HC Deb 31 October 1968 vol 772 cc183-310


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [30th October]: That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows: Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.

Question again proposed.

3.15 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

There is one basic question that underlies all debates on foreign and commonwealth affairs. I would state it as follows: that we live in a world that cannot be static or placid. The advances of science and the ambitions and aspirations of the many new countries of the world forbid placidity. It is a world in which there is a constant stream of difficult, festering problems. Secondly, it is a world in which the great nations, because of the very nature of modern weapons, dare not use for those problems the brutal solution of war that they used in time past. At the same time, mankind has not yet found any other way of solving the problems which are brought ceaselessly before it. At present, it is a world in which mankind is held back from finding alternative peaceful solutions to problems by the deep divisions—ideological and racial—which separate mankind into different camps.

That, basically, is the kind of world we live in, and we in Britain face that world as a country which not so long ago, used to rule one-quarter of the human race but now has to recognise that there are three nations whose populations, resources and power are immeasurably superior to ours. Further, Britain has to face this world, as I have described it, as a great trading nation and, therefore, as one which cannot solve its problems by withdrawal or trying to live by itself.

I am trying to state the basic conditions in the world in which we live and the country to which we belong and I say that, therefore, the fundamental question underlying all our debates about overseas affairs is: how can a country, placed as we are, best look after its own immediate interests and contribute, with other nations, to finding a mechanism for peaceful change in the world? That is Britain's permanent long-term interest—the establishment in the world of peaceful methods of settling disputes. It might be said that that is the interest of all nations, but this is peculiarly true of a nation that lives, as we do, by worldwide trade and whose prosperity can be so easily affected by events in any part of the world.

Having put that question, I believe that the answer is inescapable. I suggest that Britain cannot deal with its problems by any kind of withdrawal from the world; nor can it deal with its problems by the exclusive use of its own power and resources; the time when that could be done is past. We are driven to the conclusion that the way in which Britain must look after her interests and fulfil her duty to mankind must be by active participation in a number of international groupings. I particularly mention the United Nations and the Commonwealth—and this is the first occasion on which we debate international affairs since the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices became one. I mention, then, the United Nations, the Commonwealth, N.A.T.O. and the region of Western Europe to which we geographically belong. If this country is to play its proper part in the world, in its own interest and mankind's, it must be in relation to those international groupings.

I would mention first the largest and potentially, though not actually, the most important of those groupings, the United Nations. I take that first because, as the House knows, I recently returned from the General Assembly in New York. I found the Assembly preoccupied, even overshadowed, by two main issues—the events in Czechoslovakia and all that those involved, and the events in the Middle East.

First, the Czechoslovakia incident, which the House debated when we came back during the Recess for that purpose. I want to take up some of the points and questions raised then. What was noticeable at the United Nations was that the concern over Czechoslovakia was universal and was not confined to countries of Western Europe or members of N.A.T.O. It was mentioned emphatically by countries belonging to what is commonly called the third, or uncommitted, world.

I was glad to notice this, because one reason why the British Government took this matter so speedily to the United Nations was that we wanted to alert the whole world to the fact that what had happened in Czechoslovakia was not a mere matter of the balance of power in Europe but a challenge to the rule of law on which the safety of mankind depends. This seems now to be widely understood.

The other thing which was noticeable was that nations have realised that what has happened in Czechoslovakia, and what has been said by the Soviet Government since, brings into international affairs an alarming element of unpredictability. It would be a bold man or a fool who would like to make positive prophecies as to where next the policy of the Soviet Union might move. I say this particularly in view of Mr. Gromyko's statement about what he was pleased to call the "Socialist Commonwealth", and about which he said, when questioned, that this concept had no geographical limits. We were left—this was plain for all to see at the Assembly—with an assertion by the Soviet Union that it considers itself to be the judge of where its own interest and that of other nations lies, and entitled, if necessary, to invade the territory of other countries according to its judgment of where its and their interests lie. It is that which gives what I call the unpredictability to the situation.

I believe that our duty in Britain and what I am concerned with, is to try to relate world events to what part Britain can and should play. Our duties and responsibilities were, first, to see that this lesson was made plain to all the world, and that we have done. Next, it was inevitably to see to our own defences, because we know why Czechoslovakia suffered this invasion, why certain other countries in Europe live in fear, and why some countries, those in N.A.T.O., know that they have a sure protection. It was, therefore, our plain duty to consider what action was necessary in N.A.T.O. in the light of what had happened, and on this matter questions were put to me when we debated this in August.

I do not believe that it would be right or necessary for N.A.T.O. to have embarked upon some plan of gigantic rearmament or provocative response, but it was necessary to take certain steps. We began the consideration of that, of course, by consultations between Governments almost at once. We were able to pursue this face to face in New York, when nearly all the Ministers of the N.A.T.O. countries could meet informally while the General Assembly was proceeding. We were able to exchange ideas as to what we believed were the right objectives to come out of the N.A.T.O. Ministerial meeting in November.

I was asked in August whether there should not be then an immediate N.A.T.O. summit meeting. I do not think that that would have been right. Time was needed for consultation first, but I think that it has been right to decide that the normal December meeting of N.A.T.O. Ministers should be brought forward, and it will be held about a fortnight from now.

I do not want to prejudge what the decisions of the countries at the meeting will be, but it seems to me that two things are essential—first, that all of us in N.A.T.O. will have to be prepared to make some increased commitment to the efficiency of the alliance, and Britain will play its part in that; second, it must be made clear, as it was in the original N.A.T.O. Treaty, that this is an alliance of indefinite duration. I stress this, because there has been an idea in some quarters that N.A.T.O. automatically dissolved 20 years after it was formed. A reading of the Treaty shows clearly that that is not so, and it is necessary for us to make it clear that this is an alliance of indefinite duration.

I have said before, in the House and at the Labour Party conference, that N.A.T.O. is not only a defensive alliance. It is an instrument through which better understanding between East and West can be sought, and the very fact that, before the invasion of Czechoslovakia, we all felt that the cold war had receded over recent years is a testimony to the fact that the security which N.A.T.O. gives the West had enabled the West to make some progress in better understanding in the East.

I do not, therefore, when I say that the alliance should be of indefinite duration, look forward to nothing but a mere division of Europe into two armed camps scowling at each other, but I do say that, in view of what has recently happened in Europe, the continuance of this alliance and its continued use both for defence and for the pursuit of better understanding between East and West is a necessity.

I should have thought, also, that anyone who considered events in Europe would have drawn the conclusion that, in view of what has happened in the East, there is greater need for the nations of Western Europe to pursue unity among themselves and not merely in the military field. It is a matter for great regret that that is not understood yet by the French Government and that our efforts to enter the European Economic Community still face the same obstacles.

But the House will know that the way in which we are trying to tackle this is that, since there is an obstacle to our entry, we should pursue with nations inside the Common Market and nations outside co-operation in all those fields which are not actually precluded by the Treaty of Rome. That is what we are trying to do at Western European Union, and I hope that we shall be able to continue when the Ministers concerned are brought together again at the meeting of N.A.T.O. Ministers. I will not pursue that subject, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of State may be able to deal in rather more detail with it at the end of the debate.

I believe that I have commanded the agreement of large sections of the House in what I have said about the need for closer unity in Europe. Notice, however, what this means about the whole direction of our policy and the concentration of our resources. I should state this plainly to the party opposite. I understand that their view is that there should be a reversal of our policy towards the Middle East and Far East and a deployment again of British forces there after the withdrawal planned for the end of 1971. At least, since I do not see the right hon. Member for Wolver-hampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) here, I take it that I may assume that that is the line which those hon. Members opposite who are present will advance in the debate.

This is, of course, a very serious issue. I think that the right answer to it is to be found in what I said at the beginning about the nature of the world in which we live and the comparative power of Britain in that world. Just as I said that it would be a mistake for Britain to try to solve her problems by withdrawal from the world, it would be an equal mistake for her to try to solve her problems by trying to exercise power un-limitedly in almost every part of the world. That would be an overstraining of our resources and a misreading of the real position of Britain in the world at the present time.

I would say that our security, so far as it is connected with military matters at all, depends primarily on the prevention of war in Europe. That means a concentration of our military effort together with our N.A.T.O. allies rather than a spreading of it to responsibilities which we had to carry in the past but about which we must accept the need for adjustment today.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

In addition to the points which my right hon. Friend has made—which I do not necessarily accept, but accepting for the moment his premise—does he not agree that it is time for the British Government to develop a clear and new initiative in relation to Europe, to endeavour to get or work towards a security conference for Europe?

Mr. Stewart

My hon. Friend will remember that I said that I do not regard N.A.T.O. as the final answer to every question in Europe, but I regard it as a necessary part of our defence now and an instrument to better understanding.

I have been trying to get towards the solution which my hon. Friend has in mind. Unhappily, what has happened in Czechoslovakia makes it extremely difficult to persuade any nation in Europe that that is a safe road to pursue for the present. I only say that we cannot forget it.

Secondly, if it is argued that we should give up the idea of withdrawing from the Middle East and Far East by 1971, we must face the fact, which is so obvious that it would hardly need to be restated if it were not for the line that the Opposition have taken about this, that the age of imperialism really is over. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite cannot dodge this. It is not possible for us, for example, to maintain permanently or for a long period into the future the relationship of protecting Power to protecting States that existed in the Gulf States. That has got to change. We were a protecting Power there. What I am saying is that is a relationship which had some reality in the nineteenth century but which we cannot carry on with at the present time.

Our relationship with Malaysia and parts of the Far East has got to change politically. We must notice, too, that as a result of that there is the growing ability of Australia, Malaysia and other countries both to look to their own defences and to take common counsel for their defences. We have to notice the growing tendency to regional cooperation in the Far East and in the Gulf. We must notice, too, that the speed of transport today makes it possible to give help, if a real crisis made it necessary, without the permanent military presence which imposes far too heavy a burden on our foreign exchange and on our whole resources at the present time.

There are two great disservices that a man with the best intentions can render to his country. One is to try to persuade his countrymen that the rest of the world is calm and peaceful and that, therefore, his country needs no defence at all. The other disservice which he can render is to try to encourage his country to undertake adventures and responsibilities beyond its resources and beyond its powers. Both of those can be disastrous pieces of advice. Our emphasis must be for the future in Europe.

Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)


Mr. Stewart

The very use of the word "scuttling" shows in what age the hon. Member's mind is living. He is rendering—I am sure with the best intentions—exactly the kind of disservice to his country which I was describing.

Mr. Marten

Having just been out to Australia, admittedly for only a short time, I think that the Foreign Secretary has got it absolutely wrong. What my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is proposing is that we should have a small presence there, in conjunction with our Australian and Malaysian allies, at a rather small cost and, to put at its very worst, if one likes to do it, to protect British investment—national investment—there and also, of course, to act as a deterent to stop attacks upon our Australian and Commonwealth allies.

Mr. Stewart

If the hon. Member really thinks that investments can be protected by a small military presence on the other side of the world, he does not know the kind of world we are living in. That proposal, if it were ever to be considered practical at all, would end up with providing a military presence too small to be of any use and large enough seriously to embarrass us economically and weaken our power to be of use in those parts of the world where we really can be influential.

Mr. Marten rose

Mr. Stewart

I hope that the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not give way again. This is a matter not for exchange by way of question and answer but for general debate. Since I know the Opposition's interest in it, I thought it best to set out our position.

I was speaking of the two issues which overshadowed the General Assembly. One was Czechoslovakia. That led me to the consideration of our defences, of our position in Europe and of the necessity for us to have a proper concentration of our effort.

The other thing that overshadowed the General Assembly was the Middle Eastern question.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

What about Vietnam?

Mr. Stewart

I found at the Genera] Assembly a powerful conviction, which I believe was right, that a solution to the Middle East problem must be found on the lines of the Security Council resolution of last November and through the work of Dr. Jarring. I believe that that view, which is widely held among the countries of the United Nations, is a correct view, despite the slow and disappointing progress that Dr. Jarring has been able to make.

I think that the reason why his progress has been slow has been not so much the admittedly great complication of all the issues involved, but because of the presence on both sides, Israel and her Arab neighbours, of two deep and opposite suspicions: a suspicion by Israel's Arab neighbours that Israel has no intention of withdrawing from any of the territories which she has occupied, and a suspicion by Israel that whatever she does her Arab neighbours will never really accept her or let her live in assured peace.

I am not saying that either of those suspicions is justified, although I believe that one could find foolish people in all the countries concerned who will talk in a way that would give colour to those suspicions. The trouble is not whether those suspicions are justified but the plain fact that they are held and that they inhibit both sides from making a forward move.

Our object, therefore—and I believe that Britain as the sponsor of the resolution and as a permanent member of the Security Council has a responsibility, although it is by no means ours alone, to help in this matter—has been in constant conversation with the parties concerned to urge on them courses of action which could help to remove those suspicions without exposing them to unnecessary or unacceptable risks.

I believe, for example, that if Israel would make it clear beyond doubt that she accepts and will carry out the whole of the resolution, that would go some way to dissolving Arab suspicions. If the Arab countries would make it clear that, despite the menacing language of the Khartoum declaration, they will, if the resolution is carried out, accept that they must live as a neighbour in permament peace with Israel, that would go far to relieve Israeli suspicions.

I believe, too, that there is one particular aspect of the problem on which Israel could particularly help at the present time. Mr. Eban made it clear that they were going to do something on the unhappy subject of the new batch of refugees from the last war. I hope very much that they will both pursue this subject and consider what they could do for that much older group of refugees. I believe that this is a direction in which they could do something that would not endanger their security but might materially change the atmosphere in which all the parties approach the problem.

What is needed, therefore, is plain statements by the parties concerned of a kind that will reassure each other. They have been held back from making them, I think, through the fear that the first party to screw up courage to walk through the door and make a concession will find himself tricked by his neighbour and that if either side makes a forward move, it will not be reciprocated on the other side.

One or other of them must make up their minds to make a forward move, because while I believe that Britain has a duty here, the Security Council—the United Nations—has a duty. It is no good the parties concerned imagining that they can simply leave this problem to go festering on. Unless they themselves will agree to something, the rest of the world cannot solve it for them. There is a good deal that the rest of the world can do to help, but I believe that the idea that the Great Powers, whatever one likes to call them, could step in and impose a solution is an illusion.

This places a great responsibility on Israel and the Arab countries. They may all be tempted to think that if they wait and leave it unsolved some turn of events will turn out to their advantage. If they go on thinking that they will make an extremely tragic mistake.

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)

Is not the difficulty here the extent to which the foreign policy of the United Arab Republic is controlled by the U.S.S.R.?

Mr. Stewart

No, I do not think I would accept that. We know quite well, of course, that the great Powers all have their eyes on that part of the world, but in saying that I think that the hon. Member overlooks many of the facts of the unhappy history between Israel and her Arab neighbours. There is a deep suspicion of Israel among the Arab countries. I was careful to say that this was not a justified suspicion. It is a very real one, and I emphasise again the argument I put forward. The hon. Gentleman's explanation is, if I may put it this way, rather too facile. If the parties concerned had the will to make a settlement, I do not believe that any great Power could frustrate them. Conversely, if they do not have the will, then I do not believe that any of the great Powers could make it for them.

While in New York I also raised with Mr. Riad of the U.A.R. the question of the ships still blocked in the Canal. I wish that I could tell the House something more definite. However, repeated efforts are being made by the shipowners and I still hope that we will be able before long—I could give no sort of commitment—find some solution to what seems at first a mere technical problem—of getting the trapped ships out—but which is, unhappily, surrounded by all sorts of political complications.

I have spoken of the U.N. I also wish to refer to the other great grouping to which we belong and for whose relations with the United Kingdom I now carry the responsibility; the Commonwealth. I shall say a few words—but deliberately only a few words—about Rhodesia. The conversations with Salisbury following the meeting in "Fearless" are continuing, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister hopes to make a statement to the House on this subject tomorrow morning. In view of this, I hope that the House will understand that it would not be sensible for me to go at length into the Rhodesian problem in the course of this speech.

Among the Commonwealth problems are the unhappy events in Nigeria. I sought to make it clear the other day answering Questions that one of the essential principles that has guided our policy is that we believe that the rebellion of Colonel Ojukwu was wrong, was a tragic error and was fraught with danger for Africa as a whole.

We all want to see the African States moving forward to be modern, viable States in this difficult modern world. That they cannot do if they are torn by tribal secession. I should make it clear that this has been a guiding principle of our policy throughout. General Gowon has recently made clear his readiness to make peace on any reasonable terms, provided they are based on the principle of one Nigeria and not of secession. Colonel Ojukwu is at present not prepared to make peace on those terms.

I regret to say that Colonel Ojukwu has been encouraged in that view by increased arms supplies from certain sources. There is, I believe, a very great difference indeed between the supply of arms to a lawful Government—one of whose traditional suppliers we were—and the supply of arms from various sources to people engaged in a rebellion. I believe that people promoting this source of supply now, which may encourage Colonel Ojukwu in further refusal to make peace, carry a heavy responsibility before Africa and before the world.

The House may have seen reports from the propagandists for Colonel Ojukwu that a number of British officers and N.C.O.s are going out to serve in the Nigerian forces. I do not know if it is necessary for me to inform the House, but perhaps to put the matter beyond doubt I had better inform the House that this report is totally false, as are so many other reports from the same source.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East) rose

Mr. Stewart

Meanwhile, there is the sheer humanitarian problem of relief. Here we can claim that both in what we have given in material and what we have done in promoting organisation and supply, this country's record is second to none.

Mr. Allaun

I completely accept what my right hon. Friend has said about there not being any British troops engaged in the fighting. However, did he see an advertisement in the Evening Standard a few days ago seeking lorry drivers and other people to work—it might have been presumed in a relief sense—in Nigeria? The advertisement asked for N.C.O.s and ex-sergeants to volunteer for this work. Can my right hon. Friend explain that?

Mr. Stewart

I have not seen the advertisement. My hon. Friend said that they might have been required for relief work, and that is a very possible explanation.

Mr. Allaun

Why N.C.O.s and ex-sergeants?

Mr. Stewart

I urge my hon. Friend to appreciate the circumstances in which these vehicles must be driven. People with this sort of experience might be useful. However, I do not think that I should say more on the matter until I have had an opportunity of studying it, which I shall certainly do.

I mentioned at the outset of my remarks that we are a country which used to rule a great dependent empire. We still have direct responsibility for certain dependent territories. Our administration of them has, of course, from time to time come under the not very serious scrutiny of the Committee of 24 on Decolonisation. On this I merely wish to repeat the principle which I have asserted before in the House and which is in line with the Charter of the United Nations. It is that we consider it wrong to dispose of peoples against their own interests and wishes. The statement of that principle is, perhaps, all I need say on this subject at this juncture. [Interruption.] I assure the House that it applies to all our dependent territories.

An Hon. Member

What about Rhodesia?

Mr. Stewart

I wish at this stage to refer to the terrible problem with which the whole world has lived for so long; that of Vietnam. This is not a problem which the United Nations has been able to handle. One reason for this—though not the only one—is the absence of the People's Republic of China from the United Nations. It has for a long time been the policy of Her Majesty's Government that the Chinese seat in the United Nations should be occupied by the People's Republic. I assert however that, despite the extreme difficulty of relations with China, when the People's Republic of China does take its seat in the United Nations discussions in the Security Council will not, at any rate immediately, become any easier than they are at present. Nevertheless, I am sure that the dangers and risks of excluding the People's Republic of China are greater than the vexations and headaches that would be faced by having the People's Republic in the United Nations.

On the subject of Vietnam, the House I think knows that we stand at present at what may be a very delicate juncture of events. Whether it is possible for some arrangement to be arrived at by which not only the bombing of North Vietnam will stop but that there shall be a considerable measure of de-escalation of the war and it will be possible to proceed to substantive discussions as to the terms of a settlement, I do not think at the moment that the rest of us can, by making notable pronouncements of approval or disapproval, help in resolving that situation. I am, however, obliged to ask myself this question: can anyone who claims that he really wants peace say that he does not think that Hanoi as well as the United States should make some contribution to the de-escalation of the war?

Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)

We are aware, of course, of the way in which the Tories have defended the American war throughout. Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it would be well worth the gamble for the Americans to stop the bombing in view of the statement by the Hanoi delegate to the Paris talks that if the Americans stopped bombing North Vietnam—this is reported in The Times today—the North Vietnamese would be willing to make further concessions, leading to serious negotiations at the talks?

Mr. Stewart

I do not wish, on such a serious matter, to make a debating point with my hon. Friend, who may have noticed that that statement has not only been reported but, unfortunately, has been repudiated as well. I really do not know where the truth of this lies, and until we have further information I cannot answer my hon. Friend's question at greater length.

Mr. Winnick

At least the bombing could stop.

Mr. Stewart

I hope that some arrangement can be arrived at which would bring about a general de-escalation of the hostilities and the starting of negotiations on the main issue.

I referred to the difficulties of relations with China. I was, perhaps understandably, reproached by an hon. Member, whom I do not see in his place now, the last time I spoke on foreign affairs for not referring to the subject of British subjects in China. Since the House went into Recess, there have been some more hopeful developments. The House will have been delighted that Sir Donald Hobson, Charge-d 'Affaires in China, was allowed to leave in August after the very difficult time he had gone through and the courage and skill with which he had endured it. Since then, conditions of movement for members of our Mission both into and out of China have reverted to normal. Three other British subjects kept against their will in China have been allowed to leave; three ships' officers, Captain Pope, Mr. Jones and Mr. Saunders.

This is certainly an improvement, and I must put it to the House that this is, so far as it goes, a justification for the policy we have pursued of trying to seek all the time more normal relations with China and of making repeated representations to them about the inexcusable nature of their conduct in regard to certain British subjects, but rejecting the counsels that have been urged on me from some quarters of violent reprisals, of retaliation on innocent persons or of trade sanctions. I do not believe that had we gone on those lines I would now be able to report to the House the release of these three British subjects.

Sir Cyril Osborae (Louth): rose

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Gentleman may have this point in mind: I appreciate that there still remain some 12 British subjects. More effort and representation will, therefore, be needed. We have made no secret, in our representations both in London and Peking, of the view we take of the deplorable behaviour of the Chinese in this matter.

Sir C. Osborae

In 1960 I saw these 12 people in Shanghai. They were mostly tradesmen, bankers and oilmen. They are now getting old. They had been there for some years when I saw them then. Is there no hope of getting them out? Must they be left there to die?

Mr. Stewart

In view of the progress that we have made, it would be wrong to say that there is no hope. I should tell the House—I would be deceiving hon. Members if I did not—that there is not some one instrument of policy that one could quickly snatch up and brandish to get the release of these men. Nevertheless, we have made progress. We are trying to handle the matter in what we believe to be the right way, and I trust that further progress will be made.

Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)

Does this concern cover a number of journalists, in particular Mr. Norman Barrymaine, a former Lobby correspondent?

Mr. Stewart

I am concerned with all British people detained in China, but the amount of information we have on each of them is not the same. In some cases, we know that they have left the place at which they were last heard of and we are unable to find out where they are now. In some cases, such as that of Mr. Grey, we know precisely that they are under house arrest. I ask the House to believe, however, that we have made some progress on this very difficult matter and it would be wrong to say that there is no hope.

I ask the House also to note, in case there should be any suggestion that Britain has not been using her influence as much as she could, that we are not the only country to face this problem. The United States, West Germany, Japan, Belgium and others all face the same problem.

I have spoken so far about immediate problems, I want to conclude with two topics that I have mentioned briefly and which are of a more general character and on which we are looking a little further into the future.

This is Human Rights Year. One of the chances of getting a more peaceful world is bound up with trying to get a more general respect for human rights. This is not something that the United Nations can impose, but it is something in which Britain can help by her example. That is one reason why I welcome the Race Relations Act, which is a plain assertion that this country, faced with a problem of a kind it did not know in previous generations, is trying to deal with it in a way which shows respect for human rights and our obligation under the United Nations Charter to respect those rights.

The other matter—and the House may feel it an odd choice—is the discussions going on about the use of the sea bed. I choose the subject because this is the kind of problem which science suddenly throws at us. For all we know, in ten years time or less the question of the use of the sea bed, either for human prosperity or destruction, might be one of the major international problems. It is, therefore, extremely important that we should, if we can, get international agreement on it before the powerful nations of the world have got vested interests as to how it should be handled and are not prepared to recede from them.

So I hope that right hon. and hon. Members and the public, when they sometimes read of the United Nations discussing problems which a casual observer might think are up in the air—or down in the sea—will remember that if we want to make a more peaceful world it is not sufficient to pay attention only to the immediate pressing problems, difficult as they are, but important also to exercise a degree of foresight and to try to deal with problems before they become unmanageable.

That is the spirit in which Her Majesty's Government and this country are trying to face their manifold responsibilities to the world. This is an exceptional period in the life of Britain—a period when our comparative power has declined, but in which the force of our skill, influence and example may be great. I believe that the ultimate verdict of history on the way we are tackling this period will be favourable.

4.4 p.m.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)

The formal sentences in the Gracious Speech naturally have revealed only a very little of the reality of the contemporary world, but this is by tradition an occasion on which the Foreign Secretary gives to the House his review of international events and it is an occasion, therefore, when Parliament has an opportunity to judge Britain's foreign and defence policy—for the two are inseparable in a dangerous world—and to judge whether that policy measures up to the requirements of the time.

Few would quarrel with the early analysis which the right hon. Gentleman made of the basic circumstances of the world in which Great Britain plays her part, although we may, as I shall show, have some differences as to the strategy we think our country should pursue.

For many years, the Royal family have been ambassadors of good will from Britain to countries overseas, and on Friday Her Majesty will carry with her the gratitude and good wishes of the House on her journey to Chile. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The visit will demonstrate the respect we feel for the people of Chile and for that country's achievements—a respect which we hope is mutual—and will surely lead to closer contacts and increasing exchanges of trade between Britain and Chile.

I wish, however, that the right hon. Gentleman could have forecast equally harmonious and fruitful prospects when considering the rest of the world. He described Soviet action as having imported an alarming element of unpredictability, and that is so. Once more the salient factor as we meet and debate the Queen's Speech—and this has been so almost as long as I can remember—is the reaction of Britain and her allies to situations in which the Soviet Union has been engaged in stirring up the pot of trouble.

In 1967, the world had faint hopes that co-existence might gradually merge into greater co-operation with the Soviet Union. But in 1968 we have had the shock of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia by force, and throughout Eastern Europe now, in particular in Rumania and Yugoslavia, nerves are taut. That this should be so in a country like Yugoslavia—a Communist country which has been a model of discretion and restraint in its dealings not only with the Soviet Union but with others countries—is a sad commentary on the Soviet Union's policy as a neighbour.

Far afield, the question is being asked: if the Soviet Union can deal out such treatment to a friend and ally, how can anyone feel at ease? The apprehensions have been fanned by the fact that the Soviet Union's budget for arms, both nuclear and conventional, has been sharply increased in the last two years and by the knowledge that its forward naval strategy, based on the submarine, is being pushed ahead at full speed.

The free countries of the world—and the right hon. Gentleman was right to emphasise this again and again—would like nothing better than to go about their daily business unconcerned and peaceful. But that is not possible because the world as the Soviet Union is conducting its affairs is too dangerous. This has increased the anxiety that the Soviet Union knew exactly what it was doing when it occupied Czechoslovakia. It knew that the consequences were bound to be a new escalation in armaments when everyone was seeking disarmament. It knew precisely the fears that would be stirred up in West Germany—illustrated only yesterday when the West Germans made a new agreement with Spain. The Soviet Union was well aware that its action would shatter the gradually increasing trust between West and East which had been so carefully nurtured and fostered in recent years, not least by successive British Governments.

Unwillingly, because we would like to discuss disarmament, unwillingly because we would like to find ways and means to make the United Nations more effective in the organisation of collective security, we are forced to turn to the stark realities of the world on matters which will be occupying our minds, I fear, for many more Queen's Speeches ahead—the implications of Soviet policy in Europe and elsewhere for Britain and her allies, the implications of the occupation of Czechoslovakia, the reaction to the oceanic strategy of the Russian fleet of submarines, and Soviet intentions in the Middle East and in the area of the Gulf and in the western part of the Indian Ocean.

For Britain to give priority to the security of Europe is right, and the right hon. Gentleman has our full support in that. In that context, the greater the political unity and the more effective the economic integration, the better. I echo his wish and hope that the Government of France will recognise that to be true in the circumstances of today. But it is equally true, when one measures the strength of the Warsaw Pact and the armaments which it possesses—and this has been underlined only in the last few days by General Lemnitzer—and the number of Soviet submarines deployed in European and Atlantic waters, that an absolute condition of the survival of Western Europe—and this will be so for many years ahead—is the presence of United States power.

Gradually, Europe may assume—and we hope it will—greater responsibility for her own security, both nuclear and conventional, but if, for example, today Germany is to have any peace of mind, the United States presence in Europe is essential. The French, who are perfectly well able to take the measure of Soviet strength, will, I hope, recognise in the new circumstances following the events in Czechoslovakia that this is true.

In these new circumstances, it was comforting for the House to hear from the Foreign Secretary that the contingency planning of N.A.T.O. is going ahead continually. The danger of another war in Europe is not the total mobilisation of Russian armies for a frontal attack on the eastern frontier of Western Europe; it is something quite different. It is that the Soviet Union might be tempted in Berlin or some other frontier area to make a demonstration, to achieve a fait accompli, gambling that nobody will react. The only deterrent against such an adventure is instant reaction, in the case of Berlin, by the three Powers, and in the case of the frontier, by N.A.T.O., and that means continuing contingency planning against any possibility which might arise.

I take it that we can assume from what the Foreign Secretary has said that this takes place and that N.A.T.O. is giving attention to the forces levels which may be necessary and to any increases which might be necessary. In this respect, we agree with the Government's policy, but we have one anxiety and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State at the Foreign Office, with his experience, will tonight be able to give us a reassurance. We are anxious about the recruiting levels in our country. We are anxious, in so far as recruiting is going badly and the Government are disbanding famous regiments both in Scotland and in England, about whether there will be enough members of the reserves of the three Forces in our country in five or six years even to enable us to fulfil our N.A.T.O. obligation. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to reassure us about that. Anyhow, any weakness or vacillation in N.A.T.O. is an open invitation to serious trouble, and it was good to hear from the Foreign Secretary of the determination of the allies not to give any invitation of this kind to the Soviet Union.

I now turn to the scale of the Soviet's naval arm, because the House should be in possession of these facts. I give the latest figures which I had from the Secretary of State for Defence in July of this year, and I shall make comparisons with the United States. The Soviet Union has 55 nuclear submarines and the United States has 80; the Soviet Union has 320 conventional submarines and the United States has 120. Therefore, the total of the Soviet submarine fleet is 375 to 200 of the United States. Of that Soviet total, 160 are long-distance submarines deployed mostly in European and Atlantic waters and there is an annual increase in the building programme of the Soviet Union submarine fleet of 10 long-distance submarines, the majority of them being nuclear.

It is not necessary to argue that there is necessarily a sinister purpose in the Soviet Union having this enormous submarine fleet; navies, after all, have been in the tradition of great Powers. But, the Soviet Union having created the situation which it lately has, it is inconceivable that the countries who have long routes of communication should not take notice that the Soviet Union is now placed in strength along the supply routes of the free world everywhere, and these lines—and this must be stressed—must be kept open and secure in all circumstances.

We are entitled to assume that the Government are taking a lead in an allied review of naval strategy against this background of this increase in the Soviet submarine fleet and its oceanic deployment, but in this context there are two areas of which it is right to speak and about which there must be some anxiety. The first is the South Atlantic where there is an area which is "fluffy" between the commands. That must be covered and I think that it will need a reorganisation of the naval commands.

The second is the western part of the Indian Ocean. I will not stress what I have said before on these occasions, but South Africa holds a key position in the defence of both the South Atlantic and the West Indian Ocean, and Britain has the power—and nobody else can do it—to make sure that the best advantage is gained from the geographical position because of the existence of the Simons-town Agreement between our two countries. It is now essential that the Government should resume naval co-operation with South Africa so that in all circumstances we are in a position to secure vital supplies—because the oil routes are all going that way in future—for Britain and for Western Europe.

I remember very well, and hon. Members may recollect it, the day when the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) in a moment of revolution—revelation; I am sorry; I do not know how I could have mixed up those words—said that the tactics of some countries—and he said this in the context of Aden—were being used to alter the whole balance of power in the Middle East, and it is to that that I now want to come. He did not act on his own advice and warning; nor, unwisely, did his colleagues take the warning. But now the Foreign Secretary is observing Soviet encouragement of Egyptian intransigence in the Israel-Arab dispute to which one of my hon. Friends has called attention, the establishment of a Soviet mission in Aden and a Soviet presence in the Yemen and the activities, of which he will be well aware, of the Soviet Embassy in Kuwait. He can have no doubt of the intention of the Soviet Union to change the balance of power in this area.

It is the right hon. Gentleman's policy, rightly, to assist towards a political settlement between Arab and Jew. Soviet activities in Egypt and Syria render the work of the patient Mr. Jarring much more difficult, but he has shown a great sense of public spirit, devotion and perseverance.

There is a chance, as I see it, that this long-standing dispute between the Arabs and Jews might be resolved either on a tripartite basis, with the Jews conferring with Egypt, Syria and Jordan, or perhaps on a bilateral basis, in conversations between Israel and Jordan. These might possibly show the way to a wider settlement, if only because the presence of the deadlock is increasingly intolerable both for Jordan and Israel. At present, the obstacle to the beginning of talks—and I do not think that I am saying anything different from what the right hon. Gentleman has said—is that the Arabs demand an unequivocal assurance from Israel that she will accept the United Nations resolution of 22nd November, 1967, to which the Israelis reply, as I understand it, that when a conference has decided on the methods of carrying out the resolution, they will co-operate in implementing it in full.

This is a paper dilemma, because no resolution of the United Nations, least of all this one, can be self-implementing. That is clear. If no one will make the first move, might it not be possible for Mr. Jarring to obtain simultaneous declarations—this is something at which the right hon. Gentleman was hinting—from the Israelis that they accept the resolution and from the Arabs that they will immediately come to a conference to decide how to implement it?

If that were done simultaneously, it is possible that the way might be open to peace. No suggestion in this context can be new—one can only hope that it will appeal to reason, if not to all concerned, at least to the Jordanians and the Jews.

Following the theme on which the Foreign Secretary has spoken, there is the tenability—I would put it to him in this way as he put it rather aggressively to me—of the Government's policy in the light of the new circumstances. I refer to the tenability of their policy in the Persian Gulf and Singapore. It is reaffirmed in the Gracious Speech that Britain will be out of these areas by 1970–71. Let me dismiss one point. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that our desire to have a presence in these areas was born of imperialism and some idea that we wanted to reassert an imperial rôle. There is no truth whatever in this, and anyhow it would make no sense.

One of the things to which I object most strongly in the United Nations is that the colonies which are now completely independent, and have been made so largely by us, will not drop the prejudices that they had in the old days, and realise that they are now independent, free countries and that, therefore, they ought to be able to look at things more objectively and impartially than they do. I was very glad that the right hon. Gentleman rejected in the vote at the United Nations yesterday, the resolution which asked for sanctions against South Africa and Portugal. The function of the United Nations is concilation, not to spread the area of conflict. The more that this is stressed, and the sooner that they learn this, the better the chances will be of peace.

The prevailing argument—and the right hon. Gentleman repeated it today—about the Government's policy of withdrawal in 1971 is basically that it costs too much to stay there, and overstrains our resources. Therefore, they must all, with the emphasis on "all", be concentrated in Europe. It is on this aspect that I want to concentrate, and ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell the House how far the following estimates are correct and, if they are not, where they are in error. The figures must necessarily be approximate calculations. I have broken them down and will present them to the right hon. Gentleman if he cares. As there is nothing more confusing than a mass of figures spoken, I will limit myself to the essentials. They are available for comment by the right hon. Gentleman later.

I would summarise them in this way. British investment in the Gulf and Singapore and Malaya together, and that area of South-East Asia, amounts to £1,115 million. The total sterling balances held by those countries amounts to £1,069 million. The net advantage to the British balance of payments from that area annually is £300 million. The figure for invisibles, although this is very difficult to collect, amounts, we think, to roughtly £30 million. Here I would add one fact, well known, namely, that 62 per cent. of Britain's crude oil comes from the Middle East.

I hope that the Government spokesman tonight will not say that he will try to confirm these figures from the Treasury, or some other source. The Foreign Secretary cannot have allowed a change in foreign policy of the magnitude of the withdrawal east of Susez unless he has done these sums. It is inconceivable that he could have done so. I believe these figures to be approximately right and, if they are anywhere near correct, he must not say that we are frivolous or wanting to re-establish an imperial past if we say that, in our belief, should these figures be correct, it may be worth while paying an insurance premium for a modest military presence in the Gulf and Singapore, provided that it goes on paying, as we believe it will, this dividend in terms of the national economy and in terms of stability and peace.

Mr. Heffer

Would the right hon. Gentleman take his figures a little further? He has given us the figures for the amount by which this assists our balance of payments. Would he now describe the actual cost of the military installations and the presence of our troops in this area? Will he equate one with the other?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

If I may take the Gulf as one example, the figure we have is £15 million. That cost has to be set against this. The right hon. Gentleman says that we cannot afford this. If there is really an income from this area, a net profit to this country, of £300 million, all I can say is that one can afford it if one wants to. If the other considerations are favourable, one can afford a modest presence in those areas. This is the case that I want to answer.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Frederick Mulley)

Would the right hon. Gentleman help me further? We are grateful to him for putting the figures so clearly. Will he give us some indication of what he calls a modest insurance premium? He has evaluated one side of the equation. What is the Conservative Party's view of the other?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

If I might take the illustration of the Gulf, I will not jib at the present cost of £15 million. I wonder whether the cost is really the reason for the Government's policy? I look at this Gracious Speech, and the sentences in it are a hotch-potch, designed to confuse. First of all, we are told that we will fulfil our obligations through the alliances for collective security, S.E.A.T.O., I suppose, among others. Then we are told that we are to withdraw from the one base which will make support of S.E.A.T.O. effective. Then we are told that we are to sustain Malaya and Singapore with money, weapons, and aircraft, I suppose. Might it not at the end of the day be cheaper to stay? There is a strong presumption that it would be.

Anyhow, the right hon. Gentleman need not eat his words. I do not ask him to do that. I only ask him leave a timetable long enough for us to be able to restore the presence, if that is required.

I have not spoken on Vietnam, because there are many others who wish to do so. The British influence is at best marginal in this conflict and, at worse, negligible. As we announce our withdrawal from east of Suez, we have less and less influence. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that China ought to be in the United Nations. However, let us not kid ourselves into believing, if they do come in, that it will not, in the early years at any rate, mean two vetoes on collective action instead of one.

Thirdly, in respect of Rhodesia we wait for the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to make the statement tomorrow.

I want to say one thing about Nigeria. Perhaps I can be a little less tactful than the right hon. Gentleman. France is putting arms into Biafra on a pretty large scale. I have never criticised the Government for sending arms to the Federal Government of Nigeria; we are her traditional supplier. But nothing could be more dangerous than for the rivalries of Europe to be transferred into Africa.

I wonder if there is not a case—the agreement would have to be general and would have to include France and other countries—for going back to the United Nations and seeing if we cannot establish a convention for the prevention of the importation of arms into Nigeria.

Mr. Orme

Do we not appear to be on the same side as the Soviet Government in this case? We and the Soviet Union are the main suppliers of arms to the Federal Government of Nigeria. That is what many of us are opposed to.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Whether or not we are on the same side as the Soviet Union or are allies of France, since this kind of conflict is being resumed, with arms being sent in by various countries, it might be a good idea to see if we can stop it, and also, perhaps, in other areas of the world where there is this sort of arms trading.

The Soviet Union may decide that now that she has much to lose, a world of comparative stability would suit her book. I hope so. That is likely, but she has not yet made her choice plain to the world. Until she does, and gives unmistakable evidence of her intentions, no country, least of all Britain, can take risks, first, with the security of its own nation and, secondly, with the security of a world which is still free.

4.34 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker (Leyton)

I was very glad to hear the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) say that we were right to concentrate our defence in the European region. At least, I was glad at first to hear him say so, because I thought it might lead him to reinterpret the Leader of the Opposition's pledge to reverse the policy of withdrawal from east of Suez.

I was very sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman go on not only to reinforce but to restate that pledge, and to make it even stronger than before. I do not want to argue whether or not this is imperialism. The essential thing is that it means an attempt to maintain specific and far-flung commitments which are well beyond our resources.

The right hon. Gentleman used the phrase "a modest presence", but he let the cat out of the bag when he said that he meant that we should keep what we have now, or what we had a little while earlier.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

No. I was asked for an illustration and I gave an illustration of £50 million, in respect of the Gulf, against a very large income. We have to judge when the time comes what the figures may be and what cost is reasonable, but at present the balance sheet seems very much on the right side.

Mr. Gordon Walker

I am sorry; I thought I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that it should be about what it is now. If I misheard him, I accept it.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that his argument was based on one great assumption, namely, that a military presence, modest or otherwise, can protect investments. We had an example of Arab reactions against a whole lot of British interests after the Arab-Israeli war. They stopped the oil. They stopped British trade. They did all sorts of things. We had a considerable presence in that part of the world, but we were not able to do anything at all to protect British investments.

The right hon. Gentleman must tell us how a military presence enables us to protect investments, and also why other countries with great investments—some with investments almost equal to ours—do not think it necessary to try to protect them by a military presence.

It is not only a question of resources. If we try to maintain commitments that we cannot fulfil we are deceiving our allies and we are basing alliances on deceptions. This is an extremely shortsighted policy. To have these scattered commitments which we cannot carry out without bankrupting the country is not a proper basis for a true alliance. Resources do matter, and the withdrawal from east of Suez will enable us to concentrate and redeploy our resources to much better effect. It will help towards our objective of getting a permanent balance of payments surplus, and release resources for use at home. I rejoice that by 1971, for the first time in our history, we shall be spending more on education than on defence.

But one has always to balance defence expenditure against expenditure for other purposes, and the balance depends on the circumstances. At present, it is unquestionable that our defence lies in Europe. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the presence of the United States is essential to the defence of Europe. But we must make a considerable contribution to the defence of Europe until a détente is achieved between East and West.

The Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, in the words of the Gracious Speech, set back this move towards a détente. A détente must be our long-term policy, but we cannot behave now as if Russia's brutal act had not taken place, and as if there will not be consequences and repercussions. There will be consequences not only in Central Europe, but, more important, in the Mediterranean, and they will be more difficult to cope with.

The Mediterranean is becoming a very troubled sea. We cannot ignore the naval build-up of the Soviet Union in this sea, although my more immediate concern is at the way in which she is building up arms to Egypt and, therefore, building up one of the gravest causes of tension in the Eastern Mediterranean. I was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend had almost the same things to say about the kind of solution that we must press for in this area. I know how difficult and thankless a task it is, but we must never cease to try to get international agreement for the control of arms supplies by the great Powers to the Middle East.

In the Eastern Mediterranean, Yugoslavia does not feel safe. She is one of the countries that can be reached by sea through the Mediterranean. But for the possibility of trade with the West I do not think that Yugoslavia would have been able to stand up so successfully, if at all, to Stalin. Similarly, Rumania's future policy may depend on the fact that she, too, can be reached by sea. Greece and Turkey may be involved if there is any extension of the troubles in the Balkans. Therefore, as we withdraw our forces from east of Suez I hope that we shall increase our naval presence in the Mediterranean.

Just as important is the need for greater diplomatic and economic activity on our part in the Mediterranean. I would like to see us treating this as a great priority area and putting some of our best ambassadors and young Foreign Office officials there. There should also be a greater concentration, inside the Foreign Office, on the consideration of Mediterranean policies. We should do our best to increase economic investment in this area, and be ready to shift the emphasis of overseas aid and credit policy to the countries of this area.

I have spoken so far of what might be called the precautionary reasons for doing this, but there are important positive reasons. Economic, military and diplomatic activity in the Mediterranean is now the best means of improving our chances of entering the Common Market. The Mediterranean forms a vital frontier and flank of Europe. It connects Europe to other areas of trouble and difficulty which closely concern Europe. A European Power which was active in the Mediterranean would be fully taking part in European affairs and could not be ignored by the rest of Europe.

As the main naval Power in Western Europe, we could render a service essential to Europe which could not be equally performed by any other European Power. It would also give us still closer relations with Italy, which, I suppose, is our best and most potent friend inside the Common Market. For all those reasons, I would like to see us adopting more vigorous, military, economic and diplomatic activity in the Mediterranean.

I want now to say a brief word on a completely different subject, namely, a word in favour of setting up a Select Committee on foreign affairs. I was one of those who were sceptical and anxious about the experiment in the new-style Committees. I feared that they might develop as they tend to on the Continent and usurp the functions of Parliament. I was wrong. The new-style Select Committees have adapted themselves to our Parliamentary traditions, and they fill a very valuable role. Therefore, we can envisage a safe extension of the system of Committees, and the great extension would be one on foreign affairs.

It would be very valuable to set up such a Committee, because foreign policy should be more openly discussed in the country than it is. It cannot be openly discussed unless the public and Parliament are informed about it more than they are. Foreign policy is only really effective if it is backed and influenced by informed public opinion. In my view, the Foreign Office is too secretive in these matters. Much more could be safely disclosed than the Foreign Office continues to think.

A Committee on foreign affairs would encourage the Foreign Office to reconsider how much more it can disclose, and the Committee's reports to the House would aid and give information to the House and public opinion, as a result of which we could have rather more frequent and better informed debates. I hope that the Foreign Secretary and the Leader of the House will give favourable consideration to this suggestion.

4.43 p.m.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Herfordshire, East)

Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I start by respectfully tendering to you my congratulations on the assumption of the honourable office in which you are now installed? The warmth and sincerity of those congratulations is tempered only, if at all, by the knowledge that, with the retirement of the former Chairman of Ways and Means, there is now no occupant of the Chair in our proceedings who was a Member of this House when I myself first became a Member. This brings home to one the passage of time, which one would rather forget.

In the ordinary way, I am not enamoured of those speeches which start by saying that one does not propose to follow the right hon. or hon. Gentleman who preceded one. However, debates like these, when we discuss foreign affairs in the round on the Motion for an Address, are exceptions to that rule. I do not propose to follow the right hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker), not because he did not make many interesting and some controversial points and not because I have not great respect for him. The reason is simply that these debates impose a test of discipline and self-denial on back-bench contributions. The Foreign Secretary and other Front Bench speakers, very properly, may indulge in wide-ranging comment and a sort of tour d'horizon over the world as a whole, but I do not think that that is open to contributions from the back benches. Therefore, I resist the temptation to comment on a large number of matters in the Queen's Speech on which I would like to comment in this context.

My regret is diminished by the fact that I was fortunate enough in September to take part in the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference's debate on the Czechoslovak question at Lima. We were at least able, as a result of that debate, to ensure that the members of the Russian delegation took home to their masters in Moscow the clear message of virtually unanimous condemnation by the Parliamentarians of the free world, committed and uncommitted, irrespective of race, creed and colour. I think that that was a valuable exercise which one hopes will have some effect.

The subject on which I wish to concentrate my few remarks is the desirability of the concept of an Atlantic Free Trade Area, in regard to which, with the support of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I have an Amendment on the Order Paper humbly regretting that the Gracious Speech contains no referece to any intention on the part of Her Majesty's Gavernment to pursue an initiative in regard to the imaginative and challenging concept of an Atlantic Free Trade Area. It is now a good many months since the Prime Minister was kind enough to agree to my description of the concept in those words. He has not followed it up by taking any very noticeable interest in the matter. At the end of July, the subject was debated and, in spite of excellent speeches by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) and the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston), we had a most disappointing reply from the Minister who was put up—

Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)

It was not disappointing at all.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Perhaps the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) will get a chance to make a contribution from a more conventional position. If not, no doubt the House will be able to contain its disappointment within the bounds of decorum.

It is in the recollection of hon. Members present, apart from the hon. Member for Barons Court, that we had a most disappointing and negative response on 28th July, and, unfortunately, the Government appear to be persisting in that negative approach by their silence in the Gracious Speech.

My primary object is to emphasise what I believe to be the accelerated need for a more positive approach in the circumstances which obtain today and will obtain in the near future. I believe that membership of an Atlantic Free Trade Area would be of considerable advantage to Britain. However, I want for a moment to look at it from the global point of view.

In that context, I believe that, although at present only a concept, an A.F.T.A. represents nevertheless the type of association that will be necessary in some form in the near future—necessary, that is to say, if the momentum of tariff reduction in the world is to be maintained, and necessary if freer trade and a better international division of labour is to be achieved with the beneficent consequences of improved living standards for the world.

The matter takes on an added urgency because, with the successful achievement of the Kennedy Round, we have come to the end of an era in tariff negotiation. In the words of the then Director-General of G.A.T.T., The Kennedy Round is probably the last of the major tariffs exercises of a purely multilateral kind. That being so, we have to look elsewhere for advance, and the best prospect is that of an Atlantic Free Trade Area, with its notable advantage of being open-ended and wide-ranging, as distinct from the common market concepts of the world which necessarily are regional and exclusive.

The phrase "Atlantic Free Trade Area" is, in effect, a convenient misnomer in that it implies, wrongly, a geographically defined, limited and contiguous area. Though, no doubt, an important element of it would be on a North Atlantic regional basis, it would clearly not be confined to it.

A better description would be an Atlantic Free Trade Association—that is to say, an open-ended free trade group of like-minded nations with a possible initial membership of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and our E.F.T.A. partners and at an early stage, one would hope, of Australia and New Zealand, already bound together in a bilateral free trade area, and subsequently with Japan and the European Economic Community, if it wished to join. A further advantage would be that A.F.T.A. would not attract the criticism, for example, which has been levelled against the Common Market of being a rich man's club, because although the less developed nations could not undertake the full obligation to remove tariffs, arrangements would no doubt be made to give them a right of non-reciprocal entry on easy terms in the markets of the group.

I believe, therefore, that it would be for the benefit of the world if A.F.T.A. could be translated into reality—benefit to many and harm to none, which is more than can be said for most international institutions today. I am confident, too, that it would be in Britain's economic interest, and in that, I am bound to say, it would be in welcome contrast to the economic prospects of the entry of this country into the Community.

I have before in this House referred to the curious paradox whereby the first suggestions for the entry of this country into the Common Market were put forward on the basis that the economic benefit would offset any political detriment, whereas today the argument has been turned on its head and we are assured that the political advantage would offset the economic detriment.

Be that as it may, we have worked out all these sums. The House will remember that we debated these matters in 1967 and found that entry into the Common Market involved an adverse effect of some £600 million or £700 million, maybe more, on our balance of payments. In gratifying contrast, the Atlantic Trade Study has worked out that the United Kingdom's balance of payments position would benefit to the extent of nearly £250 million by membership of this Atlantic Free Trade Association.

I do not want to go into the economic arguments today, but I just want to refer quickly to two important tests, the test of the respective rate of growth and the test of the respective gross national product.

Again, the Atlantic Trade Study has worked out that the growth rate over the next decade or so of the Atlantic Free Trade Association, including Britain, would be 4½ per cent. whereas that of the European Economic Community including Britain would be only 39 per cent. Comparing the gross national products, the initial A.F.T.A. growth tests show that that of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and E.F.T.A. would be 1,375,000 million dollars, and that of the E. E. C. only 453 million dollars, that is to say, only about one-third. Therefore, it is clear that the much vaunted economies of scale which are put forward as the main economic attraction of membership of the Community are more likely to accrue from membership of the Atlantic Free Trade Association.

In fact, it is hardly necessary to enter into statistics to show that it would be to the economic advantage of Britain because it satisfies the prime requisite of British economic interest, the retention of our right to import industrial raw materials and food as cheaply as possible from anywhere in the world, because it is on this that the prices of our exports depend, together with the broadest possible tariff-free market for our own exports. These are prime requisites of an economy such as our own, and they are satisfied best by membership of an association such as the Atlantic Free Trade Area would be.

It fits, also, I believe, the realities and requirements of Britain's political position. It is true that we are no longer an imperial Power, and nobody has said that we are, and it is true that we may find it difficult to maintain a military presence on a very extensive world scale. Nevertheless, from the point of view of our economic interest and general influence, Britain is still a country with a world position, and the advantage of membership of an Atlantic Free Trade Area in this context would be that it would enable Britain to maintain its extra-European interests and association with the Commonwealth, with E.F.T.A., and with the United States. An Atlantic Free Trade Area would provide a means of association between Europe and the Atlantic community, and British membership would give fresh scope for our traditional rôle of bridge and interpreter between these vitally important areas.

I want to spend just a moment or two on the arguments which have been advanced against this concept. They are really two, and two only, so far as I have been able to see: first, that it would prejudice the position of our country in relation to possible entry into the Common Market, and secondly, that it has no practical chance of realisation.

As to the first of these matters, there seem to me two answers. First of all, we need not prejudice that entry because the European Economic Community would have a right of joining the Atlantic Free Trade Area, if such were formed. The other answer I would give is this. If it came to a choice between the two, I think membership of an Atlantic Free Trade Area would clearly be more in the interests of this country. That is a personal view, but it is one which, I think, is steadily gaining ground in the country as a whole.

Where there are points of difference between these two concepts the advantage lies in each case, in my view, with A.F.T.A. This involves no derogation of sovereignty, whereas the Common Market is supranational. A.F.T.A. promotes association, but it does not impose political decisions, whereas the Common Market would force us into imposition of reverse preferences against our friends in the Commonwealth and E.F.T.A. Membership of the Atlantic Free Trade Area would, at the worst, mean that we would continue treating those friends as well as we now treat them; and at best, and more probably, they would come in with us.

There is this final advantage, that Britain would be a founder member of an Atlantic Free Trade Area as she can never be of the European Economic Community. The best we can hope for in the latter context is late membership after a period of humiliating probation, waiting like some unregarded petitioner in the outer courts of the Community.

As to the other criticism, doubts as to the practicality, of course, if the nations do not want it, it will not happen, but if they do the obstacles in the way of its creation are less than those successfully faced by the Six in the creation of the Community. If the United States do not want it, it will not happen, but there is evidence of a rapidly growing interest in the United States—

Mr. Peter Bessell (Bodmin)

Hear, hear.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

—as my hon. Friend knows so well from discussions he has had there. The interest will grow faster, particularly in the governmental context, in the United States, if the British Government show a positive and constructive interest. That they have not yet done. They have taken refuge behind objections unsubstantiated and insufficient.

On 18th July the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), who has made such an outstanding intellectual contribution to the consideration of this matter, pointed out that the studies undertaken by the Government in regard to it showed that it would be to the economic advantage of this country, …and that the doubts were political ones—concerning the question whether the Canadian or American Governments would be sympathetic. The right hon. Gentleman went on: That seems to be not a reason against finding out. I should have thought that it was a reason for finding out whether they are sympathetic."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1968; Vol. 718, c. 1704.] I would respectfully and cordially support that point of view. Otherwise we could get into the absurd position of the United States hanging back because they think that the British Government are not interested, while the British Government say that they are hanging back because the United States Government are not interested.

Mr. Bessell

I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will know that the attitude expressed to me at the State Department in Washington was that if Britain wanted this kind of policy examined it would be received sympathetically by the United States, but that, obviously, the United States must hear that Britain wished them to examine it. Therefore, the initiative lies with the British Government.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

I am much obliged for that intervention. It shows that the initiative should be with the British Government. We do not want to get into the ridiculous posture of the unrewarding tactics of the Battle of Walcheren: Great Chatham with his sabre drawn Stood waiting for Sir Richard Strachan, Sir Richard, longing to be at 'em Stood waiting for the Earl of Chatham. In this case, as the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) says, the initiative should come from the British Government. I believe that that initiative is due. I believe that it is overdue. I believe that they have already delayed too long, and that further delay would be more injurious than past delay.

I say that because we have recently had the election run-up in the United States and positive action from outside could not in any event be expected. But now we are about to enter into a period of action and policy initiative with a new Government in the United States. This is clearly the time for the British Government to take the initiative of which the hon. Gentleman has spoken. That is why I believe this to be a decisive time; and that is my excuse and, I hope, my justification for referring to this matter today and entering an earnest plea to the Government to show their interest clearly and unequivocally at this moment. In doing so, I believe that they will be serving the interests both of this country and of the world.

5.3 p.m.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

If the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) will forgive me, I will not follow him in his reasoning this afternoon. I want to deal particularly with the problem of European security, and the situation that has now arisen as a result of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union.

I have a feeling that because of that invasion the atmosphere has so changed that it is almost impossible in this situation to get a rational discussion of the problems of Europe, with the opportunity of a security conference and a security pact. I would hope that in this House of Commons we do not allow the dastardly invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union to cloud our vision, and deflect us from the hope and chance of a genuine détente in Europe that was building up prior to that event taking place.

I ask, first, that we should for just a few moments examine the character of the Communist world, because in order to get some sort of détente it is very important to discuss. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has on many occasions discussed this question of the character of the Communist world. We have to go in some depth to look at precisely what is happening inside the Communist world and at the lessons and conclusions we have to draw from it.

The first point we have to make is that the Communist world is no longer the type of monolithic world that it was in the day of Stalin and immediately after his death. The break-up of the monolithic character of the Communist world begin with the heroic stand of Yugoslavia against the pressure of the Soviet Union at that time. Then we had the other factor—the great split between the Soviet Union and China. From that point onwards we could see that we were not dealing with one Communism, but with a whole number of Communisms. In fact, Togliatti, the Communist leader in Italy, used a rather cumbersome term and spoke of "polycentrism". I think that he was right.

What conclusion should we draw from this? I think the conclusion is that in our attitude from the West towards the Communist world we should not have a blanket view, but should look at each country on the basis of its own national interests and of the type of movement that is taking place within that Communist country towards liberalisation or towards, perhaps, some other sort of movement which is contrary to the ideas they have in the Soviet Union or China or even in one of the other centres of power within the Communist world.

We should draw the conclusion, even in relation to the invasion of Czechoslovakia, that the invasion arose from the failure of ourselves and other countries in the West within the last few years to extend the developing détente into positive discussion on the question of a European security pact.

I have long argued that the logic of a division of Europe between two great Powers or two sections of Europe—the logic of the cold war—has been that anyone within those areas wishing to get out from under cannot do so because of the very existence of the pacts themselves. The Warsaw Pact came into existence because of the existence of N.A.T.O.: N.A.T.O. came into existence because of the development of the cold war following the Second World War.

What we have to argue about and concern ourselves with is how we get out of that situation. Are we always to be on this great merry-go-round? Is there no answer? Are we always to have a permanently divided Europe and a permanently divided world where, whether we like it or not, we shall find the Russians building up their arms and the West building up its arms until there may be a conflagration deciding the very future of the whole world? Is there no answer? Can we not get out of this? I know that, like my right hon. Friend, right hon. Gentlemen opposite have frequently applied their minds to how to solve this problem.

I must be a little critical of the policy which my party has pursued for the last four years. We have not been sufficiently strong in taking initiatives to try to solve this problem. I remember the Gaitskell-Rapacki proposals. What has happened to them? Which pigeonhole did they go into? Yet, if we had been pursuing initiatives along those lines, the events of Czechoslovakia might never have happened, because it was the existence of N.A.T.O. which led to the action on the part of the Warsaw Pact countries and vice versa.

Even at this late hour, we must endeavour to pursue a new initiative to try to reach some sort of settlement in Europe. The first is to have a security conference despite Czechoslovakia, in fact because of Czechoslovakia. It is even more important now. It would be an absolute tragedy if, because of Czechoslovakia, we were now to decide that Europe must be divided for ever and that there was no hope of a peaceful solution, a tragedy of an unknown quantity which might not be realised until the final bombs went off.

I hope that we will develop some initiatives in this direction and that we shall look to the countries which are prepared to come to such a conference and that we shall extend ourselves, together with the Soviet Union, following the meeting between the Prime Minister and the leaders of the Soviet Union some time ago when they discussed the sort of initiatives which could be developed, a meeting about which we have heard no more. I hope that we shall follow that with an even more serious effort to try to find some peaceful solution to the problems of Europe.

I also hope that we shall not take the view that the Communist world is one great bloc which we cannot consult, because the events of Czechoslovakia have proved that there are many Communist worlds. Surely the Soviet Union can hardly rely on such allies as the Czechs or the Rumanians, and that is another factor which we must take into consideration when discussing a new initiative for Europe. Apart from Vietnam, Rhodesia and other issues of that kind, I have been bitterly disappointed by the Government's failure to develop initiatives along these lines for peace in Europe, probably more disappointed about this than about anything else, because this was one of the aims to which we were absolutely dedicated.

I do not want to speak long, but I want to make one or two comments about the Middle East. I visited Israel immediately following the June war and at that time I had hopes that, arising out of the war, there would be direct discussions between Israel and the Arab countries in a confrontation across the table leading finally to a solution and a settlement in the Middle East. We have to be honest about it and say that we are no nearer to that discussion now than at any other time since the war. All the efforts at getting the two sides together have not proved successful precisely because of the distrust and the feeling by each side that, if it makes the first move, it will be betrayed by the other side. This is a tragic situation.

I do not draw the conclusion that only the small nations in the Middle East can solve the problem. My right hon. Friend said that it would be an illusion to think that the big Powers could solve it, but I am inclined to think that it is an illusion to think that the big Powers cannot solve it, or at least create a period in the Middle East when there is a likelihood of a détente leading to a solution. If the great Powers, the Soviet Union, on one side, and the Western Powers, on the other, decided not to continue the arms build-up in the Middle East, and were to tell those involved that they were not to go any further and must get together around the table, they could have an immense influence on the future of the Middle East.

We have a responsibility as one of the lesser great Powers to influence the solution in this direction. I should like to see a direct discussion between the two sides, but the question is, how to get them around the table. That can be done only by the big Powers making certain that Israel and the Arab countries go to the conference table under the aegis of the United Nations. It is wrong to suppose that Israel and the Arab countries can solve this problem on their own.

I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East that hon. Members ought to have a self-denying ordinance, for many of our colleagues wish to participate in this very important foreign affairs debate, a self-denying ordinance not so much on the subjects, as on the length of time we speak.

I want, finally, to say that I hope that the Government will again develop an initiative in Europe and will press for a security conference leading to a security pact and that they will get cracking on that immediately, despite Czechoslovakia and because of it; and, secondly, that we shall continue every effort, through the United Nations and in discussions with the Soviet Union, towards finding a solution to the Middle East problem on the basis of direct discussions between Israel and the Arab countries.

5.18 p.m.

Mr. John Peel (Leicester, South-East)

I want to speak mostly about Europe, but before doing so I should like to take up one point in the Foreign Secretary's speech. It is the continuing desire of so many right hon. and hon. Members opposite to accuse the Tory Party of being an imperialist party. It is high time that at least the Government Front Bench gave up that nineteenth century attitude towards the modern Tory Party. I have some right to speak on this matter as my family and I have been connected with the great British Overseas Service for most of the years of this century. That Service was given a trust which, in the years of this century, has been very faithfully discharged. It has brought peace, justice and progress to many millions of people.

There are moments, my weaker moments, when I feel a little cynical as I look at the scene today and wonder sometimes whether we have "ratted" on that trust. When I see the bloodshed, the suffering, the lack of justice and the lack of progress because of dissension and fighting such as is now going on in many parts of the under-developed world, I cannot help thinking that there must be many thousands of people who look back with some nostalgia to what might well be called the British peace.

It is high time, therefore, that at least Front Benchers opposite stopped accusing us of imperialist desires. There are only two imperialist nations left in the world today, Russia and China. Britain is certainly not one, and the Tory Party has no wish that it should be.

It seems to me that the lesson of events in Czechoslovakia and the conflict in the Middle East last year is that, divided and disunited, the world—and especially the Communist world—pays no heed whatever to the disparate voices of the countries of Western Europe. There was one point, and just about only one, on which I agreed with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I do not believe that we have to regard Europe as permanently divided. To do so would be to follow a policy of despair, and I entirely agree that we should take initiatives to overcome the problems there. At the same time, however, we must be practical, recognising that the voice of Western Europe in the councils of the world amounts to very little and will so continue until the countries of Western Europe pull up their political socks and co-ordinate their foreign and defence policies.

Only one voice counts with the Communist world, and that is America's. I regard this as a pity, and so, I believe, does President de Gaulle. What is more, I do not believe that it need be so. The only difference between President de Gaulle and ourselves is that we are prepared to try to do something about unifying Western Europe—which really is the only answer—and he, apparently, is not.

The speed and power of the Russian reaction to the Czechoslovak situation should have taught us all, and especially France, a lesson. I only wish that there were some signs that France had learned it. The feebleness and slowness of the reaction of the Western European Union Powers and N.A.T.O. to those events exposed the pathetic inadequacy of the present position under the Brussels Treaty and the North Atlantic Assembly. France has recently reaffirmed her loyalty to both treaties, but she has deserted N.A.T.O., which is the only instrument common to both those defensive treaties which makes them effective, which gives them power, teeth and meaning. How France can justify such a dangerous contradiction I do not know. Perhaps the Minister will explain the matter and reassure us later tonight. Perhaps France is going in for bilateral agreements or discussions with her allies on how she would answer a call if the balloon went up, but we know very little of anything like that.

There is another disturbing feature of our defence posture under those treaties, and this concerns the N.A.T.O. strategy of what is called flexible or graduated response to aggression. I believe this to be the right strategy, but to make it work our deterrent forces, in order to be credible and valid, must consist of both conventional and nuclear forces properly balanced.

I suspect that all is far from well in our conventional forces, and this feeling is confirmed by the speech made by General Lemnitzer, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, only a fortnight ago in Lisbon in which he very much underlined that aspect of the situation. I hope that the allies are taking action about it. In particular, I refer to what was known as the brush-fire force set up to answer sudden crises in any part of the N.A.T.O. area, an international force with very quick mobility of all arms which could move rapidly to any threatened area. I hope that this force will be re-examined both as to its size and as to its mobility, because the events in Czechoslovakia have, in my view, shown that it is far from adequate.

These matters are of particular importance in view of the unstable situation which has been exposed on our south-eastern flank and in the eastern Mediterranean. This brings me to the position in the Middle East. To adapt what has become a well-known phrase, I do not think it good enough to leave that problem only to the United Nations. I do not advocate the specific creation of blocs at the United Nations, but I consider is essential that the allies in the North Atlantic Alliance should urgently coordinate their policies in regard to the Middle East. At least, they should all try to speak with the same voice and follow the same policies in and through the United Nations. The Middle East area is vital to our economy and to the safety of the Mediterranean and our southern flank.

Finally, what action as opposed to theories, words and speeches will the Government take on what has come to be known as the Harmel plan for trying to make progress in unifying Europe outside the Treaty of Rome? I understand that there have been some tentative discussions in Rome. Is there any sign or hope of progress? It is regrettable that France has not so far been prepared to discuss this plan, and the door should be left wide open, but in the circumstances of Europe today we cannot afford to sit back and do nothing. This is a time not for complacency but for urgent action to remedy what, unhappily, is the considerable disarray in the Western world and in Western Europe in particular.

5.30 p.m.

Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

First of all, may I too offer my congratulations to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to the House on your appointment. I hope that you will continue to take the Chair for many years to come.

I want to refer particularly to a very short sentence in the Gracious Speech which, in my view, is of outstanding significance. The House will not be surprised to know that I am referring to the statement: My Ministers will submit for consideration a proposal to enable the United Kingdom to give effect to the United Nations Convention on Genocide. I should like to express my thanks to the Government for the assurances which they have thus given that steps will now be taken to enable us to accede to the Convention and that appropriate measures are to be brought into effect.

It is also appropriate that this announcement should be included in the Gracious Speech this year, which is being celebrated as the International Year for Human Rights. We are now in the second half of that year, and I earnestly trust that the Government will complete the necessary steps for acceding to the Convention speedily and definitely not later than the end of the International Year for Human Rights.

The first occasion upon which I raised this question in the House, and many other hon. Members and I have raised it often since, was in 1950, a long time ago. Great difficulties have been experienced in getting the final decision which I am pleased has now come about.

At the time when the Convention was approved by the United Nations Assembly, its President H. V. Evatt, of Australia, described the Convention in the following terms: I should like to say this as President, that the approval of the Convention on Genocide by this Assembly is an epoch making event.… Today we are establishing alternative collective safeguards for the very existence of such human groups. Whoever will act in the name of the United Nations will do it on behalf of universal conscience as embodied in our great Organisation. The intervention of the United Nations and other organs which will have to supervise the application of the Genocide Convention will be made according to international law and not according to unilateral political considerations. In this field, which relates to the sacred right of existence of human groups, we are proclaiming today the supremacy of international law once, and, I hope, for ever. Our approval of this Convention marks an important advance in the development of international criminal law. Formerly basic human rights have been protected by international conventions enacting penal sanctions against piracy, the slave trade and traffic in women and children. Now we are protecting the most fundamental right of all, the very right of human groups to exist as groups, and in so doing, the General Assembly is also taking positive action to fulfil its mission under Article 13 of the Charter, that it, to promote 'the progressive development of international law and its codification'. It is an alarming thing that after a period of 18 years, although 70 nations have acceded or ratified this Convention, we who should be standing in the forefront of a movement of this description had not so far taken a definite step. I am glad that at long last we have decided that this Convention on Human Rights means something of extreme importance not only for the world at large but for ourselves. I hope that the words expressed by President Truman in those days will, with the addition of our accession to the Convention, enable America to follow in our footsteps and see that the Convention is not only acceded to but that it is put into full and complete effect.

The House will forgive me if I refer for a moment to what the late Dr. Raphael Lemkin, whose family was entirely exterminated in the Nazi holocaust, said. He who coined the word "genocide"; describing the crime of crimes, said: It was left to our generation to see it practised on the largest scale by Nazi Germany… Some of those victims still living after this crime had been perpetrated against them knew, as those of us who were protesting against the measures which had been taken in Germany at that time knew—not to the same extent, of course, but guiltily knew—that these actions were being perpetrated, but we did not take such steps as we could have taken to lead world opinion and prevent that shocking state of affairs.

Recently an impressive ceremony took place at Dachau, which was one of the concentration camps which will go down in history with such others as Auschwitz and Belsen, as unbelievable abominations. This camp had not only witnessed the destruction of thousands of Jewish victims, but also of vast numbers of Christian victims.

We have to remember those who supported the Nazi régime at that time in this country. One in particular, Mosley, led gangs of people in London and is today attempting to excuse himself by saying that he was not anti-Semitic. This was at a time when we were conducting a campaign against Mosley's anti-Semitic campaign, day after day and night after night in the streets of London, answering the anti-Jewish case being presented by his followers. We should realise that people, even though they may be ashamed of the actions which they then took, can, by publishing half-truths, endeavour to convince the public that they did not mean what they did and said at that time.

I turn to the Middle East. I cannot understand—I am sure that my right hon. Friends must realise why some of us who know the position cannot understand—the failure on the part of those who are debating the Middle East to realise the truth of the situation. Take the refugee question, for example. Everybody knows that the Arab refugees were used as pawns. They were kept—with the help of the rest of the world giving them financial aid—there for the purpose of training, even in children's schools, so that hatred and bitterness against Israel could be created and maintained.

The Arab world has vast territories—given to it, I would point out, as a result of allied victories in the First World War. The Arabs have tremendous oil resources which bring them in millions, if not billions, of £s a year. Why did not they do the same as the Israelis did with the 600,000 Jewish refugees who were driven out of Arab countries, in most cases without a penny piece? Israel took them in. Why did not and do not the Arabs take in the Arab refugees? Israel would have helped. Israel has throughout declared its desire to help, and is today saying the same thing.

There is a new generation of youngsters who have been trained and are being trained in a venomous fashion. How can those concerned expect the young people not to react in the way that they do? I address myself to some hon. Members here who are friends of the Arab world. I am not an antagonist of the Arab world. If some hon. Gentlemen saw some of the speeches that I made for years they would realise that I am not an enemy of the Arabs.

Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)

Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that the Arabs of Palestine who were driven out from their homes wanted to return to Palestine. Whether they could or could not have been settled—it is very debatable whether they could have—in Saudi Arabia is irrelevant to the problem of the Palestinians who were driven out.

Sir B. Janner

Of course it is not. If they had remained in Israel at the time when the Arabs were attacking Israel, they would have been in the same position as the Arabs in Israel today, who have nothing to complain about. The hon. Member must not forget that there were such people as the Mufti, who were hand-in-glove with the Nazis. If they had not been trained in that way there would not have been this difficulty. On the contrary, Arabs and Jews live very well together if they are not interfered with. I believe that in the long run they will live together peacefully.

I beg my right hon. Friend not to exacerbate the position by what he may consider to be trivial matters. For instance, take the stopping of broadcasts in Hebrew. Why? They cost some £20,000 out of £9 million spent on overseas broadcasts. Does he not realise that the reaction is that the Arabs feel that this was an encouragement? The broadcasts were heard not only in Israel but also behind the Iron Curtains by a substantial number of Jewish people. It had been something very well worth while.

I hope that the efforts that are being made by Israel to meet the Arabs and deal with the position in the usual way in which positions of this description are dealt with will meet with success. Israel has never refused to sit down and discuss the whole matter with her Arab neighbours. If such a meeting could be arranged, nothing but good would come from it.

I turn to other matters which are disturbing me, and about which I perhaps know a little more than some hon. Members. In the Arab countries today there are large numbers of Jews who are in prison although they have had nothing to do with the issues between the contending parties. In Iraq laws have been passed which deprive Jewish people of any control over their possessions Most of their possessions have been taken over without any compensation, certainly from those who have left Iraq. Iraq will not allow her own Jewish nationals to leave the country. In Egypt there are 250 Jewish persons kept in prison the whole time without trial or any means of getting relief. Egypt will not allow her Jewish nationals or other Jews to leave. These people are being kept as hostages. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to do something about this. I appeal to hon. Members who may have influence in this part of the world to do the same.

The suggestion that Israel would maltreat any person under her control is ludicrous. Everybody knows that. Journalists have visited the places of detention in Israel and the Red Cross has been there. It is foolish to argue that Israel should be compelled to admit a special envoy when the Arab countries are not even prepared to allow the Red Cross to see their prisoners. These are matters that we ought to keep before us in all the efforts that are being made to solve the situation.

The Jewish community is being used as a scapegoat now, as it has been for a long time, by the Russians and the Poles. We are concerned with Czechoslovakia today. The Russians are putting forward the excuse that the events were initiated and carried out by the Jewish people or under Jewish control.

We know that that is absurd. But trials are taking place in Poland, which indicate that this is the line of action that is to be taken there. I hope that everyone in this House, particularly the Government, will do all they can to stop the kind of action which took place such as the Slansky trial and in the case of Jewish doctors and others in the days of Stalin.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert), who seconded the Motion for a Loyal Address of thanks to Her Majesty, referred to the desirability of legislation about another human right. It affects a comparatively small number of people of course but it is the right of the individual to safety of life and limb in face of the negligence of those who allow their animals to stray on the roads. I have brought this to the attention of the House many times and I hope and I shall continue to press that, among the Measures to be introduced this Session, there will be one to remedy the situation, and so afford compensation to the relatives of those who are killed or injured because of straying animals. To do so would be to carry out what judges and the Law Commission have strongly advised should be brought into effect.

5.50 p.m.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)

I add my congratulations to you on your appointment, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is nice to see you presiding. I hope that you will beetle your brows and always catch the eyes of those hon. Members who give short and succinct speeches and that the names of those who go on at length will not readily come to your lips. I make no criticism of the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner), whose speech was admirable.

I am glad to have the opportunity to follow the hon. Gentleman. He and I jointly sponsored an Early Day Motion, supported by 390 hon. Members of all parties, seeking to bring justice to the Jewish people behind the Iron Curtain, and particularly to bring freedom of religious practice in the Soviet Union. One hopes that the habits that have persisted in Russia will not spread to the satellite countries, because that would be distrastrous. One hopes that the Jewish people will be allowed to leave Russia for Israel if they so wish.

My message in the debate is to ask the Government whether they should not seriously consider stopping the run-down of our forces. I believe that the nation is being put at risk. I believe that our commitments and alliances are fragile and are also being put at risk. A year ago, announcing defence cuts, the Secretary of State for Defence said: I frankly admit that there is an element of risk which I would be reluctant to take in normal circumstances…I believe that the degree of risk is one which, in the current situation, is acceptable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1967; Vol. 755, c. 67.] That was 11 months ago. A great deal has happened in the world since then. In particular, we have had the massive invasion of Czechoslovakia—one of the most efficient invasions of this century—by the Warsaw Pact countries.

The fact that the Warsaw Pact countries were able to mobilise and in a single night send half a million troops into Czechoslovakia is something which N.A.T.O. and we as an active member should take extremely seriously. I take the view that N.A.T.O. is our front door and that we should do all we can to strengthen and bolt the front door. I also take the view that this does not mean that we have to forget the Middle East and the Far East. I think that if we manage our economy wisely—and this is the basic point—we can afford to make a contribution to the defence of the Gulf and east of Suez. I am not putting it higher than a contribution.

Since the date the Secretary of State for Defence admitted that he was taking a risk, we have had not only the invasion of Czechoslovakia but a considerable build-up of the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean. I believe that the total number of Soviet ships there, including support vessels, is now about 60. One wonders whether, in these circumstances, the Government were right to decide to evacuate Malta.

Malta is a southern flank bastion for N.A.T.O., an area where we are immensely popular. We have already constructed modern airfields, barracks and port and storage facilities there. It seems extraordinary—it was argued on grounds of economy—that we should be pulling forces out of Malta at this juncture, buying houses here at £5,000 each and leaving behind modern married quarters and barracks and other facilities lying empty in Malta. No worth-while amount of foreign exchange can be involved. Malta is popular to serve in and is a valuable base. We would be immensely popular if we re-thought our policy and decided to stay there, at least to some extent.

I was interested to hear the Foreign Secretary talk about the problems of the Middle East. During the run up to the Presidential election in the United States wrong-doers almost have a green light because few bold decisions are taken by the United States before or immediately after an election. I almost wish that the Presidential election took place less frequently than every four years. It would be nicer if it took place every seven years, for example.

Be that as it may, I wonder whether the Russian build-up in the eastern Mediterranean suggests that Russia is to test the resolution of the democratic world by saying that it will clear the Suez Canal, challenging Israel to open fire. That is why I am glad to hear that talks are being held, and I hope that they will be speeded up.

On the question of a general settlement, I concede that the large numbers of Arab refugees are a continuing anxiety to everyone who must have them on their conscience.

Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

If the Russians were to clear the Suez Canal with the consent of Egypt, what crime would they be committing?

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

When we were trying to clear this international waterway, the Labour Party was at pains severely to condemn us. Apparently it is all right, according to the hon. Gentleman, for the Russians to do what was wrong for Britain to do twelve years ago. The Labour Party cannot take a very logical stand in this situation. Such a Russian action would be a challenge to Israel, and I ask that the talks should take place at once. Surely no one will dissociate themselves from that.

I return to the question of the Arab refugees. We offered £16 million of aid to Aden, as we always do when we throw assets away. That aid was not taken up. Perhaps the money is still available. Could we not, on some joint basis with other countries, use it to help solve at least part of the Arab refugee problem? We should say that we are prepared to make a contribution if other nations will also help solve the Arab refugee problem.

I turn now to the Persian Gulf. While the Maltese evacuation is the most nonsensical of all, the Persian Gulf withdrawal is the most dangerous one for the free world and for us in Britain. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir A. Douglas-Home), the shadow Foreign Secretary, said, 62 per cent. of Britain's oil comes from that area. Half the world's reserves of oil lie under the Gulf or its neighbouring countries. That is a tremendous prize for anyone, and it so happens that we are wanted there.

It is a fact that Iran lays claim to all the islands in the Gulf. It is equally the fact that Saudi Arabia would never like to see a foreign Power occupying the Muharraq airport and Bahrein island, because they are only a score of miles away, and a causeway could easily be constructed from Saudi Arabia to this base. As long as we are there, matters are relatively stable and both nations seem content to leave us there. Surely the Foreign Secretary must see that, if we leave, it is in the Soviets' interest to start moving into the area. That is beginning to happen already with the explosion of Soviet diplomatic strength in all the areas there. It is significant that, for the first time in the present century, the Soviet fleet has been operating and exercising up and down the Gulf and, of course, taking advantage of our evacuation of Aden, which I think was disastrous.

If this situation is argued on economic grounds, which I think is what the Foreign Secretary did, I believe that the oil companies would confirm that we have an annual income of £130 million a year from our investments in that part of the world. If my figures are not correct, perhaps we may be told what the true position is. It is difficult to assess what are our capital assets, because there are tremendous oil reserves under the ground and under the sea.

According to Appendix H of the Government's own 1968 Defence White Paper, that costs us £16 million, which is not a large insurance premium to help maintain stability there. But even so, we were offered £16 million by the local Powers. They said that they were willing to defray the cost so that we spent nothing in foreign exchange, so anxious are they to see us maintain our presence there. I think that the United States made a similar offer. For their pains, the Arab Powers were called white slavers by the Minister of Defence. I am sure that he regrets having said that. Apart from the term, it is totally illogical for the Minister of Defence, who had just returned from Germany where he insisted on Western Germany paying the occupational costs of our troops there. Why make that abusive remark about people who had offered to meet the costs of our troops in the Gulf?

I am afraid that I am forced to conclude that this is a piece of political appeasement of the Labour Left wing. I hope that that charge will be refuted by the Government. The Minister of Defence has said that members of the Left wing are like sea lions; every time they are thrown a herring, they swallow it and ask for more.

Why not think out what is in Britain's interests and change direction before it is too late? I have been on a Parliamentary defence visit to Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore recently. We talked to Lee Kuan Yew, the robust Prime Minister of Singapore, about British investments in that part of the world. He estimated that we had an annual income of £110 million from our investments in Malaysia and Singapore, and that that income was derived from between £850 and £1,000 million of capital investment. In addition to that £110 million of annual income in foreign exchange, we get something like £30 million from "invisibles". In addition, we get something like £30 million income from neighbouring countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Burma and Hong Kong, it is clear that we receive an annual income of about £170 million from that part of the world.

The Government's White Paper says that it is costing us £79 million in foreign exchange. However, we are not suggesting that it should continue at that level. In Singapore, there are 28,000 uniformed United Kingdom personnel. That is a very substantial force. In addition, there are 33,000 wives and children and 23 Army schools alone. No doubt the Government will consider what they cost as a proportion of our defence expenditure.

We do not suggest that that expenditure should continue, and I thought that it was below the normal standards of argument of the Foreign Secretary to brand us imperialists because we wish to make a contribution to defence in that part of the world. It may be that his association with the United Nations has resulted in his catching some of their terms.

Lee Kuan Yew and the Tunku of Malaysia have the manpower, and they are expanding their forces as rapidly as possible. They need to, because there are threats to the North of Malaysia already. If a settlement comes in Vietnam, it is unlikely that, after 25 years of training and experience, the Viet Cong will go home peacefully and live happily ever after. They may spill over into neighbouring countries. Malaysia and Singapore realise that this may happen, so they are building up their anti-subversive ground forces as rapidly as possible. Her Majesty's Government have not given them time, by 31st December, 1971, to stand a chance of providing the sophisticated air maritime defences which are essential if the stability of that part of the world is to be maintained.

At the Kuala Lumpur Conference, the Minister of Defence started discussions on how Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Britain could contribute to the stability and defence of that part of the world. At the moment, the talks are going very slowly. However, we are the natural leaders. New Zealand makes a small contribution. The Australians are involved in Vietnam, and they are having their own defence reappraisal. With the local Chinese, we created Singapore, and it is for us to give a lead in bringing the other four Powers together to see what we can contribute.

I suggest that we can contribute sophisticated air and maritime forces. We have the opportunity to do it because, even on the Government's own plans, by 31st March, 1971, we shall still have supersonic air squadrons there as well as considerable naval forces. In addition, the naval forces will be backed up by tankers and store ships, which will provide the mobility so badly needed in that part of the world.

I went on to Australia. I am afraid that Her Majesty's Government have made our Australian friends believe that we are really bust. The Government say that they would like to contribute to defence in that part of the world but that we simply cannot afford it. I think that I have exposed the fallacy about the economies in the Gulf, and I have already deplored the evacuation of Malta, where there is no foreign exchange involved. When one is abroad, one tries to bat for Britain and not for one political party. However, I had to point out that, during thirteen years, we so managed the economy that, taking one year with another, we balanced our trade, and, incidentally, had a 700 million surplus.

During 13 years we did not have to devalue the £. Almost every year we met the charges on the Labour Party's debt to America and Canada. We did not have to borrow another £3,000 million from the International Bankers. We were able to make a far bigger contribution to defence in that part of the world than anyone is suggesting now. We are not in any way saying that we should be the imperialists, that we should be the policemen of the world. We are saying that no emergent nation like Malaysia or Singapore can overnight create sophisticated forces. They cannot possibly train the high grade manpower needed to service, maintain and operate the sophisticated weapons of a modern army, navy and air force. In the interregnum, whilst they are building up their strength, it is surely in our interest to continue to make a contribution.

I also pointed out to my Australian friends that the Labour Party says that an economic miracle is coming about. We heard before, and we were assured by the Prime Minister again, yesterday, that it is just around the corner. If the economy is to recover as rapidly as the Government say, surely they would like to make a contribution to our defence, investments and alliances east of Suez. The trouble is that they have not got the will to say and do these things. Or are they still trying to appease the Left wing below the Gangway? If it is appeasement, we can promise that if they change their mind and say, "In a very unstable and risky world we will continue to make a contribution to peace east of Suez", they will have the solid support of every right hon. and hon. Member on these benches. Therefore, they need not worry about defeat. They would have the support of most people who are sick and tired of backing down, backing down, backing down.

The Government plead "We cannot afford it." We can afford those things which we want to afford. National defence is something on which we can go no further down because we shall literally lose not only all our influence for peace, but our investments. They must not think that the investments mentioned by my right hon. Friend will remain if we evacuate that part of the world. These countries will not continue to buy our goods or look to Britain for technical aid and assistance. They will look elsewhere. If we leave the chair empty, Japan or some other country will occupy it, and that will be a real blow not only to our alliances, but to our economy, and standards of living too.

6.13 p.m.

Mr. Alex Eadie (Midlothian)

During the debate we have heard such phraseology as "investment", "defence", "cost" and "strategy". I think that I can rightly claim that my intervention in the debate will, to some extent, deal with those words that have been bandied about. This was one of the reasons that prompted by hon. Friends and me not to put forward an Amendment to the Queen's Speech which was critical of the fact that it contained no statement concerning energy policy. Indeed, we believed that it was a grave mistake not to have a complete reappraisal of the Government's energy policy.

We must get it in its proper perspective. We believe that the White Paper produced by the Government—a White Paper, incidentally, that has not yet been debated in this House—is now very dated. Indeed, the White Paper on Fuel Policy has become an absolute shambles when related to up-to-date figures. We thought that it was wrong when it was published. Indeed, many hon. Members have made speeches on the Floor of the House at 7 and 8 o'clock in the morning condemning the policy outlined in the White Paper. It gives us no great joy to know that now we are right. The argument contained in the White Paper was based on cost. It proposed a contraction in the coalmining industry because coal was too dear. Incidentally, many hon. Members greatly resented an attempt to try to put in a further argument that the miners were being done a favour by the mining industry having to contract. But the basic argument was that coal was too dear and, therefore, it had to contract.

Within the context of the White Paper it has been decided that there should be a contraction in manpower of 35,000 miners. This is one error in the White Paper. It has been suggested that the contraction in manpower in the mining industry would be 35,000, perhaps 50,000, or even as high as 70,000.

Military strategy, defence and costings ought to be related to what is happening concerning energy. I made the assertion that the White Paper on Fuel Policy was out of date, because, since its publication, the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology has been published. I do not want to deal with that, because it has, to some extent, been debated already. That report contains a recommedation for an independent inquiry into certain energy and fuel costs, to which the Government have turned a deaf ear.

Another weighty document which has again exposed the White Paper on Fuel Policy as out of date and having no relevance to the situation with which we are confronted concerning energy is the Second Report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries dealing with the Exploitation of North Sea Gas.

There is also the report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is based on a report on British energy supply. Each of those reports has exposed the inadequacy of the White Paper. The Report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries dealing with the Exploitation of North Sea Gas shows, for example, that the consumers will not have any bonanza. Promises have been made that the consumers will benefit from low priced gas. However, on studying the report, one finds so much contradiction that it would be fair of the Government and of these bodies to say to the consumer, "You will not have any cheap North Sea gas for some considerable time." Dealing with the balance of payments and cost. I was astonished to find that 70 per cent. of any profit gained in the exploitation of North Sea gas goes to foreign interests. I believe that this should be the legitimate concern of this House.

One thing which perturbs me is that it is obvious that there is a conflict between the estimates given by the Ministry of Power and those given by the National Coal Board. What will be the effect of the supply of North Sea gas on the future production of coal? The National Coal Board argues in the Report that it will account for 5 million tons by 1970–71, and probably 24 million tons by 1975. On the other hand, the White Paper says that the figure will probably only be 14 million tons.

What concerns me, as the representative of a mining area, is that we are dealing with a difference of perhaps 11 million tons. An output of 1 million tons represents an investment of, perhaps, £12 million, and the employment of 2,000 men. A difference of 11 million tons means, therefore, that we are talking about the livelihood of 22,000 men. I believe that my colleagues and I are entitled to know more about the future of the coalmining industry.

It has been said that if we want to deal with the problem of costs, the Coal Board will probably have to write off another £100 million capital investment. As there is all this argument about figures, tonnage, costs and prices, it seems to me that if we are trying to conserve our indigenous resources it is essential to get the right energy policy for this country and for our people. All the reports seem to indicate that the Government should be prepared to give way and agree to conduct an independent inquiry into the whole question of our energy resources.

As a miners' M.P., I have a vested interest in the industry. I study various international magazines to find out what is happening in other countries, and perhaps I might refer to some reports of what is happening in other parts of the world to show how outdated is the Government's policy as set out in the White Paper.

The headline about the United States' coal industry is: Large U.S. firms from all sectors jump on the coal bandwaggon. We are contracting our industry. The headline relating to France is: More French electricity from coal. About the Netherlands, it says: Coal in Dutch energy consumption. The next headline is: U.S.-oil union urges co-operation with coal workers. Another headline is: Coal the most important power station fuel in Belgium. Yet another headline is: Top geologist puts the case for coal. Yet again, one reads: Coal is superior to oil shale as a source of oil. Further headlines are as follows: Rich gas from coal at natural-gas prices. Only coal reserves sufficient to meet U.S. energy demands. Pakistan invests in indigenous coal. We may talk about being technologically advanced, but it seems to me that there is a possibility that we may cut our throats technologically unless we reconsider the whole question of our energy and fuel policy, and I hope that at some time there will be an opportunity to debate this subject more adequately. My plea on behalf of my hon. Friends who have put forward this Amendment is that the Government should read the documents from which I have quoted. If they do, I am convinced they will come to the conclusion that what we have advocated is right, that there should be an independent inquiry into the energy resources of this country. I am confident that such an inquiry will result in a more stable industry and better prospects for the men concerned.

6.25 p.m.

Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)

I am sorry that I cannot follow the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie), who has spoken with such interest and eloquence on a subject with which he is so well-acquainted. I say that particularly because I am very proud to have had amongst my best friends in the House some of the miners' M.P.s. The hon. Gentleman spoke from the heart of Midlothian.

I am, however, going to speak on a subject in which I believe miners are very much interested, namely, the rights of the individual. The Gracious Speech says: My Government will begin consultations on the appointment of a Commission on the constitution. Whereas the word "Government' carries a capital, "constitution" does not. It may seem a small point, but it will perhaps have been noted that every newspaper this morning which quoted the Queen's Speech used a capital "C" for constitution. A Conservative Prime Minister would have referred to it as the British Constitution.

One reason why attention should be drawn to the lack of a capital in the Queen's Speech when referring to the constitution is that there is no indication that the Government have any concern for the rights of the individual. That paragraph deals with the powers of the Government. It is striking that, from beginning to end of the Gracious Speech, with one possible tiny exception, there is no reference to the individual man or woman.

In a famous definition of the Constitution, given, it is true, a number of years ago, about the turn of the century, a great expert on this subject, Professor Dicey, said: The British Constitution is not the cause but the consequence of the rights of the individual. It is, indeed, the essence of it. We now have a different point of view from the Government, that that is not really a matter which comes into it at all.

Let us consider the examples over the years of the individual being disregarded. There is a place called Stansted, which we all remember. There was the case of the passport, when the Executive overrode Magna Carta. They used the prerogative to interfere with the rights given by Magna Carta. We remember, too, the case of the Defence Regulations; and now, of course, we have the introduction of the increased postal charges, which has the same outlook—never mind about the individual, the experts say it is the right thing to do.

A matter to which I particularly want to draw attention is that of the Parliamentary Commissioner or Ombudsman. For years now we have all agreed in this House that provision should be made for some organisation of that kind.

Some people think—I am one of them—that this job cannot be done by one man. We have found that recently. It is an intolerable burden for one man. The job requires some kind of tribunal. I shall not discuss the matter in detail tonight; I merely remind the House of the position concerning the Parliamentary Commissioner, my point being that the Gracious Speech should have contained some such statement as, "The Government have received the Report of the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner and will consider what steps should be taken," but it has completely ignored it.

Let me take the House's memory back a little. I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary, quite accidentally, happens to be my reference in this matter, and I hope that he will be apprised of what I have to say. When we were first told that the Government were to introduce a Parliamentary Commissioner a White Paper was issued which said, "We shall give Members of Parliament a better instrument they can use to protect the citizen, namely, the services of a Parliamentary Commissioner for administration."

On 25th September, 1964, a very interesting article appeared in the New Statesman, written by "Michael Stewart, M.P." He wrote: The Commissioner will be concerned with those episodes where all the authorities have behaved correctly, yet the result is absurd or unjust.… Further, there are cases involving the police or staff of prisons or mental hospitals where evidence conflicts.… A tribunal under the 1921 Act may be ponderous; yet the collective authority of parliament, rather than a single M.P., may be needed to discover the truth. It is this collective authority which an Ombudsman…would represent. We know that when the time came the Government did not do anything of the kind. I shall not go into the point in detail, but they introduced the marvellous concept of maladministration. It was said that there must be maladministration, but it was also said that the discretion of Departments was not to be interfered with. I hope that we shall have an opportunity of discussing the Second Report of the Select Committee. Anyone who reads it will find that the word "maladministration" has caused tremendous difficulty, which has been resolved and applied by the Parliamentary Commissioner as follows: his practice—on which he had hoped for guidance from the Committee—has been to investigate the processes attendant on administrative decisions, but not to question the quality of the decisions if he found no defect in the quantitative procedure.

That is exactly the contrary to what we were told by the Foreign Secretary. He said that we would not be put off by saying that this is a question of discretion. Wherever a member of the public had suffered an injustice we were supposed to be going to have an investigation.

This is the fourth time that I have said the same thing in about five years, but it is none the worse for that if it is of any value. Section 12(3) of the Act says: It is hereby declared that nothing in this Act authorises or requires the Commissioner to question the merits of a decision taken without maladministration by a government department or other authority in the exercise of a discretion vested in that department or authority. I should think that the Parliamentary Commissioner—for whom I have the highest regard and sympathy—could not have any alternative. At one time we said that the Parliamentary Commissioner had no teeth. History has shown that he has only about half a denture. That is a demonstration of the vacuum in the thinking of the Government on the question of the Constitution.

I should like to quote something that was said by a Socialist writer. I do not have his name, but I came across the quotation recently, by accident. He said: The rule of law today is whatever Parliament makes it. The majority might be wrong; they might be wicked, but the rule of law would still prevail, for in a democracy right is what the majority make it. That is the view adopted by the Government time after time. That is one of the reasons for the unpopularity of the Government, and one of the reasons for the diminishing respect which the country has for Parliament. People do not believe that their individual rights are sufficiently regarded by Parliament.

Sooner or later someone must take care of that subject. A party which does not take care of it will not receive the continued confidence of the people. What we need today—as one newspaper said this morning—is not a better Constitution but a better Government. I venture to add—" and a Government which will show the individual that they care for his or her rights and will take steps to restore and safeguard them".

6.37 p.m.

Mr. Alec Jones (Rhondda, West)

I take this opportunity to draw attention to the second paragraph on page 3 of the Queen's Speech which speaks of the Government's determination to develop policies to encourage a better distribution of resources in industry and employment and to make fuller use of the resources of the Regions. I know that this is not concerned with foreign and defence matters but it is still a matter of great concern to my constituency and to the people of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the other development areas. If the figures that I mention and the references that I make apply particularly to Wales, I can assure my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite that I am equally concerned with the problems of all the development areas.

First, I want to refer to the debate held in this Chamber on 15th October, in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales gave welcome evidence of the success of the Government's development area policies. To prove his words he referred to industrial development certificates and said that in the last four years 25.7 million sq.ft. of factory space had been created in Wales, representing about 53,000 new jobs. He listed the 25 advance factories which had been let out of a total of 27 constructed. He mentioned the £25 million in investment grants and the £8½ million from the Board of Trade's Local Employment Acts, besides the dispersal policies and the aluminium smelters.

It would be churlish of me not to welcome these successes. They represent about 22,000 jobs in prospect over the next four years in Wales alone. But I suggest that these are successes only if measured against the performance of the previous Government. They should be measured against the size of the problem confronting Wales and the other development areas at the present time.

Although I welcome this paragraph and the Prime Minister's expression of the Government's determination to provide alternative employment in these areas, many of us believe that there is still more which should, can and must be done if we as a House of Commons and a Government with a special responsibility are to bring some justice to those who have suffered hardest and for the longest time from the scourge of unemployment. These things must be done if we are to make the fullest use of all the resources of the development areas.

Many hon. Members are awaiting with some eagerness the Report of the Hunt Committee in the hope that it will bring some relief to the grey areas. I want no area to become as depressed as mine through lack of job opportunities. I know what it means—the distress, the loss of dignity for the men and the pain and suffering for the wives and children. I know of the associated forced direction of labour which reduced the population of the Rhondda from 160,000 to fewer than 95,000.

My area has been known by many peculiar names in my lifetime; it has been in a special category because of this long-lasting unemployment. It was known as a special area and a distressed area; it became a development district and was then promoted into the development area category, and is now top of the league as a special development area. So I know the problems of these areas. By all means let us bring relief to the grey areas, by way of the Hunt Committee or otherwise, but not at the expense of older industrial areas which have suffered longest and hardest through unemployment.

Our regional policies are beginning to pay off, albeit too slowly for my satisfaction and I urge the Government to reject the appeals of those who seek to weaken and dilute them. Changes in regional policies are being advocated by the C.B.I, and I hope and pray that the Government will find them the easiest to ward off.

I urge them not only to continue out regional policies but, to use the words of the Gracious Speech, to "develop" them. This, to me, means strengthening and extending those policies, in which case we must accept that there is a vital rôle which can and should be played by public enterprises, particularly in certain parts where private enterprise is sometimes unwilling and sometimes unable to operate, where special provision is needed particularly for the disabled or for men who, with no serious disability, after years underground are still incapable of securing normal employment.

Part of the development area policy seems to be the rapid introduction of a large-scale programme of public works deliberately to improve the environment, to clean up the derelict land and the scars of our industrial history, to improve the infrastructure, roads and other communications, not only for the sake of those living in the areas but as a positive inducement to industrialists who will, we hope, soon enter those areas.

Part of this environmental improvement would be an improvement in housing, which is why I welcome the proposal in the Gracious Speech: Legislation will be introduced to give greater encouragement to the repair and improvement of older houses and their environment. This is of particular significance for older industrial areas like mine, but I would issue one warning about how this proposal could be undermined by the over-zealous acts of certain town planners.

I was rather shocked to see in the South Wales Echo last night a front-page story which said: Thousands of homes in the Rhondda are threatened with demolition in a shock confidential plan presented to the council's development committee. I know these houses. They are solid houses which could be improved with the provisions envisaged in the White Paper, which could provide the amenities and standard of housing found in more modern houses. They are 75 per cent. owner-occupied. People have invested their life savings in them. The Secretary of State for Wales and the Minister of Housing are not here, but I will send them notices about this tomorrow. I urge them to watch this tendency of town planners, because we often see planning gone mad, the erecting of costly memorials to the technical skill and ability of the planners. These people need to be reminded that they are planning not just houses, mere bricks and mortar, but human lives. The people who live in these houses have the right to ask that their wishes be taken into account.

I add my own personal thanks from my part of South Wales to the Government for their intention to legislate on the proposals of the Aberfan Tribunal. The legislation will need careful and detailed examination. I am sure that we have learned our lesson and will give it that examination. This Governmnt, this House and this nation have a debt to the people of Aberfan to ensure that, never again, are people anywhere called upon to pay that dreadful price.

6.48 p.m.

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)

I greatly regret that there is no mention in the Gracious Speech of the Falkland Islands and the Government's intentions about their future, or of the present state of negotiations with the Argentine Government. Not only I but many other hon. Members have been pressing the Government for more information. We have asked by means of Questions, letters, Motions and debate, because many of us are concerned, but we always get evasive answers. It is like hitting a pillow.

The history of this matter is very simple. Since 1832, the Falkland Islands have been under full British control, quite open and clear to all concerned; it has been effective and continued. Indeed, it was British people who first discovered the islands, way back in 1690. The vast majority of the nations of the world, including the United States, recognise the islands as belonging to Britain. Nevertheless, the Argentine has, on occasion—not continuously but intermittently—laid claim to them. It bases its case on the fact that at one time there was a small Spanish element in some of the islands way back in history. Indeed, it was before the Argentine existed. The claim is not valid in international law. It is significant that on two occasions the Argentine Government has refused to go to the Court of International Justice even though we have asked that this should be done.

The present difficulties arise over United Nations Resolution 2065/20 of December, 1965. It was probably an illegal resolution anyhow and contrary to Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. Since then discussions have been dragging on with the Argentine.

I should explain that the Falkland islanders, numbering 2,100, are all of either Scottish or English descent. There are no Argentine or any other nationals in the islands. They are a very well conducted people. There is no crime. There is no debt. They have good schools. Their economy, based entirely on sheep farming, is very efficient, and the wool is sold in this country.

So we are dealing not with a mixed population but with people as British as ourselves. Nevertheless, I have a very strong suspicion that the Government will let them down. I have had many letters from Falkland Islanders, one only last week. I have spoken to many of the islanders who have been in this country in recent months. All these people express great distress, worry and concern.

Newspapers reports coming out of New York cause me anxiety. My researchers show that there is a climate of opinion in certain South American countries that we are ready to capitulate and sell out. The Government always say that they will not do anything against the wishes of the local people. The point is that the Governor and maybe members of the Executive Council know what is in the Government's mind, but the ordinary Falkland Islanders do not because the Governor and the Executive Council are bound by oath. Hon. Members in this House also do not know what is proposed. What is the subject of the discussions now going on? What stage have they reached? Indeed, why are they going on at all? I should like answers to these questions, and I think everybody would, too.

I submit to the House that the Government are not acting justly. The negotiations have been going on at a sluggish rate for more than two years. Would any of us like our future or personal position handled in this way and be in the dark and not consulted about it? The answer is plain. I find the actions of the Foreign Office intolerable. The net result of the delay in the negotiations will be that the Islanders will pack up, go to Australia or New Zealand or come back here. They cannot afford this continued uncertainty. Why should they? Why do the Government follow a craven policy of delay? It is worthless. I want to know what they are frightened of.

I have two suggestions to make. If there are doubts about the wishes of the local people—I have no doubts, but some people may pretend there are doubts—why should we not hold a poll or plebiscite under international observation, if wished, of the people in the Falkland Islands so that exactly what their wishes are can be clear? This would be in accordance with the modern idea of self-determination. It would knock any claims and nonsense right out of the ring. I suggest that this proposal should be put to the Argentine and the United Nations.

If the suggestion is not accepted or if there is any further quibbling or prevarication, we should simply terminate the negotiations forthwith and let it be known that we will defend the interests of the Islands and the Islanders and ourselves with every resource at our command.

I greatly deplore the injustice done to the Falkland Islanders, a small but intensely loyal community. Let the Government stand up for the right and for British interests.

6.55 p.m.

Mr. Edwin Brooks (Bebington)

I assure the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison) that if I do not follow him in his treatment of this important, if localised, problem in the South Atlantic it is not for any lack of sympathy for the case that he is advocating. He has in his remarks, as have so many previous speakers, illustrated the complexity of the world of 1968 and the fact that we are not spoilt for choice in selecting problems of great seriousness and concern when we attempt to debate foreign affairs.

It seems to me that 1968 will go down in history as a year at least as full of surprises and revolutionary portent as 1848 did in its time. We have seen political assassination in the United States throwing that democracy into great turmoil. We have seen the assassination of political ideals in Eastern Europe which which will undoubtedly throw very large parts of the Communist world into turmoil in the years ahead. We are debating tonight in the shadow of an American election which is filled with uncertainty and which I think is bound to cause us very considerable apprehension when we consider the deteriorating situation in so many of the American cities with their very grave racial problems, to some extent reflecting and emphasising the dilemmas which the United States faces in South-East Asia.

When we look at the position in which we are tonight in the House in relation to the one great matter overseas in respect of which we continue to have primary responsibility, Rhodesia, I feel that we are very gravely inhibited from making any but the most obvious and glib comments because we are not aware of the facts. It is a pity that on an occasion like this, a day set side specifically for a debate on foreign affairs arising out of the Gracious Speech, we have not been put in the position by the Prime Minister of knowing what has been the outcome of Mr. Ian Smith's latest letter to the British Government. We have been waiting for some nine days, which is as long as the time it took Mr. Smith to make up his mind before writing to my right hon. Friend. Today of all days we should have known something of the British Cabinet's considered reaction to what will clearly be a series of negotiations of immense significance to the future of this country and the British Comonwealth of Nations.

Perhaps inevitably our debate this evening has focused upon events in Czechoslovakia. As the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said—I entirely agree with him—one of the most disturbing aspects of the Soviet Union's behaviour this summer is that it makes totally unpredictable the future actions of that country. In the past we have often said that the Soviet Union is the prisoner of its ideological and Communist constraints and straitjacket, but at least in one way this gave us some confidence about the way in which the Soviet Union would behave in certain situations. One would have assumed that the Soviet Union would not gratuitously go out of its way to offend the vast bulk of West European Communist Party opinion, but that has happened in the last few weeks. So we are now entering on uncharted seas.

It may well be that fairly stable features of European political geography, such as the maintenance of Yugoslav independence under the very shadow of the great Soviet monolith, can no longer be taken for granted. I am persuaded to think that the situation that we face is an analogy rather more close to the situation of 1948 than to that of 1956. Admittedly, in 1956 we saw events which were in many ways similar to those which have overtaken Prague. Russian treachery—there is no other word to describe the sequence of events—then overtook the Government of Imre Nagy. Russian troops, which had withdrawn, returned in strength. We can recall the events in Budapest which followed.

It may well be that one can see many parallels between that situation and the one which is today overtaking Czechoslovakia. The events in Czechoslovakia have not yet run their course, just as the events in Budapest did not run their course, at least until the time when Nagy, Pal Maleter and other brave Hungarians were murdered by the Russians. One can only have the very gravest anxieties at the moment about the future of similar brave Czechs, such as Mr. Dubcek, Mr. Cernik and Mr. Smrkovski. One feels the same sense of helplessness as one looks at the situation in Eastern Europe where brave people, who seemed to be escaping from the mental straitjacket, have again been flung back into fear and terror.

But in some ways the position is not the same as in 1956. We should not draw comfort from the fact that after 1956 there was as the years went by a relaxation and détente emerging in Europe. At least in 1956 one could say that the Russians were apprehensive about the military implications of Hungary. The Government of Imre Nagy had announced, or seemed to be announcing, their decision to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact, whereas the Government of Mr. Dubcek went out of their way to stress that they had no such intention and that, whatever else took place in Czechoslovakia, there would be no breach within the Warsaw Pact.

Nevertheless, we have seen the invasion of Czechoslovakia on grounds that the Russians claimed related to strategy and military concern, particularly in relation to Western Germany. I do not think we can accept this argument for a moment. It is certain that the events in Czechoslovakia which precipitated the Russian invasion were far more to do with the long-term political implications of the liberalisation of the Communist régimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union itself. It was this fear of change and the challenge to the status quo which Czechoslovakia presented that led the Russians, or the Russian leaders who became dominant in August, to order this invasion.

If this is so—if, in fact, it was a political anxiety which led the hawks in the Kremlin to take the action which they took—then it is obvious that they will from now on be much more reluctant to consider experiments in liberalisation and in movements towards socialist democracy throughout Eastern Europe. It seems that they may now be more intolerant of the Yugoslav example than they have been in the last 10 years or so.

After all, Yugoslavia was the first great successful Communist heresy; the first country to escape from the Russian embrace and at the same time to show that there was an alternative which undoubtedly had, and continues to have, great appeal to Left-wing opinion in Eastern and Central Europe. Therefore, in this new situation in Eastern Europe, there must be a fear for Yugoslavia, a fear which Marshal Tito and his colleagues have expressed on several occasions.

Her Majesty's Government—and, no doubt, the United States Government, too—are faced with grave difficulties in indicating their potential support for Yugoslavia in the event of a Russian invasion. It might be that any statement made by my right hon. Friend to that effect would precipitate the very thing we want most to avoid.

However, there is an opportunity for those of us who can speak a little more unofficially, but no less seriously on this matter, to make it clear to the Soviet Union that any invasion of Yugoslavia would clearly involve large-scale hostilities in that country—the Yugoslavs will fight; they know how to fight—and also it would so overturn the power balance and structure of Central Europe, the Mediterranean and the Adriatic in particular that it is inevitable that the war would escalate and have appalling potential consequences. If we are to avoid the Russians making this sort of miscalculation, it is important that they should be aware that such consequences would follow.

In this autumn of 1968, as we look at a rather sombre world, we are witnessing one of the great movements of our times—the movement of world Communism approaching the same sort of crisis which in the past faced similar great monolithic organisations, with reformation and counter-reformation. In this situation the responsibility of those of us who claim to be democratic Socialists seems now to take on a much greater urgency and force.

For far too long there has been division and a crisis of morale in the European Socialist movements. Indeed, one of the great tragedies of the 20th century has been the great schism following the events of 1917. There is a hunger on the part of Europeans right across the Continent to find some new raprochement based on principles which make sense in an age when technology is threatening the rights of the individual.

The right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) made a grudging complaint about the Government not having set up a Parliamentary Commissioner with wider powers than has so far been devolved upon him. But at least we are entitled to congratulate the Government on having taken a decisive step forward in checking maladministration. If there is to be criticism, it is that the time is coming when we might consider extending his powers, notably in the sphere of local government.

As we consider the implications of the Maud Report, which is presumably soon to be before us, and its undoubted recommendations for larger units of local government, we shall have to consider seriously the problems of local surveillance over the decisions being taken by local barons. As a Welshman, I have always been reluctant to swallow hook, line and sinker the claims of the Welsh Nationalists, and I have always felt that turning one's gaze on the narrow valleys instead of climbing to the summits and seeing a broader view is no way to cope with the problems of the 20th century.

There is, however, throughout the nation—not just in Wales and Scotland but in the provincial cities of England, too—a feeling that events are overtaking them, that the decision are passing them by and that they are being left out in the cold. The Government must now properly address themselves to the need to make, for example, the regional economic planning councils more accountable to local opinion—to provide local opinion with the facts and arguments that those councils are considering and placing before the Government. There is too much confidentiality about Government these days and I hope that in the coming Session, as we consider this important and in many ways exciting future reform of the Constitution, we will not do so obsessed with efficiency to the exclusion of democracy.

Just as tonight we are discussing in a vacuum the events in Rhodesia or the future of American democracy under the President due next week, so we are aware that at almost any moment the appalling catastrophe in South-East Asia, in Vietnam, may suddenly—perhaps surprisingly suddenly—be brought to an end. We will all welcome this. Indeed, it is hard to find a word strong enough to indicate the feeling of relief which would sweep across the civilised world if this appalling destruction should at last end.

Then we must face the problem of the peace. Some time ago I was reading a report which had been prepared by one of the United Nations specialised agencies for the future development of the Mekong Valley, which straddles a large part of the war zone in South-East Asia. A plan was being put forward on the lines of the Tennessee Valley Authority for this vast, largely unharnessed river which would have tremendous implications for all the adjacent States. It was estimated that to do the job properly would cost, over the next 20 to 25 years, about 1,000 million dollars a year. This sounds an enormous sum, but in fact is only a tiny fraction of the amount now being spent on the war in Vietnam.

If it is true that as the 20th century draws to an end the world's population will double from its present level, then it is time to inject a new sense of urgency into the problems of peace. It seems easy at times to spend thousands of millions of pounds on the weapons of war, but unless we are able to harness the same enthusiasm and skills so that our vast economic potential in the developed world can be used for the problems of the under-privileged world, then not only the under-privileged world will go under, producing mass starvation, misery and no doubt war, but the developed world will suffer, too, because it will face a crisis of production and technological unemployment. Further, the growing division in the world will be bound to take on increasingly a colour significance.

If I had any criticism to make of the present Government—remembering that they have done remarkably well in the last four difficult years—it is perhaps that at times they have played too much at instant politics. As professional politicians, this is something we all do on occasions, and often rejoice in doing. However, there comes a time—and as we approach the last three decades of this century this is a good time to do it—when we must plan ahead in a very big way. We must be concerned not with what happens in the next 24 hours but with events in the next 24 years, in the lifetime of our children. If we do not plan ahead properly now, our children will not live to enjoy that lifetime.

7.13 p.m.

Mr. Peter Kirk (Saffron Walden)

I would not quarrel with the major part of the speech of the hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks). His analysis of the situation in Europe was shrewd and true and must make us re-think our position on the defence and foreign policy aspects of the matters which we should be pursuing.

I am particularly concerned with the section in the Gracious Speech dealing with the Constitutional Commission. It contains an almost biblical message in its cageiness when it says: The Commission would consider what changes may be needed in the central institutions of Government in relation to the several countries, nations and regions of the United Kingdom. You, Mr. Speaker, as one who, like myself, loves his Bible, might have preferred the original phrase from the Book of Daniel: …All peoples, nations, and languages…". That would have summed up the position just as well.

At some stage we must be given a clearer definition of precisely what the Government have in mind for this Commission. Will it be concerned only with getting: hem off the hook in Scotland and Wales? If so, it will not serve a useful purpose. Is it intended to go further and examine the possibilities of, as the hon. Member for Bebington suggested, making the regional economic development councils more responsible to the people whom they are proposing to serve? Or will it go as far as many of us would wish and be envisaging a federal structure for the country as a whole? If so, to what extent will it duplicate the work which has already been done by the Maud Commission, which has been considering the whole structure of local government?

In a debate such as this, we cannot allow this matter to pass merely in the terms in which it appears in the Gracious Speech. A great deal of interest has been stirred. I am surprised that hon. Members of the Liberal Party, who were so excited at half-past two this afternoon on this topic, appear to have lost all interest at just after quarter-past seven. They wanted us to debate the subject and, to an extent, the matter has been discussed. This is a vitally important matter on which we need more enlightenment than we got from the Prime Minister yesterday.

Another matter in connection with this Commission is equally important. If it is intended to be as wide-ranging an inquiry as it should be, the question of the reform of the House of Lords, which is also mentioned in the Gracious Speech, takes on a different aspect. If we are considering a complete constitutional reform, then the rôle of the second chamber may be different under these circumstances from the rôle of a reformed second chamber as we envisage it in the sort of centralised state we now have.

For that reason it would be unwise for the Government to proceed with a major reform of our Parliamentary institutions if they are really serious about a reform of our constitutional institutions in the next five to 10 years. Whereas minor adjustments in the composition of the House of Lords might necessarily be made—they would not make an enormous difference to the way in which the system works—any major reforms should wait for the results of this Constitutional Commission.

The question of foreign affairs is the main topic for debate today. The more one listens to foreign affairs debates in the House the more one seems to become removed from reality. We discuss, as we always have done, great questions of foreign policy knowing that there is nothing that we can do about them. Partly through circumstance and partly through the deliberate policy of the present Government, our influence in the world is such that there is now absolutely nothing that we can do about, for example, the Middle East and the Far East. We cannot even get our own ships out of the Suez Canal, where they have been sitting for the last 16 months and where they will presumably go on sitting for another six months, finally to rust away and sink to the bottom.

There is, however, one aspect of foreign affairs about which we can do something. It is on this aspect that I had hoped to ask the Minister of State some questions, but since he is not in his place I trust that the Under-Secretary will pass on my factual questions which are concerned with a new stage which our European affairs have now reached.

As I understand it, the idea following the meeting of the W.E.U. Council in Rome last week was that we should launch a new initiative. "We", the British, is not the right word, particularly since Her Majesty's Government are somewhat shy to launch new initiatives themselves. The Belgian Government put forward a plan for an alternative way of getting ourselves implicated in Europe, and Her Majesty's Government were to back it to the hilt. Indeed, the idea received tremendous advance publicity in the Press of the Continent.

The results seem to have been rather meagre, in view of what happened in Rome. I was in Rome at the time of the meeting and had an opportunity of talking to Foreign Ministers of many of the countries involved at the meeting. I understand that the Belgian Government put forward its plan and the French Government made it plain that it wanted no part in it. I gather that, roughly speaking, that is all that happened.

I also gather that, after this tremendous advance build-up, we were left at the end of the day with nothing having been done, except that at some stage during the discussions five Ministers of the E.E.C.—the "friendly five"—and the British Minister met separately from the French Minister. This was regarded by some people as having been a huge step forward. What happened at that meeting of the "Six", without the French, is important, and I trust that we will be told more about it.

The very fact that they meet cannot in itself be regarded as a step forward, unless one is so obsessed by modern techniques that one considers that procedure is all that matters; that provided we get people to meet, the fact that they do not agree on anything or discuss anything very much does not of itself have any great significance. What matters is: do we intend as a matter of policy now to go ahead with these matters without the French, with all the implications that that brings with it, and they are very considerable?

The plan that M. Harmel puts forward covers a very wide range of subjects—politics, finance, monetary policy and technology. First: can we discuss these matters if the French are not there? Secondly: is it wise to do so? Third, and most important: is it the Government's policy to do so? As I understand, another meeting of this kind is arranged to take place for the week after next in connection with the meeting of the N.A.T.O. Council in Brussels. What is it intended to discuss then? Will they get into the details of the Harmel plan, or is it to be just another general discussion on how they can get round the French veto? I do not mind, nor, I think, would anyone else mind, if serious progress is to be made, but if the only result is to annoy the French even more and achieve nothing, it is a dangerous course for the Government to embark on and needs a good deal more justification than we have so far had.

The key to all this, if we are to bypass the French, is the Germans, and in that case we want to know a little more about the way in which the Government see their relations with the Federal Republic developing. It always seems to me to be unfortunate, in a way, that we have never been able to achieve with the Federal Republic the same kind of ease of relationship that we have had with the United States, with Italy and even, despite all our difficulties with her, with France.

There has always been between London and Bonn a greater reserve than between London and any other capital and, indeed, between Bonn and any other capital. But if our policy is to get round the French there is only one way to do it and that is through the Germans. I understand that in the near future the Prime Minister is to visit Germany: is this just a courtesy visit, or is it an attempt to get our relationship with the Germans on a much easier footing than it has been up to now? Again, it is important, if there is to be a shift in the Government's European policy, that the consequences should be clear, and that they should be announced in this House so that they can be debated.

So I put those questions to the Government, and I would hope to have an answer to them this evening. They seem to me to be important. What happened in Rome may just have been a continuation of the old stultifying series of talks over the last 18 months on the subject of Britain's relations with Europe. In that case, no one will be surprised if they do not lead to anything more in the future, but if there is to be the suggestion that we are now dealing with the Five and ignoring the French means anything, for heavens sake let us be clear what it is and have a debate on it.

7.24 p.m.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

I wish to raise two subjects that are of particular concern to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) who is winding up the debate. The first is the marine sciences and development of the marine environment as affecting the United Nations at the present time, and the second is his work on the non-proliferation treaty and his excellent initiative on chemical and biological warfare.

First, there is the work of my right hon. Friend, and also that of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard), who is our representative at the United Nations at the present time and who himself discussed here on 25th January the so-called "Malta initiative" at the last meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations. He referred to the legal issue, and on that I would simply say that an increasing number of firms in this country—and I will cite the Cameron Iron Works in my constituency, part of the huge American Forging Company from Houston, Texas, as one—say that the question of legal rights in relation to the development of the sea bed is no longer something esoteric and theoretical but urgent and of practical consequence. When big industry speaks in this way, we are entitled to know what the Government are doing to try to get some legal order in very complicated international law issues about the sea bed If my right hon. Friend can say something about this this evening, and I have given him notice, I will be very grateful.

The second issue that arises concerns the discussions at the United Nations on the resources of the sea bed—resources that cover 71 per cent. of the earth's surface. Various sub-issues arise in this connection. First of all, to whom are the benefits of these resources to accrue? I would be very much in favour of Dr. Pardo's suggestion on behalf of the Maltese Government, which I understand found a great welcome at the United Nations, that such resources as do accrue should not be for the exclusive use of the developed nations but should be shared with the developing nations—and not on the basis of capacity to contribute to the programme. That was, in part, the essence of the Malta proposal.

The second issue arising from the Maltese proposal was the whole question of the demilitarisation of the deep sea. This is not only a matter of Polaris and Poseidon submarines and the like. What is of increasing importance is that the control of the deep sea will determine the control of the seas as a whole. I need not tell the House that this is a major factor in warfare. The Maltese were very specific in their proposals, and I should like to be told the state of the negotiations at the United Nations on the demilitarisation of the sea bed.

Linked with this is the question of the pollution of the sea, which has, perhaps, been raised in its most dramatic form by the various tanker accidents we have had in the last year. In the light of the "Torrey Canyon" and in the light of the tanker off Eastbourne, what initiatives are being taken at the United Nations to straighten the exceedingly complex legal issues? Perhaps my right hon. Friend would be able to tell us what is being done in this respect.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) referred both to the needs of the developing countries and to his concern about instant politics. This is an example of what he is getting at: that it is urgent that we should look at these complex matters over a 20 or 30 year period, and should not take the attitude that there are more important things in the next 24 hours or next week to which we have to devote attention. If ever the proverb "One of these days is none of these days" applied to anything, it applies to the question of the marine sciences.

The other matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington was that somehow or another we must focus on practical aid to the developing countries, and I should have thought that this applied to the internationalisation of the sea bed. It is no good thinking that in the next two or three years, by some economic miracle, vast resources will accrue to the developing nations—that would be pie in the sky, and not very realistic. But over a long period of, perhaps, two decades, it seems that the arguments put forward by the Maltese representatives at the United Nations are deserving of our support.

Most immediately let us co-operate with the incoming American Administration. The Marine Sciences Council, under Vice-President Humphrey, who gave me a half-hour interview last year, are most anxious for co-operation.

The question which I want to put to my right hon. Friend the Member for Park is whether there are definite instructions to my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, to Lord Caradon and our other senior representatives at the United Nations to put some steam behind these Maltese proposals, because if they are to succeed, they have to have sustained support. Are the British Government giving the Maltese proposals that sustained support?

The second subject which I wish to raise and of which I have given my right hon. Friend notice is that of his work in the matter of the non-proliferation treaty, especially in relation to the control of chemical and biological weapons. I should like to preface what I have to say with the remark that, contrary to my attitude of four or five months ago, I am not disposed to be critical of the Government, because the British Government are setting the pace in this discussion and it does not help very much to criticise the one nation which is doing its best to try to get some international law, some internally accepted agreements, on the very dangerous matters of chemical and biological warfare. It ill becomes anyone to criticise the one nation which is really doing its best.

However, I have some questions for my right hon. Friend. First, what is the response to his speeches of 6th August and 20th August outlining what was the original British initiative? Perhaps it would be proper in this debate to ask him briefly to progress-chase the response he has had. I am certain that my right hon. Friend is attempting to take the first step towards the vital consideration, which is the banning of the "first use" of these weapons. I do not think that anyone really supposes that a major nation in cold blood would solemnly decide to launch a chemical or biological attack on another major nation. That is not the nightmare of how a chemical or biological war would start.

The real danger lies in escalation, an escalation which is more dangerous than that of nuclear weapons. The reason why I and many of my friends inside and outside the House get so "het up" about these matters is that we foresee a position in which some field commander in some corner of the world will think that he can escalate perhaps from non-lethal gases to vesciants, or to G. agents, or to V. agents, and it is this commander in some part of the world thinking that he can go one rung higher up the ladder who creates the real danger.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Park is striving for a clear understanding, as I understand it, of the banning of "first use". Hon. Members may say that it is a little naive to suppose that this will be of any great benefit. Perhaps I am naive, but I state very simply that if there had been the sort of agreement for which my right hon. Friend is striving, the Americans would never have begun to use weapons such as defoliants and other compounds such as CS orthochlorobenzyl malono nitrol in Vietnam. That is a measure of the importance of the objective to which my right hon. Friend is striving.

In his efforts towards this, is he able to get some up-dating of the Geneva Convention in the matter of first use? Is he also prepared, perhaps unilaterally if the response is not forthcoming, to urge that there should be an opening up of the British facilities for chemical and biological warfare? There is no place in this debate to discuss the various arguments about chemical and biological warfare which are internal to the British position, except to say that as a party we have recently heard a great deal about the virtues of the administration in Sweden under Tage Erlander. I remind my right hon. Friend that Tage Erlander's administration has opened all its facilities and so in proposing that our facilities should be opened I am not suggesting anything of great originality, but simply saying that in this matter we would do well to follow the Swedes. If the British followed the Swedes, that would add to the pressure on other Governments to do the same and to create a feeling of trust and that, in my optimistic belief, is the only meaningful defence against these weapons.

I should like to ask my right hon. Friend about his timetable. If the negotiations become very sticky, is there any point in time at which he would be prepared to say that there will be a unilateral British initiative? This may be a difficult question to answer and so I shall simply state that there are many of us who, if by Christmas the negotiations still seem to be bogged down, would like to see a unilateral British initiative. I do not press him upon the point, because I understand very well the difficulties which an answer would entail.

I should make it clear to my right hon. Friend that I am not and never have been for the abolition of British facilities at Porton or anywhere else in Britain. I am for the opening of these facilities to add to their constructive purpose, and this should be part of his negotiations at Geneva. My right hon. Friend could perfectly reasonably say to other countries that there are great advantages in opening the facilities at Fort Detrick, Maryland, or at Newport, Indiana, or the various points in the Soviet Union where these weapons are being developed, and that doing so would help in their work on food additives, or their protective clothing industries, or research on leukemia and, something which I regard as of immense importance, work on the development of selective pesticides.

I do not want to digress too far, but this summer while we were away I and many others noticed that many of the insects which used to be familiar in our childhood were no longer there when we visited parts of the British countryside which were known to us 10 or 15 years ago. It is this sort of reflection which prompts me to say that we should have a crash research programme on selective insecticides. Where better to do that than among the very skilled scientists who work at Porton? I give that as an example of one concrete suggestion which could certainly be brought into the international negotiations to persuade other countries that there are not only defence reasons for opening facilities of this kind.

Finally, I should like to put some clear questions to my right hon. Friend. In his negotiations at Geneva, how far has he got in discussing problems of definition? How far has he got in discussing inspection? I have read his speech and what he had to say about the need to establish a prima facie case before one country demanded that another be inspected. Although it is extremely difficult, even more difficult than with nuclear weapons, to carry out this kind of inspection, I believe that he is right to suggest that a prima facie case for inspection constitutes a more realistic basis than any other for agreement.

Perhaps I can be excused my naivety with the belief that in the international scientific community, in which I include the Russian scientific community, there is a growing feeling that the scientists of the world should be frank with each other at conferences, for it is in this frankness between scientists that there may lie the argument against the naivety of people like me who put forward propositions of this kind.

Next, I ask my right hon. Friend how far he has got in the matter of the quadripartite agreement and, perhaps, the revision of certain aspects of the quadripartite agreement particularly in relation to Suffield and Innisfail? Also, is he giving attention at Geneva to the difficult question of the psychedelics and the dangers attendant therein?

We read in the Press that the Russians have, perhaps, one-third of their shells in Eastern Europe mounted with chemical or biological weapons. I have no knowledge, and neither, I suspect, has anyone in the West, of whether that report is factually accurate, but the simple fact that the Press can print such reports is, I suggest, an indication of the urgency of the work which my right hon. Friend is doing. As soon as the shape of the new American Administration becomes clear, will he, therefore, go to Washington, backed, I hope, by full Government support, to impress upon the new American Administration the urgency of the problems with which I have dealt this evening?

7.41 p.m.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)

This seems to be a useful and enjoyable debate if only because the system of competitive insult is, at least to some extent, temporarily in abeyance today. I even found myself agreeing with some of the points made by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), which has not always been the case when I have followed him in the past. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman on the importance of undersea technology for our future. However, I shall not follow him in the points which he made because I wish on this occasion to take up a remark which the Foreign Secretary uttered in opening the debate.

The Foreign Secretary said that there were two great disservices which a man could do to his country in the context of foreign affairs—one, to assert that the world was a calm and peaceful place and that the country need take no special measures for its own security; the other, to recommend adventures and responsibilities beyond our resources. In my view, by their defence policy over the last few years the Government have been guilty of the first of those disservices. Their policy has been one of continuous reduction and a series of cuts regardless of the risks and regardless, in my submission, of the threats to our security in a world which is plainly far from calm or peaceful.

In such a discussion one ought to look analytically for a moment at the specific threats, since it is no good recommending defence policies or expenditures which are not geared to a reasonably specific grouping of threats. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said, defence and foreign policies cannot be separated. On that point, one can only say in passing that it is a pity that we have not been privileged to have the Secretary of State for Defence or any of his several Ministers here to take part in the debate.

I always think of the threats which face this country as being grouped under three main heads. First, there is the possibility of a threat to our security in Europe. The Foreign Secretary was quite specific about that today and, obviously, the Government have taken due note of recent events in Europe. The right hon. Gentleman stressed the importance of N.A.T.O. One is prompted to ask why, if he stresses the importance of N.A.T.O., we have heard of no alteration in the Government's policy regarding the provision of adequate army reserves and why we should still be going bull-headed on a policy of abolishing Civil Defence. It is extraordinary for us to be represented by a Foreign Secretary who emphasises how important N.A.T.O. is while, at the same time, we turn out to be the only country in N.A.T.O. which does not have adequate army reserves or a civil defence organisation.

Why has the Harrier aircraft been developed? The newspapers today are full of its prospects of success for export and so on, but we have had no explanation in any debate in recent years from the Secretary of State for Defence of why he is so utterly opposed to the provision of cheap, uncomplicated hardtop ships for the proper deployment of the Harrier aircraft, a project which would overcome the difficulty between Opposition and Government on the question of aircraft carriers. If there are reasons why this extremely useful opportunity for deploying these aircraft cannot be taken in the way which has been so often suggested, the Secretary of State should tell us.

The second grouping of threats comes under the head of conventional war at sea or action below the threshold of what is usually called conventional war at sea. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire spoke of the nearly 400 Soviet submarines in full commission and steaming about the oceans of the world. There is no reason why they should not—freedom of the seas and all that—but one recalls that that number of submarines is ten times as many as Hitler had available to him when he started World War II.

There are about 2,000 British merchant ships of which 1,000 or more are at sea on the trade routes of the world at any given time. The protection of all this overseas shipping and the trade which goes with it is of prime importance and always has been in our history. My right hon. Friend's comments about the importance of the Cape route and paying more than lip-service to the Simonstown Agreement is very apposite in the context of this threat.

I come now to the third and, I submit, by far the greatest threat which we face. The late President Kennedy said: The greatest danger to the West is of being nibbled to death in conditions of nuclear stalemate. That is an apt way of describing a very real threat to our interests all round the world, which is difficult to describe save in such a striking phrase. This third threat is by no means confined to Europe. Indeed, I believe it to be far greater in the area normally called east of Suez. It is because of the existence of this risk of being nibbled to death that I support so strongly the statement which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made when he was in Australia this summer, that the Conservative Government will retain a presence east of Suez. The same point has been made by many of my hon. Friends in the debate today.

The Government's attitude to an east Suez policy has been quite remarkable. When they first came into office, they made a considerable case for keeping a presence in the Far East and the Gulf. One page 7 of the 1967 Defence Statement, we read: Provided that they are needed and welcome, the continuing presence of British forces can help…to create an environment in which local governments are able to establish the political and economic basis for peace and stability. There can also be no certainty—so long as threats to stability remain—that those forces will not be required to give help to friendly Governments, or to play a part in a United Nations peace-keeping force, as they have done in recent years. That was a straightforward statement of the case for a presence east of Suez. Yet suddenly, out of a cloudless sky, came a reversal of the Government's position and their announcement of total withdrawal. I hope that Ministers will deal with this matter today. What has happened since that statement in 1967 to make a presence east of Suez less necessary? The reason cannot be mere finance. The figures given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire disprove any argument on grounds of pure finance; indeed, they show that our operations east of Suez are of positive financial benefit to us.

A presence east of Suez is necessary for many valid reasons which have already been discussed. The economic one we have mentioned. There are specific treaties. S.E.A.T.O. has been named, and must be written off as a scrap of paper. We have very real commitments to Australia and New Zealand, to Malaysia and Singapore. We had the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, over here imploring the British to remain. We also have commitments east of Suez to the Americans. The Americans, whatever we may think of them—and opinion is divided among these benches—have been making immense contributions to the peace of the world, and it is not morally right for the British to say, "Oh, well, we are going home" and hope that someone else will pick up the pieces. It is not fair, certainly not on the Americans.

It throws the Australians into a very great quandary, because they are very worried, indeed. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) has been out there recently and heard over and over again Australians saying how worried they are about the vacuum which they believe is being left in the Indian Ocean by the British withdrawal. Further than these points, which have been rehearsed many times, there are moral considerations.

Anyone who has travelled in Asia and seen the conditions in Asian villages, anyone who has seen the teeming millions out there and the shortage of food, anyone who has seen the shortage of educational facilities and the conditions under which the children live, must agree that something has to be done to put right the imbalance, as it is so often called, between the developed and underdeveloped countries.

I agree very much with the hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) about the importance of projects like the Mekong Valley scheme and how much more productive that would be than fighting wars. I have been to India and Pakistan this year with the Estimates Committee to see the deployment of British economic aid, and very worthwhile it is. I put it to the House that in our wish to achieve freedom from want it is no good unless freedom from fear is provided simultaneously.

I say to the Foreign Secretary that freedom from fear and freedom from want are corollaries and run hand-in-glove with our policy in Asia. There is an absolute paradox about this in the Gracious Speech. It says: My Government will continue to take the necessary steps to withdraw British forces from Malaysia, Singapore and the Persian Gulf… But later it says: …My Ministers will maintain their efforts to promote conditions favourable to peace and security in the areas… This is a complete and absolute paradox, in one and the same paragraph of the Gracious Speech.

Mr. Peel

Would my hon. and gallant Friend not agree that Britain has British territories in the Pacific, for which we still retain specific responsibility, with no time limit as to how long that shall last? If Australasia is expected to look after those territories, do we not owe something to Australasia and South-East Asia?

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. My philosophy is summed up by a remark in last year's Australian Defence Review, where it is said that it is essential for the countries of South-East Asia to have the assurance of strong friends, so that they may gain time to protect themselves from external threats and from internal subversion, which is very important, and so that they may gain the time for their economic and political systems to evolve in the way that we all wish to see.

It is not correct to say, as some hon. Members have said, that military forces cannot help to establish peace and economic stability. The right hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker), who is not in the Chamber at the moment, remarked that other Western Powers do not keep forces in the Far East and that they trade all right, so why is it necessary for us to do so? The fact that these other Powers do not pay their contributions to this peace-keeping effort is not a justification for us to say, "We are bored; we are going home."

On the contrary, it highlights the need for the Foreign Secretary to undertake an immense diplomatic initiative in Europe, to explain to the Western Powers that the mass of the population of the world live in the area east of Suez, and that this is where the future markets of the world are. He must explain that it would be tremendously to the disadvantage of the Western Powers if law and order and stability were not to be maintained there, and that it is for them to help us, with men and money and ships, rather than for us to wash our hands of it and go off home saying that we hope that it will be all right.

Peace-keeping is valuable. Peace-keeping, rather than fighting wars, is the important job for British forces in the present state of the world. One cannot give a better example than the very successful, bloodless victory achieved by British forces in the confrontation with Indonesia. The same Defence Statement of last year said: Without their contribution "— That is, the contribution of the British forces— to the Commonwealth effort, much of South-East Asia might have collapsed into disorder, perhaps inviting competitive intervention by other Powers with the consequent risk of general war. That sums up very well the value of a British presence east of Suez.

I am most unhappy that this Government should have said, "Well, we are not going to take any notice of these considerations." They are burying their heads in the sand about this. There is little doubt that the greatest threat to British interests at the moment, it may not be there forever, lies east of Suez. The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown), when he was Foreign Secretary, said at the Labour Party Conference, "I do assure you, brothers, that we do have responsibilities east of Suez. Are we to talk out of the area where the threat to peace is greatest?" He said that that would not be a plan, that would be just plain scuttling. This is a British Foreign Secretary. I honestly do not see what has happened since those words were uttered which could justify the policy of withdrawal.

A presence such as I suggest can be maintained at reasonable cost by modern military developments, such as maritime task forces, new refuelling techniques, fast air transport and so on. There is no need to maintain huge and elaborate bases. It is essential to have a presence on the spot, and on the dot. Forces which are pre-positioned and already in an area can help and give the people a feeling of security. They are of much more value than strange, untrained, unacclimatised forces, hustled in at the last moment to any country which asks for them, creating perhaps a great deal of alarm and despondency when they arrive because people say, "Hello, what is happening? Why have these chaps come?"

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Would my hon. and gallant Friend also agree that air transportation does not mean anything in coming to the help of that part of the world unless some heavy equipment is stockpiled there? Would it not, therefore, be a very irrational thing to give away the storage facilities in Singapore and other places when these are absolutely essential if our forces are to go there and have the general capability which the Government say they should have?

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

I entirely agree. I am sorry to recall that the Secretary of State for Defence, when this point was raised earlier, said categorically that there was to be no pre-positioning of equipment. This is exactly the sort of thing that: I complain about. They do not seem to want to see the ways in which a useful military presence can be deployed in that part of the world without overwhelming expense.

I end by emphasising that prevention of war is the function of our forces today. The Foreign Secretary said that he hoped for a favourable verdict from history. Neither the Foreign Secretary nor the Government, nor the British people as a whole, will get a favourable verdict from history if they forget the lesson of history, that peace is indivisible, and it is no good trying to maintain peace in just one area of the world and forgetting the rest.

7.59 p.m.

Mr. David Watkins (Consett)

The hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) will, I am sure, understand if I do not follow him too closely into the extreme unhappiness which he expressed about the situation in the Far East. I wish to confine my remarks to the situation in the Middle East and particularly to speak about that part of the Gracious Speech that indicates that the Government will continue to work through the United Nations for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. When my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary opened the debate, he stressed that in a changing world British influence must be exerted in those areas where it is most likely to be effective. It seems to me that the Middle East is one of those areas. I wish to speak about the need for particular efforts by the British Government in the Middle East situation.

With two of my hon. Friends, one of whom, the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Mr. William Wilson) is in his place, I have recently visited the Middle East, including Jordan and the United Arab Republic. In Amman we were fortunate in having meetings with a number of members of the Jordanian Government, including a meeting of more than two hours duration with Mr. Talhouni, the Prime Minister of Jordan. In Cairo, among other members of the United Arab Government whom we met, we had a lengthy meeting with Mr. Ghaleb, the Deputy Foreign Minister, and an extremely interesting interview with Mr. Hassuna, Secretary General of the Arab League.

We were everywhere met with friendliness. It was a friendliness which was not restricted to Ministers and officials of Governments but was very apparent, particularly in Cairo, among the ordinary people in the street when we took the opportunities available to us to walk freely and informally and where, since we had been featured on television, we were clearly recognised by large numbers of people. Without exception, their attitude towards us was extremely friendly.

We found a very friendly attitude towards us among the inmates of a large refugee camp which we visited in Jordan. Our reception of friendliness in those two Arab countries would have been quite different at this time last year to any Members of this House who visited those countries in the immediate aftermath of the 1967 war. There is certainly a significant change of attitude and a great desire among Arab countries to be friendly with the United Kingdom.

That arises, I am certain, from the sponsorship by the British Government in the United Nations last November of Security Council Resolution No. 242. It has not been sufficiently stressed in this House that the securing of unanimous backing in the Security Council for that resolution represented a diplomatic triumph for the representatives of the British Government in the United Nations.

Mr. Heifer

When he was in Cairo, did my hon. Friend learn whether the Cairo Government now admitted that the British Government and the British people did not give aid to Israel during the war? That was the sort of propaganda that was spread by the Cairo Government at the time.

Mr. Watkins

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the point. While I cannot put it as definitely as that I received assurances from the Cairo Government, it was made abundantly clear to us through many channels in Cairo and Amman that there is a complete change of attitude and it is recognised that those statements, which were made at the time, had no foundation in fact. We were quite impressed by the efforts that were made to convey this attitude to us.

The changed feeling towards this country also arises, I think, from the feeling in the Arab countries that this country is today genuinely working for a just and peaceful solution of the many problems—I stress "many"—of the Israeli-Arab conflict. It must, however, be made clear that the Arab countries do not trust Israel and in the matter of direct negotiations, about which so much has been said in recent months, they feel compelled to look elsewhere, to the United Nations and, in the light of our experience in the Middle East, to Britain for someone to act as intermediary in bringing about a solution of these problems.

Sir B. Janner

Can my hon. Friend say whether they are prepared to accept the resolution in full—that is, the recognition of Israel, allowing the ships to go through the Canal and the rest of it—or do they accept some features of the resolution and resist others?

Mr. Watkins

I am glad to deal with the point and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. It was conveyed to us quite categorically, and we have every reason to suppose that it is correct, as has been stated publicly, that the Arab Governments have accepted Resolution 242 in its entirety, although I realise that as it includes issues of principle there might well be different interpretations, as, for instance, Israel has placed a different interpretation on it in not feeling able to accept the resolution.

The distrust of Israel among the Arab countries is understandable to anyone who has visited, as I have done, one of the refugee camps and has met the innocent victims of 20 years of conflict, who have been denied the right to live in their own homes in occupied Palestine. It is understandable to anyone who stands in the ruins of Karameh, as I have stood in them, and who sees there what remains of an Arab town which was totally destroyed in an Israeli military incursion in March this year.

It is understandable, too, if one has had the experience of seeking to take photographs of the sacred River Jordan and having an arrogant Israeli officer shouting across the river in an attempt to intimidate one into not taking such a photograph. I have had that experience, and I have the photograph which I took to prove that I am not easily intimidated.

I am very well aware that there are many and varied problems in this terrible conflict and that one of the difficulties of bringing about any sort of settlement is the total suspicion which either side has towards the other.

I have said that Arab mistrust is understandable, but one thing which we found was that the Arab Governments to whose members we talked are at least now prepared to recognise the existence of Israel. Anyone who knows the whole history of the conflict knows that that is at least a considerable step forward for them to have made.

Sir B. Janner

Why do they not say so?

Mr. Watkins

They have said so.

Dr. Jarring, who was appointed special envoy under the terms of Resolution 242, has been reported as likely to resign because he feels that his mission has been a failure. Perhaps we shall not know the facts until he reports in three weeks' time to the United Nations. But I believe that the British Government must seek some kind of new initiative to prevent the total breakdown of the peace efforts which have arisen from their earlier initiative in sponsoring Resolution 242 because I am convinced that, if a breakdown takes place, another Israeli-Arab war is inevitable during 1969 and that the consequences would be far more terrible than those of the 1967 war.

It might even be that, at this stage, only a massive United Nations operation can avoid such a war. One of the terrifying features of the Middle East situation is the way in which it has become an area of confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Suez fiasco of 1956 threw away British influence in the Middle East and, of course, the Soviet Union was quick to step into the vacuum created.

In the United States presidential election, both major candidates have surrendered shamefully to the belligerent Zionist lobby which exists in the United States. There is a terrible fear in my mind and in the minds of many others that, whoever becomes President, Israel may well come to be used as a pawn in the terrible game of cold war politics.

There is, for these reasons, a great distrust of the United States in the Arab countries and it is probably fair to say that their experience of the Soviet Union of recent years has led them somewhat to distrust the intentions of the Soviet Government. But, in the light of the statements made publicly and of the experiences my hon. Friends and I had in the Middle East, I believe that they are prepared to trust the United Kingdom.

One of the greatest tragedies of the Arab-Israel conflict is that both sides have taken up positions which preclude them from negotiating directly with each other without a third party acting as arbitrator. I believe that the situation is such that this country alone is in a position to take a new initiative in the matter, and because of the urgency of the situation I hope that, early in this Session, some such initiative will be taken by the Government.

8.14 p.m.

Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)

The Foreign Secretary said that because of the happenings in Czechoslovakia Britain would have to increase the part it was playing in N.A.T.O. How much will that extra N.A.T.O. activity cost the country? Does he think we can afford it? It must be self-evident that an effective foreign policy cannot be pursued unless we have a strong economic base. A poverty stricken country cannot be effective in international affairs. A nation that is always rattling its begging bowl in front of international bankers cannot count for much in world affairs.

I want, therefore, to examine the economic base upon which our foreign policy is to be founded. That base is so weak that no real foreign policy with any power can be pursued by the Foreign Secretary, no matter how good his arguments may be or how carefully he pursues them. In the Gracious Speech there is no indication of the gravest economic problem facing us—how we are to get Britain out of debt. Indeed, there is nothing in the Speech to suggest that we are even in debt. There is certainly nothing in it to suggest that we are getting deeper and deeper into debt.

Mr. Heffer

One way of getting out of debt is not to restore the bases east of Suez. If we were to do that we should get back into deeper debt.

Sir C. Osborne

That may be so, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to make my speech in my own way. There is nothing in the Gracious Speech—

Mr. Heffer

So what?

Sir C. Osborne

I shall give some figures that will cause even the hon. Gentleman not to sneer. I believe that our economic position is so weak as to be terrifying and that it will weaken the influence of the Foreign Secretary when he goes to international conferences. When the Government came to power in 1964, they said that they had inherited a deficit of £800 million. We disputed that, but supposing they did inherit that deficit. Last year, their deficit was over £500 million. This year, as far as I can calculate, it will be over £700 million, despite the fact that, meantime, they have borrowed £3,000 million from foreign bankers which some future Government must repay. The great weakness of our economy is due to the unwisdom—not to use a stronger term—of the present Government.

Mr. Heffer

It is not.

Sir C. Osborne

Listen to the figures. In 1965, the first year in which the Government had complete control, the right hon. Lady the First Secretary for State for Employment and Productivity told the Labour Party Conference that the Government had allowed wages in that year to rise by £1,300 million, although they knew that production had increased by only £600 million. That was why, of course, ultimately a prices and incomes policy became necessary. One cannot keep on paying out more than one is earning. The Government cannot pursue a strong foreign policy on money borrowed from the gnomes of Zurich.

The Government foolishly weakened our position still further. In 1964, central Government expenditure amounted to £8,428 million. In 1965, it was £9,310 million. In 1966, it rose again to £10,097 million. In 1967, it went up to £11,684 million. This year it will be over £12,000 million. This is why we are having a prices and incomes policy. It is costing too much to govern ourselves.

But not only central Government expenditure is involved. The Government have allowed local authority expenditure to increase even faster. In 1964, the cost of running the country locally was £3,639 million. In 1965, it was £4,112 million. In 1966, it was £4,461 million. Last year, it was £5,065 million. We are in a financial mess because it is costing too much to govern ourselves. I am not saying that much of this expenditure is not socially desirable. What I am saying is that the taxpayer is not getting value for money, and we are spending more than we can afford.

What is the position today? Just now, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said, "So what?" Let him listen to these statistics. When right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite came to power in 1964, our adverse visible balance of payments was £537 million. They got it down the following year to £272 million, and in the next year, 1966, it came down even lower, to £136 million. However, last year, in 1967, it rebounded to £636 million. How can the Foreign Secretary pursue a strong foreign policy when he speaks for a bankrupt nation?

After allowing for invisible exports, which are the earnings of the City of London and so forth, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite inherited a deficit of £399 million when they came to power in 1964. They got it down next year to £91 million. In 1966, they achieved a "plus" of £15 million, but last year we were back to a £404 million deficit. In the first six months of this year, we are already £300 million on the wrong side, and the present Chancellor, on taking over his office, promised the country that we should be out of the red in 1968. The fact is that we are getting deeper into debt, and the Government seem frightened to tell the country the truth.

In the first nine months of this year, our gross imports have exceeded our exports by £1,220 million. It is no good the Government saying that exports are rising. They are, but if imports rise faster our position gets worse. Even seasonally adjusted, as the experts say, the adverse balance for the first nine months of this year amounts to £553 million. We shall have to go again to the gnomes of Zurich and say one of two things: either that we are very sorry but we cannot repay the loans that we are in honour bound to repay, or we shall have to ask them to lend us more money. How can the Foreign Secretary take a firm line at international conferences when he is backed by those figures?

While on the subject of seasonally adjusted figures, I recall asking three members of the Government what was meant by the expression "seasonally adjusted". Each of them said that he did not know, and I was told that there was only one man in the Board of Trade, a statistician from Manchester, who really understood the situation. Imagine a great nation putting itself in that position, where only one man understands the figures on the basis of which our Foreign Secretary has to fight.

It is true that in the last two months the balance of trade has been much better. The deficits for August and September were both just under £30 million. We are pleased and grateful for that, although the President of the Board of Trade has warned us that the next two lots of figures will be bad. However, our invisible exports amount to about £30 million per month. In other words, we have been about square in the last two months. But it must not be forgotten that we have an accumulated deficit of over £1,000 million to repay, and we have not a hope of repaying it. No one comes to the Dispatch Box to explain these matters. If they did, the Press would take no notice, because it is a matter which is of no interest until the bailiffs come in and take over from us.

If we are to strengthen the hand of the Foreign Secretary, what have we to do on the economic front? First, we have to produce an extra £500 million worth of wealth per year to get out of current debt. Second, we have to produce another £500 million a year to pay the £3,000 million which we owe mostly to the I.M.F. between now and 1975. Then, as the Chancellor has said, we have to produce another £250 million a year to build up our own reserves. That means producing £1,250 million of extra wealth in each of the next seven years without paying ourselves an extra brass farthing in wages for doing it. That is the problem facing us, based on official figures. What is even more difficult is that we have then to sell that £1,250 million of extra production at a profit abroad, which will be no easy task.

That is the immense problem facing our country which no one outside realises. I know that the Chancellor does. He is worried stiff about it, but no one else in the country cares, unless the money runs dry and we can borrow no more. When the Foreign Secretary goes to international conferences he is met either silently or with the question that Stalin is said to have asked Sir Winston Churchill about the Pope: "How many divisions has he got?" In other words, "What financial strength have you behind you?"

How can we hope to help the undeveloped parts of the world? It cannot be done on losses. It can only be done if we are making a profit and have the necessary means. I accuse the Government of not telling the country that we are living miles beyond our income and have to produce an immense amount more or accept a reduction in our standard of living. What is the alternative for us as a nation? We can send the poor Chancellor of the Exchequer to meet the chiefs of the I.M.F. at Zurich, or he can see them when they come here three times a year to inspect our books and make sure that we are not spending too much, telling us what to do and what not to do. What a humiliating position. The Government have got the economy into such a state that international bankers have to come and look at our books. Hanging over our heads all the time is the threat that they will say, "You are spending too much. Stop it, or we shall not lend you any more money". We were once a proud nation that loaned money to the rest of the world. Now we are the beggars of the world. And we wonder why the Foreign Secretary's voice counts for so little in international affairs!

Secondly, we can do what many hon. Members opposite have suggested. We could confiscate and repatriate the dollar portfolio and bring it here. There is no denying that that for the time being would ease our financial position. But we should lose the income that comes from it. For a few years it would fill the gap. But we could not live on our seed corn for many years. It would go. We could not keep eating those reserves. Sooner or later they would all be consumed and our second position would be worse than our first.

Thirdly—and this I fear is what will happen—we could allow the national expenditure to exceed our income to such an extent that we have rip-roaring inflation. This is the most likely development. That means that things like National Savings Certificates, War Loan and bank deposits will become worthless pieces of paper—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman does not seem to worry about it. I remind him that it was a second violent inflation in Germany that finally drove the middle-class Germans in desperation into the hands of Hitler. And, as Lenin said, the way to destroy a civilisation is to ruin its currency.

Fourthly, we could again do what hon. Members opposite suggest. We could impose selective import controls. There is a good deal to be said for that. But if there are import controls, ultimately there must be consumer controls. We cannot control imports at the port and allow free purchasing by the individual. That ultimately means the old ration-book back again—[Interruption.] Oh yes, it does. I believe that the ration-books are printed ready for the emergency—petrol, clothes, bread. When the Chancellor comes to reply on Tuesday I hope that he will take up these points. If we cannot pay for the imports, control will be imposed upon us by those who supply the goods saying, "We will not supply you with any more unless you can pay for them." I am trying to illustrate that we cannot pay for them.

The honest alternative is to tell our people that they must work harder, longer and more efficiently. That is the honest way out.

How do we do that? I suggest by not taxing men's earnings when they work harder. Reminiscing for a moment, earlier this year I was in Siberia with a Parliamentary delegation. I there saw the greatest hydro-electric dam in the world. I asked the director, "How do you get young men from all over the Soviet Union to come and build these great dams in such terrible conditions?" He said, "We pay them double wages." That is a good thing. I asked, "How much tax do they pay?" He said, "They pay 6 per cent. income tax"—against our 41¼ per cent.—"and they pay 7 per cent. surtax"—against our 50 per cent. They pay a total of 13 per cent. That is the way to create wealth. That is the way to get men to work. We tax not only the men at the top who manage but the men on the shop floor until they say, "Guvnor, we are not going to work for nothing".

Mr. Heifer

To take this a little further, what was their basic rate of pay compared with our basic rate?

Sir C. Osborne

Much smaller than ours.

Mr. Heffer

Of course.

Sir C. Osborne

Of course it is smaller than ours. But the hon. Gentleman should never turn his back in disgust. He must listen. The Soviets had Hitler's armies across their frontier and lost 20 million dead and half their country devastated. They had to rebuild their cities and everything they had. They have made a magnificent effort in so doing. Of course their standards are lower than ours. If Hitler had been here and had destroyed three-quarters of our installations we would have been in a worse position. Do not sneer at them. The workers in the Soviet Union have done a fine job. The way to get people to work is not to tax them so much.

There are many things I should like to say, but I finish on this point. We cannot have a strong foreign policy unless we have a strong economy.

I want to protest as strongly as I can against the Prime Minister's continued hints—he never says it openly—that there is an economic miracle around the corner. I do not believe it. It is false. It is a fantasy, and it is meant to deceive. I do not believe the C.B.I., either, when it says that exports are soaring, that we are in for a wonderful time. To judge our economy by exports alone is stupid. It is the difference between imports and exports that is important.

But what is even worse than that is that since devaluation export prices over the 12 months have risen by 8½ per cent., and import prices have risen by 13 per cent. So far this year we have imported £5,900 million of goods which, because of the 13 per cent. increase, cost us £767 million extra, and we have exported £4,680 million, which on the 8½ per cent., has given us an extra £397 million. Thus, because of devaluation alone we are £370 million worse off than we should have been without devaluation, and the Prime Minister has the impudence to talk about the opportunities of devaluation. It was a humiliation and a disgrace to us. What can the poor Foreign Secretary do? He cannot take off his shoe like Mr. Khrushchev did at the United Nations and thump the table. They would not take the slightest notice of him. They would say, "You get out of debt before you talk", and when we are going to get out of debt I simply do not know.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway are bitterly opposed to the Government's prices and incomes policy. The Government have promised that at the end of November next year the legal sanctions will be removed. I do not believe it. They will go on and on. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has promised hon. Gentlemen opposite that they are in for a two-year slog. I believe that we are in for seven years hard labour, and that we shall be lucky to get out of our difficulties in seven years.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite sometimes talk as though the Government's prices and incomes policy has reduced the industrial workers of this country to bread and skilly. That is sheer, utter nonsense. In 1964 when the Labour Government took over the industrial wage for men over 21 was £17 12s. 5d. The latest figure is £22 5s. 3d. That is not much bread and skilly. Industrial workers are not being victimised or ground into poverty by a Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it is utter nonsense to say that they are.

If hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway want more evidence of that, perhaps I might give some further figures. In 1964, the drink bill came to £1,317 million. Last year it was £1,585 million. In 1964 the tobacco bill was £1,343 million, while last year it was £1,512 million. There is no evidence in those figures of the workers being ground to poverty. Hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway talk a lot of rubbish when they attack their own Government.

There is a lot more that I should like to say, but I shall conclude my speech because I know that other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. I believe that the economic position of this country is infinitely more difficult, dangerous, and disastrous than most hon. Members realise. The efforts which have to be made are such that at the moment the Government dare not tell the people. But unless those efforts are made, the Foreign Secretary cannot make his voice heard as he should in the world.

I beg hon. Members to 'look at the facts that their own Government produce; let them look at the statistics and face the issues, and tell our people the truth. If they want a strong foreign policy, if they want us to be independent, and to have influence in the world, they must agree that we must first stand on our own feet and stop begging. We must do that, and live within our income and stop spending more than we earn. When we have a strong economic base at home the Foreign Secretary can do his stuff abroad.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

We have heard a remarkable speech from the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne). I suppose it could be argued, in extenuation, that he has been on a recent Parliamentary delegation to Siberia. At times his speech was interesting, but at other times somewhat intemperate. Again, in extenuation, we might assume that the cool winds of Siberia have had a profoundly chilling effect upon his soul. Like the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles), I rejoice in the fact that the debate has been largely free of competitive insults. Serious issues of policy are facing us in foreign and commonwealth affairs and the public want to hear, not competitive insults, but something positive from the House about these issues. They want to be able to see a clear sense of purpose in our advocacy of whatever initiatives we propose.

It is my strongly-held feeling that our long-term prospects of living in a peaceful world depend upon our ability to reduce the gap between the rich nations and the poor. We live in a world where half the people regard it as an important duty to learn how to diet, while the other half have to depend upon subsistence agriculture. This country is extremely fortunate. We are among the richest nations of the world and here, as in other developed countries, it has become a considerable skill to know how to diet successfully.

In this context, I was deeply impressed by the recent manifesto of the United Nations Association, which pointed out that economic development involves much more than aid from rich to poor; it concerns the whole set of relationships between the developed and the delevoping countries. But some countries who give money to United Nations agencies restrict the entry of imports from the poor half of the world, thereby largely cancelling out the benefits of their aid.

The same Governments which preach development give arms to keep in power reactionary régimes whose very existence is often the main threat to progress. In the words of the manifesto: If we really want economic development, we must align ourselves with the people of under-developed countries. It is not enough to say that aid will open up export markets. We must help under-developed countries because it is right to do so, and because we know that hundreds of millions of human beings are unnecessarily underfed, diseased and illiterate. Britain has a very respectable record both in giving direct aid and in taking initiatives which offer the possibility of fair trade to the developing countries. One never meets representatives of the poorer countries without hearing praise of such instruments as the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, which was planned by one side of the House and effectuated by the other. Both sides can take pride in its success. Those of us with a special interest in Commonwealth affairs should be thinking seriously of extending the principle of that agreement to other commodities. There are many poor countries which rely almost exclusively on their sugar exports. In previous debates, right hon. and hon. Members have stressed the case of Mauritius, 97 per cent. of whose exports are in sugar or sugar by-products, and which is almost totally dependent on the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. But there are other countries—like Barbados, about 90 per cent. of whose exports are in sugar—which also rely greatly for their survival on earning a fair price for this commodity.

Though Britain has a very respectable record, there are some countries which have acted much less respectably. The European Economic Community's policy for sugar is one of surplus. They pay a very high premium to beet growers to get the surplus, some of which goes on the world market; and the effect of this is to contribute to bringing down the world price of sugar to below the cost of production in some developing countries. The hon. Member for Louth who often speaks from the standpoint of business and is respected as one who favours businesslike activity, will agree, I am sure, that it is not right that some of the rich countries should pay some of the poorest countries less than their cost of production for a commodity the growing of which is vital to their survival.

Some people argue learnedly about diversification. The people of Mauritius, Fiji and Barbados are told that they should diversify their agriculture and move away from their overwhelming dependence on sugar by producing other things instead. What some of the European experts forget is the cyclone in the case of Mauritius and the hurricane in the case of Barbardos. They forget the latitude at which many of the poorest peoples of the world have their homes. Many of the experts in diversification also know very little about soil conformation in some of the poorer countries. They are uninformed about the studied attempts that have already been made to diversify away from sugar. Frankly, some of the poorer peoples of the world are afraid of the power over their future of the rich countries, and particularly of the influential people in the rich countries, such as sugar beet growers in France. To anyone from the richer, developed countries of Europe who lectures countries in the West Indies, the Indian Ocean or the South Pacific about diversification, it should be made clear that diversification is much easier in some parts of Europe than it is in places like Mauritius, Fiji and Barbados.

It is, I suppose, accepted on both sides of the House now, as it is in so much of the country, that the common agricultural policy of the European Economic Community is a monumental disaster. He is not an agriculturist and not an economist but utterly lacking in common sense who can say anything in praise of the agricultural chaos that has been produced in Western Europe Having acquired some 300 million tons of unsaleable butter, as a direct result of their common agricultural policy, the governments of the Six are now seeking ways of feeding butter back to the cows.

Merely to state the proposition until this past week would have been to invite every possible ridicule. But this is what is now suggested by the E.E.C. Commission. There is a proposal that cows and other farm animals should be made to eat butter fat equivalent to 52,500 tons of butter a year at a cost to the E.E.C. of more than 77 million dollars. This is one of five suggestions made by the E.E.C. Commission for curbing the increase in unwanted stocks. Yet the Governments of the Six countries have not yet acted upon the Commission's earlier proposals for reducing butter stocks whose maintenance in cold stores is costing the E.E.C. an annual sum equivalent to one-third of the value of the butter.

The Commission's main immediate proposal for reducing the rate of growth of butter stocks is that the E.E.C. Governments should incorporate 6 per cent. of butyric or butterfat, in addition to skimmed milk, in compound animal feeding stuffs like cattle cake, thus achieving a sort of close nutritional cycle for cows.

I should like to make one constructive suggestion to the E.E.C. authorities. If they must feed their cows with butter, why should they not feed them with British butter or, for that matter, New Zealand butter, which is so much cheaper than any of the butter that they can produce in the Common Market? Although New Zealand butter is brought right across the world, it is still in great demand among French and Belgian housewives, who find it worth their while, instead of paying 9s. 5d. a pound for butter, as was paid this week in Paris, to come over to Folkestone and Dover to buy butter which, as I have said, has come either from British farms or right across the world from New Zealand.

It may seem humourous to discuss the absurdities of the common agricultural policy of the E.E.C. But there is a very serious point to all this. To talk of feeding butter back to cows at a time when there are people in the world dying of hunger is a shocking condemnation of the developed countries.

I know that there are some hon. Members on both sides of the House who still want to prise open the door of the Common Market. One of their arguments is that General de Gaulle is a mortal being and that we might have the opportunity of entering the Common Market were he to pass on to higher things. My view of this is that the French President is an extremely representative Frenchman. He is backed fully by the dairy farmers, who are paid very high prices for the obscenity I have just described. He must also be backed almost to a man by the beet growers who, as I have said, excite great fear in the hearts of poor people in countries like Mauritius, Fiji and Barbados. Moreover, I believe that policy should never rest on hoping for a visit from the undertaker.

There now appear to be larger numbers of hon. Members on both sides of the House who would like to see us making the fullest possible inquiry into policies which, while not being inconsistent with ultimate membership of the E.E.C., would perhaps offer more immediate hope of success. I should like to see, in the spirit of the U.N. manifesto to which I referred, a new initiative being taken by Britain to link, in a much wider free trade area, the enlightened, richer countries and the poorer countries. I would like to see Britain with its E.F.T.A. partners extending the E.F.T.A. principle to bring other developed and developing countries, on the basis of non-reciprocal trading arrangements, into a much broader international free trade area.

Some people will say that this would be extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to inform international relations with the higher standards I have mentioned. But the House owes a debt of gratitude to my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), Frank Cousins, Sir John Winnifrith and many others who have contributed so much to the discussion of this matter in recent months. I understand those who would like to see Britain as a full member of the Common Market, provided that essential Commonwealth and British interests are safeguarded. I cannot understand those who say that it is our destiny to be in the Community. "Destiny" is one of the most dangerous words in politics. It excludes the necessity for detailed and logical argument.

I hope that, without competitive insults, hon. Members on both sides will concentrate attention on the main problem facing us if we are to secure peace in the world in the long term. That is the problem of reducing the gap between the poorer and richer countries; and we can do this only by wider and fairer trade between the richer and poorer nations.

I do not believe that internationalism resides behind high tariff walls. There is nothing international about shutting out the products of the poorer countries. As I have explained, I would like to see us pursuing a truly international policy. I should very much like to see Britain giving a lead in international relations and international trade by extending world trade in the way I have proposed.

9.2 p.m.

Mr. Richard Wood (Bridlington)

Our debates on foreign affairs usually range widely, but this time, apart from going round the world, we went down the mines with the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie), travelled under the sea with the Foreign Secretary, and with the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshaw (Mr. Alfred Morris) we have just been doing a little farming.

Hon. Members will have read recently an article in The Times which commented on the present preoccupation of politicians with the economic state of Britain and their relative disregard of the threats to world peace. There are various reasons for this strange disturbance of the old priorities, which I fancy is more apparent than real. I refer to priorities which were accepted on all sides when I first came to the House soon after the war, and I dare say, if the priorities have changed in any way—which I frankly doubt—that the reasons differ from party to party.

There is no need to go into them all. For us, at least, it is a question of what I would call—and what I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) might call—a chicken and egg question. I say that because without economic strength we realise that we can play only a feeble part, or a more feeble part, in the defence of the world against war. On the other hand, without the preservation even of the uneasy peace which we enjoy today, our whole economic structure would fall in ruins.

There can clearly be no division which has any real meaning between economic and foreign affairs. Certainly there can be no division for this country because of all the major Powers, as the Foreign Secretary made clear, Britain is the most dependent on foreign trade. For these reasons alone there can be no question of our contracting out of foreign affairs. We are in them, and our life and bread depend to a large extent on what happens beyond our shores.

I have always been told that the general public interest in what happens abroad is limited. I often wonder how far this is true, or still true. To the extent that it is, perhaps any lack of interest may be due to the apparent and discouraging impossibility of influencing, even when we work in close association with our allies and friends, the intractable problems of the modern world. When one looks round the world at the sombre events in Czechoslovakia, Vietnam and West Africa; the problems of the Middle East and the internal stresses in China and her attitude to the outside world—all these have the depressing semblance of insolubility, and they certainly do not appear amenable to solutions which most of us can readily understand.

The hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) referred to a general feeling of helplessness. When people read in the Gracious Speech of the active part which the Government intend to play …in the efforts of the United Nations to ensure peace… being practical men and women they tend to ask: how? The more inquisitive of them perhaps ask: where? Where, without the resolution and determination of one or two of its leading members has the United Nations so far effectively made the world a more peaceful place?

Looking back to the formation of the United Nations nearly 25 years ago, one recalls that a great many of us then placed great hopes in this organisation. Many of us still continue to hope, but a great many are afraid today that it may turn out to be no more than an umbrella to shelter the inactive, the irresolute and the obstructive, instead of being the sword it was intended to be to protect the oppressed and the unfortunate.

When people, a little further on in the Gracious Speech, read of the Government's intention …to assist the advancement of the developing world", about which a number of hon. Members have spoken, what construction do they place on that phrase? We all know the contribution made by this Government and their predecessors toward aid for developing countries, but what assurance can be given of the kind of major strategy worked out in the United Nations, for which both the hon. Member for Bebington and the hon. Member for Wythenshawe were looking, which has even a slender hope of success against a poverty gap which, in spite of our efforts, is not narrowing but widening, and against an increasing population which will soon produce more human beings living at one time on this planet than the sum total of all those who have lived and died since the world began? It is a staggering thought.

There is continuing concern with perhaps the greatest problem of all, the need for a comprehensive and effective policy of disarmament. We do not question the good intentions of the Government, and even less the good will of the Minister of State who is to reply tonight and who has assiduously worked in this direction; but, like the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and other hon. Members, I should be grateful for the fullest information he can give us about the steps the Government are taking and intend to take, and as clear answers as possible to the anxious questions being asked both on this subject and on the other subjects I have mentioned. For, without such answers, a great many people inevitably tend to lose interest in, and to to question the reality, as my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) questioned the reality, of our discussions here.

I have no wish to overstate the case—the difficulty surrounding us are plain enough for all to see—but at least some of the difficulty seems to me to arise from the fact that Ministers in the past have failed to define a specific British contribution to word affairs. They have so far failed to convince us that, working with our friends and allies, there is something specifically British that this country can do, and they have not yet shown with clarity that, whatever the day-to-day tactical manoeuvres, their long-term strategy is informed with a clear philosophy and leads towards a definite, logical and attainable end.

Of course, one does not pretend that it is possible for any Foreign Secretary to produce a guide to British actions and attitudes in face of all the problems of the world, as and when they arise; but equally I reject the idea, and I think that we all do, that it is impossible to see clearly any of the goals ahead and that we can react only pragmatically to events as they occur, hoping for the best. In this connection, I should like to say how much we welcomed the right hon. Gentleman's assurance in relation to our remaining dependencies, which were the main subject of the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison).

My right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) mentioned the phrase in the Gracious Speech about the Government's intention to take the necessary steps to withdraw the British forces from the Far East and the Persian Gulf. This is the best example of the Government's voluntary surrender of initiative, the creation of a vacuum with no certainty of what will fill it, the abandonment of a position of authority without any certainty that alternative means of obtaining stability and of safeguarding our interests in the area will have been established in time.

During our recent debates on foreign affairs earlier this year, words were put in a good many Conservative mouths suggesting that we still believed that Britain's contemporary rôle was that of a world policeman. Today, the Foreign Secretary varied the theme, but I am afraid equally inaccurately, when he talked of imperialism, for I can think of none of my hon. Friends who takes that view. However, many of them hold the conviction, which I fully share, that it is both possible and desirable for the Government to identify areas and situations in which we are likely to be able to exert a special influence, in the sense of a more than average capacity to promote the interests of both ourselves and the local governments concerned. It is in these areas and these situations that our efforts are most likely to be successful, far more likely than in places and circumstances—and there has been a mounting tally of them in recent years—where our influence and intervention count for nothing.

It has been argued that the military withdrawal from east of Suez is the logical consequence of the new realism in our foreign policy, but we believe that the withdrawal was the consequence not so much of economic pressure, and still less of a considered change in foreign policy as the result of political pressures within the Labour Party and that it was the price demanded by the Left wing before it was made to drink some unpleasant medicine at home.

One thing at least seems quite certain. It is that if we carry out the withdrawal from the Gulf and the Far East in three years' time, our ability to influence events in those two areas will decline—I doubt whether anyone would deny that. But the decline of that influence is bound to cast doubt upon, and some would say utterly frustrate, the Government's efforts to promote conditions favourable to peace and security in the areas concerned". I was pleased to hear the Foreign Secretary speak about British interests. For too long we have been almost afraid to say loudly and clearly that the promotion of British interests, particularly British economic interests, was our paramount concern. We have tended to obscure our natural sympathy for régimes which are or strive to be democratic, and we have been lukewarm in our determination to preserve and restore the stability within which social and economic progress can proceed unimpeded. Lastly, we have been too modest to allow ourselves the justifiable boast that our own experience could well serve as a good example.

British foreign policy today has the twin aim, as it always has had, of promoting world peace and stability and protecting British interests, and I was delighted to hear the Foreign Secretary say that so clearly at the beginning of the debate. Therefore, any initiative we take should be measured against these two requirements and any failure to take an initiative must be measured against them, too.

Mr. Eadie

I am trying to follow the logic of the right hon. Gentleman's argument, that he wishes to protect British investments. To take the example of oil, would he be prepared to relate the cost of oil in this country coming from overseas to that of oil produced from our own indigenous resources? Is it right that a subsidy should be paid in the cost of oil when our own indigenous resources cannot compete?

Mr. Wood

The hon. Gentleman will probably know that I was faced with that and similar questions some years ago, and he will remember the answers which I then gave.

In short, we should take action when there is a good chance that action will have results and we should refrain from meddling in matters over which we can have no possible influence.

Both the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend spoke of Europe, and many hon. Members followed their example. They referred, in effect, to one or other, or both, of the serious results of two acts of obstruction in Europe: one, the refusal of the present French Government to accept the enlargement of the European Communities; the other, the Soviet veto on the liberal movement in Czechoslovakia. These two obstructive policies have combined to block for the moment the chance to create a more satisfactory state of affairs in Europe, to break down its barriers and to heal its divisions.

Over the centuries, the cause of European unity has suffered a good deal more abuse than acclaim, even during and after the mediaeval attempt to build on the foundations of the old Roman Empire, and the unity of the Continent of Europe has rarely looked more distant than it does at present. Nevertheless, to most of us it remains the best and, perhaps, the only hope of providing practical solutions to some of the outstanding problems which today beset the Northern hemisphere.

The first such problem is the increasing imbalance in the relationship between Europe and the United States. Then there is the technological gap, one aspect of this imbalance, which is certain to widen before it disappears, even assuming a determination by a united Europe to redress it. The gravest danger of all is the continuing threat to the peace of the whole world so long as the future of Central Europe is left unsettled.

One can believe that the brutal suppression of the liberal movement in Czechoslovakia was intended to be essentially defensive. One glance at the map of Europe removes any doubt of the strategic importance of Czechoslovakia, which is certainly why the Czechs have already suffered so much over the years. Czechoslovakia is of undeniable strategic importance to Soviet Russia. But its sufferings of last summer would have been unnecessary if the Soviet leadership could have seen two things more clearly: first, that Soviet security is more readily guaranteed by the present desire of the nations, to melt the rigidity of the barriers which divide Europe, than by the myopic determination of the Soviet Union to maintain forever the status quo in the middle of the Continent; second, that there are other ways more fruitful than the barren use of the mailed fist to preserve influence and to maintain a powerful Russian position in Eastern Europe. It has become all too clear that the Soviet Union has in no way succeeded in converting the old Stalinist empire into a political system with any real community of interest between itself and the other peoples of Eastern Europe.

We in this country, obviously, hold entirely different views, and, despite the language which seems to hold some understatement and some evidence of complacency, we on this side applaud the Government's intention expressed in the Gracious Speech to continue to work for genuine understanding between East and West. I was particularly impressed today, as, no doubt, others were, by the speeches of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel).

Since the German Government abandoned the view that an improvement in East-West relations should be made conditional on the regulation of all outstanding problems, the Western Governments have been united in the high importance which they attach to the search for improved relations. We are all agreed that there can be no going back on this, but how do we make progress towards it? Unless we are prepared to split the world in two, the West cannot coerce the Soviet Union. I shall be even less happy, as I think the right hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker) said he would be unhappy, if Western Europe clings to the other extreme and appears to forget, to put out of its mind, the shattering Eastern European developments and continue as if nothing had happened.

Nothing can now be taken for granted in relations between East and West. The Foreign Secretary used the phrase "the alarming element of unpredictability". Above all it is more certain than ever, as so many speakers have agreed, that the West cannot afford to neglect its own defence. I hope that there will be before long opportunities in this House to examine in detail the implications for our defence forces of last summer's events.

I was glad to hear of the informal discussions which had been taking place between N.A.T.O. members, and of the more formal conversations that were to take place in the middle of next month, about the need to improve the defence of Western Europe. I listened with particular interest to the forceful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) on this subject.

I have been encouraged by the Foreign Secretary's clear recognition of the need both for an increased commitment to the efficiency of the Alliance and his clear statement about the indefinite duration of the Alliance itself. Were these talks to produce no substantial results, it would be very hard indeed to convince the Soviet Union that the N.A.T.O. Alliance was not about to die. Soviet freedom to manoeuvre in Eastern Europe, particularly in Berlin and in Yugoslavia and in Finland, would be dangerously widened, and a policy which began with the motive of defence might very quickly become unbearably aggressive.

This is a prospect which must induce, even among those of the Labour Party who were calling earlier this year for more cuts in military expenditure, the first faint rumblings of caution. Nor is a dangerous new freedom of manoeuvre for the the Soviet Union the only consequence of the failure on the part of the Western European members of N.A.T.O. to put more effort into their own defence.

In the long run, it is hard to see how it could avoid damaging the relationship of Europe with the United States. Other Americans besides President Johnson are aware of the dangers. Others than he will be perfectly justified in demanding that Europeans contribute more to their own defence. We of this country, and of the Western world, have had a jolt this summer, and the importance of jolts is to awaken us to danger which we were otherwise close to forgetting.

I sometimes wish that the people of Britain were as ready to protest about Soviet behaviour in Czechoslovakia as they are against the policy of the United States in the Far East. I am nonetheless certain that at the moment this country is awakened once again. Therefore I hope that the Government will act quickly in concert with N.A.T.O., while we remain awake, because we may so soon doze off again.

Beyond this immediate refurbishment of our defence arrangements, I hope that they will remind Britain that there are some corners of a dangerous world where this country's forces can still decisively influence the course of events. For thousands of people in this country who feel naturally oppressed by the magnitude of the problems, and by our confused response to them, could I make yet one more plea for a clear delineation of the part that Britain can and should play, so that each individual in his or her turn can see with greater certainty than has been possible during these last years a comprehensive and comprehensible philosophy of defence and foreign policy, necessarily different from the policies which have guided us before, but nonetheless in accord with the realities of an insecure world and in tune with the needs of a nation which can still only thrive in conditions of stability abroad.

9.25 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Frederick Mulley)

The right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) always makes a constructive and thoughtful contribution to our foreign affairs debates. I agree with a very great deal of what he has just said, as he for his part agreed with a great deal of the admirable speech with which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State began the debate.

I also agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this has been a quiet and wide-ranging debate. I think there was today a rather different tone from some of our more recent debates. It seemed to me that there was a greater awareness on the part of hon. Members on both sides of the House of the difficult problems that are presented in this field. Perhaps it was because of that difficulty that some hon. Members on both sides chose to speak, as they were entitled to, on quite different subjects ranging from fuel policy through the Constitutional Commission to straying animals in Wales. While the responsibilities of my right hon. Friend are now extremely extensive following the merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices, I am glad to say that I do not feel that it is for me to reply to the contributions outside overseas policy.

The right hon. Member for Bridlington, as did my right hon. Friend, posed the question of the rôle of this country in the world today. My right hon. Friend put it very simply and clearly when he said that there are two questions, and the order in which he chose to put them was also significant. First, we have to think how best we can take care of our own immediate interests. Secondly, we have to think how we can contribute, with other nations, to peaceful change in a very turbulent world.

The House will recall that over the last two years, perhaps after a long time when we were searching around without knowing what rôle we had in the world, we have taken two very important foreign affairs decisions and a third one recently that followed from them. First, we decided to seek membership of the European Economic Communities, not essentially for economic reasons, but as much, if not more, for political reasons. Secondly, we decided at the beginning of this year to withdraw our forces from the Far East and Middle East by 1971 so that we should cease to pretend to be a world military Power from now on. I think that this clarifies very much the rôle that the Government see for this country. Very recently we gave formal endorsement to this in administrative terms in that for the first time for a very large number of years we have one Minister in our Government responsible for overseas affairs—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Many speakers today have stressed the fact that there is a great danger in our debates of overvaluing our influence. We heard a little of that today, but perhaps less than on some previous occasions, when listening to the debates one could form the view that if only Her Majesty's Government took the right initiatives or called the right conferences we could solve all the problems of the world. I think it is abundantly clear that we cannot. Indeed, it is very many years since we could claim to resolve issues by decisive unilateral action on our part.

On the other side, it is also dangerous to underrate our influence. I can speak from having attended the United Nations, N.A.T.O. Ministerial meetings at different levels, Western European Union and Disarmament Conferences at Geneva, and I know that there is a very considerable body of respect for the rôle that successive British Governments seek to play in international affairs.

As in so many things, it is a case of getting the balance right. On the one hand, we should not exaggerate our influence. On the other hand, we should not write ourselves off, as I think the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) was seeking to do, as having no influence.

Sir C. Osborne

While casting no reflection upon the veracity of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleague, my point was that the Government weaken their position by not telling the truth all the time. This afternoon

Mr. Speaker

A brief intervention, please—not a second speech.

Sir C. Osborne

This afternoon we were assured that there would be no hire-purchase restrictions. Now the Whips have been told from one Whip's office to another that, tomorrow morning at 11 o'clock, a statement will be made to the House increasing hire-purchase obligations.

Mr. Mulley

I have no knowledge of these arrangements whatever. I have been silting in the Chamber throughout this debate. I do not want to pursue that point but I take issue with the hon. Gentleman when he says that the Government are not telling the truth. I repudiate that charge coming from him.

In assessing the impact of the Czechoslovak situation and in evaluating our contribution to world affairs, one is in danger of going from one extreme to the other. At a time when East-West relations were steadily improving in a period of what was called détente—although I do not like the word—there was a tendency to believe that we should disband defences and run down the N.A.T.O. Alliance. I thought at the time that this tendency was completely wrong and events in Czechoslovakia have underlined the folly of expecting to be able to go fast in that direction. Equally, at this time, it would be wrong to abandon any attempt at improving relations. In the words of the Gracious Speech, The Government will continue…to work for genuine East-West understanding. I was happy to hear the endorsement by the right hon. Member for Bridlington of that view.

One could go too fast in running down defences in conditions of good East-West relations. Equally, though it will not be easy or fast, we must not abandon any chances or possibilities of agreement where it can be obtained. The whole problem of N.A.T.O. is that of keeping it going as a viable concern in fair weather, because, if we do not keep it going in fair weather, it will not be available to us as a deterrent power at a time when the international climate is rough.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Would it not be wiser, in a climate of uncertainty, at least to cease the destruction of our reserve capability and the selling off of the drill halls? Would it not be wiser to keep them in case we need to resurrect the Territorial Army?

Mr. Mulley

I was asked about the Forces by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). I cannot make my speech on the basis of a Dutch auction. I shall deal with these matters point by point. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, extensive studies have been going on within the N.A.T.O. Alliance and the normal Ministerial December meeting has been brought forward to the middle of November, when the Ministers collectively will be considering the results of the studies.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) asked about the Rapacki Plan and the possibility of thinning out troops in Europe. Contrary to what he assumed, it was not placed in a pigeonhole. As a result of the initiative of Her Majesty's Government, supported by many N.A.T.O. Governments, studies on what are now called mutual force reductions have been going on in N.A.T.O., although it would be unrealistic not to make it clear that the events in Czechoslovakia last August have retarded our expectations of being able to make progress. From bitter experience of working towards disarmament, I know that one does not get a disarmament treaty or plan by calling a conference. A tremendous amount of detailed work has to be done first.

My hon. Friend did not make the point, but sometimes it is asked, "Why do not we set an example by a reduction of our forces in Europe, in the expectation and hope that the Warsaw Pact countries will follow suit?" In fact, over the last few years—and we in B.A.O.R. have been one of the countries concerned—N.A.T.O. forces have been reduced in number. However, there has been no response by the Warsaw Pact countries to these unilateral initiatives. I do not accept the suggestion that the existence and threat of N.A.T.O. caused the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. It was not a major factor, and the case was extremely well argued by my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks).

The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire asked a number of questions, some of them of a rather technical character, about our forces and their ability to carry out our N.A.T.O. commitments. He asked particularly about Army recruiting. When I had responsibility for the Army at the time of the Indonesian war, our forces were extremely dangerously stretched, and I used to watch the recruiting figures as anxiously and as closely, as I suspect my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade watches the monthly trade figures today. I am not so well informed as I used to be, so I have taken the precaution of seeking advice from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

The recruiting of officers has been reasonably satisfactory. I go and talk on international affairs from time to time at courses run by the Army, and I know from experience that the standard of the young men coming into the Army is higher than ever. On the other hand, I must confess that the recruiting of other ranks has been disappointing. It is bound to be at a time of turbulence, with all the public discussion that there is about our role. We believe that, when the public recognises that the Services offer a good life and a worth-while career, recruiting will pick up.

Another question from the right hon. Gentleman which was reiterated in one form or another by a number of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite was why reduce the number of battalions or regiments at a time of possible difficulty? The fact is that the number which can be recruited into the Army and the number required to meet our military commitments is less than all the existing battalions and regiments at full strength. All of us who served in the Army much regret it when we see our old regiments or parts of them merged with others. However, the worst possible situation from the military point of view is to have a large number of units under strength. That is very bad for morale, and it is also very bad when a two-company battalion is sent to do a job which requires a three-company battalion. I understand that that is why the Ministry of Defence is working out the reallocation of regiments and battalions. But these rather technical matters are perhaps alien to a foreign affairs debate.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The right hon. Gentleman has not really answered the question I asked, which was: Taking into account that the Government are disbanding the Territorial Army, or virtually doing so, and that recruiting is bad, are they satisfied that in four or five years time we shall have sufficient reserves to enable us to fulfil our obligations, if called upon to do so? This is a slightly different angle from the right hon. Gentleman's answer.

Mr. Mulley

If the right hon. Gentleman reads HANSARD tomorrow I feel sure he will find that he never mentioned the word "Territorial" at all. In the use of reserves, I have in mind the reserves of our Regular Forces. We are talking about forces available at short notice to N.A.T.O. and its contingency plans, which the right hon. Gentleman also asked about.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

At present it is possible to draw on reserves, to which the Territorial Army contributes enormously. If there is no Territorial Army and the recruiting position deteriorates, where will the reserves come from?

Mr. Mulley

The right hon. Gentleman knows that the part of the Territorial Army which is earmarked for our direct N.A.T.O. contribution is not being cut by the Government. It is the home defence side. Perhaps we might pass to matters with which I am now rather more familiar.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

We have had a wide-ranging debate on foreign affairs and defence, but not one of the six Defence Ministers has been present throughout the debate. It is not the fault of the right hon. Gentleman, but could he, or the Leader of the House, see that in future when we have these important debates there is at least one of the six Ministers present?

Mr. Mulley

In the debate on the Address today, as the hon. Gentleman knows, a great number of subjects have been raised. I think that it would be unreasonable to expect every Department in the Government to be represented in a debate like this. It is true that my right hon. Friends have not been present, but I have not noticed Opposition defence spokesmen either—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have had a placid debate so far. Let us keep it so.

Mr. Mulley

The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire, my right hen. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker), the hon. Member for Herndon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing), the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) raised points about the Mediterranean, and the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) raised an important point about the A.C.E. mobile force. I can give the assurance that these matters are part of the studies that are going on about how best to deal with these aspects of N.A.T.O. policy.

I was asked a number of questions about disarmament by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Tam Dalyell), whom I thank for his kind words about the efforts that I have made in this matter. I was also asked about the disarmament situation by the right hon. Member for Bridlington. The Gracious Speech indicates that it is our intention to ratify the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which so far has over 80 signatures, but has suffered a setback in the climate following 21st August.

As I explained in the last debate on foreign affairs, at Geneva I put forward very clear and precise initiatives on the part of Her Majesty's Government in the nuclear sphere relating to the comprehensive test ban and suggestions about how the difference between the Soviet Union, on the one hand, and the United States, on the other, could be bridged.

In the non-nuclear sphere I made proposals about chemical and biological warfare. I proposed that the 18-Nation Disarmament Committee should ask the United Nations to set up an expert study on chemical warfare and all its effects as an aid to the arms control aspects of it. This has been adopted, and a unanimous recommendation to this effect has been made from Geneva.

On the question of biological warfare, I thought that it would be possible to go further and faster without such a study. I thought that the complexities were fewer, and that we could proceed immediately. I tabled a working paper setting out how I thought we could proceed to a convention which would not supersede the Geneva protocol, but which would go much beyond it; where the Geneva protocol aims only to ban the first use of such weapons, I was aiming to ban the production and stockpiling of them for hostile purposes. I did not succeed in persuading the Committee to recommend the United Nations to act so fast, but it has asked U Thant to set up an expert study. When I go to the United Nations at the end of next week for the disarmament discussions I shall be urging that these studies be concluded with the minimum of delay so that, when the 18-Nation Committee reconvenes in Geneva after Christmas, we can make some progress.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian asked whether, if we had not got a treaty by Christmas, I would be urging unilateral action in this direction. I do not think that one furthers disarmament or arms control by international agreement by making unilateral gestures, and I am bound to tell the House that I have been rebuked by my foreign colleagues, both publicly and privately, for impatience. I hesitate to think what they might say if my hon. Friend were to put this kind of timetable before them, but I shall continue to be impatient because I feel that we must get the maximum possible disarmament and arms control by international agreement in the minimum time.

On the question of open days at Porton, I think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has provided these facilities. The cost of our research in this field is extremely modest. I understand that it is one-tenth of 1 per cent. of the total Defence Vote.

A large number of hon. Members have understandably, asked for a statement of our policy in Europe, and my right hon. Friend indicated that I would say a little more to fill out the statement in the Gracious Speech. Our purpose in applying to join the Community was, above all, a political one. That was clear when we debated the issue in the House in May last year, and decided by a large majority of all parties that membership was the right course for this country. When France's veto temporarily blocked the right to full membership, we at once made it clear that we were ready for joint action in the common European interest in all available fields while waiting for better counsel to prevail in France. We welcome the proposal put forward last January by the three Benelux countries for consultations between Britain and the Community and for joint action in fields outside the scope of the Community where there was no question of a French veto. There was also the Italian memorandum.

There was a general welcome for these proposals at the time from five of the six Community Governments. The Belgian Foreign Minister, M. Harmel, took this approach a stage further when, at a meeting of the Western European Union last week, he proposed achieving closer co-ordination in foreign policy and defence. Again there was a general welcome for these proposals, though I am sorry to say that one country was not able to support them. It was, however, agreed that there should be further discussions at the next meeting of the Western European Union in January, and that this discussion should be properly prepared. We shall be playing a full part in this.

Parallel with this, we understand that the E.E.C. Council has been giving some thought to the possibility of a trade arrangement between the Community and other European countries, following an idea which emerged from a meeting between Chancellor Kiesinger and President de Gaulle last February. We have made it clear that we would be prepared to consider a proposal provided it came from the Six as a whole and provided it was clearly linked with our full membership of the Communities, but I am bound to observe that a long time has passed since this idea was first talked of, and no proposal has so far appeared. All this shows that the enlargement of the Communities and the development of closer unity in Europe is very much a live issue for our friends in Europe, as for ourselves.

Further evidence, if any were needed, was shown the other day when the three major political parties accepted invitations to join M. Monnet's Action Committee. The political parties which are already members of this Committee, which has done such valuable work in Europe since it was founded in 1965, represent two-thirds of the electorate of the six Community countries and include all the major parties except the Communists and the Gaullists. The fact that invitations were accepted by all three parties here again underlines the identity of views about the fundamental objective in Europe which the overwhelming majority of the House shares.

It is no accident that there should be this continuing concern throughout Europe about an enlargement of the Communities and the strengthening of European unity. Recent events have shown that Europe cannot afford to wait. If the Communities cannot yet be enlarged in this way we and other European Governments must, while we are waiting, work for greater unity in other fields.

There is no question of excluding France from any of this work, and we hope that she will play a full and valuable part. But the French Government, who have called for a distinct European voice and have suggested that this country is not sufficiently European to join the Common Market, must accept that this work for European co-operation will go forward. There is no French veto on work in Europe outside the Community Treaties.

Mr. Kirk

I asked specifically what significance there was in the beginning of meetings between the Five and ourselves. Are these to be regular features? If so, what does this mean? I gather that there will be another in a fortnight.

Mr. Mulley

If I tried to answer all the specific questions which have been asked tonight I should be here until midnight. I was surprised by the hon. Member's suggestion that if the Five want to work with us in this field but France does not, we should abandon any prospect. Whether there are real possibilities depends on the willingness of the Five to work with us.

The other question was that raised by the right hon. Gentleman for Kinross and West Perthshire among others—whether we should reconsider our decision to withdraw our forces from what, putting it in shorthand, is called east of Suez. The right hon. Gentleman produced a number of figures. We may have difficulty in agreeing the exact figures that he put under each heading, because it depends very much on how one defines investment, and so on, but I am prepared to accept his figures as a basis for argument, in this direction.

I must point out, however, that his figure of £15 million, which his hon. Friend the Member for Hendon North corrected to £16 million, for the costs of the Gulf, are only foreign exchange costs. Over and above that, there are budgetary costs, and if we are to have an aircraft carrier operating there we shall need others to rotate, and there will be the tremendous additional cost of maintaining forces here. We shall have to station forces at home to permit the rotation. It is wrong to suggest that for £15 million or £16 million we could meet the real cost of our presence in the Guf or anywhere else.

But the real question here was raised in a very good speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leyton. He asked: how does one, in the 1960s and 1970s, protect our investments in independent countries by a military presence? Recent history is on our side of the argument, because, in June, 1967, we had many troops in the Middle East but we were the only country which suffered enormous economic damage when the oil was stopped.

The other question which no one seems to ask is, why should not other countries with large mercantile and other interests in this part of the world play a rôle in so called protection? The real issue is, what is meant when the Opposition talk about a "contribution"? If it is a contribution, who will pay the rest? The real question facing us—this is why my right hon. Friends decided as they did in January—is that we must renegotiate a situation in both Malaysia and the Gulf in which we have the prime responsibility for defence. In talking now about a contribution, clearly, the Opposition are conceding nine-tenths of the policy announced in January. We have to renegotiate and withdraw from a position—this seems to be agreed by the Opposition—in which we have the prime responsibility for defence.

But no one has suggested how one can protect investment by military forces in this day and age. In reply to the right hon. Member for Bridlington, there are areas in which—we do not dispute this—we can have special influence. Our dispute is on the claim that this can be done by stationing troops there. We aim to have considerable influence and activities in these areas after 1971, when our troops are withdrawn. In many other parts of the world, we have great commercial and other interests, but we do not feel that we have to maintain armed forces there.

But tonight, as I understand it, by only talking in terms of making a "contribution", the Opposition have conceded our main thesis that we should withdraw from a worldwide military presence—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] But they talk of a "contribution". Would it not be a "scuttle" to pretend that we have the prime defence responsibility in these areas, as we do now, and then talk, as the Opposition do, about just paying a contribution? Would that not be a backhanded argument?

We are doing it the right way by putting it to these countries and helping them to build up their own defence arrangements. So far, both in the Gulf and in the Far East, the response has been extremely encouraging, as has the willingness of the countries concerned to work much more closely together in their own collective defence and other arrangements.

It seems, therefore, that the House has endorsed the outline of foreign and Commonwealth policy for the weeks, months and the year ahead as set out in the Gracious Speech and elaborated so well by my right hon. Friend in opening the debate. I commend that policy to the House.

Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Fitch.]

Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.