§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that, in the economic debate last week, there was a very long list of hon. Members who desired to contribute, and you made an appeal for brevity. Despite that, there were some very long speeches. At least half a dozen hon. Members on either side were left out of the debate, having sat through the two days.
May I suggest that, so that every hon. Member desiring to speak in this debate shall have an opportunity to do so—and I am not a potential speaker—you should say that those who speak for, say, 25 minutes, whether they be back bench hon. Members or Privy Councillors, in future will get only half the number of occasions to catch your eye as those who speak for 12 minutes, or, alternatively, those who guarantee to speak for only 10 minutes should get some priority in future?
If you were to say this, I believe that, in the words of Dr. Johnson, it would "wonderfully concentrate the minds of offenders" in this respect.
§ Mr. Speaker
I appreciate the problem which the hon. Gentleman has put to me in his point of order. I would remind hon. Members that I spoke to the House about this as late as 18th January, when I said:…all the efforts of the Chair to secure a full and fair expression of varying opinion can be frustrated if hon. Members who are called take up too much of the time of the House to the exclusion of other hon. Members."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th January, 1968; Vol. 756, c. 1955.]However, I could not accept the remedy proposed by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke), because I can only accept directions 416 from the House on this matter. I would remind the House that the Select Committee on Procedure, in a Report which it made to the House in August, 1966, recommended that, as an experiment, there should be a limit of 15 minutes for a speech by a back bench hon. Member and that the House should invite Ministers to limit themselves to half an hour.
But no Resolution to implement the recommendations of the Select Committee has been passed, and all that Mr. Speaker can do is to let the House know from time to time how many Members are anxious to have an opportunity to speak in an important debate and to appeal for reasonably brief speeches from those who are called.
In accordance with my practice, I would inform the House that already I have more than 65 names for this debate, each hon. Member wishing to make an individual contribution which he regards as important.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
Mr. Speaker, a foreign affairs debate was arranged for earlier, but, as we all know, certain events intervened and it could not take place. It was to have covered the Middle East and, I think, the Far East in particular. But now it is quite clear, after the events of last week, that the main theme of discussion must be the impact on our foreign policy of the defence cuts which were announced by the Prime Minister last week. At any rate, I intend to make that my theme.
More than two years ago, in a foreign affairs debate of this nature, I said that if the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence allowed a rigid ceiling to be fixed for defence expenditure at 1964 prices Britain would be left without a foreign policy which was recognisable as such or credible to friend or foe. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary must know in his heart how uncomfortably near that forecast was to the facts of today.
Of the Secretary of State for Defence and his part in all this, I am bound to say that I despair of saying anything of comfort to him or to the House. He seems incapable of recognising the damage that he has done to the reputation 417 of Britain. He does not seem able to appreciate how he is damaging the morale of those for whom he has assumed a special responsibility in the Armed Forces.
In these circumstances, I think that most people conclude that the right hon. Gentleman is a total liability to the country in the office which he at present holds. But that is not my concern today. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary ought not to allow the foreign policy of this country to be made by any other Minister, because it is their prime responsibility. The policies announced last week must, therefore, be presumed to be I heir policies.
We propose tomorrow night to vote against the Adjournment of the House on this particular issue, because we believe, having considered the full implications of what was said last week, that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and the Government as a whole have been careless of British interests and have been negligent, too, of the interests of the free world of which Britain is a part.
There is an alternative to the actions which the Government are taking. I will try to persuade the right hon. Gentleman, even at this late hour, by reasoned argument and facts, that there is an alternative policy both within Britain's purse and consistent with Britain's honour.
In Europe, the Government's aims are reasonably defined. They are, of course, inherited policies; they are not their own. They are now driven on to the political defensive. Nevertheless, in Europe the aims of the Government are reasonably clear, but elsewhere overseas they do not seem to conform to any intelligible strategic plan or theme.
I will give one or two illustrations to the House. The Soviet Union's Navy is in the Mediterranean at the north end of the Suez Canal. If we are to believe what is reported, there is a great possibility of their arrival as a similar presence in Aden. How could a British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary in those circumstances put the Simonstown Agreement in jeopardy?
I could use much more forceful language about what I consider to be the crass folly of the refusal to sell arms to South Africa for the defence of what will be Europe's main commercial high- 418 way for the carriage of oil. I will refrain from that stronger language. All I say to the right hon. Gentleman is that it is not foreign policy.
The Foreign Secretary said last week that he had long been convinced that it was best for Britain, and, indeed, in the interests of all, that Britain should be out of the Persian Gulf. All right, that is an arguable proposition. But why did the right hon. Gentleman, on his own authority, send the Minister of State out only two months before with a positive assurance that Britain meant to stay? The Governments of the Gulf were, naturally, wary. They had heard from their friends in South Arabia about the promises given earlier by the Secretary of State for Defence. But the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs was so sincere that he carried conviction with the Rules in the Gulf. The Foreign Secretary must be aware, if he allows and authorises such vacillating actions, that this saps the influence, authority and usefulness of Britain in international affairs.
The right hon. Gentleman declares that his purpose in the States of the Gulf and the countries of South-East Asia is that Britain shall enable them to stand on their feet. All right, that is a perfectly arguable policy. But does he consult the Governments of those countries about the kind of time scale within which they are likely to be able to do so? Recalling the Prime Minister's enthusiasm for the Commonwealth when he was in opposition, does he make use of the machinery of consultation available for the four countries of the Commonwealth in the area of South-East Asia? Did he call together Malaya, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand to consult them on any timetable which would assist them as well as enabling Britain to fulfil his objective? Not at all. He names a date for evacuation, in the case of the Gulf and South-East Asia, short enough to ensure a vacuum of power and long enough to cause the maximum political confusion. That is not foreign policy.
Last week, the Foreign Secretary acquiesced in action—I am hopeful that the Government's timetable will slip; Government timetables are apt to slip—which could so mangle the forces of the Crown that Britain could be unable to support a commitment overseas outside 419 Europe, even though it might be decisively to our economic advantage to do so and even where, our presence is a key to political stability in the free world. That is not foreign policy. To put it quite plainly, it is a dereliction of stewardship, the like of which this country has not seen before in the conduct of foreign policy.
There is an alternative to this defeatism, and it must be deployed before Britain's influence with friends and allies is damaged beyond repair. The first essential in the framing of foreign policy is a strategic appreciation of the broad political and military trends in the world as they affect British security and Britain as an influence for political stability in the collective alliances or outside.
For 20 years and more since the war the West has been conducting a holding operation to prevent and to deter militant Communism from taking over the assets of the free world and from overbearing the way of life in which we and so many others believe. By a combination of will and strength that policy has been a success.
There has been another string to the bow. The diplomacy of reconciliation is equally important and that, too, has paid its dividends. But let us recall—I have had some first-hand experience of this, particularly in the arrangements of the Laos Treaty, which has so far held—that unless Britain has some status to be present in the councils she gains no ear and exercises no authority or influence at all. I ask the House to bear that in mind.
What, then, does the broad canvas of the political situation in the world show concerning political trends in the context of the balance of power? In Europe, the political issues of Berlin and East Germany are not settled. While they are not settled the allies have decided—Britain among them—that it is only safe if Western Europe continues to mobilise superior power. One of Lenin's most powerful doctrines, which has so far never been challenged in the Soviet Union, is that when faced with superior power the Communists should not directly challenge it, but should make their way round to achieve their objectives. The conclusion of the British 420 Government and her European allies is right and difficult to challenge. General de Gaulle has lately tried to soften the front of the Warsaw Pact with the Soviet Union and he has conspicuously failed.
I am not opposing the right hon. Gentleman when I say that he and the Government are right. We want to try to achieve the maximum agreement that we can on foreign policy, and the right hon. Gentleman is right to say and insist that European defence determines the priority for Britain, but it ought not to be exclusive. I think that the N.A.T.O. policy and the British policy of a tripwire which trips, of a nuclear deterrent against a frontal assault on the Continent, is right. There may be modifications of deployment. I can think of several reasons why, even now, we might, as allies in agreement, be able to withdraw some forces from Europe. I think that the right hon. Gentleman should seriously suggest to the N.A.T.O. Council that European interests might be better served if Britain were able to use some of her troops in Germany outside Europe, in different rôles elsewhere in the world.
Outside the European theatre, on the evidence, the Soviet Union is clearly pursuing what I think in polite language is called a forward political and military strategy. This means that she is still creating tension, as we have seen in the case of the Egypt-Israeli war, and as we have seen more recently in her intervention in the Yemen following the Egyptian withdrawal. Naturally, as a Communist country, she creates tension, but she is doing more. She is picking up on the cheap, where they are presented to her on a plate, strategic and tactical positions of significance in the strategic political picture of the balance of power, and placing there a military presence. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite doubt the value of military presences in the world. This doubt is not shared by the Soviet Union.
In the Mediterranean, in particular, the Soviet penetration has been succesful. They have established a naval presence in Alexandria and Algiers, and if, as is reported, they are likely to have a presence in Aden, they will also be able to operate in the Western part of the Indian Ocean. Over this wide area I think that 421 one is bound to conclude, taking all the evidence at one's disposal, that there has been a shift of influence if not yet a decisive shift in the balance of power.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
While in no way defending Soviet military activity anywhere in the world, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is not blinding himself to much greater military intervention by the United States, particularly in Asia, which is likely to involve the whole world in a conflagration?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I know the hon. Gentleman's strong feelings about Vietnam. I respect his feelings, and those of his hon. Friends. They are at least logical, but I am dealing with the right hon. Gentleman's policy, which is not quite the same as that of the hon. Gentleman; and I shall come to the question of Vietnam and the Far East in due course. I am trying not to exaggerate, but, on the evidence available, to give, as far as I am able to assess it, the political position in the world in terms of the balance of power.
If one turns to the Far East and to China, I think that it is clear that China is seeking expansion, in the sense that she wishes to establish in South-East Asia Governments subservient to Peking. In this, she has not yet been successful. Her methods were too crude for Indonesia, although a take-over was tried. She has been weakened by internal, warring, ideological factions, but the House should know that during the last few weeks she has again begun an intervention in Burma, revealing very clearly that her aims have not changed, although the pace of her advance may be slow.
There is another calculation which I think it is legitimate to weigh. The threat to the Soviet Union from China may in time mean that the Soviet Union will seek more accommodation with the West. We should, therefore, always keep open the channels of communication, particularly the co-chairmanship with Mr. Gromyko. It is possible, and there are certain signs of this, that those in China who are cautious towards external advance may increasingly get control, but today, and for the foreseeable future, both these countries are vying with each other as the champions of world revolution, and in these circumstances I think that 422 one is bound to conclude that the holding operation of the West is right, at any rate until one sees, in particular, which way the Soviet Communist cat jumps.
It is against that background that I want to ask how Britain's strength should be deployed, and whether the Government are right in the suggestions they made last week.
I have only two further observations to make on Europe. Like the Government, I would keep the nuclear arm. I need not go into the reasons now. I think that I have made them plain in the past, but I remind those who object to this policy that, although I believe the United States will always be on the side of the West in the N.A.T.O. Alliance, nevertheless, today we are not fighting in an American war. We might bear that in mind.
I hope, too, that in the circumstances which I have described the right hon. Gentleman will ask the N.A.T.O. Alliance to give particular attention to the defence of the South Atlantic and the western shores of Africa, where there are facilities enjoyed by Britain because of the Simons-town Agreement. Perhaps I might remind the House that in the event of trouble east of Suez we have the use not only of Simonstown, but of every port in South Africa. I do not know whether this is generally understood, but it is immensely important, and the Simonstown Agreement has now become an essential extension of the European security system in the N.A.T.O. Alliance.
That means, and let us face it, co-ordination between the navies and the air forces of Portugal, which is a N.A.T.O. ally, and South Africa. I know the strong feelings and prejudices about South Africa, but I prefer the security of Britain to those prejudices.—[Interruption.] I am not using the word "prejudice" in its worst sense. I do not think that the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) heard me. I am in sympathy with the rebels, but where has their logic get them? I notice that this morning a notice was put out which could have been issued by the stewards of the Jockey Club. The poor rebels find themselves in an unhappy position for the time being.
Perhaps I might get back to my argument. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will reaffirm unmistakably the value that he attaches to Simonstown, and will 423 go to the Cabinet as soon as he can and reverse the decision on the sale of arms to South Africa, because the defence of this route is literally vital from now on to the future security of the Continent of Europe.
I turn now to the Persian Gulf where, by an accident of history, Britain holds a position of key importance, a position at once of profit and responsibility. The responsibility is political, and by tacit consent the two principals in the area, Iran and South Arabia, allow their claims and counter-claims in the Gulf to lie fallow as long as the British presence is there.
Nor does Iraq wish to challenge the territory of Kuwait as long as a British presence is there. But it is recognised by all who live in the Gulf that should Britain leave prematurely—that is, on anything like the time scale named by the Foreign Secretary—this area will be torn by strife and trouble, and the Soviet would be only too ready to stir the pot. It is known only too well, except by some hon. Members on the back benches opposite.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that what is feared by the Rulers there is local revolts on behalf of democracy, and far greater progress than what has been achieved so far?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
If the hon. Gentleman will study the contracts with this country he will see that our only contract is in respect of external aggression against those countries, and not to take part in civil disturbance.
This political instability which will follow a British withdrawal is what makes all the Governments of this area—including those of Iran, South Arabia, and the Trucial States—keen that Britain should stay. Therefore, in this situation, and with the certainty that political stability would be destroyed, there is no doubt that the action which the Government have taken is wrong and unacceptable and, for economic reasons, unconvincing.
I now turn to the question of the balance sheet of capital investment and income in this area. The Opposition cannot possess all the figures, and the right hon. Gentleman will correct me 424 where I am wrong. British investment in the Gulf is calculated at about £900 million. Imports, mostly of oil, are valued at £395 million, and exports to the Gulf at £302 million. The sterling holdings of the Governments in the Middle East amount to £459 million, the percentage of British oil imports to about 46 per cent, and the percentage of British interests in the production of oil to about 30 per cent. The annual foreign exchange income is calculated at £200 million a year.
If we take the export potential, the House no doubt recognises the fact that Abu Dhabi and Muscat are only just beginning their oil production. The striking figures, which may be quoted and are accurate, are that Abadabu's oil production in 1962 was worth £2 million, in 1967 it was worth £40 million and in 1970 it will be worth £80 million. There is an export potential for this country of enormous value.
Perhaps the Foreign Secretary will clear up one difficulty. The Secretary of State for Defence, when interviewed on television the other night, said that theforeign exchange cost of stationing troops abroad is offset by all sorts of gains we get in consequence but the objective of the decisions we took last week was not to reduce foreign exchange expenditure.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey) indicated assent.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The right hon. Gentleman nods his agreement, but we have been told by both the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister that one of the main purposes is to reduce the burden of foreign exchange. The Foreign Secretary must clear this up. Who is right and who is not?
§ Mr. Healey
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will continue to read out what I said, because if he does he will find that I said precisely what the Prime Minister said last week, namely, that the object of this exercise has been to save Government expenditure and so enable a shift of resources into exports. That has been made clear repeatedly. The object is completely different from the earlier one.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I should like to hear from the Foreign Secretary a full explanation of the way in which this is 425 to be achieved, and that the foreign exchange element has not been the most important element in the question up to date.
Against the balance sheet that I have given the expected local military expenditure annually in the Gulf area is £12.8 million. We can double that if we want to, and can still only say that on that balance sheet the evacuation in three years which the Government have allowed themselves can have stemmed only from pure panic and nothing else. It may be that there is a basic belief among the Socialists that Britain should not have any presence overseas. That belief is probably held, I am afraid, but it is not something that the Government have said. I should like the Foreign Secretary to deal specifically with the problem of the balance sheet in the Middle East.
The ultimate objective of the States in the Gulf and in South-East Asia must be to stand on their own feet, but that takes time, and the time should be set against the test whether evacuation will result in turmoil and wrath or in neighbourly co-operation and peace. There is no doubt what will happen if the Government stick to their plan and timetable. I do not accept that Britain can be so poor that she cannot maintain a presence and the means to support one with limited objectives. The right hon. Gentleman will recollect that apart from the balance sheet the defence expenditure of this country has been a falling percentage of the gross national product for years now.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
Is not the right hon. Gentleman assuming too easily that our military presence there can and does protect our investments and interests? We have even greater investments in the United States. Are the Opposition proposing to send a garrison to Washington?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The last part of the hon. Gentleman's observation is not worthy of reply. On the first part, if we compare the stability in the Gulf with the political condition in the rest of the Middle East we can come to only one conclusion, which is that a British presence helps towards that political stability and is an asset to this country.
426 Therefore, at the first opportunity we have we will consult the Governments of the Gulf as to what kind of progress will be helpful and practical, both for them and for Britain. This ought to have been done long ago. It has not been done up to now, but a Conservative Government, if returned, will do it, because we consider it to be to the mutual interest of the countries in the Gulf and ourselves.
Why reject cost sharing? Do not we have cost sharing with the Germans? Why did the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State find it necessary to be so offensive to the Gulf Governments on television when talking about this question, when cost sharing is a quite legitimate practice to meet Britain's expenses overseas?
I turn now to the question of South-East Asia. I will not rehearse the economic balance sheet there—it is fresh in the recollection of the House after the visit of the Prime Minister of Singapore—but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reflect on this: if his Government had been in power only a few years back, and had been able to put into effect in advance the cuts that they are now proposing, does he realise that today neither Malaysia nor Singapore would be an independent country within the Commonwealth, but would be within a reserve of Indonesia which had temporarily sold themselves to the Chinese Communists? Does he recognise that? Does he recognise that the same danger exists in respect of other countries whose freedom is vital to the interests of the free world?
What should be our purpose in South-East Asia? It should be something parallel—although we cannot operate on the same scale—to the action of the United States in Thailand, that is, to train the defences of Malaysia and Singapore ultimately to take over their own defence.
There is something in the White Paper which makes me think that the right hon. Gentleman may conceivably have the same objective—training in intelligence,, in the use of the most modern equipment, particularly in air defence and counterattack. However, that, also, will take time, and everyone in that area knows it, but here we have time, largely because of the Chinese weakness. We can retain a presence and we should maintain a 427 presence and, what is more, we can do so, on any calculation, in safety.
I have been pressing the Foreign Secretary for some time to be active in the creation of an Asian security force. If we can foresee success in this, I have another suggestion to make to him, which I have also made before and which I believe deserves serious consideration. It is that Britain might consider becoming a member of an ANZAM alliance, with particular reference to not embarking——
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Brown) indicated dissent.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The right hon. Gentleman is anticipating that I am suggesting this in a context which he might not like, but I am not—not embarking on incursions into the mainland of Asia, but an ANZAM devoted to keeping open the sea and air approaches to South-East Asia in the Indian Ocean and the Indonesia seas. That seems to me a rôle which Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand are peculiarly fitted to fill and, incidentally, that alliance could make civil use of Singapore dock——
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Eastington)
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware—he must be, since he has been Foreign Secretary and Commonwealth Secretary—of the ANZUS pact which was promoted by the United States, Australia and New Zealand, but which deliberately excluded the United Kingdom?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The right hon. Gentleman is historically correct, but I should be very surprised if, were Britain to make an offer to join that alliance today, we were not welcomed with open arms by Australia and New Zealand.
I am not proposing, and have not done this afternoon, a roving world commission in the traditional sense expected of a great Power. I ask the Foreign Secretary, in respect of Europe, the Gulf and Singapore and Malaysia, to deal specifically with those areas, where we can establish and assess where a British interest lies and where there are British assets and Britain can specifically—no one else can—contribute to political stability, and where we should maintain 428 a presence for these limited and vital purposes.
I hope that I can never be accused of being uncharitable to political opponents: life is too short for that kind of exercise. But I must say that during the last few weeks the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and the Government as a whole have failed in their stewardship of this country which is their trust. They ought to regard it so and ought not to put a successor Government in such a position that, where there are British assets which are vital and necessary to this country, and Britain can assist the political stability of the free world, they may be physically unable to do such a thing. That is totally and absolutely wrong.
So I conclude as I began. I believe that the Government's foreign policy has now become incredible, that it would be better for the country if they left office. When they do, we will do our best to restore both Britain's strength and Britain's honour.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Brown)
I am, of course, very grateful to the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) for his charity, although I suspect, from the way that he defined it, that his view of charity and mine are, like our politics, poles apart.
The right hon. Gentleman's speech, of course, is the one which the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) should have made at the winding-up of last week's debate. I was invited to take part in this debate on the basis that the Opposition and many of my right hon. and hon. Friends wished that we should, for the first time for a long time, have a wide-ranging discussion about foreign policy. I did not know then that the right hon. Gentleman would have been propelled by the meeting which he attended last night to switch the thing and make a continuation of last week's debate.
I propose, therefore, to make the speech which I had thought would have met the convenience of the House. It will, in some respects, meet some of the questions which the right hon. Gentleman asked. In so far as it does not, my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary hopes to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, tonight, and my right hon. Friend the 429 Secretary of State for Defence tomorrow. It might even, if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite agree, be convenient if I seek to speak again tomorrow night and finally deal with some of the right hon. Gentleman's assertions.
I am bound to say, too, that, if the right hon. Gentleman had intended to make that sort of a speech, of which I do not complain, it would have beep, since we have been freely bandying across the House such words as "honour", more in keeping with his honour if the Opposition had put down a Motion to support such a speech instead of sliding it in in a Motion for the Adjournment, which they have no intention of doing anything about. In a way, like the right hon. Gentleman I should like to speak primarily about Europe, the Middle East and the Far East and, in doing so, to try to illustrate the general themes which I put to the House last week and which the right hon. Gentleman did not seem wholly to go along with.
I begin by making one thing clear again. Britain's interests—let me underline the word "interests"—remain worldwide. They are the interests of a great trading and investing nation. They are, of course, particularly so far as the Commonwealth in concerned, interests which spring from sentiment and a shared history. They are interests expressed by helping to create conditions of economic development and—I join with the right hon. Gentleman in repeating this—all that that means for stability through trade and aid for the under-privileged peoples of the world.
But this is where I part company with the right hon. Gentleman. Our world policing role which, for years, we have shouldered beyond what we could really afford and which, he clearly said today. if the Opposition were ever returned to power they would ensure that we would shoulder again, had to come to an end and must come to an end. There are others who should be playing——
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home rose——
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, since he did not interrupt me, but this is just what I did not say. I specifically said that we did not want a world rôle in the old traditional sense, but I directed his attention to two areas—the Gulf and Singapore—in which our interests seemed to me to justify it.
§ Mr. Brown
I am sorry. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If we could have a little less shouting and a little more listening, we might get on better. I thought, and I still think, that, if the right hon. Gentleman's words meant anything, especially his wonderful peroration about restoring our position and our honour, and especially what he said about the Middle East, unless it were intended to deceive people overseas—and I do not believe that he is the sort of man who would deceive them—they must have meant that the party opposite would resume the world policing role which must come to an end.
We will, I trust, all read in the OFFICIAL REPORT what the right hon. Gentleman said. I am speaking now, a number of my hon. Friends will be speaking today and tomorrow and presumably a number of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will be speaking in the debate. The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire Was very frequent in his demand that I should clear something up. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition intends to speak tomorrow, but I wonder whether he would clear up what his right hon. Friend really meant.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
I will do it now. My right hon. Friend said quite clearly—and it is within the recollection of the House, and hon. Gentlemen opposite know it; their faces show it—that the Conservative Party does not propose that this country should have what the right hon. Gentleman terms a "world policing rôle". We believe that our interests, which have been clearly and specifically defined, in the Gulf and in Singapore and Malaysia, should be maintained. Those are two clear and specific commitments on which the present Government have ratted.
§ Mr. Brown
That sort of vulgar talk—[An HON. MEMBER: "Vulgar?"] The 431 right hon. Gentleman knows a damned sight more about ratting than I shall ever learn.
I put this point to the Leader of the Opposition. If the party opposite has no intention of continuing a world policing rôle, that must, therefore, mean that hon. Gentlemen opposite believe that it is time that we withdrew our bases from overseas—in which case, what are they arguing with us about? There are countries which should be working together for their own regional security. The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends know this as well as I do. They are putting up a most phoney fight.
I am confident, and I wish to make this perfectly clear, that this will come about—despite the undoubted risks which our military withdrawals involve—as soon as these other countries understand that we are, in fact, withdrawing. This is where the right hon. Gentleman is conniving at one of the most dangerous things of all. So long as one pretends that one is staying, and yet says that one is not staying, one inhibits other people from taking over the responsibilities which they should take. That is why it is so very important that we should be clear about this and why, as I said last week, I thought that we had.
§ Mr. Heath rose——
§ Mr. Heath rose——
§ Mr. Heath rose——432
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Brown
It is no use the Leader of the Opposition continually interrupting me and then telling me to get on with it. Let us show a little bit of decency towards each other.
I do not minimise—and I did not minimise last week—the risks involved in our present announcement. As I said last Thursday, and I repeat now, in my view they are risks which must be taken if we are to get our priorities right for this country. If the right hon. Gentleman's view is that they are risks which should not be taken, then he must tell us how else he would get the priorities right.
§ Mr. Heath rose——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. If the Foreign Secretary does not give way, the Leader of the Opposition must resume his seat.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am on my feet. There cannot be any points of order when I am standing. If the Foreign Secretary does not give way, the Leader of the Opposition must resume his seat.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
On a point of order. As always, the House listened quietly to the opening speech by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). Hon. Members gave him a hearing, as they should. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been continually interrupted by the Leader of the Opposition. May I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to consider calling the Leader of the Opposition to order and asking him to behave himself?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I hope that the debate can now continue in an orderly way. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate was listened to in comparative silence. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be given the same courtesy.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I remind the House that if any hon. or right hon. Member wishes to interrupt the Foreign Secretary, and ask him a question, then it is entirely within the Foreign Secretary's discretion whether or not he gives way.
§ Mr. Heath
Further to the point of order raised by the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths), in connection with why there should be these interruptions. My honour was impugned by the Foreign Secretary when he said that I was not telling the truth when I said that the Minister of State had given firm commitments on his behalf to the Rulers in the Gulf. If the Foreign Secretary accuses me of that, he must justify the fact that the Minister of State did not, in his view, give those undertakings.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Let us get this clear. If any hon. or right hon. Member thinks that his honour has been impugned, he will have an opportunity of taking part in the debate at a later stage. In other words, it does not mean that he has an automatic right to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman who is speaking.
§ Mr. Brown
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have not been slow in impugning our honour. The Leader of the Opposition's thin skin is showing through fairly easily now. I trust that he will now listen to what I am saying.
I repeat what I said: I do not minimise that, by the announcement which we made last week, great risks are involved. However, I say again that they are risks which must, in our view, be taken to get the priorities right. The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to say that they are risks which we should not take. I got the impression that that was what he was saying. But in that case he and his hon. Friends must tell us in what other way we can get the priorities right.
I believe, and I have said it repeatedly, that Britain has an important part to play in the world. But it is not necessary to have military bases all over the world, which we cannot afford, in order to play that part; and there are right hon. Gentlemen opposite who themselves know this, and who themselves have said it. There can be a British presence without a military presence. There can be British influence without British armies on the spot. Indeed, I go further, as I did last week, and repeat that the influence and the help which many of our friends in Asia look to us to provide can be more effective without military backing.
Our aim must be to exert a world influence through the United Nations, through the Atlantic Alliance, and, in the future, with and through a United Europe.
§ Mr. Brown
I deeply regret, even though I have to say it in his absence, seeing my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) in this uneasy and, I think, unholy alliance with the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath).
435 To that unity in Europe we must bring the influence we already have with our friends and allies throughout the world.
The choice is not between exercising world influence, on the one hand, and playing our part in Europe, on the other. It is between accepting—and this is possibly where we part company—a limited and necessarily declining influence if we try to play it alone, or enjoying the greater power and the greater influence that comes from being a leader of a major grouping of European nations.
That is one of the main reasons why I told the House on 20th December that, in spite of General de Gaulle's veto on negotiations, the long-term interests of the country and of Europe required that we should become a full member of the European Communities. Our application for membership still stands. We have no intention of withdrawing it. This refusal to abandon our objective—the enlargement of the European Communities—has been widely welcomed in Europe, as the House knows, but most of us here and abroad recognise that because of the position which President de Gaulle has unfortunately adopted, we and Europe cannot achieve this unity in the immediate future.
The question that faced us on 19th December, when the French veto was finally made quite plain in Brussels, was to decide how and in what direction we should go in the period immediately ahead. We could have sat down and done nothing. We could have been content to work for some interim arrangements with the Community. But, in fact, we chose to do all that was possible from outside the Community to further European unity, not relaxing our determination to secure full membership.
The variety of possible forms of relationship with the Community which falls short of full membership is almost infinite, but one thing would be common to all: we should have a secondary and, therefore, ineffective position in the institutions of the Community. We should have obligations with no corresponding powers. In our view, no British Government or Parliament could commit themselves to accept and operate—at some date in the future when we become full members—far-reaching economic and even political decisions which we cannot possibly fore- 436 see now, and which we could not have the power to shape at the time when they were made.
So long as we are applying for full membership on the basis of our readiness to accept the Treaty of Rome and the rules adopted under it, negotiation is a comparatively simple matter, because it must take place on the basis of agreed texts, but as soon as the object of negotiations becomes something less than full membership all sorts of uncertainties about the object and areas of negotiation arise. We should certainly find that the whole process of negotiation would take longer—without there being any certainty that, at the end of our labours, the result would be immune from yet another French veto.
In other words, we have made our application to join—as full members—the Community as it exists today. We understand the commitments which we would be taking on now, but there is simply no means of knowing what we would be taking on if we had an undertaking to join some years from now.
§ Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
My right hon. Friend will be aware that some of us, in the absence of any agreed conditions, do not go along with him in the line he is now taking. Will he not agree that during the last 18 months we have been chasing this hare far too long, weakening our ties with the Commonwealth when we could have been helping our economic position by co-operating with the Commonwealth countries during that period, and possibly avoiding much of the present difficulty?
§ Mr. Brown
Not at all—and I hope that my hon. Friend will listen to what I have to say, even though he may disagree.
Since I last spoke on this subject I have taken every opportunity to carry our plans forward and, since this is a debate on foreign affairs, perhaps I should tell the House something of what I have been doing.
Last week I saw Herr Brandt. The Federal German Government wish to explore the ground further with the French to see whether an interim arrangement about our relations with the Community might still be agreed. I told 437 my German colleagues that we were sceptical about this, but no one should infer from that exchange that there is a fundamental disagreement between us and the Germans on this. On the contrary, our aim and the German aim is full British membership of the Communities as soon as it can be brought about. Between us, there is complete identity of purpose.
I have also talked in this time with Signor Fanfani and Mr. Willoch, the Norwegian Minister of Commerce.
The Benelux Governments last week proposed various measures for cooperation in Europe. We ourselves have been thinking on much the same lines, and we shall shortly be giving them our reactions.
We are also in close touch with our E.F.T.A. partners. There is still a certain amount of work to be done in E.F.T.A.—for example, in removing non-tariff harriers to trade. But the main task—the removal of industrial tariffs—has to all intents and purposes been completed.
But we must pursue our policies in a wider field than E.F.T.A. European unity is our aim. We must work out with all these others in Europe, who think as we do, the lines of common action which we can take here and now to carry all of us further along this road. One thing I want to make quite clear: this course of action is not directed against France. Of course, the present Community of the Six must continue—we do not intend to hamper its work. After all, it is the Community which we ourselves will be joining some day. But what we can do outside it, we shall, and that is our purpose now.
That is our purpose not only because we look forward to becoming members of the Community, but also because we believe in the vital importance of Europe as a whole. It is in Europe that the greatest confrontation of power exists. The differences that divide East and West in Europe go deep and will not easily be solved, but it must always be our object lo work for their solution. We trust that the force reductions that have been made in the West will presently be matched in the East. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is at present discussing fundamental problems which 438 touch on this with the Russian leaders in Moscow.
We have faith in this continent of ours—Europe. We believe that the divisions between East and West will gradually be eased, but we believe that all the resources and skills our continent has have an important part to play in forwarding the prosperity not only of the developed world, but also of the less fortunate part of mankind.
Now I turn to the second area I want to speak about, and which the right hon. Gentleman spoke about—the Middle East. The decision to withdraw our forces from the Persian Gulf by the end of 1971 must be seen as part of the process of military withdrawal which has been going on for decades. As I said last Thursday, this is not a decision of principle but essentially one of timing. I say quite categorically that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State did not mislead the Gulf Rulers in November. He made it absolutely clear to them that we should not stay in the Gulf for ever—[Interruption.]—if the Leader of the Opposition could occasionally listen; he cannot listen, laugh and speak at the same time—and that they should waste no time in getting on with the task of preparing for the situation after our departure.
It does not follow that by withdrawing our military presence in the Middle East we are thereby withdrawing all our influence——
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet) rose——
§ Mr. Brown
I have been going for half an hour and have had hardly five minutes of consecutive uninterrupted speech. I will give way when I have finished the sentence, but I think that I am entitled now to be allowed to make my speech. This is a two-day debate. Other hon. Members will have a chance to pick holes in my argument.
It does not follow that by withdrawing our military presence in the Middle East we are thereby withdrawing all our influence. There are other ways in which we can contribute to the stability and prosperity in the area.
§ Mr. Maudling
I think that the right hon. Gentleman could help the House— 439 me certainly—by saying in what way, then, the message taken by the Minister of State differed from the first statement made two months before.
§ Mr. Brown
As the right hon. Gentleman well knows, between the two dates we had decided to speed up—[An HON. MEMBER: "Exactly."]—to change the timing. [Laughter.] The idea that hon. Members should guffaw and laugh, and that that somehow scores a point, just denigrates the Opposition's own hopes.
There was a change of timing. This we have explained, this I defended last Thursday night, this right hon. Gentlemen opposite are now perfectly entitled to attack, but there is nothing in that which entitles them to this guffawing. My right hon. Friend explained the reasons and there is no evidence whatever that the Rulers in the Gulf take the attitude about this which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are taking——
§ Mr. Brown
I wanted to make a speech on foreign affairs, but if hon. Members opposite want to make the debate just a political game and a political argument, then, so far as I am concerned, that is all right, but people outside want to hear more about the argument and a little less of the David Frost Show that we are getting from hon. Members opposite. We have many——
§ Mr. Heath
The Foreign Secretary invited me to interfere. If he could have been absolutely clear and honest with the House in the first instance he would have told the House that his right hon. Friend the Minister of State told the Rulers in the Gulf that he was going to adhere to the original timetable. That was my point, but the Foreign Secretary has now admitted that he told them that and then has had to go and tell them exactly the reverse a month later.
§ Mr. Brown
We did not reverse it. If we say that we have decided to revise the timetable—[Interruption.] Incidentally, since the right hon. Gentleman was touchy about impugning someone's honour, who is impugning what when he now accuses me of being a little dis- 440 honest? [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] Let us have a little of the same standards for each other. I have told the House exactly what my right hon. Friend did on both occasions. I repeat, the Rulers in the Gulf and the other organisations in the Gulf do not play politics over this in the same way as the right hon. Gentleman, to his eternal disgrace, is trying to do.
We have many and deep-seated links with the countries of the Middle East. Our commercial and economic interests, as at least the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) knows, depend powerfully on the countries in this area and their prosperity depends enormously on our development of those commercial and economic interests. There are also close cultural ties. These are the links which bind us and the Middle East together and they do not depend on the presence of our military forces.
If the House will allow me—and I apologise for being on my feet for so long, although I do not think I have been speaking for all that time—I will give an instance of how this influence does not depend on military forces. Since we last considered the Middle East, in November, the Arab-Israel situation has shown some improvement. This improvement is due in great measure to what Britain was able to achieve at the Security Council. Last November, the discussions at the United Nations appeared to be totally deadlocked. A number of draft resolutions had been canvassed, but all were regarded as totally unacceptable by one side or the other. The House will recall that at that stage no compromise seemed possible.
Up to then I thought that we should not get involved in the partisan exchanges that were going on, but I then decided that it would be wrong to stand aside and watch the deadlock deepen, with all the tragic consequences involved. So I then decided to formulate our own balanced resolution. Thanks to the efforts of my right hon. Friend Lord Caradon, and the delegation at New York, this resolution was unanimously adopted by the Security Council on 22nd November. Of course, the fact that a resolution was unanimously adopted was a success for the whole Security Council, but we in Britain can rightly take great pride in 441 what happened. Here we exerted our influence as a world Power and our success had absolutely nothing to do with a military presence in the area.
§ Mr. Brown
This resolution by itself, I accept, can do no more than point the way to a solution of the present grave problems. The countries most directly concerned have, with the exception of Syria, accepted the terms of the resolution and Dr. Jarring, the very distinguished Swedish diplomat, has for some weeks been holding confidential discussions with them. There have been some signs of practical improvement in the situation. There has been an exchange of prisoners; there has been progress over the ships trapped in the Suez Canal, but this is not enough. The longer things remain as they are on the ground, the harder it will be to make progress on the major issues.
I want to state again to everybody who can hear it, inside or outside the House, my firm view that time is not on the side of reasonable and constructive development. I believe that, since the June war, a desire has developed in a number of the countries concerned to break out of the pattern of sterile bitterness, punctuated by violence and war, and to look afresh at the situation in the region, in the interests of peaceful co-existence. If nothing comes of it soon, those who hold these views may be in no position to carry them further.
I do not want now to discuss the elements of a settlement. It might very well complicate Dr. Jarring's task if I did. I would only like to beg all the leaders concerned to concentrate on the fundamental issues and to be ready to make concessions, or even to take risks, on issues, however important these may seem in the short run.
Possibly at a later stage we may be able to help. If we can, we will. We can do so only if we are trusted by both sides. This is what guides me in all my dealings on this subject of the Middle East This is why I was glad to have had the opportunity last week of a detailed discussion about it with the Prime Minister of Israel. This is also why I have welcomed, not always with the full support of the entire House, the resump- 442 tion of diplomatic relations with the United Arab Republic and the return of the Lebanese and British Ambassadors to London and Beirut.
I am glad to be able to tell the House—again, all the House may not like to hear this—that there are signs that others of the Arab countries which broke off diplomatic relations with us would be glad to resume them. I am already in touch with them about this. We are constantly discussing with the United Arab Republic Government the question of the Suez Canal and the release of the blocked ships.
As I told the House at Question Time on Monday, I am cautiously optimistic that the four British ships will be released in the reasonably near future. In my opinion, the Government of the U.A.R. show every sign of doing their best to help over this matter.
The opening of the Suez Canal as a whole is a more difficult problem. It would be unrealistic to suppose that it could be opened without the consent of both sides. This consent implies important political decisions, including the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the banks of the Canal and freedom of navigation in the Canal in accordance with the Convention of 1888. This is part of Dr. Jarring's task, and I think that it would be wrong for me to enlarge on the subject until he has reached his conclusions.
I turn now to the third point raised by the right hon. Gentleman, that of the Far East and South-East Asia. Something which the right hon. Gentleman left out, but which I know that he has had in in his mind, is that one of the most significant features of the second half of this century is the growth and prosperity which have now come to so many of the countries in this region.
I have just returned from Japan with a very clear impression of the extent of economic expansion going on there, of their industrial efficiency, of the possibilities of the market there, and, much more importantly—I say this to my own trade union colleagues as much as to anybody else—of how hard we in Britain must work to get into that and other markets in the Far East, faced, as we are, with this very efficient competition.
443 It should be remembered that where Japan stands today other Asian nations will stand tomorrow. And, whatever the position is today in China, sooner or later she will emerge as a great industrial nation and potentially a great market.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
I agree with much of what my right hon. Friend says about the development in Japan, but is not one of the key economic factors in relation to Japan that she spends less than 2 per cent, of her G.N.P. on defence, whereas we are still spending 6.5 per cent.?
§ Mr. Brown
There is a good deal in what my hon. Friend says. [Laughter.] I wondered whether to add this. I shall now say it, in view of the giggling. I have said that there is a good deal in what my hon. Friend says, but he must ask himself whether he wants to urge Japan to increase her 2 per cent, to 6.5 per cent.
§ Mr. Brown
It cannot be the other way round, for the reasons that I gave earlier. It is certainly true that, without stability, this new-found prosperity will come to nothing. But I repeat that stability in this area, as in the Middle East, whether it be economic or political, cannot be maintained indefinitely by foreign bases or by foreign arms.
It is a tribute to our record in dealing with emergent Asian nationalism, particularly during the years immediately after the last war, when a Labour Government were also occupying these benches, that today our participation in the affairs of South-East Asia and of the Far East is not only tolerated but welcomed and encouraged.
Our participation, particularly in the sphere of trade and economics, with all the benefits that it will bring for both sides, will be welcomed only as long as we are prepared to co-operate and compete in trade with Asian countries on acceptable terms. Here, what counts are the knowledge and expertise which we have built up over the years. Everybody, including the Tory Party, must accept that we cannot rely any longer on any position of privilege left over from our imperial past.
444 However, any consideration of South-East Asia must be inevitably dominated by events in Vietnam. I want to devote the last few minutes of what I want to say to these events. I wish I could confidently prophesy an early end to the war. Hopes have been raised by the North Vietnamese Foreign Minister's most recent statement. I know that the United States is carefully exploring the statement.
We all hope that Hanoi is genuinely moving to a position where the United States could order its bombing to stop as a first step, confident that this gesture would not result in numbers of their soldiers and those of their allies dying in vain while awaiting a response from the other side; confident, too, that a cessation of the fighting throughout the whole of Vietnam would be the first item for discussion; in short, that the North Vietnamese will show some readiness to move towards the American position, much as I believe that President Johnson took account of North Vietnamese fears and suspicions in the proposals he made at San Antonio.
There have been numerous commentaries on the statement by Foreign Minister Trinh, but none of them, in my view, can be any substitute for the deep exploration which is now being conducted by the United States.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
I agree with my right hon. Friend about this new step towards negotiation by the North Vietnamese, but will he ask President Johnson not to stipulate any conditions which will make negotiations impossible?
§ Mr. Brown
As I said, deep exploration is now going on. I trust that neither side will stipulate conditions which will make negotiation impossible, and I hope very much that Hanoi will indicate that an approach to the table would be prompt and purposeful and that advantage would not be taken of a bombing stop in the meantime. I say this rather carefully. I would rather not elaborate further.
I know that some people think that negotiations, whatever the conditions, are better than no negotiations at all. As the House has heard me say before, it is easier for those who have no responsibility to say this than for those who have., But, looking beyond the results of such 445 an action, I fear that the results of stopping the bombing, if this went unrequited by meaningful talks, could be a resumption of fighting, more intense and on an even larger scale.
I therefore repeat what I said to the House on Monday, which one or two of my hon. Friends did not much like. I think that this is a moment to be patient, to await the outcome of the exploration that we know—I am choosing my words carefully—is going on. Meanwhile, I have my own responsibility as one of the two co-chairmen of the Geneva Conference. The time will surely come when international sanction will have to be secured for any settlement, in whatever way negotiations for it may have been started.
I know that there is constant anxiety that the war might spread further to neighbouring countries. One thing that we could do right away is to expand the work of the International Control Commission to supervise the Cambodian frontiers. I have satisfied myself that the United States is ready to accept. Cambodia, I know, wants it to happen. If we could do this, we would not only detect boundary violations, but the mere fact that we could detect them could be a deterrent to their happening wherever they came from. But the Communist Powers still block this measure. They should not, and we have told them so, and I will be glad if anybody else who can address messages in that direction would say the same thing.
If I can sum up in a few sentences the theme of what I have said today, it is this. Whether one looks at Europe, the Middle East or the Far East, our interests and, even more, our needs for their development and their prosperity remain. In the Middle East and in Asia, I believe—unlike, I gather, hon. Members opposite, but they will make this clear during the course of the debate—our standing will not in the future depend upon our military presence. Increasingly in other ways, by trade, by aid, by cultural activities, our presence will be felt, and, I believe, felt even more strongly.
The logical consequence of the defence cuts which we debated last week, and which the right hon. Gentleman raised again today, is certainly not a retreat into a Little Englander rôle. We are not withdrawing into a selfish isolation. 446 Much more, we see that our contribution to the development and prosperity of other continents is geared to what we can afford to do, and that from the base of economic strength which we must create in this country we can then exert an influence for good, world-wide.
I am grateful to the House for letting me get through my speech. I am sorry that it took so long—it was often my fault—but I say to the House quite firmly that I believe that if hon. Members will seriously consider it they will see that the policy that we are now embarked upon is the only one which will give this country the strength it needs to carry out the kind of foreign policy which our position in the world requires.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)
The Foreign Secretary admires Ernest Bevin who was Foreign Secretary when I first had the privilege of coming to this House. I hope the right hon. Gentleman sometime will have time to read a good biography of Ernest Bevin and try to follow him in the way that Ernest Bevin used to speak for Britain. So long as the Foreign Secretary stuck to his brief it was all right, but his forays in the first quarter of an hour were disastrous. To adapt the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) on another occasion, I wish that more often the Foreign Secretary would try to behave like a Foreign Secretary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."] No, it is perfectly true. The right hon. Gentleman accuses us on this side of the House of trying to play a world police rôle in the affairs of the world. Surely that is his approach—an open-ended commitment to the United Nations, to take on anything which they may offer to us, without the facilities or the strength or the bases with which to carry out those tasks.
I want to put two points to the House as quickly as possible. I support the two specific objectives, limited as they are, as my right hon. Friend has said, in the Gulf and the Far East. The first point is the policy behind the defence of N.A.T.O. outside the N.A.T.O. area, especially in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. I had the privilege—if I might have the Foreign Secretary's 447 attention for a moment—of being Under-Secretary at the Commonwealth Office when the Simonstown Agreement was signed under my right hon. Friend. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take this suggestion seriously, because I believe our European friends are now anxious that this global strategy affecting southern African trade routes should be taken into account.
My second point relates to the studied destruction of the availability of facilities to future Governments to honour treaties and to help our allies and the Commonwealth as the need may arise in the future. There has been a remarkable debate going on elsewhere, to which I am not allowed to refer, but I hope that in due course the Foreign Secretary will have his attention drawn to it because I believe that in that other place there are Members who can speak about world strategy with greater authority than many of us in this House can speak. It seems to me that in the debates of yesterday and today they have been speaking in terms which will affect the whole future of this country and its place in the world.
The first specific point that I want to put to the House concerns the defence of N.A.T.O. outside the N.A.T.O. area. Thanks to the Prime Minister, I have been nominated a member of Western European Union during the last two and a half years. For that period, with other hon. Members, we have tried to get our friends in Western European Union to take more interest, and to play a part, in the defence of Western Europe outside the N.A.T.O. area. We had no response in that respect until the six days' war last June.
After that there was quite a sharp reaction leading to a document, unnumbered for certain technical reasons but attached to Document No. 431 dated 4th December, 1967, which is available to hon. Members in the Library of the House. It was written by Franz Goedhart, an outstanding Dutch Socialist who is a personal friend of many hon. Members on both sides of the House. It consists only of 28 pages. It is easy to read and I commend it to anybody as a very clear exposition of the situation which our Western European allies regard as the background which we in this country 448 have to face. It was accepted with only three opponents, and those were not Frenchmen.
I should like to draw attention briefly to some of the points of this document. It welcomesthe continued presence of the United States Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean as the main element in the defence of the area".As to the recommendations, there are points to please everybody. It recommendsthat an international body should be established…governing the passage of vessels through the Suez Canal; that the North Atlantic Council should persuade the present Greek Government to restore a freely elected parliamentary system; that Western European countries should work for direct negotiations between Israel and the Arab States; that an international armaments register should be established under the auspices of the United Nations.It is also recommended that more encouragement should be given through O.E.C.D. to the great oil companies to have contingency planning against another crisis such at that which arose last summer.
I should like to take the opportunity of saying how remarkable it was that those organisations together produced results which led to to no shortfall in the supply of oil to any country in the free world. Stocks may have been reduced for a short time, but the flow of oil to the consumer continued. That is something for which all of us should give credit to those concerned—the O.E.C.D. Government and the great international oil companies.
This is a matter which may not come within the area of responsibility of the Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs. A lot of hard work is put in by Members on both sides of the House with very little recognition in public, but, under the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Robert Edwards), who is Chairman of the Committee on Defence Questions and Armaments, we have achieved for the first time in 10 years a virtually unanimous resolution with recommendations about the defence of the N.A.T.O. countries outside the N.A.T.O. area. I put down a Question to the Foreign Secretary on what he was doing about it, and he said, as usual, that he was just having a look at it. This could be a serious contribution to our foreign policy.
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether there is anything whatsoever in that document which ties the continuation of a British presence in the Persian Gulf to the defence of N.A.T.O.'s southern flank outside Europe, which seemed to be one of the points made by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)? As far as I can remember, that point was not made in Mr. Goedhart's document.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
Not yet, but we are looking towards that. It condemned the British in Aden and the French for giving up Mers-el-Kebir and the handing over of those two areas on a plate within a year, maybe, to Russian occupation which no Czar in his wildest dream's could have dreamt would happen. But in the wide field of foreign affairs, this represents a break-through to those of us who believe in European co-operation—that thedefence of Western Europe should not only be carried out in Western Europe but extend to all parts of the world—Southern Africa and the Middle East.
My second point is that the Government are deliberately destroying the ability of future Governments to honour our treaties—CENTO, S.E.A.T.O. and ANZAM have been mentioned—by withdrawing altogether from the Gulf and the Far Hast, by running down our forces and "hardware" and by abandoning bases and staging posts. It is clear to anybody who has studied this matter that the domestic problems, resulting from three years of Socialism, have led to their being used as a smokescreen to retreat from the undertakings which, in honour, previous Governments have given.
I do not believe for a moment that this is a question of money. At the moment, the Government are spending, in my opinion rightly, £12 million a year in Aden. If they can do that, why cannot they find £15 million to protect the free flow of oil from the Gulf to the free world? The argument that the Germans, Japanese and others get it without having forces there is quite irrelevant. Last summer, British Forces were there and the Gulf was the only stable part of the area during the six weeks war.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
Is not the significant point precisely that during that period we did not 450 get oil and that we did have troops there?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
The oil flowed, although it was held up for a short time; but it was stopped for longer when going through places where there were not British troops—the Canal, Syria and Iraq. It is time that hon. Members opposite either found out for themselves by going out there or kept quiet instead of making these misrepresentations.
For the first time, under this Government, there are sinister influences trying deliberately to destroy the ability of successor Governments to carry out what they regard as their honourable obligations. For instance, the jigs and drawings of the TSR2 were destroyed a few days after the Prime Minister returned from Washington at the end of 1964. Never before, as far as I know, in the aircraft industry have jigs and tools been destroyed; they have been put aside for five to ten years. But this was, in the opinion of those in the aircraft industry, deliberately done to stop any successor Tory Government resurrecting this project.
Now we are faced with the date of 1st March, 1971. Why that particular day? It is five years after the last General Election. Five years have been given to those concerned to complete the withdrawal with the intention that no successor Government will be able to resurrect the sort of commitments which we, perhaps wrongly, believe we are in honour and good sense entitled to carry out, and are able to only if something is left for us to do it with.
Having endured the 1930s, like other hon. Members, and survived to see the Socialist Government sitting on the Front Bench opposite from 1945 to 1951, I never personally doubted their patriotism at any time. I sometimes doubted their judgment, but never their patriotism.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr (Rochester and Chatham)rose——
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I am sorry; I must get on. I have given way twice.
However, I am sorry to say that I doubt the patriotism of the Prime Minister and many of those who at present sit on the Government Front Bench. I have sat here and watched it. I am against having television in the House 451 in general, but I wished that we had it last Thursday to show the Prime Minister, sitting there with his colleagues, haggard and defeated men and women and disgraced, in contrast to standards which were maintained during the 1945–51 Government.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr rose——
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
Everything which the Government have advocated is in ruins, as we foretold. They spend their lives attacking the free enterprise system, which, despite this Government, has built up exports since 1945 and from many of whose markets—that is, the export markets—the Government now propose to withdraw their protection and influence. If any individuals had gone to the market with the sort of prospectus on which the Socialist Party fought the 1966 election, they would by now have been in prison, in view of what has happened.
I believe in the cliché that peace is in divisible. The world is in a more dangerous situation than ever before. The Warsaw Pact is certainly more powerful than at any time in the past. I still believe that this country's most effective contribution to Western defence can be made outside the immediate N.A.T.O. area until existing conflicts in these areas can be better resolved and local forces, political and military, can be built up, particularly in the Gulf and in the Far East, as Mr. Lee pointed out in such a clear way last week. I believe, too, that Britain can and must be prepared to spend between 6 and 7 per cent, of its gross national product on defence. We did that with success in the past under a Tory Government when the gross national product was growing steadily. If we can spend £2,500 million on tobacco, drink and gambling we can afford to pay 6 or 7 per cent, on our defence. Such expenditure in helping to maintain stability within the United Nations will help us earn our way in those stable areas——
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Does my hon. Friend recall that in the Civil Estimates which were presented the other night the expenditure for Ministry of Works furniture and heating for new offices was greater than the 452 whole sum required to keep our troops in the Persian Gulf?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
That is the sort of deplorable outcome of last week's events. Everybody in the country—certainly everybody in business—was ready to support the Government. We were ready to do anything we could, but after all the 30 hours in Cabinet they produced the miserable £300 million cuts, and on the second day of the debate we received Supplementary Estimates for £120 million. That makes absolute nonsense of the whole thing.
In conclusion, I wish to read an extract from the Economist, a paper which is not notorious for support of the Tory cause, of 16th December, before the recent cuts. It says:And further, major defence cuts will not be just another step in the long retreat: they will virtually mean the end of a coherent defence system, other than the protection of the British Isles themselves inside what remains of N.A.T.O. We are getting uncomfortably close to ending up as an Iceland with 55 million people. It is uncomfortable because a relatively rich, populous, educated, and experienced country ought to be doing something more positive in the world. This ought not to be the time for Britain, as well as Europe, to opt out. Britain has shown what can be done; its past actions have been welcomed by other countries, whose letters of thanks lie in the Commonwealth Office; the British presence happens to be, in most parts between Kuwait and western Australia, more acceptable than that of any other power.I believe that that is true. I believe that the decision taken by the Government—or non-Government—will have the result described in the article. At least half of the Cabinet should have resigned if they had maintained any of the standards of public life and Ministerial responsibility known until about a couple of months ago. As one of those who did not enjoy the advantages of an education at Eton, I am interested to note that the only old Etonian member of the Cabinet was the only one who, in honour, resigned.
Not a single one of the other Ministers who have been in office for three years, pulling the country down, had the nerve to do such a thing. Those dreary men have betrayed the post-war ideals of the Commonwealth, of practical international co-operation with which Lord Attlee, Mr. Bevin and others gave us a lead in the years after the war. [An 453 HON. MEMBER: "The hon. Gentleman did not say it then."] Yes, Sir, I did. On many occasions we had a national over seas policy which many of us on both sides of the House supported. But that is not so now, as the Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs well knows. He was not sitting with his head hanging last Thursday, as he might well have been. The Government collapsed last Thursday and have no moral right to continue in office after reversing just about everything on which they fought the 1964 and 1966 elections. They are now a non-government, directing non-events, presided over by a discredited Prime Minister. He is going around in Moscow in ridiculous headgear, with a divided party behind him and with his policies in ruins, and I do not know how he can pretend that he is effecting any thing in Moscow at this time. He does no service to anything that democrats in the House——
§ The Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. George Thomas)
These vindictive personal attacks on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister not only fail to add anything to the hon. Gentleman's argument but show that he is consumed with malice and hatred which are unworthy of a Member of the House.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I congratulate the Minister of State on those words. I hope that they are drawn to the attention of the Prime Minister and that he will get the promotion due to him in that way.
The party which the Prime Minister left behind him in the House is ridden by dissension and mishandled by the Leader of the House and the Patronage Secretary. As we said in another place, the Prime Minister should be here, telling us what his foreign policy is now that he has destroyed that of two months ago and of the last election. If Britain is to earn its way in the world and deserve its place he cannot delay in letting the country choose between Socialism, which has once again shown that it is unfit——
§ Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)
On a point of order. Is it not the custom of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that speeches should not be read?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
Order. It is a rule of the House that speeches should not be read. I regret to say that in recent years it is a rule that has tended to be regarded much more in the breach than in the observance. Members may refer to notes, but there is a distinct rule that speeches may not be read.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I have come to the end of my speech. I was saying that once again Socialism has shown itself unwilling and unable to govern. It is high time that the Prime Minister and his Ministers gave way to let somebody take over who can govern. The country is prepared to make sacrifices for others overseas who are less fortunate than we are. We as a party are prepared to make sacrifices and try to help those people who, in the past few years have put faith in this country and the honour of the statesmen who led it.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
It is a pity that the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) spoiled his speech by impugning the patriotism of other hon. Members. We can all do that, but it would only end in a dogfight and do no good to any of us.
Apart from the hon. Gentleman's speech, the debate has been partly a continuation of last week's debate on the Government's cuts in public expenditure and partly of the debates last autumn about our application to join the European Economic Community. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary told us today that he is unwilling even now to withdraw the application for full membership of the E.E.C. In a speech I made in the debate on the Loyal Address last November, I argued that if my right hon. Friend blindly persisted with the application he would only bang his head against a wall of French resistance, and that the time had come to consider alternative policies which might get us somewhere. He did not listen but walked blindly on, and it seemed to me that everyone in Europe except the British Foreign Secretary knew what would happen. The sad truth is that in recent months, at any rate on this issue., the Foreign Office has not merely been deluding everybody else but has largely succeeded in deluding itself. Look at the 455 harm done to our economy by pressing the operation beyond any reasonable point.
It seemed to me that there was a perfectly good case for the original probe a year ago to find out how the ground lay in the E.E.C. It might at least have educated some people who had not already grasped the realities. The real mistake was to press blindly on last autumn with an approach that obviously could do nothing but damage at that time. As a result of that policy we have wasted a great deal of time and Governmental effort which should have been devoted throughout last year to strengthening our economy.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon (Preston, South)
Does my right hon. Friend think that it is fair to blame my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary for the intransigence and blind obstinacy of General de Gaulle, which could not, by any standard, have been foreseen?
§ Mr. Jay
If my hon. Friend looks at my speech in November last year, he will see that I foresaw it, as did a number of other hon. Members.
Secondly, the whole episode has still further damaged our Commonwealth trade and our export prospects in various expanding markets such as Australia.
Thirdly, this long and fruitless argument with the E.E.C. and particularly the Commission's report in September on our economy contributed to devaluation and all that follows.
But the really remarkable part of the story is this. If it had succeeded and we had joined the E.E.C, we should have loaded on to our already tottering balance of payments a further burden estimated by the Prime Minister in the debate last May as being £500 million a year, and that estimate has, of course, been further increased as a result of devaluation. We should, therefore, if the operation had succeeded, have undone the whole advantage to our economy which we are now supposed to achieve as result of devaluation.
We were told then that the extra £500 million did not matter very much because all we should have to do was to achieve an internal switch over of resources to exports and import saving of 456 so many millions of pounds. We learnt last week what a shift of resources of that kind means not just in words but in reality.
But I find something that is even more disturbing and distressing. The Foreign Secretary told us last week, and repeated today, that we have to go back on our agreements with the Commonwealth countries. I speak as one who also repeated those promises in public speeches in Australia only 18 months ago. He said that we had to go back on them, because economically we could not afford to do otherwise.
The cost of keeping our agreement with Singapore would be about £30 million or £40 million a year for a few years, but the cost of our Army in Germany is nearly £100 million in foreign exchange and there is no offset agreement beyond March. The gross cost is about £200 million. The cost of joining the E.E.C. to our balance of payments after devaluation would be more like £700 million a year. Yet we are told that we cannot do the former although we have promised it, and we frantically grasp at the latter though it would cost us more than ten times as much. I find much cynical nonsense in the argument.
We are then told that the economic losses of the E.E.C. operation have to be borne for the sake of the great political gains. But look at the political results of the last six months. We have, in effect, been trying to associate with those who do not want to associate with us and refusing to associate with those who do. As a result, our relations with France are worse than they have been for I do not know how many years; we have irritated the Germans by persistently putting pressure on them to bully the French; we have disillusioned some of our best friends in E.F.T.A. by our lack of wisdom and shocked Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia; and we have seriously disappointed the United States Government.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
My right hon. Friend spoke about the disillusionment of our friends in E.F.T.A. through our lack of wisdom. Would he tell the House who imposed the surcharge?
§ Mr. Jay
My hon. Friend is referring to a totally different event. If he would 457 discuss the policies of the last six months with some of our most friendly partners in E.F.T.A., I am sure he would find that many believe that the last application was signularly ill-timed and ill-fated. I think that in all circumstances this cannot be regarded as an outstandingly successful example of external policy.
The root cause of the mistakes has, I believe, been to substitute doctrinairism, and in particular dogma about the E.E.C., for realism and common sense. But the trouble is that even at this stage after the French veto, on the evidence of what my right hon. Friend said today, apparently the Foreign Secretary means to proceed with this doctrinaire policy. The Government are still blindly marching on. The Foreign Secretary's policy, in effect, is to do nothing but wait on the doorstep until General de Gaulle disappears from the scene. Yet I believe that, quite apart from everything else, it is most unwise to assume that opposition to British entry in France ends with General de Gaulle. The organised French employers have since devaluation switched over to outright opposition to British entry. The Communist Party, which has the largest single vote in France after the Gaullists, has recently declared its opposition to British entry except on the condition of abandonment of the Atlantic Alliance by this country.
In these circumstances, this policy—if one can call it that—of waiting disconsolately on the door mat gets us the worst of all worlds. We lose still more Commonwealth trade by advertising to Australia and others that as soon as we can we mean to deprive them of their preferences here. We get nowhere with the Five because the E.E.C.—it is one of its defects—has what is called a common commercial policy, as the Foreign Secretary did not seem to realise when he made his statement on 20th December. The Five cannot engage in any meaningful tariff or trade negotiations at all without the agreement of the French. That is the constitution of the Community.
Lastly, if we go on with this policy we fail to explore possible other policies open to us. Yet my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister himself said in the debate on 8th May that he did notdiscount the possibility of—458 new economic—groupings for the future if our…application—That is, to the E.E.C—'were to fail, or to plough into the sands".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8 th May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1097.]Plainly, it has failed, and we all know that it has. There are alternatives open to us both in the short term and in the long term. In the short term General de Gaulle has himself suggested what could be an industrial free trade area agreement between the E.E.C. and E.F.T.A. According to The Times of last Saturday—I should like to know from the Government whether this is correct—the Germans have also now suggested the possibility of such free trade area negotiations between the E.E.C. on the one hand and the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway and Ireland on the other. I hope we can be told whether that suggestion was made.
Provided that an arrangement of that kind embraced the whole of E.F.T.A. and we did not let down more of our friends by leaving them outside, I believe that that would be a wholly desirable arrangement. It would no more be associate membership of the E.E.C.—and, therefore, in no way open to the objections which the Foreign Secretary was advancing today to any alternative to membership—than was the Kennedy Round settlement which we successfully negotiated last year with the E.E.C, E.F.T.A. and United States, an operation which succeeded, I think, because it was founded on realism and not on any particular doctrine. I therefore say to the Government, "For heaven's sake let us now follow up the suggestion which has come from the French and, apparently, also now from the Germans ". That is for the short term.
In the long term we should surely now explore, as the Prime Minister promised in May, the other opportunities open to us, whether in enlarging E.F.T.A., or a much wider free trade area including North America and the Commonwealth and E.F.T.A. and anyone else who will join, or of further bilateral free trade areas, such as that which we have already formed with Ireland and could with some of the Caribbean countries, for instance, 459 if we had the will, or of increased East-West trade in addition. These possibilities are not incompatible with one another and are already positive and should be pursued.
What the country needs now and wants is a change of course. We have been blown off course often enough. First, we should be more realistic and, secondly, we should aim at getting respected in the world once again. We should refrain from making any more enemies and we should defend the valuable assets which we already possess, such as Commonwealth Preference among others. We should now announce that we are not pursuing this E.E.C. application any further, but that we are perfectly willing to negotiate with the E.E.C. on reasonable terms at any time when they may approach us, but that meawhile we intend in any case to strengthen our close economic relations with the Commonwealth and with the other E.F.T.A. countries.
Above all, we should stop alienating and offending those who want to be our friends and who have proved to be our friends, not just in theory, but in hard practice.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Kirk (Saffron Walden)
The right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) always reminds me of an Irish politician of my acquaintance who could attribute any natural or supernatural disaster to partition. Anything which goes wrong with this country the right hon. Gentleman attributes to our pursuit of membership of the European Economic Community. It does not appear to have occurred to him that some of the disasters which have occurred to this country over the last three years may be due to the incompetence of the Government of which until a short time ago he was a leading member. For the right hon. Gentleman, the man who devised and tried to put through the Stansted affair, to talk about other people as being doctrinaire seemed to be going a little too far.
I want to talk about Europe, but before I come to some of the specific points which the right hon. Gentleman made I should like to refer to the relationship of our European policy to the world outside Europe. We have heard a lot today 460 from the Foreign Secretary and from my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) about our changed rôle in the world. This changed rôle is no surprise to any of us. It has been coming along for a very long time now, certainly while both Conservative and Labour Governments have been in office.
The problem—and here I agree with the Foreign Secretary—is and always has been a question of timing. The attack which we are making on the Government today is that their timing is wrong, and this is an attack in principle. The Foreign Secretary seemed to dismiss timing as though it were peripheral to the whole argument once it had been agreed that we were to cease our world policing rôle. We agreed to that virtually in 1947 when we gave up India, but how we do it and the time we take over it and, above all, the arrangements which we make, or try to see that other people make, to carry on the job after we have gone are all just as important as the decision in principle.
The attack which we are making on the Government is not on the decision in principle, a decision with which most of us on these benches would probably agree—that we cannot go on indefinitely accepting commitments all over the world—but on the fact that the Government have taken this decision in a panic, for reasons which have nothing to do with foreign policy or defence considerations and which are concerned only with economic matters, taking the decision without making any attempt whatever to ensure that a stable situation would exist when they left. This is a very serious charge.
The two areas outside Europe with which we are most concerned are two of the most volatile and difficult in the world. Only in the last 24 hours we have seen how dangerous is the situation in South-East Asia. I was surprised that the Foreign Secretary made no reference at all to the recent incident between the United States and North Korea which seems to have very grave implications. Goodness knows how many times since the war we have seen how desperate is the situation in the Middle East. If, in the past, we have accepted a rôle there, and both parties have, then it is the duty of both parties, the Labour Party as well 461 as my party, to see that if we give it up we do so in a way which will ensure, so far as we can, that stability follows when we leave.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr
Will the hon. Gentleman give his interpretation of "stability"? That is something which should be mentioned in the debate.
§ Mr. Kirk
That is a very fair question.
To me, stability means that if change takes place, and change will be necessary in all these areas and one expects it, it will take place so far as possible peacefully and in an orderly fashion. After all, we have ensured in vast areas of the world for which we have been responsible in the past that when change has taken place, it has occurred with the minimum loss of life and the minimum amount of strife and the minimum loss of economic potential and so on. It is essential that when we go, we should try 1o ensure that that situation continues, as we did with India, although, after all, when we left nearly one million people in India lost their lives, and as we did in Africa where the effects were a little longer delayed.
The complaint made by the Prime Minister of Singapore and by the Gulf Sheikhs—and I do not accept the Foreign Secretary's statement that they are all absolutely happy with the situation and only too happy to see us go; that is a lot of nonsense—is not that we are going. Their complaint is of the manner of our departure, and it is about that that we are censuring the Government, and quite rightly.
In passing, I should like to refer to the statement of the Defence Secretary about the Gulf States the other night. When a friend of this country makes a genuine offer to help us out of an economic difficulty, to say that he is trying to turn us into mercenaries and that we are not going to help slavers is to lack not only courtesy, but foresight. In our present economic situation we may need the support of the people in this area and, however desperate Ministers may be in the present situation, they should weigh their words more carefully when addressing them to people outside the House.
What is the relationship of all this to Europe? I am told that the Government 462 have invented a new defence and foreign policy, that they are now all great Europeans, that everything will be concentrated on Europe and that we can forget about the rest. It is perfectly true—and my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) referred to this—that in the past other European countries have been reluctant to see that their interests lay outside Europe just as much as ours did. I think that they are coming to realise now that over the last 10 or 15 years we have carried a considerable burden for them which if the alliance is to make any sense at all in future, they will now have to share with us and with the Americans.
I do not claim any great gift of prophecy, but I remember referring, in a foreign affairs debate at the end of 1965, to the need for some kind of not British but European presence outside the European area, and I still believe that to be true. Even if we do not have it, the great gap in the Foreign Secretary's speech this afternoon in his reference to Europe—and here I return to the speech of the right hon. Member for Battersea, North, who will be surprised to hear that to some extent I agree with him—was that he had nothing new to offer. All he said was that the application still stood.
The application can stand and will have to stand for five, six, seven, or eight years and possibly longer before anything is done about our membership of the E.E.C. As one who has supported British membership of the E.E.C. since long before it became popular jargon between the two sides of the House, I regret this, but one has to recognise the fact. But this does not alter the fact that if we are seriously pursuing a European policy in both foreign affairs and defence, there are whole aspects of policy which we should be trying to pursue, and we do not seem to be doing so. The right hon. Member for Battersea, North mentioned some of them. I think that great difficulties are involved in most of the suggestions that he made.
As regards E.F.T.A., well and good. Let us try to develop it. However, we have to face the fact that, the minute we try to develop E.F.T.A., we shall come up against the agricultural problem. I do not regret that, because it would be a good thing if we did, if only because it 463 would stimulate a review of our own obligations in agricultural matters. But if anyone imagines that the Danes, for example, will develop E.F.T.A. purely industrially and not have some kind of wider access to our agricultural markets, he is deluding himself. The development of E.F.T.A. brings in a whole new complex, but I would like to know whether the Government have considered that.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the suggestions made, apparently, as an aside by General de Gaulle at his Press conference and now taken up by Gaullist speakers at Strasbourg and, according to rumour, by the German Government, about a possible industrial free trade area between E.F.T.A. and the E.E.C. I would be surprised if this one was a runner, if only because we have tried it before. It was what the Maudling Committee was all about in 1958 and 1959, and it did not get very far. I cannot believe that General de Gaulle has done a 180 degree turn on that one and is now prepared to allow us all the advantages of an industrial free trade area which are to our benefit, without the disadvantages of an agricultural free trade area, which are entirely to his.
§ Mr. Jay
Does not the hon. Gentleman think that General de Gaulle, on the evidence of his own statements, might be willing to make a trade agreement of this kind if thereby he could avoid a lot of new members entering the ruling bodies of E.E.C? There might be features in such a bargain which were of benefit to both of us.
§ Mr. Kirk
If he could avoid both options, he would do so, but I cannot see why he should be anxious to make a trade agreement entirely to the disadvantage of France, which will also find itself disadvantaged by the Customs Union coming into effect on 1st July. By all means, let us pursue that, but let us not pursue it in the hope that anything will come of it, because I do not think that it will.
Then we have the suggestion of a North Atlantic free trade area, which is a very popular idea these days. Has the right hon. Gentleman or anyone else any evidence that the United States has the slightest interest in such an arrangement? For my sins, I have spent some time in 464 the United States during the last few months, and I have asked everyone about it. I have been told that Congress, so far from being prepared to sanction any such arrangement, is becoming more protectionist by the hour and that, if we are not careful, all the beneficial effects of the Kennedy Round will be undone by domestic legislation in the United States. I cannot believe that there is any point in pursuing any arrangement, especially in an election year in the United States, which will harden its line on arrangements which we have already made and make it impossible to make any future ones.
I know the right hon. Gentleman's views on the Common Market. We have debated it before in this House and outside, and we shall never agree. But that is not the only reason why we are in this present mess, and there are ways and means whereby we can get some sort of sensible European policy. I regret that the Foreign Secretary did not refer to them today.
What are the alternatives? At Guildhall, on 13th November, the Prime Minister put forward a set of proposals for a technological community. I do not know whether it is within the Commonwealth Secretary's brief, but I hope that someone will tell us more about this during the course of the debate, because it is important that we should be told what is happening about the proposal. Do the Government intend to pursue it by a detailed application to the Six member States and the States of E.F.T.A., or has the Prime Minister made the offer in these vague terms in his Guildhall speech, leaving it up to the other Governments to decide whether they want to discuss it? I believe that the idea has a great deal of merit, but I can see certain disadvantages and obstacles to it which may be crucial.
I cannot believe that the concomitant to it, Signor Fanfani's idea of technological Marshall aid will appeal very much to the Americans. I doubt whether they could do much about it, anyway, because it depends so much upon what American private industry is prepared to do. A stronger objection is that so much will depend upon the harmonisation of patent and taxation laws of the countries within the Community, and the Six themselves are so advanced along these lines 465 that it might be difficult to get in without being a member of the Community as well. It may be impossible to create a technological community without our entry into E.E.C.
Another suggestion which is worth following up and bears rather more on the main theme of this debate is whether, if we are now seriously to become a European defence Power, which appears to be the purport of the Foreign Secretary's speech, we should not be reconsidering our defence and political arrangements with Europe. We have taken for granted for far too long that, provided we maintain a substantial body of troops in Germany doing nothing, we are making our contribution to the alliance. But that is not true. It is very weakening to the economy, and it is not contributing anything in real terms to the defence of this country, though it contributes something in terms of foreign policy in our relations with the Federal Republic.
As one of two Governments forced by their freely entered into obligations to maintain troops in Europe, we ought to be approaching the other Governments of the alliance to see whether the strategic plan for Europe is right and whether we need these troops stationed in Europe. Would it not be better for us in N.A.T.O. to ask if we have got the strategy right, and might we not do better with smaller numbers of more mobile troops on the Continent for firefighting operations, so to speak, and with bigger reserves at home, though the Government have abolished reserves in this country, and, above all, a proper defence plan for what is now the soft area of Europe, the Mediterranean?
Again, I hoped to hear more from the Foreign Secretary about what our plans are for the Mediterranean area. Are we to put back troops in Malta and a fleet in the Mediterranean, and are we to react to the presence of the Soviet fleet in the Mediterranean, or will we leave it to the Americans, as we have in other areas? That is what I wanted to hear from the Foreign Secretary but, alas, we did not hear it.
I am driven to the conclusion that the Government have no foreign policy. They are reacting to events, domestically and outside, with a series of improvisations 466 which has proved disastrous and left us with no defence outside Europe and precious little in it, and no influence anywhere.
It may be that hon. Members below the Gangway opposite will want to talk about Vietnam in this debate. They must realise, if they do, that whatever view one takes of it—and possibly I take a different one from them, at any rate about the American presence there—there is nothing that we can do to influence the United States about Vietnam, whether we want to or not. At the moment, we cannot influence anyone, even in Europe.
If we are serious about a change of emphasis in our defence and foreign policies, we need some concrete proposals about how it is to be worked out. We have had nothing today, and, because we have had nothing, I shall join with my right hon. and hon. Friends in voting against the Government tomorrow night.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)
I hope that the House will excuse me if I confine myself to one single topic of foreign affairs today, namely, the situation in Vietnam. The hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) asked whether any useful purpose could be served by having a debate on this subject. I believe that there are three main reasons why it should be raised by hon. Members tonight.
First, we have some responsibility as one of the co-chairmen of the Geneva Conference. Secondly, the Vietnam war, apart from the possibility of further escalation, is without doubt causing an obstruction to the various possibilities of agreement in areas well away from South-East Asia. Thirdly, even if the first two reasons did not exist, I believe that the sheer horror, brutality and loss of life in Vietnam to be a sufficient reason why the House should not be indifferent to the war taking place there.
I do not accept the common assumption shared by some hon. Members—mainly on the other side—that the war in Vietnam was caused by Communist aggression from the north and that, if this aggression had not taken place in 1959 or 1960, there would have been no 467 need for the Americans to have intervened. Without doubt, much of the responsibility for the loss of lives in Vietnam rests with the French. Had the French at the end of the Second World War shown a willingness to negotiate and shown some awareness of the immediate post-war situation, it is possible that in 1945 or 1946 the French Government of the time could have come to an agreement with the Ho Chi Minh Communists and Nationalists.
The French refused to negotiate. They were determined to win back this part of Indo China and occupy it in the same way as they did before the beginning of the Second World War. So, for seven long bloody years, the French waged war against the Viet Minh. I would ask this question of those who today condemn the Vietcong and say that they are the people who are fighting a wrong cause and not representative of the Vietnamese people in the south: were the Viet Minh wrong in fighting the French from 1947 to 1954 for the liberation of their country?
I believe that the historians are already coming to the conclusion that the Viet Minh waged a legitimate battle against the French, and that it is possible in the years ahead, when this war has come to an end, that it will be agreed that the Vietcong were as much in the right as the Viet Minh were in fighting against the French.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
I think that my hon. Friend is inaccurate in one respect. The French did make an agreement and they subsequently broke it. The same thing happened again in 1954.
§ Mr. Winnick
With respect to my hon. Friend, it shows the point I was trying to make. The French were not willing to come to a proper agreement and observe it at the time with the Ho Chi Minh Communists and Nationalist supporters. After 1954 when the French were defeated and after the Geneva Conference, when Vietnam was divided into two parts, the Americans repeated all the mistakes of the French. If the Americans had been willing to learn from the mistakes of the French and had been willing to see genuine reforms carried out in the south, I believe that this civil war would never have taken place.
468 If there was a Communist plot—and I do not believe that there was—being organised by the Government of North Vietnam, the manner in which the Americans and their puppet régime carried on after 1954 played right into the hands of such plotters.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr
I think that my hon. Friend would agree that, in fact, the Americans were backing up the French before Dien Bien Phu and in 1954 had sent in 1 billion dollars worth of military aid to support the French colonialists.
§ Mr. Winnick
I do not necessarily disagree with my hon. Friend.
After 1954, the Dien régime was as corrupt régime which showed no interest in genuine reform or changes. We all remember the characters connected with it: the various relatives of the president and his notorious sister-in-law, Madame Nu. We know what happened. Most of the family were assasinated by anti-Communists.
It is remarkable that there should be right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in Britain who are determined to defend the American line of policy in Vietnam. Last Saturday, Republican Senator George Aitken was reported in the Senate as saying that he accused the American Government of having unwarrantedly designated the war as one against world Communism. He went on to say that to picture the Vietcong and North Vietnamese as integral parts of a unified and monolithic world Communism was "simply a self-destructive fantasy". He said that the enemy in Vietnam were, first of all, Nationalists; that some call themselves Communists is important, but not vital.
General Shoup, a former commander of the American Marine Corps—not, to the best of my knowledge, a Communist front organization—went so far as to describe the President's contention that the Vietnam war was vital to U.S. security interests as "pure unadulterated poppycock". He insisted that the conflict posed no threat to the United States and was civil war between "those crooks in Saigon" and Vietnamese Nationalists seeking a better life.
With permission of the House, I should like to quote what appeared in a report in The Guardian on 8th August, 1967, a 469 report which had been carried by the New York Times by that newspaper's own correspondent in Vietnam. Their correspondent writes as follows:'What it needed is someone who can seriously make the same claim on the loyalty of the people as Ho Chi Minh does in the North. Without that there can be nothing. The Americans will never understand, but it is obvious that the problem is not military but political, not American but Vietnamese.He went on to say, in his report in the New York Times:We have more of everything military—more bombing, more troops, more money—yet the situation does not change. This can be explained only in terms of the population's indifference. or even hostility, to Saigon.So much for the myth that what the Americans are doing in South Vietnam is waging a war in that country for peace and democracy. It is not true. It is a myth.
I turn to the question of the bombing of the North. The bombing started nearly three years ago. I said in the House—and I know that some hon. Members at the time disagreed with my remarks—that when President Johnson stated that the bombing of the North was only concerned with bombing military targets and installations, that that was a lie. I repeat it today. I believe that the American Government and the American President lied when they said that they were concerned only with bombing military installations and military targets in the North.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Mr. Deputy Speaker, is it in accordance with the customs of the House of Commons that one accuses the Head of State of a friendly allied Government of lying?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The tradition of the House is that right hon. and hon. Members are responsible for such statements as they make to the House. This is not a matter for the Chair.
§ Mr. Winnick
I only wish that those who are concerned about my words referring to the American President could show die same concern for the victims of American bombing. I believe that many of the targets of American bombing have been the civilian population. The total number of bombs dropped by the Americans exceeds that employed by them during the whole of the Second 470 World War. By March of last year 77,000 tons of bombs had been dropped on the North. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were somewhat bothered about my remark a few moments ago——
§ Mr. Winnick
I do not make these remarks lightly. I believe that we should be as much concerned with the bombing of North Vietnam as hon. Members were before the Second World War when the Germans were doing their bombing of Spain.
In a report in the Sun of 18th November, 1967—and this has not been challenged or denied by any American official—their correspondent, a Swedish journalist, said:Missiles and bombs from American planes took their toll today in a heavily populated district of Hanoi. I saw eight bodies in a shack shortly after the raid. In the very heart of North Vietnam's capital, one missile hit the headquarters of the International Control Commission. One Indian was killed, another wounded.He then went on to speak about anti personnel bombs being used by the Americans. This is a very interesting report.
On 2nd November, 1967, The Guardian carried a report headed, "Pellet bombs cause mounting hatred for U.S. in Hanoi," and said:One hundred and twenty-five people were wounded by the latest American raids on Hanoi. It does not seem many, but when you later meet a couple of dozen of them lying in hospital beds the figure takes on new proportions. Most were victims of pellet bombs.Today I toured two hospitals here in Hanoi. The less severe cases had already been transferred elsewhere. I saw seven men in a row of beds who had all had stomach operations for abdominal wounds and for the removal of pellets. In some cases the pellets had to be left inside, but all seven were doing well.I also saw a 14-year old boy who was not doing so well—he had been in a coma for four days. And I saw a woman of 29 who had been caught by a pellet bomb in one of the one-man concrete cube shelters with her 2-year old daughter on her lap. The bomb rolled down on them and the child caught the brunt of the pellets and was killed. The mother survived—with her legs, back, and shoulders one mass of little wounds.Is it difficult to understand why there is mounting hatred in North Vietnam for what the Americans are doing? If that 471 is a lie, if it has been put across by Communist propaganda from Hanoi, why is it that no one from the United States Administration or United States Embassy has challenged it? I mean it when I say that I do not like saying that the truth of the matter is that not only has there been severe bombing in the last three years, but that the Americans have deliberately used a form of anti-personnel bomb to cause the maximum amount of suffering and death to the civilian population.
I have a great love and affection for the United States as a country. I have relatives there who are dear to me. It gives me no pleasure to denounce United States policy in Vietnam in these terms. Despite what hon. Gentlemen opposite may say, I am not anti-American and never will be.
As a critic of United States policy in Vietnam, what gives me so much satisfaction is that in the United States there is a growing volume of protest against their own Government's policies. It takes more courage than it does in Britain for people in America to go on to the streets and say that their country is in the wrong. I know that this has been done in Britain. We, too, have honourable traditions. One has read about the campaign waged by David Lloyd George and others against this country's policy at the time of the Boer War. In the United States today there is a growing body of opinion, perhaps a minority, which is ashamed and humiliated at what the Americans are doing in Vietnam.
It has been said before, and I think rightly, that a nation which conducts a colonial war brutalises itself. We saw examples of this in France after the Second World War, during the Indo-China War and the Algerian War. A great deal of French public and private life became corrupt. It was due largely to the sort of colonial wars which they were waging. I believe, rightly or wrongly, that much of American society has been brutalised by the sort of colonial war which is now being waged in South-East Asia.
§ Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)
Will the hon. Gentleman analyse the effect on the Soviet Union of its intervention in Hungary?
§ Mr. Winnick
I do not know what Hungary has to do with this debate. If the hon. Gentleman is asking whether I was in favour of Russian intervention in Hungary, the obvious answer is "No". I believe that people have a right to self-determination. I would be the last to justify what the Russians did in Hungary. What is the hon. Gentleman trying to prove? Can America's action in Vietnam be excused by what the Russians did in Hungary?
I do not wish to deviate from the debate, but I remember demonstrating against the Suez aggression, and those who demonstrated had a slogan "Hands off Suez. Hands of Budapest." I do not need to be lectured about Soviet intervention in Hungary.
I have tried to set out, no doubt inadequately, my view of the reason for the war in Vietnam. The essential thing is to end the war by negotiation. I do not believe that the Americans can win. No matter how long they are involved there, be it for another two years, five years, or eight years, I do not believe that they can win, any more than the French could win before them, but I must say, and perhaps some of my hon. Friends will disagree with me, that I do not believe the other side can win either. The Communists can fight on, and will fight on, but they will never surrender, but they cannot, in my view, win the same kind of military victory against the Americans as the Viet Minh won against the French.
After nearly 30 years of war against the Japanese, the French, and the Americans, there is a tremendous need for peace to come to that unhappy country. Some of my hon. Friends and I have said that if the Americans stop bombing North Vietnam there will be an opportunity for negotiations to take place. We have had the statement from the Foreign Secretary of the Government of North Vietnam. They have said that if the bombing stops there will be negotiations. If the Americans are keen to have negotiations, if there is this tremendous desire on their part to sit round the table and negotiate an end to the war, there should be some enthusiasm on their part to stop bombing and start negotiating, but the moment the Government of North Vietnam made their statement there seemed to be considerable hesitation on the American side. We were reminded of 473 the time that it took for negotiations to end the Korean War. Was it not better to negotiate than continue the war?
§ Mr. Richard
My hon. Friend is putting forward a strong argument against the Americans. He should be accurate in his statements. The Korean War is apposite at the moment because the point made by the United States Government is that while negotiations were going on in Korea the war continued. That is die whole point. That is what they want to avoid.
§ Mr. Winnick
Be that as it may, negotiations took place in Korea, and the war was brought to an end. I hope that if negotiations start in Vietnam—I admit that the matter is complex—they will not take so long to conclude.
The point I am trying to make is that there is little enthusiasm on the part of the Americans to start the negotiations, despite the remarks made over the years, end certainly during die last few months, by President Johnson that if there was any sign from Hanoi that they wanted talks he would be willing to go anywhere, at any time, to start them. The reason for this is that the view is still held in Washington—I do not know whether it is held by the American President—that they can win an outright military victory, and if they continue for long enough, if they send in enough troops, and escalate the war still further, they will win. The Communists will never surrender, even if they have to keep fighting for another five, 10, or 15 years.
I ask Her Majesty's Government to put every possible pressure on the United States to get them to stop the bombing so that negotiations can start. I do not want to go over the disagreement between a number of us and die Government over their policy with regard to Vietnam. It is no secret. I have long felt—and this view was shared by die Labour Party conference last year—that Britain should dissociate herself from American policy in Vietnam, but the most immediate need for the people of that country is for the war to stop.
The Foreign Secretary said today that the Americans were exploring die possibility of negotiations taking place. If it appears that die Americans will refuse 474 to negotiate, if they refuse to stop the bombing, will Her Majesty's Government speak out publicly and condemn the refusal of the Americans to stop bombing, so that talks can begin? The people of Vietnam have a right to live in peace. They do not want to be occupied by foreign troops.
We may have many disagreements with die kind of regime that exists in North Vietnam. I have never been a defender of dictatorships, and I never will be, but this is basically a nationalistic fight. I hope that the Americans will see sense. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will push the Americans into seeing sense, so that the bombing can stop, and at long last talks can begin to endthis horrifying and bloody war.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour (Norfolk, Central)
The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) never faced the point that even if everything he said were correct he would still be supporting a Government which had made it very much more difficult for this country to have any influence in the direction he was indicating. The Foreign Secretary said that we would be stronger as a result of the withdrawal of our troops, and that the British Council would move in, together with information services, and so on. This will not help the hon. Member with the problems that he referred to in Vietnam.
The right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) produced figures showing the economic fantasy of the Government's troop movements, and the expense of our troops in Europe. It is possible to agree with the right hon. Gentleman about our troops in Europe without sharing his views on the Common Market. Although our main interests lie in Europe it does not follow that our troops should be placed there. That is a sort of Maginot Line complex, and we all know what happened to the Maginot Line. Indeed, it is rather worse than the Maginot Line complex, because at least that was erected against the right enemy, even if it was in the wrong place.
To have all our troops in Europe is not only to have them in the wrong place, but to have them ranged against the wrong enemy. It does not seem to me that the cold war is going on in the way 475 it was, or that there is any prospect of a war with Russia at present. It is conceded by my hon. Friends that a withdrawal at the right time would be defensible, but one carried out in the present circumstances seems to us to be totally wrong and very dangerous.
The other day Mr. Harold Macmillan reminded us how, during the 1940s, Sir Winston Churchill talked about Cromwell as being so obsessed with the danger and the power of Spain that he completely neglected the rise in the power of France and the danger she presented. The parallel today is our being so obsessed with the danger of Russia that we fail to notice the distinctly dangerous tendencies of American policy both in the Middle East and the Far East.
With the breaking up of the old certainties of the 1940s it is time Britain started following her own interests and not always worrying too much about the interests of the West. Our interests in the Middle East are quite plainly the opening of the Suez Canal and the maintenance of our oil investments and our trading relationships in the area. America is certainly following her interests in the Middle East, and her policy there does not seem to bear any relation to Western interests. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, the balance has tilted towards Russia in the Middle East fairly recently, and this will be increased by our withdrawal, but the main reason is that the West, and America in particular, has contrived to get lined up with Israel, which necessarily pushes the Arabs into the hands of the Communists.
This is obviously quite contrary to Western interests. If it continues we will get back to what happened in the 1940s, when a previous American Defence Sectary pointed out that American policy was guided far too much by electoral considerations. By wholeheartedly backing Israel at the moment President Johnson receives a double electoral boost. He gets a boost from the Jewish vote in New York over the Middle East. It also helps to moderate opposition to Vietnam, because a large part of the most enlightened intelligent and articulate section of the Democratic Party in America is Jewish, and is worried about Vietnam.
It is dangerous that America should seem to be rather washing her hands of 476 the area, except electorally, and that it should be more or less agreed by nearly all Americans that nothing can be done in the Middle East until after the election. President Johnson seems to regard the Middle East rather as he regards the Middle West—as an area in which votes are to be sought and gathered.
The re-election of President Johnson is not a British interest. Our interest lies in the opening of the Suez Canal, and I congratulate the Government and Lord Caradon on their resolution in the United Nations although I was surprised by the optimism shown by the right hon. Gentleman about that resolution. Unless the American attitude changes there does not seem to be any serious prospect of much happening to it. Israel is the only country whose interest lies in keeping the Canal closed, and America goes along with her either because she wants to stop Russia sending supplies to Vietnam through the Canal or because of electoral considerations. She does not seem to show very great interest in getting the Canal opened.
§ Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that Israel is not prepared to open the Canal if international obligations are fulfilled and Israel is allowed—as other nations are allowed—to go through the Canal? Does not he agree that she should be allowed to go through the Canal?
§ Mr. Gilmour
I have not heard that the only condition for an Israeli withdrawal from the places that she now occupies is that she should be allowed through the Canal.
§ Mr. Gilmour
In the autumn the Arab States went very far in the direction of a peaceful and honourable settlement.
§ Mr. Gilmour
They accepted the resolution which the Indians and the Latin-American States were pressing in the United Nations, which eventually foundered on American indifference. It would have been based on the very reasonable compromise of free passage through the Gulf of Aqaba and Suez, the end of 477 belligerence and a recognition and guarantee of frontiers—which are entirely legitimate Israeli demands—in return for an Israeli withdrawal and a resettlement of refugees—which are entirely legitimate Arab demands.
It will be an extraordinary frivolity on the part of the Americans if this chance of a settlement—which was there and may still be there—is thrown away simply because the Americans cannot bring themselves to persuade the Israelis to accept it. From the American point of view, that settlement is as much as they could want.
Israel, apparently, would like more territory. The colonisation that is going on in Jordan is appalling, as is the razing of villages to the ground. It is high time that the Americans realised that they cannot elsewhere support self-determination and the freedom of people to choose their own destiny and then see it denied to the Arabs merely because it is the Israelis who are denying it.
§ Mr. Gilmour
If the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) thinks that annexation of Jerusalem, which is 100 per cent. Arab—and every person in Jerusalem would be against its being annexed—is not an outrageous and flagrant denial of the principle of self-determination, I do not know what he thinks is.
§ Sir B. Janner
Would the hon. Gentleman say who first annexed any part of Jerusalem?—[Laughter.] I mean in recent years.
§ Mr. Gilmour
If the hon. Gentleman thinks back, he will remember that, after the war, the Israelis annexed what had been Moslem land for about 1,300 years.
I find the rights and wrongs of Vietnam difficult to sort out and I am not reassured about American motives there by the way in which they treat the Middle East. But it is no good their fighting in South Vietnam in defence, apparently, of the South Vietnamese right to rule themselves and decide their own future it", at the same time, they are allowing their protegés, the Israelis, to deny those fundamental and elemental rights of self- determination to the Arab States——
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvin-grove)
On a point of order. Would you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, ask the hon. Gentleman to speak up, since we cannot hear him?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Order. Did the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) hear the point of order, that an hon. Member in another part of the House could not hear what he was saying?
§ Mr. Gilmour
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was giving way to the hon. Lady the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr).
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the Americans have completely changed their argument about why they are in Vietnam at all? They were saying that they were there to provide for the freedom of the South Vietnamese and have now completely changed their tune and are saying that in this way they can better contain Communism.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the Americans have changed their argument, in that they were saying that the reason for their being in Vietnam at all and taking part in the aggression against certain Vietnamese was because they were there to defend the freedoms of the Southern Vietnamese? They have now completely altered their line of attack and now say that they are there to contain Communism in South-East Asia and admit quite other reasons for their presence in the region. Yes or no?
§ Mr. Gilmour
I am grateful to the hon. Lady, but I was not aware that they had changed their argument in that way, although they may have added another one to it.
I think that my argument is still true. If the hon. Member for Leicester, Northwest, who is a respected spokesman for Zionism, objects to what I am saying, and will repudiate any idea of the further denial of self-determination and say that it is contrary to the wishes of the ideas of the Zionist movement of Great 479 Britain, he would make a significant step towards peace——
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
In all conscience, if 60 million people deliberately set out to exterminate 2 million and get a hiding, and the 2 million get better frontiers, what has determination got to do with it? The people within those frontiers can go somewhere else if they do not like the Government which they now have.
§ Mr. Gilmour
If the hon. and learned Member thinks back, he will remember that the 2 million attacked for the second time in 11 years, which is quite frequent. The hon. and learned Gentleman, we know, is constant in that he has certain ideas about Rhodesia which are not shared by other hon. Members on that side.
The general idea is that subject peoples should not be treated in certain ways, but an exception is made in the case of the Arabs. If the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West will say, when he speaks, exactly how far he thinks this principle of self-determination should be extended to the Arabs, that would be a significant step forward——
§ Sir B. Janner rose——
§ Mr. Gilmour
I think that I have given way enough.
The West cannot seriously resist the charge of arrant hypocrisy unless it applies the same standards to Palestine and the surrounding countries in the Middle East as it does to the Far East and Africa. It is high time that the double standards which are general in the Press and many parts of the House were abolished and all people treated the same.
In any event, unfortunately, because of the Government's policies, it is unlikely that we shall have much influence in the Middle East or in the Far East. My hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) said that the Government had decided their policy in panic and had merely reacted to events. It is perhaps a compliment to them, since the events to which they reacted were non-events, inside their own party. However, as my hon. Friend said, the Government have no foreign policy at the 480 moment, and that is why we will vote against them tomorrow.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
I am glad that the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) is still present, because I want to take up one point which seemed to be central to the first part of his argument. He was attacking the Government for their decision to withdraw from the Gulf on the basis that our Gulf commitments were essential now not merely to stability in the Middle East, but to the defence of Europe.
One interesting fact which I would have thought tended to militate against this point is that no other European nation seems to agree with him. I do not believe that we have a monopoly of self-preservation. If it is an impelling emotion for us making us more perceptive of the Russian threat, then it would make other European nations just as perceptive of the same danger, but I have read nothing recently to show that European statesmen regard our withdrawal from the Middle East as in some way deterimental to European security.
I listened with interest, as I always do, to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick), who spoke with his accustomed force. Although I always enjoy listening to him because of the vigor and tenancity with which he puts his point, surely it is an incredible waste of time, in the middle of a foreign affairs debate at this time for this country, to devote no less than 25 minutes to attacking the policy of the United States in Vietnam. Surely the one thing on which almost everyone in the House is agreed is that our influence over what is going on in Vietnam is quite extraordinarily diminutive.
I should, therefore, like to turn to what seems to be the main theme of the debate, for it is, after all, a continuation of the series of debates which we had last week. We should be discussing tonight what Britain's position in the world will be not merely for the next few years, but perhaps until the end of the century. As we move into the final quarter of the 20th century, what we must all consider is what sort of a world we will move into, what dangers 481 there will be for us and other nations, and how best we can fit into that world.
When I was deciding whether to speak in this debate, I pondered for a moment on the position in October, 1964. If, on 5th October, 1964, an intelligent Martian had descended in his space ship, been shown a map of the world and told that here was a series of geographically small islands, 22 miles off the coast of Europe, called the islands of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and that, in the interests of that comparatively small group of islands, it was necessary for them to have troops stationed (moving from right to left across this hypothetical map of the world) in Hong Kong, Borneo, Singapore, Malaya, Thailand, Australasia, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, Nepal, Aden, South Arabia, the Gulf, Libya, Cyprus, Malta, Gibralta, Western Germany, the South Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Arctic and, I believe, Antarctica, our intelligent Martian could have been forgiven for asking "Why?".
If he had then been told that none of our major industrial competitors, with whom we were competing bitterly in the hope of increasing our share of world markets, found it necessary to do the same, and that our national interests had lo be safeguarded by our maintaining a defence budget higher, in relative terms, than any of our major industrial competitors of comparable size, he would have asked, "Why, oh why?" He would have wondered, for example, why it was necessary for Britain to be a member of the three great global defensive alliances, N.A.T.O., CENTO and S.E.A.T.O, while Western Germany, our major industrial competitor, found it necessary to be a member of only one, and that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
He would have wanted the answers to these questions because they are the fundamental queries raised by this debate. During the last three years the Government have been trying to answer them in a coherent and meaningful way. If the Martian had asked those questions before October, 1964 the answers he would have got would have been incredibly unclear. Thus, the exercise which the Government have been engaged in carrying out over the last three years has been a difficult one, but an inevitable and right one for 482 them to be performing. It has been the exercise of trying to relate our military expenditure to a deliberately chosen set of policy objectives, and, at the same time, to keep it within the limits which the nation can afford. Those are the principles on which the topic should be approached.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
That Martian might have asked what a small country like Great Britain got out of the Persian Gulf and what its industrial competitors got out of it. When he got the answer—that its competitors got nothing while we got a lot—he would probably have considered that to be a reasonable explanation.
§ Mr. Richard
The hon. Gentleman has answered the question to his own satisfaction. Perhaps he will forgive me if I now try to answer it to the satisfaction of the Martian.
If one applies the principle which I just put—namely, that one should try to relate one's military expenditure to one's foreign policy objectives within the limits of what the nation can afford—one can see how it works out. Take, for example, Aden. We have been bitterly attacked in the last year or so for the deliberate decision of the Government to withdraw from the base in Aden. I believe that the decision was absolutely right, and I can think of no national interest which Britain was serving by maintaining its garison in the Port of Aden—the main purpose of which was to defend itself from no less than two nationalist organisations, both of which were shooting at it and at each other at the same time.
If the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) is wondering what national interests we have, I suggest that there are three main ones. The first is the survival of Britain as a nation State. To maintain Britain, and its survival, as a nation State, I do not believe that the economic argument plays a large part. I suggest that there would be little argument against the proposition that, to survive, one first does what is needed for survival, and then one adds up the cost and pays the bill, whatever it might be.
The second—this is not so critical and vital a national interest—is that one 483 wants to look after one's economic well-being; for example, to protect one's investments. The third national interest to try to maintain is the ability to influence patterns of world events in other parts of the globe.
Those, therefore, are the interests which any nation must consider. Weighed against those three—survival, economic interests and the power to influence world events—it seems that the decisions which the Government have taken during the last three years have been absolutely right and sensible. I say that for three reasons. The first is because we were spending more than we could afford in pursuit of our foreign policy objectives. The second is because in October, 1964, our foreign policy objectives were too diffuse and unclear. The third is because the decisions that have been taken, in foreign policy terms, have, by and large, been sensible in that we have cut out a number of inessentials and are trying to relate our interests to what we can afford.
The hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) said that the timing of decisions was important. I agree with this. Timing is extremely important when considering this problem of how one withdraws from certain parts of the globe. I admit that the latest set of decisions, particularly over Singapore, appear to be hurried. I accept the argument which is being put by some hon. Gentlemen opposite and certain people outside that the timing of the withdrawal from Singapore has been over-hasty. This is an area where we were known, where we were wanted and where we had helped in the recent past. It is an area where we could help again.
I do not see what is the overriding national interest for Britain—and this is the test—which demands that we should leave Singapore by 1971 rather than by 1975. The additional expenditure on those three or four years would be comparatively small, yet the return on that investment might be great. That is why I regard this as a somewhat precipitate decision and one which I do not particularly favour, because the presence that we have in South-East Asia does give us an influence which we would not otherwise have.
484 It is all very well for some of my hon. Friends to complain about American policy in Vietnam. They have strong views and I have heard them expressed on numerous occasions, both inside and outside the House. However, one way in which we will never be able to influence what goes on in South-East Asia is if we withdraw totally from that area. One way in which we will never be able to say to the United States, "We disagree with what you are doing. Change your policy", and have at least some sanction for it, is if we totally withdraw from the area of the world most concerned.
§ Mr. Richard
I do not want to give away what little we have. I want to make my hon. Friends face up to the reality of the situation, which is that, by withdrawing from South-East Asia, we will not be in a stronger position to influence the policy of the United States, with which they disagree, but we will be weaker.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr rose——
§ Mr. Richard
My hon. Friend has been interrupting well all afternoon. She will forgive me, I hope, if I complete my speech without any assistance from her.
South-East Asia is an area which is potentially extremely dangerous to our economic interests and. possibly, to our survival. I do not believe, for example, that if there was a Sino-American confrontation in Asia which turned nuclear. Europe would be able to remain neutral. For I do not believe that if bombs were to be used in the Far East, Europe could wash its hands of the whole affair and say, "We are not interested or concerned."
I regret, that we seem to have given the impression of wanting to get out of the area precipitously. At present, we have a reasonable chance of influencing the pattern of events in this part of Asia, at least in Singapore and Malaysia. That will not be the case after our withdrawal.
To sum up then, the Opposition are not facing up to the realities of Britain in 485 the final quarter of the 20th century. We are a comparatively small nation in size, but a gifted and a rich one. In international terms, we are not large and, therefore, the aspect which we must face is that of applying such power as we have in the right place, at the right time and in the right quantity. I therefore support the deliberations which the Government have been carrying out during the last three years, an exercise which is designed precisely to bring that state of affairs about.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)
I agreed with many of the remarks of the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard), although I did not agree with his peroration, since the whole point at issue is that, given that we should maintain our influence in the world, how best should we maintain that influence? My right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) so effectively indicated that Singapore and the Persian Gulf are two such areas.
I was very surprised by what the Foreign Secretary said about the visit made to the Persian Gulf by the Minister of State. Anyone who knows anything about that area knows perfectly well that the assurances given by the Minister of State on his visit in November were taken very seriously by the Governments there, just as the somersualt that he had to perform on his second visit to the Gulf caused a considerable amount of shock and deep surprise.
I was astonished that the Secretary of State for Defence should have referred to the Gulf Rulers as he did on television the other night. As my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) has already said, there is no question of our being mercenaries. Are we mercenaries in Germany? If the Rulers wish to share in the cost of maintaining troops there, I think that this would be of great advantage to the area and to Great Britain. It was an extremely foolish and irresponsible thing to be said by the Secretary of State—a man who, after all, if he had conformed to the normal decencies of public life, should have been announcing his resignation. The cost involved in the area is negligible compared with our economic interests there. This was not an economic decision but a 486 political decision taken for highly questionable motives.
I turn now to the unresolved conflict between Israel and the Arab States. In our one-day debate in November I pointed out that for Israel the most lasting and positive outcome of the June war was that she could finally achieve recognition by most of the Arab countries; that, although the Arab countries had been decisively defeated, they are preponderant in numbers and, in the long run, in resources, so that this recognition was essential.
Recognition and security had been the two most important stated Israeli objectives. At last, it seemed that both were in sight of being obtained—recognition by the Arab countries, together with a great Power guarantee of the pre-June war frontiers, with the presence of a United Nations force guaranteed by the great Powers—about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire had spoken when he opened the November debate.
I said that if this could be achieved it would be a gain of fundamental and permanent value; one which would not only give Israel long term security but give a promise of peace and stability to the area. It could even open up between Israel and her Arab neighbours an era of economic co-operation of great mutual benefit. Compared with this, the acquisition of more Arab land, although it might give an unjustified feeling of strategic security, could be of only ephemeral advantage.
It was the Israeli pre-emptive air strike which decided the war in June; it could easily be a pre-emptive air strike from the other side at a later date that could decide another war. Should events occur in that way, a few extra miles of territory acquired would count for nothing.
I believe that these facts remain profoundly true today, but, regrettably, I cannot see any indication whatever in the couple of months since that debate that Israel has been conducting her policy in order to achieve such an objective.
Does the hon. Member suggest that the kind of heavy artillery and other armament that was used on the Golan Heights should again be put there against the small kibbutzen in the valley? Is he suggesting that the orders that were given to destroy every man, woman and 487 child in the various kibbutzen should again be made possible of accomplishment by Israel releasing to her enemies places of such strategic importance?
§ Mr. Walters
I am suggesting that if there were an opportunity at this stage to reach a compromise solution, and if the Arab countries had given recognition to Israel, which is what she was seeking, plus a Great Power guarantee of the pre-June frontiers, the dangers adumbrated—although I do not accept all the implications behind the remarks of the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner)—would no longer exist.
An agreement was possible, because the fact that both President Nasser and King Hussein had indicated a willingness to compromise and negotiate presented Israel with the best chance of reaching a settlement that she has ever had—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] A great many statements have been made by King Hussein over here and at the United Nations, and also by Egypt, but Israel has rigidly adhered to a position which, although theoretically perfectly tenable—that is, that there should be no discussions or concessions of any kind unless full peace negotiations are initiated round the table with the Arab leaders—a position which she knows perfectly well has made it as difficult as possible for the Arab countries to accede to.
Moreover, the Israeli Government have laid down in advance that the status of Jerusalem is not negotiable; has been obstructive over the Suez Canal ships; utterly intractable on the question of repatriation of the refugees from the east bank and has continued with the colonisation of the west bank. Why should Jerusalem not be negotiable—
§ Mr. Walters
Jerusalem is immensely important to both sides. It is immensely important to the Jews but, one should recognise that it is immensely important to the Arabs, too. It has been argued that no Israeli Government could survive a major concession over Jerusalem, but it could be argued with equal validity that no Arab Government could survive a major concession over Jerusalem. Perhaps it is as well to remember that the person who has expressed himself in the most adamant terms over Jerusalem is 488 King Feisal of Saudi Arabia, in his capacity as Guardian of the Holy Places. An international status for Jerusalem, on the basis of the United Nations recommendation of 1947, is perhaps the only solution that could be found and that could still be negotiated.
Any suggestion that has been made—and suggestions have been made recently by the Egyptians of their willingness to allow the ships to leave the Suez Canal—have been sabotaged by the Israelis, who have stated that they, too, should be involved in all the pre-negotiations, thereby making it as difficult and as humiliating as possible to reach an agreement.
Of the more than 250,000 new refugees who were forced to leave their homes and take refuge on the east bank as a result of the June war only a few thousand have been allowed back, in spite of repeated assurances to the contrary, and the many public relations exercises aimed at indicating that refugees in substantial numbers would be allowed to return if they applied to do so. The grim plight of the refugees on the east bank became dramatic as some hon. Members who have visited them from both sides of the House had warned with the coming of winter. We saw in the Press some of the terrible pictures of the Souf Camp, when it was hit by floods.
A study made by the Department of Sociology of the American University in Beirut clearly showed that an overwhelming majority of the refugees wished to return if they could get permission. The study found that out of 100 refugee families questioned over a month in a typical camp 75 per cent, indicated that they would return if only they could be allowed to do so.
In the meantime, the colonisation of the west bank has continued. Not only have there been new Zionist settlements, but several more Arab villages have been razed to the ground. On 30th November The Times reported that Jiftliq had been completely destroyed. I shall quote two or three passages from the report. It says:During the past two weeks, bulldozers have levelled the 800 abode brick and concrete buildings of the village of Jiftliq leaving a pile of dust and rubble that stretches for more than a mile…Its prewar inhabitants were Arab peasants, mostly refugees from the 1948 war, who tilled the fertile farmland in the 489 valley…unoccupied houses in the neighbourhood, according to Mr. Jeffery Cassels, the west bank director of U.N.R.W.A.'I was unable to protest against the demolition of the village because it is not an U.N.R.W.A. project', he said.' Some of the people who lived in the village received food from us but they had built the houses themselves. Had the village been one of our camps, I would have done everything possible to stop the destruction.From the west bank there have been some savage attacks launched on the east bank. The Economist on 9th December described the shelling of Karameh as follows:This is a refugee camp of 1948 vintage that hitched itself to the landscape and became quite a flourishing Jordan valley town. It was here on the afternoon of November 20th that children, coming out of school, were caught in the splinter fire of Israeli mortars. These were aimed with deadly precision, right clown the main street, hitting the police post, the ration centre, the girls' school, came heavyweight high-fragmentation anti-personnel bombs. Western military attaches attest to this and to the scientific accuracy of the attack. The death roll of children and adults was higher than at Samu, the Jordanian west bank village that took the rap last year of Syrian-inspired attacks on Israel—out of whose bitterness escalated the full Arab-Israel war.It is quite obvious from all this that the situation on the west bank is deplorable just as the conditions of the refugees on the east bank are an intolerable outcome of the June war. In contrast to the awful reality of the conditions of the refugees and of life on the west bank, with houses being demolished, villages bulldozed and Arabs arrested and deported, the following advertisement appeared in the Observer on Sunday. It was for Israeli Airlines and says:You can add your little bit to the gaiety of nations by joining in a folk sing-up.It then goes on:You can bring to life biblical place names, Jericho, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron and Nazareth.It ends by saying:You can get to Israel in 4 hours.What possible right, except the right of blatant force, does Israel have to claim Jericho, Bethlehem, Hebron and, indeed, Jerusalem as parts of Israel? If this is an indication of the callous attitude of the Israeli authorities to the sufferings of the Arabs of Palestine I despair of a settlement being reached, 490 but I believe that there is still a chance if both sides are prepared to compromise. If the Israeli moderates will only assert themselves while the Arab leaders are pursuing a moderate and realistic policy there is still hope, but I believe that time is running out for the chance of achieving a settlement and a lasting peace.
Of course, Israel lived many years of claustrophic encirclement; of course, she received many and violent verbal pro vocations before the June war and——
§ Mr. Walters
If the hon. Member had allowed me to conclude, I was about to say that there were many verbal provocations and also non-verbal provocations by Syria. He will not forget the punitive expeditions carried out by the Israelis in Jordan. Of course, the Arab attitude to Israel, although historically understandable, has often been foolish and unrealistic, but if Israel genuinely wishes to achieve a lasting settlement and not just short-term success the time has come for her to review her policy drastically and to stop behaving in the way she has behaved since her victory in June.
It is certainly not in the interests of Britain or in the interests of the West that there should be a polarisation of forces in the Middle East, with Israel apparently totally associated with the West and the Arab countries increasingly and inevitably associated with the Soviet Union. To prevent this happening it is time that pressure was put on both sides to bring about a settlement which is acceptable and as just as circumstances will allow.
Obsessed with Vietnam, President Johnson has seemed to neglect altogether this other crucial sphere of influence for the West. As the Western super-Power the United States has responsibilities which it just cannot shrug off—a degree of vision which seems to be woefully lacking is called for. Britain should never fail to remind the United States of this fact and also provide some vision of our own.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mrs. Margaret McKay (Clapham)
As the Middle East problem is still unresolved and critical, I propose to confine my remarks also to that issue. First, I congratulate the Government on the resumption of diplomatic relations with Egypt, and, further, on the unanimous adoption of the British sponsored resolution—unanimous including both sides—at the United Nations Security Council, designed to make possible a Middle East settlement.
I think the House and the country will welcome these successes as indications of our improving relations with the Arab world, a trend we ought to follow for economic as well as for political reasons. It should be on record that in this problem of a Middle East conflict which affects our interests so vitally credit is due to the Arab States who, since the June war, have worked in a sober, constructive and realistic fashion for a political solution. They have welcomed and cooperated with the United Nations mediator to find a settlement which is just and honourable and which is on the principles of the United Nations Charter.
As the Security Council resolution is British-inspired, it becomes our duty and it is very much to our interests to see that it is fully implemented to prevent the situation deteriorating. The recent war solved no problems. It only intensified the Arab sense of wrong. It intensified hatred and brought a new generation into the conflicts of their fathers. It greatly diminished the hopes of the Jewish immigrants in Palestine of ever living there in security and stability on normal relations with their neighbours.
As sponsors of the Security Council resolution, the British Government are committed to its provisions. Therefore, we in particular must face this major question, what it is that Israel really wants. Is it normal relations with her neighbours in the Middle East that Israel wants?
§ Mrs. McKay
No. As a mild form of protest against all the sometimes hysterical interruptions which have been made whenever anyone has put the Arab case in the House, I propose not to give way to anyone, except to Mr. Speaker.
§ Mrs. McKay
Thank you, Mr. Speaker—and it will be a waste of time if anyone else does. I repeat that as sponsors of the Security Council resolution our Government are committed to realising its provisions, and therefore we must face up to what it is that Israel really wants.
§ Mrs. McKay
Is it normal relations that Israel wants with the Middle East, or does she want to play the conqueror's rôle?
§ Mrs. McKay
If Israel wants the former, then it should not be difficult for Britain and the United Nations to convince her of the wisdom of accepting, and rapidly applying, the Security Council resolution, of withdrawing from the territories which she has occupied, including Jerusalem, and of settling the refugee problem in accordance with the very many United Nations resolutions down the last 20 years. But Israel's insistence on direct negotiations with the Arabs, while Arab lands are still occupied, must arouse our suspicions. We must be clear whether this demand is not in fact a smokescreen to cover Israel's intention of securing a military solution and of obliterating the scores of United Nations resolutions which down the years have called on Israel to permit the refugees to return to their own homes and their own lands.
§ Mrs. McKay
No. If Israel's intention is not a military solution, with dictated peace terms, then the United Nations Charter provides her with ample methods of coming to terms with the Arabs. Article 33 of the United Nations Charter provides as follows:The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance 493 of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.The Arabs have made their choice. They have made their choice through United Nations mediation. There seems no reason at all why Israel should not (Jo the same and why she should demand direct confrontation if her intentions are not aggressive. It may be recalled that he last world war, for example, ended without peace negotiations, treaties or recognitions, yet there is peace in Europe. I think that this can be a lesson that Israel should also consider.
However, if Israel insists on a solution through military conquest, which is what some of us are convinced of—in fact it s what half the world is convinced of—she writes off any hope of a political and permanent solution, especially since, though Israel won the recent skirmish, she has not won a full-scale war and the Arab world is only marginally occupied and is very far indeed from being prostrate.
Perhaps Israel does not really appreciate this, but I think that we have got to get it clear to her that the only alternative to implementing the Security Council resolution is, sooner or later, war. In fact, that war underground has already broken out, to a far greater extent than the West is aware of. Underground fighting will not win the war, but it will at least keep the issues before the world until the Arabs are ready to fight back. But none of us wants this solution.
Therefore, let us look at the position of Israel in this situation. Israel is already an armed camp. She is an alien, self-created ghetto surrounded by 100 million of indigenous people whom she has taught to hate her. Israel must know that she can never hope to subdue them all and become military overlord of the Middle East. Time, as the Foreign Secretary has said, is not on anyone's side in the Middle East, but, if it is on anyone's side, then it is on the Arab's side and not on the side of Israel.
The Arab States at the moment in relation to Israel are technically and militarily backward, but their natural potential is far vaster. Arab populations are teeming and multiplying rapidly. 494 Their major sources of wealth are flourishing and untouched by the war. The Arabs appreciate fully the urgency of accelerated industrial development, of enhanced educational standards, and their need to master the techniques of modern warfare. The Arabs have the means and they have the will to acquire these.
§ Mrs. McKay
Furthermore, the Arabs are now aroused by a new and blazing political consciousness which we on this side of the House in particular ought to appreciate, sympathise with, and support.
§ Mrs. McKay
They are inspired by the vision of their self-determination, and they are learning by practice to act in unison to achieve their ends. Israel, on the other hand, although at present she enjoys a military advantage, has not solved her two main and fatal problems. One is, as has been pointed out, how to be accepted by her neighbours—and without that she cannot live forever.
§ Mrs. McKay
The second is how to resolve the severe social contradictions and economic instabilities of her form of regime. These are her internal problems, but, since they have a direct bearing on the peace of the world, on the stability of the Middle East, and on drawing us all into a world war, we should look briefly at Israel's position.
Immediately before the June war, Israel was in the grip of a crisis of social contradictions and economic recession, the latter arising from the basically faulty artificial nature of her economy, dependent for survival largely upon foreign donations. This economic weakness, complicated by lack of long-term planning, last spring brought about an economic collapse and heavy unemployment, especially among the socially degraded Oriental Jewish immigrants. It caused workless demonstrations, window smashing, in the streets of Tel Aviv, and more immigrants were leaving Israel than immigrants were entering Israel.
§ Mrs. McKay
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am perfectly capable of writing my own speeches and I intend to give them as well.
§ Mrs. McKay
I have a reason for reading this one—because of the interruptions to which every hon. Member who has put the Arab case has been subjected. I am adopting this attitude as a measure of self-defence, and I ask Mr. Speaker to bear with me. As I said, Israel, in the crisis of social contradictions and her economic collapse, required a diversion. We all know the answer to that one. The inflammatory oratory of certain Arab agitators, and the unfortunate brinksmanship of President Nasser, provided Israel with her grand excuse, her prepared-for excuse. And Israel struck.
Today President Nasser is a sadder and wiser man. But Israel, despite her victory, has not solved but has intensified her own basic problems. Despite the £100 million donated to Israel from abroad, the weakness of her economy persists. Israel's economic position persists. Her heavy unemployment persists. In addition, she has something like £40 million to find to pay for the cost of the war, and if there is no peace she will have to maintain a battle order far larger than, in excess of and out of proportion to her natural resources. Also she will have the cost of the political domination and of holding down the people in the areas which she has occupied and responsibility for their maintenance. She will also have to expand her arms production at the cost of her living standards.
In this situation, in the long-term interests of the Jewish people in general—and may I say that I think I am being a better friend to the Jewish people in what I am now saying than are some others, judging from the remarks made in this House—and in the interests of world peace, I hope it will be possible for our Government and the United 496 Nations to encourage Israel to see the wisdom of adopting, accepting and implementing the United Nations resolution.
I wish to say briefly a few words about the refugees. A very moving statement has been made to the House about the conditions of the refugees. I have just left those camps—it was not my first visit—and it was tragic to see the people living there under nylon tents in this weather, the mothers bearing their children on the earth, suffering all kinds of diseases and having to dig slit-trenches round those flimsy tents to shelter themselves and their children from shelling from the Israeli side.
I will not go further into this except to say that in the name of justice and humanity we should demand that the refugees are returned to their own homes in their own ancient lands. Meantime, as the United Nations and its components are the original authors of this problem, I think a little do-it-yourself help from the United Nations and individual countries would begin the flow of people into and out of Israel.
We know that many Jewish displaced persons went to Israel as the second best choice because the countries of the West closed their doors to those unfortunate people at the end of the last world war. Those countries—America, Australia, Canada, the N.A.T.O. countries, New Zealand and others—should now, as a gesture to a solution of this problem, open their doors and allow every Jewish immigrant in Israel who wants to leave and go to those countries to do so. It should be a two-way traffic. The Jews who want to leave—there were more leaving before the June war than were entering—should be allowed free entry, and at the same time the Arab refugees should be allowed to return to their own homes. The Israeli authorities and the Zionist organisations should not discourage them from doing so if they want to leave.
Meantime, as to those Arabs for whom it is not feasible that they should return after this long time, Israel must pay reparations in the same way that Germany paid reparations to Israel in almost similar circumstances. Where these reparations are insufficient, the United Nations and its agencies must assist financially in resettling the Arabs, but 497 first of all by getting them back home. As a democratic people who in the last world war fought alone at one period, risking our country and our lives against the creed of blood and race superiority, we cannot tolerate the argument that the return of the refugees to their own homes will impair the blood, race and religious purity of the Jewish immigrants. The tide of history is flowing against these closed, exclusive societies and towards the brotherhood of multi-racial communities.
In this country we have not only fought for this principle. We have preached it and practised it. It is in the spirit of multi-racial brotherhood that the peace of the Middle East can be restored and stability achieved. We must not depart from this principle. We must see that the refugees are able to return to their own homes. We must encourage them to live together with the Jewish immigrants, not as subordinate citizens but with every right.
Meantime we must bear in mind that unless the Arab world quickly obtains justice, she will turn from the West and seek friends elsewhere. China, for example, which is uninhibited by fears of world war, has no global commitments and has never recognised Israel, has been exploiting the Israeli-Arab conflict to her own advantage. The Soviet Union has her long-term sights on the area, and any ideas that she may have of encircling Europe and of pushing into Africa depend upon her close friendly relations with the Arab world. This policy she has been successfully pursuing.
We must awake to the fact that it is particularly to our economic as well as our political interest to ensure that the Arabs at last receive their human, legal and just rights. Our interests and those of the Arab world are not contradictory. They are complementary. We can better assure our own economic advancement as well as stability in the world by ensuring that Israel in her own and everyone's interest concedes justice to the Arabs by implementing the British-sponsored resolution at the Security Council.
§ 7 38 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I hope that the hon. Member for Clapham (Mrs. McKay) will forgive me if I do not follow her very far in the speech which she 498 told us she wrote and which we heard her read. Like her, I am not entirely new to the problems of the Middle East. Like her, I have a very considerable sympathy for the Arab problems. But if the Arabs start a war on the battle-cry that Israel must be completely eliminated, and they lose the war, it is unreasonable to expect that they should get the same terms as they would have got if they had not started the war but had embarked upon ordinary negotiations.
The Israelis for their part, as the hon. Member knows very well, have had every kind of paper guarantee—if I may put it like that—up till last June, and afterwards, from the United Nations, the United States, the British Government, and so on. But when they were attacked, the guarantee was, to put it mildly, defective.
Until more guarantees are provided which give them a better degree of security, we can hardly blame the Israelis for wishing to retain the territory which they conquered by force of arms. I hope that negotiations will continue and that a satisfactory solution will result, but it is no good, with great respect to the hon. Lady, putting the Arab case 100 per cent, as she has done and completely ignore the appalling position in which the Israelis were placed by President Nasser and the rest of the U.A.R., who still hold the view that the ultimate goal is the elimination of Israel.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) rightly said that this two-day debate was a continuation of the debate which we had last week on the cuts. I have never wished to be in the shoes of the Foreign Secretary or his colleagues and I do not feel any envy for them now. They seem to have taken a series of most deplorable decisions with almost incredible irresponsibility which are quite unjustified on economic terms and, I think, on moral terms.
They will very shortly have the worst of both worlds—which is not unusual for a Socialist Government—because the cuts as they effect the withdrawal from the Far East do not begin until two years' time. They have destroyed the credibility of the British Government; they have destroyed its credit. If Ministers destroy their own credibility and with it their own 499 credit, they inevitably destroy the confidence in the currency of their country, and that currency happens to be sterling.
One cannot go back on commitments entered into, in some cases, six months ago and, in other cases, at little as 10 weeks ago and expect to be believed again. I have not much sympathy for the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, He did very well when he went to the Persian Gulf for the first time, but if I had been asked by the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary to go out again within six weeks and say to the Rulers there, "I am sorry, I did not mean it", I should, I hope, have said, "I am sorry, I am not going to do it. Send somebody else."
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Goronwy Roberts)
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to do me a disservice by oversimplifying this very difficult situation. May I assure him that when I went out in November, not only did I say that we would not stay for ever, but I very strongly warned and advised all the Rulers I met that they should immediately get together and prepare for a possibly early date for our withdrawal. When I went back in January, they received what I had to say on behalf of Her Majesty's Government with great understanding, which was remarkable in the circumstances.
I will not for a moment disguise that they were in a state of dismay and some alarm, but the fact that I had put the position to them in November very fully and frankly was a great aid to very helpful discussions when I went there a few weeks ago. It is not true or fair to say that we went to the Gulf in November to say that we would stay for ever and then returned in January to say that we would withdraw overnight.
Sir C. Mott-Raddyffe
The Minister will forgive me, but I never suggested, because I am not quite so ignorant as that, that he went in November to say that we should stay for ever. No Government ever suggested that. What I suspect he said in November was that we should stay for quite a long time. I accept what he says. But if he made it so clear in November, and if his warnings were so well understood, I wonder why, in the first place, he did not tell 500 the House at the time and, secondly, why the result of his second visit was received with such dismay, which is the word which he used himself. That I find very difficult to understand.
Worse still, the Government have ignored the wishes of the Commonwealth—and the Labour Party is alleged to be the party which is so keen on Commonwealth interests. They have ignored, as I shall hope to prove, the basic elements of strategy. This is not a question of withdrawing troops because the Governments in question do not want them to stay: it is the absolute converse. When the sheikhs in the Gulf make an offer to pay for the retention of a British military presence, however small, after 1971, I find it very difficult and distasteful to understand why the Secretary of State for Defence should have been so peculiarly offensive on the television the other night.
There was nothing offensive about the sheikhs' offer to pay in part for our military presence. One could add that what they were saying was, "We will take out a mortgage on the reimposition of the prescription charges for you". The prescription charges could have been paid for four times over had the Government had the courage and economic nous to accept the arms order of £240 million from South Africa.
I should like to say a few words about Singapore. I find the Government's argument very difficult to understand on economic grounds. I agree with the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard). We are abandoning real estate worth about £1,000 million plus an enormous investment sum—I forget what it is, but it is staggering. Is the Foreign Secretary so certain that greedy eyes will not be cast at Singapore and Malaysia from Indonesia? Is he absolutely certain that the vacuum left by our withdrawal will be refilled by the United States? Is he certain that the trade which we shall lose by the vacuum so created will not be picked up by Japan and other competitors? Is he certain that the enormous unemployment which will be created, causing immense ill will and distress, will provide exactly the same atmosphere as before in our trading and commercial transactions?
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues do not mind about very 501 heavy unemployment in Singapore and Malaysia. They may feel in some curious way that we should get emotional only about the Africans and not about the Asians. Perhaps they believe that if a person's skin is black he is entitled to the utmost sympathy, whereas if it is yellow he is not. It is a very curious argument. Time and again we have speeches from right hon. Gentlemen opposite about the need not to cut aid to developing countries, particularly Commonwealth countries. We have tears of emotion. But by far the best and cheapest way to give aid is to provide stability. It is far more expensive to provide aid after stability has gone than pay the comparatively small sum involved in maintaining stability.
I am sorry that the Secretary of State for Defence is not present; I know that he is to speak tomorrow. I find paragraph 13 of Command 3515 almost unbelievable. It states that…we have assuredMalaysia and Singapore'and our other Commonwealth partners…that we shall retain a general capability based in Europe (including the United Kingdom) which can be deployed overseas as, in our judgment, circumstances demand…".If any student at the staff college wrote that kind of sentence, he would be sacked, and rightly. How are we to retain a general capability in Europe and deploy it overseas if we have not any bases left? It could be done by air only. It could not be done by sea in any crisis which I can foresee because the Russians are now at both ends of the Suez Canal. They are down in Aden taking over the bases we are going to give them, and they are in the Mediterranean at Alexandria. Therefore, it does not matter whether the Suez Canal is open or not. if we are involved in a crisis to which the Soviet Union objects, we cannot use the Suez Canal if we cannot get through the Red Sea. To appease their Left wing, the Government have now done their best to jeopardise the Simonstown base so that we cannot get anywhere by sea.
Can we get anywhere by air? Can we really lift the largeish quantities of troops which may be required in an emergency, together with all the stores, ammunition and the rest of the build-up, by air only, without being certain about 502 overflying rights, or even being certain that the airfield at the other end will be all right to land on when we arrive? This is plain hooey, and the Secretary of State for Defence knows it. If the Singapore base is to be wound up, how shall we supply 10,000 troops in Hong Kong? Where will they be supplied from, and how?
Paragraph 14 of the White Paper is really splendid. It says:We shall make an early reduction in the number of aircraft based in Cyprus while maintaining our membership of CENTO.That is like saying that we should like to retain membership of a club because the notepaper looks rather good, but shall not pay the subscription. It makes no sense.
I should now like to say something about the Gulf. Our oil interests and those of Western Europe there are immense, and the sterling balances are immense. I believe that the sterling balances of Kuwait now exceed those of Australia. But it is not, and never has been, a stable area, and it is rendered much less stable by the follies the Government committed over Aden.
I do not accept the facile argument that oil flows, anyway. It is said that the Arabs cannot sell it anywhere else, so that it will be all right on the night. I do not think that that is true. Oil flows only if the territory in question is stable. It is about the easiest thing to sabotage, whether at the oil well or the pipeline. It does not flow if there is anarchy in the country or the country is under threat of invasion. There is plenty of inflammable material in the Gulf, with the claims by Iran on Bahrain, Iraq on Kuwait and Saudi Arabia on Abu Dhabi.
It is a curious form of economy to remove a force costing between £12 and £15 million only a year, which has maintained stability in the area for a very long time. As far as I know the Trucial Oman Scouts have maintained stability in their area without firing a shot, but a great many shots would have been fired if they had not been there. The attempted threat to Kuwait by Iraq was foiled by the presence of British troops and a few more flown out from England. They could not be flown out now because there is no base from which to supply them. The idea of flying everything from Tid-worth makes no sense.
503 I do not understand the economic argument. The Foreign Secretary told us this afternoon, unless I misunderstood him, that it is not economies he is after but redeployment. That is a new argument. How shall we redeploy the troops which will be brought back from Malaysia and the Far East? Will they be demobilised and put into the Civil Service? If they are brought home and not demobilised, there is no barrack accommodation for them. I do not know what this redeployment means. It has no sense in terms of military strategy, economics or anything else. It is simply a sop to the Government's Left wing to agree to certain cuts to try to prevent further devaluation of the £.
I find it very hard to take what has happened about the Gulf Treaties. We have certain treaty obligations with the various Gulf States. Any Government has the right at any time to renegotiate a treaty, but I use the word "negotiate" deliberately. Renegotiating a treaty means sitting down with the other party or parties and saying, "I am sorry, but I want to alter it", and then doing it by agreement. So far as I can discover, what we have done in the Persian Gulf was not renegotiation in that sense.
In Bedouin law and custom a man's word is regarded as absolute. There were days, which are perhaps now called the bad old days, when the Englishman's word was his bond. It is certainly not true any more that a Minister's word is his bond, and I rather regret the passing of those days.
I think that the Aden story is terrible. It was not decolonisation. We did not hand over in the usual way to a Government based on some form of popular support who could take over the reins of administration and function after a fashion. We handed over in panic to whichever group of terrorists happened to have the best method of eliminating any rival group. By refusing to allow British troops to get on top of the terrorist movement, we destroyed any chance the Federal Army had of exercising a stable influence. By negotiating with the terrorists—with both sides almost simultaneously—we destroyed any chance of the Federal Government taking over. We negotiated and got out in such a panic and hurry that there was no time to make pro- 504 vision for the pension rights and salaries of former Colonial Government employees and former employees of the Federal Government. I believe that that has never been done before.
The Minister of State gave me a Written Answer on the subject on 11th December, stating:In view of the shortage of time it was not possible to deal with the question of the public service during the negotiations in Geneva. It was however agreed then that discussions on this subject should take place between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the People's Republic of Southern Yemen at an early date after independence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th December, 1967; Vol. 756, c. 20.]Have any discussions taken place, and, if so, what is the result? Has any progress been made? Has the subject been raised at all or just conveniently dropped? If so, what is happening to the pension rights and salaries of those who have opted to stay on?
The Federal Government collapsed last September, but none of the employees was given notice until November. Why not? Was the panic among Ministers such that they just forgot about that? In answer to another Question of mine on 27th November the Minister of State said that compensation and terminal benefits payable would include pay for at least six months' leave and so on to the officers. But British officers serving with the Federal forces do not get any terminal benefits. This is all illusion.
We have handed over, I suppose in the name of economy, buildings, bases, equipment and so on worth £25 million, £30 million or £40 million in Aden. I do not know. We are paying the Government there another £10 million to get on with their job. The new Government of the Southern Yemen Republic is about to hand over the whole base installation and facilities to the Soviet Union, if Press reports are true. Therefore, in six months the Government will have achieved something which successive Governments of this country of various parties have prevented for 200 years, namely, the Russians having a presence in the Mediterranean and in the Red Sea. We did not require an official of the capacity of Sir Humphrey Trevelyan to do all that. Almost any one of the present Ministers could have done it without sending him out.
505 What about Bahrain, and the great build-up there of installations costing £7 million moved from Aden? What about Sharjah, where new houses with air conditioning and new accommodation for the troops are being built? All that will be taken away, I suppose. It is not economics at all.
The Left wing of the Labour Party is very pleased at all these withdrawals from the Far East and elsewhere. Those hon. Members never wanted commitments outside Britain. As has been pointed out previously, while in one breath they shout "Hurrah", in the next breath they are asking the Prime Minister to use his influence with President Johnson to call off the bombing in Vietnam. One cannot have it both ways. If one opts out of one's commitments one does not exercise influence with anybody because nobody consults one. So that request makes no sense. Of course, we have no influence with President Johnson or the Soviet Union. If one opts out of all one's commitments one ceases to be a world Power.
I am not so sure that the world is all that safe—I wish I could think it was—if the strategic balance gets upset. All the time I have been in the House I have been terrified by one thing, that the strategy of the country might devolve upon "nuclear or nothing", because if it is nuclear one presses the button and there are no victors or vanquished, and if it is nothing one has to accept the coup. As I say, I have always been terrified of this. The Government are right back on it now; all the cuts they are making are in the conventional forces and not the nuclear.
I believe it to be the duty of any Government to protect the security of their own country first. The present Government are running very close to the wind in this respect. The whole strategy and thinking of N.AT.O. is now turned upside down with a presence of the Soviet Union in the Mediterranean and in the Red Sea, because the under-belly of NATO, is turned. CENTO makes little sense, and I suppose we shall opt out of S.E.A.T.O. These are serious things.
I remember the mid-1930s, but I was not, of course, in the House then. I remember, nevertheless, the nauseating hypocrisy of the Labour Party of those days and the subsequent books about 506 "guilty men", and so on, written by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). When the crisis came in 1939 our defences were such that we were almost naked. Are the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues certain that if now or within two years' time there was any kind of crisis our defences are not such that our nakedness would be almost obscene? If so. it is time they went.
§ 8.3 p.m.
Sir Barnett Tanner(Leicester, Northwest)
I did not intend to participate in the debate unless, as has unfortunately happened, we had an exhibition of stirring up hatred like we have heard from two hon. Members opposite and the shocking exhibition of my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mrs. McKay), who was fearsome of any interruption knowing that she was talking absolute nonsense and was stirring up the very antagonisms that no one wants to stir up.
I think it is necessary in the circum stances to put one or two indisputable matters on record. The hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) put into much better words than I can use what the position was and is with regard to Israel. What nonsense it is for anybody to imply that Israel was an aggressor. I have in my hand a map showing how Israel in June was surrounded by vast forces from every one of the neighbouring countries. They had even brought forces from Iraq and elsewhere to assist them, and they were determined to squeeze the very life out of not only Israel but every man, woman and child in that country. I speak knowing very well the responsibility of speaking in this way. Let me give an illustration——
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck
Is my hon. Friend aware that Cairo radio officially announced on 25th May that the Arab people were firmly resolved to wipe Israel off the map?
§ Sir B. Janner
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I think that hon. Members know the kind of propaganda that was coming forth through the Arab Press, radio and television—also to the Arabs in Israel, incidentally. There is no television network in Israel except for a few educational programmes. But the Arabs in Israel were being incited in similar terms by television coming from Cairo.
507 But there is very much more tangible evidence than that. The fact is that when Israel was surrounded in that way and managed effectively to overcome her enemies she discovered orders which were issued by the nations surrounding her. I will quote one which shows very clearly that the Arabs intended to kill as many of the Israel population as they could. The document has been described as the Jordanian operation orders for the destruction of Israeli settlements and killing all persons in them. It states:The task: The brigade reserve battalion will raid Motza Colony…".That is a type of colony that exists in various parts of Israel, consisting of people who have torn life from the desert, having planted in the desert after removing rocks with their hands.
The House surely knows what happened there. Since Jewish colonists had first gone to Palestine they removed rocks with their hands and made of what was waste, and would have continued to be waste for ever if they had not arrived there, something which every civilised human being commends. It illustrates what every civilised human being believes to be the way civilised human beings should fight against the ravages of nature. That is what Israel stands for.
Yet my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham has the impertinence to attack people of that quality in this House where we believe in civilisation. A woman who pretends that she believes in the equal rights of women and the liberation and democratisation of all human beings, so she says, comes here and has the audacity to attack the women of Israel who are part of a population who, together with their menfolk, have created a democracy which is an example to the world.
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck
My hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mrs. McKay) has never been to Israel. She told me so.
§ Sir B. Janner
Not only has the hon. Lady not been to Israel, but I defy her to prove the allegations that she makes in respect of the refugees, which she has repeated in this House on several occasions, and which are a grave exaggeration. I am sorry that she is not here. She ought to have had the sense to know that someone would answer her. Apparently she has not even that amount of sense.
508 I continue with the words of the operation order:The task: The Brigade Reserve Battalion will raid Motza Colony, will destroy it and will kill all persons in it upon receiving the code word 'Hadhad' from brigade H.Q.A. One company plus one platoon—for breaching and destroying:1, The task: The destruction of the colony and killing all its inhabitants.2. Attached: A.A.O. (Advanced artillery observer), one platoon field engineers.B. Own forces:1. The intention of H.Q. Western Front is to carry out a raid on Motza Colony, to destroy it and to kill all its inhabitants.2. This task was allocated to the Brigadier of the Imam Aly Ben Abi Taleb Brigade who will further it to the Brigade Reserve Battalion.That is one of the orders.
I ask the House to judge whether it was or was not the intention of a large portion of the Arab world to wait until it was sufficiently strong to eliminate, to destroy and to annihilate. How can anybody, in the House or outside, in a respectable and decent assembly such as this, allow to pass an imputation that Israel was attacking? I remember the kind of argument used by Hitler against the Jews in his clutches. There are hon. Members who remember that Hitler complained that the Jews were attacking the Germans. Thank God the Israelis were not in the position of the Jews in Germany who, because of the circumstances, were not able to defend themselves, although many of them attempted to do so valiantly as in the Warsaw ghetto where they fought to the last man and the last child.
Israel if attacked must, and will, fight to the last man unless she repulses the attack. Why do not the hon. Lady and the two hon. Members who have supported her realise that Israel must fight to the last man, woman and child to preserve itself? There has been cruelty by individuals to goad the Arabs, or other enemies of Israel, into continuing that kind of action. They say that the Arabs would attack again. The hon. Lady herself said that the Arabs have threatened this. She has warned that unless Israel does what she thinks it ought to do, in other words, destroy itself, others will destroy it. These are words which ought not to be heard in an assembly like ours.
509 It is time that it was realised that the Balfour Declaration was a definite undertaking. To whom was it given? The Balfour Declaration was given to the Zionists. It is no good anybody saying that Balfour did not know what Zionism was, or that Lloyd George did not know, or that the House did not know. Of course they knew. The Balfour Declaration categorically states that it was to be handed to the Zionist Federation. I have the honour of being the President of the Zionist Federation, following Chaim Weitzmann, a much more distinguished person than myself. It is sheer nonsense to say that the Balfour Declaration was not what it was intended to be, which was a declaration that a Jewish National Home should be founded.
Israel has stated what it wants now. Israel cannot go on living in a state of fear and anxiety as it has for the last 20 years, and nobody would expect it to do so. No one with any sense would want her to do so. How can Israel stand the kind of guerrilla warfare which h now going on and which the hon. Lady apparently ignores? Israel's enemies say—"Go in and kill, it does not matter; drop bombs in cinemas; kill children, kill whomever you can, because if you do not do that, your wishes will never be fulfilled". Israel has published its intentions and there can be no question about them. She is prepared to sit at a table with her negotiators. It is a very strange tiling that in all other matters we urge the parties to discuss the matter together. Whatever the views of hon. Members may be and whatever their approach, they urge the parties involved in any dispute to get to the table and negotiate. But that does not happen when Israel is involved, and then some hon. Members say that it must be settled for Israel by others.
What was the result of the arrangement before? I have a high regard for the United Nations, but let us remember that its troops walked out and left Israel to her fate. We did not do anything and other countries did not do anything to help. Russia is now giving the Arabs tremendous supplies of arms and yet we practically tell Israel, "You will be able to fight this with you hands; you fellows are strong chaps. "At one time it used to be said that the Jewish people were not strong, that they were cowards and so on, 510 but today they are supposed to be so courageous and brave that with their bare hands and with a shortage of weapons they can fight the sophisticated weapons provided to their enemies by others. The fact is that Jewish people are exactly the same as non-Jewish people, they are just human being with virtues and vices, abilities and disabilities just like everybody else.
But in Israel they have one outstanding feature—a determination to live. They want to live in peace. They do not want to expand and they do not want to damage any of the Arabs in Israel or elsewhere. On the contrary, the Arabs in Israel get on very well. It is true that the Israeli authorities had to take certain security measures, but it is natural to take security measures when there is such vicious propaganda from abroad inciting the Arabs to attack.
Does anyone in the House honestly believe that any Jewish person anywhere in the world does not have sympathy with the refugees, with the Arabs, the Armenians, or those who were disturbed in the last war? No people have more cause to have such sympathy. Why is there this attack about the kind of treatment meted out to refugees? Who dares to suggest that the people of Israel could wish fellow human being to suffer. Anyone who suggests that is crazy. The Jewish people are doing everything in their power to ease the suffering of those who were disturbed as a consequence of the attack on Israel. For example, the western bank of the Jordan is trading with the east and goods are being sent over, and the Arabs in Jordan know it very well.
What do those people want who have never raised a voice against Egypt and the rest of the Arab world for the cruel manner in which they have treated refugees for 20 years? Who during that time spoke in the House against that as some are now speaking against Israel?
For 20 years, human beings were used as pawns. The most inhuman and vicious act ever was committed by the Arabs by indoctrinating their people for 20 years not to welcome refugees or take them into their lands, let alone their homes. In refusing them the opportunity of living a useful life, they committed a cruel, vicious and inhuman act against their kith and kin.
511 Do we hear anyone saying in this House that 500,000 to 600,000 Jewish refugees were hunted and hounded out of their homes by some Arab nations, including 100,000 odd from Iraq, the vast majority with every penny taken from them and their lands confiscated without anything given them by way of compensations? Why do not those who are so full of human pity, who claim to have such great hearts and who are so honest in their views stand up and condemn Iraq and other Arab countries who hounded out their Jews and deprived them of their possessions? Because the Israelis were human enough to try to rehabilitate the sufferers is that to be used against them? Where is the perspective of people who approach these problems without seeing both sides?
Israel is prepared to do her best for the Arabs. She is prepared to train refugees. She is prepared to work with her neighbours and give them the benefit of her splendid "know-how" as it is being given to many African nations, other undeveloped countries, and even Brazil. People are sent to Israel to learn how to rehabilitate their fellow countrymen. Why are not Arabs? Israel has offered to help, and she is prepared to do so. Let the rest of the world join with Israel in solving the refugee question. Her economic difficulties are great, but she is prepared to do her share, because she is a humane civilised nation wanting to do all that she can to alleviate distress.
Can any hon. Member deny what I am saying? These are the facts. Israel cannot be expected, having been attacked in the way she was, to say that she will give up this or that. Let the parties come to the table and negotiate. Israel cannot be expected to give up her right to use the Suez Canal. She wants to help Britain, of course, and she will assist ships to leave, but surely every hon. Member will accept that she cannot possibly assist in opening the Canal unless her own ships are allowed through. International law has been violated in this respect for years. With the exception of an odd voice now and again, who strenuously protested in this House that Egypt was violating her undertakings, Security Council obligations and international law by not allowing Israeli ships through the Canal?
512 I hope that hon. Members who are not present in the Chamber will read in HANSARD what I have had to say and realise that the speeches and actions of certain people act as inducements to destroy a part of civilisation which is perhaps the best example of what civilisation should be in this day and age.
My fervent hope is that we should try to encourage these two parties to come together. Let them sit down at a table and iron out their difficulties. Jew and Arab can live together. I have seen it, and I have known many Arabs. I knew some before the whole dispute started. If their leaders, and those outside who support them, do not irritate and exacerbate the position, much can be done by attempting to bring the parties together than by the kind of speeches we have heard which are bound to separate them.
This is a very serious matter. Britain is still a big moral force in the world, in spite of all that is said to the contrary. We have a moral duty to see to it that, in the Middle East, this great shining example to the world which is Israel should be given an opportunity not only to live but to extend its ideas throughout the world and so help to prevent the prevailing conditions in some parts from deteriorating further.
As I have said, I hope that hon. Members who are not present will read what in a very imperfect way, I have had to say. If they understood the true position, those who speak in the way that the three hon. Members from both sides did would not dream of doing so again.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)
I hope that the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the matter on which he has addressed us so well. I have the fullest sympathy with the points he has put forward.
I want to say a word about the situation in South-East Asia. For some weeks we have been in a state of anxiety lest the war in Vietnam should engulf at least one of the neighbouring countries—Cambodia in particular. That country has succeeded in maintaining a state of positive neutrality up to now mainly because of the brilliant leadership of its Chief of State, Prince Norodom Sihanouk. He, more than anyone else, 513 has been responsible for preventing war sweeping into his country. Had Cam-bodies failed in this, it would have been a tragedy not only for the people of Cambodia, but for the whole world.
Cambodia is an island of peace and stability in a very disturbed part of the world. I returned from a visit there last week. I found the people of Cambodia very happy and contented, obviously conditioned by their ancient civilisation. One is terrified by the thought that an arrogant and aggressive Western culture can threaten them with the fate that their neighbours in Vietnam have suffered. This threat is only too real.
I am sure that many in the present Government here feared that Cambodia would be invaded perhaps early this year—invaded not so much for the good of (he people of Cambodia, invaded not so much to protect them or to procure their safety, but invaded, as Vietnam has been invaded, by a succession of imperialist Powers to further the anti-Communist strategy of certain Western Powers who seem to think that these small countries are expendable in the pursuit of their grand strategy.
They justify themselves by their anti-Communist ideology, but I feel that, given the present power structure of the world, it is probable that they would be following exactly the same strategy even if the U.S.S.R. and all the Asian countries were as capitalist in organisation as the United States of America.
There is a strong case for maintaining that it is the shortsightedness and the insensitivity of Western countries—particularly the United States—which has ensured for Communism a success it would otherwise never have had.
I think that in South-East Asia we are witnessing a classic example of the clash of imperialisms that has so long bedevilled human history. Ho Chi Minh, Sihanouk and the leaders of the invaded or imperilled States—and this is clear from my own talks with some of these people, including Prince Sihanouk—are, in the first place, dedicated nationalists whose dominating aim is to secure freedom for their own nations from all imperialism, whether it be capitalist or Communist. But it eases the path of American imperialism, in particular, to attach the name "Communist" to all the Vietnamese 514 killed or injured by American power. They are not human persons, they are not men, women and children, each with his own life to live; they are only Communists—and Asian Communists at that. "Come home with that coon skin on the wall", was the adjuration of the President of the United States of America to his warriors at Camranh Bay.
The nature of this Communism, even in the North, which is said to be an orthodox Communist State, deserves to be carefully studied. One finds, even in the North, that its basis is a strong belief in the value of private property. The main activity of this Communist State has been to distribute the land among the people and its main economic activity follows co-operative lines. It is a strange kind of Communism, and anyone who can equate the policy of the National Liberation Front with Communism deserves to have his head read. But this policy, which seems to be a radical policy, has received next to no publicity in the Western Press. One wonders why there has been suppression, as there has been, of evidence which is so material and. so relevant to a balanced judgment of the situation.
There would obviously be great military advantage to the U.S. in a Cambodian invasion—that is, if it met with no Cambodian resistance. It would enable the U.S. forces to attack the N.L.F. in Vietnam from the rear, and it would give them a more stable and secure base in Cambodia than they now have in South Vietnam. But such a step would have to be justified in the eyes of the world. For this reason a tremendous campaign of vilification of Cambodia has been mounted in the U.S., and it has been going on for some months. The impression given is that that country' is swarming with Vietcong who stream over the border from Vietnam hard-pressed by the American forces. The result of this campaign is that most people in the U.S., and even in Britain, seem to believe that Cambodia is being extensively used by the Vietcong, as they are called here.
I was told at the British Embassy at Phnom Penh that everybody knew the Vietcong were abroad in Cambodia, but when I pressed for firm evidence of this there was none available. It was denied 515 by members of the Cambodian Government. I spoke to the Prime Minister, and more than once to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. They denied it strenuously, as did Prince Sihanouk. They were very much concerned with the activities of the Khmer Sarai, who are said to be financed by American money, and whose rôle could be compared with that of the Cuban renegades at Miami in the Caribbean situation. They are a great cause of anxiety to the Cambodian Government.
Neutral and disinterested sources of knowledge and information about the situation are, naturally, the officers of International Control Commission which was set up by the Geneva Conference in 1954, with India as chairman, and Canada and Poland as members. I visited the Indian and Canadian offices and spoke to the officers with a view to discovering what they thought to be the truth about the situation, and particularly about the most serious of the specific allegations which were being made in the American Press.
It was alleged, for instance, that the Port of Sihanouksville was being used as an entrepot from which arms were being supplied to the N.L.F. forces. This was carefully examined by the I.C.C. officers who discovered no evidence to support such an allegation. Their report is due to be published soon.
Another allegation which received tremendous publicity was that at a place called Mimot American jurnalists had discovered a large, well-equipped military encampment which housed a battalion of Vietcong soldiers. This was the most famous of the alleged sanctuaries, but when the I.C.C. officers examined the place they found a small cluster of bamboo huts, only one of which had a roof—it was a thatched roof—which could house perhaps 15 to 20 people. They thought that it might have been used by harvesters or hunters during the dry season. They published their report, but although the original allegations had received such powerful publicity, the report clearing Cambodia of the charge seems to have received none at all. They have been ignored, even to the point of suppression, and one wonders why.
All this gives one an insight into a terrifying situation. The United States 516 might have invaded—and may yet invade—Cambodia. If they do, the pretext will be that these allegations that Cambodia is being used to supply arms to the N.L.F., and as a sanctuary for the Vietcong, are true, yet it turns out on examination that these allegations are complete fabrications. What a revelation this is of the way in which the affairs of the most powerful State in the world are conducted.
When I find that these allegations are baseless fabrications—and these are the most serious of them—what am I to believe about other statements put out by the United States about the Vietnamese war? And even if these allegations were true, even if Cambodia is being used to this extent by the Vietcong, it would have no effect on the course of the war, not even marginally.
If the Americans do enter Cambodia, they can be relied upon to discover any amount of Vietcong, as they do in Vietnam. I would like to draw the attention of the House to an article in the last issue but one of New Society, which reviews Frank Harvey's "Air War: Vietnam". The author was asked by the Public Affairs Office of the Air Force in Saigon to do a definitive study of the air war. This was an objective study, and was no part of the propaganda of the United States. He said:If an F.A.C."—that is, a forward air controller—or the commander of a 'Huey Hoey' helicopter finds anything overtly suspicious, he is entitled to stir up some action by dropping smoke grenades in places where he suspects something might be going on. If people run from the smoke and explosion, the pilot is then entitled to assume he has flushed Charlie (the Vietcong) and to call in any means of destruction at his disposal. As one F.A.C. explained to Harvey, why would they run if they didn't have guilty consciences?The second approved tactic is more vicious. It is called 'recon by fire'. Under this policy, an F.A.C, failing to find a positive sign of suspicious activity, is authorised to call in a fighter bomber to cruise down on a hooch line or canal and, at a moment the F.A.C. deems right, to drop a canister of C.B.U.These are two terrible paralysing missiles which explode a million or more pellets in a small area.Since the bombs, exploding one after another, move towards the potential victims at the speed of a jet, the effect is called 'rolling thunder', and is said to be terrifying. Once again, if the people on the ground 517 take evasive action the F.A.C. is entitled to assume he has caught out Vietcong. Different evasions call for different measures. If people rush into the houses, the most effective tactical measure is to 'barbecue' them with a bath of napalm. If they go out into the paddies, the most effective action is to 'hose' them with fire from mini-guns mounted on Huey Long helicopters. The mini-gun is a rotating, multi-barrelled machine gun capable of firing 6,000 rounds of 7.62 mm (30 calibre) ammunition in one minute.
§ Mr. Anthony Royle (Richmond, Surrey)
What the hon. Gentleman is saying would carry more weight if he also told us of some of the tortures and cruelties inflicted by the Vietcong. I travelled widely in Cambodia last year. I was interested in what the hon. Gentleman was saying about his visit and the possibilities of the Vietcong using Cambodian territory, but did he go to the area in Cambodia which borders South Vietnam with Laos, where the Vietcong are infiltrating down the Ho Chi Minh trail, and where it is impossible, unless one is on the ground, to discover how many Vietcong are buried in the jungle?
§ Mr. Evans
The hon. Member speaks of an untrue hypothesis. Even the existence of the Ho Chi Minh trail is hypothetical. There is no proof of its existence, and no proof of the presence of the Vietcong in Cambodia. These things have been examined as far as possible by people on the spot. I was not able to go, but I spoke to officers who had been at the places where it was alleged that the Vietcong had been using these encampments, but there was no evidence of their presence.
As for atrocities, there is no doubt that the N.L.F. is also guilty of atrocities. It is true of both sides. As was the case in Ireland, with the Black and Tans, so it is in this war. But the people of Vietnam are defending their own country against aggressors.
What we see now is an extension of this kind of bombing into North Vietnam. The reason I could not get into Hanoi was, apparently, that American bombing has been redoubled since the declaration by the Foreign Secretary of the North Vietnam Government that they would be willing to talk if the Americans sopped bombing unconditionally. The American reaction seems to have been to 518 say "Bombing is paying its way. Fine, let us get on with the job in a more efficient manner," and they have redoubled the bombing.
This is a tragedy not only for Vietnam, but for America and the world, and we have a duty to do what we can to ensure that at least pressure is brought from this House and from this country upon the American Government to see that they cease this bombing. I find it very distressing that we are associated so closely with this aspect of American policy. The most effective thing we can do to secure peace in Vietnam is to dissociate ourselves from it.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan Lee Williams (Hornchurch)
The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) will forgive me, I hope, if I do not follow him on the subject of Vietnam, except to say that for three weeks I was in South Vietnam and saw plenty of evidence of infliltration down the allegedly mythical Ho Chi Minh trail. When speaking on this matter, one should try to keep a sense of balance. I did not come back from the South with fulsome praise, nor did I necessarily accept everything that I was told by the South Vietnamese Government or the Americans, and I would recommend the hon. Gentleman to be equally sceptical.
I was hoping that a new realism would have emerged from this debate, following the cuts in defence announced in the package deal last week. The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), as usual, was unconvincing. There seems to be a great deal to be done to get the Opposition's own line straight. There was a great deal of difference between the Leader of the Opposition, who said that they had given up a global strategy, and the right hon. Gentleman, who spoke from the same bench. We have not yet had from the Opposition a convincing explanation of their own foreign policy assumptions.
I would like to ask them this one question. What particular commitment would they like to give up, having admitted that they cannot continue a global strategy? One thing is certain: we cannot carry all the commitments which we have inherited, some going back to 19th century assumptions and some to 1948 cold 519 war assumptions. I have sometimes argued from these benches, and not been very popular as a result, that we must maintain strong defences, but I have always believed that we cannot keep the present level of commitments. Therefore, the Defence White Paper introduced a sense of realism.
I quarrel with the White Paper more on aspects of foreign policy than on those of defence, because I believe that, if we get our foreign policy assumptions right, our commitments will match them. Further, I believe that defence should meet threats and not necessarily inherited commitments. In this respect, I very much criticise my right hon. Friends. Their assessment of where the threats lie is, I believe, in error. A European strategy is not correct at a time when the danger in South-East Asia is disputed by no one who knows anything about it.
Therefore, it is possible to slim down our commitments and concentrate where we are needed and can play a positive rôle. I do not share the view that we can continue our commitments in the Gulf sheikdoms. Something has to go and that seems to be the area where it can usefully go. It is also possible to make savings in and troop withdrawals from Europe, but I do not share the view that it is safe, at this time, to assume that, by 1971, we could withdraw from Malaysia and Singapore without leaving those two areas direly threatened. The Prime Minister of Singapore made this convincingly clear to me when he was over here.
It is a great shame that, at this time, we should be so consumed with the idea of being good Europeans, at the expense of our other commitments outside Europe. I was one who voted for the application to join the Common Market, and I can therefore speak with some strength on this. I did not assume at that time that it would mean that we would be abdicating some of the responsibilities for peace keeping which we had had, remembering that—and a great deal has been said about the Middle East—the United Nations is not yet in a position to keep the peace. I firmly took the view that had Britain not been involved in confrontation between Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, the whole map of Asia would have been different 520 today. There would not have been stability and prices would have been affected; one cannot argue that the prices of rubber, copper and tin would not have been unaffected by instability. Thus, our costs would have gone up, rather than down.
In the long run, we may find that these so-called cuts are economically costly. They may have certain effects; for example, they may persuade the United States to decide to concentrate completely on Asia. I would be far from nappy if that were to happen; if Asia found itself left to the vagaries of American policies—and we cannot overlook the strong isolationist view now being held in that country.
If the Americans decided to make considerable troop withdrawals from Europe—it is on the cards that they might; there have been a number of withdrawals in the past, but that has not upset the balance of power—the balance of power could be upset, resulting in the central balance of power being upset. That could endanger the detente between East and West, without one iota of stability being given to Asia.
These strategic implications do not appear to have been thought through by Her Majesty's Government. I hope to hear a more convincing explanation about this policy from my right hon. Friends. The great danger at present seems to be that we are embarked on a so-called European policy which looks suspiciously like the little Englander policy. We are not yet inside the E.E.C. and our prospects for getting in are not particularly good. I fear that this concept will do great damage to this country and to our interests overseas.
We have always been a world Power and, from the financial point of view, we must always remain a world Power. If we streamlined our defence to meet actual threats rather than commitments inherited from the past, we could play an important rôle in peace-keeping, through the United Nations and other European commitments. I therefore appeal to the Government, in spite of the decisions they have taken, which are irretrievable, nevertheless to agree that, when 1971 is reached, we will still have a capability to help in South-East Asia. I hope that 1971 will not mean that, completely for all time in 521 the future, we will have no ability to go to the aid of those, like Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, who have been good friends of ours.
I find the assumptions on which the defence cuts were based to have arisen from a lack of clear foreign policy perspective. We inherited the foreign policy formulated by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that was hardly well-thought-out. I hope that, now that we have got away from mere platitudes about the United Nations and away from speeches about eyeball to eyeball, we will at long last get down to working out a comprehensive foreign policy that makes sense.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
I find myself in agreement with almost everything just said by the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams). This happens very often. I sometimes wonder why, on foreign policy matters, the hon. Gentleman insists on sitting on what is quite clearly the wrong side of the House.
I wish to start with one or two general observations and then to focus on a particular area—the Gulf. On the general points, I speak with some emotions, and they are emotions of shame and anxiety. I am ashamed, as an Englishman, because British Ministers have thrown overboard solemn undertakings and have gone back on their word to our allies. It used to be said that an Englishman's word was his bond, but I am afraid that that is no longer true of Her Majesty's present advisers.
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew put it very well in a remark which at the time I believe to be confidential, but which now has appeared in the Press. He said:I have always been a Labour man, but now I know what it must have felt like to be a Communist after Budapest.That was said by the Prime Minister of a British Commonwealth country.
As well as shame, I feel a deep sense of anxiety for the future of the country. Hon. Members opposite may make light of this, but the security of Britain has been sustained, at least since the war, by our unique membership in three overlapping circles. We alone are partners in the Commonwealth, in the Anglo-American relationship and in the 522 alliances of Western Europe. Today, I fear that our links with all these three are starting to fall away.
The old Commonwealth ties with Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore are fraying, and have snapped altogether in Southern Africa. Today, the Americans feel that we are letting them down, and they no longer count on us any more than they do on Federal Germany or on that rising Power, Japan. And, let it be marked well, we are not yet in Europe. For a country that must import four-fifths of its raw materials and about two-fifths of its food, this is deadly serious. I believe that we are in danger of a situation in which Britain is left without the Commonwealth, without the Americans, and outwith Europe, too.
As the Minister knows, I am strongly in favour of our joining the Common Market, and I was very glad this afternoon to hear the Foreign Secretary say that our application was still in. But, like the hon. Gentleman opposite, I have never thought of Europe as a crude alternative to the Commonwealth or to America. I have always felt that, far from signalling the end of our responsibility, our main purpose in joining Europe must be to act as a hinge—a hinge on which the narrow Europe of the Treaty of Rome can be swung to a wider conception leaning towards the Atlantic and accepting its wider responsibilities for the security and the well-being of the under-developed world. In short, I believe that the task of Britain in Europe, in the fullness of time, must be to reengage the old world to go to the help of the new, just as the new world came to the rescue of the old in two world wars.
I am sure that the Foreign Secretary feels the same way as I do, yet the policy he is now pursuing makes it all but impossible. At a time when the threat to peace has moved from Europe to the Far East, we are contracting out of the Far East and coming home to Europe. At a time when the under-developed world urgently needs stability, we are pulling out the props from under Malaysia, Singapore and the Gulf. At a time when Soviet naval power is starting to dominate the waters of the Middle East, British naval power is being withdrawn from the Indian Ocean and the Arab Seas. Above all, at a time when America, 523 for the first time since the war, may be tempted to reduce her aid and limit her commitments to free world security it is the British who are showing the way towards isolationism.
I lived in America for a very long time, and I should like to warn the Foreign Secretary, with all the sincerity at my command, that he is running grave risks with the American Alliance. We are told that President Johnson received the Foreign Secretary warmly. I am sure that he did, but let not the right hon. Gentleman confuse the warmth of the President's clap on the back for a mark of confidence in the present Government's foreign policies. I tell him plainly that large numbers of Americans have been deeply shaken by the evidence of the Labour Government's resignation from the world stage. Among the few thousand men who make up the American "Establishment"—in the Congress, in the great Departments of State and in the board rooms of American industry—the feeling now runs deep and sad that Britain is "passing the buck" and leaving it all to "Uncle Sam".
I will got go into detail about American reactions, but I summarise them in the words of a senior American statesman who, after the Foreign Secretary's recent appearance in Washington, said that British policy now seems to be inspired by the title of the musicalStop the World, I want to get off.I finish these general remarks with three observations which I hope the Foreign Secretary will note. First, British influence in Washington has now taken a nose-dive and no amount of braggadocio will alter that fact. This is bad for Britain and bad for America, too. Secondly, Britain's abdication from the world stage will lead the United States to place more of its confidence in the short run in Germany and Japan and, in the long run, in her relations directly with the Soviet Union. It could be that the Foreign Secretary's policies have brought nearer the day when the two super Powers may make their deal over Europe at Europe's and Britain's expense.
Thirdly, there is parallel danger that America may now be encouraged to retreat into isolationism. Militarily she could protect herself behind the anti- 524 ballistic screen and her second-strike missile sites. Economically, she is strong enough to live within the Western Hemisphere, but politically, if America were left so alone, she could retreat into self-sufficiency and a new form of isolationism which would be a disaster for world peace and security. I hope that it will not happen, but, coming on top of the years of struggle in Vietnam the sight of Britain contracting out is having a big effect on the United States. The right hon. Gentleman should weigh carefully the responsibility he and his colleagues would bear if America were to do what Britain is trying to do.
§ Mr. Richard
This will not do. The essential difference between the two nations is that we are in the position of where we have the residue of Empire which we are trying to wind up and the United States is in the position of being able to pick and choose its responsibilities arid commitments. The hon. Member must face that.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
There is no distinction between America and British interests in world stability and security. We have a part to play there.
I turn to a specific area—the Gulf. I can summarise what I want to say in terms of the name it is given. To the Persians, it is the Persian Gulf and to the Arabs who live on the other side it is the Arabian Gulf. In recent history for all practical purposes it has been the British Gulf, but today the prospect is that the successors to the British will be neither Arabs nor Persians, but conceivably the Soviet Union. I am not one who reacts to each and every sign of Soviet penetration as a threat to peace. The Soviet Union is a world Power. We cannot corral her in Europe or Asia. We must expect a Soviet presence in any part of the world, including the Middle East. But it is conspicuous that over the last few years the Soviet has built up a powerful long-distance Navy. Until recently I was puzzled why the Soviet Union was doing this, I asked myself what the Soviet Union wanted it for.
Part of the answer, I am sure, lies in Cuba and in Vietnam. I am now convinced that it is oil which is the key to the question. The Soviet Union is, or is about to become, an oil deficiency country. She is entering the motor car 525 age, and before long she will have to import large supplies of oil from abroad. I believe that this is why the Soviet Union is now building large oil tankers and moving her ships into the Middle East. It is from the Gulf that she can most conveniently draw her supplies, and that is what she seeks.
I would not regard it as in any way a disaster if the Russians were to buy their oil from the Gulf, as we do. A car-driving Russia, dependent for her petrol on peaceful international trade, is a very much safer proposition than the old Stalinist State. But will the Russians be content to buy their oil on a commercial basis? Will they stick to the rules of international commerce, or will they start to chuck their weight about and seek to grab for the oil, either by military force or, which is much more likely, by subversion?
I recently had the good fortune to visit the Gulf going to Kuwait, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. My visit there coincided with that of the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. I think it right to tell the House that everywhere I went I was told that the assurances he had given had made a deep impression on Rulers and on British officials alike. That was during his November visit. I could, but I will not, enter into the argument about the differences between November and December, except to say that the hon. Gentleman, who is an honourable gentleman, knows what he said in November and he knows that I know, too. He knows as well that what he said in December was different.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to be unfair. Of course, I gave assurances when I went to the Gulf in November, but I also very strongly warned every Ruler I met of the necessity to start at once to build up a successor system. Simply to say that I gave assurances, without adding that I laid very strong emphasis on the other part of what I had to say, is not the complete story.
Secondly, when I went in January the fact that I had spoken frankly on both points assisted me to have constructive talks with Rulers of both large and small States. I hope that nothing is said in this debate to nullify or minimise the 526 good basis for the constructive building up of an alternative system in the Gulf.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I am sorry that the Minister of State felt it right to intervene, because I was seeking to move very quickly across this matter, letting it rest with the remark that I made that I know what the hon. Gentleman said and he knows that I know.
I accept what he has just said, but I am bound to remind him, as he interrupted me, which I did not wish him to do, that among the phrases he used, speaking on behalf of the Cabinet, as he put it, was that there was no question in November of setting a date. He said that to British officials and to Rulers in the Gulf. Perhaps it would be wise, all things considered, if I left it at that.
I want to conclude my remarks about the Gulf with two or three observations.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
As the hon. Gentleman has raised the Russian bogy and her motive for being in the Middle East, will he tell us his authority for claiming that the Russians want Middle East oil?
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Yes, I think that I could do so. I am not prepared to do it across the Floor of the House, but I should be glad to tell the hon. Gentleman afterwards. I can assure him—I think that the Minister will agree with me here—that the information about the Soviets' need to import oil in the near future comes from an extremely reliable and good source.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I shall be glad to give the names to the hon. Gentleman at some other time. I give him my assurance now that the information arises from those who are in a position to know and who are accepted by the Minister as being knowledgeable on this matter. I will speak to him afterwards.
I conclude with these points. First, there is no doubt that the British presence in the Gulf is generally welcomed by its people. At minimal cost our very small garrisons at Bahrein and Sharjah are providing two indispensable conditions for the peace and the oil trade of the area. 527 They offer, first, a deterrent against outside attacks, not by the Soviet Union or by any of the great Powers, but by the larger Gulf states against the smaller. Secondly, they provide a large measure of political stability.
By this, I do not mean that they are propping up old-fashioned feudal regimes. Many of these régimes are by no means as old-fashioned and feudal as hon. Gentlemen think. What they are doing is to prevent petty feuds over water and grazing rights and over the many ill-defined frontiers of the area, from blowing up into war. Incidentally, they also provide an essential backing up for the Trucial Oman Scouts, who are doing an important and amirable job in keeping the peace and policing the borders.
The question which now arises is: how are peace and stability to be maintained when the British go? I am not optimistic. The fact that we have broken clear-cut understandings with the Gulf Rulers has shaken their confidence. It has weakened—I hope that it has not destroyed—the credibility of Her Majesty's Government's undertakings. I fear that as a result, many of the old frontier squabbles will revive, that Iraq might be tempted to have another go at Kuwait, that tribal disputes could lead to a revival of Saudi pressure against Abu Dhabi, that the Persians may seize some of the smaller islands in the Gulf and revive their claims to Bahrein, and that tribal war could start again in the Muscat with help from the new state of South Yemen.
If any of these things happened, there could again be a free-for-all in the Gulf. The Egyptians, and later the Russians, would be the main gainers from that. Europe and America would be the principal losers, and Britain would lose most of all. I think that at this stage one must seek a policy that goes for stability and security. I believe that stability in the Gulf requires a very much closer integration of the smaller Trucial States. I put it to the Minister that the Government should now be encouraging the Trucial Council. It should be developing common services, in particular health and education, in post and telecommunications, and above all in a common currency. Also, I think that stability 528 requires that we give more support to the Trucial Oman Scouts.
I think that defence against local aggression can best be achieved by way of a new Gulf security pact based on the tripod of Persia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. I believe that there is some hope in these measures. But, while they are being worked out, a British presence remains essential, and I hope that when hon. Members opposite come to the end of their term of office they will not leave the successor Government with a cupboard that is entirely bare.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)
I suppose it is inevitable that such a long-ranging debate should produce a number of specialist pleadings for quite a variety of causes. I intend to do a bit of specialist pleading for a cause to make a contribution to achieve not merely European peace and stability but, indeed, world peace.
I have listened all day to the debate and I have found it extremely interesting. But I am also perturbed at the specialist knowledge resulting in concentration on little parts of world. We are having a foreign affairs debate in a week when a military aeroplane crashed and when, if the fuses in its bombs had been alive, it might have caused such a world disaster that we would not be here to have this debate. Yet we have not heard a single word about the possibility of the outbreak of a hydrogen war. Ordinary people are correct when they criticise us in this House and those legislators in other legislative chambers for concentrating on small areas of the globe while the massive shadow of world destruction seems to escape us.
We are living in a world in which, on the one hand, there is appalling poverty and starvation in the poorer parts and, on the other hand, the rich industrial countries which have made their contribution in producing the possibility of total world destruction. We have a legion of ignorance living cheek by jowl with scintillating scientific discoveries, particularly in the nuclear bomb field. It is argued that the areas of poverty could be the fuse which would ignite the horrendous devices produced by the geniuses of the rich areas.
529 It is sometimes argued that the clashes in Asia or Africa could result in the global war which ultimately ends in nuclear war. There is something very powerful to be said for that argument. But I do not believe that this threat, terrible though it is, is the supreme threat. The supreme threat to world peace is still in Europe. I believe that, just as the most fearful wars in mankind's history originated with European quarrels, so it is possible that the third war, which will be the last war, will originate on this continent. To put it in another way, if there had been equivalents of Korea or Vietnam on the continent of Europe, then the ultimate holocaust would already have taken place. There are possibilities of this happening.
We have had a great deal of talk about the Middle East, Korea and Vietnam, but the most awful wars in mankind's history have originated in Europe. I am very much afraid that we might be ignoring this important point. Many of these wars, certainly the last two, were creations based on the mistrust of one nation for another. I wish to see erased the mistrust which already exists on the Continent of Europe—and I mean Europe in its proper sense, and not the Europe sometimes referred to by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary who, when he talks about the E.E.C., really means three countries and a couple of smaller countries, or the Europe of which people who favour Britain's entry into the Common Market talk in grandiose terms and say that we should "go into Europe" when they do not mean it. The idea of "our joining the Soviet Union, which is also part of Europe, would be anathema to them, although I believe that it is something which we should consider, in the general theme of European peace and stability.
I have not a great deal of time in which to make my case, so I will come quickly to the point I have in mind. I have made it in the House before, and it is worth examining. Britain can and should contribute to the idea which exists for the construction of a European Peace and Security Council. This proposal has been made from a variety of sources. It distresses me that proposals emanating from Scandinavian countries and the Soviet Union for European unity and peace should be a source of amusement 530 to some hon. Members. I find that very alarming because these are the real facts of life about which we are talking. Mr. Brezhnev of the Soviet Union made a proposal on 29th March, 1966, to have an international conference to see if we could work out which is involved in trying to create a European Peace and Security Council. Later the Danes took up the argument in the N.A.T.O. Council and developed it, but they received very little support from Great Britain. Norway supported the Danes and later the Roumanians have been talking about the idea, which culminated in the Bucharest Declaration.
This is not a one-sided proposition and we should not hold up our hands in horror because it has come from the other side of the Iron Curtain. It has also come from this side of the Iron Curtain. I am a little distressed that the idea has not been picked up, particularly by a Socialist Foreign Secretary of this country, to see if it is worth examining. We have ignored it, I hope not at our peril. The idea should be examined. Sanity demands it.
Some people will say that the idea of a European Peace and Security Council is somewhat bizarre and unrealistic. But what is not bizarre and unrealistic is a possibility that by ignoring the chance of creating such a council we could end up with a nuclear war. The heart and gravamen of my argument is that if the dangers in the Far East were here in Europe they might result in something far more serious than the horrid things we hear about in Vietnam.
To those who plead that the idea of such a council is bizarre and unrealistic I say that if it fails and the alternative occurs, which is a war in Europe, there will be no more cenotaphs to mark magnificent sacrifices. We cannot contemplate that the next war will be one to end all wars. It will be the complete and last war.
There are problems such as the German problem and that of the Oder-Neisse line. But I believe that the establishment of a Permanent Council for Peace and Security in Europe, to which I hope the Government will give consideration, and which is supported by the Russians and Scandinavians, and, I believe, by the ordinary people of those countries as well 531 as the politicians, could reduce tension, enhance commercial intercourse, promote real understanding and make its contribution to averting the real possibility of the ultimate holocaust. Europe, which has been the cause of so much horror and terror in the past, could well lead the way to sanity and decent behaviour for the rest of the world to follow.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak for a few minutes at this stage of the debate.
When the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) spoke of our concentration on this side of the House on what he termed little parts of the world, in which we are now leaving a power vacuum and dishonouring our obligations, he spoke in terms far too symptomatic of a great many of his hon. Friends. Hitherto, when I have spoken in a foreign affairs debate it has usually been on Europe. I intervene now because I wish to refer to the position in which, as a result of the decision to fix a time limit for leaving South-East Asia, we are likely to leave that part of the world.
Many hon. Members opposite have spoken against that decision and I was in almost complete agreement with several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) in that regard. He emphasised that we are leaving our interests and the harm we were doing to our interests in that part of the world. I wish to concentrate on the harm we are doing to our honour, and the dishonour we are doing in our obligations to a State which we set up.
Anyone who has visited Malaysia will have been impressed by the extraordinary differences between East and West Malaysia. West Malaysia is well developed and has beautiful roads and a remarkably sound economy. East Malaysia, on the other hand—it is no fault of West Malaysia—is at least 50 years behind in development. However, East Malaysia is now being developed dramatically through the energies of the people. Nevertheless, there exists there material for considerable difficulties and differences between the two halves of the Federation, which we must concede we artificially created. It is our 532 creation; there is no doubt that we have a continuing obligation to ensure that as far as possible it remains a viable State.
That obligation we honoured. When I was in Malaysia in 1966 it was at the end of confrontation with Indonesia, and there was gratitude for what the British Government and our troops had done in helping the people of East Malaysia to defend themselves against Communist aggression from Indonesia. But even now there are large pockets of Communism in East Malaysia. There are also considerable tribal difficulties there. Although there are Malays on both sides of the sea, in East Malaysia and in West Malaysia, there are considerable tribal difficulties. There are many other peoples in East Malaysia who, naturally, have their differences with West Malaysia.
If we leave a power vacuum here, it is ground in which it would be all too easy for an aggressor to pounce, thus destroying this creation of ours, a State which represents one of the greatest hopes for peace in that part of the world. This is an obligation on which the Government are turning their back for a saving which could have been accounted for by the abandonment of a few Socialist projects.
§ Mr. Grieve
We are turning our backs with a time limit. We have seen the effect of a time limit in Aden. Do not right hon. Gentlemen opposite realise that if one fixes a time limit for a departure like this one invites trouble? If, in the course of the next year or so, Indonesia has internal troubles, as is all too likely, will not the rulers there seek an outlet for the energies and discontents of their people in the time-honoured way of tyrants since time began, by aggression against their neighbours? How can the State of Malaysia, that creation which we very largely made for the sake of peace in that part of the world, conceivably stand together in those circumstances?
So much for our obligations of honour, but our interests are bound up there as well. The Foreign Secretary today, hot from Japan, referred to the expansion of Japan in the Far East. One has only to 533 visit those parts of the world to see how Japan is expanding at the expense of Britain in exports to Malaysia. The great timber industries of Borneo are being developed by the Japanese. The Japanese are buying shares in Malaysian companies, formed by British capital, which Britons are having to sell as a result of Socialist measures at home. Do not the Government realise that these interests—the hon. Member for Barons Court realises it—are worthy of protection as well? We are leaving a vacuum in South-East Asia which we shall ever regret.
I said I would confine myself to a short speech and I loyally honour my obligation. I hope that even now the Government will think again about a measure which dishonours and harms Britain.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. George Thomson)
The hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve), like the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), concentrated on the implications for our overseas policies of the cuts in commitments and in defence which the Government have announced. I should like to concentrate mainly on what has been said about the effect of these cuts on the Commonwealth. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will deal tomorrow with the other wider foreign policy and defence policy issues.
I begin by taking up one point from the interesting speech of the hon. and learned Member for Solihull. He complained that we were taking the wrong kind of action in Malaysia and in Singapore because we were frightened to make a few economies in our social expenditure at home. I remind him that in another place yesterday a former Chancellor of the Exchequer said that we were showing the courage to take decisions in domestic expenditure which his Government had singularly failed to show.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is not in order to refer to speeches in another place unless they are speeches of Ministers explaining official policy.
§ Mr. Thomson
I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker.
I should also like to remind the hon. and learned Member that when he talks about apparently footling sums he is talking of economies in our defence budget in the 'seventies of about £150 million a year.
§ Mr. Grieve
If the Government dismantled the Land Commission and did not go through with the Transport Bill, they would make bigger economies.
§ Mr. Thomson
I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman carries his right hon. Friends with him in proposals for economies on that scale. Certainly, it does not lie in the mouths of right hon. Gentlemen opposite to criticise these economies, unless they are honestly prepared to face up to saying where they will make substitute economies, especially as they are the party which is promising the electorate that it is prepared to cut taxation.
I wish to concentrate on the Commonwealth aspect of these cuts. Four of our allies east of Suez affected by these cuts are members of the Commonwealth. Two of them, Australia and New Zealand, are members of the old Commonwealth, and two, Malaysia and Singapore, members of the new Commonwealth which successive British Governments have been proud and happy to help in establishing independence.
I noticed that The Times was today asking what was left of Britain's usefulness to the Commonwealth, a question echoed by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) today. I believe that the Commonwealth still has a great potential usefulness in the world, and I shall try to show why. It is worth saying right at the start that defence is only one aspect of our total Commonwealth relationships and is a considerably smaller one than is generally believed. In fact, we have formal bilateral defence agreements with only two Commonwealth countries out of 25 and only four other Commonwealth countries are members with us of the N.A.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O. Alliances. For the other 19 Commonwealth countries aid, which is affected only slightly by the present economy cuts, is of much more importance than defence.
535 Having said that, I do not wish to under-estimate the significance or the seriousness of the decisions which we have taken for our future rôle in world affairs, including our relationships with the overseas countries of the Commonwealth, but I wished to begin by putting the question in a fair perspective. The acceleration of our withdrawal is, of course, of great importance to the four Far Eastern Commonwealth countries as it is to our principal ally, the United States of America. Two weeks ago I visited Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore and explained to them our new conclusions about our future defence policy.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire said that these consultations had been very much hurried and not of the character that consultations of that kind ought to take. I regret very much that the need for a full statement when the House resumed last Tuesday limited the time available to me. Nevertheless, though far more hurried than I would have wished, they were consultations. They were not the presentation of a fait accompli. An extremely useful exchange of views took place.
I do not pretend that our Commonwealth partners liked the news which I had to tell them, nor will I pretend that I took any great joy in telling them. But they certainly understood the reasons which compelled us to accelerate our withdrawal, even though they regretted the decision.
As I promised the four Commonwealth Prime Ministers concerned, I conveyed to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my colleagues in the Cabinet the strong views which they expressed to me, in particular in regard to the date for our final withdrawal from Malaysia and Singapore. Following my return, that of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary from Washington, and that of my hon. Friend the Minister of State from his trip to the Persian Gulf, which has been much commented on in the debate, the date for withdrawal was extended from 31st March, 1971, the end of the financial year, to 31st December, 1971.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Is this for all the countries to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, including the Gulf?
§ Mr. Thomson
This applies to all countries. A period of nine months may not seem a great deal, but it is an extension of a quarter on the earlier idea that we had, and that is of great importance to both Malaysia and Singapore. We were also able to make significant offers of help to the Governments of the two countries in establishing jointly an air defence system for the countries once we have left.
There has been a great deal of criticism in a number of speeches in the debate about the new decisions changing what was decided only six months ago. The hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) made mention of that in his speech.
The first point which ought to be made is that the decisions represent no change of principle but a change of timing, important though I recognise that to be.
The principle of withdrawal from our land bases in Asia was established last summer and accepted at that time. A date between 1973 and 1977 was then proposed, so that the new date represents an advancement of a little over a year from the lower end of the previous bracket. Fortunately, the new date for withdrawal, with all the difficulties that it causes, comes at a time when relations between Malaysia and Singapore and their neighbours are very much better than they have been for some time in the past.
There is something to be said for a clear date for our withdrawal. Already there is considerable evidence both in the Gulf and in the Far East that the announcement of a firm date is concentrating the minds of all concerned so that they can now measure the task which they face and work to it openly.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
Can we have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that the Government will not change the date and advance it, as was done in the case of Aden?
§ Mr. Thomson
Yes, Sir. The date was decided after very careful and agonising consideration. What I wanted to say about the date is that there are still very nearly four years ahead of us all but a few days.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
Let us be quite specific. Will my right hon. Friend give a firm assurance that the date will not be advanced again?
§ Mr. Thomson
I stand by the words that I used, and I think that they ought to satisfy any reasonable hon. Member. The date is four years ahead of us. My hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) wished it were longer. I would not like to say that I did not wish that it were longer, too, but I remind the House that four years is quite a long time in our uncertain and fast-changing world, and much longer notice than successive British Governments have given of withdrawal from our responsibilities in various parts of the world since the end of the Second World War.
We have every intention of ensuring that good use is made of the intervening years. We have expressed our readiness to take part in a conference with the other four Commonwealth Governments concerned, if that is their wish, so that we can work out together the best defence arrangements that can be devised in the light of our new decision.
As I have said, we have also promised to help the establishment of a joint air defence system. We stand ready to help in other ways, for example, through the provision of expert personnel and the release of our defence facilities in step with the defence plan of those who will be taking over from us in that part of the world.
We have also promised to take into account the new date for our withdrawal n determining the amount of economic aid we can offer to Malaysia and Singapore to help them adjust and adapt their economies to the loss of military employment. Discussions will take place on this, and I can assure hon. Members that we are not thinking of aid in terms of token figures.
Criticism has been made during the debate that we are renouncing our obligations under the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement. I emphatically repudiate this. The House will recall that the Agreement dates from 1957 and that at the time of its negotiation an essential purpose was to enable us to retain the military facilities we ourselves acquired to fulfil a far wider rôle than the defence of the Malaysian Peninsula. Since then much has changed both in the area and in the nature of our own responsibilities.
The Agreement contains provision for review at the request of either side; and to propose this now four years ahead is 538 quite different from unilateral abrogation. We have offered to reach an understanding with the Malaysian Government to make the agreement fit the new conditions and so enable it to continue. In any event, the agreement stands as it is until the end of 1971.
I would remind the House that we have reaffirmed our intention to maintain the Hong Kong garrison. We shall remain fully capable of discharging our responsibilities to all our remaining dependent territories in the area, including Fiji. The hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) raised this question. He expressed anxiety about our ability to do this in the new circumstances. I can tell him that we shall maintain the capability for reinforcement from the United Kingdom using one of the number of route options that will be available to us in the circumstances of that time.
We shall also be discussing the implications of our new decisions fully with the Australian and New Zealand Governments. It is true that these Governments are disappointed that we no longer plan to keep any special capability for use in the Far East after our withdrawal; but we shall still have a general capability, and, though it will be based in Europe and on the territory of the United Kingdom, it will be useable overseas should circumstances, in our judgment, demand it. That is the answer I give to the question posed to me on the issue by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams).
§ Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devon-port)
Does this mean the closing of the Commonwealth Camp at Serendah, near Malacca, which is a joint camp?
§ Mr. Thomson
These are questions which still have to be discussed between us. This is essentially the kind of question which would be dealt with at the five-Power conference that I said we were ready to undertake.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I would press the right hon. Gentleman a little more on this. It is no good us vaguely saying that we will supply the garrison at Hong Kong. The Singapore base will not be available and we cannot fly supplies halfway round the world. What are these route options which are open and and how do they go?
§ Mr. Thomson
One can fly supplies halfway round the world and back again nowadays. There are a number of route options, as the hon. Member, who is an expert on these matters, knows. The west-about route to Hong Kong is very little longer than the present normal east-about route to Hong Kong.
We have made clear our continued interest in the maintenance of security in the South East Asia areas. It is our intention to continue to play such part in this as we can. We have also emphasised our continuing support of peace keeping under United Nations auspices.
I ask the House not to write down our future strength. We shall retain highly professional and mobile forces who will, as in the past, acquit themselves honourably in the unforeseen tasks to come. Naturally and inevitably, these tasks will include our coming to the assistance of Australia and New Zealand if they were ever the victims of aggression. For our part, we shall honour the bonds which have linked us so inseparably in the past, and brought them to our side in two world wars. It does not need the stationing of British forces in Australia to make this pledge credible any more than, as Mr. Holyoake himself pointed out at our joint Press conference, it was necessary in the past to have New Zealand forces stationed in Europe to demonstrate her readiness to come to our aid in time of war.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, and others, complained that we had gone back on our plans to maintain a military capability for use in the Far East if required. The plain fact is that when it became inevitable in the national interest to change our position about devaluation, it turned out to be an equally inevitable consequence that we had to change our position about other spending commitments. The defence undertakings were given last summer in an honest attempt to help to meet our Commonwealth partners' viewpoint.
It might, with hindsight, have been better for the British Government to have behaved more ruthlessly last July and to have resisted the pressures which were rightly put on us by our allies to stay for a longer period, rather than give assurances which in the end were quickly overtaken by events. That we did not do so may be a reflection on our failure 540 sufficiently quickly to put our own economic interests first, but it is not a reflection on our good faith.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire sought to put an interesting middle course to the House in the light of our decisions. He conceded that Britain should abandon her world police rôle, but he thought that we should still concentrate on maintaining commitments in the Gulf and in Singapore. I do not think that this is a valid or tenable half-way house. The long-term economies in our defence budget would simply not be obtainable on that basis. Our present world rôle is our presence in Singapore and the Gulf, and it is impracticable to separate them in any meaningful way which will produce economies in our defence budget. The right hon. Gentleman seems to be seeking to establish a distinction which will result in little of the economy that is the real aim of these changes.
Our action in proposing these changes is not irresponsible. It is our plain duty, and that of any British Government, to ensure that our responsibilities do not outstrip our resources. I believe that these decisions will be judged to be an act of realism which will prove to be in the long-term interests of our allies, including our Commonwealth partners, as well as of ourselves.
In view of what has been said, perhaps I might be excused for stating my own basic approach to this matter. I believe that Britain has, and will continue to have, an important rôle to play in the world, both in terms of direct military power, and in terms of influence. Both our power and our influencer—which are by no means identicalr—have this in common. They have no credibility unless they have that consistency which springs from our efforts being firmly within our own resources, and not subject to the pressure of recurring economic crises.
I was asked by the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour), and by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams), why, if we have decided that we cannot afford a major presence both in Europe and in Asia, we feel bound to put Europe first, even though Asia continues to be one of the areas of instability in world affairs. In answer to both hon. Members I say that we are bound to do so, 541 first, because this is where our own national security immediately lies, and this must be the first priority for the British Government. Secondly, because the fulcrum of the balance of peace in the world still rests in Europe. It is, as I think has been recognised, the balance between the forces of the N.A.T.O. Alliance and the forces of the Warsaw Pact.
Peace remains a global problem. It is for this reason that we are bound to be ready to use the considerable military power which we will still have at our disposal outside of Europe if we judge it right to do so. Having said that, I do not wish, as the British Commonwealth Secretary, to understate in any way to the rest of the Commonwealth the historic significance of the change which will take place over the next four years. Those New Zealanders were absolutely right who said that they recognised that we were approaching the end of an era. It is a final coming to terms by Britain with her changing rôle in a changing world. It springs from a recognition of the fact that Britain can only have an effective defence and overseas policy on two conditions.
The first is that the British economy must be strong and free from international indebtedness. The second is that our long-term defence budget must be brought within the resources generated by that economy. We are the only Western country, apart from the United States, that has sought to sustain both a world-wide military rôle and a world-wide monetary rôle. We have borne the cost of contributing to stability in areas where our allies and commercial competitors have shared the benefit without sharing in any way the burdens.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds asks whether we do not have the same interests in world security and world peace as the United States. Of course we do, and so do our European neighbours, but our ability to contribute to world peace is bound to be related to our resources, especially if we expect to make an effective contribution.
§ Mr. Maudling
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain to opinion overseas why we cannot make an effective contribution of £20 million for the security of the Persian Gulf, but we can make a contribution of £70 million towards the nationalisation of transport?
§ Mr. Thomson
I do not accept that as a fair comparison. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the continuation of our commitments in the Gulf do not depend simply on the amount of money it costs each year, but on the linking with the total defence capability, which, again, is related to what we decide is the defence budget which we should be able to afford. We are determined to give overriding priority now to putting the economy right, and we are confident that we can succeed in doing so. This is bound to cause difficulties for our allies and is bound to demand hardships and sacrifices for the British people.
It is an error to assume that British military power and influence necessarily march hand in hand. There have been a number of casesr—though, fortunately, Singapore has not been one of them—where British military power has been at its maximum and British influence has been at its minimum. I think of the recent action in South Arabia. It is a Chinese Communist maxim, not a maxim of British democratic philosophy, that power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
British influence in the world depends upon many things as well as defence. It depends upon the power of the English language. It depends upon the Commonwealth links between doctors and engineers and teachers and students that have grown up over generations. Britain's influence, above all, depends upon the stability and self-reliance of the British economy.
Our aid programme is the most important form of help that we give to the developing countries of the Commonwealth and a vital factor in our relations with them. As announced by the Minister for Overseas Development on 18th January, it is the intention of the Government to keep the basic aid programme at its present level of £205 million in 1968 –69. The total budgetary cost of aid which we shall be providing has not been reduced as part of the cuts announced, but the aid programme has contributed to these economies by absorbing the additional foreign exchange costs resulting from devaluation which are expected to amount to a reduction, in real terms, of approximately £10 million.
In fact, however, because of the aid that we shall be giving to Singapore and 543 Malaysia, and because of our increased replenishment of the I.D.A. and Kennedy Round food aid, all of which will be out side the basic aid programme, our total aid to the developing countries is expected to be higher in 1968 –69 than it was in 1967 –68. This shows our determination to give as much aid as we can within our means and this is one measure of our maintenance of influence in world affairs, and particularly in that part represented by the developing countries in the Commonwealth——
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester) rose——
§ Mr. Thomson
I am sorry, but I cannot give way. The hon. and gallant Gentleman was not present during the earlier part of the debate.
While the debate has revealed deep and sincerely held divisions of opinion, there is a common denominator of concern in all parties for Britain's position in the world. It is important to see these issues in their historical perspective. The essential fact is that successive Governments in Britain have, since the war, had to face the problem of adjusting to new political circumstances and new circumstances of power in a rapidly changing world.
The transformation of Empire into Commonwealth has also been reflected in great and corresponding changes in our defence posture. At the end of the last war we remained responsible for the complete defence of all British territories overseas. When India became independent her large defence forces, on which the system of imperial defence east of Suez had so greatly depended, were no longer available. Since then successive British Governments have had to adjust what we could do in the field of defence with what we could afford. I remember the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), when Minister of Defence, saying in his White Paper how essential it was to keep defence expenditure within the real economic resources generated by the economy.
There is a historical inevitability about this process which is now coming to a climax, just as there was about the process of de-colonisation. Indeed, in the eyes of future historians, the remark- 544 able thing may be not that our forces were withdrawn from the Far East bases at the end of 1971, but that they remained there for so long after the honourable fulfilment of Britain's colonial rôle in the area. The decisions which we have taken are no less painful or difficult either for ourselves, or for our Commonwealth partners and allies, because they accord with the inexorable pattern of history and the inescapable necessity to match our military commitments to our economic resources.
As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, these decisions are not taken without risk, and those of us in the Government with overseas responsibilities are very much aware of that, but the overwhelming risk to our allies, to our Commonwealth partners, and to ourselves, is the risk of a Britain rendered impotent by an unwillingness to face up to the realities of our position in the present-day world. This is not a time, when, confronted by these realities, we should take refuge in a nostalgia and regret for the past. It is a time to look to the future and the part that Britain, consolidated economically, and consolidated on her European base in terms of defence, ultimately will have to play in the world.
Her Majesty's Government are convinced that Britain's place is in the world, not turned in on herself, and that, in the final quarter of this century, as our direct military influence on a world-wide scale reduces, we shall continue to exert influence in other ways. We shall increase that influence as our economy is strengthened. I remember eloquent speeches by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire when he was Foreign Secretary in which he stated, as Ernest Bevin had before him, that the essential foundation for an effective foreign policy for Britain is a strong economic base.
That is the foundation of what we are now seeking to do. We are a trading nation, living by trade all over the world. How on earth could Britain, in that case, turn her back on the world? We have an immense amount to give Europe, both Eastern and Western Europe, and we have an immense amount, with Europe, to give the rest of the world. I believe that we can help to create a more outward looking Europe and that we can change over 545 from the world police rôle which we have played in the past, I believe with great success, to a new rôle in terms of the realities and opportunities of these years at the end of the 20th century.
In the fields that really matter and that are really relevant today, we have an unrivalled contribution of excellence to make. We have unchallengeable skill and experience in education and administration. We are in the van of technological achievement and we have a unique contribution to make to the developing countries of the world. The British soldier has been a good ambassador for this country over many generations and the British soldier will still play a notable part in preserving the balance of peace, but the ambassadors of Britain tomorrow outside Europe will not normally be soldiers but technicians, school teachers, university lecturers, agricultural specialists, experts in management and finance the creators of wealth in a developing world.
These are the true foundations on which Britain's future place in the world will depend. It is a future which can only be built on the foundations of a sound economy. It is a future worth the sacrificesr—and risksr—necessary to achieve it. It is a future in which the Commonwealth will remain a vital vehicle of Britain's influence in the world.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths rose——s
§ Mr. Speaker rose——
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I was seeking to put a question before the right hon. Gentleman sat down, Mr. Speaker, but you rose before I did. I wanted to put this to him. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the general capability in Europe and suggested that that will be able to be deployed to meet our Commonwealth obligations in many places. He will recall that, in Kuwait——
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
My question is this. How will we get over the problem of acclimatising the troops who will be sent out from Europe to very difficult places?
§ Mr. Thomson
We will still have our responsibility for our remaining dependencies, and that will give us a worldwide rôle in itself. A part of that will 546 be the necessary adjustment and acclimatising of our Service men.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.