§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
When it was suggested some time ago that there might be a two-day debate on foreign affairs, the Opposition decided to give one of their Supply days in the hope that the debate would be largely concerned with Nigeria. We chose Nigeria because it is a topic of great interest to both sides of the House and to a great many people outside, and we hope that the Foreign Secretary, although he will, no doubt, wish to devote some of his speech to other things, will be prepared to answer the questions and points put to him on this important topic.
For my part, I shall devote, as did the Prime Minister yesterday, a large part of what I have to say to the Nigeria question, but, as there were one or two matters raised in yesterday's debate on rather different topics, I shall briefly mention three or four of them now.
I take it that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary will make some reference to the recent summit meeting of the European Community. The House will be glad to hear his assessment of the timetable within which negotiations may open with Britain and the other countries which are making application to enter the Common Market, negotiations, that is, on the main matters of substance as they will affect the Community after Britain and other members come in. The immediate significance of the summit meeting was the decision jointly taken by the Six that they were willing to expand the Market to include Britain and other countries. Without that declaration, nothing could have started at all.
The next process, as we understand it—this was touched on by a number of 250 right hon. and hon. Members yesterday—is that the members of the existing Community wish to agree upon the finance or agricultural support, and that agreement they will seek to reach in December, or, at the latest, January. This is an exercise to be conducted exclusively by the existing members of the Community, as distinct from consideration of the changes in price levels of commodities, which, we understand, can be taken at a slower pace and in which Britain and other applicants can be associated when they join.
The first operation, therefore, is that with regard to finance for agricultural support. This is immensely significant, because upon it will depend the sum from levies which Britain will be asked to pay across the exchanges. That payment, in my judgment, rather than the cost of living, will decide whether or not Britain can afford the cost of entry in the short term. So that exercise will be extremely important.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us how the months from January to July will be filled, after the Community countries have fixed their plan for future years regarding finance for agricultural support. I take it that they will be filled by the Community itself trying to arrive at a Community view on the various questions which will come up in relation to British membership—agriculture, payments across the exchanges, the needs of New Zealand, and other such questions. But the House will be interested to know what is the machinery by which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to keep in touch with the negotiations which go on inside the Community during that time and before July next year.
A question was raised yesterday concerning N.A.T.O. The Foreign Secretary has just returned from the N.A.T.O. Council. The situation of N.A.T.O. today as an alliance is that the repercussions of events in Czechoslovakia still echo, and the anxieties posed by the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean have already led to a strengthening of N.A.T.O.'s southern flank. I forecast that N.A.T.O. will have to look further afield than that; it will need to focus on the supply routes to Western Europe, and particularly those routes relating to oil supplies. However, I shall not pursue that further now.
251 Parallel to the questions raised by the actions of the Soviet Union in the military field, there is, too, a new flexibility in approaches between Western Germany and Eastern Europe. The German Government well understand the delicacy of the balance between maintaining the strength of N.A.T.O., on the one hand, and conciliatory functions towards Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, on the other. In the handling of this matter by the German Government, I feel that the allies will have complete confidence. In that knowledge, the talks which the German Government are at present holding with the Soviet Union will be welcome to the N.A.T.O. allies.
The question was raised yesterday of the security conference between the Warsaw Pact area and N.A.T.O. and other neutrals. There is only one test, and I think that one test will be enough, which will prove whether the Soviet Union regard this exercise as a serious contribution to the détente, or another dreary exercise in propaganda, and that is whether or not the agenda includes a discussion for a definitive plan for the thinning-out of forces, conventional and nuclear, on either side of the line of confrontation between the N.A.T.O. alliance and the Warsaw Pact. If so, in spite of the existence of the disarmament conference, the Russian mind sometimes works in mysterious ways, and it might be worth staging this additional conference.
I will say no more than was said yesterday on the subject of Vietnam. The Prime Minister asked yesterday whether incidents like "Pinkville" might be endemic in a war such as the war in Vietnam, or whether they might be similar to cases that we have known in previous wars, where the hideous strain of war means that the nerves of individuals crack. I doubt if that question can ever be answered satisfactorily by anyone. All we know is that all wars reveal that the veneer of civilisation is paper-thin, and that we had better take care that wars do not occur. Therefore, one must be careful to judge—[Interruption.] As the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) spoke yesterday, perhaps he will listen today.
We must be careful to judge these matters. As the Prime Minister said at Question Time, the President of the 252 United States has said that he will see that judgment is made and that justice is done, but I prefer, on Vietnam, to judge the political intentions by the performance in the peace conference.
I note that the Americans have withdrawn troops and that they say that they are willing to withdraw more. I note, also, that they say they will withdraw all American troops from Asia, if only they can get in return some international machinery which will help South Vietnam to maintain a genuine self-determination. I prefer that to people sitting at the conference table and making no contribution whatever to the peace plan. I would hesitate for a long time before condemning the United States.
I have two more questions to ask. [Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen opposite are taking up the suggestion that appeared in a newspaper that the Conservative Party refrained from voting last night so as to expose the other side—nothing of the sort. We do not have to vote every day to demonstrate our support for the United States.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone) rose—
§ Mr. Mendelson
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves Vietnam, may I intervene? He referred to the question whether the Pinkville situation was endemic. The President of the United States said this morning that there was a massacre. Would the right hon. Gentleman address himself to the proposition that the instructions and strategy to search and destroy inevitably lead to the killing of civilians in the ratio 9 to 1?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I would prefer to wait, because I am quite confident that on this matter justice in the United States will be done and will be seen to be done.
There are two more questions which I would raise before I come to Nigeria. I do not press the Foreign Secretary now, in the middle of the four-Power talks on the Middle East, but the House should have the authority of the Foreign Secretary's and Her Majesty's Government's interpretation of the resolution they sponsored in the United Nations on Israel's 253 withdrawal from the occupied territories. It has been the curse of the United Nations that time and again resolutions have been passed which mean all things to all men. The House should be told whether or not this resolution requires the complete withdrawal of the Israelis. As I say, I will not press the right hon. Gentleman today, because I do not want to prejudice the four-Power talks, but at some time we shall return to this question.
The second question I might address to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy who, we understand, is to reply to the debate. I hope that the Government will not go to Strasbourg with a mind entirely closed to compromise on the question of Greece and its expulsion from the Council of Europe. [Interruption.] We listened to hon. Gentlemen opposite with some attention yesterday, although we disagreed with them. If hon. Gentlemen will keep quiet, I will explain why I say this.
As I understand, the Greek Government may well propose that the short programme of legislation which they intend to bring in during the next months or year will be a programme to restore the democratic process, and they may well say to the Council that it is their intention that this programme should be reconciled with the programme proposed by the Commission of the Council of Europe. If that is so, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not be too hasty in turning down a proposal of this kind.
Very serious and severe implications would follow from the expulsion of Greece from the Council of Europe. Hon. Gentlemen may not wish to recognise this, but there will be implications on the N.A.T.O. alliance and on the security of Europe. It is surely reasonable to ask that the Foreign Secretary or his right hon. Friend should consider this proposal. It will have to be followed by a date for elections. A reconciliation between the programme of the Greek Government and the programme proposed by the Assembly of the Council of Europe might well provide a solution.
The problem which lies behind the civil wars both in Vietnam and in Nigeria is, politically, essentially the same. It is hard to reconcile local patriot isms and needs with the larger 254 units of Government and administration which are necesary for efficiency and prosperity in the modern world. In tribal Africa these difficulties are particularly acute, and none of them has been resolved. For example, in the context of Nigeria, there is the question of who is to retain the balance of power at the centre, the Muslims or the other tribal representatives in Nigeria. These questions will take a long time to work out, and none yet has really begun to do so.
So deep are the feelings in Nigeria that we have seen one group of Africans take to arms, so deep is their distrust of their neighbour, and another group blockades, with all the horrors which we know in war are associated with a blockade. As always, it is not so much the combatants in the fighting line who suffer, but the innocent people in between who, inadvertently, get in the way of a war which they have done nothing to start and about which they understand very little. It is they who pay the penalty in hunger starvation and misery. Therefore, it is not surprising that outside Nigeria impatience and frustration grow in a situation in which apparently so little can be done to ease suffering, on the one hand, and to end the war, on the other.
In Britain, in particular, we reproach ourselves, sometimes to the point of unfairness, because we find it far more difficult than others to recognise that Nigeria is completely independent and that any decision on the future political structure of that country must be taken by Nigerians for Nigerians. They are jealous of this and no one else should intervene.
Neither we nor any other country can dictate or lay down the conditions for peace. This must be a matter for the Nigerians, as must be the future political structure which they must work out for themselves. All we can do and all any other country outside Nigeria can do—I hope that we can do this genuinely and generously—is to say to both sides that we offer our services as an anxious, sincere and, I hope, experienced peacemaker.
I turn again shortly to the question which has been debated many times in this House, whether Britain should continue to supply arms to Federal Nigeria— 255 arms traditionally supplied by this country to them as a Commonwealth country. I have always been able to appreciate, to respect, and to honour the motives of those who advocate a cut-off. Undoubtedly, they feel sincerely that somehow, by a cut-off, they would expunge a taint of guilt which they feel is associated with Britain in the sale of arms to this Commonwealth country. On this matter each must consult his own conscience. And, along with all other hon. Members, I have done my best to wrestle with the difficult moral problem.
So far, I have been unable to answer to my satisfaction two questions. The first is: would such action be just to the millions of Africans who compose Federal Nigeria? Would they in justice regard the cut-off of arms supplies as discrimination against those Africans who form the majority of that country? To that question I have so far answered: yes, it would be regarded as discrimination and would discriminate against them.
Would such action contribute in any way to peacemaking? Would it save a life? The answer to that question is: no. I say that for two reasons. First, the good will of Federal Nigeria and the majority of Africans would be irrevocably forfeited in future. The second reason is that the Nigerian armed forces inevitably would become more and more dependent on the Soviet Union, with all the implications for the future which would flow from that. Therefore, if this must be a consequence, I cannot take the view, however sincerely it is held, and however much I respect right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who hold it, that it is right, either in morality or in reality, to commend the unilateral cut-off of arms.
The international embargo is a very different matter. I find it not only possible, but right, to argue for that, as many Members have done who put their names to a Motion on this subject. I find it right in equity and in reality because it would restrict the scale of the war, and I find it right in reality because civil war should not be exploited by the great Powers, to use the Prime Minister's words yesterday, to superimpose international conflict on a civil war.
For some time past, from this side of the House, I and my right hon. and 256 hon. Friends have urged the right hon. Gentleman to use the United Nations to control the supply of arms from outside Nigeria through an arms embargo. The question arises, and was raised by the Prime Minister yesterday: should this question—I do not refer to the internal affairs of Nigeria since once the United Nations start interfering in the internal affairs of a country the United Nations is finished—with regard to the external supply of arms be inscribed on the agenda of the Security Council or the General Assembly?
The Prime Minister yesterday should not have quoted the opinion of the Secretary-General. It is the members of the Security Council, not the Secretary-General, who decide what ought to be inscribed on the agenda of the Security Council or the General Assembly. It is, of course, right that the Secretary-General privately should advise the Secretary of State on what the chances of success might be in such an operation. That is a different matter.
The House should not underestimate the difficulties in trying to reach an arms embargo and would not ask the Government to do the impossible. The French Government deny that France is sending arms to Nigeria. The Soviet Government seem to have given notice in advance to the right hon. Gentleman that they will not co-operate in any such operation. It is probably true, though it remains to be seen, that a great many of the Afro-Asian countries in the Security Council or the Assembly would vote against the inscription. But what is the proposition? It is that arms-supplying nations, including Britain, should halt the supplies by agreement because there is a danger that an international conflict will be superimposed on the civil war. If the Government believe—and from the Prime Minister's speech we must take it they do believe—that an arms embargo would be a good thing, then this question must be put to the test.
I confess that I am becoming not only tired but angry that people inside and outside this country should pillory Britain for continuing its traditional supply of arms when no one else will lift a finger to help us in the efforts we have made to limit this war. Who are these countries? Who would refuse this proposition? We have now come to the moment when the Foreign Secretary must 257 tell us who they are. He can do this at some future time, or he must go to the United Nations so that the countries concerned may stand up and be counted. One or the other must soon be done.
I now turn to the matter of relief. I have proposition to make—
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Bosworth)
What could be the purpose of an arms embargo, even supposing the other countries agreed, because it would only pave the way to the most ghastly forms of smuggling which would not shorten the war? Indeed, the war might last longer if they had to fall back on using bows and arrows.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
If there was the political will in the Soviet Union, France and Britain, then the arms embargo could be policed to a point where it would very much reduce the scale of war.
I turn now to relief. There will be civil wars and other wars. We know that the world is an imperfect place. But it is the suffering in Nigeria that gives such poignancy to the situation, particularly when simple people are being afflicted by the terrible hunger and starvation which is part of their country's lot.
It is essential that the House should be clear what proposals have already been made by the Federal Government and what are the objections of the Biafrans, our purpose being to create a supply of relief, and particularly food, which would break the back of the hunger and starvation. For the sake of accuracy, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will interrupt me if I am wrong.
Daylight lifts have been proposed between the hours of nine o'clock and five o'clock; the cargoes to be inspected outside Nigeria; the flights to start from outside Nigeria; the Red Cross to select the personnel who travel on the aeroplanes, who may include neutrals; relief planes, with one exception, to overfly Nigeria; no military planes to be allowed on the routes during the hours of relief flights in transit. That is a formidable offer by the Federal Government, and people should think twice before it is turned down.
But now we must consider—because this is the reality of the matter—Colonel 258 Ojukwu's objections, in spite of these offers, which, on the face of it, one would have thought should be accepted. The first—and this is the exception which I mentioned—is that a flight might be called down for inspection if it was thought that the original inspection had been faulty or that some other aircraft were, so to speak, coming in on the routes designed for the relief food flights
I cannot think that that is an objection which could not be overcome. It must be possible to overcome it by the scheduling of flights and by ground control. But the objection on which Colonel Ojukwu's rests is that the Federal air force might come in on the tail of relief flights and take over Uli Airport, which is the Biafran's one vital airstrip on which they rely for military supply and arms.
The question is: is there a method of relief which will find a way round these objections and break the back of the problem of starvation and hunger? I believe that there is, and I now make a proposal to the right hon. Gentleman which I hope he will seriously consider. It involves the use of aircraft carriers, or other suitable ships, and helicopters on a continuous programme of flights during an agreed period of time, which might last over a fortnight or three weeks.
The advantages will be apparent to the House. Helicopters do not have to land to deliver their supplies. Uli airstrip, which is a military target and is of military significance to Biafra, would not be involved at all. The supplies could be dropped in other designated areas. Neither side possesses helicopters, so there would be no difficulty about identification. The lift, I am told, could accomplish the delivery of 500 tons plus a week, so within a reasonable period a very large amount of food and medical supplies could be dropped. As no military targets need be involved, neutral observers could supervise the distribution and the Federal inspection could take place as easily on an aircraft carrier as at an airport outside Nigeria.
I hope that this proposal, or something like it, may be put with a sense of urgency to both sides. If the objection is that the British are suspect. I am quite certain that the United States and the Canadians would take on this task. 259 But I was encouraged to hear the Prime Minister say yesterday that the British Air Force could be used if necessary. If this scheme should find favour, I take it that the necessary aircraft and helicopters could be supplied by this country. I do not think that this proposal has been tried before. I hope that it will be made. I think that it has a chance of success.
The core of the matter is the organisation of a meeting of the two sides in the conflict to arrange a cease-fire, a truce and a political settlement. It is difficult before a meeting of leaders is staged, because one has to get over the barrier of words—"What is meant by a united Nigeria?" Time and again, as we have seen before in international negotiations, it has taken a long time to break the barrier of words before people meet.
I felt for a long time—and I was sorry to see on the tape some discouraging news from Biafra on its views—that the Organisation of African Unity was the body most likely to find a formula for peacekeeping because of the jealousy that African problems should be solved by Africans. There are those in the Organisation of African Unity who speak for both sides. Therefore, given good will, it could probably find a formula for political settlement. It should be in the interests of all Africans that a formula for political settlement should be found and the machinery constituted for the political revision which will be necessary when the new Nigeria takes shape.
There are two particular ways in which Britain can help. First, the organisation of a Commonwealth force, if that should be required, to help to police a cease-fire. The Federal Government have accepted this. I hope that the Biafrans will do so. We have a man like Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, who, I think, has the sympathy of Africans generally—he understands them and they understand him—and we have people who have all the knowledge in the world of Nigeria among our civil servants who have always thought in terms of the benefit and future of Nigeria as a whole without holding any preconceived ideas about what the constitutional structure within the boundaries should be.
If the Organisation of African Unity has any success, we might be able to help 260 in these ways. We shall perhaps learn more from Lord Carrington, when he returns, whether he has any fresh suggestions, and perhaps more from the Minister of State when he returns from Lagos. But I hope that meanwhile the persistent efforts of the Emperor of Ethiopia will be crowned with the ultimate success which everybody wants. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will consider with the greatest care my proposal for the relief of hunger and starvation which might bypass many difficulties. If we can relieve the hunger and starvation, at least many would not feel as uncomfortable as they do today. Although I can find no justification for cutting off the supplies of British arms, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give further thought to the organisation of an embargo.
If, as a result of this debate, some of these things can be pursued and followed up, our consideration of this matter will be justified and will not have been in vain.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) has spoken briefly and movingly. I shall try to reply to the points he has raised. I cannot hope to speak as briefly as he has done, because he referred—and I understand this full well—almost by name to three important subjects: our approach to the European Economic Community, and the problem of N.A.T.O. and relations between East and West. I shall have to return to those subjects at rather greater length. I will deal with them first as briefly as I can and then refer to the subject of Nigeria, in which the House is so profoundly interested.
I would say this about yesterday's debate. The right hon. Gentleman, in the main, expressed his agreement with the position of the American Government in the Vietnam dispute. I do not think that I am misrepresenting him when I say that. Some of us were a little surprised that that agreement was not manifested more plainly in the Lobby last night, if that is the view of the party opposite.
There is one other matter, apart from the three subjects mentioned by the right 261 hon. Gentleman, to which I would refer. That is the Middle East. As I have explained before, there is reference, in the vital United Nations Security Council resolution, both to withdrawal from territories and to secure and recognised boundaries. As I have told the House previously, we believe that these two things should be read concurrently and that the omission of the word "all" before the word "territories" is deliberate.
I have made this clear already. I do not think that the House would expect me to go further on that matter now. We have now, with the resumption of the four-Power talks, to see whether the resolution can be turned into a workable package, calendar, or timetable, or list of parallel actions by all parties which would ensure that all the provisions of the resolution are carried out.
I should now like to take up the three subjects to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. The first is the recent meeting at The Hague of the countries of the European Economic Community. This is clearly a matter of the greatest importance to this country. We can say beyond doubt that, at that meeting, there was manifested the clear desire of all members of the Community that the Community should be enlarged and we can properly hope, in view of what was said At the end of that meeting, that negotiations will be opened, at the latest very shortly after 30th June next year, and possibly earlier.
In those negotiations, there are bound to be extremely difficult problems; the right hon. Gentleman referred to the financial arrangements for the agricultural policy of the Community, and how vital that was to Britain. I would put this matter as follows. We all know that the agricultural policy of the Community and the financial support for it presents a problem, a difficulty, if you like, a disadvantage to this country, which has to be weighed against the important and undoubted advantages which we should gain if we were a member of the Community and that vast market were open to our industries.
On the other hand, we must recognise that the agricultural policy presents to France a substantial advantage, and it would not be sensible for us to approach 262 the negotiations on the assumption that the French could be expected to forgo every advantage they have in order to facilitate our entry. To do that would not be to approach the matter in good faith. Similarly, it must be understood that, if agreement is to be reached on this matter, this has got to be a question of reason and proportion. The agricultural policy presents certain substantial advantages for France and some other members of the Community and it presents certain problems for us. I believe that, given good sense on both sides, an agreement can be reached which would be advantageous both to the six present members of the Community and to ourselves. That is the spirit in which this has to be approached.
Similarly, in the approach to the Community, we have quite properly to bear in mind our obligations to our fellow members of the Commonwealth. I do not believe, looking at the history of previous negotiations on this matter, that it will be impossible for us to secure, in the negotiations, reasonable arrangements for our fellow members in the Commonwealth. I do not believe that it is the experience of any of the previous negotiations that it was on this matter that they were likely to break down. If there is the real will—I think that the importance of the discussions at The Hague is that they showed that there is the will—to reach agreement, I do not believe that negotiations would break down on the question of a proper regard for our fellow members of the Common wealth. Throughout the negotiations which will come, as in the negotiations which, unhappily, were not successful in the past, we would certainly have a proper regard for our duty to our fellow members of the Commonwealth.
My only other comment on this is to invite the whole House to remember that it still remains true, despite the many difficult problems to be solved in negotiation, that there are very great advantages to be secured, both for us and for the countries now members of the Community, if we can get the enlargement of the Community—economic advantages for our industry, political advantages for us and for all Europe. I believe that it is the general wish of the House that these negotiations will be attended with success.
263 The second matter to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was that of relations between Eastern and Western Europe, with the particular example of East and West Germany. I spoke on this matter in the debate on the Queen's Speech a short time ago and what I said then are the guidelines of Her Majesty's Government's policy on this great question of reconciliation between East and West.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the delicate balance which one must preserve here. With this, I think that everyone is agreed. We must, unless we are to despair of mankind, approach with hope the concept of trying to get easier relations between—whatever term one likes to use—East and West, the Communist and the non-Communist worlds. One is obliged also, remembering Czechoslovakia and certain other incidents, to approach this with caution as well as with hope.
Quite recently, we have had proposals emerging from a conference at Prague. They were to the effect that we should engage in a conference concerned with two matters—trade and a renunciation of the use of force. I must say at once, without rejecting this out of hand, that this is a somewhat limited menu. We have plenty of opportunities for discussing matters of trade already. Indeed, I have never neglected, in any of the contacts which I have had with the countries of Eastern Europe, the opportunity of increasing trade, and there are many forms in which we can deal with this.
Renunciation of the use of force is something to which we are all pledged already, in the United Nations Charter. I think that we now have to notice this particular question. There has been put forward fairly recently what is known as the "Brezhnev Doctrine", which appears to me to he that, while countries which have different ideologies must scrupulously renounce the use of force against each other, there remains some kind of right for members of the Warsaw Pact, and particularly the Soviet Union, to take measures involving the use of armed force if the Soviet Union considers it necessary for the security of the Warsaw Pact as a whole. This is a doctrine to which we should find it very difficult to assent. So, I think, would many countries in Europe.
264 We have, then, so far, a proposal for a conference about trade and renunciation of the use of force, with this rather unusual derogation from the doctrine that one does not use force against other countries. Naturally, as soon as the idea of a conference was raised, we and many others stated the point that, if there was to be a conference, the transatlantic members of N.A.T.O., the United States and Canada, should be present. As I understand, there is now no objection from the countries of the Warsaw Pact to this proposition, provided that East Germany should also be present at such a conference on the same terms as anyone else.
I would not object to that, provided it is understood that coming together in such a conference should not be regarded as a recognition internationally of the East German régime—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I am explaining why to my hon. Friends. Chancellor Brandt, of the Federal Republic of Germany, has recently put forward what seems to me a very sensible and reasonable proposition. He said, "If we are to go as far as recognising that there are two States in Germany, we in the Federal Republic cannot be expected to regard the other German State as a foreign State. If there are to be relations between us, they must be of a rather special kind." I do not think that anyone could quarrel with that as a statement of the Federal Republic's position.
If the proposition is a conference at which all members of N.A.T.O., all members of the Warsaw Pact, and the European neutrals, are present, but it is to be in such a context that it goes some way towards the complete recognition of East Germany and, at the same time, has an agenda which will not get us any nearer to solving the major problems, then there is no country in N.A.T.O. which could regard this as, by itself, sufficient, particularly if such a conference would, by its very meeting, underwrite to some extent the Brezhnev Doctrine.
That is why I say, and it was apparent when we met in the N.A.T.O. conference recently, that no N.A.T.O. country could accept this as it stands. But we ought not, because the first proposal is inadequate, to turn down the whole project. I want, as I said in answer to one of my hon. Friends yesterday, to see a conference so prepared and with such an 265 agenda that we can relax tensions in Europe. Surely one of the things necessary for that is that it should be prepared to discuss the very topic which the West has put forward for some time and to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, that of mutual force reductions. This is a difficult, complex problem. I do not believe that for that reason it ought to be ruled out.
In this situation, what the countries in N.A.T.O. ought to do is to say that, while we cannot accept what is immediately proposed, we do not regard this as the last word; we will diligently study by what means contact can be achieved. For example, one view which has been put forward is that the whole thing cannot be done in one conference, but perhaps it can be done by a series of conferences If we begin with a conference on limited questions, can we have a guarantee that this would go on to questions of real substance? Another view is that one might have a kind of standing commission on East-West relations. These are the matters which N.A.T.O. should now carefully consider.
May I put this to some of my hon. Friends who may be doubtful about this? Supposing the position were reversed, supposing I had said, "I propose a European conference to be held on such terms as will give certain propaganda advantages to the West, I propose that it should discuss matters of trade, which we can do anyhow, and the renunciation of force, to which we are already pledged, but I do not propose to discuss real matters like a balanced reduction of forces", I wonder whether some of my hon. Friends would not have thought that that was a rather unreal offer.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
Surely my right hon. Friend knows that he would have the full support of the House if he insisted that, whatever the original agenda of such a conference, everybody, including Her Majesty's Government, must be free to raise any other subject, including the desirability of Soviet troops withdrawing from Czechoslovakia, if real progress is to be made.
§ Mr. Stewart
Indeed. I am glad to hear my hon. Friend say that. The point I want to make is that at the moment we have a proposal for a conference which by itself would not be satisfac- 266 tory. But it is the job of N.A.T.O. to press on with this, both on substance and procedure, to see whether we can get to something real. If there is a genuine desire on both sides, I believe that we can get something real.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I should like one further bit of information about the position of East Germany. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he has no objection to East Germany attending the conference. He also said that there would be an objection to her attendance being treated as recognition. Has there been any demand for recognition by the proposers of the conference as a preliminary condition?
§ Mr. Stewart
I think that the correct answer to that is "No", but it would be right for us to make clear that until there has been further progress in the talks between the Federal Republic and East Germany, we could not be supposed to have committed ourselves to recognition by attending a conference at which the East Germans were present.
I want particularly to refer to the fact that the Federal Republic of Germany is on the point of entering into discussions with the Soviet Union on the renunciation of the use of force and is endeavouring to seek a better relationship between the Federal Republic and East Germany and, I trust, discussions between the Federal Republic of Germany and Poland. It is the view of Her Majesty's Government that all these attempts by the Federal Republic are things which we ought to encourage and which we hope will succeed.
We have been asked from time to time to express an opinion on the frontiers between Germany and Poland. I want to make it quite clear that if, in any discussions between the Federal Republic and Poland, an agreement can be reached which is satisfactory to both those two countries, it would also be satisfactory to Her Majesty's Government. We believe that the Federal Republic of Germany is acting wisely in taking these initiatives. But we also believe that one of the tests to be applied before we can see whether it is sensible to have an all-European conference is what progress is made in the talks that have already begun, or are shortly to be begun. In this matter, as in so 267 many others, salvation is to be secured by both faith and works. We want to see a bit of works in the talks already begun, or shortly to be begun, if we are to engage in a great act of faith.
§ Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)
Will my right hon. Friend tell us what sort of time schedule he has in mind and is suggesting in connection with the proposed series of conferences which he has put forward as an alternative to an enormous conference bringing both sides together?
§ Mr. Stewart
I do not think that I could give a time schedule for that. I have no wish to delay about this, but I think that my hon. Friend will understand.
At present, the security of this country and of the other members of N.A.T.O. is bound up with the alliance itself. I am sure that we are right to try to proceed in agreement with all members of the alliance. It is a little more difficult to secure agreement among the members of our alliance than it is for the Warsaw Pact to reach agreement, for reasons which will be apparent to the House.
I do not want to give that as an excuse for delay, but I want to get on as fast as we reasonably can with genuine talks concerned not merely with words, but with substance. I believe that that is the wish of all members of N.A.T.O. There are some differences of opinion among them as to exactly the proportions in which we ought to balance hope and caution between the two. My own judgment is that we stand now at a moment when there is a greater chance for meaningful negotiation than there has been for some time, and the influence of Her Majesty's Government in N.A.T.O. will be exercised with that in mind.
There is one other European matter which I wish to mention before turning to Nigeria. The right hon. Gentleman referred to it. It is the question of Greece and the Council of Europe. The noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton), who wound up the debate for the Opposition last night, raised this matter. He asked about the voting in the Council of Europe. I believe that the correct answer is that any motion for a suspension requires a 268 simple majority of members of the Council and a two-thirds majority of those who actually cast a vote.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire was anxious that we should not reach a hasty decision without regard to what the Greek Government themselves might wish to do. We have already exercised a good deal of patience in this matter. I think that it was right to do so at the last meeting of the Council. Indeed, if we had not done so, I think that the view of the majority of the Council would have been that we were proceeding unreasonably.
I hope that the House will forgive me if I speak with some feeling on this matter. I believe that all of us feel a sense of distress that it should be Greece, of all countries, with her dazzling history, which is estranged from the democratic countries of Europe. In 1963, when my right hon. Friends and I were in opposition, I, together with some of my hon. Friends, visited Greece. We went there as tourists, but with the natural political interest that any hon. Member would have. I remember standing at that place in Athens where one can look down on the hill where the Athenian Assembly met, the fountainhead of European democracy, and, at the same time, can look down on the Theatre of Dionysus, the morning star of European dramatic literature, and on the Temple of Aesculapius, the day spring of European medical science. In the whole library of human achievement there is hardly a volume in which the Greeks did not write the first chapter. It is to many of us a sense of bitter distress that Greece should be estranged from those European countries who owe so much to her heritage.
If it is possible, even now, for the Greek Government to say something which will convince—and I use the words I have used earlier in public—any reasonable person that they intend to return to democratic governmnent, if they can spell out a clear timetable, including an undoubted date for genuinely free elections, there would be a chance of conciliation. Failing that, if it is the Greek Government's position, and this I believe to be their position, that they intend to return to democracy, but cannot give so explicit a timetable, is not their wiser course to withdraw from the Council of Europe; 269 then, if they can demonstrate their return to democracy, return to the Council?
But if they cannot do either of these things, I do not see how the Council can do other than proceed to suspension. That would be the view of Her Majesty's Government. We should act on these lines with resolution, but, for the reasons I have expressed to the House, it would be with regret and not with rejoicing.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Mr. Pipindelis, the Greek Foreign Minister, was in Paris over the weekend. Was there any contact between British Ministers and that gentleman? Is there a chance of inviting him here to discuss with the right hon. Gentleman the important points that he is making?
§ Mr. Stewart
I assure the hon. Gentleman that we have been in regular diplomatic contact with the Greek Government. I have tried to spell out to the House the position we have taken and the position which the Greek Government know we have taken.
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
Hon. Members will be warmly appreciative of the moving spirit with which my right hon. Friend has spoken and, in general, with the sentiments he has expressed. Does he appreciate that it is not only a question of spelling out a specific timetable for a return to democracy, but also of immediately releasing the prisoners who are languishing in their foul gaols?
§ Mr. Stewart
Yes, indeed. This is not only a question of a return to democracy, but of human rights, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear yesterday.
In coming to the subject of Nigeria, I think that all hon. Members would agree, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday, that this argument should be conducted without any attempt to impugn the motives or sincerity of those who take different views on matters of policy. That was observed yesterday and I hope that it will be observed today.
There has been a suggestion that Her Majesty's Government should make a major change of policy. That was not the view of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire, who dealt with certain particular points; and, for 270 reasons to which I shall come, I do not believe that it would be right for us to make a major change of policy. However, I would not want the House to suppose from that—and here I take up a point raised by the Leader of the Liberal Party yesterday—that Her Majesty's Government come to every debate determined merely to recite their position and go away without paying any attention to what is said.
I will listen, as will my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy, with great care to every suggestion about policy that is made. If it can be shown that there is anything that was previously impossible and might now be wise, or even that we have not so far observed something that would now be wise, then we will certainly take that into consideration. But I must make it clear—and I will set out the reasons for this—that a major change in the whole nature of our policy would be profoundly wrong for this country, for Nigeria and for Africa.
What we must consider in this House is not how exactly we can order all the affairs of Nigeria. We must remember—the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire brought this out—that we are dealing with an independent sovereign Commonwealth country. We must ask ourselves what action, within the limits of that, Her Majesty's Government can take either to bring the war to an end, or, meanwhile, to promote relief or mitigate suffering.
Although the right hon. Gentleman did not examine the whole basis of Government policy—because he does not dispute its main bases—I think that I should, in deference to feelings in many quarters of the House, mention again briefly the essentials of the position of Her Majesty's Government.
We believe profoundly that the attempt by Colonel Ojukwu and those with him to serve the needs of his people, the Ibo people, by secession was wrong, was a disastrous mistake and that everything that it was necessary to secure for the Ibo people could be secured within a United Nigeria and not by the process of secession.
We must remember the repeatedly expressed readiness of the Nigerian Government to negotiate anything on the basis that Nigeria remained one country. We 271 must notice that the phrase "one country" includes many different kinds of political arrangement, great degrees of decentralisation and guarantees for the security of the Ibo people within that one Nigeria. The Nigerian Government have made clear—and have made clear again in the context of the visit to Africa of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary—their readiness, provided their country is not to be torn apart, to go as far as any consideration of reason or justice would require to give proper security and a proper place for the Ibo people within Nigeria.
The willingness of the Nigerian Government in this respect is further borne out by the fact that we have had reports, with which hon. Members will be familiar, of the possibility of conversations in an African framework; and, in my view, if this problem is solved, it will have to be within an African framework. The Nigerian Government have already made clear their willingness to send representatives to those talks. I find, however, conflicting reports about the willingness to Colonel Ojukwu to send representatives to them.
I hope most earnestly, as I am sure will all hon. Members, that he will agree; and the House will be bound to judge that, if he is not willing to do so, then the blame for the continuance of the strife and the impossibility of reaching agreement cannot be laid at the door of the Nigerian Government, and certainly not at the door of Her Majesty's Government.
I have also seen reports that Colonel Ojukwu and those who work with him do not regard sovereignty as the absolute essential, but the security of their people. This has been said once, denied once, and is now being asserted again. I hope most earnestly that it is true. If this is the genuine view of Colonel Ojukwu and those who work with him, then this, I would have thought, could open the door to peace. We have still to see whether that is so, but here again, if that is not so, it will certainly not be the Nigerian Government who stand in the way of a settlement, still less Her Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
In view of my right hon. 272 Friend's remarks about the uncertainty of Colonel Ojukwu's views, why have Her Majesty's Government never officially made any approach to the Biafrans to find out precisely what their views are? Up to now official approaches have been made to one side only. Surely we cannot get the full picture unless an approach is made to the other side as well.
§ Mr. Stewart
My hon. Friend is mistaken about this. There are representatives in London of Colonel Ojukwu with whom we have been continually in touch.
At the time of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference we particularly urged them to enter into conversation with representatives of the Nigerian Government who are willing to do so. Moreover, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has repeatedly offered to meet Colonel Ojukwu and other representatives of the Biafran authorities, as they are described. We have, through a great many channels—Members of this House and private individuals who have gone to Biafra and back—kept constantly in touch—[Interruption.] It cannot be said that we have not been in touch with the Biafran authorities.
I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, with whom we have also been in touch, on another aspect of this matter, said that he thought that it was imperative for Colonel Ojukwu to agree to the relief arrangements that have been organised. I wish that his advice had been followed. It cannot be contended that we have not kept in touch with the view of the Biafran authorities.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
The House knows that there are Biafran representatives and Federal Nigerians in London. It also knows that the Government have sent people to Federal Nigeria. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us one reason why anything would be lost if the Under-Secretary of State, who at this moment is in Lagos, goes on to Biafra?
§ Mr. Stewart
I think that it should be noted that, except for two occasions, for very special reasons, not only the British Government but no Government, except the few who recognise Biafra, have sent Ministers there. There would be great difficulty in doing anything which could 273 be interpreted as recognition of the Biafran Government.
I should remind the House that at an earlier stage in this dispute we had very nearly reached agreement at Kampala. One of the main reasons why, at the last moment, that agreement was overthrown was the encouragement given to the Biafran authorities from outside that they could obtain support and could continue the struggle. I do not believe that it would be right for us to take any action at this moment which could encourage a continuance of resistance.
§ Mr. Stewart
On the point on which this question was raised, how do we know what the Biafran Government's views are—
§ Mr. Stewart
—we have already, as is well known, any number of channels through which we are in touch with them?
§ Mr. Stewart
The right hon. Gentleman says that we disregard them. He may be referring to the case of Group Captain Cheshire, who expressed the view that the Biafran authorities were not so much concerned with sovereignty as with security. I say again, if he is right, that if the Biafran authorities will make that good, we can get settlement—
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly) rose—
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North) rose—
§ Mr. James Griffiths
It is important whether the stage has been reached at which the Biafrans would regard the essence of a settlement as a system by which their people would be secure and not secession. In view of the importance o f this matter, in the third year of this war, may I suggest that a message be sent from Her Majesty's Government to Colonel Ojukwu saying that we would be prepared to send a Minister to dis- 274 cuss this point with him if he would receive him?
§ Mr. Stewart
Before I answer my right hon. Friend, I think my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) wished to intervene.
§ Mr. Molloy
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. He will recall that yesterday, at Question Time, I put to him that there had been a most encouraging statement by Sir Louis Mbanefo. Yesterday, there seemed to be some doubt as to exactly what he said, but it was an encouraging statement. May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he has investigated the accuracy of that statement, as it could be most encouraging if it turned out to be correct?
§ Mr. Stewart
We shall do our best to discover whether that statement reflects the genuine views of the secessionist authorities.
On the question put to me by my right hon. Friend, he will know that at this moment there is the possibility of talks under African auspices. I think that he will agree that it would be wrong for the British Government at this juncture to take any action which would upset what can be achieved there—[Interruption.] I wish that my hon. Friends, to whose criticisms I have listened patiently, would listen to a serious argument about the chance of obtaining peace.
I do not think that it would be right either for the British Government or for this House at this juncture to take any action which could be interpreted, not merely by the Nigerian Government but by the great weight of African opinion, as an attempt to take this matter out of African hands. I cannot stress too much the extent to which African opinion believes that this matter should be settled within an African framework. We have the possibility—
§ Mr. Peter Mahon (Preston. South) rose—
§ Mr. Stewart
I would ask my hon. Friend to wait for a moment.
There is the chance now of the two sides meeting face to face in an African framework. I think that the whole House will agree that it is a good thing that the Nigerian Government have agreed to send representatives there. I 275 think that the whole House will also agree that it would be right for Colonel Ojukwu to send representatives there. For us at this stage to take a measure that could be interpreted as recognition of a separate authority in Nigeria would damage the chances of agreement there. I am sure that that would not be a right step to take.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon
I am sorry to add to the many interruptions with which my right hon. Friend has had to contend. Both principal speakers have made terrific play of the independence of Nigeria. Tragically, this independence has become a mockery. In view of the tragic circumstances—the horror that is going on, lives being lost, people and young children being starved, the absolute position of genocide—can we sit back and complacently say that this is none of our business and that we should not intervene?
§ Mr. Stewart
I must profoundly disagree with my hon. Friend on two matters.
First, we cannot regard the independence of Nigeria as a mockery. If we attempt to behave as though Nigeria were still a British colony, nothing but disaster could result.
Secondly, as I will show shortly, the accusation of genocide cannot be borne out.
Mr. Michael McNair Wilson (Walthamstow, East)
The right hon. Gentleman is advocating the argument that if we send a Minister that somehow means recognition of the Biafran régime. But when we sent a Minister to Southern Rhodesia that did not mean recognition of U.D.I.—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Stewart
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman will feel that that comment has received much support from the House. For a British Minister to discuss affairs with people who are British subjects in a British colony is one thing. For us to send a Minister to an area which claims to be in rebellion from an independent Commonwealth country is another. I am not ruling out, nor is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the sending of a Minister in any circumstances.
276 I ask the House to consider whether, when there is the chance of bringing both sides together in an African framework, this would be the moment to do something which would certainly be interpreted in Africa as an encouragement for the continuance of the war rather than the making of peace. That is the issue which we have to decide.
I want to turn, now, to the particular proposition which has been put forward by some hon. Members, but not by the right hon. Gentleman, that this country should unilaterally cease its supply of arms. I was asked yesterday what that supply was. There has been the suggestion that the Government have been trying to camouflage from the House what the supply was. That is untrue. It remains, as I have informed the House, about 15 per cent. by value of the total purchases by Nigeria. It comprises, overwhelmingly, ammunition, spares, antiaircraft equipment, and a small number of armoured vehicles. I say that because that was the question that was asked, and because there have been allegations to the contrary.
The House must be clear about this. If we were to make a decision unilaterally to cut off this supply, this would be regarded in Nigeria and in Africa as approval of the act of secession. What is African opinion on this? Four African countries have recognised Biafra. More than 30 have refused to do so, and support the point of view of the Nigerian Government. I should perhaps tell the House that, in addition to the four African States which have recognised Biafra, there is one other. It is the Republic of Haiti, if the House considers that to be a recommendation.
It should also be noticed that in the latest discussions in the O.A.U., although there were some who abstained, there was no African State which voted against the resolution calling for discussions between the two sides on the basis of a united Nigeria. It is within the framework of that resolution, which the great majority of African States support, and to which none of them is opposed, that the Nigerian Government are prepared to negotiate, and I trust that Colonel Ojukwu will also be prepared to negotiate.
277 It seems to me that if one has to make up one's mind on a major act of policy, such as a decision to cut off arms supplies would be, there are two questions that one must ask. First, what is the basic political moral principle involved? Second, what would be the immediate practical results of one's action? On the basic principle involved, it is clear that for this country unilaterally to cut off the supply of arms would be, in effect, an approval of secession, something injurious to Nigeria and to the welfare of Africa as a whole.
One then asks the second question: what would be the practical effect of such a decision? I believe that many people are attracted to the idea of our cutting off the supply of arms by the belief that this would shorten the war and end the suffering. The truth is the reverse. The practical result of such a decision would be to prolong the war, first, by the encouragement that it would give to the secessionists to continue the struggle; and, second, if anyone supposes that our cutting off supplies would put the Nigerian Government in a position where they could not continue the war, he is unhappily unaware of the facts.
The practical effect would be to put the Nigerian Government in a position where they would obtain the supplies from elsewhere. To put it plainly, they would be increasingly reliant on the Soviet Union for their supplies. I do not believe that that would be to the advantage of Nigeria, or Africa, or this country, or that it would produce a frame of mind in the Nigerian Government more disposed towards compassion and conciliation.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson (The High Peak) rose—
§ Mr. Stewart
If we examine the practical results of cutting, off supplies, we see that it would prolong the war, and it would estrange this country from Nigeria. It would estrange us from the great weight of African opinion, and since some hon. Members have felt that if we did not supply arms we could be a better mediator, I must tell the House that it would reduce our chances of any mediation. An action of that kind would make it quite clear to the Nigerian Government 278 that we were hostile to them, and any possibility of mediation would disappear.
Those would be the practical results of such a policy, and I cannot recommend the House to pursue a policy which is wrong in principle, and the practical results of which would be to injure this country, Nigeria, and Africa, and to prolong the war and the suffering.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
If, as I believe they do, the Government want to obtain a joint ban on the supply of arms, do we not put ourselves in the best position to obtain that if we give a lead? If we do not do that, are we not in the position of a drug pusher who says, "If I do not sell drugs to these poor victims, somebody else will?"
§ Mr. Stewart
I do not think that my hon. Friend can believe that. I am coming shortly to the question of the possibility of a general international embargo, but it must be apparent, as a matter of common sense, that if this country were to say now, "We are not going to supply arms at all in any circumstances" there would not be the smallest chance thereafter of persuading any of the others to modify their policy.
§ Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)
I put a question to the Prime Minister yesterday about the intrinsic nature of the arms which we are supplying to the Nigerians. I am grateful to hear the account being given by the Foreign Secretary of the modest range of armaments being sent to Nigeria. There have been rumours that heavier armaments have been sent, and I am glad to hear that, in fact, it involves only light armaments.
§ Mr. Stewart
I have given the House a clear account of what we are doing. I have said earlier that this policy would be reconsidered if two conditions arose. First, if it were clear that the Nigerian Government were pursuing a policy of genocide. No fair-minded person would any longer maintain this slander. It has been decisively disproved by the verdict of the international observers in Nigeria. Their presence there is some evidence of the good faith of the Nigerian Government.
The reports of the observers have shown clearly that the Nigerian Government are not practising genocide. The 279 experience of what has happened in territories previously held by the secessionists and recovered by the Nigerian Government makes it quite clear that they are not practising genocide. Above all, the position of millions of Ibos in Federal-held territory makes it clear that genocide is no part of their policy. I hope that these allegations will no longer be made.
Secondly, I have said that we would reconsider this policy if it were clear that the Nigerian Government were determined on nothing but outright victory and were not prepared to negotiate. But, time and again, they have shown plainly where they stand. They are prepared to meet unconditionally. I repeat that I hope that at this very time we shall be able to get the talks started in Africa.
There is another aspect of the matter which must be considered. Hon. Members and the public generally have seen on television the dreadful record of starvation in the rebel-held territory. I know that this is one thing that moves people greatly to examine, to criticise and to question the policy of the Government. They ask: are the British Government supporting in Nigeria a Government which uses starvation as a weapon of war?
Let us look at the evidence. The Nigerian Government, some time ago, although they were in a position to impose a complete blockade, expressed willingness to have mercy corridors by land. It is the Nigerian Government who have reached agreement with the Red Cross on the possibilities of daylight flights. One of my hon. Friends yesterday said that Colonel Ojukwu did not object to daylight flights in principle. He objected to the particular package that had been agreed between the Nigerian Government and the Red Cross.
It is of some significance that the proposals for daylight flights are not merely those which please the Nigerian Government. They are those which the Red Cross, a body that I hope can be regarded as impartial has held to be reasonable. They are those on which the United States Government have asserted their emphatic judgment that they are reasonable proposals. More recently the Canadian Government, 280 which has been under great pressure on this matter, have expressed their judgment that these arrangements are reasonable and just.
The position can now be described as follows. The Nigerian Government are prepared to agree to daylight flights on certain agreed terms with the Red Cross, despite the fact that this involves some military disadvantage to Nigeria. Moreover, Colonel Ojukwu is not prepared to agree to this package because he considers that it imposes a military disadvantage on him. I must ask the House to judge where the responsibility lies for the fact that these flights do not go through. No one can seriously maintain that it lies on Her Majesty's Government. Nor can it be maintained that any action we ourselves could take could relieve this starvation without the consent of Colonel Ojukwu.
The right hon. Gentleman put forward proposals about helicopters. His estimate of how much they could do is not quite accurate. I doubt whether they could do as much as he proposes. But I want to make it clear that if it is any question of material means—carriers, aircraft, helicopters—this country would do anything within reason. I have reason to suppose, having recently visited Europe, that there are other countries which would join in. But it will be a physical impossibility to do this unless we can achieve an arrangement agreeable to both sides.
I believe that at this moment, and connected with my hon. Friend's visit to Nigeria, the Nigerian Government are considering whether they can take an even further step in connection with one of the conditions of the daylight flights to see whether agreement could possibly be reached. But I do not believe anyone who reviews the whole story could conceivably say that any responsibility for starvation lies on the British Government, or that we have failed in our attempt to bring relief. We have given substantially. The very fact that there is an agreement between the Red Cross and the Nigerian Government on daylight flights is something for which we can claim credit.
There remains the question on which the right hon. Gentleman based his main case. I do not feel that I need to apologise to the House for the time I 281 have taken, since I have been dealing with important matters on which the House wants to hear the Government's position. So far, on the Nigerian question, I believe that the basic position of the Government is right. It would be disastrous to encourage secession in Africa, with all the misery and backwardness that that would bring.
We have not been idle at Aburri, Kampala, and Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conferences in attempts to bring the two sides together. But so far as we could, consistently with not recognising the Biafran secession we have kept closely in touch with Biafran opinion. Indeed, it is no fault of ours that our consul is not still there. We were prepared despite the legalisms of the matter that he should remain. It was a Biafran decision to turn him out. It cannot be claimed that we have been idle.
On relief, we have been generous in money. We will give further help. We have striven in negotiations to bring about a reasonable answer to the problem of how to give relief while war still rages. We are not prepared to do anything that would involve recognition of tribal secession in Africa, which would cut us off from Nigeria, outrage African opinion and produce no useful result.
There remains the question which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman: can we get an international effective arms embargo? If such an embargo could really be made to work, the Government would be ready to take part in it, but it must be effective, and we should notice at the start that it is unlikely to be effective unless both Nigeria and Colonel Ojukwu join in to make it effective. This is partly because of the many unofficial, un-governmental supplies that it would be difficult to rule out unless the embargo were policed at the point of entry.
However, if it is felt that that is taking too rigid a view, we have examined whether it would be right to try to gel such an embargo through the United Nations. I think that it was entirely reasonable to ask the opinion of the Secretary-General. I agree that his judgment is not binding, but it would be extremely unwise to brush it aside. His view was that an attempt to put this matter, or any aspect of it, into the United 282 Nations would, for plain reasons, attract the solid hostility of African and Asian nations, who would feel that it was an attempt by Europeans, in particular by a former colonial Power, to bring something which under the Charter is the internal affair of an African country into an international context.
I do not want the House to suppose that we stopped there. On three occasions we have approached the Russian Government about this, once at official level, once in the manner I described to the House a month or so ago, and once, very recently, when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister put this question direct. The answer is plain. The Russian Government will not stop supplying arms to Nigeria unless the Nigerian Government request them to do so. We have not stopped there. The difficulty has been that it is not every country that admits supplying arms to Biafra, although some who do are not countries which wish very well to black Africa or who would normally commend themselves to some of my hon. Friends.
However, some months ago I raised this matter in Western European Union, when France was still playing an active part—as I hope before long she will again. But we have not been able to make progress, although it has not been for lack of trying.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman and the House this question. At this moment, when there is the chance of talks within an African framework, would it be right to try to make a gesture which all the evidence, unhappily, shows is unlikely to succeed, for the sake of making a gesture which would please us but would leave Africa with the belief that we had no regard for the rights or sovereignty of African countries, and to do this when there is a chance of the two sides meeting in an African framework? I cannot believe that it would be right.
We must all hope that both sides will attend the projected talks. I wish that I could be sure of that. If this does not happen, if the House still has to consider this problem, just as we have made repeated initiatives in the past to get either an international arms embargo or a settlement, we shall not be idle in the future. I shall be very willing to discuss with the right hon. Gentleman the wisest way of handling that matter.
283 I hope that the House will believe, in this dreadful problem in which everyone has had to search his conscience, that this country has acted rightly and, that the accusations of cruelty and hardheartedness that have been made against it cannot be sustained. I hope that we shall have the support of the House in continuing to do whatever we can for relief, to encourage the end of the war and to pursue a policy that is in the long-term interests of the whole African Continent.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I am sure that no one will impugn the motives of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary. I am sure also that he is deeply unhappy about the situation in Nigeria, and, I believe, to his credit that he is not altogether happy about the policy of Her Majesty's Government which he is bound still to defend.
The House will be most disappointed that the Foreign Secretary will not respond to repeated suggestions that a Minister should visit Biafra. His first reason for refusing this request is that this is a matter for Africans. Certainly I agree with him that it would be much better if it could be left entirely to the Africans to settle; but we are not leaving it entirely to the Africans. We are supplying arms to Nigeria, and we have sent a Minister to the Nigerian Government. Had we done neither of these things, his argument would bear more force. But as we have a Minister at the moment visiting the Nigerian Government, I beg him again to consider why he should not go on and visit the Biafran Government as well.
Secondly, it is said that we must on no account give an impression of recognising Biafra. This is a situation in which millions of people are losing their lives, and I do not think that we can afford to be too nice about protocol and recognition.
I do not see why, if a Minister visits Biafra, he should not put very strongly to Colonel Ojukwu that he should go to the talks which have been called, and that he should be reasonable about any proposals which are there made. It may well be that, because we have supplied arms to one side, our capacity for mediation is small, but if we have any 284 capacity at all, this seems to be the moment to use it to encourage the Biafrans to respond to the initiative of Emperor Haile Selassie.
The Foreign Secretary went on to deal with the supply of arms. I am not quite clear what the Government's arguments are here. It used to be argued, and is sometimes still argued, that we are under some obligation to supply arms to Nigeria. I believe that we were under a similar obligation to supply arms to Cyprus, but when the civil war broke out in Cyprus we stopped the supply. The next argument is that it would be taken by Nigeria as a hostile act and would decrease our ability to do any good; but I suggest that the supply of arms is the great obstacle to our being able to influence the situation. The right hon. Gentleman said that if anyone could show that the situation had changed he would consider it. The situation has changed—changed in that the policy of the Government has failed.
The Government believed that there would be a quick end to the war, and there has not been a quick end to it. The right hon. Gentleman talks about rebellion going on, as though it was likely to stop. It is going on now, and what information one gathers, and I have here a very recent report, leads one to believe that the determination of the Biafran people to continue the struggle until they achieve what they consider to be a just and secure settlement is absolutely firm.
It is then argued that we must on no account encourage secession. I stand open to correction here, but I rather think that we gave the Cameroons the right to opt out of Nigeria, and they took it.
§ Mr. Richard Hornby (Tonbridge)
The question of who should and who should not go into the Nigeria Federation was discussed at the pre-independence conference, and it was the wish of the Ibos, along with the Yorubis and the Hausas, that the minority commission Report should be set aside, as it would involve a two-year delay in achieving independence.
§ Mr. Grimond
The Biafrans are not a small tribe but a people of many millions in number. No doubt the Foreign Secretary has read what Mr. Nyerere has to say. He draws attention to the 285 attitude of the British over Gibraltar. The British are not pressing the Gibraltarians to go into Spain because they must be part of a bigger unit immediately adjacent to them. On the contrary, we are upholding the right of the Gibraltar people to decide their own future. It is an entirely new and an entirely unfortunate departure of a British Government to deny to substantial nations—and the Biafrans are a substantial nation—the right of self-determination. I fully accept that it might be better if they had not chosen this path. It might have been better if the Czechs and the Slovaks had not revolted against the Austrian Empire. It is not in the hands of Britain to deny the right of self-determination to a nation.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
Is it correct constantly to talk of a Biafran nation? There are 9 million Ibos, and there are a few minorities. There is not a Biafran nation.
§ Mr. Grimond
There are minorities in every European country. There are minorities here, but we occasionally talk about the British nation. I do not see why the Biafrans should be treated just as a tribe. There is talk of balkanisation. The trouble with the Balkans was not that comparatively small nations were allowed self-determination, but that they were not. That was the root of that trouble in Eastern Europe. We should be careful about using that threat in imposing unity. I do not deny that unity may be desirable, but, if people do not want it, it is not our business to attempt to enforce it.
There is on the Order Paper a Motion signed by a great number of hon. Members of all parties and supported today by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) urging the Government to take the matter to the United Nations. I cannot think why that has not been done before. The Government now say that this would be a bad moment to do so. At the end of his speech, the Foreign Secretary went some way to saying that this was a bad moment for taking it to the United Nations but that if the talks failed he would reconsider the proposition. I would like him to go further than that, and give the House 286 an undertaking that he will take the matter to the United Nations and that he will there ask those who oppose it to stand up and be counted. The Government will then be seen in the international field as taking a definite step to putting an arms embargo on this war. I cannot think that the African nations will regard that as a hostile act, or as interfering with the affairs of another country. I believe that should include an embargo on foreign arms.
This is a civil war. We did not hesitate to take the internal affairs of our own colony of Rhodesia to the United Nations, and the Foreign Secretary had no answer when it was pointed out earlier this afternoon that a Minister from this country went to deal with the rebel so-called government in Rhodesia. We behaved there in quite a different way, and I should like an undertaking from the Government that if these talks fail the matter will be pursued at the United Nations.
But the Government are in the dilemma that there are some signs that they think it necessary for their policy of support for the central government that the supply of arms to Nigeria should continue. This is one reason for refusing unilaterally to cut off those arms supplies. But I think that the Nigerians would think it strange policy which said that we would not stop the flow of arms unilaterally but would do our best to get it stopped multilaterally. If it is thought desirable that arms should pour into Nigeria, why take any initiative to stop the flow at all? If the Government are faced with this situation it shows the whole insecurity of their policy. It shows the terrible consequences of the quick kill argument.
It is really astonishing that a Labour Minister should be defending the unilateral supply of arms for a civil war on the ground that someone else will do it if we do not. I remember the talk about the merchants of death and the encouragement of imperialism through the supply of arms—and now we have this from a Labour Minister. If the Government in South Africa can buy arms elsewhere, is that a reason for giving them arms? The South African Government will get them elsewhere, of course, but it is an absolutely indefensible argument. It would justify just about any crime in the world.
287 One must make some moral judgment about civil wars. No one will say, I am sure, that it is never right to revolt. On the contrary, it has always been held that in the interests of self-determination it is reasonable for people to revolt against imperialism. I am sure that any hon. Member would have supported any revolt against the Nazis in Germany. But there are civil wars about which one makes a value judgment on the other side—I confess that I would have supported the Republican Government in Spain. It is not possible to say that one must always support the Government, and this seems to be a clear case in which, to put it at its lowest, it is extremely unlikely that all reason is on the side of supporting the Nigerian Government.
I do not impugn the motives and efforts of the Government to get aid through. I do not deny that they have met with great difficulties. I welcome the fact that they will look seriously at the suggestion put forward by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire. If they have not the capacity to lift the 500 tons a week of which we spoke, let them get in touch with other agencies and countries, if this is a peaceful way of doing it.
I am told also from a report that has been sent to us by Mr. Simmonds Gooding that if some guarantee from other powers were given that there would be no military follow-up in the corridors leading to the Uli strip, Colonel Ojukwu might reconsider his objections to that method, but let us bear in mind that one of the reasons for his previous objection was that, in the first place, it was a plan agreed between the Red Cross and the Nigerian Government in negotiations to which he was not invited. We are far more likely to do business by talking with him than by ostracising him, and pretending that he is a rebel who has just escaped a quick kill and whom, apparently, it is fair on the one hand to want to see defeated, but on the other ask to accept our mediation.
This is obviously a tragic and desparate affair. As I say, we must not impugn the motives of any of those involved in it. But it is also a moral question, if ever there was one, and I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary 288 say the same. It is a moral question upon which one has to make up one's mind—and I say this to the Conservative Party—whether one will stand up for the policy of the Government or whether one wants it changed. I trust that a great number of hon. Members will go into the Division Lobby to say that they want that policy changed, and changed in the name of humanity; and that they are totally unimpressed by the argument that by going on supplying arms, and thereby conniving at and prolonging this war, we are doing anything to bring it to an end or anything at all to brighten our image in the world.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I claim the indulgence of the House for a brief intervention in this debate. I should explain that it will not be through discourtesy if I do not stay to hear other speeches. That will be because I am suffering from a disability, but I felt that I had to make the effort to come here this afternoon and say a few words.
Recently I wrote to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and he kindly came to see me when I was more ill than I am now. I was grateful for his visit. I wrote to him afterwards and pleaded that he and the Government should take a bold, new initiative to try to bring this tragic war very quickly to an end. In that letter, to which he gave a very full and considered reply, I did not set out some of the ideas which I will put forward this afternoon. I told him that this is my last Parliamentary Session—in the language of a collier, my last "shift". If there is anything I should like to see happen in my last shift it is peace in Nigeria and an end to this tragic war.
I do not propose to go over the past, but from the very beginning grave miscalculations have been made by Her Majesty's Government and their advisers about Nigeria. When this trouble began in Nigeria their advisers thought that it was just a little bush rebellion which would be put down very quickly, and, therefore, our responsibility in supplying arms would be for only a very short period. They were wrong. No one in this debate has talked about a "quick kill". We talked about a quick kill in previous debates. This war is now well 289 into the third year, and no one can foresee an end of it. I believe we have begun to realise that to General Gowon and Colonel Ojukwu, both of whom I have met and who I think are genuine people, it is quite clear that there will be no military victory for either side in Nigeria.
It is now within a week of 12 months since I was in Nigeria and Biafra. There have been 12 months of fighting and suffering and starvation, and who knows how many have died in those 12 months? There has not been any significant or decisive change in the military situation in those 12 months. Only two things of any significance have happened in this war—the Federals have captured Umuahia which at that time was the centre of the Biafran administration, and at the same time the Biafrans moved to Owerri. Here and there a mile or two of territory has been gained. During those 12 months there have been countless tragedies.
We may be coming back to this problem in 12 months' time, perhaps in a new Parliament. We ought to make up our minds that there is no military solution to this problem and that the war can go on for a long time. I will speak about some conversations I have had with old friends. Colonel Ojukwu and General Gowon I did not know until I went there, but I have had conversations with Lord Brockway and others who have been there and with people whom I have known for many years in Nigeria who served the Colonial administration. I have talked with people who supported the old political struggle.
I remember saying to one of them, a man in his sixties who rendered yeoman service to the Colonial administration—a Nigerian and an Ibo—"I want to put a question privately to you as one friend to another. Biafra may be overrun; what will you do then?" He said, "My dear Jim, I will go back to the bush."
These people believe that they are fighting for survival. They will not give in. They will fight to the bitter end, and that bitter end is what I want to avoid. Therefore, I say it behoves us all to realise that if we go on committing ourselves and arms to this war it will be a war which can go on endlessly. I say to my right hon. Friends that before long there will be a backlash revolt and serious consequences for this country and 290 for the party to which I have given my life.
I hoped that there would be an acceptance that now we would take the matter of the supply of arms to the United Nations and seek an arms embargo. From the beginning I have held the view—and I have not changed it; I see no reason why I should change it—that we should never have started giving arms to one side in Nigeria. The moment we did that we sacrificed our greatest rôle in the Commonwealth, that of mediator when trouble breaks out. We are the mother of the Commonwealth. We have worked with these countries and sometimes quarrelled with them, but we have a great record. We have worked with them as each has come along towards the stage of independence.
I have always thought there was bound to be trouble, for one cannot establish democracy overnight. After all, it took a long time for us to do that in this country. I always thought that perhaps there would be trouble between different peoples. From time to time there has been trouble between the English and the Welsh, but I always thought that for our country, which is the home of the Commonwealth, the right posture should be that we do not take sides. Our policy and our aim should be to act as a mediator. Now we cannot act as a mediator because we are regarded by one side as the enemy.
§ Mr. James Johnson
My right hon. Friend knows that he is the last hon. Member I would wish to interrupt and disturb; but is it not a fact that we have intervened and helped other emergent countries of coloured people—Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Uganda—who have been in equally difficult positions?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I do not regard this as the same kind of situation. Those countries had constitutionally democratic Governments. There is no democratically elected Government in Nigeria. The Government are not elected by the people in Nigeria, neither is Colonel Ojukwu's administration. These are two military dictatorships. That changes the situation, and that is why I argue that we should do all we can to stop supplying arms to one side. That is my view, and I have not changed it.
291 This war would have ground to an end months ago if it were left to Africans. This is a war in which Africans are killing Africans with white men's bullets. Let us speak frankly. I venture to make an estimate. I know that it is not far wrong concerning one side and I do not think it is far wrong concerning the other side.
Eighty per cent. of the arms used in this war come from outside Nigeria. My right hon. Friends, who have their military observers there, may challenge my estimate. Arms pour in from Russia and Britain to the Federal side; from France, directly or indirectly, through Gabon and Guinea to Biafra; to both sides from black markets organised from Europe. If this war had been left to the Africans, with no arms being supplied from outside, the war would have ground to a halt. So I plead with my right hon. Friends immediately to take steps to secure an international embargo. I have signed a Motion asking for this.
There are two things which bother me greatly. First, thinking of the future, this is a war within a country which is a fellow member of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth seems to be powerless to do anything to help. No one mentions the Commonwealth. Are we writing off the Commowealth? Is this the end of the Commonwealth? Countries in the Commonwealth are so close together that they should join in seeking to bring this conflict to an end.
I remember the tremendous enthusiasm there was when the League of Nations was formed and how it was killed later by its creators. So the point which bothers me is: is the United Nations also to be killed by its creators? In this war the United Nations is apparently powerless. The question of the Biafran war does not figure on the United Nations agendas. Certainly the United Nations does not discuss this war and plays no part in it. Looking to the future, I am frightened if the United Nations is powerless and helpless to deal with the two wars which plague mankind today—those in Biafra and Vietnam.
So I plead with my right hon. Friends to take immediate steps. If the Russians turn down their request, let them do so. If the French deny that they are supplying arms, let them do so. We should stop 292 arms from going to Nigeria, if we can. We should take every possible step through the United Nations. If we cannot do that, what is to prevent the Government from approaching France and Russia and asking them to join Britain in stopping supplying arms to Nigeria? If the supply of arms were stopped, I believe that the two sides would come together much more quickly. What is keeping the war going is the supply of arms from outside. It is said—it may be true—that the supply of arms to Ojukwu makes him more reluctant to settle. This may be true of those in Lagos, too.
My right hon. Friend, for whose personality and integrity I have a high regard, said that the war can be settled only within the African framework. He said that it is possible—we hope that it is certain—that Haile Selassie will bring the two sides together. The Emperor has been working for months on this. The Committee for Peace in Nigeria, on which I am privileged to serve under the chairmanship of Lord Brockway, has been in touch with the Emperor for many months. We have said how grateful we are for the efforts he is making and how we hope he will succeed in bringing the two sides together soon in Addis Ababa or somewhere else. I am sure that the House will wish to send the Emperor all the good wishes and our blessing.
If the conference is to be held next week or the week after, I hope that the Emperor will suggest that during the talks there should be a truce to the fighting. Let the talks take place with a truce on for a week, ten days, two weeks, or for however long the talks last, and then there is a chance that Gowon and Ojukwu will go to the talks.
Ojukwu will not leave his headquarters to go outside Biafra whilst the fighting is on. I think that he is right not to go, because he is the man entrusted by the Biafrans to conduct their operations. If there was a truce, he would go out. I appeal to him and to others to go out. Gowon would go. So I hope that there will be a truce.
Secondly, I hope that all the efforts at the conference, when it meets, will be concentrated on securing a ceasefire. So I urge that there be a truce for a week 293 or two and a ceasefire for a long time. I put it to both Gowon and Ojukwu that, having got a ceasefire, it would be desirable to have a long cooling off period before sitting down to discuss Nigeria's future. There are big issues to be solved. A new Nigeria must be created. A new constitution must be worked out. Eventually, democracy must be restored there as well as in Greece. In Nigeria, too, some day the people must decide what form of government they want. That will take time.
Before the parties begin the task of creating a new Nigeria, it is vitally important that some of the hatred and bitterness should die down. Those of us who have visited both sides know how deep and bitter are these hatreds. The parties are not in the right mood now to sit down and discuss Nigeria's long-term future. This is why there should be, following a truce, a ceasefire—a long cooling off period.
What, then, is the problem for the future and for peace? I believe that it is how to reconcile the determination of the Federal Government to maintain one Nigerir with fears of the Ibos—I say "Ibos" not "Biafrans". I understand the Federal desire to maintain one Nigeria, but there would be no one Nigeria except for the Ibos. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster knows the history of Nigeria; so does his Department.
The driving force for one Nigeria came from the Ibos, from the East. The Ibos are gilled people who made a tremendous contribution to Nigeria. They were the real driving force. They were the people who tried to establish political parties over and above races all through Nigeria.
The fact that Ministers in the Federal Government and others with whom I spoke want one Nigeria and the Ibos want secession gave me special cause to think. So over breakfast with some old Nigerian friends on morning I said, "I have always known Nigeria as a great country. I have always known all of you as men who wanted one Nigeria, as men who recognise that Nigeria, with its ample resources, its large population, its gifted people, its passion for education, is truly one great country". We all know the passion for education—for school and for college—that exists there, particularly among the Ibos. So I said, "Do you 294 still want to see one Nigeria, as I do?" They all said, "Yes, we do". What is the breaking point?
Here I come to the nub of the problem. They said, "After the massacre, we will never again entrust the lives of our people to the Federal forces". That was a very firm and frank statement, and, because of its importance, I repeat it—"We will never again entrust the lives of our people to the Federal forces". They told me that 30,000 of their people had been massacred in cold blood, and one million had been driven as terrified refugees from their homes. "We will not", they said, "be part of one Nigeria unless we ourselves have a place in that Nigeria in which we have our own internal security forces to protect our own lives".
I tell the House frankly that I am with them in that. I believe that they are right to ask for it. Suppose it had happened anywhere else; if 30,000 of my people were massacred, I should feel that I was betraying them if I said otherwise. Surely, it can be done. I put it to General Gowon and the rest: there will be a new Nigeria; the old Nigeria has gone. I had some part in creating the old Nigeria and the Federation. We realised that we had to have devolution, and the devolution we organised in the end was, first, the three regions, and then the four.
Now, General Gowon has more or less wiped out that old Nigeria and has proclaimed a Nigeria of 12 states. Chief Awolowo, who was a member of the Government, too, has gone on record, in print, as saying that he rejects Gowon's 12 states and he thinks that it ought to be many more. Anyway, there must be a reconstruction, with a Federal Government and regional governments, whatever they may be, and with power in those regional governments.
I am sure that it is not beyond the wit of man, not beyond my good friends in Nigeria and Biafra, eventually to work out a scheme by which they will all be in one Nigeria but in which the Biafrans, the Ibos, will have a place of their own and a security force of their own, able to protect themselves and not be subject to any more massacres. That is the problem.
As I say, I hope that the talks will succeed. Let there be a truce, a cease-fire and a cooling-off period, followed by 295 negotiations and an eventual settlement under which the Ibos will feel that their security is safe. For Nigeria's sake, I hope that that will be possible. It will be a greatly impoverished Nigeria without the Ibos. Nigeria, with a wonderful future possible for it, needs their gifts, their talents, their energy, industry, drive and push. I know that they are sometimes called arrogant. As a Welshman, I can say that the English are sometimes called arrogant. Perhaps they have a bit of the English about them—and a bit of the Welsh, too, I am sure. But I confess that I like them. I want to see them have their right place—neither more nor less than that—and I hope that it will come.
What if the talks fail? The war will go on. The hawks will move in. There are hawks in Lagos as well as in Owerri. I know who the hawks are, and so does my right hon. Friend. When I discovered who some of the hawks were, I was shocked to know them. The hawks will win if the talks break down, and then the war will reach its final stages.
My emotions are deeply moved when I think of the last stage of this war in tiny Biafra, a Biafra shrinking all the time, mile by mile and yard by yard, with its people scattered, and every road crowded by night and day. They will fight on, but it will be a battle fought over the bodies of refugees crowding the villages and the roads, a battle fought with modern weapons supplied by us, by Russia, France and the black marketeers.
I ask my right hon. Friends, the House and the country to consider what that last stage will be if the talks fail. Leaving the past behind now, I urge my right hon. Friends: at that time, arms must be stopped. It would be intolerable otherwise if the war—I hope to God that it will not—ever reached its final stage. We wish Emperor Haile Selassie well in what he is doing to stop the war, but if that final stage comes and the battles are fought over starving bodies, it will be intolerable for me and, I hope, for the House if it should be conducted with British arms.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
The whole House will have listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths) with 296 at least some of the emotion which he engendered in many of our hearts. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman's name heads the Early Day Motion, signed by more than 151 hon. Members, asking, in the name of humanity and in the name of realism, that there be a change in Government policy towards the Nigerian civil war, a war which is now almost in its third year.
Yesterday, we had from the Prime Minister a speech of some sensitivity in which he talked about the difficulties and the moral questions which we sometimes face. He spoke of the lack of the categorical imperative and of the confusion of principles. It was a speech of sensitivity, though a speech, perhaps, better delivered by a minor professor of moral philosophy at a second-rate German university than by a British Prime Minister.
The issues before the House are simpler than that. They have been put by the right hon. Member for Llanelly. The question is whether there has been a change in Government policy. In fact, apart from a few trimmings, a few arabesques or grotesqueries—to call them that—round the central theme of Government policy, there has been no change whatever. Government policy remains exactly as it has been for two and a half years. It is to demand a unitary Nigeria, and to pursue the concept of a unitary Nigeria with arms and with every diplomatic means in the present Government's power. That is why we ask the House to divide tonight. That is why people in the country are annoyed, not just because of the sufferings being inflicted, but because of the meaningless sufferings inflicted upon millions of people in Nigeria. The suffering is meaningless for the simple reason that we are now embarking on a war that is unwinnable.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister made some reference to division of opinion among the Churches. He said that some churchmen cannot make up their minds. I do not know which pillar of the Church and fifth column of the Establishment he had in mind—unless it be the previous Archbishop, Lord Fisher—but he may have noticed that what he said yesterday about indecision regarding the sending of relief was totally denied by the Churches assembled yesterday in Oslo. Thirty-five Churches represented there on Joint 297 Church Aid gave the Prime Minister the lie on his absurd suggestion that there is a division in Christian opinion. There can be no division in Christian opinion about the supply of arms and the starvation of a people.
There is only one thing that the Christian Churches can do, and they are doing it. I refer to the provision of aid. Considering the amount of aid being provided by Her Majesty's Government to assist the churches in this direction, we were not surprised when yesterday we heard of the gimmick that perhaps Royal Air Force aeroplanes might be used to supply aid.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) that one thing is certain. At the moment when we are supplying arms, then to supply food in R.A.F. aeroplanes would be totally unacceptable to both common sense and the people and Government of Biafra. This is why we must appeal to use other aircraft supplied by other countries.
The lamentable fact is that there has been no change in Government policy. This is clear from the statements of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. The Prime Minister is more of a pragmatist than a moralist. If it could be shown that the policy of Her Majesty's Government had succeeded—the death of 2 million people and the constant supply of British arms—in bringing about a unitary Nigeria, with all that that would mean for the flow of oil and the keeping out of Russian and French influence, something might be said for this policy. But on every count this policy has failed.
Some of my hon. Friends have business interests in this part of the world. Are the oil companies and their interests being protected? Shell has estimated that, in terms of the production that it could achieve, and has not, it is losing about £500,000 a day. This is the sort of protection that the policy being pursued by Her Majesty's Government is giving to our interests. This is the advantage that we are gaining from the continuance of this war.
I do not merely say that this is a policy of folly which must be changed, either with a new Foreign Secretary or a new Government. The policy pursued so far has made an ending of this war 298 more difficult and, in pursuing that policy by every diplomatic means and otherwise, a settlement seems impossible. This is perhaps the most serious accusation that I can launch against the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly spoke of a fundamental error of British policy in this matter. This fundamental error arose from our having made too rapid a decision to back the Gowon Government after the military coup of 1967. One need not look far back in Nigerian history to see the truth. The Prime Minister yesterday, and the Foreign Secretary today, were pleased to compare what is happening in Nigeria with the American civil war. This is a favourite analogy of theirs.
The Foreign Secretary now seems to have cast himself in the rôle of Abraham Lincoln. Sometimes that rôle is for General Gowon. Yesterday, according to the Prime Minister, General Gowon was proving to be more merciful in this situation than occurred following the march on Shenandoah because he was not going in for a policy of burning.
With each successive day the Prime Minister seems to cast himself in another rôle. In the mind of the Government there seems to be an absurd analogy between what is happening in Nigeria and what occurred between North and South America in the civil war there. I only hope that the Foreign Secretary will not attempt to cast himself in the rôle of George Washington, such is his mendacity, though even that could happen.
I need not say much to show why this analogy is incorrect. The United States had been established by its own heroic efforts and there was a great struggle against slavery. The country had been formed and all concerned knew for what they were fighting. This cannot be said of Nigeria, which was formed by British rule. Even as late as 1967 General Gowon, upon seizing power, hoisted not the Nigerian flag but the flag of Northern Nigeria; and he then said that unity was not possible.
Her Majesty's Government have pursued their present policy over Nigeria when it has been clear that it could not possibly work except in terms of blood, sweat, tears and death. One need only consider what happened after the Aburi 299 Conference. Did we advise General Gowon to stand by the Aburi in some sort of loose federation? According to the information I have from civil servants who were there at the time, we did nothing of the kind.
Then came the crazy declaration of 12 States. That was designed to form 12 unviable States in Nigeria. Did we do anything about that? Not only did we do nothing but our influence was used in a contrary direction. What occurred on that occasion was the height of folly.
Then we must consider what influence we have used overseas to make a compromise possible. We have all along stood on the idea that a totally unitary State could emerge, but I believe that such a state of affairs is no longer possible. [Interruption.] I believe that some hon. Members are questioning what I mean when I refer to a "unitary State". I mean it simply in the sense of one individual national sovereignty.
The Prime Minister suggested yesterday that this war could be won if the power of the Nigerian Army were put to full effect. He suggested that it was only General Gowon advised by Her Majesty's Government who was standing back from finishing off the war. Frankly this is absolute and total nonsense. This war cannot be won. I speak as one who stood at Uli Airport while it was being bombed. The Nigerians do not have the air power to cut off supplies. Nor is the Nigerian Army able to win this war. Between 22nd October and 5th December, about nine brigades of the Nigerian Army made a major assault on the State of Biafra. As the right hon. Member for Llanelly said, no progress was made. The will to win is not there. The troops who are sent in do not know about what they are fighting and therefore they do not have the natural desire to win. This war is unwinnable. Once we accept that it is unwinnable the supply of arms becomes unforgivable. This is the issue to which I now turn.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire sketched out the possibilities of an arms embargo. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have made it clear that, in their view, this is an impossibility. They have indicated that they think it would be inappropriate at this time to raise such a question 300 because of the conference in Addis Ababa. On the contrary, the fact of this conference makes it all the more important that the outside world should show that it is determined on a settlement and, if need be, by a compromise.
The Foreign Secretary suggested that there would be no support for this in African states. I question whether there would not be general support for bringing an end to the flow of arms from Europe into Africa. I ask hon. Members to look up the speeches made at the opening of the United Nations this year, the speeches made by the Uganda delegation, the speech made by Seretse Khama, speaking for Botswana, at the meeting on 24th December, and at what was said by Mr. Siarki Stevens of Sierra Leone, and Dr. Busia of Ghana. If they do so, they will find that there is a growing feeling among African States that it is wrong that Europeans should be sending in arms. I believe that this feeling is war wider than the Government have suggested.
What is more, the time has come for us to take an initiative. We have not taken an initiative for far too long. The only initiative open to us now is that put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire. It would scarcely be vetoed by the French, who have made it clear that they are not officially sending arms. It might be vetoed by the Russians. But has the Foreign Secretary thought what the continuation of the policy of sending arms means? We are just at the beginning of this war. When I talked to Mr. Lindt, the head of the Red Cross, on Uli Airfield, he said, "This is not a seven-year war. It may be a ten-year war".
We must make a move to stop the war. The Foreign Secretary has neither taken sufficient steps with the Soviet Union nor dared to call their bluff. Let us look at the local Lagos Press to see how well the Russians are received. Look at the mutiny of the troops against the Russian influence in Port Harcourt. What would happen if the Soviet Union could still continue to supply arms? There would be panic from Johannesburg to Washington if it was known that we were taking this question of an arms embargo seriously. What would be the attitude of the Americans and the O.A.U., who rest their consciences on our stupidity?
301 Is this such an important area for the Soviet Union? The Soviet Ambassador, who is on such good terms with our Ambassador there, says that he sees no immediate future for the Soviet Union there. Pressure could be put on. These people are on the end of a limb. This is a policy worth striving to achieve. Some of my hon. Friends may smile—these great realists, with their business interests and business connections. Let me tell them that the pursuit of this policy is destroying British interests in Africa. It is destroying investments made by oil companies and the economy of Nigeria. The Governor of the Bank of Nigeria admitted that his country faced the fiercest form of inflation when the remission of profits is no longer possible. Let the realists realise that for once their bread is buttered on the same side as that of the idealists and the mass of the people of this country: we all want an end to this war. What we have heard from the Government indicates that there will be no change of policy.
I am glad that 150 Members have signed the Motion. I hope that most of them will go into the Lobby against the Government. I know that Members of my Front Bench will not be voting. [An HON. MEMBER: "Eunuchs."] On the contrary, they are near conversion, moving always in the right direction. I must remind them that baptism is free. If they come over to our side soon enough, they will be able to avoid total arid final immersion. As far as the rest of the Conservative Party is concerned, no longer is it just a question of a foible about the few people who may feel passionately about the unnecessary death of 2 million people or more. There is humanity on both sides of the House. But we on this side pride ourselves, I hope rightly, on a sense of national destiny and a sense of British interest. There is only one way in which that destiny and interest can be pursued, and that is by a radical change of policy, and a radical change now.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I wish to start with a general protest about the system of foreign affairs debates in the House and then to take up the remarks of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and of my right hon. Friend the Member 302 for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths), who, with his courage and passion, embodies all that is best in the nation of Wales.
The future of Britain depends, not on the balance of payments, but on whether we avoid a nuclear war. That depends on whether the world can return to a system of law and order; whether the binding force of the Charter, which was pretty strong at the time of Suez, can be restored; whether the poverty of the developing countries can be ended; whether world disarmament, promised after both world wars, can at last be brought about. Only Britain, with the Commonwealth, has the influence and power to rally the forces which can revitalise the United Nations. The United States and Russia simply have not a hope. That means that issues of foreign policy are of vital interest to our nation. If they are of vital interest to our nation, they are of vital interest to this House as well. We all care about old-age pensions, nurses' pay and children's meals, but, however much we hope for social progress in such matters, issues of foreign policy are of supreme importance.
I ask the House to consider the dates on which we last debated the burning questions of world affairs: Biafra, 10th July, five months ago; Rhodesia, 22nd October, 1968, 14 months ago; the Middle East, 17th May, 1968, 18 months ago; Vietnam, 23rd October, 1967, more than two years ago; the Common Market, 8th and 9th May, 1967, two and a half years ago; disarmament, which is the most fundamental question of them all, 26th July, 1960, nine years ago. On other great issues, like China, the United Nations General Assembly, the European Security Conference, we have had no debates at all, so far as I can discover.
This is a ludicrous situation, and it is a grave constitutional issue too. All the rights and powers of the House in foreign affairs are being rapidly eroded. For the first many years that I was a Member, Foreign Office Questions came first every Monday and Wednesday while we sat, and we debated foreign issues once a month and sometimes one a week. By the present lamentable practice, power is passing to the bureaucrats. I have the highest regard for the bureaucrats—I have lived eight years of my life in the Foreign Office—but on the great questions of world affairs Parliament 303 must remain the master, and it cannot be the master if its voice is never heard.
I turn from my general protest to the Biafran war. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) asked the Foreign Secretary yesterday whether he had read the statement by the Chief Justice of Biafra, Sir Louis Mbanefo, that security was more important to Biafra than sovereignty itself. The Foreign Secretary replied, as he did today, that he had seen the statement and that he "earnestly hoped" that it was true. If the Government had listened to Sir Louis in June, 1967, when he said precisely what he is saying now, the war might have ended then. The few scattered engagements which there had been might have been brought to a finish. But the Ministers in the Commonwealth Office refused absolutely to see Sir Louis at all. Nothing that I could do would change their minds. That is the bitterest and the most tragic memory of my public life.
But I do not want to recriminate today about the past. I want to urge on the Government that a policy of a universal ban on arms to both parties, proposed and executed through the United Nations, is practical and could quickly be made effective if the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary would take the action which is required.
Let me deal, first, with the argument that this civil war is quite outside the scope of the U.N., that, under Article 2(7), it is a matter of domestic juridiction for Nigeria alone. The Foreign Secretary came close to saying that this afternoon, I think. I know that some other eminent authorities have also voiced that view. None the less, I believe it to be wholly false. Recent practice and discussion have severely limited the effect which used to be attributed to Article 2(7). Certainly it cannot possibly be held to override the basic principle on which the institutions of the League of Nations and then of the United Nations have, from the first, been built.
That principle was best stated in Article 3(3) of the Covenant of the League:The Assembly may deal at its meetings with any matter within the sphere of action of the League for affecting the peace of the world.304 The Charter of the United Nations reasserts the principle in a dozen places, and, indeed, in its very first words:We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war …That is the basic purpose of the whole United Nations Constitution.
Article 1 defines the purposes of the United Nations, and sub-paragraph 2 says that the purpose is… to develop friendly relations among nations, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.To suggest that, in a war which has lasted two and a half years, which has stirred the charity of 50 nations, in which two million souls have perished, to which a dozen foreign nations have supplied the arms, in which some of the foreign nations hope to secure influence and perhaps Atlantic bases for some future worldwide war—to suggest that the United Nations is prevented, by Article 2(7), from taking action to bring such a ghastly conflict to an end, is a narrow, obscurantist legalism which would frustrate the whole purpose for which the United Nations exists.
Of course, it is not only the right but the duty of every member to use the Charter, to use the Assembly or the Council, or to use them both, to bring such world disasters to an end. "Ah," said the Prime Minister yesterday afternoon, "But you cannot get the matter inscribed on the agenda of the Assembly or the Council. You could not get the votes". Very regrettably, as I think, he quoted the Secretary-General for that view. Of course, what one gets from any institution depends on how one uses it.
If the leading Power concerned—make no mistake: Britain is the leading Power concerned in respect of Biafra—shouts from the housetops, "This is a mortal danger to all Africans, we may Balkanise the Continent, every State has its Biafra, hands off, but help the Government of Lagos to prevail;" if the leading Power says, "This is no question for the United Nations, but is for the Africans to settle, hands off, leave the coast clear for the O.A.U." If we talk in that way, it is only natural that 40 African States, and perhaps even others, may vote as our Government propose.
305 But let us consider these two propositions. "Every African State has its Biafra." I quote President Nyerere of Tanzania, the prophet and apostle of African peace and unity, when I say that that is nonsense. He told the O.A.U. Summit at Addis Ababa last September:Africa is learning the wrong lesson from the Nigerian tragedy. We must ask Nigeria to stop the killing.How right he is. Suppose that every African State does have its Biafra. What does that mean? It means that it has some tribe or group who feel that their safety and their rights are not secure.
Do we want the Governments of Africa to think that the claims of such people must he suppressed by force of arms, and that Europe, Britain leading, will supply the arms? Do we want them to think that war, however bloody and protracted, is the right way to deal with civil claims and discontent? President Nyerere is right: this war is the most disastrous of all precedents for Africa as a whole. We should urge that claims like this of Biafra, and such claims in other States, should at any cost be settled by compromise and peaceful means.
The Government's second proposition, "Leave it to the O.A.U.", is quite as wrong. Of course, we all hope that the Emperor of Ethiopia will succeed. I have unlimited regard for the Emperor, but it is a long time that the O.A.U. has been dealing with this matter and peace has not come. If the Emperor fails, I hope that the Government will learn the lesson. Regional organisations are at a disadvantage when they deal with a war or a dispute. A world tribunal, just because it is a world tribunal, has far greater authority and prestige. I was in the General Assembly of the United Nations when the South Americans defeated the U.S. attempt to transfer the handling of the Bay of Pigs to the O.A.S. They did the same with the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965. They knew that the United Nations, a world tribunal had far more h3pe of achieving real success.
The Government say that they have explored the hopes of an arms embargo to both sides. With great respect, I think that they have done everything just exactly wrong. The Foreign Secretary told us today that they had made three approaches to the Russians at different levels. Of course, if you ask him in 306 private talk, and in the context of the power struggle now going on, the Russian will remember that his general staff has hopes of those Atlantic bases which I mentioned. They will try to use one's question to undermine one's influence in Lagos and to increase their own. But that is not the way to mount a great international U.N. operation to end a war.
If they want peace in Nigeria, and a universal ban on arms, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary must go themselves to the Assembly. They must gather with them all the Governments who share their views—the United States, Canada, the Scandinavians, Italy, the Belgians and the Dutch, India, Tanzania, Zambia and many more. They must make a joint proposal, with all those others, that every Government in the U.N. shall take the measures needed to stop all arms directed to either side, that every Government must control its arms factories and the private merchants' depots, and control its airports and its seaports, its railways and its roads. We must challenge Russia to say in public in the full Assembly that she will not come in, but will help the war to go on by sending arms.
We have seen much more difficult questions than this settled in the U.N. Assembly. The Congo settlement in 1960 has been a remarkable success and no one pleaded Article 2(7) then. To say that this cannot be done now, that the black marketeers are sure to win, is facile pessimism. It is worse: it is defeatism about the whole concept and efficacy of the U.N. But to have a hope, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary must go themselves, they must show the world that they think that this is what it is—the most important question that confronts mankind today. Do not let them say that they have not got the time to spare, that they are too busy. Let them do it, and, if they succeed, history will record their names with gratitude and pride.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
I am inclined to agree with the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) and with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) that this issue might well be referred to the Security Council. Frankly, I do not think 307 it would make much difference in practice, but it would do no harm.
Today we are debating the Nigerian civil war for the fifth or sixth time in the past 18 months. This tragic war has now lasted for almost two and a half years. We all want it to end as soon as possible and, if possible, by a negotiated peace. I am sure that that applies to every hon. Member of this House. It must also apply to the vast majority of people in Nigeria.
I have not been there since I went with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) in August, 1968, but it was certainly the wish of General Gowon at that time that the war should be ended by a negotiated peace, and I believe that it is still his wish. He is a truly Christian man of great personal integrity, who is genuinely appalled, as we all are, by the suffering which this civil war has caused and is causing to his own countrymen on both sides.
General Gowon has gone out of his way to try to relieve that suffering. He has agreed to daylight flights with relief supplies—rejected by Colonel Ojukwu. He has agreed to a land corridor for relief supplies—rejected by Colonel Ojukwu. He has agreed to relief fights from a neutral territory, subject only to occasional inspection en route to make sure that the planes are not carrying in arms. He has agreed to teams of neutral observers to umpire the war to ensure that there is no genocide. No European country at war has ever made such generous concessions to the other side.
The response from Colonel Ojukwu has been nil, because it is not food and medical supplies that he wants to save his people from starvation, but arms to carry on the war. These are flown in at night, almost every night, mainly from French sources. But for these the war would have been over long ago, and everybody in his heart knows that to be true.
After the remarkable speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire, I need not say much more on the subject of relief for the starving lbos. The proposal which my right hon. Friend put forward, with all the authority of a former Prime Minister of Britain, and, I hope, its future Foreign 308 and Commonwealth Secretary, was the most imaginative and constructive suggestion which I have heard made on this subject.
If it is logistically possible, in petrol and distance, for the helicopters to fly in supplies from aircraft carriers south of Port Harcourt, it should be done at once. Owing to the Government's deplorable decision to run down our carrier force, we may not be able to do it by ourselves, but I have no doubt that the Americans and the Canadians would join us in this humanitarian operation. It would involve no one in the war, but it would bring immediate relief to the starving women and children in the Ibo heartland.
This has been suggested by Group Captain Cheshire; it has been carefully checked by naval experts; and it has now been proposed and endorsed with all the authority of my right hon. Friend. Incidentally, as I have mentioned his name, it may interest some hon. Members who think of Group Captain Cheshire as being pro-Biafran to know that he told me the other evening that he is in favour of a united Nigeria and believes in the sincerity of General Gowon and the good intentions of the Federal Government of Nigeria. He also told me—a point made by the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths), and I accept it absolutely—that the people of Biafra are behind Colonel Ojukwu almost to a man. I believe that to be true.
I once thought, and I know that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West once thought, that this was a war of the élites on either side. I no longer believe that to be true. The external propaganda for Biafra by Markpress in Geneva has been so emotionally effective that I am sure that Colonel Ojukwu's internal propaganda to his own people has been equally effective. Indeed, I have talked, and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West has talked, to refugees from Biafra and to Ibo prisoners of war in the southern sector, and they told me—and it was not in the presence of Federal officers or soldiers—that if they had only known how they would be treated by the Federals, the war would have been over a long time ago. That was said to me again and again in the Rivers State as long ago as August, 1968.
309 It is Colonel Ojukwu who is causing the starvation of his own people by refusing food relief flights offered on reasonable terms. If he refuses the helicopter offer, he will stand condemned in the eyes of the civilised world. There has never been any question, as the neutral observer team has repeatedly reported, of genocide by the Nigerians, nor any question of genocide by starvation. It is not a case of genocide by the Federals; it is a case of suicide by the Ibos.
I turn now to the military situation. I have no special sources of information. I do not know whether The Observer was right when it reported on Sunday that the Federal offensive has petered out, or whether the Sunday Telegraph was right when it reported on Sunday that the Federal offensive has only just begun.
The Motion in the names of almost a quarter of the House of Commons, headed by the right hon. Member for Llanelly and my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), both of whom I greatly respect and admire, urges an immediate and total embargo on the supply of arms to both sides. It urges this, I am surprised to find, in the name of realism. I have never read a less realistic Motion.
It may be just possible, owing to the recent improvement in Anglo-French relations, that the French would now agree to cease supplying arms to Biafra; I doubt it, but it may be just possible. But what about the Russians? Does anybody in the House seriously believe that Russia would make a major change in her policy, a policy which she believes to be in her own interest, merely because we had set her a moral example? It is laughable, pathetic, and naive beyond belief to imagine any such thing. That is not the way the Russians work.
The only outcome of a British embargo on arms to Nigeria would be an increase in Russian supplies. Russia would give her eyes to acquire a position of real influence in Commonwealth Africa. This is the whole purpose of her Nigerian policy. It would be an act of folly almost unparalleled in international politics to present her with this opportunity on a plate. Nevertheless, Her Majesty's Government could, of course, take this matter to the Security Council, 310 as my right hon. Friend suggested, if only to show up the Russians. It might be quite a useful little exercise, but I do not believe that it would make any difference.
There are only three possible solutions to this war. The first, which we all want to see, is a negotiated peace. We all want that—there is no argument about that. But the prospects for it are still very poor, because the objectives of each side are still too far apart. General Gowon wants a united Nigeria and in this he is supported by the vast majority, almost ten to one, of the other African States in this African war. Colonel Ojukwu wants secession. There has been no lack of mediators between the two sides, no lack of attempts to mediate, but there has been a total lack of any basis for mediation. A negotiated peace—I do not like saying this, but I believe it to be true—is probably as far off today as it was last year, or the year before.
We are left, as we have always been left, with the prospect of a military solution. The Motion says that the war cannot be won by either side, but, with respect to those right hon. and hon. Members who drafted the Motion, I must say that that is absolute nonsense. Of course it cannot be won by the tiny enclave which still calls itself Biafra, but of course it can be won by Federal Nigeria. Fifteen months ago, it could have been won quite quickly, but two factors prevented this. One was the enormous increase in the supply of arms to Biafra from mainly French sources. The other was the deliberate policy of General Gowon, for the best of reasons, for the most humanitarian and most statesmanlike reasons—
§ Mr. Stanley Henig (Lancaster)
Is not the hon. Gentleman saying that the war can be won by one side if other countries in the world join that one side and cease to give support to its opponent? Does not the Motion say that the Federal Republic and Biafra are wrong to fight it out on their own, or each with a motley array of others like ourselves ranged on one side or the other, for the war is then likely to drag on indefinitely?
§ Mr. Fisher
I have heard that stuff often expressed, and the hon. Gentleman has interrupted my argument to recite a case already made. I do not want to be 311 diverted from my argument, and I am coming to all these points.
The other factor which prevented a quick military end to the war was the deliberate policy of General Gowon—for the best of reasons and for the most humanitarian and statesmanlike of reasons—he has fought this war with one hand tied behind his back, because lie wants a united Nigeria at the end of it. He can achieve that only if he can avoid the worst features of a civil war and reabsorb the East-Central State into a united, prosperous and peaceful Nigeria at the end of it.
I respect him for that policy, but I must honestly say that it has in fact prolonged the war and, because it has prolonged the war, it has meant that many more Ibo women and children have died of starvation in the last 15 months than the number of Ibo and Federal soldiers who would have been killed in battle. It has been the policy of the "slow kill". That was why, after touring the whole of Nigeria in August, 1968, I advocated the policy which came to be known as the "quick kill".
I did so in a television interview in Lagos at the end of my tour. My interviewer promised me that the interview would not be cut. It was a five-minute interview. The half-minute in which I advocated the quick kill policy was of course left in, because it was rather sensational, but the three or four minutes in which I explained why I had advocated that policy—to save millions of people dying of starvation—was edited out in London and was never shown on the television screen. I do not blame the interviewer, and I do not blame the London editor. Television interviews are always much shorter than the participants would like them to be!
But it did me a lot of harm. It made me sound a callous and inhumane man, which honestly I am not, and it has been used against me ever since, especially in my own constituency. As most hon. Members know, I have had a little trouble recently in my constituency because my views on race relations are not the same as those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell).
312 The House is always very generous to a colleague in trouble, so I hope that, in conclusion, I may be allowed to make one personal observation. My opponents in my constituency are not much interested in Nigeria; I doubt whether any of them have ever been there. They are interested in immigration. But at the moment, any stick is good enough for them to use to beat the Member of Parliament for Surbiton; so they have made it one of their principal charges against me that I have advocated a cruel and callous policy in Nigeria. From the point of view of my opponents in Surbiton, to whom the Prime Minister referred as "skinheads"—I do not know quite what the word means, but I get the general drift—I have done something even worse than that. They have bitterly attacked me week after week in the local Press ever since July for not being a true Conservative because I voted in the Government Lobby when we last debated this subject in July.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) did the same. So far as I know, and my hon. Friends will correct me if I am wrong, they were not criticised for that in their constituencies. We did so because we supported Federal Nigeria, and because we had the strange idea that it is sometimes not a bad thing for a back bencher to follow his voice with his vote. At least it is honest. But in this case it was not even disloyal to my own party to do so. There was no whip; we could vote on this side of the House as we pleased, and many did so. My constituency critics say that I voted in the Government Lobby in defiance of the advice given to my party by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire. I heard his speech, and I have read it many times since. He gave no such advice.
I apologise to the House for having inflicted upon hon. Members this personal explanation, but it was important for me to do so because I have been made out to be an absolute brute.
Finally, especially in view of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire, 313 which offers a genuine and practical solution to the human aspect, the human suffering, in this dreadful war, may I express the hope that at least on this side of the House those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who have signed this Motion will not vote in the Lobby tonight.
§ 7.24 p m.
§ Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)
May I, as a political opponent of the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) who has known him since we were both very young, confirm that he is essentially a humane man, even though he is often wrong-headed politically. In fact, the whole of his political life is wrong, but I can confirm that he is a very humane man.
As so many hon. Members wish to speak, I shall take up only one point on Nigeria and then take up the references to Greece made by the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home).
When the Prime Minister referred yesterday to the dilemma facing the World Council of Churches, I was puzzled, because I was on the Social Responsibility Committee of that Council for some years and I could not see how this dilemma could arise. I then read an article in The Times on Saturday which developed the point that it was felt by some that the churches were being charged with prolonging the war and adding to the suffering. I do not want to refer to the rights or wrongs, but it is an undoubted fact that not only is there a need for relief but there will be an even greater need for relief when peace comes. There will be an urgent need for aid on a large scale, and we must begin to think about that now.
We have an obligation as an old colonial power to provide economic aid to our former colonies, including Nigeria. I certainly do not believe that we should act as if Nigeria were a colony, and I 314 have been shocked by some of the interjections during the debate—which I have sat through but for a few moments—which implied that we had a particular status as if were a colonial power.
I believe aid to be not only good in itself but that it will set an example to our wealthy neighbours in Europe who have had no long colonial experience—and I am thinking particularly of Germany. Until a year or so ago, the countries with the best record in relation to their gross national product for aid to developing countries were the former colonial countries—Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Britain. Since then, wealthy European neighbours like Germany, Sweden and Switzerland have been catching up, and Germany has passed us.
In 1966, U Thant, speaking in Strasbourg, reminded us that Europe was very wealthy and begged us to do our duty to others and not to sink back into, as he called it, "our prosperous provincialism". A few weeks ago the Rev. Nicolas Stacey described in The Times how Oxfam, the Campaign for World Development, War on Want, the Third World First and others were now grouped in Action in World Development. They are active, but they are also very weak. It is big Government development aid that Nigeria will want. It wants it now, but it will want it much more when peace comes. Let us not be blind to that; let us be prepared.
I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister yesterday and the Foreign Secretary today refer to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and Greece. There is a great deal to be learnt from the way in which this problem of Greece has been handled in the Council of Europe. I agree with the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire that, if the Greek Government come forward with a convincing timetable for a return to democracy, of course it should be accepted, but I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire that the charge against Greece has been driven on too hastily. I do not believe that the facts justify that.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I did not quite say that the charge had been driven on too hastily. I was saying that if an offer is made to reconcile the timetable 315 of the Greek Government with the timetable of the European Commission this should enable the Council of Europe to go a bit more slowly.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
I entirely agree with that. We have to go back over the last two and a half years to see what has happened. The Council of Europe has a good and clear record of trying to meet the Greek Government in every way. There was a successful coup d'etat in April 1967, but Greece had certain international obligations under the Statute of the Council and under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Statute lays down that every member State must accept the principles of the rule of law and of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Like all the other 17 member States, Greece was bound by these treaties, and the Consultative Assembly, which is the mouthpiece of parliamentary opinion, in these democratic countries, has among its tasks the duty of guarding the Council's "constitution", namely, its Statute and its fundamental principles. Immediately after the revolution the Greek Parliament was abolished and the Parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe was withdrawn. In fact, we learned that some of our colleagues in the Assembly had been arrested.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
Yes. But Greece remained a member of the Council of Europe, and it is greatly to the credit of the Council of Europe that the Greek Government appear to prize their membership and are doing everything possible to avoid being suspended.
After debates in the Assembly, on the most carefully prepared reports, the Assembly called upon Greece to restore parliamentary democracy. All this was repeated, again on carefully prepared reports, in session after session. Eventually, in January this year, after the Assembly's rapporteur had been refused permission to go to Greece, Greece still being a member of the Council of Europe, the Assembly recommended that the Committee of Ministers consider suspending her from the Council. This decision was supported by all members of the 316 British parilamentary delegation, except one who abstained. The point is that the Assembly was most reluctant to come to this decision, and I think that everyone who voted really hoped that before it came to suspension the régime would restore democracy.
The Committee of Ministers considered the recommendation in May. After the meeting, Mr. Willy Brandt, who was then Chairman of the Committee, and I held a Press conference at Lancaster House at which Mr. Brandt, on behalf of the Committee of Ministers, said that in December the matter would again be considered after they had studied the report of the Human Rights Commission. Everything, according to the proper procedure, was going along. The Assembly had done all that it could. It was clearly then up to the Ministers and the Commission.
In June 1967, two months after the coup d'etat, the Assembly, through its Standing Committee, asked the Governments to refer the Greek case to the European Commission on Human Rights. Two months later, as a result of this request, the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Governments lodged identical applications against the Greek Government. I am detailing these countries, because this is important. The Belgian, Icelandic. Luxembourg and Netherlands Governments supported these applications. The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthsire referred to N.A.T.O. All these countries, with the exception of Sweden. are members of N.A.T.O.
Alas, to my regret, the British Government did not identify themselves with this application. I also regret that the Colonels were much encouraged by our inaction.
The countries of Northern Europe and the Low Countries appeared to our friends everywhere to be more interested in parliamentary democracy than we were. This was not a trial. This was to ask, according to the procedure, for the Commission to investigate.
The Commission is now ready. Even if it is only a tenth as critical of the Greek régime as our reports from the Assembly, there is no doubt that Greece should be suspended from the Council, unless she can produce convincing evidence and a convincing timetable for a return to democracy.
317 I said, "should be suspended", but, as the Foreign Secretary explained this afternoon, such a decision requires a two-thirds majority of the Foreign Ministers casting a vote as well as a majority of the 18 members—that is, ten.
It looks as though the voting will be on these lines. For the suspension: Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Against or abstaining: Austria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Ireland, Malta, Switzerland and Turkey. This leaves Germany and Italy.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Does this mean that the British vote is critical? The right hon. Gentleman gave the figures so quickly that I did not understand. Is the British vote decisive?
§ Sir G. de Freitas
I am coming to that. The noble Lord was too quick for me. The total I gave was eight plus eight, which is 16. That leaves two, and I believe that Germany and Italy are likely to follow us.
If Greece is not suspended, the Council of Europe and all that it stands for will be seriously discredited. If Greece is suspended, democratic Europe will enter the 1970s fortified in the knowledge that parliamentary democracy and human rights are now recognised as part of our very life.
Whatever happens, the tremendous diplomatic efforts made by the Greek Government to avoid suspension have shown the respect that the Colonels feel for the Council. After only 20 years, that means something in Europe. It has taken the Greek affair for us to realise this. Frankly, I think that we have been taking the Council of Europe a little too much for granted.
§ 7.36 p.m.
Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)
Seldom has any issue raised so much passion or so profoundly disturbed the conscience of so many people throughout the country, and, indeed, Parliament, as Nigeria. It is to that subject that I should like to devote myself. There has been evidence this afternoon of the passions which have been aroused in some of the excellent speeches that we have heard.
318 Before proceeding to advance the proposition which I have tabled in the form of an Amendment to the all-party Motion, I should like to declare an interest. I am 100 per cent. impartial in my efforts to put forward a constructive and practical solution for ending the carnage and suffering in Nigeria. I believe that everyone is motivated by the same burning desire to bring relief to the acute suffering and starvation in Nigeria. But few seem to me to appreciate that stopping the war is an absolutely essential first step if we are to do this in an effective way. Even fewer still seem to recognise that nothing short of a combined Commonwealth peace-keeping force can do this speedily and, at the same time, provide the stable conditions needed for providing a just settlement of disputes thereafter.
Hence, the Amendment I have tabled whichentreats the Prime Minister to take the only effective action for ending the war and creating a suitable climate for the just settlement of such disputes by convening an emergency meeting of Commonwealth leaders for the express purpose of forming a combined Commonwealth Peace-keeping Force for immediate despatch to Nigeria.The all-party Motion to which I tabled this Amendment in many respects commands sympathy. I recognise the well-intentioned aims of those who have signed it. But, with great respect to them, I honestly believe that without my Amendment, in the form of an addendum to it, it could do more harm than good. I believe that it could prolong the war. It might help to comfort the consciences of those who signed it, but I do not believe that it will bring peace any nearer.
It is now clear that the policy of supplying arms for the purpose of a quick kill and a quick end to the civil war has failed, as some of us feared that it would from the very beginning. I may well have been open to the charge of being impatient when advancing the peacekeeping formula about 18 months ago, but I am sad to say that events have proved me correct.
It is true that the O.A.U. talks might have succeeded. But I become cynical. for whenever there is a House of Commons debate on the subject in the offing, we are told that the talks are on the verge of success and that something 319 is about to come out of them. That is what we have been told again today, and so these talks go on. It is sad that so far the O.A.U. has failed in its efforts. Ideally they were the right people to solve the problem, but now, whether we like it or not, it has become a Commonwealth problem. I do not believe that the Commonwealth can sit back and watch what is happening.
I know that this provokes anxiety in the minds of many who think that it might smell as though we were embarking on the old colonial policy of waving the big stick ourselves. I know that there are others who feel that a Commonwealth move would be frowned upon for various other reasons, not least that of breach of protocol. Of course we accept that Nigeria is a sovereign independent State. Nevertheless, she is a member of the Commonwealth, and I believe passionately that it is the duty of the Commonwealth in the first place to do everything that it can to stop this war. Second, it must act with determination in providing the conditions, perhaps by means of some form of police force, whereby the future of Nigeria can be decided without bloodshed.
I think that we should not discount the possibility that secession should be examined, not just by ourselves—I do not think it right that we alone should be the judges—but that the Commonwealth should help to judge on this issue as a whole. It is interesting to note that even that arch advocate of African unity Julius Nyerere believes that there is a case for secession. I think that that is a matter which we should not dismiss.
Whether or not Colonel Ojukwu has a case for secession is not something on which I wish to dwell at the moment, but it is difficult to see how he can be expected to have confidence in the assurance that he is given in Addis Ababa, or anywhere else, about the security, status, and equality of the Ibo people unless there is some form of impartial police force available to protect the Ibos from the sort of troubles which they faced before secession, when Nigeria was united, and when 30,000 Ibos were massacred. Surely Colonel Ojukwu cannot be expected to forget that quite so easily. As a Scot with memories of how the English once behaved, I can 320 appreciate his point of view rather more clearly than can the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary.
§ Mr. Tilney
Does not my hon. Friend agree that an international or Commonwealth peace-keeping force, which I should like to see, would also protect some of the minor tribes who are threatened by the Ibos, and who are being killed at the present time by some of the Swedish aircraft organised by Count von Rosen? Possibly the Minister will say something about the recent visit of Count von Rosen to the Foreign Office, which I understand was sometime ago, before that happened.
Earl of Dalkeith
I agree with my hon. Friend. Obviously the idea of having a police force is to protect the peoples of all races. We know that there are many groups which are vulnerable to reprisals from one side or the other. Unless we can create a climate of confidence wherein these people can live reasonably secure lives, we shall never come up with the right answer for the long-term future of Nigeria.
On the question of mediation, it is sad that the Government have forfeited the right, or the claim which they could otherwise put forward, to be considered as impartial mediators, simply because they are known by everybody to have been aiding and abetting one side in the civil war. Obviously the O.A.U. would be the logical and appropriate mediator, but it has failed so far, and I am becoming more and more doubtful about whether it can succeed in the future. That leaves only one possible alternative, and that is a combined Commonwealth effort.
Clearly, it would be better if the initiative for a Commonwealth effort came from the O.A.U. or some other uncommitted member of the Commonwealth, but, in the absence of anybody else putting forward that point of view, I believe that we would be failing in our duty to innocent victims who are entitled to expect our help and guidance if we were not to do so ourselves. For this reason I earnestly entreat the Government to give most serious consideration to this matter. After all, we cannot say that we have no responsibilities. It was we who created Federal Nigeria in the first place. As it has misfired in the way that it has, I believe that we have the 321 strongest possible duty to act in what I believe is the one and only effective way open to us.
I suggest that that raises an even wider question of what the Commonwealth stands for in the modern world. If it is to have any meaning at all, its first task must surely be to represent a community with a model code of conduct for the rest of the world to copy; a club of nations whose rule number one is the abolition of strife, bestiality, and unnecessary human suffering, a club wherein one condition of membership is the automatic acceptance of a "fire brigade" force to restore law and order where a guilty member has failed to do this himself.
If it is argued that we have sufficient responsibility for affairs in Nigeria to give us a moral justification to supply weapons to one side, surely we have a far stronger moral obligation to take the initiative with our co-members of the Commonwealth in creating such a force. To wring our hands in despair as the months and years drag by, with intensifying human suffering, is in my view the flabbiest form of morality that one can find. If our sister nations of the Commonwealth are not prepared to support intervention in the name of humanity, I seriously ask whether there is any purpose at all in the Commonwealth continuing in existence? I believe that the matter is as serious as that.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
The hon. Gentleman has used the word "intervention" on a number of occasions when talking about a Commonwealth force. Is he suggesting that it should go in at the invitation of both sides by agreement, or is he saying that it should go in, if need be, against the will of either side?
Earl of Dalkeith
I think that I have already made that reasonably clear in what I have said. I have said that ideally the O.A.U. should make the suggestion for a Commonwealth force. It has so far failed to do so. I believe that it is incumbent upon us to make that suggestion, and I understand that the Federal Government would not be averse to that happening. I should like confirmation from the Government that that is so. I think that Colonel Ojukwu would probably jump at the idea, because I do not believe that anything else will 322 convince him that he will get a fair deal after the dispute has come to the conference table. How else is he to be given any assurance beyond what he had before he seceded, when 30,000 Ibos were massacred, when he was inside the Federation of Nigeria?
To return to where I was, the Prime Minister in his speech referred to the difficulty of enforcing an arms embargo because of the need for inspection at the receiving end. I agree wholeheartedly with the Prime Minister about this, but may I suggest that one of the first functions of a peace-keeping force, and indeed the most important justification for it, is to do that very job, to police the ports, airports, and points at which arms would arrive.
I predict that in the years to come this unspeakable tale of tragedy will be regarded as one of the blackest blots in the long history of the British Empire and Commonwealth, simply because, by our own failure to take the effective action available to us, we are as good as conniving at the prolongation of the massacre of innocents.
For this reason, I earnestly beseech the Government to consider my Amendment and the Motion together, because I believe that offers a practical solution. We must stop this war, and I should be delighted to hear the Government when they wind up this evening suggest to the House a better way in which this can be achieved.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
I agree with the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) that everyone in the House has the same object in view, though I suggest that some go about it in a rather odd way. However, I give them credit for sincerity in desiring to achieve the end, we all want.
It is not surprising, after two and a half years of fighting, that there should be such great interest in the affairs of Nigeria. Nor is it surprising that many people on hearing the often emotional stories of atrocities, suffering from famine and all the other afflictions of this war suddenly exclaim, without any reason, "So-and-so is to blame". I believe that from the beginning of this appalling trouble in Nigeria Her Majesty's Government have behaved with singular 323 propriety, with warmth and with a sympathetic understanding of the problem.
Personally, I regret the constant reference to the 30,000 Ibos who were slaughtered. Nobody justifies that slaughter, but a great many of us can explain it. It would be better if, instead of referring to that as a reason for Colonel Ojukwu's continued intransigence and for the ease with which he seems to have persuaded his people that they are in real danger of genocide, we tried to understand how these things have happened.
One must remember that there was an Ibo coup of great and provocative brutality. I have more friends among the Ibos in Nigeria than on the other side, because professionally I was more in touch with them. It is no use blinding ourselves to the way things went. No doubt, there was provocation of a serious order. Though it did not justify the massacre of however many Ibo people it was, it most certainly explains it. I believe the Government would have been most wrong not to continue the supply of arms to the Nigerian Government. Not to supply arms would have been a positive action against the normal, traditional policy since it would have been a positive taking of sides in favour of a rebellion.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that as a result over 2 million people have died?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Two million people would have died in any event. The hon. Gentleman and his right hon. or hon. Friends have yet to show how the stopping of the supply of arms to the Nigerian Government would have saved a single life. It obviously would not. At the same time it would have amounted to a demonstration against a Government which has behaved extremely well.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Hamilton)
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman take the view that the Government in Nigeria are a legitimate Government, or are they a Government that came into power in some other way following a coup d'etat?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Which Government or their predecessors did not originally come into being by force? I should like to 324 hear of one. The fact is that it is the recognised Government of a friendly Commonwealth country. Like many others in the House, I believe that the Commonwealth still counts for something,—still has a considerable part to play.
Far from the Nigerian Government not being entitled to be supplied with arms because of their behaviour, I believe that from the start they have behaved extremely well. They were unprepared for the war, whereas Colonel Ojukwu must have prepared for it a long time. He was able to make a sharp jab across the country, almost took the whole of Nigeria into his hands, and at the same time began to bomb Lagos. The Nigerian Government were not ready. Hence, the immense amount of time they took to get moving and the great efforts they had to make to prevent Ojukwu being successful.
Since then the Nigerian Government have acted with incredible restraint. I was there last November and saw how a particular offensive was not mounted because they wanted to woo back into the fold in Nigeria the Ibo people who were still under Ojukwu's control.
One knows of the propaganda on both sides. The propaganda of the Nigerian Government is that of a Government who want reconciliation from the start and who have never conducted a campaign against the Ibo people. They have recently agreed to send food, and, indeed, have always been willing to do so. This is quite unprecedented. Who are we in this country to talk about not allowing food to go to our enemies? This is unheard of. The Nigerians will still allow food to go under reasonable conditions.
To the other Governments listed by my right hon. Friend this afternoon which believe that the conditions are reasonable one might add the Irish Government. When one considers the emotional stories put about by many of the missionaries in the east of the country who are mainly Roman Catholics, the Irish Government might easily have gone the other way, but they say that these conditions are reasonable. They point out that Ojukwu first agreed to allow the daylight flights to go in. Then the Red Cross went to Lagos and negotiated with the Lagos Government. They had some difficulty in getting them to agree; but no sooner had they agreed in September than Ojukwu 325 backed out again. That does not look as though he is the sort of man some believe him to be. To my regret, I believe him to be the most intransigent man alive and that he always has been. I knew him when he was 16 years old, and he was the same even then. He said he wanted daylight flights, made his conditions with the International Committee of the Red Cross, and then suddenly backed out when he heard Nigeria would agree.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
My hon. Friend says they are not the same conditions. I would refer him to other authorities than himself or myself. I have cited the Irish Government who said that they were substantially the same conditions. The fact is that from the start of the fighting Ojukwu has been the greatest single obstacle to peace.
If there is any criticism I have of the Government it is that they seem to apologise for not giving full and complete support, with all kinds of armaments, to the Nigerian Government. If this had been done, lives would have been saved. It is too easy to put labels on these things, such as "quick kill", but every Government must do their best to maintain their position and law and order. We should help the Nigerian Government to do that; that is, unless there is a strong moral reason, based on that Government's misconduct, which makes such a course inappropriate.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
I did not say that. I said that we should support a friendly Commonwealth Government who are not in moral error. It is easy to make jibes about Hitler and Spain, but totally different conditions exist in this case, for this is a friendly Commonwealth Government who are not in any way morally to blame for what has happened and who are not in misconduct over the 326 way in which they have carried on a war which they did not start.
I am afraid that if we try to put conditions which are too unreasonable in our attempts to use our influence, which is still great in Nigeria, on the Nigerian Government, we shall give a certain amount of encouragement to the hawks; and there are hawks in Nigeria just as there are a great many doves. We should thank God fasting that General Gowon is such a dove and support everything he does which is designed to see his Government uppermost in Nigeria.
I do not want to give support to the hawks in Nigeria. Because of that and because I believe that the Ibos have an immense part to play in Africa, I wish to sustain Her Majesty's Government in the policy which they have followed hitherto.
We are discussing a rebellion caused by a military dictator who made his bid to seize the whole of Nigeria. Thank heaven that was unsuccessful. He has used his dictatorial powers to keep his people in ignorance about the nature of the war, about the whole struggle and about genocide. He is a dictator who is willing to use the starvation of his own people as a weapon to achieve his own ends.
I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not be deterred from carrying out the policy that they have followed hitherto and that they will do their utmost to support General Gowon in bringing this war to a quick and successful conclusion.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
I am in total agreement with the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu). I trust that the House will allow me to make some personal references about Nigeria before coming to the main burden of my remarks.
I have been going to Nigeria three or four times a year for the last eight years. One of the saddest things for me is that although I have formed hundreds, if not thousands, of friends in the eastern region among the Ibos, I have received not one but two letters, addressed to this House, threatening my life and written in blood. I have received them simply because I have come out firmly on the side of the Federal Government.
327 I only wish that hon. Members—not just those who are taking part in the debate but all hon. Members—could listen to the people of Nigeria speaking for themselves. They might then, having seen the problem at first-hand, be able to appraise the situation and reach some conclusions, all of which I am glad to think Her Majesty's Government are firmly upholding in following General Gowon's policy to keep Nigeria one.
I will not speak at length because much of what I have in my heart has been so well said by hon. Members on both sides, and particularly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home).
General Gowon has been referred to as a sincere tolerant Christian man, and he is. When the casualty lists are brought to him—I saw him last July and I trust that I will see him within the month; I was talking to him on the telephone last Thursday—his whole physical condition changes. He cannot take his meals and he is greatly moved by the suffering and tragedy of the war. This man has introduced a policy which we must either accept as being right or reject.
It was suggested, I accept sincerely, by the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths) and others that the "quick kill" concept is terrible. I assure hon. Members that this is not in General Gowon's mind. His whole attitude is to allow the people of this war-torn, rebel-held territory to defect. I have been right down to the line, under fire, on several occasions. I have spoken to Ibos who have come out of the area and my talks with them have occurred within half an hour of their coming out. I have seen them coming out, and I can tell the House that the Ibos are not afraid once they get out. They are terrified when they are in.
These Ibo people are now fraternising, back in their villages and towns, and working alongside the Yorubas. There is no problem and they are getting back their jobs. They are given their own houses back and they are receiving the rents that were due to them while they were still held in the rebel territories.
General Gowon's policy has simply been to go inch by inch around this small enclave on which the whole world has a vast magnifying glass. We have a dis- 328 torted and perverted view of the situation because of the inaccuracies and shameful distortions put out by Markpress. Sincere people in this country believe the propaganda and muck which Markpress has put out about Nigeria.
My heart boils when I compare this propaganda with what the Nigerians say for themselves. They are behind General Gowon and his policy. The same can be said about the Ibos in this country, who last night presented to me, in this House, a document on behalf of 5,000 Ibos of Great Britain. It is the Manifesto of the United Nigeria Ibo Union of Great Britain and Ireland, an organisation which is recognised not only here but in France and Germany. There are more than 10,000 Ibos in Lagos alone, and hundreds of Ibos are back in Kano and Kaduna. I have stayed in their hotels in recent months, and I assure the House that they are not afraid. The manifesto produced by this Ibo Union states:This Union is born not out of persuasion, not out of enticement, not out of intimidation or imitation and not out of propaganda but out of the general, genuine and concerted belief of we Ibos in this Union that a United Nigeria is an ideal which must be upheld. It is born after a general and genuine self-criticism of ourselves and after re-evaluation and reapppraisal of our stand.It is born out of a general desire that peace must prevail in our country—Nigeria, and that peace must come through talks and not through the force of arms. It is born out of a profound belief that the onus for peace lies with us all (Nigeria and Ibos in particular). It is born out of our supreme confidence that we of this Union given 'Time and Facility' can produce enough atmosphere, conditions and material for a peaceful return of all Ibos to one Nigeria. Finally this Union is born out of our deep desire that this callous war must stop to save us all from utter destruction.The manifesto goes on to declare its objectives which are:To assemble and give directions into a United Nigeria, the thousands of Ibos living abroad who are completely disenchanted by Colonel Ojukwu's hard line in this civil war. To persuade the Ibos both in 'Biafra' and abroad to come to reason as there is no sense in pursuing the civil war to its bitter end.".—and so on.
§ Mrs. Ewing
As the hon. Gentleman says that he is able to go to Nigeria so frequently, may I ask whether he has an interest which he ought to declare to the House?
§ Mr. Cordle
That is a very fair question. I have had an interest in Nigeria 329 over the years, through the Crown Agents. That interest has continued for the past 40 years. I have nothing to be ashamed of in that whatsoever. My interest is also through a company sending hospital and medical supplies to that country. It is with that in mind that one is so eagerly anxious to bring this war to a close in order that the suffering and the starvation that we see in this land shall be done away with.
Between four million and five million Ibos have now come out of the rebel-held territory. As I say, they are distributed throughout the whole of Nigeria, and are happily working, one with another, side by side. There is no sense of fear.
I hope that the suggestion put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire about helicopter drops of food and medical supplies will come to fruition. I do not believe that our own helicopters are anywhere near as big or as strong or as capable as those of the Americans, and it may well be that we should make a proper and formal suggestion to the Federal Government that they should invite the Americans, who are only too waling to help, to bring alongside their aircraft carriers and use their "Sea Lions". That, I gather, could double, if not treble, the amount of foodstuffs and medical supplies that could be dropped into the area.
It is often said: "Why has not the war come to an end quickly? Our patience is exhausted." As I have said, I have been in the front line. I have seen the commanders there. They have told me, "We have been kept at this particular point since last October, since a year ago, and we are fed up. We want to move on and get on with the job." But, again, General Gowon has said "No," in order to minimise casualties and to allow for the refection of people. The Ibos come out of this territory, and, as I have indicated, as they come out so there is this taking up of their jobs again with renewed vigour. They are now being rehabilitated. One of the happiest of sights is to see the rehabilitation that is going on, with the yams being planted, the people erecting their own houses and homes, and work going on apace.
330 My only criticism of the Foreign Secretary's comment when asked why he did not send a Minister in to the other side is that he would have been more forthright had he said that it was because Ojukwu is the rebel man who has misled the nation and has brought so much tragedy and suffering to it.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Colin Jackson (Brighouse and Spenborough)
I was not able wholeheartedly to follow the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) in his description of tile Nigerian situation. We have to recognise that both the Federal Government and the régime in Biafra have defects. From all I have heard today, there is no doubt that General Ojukwu is an extremely stubborn man who insists on his point of view when the views of all of Nigeria might, perhaps, be better listened to. There is no doubt also that in some aspects the Federal Government is inefficient, and desperately inefficient. There is no doubt, too, that some of the generals are the most extreme form of hawks, who positively relish as much combat as there is.
I want to address my remarks only to the general question of security rather than of secession. My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths) quite correctly emphasised the point that if we can enable that territory of Biafra to have its own security, then government of all the Federal territory may be a possibility. But without that recognition I cannot see, quick kill or otherwise, that we will ever get a settlement. Instead, we will only get a bigger drifting into bloodshed. Bearing in mind the mental and physical control that General Ojukwu has over the Biafrans, I do not think that the Federal Army, with its relative inefficiency—and, on balance, I am in favour of inefficiencies in armies—has enough about it to finish off Biafra. Therefore, I feel that the idea of total Federal control over the whole of Nigeria is not a possibility.
On the other hand, I cannot follow some hon. Members on both sides in their total espousal of the Biafran case. I have an immense admiration, as has my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly, for the Ibos. I do not want to see—as must be the logical conclusion 331 of "Ibos for Iboland"—the Ibo people confined to an area of 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. of the whole of Nigeria. These people are immensely talented and able. They should be there to serve all of Nigeria, and beyond it. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christ-church has referred to the many millions of Ibo people now living and serving outside the area of Biafra. I want to see these barriers down and the Ibos taking a full part, particularly an economic part, in Nigeria. Separate territories of Biafra and Nigeria will never assume the former total Nigerian position of prosperity and ability.
It might be argued that Biafra would survive and flourish if it were allowed to take into its general control the minority communities—the "river people" sometimes referred to and others—but the Biafrans would then be doing to the river people the very thing that they complain the Federal Government want to do to them.
Unless we deal with the question of security I do not believe that we shall get a settlement. Most of the discussions this afternoon have gone away from this central issue. We must, after the cease-fire, have a very substantial cooling-off period, but I do not think that it would be sufficient just to have the policing of the area referred to as Biafra, controlled by the Ibo leadership. I do not think this would enable the leadership of Colonel Ojukwu to come to the conference table with any sense of soundness.
The suggestion by the noble Lord the Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) of a Commonwealth police force drawn from Africa may have some significance. On occasion when one mentions a Commonwealth police force certain people in the Foreign Office have a tendency to yawn, but let us be specific. Let us see if we can combine these ideas. I agree with the Foreign Secretary that the main initiative for peace in Africa must come from O.A.U. It cannot come from white or pink Westerners outside poking their noses in. Could we have a combination of a force from Zambia and Tanzania on the one side, sympathetic to Biafra mainly because they do not want it completely obliterated, and Kenya and Uganda on the other side, sympathetic 332 to the Federal Nigerian Republic? This is a suggestion that Commonwealth nations in Africa, two on each side, should supply an additional security force for the vital cooling off period which the country will require.
We shall have to wait and see what possibility there is of new talks through the intervention of the Emperor of Ethiopia. I still insist that we must strive for the idea of a united Nigeria. One can have all the briefs in the world about Balkanisation. I had one from the British Biafra Society last night. Its history was not too good, but it was well written. As someone who is passionately sympathetic towards Biafra and who admires the Ibo people, I want to see a united Nigeria. Some of us are old enough to remember the struggle to prevent Katanga leaving the Congo. Some of us can imagine what would happen if the Nile Delta were split off as a rich part of Egypt or if the Copper Belt were taken from Zambia. Around the world one can see this kind of danger, if San Paulo left Brazil or the Djakarta region left Indonesia.
I am in favour of all efforts to keep the unity of Nigeria and not to allow the fragmentation of one part of Africa from another so that it would become a black slum. I hope that new initiatives and new peace endeavours in Addis Ababa will be successful, but we have to recognise that it must be a confederation and Biafra for a very considerable period must have its security under its own control. Otherwise, I am afraid it will not come into such a confederation.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Hornby (Ton bridge)
I certainly share the view expressed by the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Colin Jackson) that the aim must be to try to see the re-emergence of a united Nigeria. I share a great deal of the thoughts the hon. Gentleman expressed about ways in which that might yet be achieved.
I suppose that running through the debate there have been three main fears which make up this picture. The first is the fear that the war may continue, the loss of life and the suffering and starvation continue, of which the cameras have told us so much and by which people understand the tragedy so clearly. That is 333 the fear which everyone in this House wants to see ended and one which is easy to comprehend.
The second fear is one of which Governments rather than people are aware, that Nigeria as a whole might disintegrate with all that that might mean not just for the Ibo people in one corner of the territory, but for the whole 56 peoples in that area and many in areas surrounding it. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said that there were some circumstances in which secession was justifiable. I believe that in the circumstances of Nigeria it would be irresponsible to pursue that thought too far when looking at the consequences which secession in one place might add up to in other corners of the country.
The third fear of which many of us are aware, particularly Governments, is the fear that so long as the war continues—in the words of the Foreign Secretary—international conflict might be superimposed on a local civil war. That indeed is a fear which one should not lightly set aside at a time when Russia and Britain and France—although she may deny it Portugal and South Africa and who knows what other countries are involved in a conflict in a continent which has enough divisions of its own. There are 31 African States supporting one side and four States supporting the other. There is enough divisiveness in the world without looking for further divisions.
I want to concentrate on why I believe it is important that Nigeria should not disintegrate. The first reason is that about 90 per cent. of the country is actively expressing and trying to practise some unity at present. We talk of a civil war, but we forget that in geographical terms we are talking of a country four or five times the area of this country, fighting an area the size of a large English county. That is the scale of the conflict in terms which we should not lightly forget. If in trying to solve one tragic problem we produced a host of others in this area, we may have done more destruction than we have succeeded in healing wounds.
It is my belief that if secession were to succeed in one place that would lead 334 to disintegration in others. If there were no hope of the Ibos being drawn again into the heart of Nigeria the Central Government would lose heart, the Yorubas would go their way and Nigeria would be left with a landlocked north whose people might say, "We shall not be cut off From the sea" and march to the south. I do not know what their choice would be, but the dangers of thoughts of that happening are very real.
We talk of the secession of Biafra, but what does it mean? This area now under the control of Colonel Ojukwu is not by any stretch of the imagination viable as an independent nation. I cannot imagine the Federal Government saying, "We shall draw back our troops and you will have more of the territory which is now ours". In that case a non-viable State would be asking for secession.
Alternatively, if by any stretch of the imagination or change of military fortunes the boundaries were to be drawn round a larger Biafra, it would not be an Ibo heartland but many other peoples who, more than most, fear the idea of an Ibo domination, just as the Ibos fear for their security in other areas. I went to the River State only recently. That is an area which was previously in the Eastern Region under Ibo domination. It is there that the fears of Ibo secession and of the re-creation of an Ibo State comprehending these minority groups are strongest. There are fears on both sides in this conflict, and secession will not solve them.
Only recently we debated the question of development. If this area of Nigeria is to prosper, is it better that the oil revenues of the area should be spread over the whole of the 56 million people, or that they should be snatched by a small proportion of the population, with the result that they would corner the lot and become an over-wealthy sheikhdom with all the dangers of smash-and-grab politics, resulting in further warfare in the area? I do not see peace coming from that source; only discouragement once again on the Continent of Africa, which needs a success story some time, and soon. There were many hopes not many years ago that Nigeria might be one of the success stories.
Those are the reasons why I see no hope for the future in secession with the probabilities, rather than the possibilities 335 of the disintegration of these 56 million people.
But to say that is to state only half the case if one seems to ignore the genuine fears of the Ibos for their security. Although more than half of them are now living under Federal control, amongst the Ibos in Biafran-held territory the fears are genuine: they do not know what would happen to them if they were to return to their homes. This is a fear which by every means in their power the Federal Government, their friends, and others must try to break down.
I have seen the abandoned property schemes in other parts of the country. I have seen the refugee camps. I am convinced of the genuiness of the intentions of those in the Federal Government to whom I have spoken to ensure the safety of the Ibos on return. The international observers are convinced, too. The problem is to get the message through to the people living in Biafra.
I have three suggestions. I do not know to what extent they can be followed up. First, the more influence that can be brought to bear on representatives of the Federal Government here to make contacts, as they have done through Dr. Azikiwe, with Biafrans outside Biafra and persuade them to write home to their relatives and make contact in every way possible—through journalists and others travelling about, of whom there are many outside Biafra—the better.
Secondly, it remains crucial that no mistake should be made in the Federal areas about the security of those Ibos who are in those territories.
Thirdly, I suggest that, following the publicity given to certain distinguished Ibos who have re-emerged in Federal-held areas, it would certainly be worth trying, with the help of international guarantees, to arrange for groups of people—this would obviously be a subject for negotiation; it would be difficult for Colonel Ojukwu to accept this—to come out perhaps with international guarantors accompanying them, go to their homeland, see whether it was safe, and then return and report.
Finally, I come to the question of Britain's rôle which is what the House is concerned with in this debate. Despite 336 the concern that has been expressed on both sides of the House about arms supply, I remain of the opinion that it is not a dirty thing to supply the weapons for internal security, and perhaps for external security, to a government who have not the means or who do not wish to expend their resources on building up their own armaments. If a friendly Commonwealth nation asks, at the time of independence or subsequently, "Will you provide us with the arms for our security forces?", it is not wrong for this nation to say, "Yes".
If that point of view is accepted, the leading article in The Times today becomes all the more ridiculous. It seems to suggest that, on the one hand, it is reasonable to agree to supply arms and, on the other, if anything happens to make it necessary to use the weapons, the facilities should be immediately withdrawn so that the country which was supplying the arms ceases to be a good friend and immediately tries to put itself into the position of being a potential conciliator. There could scarcely be a worse basis for successful international relations and trust. I am sorry to say that this attitude is not wholly out of keeping with the line that The Times has taken on more than one occasion in its judgments on this issue.
Next, if a unilateral cut-off is not seen as a satisfactory policy, is there much prospect of a multilateral one?
My view is that, although multilateral control is a worthy aim, there is not much prospect of its success unless there is proper inspection and control at the point where weapons are received. It is much easier to control them there—in Nigeria and Biafra—than at the point of departure. As to future needs, our policy should be concentrated on these points. First, wherever we can we should try to open the doors for negotiation and conciliation. The best point of contact is to try, against all hopes and recent experience, to get agreement with France. One of the tragedies of the situation is that the divisions in Europe, historically and more recently, have led to divided councils first in the Middle East and now in West Africa. The damage done is very great and I hope for better times.
Secondly, we should see if we can achieve a cease-fire so that talks can start, or even encourage the beginning of 337 talks before the cease-fire starts. Thirdly, we must be ready with emergency aid on a substantial scale once any talks begin. It is vitally important if talks take place that nothing should happen to make firing begin again. We must immediately create a vested interest in less starvation and more security.
We should help whenever we can with administrative advisers, engineers and so forth to tackle all the massive problems of reconstruction that will follow the war. A great deal is at stake—the prospect of a part of Africa, more blessed economically than other parts of Africa, becoming an area of stability. This is being prevented because as yet the varying tribes, and it is not just the Ibos versus the rest, there are many others, have not yet succeeded in living together. There is just a chance that out of war may emerge a greater maturity, a considerable fear of pushing tribal divisions too far, and over the brink. Anything that can be done to help the two sides get together should be done, but it will not be achieved by unilaterally taking decisions to withdraw support from the Federal Government.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Henig (Lancaster)
What has worried many people in this continuing public debate has been the casual way in which it appeared that the initial decision was taken by the British Government, on the outbreak of hostilities, to supply arms. The tragedy is that because this decision was made at the beginning it has apparently become progressively more difficult to change it later. If this were an academic exercise we would like to look at the way the decision was taken originally, but I do not suppose that we are now likely to find out very much about it.
What we are entitled to ask is what changes have occurred since this initial decision? It seems that there are two essential changes. First, looking over history, it would appear that one of the qualifications for statehood or nationhood has tended regrettably to be baptism by fire. If this is the case, and it was in the last century with Greece, for example, surely now that Biafra has undergone two years of war, two years during which it has in many ways increased its cohesion as a country, it 338 has entitlement to the same kind of recognition?
Secondly, this area which is now covered by Biafra is a homogenous one, in which the Ibos are in the overwhelming majority. If it is accepted that Biafra as it now exists should have national independence, there might be a problem as to whether it would be economically viable, but there would not be the problem of minority tribes. These are important facts which should be taken into account.
The chief worry among many on this side of the House about our Government's policy has been that we have taken sides. I am glad to see the Foreign Secretary has returned, because I would like to put this point to him. The curiosity of the debate is that when it is suggested that Britain mediates or takes some role in bringing about a settlement we are told that the O.A.U. will do this, this is an African matter. Is there a dualism about this—that it is for the Africans to make peace but for the Europeans to supply the implements of war? If so, this is the crudest form of neo-colonialism which I have come across. There is a further dualism about saying that Nigeria is an independent country and yet we are supplying arms to it. To my great shame we also have to listen to a succession of British Government spokesmen often giving the policy, not of this country, but of the Federal Government. When we see a small headline, perhaps an inadvertent headline, in The Times referring to the Parliamentary Secretary being briefed in Lagos, that increases our sense of shame. Surely our Government should be sufficiently independent of Lagos to take their own stand.
The question has been raised of the scope for initiatives. I feel strongly that, after two years of appalling massacre and with the danger of more deaths and starvation, the time has come for this country, which is regarded by the world as being deeply implicated, to take a stand and action. If General Gowon is as great a man as many hon. Members have said, and as Government spokesmen have often made out, we should perhaps take a slight risk with him. I have a suspicion that General Gowon would not like Nigeria to become completely dependent 339 for its supply of arms on the Soviet Union. If he were faced with this as a possibility, he might well be more flexible in his approaches to the other side. The threat of our stopping the supply of arms might well help wonderfully to concentrate the minds of certain people in Lagos. We must use our influence.
Secondly, there has been talk of the difficulty of achieving an international arms embargo. There is the question of France not admitting that she is supplying arms. The formula which some of us would like to put to the Government is this. Why not ask these countries, not so much to cease supplying arms, but to join us in an internationally policed operation to stop all arms getting through? That would avoid awkward questions about who is actually supplying the arms.
My third point concerns the relief of starvation. It may well be that Article 27 of the United Nations Charter can be interpreted as suggesting that the international community have no right to interfere in the domestic affairs of individual countries. But I cannot accept the argument that if the United Nations intervened in a situation, which may be a terrible situation, it would be the end of the United Nations. I am sure that the argument can be put the other way. The League of Nations ended precisely because international statesmen washed their hands of a series of problems which were deemed to be domestic or internal to individual countries. Starvation is a world problem affecting us all. If the two sides cannot get together to find a way of solving it, it is perhaps for us and other countries to act independently and, if necessary, unilaterally.
§ Mr. James Johnson
Is my hon. Friend suggesting that we should invade East Nigeria unilaterally as a Commonwealth sister State of Nigeria? Surely not.
§ Mr. Henig
No. I would suggest, as a possible formula, that we could parachute in certain supplies of food and medical equipment which are needed. I doubt if our planes would be shot down by anybody if we tried to do that.
There has been much talk about who is to blame for the two sides not coming 340 together. The truth is that we do not have exact information because the talks which take place are always through different people and by different mechanisms. The Red Cross and Biafra agree on something and the Nigerians turn it down; the Nigerians and the Red Cross agree on something else and the Biafrans turn that down. The Red Cross, by its nature, will agree on anything which deals with the fundamental problem of ending starvation. Its difficulty is to get the two sides to agree. Our rôle in this difficulty has not been totally creditable. It is of no value our saying that the Biafrans turn down certain proposals or one day make dove noises and the next hawk noises, or that one day they say, "Security is more important than sovereignty", and the next day say something different. What would be lost by our country asking whether a Minister can go to Biafra and at the same time making it clear that this involves no diplomatic recognition but is simply a fact-finding tour to try to help? I do urge my right hon. Friends to show a little flexibility on this one point, which is most genuinely suggested in many parts of the House.
It is sometimes suggested that moral considerations play no part in politics. I would not accept this line at all. On the other hand, it can be said that, if one simply sets up a row of moral standards, they might not be helpful in guiding us in major political considerations. One should not approach things that way. However this is a civil war which has dragged on for two years. For political reasons, we decided on a course aimed at safeguarding our influence and trying to bring the war to a speedy end. We have not brought it to a speedy end. We have not saved our influence, and I submit that, every month that this war goes on, the possibility of a united Nigeria in any meaningful sense becomes more and more remote. So our policy has failed.
But then we have the moral enormity of what we have been trying to do. We have been saying that a people numbering, seven, eight or nine million should not have the right to rule themselves, because that does not suit our convenience. To stop them getting that right, we have supplied the people from whom they are trying to win their freedom with the means of their suppression. 341 Go back through all centuries and this country, with its mother of Parliaments, has never done a thing like this. Why was it that, in Italy, people looked always to Britain as their fighters for their independence when they were seeking it? Why do the Greeks always remember the way that this country helped them in their battles against the Turks? Now we are changing tradition, and to our great and eternal shame, it is a Labour Government, who should believe in the freedoms of all peoples, who are doing this. I plead with my right hon. Friends if they will remember nothing else, at least to think of their place in history and the way in which the great name of this country is being dragged in the mire through our action in this conflict. I urge them to show more flexibility and to change their policy before it is too late.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Hamilton)
I am one of the 151 M.P.s who have signed the Motion asking the Government to change their minds. One understands that it takes courage for a Government to change their minds when their course has been set on a specific policy for so long. I do not want to rehearse all the arguments in favour of stopping the supply of arms, but wish only to put some additional points.
First, I take the old argument that if we do not supply arms, Russia will. Which is the more likely—that Russia will go on supplying arms if we go on, or that Russia will go on if we stop? We know that if we go on Russia will go on: that is certain. What we do not know is what would happen if we stopped. If there is doubt about it, that must help to stop the war of containment, which would in itself reduce the number of lives lost.
I find the argument about British interests a rather sordid one. In particular, I think of a Question on 17th November, when the Secretary of State was asked:…whether he will make a statement on the current situation in Nigeria as it affects British interests."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1969; Vol. 791, c. 176.]The answer was all about financial interests; so British interests, apparently, reduce to the sordid basis of being 342 immediately interpreted as financial interests.
In this matter, I would quote what the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) said in a previous debate, that it is not intelligent to think that one can do business in a cemetery. That was one of the most telling remarks ever made in any of our debates on Nigeria.
British interests, to me, mean the interest and attitude of mind of people. The Minister can surely be in no doubt that if he left this Chamber and went into almost any town or village in Scotland or England, he would find that an average sample of people were against this policy. As a fair man, he will admit this. The national opinion polls prove it, if proof should be needed and if one accepts that kind of proof. But I am sure that he is not basically in doubt about that. So his position, for his Government, must be that he is following a policy which he knows to be against the expressed wish of so many Members of this House and a majority of people outside.
On the Balkanisation bogey, it is clear that Britain is not simply an arms salesman. If this were so, we should be selling arms to anyone who asked us as a commercial venture. We do not sell arms to South Africa—I approve of that—so that means that we are introducing moral judgments. The moral judgment here, apparently, is that we know best and that we do not want balkanisation.
But is the opposite of Balkanisation sometimes all that attractive? Russia does not want Balkanisation. We know what is happening: she prefers satellite countries. I prefer free countries; so Balkanisation in itself will not do as a reason. One must look at the specific example only, because one can find just as many examples where the opposite is less attractive. Poland, Finland, Latvia and Rumania are all products of Balkanisation.
Then there is the argument that there is some virtue in size. By any standards, whether African or by comparison with European countries or even on a world basis, a people of eight or nine million represent quite a large country. As to the argument of viability, there are some countries with very poor soil and a small area—one could mention Israel—which 343 survive against common sense. So I do not accept that one can say of a rich part of the country, as Biafran territory would be, that it would not be viable: that is absurd.
On the moral judgment again, the faults on both sides have been well rehearsed and there is no need to repeat them; but why are the Ibos fighting in such a determined way against the odds? If the case is that they are afraid of being exterminated, it is understandable. But the Government discount that argument and say that the Ibos are returning to their homes. That makes it even more difficult for them to explain what the Ibos are fighting for.
This brings me to what I believe to be the real reason why they are fighting. I quote a Church of Scotland missionary who has been a missionary in both parts of the country and who wants only to stop the war. He told me that he believes that Colonel Ojukwu has his people fighting for their survival as a people. That can be the only explanation, because the others are being gradually whittled away by evidence brought out in the House and elsewhere.
What is meant by "agreement"? Surely it means that each side gives something and takes something. It is not a matter of surrender. But some of the proposals seem to suggest the total surrender by one side in order to reach agreement. I should like to give two examples of this.
The Prime Minister's visit gave many of us some hope that perhaps as a result the war would be ended in some way. I certainly hoped so. I hoped that he would go to both sides, even though he had announced in advance that he would not do so, which detracted from the full value of that opportunity. Even if he had only refrained from saying what his intention was, he might have had a better chance of meeting both the main men in this sad story.
My right hon. Friend said that Colonel Ojukwu was unwilling to meet him while he was in Africa. Those of us who watched the shadow dance saw Colonel Ojukwu saying that he would not meet the Prime Minister in one place, while the Prime Minister said that he would not meet Colonel Ojukwu in another, and in 344 the end they did not meet. We were given an explanation of this. The Prime Minister said that he did not go to Biafra because to do so would have meant its recognition. The diplomatic language of the 19th century ought not to be used in a 20th century war. Who cares about a word like "recognition"? We want to stop the war.
Who would have blamed the Prime Minister of Great Britain if he had said that he was not recognising Biafra, but wanted to meet Colonel Ojukwu and that was the only place where he could meet him? Who would have thought less of the Prime Minister if he had done that? If he had done that, perhaps the war would now be over. Who knows? Perhaps I overestimate the Prime Minister's ability, but should he not have tried everything he could?
I take my second example from what was said by the Foreign Secretary on 12th June, 1968:If we make the supposition that it were the intention of the Federal Government … to take advantage of a military situation in order to throw aside"—and this is the phrase—with contempt any terms of a reasonable settlement, then the arguments which justified the policy we have so far pursued would fall, and we would have to re-consider.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th June, 1968; Vol. 766, c. 293.]The phrase "reasonable settlement" means that something must be given. It is not a matter of Nigeria agreeing so long as the Biafrans give up their whole case and so long as the Biafrans start by agreeing that there should be a united Nigeria.
It would be better to start a meeting without any pre-conditions. Both sides are to blame. As the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) has said, words are coming between them, but this is exactly what we should be trying to overcome. An agreement requires each of the two sides to give up something, and here is the Foreign Secretary admitting on a reasonable interpretation of his language of a year ago that this is the moment to reconsider.
The answer to the question of who is to be the mediator is that it is clearly not the country supplying arms to one of the two participants in the struggle. The Organisation of African Unity is 345 a mediator. It is a pleasant idea that Africa should have all its problems solved by Africans, and on the face of it it seems completely logical, but when one examines the statements of the O.A.U., one finds that they call first for a united Nigeria and secondly for a suspension of hostilities. It is not acting as a mediator to ask that one side should give in its whole case before it starts. Would it not be better for the Government to look for other mediators? What is wrong with having many mediators? Anyone able to try to help should do so. I think that the solution would be for the Foreign Secretary to mediate, but why does he not at least find other persons who could try?
What is the Government's main object? Is it to stop the war or to continue with the doctrine that Nigeria must be one country? Which is more important? After all, not even the Foreign Secretary can know with certainty what the outcome will be, what will be produced in this part of the world 10 years from now. As he does not know and can only guess, should not his main object be to stop the war? If the war were stopped, and the sooner the better, these two States would find a way in which to live together, and in the end it will be they, and not the House of Commons, who will have to find the way.
The Government have pursued a policy of supplying arms to Nigeria and offering friendship to both sides and it has not worked. Is it not time to try a different policy? The Government are in a difficulty of logic. They argue that South Vietnam has a right to self-determination, according to what was said last night. It could be argued that Vietnam is on country, but the Government support American policy, which is to split that country and to recognise the right of self-determination of the bit. In Nigeria the Government support the Federal Government and say that Nigeria is one country and that the bit which is fighting for self-determination has no right to do so. The two cases are exactly opposite.
This war may last a long time. Many people from Scotland have served in this area on both sides, and I have tried to meet as many as possible. The view is that if the war goes on one thing is certain, and it is that the country called 346 Biafra will be united by its experiences. What will happen to the rest is an imponderable. It may or may not find another formula, another confederation, but that is what people I have spoken to believe. I therefore add my voice to those who urge the Government to think again and change their course.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. A. H. Macdonald (Chislehurst)
I shall be very brief, less than five minutes. I am glad to have the opportunity to say a word, because I have never so far contemplated the Government's foreign policy with any enthusiasm. I think it has been pusillanimous in Rhodesia, totally misguided in Europe and in Vietnam almost criminal, and I was one of the 49 who voted against it last night. But on Biafra I think the Government are right.
In a speech for which I did not otherwise care very much the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) suggested that we should have regard to moral issues, and it is precisely because I think the Government are morally right that I shall be voting with them if there is a vote later this evening.
We all join in sympathy for the agony and distress being undergone in Nigeria. I am astonished that we do not look at the plain and self-evident truth, which is that the Ojukwu régime has constantly refused to allow any alleviation of suffering. It refused to allow a mercy corridor and flights from Lagos, and it refused to allow the random calling down of flights of food coming from anywhere else. Is it not evident that the real reason for the refusal is that it might be discovered where the arms were coming from? This man is using the suffering of his people as a pawn to blackmail world opinion which is an act of unparalleled wickedness I am astonished and distressed that so many of my hon. Friends seem to be able to give aid and comfort to this man by placing him on an equitable level with the Federal Government.
If it were security that Colonel Ojukwu was after, the fighting could stop now. The Federal Government time and again has offered terms to give adequate security to the Ibos, including their own region with an Ibo governor, an Ibo council, Ibo police and an external force to protect them against aggression. But 347 I suspect that it is, as he has always said, sovereign independence that he is after. He is a man I would not care to entrust with sovereignty. Apart from the sufferings of the people, which he contemplated with equanimity, there are the atrocities which he perpetrated on the Rivers tribes when they were under his control, a fact which has had curiously little publicity, rather to my distress.
I find no necessity to look for comparisons and parallels in America or Gibraltar. I see the most exact parallel in Katanga. When Katanga tried to break away from the Congo, many of us came to see that this was an ambiguous and undesirable development, and we resisted it. I cannot see any difference in the situation in Biafra now, except that the propaganda put out by Colonel Ojukwu is much more copious and more skilful. But the falsity of the propaganda is now being demonstrated. I was most deeply influenced in my thinking on this matter—and this is what made me come down in favour of the Government's policy—by that well-known article in the Tablet about a year ago, which was written by a man who went out there as a supporter of the Ojukwu régime and found to his astonishment that what he had been told about it was a pack of lies.
I am deeply impressed that so many of the States of the O.A.U. have been supporters of the Federal Government, and this should weigh heavily with us when the Africans come to a decision about this matter. The Federal Government have made one concession after another in an attempt to reach an agreement, but these concessions have not been met with any parallel concession by the tyrant of Biafra. I fear, if we continue with this process, we shall allow this man to set a precedent, so that in future usurping despots may rise up either in Nigeria or in other African countries and create a whole series of petty, tiny states which are not viable on their own. This man, particularly as he is responsible for and allows the suffering of his people to continue, seems a most monstrous despot. I am against this man. I am for those who want to bring the régime to an end. Therefore, I have warmly supported the Government's policy in this matter.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
We are discussing with great seriousness a moral issue about which we are divided among ourselves, but, more than a moral issue, if anything can be more than that, we are discussing a civil war. Civil wars divide houses and families and they divide this House.
I have listened to the arguments put forward by those who support the Federal Government. I have been struck by the sincerity and clearness of conviction with which they have put forward those views, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) However, I do not share those views.
Because I am divided from my hon. Friends and because I am faced with a searching moral decision, I am disappointed not that the Foreign Secretary has failed me by, as it were, being morally wrong, but that the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister have shown us no initiative either yesterday or today.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) gave us an initiative. He suggested a change in Government policy not in airy-fairy moralistic terms, but in the factual and positive steps which we ought to take. He reminded the Foreign Secretary that an initiative was now necessary, that enough is enough on this moral issue after 2 million have died through war and starvation.
It may be that once we thought we were right—I do not agree that we were—to give diplomatic support to the Federation we had conceived, created, nourished and brought to life and did not want to see it disappear into anarchy and chaos, because we were justly afraid that such cracks would spread throughout Africa. But I feel that, for all the sympathy which the Prime Minister showed for the problems of Vietnam and Nigeria yesterday, he was wooden in refusing to show any initiative, and to give some leadership to this House and to those outside.
It is not only the arms that we have supplied to the Federal Government that have given them strength. More important, it is the diplomatic support 349 which we have given. We have helped a warring nation fighting a tragic war. We have made such a nation respectable and we have pointed the finger of scorn at a nation. a people, a community, struggling for freedom. Are we, from this Chamber of freedom, to point the finger of sneer and scorn at a little people struggling for what they believe to be freedom?
It will be difficult to reach the negotiation table, but it is not beyond the wit and skill of our Government—not even this Government—if only they would stand and look again at the problems and realise that we need initiatives from here to create an approach to the negotiation table. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire has given an idea of what those initiatives should be.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
this has been a remarkable debate. I am only sorry that even now there are many hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber who would like to take part in the discussion but cannot.
I agree with a lot, though not all, of what my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) has just said. I think that this situation has the essence of tragedy. I was taught at school that tragedy is not a conflict between right and wrong but a conflict between right and right, and this is precisely what we are seeing today in this discussion. I believe that those on both sides, not of the House, but of the argument, which is different, have put forward their views with equal sincerity and conviction.
I think that I must also agree with my hon. Fiend that there is something a little lacking in what the Government said today. I must accept the logic of their argument, which I think is impeccable. but sometimes it is necessary to go beyond logic arid to employ a little more imagination. I am not quite certain whether more imagination could not be employed by the Government, and I believe that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said. there are certain avenues of approach which could be explored in a situation where it is possibly respectable to argue that nothing can be done, but where, on the whole, it is better in human terms to try to do 350 something. At least doing something is better than doing nothing.
I will try, as best I can, to analyse the arguments, particularly on the question of arms supply, which I think is the practical argument before the House today. First, this is not, surely, a material issue alone. There are those who say—I have seen it in the newspapers—that the policy of the British Government is dictated solely by British economic interests in Nigeria. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) tried to suggest that many arguing on one side were arguing from the point of view of Britain's economic interest. This clearly is important. This House must never neglect the economic interests of the British people. It is part of our job to protect our economic interests, and they should not be neglected either by the House of Commons or by the Government, but they cannot be decisive in an issue where the whole question of moral decisions has been raised. We must not neglect the economic issues, but we must not, on the other hand, for a moment think that the economic factors are decisive. Nor do I think that spokesmen on either side of the House have argued from that point of view.
I think that most of us accept the policy of this country being a supplier of arms to other friendly countries, in particular to Commonwealth countries. I suggest that if we accept that policy we must accept the consequences of it. This does not involve to any extent those hon. Members who are against all sales of arms abroad. There are, I think, a number of hon. Members who say that it is wrong for this country to supply armaments at all. They are completely absolved from this argument. But those who believe in our supplying arms to friendly Commonwealth countries must accept the consequences of that supply.
The first consequence is that these arms will be used in a war, even perhaps in a civil war, when the State acquiring the arms is threatened by any form of insurrection, or believes itself so to be threatened. War inevitably involves hardship and suffering to the entire population of the country that is involved, and one must frankly accept that if we supply arms to any country they may be used in circumstances where dire 351 results may follow, often, inevitably, for some of the civilian population as well, It is wrong to pretend, for example, that blockade is something new in warfare. Blockade has always been a method of war, no doubt a rigorous method, but one that has been used throughout the centuries.
We must recognise that the purchaser of British arms is entitled to expect that he can rely on the supply of those arms when he needs them. If he thought he could get those arms only when he did not need them he would not come to us. He must be entitled to say "I buy arms from you in the expectation that I can use them when I need them". If we cut off from him the supply of those arms in his time of need, inevitably he would regard that as an act of discrimination and hostility.
§ Mr. Grimond rose—
§ Mr. Maudling
I am sorry, but my time is short. I possibly will deal with the right hon. Gentleman's point in what I am about to say.
The argument that one provides arms to people who expect to be able to use them when they want them cannot be indefinitely extended without qualification. If the arms were to be put to a use wholly repugnant to the conscience of any civilised people, then clearly an entirely different situation would arise. One example would be if the arms were used for a deliberate policy of genocide. I would agree entirely with those who say that if it were to be shown that British-supplied arms were being used for such purposes, the supply should be cut off tomorrow. On that matter there should be reviewed if continuing slaughter could be no doubt at all.
Secondly, the supply of arms should be prevented by ending their supply. This is another condition. If by ending the supply of arms one could bring to an end a devastating war and massive human privation, once again one would be justified in saying to the customer "We cannot supply any more on moral grounds. We are not entitled to do so." I must add a qualification. If one withdraws the supply of arms from friends to whom one has been supplying them and if as a result the enemy of those friends obtains 352 sufficient arms to do the thing that caused one to stop the supply of arms in the first place, then one is back where one started. There is that general factor in the computation.
These are the broad principles. I turn now to the practical factors in Nigeria.
First, it is very hard indeed to get the truth. There is no doubt about the scale of the tragedy, which is massive. But major details are obscured by a fog of propaganda emanating from both sides. I throw into the wastepaper basket those envelopes that come from somebody in Geneva. It is difficult to get the facts. I would stress the importance of the mission which is being undertaken by my noble friend Lord Carrington, who at the moment is trying to do the best he can to ascertain the facts on both sides. I am sorry that his report is not available at this stage since he is still in the course of his travels.
I am sorry that the Government have not sent anyone to the Biafra side to hear their point of view. The Foreign Secretary dealt with this matter conscientiously, but his answer did not entirely convince the House. It is a pity that the opportunity has not been taken to get the view of the Biafrans as well as that of the Nigerians.
The Foreign Secretary put forward the argument that it would be wrong at this particular moment, when there is a chance of important and valuable talks taking place, for the Government to make a move of this kind. I accept his argument on that one narrow point, but his argument about the immediate situation does not deal with the question why something was not done earlier. Nor did he deal with the question that, should the current initiative fail—and we hope that it will not fail, for if it succeeds the whole problem will be solved, and thank heaven if it does succeed—would he be prepared to send somebody from the British Government to listen to the arguments on both sides? The House, clearly, would like to know whether the objection put forward by the Foreign Secretary is purely temporary or lasting.
My first point, then, is that it is very difficult to get the facts on either side and that we should try to do more to get them.
The blockade has always been used as a means of warfare. One cannot, 353 therefore, say to the blockading Power, "You should stop your blockade because it is becoming effective." That may be a hard thing to accept, but it is reasonable in the context of the history of human conflict.
I believe that it is unprecedented in the history of human conflict for a blockading Power to show a willingness to allow supplies of food to pass to those who are being blockaded. We must not forget this. Also, unless this offer—I understand it to be a genuine offer from the Federal Government—can be shown to be false, then I do not for a moment believe that the pathetic starvation of people in Biafra can be blamed on the Federal Government or in any sense whatever on the United Kingdom.
We would like to know more—I am sure that the Minister will explain this when he replies—about what is holding up the movement of food into Biafra. On the face of it, it seems that Colonel Ojukwu is the main obstacle; but what are his motives? We must be clear, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, in recognising the real and genuine fear that underlies so much of what Colonel Ojukwu is doing. It may be that his real motive is a genuine fear that by allowing these food supplies through he will endanger the security and future of his Ibo people, which he rightly holds so dear in everything he does. These are doubts which the Minister must do his best to resolve.
It is in such a situation, when one has a traditional blockade and starvation as a weapon of war, when the blockading power is offering to facilitate the supply of food and when the blockaded are apparently refusing it, that someone outside must break the deadlock, for there is no other way of solving the problem.
This is an opportunity for Her Majesty's Government to take an initiative, and I suggest that what my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire proposed earlier is precisely such an initiative. His suggestion of the use of helicopters to get over the tactical military difficulty of using Uli airfield could be a worth-while initiative.
With respect to the Foreign Secretary—who I know takes all these matters with deep seriousness and who has an intensive determination to do what he can to alleviate human suffering—I thought that 354 he did not give all the weight that he might have given to my right hon. Friend's suggestion.
It was a practical proposal and, if the Americans would help, it would be infinitely bigger in total scale as a practical way of getting food supplies to Biafra in circumstances which could not, on the face of it, be objectionable to the Federal Government and which should not, on the face of it, create in the minds of the Biafrans the sort of suspicion which, naturally, arises from the use of Uli airfield by incoming aircraft which might, it could be thought, be a cover for Federal aircraft wishing to attack their installations.
I urge the Government to think once more about my right hon. Friend's suggestion, which, so far, seems the only imaginative and positive proposal to have been put forward as a means of bringing the deadlock which exists between the two forces to an end.
Next we must consider whether the Federal Government are engaged in genocide, which, of course, we could not possibly support. I agree with the Foreign Secretary that, on the evidence to date, the answer is, "No". That must be so when one considers the way in which they have treated the Ibos in the areas they have occupied, and the general conduct of the Federal forces, certainly in the last year or so, has given the lie to the argument of genocide.
However, as the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) said, if this is the case, then what are the Ibos fighting for? The truth is that unreal fears may be realities; that what matters is not what will happen but what people fear will happen. Naturally, what underlies the resistance of the Ibos, led by Colonel Ojukwu, is not what may happen but what they fear could happen in certain circumstances.
I have had some experience of colonial affairs, and I remember some attempts to set up new constitutions which would guarantee the safety of minorities. I have seen those constitutions torn up like bits of paper and the guarantees for the safety of minorities thrown aside. No doubt Colonel Ojukwu and the Biafrans have seen the same thing. We all know it; it is one of the tragedies of Africa. Constitutions cannot guarantee the safety of minorities and, that being so, it is not 355 surprising that people should hold out for their own security by the means most immediately available to them.
But is there not an enormous possibility in the suggestion put forward of a Commonwealth force to deal with the short-term problem—and it is the short-term problem, involving all the bloodshed, starvation and misery, that needs to be solved. I do not believe that the Ibo people would be easily persuaded that, in the short term, constitutional arrangements would provide a satisfactory guarantee and, as I say, it is in the short term that the real problem has to be solved.
Can Biafra be economically viable as it stands? If it cannot be economically viable, is it sensible to look to its continuance as an independent State? I do not believe that the present Biafra can really be viable economically without access to the sea and without expansion into the area adjoining it. Many other tribes, non-Ibos, would not like to live under Ibo domination any more than the Ibos would like to live under Federal domination. That is a very important point that must be borne in mind in trying to be fair.
Can Britain attempt to mediate? I agree with the Prime Minister and with the Foreign Secretary that mediation in these matters is more appropriate to African countries, and probably comes more naturally and easily from them. More might perhaps have been done by British Governments in the past—I do not know—but the one thing of which I am absolutely certain is that the argument that we would be in a better position to mediate if we gave up the supply of arms is quite misguided. We might hope by giving up the supply of traditional arms to improve our position with the Biafrans but would lose all position whatsoever with the Nigerian Federal Government. So I do not think that this argument, though put forward from highly respectable sources, is practicable.
The final question is: should we continue to supply arms? What would happen if we stopped supplying the arms? This, surely, is what the argument is about. If we stopped the supply of these arms, would the Federal Government get the supplies elsewhere? I think that cer- 356 tainly they would. They would get more supplies from Russia—and would that do any good to Africa, to Britain, to the Nigerians, the Ibos or anyone else? If we stop the supply of arms and if the Nigerian Government get more supplies from the Russians, it will do no good for the genuine long-term development of West Africa, it will make no difference whatsoever to the war situation, and it will lead to no reduction whatsoever in the number of deaths from starvation or war or anything else.
If, on the other hand, our stopping of arms supplies led to the Federal Government getting a smaller amount of supplies in total, the war would be prolonged, and the Biafrans might advance again as they did some time ago, occupying territory now held once more by the Federal Government, and the chance of making any contribution at all to the reduction of human suffering in Nigeria would in no way be increased.
I conclude that the unilateral cutting off of arms supplies is not an acceptable policy. It might enable us to wash our hands of the business: it would not enable us to wash our consciences. It might be the easy way out of problems of human sufferings and human rights, but I do not believe that, when viewed in a hard, cold, sober light, it is the right course for us to pursue. What we must do—and we must press the Government on this, because we are not satisfied—is to make a further effort to achieve some international agreement on the holding back of arms supplies.
The Foreign Secretary said that it cannot be done through the United Nations. I am sure we all agree that the word of the Secretary-General should be completely accepted in this matter, but why not try? We could only be rebuffed, and it would do no harm. Why not make an effort outside the United Nations to rally international opinion, with the Russians and the French? People say that they are not supplying arms; so they cannot object to agreeing not to do so in future. Let us say, "Can't you come together and agree on an international pact to stop the supply of arms to these two sides locked in mortal and apparently enduring conflict?" Why should we not do that?
The Government say that it would not work, but, for heaven's sake, why 357 not try? This is our plea to the Government. We accept entirely the sincerity of the motives of hon. and right lion. Members opposite. We accept entirely that they share our view that an end to this slaughter, this bloodshed and starvation, must be found. But they should not sit back and say that these things are not possible. Let them for heaven's sake do something!
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. George Thomson)
This has been a serious, sombre and, in many ways, a harrowing debate. There has been deep feeling and deep conviction on the part of everyone in all quarters of the House. If I were to pick on any one speech, I think the House would be with me in picking the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths). He explained why it was no longer possible for him to be present, because of his illness. I choose that speech because of his deep feelings on this subject. I do not agree with all that he said, but if anyone has the right to speak about Nigeria, it is my right hon. Friend who was a distinguished Colonial Secretary and one of the architects of modern Nigeria. We all respect what he said when he described how he was working to the end of his last "shift" in Parliament.
Before I come to the main theme of this debate, the question of the Nigerian civil war, I think I have a duty to answer one point made by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) on another subject which he asked about in his opening speech. He asked what was now developing from the decision at The Hague summit on the question of the expansion of the European Economic Community. As the House will know, the Six have said that they require some time to prepare themselves for negotiations with us. We hope, and it is clear I think that many of the Six hope, that they will not require so long a; six months for this, but at least we are assured that the process will not take longer than six months. We are in constant and very close touch with all the Six member countries and with the Corn-mission, and through the various diplomatic channels available to us we shall seek to secure that in the discussions in the coming weeks the Six will take 358 account of the interests of an enlarged Community and avoid making that enlargement more difficult.
There is another point which I should mention on which the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) put a direct question to me yesterday. I was perhaps a little abrupt with him earlier that afternoon. I wish to try to make amends by saying that of course there have been many occasions when the Government have explained their attitude towards the question of a political federation. There is no obligation of any political federation or any separate kind of political unity by signing or adhering to the Treaty of Rome, but, as the Prime Minister has said in this House on a number of occasions, many of us feel that there is a case for developing institutions towards political unity in Europe. We have made a beginning, even while we are not members of the E.E.C., with our partners in W.E.U., and we hope to continue these important discussions in W.E.U. in the rather critical period before negotiations actually open.
Now I come to the main theme of this debate, and I begin by giving some new information which has reached us during the course of the debate on the important subject of Nigerian relief. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke yesterday about the fears which Colonel Ojukwu has expressed that the International Red Cross proposals for daylight flights might bring a danger of direct attack on Uli Airport. The International Red Cross has been negotiating patiently to try to devise clarification or assurances which would allay Colonel Ojukwu's fears and so perhaps enable the daylight relief flights to begin.
Late this afternoon, after my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs had finished speaking, we had a message by telegram from Lagos containing the text of an announcement which was made in Lagos this afternoon. In view of its evident importance, I think that the House would like to have it. It is headed:Daylight relief flights by the I.C.R.C. to Uli/Ihiala".This is the message:It has come to the knowledge of the Federal Military Government that the provisions of Clause 6.2 of the Agreement of 13th September, 1969 concluded with the I.C.R.C. have been misconstrued and are being 359 used by the rebels to refuse permission for the I.C.R.C. to commence daylight relief flights to the rebel enclave. The rebels have represented, for example, that the Nigerian Federal Government would take advantage of this clause, which says that this Agreement shall be without prejudice to military operations by the Federal Military Government to attack Uli/Ihiala when daylight flights operated by the I.C.R.C. are there.I know that a number of my hon. Friends have been very anxious about this.
The announcement continues:As an earnest of the Federal Government's good faith and intentions in concluding this agreement with the I.C.R.C., the Federal Government hereby declares that it is not the Government's intention that the Nigerian Air Force should attack Uli/Ihiala when I.C.R.C. aircraft are there during the hours of daylight covered by the Agreement nor is it the Government's intention that the Nigerian Air Force should escort and follow the I.C.R.C. flights engaged in the relief operation. There is nothing in the Agreement intended to secure any military advantage for the Federal Government from the relief operations.This is an important announcement in connection with our debate. I am sure that I speak for everyone in the House, whether or not they support the Government's policy in other respects, in voicing the most earnest hope that this new assurance by the Federal Government will enable Colonel Ojukwu immediately to agree to the inauguration of daylight relief flights so that there can be a substantial increase at once in the amount of food and medical supplies reaching the areas he controls. Surely with this clear undertaking by the Federal Government there can no longer be any rational fear that the airlift is to be used by the Federal forces to bring military advantage to the Federal side.
The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), in a speech which I thought was, if I may say so without embarrassing him, a reasonable analysis of the situation, complained that we had not taken sufficient initiatives in regard to various aspects of the Nigerian problem. In the light of the announcement which I have just read to the House, I remind the House that in many ways the progress which has been made between the International Red Cross and the Federal Government on the question of day relief flights owes a great deal to the various initiatives we have taken continuously over a period of time.
360 The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire suggested that, if daylight flights continued to be blocked, we should consider sending in relief by helicopters operating from aircraft carriers. The right hon. Gentleman said that this might enable about 500 tons a week to be taken in.
We on this side are always ready to accept, and indeed are seeking, constructive ideas, and we much appreciate the spirit in which this suggestion was put forward. The right hon. Gentleman, with his considerable knowledge of these problems, will be the first to realise that his suggestion of 500 tons a week is a very small quantity in relation to the need, which is calculated as between 300 and 600 tons a day.
Equally, I recognise on my side that, if the main flow of daylight relief were to remain blocked—we must all profoundly hope that it will not, as a result of the announcement that I have just read—500 tons would be a useful addition to the night flow through Joint Church Aid and might, if there was continued obstruction, help to create a situation which made adequate daylight relief more likely.
In view of the announcement I have just read, it is tremendously important for all our energies to be concentrated on getting the daylight flights going. I will bear the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion very carefully in mind and in the meantime I will have it examined to discover what possibilities it offers.
Another main theme of the debate which came up in many of the speeches and was raised again by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet in winding up is the question of arms going to both sides in the Nigerian civil war, the question whether an embargo could be imposed which would be effective, and the question whether the United Nations has a rôle to play in this. As I understand the debate, two rather different demands were made, one, that we should organise an effective embargo, the other that, even if we could not organise an effective embargo and even if, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said, the United Nations will not agree to organise one, we ought nevertheless to go through the motions of suggesting one so as to show 361 up the Russians. Perhaps I might deal with these matters separately.
On the first demand, as my right hon. Friend explained, other arms suppliers will not so far join in an arms embargo. We have tried hard to make progress on that. Equally, the United Nations will not agree to consider the problem. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) spoke about this, and there is no hon. Member whose views I should respect more on United Nations matters, but I can only tell him that all the advice which we have received, after going into the question most thoroughly—I refer not only to the views of the Secretary-General, U Thant, though I must say that the views of the Secretary-General of the United Nations are entitled to be taken into serious consideration here—is that the United Nations would regard such a move as coming under the rule regarding internal matters.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire expressed the hope that in relation to such a move a distinction could be drawn between the internal affairs of Nigeria, which he accepted would be covered by Article 2(7), and external intervention by means of arms supply. I can only tell him that, again, we have gone into this most throughly and we do not believe that that distinction can be sustained. With his immense experience of dealing with the United Nations, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman realises the difficulties in that respect.
The other suggestion made was that in any case, even though we could not secure an effective embargo and even though it could not be organised at the United Nations, we ought to go ahead in some way if only to produce the result of showing up the Russians. This is too serious a matter for that sort of approach. We are seeking here the end of bloodshed in a tragic civil war, not the scoring of a debating point against Mr. Brezhnev.
The other matter of great importance raised in the debate was the question whether the Government have done enough to try to find out more at first hand inside Biafra about the Biafran attitude. It is not really we in Britain who require to be satisfied about Biafran willingness to enter into the critical talks 362 which are being planned in Ethiopia. I think that we are inclined sometimes to presume too much to ourselves in the House on matters outside our borders. It is the African leaders who are seeking to arrange the talks who need to know whether both sides are willing to come to them.
What is of the utmost importance is that every possible encouragement and influence ought to be brought to bear on both sides to join in the direct talks which are at present being planned, and I should not like anything to be said or done by Her Majesty's Government which in any way discouraged the Biafran leadership from taking part in the talks.
Her Majesty's Government recognise the strong feeling in the House about this matter, and we recognise the force in the argument. I appreciated what the right hon. Gentleman said about accepting that at this particular time there were strong arguments the other way. Certainly, in the tragic event of progress not being made in the future within the African framework for a settlement of the Nigerian civil war, we should not rule out the possibility of considering sending a British emissary to Biafra at an appropriate time.
I do ask the House to recognise that in the present situation difficult and delicate talks, on which many of our hopes hang, are being prepared in Ethiopia. There is evidence from past experience that if a British emissary were to offer to go into Biafra at this moment it would bring the considerable risk of encouraging Colonel Ojukwu to hold his hand over attending this Ethiopian conference, to wait and see what might develop to his advantage from what would be an unprecedented move on our part. I am bound to say that if that situation occurred I can see some hon. Members in other parts of the House, different from those who spoke so vigorously on this subject, and certainly many people outside the House, especially in Africa, turning and blaming us for taking the kind of action that had prevented these critical talks in Ethiopia starting and making progress.
I turn now to some of the individual points raised by hon. Members. First, the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) who made what 363 I thought was a most immoderate speech. He claimed quite forcefully that Her Majesty's Government stimulated the failure of the Abouri conference. I wanted to tell the House that on the contrary at that point Mr. Malcolm MacDonald—
§ Mr. Heffer rose—
§ Mr. Heffer rose—
§ Mr. Thomson
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire paid a tribute to what was the moving spirit behind the Abouri agreement. It was tragic that it failed—one side now accuses the other of being the first to go hack on this—but it was Her Majesty's Government and Mr. Malcolm MacDonald who played a most distinguished part in very nearly producing a settlement at that time.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has explained the Government's belief that Nigeria can best develop her full human and material potential as a united country. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Colin Jackson)—
§ Mr. Heffer
Will my right hon. Friend give way? I am much obliged. I must first say that I did not speak in this debate, although I tried to do so today. Reverting to the point about visits, he says that if we allow a Minister to go at this stage it will be misunderstood. Can he explain how it could not have been misunderstood when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was earlier suggesting that he could have met Colonel Ojukwu, with others, outside Biafra and Nigeria? Surely this would have been a recognition in the sense that my right hon. Friend is now talking about.
§ Mr. Thomson
My hon. Friend will bear in mind that the two propositions are 364 quite different. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister offered to meet Colonel Ojukwu in ten different places outside Biafra.
§ Mr. Thomson
I wish that there had been greater support from a number of hon. Members in this House for that initiative by my right hon. Friend. That is a different matter from sending a British Minister or British emissary inside Biafra.
§ Mr. Thomson
I now return to the point that was raised by a number of hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough, about the future shape of any constitutional settlement as part of a peaceful settlement in Nigeria. I want to tell hon. Members who have raised this matter that we would not presume to tell the Nigerians what form of political organisation they should adopt. We would support and accept any form of solution which the people of Nigeria can agree among themselves. As the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said, there are many variations between a full federation and other looser forms of federation that could be gone into when that stage is reached.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) raised the question of the Commonwealth peace-keeping force. As the Prime Minister has made clear in the past, Her Majesty's Government would certainly be prepared to join in such a force if we were asked to do so.
§ Earl of Dalkeith rose—
§ Mr. Thomson
I have a number of points to answer. If I answer the noble Lord's question, I shall not be able to answer other points made in the debate.
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) raised the question of the West Cameroons. It was an unfortunate example for him to choose. He was answered by the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby), who had personal experience at the Commonwealth Office of that situation. In any case, this territory was never an integral part of the Federation of Nigeria. It was a United Nations trust territory which opted to join the French territory of Cameroon and never seceded from Nigeria.
365 The hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) asked about a visit by Count von Rosen to the Foreign Office. As far as I can discover, and to the best of our knowledge, no such visit has ever taken place.
The hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) asked about the position of the Ibos inside Nigeria. She and I know of the close connections between the Ibo community in Nigeria and the various Scottish churches. I remind the hon. Lady that there are more Ibos living under the Federal Administration than there are in what remains of Colonel Ojukwu's enclave. Under the Federal Government, there are many Ibos in very high position indeed. I recommend the hon. Lady, whose interest in this matter I know to be sincere, to look at the most recent report of the observers on the borders of the civil war which I put in the Library of the House the other day. It contains some very encouraging information about the way in which the Ibos, under Federal control, are being happily resettled.
In many parts of the world conscience has been stirred by this tragedy of the Nigerian civil war. This debate has been repeated in Parliaments of nations which have never known any colonial link with Africa. They have had the same moving discussions as we have been having. It is a reflection, and a healthy reflection, of the moral sense that the world has shrunk in a way which makes the suffering of mankind, wherever it occurs, a matter which affects the whole human race. But as the matter comes up in one Parliament after another—and I follow these debates in the telegrams which reach us—I am struck in a number of cases by the common pattern which emerges. Governments who come fresh to the Nigerian tragedy but share the instinctive human revulsion at the suffering begin by suspending judgment and then come to conclusions broadly similar to those which Her Majesty's Government have sought to put to the House.
I was much interested by what the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Trudeau, told his House of Commons the other day. He said:The difficulty with the relief flights is based on the fact that the Biafran authorities do not permit daylight flights, that they are using the night flights of relief supplies in order to screen shipments of arms. The Biafran 366 authorities apparently have followed a course directed at making sure that they receive arms rather than food or other medical supplies for the starving people through the air space controlled by them. In these circumstances we can only continue to make our appeals, such as those made by the Red Cross…to Colonel Ojukwu, to be a little more humane and think of the starving people…".My hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Macdonald) very much echoed those words. This puts fairly and squarely the dilemma of relief versus resistance which faces Colonel Ojukwu. It is a real dilemma for him.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly said, Colonel Ojukwu and his friends show all the signs of being ready to fight this matter to the bitter end. But, equally, I ask hon. Members to recognise that it presents a deep and moral dilemma for them, particularly those who criticise the Government's policy. Hon. Members must choose whether they are in favour of Biafran resistance or of Biafran relief. If relief is to go in on an adequate scale, clearly Colonel Ojukwu believes—and he must be the best judge of his case in this respect—that it would impair unacceptably his capacity for military resistance. If one is concerned, as I know every hon. Member is, by the suffering among innocent women and children, one cannot support Colonel Ojukwu in his insistence on putting his military requirements first. If, however, one is concerned, as I think some hon. Members are sincerely concerned, with Biafra's desire to establish her right to secession, and she can only do it by military means, they are inevitably involved in supporting the use of starvation of the Biafran people as a political weapon. I ask those in the House who sincerely and simultaneously hold both views to recognise that these views are mutually inconsistent. One simply cannot have it both ways. This was the terrible moral dilemma that some in the World Council of Churches have been courageously trying to face.
I would say, in passing, that there is not a shred of truth in the allegation in The Guardian today, accompanied by a quite unjustified comment on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that the World Council of Churches was prompted in any way in its attitude by the British Government. The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone claimed that 35 churches had given the Prime Minister 367 the lie. The right hon. Gentleman used the word "mendacity" a good deal in his speech. I can only say to him that what he said is simply not true. What my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said was entitrely consistent with the statement which came out today from Joint Church Aid in Oslo.
For those who are concerned with human suffering, I would say, "I hope that you will recognise that, in all reason, as this debate has brought out, the moral responsibility for the starvation cannot rest with Her Majesty's Government or with the Federal Nigerians". I hope that those who take that view will feel that, given the grave issues which face this Government, and in what may happen tonight, the Government are entitled to their support in the Lobbies. For those whose concern is with Biafran resistance and not with relief, I do not pretend that it is an easy choice, either for those in Nigeria who hold that view or for those outside.
I believe that the record of history shows that it is a familiar stand to say, as presumably those in Biafra do, "I put my claim to nationhood, and what I regard as my military necessities for achieving it, before the sufferings of my people."
The Prime Minister yesterday referred to one comparison between the American and the Nigerian civil wars. Perhaps I can give another. The American Civil
War aroused a great conflict of emotions in this House, as we are experiencing now. It divided the parties deeply. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said that we cannot deny to the Biafran nation the right of self-determination. He was following an honourable and appropriate tradition, because, in 1862, Mr. Gladstone used these words:
There is no doubt that Jefferson Davis, and other leaders of the South, have made an army. They are making, it appears, a navy. And they have made—what is more than either—they have made a Nation.
I give that quotation to the right hon. Gentleman, because I gather that those who sincerely support the Biafran cause would no doubt say the same today, perhaps with the substitution of an air force for a navy.
§ Mr. Gladstone was overruled by his own Cabinet colleagues, and was proved wrong by history. Most people agree that it would have been a tragedy for the world if the American union had broken up. I believe that history will prove that the present Government have been right in their course and will one day recognise that it would have been a setback to the cause of progress in Africa if the Nigerian union, which can become a great modern African nation, had broken up through tribal secession.
§ Question put, That this House do now adjourn:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 84, Noes, 254.371
|Division No. 30.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Foster, Sir John||Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross & Crom'ty)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Goodhew, Victor||McNair-Wilson, Michael (W'stow, E.)|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmoutn)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Barnes, Michael||Gresham Cooke, R.||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Gurden, Harold||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Bessel, Peter||Hawkins, Paul||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hay, John||Neave, Airey|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Heffer, Eric S.||Newens, Stan|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hirst, Geoffrey||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Hooson, Emlyn||Orme, Stanley|
|Booth, Albert||Hordern, Peter||Padley, Walter|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Howell, David (Guildford)||Pardoe, John|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Peyton, John|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Iremonger, T. L.||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lane, David||Rose, Paul|
|Dickens, James||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Latham, Arthur||Scott, Nicholas|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Lawler, Wallace||Sheldon, Robert|
|Emery, Peter||Lee, John (Reading)||Silvester, Frederick|
|Evans, Gwynfor (C'martnen)||Longden, Gilbert||Stainton, Keith|
|Ewing, Mrs. Winifred||Lubbock, Eric||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.||Mr. David Crouch and|
|Waddington, David||Wright, Esmond||Mr. Stanley Henig.|
|Abse, Leo||Garrett, W. E.||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Albu, Austen||Ginsburg, David||Mawby, Ray|
|Allen, Scholefield||Golding, John||Maxwell, Robert|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Ashley, Jack||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Mendelson, John|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Gregory, Arnold||Millan, Bruce|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T,||Griffiths, Eddie (Bhghtside)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)|
|Beaney, Alan||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Molloy, William|
|Bence, Cyril||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Moonman, Eric|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Binns, John||Hannan, William||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Harper, Joseph||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Boardmar, H. (Leigh)||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Boston, Terence||Haseldine, Norman||Murray, Albert|
|Boyden, James||Hattersley, Roy||Neal, Harold|
|Bradley, Tom||Hazell, Bert||Oakes, Gordon|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. Gorge (Belper)||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Ogden, Eric|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Hilton, W. S.||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Hobden, Dennis||O'Malley, Brian|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Hooley, Frank||Oram, Albert E.|
|Buchan, Norman||Horner, John||Orbach, Maurice|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Oswald, Thomas|
|Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Calaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Cant, R. B.||Howie, W.||Paget, R. T.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Palmer, Arthur|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Huckfield, Leslie||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Conlan, Barnard||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hunter, Adam||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Cordie, John||Hynd, John||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Cronin, John||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Pentland, Norman|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Jeger, George (Goole)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Darling, lit. Hn. George||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Probert) Arthur|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Randall, Harry|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Rankin, John|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Rees, Merlyn|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Richard, Ivor|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Dell, Edmund||Kelley, Richard||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Coronwy|
|Dewar, Donald||Kenyon, Clifford||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Lawson, George||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Dobson, Ray||Leadbitter, Ted||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth(St. P'c'as)|
|Doig, Peter||Ledger, Ron||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Dunn, James A.||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Dunett, Jack||Lestor, Miss Joan||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Rowlands, E.|
|Eadie, Alex||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lomas, Kenneth||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Ellis, John||Loughlin, Charles||Short, Mrs. Renee (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|English, Michael||Luard, Evan||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptord)|
|Ennals, David||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Ensor, David||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Silverman, Julius|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||McBride, Neil||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||McCann, John||Slater, Joseph|
|Evens, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||MacColl, James||Small, William|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacDermot, Niall||Snow, Julian|
|Finch, Harold||Macdonald, A. H.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||McElhone, Frank||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Fletcner. Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Isington, E.)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mackie, John||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Taverne, Dick|
|Ford, Ben||McNamara, J. Kevin||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Forrester, John||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Fowler, Gerry||Mallalieu, J.P.w. (Huddersfield, E.)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Manuel, Archie||Tinn, James|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mapp, Charles||Tomney, Frank|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Marks, Kenneth||Tuck, Raphael|
|Gardner, Tony||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Urwin, T. W.|
|Varley, Eric G.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)||Whitaker, Ben||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Walden, Brian (All Saints)||White, Mrs. Eirene||Woof, Robert|
|Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Whitlock, William||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Wallace, George||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Watkins, David (Consett)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)||Mr. Ernest G. Perry and|
|Weitzman, David||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)||Mr. William Hamling.|
|Wellbeloved, James||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|