§ 4.41 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)
I shall speak today on the way in which the changes in defence capability which the Prime Minister announced last week relate to changes in our foreign policy both outside and inside Europe. I hope that the House will agree that detailed questions of forces and equipment are more suitable for the debate in a few weeks on the Defence White Paper. Also, since the Opposition intend to divide the House, I hope to be forgiven if I say a few words about the line of criticism, often highly personal, which they have chosen to follow, although some may feel that that is unnecessary after the remarkable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Thorney-croft, this week in another place.
The acceleration of our withdrawal from Singapore and Malaysia, our decision to leave the Gulf by the same time, the limitation in our capability for use thereafter outside Europe—these are the only changes in the statement last week as compared with the statement we made in the House of Commons in July—have brought fully home to the House that this is the end of two centuries of British history, an era which covers some of the brightest pages, and some of the darkest, in the story of our people. It is the end of east of Suez in the sense in which the phrase has been used in public debate over the last few years, and I dare say that my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) may find more satisfaction than I do in that.
I often feel that historical memories and our attitude to them, often different between one side of the House and the other, have made it difficult for us to see what the issue east of Suez really has been in recent years. Also, the scale of our military involvement in the last 15 years has created a misleading impression of the way in which the future was likely to evolve. It may have been true in the 19th Century that Britain was the dominant Power in the land masses bordering the Indian Ocean. But the Second World War revealed the limitations of our power in dealing with the challenge of an industrialised and militarised Japan. Our defeat in Singapore marked the end 621 of an era, and the years following showed that Asian Arab and African nationalism could mobilise forces which it was neither wise nor possible for us to try to resist by force.
The Conservative Government's attempt to resist them in 1956 produced the most humiliating political defeat of our post-war history and destroyed the whole basis of British influence in the Arab world, and when, partly as a result, its closest friend in the Arab world was murdered in Iraq two years later, the Conservative Government was powerless to intervene. Instead, they took only two weeks to give diplomatic recognition to his successors.
Whatever may have been true of Britain's military rôle east of Suez after 1956, we have not had the ability to dominate the area or to decide by ours elves the course events should take. Nevertheless, our forces were continuously engaged in fighting somewhere or other east of Suez from that time on—in Kenya, in the Gulf, in Malaya, and later in Borneo, East Africa and Southern Arabia. Looking back on it, much of this fighting was an inevitable part of the process of disengaging from our old imperial rôle, and in too much of it we were fighting against local nationalism. In some cases, however, our forces were fighting not against but alongside the forces of local nationalism both before and after it won independence, as in Malaya. In these cases, they made a contribution to peace and stability of which we should always be proud. I am thinking now of the Gulf in 1961, of East Africa in 1964, and of the Far East during the three years of the confrontation, from 1963 to 1966.
§ Mr. Healey
And Mauritius now, certainly. This was the rôle outside Europe which I and the Government in which I serve believed worth while. This was tile sense in which I and the Cabinet as a whole were east of Suez men. We believed that, partly as a result of the experience which our people had gained in very different circumstances in past days, Britain could make a military contribution of unique value towards peace and stability in the third world. I believe that still, as a general proposition. 622 But none of us has ever believed that the British military contribution could be more than one of many factors to determine the course of events outside Europe or that it could be provided everywhere east of Suez with equal ease. We were very conscious that in some cases our imperial history might make the presence of our forces an irritant rather than a stabilising factor, particularly in the Middle East, where the events of 1956 still cast a long shadow.
As we said in last February's Defence White Paper, we looked forward to the time when the local peoples would be able to live at peace without the presence of external forces. It is here, I think, that our approach to the problem east of Suez differed so fundamentally from that of people, perfectly sincere, like the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and Mr. Julian Amery, who may have appeared to support us and whose apparent support did so much to prejudice a great deal of radical opinion against us.
Above all, none of us on this side of the House has ever believed that, important as our contribution to stability outside Europe might be, it should ever take precedence over our contribution to peace in Europe. For the foundation of Britain's security is today, as it has been for the past 1,000 years, the maintenance of peace in Europe.
The result is that, whenever economic pressures have forced us to reduce our spending on defence, we have had to look for the consequent reductions in our military effort outside, not inside, Europe. This was so in the first Defence Review of February, 1966, which led to our decision to withdraw from South Arabia and to reduce our forces in the Far East, and it has been the case in every such successive defence cut, including the one announced last week.
I shall not pretend that these successive cuts in our defence expenditure have been welcome to me personally, but I would not have carried them out if I had not believed them to be necessary in the nation's interest as our economic situation worsened. My essential duty as Secretary of State for Defence has been clear: on the one hand, to make certain that I get the best value in terms of men and weapons for any sum of money which our economic situation permits, 623 and, in the second place, to make certain that the resulting military capability is in balance with the commitments it is required to meet; in other words, that we cut the tasks of our forces as we reduce their capability, and in consequence that we revise the political commitments from which they flow.
I explained to the House in July why any major reduction in our defence expenditure below the level we planned in February 1966 would mean the total evacuation of Singapore and Malaysia. The need to make further savings faster has now compelled us to advance the date of that evacuation by at least 12 months before the earliest date envisaged last July. And if all the financial benefits we can obtain from leaving Singapore and Malaysia are to be obtained, we must leave the Gulf as well by the same date. Otherwise we should require to keep not only our forces now stationed in the Gulf, but also all the other forces on which they might need to call in a crisis—in particular the carrier force, which might in certain circumstances be highly valuable so long as we have any military presence in the Gulf.
§ Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devon port) rose——
§ Mr. Healey
With respect, we are very late in starting the debate. Although I shall give way on occasion, I hope that the House will allow me to deploy my case expeditiously, so that as many back bench Members as possible may speak.
Last July we envisaged that in 1975 we would have reduced the overall manpower working in and for the Services by 75,000 uniformed and 80,000 civilian personnel. The decision not to maintain a special capability for use outside Europe after our withdrawal, and our decision to withdraw earlier, will enable some further savings to be made in both manpower and equipment. As a result, we expect a Defence Budget in 1972–73 of £1,600 million-£1,650 million at 1964 prices—a cut of over £300 million on last year's Budget.
In our first five years of office we shall have saved over £1,600 million compared with the long-term costings which Lord Thorneycroft made of his 624 own defence programme and which the Treasury, under the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), approved. If the right hon. Gentleman disputes these facts, I will gladly enable him to refresh his memory by showing him the documents. In broad terms, over the five years from 1967–68 to 1972–73 we shall be spending over £3,000 million less than was provided for in the Conservatives' long-term costings. The Opposition tell us to restore that expenditure and at the same time claim that we should cut public expenditure still further.
My right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs have already spoken of what this means in terms of cuts in the tasks of our forces and reductions in our commitments. What I cannot understand is how, when the need to maintain a balance between our commitments and our military capability has been the constant theme of so many Opposition speeches over the past two years—and in particular the theme of the speech of the right hon. Member for Barnet in the debate last July—the Opposition should now be complaining that we are acting as they suggest.
I turn to the effect on our general military capability of the cuts in commitments east of Suez. I hope that the House will understand that full details of the size and shape of our forces when our withdrawal is complete will have to wait until the White Paper which I hope to publish before the Summer Recess.
§ Mr. Cranky Onslow (Woking)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the point of his view of his duties in the high office of Secretary of State for Defence, will he elaborate on the question which has agitated most of us, namely, why he did not, apparently, ever give consideration to leaving that office?
§ Mr. Healey
Yes, Sir. I shall spend a little time at the end of my speech, if the House permits, in dealing with that specific question. Since so many hon. Members opposite have asked me to do so, I hope that they will do me the courtesy of listening to what I have to say.
As a consequence of our withdrawal we shall, despite the big cut in our expenditure, have available a bigger proportion of our defence resources for the 625 defence of Europe than we have today, and an important part of those resources will be available for operations outside Europe—often, I hope, under United Nations auspices—in case of need.
When our withdrawal from east of Suez is complete, despite the 20 per cent. reduction in the overall size of our forces which will accompany it, our Navy will he second in size and striking power only to the American Navy in the Western world.
In addition to a Polaris force and nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarines unique among the European members of N.A.T.O., its guided missile destroyers and the other new ships I described last July will be among the most modern in tie world.
Our Army, though smaller than some other European armies, will be the only full-time professional army in the West, with a range of fighting experience gained world-wide without equal among our European allies. In the Chieftain, our armoured regiments will have the most Powerful tank in the world.
Our Army, though smaller than some other European armies, will be the only full-time professional army in the West, with a range of fighting experience gained World-wide without equal among our European allies. In the Chieftain, our armoured regiments will have the most powerful tank in the world.
§ Mr. Healey
I am Coming to all that later.
Despite the loss of the F111, of which I shall say more later, our Air Force will be second to none in Europe, with about 400 of the most modern combat jets, including the Phantom, which will be the most effective aircraft of its type throughout the 1970s; the Harrier, the only operational aircraft in the world with a vertical and short take-off capability; the Nimrod long-range military reconnaissance aircraft; and the brand-new Jaguar strike aircraft then just Coming into service. I would remind the House that if the Conservatives had stayed in power the Royal Air Force would still in 1971 be waiting for the P. 1154 to carry out the vital rôles for which it will now have both the Phantom and Harrier.
As the defence correspondent of The Times pointed out in two articles which have a lot of good sense in them, as well as some ideas which no one will expect me to endorse, the impact of the for-midable contribution we shall be able to make to the Alliance in the 1970s may 626 be as important politically as it is militarily.
Big changes are on the way in Europe. Whatever our hopes may be, it is not possible now to foresee the precise nature of our relationship with the Common Market in 1972. But what is certain is that our political relations with our European neighbours will be even more important than they are today, and that the scale and nature of our military contribution to their defence may exercise a more important influence on those relations than it has in the last 20 years.
President Johnson's recent statement on the need to reduce American spending overseas may well foreshadow some reduction in America's military contribution on this side of the Atlantic. I cannot imagine any situation in which America's security no less than that of Europe will not depend on the alliance which binds together both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. But I believe that if America is to retain her essential commitment to the defence of Western Europe in the 1970s we on this side of the Atlantic will have to be more self-reliant in defence than we have been in the 1960s.
In other respects, too, the scene may change. Though we all passionately hope that the recent Soviet-American Agreement on the text of a non-proliferation treaty will lead to some firm international arrangement which will guarantee the world against the further spread of nuclear weapons, it is far from certain now that the 1970s will not see a move in the opposite direction. In that case, our own nuclear capability may assume greater importance than it has today, not only for our own security but also in opening the way to acceptable solutions of the problem of arms control within the Western Alliance.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
The right hon. Gentleman is making some important judgments about our future defence policy. Since he has been so disastrously wrong before, why should we have any confidence in his judgment for the future?
§ Mr. Healey
I am not encouraged to give way again by the two interventions. Both have been frivolous in the extreme, and in any case I shall deal with the 627 thoughts that lie behind them in the concluding section of my speech.
Whatever happens on our relations with the Common Market, which has absorbed so much of our energies over the last 10 years, I think that in the next decade we shall have to give more thought to improving co-operation with those who will work with us, not only in the Common Market, but in other parts of the Continent as well. The concentration of the British Navy in the European theatre will make possible a powerful strengthening of N.A.T.O.s Southern flank at a time when the threat to peace may appear to be increasing there. This at least I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) will welcome.
On the other hand, there are encouraging signs that the rigidity of the division between Western and Eastern Europe may continue to melt. The prospects of agreement on the mutual reduction of forces may be brighter in five years' time than they are today.
I hope that the Prime Minister's talks in Moscow may have made an important contribution to this end, but, whatever precisely the future holds, it is a fair assumption that big changes may well take place in the next 10 years in the pattern of political relationships affecting the whole world between Washington and Moscow. Britain's military relationships with the other European Powers could be a decisive factor in determining the new pattern.
The concentration of our military effort in the European theatre—modified though it will be by regular training, and, no doubt, some operations overseas—will come as a disappointment to many in the Services for whom campaigning outside Europe has been taken for granted in the last 15 years or so. But I believe all our experience suggests—and the superb morale of our forces in Germany today confirms this—that the Services will continue to provide a career in the future no less attractive for men of courage, skill and dedication, than they had in the past.
Meanwhile, my Department faces a gruelling six months in programming a much faster withdrawal and a much faster 628 reduction in service manpower and in restructuring the forces for their new rôle. As I have said, I hope that the result of this work may be presented to the House in a White Paper before the Summer Recess. At present I will refer to only one aspect of the problem—the implications of the Government's decision to cancel the F111A.
§ Dame Joan Vickers
The right hon. Gentleman says that we are not to get the White Paper until June. Does this mean that 2,600 men will continue to be employed on the refit of the "Ark Royal" between now and then and that the ship will then be scrapped?
§ Mr. Healey
It does not mean that. I think that the hon. Lady is already aware that, as soon as we are able to take a decision on the work load at Devonport, which concerns her as much as the "Ark Royal" or the "Eagle" as such, we shall do so.
I was talking about the implications of the Government's decision to cancel the F111A. Of course I did not welcome this decision—any more than some of my colleagues welcomed all the decisions affecting their departments. In the 70s—though not in the next year or two, it will bring big savings. But it means the loss of a capability for long-range conventional strike and reconnaissance which our forces have possessed till now in the Canberra aircraft, and that aircraft must begin to be withdrawn from service in a year or so.
Outside Europe, we shall have the V-bombers and the carriers until our withdrawal is complete, so the F111 cancellation will have little effect on the security of our troops while we still have our forces based there. The most important consequence will be to limit the variety of circumstances in which we can usefully intervene outside Europe after our withdrawal. Our allies are well aware of the nature of this limitation.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr (Rochester and Chatham) rose——
§ Mr. Healey
Inside Europe after 1971 the Fleet at sea will still obtain the protection it requires from land-based Buccaneers and Nimrods, and in the narrow waters Phantom aircraft can perform a useful rôle. 629 But, once the Canberras phase out, our land forces in Europe—like all the other land forces in N.A.T.O.—will depend on toe United States alone for this particular capability of long-range conventional strike and reconnaissance—as they and all other land forces in N.A.T.O. have always depended upon the United States for tactical atomic weapons.
For short range reconnaissance and strike the Phantom, Buccaneer, Harrier and Jaguar have an impressive capability. Our air forces will certainly require some reshaping to make up for the loss of the F111 and this will reduce the saving of about £400 million over 10 years which might otherwise have been obtained.
Now, I hope I may say a few words on my personal position, which has been raised so often by Opposition speakers in the last ten days. I do not complain about that. As Harry Truman said, "If you don't like the heat, don't go into the kitchen."
I was told to resign last week by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) in a performance positively manic in intensity. His colleagues looked as embarrassed at his excesses as he himself looked when the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire was speaking yesterday. The trouble is that we have heard it all before. The right hon. Gentleman has told me to resign every time he has spoken as the Shadow Minister of Defence.
The right hon. Gentleman was particularly ferocious last week because he was defending his party's undertaking to stay on in the Far East after 1971, though he personally has said that there is virtually no point in being there, even during confrontation. He obviously thought that if he shrieked loud enough and made a lot of nasty faces no one would notice that he was standing on his head. At least he has the qualification to ask me to resign, because he himself did resign on one occasion, and I honour him for doing so. But I was also told to resign by the right hon. Member for Barnet. He never resigned. He stayed in the Conservative Government after their decision to seek entry to the Common Market, despite the fact that he had said, on 12th February, 1959, that he could not 630… conceive that any Government of this country would put forward a proposition which would involve the abandonment of Commonwealth free entry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1959; Vol. 599, c. 1381.]Of course, all the right hon. Gentlemen opposite want us all in the Government to resign. They want our jobs. But I do not think that any Member of this House is impressed when his political opponents tell him to resign. Nor since Burke's famous speech to the electors of Bristol has any Member felt it right to let his conduct be decided by the views of some of his constituents—even by the management committee of his constituency party. It is when his colleagues in his own party in the House of Commons tell him to go that he should start worrying. I do not complain that the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire did not resign on the many occasions when we told him to go, but I believe that he was right to resign when his colleagues made it clear that he no longer commanded their confidence. The present Leader of the Opposition has had his own recent personal experience in this field.
From some of the things said and written over last week, one would think that this is the first time any British Government had changed its mind on an issue of foreign or defence policy. One would think that no Conservative Minister had told the House—as Lord Colyton did on 28th July, 1954:… they cannot contemplate a change of sovereignty in Cyprus."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th July, 1954; Vol. 531, c. 504.]Five hundred people had to die before the Conservative Government broke that pledge by giving Cyprus independence five years later. One would also think that a Conservative Prime Minister had never given pledges on the Central African Federation—as Harold Macmillan did in 1960—which he broke unilaterally two years later, causing one of his colleagues to write:Sir Roy Walensky's well documented indictment of the British Government has presented a shameful record of principles ignored and solemn undertakings dishonoured".If the right hon. Gentleman, who I believe, is to speak later, is forgetting all this, I hope that he will look at Sir Roy Welensky's White Paper, which was headed,British Government's Broken Pledges and their Consequence".631 I think that the House may find it most relevant to recall how the Conservative Government handled the continuous series of somersaults on defence policy which took place when they were in office. They invented a brilliant technique. They switched their Defence Minister to another job before the somersault took place. That is why they had nine Defence Ministers in 13 years and why our defences were in such a mess in 1964.
In 1955, Mr. Macmillan found that he would have to cancel four major aircraft projects, and so he let the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) take over for nine months so that he could take the blame. I sympathise with the right hon. and learned Gentleman—he was cast as the fall guy in so many Departments for the mistakes made by his predecessors.
When the right hon. and learned Gentleman had done his part——
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr rose——
§ Mr. Healey
Lord Monckton took over and cut most of the aerospace projects which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had left. Then, after ten months, Lord Monckton left the Ministry of Defence, according to one of his Ministerial colleagues, because he was disgusted at the moral turpitude of the Suez operation. In any case, Lord Head then took over for three months and it is generally believed that he left his Ministry because he would not accept Prime Minister Macmillan's orders to end conscription. Certainly he did not do the forces a good turn by going, because when he went he was succeeded by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys).
The right hon. Member for Streatham, in nearly three years, cut our forces to ribbons, slashed our commitments in Europe, left scars on the Services from which they have not yet recovered, cancelled aircraft right and left and relied on the missile Blue Streak. When it was obviously a flop, after a short spree at the Ministry of Aviation finishing off his work on the British aircraft industry, he stepped smartly into the Commonwealth Relations Office and spent his time creating new commitments for the Forces which he had just crippled. He was the architect of the overstretch which I inherited in 1964.
632 I have already told him in a letter which he published without my permission—although I have no complaint about that—that I did not intend to imply last week that he planned to withdraw all our forces from Singapore. I would have made that clear in the House at the time if the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West had allowed me to do so. But I regret it if the right hon. Gentleman thinks that I misrepresented him. I have no desire to be unfair to him. I do not believe that it is necessary.
§ Mr. Sandys (Streatham)
The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that he is wriggling. What he said the other night was perfectly clear. He said:… the right hon. Member for Streatham … like me, as Defence Secretary recommended his Government to withdraw from Singapore".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th January, 1968; Vol. 756, c. 1897.]Those words can mean nothing but that I had advocated the closing down of our base in Singapore, which, of course, he knew perfectly well I had never done. If he merely wished to suggest that I reduced the size of our garrison in Singapore, I do not know why he thought it worth while to interrupt my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) to make that totally irrelevant remark. But I am very glad to see that he is now eating his words, like so many other words which he has eaten recently.
§ Mr. Healey
Lord Watkinson took over from the right hon. Gentleman. He did his duty and cancelled Blue Streak and put everything on Skybolt, and when it was obvious that Skybolt was heading for disaster, he handed over to Lord Thorneycroft. Lord Thorneycroft presided loyally over the collapse of Sky-bolt. It was not his fault, any more than the collapse of the A.F.V.G. was mine. But, in spite of what he said in that remarkable speech in another place on Tuesday, he landed us with the most expensive defence programme of all time, including three major aircraft projects which no British Government could ever have afforded to complete. He did not have to move sideways—he was saved by the General Election of 1964. If not, no 633 doubt he would have handed over to Mr. Soames to carry out the necessary cancellations.
There we have it—nine Defence Ministers in 13 years, one long stream of somersaults in policy.
§ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North) rose——
§ Mr. Healey
The only obvious concern of those Defence Ministers was not to be found holding the baby when the music stopped. They institutionalised passing the buck as part of the machinery of Conservative Government.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
The right hon Gentleman is being a little unfair to Lord Thorneycroft, because did not Lord Thorneycroft leave him with the Polaris submarines by which the right hon. Gentleman set such store in an earlier passage of his speech?
§ Mr. Healey
A good debating point.
The present Government have taken a different view of their responsibility for defence, and in my case the buck stops here. I am the longest-serving Defence Minister since 1950, and it has not been altogether pleasant task. In the last three and a half years, I have had to plan five separate reductions in defence expenditure, imposed partly by changes economic circumstances and partly by errors of economic judgment, for which, I fully agree, I bear my due share of responsibility. I do not deny that it has been a painful and difficult task to carry cut these five successive reviews, imposing cut after cut on those with whom and for whom I work.
But one thing at least I have done, something literally of vital importance to the Services—I have made certain that as capability is cut, commitments are reduced accordingly. What frightens me most about the promise which the Opposition have made to keep forces in Singapore, even when no carriers and no F111s are available, is that they are breaking this fundamental principle and thereby putting the lives of our fighting men unnecessarily in jeopardy.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire added a further commitment, in the Gulf, when he spoke yesterday. I hope that the right hon. 634 Member for Barnet, who, when he spoke in July, concentrated almost exclusively on the need to match commitments and capability in Forces, will explain how he can now support the new open-ended commitment which his leader made last week, extended as it was to the Gulf by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire yesterday.
It is no good arguing that all they are proposing to do is to put a handful of troops on the ground in the Gulf and Singapore, because they know, certainly the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West knows, that if the presence of these troops is to mean anything to our Allies and if they themselves are not to be exposed to unacceptable danger, the Government must back the troops on the ground with ships, aircraft and other troops to reinforce them. We know, and the Opposition Front Bench knows, that the cost of such a presence would then amount to hundreds of millions of pounds a year.
But I daresay that my fears for the safety of our forces are unnecessary. We know how little Conservative actions over defence in office correspond to their words in opposition. Our European Allies know it well. Despite the fact that Sir Winston Churchill himself launched the idea of the European Army when he was in opposition, the first act of the Conservative Government which followed was to refuse to join it if it were set up. I will never forget the consternation, anger and despair expressed by the Assembly of the Council of Europe when that news reached it in 1951.
I have made it clear that there are aspects of the policy announced last week about which I am unhappy, not only in defence. But so are others of my colleagues unhappy about aspects of the policy. This will always be so in any democratic Government. What I cannot understand is the idea that a Minister should always resign rather than reach a compromise with his colleagues on a matter about which he has strong views, because such a view is inconsistent with any form of government except personal dictatorship.
A Cabinet of over 20 Ministers is bound to contain a wide variety of views and attitudes. The right hon. Member for Barnet remembers how strongly he 635 disagreed with his right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham in 1962, on the constitutional problem in Central Africa. There is nothing wrong, as some newspapers have suggested, in trying to reconcile these views to produce an agreed programme for action—indeed, Government depends on such a compromise. A newspaper like The Times can have one view expressed by its leader writer, another by its political correspondent, and another by its defence correspondent. The present Conservative Opposition seems to believe that it can afford the same liberty of self-contradiction. That is why the right hon. Members for Kinross and West Perthshire, for Wolverhampton, South-West and for Barnet can all speak in the same debate on defence.
But a Government, at the end of the day, must express a single view on what is to be done and must take the decisions which flow from that view. Those decisions must meet the need of the nation. That is what this Government did last week, knowing the results would be unpopular, imposing strains not only on its own members, but on its supporters in Parliament and the country. On this occasion, it is not survival of the Government that is at stake, it is the survival of the nation. Everything that I have heard in this House in the last ten days has convinced me that if we want a Government which will take the necessary decisions, however unpopular, and yet preserve the basic values of a compassionate society, there is no alternative in Britain to a Labour Government.
Since I do think this, it is my duty not to run away, not to abstain. I have never been one for abstaining. So long as I do remain a member of the Government, the decisions that we have taken on foreign policy and defence impose on me a special duty. I believe that in foreign policy and defence we are now showing a new and necessary realism. We have done away with wishful thinking—the besetting sin of so many post-war Governments. The sacrifices that we are imposing on the men and women in the Services, and on our Allies overseas, will go for nothing unless we can all show the same realism and readiness to sacrifice in the rest of our affairs.
Wishful thinking, the search for the easy option, a flabby lack of self-disci- 636 pline masquerading as permissive liberalism, the idea that the world owes us a living and it will be all right on the night—all the corrupting illusions which spread from that disastrous slogan "You have never had it so good", have for too long had too much influence on our affairs. How right the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, was to trace this moral infection back to its real source in the attitude of the Macmillan Government of 1958.
Last week's decisions can mark a turning point in the nation's life. They can mark the foundation-stone for our long delayed recovery, recovery not just of economic solvency, but of Britain's pride and dignity among the nations. They can mark not only the end of an old illusion, but the beginning of a new achievement. Just as our determination to limit our defence spending to what we can afford will make it easier for us to play a leading role in Europe, so the sacrifices that we have made—and have yet to make—in other areas of spending, private as well as public, can create the basis for an economic re-awakening in Britain, no less impressive than other countries no better than us have already enjoyed.
It is because I believe that this can be true, and because I intend to make it So——
§ Mr. Healey
—that so long as my colleagues wish it I am proud to continue as a member of this Labour Government.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
The Secretary of State devoted a large part of his speech to his own personal position. Therefore, I am sure he will not object in any way if I begin by explaining once again why we on our side of the House do not think that he is right to continue in his present office. In the course of his spirited counteroffensive, he made no reference at all to the real issue, which is simply and fundamentally this: that a man whose statements have so often and so completely been falsified can carry no further credence at home or abroad.
I will give just a few examples. They may be familiar, but they have not lost 637 their cutting edge. First, in November 1966:The Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft… is the core of our long term operational and industrial programme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February 1966; Vol. 725, c. 240.]That was cancelled in July, 1967.
In March, 1967, he said:… we shall need a replacement for the Canberras … whether we are east of Suez or not … I cannot conceive of fewer than 50 F111Ks as being a replacement for the Canberras."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 477–505.]The F111 was cancelled last week.
In April, 1967, he said:The Gulf is an area of such vital importance, not only to the economy of Western Europe as a whole but also to world peace, hat it would be totally irresponsible for us to withdraw our forces from the area.In October, 1967:A disorderly British departure before there is an alternative basis for stability in the area could lead to a prolonged conflict.Last week the Prime Minister announced a British departure by the end of 1971, irrespective of whether there is the alternative basis for stability to which the Secretary of State referred.
Then the Far East. He said in 1967:Our responsibility first of all is to our Commonwealth partners in the area, Malaysia and Singapore, so long as they want us to help.Last week the Prime Minister announced our withdrawal from Singapore, despite the repeated protests of the Singapore Prime Minister that his people still want our help.
§ Mr. Maudling
Those are four major matters of policy upon which the Secretary of State has made important statements that have been totally and absolutely falsified by the Prime Minister, tinder whom he is still happy to serve. If he blames it all on devaluation, let me quote a statement he made after devaluation in this House on 27th November. He said:I believe, and the whole Government share my view, that we must, above all, keep faith with our forces and with our Allies in making these Cuts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November 1967; Vol. 755, c. 59.]This afternoon he talked about the sacrifices that our Allies would have to carry—not after discussion with them, not 638 after renegotiation, but after the imposition of this decision, willy-nilly, whether they like it or not. Is that keeping faith with our allies? Profoundly it is not.
After these statements, after these falsifications, the Secretary of State can no longer properly hold his office, because there is no reason why anyone, at home or abroad, should ever again believe one single word he says.
§ Mr. Maudling
It has always been a tradition of previous Governments that when Ministers have so exhausted their usefulness to their Government, to Parliament and to the country they have no choice but to resign. But in this Government prevarication has become a mere technique and broken pledges are flaunted like political campaign medals. Standards have changed.
The Secretary of State was on television the other night—he has been on television often recently, too often, I think. He was asked by the questioner:It does seem to me, Mr. Healey, that you have had to eat an awful lot of your words on defence. Would you agree with that?The Minister replied:I'm afraid I have, yes, and I'm not the only Minister who has had to do so as a result of last week's decision.What an extraordinary and frivolous way to treat this. We must ask the Secretary of State, so long as he so remains and he is apparently determined to cling to his office, that when he appears so often before the television cameras he will remember the dignity due to his office. Let him avoid phrases like "white slavery". Let him remember that in the eyes of the world he still speaks as a Minister in the Government of Britain.
Having explained as precisely as I can the reasons why we believe that the Secretary of State should no longer retain his office, I turn to the major issues of this debate which arose yesterday: the consequences of the Government's decisions on the political position and the foreign policy of Britain, particularly in the Gulf and in the Far East. I wish to deal first with the decisions which relate to the Gulf, because I believe that these are by far the worst of all.
There is no doubt that there has been a dramatic change of policy and a breach of solemn undertakings concerning 639 Britain's position in the Gulf. The Government sometimes try to prevaricate about this. Sometimes they say that these are major, historic decisions, as the Secretary of State said today. At other times, the Foreign Secretary says that it is only a matter of timing. The truth is that it is a matter of timing; but timing is of the essence. No one has ever suggested or argued that we should stay in the Gulf for ever. But, equally, the Gulf Rulers were assured only a few weeks ago that we had no plans for early withdrawal from the Gulf area.
The saddest fact of all this is that Britain has gone back on her word. May I make, as I made in an earlier debate, a personal reference? As hon. Members know, I have paid many visits to the Gulf and to the Middle East recently, largely engaged in trying to sell British financial and other services. I have been asked, "What should we do about our sterling balances and British protection?". I have consistently said in reply, "You can rely on the word of the British Government. You can leave your sterling in London because they mean what they say when they deny any intention of devaluing sterling". I said to people in the Gulf, "You can rely on the British Government not deserting you, because that is what they have told you and that is what they have asserted." On both those matters the advice which I gave has been falsified by the actions of this Government.
I say very seriously to the Government that they should consider the difficulties which they are placing on those of us who go abroad and who are asked by our friends abroad whether they can any longer trust the word of the British Government. This is a very serious matter. It places British people, not members of the Government, in a very difficult situation indeed.
To continue with the situation in relation to the Gulf, there is the highly unfortunate position of the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, despite his gallant attempts at defence. He was sympathised with by the Prime Minister in an answer after his statement on the Tuesday and told that no doubt he was put in a very difficult position. Of 640 course, he was put in a difficult position through having to say one thing in November and going back to precisely the same people in January and saying exactly the opposite. There is no getting away from this fact.
Why did the Government reach the decision to abandon the Gulf by the end of 1971? Was it a political or an economic assessment? Here again, their arguments are full of self-contradiction. Sometimes they say—and I think that the Secretary of State for Defence is inclined to say this—that it was necessary to withdraw British forces because their presence had become counter-productive. This is sheer unadulterated humbug. If it is true now, it was just as true in November or July.
The Secretary of State argued today that it is not possible to maintain our position in the Gulf unless we maintain the carriers and all the present apparatus for the defence of Singapore. How can the Commonwealth Secretary be so confident that we can maintain our position in Hong Kong? How can he maintain, as he did last week, that we shall be able easily to help our friends in the Indian Ocean and east of Suez after all these changes? If what the Secretary of State says is true, the promises and undertakings implied by his right hon. Friend yesterday are clearly quite worthless.
It is plain, if one looks between the lines of what the Secretary of State said today, that the major decision came as a result of devaluation. I do not think that that is the same thing as saying that it came as the result of economic necessity. It was a domestic political assessment. Let us look at the economic arguments again. We have been often told of the need to save foreign exchange and to right the balance of payments. But what the Government are doing makes no substantial contribution to that at all. It is calculated that the cost of the Indian Ocean policy will amount to about 1 per cent. of our total import bill—no more than that. The Secretary of State, during his incursion on "Panorama", denied that the foreign exchange had anything to do with it. He said that he was talking about domestic expenditure.
Finally, the fact is that the Government were offered substantial financial assistance by at least one of the Gulf 641 Rulers towards meeting the cost of defence, and the Government have been aware of this for many months. The Secretary of State was asked on television:Was the Government aware before the cuts were made that they could get some financial payment from the Gulf States?He said:Not, in fact, before the decision was taken".That is totally inaccurate, as I know myself. Offers had been made by the Rulers in that area last August to help finance the defence which we were providing. What was done about them? Were they followed up? I do not believe that they were followed up in the slightest. We had all this rubbish from the Secretary of State about mercenaries and white slavers. It does not apply to support costs in Germany or the contribution made in Hong Kong. All this silly talk is part of the cover-up for the Government's failure. There is no argument about foreign exchange which can be sustained.
The other argument of the Government that it is a question of the burden on our resources. Accurate figures have been hard to come by as to the cost of maintaining our force in the Gulf. Figures like £20 million or £25 million are often quoted. They are not denied by the Government. If what the Government are talking about is home demand and the burden on resources such figures would have very little bearing on home demand, and certainly not in the next few years.
However, if the Government's argument is that the pressure on domestic expenditure is the reason why we must leave the Gulf and break faith with our friends there, they must realise that they are saying that they would rather do that than cut expenditure on transport nationalisation, the Industrial Expansion Bill, the Land Commission and the expansion of bureaucracy at home. On their own arguments, they prefer all these alternatives to carrying out Britain's word in the Gulf.
When the Government talk about not being able to afford something, they do not mean that at all. This country could afford it. What they mean is that they do not want to afford it. For their own 642 party domestic reasons they prefer these economies to economies which in the long term national interest would be far better but which in terms of political convenience they are not prepared to face.
What is at risk in the Gulf? The British interests are enormous. There are our vast investments in oil and the enormous balances which countries, despite everything and their big loss as a result of devaluation, still maintain in this country and the fact that upon the proven reserves of the Middle East depend for the foreseeable future the maintenance of the oil supplies, not only to Britain, but to Western Europe. These are not mere bagatelles to be played with in internal party arrangements. They are of enormous importance.
The dangers in the Gulf are real and they cannot be brushed aside. There are local dangers. It is not long since there was tribal warfare between one State and another in the area. Now new money brings the possibility of new armaments, and old border disputes could again flare up in a much more violent fashion. There are big power rivals in the Gulf and different and conflicting claims by big Powers against small Powers. In the area there are many States which are indefensible in terms of their own population but which have vast and growing economic resources. There is in the area the danger of further external penetration, particularly by the Soviet Union coming round from the Yemen and past Aden. These dangers are great and just as real as the size of the British interests and resources threatened by them.
That is the position which we have reached under this Government. What can be done to mitigate the damage? First, let us give all the help that we possibly can to the countries in the Gulf to organise themselves into a more coherent unit and create as rapidly as possible coherent and intelligible defence forces. They will not be able to do it from their own resources. They will have to use many of the so-called "mercenaries"—in fact, "technical advisers" would be a more polite and accurate term to use.
Secondly, the Government should clarify the position about the relationship of this country with the Gulf States. So far, we have undertaken to protect 643 them, and in exchange they give us control of their foreign affairs and an influence in that part of the world which has been of great value economically and politically to this country. But it is a two-sided bargain. Once we have announced our decision unilaterally to withdraw our protection from them, what obligations have they? What right have we to call upon them? If we welsh on our commitments, how can we expect to hold them to theirs? In particular, what is the position about the Trucial Oman Scouts, a force which has provided a great deal of stability in this area without, 1 think, firing a shot for many years? Its present position and future seems to be entirely in the air.
These are matters which can be cleared up, and we hope to make some amelioration of the problems. What we must do as an Opposition, answering partly the challenge issued by the right hon. Gentleman, is to make it clear that we oppose the Government's policy in this matter and are not committed, as they are, to withdrawal by the end of 1971. If, as we believe, we shall be returned as a Government by that time, and if they have not in some way or other totally sabotaged any chance of reversing their policy, reverse it we certainly shall.
I turn now to South-East Asia, where very much the same arguments apply. If the obligations there do not spring so much from explicit treaties, they certainly spring from repeated statements of intention by the British Government upon which our friends there have relied and were entitled to rely.
Once again we have the immense British interest in terms of investment and trade, the danger of local disputes, the danger of our evacuation destroying confidence, the possible resumption of aggressive actions by Indonesia, and, brooding over it all the time, the constant menace of China, which no one can believe will diminish in the next decade.
There can be no doubt about the deep disillusion felt by our Commonwealth partners in that part of the world, and no doubt about the rightness of and justification for that sense of disillusionment.
The Government have decided to close the door on East of Suez. I believe that 644 this is a decision of profound and far reaching importance which will not be to the benefit of this country, of Europe or of the Western world as a whole.
As the Government know, the United States value our presence East of Suez very highly, not because our forces in military terms add very much to their vast power, not even entirely because of the bases which we could help them find. They value our presence there for political reasons. The continuing presence of British troops and British influence alongside the Americans in the growing difficulties which they face are of immense importance. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) said in a very perceptive speech last night, our withdrawal from East of Suez will have a profound effect upon American policy.
There are two dangers. The first is that they will abandon any attempt to contain Communist expansion in that area. Then what will happen to Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong? Then what will happen even to India if the barrier against Communist expansionist forces—at present the American shield—is withdrawn?
The second danger is that, once again, the Americans will turn to isolationism. I believe that the second danger is by far the greater, since nothing could be a more serious loss to the Western world. The Americans may say, "If the Europeans and the British turn in on themselves and shut the door behind them on the rest of the world so that we are left entirely alone to carry the burden outside Europe, we will leave the Europeans alone in their turn."
I implore the Government not to underestimate the reality of this danger. If that happened, either Europe would be left defenceless—because, despite what the Secretary of State says about his naval forces, it is the American nuclear shield which provides and will provide the protection of Western Europe—or the Americans might come to some arrangement with Russia over the head of Western Europe which could not in the long run be of benefit to us or to them. The implications of the events of the last two weeks have been underestimated. I look back as one often does to what Sir Winston Churchill used to say about the unique position of 645 Britain at the point of intersection of the three circles—our position in Europe, our position in the Commonwealth, and our relations with the United States. That was a unique position, and it need not be abandoned on financial grounds. If it is being abandoned, it is only because the will of the Government has collapsed.
If this policy is pursued, the Western world is in great danger of being divided, and we may be left abandoned by a Commonwealth whom we have totally disillusioned, estranged from the United States, and knocking at the door of a Europe which even the persistence of the Foreign Secretary cannot guarantee to open to us. These are the dangers into which, for totally unworthy reasons, the Government has led this country.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)
The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) has argued about the withdrawals from east of Suez. I wish to argue about the other side of the coin, and that is our concentration on Europe as a result. I will deal with the point which he made about the danger of the Americans thinking that Europe has turned in on itself, and the danger referred to by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths).
When opening the debate yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary set the frame of this debate with his point about the concentration on Europe and spoke of the future he saw when we would enjoy greater power and greater influence in the world by being a leader of a major group of European nations.
Among the suggestions made yesterday Alas one to the effect that the Government should work harder for a détente between East and West, making it easier for the Western countries to co-operate with the Eastern countries. My right lion. Friend the Secretary of State used the word "melting" this afternoon.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) wanted the Government to go as far as working for a European peace and security council. I do not follow my hon. Friend that far, because I am particularly concerned that in any unfreezing of relations between East and West in Europe, we should preserve our guard in N.A.T.O. in a 646 balance with the Warsaw Pact. As a result of the withdrawals from east of Suez, I welcome the strengthening in our contribution to N.A.T.O. I would go so far on this question of balance between the two as to hope that the Warsaw Pact would not be unduly weakened, because, if there is a balance between N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact, fear is more likely to be removed and the Governments and peoples of Eastern and Western Europe may come to greater friendship more easily.
It was also suggested by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds—and the right hon. Member for Barnet has just referred to it—that this country could act as a hinge upon which the narrow Europe of the Treaty of Rome could be swung wider towards the Atlantic and the underdeveloped world.
It is on those three points that I shall comment: first, our rôle in encouraging a dialogue between Europe and North America, second, a détente in Europe, and, third, encouraging our fellow Europeans to look outwards, especially towards the developing countries.
Because we have been excluded from the Europe of the Treaty of Rome we are in danger of thinking that we have no cards to play in Europe. That is not so. We remain one of the 18 members of the Council of Europe. Although our role is not a dramatic one, both the Government and our Members on the delegation have important tasks before them in encouraging the Council of Europe to play its part under these three headings.
Naturally, in its earliest years the Council of Europe Assembly was concerned primarily with European problems, but over the last few years it has become increasingly outward-looking. First, there is the point about North America and the danger, which I entirely accept, put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet. But every year since 1965 a United States Congressional delegation has come to Strasbourg to debate informally, but in public, current problems. On the United States side, Senator William Fulbright and Representative Wayne Hays were the initiators of these debates. In May this year the fourth informal meeting will take place and one theme will be the technological gap. Since these discussions are informal, there are 647 no resolutions. But these frank exchanges of views in the presence of many American and European journalists helps to clear up misunderstandings which exist and turns the Council of Europe outward across the Atlantic.
There has been another development. A year ago a Canadian Member of Parliament came and spoke, and it is hoped that this will lead to regular debates with the Canadians. Mr. Paul Martin, the Canadian Minister for External Affairs, wrote recently in Le Monde:… We hope to develop the friendly relations with Europe established through multi-lateral organisations such as O.E.C.D. and the Council of Europe.That Canada should regard the Council of Europe as an appropriate platform for the development of good relations with Europe is not surprising if we remember how broad is the base of the Council of Europe.
It was U Thant who encouraged the Assembly to regard itself as a regional European forum for Parliamentary debate of European and world affairs. I have emphasised world affairs, but the Assembly has not abandoned its essential European vocation.
My second heading was on the point about bringing together East and West Europe. The Assembly has had many debates on this subject, and it has realised that it is only if in the long run Europe is united that our Continent can play a really important part in world affairs.
Fortunately, the Council of Europe includes neutral countries, and fortunately, too, in this context, we never debate defence. For this reason, in any political climate of improved relations with the East, it is the most suitable organisation for the discussion of East-West relations.
Let us remember that N.A.T.O., to Eastern Europe, is a dirty word. Indeed, I heard one ambassador from a Communist country go even further and describe it as a dirty "four-letter word". But our Council, unlike O.E.C.D., the Six or the Seven, is not responsible for any specific economic inter-Governmental operation. Therefore, under this head, to Eastern Europe it looks respectable. Because the Council of Europe is not 648 compromised by being identified with any military or economic bloc we could have an important role in détente.
In the January issue of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brzezinski writes on "The Framework of East-West Reconciliation". He refers to the necessity of creating an East-West political assembly and suggests that the Council of Europe Assembly might fill that rôle. Of course, this raises problems. Mr. Brzezinski obviously does not understand the feeling in the Strasbourg Assembly that since in Eastern Europe there are no freely elected Members of Parliament it would be impossible for members of the Assembly to sit in alphabetical order with these so-called Parliamentarians. Yet Mr. Brzezinski's suggestion is well worth studying. Certainly, if there is more of a détente over the coming years, the political possibilities of the Council of Europe will increase and it could be both the place in which to pursue the dialogue between Europe and North America and also the meeting place of Eastern and Western Europe.
Under the third heading I come to the developing countries. The Assembly—I hope that historians will study this—through the influence of the Members of Parliament of former colonial countries, is becoming more and more concerned about the responsibilities of Europe towards the developing countries.
The single most important event in this field was the speech made in the Assembly by U Thant in 1966. Of course, U Thant was not the first non-Western statesman to speak in the Assembly on development problems. There have been several others. For instance, we had the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Senegal and we had the Chilean Foreign Minister and the Tunisian Minister of Planning. Last September, the Israeli Foreign Minister talked about the prospects for economic development and co-operation in the Middle East, and next week the Jordanian Foreign Minister will take part in our debate.
Until recently the European countries which contributed their fair share of development aid have been the former imperial countries. If we study the O.E.C.D. figures for the flow of financial resources from the industrialised countries—this is in alphabetical order—it 649 appears that Belgium, Britain, France and 'the Netherlands have contributed substantially more than the average, and all he other European countries have contributed substantially less than the average.
I think that the explanation will be chat one day—it is too close now to be certain—the former imperial Powers will be recognised as having felt a responsibility towards their former Colonies. But in the long run it will be bad for development if European aid programmes continue to be based on former colonial links. The problem now is to get all the Europeans to regard development aid not as a means of pursuing national political aims, but as a common responsibility.
Thus, I arrive at the conclusion, which will not develop, that the process of European integration is a direct concern lot only to Europeans, but to the developing world.
I know from experience in developing countries that it is difficult for them to realise that development poses such tremendous long-term problems and that it is bound to take not just a decade, but several decades. After all, Europe and North America did not become developed overnight.
The campaign for development, which is undoubtedly the greatest international problem of the second half of the twentieth century must be a co-operative effort by both the developing and the developed countries. It will also require the existence of strong institutions not only of the United Nations—the world organisation—but also of regional groups like the Council of Europe.
When U Thant spoke to us in Strasbourg he claimed that the problem of economic inequality in the world was now the principal threat to the peace and security not only of the less developed countries, but also of Western Europe, although Western Europe, as he said, felt secure—and he challenged the belief that it was right in so feeling—in its "prosperous provincialism".
The Council of Europe has a great task before it, and it is up to the Government—because, after all, it is an organisation of Governments—and up to our Parliamentary delegation there—because, after all, it is an important Assem- 650 bly—to see that the Council of Europe does not forget its duty to the Atlantic Community, to the whole of Europe, and to the developing world.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
I shall not follow the right hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) except to refer to U.N.C.T.A.D., and some of the problems which face us today in the underdeveloped world.
I must say a few words about the speech of the Secretary of State for Defence. He has developed a new technique, a sort of formal non-speech of non-resignation. His was one of the most humiliating speeches that I have ever listened to in the House. He is quite capable of telling even further untruths, to add to those which he has told over the last few years. I shall not say much more about that, except to refer to some of the major things about which the Government have been mistaken and foolish, and, frankly, base during the last few months and years.
I think it only fair to say that people in this country seeing the way some politicians are behaving, seeing their total lack of shame, are saying that politics are a waste of time, and even turning away from the world which surrounds them and becoming obsessed with a defeatism which I believe is quite unnecessary.
The world situation has seldom been more perilous than it is today. The economy of a number of nations, especially the backward ones, is in a desperate plight. One sees from the U.N.C.T.A.D. meeting in February how desperate their plight is. Subscriptions, instead of being £3,000 million, may be £1,200 million, though this may rise to £1,500 million after compromise. We see a total instability in the Western exchanges, where there is a real fear of a repetition of 1931 on the economic side. When we consider the military situation, we find that there is grave disturbance, military imbalance, and a total lack of confidence in many respects.
What contribution have the Government made to this situation over the last three years, and what contribution are they making now? If one looks back over the last three years, one realises 651 that, except when there was a completion of the operation against confrontation in Malaysia, there has been very little achievement at all. There have been great missions in all sorts of directions. The Prime Minister is permanently in and out of aeroplanes, but there has been failure after failure. There has been failure in Europe, failure in Vietnam, and now we have this string of failures leading to devaluation and the adjustment of our defence budget.
I believe that the two great contributions which this country should make to the world are, first, to get our currency trusted abroad, and put our currency and our finances on a sound footing. I believe that this is by far the greatest contribution that we can make at the moment, yet none of the military cuts being carried out is relevant to this situation, and this is the most damaging point that can be made against the Government. Secondly, we must ensure that there is a proper hand-over of power in those areas where there is a danger of disruption, and where there can easily be outbreaks of violence, as my right hon. Friend said.
Perhaps I might deal with the first of those matters, that of what we should be doing now. More than 60 days have passed since devaluation, and still the £ sterling is regarded with about as much regard as the Prime Minister is held in this House. Hon. Gentlemen opposite should not think that by bringing in a swingeing anti-capitalist budget they will restore confidence, that by a gimmick they will restore confidence in our capacity abroad. They will not do so. They failed totally during the first few days after devaluation to take the right action and come forward with proposals which showed that they were not, for all their claims, purposive people.
The whole attack has fallen on the defence budget. How effective will this be? We know that the success or failure of devaluation will be judged during the next 18 months or two years, yet not one of these cuts will have any impact at all on spending during that period. On the contrary, it may mean that we will have to spend more on cancellation charges, and it may mean also that our friends in the Persian Gulf will decide that hon. Gentlemen opposite are to be 652 as little trusted as the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence, and withdraw their sterling balances.
On the most cold economic calculation, this is the worst of all possible worlds. Only one sacred cow has had its throat cut, while the rest go bellowing and mooing about the Committee rooms upstairs. I am, of course, referring to the F111. What a brilliant exercise this has been. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence, in interminable speeches, has prided himself on what he called value engineering and cost effectiveness. This exercise has been carried out by human beings, as opposed to performing morons in a flea circus. It is the most incredible disposition that we have ever seen.
Let us consider what it means to the taxpayer. The cancellation of the TSR2 cost £250 million, and all the jigs were destroyed. The cancellation of the F111 will cost £50 million or £60 million. The loss of markets overseas will account for a fabulous sum of money, and make the total about £300 million for an aeroplane that wasn't. This is about the best piece of cost ineffectiveness that has ever been witnessed.
Far more important than that, however, is the permanent damage which has been done to our defences by the cancellation of various weapons systems which cannot be restored, but before I deal more fully with that I would like to say one thing which I believe is most important of all, and that is the closing down of the Territorial Army. This decision has been taken for the sake of a very small sum of money. I see that one hon. Gentleman opposite disagrees with me, but this country may well need a framework for military expansion when the Government are reduced to the state of penury which they look like achieving, and the Territorial Army is being thrown away for the sake of about £2 million.
I deal, next, with the F111. It is no good my noble friend in another place saying that it ought to have been cancelled. He was never all that keen on the TSR2. I believe that without such a weapon as the F111 it is impossible to have a defence policy which does not go straight to the use of megaton weapons. This is the sort of situation into which the Government have 653 manoeuvred themselves. There is nothing between the small aircraft and the megaton weapon, because—and right hon. Gentlemen in the Defence Department know this—there is no defence against hostile aircraft unless one is able to have a long-range strike capability to knock out an opponent's airfield. All the aeroplanes put up locally are a waste of time. We saw this in Singapore.
Next, there is the cut which means the.slimming of the hunter-killer type of submarine programme which is the only sure defence for this country—and perhaps not even a sure defencein time of war if we are faced with a blockade. We are, after all, an island. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman talking about how strong our Navy is compared with those of France and Germany. It should be strong, because we can be starved out, which they cannot.
For the benefit of the Foreign Secretary, I will recapitulate my short argument. What the Government have done over three years is weaken sterling, which has damaged world trade and led to a situation by which all world currencies are imperilled. They must rebuild sterling as strongly and as fast as possible, and no serious steps in this direction have yet been taken. Secondly, these defence cuts will not affect devaluation. Their effect of devaluation will come too late in the cycle. They are merely concessions o the Left wing and may well be counter-productive.
This Labour Government, for all their line gestures, have achieved remarkably little in foreign affairs. This is not entirely the fault of the Foreign Secretary Or of the Prime Minister, but of the point of view of some of their hon. Friends, which is that the instant pursuit of moral interests, real or imagined, is to be preferred to the pursuit of national interest. I do not wish to see the imposition of Conservative, Socialist or Liberal regimes abroad. That as nothing to do with me. I want to see an effective advance in our trade and power and the defence of our own interests.
Apart from anything else, the Government should consider and reconsider, this very night, their policy towards Rhodesia, towards. South African arms and towards arms for Spain, because these are real issues on which they lack realism. This 654 lack of realism and double-talk and deception will one day bring them down, but it could well bring down the country.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
I was sorry that the few grains of common sense in the speech of the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) were swept away by the flood of personal abuse against the Minister of Defence with which he began. He spoke about the need for cuts and deplored the fact that the emphasis was on defence cuts, but I would ask him what cuts were implicit in his argument. It was clear that he would like a savage attack on the social services and the abolition of the Welfare State. That is the kind of cuts which he wants and which we would resist to the limit of our ability.
If the right hon. Gentleman is concerned with the future of sterling, I can think of nothing more likely to undermine the status of sterling than his speech tonight, because it is clear that what the Government have sought to do after devaluation is to take the appropriate measures in our situation to restore the value of sterling and also to decide what our world rôle is. Some time ago, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that Britain's place is now at the top table, but it is important that we should now reappraise our situation and consider what our capacity is in the new situation after devaluation and the economic cuts and, in that connection, reappraise our interests and strategy.
To begin with, we must rid ourselves of dangerous and paralysing illusions. The first is that, despite everything, President de Gaulle loves Britain. He does not. His rebuff to us was more than an exclusion from the Common Market and more even than a blow to Britain's prestige. It was the beginning of a process by which he took every opportunity to attack British interests, to talk down sterling and to present Britain as a spent force. Parallel to this attack on sterling was his attack on the dollar, in which, by an anachronistic process of thought he tried, through M. Rueff, to revive the idea that Europe's monetary problems could be solved by a return to the gold standard.
In addition, he tried to attack our world interests by his visit to 655 Canada, where his call for a free Quebec, though superficially pro-French, was fundamentally anti-British. In the Middle East, General de Gaulle, by his pseudo-independence policy, will certainly have obtained some short-term interests to the detriment of his colleagues in the West by taking a line close to that of the Soviet Union, but this policy is also damaging to British interests.
The President has shown himself a doubtful ally in N.A.T.O. He has acquiesced in a Soviet presence in the Mediterranean and has brought nearer the day when Mers-el-Kebir can be used as a Soviet base, and Malta is also under pressure to make itself available to the Soviet fleet in the Mediterranean. Therefore, tonight we must try to assess our relations not only with France, for which I have a great personal affection, but with the policies of President de Gaulle himself, and we must separate his policies from those of France, as they may be separated today and certainly will be in future.
The subject of the Common Market has engaged our attention in the last few days. I believe that our application to join was premature. Powerful industrial and agricultural interests, ideologically reinforced by Gaullism, but, even worse, by some of the old Vichy interests which remain alive in France, are hostile to Britain. I must add, however, that there is also a great body of opinion in France which is wholly sympathetic to British entry. Before applying, we should have cultivated that opinion to the point where it would have affected President de Gaulle's attitude. Even he cannot be indifferent to French public opinion.
We have created a self-deluding myth about momentum. Momentum alone could not have carried us into the Common Market. General de Gaulle's virtue—perhaps his vice as well—is his consistency: he has consistently taken the view that Britain does not belong in Europe. But, to quote the Prime Minister's words, "We will not take 'No' for an answer." That was, perhaps, an injudicious phrase, because some of our biggest bores are those who will not take "No" for an answer. There is no guarantee that the "No" will become a "Yes", and Gaullism will not necessarily disappear with the General.
656 There is no guarantee that the Common Market will continue to evolve in such a way that, by the mid-1970s, when we may perhaps be acceptable, we will want to join it. The essence of the matter—I have said this repeatedly—is that General de Gaulle does not want Britain in Europe. His views of Britain's insularity and our attachment to the Commonwealth and our association with the United States have not changed at all. I am convinced that even if we were to sever all connections with the United States, whether military or economic, and renounce what President de Gaulle has called our "privileged relationship", he would still not want us in Europe. The fact is that he does not want a major political competitor in Europe.
This brings us to the question: where do we go from here? It is not in Britain's interest to try to undermine the Common Market as it exists, certainly not in pique. A strong Europe is as much in Britain's interest today as it was in 1949. Time and again Europe has reassured us of its friendship and, certainly in the processes of negotiation, it has given us its support.
Should we take part in any of the ingenious proposals for association, pre-adhesion or para-community which have been put forward? I believe that the Foreign Secretary was right in declining any form of second-rate status for Britain in relation to Europe. In any event, if there were to be any substantial advantages to Britain in these proposals, General de Gaulle would not play. Once again, there would be a waste of time and dilatory negotiations. And even if the advantages of these proposals were only marginal, we obviously could not take part in so humiliating an arrangement.
Here I pay tribute to the firmness and consistency of our friends in Benelux, who, even today, have put forward proposals which are designed to be of benefit to Britain and which deserve careful consideration. I say that because, whatever happens, Britain is a European power, has a place in Europe and should do whatever it can to maintain that position.
President de Gaulle has neither the right or the power to keep us out of Europe. It is true that the tariff barriers of the Six present a problem, but 657 it is not insuperable. It could be overcome by agreements, if there is mutual agreement to do so. It could also be overcome by technical and productive efficiency on our part, for that would make our exports both cheap and indispensable.
Only yesterday the question of E.F.T.A. was raised. Is it right that we should strengthen our ties with E.F.T.A. and the Commonwealth, but it would be o waste of time if we gave any attention to the idea, which is being floated in certain quarters, of an industrial free trade area which would combine E.F.T.A. with the Common Market. We can be absolutely certain that such a proposal would not, when it came to tine crunch—as long as Britain has a cheap food policy—be tolerated by the French or any of the other industrial countries inside the E.E.C.
This brings me to another question which I regard as being of the greatest importance. It is the question of our technological co-operation with France. For many years I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the idea of functional co-operation with Europe. I believe that division of labour would be in the interests of Europe as a whole. However, I cannot have any kind of sympathy with technological co-operation, so-called, which is one-sided and which turns out to be to the detriment of British interests.
I believe in many of the projects which we have been considering with the French. However, if we, with good will, engage in projects of functional co-operation with whoever it may be and find, in the long run, that they have milked us of our technology and have then dropped the contract, that can only be disadvantageous to us. We should not entertain such projects. I believe in a technological community in Europe. In the postindustrial age, as the French call it, we have an enormous amount of technical knowledge to proffer for our advantage and for that of Europe as a whole. But in our relations with the French henceforth, we must be careful, whatever agreements we arrive at, to proceed on the basis of a strict quid pro quo.
The question of efficiency is at the core of the matter and in dealing with this issue, I wish to refer to the aircraft in- 658 dustry. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) was bewailing the balance of trade and payments difficulties which we would have had to suffer if we had gone into the E.E.C. The heart of the question is whether we could not, as a country, produce more effectively, more efficiently and, therefore, more cheaply. Can we compete in the world and obtain favourable balance of payments through a rise in efficiency and productivity?
We must not forget that since 1951—these figures appear in the O.E.C.D. Report—whereas our deliveries in the engineering industry have risen from 3,000 dollars per man to 6,000 dollars, Japanese deliveries in the engineering industry—my right hon. Friend was in that country the other day—have risen from 3,000 dollars per man to 10,000 dollars. That has been achieved because Japan has concentrated on advanced technologies and on reducing effort to a few lines of production with long production runs.
Whereas we have stagnated, the Japanese, with a somewhat comparable economy, have leapt ahead. I am not pessimistic. I believe that we could do the same if we put the emphasis on efficiency and cost-effectiveness. We must restructure our industry, and that is the essence of the matter. It is not just a question of playing about with finance. That may be a solution for the short-term, but it will not help in the long-term. It is not a matter of having more and more severe cuts in the economy. We must restructure the economy and so be more productive and, therefore, more competitive. This will make us more capable of earning more. I know that those engaged in the engineering industry will agree with and support what I am saying.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence referred briefly to the aircraft industry. It will be within the memory of some hon. Members of long service in the House that Mr. Ernest Bevin, when Foreign Secretary, said, in effect, "Give me a few more million tons of coal and my power in Europe will be greater than ever before". We have the coal, but it may not have been noticed with sufficient force that time has moved on and we are now in the electronic age. Nevertheless, if we use our resources properly and 659 effectively, then, through this rise in industrial strength, we can once again be a leading Power, which we deserve to be.
What I have said is directly relevant to the aircraft industry. I do not regret that we have decided not to buy the F.111. I am not persuaded, in the technical sense, that it is a very good aircraft. But I do regret—although I accept that some of my hon. Friends may not agree with me—the cancellation of the TSR2. It is often said that, if we had continued to make the TSR2, they would have cost us £10 million an aircraft. That is rather like saying that if one makes the prototype of a wristwatch it will cost £30,000.
My right hon. Friend the present Chancellor of the Exchequer set up the Plowden Committee to inquire into the aircraft industry. That Committee reported that the American aircraft industry was three times as productive as Britain's and that even the much smaller French aircraft industry was one-and-a-half times more productive than ours. If we had not cancelled the project, but had improved our efficiency, we could today have precisely the aircraft about which the Minister of Defence was speaking—a tactical strike reconnaissance aircraft—and which we need in our reappraised situation.
I believe that technology—and this is no longer a cant phrase, but a phrase that has relevance to our needs—is the key to the future. Yesterday, many of my hon. Friends talked about the Middle East. The Council of Europe, about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) spoke, is interested in a regional plan for nuclear desalination in the Middle East which could bring Israelis and Arabs together in a way that none of the political combinations we have discussed can ever do. I hope that we in Britain, who have made so much progress in nuclear desalination, will reinforce the efforts of the Council of Europe and encourage this plan for nuclear desalination, so that not only in Israel, but in the Arab countries, too, the deserts will flower again.
From a strategic point of view, it is quite certain that, having shortened our lines of communication, we must regard ourselves as a Power based on the 660 Atlantic, with Europe as our fulcrum. This must be a time for rethinking our position and harmonising our military and political strategy. Just as the first Industrial Revolution swept Britain to the height of its political power, so, in the second Industrial Revolution, we should use our technological knowledge as an instrument of diplomatic influence. I reject the idea that Britain is in decline. I believe that our malaise can be ended by our own wisdom and determination to use our inner reserves to support our external strength.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I would remind the House that there are only two and a half hours of general debate left, and almost every hon. Member present wishes to speak. Mr. Pardoe.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)
It is very difficult to congratulate this Government on anything they do, but I believe that they have taken several correct decisions during the last few weeks. But they have done so by such a circuitous route that it is almost impossible to follow. The Secretary of State for Defence has told us this afternoon that we are seeing "a new and necessary realism", and I cannot help wondering what we have been seeing these past three years.
Many of these decisions have been advocated by Liberals for a very long time, and this is not the first time that the Liberals have been proved right. We have consistently opposed the Government's defence and foreign policies. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said that the Secretary of State had been proved wrong so often that he should resign, but if resignation is the proper reward for being wrong, what is the proper reward for being right? Whatever it is we Liberals have certainly earned it.
I do not want to deal wit h the resignation issue except to say that political resignation is a personal matter. The Secretary of State is a very able man of great intellectual integrity, but in this present situation he has not enhanced his reputation by not resigning.
If we cannot congratulate the Government on the way they made their 661 decisions, we must congratulate them on their good fortune. They did not exactly aim to make those decisions—not even their most ardent supporters could claim that the Foreign Secretary has been almost apologetic: they were blown off course, they tripped over obstacles on the way, slipped on banana skins, and finally landed face down in the middle of Europe. They may be in the right place, but they have a strange way of getting there. The Foreign Secretary, (aught in possession of a new foreign policy, seems to me more like the scullery maid, caught with the broken vase in her hand, who says, "I didn't mean it, Ma'am. It came apart in my hands".
In their attitude to foreign policy this is a Government of beachcombers. They have turned over every pebble on every teach and at last, after three weary years, they have come upturned some of the right decisions. But is the commitment they have now reached firm at last? The record of the Government's changes in defence policy, foreign policy, and social policy has been pretty disastrous. Do they have any firm commitment to any sort of policy at all?
But if one has reservations about the way in which the Government have reached their decisions, what can one say shout the Conservative alternative? I ask, because I suppose that one has to make a choice in tonight's vote. I have studied the speech made yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) and although it was, as all his speeches are, an excellent aid an honest speech, I could not find a vestige of an alternative foreign policy in it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Let us look at what he said.
The right hon. Gentleman first attacked the Government for fixing a rigid ceiling for defence expenditure. How does one reduce total Government expenditure if, at some point in this massive area of defence expenditure one does not say, "Enough is enough"? I believe that 1064 was the right time to say it. I only wish that the Government had gone about their task of cutting defence expenditure and taken these decisions then. We should now be seeing the fruits.
The right hon. Gentleman then attacked the Government for having 662 brought about a very low point in the morale of the Armed Forces. The right hon. Gentleman is not now present, but I may say that I am rather younger than he. I was in the forces at the time of Suez, and I do not believe that the morale of the British troops has ever been lower than at that particular time. I was then responsible for controlling aircraft, and I sat doing nothing because there was not petrol to fly with. If that does not destroy morale I do not know what does.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Government's European policies and said, that they were inherited policies, not their own. Well no, they are not. They are ours! What part the right hon. Gentleman played in establishing a European policy for this country when such a policy could have given us the leadership of Europe for the asking I do not know, but I do not believe that it was a very singular part, nor was that of his party.
The right hon. Gentleman then attacked what he called the "crass folly of the refusal to sell arms to South Africa". Why did the Tory Government themselves refuse to sell certain arms to South Africa? Presumably, the reason was that one does not think of selling arms to one's potential enemy. I believe that eventually there is bound to be war in Southern Africa—and whose side shall we be on? We have to make that decision now——
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that for several years there has been war in Southern Africa, and continual war?
§ Mr. Pardoe
I am thinking particularly of the holocaust that is to come. I believe that South Africa is the enemy of this country, and of everything it has stood for in its greatest moments,——
§ Mr. Pardoe
I suppose that every principle has its price.
Who are these men? What kind of Government do we have in South Africa? Who are these people to whom the Conservative Party wishes us to sell arms? I would remind members of that party 663 of a statement made by Balthazar Vorster, the present Prime Minister of South Africa in 1942. He said:We stand for Christian Nationalism which is an ally of National Socialism. You can call this anti-democratic principle dictatorship if you like. In Italy, it is called Fascism, in Germany, German Nationalism, and in South Africa, Christian Nationalism.I should have thought that was enough to convince even the most Right-wing Tory that these people were not exactly the best of friends for this country.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire also said that this decision not to sell arms to South Africa was not a foreign policy. It is not, but I do not believe that his speech was a foreign policy, either. Nor do I believe that his oft-remembered statement in 1961 was foreign policy. "The British people", he said, "are prepared to be blown to atomic dust." If that is a foreign policy for any country, I beg to differ.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I recognise that in his comments on the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) the hon. Member is making party points, but I think that he should withdraw the suggestion that the former Prime Minister of this country made that statement in the context the hon. Member has just suggested.
§ Mr. Pardoe
I said that he made it in 1961. I know that he made it in the context of the Berlin crisis, because that happened to be the crisis of the time, but I quoted the date. I do not think that I have said anything which I should withdraw, and I certainly do not do so.
What is Tory policy in relation to the decisions made in the last few weeks? I understand it is that we should renew commitments, but that we shall not have anything with which to carry them out. Is it a firm policy? We heard from the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod):We will keep the Prime Minister's word for him".But he was very careful to balance it with a singularly vacuous piece of waffle when he said:If it is practical and helpful to us to maintain a presence in the Far East, we shall do so.664 We know that it will not be practical or helpful for hon. Members of the Opposition to do so.
British foreign policy in the last 25 years has depended on one myth after another. There was the myth, "We won the war", the myth of Commonwealth, the myth of the special relationship, the myth of the independent nuclear deterrent, the myth of Suez, the myth of east of Suez and the myth of being a world policeman. Liberals have, over the years. attacked every one of these. Unfortunately, some of them are still with us, but some of them we have now escaped from. We now have to concentrate, as we have said so often in the past, on our European future; but not just the maintenance of peace in Europe, not something as simple as that.
We want the long-term settlement of European political problems and the development of greater European responsibility to the world. We want the creation of a supra-national economic community. There must be various forms of association, not only for overseas territories but for European countries as well, particularly, of course, for Eastern European countries.
By leaving the myth of world policing behind us I do not think that we wash our hands of world problems. Rather, we leave ourselves free to concentrate on those problems. The problems we have left behind are puny by comparison with the real problems which face the world today. There is the problem of nuclear proliferation. I do not now wish to discuss British nuclear policy. Unfortunately, the Government have not taken our advice on that, although they will do so eventually. There are tremendous problems of racial tension in the world in which we have to set an example at home and use our influence elsewhere to bring about racial harmony. There is, I hope, too a renewed commitment to international co-operation. We want a permanent world peace-keeping force.
There there is the problem of providing a stable income for the functions of the United Nations. It is becoming a fashion on all sides to denigrate the United Nations, but nothing can stabilise the United Nations better than a permanent income for it. In that respect, 665 I welcome the proposals put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, to provide the United Nations with an income in future from the development of the ocean bed. Then we have the ever-present problem of world poverty and, largest of all, the expansion of world I population.
This change we have had in the last few weeks is not a retreat. It offers a tremendous opportunity to come to terms with the problems I have outlined and a whole host more. We do not need arms or troops or carriers or planes toe helpful in these fields. There is a tremendous rôle to play as one of the middle Powers and we must play it to the full, especially through the medium of Europe.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
I hope that the hon. Member for Cornwall, (Mr. Pardoe) will forgive me it I do not refer in detail to his speech. My reason is that I want to discuss some rather large issues which led me to take that was for me a very sad step last week. It is not a step which one takes lightly after nearly 18 years in the Parliamentary Labour Party and over 30 years since I joined the Labour Party. For the purposes of compression, I am omitting to refer in detail to what the hon. Member said, but he will gather what I think about his views as I proceed.
For the convenience of the House I thought it better to assemble my argument under three main groupings: first, because this has been a wide-ranging debate, the Atlantic Alliance and the circumstances which led it to come into being and whether and how far it is still relevant to our case today; secondly, same of the problems which have arisen since the alliance was formed; thirdly, the policies which, in my judgment, the Western world has to follow for the next 10 or 15 years; and finally, I will draw some conclusions from that. It will be seen then how wide is the gulf between myself and my hon. Friends, especially my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench.
It should not be necessary, in this assembly of middle-aged men, to recall why the Atlantic Alliance came into being, but, listening to the speech of the 666 hon. Member for Cornwall, North and many others in this debate, it strikes me that certain hon. Members do not know or have forgotten. Perhaps I might remind them briefly of the reason. Let us look back to those years, 1946 and the Treaty of Dunkirk; 1947, the Marshall Plan and Ernest Bevin's magnificent and statesmanlike response to General Marshall's speech. That more than anything else pulled Western Europe up by its boot straps.
Then there was 1948 and Ernest Bevin's proposals for Western Union and the Treaty of Brussels and, also in 1948, the day when Jan Masaryk's body lay in that courtyard in Prague. There was the Berlin blockade when aircraft thundered in and out all round the clock and the West was doing what was considered impossible, the supplying of a city of 2 million people entirely by air, and the defeat of the blockade by the controlled, confident and determined response of the Western nations. Then, in 1949, there was the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance. Then there was the Communist zigzag to the Orient and the day when the tanks appeared in South Korea and the anti-tank shells bounced off them like tennis balls. There was the immediate American response and loyal support by the British Labour Government of the day.
It was very different from the attitude adopted by hon. Members on these benches to the issues of Vietnam. There was the American stand in Korea. Checked in Korea, the Communists moved southwards to Indo-China. where was the tragic situation in Dien Bien Phu when the flower of the French Army perished in 1954. There was the dramatic Geneva Agreement so ably negotiated by Anthony Eden, an outstanding achievement in the annals of British diplomatic history.
Then there was the period when Germany was brought into the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, in 1954, and the London-Paris Agreements, in September and October of that year. All that is old history, but that is how it came into being. How far is that alliance still relevant to our requirements now? I will say a word or two about the Russian attitudes in a minute.
667 What about Western Europe? Looking at Western Europe today, with its divisions, I would say that there is no cohesion, nor sufficient prospects of a possible cohesion for Western Europe ever on her own, without an American presence in Europe, to be an effective counterbalance to the Soviet Union's growing technological, military and economic power.
Therefore, from our point of view the alliance is essential. We who have exercised the right of free speech in this House over the years have exercised it because of that alliance, as I have so often said. What about North America? From the North American point of view, if ever Western Europe were to be overrun by a hostile, predatory hegemony, the prospects for North America would be very bleak indeed. So, from the point of view of the Americans and of Europeans, the alliance must remain an essential basic factor in all our policies.
Having said that about the alliance, and having drawn that conclusion, I come to some of the problems that have arisen. There are many, but perhaps I could deal with three only. The first is the growth of nationalism and of separatism. Nationalism is not merely confined to France. We see it in the local state elections in Germany. We see it in Scotland. We see it in my own country of Wales. Separatism, too. This is a separatist Government of a kind, as we shall increasingly sec as time passes.
What is the basis of that nationalism and separatism? It is difficult to determine it. There are a number of contributory factors, but, in substance, it is partly born of frustrations and political irresponsibility that comes with those frustrations. It is partly born of pure selfishness. It is partly born of people who have ceased to have their minds focused on the wide issues and who suddenly contract to miniscule horizons. This is a real problem throughout Europe. It is applicable in other parts of the world, too. It can be met only by the challenge of vigorous democratic leadership. It is vigorous democratic leadership that is lacking more than anything else in the world today.
The second problem is the changing attitudes of the Soviet Union and of 668 China. I do not think that it is necessary for us to argue in detail that the Chinese pursue a hostile and aggressive foreign policy. I think that that is a matter of general acknowledgment throughout the House. It is not confined merely to the Orient. It is now beginning to have an increasing impact on the Continent of Africa.
What about the Soviet Union? Much has been said about how things have changed. I do not think that hon. Members here, or members in other Parliaments in European countries, are fully aware of the new nature of aggressive diplomatic and political activity being adopted by the Soviet Union. I will give one simple illustration which was referred to in what I may presume to describe as an admirable speech by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home).
I refer to the Soviet naval presence in the Mediterranean. I believe that this is one of the most important events of the 1960s. Here we are talking about various issues, when scarcely one hon. Member is aware of this new sudden change in world balances of power. The Soviet Union, four years ago, had three ships in the Mediterranean. It now has 46, including four cruisers with rocket-carrying nuclear capability.
Egypt, since the events of last June, has become virtually a Soviet military captive. The Soviet Union has discovered suddenly the importance of sea power. The importance of that sea power is opening up to the Russians the historic ambitions of centuries—first, in the Mediterranean. The Russian presence there poses a very serious threat to Turkey, to Greece, to Italy and to France. This is Europe's soft underbelly. It is also having implications along the whole coast of North Africa.
But its immediate application is in the Middle East. The Russians are given a unique opportunity by the defection of Her Majesty's Government to her alliances. There is a Soviet delegation sitting in Aden at this moment as we are sitting here in the House of Commons. There has been a Soviet agreement with Iraq in the last few days, which is an historic milestone in relationships in the Middle East. The Soviet prospects of first moving in and filling the power 669 vacuum which we are creating in the Persian Gulf and then moving south wards to the Horn of Africa have very great implications for the future of the whole continent of Africa. It will not be con-lined there, in my view. It will move I further round the whole arena of the Indian Ocean.
This brings me to the central theme of the cuts which were announced last week. I shall not argue here the economic case which was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said that it was because we could no longer afford to stay there that we had to go. The answer to that was given by the right lion. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire yesterday in some remarkable and very important figures which the House would do well to study.
The question is not whether we can afford to stay there. The question is how we can afford to leave. There is also the larger question of the power vacuum in the Arabian Gulf and the whole arena of the Indian Ocean, which is now becoming ever-increasingly an arena of instability. Do we seriously think that local Governments in Rawalpindi, New Delhi, and Rangoon can indefinitely sustain the balance of power in the Orient without a Western military presence? Is it right, and is it practical, that it should be only the United States of America? These are questions which we must ask ourselves.
I am not one for saying that we should continue to carry former burdens in the future as we did in the past. I am not unmindful either of our national interest in Europe. I am the only Member who sits on these benches who voted against E.F.T.A. when it was formed, and I recall very well how when the Labour Party abstained, the present right hon. Member fir Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) led 20 of his fellow troglodytes into the Tory Lobby against us. Nevertheless, this whole Oriental area of the world is one of increasing instability and of consequence to the rest of the world.
This must seem far away from North Cornwall, but I well remember a day when a British Prime Minister spoke of Czechoslovakia as being a far-away country of which we knew nothing. The distance between London and Hanoi is row just about the same in terms of flying time as it was between London and 670 Prague in those days. The implications of what goes on there in this rapidly diminishing world are ever-increasing.
Reference was made yesterday to the American position in Vietnam and also to the British position in the Far East. There were two speeches from this side of the House which, I think, deserve attention. The first was the speech of the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams)—balanced, knowledgeable and succinct. There was also the speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick). The hon. Member for Croydon, South must sooner or later learn that an agglomeration of indifferent Press cuttings is no substitute for argument.
May I put the matter in its perspective? We can argue about American tactics in Vietnam. I am dealing with this in the wider position of the whole of this area. We can argue about whether the Americans should bomb here or bomb there, or not this day or not until next month, or not at all. But the Americans drifted into this commitment for wholly honourable reasons after the 1954 Geneva settlement. They are not there for predatory, colonial purposes. They are there because they do not know what they can do as to how to get out. [Laughter.] They are there because, if they do get out, they leave a power vacuum in Asia which has much wider repercussions. This is what hon. Members of this side must face.
§ Mr. Donnelly
I shall be quite ready to permit the hon. Gentleman to intervene later, after I have presented this argument.
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading) rose——
§ Mr. Donnelly
Perhaps that hon. Member will contain himself, too. His anguish will be much the shorter if he does.
The Americans are there because they have incurred a social responsibility, and the consequences of their withdrawal would have wide repercussions throughout the whole arena. I now give way.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, for once. If what he says is correct, why is General James Gavin, who may be assumed to know a thing or two about military affairs in general and South-East Asia in particular, in favour of such a partial withdrawal to defensible enclaves?
§ Mr. Donnelly
There can be all sorts of arguments, and I do not wish to be drawn into them, about how the situation can be handled. I am not arguing that. The point I am making is that the American position is fundamentally honourable. It is time someone said so in the House. [Interruption.]
The hon. Member for Croydon, South made a speech of extraordinary sentimental hogwash yesterday, and I am getting a bit bored with such trivialities. It is time that someone said that the American position is honourable, and I say it in the House now. If I were an American citizen, regardless of the actual tactics of the operation, I should be immensely proud of the courage and self-control of my fellow-countrymen in Vietnam. I have spoken about Vietnam and the wider area of instability in that arena, and I define that as the second problem which has arisen.
The final problem which has arisen since the formation of the alliance has not been discussed in the House except briefly, namely, the decision to go in for rival anti-ballistic missile systems. This is a new type of arms race, and it will have great repercussions for the whole world. I do not think that the people of Britain are fully aware of the new technotronic impulses which are being set up in both the United States and the Soviet Union to conduct this arms race. That is my third point. I shall not go into detail about it because, I wish to compress what I have to say. Yet it is vital.
What should be our responses? First, what about France? We come back to this time and again. The hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) spoke of it earlier. Our view of the situation is totally different from that taken by President de Gaulle. If he were asked, President de Gaulle would say, I think, that the central problem facing Europe is Germany. We should probably say that the central problem is the division 672 of Europe. I think that President de Gaulle would far rather have a divided Germany and keep the Germans permanently in a second-class State. This is why, probably, he would like a triple alliance. Because he cannot have a triple alliance with us, he has a dual alliance with the Soviet Union. This is really what he means when he talks about Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. What happens after the Urals I do not know, and probably he does not, either.
What should we do about France? In my view, we must get on with planning the alliance without the presence of this non-ally. The French do not contribute anything to N.A.T.O. at the moment—nothing at all—and the sooner we get on planning the alliance, ignoring the French for the moment, the better. If President de Gaulle leaves the alliance and denounces it shortly, very well. If he does not, it will be a blessing, but only a minor one. We really must address ourselves to the alliance and our future security.
Second, what should be the functions and the membership of the alliance? I shall deal briefly with the functions first. In my view, the alliance must be an alliance not merely for defence purposes, but also for negotiating purposes. It must be a political as well as a military alliance. It must be an alliance with a number of objectives, including a European security arrangement, and our ultimate objective in the European theatre should be the unity of Europe.
It goes wider than that. The next quarter of a century is likely to see sporadic outbursts of violence on a global scale. Our central problem will be to contain these outbursts of violence. Therefore, the alliance must think in global terms. The world is now too small for it to be restricted to Europe.
The membership, therefore, must be more widely extended. For my part, I would include ANZAM, to which the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire referred yesterday. I would widen the alliance to include the countries of ANZAM and also Japan, the third industrial Power of the world. We talk too much in the House about foreign affairs while ignoring the growing potential, political and economic, of Japan.
673 Finally, there is the question of our part in all this. The one thing not to do is to contract out, yet this is precisely what we are doing at this moment of history. This is precisely where I part company from my right hon. Friends. One can argue about local issues in Britain—little local difficulties like steel rationalisation—but this is a great, historic decision about Britain's world rôle. I cannot bring myself to support the proposals of the Government to withdraw.
What can we do? There is only one Cling we can do—reverse the policies on which the Government are embarking, which, I am certain, will lead to disaster. This is the central problem facing this country now. It is what brought me to the sad decision which I have now reached, after 30 years since I first joined the Labour Party. To me, Socialism has meant social responsibility towards people who are less well off than I am aid also a better and more fair life for the British working man. The Government's decision has betrayed both. I am not prepared to betray either. This is why I did not support them in the Lobby last week. It is why I shall certainly not support them tonight.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)
The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) speaks for a great number in the House when he says that the Government's policies of the last two or three weeks have sounded a general retreat from our responsibilities in the outside world. I go all the way with him in the solution which he urged.
I do not remember being more depressed, more depressed for Britain, than I was after hearing the Prime Minister's wretched statement in the House on the 16th of this month. My depression and anger were increased as I listened to Ministerial statements during the debates of the following two days.
In winding up the debate last night, the Commonwealth Secretary said that these decisionsaccord with the inexorable pattern of history and the inescapable necessity to match our military commitments to our economic resources."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th January, 1963; Vol. 757, c. 544.]That statement applied to last week's decisions to withdraw all our forces from 674 the Persian Gulf, Singapore and Malaysia by 1971 is manifest nonsense.
It is not the principle of withdrawal which is being argued; it is the precipitate programme of withdrawal, what the Foreign Secretary called "a change of timing". This is what we on this side consider to be against our own national interests and against the interests and wishes of our friends and allies in those areas. We have made it clear that the removal of our military presence by 1971 will leave in each area a dangerous power vacuum which will be a threat to peace and stability. To remove our forces from these two areas before the Governments there have reasonable opportunities to build up their forces and achieve new defensive groupings is, as many hon. Members from this side of the House have said, both dishonourable and against our interests.
In spite of what the Foreign Secretary said at the end of his speech, the Government's measures, announced last week, sounded a major retreat from external responsibilities and from important commitments which we had accepted within the past few months or even weeks. This decision to fix the date for withdrawal at 1971 was neither inexorable nor inescapable, as the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs tried to prove. The decision stems directly from the Government's lamentable scale of priorities, coupled with their lack of capacity to manage our economy and lack of will, of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) spoke, to ensure that Britain continues to make a major effort to protect our interests abroad and to help some of the staunchest of our Commonwealth allies in a way which they consider most important over the next few years—I repeat, over the next few years, not indefinitely. The Government's priorities are wrong arid their will in these matters seems to be a reflection of pressure by their far Left wing.
They have decided to slash our defence commitments and our armed Services to maintain Government spending at home on policies that are irrelevant or harmful—the £70 million on further transport nationalisation has been mentioned—to leave untouched many of the basic weaknesses of our economy. I do not believe that these decisions on withdrawal can 675 be justified on financial grounds. Other slashes in Government spending could have been made to better purpose.
Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary asked us on this side of the House… in what other way we can get the priorities right."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th January; Vol. 757, c. 434.]The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) gave one answer, and I shall try to give another. There is one measure that would help make the cuts unnecessary, have a continuing tonic effect on our whole economy, and enable us to increase our influence for good and for peace in the world.
The savings expected from withdrawal from the Persian Gulf and South-East Asia could have been made far more effectively and over an identical period by cutting back drastically on the over manning of our Civil Service, which has expanded by 57,000 in the past three years; by a cut back of about 25 per cent. over the next four years. What has the Prime Minister offered? He has offered a "Non-Proliferation of the Civil Service Treaty". It is not enough.
§ Mr. John Lee rose——
§ Sir G. Sinclair
I shall not give way at this moment.
The savings expected by the withdrawal from the Persian Gulf and South-East Asia could have been made far more effectively by such a cut combined with a cutting back on the overmanning in our nationalised industries, and in local government. After giving such a lead to the public sector, the Prime Minister would have had a right to call on private enterprise to make similar cuts.
Management consultants know that this is possible; many industrialists know that it is possible and desirable; and the public, horrified by the growth of bureaucracy under Socialism, knows that it should be done. Add to this, as a top priority, a mobilisation of national training resources to ensure an effective and massive transfer of manpower from redundant to productive work and a new deal for industrial relations.
Those three inter-connected measures would, over the same period before 1971, make a vast difference to the basis of 676 our foreign policy, greatly revitalise our economy, reduce our industrial costs and thereby increase our exports and help to restore our balance of payments. If the Prime Minister had announced such measures and seen to it personally that they were carried out—personal direction and leadership are needed to see that cuts of that magnitude are carried out—he would have done much to restore confidence in Britain overseas, confidence in our determination to remain a real force in the world and to have an effective foreign policy. We were challenged to say what cuts we should make, and that is one suggestion.
So much for the general scene. My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) dealt with the question of the Persian Gulf. I should like to deal shortly with South-East Asia and Britain's contribution towards developing countries.
The withdrawals from South-East Asia mean that Britain will leave a power vacuum and jeopardise our great and proper interests there, and leave our allies unprotected before they have a reasonable opportunity to build up their own forces and make alternative defence groupings. Nobody who listened to the courageous and determined Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, can be in any doubt of the real danger we are creating in that area by our complete withdrawal by 1971. The hurried pace of withdrawal is a complete retreat from our undertakings of only a few months ago.
What of the dangerous power vacuum it will leave? Australia and New Zealand, whose forces would be acceptable in Singapore and Malaysia, cannot yet take thier place. They have said so publicly. Nor could the United States. It is already fully stretched, and would not be acceptable at present. Nor would Japan.
No one need have any doubts about the sadness and anger against us and the distrust of us felt in Malaysia and Singapore as well as in Australia and New Zealand, which are both now fighting in Vietnam to prevent the progressive subversion of South-East Asia. [An HON. MEMBER: "They could go home."] The hon. Gentleman may think that, but 677 I do not agree with him. Our military presence in the area has been a great reassurance to them while they are engaged further north. After their help in two world wars, as a matter of honour, there should be some reciprocity in these matters from this country.
The acceptable presence of our forces it; Malaysia and Singapore in the immediate future, because of their impact on puce and stability, is probably Britain's most valuable contribution to the economic development of that part of the world. People there know what our help meant, first, in containing the attempt at infiltration and, secondly, when we helped them against the aggression of Indonesia. They new rate our presence in the area as far more valuable than any compensatory aid the Government are prepared to offer to offset our military withdrawal. That was made perfectly clear to the Government by the Prime Minister of Singapore and to the public at meetings held when he was over here, and on television.
In this area of South-East Asia, the area under the most immediate threat, our forces can certainly, over the next seven years, play a far more important rôle than we could with comparable forces in a Europe, which is not under immediate threat. We can in South-East Asia play a rôle that no other country can fill so acceptably or effectively. In this, I agree with what was said yesterday by the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams).
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) that the Government had a duty to make this case clearly to our N.A.T.O. allies—the case for a practical division of labour. I believe that the cuts in the Services were made regardless of our real defence requirements, of our real interests and of our commitments to our friends and allies. They were, as has been said, a sop to the Government's Left wing.
Turning now to aid, I am glad that the Government, in the midst of the troubles they have brought upon themselves and the country, have reduced aid by an effective amount of only 10 per cent. I do not accept that compensatory aid to South-East Asia should be counted as an addition. The Governments there 678 would prefer to have our military presence maintained, as was originally promised.
§ Mr. Hooley
As a matter of accuracy, I should point out to the hon. Gentleman that my understanding of the figures is that the fall in aid will be effectively £10 million—which is 5 per cent. and not 10 per cent.
§ Sir G. Sinclair
I thank the hon. Member. I should have said a cut by £10 million and not by 10 per cent.
Our stagnant economy and the discouragement of overseas investment, which are both the fault of the Government, will reduce our capacity to help developing countries and will, therefore, reduce the credibility of anything we have to contribute at the United Nations Conference on Tariffs and Trade next month.
In conclusion, I accuse the Government of turning away from their proper responsibilities and of deciding in favour of slothful living at home. This is why we are censuring the Government and why they should go before they do more harm to Britain.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
For a moment during the speech of the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair), I thought that he had mistaken the day and was speaking on the subject to be debated next Monday. He must recognise, as we on this side do, that last week an historic and irreversible decision was taken on Britain's world commitments. That decision was an overdue recognition of reality. It was a shedding of illusions about what rôle Britain has to play in the modern world. It was taken primarily because of the necessity to cut our military coat according to our economic cloth. Defence expenditure should be the servant of foreign policy, and in terms of foreign policy these cuts make a good deal of sound common sense.
I cannot understand how the Opposition can promise the country cuts in taxation and yet ask it to continue the sort of rôle in the world that we have had. We should not be in the Persian Gulf if our purpose is to protect feudal sheikhs. We did not protect our oil 679 supplies, because it was our presence and, perhaps, memories of Suez which led to the cutting off of our oil supplies in the Middle East during the summer. No other nation had troops in the area and no other nation had its oil supplies cut. We under-estimate our bargaining power if we have no troops there. If the oil-producing countries have oil which we need, then equally they have to sell it. They have to have customers.
In Asia, I believe that the only kind of balance of power which can be valid is an Asian balance of power. Any stability induced by the presence of British forces is more than offset by the irritation and provocation their presence creates, particularly where emergent nationalism is only thinly distinguishable very often from racial resentment.
I welcome the Government's moves, first because I believe that our future is basically in Europe and, secondly, because, in spite of our presence in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf and east of Suez, we have been impotent in recent crises.
In Vietnam, I doubt whether we have any influence with the United States. Nevertheless, we slavishly follow American policies, even at the expense of those growing forces opposed to the war in that country. In Rhodesia, we were powerless to intervene, or perhaps did not wish to. We are unable or unwilling to back sanctions by blockade or destruction of oil supply routes. In the Middle East, despite good intentions, we were unable to guarantee freedom of passage through the Straits of Tiran.
It is time to come to terms with the reality of the world, but this does not mean that we abandon a world rôle, as the Leader of the Opposition suggested last week. He said that the Government could have no influence on world affairs. Do the Scandinavians or tiny nations like Ireland have no influence on world affairs because they do not have their troops stationed all over the world? Indeed, such countries have received a great deal of honour and prestige in the councils of the world because of their peace-keeping rôle and the rôle they play in the United Nations.
Keeping highly mobile forces able to get to trouble spots in a short time in defence, not of imperialist interests but of 680 international morality and peace, is the kind of honourable rôle that Britain can play in the 1970s and 1980s. This will bring the country prestige and influence in the world. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had a success recently in the United Nations on the Middle East. This is an example of the rôle we can play. I have been sharply critical of my right hon. Friend with regard to some of his previous remarks, but I must say that this was a balanced resolution, which was able to gain acceptance from both sides.
Next to Vietnam, the Middle East is the world's most dangerous flash point, and only the ultimate restraint of the major Powers and the remarkable swiftness of the six-day war prevented the possibility of escalation into major conflict. The Russian build-up of arms for use against a tiny nation, which has thrice had to fight for its survival within 20 years, was as cynical a piece of power politics as ever displayed by so-called imperialist Powers. Only when that area is taken out of great Power confrontation and militarily neutralised will we see permanent peace there. That, above all, should be the long term aim of British foreign policy in the area, not only for the people of that area but for the people of the world.
I do not want to raise the temperature of the debate, for I believe that the subject of the Middle East causes a great deal of understandable emotion, but I must make some reference to the speeches made by the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour), the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) and, in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mrs. McKay). I have given my hon. Friend notice of my intention to refer to her remarks.
I thought that my hon. Friend made an irresponsible and disgraceful speech. It contained a mass of half-digested hand-outs and a great deal of venomous verbiage from Amman about a country which, I understand, she has never visited. She made most offensive remarks about what I can only call in quotation marks, "humane repatriation" of those who went to Israel from Europe 20 years ago. She missed the fundamental point that 60 per cent. of the people in Israel were born there or in the Middle East. It may well be that 681 certain camps in Europe, having lain idle for 20 years, could be put to good use again, but I hope that my hon. Friend was not going so far as to advocate that.
I pass from the speech of the hon. Lady and say only this about the cause of the war. When the Gulf of Aqaba was blockaded—and this was never mentioned in her speech—and when the United Nations Forces were withdrawn at the request of Egypt—and there was no mention of that—and Egyptian Forces massed in Sinai—which was never mentioned—and the Syrian forces shelled the Golan Heights in Upper Galilee and the maritime nations were unable to guarantee freedom of access after an act of war in closing the Straits of Tiran, Israel, and I say this very sadly, had no alternative but to act as she did.
The crudest kind of propaganda coming from Cairo and Damascus, the type of caricature which I saw some time ago in the Gaza Strip and the presence of dozens, if not hundreds, of ex-Nazis in Cairo were hardly likely to reassure Israel as to good intentions. It is true that there are some Arabs who might not have wanted war—probably very many—but I cannot accept that those people in Israel with their heritage could take any risks about the Arab States not carrying out what they had stated to be their intention over a period of 20 years.
I do not believe that very much good will come at this stage from recrimination. What is now needed are policies which will help stability in the Middle East by creating an atmosphere in which the people of the Middle East can live together in harmony within the same geographical area for the benefit of both Israeli and Arab. The legitimate claims of Arab nationalists and Israeli territorial nationalism could benefit the people of the region as a whole if they were not tragically turned one against the other in mutual distrust and hostility.
The most difficult task facing British diplomacy in the Middle East, one which cannot be shelved if we have the real interests of Arab-British relations at heart, is to make it quite clear to the Arab States that Israel is there whether they like it or not and is there to stay. The realisation of that very simple fact of life would be the beginning of wisdom.
682 I also believe that we have a very strong moral obligation, an obligation which was underlined by the late Aneurin Bevan in a speech of great foresight when, as a result of the unprecedented withdrawal of Israeli forces following the Sinai campaign of 1956, he pointed out the obligation which we had to underwrite that very courageous action at that time.
I believe that the United Nations failed Israel in June of last year. Israel is understandably more obdurate this time because of that failure of the United Nations to guarantee its own decisions, not only about that, but also about the free passage of ships through international waters.
The key to present Israeli attitudes lies not only in this failure of the world to guarantee Israel's existence having created it, but also in geography, because anyone who has been there knows that it has borders which are quite undefendable. At some points the waistline is only a few miles wide and settlements beneath the Golan Heights were sitting ducks. Jerusalem was open to the sniper's bullet and the Gaza Strip has often been referred to as a pistol pointing at the heart of Israel. The war has culminated in far more defenable frontiers which the Israelis will not give up for anything short of real recognition, real acceptance and real security with the same rights of access to international waters as are enjoyed by other nations.
Last week's cordial meeting between Mr. Eshkol and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will, I hope, set the climate for the future. Mr. Asba Ebbon said recently that there had beena big advance in Britain's appreciation of Israel's attitude culminating in the balanced resolution of the Security Council.In spite of recent hopeful signs, such as exchanges of prisoners and the freeing of ships from the Suez Canal—and this is not only my view, but the view of my hon. Friends who espouse the Arab cause—I see very little sign of a fundamental change in Arab attitudes.
We are faced with the situation where, with the honourable exception of Rumania, the whole might of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is backing the Arab nations, whether feudal or nationalist, whether reactionary or revolutionary, without regard to any sort of principle and without regard to the dangers to peace. 683 Russian technical experts pour in and Russian arms pour in, including the most sophisticated modern weapons such as the missile which sank the "Elath".
The Arab States, as the hon. Lady said with great gusto yesterday, may well be able to resume the war in six months. Iraq is even stronger than it was before and there is a grave danger that, in his endeavour to advance the oil interests of France, President de Gaulle will sell the Mirage planes to Iraq and not to Israel who originally ordered them. Egyptian military strength is already at about 80 per cent. of its pre-war level. Peace moves today, therefore, are as urgent as, unfortunately, they seem to be unproductive. The aims of the Arab States remain not only to take back the lost territory, the lost ground. I quote the Egyptian Minister of Information immediately after the war—and I commend these words to the hon. Lady and those who think like her—I do not use the words 'the liquidation of the results of aggression' since the aggression itself is signified by the continued existence of Israel in the midst of the Arab nations".Only when that spirit gives way to a recognition of the realities of the situation shall we be able to move towards peace in that area.
President Bourguiba of Tunisia courageously and aptly put it in Le Monde of 19th July when he said:The road followed hitherto has led three times into an impasse, obstinacy has proved to be of no use and a change of method should come about.The fact is that Israel does not want to fight a war every 10 years, although it will if it has to. Its leaders on the whole—and, as in any country, there are vast differences of opinion—but those in control on the whole are mostly intelligent and enlightened men who know that, while immediate security is paramount, nevertheless long-term security can come only through peace and acceptance by the Arab world. Those extremists who reject this concept are few, but there is a warning which should be made to the Arab States—that if they persist in their obstinacy, they run the risk of making it more and more difficult for responsible Israeli leaders to gain public acceptance for the kind of generous terms in relation to the occupied territories which I for one would like to see.
684 One thing is certain and must be understood by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary—and I have no doubt that he understands it. It is that at this stage there can be no going back to the pre-June position. It is frequently said, and I know that some of my hon. Friends say, that there should be no territorial aggrandisement as a result of war, leaving aside the Sudetenland, Alsace-Lorraine, or many other examples from European history, and perhaps the New Zealanders should cede New Zealand to the Maoris. But one must realise that Gaza was never part of Egypt and that Jerusalem and the West Bank were incorporated into Jordan following the war in 1948.
Ideally, the kind of solution which I would like to see would be a federation which would include the West Bank on the one side and Jordan on the other in confederation with Israel. Certainly an independent Arab State creating a new Palestine with an Arab identity would provide this sort of ideal solution, and it would remove the pretence for interference by outside Powers. It would also provide a framework in which we could deal with the problems of the refugees in co-operation with the United Nations, and solve that problem in a liberal and humane fashion.
In spite of a spate of neo-atrocity propaganda—and we had some of that from the hon. Lady and the two hon. Members opposite yesterday and no real atrocity has yet been alleged—it is quite clear to those who, like myself and some of my hon. Friends, have visited the West Bank that this is a very soft occupation. As Martha Gellhorn pointed out in articles in The Guardian, only 200 civilians were killed during the war and the toll of civilians, bad as it is, is very small compared with the usual toll of civilians in a war of that kind.
Terence Prittie of The Guardian, speaking at the Royal Society of Arts, said that he had never known a more generous and self-obliterating military Government than that of Israel. They can be wrong, they can be harsh, and as inhuman as anyone else. I do not believe that Israeli soldiers are imbued with anything but the same human frailties as other soldiers. Like people who are in uniform for a long time they may perhaps be more blunted to the things that they have to face.
685 But my own findings were that there was remarkably little to those who, only a few days before I visited the area, were receiving battle orders to kill every man, woman and child in the settlements there. There has been an uninterrupted flow of supplies to refugee camps and full co-operation with Egyptian-run refugee hospitals, for example, which I saw in the Gaza Strip. As long as the problem remains a political pawn it will not be solved.
One of my right hon. Friends rightly s aid yesterday that during this period 600,000 refugees from Arab States, who have suffered all sorts of indignities, were absorbed into Israel. No one can fail to be moved, as I was very much moved, to see a child born in an Arab refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, whose mother was also born in that camp and who had known nothing but a refugee camp all her life. I do not want to raise the temperature or apportion blame, but w hat we have to accept is that only a political settlement to the outstanding problems of the Middle East can lead eventually to a solution of the refugee problem.
What of this settlement? Mr. Yarring has gone to get both sides together. Only if those two sides come together at a conference table will we get any sort of settlement. No settlement will be imposed in the Middle East from outside. May I give some constructive ideas about a settlement? The settlement can only be reached from the basis of defensible frontiers and freedom of navigation in international waterways. It can comprise generous terms of settlement and compensation for refugees and also a Mediterranean outlet for Jordan, which would assist Jordan greatly. It can provide a functional co-operation in improving agriculture, forestry, waterways, desalination, and communications in the area. This is the kind of co-operation that will come about and it would benefit the whole of the Middle East.
It must also remove the military threat from Gaza and from the Golan Heights. There is a strong argument that the demilitarisation of Gaza can only be possible within Israel's borders. The defence positions will also have to be on the ridges, and not at the foot of the Golan Heights in the North. There 686 will have to be certain retifications of the old border with regard to Jordan. These are things that will only be possible at the conference table. I know that there are those who take a different view, but I think that they will agree that the only way in which this problem can be solved is by the parties sitting together and working this out.
We are in a strange position when the victorious party is suing the vanquished for peace, asking it to come to the conference table. The most vexed question, and one that causes the most emotion is that of Jerusalem. All religions must be given free access to their holy places. For the first time in 20 years this has taken place. I see no moral reason why—indeed it would be morally indefensible—that what is now an undivided city should be divided again and why Jordan should not play its part there in a peaceful Middle East.
Any one who has been to that part of the world knows that the possibility of a divided city and a return to the old situation is something that cannot be accepted by anyone in Israel and any Government which put this forward would collapse tomorrow.
In all of this Britain can play a very useful rôle. It is our job to get the parties together in direct confrontation over the negotiating table, and to introduce a sense of reality about the existence of Israel to the Arab world. This Party has an advantage here because of our rôle in Suez and Aden. I had the greatest sympathy with the aspirations of Arab nationalism. Our record on those occasions will allow us to speak with some standing to the Arab world. We have to be straightforward in telling them their obligations. The Arab people stand to gain more than anyone from a resumption of peace in the area, which is an area whose problems are probably more complex than any other in the world.
I hope that the Prime Minister, in his talks with Mr. Kosygin, has gone some way to remove that region from the sphere of Great Power manipulation, from which it has suffered for so long, and to induce the Soviet Union to see that nothing but disaster can come from stepping up arms and causing an arms race there. The land in that area has been fought over for countless years—from 687 the beginning of recorded history. Yet this area gave birth to three great religions, all of them preaching peace and love towards one's neighbours. I hope that the prophecies of peace will overcome the will to war in that area.
§ Mr. Speaker
May I remind the House that many hon. Members wish to catch my eye in a very short debate.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
I have been very tempted to follow the Foreign Secretary in what he said about the United Nations and Japan, but time precludes me from doing so. I am reminded of the occasion when Sir Winston Churchill was dining with a body of his hon. Friends about 20 years ago. The chef brought on a very flabby looking pudding. When he saw it he turned to the chef and said, "Take away that pudding. It has no theme."
When I listened to the speech of the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence, I felt that the theme of their speeches was one of "Little Englanders" and "Little Europeans". How encourging it was for me to hear the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), whose theme was one of worldwide responsibility and adherence to our alliances, which I am sure is the right rôle for our country.
I can quite understand why the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shin-well) walked out during the speech of the Foreign Secretary. I feel bound to say that if cuts have to be made now, I would rather have them made on the continent of Europe than in Malaysia and in the Persian Gulf. We can concentrate on air and sea power in Europe, and we should use our forces to protect the interests, not only in that area but east of Suez. In the Persian Gulf, Malaysia and Singapore the decisions made will be irreversible. If we wish to come back to the Continent of Europe, if the feelings of France and Germany change towards us, we will be able to do so. But it is very worrying to me to feel that these decisions east of Suez are irreversible and irrevocable.
It is not that I am not a good European. I wish this country to get closer 688 to the Continent. But I like to think of myself as an outward-looking European, not a Little Englander or a Little European. I want to see an outward-looking Europe having an influence on world affairs, protecting the flanks of N.A.T.O. and helping, in particular, her interests east of Suez, if necessary, at the request of the United Nations. I have just visited the United Nations, and I thought that one of the weaknesses was the little influence which Europe had in the United Nations and worldwide at this moment.
How are we to get closer to Europe? The quickest way to do that is to look to the Atlantic and not longingly across the Channel. We must look to the flanks of N.A.T.O., and think about the Russian fleet deployed in the Mediterranean and the danger to Aden and the Indian Ocean which the Russians are exerting.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
By indirections, we have to find directions. We must support success and stand by our allies and partners and not help those who appear to be hitting us in the face. Unless we do this, I am sure that the temptation to the United States, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) said, is to withdraw to a fortress Europe.
I have just been to the United States. There is still much friendly feeling towards us. But, in view of the responsibilities which they are being asked to fulfil in the vacuum which has been created, we must be well on our guard against the danger of a fortress America. Undoubtedly, our future depends more than anything else on trade. Guns are to protect trade, not imperialist adventures. Secondly, we must do all we can to support success and look to our best customers and ask who they are. The answer is, the United States, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. To me, it is hypocritical that we should adopt moral attitudes towards South Africa when we think about some of the pledges which the Government have made. It does not make sense to me at all that they should talk about moral principles.
I want to bring the European Economic Community to the Atlantic. I want to see the E.E.C. tempted to join 689 a thriving, liberalised, prosperous trading community. This is the way in which to get closer to Europe, not by being Little Englanders and Little Europeans. But, above all, I want to be able to back Britain; I want to believe in Britain. Since the Government have broken every pledge on which they went to the country at the last election, I find it very difficult to believe in Britain when they are the Government.
If we want to run a business, however small or however large, we must do two things: first, keep our word and, secondly, maintain good will. Alas, the Government have broken their word and their pledge. What is far more serious is that they have been counting the cost of the defence cuts in money terms alone. II they had a business, they would realise that the most valuable asset in a business is goodwill. The Foreign Secretary shakes his head, but I am sure that the consequence of these defence cuts will be to lose the good will of our three most important customers—America, Australia and New Zealand and South Africa. Let the Foreign Secretary add up that bill. This is the consequence of running out and of trying to implement foreign policy in a materialistic, economic way and not honouring our treaties and responsibilities.
The thing which worries me most is that the honour and standing of this House have been brought into grave disrepute because nobody now believes the word of the Prime Minister or of the Secretary of State for Defence, not only nationally, but internationally. I do not want to make this a party political point, but I am sure that if we want to restore the standing of this country in the corridors of the diplomatic world and the chancellories of the world, we must pay much more regard to the pledged word. This is why I feel that the only course for the Secretary of State for Defence is to resign after all his broken pledges to show that Britain's word means something in the counsels of the world again.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr (Rochester and Chatham)
I will not attempt to deal with the remarks of the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale). I wish to make a mini-speech on a subject of maximum importance. I will try to be 690 brief, because I know that many other hon. Members wish to speak.
My main point is this. The Government could play a tremendous rôle in bringing about an end of the war in Vietnam. Not only could they stop the war in that country, but they could prevent the extension of the war to Laos and Cambodia. The rôle which the Government play at this time in history is of great importance.
President Eisenhower said at the end of his term of office that the United States should beware of the military-industrial complex in the United States. Since then, he has said some other things which are rather contradictory, but I think that at that stage he saw the truth, which is that the whole economy of the United States is tied up with this wretched aggression in Vietnam. Britain could, if it would, play a tremendous rôle in stopping the war and the imperialist rule of the United States throughout the world by stating quite openly, not just into Mr. Johnson's ear, but publicly to the people of the United States, what our real opinion is. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary questions the effect that we might have in doing this.
I met Senator Fulbright and many other Senators and Congressmen when I was recently in the United States. I have been in Japan, Hong Kong, India and Australia, and everywhere one goes one is told that if Britain were to break on this issue it would be the biggest single thing which could happen in creating a different mood and climate in the United States, because the people of the United States are democratic. It is difficult to get through to them because of the Press, radio and television, informed by the Government, but it is a sufficiently democratic country still to understand and appreciate that were this country, which is by no means looked down on in the world, to take a step of this nature, we could persuade the people of the United States to elect the right kind of Government. This is crucial, and it is the main reason why those of us who are opposed to the Government's policy on Vietnam object when they say that they are doing all that they can. We do not accept that they are. We accept their genuineness in saying that they are trying 691 to, but we do not accept that this is the best method.
All the friends of peace in the United States say the same thing to us. Dr. Spock, Senator Fulbright, Senator McCarthy, Senator Morse and Senator Case are but a few of those who say that the biggest single contribution towards peace in Vietnam would be for Britain to state publicly that she dissociates herself from American aggression in South-East Asia.
This leads on to many other matters, because one of the major problems about the present Government is that they have not enough foresight to have any ideas about the future. Unlike right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, I do not agree that we have to have military commitments throughout South-East Asia to preserve peace and what they call stability. I want to see stability, but not if it results in the poor people remaining poor and the rich people getting richer. I want to see a new kind of world in which the poor are released from their misery and the rich have to pay. However, I do not want to see them fighting in order to achieve that state of affairs.
I ask the Government to think again, not necessarily about what will happen in the next few months or years, but about what they can do in terms of the future of the world. This country can play a fine rôle in promoting humanity and decency between man and woman and people and people.
In a funny kind of way, this country seems to have lost its rôle without finding a new one. I beg the Government to think deeply about what that new rôle could be and to understand that we have a moral part to play which should be based on decency and not have to rely on military methods. Were we to take the step of dissociating ourselves from the American commitment in Vietnam, we could have an enormous impact on American public opinion and, thereby, on the future of humanity.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
The hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr) was right when she said that there is a rôle for this country to play. However, the Government are abandoning it. We are dis- 692 cussing foreign affairs at a moment when Britain has been brought lower in the world than at any time in recent generations. In future, I hope that no supporter of the present Government will ever tax the Conservative Party with the inadequacy of our defences at the time of Munich and appeasement. At least in the 'thirties, Britain sold only one faraway country at a time.
The measure of the Government's achievement in foreign policy is the dismay which they have caused our American allies, upon whom hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Lady, are always urging that we should exert influence and put pressure, the consternation that they have created in the Commonwealth, and the utter failure of their European policy.
We have heard much from right hon. Gentleman opposite about the risks which their policy entail. It is they who tell us that their policy entails risks, risks not to their political careers, but, I am afraid, to the lives of our young men. Those are the risks being run.
It is not a European defence policy that we shall have. It is a non-defence policy. The Labour Left have tasted blood. They have got their cuts in Asia, and they will be after their cuts in Europe next.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
The hon. Gentleman confirms what I say.
The main threat to Britain and Europe is no longer in Europe. The mantle of Marxist militancy has fallen from Russian to Chinese shoulders. When right hon. Gentlemen opposite talk aboutcapability for deployment",and the White Paper used these words, I should like to know with what aircraft they will do the deploying and by what routes.
The Foreign Secretary and other hon. Members opposite have misunderstood the prevailing Conservative opinion on our Eastern policy. It is not our view that we need vast bases overseas with super cinemas and N.A.A.F.I.s de luxe. What we need is a foothold and a military presence in the Gulf, in the Indian Ocean and in the Far East until adequate local and regional defences exist. As yet, they do not exist.
693 The British people have to put up with a. lot these days, but why must the Secretary of State for Defence always be appearing on television? I know that he has been under great strain. I know the difficulties of the television studio. I know that to many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, traditional rulers in Asia or Africa are always fair game, whether they be Rhodesian chiefs or Arab sheikhs. I know also that "mercenary" is a dirty word in Left-wing semantics.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
It is a dirty word.
The Secretary of State for Defence, is a scholar, and he may have read A. E. Housman's "Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries" whosaved the sum of things for pay.Those mercenaries were one of the finest armies that this country ever produced, the British Regular Army of 1914. To his credit, the Secretary of State was a distinguished serving officer in the Second World War, and he knows as well as anyone what the Indian Army—that Army of glorious mercenaries—achieved, and as Secretary of State for Defence he knows what we owe to the mercenary Brigade of Gurkhas.
Ever since the days of Joseph Chamberlain and Balfour, the Government at home have been looking for contributions to the common defence from overseas partners. There have been complaints in connection with the present cui s that the United Kingdom has had to bear too heavy a burden. I have some sympathy with that argument. It is said that the Australians should contribute more in proportion to their resources and their population.
I know that the sheikhs in the Gulf are not rulers of countries within the Commonwealth, but, in a way, they are as intimately linked with us as some of those formally within its bounds. When they come forward and say that they would like to make a financial contribution to the common defence, I should have thought that, in our present position, the Government would have embraced their offer with both hands, After all, they have written in their White Paper: 6941… we still face the problem of the heavy continuing cost in foreign exchange of stationing our troops in Germany".The hope is expressed in that White Paper that, in February, they will persuade the Germans to contribute more to the common defence.
§ Mr. John Lee rose——
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Time is short. I hope that the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not give way.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Brown)
The hon. Gentleman is in full spate. Do not stop him.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I am obliged—[Interruption.] I would not have gone into this at any length if only one word of regret had come from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence. The House would have been understanding of the strains under which Ministers labour at the present time.
Nothing in today's news encourages us to believe that we can rest our vital interests and entrust our partners in the Far East to a balance between Russia and China or the local powers themselves. I think that was the fallacy in the Defence Secretary's apologia today. Here I agree with the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly)—I admired his speech and I admire his stand—when he said that it was not wise nor fitting that we should leave it all to the Americans. There is a rôle that only the British can play.
Sukarno is a fallen tyrant, thanks to British and Commonwealth troops. One thing is certain and that is that Britain cannot be replaced in Singapore by the United States. The British in those parts of the world are accepted as friends. They are part of the landscape and they have succeeded much more easily in Malaysia than I am sorry to say have our American allies fighting so gallantly in Vietnam in identifying themselves with those they are hoping to defend. The main danger is subversion, which creeps below radar screens and nuclear weapons systems. The British are not bad—
§ Mr. John Lee rose——695
§ Mr. John Lee rose——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irvine)
Order. The hon. Member must not persist. The hon. Gentleman is not giving way.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Unlike other hon. Members who have addressed the House, I am referring to my notes.
The British have their victorious experience of Malaya and against Indonesia. A British component is still needed to stiffen and sustain Asian and Australasian friends at a cost which would be miniscule in proportion to the interest and investment it would secure.
Yesterday, the Commonwealth Secretary wound up and I thought he was somewhat unhappy. He referred to the United Kingdom-Malaya Defence Treaty of 1957. He admitted that there was strong criticism of the Government's cavalier attitude to this agreement. The Commonwealth Secretary said that the essential purpose of that treaty was to retain our military facilities, and he said that our military needs have changed.
But there are two sides to a treaty. The Malaysian point of view has to be considered. I have been reading the Treaty, Article 1 of which says:The Government of the United Kingdom undertake to afford to the Government of the Federation of Malaya such assistance as the Government of the Federation of Malaya may require for the external defence of its territory.I find no mention in the Treaty that Her Majesty's Government may run out of it at any moment they think fit and I see no provision for unilateral repudiation.
Hon. Members may have noticed in The Times supplement on Australia a very wise article.
§ Mr. Maxwell
On a point of order. Is the hon. Gentleman entitled to leave out from the Treaty the clause which gives Her Majesty's Government the right to renegotiate?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I would speak longer on the Treaty but I wish to get to the end of my speech.
696 The words I am about to read from this article in The Times supplement were, I thought, penetrating words:Australia has for 30 uneasy years been able to balance the growing importance of the United States by relying on Britain's diminished forces in South-East Asia while building up her own strength.We all know that Australia is entering a new era of expansion. Is this the moment for Britain to decide to fade away? I hope that the Government will give a more positive response to the suggestion made yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) to build on the ANZAM arrangements.
If I may inflict a few more words from The Times article, the writer went on to give warning that… a coming, and claustrophobic, British generation may have bitter regrets over a lost inheritance. It is to be hoped that they will not find any parallel between the White Paper of 1968 and the Treaty of 1783 which signed away America.I fear that this is not the end of the cuts or the end of the story, or that we are at the end of the road to ruin. The crisis in this country is not primarily one of currency, but of confidence. This great betrayal can only add to the strain on sterling and Britain's credit in the world. The package deal was a dirty deal, giving comfort to all abroad and at home who wish us ill. When the Defence Secretary spoke of having to make a compromise with his colleagues, I could not help thinking that he also made a compromise with his conscience.
But the right hon. Gentleman who bears the highest responsibility sometimes reminds me of the late Ramsay MacDonald. It is not just a weakness for waffle, it is not just that, as under the late Ramsay MacDonald, under his administration the country has been put in fee to foreign finance. There is this difference between the two. Ramsay MacDonald sacrificed, as he saw it, his party to his country and the present Prime Minister has sacrificed his country to his party.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Colin Jackson (Brighouse and Spenborough)
During the last two days I have had the interesting experience of listening to the various aspects of opposition foreign policy being described. Some of it has had a kind of Kiplingesque 697 nostalgia about it. Another suggestion that we had this evening to deal with our problem of defence, made by the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair), was that if we cut down the number of civil servants we would be able to keep our defence forces east of Suez. It was not entirely clear to me what saving we would have in the foreign exchange level if we reduced the number of civil servants in the United Kingdom.
Another version of Conservative foreign policy has constantly included the word "vacuum"—there will be a vacuum in this, that, or the other part of the world unless the British stay. I was reminded of the statement, shortly after he Suez fiasco, by the late Mr. John Foster Dulles who, in a Press interview, aid:There is a vacuum in the Middle East caused by the French and the British withdrawal and unless we fill it up the Russians will fill in".I recall the Jordanian Foreign Secretary, shortly after that, saying: "I am not a vacuum. I do not want to be filled up. I just want to be an Arab leader within the Arab world."
Trying to tie together Conservative foreign policy as it has been set out is still immensely difficult. On the one side, the party opposite says that it has no intention of maintaining a world rôle I defence. On the other hand, it has declared its intention of maintaining forces inside South-east Asia, forces in the Middle East, forces in the Mediterranean, forces in Europe and Simonds-town. Therefore, that leads one to suppose that this world rôle will leave out South America. Apart from that, it will be a very active engagement.
The maintenance of this non-world rôle on an indefinite scale I find interesting in the Conservative argument in relation to the Persian Gulf, the Arab Gulf. In the past, there has been a case for the maintenance of British troops in the Persian Gulf area. But an indefinite further permanent maintenance—"indefinite" is the word which has been used on more than one occasion—of those forces seems to be entirely non-sustainable.
One thing about the Middle East which particularly worried me in relation to recent events was the Government's deci- 698 sion to increase our naval, military and airforces—particularly our military forces—in the Persian Gulf at the time when we were closing down the Aden base. One does not have to be a penetrating observer of the Arab world to realise that the flashpoint of Arab nationalism felt by the younger generation throughout the area would switch from Aden to the last remaining military base in the area, namely, the Persian Gulf, once we left Aden. I am glad that the Government have not become too deeply involved, so that they may now move out on a phased withdrawal.
The presence of military forces—and the Russians may find this in time to come—in any part of the world—and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence said this—can, at a certain stage, be an exacerbating influence. The withdrawal of military forces—as happened with the withdrawal of French military forces from Algeria—can enhance the status of a nation in that area.
I hope that during the next four years we shall have a positive opportunity of establishing a regional, political, and defence co-operation group within the Persian Gulf area. I do not always find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths), who seems to be available as a kind of alternative Foreign Secretary for any speaker on any suitable occasion, but I agree with what he said yesterday about how one foresees the political future of the Gulf area within the next four years.
I think that one must recognise that geography will assert an influence on the major political development of the region, and that on the southern side of the Gulf Saudi Arabia will be the predominant force. The difficult problem is how, during the next four years, to get these small trucial sheikhdoms to move towards some pattern of unity, and a suitable pattern of relationship with Saudi Arabia. This will apply whatever the political complexion of the Government in Riyadh, and perhaps north of the Gulf, Iran will have a positive dominating influence.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds mentioned the word "triangle", meaning the third country, Kuwait. I do not think that one would be wise at this stage to envisage the final solution 699 to the problem in that area leaving out Iraq, because it is possible that she might want to come in, on suitable terms, to a defence arrangement within the Gulf region. It is vital that negotiations for defence and political arrangements should begin at once. We should get the pattern clear during the first two years, so that in the last two years we have an easy run, with the basic picture established, and no last-minute alterations.
I would like to move on to the whole future of the Arab world with the British bases in the Persian Gulf now having a finite period. It may well be that when these bases have closed the European continent as a whole will have a new opportunity within the Arab region. The Foreign Secretary referred yesterday to our success at the United Nations, through our political intelligence and our sensitivity, in getting the Security Council to pass a unanimous resolution on the Arab-Israeli problem.
France has a good name in the Arab world, and Italy has intelligent trading prospects. I have never had much time for either American or Russian influence operating within the Middle East. There was that famous former Security Council representative of the United States who said that he hoped that Jews and Arabs would settle their problems in a true Christian spirit. He did not seem to have that delicacy and feeling which is necessary for this area.
We talk about Europe moving together. What is wrong with the southern European countries having closer links with North Africa and the Levant? In the next four years, a politically sensitive Europe can go a long way towards preventing the Middle East from being a dispute point between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. Fundamentally, the military involvement of the United States and the Soviet Union in this area has been because of the Israeli conflict, and the more one thinks of this problem the more one becomes depressed, the more one becomes reminded of Nevil Shute's "On the Beach".
One can feel the cold climate of hatred mounting in Israel and in the Arab States. I think that Her Majesty's Government deserve all the credit and praise that 700 any understanding nation can give for their attempts to break this impasse between Israel saying, "We will not withdraw until you recognise us", and the Arab States saying, "We will not recognise you until you withdraw". There may not be much hope of our avoiding a fourth conflict in the Middle East, with all the danger of a nuclear war, and all that Nevil Shute forecast, but if the opportunity is there it lies in implementing the Security Council resolution, and the activities of Mr. Jarring.
Reference has been made by some of my hon. Friends, and by some hon. Gentlemen opposite, to the political status of Israel in the future. I am certain that one element of that Security Council resolution must be adhered to if there is to be peace, namely, we cannot have complete control of the whole of Jerusalem by Israel. This does not mean that one has to go back to the old divided city, which I greatly hated. The United Nations have suggested an international defence status. There should be free trade, with no barriers, between Israel and Jordan, because this would greatly facilitate the tourist trade, but the physical possession, in political terms, by the Israelis of old Jerusalem would greatly push the Arabs back to the saying that they will never recognise Israel, and they will wait for the fourth run.
I hope that those who have influence with Israel—and I have been there, and admired their democracy, their courage, and their culture—will emphasise that. The Security Council resolution must be fulfilled. We need Arab, Israeli and United Nations people to discuss the matter together, but we will never get it if we fail to get this recognition of the special position of Jerusalem.
In relation to this vacuum policy, I believe that it is possible, in the next four years, to strengthen the Asian States Association and for the new Indonesia, with admirable figures like Mr. Adam Malik, Singapore and Malaysia to coordinate their defence. It is not the job of Western Powers or any others to go around setting up so-called vacuum positions. The domino theory never made sense, either, because Indonesia would have fallen to internal Communist subversion while the Americans were fighting in Vietnam.
701 We need an encouragement of regional defence pacts working effectively with proper planning, in the Persian Gulf and with our help in South-East Asia, perhaps with a backstop in Australia, and thereby contain a major territorial Chinese aggression. I do not believe that this country should be ashamed of what it has done or afraid of what it plans to do with its partners around the world. As has been said many times tonight, our position does not consist simply in the position of certain soldiers at certain times. It depends on the things which we have given the world, like democracy, civilisation and intelligence, and I have no doubt that that rôle will continue and will grow for us.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
Like so many of his hon. Friends, the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenbprough (Mr. Colin Jackson) ignored the fact that what the Government are doing here is going back on agreements and leaving these countries not yet ready to defend themselves. It is no good talking about blocking up holes or saying that tie Tories want a world rôle. This is a question of standing by one's commitments with countries until they can make good the holes themselves. This the Government have failed to do, and basically because the Labour Party will not differentiate between things which are necessary and vital and those which are desirable.
When they challenge us about public expenditure, I like to take a firm look at things which only a Government can dc and say that those are the things which they should take care of. Defence is something which only the Government can take care of. The private individual cannot. The Government are responsible for defending our interests abroad and the private individual is better able to provide for himself at home. The Labour Party has begun to acknowledge this in its move on prescription charges but has not followed it to the logical conclusion but left it at that and made the decision in defence to placate its Left-wing critics.
I want to turn to the deplorable state to which our relations with our friends and allies has been brought by the recent changes. We should make it clear, when 702 talking about this, that this is no accident or something which had to happen or has suddenly fallen upon the Government, but results directly from two things—first, their thoroughly incompetent policies which have led to our present economic situation and, secondly, the Government's determination, having got Into that state, to placate their Left wing by sacrificing our defences rather than by facing up to the realities of life and our economy.
What is the result of all this upon our position in the parts of the world in which we have vital interests? I start with Singapore and Malaysia. I do not believe that there will be any real saving, whether in foreign exchange or in money terms. We know that, before the Government had decided upon this latest advancement of the withdrawal date, we were committed to mitigatory aid, which we give to make up for the lack of our military presence and the employment which it provides. Is it not more sensible merely to leave the troops there? By the time we have paid for that mitigatory aid and for housing the soldiers back home—an enormous programme of building and buying private housing estates to house them is already going on, when they were quite happily housed out there—there will be no saving. This is purely a political gesture.
If one compares it with the general a id programme in the world, which is apparently to be merely prevented from increasing rather than cut, one begins to wonder what it is all about. But there is one person who is convinced that the withdrawal from Singapore is not for monetary saving, and that is Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. He is quite clear about this. What the Government must face now is that, having taken this decision, they are left with the obligation to render credible our capability to help in that area if we are required.
It is all very well for Ministers to talk glibly about taking risks. "We will still have our influence and be able to come to the help of the people we are leaving," they say. But how will we acclimatise our troops to the conditions in these areas if they are suddenly required in, say, Singapore or Malaysia? I visited the jungle training centre out there a few weeks ago and discovered that every soldier must go through a six weeks' course at the centre 703 on arriving in the area. No soldier was of any use until he had completed that training. This being so, how can the Government suggest that we will be in a position to aid the people of the area after we have left?
What about our air transport capability? Do we have an aircraft capable of carrying Chieftan tanks to various parts of the world? What about staging posts? What will happen to Gan? Will we stay there after 1971? Will we stay in the Indian Ocean or withdraw from that area? We have not heard about that, but perhaps that will be included in a later bunch of cuts. The same question might be asked about our over-flying rights. Will we be able to over-fly the Middle East or Africa if we must go to the aid of the people in the Far East? When asked questions about this the other day, the Foreign Secretary had little idea of the routes that could be used and he talked about a number of options.
Have the Government considered the unemployment position which will result in Singapore from our withdrawal? The population of Singapore is 2 million, of whom 600,000 are the working population. Already 78,000 people are unemployed and each year 15,000 school leavers are unable to find jobs. Against this background, 60,000 people who work either directly for the British Services or as domestic servants for them, and another 60,000 who make their living out of our presence—that is, 120,000 people, or one-fifth of the total working population—will find that their jobs are in jeopardy by 1971. How can right hon. Gentlemen opposite sit back happily and think of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and his countrymen having to face vast increases in unemployment in an area in which vast unemployment provides a fertile ground in which Communism can be made to spread quickly?
Then consider Hong Kong. When I was there in October, during the troubles, an aircraft carrier arrived quickly with additional helicopters. The supply ship "Triumph" also arrived in the harbour. "Only a presence", one might say, but it certainly backed up our forces there. How credible will be our ability to aid Hong Kong when right hon. Gentlemen opposite have finished?
704 I was surprised to hear the Foreign Secretary say about our withdrawal from the Gulf:I have long thought that this time has come."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th January, 1968; Vol. 756, c. 2080.]"I have long thought", he said, when only six weeks earlier he had sent a Minister their to say that we would be remaining for some years to come. Then he had to send him back to say that we did not really mean it.
The right hon. Gentleman, who so glibly and happily goes on television and refers to sheikhs in the Gulf who are prepared to offer us £25 million, then uses expressions like "white slavers" and "mercenaries". We are accustomed to his natural and apparently unconscious impoliteness and incivility, but people abroad expect something better, and they are entitled to expect it. [Interruption.] The Minister of Defence says that I am a pipsqueak. At least I do not go on television making enemies for this country. I hope that we will hear what plans he has for the defence of the Gulf area after 1971.
All this might not be so bad if we could be certain that the Government mean what they say about Europe, but I wonder whether we can? The Foreign Secretary talks about the importance of Europe, but in the case of Simonstown he is apparently prepared to ignore that as part of the protection of the southern Atlantic.
On 8th November last, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) asked the Secretary of State for Defence:Can the right hon. Gentleman give a categorical assurance that no plans are being considered in his Ministry for further drastic reductions in the Forces"—that is, in Germany:in addition to those already announced?".He got the answer:I can tell the House that my Ministry, like many others in Whitehall, is deeply concerned that we shall solve the problem of the foreign exchange costs of the British Forces in Germany. With the hon. and gallant Gentleman's long Service background, he will know that it is not the custom for Ministers of whatever party in this House to speculate on planning."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1967; Vol. 753, c. 1022.]I tried again on Monday of this week, when asked the right hon. Gentleman the 705 Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, who is present:Would the Minister give a categorical assurance to the House that no plans are being made in the Ministry of Defence to withdraw Half our forces from Germany?".The right hon. Gentleman replied:The hon. Member asked me about plans in the Ministry of Defence. He must address that question to the Minister in charge of that Department."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd January, 1968 Vol. 757, c. 5.]I do so tonight. I ask the Secretary of State whether it is the fact that long before the actual agreement, or even discussion of devaluation, plans were afoot in the Ministry of Defence to withdraw more than half our forces from Germany. I wonder whether he will be able to tell us whether this was not the cat that was let out of the bag by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, when talking about the likelihood of our taking retaliatory action if we did not get into the E.E.C.
Having been told by the Government that they are withdrawing from East of Suez for good, with all that that entails for our interests and allies, are we to find that, having said that this is to enable us to be strong in Europe they are planning, and have been planning for some time, to reduce still further there? One cannot help feeling that this is just part of the standard Socialist policy, and that, as Labour Party Talking Paint No. 16 of 1967 states:Resources have been switched from defence to the social services, which is the right priority for a Socialist Government.No wonder Lord Chalfont was sent to Europe. He was originally meant to be Minister of Disarmament, but the right hon. Gentleman did his job for him—only unilaterally and not multilaterally—so the noble Lord was sent to Europe.
Worst of all, we have seen the R.A.F. let down by the right hon. Gentleman, and on this count alone he should no longer be sitting there on the Treasury Bench. He has pursued to a nicety the perfect Communist technique of salami tactics of just taking a bit each time that is not big enough to fight for. He said, first of all, that we were not to get 110 TSR2s but were to get 110 F111s instead. When no one resigns, a little later we are told that we will no longer get 110 F111s but 50—"but you will get some A.F.V.G.s, so don't worry". Then 706 we are told that there will be no variable geometry aircraft, but that we will still get the F111s. Now we have nothing, and the right hon. Gentleman talks about depending in the future on the Americans for long-range tactical and strike reconnaissance aircraft.
What a let-down. How can the right hon. Gentleman face the House and the country after what he has done in recent weeks? To what abyssmal depths of degradation do we have to be dragged by this arrogant and incompetent Administration before they will understand that no one here or abroad has any confidence in them whatever?
I will not be rebuked by those in another place who suggest that we are carrying out a campaign of denigration against the Prime Minister just because we speak the truth about his activities and the activities of his Front Bench colleagues. We need no lessons in these matters. We know exactly how we can count on Ministers to behave from now on. The Prime Minister talks about backing Britain, but if he were backing Britain today he would go to the country and let the country elect a Government which had the confidence of the people, and then we would have the confidence of people abroad that we need.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Evan Luard (Oxford)
Most of the speakers in this debate so far have spoken of great subjects of national policy and international concern of far-reaching importance and gravity. At first sight, perhaps, the subject I want to speak about may seem of somewhat narrow, even trivial, significance compared with those, but I suggest that over the years it may appear as a subject of much greater importance than any that have been spoken of so far in this debate.
The subject is one of the many items which arose during this year's Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. It is known as the "Maltese Item" and concerns the seabed. I shall not weary the House with the long title of this item as it is rather involved and not very instructive. But its purpose, if I can try to explain it in a sentence, was to try to do for the seabed roughly the same as has been done for outer space in the last few years, to seek to prevent it being used purely for purposes of narrow 707 national interest, whether military economic or territorial, and to ensure that it is used instead for the benefit of mankind as a whole, and so far as possible demilitarised and immunised from the effects of purely national competition.
I think that it is a pity that, so far as I know, this item and this subject generally has had practically no publicity and has aroused very little interest in this country. Anyone who was at the General Assembly this year will know that this item aroused probably greater interest than almost any other single item discussed there, not excluding the great issues of the Middle East, Rhodesia, disarmament and others. Many felt that this was the only really new item which had come to the United Nations for many years. Others recognised that its potential importance was quite as great as the items on outer space which have been discussed for many years and which, fortunately, have now been largely disposed of.
One of the reasons why this aroused such great interest was that Dr. Pardo, the Maltese representative at the United Nations, whose initiative was largely responsible for raising the issue, was able to convince delegates of almost every nation of the very grave and serious problems which will arise in this area unless some effective international action is taken, not merely within the foreseeable future but during the next two or three years. One of the main things the Maltese delegate was concerned to stress was that this is not a remote subject which will be important some time in the vague future, but which is imminently urgent.
I should like to try to describe what these problems are. There are probably four main problems which arise concerning the seabed. The first and most fundamental is the legal problem. If this could be solved some of the others, although they would still exist and still be serious, would not be anything like so serious as they are now. The legal problem, to over-simplify a question which, like almost all questions of international law, is vast and obscure, is roughly this. The International Conference on the Law of the Sea, of 1958, reached a kind of agreement on the law of the sea governing the Continental 708 Shelf, that is to say, the limits of territorial jurisdiction.
Roughly, the agreement reached was that the Continental Shelf normally stretches to a depth of 200 metres. But it added a provision which I shall read, which is extremely vague, and which unfortunately almost completely nullifies the effect of the other part of the definition. It continued in this way:or, beyond that limit, to where the depth of the superjacent waters admits of the exploitation of the natural resources of the said areas".This can be interpreted in many ways and already has been interpreted in many ways. For example, several nations assert that this means that, so long as these areas can be exploited, they can be used for national purposes only to a distance half-way to the nearest coast on the other side of the ocean. What was not realised in 1958, because things had not then been developed, was that it would be possible now, with the techniques which have been developed over the last few years, to exploit almost any area of the deep seas—probably about 90 per cent. of the deep seas can be exploited.
The effect is that a claim stretching to halfway across the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean is perfectly tenable in terms of this form of words. Others go further and say that the legal limits of the Continental Shelf, or the area over which sovereign rights can be exercised, would go anywhere in the ocean that is not in fact within territorial waters—that is, it can go to the far side of the ocean as far as the territorial waters on the opposite side.
The effect of this is immediately apparent, because some states could claim very large areas of the ocean. A large number of very small islands, such as Ascension Island, St. Helena, Guam and a few others, can claim quite a large proportion of the oceans between them. It does not take much imagination to see the enormous areas of disputes and conflicts that can arise over which particular state exerts sovereignty over some areas of the deep sea. Thus, the first question that needs to be solved, and which urgently needs to be solved, as I shall show in a few moments, is what should be international law on the question of the deep sea.
709 The second question that arises is that of the resources of the deep seas. I do not think that so far it is very generally realised how extensive these resources are. I am not now talking about the possible sea-farming potentialities of the deep sea, because I think that this is a subject which has received quite a lot of publicity and which is fairly generally known. I am talking now about the much more important question of the mineral resources of the deep sea.
It has been calculated that there are much greater volumes of real resources under the seas than there are under the land or on the land. It has been calculated that £300 billion worth of resources of various kinds could be extracted each year from under the sea, of which at present only about I per cent, is being exploited. It has been known for some time that there are large nodules of manganese under the sea. What has only been fairly recently discovered is that there are, in addition to those, very large resources in the form of copper, nickel, aluminium, titanium and various other minerals. There are also gold and silver under the sea. And there may be extensive petroleum supplies beneath the sea, too.
It is partly for this reason that the question of the exact limits of territorial waters or of continental shelves becomes so important. Another important factor in the situation is that the possibilities of exploiting these resources have radically changed within the last few years, to such an extent that some countries are now preparing to mine these areas within the next two or three years. Scientific researches have made it possible, for example, for vessels to go down to depths of 7,000 metres under the sea. The United States Navy, over the last few years, has been undertaking experiments into how long, and in what conditions, men can live under the sea. Ii is to conduct an experiment this year—in a few months' time—in which a large number of men will be living at a depth of 150 metres under the sea. It is calculated that within a few years' time it will be possible for men to live 1,500 metres under the sea.
Moreover, there have been great advances in the techniques of mining in such areas. All this means that, quite 710 shortly, within the next two or three years, there will be important and, possibly, violent disputes between nations about which nation should exploit or mine particular areas of the deep seas. This is the second reason why the Maltese item is of such importance.
The third problem is one which is already fairly well known, the problem of pollution of the deep seas. It is known that there is extensive pollution by industrial wastes of many kinds. In this country, as the result of our experience last year, we know of the danger of pollution by oil. There is also the important problem of pollution by radioactive waste. What is, perhaps, not so well known is that all these sorts of pollution can have an important effect on the whole environment under the sea, affecting plant life and marine life generally. Here again, therefore, there is a matter calling for effective international action.
The fourth problem is probably the one about which least is known but which may, in the long run, be by far the most significant of all, namely, the problem of the military exploitation of the deep seas. The question of control of the seas in general has always been recognised as of fundamental importance, but it needs little imagination to recognise that the control of the deep seas is even more important than control of the high seas. For one thing, control of the high seas is in itself likely to be dependent on control of the deep seas.
There is another more telling reason why control of the deep seas in a military sense may be important. There is already talk of the possibility of establishing missiles on the bottom of the sea in these areas. This can be of great significance in two senses. As regards anti-ballistic missiles, there would be the great advantage to the nation concerned that, if it could once establish its sovereignty in these areas in the way I have described, it could have its missiles far closer to the enemy country and thus meet an incoming missile at a much earlier stage, perhaps before the multiple warheads on that missile had separated from the original vehicle. This would be a great advantage in the conditions of Moreover, there have been great ad- modern missile warfare. For the offenvances n the techniques of mining in sive missile, there would be the corresponding advantage that it would be very 711 much closer to the targets and, accordingly, give much less time for antiballistic missiles to shoot it down.
There are also obvious possibilities in the use of the deep sea for submarine and anti-submarine warfare and various other purposes. It is not by chance that the experiments to which I referred just now were conducted by the United States navy. There is already great interest among the naval Powers of the world in the possible use of the deep sea for various military activities of that kind.
So much for the various problems which may arise in regard to the deep seas. As I said earlier, the Maltese delegate was able to convince most of the delegations at the United Nations of the importance of these matters and of the urgent need for some attempt at least to withdraw these areas, if possible, just as the Antarctic and outer space have been, from the region of unrestricted national competition.
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
My hon. Friend has given us the alarming information that hundreds of Americans in the United States navy are to live under the sea. I hope that he will give an assurance that they will take great care not to go within the territorial waters of North Korea or other countries in those areas but keep right away from them.
§ Mr. Luard
My hon. Friend has put his finger on the point which I was trying to stress. Precisely because there is at the moment such dispute about what are the limits of national sovereignty in these areas of the deep seas, it is most important that there should be effective international discussion.
If I have alarmed my hon. Friend, I can only say that I am glad, because I do not believe that many people have so far realised that there may be cause for alarm on this matter in the near future. This may perhaps be regarded by some people as a frivolous subject today, but it will not be quite soon. This is just as much an area which could be the subject of serious military activity as outer space seemed to be a few years ago. It is not a case of space or deep-sea fiction; it is reality.
There was unanimous agreement at the United Nations on a preliminary 712 motion to submit the issue to an ad hoc committee to discuss the question. That was a great advance and something of a triumph for the Maltese delegation, but it was only the beginning, because many of the problems remain. A number of member States, although not prepared to shoot down the initial proposal for discussion of the subject, did not conceal that they had many reservations. They included the two super-Powers and a number of maritime Powers, particularly those with deep water fishing interests.
Even if the matter goes to the committee this year, as it should, it will be a long time before it is effectively thrashed out, in view of the extreme complexity of the problems. The result is that there may not be agreement within the committee before the problems of the kind I have tried to describe, concerning disputes over sovereignty, exploitation of natural resources, and, above all, military rights, come to a head.
In these circumstances, the Maltese delegation hopes that at the General Assembly meeting this year there will be agreement on at least a preliminary declaration, as there was for outer space. They believe that the declaration should be in three parts. First, it would simply declare that the deep seas were not a region that could be appropriated for exclusive national uses, but were an area reserved for the benefit of all mankind; second, that the regions should remain demilitarised; and, third, that the benefits of the resources of the regions should be shared not only between the maritime and non-maritime Powers, but between the developed and developing countries, given the difference in the capacity of countries to exploit the regions.
I have raised the subject today simply to express the hope—and I am glad to see my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary here—that Her Majesty's Government will give every support to the attempt by the Maltese Government to have a declaration on the lines I have mentioned passed this year, whatever doubts or reservations they may have on some of the smaller points concerning international law, and so on. The whole point of the attempt to get a declaration is that it does not need to wait until those problems have been solved. That is precisely what happened in the case of outer 713 space. A declaration on very similar lines was passed several years before there Could be agreement on many of the complex problems of law involved. The Maltese Government merely hope something similar will be done in the case of the deep seas. I hope that in reaching their decision Her Majesty's Government will take advantage of the valuable help that will be provided for them by a distinguished and high-powered committee of experts on the subject set up by the Parliamentary Group for World Government, which is at present examining the question in great detail. It hopes to have its recommendations ready within three or four months, and certainly before the ad hoc committee of the United Nations Las been able to report.
I apologise for detaining the House on the subject. I would not have done so in a debate which has been dominated by many other important subjects if I had not been convinced that the question is of great importance and urgency. It is one of the most important challenges which the international community will face during the next few years.
The challenge concerns whether or not these very important areas will be used purely for narrow national interests or for the benefit of mankind as a whole. I hope that the Government's attitude to this problem will correspond with the great internationalist ideals they so frequently profess.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
hope that the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard) will forgive me if I do not swim after him.
The Government have devalued many things in the last few months along with the £. They have devalued the concept of Ministerial responsibility and have tended to devalue the personal status of the Secretary of State for Defence. He made on television recently a typically maladroit remark about sheikhs offering us aid to stay in the Persian Gulf and that accepting this would be the equivalent of becoming a white slaver. In recent weeks the right hon. Gentleman has become a white slave of his own party's sheikhs.
The Government have also devalued themselves, because the withdrawal from 714 the Persian Gulf and South-East Asia will, I believe, materially increase the risk of war. I believe that the presence of British troops in the Persian Gulf in the last few years has contributed to the remarkable fact that, although there is there a combination of Arabs and money and oil, there has been less trouble, less subversion, in the area than in any other part of the Arab world.
Again, I believe that the withdrawal from Singapore while the future of Indonesia is still a matter of doubt—and this is "make or break" year in Indonesia—may well jeopardise our immense holdings in Malaya and Singapore and create a situation where an attempt may be made, perhaps by Indonesia, to take over Singapore and stir up communal fighting in the Far East between Malays and Chinese which would wreck all our investment and trade in that part of the world.
But I am glad to see that the Foreign Secretary appears to recognise our reduced status in the world because of what he said last week about two vital areas—Vietnam and the Middle East, which are the two flash points of the world. Speaking of Vietnam on Monday he said:I think that this is a very good moment for all of us who wish to see the hostilities to be allayed to keep quiet … —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd January, 1968, Vol. 757, c. 12.]This modesty was further reflected when he turned to the Arab-Israeli conflict yesterday. He said:Possibly at a later stage we may be able to help."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th January, 1968; Vol. 757, c. 441.]I am glad that at least the gimmicks have stopped, that we do appear to recognise that we must cut our diplomatic cloth according to our power position in the world and that we are no longer going around twittering with the gimmicks that the Prime Minister used to produce. At least it seems that the twittering has come to a stop. The word, however, is appropriate to the Government, for this is a Government not of doves or hawks but of sparrows.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Wood (Bridlington)
This debate, having been originally planned to take place before Christmas, was postponed again a second time from last week to this. Meanwhile, never have so many speeches, those we might have made on 715 those earlier occasions, become so irrelevant in such a short time; because in attempting to set an early term to many of our defence obligations, the Government aim to reshape the whole foundations on which British foreign policy has rested for well over a century.
Certainly, where there is broad agreement with the policy which the Government are still able to pursue in, for instance, its continuing attachment to the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance and its Middle Eastern resolution of last November and the important mission of Mr. Jarring, we are naturally ready to give our full support; but the main theme of the debate has been the recently announced cuts in defence which have raised issues which have exposed the Government to criticism from both sides of the House.
Over the last two decades, the country has almost unanimously accepted the need to contract our structure of world defence, but I none the less remain convinced that our inability to play the part which we played in the last century in no way disqualifies us today from playing any part at all. Certainly we hope and I believe that the day will come when adequate local arrangements both in the Far East and the Near East exist both to moot limited attacks and to bear the first brunt of more serious onslaughts, but this longed-for time of stability in these two areas is all too plainly not yet.
In so far as the Government decisions have been taken on their own merits and not on considerations totally unconnected with them, it appears to be the Government's view that an announcement of an earlier date for the ending of British responsibilities will hasten the development of stability at both ends of the Continent of Asia and the construction of effective local arrangements to sustain it.
I believe this to be a fundamental misconception, because all our experience points to exactly the opposite conclusion. I appreciate the strength of the Foreign Secretary's contention that the time may well come when the presence of British forces in certain parts of the world may have an irritant rather than a stabilising effect, but I am equally certain that that time is not yet, because a British military presence both in the Far East and 716 in the Persian Gulf is still welcome and actively desired by many nations. The Foreign Secretary's belief that our standing in the world will not depend on our military presence must prompt the question why it was thought essential only a few weeks ago to maintain such a presence and why it has been so rapidly decided that the presence can now be dispensed with.
Listening as I have to most of the speeches during the two days of this debate, I have no doubt at all—none of us has—of the grave anxieties felt on all sides about the Government's plans for withdrawal. They were forcefully expressed yesterday by the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams) and the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard), and this evening by my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) and my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison).
One of the difficulties is that the phrase "east of Suez" has not only become highly emotive, but also seems to be profoundly misleading, because it suggests that the Middle East can be separated from Europe, while two world wars and countless other signs have painfully proved that the Middle East is an important door to Europe, both from a military and an economic point of view, and that it is an essential European interest that the key of that door should be kept in the right hands.
Surely it is necessary in this situation that we and our allies in Europe should introduce, as was urged by my hon. Friends the Members for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) and Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour), among others, flexibility into our arrangements for the defence of Europe, that we should be jointly alert to the dangers of Russian penetration in the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, and that the interest of Europe should be stimulated in the security of the Middle-Eastern gateway to this continent.
I hope that the Foreign Secretary in his reply will say whether he sees any scope for greater co-operation between two of the pacts of which we are members, N.A.T.O. and C.E.N.T.O. No one doubts the vast importance of the Persian Gulf to our economy. Out of their 717 vast oil production, the Gulf States produce a pout half of our total requirements. The British stake, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said yesterday was nearly one-third, in the production and sale of this oil brings us £200 million a year in foreign exchange.
I am asking whether, in the face of All this, the right hon. Gentleman the secretary of State for Defence has the right to reject so lightly and so disdainfully at this critical moment, the offer of the ruler of Abu Dhabi and some of his colleagues, to pay the entire cost of maintaining British forces in this area. So lightly does he apparently regard it hat it was unworthy in his opinion of any mention in his speech. His speech, I am sorry to say, will do more than any have heard to deepen the cynicism and disrespect which a large part of this nation now feels about politics and politicians.
The right hon. Gentleman had his fun at the expense of Conservative Ministers of Defence, but he did not remind us that on 23rd November, 1964, he said that the Minister, now Lord Thorneycroft, had… handed over to me the best weapon that any Defence Minister of this country has yet had."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd Novemher, 1964; Vol. 702, c. 1026.]Nor did he say that in the defence debate of 1967 he told us that:Thanks in part … to the decisions taken by the last Conservative Administration, the British Army is one of the best equipped the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 101.]No one could claim that our continued presence in the Gulf, whoever pays the cost, automatically guarantees either stability or the flow of oil or the security a our investments. But, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire said yesterday, it is important to compare the stability of this area with the violent eruptions in other areas of the Middle East during the last 20 years. The relative calmness on the shores of the Gulf exists in spite of latent conflicts there. Not only have the States under British protection disputes among themselves, but neighbouring States have claims on them. I fear greatly for their stability if we desert them now. In South Yemen the Government, I believe rightly, 718 have undertaken to continue aid at the formerly agreed level for six months until further negotiations take place. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us tonight, as he was not willing to do the other day, when these negotiations are to begin. The estimated annual cost of maintaining the British military presence in the Gulf is similar to the £12 million half yearly aid to South Yemen.
It seems very difficult to argue that we cannot afford £12 million a year to maintain our presence on the Gulf and yet we can subsidise one country at double that annual rate. If the Government are in earnest about ending our commitments in the Gulf, would the Foreign Secretary tell us whether there are not other countries in the Arabian Peninsula to which South Yemen ought properly to turn? Again, if the Government are earnest that these commitments should end, on what solid grounds do they place their expectation that within less than four years the States concerned can stand on their own, without a British military presence, because in order to do so they must first work out a relationship with their neighbours, especially Saudi Arabia and Iran, and it is our belief that by announcing a date, and especially an early date, for our withdrawal, we have made it more difficult to construct this basis for future stability.
What are the Government's intentions about our responsibility for the foreign relations of Bahrain, Qatar and the Trucial States? Will this Government remain responsible? If not, what is their plan for the future? It is true that Bahrain might develop into a sovereign independent state on the model of Kuwait, but it is certainly most unlikely that any of the Trucial States will do so. What is the future of the specific defence commitments in the exchange of notes with Qatar many years ago and with Kuwait as recently as 1961? I need not remind the Foreign Secretary that the exchange of notes with Kuwait requires three years' notice of termination on either side. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to give this notice, because in the absence of it the British defence commitment will remain in force?
Throughout yesterday illumination grew rather slowly and painfully about the twin visits which the Minister of 719 State for Foreign Affairs paid to the Gulf in November and January. Dispatched in November, apparently to inform the Rulers, a little unnecessarily, that we should not be there for ever, with no question, as he agreed last night, of setting a date for withdrawal, he was re-dispatched this month to tell the Kuwaitis and others that their financial losses from devaluation were to be augmented and aggravated by our evacuation in 1971. This was indeed a double mission of shame which I hope no Prime Minister will ever again force on one of his Ministers.
My right hon. Friends made clear yesterday that our duty in the East was to maintain our interests in Singapore, Malaysia and the Gulf. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire pointed to the importance of Simonstown and to our possible place in a framework of nations which was concerned with the protection of the routes by air and sea essential to the maintenance of those interests. There is no question whatsoever of our not being wanted or needed, because the announcement of our total withdrawal has been received with bitter dismay.
What our friends must find impossible to understand is the total atrophy of our will to help in any way to preserve peace in the two most sensitive areas of the world in less than four years. What they will find hard to forgive is the almost casual rejection of solemn promises involved by the Government's new policy.
On 18th December, when the Prime Minister foreshadowed the review of expenditure which led to the statement last week, he told the House of Commons that the review would cover defence and overseas expenditure. Yet only four days later, in Australia, the Prime Minister of Singapore received "not the slightest inkling" of what might be in store. I ask the Foreign Secretary whether the other Commonwealth Prime Ministers of Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia were kept equally in the dark. Did they ask no questions about the statement? Or had any of them reason to expect that, in spite of devaluation, Britain would continue to honour in full commitments which she had entered into in the Far East?
I am one of those who applaud the Government's decision not to reduce the 720 total of overseas aid, although, as we were told, its value in real terms will be less than before, but I cannot help being struck by the contrast between the potential reaction of the party opposite to a cut in overseas aid, which would reduce the defences of many developing nations against poverty and economic helplessness, and their known reaction to the cuts in military commitments which remove from many peoples their security from fear and their insurance against various forms of destitution.
Moreover, those who applauded the British withdrawal from all commitments outside Europe must accept what I fancy will be a great deal less acceptable, namely, their inability to raise their voices about any part of the world outside Europe with any hope of anyone paying any attention. If Lord Acton can be reversed, "Impotence silences. Absolute impotence silences absolutely". The Government's policy, if carried out, would remove for ever our right to speak with any authority outside the Continent of Europe. Our foreign policy would be a European policy, and, from the main focus of Europe, we are at present shut out.
Some may say that we can still speak and perhaps act in other parts of the world as a member of the United Nations Organisation. They are quite right, but if anyone looks down the history of the world in the last two or three thousand years I doubt whether he can escape the conclusion that at, any one time, the peace of the world, or of parts of the world, has been preserved by the will and energy of a very few nations. This situation has not been changed by either the League of Nations or the United Nations. Our interests in preserving the peace of the world are perhaps greater than those of any other nation. If Great Britain has lost the will to contribute to peace in Asia and the Indian Ocean, how can we hope to inspire our fellow members in the United Nations with the will which we ourselves have lost?
Even in Europe. which is less than a hundred miles away from where we stand or sit tonight, can we speak with authority? The Community, however unwillingly, has rejected us for the time being. At the same time, we have grave economic problems at home which none but ourselves can solve. Their solution must 721 be the buttress of our continued determination to enter the Community. In my view, the Government are right not to withdraw our application for membership, but I hope that the Foreign Secretary will ell us what steps he intends to take to,nape Britain specifically for membership.
Finally, can we be assured, as my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) wanted assurance, that nothing will deter us from playing our full part in the defence of Europe, with the flexibility necessary to ensure the protection of the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the approaches to Europe.
We ask these questions because we have seen the Left wing win a decisive victory. We have seen its appetite whetted. We have seen it watering at the mouth. I see below the Gangway rows of Oliver Twists. I am not trying to be rude. Dickens invented the name, not me—Charles Dickens. [Laughter.] I see those Oliver Twists holding out their bowls for more. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give them firmly the answer that poor Oliver Twist got.
§ Mr. Mendelson rose—
§ Mr. Wood
Even a few months ago I could not imagine putting this question to the right hon. Gentleman. Certainly I should have been in no doubt of the answer. As the Prime Minister says, a week in politics is a long time, and the nine and a half weeks since devaluation have been a very long time indeed. All the familiar landmarks have been swept away. All the solid ground has been submerged, and we are left with shifting sands, so that we can be sure of nothing whatever.
§ Mr. Wood
The promises and the commitments to some of our closest friends and allies which have been made and broken were not endorsed by the Prime Minister only on his own behalf, or that of the Cabinet, or even on behalf of the Socialist Party. They were made on behalf of all the people of Britain, and we are all involved, each one of us, in the 722 proposed disregard of them. We for our part are not prepared to share in this breaking of our word or in the threatening further of the stability in the Far East and the Gulf, or in the destruction of all our defences outside Europe. These are the reasons why we shall vote against the Government tonight.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Brown)
Much of the speech of the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) I found moving and impressive. I did not agree with it, but I found myself very much impressed. The last part, when the right hon. Gentleman tried to score party political points, I did not think was quite so effective.
I want to wind up this debate, in which I have spoken rather more than enough times, by trying to deal with the issues upon which it seems to me the Opposition want to concentrate.
We had a debate last week on the economy, which became a debate on defence cuts, and we have had a two-day debate this week on foreign affairs, which has become an extension of the same debate. That is what the Opposition wanted.
It would not be any use for me to try a third time to deploy at length the Government's case. Instead, I will try to answer the arguments which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have put forward in the course of the debate. These were most clearly expressed, I think, by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). They were reinforced by the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling)—I could not be here when he spoke, for reasons which I know he understands—and they were again reinforced by the right hon. Member for Bridlington.
We listened to the views of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire in silence. That was partly because we knew they were views sincerely held, but also because we knew they were views that are not generally held on the Opposition Front Bench.
It is time that the party opposite got itself organised and straightened out. There have been many charges flung at 723 us about Ministers who have not really been honest, and so on, but how the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire can take part in the same debate and purport to put forward the same argument I do not understand. They know they are being dishonest, I know, and the country knows.
As between the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire and myself, there is a deep difference, sincerely held. [Interruption.] On whose side God is is not for the hon. Gentleman to decide. There is a deep difference here. I do not want to hide it. It is a difference of view about how Britain's interests should be developed in the future. It is not, if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so, that this Government are careless of British interests, or of the interests of the free world, as he put it. The difference is a different one.
It is that my view of what the times in which we live demand of Britain is different from his view, and his view, and that of the right hon. Member for Bridlington, is a view much more equated to a century that has gone, than to the times in which we live. They were not even talking of the first half of this century. They were talking of the Edwardian period, long since dead, and, in the case of the right hon. Member for Bridlington, looking like it, too.—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Brown
I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman thought that he was speaking about a period six weeks ago, but the arguments which he raised were relevant to the period 50 or 60 years ago, and not to today. Seriously, this is the difference between us.
It is possible that I am wrong about this, of course. The one thing that is wrong with hon. Gentlemen opposite is that they never concede that they may be wrong. The difference between the right hon. Gentleman and myself is that I believe that the future of Britain will depend much more upon our trade, upon 724 the goods that we produce, and upon the skills that we can develop than it will on the bugles blown in far-off lands.
Had we greater economic strength, I have no doubt that we could have ordered our affairs differently, but, unlike the right hon. Gentleman, I think that we must face the facts as they are, get as much out of them as we can, and turn them to our best advantage.
The second thing which the Opposition have not been willing to face in this debate is that we must play our rôle in the world, with the means that we have, and that it is pointless trying to do what we cannot afford and thereby bankrupting ourselves. Those who take refuge in cloud-cuckoo land are not helping Britain or her interests, and the report which I received of what the right hon. Member for Barnet said led me to believe that that is exactly what he was doing. It is far better to base ourselves on the realities of the situation.
I repeat what I said the other night: it is better to say clearly to our friends, "We have helped you to keep the peace in the Gulf and South East Asia for as long as we could. Now you must stand on your own feet and make your own arrangements". Better by far to speak to our friends plainly, so that they will understand the need for them to act together and to get on with the job which they have to do than to exhaust ourselves to the point at which we can neither help our allies nor maintain our own security.
In defence, our paramount responsibility is, of course, the security of this country. I came into politics in the 1930s, when right hon. Gentlemen opposite and their predecessors were in power. This basic truth about our national security was forgotten then, with disastrous and tragic consequences.
Right hon. Gentlemen opposite have said that the Government are right in their defence policy towards N.A.T.O. and Europe, and the right hon. Member for Bridlington was good enough to repeat it. This, in our view, is fundamental to our national security today. This has been made clear by all of us who have spoken from this Front Bench and has been reinforced by others. I would like, if I may, to refer to the moving speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly), who also 725 addressed himself to this point—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I pick him out because I thought that it was a moving speech and because I am one who is very loath to leave a friend even when he has done something which I think he should not have done.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire slipped when he went on to suggest, in a passage which I thought totally out of character, that we should withdraw some of our troops from Europe. I could not understand why he said ii and I cannot believe that he thought through the consequences. If we were to do that, I ask him: where does he think the process would stop? Other allies might well do the same, and we all know that there are powerful voices in the United States Congress which are pressing for just this to happen. If this happened, the whole United States commitment to Europe might be questioned. The whole balance within the alliance would then be totally upset and the future of the alliance itself might well be at risk.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
If the right hon. Gentleman looks at what I said yesterday, I do not think he will find that I ever said that we should make a unilateral withdrawal. I thought that it would be in the interests of all the allies to enable us to perhaps withdraw some troops, because in Europe's interests they might be better employed outside Europe. I was thinking of the mobile units on he eastern frontier of West Germany, reform which I would like to see.
§ Mr. Brown
That is a rather different formulation than the one the right hon. Gentleman gave yesterday. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Gentlemen opposite who are shouting "No" were not here when the right hon. Gentleman said what he did yesterday. I have the advantage of having happened to be here. However, I still think, even on the new formulation, that that is a very dangerous argument to put forward. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to think again about it and about the consequences of such an argument.
To go on from what I was saying, not only the future of the alliance would be at risk, but there would then be the question of the balance between East and West in Europe. This was referred to by 726 my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas). No one can predict the consequences, but what is certain is that the risks of such an approach are really quite appalling. I trust that the Opposition will think rather carefully about the approach which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be suggesting.
§ Mr. Peter Kirk (Saffron Walden) rose——
§ Mr. Kirk rose——
§ Mr. Brown
No. I got up very late. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will allow me to make my speech.
I was about to say that this particular suggestion is all the stranger since the right hon. Gentleman, the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) and the right hon. Member for Bridlington drew attention to the increasing Soviet presence in the Mediterranean. As we all surely know, the Mediterranean is the southern flank of N.A.T.O.—in which case, I cannot understand the argument that, to fulfil some other undertaking somewhere else, we should withdraw forces from our commitments to N.A.T.O.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The right hon. Gentleman has misrepresented me. I said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th January, 1968; Vol. 757, c. 420.]
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I hand the relevant passage in the OFFICIAL REPORT to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Brown
I heard the speech the first time, I heard it a second time. I did the right hon. Gentleman the honour of reading it during the night. I still think, for the reasons I have given, that it was a dangerous and foolish thing to say.
I believe that he overlooked another point. When we have carried through these cuts and changes we shall have, as my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, modern and powerful forces, powerfully equipped, based in Europe. This will give us—and I beg the Opposition, in their desire to score party points here, not to play us down abroad—a capability, a very powerful capability, which, as we have said, can be used anywhere in the world as we may determine. We shall not do this, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, in a way that will be disruptive of N.A.T.O. We shall be able to do it in a way that is well within the arrangements in N.A.T.O. and will fit the undertakings, the commitments, we have across the world.
The right hon. Gentleman also drew our attention—quite rightly, if I may say so—to our interests in the security of the sea route round the Cape. He was absolutely right to have done that. While the Suez Canal is blocked, our oil and our trade come that way—it is clearly one of our lifelines—but what I think he overlooked in warning us about the problem is that besides its importance to us, that lifeline, that route, is important to other countries in the West. It is important to countries in Asia. It is most certainly important to South Africa herself. It does not, therefore, by any means follow that, because we have decided to uphold the United Nations resolution on the supply of arms, this major artery of world trade will be jeopardised. Too many other people have interests at stake there.
The right hon. Gentleman then referred to the possibility, separately, of a Soviet base in Aden. This is Press gossip from 728 Beirut. I tell the House with all the authority of my office that we know of no evidence to substantiate it at all. We have no evidence that the Russians have asked for defence facilities, and we have no evidence that the Southern Yemen Government have offered them facilities. I certainly believe that it would not be in their interests to do so.
The righ0t hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members—particularly the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. MottRadclyffe)—have spoken of the Persian Gulf. I do not dispute the figures that the right hon. Gentleman produced, but he quantified only our interest and, again, this is only one side of the picture. The other, just as important, is that the interests of the Gulf States themselves depend upon the peaceful development of that region. That is precisely why I feel confident that they will now start to work together to make their own arrangements for the stability and peace of the area which, above all, they themselves need. Indeed, this process of consultation is already under way and, as they know, we shall be glad to help in any way we can.
Various hon. Members, not only the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire, the right hon. Member for Barnet and the right hon. Member for Bridlington, have raised the question of cost-sharing in the Gulf. There are precedents for doing this in various parts of the world, but I do not believe they would be the right answer here. If we attempted to keep an effective military presence in that area after 1971, much more than local costs would be involved. It would place a severe burden on the logistic backing required for our forces which would then be concentrated here in Europe.
We listened to what the right hon. Gentleman said about consulting the Governments of the Gulf at the first opportunity about what kind of presencewill be helpful and practical, both for them and for Britain.We heard a similarly vague reference about the Far East last week from the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), who said that, if, in the years to the mid-'seventies, it is practical and helpful for us to maintain a presence 729 in the Far East, we should do so. That promise was so vague and it was obviously open to every conceivable twist of interpretation that it will create mistrust it the countries where we are at the moment accused of not dealing fairly with them.
Yesterday, the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire kept saying to me, "That is not foreign policy". I tell him straight that what his right hon. Friends are urging on us is, in our view, most certainly not a foreign policy that this country can follow. I have told the House quite openly that there are risks which accompany the changes and the Teed-up of the timetable of the changes in defence policy which we are making. Anyone who has held this office knows that there is very little in world affairs which can be seen with anything like absolute certainty, but assurances such as the right hon. Gentlemen opposite have given do not decrease these risks. They enlarge the area of uncertainty. They confuse almost every aim and almost every means.
§ Hon. Members opposite must stop confusing influence with power. They must not go on confusing a presence with a military presence. Above all, they must realise that international power without economic strength is a hollow aim. We have taken the defence decisions for the economic health of this country. They have been taken in the light of what we are convinced are our national interests. They have been taken after careful explanation and discussion with our friends and allies.
§ We have had nearly a week of debate in this House. We have bandied many charges against each other. Our concern is for our own interests, for the future of this country, for its economic health and for the rôle that it can play in the world, I believe that what we are now putting forward is the right course for this country to pursue.
§ Question put, That this House do now adjourn:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 227, Noes 327.733
|Division No. 33.]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Cordle, John||Grieve,Percy|
|Allason, James (Hemet Hempstead)||Corfield, F. V.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)|
|Astor, John||Costain, A. P.||Gurden, Harold|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Crouch, David||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Crowder, F. P.||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Balniel, Lord||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Batsford, Brian||Currie, G. B. H.||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Dalkeith, Earl of||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere|
|Bell, Ronald||Dance, James||Harvie Anderson, Miss|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hastings, Stephen|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Hay, John|
|Biffen, John||Digby, Simon Wingfieid||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Doughty, Charles||Heseltine, Michael|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Blaker, Peter||Drayson, G. B.||Hiley, Joseph|
|Boardman, Tom||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Hill, J. E. B.|
|Body, Richard||Eden, Sir John||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tlc-upon-Tyne,N.)||Hordern, Peter|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Emery, Peter||Hornby, Richard|
|Braine, Bernard||Errington, Sir Eric||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Brewis, John||Farr, John||Hunt, John|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Fisher, Nigel||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Bromley Davenport,Lt.-Col.SirWalter||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Fortescue, Tim||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Foster, Sir John||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Bryan, Paul||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)||Galbraith, Hon. T. G.||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Gibson-Watt, David||Jopling, Michael|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Burden, F. A.||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Campbell, Gordon||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Carlisle, Mark||Glover, Sir Douglas||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Glyn, Sir Richard||Kimball, Marcus|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Goodhart, Philip||Kirk, Peter|
|Chichester Clark, R.||Goodhew, Victor||Kitson, Timothy|
|Clark, Henry||Gower, Raymond||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Clegg, Walter||Grant, Anthony||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Cooke, Robert||Grant-Ferris, R.||Lane, David|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Gresham Cooke, R.||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Onslow, Cranley||Smith, John|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Stodart, Anthony|
|Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Longden, Gilbert||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Loveys, W. H.||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Peel, John||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|MacArthur, Ian||Percival, Ian||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Peyton, John||Teeling, Sir William|
|Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Temple, John M.|
|McMaster, Stanley||Pink, R. Bonner||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Pounder, Rafton||Tilney, John|
|Maddan, Martin||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Maginnis, John E.||Price, David (Eastleigh)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Prior, J. M. L.||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Maude, Angus||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Mawby, Ray||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Rees-Davies, w. R.||Wall, Patrick|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Walters, Dennis|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Ridsdale, Julian||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Robson Brown, Sir William||Webster, David|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Monro, Hector||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Royle, Anthony||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Russell, Sir Ronald||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Wright, Esmond|
|Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Scott, Nicholas||Wylie, N. R.|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Scott-Hopkins, James||Younger, Hn. George|
|Neave, Airey||Sharples, Richard|
|Nichollas, Sir Harmar||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Silvester, Frederick||Mr. Jasper More and|
|Nott, John||Sinclair, Sir George||Mr. Reginald Eyre.|
|Abse, Leo||Coe, Dennis||Foley, Maurice|
|Albu, Austen||Coleman, Donald||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Concannon, J. D.||Ford, Ben|
|Alldritt, Walter||Conlan, Bernard||Forrester, John|
|Allen, Scholefield||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Fowler, Gerry|
|Anderson, Donald||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)|
|Archer, Peter||Crawshaw, Richard||Freeson, Reginald|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Cronin, John||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Gardner, Tony|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Garrett, W. E.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Ginsburg, David|
|Barnes, Michael||Dalyell, Tam||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.|
|Barnett, Joel||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Gourlay, Harry|
|Baxter, William||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)|
|Beaney, Alan||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Beilenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Gregory, Arnold|
|Bence, Cyril||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Grey, Charles (Durham)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Delargy, Hugh||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Binns, John||Dell, Edmund||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.|
|Bishop, E. S.||Dempsey, James||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Blackburn, F.||Dewar, Donald||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Hamling, William|
|Boardman, H.||Dickens, James||Hannan, William|
|Booth, Albert||Dobson, Ray||Harper, Joseph|
|Boston, Terence||Doig, Peter||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Boyden, James||Dunn, James A.||Hart, Mrs. Judith|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Dunnett, Jack||Haseldine, Norman|
|Bradley, Tom||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Hattersley, Roy|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Hazell, Bert|
|Brooks, Edwin||Eadie, Alex||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis|
|Broughton, Dr A. D. D.||Edelman, Maurice||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||Henig, Stanley|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W)||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Hilton, W. S.|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Ellis, John||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)|
|Buchan, Norman||English, Michael||Hooley, Frank|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Ennals, David||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Horner, John|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Faulds, Andrew||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Cant, R. B.||Fernyhough, E.||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Finch, Harold||Howie, W.|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Huckfield, Leslie|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Chapman, Donald||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Maxwell, Robert||Rose, Paul|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Mayhew, Christopher||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Hunter, Adam||Mellish, Robert||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Hynd, John||Mendetson, J. J.||Ryan, John|
|Irvine, Sir Arthur||Mikardo, Ian||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Millan, Bruce||Sheldon, Robert|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Short, Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Molloy, William||Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton,N.E.)|
|Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)||Moonman, Eric||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Moyle, Roland||Slater, Joseph|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Small, William|
|Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Murray, Albert||Snow, Julian|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Neal, Harold||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Newens, Stan||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Judd, Frank||Norwood, Christopher||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Kelley, Richard||Oakes, Gordon||Stonehouse, John|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Ogden, Eric||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||O'Malley, Brian||Summerskill Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Oram, Albert E.||Swain, Thomas|
|Lawson, George||Orbach, Maurice||Swingler, Stephen|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Orme, Stanley||Taverne, Dick|
|Ledger, Ron||Oswald, Thomas||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Lee, John (Reading)||Padley, Walter||Tinn, James|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Paget, R. T.||Tomney, Frank|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Palmer, Arthur||Tuck, Raphael|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Urwin, T. W.|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Pardoe, John||Varley, Eric G.|
|Luard, Evan||Park, Trevor||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Lubbock, Eric||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Parkin, Ben (Paddington, N.)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Wallace, George|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Pavitt, Laurence||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|McCann, John||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|MacColl, James||Pentland, Norman||Weitzman, David|
|MacDermot, Niall||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Well beloved, James|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Wells, William (Walsall N.)|
|McGuire, Michael||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty)||Price, William (Rugby)||Willey, Rt Hn. Frederick|
|Mackie, John||Probert, Arthur||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Randall, Harry||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Rankin, John||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Rees, Merlyn||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Reynolds, G. W.||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Winnick, David|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Woof, Robert|
|Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Manuel, Archie||Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)||Yates, Victor|
|Mapp, Charles||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Marks, Kenneth||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Marquand, David||Roebuck, Roy||Mr. Ernest Armstrong and|
|Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Mr. Neil McBride.|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|