§ Mr. Speaker
Before we start the debate, I think that it would be convenient to the House if I made an explanation of the procedure that will obtain today and tomorrow.
Today, we have a substantive Motion for the Adjournment of the House. I need not remind hon. Members that, according to Erskine May, page 296:…the substantive Motion for the Adjournment is in fact a technical form devised for the purpose of enabling the House to discuss matters without recording a decision in terms.This, of course, does not preclude a vote being sought or a Closure being granted or withheld on the Question, That this House do now adjourn, at ten o'clock tonight. Traditionally, the Government have the duty of protecting the business of the day which follows and, in consequence, normally votes against that Question.
Although the Leader of the House, in announcing the business on Thursday last, spoke of two days for a foreign affairs debate, I understand that there may he tomorrow another and technically unrelated Question before the House, once again in the terms, That this House do now adjourn.
At the end of the second day, therefore, there might be an opportunity of voting on that Question and, again, the convention would require the Government to vote against the Motion in order to protect the remaining business which follows.
When a substantive Motion for the Adjournment is before the House, it is not possible for the Chair to restrict debate to a particular aspect of the subject under discussior. By general assent of the House the subject is a debate on foreign affairs. The Leader of the House has said that it might be for the general convenience if, today, there was some concentration on Vietnam and tomorrow on Nigeria, but he also indicated that Ministers might touch on other issues as well as those two subjects, and I now rule that such a course would in no way infringe the rules. It is a matter for the discretion of hon. Members and the general convenience of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr.Mellish.]39
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
These two debates form a general foreign affairs debate, but they were arranged primarily in response to the deep concern of hon. Members about the situation in Vietnam, particularly following revelations about atrocities, or alleged atrocities, in Vietnam, and also about the situation in Nigeria.
For that reason, I propose to devote most of my time this afternoon to these two subjects, and not attempt a wider review of world affairs, which the House debated a few weeks ago. I know that some hon. Members will want to raise other equally important issues—the Middle East, for example, or problems and proposals relating to security in Europe, and to the prospects for Common Market negotiations. My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, who was, of course, in Brussels last week, will take the opportunity briefly to report further to the House on European questions and related matters, and he and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will hope to reply to other points raised in the debate today and tomorrow.
Before coming to the main issues of Vietnam and Nigeria and "Biafra" I think that it will be for the convenience of the House if I use the word Biafra in quotation marks—I should like to refer briefly to one other question which has caused concern, and that is Greece.
Later this week the question of the continued Greek membership of the Council of Europe will come up at the meeting in Paris of the Committee of Ministers. Our position is clear. We and our European colleagues have a right, indeed as members of the Council of Europe, a duty, to satisfy ourselves beyond all doubt that every member State is honouring the Statute of the Council, which is binding both as to the rule of law and to the maintenance of democratic rights. There can be no derogation from the clear rule that if any member remains in persistent and systematic violation of those obligations, the members of the Council have a duty to take the necessary action under the Statute, namely, suspension from membership.
What has happened in Greece has been an affront to every lover of Greece, of 40 the Greek people, of democracy itself; and we owe that very word and that way of life to Greece. We all look forward not so much to a return to the democratic forms of the past, but forward to whatever form of genuine democracy the Greek people choose for themselves. At this week's meeting, unless the Greek Government were to decide to withdraw voluntarily, or unless at this very late hour there is a sudden change of heart, expressed in a specific and short timetable relating to the restoration both of democracy and of human rights, then Her Majesty's Government will have the duty of voting for the suspension of Greece.
I come to the two great issues, the issues of peace and war, in Vietnam and Nigeria. Before I refer specifically to Vietnam, however, it might be helpful if I were to point out that hard and even bitter things will be said both on this and on the tragedy of Nigeria. These are issues on which there is deep concern, and honest and sincere differences exist on where Britain's duty lies and on what we should say and do.
Each hon. Member, in common with millions of our people and millions more in every other country, has formed his own view on these questions—not, I think, in most cases, easily or quickly, but after a great deal of heart-searching and agonising choice. On both issues it has been a choice between evils; a choice where there is no simple guideline and a choice where there is no single moral test. On both questions it has for every one of us been a choice made on grounds of the moral issues involved.
I trust that whatever may be said today and tomorrow each hon. Member will begin from the standpoint of attributing to those with whom he may disagree, perhaps deeply and profoundly, as to what British policy should be, the same degree of sincerity of motive and ideals as he has the right to claim for himself.
There are many issues of foreign policy which are, I feel, capable of a clear decision based on the ethical principles we hold, ethical principles we hold in common. I believe that this is true of the attitude that we have taken on apartheid, and its implications for British policy; on racial questions generally; on our refusal 41 to surrender principles laid down by all parties here; on the Rhodesian question; on. Czechoslovakia; and on the proliferation of nuclear weapons, even though we may disagree about how to make a reality of these principles.
The tragedy of Vietnam and Nigeria is that both involve issues where there is no automatically accepted categorical imperative—where, in policy terms, we face not only a choice of evils, but a clash of one fundamental moral principle with another. That is why each of these issues is a tragedy not only for the peoples of Vietnam and Nigeria. They pose a tragic dilemma facing everyone in public life, in this country and elsewhere, who must take an attitude on them.
We must consider whether one solution will lead more speedily than another to a peaceful settlement and whether it will save lives, either from direct military action or from starvation. If it will, then we must consider whether that will enhance or endanger freedom or create a situation in which new and more horrible atrocities will be likely to result. Peace, freedom and self-determination are all ends in themselves. But, in the tragic context of each of these two countries, they are ends that can conflict with one another; where judgment is necessary, but where there can be no certainty or finality of judgment.
Hon. Members will have seen from a report in The Times last Saturday that this dilemma—this choice between ends and evils—has arisen for the World Council of Churches—and there may be further controversy over this today when Joint Church Aid meets. The fact that they could even consider suggesting cutting off the food programme to Biafra as a means of shortening the war, with all the dangers that that could mean in terms of relief and starvation, highlights the agony of choosing between ends.
The immediate issue which led to this debate was the allegations of atrocities and of the systematic murder of Vietnamese civilians last year. In my immediate reaction, as soon as the news became known, when answering a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) I said that if they were one-quarter true they would be grave atrocities and we should express our horror.
42 The figure of one-quarter was too high. As an editorial in one of our newspapers said the following morning:Even if they are substantiated to the extent of only 1 per cent., they would leave for ever a blot on American military honour".Every hon. Member of this Parliament would agree in that condemnation. So, I believe, would every Member of Congress and of the American Administration. Indeed, this has been made clear.
It is not for us to carry out our investigation or to prejudge theirs. It is their duty, and that duty will, I believe, be fearlessly carried out. Rather, it is for us, given authentication of the facts, to seek whether there are any lessons for us. Has Pinkville changed anything? What has it changed? Would a ruthless probe and punishment of anybody found guilty be enough, of themselves, to deal with the situation? Is this, together with other alleged atrocities, an aberration? Is it an incident, an obscene incident, inevitable in modern war? Or is it endemic in this kind of war? And, if it is endemic, what does that mean for American policy as well as for British policy?
I know that Pinkville has not changed the attitudes of many of my hon. Friends who have opposed American and British policy for many years. They would claim that it has confirmed their attitude. Does it mean that those who all along have not felt that we should dissociate from American policy in Vietnam should now, because of Pinkville, feel constrained to do so?
It is not enough to say that all war brutalises. It is not even enough to say —as I have said, and I was right to say it—that there is firm evidence of corresponding, indeed, apparently worse atrocities on the other side—actions where no free Press and no free Parliament exist to bring the guilt home to their perpetrators. It is not enough to say these things.
Her Majesty's Government have always, where we have considered it appropriate to do so, expressed anxieties about American policies, and even dissociation from particular actions involved in the fighting of this war. More than four years ago my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary felt it necessary in Washington—not because the war was being fought, but because of the way in 43 which it was being fought—to recall the words of the Declaration of Independence, enjoining…a decent respect to the opinions of mankind".I believe that this thought is appropriate today and I believe that no one feels that more deeply than the people and the President of the United States.
We dissociated—we had warned for months that we should do this—from the American decision to bomb Hanoi and Haiphong. It is our bounden duty, if the facts are true, not only to dissociate from but to condemn Pinkville and the other alleged actions, and we would be doing it in common with the American Government and the American people.
If the allegations were proved, and if Pinkville were to be condoned or brushed aside, this would lead to a crisis in Anglo-American relations and it would be a crisis from which no hon. Member in this House would shrink. But, on what both the Administration and significant sections of the American people have spontaneously made clear, this—that it should be brushed aside—is, in my view, unthinkable.
There is, however, a deeper question. I said that we must ask: is this incident, and the rest, just an incident, an obscene incident, inevitable in modern war? I do not believe that this will be claimed. But what we must ask is whether it is endemic in this particular war. We must ask whether such an atrocity is an aberration or whether it is part of a policy of atrocities, consciously followed as part of a strategic pattern.
I am certain that most hon. Members will reject any suggestion that it is, or has been, part of the top direction of war, at political or high strategic level. But if, at any lower level, systematic murder is established to be part of a policy, part of an attitude, combined with a conspiracy to conceal the facts from the Commander-in-Chief—that is, the President—in the White House, and if this were to be established as a necessary concomitant of this war, then I would agree—as I am sure would many other hon. Members—with an editorial comment I have read in our own Press, which stated: 44The Americans would deserve to be told that they had lost the war if they believed that they could not win it without the physical elimination of anyone who helps the enemy".In my view, "lost the war" not because, as we have urged for years, there can never be a solution in this war through military victory by either side, but "lost the war" because every reason, every principle, which led the American people into this war, in terms of freedom, independence, and wider Asian considerations, would have lost its credibility.
This question must be asked and answered—answered, not by us, and not today. The reaction of the White House, and the United States Congress demand for the fullest investigation, suggests that it will be answered, and the answer left beyond all doubt. For that reason, while it is our right, our duty, to join with the mass of the American people who, with their leaders, have condemned this and any other incident where the facts can be proved, it is not for us to prejudge the wider, the deeper, question, which I have suggested is that relevant to any basic analysis, any basic decisions on policy.
And to suspend judgment on that is neither cowardice nor moral evasion on our part: it is common justice until the facts are proved. I do not regard it as the right reaction to what this is, an offence against decency, even of this magnitude, to jump to premature conclusions about a friend and an ally.
If this is right, it follows that until all the facts are known there is nothing to justify a change in policy—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I have said that there is nothing to justify a change in policy because no one in this House, none of my hon. Friends, however deeply they feel, is able to answer to my satisfaction my question whether this was an obscene and ghastly aberration or whether it is endemic in the conduct of this war. When all the inquiries have been held we have to take a decision on this matter, and I shall be prepared to take my decision, as hon. Members will. I am not taking that decision this afternoon, or until those facts are proved one way or the other.
But the basic issues remain. It has been British policy for five years by every means open to us—and this includes our Geneva Co-Chairmanship—to do all in our power to bring the parties to the conference table. For, I repeat, we have 45 throughout urged that there will be no military solution, in terms of an imposed solution.
In seeking to transfer, as we have sought, the issue from battlefields and the contested hamlet to the conference room we have had disappointments—grievous disappointments on more than one occasion. There have been acute difficulties in terms of communication, though we have played our part, which we were able to do, in helping to establish communications, and in other ways. We have had the intrinsic problem that this is an international conflict superimposed on a civil war; a civil war of great brutality; a war where murder has played its part no less than pitched battles; a war conducted to a great extent in the dark; a fight not only for short-term territorial objectives, but for hearts and minds, and in conditions where there could be no finality and very little trust.
There is no need for a recital of the events that led to the Paris talks. I was repeatedly urged by many hon. Members, by many of my hon. Friends, to press on the former President that the road to the conference table required that the bombing, of North Vietnam be stopped. It is not always possible at the time to publish what is said privately, if one's advice is to be effective. We were not the only people to urge this, and as the House was urging, and it was an agonizing decision which had to be taken in the spring of last year by the former American president, against the background of a mounting price in terms of American casualties—a price that we did not have to pay or to share.
The decision was taken—first, to stop bombing over the principal populated part of North Vietnam, and, finally, to stop bombing totally. For 18 months the Paris talks have been in session—and, tragically, with so far no result; no apparent move. I believe that Her Majesty's Government were right last month to welcome the President's determination to seek an honourable negotiated solution; to welcome his plan for the withdrawal of all American ground combat troops and to fix a programme for final withdrawal, and to call for a response from the other side so that the frustrations of the Paris conference can be turned towards a stable and honourable peace.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
As my right hon. Friend is talking about a political solution, has he seen the latest statement by Mr. Townsend Hoopes, who was Under-Secretary of State for the Air Force in the United States Government from 1967 to 1969, in his just-published book "The Limits of Intervention"? He says:The American people would reawaken to the fact that they were still committed to the endless support of a group of men in Saigon who represented nobody but themselves, who preferred war to the risks of a political settlement, and could not remain in power more than a few months without our large-scale presence.Is not that the reason why there is no settlement in the Paris negotiations?
§ The Prime Minister
As I have said more than once, I hold no particular brief for the Government of South Vietnam, but I think that my hon. Friend's intervention over-simplifies the issue here. After all, I listened to him—more than, perhaps, he thought—about the need to impress on the American Government the fact that if the bombing were to stop we could get the parties to the conference table. But we have got them to the conference table, and they have been there for 18 months, and I have not yet seen the evidence of a move from the other side. I hope that we shall—I hope that no one will be pessimistic about it—see a move sufficient to bring about a peaceful and honourable settlement, in which all the people of Vietnam can decide their own future without outside or foreign interference.
That is what we want, and I do not think that a quotation from what was said by a United States Under-Secretary of State of some years ago necessarily provides the right answer to this problem. What we need here is some give and take on both sides in Paris, and not an automatic taking of sides one way or the other on what is offered in the negotiations. As I say, the Americans moved a very long way to get to the conference table in Paris.
But the speed of withdrawal, the date when we can see a political settlement, honourable, lasting, allowing the people of Vietnam freedom to settle their own future—all this depends on ending the deadlock in the Paris talks. And I believe here—my hon. Friends may not all agree with me—that the advance that 47 has been made from the American side calls for a matching advance on the other side. However that may be, Her Majesty's Government, as Co-Chairman, stand ready to help in any way we can, acting with the Soviet Co-Chairman if the parties to the talks wish us to do so.
I turn now to the other tragedy which has engaged the concern and the anxieties of this House—the tragedy of Nigeria. During the past few weeks the fighting has become more intense; so has the search for a peaceful settlement; and, equally, so has the renewed search for means to bring urgently needed mercy aid, food and medical supplies to the suffering areas.
Whatever our differences of approach, none of us will want today or tomorrow to do anything or to say anything which makes the task of peacemaking or the speeding of relief supplies any more difficult. But, once again, the parties to the fighting, and their peoples, and we here in Britain face a situation where every decision of policy is a choice of evils; where what is right—indeed, what to some hon. Members seems to be an overriding bounden duty—means a denial of what to other hon. Members will seem a categorical imperative which cannot be laid aside. That is the essence of the problem.
I referred earlier to the dilemma—the moral dilemma—which the World Council of Churches feels itself faced with on the question of relief supplies, and the possibility that there may today be divided views between the World Council of Churches, on the one hand, and Joint Church Aid, on the other, at their meeting. I do not think that anyone will question the dedication with which the council and other aid bodies, including the International Red Cross—or, I would hope, Her Majesty's Government —have pursued the task of getting food to the starving. And when Press reports and television screens bring to our own homes the tragic picture of hunger and malnutrition, of children dying, no one, whether in the World Council of Churches or anywhere else, would choose this moment to relax in their efforts. And yet even they have to set this undeniable, compelling, suffering in a context in which they have to ask whether there is not a danger of still greater suffering, 48 through a prolongation of the war, and therefore, of the starvation itself.
I quote The Times of Saturday:The World Council of Churches today suggested that the food airlift to Biafra might be wound up as a means of bringing General Ojukwu, the Biafran leader, to the negotiating table…While expressing appreciation of the work of Joint Church Aid, the statement 'expresses deep distress at the ambiguous position in which the tremendous effort has put the Christian people, Churches and agencies because of its political side effects.'These include 'exposing the Churches to the charge of prolonging the war and adding to the suffering of the people', the statement says, and goes on:'The division raises the question whether the Churches and their agencies, especially through Joint Church Aid, should prolong the massive airlift in its present form.'Likewise, should the Churches' major effort to meet this human need be the indirect means by which some Governments are enabled to pursue their own ends and thereby achieve their own goals?'.The significant fact is that this question can even be asked.
§ The Prime Minister
I believe that this same stark choice—a choice between real issues and principle—and I accept that the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) believes this to be a great issue of principle; and I know that he accepts that our different views is a question of principle, because in this situation there is this clash of principle—I believe that this same stark choice, which is highlighted by the Churches, has been at the heart of the attitude both of Colonel Ojukwu and General Gowon—I will try to put the dilemma which each faces as fairly as I can—because their several basic positions are central to the question where Britain's duty lies.
For Colonel Ojukwu, the security of the Ibo people, their right to live their lives in their own way, is a fundamental principle overriding all others. I do not share—and many hon. Members do not share—his disbelief that these can be secured as part of a negotiated settlement, and as part of a united Nigeria, but what we may feel is not the point. The failure of every effort to secure peace, or to get to the negotiating table, still rests on the fact that Colonel Ojukwu and those around him have not yet been persuaded that the future of the 49 Ibo people can be safeguarded without further tragic conflict.
It is because this is for him an overriding imperative that he rejects daylight flights or other means of speeding relief supplies from within Nigeria from Governments, including this Government, or the International Red Cross and from the Churches. For the greater part of the outside world, the obvious solution of this problem is the mercy corridor, such as the road from Enugu into the Biafran enclave, but for Colonel Ojukwu it carries the risk of a military thrust into the heart of his defences.
We can argue about the reality of this threat. We can propose, and Her Majesty's Government did 18 months ago, possible forms of international assurances as guarantees against this. We were right then and we are right now to play our part in this, but precisely because Colonel Ojukwu insists on this conception of military security every effort, every mediator who has sought to open up the mercy corridor has been met with refusal. That is why the I.C.R.C. and many Governments have spent many months of effort and a formidable expenditure of money and resources derived from Government treasuries and private charity in trying to mount an airlift.
This has not been easy. I have said something of Colonel Ojukwu's position. It has not been easy for the Federal Government to agree to this airlift. It is not in the nature of those fighting a war and who have a vital and overriding principle as they see it, to be over-concerned about the welfare of the enemy's civil population. The whole history of blockade and economic warfare in wars between advanced nations bears testimony to this, including recent wars in Europe, but this is a civil war and throughout history, as we know, civil wars have been even more bloody and unrelenting than wars between nations.
The American Civil War, also a war between those who fought to preserve a union and secessionist people who sought to maintain their own way of life—[An HON. MEMBER: "There is no comparison."] I ask hon. Members to listen very seriously to what I am saying. If they do not accept the logic at the end, I hope that they will agree with what I am saying. Civil wars are the bloodiest in history. I am referring to 50 the American Civil War, which was by far the most brutal and destructive war fought up to that date in modern history.
There were in this House at that time some who felt that those who fought to preserve unity were right, and there were those who felt that the secessionists who wanted to preserve their way of life against union interference were right. There is that parallel, but I equally agree that historical parallels easily break down if they are pushed too far. I am not trying to do that, but it is worth recording that Abraham Lincoln, as a fundamental strategy in his conduct of that war, so far from aiding the movement of food and other supplies to the secessionists, deliberately and systematically set out to deny and destroy every ton of food which might reach them. There was the scorched earth policy in the Shenandoah Valley, destroying grain and slaughtering herds; the 60-mile wide swathe which Sherman cut in his wide sweep through Georgia.
Hard words have been used inside and outside this House about General Gowon and the Federal Government and also about Her Majesty's Government. I have been through every aspect of these questions with him, just as I have studied this problem on the ground in Nigeria, indeed in the Ibo heartland, personally and through representatives such as Lord Hunt. I believe that history will pay this tribute, that, faced with a brutal and brutalising civil war, General Gowon felt that his duty lay not in denying but in facilitating the supply of food and medical supplies to those he was fighting —and, in the event, to agree to its being done in this way, that it even permitted the continued supply of arms to the beleagured and hard-pressed secessionist enclave. Not all my hon. Friends nor all hon. Members opposite will agree, but this is a fact. Those were arms urgently needed by Colonel Ojukwu and if they had been denied or not supplied the war could have ended more quickly.
History may well say that if the Federal Government had hardened their heart against our pressure and the pressure of other Governments and of civilised organisations the whole world over, this war might have ended a good deal earlier, perhaps with far less suffering, fewer casualties, and fewer deaths from starvation. I do not know, but the 51 fact that this can be argued shows the nature of the dilemma that Nigeria, and we, and this House, have to face, and are facing, the dilemma now made newly articulate by the World Council of Churches.
I believe that we were right to press for what I regard and what the Federal Government accepted, and I hope we all accept, as the humane policy of allowing relief to go through, but at a cost in human terms greater or less than a policy based on a blockade as rigorous as it could be made. None of us can know. The House knows of the efforts made to get daylight flights in operation, the marathon efforts of the I.C.R.C., the patient persistence of Americans and others—and the outcome—and of the efforts of many Governments in Africa and outside, including Britain. A few weeks ago, when the chance of a scheme emerging from the I.C.R.C. negotiations seemed hopeless, it was my right hon. Friend's decisive weekend intervention which helped to get it moving again.
I understand the arguments of Colonel Ojukwu and his fear that Uli airstrip would lie open to a sudden military air strike. I recognise as a fact in the situation, even if I cannot support his demand, that on military grounds Uli should be kept open by day to mount the air strikes made possible by his acquisition of rocket-firing aircraft and other aircraft from Europe. Yes, he has what he considers to be military reasons for his refusal to allow daylight flights, and these stem from his unwavering military and political objectives. But it does not lie with those who take a different view from ours, and as I have said, different from over 30 independent Governments in Africa, with those who support Colonel Ojukwu on this—and I understand his position—to put the blame for hunger and malnutrition on the Federal Government or on Her Majesty's Government.
Daylight flights could end starvation in a very short time. This, I think, is not contested by anyone. Daylight flights are rejected by Colonel Ojukwu in support of objectives he considers overriding and which those who support him, including some hon. Members, also regard as overriding. I understand that.
§ Mr. Michael Barnes (Brentford and Chiswick)
Is it not the case that Colonel 52 Ojukwu has not rejected daylight flights in principle? In fact, the Biafrans have agreed to daylight flights in principle. What they have rejected is the package which was worked out between the I.C.R.C. and the Nigerians.
§ The Prime Minister
Most people outside Nigeria, including a number of Governments who suspended judgment on this question—and I am thinking of the recent comments of the Canadian Prime Minister, who very much reserved his judgment—would not perhaps agree with my hon. Friend's assessment. But I intend to say something about the form of the daylight flights later.
As I have said, I recognise that the question of the military objectives determining Colonel Ojukwu's attitude to daylight flights—and daylight flights in this form—are a matter of principle for him and perhaps hon. Members who support him. But do not let them deny to those of us who take a different view about daylight flights a similar concern with principle. Do not let them claim that our policy is causing starvation. On the contrary, our policy would end the threat of starvation.
They may say—and I understand this if they say it—that the principle of full self-determination for the Ibos, whether outside or inside the Federation, is overriding. They may say—and I understand it if they say it—that Colonel Ojukwu is right to prevent daylight flights. They are entitled to say this. But, if that is what they say, they are not entitled at the same time to lay the blame for starvation at the door of the Federal Government or Her Majesty's Government. The logic of their argument—and I concede that it is a respectable argument in logic—is to say that this is Colonel Ojukwu's decision, as it is, and they should proceed to justify that decision on other grounds.
I trust that this relief issue will not be mixed up with the question of our arms supplies, which we have often debated in the House. I do not intend to go over the argument. There are those who deny Britain's influence in Nigeria. I agree that it is not decisive. I agree that it is not comparable with the ability of an imperial Government, which we are not, to give instructions to a colony, which Nigeria is not. But let those who have argued on these lines 53 not underrate the importance of what, with alter nations, we have been able to achieve—the appointment of independent military observers, which is most unusual in modern war; the virtual ending of the bombing flights about which the House was so anxious earlier in the year, which was readily conceded after my discussions with General Gowon; the assurances secured at the same time about the future security, status and equality of the Ibo people which have been repeated from the record to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State in Lagos this weekend.
I hope that they will not underrate the importance of this influence in the acceptance of relief flights by the Federal Government at a high military cost—no one will deny that it has been at a high military cost—and all from a Government engaged in a bitter internecine conflict.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
How can the Prime Minister argue that we can act as an effective peacemaker when we are continuing to arm one side and we are not even asking through the United Nations for an all-round embargo, for which the Labour Party conference has twice asked?
§ The Prime Minister
I will deal with the question of arms control in a moment.
I have taken the view, together with, I think, everyone who has studied this question, that if there is to be mediation it must come from African countries—from the Organisation of African Unity presided over by the Emperor of Ethiopia, who has tried time and again, sometimes six weeks at a time, and who is trying at this moment.
I was dealing with relief questions and not with mediation when my hon. Friend intervened. While he may not agree with what I have said, I hope that, on consideration, he will feel that I have put a case to justify our attitude on relief. It is for my hon. Friends who support Colonel Ojukwu to make their case for saying why his military objectives trust require a refusal of this means of supplying relief which, in our view, could end the malnutrition.
I was about to come to the question of arms supplies when my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) intervened. Some hon. 54 Members will press for an ending of our arms supplies to Nigeria as a moral gesture, to be done unilaterally, in the absence of an effective international embargo. In past debates in the House, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have said why we do not agree with this and, indeed, what, in our view, the cost would be. But, on the relief question, I do not believe that such a gesture on arms supplies by us would save one life from starvation. If we said that we would cut off the supplies of ammunition tomorrow—no bombing planes, no aerial bombs—I do not believe that it would save one life from starvation. Indeed, the opposite could be argued. It might be taken by Colonel Ojukwu as encouragement to prolong the fighting, with all that that means. Again, we disagree about this.
Therefore, the question of arms supplies is important; but it is a separate question, however much it may have become intermingled with the question of relief, and, to the challenge of starvation—we accept that this is a challenge—I have given my answer in two words, "daylight flights".
That brings me to the question of an international arms embargo through the United Nations Security Council.
§ Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)
Would the Prime Minister particularise about the supply of arms? Are the arms limited entirely to light armaments, small arms ammunition and rifles —no more than that?
§ The Prime Minister
That question has been answered many times in the House. If the hon. Gentleman wants it to be dealt with in greater detail, I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to deal with it. But I have said what it does not include. However, as far as arms are concerned—I think that the hon. Gentleman will attach importance to this—there will be those who feel that a moral gesture by us, as they would put it—and I feel that there are more important moral gestures required—would make all the difference to the conduct of the war.
It would not, because the House knows that the Soviet Government are willing and anxious to supply every ounce of ammunition, every ounce of military supplies, which we, by such a moral gesture, 55 would cut off. As my hon. Friend suggests, there are other Governments—I do not necessarily go along with the one which he mentioned—who supply to the other side.
I want to come now to the question of an international arms embargo—[Interruption.] I must get on. Hon. Members listened quietly when I was expressing the point of view of Colonel Ojukwu, and if some of the things I am now saying are not agreeable perhaps they will listen to them as well.
On the question of an international arms embargo, I ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to accept not only our sincerity, but our judgment, when we say that this is not a practicable proposition, at any rate in present circumstances, and, also, that it is not only a question of black market supplies, although the entry of airmen of fortune with their aircraft to aid Biafra in recent months shows that this question of black market supplies is not an unimportant issue.
Nor is the problem limited to the fact that no Government will admit to being the source of the supply of the many hundreds of tons of arms that Colonel Ojukwu has received in the last few months. They have been delivered, but no Government have admitted that they were the source of supply. This is quite a problem if we want an international arms embargo.
There is the further fact that there is no prospect of getting an item on Nigeria inscribed on the United Nations agenda. This is not just the view of this Government. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, has said publicly that there is no possibility of getting an item on Nigeria inscribed on the agenda of either the Security Council or the General Assembly.
I have confirmed with him over the weekend that this remains his firm view. If it were inscribed, I can hold out no hope of agreement on it. My right hon. Friend has told the House that the Soviet Union reject an arms ban categorically, and I had confirmed to me personally within the last week that the Soviet Government would refuse to co-operate in an arms embargo.
I know that it will be said—I think the right hon. Gentleman has made this 56 point—that even if we are going to fail, let us have a go in order to highlight the identity of those who do not agree to it. That will be a gesture, I agree. It would certainly highlight the Soviet Union. But I think that what the House has to face is that if we were to make an attempt against the advice of the Secretary-General, against the clear position of the Soviet Union and against the clear position of France and others against sending any arms at all, I hope that hon. Members will remember the 33 independent sovereign African States who have voted for the integrity of a united Nigeria, most of whom, if not all, would regard such a move with deep hostility.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
Why does the Secretary-General say that this cannot be inscribed? What authority has he for saying so? This is decided not by the Secretary-General, but by the Security Council.
§ The Prime Minister
I am as keen as the right hon. Gentleman to make progress. There is no difference between us on what we want. But this is a question of practicability. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will have studied the reasons given by the Secretary-General in his public statement for believing that it could not be inscribed. I prefer to leave the right hon. Gentleman, with his great knowledge of these things, to study those words and to give the House his views. All I have said is that U Thant has reconfirmed what he said in public earlier on this question. I know that the right hon. Gentleman, if he looks at the composition of the General Assembly and of the Security Council, will take the view that I have expressed and that U Thant has expressed.
Here I make common cause with the right hon. Gentleman and many right hon. and hon. Members as to the desirability of doing anything we can to stop this general supply of arms, but not unilaterally. I have always taken the view—and I have had abundant opportunity to check this for myself in Nigeria, with the best military advice—that any embargo on arms supplies can only be made effective first in conditions of a cease-fire, and with the assent of both sides; and it can only be done at the receiving end by a strict control of the 57 ports and airports controlled by the Federal Government, on the one hand, and of Uli airstrip, on the other. If this were agreed we should be more than ready to play our part, and I have no doubt that many other countries, African and non-African, Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth, would play their part as well. But the enforcement of the agreement could not be made real, at any rate, at the Uli end if fighting continued.
Just as I have argued that a cease-fire without a ban on new arms shipments could well be self-defeating, so an arms embargo without a cease-fire would be unworkable and perhaps highly dangerous to those involved in policing it. Not every Member would want to commit British troops to policing this if fighting were still going on.
Hon. Members whose sympathies are engaged largely on the side of Colonel Ojukwu—and I hope that I have shown that I understand what they feel—must ask themselves whether they agree that an arms embargo must be universal or unilateral. I must ask them whether, recalling the whole history of daylight relief flights, they consider that Colonel Ojukwu would agree to the neutralisation of Uli Airport so far as arms flights are concerned. I think that that is at the centre of the question, and it would need his agreement.
I share the interest of hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), in some means of checking arms supplies, provided that it is comprehensive and effective. If there is a difference between the right hon. Gentleman and myself it is probably on the exact means by which it may be made effective, because I have given my reasons for saying that while an attempt at the United Nations may be satisfying from a public relations point of view, it has got to be on the ground in Nigeria if it is to be effective. However, my mind is not closed to making the necessary inquiries and contacts with a view to action at the receiving end, on the lines I have indicated.
I have not referred at any length to the central question of the Nigerian war, namely, the question of ending it by negotiation. The House will have seen the reports over the weekend that, following the initiatives taken by the Emperor of 58 Ethiopia, there is now a hope of direct talks between the two sides, and this could be next week. This being so, I think it will be better, at any rate, for me to say little more on this question, because the House knows its delicacy and its extreme difficulty, arising from the deep clash of principle that I have described, and I would not wish today to say anything which would make the task of the Emperor more difficult.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. May I ask him a question about arms? He will not be surprised if what he has said may sadden many hon. Members in the House who hope that there may be a fresh initiative. For the avoidance of doubt, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that it remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government to continue to supply arms to the Federal Government and that at this moment they see no possible diplomatic initiative which can be taken to get an arms embargo?
§ The Prime Minister
No, I did not say that. That sounds like the days when the right hon. Gentleman was practised in asking questions in court.
I said that I do not accept a unilateral change of arms policy here, but I would work with the right hon. Gentleman or with anyone else for any system of international arms control which can be made effective. I gave my reasons for saying that I do not believe that an initiative by the United Nations would be effective. I quoted U Thant, whom the right hon. Gentleman usually regards as a great authority in these matters, who said that he thought that this would not be effective. It must be at the receiving end.
We are prepared to take any necessary steps with the two sides to see whether there could be an arms embargo at the one place where it could be effective, stopping them coming into Federal Nigeria, on the one hand, and Uli airport, on the other. Those who have supported the Biafran cause must state in this debate whether they support the closure of Uli airport for these purposes.
I have referred to the question of negotiation and said that I think it right to say little more about that now. The House knows the delicacy and the difficulty of the question, but I would just say this on the subject of negotiations. The rights of the Ibo people, one 59 of the most civilised and sophisticated peoples of Africa, to live in peace and security and to realise their great potential for development should be one of the absolutes of any settlement.
I think that we all agree about that. But it is too easy to confuse this requirement with some of the Biafran claims which were based on suzerainty over the entire former Eastern Region. I have been, as many hon. Members have, to Calabar and Port Harcourt. I have seen for myself the non-Ibo areas which, under Biafran claims, would be under Ibo control. I was left in no doubt of the strength of feeling and the determination of citizens of the South-East and River States to reject this kind of proposal. In the territory claimed as Biafran, there are several million non-Ibos. Even hon. Members who support the Biafran claim to independence, total independence, with which Her Majesty's Government profoundly disagree, will agree that a State based on the Ibos alone would be of doubtful economic viability.
But there is another consideration. If the argument in this debate is that a minority has a right to secede to preserve its rights, might not a settlement, even if this were conceivable, which gave sovereignty to a Biafra controlling the former Eastern Region be followed with equal ligitimacy by a break-away group of non-Ibos, millions of them, claiming their own self-determination; and could they not then assert the right, which has been asserted and will again be asserted in our debate today and tomorrow in favour of any ethnic group powerful enough by force of arms to lay claim to it?
I conclude my reference to Nigeria with the subject with which I began—relief and starvation. The quickest way to end starvation and to begin the fight back against malnutrition is to end the fighting. Many hon. Members have seen, as I have, thousands of Ibos—in my case, in the Enugu area and Port Harcourt—being cared for and rehabilitated. We have seen the great care given to them by their Nigerian hosts, Ibo and non-Ibo, and by our own dedicated young people from the Save the Children Fund and other organisations and those of other nations.
60 Those hon. Members will know that what I have described, what we have seen at Enugu and elsewhere in Ibo areas, is a pledge of wider concern on the part of the Federal Government for the future security and welfare of the Ibo people when peace is restored. But, because the right way to end starvation is to speed as quickly as we can an end of the fighting, that is a further reason why our full backing should be given to the Emperor as chairman of the O.A.U. Consultative Committee on Nigeria in the new moves for peace.
Meanwhile, emphasis must be on getting daylight flights following the tragic rejection of the I.C.R.C. proposal. I think that many hon. Members will feel that those proposals should be accepted. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone has expressed his anxieties about that.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser rose—
§ The Prime Minister
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, I think that I may deal with the point which he wishes to raise.
§ The Prime Minister
It is about flights, yes.
Anxieties have been expressed by Colonel Ojukwu. Perhaps I should tell the House now that there is reason to hope that a clarification of Article 6(2) of the Agreement between the Federal Government and the I.C.R.C. may now soon be reached. Many right hon. and hon. Members will know that clarification is needed on that point, and it is one of the principal points on which Colonel Ojukwu justified his rejection of daylight flights. If it can be satisfactorily clarified—and there is reason to hope that it will be—we would then hope that Colonel Ojukwu would accept the I.C.R.C. agreement and the policy of daylight flights without delay.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will state the number of flights which were proposed, and the duration. I understand that it was only six flights per day for three weeks.
§ The Prime Minister
I do not see why there should not be more flights. But the right hon. Gentleman must say in that 61 case that, in order to have enough daylight flights, it will be necessary to close Uli airport to both the use of that airport as a source for the marauding flights by soldiers of fortune to which I referred and the shipment of arms for that period. Therefore, we have a clash between the best way of getting relief supplies in and the other objectives which I have mentioned and which everyone holds.
The suggestion has been made that a Royal Air Force operation be laid on, if necessary with a fighter escort to shoot its way through. The problem is not a shortage of aircraft; it is the opening of Uli to the aircraft now available, or which could be made available. With fighter aircraft one could not escort oneself on to an airfield the landing strips of which were blocked. But if the continued efforts of the O.A.U. and the International Red Cross should come to nothing—this is a crucial moment for peace negotiations and for relief supplies—and if a new move were needed to break the log jam, we for our part should be prepared to consider offering the help of the R.A.F. in flying in relief supplies. Such flights would have to be by daylight, and with the consent of both sides, and they could take place only under the most stringent conditions to ensure the safety of the operation and all who were engaged in it.
Although I have continued longer than I intended, I recognise that there are many more issues of world affairs with which I have not dealt but which will be raised by hon. Members in the debate and will be replied to by my right hon. Fiends. I thought it right to concentrate on the two issues of major concern. I hope that I have conveyed two matters to the House. First, I have tried to deal with the realities of the situation which we have to face, realities from which there can be no escape, whatever our different judgments about how to deal with them. I hope that I have been able to satisfy at least the majority of hon. Members that on each one of these issues—Greece, Vietnam and Nigeria—the decisions which the Government have taken have been taken on the basis of principles which must inspire Britain's moral judgment on questions which involve a deep moral challenge.
62 I hope, too, that I have been able to explain to the House some of the considerations which arise in every major issue of decision-taking, when one moral principle conflicts with another and yet a decision has to be made, and often speedily. I know the extent of the feeling, indeed, the degree of commitment, of many hon. Members on both of the main issues which I have discussed. I hope that I have narrowed the area of disagreement—I do not know—and I hope that, at least, I have convinced most hon. Members that, where we part company in these debates, it is on an issue of judgment. It is not on an issue where any one of us can claim a moral superiority over those who disagree with us.
It is in that spirit that I commend the Government's policies to the House.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Wood (Bridlington)
Last Thursday the Leader of the House forecast that the Prime Minister, in his opening speech today, would touch on the whole canvas of foreign affairs. If I may for a moment take up that painting metaphor, I think that history will judge that we have had a particularly serious work from the Prime Minister, though almost certainly of his final period.
In the past, all of us have been aware of the difficulties and dissatisfactions of widely ranging debates, with different speakers addressing themselves to affairs in different parts of the world. The Prime Minister's speech has illustrated the difficulty of concentration. Naturally, he spoke, as he must have done, on the two great topics of Vietnam and Nigeria. As he and the House know, we are to have a day tomorrow when we shall concentrate mainly on Nigeria. So I hope that he will forgive me for not following him in any way on that topic because it is, as he knows, to be the main burden of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home).
Today, although slightly less exclusively, I understand that we are to devote our main attention to Vietnam. Naturally I want to speak about the American involvement in that part of the world. On my way there I hope that I shall be forgiven if I make two short stops in Europe and the Middle East. I 63 give the House the undertaking that they will be short, because I want to avoid for as many hon. Gentlemen as is possible the frustration that I have occasionally felt when I take home to bed some of the best speeches that the House of Commons has never heard.
I want to stop, first, in Europe and make three immediate reflections on last week's summit meeting. The Prime Minister was no doubt correct in suggesting, as he did last week to the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick), that the negotiations themselves offerThe best chance of assessing the prospect of success "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1969; Vol. 792, c. 1697.]The Prime Minister will understand that the certainty that the negotiations will take place greatly increases the interest of the House in the two proposed reviews —that promised shortly by the C.B.I. and, even more important, the review of the situation which he himself has promised, I think I am right in saying early next year. We shall await those with increased interest.
The second reflection is that the decision of the Six at the Hague last week seems to make even more delicate the balance which the Prime Minister and the rest of the Government, and indeed a large number of hon. Members, are trying to strike. On one side the Prime Minister must leave no doubt in the minds of our many friends in Europe that Britain's determination to enter the Community is wholehearted and sincere. On the other, he must make it clear that negotiations are negotiations and that our determination to enter cannot be unconditional.
The difficulty is that such balances, like all balances, withhold complete satisfaction from enthusiasts at either end of the spectrum; and only a very slight disturbance of the equilibrium can raise such doubts and provoke such fears that the balance may well be lost for ever. I have my fears even at this moment that the noises from Britain which are travelling south-eastwards across the Channel may sound in Europe a little more fainthearted than confident.
If this is so, it could be dangerous, because perhaps the most important contribution of the Hague Conference was that it largely restored confidence be- 64 tween the States directly involved in West European integration, both the existing members of the Community and those which have applied to join. The veto of 1963 is now six years old. I think all will agree not only that it affected Britain but that it depressed the confidence of the other nations. Last week's conference has not dispelled all doubts and suspicions, but it has made a very important new start.
The third reflection is that the summit settled nothing; but undeniably the Community has already taken a decision of immense importance by being willing in principle substantially to expand itself early in the coming decade. Meanwhile, before negotiations begin, the Community will want to consider very carefully the new situation that will be created by the entry of Great Britain and possibly three other nations.
From our own objective position on this side of the Channel, many of us can already foresee the expanded Community as a significant nucleus of that European unity which a great many of us fervently want to see. This is a unity which men have sought, either by conquest or by other means, for more than a thousand years. We in this country have paid dearly for the failure of Europeans over the centuries peacefully or permanently to achieve it.
Here at long last the vision of a united Europe brought together by agreement, and not by force of arms, may be made reality; and we in Britain may have an essential part to play in it. The potential gain would be great, not only to Britain, not only to Europe, but to other continents as well, if the economic power of this continent were raised to, or above, that of the world's present economic giants, and if the continent of Europe became collectively able to defend itself against aggression.
We in Britain already have a large stake in European defence, and it would seem wise for us to ensure that our investment in men and equipment is effectively directed. Europe by itself cannot at present defend Europe. Europe, in any case, cannot be defended in Europe alone. The continent has many doors. It has a long and narrow lake to the south of it. It has a coastline of uncertain friendliness on the other side of the Mediterranean.
65 Meanwhile, armed conflict rages in the most distant corner of the Mediterranean. Here the United Nations is directly engaged, and Great Britain has an undeniable responsibility to contribute towards a just settlement in that part of the world. It is now several months since the United Nations Secretary General warned ofthe almost complete breakdown of its ceasefire in the Suez Canal sector, and the virtual resumption of war thereTime is emphatically, and all too obviously, not on our side. Each day the conflict continues, as the Foreign Secretary has several times made clear, the political situation of the contestants grows more rigid. Naturally, we all welcome the resumption of the four-power talks in New York. In our last debate the Foreign Secretary said that the two-power talks between the United States and Soviet Russia hadmade some progress but not yet that degree of progress which will produce a settlement"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1969. Vol. 790, c. 363.]I assumed that this was a polite and diplomatic way of describing a dead end.
There is certainly a pressing need for the new ideas which may be thrown up by the four-power meeting. Relatively uncommitted as Her Majesty's Government are to partisan attitudes, our contribution could be useful. However, in this situation, as in others today, diagnosis is engagingly easier than cure. We all know the problems. We all agree that the problem is to marry the insistent and legitimate demand of Israel for peace and real security with the Arab demand, equally insistent and legitimate, for Israeli withdrawal, together with the demand for a settlement of the refugees.
The United Nations resolution was comprehensive enough, with all its ambiguity, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us when he replies whether Her Majesty's Government are ready to put forward proposals in the four-power talks to try to put some flesh on the bare bones of the United Nations resolution. What ideas has the right hon. Gentleman about the establishment of demilitarised zones and the kind of security guarantees that could be given by outside powers? My right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire made certain suggestions in 66 an earlier debate. I hope that we shall be told that proposals, on this basis, will before long be discussed by the four Powers.
In Europe we seek to be, as I have tried to show, and as the majority of hon. Members agree, more closely involved. In the Middle East most of us realise that we cannot, for the reasons I have given, escape involvement.
In Vietnam we are involved, but in a different way. All of us, echoing what the Prime Minister said at the beginning of the debate, are profoundly disturbed by this ghastly, unending war. It would indeed be disturbing if this concern did not exist, but it would be a great deal more disturbing if our natural human involvement in the misery of Vietnam should drive us to dissociate ourselves from those whose aim is to achieve a just solution.
Any attempt to wish, or to wash, away our responsibility to find real solutions is no more a policy for us than it was for Pontius Pilate. The choice between a bad solution and an even worse one, whether in Vietnam or anywhere else, can never be attractive; but we are part of the world, we are still a powerful nation, we are a permanent member of the Security Council, and there is no honourable way in which we can slink away from responsibilities which belong to us.
The world, as the Prime Minister has naturally said, has been deeply shocked by the accusations of atrocities. The right hon. Gentleman has also said that it is, happily, not our practice to condemn men unheard, and it would surely be wise, and just, for us to await the result of the present investigations. But suppose that some of these things did take place, even were they exaggerated; they would cause the greatest distress. People would still ask whether the right of self-determination for the South Vietnamese was not being bought at too high a price if it involved such brutalisation of the defenders of freedom there and the cold murder of civilians, old and young.
§ Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that evidence already exists of tremendous destruction and damage to civilians by bombing? Does not the evidence that 67 is available prove that too much is being paid for what the right hon. Gentleman wants to achieve?
§ Mr. Wood
If the hon. Gentleman had waited a moment he would have heard me try to put this into perspective, because I was going to say that the terms in which some may see this matter are not the terms in which I happen to see it. The problem, as the hon. Gentleman reminded us, is that many dreadful things have occurred in Vietnam, in all parts of that country, and I doubt, as the Prime Minister doubted, whether there is very much to be gained by our continuing a kind of long-range indictment of the Americans from across the Atlantic Ocean. In the past, as we are very conscious, we have had similar problems in this country and in parts of the Commonwealth, and we have dealt with them ourselves. The Americans, like us, have free institutions and a free Press, and they are well able to deal with this matter.
I think that it would be more profitable for us to remember and recall clearly the genesis of the American intervention, and why they went to Asia, as well as paying tribute to the search for peace which President Nixon is now conducting. The President has offered the complete withdrawal of all outside forces within a year. He has offered a cease-fire under international supervision. He has offered free elections under international supervision. But the only response from Hanoi is a demand for unconditional withdrawal of all American forces, or, as the President has put it, a demand "that we overthrow the Government of South Vietnam as we leave the country".
Remembering particularly that soldiers of the Commonwealth are still engaged in this war, is the outcome which the President has mentioned what the critics of American and Commonwealth policy really want? Do they want an unconditional American withdrawal and subsequent massacres in Vietnam? I believe that the President of the United States deserves our sympathy and our support, rather than our criticism, because it is for him to take decisions in the knowledge that free men everywhere largely depend on the strength and will of the United States to defend them.
68 Meanwhile, if we here in Britain begin to lose heart, if the world struggle begins to seem unbearable because we are appalled by the misery and suffering in one or two parts of the world, how are we over the years going to keep our will to resist, and help others to resist, the successive attempts by men and nations to rob other men and nations of their freedom and to bring them into subjection?
I am profoundly thankful that the people of the United States have not lost that will. I am grateful that thousands of them, not only in Vietnam, but on countless battlefields across the globe, have been prepared to give much to resist oppression. There is no need to cross the world for evidence of that. One need only cross the Channel. There are plenty of Americans today who are still, fortunately, prepared to make sacrifices, whom I think we would be wise to support and not do our best to undermine.
From time to time our differences with the United States may be very serious, but even those differences will fade into insignificance against the light of the whole range of values which we and they have in common. It is difficult, to say the least, and particularly so after hearing the Prime Minister's review, to look across the world with a surge of optimism, but I for one would feel a great deal more pessimistic than I do if I foresaw a collapse of that close understanding and friendship which has bound, and I hope will long continue to bind, together the Governments and peoples of Britain and the United States.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I want to be as brief as I can, and to limit myself to the vexed question of Vietnam. I want to talk about our feelings on the subject, the attitude which I strongly feel, which is not shared by all my colleagues, and what should be the attitude of this country to the situation.
It is, as I have said, a vexed question, and I hope that I can carry everyone in the House with me when I say that the issue is not that put to me in abusive terms so often between those who condone murder and killing and atrocities, and those who do not. I think that it is unnecessary to take time to say that each of us is as aghast at atrocities, whether 69 carried out in a war, in a civil war, or in any other conflict, as any other member of a civilised society.
I have had letters opposing me for what I am alleged to have said on the radio the other day. Interestingly enough, most of them, like some of the early comments in the House, came from people who, first, clearly had not heard the broadcast, and, secondly, had no chance to read it since it had not then been published.
Most of the letters are couched in irrational and abusive terms, on the assumption that anybody who tries to put a rational case, whether rightly or wrongly, for a war and the issues being fought for on the one side, and for what one understands by freedom and the right to make one's own choice, is thereby convicted of defending every horrible thing that happens, whereas those who find it possible, rightly or wrongly, to envisage the success of the Communist side are somehow absolved from being in favour of any atrocities committed by that side while being wholly against any atrocities committed by the other side.
Whether I am in conflict with hon. Members and very good friends, or in conflict with the majority of the Labour Party conference—
§ Mr. Brown
Whether I am or not, I am trying to show that the total unfairness and impossibility of that approach to life, not merely for emotional reasons, but for rational ones—I have my share of emotion—is very much a matter of self-interest at the end of the day.
It is an axiom that wars brutalise. However, it is too late in the day for us to begin taking the attitude that we are against wars because they brutalise. There are pacifists in the Labour movement—but, then, hardly any of us in the movement has not been through our pacifist days. Not many of those who are attacking me are pacifists. They just do not think that we should fight—[Interruption.] I trust that my hon. Friends will give me a hearing. I heard an hon. Member say that it was possible to pay too high a price for freedom.
§ Mr. Newens rose—
§ Mr. Brown
I wish to be brief. It will help if I am not interrupted. There will be ample opportunity for my hon. Friends to reply later.
To put it in a non-controversial way, I do not believe that one can pay too high a price for freedom because I consider that there is nothing that one needs more in the world than freedom. However, we should not pay a higher price than we need to pay and we should discourage paying a price that is obviously irrelevant.
If Pinkville is proved, even reasonably proved, then—I said this on the radio, but I did not get a pat on the back for saying it—I would condemn that as terrible, as irrelevant to the issue and, as a result, as in every way debasing the currency of those of us who think that we are fighting for freedom.
Having said that, I am not prepared to go so far as to say that one should condemn those who are trying to secure freedom of choice because, in their name, some people commit unnecessary and indefensible attrocities. [Interruption.] I wish to make it clear how much I agreed with everything that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on this subject.
Let us bear in mind and proclaim to the world that it is only on the democratic side that we ever know of atrocities that are committed in our name. The reason some folk in this country can get away with being tremendously moral about things that the Americans, South Vietnamese, South Koreans, Australians, or New Zealanders may do, or are alleged to have done, is because they are on the democratic side. We never hear what goes on on the other side. It will be a wonderful day when the North Vietnamese and Vietcong go into a village accompanied by American photographers, television interviewers and radio commentators. That day has not yet come. When it does come we may have a more rational and more balanced argument on the whole subject.
I hear it asked by what right anybody other than the South Vietnamese has to be in South Vietnam. Nobody ever asks 71 by what right people other than the North Vietnamese are in North Vietnam.
§ Mr. Heffer rose—
§ Mr. Brown
If only my hon. Friend would listen to me for a moment he would understand what I am saying. This is one of the problems in trying to put a case. I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me to make my case, after which I am sure he will have an opportunity to speak. After all, I have been abused for stating a case which I have not made.
§ Mr. Brown
I assure my hon. Friend that after I have stated my case I will allow him to intervene and to point out if I am wrong.
As I was saying, those who are in South Vietnam other than the South Vietnamese are there because, in their view, they have treaty obligations. Following on the Geneva accord and the understanding which the Americans attached to it, the Americans became involved, first, by sending advisers and then by sending troops. The Australians, New Zealanders and Asiatic countries fighting there went there because they interpreted their membership of S.E.A.T.O. and the obligations which they had undertaken under that treaty as obliging them to go there.
We, France and others used our right under S.E.A.T.O. to interpret our obligations as meaning the giving of help and support short of military war. I am saying that those who are aiding the South Vietnamese, in one degree or another, are doing it because of their interpretation of their treaty obligations; and they have a perfect right to do it, just as the South Vietnamese had a perfect right to ask them to do it.
§ Mr. Heffer
Is not my right hon. Friend aware that the Geneva agreement laid down quite clearly that the 17th Parallel 72 was merely a military border for a temporary period so that, by 1956, free elections could take place? Those elections should have taken place, but they were never held and the Americans deliberately went out of their way to prevent the Geneva agreement from being carried out.
§ Mr. Brown
My hon. Friend phrased that question in an interrogatory fashion, which is usual in this House. He made a declaration of view, a view with which I do not happen to agree.
I remind my hon. Friend that there is another view. The North Vietnamese delegate signed the Geneva accord as it stood and was immediately disowned by the North Vietnamese for so doing. The Hanoi Government said that they had no intention of being bound by it; and they started military activity, contrary to the Geneva accord. If we are going to try to find one side guilty, then I beg my hon. Friends to read the whole history of this matter—it is available in the Library —and not just one part of it.
§ Mr. Brown
I believe that those other than the South Vietnamese who are in South Vietnam are there as of right. I equally believe that there are vital issues of freedom involved in all this and that the South Vietnamese are, so far, the only people concerned in the conflict who, as pacification has proceeded—not as well as I would have liked, and it is in this respect that I am somewhat critical of the Americans; it has certainly not proceeded nearly as well as we managed to do it in Malaysia—have reached the point at which elections could be held.—[Interruption.]
I remind hon. Members that elections were held. [Interruption.] They may not have been as free as my hon. Friends would have liked—[Laughter.]—but they were held. I am not joking and this is not a laughing matter. I will be very serious when the North Vietnamese hold elections anywhere near as free as those that were held in South Vietnam. In North Vietnam, the people have not got anywhere near as close to that yet.
There are issues of freedom involved here and there are many people from North Vietnam who prefer it in South Vietnam, however bad South Vietnam 73 may be by the standards which some people choose to apply to it. What are those who are arguing against this one-sided approach wanting? Those of us who are arguing in this way do not deserve to be attacked—[Interruption.] I wish that hon. Members would give me a reasonable hearing, so that I may slate my case clearly.
What is it we are saying? We want an honourable settlement. I have had the recording of the words I used on the radio. It was alleged that I had said that fie Americans should go on and win the war. I never used those words at all. Any hon. Gentleman who wants to check that recording may do so. [An HON. MEMBER:"Stop weeping and get on with it"] Yes, stop weeping. And many an American mother, many an American wife, many an American fiancée has had perfectly good reasons for weeping. I am entitled to say to my allies, "We have put up with murder and mayhem for years and, with great respect, we did not get a great deal of encouragement from you Americans". I do not see why I should not say to them, "Get on with the job".
What is the job? The job is to reach a situation where an honourable settlement can be arrived at. That means conditions other than a unilateral American withdrawal. That means conditions other than American policy being decided by the depth of emotion, unhappiness and frustration caused to them by the continuance of the war.
I am certain that a number of things would follow a unilateral pull-out so that the Communists were then left free for a take-over. I will just pick three vital areas. [Interruption.] If hon. Members regard my views as deplorable, as out of step with those held by social democrats, let us look at the views of Harry Lee—Lee Kuan Yew—who spoke only last week about the consequences to South-East Asia and other parts of Asia if the Americans just walked out without stability having been established.
It is easy for us when we are thinking about Asia, but it is not so easy for our comrades there whom we applaud. Harry Lee has only to appear anywhere near a Labour Party conference to take the cheers and applause, with people rushing to congratulate him as the one 74 great Labour man or social democrat in that part of the world. Harry Lee last week said how unhappy and upset he was at the risk of the Americans pulling out unilaterally, after we ourselves have pulled out or are in the course of pulling out of that area.
§ Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham) rose—
§ Mr. Brown
I will not give way—this is where I show a little fortitude. I am trying to make my argument without the aid of a written script and I am making it because it needs making.
I know that it is fashionable to decry the domino theory in Asia. I happen to be one of those who think that there is a lot of truth in it. If this one goes, then Laos, Cambodia, all the way through to Burma, and then to India. Do not let us "kid" ourselves, there is a great attempt at a Communist take-over in that vital area. The fact that the Russians and Chinese are not sure at the moment whether they love each other does not alter the facts. It could even make the matter notably worse.
That is the first reason that I believe the Americans, the Australians, the New Zealanders and the South Koreans who are fighting there should be encouraged to stay there until we establish a basis on which Hanoi will feel it has to do business, in Paris or wherever it may be. The reason that I said "Stop weeping" is that the more the Americans appear to be showing uncertainty, the more they seem to be baring their chests and going to the confessional, the more will Hanoi be encouraged to be obdurate and refuse any move.
There is a second area to which this argument will apply, and I beg my colleagues and, indeed, everybody to take note of it. Isolationism, especially under the present Administration, is not far below the surface in America. "Bring the boys back, not because we have succeeded in doing what we want to do 75 there in establishing a free South Vietnam and a free North Vietnam, but because we do not like the war, because it is costing a lot of casualties and a lot of money. "That argument can be applied in other areas of the world, too.
I urge the House to pay a little attention to what was said by the leading article in The Guardian quite recently. Ii does not wholly take my view, but I think that it is with me on this point. It said that before we set out to condemn the Americans too wholeheartedly, we must consider how we in Western Europe would get on alone. Let us consider what would be the situation in Europe if a withdrawal for bad reasons from Asia were followed by a withdrawal from our own continent. That is the second area in which the consequences could be felt.
The third area would follow from that, namely, the effect on the Americans themselves if the situation developed in this way.
For all these reasons I want to see conditions established for an honourable settlement. I want to see conditions established in which Hanoi and their friends, advisers and mentors—there have been occasions when I would even say their masters—will recognise that this needs to be done and that awful things will happen until it is done.
The Prime Minister referred to efforts which he made and in which I had the privilege to play a part when we thought that we were getting within a hair's breadth of bringing the parties genuinely together. It is anybody's argument whether we knew all the facts, as we thought we knew them, at the time.
I am prepared to say—I will assert this from these benches, where I have the freedom to say so—that even though mistakes were made all round and misunderstandings arose, when that effort, like every other effort, broke down it did so because Hanoi would not move and because those who claimed to be able to influence them, those who were supplying them, would not encourage them to move. There is reason to believe that some of their suppliers even threatened to cut off supplies if they moved and that other sanctions would have been applied against them.
76 Therefore, please acquit any of us of condoning murder, genocide, atrocity. Please face the facts of the argument. I believe it to be correct argument as I have put it. I should like to hear rational answers to that argument and not a mere exchange of abuse, which is the most Christian and decent thing hon. Members can do.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
I hope that I shall not be doing the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) or, for that matter, the Prime Minister any harm if I say that I find myself in general agreement with what they have said today about Vietnam. Their critics and those who criticise the Americans fail to distinguish between the symptoms and the underlying causes of the Vietnam war. The Vietnamese people are bearing the brunt of the suffering in the war, but the war is not wholly, or perhaps even mainly, about the future of Vietnam. It is not for me to give lessons in Marxism to hon. Members opposite below the Gangway, but they should recognise that the war is about rice and raw materials. It emerges from the basic hunger of China.
The Chinese have always been short of food; and the Communist agricultural policies and the Communist commitments to industrialisation and the nuclear weapon have made the Chinese hunger problem more serious than ever. Broadly speaking, there are only two restaurants in the Far East. One can eat bread in Siberia or one can get rice in South-East Asia—South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma. Whatever differences the Soviets have with the Chinese, the one thing that they want is to turn the Chinese south, not north. That is why there is a common interest between Moscow and Peking in pushing forward with the war in Vietnam.
I know, as the right hon. Member for Belper said, that there are plenty of people who deride the domino theory. If hon. Members bother to read what is written in Peking, Hanoi and Moscow, they will find that most of the Communist authorities are convinced domino men. They say time and again that the war in Vietnam is important because when it is won it will open the gates to South-East Asia and give the Communist world a chance to deny to the Western world the 77 markets and raw materials on which it depends.
What is more, anyone who has been to South-East Asia, or, for that matter, to Australia and New Zealand, in recent years must have found it very difficult to discover any competent observer who was not a domino man. The Australians and New Zealanders are in the Vietnam war because they think that their vital interests are at stake. The Conservative Government of Kuala Lumpur and the Socialist Government of Singapore take the same view. Even if the obscene atrocities at "Pinkville" were confirmed, they would not of themselves change this situation.
It is easy enough for one country to be a good ally and friend to another when all is going well. The test of friendship comes when our allies are in trouble and their agents make mistakes. Our duty today is to give full support to the Americans, and I was glad to hear the Prime Minister speak in the terms that he did.
We could do more than give full support—and this is the only point on which I would join issue with the right hon. Member for Belper and the Prime Minister. What they said would be more convincing if they had not subscribed to the disastrous proposal to withdraw our forces from Malaysia and Singapore. Four Commowealth—two European and two Asian—Governments have asked us to stay. It is no secret that President Nixon has made it plain that for us to reverse that decision and to remain in South-East Asia would be the best contribution which we could make to helping him in his efforts to get peace in Vietnam without surrender. I hope that the Prime Minister will discuss this subject with President Nixon in Washington and will not close his mind altogether to a reversal of policy.
I turn to the affairs of the Middle East—
§ Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of Vietnam, may I ask him two questions? First, were the French right M resisting the Vietminh from i947 to 1954? Would he have suggested that a greater effort should have been made to help the French? Secondly, as he considers Vietnam to be of such cardinal importance, does he believe that British troops should be sent to Vietnam?
§ Mr. Amery
I do not want to go into a disquisition on Franco-Vietminh relations, which would keep the House too long. The point is not immediately relevant to today's debate. I am not asking the Prime Minister to go as far as sending British troops to Vietnam; I am asking him to keep them in Malaysia and Singapore where they are making a contribution to the maintenance of stability, which would be the best help in our power which we could give to the President to achieve peace without surrender.
I turn to the situation in the Middle East. I make no apology for doing so because it is, in some ways, even more critical and even more dangerous for this country than what is happening in Vietnam. We have vital interests at stake in the shape of the oil of the Middle East. We are directly involved because, as we sit here, we have troops in the Gulf, in Cyprus and in Libya.
Here again, it is very important to distinguish between the symptoms and the causes of the crisis. The public debate about the Middle East is largely conducted in terms of the Palestine question. But the underlying cause is the conflict between the traditional Arab states and the military juntas which have taken power in many Arab countries. I do not underrate the importance of the Israeli-Arab conflict, but even if the Israeli problem did not exist there would still be a cold war situation between those Arab countries which look to the Communists and those which look to the Western world.
That is why I have the gravest doubt whether there is any future in the four-Power talks or the two-Power talks. These are a mirage which waste time while the Soviets take advantage of a deteriorating situation. If there is doubt about that, I remind the House of what has happened to the latest United States initiative. They put a proposal to the Russians. The Russians seemed to favour it. They passed it to Cairo, and, apparently in agreement with the Russians, it was rejected by the Egyptians. The Americans were double crossed and precious time was wasted.
The Soviets do not want war in the Middle East. I am sure of that. But I am equally sure that they do not want peace. They are busy exploiting the 79 defeat of the Arab countries to entrench themselves, particularly in Egypt. The Foreign Secretary will know much better than I do the extent of the naval facilities accorded to the Red Fleet, of the presence of Soviet aircraft on Egyptian airfields, and of the number of advisers with the Egyptian armed forces and the Egyptian administration.
But what is clear to all of us is that the Egyptians recognise the truth of Napoleon's maxim that Egypt is strategically "the most important country in the world", that they have dug themselves in, and that Ambassador Vinogradov— with whom I used to shoot in France—is almost as powerful today in Cairo as Lord Killearn was in his heyday. They are using Egypt as a base for expansion westward down the Mediterranean, eastward down the Red Sea and southward down the Nile Valley. At the same time, through the medium of the Arab guerilla movement, they are setting up a state within the state in both Jordan and the Lebanon.
In attributing imperialist aims to the Russians in the Middle East, I am not simply expressing the view of someone who has long been an outspoken opponent of Communism. I am echoing a view commonly expressed these days in Belgrade and Bucharest, as the Prime Minister will no doubt discover when he goes there.
What are we to do in this situation? Precious time is being wasted. It would have been much easier to reach a solution last year than it is this year, but something can still be done. With some hesitation, I would venture to put forward one suggestion. Jordan is the country which has lost most from the June war. Jordan is still a pro-Western country. So is Israel. Is it beyond the resources of British, American and Western diplomacy to work for a reconciliation between these two countries, leaving aside the much more difficult problem of getting reconciliation between Israel and the pro-Communist countries like Syria and Egypt?
The elements of this reconciliation would have to be the establishment of a true peace between Israel and Jordan and the restoration to Jordan of most of the territories which she has lost. If for reasons of Israeli security they were not 80 all restored there would have to be compensation, perhaps in the Gaza Strip. There would have to be a settlement of the refugee problem. We have talked in the House about aid. Surely we and the Americans would be well justified in making a major contribution to the refugee problem.
There would need to be an imaginative solution to the problem of Jerusalem, giving a special status to the Old City, perhaps some kind of Vatican status, in which the interests not only of the Moslems and of the Jews but also of Christians were taken fully into account. As for the Canal and the Golan Heights, it seems to me that as long as the Soviets are in quasi-colonial control of Egypt we have no great interest in seeing the Canal re-opened. As for the four-Power talks, if the Government want to go on with them, let them do so, but the times are too grave to take this charade very seriously.
I want to pass for a moment to the problem of Libya. The negotiations, I understand, are beginning there today. I would like at the outset to pay tribute to King Idris. He was our ally in the war, and a very staunch ally. He has been a very good friend in all the years in which the Anglo-Libyan Treaty has been in effect. He and his friends proved themselves good hosts to the British armed forces, as I saw in my time as a Service Minister.
What has happened to those who worked with him and who were our friends? There are reports that there are more people under house arrest and in prison without trial in Libya than in Greece. Can the Foreign Secretary enlighten us about that? We have no jurisdiction over Libya, but the fate of our friends must be of concern to us, and I seek an assurance from the Foreign Secretary that he will have that in mind during the negotiations. He will get no credit for forgetting our friends or letting them down, even from those who are their successors.
What has happened to the British subjects who were working out there? Have their contracts been terminated in many cases and, if so, has compensation been paid? What has happened to British companies? We hear that the tobacco company and Barclays D.C.O. will be nationalised. Has compensation been 81 offered? Are the terms acceptable? What has happened to other companies similarly placed? What is the position about the flow of oil? I appreciate that the oil is mainly American-owned, but it it of great importance to Europe and could be more important if the Persian Gulf were denied us. Is the Foreign Secretary confident that we can rely on the free flew of oil from Libya?
I do not dispute the decision to recognise the new Libyan Government, though they are scarcely representative. Indeed, it was several weeks before anybody knew who they were. The right hon. Gentleman's ministerial colleague still did not seem very sure of the matter even at Question time today. It has been rumoured that when Ambassador Maitland received his letters of accreditation they were made out in blank as the right hon. Gentleman did not know to whom to make them out. I do not believe that rumour, but it would be pleasant to hear it denied. I presume that we now know who are the members of the Revolutionary Council. May we have that assurance?
What do we know about their affiliations? The members of the Libyan Cabinet whose names we do know seem to have Nasserite or Baathist affiliations or to have had them in the past. Libya seems to be taking a more extremist attitude in inter-Arab meetings. Is that so or am I misinformed? There has been talk of a union of Egypt, Sudan, Libya and possibly Algeria, and of a conference in Tripoli to discuss that matter. Has the Foreign Secretary any information about it? If it were so, would he contemplate it with equanimity in view of the Soviet involvement in Egypt? I do not want to judge what is going to happen in Libya too hastily, but to govern effectively means to foresee events, and the information which we have at present looks a little omnimous as a background to the negotiations.
This alliance between Britain and Libya has been a keystone of security in the Mediterranean over the last few years. Article 1 pledges the High Contracting Partiesnot to adopt in regard to foreign countries an attitude which is inconsistent with the alliance or which might create difficulties for the other party thereto".82 There are reports that the Soviets are seeking facilities at El Adem. Has the Foreign Secretary any information about that from the Embassy or elsewhere? Clearly, it would be inconsistent with the spirit of the alliance, as it would be inconsistent with our interests.
Article 2 pledges us to go to the defence of Libya if she is attacked. I agree that this is a hypothesis, but if Libya became more deeply involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict and this led to Israeli retaliation, what would be our position? Should we feel obliged to go to the support of the new Libyan Republic?
How much importance do we attach to the training rights? They were considered very valuable when I was a Service Minister. How much importance do we attach to the staging and over-flying rights? I do not see how we could maintain military communications with Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania if these were denied us. Under the military agreement we are committed to supply, within reason, military equipment to the Libyans. What is the position about the present contracts? The obligation to provide the material flows from the Treaty. Do we still want to sell? Do the Libyans still want to buy? When most of us accepted the decision to sell Chieftain tanks to Libya, it was because we thought that King Idris might need them to defend himself against the Egyptians. A new situation has arisen, and if we are to sell them to Libya how shall we continue to deny them to Israel?
Article 6 of the Treaty seems significant:This treaty shall remain in force for a period of twenty years except in so far as it may be revised or replaced by a new treaty…by agreement of both the High Contracting Parties …each of the High Contracting Parties agrees in this connexion to have in mind the extent to which international peace and security can be ensured through the United Nations".International peace in the Middle East? Security in the Middle East? Secured by the United Nations? Surely the implications of this clause of the Treaty are clear—that if there were no peace or security, we should take a less relaxed view than otherwise about modifying its provisions.
The consequences of these negotiations could be momentous for this country and 83 for the whole N.A.T.O. alliance. Libya has a very small population but great wealth. It has a long coastline. Its hinterland reaches deep into Africa, and surrounds Tunisia, meeting with Algeria. If Libya were to change sides in the cold war the consequences for the West could be very serious. May we have an assurance from the Foreign Secretary that we have established a common negotiating basis with the Americans over the matter of our bases? May we be assured that that subject will be on the agenda for the talks with President Nixon? Are we consulting our N.A.T.O. allies about what is to happen as an outcome of our negotiations over the bases? Our treaty rights in Libya continue until 1973. Much may happen in the intervening period. I am not urging the Government to take a rigid stand, but I do not see why we should be pushed around where we have clear, formal, legal undertakings and rights.
Hon. Members will have read about the advice given to the nurses in Libya by the consul—to accept rape rather than to resist. I was not in the least surprised to read that. It seemed typical of the advice which the Government have been giving to the House and to the country on foreign affairs ever since they came into power. But if the Foreign Secretary enters the negotiations in that spirit he must not be surprised if the Libyan officers and those who guide their hand regard him as a push-over.
§ Mr. Amery
I hope that the House and the country have learned from what happened in Aden something of what may lie ahead of us in Libya. We on this side of the House warned the Government of what would happen if they pulled out of Aden. So did King Feisal and so did the Americans. Seldom has any decision led so quickly to such disastrous consequences. The port of Aden has been stopped; the people have been ruined; our friends have been driven into exile or into prison; our businesses have been confiscated—there is no other word for it, the compensation offered is so derisory —our advisers have been sacked, and Soviet advisers have their place.
The newspapers tell us there are now MiG squadrons flown and maintained by 84 the Soviets. Can the Foreign Secretary tell us whether this is so? if it is, it seems to me a pretty serious development. Aden has become a base for Soviet expansion and subversion throughout the Arabian Peninsula. A major clash is going on at the moment with our Saudi Arabian friends. Aden is also being used as a base for the invasion of Muscat and is being used as a base for infiltration from the south of the Gulf as Iraq is used for infiltration of the Gulf from the north.
Yet the Government still talk about withdrawing from the Gulf by 1971. What will they leave behind? There is talk of a federation of Emirates, to become an international personality recognised by the United Nations. So far the talks on federation seem to have broken down. I do not blame the Rulers. It seems to me that the Ruler of Abu Dhabi has made great concessions to his neighbours to reach agreement.
But the problems with which they have to grapple are very difficult. Not least how to organise their Army—a problem which has led to the overthrow of many Middle Eastern Governments. Can we have an assurance from the Government that we would be prepared to second British officers to their forces after we have withdrawn? So far as I know we have not given such an assurance.
One would hope that Persia and Saudi Arabia would support the new federation if it were to come into being; but, like so many in this House—indeed, in the Government—they doubt whether it will come into being, and so they are anxious to stake out their claims. And they have claims, albeit very dubious ones, to Bahrain and to Boraimi. If the Government were to leave the Gulf without establishing a viable political structure, and without securing a settlement of these claims, they will invite chaos—and the chaos will not be a local chaos. Another vacuum will be created, and what reason is there to think that the Soviets will not fill it? Surely, the lessons of Egypt and of Aden should be plain by now?
Fifteen years ago in this House, when Britain was still in control of Egypt—I am not making a party point, because it was a Conservative Government which took this decision—we decided to withdraw from the bases we had in the Canal 85 Zone. A few of us opposed that decision and we were derided at the time as old-fashioned imperialists. I hope the House will take a kindlier attitude today to the stand we took then. Our argument was a simple one. It was that, if we left, a vacuum would be created and that, from what we knew of Colonel Nasser and his political affiliations, the vacuum would be filled by the Soviets.
The Soviet presence in the Middle East is now the stock-in-trade of every armchair strategist. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence has to talk about it all the time at N.A.T.O. The Soviets are entrenched in key positions; but they are not yet in control of the most vital areas of all, Libya and the Persian Gulf. The danger to those areas is acute. There is still time to save the situation, but in the famous words engraved on the sundial, "It is later than you think".
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker (Leyton)
On the two great issues which have dominated the greater part of this debate I find myself in very close agreement with the Prime Minister in his closely argued speech, which I found extremely convincing. There was, in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown), although I would not, perhaps, express everything in exactly the same way he did, very great force.
On the question of the Pinkville massacre and the related massacres, I would like to make one point, or to ask one question. How did we become aware of it? We became aware of it because of the ruthless exposure of it in the United States. Indeed, the newspapers and the television behaved there in a way which we would not have found tolerable in this country, where our laws of libel and contempt of court, which are designed to give a man a fair trial, would have stopped it.
The only reason we know of this massacre, which, if the accounts of it are only partially true, is appalling, and we would have totally to condemn, is that the United States is a very radical democracy, and has behaved in that way.
I was very glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) touched on the question of 86 the enlargement of the Common Market. It would be very regrettable if this issue were to be squeezed out of this debate by our concentration on the other two great issues which occupy our minds. This is, in fact, one issue where we can have an effective policy, a policy which will affect opinion one way or the other. If, in fact—I think that here my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper was right—there is a danger of American isolationism, then Europe is of even greater importance to us; indeed, it is all-important for us.
As a result of the summit conference, in spite of the obscurities of parts of the communiqué, I think that we can now at least start from the assumption that negotiations will begin. My own view is that they will begin in 1970 rather than in 1969, but that they will begin now in a new and finite, not a distant, obscure future.
In these new circumstances we have to consider the apparent extent of the swing of public opinion in this country against our entry into the Common Market. I think that it has been greatly exaggerated by the polls. I think that it is impossible for this issue to be put in a poll without loading the questions; and the questions which are asked are loaded. However, in any case, there has been a swing of opinion which could quite easily and quickly be reversed; but there has been some swing, and I myself think that one of the main factors is the fear, especially among many women, of a sharp rise in food prices.
Of course, there is some substance in this fear, though I think that it has been exaggerated, and has been based on a failure to observe two very important considerations. It is forgotten, for instance, that the prices of consumer goods in Europe, in the Common Market countries, are commonly lower than the prices here though the price of food is higher. Women find it hard to work out the distinction between the cost of living and the standard of living. The standard of living has been rising faster in the Common Market than here. Against rises in prices due to the cost of food must be set off the fact that people here would become better off at an even quicker rate.
Much more important, though, than the effect of prices on the cost of living 87 would be the effect which they might have on our balance of payments through the high cost of food. It is very difficult now to calculate this, to calculate the effect of membership upon either the cost of living here or the balance of payments. All previous calculations were based on the assumption that agricultural prices in the Common Market were absolutely fixed and certain. That was, indeed, one condition which all members insisted upon whenever our membership was considered, but now, as is clear from the communiqué, there is general agreement, in the Common Market at any rate, that there must be some lowering of food prices so as to get rid of, or at any rate to reduce, the mountains of surplus foods, and also to reduce or mitigate the increasingly intolerable burden they impose on national Budgets.
All we can say at the moment is that no useful calculation of the effect on either the cost of living or the balance of payments can be made till we know more about the level of prices and the arrangements for paying into the pool. We can certainly assume that all previous calculations under this head are greatly exaggerated, and will have to be scaled down.
There is a tendency to overlook items on the other side of this balance of payments equation. There is one in particular. If we joined the Common Market we could expect our agricultural exports to increase. Our agriculture, in many respects, is much more efficient than agriculture in any Common Market country, and we could expect exports of cereals, beef, perhaps mutton, to increase very substantially, and to the extent that that were to happen the effect, of course, on the balance of payments would be offset. None the less, despite these considerations, which are important, joining the Common Market could well have a grave effect on our balance of payments, and it must remain a major British interest to reduce this burden as far as we can during the course of the negotiations.
This could be a stumbling block in the negotiations. The real test of the desire of the members of the Common Market to have us in is the extent to which, in reorganising the price structure of agriculture, they take genuine British 88 interests into account alongside their own interests, and how far this happens we shall be able to see in the next six months or year.
In the end, the question of the enlargement of the Common Market will be settled by the balance of interests between the Common Market countries, ourselves and the other candidate nations. There is a very great mutual interest. The Common Market has a great interest in its enlargement by the inclusion of Britain and the other candidates. The exclusion of Britain has been one important factor in the stagnation and disarray of the Common Market. This was expressed very clearly by Herr Brandt, in his speech at the summit meeting, when he said:Exerience has shown that putting off the question of enlargement threatens to paralyse the Community.In other words, the longer our exclusion continues, the worse the danger of paralysis. There is also now general recognition in the Common Market, which is shared by Germany, that the entry of Britain is necessary to create a better political balance within the Common Market to avoid the otherwise certain German over-dominance.
Membership is certainly greatly in our interest. The economic disadvantages, for the reasons I have given, will now be less than seemed likely two years ago. The economic advantages remain very great —access to a large market for manufactured goods and much greater scope for invisible earnings by the City of London. The paramount consideration remains as always, the political one. Only in the Common Market can we come close to a centre of power in which we can play an important part, and one which, in spite of what the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said, is consonant with our now natural rôle in the world as a Power that does not have interests in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere.
When negotiations start, we must not be a suppliant nation. We certainly need not be a suppliant nation. The Common Market is aware now that it suffers from our exclusion. Even more important, the negotiations, from their very nature, must be and will be balanced and even. The enlargement from six to 10 will not affect the treaties and instruments on which the 89 Common Market rests, but must alter its nature, as was recognised by Dr. Mansholt in a striking passage of a speech which he made recently in London. He said that when the Common Market is enlarged to 10, not only Britain but also the six existing members will be entering a new Community.
None of the 10, and that means none of the Six, will be able to see ahead with complete clarity the effect of this enlargement upon itself and its own interests, and each of the 10, and not only Britain, will have to take certain important matters on trust, relying on the good sense and the solidarity of the other members. There will, therefore, be much scope for proper give and take and for mutual confidence. What we can look forward to when the negotiations start and continue is not so much hard-headed horse-trading, but rather an exercise in co-operation in which all the 10 members will be equally involved and equally interdependent.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)
I had thought that the debate would be primarily on Vietnam today and on Biafra tomorrow, but it is tending to go rather wide. I will try to resist the temptation to widen it, but I would first like to comment on what has already been said.
I agree with almost everything which the right hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker) said, particularly what he said about agriculture in this country. I do not think this is sufficiently stressed when we consider association with Europe. I disagree with him on the part that Britain within Europe has to play in the outside world. Many of us have believed for some years that the N.A.T.O. area cannot he defended just in the N.A.T.O. area but must be defended outside. President Nixon said this when he came to Europe at the beginning of this year. The implication of his words was that the more we did to defend the free world outside the N.A.T.O. area the more the United States would do to defend it within the N.A.T.O. area.
In support of that, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at the series of reports coming out of the Western European Assembly, very often under the name of that great Social Democrat Franz Goedhart, who is known and respected by many hon. 90 Members, advocating that Western Europe, Greece and Turkey should take a greater interest, for instance, in the affairs of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, from whence come the oil supplies of virtually the whole free world.
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) has left, because he mentioned Libya and King Idris. In the dark days of the summer of 1940 I was sent by General Wavell to see him to ask him where he would like to go if Egypt were over run. Things were not as dark as we thought, and he did not need to leave Egypt, but for 30 years he and his family and colleagues have been great supporters of friendship with this country. It is not out of place for my right hon. Friend and myself, and any others who wish to do so, to salute what he did to sustain friendship with this country.
Now that Libya has vast oil revenues, one wishes success to the successor Government and hopes that they will find in that source of wealth something that will set them on the way to prosperity. They have before them the example of other oil states in the Arabian Gulf.
I am surprised and gratified at how much interest is aroused at the position of Herr Hess. I asked the right hon. Gentleman last Monday whether he would approach the other three Powers to see whether Herr Hess could be let out to spend Christmas with his family, but the reply did not answer my question. I ask him to look at this again to see whether an exception could be made to enable Herr Hess to spend Christmas with his family.
I neither heard the broadcast nor had a copy of what the right hon. Gentleman said in his broadcast about Vietnam. I had great pleasure in hearing what he said today, and I am in general agreement with him. I hope that what he said will be reported on the other side of the Atlantic. When the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) and I were in the United States recently astonishment was shown that anybody else was supporting the stand made by the United States for small nations in various parts of the world. It is a pity that attacks on the United States are highlighted in the Press and elsewhere, whereas only seldom are friendly remarks 91 made in this House reported there. Of course, none of us condones what is alleged to have happened at "Pinkville", but we have yet to hear the truth of this.
The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) put in perspective what has happened in the last few years in South-East Asia. I want to go wider than that and point out certain factors which, we hope, will encourage the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues not to make the same mistakes again in the 10 months during which they will remain on the benches opposite. Looking back to 1945, there have been 40 or so wars, none of them official. Practically all have been civil wars, the worst of all, fought in guerrilla conditions without any Geneva Rules. One of the factors in South-East Asia has been the emergence of armies of women and the very young, going around throwing grenades. Because of their uniforms it is difficult on occasions for the combatants to be identified as either men or women.
Since 1945, whether we like it or not, our country has been heavily involved in the Far East. I have always been in favour of the transfer of power, but time and again we have warned from these benches that this should not be over-rapid. I do not like the word "vacuum ", it has a certain arrogance about it. When power is transferred, we should be more careful to give help to the successor government to enable it to establish itself and to establish stability in its affairs. It always takes time in any country. Britain has contributed greatly to the instability of the area sometimes called East of Suez by the over-rapid withdrawal, going back to the day of India and Palestine, nearly 25 years ago, by pulling out too rapidly. We weakened our moral position and left greater problems than we had saved ourselves by lightening our burdens too soon.
The Commonwealth rallied round afterwards in Korea the United Kingdom took on Malaya and Vietnam in 1954. Sir Anthony Eden's greatest negotiating achievement and contribution to the peace and freedom of that area resulted from the negotiations at that time. If the United States had put in a bit more help then—we were not in a position to do more; we were committed in Malaya— 92 we might have saved some of the subsequent difficulties. In the 1960s we had Malaysian confrontation, and India, Tibet, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Burma—all situations which have been and still are potential Vietnams, where the local people wish to live in peace—[Interruption.]—but are threatened from outside.
If I may interrupt hon. Members opposite, they are the ones who always seem to be against what this country is doing, whoever is sitting on the Government Front Bench; to maintain stability m these countries and give the successor governments a chance to run their own affairs in their own ways. It is one of the disturbing things that we have found in the House in the last 25 years, that they doubt the willingness or good will, even of their own side, to try to do the best thing for the people, and seem unwilling to look at the other side of the coin, the women and the children, the million refugees from North Vietnam who came into South Vietnam. The whole of this area is very much at risk in the 1970s.
The United Kingdom political situation, as I understand it, was that when five years ago the Prime Minister went to Washington he reached agreement about certain support for sterling, and in return agreed to buy United States aircraft and abandon the TSR2. This was a very great disaster for British technology. The jigs of this aeroplane were destroyed something which has never been done before when an aircraft has been can celled. Perhaps hon. Members opposite below the Gangway will cheer that action by the Government. The Prime Minister also agreed, we understand, to support the United States over Vietnam. I am delighted about that.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
The hon. Gentleman says that he is sure that I am delighted. I do not mind standing up for the Alliance. But for that he would not be sitting in this Chamber, in freedom, able to talk as he does. He will not be sitting here much longer but when the time comes he may think back—
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
—and remember that the Americans are the people to whom he owes more than he is prepared to admit in this Chamber.
I support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion said about the situation east of Suez. I am the last person to want to keep out dated bases I want to see power transferred with stability. It was quite clear from what we have said in this House for the previous two or three years that the way in which power was transferred in Aden would not give the people who took over the chance to maintain their independence. All the information, such as it is—because the Press has difficulty in getting there and finding out—tells us hat this is a new Soviet base, being prepared for the day, if it comes, when he Canal is opened and the Soviets can operate more freely in the Indian Ocean, into the Seychelles, Mauritius and other island groups, as well as getting round to the Gulf, from whence come the oil supplies of the free world.
There is still time to save this. The right hon. Member for Belper mentioned Mr. Lee. With the willing support and co-operation of such people, we will have time co save something in this area, and many of the people there wish us to make the effort. What is happening in Vietnam is being watched by the whole free world—still free, that is—east of Suez, to see whether the United States, and the British behind them, will be prepared to support small nations against the threat from the North. I sometimes wonder at the damage done to the morale of those who believe that we are prepared to help them, not only when they are dependent but as and when they become independent: and then they see us running out of all our commitments overseas, under this Administration.
One of today's problems is that it is very difficult to find out what is happening because, once we have abandoned these places, as we did Aden, few in the Press are able to report as freely as they once did. They may visit sometimes, but it is often a once-only report. As the right hon. Gentleman said, one of the tragedies and difficulties of the present situation in Vietnam is that while representatives of the mass media accompany the forces on our side, this is not equalled on the other side. We do not have records of the Vietcong atrocities which we know 94 are being carried on, to the most appalling extent, deliberately encouraged from Hanoi.
We see "Pinkville" being held up as if it had been proven in court. It is a terrible accusation, and no one wants to diminish that. A great deal of publicity has been given to it while the whole matter should be regarded as sub judice. The events in Tibet, Laos, Cambodia, even Czechoslovakia and Hungary are practically forgotten—a year after the occupation of Czechoslovakia. When the history of the last few years comes to be written it will record the great damage that has been done to the morale of the free world by this sort of publicity, so often slanted against the forces in the free world.
§ Mr. Newens
Is the hon. Member against publicity being given to events and atrocities of this sort? Is he for covering them up?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
If the hon. Member had been listening to what I was saying, instead of talking, he would have heard me say that the whole of this campaign is one sided, and slanted against the forces of the free world who, in the opinion of millions of people in South-East Asia and elsewhere, are fighting for the rights of the smaller nations. If he will not take that from me, he should remember what his right hon. Friend the Member for Belper said—though that, too, may be unacceptable to him, as for 25 years sensible speeches like it have been unacceptable to hon. Members opposite below the Gangway.
I have no time now to report on what the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North and I found when we visited the United Nations. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary and to my own Front Bench for selecting me to go there. I had not studied the situation there in depth for some 14 years. The political chaos is as great as ever, but after spending a little time in this place one gets used to that. Both politicians and diplomats rub each other's edges off and I found an even more friendly atmosphere than was noticeable before.
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North, who led us so splendidly, will agree with me when I say that a most tremendous job 95 is being done by the specialist agencies, and by individuals like Paul Hoffman, Harry Labouisse and Mr. Robert McNamara, now of the World Bank. But the better they do the job, the more there is to be done because of the population explosion. It is a pity that we in this House do not have more time to discuss these great issues which will order the world until the end of the century. These great problems cannot be solved except in a context of freedom, self-determination and peace, which are the words used by the Prime Minister this afternoon.
I therefore end as I started by saluting the generosity of the United States. I commiserate with them in their present difficulties. We have had our difficulties in the past and have seen them through, and I am certain that the nerve of the American people is strong. I pray that it will so remain, not only for the sake of all of us in this country but for the sake of the small nations wanting to be free and live in peace.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this afternoon expressed the hope that it would be recognised that there were sincere and very big differences of opinion on both sides on the major issues with which we are dealing, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) said much the same thing. With the greatest respect to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker), he is the first Member in this debate who has impugned anyone's motives.
Vietnam is a big issue on which there are many different views, and on which there are no conventional divisions into traditional groups either here or in the United States. On this occasion I find myself with somewhat unusual and strange bedfellows. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown), in a very typical and trenchant speech, attracted some support from the benches opposite which he does not always find available when he most wants it, and he probably did not particularly want it today.
To me, this issue is not between those who are pro-American and those who are anti-American. It is not an issue 96 between the Left and the Right, however those terms are defined. I am in no way anti-American. I believe that the world has been saved from war on more than one occasion by the actions of the United States. Successive American Administrations have shown a fierce and genuine desire to use their massive power and wealth to make the world a better place.
During 26 years of politics I have been accused of many things, but I have never been accused of being a Communist sympathiser. Many of us on this side have perhaps had a rather closer battle with Communists than have some right hon. and hon. Members opposite. I have never found myself in other than active opposition to everything for which the Communist Party stands. It has never been a difficult choice. The treatment of Yugoslavia, Hungary and Czechoslavakia, the repression in East Germany, the long list of Communist political show trials over the last 40 years, leave me in no doubt of what I think worth fighting for in democratic politics.
That is the point of the debate. We face a big issue when we discuss Vietnam, because I believe that the war there has reached a stage when it is destroying the very principles and values in which we all believe. My reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper is that it is a mistake to believe that we can defend freedom by destroying every decent civilised principle. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister raised the basic issue, and I agree with him, when he said that the question is whether what is alleged was an isolated atrocity or whether atrocity is endemic in this war.
That is the basic issue. The mistake my right hon. Friend made, if I may say so, was to relate this question to the recent allegations that have been made, because, strange as it may seem, those alleged atrocities—and I accept that they have not been proven, and I have no doubt that atrocities occur on both sides, if anyone should seek to say anything about what has happened on the other side—now being considered in the United States of America, are, at the same time, irrelevant and crucial to the argument.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper, in a broadcast which I heard, said that modern war is a bloody and 97 brutalising experience, and that atrocities and the killing of women and children are inescapable in modern war. He was right. Ordinary decent men change rapidly when their friends are killed and maimed about them, and when they themselves fear for their lives. I have no doubt that many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have sat in this House must have nursed uneasy consciences about some of their own wartime decisions and actions. It is inevitable in any war.
Individual atrocities cannot be excused, but individual atrocities can be understood. But the war in Vietnam is the world's concern and not only that of the Unites. States; not because atrocities happen on both sides, not because in this case they are allegedly spectacular, but because the conscious escalation of atrocity in Vietnam is now the only way in which that war can be fought. After a continuous and growing attack by world Powers for a quarter of a century, a solution in Vietnam is as far away as ever.
With varying degrees of enthusiasm and of terrorism, the Vietcong is supported by much of the civilian population over very large areas of the countryside. In such a situation, nice, tidy distinctions between guerillas and the civilian population are just not possible. In such a war, the use of herbicides to eliminate cover and kill crops is inevitable. When that happens it just is not possible to starve the Vietcong while keeping women and children in the same areas alive and healthy. If there is no battle line there is no alternative, in the conditions in Vietnam, to the near indiscriminate bombing and shooting of civilians and soldiers alike. If, in the conditions in Vietnam, one supports the slogan "Search and destroy "with an infinite range of weapons, the margin of error is almost unlimited.
Recognising the special nature of this war the question then is: can we support it? Should we support it? No one expects a war to be pleasant or acceptable in the drawing room. I think that for some years Her Majesty's Government's attitude was coloured by the hope that we might be able to act as an honest broker. I accept that the crucial thing was to pay almost any price if one could provide a solution to this particular war. 98 Loyalty to United States' policy was essential to that rôle if it were to have any chance of success. I do not accept for one moment the suggestion by the hon. Member for Cheltenham that any deal was done in exchange for American support for sterling, that in return we gave support for American policy in Vietnam.
The reason that Government support was offered to the Americans in Vietnam was that without the offer of that support any marginal hope of playing a rôle in the solution of this conflict was just "not on". My right hon. Friend and others tried sincerely and repeatedly to achieve some sort of settlement to assist in some way. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper and others have said that there was at least one occasion when, despite the laughs and jeers which some of us remember and the reception by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite of some of the more spectacular desperate attempts to achieve some sort of solution, we might have succeeded. It is not a criticism to say that we did not succeed. It is not a criticism to say that that possibility and that contribution is no longer open to us.
If we can no longer stand a chance of operating as honest broker, and no longer see the possibility of bringing the two sides together, we have to think very clearly about our particular stance because the one thing that this Government, no Government in the world, can say is that we oppose the uncivilised parts of this particular war. This is a war which cannot be fought on the normal rules of war by either side. The only justification for support would be if we could show that the ends justify the means, an unfashionable comment, and if those ends could, in fact, be achieved.
What objectives are we seeking to achieve? It is hardly the welfare of the Vietnamese people. There may be many arguments, but I do not think that anyone would suggest that this war arises out of a particular concern for the people in Vietnam itself. It can be argued that it is part of a much wider, global strategy, but certainly not for the welfare of the Vietnamese as such. I do not believe that the average Vietnamese peasant—and I have known few—cares a damn which side wins the war. The 99 right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) implied that a quiet life and enough to eat are usually the only politics of peasants in underdeveloped areas.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that the million peasants, or mostly peasants, who fled from the north to the south care very much who wins this war?
§ Mr. Marsh
I think that the situation in North Vietnam is as intolerable as it is in South Vietnam at present. People are trying to find an area where they can be secure. I am surprised if this is not accepted. It may be suggested that this war has much wider, bigger strategic implications—the defence of freedom, someone said—but I do not believe that it can be argued that foreign troops have been in Vietnam for 25 years to protect the Vietnamese as such.
This is a point of view with which others may disagree. It may be argued that it is designed for the preservation of democracy and good government. I can think of many causes for which I would fight, but the present Government of Saigon is not one of them. The Prime Minister came very close to this, and said virtually the same.
Is it a fight to contain Communism? That is a point which, I believe, is made by a number of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. In the 'forties Communism had a simple meaning. Today, in different parts of the world Communism has a different meaning. Communism in Yougoslavia bears no resemblance to that in China and Czech Communism was totally intolerable to the Soviet Union. The extent to which Hanoi has sought to remain independent of physical involvement with Chinese or Soviet Union troops at least presents a possibility that the fight is based more on nationalism and anti-colonialism than global Communism in the cold war sense.
What conclusions are to be drawn from this? I do not believe that the South Vietnamese Government as now constituted can survive on their own territory by their own efforts, nor do I believe that they will ever be able to do so. At some stage—may be one year, three years 100 or five years' hence—the United States will withdraw from Vietnam as sure as night follows day. It is important, therefore, that they shall not leave behind the kind of total chaos which none of us wants to see. Thirdly, I think that any Government, given the reality of the situation, must be a Left-of-centre Government if they are to have any hope of survival. I believe that the only realistic solution is for the United States to negotiate a new coalition Government in Saigon simultaneously with planned withdrawal Such a coalition would presuppose the release and involvement of many non-Communist opponents of the present régime who are at present in detention. It pre-supposes the replacement of the present Government in Saigon.
The United States should negotiate such a coalition because it seems dangerously naïve to talk of free elections in present-day Vietnam as if we were talking of municipal elections in a London borough. The situation is not such as lends itself to that sort of approach. I accept that it carries a major calculated risk, but I cannot see any realistic alternative which would not carry an even bigger and more fundamental risk to the very things we all started out to safeguard and to support.
It may possibly be said to my right hon. Friend when he is in Washington that this is none of our business and that we should join what the Vice-President calls, and what this morning's Daily Telegraph called, "the silent majority". On the first point, there can be no neutrality on an issue on this size. The British Government have to take a view one way or the other. Precisely because the United States is an ally, it is very much our business as well as theirs.
On the second point, there was, of course, a silent majority in Germany in the 'thirties. Their silence made possible the threat to every civilised value, and the world paid a very high price precisely because they remained silent for too long. I do not think that it can be described as disloyal or anti-American on our part to seek to avoid making the same mistake.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
I very much enjoyed the speech of the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) 101 and I largely agree with almost everything he said. I do not, however, intend to follow him, because although it has been generally agreed that the debate today will be principally concerned with Vietnam and tomorrow with Biafra and Nigeria, I want to look at some of the general issues of foreign policy and, in particular, the question of Europe.
First, I want to ask a number of general questions about the broad objectives of foreign policy pursued by this country. The Prime Minister spoke of the search for acceptable, categorical imperatives and went on to emphasise the dilemma—this was taken up by successive speakers—as between ends and means in Nigeria and in Vietnam. These dilemmas exist even for the fairest and most reasonable among us, but there are a great many among us who are not all that fair and reasonable. Those two words show supremely the heinous consequences of war, but they highlight inconsistencies which have equally demonstrated themselves in other areas.
Precisely what are we seeking to do in our foreign policy? In large part, British foreign policy is concerned with safeguarding British commercial interests and promoting the stability in which alone these interests can properly flourish. There was a good example of that this afternoon when we were discussing Libya. The Minister said, in the way that Ministers have, that he hoped that our relations with the new Government would be friendly and amicable, and so on. Yet, just like the previous Libyan Government, the new one are not democratically based. As was pointed out by the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), there may well be many people imprisoned there.
Secondly, in large part in theory, our policy is designed to advance the cause of democracy. There are a great many nations in the world—sadly, the number is increasing each year; the Argentine and Somalia are but the two most recent—whose form of government is based upon principles which we abhor.
What should we try to do about them? First, as a democratic country we should not differentiate in our attitudes and reactions between injustices perpetuated by autocracies of the Left and those perpetuated by autocracies of the Right. I 102 agree with what the right hon. Members for Belper (Mr. George Brown) and Greenwich said, though I think that the right hon. Member for Greenwich was over-reasonable.
As a Member who has not played a very notable part in foreign affairs debates in the past, but who has often sat in and listened to them and who has often listened to Questions on foreign affairs, I have noted the very marked difference between the reactions of the two sides of the House—for example, when repressive actions take place in Spain, Portugal or Greece, there is a strong reaction on the Labour benches and a relatively muted one on this side; if there are repressive reactions behind the Iron Curtain, there is a strong reaction on this side and a relatively muted one on the Labour benches—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Orme rose—
§ Mr. Heffer
The hon. Gentleman must be aware that the so-called Left wing on this side was unanimous in its condemnation of what happened in Czechoslovakia and has consistently fought the policies of the Communists in their repression; because, for the hon. Gentleman's understanding, it is usually Social Democrats like ourselves who are the first victims of Communist repression.
Mr. Russell Johnson
I did not mention Czechoslovakia and Hungary—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman would be kind enough to stand if he wishes to interrupt, I will certainly give way, but I shall deal with that question later. Rude interruptions serve no purpose.
It remains broadly true that the Left-wing of the Labour Party does not take the lead in attacking the repressions of Left-wing autocracies and that the Right-wing of the Conservative Party does not take the lead in attacking the repressions of Right-wing dictatorships. I believe that both are to be equally condemned. People who seek to make distinctions or to exercise selective discrimination can only do harm to this country's policy of seeking to exercise an influence for peace and harmony throughout the world.
I come now to the question about which the hon. Member for Liverpool, 103 Walton (Mr. Heffer) was concerned. People who, rightly, condemn the continuance, without any indication of the moment of relief, of dictatorship in Greece, will at the same time urge closer relations with the German Democratic Republic, a régime which builds a wall to keep people in and which shoots them if they attempt to get out. The inconsistency between the two attitudes damages the logic of both positions.
The Prime Minister began his speech by referring to Greece. As perhaps the House as a whole remembers—some hon. Members clearly do—the hon. Members for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier), Gatehsead, East (Mr. Conlan), and Colchester (Mr. Buck) and the late Mr. David Webster and I went twice to Greece last year at the invitation of its current Government. We were much criticised for going there.
I would go anywhere, from Cuba to China, from Haiti to Bulgaria. It would be a sad day if it were ever assumed that Members of Parliament who visited a foreign country were in some way associated with what happened in that country. It was wrong for people to criticise us for going. [An HON. MEMBER: "Spain."] I have never been to Spain for my holidays.
On our visit to Greece we received various assurances from a Government who we recognised were a dictatorship. We said they were a dictatorship. We said—we were greatly criticised for it—that it was not at that time as severe a dictatorship as had existed elsewhere. Nothing has since happened.
The Government are clearly correct in saying that the Council of Europe, as an association of democratic peoples, cannot any longer have Greece within its membership, unless there is a very clear indication of a timetable for a return to democratic government. Nevertheless, the question which must be asked here, as in relation to other dictatorships, is: what does one then do? Pakistan, a member of the Commonwealth, is ruled by a military Government. There was a military Government in Ghana. Admittedly, neither of these Governments has been particularly oppressive. [Interruption.] I am not referring to the Nkrumah Government. I am referring to the more recent 104 military one. Ghana did return to democracy.
What is to be done about Greece now? The question must also be asked in very general terms. The right hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker) rightly pointed out that, unfortunately, the influence that Britain can exert is very limited outside Europe. We greatly condemn things, but we would not contemplate any of the excessive things that can be done to purge bad régimes. We would not contemplate war in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, South Africa or Rhodesia. Yet all of these régimes, in their way, are reprehensible.
Therefore, what is to be done? In the end, I think, rightly or wrongly, channels should be kept open and communications maintained. There is nothing wrong with doing that, provided that we are clear in our attitude and provided that our attitude is communicated.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's point, which is a very good one, that it is important to maintain communications with oppressive régimes. Does this apply in Rhodesia and South Africa?
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
Rhodesia is a special case, because it is not an independent country. It is a colony of Britain which has not become independent. I do not think that my argument can apply there. Contact must be retained with South Africa.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
I did not say that, either.
I have no particular objection to people playing rugby, but I think that the M.C.C. clearly would be wrong to invite the South African team over in view of the fact that they refused to accept a coloured player in our team.
I want to make two or three remarks about Europe, which is again the main preoccupation of British people who, in opinion polls, seem especially suspicious of the enterprise. I wonder how it is that 45 per cent. of the British public, as reported in the Daily Telegraph poll, are now opposed to what is the official policy of the three main parties.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
With respect, may I point out that according to the November National Opinion Poll 59 per cent. disapprove, and, in the case of the Liberal Party, 69 per cent. disapprove?
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
That greatly reinforces what I am saying. It is an exceedingly odd situation when the vast majority of the population oppose the official policies of the three main parties. Are the majority of the British people saying that the main parties are hell-bent on driving Britain into a situation which would damage her economically and politically? This would be a peculiar thing to say.
I believe that the future of Britain lies in Europe. This does not mean that I would accept any conditions to achieve entry. It means that I believe that the advantages, and the disadvantages, of not going in are such that they will clearly result in an acceptable agreement being reached. The agricultural negotiations, which are still the most thorny ones, are vital. There may well be an argument for saying that Britain should probe the possibility of participation in preliminary discussions if only as an observer, because at the end of the day the 1947 Agriculture Act, on which our agricultural policy is based, and the 1957 Treaty of Rome have the same objectives of ensuring that the farmers are safeguarded, that the subsidy bill is not too large and that excessive surpluses do not build up.
Next, I think that we have got to start thinking about sovereignty and how it can be gradually fused, at the same time ensuring democratic accountability. This means the acceptance of ideas based on weighted voting within the Community. Opponents of the Common Market are always talking about our affairs being dictated from Brussels, Paris, or Rome. This is a very unfair way of projecting the Community.
Finally, linked to the question of sovereignty is the problem of trying to co-ordinate our foreign policies in Europe. On Biafra and the Middle East there is fundamental disagreement between the main partners in the E.E.C., and, equally, on the question of the co-ordination of our defence requirements a great deal of action has got to be taken. There are arguments for pur- 106 suing parallel negotiations in respect of entry. To come together is always a difficult exercise, while fighting and arguing are easy. The challenge of unity in Europe is a difficult one, but it is one that we must meet.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Sir Dingle Foot (Ipswich)
I should like to take up one reference in the speech that we have just heard. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) referred to Ghana, a country which I happen to know well. We ought to acknowledge what has happened in Ghana. That country went through a period of repression and brutal dictatorship; let us make no mistake about that. Then there was a military coup and many people thought that the soldiers would continue to rule for an indefinite period. They have not done so. Ghana has just introduced a new democratic constitution. It has restored both representative government and civil liberties, and that is something which we ought to acknowledge in this House.
Before coming to the particular topic about which I want to ask one or two questions—the Middle East—I should like to say a word about Vietnam. I know that some of my hon. Friends will not agree with me here. Of course, we are all sickened and horrified by the reports of the massacre of defenceless villagers. That feeling is not confined to this country. It is shared, and I think equally shared, by the people of the United States. But we ought not on this account to join in a sort of blanket condemnation of everything that the United States has done or is now seeking to do in South-East Asia.
I believe that the Americans have made very serious errors in the political and military spheres. I do not think that a jungle war can be won mainly from the air. But because of the incessant attacks which are made in this country on American policy—attacks in which, I may say, I have always refused to join—many people are wholly misled about the American record in Vietnam. They suppose that the Americans were the aggressors and that the responsibility for continuing the war throughout the years has rested solely with Washington. That is entirely untrue. The war began from the North. It was continued from the North, and every attempt 107 at mediation, whether it was made by the Commonwealth or by the independent countries which belonged to neither bloc, was accepted by Washington and turned down by Hanoi.
When we come to the subject of atrocities, there could be no greater atrocity than that at Hue. If reports are to be believed, not only were people shot but many of the victims, with their hands tied behind their backs, were buried alive. That in no way excuses the shooting of Vietnamese villagers by American soldiers. But there is this difference. What happened at "Pinkville" has been the subject of nationwide publicity and indignation in the United States. A Congressional inquiry is taking place to determine whether the allegations are justified. It may be that a trial or trials for murder will follow. There is no Press outcry against Hue or any other Vietcong atrocity in Hanoi. There has been no investigation. There will never be any trial for murder. That, it seems to me, is a vital distinction and one which we ought constantly to draw when we are considering these matters.
After all, that was the distinction which was drawn at Nuremberg and in the war crimes trials which followed. During the late war there were some excesses on both sides, but the question was where the responsibility lay. Of course, I am not trying to palliate for a moment what happened at "Pinkville", but there is all the difference between acts of individual savagery and atrocities which are the result of deliberate policy by the Government or movement concerned.
I want to deal shortly with the position in the Middle East, and I wish to raise with my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State a matter which I raised with him at Question Time today. I refer to the project to drill for oil in the occupied territory of Sinai, Egyptian territory temporarily occupied by the Israelis. That project is being undertaken for Israel by an American investment group through an English-based affiliated company. I intended to refer to the company and its directors, but my hon. Friend informed me today that legal proceedings were in contemplation, so I will not mention any particular names.
108 It must be obvious that activities of this kind have the most serious implications. We are dealing here with the commercial exploitation of occupied territory. When ventures of this sort, which must take years to develop, are undertaken in such circumstances, it must inevitably lead to the inference that Israel has no intention of complying with the United Nations resolution and withdrawing from the territories which were overrun in June, 1967. Therefore, I hope that the Government's attitude towards ventures of this kind will be made abundantly clear.
My second point has already been raised on one or two occasions in the House, but I do not think that any adequate answer has yet been given. The United Nations resolution of 22nd November, 1967, laid down certain principles. The first principle was'the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.It was, I think, universally assumed at the time that that meant all territories. Indeed, my information is that representatives of the United Arab Republic sought reassurance of that point from the American representative in Cairo and from our own representative at the United Nations, and they were fully reassured.
It certainly appeared that that was what was meant in the speech in the debate on the Address by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary:I have stressed strongly that one part of any useful guidance to Dr. Jarring must be the doctrine of a just and lasting peace. Another part must be secure and recognised borders between Israel and her neighbours. Third—and this will be more welcomed on one side than on the other—there must be no doubt at all about the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territories of her neighbours. It is on this point that the Arab countries have professed profound misgivings as to Israeli intentions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1969; Vol. 790, c. 365.]That was what my right hon. Friend said, and the meaning appeared clear enough on 30th October. Since then, the matter has been open to considerable doubt. On 17th November, the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) asked my right hon. Friend:What is the British interpretation of the wording of the 1967 resolution? Does the right hon. Gentleman understand it to mean that the 109 Israelis should withdraw from all territory taken in the late war?My right hon. Friend replied:No, Sir. That is not the phrase used in the resolution. The resolution speaks of secure and recognised boundaries. Those words must be read concurrently with the statement on withdrawal."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 17th November, 1969; Vol. 791, c. 844–5.]Having spent a considerable part of my life dealing with the construction of documents, I can only say that that seems to be a very strange construction. But, in any case, it is difficult to reconcile that reply with the statement which my right hon. Friend had made in the debate on the Address.
When the matter was raised with the Prime Minister on 27th November, in a long passage with which I shall not trouble the House, my right hon. Friend cast no further light—I say that with great respect—but talked simply about a package deal.
We ought to be clear, especially now that four-Power talks are starting up again, what the attitude of Her Majesty's Government is and what interpretation they place upon the resolution of 22nd November 1967. After all, it was a British resolution; it was framed by our representatives at the United Nations.
§ Mr. Heffer
Does not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that one part of the policy which the British Government should pursue is that they should get the Arab countries to agree that Israel should be accepted as an independent State, and that has not yet been accepted by any Arab country?
§ Sir Dingle Foot
Certainly, that is part of the resolution, and, if the resolution is to be carried out, as I hope—though I am not sanguine that it will be—there would have to be that recognition. What I say in answer to my hon. Friend is that the Israelis could have had this recognition two years ago. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] I was told that myself when I went to see President Nasser in the autumn of 1967. He made it abundantly clear. He offered then that he would have talks with the Israelis provided that there could be an impartial United Nations chairman. That was turned down with contempt in Tel Aviv. Throughout this period, at every stage we had been up against Israeli intransigence.
110 I am speaking now of an assurance regarding all the territories. It may be that some readjustment might take place in the boundaries between Israel and Jordan—that is a separate question—but on the question of the occupied Egyptian territories, that is, Sinai, one is dealing with wholly different considerations. It is not a question of drawing a frontier; it is simply a question of territories which were occupied in the war. May we, therefore, have further elucidation on that matter and what was intended to be meant by the resolution of 1967?
I refer now to only one other matter —I think that it has been mentioned only once so far in the debate, and by an hon. Member opposite—namely, the position in the Persian Gulf. I was one somewhat lonely figure at the time who opposed the withdrawal from east of Suez. Since then, various attempts have been made by the Sheiks of the Persian Gulf to enter into a federation. It is entirely in our interests that that federation should come into existence and that it should be effective and able to defend itself. Even though we may withdraw by the end of 1971—I think that circumstances will force us to reconsider that decision—we shall, nevertheless, still have vital interests in that part of the world, and not only our own interests but the interests of all the free world which draws so much of its oil supplies from the Gulf.
Even if we do not have troops stationed there as they are now, the Sheiks, if they have formed their federation or even if they have not, will still need considerable technical assistance. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) referred to Mr. Harry Lee Kuan Yew. I have on more than one occasion discussed with Mr. Lee Kuan Yew the problems caused by our proposed withdrawal from Singapore. He said, "I can make up for a great many things. I can provide my own pilots for air defence, which is vital to Singapore, and I can provide my own aircrews. But there are certain technical staff in the operations rooms whom I cannot replace under about two years". He insisted that we continue to render that form of technical assistance. It may be equally important that we render technical military assistance in the Gulf even after the end of 1971.
111 I do not expect the Ministerial reply to the debate to deal with that point in detail, but it is a question on which an assurance is needed, and urgently needed in the countries concerned.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) will forgive me if I do not follow him on the Middle East, a subject near to my heart, but I prefer to follow the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston)—whose hon. Friends, I see, have just departed as I rose.
I wish to bring the subject of my short speech home to a matter of concern to, I think, a wider group of British people than are at the moment concerned about Vietnam, though I recognise the importance of that. I refer to the Common Market. As the hon. Member for Inverness said, and as I emphasised in my intervention during his speech with reference to the National Opinion Poll figures, the British people's view about joining the Common Market reveals a curious situation. As I said, 59 per cent. of the British people disapprove—that is the word used by the poll—of joining the Common Market and only 26 per cent. are in favour. In the Conservative Party, 66 per cent. disapprove, while a mere 23 per cent. seem to approve. I therefore thought, as the next debate on foreign affairs is not likely to be until March next year, that it would be right, in this formative period, when the Government who are so keen on going in are making up their minds, that I should be allowed to say one or two things.
First, I want to correct the impression, which may be gained from the newspapers, that I am anti-Common Market. It is absolutely untrue. I am against Britain joining, which is very different: the Common Market can get on with its own affairs.
In the limited euphoria which the outcome of The Hague Conference seems to have generated, the advice from our wise men is that we should wait and see what the outcome is of the negotiations, certainly on the economic side, before we can make a judgment. That is a very fair attitude, because we shall not know what the agricultural terms or the tran- 112 sitional arrangements are. We cannot really make a final judgment on what the balance of payments deficit will be until we know the outcome of those negotiations. Having agreed with that, there are two matters which are quite outside that economic disadvantage and which we can talk about regardless of the outcome of the negotiations.
The first is the political question. I raised this at Question Time and got what I thought was a rather abrupt answer from the right hon. Gentleman who answered and I propose to write to him about it and get a correction, because I think that what he said was wrong. I can understand those who say that they want to be a part of Europe and want Britain to be a part of Europe, that they are Europeans and they want one big happy family in a country called Europe. I understand that: it is honest and straightforward. But what I cannot abide is those people who fudge the issue.
Those of us who study the Common Market and keep it under fairly constant review, as I and a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends do, know that, whatever we are told by our political leaders, in the long run the way that the Common Market hopes to develop is as a Federal Europe, a united states of Europe, a country called Europe, with an elected Parliament which will have budgetary control—they are after that already—and with a President of Europe; and if we go in, Britain will, of course, be a State or a province in the country called Europe.
But there are some who try to lull us into a false sense of security—some of our political leaders, who say, "Do not worry. This will not be for a long time. It will merely evolve. We are not blue-printers. It has not happened yet, so why should it happen in future?" That is fudging the issue by trying to lull the population into a very false sense of security.
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that it is quite wrong, if not dishonest, for some people to advocate that, if this country were to move into the Common Market, we should be moving into Europe, and that the question is always phrased, "Should Britain join Europe?" Would he not agree that it is wrong for 113 the many supporters of our joining to submit the question in that way?
§ Mr. Marten
I agree. We are not talking about Europe at all, but about the Six, which is a "mini-Europe", the rich stockbrokers' belt of Europe, and nothing much more. It has to be expanded. What we are both in favour of is a much wider and more imaginative scheme of a free trade area between the Six and the Seven, out of which, over the years, will grow such political unity as the countries of Europe want. The hon. Member and I share that view, I think: we are not mini-Europeans. That is the point.
There, are some people, as the Economist said last week, who try to fudge this issue of sovereignty and supra-nationality; but, surely, once we are in the Common Market, we shall be so inextricably entangled in the web of the economic community that, if the economic community—enlarged as it would be by our joining—wanted to go federal or supra-national, could we extricate ourselves without causing grave damage? Could we honestly use our veto without busting up the Common Market?
We should come clean at this stage. There are some statesmen in our three parties—I am not one myself—and it is the job of statesmen to look ahead. When they answer questions or try to avoid answering them by saying, "This is a very long way away and we should not worry about it," they are not being very straight, because, as statesmen, they should have the ability to look further ahead.
We know where the Common Market is going. For example, when Dr. Luns was over here—he is the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the E.E.C.—and spoke at a Press lunch in his honour on 15th July, he said, according to the handout:Britain's application for membership of the Common Market would receive the full backing of the Dutch Government only if there was a firm British commitment to the idea of a Federal Europe.That is the Chairman of the Council of Ministers; and I presume that he meant what he said. If he does, then we shall obviously not get in. On 6th February, the Prime Minister said: 114I made it clear that we did not and do not support any federal or supranational structure for our relations with Europe."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th Febuary, 1969; Vol. 777, c. 584.]So there is this conflict.
I am sorry that the Leader of the Liberal Party has left the seat of the hon. Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport), in which he was sitting. I am thinking of an intervention of his on 22nd July when he had just returned from the Monnet Committee for the United States of Europe. He had heard the Foreign Secretary challenged at this meeting as to whether he had any reservations on the matter of political integration and federalism, and the right hon. Gentleman apparently said that he had none.
That was the point of my question—this great conflict about where we are going and the general fudging by most of our political leaders on this matter. So I hope that, when the Minister sums up or, if not tonight, tomorrow, we shall have a clear declaration from the Government about where they stand on the question of political federalism in Europe.
We are told that our heritage is European, that we are Europeans. I am not a continental European: I am British. My heritage is with my British kinsfolk across the world, in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, even, going back several hundreds of years, in the United States—and not with the Sicilians, the Walloons and the gentlemen from Perpignan.
The second point which is not affected by the argument about whether we can afford entry because of our balance of payments or the claim that there is not much point in arguing about anything until we know the results of the negotiations is that the Press, which appears, for reasons best known to itself, to be pro-Common Market, keeps on saying that we, the anti-marketeers, are reducing it to a question of the cost of butter. They say that only because they know that our arguments are too strong, so they try to reduce them in that rather scornful way. In fact, the argument has nothing, or very little, to do with the cost of butter. It is partly the cost of food, true, but only partly, and we cannot 115 tell about that until we know the agricultural arrangements. What I want to do is question the validity of some of the economic arguments which are used, and have been used since 1961, for getting Britain into the Common Market.
The first is that we will sell more to the Common Market if we go in. Of course we will: any child could tell that. But, equally, is it not true that we will buy more? Of course we will. Therefore, what will the general effect be on our balance of payments? At the moment 20 per cent. of our exports go to the Common Market, and 80 per cent. to the rest of the world. If we are in the Common Market with our prices raised, I believe that our 80 per cent. of trade with the rest of the world will suffer because we shall price ourselves out of part of that world market. The overall effect of going into the Common Market will be to deteriorate our balance of payments, although we shall export more to the Common Market.
We are told that we must go in because the Common Market growth rate is so much quicker. I hope that when the Government publish their White Paper they will deal with that and prove that that growth in the Common Market countries is due to the Common Market itself. It is now slowing down, but, be that as it may, why we want to jump in now that the growth in the Common Market is slowing down I cannot understand when I think that ours should be increasing.
We are told that we must go in there to get the larger market. If one strips that argument down, one sees that it is arrant nonsense, because 20 per cent. of our exports are at the moment going to the Common Market; surely we have the market already? Why must we go into the Common Market to get that market? We are there already. That argument does not stand up. We are doing well in that market, because in the first nine months of this year our trade with the Common Market rose by 18 per cent. Even if we were in, I do not know by how much we would increase it. I think that we would get the same benefit, which is what our industrialists want, if we had a free trade area between the Six and the Seven. Our industrialists want our tariffs to come down, and to have free 116 access. That is what the Government should aim at, and not just the idea of going into the Common Market.
We are told that great mergers will take place if we go into the Common Market. We are told, for example, that British firms will merge with German firms and there will be powerful units, and so on. In the whole of the 12½ years of the history of the Common Market there has been only one merger between companies in countries within the Common Market across the frontiers of those countries, and that was the German company of Agfa which merged with the Belgian company of Gaevert, the photographic people, and I do not think that that has been a great success.
We are told by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) that if we do not go in British companies will have to move there to manufacture within the Common Market. On 2nd May we were told in Parliament that 500 British companies—and most of the major ones—are already manufacturing in the Common Market.
We are told that we have to go in for technological reasons; for example, that the TSR2 was cancelled because it did not have a big enough initial order. We are told that we must have a market the size of the U.S.A., where 1,400 of the F111s were ordered. But is that a fair argument? We are now going ahead with the manufacture with Germany and Italy of a multi-rôle combat aircraft and the market that we are getting straight away with our initial order is 1,200, which is about the size of the American market. I think that that shoots down that argument for the Common Market.
On technological matters we have the supreme example of manufacturing Concorde with France, without going into the Common Market. We are going in for the gas centrifuge manufacture of rich uranium with Belgium and Germany, without going into the Common Market. So what is the argument for going in for technological reasons?
I think that we ought to question the quality of the E.E.C. I do not think that they are what their public relations have cracked them up to be. Look at the mess that the people who have been running it and advising it have made of 117 agriculture. It was their idea. They have let it grow, and look at the shambles that it is in now. Are we really going to surrender our sovereignty to them to negotiate trade agreements with third countries, which is what we would have to do, to the very people who are capable of creating surpluses and utter chaos in agriculture?
I think that when these arguments, which have been trotted out since 1961, are put out, the same old arguments without any polishing up at all, we should strip them down and examine each one to see how far it is valid. We have been told many things since 1961. We were told that if we were not in the Common Market within six or seven years Britain would have the equivalent status of a country called Portugal, and that has proved to be wrong. Every reason put forward for going into the Common Market should be stripped down and re-examined, because in the past we have been told things that simply are not true.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
My main concern in this debate is to bring to a point the long debate on Vietnam that has been going on in the Labour movement and in the country generally. I therefore hope that the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) will accept that it is not indifference to his speech which makes me ignore completely what he said.
In opening the debate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister focussed attention on a number of problems which go to the heart of the matter. His speech was in considerable contrast to some of the other contributions that we have heard, and I therefore intend to concentrate on my right hon. Friend's speech.
A fortnight ago, in reply to a Question from me, my right hon. Friend said that even if one quarter of the allegations of massacres and assassinations of ordinary peaceful village people were true he would express his horror and certain consequences would have to follow. Today, my right hon. Friend corrected that and said that if only 1 per cent. of the allegations were true certain consequences would follow. I accept that, because I think that that is right.
My right hon. Friend went on to say that we must go beyond that and deal 118 with the question which Parliament has to answer. It is the question about which people in the country are most concerned, and which they want answered. If Parliament is a leader of opinion, then the House of Commons is duty bound this evening to express a definite opinion on the war in Vietnam, on the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to that war, and on the policies pursued by the President of the United States.
My right hon. Friend said that if it were found that the kind of action which has horrified us all is endemic in the Vietnam war, further consequences could follow, but he said that he could not at this stage say whether it was endemic in that kind of war, and whether the American forces had been pursuing such action over the last two years, and were pursuing it now. I believe that the evidence to show that they are is available, and that those who wish the House to express an opinion tonight are under an obligation to supply it.
First, I want to quote a statement by Senator Van Dong on 3rd December, only a few days ago, in Da Nang, in South Vietnam. He is a member of the three-man commission sent from Saigon to investigate the recent allegations. May I say in passing that this investigation has been mounted against the opposition of the Saigon Government and is in stark contrast to the statement made by the Saigon Government immediately after tie atrocities had been first reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Saigon Government's reaction, characteristically, was, "There is no truth in this. There was an ordinary battle and some civilians may have been killed in it".
But Senator Van Dong, on being questioned by the Press, had this to say:Senator Van Dong, who is a former defence minister and chief of staff, strongly condemned the concept of free fire zones in which he said American troops had the right to mount operations using artillery and air strikes even in populated towns without South Vietnamese permission. Although there have been improvements, he added, the practice continues. Similarly, Senator Van Dong condemned what he termed the continuing practice of allowing Americans to go into action unaccompanied by Vietnamese liaison officers or at least interpreters who might deal with civilians and protect them. All of the criticised conditions prevail in the search and destroy operation at Son Mai in which an undisclosed number of men, women and 119 children varying, dependent on the source, from 145 to 567 were reported killed, the Senator said".These are not criticisms of one single event. They are criticisms of the orders, instructions and strategy of the American high command in its search and destroy policy. These orders were responsible for what occurred in this village and in other villages. It is these instructions and that attitude and atmosphere which have created the situation in which Michael Terry, one of the privates in the United States platoon which is accused of having committed these massacres in Son Mai, said in an interview, after the first revelations had been made:Many of the boys do not believe that the Vietnamese are real people.That is the heart of the matter. When referring to Vietnamese people, whether friend or foe, they call them not Vietnamese but dinks.
§ Mr. Mendelson
The term "gook" was used after the Korean war and was carried into the Vietnam war, but, as anybody who has been there in the last 18 months knows, it has been replaced by the term "dinks". One American officer is reported to have commented, "You must accept that it is easier to shoot down dinks than Vietnamese people".
The conditions to which my right hon. Friend referred are endemic in the kind of war which the American forces are carrying on and in the instructions which they are given.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I do not dissent from what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but would he make it clear that the events he has recorded took place, I think, 18 months ago? Also, would he agree that the President of the United States has called off the "search and destroy" strategy?
§ Mr. Mendelson
These events took place 18 months ago, but I would add that there was a conspiracy of silence deliberately imposed by the head of the brigade involved in the area.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) made a mistake when he said that a Congressional inquiry into these events 120 is going on at present. There is no Congressional inquiry, but there are two important inquiries being conducted. One is by the courts into the prosecutions instituted against one officer and one sergeant in the United States forces. The other is by the Pentagon, the War Department, into the allegation that when this massacre was first reported at brigade level the investigation was deliberately suppressed. It will be interesting to see whether the request made by 34 eminent lawyers in the United States two days ago that a war crimes commission should be set up to make a full scale inquiry into these events will be accepted. It has not been accepted so far. I read into the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that he is interested in seeing whether there will be a positive decision on this inquiry.
On the second question of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths), it is not correct—and I use no other term because I do not believe in introducing acerbities which are not necessary—that President Nixon abandoned the policy of "search and destroy" until 4½ months ago. When he came to office, that policy continued in all its severity. Many Americans have been saying, "You are concentrating on this event. What about the many people killed from the air?" It is clear that under the "search and destroy" policy American pilots were shooting on defenceless villagers, and they knew them to be defenceless villagers.
That is the evidence for saying that the question which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister rightly asked as to whether, beyond the immediate event, this is endemic in the strategy and instructions under which the American Army has been operating for more than 2½years can be proved. I submit that it can and that it has been proved both by a senator in the Vietnamese senate and by American opinion.
I turn to—
§ Sir George Sinclair (Dorking) rose—
§ Mr. Mendelson
No. Other hon. Members wish to speak. I have given way once. I have no right to prolong my speech beyond reason.
Another piece of evidence which I have is an interview which the correspondents of the New York Times had on 121 3rd December, a few days ago, in Kwong Hai with some of the people involved in the massacre at Son Mai. One of the boys who had been in the incident gave them an account of what had happened. They questioned the boy's father. I wish to quote only briefly what the father said:He"—that is, the boy—lives with his father, who ran away when the shelling started, and his stepmother in Kwang Hai. The father told the Press, said Senator Dong yesterday, that he also found the body of another son aged 3 under a pile of corpses when he returned to the village after the American troops moved out the same day they arrived and the Vietcong returned. He said he buried his wife, his son, a grandchild and his daughter-in-law near where their house had stood".It is not beyond reason to suggest that the evidence coming in day after day has made a deep impression upon many members of the United States Congress. In a session in the United States Congress, Senators and Congressmen, on seeing the evidence, could not contain themselves and left the room saying that they could not possibly sit there and look at the evidence without feeling sick. That is a quotation from Congressman Irons, and other members of the Congress made similar statements. Surely, in the name of evidence, if this is the view of senators in the South Vietnam Senate and a responsible member of Congress in the United States Senate, we are entitled to say that we start in this debate not in ignorance but from knowledge. There can be no question about that.
The Prime Minister also said that if the United States Government were not to proceed to a full investigation and consequential action, then there would arise a grave Anglo-American crisis, in which he knew every hon. Member would be involved. These were his words, as far as I can remember them. That is not the right question to pose. The Government are supporting the American war in Vietnam. It is not only a question of whether the United States Government decide to punish those who suppressed the original, attempted investigation at brigade level, and then set up a proper investigation. Everyone accepts that they will do that.
There have been many protestations here about relations with America. 122 People have said that they have good relations with America, that they are not anti-American, but that does not need saying. We can take it for granted. Wherever I have been in America, either alone or with some of my hon. Friends, I have found that relationships were good. When I was in Washington the then Secretary of State, Mr. Rusk, discussed Vietnam with us. He said: "We know what you are saying in the House of Commons about this subject and I would like to discuss it with you." There was no need to establish any bona fide. It is clearly understood by people in America that we are concerned that the right thing should be done by a country with which we have such close relations.
This is relevant, because if this is the kind of war that is being carried on and if these events are endemic, to use the Prime Minister's phrase, of the situation in which the war is being carried on, surely the Government must pose the question—and answer it: Are we right, have we been right in the past and, above all, are we right today to continue supporting the United States war in Vietnam? The important point is that it is not only a matter of claim and evidence and action. It would be easy to make propaganda capital by saying, "They are there to defend democracy, and look what is happening!" That is not the point; it is far too simple. The point is that there is evidence supplied by United States sources and by South Vietnamese sources that out of 10 people killed, on the evidence of the last two and a half years one was a Vietcong and nine were ordinary civilians. That is the case which the Government have to consider.
It stands to reason that the intervention of 500,000 American soldiers in an internal conflict in Vietnam has created an atmosphere and a situation in which these actions are pursued in such a manner that they lead to the wholesale decimation of the population in Vietnam. One knows the narrow base of the Government in Saigon, which I described in a quotation from a former Under-Secretary for the Air Force in the United States Government, during my right hon. Friend's speech; we know the narrow basis and the unrepresentative character of the Saigon régime; we know that it is unconcerned for its own citizens as 123 long as it can remain in power. Knowing that, how long can my right hon. Friend and his colleagues, and for that matter anyone else in the Government, continue to support the American policy in this war?
That is the question that has to be answered. If the Government are not prepared to answer it, then at any rate as many amongst us as are prepared to answer it tonight ought to do so in the most visible and public manner possible. That is the task of Members of the House of Commons, and I hope that they will do it.
I will try to link this debate to a Motion which we put on the Order Paper, which reads:That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government, in accordance with the decision of the Labour Party Annual Conference 1967, to dissociate itself completely from the policy of the United States Government in Vietnam; and believes that any settlement must be based upon the 1954 Geneva Agreement, which required the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Vietnamese soil, and the reunification of Vietnam under a government chosen by the Vietnamese people.This was after three years' debate in the Labour Movement. There was a good debate at the conference, in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) took part. His point of view, put to the conference, was defeated by a majority of over 1 million. Whatever might be said about his recent performance on the radio or his speech this afternoon, and however much the Opposition smiled upon him, one thing my right hon. Friend did not represent today was the opinion of the Labour Party and the Labour Movement.
That opinion is represented in this Motion. There were many people at the conference, not all of whom spoke, who had studied this problem carefully. They had found, as had many other observers, that the key to the situation in Vietnam is not to talk about wholesale defeat of one side or the other but to bring about a solution in which the Americans can honourably withdraw and in which the Vietnamese people can live peaceably together.
The case the Government have to answer, if they want to continue President Nixon's policy, and the question that hon. 124 Members, those who take these matters seriously, have to answer, can be simply stated. There is a wholly unrepresentative military regimé in Vietnam. The evidence proves conclusively that the regimé suppresses, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) so rightly said, the opinions of those who are in between the two sides. To give one example, there was a vice-presidential election campaign about 18 months ago in South Vietnam. One of the candidates was a gentleman by the name of Dzu who got 28 per cent. of the total vote. I suggest that even to hon. Members opposite, very soon, in a few months' time, we might find that obtaining 28 per cent. of a total vote is a considerable achievement.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I thought that would be one point on which I would carry hon. Gentlemen opposite.
This vice-presidential candidate obtained 28 per cent. of the vote. What happened to him? The next day he was put into prison, and he has been there ever since. Why has he been put into prison? Because he campaigned on a platform of opening negotiations with the North Vietnamese.
The world's Press was covering the campaign. I was in Washington shortly after the elections and was told: "We had 280 correspondents there, so you can see how fair the elections were". These 280 correspondents went back to the United States and the next day that candidate was arrested and put in jail. Not very long ago we had a delegation in one of the Committee rooms, comprising members of the South Vietnamese Parliament, and we put this point to them. We spent an hour on it but we got no change. They knew they were not in a position to promise not only that this man would be released but that his case would be considered.
That is why continuing support for President Nixon's policy means continuing support for a military regimé which makes it completely impossible to end the conflict. We are reminded here of the policy of Chiang Kai-shek. His policy, which has been condemned by history, was to assassinate all those who were liberals, so that in the end 125 there would be Communists on one side and his military regimé on the other. Reams have been written in America by historians and others, showing the disastrous consequences of his suicidal policy. The same policy is now being pursued by Marshal Thieu and his people in Saigon. This is what the Government have to tell the House and the country—are they continuing to support this policy?
I take my information largely from Americans. Nobody has a right when the history of the period comes to be written to be more respected than the millions of young Americans, and the many senior Americans who are their fathers and mothers, who over a long period have expressed their opposition to this war. Nobody will have more of a right to be respected by future historians than some of those people, like Senator McGovern and Senator Fulbright, who when it was not popular to say so, warned and urged the American people to change their policy. It is time that we in this House honoured these people by mentioning their record and their contribution.
I take most of my information from American sources. We now have the evidence of a man who served in the United States Government as an Under-Secretary for the Air Force from 1967 to 1969. He has now written a book, which was published a few weeks ago. This is what he said:The American people would reawaken to the fact that they were still committed to the endless support of a group of men in Saigon who represented nobody but themselves, who preferred war to the risks of a political settlement, and could not remain in power more than a few months without our large-scale presence.That is the real situation.
The charge politically against the Nixon Administration is that it is pretending that the sabotage of the talks comes from the National Liberation Front, when, in fact, President Nixon, after his last statement on 3rd November, was contradicted by the leader of the National Liberation Front delegation in Paris. The N.L.F. leader said that they would continue negotiations, but that the American negotiators had always refused, and refuse to this day, to accept the idea of a coalition government on the agenda of the conference.
126 One knows that this idea was first mooted eighteen months ago by the late Senator Robert Kennedy, who said that the key to a solution was gradual withdrawal, stopping of the bombing, negotiations with the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front, and elections in Saigon. The charge against my right hon. Friend and the Cabinet is that they showed no sign of condemning American policy in blocking any such development.
In these circumstances the policy of the Labour Party and the Labour Movement is a policy of wisdom. As often before in the history of this country, I remind the House of the period of civil war in 1860 and the attitude to the Labour movement throughout the land. They were right, and many people in this House were wrong.
The policy decided upon by the Labour Party and the Labour Movement is honourable and intelligent. Some of us will ask the House tonight, before the debate ends, to go on record in support of that policy. I invite as many right hon. and hon. Friends as possible to join us in that attitude.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), who has just spoken, expressed doubts about representative government in Saigon. Can he give us much assurance about the representative nature of Governments, in that area of the world, in centrally controlled Communist countries? How far are those Governments representative and how far are they self-perpetuating dictatorships
I intend to speak mainly on the Far East, but I want for a moment to say something about Nigeria—an area of which I have some personal experience.
I join with those in this country and elsewhere who are deeply depressed by the suffering—suffering on both sides—in Nigeria. I should like to pay special tribute to the work of U.N.I.C.E.F., which uniquely works on both sides of the front in Nigeria. It has already spent £7½ million in the relief of hunger and of illness on both sides. It is now running out of funds and I hope that the Government will help to reinforce the funds at its disposal. The Government should, I believe, now make another major effort to persuade both sides 127 in Nigeria to accept the opening of routes by air or road for increased supplies of food and medicine into Ibo country.
I accept the point that this carries some military risks and disadvantages to each side. But the civilian suffering in Colonel Ojukwu's area is now so great that these humanitarian needs must be met and the suffering must be relieved. I believe that, in the long term, this will be of advantage to both sides in this war and may help both, even in the short term, once a new relief movement gets going.
In particular, I should like to see a resumption of daylight flights and the opening of the "mercy corridor". But one fact is clear, though it is seldom mentioned, that Colonel Ojukwu could, if he gave this a high enough priority, relieve suffering among the Ibos without delay and have large relief supplies brought into his area by air and road.
I know something of the agonising choice which this may present to him. For this reason, we should not give up the search for alternative methods and alternative routes of supply which might be more acceptable to both sides. I believe that they can be devised. In this field I believe that the Government have not been as resourceful as they could have been.
But, in the end, I believe we should go on supporting the Federal Government and supplying them with arms. I have repeatedly made this point in the House. I support General Gowon in believing that a unified Nigeria will bring the best benefits to the peoples of the country, including the Ibos. The current civilised treatment of the Ibos in the areas administered by the Federal Government is the best proof in action of General Gowon's intentions for the reception of the Ibo people in a reunified Nigeria.
I come now to the Far East. Straight away, I would wish to pay my tribute to the robust speech made by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown). I do not always agree with him. But, on this occasion, I was impressed by his argument and the conviction with which he spoke.
Whatever our immediate horror and distress at the reports from Pinkville in Vietnam, we must await the full 128 examination of the facts. Perhaps we should also remember that we shall get no facts about the atrocities on the other side, which may make part of the background against which Pinkville happened. But, these things apart, I believe that the Americans have been right in their aims of trying to help South Vietnam against aggression from the North. I agree with Lee Kuan Yew's assessment of the threat to the rest of South-East Asia if the United States withdraw before a durable settlement is made in Vietnam.
In the face of the continuing threat from Hanoi and the prospect of United States' withdrawal, this is no time to leave Malaysia in the lurch, especially when Communist infiltration from Thailand has suddenly begun again after many years of quiet. This is no time to leave Australia and New Zealand in the lurch. They themselves are already in this war, meeting the threat to their future.
I therefore hope that the Government will now take two steps—first, halt the withdrawal of British forces from the Far East; secondly, offer to increase our efforts to help the free countries in that area to strengthen their own regional defence. I hope that, in particular, we shall keep forces on the ground in Malaya and arrange for them to be relieved at short intervals of, say, nine months. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has declared that when we return to power we shall honour our obligations to Malaysia, to Australia and to New Zealand.
In view of the new situation in the Far East, I hope that the Government will now reconsider with our Commonwealth allies in that area their programme of withdrawal from the Far East.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
There is one point on which both Right and Left wing of the Labour Party can agree very firmly—that it has taken exactly four hours of the debate before the first back-bench Member has been called on this side of the House. One Privy Councillor has been called after another. What frightens me is the thought that if any more Ministers are sacked and revert to the back benches the rest of us might as well stay at home, as there will be no forum for us.
129 This debate, which has been called on the insistence of the Parliamentary Labour Party—or at least of some of my colleagues—concerns an issue of worldwide importance, and it has been given added impetus by the revelations of what occurred at Pinkville. In the circumstances, it is right that we should be discussing the whole context of the Vietnam situation.
I listened very carefully to the Prime Minister. Indeed, I have long memories about the Prime Minister. I remember his resignation in 1951 and the reasons for it I remember the 1960 Labour Party conference and his support for the virtual abandonment of the nuclear bomb, which was an option for neutrality. Today, he struck for the first time a responsive chord. He could hardly be faulted, although he made his usual reservations about many of his statements and, as usual, left as many options open as possible. Nevertheless, he was very firm in his support of American policy in total in world diplomacy.
When President Kennedy committed the will of the American public to the struggle in Vietnam he did not commit wholly the will and might of the United States forces. Indeed, he did not know what he was letting himself into, although he had before him the experience of Dien Bien Phu. I understand thoroughly the doctrine and political pholosophy of Communism and what it means. Dien Bien Phu, in particular, showed it. It showed that where a nation such as the French, at that time, had not the will to meet a situation which demanded a unified command, they were bundled out of Vietnam. President Kennedy underestimated the situation. He committed the will of the American people, and since then it has been one long protracted struggle after another in a war which started 25 years ago.
We are faced with a situation in which agitation has been built up throughout the length and breadth of the United States, in the full view of Press, radio and television commentators, which is presented as the will of a united people for retreat in Vietnam. It is nothing of the kind, and it is nothing of the kind in this country, either. It is best that we should realise that, because if the United States goes home of its own voli- 130 tion, or is forced home, the consequences for the rest of the world will be calamitous. We cannot ignore what would follow.
We all know that there is no truly representative government in the Far East. In his last speech as Minister of Labour in the House in 1951, Aneurin Bevan said that Communism had not and would not make any inroads into any technologically advanced Western nation. He was right in philosophy, but wrong in practice, as we saw in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. But an under-developed people is always ripe for any system of government, particularly Communism, which will do the essentials—and that has been the great strength of the Communist revolution, first in Russia, then in China, and then in other countries in the Far East. The American advisers should have appreciated what was going on when they committed themselves to Vietnam.
I am an unashamed supporter of the Anglo-American alliance and always have been. I am sick and tired of the continued denigration of the American nation, the American Government and the American forces by people in countries which have free expression of thought and action, which have liberty, and in which opinions can be heard and a forum can be held—and I am sick of the liberals who see themselves as commentators. I am sick and tired of the "24 Hours" programme on the B.B.C. and its Left-wing orientated commentators who never have a good word to say about the American position.
That ought to be said. We share a common tongue with the United States. It is their heritage from us. The decision was taken by only one vote at the first American Congress—and the decision might have been to speak German. The Second World War seems a long time ago, but 25 years is not a long time in history. We should not forget that had it not been for the great military, physical and technical support of the United States there might have been a different result to that war.
That was followed by the most generous act in the history of the world, the great "give away" of Marshall Aid which helped to put Europe on its feet again after the war, helped every single nation in Western Europe to establish a free society. The Americans have given 131 enormous aid throughout the world, especially to India, without any thought of a comeback reward. Yet there is this constant denigration. It is time that it stopped and that the Western nations realised where they are. Because—let us contemplate it—what could be the consequences of an American retreat from Vietnam?
One million people did not flee from North Vietnam for nothing. They had no faith in their Government, and they fled for their lives to South Vietnam. Yet there are people who say to the Americans, "Go home.' If they did, the massacre at "Pinkville"—which has not been proved yet—would not compare with the great slaughter there would be. Every single politician in this assembly must think these things out for himself.
We cannot ignore, for instance, the repercussions throughout the whole of South-East Asia of such a retreat, the repercussions in Singapore, Malaya, even in N.A.T.O. It would rebound on us here.
The situation is by no means as flexible as we would like it. The history of the last 30 years, from 1936 to last year, in Czechoslovakia proves this. Here was a technological nation, a material nation, an engineering nation, which had its own democratic form of government and had a right to expect it. It was overturned at the time of Benes. Nobody has ever known whether he was murdered, or whether he committed suicide, but he went. Then the shackles were put on. Then they had their own assessment of what Communism might be. What happened? The shackles were put on again. This was a country which had its own Western democracy. So let us be careful what we are talking about, and of whom we are talking.
It is no good Mrs. Gandhi, with an oriental mind, trying to pair off both the United States and Soviet Russia against any possible aggression by the Chinese. That might not compel the Americans to pull out of the Far East, but I will tell the House what it would do. It would leave the possibility of conflict between the Russians and the Chinese wide open. Would it stop there? For the first time the United States and the Russians are talking—really talking—about disarmament and armament controls. It has 132 taken a long time to get them there to the talks, but they are there.
This has meant that the Council of Four has virtually polarised the United Nations. It has to be. There is no opportunity to discuss it. Anyway, discussions at the United Nations have to start by flowing from here, and that is why I am hoping that something will come out of this debate, something which may be worth while, because the issues are great.
I do not know whether I should say this or not, but I think, on the whole, that it ought to be said, and I do not know whether I shall be doing anybody an injustice or not, but I want to deal with our representation at the United Nations and at Washington. I believe that men cannot divorce themselves from their actions, words, opinions. In youth, one can make many mistakes and have all kinds of opinions and take all kinds of liberties, but, nevertheless, I address myself now to our Ambassador in Washington, who was probably designed to represent us when another President was in office—but it did not happen.
I doubt whether he is the best possible man for us, great ability though he has, at the present time in Washington. One has only got to turn up, as I have, past issues, from 1955 onwards, of the New Statesman, which, be it remembered, members of the Diplomatic Corps read, or may have read, too. What is there discovered is not helpful to the situation.
I had the honour of leading a small delegation to the United Nations a few weeks ago. I saw the Russians at work at the assembly—and in the lounge. It was worth seeing. We could not match it. We have there a man who has done great service to this country, but I wonder whether he is our best representative at this time. One has to observe the backslapping Mr. Malik and Mr. Mendelvich, with their arms round the shoulders of the silk-suited Africans and their silky secretaries, the talks and conversations in corners, the cups of tea, and one says, "This is a good performance in public relations". It is that. There was a difference when Mr. Malik and I met face to face. There was a difference of philosophy and outlook. We resolved that. I think that we were winners on 133 points. However, all these things are of importance to us, too.
I know that there are well-meaning politicians here who, when dealing with issues like Africa, show great humanity and feeling, but the fact is that there are few representative Governments in Africa now—very few, if any. Yet some people talk as though those Governments were representative and stable, and as though they will never be satisfied till every Hottentot owns a Rolls-Royce.
I look at Africa and its representatives; I look at the Governments they failed to get; the legacy left behind by the Westminster Government; and I listened to the Prime Minister this afternoon and on the radio a week or two ago, and I realised that he was afraid of something. What was he afraid of? He was afraid of fragmentation.
There are no clearly drawn and recognised boundaries in the issues in Africa. This was the great point of the speech by the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) about Biafra and Nigeria and this Government's backing the Federal Government in Nigeria. That is right. It is right in the context of the time, in the context of statesmanship, because if this kind of thing is allowed to go on, or encouraged to go on, of having secessionist States, where will it stop? Will it stop there? Could it not happen in Zambia and in Kenya? Because these have no democratic assemblies. They have one-party Governments. This process of fragmentation does not necessarily have to stop in Nigeria. In many African States, in the States on the West Coast, Russian and Chinese diplomacy is active.
My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State knows as well as I do that Western industry runs on copper, and that the world supply of copper is running out. I know that some new mines have been discovered in Mexico recently. But in America it is running out. Coal from the Wankie coalfield goes to the coast by the railway which the British taxpayer owns. I have seen this stuff piled high at the docks in both places and it is mined in Zambia, smelted by coal from Wankie in Rhodesia, and transferred by the Bengela railway, which we the British taxpayers own, across Rhodesia to Beira and Lobito, and now the 134 Chinese are to offer the Zambians a railway to the east. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) and I met the Zambian Ambassador, and I asked him if he thought it wise to put all his eggs in one basket and how he would pay for it. He said it would be paid for partly by barter and partly by the sale of copper. I asked him who would control the port, the Zambians or the Tanzanians. He said that the Tanzanians would, but they are firmly locked in the grip of the Chinese.
Some people may have a clear conscience about this, but I have not. The countries in Africa which have their own Government are entitled to all the help Britain can give in the avenues of government and diplomacy, but they should see our point of view and where their future lies. We left behind great examples of government which have not worked out. These issues are too big to let them go. We should retain our integrity and the political philosophy behind it. It is fragmented, along with the Far East and the Middle East.
There is only one possible solution to the Arab-Israeli problem, and that is for the two to meet face to face across the table, making their own peace and sticking to it and then for the United Nations to put the legal stamp on it. There is the threat of the Russian navy in the Indian Ocean.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) made an excellent speech, based on faith, hope and charity, but politics do not work like that and Moscow would not want to know. The Russians are a different kind of people.
To refer again to the Prime Minister's speech, hon. Members may remember his call at one time to renegotiate the Nassau Agreement, which was not done. We now have a bonus of one nuclear submarine which we did not expect. Long may he progress along this road; I will do nothing to stop him, but things could have been a lot happier years ago if lie had thought this way. I was a great admirer of the late Hugh Gaitskell, who stood at the edge of greatness when death took him away. I have seen adopted one by one the policies which he advocated. If we can keep on along these lines then at least we have a chance of getting the Foreign Office permanent service at one with Parliament.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
It may be a bit late to appeal for short speeches, but recent efforts have not helped the Chair in increasing the number of hon. Members who could participate.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
I will make a particular point of compressing my remarks, and I will not, therefore, follow the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) whose speech impressed and moved me considerably.
I want to start with the general proposition that at the centre of world affairs—by which I mean specifically the interface between the two great power blocs—there is a conspicuous and welcome but still tentative improvement in relations. Simultaneously, there can be seen on the flanks—by which I mean specifically the Middle East, South-East Asia and Africa—an equally conspicuous but a less welcome deterioration.
May I start with what I call the tentative improvement at the centre. Mr. Nixon in his inauguration speech put it very well when he spoke of his hope that we might now be starting to move from an era of confrontation to an era of negotiation. Since then to some extent the negotiation has begun. There are the strategic arms talks in Helsinki which have got off to a moderately encouraging and certainly a businesslike start. There has been the American-Soviet draft agreement on the banning of nuclear weapons on the sea bed, and there is progress towards a chemical and bacteriological weapon ban on which I congratulate the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) on the efforts he personally put into this matter in Geneva. Recently, too, there has been President Nixon's unilateral agreement to give up bacteriological weapons.
Alongside these one can place the marked slowing down on both sides of the quite alarming advance of the middle 'sixties towards the next generation of nuclear weapons. The Russians have deployed an elementary anti-ballistic missile screen around some of their major cities. The Nixon Administration has made a decision to build a limited antiballistic missile system to defend its 136 second strike missile sites. Both sides are also moving towards multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles, at a fantastic cost.
Yet one cannot escape the impression that in most of these fields there is a slowing down in the pace, or at least in the acceleration, of the arms race. There is also, although we do not see it, for more and more we are excluded from the intricacies of American—Soviet talks, a whole series of bilateral discussions on the problems of space exploration, on Vietnam, on the Middle East and, I believe, on China. If these discussions do not produce spectacular progress they do at least go to a lowering of tension and the creation of a new kind of special relationship, this time, ironically, between the Soviet Union and the United States.
I must put two caveats. First, we do not know precisely who is in charge of Soviet policy. Secondly, we are entitled to judge the Russians by their actions rather than by their words; and their actions in the building up of their strategic missile capability, in the building up of their navy, in the supply of arms in the Middle East and in Nigeria, still contradict their words. But, with these caveats, I return to my main theme that there is an ostensible though still tentative improvement between the super powers, and I would like to show why this is so.
I begin with America. As I see it, the predominant pressure in the United States, from the Congress, from the Press and the public, is for a reduction in America's world commitments. The current cliché is that they wish to have a lower silhouette, a power profile, to be seen "hull down" on the horizon. I do now agree with the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) that this is the onset of a new isolationism. I do believe it is a search for a lower American profile in world affairs.
One reason for this is Vietnam. Secondly, and we must face this, there is a feeling, justified or not, that the United States have been let down by their European allies. I can best illustrate this by a comment made to me by a senior member of the American Senate, when he said the other day—The trouble with you guys is that you want to come in out of the rain but you will not help carry the umbrella.137 I found it difficult to answer that comment.
The third reason is the growing American concern with their balance of payments, and the fourth, perhaps the most important, their increasing preoccupation with internal questions. There is the problem of the cities, the complex of the ghettoes, crime and the negro revolt. There is the disaffection of youth, the sexual revolution. The United States is going through one of those periodic bouts of introspection for which American society is so famous. But I would say, particularly to hon. Gentlemen opposite, that I am confident that the great Republic will emerge from this period strong and confident, as it has done before. There is no doubt, however, that there will be—indeed, this is already happening — profound changes in America's outlook. These add up, in terms of policy, primarily to a concentration on domestic affairs and, internationally, to an objective to "cool it" with the Soviet Union.
It is difficult to identify all the pressures that are moving the Soviet Union. However, it is possible to identify some of them, and I begin with economics. The Soviet Union, with a very much smaller economy than the U.S., is trying simultaneously to compete with America in space and armaments, to develop a global navy, to provide capital to open up its Eastern provinces and to improve the miserable living standards of its people. In any normal economy this would undoubtedly lead to a classical case of overheating. I believe that the Soviets wish to reduce the pressures, and one way—perhaps the best way—to do this is to call a halt to, or at any rate a pause in, the escalation of arms.
Another Soviet concern is China. I find it difficult to assess to what extent the pressures of China are influencing Soviet diplomacy, but it is worth recalling that Mr. Kosygin recently called for an Asian security system to maintain the stability of, of all places, the Indian Ocean. It is also worth mentioning that there are rumours—I put it no higher—that some people in Moscow contemplate pre-emptive action against China's nuclear installations before the Chinese can establish an effective delivery system. Thus, as in the U.S., there are real pressures in the Soviet Union, if not for an 138 across the board understanding with the Americans, then at least for a pause in the arms race.
In this context, where does Britain, and, more generally Europe, fit in? We should welcome anything that brings the U.S. and the Soviet Union closer together. But we must accept that it is more and more a twosome and not a foursome. It is primarily a bilateral affair. We are fortunate to have President Nixon's assurances that he will, in any negotiations with Russia, consult his allies before, during and after any agreement is reached. But I am not sure that is enough.
In my view, the security of Europe is too important to be left to the Americans and Russians. That is why, against the background of America starting to reduce its rôle in the world, Europe must unite; and that is the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), who raised the question of the price of butter. The purpose of European unity is to ensure that we do not throw away our capacity to determine our own future. I hope my hon. Friend will accept that as an answer to his question.
But the unity of Europe is not simply a matter of pulling out of the rest of the world and concentrating on the affairs of our own backyard. A larger reason for the unity of Europe is to enable us better to discharge our duties and maintain our interests in the wider world.
I will mention—time dictates that I must be brief—three areas where I think that we ought to do this. One is Africa, which is too vast a subject to be dealt with in a backbencher's speech. My right hon. Friend mentioned Libya, and I will leave it there. But I would also mention South Africa. It is essential that we in Britain and Europe safeguard the sea routes around Southern Africa, joining the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.
There were reports in the Press over the weekend that the Government have taken a new approach to the sale of Buccaneer aircraft to South Africa. Those reports are probably untrue, for I suspect that the Government have not changed their policy, though I would like to think that they would.
The second area to which I refer is Vietnam. I put three simple propositions which may not have the support of hon. 139 Gentlemen opposite but about which I hope they will accept my sincerity as I accept theirs.
The first proposition is that there would not be a war and that the war would not have started if the Communists had not willed it.
The second proposition is that there could be peace tomorrow, an end to the killing, if only the Communists wanted it on any other terms than their annexation by force of South Vietnam.
The third proposition is that it is not the Americans who stand in the way of peace. Personally and politically, there is nothing that President Nixon and the great mass of the American people want more than an end to this war. I believe that the President has proved this. He has maintained the bombing halt, and as a result we have a situation tonight where there is no bombing of North Vietnam; yet there are still terror attacks and mortar bombardments on the cities of South Vietnam.
Similarly, the President has called off the American Army from its offensive "search and destroy" operations. This has cut the casualties on both sides, but the Communists have not called off their offensive operations.
Further, the United States has started to withdraw. About 60,000 Americans have gone, 35,000 more are on their way out, and the President clearly contemplates the withdrawal of double that number. But do the North Vietnamese follow suit? As the Americans board their ships and aircraft to go home, is there any sign whatever of the North Vietnamese pulling back from the battle areas? In fact, as the Americans move out the North Vietnamese are still moving in.
I cannot think of a more clear-out demonstration that the United States not only wants peace but is prepared to take military risks—risks with the lives of its troops—in the interests of achieving peace, while the Communists, whatever they say, are continuing to stoke up the war.
The Prime Minister made a powerful speech. It was a clever speech. He virtually claimed private credit for having helped to end the bombing. He im- 140 plied that he had had some responsibility in bringing about the Paris talks. I hope that he is right on both counts, but I say bluntly that I do not believe it.
The right hon. Gentleman also by implication threatened that a crisis in Anglo-American relations would be brought about if following the investigation of "Pinkville" the actions of the American Government and the United States Department of Justice did not suit him. I tell the right hon. Gentleman solemnly that I hope that no British Prime Minister will threaten a crisis in Anglo-American relations because he disagrees with the mechanics or with decisions of the American judiciary. He ought not to have said that, and I think he will regret it.
But with one thing the right hon. Gentleman said I agreed. The Prime Minister was quite right to say that the issue which the House must face is whether "Pinkville" was an aberration or whether it is endemic in this kind of war. I do not know the answer—I doubt whether even the investigations and the judgment will provide the answer to that question. But I do know that for every example of such aberrations of which the Americans can be accused there have been a hundred examples of Americans having gone to the aid of the world's poor and hungry. I put it quite starkly: for every Asian child who has been killed by the United States Army, perhaps 1,000 Asian children have been kept alive in Pakistan and India by United States food and medicines. The Americans have killed their thousands, but they have saved the lives of tens of thousands. I hope that hon. Members opposite will never forget that.
I object very much to any country out-that over the next 10 or perhaps 15 years the centre of gravity of world affairs will move away from Europe and the Atlantic towards Eastern Asia and the Pacific. I have a number of reasons for thinking that this will happen. The first is the United States. More and more Americans are moving to their Pacific coast. California already has a gross national product greater than that of Britain. More and more Americans consider that the Pacific front is the main front, and though they will not turn their backs on Europe, they will turn their faces towards the Pacific.
141 The second reason is the Soviet Union —more and more turning towards the East as it sees the loom of China.
The third reason is China, which is adding one Britain—55 million people—to her population every 15 years; China, which within the next 15 or 20 years will have, without any question, an intercontinental ballistic weapon and a thermonuclear weapon; China, which will be one of the prime movers of the world.
My fourth reason is Japan—a Japan which is already an economic superpower; a Japan which I believe will sooner or later create a long-distance navy to protect her oil supplies from the Middle East and to ensure the mineral supplies that increasingly she is obtaining from Australia.
The fifth reason for my belief that the Pacific more than the Atlantic will occupy the world's future attention is that growth of that necklace of smaller nations off the East Asian coast. Their economic progress is tremendous. Korea, Formosa, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore collectively already are equal in their economic product to China. To that necklace one must add the developing lands of Indonesia and Malaysia.
My last reason is Australia—an Australia which, when I was at school, I was told might grow to perhaps 20 million this century but which is now overcoming the three limits to her growth. She lacked water: there is prospect that nuclear power and desalination will give her water. She lacked fuel: she has found fuel in abundance. She lacked foreign exchange: the metallurgical explosion of Australia, multiplied by the 200,000-ton ore carriers, will provide her with foreign exchange from the sale of her ores to the West Coast of America, to the western parts of Europe, and now to Japan and East Asia.
The growth of Australia, the movement of the Americans to their Pacific coast, the rise of Japan, the growth of China, the concern of the Soviet Union about what happens on her eastern borders, are some of the reasons why I believe that the centre of world affairs is likely more and more to move from Europe and the Atlantic to the great cockpit of Asia.
Yet we in this country say that it has nothing to do with us. I profoundly dis- 142 agree. We live in a world in which the communications satellites are bringing the next generation much more closely together, in which the jet aircraft has already made Singapore as near in time to Britain today as Stockholm was in 1939. We are seeing the creation of a world economy where what happens on the Japanese stock exchange affects intimately the lives of our constituents. We are seeing a world in which the thermonuclear weapon has created a single military environment.
It cannot be right to say that this has nothing to do with us. We are involved, whether we like it or not. The only question is: what part can we play?
The Government say that our part should be confined to trade and aid and diplomacy. That was broadly the view that the Duncan Committee took in its report. I believe it was wrong, because there can be no trade and no aid unless there is peace and security. If we want to trade and to aid with Asia and the Pacific we have to do our part, limited as it may be, in maintaining the peace and security which alone make these things possible.
Our country no longer has the resources to take on an imperial rôle. But a modest, limited, though important, contribution undoubtedly lies within our powers. I say this as a European. I believe that the rôle of Britain is to serve as the hinge on which the door of the narrow Treaty of Rome will one day swing open to a very much wider conception, one which leans out to the Atlantic and recognises the responsibilities of all the European peoples for the security of the wider world. That is why, as a European, I believe that the Government's policy in abandoning our Asian commitment is a profound mistake. It is why I believe that a modest, limited, but still important, rôle for Britain east of Suez is in the interests of our country and the interests of world peace.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) will forgive me for not following him on his world tour of foreign policy. The fact that we have had in this debate a certain amount of concentration on a single and important issue directs the mind of 143 everyone, whatever his point of view, to look at this issue and to examine what is being done and then, for those of us who feel strongly about it, to take what action we feel is open to us.
The issue of Vietnam which the Prime Minister made the central issue, along with Nigeria, today is possibly the most important war taking place in the world at present. While the Vietnam war exists and while it develops on the scale it does at present, it hangs like a mushroom cloud over the world. It dwarfs all other events. It makes issues such as what is happening in the Middle East, Nigeria, Rhodesia, Greece and Czechoslovakia secondary events to what is happening in Vietnam itself.
Therefore, we have to examine what rôle Britain has if she can influence events, not only in Britain, but the rest of the world. I believe that they do. This has been confirmed not only by what the Prime Minister said, but what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) with his impassioned support for the position of the American Administration. I did not think I would live to see the day when there would be reiteration of the Foster Dulles policy in this House. I thought it died with Foster Dulles, but unfortunately it appears that that is not so.
Much has been said about whether we are pro- or anti-American in this House. I do not know exactly where I stand on this. Many years ago, in British uniform, I served in the United States of America. I did part of my air-crew training there and worked alongside American troops. I have been back to the United States since. I was there two or three weeks ago. I have a great regard for much of the American culture and for what American people stand for. I have criticisms of them also. Nevertheless, we should examine, what is happening in the United States of America. I went to the U.S.A. to take part in the Moratorium demonstration in San Francisco. I spent about nine days on the West Coast in Los Angeles and San Francisco leading up to the building up of the Moratorium. I listened to the arguments among the American people, and not only those directly concerned with the demonstra- 144 tion. I spoke to American businessmen, many of them Republicans, at the Beverley Hills Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. I spoke to strikers on the picket lines of the General Electric strike. I met Democrats for Peace. It would not be right, in California, perhaps, not to meet Birchites and Goldwaterites, and I did.
But what I found is that this war among all people has become a neurosis which is affecting all the American people. It dominates the life of the United States. I could tell the difference even since I was last there, only two years ago. I thought then that the issue was dominant, but on this is occasion the issue transcended everything else. As the build-up to the Moratorium went on, both for the Washington demonstration and for the San Francisco demonstration, every lever of the Administration was used to play it down. They played up the threats of violence. By means of their exposition on television and in the Press, they tried to discourage people from taking part. However, they failed for not just the young but people of all ages and all classes are prepared to stand up for democracy and an end to the war which they now recognise to be a blatant folly by their country, and to say so publicly in the most difficult circumstances.
It has been said that it is easy for us to criticise, because we have no troops in Vietnam, and that it was easy for me to go there and criticise, because we were not directly involved, but what inspired me is the fact that not hundreds and thousands but, eventually, tens of thousands of Americans—what I call the real democrats of the United States, who believe in the constitution and the workings of democracy, who want an end to the poverty and the racialism in their country—are recognising that they have the technology and the power to do these things and want to release these energies, but cannot do so while they are bound to a war which is sucking in not only their economy but half a million of their men in a distant land where they are making no impression and where, after all these years, they are no nearer resolving the war.
I admire the courage of these Americans, who are prepared, in the most 145 difficult circumstances, and against all the pressures which we in the Labour movement know can be put on people, who have stood up to be counted. They go right across the board. They include Republicans, and Democrats like Ed Muskie and McGovern. The include trade unionists and some black people—perhaps not as many of either as we would like and perhaps they have the priorities the other way around—and they are coming more and more to realise that this issue must be resolved.
When I was there on 18th November, I got a copy of Look, which is a very popular magazine throughout the country. The Foreign Editor, who has accepted the Administration's policy up to now, wrote:We should get out of Vietnam immediately. That—bluntly and simply—is the conclusion I bring back from my most recent trip to South Vietnam, plus conversations with leaders on both sides of the negotiations in Paris. I have never been a dove on Vietnam, but I cannot close my eyes to these hard facts: We have failed to win the war in the fields. Even with 500,000 men there, we cannot win itThis is not being said by people in Hanoi, or by the N.L.F., or by people in this country, or in France or Germany. It has been said by leading people in the United States who themselves had supported the war. I found that those people who had previously supported the war were now advocating the get-out policy within, so to speak, a matter of days, as opposed to a negotiated settlement.
I have heard the Foreign Secretary say so often that Hanoi has never made concessions and that it does not want a negotiated peace. My question is: what are the Vietcong doing at peace talks in. Paris? What are the N.L.F. doing there? I see that the right hon. Gentleman is laughing—
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Orme
—but it is a very important factor that they are at the peace talks. What are the Vietcong doing at the Paris peace talks except to try to get a negotiated settlement? The function of the Paris peace talks is to allow the Americans to get out with some honour from a war in which they should never have been involved in the first place.
146 In the Los Angeles Times there was an article by Joseph Kraft. He said:It is passing strange that so many people have made up their minds so quickly about the President's speech on Vietnam. For at the core of Mr. Nixon's argument there is a mystery—the mystery of why negotiations have gone sour.He goes on to say:The uses of negotiation were plainly not lost on Mr. Nixon and his chief foreign policy adviser, Henry Kissinger. Even before they took office, they had opened a line of communication to the late president of North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh.… So what went wrong? The President said in his speech that the 'obstacle is the other side's absolute refusal to show willingness to join in seeking peace'…he released an exchange of letters with Ho Chi Minh. But Ho's letter, dated three days before his death on September 2, does nothing to justify the President's staggering denunciation. The tone is conciliatory. The text refers to the need for 'good will on both sides'. It speaks of an American withdrawal, but without the usual demand that it be either immediate or unconditional. It mentions the 10-point programme of the National Liberation Front, not as the only basis for settlement in the manner of past demands, but more modestly, as, a logical and reasonable basis for the settlement of the Vietnamese problems'.The previous French High Commissioner in Vietnam, Sainteny, a personal friend of Ho Chi Minh and of President Nixon, was sent to Hanoi, and Kraft came back after the funeral of Ho Chi Minh with these words:I saw Sainteny at the end of September, just after his return from the funeral of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi. He had a long talk with Premier Pham Van Dong. He was persuaded that the other side was prepared to accept a settlement that would include an independent and non-Communist South Vietnam set in a neutralist South-East Asia.Is this not what would have happened if General Eisenhower had allowed free elections to take place in 1956? Is this not what my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) said when he referred to Senator Robert Kennedy trying to broaden the base of the Saigon Administration? Is it not intolerable that this clique of people should be allowed to go on in this way, excluding as it does some Roman Catholics and Buddhists as well as Communists? Is it not fantastic that this siutation has been reached? I am sorry that we do not hear any criticism of this from my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. All we hear from him is the immediate 147 acceptance of every American statement, whether it comes from President Nixon or anybody else. It only matters who get the endorsement in first—Saigon or he.
A negotiated settlement is a real possibility, and the basis for such a settlement exists. When I was in the United States, arguments were going on about the possibility of negotiating an American withdrawal. What appalled the American people was the President's reference to Vietnamisation, but I did not hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) speak about that: he did not have much to say about Vietnamising the war. The President wants, in other words, to continue the war by other means. That is an immoral and dirty thing to say, and I believe that it is wrong.
The American people were beginning to consider the basis of the war. They were beginning to see where it had got them and the effect it was having upon their nation. They were beginning to recognise that much was wrong.
On the Saturday morning, at the culmination of the Moratorium in November, I took part with ¼million people who marched through the streets of San Francisco, without violence, in a manner which, to me, was an expression of democracy within a democracy. At the polo ground I heard the speeches that were made by Senators and Congressmen, who were not by any means Socialist. They were people who believed in their own country and were prepared to say that a change of policy was essential.
I returned from the United States with a measure of optimism that the American people will rise above this difficulty and will see an end to this war. I returned also with a message. They want to see an expression of opinion from the British people and from the United Kingdom. It was sad to hear Senator Muskie say that there was probably more support in this House of Commons for the American Administration than there was in the Senate and in Congress. It is clear that to those Americans who care—they number tens of millions—what Britain says and does on this issue 148 matters. People look to us to use our voice tonight.
Those of us who have campaigned on issues like Rhodesia, Northern Ireland, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Vietnam, have no double standards. We can stand here and say so proudly. We will oppose tyranny wherever it occurs. If we believe actions to be wrong, in whatever country and in whatever circumstances, we will say so. In that sense, I express no apologies and no qualifications for what I am saying. I call upon the House to make a stand and follow the terms of the resolution of the Labour Party conference.
If my right hon. Friends the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, the Prime Minister, or the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had been in the United States on that occasion they would have expressed eloquently Her Majesty's Government's case for supporting the American Administration. I was able to stand on a platform and say, "I do not represent any bodies as such, but I can say that what I say represents the official policy of my party and of the Trades Union Congress". I was proud to say that.
The Opposition are not affected by this, because they have not been in it. It concerns the Labour Party. If we believe that people in this country are disillusioned because people are not expressing the views which they should express, and because nobody knows where anybody stands on some of the major issues, we should do something about it. It is not often that we get a chance to stand up and be counted, and I hope that we shall take the opportunity tonight to do just that.
It is not just a matter of influencing people in Britain. Our action will have effects far beyond Britain, and the most important effect will be on the millions of American people who are campaigning courageously for a just policy to be followed by the United States, which means ending the war in Vietnam, reaching a negotiated settlement, and bringing the troops home. If the United States Government are prepared to do that, their prestige will rise, and not be denigrated. I therefore urge my colleagues to support the Motion, That this House do now adjourn.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme). I find myself in full sympathy with his fine speech. If there is one thing that will unite the House it is the decision to see that the war in Vietnam is brought to a speedy end, but after the speech of President Nixon on 3rd November the prospects of a quick end to the war appear to be rather bleak and we appear to be in for a prolonged war.
The war in Vietnam has touched the consciences of countries all over the world, but no major country has the same kind of responsibility outside the Unites. States as Britain has for what is happening in Vietnam. Our association with imperialism in Vietnam or in Indo-China goes back a long time. A quarter of a century ago we were associated with the efforts of the French to re-establish themselves in that country.
In considering the position in Vietnam today, we should keep in mind that the present phase of the Vietnamese struggle for national liberationx2014;and that is how I view it—begins with a failure—and it was not a Vietnamese failure—to hold a general election in both North and South Vietnam in 1956, although that election had been agreed to in Geneva. Instead, there was the bolstering up of the corrupt Diem régime. The consequence of that was that the country was kept divided, and American imperialism gradually took over from French imperialism, which had failed, and this war is a continuation of what was a French war in Vietnam, or Indo-China.
I object very much to any country outside Vietnam saying that it has the right to say what should happen in that country. I do not think that the Americans have the right to say what should happen in Vietnam. I do not think that the French had the right to say that. I have the same objection to this country saying what should happen in Wales. The people who run the country should be the people of the country, and those who run Vietnam should be the people of Vietnam.
The justification which has been put forward today for the American invasion is the necessity to contain Communism. It seems to me that this is no more than a facade, and that the war has very little 150 to do with Communism. I think that almost the same thing would be happening in Vietnam today if China were still under the Manchu dynasty and Russia were ruled by the Tsars. It is a war in the old imperialist mould. Vietnamese nationalism is striving for national freedom and withstanding what is American imperialism, whose base is more than 10,000 miles away. In the same way, Czechoslovakia has recently been withstanding Russian imperialism. I do not think that America has any more right to be involved in Vietnam than Russia has in Czechoslovakia.
A man who should have some judgment on this matter is the head of the Cambodian state. Early last year, in the company of others, I was able to discuss this matter with him. He was sure that a free and united Vietnam would be the sturdiest bulwark against China or against China's Communism, if that is what is feared. He adduced the history of Vietnam in support of this view. The North Vietnamese call themselves Communists and so do the N.L.F. But they are in the first place nationalists, just as the U.S.S.R. is in the first place imperialist. In addition, the radicalism of the N.L.F. policy seems to have little in common with the brutal totalitarianism of Russia.
There may have been some idealism in American imperialism when it invaded Vietnam, but today it is hard to discern any now. It has disappeared from sight as the war has become more and more monstrously obscene. The character of the war has received a great deal of publicity because of the "Pinkville" massacre. This publicity is greatly to the credit of America. No totalitarian country would ever give this kind of publicity to that kind of atrocity. But what is not to America's credit, or indeed to Britain's credit, is that the war in Vietnam has long been known to be one long atrocity.
The American Friends Service Committee has a long and splendid history of service in Vietnam. That committee stated on 5th May, 1969:In our judgment the human situation in Vietnam today is worse than it has ever been. The cumulative result of United States involvement, on top of 25 years of warfare, borders not on Vietnam's salvation, but on its death. An entire nation is being physically, morally and spiritually destroyed.151 Nearly two years ago I drew attention in the House to what was happening and the kind of assault which was being made on the civilian population of Vietnam. I told how the civilians, and particularly the children, were being killed and maimed in great numbers.
I then quoted Frank Harvey's definitive study "Air War Vietnam", in which he described how if a forward air control or Huey Long helicopter found anything overtly suspicious the crew were entitled to stir up some action by dropping smoke grenades. If people ran from the smoke and explosion, they were entitled to assume that they had "flushed Charley" and to call in any means of destruction at their disposal. Another proved method of assault in forward bombing was to drop a canister of C.B.Us, which exploded a million or so pellets in a small area. The terrifying effect was called "rolling thunder". If people took evasive action and rushed into houses, they were barbecued with a bath of napalm. If they went into paddies, they were hosed with fire from mini-guns which could fire 6,000 rounds of ammunition a minute. This is the way the war has been fought.
The Prime Minister today said that he was suspending judgment about atrocities until he had final proof that there were atrocities like "Pinkville". I do not think that we need to suspend judgment about atrocities in "Pinkville". We know that it has been going on for years. The kind of attack on civilians that has been going on from the air over the years surely is as much an atrocity as that alleged to have happened in "Pinkville". There is no moral difference at all. Nor can a clear distinction be made between the moral responsibility of men on the spot who do these things and the politicians who send them there and supply them with arms knowing what is done.
It must be clear to the United States Government now that their hope of winning a military victory is just as slight as the French hope was in 1954. Their choice is between a withdrawal and keeping the war going as it is at present in order to keep the country divided and to keep the puppet government in Saigon. We in this country should use our influence, however small, on Washington and on world opinion to change this policy.
152 If the Government cast aside their support for the policies of Washington and the Pentagon and backed the powerful radical and humane elements in American life, then they could again find themselves and exercise some degree of moral influence. I hope that the American Government will see their way clear to ceasing all offensive action in Vietnam and will withdraw their troops to the port areas for repatriation, and leave Vietnam to the Vietnamese, as it should be.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
We have had a selective debate, rather more so than usual. More than half the hon. Members who have spoken have concentrated on Vietnam. We have had strong pleas for the Americans to get out from the hon. Members for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans). Obviously the incidents are regrettable, and no one regrets them more than the American Government, but it must be admitted that there never has been a war, and never will be, in which the vicious circle of atrocity and counter-atrocity is not present.
I cannot help thinking it somewhat conspicuous that those hon. Members who are most vehement against the Americans in Vietnam kept remarkably silent during the time of the Egyptian atrocities in the Yemen. Neither did we really hear, despite the remarks that have been made, anything like the protests against what amounted to the Russian rape of Czechoslovakia—
§ Viscount Lambton
—as we have heard against the Americans in this case. In any event these atrocities have not yet been proved. The Prime Minister went out of his way to talk about the alleged atrocities. I could not help noticing that certain hon. Members opposite seem to wish that the atrocity was a fact before it had been proved.
Before the U.S.A. is condemned we should wait and see whether "Pinkville" was, as the Prime Minister puts it, a momentary aberration or part of a deliberate policy of brutality. I have heard no evidence to suggest that this was more than a single, isolated incident.
153 Before leaving the subject, it is only fair to remember that a nation has seldom if ever waged a war with such altruistic, some may say misguided, judgment as the Americans have in this campaign. They stand to gain not a single yard of territory. They now wait only for a settlement that will ensure the guaranteed viability of South Vietnam. While it is possible to argue about their wisdom, it is surely impossible to deny the sacrifices of their effort, and to call for their blood on account of one unproven incident is surely the height of folly, especially when, as the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) pointed out, it is entirely due to American protection that we are allowed to argue freely here today.
The Prime Minister made a somewhat surprising announcement this afternoon—that it is our intention to vote against Greece being a member of the Council of Europe.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
If the noble Lord is now to leave the question of Vietnam, which has been the main subject of the debate, will he tell us whether the Official Opposition agree with the statements and policies enunciated by President Nixon on 3rd November, even though it is evident on the testimony of many Americans that these policies will lead to an escalation of the war—not merely a continuance of it but an intensification? What is the attitude of the Official Opposition to this statement?
§ Viscount Lambton
It is not for the Official Opposition to associate itself with the policy of another country. A policy announced by a country is not a thing which this Opposition or any Opposition says that it agrees with in its entirety. It remains for the future to see whether one agrees or not with that of America. That intervention was hardly worthy of the hen. Member.
Let us get back to this question of Greece. We had this curious announcement this afternoon that we are to vote against Greece's membership on the Council of Europe this week. I should like to ask the Foreign Secretary what will be the effect of our vote, and whether the decision of the council has to be unanimous before it can take effect. This is a question to which we should like the answer either tonight or tomorrow, 154 since it is very relevant. I am sure that all hon. Members regret the line which the Greek Government have taken during the last year—
§ Viscount Lambton
To begin with, the Greek Government undoubtedly did much that was good. They did away with many parliamentary abuses, but, of course, the main mistake came when they decided not to have elections—
§ Viscount Lambton
I think that everyone in the House is in agreement upon this issue, but what is most important, and what I should like to know, is why the decision has been taken to vote against the Greek membership on the Council of Europe now.
§ Viscount Lambton
Was this decision made now after discussions with Mr. Pipinelis? Has Greece been told that our decision to vote against its membership will be reconsidered if the Government agree to the broadening of their Government within a defined period? Lastly, have the Government considered the special strategic importance of Greece, now that Libya and Turkey are no longer available, as one might say, to American forces and Czechoslovakia also has increased its importance?
But what, above all, is so striking, is the curious timing of this announcement by the Prime Minister. A study of difficult foreign affairs debates will show that nearly always an announcement is made in them. In one, the Prime Minister announced his intention to go to the United States of America, in another that he was to go to the U.S.S.R., in another that the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) was going on a pathetic trip to the Far East, in another that we were going to withdraw our forces from the Middle East. In fact, it is either remarkably coincidental that these announcements come to be made at a time of a difficult foreign affairs debate for the Government, when the Left wing had to be placated, or else the Prime Minister is using Foreign Office decisions 155 as weapons to still opposition in these debates. That would seem to be a very dubious policy.
One subject was, curiously enough, omitted from our discussion today, and it seems to me rather odd that the Prime Minister did not deal with it, concentrating as he did on two areas in which, although we may have great interests, we have very little power. There has occurred what is surely of the greatest relevance, the first sign for many years of an entente between East and West Germany. Yet we have heard no word at all from the Prime Minister on this subject, which is of the greatest importance to us, as it must be to the Minister who is negotiating with Europe.
It is far too soon even to hope that any agreement will be possible. At the same time, it is difficult to remember a period when Moscow has appeared so conciliatory and when Western Germany has appeared so mobile in its thoughts. If some agreement could be brought about between East and West Germany it is difficult to see how that would not lead to closer co-operation between East and West as a whole, while the possible establishment of a demilitarised zone, too, cannot be ignored.
It is far too early to be optimistic about the outcome of those proposals and their long-term implications. At the same time, when one considers how great would be the changes which would occur if this entente were to be reached and if there were an ending to the armed European confrontation, it is odd that the Prime Minister did not give more examination to this problem today. It offers more hope to Europe than anything has offered for a considerable time. It could be that it is one of the opportunities which suddenly occur and should be seized.
I turn to a different subject—our relationship with Libya. The Minister who is to wind up the debate seemed to confuse the House this afternoon when he did not make plain who was the present head of the Libyan State. If one is not certain who is the Head of State or who is the Head of Government, how does one recognise that Government? What process does one go through? Does one leave a blank and fill in that blank 156 later when one finds out the name of the appropriate person? It seems to me very curious. As far as I can remember, it is the first time that we have ever recognised a Government without knowing who was the head of State at the time. When we recognised the Iraqi Government after the fall of Nuri many years ago it was done very quickly, but at least we knew that we were recognising the Government of General Kassem. But who is the Head of State of Libya today? We are told that this recognition is vital. We should be told who was recognised and what was the process of recognition.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) asked whether it was our intention to continue to sell arms to Libya. This is a most important question to which we need an answer. Another question to which I should like an answer is: are we in these negotiations differentiating between the continuance of the base and the use of the training grounds in Libya, which I understand are irreplaceable? Whereas it may be impossible for us to argue that we should maintain the bases against the wishes of the Libyan Government, if we are to continue to sell arms to Libya it is important that the future of these training grounds should be negotiated closely. The Minister may not wish to discuss this, but we should be grateful for enlightenment about it.
Another point concerning our Middle East policy which I should like explained, and which has gone unexplained for too long, concerns a sentence in Resolution 242 which was presented by the United Kingdom and was later adopted at the Security Council meeting on 22nd November, 1967. That resolution was at the time hailed as a triumph of British diplomacy. What I should like to know is what this sentence in it means. As I understand it, it can mean two things to two different people. It says:The withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.'This was to be brought about to fulfil the Charter principles required for the establishment of a just and lasting peace. I really should like to press the Foreign Secretary about what this sentence means, because when it was put forward it was only accepted by the Israelis because they 157 saw that the word "all" had been excluded from before "territories", and it was only accepted by the Arab States because they believed it meant that all territories should be returned to them.
During the two years or so since the war finished, each side has taken up a very adamant position, and each believes that it is working within the resolution of the United Nations. It is time that our Government should say precisely what this sentence means. Is it the policy of the Government that this is meant to mean that the Israelis should withdraw from all territories, or only from certain territories? This really is a key question indeed, and I hope we shall get it answered.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) has put forward a certain scheme for the solving of the problem of the Middle East over a period of years. It is extremely doubtful that anyone now can suggest that any package deal will be acceptable to either the Arab countries or Israel at this time. Therefore, what we want to have is a part package deal which can be reached in certain stages. The propositions my right hon. Friend put forward are: first, that there should be Arab recognition of Israel; second, that there should be Israeli withdrawal to prearranged frontiers on a timetable alder supervision and international guarantee; third, the demilitarisation of the areas evacuated and the installation of an early warning system on the Israeli frontier of the Suez Canal; fourth, the provision of a United Nations police force, whose position is guaranteed by the four Powers; fifth, the resettlement of Arab refugees; and sixth, inter-Church agreement on the Holy Places.
If we look at the Middle East as a whole with all its troubles, I think it is impossible to deny that no settlement is likely to be made except in stages. One wonders whether the Government hold this sort of view, because I once again repeat that it seems to me rather odd that today we should in this debate have concentrated on areas which may be of sentimental interest to us but where we have no actual interests and very little power indeed, and I hope that tomorrow we shall have a more realistic appraisal of some of the areas which are of the greatest interest to us and far nearer 158 home than those which have been discussed today.
§ Mr. George Brown
The hon. Gentleman said there was a proposition by his right hon. Friend to reach this package deal by stages, and he said, very deliberately, that stage one was the Arab recognition of Israel, and stage two thereafter would be the question of Israeli withdrawal. Is that really what his right hon. Friend has proposed?
§ Viscount Lambton
I did not say the order in which they should be taken. If there is any other method than approaching this subject in a piecemeal way, I do not know what it is. Surely this is better than to watch the situation gradually deteriorate, with the likelihood of a third Israeli war drawing nearer all the time.
Let me turn further afield in the Middle East to the Gulf area, which was also mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion. The situation in the Gulf is, unfortunately, precisely what we on this side of the House prophesied it would be if an announcement of withdrawal were made. Already, in an area which has known almost absolute peace for 15 years, seeds of dissent have been sown. Our policy in this area where we have such vast oil interests should surely be that of stabilisation. How can it be said that we have done anything whatever to help the stabilisation of the area when our actions have already resulted in a confrontation between Persia and Saudi Arabia, the two powers in the area which, above all, should be united and friendly to each other, and which are now, to put it mildly, extremely distrustful of each other.
Then there is the shotgun federation of which we have heard so much. Only a year ago we were told that these six little States were comfortably working together and would soon unite in a federation which would be an example to the world. We have heard this about federations before, and I do not think that there has ever been a federation, even those which we ourselves put forward, that has had so little chance of success as the proposed Gulf federation which was absolutely out of the blue thrust on to the Trucial States by a Government who suddenly decided to withdraw.
159 Also in this area there is the dangerous creation of private armies. Private armies always have been double-edged instruments. They can turn against the State as easily as they can defend it, and in an area with so little tradition of stability it is too much to hope that the creation of private armies will be advantageous. What is the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the creation of these armies? Is it their intention that they should be staffed with British officers? Are we planning to make preferential arrangements for them, or will they have to recruit entirely on their own? What sort of relationships are we to have with them?
Are we still adamant about our determination to retire from the Gulf by 1971? This is an area where we have the greatest reserves of oil in the world, where more British capital is tied up than anywhere else overseas, and where our expenditure on the maintenance of peace was approximately £10 million to £15 million a year. As has been said, it is an area which we have vacated and left to almost inevitable chaos in the future. But it is not yet too late. The Government need not necessarily make the final fatal mistake. An opportunity still exists for them to retrieve some of the mistakes that they have made, as it does over the supply of arms to South Africa.
All along the line we have a most depressing view to look at. At no time before has this country ever appeared to be in such a period of decline, and I do not think that the contribution made by many hon. Gentlemen opposite has done much to raise us in the esteem of the world.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Evan Luard)
This has been a lively debate in which a number of strongly felt, though sometimes widely differing, views have been expressed. I will answer as best I can some of the points that have been raised, but I will devote my remarks primarily to the subject of Vietnam, which was the main subject for discussion today.
Before dealing with Vietnam, I will answer some other questions that were 160 asked. I will not, however, deal with many of the other points, including the question of Europe, the issue of the European security conference or the new relations between East and West Germany, to which the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) referred, particularly since they will be dealt with in tomorrow's debate, when my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will deal with those matters.
First, the question of the Middle East. The right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) asked if it was the policy of Her Majesty's Government to, as he put it, put flesh on the bare bones of Resolution 242 of the United Nations Security Council in the discussions of the Four in New York. In particular, he asked about our policy on demilitarised zones and guarantees for Israel.
The position is very much that Her Majesty's Government hope that one outcome of the discussions in New York between the Four will be that we shall be able to provide more detailed guidelines for Ambassador Jarring in his mission to the Middle East than he has by virtue of Resolution 242 alone; and it is on this basis that the discussions are now taking place in New York.
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would expect me to go in detail into the questions he asked about our policy on individual aspects of this matter, but it is certainly the case that we expect both of the questions to which he referred to be discussed at the meeting of the Four, and probably both of them will form an element of the new mandate which may be given to Ambassador Jarring.
The noble Lord and the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) raised a number of points concerning Libya. In addition, the right hon. Member for Bridlington asked a large number of detailed questions. He will not expect me to answer them immediately tonight. However, I will take the opportunity to write to him with as full an answer as I can to some of the points he raised. In the meantime, I will answer some of the principal matters that were raised in this connection.
161 I was asked about the identity of the Revolutionary Command Council, the existing Government and régime in Libya. It is true that for a short time there was a certain amount of mystery over this question. During the last two or three weeks, however, much more information has become available about the personalities involved. The right hon. Member for Bridlington will know that we are today starting negotiations with members of that Government and that inevitably, as a result of that, we are acquiring greater knowledge of some of the personalities involved.
I was then asked about the flow of oil from Libya. I can give the right hon. Member for Bridlington an assurance that, according to our information, oil is flowing more freely now than at any time in the past. We must also bear in mind the fact that the new Libyan Government told us, almost immediately after their formation, that it was their intention to respect existing contracts. It is our hope that we can maintain the existing position as far as the oil companies are concerned.
The questions of the negotiations which are now about to begin and the future of our military relationship with Libya also received comment. It is our object, as I think the House knows, to establish a totally new relationship with the new Government of Libya. The original agreement was intended primarily for the defence of Libya at Libya's request. If Libya no longer wishes that defence, then it is not for us to impose such a relationship on that country.
As for our military facilities, it is certainly our hope that, in these discussions, we may be able to arrive at mutually acceptable arrangements which will, as far as possible, meet the interests of both countries.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) and the noble Lord asked about the meaning of Resolution 242, and the reference in it to…withdrawal from territories occupied in the recent conflict …They asked me what Her Majesty's Government's position was. The simple answer is that the Government abide by the resolution, and by the formula used in it:…withdrawal from territories occupied in the recent conflict…162 I was asked whether this meant all territories. The possibility of including the word "all" was considered when the resolution was passed, but, as the House knows, the resolution does not contain the word. It would not be sensible for me to give my own personal interpretation or, indeed, the Government's interpretation of that resolution, because these matters are at this very moment being discussed among the four Powers in New York. They are discussing exactly what type of withdrawal should take place, and it is for them to reach their interpretation on exactly how this should be applied in the case of the two territories concerned.
§ Viscount Lambton
Then the Government are not committed to the understanding that the resolution means withdrawal from all territories?
§ Mr. Luard
I have just explained that the Government are committed to the formula used in the resolution:…withdrawal from territories occupied in the recent conflict…My right hon. and learned Friend referred to what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said during the debate on the Queen's Speech. If he studies my right hon. Friend's speech, and the sentence in it of which he spoke, he will realise that the use of the word "the" could not grammatically be avoided in the sentence. It was not intended to imply any change in the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The Minister has said that the Government stick by the formula which was used in the resolution, but he then says that it is open to interpretation by the four Powers and, perhaps, to adjustment. Is that the situation?
§ Mr. Luard
I did not say anything about adjustment. I said that the formula used was used deliberately in the original Security Council resolution, and was part of a package which included reference to other things, such as secure and recognised boundaries. It would have been quite impossible, perhaps, to have obtained passage of the resolution at all if everything had been spelt out in such detail as the right hon. Gentleman now suggests.
I move to the other point raised—
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
The Foreign Secretary himself told the House the week before last, and the Prime Minister confirmed to me during Question Time last week, that the British Government's interpretation of the resolution was not withdrawal from all territories; that the Government's understanding was withdrawal from territories such as are compatible with secure frontiers. Why cannot the hon. Gentleman say so?
§ Mr. Luard
We are abiding exactly by the resolution, which says withdrawal from territories. It is true that that wording can be interpreted in more than one way. If the phrase "all territories" had been wanted, it would have been included in the resolution in the first place. It must be taken in the context of the resolution as a whole—
§ Mr. Heath
I must press the hon. Gentleman on this question. The House is entitled to know our own Government's interpretation. It is not sufficient to say that the resolution is open to a number of interpretations— we all know that, and it is from this that so much trouble in the Middle East has stemmed. We wish to know Her Majesty's Government's interpretation of the resolution.
§ Mr. Luard
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is aware that there are going on at this very time extremely delicate discussions on this question in New York. It is not for me to give a unilateral interpretation of the meaning of this crucial phrase in the resolution while those discussions are going on. I want to move on to the question raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich and others about the Persian Gulf—
§ Sir Dingle Foot rose—
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton) rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member must decide to whom he is giving way, if he is giving way to anyone.
§ Mr. Paget rose—164
§ Mr. Luard
My right hon. and learned Friend asked what would be the position after 1971 and whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to provide some kind of technical assistance to the states of the region. This is not a question on which any final decision has yet been reached, but I am sure that he knows that it is our hope to replace our existing relationship, which is based partly on the presence of our military forces in the area, by one in which economic relations will play a much more important part. If at that time there are requests for assistance of the kind my right hon. and learned Friend described, they will be considered by Her Majesty's Government.
§ Sir Dingle Foot
Will my hon. Friend deal specifically with the other point I raised, about participation by a British firm in oil drilling in occupied territory?
§ Mr. Luard
My right hon. and learned Friend knows that this was discussed at Question Time today. I have nothing to add to what I said then. The matter is being carefully considered by the Government who are concerned about this question.
I must now turn to the question of Vietnam, which is the main subject of this debate. When confronting the question of Vietnam we come up against problems similar in many ways to those which will be discussed tomorrow over Nigeria; some of the most important but also most difficult questions which are faced in the field of foreign policy. How can the influence of the Government best be used in the interests of peace? Does the mere fact that in both these issues we are clearly much closer to one party in the conflict than to another inhibit and weaken our influence for peace over these disputes, or give us a greater influence over the course of events than otherwise we would have?
Does the fact that incidents may occur which we deplore or methods of war are being used of which we disapprove mean that we should totally repudiate an ally engaged in a war of this kind; or, on the contrary, make it even more important that we should retain our capacity to influence and to restrain?
165 Can peace best be secured and policies best be influenced by raising our arms in horror at certain aspects of policy and turning our backs altogether; or does this make it all the more important to retain the maximum possible influence with the parties to the dispute?
In what I say today I want first to consider some of the issues about which this conflict is being fought; secondly, to consider the policy of Her Majesty's Government and some of the criticisms of it raised today; and, finally, to look at some of the policies of some of the participants in the conflict, especially the United States and North Vietnam.
Much has been said in the debate about the horrors of the death and destruction in this war and, in particular, about certain incidents which have been very widely reported in the last few weeks. I think that all of us deplore those reports that have occurred.
I fully understand the concern that has been expressed in certain speeches in the debate, which reflects the anxiety widely felt in this country as a whole. But I suggest that the main conclusion to be drawn from these reports is that they indicate more clearly than ever the immediate urgency of trying to secure a ceasefire and peace in that war as a whole. If we want to bring incidents and methods of this kind to an end, the surest way to do so is to try to bring peace and an end to the conflict as a whole. If we were to be asked what is the principal issue about which this war is being fought, I think that most of us, and the parties to the war, would agree that the key and crucial issue is that of self-determination and whether the people of Vietnam are to be ruled by a Government of which they themselves approve and which they themselves think representative.
This, after all, is what the war is about Each side claims to be more representative of the people as a whole than the other. If we wish to resolve this conflict, the only way to do it is by testing, in a way that will be approved and evident to the world as a whole, what the wishes of the people are—that is, by finding some procedure by which the people of Vietnam can choose their own future, their own Government, their own political destiny, in a way which cannot be challenged either by those within Vietnam or by those outside.
166 If the people of Vietnam are to be allowed this right, there are two conditions which must be fulfilled. First, peace must be restored in Vietnam. Secondly, some mutually acceptable procedure must be found, whether by a referendum or by elections—
§ Mr. Luard
I am coming to that question—whether by a referendum or by elections, through which the people of Vietnam as a whole can have the opportunity to express their views about their political future.
Those two elements are mutually interdependent. There cannot be an effective act of self-determination in South Vietnam unless there is also peace—not, for example, while different parts of the country are being held by different forces. There cannot be peace, certainly not permanent peace, unless there has been an act of self-determination which is accepted as valid by the people of South Vietnam as a whole, so that it no longer becomes possible for either element within the population to claim that the Government are not representative of the people as a whole.
If it is accepted that those two elements are essential in any satisfactory settlement in Vietnam, I would like to examine the policies of the British Government, on the one hand, and of some of the participants, on the other, against this test.
I do not believe that the most bitter critic of Her Majesty's Government could claim that they have not done everything within their power to bring a settlement to Vietnam and so to restore peace to Vietnam and to provide self-determination for Vietnam.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Will the Under-Secretary address himself to this situation? When war was previously waging in Indo-China, as it was, Britain, from a position of complete neutrality under Mr. Attlee, was capable of dissuading the French from using nuclear weapons at Dien Bien Phu. Likewise, under a Conservative Administration, Sir Anthony Eden, as Foreign Secretary, to his eternal credit, from an equal position of neutrality was able to bring about the Geneva Conference and get all the parties to the dispute round a table; because Britain 167 was totally neutral and was, therefore, an honest broker. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that our position of total commitment has made us stronger or weaker?
§ Mr. Luard
The right hon. Gentleman has got his chronology somewhat wrong, because Mr. Attlee was not Prime Minister at the time of Dien Bien Phu, which occurred in 1954. However, on the general point raised by the right hon. Gentleman, I shall come later to consider the question whether we would have greater influence or less if we adopted a position of total detachment from this conflict. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to wait until I reach that passage of my speech.
I was saying that I do not think that it can reasonably be asserted that the present Government have not done everything in their power to try to bring about a settlement of this conflict. We have over and over again asked the Soviet Government, as the other co-Chairman of the Geneva Conference, whether they would agree to the reconvening of the Geneva Conference; and over and over again that request has been refused.
Almost as soon as this Government came to power my right hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker) made a tour of South-East Asia to explore the possibility of a settlement. Only a few months after that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) also visited the area to see whether we could obtain the entry of a Commonwealth peace mission to both halves of Vietnam. A year later my right hon. Friend the Member for Beler (Mr. George Brown) made his proposal for a settlement and introduced it in New York at the United Nations, based on the idea of a conference, of a cease-fire and elections for everybody in South Vietnam. A few months later at the beginning of 1967, when Mr. Kosygin was here, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did everything in his power to bridge the gap between the two sides. At the same time, while discussions were taking place here in London with Mr. Kosygin, efforts were being made in Washington to bring the two sides closer together. Apart from these specific initiatives, my right hon. Friends the 168 Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have travelled to Moscow, Washington and many other places in an effort to arrive at a settlement.
Finally, we have given our support to a large number of initiatives of other kinds by other Governments designed to bring about a settlement and, above all, to try to involve the United Nations in bringing about a settlement of this conflict.
It is true that these attempts have not produced the results we hoped, but it is not true to say that our influence has never had any impact on the war. The Government made their views known clearly on the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong, and eventually that policy was stopped. Secondly, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister mentioned earlier this afternoon, we have made known our views about the bombing of the north, and that policy also was finally changed. Therefore, it would be wrong to conclude that on specific points, as against the war as a whole, the expression of our views has been without influence.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson (The High Peak) rose—
§ Mr. Luard
I am sorry, but I cannot give way now. I think that I am just about to come to the point which my hon. Friend was about to raise.
During this debate it has been suggested that we could increase our influence if we were to dissociate ourselves totally from the policies pursued by the United States in Vietnam.
§ Mr. Luard
It is important to make a distinction here as to what kind of dissociation we are talking about. If what is intended is to make clear our views about specific actions or elements of policy—for example, the incidents which are reported to have taken place 18 months ago—it is always open to this Government to make clear their views. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made very clear how he felt about such incidents if they should prove to have taken place.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Hamilton) rose—169
§ Mrs. Ewing rose—
§ Mr. Luard
Secondly, dissociation could be taken to refer to a particular policy over a particular period, such as the bombing of the north or the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. Again the Government have expressed their views from time to time, and it would be rash to say that this has not had any influence.
But if what is meant—and I think this is what is meant by some of my hon. Friends—is dissociation altogether from the policies and objectives pursued by the United Nations in South Vietnam, that is an altogether different question. If what is intended is dissociation from the declared aim of the United States of allowing the people of South Vietnam to choose their own future through free elections with international supervision, as they have declared and demanded, certainly this Government could not dissociate itself from that objective because it is the objective of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Mrs. Ewing
Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that because the Government's policy has condemned some specific incidents which they could hardly do anything but condemn, this makes up for the fact that we are pretending to be neutral while we are actually supporting the policy of the United States?
§ Mr. Luard
I have made a distinction between different kinds of dissociation. If the hon. Lady was not listening, I cannot repeat what I have already said.
I want to move on to discuss the policies of the United States and North Vietnam, which is very relevant to the question of the policy which Her Majesty's Government should be pursuing. What offers have been made by these two parties—outside parties—to the conflict which seem likely to bring it to an end and to secure peace, a cease-fire and self-determination in South Vietnam? From which side have the main moves come which have been made in the last year or 18 months?
There is one immediate and glaring contrast which can be noted. The United 170 States has already withdrawn a considerable number of forces—nearly 60,000 of its troops, I believe—from South Vietnam. It is continuing to withdraw a further number of troops, and it has announced that it will withdraw all its troops if it receives reciprocation from the other side, and in any case will ultimately withdraw all its combat troops from South Vietnam.
What has North Vietnam offered? It has so far not withdrawn any troops, so far as is known. It is not withdrawing troops at the present time. On the contrary, it appears to have reinforced its forces in the south within the last few weeks or months. Nor has it given any undertaking to withdraw troops in the future.
This is not a new change. The United States under President Johnson offered, three or four years ago, to withdraw its forces, provided that the North Vietnamese did the same, and offered free elections under international supervision. More recently, in April last year, the United States offered to halt the bombing of the north and to begin negotiations in Paris. During those negotiations it has made several unilateral concessions, including the beginning of withdrawal of its forces. Only a month ago, President Nixon reaffirmed these unilateral withdrawals of United States forces and announced that the United States would withdraw all forces if the North Vietnamese would do the same.
What have we had from North Vietnam in response to these offers? What has North Vietnam done either to reduce the intensity of the fighting in the south through withdrawal of any of its forces or to make any commitment about a free test of the wishes of the people under international supervision? This is the test by which we must judge the policies of the two outside contestants in this war.
What hope does the policy of North Vietnam in its own country give that it will allow a free and fair assessment of the wishes of the people in the south? What confidence does the policy of the slaughter of village leaders, which has been pursued by the North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces for a considerable time, give that they wish to allow the people of South Vietnam to choose their own future in peace?
171 I am sorry to say that the evidence on all these points does not give much hope that the North Vietnamese are seriously interested in allowing self-determination by the people of South Vietnam as a whole. If some of my hon. Friends who have been eloquent in the debate today would use some of their eloquence to try to persuade North Vietnam to make offers of withdrawal by its forces from South Vietnam similar to those which have been made by the United States, they might do more in the cause of peace than by trying to induce this Government to change their policy.
§ Mr. John Mendelson rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put, but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.172
§ Mr. Luard
Let us be realistic. The influence which this Government have is in any case limited. But if at this stage, just when the United States has modified its policy and is beginning to withdraw its forces, we were to repudiate the United States, we should totally destroy whatever influence we have. Let us be realistic—
§ Mr. John Mendelson rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put,put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That this House do now adjourn:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 57, Noes 196.173
|Division No. 28.]||AYES||[10.1 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Faulds, Andrew||Newens, Stan|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Noel-Baker, Rt Hn. Philip|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Norwood, Christopher|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Gardner, Tony||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Gregory, Arnold||Park, Trevor|
|Barnes, Michael||Crimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hooson, Emlyn||Price, Christopher (Perry Bar)|
|Booth, Albert||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow Provan)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Rose, Paul|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton,N.E.)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Kelley, Richard||Silverman, Julius|
|Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.)||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Latham, Arthur||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lee, John (Reading)||Winnick, David|
|Dickens, James||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Driberg, Tom||Lubbock, Eric||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|English, Michael||Macdonald, A. H.||Mr. Stanley Orme and|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty)||Mr. Eric S. Heffer.|
|Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||Mendelson, John|
|Ewing, Mrs. Winifred||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Albu, Austen||Dalyell, Tam||Forrester, John|
|Alldritt, Walter||Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Fowler, Gerry|
|Allen, Scholefield||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Fraser, John (Norwood)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Freeson, Reginald|
|Ashley, Jack||Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Ginsburg, David|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Golding, John|
|Bence, Cyril||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Delargy, Hugh||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Bessell, Peter||Dell, Edmund||Grey, Charles (Durham)|
|Binns, John||Dewar, Donald||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)|
|Boston, Terence||Dobson, Ray||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.|
|Boyden, James||Doig, Peter||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Bradley, Tom||Dunn, James A.||Hamling, William|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Dunnett, Jack||Hannan, William|
|Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Harper, Joseph|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Buchan, Norman||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Ennals, David||Haseldine, Norman|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Ensor, David||Hattersley, Roy|
|Carmichael, Neil||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Hazell, Bert|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Finch, Harold||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis|
|Concannon, J. D.||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Henig, Stanley|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Fletcher,Rt.Hn.Sir Eric(Islington,E.)||Hilton, W. S.|
|Cronin, John||Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Ford, Ben||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)|
|Howie, W.||Maxwell, Robert||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Mayhew, Christopher||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Slater, Joseph|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Small, William|
|Hunter, Adam||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Snow, Julian|
|Hynd, John||Molloy, William||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Moonman, Eric||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Morgan, Elyslan (Cardiganshire)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Taverne, Dick|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Thornton, Ernest|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Murray, Albert||Tinn, James|
|Lawson, George||Oakes, Gordon||Tomney, Frank|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Ogden, Eric||Urwin, T. W.|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||O'Halloran, Michael||Varley, Eric G.|
|Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)||O'Malley, Brian||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Oram, Albert E.||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Oswald, Thomas||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Loughlin, Charles||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Wallace, George|
|Luard, Evan||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Paget, R. T.||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Weitzman, David|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Wellbeloved, James|
|McCann, John||Pavitt, Laurence||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|MacColl, James||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Whitaker, Ben|
|MacDermot, Niall||Pentland, Norman||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|McGuire, Michael||Price, William (Rugby)||Whitlock, William|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Probert, Arthur||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Randall, Harry||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Mackie, John||Rankin, John||Williams, Alan (Swansea, w.)|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St.P'c'as)||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mallalieu,J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Roebuck, Roy||Woof, Robert|
|Manuel, Archie||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Mapp, Charles||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Marks, Kenneth||Rowlands, E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Marquand, David||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||Mr. Ernest G. Perry and|
|Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Mr. Neil McBride.|
|Mawby, Ray||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|