can afford.
What ultimately emerges in defence policy and in foreign policy is a result of consideration of those two things. One cannot begin by setting either of them as the fixed point and saying that the other follows from it. If we were to behave like that, to draft foreign policy first and then say that the defence policy, whether we could afford it or not, must back the foreign policy, and if we also were to say that we must spend a great deal of aid, and if we also say, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, that we must cut our taxation, there would be considerable alarm as to what the result would be.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Ayrshire recently the Leader of the Opposition has been demanding big reductions in public expenditure?
§ Mr. Stewart
Yes. Nothing stales the infinite variety of the right hon. Gentleman.
The other field to which I would like to refer, which is not a field where we have 1368 the same direct responsibilities, is that of the events in Latin America. We recently received a visit from the President of Chile. I believe that if he is able to carry out for his country the kind of programme which he has in mind this will be an important new chapter in the history of that continent. It will be a demonstration that social injustice can be successfully fought without violence either within a country or between one country and its neighbours, and we were glad for that reason among others to welcome him as a visitor to this country.
But, of course, we have another example of the difficulty of making change a peaceful process in the Dominican Republic. I think that we all listened with respect to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) on this matter. May I refer briefly to the course of events there?
A Government who were, in fact, a military junta, were faced with a major insurrection—and with good reason. A situation arose in the capital in which large numbers of people, heavily armed, faced each other. There was a danger of very great loss of life, not only of citizens of the Republic itself, but of other people. The Dominican Republic informed the United States Government that it was not able to keep order in the capital. The United States Government sent a force, and I think that it is right to say that British, Jamaican and French subjects there have reason to be glad that that action was taken to save their lives. I think that it would be wrong and unjust in any assessment of this problem not to say that.
However, I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South that the force was then built up to a size which was quite incommensurate with that task. Our view—expressed at the United Nations—was that this matter must be brought under the authority of the United Nations, and that although it was probable that the Organisation of American States could play a part the final authority ought to rest with the United Nations.
There has followed a difficult period, but I think that it is not over-optimistic to say that there is now reasonable prospect of the emergence there of a Government who will come more closely to 1369 representing the wishes of their people than anything else which we are ever likely to see. I say no more than that there is a reasonable prospect of that. I think that one has to bear in mind that the other alternative development, if there had been no intervention from outside, would have been certainly an appalling loss of life in the capital and no certainty that the particular group which proved most successful in street fighting would be the one most representative of the wishes of the people.
I suppose that in a world organised as we would like to see it, when the United States received the request from the Dominican Republic, it would have forwarded that at once to the Security Council and the Security Council would forthwith have provided a peace-keeping force. That is the way this kind of situation should be handled. What we have at the moment is a yawning gap in human arrangements. The United Nations is not at present able to function in that way. One of the morals of the events in the Dominican Republic is that it rings a warning bell for mankind as to the number of crises with which we may be faced until the United Nations has proper authority to organise peace keeping.
It is over peace keeping that there has been the argument which at one time seemed to threaten the existence of the United Nations itself. The hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South asked me very specific and searching questions about Article 19 of the United Nations Charter. She asked them plainly and categorically and I must tell her equally plainly and categorically that I cannot answer them at present. The view which we should finally take is still under discussion between ourselves and our allies and friends and it would not be helpful if I were to try to state the final position now when we have good confidence that the General Assembly will be able to meet and, as has been said, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I will be there. I very much take the point of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South about the importance of members of Governments and Cabinets using the forum of the United Nations.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
I appreciate the difficulty when discussions are 1370 going on about peace keeping and Article 19. I will ask only whether the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that there might be some prospect that Her Majesty's Government will abandon their support of the principle behind Article 19.
§ Mr. Stewart
No. I would not want to put it that way, but I think that the right hon. and learned Member for Conway (Mr. Peter Thomas) will know that in a discussion of the facets of a matter like this one sometimes discovers—and it is part of the process of consultation—solutions which were not fully in the mind of any of the partners when they began the discussion. I do not want to prejudice developments by putting it into too rigid a framework now.
More important than this immediate question is what is to be the future decision for the organising of peace-keeping arrangements. We take the view that although the primary responsibility should rest with the Security Council, it should be possible in one way or another for a decisive vole in the General Assembly with the support of at any rate most of the Security Council to get some kind of authorisation of peace-keeping operations and not to be left with a situation in which the veto of any one nation can always and in all circumstances preclude the giving of authority to peace-keeping operations.
These matters will have to be argued out more fully, partly in the Committee of 33 and partly at the Assembly itself. But there are one or two things meanwhile which we are concerned to secure—that the Secretary-General's staff, and so on, should be such as to make it possible technically to think of operations of this kind. Some time ago, the Russians showed an interest in Article 43, which provides for the definite earmarking of forces for actual enforcement operations. We are anxious to know their definite proposals in that respect, because we believe it to be a helpful sign that they are thinking in terms of making the United Nations a stronger instrument for the enforcement of the rule of law.
Then there is our own support, both financial and the pledge of logistic support, which shows that we are more than anxious that this gap in human affairs, the absence of effective machinery for keeping the peace, shall be repaired.
1371 I am sorry that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu), in his speech yesterday, should have regretted that we could not adopt the forms and procedure with which he is concerned. Although he may say that if there is general and complete disarmament, we want an international police force—and that is one proposal; and I do not think that any of us would dissent from it—we have also to consider the situation in which we do not have general and complete disarmament and in which what we want is a peace-keeping force.
I think that he would see, if he looks at what we have done, and are doing, in this field, that we are nearer to him in spirit than he accepts—
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
Would the right hon. Gentleman be kind enough to answer one question? Could he tell the House what has held up our efforts to probe the Russians' desire about bringing Article 43 into use, because I believe that I am right in saying that it was 10th July, 1964, that he first wrote and said this?
§ Mr. Stewart
Yes, but we were not able to get anything more precise about that. I hope that that will now be forthcoming.
Finally, a word on what I call one of the other instruments towards creating a world in which we can work for peaceful change, the promotion of disarmament. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), spoke of the Russians' initiative in calling the Geneva Conference. I thought that was a little hard when we have been at them for months to try and persuade them to do this. I am, none the less, very glad that they are now prepared to come, and the conference will meet next week.
We have been working on the draft of a non-dissemination treaty, which is now ready for discussion. I do not think that it is the one to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in the election and which the then Foreign Secretary said he knew nothing about; but my noble Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs has had to occupy himself very considerably in preparing the draft of this one.
1372 I was asked yesterday about the timing of proposals within the Atlantic Alliance for A.N.F., or anything like it, and a non-dissemination treaty. We do not take the view that there ought to be a rigid order of priorities. If we could get a non-dissemination treaty with no doubts about its realiability, we could then make our arrangements within the framework of that treaty in the Alliance. Conversely, we cannot say, "We agree to do nothing about the reorganisation of our Alliance", when there is no certainty, when or whether suggested, a treaty will be achieved.
One ought not, therefore, to have a fixed order of priorities on that. We want to see progress in the extension of the Test Ban Treaty to underground tests, and in measures to secure the freeze and the partial destruction of delivery vehicles. There are other measures to which I have referred in Answers to Questions and in earlier debates, which will need discussion with our allies. Inevitably, when one discusses how one can try to keep this world at peace and make that peace a creative peace, one finds that one is driven to examine these minutiae of alliances, of clauses in the Charter in the United Nations.
The policies of war and conquest can always be presented flamboyantly and colourfully; the process of peace-making is a laborious and detailed one. That is why I hope that the House will not be wearied by the frequency with which one has to refer to the minutiae of alliances and to procedural matters at the United Nations. It is very easy for those who do not study these matters carefully to ridicule the laborious procedure of the United Nations, the months which often pass without apparent progress being made.
I was asked if I could strike a balance. I would say this. There is no doubt that we are watching today one of the great tides of history where enormous changes are on the way and where there is great difficulty in preventing those tides from not being so turbulent that they sweep away peace and mankind with it. But, allowing for that, I believe that there are very powerful forces in the world trying to work for a progress that will be living and vital and, at the same time, peaceful and human, and among those forces I 1373 think it true to say that the British Government takes its place.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
I find myself in agreement with what the hon. and learned Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne), said yesterday, namely, that we should try in our debates on foreign affairs to concentrate on one main theme. I think that that has largely been the case in this debate today. For my part, I would like to address myself to that part of the Foreign Secretary's extremely interesting speech which dealt with Vietnam.
The Foreign Secretary was, of course, bound to say something about the not so secret mission of his hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies). Varying opinions have been expressed as to the usefulness or otherwise of the hon. Member's journey and as to who brainwashed who. I feel myself that perhaps a little too much importance has been attached to it.
Why have we heard nothing of the comparable mission of the former Liberal candidate for Abingdon, Mrs. Perl, who was actually received by Ho Chi Minh, asked to luncheon by him and, we are told, kissed by him, through that very fine beard?
§ Sir F. Maclean
It took me to bring that point out.
But I think that in one respect the hon. Member's mission has been useful. It has been useful to the Prime Minister. Like the late lamented TSR2, the Prime Minister has, and needs to have, sideways looking radar. He has to watch the hon. Gentlemen who sit on his right, but who stand politically, rather more to his left. I think that the hon. Member's excursion has been a very useful object lesson to them. It demonstrated several things. Among them that it is not just poor, accident-prone Mr. Gordon Walker whom Ho Chi Minh will not receive. It is not just that, like his Chinese friends, Ho Chi Minh thinks that the Prime Minister is a nitwit. The fact is that at the moment Ho Chi Minh does not even want talks with the hon. Member for Leek, not even with a nuclear disarmer, not even with the leading 1374 opponent of S.E.A.T.O. and of the American Alliance, not even with a neutralist, not even with one of them.
The Foreign Secretary said that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance represented the views of the Government. All I can say is in that case he must have undergone—and it has happened in other cases—a very sudden and thorough conversion upon joining the Government. He certainly used not to hold the views propounded by the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister today.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that the Hanoi Government would be more willing to negotiate if they had some assurance that the United States were not bent on partitioning the country and turning South Vietnam into a second Korea, as admitted and endorsed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) yesterday?
§ Sir F. Maclean
I think that the hon. Gentleman has had the answer to that question already from his own Front Bench, from the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, who put it very forthrightly indeed. I think that Ho Chi Minh finds that at the moment fighting is probably more profitable than talking. I would like to develop that point of my argument in a few moments.
To return to the hon. Member for Leek. What he has shown, and what has been demonstrated absolutely clearly, is the total fallacy of the misleading old slogan, "Left will talk to Left, in comradeship and confidence". One begins to wonder what "Left" means. I got tangled up, very much against my will, because I am neither young nor a Socialist, in a Young Socialist rally in Hyde Park on Sunday. I was interested to see there an enormous effigy of President Johnson, with, in one pocket, a little figure peering out who was easily identifiable as the Prime Minister. That was all right; one would expect it. But peering out of the other pocket were the faces, coloured bright green, of the hon. Members for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman). The mind boggles.
1375 What the Davies Mission has provided is abundant justification for the Government's policy of support for America. It has demonstrated irrefutably, perhaps even to some hon. Members who sit below the Gangway opposite, that no other policy is possible. Of course, it might have been cleverer of Ho Chi Minh to receive the hon. Member, to make much of him and to fill him up with a lot of propaganda and send him back, like a little fire ship, to explode, as the Prime Minister put it "with all his accustomed fluency and persistence" right under the Prime Minister's nose. But probably Ho Chi Minh could not be bothered. He just did not think it worth while. He is not sufficiently interested in the antics of the British Labour Party.
The other point is that at the moment the monsoon is blowing—or whatever it does. It goes on, I understand, from May until October. This very greatly favours the guerrillas. It impedes the operations of American troops on the ground. It impedes the use of helicopters and many other things. As I pointed out just now, for those reasons, Ho Chi Minh probably thinks that he has much more to gain by fighting than by talking. And thus he falls into the category of what the Prime Minister called "the enemies of negotiation" who are also "the enemies of peace".
As long as that is so it seems to me that there is very little likelihood of any useful negotiations taking place. If Ho Chi Minh had really wanted to negotiate, he would have been able to open negotiations long ago with the Americans who let it be known in April last that they were prepared for discussions without strings and conditions. He did not. The Prime Minister, again rightly, said that the key to the situation lies in Hanoi, and Hanoi will not talk.
Does this mean that Ho Chi Minh will never be prepared to negotiate? Not necessarily. One thing which we should all be clear about is that the Americans have no intention whatever of letting South Vietnam go the way of North Vietnam—of letting it fall finally and definitely under Communist domination—because they realise that if this were to happen, if 1376 they were to allow what is left of the 1954 settlement to be finally liquidated—if, in short, South Vietnam were to be thrown to the wolves—it would only be a matter of time before the same process began in Siam or somewhere else, only a matter of time before the whole of South-East Asia, indeed the whole of Asia, went the same way. That, I imagine, is what the Prime Minister meant when he said that a unilateral United States withdrawal would have incalculable consequences both within and without South Vietnam.
Therefore, come what may, the Americans are determined to win, in my view rightly, whatever the cost in time, arms, treasure or men. At one time they seemed to think that they could achieve the desired result mainly by heavy bombing. I think that they were wrong, but that they have now grasped the fact that what is needed to fight guerrillas is men on the ground in large numbers. Bombing is disagreeable.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
Would the hon. Gentleman tell us exactly what he means by saying that America is determined to win? Does he mean that the Americans are determined to maintain a permanent occupation of South Vietnam, or that they wish to establish a Government of their own which they think will be able to stand on its own? What did he mean by saying that America is determined to win the war? How is it to be achieved?
§ Sir F. Maclean
I mean that they are determined to put a stop to Communist aggression, Vietcong aggression, in South Vietnam so that some day the conditions of the 1954 settlement may be put into force. That is what I mean by saying that the Americans are determined to win. I do not mean anything else.
I revert to the question of how to deal with guerrillas. As I say, what is needed is men on the ground and an enormous amount of patience. As Lawrence of Arabia once said, fighting guerrillas is a slow, messy business, like eating soup with a knife. As the Germans found in various countries in the last war, and as we found in Malaya, a relatively small number of guerrillas can hold down a disproportionately large number of regular troops. But because guerrillas are effective in this way, it does not mean that this process has anything to do with 1377 democracy or the will of the people. This was very well put by the Foreign Secretary, when he said it is not just a question of who is best at street fighting. There is more to democracy than that.
The fact is that in the end, if there are enough regular troops, if they are well equipped, if they have enough air support, if they are intelligently used and if they have the population on their side—which is, perhaps, the most important and one of the most difficult things of all—they are bound to win. In South Vietnam, the Vietcong have been able to obtain support from some of the local population, largely by terror. That is one method of doing it. It is not a desirable method, but it can be very effective.
One thing that needs looking into by the Americans is the old question of strategic hamlets and how they are operated. They have not, I believe, been as skilfully organised or as well sustained as our strategic hamlets were in Malaya. That is being seen to now, and I hope that there will be progress in this direction.
It is largely a question of patience. Mao Tse Tung said that the Americans did not have the necessary patience. That remains to be seen. Ho Chi Minh said much the same thing. He said:We held off the French for eight years. We can hold off the Americans for at least as long. Americans do not like long, inconclusive wars. This is going to be a long, inconclusive war.It looks to me as if the Americans have set their mind on winning and that they will pour hundreds of thousands of troops into the war and stop it becoming what Ho Chi Minh would doubtless like to see it become—a long, inconclusive war.
Now, I think that in due course Ho Chi Minh, who is an old hand at this sort of fighting, is bound to realise that. First of all, the monsoon will come to an end, which will deny him one advantage. Then he will realise that he is threatened with the destruction not only of his supply routes, but, if he goes on long enough, his capital, Hanoi, itself and with all the other dangers of escalation; and finally with something else which may be a consideration, the danger that if he is too far pressed he may become more dependent than he likes on Peking, but that is a 1378 question at which one can only guess. In those circumstances, it seems to me to be possible that in due course his attitude towards negotiations may change.
Another possibility of which we have to take account is that, on the other hand, it may not. He has behind him the Chinese, who, as they have shown by their behaviour in Helsinki and Bucharest and everywhere else, are in a particularly inflexible and uncompromising mood. Their chief reproach to the Russians is that they are not supporting world revolution as they should. One of the chief instruments in world revolution has always been what is called the war of national liberation.
And General Giap, the Defence Minister of North Vietnam, and, incidentally, the victor of Dien Bien Phu, has said this:South Vietnam is THE example for national liberation movements of our times. If it proves possible to defeat the special warfare tested in South Vietnam by the American imperialists, it can be defeated everywhere.In that frame of mind, and with that backing from the Chinese, he may quite easily be inclined to go on and on.
What, in all those circumstances, should be our attitude? I think that, as the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary seem to me to have done in this debate, we should make it abundantly clear that we stand fair and square on the side of our American allies and, we should also remember, on the side of Australia and New Zealand, who both have forces involved in this war and, as my right hon. Friend said when he opened the debate, feel that it is something worth laying down their lives for.
I do not say that we should not mediate if the opportunity presents itself, but I rather doubt if it will. It is quite true that, during the last week or so the Russians have shown themselves slightly more forthcoming on a number of other subjects, and I am glad to hear that the Foreign Secretary is going to Moscow to talk with them. But, as the Prime Minister said and as his right hon. Friend said, the key to Hanoi cannot be turned in Moscow. At the moment, the Russians find themselves in an extremely difficult position and, as the Prime Minister said, it is certainly not for us to force them into a position of competitive militancy. 1379 They have got their view of the Vietnam problem. It may conceivably coincide more with ours than we think, and it would be quite impossible for them to say so in public.
But, in any case, I believe that, if and when Ho Chi Minh wants to negotiate, he will negotiate direct with the Americans. He knows that the Americans are ready to negotiate, and negotiate unconditionally. They have, as a token of their good will, even ceased bombing for a period. When it was simply answered by further attacks from North Vietnam, they resumed bombing, but they have let it be known repeatedly that they are perfectly ready to negotiate and negotiate without strings.
Meanwhile, we can only remember—and once again I quote the Prime Minister's significant words—that the consequences of a unilateral withdrawal by the Americans in South Vietnam would be incalculable and, that being so, what we must do above everything else is stand by our United States and other allies.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
One of the outstanding features of this debate has been the persistent and partisan criticisms that have been levelled by the Opposition against the peace initiatives of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Even the Leader of the Opposition, if I may say so, marred what I thought was a very thoughtful and convincing speech by his references both to the Commonwealth Peace Mission proposition and to what is now being called the Davies Mission. I really cannot understand why the fact that the mission has not yet taken off mars the concept, and in this connection the Conservative Opposition have sadly misunderstood the mood of the nation as a whole. The nation as a whole desires to see an end of the war in Vietnam, and I think they will support any attempt that is made to bring that war to an end.
As I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, he criticised the Davies Mission on the ground that normally the position is prepared through diplomatic channels and full consultations take place with our allies before any mission takes off to carry out negotiations. But surely the Davies Mission was not intended to 1380 undertake any negotiations whatsoever. It was in order to make contact with the authorities in Hanoi, to convey the points of view held on this side and to try to ascertain the points of view held in Hanoi. So far as I can gather, to that extent it was successful. We know that the Commonwealth Peace Mission has not yet taken off. The Prime Minister has undoubtedly taken risks, but I remember the late Ernest Bevin saying once "You must take risks for peace".
Are the Government to stand helpless without trying to make a contribution to the ending of the war in South-East Asia? I believe that the Prime Minister has done well. I personally support his initiatives, and I hope that he will carry on with them in the near future.
The Prime Minister indicated yesterday that the obstacle to negotiations at present is the belief in Hanoi and no doubt in Peking that the Communists are going to win the shooting war. I agree with the Prime Minister when he said that this was a tragic mistake and that peace will only come at the conference table.
The hon. and gallant Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) said one or twice that the Americans were determined to win this war. I do not know on what authority he says that. I propose to quote from something said by a very distinguished American, Senator Fulbright, who happens to be the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and who is regarded as one of the most influential political leaders in the United States, as I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree. The hon. and gallant Gentleman and I have both met Senator Fulbright, and I think he will agree with me that the Senator is a statesman whose words carry great weight both in the United States and outside. Senator Fulbright was reported as saying:'The North Vietnam leaders must be persuaded that they cannot win.' Only when this became clear was it likely that they would respond to proposals for unconditional negotiation. He went on:'At such time I would think it appropriate and desirable for the United States to reiterate forcefully and explicitly its willingness to negotiate a compromise peace and thereafter to act with other countries in mounting a large-scale programme for the social and economic development of South-East Asia.'Does that indicate that the Americans are seeking military victories, military 1381 aggrandisement? Surely it is an indication that they are anxious to carry out their mission, which is to safeguard the security and independence of the people of South Vietnam and then to lend their services to, and participate in, the great task of social and economic reconstruction which is perhaps the best antidote to war in any part of the world.
§ Sir F. Maclean
I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that Senator Fulbright put the American attitude very well, but, if the Americans do not want to win military victories in furtherance of these aims, why are they sending so many hundreds of thousands of men to Vietnam?
§ Mr. Henderson
As the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows just as well as I do from our previous experience in these spheres, as long as the operations take place they will send sufficient reinforcements to enable them to undertake successful operations from their point of view. That is quite a different thing from saying that as soon as Hanoi indicates its willingness to bring the conflict to an end and to take part in negotiations there will be, as Senator Fulbright has made clear, a response from the United States Government. Indeed, President Johnson has, on several occasions, stated that the United States would be willing to enter into unconditional negotiations.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Is not my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) aware that in his speech of 7th April, allegedly offering unconditional negotiations, President Johnson made it clear first of all that he would not negotiate with the South Vietnam National Liberation Front and was determined to treat South Vietnam as a separate State which was to be made non-Communist by American force?
§ Mr. Henderson
I completely disagree. President Johnson has also made it perfectly clear that he advocates a return to what he calls the essentials of the 1954 Geneva Agreement. The Agreement made it clear that, while there was a temporary division of the country along the 17th Parallel, there had to be within two years free elections with the purpose of securing reunification, and also that all foreign troops had to be withdrawn 1382 from both countries. If that is not an indication to the contrary of what my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) has just said, I do not know what language means. I say that the authorities in Hanoi could make the road wide open to the conference table if they would indicate their willingness to enter into unconditional negotiation.
I am not, however, in complete agreement with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on another aspect of this problem. I would like to see the United States give a lead by publicly announcing that it will suspend all bombing of North Vietnam. I believe that if it were to do that, and if the authorities in Hanoi were to indicate their willingness to go to a conference, a stable settlement could be found based on the essentials of the 1954 Agreement.
Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) regretted that events in South Vietnam, Malaysia and the Dominican Republic had not been brought before the United Nations. These events unfortunately underline the present weakness of the United Nations. At the same time, I share his regret that no attempt was made to bring them before the Security Council. However, we must be realistic and consider the present position of the United Nations.
We must realise that the most populous country in the world and probably the most influential country in South-East Asia, is not a member of the U.N. and that its proximity to South Vietnam suggests that it is not without influence on those responsible in North Vietnam. I have said before that to me China is like a rogue elephant that was pointed out to me in Africa on one occasion—dangenerous and irresponsible. But that is what China will be as long as it is excluded from the comity of nations. Therefore, if we are to seek to revivify the United Nations we must face the fact that China must be brought in as a member.
My right hon Friend the Foreign Secretary referred to difficulties with the Soviet Union and was challenged as to whether Her Majesty's Government stand by Article 19. I think that he gave the right answer. I do not think that it is a question of whether we should be driven 1383 finally to insist upon enforcement of Article 19. What we have to do, and what the Committee of 33 is trying to do, is to secure agreement with the Soviet Union, France and other countries which have resisted paying their contributions for peace-keeping operations because they do not consider them to be within the provisions of the Charter.
I hope that other countries will follow the example set by the Government in making a grant of 10 million dollars to the funds of the United Nations with the objective of wiping off its present insolvency. I believe that if the United States, the Soviet Union, France and other countries would also make their contributions and restore the United Nations to a position of solvency, it might then be possible for agreement to be reached on peacekeeping.
I am not sure that I share my right hon. Friend's view that the peace-keeping must be necessarily the responsibility of the General Assembly. Under the Charter, the primary responsibility, as he indicated himself, is placed upon the Security Council, and I believe we must get back to that position. But now we have the emergence of this great power—now a nuclear power—in the Far East, and until China can be brought into the United Nations the major responsibility for safeguarding the peace of the world will rest on the shoulders of the United States and the Soviet Union. It is, therefore, essential that these two countries should be brought together with the objective of ensuring that the Security Council, enlarged as it is to be, carries out its major responsibilities under the Charter.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
This is very interesting. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman actually suggesting that in international affairs the time has come when China, the Soviet Union and the United States should consider revising the Security Council procedures?
§ Mr. Henderson
As I have said before—and it is what I understood to be common to both sides of the House—China's rightful place is in the United Nations, and till we have universality we are going to have this basic weakness in the United Nations, because outside of it 1384 there will be this great nation of 600 million people. I therefore suggest that China should be brought into the United Nations, and she would then, or should then, take her seat as a permanent member of the Security Council. While I believe that the General Assembly has a vital part to play in the responsibilities of the United Nations, I also believe that so long as power politics, even controlled by the Charter, operate—since, after all, every Government have the first priority of safeguarding the security of their own people—and till we get a world order, we are going to have to rely on the co-operation of the United States and of the Soviet Union now, and, later on, I hope, of China to maintain world peace.
There are just two other points with which I should like to deal. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition was very effective when he suggested that the present Government had taken over all the plans, all the papers, all the memoranda, all the proposals and had not done anything new in connection with the proposed agreement for banning nuclear tests completely and also for dealing with the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Whether that is so or not I do not think matters. What is important is the situation in which we find ourselves today. It is two years since the partial test ban agreement was signed in Moscow, and it is time further progress was made, and I hope that the Government will go into the disarmament negotiations ready to enter into a complete test ban agreement and that they will not dig their toes in on the number of verification inspections which should be made under the agreement.
So far as my information goes the scientists have made considerable progress, and it should be possible now not only to detect but to identify underground explosions to almost the very smallest underground explosion. It that be the case I should have thought nothing more would be required than possibly a token inspection, or perhaps two inspections in a year, as an absolute safeguard. Therefore I hope that they will go into negotiations without being bound to resist an agreement on this question of inspections.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman make a little clearer what he has said about scientists 1385 having made great progress in this field? I am sure he is right, but can he tell the House whether they can distinguish, at a long distance, between a nuclear test and seismic activity? Is it certain that they can distinguish between them?
§ Mr. Henderson
Well, according to the statement made by Sir John Cockcroft—[Interruption.] There may be doubts whether he is a reliable scientist, but I should have thought he was one of the greatest scientists in this country at any rate. He does not make it 100 per cent.—he is quite fair about it—but he does make the suggestion that everything except the very smallest underground explosion can be detected and verified.
My last point is with regard to a non-proliferation agreement. Again, I hope that when the Government go to the conference at Geneva they will go with a readiness to sign a non-proliferation agreement. I was not quite clear from what the Foreign Secretary said as to where the Government stood in regard to the negotiations and discussions which are taking place about the A.N.F. and M.L.F., but I hope that no discussions or negotiations will be allowed to be an obstacle to the signing of a non-proliferation agreement. We know that already there are six potential nuclear countries, including Canada, Japan, Germany, India, Israel and Sweden, and perhaps there will be others as time goes on and it is vitally important, in my opinion, and of the highest priority that we should secure this non-proliferation agreement.
I must say that I was most disturbed by the statement made by the German Foreign Secretary the other day when he said, in effect, that the Germans, unless they got an agreement in regard to a multilateral nuclear force, would not give up their right to acquire—not to manufacture, but to acquire—nuclear weapons. I think that that has caused a great deal of concern in many quarters. I say that without any feeling against the Germans, but if we are to prevent those countries, which will be entitled to secure nuclear weapons if they consider them necessary in their own interests, then the sooner we get a non-proliferation agreement the better.
I should like to finish by quoting something which was said by the late Adlai Stevenson a little while before he died. 1386 He is reported to have said that in the absence of any world order which would rescue the victims of clandestine aggression, national power must fulfil the rôle, which was the most costly, the most dangerous and the least desirable kind of peace keeping, but which could not be avoided.
In my view, the only ultimate solution is general disarmament within the framework of a world security system operating the rule of law.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
I would say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) that idealism is a wonderful thing, and it often is the beacon to practical policies of the future; but we must accept the fact that we are living in a very dangerous world today, and our first task as a nation is to make sure of our own defence.
I would just ask him one question. If at this time China became a member of the United Nations, what guarantee is there that she would abide by the decisions of the United Nations? We know for a fact that over the last few years the veto has been exercised by the Soviet Union on many occasions to the detriment generally of the interests of the world. Having regard to Chinese policies at this time. I would have thought that there was little hope just now that China would be a useful member of the United Nations.
§ Mr. A. Henderson
I thought I made it clear that in my view there will be no guarantee of world peace and the avoidance of major conflicts unless we can secure co-operation between the United States and the Soviet Union now, and, in due course, China. All I would say in reply to the question is, let us get China to the General Assembly, and on to the Security Council and she will have to face up to her responsibilities to a greater extent than she does 6,000 miles away in Peking.
§ Mr. Cooper
Let us hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right, because we all want the world to live in peace.
Together with four of my colleagues in this House, I have just spent two weeks 1387 in the Far East, and we visited Singapore and Hong Kong. We spent a little more time there than did the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), and I would beg leave to say that our visit was rather more successful.
Two weeks in the Far East does not make one an expert on Far Eastern matters, or indeed on any matter at all, but I have heard many hon. Members claim expertise on far more tenuous grounds than that. During our visit we met many high ranking people in the military, political and business spheres. It would be wrong to attribute to any of those people the views which I am going to express tonight, but I trust that I interpret sincerely the views which we heard. In fact these views come very close to the views expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.
Let me deal first with Malaysia. There is no doubt that the forces available there are sufficient to deal with the Indonesian problem, and I deplored the articles which appeared in this week's Sunday Mirror. They were inaccurate and harmful to the interests of this country and to the morale of our troops overseas. Although our task when we were there was to deal with non-warlike stores, one cannot be in an area and associate with people every day and the best part of every night without discussing other matters and coming to some sort of an opinion. At no time did we get the impression that there was a shortage or deficiency in the equipment provided to our troops. Of course, everybody wants more equipment. There has probably not been a commander in history who did not want more, but to mislead and to exaggerate—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)
Order. I hope that when right hon. and hon. Gentlemen indulge in conversation they will do so quietly, otherwise it is not fair to the Member who has the Floor.
§ Mr. Cooper
Thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. As I was saying, there has probably not been a commander in history who did not want more, but to misrepresent and to exaggerate what difficulties there are, or there may be, is to do a disservice to our country.
1388 I thought that the Prime Minister was rather naïve in his analysis of the Far Eastern problems. Hanoi may be the key to Vietnam—which I doubt—but without a doubt China is the key to the whole Far Eastern problem. In a word, she seeks to dominate the whole area.
In the short term, the Indonesian problem may be settled by some sort of negotiation, but such a settlement must not interfere with the independence of Malaysia. Sukarno may, and probably will, wish to keep the pot boiling, and it is probable that a positive decision will not be taken by the Indonesian Government during Sukarno's lifetime. After that, it will depend on who takes over the Government of the country. From what we were advised, it would seem that the Communists have about a 40 per cent. chance of doing this, but the odds at the moment appear to be in favour of the army taking over.
In the latter event, the situation would move very much in our favour, because it is generally recognised that the army leaders incline to the West rather than to the Communists. If, however, the Communists were able to secure control of Indonesia, and if serious military disasters occurred in the north, in Vietnam, the position of Malaysia in both the short term and the long term would be very difficult indeed.
I stress that Vietnam is only one facet of this vast problem, and the Prime Minister is naïve if he thinks otherwise. The right hon. Gentleman has become the Prince Monolulu of British politics—"I've got an idea"—but the difference between the late legendary figure and the Prime Minister is that whereas the tipster occasionally backed the winner all the Prime Minister's horses run well down the course. The fatuous Davies Mission was a failure, and was doomed to be so from the beginning. As an act, the performance of the Prime Minister and of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has not been bettered since Barnum and Bailey. We must recognise that if Vietnam falls, Cambodia and Laos will be easy pickings, with real and consequent dangers to Thailand and Burma, and it does not need much imagination to foresee the dangers to which Australia and New Zealand would be exposed in such an eventuality.
1389 In the long term, I regard the situation in the Far East as the most threatening to the free world, and this country and the free world must be alerted to the very real dangers of the spread of Communism in the Far East. In Europe, highly concentrated industrial populations in close proximity to the Soviet Union, coupled with the availability of modern weapons, will probably preserve the peace in this area, but in the Far East the situation is vastly different. Huge distances separate the various countries, and defence is a much more difficult task. However, we must be prepared to defend our way of life and to contain Communism wherever we find it.
Our bases in the Far East are vulnerable, and it would be very difficult for us to do anything about Singapore and Hong Kong. In fact we are in Singapore only on sufferance. We are dependent on the local government for our presence there. In concert with the United States, Australia and New Zealand we must create a real base or bases which will not be vulnerable, and from which we cannot be ejected. Such bases will probably be in northern Australia, or northern New Zealand, or in other suitable islands and areas.
I beg the Government to realise that time is not on our side. Urgent action, in concert with our allies, is demanded if our way of life and our civilisation are to be preserved.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
As I listened to the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper), I was reminded of many of the speeches that we listened to in this House during the late 'forties and early 'fifties, when we were told that the great menace that we had to guard against was the prospective march across Europe by Russian divisions. We were told on the highest authority, and also from the highest authority on the Treasury Bench, that the Soviet Government had 175 divisions poised to march across Europe. It was taken as a proven fact that the menace was of this nature and definable character.
Only a few months ago a speech was made by the United States Secretary of Defence, Mr. McNamara, who is not the kind of man to underrate the Communist 1390 menace, that it never was the case that 175 divisions were prepared to march across Europe. We have also had the opinion of no less an authority than Mr. Kennan that the menace that Europe has had to face, or the problems with which we have had to deal, were very different from those described by orthodox opinion in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Therefore, when we are told by the hon. Member that it is a proven fact that China wishes to conquer the whole of Asia, we are entitled to take such comments with some scepticism—despite the hon. Member's great authority. We need to examine such accusations or claims very carefully before accepting them, because if we accept and act upon false analyses of the world situation we will reach false conclusions. I shall return to the major points raised by the hon. Member shortly, but first I want to make some brief comments on the speech of the Leader of the Opposition.
The right hon. Gentleman seems to me to suffer from a lot of imaginary fears. There are enough real dangers in the world without conjuring up a host of unreal ones. The first unreal fear of the hon. Gentleman is that we are not going to have sufficient military forces available to carry out our commitments. In my opinion the much greater danger is that this country's economic position may be gravely injured by trying to carry out too heavy a military commitment. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary began to reply to that aspect of the matter. It is quite misleading for the right hon. Gentleman to pretend that the country's military burdens are being drastically reduced when, unhappily, that process is not yet taking place. That is the first of the imaginary fears with which the right hon. Gentleman deludes himself.
He also says that one of the great dangers at the moment is that we shall have a patched-up peace in Vietnam. I only wish a patched-up peace was there for the taking. The trouble is that it is much more difficult than that to secure. For the right hon. Gentleman, in the midst of this situation, to speak as if a patched-up peace was the immediate menace that we had to deal with in Vietnam is a most topsy-turvy way of looking at the world. But that is what we expect from the right hon. Gentleman. Hetalks about the rules of diplomacy 1391 and tries to lecture the House on the way in which foreign policy should be conducted—as if his touch had always proved so expert, and as if his experience had always been so ripe. From Munich to Suez he has been successful throughout! People have told me that although the right hon. Gentleman is not an expert on domestic affairs he is a great authority on foreign matters, but I confess it is his knowledge and aptitude in foreign affairs that makes me the more alarmed.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas
The hon. Member will at least give my right hon. Friend this—that he was the British Foreign Secretary when we signed the Test Ban Treaty.
§ Mr. Foot
I am very glad that the Test Ban Treaty was signed, especially as I had been advocating it for many more years than had the right hon. Gentleman, and particularly when I had been saying that the tests that were being conducted were a great menace to the health of the people of this country and had been told by the Prime Minister of the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member that I was being too pessimistic about the dangers.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
Has my hon. Friend noted what the Leader of the Opposition said this afternoon about atomic tests? He urged the Government to restart the tests. Where does that fit into the Test Ban Treaty?
§ Mr. Foot
That is a very good indication that we should not take the right hon. Gentleman's claims too seriously. The right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that he is the master of diplomatic affairs and knows their subtleties, and has always dealt with them skilfully, is not borne out by the facts. He gave a further illustration of his attitude in these matters when he said that our relations with the Russians are extremely important in this connection. Nobody could doubt that. That was a gleam of the obvious if ever there was one. The right hon. Gentleman did not proceed to analyse why it had been more difficult to establish good relations with the Russians during the last few difficult months, which are the months under discussion.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) said in an 1392 intervention at the end of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, it was Vietnam that ruptured the hopes of an improvement in relations between ourselves and the Soviet Union. This is the one reason, above all the other reasons, why it is so desperately urgent to try fresh ways of escaping from the Vietnam dilemmas and difficulties. If we cannot escape from them I fear that we shall not proceed very far towards concluding any agreement with the Soviet Union. We all hope that we shall get agreement at the disarmament convention in a week or two's time, or in the summer months, even though the Vietnam war is still proceeding, but in my opinion it will be difficult for the Russians to reach agreement with the West while that war continues.
We can understand their difficulties, and the United States should, too. We have been told that there has been some alteration in our position in relation to the Russians during this period. That is true, but one of the most obscene actions taken by any Government in modern times was the commencement of the bombing of North Vietnam by the United States of America when Mr. Kosygin was in Hanoi. I can imagine no more shocking piece of ineptitude. How do the Americans thing such action assisted Mr. Kosygin in exercising any influence in Hanoi? Unfortunately, that action of the United States Government has largely contributed towards making it impossible for the West to reach fresh agreement with the Soviet Union in recent months. So we need not take much notice of rules of diplomacy as taught to us by the Leader of the Opposition.
He is a kind of modern Bourbon who has learned nothing and forgotten nothing, yet he thinks he is a Talleyrand. He lectures the House as if he had always been able to manage these matters quite successfully. I will say this for him, however, that although I originally found it somewhat incomprehensible to understand why he held the leadership of the Conservative Party, when I heard the speech of the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) yesterday I began to understand. The right hon. Gentleman is propped up by these pillars on three sides—on a kind of tripod of incompetence. Long may he stay there.
There are more important matters to deal with. I want to raise some matters 1393 with my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench.
§ Mr. Christopher Soames (Bedford)
Would the hon. Member aver that he would be well satisfied if his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary managed to bring into being again the co-chairmanship procedure over Vietnam which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition managed to do when he was Foreign Secretary?
§ Mr. Foot
I welcome the right hon. Member into the controversy. It shows that the stool may not be a tripod; it may be a stool with four legs. I am backing the right hon. Gentleman. I have backed him at 100 to 1. I am told that after Thursday night the odds will turn very much in my favour. I am glad that he intervened. He made a very constructive intervention.
We would all be glad to see the reestablishment and working of the co-chairmanship machinery under the Geneva Convention. What we are discussing is how we can get it—and it is much more difficult to get over the question of Vietnam than to get over the other difficulties. That is one of my quarrels with my own Front Bench on these matters. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary talks of those in Hanoi and, perhaps, in the Far East, being prisoners of their own propaganda. To some extent, he has made himself a prisoner of his own propaganda. The major difference between myself and some of my hon. Friends on the back benches is our contrasted interpretation of what is the origin of the war in Vietnam. I do not want to go back over past history, but how we proceed at present depends very greatly on our interpretation of the past. My right hon. Friend has claimed in this House on previous occasions—the Prime Minister, in effect, repeated it yesterday—that the origin of the present war in Vietnam is the aggression conducted by North Vietnam subsequent to 1959. That is the kernel of the whole of his case. If that part of his case were to fall, we should have to look at the matter afresh.
My right hon. Friend's interpretation of how the war grew up after 1959 is contested by many people who have examined the state of affairs in North 1394 Vietnam and in South Vietnam very carefully. Many of the most eminent journalists, French and others, who have been there give a very different interpretation. They give a different interpretation partly because they have examined with more care than my right hon. Friend what was the nature of the South Vietnam régime and how it conducted itself from 1954 to 1959, and what was done in South Vietnam during all those years obviously had a bearing on whether a rebellion in South Vietnam started. That is the first piece of evidence.
Suppose, however, for a moment that my right hon. Friend was absolutely correct in his claim that not the sole but the major cause of the war in Vietnam today was the aggression of the North against the South. That is his claim. Supposing that it is true, as he says, that this is overwhelmingly proved by the facts, the proper course for the United States in that case was to have taken the matter to the United Nations. If an aggression was committed, their appropriate course was to take it to the United Nations Security Council or, failing that, if they liked, to the General Assembly to see what the judgment was there on the matter.
What right had the United States Government to judge whether there had been an aggression or not and, furthermore, to proceed to decide for itself what response it should make to the aggression? No right whatsoever. There have been many occasions in the world during the last 20 years when countries have claimed that acts of aggression have been committed against them and when they have attempted to retaliate. That, apparently, is what the United States is doing in North Vietnam, but, when it happens in the Middle East between Israel and the Arab States, my right hon. Friend, this Government and previous Governments condemned it. I can quote the words used, not by the present Government but by the previous one, although I am sure that the present Government, in the Middle Eastern situation, would agree with the proposition.
Thus, according to the British Foreign Office, on 26th February, 1956:Her Majesty's Government deplore all reprisals, and must express their condemnation of a policy based on them. Reprisal raids have been repeatedly condemned by the Security 1395 Council, and the United Nations' Secretary-General has expressed the view that such raids cannot be considered within the limits of legitimate self-defence.That was the situation in the Middle East. Why does it not apply in Vietnam? What right has the United States to embark on actions of retaliation and reprisal for acts of aggression, they claim, by the bombing of North Vietnam? It has no right to do so. It has no claim to do so, no justification in international law, for doing so. This is not to be considered within the limits of legitimate self-defence—
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
On a point of order. I seem to remember that, about a fortnight ago, the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell) was prevented from reading and making a quotation. Is it in order for other hon. Members to do so?
§ Mr. Foot
I am sure that the House will understand that this is perfectly in order.
What the United States has done in Vietnam is not to be considered within the limits of legitimate self-defence. This is the claim which many of us make about the bombing of North Vietnam. We want to know why the British Government should have expressed their wholehearted support for bombing in North Vietnam, whereas such reprisals in the Middle East would have been condemned. In his reference to Santo Domingo—part of which I welcomed—in response to the notable speech of my right hon Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker), the Foreign Secretary made some good and hopeful comments on the situation in Santo Domingo, though he should have gone a good deal further. He said, I think, that the forces sent by the Americans in the second invasion of Santo Domingo were incommensurate with the need. Perhaps the people in North Vietnam could claim that the forces which they sent in to assist the Vietcong were incommensurate with the need.
In the case of Santo Domingo, my right hon. Friend in the main supported the attitude of the United States. He was 1396 critical in some degree, but he did not condemn them. But in Vietnam a quite different rule is applied, apparently, and the North Vietnam Government are condemned absolutely for an act of aggression, when no proof has been offered by any international authority that this is what has occurred. My right hon. Friend and the Government have based their wholehearted support of the United States on a foundation which has never been established, in fact, a foundation which is contrary to what we would naturally expect.
Anyone who reads what has happened in Vietnam since 1945 will surely understand that this is much more a social conflict in Vietnam than it is a war of the North against the South. Everyone who has examined the fact finds, for example, that most of the people in the Vietcong come from Vietnam. It is their country. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that we must not condemn one side instead of the other, that we must not condemn the bombing unless we also condemn the Vietcong. I can understand this argument, but it is a fact that the Vietcong are in their own country. The Americans are not in their own country. The Vietcong are in their own continent. The Americans are not in their own continent.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
If the hon. Member's views are correct about retaliatory action, would not Malaysia be wrong to retaliate against Indonesia for the many incursions which have been made in that direction?
§ Mr. Foot
If the hon. Gentleman had been here, he would have heard that point put exactly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South who has been pleading that the issue of Malaysia should be taken to the United Nations—precisely for this reason, that if we are to have retaliatory action against Indonesia by forces from Malaysia, it cannot be decided by the British alone, by the Malaysians alone or by any one nation alone. If that is said, it is a recipe for anarchy all over the world.
Therefore, my charge against the Government in this respect is that they have not upheld the rule of law in Vietnam. They have been prepared to waive any attempt to uphold the rule of law, because our most powerful ally—the 1397 United States—is the country which has been guilty of breaking it, as it was further guilty of breaking the rule of law in its flagrant breach in Santo Domingo—
§ Mr. Shinwell
Would my hon. Friend explain how Her Majesty's Government are capable of upholding the rule of law in Vietnam?
§ Mr. Foot
I will explain it very carefully to my right hon. Friend. What I was criticising, first of all—I will come in a second to give my view on what measures should be taken to stop the fighting in Vietnam—was that if we are to find the right solution in Vietnam we must get the analysis right first—[An HON. MEMBER: "We have got that."] My hon. Friend says that we have got that. I do not think that we have. I was trying to argue that, in my opinion, Her Majesty's Government have based their case on a false analysis. They have said from the beginning that this whole war is due to an act of aggression by the North against the South. What I have been seeking to prove is, first, that is not the case and, second, that, if it were the case, the United States' action taken for dealing with it was quite illegitimate, indefensible and unjustified under any system of international law.
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie (Caithness and Sutherland)
Would the hon. Member at the same time give examples of the co-operation of the Communist nations with the United Nations in peace-keeping efforts?
§ Mr. Foot
I agree that very frequently the Communist States have defied and broken the rule of law and defied and broken the authority of the United Nations. But that is no reason why we should do so or why we should support our allies in doing so—no reason at all. I condemned what the Communist Government of the Soviet Union did in Hungary, but I also condemned what the predecessors of the present Government did at Suez. I condemn what the United States Government are doing in South Vietnam and Santo Domingo, and the main criticism which I make of my own Government is that they have expressed their whole-hearted support for these actions taken by the Americans.
1398 When the Foreign Secretary returned from the United States he did grievous injury to later possibilities which might have opened by expressing such unqualified support for the action which the Americans had taken. I think that it would have been possible for the British Government to have stated a view at the United Nations which was not insulting to the Americans but which would have been more profitable if they had not committed themselves to whole-hearted support of the American action.
I greatly welcome some of the steps taken by the Government in recent weeks. Some of the statements made in the communiqué published by the Commonwealth Peace Mission carry the argument away from the original unqualified support for the United States, and I hope that the Government will persist in this line. In a moment I will quote something which upholds that view.
§ Mr. Foot
I have already given way many times and if I give way again I shall hold up all other speakers.
We listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean). Everybody respects his judgment, his honesty and the downright way in which he speaks. He said that the Americans want outright victory, and that that was what they were after in Vietnam. I asked him how they thought they would get it, but he did not give me a very clear answer.
No doubt the Americans would like outright victory if they could get it, but I do not think they can. There is one way in which some people in America may think that they can get outright victory—by a much further extension of the war. They may say that they could get outright victory by bombing Hanoi, or they may decide that they could do it by going even further and by having a full war with China. I do not say that these are the objectives of the American Administration—I think they are not—but these are courses which have been advocated in the United States. It may be that if the United States are defeated in the present operations, as may be they are being defeated, there will be powerful voices in the United States urging them to extend the war further by one means or another.
1399 What becomes of the Government's position if that arises? Do they say, "We would support any further action"? Or have they already said that they will not support it? What is my right hon. Friend's argument which says that we are prepared to support the bombing and will continue to support the bombing but that we shall not support further action? The Government should make their position much clearer. One of my fears is that by giving such unqualified support to the bombing they make it more difficult for themselves to draw the line later. I hope that they will draw the line now—and these are not merely my words.
My right hon. Friend indicated that it would be no use our making appeals to the Americans and asking them to stop the bombing now. He said that it would not serve much purpose. We are told that it would not serve much purpose because the bombing was stopped for five days and there was no response. Does that mean that we are to continue to support the bombing whatever happens and however long it goes on? That is not the view of some of the most prominent members of the Commonwealth Peace Mission. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary would be the first to pay tribute to the part which was played in the Commonwealth Peace Mission by President Nkrumah of Ghana. He issued a statement during the conference, on 24th June, in which he spoke about the bombing:Unlike China and North Vietnam the United States Government publicly welcomed our initiative It is therefore in my view all the more serious that the United States Government should thave disregarded our request for restraint and have on the contrary continued to conduct provocative air raids in North Vietnam. The continuance of such raids at a time when the United States publicly welcomed our Mission makes our task more difficult.He appealed that there should be a stop to the bombing of North Vietnam. This appeal was also made at one point by the Prime Minister of Canada. I am sure that it is an appeal which would be supported by many others, and possibly a majority, of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers. When appeals of this nature are made, it is no good people brushing them aside and saying that they are appeals of no importance.
The reason I believe we should suspend the bombing is not only the horror and 1400 destruction which it causes. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) yesterday talked about how carefully these bombings were carried out. We should be very cautious in the House, many thousands of miles away, about saying that they are being conducted in this very cautious manner. I hardly think it possible for it to be done. There have been some appalling descriptions of the results of these bombings, including the destruction of a leper hospital. If we have such bombings, these will be the result.
What would be the consequences? Do hon. Members think that these indiscriminate bombings—because that is what they are bound to be—will endear the West to the people of Vietnam? They will have exactly the opposite effect. Our American allies—I am not saying that they are doing it out of malevolence but out of one step after another, one folly after another—have got themselves into a well-nigh impossible situation from which they might be rescued only by a most desperate act which could involve the rest of the world. On the other hand, we have the situation in which the Vietcong and possibly the people in Vietnam and possibly the people in China—we do not know for certain—all think that they have outright victory, too. We have these two sides thinking that they can each get outright victory.
I think that the statement issued by President Nkrumah during the Prime Ministers' Conference expressed very properly the situation the world is placed:The situation in which we find ourselves today is that the danger of the war in Vietnam developing into a major world war is extremely great. The conflict in Vietnam cannot be resolved by purely military means. In spite of the United States' vast military resources, it is clear that the popular opposition in Vietnam is so strong that the United States cannot defeat the national liberation front unless they deploy their full military strength on an all-out war basis. If, however, the United States were to do this, it would almost certainly lead to a global war. On the other hand, it would be unrealistic to suppose that the United States would unconditionally surrender in South Vietnam. Therefore the only logical solution is a conference of the parties involved in the conflict. Such a conference can hardly be held unless there is a cease fire.That is a statement by the President of Ghana, and in many respects it does not 1401 differ from the conclusions expressed by the Government. I acknowledge that.
Although I criticise very strongly the premises of the Government's arguments, I agree with some of their conclusions. I agree with the efforts of the Commonwealth Peace Mission. I certainly agree with the decision of the Government to send my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance to North Vietnam. He did a very difficult job with great courage, determination and intelligence. It was right for the Government to send him and I think that he was the best man for the job. The sneers which have been made against him are utterly contemptible.
I therefore congratulate the Government on the efforts they have made to try to get a conference. I am sure that they will continue to make such efforts to get a conference and that they will reject the appeals of hon. Gentlemen opposite not to be misled by the possibilities of a so-called patched-up peace. I hope that the Government understand that if we can get any kind of peace in Vietnam it will lead to a better situation than the possibilities described by President Nkrumah. In all these conclusions I agree with the Government. They have my full support on them, for what that is worth, and, I am sure, the support of all my hon. Friends who wish to see a conference and a peace settlement.
But if the Government wish to play their fullest part in getting such a conference they must also acknowledge some of the other points which have been put, maybe some of those in President Nkrumah's statement. They must pluck up their courage and speak as strongly to the Americans on this matter as they have spoken to some of the other powers concerned. After all, the Americans are more the belligerents than China in North Vietnam—there are more Americans fighting there—and, therefore, the Government must use their influence and exert their power on the United States far more than they have done, partly because of the immediate situation which is so dangerous and partly because it is a wrong interpretation of what goes on in the world to imagine that the whole planet will be prepared 1402 to accept the Pax Americana described by the Leader of the Opposition.
Of course the whole world is not prepared to accept it. The only authority which could possibly be accepted throughout the world is a United Nations authority—and the possibilities of getting such an authority have been injured by the actions of many Communist States, the actions of Her Majesty's Government over Suez but, in this instance in Asia, the primary opposition to successful activities and operations by the United Nations authority has come from the United States which, since 1950, has refused to give Communist China its rightful place in the United Nations. It is no use trying to brush this matter aside as a secondary question. Unfortunately, the matter may have gone so far that it is now difficult to repair.
We must consider the danger which the world has faced since the Communist revolution in China. If we are to treat that revolution with the same hostility, futility and madness with which we treated the Russian revolution after 1917 our world is doomed. We might as well make an end of it. Her Majesty's Government are committed, as one of their primary measures, to seek to get China into the United Nations. I would like to hear what exertions they have made in this matter, including what representations they have made to the United Sates on the subject.
I urge the Government to realise that on Vietnam they would not be speaking alone but with the support of many people, including a great many in the United States. What has been said in this debate by me, and by others much more effectively, has been said by some of the most prominent Americans. Mr. Walter Lippmann, probably the greatest journalist in the world, has been pressing this view on the United States Government for many months, since the beginning. He has prophesied to the United States Government what will be the results if they continued to follow their present policies.
I therefore urge Her Majesty's Government to be more determined, resolute and upstanding in the policies which they adopt in these matters. I believe that they could take such an attitude partly because of our position in the world and partly 1403 because of our association with the countries of the Commonwealth. Because of this we have a chance of being heard. But for heaven's sake let us speak more audaciously than we have as yet attempted.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
It will be agreed on both sides of the House that we have just heard an extraordinary speech from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). I sincerely congratulate him on his forensic ability, which is well known to the House. I did not agree with most of his arguments, although I am sure that all hon. Members regarded his speech as a splendid oration.
In addition to the hon. Gentleman's contribution, we have so far heard three great speeches in this debate. The first which I should mention was made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who spoke with authority and breadth of vision. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] At least, that was the way in which it was accepted by my hon. Friends and the Treasury Bench, if not by some hon. Gentlemen opposite. We also heard a great speech from the Foreign Secretary, whose lucidity was quite remarkable.
The third great speech was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling). It was remarkable in that he said something which the House has needed to hear, namely, that it is the policy of the Conservative Party that we should join the Common Market. I was pleased to hear my right hon. Friend state that for the record and put the matter beyond question.
Those three great speeches were in sad contrast with the speech of the Prime Minister, which, I thought, was unimaginative, sterile and, in some parts, downright shabby. He was out of his depth when he spoke about foreign affairs, and I knew before I came to the debate that he would be out of his depth. However, I did not think that he would mislead the House of Commons. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The right hon. Gentleman misled the House on two or three occasions, as I will show later in my remarks.
It is clear that the Prime Minister is extremely sensitive about the Davies mis- 1404 sion to Hanoi. It was a failure. Indeed, as the right hon. Gentleman spoke yesterday we all knew that the mission had been a failure. It is perfectly plain from the speech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that it has also been a failure in Westminster. The Prime Minister thought that he had at least been able to tame his Left wing. He has obviously not succeeded. It must be sad for him to think that the failure in Hanoi has been followed by the failure in Westminster.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I wish to be brief, because many hon. Members desire to take part in the debate. I will, therefore, concentrate on two issues, Vietnam and Europe.
I hope that it will be accepted on both sides of the House that we all desire peace in Vietnam. I am sure that the American Administration want peace in Vietnam and would go a long way towards getting it. The offer made by President Johnson, supported by Mr. Eugene Black, to provide an immense economic and technical aid programme for South-East Asia, in which Vietnam could take part and in which the Soviet Union has been invited to participate, is something on which I hope the Government will comment later in the debate.
I believe that peace could be had in Vietnam quite quickly. I will explain why. If the Communists would call off their attacks tomorrow peace could easily come within a matter of weeks. If the Communists will withdraw their regular soldiers from North Vietnam, north of the 17th Parallel, stop arming and financing the Vietcong rebellion, stop their terrorism and killing in the villages and stop bomb throwing there could be peace in Vietnam tomorrow, and I am glad that the Foreign Secretary recognises this.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr
Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the people he is now describing are approximately the same sort of people whom we termed resistance fighters in Europe during the last war?
§ Mr. Griffiths
Perhaps the hon. Lady would explain that to her right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I do not wish to involve myself in any internal fight in the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Griffiths
If the Vietnamese in the North would withdraw their regular troops, stop arming and financing the Vietcong, stop bomb throwing, assassinations and killing, war could be ended tomorrow; and there is no question about it. Let us not think in terms of a formal cease-fire. There was no formal ceasefire in the Philippines after the Communist insurrection there, or in the Malaya fighting. It was simply that one day it all stopped and the guerrilla action ceased.
That was not the result of a formal cease-fire; it was simply that the Communist authorities gave the word, and the word was "Obey". I believe that if the Communist authorities in Hanoi and Peking were to give the word that fighting should cease, in a matter of weeks it would cease. So far, they have not given the word. I wish that they would give that word to cease the fighting as a conscious and careful decision, but I do not think that they will, because it is clear that their determined policy is to take over South Vietnam. They have said so.
Furthermore, as the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) belatedly discovered when he went to Hanoi, they are convinced that they are winning the war, and are sure that they will conquer South Vietnam by armed force. I am, therefore, driven to the reluctant conclusion that there can be no end to the war in Vietnam unless either the Communists win, and stop the fighting because they have won, or are convinced that they cannot win, and stop the fighting because they know that.
There is no half-way house between those possibilities. It is a stark choice on the military front between the Communists taking over Vietnam by force, or being hit so hard that they call off aggression and come to the conference table. That is the choice.
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the South Vietnam National Liberation Front, as pointed out, for instance, by Senator Wayne Morse, and John Mecklin, head of the United States Information Service in South Vietnam for years, and as also stated in the American White Paper, is 1406 getting more than 95 per cent. of its arms and munitions by capture from the American forces, and its forces are recruited overwhelmingly from local sources; that the whole story about aggression in Vietnam is a fiction, and that this is as much a national movement as that of Tito, and its fight is exactly like his fighting against the Quislings Nedich and Pavelich, the puppets of Mussolini and Hitler?
§ Mr. Griffiths
No doubt the hon. Member will have an opportunity to make his speech when his time comes. I do not for a moment accept what he says. It is perfectly clear that the Foreign Secretary and the Government do not accept it either, so perhaps the hon. Member will address his differences to them.
To my mind, there is only one choice to be made in Vietnam, and it is between the Communists winning and taking over the whole country by force and their being shown that they cannot win, and coming to the conference table. The only choice to be made is to see that they come to the conference table because they are convinced that they cannot seize South Vietnam by force.
It would be madness for the Americans to let the Communists take over South Vietnam by armed aggression. It would be mad because it would demonstrate to the watching people all over South-East Asia that the Western world is prepared to allow the Communists to win by force. It would be cynical because it would consign the people of South Vietnam to live under a régime which the great majority of them do not want, and against which the South Vietnam army is fighting. And let us not forget that in the South Vietnamese Army are many brave men fighting for their country. They are not simply to be described as American puppets. If hon. Members opposite would go there and see, they would realise that the South Vietnamese are fighting just as patriotically for their country as any other—
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
Has not the hon. Gentleman read that since last year the South Vietnamese forces have dropped by 10,000 as a result of desertion?
§ Mr. Griffiths
The strength of the South Vietnamese Army has been going up for consistently over the last year—
§ Mr. Griffiths
Whenever I read The Times I appear to be reading the right hon. Gentleman.
It would be further retrogressive for the Americans to allow the Communists to seize South Vietnam, because during the 20 years since the Second World War the Western world has been working for a world in which armed aggression is outlawed, and in which those who seek to change frontiers by force are not permitted to do so, but can do so only by peaceful means. The argument is not against change; it is that if there is to be a change of frontiers, or anything else, it must be accomplished by peaceful means. I cannot see how there can be disagreement on that.
Therefore, on the main point of Vietnam, I conclude that we have no alternative but to resist aggression and that, therefore, the United States is pursuing the only course open to it, distasteful as it may be—
§ Mr. Griffiths
It is also in our interests to support the Americans in this action, first, for reasons of world peace and, secondly, because we, too, have a stake in the Far East of great importance. I am glad—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Lady must not persist. It is in the interests of the House that we should not interrupt too much, because many hon. Members want to take part in the debate.
§ Mr. Griffiths
We should be glad of the American presence in Vietnam, if only because it takes some of the load off the backs of our own troops in Malaysia. I believe that, as time goes on, if the Americans were to be 1408 humiliated and forced from South Vietnam, the whole southward pressure of Chinese expansionism might come upon the British troops in Malaysia. This is one occasion when the Americans happen to be carrying more of the burden than we are, and for that we should be grateful.
If, then, we must resist Communist armed aggression in Vietnam, it is vital that hon. Members opposite should understand what resisting aggression means. It is no use simply mouthing the words "resisting aggression" unless one is realistic and recognises that resistance to aggression means bombs, that it means troops, that it means cannon. That is precisely what, on the ground, resisting Communist aggression implies. It means that the United States and the South Vietnamese must repulse the Communists when they are attacking in South Vietnam. It means that they must destroy the Communists' points of concentration, if necessary, in North Vietnam. It may be necessary, I fear, for the Americans to attempt to seal off South Vietnam from North Vietnam with many more American troops. I hope that it will not be necessary, but we must understand what the phrase "resisting aggression" implies in this case. It is unrealistic to imagine that it means anything else.
I believe that the Americans have the ability and the will, if necessary, to achieve their objective, and those who accuse them of aggression in Vietnam should realise that the Americans are using only a tiny fraction of their force. The Americans have immense capabilities, and to accuse them of aggression when they only reluctantly and gradually step up their forces to a point at which, as yet, they are using only a fraction of their capacity, is wrong. No American President likes calling up the reserves, but let hon. Members opposite realise that the United States can, and, in my view will, and should, call up enough men, and provide itself with enough materials to hold the line in South Vietnam for as long as it takes the Communists to realise that they will not succeed by armed aggression in seizing South Vietnam.
I do not say that the Americans can win in Vietnam—I hope that they do not make that their military objective—but I do say that the Americans are strong 1409 enough not to be beaten, and strong enough to prove to the Communists that they cannot and shall not succeed in winning this war by force. Given this situation, when neither side can win, there is only one possible answer, as the House on both sides will agree, and that is negotiation. But it takes two to negotiate and, so far, the Communists have not shown a shred of willingness to do so. That point needs to be rammed home again and again. The one consistent accompaniment to the savage fighting in Vietnam has been the repeated requests to negotiate, which the Americans have repeatedly accepted and, which the Communists have invariably turned down. This is a fact.
First, there was the United States offer to take the matter to the United Nations—China rejected it, and Vietnam followed. Second, there were the Foreign Secretary's conversations with Mr. Gromyko—the Communists would not comply. There was the Foreign Secretary's attempt to involve the negotiation over Vietnam in a resumption of the Laos talks. The Communists turned it down. There was U Thant's call for negotiations. The United States agreed, the Communists turned him down. There were the 17 unaligned nations. The United States accepted, the Communists turned it down. There was the Indian Government's plan. The United States Government were prepared to discuss it, the Communists turned it down. There was the four-day bombing pause and the message which Mr. Ponsonby took at that time to the Vietnamese authorities. The United States was prepared to talk, the Communists turned it down.
There was the Canadian initiative. A Canadian member of the International Control Commission went to Hanoi in an attempt to get negotiations started. The United States was willing to talk, the Communists turned it down. There was the Commonwealth Mission. The United States was prepared to receive it, the Communists turned it down. There was even the Davies Mission, which, once again, got nowhere because the Communists turned it down. Here are 13 or 14 precise examples when the United States was prepared to negotiate and where consistently the Communists have refused to do so.
1410 Hon. Members must face this. It is a fact, regrettable of course, but it cannot be simply airily dismissed because hon. Members prefer it to be different. Consistently, the United States has agreed to come to the conference table unconditionally. The President of the United States has agreed to support an immense economic and technical aid programme with the assistance of the Soviet Union, if they will play, but in every case the Communists have refused to have anything to do with it.
I want briefly to say a few words about the mission by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, the hon. Member for Leek, and to make three short points. The mission was sent at the wrong time, because when the hon. Member left and went to Hanoi it was perfectly plain that the Communists thought that they were winning. They intended to win and they expected that there would be no reason for them to negotiate while they were winning. I believe, with the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, that he was the wrong man to do the job, because it was plain where his sympathies lay.
Finally on the Davies Mission, as I said earlier I believe that the Prime Minister has been less than candid with the House of Commons. He came close to misleading the House on 8th July when he left all of us here with the impression that the hon. Gentleman had been asked to Vietnam as a member of Her Majesty's Government. That is in HANSARD at column 1815. That was not true. The North Vietnamese had arranged that the hon. Member should go as a private person whose views, they believed, were broadly consonant with their own. They underlined this by granting him, not an official visa, but a personal visa as opposed to a Government permit.
This was emphasised again when Mr. Murray, the Foreign Office official who accompanied the hon. Member, was refused admission to Hanoi. I believe that the Prime Minister knew this when he spoke to the House of Commons. He knew that the hon. Member was there not as a Minister but as a private person, and yet he left the House of Commons with the impression that he had been 1411 received as a member of the Government. In my submission, that was misleading the House.
The House was misled a second time on 12th July, when the Prime Minister gave the impression that in spite of reports which were all over the newspapers that the hon. Member had been rebuffed, there still were grounds—the Prime Minister said this from the Treasury Bench—for thinking that he would be received by the North Vietnamese Prime Minister. This, too, was misleading. The Hanoi authorities had already rejected the request for the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to see their Government leaders. They had fobbed him off with officials. I believe that the Prime Minister knew this when he came to the House of Commons and gave us the opposite impression that there was still a possibility that his hon. Friend would be received.
What was the story that the Prime Minister told us? He said that as he had entered the Chamber, he got a message saying that the aeroplane that was to bring back the hon. Member had been delayed. On these grounds, apparently, we were led to believe that the possibility was still open that the hon. Member would see the North Vietnamese Prime Minister. Of course, the physical possibility existed while he was still there, but it is to mislead the House of Commons for the Prime Minister to ask us to accept that, because an aeroplane had been turned back, in some strange way the refusal of North Vietnam to receive the hon. Member had been rescinded. Surely, that is asking too much and I must say here that the Prime Minister has misled the House of Commons in this matter.
I must turn, because I undertook not to speak too long, to the other point which I want to make, namely, that it is time to look beyond the fighting and the war in Vietnam to the kind of peace settlement that it might at some stage be possible to have. There are four cardinal principles on which we can base the shape of the Vietnam to come, because in the end we must consider what kind of a Vietnam we wish to see when all the fighting is over.
The four points are, first, that Vietnam must be independent, independent of any 1412 great Power, of China as well as of the United States, and independent, too, of any power bloc but guaranteed in its independence by the great Powers, because its independence is of no value unless that independence is agreed to, underwritten and guaranteed by the great Powers themselves. I would hope to see China as well as the United States one of the guarantors of the independence of Vietnam.
I believe, too, that an independent Vietnam must be free to choose its own Government. If it should freely choose that that Government be a Communist Government, so be it. It is not for us to elect their Government for them. An independent Vietnam means precisely that. It must be free to choose its own Government.
§ Mr. David Ennals (Dover)
Can the hon. Member explain the point of the whole operation of going through the war to destroy Communism in the South if, in the end, he says that there can be free elections and the people can be allowed to choose a Communist régime? I do not see the purpose of all this.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The hon. Member is getting it all wrong. The fight in South Vietnam is not, I hope, an anti-Communist fight for any doctrinal reason. It is simply an effort, I understand, by the United States to prevent armed aggression taking over an independent nation. It so happens that this aggression is sustained by Communists, but I would take exactly the same view if the aggression was not Communist but came from any other part of the world. The purpose here is to resist the armed aggression against an independent nation. I am suggesting that the first cardinal principle in the settlement which we ought to envisage is an independent Vietnam, and, secondly, a neutral Vietnam.
It is idle to suppose that the Vietnam of the future can belong to either side in the great struggle. It must be neutral, because we cannot seek to build an anti-Chinese bastion on China's southern border. That would act as a constant provocation and it could not be supported. But neither should there be built there an anti-American nation either. Therefore, it must be neutral as well as independent.
The third principle which I suggest is that it must in the long-term be a unified 1413 Vietnam. It is impossible to imagine that South and North Vietnam can continue for ever to be divided at the 17th Parallel. Let us say, therefore—and I hope that in this we should have the support of the Americans—that in the long term unity must come.
The fourth and last of these principles is that we must seek also to have a prosperous Vietnam. It is on this subject that we have heard so little, from either side of the House, about the proposal made by the President of the United States that his country is prepared, in concert with the Russians if they are willing, to put money and assistance into the whole valley of the Mekong—and this would benefit South Vietnam most of all—in an endeavour to improve the living standards of the people there. I believe that it is around these four principles—independence, neutrality, unity and prosperity—that the eventual settlement can be made. I hope that these are the kind of things to which the Government are willing to give their support.
Finally, I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet place the Conservative Party behind a policy of seeking membership of the European Community. Will the Government spokesman tell us precisely what is the policy of his party and of the Government? Will he answer my final question and say whether, in the event of the possibility of our joining the European Community—and I accept that the possibility does not exist now—the Labour Party would accept it and join Europe?
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I have often suspected that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) wrote the speeches frequently delivered by the Leader of the Opposition. I have now concluded that the speech just delivered by the hon. Gentleman was written by the Leader of the Opposition. In principle, in general context, in extraneous matter, and especially in niggling and pettifogging criticism, there was similarity if not complete unanimity.
The hon. Gentleman dealt with Vietnam and I am grateful to him for having concentrated on this tragic affair. I am also grateful to my hon. Friend the Mem- 1414 ber for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) for his references to this subject. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that if we are to have a succession of foreign policy debates, from time to time we ought to confine ourselves to specific issues and to exclude extraneous matter. Today, we have heard about the Common Market, and I will speak about that before I sit down. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds did not wait for a reply to his question on this issue. I will tell him what Labour Party policy on the Common Market is. Nobody knows it better than I do.
In the course of what for the most part was a thoughtful contribution, in market contrast to the somewhat strange, remarkable and innocuous speech of his right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition made a speech which, although I had many reservations about it, completely squelched the shadow Foreign Secretary. He now has only to utilise the several matches remaining in his match box to deal effectively with the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath). Having disposed of both, I will wager with my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale all the money in my possession—I cannot speak for the money in his possession—that the right hon. Gentleman will remain the Leader of the Opposition and I am glad to be able to say it.
Before dealing with the subject of Vietnam, I want to say a word or two to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. He made some remarkable statements in that speech, among them that we must be prepared to provide adequately—speaking in the military sense—to carry out our obligations. He also reminded us that to prevent subversion and to arrest the march of the Communists and the danger of Communist aggression, we must provide adequate aid to the under-developed countries. But he has suggested that to meet increased military expenditure—for that is what he implied—and increased military aid we must have a reduction in taxation. Apart from that, he made a first-class speech.
Why does the right hon. Gentleman, who is an authority on foreign affairs, as I frankly admit, and who knows as much about that subject as anybody in this 1415 Assembly and who has had long experience, contradict himself when he comes to dealing with either military or defence matters and especially with economic matters? Why does he not leave it to the shadow Foreign Secretary to give us another exhibition such as we had yesterday afternoon?
I want to concentrate on the subject of Vietnam, because that is the most important theme which has been developed in the course of the debate. Of course, it is important to talk about the United Nations and the 19th and 43rd Articles and the desirability of promoting a peace-keeping force. But I am concerned with what is happening now in this tragic affair and how to bring it to a speedy termination. That is the issue. If I may say so to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale and to other hon. Friends whose opinions may vary with the opinions of other hon. Members, retailing the history of what has happened in Vietnam over the years will not assist us to reach a definite conclusion about promoting negotiations and bringing the tragic affair to an end. That is what we must aim at. That must be our objective.
I have the very highest regard for the ability and quality of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, who argued that the Government had acted wrongly and improperly in not condemning the United States for bombing in Vietnam. His argument was that if the United States stopped the bombing there would be a possibility of promoting negotiations. If the bombing stopped—and no one would welcome it more than I, as we would all welcome it, however our views vary—the troops in Vietnam at the disposal of the United States Government would still be there. We would be left with conventional forces on both sides armed to the teeth and, although not engaged in bombing activities, still at each other's throats and engaged in the most merciless and ruthless activities in order to gain the upper hand. What would we gain by compelling the United States Government to stop the bombing?
This reminds me of the argument which is so often used—that if we can prevent the use of nuclear weapons and rely on conventional forces, all will be well. That is far from being my view. If we are to promote disarmament, or even partial 1416 disarmament, it must be not only thermonuclear weapons, but all conventional weapons, which are often as deadly as nuclear weapons. However, the argument seems to run that way and it is a condemnation of Her Majesty's Government.
Perhaps I might be permitted, as an ordinary back bencher, not a member of the Government, not receiving a Government salary, to say a word on behalf of my party. Is that regarded as unusual? It is my view that if one is a member of a particular party, one ought to be loyal to it. Is there anything strange about that? Since we have a Government—it is our Government, with no great majority—is there any reason why we should not, from time to time, extend our support to that Government. Is it treachery or treason to support one's Government? I say with great respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, and with no respect for the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury St. Edmunds, must we have to listen to two speeches in succession condemning Her Majesty's Government?
I do not bother very much with the hon. Member opposite. I do not think that he matters very much. But my hon. Friend does. He is a responsible and prominent member of the Labour Party. I am bound to say this, with the greatest good will, that by implication, if not directly, he was condemning Her Majesty's Government. Quite frankly, I do not like it. So I venture to put one or two questions. This is not the sort of speech I had intended to make. I had intended to deal with the hon. Gentleman opposite in proper style. I will come back to him some other time. I want to dispose of this difference that appears to exist on this side—not that we have never had differences before.
In parenthesis, may I say that the differences we on this side have about Vietnam are nothing in comparison with the differences that exist on the other side about the leadership of the Tory Party.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I do not want to be discourteous, but I wonder whether I might leave now? I have another engagement.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Yes, and do not come back.
1417 I did not mean in indulge in that last remark. I am always glad to see the right hon. Gentleman, but he really asked for it. I do not know where he has gone. Perhaps we had better not make indiscreet inquiries.
I want to ask a simple question. Suppose that, on behalf of the Government—and by implication, on behalf of the Labour Party, because it cannot be dissociated from the Labour Government, although some people appear in their speeches to do so, and I do not care very much for that—one of my right hon. Friends decided to denounce violently the United States Government for indulging in military activities in Vietnam, leaving aside the matter of bombing, which, of course, I dislike heartily. What effect would that have? Would it bring the war in Vietnam to an end? No. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale is much too intelligent to believe that.
I say this with great respect, and meaning no offence, but the argument is largely emotional. I am only too well aware that one must never quarrel with an emotion. This is the last thing one should do. One has not got a chance. I put the question again there, in order to have it answered, perhaps by my hon. Friends, perhaps by the Government representative at the end of the debate—
§ Mr. Shinwell
No, the hon. Lady talks too much. I will not give way. The last thing I want to do is to be disrespectful to a lady, but I must continue.
If Her Majesty's Government condemn America for engaging in military activities in Vietnam, for whatever cause, what would be the impact? Suppose the United States Government said, "Do not bother us. We like to hear from you from time to time. You are in the Alliance and you can borrow money from us, but that is all. Do not bother telling us that we have to stop. We simply cannot stop".
§ Mr. Shinwell
No I will not give way. It would upset the thread of my discourse. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was the idea."] Some time ago I was one of the representatives at the Anglo-American 1418 discussion at Bermuda. We considered this matter with American Congressmen and Senators. Almost everyone, without exception, was anxious to get out of Vietnam. They were pleading with us, asking for guidance. Could we find a way out? We could not. They cannot, and we have to face the facts of the situation.
It could be settled if Hanoi said, "We are ready for negotiations. If you agree to withdraw the troops and stop the bombing we will agree to negotiations at once."
§ Mr. Shinwell
I beg my hon. Friends to listen. I am quite serious about this.
If they said, in response to the appeals made, and the attempt made by the Commonwealth Peace Mission and by my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance that they were prepared to consider negotiations, and to get round the table on the understanding that the United States Government would take measures to withdraw troops and to stop the bombing, then it could be settled.
I supported the Government in their initiative in asking my hon. Friend to go to Hanoi. He has been out there several times and has come back and reported. He has vast experience of that area, and they have a great affection for him there. But, if I may quote an old saying, "It's all very well to dissemble your love, but why did you kick me downstairs?" It is all very well to be affectionate, but at the end of the day it did not seem to work. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr) will understand that.
This is the dilemma that faces us and the Americans. So my right hon. Friends in the Government took the initiative. What was wrong with that? Suppose they had not taken the initiative. What would the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition have said in his speech this afternoon? He would have said, "There you are, doing nothing, no initiative, no energy, no activity. What a crowd you are". When we do something the right hon. Gentleman uses the 1419 same language. We are doing something and that is the situation.
I am facing facts. I do not believe that anything which can be done now would bring this terrible affair to an end. I think that some time ago the Russians might have intervened. I do not believe that they are refusing or failing to intervene because they are afraid of the Chinese. That is not the trouble. I suppose that I can be as much a foreign policy expert as anybody else and speculate on this subject. My view is that it will not worry the Russians very much if the Americans are humiliated. Why should it? Of course, if they are humiliated, there will perhaps be a better chance of rapprochement. On the other hand, if the Americans won and defeated the Vietcong, they might not be so anxious about a rapprochement with the Russians. These are speculations, perhaps idle speculations.
The Government were right to take the initiative. They ought to be supported for taking the initiative, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale supports them in that regard. All that I ask is that the Government should not be condemned for failing to denounce in violent language the United States Government. Let me remind my hon. Friends that the Government asked for a cessation of hostilities. Let me remind my hon. Friends and the House generally that over and over again my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was on the telephone to President Johnson making appeals.
I inspired, perhaps—maybe it was suggested to me—an early day Motion supported by a large number of hon. Members. Mine was the first signature. It asked for a cessation of hostilities. We all want that. But how are we to bring it about? Not until they all begin to realise that war does not pay, that the damage is too serious and that the possibilities are too harsh and severe in their consequences will it be possible to bring the parties round the table to promote negotiations. But we must carry on and do our best. I do not blame my hon. Friends in the least for condemning the bombing and military activities. All that I ask is that they should not condemn the Government. That would be wrong.
1420 I follow the line taken by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne) yesterday in what I thought was an excellent speech, and, in particular, the argument which he adduced. It was an argument which I ventured to use at the conference in Bermuda. I do not believe that these international problems will be solved by the United Nations. I wish that I could say otherwise, but I want to be realistic. On the other hand, I believe that as a result of an understanding between the two great Powers, the United States and the U.S.S.R., using their influence, with perhaps economic sanctions and economic aid, it is possible to make an impact on the world at large and to bring a number of other nations to their senses. Of course, there is no reason why they should not co-operate with the United Nations.
I say in the absence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)—perhaps he will read what I say, as I read what he says and have been doing for years—that it should not be forgotten that for more than 30 or, perhaps, 40 years he has been pleading the case, first, of the League of Nations and then of the United Nations in the cause of disarmament. Only now we hear that the Soviet Union has agreed to go to the 18-member disarmament conference at Geneva. That is how long it takes to get anything done.
That is all I wanted to say—to defend the Government, perhaps in imperfect, harsh and blunt language, but meaning all of it. I wish to be loyal to the Government, to back them up and, at the same time, condemn, if anybody is to be condemned, those right hon. and hon. Members opposite who, instead of offering constructive proposals, have indulged in pettifogging criticism which is unworthy of them, and certainly unworthy of the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
The right hon. Gentleman said that he would give the official view of the Government on the Common Market. May I take it that his silence is completely official?
§ Mr. Shinwell
The official view of the Labour Party on the Common Market is 1421 that this is not the time to talk about entering the Common Market. If ever we join, we can do so only on our conditions.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Forbes Hendry (Aberdeenshire, West)
We have heard a most remarkable and very enjoyable speech from the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). It was particularly remarkable and enjoyable to hear someone on the benches opposite say a word in praise of the Government—a most unusual thing. I have not heard a great deal of carping criticism of the Government's policy from this side of the House, except in some minor respects. I think that, generally speaking, we are in agreement with what the Government have done in Vietnam.
There is a great temptation to follow the right hon. Gentleman's speech and to deal with these great matters of peace and war and the conflict between East and West. However, in a debate of this sort, which ranges very wide, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I deal with another subject. I feel emboldened to do so not only by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) but by the Foreign Secretary who today mentioned the position in the Middle East, particularly in the Arabian peninsula. It seems to me that that is a land of great promise and a very important matter for us to consider, especially in view of changes in conditions there.
There has been a tremendous change in our lifetime of what were very poor overseas dependent countries which have become rich in some cases beyond the dreams of avarice and which have become independent and which, in addition to all that, seem to me to have had an injection of new leadership, or rather the old leadership has emerged with new facilities. There is in the Arabian peninsula, certainly in Saudi Arabia, very great leadership which is full of promise for the world at this particularly difficult time. In these difficult times, when we have wars and tensions in the world, we cannot afford to neglect any influence which will lead to world peace in however tenuous a way. The Islamic world and what has been happening there 1422 recently hold very great promise and are worthy of further study.
In considering the Arab world and the Islamic world, we are apt to think, unfortunately, of two things: first, our relations with the State of Israel, and, secondly, our unfortunate relations with the United Arab Republic. Both these very important matters are becoming less and less important. In the Arab world there is a change of view on both subjects. People in the Arab world in general are becoming much more tolerant of Israel. They regard the Jews in Israel as their Semitic brothers, although they think it unfortunate, perhaps, that they are there. I believe that, with our good offices and those of the Americans, a great deal could be done to bring an end to the tension between the Arab world and the Republic of Israel. That is obvious not only in the action recently taken in Tunisia but in the general attitude in the Arabian peninsula itself in recent years.
The other thing about our relations and those of the world in general with the United Arab Republic could, by the use of our good offices and the good offices of our allies, become less and less important. The recent visit of a delegation from the United Arab Republic can mean the beginning of good relations with that country. I feel that our friends in the Arabian peninsula—and we have powerful friends there—could bring the bad relations with the United Arab Republic to a satisfactory conclusion.
That is not particularly what I want to say on this subject, because there is a very much more important side to the Arabian world than that. I would reflect on what happened recently at the Islamic Conference which took place in Mecca immediately after the pilgrimage this year. The initiative that was taken there this year under the presidency of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia was something new. In the past, the Islamic world has rather kept itself to itself, but this year there were official representatives of no fewer than 60 Islamic countries who attended the conference at Mecca. There were heads of State, Ministers and officials from 60 countries sitting down together, not only to discuss questions of religion but to discuss their common interests as members of the Islamic community all 1423 over the world, from Nigeria in the West to Singapore in the East.
Quite apart from their common religion, it is a community in that to a very large extent they have a common language, though not possibly the vernacular language of each country. They have a common civilisation, and they have a great many aims and objects in common. It is remarkable that representatives from these 60 countries met at Mecca this year to discuss a great many problems of the world and many of the problems which are worrying us at the present time.
A great deal of thought was given to bringing peace to Malaysia and Indonesia, for there are Moslems on both sides, and the heads of the Moslem States regard it as their duty to do what they can to bring peace to the world. There are a great many other parts of the Islamic world where there are hostilities at the moment, and there was full and complete discussion about a great many countries, including the difficulties in India, Kashmir and the possibilities of getting peace there, and about various African countries. I believe that this new approach under the new leader who has sprung up in Saudi Arabia could do a great deal for the peace of the world, and I think it is right that someone in the House should say so and that the Government should give every encouragement to the movement which has grown up in the Islamic world.
There has been a change of leadership there, because the old régime has gone. I personally had the privilege of meeting King Faisal as his guest only a few months ago, and I know something of what has been happening in the country.
Quite apart from the advantages of the Islamic conference in the way of direct diplomatic or semi-diplomatic relations between different countries, the effect of public opinion throughout the whole Islamic world, consisting of several hundreds of millions of people, could mean a very great deal. Its importance these days is not confined to the pilgrimage to Mecca. One is apt to think of the lone Arab on his camel crossing the desert for day after day and week after week to fulfil his ambition of going to Mecca. The ambition is still there, but the pilgrimage has reached unheard of proportions.
1424 This year, a total of nearly 1,400,000 people came from the ends of the earth—from West Africa, from East Africa, from Asia, from the Arabian countries themselves, from Malaysia, from Indonesia and from as far away as Singapore and Thailand. There was a tremendous international gathering of people discussing world problems amongst themselves. The political influence based on high moral principles that can be brought to bear can have a great effect throughout the world. There are 60 countries involved, and I feel that our Government should do everything possible to encourage discussions in this new movement in the Islamic world on behalf of the peace of the world.
The world today is suffering a great deal from materialism, but this movement is based not so much on religion but on high moral principles. They are definitely anti-Communist in their attitude and a great deal of good could be done among the common people of these countries, many of them developing countries.
What can our Government do to help? We have these countries, particularly in the Arabian peninsula. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has mentioned the Trucial countries, but the leader of the countries is definitely Saudi Arabia. It is a country of almost untold wealth and a comparatively small population which is doing its best to establish itself with its wealth as a modern civilised country, quite willing to exercise a great deal of leadership in the world. In that country, one finds not a lack of money but a lack of the ordinary common skills, and I feel that we should be doing a great service to world peace if we could do something practical in the way of aid to the Arabian countries—the Trucial countries, Saudi Arabia, the Yemen, and so on—to give them the skills which are basic to a civilised country.
By that, I do not mean anything very elaborate. I do not mean anything at the level of universities, but ordinary courses such as nursing, the training of craftsmen, teachers and so on. I ask the Government if they would consider inviting people here from those countries for training as nurses and teachers. They are building hospitals there, but they are handicapped by the lack of nurses. They have schools, but 1425 the schools are a great disadvantage because of the lack of teachers and the lack of facilities for training teachers. In a small way, we could help a great deal by introducing these basic skills. After all, their influence is vast throughout the world, and by fulfilling their practical needs we could do a great deal for the peace of the world.
A good deal has already been done, and it is not so long ago that a junior Minister paid a visit to Saudi Arabia to meet the King and find out certain of that country's needs. Practical results followed from that, and I suggest with great respect to the Government that it would be well worth while sending a senior Minister to go round the various Arabian countries, finding out what is happening there, what are their aims and objects and what can be done to help them, not so much in the way of money—although the Foreign Minister did mention making a grant and a similar grant from Saudi Arabia—but in the way of what we can do to bring them the basic civilisation which will be of tremendous importance to them informing an influence throughout the world based on high moral principles and a desire for peace.
It is a matter of very great importance. It is possibly different from anything which has been said in the debate in the last two days, but in a world which is riven by warfare and potential warfare, anything we can do to encourage a movement for peace is well worth doing. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State referred to the Arabian Peninsula as a hinge for world power. With the proper influence and the proper assistance—and it is practical assistance rather than monetary assistance that is required—it could become not only a hinge but a focus of world power. By giving them practical help and assistance, the Government of this country could do a lot to help world peace.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
The fact that I am not in a position to follow the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) seems to me to underline a point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne) last night—that it is quite farcical to have a grand tour d'horizon in a two-day debate in which we are supposed 1426 to consider not only South Vietnam, which is on everyone's lips, but the problems of Britain and Europe and of the Middle East and Islam and what we can do about them. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will forgive me if, for that reason, quite apart from my ignorance of the facts of which he spoke, I do not follow him in discussing the Middle East.
This debate has been concentrated almost entirely upon Vietnam and I hope that I shall be forgiven for following suit. We have heard a number of remarkable speeches from the benches opposite, most of which have been misleading and a large number of which have had their facts wrong. We started off with a speech by the hon. and gallant Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) who said, among other things, that the United States will win and wants to win. With the greatest respect to him, I say that that is a ludicrous assessment of the expressed American intentions, let alone an assessment of what people might think those intentions to be.
I draw his attention, for example, to an interview given by Mr. Dean Rusk, the Secretary of State, on television recently. Mr. Rusk said:The United States is not going to capitulate, but, on the other hand, we do not want of ask for surrender by Hanoi or surrender by Peiping. All we are asking them to do is stop shooting at people at whom they have no right to shoot, and take home the people they have infiltrated into South Vietnam, including some of the regular North Vietnamese armed forces. The objective of the exercise is that Hanoi and Peiping learn to live at peace with their neighbours.Speaking of North Vietnam he said:The United States has never undertaken to destroy that regime but simply wants them to stop bothering their neighbours. We hope very much that they realise, before this gets into much larger conflict, that this is the essential purpose.Looking at American intentions in the Vietnam situation one starts—and I appreciate that this may not gain favour among some of my hon. Friends below the Gangway—with a situation in which the Americans are not attempting to win a war by aggression but are trying to get a negotiated settlement from the situation that has arisen.
It would not be for me to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) into some of the paths he trod. He made a brilliant 1427 speech. It had all those qualities that one has come to associate with him—brilliance of expression and a somewhat selective approach towards the facts. It was, indeed, a speech which I admired greatly and thoroughly disagreed with.
However, one can and should say about his speech, that at one stage he said, taking up a remark made by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) last night, that we should be careful about judging the effect of the bombing of North Vietnam. I certainly agree that when we are 6,000 miles away we should be careful. But my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale then went on to attack the American bombing because, he said, it was killing women and children and had destroyed a hospital as well. But if one must be careful about reports of the effects of bombing one must be careful about reports from both sides.
§ Mr. Richard
I should like to see the proof. No doubt, if proof is forthcoming it will be presented to the House, judged objectively and weighed up. But if I am required to enter a caveat as to the version entered by one side that caveat must equally apply to the version of the other side. I am sure that most hon. Members accept that approach.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths), unfortunately, marred his speech in the last 10 minutes by the absurd and unworthy approach which has been shown by the Opposition towards the Government's initiatives. He tried to spell out what he thought the future pattern of developments in Vietnam might be, and I agreed with a good deal of what he had to say. He talked about a Vietnam independent of major Powers, guaranteed by them—if possible, by China as well—and also about a united and finally prosperous Vietnam. Surely all hon. Members, whichever side of the main Gangway or the shorter Gangway they happen to sit, would agree that, in the long run, that is the objective of a settlement.
I plead with my hon. Friends to look at the problem in relation to the facts as they are and not in relation to the facts as we would want them to be. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale 1428 said that we should get the analysis right. By all means. I am not going back over the last 11 years to trace out my own particular version of history. That would not be profitable in trying to look at the situation as it exists tonight, when we should look at it clearly, hardly, and objectively.
The House is trying to debate British policy in relation to South-East Asia, so we should at least get clear what our position and our status and power in the area are. We should be clear that a resolution of this House, however forceful its terms, does nothing except represent an expression of the combined will of the House of Commons. It does not solve war in South-East Asia for the simple reason that we are not involved in that war.
There are four salient facts about the British position.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
My hon. Friend says we are not involved. Is not he aware that we have had a police mission there?
§ Mr. Richard
I am obliged for that intervention. I appreciate that we have had a police mission there, but I would not have thought that it amounted to military intervention on the sort of scale that would give us a military sanction in the area. But I am not evading the point. I will come to it later.
I was referring to the salient facts of the British position. First, our status in the area is limited. The sole fact is that we are one of the two co-chairmen of the 1954 Conference. It is noteworthy, and should be said, that we are one of those co-chairmen not because we happened to be neutral in the dispute in 1954, not because we were uncommitted or independent, but because it was impossible for the belligerents and the parties concerned to agree upon one chairman. Had it been possible to agree on one chairman I have no doubt that some uncommitted, neutralist, independent nation would now find itself saddled with the responsibility of trying to recall the conference, and not us. But because it was found impossible to have one chairman it was decided to have two—one from each side. The Soviet Union was picked by the Eastern side and Britain by the Western side. That is our sole and real status in the area.
1429 The second fact also concerns the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). Our influence in the area must be limited by the fact that we have no troops there. Of course, that is not an argument for having troops there but it is an argument for saying that we cannot impose a sanction based on the withdrawal of military support. We are, therefore, in a much weaker position than we were in the Korean situation. At that time it was possible for the British Prime Minister to fly the Atlantic to make very strong and forceful representations to the American President because we had our own troops in the area fighting side by side with the Americans.
§ Mr. Richard
I have no idea why we want police there, but I accept the point put by my hon. Friend. I do not think that it detracts from the point I am making, which is that we have no military strength in the area sufficient to make the withdrawal of that strength a sanction, and that, therefore, we cannot turn to the United States and say, "If you do not do X, Y or Z, we will withdraw our troops." We have none to withdraw.
The third fact of the dispute is that such influence as we have is diplomatic and resides in Washington. It does not reside in Moscow and certainly not in Peking or Hanoi.
The fourth fact of the matter which, I suppose, I touched upon a little earlier, is the fact that Britain is not an uncommitted nation. Britain is not a neutralist State. We are one of the most committed and non-neutral nations in the world, and the sooner the party I belong to faces and accepts this basic fact, the better it will be for the foreign policy of the British Government.
Given those four facts as I see them and believe them to be true, our influence can only be and our initiative can only be at best persuasive, and it can only operate within the framework of the Alliance, and it can only be to persuade the Americans to take some particular act we might think desirable in the long run.
1430 I turn to certain other unpalatable facts which have to be faced. What are the facts of the situation itself—not just of the British position, but of the situation?
There have been on both sides breaches of the Geneva Agreement. Let us face this fact. The International Control Commission has found breaches by North Vietnam in infiltrating into South Vietnam and by South Vietnam in accepting American support, though I think one ought to get the record straight and remember that the condemnation of South Vietnam was, for acts committed after those for which North Vietnam was condemned.
The second fact which I should have thought most people would have accepted is that American involvement is firm—it is committed. It is unlikely, to say the least of it, that we shall see the Americans withdraw unilaterally from this area either because the Americans themselves consider it desirable or, and even less so, because the British Government make a declaration that perhaps they ought to.
The third fact in this area—and this seems to me again to be unpalatable but true—is that in 1965 we are in fact dealing with two Governments. There are just as much two nations in Vietnam to be dealt with as there are two nations in Germany which have to be dealt with. Therefore if one is attempting a settlement of the Vietnamese dispute in terms of a general agreement we have to look at the whole of Vietnam, just as, if one is trying to settle the German dispute, one is looking at the whole of Germany.
With the greatest respect to my hon. Friends, the cry of "Back to Geneva, 1954" is just as unrealistic about Vietnam as is the cry "Back to Potsdam" which divided Germany in 1945. The situations are not strictly comparable, but there is an analogy there which I think ought to be pointed out, and there is a lesson there which I think perhaps ought to be learned.
Another fact is that there are only three possible alternatives to the conflict in South Vietnam. One is that the South Vietnamese and the Americans will win in the sense used by the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), the second is that the Vietcong will win and there is in the third one, which is the one we ought to support, 1431 namely that there should be a negotiated settlement in the area acceptable to all.
In relation to this last alternative, the third alternative, this is where, if anywhere, the British Government can play a part, and that is why the attitude of the Opposition is so infuriating, carping at attempts to bring about a negotiated settlement in the area. One hon. Gentleman got up today and actually condemned the Prime Minister because, the hon. Gentleman said, he was a man who had ideas. This is precisely what I should have thought British foreign policy has been lacking for very many years—ideas and initiatives to deal with some of the difficult problems facing us. Now, when a British Government actually produce some ideas and take some initiative, the only response from the other side of the House is a carping, pettifogging type of criticism which would be unworthy of hon. and right hon. Members discussing at three o'clock in the morning some abstruse Clause of the Finance Bill.
The steps we have taken so far have been mainly directed towards persuading North Vietnam and China that the position is one which ought to be settled by negotiation. I certainly do not propose to run through all the initiatives. They have been numerous, they have been abortive. It matters not whether the initiative has come from us or whether the initiative has come from an uncommitted nation or whether it has come from a group of uncommitted nations, the result has been that Hanoi and Peking have firmly refused so far to enter negotiations about the situation in South-East Asia. Indeed, when one notes that Yugoslavia is dismissed as a Titoist clique, as the Chinese news agency did, it is not encouraging. It is not helpful when one is trying to get negotiations going.
These failures have taken place not because of any minor matters. Whether, for instance, the Commonwealth mission should be chaired by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister or whether it should be chaired by the Liberal prime minister of another white Commonwealth Government seems to me to matter not a jot. The fact of the matter is that so far there has been no sign from the other side that they are prepared to negotiate at all, and I regret to have to say that one 1432 must, therefore, viewing it against the background of the facts which I have presented and which I think are accurate, anticipate that the present American build up in Vietnam will continue, and that one must expect them to try and hold their present military position at least till the end of the monsoon.
It may be necessary to withdraw from the coastal areas, it may be necessary to fortify towns. I know not, but I am convinced of this, that if the military situation is allowed to deteriorate further from its present state, then the hope of a negotiated settlement in that part of the world seems to me to be very limited indeed. One would hope that provided we—I say "we", and I am falling, perhaps, into the same error as some of my hon. Friends—the United States can in Vietnam maintain its present military position till later in the year one would hope that by then the North Vietnam Government would be in a more receptive frame of mind.
What should Britain's posture be? I should think that the only posture we can take up is the one the Government have already taken up, one of watchful concern. What we are saying is that we do not like the situation any more than anybody else, but it is not of our choosing, it is not of our creation; it is something which we believe ought to be settled, and we will do everything we can to see it is settled. If later on this year we get to the state in which the military position in Vietnam is held by the United States then negotiations may become possible, and at that stage it becomes very useful to consider the form and scope of those negotiations and the precise part which Britain can play.
There is a terrible tendency, too, in this whole debate about Vietnam, whether inside this House or outside of it, to forget South Vietnam. We tend to concentrate on the bombing in the North, we tend to concentrate on the Vietgong, we tend to discount completely the expressed intention of the South Vietnam Government. I believe that the South Vietnam Foreign Minister has been rather like one of our more static civil servants. He has remained in office despite the fact that his political leaders have changed repeatedly, but he has maintained a pretty firm attitude as to the sort of form the negotiations ought to take. He has said firstly, that North 1433 Vietnam must withdraw its troops from South Vietnam.
Secondly, he has proposed and has accepted that what the South Vietnam Government call friendly forces—in other words, the United States—should withdraw, and, thirdly, that there should be effective guarantees of Vietnamese peace and independence.
This last point, I would think, is absolutely essential if a firm, final and lasting solution is to be reached. We tend to forget, when we talk about the lack of stability of the South Vietnam Government, that theirs is a nation which has been fought over for some 25 years. It is a little difficult in that situation to expect the precise forms of democratic government we should like to see exist.
I am not suggesting that the present South Vietnamese Government is one which I should like to see in office. Nor am I suggesting that I agree with everything that it says, but let us accept that it is high time this unhappy nation was left alone by all people to get on and decide its own future.
I have one final word to say about the North Vietnamese attitude towards neutrality. Neutrality has been spoken of as a possible solution for both North and South Vietnam. It has been suggested that unification, neutralisation and international guarantees would be a hopeful step in settling the area. But to get that far one would have to have a rather drastic change of heart on the part of the North Vietnamese Government.
For example, we were told, I admit in a rather obscure speech made in Havana last year by the head of the permanent Vietcong delegation to Cuba, that for North Vietnam neutrality would be a step backwards, but for South Vietnam it would be a step forward. This does not seem to be a realistic basis on which to start talking about the possible neutralisation of an area, even though it is backed by effective international guarantees.
I conclude with a quotation which I think it might be worth noting. In a recent television interview on "Panorama" the late Adlai Stevenson, when talking about what has come to be called the Davies Mission, said: 1434Well it is my understanding that Mr. Davies' mission to Hanoi was in an effort to explain to the authorities in North Vietnam what the purpose and objectives of the Commonwealth mission were, and we have generally supported, as you know, the purpose of the Commonwealth Mission which is entirely consistent with some thirteen or more initiatives that the United States has taken and many of them with the co-operation of the United Kingdom to bring this matter to the conference table. I don't think we can afford to leave any stone unturned if you believe in peace.I should like the Opposition to note those words.And certainly we do. And certainly you do, and certainly I think most of the civilised world does and it doesn't want to see this war escalate. President Johnson has so repeatedly said we don't want any larger war. We want to see this thing resolved and resolved as quickly as possible, as a fair and honourable peace, a just and honourable peace that will enable these people to determine for themselves their own future.That is the position of the Government. It is a position which I hope all hon. Members can support.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)
I should like to follow the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) in adding my name to the list of people who have pleaded that we should be able to devote more time to debates on foreign affairs and that we should be enabled to debate one subject at a time. Like the hon. Gentleman, I wish to speak about Vietnam. I do not propose to follow the question raised by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) about the rôle of the British police mission in South Vietnam. I imagine that the hon. Gentleman who is to reply will reassure his hon. Friend about that, but I have a certain knowledge of that mission, having served in Indo-China for two years. It is an extremely small mission, I believe its numbers can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and it is devoted entirely to peaceful purposes.
§ Mr. Blaker
I wish to consider the problems of Vietnam in the context of relations between Russian and the West. In his very interesting speech the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) queried the basic facts about what is going on in Vietnam. I did not get a very clear picture of what the hon. Gentleman thought the facts really were, but, so far as I did get an impression, it seemed to me that the hon. Gentleman was fundamentally wrong.
I served with a British Embassy in Indo-China for two years, and I believe that the basic facts are as follows: As the Government have said, since 1959 the authorities in Hanoi have been waging a ruthless and single-minded campaign to convert South Vietnam into a Communist state. In 1959, when this policy began, there were, I believe, about 700 Americans in South Vietnam, none of whom was an active combatant Service man.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway may ask, "Where is the evidence for the claim that this is a ruthless policy directed from Hanoi?" There is, of course, a good deal of published evidence but the difficulty as far as these hon. Gentlemen opposite are concerned is that most of it comes from American sources, and I dare say they will claim, although I do not, that it is likely to be biased. I would remind them that at the time of the Cuba crisis in 1962 many people were asking, "What is the evidence for the proposition that the Russians, as the Americans claim, are installing missile bases in Cuba directed against the United States?". There were cries of, "Where do we get this evidence?". The person who proved it was Mr. Khrushchev who, after a few days' delay, said, "I will withdraw these missile bases from Cuba". Thus, when we hear doubts about the value of American evidence of what has been going on in Vietnam, let us remember that example.
There are, however, various other pieces of evidence which confirm the validity of the statement which the Government have made, and which I entirely accept. There are, for example, the circumstances at the time to be considered. Why did this aggressive policy on the part of the North Vietnamese start in 1959? It started then for two 1436 reasons. First, by then the North Vietnamese had come to the conclusion that they were not going to succeed in taking over South Vietnam in a peaceful way by elections. Both sides were, of course, to blame for the fact that elections were not held in 1956 as they should have been, but that is a factor in the timing of North Vietnamese policy.
The second reason was that by 1959 the Diem Government which had been in control in South Vietnam had registered tremendous successes with their policy of pacification. A few years before the South Vietnam countryside had been dominated not by the Viet Cong, but by other armed bands such as the Cao Dai and the Hoa Hao about which we used to read. By 1959 the South Vietnam Government had succeeded in pacifying the country and were looking forward to greater prosperity. That was a situation which the North Vietnamese could not tolerate because they saw the prospects of their taking over South Vietnam disappearing. They saw the prospect of greater pacification and greater success for the South Vietnamese Government, and that is why they intervened.
If hon. Members are doubtful about these North Vietnam tactics, the next piece of evidence lies in the Communist writings about subversive guerrilla warfare, and I am afraid that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale cannot have done his homework, and cannot have read these basic Communist documents about guerrilla methods of subversion. If one looks at the campaign which the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese authorities have waged since 1959, one sees that it is a classic example of the evolution of subversion as preached in the doctrines of the Communist experts on that subject—forced recruitment, forced indoctrination, the creation of village cadres, the smuggling of illicit arms and, above all, terror.
I want to mention one case, of which some other hon. Members are aware, as an illustration of the exercise of terror as a weapon by the Vietcong. It is an extremely well authenticated case. There is no doubt of its truth. The Vietcong occupied a village, the head man of which, they thought, was showing too little sympathy to them. They brought him and his family into the main square of the village and in front of his eyes disembowelled 1437 his wife, cut off the limbs of his children. They then emasculated him. Terror is the classic means which, among other factors, has brought success to the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese. This is what is so often described by people who have not sufficiently studied the situation as a spontaneous uprising of the Vietnamese people against the Fascist South Vietnam Government.
There is no doubt that the National Liberation Front and the Vietcong contain some genuine nationalist members who are not indoctrinated Communists, but there is also no doubt that the control of the Vietcong is exercised by the Communist Party in Hanoi and, as we have seen in many other parts of the world, it is quite possible for a liberation movement of this kind to have a predominance in numbers of genuine Nationalists but, all the same, for its policies and ultimate objectives to be directed by the Communists.
It is worth asking ourselves what would have been the position in South Vietnam in recent years if this ruthless campaign had not been conducted against South Vietnam from Hanoi, through the Vietcong. I believe, as the Prime Minister implied yesterday, that the revolution could have been contained. South Vietnam would not have been a perfect country—very few countries in that part of the world are. No doubt there would have been inefficiency in Government, and the elections would not have been conducted on lines that we would like to see. There would have been some corruption and instability. But there would not have been the constant governmental changes every few weeks and the situation of grave crisis which we now see. In fact, in those circumstances South Vietnam would have been very much like many of her neighbours.
But we must deal with things as they are. I have painted this background, but I do not mean to imply that we should resist negotiations. I would be prepared for talks to take place between the West and the Vietcong, because we must accept the present situation. With respect to the Foreign Secretary, I believe that he said that initiatives in foreign affairs should not necessarily have flamboyance. He said that the processes of peacemaking should often be laborious. The criticism that I would make—and I shall 1438 be accused of carping—about the mission of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to Hanoi, and about the Commonwealth Peace Mission, is that they were flamboyant and that too little laborious work went into their preparation.
There is no doubt that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's mission to Hanoi failed. The Prime Minister yesterday expressed the hope that something might come out of it in the long run. Have we any reason to believe that it will? Whom did the Parliamentary Secretary see? We were told by the Prime Minister that he saw the head of a department in the Foreign Ministry. The Prime Minister suggested that it would be somebody equivalent to Sir Paul Gore-Booth, Permanent Head of the Foreign Office. I think that the Prime Minister has it wrong. If he were the head of the North Vietnam Foreign Ministry that would be right, but he was merely the head of a department in it—somebody equivalent to what I would have been if I had remained in the Foreign Service. I would not have considered that I was treating a Minister of a foreign Government very respectfully if I were the only person to receive him on such an important matter. It would have been quite possible for the Government to make contact with North Vietnam in some other way. The Prime Minister has said that there are no diplomatic contacts. That is true. But would it not have been possible to make contact with Vietnamese officials—and that is all that we have done—through our respective missions in Peking? Could not our Chargé d'Affaires in Peking have talked to the North Vietnamese Ambassador? Could not this have been done in some other country where North Vietnam is represented? The argument that there are no diplomatic contacts needs some searching examination.
The Foreign Secretary asked what harm could have been done by the visit of his hon. Friend to Hanoi. I think that it may have done some harm. It may have made it more difficult for Britain, next time, to be listened to with respect in Hanoi. There is the danger that next time the North Vietnamese authorities will say, "Last time, when the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Pensions came, we chose him. They did not insist on sending a Foreign Office Minister. We refused a visa to the official 1439 he wanted to bring in to advise him, and he had talks only with one of our middling civil servants. This is the weight that we attach to Britain. That is the way in which they are prepared to be treated." So next time we shall find it more difficult to persuade North Vietnam to take us seriously.
What about the Commonwealth Mission? There can be no reason for surprise that none of the Communist countries would receive a Commonwealth Mission which was to be led by the Prime Minister, because, as has been pointed out by Peking and Hanoi, he is committed to the American line. He reaffirmed that commitment this afternoon. Would it not have been possible to set on foot a Commonwealth mission with a different composition which might have been acceptable to Hanoi or Peking—a mission consisting of the Prime Minister of Nigeria, the President of Pakistan, the President of Tanzania, and perhaps the Prime Minister of Canada—although he might have been too controversial, but less so than our Prime Minister? One criticism that can validly be made against the handling of this Commonwealth Mission by the Prime Minister is this—that his desire to make sure that Britain was in it and, thus, his desire to get the limelight, removed any chance that it might have been acceptable to the Communist side.
This Mission, too, has failed. It is remaining in being, but it is very doubtful whether it will ever be called upon to do anything. If one has a failure of this kind one may find it more difficult next time to take a successful initiative. The Prime Minister has talked about his strategy of movement in foreign policy. Certainly there is lots of movement, or the appearance of movement, but there is not any progress.
In these circumstances, what should the British Government do? I am in broad agreement with most of what has been said from the Government side, by speakers like the hon. and learned Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne) and the hon. Member for Barons Court. It is absolutely right that we should keep open the possibility of negotiations, though I am doubtful whether this is the time to press further initiatives on the North 1440 Vietnamese. As has been said a number of times, they are unlikely to be responsive for several months yet. Secondly, so long as the Americans pursue their policy of carefully controlled response to Communist aggression, we should back them up. There are several reasons for that. The first is that, contrary to what the Government believe, I think that Hanoi is well informed about British politics. They have followed very closely and with a high degree of sophistication what goes on in this country and in America on matters of this kind. Their decision whether or not to push on with their military methods or whether, perhaps, to agree to negotiation will be influenced to some degree by the amount of solidarity they see between Britain and America, and inside Britain and inside America, on this subject.
The second reason for backing up the Americans is that, I believe, the only way the Communist side might be brought to negotiations is that they will in due course—not necessarily at the end of this rainy season: we may have to wait longer than that—realise how determined and powerful are the Americans—how much more powerful than the French, which is the comparison the North Vietnamese are fond of making, and much more able to stay than the French—how much more capable they are in all those respects of avoiding losing the battle on which they are engaged.
Thirdly, there is the effect in South-East Asia. The hon. and learned Member for Lincoln said that the more he looked at it the less impressed he was by the domino theory. He explained these remarks by saying that the other countries in South-East Asia differed in religion and history from South Vietnam. That is true, but, with respect to the hon. and learned Member—whose speech I listened to with great interest—in this context these factors are not relevant. One should not over-estimate the importance of the difference in religion in a matter of this kind. I ask hon. Members to consider the case of Ceylon, which is Buddhist and has strong Communist parties, or cases much nearer home, like those of Italy and Czechoslovakia. It is not things like religion and history which will determine whether or not South-East Asia crumbles if the Americans are defeated in South Vietnam.
1441 It is not even a question of humiliation, which was a point made by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire yesterday. Perhaps it is good for people to be humiliated now and again. That is not the point. The point is that, if the Americans withdrew, or if they were defeated, the rest of South-East Asia would say to themselves something like this, "We thought that the American Seventh Fleet and their tremendous resources were going to prevent South Vietnam going Communist. It has not worked, America is revealed as a paper tiger." Therefore, they would start reinsuring, as individuals and as countries, with the Communist side.
The danger about the American policy in South Vietnam is that it may make it more difficult to achieve a further détente between the West and Russia. I should like to put to the House a thought on that subject which has not been mentioned. The Prime Minister said yesterday that we cannot assume that, because of the rift between Peking and Moscow, Moscow will be bound to come over to our side. I entirely agree with that, but there is something else to bear in mind in considering the long term relations between the West and the Soviet Union. It is that it is essential. if the West is to have really friendly relations with Russia—which is what we all want and hope for in the long run—to demonstrate to Moscow, as much as to Peking, that subversion of the classic Communist kind does not succeed.
It is also essential to demonstrate that the continuation of such subversion by any Communist country is inconsistent with really good relations with the West. I believe that the Russians, in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, are still pursuing the campaign of subversion which we heard much about a few years ago but which now tends to be forgotten. I should be grateful if the Government would confirm that that is the case, that Russian subversion is going on all over the world in the same way as Chinese subversion. It is not acceptable, in the long run, that Russia should say, "We are prepared for a détente with the West, but we want to have a special arrangement by which we can carry on subverting non-Communist Governments."
1442 That, I think, is another reason why the Americans are right to pursue their policy of controlled response. I believe that the Americans understand the importance of their relations with the Soviet Union. That is why they sent Mr. Harriman to Moscow, a decision which we all welcome. That is why they recognise the importance of pressing on with disarmament. That is why, I hope and believe, they recognise the importance of obtaining some agreement, if we can, on United Nations finances and Article 19.
I hope that we will press on with all these things. I believe that the fact that the Russians are agreeing now to the resumption of the disarmament negotiations proves that we can continue to work for a détente with them while pursuing the present policy in South Vietnam.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I want, first of all, to deal with a special point mentioned by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker). I became interested in our police mission to Vietnam as a result of a question put to me by a member of the Government one day in May, when he asked, "Did you read the Daily Mirror yesterday with the account of what the British police said to the correspondent of the Daily Mirror?" This was the first time I was aware that we had an active police mission in Vietnam.
I turned to the Daily Mirror of 11th May, 1965, and I came across a feature article by a correspondent, Donald Wise, who apparently is the Daily Mirror correspondent in Vietnam. It was published under the heading:British bobbies hit at 'brutality' in Vietnam".I am not aware that the Daily Mirror has any propagandist axe to grind about Vietnam. I read this article as coming not from an apologist for any point of view, but from a journalist who was apparently there on a fact-finding mission. Mr. Wise described an interview with half a dozen British policemen. These are not ordinary policemen; apparently they are experienced police officers who were seconded to this mission two or three years ago. They talked frankly to this correspondent, so he said, and he gave the names of the police 1443 and their years of service. Between them they had 125 years' police service in Nigeria, Cyprus, Malaya, Kenya and Tanganyika. The article contained the sentence:And they are sickened by what goes on here".One would think that these police officers were very experienced and tough characters. They went on to speak of the South Vietnam Government, and one of the remarks which they made was:Prisoners and suspects are killed as casually as swatting flies, but no record is kept of who these people are.Apparently the British police did not agree with the Vietnamese police. The article contains two columns of descriptions of the views of these police, who complained bitterly about the methods of torture employed by the South Vietnam Government and expressed the wish to be brought home.
I put a Question to the Under-Secretary of State, who answered it and promptly agreed to find out the facts. I understand that he communicated with the ambassador in Saigon, that the police were interviewed and that they explained that they had conversed with this reporter but that they had made none of these statements. That seemed to me an extraordinary thing. I fail to see why an experienced journalist would risk his reputation in stating these facts when they were so liable to be contradicted. For my part, in spite of contradictions from the ambassador at Saigon, I still think that this journalist, who is a responsible journalist, told the truth about this matter without any exaggeration at all.
The hon. Member said that there were only six of these police now in Vietnam, but the advisory commission has apparently been there for three years and the head of this mission, independently of the evidence given by the other police, has also expressed his point of view in an interview with the Evening Standard. The surprising thing is that these police officers are apparently being paid by the British Government. Why? If the South Vietnam Government are so incapable of running their affairs that they cannot run a police force of their own, it is understandable that they should apply to us, but why should we send them to South 1444 Vietnam free of charge? According to the Answers which I have received, the chief of this mission was there for three years and was paid over £22,000. I should like an explanation from the Foreign Office why they think that we should keep this police mission there at present.
Very little information is contained in the Answers which I have received. In my most recent Question I asked whether the Foreign Secretary would give details of the aspects of police work on which the British Police Advisory Mission in Saigon advise the South Vietnam Government. I was told in reply that police training and procedure, civil disturbance control and various other police tasks were now the civil aspects of counter-insurgency. Counter-insurgency? That is a new one on me. I have heard of counter-revolution, but apparently this new thing, counter-insurgency, comes under the control of the Government.
We are told in the latest information about the most recent Government of South Vietnam—and I understand that there have been about a dozen Governments in about as many years—that the Prime Minister there is a great believer in Adolf Hitler and has expressed the view that what Vietnam wants is not one Hitler but six. Is this not a peculiar counter-insurgency Government to be supporting? I would like a plain and specific answer to the Question which I asked because I want to know why we are paying these police officers in Vietnam who are supporting what is presumably a Fascist Government.
§ Mr. Hughes
I want this information from the Foreign Office, not from the hon. Gentleman. He is not in that Ministry yet.
The situation I have described is peculiar, particularly when it is remembered that we are constantly being told that we need policemen here. When one listens to the Home Secretary dealing with the problem of crime prevention one understands that we do not have enough policemen. Despite this, we are sending them to Vietnam. At present the Home Secretary is preoccupied with bandits who attack vehicles and steal mailbags not even as far away from the House as 1445 Kingsway. Prisoners have escaped from Wandsworth Gaol, yet the British taxpayer is generously providing police for Vietnam. I suggest that the commonsense thing would be to bring them home, even if somebody in Washington would be upset about it. The best thing would be for these gentlemen to be brought home and, if necessary, their headquarters could be set up somewhere near the City of London.
We have had an interesting debate and to me today's part of it has been more enjoyable than yesterday's. From all points of view it has been a good debate. The Leader of the Opposition was, of course, all out against Communism. He is naturally anti-Communist in Africa, Asia—
§ Mr. Hughes
—and all over the world. If the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. William Yates) owned 60,000 acres in Scotland he would be afraid of Communism, too. Naturally the Leader of the Opposition is perturbed about Communism coming dangerously near to us and is alarmed that it may gain momentum in Africa. I am not disturbed about Communism in that part of the world. I have seen a little of it in China and whatever may be the faults and difficulties of the present Chinese Government—for which nobody, not even the Russians, have a good word to say at present—from the little experience I have had of seeing China. I suggest that it has a Government which is infinitely better than the Governments of the warlords and the bandits which preceded it.
Why does Communism come in any part of the world? The conditions of Communism are a poor peasantry and an unemployed working class in the towns. China is a huge country, with a huge population and a vast number of villages. There had been the war, and then the Japanese invasion, and then there was this immense upsurge of revolt. One of the things the Chinese did was to get rid of the landlords. They got rid of the usurer, the banker and the pawnbroker, and the landlord went at the same time.
Naturally enough, that is why the Opposition get alarmed. I do not want 1446 to see Communism come into this country in the same way. I want to see the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition peacefully retired. I do not want to see him hurt or injured in any way. I would be content if he were left for the rest of his life to carry on with his salmon fishing and other peaceful avocations, with his 56 farms taken over, perhaps, by some public body.
I mention this because in all these countries where Communism comes we have a landless peasantry, half starved, and the inevitable revolt. One thing one notices in all Chinese propaganda in literature and on the television screen is that the villain is usually the landlord who has seduced the wife of the landless peasant. This is crude propaganda, but it happens to be basic fact. The result is that feudalism in China collapsed, and the present strong, steady central Government are, on the whole, in spite of difficulties, building up the country, and the standard of living and the economy are rapidly developing.
I am not alarmed about that. I am not alarmed at the possibility of Communism coming in Vietnam or in Africa. We have heard some searching questions asked about what the Americans would do if they won the war in Vietnam. They would have to repair the bridges. They could not send back the landlords to the rice fields. They would need a planned economy very much like that which the Chinese have under Communism. I fail to see why we should be so enthusiastic about taking the side of the Americans in this war.
The Prime Minister yesterday made a very interesting speech. As he spoke, I was reminded of a rather famous saying by the late Mr. James Maxton, the Clyde-side M.P. Jimmy Maxton was speaking on the street corner. He was interrupted by someone who, thinking that he was getting dangerously orthodox, said, "Jimmy, you're trying to ride two horses at the same time." Jimmy looked at him reproachfully, and said, "Politicians who can't ride two horses at the same time are not worth their place in the bloody circus." That is what I was thinking about the Prime Minister. He is an exceptionally good performer, but yesterday I thought he was trying to ride two horses at the same time when, unfortunately, they were not like the ones referred to by 1447 Jimmy Maxton but appeared to be going in opposite directions. That is a very difficult thing. It is difficult to retain one's peace and stability. The Prime Minister defends the bombing, on the one hand, and then, on the other, he talks about initiating peace. These two lines of policy cannot be reconciled. That is my difficulty in understanding the policy of the Government.
It is possible to believe in the bombing and to believe in American policy and one can carry that through to its logical conclusion, but I do not see how anybody can work the two lines of policy at the same time. I shared the perplexity of my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr), who asked how it was possible to reconcile the appointment of a Minister of Disarmament and a super salesman for armaments at the same time. That is my perplexity and dilemma. Although I am a loyal supporter of the Government, I believe that these views are those of a large percentage, if not the majority, of the supporters of the Labour Party. They are perplexed about this support of American policy and they are anxious about the future. I hope that this will be cleared up.
I am an old friend of my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) and I was very pleased when he decided to go on his mission. It is surely not for the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) to complain about an unorthodox mission. I wish that the hon. Member were present. He objects to a mission to Ho Chi Minh, but the hon. Member went on a successful mission. He went to Yugoslavia and helped to establish Tito Communism in that part of the world. Therefore, I fail to see why he should object to an unorthodox mission.
We have heard a lot of talk about humiliation. It will be a humiliation if the Americans are forced to withdraw. A lot of Americans are feeling a sense of humiliation because they are there at all. The most encouraging thing that is happening is that they are asking in different quarters of America how American traditions and ideas of democracy can be reconciled with this. It is only 200 years ago since George Washington was leading the Vietcong guerrillas 1448 against the British Government. All that the Vietnamese, the Chinese and these people who are fighting for their independence are doing is acting under the inspiration of Washington.
I do not see any humiliation in admitting when one has gone wrong. General de Gaulle is a big man. In spite of the fact that I disagree with him, General de Gaulle appears to me to be one of the biggest men in world politics. General de Gaulle has recognised the inevitable. He came out of Indo-China. It was a humiliation to the French.
I remember being at the Geneva Conference at that time as the correspondent of Tribune. My most vivid memory of that Conference is of the gorgeous peacock outside the building of the United Nations. It was a very discourteous peacock. It fluttered on to the bonnet of Mr. Molotov's car and used it as a lavatory, at which the Western journalists were delighted; but the next car was American and the peacock showed its impartiality by doing exactly the same thing to it.
I remember that at that time there was similar talk about the humiliation of the French. But it has been good for the French to be humiliated, because they have come out of Indo-China, which has become Vietnam, and they have come out of Algeria, and six or seven years ago nobody thought that that was likely to happen.
President de Gaulle takes the realistic view that the days of colonialism and imperialism are over and that the white race cannot hope to lord it over the whites and the yellows and the blacks. When he speaks out about the Americans, he expresses the view not only of the French but of intelligent people all over the world. As one of the Prime Minister's loyal supporters, I would have been more pleased if he had taken up a similar attitude and had expressed the view of many British people and had spoken out against American policy in Vietnam.
We have our own experience. We came out of Suez. The Americans did us a good turn by helping to stop the madness of Suez. We have come out of Africa. We are rapidly abandoning our rôle of liberators of other countries. If the Americans were frankly told that by the 1449 British Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend would be expressing the view of many people throughout the world.
The real reason why we are so friendly with America and do not criticise America is that we have financial difficulties because of previous over spending on, among other things, armaments. We are indebted to the pawnbroker and we cannot be uncivil to the pawnbroker. That is about the root of it—that we cannot afford to criticise America too much, because if we take a different line on Vietnam, it will mean a financial crisis for this country. This is not 30 pieces of silver but 300 million and for that we are abandoning the moral leadership of the world.
We seek our truths in the newspapers and I am distressed that the Prime Minister is President Johnson's poodle. That is humiliating. We have to consider it from Hanoi's point of view and when Hanoi sees the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions coming along, naturally it says, "Here is the pup of the poodle". That is the irreverent way in which the cartoonists of the Communist world regard us. They are putting rather crudely in their caricatures what Dean Acheson said bluntly a few years ago. So when my hon. Friend arrived in Hanoi they did not bring out the red carpet. I am told he was in conversation there for 16 hours, and I gather that the conversation would not be on one side. I am not in favour of conventional diplomacy, and I would like to see a White Paper of exactly what the North Vietnam people whom he met said about the whole situation. The more information we get the better.
Supposing this thing had been in reverse. Supposing it was suddenly discovered that there was arriving in London the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance for Outer Mongolia to tell us that he wanted to solve a problem in Malaysia. What would the Foreign Office have done? Would it have put out the red carpet and introduced him to the Prime Minister? No it would have said, "Go and have a 16-hour talk with the junior Whips". I am not sure whether he would have learned just as much from the junior Whips as from the more exalted personalities in the political establishment.
1450 I hope that we are not at the end of the Commonwealth Mission. It cannot go to Hanoi, it cannot go to Peking, but it can go to Washington. Why should it not go to Washington? The mission is composed of a very large and representative collection of people who have firsthand experience in liberating their countries from foreign domination. President Nkrumah has been in a British gaol—I do not know how many of them have not been in British gaols. They are exactly the people to go and tell the American Government that the time for carrying on the traditions of eighteenth century British Palmerstonian imperialism is over and that it is time they learned sense.
It is a curious thing but I am, for what reason I do not know, suspected of being anti-American, because I take an international outlook. Yet one gets some very anti-American sentiments being expressed in some very strange quarters these days. What is the gentleman who is occupying this new position of super arms salesman going to do? Fight the Americans. What was the whole key to the criticism of the Government's action in doing away with TSR2? Hon. Members got eloquent because the Americans were trying to destroy our aircraft industry.
So I say that instead of this happy unity with America there are grave economic contradictions. American industrial policies and our policies do not coincide. If the Americans are trying to sell arms in different parts of the world, and we are competing with them, then our interests are conflicting. I have heard a lot about the American alliance in the course of this debate. I have never believed in it. One of the most interesting moments in my life in the House of Commons was when I was a Teller against the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I have never believed in N.A.T.O., and now even Lord Montgomery does not agree with N.A.T.O. A new generation has arrived, wanting new ideas and new diplomacies, not the traditional deal of the Foreign Office. They are not going to be content with the old shibboleths, the old platitudes that have served as foreign policy during the last decade.
I say to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who has just returned to the Chamber, do not be so 1451 afraid of Communism. Communism is coming anyway—not perhaps the kind of Communism which has come in Russia, in China or in Vietnam, but a planned economy which means to make an honest man of the landlord. In another 10 or 20 years, if we have not destroyed ourselves in an atomic war, we shall see tremendous changes in the structure of society in every country. I believe that in 20 years' time every country will be a country in which the land and the industries are used for the benefit of the people. The right hon. Gentleman will have to accept the inevitable.
However, like the Leader of the Opposition, I want to see a world free of war. I have one beautiful quotation from a speech of his which I want to read now that he has returned. I have been a student of his speeches—and today's was not the worst. I have suffered, too. I do the right hon. Gentleman the credit of believing that he is just as sincere in trying to avert a world nuclear war as I am; but he is on the wrong lines. When he goes to Moscow, he makes good speeches. That is the benefit of sending our great politicians to Moscow: they breathe the rarefied air of a far-off Communist country. The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), who speaks for the Opposition on foreign affairs, has been there recently. It has done him good. I did not notice it in his speech yesterday, but I have hopes.
I remember going on a historic mission to Moscow with Mr. Macmillan. He made wonderful speeches in Moscow. He made two wonderful speeches at the British Embassy in which he lauded Mr. Khrushchev as the prophet pointing to the promised land. I took it down, and I brought it home. He owes me a debt of gratitude.
When the Leader of the Opposition went to Moscow, he gave two talks. One was at the signing of the nuclear Test Ban Treaty. I do not begrudge him any credit in contributing to the signing of that treaty because anybody who does anything about ridding the world of the possibility of nuclear war deserves our approbation and thanks. The right hon. Gentleman appeared on television. He was very popular on the Russian television. I have a copy of the speech which he made on television. It was a 1452 very good speech. He quoted from my immortal constituent. He quoted wrongly, because he said:It's coming yet, for all that,That man to man the world o'er shall brothers be.It was a notable utterance on his part.
However, the real gem was in his television talk. He said, "We want to do much more than co-exist. We want to co-operate". Russia is a Communist country. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about co-operating with the Russians. If we can co-operate with the Russians, I do not see why we cannot think of co-operating with the Chinese. The right hon. Gentleman said:Each of us can do good things separately, but if we do them together they will be very much better, and we believe that if we work together it will be good not only for each of us but for the whole world as well.That was a quotation from the best speech that the right hon. Gentleman has ever made.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I wrote a biography of the right hon. Gentleman, and I have already gone through a period of extreme torture, but I am prepared to learn. I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman that the Russians are now respected. They have been admitted into the diplomatic circle. We must keep in with the Russians, but the right hon. Gentleman is in order to abuse the Chinese.
I believe that the Chinese are going to make a bigger success of Communism than the Russians have, because they are more subtle and they have the capacity of infinite wisdom. So I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to be too much afraid of this bogy of Communism and to realise that Communism has come to stay. We have to live with it, unless we are going to be wiped out together.
Underneath all this debate, there is a misunderstanding of what goes on in Russia, of what goes on in Vietnam and of what goes on in China. These people are human beings, like ourselves. We have to co-operate with them and do our best to rid their minds of the horror and torture of war.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
I can agree unequivocally with one of the things that the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) said during the course of his somewhat long speech, namely, that it has been a very good debate. It will be agreed by all sides that in the last two days we have had extremely thoughtful speeches on the very important and serious topics involved in a debate on foreign affairs. It would be right, too, that I should reiterate what has been said, not just on this side of the House, that there are so many subjects in foreign affairs that we should have more debates so that we can concentrate on more subjects in the singular for instance, I think it is important that we should have a day to debate Britain and Europe.
§ Mr. Thomas
We have not had a day. We had a short debate in which one or two hon. Members took part, mainly from this side, and it would be important for us to have a short debate to discuss the important implications of Britain's European policy, because it is possibly the most important branch of foreign affairs and one that should be discussed in depth.
I have not a great deal of time, because I wish to give as much time as possible to the hon. Gentleman who will be replying. Therefore, I will concentrate not on all the subjects I had hoped to raise, but on the one or two important matters which have been discussed.
It has been my belief in the few years that I have been associated with foreign affairs—and I know that many right hon. and hon. Gentleman on the Government side share it that British foreign policy ought to be based on a broad measure of bipartisan consent and agreement surpassing the sectional and domestic differences between us. If there is to be a credible foreign policy, there must be the semblance of some unity of purpose. This debate has to some extent been hopeful—and I emphasise the words "to some extent"—in this respect. The main subject, inevitably, has been Vietnam, and the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary have made it quite clear that the Government stand firmly with the United States in the double aim of halting communist aggression against South Vietnam 1454 while at the same time seeking a just political settlement which will end the savage conflict and enable the people concerned to work out their future in freedom and in independence. It has been made quite clear by speeches on this side of the House that this is our view, however much the Government's policy on Vietnam rouses the anger of their own Left-wing guerrilla forces.
I am entitled to say—and I do not do so to embarrass the Government—that we have had an indication of the real divisions which exist on the benches opposite on foreign affairs. There was the forceful speech by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). It was delivered with great sincerity. It was harshly critical of the Government. We had a delightful speech from the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, which was also critical of the Government's policy. I noticed when the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was speaking that there were 45 hon. Members on the benches opposite and that 26 of them were nodding agreement with him. That indicates the division.
I said at the outset that in order to have a credible foreign policy we must have some unity of purpose, and I say this to the Government: I admire the way in which the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have remained firm throughout the debate for the policy they know its right and which I know will be warmly welcomed by all our allies and all our friends in the world who are extremely concerned about what Britain's attitude should be to these world problems.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale made many references to what is happening in South Vietnam. I noticed that he said nothing about what has happened in North Vietnam since partition along the 17th Parallel. He made no mention of the totalitarian régime which was so quickly established there after 1954. He did not mention the thousands of peasants who were tried before the people's courts for offences of which they were not guilty and that hundreds were killed. He did not mention the peasant revolts in North Vietnam which were quickly and brutally put down by the totalitarian regime.
It is quite clear that the policy of North Vietnam from 1954 onwards was 1455 that in time the South would collapse because of internal subversion. After 1954 the Vietminh left behind trained people and armed caches ready to assist in that subversion, and that was why in May 1959, when the South Vietnam Government did not collapse, it was decided that there should be an all-out guerrilla war with the objective of overthrowing that Government. It was planned, supported and directed from the North.
Up till then, as the Foreign Secretary said at Oxford, there were only 700 American advisers in South Vietnam. Since then, approximately 20,000 officers, soldiers and technicians have entered South Vietnam from North Vietnam, mainly through Laos. Again, as the Foreign Secretary said, there is possibly a regular battalion of the North Vietnam Army operating about 200 miles south of the border, and possibly many other units as well.
The campaign carried on in the guerrilla warfare by the Vietcong, assisted from the North, was well described by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker), with his intimate knowledge of that part of the world. It is a campaign of indescribable terrorism. I remember when I was at the Foreign Office being given facts, which I would not like to describe to the House, about how villages were intimidated and examples made of head men and their wives and families before the rest of the villagers. If that is supposed to be loyalty, it is loyalty which is only obtained by abject fear. Up to 1959, it must be remembered—and I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will remember it—and, indeed, right up to the American air attacks in 1964, and to the beginning of 1965, really, there was no question of North Vietnamese territory being infringed or threatened. The story is a simple one. It is a story of direct, unprovoked aggression from the North.
§ Mr. Thomas
I wonder if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way? I was given very limited time.
§ Mr. Thomas
That is a point which the hon. Gentleman made and which, I agree, is a valid point. It is a far more valid point than other points he made. In our assessment of what should be our attitude today I think that one should not be too much dominated by post rights or wrongs. As the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne) said yesterday, one could debate ad nauseam whether American policy has been consistently right or wrong since 1954, whether the various South Vietnam Governments were good or bad, whether there have been breaches of the Agreement, whether the matter should have been referred to the United Nations.
One can debate all these sorts of things. The real question is, where do we stand today? I think there can be no doubt about that answer, and that the answer, which is the general view of the House, is this: we stand firmly behind the Americans, the Australians and the New Zealanders in what they are seeking to do, and, whatever may be the fringe issues, the situation in Vietnam is simply this: it is a military confrontation between aggressive Communism and non-Communism, the outcome of which is of vital interest not only to South-East Asia and the Far East but to every country in the non-Communist world, and in particular to us here in Britain.
The Prime Minister yesterday summed up the situation by making nine propositions with which he invited agreement, and with the first eight of them I entirely agree. The first one was the horror and misery of the war. Of course, one agrees about that. The second one was that the war carries a danger of possible escalation. One must obviously agree with that, though I think that in many ways the danger could be exaggerated. The third was the poisoning of East-West relations. Again, that is obvious. The next was that a peaceful solution could not be found by military means alone. I agree with him again. He said that to get a political solution meant getting round a table. Of course, that is obvious. Another was that the majority of the 1457 Geneva parties are willing to have negotiations. Again, that is so. He said that the key to the situation is in Hanoi, and we have no normal diplomatic channels in Hanoi.
It is with his ninth proposition, which was this, that we should seek all means, orthodox or otherwise, to penetrate Hanoi and to persuade them to negotiate, that, I must say, frankly, I have some real reservations. I am sure that the idea of having any means orthodox or otherwise can be a serious danger, and I will say why. I think that repeated attempts to contact Hanoi by any means could lead to misunderstanding; misunderstanding in Hanoi; in particular, misunderstanding as to the strength of American determination to remain in South Vietnam till a peaceful solution is found.
It has been said, and frequently in this debate, that the Americans cannot win. That may be so. But they cannot lose. They cannot afford to lose, and indeed they are determined not to lose. I think that the North Vietnamese, together with Peking, will in fact negotiate, but they will agree to do this only when it is to their advantage to do so. First, they must come to a realisation that they cannot win. Despite what they told the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, it may be that they realise that today. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South said, he cannot credit that they are so remote from outside information, but it is true, as has been said, in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), that during the monsoon period the Vietcong may well make substantial gains and consolidate their position and their influence in the south.
For some time the Vietcong has been in control of villages. South Vietnamese forces and American forces have been forced back to the towns of which there are about 300, and these towns are now, in effect, defence posts. It could well be that after the monsoon, when the Americans and the South Vietnamese forces are in a position to redress the situation, Hanoi will call for talks, although I doubt it, but it may well be that they will when they are in an advantageous position, and I think we should be very careful 1458 about showing too much immediate enthusiasm if this be so.
I do not need to remind the Government that the Americans seek nothing for themselves in Vietnam. All that they seek is a just, lasting and peaceful solution by agreement, but we must not forget that they are there representing the interests of those who condemn Communist aggression and are determined that it shall not be seen to succeed. It is therefore of vital importance that any attempt by Her Majesty's Government to negotiate talks, or any responses to overtures, should be made only after the closest and fullest consultation with the United States, and that is what I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) meant when he said yesterday that the object here is to achieve peace but not appear to be trying to achieve it at any price.
I have only seven minutes left and I therefore regret that I shall not be able to refer to some of the matters to which I wanted to refer, in particular to matters relating to the United Nations. I should, however, like to say this to the Foreign Secretary. He made a statement today about Article 19 and said that he would not be able to give us any details because the matter was still under discussion. We were told by the President, Mr. Quaysa-Sackey, that the General Assembly was to meet on 1st September, and the Prime Minister said that they intended to be present then. Does that mean that the General Assembly will be meeting with full voting procedures? I would welcome an answer from the hon. Gentleman who is to reply on whether a decision has been taken on abandoning the principles of Article 19, because by so doing we are abandoning the firm stand which both sides of the House have taken for some time.
In the few minutes that I have left, I should like to refer to the proposed Disarmament Conference which will be convened on 27th July. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to present this proposed reconvening as a new breakthrough. This, of course, should have happened many months ago. I think it will be agreed that the United Nations Disarmament Commission in New York was no substitute for this 18-Nation Conference. No progress was made in New York. In fact, the conference was used 1459 only for polemical speeches and there was very little indication of any progress at all.
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said yesterday that he found it encouraging that the Russians were taking the initiative. They were apparently willing to re-convene on 20th July but we found it more convenient to go on to 27th July. The right hon. Gentleman asked why we were not ready. I am willing to accept the explanation made last night by the Minister of State about administrative difficulties, but were the Government taken by surprise on this? Was this initiative taken very suddenly by the Russians? [Interruption.] The Prime Minister says that we took the initiative.
§ Mr. Thomas
I find it very difficult to understand the Prime Minister when he speaks sitting down. I thought he said that we took the initiative. Whoever took the initiative, let us be glad that the conference is convening. The Prime Minister said yesterday that the Minister of State responsible for disarmament has spent months working on a treaty of non-dissemination. Why has he been working for such a long time on this treaty? Such a treaty is presumably based on the Irish Resolution of 1961, and that treaty, in draft, was approved, with various suggested amendments, and had been so for some time when he assumed office. On 23rd July, 1964, in a speech which I made at the E.N.D.C., I emphasised what had been said time and time again before, both in this House and in the Disarmament Conference, that we were entirely ready to negotiate a non-dissemination agreement as soon as possible. I called upon the other members to conclude a non-dissemination agreement then and there.
The question that we can properly ask is: why should there be a delay now? As far as I can gather from what the Prime Minister said yesterday, the matter is still being discussed. There may be some doubt whether or not the treaty can be put before the Disarmament Conference. Many of us would like to know 1460 why there has been this delay. The Prime Minister talks about initiatives. Is this one of the new initiatives?—because it is something that we have been working for for many years.
I am not blaming the Minister of State—I know the difficulties—but we have a right to point out that not one of the measures mentioned by the Prime Minister yesterday and the Foreign Secretary today is new. Many measures which once they advocated very strongly—when they used to criticise what we were doing when we were the Government—appear to have been dropped. The Minister of State responsible for disarmament started his political career in a truly spectacular way. Few, if any people, can claim to have become a Minister, a Peer, a Privy Councillor and a member of the Labour Party all in twenty-four hours. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is talent!"] One might call that a truly liberal accumulation.
Perhaps it is not surprising that since then the momentum has not been maintained. Perhaps that is one reason why the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu), who, in his very interesting speech yesterday, described himself as "Pain in the Neck No. 1", said that he could hardly be more disillusioned with the Government at the way things had gone. I am not disillusioned. I know the difficulties that there are in disarmament. I appreciate that the Government are now face to face with reality.
But let us be honest about this: the noble Lord the Minister of State who is responsible for disarmament has been on half-time for the last nine months. Let us hope that he will have an opportunity in the Disarmament Conference to work full-time. Hon. Members on this side of the House are happy to give the Minister our fullest support in the measures that they will be putting forward at the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Conference. We could hardly do otherwise, because all the measures were initiated or supported by us when we were in office.
I say this to the Prime Minister—and I mean it, because I can remember things which were said before this Government came into office: arms control and disarmament are of such vital concern to mankind that they should not be brought 1461 into the field of party politics. Do not exaggerate for party advantage initiatives which should be shared not only by both sides of the House but by the whole of the Western Alliance. If ever a matter of foreign affairs demanded a bipartisan approach, it is disarmament.
The hon. Member the Minister of State has told me that he can let me have two or three minutes more. In conclusion, therefore, I agree with the measures which have been put forward, in particular, the two most important measures—the agreement on non-dissemination and the comprehensive test ban treaty, involving the banning of underground tests. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can tell me whether the Government have any information on the points which were put forward by Sir John Cockcroft and mentioned earlier in this debate, that is, on-site inspection. Have we made any advance on this?
As to the first measure, an agreement on non-dissemination, that is something on which we cannot afford to delay. Matters have now reached such a head that, as William Foster, the head of the United States Disarmament Agency, said the other day, a delay, perhaps even of months, could mean the difference between success and failure.
About a dozen countries now have the industrial and technical knowledge to construct and test a nuclear weapon of their own. All they need is the political decision to go ahead and do it. In the course of a few years, nuclear weapons will have become easier to manufacture, smaller and relatively inexpensive. The dangers of nuclear spread, if unchecked, are horrifyingly apparent. Pressures already exist on India to manufacture, following the Chinese explosion. If India did so, Pakistan would follow. We know the technical "know-how" which exists at the moment in Israel. If anything like that happened there, one knows what effect that would have on the Middle East.
A treaty of non-dissemination, by which the nuclear Powers agreed not to transfer their weapons or control of them to non-nuclear countries while at the same time non-nuclear countries agreed not to acquire these weapons or their control or to manufacture them, must be made before it is too late. It is so much in the interests of all countries. In particular, 1462 is it in the interests of the Soviet Union and the United States of America?
It is very much in the interest of the Republic of Germany, because it would help greatly in the relaxation of tension in Europe. I hope that the Republic of Germany is one of the first non-nuclear countries to sign such a treaty. Such a signature would in no way jeopardise her full participation in any arrangements like the M.L.F. or an A.N.F. which might eventually be agreed on. It is quite clear that none of those agreements could ever involve proliferation, because it would not be acceptable to the countries at the heart of such an agreement.
If this agreement is signed, as Lord Chalfont said in an admirable speech the other day to the Foreign Press Association, some form of security by way of collective guarantee or other measures might be given to the non-nuclear signatories. This is a difficult thing, but it is something which we shall have to think about. These measures are important for the future of mankind and for the peace of the world. I wish the Government well in what will be happening in Geneva. The conference may start with polemical speeches, but it is a good thing that the countries are entering into a dialogue. I hope that, in the course of time, there will be a not-too-late result.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Thomson)
There is one matter on which I can be 100 per cent. bipartisan with the right hon. and learned Member for Conway (Mr. Peter Thomas) straight away, and that is in his assessment of the two-days' foreign affairs debate which is just finishing. It has been an unusually good debate, wide-ranging, constructive and at times extremely lively. It is I think, the last debate on foreign affairs which is likely to take place for some months. All the various suggestions which have been made from both sides of the House during the debate will be carefully considered by my right hon. Friend.
Having started on a bipartisan note, perhaps I may pass for a moment to a more partisan note and congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman, if it does not embarrass him too much, on the excellent speech which he has just made. We have been listening to the 1463 speeches in the debate with a great deal of interest and we have decided that the right hon. and learned Gentleman ought to add himself to the contenders in the leadership race. I do not know quite what odds my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) would give him, although I feel that they would be rather shorter than those which he would give the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling).
A great many subjects have been raised. Some of them have already been dealt with by my right hon. Friends and by my hon. Friend the Minister of State. I will try to concentrate on the new points which have been raised during today's debate. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned this afternoon the importance of saving foreign exchange costs within N.A.T.O. On this matter, I have an announcement to make to the House. It has just come in and I am sure that the House would like to have it at the first opportunity.
The House will be very glad to know that a protocol has been signed this afternoon by the Federal German Foreign Minister and our Ambassador in Bonn to give effect to the agreement on offsetting the foreign exchange costs of maintaining British forces in Germany arrived at by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury during his talks in Bonn last month. The text of the Protocol will be presented to Parliament as soon as possible. I hope that the House will share the Government's view that this agreement represents, as my right hon. Friend said to the House in his statement on 1st July, a satisfactory settlement of an issue of the greatest economic and political importance to both our countries.
The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) mentioned the need for greater co-ordination in the work of the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office. He gave as extremely relevant examples the situation in relation to Spain and Gibraltar and also in South-East Asia. This is a matter which we regard as being of very great importance, and I hope that the House will excuse me if I say a word or two about the way in which the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office are being reorganised, modernised and co-ordinated to meet the challenge of changing times.
1464 Much of this is the result of the work of the Plowden Committee, which included my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) and the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe), both of whom took part in the debate. Their recommendations were accepted by the previous Government and are being implemented by this Government. As the House knows, the integrated Diplomatic Service came into being on 1st January. It combines the previous Foreign Service and Commonwealth Service, as well as the Trade Commissioner Service.
This is part of a many-sided effort by our two external affairs Departments to co-ordinate their activities for maximum efficiency. The constant aim is to see the world as a whole rather than in separate compartments labelled Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth Affairs, while preserving the advantages of the arrangements for special Commonwealth relationships. Cross-postings between foreign and Commonwealth capitals, although they must necessarily begin slowly, have become a normal feature of the integrated service. For example, the new Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign Office comes to the Foreign Office from being our High Commissioner in India.
In practical terms, there are eight Departments at home, dealing with the administration of the new service, which are fully integrated and serve both the Foreign Secretary and the Commonwealth Secretary. One particularly important example of the way in which we are trying to carry this progress forward is the amalgamation of the separate information departments, on which work is now proceeding. Our overseas information services were never more important than at present, when foreign confidence in our economy is a vital factor in our plans for the future and the very foundation of an effective foreign policy.
Sometimes, the Foreign Office is accused of being cloistered and cut off from the world. From my brief experience of the Foreign Office, I do not think that this is either a fair or an accurate charge. During recent years there has been an increasing cross-fertilisation between the Foreign Office and business 1465 and commerce and also an increasing exchange between the Foreign Office and universities and other similar institutions. In addition, the Government have in many ways been seeking to open the doors of the Foreign Office and the minds of all those inside it to the ideas of outside experts. My right hon. Friend the "Minister for Disarmament" has set up an advisory committee in connection with his new Disarmament Research Unit. My noble Friend Lord Caradon and I have sought more informally to consult widely among those concerned in academic, public or journalistic life with United Nations problems.
Perhaps I am entitled to add that these various steps of modernisation are taking place in one of the least modern buildings in Whitehall. Hon. Members and members of the public who visit Foreign Office Ministers in their offices—with their varying degrees of stately splendour should not be misled. For the great majority of those who work there, the Foreign Office is a slum—a rather squalid, inefficient and overcrowded slum. It is a building which was designed for 300 desks more than a century ago, but which now houses seven times that number. The Locarno Dining Room—that glittering relic of the age of Curzon—has long been carved up. Visiting foreign diplomats coming to see a Foreign Office official may find himself sitting in a little cubicle facing one-third of a marble fireplace.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Is my hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members have found when travelling abroad that some members of our Consular Service, who have been abroad for perhaps 30 years, have lost touch with what is going on in this country? In this new modernisation plan, will my hon. Friend see that the members of the Consular Service are kept advised on all political and other developments that take place in this country so that they may be up to date?
§ Mr. Thomson
I will look at my right hon. Friend's suggestion. The main part of the Consular Service is integrated with the main Diplomatic Service and goes to and fro between London and overseas posts in the normal way. I mention this because there will be a particularly warm welcome for the decision which was announced yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building 1466 and Works about the redesigning of the Whitehall site, including the rebuilding of the Foreign Office—Commonwealth Relations Office block.
Meantime, despite the difficult working conditions which I have described, the morale in the Foreign Service remains impressively high. There have been criticisms in recent months about the overseas commercial services, which my hon. Friend the Joint Minister of State dealt with that last night. I content myself with the observation that if the average level of hard work and devotion to duty were as high in the export industries as it is in the Foreign Service we would have fewer worries than we have about our balance of payments.
I was disappointed at the speeches of the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) and the Leader of the Opposition and the fact that they adopted such a carping attitude towards the efforts which the Prime Minister and the Government have been making to get talks started about the Vietnam problem.
The right hon. and learned Member for Conway made a great deal about the virtues of having a bi-partisan approach to foreign policy problems. Where this is possible it is certainly extremely desirable. I must point out, however, that the attitude of the Opposition during this debate, particularly towards the mission of my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, has been anything but a bipartisan or helpful attitude.
To be frank, I was astonished that the Leader of the Opposition, with his immense experience and knowledge of the impact that his words make overseas, should have said that this action might lend colour to the belief that the Government were interested in peace at any price. I do not understand why the right hon. Gentleman showed such an unimaginative approach to this attempt at unorthodoxy to try to get through to Hanoi and soften North Vietnamese intransigence.
I can only think that it may perhaps be because of his earlier experience in politics. The right hon. Gentleman, of course, used to be a Parliamentary Private Secretary to Neville Chamberlain, who, as is well known, took the conduct of some of the most sensitive parts of 1467 our foreign policy out of the hands of the Foreign Office and passed them over to the Government's Chief Industrial Adviser of the day, Sir Horace Wilson. This drove the then Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, to resign and then we had the Permanent Under-Secretary retiring prematurely. I had hoped that the much more limited step which was put forward by my right hon. Friend—of sending my colleague at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance to Hanoi—might have gained much readier acceptance on the benches opposite, in view of the admitted difficulties of getting through to Hanoi.
Certainly, I do not think that there will be any doubt that far from persuading Hanoi that we were interested in peace at any price, the staunchness with which my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance put the position of the Commonwealth Peace Mission, and of this Government, has destroyed some of the illusions that, unfortunately, there were in that part of the world about the attitudes towards the problems of peace in Vietnam.
There has been a good deal of discussion in this debate on the problems of disarmament, and particularly on the threat of the proliferation of nuclear arms. The Government have sought persistently for a reconvening of the 18-Nation Geneva Conference to discuss this particular disarmament problem. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman talked of a Russian initiative, and wondered what my right hon. Friend was saving, we were merely remarking that this was not a Russian initiative but a long-delayed Russian response to repeated initiatives from the West, in that the Soviet Union has agreed to a resumption of talks.
Our "Minister of Disarmament" has his draft non-dissemination agreement ready for discussion. The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked whether we were not making a great deal of this, and claimed that all that had happened was that we had taken over a draft non-dissemination treaty he had left behind, and the Leader of the Opposition made exactly the same charge. They are both wrong and the House should know how wrong they are.
1468 The fact is that there was not left behind in the Foreign Office a Conservative non-dissemination treaty. What was left behind in the Foreign Office was a draft American non-dissemination treaty which the Government to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman belonged were considering, and suggesting various amendments—
§ Mr. Peter Thomas
That is exactly the same thing, because we exchanged treaties. We both drafted treaties on the 1961 resolution, exchanged them, and received the comments from one another. This was done two years before this Government got in.
§ Mr. Thomson
I have looked very carefully into this matter, and I stick to the words I have used. Nor was this draft American treaty, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues were offering amendments, consistent with the Irish Resolution.
That apart, we have been working on a new draft non-dissemination treaty, and the reason is very simply that the one we found in the files did not, in our view, go nearly far enough. I do not want to go into details at this stage, since it is still subject to discussion; sufficient to say that the proposals on which we have been working very hard are a great deal more effectively non-disseminatory than the kind of suggestions the previous Government had been discussing—
§ Mr. Thomson
I said that I did not want to go into details precisely because the discussions on the matter are still going on in preparation for the resumed meeting of the Geneva Conference.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton and the right hon. and learned Member for Conway asked for information about the latest position in relation to a comprehensive test ban treaty. Our advice is that despite recent advances in seismological research it is still true that no detection system existing or in prospect will be able to identify all underground events with certainty, and that a small number of on-site inspections is necessary for the identification of nuclear tests underground. We hope that the Soviet Government will 1469 agree to join with us in discussions between experts to see whether agreement can be reached on the technical problems involved.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman also asked if we could give any information about the statement by the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Quayson-Sackey, that the Assembly would resume on 1st September. This information is perfectly correct, but the Assembly that will resume on 1st September is the tail end of the present Assembly. This was a date agreed some time ago in order to receive the report of the Peace-Keeping Committee of 33. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, we are not yet in a position to give the House any further information on that matter.
Enough has been said from various quarters during the debate to indicate that there are deep anxieties on both sides of the House about the many and complicated international problems that we face. There are sincerely held differences of opinion about how to deal with them. No Government or party within a Parliament can claim a monopoly of wisdom in these matters. I content myself by claiming for the present Government that we have tried to be patient peace-makers at the United Nations in overcoming the difficulties there, at the Disarmament Conference table, in Africa and in Asia. In the Rann of Kutch, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was notably successful as a peacemaker. In my view, he has received insufficient credit for his contribution to the avoidance of war between two great Commonwealth countries.
In North Vietnam, the problem has proved much more intractable. The reason for this is that the North Vietnamese and the Chinese, although possibly not the Russians, still believe that there is more to be gained by fighting than by talking. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Peking, in a vivid and revealing phrase on the morning after my right hon. Friend announced the Commonwealth Peace Mission, called the Mission "a plot for peace". That is a startling charge to make in a world as dangerous as ours. We are, however, glad to plead guilty to it, as, I am sure, are most people in this House. We are plotters for peace 1470 and we are proud of being plotters for peace.
Making peace, however, is more than ending war. It means negotiating conditions which not only end the present fighting, but prevent further fighting, otherwise one war might be bought off at the price of an even more destructive and horrible war in a few years' time. That, as we understand it, is the basis of the American position in Vietnam and that is why we support the Americans. They have stated that they are ready to withdraw when conditions have been created in which the people of South Vietnam can determine their own future. The Americans are ready to talk. It is the other side who are not.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale said that the Americans were not in their own continent, there being the implication—it certainly came out in other speeches—that this was building up a colour war in some way. I would only say that the Americans are there as the allies of the South Vietnamese and that we in this House, and particularly we on this side, have always believed in collective security. In my view, there should be no colour bar in collective security.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale also asked why the Vietnam situation had not been referred by the Americans to the United Nations in the same way as the Arab-Israel dispute was normally referred to the United Nations. The fact is that in connection with the Arab-Israel dispute there is an elaborate United Nations machinery on the ground. I only wish that the United Nations was on the ground in the same way in many other parts of the world, and peace would be a good deal safer.
In South-East Asia, however, North Vietnam and China are not members of the United Nations [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] When the Americans referred the attack in the Tonkin Gulf to the Security Council, and when the Soviet Union invited the North Vietnamese to come to the Security Council, the North Vietnamese refused to attend. Who can doubt, in the face of this intransigent Chinese militancy, that, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister 1471 said yesterday, a unilateral American withdrawal would have incalculable results, not only for Vietnam, but for Asia and, indeed, the whole world. Hanoi and certainly Peking have still to be convinced that military victory is impossible. It is, therefore, the sombre truth that fighting is likely to grow fiercer before the battlefield is abandoned for the conference table.
Despite that, this does not alter our view that Communist China should be represented at the United Nations. It is a nonsense to have an international community without as its member one of the major countries of the world. I was asked about this. We recently informed the Americans that we should vote for Communist China's membership of the United Nations in the usual way at the forthcoming Assembly of the United Nations as the previous Government have done on other occasions. We would also like to see China associated with disarmament negotiations as soon as the right conditions can be created. China has, however, unfortunately at present, made it clear that she will have nothing to do with the Geneva Conference. She also rejected the idea, put forward last autumn by U Thant, that she might join in five-Power nuclear discussions.
In the light of what I have said, the Government are entitled to take pride in these various British initiatives for a more peaceful world. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said, in a particularly notable and lively speech, we are entitled to some credit for these various steps which we have taken, but it is important, as the Leader of the Liberal Party emphasised yesterday and as my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington repeated today, that we should not exaggerate what it is possible for Britain to do in the modern world. In a spontaneous cri de coeur in answer to an interjection in the last foreign affairs debate, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary remarked that there was a limit to what we in Britain could tell other nations what they ought to do.
1472 We all have the painful task of adjustment to make to the changed British rôle in a very quickly changing world. In making it we are sometimes tempted—and this is true of those of us on this side of the House and I plead guilty to it as much as anybody else—to make the same mistake about the United Nations and to believe it to be capable of resolving problems beyond the capacity which its members are prepared in present circumstances to give it.
In saying this, of course, I believe passionately that both Britain and the United Nations have a great deal to offer to the world. I am merely pleading for realism about some of the limitations imposed on us, especially in present economic circumstances.
The patient peace-making of which I have been trying to speak relies in the end for its effectiveness on our national economic strength. Our ability to contribute to the United Nations, to help in closing the gap between the developed nations and the "Third World", to pay the costs of peace-keeping, to have a positive influence on world affairs—all these things are rooted in our economic strength.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition rather lectured us this afternoon on the dangers of setting a ceiling for our defence expenditure, but it would be self-defeating and self-debilitating if we were to incur a defence bill which the economy itself could not stand. This would weaken our ability to play an effective part in international affairs instead of strengthening it.
In one of his most famous phrases as Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin said that what he needed for a successful foreign policy was several million extra tons of coal. What we need today for a successful foreign policy is an extra £100 million of exports. Our nation's ability to contribute to a more peaceful world in the end will be decided not in Parliament, not in the Foreign Office or our embassies abroad, but in the board rooms and on the factory floors of British industry.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.