§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
Our procedure so far this afternoon has been varied. Now that we are starting on the second day of the foreign affairs debate, it is, perhaps, reasonable that I should start by saying that this is an unusual setting for the debate. It has been divided by a period of several days, the first half taking place last Thursday and the second half today. I understand that it is accepted, that after the debate last week on Vietnam, we should concentrate today more on general questions of foreign affairs, and in the course of what I have to say I shall refer to Europe and some of the European problems, to South Arabia, and to Gibraltar. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will answer some of the points which we on this side of the House would like to put to him on these very important matters.
984 Although the system of debating Vietnam last week and the rest of foreign affairs today was probably the best practical solution in the circumstances, when the House as a whole clearly wanted a debate last week on Vietnam, it creates a slightly unreal situation today. We do not want to rehearse again the arguments of last week, but on the other hand, it is only realistic to say that the shadow of Vietnam hangs over every other major problem in the foreign field.
This is what the Prime Minister will find when he visits Moscow later this week. I spent last week in Moscow, at the British Trade Fair, and I had the pleasure of meeting many of the Russian political figures. Unfortunately, I could not see Mr. Kosygin this time because he was in Bucharest for the conference there, but I met many others, including the redoubtable figure of Mr. Shelepin, and I got a clear picture of how the Russians look at this problem.
My reception, as always in Moscow, was personally cordial and frank, but the Russians have a clear and decisive outlook at present which they drove home to me with some vigour. They talked about the recent Warsaw Pact conference in Bucharest, from which, in effect, two communiqués emerged. One was about the possibility of a détente in Europe, and one was on the situation in Vietnam.
The first was rather encouraging in tone, looking for agreement, for ways of slackening and lessening tensions in Europe. The other, on Vietnam, was different in tone and character, talking of volunteers, if necessary, going to Vietnam. What struck me was that in the minds of all the Russian leaders whom I met it was the second communiqué to which they attached importance. Mr. Shelepin went out of his way, in talking to me, to say that this communiqué about volunteers should be treated, in his own words, very, very, very seriously indeed. This is the background that one will find in Moscow at present.
The argument that I found was this: the Russians believe that the world is now almost on a razor's edge, a phrase which was used to me; and that the dangers have grown considerably. They said that the situation in Vietnam was for them in many ways a touchstone of the position and the policy of other countries. 985 But they went on to say, with which I could not agree, that the difficulty they found in dealing with Britain at present was that, in their opinion, we did not have an independent foreign policy at all but were merely the satellite of the United States. This is the impression we must dispel. It is clear that the Prime Minister's action in dissociating himself and the Government from the bombing near Hanoi and Haiphong has not had the desired result of impressing opinion in Russia. As so often happens with this type of scheme, or device, one finishes up by having the worst of both worlds, having earned a bit of distrust from the Americans for apparently having deserted them and no more trust from the Russians.
They are not impressed, and I do not think that they will be impressed, by occasional divergences from American policy. They will be impressed if we make our own point of view absolutely clear, consistently and frankly, without holding back in any way, showing why we are supporting the Americans, not became we are satellites, and not because we are in thrall to them in any way, but because we believe that they are right. This is the way that British spokesmen should talk to the Russians at present. An immense service can be done to the cause of freedom and understanding among the great nations by this sort of frank talk and sticking to a consistent policy, honestly believed in and honestly argued for.
The relations between the United States and Russia are the key to the whole future of the world. I do not think that it is overstating the case to put it that way. The more I go to those two countries, the more I am impressed by the similarity between the ordinary people in them, the tremendous similarities I find between Russia and America—the size and scale of things in both countries, the great hospitality and friendliness of individual people and their great absorption in technology and modern science, in industrial, engineering and chemical developments.
There are these great likenesses and affinities between the two countries, and yet the curtain of fear and suspicion, which is the world's tragedy at the 986 moment, falls so often between them. This is where the Prime Minister and this country can serve a purpose. I do not believe that the present leadership of the Soviet Union intends to indulge in escapades and adventures of the type which we saw under an earlier dispensation. They want to consolidate their own country, to expand and strengthen their own economy; and there is a tremendous amount still to be done. That is what they want to do, and they possibly resent the situation and dangers of Vietnam most of all because they appear to be cutting across and interfering with the task which they have in front of their eyes in their own country.
On the other hand, I do not believe, as the Russians do, that the purpose of the United States in South-East Asia is aggression and expansion. The Americans do not want territorial expansion there. They are not seeking treasure there. They are spending their treasure, blood and lives for a cause that they believe to be right. So, we have two great nations, neither wanting to contemplate aggression but both suspecting the other.
Cannot we now, with our fairly frank relationships with both countries, do something to dispel the cloud of suspicion and fear which bedevils more than anything else the prospect of peace in the modern world? I believe that the put-poses of British foreign policy have been changed by two enormous developments in world history in recent years. First, the emergence of the super-Powers, Russia and the United States, on a scale of military and economic force, but certainly military force, incomparably greater than any other country, which has distorted the traditional patern of international relations to a remarkable degree. The second great new development has been the emergence of nuclear weapons, with not only their danger of world destruction, but also, for the first time in mankind's history, a real chance of lasting peace.
Many times in the past, people have said that war has been too horrible to be possible, but it happened. However, this time it is true. But the tragedy is that this has come too early in a sense, before we have an international organisation capable of realising the possibilities that now lie in front of us. The United 987 Nations should be doing it, and I believe that it will some time be capable of doing it, that it can grow into a world system of law and order enforceable on a proper democratic basis.
But it cannot do it now, as is well recognised in the constitution of the United Nations itself and, in particular, in the system of veto in the Security Council. So all still depends upon the concert of the great Powers. All our efforts in this country must be directed to achieving that concert between the great Powers upon which the strength and development of the United Nations can be based.
I believe that our influence in the world and the degree to which we can exert it now depend mainly on three factors. The first is our own resources, particularly economic resources, the strength of our economy, and the wisdom with which we allocate our resources between the many calls upon them. Second, the strength of our foreign policy depends on the alliances we have with our friends throughout the world, on the strength of those alliances and their cohesion. Third, it depends on maintaining confidence in Britain, in the British Government and in British adherence to treaty obligations. All these three are inter-linked. Without the resources we cannot help our friends, and, if we do not help our friends when they need help, our resources may turn out to be quite useless.
First, let us look at the problem of resources. We are to have a debate on our economic problems later this week, and I shall not anticipate that, but I believe that what we must do is to give priority to what is really needed most, and what is needed most is expenditure designed to maintain British policy overseas and to maintain British influence in the councils of the world. Too often, we say that we cannot afford something when, if we are frank, what we really mean is that we will not afford it. On many occasions, we say we cannot do something because we have not the resources, and what we mean is that we have not the resources unless we are prepared to sacrifice something else for that purpose. We must as a country be prepared, first, to find the resources which 988 are necessary for the maintenance of the British position in the world.
We must then regard expenditure in support of policy abroad as one, allocating priorities within it for expenditure on defence, expenditure on diplomatic services, expenditure on aid, expenditure on propaganda. All these things are part of one purpose, maintaining Britain's position and furthering British policy. I wonder sometimes whether, in the past, we have got our priorities wrong, whether, for example, the effort—propaganda is not quite the right word—to explain to the world the purpose and reasons of British policy has been pursued as it should.
All Chancellors of the Exchequer—I plead guilty to this—tend to underestimate the importance of this service, probably because it cannot be measured in terms of money. We cannot see what we get for the expenditure we make. I believe that the time has come to give a little more emphasis to efforts of this kind in our total overseas budget.
Next, there is expenditure on aid. I would never accept the view that the purpose of overseas aid is to attach strings to the policies of other countries. It seems to me that aid is a duty which we owe to others, sometimes an infuriating duty when the people who receive aid seem almost to throw it back in our faces. But we must persevere. It is a duty which we in the industrial world owe to the developing world.
But in developing our aid we must be concerned to present an improving picture of Britain and the British people in the world, and this is why I hope very much that, in developing our aid programme, we shall lay more emphasis on individual efforts, on voluntary service overseas, on the rather remarkable efforts which are being made by young people in this country to go out to help, guide and lead the people of the developing countries.
The change in this country which has arisen from the disappearance of Empire is more profound than is often realised. For many years, it took much of the energy, force and vision of our young people to go out and govern an Empire. Now that is gone, and they are looking for something else. I believe that they can find that something else in this effort and voluntary service 989 overseas, not in ruling or governing, but in guiding, teaching, assisting and aiding. Anything that the Government can do to encourage and help this voluntary service must be of immense benefit to this country's standing in the world.
Within the funds we allocate to defence expenditure as part of our overseas policy, we must, clearly, get our deployment and our priorities in deployment right. I am sure that it is right to continue to maintain a position east of Suez. In the context of history and the context of Britain at the present time, this is right. The cost is heavy, of course. We must aim to reduce this expenditure, but it must be reduced only at the right pace and only as far as can be done consistent with our obligations in that part of the world.
Orke looks forward to a time when a new balance may arise spontaneously in the Indian Ocean or the Far East. There are signs of it already. There are new organisations of non-Communist States and new groupings slowly developing, as Mr. Holt, the Australian Prime Minister, pointed out at his Press conference. But would these rather tender plants be able to grow and flourish if the Anglo-American presence were abruptly removed from South-East Asia? I am sure that, by maintaining our position there, we are contributing essentially to the growth of organisations east of Suez and in South-East Asia which—the sooner the better but in the fullness of time—will be able to take over for themselves the responsibilities of defence in that area.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
Will the right hon. Gentleman be a little more precise in the reference to the cost of this policy and state that it would, in fact, cost considerably more than the £2,000 million budget planned by the Government?
§ Mr. Maudling
I remember that, when I was Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was difficult to get an exact calculation of the total cost of operations east of Suez. What I am certain is that, when we have commitments of this character, we must find the money for them and that, by abandoning them, we may put even further away the day we hope to see when new defence arrangements in this part of the world can be managed on a local 990 basis, by the countries themselves or by organisations of those countries themselves. Too premature a withdrawal of British and American influence will not ease our problem in the long run or reduce our expenditure in the long run. It may even make it higher.
We have our commitments there. We have our commitments to Australia. We have our commitments still in Malaysia. We have very serious commitments in the Persian Gulf. We have, I believe, a moral commitment to help the people of the Indian sub-continent, particularly to help India if attacked again by China. All of these are remaining commitments to which we must give priority in deciding how to use our resources in support of policy and in the furtherance of British interests.
It is a heavy burden, of course, arid it is difficult for us both to bear the burden east of Suez and to bear a share of the burden in Europe as well when so many of our competitors are not doing the same. It is not realistic to expect to see other European countries taking any military position east of Suez, but it is, surely, realistic to expect them to take into account our world-wide effort in assessing the comparative effort being put by the N.A.T.O. partners into European defence.
This applies particularly, for example, to the German support costs. I hope that the Foreign Secretary, or whoever is to wind up the debate, will say something about progress in the negotiations with the Federal Republic on support costs. We heard some very brave words from the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few months ago about the great improvement which was to be made and the determined stand which the Government would take. We have not heard so much recently, and we should like to hear today exactly what position has been reached.
This brings me to the N.A.T.O. Alliance and the need to change the form and structure of the Western Alliance to take account of present-day realities. There has been, since its foundation, a great change, obviously, in the relative strength of the United States and the European partners in the alliance, a great change particularly in relative economic strength, and there has been a shift in the area of threat to the Western world, 991 with the threat obviously receding in Europe and growing east of Suez.
The French action has only brought matters to a head. The time had clearly come for a revising of N.A.T.O. to take into account modern considerations. We regret, I think, the manner of the French action, but I hope that regret will not lead to any form of recrimination, because the purpose now must be to rebuild as much as possible of the military deterrent strength of N.A.T.O., and also to rebuild political confidence both within Europe and between Europe and the United States, which could be threatened if these latest developments were allowed to lead to argument, bickering and squabble among the various N.A.T.O. member countries.
The new structure to aim at must be based, first, on a continuing United States presence in Europe and, secondly, on a proper relationship between the United States and her European partners in the Western Alliance. It would be folly for Europe alone to try either to match the conventional armed forces of the Soviet Union, or to duplicate the nuclear forces of the United States. Both of these efforts, vast and costly, would be a waste of the West's resources.
In the foreseeable future the great military Powers, the United States and Russia, will continue to exceed all of their allies in force and continue to dominate the military scene. But I do not believe that all partners in an alliance have necessarily to be of the same size and I am sometimes a little disturbed by the way in which, when the Atlantic Alliance is discussed, people appear to imply that one must have a Europe which is as strong as America just for the sake of it.
I am not sure that this is wise. Partnership implies not equal size or equal strength, but equal commitment to the aims and purposes of the partnership and equal willingness of all persons however big or small, to respect and look after the interests and views of their other partners. This is the principle upon which N.A.T.O. should be developed. At the same time, should we not be looking at new things for N.A.T.O. to do? At a time when morale is rather low, and shaken by recent developments, is it not wise to look for 992 new functions, purposes and opportunities for N.A.T.O?
There could be more regular consultations about the problems arising outside of Europe. There is also the question of disarmament. There seems to have been very little progress in this direction over the last 18 months. The co-ordination of overseas aid, East-West trade and a new approach to the Warsaw Pact countries are other subjects which might usefully occupy N.A.T.O's attention.
The approach to the Warsaw Pact countries could be based upon the thinning out of forces, though certainly not upon disengagement. The Warsaw Pact communiqué of the last few days has not given great grounds for hope, based as it appears to be mainly on the determination to exclude the United States from any participation in the European framework of future security structure. Any such exclusion of the United States would be disastrous from the Western point of view.
Along with such developments in N.A.T.O. goes the question of our relations with the European Economic Community. I would like to ask the Foreign Secretary one or two questions about this. Only recently, we had the visit of the French Prime Minister, followed by the long communiqué dealing, in particular, with our relations with the Community. The terms of the communiqué have certainly caused some disappointment, and may have disappointed the Foreign Secretary after the rather optimistic things that he was saying a little while ago.
It is important not to overdo the disillusionment and not to be too easily disappointed. As disclosed in the communiqué, the French position may appear to be rather stiff and unyielding. In the original Treaty of Rome there are plenty of protocols dealing with the problems of particular countries. When one comes to think of it the French have had a long battle to establish the present system; these things have been argued about inside the Community time and time again and agreement has been reached only with very great difficulty, sometimes with great pain and grief. Why should they want to see this situation disturbed unless they are confident that the British Government really mean business? This may be difficult.
993 I do not believe that so far the French Government are really convinced that the British Government, the party opposite, are committed in their hearts to the idea of joining the Community. If a member of the French Government was here at Question Time this afternoon, and heard the reaction from hon. Members opposite below the Gangway, he would have had his fears confirmed. Before we can judge the French attitude in these discussions we must ask what was the attitude taken by the British Government? This was very unclear. The communiqué says that Britain was ready to join the Community:… provided her essential interests could be met.What does this mean? This is a phrase used constantly, and used again this afternoon by the Foreign Secretary. It is no good sticking to the words without spelling out what they mean.
Do they mean the five conditions, still pristine in their spendour and unchanged? Do they mean what was said in the Prime Minister's speech at Bristol, in March, when he derided the whole idea of import levies—the foundation of the agricultural policy of the Six? If this is what "essential interests" means then it is not surprising if the French attitude is rather stiff and unyielding. It is important that the Foreign Secretary makes clear what line the British Government have taken in discussions with France on this matter. What were the conditions to which they are referring and what are the conditions which they now place upon British entry? Vague talk and reiteration of this phrase can only make progress toward agreement on negotiation more difficult and prolonged.
I want next to deal with the question of maintaining confidence abroad in the policy of the British Government and their willingness to stick by their international obligations. There have been one or two examples in the last 18 months which have caused concern abroad. There was the way in which the surcharge was imposed, without any consultation with our E.F.T.A. partners; the mention of the Concord in the original White Paper of October, 1964, sticking out like a sore thumb from that White Paper and causing great annoyance to our French allies. There was also the recent episode about E.L.D.O.
994 Despite the Prime Minister's sturdy defence of the Foreign Secretary, he appeared to say something inconsistent with British commitment to E.L.D.O.
We have an agreement on the Channel Tunnel. Yet the agreement just announced goes not one point beyond the position reached under the Conservative Government several years ago.
The most serious example of the way in which the Government have worried some of our friends overseas arises in South Arabia, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will address himself to this. The position is this—and I will he corrected if I am wrong. Our relations with that country were governed first by the 1959 Treaty of Protection and then by the 1964 Conference, when the delegates asked that Britain should agree to independence for the Federation while continuing thereafter to assist in its defence. The then Secretary of State announced the agreement of the British Government to this request and this was published after the 1964 Conference. It was an absolutely clear and binding undertaking to help the Federation after independence.
I understand that this was discussed at the time between representatives of the Federation and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who indicated that the then Opposition would carry out the undertakings given by the then Government. I understand, also, that the High Commissioner subsequently confirmed this and that similar things were said during visits to Aden by the Minister of Defence and the then Secretary of State for the Colonies.
If all of this is true, then it is no wonder that the announcement about Aden came as a great and bitter blow to our friends in that part of the world. At the time I was in Saudi Arabia and I remember that the announcement came as a shock to people there and gave joy to the propagandists of Radio Cairo, who claimed that they had triumphed. It caused great sorrow and disquiet to our friends in that area. There is no doubt about the Federal Government's reaction. There has been a certain amount of an attempt to blur the issue, but there is no doubt that the Federal Government believed that they had been let down by Britain, and let down very 995 badly indeed. The Aden Government said then in a statement:All discussions about independence, and the mention of 1968 as the year of independence have been based on the assumption, in which we have been consistently encouraged by the British Government, that after independence there would be a Treaty providing for the British to continue to defend the Federation…. Do you not think that the whole Arab world will regard us as fools for having placed such reliance on the solemn promises of the British Government?This is a matter which must be cleared up once and for all, because if it is true that the people of the Federation of Arabia have reason, as they appear to think they have, to believe that solemn undertakings have been broken by this Government, what chance have we of maintaining the confidence which is so essential in other parts of the world?
It is true that since then there have been discussions about military aid and money to help build up their forces, but that is a pretty poor substitute, and reference to the United Nations is also a pretty poor substitute for the British guarantee upon which they thought they could rely. The aid proposed will not enable the people in this part of the world to stand up to the Egyptian Air Force if ever the time comes when that is necessary. I therefore ask the Foreign Secretary to clear this up, because at the moment it hangs over British credit over a large area of the world.
My final point concerns Gibraltar. Discussions are going on with the Spanish Government about Gibraltar. I appreciate the difficulties of making a statement while talks are going on, but this is very important. There is growing disquiet both here and in Gibraltar at the course which these discussions are taking, and the House should be informed. We recall the statement made by the Minister of State on 29th October last year, thatHer Majesty's Government remains ready to entertain proposals by Spain for conversations but cannot embark on substantive discussions as long as an abnormal situation on the frontier continues and cannot regard sovereignty as a matter for negotiation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1965; Vol. 718, c. 98.]Since then talks have begun, despite an abnormal situation on the frontier. I recognise the desirability of improving our relations with Spain. There has not always been the same recognition on the 996 other side of the House. But, accepting that, I think that it is most important that we should have a categoric assurance that there is no question of conceding sovereignty in any way to Spain over Gibraltar against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar themselves.
At Question Time the other day I asked the Colonial Secretary to make a statement on this issue. He did not know the answer then. I do not know whether he knows it now. When I asked the right hon. Gentleman about the talks with Gibraltar, he referred me to the Foreign Secretary, because apparently the well-being of the people of Gibraltar is no longer the concern of the Colonial Secretary. I hope, therefore, that the Foreign Secretary will take this occasion to give a categoric answer to this question: will the Government give an undertaking that there is no question of ceding any sovereignty over Gibraltar to Spain against the wishes of the local inhabitants? I hope that my question is clear. I hope that the answer will be equally clear.
I have covered a fairly wide range of problems this afternoon. I have put some points to the Foreign Secretary. I hope that we may have an answer on Arabia. I hope that someone will answer on Gibraltar. I hope very much that we shall have a clear answer about the talks with the French, and what these conditions are for our entry into the Common Market. I hope, above all, that when the Prime Minister goes to Moscow he will recognise that the biggest job that he can do in the world at the moment is to try to promote more understanding between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The right hon. Gentleman can do that only by eschewing gimmicks and easy ideas of swift solutions, and by adopting a consistent, honest, and straightforward policy which he should put forward, stick to, and explain as the policy of this country.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)
At the opening of his speech the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said that although we debated Vietnam last week, we are all aware of the influence of the Vietnam situation when we discuss other aspects of foreign policy. The 997 House has for some time been considering whether foreign affairs debates are best conducted by a general debate which can range over the whole world, or whether it is better to divide it into sections and debate on one day Vietnam, on another Europe and the Middle East, and so forth.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman's comments describe the choice that we have to make. There are obvious advantages in dividing the debates by subject, but we have to recognise that if we do so we shall in each debate be handling only certain pieces which can get their full significance only if one sees them as part of the whole pattern.
I want to mention some of the things which I think determine the pattern of world affairs today, the pattern into which one has to fit any particular subject or territory that one discusses. The first thing determining that general pattern—and here I agree with the right hon. Gentleman—is the atmosphere of mutual fear between the two great Powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, what we sometimes describe as the East-West problem.
But no sooner do we mention that than we realise that it is complicated also with the social struggle going on in the world, what is sometimes perhaps less accurately descried as the North-South problem, the cleavage in the world between the more prosperous and the less prosperous. Mention of this makes us realise that in the rivalry between East and West we are both aware of a considerable group of countries which have not committed themselves to either camp, but watch the movement of both with painful interest, and possibly make up their minds where their own allegiance may ultimately lie.
For us particularly the approach to that third world as it is sometimes called is of especial importance, because, owing to our colonial past, we have to handle a number of problems which arise between the advanced developed countries of the world and those which are newly emerging on to the world stage.
In addition to those three considerations, the East-West conflict, the North-South conflict, the special obligation on Britain because of her colonial past, I think that we must notice another feature setting the whole pattern of world affairs 998 at the present time, and that is the enormously rapid advance of mankind's technical skill, which has two effects. On the one hand, it makes it more imperative than ever before to remove barriers to trade because of the amount of human ingenuity and skill that is frustrated today if, for example, Europe continues to be divided—Western Europe even—into two distinct trading patterns. If trade the world over is obstructed, we are more aware today, knowing what we do of mankind's technical skill, how much mankind can be losing if trade is not
At the same time, the technological advances of the world in which we live make technical co-operation between countries far more important than it was before. Man's inventive skill is continually creating projects the proper unit for the operation of which is larger than most national States, and since the world is still not yet at a stage of political development to transcend the national State, it means that nations must, as we have been endeavouring with France and other nations of Europe, get co-operation, particularly in those technical fields where the unit required is so plainly greater than that of the national State.
Having mentioned that topic, I should like to take up at once some of the points made by the right hon. Gentleman about E.L.D.O. I would advise him, and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite generally, that if they are thinking of making any comments on this they should study very carefully the statement which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation made earlier this afternoon.
What comes out at the end of the day is that under the arrangement entered into by the last Government this country was to pay 38 per cent. of the cost. Under the arrangement now secured it has to pay 27 per cent. of the cost. Under the arrangement entered into by the last Government there was no limit to the total sum out of which this 38 per cent. might become payable. Originally, it was thought that the cost of the project would be £70 million. A later estimate was £120 million, and still later is £158 million. We are now starting with a new form of E.L.D.O., with the addition of what is known as the perigee-apogee system, and a new programme in which 999 there will be a ceiling figure of £118 million—and we are not entering into any commitment beyond that total figure.
It cannot be disputed that this is an infinitely better bargain for Britain than that entered into by the last Government. More important than that, the right hon. Gentleman read me a little lecture on the sanctity of contracts and quoted E.L.D.O. in this connection. If he is to speak of E.L.D.O. he should dress himself in the penitent's sheet rather than the lecturer's gown, because the trouble there was that not only was the arrangement made by the last Government a bad bargain for this country, but that the slovenliness of entering into agreements is one of the things that can undermine confidence. It is very easy to make agreements if one does not look ahead and count the cost, and faces a subsequent Government with the difficult choice between an arrangement far beyond what prudence would ever have committed this country to and the natural unwillingness of any Government to go back on an agreement.
On this occasion we were able, by negotiating with our allies, to get out of our dilemma and both to stand by our word and obtain a better bargain for this country. If the right hon. Gentleman is going to lay so much stress on the sanctity of contracts he must remember that what has to go with it is prudence in entering into agreements. I shall have something to say on this theme again when I turn to the other matter to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, namely, to events in the Middle East.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
Will my right hon. Friend say, in connection with prudence, whether the new arrangements include the establishment of an inspectorate to examine exactly to what use the funds supplied by the member countries of E.L.D.O. are put? Otherwise, even a reduction in percentage in the total involvement will not result in a reduction in actual expenditure.
§ Mr. Stewart
There is to be a review, and there are arrangements for this. On that matter, my hon. Friend could better address himself to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation—but the new 1000 arrangements will provide for closer scrutiny than we have had in the past.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Is not the right hon. Gentleman to some extent claiming credit where credit is not due? Is it not a fact that in April the other members of E.L.D.O. were agreeable to adding the perigee-apogee system, and to taking a larger share in the finance, and that in the knowledge that they were willing to do this the British Government still threatened to pull out?
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Member has the sequence of events wrong. Nothing definite was said to us about the possibility of better financial arrangements until later than he suggests. I would draw his attention to the fact that in the end we must judge these matters by events. There is no getting away from the fact that we inherited a thoroughly bad agreement, and that we have now succeeded in making a better one.
My point—and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman on this—is that since it is far beyond the importance of E.L.D.O. that we should maintain confidence that when we have entered into agreements we will keep them, when we are entering into agreements we should look ahead, exercise foresight and consider what is within the resources of this country.
§ Mr. Maudling
I do not think that it is a very good tactic in negotiations to threaten to break an agreement. I understand that on 19th June the Foreign Secretary stated categorically that it was not in our best interests that we should remain a member of the organisation. Does he regard a threat of this kind as a good form of negotiation tactic?
§ Mr. Stewart
I will make a nice present to the right hon. Gentleman. What I should have referred to was "this programme in the organisation". It was quite clear from other things that I said at the same time that that was what I meant, but I certainly made a slip, from which the right hon. Gentleman is welcome to make what he can.
The position of the British Government was well understood by our allies—that we did not feel that the then financial arrangements created a proper basis for our continued participation. In the event 1001 we were able to negotiate a very much better agreement. One of the main theses of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that we must have regard to our resources and to their proper deployment. One of the charges to be made against the previous Administration is that they never properly understood that, and were inclined to give the impression that this country could enter into commitments—scientific or military—without having first counted the cost. That is an error that we shall seek to avoid.
Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman is not really helpful when he tries deliberately to blow up any anxieties that our friends and allies may have. Let us take, for example, his reference to the surcharge. What was the situation in the autumn of 1964? We were running a very heavy balance of payments deficit. Anybody who could do sums would have realised that this country would have to import less; that whatever device was used for that purpose that would have to be the result. I do not dispute the shock given to our friends—particularly in E.F.T.A.—by the import surcharge, but they understood the situation with which we were faced.
We explained and justified this at successive E.F.T.A. conferences, and the decision finally reached has given very widespread satisfaction. The party opposite has never suggested any alternative, and I do not believe that any alternative that could be suggested would not have caused greater difficulty with foreign countries, given the balance of payments with which we were faced. The right hon. Gentleman does not help matters by endeavouring to exaggerate, beyond what the facts justify, the anxieties of our friends, caused by the action we took in face of the difficulties which we have undoubtedly had to go through.
I want now to pursue the main theme to which the right hon. Gentleman referred—the effect on the world situation of the balance of fear and suspicion between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was because of the emergence of those suspicions that the N.A.T.O. Alliance was created. I do not want to go into great detail about negotiations within N.A.T.O.; I spoke to the House at some length about those in the debate a few months ago. The essence of the matter is that all 15 members of N.A.T.O. 1002 believe in the necessity for the alliance, and 14 of them believe that to make the alliance efficient and credible it is necessary to have an integrated military defence.
The 15th, France, believes that the result can be achieved not by integration, but by some measure of co-operation in military planning. The way the French see it is that the 14 will have their defence integrated if they wish it to be, and the 15th, France, co-operating with that integrated defence of the 14. The critical question is: can that co-operation be made to work?
This involves finding the answers to certain political questions between us and the French, and that is what is now being argued out in the N.A.T.O. Council. Once those political questions are dealt with, I believe that the military details will then fall into place. But we and the rest of the 14 take the view that if N.A.T.O. is to be efficient there must be the integrated military plan on which N.A.T.O. has hitherto rested. I hope that we have been able—I am sure that we have—to make this view clear to the French without either giving unnecessary offence or blurring the essential difference in point of view.
I think that one of the valuable things which came out of the recent visit of the French Prime Minister to this country was that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and M. Pompidou were able to establish that the various suggestions which there had been in some quarters that we, because of the argument in N.A.T.O., were pursuing some kind of vendetta against the French, had no foundation. At the same time, we made it clear what our differences of view were and the importance in the N.A.T.O. Council of getting the answers to the political questions concerning the degree of co-operation which we may expect between France and the 14 Powers in N.A.T.O.
I would follow the right hon. Gentleman, also, in saying that it is right that we should not consider N.A.T.O. only as a defensive alliance. He said that we must look for new purposes for it. However, it has, of course, always been one of the purposes of N.A.T.O. not merely to be a defensive alliance, but to try to seek, in the longer term, for better understanding between East and West 1003 Europe. Indeed, it is important, when we say that we will have a debate in the House on Europe, that we do not interpret that phrase to mean Western Europe alone. Therefore, before coming on to the questions of relations between us, the Common Market and our E.F.T.A. partners, I want to consider the question of relations between East and West Europe as a whole.
Here, there are clearly certain wide differences of view, in particular not merely as to how what we would call "the German problem" should be dealt with, but as to the nature of that problem. There are the tensions created by the weapons in the various parts of Europe. I do not believe that one can remove the tensions in East-West relations by starting with the largest and most intractable problems. We must be prepared to start on a limited scale, simply to get the various nations of East and West Europe accustomed to normal relations with one another—normal in trade, in the movement of their citizens, in the exchange of knowledge in science and other matters.
It is interesting to find that this view, which we have put forward on a number of occasions, is increasingly the view of both sides of Europe. If one studies the declaration issued after the visit of President de Gaulle to Moscow, one sees stress there on the importance of bilateral relations and normal cultural and economic relations between East and West Europe. A similar strain of thought is apparent in the Note circulated to a number of European Governments by the German Government a few months ago.
One of the pronouncements coming from the conference in Bucharest brings out the same point. Although, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, on some of the major questions there are views expressed in the communiqués from Bucharest which we could not accept, there is also the emphasis on the need for improved ordinary relations between the countries of East and West.
If I now refer to what may appear to the House to be at first rather small matters, I do so because I am sure that this is the way in which the whole process of unravelling the East-West question must be done. I have paid a num- 1004 ber of visits to East European countries. For example, we have now arranged with Yugoslavia—I am speaking of the events of the last 12 or 18 months—a consular convention, a cultural convention and the abolition of visa fees.
We are in the process of negotiating a consular convention with Poland and we shall shortly be starting negotiations for that purpose with Bulgaria. With Czechoslovakia we are negotiating a medical services agreement, which is something which tourists and would-be tourists particularly value. We hope to be able to make progress in that field with Bulgaria and Hungary as well.
Meanwhile, there have been increasing trade contacts. There is, of course, the exhibition in Moscow at present and we have played a considerable part in the Posnan Fair. I think that it is fair to say that the computer exhibition in Prague was almost dominated by British exhibits. An exhibition by the Council of Industrial Design is shortly to be shown in Budapest. We can, therefore, say that, despite the many anxieties which still crowd the scene, there is evidently a wish not only of Governments but of individual citizens on both sides of what we used to call the Iron Curtain for more normal and human relationships with each other.
We have sought to carry this a little further by means of the proposal which I put to the N.A.T.O. meeting in Brussels, that we should endeavour to draft a statement of principles to govern the contact with one another of the nations of Europe, that this should be partly a statement of political principles and partly concerned with the encouragement of commercial, cultural and scientific contacts.
We are discussing a draft of this proposed statement in the first instance with our N.A.T.O. allies and we shall then want to take it up with the countries of Eastern Europe, some of whom have already expressed their interest in this kind of approach to the European problem. I do not see this as something to be formally negotiated between N.A.T.O. as one group and the Warsaw Pact as another group. I see it as something which, if we can be certain of some degree of agreement on both sides, can then be a statement to which any nation individually, whichever group it belongs to—or if it belongs to neither—can 1005 subscribe. This is something on the lines of the new attempt to relieve the strain between East and West to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.
I notice also that, in the communiqués from Bucharest, there is mention of a declaration, presumably something of this kind. But I must notice here one difference of view. The Powers gathered at Bucharest seem to picture a statement of principles of this kind emerging after the conclusion of a conference on European security. I am inclined to think that this is to pat the cart before the horse—that we want to get a statement of this kind to improve confidence as a step before we get to the real heart of the question, the really difficult problem, the holding of a conference on European security. But I believe that, although it will take time, it is towards such a conference that we should be working. It is a conference which will require preparation and to which the kind of more limited step of which I have been speaking so far is a necessary prelude.
I think that it is clear that in such a conference the question of German reunification has to be dealt with and solved. Another essential of such a conference is the participation of the United States. I should like to say something—again following a remark made by the right hon. Gentleman—about the relations between this country and the United States. He said that he found in Moscow a tendency to regard us as satellites of the United States.
I am not quite certain what moral he drew from that—not, I think from something he said later, the dangerous moral that therefore we should regard differences with the United States and we have such differences—as positive merits in themselves. I should like to make it clear that we have had and still have certain differences of policy with the United States over the position of China in the United Nations. There are certain differences of emphasis in the view we took on the Dominican Republic and, more recently, on its action in Hanoi and Haiphong.
I believe that is right for this country, when it has these differences, not simply to drop them because we never want to differ from the United States at all. But I say very emphatically that we must 1006 never get into the frame of mind where we are lured by a false interpretation of the word "independence" into imagining that differences with our allies are a positive merit, because in the kind of world in which we live there is a very great deal which neither we nor any other country can do effectively save in consultation with allies and, indeed, in discussion with those who are not allies.
There is always the danger, I believe, in discussion of international affairs, of becoming the prisoner of phrases and slogans. "An independent policy" is one of them. If by that is meant that we as a nation, as a Government, give our best thoughts to what we believe to be in the interests of our country and of mankind and endeavour to make that our contribution to the common policy of our allies and, indeed, of the other forums in which we meet other nations, all well and good. But if it should come to mean that there is a positive merit in asserting a different point of view from our allies simply because it is different that approach to international affairs—I do not know whether it ever made sense—certainly does not make sense in such an age of interdependence as the twentieth century.
I think that we should notice this particularly about our relations with the United States. Most of us are of an age to remember when the common reproach thrown up by people in this country at the United States was that she would not interest herself in European affairs until it was nearly too late. One of the major changes in world politics since the Second World War has been the permanent abandonment of any idea of isolationism by the United States. That is a major change and, in my judgment, a very welcome change indeed.
It would be a tragedy to mankind if Europe, after having reproached America for not being sufficiently interested in the outside world in the past, were now to reproach her for taking a positive interest in things outside the American Continent. We have to remember, also, that the economies of Europe, now prosperous, were helped up in the very difficult days after the war by the Marshall Plan and that to this day it is American food aid that stands, to mention only one example, between the people of India and starvation.
1007 These things are not only well known and understood here, but I think that they are well known and understood in Moscow, too. Bitter as are their criticisms of some acts of American policy, I think that they know very well that the maintenance of the peace of the world is going to depend on their getting some modus vivendi with the United States. They do not expect us to throw over our allies.
But I would accept what I think was the right hon. Gentleman's final conclusion on this point—that what we should do is to set forth when we argue, as I frequently have to argue, with the Russians and with the other countries of Eastern Europe, what are our beliefs, not saying by any means, "We take this view because it is the American view", and still less saying, "We take this view because it is not the American view", but saying, "We take this view because we believe it to be right".
This has been my endeavour in most of the capitals on the other side of the Iron Curtain which I have visited. It has sometimes occurred to me when I have gone over what is to hon. Members here familiar ground, "Is it necessary to do this again?" Sometimes in an Iron Curtain country, when speaking to their journalists, it is necessary; it may be the first time that they have heard the British point of view argued. But this seems to me—this continued, steady statement of what we believe to be right—to be an important part, more imporant than it might sound at first, of the way in which we conduct our diplomacy today.
I have spoken of East-West relations and a conference on European security. In the context of East-West relations, I should refer to the undoubtedly difficult subject of disarmament. My noble Friend Lord Chalfont has been representing us through the difficult weeks of argument in the Geneva Conference. The argument there has been largely concerned with two topics—the possibility of getting a treaty to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the possibility of getting a treaty to extend the partial test ban treaty to cover underground tests.
I must say quite frankly that we have not yet reached success in either of those. But it is noticeable that the drafts being put forward show a less wide gap on the first subject than they did and that 1008 on the question of the banning of underground tests we are now being helped by suggestions, like that coming from Sweden a little while ago, on ways round what at first appears to be an irreconcilable difference—whether we could have a test ban treaty of this kind without any kind of verification.
I do not believe, therefore, that the fact that progress has been slow is any reason why we should suppose that it is unimportant to continue this argument. Adding the limited signs of progress that appear here to the general movement both in East and West Europe of a desire to agree, I believe that what my noble Friend is doing in Geneva is immensely worth while, and I trust that he will go on until he is rewarded with success.
A larger concept of disarmament is the possibility of schemes of the kind associated with the name of Mr. Gomulka for some form of regional arms control. There has recently been in Mexico City a conference on the possibility of regional arms control in Latin America at which we were represented and at which some lessons were learned which might be applicable in Europe, although in Europe we have to recognise that any plans for regional arms control have to be worked out against the background of the general degree of suspicion between the two great camps.
That is why one must apply to any schemes for regional control broadly the criteria that one attaches to other measures for disarmament; first, that they should be such as not plainly to overthrow the present balance between Europe, because if they were to do that they would clearly be unacceptable to one side or the other; secondly, they must go together with some degree of progress in solving the political questions of Europe; thirdly, any agreements about reduction of forces, either of numbers or of kind, in Europe must have some method of verification.
That is why we are proposing that there should be, on both sides of the dividing line, observation posts which would be some guarantee to both sides against the danger of surprise attack by the other. My noble Friend will shortly be in Warsaw, where he will be discussing this and related proposals with the Polish Government.
1009 The general picture, therefore, of East-West relations is one in which there is undoubtedly still strain, mutual fear and suspicion, but also one in which, among both Governments and peoples, there is a greater readiness to believe that this gulf could be bridged. This is slowly showing itself at present in the normalising of relations and, I trust, in time will show itself in the great problems of disarmament and the political settlement of Europe. I assure the House that Her Majesty's Government will certainly be both diligent in themselves seeking new ways through difficulties and welcoming any helpful suggestions from other quarters.
We cannot, of course—and it would be useless ''or us to do so—simply lay down for the nations of Europe a full blueprint of exactly how we think that it should he done, because, clearly, it cannot be done without the consent of the major Powers and when we put forward proposals we must feel sure that we are doing so with the confidence of our allies, otherwise we produce no tangible result.
Having spoken of relations between East and West Europe, I want to take up the question of relations within Western Europe itself. The right hon. Member for Barnet raised the question of our relations with the Common Market. At the risk of vexing him, I must repeat the statement that it is the policy of the Government to enter the Common Market if this can be done with safeguards of our essential interests.
I go on from there to say that the right hon. Gentleman must realise that that is the essential starting-point. There are some—I remember one or two who were very vocal—on the benches opposite who, when they occupied this side of the House, used to take the view that we would not go into the Common Market at any price whatever. I have heard that view most eloquently argued from Conservative benches. I want to make it quite clear that the Government do not take that view. That is the significance of the phrase with which I opened the argument.
We know, of course, what some of those essential interests are. We must have regard to certain obligations to fellow members of the Commonwealth and to our E.F.T.A. partners. It is of those that I have repeatedly said that 1010 I believe it to be easier now to meet those conditions than it was two or three years ago. I presume that no one will say that we should try to get into the Common Market without any regard for our fellows in the Commonwealth and our partners in E.F.T.A. To that extent, therefore, I carry the right hon. Gentleman with me in saying that these essential interests must be safeguarded. In any discussions which we have on the Common Market, we shall keep our Commonwealth and E.F.T.A. partners fully informed.
Then there are problems about agricultural prices and the cost of living. Here, we really have to ask ourselves, as have our friends across the Channel, whether there is a kind of arrangement which meets our anxieties in view of our balance of payments position and our position as a great food importer and which does not demand of the Six that they should unravel much of what they have done since they first created the organisation. That, clearly, we cannot ask them. We can, and do, ask that there must be some process of adjustment, particularly since it is a question not only of our entry, but of the entry, probably, of other E.F.T.A. countries as well. We could not ask the Six simply to unravel everything they had done in the formation of their policies and start again. The question is: is there an arrangement which would meet our needs without putting that unreasonable demand upon them?
One of the things that emerged from the recent visit of M. Pompidou is that we now know what we have to try to find; and we shall be embarking in discussions with all the members of the Six to see what answer can be found to this problem. It is interesting to notice that the same approach comes from the other side when the West German Foreign Minister says that half-hearted invitations are no good and that they must get down to practical study of the problems that would arise from the accession of Britain.
That, therefore, is the point which this question has reached. If this seems to some to be too slow, I remind the House that right hon. Members opposite and on the Liberal benches have urged the unwisdom of trying to rush this. I am sure that I do not need to urge upon the 1011 right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues the unwisdom of trying to rush it.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
Does that mean that the Government accept the principles of the common agricultural policy of the E.E.C.? Is that what the right hon. Gentleman is saying? That is how it sounded to me.
§ Mr. Stewart
No, I am not saying it quite as definitely as that. It is more complicated than that. If the hon. Member followed the argument which took place in Western European Union a little while ago about this matter, and the statement of one of the members of the Commission, he would see that it cannot be answered quite as simply as that. I cannot carry it further now, because this is exactly the kind of question to which, by mutual study, we and the Six must find the answer.
I want to say one other thing about the Common Market to emphasise what I said at Question Time. I believe that if this country, by its own efforts, solves its own economic difficulties and gets its economy into a healthy position, and can then, consistently with what I have been saying so far, go into the Common Market, the act of entry would be of great economic benefit to us. That is one proposition. One must very much distinguish that from the proposition sometimes advanced that going into the Common Market is a way of curing our economic troubles. That we must at all costs avoid. It is not true, and if we give the impression of believing it it will not be the right impression to give to those whom we are seeking to join.
It is important, therefore, if we are to make progress here, that this country should make progress with its own economic problem and, in particular, with its balance of payments. That question of our economy and payments is something of a link between the two main topics of the right hon. Gentleman's speech—Europe and the Middle East. A good deal of his comments about the Middle East appeared to be criticism of the Government for leaving Aden, and for not entering into the kind of defence agreement into which he apparently thinks that we should enter with the South Arabian Federation.
1012 Hon. Members opposite must ask themselves this question: are they saying to the Government, "You ought to stay in Aden. You ought to accept a commitment to the South Arabian Federation so definite that if you did accept it you would need to have a base in Aden again"? Are they prepared to accept the economic consequences of that position? The right hon. Gentleman at one point argued that it is no good our saying about our overseas commitments, "Can we afford it?" He said, "We have to decide that we must afford it." That is a very dangerous road to take.
That view was advanced once before, by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), when, in criticising the general approach of the Defence Review, he said, "You must first decide what overseas commitments you must meet, and then find, somehow, how to pay for them."
§ Lord Balniel (Hertford)
Surely the question put to the Government benches was not, "Should we enter a commitment on defence with the Federation on its reaching independence?" but, "Is there not already a commitment?"
§ Mr. Stewart
I shall come to that point, but I would ask the noble Lord to remember what I said earlier about the unwisdom of the late Conservative Government trying to enter commitments without considering what was involved in resources.
But perhaps I might deal now with the question: what line of policy exactly is it that the Opposition are urging on us? Are they saying definitely that we should have so definite a commitment with the Federation of South Arabia that if it were to be more than a commitment on paper we would need to have the Aden base as well? If so, have they weighed the cost of this kind of policy?
I was saying that it is not a possible approach to this matter to say, "We will decide that we must meet certain commitments and then make up our minds that we must afford it." We must first of all consider, at one and the same time, what the resources of this country are and what are the commitments it might meet, and then strike a proper balance between them. That was what the Defence Review was about. If it is felt that the balance struck in the Defence 1013 Review was wrong, we should have it a little more clearly from the other side what it is that it wants.
At present, 7 per cent. of our gross national product goes on defence. Is it, therefore, the contention of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that we must keep that expenditure at that very high figure? I do not believe that that can be right—
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
The right hon. Gentleman would do a service to the House if he would follow up the point made by my right hon. Friend and say what precise commitment we have to Aden at the present time. Is it, for instance, possible for the Aden Government not to agree to the ending of the defence treaty? Article IX of Cmnd. 665 says that for such a treaty to end it must be by mutual agreement. Is this the case?
§ Mr. Stewart
The answer to that question is that in 1968 South Arabia will be independent. If, therefore, there was to be any commitment then it would have to be a fresh commitment. That, as we have made clear—and we have had the Federal Ministers here recently—is what we do not think it right or prudent to do. What we are prepared to do is to give them, as the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, financial assistance for the strengthening of their forces. He tended rather to ridicule this step, but I would suggest the following to him.
I believe that it is true for the Middle East as it is true—though, of course, in very different circumstances—in South-East Asia, that it is essential that a number of countries should take the necessary measures for their own modernisation and for their own defence. They are the more likely to do that if there is a considerable other presence, perhaps in the background, but I do not believe that we ought to attempt to run the affairs of the Arabian Peninsula any more than that we should attempt to run the affairs of certain South-East Asian countries.
In both parts of the world, the general pattern has to be the emergency of territories, that have previously had colonial or some other form of tutelage, towards independence. This what is happening in South Arabia. It is happening—though, again, in different circumstances—in the Persian Gulf. We have among those small States 1014 progress in their economic co-operation with one another, with some of them taking over the jurisdiction over foreigners that previously belonged to the British Government. This is the way these things will develop.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am sorry that I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman. I have already taken up a good deal of time.
The trouble is that members of the party opposite will not recognise the real answer when they see it. They are trying to ask us to do or promise something which, as a matter of fact, they know it would be both impossible and imprudent to promise. The Government do not propose to do that—
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
The point is that there was an agreement made in 1959, which, we understand, can be ended only by the mutual consent of the two parties. Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether or not that is so? Secondly, he says that we are supplying a certain amount of money for the defence of South Arabia, but he knows that it is not enough—at least as we found it—to cover air defence, which is the essential gap for, say, two to five years. Will he say something about that?
§ Mr. Stewart
The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's first question is that this was not, in our view, a commitment; that, with the emergence of the independence for South Arabia, we are not under an obligation to enter a defence agreement with South Arabia. That is the position as I understand it.
I say again that right hon. Gentlemen opposite must ask themselves what policy it is they are urging on this country. I believe that so far they have put it only in the negative form of objecting to certain things the Government are doing. The trouble is that when they have to face the question of what we ought to do they are not prepared to face the military and economic implications of the answer.
I believe that, over the whole of the Middle East, British interests cannot permanently be served by our trying to maintain political domination. Our interest simply is that that part of the world should be at peace. In the Persian 1015 Gulf that still means the special relationship existing between Britain and those States. In South Arabia, it means a change of relationship and the emergence of an independent country.
But we must notice the kind of defence burden which this country is bearing, greater, I believe, in proportion to its population than almost any other country in the world. It can be argued by some—and it seems to be the argument of the Opposition—that we should be carrying a greater burden. It has been argued by others that we should throw away responsibilities faster than we have done. I do not believe that the case for either of those courses is made out.
I have delayed the House for some time, but before concluding I must say a few words about Gibraltar. First, may I say why we are engaging in conversations with the Spanish Government. This follows the resolution of the United Nations. We believe that we have a good case. We therefore felt it right, since we had been asked to enter into talks, to make it clear to the United Nations that we had nothing of which we need be ashamed. The object of the talks is to reach a normal relationship between Spain and the people of Gibraltar.
As I have made it very clear in the earlier sessions of the talks, we have no doubt as to our sovereignty. We reject the contention that we have been in breach of the Treaty of Utrecht. Although, of course, technically Britain is responsible for Gibraltar—and the Gibraltarian Government are not in that sense a party to the talks—we have no doubt, either, that they are a community whose wishes must be consulted.
The right hon. Member for Barnet exaggerated a little the disquiet in Gibraltar. I wonder whether he saw the television interview which the Prime Minister of Gibraltar gave the other night, in which he said that, although he very well understood and sympathised with the anxieties in Gibraltar, he did not feel the need to share them himself.
I have tried to cover the wide scene depicted by the right hon. Member for Barnet. The general pattern which I think emerges is that we have this world torn by the East-West dispute, struggling 1016 with the problems created by old colonialisms, and this country in a position of exceptional difficulty and of exceptional opportunity; and that the way m which we shall endeavour to deal with that situation is by strengthening our economy at home so that we can bear our responsibilities, by a proper judgment measuring our responsibilities and our resources together, and by the resolute statement in whatever international forum may be appropriate of the things in which we believe: the rule of law in international affairs, the need for wider, more generous intercourse between nations, and the establishment of social justice.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
I have listened over the years to a large number of debates and speeches on foreign affairs, although I have only very rarely intervened in them. I have followed with close interest the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) and the Foreign Secretary and feel, as we all must, some temptation to seek, however inadequately, to follow them in the massive, varied and important matters on which they have addressed the House.
In particular, I should have liked to have added a word or two about the contractual and perhaps logistical implications of what the Foreign Secretary said about South Arabia. But it is a common experience, and commonly accepted by the House, that Members who speak from the back benches in foreign affairs debates of this general nature are obliged to accept something of a self-denying ordinance and to confine themselves to a single subject. The subject on which I should like to detain the House for a short time is our present relations with Western Europe in the particular context of the European Economic Community.
We had considerable debate on this matter some years ago. The Foreign Secretary today said in his references to it that it had been eloquently argued by some Members on the Conservative benches that in no circumstances would it be appropriate to join the Common Market. I appreciate that his reference to the eloquence of the argument precluded reference to myself. But so far as I remember those arguments—and I 1017 think that I remember them fairly clearly, as they were put forward by some hon. Members—it was not said that in no circumstances and in no conditions would it be appropriate to join the Community.
What was said, certainly by myself and by hon. Friends of mine, was that it would not be appropriate to join without conditions safeguarding, to use the Foreign Secretary's expression, the interests of this country, particularly in the matters of sovereignty, of the Commonwealth, and of agriculture. We voiced a view that it did not seem that those conditions would be met under the Treaty of Rome in an unamended and unrevised form having regard to the rigidity and permanence of its contents. Those are difficulties which are still with us.
There is, however, this difference between discussing this subject now and discussing it in 1961–62. At that time we were discussing it in a climate of urgency, because there was an application to adhere to the treaty and join the Community, and negotiations were being actively pursued. Today, there is not that climate of urgency because there is no application and, therefore, no formal negotiation on foot. That makes the occasion one for a contribution rather of comment and clarification than of the sort of controversy in which we were engaged in those days.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet and the Foreign Secretary referred to conditions. At present, conditions are a two-way traffic. Britain is seeking to secure conditions, and the Community is seeking to impose conditions if we should wish to join. If I understand correctly the implications of M. Pompidou's statement and other references, the Community is seeking to impose an express condition as to Britain's economic position and no doubt, also, an implied condition as to the degree to which Britain would regard herself as exclusively, or at any rate predominantly, concerned with European matters if she is admitted to membership of the Common Market.
In negotiation, where each party seeks to impose conditions, the balance of negotiating advantage tends to lie with the grantor rather than with the asker. That is not a tactical disadvantage which would be removed by making this coun- 1018 try's request unconditional, because an unconditional request is normally reputed to give rise to a weak position in any negotiation between parties.
I would say, though this is not a view held by all who sit on this side of the House, that the present position therefore discounts hasty action. It is right for the Government to have in mind that what they do in this context has a degree of irrevocability rather more than the ordinary in human affairs; and that if a bargain is entered into and if it should turn out on the conditions in which it is entered into to be a bad bargain, though it may be regretted, it cannot be revoked owing to the provisions of the Treaty.
The nature of the condition sought to be imposed by the Community strengthens the argument against precipitancy—that is, the condition in regard to economic matters. If that point is taken by the Community, it must follow that the greater the urgency of Britain's addresses the greater is likely to be the toughness in negotiation of the Community in regard to conditions which this country wants, because the Community will, in present conditions, be likely to interpret urgency on our side as confirmation of the economic weakness that they suspect and of a desire by Britain to escape from it into the shelter of the Community.
It may be said by right hon. Members opposite that the charge is not well founded; but from the point of view of the psychological effect on negotiation, from the point of view of the way in which it tilts the tactical advantage in negotiation, it is almost immaterial whether the charge is well founded or not. The fact that it is entertained, and presumably believed in, itself shifts the tactical advantage in negotiation that way.
These things being so, I take the view that the present is a period for exploration and examination rather than for application and formal negotiation by this country. It can be said that time does not stand still. Of course it does not. But time is not marching forward quite as rapidly and quite as inexorably in the circumstances of the Community as might have been supposed from the language 1019 of the Treaty itself, because of the differences and the accommodations that have had to be reached within the Six.
In that context, I suggest three courses of action for the Government in this phase. The first is one that I would counsel upon them in any event. It is to take all action that they can to remove the economic weakness which is charged against them. The ways of doing that would take us well beyond the scope of this debate, so I will leave that aspect merely with the plea to right hon. Members opposite not to forget the contribution that can be made in that context by the strengthening of our Commonwealth trade.
My second suggestion is that the Government should now make a closer examination and a clearer explanation of the constitutional and political effects of adhering to the Treaty of Rome. Hon. Members will remember that in 1961, when this argument started, it was first put on the basis that this was almost an exclusively economic consideration. In due course, however, the emphasis was laid upon the undoubted political and constitutional importance of the matter—the so-called sovereignty aspect.
The importance of that aspect is now generally accepted. Indeed, as hon. Members know, there is a very active discussion going on amongst the Six themselves on the sovereignty implications of the treaty. There is not, I think, any, or any sufficient, clear awareness of the effect that adherence to the treaty would bring by way of changes in our law and limitation on the action of Parliament. I have noticed an increasing interest in this at Question Time, which is all to the good, though I think I could not altogether conscientiously say that I get the impression from the exchanges that the provisions of the treaty are always wholly or perfectly understood by those who take part in those exchanges.
What we know is that the effect will be very great. As Lord Denning put it in his introduction to a book on Common Market Law:Our constitutional law must be re-written so as to show that the sovereignty of these islands is not ours alone but shared with others. Large parts of our statute and our common law must over the years be adjusted.1020 It does not extend to matters of foreign policy and defence. If they are to be dealt with, another treaty will be required. However, it does extend over a very wide range of our social and economic life, and in that range it brings a degree of compulsory change in our law and subordination of the sovereignty of Parliament.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that there is already a great deal of subordination of our laws to international law in the form of the G.A.T.T. and other bodies. We cannot really alter what we have done by international agreement. This is a growing process and is bound to grow in the progress towards world government.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
It is true that many economic actions that we take are subject to the restrictions and limitations of the G.A.T.T. There are three differences. First, the G.A.T.T. is not an irrevocable commitment for all time such as is the Treaty of Rome under Article 240; it is one terminable on due notice. Secondly, the G.A.T.T. is also able to be amended. Thirdly, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, it does not cover nearly so wide and area of our social and economic life as is comprised in the Treaty of Rome.
After all, the matters covered in the Treaty of Rome are very wide indeed—the common external external tariff, which is an abandonment of sovereignty in the context of Commonwealth preferences; free movement of workers, with all its implications for trade unions; right of establishment for companies; abolition of restrictions on service, with its implications for professional men; abolition of restrictions on the movement of capital, with its implications for exchange control; common transport policy; common policy in regard to monopolies and restrictive practices; harmonisation of social services, and so on. It covers a very wide field.
There is at present insufficient knowledge, not only in the country as a whole, but probably in the House of Commons itself, to answer the vital questions: first, what would be the extent and effect of the changes brought about 1021 by adherence to the treaty; and, secondly, whether they would constitute an improvement on our present position and procedures. In so far as they do constitute an improvement, they have to be weighed against the economic balance of the matter, whatever that may prove to be.
§ Dr. Hugh Gray (Yarmouth)
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean that he does not know whether he is for or against negotiated entry at this moment in time?
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
What I said—and I hoped clearly—was that there is no application at the present time and that I do not think, for the reasons that I have given, that this would be a very good time to initiate an application because the Community's insistence on our economic weakness, as it sees it, places us in a weak tactical position to get the sort of conditions and safeguards which I have always said in this House—as the hon. Member may know, though I do not think he was here when the debates actually took place—are necessary in the context of the national interest.
What I have suggested and would like to suggest again is that the Government issue a White Paper on these matters to show the changes required in our statute law, and indeed in our law generally, on adherence to the Treaty of Rome. The Prime Minister has said in answer to a Question of mine that he does not see the necessity for this at the moment, but will keep it in mind. He also said that the Government are studying what would be the implications for Parliamentary procedure and for questions of British law making and judicial machinery arising from the article—that is, in the treaty. He said that it requires close study and he referred to the work of the previous Government, adding that this is a very important question which needs working out before we get involved in any negotiations.
I think that it is clear that the Government should press ahead with that study and should then promulgate the results of it, so that discussion and evaluation of these vital questions can take place on a factual basis rather than one of loose or emotive generalisation. As the House will appreciate, there are articles within the treaty, notably Article 100 and 1022 Article 189, which have a much more general application than the specific matters to which I have been referring, and that they have the effect of introducing a wide measure of subordination of our law-making machinery in this country to the regulations of the Commission or the Council.
In this context, we have to bear in mind that there is as yet no effective democratic or parliamentary control over the actions of the Commission. It follows that these rather substantial sub-ordinations of the sovereignty of Parliament and these compulsory changes in our law if we accept—did the hon. Gentleman wish to interrupt me?
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Would he agree that if this advice was followed with regard to the consideration of what necessary changes in our law would follow upon our adherence to the treaty, this would, in effect, amount to a putting off of our adherence indefinitely in view of the continuing changes of the law in the Community resulting from the day-to-day interpretations effected by the Commission and by the courts of the Community?
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
No. Of course, there is always an evolution of the interpretation of law by the decisions of the courts. That happens in any country. I am talking about the statute law of the Community, which the hon. Gentleman must appreciate, unless it is subject to amendment and revision, is something which in its present form would be directly applicable in this country and would shape the course of our national life over this wide range of subjects.
That brings me to my last point, which is this. On 19th May I asked the Prime Minister whether the Government were making representations to the Community as to the revisions which they would like to see in the treaty as a basis of the adherence of this country; and he said that he did not think that that was profitable at this stage. I am rather inclined to accept, for the reasons I have given, that this does not seem to he a fruitful time for negotiations; but, again, I think that it is something to which the Government should be giving their own attention so that they may formulate the 1023 revisions or amendments which they think would meet these basic conditions for this country.
It may be suggested that this is time-wasting, that it is spitting against the wind, because the Community will not undertake any revision or amendment of the Treaty of Rome. I think that that is too pessimistic a view. Of course, it is said at the present time that no revision is possible; but that is a commonplace in any negotiation, whether one intends to make any concession or not. Parties to negotiations normally start by taking that view. But in the longer term I feel that it would be neither hopeless nor inappropriate for the Government to make these representations as to desirable revision.
There are a number of factors which, I think, favour this possibility. First of all, as the House knows, Article 236 of the treaty specifically contemplates the possibility of revision and amendment, and prescribes the machinery for it. Secondly, revision will presumably be necessary in the near future in any event, in order to merge Euratom and the Coal and Steel Community within the European Economic Community.
Thirdly, there are signs that the Six are not entirely satisfied themselves with all the provisions of the treaty. For example, the provision for majority voting is virtually in cold storage, and the Six have still got to work out some satisfactory method of applying some effective system of Parliamentary or democratic control over the actions of the civil servants—that is to say, the Commission. Fourthly, it would be contrary to all human experience and probability that a treaty evolved 10 or more years ago, to meet circumstances as then untried, is really quite incapable of improvement by way of revision, in the light of the experience of the workings of the Community.
Therefore, the Government should address their minds to this. It is the more important because although adherence to the Community does not expressly carry any obligation to proceed a step further to a close form of political union or association, it is commonly, and, I think, not unreasonably, accepted that this is an implied obligation of adherence to the Community.
1024 Here again, we have this very interesting discussion within the Community as to the form which that further step will take, as to whether it will be a close political federation, as some would wish, or whether it would be as suggested in the language of General de Gaulle at his Press conference of 9th September last:France counters this project which is contrary to all reality with the plan of an organised co-operation possibly evolving towards a confederation.An additional advantage of putting forward the case for revision and amendment of the treaty to meet these basic requirements of this country is that the reception of it will also indicate to the Government the balance of future thinking within the Community, whether it is to proceed more in the direction of a close political federation or towards a rather looser form of corporate or confederate organisation, as suggested in the words which I have just quoted.
That, again, must, or may, make a substantial difference to the attitude of this country. If it is to be a close political federation, while it is an unwise politician, as has well been said, who ever uses the word "never", certainly it is not likely that this country will feel ripe for participation in that at any rate within the lifetime of some hon. Members.
For all those reasons I think that the Government would be well advised to address their mind anew to these matters and ascertain what proposals for revision they can put forward. I would not be too niggardly in allowing them time to take those actions having regard to the importance of the matter in issue and the fact that a right decision taken with the right conditions at the right time could no doubt be a very valuable element in increased European co-operation for us in this country and for Europe as a whole, but a decision wrongly or rashly taken at the wrong time, and with the wrong conditions, would impose unacceptable deprivations of sovereignty upon us and weaken our position in the world as a whole.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Parkyn (Bedford)
I would ask for the indulgence of the House for my maiden speech. I have the honour to represent the constituents of Bedford. I am sure that many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House will well remember my predecessor, 1025 Christopher Soames, who represented Bedford for 16 years. He achieved high office in successive Governments, and is a man of considerable versatility and sincerely-held views. Therefore, I gladly follow the traditions of the House in paying my tribute to him, although we hold diametrically opposed views on many subjects, in particular, on the subject of the European Common Market.
Bedford is not easy to classify on a regional basis. We who live there are always concerned that the plans for the Britain of the future shall not leave Bedford forgotten. Bedford is not in East Anglia, not in the Home Counties, and not really in the Midlands. It is in the part of England which might vulgarly be called the middle. I therefore give notice that I shall endeavour to ensure that all the legitimate claims and demands of Bedford are not forgotten by this House.
We also have that most beautiful of English rivers, the Great Ouse, going through Bedford and the constituency. We have the finest cricket bat willows in England growing in our county, if my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Robert Davies) will allow me to make that claim. The principal activities, rather than industries, of Bedford are education, including the Harpur Trust schools, the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Bedford, and many other similar research organisations, and a number of science-based firms, including the manufacture of turbines, electrical switchgear, electric motors, transistors, and so on, and an increasingly large printing industry. It is, therefore, not surprising to find that professional services represent the highest employment group in the Bedford area, consisting of 16 per cent. of the entire employed population, a percentage which, I think, is similar to that in Oxford and Cambridge.
This year is a particularly important landmark in the history of Bedford, because exactly 800 years ago, in 1166, at Rouen King Henry II granted us our longest-existing Charter.
I now turn briefly to foreign affairs. I suggest that there is one single issue which is far more important than our relations with Europe, more important that the situation in Rhodesia, and more important than the dreadful struggle now going on in Vietnam. I refer to the 1026 rapid emergence of China as a world Power and the urgent need to establish a world government and a world peacekeeping force at the earliest opportunity. In a very real way, this single issue dominates everything that we discuss today and everything that was discussed last Thursday in the debate on Vietnam.
China has many claims to uniqueness. It has a civilisation like ours, but even older, going back almost continuously to Neolithic times. It is a vast country with an even vaster population. In the arts and in commerce it has always shown great sophistication. Since 1910, it has had three revolutions, ending finally in the establishment in 1949 of the People's Republic of China. It proclaims itself to be a revolutionary Communist society, but those who have visited China since 1949—I was in China on two occasions last year—will know that the most distinctive aspect of China today is that it is Chinese. This, perhaps, was always so.
It is difficult for anyone but an expert—and I certainly do not claim to be an expert on Chinese affairs—to disentangle the threads of Chinese society to show what aspects are due to Communism and what aspects are due to the fact that they are just Chinese. What is apparent for all to see is the speed, enthusiasm, and single-minded dynamism of the people as they transform their nation from a mediaeval feudal economy to a modern sophisticated, industrialised super-State.
The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) mentioned certain similarities between the United States and the Soviet Union. There are certain marked similarities between the United Kingdom and the Chinese, and in a way this has created a rather special relationship between the United Kingdom and China. In part, this has been due to our commercial history, the East India Company, William Jardine, and the development of trade from that time on to the present day. In part, it has been due to the presence and existence of Hong Kong, and, in part, it has been due to the fact that Chinese and Englishmen have a good many things in common, including common characteristics; and, I think that some of our virtues and some of our shortcomings we also have in common.
1027 I was, therefore, particularly glad that one of the first official engagements in 1964 of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade was to go to China to open the British Exhibition there. Our total annual trade with China, nearly £56 million last year, has recovered steadily since the set-back occasioned by the three years of bad harvest at the end of the 1950s. Imports last year, just under £30 million, reached their highest total since 1949 if the special sales of silver in 1961 are excluded. Similarly, last year our exports to China also reached their highest figure at £25.8 million if we exclude the special sales of copper in 1960.
China is beginning to supply tungsten again on the world market. She is supplying coal to Japan and rolling stock and freight cars to Ceylon. I just mention these few things to indicate the speed of development in China which has been going on during recent years. In 1965, Hong Kong imported over £145 million worth of goods and services from China but exported to China only about £4.5 million worth. The significance of Hong Kong both to China and to the United Kingdom will therefore be appreciated.
Peace and understanding follow trade, and I hope that British industry, helped where necessary by the Government, will still further increase our trade with China and in particular redress the imbalance in our present trade. In trying to indicate this rapid development in China, one should mention that at present diesel locomotives are being made in series production at Dairen Locomotive and Rolling Stock Plant—including engines of 2,000, 1,200 and 600 horsepower—and that China is producing sufficient medium-powered diesel engines for agriculture, including machines of 50 to 300 horsepower. Vehicles are being made in a number of centres and some of them are extremely sophisticated. They are also producing earth moving and construction equipment.
Just as the Japanese did some years ago, the Chinese are beginning to develop some extremely complex types of scientific equipment. This gives some indication of the speed of development and the way in which China is beginning to become a force to be reckoned with in one way 1028 or another. In October 1964, China exploded her first atomic bomb. Since then there have been further nuclear weapon tests. This means that the five original permanent members of the Security Council—France, United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union and China—have now all blasted their way into that most diabolical of all clubs—the nuclear club.
If we are to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, now is the time to act. There is some kind of logic in the five permanent members of the Security Council entrusted with the peace-keeping of the world having the bomb and collectively seeing that no other country has it. It may seem a rather bizarre basis for unity of purpose between them but I believe that it exists and that it could lead to the development of a world peacekeeping force and to world government.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
I have the privilege of congratulating the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Brian Parkyn) on his maiden speech. He treated us to a neatly constructed and well delivered speech. He has brought to the debate first-hand knowledge of foreign affairs. He was luckier than I was, and a good many other hon. Members last year, in being able to get a visa to go to China. That unfortunately, was refused to some of us. He also brings to the House first-hand knowledge of industry, and I know that I speak for the whole House when I say that we look forward to further contributions from him. I may add that it was very nice of him to pay such a generous tribute to our old friend Christopher Soames, who all of us hope to see back here before long.
My intention in quite a short speech is to show why I think that "doublethink" and "double-talk" have characterised British foreign policy since October 1964 and why, as a result, many of our friends have been left rubbing their eyes with amazement and some of our enemies rubbing their hands with glee. I want to indicate why I think the Government have pursued a zig-zag foreign policy and to draw attention to the way British interests have been jeopardised and to the effect on our standing abroad.
Since October, 1964, the Government have been trimming their sails and altering course to avoid a mutiny that would 1029 affect all ranks on board. The speed, course and destination of the ship of State—British foreign policy—has been wholly unpredictable. The left wing of the Labour Party is bitterly angry that the right hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker) has proved only partially right in his prediction in 1960 that if the present Prime Minister came to lead the party he would be… the prisoner of the Left wing"—he described them as the unilateralists—to whom he has directed his main appeal.The Left wing of the Labour Party was promised disengagement, and there has not been any. It was promised nuclear-free zones, and there have not been any. It was promised major progress with disarmament, and there has been none. It thought that it was electing a leader who believed in a third force, and it seems that, on the whole, the Prime Minister does not. It thought that the Government would get rid unilaterally of our deterrent, and the Government have not. It thought that the Nassau Agreement would be renegotiated, and it has not been. It was expecting very large unilateral cuts in defence, cuts far beyond the present standstill arrangements, and nothing of the sort has happened. Thus, the anger and resentment of the Left wing of the Labour Party is easy to understand.
It is just as easy for me to sympathise with the Foreign Secretary today as it was in 1948 or 1949 to sympathise with Mr. Ernest Bevin when he angrily complained that the Left wing of his party had stabbed him in the back. The tragedy is that the Left wing has succeeded in disrupting British foreign policy while still feeling very far from satisfied. All that has happened is that its appetite has been whetted. The Foreign Secretary has the worst of all worlds.
I want to illustrate my argument from three main areas of the world where I think that lack of principle in British foreign policy and lack of resolution have been its main characteristics. The first of these areas is Europe.
The insular attitude of a substantial section of the Labour Party towards Europe is well known, and I sometimes think that its horizon is bounded by the southern shores of the Scilly Isles. But that does not go for the other half of the 1030 Labour Party, which takes a different attitude. The party is split on the great issue of whether or not to join the Common Market. One half is enthusiastic about joining and the other half is against joining on any conceivable terms. One hon. Member has actually adopted both attitudes, and I wonder whether he reflected the Prime Minister's position.
The five conditions laid down by Mr. Gaitskell were designed to unite the Labour Party, but they did not have that effect for very long. These principles, with the subsequent glosses put on them—some by the Prime Minister himself—are all either irrelevant or would preclude our joining Europe on any terms that could possibly be negotiated. I agree with the Foreign Secretary, who said that the Government will not try to rush into Europe. That is true. In a recent speech, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said:Before we could apply to join, we should need an extended period of exploration.The House is entitled to know after the rather woolly remarks of the Foreign Secretary about Europe today—extended from what and to what? We do not know nearly enough about this. There is so much double talk about it. I hope that when the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster replies he will tell us more about the Government's attitude to Europe.
I cannot blame the French Prime Minister for being highly sceptical about Britain's will to join the Common Market. Unfortunately, the political will of the Labour Party to do so does not exist. Until the Government affirm unequivocally that they accept the spirit and the letter of the Rome Treaty as a basis for negotiation, there will not be any negotiation. I greatly fear that while we have such an equivocal Socialist Government, continuing to pay lip service to joining Europe while imposing impossible conditions, and while the Government refuse to come to grips with the many weaknesses of Britain's economy, the Six are not likely to regard us as very acceptable partners, I think that that is true, but it is also very sad.
For the second illustration of the zigzag policy, I turn to the Middle East. A sound foreign policy has many roots and I think that we would all agree that 1031 one of them is the keeping of one's word. I was in the Middle East some six weeks ago, just after the General Election, and I had the opportunity to hear the reactions of many distinguished leaders of opinion in the Middle East to the Government's decision to abandon our responsibilities in Aden in 1968. My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) referred to this matter and put some direct questions to the Foreign Secretary which the right hon. Gentleman most carefully avoided answering. I could not help feeling that by his refusal to answer those questions he was clearly admitting that we did break a clear and positive promise to the South Arabian Federal Government. Indeed, I do not think that the facts are in dispute.
I have with me the Federation of South Arabia Conference Report White Paper of July, 1964, from which I would like to read paragraph 38 which should be clearly on the record. It says:The delegates … requested that as soon as practicable the British Government should convene a conference for the purpose of fixing a date for independence not later than 1968, and of concluding a Defence Agreement under which Britain would retain her military base in Aden for the defence of the Federation and the fulfilment of her world-wide responsibilities.I agree that that was an open-ended undertaking and that one would be perfectly entitled to say that it should not have been entered into. I would listen to that argument. But it is now known that at the time the conference report was being produced the leaders of the South Arabian Federal Government talked to the then Leader of the Opposition to find out whether he would underwrite the guarantee. Twice since the General Election of October, 1964, the pledge to carry out that promise to enter into a defence agreement with the South Arabian Federal Government has been renewed by the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Defence and the Colonial Secretary. Is that denied or admitted? So far as I know, it is clearly admitted.
I do not think that the sort of remark, made by the Secretary of State for Defence, when he said that all we were obliged to do was to call a conference and that the Government had tried to do so, was at all worthy. Our word was broken 1032 unilaterally and suddenly in spite of the fact that the promise had been underwritten on all those occasions. That is why about 150 of us from this side of the House put a Motion on the Order Paper referring to the British Government dishonouring our word, and I feel that those words have now been clearly justified.
The whole Middle East is in a state of flux. One has only to glance at it to know that that is so. A great struggle for power is going on throughout the Arab world with the United Arab Republic, openly backed by the Soviet Union which has armed, equipped and trained the Egyptian services, pursuing President Nasser's grandiose dream of a Middle East empire.
One of the main aspects of Britain's Middle East policy as I understood it in the past has been to do our utmost to help to maintain political stability. This was something which the Foreign Secretary said again today. But the chances of stability have been seriously set back by this sudden decision to withdraw completely from Aden and not to enter into any kind of defence agreement with the South Arabian Federal Government. It has created widespread nervousness and uncertainty and not by any means only in Aden. It has created uncertainty in Turkey about whether we shall carry out our pledges when the balance in Cyprus is difficult to hold and when efforts are being made to get Greece and Turkey to come together. It has undoubtedly created uncertainty in Turkey about the difficult situation in Cyprus and it has also created uncertainty in Saudi Arabia, as I know for a fact and as my right hon. Friend told the House.
It has created great uncertainty in Bahrain, where I was five weeks ago, and where the authorities are wondering whether the Government will carry out their treaty obligations. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was in the Middle East last summer, I think—it was a very hot time of the year—and went to the Trucial Oman States and met the rulers, and I understand that he went to Bahrain and other territories in the Gulf to which we have obligations. It is common knowledge there that he renewed and underwrote those obligations and said that we would honour our word.
1033 But I must tell him that when I was there a month ago and met the rulers in some of the Trucial Oman States and the Ruler of Bahrain, they all asked me whether, if the British Government could break their word on Aden, as they have, they would break it to those rulers as well. That is why our breaking of this promise is so serious. There were equally serious repercussions in Teheran, and Iran's membership of C.E.N.T.O. is of great importance to us. It is no exaggeration to say that the whole basis of the confidence of C.E.N.T.O. has been put at risk by the decision to pull out of Aden and break our promise in this unilateral fashion.
I now turn, equally briefly, to the Far East. This is the third major area which I want to consider to illustrate my argument that British foreign policy has been conducted without principle over the last 18 months and has left many of our friends in doubt about the course which we are really trying to follow.
Thursday's debate on the Government's hasty and ill-considered dissociation from American policy in Vietnam simply because a decision was made to carry out pinpoint attacks on legitimate and vital military targets in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas clearly showed to my hon. Friends and to me the damage which can be done to Anglo-American relations and understanding and the prospect of peace and stability when considerations of Socialist Party unity take precedence over the national interest, which is what has clearly happened in this case.
So misleading has been the effect of the Government's double talk about their Far East policy, not only about Vietnam, but in the Defence White Paper, which spoke of the greatest danger to peace lying in the Far East and South Asia in the next decade—I quote from paragraph 24 on page 8 of the Defence White Paper—and the Prime Minister saying in the House that it was intended to have a massive reduction of troops in the Far East—and the words were "massive reduction", first used, I believe, in the party caucus upstairs and either leaked or given to the Press—that a great deal of anxiety was excited in Australia which the Foreign Secretary himself had to try to dispel. I quote The Times of 1st July when he said in Australia: 1034There may even be people in Australia who … believe if it came to the crunch we would let Australia down.Fancy a British Foreign Secretary having to say that at all! No wonder things of this kind happen to people who are always playing both ends against the middle and when the whole of our foreign policy is characterised by double-think and double-talk.
I was not in the least surprised when I saw in The Times a few weeks ago an advertisement in what is sometimes called the "Agony Column" saying:Speaker wanted to support Mr. Wilson's Vietnam policy in a public debate.I very much hope that somebody was found.
In the Far East, just as in the Middle East, wider repercussions can flow from indecision and lack of principle in British foreign policy. For example, what is the effect on Thailand of the words used by the Prime Minister on 28th June in reply to a supplementary question, when he was asked:Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that troops leaving Malaysia will not be sent to Thailand?The Prime Minister replied:… there need be no question of their geing redeployed in that area."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June, 1966; Vol. 730, c. 1584–5.]"No question of it "? What about the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty, which obliges us to redeploy our troops in that area in certain circumstances? Should the Prime Minister ever have used those words? Do they not call in question our reliability as members of S.E.A.T.O.? They do to me.
Similar anxieties have arisen in Malaysia and Singapore and in Indonesia with the change in the Government, and no doubt in Japan as well. I feel profoundly that British foreign policy since October, 1964 has desperately lacked direction, and this is having most unfortunate consequences, with far wider repercussions than many people realise.
Let no one conclude from what I have said that I have in the very least a jingolistic attitude to Britain's overseas rôle, or that I have shut my mind to radical changes in the way in which we carry it out. Rather the opposite is the case. I am firmly of the opinion that the time has come for entirely fresh diplomatic initiatives, involving the reshaping 1035 of the whole pattern of our alliances and the rethinking of our short-term and long-term obligations, taking advantage of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet described, in opening the debate, as new balances that are developing in the world.
To sum up: the people of this country are crying out for honest political leadership. They want a statesman at No. 10, Downing Street, not a stuntsman. They want an end of double-talk and double-think, which inevitably conceal the real facts from the public. They want a British foreign policy which is within our resources and matches our continuing worldwide responsibilities. They want Britain to keep her word. They know that to carry out our responsibilities is well within our resources with intelligent planning, however loudly we may plead poverty.
They deplore the zig-zag foreign policy of the past eighteen months or more, resulting from constant and unsuccessful attempts to appease the Left wing to which I have referred. They deplore the fact that another reason for the zigzag policy has been the cowardly failure of the Government to insist that we should cease living in a fool's paradise and begin living within our means. They feel in their bones that this cannot be the right moment to shirk our responsibilities in the Middle East and Far East.
They recognise that we have a vested interest in stability, and they see it imperilled by the Government's shortsighted attitude. They are deeply disturbed to see Britain's standing in the world at such a low point. They also feel in their bones that it must be wrong to cold-shoulder Europe, and thus to risk spoiling the more friendly atmosphere that we were beginning to observe on the other side of the Channel.
They understand that all the expense and all the agony of the last 21 years since the war ended, when we have been carrying out our worldwide responsibilities and facing up to our obligations, will have been wasted lives, wasted money and wasted effort if we are now to walk out and leave important jobs half done, which far too many hon. Members opposite would like to do.
1036 I deeply deplore the fact that the party opposite has shown that it is not fit to conduct British foreign policy on sound and sane lines, and that it has failed the nation.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Evan Luard (Oxford)
Although this is the first time that I address the House, I make clear that I give no undertaking to remain totally non-controversial in what I say, and I am ready, therefore, to forgo the privileges and courtesies which are usually accorded maiden speakers.
The subject about which I shall speak may not at first sight seem of such immediate importance as the question of Britain's entry into the Common Market, or the current crisis in N.A.T.O. arid subjects of this kind, to which other speakers have referred in the debate. It is certainly not of the same overwhelming, tragic urgency as the war in Vietnam, which was debated here last Thursday. But it is a subject which, in the long run, is of as great or perhaps even greater importance both to this country and to the community of nations as a whole.
I refer to the discussions at present taking place in the United Nations Special Committee on Peace-Keeping, in which our own Government have been closely involved. Although these discussions came about mainly as a result of the acute crisis in the finances of the United Nations about two years ago, their course has already shown that they are leading to a total re-examination of the structure and purposes of the organisation, and, in particular, the general relationship between the main political organs of the United Nations, the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Secretary-General.
The discussions were established by a decision of the General Assembly about a year and a half ago with a view to examining not only the financial crisis then being undergone, but the general future peace-keeping capacity of the United Nations. The Committee was set up with a membership of 33, that is to say, a large membership of more than a third of the total membership of the United Nations, and it was given very wide terms of reference.
It would not be appropriate, and it is not necessary, for me to recount in great 1037 detail the discussions that have taken place in the Committee. The most important development has been the inquiry that was undertaken by the Secretary-General and the then President of the General Assembly into the views of members, not only of the Committee but of the United Nations as a whole, on the financing, authorisation and control of peace-keeping operations by the United Nations. Since that time, these views have been published, and the Secretary-General, and the President of the Assembly also suggested some general guidelines that could guide the Committee in its future discussions.
Member States have now expressed their views on these guidelines, and discussions are now taking place mainly in private, in confidence, to see what measure of common ground can be found between the very different views that have been put forward by different members of the organisation on these very contentious issues.
What are the main issues that have come up in the Committee? Without wish to over-simplify extremely difficult and complex subjects, one can probably say that the most important single subject is the relative distribution of authority in the organisation between the General Assembly and the Security Council, how far it is possible for peace-keeping operations to be set in motion against the veto of one of the permanent members, and, in particular, how far any member should be obliged to give financial support to a peace-keeping operation which it has not voted into existence with its own vote in the first place.
The International Court of Justice has already given an advisory opinion to the effect that the General Assembly is empowered to authorise peaceful peacekeeping operations, that is, peace-keeping operations that do not require enforcement action by armed forces, and it has held that the expenses of these can be regarded as normal expenses of the organisation, to which all members are obliged to contribute.
It is possible that the best solution would be to leave the matter there, because there is advantage in it being made clear to members of the Security Council that, if they do not agree to establish a peace-keeping force in some situation of crisis, the General Assembly 1038 itself is likely to do this, with the authority of the International Court of Justice, in which case it will be the General Assembly rather than the Security Council which will control the future activities of the force.
It may, therefore, not be necessary to spell out in more explicit terms the relative rights and rôles of the General Assembly and the Security Council. But, if it were necessary for these to be spelt out in greater detail, and if the British Government were to be asked for their views, I and, I think, many others in the House and outside would regard it as extremely important that the British Government should support the opinion of the International Court and continue to maintain the view that the General Assembly has the right to authorise peace-keeping operations if for any reason, such as the veto, the Security Council has failed to act.
One of the most important single problems which arise in this connection is the question of the control of operations after they have been authorised. It is, perhaps, a legitimate complaint of some of the permanent members of the Security Council, such as the Soviet Union and France, that on some occasions in the past an excessive degree of authority has rested with the Secretary-General himself, who has often, in a sense, been directly controlling these forces, being thereby put in a position in which he can quite crucially influence the political situation within States where the operations are taking place.
It seems, therefore, that one possible way of making progress on this difficult problem would be by establishing, or by agreeing to establish, where necessary, a political committee consisting of a fairly broad membership within the United Nations, possibly of the same composition as the Security Council itself, which could undertake the day-to-day control of operations, which the Security Council certainly cannot undertake, of course, thereby mediating, in some sense, between the Security Council and the commander of the forces in the field rather than relying on the Secretary-General himself to do this. A proposal along these lines would be an initiative which many of us would like the British Government to take in the deliberations of the Peace-Keeping Committee.
1039 There are two other fields in which, perhaps, there is even more urgent need for an initiative by the British Government. One of these is the financing of peace-keeping operations, which as I said earlier, was the original cause of the crisis and of the establishment of the Committee. Here, there would seem to be great advantage in the establishment of a voluntary peace-keeping fund to which member States of the United Nations would contribute, with their normal contributions, though on a voluntary basis. The effect of this would be that, when a crisis arose, members either of the Security Council or of the General Assembly would be encouraged to authorise the establishment of a force in the knowledge that the finance to underwrite the force was available and was not likely to create the kind of crisis which arose from similar operations in the past.
The second initiative which, I believe, would be very valuable if it came from the British Government now is a proposal for a strengthening of the staff of the Secretary-General and his military adviser in New York to enable a greater degree of advance planning to be undertaken. Again, the effect of this would be that member States would have confidence that they could authorise the establishment of an operation of this kind in the knowledge that the forces were available and that the necessary organisation could be put in hand without the kind of ad hoc improvisations which have been necessary in the past.
Although this is to some extent a contentious matter, and one in which the British Government alone might not be able to take the initiative, it is one in which we should have the sympathy and support of many other members of the United Nations who are interested in this matter, including the Scandinavian countries, Canada and Holland in particular, and I am sure that joint action by ourselves with these countries would have a most valuable effect within the Committee.
There is the further point to be made that, whatever system for financing is evolved and whatever kind of preparations are made at United Nations headquarters in New York, it is most important to establish the principle that a share in the control of a peace-keeping force 1040 should be enjoyed only by a Power which is contributing financially to that force. This has not always been established in the past. The advisory committee set up by the Secretary-General on these occasions has sometimes included Powers which, in practice, did not ultimately contribute to the force at all.
If it were known, on the other hand, that only those Powers which would contribute financially to the establishment of the force were to have any share in its control through the kind of committee I described earlier, this would be a valuable incentive to member States to agree to contribute financially to these forces in a way which very many States, including some of the most important members of the organisation, have not been prepared to do in the past.
I emphasise that this is not a remote matter of only marginal importance to us in this country. It is likely to affect the whole future fabric of international relations. The House will know that this whole theme is the subject of an early day Motion now on the Order Paper which has already attracted the signatures of very many hon. Members on both sides. Although I cannot speak for those hon. Members, nor for the Parliamentary Group for World Government which, I think, was responsible for initiating the Motion, I believe that very many of those hon. Members and of the members of the Group would welcome signs that the British Government were to take initiatives of the kind I have described.
British Governments of both parties have many times declared that they wished to make the United Nations the centre of their foreign policies. This is very easily said, of course, but it becomes convincing only when the words are translated into deeds. The record of the present Government is not bad in this respect. They have taken two quite important initiatives during the past year and a half, in their offer of logistic support for peace-keeping operations and in their offer of a financial contribution to overcome the financial crisis last summer, but a great deal more needs to be done.
I believe that very many people not only in the House, but also in the country outside would very much welcome a sign that the British Government were prepared to take new 1041 initiatives to enable the United Nations to act as the effective guardian of peace and security in the world which its founders intended it to be.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)
I am sure that I can say on behalf of the whole House that it is a genuine pleasure to have listened to the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard). When he began with a unilateral declaration of independence, I thought that something frightful was going to happen, but his remarks covered topics which are of fundamental importance to the future of the whole world. They are a subject on which, I am sure, the Minister who is to reply has been working, though a subject which, unfortunately, we too seldom debate in the House.
Although my home was in Oxford and I am glad, therefore, to congratulate a Member from Oxford, I must confess that I wish that he were with us on this side of the House, but I do sincerely congratulate the hon. Gentleman, and it is not just an ordinary politeness of the House when I say that I am sure we all look forward to his contributions to debates in the future.
When speaking earlier today, the Foreign Secretary said that he felt we ought to fit the debate to the general pattern of world events. I shall touch as briefly as I can on just one aspect, the growing lack of trust and confidence in the present Government's good faith. I will give an instance of this. The Foreign Secretary mentioned E.L.D.O. and said that the solution the Government had been seeking had been obtained. The hon. Member for Shored itch and Finsbury (Mr. R. W. Brown) was rapporteur of a Western European Union report which supported E.L.D.O., although later he came to vote against it, as did other hon. Members, at the Western European Assembly. The general information around Paris was that the British Government said that they did not wish to continue in E.L.D.O. because they could not afford it; when they saw the reaction to what they said, they changed and said they were going to go ahead with it; and that what they had done was a method of negotiating. They cannot have it both ways. It was a great blow to the good name of this country 1042 in that if this were a form of negotiation it should have been done straight.
But I want to deal mainly with South Arabia, which appears to raise a question of principle. The principle is that Commonwealth membership amounts to mutual defence, whether written or unwritten, and not just to some priority in material aid. Has this principle been jettisoned by the Socialist Government? I recall, as other hon. Members will, the Brave New Socialist World after the war, with Lord Attlee, Mr. Ernest Bevin and the right hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker), who played such a prominent part in it. Then it was understood that the new countries of the Commonwealth could count on the support of the United Kingdom against aggression out and beyond membership of the United Nations; self defence is the first priority of any Government, and when new countries went off in the first stages of their independence they always looked to this country for help.
The latest example I remember is that of India in 1962. There was no written agreement between India and this country, they are not members of S.E.A.T.O., and yet the whole Indian public welcomed Her Majesty's then advisers bringing aid to India when she was attacked by China.
Following what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) said, I want to deal very briefly with the Treaty of Friendship and Protection, Cmd. 2451—the so-called 1959 Treaty. Article I says:There shall be perpetual peace and friendship and full and loyal co-operation between the United Kingdom and the Federation.Details are given in the Annexe, Section 1, which says:The United Kingdom shall take such steps as may at any time in the opinion of the United Kingdom be necessary or desirable for the defence of the Federation….and it goes on to give some details.
In 1963 the Treaty was applied to the whole Federation and began, in Article I by saying that theTreaty was supplementary to and to be read with the Treaty of Friendship and Protection, now called the Treaty of 1959.These Treaties commit this country to something. No one can doubt that these Treaties which have been drawn up and 1043 signed committed, and were intended to commit, South Arabia and the United Kingdom to mutual defence in perpetuity, whether dependent or independent. If words mean anything in that Treaty they surely mean what I have said.
Further to that, an undertaking was given by the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), in July 1963 at the South Arabian Constitutional Conference, Cmnd. 2414. In HANSARD my right hon. Friend said:… when representatives of the Government of the Federation asked for independence not later than 1968, they coupled this with a request that Britain should conclude a new defence agreement for the defence of the Federation after independence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February. 1966; Vol. 725, c. 250]My right hon. Friend on behalf of Britain agreed to this request.
There is nothing in the communiqué which resulted from the meeting of some weeks ago except talk of payment of sums of money, £5 million towards the capital cost and £2½ million over a three-year period. What Her Majesty's present advisers fear, I understand, is an open-ended commitment. I had the privilege of being Minister at the Foreign Office. Surely they realise that the whole of life is an open-ended commitment, open at both ends and probably at the seams. We cannot tie up all our affairs in future to meet any contingency.
Surely this is based upon the Commonwealth and upon the mutual defence of countries which want to remain inside it? If Ministers are saying that Britian is withdrawing from this idea of mutual defence, the honest thing to do is to get up and say so and not leave a number of countries, not only in South Arabia but elsewhere, in doubt. This is not a pedantic or legal matter about whether these treaties are binding. I understand that the Prime Minister has said that the lawyers can get out of this Treaty. Surely this is not the way to approach visitors from abroad.
§ Mr. Edelman
I am not sure if I heard the hon. Gentleman aright. Did he purport to quote the Prime Minister as saying, and I quote:The lawyers can get out of this Treaty"?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I understood that Ministers are saying that the Treaty, as drawn, is one from which the Government can escape and then further discussions will go on.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. George Thomson)
The onus is upon the hon. Gentleman to substantiate such a grave allegation against the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
Other quotations have been made. One hears as one goes around that the Prime Minister the other day was accusing my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham of causing difficulties in South Arabia. My right hon. Friend and myself and many hon. Members on both sides of the House keep in touch with numbers of individuals who live in these countries and who come to consult us on a number of occasions. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes has said, these individuals talked with the then Leader of the Opposition. What I am asking is whether the Prime Minister, or any other Minister, said to the leaders of South Arabia that this was a Treaty that they could get out of on legal terms. If it is, the Government should make clear—
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Did the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition say that?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
—that their view is that this Treaty is not binding and that they could get out of it.
§ Mr. George Thomson
I will try to deal with the questions put by other hon. Members, but the hon. Gentleman gave what I took to be a direct quotation from the Prime Minister and, unless he is able to substantiate this, then he is under an obligation to withdraw it.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
As my hon. and gallant Friend says, the lives of people are at stake. There are other instances, 1045 to which I will come, of individuals losing their lives because they have carried on their loyalty to this country overseas. I am not prepared to name anyone, but I ask the Government to deny that this has been said by Ministers to those who have come to this country to try to defend themselves in the future when 'he present British Government are proposing to withdraw their commitment in 1968.
If words mean anything, then, as I understand it, the quotations which I have read mean that this country is committed in honour to make a new defence agreement with South Arabia, or to honour these former clear commitments. What has worried so many individuals, far beyond the boundaries of South Arabia and even in Australia today, as talks are going on with the Prime Minister of Australia, is not just that Her Majesty's present advisers are refusing to reach an agreement, but that they are denying that any obligation exists. That is the point which worries people, that that Treaty which I have read out, and the discussions held with, and undertakings given by, Her Majesty's former advisers constituted an obligation, and the honourable action if present Ministers deny this, is to recognise the obligation and ask that it should be renegotiated and then reach some settlement on that basis.
A distinguished visitor from the Persian Gulf—I am not going to name him, but he was not a sheikhly visitor—said the other day, "How can we believe the written, even less the spoken, word of a British Government again, when they had seen the casuistry of the Minister of Defence and heard the torrent of words from the Prime Minister denying what they believed was an undertaking by the British Government?" Whatever might be the party administering it for the time being, they are bound to have these feelings if they suddenly find that they are to be left to defend themselves in future.
When Ministers say that the United Nations can be relied on for help, what greater cynicism can there be than to say that to the people of South Arabia? The Yemen has been next door to that country for years. The United Nations ran out on them. Against the most naked 1046 aggression by the Egyptians the Yemen received no help from the United Nations, and even organisations like the International Red Cross gave little or no help to the women and children being bombed—as far as I know even today—by the Egyptians. This is the last part of the world in which to turn to our Commonwealth colleagues, as they are still in South Arabia, and say that they can rely on the United Nations to help them.
The prospect is that this area is going to be another running sore from 1968 onwards. If we British walk out of Aden, it may lose its entrepot trade, and the hinterland could well revert to civil war, as is the case in Yemen, where we see the hinterland fighting against the coast.
By training and by inclination I am in favour of transferring power a bit too early, rather than a bit too late. I do not want to hang on to these things unduly long for political reasons, but the timing and conditions of transfer of power must be correct. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will remember that in Palestine and India communications were not nearly so good as they are today. One did not know until months or years afterwards what was going on. I believe that bad relations resulted because in the last few weeks of the transfer of power in Palestine the nerve and determination of the then Socialist Government failed and we left a running sore between Arabs, Jews and the British. I think that this is a great disservice to us all. Again, in India, by the last period of the transfer of power as it were going through the sound barrier we left the sub-continent with the problem of Kashmir.
These running sores are the result of a lack of determination in the final months of the transfer of power, and I pray that we shall not see them again. I hope that when he replies the Minister will tell us that the Government realise that the long-term loss which they are facing by carrying on as they have been doing during the last few months is greater than the cost of a little more patience and determination in honouring what the rest of the world believes is a debt, and in honouring an obligation. Do not let South Arabia be another blot, 1047 not just on the social judgment, but on Britain's record.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker), like his colleague the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish), and his right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), showed that he has no concept of the increasing difficulties of maintaining a big world rôle today, and of the increasing and formidable cost of doing so.
The right hon. Member for Barnet set out—as his two colleagues have done—a formidable increased world rôle for Britain, a positive European policy, and a positive policy east of Suez, including Aden. It is much easier to do that when one is a shadow Foreign Minister, backed by the ample resources of a shadow defence budget, than when one starts to come up against the cost and difficulties of implementing such policies. What the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues want simply cannot be done.
I think that the Government were wholly right to leave Aden. I am not clear what the Opposition's policy is. Would they stay in Aden, even though the people there wish them to get out? Would they stay there against the opposition of the local inhabitants in Aden? It is not clear to me whether they would stay in Aden after 1968.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
The hon. Gentleman is misrepresenting what we have said. All that we have said is that the Government should honour this obligation. We are not trying to stay in Aden against the wishes of the local inhabitants.
§ Mr. Mayhew
My complaint is that that is what the Opposition are doing. They are asking us to honour this obligation, without giving the House the slightest idea of how they would honour it without being in Aden. That is the point which I want them to answer and perhaps the Opposition spokesman, when he winds up the debate for his party, will say whether he proposes staying in Aden after 1968 contrary to the wishes of the inhabitants, and, if he is not prepared to 1048 do that, how, militarily, he will maintain this obligation
§ Viscount Lambton
The hon. Gentleman was a member of the Government which gave the assurance to Aden. Did he protest at the time, or did he associate himself with the assurance?
§ Mr. Mayhew
I have said that I support the Government's action in Aden, and I am asking the Opposition what their policy would be. Will they stay in Aden after 1968, contrary to the wishes of the inhabitants? if not, how will they maintain their obligation to South Arabia?
I suggest to the Government—and here I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes—that there is an illogicality about leaving Aden, admittedly abruptly, admittedly soon, and hoping and intending to stay in the Persian Gulf after that situation has been created. I believe that there will be some common ground between the hon. and gallant Gentleman and myself on this matter. Why is there this contrast between the Government's attitude on Aden and their attitude towards the Gulf? What is the motive for this?
My right hon. Friend visited the Gulf recently, and I hope that he will explain in a little more detail the reason why the Government are now building up in Bahrein and in Sharjah with a view to maintaining for an indefinite period—as I understand it at least through the 'seventies and to some extent through the 'eighties—our special political and military position in the Gulf.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will not say that this is being done to protect the oil. I hope that on both sides of the House we realise the fallacy of that argument. It is plain that we cannot stop the nationalisation of oil by military presence. A much bigger military presence in Iraq and Iran did not prevent the nationalisation of oil.
Experience in those two countries has also shown that whether the oil is nationalised or not it continues to flow. Experience in those two countries has shown, too, that what matters in the struggle for oil is not frigates or F I 1 1As, but the fact that the oil-producing country must do business with oil companies which are in a powerful position 1049 as they control the retailing, wholesaling. processing, distribution, the tankers, and so on. To say that we are staying there for economic reasons does not carry weight on either side of the House. I have seen it suggested that we get the oil much cheaper as a result of being there. It would be a strange policy for a Labour Government to use military force to depress the price of raw materials of a developing country. It was not in our election manifesto.
It is impracticable, because if we consider the States that we are proposing to protect in the Gulf we see that they are not large oil producers. The large oil producers are Iran, Iraq and Kuwait, whom we are not protecting. The States that we are protecting produce only 4 per cent. of all Middle East oil. To suggest that we can depress the price of oil in those circumstances is nonsense.
§ Mr. Peter Tapsell (Horncastle)
We have a defence treaty with Kuwait. It is a similar defence treaty that we are urging the Government to negotiate with the Southern Federation.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Perhaps the Government ought to speak on this point, but as a member of the United Nations our obligation to Kuwait is different from our obligation to the other Gulf States with whom we have current treaties.
I disagree with the argument that our presence there will prevent President Nasser from controlling Middle Eastern oil. Then idea that if we were not there he could monopolise all the oil of the Middle East is an absurd one. It is the same argument that was put forward in respect of Suez, and it is even less plausible in respect of Middle Eastern oil, because, even if Nasser could get a grip on it and could, and would, exert political pressure, the idea that he would ruin himself and destroy the living standards of the people whose good will he must have, simply to embarrass us in respect of a quantity of oil amounting to only 4 per cent. of the total of Middle Eastern oil, seems to be beyond the bounds of possibility. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will explain in more detail the difference in the motives behind our policies for the Gulf and for Aden, respectively.
Another argument put forward is that if we leave we shall leave a power vacuum 1050 behind us. This can be argued, but it cannot be argued by a Government who are leaving Aden in 1968. The threat to Aden is a good deal more direct than any threat to the Gulf. Such an argument cannot be used by the Government. On the contrary, our leaving Aden must unsettle, politically and militarily, our position in the Gulf. If we left by 1969–70, or at any time in the 'eighties or 'nineties, we would inevitably be bound to change the pattern of power in the Gulf. The question is whether the new power pattern would be unacceptably worse than the old.
I believe that even in South Arabia the result of our leaving might not have the disastrous consequences that Opposition Members foretell. It has induced in the rulers of South Arabia a great deal more realism about their foreign policy and, to some extent, their relations with each other. I believe that an expression of our intention to withdraw from the Gulf by 1970 would compel the rulers in the Gulf to mend their fences with each other and with South Arabia and to pay more and not less attention to improving and reforming their régimes, which reform is greatly overdue.
I cannot understand the argument put forward by my right hon. Friend this afternoon that if we are there all these changes will happen; that if we are there they can lean on us while these things happen. Precisely the opposite is the case. While the sheikhs can lean on us and look to us they will not mend their fences with each other; they will not have to trouble over their relations with South Arabia, and they will not reform their régimes. It is the prospect of having to cope with the real world after we leave which has brought the South Arabian rulers to study their position more realistically, and which will lead the sheikhs of the Persian Gulf to do the same.
The same principle holds good for South-East Asia, and almost throughout the east of Suez area. The attitude of the Government that they will stay in Singapore or the Gulf for as long as possible or "as long as we are wanted," gets the worst of every possible world. In the first place, the manner in which we leave these places is very important. If we go of our own volition, in a 1051 planned manner, with preparation and a certain amount of dignity, we maintain our influence; we maintain the truth of the statement that we are not going simply for selfish or unworthy interests.
But if, like the Government, we say that we shall wait until we are pushed out, when we are pushed out it may happen at the wrong time, probably in conditions of humiliation and in circumstances where our enemies can say, "We told you so. We are pushing them out. Our propaganda has been right, and we have done it." The idea of staying as long as possible, until people want to push us out, is folly.
It is folly for a second reason, namely, because it makes every form of defence planning impossible. If we do not know when we are going we do not know how much to spend; we do not know whether to build expensive installations, or married quarters and schools for the troops. We do not know whether to lay out money for the weapons—often taking 10 years or more to develop—which are necessary to fulfil such a commitment. If we go on spending the money, what happens? We may suddenly have to leave, as we had to leave Mombasa, and as a result involve ourselves in criminal waste of public funds.
Alternatively, we may say that because we are uncertain how long we shall stay we shall not spend money, so we do not give the troops the married quarters or the schools that they want and—this is a favourite policy of the Treasury—we do not build the weapons we want, or the base installations. Then—and this is the worst crime of all—we are landed, still staying on, without the weapons, the amenities or the installations, and that is a crime on the Services. The whole conception of staying on in South-East Asia and in the Gulf seems to be quite wrong.
Conversely, if we take our courage in both hands and say that on a certain date in the future we are going to withdraw, not only will the political results be favourable when we do, but we shall be able to make economies in development, research and construction. Thus, there is an overwhelming case against waiting upon events, but, instead, for deciding that if we leave Aden we shall also leave the Gulf by 1969–70.
1052 What I am saying about the Gulf applies elsewhere. Last Thursday, we had a debate on Vietnam. In my view, the Government were right to resist the demand—sincerely and cogently argued by my colleagues on the Left—suddenly to break the Anglo-American partnership at a time of maximum difficulty. I am sure that the Government would be wrong to do that. Any country which treats partnerships or alliances like that does not deserve to have partners or allies, and in the long run will not get them.
But it is one thing to refuse to break an alliance and a partnership suddenly; it is quite another to plan now to extend and to develop the Anglo-American partnership in Asia right through the 1970s and into the 1980s. That is a different matter altogether. Still more is it wrong to link such a policy with defence cuts which involve us in military dependence on the United States, with whom, as Vietnam has shown, we have fundamental disagreements over Communism in Asia.
The basic lesson of Vietnam, however, is that it illustrates once again the increasing difficulties and dangers of Western Anglo-Saxon peace-keeping east of Suez. It shows, once again, what limitations can be placed even on great military power by the political and psychological obstacles which are growing up all the time against Western peacekeeping. These obstacles have been growing steadily for years, with restrictions on over-flying, restrictions on the use of bases, restrictions on the use of Singapore otherwise than for local defence, restrictions on the use by the Americans and restrictions on our build-up in Bahrein, which is being impeded by the political difficulties and weaknesses of the ruler, which will not allow us to deploy as many troops there as we would wish.
All these obstacles are growing and there is all the time pressure against the Anglo-American, Anglo-Saxon peacekeeping rôle at the United Nations and elsewhere. Above all, there is the absence of support throughout the world for the Americans' peace-keeping in Vietnam and the fact that all that courage and all those sacrifices have not even contained North Vietnam. What a tribute to the growing political and psychological obstacles to the Anglo-Saxon peacekeeping rôle east of Suez.
1053 None of these factors seems to enter the minds of hon. Members opposite when they deploy the case for a grand, imperial, uncosted rôle in the 1970s and 1980s. It was not mentioned by the right hon. Member for Barnet. He seemed to have no conception of the real world. The same applies to the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes. But I hoped from a radical Government for a little more understanding of this point of view. It is surely obvious, when we look round the world, when we see the growing power of our potential adversaries east of Suez to which the White Paper bore witness, when we see our diminished resources and all the obstacles I have mentioned, that either we must put more resources into this peace-keeping task, achieve some degree of self-sufficiency from the Americans, some real power, or else—in my view, this is the right solution—we should be prepared to withdraw from our east of Suez peace-keeping rôle.
The Government do neither of these things. The Government's attitude to our peace-keeping rôle is exactly the attitude of the Hindus to their sacred cow—neither feeding it nor putting it out of its misery. The economic Departments will not let it be fed; the overseas Departments will not let it give up the ghost. To the Parliamentary Labour Party, the Prime Minister gave an all-out commitment to the east of Suez rôle. He might be said to have seized the sacred cow by the horns. It was a serious error. The Government here committed the nation to a long-term east of Suez rôle without giving adequate reasons and without providing adequate resources.
The Government's east of Suez policy ignores the major trends in world affairs and the lessons of Vietnam. It conflicts with the Government's European policy and is based on a wholly wrong conception of Britain's future rôle, which is in Europe. Nor do they even stick to this east of Suez policy consistently. A prod from the Americans and we are staying east of Suez. A prod from Zurich and we deprive our Armed Forces of the weapons for the job and become dependent on the Americans, a prod from the Left wing and we offend the Americans on whom we have become dependent. Where, one asks, from what quarter, will the next wind blow and where will it take our foreign and defence policies?
1054 Winding up gradually this east of Suez rôle will be the end of a long and sometimes glorious chapter, but if it is done carefully and deliberately, of our own volition, and with fair notice to our friends and allies, it is a more honourable course than muddling along at the mercy of events, pushed around by other countries.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. John Peel (Leicester, South-East)
It is not, perhaps, surprising that the Foreign Secretary tried to defend the Government's policy of imposing the import surcharges in 1964 in breach of solemn treaties entered into by Britain. The difficulty is that he said that there was no other practicable possibility. We know now that the Government intend to withdraw these surcharges in the autumn, but there is no sign at all that our balance of payments difficulties, which they were imposed to solve, are getting any easier or are disappearing. In fact, if anything, our balance of payments difficulties look like getting more difficult.
Therefore, I should like to ask the Government whether they have now found practicable alternatives to their import surcharge which they maintain were not previously available. If so, what are these alternatives which will solve our balance of payments difficulties?
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), we all know, holds strong and extreme views about what Britain should do in withdrawing from all her commitments east of Suez. But what we do not often hear from hon. Members opposite, who harp upon the cost of fulfilling our treaties and agreements and Commonwealth ties of friendship, is the cost of breaking them, of ratting on our treaties and our friendships. I suggest that it would be a good exercise for hon. Members opposite to pay some attention to those possibilities.
It is constantly asked of hon. Members on this side, "What would you do? Would you stay if the people of the country did not want you there?" But what evidence do they ever adduce that the peoples of the Southern Arabian Federation want us to go? The only evidence we have at the moment is strong evidence that they want us to stay. What 1055 is more, that appears to be so in South-East Asia and Malaysia. I see no indication at present that they want to kick us out. If anything, every indication is that the Government of Malaysia wants Britain to fulfil her Commonwealth ties of friendship and assistance.
This is a very vulnerable, divided and unstable part of the world—
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
If this really is Malaysia's enthusiasm, why are they demanding an almost immediate withdrawal from Borneo, where we have been defending their frontiers?
§ Mr. Peel
In fact, of course, there is no evidence that they want us to pull out quicker than is reasonable in the circumstances. They are, quite rightly and with our help, trying to build up their own position there to meet the different situations with their neighbours. They have asked for our help and, quite rightly, we have given it. We on this side of the House are worried, in view of the Government's words and actions in other parts of the world, that there will be a massive withdrawal from South-East Asia before the Governments there want us to go and before they are ready to meet the difficulties and dangers which exist there and which will continue to exist for a considerable time.
Partly, perhaps, from the accidents of history, this is a very divided and very unstable part of the world. There is no certainty how political events will develop there. It is sometimes interesting to speculate on the very different position which might obtain in South-East Asia today if the British Government at the time had supported that great man Sir Stamford Raffles, when he proposed that the whole of Indonesia and Malaya should form one unit. Had we backed him then, the whole of the Indonesian and Malayan archipelago might today be one nation of 90 million people, speaking virtually the same language, having the same religion and being virtually the same racially. That might have formed a magnificent bulwark of stability in South-East Asia—but it did not happen.
Another factor which creates instability in that part of the world is the quite definite threat of Communist China, which is just as expansionist and im- 1056 perialist as was Nationalist China. This has been part and parcel of Chinese history for hundreds of years. The Chinese exercised suzerainty over very large parts of South-East Asia for generations, and I believe that the Chinese of Communist China, not only ideologically, but in themselves, are still expansionist, and this tends to create a very unstable situation in that part of the world. We and the countries in South-East Asia are faced with a very difficult threat, arising from methods of subversion and infiltration leading eventually to revolution and force.
Whether hon. Members opposite agree with that rather depressing assessment of Chinese intentions or not, I am sure that they will agree that China's intentions are at the very best extremely doubtful and that in these circumstances it must be a vital British and free world interest to do all that we can to promote stability, strength and prosperity in South-East Asia. It cannot possibly be in the interests of Britain or the free world that China should control and dominate South-East Asia. If she did, it would threaten India and Australasia and ultimately it would upset the whole balance of power in the world and create a grave world threat.
There are other important British and free world interests in South-East Asia which, I think, we should neglect at our peril. The hon. Member for Woolwich, East talked about "the outworn idea" that we need a military presence to protect our oil in the Middle East and said that the same argument may apply to commercial interests in South-East Asia. But those interests are not only British, they are Commonwealth interests, and they are considerable. It is important in the economic situation of this country and with our balance-of-payments problems that we should not overlook these matters.
I am not suggesting that it is necessary for Britain to stay there merely to protect these interests, but these are mutual interests which are understood by our friends in that part of the world and they should not be overlooked. What is even more important is the necessity to maintain and to fulfil our Commonwealth ties of friendship and support where we are wanted. There is every indication that Malaysia and Australasia are very anxious that Britain should not 1057 precipitately withdraw completely from that part of the world.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Will the hon. Member explain why our economic interests will fail if we withdraw our military presence? We have an increasing export trade with the Soviet Union, but no military presence there.
§ Mr. Peel
That is too easy an explanation by the hon. Member. It is not that we are afraid that they will fail, but if we walk out before our friends are ready to look after themselves both we and they will suffer, and it is important that we should meet the wishes of our friends in helping them to become strong enough to defend their freedom and their prosperity. This is something that we rat on at our peril.
Many hon. Members opposite tend to overlook that over the years we have built up a great tradition of friendship and trust in South-East Asia. We have heard so much criticism of Britain's colonial rôle in the past that we tend to overlook what Britain's Colonial Service in this century has accomplished. I spent over 20 years of my life in that part of the world, and I can vouch for the fact that the people of Malaysia both trusted and had confidence in Britain. Unless recent actions on the part of the British Government have upset that feeling, I believe that they still trust us and still want us to help them to reach a position of strength and stability.
There are signs that the countries in South-East Asia are recognising the expansionist ambitions of China and are more determined to co-operate among themselves and to work together. It seems to me to be a vital British interest to help this movement forward. The South-East Asia Treaty Organisation should be strengthened if possible and should be expanded if possible.
§ Mr. James Dickens (Lewisham, West)
Is the hon. Member aware that the most noted authority on Chinese foreign policy in this country, Mr. Roderick McFarquhar, editor of China Quarterly, and a distinguished commentator on Chinese affairs, went on record in a Fabian lecture as saying, "If the basis of Britain's east of Suez policy is fear of Chinese expansion, then I believe that fear to be entirely mistaken." How does the hon. 1058 Member bring forward evidence to support this view of Chinese expansion in South-East Asia against the background of that quotation?
§ Mr. Peel
There is considerable evidence of Chinese expansion in Asia. It was not very long ago that Tibet was invaded by the Chinese and that India was invaded by the Chinese, and the Chinese are giving considerable assistance to the North Vietnamese. I can assure the hon. Member, after having spent 20 years out there, that there is plenty of evidence of Chinese penetration and infiltration in the whole of Asia. It is a very unwise person who thinks that the Chinese have no expansionist ideas. Both ideologically and racially, I believe that they have.
Without a doubt it is in our interests and it is our responsibility that we should fulfil our commitments in South-East Asia and that we should not scuttle out of South-East Asia precipitately. We should, I agree, try to persuade our friends in the free world, particularly in Europe, to assume a somewhat larger part of the burden of defending the free world's interests in various parts of the world. It is a difficult business. Whether they do or not, I regard it as very dangerous for us to withdraw, either in the very near future or suddenly, from both the Middle East and South-East Asia.
I turn for a moment to Europe. The communiqué issued after the talks with the French Ministers was extremely disappointing on the two principal subjects which affect the strength, safety and freedom of the Western world. First, N.A.T.O. It is tragic that the French have decided that they wish to withdraw from N.A.T.O. or appear to wish to do so. Undoubtedly, if they do, it will seriously weaken that organisation.
It is difficult at present to decide exactly what the French want. We hear talk that they wish to remain loyal members of the Atlantic Alliance, but as far as one can see they talk in terms of its being one of those old defensive alliances. The trouble about them is that they have twice failed in the last 30 years to prevent world war.
We have found that closely integrated commands in N.A.T.O. have proved successful in maintaining peace and stability in Europe. Therefore, I simply do not understand why the French wish to break 1059 it up or to weaken it. There is certainly no sign I can see of Russia weakening herself. There is certainly no evidence that the Russians "talk turkey" better to people who have weakened themselves. All the evidence goes to show that one gets on better with the Russians if one talks from strength. That seems to me to be another reason why we should remain strong and talk from strength. Certainly, there is no evidence whatever of the Russians in any way weakening their tremendous military potential.
On other scores, too, N.A.T.O. has proved its value. It has two other great advantages. It keeps German forces within a closely integrated Western command and prevents the Germans from acting alone. That is very important. I have heard young Germans say that it we had had a properly integrated command structure before the last war, Hitler would never have dared to attack the West. That may very well be true.
The other great advantage which N.A.T.O. has had is that it has ensured an American presence in Europe. One of the things which I simply do not understand is the idea that seems to permeate certain of our French friends that America should withdraw from Europe. America has learned her bitter lesson. Twice in the last thirty years she has realised that her freedom depended on the freedom of Europe. With thousands of American graves in Europe, she wants to do everything possible to see that it never happens again. America has a vested interest in Europe, she has every right to be there and Europe is free only because eventually she came there. Therefore, to contemplate any American withdrawal or to demand American withdrawal from Europe seems to me to be a very shortsighted policy.
I have no doubt that we shall have to come to talks with the French about the future of the Atlantic Alliance. It seems to me that there are certain subjects in which the French will maintain a considerable interest. For example, the highly sophisticated early-warning system is something of which they will very much wish to remain members or to remain in contact with. Secondly, a highly sophisticated communications system is something that the French will not want to 1060 lose. Thirdly, in research and development the French are not likely to want to lose out on the great advantages that have flowed from N.A.T.O. in that direction.
Those are three subjects in which the French will remain extremely interested. When we come to talks with them, I hope that when we discuss these things they will think again about the necessity for having an efficient, properly-integrated command structure that will enable the Atlantic Alliance to fulfil its overriding purpose.
These are some of the problems that face us. The world scene is certainly not encouraging. What, unfortunately, makes it worse is that recent Government actions have certainly not improved matters. We see on every hand a lack of confidence in Britain's word. This is a tragic situation. What we want is somebody to speak strongly from those benches for Britain and for the free world and to ensure that we play our proper part and do not scuttle everywhere.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
The hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) and many of the hon. Members who preceded him have made surprisingly partisan speeches in the course of the evening. Most of them, I thought, had learned more sense in their old age, like myself. A great many of their prognostications and broodings really amount to this. They were saying, in effect, that Her Majesty's Government are perfidious, are pursuing a devious course in their foreign relations and are reneging on their main commitments. That is what hon. Members opposite have been saying.
Whatever views we may have about Her Majesty's Government, that is not the central charge that could be levelled against them. If one takes the main commitments of British foreign policy in N.A.T.O., we could not be firmer. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been extremely firm in this matter. If one takes the Anglo-American Alliance, apart from a little local difficulty over some bombs at Hanoi, we have been extremely firm throughout and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has shown great courage in meeting the 1061 arguments which have suggested British withdrawal and dissociation from American foreign policy. If one takes the maintenance of the British deterrent or our commitments to Malaysia in the face of the Indonesian confrontation, in all these things we have been extremely firm and I congratulate my right hon. Friends on the skill and determination which they have shown on these central issues.
The debate today has centred around the same theme and subject which has gone on in this House for quite a time, since, as Mr. Dean Acheson put it, we ceased to be an imperial centre and have failed to find a new function. It centres today as a corollary around the Defence White Paper, which was published earlier this year, when the British Government's policy was maintained as Britain continuing to honour our commitments to our Allies and to play our proper part in defending the interests of the free world. That statement of a defence objective is meaningless without an overall assessment of our national political strategy. I propose to devote the few minutes with which I shall detain the House to this central question of what should be the overall national strategy.
What kind of Britain do we want? Do we see ourselves as a major European Power, as part of a European community? Do we think that we can sustain our position outside the European community, or do we see ourselves as some kind of larger, more pompous, Scandinavian social democracy, or as some kind of West European Yugoslavia? Which of these rôles do my hon. and right hon. Friends and members of the party opposite see ourselves fulfilling? Before one can hope to answer these questions one has to look at the areas of Britain's vital national interest.
What are these areas? The first is Europe. That is why we are founder members of N.A.T.O. That is why we have over 50,000 troops stationed in Germany. That is why we attach so much importance to the whole North Atlantic concept. In this respect, we have to ask ourselves one or two other questions as well, Although we are founder members of N.A.T.O. and recognise that N.A.T.O. played a decisive part in maintaining political stability in Europe at 1062 the time, and that without it we should not now be holding this kind of debate, is the situation in Europe today the same as it was when N.A.T.O. came into being?
The answer is that the situation is not the same. It is changing, and it is always changing. There have been a number of major changes which could account, for the moment at any rate, for the less aggressive Soviet policy in Europe; less aggressive, partly for reasons of a large sense of shock when they met the glint of American steel at the time of the Cuba crisis, partly because of the effectiveness of N.A.T.O. during the years, partly because of internal changes in the Soviet Union, too, and partly because of the emergence of China and the conflicts within the Sino-Soviet bloc. These are all differences that have been growing and which are likely to continue to grow along these lines in the years ahead.
In this situation, how should we regard N.A.T.O. and its future function? The first thing we have to agree upon is that it would be very unwise indeed to dismantle an organisation upon which stability in Europe so much depends. It would be a very grave step to knock down the bricks which were so slowly erected, and with such difficulty, hardship and heart-searching at the time; they are the central bastions of our own national security in Europe.
At the same time, there is the problem of France. The hon. Member for Leicester, South-East, said that he failed to understand President de Gaulle's viewpoint. We all have these question marks about the General, for whom I have a very great admiration and affection, and a certain respect. I think that he broods long and deeply about what he considers to be the future course of events for the French national interest and then delivers himself of these viewpoints.
He may, in some respects, be out of date in some of his political thinking. He may be entertaining, some of us might think, illusions of political grandeur. He may even, of course, in his thought about unilateral action be a secret reader of Tribune—who knows? Nevertheless, he exists, and the concept of political unity in Europe without France is just a nonsense, in just the same way as the military effectiveness of N.A.T.O. could 1063 not have made sense without West German rearmament at the time. So the second thing we must do is always to keep the French chair vacant for any changes in French policy.
The third thing is not to regard N.A.T.O. merely as a defensive alliance but as a position from which to negotiate. The strength of N.A.T.O. is the strength of a negotiating position as and when and if the moment becomes propitious.
Finally, as the world grows smaller we have to look on N.A.T.O. as a much wider organisation with wider responsibility, or, at least, with the nations involved in it looking out to the rest of the world. It cannot remain in respect of certain individual countries—and it does not remain in respect of some countries—indefinitely a purely inward-looking European alliance. There are obligations which some countries have and sustain outside in which certain other countries have an equal national interest in sustaining.
That brings me to the second area of British national interest, which is the east of Suez area—around the shores of the Indian Ocean, in the Arabian Gulf and in South-East Asia. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), in his courageous resignation speech last March, asked a very important question, and he asked it again in a different form today. If I may presume to say so, whilst I think that he asked the right question, I am not sure that he gave the right answer, and perhaps I might specify it more clearly point by point.
First of all, we have the Gulf. My hon. Friend made great play with the fact that we might be there to protect the oil, or to get cheaper oil, or in some way to perpetuate colonialism. That is not the case. By the accident of history, this is one part of the world where the Pax Britannica still runs—temporarily, at any rate. If we withdrew from this area it would undoubtedly create very great political instability which could easily lead to a situation the outcome of which we cannot foresee at the moment.
My hon. Friend spoke of Kuwait. The State of Kuwait possibly exists today because the British Government of the day 1064 was able to fly in troops at short notice when it was under threat from Iraq. Without doubt, the Persians would lay claim to Bahrain, to which they have laid claim constantly. The Saudis would grab Buraimi. A situation could easily develop there which, in an area where the prizes are so great, could lead to a political instability which could even constitute a threat to world peace. Therefore, at the moment—I do not say permanently—we have to say in the Gulf. It is a world obligation.
I now come to the larger question—and here I have more common ground with my hon. Friend—of the efficacy of the arrangements we are making. In the course of my hon. Friend's resignation turmoil—I put it that way, because there was his speech in the House and his appearances on television—and I forget at which one it was—he said that he might not have resigned if the Government had agreed to the extra aircraft carrier, while, at the same time, he was against the east of Suez policy as a whole. That argument may not have appeared logical but, to use an Irish-ism, there is logicality in that illogicality, because one either has a policy that will be effective or one does not have that policy.
In the withdrawal from Aden, the absence of carrier-borne forces and the limited nature of the forces it is envisaged putting in at Bahrein doubts are raised as to the efficacy of our policy in the Gulf should the need arise. This is something that I think the Government have to make very clear. I doubt whether the forces we are now envisaging in the Gulf will be adequate for the job. This, of course, means paying a higher price—we cannot escape that; and I do not deny the problem of the economic aspect of the whole east of Suez policy.
Then, around the shores of the Indian Ocean are various British interests. They are there, again, for reasons of history, and also for reasons of other ties that have grown up. Our rôle is inevitably very much a subsidiary one to that of the United States of America, but it is a rôle of interest, and of specific interest to the whole Western world. Our representation, our military presence in Malaysia, has played a very important part, as I have said, in the Indonesian confrontation.
1065 If we were to withdraw, we should be contracting out of world politics as a nation. It may be that some hon. Members want us to do this. It is a tenable point of view. It is not one with which I agree. But if we contract out of world politics and cease to be a Power with interests and a military presence in different parts of the world, we have only ourselves to blame when things go wrong. It is no good saying that the end of the world is coming because bombs are dropping in Hanoi if we have not a military presence there to exercise political influence. This was the lesson of the Korean war and of the representations which Earl Attlee made as Prime Minister when he went to Washington in 1950. These are the lessons now. It is no good expecting to preach to other countries unless we are prepared to make a contribution. The philosophy of Little England with a big mouth cannot be an effective foreign policy for this country.
I should like to say a few words about the Vietnam situation, because it is relevant to what I have been saying. I was puzzled by the controversies of a few days ago. I can see that there is sound logic in supporting the American policy. I can see that there is logic in disagreeing with the whole of American policy. I followed the Prime Minister's arguments very carefully, but I failed to see the logic of supporting the American foreign policy in Vietnam and at the same time dissociating this country from the bombing at Hanoi. This was a limited military objective. The photographs show clearly how accurate the bombing was. The distance between the oil tanks and Hanoi is considerable. 'They are right across the river. If it is all right to drop bombs on villages, why is it all wrong to drop bombs on oil tanks?
The United States policy has a very important supporting factor. I subscribe to the domino theory. If the Americans were to withdraw from Vietnam, the consequences in South-East Asia and wider afield could be very damaging indeed. The perimeter of disturbance would extend right down to Australia and New Zealand and right along the frontiers of India.
The hon. Member for Leicester, South-East spoke about the emergence of China 1066 as a military threat and the growing aspirations of the Chinese foreign policy. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens) referred to Mr. Roderick McFarquhar's Fabian Society lecture. I agree with a great deal of what Mr. McFarquhar says, but I do not subscribe to his interpretation of Chinese intentions. It is perfectly true that the Chinese have limited capacity for action as of now. But if their capacity for action were ever to match their aspirations the situation would be very different. We have only to look at the effects of their aggressive foreign policy in Indo-China over the years and the threats which they posed along the northern Indian frontier to see the possibilities if there were not effective military answers available in the area.
The problem all along the Chinese frontier is that the local national Governments are not in a position, and are not likely to be in a position for a very long time, if ever, to maintain the balance of power without Western support. This is the reason for the whole Western east of Suez policy. The question is whether this country wishes to participate in that east of Suez policy and what we are able to contribute to it. It cannot be merely a defensive policy. That is the essential prerequisite if we have to have an effective defence perimeter in Asia, in exactly the same way as we had to have one in Europe in 1947 and 1948.
But behind it has to be the social and political answers in a situation which is perhaps analogous to Europe at the time of the Marshall Plan, but much more difficult and much greater. The Foreign Secretary spoke about poverty in South-East Asia and the difficulties facing the Governments in the area. Mr. McNamara's famous speech at Montreal in mid-May spotlighted these in great detail. This is an obligation which can be met only collectively by the Western nations, and again the question is whether we wish to contract out of that obligation.
The need for an east of Suez policy is in my judgment, paramountly clear. The question is whether we have the means and whether we have the will. Only this House can answer this question. May I say a few words about the means. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary 1067 rightly said today in answer to a Question that entry into the Common Market would not of itself be a solution to Britain's economic problems. That is true. On the other hand, it is sometimes difficult to see a solution to the British economic problems unless we have a wider economic base. It is a case of chicken and the egg. I will not go into the biological details of whether the chicken or the egg came first, but there is a case for having the chicken first and then the nest egg. We have to get our economic problems right. This would make us a much more attractive proposition to European countries. One of the major objections to British entry into Europe is the palpable weakness of sterling and the obligations which would have to be incurred by the Europeans.
Nevertheless, the balance of national interest is overwhelmingly on the side of Britain's entry into Europe and there is no substitute for this. Some hon. Members take the view that we should not join Europe at any cost. Some hon. Members put forward a number of conditions. I take the view that the Gaitskell conditions are virtually irrelevant; circumstances are changing. Today, what is the Commonwealth, on which he laid great stress? Is it such a homogeneous unit as all that? The real problem is New Zealand and whether we can negotiate some satisfactory arrangement concerning the New Zealanders? Taking the long-term view, the market of New Zealand and Australia ultimately will be in the teeming Orient, particularly in Japan.
There is the question of the British independent foreign policy. Since when have we had an independent foreign policy? One cannot have it in the modern world. There is the question of British agriculture. I have the honour to represent a great farming county. I know that there are problems of adjustment. People will have to adjust themselves to change. Some aspects of agriculture will suffer, but other aspects will gain. On balance, the agricultural objection to British entry is not valid. In any case, Britain's foreign policy for centuries cannot be determined by sectional interests or even one's constituents.
There is the question of the Anglo-American Alliance and Britain's special position with the Americans. That is a 1068 dissolving position which, if it has not dissolved altogether, will very soon dissolve. I cannot see the objections to British entry other than the problems of adjustment, which I am sure can be dealt with in due course, although I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) that this may not be the time for entry, for obvious reasons. There is no possibility of our sustaining an east of Suez policy unless we have a wider and more secure economic base.
On the question of the will, I know the guns versus butter argument. I know that many of my hon. Friends think that instead of spending the money on arms east of Suez it would be much better employed if it were spent on hospitals in Britain. But the problems east of Suez are not merely military. They are also social. A great deal of the money will have to be spent by the richer nations if we are to have any solution to offer the east of Suez countries on east of Suez social services and a rising standard of life. Otherwise, there will be no effective military defence. It is pure selfishness for us to think purely in terms of our own social services as against those of other countries whose social services are virtually non-existent.
The guns versus butter argument is a valid argument only up to a point. If we insist on having cream on the butter as well, we may well go the way that history has shown and end up by having olive oil only. Many countries have suffered this fate in the past.
What this amounts to is this: What kind of Britain do we want? It must be a major modern European power with responsibilities to the world. These responsibilities cannot be met by military and political withdrawal. They can be met only by wise underpinning of military and political positions. They cannot be created without a more firm economic base. I accept that. But if this country were to turn its back on its history and its obligations, it would be a heavy charge against our generation that we ran away in the face of what is really the greatest social challenge in the recorded history of man.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)
I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) too 1069 closely in his analysis of our east of Suez rôle. It was that part of his speech with which I found myself in the greatest disagreement. The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) stated as clearly as I have ever heard it stated my own attitude to the east of Suez situation.
I want to refer back to the beginning of the speech of the hon. Member for Pembroke when he quoted Mr. Dean Acheson. Mr. Dean Acheson actually said that Britain had lost an empire but not ye found a rôle. This debate is about that rôle, and any foreign affairs debate in this House should be about that rôle.
The answer that one gives depends largely on the historical perspective which one takes. I see it as being the problem of adjusting to a post-imperial rôle. My view of history is that no imperial nation in the history of the world has been able to do this yet. It may well be that there is some law of destiny that forbids nations to adjust satisfactorily when they have lost their empire. I hope that is not true. I want passionately to try to make this nation the first to adjust satisfactorily to this new rôle. I believe that the task of my generation is to build a new nation on the foundations of an old imperial power.
I recall a television interview with the new Prime Minister Mr. Harold Macmillan, way back in pre-1959 days. I was very impressed by the point he made that only for a very brief period in our history were we, in everyone's view, a great world Power; that in fact the greatest moments for Britain had been during periods when the rest of the world did not really think of us as a great world Power, but when nevertheless we had a very satisfying and exciting rôle indeed.
How are we to build this new nation on the foundations of this old imperial power? Part of the answer lies in our social policy at home. Part of it, however, lies in our economic attitudes and our attitudes to ourselves as a trading nation. Part of it also lies in our relationships with other nations—indeed, in our foreign policy.
I believe that economics is the most important of all these. Britain's power lies where Britain's brass lies and it has done so throughout history. There is an old historical axiom that trade follows 1070 the flag. That, as Henry Ford would have said, is bunk. The flag follows trade. It always has and it always will. Drake was not interested in some mystical imperial rôle. He was interested in nabbing King Philip's Spanish silver. The East India Company forged our entry into India: and it was not for any mystical imperial rôle either that the clerks of the East India Company went there. So while we have to think in terms of our international relationships generally, nevertheless we have also to look to being a wealthy nation, to building up ourselves as a powerful economic entity. This is really where our rôle lies.
I also believe that the future of this new nation can be just as satisfying as the past has been to the individual inhabitants. I am not a "Little Englander". Those who want to withdraw from east of Suez are sometimes accused of being "Little Englanders", but I do not want to cut commitments in order to retreat. I want to withdraw so that we can regroup in order that we may advance.
I want this evening to deal with only one part of that advance. That part is in Europe, because I am a passionate European for historical, political and economic reasons, in that order. I am a voluntary exile from the party opposite, very largely because of my attitude to Europe and the attitude of the party opposite to Europe over these last ten years.
I want very briefly to re-state the reasons why I believe this country's future is in Europe. I believe that the whole of this ideal has been betrayed by lack of political leadership ever since the war. I do not want to blame any one party. We had Ernest Bevin setting his heart against it in the immediate postwar period. We had Churchill in opposition telling us that Europe was our destiny and making splendid and magnificent speeches at Strasbourg and elsewhere. Yet when he came to hold the reins of power in his hands he, too, was unable to carry his party into Europe with him. It was, after all, a Conservative Government who withdrew, in 1955, our observers from the talks to discuss the formation of the Common Market.
It is not very satisfactory for hon Members on this side of the House to grip 1071 and thump the Dispatch Box and say that the Conservative Party is a European party, that the party opposite is not, and that the real heart of Europeanism lies on the Conservative Benches. I remind the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) that, whatever he may have said this afternoon, in 1959 he used these words:We never dreamed of joining the Common Market. If we joined we would have to abolish all tariff protection for agriculture and horticulture and give up control of our own agricultural policy. This would mean an end to argicultural reviews and the Acts of 1947 and 1957. 'It is not my purpose, although it has unfortunately been the purpose of one or two hon. Members in this debate, to indulge in a kind of political slanging match as to who is responsible for this or as to who is the most European party in the country. This evening I want to try to find out what is the Government's purpose now in relation to Europe.
What about the political reasons for going into Europe? What about the political implications? I want to quote from some answers that the Prime Minister gave to various hon. Members on 19th May. In reply to a Question tabled by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) the Prime Minister gave this reply:There is no question of Her Majesty's Government in such negotiations entering into any arrangements which would involve a supranational Government or a Parliamentary assembly to which this House would be subordinated.The Prime Minister went on in like manner; he made several statements of the same sort.
When I mentioned a pamphlet which had been published by the "Keep Left" group in 1947 the Prime Minister said this:I do not think that any of my hon. Friends … have ever felt that it was right to set up a directly elected assembly in the foreseeable future, within the next twenty or so years at any rate, to which this Parliament and this country would be subordinate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th May, 1966; Vol. 728, cc. 1554–57.]There is a great deal more like that in those columns of HANSARD. It was a straight denial of the fact that Europe and our entry into Europe is primarily a political issue.
1072 I believe that this is the great mistake of our time, and he follows the Conservative Government in making it, because the great tragedy of our negotiations with Europe during this last decade has been that all politicians who have tried or have wanted to advocate the cause have found themselves inhibited from admitting to the British public that sovereignty was involved. Of course, it is involved and one cannot deny this. The time has come to be absolutely frank about the political implications.
If one looks at the Preamble to the Treaty of Rome one finds these words in the first sentence:Determined to establish the foundations of an ever closer union among the European peoples,Article 189 spells it out:… the Council and the Commission shall adopt regulations and directives, to make decisions and formulate recommendations or opinions. Regulations shall have a general application. They shall be binding in every respect and directly applicable in each Member State.I do not intend to continue the quotation of that article, but in four or five short sharp sentences it defines absolutely, in my view, what was in the hearts of the original architects of the European idea.
I do not believe that it does the European cause or the cause of this country any service at all to deny that politics are involved, or that there will be a substantial surrender of sovereignty if we enter Europe. I fought that last election campaign on this. I told everyone that I was passionately in favour of going into a supra-national Europe. I made over 400 speeches in four weeks, and I think in every one of them I said this. I ended up with one of the largest radical votes ever recorded in my constituency.
I do not believe that politicians have anything to be frightened of in this. This is a crisis of leadership. It is not good enough for any Government to say "I am afraid the people will not understand that." The people will understand a great deal more than some politicians give them credit for, provided that political leadership is exercised in the proper way.
These inhibitions about Europe were not always the view of hon. Members opposite. In that same pamphlet "Keep Left", which was written by many hon. 1073 Members still in the House, we have the following:The Channel has ceased to matter, and, strategically, we British have become Europeans whose prosperity and security depend on that of the rest of Europe. Working together, we are still strong enough to hold the balance of world power, to halt the division into a Western and an Eastern bloc, and so to make the United Nations a reality.That was written in 1947 by the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), who is now Minister of Housing and Local Government.
I should like to refer to the Foreign Secretary's remarks on this subject. He said that we had to get our economy right first. I must ask him, when was our economy ever right? If he looks up Lloyd George's speeches he will find that we had a balance of payments problem then, and we have had one ever since. If we are going to wait till we have got the balance of payments out of our system, until we stop discussing the economic problems of Britain and live in the sort of paradise that Socialism will create, in the view of hon. Members opposite at least, we shall never achieve entry into Europe, because the economy will never be right according to all of us.
The Foreign Secretary also said that going into Europe was not the cure for our economic problems. I agree that going into Europe is not some kind of magic cure-all for everything that is wrong with our economy. But how far it is a cure depends on what one believes is wrong with our economy. If one takes the view, as I do, that British economic problems have been primarily caused by lack of sufficient demand, and lack of sufficient investment through lack of a large enough market, then going into Europe will solve a considerable number of our economic problems. But I accept that it will not cure them all.
We cannot stand back and say that we cannot go in until we have got our economy right, or that we cannot go in because it will not do us any good anyway. We have got to go in to find the larger home market and to find the reserve currency pool which will back sterling as an international currency.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan (Cardigan)
The hon. Gentleman has made it abundantly 1074 clear that he is willing to sacrifice the sovereignty of Britain for his ungovernable emotional attachment to Europe. He has also mentioned agriculture. During the past nine years at no time has there been any question of renegotiating the basic elements of the Treaty of Rome with regard to agriculture. Does the hon. Gentleman speak for his party in this matter and say that the conditions now obtaining must be accepted and that entry must take place on those conditions?
§ Mr. Pardoe
I should like to take up this point because I was coming to it. It relates to the five conditions laid down by the Labour Party. I should like to ask hon. Members opposite how far they accept these conditions. How far do they wish to rewrite the Rome Treaty in order to get in on these terms? Some hon. Members opposite have mentioned certain conditions. The hon. Member for Pembroke mentioned a special arrangement with the United States. It does not happen to be one of the five conditions, and it might help if all hon. Members opposite knew what their party stood for.
The first condition as set out in the statement by the National Executive Committee on 29th September, 1962, stated:Strong and binding safeguards for the trade and other interests of our friends and partners in the Commonwealth.I believe that this condition is no longer anything like as strong as it was then. Of course, there are grave difficulties for New Zealand. This has already been mentioned. New Zealand exports a large part of her total output to this country. She is in a sense a kind of home field for this country. We have to make special provisions for New Zealand. Those provisions will have to be political. The real solution to New Zealand's problems, if we enter the Common Market, is some sort of union with this country because this is the only basis on which she can secure her tremendous economic dependency upon us.
The second condition states:Freedom as at present to pursue our own foreign policy.Note the words "as at present". Surely, no one will conflict with this condition. We shall, within the foreseeable future, be free to exercise our own foreign policy.
1075 The third condition states:Fulfilment of the Government's pledge to our associates in the European Free Trade Area.Here again, there is plenty of room for manoeuvre and negotiation. I do not see that that should be a stumbling block.
The fourth condition is a very inhibiting factor with certain hon. Members opposite:The right to plan our own economy.Surely the time has come when we should realise that we are a nation in hock. Devaluation is staved off by the courtesy of the international pawnbrokers. We do not plan our own economy in isolation. We cannot. Very rarely have we done so.
The fifth and last point is that mentioned by the hon. Gentleman—"guarantees to safeguard the position of British agriculture". Like the hon. Member for Pembroke, I am from an agricultural constituency. I campaigned to go in and campaigned against the conditions laid down by the National Farmers' Union. I do not suppose that many people who have heard the arguments would ever think that I would go in on any conditions at all. Nevertheless, I have advocated that we should be prepared to accept the European agricultural system. I do not believe that it would be disastrous for British agriculture. I am convinced—I have said it over and over again to farmers in my constituency and they have accepted it—that our farming depends for its prosperity upon the general prosperity of the nation. The farmers must have a market for their goods, and British industrial workers have to buy the food that the farmers produce. Unless we can provide a satisfactory economic basis, they will not be able to sell their goods.
Therefore, I hope that we shall hear at some time in the future from the Government a statement of faith in the European ideal. I regard my position in this House as being very largely to advocate the furtherance of that European ideal. I hope that the Government will get out and campaign for Europe. It is no good saying that we have to make conditions before we get in. It is the old argument about joining a club. This club happens to be going very well indeed. One cannot say to any club, "I will join provided that you do x, y and z". One 1076 can, however, join and change the conditions afterwards.
Very great support for that point is written into the Rome Treaty in Article 236. There is support for the ideal among the younger generation. This will, I think, appeal to hon. Members opposite who fear the political implications of what I am saying—I hope and pray that the Government will not, like all previous Governments, fail my generation.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Colin Jackson (Brighouse and Spenborough)
With regret, I will not follow the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) in his peroration on Europe. I am sorry that I was not present during one of his 400 speeches on that subject.
I want to come back to reality for a few minutes. I should not like the debate to conclude without reference to one startlingly positive event in international developments during the last few weeks, and that is the ending of confrontation and the chance of a new era in South-East Asia. I recently had the privilege of visiting Indonesia and talking to the new leaders there, and I have no doubt that they are genuine and honest when they say that they want to make a new start in their relationships with Malaysia and the United Kingdom.
I think that our Government have handled the situation with care. During the period of confrontation they were careful not to step up the fighting to the position where the Indonesians would find it impossible themselves to stop. Now that Jakarta is being reasonable, we have moved in quickly to meet their attitude with reason. I hope, however, that we shall not just allow the conditions in South-East Asia to cruise around. The situation in Indonesia could easily deteriorate if we do not, as the Prime Minister has promised, provide a massive reduction in troops in Sabah and Sarawak as the Indonesians withdraw their troops in Borneo.
We have to beware of a pan-Malay mood in both Indonesia and Malaysia which might find expression in a joint hostility towards the Chinese. In Indonesia today one sees the walls covered with anti-Chinese slogans. In Kuala Lumpur there is considerable bitterness about the Government in 1077 Singapore. The danger is that the pan-Malay mood could so develop that they would join in a joint programme against the Chinese in South-East Asia. If an appeal were then made by a Chinese Government in Singapore for British troops to defend them, the United Kingdom would find itself in an impossible position.
I think that that position can be avoided. There are good reasons why Indonesia and Singapore should move closer together. They have a joint interest in the entrepôt trade. We now have the Indonesian economic mission here in the United Kingdom. If Britain can be understanding with Indonesia's economic problems, if we can work with them in education programmes, new scholarships and the like, we ourselves can have a firm friendship with Indonesia and encourage the friendship between Indonesia and Singapore. This will avoid the polarisation between Chinese and Malays in the area and our being put into a difficult military position.
One of the encouraging developments in Indonesia is its desire to be a full member of what would be a new political organisation in South-East Asia—the Asian States Association. This, interestingly enough, would bring in Thailand, which at the moment is very exposed in terms of a close relationship with the United States and in separation from the rest of the countries of the Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia. It would also include the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, building up the area in mutual interest and economic partnership into a large neutral bloc.
Only when we have) this kind of organisation there will it be safe for the United Kingdom to withdrawn in substantial measure its troops from Malaysia and Singapore. We can make the first action—withdrawal from Sabah and Sarawak—but the second depends on the building up of this neutral bloc. Here, there is a danger of the Vietnam situation interfering. We must be deeply depressed by the news that the French delegate has got nowhere in Hanoi. The reaction of China to India's proposals is also depressing. But, equally, it would be depressing if the United States, in all its difficulties, should contemplate a position of permanent military establish- 1078 ment in South Vietnam as it does, in entirely different circumstances, in South Korea.
I believe that this would make it difficult for the Soviet Union to acknowledge the neutrality of this large South-East Asian bloc and impossible for us to make these necessary withdrawals. There is a direct relationship between the Vietnam situation and a settlement in South-East Asia. We should not, however, let this debate pass without recognising that, in an area involving 100 million people—an area which protects Australia—there has been a very definite improvement.
Secondly, I want to refer to Aden and the Gulf. I would not like to get involved in the argument about the validity or otherwise of treaty commitments because, validity or otherwise, we are faced with how we plan or help the future of Aden, the South Arabian Federation and the Gulf area. One starts with the basic difficulty of trying to create a country out of Aden and the Federal States. This is like trying to join twentieth century Glasgow with the seventeenth century Highlands of Scotland. That is the kind of difference there is in development.
It is a great pity that, in decades past, we have not done more to develop the Federal territories so that the gap between Aden and the hinterland would have been less. Nevertheless, we have the problem. I think that it would have been impossible for us to have Servicemen in the Aden area fulfilling a defence rôle for the simple reason that, when I was there last September, the Royal Sussex, the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and the East Anglia Regiment in Aden were playing no defensive rôle but were merely concerned with defending their families and homes. In such a situation, when troops are not recognised for a defence rôle, but are thought to be an occupation force, we know that the time has come for them to leave.
However, there are possibilities—and I am throwing this out in a helpful way—for some connection with the United Nations in this area. There have been derisory remarks about the Arab world not being suitable for the United Nations, but, remembering the useful rôle of the United Nations in the Gaza Strip, a general comment of that nature does not apply.
1079 We have had a nomination by U Thant of a Sudanese gentleman who is prepared to represent the United Nations in Aden. I wonder whether we could move further than this and get a larger team from the United Nations. I wonder whether we could get some dialogue with the present nationalist forces in Aden Colony. At the moment, they are being entirely uncooperative, but it is fair to say that they originally asked for elections under United Nations supervision. We now do not consider this to be so fundamentally wrong. If we could get contact with the possibility of building up a United Nations observer team, we might move on to a further possibility of considering the subject of independence for Aden with perhaps some combination of a United Nations service element in the first two years up to 1968—I am talking about the South Arabian Federation generally.
I do not want to draw the parallel too closely, but it is a fact that British troops in Cyprus serving as British troops in Cyprus were the object of very considerable violence, but when they were British troops in Cyprus serving as United Nations troops operating to keep apart the Turks and the Greek Cypriots, they were not unwelcome in any fashion. Perhaps we could consider the possibility of Pakistani and Sudanese units.
The danger, which I fear will not be solved simply by a British military presence, or departure by Britain, is that the place will be fought over by contending forces in the area. I do not believe that President Nasser has deliberate designs, in the physical sense of troops, for moving into Aden. I think that if he did he would not succeed, because I am sure that the Federal forces in the Federal territories, just as in the northern part of the Yemen the Royalists dealt with the Egyptians, would deal with any Egyptian attack against Aden.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Would the hon. Gentleman be prepared to provide those Federal forces with weapons? If so, why does he not ask the Foreign Secretary to do so instead of keeping them from weapons as he has done?
§ Mr. Jackson
The Federal forces are to have an agreement whereby weapons will be available after 1968. As the hon. 1080 Gentleman knows, having visited the area, we are engaged in a very extensive training programme of the Federal Army and the weapons will be made available after 1968. But the point remains that we will get nowhere by scoring points one way or another in this fashion. We have to solve the future of Aden and the South Arabian Federation in a way in which the area will not tear itself apart, and it seems to me that the U.N. has some rôle to play in that.
I want, finally, to refer to the Persian Gulf area, the Arabian Gulf area. There have already been remarks about the danger of a vacuum in the region and it is said that, if Britain withdraws, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia will make their claims and the Egyptian influence will make itself felt. However, we should recognise that, certainly by 1970, South Arabia will be an area where the British presence will not be predominant, even if there are military contingents still there. In that case, the searchlight of Arab nationalism will be switched on to the Gulf area whether we like it or not.
All I suggest today is that although progress has been made in the Trucial Oman States—reference has been made to their co-operation and trade schools are being established—within the realms of the Government's power we should try to accelerate that progress. I believe fundamentally that the union of this area with Saudi Arabia must come. Relations between Bahrein and Saudi Arabia are satisfactory, as are relations between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and geographically such a union makes sense.
We should accelerate our programme of training in the Gulf area so that when the time comes for the glare of Arab nationalism to reveal itself in the Gulf we shall be in a position to protect the Trucial Oman States, perhaps by some link with Saudi Arabia.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Colin Jackson) in detail, but I am grateful to him for having spoken briefly and thus enabled me to take part in the debate.
When discussing the Middle East and concentrating on our retreat from Aden and our obligations to the South Arabian 1081 Federation—and I should be extremely interested to hear the Government's reply to the overwhelming case that has been made by my right hon. and hon. Friend which has not been dealt with at all satisfactorily so far from the Government benches—it is easy to disregard the great danger of the Arab-Israel confrontation.
Ten years without serious fighting suggests an analogy with the great power cold war, a comforting impression of stability which, I suggest, is entirely illusory. There is no official contact between the two sides, the declared policy of the Arab states is military victory, and the arms race is reaching a fairly critical stage.
While tactically there is a degree of restraint in the behaviour of the two sides, strategically their policies seem directed to the inevitability of a major clash. Israel can mobilise 250,000 men, and her immediate Arab neighbours about 350,000 to 400,000. Both have large quantities of sophisticated weapons—tanks, strike aircraft, tactical guided missiles, and so forth.
There is no sign that either side feels that it has enough material, that it is now secure and, therefore, can relax. On the contrary, the search for a decisive advantage continues, with the great Powers acting as suppliers. We should be anything but complacent about this situation, because if such a decisive advantage were gained, or even thought to be gained, by one side or the other, the temptation to make a pre-emptive strike would be very great It will be remembered that this was a prime Israeli consideration in 1956.
The current limit of qualitative advance in conventional weapons has nearly been reached. The next step would be into nuclear weaponry. Since only Israel has the potential for the production of such weapons and no one is likely to supply them to the Arab States, any move in this direction can hardly fail to upset radically the rough balance at the moment obtaining between the two sides. The mere suspicion that Israel was about to develop her own atom bomb would cause a most dangerous crisis.
Defence expenditure takes up an extraordinary and excessive proportion of the wealth of the Middle Eastern States; 9 per cent. of Egypt's gross national product, 10 per cent. of Israel's, 11 per cent. 1082 of Syria's, and over 16 per cent. of Jordan's. We find 7 per cent. of our gross national product as a defence burden to be pretty intolerable. Yet these desperately poor countries spend a much higher proportion of their income. Indeed, Jordan spends a higher proportion of its national income unproductively on weapons of war than practically any other country in the world, with the exception of China. Quite apart from the social misery caused by this waste of resources in the Middle East, the increase of expenditure can almost reach a point at which war begins to look like the cheaper option.
We should be putting forward constructive and positive proposals for the stabilisation of the area. Here is an area in which the Government could be seeking initiatives in foreign policy. As a first step, for instance, nuclear guarantees should be given to both sides by the great Powers jointly. This could lead to general guarantees of the present frontiers, which would take the steam out of the arms race and eventually assist in making possible a political settlement. The alternative is the strong possibility of a new Middle East war, which would probably solve nothing and might involve all of us either as policemen or, considerably worse, as participants.
Having spoken about that aspect of the Middle East, which has not been referred to a great deal, but which I regard as important, I come now to the Far East, which was the subject of the debate on Thursday, and to Vietnam. The reason why we on this side of the House support the United States—a reason which cannot be emphasised often enough—in its recent action in bombing oil installations is that such action was justified.
We accept certain fundamental premises in connection with the Vietnam war. We accept that the United States is fighting in Vietnam to prevent the Communists from subjugating the South. We accept, moreover, that the Americans, Australians and New Zealanders are fighting indirectly also to contain Chinese Communist aggression in Asia. We consider, therefore, that the United States is involved in Vietnam in protecting the interests of countries intimately connected with ourselves and in containing Communist expansion.
1083 Left-wing members of the Labour Party, as emerged clearly in the course of the debate, do not accept this basic premise. They are opposed to the United States presence in South Vietnam and are either not interested in containing Communist aggression or do not believe that such aggressive intention exists in the first place. Therefore, their attitude of violent opposition to the air raids and their abstention in the vote on Thursday are perfectly logical and justified. Their blind spot is in apparently constantly refusing to accept that the United States is willing to negotiate and willing to negotiate without conditions, while Hanoi is not.
The danger that the bombing raids will lead to an escalation of the war involving China has not been confirmed by events. In fact, these attacks and raids make escalation less likely, not more likely. A statement was issued from Peking this morning saying that the conflict in Vietnam is one for the Vietnamese people to win. I regard this as confirmation of what I have just said. The Chinese leadership is at the moment involved in a bitter conflict, and this show of American determination will, I believe, act as a deterrent to China, not as an incentive.
The grave warning which we had from China about the attacks on the Hanoi and Haiphong oil installations is probably the 400th grave warning issued by Peking, but it is interesting to note that, for all the ferocious language used, the conduct of China towards the United States has been relatively circumspect and restrained.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr (Rochester and Chatham)
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that this is a moral issue, and that the Vietnamese people are fighting their own battle? This is not a matter for the Chinese at all. Many of us have realised this for a long time. This is a battle of the Vietnamese for Vietnam, North and South.
§ Mr. Walters
I know the hon. Lady's opinions and we also know that the Chinese have been offering massive aid to North Vietnam and the Vietcong. The important point is that active military intervention by China is made less likely by a clear demonstration of America's 1084 determination to ensure that the Vietcong, with Chinese Communists help, cannot win the war.
This is the point that the Americans must establish. Once they do it is much more likely that the negotiations can come about. When it comes to trying to get revolutions on the cheap all round the world the Chinese have been very active. But when it comes to being faced with military confrontation, with America, less so: they must, however, be persuaded of American determination. It is this that America has been doing and it is for this reason that we logically support them.
It is not a question of giving the Americans a blank cheque—not that they are particularly interested in whether we do so or not. Nor is it a question whether they would abuse such a blank cheque. I do not think that they would. They have repeatedly manifested their reluctance to extend the war. There was a time when a British Government performed a very valuable function in restraining Mr. Dulles in some of his policies in South-East Asia. There is no evidence now that such a restraining influence is necessary today.
It is not a question of blindly supporting the United States, but of deliberately and reflectively supporting a particular action which, given the premise as to why the United States is fighting the war in Vietnam in the first place, is both logical and perfectly defensible. The attitude of the hon. Lady the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr) and some of her hon. Friends is also perfectly logical. The attitude which has not been logical has been that adopted by the Prime Minister in his dissociation from this particular American action. In an otherwise extremely lucid and able speech the Foreign Secretary put up a very inadequate show on that subject the other day.
I must now end, but before doing so I would just like to say that not for the first time the Prime Minister has found himself in an acrobatic position, and acrobatics of this kind, brought about for internal party reasons, are difficult to defend. They do not impress, but lower the influence of this country with our friends and allies and also with our opponents. When the Prime Minister goes to Washington, and tries to influence the President of the United States, he will 1085 find that there is no posture which infuriates more than that of a wobbly friend.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Lord Balniel (Hertford)
This two-day debate on foreign affairs has ranged over a whole series of controversial issues. We can begin by agreeing on two things. First, this has been a most interesting and worthwhile debate marked, especially in its earlier stages, by speeches of passion and sincerity on the immediate issues of Vietnam and marked also by speeches which have tried to assess the long-term movements and shifts of world affairs.
The debate has also been marked by two ma den speeches. First, that of the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Brian Parkyn), successor to Christopher Soames, who so frequently took such a prominent part in foreign affairs debates. If I may say so without being presumptious, I thought that the hon. Gentleman's speech on China was a model of the kind of maiden speech which this House enjoys, in that he spoke on a subject of which he has considerable and deep personal knowledge.
The second maiden speech which the House enjoyed was that of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard). I can only assume that the high quality of the hon. Gentleman's speech was due to his education at Cambridge. Having been a member of the Foreign Office, the hon. Gentleman spoke with considerable experience, and I am sure that the points which he made about the reconstruction of the United Nations and the possibility of developing a peace-keeping force will be considered most carefully by the Government.
I think, also, that there has been universal agreement that at the moment this country is faced with crucial problems which need urgent decisions and which will affect the well-being of our people for many years to come. Although there have been speeches on Vietnam, and the ultimate objectives of China's policy, this debate has concentrated basically on Europe and on the Middle East. Speaker after speaker has returned to the basic question: will Europe continue divided in two, with all the weaknesses in terms of politics, economics, and defence, which such a division means, or is the oppor- 1086 tunity presenting itself for a widening of the community so as to include ourselves and our fellow countries in E.F.T.A. in one expanded community?
Will it, in the ultimate, provide the basis of a united Europe, including the Eastern European countries? Has the Prime Minister the will, or the vision, or the determination, to create an opportunity for this country's entry into the Community, or to seize the opportunity should it be presented to this country?
Another question which faces us in Europe is whether the reconsideration of N.A.T.O., which, in any event, was due to take place now, but which has been given additional urgency following the decision of France to withdraw, will result in a strengthening, or a weakening, of European defence.
Has the time come when, as a result of the changed attitude of the Soviet Union, we might soon reach out to try to secure a central European settlement? Or is it the case, as my right hon. Friend said, that the war in Vietnam is poisoning the whole international scene and making major relaxation of East-West tension an impossibility at the present time?
In another geographical area, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish), and my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker), asked whether the precarious stability which has been built up in the Middle East over the last few years would be harmed and overthrown by the Government's decision to withdraw their influence from Southern Arabia.
I should like to deal, first, with the question of this country's relations with the E.E.C. The position of the Conservative Opposition has been declared in unequivocal terms. We believe that it is in the interests of Europe and of this country that we should seek to take the first favourable opportunity of becoming a member of the Community. Naturally, a number of considerations must be taken into account, and negotiations have to take place. I want to examine some of those considerations shortly, but before I do, I want to comment upon something which is almost intangible but is of crucial importance, namely, the question of Ministerial attitudes.
1087 The view of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is known throughout Europe. At a most difficult time—when the negotiations of 1963 had been halted by the action of France; when five of the six members of the Community were anxious to see the negotiations brought to fruition, and when months and even years of work had been halted—my right hon. Friend said:We in Britain are not going to turn our backs on the mainland of Europe; or on the countries of the Community. We are part of Europe; by geography, tradition, history, culture and civilisation. We shall continue to work with all our friends in Europe for the true unity and strength of this continent.No matter whom one talks to on the Continent of Europe one finds a clear understanding of the determination and the wish of the Conservative Party that Britain should enter the Community and play her part in building up the unity of Europe. The integrity and sense of purpose with which those negotiations were conducted created a deep impression in Europe.
The same impression has not been created by the Prime Minister. Subordinate Ministers—if I may use that term—when out of sight of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and outside the country, make the most positive speeches—the Foreign Secretary at Strasbourg, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster at Western European Union, and the First Secretary of State at Stockholm and Bergen—express the Government's desire that Britain should enter the Community. But the very willingness of the subordinate to speak in those positive terms is being increasingly contrasted with what I can only describe as the cagey reticence of the Prime Minister.
The basic speech of the Prime Minister—I believe that it was his last speech on the subject—was the one he delivered at Bristol, which he confirmed in this House on 5th May as representing the view of the Government. He knows that this speech is looked on both in this country and on the Continent of Europe as being thoroughly negative. In that speech he laid down conditions which he knows are incompatible with the Treaty of Rome. What is more, the whole language of the speech was in pejorative terms.
1088 No one is asking him to go "cap in hand", to use his own words. No one is asking him to "go crawling into Europe", again to use his own words, which were repeated by the Minister of Agriculture only two days ago. Equally, the fulfilment or even the starting of negotiations will be impossible if the Prime Minister's sole contribution to this great debate is a negative one, with an emphasis of conditions which he knows are incompatible with the Treaty of Rome.
What we are entitled to have in this House, from the lips of the Prime Minister and not just from the lips of subordinate Ministers, is the statement that he has not only the political will but the determination to seek out an opportunity for this country to join the European Economic Community in building up European unity. He should make it clear that this is not only a long-term objective which we might perhaps drift into in a few years' time, but that it is a steady purpose and a prime objective of British foreign policy.
After all, there is a good deal of doubt about British intentions. This was expressed during only the last two or three days by the French Prime Minister. Indeed, on the very day that the Chancellor of the Duchy made his ringing declaration in the Western European Union of the intention of this country to enter the European Economic Community, a statement was issued signed by 80 back benchers, including the Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, which has been widely interpreted as a counterblast to the Government's steps in the direction of the Community.
If the Prime Minister made a clear statement, this would do much to remove the mistrust and doubt which are holding up advance and a new atmosphere would be created in which we could move on from the phase of sounding-out of general intentions—on to a new phase of consultations and negotiations. I accept, of course, that there is the problem of the French position, but my impression is that the time is now ripe, not, of course, for an application to join the Community, but for a move on from the sounding-out of general intentions into negotiations.
I am not suggesting negotiations at Foreign Secretary level, but a search at 1089 a Ministerial level for a means of eliminating the differences between us and the Community. This should be started straight away, as it will take a long time. The Community itself is deeply occupied at the moment with the Kennedy Round, and with the amalgamation of the three organisations and with the fixing of all agricultural commodity prices with the exception of cereals.
It is also necessary to begin these negotiations as soon as possible because new problems have arisen since the last round of negotiations and indeed some have been crated by the Government. This time, there will be a great deal of discussion about the weak position of sterling and the whole structure of the sterling area is bound to be discussed. Of course, there will also be substantial negotiations about the Commonwealth problems and the transitional arrangements needed for agriculture. The First Secretary of State said in the House last week that he did not think that the time had yet been reached when he should explain to the House what the situation is.
But if we are to move on from sounding-out of general intentions, over the threshold into negotiations, the House is entitled to a clear explanation of the Government's attitude towards the agricultural policies of the Community. The First Secretary said on 9th June:I believe that, over a period, we should arrange for an assimilation of our system with the Common Market high prices and high levy system and that it would not be impossible to make arrangements.It is scarcely possible to square that with the statement of the Prime Minister. He said on 25th March, and confirmed his words on 5th May:… and we shall go in if the conditions are right and those conditions require that we must be free to go on buying food and raw materials as we have for 100 years in the cheapest markets in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and other Commonwealth countries, and not have this trade wrecked by the levies the Tories are so keen to impose.These are not levies which the Tories are imposing. These levies are the basic agricultural policy of the Community. These two statements by the Prime Minister and by the Minister responsible for our consultations with Europe, are completely incompatible and the House is 1090 entitled at this stage to an explanation of where the Government stand.
Of course, an important position is occupied by France. One hoped that the outcome of the talks between M. Pompidou and the Prime Minister would be an improvement in our relationship with France. I am not quite sure that this happened. I think that there was a lack of preparation, and I am not sure that the differences between our two countries have been closed as a result of the talks. This is largely due to a lack of preparation and an unfavourable background to the talks. It is not only the incredibly unfortunate and maladroit remarks of the Secretary of State for Defence, for which he has quite rightly apologised to the House and to the French Embassy—
§ Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
Then why does not the hon. Member accept it and leave it at that?
§ Lord Balniel
I was accepting the apology. I was saying that it was not only caused by this incredibly unfortunate remark; the unfavourable background is caused by a whole sequence of events which has given an impression that in Anglo-French projects this country is only half-hearted in fulfilling her commitments.
There was the unilateral and unsuccessful attempt to withdraw from Concord. There was the unilateral and unsuccessful attempt to withdraw from E.L.D.O. It does not come as much surprise to hear that France herself is reconsidering the Anglo-French air-bus project or perhaps even reconsidering the Jaguar variable geometry aircraft. There is also the way in which Britain seems to have cast herself in the rôle of public prosecutor of France over her attitude towards N.A.T.O. Of course, there is real disagreement between us on some policies and we must make it unmistakably clear that we do believe in the United States' presence in Europe. We must make it unmistakably clear that we do believe in an integrated command in N.A.T.O.
Our concern also springs from the French belief that she can achieve her objective of a détente with the East better by acting in isolation than acting in unison with N.A.T.O. But the very fact that France is taking these initiatives in 1091 isolation is to some extent because N.A.T.O. herself has not taken successfully positive steps to achieve a central European settlement.
The N.A.T.O. alliance has created a freedom from fear. It has created a freedom from fear of Soviet aggression. For the first time for many years people in Europe feel that the danger of their lands being fought over is a remote danger. That is the military achievement, but in political terms it seems as though France is acting alone in default of a positive foreign policy by the Western European Powers acting in unison. Our reaction must be not to recriminate or to exacerbate relations between our two countries, but to take the lead in creating an effective united Western European foreign policy aimed at obtaining ultimately a central European settlement.
Above everything else, it must be a basic objective of Government policy to create good relations with France. Our countries have much in common. I believe that young people who last week read of the remembrance ceremonies of the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme were deeply moved. They were deeply moved when they saw those pictures of the vast graveyards where British and French soldiers lie.
Our two countries have contributed to much to the political freedom and the culture and history of Europe. It must be a basic objective of our two countries—and in addressing my remarks to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, perhaps I may speak as one Scotsman to another—not so much to recreate the Entente Cordiale as to recreate the "Auld Alliance".
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)
Is not the hon. Gentleman getting his argument completely confused? There is nothing to be proud about in those ghastly cemeteries which were the result of the last war. That is not culture; it is insanity. Surely, one of the ideals of the Common Market and of a greater European joining together of all the nations is that we will not indulge in such bouts of insanity and that the sooner we forget them the better.
§ Lord Balniel
I was trying to say that there were great bonds of friendship 1092 between our two countries. One of the saddest things of recent years is the way in which there have been disagreements between these two countries, which can contribute so much together to the unity of Europe and without whose contribution the unity of Europe can never be built.
§ Lord Balniel
One other geographical area to which I would like to refer, and which has been much discussed during this debate, is the Middle East and the situation in South Arabia. Here both the wisdom of the Government's actions and the honourable fulfilment of their obligations has been called in question.
We welcome the moves to independence in 1968, of the South Arabian Federation. We welcome, also, the decision of the Federal Government to hold a conference next August to which all the State Governments and all political groups have been invited, and to which a United Nations representative has also been invited. We hope that it will be able to construct an acceptable constitution which will give reality and stability to the Federation when it obtains independence.
But how will the Federation defend itself? The classic recipe for aggression is for a Power to withdraw, leaving behind it a power vacuum. Has not Egyptian policy been reversed from the very day when Britain declared, two years in advance, that she was withdrawing her forces from South Arabia? Is there not every indication that the 60,000 United Arab Republic troops at present in the Yemen will still be there in 1968? Is there not every sign that since the visit of Mr. Kosygin to Cairo, President Nasser's foreign policy will have the backing of the Soviet Union? Are not the troops of the United Arab Republic now in the Yemen backed by Mig fighters?
My understanding is that we had some profound and binding obligations to secure the safety of the area. There was, first of all, the Treaty of Friendship and Protection of 1959, in particular Article 3(1). I listened to the Foreign Secretary's explanation. If I understood him aright, 1093 there was no longer a binding commitment, but his explanation did not completely dispel my doubts about Government policy.
That, however, is not the only document. There is also the Federation of South Arabia Conference Report of July, 1964, Cmnd. 2414. Paragraph 38 describes how the delegates from the Federation came and asked for independence in 1968. Linked to their request was another request that Britain should concludea Defence Agreement under which Britain would retain her military base in Aden for the defence of the Federation and the fulfilment of her world-wide responsibilities. The Secretary of State announced the agreement of the British Government to this request.I can understand, although I would not agree with it, the Government saying that they are not bound by the undertakings of their predecessors, but we are led to believe—and I shall be only too glad to hear that we are mistaken—that after the conference was concluded the Federation delegates called on the then Leader of the Opposition—today, the Prime Minister—and he assured them that a Labour Government would honour the promise. We are informed—and I shall be only too glad to hear that it is not true—that the High Commissioner for Aden officially confirmed the assurance and, also, that the Colonial Secretary—the right hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood)—and the Secretary of State for Defence both confirmed this assurance.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to disillusion me, because last February the Federal Supreme Council asked the British Government to continue to defend the Federation against external aggression or internal subversion until such time as the Federation itself was able to do so. The Council was refused, and was bitterly shocked. It seems to me that the situation which the Government are creating in South Arabia contains all the temptations for which a potential aggressor could possibly ask.
Gifts of money, however generous, will not be able to provide the security which these people so desperately need. They cannot, in the short time available, possibly build up an air force that will be able to stand up to the kind of aircraft that are now operating in this part of the Middle East.
1094 My final word to the right hon. Gentleman is to ask the Government to think again where wisdom and honour should lead them in their policies in South Arabia.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. George Thomson)
I should like to clear out of the way at once the point made by the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) about our relations with France, especially over the subject of N.A.T.O. As I understood the noble Lord, he was accusing us of being what he called the "public prosecutor" in the case against France over N.A.T.O. I thought that these were singularly unfortunate words coming immediately after a most useful visit to this country by the French Prime Minister and the French Foreign Secretary.
I was all the more puzzled that they should be used because the noble Lord made it quite clear that the Opposition fully support us in our attitude on the need to maintain an integrated North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It was therefore very difficult to know why he should couple this with the charge of being anti-French. There is nothing anti-French in taking a certain point of view about the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, any more, than there is anything anti-British in anyone taking a view different from our own. I should like to get that matter out of the way at the very beginning.
I very much agree with the noble Lord that this has been a particularly good debate—a great deal quieter than its predecessor on Thursday, but none the worse for that. It has been distinguished by notable maiden speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Bedford (Mr. Brian Parkyn) and Oxford (Mr. Luard). My hon. Friend the Member for Bedford gave the House a quite fascinating eyewitness acount of development in China. It seems to me that one of the most frightening paradoxes of the world in which we live is that the most populous nation is that about which we have the least independent information. I know that the whole House looks forward to further opportunities of taking advantage of my hon. Friend's expert knowledge of China.
1095 My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, in a very thoughtful and knowledgeable speech, spoke of the work of the United Nation's Peace-keeping Committee. It is fair to say that the existence of that Committee, and indeed the avoidance of the impasse in which the United Nations found itself last year, owes a very great deal to the work of my noble Friend Lord Caradon, our Permanent Representative at the United Nations.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary covered many subjects in his opening speech. Therefore, I should like to concentrate on the points which have been raised subsequently. A number of non. Members, including the noble Lord the Member for Hertford, spoke about the relations between Britain and the mainland of Europe, including the countries of the European Economic Community. The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) chided us on this side of the House for being divided about Britain joining the Community. It rather spoilt the force of his argument that his speech followed immediately that of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) who appeared to take a view which was very substantially different from that taken by the hon. and gallant Member.
The truth is that the question of British accession to the E.E.C. is as grave and great an issue as this country can face, and it is natural that there should be different views about it from both sides of the House. I therefore very much deplore the way in which this matter has been approached by some right hon. Members opposite. I very much deplored the character of the personal attack which the noble Lord the Member for Hertford made on the behaviour of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—the kind of attack made by a number of hon. Members during the debate. I know that they resent the fact that they are continually out-debated by my right hon. Friend in the House. It is fair enough to attack him vigorously on domestic matters, but one has to be careful about attacking a Prime Minister on international matters. Certainly to attack my right hon. Friend in the way in which he was attacked by the hon. and gallant 1096 Member for Lewes does a disservice to Britain.
Her Majesty's Government's position on the issue of British accession to the E.E.C. is perfectly plain and straightforward, but it is substantially different from that taken by the Opposition. As I understand it, the Opposition are prepared for what is virtually unconditional entry by Britain into the Common Market. Indeed, they go further. It is a fair description of their policy to say that they are prepared unilaterally to alter some substantial features of British domestic policy to make it easier to go into the E.E.C. before they have any assurance that the right terms are obtainable.
We on this side take the view that there would be many advantages for Britain, for Europe and for the world by widening the E.E.C. by British membership and membership of other countries. But we feel that it is a reasonable and indeed a responsible view for the British Government to take that that kind of accession is possible only if certain essential interests are safeguarded.
This is not simply a British view which, as the noble Lord the Member for Hertford appeared to argue, isolates us and makes it more difficult for us to be members. He may have noticed that only yesterday Herr Schmücker, Federal German Minister for Economics, said in Bonn that the Federal German Government appreciate that there are certain interests which Britain could not renounce if and when she joined the Common Market. Indeed, he said that his Government not only respected Britain's Commonwealth ties, but regarded them as necessary and considered that they should be maintained. This is the kind of approach which the First Secretary and I have been making in our travels to various countries in Europe to explore the possibility of getting the right terms for British accession to the Community.
The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) asked me if I could give some information on the latest position relating to the offset agreement with Germany. As the House will recall, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury last year negotiated a protocol to the current Anglo-German offset agreement under which the operation of the 1097 agreement was extended to 31st March, 1967, and the Federal German Government undertook to ensure that offset payments across the exchanges amounting to approximately £54 million would be made in the financial year 1966–67. This was a considerable improvement on the agreement as originally negotiated, and we have confidence in the strenuous efforts which the Federal Government have made and are making to achieve this figure. But even if, as we hope and expect, the figure is reached, it will meet rather less than two-thirds of the actual foreign exchange costs of our troops in Germany.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House on 3rd May that it was the Government's intention to start negotiations at an early date with a view to the United Kingdom securing relief from the whole of the foreign exchange cost of keeping our forces in Germany. As the House knows, during the recent visit of the German Chancellor, Dr. Erhard, it was agreed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his opposite number, the German Minister of Finance, should have an early meeting on these matters. The German Minister of Finance came to this country a few days ago. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is hoping to visit Bonn on 21st July. The two Ministers of Finance are charged with examining all the various methods by which this problem might be satisfactorily resolved. These discussions are still in mid-passage, and I cannot give the House at this stage any further details about them.
A number of right hon. and hon. Members have raised the position in Southern Arabia and have made some very serious charges against the policy being pursued by Her Majesty's Government. I would like to take a few minutes in dealing with the facts of the matter. It has been suggested, both by the Opposition Front Bench and by a number of hon. Members on the Opposition back benches, that the decision to withdraw completely from South Arabia when the country became independent is a repudiation of a commitment entered into by the British Government at the Constitutional Conference held in London in July 1964.
1098 This is a view that can neither be accepted nor sustained. Paragraph 38 of the Report of the 1964 Conference, to which attention has been drawn and which has been quoted in the House today, is the paragraph that refers to this. No reasonable person could regard this paragraph as an obligation of the character of one enshrined in a treaty which would be binding on a successor Government. The undertaking given was to do no more than to convene a conference which would have considered, among other things, the conclusion of a defence agreement with South Arabia at independence.
Two conferences were in fact contemplated. The first of these would have been to settle the details of the constitutional arrangements on the future status of Aden State. The second conference was the one to which I have referred, to fix the date of South Arabia's independence and to conclude a defence agreement under which Britain would retain her military base.
There was clearly an assumption by the then Government, our predecessors, that the elected representatives of Aden State, who were present at the 1964 Conference, would remain agreeable to the maintenance of a British base and of British forces in Aden after independence; but, as the House knows, much has changed in the Middle East since that arrangement was entered into.
When the present Government took office, we tried again and again and again to bring about the first of the two conferences, which was the undertaking which had been entered into by the previous Government; but, despite all these efforts, the local leaders in Aden still declined to come to a constitutional conference. Although the Federal Ministers themselves were willing to co-operate, all the other delegations at the working party that met here in London insisted that no progress could be made. An important element in these difficulties was the demand for the immediate evacuation of the base which, after all, is situated on Aden State territory within the Federation. The Government's position here is perfectly plain and honourable. The Prime Minister, speaking in the debate on Commonwealth and colonial affairs on 1st June last year, said:… no base is militarily or morally defensible unless it has the support of the people of 1099 the territory on which it is sited."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st June, 1965; Vol. 713, c. 1642.]That has been the position of this party while in opposition and in Government.
The Defence Review has shown that the overseas interests of this country can now be maintained without a military base in Aden. It is not the policy of the present Government—I am now dealing with a question asked by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker)—any more than it was of our predecessors, to conclude defence agreements with a dependent territory on attaining its independence, unless there is a need to ensure the use of military facilities in such a country. The hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that there was a conflict here. There is no conflict at all. Many countries became independent under the previous Conservative Government. There is, therefore, no obligation such as would bind a successive Government. Many local people, to put-it at its mildest, do not want a base in Aden and the United Kingdom feel that their own interests do not require a base there.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
Can the right hon. Gentleman name any other territory which asked for an agreement of this sort which has been denied by any British Government since the war?
§ Mr. Thomson
Basutoland, for example; they have been told that we cannot enter into defence arrangements with that country. However, I presume the hon. Gentleman is asking about cases in the past, and offhand I cannot recollect any. But that is hardly the point. The point is that the previous Government, in giving independence, never made any suggestion of entering voluntarily into defence arrangements where there was no need for British military facilities, as there was in the case of Malaya and Singapore. Yet so hypnotised are Her Majesty's Opposition by the unofficial Leader of the Opposition, who is absent abroad tonight, the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), that they seem to insist on advocating policies that could only lead to the federal rulers in Southern Arabia having to rely on British troops to keep law and order in their own country. I understand the feelings of the federal rulers in this matter. I 1100 know them personally and I have a great personal respect for them. I deplore the bad advice in the present circumstances that the party opposite is giving to them in their conversations with them.
§ Mr. Thomson
I am giving way to the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton).
§ Viscount Lambton
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to clear up a point which is obscure. Is it or is it not a fact that in the defence agreement made between the countries in 1964, Article 9 said that the treaty of defence could be broken only by mutual agreement? Is it or is not the case? If the Aden Government decline to agree to breaking the treaty, will they retain the defence agreement with Aden?
§ Mr. Thomson
The case is as I have described it. The agreement was entered into by the previous Government in 1964 to hold a conference about these matters. The conference has never taken place, due to no fault of the present Government, and in those circumstances the charges that have been made freely today cannot possibly be sustained.
§ Mr. Maudling
Is it not a fact that the substance of the matter is that the Federation was asking not for a conference but for defence? It was clear in 1964 that we accepted this request for defence assistance after independence. Is it not further the fact that similar undertakings were given by the Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition, and by Ministers in the present Government subsequently? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm or deny that?
§ Mr. Thomson
confirm the suggestion that the right hon. Gentleman has put forward. But the arrangements are as stated in paragraph 38 which I have quoted. They are not in dispute. It was a conditional agreement, the condition being that a conference would be held and arrangements made, but the conference has never been held. There 1101 have been no assurances given by this Government that have been broken. I think that the wise advice that ought to be given to the present Federal Government of Southern Arabia is that they should rely on the kind of military help that we have undertaken to give them during the period that lies immediately ahead. We shall, of course, give every possible assistance to ensure, as every British Government has always sought to do in territories to which have been granted independence, that a stable, viable administration is left behind.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The right hon. Gentleman has uttered important words as I heard them. He said "the kind of military help" that the Government have said they would give to Southern Arabia. But they have said that they will not give any military help. All that they have said is that they would give some money, but no money towards providing an air force, which is necessary for Southern Arabia to defend itself against Egyptian attack.
§ Mr. Thomson
I am not quite sure to what the right hon. Gentleman is referring. There may be a misunderstanding here. We have offered up to £5½ million towards the capital cost and £2½ million annually towards the expansion of the Federal armed forces, and this is in addition to our present help towards the armed forces of £7½ a year. Whatever one's views on that may be, I do not think that one can hold other than the view that this is generous help.
§ Mr. Thomson
The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes in the course of his speech attacked the Government and, as I mentioned, attacked the Prime Minister personally for showing a lack of principle in foreign affairs. Hon. Members opposite will, therefore, excuse me if I use fairly strong language in reply. I can only say that I thought it was pretty thick that an hon. and gallant Member of this House of long standing, a leading member of the Conservative Foreign Affairs Committee over many years and one who has been associated with the Suez policies of the Conservative Government in years gone by, should have 1102 dared to use such language as that in the House today. If one is talking about the moral credit of British Governments, I would draw the attention of the House to the response that we have received from the international community in our handling of the Rhodesian crisis and over the imposition of sanctions on the illegal régime in Rhodesia. We have had the wholehearted backing of the international community as a whole there. That is a sign of the standing that the Government enjoy in the eyes of the international community, which is in very sharp contrast to what has happened within the recent memory of many hon. Members.
I should like to respond to the challenge of the hon. and gallant Member and of my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) and say a few words about the basic principles on which the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government is conducted. I take as a starting point the proposition that foreign policy must concern itself not with postures but with results. This seems to me to be the fundamental morality in relation to foreign affairs, not to be preoccupied with the striking of a certain attitude on behalf of a country in international relations but to face up to using the power of the nation to make practical progress towards peace. A nation, it seems to me, is very much like the man in the parable of the talents in the Bible. It is very tempting in our rather terrifying world to wrap up one's principles and keep them in cleanliness and purity and away from the dust and dirt and blood and tears of the international arena. But it is as immoral for a nation to seek to do this as it is for an individual.
As I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford remark in a speech in another place the other day, it is very nice to feel clean and pure but it is not much consolation if at the same time you are impotent. How can a country like Britain use whatever power its economic resources can give it to make progress for peace? Striking the right attitude in foreign affairs is very easy. It depends only on oneself and not on anybody else. But obtaining results is extremely difficult because it depends on discussions and compromise with other independent states, many of which do not share our views of world problems. First and foremost 1103 we seek, as matters of principle, to give our backing to the United Nations—and I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford made the speech he did on this aspect.
Britain may no longer be among the super Powers in the world, but she still has influence. Our example is still important. We try constantly to seek ways in which to enhance the authority of the United Nations. In doing so, we believe that we encourage other like-minded countries to seek to do the same. For example, this autumn, at the General Assembly, we shall once again launch our initiative for serious studies of new ideas for the peaceful settlement of disputes. This may be undramatic and unspectacular, but it is more likely to make more progress along the road to world order and peace. Perhaps it will be slower than some of the more exciting and exotic short-cuts so often presented to us and which often lead to cul-de-sacs, but it will certainly be more sure.
While seeking the long-term goal of a disarmed world through the United Nations, we believe that the best results from our limited power come from being ready to participate, by pooling our power, in systems of collective security against aggression. That is the best way to preserving peaceful equilibrium. That is why we have backed the need to maintain an integrated N.A.T.O. organisation while stepping up positive efforts for closer East-West relations. But neither N.A.T.O. nor improved East-West relations are enough. Indeed, they are endangered so long as there is a threat of war in other parts of the world.
We believe, in the rather hackneyed words of Mr. Litvinov, that peace is indivisible. They are words we are inclined to forget these days. It is for this reason—and here I come to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East—that we seek to play a positive part within our economic resources in keeping the peace outside Europe.
That is why we have decided that the right course is to maintain and increase our military presence in the Gulf at the time we are withdrawing the base from Aden. This is not from any latter-day illusions about imperial grandeur nor for reasons of oil but in order to maintain 1104 stability in the area where, if we withdraw our presence suddenly, a dangerous vacuum would be created.
It follows from these propositions that collective security and a balance of forces are best kept in the world by the association of American power with that of Western Europe and other non-Communist nations. That does not mean blanket approval of American policy, as we have shown over the latest developments in Vietnam, nor that countries in alliance with the United States in any part of the world are satellites. Interdependence is an utterly different concept from subservience.
American policies, like those of ours and other free societies, are the result of many conflicting pressures. We should continually remind ourselves that America has the same kind of society as we have, with the same love of freedom and the same determination to resist aggression. Since the war, the United States has used her immense power, as my right hon. Friend reminded us, in some of the most generous acts of economic co-operation the world has ever known.
§ Mr. Thomson
Nobody who took part in the meeting of N.A.T.O. in Brussels recently—and I only wish that I had had my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr) with me there—could have described it as a gathering of satellites. If we apply my test of obtaining results for peace, the alliance with the United States allows less powerful nations to influence, in some degree, America's use of her own vast power. It also discourages those forces in the United States which would like to see American withdrawal to some form of neo-isolationism. These are the first two principles.
The third principle is that we do not believe in seeking this balance of forces which I have been describing simply in order to preserve the status quo. We believe in trying to maintain a balance of forces in order to preserve peace. We believe that stability ought to be used to promote peaceful change, a theme which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary never tires of putting before the House and other audiences whenever he has the opportunity.
1105 We use all our power and all our influence, so far as our limited economic resources allow, to mount one of the most imaginative and one of the best planned economic aid programmes in the world. We use our influence and our power to promote peaceful change, not only in the developing world, but in Europe, not only in Western Europe—because this is what lies behind our desire to obtain accession to the European Economic Community—but in seeking changes to a Europe of greatly eased international tensions.
These are the principles on which the Government base their foreign policy. I know that the expression of them has aroused some dissent from some hon. Members in some parts of the House. I recognise that all of my hon. Friends who disagree with the current expression of British foreign policy do so out of deep conviction, but should like to say that in the party to which I belong there have been two main trends in thinking about foreign affairs—the pacifist tradition and the collective security tradition. It is the latter tradition which has always been the dominating tradition in my own party and the principles which I have enunciated—enhancing the authority of world organisation, whether the League of Nations in the past, or the United Nations today, of supporting collective security and of recognising the indivisibility of peace and preferring present American involvement in world affairs to the former American isolation and seeking to use peace in order to promote change—are all principles which were made familiar to public opinion in this country by the party to which I have the honour to belong. They were advocated in the House at a time when the Conservative Government of the day repudiated them and allowed us to drift into war.
What we have been discussing over the two days of this foreign affairs debate has been the issues of peace and war. We live in an unprecedented world situation where, for the first time, mankind has the means, if it allows itself to use them, to destroy itself. It is inevitable that there should be sincerely held differences of opinion, therefore, about how best to face up to the issues in that kind of situation. The principles which I have enumerated are not only wholly within the foreign policy tradition of my party, but, I believe, are widely accepted by the vast majority 1106 of hon. Members on both sides of the House. They seem to me to be the principles upon which Britain, in all the changing circumstances in which she finds herself and with all her relatively less power in world affairs, can still go ahead and make a painstaking but practical contribution to the building of a world of peaceful change.
That is what underlies all our policies, whether they be in Europe, or whether they be further afield. They are policies in which Britain can make a unique and notable contribution to creating a world of order and of law.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
The speech to which we have just listened became at one moment biblical. The biblical passage of which it reminded me most was:… then art … neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.Whether it be in Vietnam in our relations with the United States, or whether it be in Europe with Government policy over the Common Market, it is impossible for any of us to determine what the Government really want to do. This is a time, if ever there was one, for greatness, for Britain's voice to be loud and clear in the world. Today's debate has shown how totally inadequate the Government are to fulfil that rôle.
Never in the whole of my experience of the House, lasting over 20 years, have I ever heard a more inadequate speech than that which we have just heard. The Government seem completely to have lost grip of every single matter of real moment. All they are prepared to do is to finish up in what ought to have been a very important speech with a lot of international liberal platitudes presumably devised by a civil servant in the Foreign Office.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Lord Commissioner of the Treasury)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.