§ Mr. Speaker
May I remark to the House that when the general debate begins after the Front Bench opening, a goodly number of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen wish to speak in the debate, including many who, although they tried, did not succeed in being called in the last debate on Nigeria. If we are to have all shades of opinion represented this afternoon, it is important that speeches should be reasonably brief.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
No one in this House can be immune from the emotions induced by the sufferings of innocent people in the civil war in Nigeria. However hardened we may be by the cruelties and the callous indifference to human life and dignity revealed in a world which is supposed to be civilised, the knowledge and the sight of these victims of this tribal feud and war is harrowing in the extreme.
No one who has been at the giving or at the receiving end of modern war is entirely free of a sense of guilt that women and children are now made the targets in war and that blockade and starvation are instruments used for political ends. When people who are so simple and stoic are seen to be the victims, then the conscience becomes even more uneasy.
Nevertheless, we must take care that, in giving rein to our emotions, we are not blind to the truth and to the reality. Otherwise, injustice might be added, which would simply make confusion more confounded.
1589 I will try to analyse the situation as I see it with as much objectivity as possible. I think that that would be the mood of the House.
The origins of this war are African. It persists because one group of Africans refuses to be governed by another group of Africans and have felt so strongly against the rule of Lagos in Nigeria that they have resorted to a trial of strength. Foreign arms are complicating the matter, but essentially this is a fight started by Africans and it will have to be finished by Africans.
There seem to be only two possibilities. First, that one side will assert its will over the other; secondly, stalemate, in which there will be a negotiated truce and a negotiated peace. What is the status of the combatants? Federal Nigeria is registered as a country accepted as an independent member of the United Nations, and nobody has challenged those credentials. The Federal Government is accepted as a member of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Meeting. It is the Federal Government—although there are some members of the Organisation of African Unity which recognise Biafra—which is a member of the Organisation of African Unity. Federal Nigeria, therefore, is a State by any test and has a right to defend itself as such an entity against any who might seek to fragment its territory or to diminish its authority. I do not believe that anybody in Britain or anywhere else could deny to Federal Nigeria that right.
Biafra is an area, so far undefined, which so far has no legal status. It embraces a number of tribes other than the Ibos, including, for example, the River peoples. Nobody knows as yet, if the pressures of war were removed, what degree of unity could be established within that territory or what constitutional form such a seceding territory might take.
Claims are made, for example, that Biafrans can never again be part of a Federal Nigeria. That may be so, but it is quite certainly not proved today. I would think that it cannot be established until fighting stops. In other words, where there is an area of a country trying to secede, recognition from outside can come only with success—either success won in war or the success of establishing 1590 a position through meeting round the negotiating table.
In these circumstances, we come back again and again to the only two propositions which I think are valid—either one or other party asserts its will and the loser has to concede, or else exhaustion will bring about a compromise and some form of negotiated settlement.
Can anyone outside help to end the war or to mitigate the toll of casualties? There are two possibilities. One is an offer of good offices to seek to find a formula for a compromise settlement, a formula on which negotiations can start. I would think that it would probably be generally held in the House that the body much most likely to succeed in that is the Organisation of African Unity.
Naturally, everyone in recent months has been preoccupied with famine relief. It should not be forgotten that at the Monrovia Conference success was very nearly achieved on a formula on which negotiations could be started. It is, therefore, in my view, a cease-fire and a negotiation that really matter. I believe that since Monrovia international efforts to achieve this have been allowed to slip a little and that, therefore, some urgency should be given to trying again to bring the two sides together.
The second possibility is one, it must be admitted, of mitigation—and mitigation only of the worst effects of the war. I have never been entirely convinced by the Prime Minister's argument that ceasefire must be a precondition to an embargo on arms from outside or to policing at the point of reception of such arms. For example, it has often been proposed that there should be a four-Power ban, or a rationing of arms, in the Middle East. No one has ever supposed that if that should take place it would be the end of the confrontation between Arab and Jew. But it could limit the consequences of the war. So I believe it could be here.
It would be scarcely possible in the United Nations to argue under the Charter that there was a threat in Nigeria to external peace, but the House would like to hear the Secretary of State's views on this. I believe that it would be legitimate to use the Security Council to seek a ban on imported arms, and that 1591 only, and the policing necessary to oversee it—in the beginning a ban and an agreement by the four Powers that arms should not be imported.
It must be admitted that there are two very big "ifs"—first, the doubt whether the agreement of the combatants could be secured; and, secondly, the doubt whether the Soviet Union would in any circumstances co-operate. The answer is probably "No". I see the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) shaking his head, but I think that the Secretary of State should test the matter in the United Nations.
If agreement was reached between the four Powers—there is a new French Government and, therefore, perhaps a new factor in this matter—the difficulties of policing imported arms on the black market would not be insuperable. If the Soviet Union would not co-operate, the world should know it.
I have searched my mind time and again as to whether, in the light of the facts I have mentioned, Britain would be justified in, or would contribute in any way to the peace by, unilaterally cutting off all arms. I hope, incidentally, that the Secretary of State will give the most categoric denial today on the part of the Government that Britain has sold aircraft—Hunters—or heavy artillery to Nigeria. I know that we have not, but I would like to hear the denial from Her Majesty's Government.
Although I have tried time and again to decide whether, in the light of the facts I have mentioned, Britain would be justified in a unilateral cutting off of arms, I am still unable to convince myself. I cannot convince myself that to cancel an arms supply that has been available to this African Commonwealth country for years would not be to discriminate against one section of Africans. These are all Africans engaged in this war. I think that this would be to discriminate against one section of Africans.
When to that is added the knowledge that the Soviet Union would supply the deficiency with a view to exercising a more permanent influence over Nigeria in this respect, I cannot persuade myself that this could be of benefit to any African anywhere in the continent.
1592 If the Federal Government were to change their policy in regard to relief and tolerance of Ibos, then this could be different, but I am reminded in this context of this dictum of the late President Kennedy which is perhaps worth recalling:The purpose of foreign policy is not to provide an outlet for our sentiments of hope and indignation. It is to shape real events in a real world.I turn now to the question of the relief of hunger. Starvation has been and is a weapon of war. Which of the combatants, if any, is using it? If a charge was proved against one or the other, what would be the implications for countries outside and particularly for Britain?
It is widely agreed that two means of relief, if they could be established, would save countless lives—in the short term, daylight flights of food and medicine; in the long term, a land corridor for supplies of all kinds.
If we are to judge matters correctly, it is essential that the House should be accurately informed. I am not saying that the Secretary of State in any way misled the House in his statement on Monday, but all kinds of interpretations have been put on his statement which I do not think it bore, but which, nevertheless, have misled inside Nigeria and outside. So I should be obliged if the Secretary of State will correct me if I am wrong in anything I say and will give the House the most accurate, up-to-date information when he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker.
Would I be right in saying that to the best of the right hon. Gentleman's knowledge the Federal Government are ready to do the following? First, to allow and facilitate daylight flights, provided that they are inspected by neutrals on Federal soil? Secondly, to provide a land corridor, internationally policed? What is more, to allow neutral inspectors to control the timing of daylight flights and the management of the air corridor while the flights are in progress? If that is true, in addition to the reasons I have given, it is scarcely possible to argue that Africans in Federal Nigeria should be penalised by a change in British policy. It is much more profitable to examine the methods of getting relief into the famine areas.
1593 The proposals of the Federal Government, as we understand them, of which that proposal is undoubtedly one, would mean that the food, if internationally inspected and neutrals were controlling the flights, would arrive in Biafra. The real objection of the Ibos, we are told, is that if an aeroplane touches down in Federal territory, they assume that that food will be poisoned. Even if it is inspected by neutrals, so ingrained is the African suspicion—because poisoning traditionally has been the method with which one dealt with one's enemies—that even if food arrived they would rather die than touch it.
It is very difficult for us to understand this mentality, but, nevertheless, this is the main reason given for the Biafran objection to this offer. It may be a reason that exasperates or even outrages the intelligence, but equally it probably may be true.
The alternative suggestion is, therefore, being made—although that plan would mean that the food would be taken to the right place at the right time—that cargo should be inspected by Federal personnel in airports outside Nigeria from which the flights started. This is possible, and I think that at the Red Cross is pursuing the suggestion in Nigeria. But there are difficulties, since two of the airfields, for example, are in Portuguese territories. The Nigerians not only have no relations with Portugal, but bad relations with Portugal. So that Federal Nigeria suspects any such plan. The routes also cut across the corridors used by the military aircraft.
There is one airfield to which these objections may not apply and that is Cotonou airfield. I hope that the Red Cross and the Nigerian Government are considering the possibilities of using this airfield. It is only half an hour away from Lagos and is on the route through which supplies would be sent if the capital were used.
If the Biafrans refuse either or both these plans—and in such a matter it does no good to distribute moral censure either to one side or the other—there can be only one conclusion, and that is that the decision was made on military grounds. That would take precedence over considerations of humanity and the consideration would be made on military 1594 grounds, induced either by the hope of victory or by the fear of defeat.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
The right hon. Gentleman the hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) has suggested Cotonou, and I agree with him, since it is a neutral port. The Biafrans have agreed to it, not only with neutral observers but with Lagos observers. Therefore, should he not ask, not just the Red Cross, but Her Majesty's Government, to agree to this proposal and to press it? That is where the real influence lies.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The conversations at present are best left to the Red Cross and the Nigerian authorities both in Lagos and in Biafra. But if this choice were to be made and the Biafrans were to turn down these proposals, it would be their choice and the refusal would be totally tragic.
I turn to the kernel of the matter—a formula for the opening of negotiations. There is some evidence that Colonel Ojukwu and the Federal Government would now welcome assistance in finding one. As for British action, I have said that the Organisation of African Unity is the body which is the most likely to find this formula and to bring the sides together. But if any British action is to be taken—and I know that there was disappointment in Biafra that the Prime Minister or his representative could not go there—I hope that the Foreign Secretary has not entirely abandoned the possibility of Mr. Malcolm Macdonald going to Lagos and Biafra. There is great respect for him in Africa, both in those countries which recognise Lagos and in those which recognise Biafra.
This is a matter of re-establishing tolerance and confidence. I know nobody better able to do that than Mr. Macdonald. I believe that it might help to improve the climate of negotiation if the Foreign Secretary today were able to say certain simple things. To the Western mind, they may sound over-simple, but I hope that he will say them. I hope that he will say that Her Majesty's Government wish to see a cease-fire, since I believe that that is doubted in Biafra. I hope that he will say that Her Majesty's Government seek an arms embargo, that they wish to see negotiations started, and that they will respect any settlement arrived at freely by the two sides.
1595 The right hon. Gentleman will claim, quite rightly, that he has said these things before. However, I hope that he will say them again. The problem in this battle in Nigeria is to reach African minds, and it is a very difficult thing to do. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will take some of these new initiatives without altering the main trends of British policy, which I find to be justified, because no chance should be missed of trying to bring about a negotiated end to this conflict.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)
We have listened with sympathy and respect, and a great many of us with agreement, to the speech of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). Certainly, we all agree with what he said about the suffering in this war, which is falling upon people who are in no way to be regarded as responsible for the conflict. I should like to begin my remarks by referring to this aspect of the matter and to what can be done, with as little delay as possible, to bring food to those now faced with starvation.
We are all agreed in wanting to see established between the Federal Government, the relief agencies and the secessionist authorities such arrangements as would make relief possible. The House knows that arrangements of that kind have not yet been achieved. But since I made a statement to the House on Monday, there is the additional fact that there are now conversations going on between the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Federal Nigerian Government in Lagos. When I say "now going on", it might be even at this minute or it might be in the very near future.
The House will remember that there has been an unhappy estrangement between the Red Cross and the Nigerian Government. It is right to tell the House that the conversations last weekend between my hon. Friend and I and representatives both of the Red Cross and the Nigerian Government played a substantial part in the fortunate result that the Red Cross and the Nigerian Government are now again in discussion. In view of some of the criticisms which have been made of Her Majesty's Government, it is right to point this out to the House and 1596 to give the credit that is due to my hon. Friend for the part he played in bringing this about.
The right hon. Gentleman said that there had been suggestions that what I had stated to the House was inaccurate. I had better remind the House of the words which I used:We were able to arrange a meeting in London at the weekend between Dr. Arikpo and Professor Freymond, Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Professor Freymond confirmed that the Red Cross would be willing to operate daylight flights as now proposed by the Federal Government subject to detailed agreement on guarantees of safety for Red Cross crews, aircraft and personnel".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July, 1969; Vol. 786, c. 952.]My hon. Friend was present at that conversation and can assure the House that that is an accurate description of the conversation. That was what I said. The tactic adopted in some quarters has been to alter what I said into something else and say that that something else was not true. Unfortunately, a document was put out by one organisation which said that I had claimed that complete agreement had been reached. It will be apparent from the words I have read to the House that I made no such claim. I repeat that what I said was an accurate account of what occurred.
What is the Federal Nigerian Government's position about what they will do on relief? The right hon. Gentleman asked a number of questions on that point, all of which I think I can answer. They are ready and willing that relief should go by land. Indeed, they have been so willing for a long time. Further, there is—and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned this point—the project of the Cross River route. When speaking to Dr. Arikpo, I made it clear that we were extremely anxious that this should succeed. He told me—and I think that this is now generally recognised—that both sides had raised objection to it and that there appeared to be a number of practical difficulties. However, he was able to tell me that the discussions would, he hoped, be resumed. I said that I strongly shared that hope and that I believed that it was extremely desirable, if at all possible, to get the Cross River route working. They are agreed about land corridors. Therefore, we hope that progress will be made on the Cross River route.
1597 The Nigerians are agreeable to, not only the food, but seeds for the crops, drugs and clothing coming in by daylight flights from Lagos or any other convenient point in Federal territory provided that they can inspect to see that the planes carry these things and none other. To remove the suspicion of poisoning—and I am bound to say that I think the Nigerian Government reacted to this with considerable patience—they said that they would be willing to have neutrals at the point of inspection to ensure that the Nigerians did not tamper with the supplies and did not waste time and delay the planes.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
Why not use Cotonou, because then the Biafran lifeline would not go through Nigerian hands and be cut?
§ Mr. Stewart
My hon. Friend should let me get on. I shall come in a moment to that point. He mentioned the objection often stated by the secessionists to flights from Federal territory. They say that the objection is that their lifeline goes through Nigerian hands. We must realise this. However the relief comes in, it goes either across Federal territory or over Federal air space. It must go in with some measure of good will on the part of the Nigerian Government.
I am bound to say that I have never understood the secessionist objection which says, "We will not take something for which we are beholden to the Nigerian Government". To say that is really to say, "We will not take anything at all, because it comes to us with some measure of co-operation and support from the Nigerian Government". Those are the things to which the Federal Government have agreed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), in his intervention, raised the point referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, namely, whether it would be possible to arrange relief from points outside Federal territory. Before I examine that matter, I should state this general position. I mentioned what the Nigerian Government are prepared to do. If we or anyone else ask them to go further, we must not underestimate how far they have gone already.
There has been some argument about the use of the phrase, "starvation is a legitimate weapon of war". The Nigerians 1598 are in a position to point out that practically every nation up to now has behaved as if it was. Further, General Gowon, in conversation recently with our High Commissioner in Lagos, said explicitly—and he stated that he would be glad for this to be known—that he did not regard starvation as a legitimate weapon. But more important than what anyone says is the fact that the Nigerian Government—and this is not disputed—are prepared to do these things.
They are prepared to allow food, medicine and clothing to go through in a way for which, as I have said and as I repeat, I know no parallel in the record of warfare. Therefore, anyone who asks the Nigerian Government to go further must not forget what they have been prepared to do so far. To approach this matter with totally unjustified accusations of deliberate starvation and genocide is not the way to make progress.
I have had to labour this point rather more than the right hon. Gentleman did because, as he will understand, of the position of somebody who speaks for the Government.
It has been urged on us on certain occasions that we should cut off the supply of arms from this country to Nigeria. The right hon. Gentleman gave considerable reasons for not doing so. I have said in the House that we should have to reconsider, and more than reconsider, our present policy if the Nigerian Government plainly and obstinately refused to reach a reasonable settlement or deliberately set to work to destroy the Ibo people. Therefore, I must be able to show the House that the Nigerian Government are not pursuing, of their own volition, a deliberate policy of starvation of the Ibo. That is why I stress what they have already declared their willingness to do.
It has sometimes been objected that when I do that I am in some way unfairly trying to pillory Colonel Ojukwu and to thrust the responsibility on him. There is a very grave responsibility on him. This is not merely a notion of mine. It has been echoed, as is reported in the Sunday Times, by a Red Cross spokesman:If the rebel leaders do not accept day flights they will be carrying a heavy responsibility of sacrificing their civilian population to a political aim.1599 There was a statement by Oxfam, addressed to Colonel Ojukwu:In the name of humanity we beg you to start negotiations on the basis of the Federal Nigerian offer of daylight flights.I echo, and I should have thought that everyone in the House would echo, that appeal.
I have been obliged to set out this matter more argumentatively than the right hon. Gentleman did because of the repeated suggestions, some of them made in quite reckless language and with no regard for the facts, that the Nigerian Government are deliberately trying to starve their people and that we are supporting and applauding them in doing so. The evidence does not support that at all. Moreover, I know very well that in a situation in which so many people face death by starvation, it is not enough just to demonstrate the soundness of a political argument.
I think that it was necessary for me to make that point, but we are in a situation in which I think we all feel: is it possible to go beyond what the Nigerian Government have suggested already? We must notice, if we ask that, that we are asking them to go beyond the ordinary laws of war, beyond ordinary justice, to an exceptional degree of mercy. None the less, I told Dr. Arikpo that I believed that the proposal for interim night flights until something could be agreed on day flights was worthy of his most serious consideration, despite the fact that he explained, as I set before the House, the serious difficulties facing the Nigerian Government.
There are other possibilities, but they cannot at this stage be regarded as more than possibilities. There is the possibility of trying to get agreement on flights from a point outside Nigeria. We cannot pooh pooh the Nigerian Government's objections to this. There are serious military objections, and there is also the fact—though I attach less weight to this—that the Nigerian Government are anxious for an opportunity to refute the suggestion that they would poison supplies going into Biafra. I do not know whether agreement can be reached on this.
There is another possibility, and I partly suggested this to the House on Monday when I said that we were in 1600 touch with Governments and agencies concerned to see whether an approach could be made to Colonel Ojukwu to see whether he would now move some way to bridge the gap which lies between the two positions.
All those are possibilities. They are likely in the very near future to be discussed in Lagos, and I think that the House will understand if I say that if I spoke further on this matter I doubt whether it would help the progress of these discussions. I cannot, therefore, give the House to understand that the Federal Government will be willing to go further than they have already said. I hope that they may be in certain respects, though they must have regard to their security. If they are not willing to go further, we must see, in Oxfam's words, that we appeal to Colonel Ojukwu in the name of humanity to accept what has already been offered, and it is not an ungenerous offer.
I should like to conclude what I have to say about relief—I do not propose to spend very much time on the main issues, because we have so often debated them—by referring to what Her Majesty's Government have done throughout this business. I say this because we must remember that Nigeria is an independent sovereign State. This House does not control their Government. What we are debating is the policy of Her Majesty's Government in this situation.
We can say that we have contributed generously to relief. We have been in constant discussions with the Federal Government, at various levels, about it, and I think that we can fairly say that the present position of the Federal Government—and I have said why I think their position is to be commended—owes something to the arguments and considerations which we have put before them. We have been a mediating force, a force for compassion. It was partly at our suggestion that a United Nations representative was got on the scene to help with the problem of relief, and, as I said earlier, we have now been instrumental in making the conversations in Lagos possible.
Looking back on the record, I do not know of any opportunity for promoting the getting in of relief which we have neglected. If, as the weeks go by, suggestions come to me from hon. Members, 1601 or from elsewhere, about anything that we can reasonably do, and it is consistent with the fact that Nigeria is a sovereign State, we shall certainly do it, but I believe that Her Majesty's Government's policy on relief is one that can properly be commended to the House.
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
Can my right hon. Friend give the House some idea of the Government's assessment of the famine in Biafra at the moment? It is important to get that fairly clear. Also, can my right hon. Friend say whether there is any truth in the Press report that a considerable portion of the relief that has gone into Biafra is being used not to alleviate starvation, but to feed Biafran troops? If that is so, different considerations arise.
§ Mr. Stewart
It is difficult to answer those questions, because so many conflicting reports which are difficult to verify come in. On the point of the feeding of Biafran troops, I do not think that I can go further than I did on Monday, of last week, when in answer to a question by one of my hon. Friends, I said that as far as I knew there was no rationing system in Biafra, and I should have thought that that was to be regretted.—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) has made a series of statements on this matter, nearly all of which have proved to be erroneous. We have reports, for example, of some protein-containing food openly on sale in markets in the rebel-held areas.
I do not think that I had better go on with this, because we get so many conflicting reports. Nevertheless, we are left at the end with the fact that although the numbers facing starvation cannot be estimated exactly, we all agree that there is a very substantial problem here, and that whatever estimate we make it is right to go on trying to promote the sending in of relief. I think that that is the practical conclusion to which one comes.
On the main issue, everyone knows that great wrongs and tribal bitterness on both sides preceded the outbreak of this war, and that this, in part, explains the fears and suspicions which the Ibos have expressed.
Next, the attempt by some of the Ibos—and I say deliberately some of them—to deal with this situation by armed 1602 secession was wrong. It was wrong not only to secede themselves, but to extend their rule over a number of their neighbours who did not want it. The attempt to do this was profoundly wrong, not only for them, but for Nigeria and for Africa, and the great weight of African opinion comes down on that side. This has been a basic reason why Her Majesty's Government have not felt it right to prevent Nigeria's obtaining arms in this country.
However, while I believe that the Federal Government have been right to resist this secession, with that right, I think we all agree, goes the duty to seek peace, if it can at all be obtained, on the basis of an undivided Nigeria, and to do everything they can to remove the fears and suspicions held by the Ibos. This I think it can fairly be said they have done, and we have played such part as was appropriate.
We were partly instrumental in securing the conference at Aburri, which might have averted the conflict, and similarly at Kampala. The blame for the breakdown of both of those cannot be put on the shoulders of the Federal Government. At the time of the Commonwealth Conference I think that I was urged by the right hon. Gentleman that we should try, or the African States should try, to bring about meeting, negotiation, and ceasefire. We tried that at the Commonwealth Conference. We got the willingness of the Federal Government to meet the representatives of Colonel Ojukwu, without any preconditions. Unhappily, that offer was not accepted.
In this connection, perhaps I had better make it clear that Her Majesty's Government are not by any means devoid of channels of communication with the rebel leaders. Frequently, through a number of different channels, we are in touch with them. We have tried in our contacts, both with them and with the Nigerian Government, to promote the idea of a meeting without pre-conditions, that is to say, a meeting at which neither side is prepared to renounce its essential belief, but does not require the other side publicly to renounce its beliefs when the meeting begins. That is what a meeting without conditions is. I think that the Nigerian Government are prepared for that. They are further prepared to offer safeguards for the Ibo people once the 1603 country has been reunited and peace has been restored.
One should notice the extent to which the Ibos today play a prominent part in the Federal Government. A number of Permanent Secretaries are Ibos, General Gowon's aide is an Ibo, and some of their diplomatic representatives abroad are Ibos. The cultural adviser to the Federal Government is an Ibo. It is a mistake to suppose that the whole Ibo people are in this unhappy enclave. Many of them are living in peace, playing an important part in their country's life. If anyone has any further belief in the stories of genocide, he should read the latest report of the international observers, which is in the Library and which confirms what they have said before.
I might now respond to the right hon. Gentleman's invitation to say—or, as he admitted, to say again—certain simple things. First, Her Majesty's Government wish to see a cease-fire. We made that clear at the Commonwealth Conference and it was made clear during the Prime Minister's visit and on many other occasions. Second, we wish to see an arms embargo. I will return to the steps which should be taken about that. We wish to see negotiations. That was also made clear on the occasions which I mentioned and on others. We would respect any settlements made between the parties. All these things, we should warmly welcome.
I turn now to the question of an arms embargo. As soon as I mention arms, I had better make it clear that the story that we have supplied military aircraft to Nigeria is totally untrue. It is the latest in a long series of misstatements from many quarters—that we have sent Army, Navy and Air Force there. This is totally untrue. The arms which we have supplied have been broadly, both in quantity and in quality, what we were supplying before the war began. I have carefully considered whether we should get an international arms embargo, and we have made, and we have known of others making, various approaches to see whether this could be achieved.
We find, of course, that no Government admits supplying the rebels. It is rather 1604 difficult to get people to agree to stop doing something which they assert they are not doing. This has been a difficulty throughout on that side. As for the Soviet Union, some time ago we spoke to them and their reply was that they would continue to supply arms whatever we did or did not do. Further, I can tell the House that, more recently, the General Secretary of the Labour Party discussed this matter with a senior Soviet official and was told that the only circumstances in which they would stop supplying arms was if the Nigerian Government themselves requested the cessation. I understand that the Peace in Nigeria Committee made a similar approach and has not been more fortunate.
The Soviet Government are, of course, entitled to their view. I mention these facts to make it clear that we have not been neglecting this possibility, but have been trying to see whether international agreement on arms embargo could be reached. I have discussed the competence of the United Nations in this matter. U Thant took the view that it was unlikely that this would even be inscribed on the agenda. There was very strong feeling in African countries that this should be regarded as an internal matter.
The fact that one has tried more than once and not so far been successful is not a reason for packing up altogether. If there is a chance of getting this, I should be glad to get it, but we all agree that it will be difficult and that it will be difficult to police.
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman could have understood what the Prime Minister has said on this matter. Neither he nor I have said that the policing of an arms embargo would be impossible without a cease-fire. We have taken the view, which I think is right, that it would be extremely difficult and that, therefore, the most likely way of getting an embargo which will work is if it were combined in a package with a ceasefire and the opening of negotiations. I have recommended that, because that is the most practical way forward. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that those who are to help the parties anyway will probably be their fellow African States.
We have not neglected any opportunity which has been open to us. We have 1605 urged recently on the Nigerian Government a degree of concession which they may not feel able to grant, despite the fact that we recognise that they have already gone a good way. We have kept in touch with both parties in the dispute and we have made a serious exploration of the possibility of an international arms embargo. We have played an honourable part, both in money and in work, in the organisation of relief.
No one can think of this subject without emotion. We must all try, when we discuss it, to see that the emotion is that of pity for the suffering and not hatred of those who happen to take a different view of the politics of this matter. That is how I have tried to do it, but clearly, speaking for the Government, I must state my political view. I hope that I have done so clearly and I hope that it will commend itself to the House.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
Everything said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) is of great importance for this House and for the country—that is, the question of an arms embargo. There must be general regret that the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths) cannot be here today. He and I and others put down a Motion recommending that there should be an arms embargo and that the question of relief should be dealt with more expeditiously. We put it down because we are now entering the third year of this tragic civil war. I believe that it is common ground that what is needed is relief and an end to the war. This is common ground between myself and the right hon. Gentleman and, I believe, throughout the country.
The differences arise, I regret to say, in nearly every field beyond that general consideration. I find, with some regret, that the Government's policy has been wrong, on a great variety of counts. The first is that, either by design, which I doubt, or by error, they have misled the House on various subjects with which I will deal.
Second, they seem to believe that the only way that this war can be ended is by the support and flow of arms. I believe that this is now an unwinnable war.
1606 Third, I believe that, by their intervention with the Red Cross and the Joint Church Aid organisation, the Government have, far from furthering the cause of aid going to those who are suffering, brought disrepute on the Red Cross and have given the world the impression that the Red Cross is being made an instrument of national policy. I regard this as a serious crime against one of the only remaining institutions in which the world still has confidence.
Fourth, I object to the policy of Her Majesty's Government on a more general line, which is that if automatic intervention in support and defence of frontiers throughout Africa is to be a condition of the pursuit of British policy, there will lie a burden on the consciences and in the pockets of the British people which will be immeasurable.
In other words, if we are to defend whatever might happen in, for example, Uganda, Kenya, or Somalia so that we automatically provide help and succour to the de facto Governments of those areas, the burden which will fall on our consciences and pockets for supplying arms will be intolerable. It is on these grounds that I propose to divide the House tonight.
I come to more specific points. I regret the misdirection which we have had—this is my view of it—from the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues. The right hon. Gentleman talked about Oxfam, but I have just received a cable from that organisation saying that at its conference this afternoon it proposed…that relief go direct from agreed points outside Federal territory".Parliament was misled the other day when Lord Shepherd said in another place that both the Red Cross and Joint Church Aid had been present at the Lagos conference. Neither was present and both have since denied being present. It has been said today by Mr. Stacey, on behalf of Oxfam—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] I am referring to an influential member of this organisation.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Rev. Nicholas Stacey is the self-appointed publicist for his own point of view and that the representative at the Lagos conference was the Director of Oxfam, Mr. Kirk?
§ Mr. Fraser
The hon. Gentleman should listen to what I said. It was said that members of Joint Church Aid were there. They were not. This was a well-known error on the part of Lord Shepherd and I need not develop the point further.
A more serious matter which worries many people concerns the statement made the other day in reply to a Question about the shooting down of a Red Cross aircraft. It was suggested by the Government that it had been an error. I much regret to tell the House that it was not an error—[Interruption.]—and it is important that the facts be on the record.
At the time, a keen interest was being taken in these matters by journalists who had been expelled from Nigeria. I will give their names to the Foreign Secretary in confidence. One was a friend of the Chief of Air Staff and tapes were recorded which show that for 30 minutes this aircraft was pursued. It was, therefore, shot down with the agreement of air control in Lagos. This is unfortunately a fact. What is more, I have been informed by the Swedish Red Cross that, at the same time, attacks were made on two other aircraft.
In my view, it is not absurd for people to have doubts about whether or not the Nigerian Government are engaging—by offering impossible terms to Colonel Ojukwu—in a policy of genocide by starvation. This doubt must exist and it must be cleared up. What is more, if hon. Members had read the speeches of Chief Enaharo, Chief Awolowo and others they would see, in view of what was said about the use of starvation as a proper instrument for war, that these doubts are bound to exist.
I come to the question of Her Majesty's Government's relationship with the Red Cross. It has been a great error on the part of Her Majesty's Government to suggest that a policy had been agreed for flights into Biafra, when clearly such a policy should have been discussed by both sides. Such discussion has not occurred.
My right hon. Friend spoke of the possibilities. The most essential possibility now is to get food in. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite say that there is not a great food shortage in Biafra. I have been there and while I may have been entirely misinformed, which I doubt, the 1608 head of the Red Cross in Biafra assured me that unless 9,000 tons of food were flown in during June there would be an outbreak of starvation on a scale more severe than before.
We must not forget that these people have only just recovered from a bout of starvation. They have been fortunate so far in not having had any major diseases, like influenza, for even minor diseases can destroy people in a weakened condition. So far, they have been somewhat fortunate in this respect, but we must heed the warning of the head of the Red Cross.
It is well known—my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) has made the position clear—that the airport at Lagos is now completely blocked. It is equally well known that 18,000 tons of protein are standing at San Tome and that another 12,000 tons are standing at Cotonou. What is Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of the West doing about this? This is the real issue before the House today.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
I accept everything that the right hon. Gentleman is saying about imminent or possible starvation and about thousands of tons of foodstuffs lying on quaysides in ports in the Bight of Guinea. But why does not the right hon. Gentleman advise Colonel Ojukwu to accept daylight flights and get the stuff in?
§ Mr. Fraser
That is not a new question. The subject of daylight flights has been under discussion with the Red Cross and both sides for at least three months. The hon. Gentleman has not introduced a new thought. I have quoted the views of the head of the Red Cross. The whole point at issue over the question of daylight flights are the conditions under which they will be allowed. Perhaps hon. Members have read the statement made today by Joint Church Aid to the effect that the proposed terms are unacceptable to it.
As a former Air Minister, paratrooper and guerrilla organiser who has made a study of some of these matters, I know that there are aircraft being dressed up to look like Red Cross aircraft. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh?"] There are at least three Sabena Dakotas being fitted with bomb-racks and machine guns—I regret 1609 to say, on British Ministry of Defence design—and these could be placed into a column of other aircraft without much difficulty. This is why ground and flight control in Lagos and Uli must be fully aware of, and brought into every discussion on, these matters. Without this, there is grave military danger to people on both sides.
That is why the Red Cross and the Churches are attempting to negotiate the flight of planes from outside Federal territory, fully supervised by international people and by international officials to see that no arms go in. I believe that that is reasonable.
A request has been made by the American Secretary of State that whilst all this is being worked out—and it will take a long time; it may take a month or more—there should be relief flights now carrying the tons of food available. That is what the Government should be working on. That is what the Ministers should be doing. That is what they should be pleading for, and acting on, and requesting the United States to act with them, if need be.
An article appeared in the Washington Post on 4th July stating that Americans are becoming very alarmed about the situation. Its heading is the one word "Genocide". The last sentence of that article reads:There are no diplomatic or political considerations so overwhelming that the United States must stand quietly by while another Government murders a million or more souls.That is what people are beginning to think. The issue tonight is how to get the food in.
Many believe that this war is now an unwinnable war. Anyone who has been there will realise that. As Professor Freymond, of the Red Cross, said the other day, "It is not food; it is arms which keep this war going." And the shameful fact is that it is Europeans who are sending arms; not Africans; not the O.A.U. I believe that this is a time not just for polite conversations with the Soviet Union, but for real action by ourselves, by the United States and by world opinion to make this relief really work.
I have not talked to the Federal people, but I have talked to Colonel Ojukwu, and he is prepared to accept an arms embargo. He is prepared to see that arms embargo 1610 policed. He is prepared to reveal to the Government, or anyone else enforcing that arms embargo, the black market sources which are, of course, frequently common to both sides.
Let us not despair about the Soviet Union in this connection. Let us remember that, in this part of Africa, Russia is way out on a limb. Let us remember that in Russia today there is some hesitation about world opinion. Let us remember, too, that the United States is still a mighty, powerful force, which can talk if encouraged to do so.
I regret that tonight we must vote against the Government on this issue. I would vote against this policy whoever initiated it, because it is a policy of disaster and shame for our country.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
Last Monday the Foreign Secretary asked me to try to get the Nigerian war in true perspective. I will try to do so, and I express the modest hope that I may help him to do the same.
The Nigerian war, fought by people who, the other day, were all subjects of the Queen, has been the greatest disaster to the Commonwealth that has ever happened.
It almost ends the hope that the Commonwealth might some day be used as a great instrument for peace and justice in world affairs.
It is one of the ugliest wars in history. In two years 1½ million people have lost their lives—more than Britain lost in the ten years of the two world wars.
Britain has given support—military, political and in the supply of arms—to one party, to Federal Nigeria; but there is no prospect that the war will quickly end. There is only a prospect that more millions yet may die.
If the war is fought out to its ghastly military conclusion, with great Powers supplying weapons freely to both sides, it will be the most sinister of precedents for Africa as a whole.
In recent weeks the Foreign Secretary has given us a picture of the problem as it appears to him. I want to offer some supplementary facts, facts which are essential to the understanding of what is now at stake, and facts which are essential to the understanding of both 1611 parties to the fight. I also want to offer some suggestions.
Britain was the first to sell arms to the Government in Lagos. On 30th June last the Foreign Secretary told us why. He said:If we cut off suppliesin fact, we had no contracts with Nigeria when the war began—on the ground that they were fighting a rebellion, the inevitable conclusion must be that the rebellion was justified."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1969; Vol. 786, c. 40.]The words he used were "inevitable conclusion". With great respect to my right hon Friend, I believe that that is the most astounding non sequitur that ever led to national and international disaster. If in July, 1967, the Government had refused arms to both sides in the war, the inevitable conclusion would have been that, in their opinion, fighting could not bring reunion and reconciliation to Nigeria, and that only a cease-fire and a peaceful settlement could do that. That was true in 1967: it is true today. If we are thinking of the unity of Nigeria in the future, it is the dominating fact.
Let me recall what happened when we started giving arms. I read a short extract from Keesing's Contemporary Archives about what happened then. It states:The U.S. State Department disclosed on 11th July"—that is, 1967—that it had refused a request by the Nigerian Government for military aid, on the ground that the dispute with Biafra was a purely internal matter to be settled by the Nigerians themselves.At the same time the British Government was considering a Nigerian request to purchase arms in Britain as a commercial transaction.…The British Government confirmed on 9th August that `a small purchase' of arms was being sent to Nigeria by air.…On 19th August, 15 Soviet Antonov transport planes brought six MiG fighters and six MiG trainers and 170 Russian technicians. On 22nd August, the United States Government expressed regret that the Soviet Union was sending extensive shipments of jet aircraft, etc.…and reiterated that it had decided not to sell or otherwise supply arms or ammunition to either side.On 11th July, 1967, when the United States made their decision public, surely we could have joined them at once—six weeks before the Russian Antonov aircraft reached Nigeria—surely we could 1612 have asked Kosygin to join in, too. If the Prime Minister had gone to the United Nations General Assembly and if, with President Johnson, he had called on all the nations to place an arms ban on both sides, it might have been the most profitable of his many journeys. Three months before Kosygin had been his guest in London. They joined together in a great effort to stop the Vietnam war. How could Kosygin have refused an arms ban for Nigeria? How could he have insisted on starting up a war?
Why did we not make that obviously right proposal'? I think it was because the "experts" in power-politics prevailed. "The Russians will not agree", they said, "and if they do, they will cheat. If we hesitate even for a moment, Gowon will turn to Russia. They will be his allies and they will get bases on the long Atlantic coast." So we were the first to sell Nigeria arms.
But, like every power-politics calculation, it all went wrong. We did not keep the Russians out; we let them in. If it was right for us to sell arms to Nigeria, it was right for Russia too.
Today the Federal Nigerian Air Force is a Russian Air Force in disguise: the planes are Russian, the ground equipment, the ground crews, the services and the staff are Russian; the pilots are Egyptians and East Germans. Soviet agents have gained a footing in the Nigerian general staff, in the civil service, in the trade unions, among the students; and in the general public, Soviet influence has begun to spread. If the present lunatic arms race among the Powers continues, the day may come when we shall bitterly regret the sale of arms to Nigeria in 1967.
I will recall some other facts which supplement the picture the Foreign Secretary has given us, facts which show what Biafra feels about the present situation.
§ Mr. Richard
My right hon. Friend is being vehement in his strictures on the Government and is giving certain facts, but will he tell us whether at the date the Nigerian Government requested assistance from Great Britain Biafra had purported to declare independence?
§ Mr. Richard
With respect, that is not what I asked. I asked whether at that date Biafra had purported to declare independence.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
If I may answer my hon. Friend, they had said that they must have their own Government, but they were ready to join in close economic arrangements and in common services of many kinds. Of course they were not going to sacrifice their original basic principle before a negotiation began, but that does not mean that if negotiations had happened, there might not have been a peaceful settlement.
I want to recall some other facts—I hope my hon. Friend will listen—which supplement the picture the Foreign Secretary has drawn of the Nigerian situation; and facts which explain what the Biafrans feel today. They are facts which are essential to an understanding of the present situation on Relief. I say at once that I am not pro-Biafra. I only want this senseless war to stop. But these are facts which are often forgotten, and they are vitally important.
It was the Federal Nigerians who carried out the two massacres of Ibos in 1966, who drove 2 million of them out as refugees into the East. Refugees do not leave their homes and their possessions unless they are in deadly terror. I have seen it happen in Greece.
It was the Federal Nigerians who tore up the Abori Agreement, of which the Foreign Secretary spoke. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Made in the autumn of 1966, it was an agreement which would have given a firm basis for government in Nigeria, and to which Biafra had agreed. It was Federal Nigeria which refused the conference proposed by Ojukwu in May, 1967. It was Federal Nigeria which made the first armed attack on Biafra on 6th July. In all international discussions, he who first uses arms is called the aggressor. It was Federal Nigeria which invaded Biafra and boasted that it would destroy the Biafran army in a few days or weeks.
§ Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us who murdered the Sirdana of Sokotu?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
—some of whom were Ibos, but by no means all. Will the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) tell me who murdered General Ironsi, with the result that General Gowon came to power on the following Monday?
I do not want to do more than try to redress the balance as I see it. Ojukwu, after the attack on 6th July, when, as Keesing says, hestill controlled the military situation",proposed the ending of the war and a conference to seek a negotiated peace. Federal Nigeria refused. It said it would never negotiate with Ojukwu. It said there must be a new Eastern leader. It drew up a new constitution which tore Biafra into three small pieces which would have been impotent to defend themselves against those who had proved themselves their enemies in the North. It was Federal Nigeria which did everything, by those measures, to ensure that the war it had started would be long and bloody.
Even in March this year Ojukwu was proposing—he did it twice—that there should be a conference to end the war. He said he thought that war could not help to settle anything. He asked for a conference without any pre-conditions to settle peace. Federal Nigeria turned both proposals down.
The Foreign Secretary spoke of the 4 million Ibos in Federal Nigeria to prove the generosity of the Government of Lagos. Does he know that the great majority of those Ibos are living in the bush where the Nigerians cannot reach them, and where the Red Cross has great difficulty in delivering food?
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept from me that when I was in Kano only a few weeks ago I met many Ibos who had returned there, and I found the same in Kaduna and Benin?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Of course there are some Ibos working with the Nigerian 1615 Government. I do not deny that. I am telling the House what I believe to be the truth, that the great majority of Ibos are living in the bush.
I come now to what I regard as the most vital fact in the present situation. The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) referred to the foul atrocity of 4th June, which created, and still dominates, the whole situation about relief. On 5th June a Red Cross plane, carrying food and medicine, flying under written agreement with the Government of Lagos, was murderously shot down without any warning. Four gallant Swedes, engaged on humanitarian work, supported by the general public of the world, were incontinently killed.
When I asked the Foreign Secretary the other day whether he had protested against this crime, he gave no answer. He said that the Government of Lagos hadspontaneously expressed the view that this was a disaster."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July, 1969; Vol. 786, c. 957.]No; it was no disaster. It was a cold, calculated crime against the law of nations, a crime intended to halt the airlift by which 3 million Biafrans were being saved from mass starvation. That was its deliberate purpose; and it succeeded. Ever since, Nigerian Ministers and generals have been defending mass starvation as a proper means of war.
That is the true background to the relief problem of today. It was because Dr. Lindt of the International Red Cross protested against this crime that the Government of Lagos asked him to leave, and now propose to take over control of all relief themselves and to seize the great stocks of food which the International Red Cross has collected from the countries of the world and which are in Federal Nigeria today.
When the Foreign Secretary appears to give approval to this demand, I beg him to be careful of what he says. Lagos agents have suggested that Federal Nigeria must have guarantees against Red Cross aircraft carrying arms, guarantees that the food will go to the civilians and not to the Biafran army.
I worked in close intimacy with the International Red Cross when I was serving with Dr. Nansen in his work against the Russian famine, in repatriating 1616 prisoners of war, in helping refugees, from 1920 to 1930. We had the same kind of libellous slanders to deal with that there are today. I say with absolute conviction, and on the basis of that experience, that it is inconveivable that the International Red Cross would allow the smuggling of arms in its aircraft.
The food is distributed in Biafra not by Biafrans but by the relief agencies themselves—the Joint Church Aid, Caritas, Oxfam, and the rest. The integrity of the International Red Cross is above suspicion. It has the best brains and the ablest statesmanship of the noble nation of the Swiss. I say again to the Foreign Secretary that, if there is a dispute between the Red Cross and the Government of Lagos, it is not the bona fides of the Red Cross that is in doubt.
The crime of 5th June is the background also to the Lagos plan for daylight flights, to which the Foreign Secretary has given his support this afternoon. The House must try to understand the Biafran point of view. I wonder whether hon. Members remember that the airlift of food is Biafra's lifeline, that the Lagos plan would put that lifeline in the enemy's grasp. I wonder whether they think that the Biafrans could trust the authors of the crime of 5th June. I wonder whether they know that the Red Cross has tried flights from Lagos; that the first time they were delayed for seven days and the second for 10. If the planes start from Lagos, the relief agencies may be victims of every kind of camouflaged obstruction.
We have to know a great deal more about the safety of the aircraft and their crews, about the guarantees for Biafra that an open Uli airfield will not be used by the Federal Nigerians for a Trojan horse attack.
The Foreign Secretary led us to think on Monday—this afternoon he said a little more—that the Lagos plan was the best, if not the only, hope of quick relief. There are two other plans that are much more hopeful, much more liable to come through quickly. They would give the Federal Nigerians every guarantee they legitimately need.
The first is this, reported from official sources in The Guardian of yesterday: "Biafra is willing to accept international supervision of relief aircraft with Nigerian 1617 participation at points outside Nigeria like Cotonou or Fernando Po." "Nigerian participation "—what more can Nigeria legitimately require than that, if its purpose is to ascertain that bombs are not being carried with the food?
The second plan—the Cross River—may be even quicker and even more important. In Lagos harbour there is lying today a vessel loaded with 900 tons of food. This vessel—the "Donna Mercedes "—has been given by the United States to take relief to Biafra up the River Cross. Three guarantees are needed: the Americans must guarantee that they will not carry arms; the Biafrans must guarantee that they will not fire upon her when she comes near their shore; the Federal Nigerians must guarantee that they will not fire upon her from their shore when she comes up the river. The Americans and the Biafrans have answered "Yes". The Federal Nigerians have answered "No". The ship could leave tomorrow. It could avert the worst of the impending holocaust in Biafra, if Lagos could be induced to answer "Yes".
I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary has left. His influence, after all he has done to help Federal Nigeria, must surely extend to this. Surely he can get the Lagos Government to allow the Cross River service to begin at once. These plans—The Fernando Po and the Cross River projects—are the Foreign Secretary's most urgent duty on relief, together with all proper support from Britain for the International Red Cross.
We all think that relief comes first today, but, as The Times said this morning, relief is not all the Foreign Secretary's duty. While the war goes on, the suffering, the waste and the danger will all grow greater. There is only one way to stop it, even now—an all-round international ban on arms to both sides. Let the Prime Minister himself go to the United Nations General Assembly and propose it. Let him give as many days as he gave to visiting Lagos and Stockholm in recent weeks. Let him mobilise the opinion of the world, as only the General Assembly can mobilise it, and he will maximise the chance that he can put it through.
The Under-Secretary of State, writing to the United Nations Association in February of this year, said that "much 1618 of the traffic in arms is in the hands of private dealers whose activities are virtually impossible to control". On 3rd April the Prime Minister told me that the black marketeers could not be stopped by a United Nations resolution. With infinite respect to my right hon. and hon. Friends, that is defeatist nonsense.
What is meant by a United Nations resolution? A piece of paper without Government action to follow it up? Of course, if they get their resolution, they must mobilise Governments to control their arms factories, their seaports and their airports. The traffic can be ended, and the war brought to an end as well.
There lies the Government's most urgent duty, which transcends all others. When they fulfil it, with the full glare of international publicity on the operation, they will begin to give reality to their honeyed words about the United Nations, and they will take the first long step towards a better world.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
I hope that hon. Members will have regard to Mr. Speaker's appeal for short speeches.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
I shall detain the House for only a short time because many of the points which I wished to make have been made by the right hon. Gentlemen who preceded me. The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) spoke from a wide experience of work in the international sphere, particularly in the relief of poverty and the Red Cross.
I do not wish in anything I say to apportion blame between the two sides. It is none of my business to do so. I do not consider that it is any business of this House; neither do I think that it is any business of the British Government. We might have been in a much stronger position if that had been our attitude throughout. At the outset, it was the Government's position. Before the outbreak of war, Lord Walston made quite clear that we should be neutral and that there was to be no intervention. On 25th January, 1968, Lord Shepherd said in another place that we should be neutral, helping neither one side nor the other. That was the Government's initial view, and in my opinion it was right.
1619 I start by repeating what I said on 13th March, that there is no difference in the House on two main objectives. The first is to send in immediate supplies. The second is the vitally important objective of a ceasefire. There could probably now be a third resolution which Her Majesty's Government would adopt, that, in so far as it is possible, they would never again become involved in a civil war for which they were not responsible. I am sure that in their hearts of hearts they themselves wish that they had not been drawn in as they have.
I greatly welcomed the speech of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), particularly his reference to the need for an initiative both on an arms embargo and on the securing of a political settlement. I do not wish in any way to appear either critical or carping, but I somehow wish that the full authority which he carries in these matters had caused him to place, perhaps, as high a priority on those two initiatives at an earlier stage in this Nigerian dispute. Also, I welcome the Foreign Secretary's reference to arms control and the possibility—
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The right hon. Gentleman must not misunderstand me. I put that forward a year ago.
§ Mr. Thorpe
With respect, I entirely accept that, but for once I found that there was, perhaps, a more critical and questioning note in the right hon. Gentleman's speech about the supply of arms. As I have understood the situation—correctly, I hope—up to the present there had been no real criticism by Her Majesty's Opposition regarding the effectiveness or the wisdom of the supply of arms. Today I felt that the right hon. Gentleman, very properly, was discussing that matter with, perhaps, slightly more reservations than had been seen previously. But if I misinterpret his view in any way, I withdraw at once.
The Foreign Secretary is anxious to point out the extent to which the Federal authorities are prepared to see that there is relief in Biafra. I welcome any initiatives from the Federal authorities in that regard. The right hon. Gentleman said that this was unusual, perhaps even unique, in the history of warfare. I feel that we ought to put it in perspective. 1620 Let us remember that that attitude is directed towards people whom they regard as their own citizens, 4 million of whom, we are told, are happily living in Federal Nigeria. One would, therefore, expect a more humanitarian approach. One would expect a Federal Government, even in a situation of civil war, to want to feed their own citizens. Therefore, as I say, we should not have that aspect of the matter out of perspective.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire rightly said that the Biafrans might refuse daylight flights, that they might refuse flights which were initiated from Federal territory. If that were to happen, he said, nothing would be gained from apportioning blame. He said, rightly, that the considerations might be military. So they might be. It is a tragedy of this situation that for two years, rightly or wrongly, men on both sides have been prepared to fight and die because of the intensity of feeling which they have on the issues involved. It is not for us to say whether they are right or wrong in that view. It is not for us to discuss what are the particular military tactics and whether they are justified or not. Our objective is a ceasefire and the entry of supplies.
Let us suppose for a moment that the Biafrans refuse. Our objective still remains that of sending in immediate supplies, and if it is possible to secure acceptance of supplies emanating from a neutral source, we should bend our efforts to achieving just that.
The Foreign Secretary said with regard to flights from outside—that is, supplies emanating from an outside territory—that there were disadvantages, military disadvantages, for the Federal authorities, and he added that the Federal authorities wished to be in a position to prove that they intended to be humanitarian and merciful in getting in supplies. Even accepting all that, I cannot see how, if there are both Biafran and Nigerian observers on neutral territory and if each flight is notified to both authorities in advance, there could be any military disadvantage or objection. But, as I say, I am not here to question the military motives of either side. I am trying merely to look at it from a practical viewpoint.
If there be any question of propaganda here, the mere fact that, as the right 1621 hon. Gentleman said, the supplies would go over Federal Nigerian airspace ought in itself to be sufficient evidence of good intentions.
It is a fact that both the Joint Church Aid organisation and the I.C.R.C. have been operating from foreign territory, both Portuguese territory and Dahomey. With the best will in the world, I find it difficult to see why there should be objection to flights emanating from a third country.
In passing, I ask what is the immediate position now? This is where humanitarian considerations will be judged. What is the position pending negotiation? There have been virtually no supplies since 10th June. A few went in after the Red Cross aircraft was shot down on 5th June, but after that there have been virtually no supplies going in at all. We are not here to assess the rightness or wrongness of the reactions of either side. We must try to bring about a settlement so that relief can go in.
Now, the question of arms. I have always been opposed to the shipment of arms by this country to Nigeria. I regard it as thoroughly immoral. I do not believe that it is our job to take sides in a civil war. That is a totally new situation. Neither do I believe that it is our job to try to maintain frontiers carved up by European Powers.
§ Mr. Cordle
What does the right hon. Gentleman say about traditional supplies of arms over the years to our Commonwealth countries?
§ Mr. Thorpe
I said this on 13th March, and I hope that the House will forgive me now for repeating it. I have been very much opposed to the régime of Dr. Nkrumah. I thought that it was a very bad régime. But we were supplying Nkrumah, before the coup d'état, with something like £900,000 worth of arms a year, far more than to Nigeria. There was a rising. It so happened that it was swift and Nkrumah was despatched. Supposing that country had been plunged into a condition of civil war. Would we have said that it was our duty, because Nkrumah had been the de facto and de jure leader, automatically to ship in arms and maintain the status quo?
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am answering the hon. Gentleman. It was a fair question. When Singapore wished to secede from the Malaysian Federation, if Malaysia had asked us for weapons to force Singapore back into the Federation, should we have agreed to this? Should that have been the posture of this country and the Government? I believe not. There is a situation when régimes change, sometimes violently, and I do not believe that our job is to maintain the status quo.
We have a similar situation in Kenya, where the tragic assassination of Mr. Tom M'boya has brought about a terrifying conflict between certain tribes. I hope that this will go no further, but supposing that country were plunged into a condition of civil unrest. Are we then to say that we must automatically ship arms because we have been the traditional suppliers to the Government which happens to be the status quo? It is a very dangerous doctrine.
§ Mr. Edwin Brooks (Bebington)
I am trying to follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument. Is he saying that in no circumstances should this country involve itself in the rights and wrongs of a civil war? If he is saying that, does he feel that the pre-war policy of the British Government towards the Spanish Civil War, a policy of non-intervention, was right?
§ Mr. Thorpe
With great respect, I do not think it is of great value to refer to the Spanish Civil War, for this reason—I believe that the rôle of individual volunteers in Spain was something which we could wholly understand. If I had been been old enough I might have participated in some way. I think it was right, but I do not think that it is the job of this country to go fighting other people's civil wars. That imperialist rôle is over, and I am very pleased. To do this in Africa is to try to perpetuate a neo-colonialist rôle which is no longer there.
§ Mr. Richard
Since the right hon. Gentleman is arguing that in no circumstances should Britain supply arms to a Commonwealth country which might be faced by an uprising he has, and we have, to draw up some principles upon which we either do sell arms or do not. What are the right hon. Gentleman's principles?
§ Mr. Thorpe
I would say first of all, whether they are right or wrong, that I 1623 do have some principles. One thing that has become abundantly clear is that the Government have no principles.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I quote from the Prime Minister on 16th May when he said:We have allowed the continuance of supply of arms by private manufacturers in this country exactly on the basis that it has been in the past, but there has been no special provision for the needs of war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th May. 1968; Vol. 764, c. 1397–8.]That may be regarded as the principle. The only difference is that those arms have now been used to kill people in that country, not for external defence purposes. The control of arms is one of the most difficult political problems we have to solve.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Certainly. I believe that the shipment of arms to countries should be severely limited to treaty obligations into which we have entered.
§ Mr. Thorpe
If I may be allowed to continue without undue interruption, it should be made quite plain that we should not regard the shipment of those arms under any treaty as arms to be used for the purposes of a civil war, and that in the event of a civil war breaking out the whole situation would have to be reviewed. That was the position of this Government, in their early stages, over South Africa.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I think that the Government were right to cancel arms to South Africa. All that I am saying is that there are certain principles involved with regard to South Africa which are very difficult to define here.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I will not give way again. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will have 1624 an opportunity of making his own speech. There was the Simonstown Agreement, which we terminated, in my view rightly. It is possible to evolve an arms policy which has a slightly greater degree of morality than that being followed in Nigeria.
Talking about arms control, the Foreign Secretary said the difficulty is to get countries to admit that they are supplying arms to Biafra. But is that an admission we require? Is not the criterion for acceptability by all nations, that they will supply no arms to any part of Nigeria? The mere fact that the French or the Russians deny that they have ever supplied arms does not seem to me to be a bar to attempting to get an overall universal form of agreement. As the right hon. Gentleman said, we know that Soviet Russia is now there in strength. There is some suggestion that it was a Soviet warship which was feeding information to MiG fighters and Ilyushin bombers, which gave the information about the Red Cross plane on 5th June.
Russia should be brought before the bar of world opinion, and if Russia is the only country which refuses to bring about some form of control, then the world should know it. Because we have let it drift we are getting a cold war situation in Nigeria. Let us not forget that it was to avoid conditions of the cold war that the great Powers allowed the United Nations to go into the Congo. I do not believe that we want very often to see a Foreign Secretary having to go to that Box and defend Britain's position as a supplier of arms to one side in a civil war.
It is vital that this Government should use what influence they have, which may be considerable with the Federal authorities—I accept that it is very slight with Biafra, for obvious reasons—to see if we cannot get some form of agreement on relief. Relief may well have to be flown in from an outside power, but I do not see why we cannot take the initiative on a ceasefire, on the whole question of arms control. If the Government had gone to the United Nations and failed, at least we could have said that they had tried.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
The speech of the right hon. Member 1625 for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), particularly at the outset, was much to be preferred to the two speeches, one from either of the back benches, from my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) and the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser).
My right hon. Friend is a highly respected Member of this House, with great knowledge on questions of disarmament and peace, and I do not want to cross swords with him too much. But when he assures us, as he did, that he was not taking a pro-Biafran attitude, then this was stretching the credulity of hon. Members who seek to take an impartial view of this. When the public read his speech, they will be bound to come to the conclusion that he was extremely pro-Biafran and extremely unfair to the credentials and good faith of his own Government.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker
What I said was that I was explaining the Biafran point of view and reciting facts which were very important in the minds of the Biafrans but often forgotten here.
§ Mr. Hamilton
My right hon. Friend was mistaking assertions for facts. He was making assertions which were demonstrably untrue. One of them was challenged by the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle), when he pointed out that four million Ibos were not living in the bush.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I am sorry, but my right hon. Friend did say that. If he looks at HANSARD tomorrow, he will see that he stated that four million Ibos in Federal territory were living in the bush. That is demonstrably untrue.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I have only ten minutes. The record is there and my right hon. Friend can check it tomorrow. He also makes the mistake of asserting that there is such a thing as the Biafran state. There is no such thing, either ethnically or geographically. This is a self-styled rebellion.
I want to turn now to the speech of the Leader of the Liberal Party. He talks about not supplying arms in civil 1626 wars. He was also the one who advocated bombing Rhodesia.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I also advocated it, but art least I have been consistent all along. The right hon. Gentleman has not been consistent. He can hardly justify saying in one breath "Bomb Rhodesia" and in the next "Do not interfere in a civil war in a Commonwealth territory".
§ Mr. Thorpe
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree, first, that Rhodesia is a colony for which we are responsible while Nigeria is not, and, second, that to advocate the destruction of one railway line in the desert is rather different from supplying arms for use against civilians?
§ Mr. Hamilton
The question was not as simple as that, as was pointed out at the time. Both the right hon. Gentleman and I advocated this proposition, which was first formulated in The Guardian. He faithfully followed The Guardian line on the point, but it was explained that the problem was by no means as simple as bombing a railway line. Nevertheless, it is the principle that I want to establish. The right hon. Gentleman cannot say, "Bomb in one part of Africa but don't interfere in another".
My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary did very well to remind us—we need continually reminding of it—that Nigeria is an independent sovereign State. It is all too often assumed in this House that we could adopt a paternalistic attitude to Nigeria. That is no longer our rôle. It cannot be, and I am glad that it cannot be.
The rôle of the United Kingdom Government is extremely limited. When I hear the extravagant accusations and claims made against the Government by some of my right hon. and hon. Friends—I can understand them when they come from the Opposition because it is the purpose of the Opposition to denigrate the Government, and no doubt if we were on that side we would do the same—when I hear these charges from hon. Members on this side against my right hon. Friends in the Government who have worked day and night to try and get a peaceful settlement in Nigeria, it sticks to my gullet.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon (Preston, South)
My hon. Friend will appreciate that he is the keeper of his own conscience, and we recognise that. Has he forgotten that one million people have already died in Biafra, and that if we do not do anything in the near future another million will probably die of starvation?
§ Mr. Hamilton
This is the kind of inference that I find extremely objectionable. The inference is that the Government have connived at the death of one million people and are conniving at the death of hundreds of thousands more. I refute that absolutely. I would not belong to the Labour Party if I believed that there was a single member of the Labour Government who had connived in any way in this tragedy. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Hamilton
I support the Government because I believe that my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, his colleagues in the Foreign Office and every other Minister in the Government are striving might and main to get a ceasefire both in the long term and in the short term—certainly in the short term—to avoid the kind of starvation and mass death to which my hon. Friend the member for Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon) has rightly drawn attention.
It is difficult for this House to rid itself of emotional upheaval when talking about this kind of problem. We all want to stop the starvation, but it is an African responsibility. It will not be solved by the United Nations, despite what my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South has said—and both he and I have great faith in the United Nations. The Organisation of African Unity is the body which will strive to solve this problem.
I hope that we might further examine the possibility of establishing a black Commonwealth force to interpose itself between the two sides. We can try this kind of initiative, but, for heaven's sake, on this side at least, do not let us question the integrity or the sincerity of what the Government are trying to do. The New Statesman on 4th July asserted that my right hon. Friend the Foreign 1628 and Commonwealth Secretary was an accomplice in genocide and that the United Kingdom Government were trying to starve Biafra into submission in order to get Biafran oil. What a scandalous statement in a supposedly Socialist magazine. I find this kind of thing impossible to understand. Such charges do no good to anyone.
§ Mr. Hamilton
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has not been in the Chamber long enough.
§ Mr. Hamilton
That sort of intervention does my hon. Friend the Member for Walton no good, nor anyone else.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Walton must not interrupt the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton). Unless the hon. Member for Fife, West is prepared to give way, the hon. Gentleman must remain seated.
§ Mr. Heffer
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am always prepared to abide by the Ruling of the Chair and not stand up when an hon. Member is not prepared to give way, but hon. Members should not attack their colleagues and then not give way.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
That is not a point of order. It is a matter for the hon. Member who has the Floor to decide whether to give way or not.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I am not attacking anyone. I am just pointing out that if hon. Members on this side choose to attack their own Government then I have a perfect right to defend the Government, and that is what I intend to do. That is not 1629 to say that I want to take sides in the Nigerian civil war.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I have made it clear that I do not want to take sides. But I object to hon. Members on this side attacking the Government for taking sides. It might be argued that my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has gone too far in supporting the Federal side. There may be something in that, but that is not a challenge to his sincerity. To suggest that a decision to ban arms supplies would not be interpreted as a partial, pro-Biafran decision is nonsense. It would be inferred by the Biafrans that the British Government were now leaning on their side, and that might have the effect of prolonging rather than curtailing the war. The solution is not as easy as might be imagined.
I put my faith in the Government seeking to get an international ban on armaments. No contribution to that end would be made by a unilateral cessation by our Government. One may go back into history, as did the Leader of the Liberal Party and my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South, and deplore the initial supply of arms, but that is history and we cannot undo history. We now have to deal with the situation as it is.
I hope that we all agree that we want to take measures to get relief in by daylight flights, or night flights if the Federal Government can be satisfied that they are not being used as a cover for getting in arms. The Federal Government has a right to ask for that condition. If both sides could agree to land routes and to daylight flights from outside, subject to neutral observation, those would be the things in which our Government could rightly take initiatives, and I believe that they are doing so.
I do not believe, for instance, a charge by the head of the Netherlands Ad Hoc Committee for Biafran War Refugees who asserted that the British Foreign Office and the United States State Department had exercised massive political pressure on the International Red Cross to do nothing whatever to help Biafra. This was a charge made by a reputable Netherlands politician, and I should like my right hon. Friend to refute it. I 1630 believe that it is not true, but I should like my right hon. Friend to make it clear that it is untrue. This is the kind of accusation which is being made, and it does nothing to help a solution of the problem which we are seeking to solve. But let us realise how limited are our responsibility and our influence.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
It is not often that I agree with the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), but I warmly support his views about the Nigerian issue, and I go all along the line with him in supporting Her Majesty's Government and their policy for Nigeria. I should like to make one or two comments before coming to the main part of my speech. It was only last night, through the good offices of B.O.A.C., that I landed back in this country after leaving Lagos on Monday and on Tuesday being in Kano and Kaduna, while yesterday morning I was in Zaria and left Kano for the United Kingdom.
We all recognise the debate as serious and the comments as sincere and made by people who are concerned about the great country of Nigeria. I asked the Leader of the Liberal Party what were his views about the traditional arms supply to Nigeria or other Commonwealth countries. It will be appreciated that, whatever we here say or do about the supply of arms to Nigeria, the Nigerians will secure their arms willy-nilly anywhere they want, whether we like it or not, and they have made that abundantly clear.
§ Mr. Cordle
I want to deal with the issue of the DC7 which was shot down. We all deplore that terrible incident, but the review of the tapes and the facts shows that Nigerian fighter pilots at least twice requested the DC7 to land for inspection, requests which were denied on both occasions, with the result that eventually they shot down the aircraft.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser
This is the point—that it was shot down under the control of the Federal Government in Lagos.
§ Mr. Cordle
It was shot down under the control of the Federal Government in Lagos after having been given fair warning to land for inspection, and I believe that that was a right and proper thing to do.
It may interest hon. Members to know that prisoners-of-war who have come out of the stricken territory have openly admitted that relief supplies of food sent to Biafra have been supplied to them. These are some of the facts which I was able to glean during the course of the last seven days.
I took a route, as I have said, from Lagos through Kaduna, Jos, Kano and Zaria, and I met a cross-section of society to whom I was able freely to talk about the war. In view of the war, the prevailing conditions are amazing. There is virtually little sign of the war. Commerce and industry are strong. Business is suffering very little. It is "business as usual".
§ Mr. Cordle
The British High Commissioner said that inquiries were still coming in from outside sources about new projects and expansion, inquiries from the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries.
We have to accept that Nigeria is one of the most important Commonwealth countries, certainly in Africa, outside South Africa itself. People continue in their peaceful pursuits. It is delightful to see how much work is being done in the fields and in the replanting of yams and cassavas and maize, and there is certainly no disruption of services throughout the country, other than in the war-torn areas.
On this occasion, I did not apply to go to Biafra, as my four previous applications had all been turned down, but I was able to meet people who had something to say about the Federal situation. I met the ordinary man in the street, the hotel worker, the taxi driver, the university student, the professor, the church-worker, the missionary.
Last Sunday, I attended morning service at St. Nicholas's Church, which, as hon. Members will know, is within a short distance of the Independence Building. I made inquiries about the percentage content of the congregation. I suppose that there were at least 75 to 80 per 1632 cent. Nigerians and the rest were Europeans. I took aside a sidesman I knew and asked how many Ibos were in the church. He said that at least 30 per cent. were Ibos. A hotel worker in the Federal Palace Hotel—I did not stay there—told me that at least 40 Ibos were employed in that hotel. All the people to whom I spoke condemned secession and put the blame for the war fairly and squarely on Ojukwu and his gang.
It ought to be said, and clearly said, that I believe that the policy followed by General Gowon is right. Many of us have been puzzled, and certainly somewhat set back in our thinking by it, by the war not being quickly hastened in order that the suffering may be brought to an end. But he has constantly told us, and he has told me again and again, that he will move only with the greatest possible care and calculation so as to minimise casualties and bring the greatest possible success to the move.
I think that this has done the job by squeezing the area tighter and allowing more people to get out. I understand the views of hon. Members who have spoken, especially my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), who spoke most sincerely on this point, but today, without question, there are thousands of Ibos coming out of Iboland. They are delighted to be free and are enjoying liberty under the Federal Government. They are now being dispersed throughout the whole of Nigeria.
I was there yesterday. I spoke to Ibos in Kano and Zaria, and I flew back with an Ibo last night. Integration goes on apace, and this nails the lie to Ojukwu. Ibo traders are returning in large numbers to Kaduna, Jos, Ibadan, and Lagos—and not to be killed; they are not in fear of their lives. I have spoken to them, and they are quite prepared to tell one that they are Ibos, which would not have happened a few months ago. Those are encouraging signs and support what the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said so well this afternoon. What he said recently in Lagos has gone down extraordinarily well. We were delighted also to know that the Prime Minister confirmed the arms supply position when he spoke in Sweden on Sunday about that very important matter.
1633 The Ibos are even returning to the north, and in two cases they have set up as small hoteliers and others in trade. In Kaduna Ibos are taking up employment with Government institutions and commercial undertakings. Ibo students from Nsuka are being absorbed into the Ibadan University and are being remitted the last year of their academic training as well as being given extra tuition to bring them up to the required standard.
General Gowon sent a message to the House in reply to a question I put to him. I asked, "Will there be a military solution, or do you still hold out for a negotiated settlement?". He said,We are ready for negotiation at any time, but if Ojukwu is not forthcoming then there is no alternative. I hope earnestly that public opinion is not deceived by the Ojukwu propaganda, and that all who are doing humanitarian work and good will not be affected by it. For our part, we will not do anything to affect the excellent relationship with aid organisations that exists. People in Nigeria are sensitive to this and this must be borne in mind. We are not doing anything out of hatred or malice to kill the Ibos. It is our urgent attempt to unite the country and give security and stability to everyone. We want to see the end of the war as quickly as possible with a minimum of suffering, and as a united Nigeria to carry out normal life with security for everyone according to his ethnic beliefs.General Gowon gave me an absolute assurance and guarantee for the safety of planes and crews involved in daylight relief flights into Biafra from Federal territory.
As to the question of the slowness of the war, General Gowon maintained his position, on which I have already commented. He said:We move only after careful and thorough calculation to provide us with the maximum success and minimum loss and suffering of men and material.He is a sincere man and I believe that he has all the people of Nigeria at heart, not just the Yorubas, the Hausas, the Ijaws and the Ibibios, but the Ibos mostly. If they are given the chance to be reunited once against with the rest of Nigeria, I believe that the Ibos will be a privileged tribe and will possibly have more prominent positions. I believe that it is part of General Gowon's policy now to introduce Ibos to better positions throughout the country quickly, so as to show up the other side again as being misleading and inaccurate in what it says about the Government of Nigeria.
1634 Nigerians begin to tire of our British attitude. They are exasperated by the hostility of certain sections of our Press. They say, "If the British do not go along with us, to hell with them. We will survive". The leading spokesman in Nigeria, Chief Enaharo, has said:We are being pushed towards directions we have not contemplated so far.That is a very serious comment on the run-down of the arms supply to Nigeria, and it needs to be cogitated upon.
It is said, and I believe that it could be right, that at present Britain, which has guaranteed its traditional contracts for the supply of arms through Crown Agent sources, supplies about 15 per cent. of Nigeria's arms. Ten to 15 per cent. is being supplied by the Russians, but it is mostly Russian aircraft and aircraft requirements. The rest comes from anywhere else that the Nigerians can obtain it. It should be brought home again and again that if we cease to supply they will secure their arms elsewhere, willy nilly.
There is no confirmation of continued arms supplies to Biafra from France, but there is no evidence yet that the policy has changed. However, there is evidence of stock-piling in Abijan in the Ivory Coast and Libreville in Gabon. Such arms are being bought with funds in the main derived from misguided people throughout the world.
Relief to the starving women and children is surely our chief concern. Relations between the Red Cross relief workers and Federal Army personnel in the field have not always been happy. There had always been a feeling that the relief activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross in flying in supplies at night to Biafra, despite the Federal Government's expressed preference for day flights, had helped prolong the war, particularly because the night flights provided cover for gun-running planes. It was claimed among the Federals that some arms and ammunition were carried on relief planes. Fuel was also siphoned off the relief planes arriving at Uli with more than their journey required.
When the Federal authorities granted permission for day flights by the I.C.R.C. in November, 1967, they probably did not foresee the war going on for more than 18 months more, or that Uli would become the second busiest airport in Africa as the extent of the flights increased.
1635 Some Red Cross personnel, it seems Lo me, have allowed their enthusiasm for relief for Biafra to make it appear that they had no regard for Nigerian sovereignty. Federal Government officials also felt that it would have been a little helpful if the I.C.R.C. had appeared to put pressure on Ojukwu to accept day flights and to accept a land corridor or supplies by river. The fact that the I.C.R.C. appeared determined to make night flights, whether the Federal Government wanted it to or not, did not improve relations.
There was also unhappiness with the rôle of Dr. August Lindt, the Commissioner-General for West Africa, during the negotiations to secure the release of the imprisoned oil men. He was flying in and out of Biafra in trying to get the men freed, and on one occasion he took off from Lagos airport in his own plane illegally, without permission, when there was a ban on all light planes because of the Swedish air attacks on Federal territory. Dr. Lindt, who was detained overnight, had maintained that all was in order. Government officials have also complained that he told them less about his negotiations over the oil men than he told the Press. In May, while those negotiations were going on, the five Swedish Minicons piloted by Swedes began their serious air attacks on Federal airports. There were allegations that the planes could not have reached Biafra but for the cover provided by night flights.
Frustration at the Federals' failure to win quickly and a growing suspicion that relief agencies and foreigners were helping Biafra survive slowly developed. The Press in Nigeria began to blame the current situation on the relief workers, and Dr. Lindt was a prime target. The Government-owned Morning Post claimed that one of the Swedish planes which attacked Benin had the red and white colours of the International Red Cross, though that was not substantiated by any other reports. But it all added fuel to the fire which was beginning to blaze in extreme hostility to the I.C.R.C., with repeated calls in the Press for its expulsion.
Then, on 5th June, the Nigerian air force shot down a Swedish Red Cross DC7 on its way into Biafra after it twice 1636 refused requests to land in Federal territory for its cargo to be inspected. Attacks on the Nigerians for this came from America and Sweden, increasing the hostility towards foreign intervention in the civil war. This included the relief agencies, and the I.C.R.C. in particular. The I.C.R.C. has been accused by both sides of spying for the other, of being more determined to help the Biafrans regardless of the position or wishes of the Federals, and of contributing to Biafra's coffers by buying food and services in the rebel areas at inflated prices.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
Whatever view one takes of the overall conflict, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not allow it to go on record that he is justifying the shooting down of a Red Cross plane. I hope that he confines himself to justifying the right of the Nigerian authorities to ask such a plane to land for inspection. But if a Red Cross plane does not do that, surely there is no moral justification for shooting it down in any circumstances?
§ Mr. Cordle
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that comment. I would have no part in any policy to shoot down Red Cross planes, of course.
Dr. Lindt was declared persona non grata on 14th June by the Federal Government when Dr. Arikpo accused him of acting in many respects as if his assignment was to bring relief to the rebels in order to sustain their rebellion. Dr. Arikpo said that it had also been decided that the activities of the relief organisations in Federal Nigeria would be reviewed. This has led to a new policy whereby the Federal Government of Nigeria take overall responsibility for relief work, so trying to avoid suggestions that they could not do it, which had hurt the Federal pride.
In my view, the Federal Government have been more than tolerant in not stopping night flights before, though they may not then have had the air capacity to do much about them. But they have obviously decided now that a quick end to the war will reduce hardship and suffering far better than allowing the war to drag on. The flow of arms and ammunition into Biafra was one of the causes of its dragging on, without question. Certainly it was impertinent of the 1637 I.C.R.C. to brush aside the Federal Government's adherence to the Geneva Convention. For such a body, which is purely a Swiss one, to do this does harm to the image of the World League of Red Cross which undoubtedly is a responsible organisation.
It is now up to Ojukwu to show how concerned he really is for Biafra's hungry.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
I am glad to be able to follow the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle), if only in this sense. He told us earlier that in the North the Ibo people are coming back. That confirms entirely what I was told at the end of last year by a Court of Appeal judge who has to go up there, and who is himself an Ibo. He told me that the people of the North no longer feared the Ibos. They had always feared them before because of their business acumen. Now that they have had to do things for themselves they find that they can do them just as well as the Ibos can. My informant thought that this was a wonderfully encouraging sign which will lead to the possibility of reconciliation between the two sides when peace comes.
When we are used to hearing so many totally different points of view on Nigeria bandied about, we find it extremely difficult to make a decision. I do not pretend any longer to be impartial, because I have formed a view about the position there. I began by being very much proIbo, because I knew the Ibos best. A lot of my professional work was done amongst them. Latterly, when I went to Lagos, I found how untrue so much of their propaganda was. That made me think seriously, and eventually I changed my mind, not to the extent that I became anti-Ibo—I know too many of them too well for that—but I saw that there were some Ibo people who for a considerable time had been taking a very dangerous line, and it culminated in Ojukwu's declaration of secession.
I do not remember an occasion when a British Government have so consistently pursued a policy which is at once reasonable and humane and which really serves towards the saving of lives as have Her Majesty's Government on Nigeria. It is wonderful to be able to say as much to my own Government, and I am very proud to do it. It has not been easy for 1638 them. There has been a tremendous barrage of propaganda, believed by people who know little about Nigeria. I have no doubt that it has been very hard for the Government to adopt their attitude, but they have managed to do it.
I would not suggest that I know it all, but it is nice to know something. I cannot understand why the Government should be induced to give up their sensible and reasonable policy of supplying arms to a friendly Commonwealth Government simply because one section of the Commonwealth country in question chooses to go into open rebellion. It seems to be a very poor reason. However, the supply of arms gives the less deep thinkers the pretext which some of them seem to want regularly, to attack their own Government—to have a stick with which to beat the Government. It gives them their pretext, because they can say that the supply of arms leads to deaths. But the supply of arms is intended to lead to deaths. At the same time, it may prevent more deaths than it inflicts. I submit that that is exactly what is happening in the case of this arms supply.
§ Mr. Heffer
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that some of us began by supporting the Government right the way through, but that as we have learned more about the situation between Nigeria and Biafra we have swung over to support the Biafrans and think that they have a justified case?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
I am interested to hear that and I hope that at some other time my hon. Friend will tell me of other matters on which he supports the Government—
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Mr. Speaker, I addressed the hon. Member as "my hon. Friend".
The tragic losses on both sides which have resulted from the fighting are not disputed. However, unless one can find the cause for what has happened, one is not very likely to be able to remove that cause, and stop the situation from continuing. That is why I believe that we must be a little partial in this matter and say where the blame lies and what should happen.
1639 The Ibo coup d'état, which resulted in the slaughter of a number of the politicians of the original Federation, came to an end when Ironsi was evicted. It was then that Ojukwu stepped in from his position of strength as the military dictator of the Eastern Region. He was in a position to do this because—
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Never mind who appointed him. He was in that position of strength and, in consequence, was able to enforce his will on the people in his territory.
When his military drive in the direction of Lagos failed, Ojukwu concentrated on getting himself under the cover of this rather picturesque word "Biafra", hoping to persuade the world that he spoke for a nation that extended far beyond the confines of his own Ibo people. I do not know whether it was to make his claim to nationhood more respectable or to get the oil which was in the territories, for the most part, of those people, that he took them in with him by force. Possibly it was both. But he forcibly incorporated these people, who were not Ibos at all, into his territory. Perhaps if he had merely called it "Iboland" he could not have done it so easily.
As we have heard, if the Government had allowed themselves to be deflected from their policy of sending arms, it would not have made the slightest difference in Nigeria in the sense that Russian arms would come in even more than before and, therefore, lives would not be saved. There is no real dispute about that, particularly after what the Russians said about an international embargo and what they would do if we imposed an embargo on ourselves. It would not make any difference whatever.
But, given the nature and the amount of Ojukwu's propaganda—I had four letters by air today from that American firm in Geneva which is sending out the stuff at tremendous expense—it is not surprising that many people accept it, more or less indiscriminately, and believe that the Federal people are out to destroy the Ibos and purposely go to bomb hospitals, schools and markets. Such persons have only to read that women and 1640 children have been killed or are starving to believe also that this is because of something that the Federal army has deliberately willed and carried out. However, when I was in Nigeria recently, I was astonished at what the Federal Government has done in looking after the Ibos who still live there. There are 70,000 Ibos in Lagos alone in all walks of life from the highest in the law down to the lowest paid of all on the railways.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Is the hon.and learned Gentleman's case that such bombing of market places as has taken place has been purely accidental?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
I should say that it has been purely accidental. I am not saying that in war accidents cannot happen and that there could not be cases where individual pilots have done something on purpose. However, there is no evidence of this. It may have happened, but there is no evidence of it. Market places are often at cross roads, which are of vital importance from a military point of view. So, in bombing a crossroads, it could be that market places have been bombed. I do not dispute that they have been bombed. This is a war, and this is the kind of thing that happens in war. It is a great pity that more people do not confine their energies to seeing that war is made impossible. However, I will leave this topic, because it is hardly relevant to the debate.
I believe that the Nigerian Government has behaved better to its rebels than any Government has ever behaved previously. What other Government has been prepared to allow food and medical supplies, on any terms, to get to its enemies—let alone its rebels? I have not heard of it. Did we do it when we were fighting the Germans in two world wars, or did the Germans do it when they were fighting us? I do not think so. It is most unlikely that any case can be found where such a thing has happened.
By its actions the Federal Government has undoubtedly shown that it is sincere when it says that it wants a reconciliation with the Ibos, and that it will do all that it can to get them back.
I do not think there is any doubt that Ojukwu's arms are of French origin, 1641 that they come through formerly French territories, with which the French government has always had and still has the closest contact, that French officers in uniform have been seen handling these arms as they go from one French territory or another into Biafra, and that the finance for these arms has come from French sources—Rothschilds, it is said—who have had the oil concessions to be won after the war granted to them by Ojukwu. That is how he has paid for his arms and propaganda. These have prolonged the war. The moment that these stop, the loss of the untold number of lives will be ended.
I hope that the Government will not hesitate to supply the Federal Government with all that it needs in the matter of radar to stop these arms going in. I know it is not a popular thing to say that, but I go further. I should give the Federal Government anything that it needs, not only radar, to stop the arms traffic going in. If this traffic is ended then the Government's policy will have been entirely justified, and I submit that the Ibo people will be reconciled with the rest of the people of Nigeria, Ojukwu will depart to foreign parts, where his money already is, and will live on his vast fortune; and the deaths which are going on will be stopped. I believe that the Government's policy has been entirely right and I congratulate them on it most sincerely.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Hamilton)
Last August we were recalled to Parliament and we debated this subject. The outstanding proposition was put forward in that debate that we should go on supplying arms to get a quick kill to end the war. I have heard since from some hon. Members who genuinely believed in that policy that, when they realised that the quick kill had not come about, they had changed their minds.
We have heard that policy propounded yet again. We are apparently still talking of a quick end to the war. Most hon. Members who have visited both sides—some have visited only one side—seem to be agreed about one thing: that there is no likely end to this war soon unless there is the will on the part of both sides to sit at a table together.
1642 There seem to be three alarming new developments.
First, the astounding proposition that starvation in this day and age is a legitimate weapon of war without limitation of degree, even if one million or more people are involved. In this day and age when we can see yesterday's war on our television sets, if we are so inclined, our participation by visual experience must surely tell us that though starvation was once a legitimate weapon of war to force the surrender of besieged towns and cities, it can no longer be applied as a legitimate weapon of war on this scale.
I accept entirely that there is a welter of propaganda. I may say that I put the Markpress in the waste paper basket. I tend to do the same more lately with what I get from the other side. I prefer to seek out missionaries of the Church of Scotland or Members of Parliament who have been out there—even those who have contrary views. I prefer their evidence. I prefer journalists whom I know to be reputable and honest observers to paper work which is coming to me from either side. May I say as someone who had the privilege of lecturing to African classes for four years in what is now part of Strathclyde University but was then a college that I have friends on both sides. I used to get letters from them, but not any more. I am on nobody's side, but I am terribly anxious as I am sure is every hon. Member, that there should be an end to this war and to the starvation.
I like to go on the evidence. I was taught to do this in the career which I followed before I became a Member. I have in my hand a piece of evidence from the Daily Times—described as an independent newspaper, so it says—of 26th June published in Nigeria. I do not claim to know this for certain, but many journalists assure me that this newspaper is an organ of the Nigerian Federal Government. That may or may not be so, but it has a very large circulation and it is read daily. It said on 26th June:Chief Awolowo declared yesterday that he was totally opposed to relief materials being sent to the Nigerian rebels. 'All is fair in war and starvation is one of the weapons of war'".1643 The heading is:Starvation is a weapon of war".What is perhaps more alarming, the same newspaper, on 27th June, said:Brigadier Usman, Chief of Staff of the Nigerian Army, has also opposed the supply of relief materials to rebels".That is not proof. It is just a piece of evidence which hon. Members can take into consideration with any other bits of evidence on which they feel they can rely. As a lawyer, I say to myself that here are two well-known people on the Nigerian side, Chief Awolowo and the Chief of Staff of the Nigerian Army, who are opposed to giving aid to people whom they call rebels.
I refer to a matter in the speech of the Leader of the Liberal Party. If General Gowon claims that this is only a police action and these rebels are his people in his country, he should want to feed them. We should not pat him on the back for his generosity. We should be irritated with him if he seems to be putting up difficulties even if the other side is doing the same. If Chief Awolowo and the Chief of Staff of the Nigerian army have said that they are opposed to sending aid, we must consider carefully whether we can rely on relief going through Federal territory.
It is admitted in another newspaper that a relief ship reached Lagos on 19th June. Perhaps the Minister would say why this ship cannot get going, if it is not going already. Would he give us the latest news on that matter? At least it would be some cheering news for the House.
The second alarming trend has been very well rehearsed by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker), who spoke at length about arms. In effect, the Soviet air force is on the Nigerian side. I have interviewed at length an eye witness, a journalist of repute, Fred Forsyth, who was a Reuter correspondent for four year. There is no doubt in his mind that there are Russian planes in Nigeria. Do the Government admit that? Is there any doubt about it in their mind?
The third alarming trend concerns the Red Cross. Her Majesty's Government must support the good name of the Red Cross. I believe in the good name of the Red Cross, and in my belief I am 1644 going on very satisfactory evidence in countless areas of the world. In the light of what is in some newspapers, if I have to decide between the evidence and good faith of the Nigerians and that of the Red Cross, I prefer the good faith and evidence of the Red Cross. There is a dual responsibility on the Red Cross to satisfy the recipients and donors of aid. The Red Cross has the responsibility to ensure that the trust of the donors—the churches, children's pennies, and all the people who are contributing throughout the world—is honoured and that what they give reaches the recipients.
This is a multi-million dollar operation per month. The suggestion of the Nigerians seems to be that the aid should be handed over or put in their territory. Must we accept this when they are maligning Mr. Lindt? He is accused of numerous things, such as telling lies, giving false information about becoming involved in Nigeria's affairs. He has been exonerated by a Committee back home in Switzerland. He said that he would not cause difficulties but that he would resign with dignity because his whole concern is relief, which is what one would expect of such a person.
The Red Cross is being accused of extraordinary things. It is suggested that it is involved in gun-running, espionage and of furthering the Biafran war effort. We know that the Red Cross wants to feed people. That is the whole point of it. What is being suggested is a new development to me. It must be repudiated by the Government. If the President of the International Red Cross loses the vital rôle of being the accepted authority for dealing with this humanitarian problem, it will be a very bad day for everyone in the world. We have reason to believe as a result of past delays that it is not best necessarily to leave it to planes originating in Nigerian-held territory to do this job.
Normally in a disaster the Red Cross is sensible in trying to found support on the Red Cross already in existence in the country. But in this instance it did not do so because the Red Cross organisation in the country was not sufficiently efficient. This seems to be admitted in another quotation of the Daily Times 19th June by the President of the Nigerian Red Cross. It is stated:In Lagos yesterday his society"—1645 that is, the Nigerian Red Cross—was prepared to take over the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross if the Government decided to send it away. He warned, however, that the Society must recruit and train more people if it was to succeed".The view that there are not enough people to take it over is the view of the International Committee of the Red Cross. It is not up to doing this fantastically important job, even with sufficient safeguards.
I come to the question of relief. I do not wish to exacerbate the situation and we all hope that the two sides will come to the conference table sooner or later. However, the blame seems to be cast in one direction. I am not casting blame. I do not believe that we should talk about "General Gowon and his gang" any more than we should talk, as one hon. Gentleman did, of "Colonel Ojukwu and his gang". These are not becoming expressions to be used by people who are obviously sincere. Their sincerity is no more in doubt than the sincerity of almost every hon. Member who speaks on this subject. It does not advance the cause one bit to call people names or to start apportioning blame. If Members keep saying, "Why does not Colonel Ojukwu do this or that?", other people will say, "Why does not General Gowon do this or that?".
Is it or is it not the case that in trying to settle the question of relief General Gowon has offered to allow day flights or night flights from any neutral airstrip, to allow complete inspection and to allow people chosen by an independent method—and he is not unreasonable about how it is done—to accompany every flight? Secondly, is it or is it not the case that Colonel Ojukwu has considered accepting a land corridor provided it is policed by armed international police and that General Gowon did not agree to this? May we know whether food is lying at Uli airport and Santome, Libreville and Cotenou? If so, can it be got in as quickly as possible? This question of blame should be considered very carefully. We will find that there has been blood on the hands of both sides in this struggle if we go back to the root causes. But it might be interesting for us to try to ascertain why the Government want to keep on sending arms. Various fundamental reasons have been given at various times which contradict one another.
1646 I have heard the reason given by many who support the Government's point of view that we cannot have a Balkanisation of Africa. Is that what it is all about? Can we hear from the Minister? If it is that, let us face the fact fairly and squarely. The Balkanisation of Africa in relation to the Nigerian problem has little relevance, considering that this is about the largest country in Africa. Even if the Ibos ultimately won the war, which is not likely, there would be 14 million of them, which would still make them one of the largest countries in Africa, and certainly larger than many Scandinavian countries—
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
The hon. Lady said that there are 14 million Ibos. There are nothing like so many.
§ Mrs. Ewing
There might not be now. That is the figure which I got from books but perhaps we are out of date. That may be part of the tragedy. I do not think that the number of millions affects the argument materially unless it is reduced to something under 3 million. At least, a large number of millions is involved.
The second argument seems to be that we are supporting the legitimate Government. The right hon. Member for Derby, South made a long speech on this. This is a clouded issue. The more that one goes into the issue of how it all came about, the more it seems that there is blood on the hands of both sides. I am not blaming them, in their situation. If I had been there, I would have taken one side or the other; most of us would have done. But there were massacres and coup d'états. To talk about the legitimate Government as if it is a sacrosanct matter, comparable with other types of legitimate Government, is a questionable attitude.
The third reason—a new one to me—was given by the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), that if we were to stop supplying arms now it would be interpreted as support for Biafra. I would propose to look at this more logically than the hon. Member. If we stopped supplying arms, it might be taken to mean that the Government had recognised that it might be morally wrong to supply them. Why not take that interpretation? It is the more straightforward one.
1647 A National Opinion Poll showed that 53 per cent. of the people are opposed to this policy and another 22 per cent. do not know. I do not blame them for not knowing: the facts are so difficult to ascertain. But at least a large slice of people are not happy about a very worrying policy of the Government.
Finally, in the attempts to get both sides to the conference table, is it not possible that words are separating these people and separating us? I am here because of a view about the right of a nation to independence. I am very familiar with all the nuances and words used to describe associations between nations, but cannot the word "union" on the one side, which sounds strict, and "association" on the other, which sounds a loose word, be capable of a variety of interpretations? Within the meaning of "union" and "association" it is possible to have all kinds of national relationships. Why do we allow ourselves to be stopped by the use of these words? Cannot the Government try yet again? Cannot the Prime Minister meet Ojukwu and the other side next time, and not just one side? Could he stop using the word "rebels" to prevent him from meeting them? Words should not stop us when the fate of millions is involved.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Henig (Lancaster)
The subject underlying this debate is relief. We might not have been debating this war today were it not for the events of a few weeks ago, when a Red Cross plane was shot down, and subsequently the Nigerian Federal Government decided to end the arrangements whereby relief flights had been made at night to the starving peoples of Biafra. This then became a new fact, and this is what we must discuss.
In these circumstances, it is perhaps a little disingenuous to say immediately that it is up to Ojukwu and Biafra. There is some truth in this, but the real truth, of course, is that it is up to both sides. There are a number of possible ways in which relief can be brought in. Night flights were the method used until a few weeks ago. Night flights, while acceptable to Biafra, are clearly unacceptable to Lagos, for reasons apparent to us all.
1648 The real argument now stems from the question of day flights. The plan, which appears to have come from Lagos, is that day flights should go from some point in Nigeria under international inspection to Biafra. This has been turned down by the Biafrans on the ground, they say, that their lifeline would then go via Nigeria. This is a view with which I have some sympathy. The argument may not be overwhelming, but it is facts with which we must deal and not theories. The Biafrans hold this view and, therefore, will not agree to this proposal. They would like to turn the clock back to the situation before June.
Now there is a compromise proposal, which seems to be acceptable to Biafra and which could possibly, with modifications, be acceptable to Nigeria. That is that the flights go, as before, from a neutral point outside Nigeria but during the day, to meet the Federal Government's point of view, and so that the inspection at that neutral point should be by observers both of the International Red Cross and of Nigeria. This is an idea which I commend. I hope to hear that the British Government will push this idea on Lagos, because it is a genuine compromise.
I turn next to a possible river route for relief. The boat, the "Madonna Mercedes", given by the Americans, has been ready—I believe that it is at the moment in Lagos Harbour—to go up the river route. The rivers are in flood. If that ship went up, it would take the equivalent in one journey of what was taken in 27 nights under the old system It has been said that the only thing holding it up is that the Americans demanded a cast-iron guarantee that no one would fire on their unarmed crew. Can we hear something about this? Will the Government now press Lagos to give these guarantees?
It is right that, in the long term, land routes must be open, but land routes will take a long time to open. They involve even more susceptibilities on the two sides. Our task in this House must be not to say that one side or the other is wrong to have susceptibilities but to ask, "Given these susceptibilities, how can we make an accommodation between them?"
Although the possibility which is scaring us all is what might happen if there 1649 is no relief, nevertheless this question is not fundamental. The fundamental problem, of course, is the war, which brings us back to the little conundrum which we have heard from the right hon. Member opposite concerning arms supplies and the cessation of hostilities. Some say that there cannot be any form of embargo on arms supplies until there is a cessation of hostilities. Others put this precisely the other way around. I should like to hear again what the Government's view is, but we have to approach both problems at once if ultimately we are to succeed in either or—as I hope—in both.
With the cessation of hostilities, both sides must say, "We will stop firing and pause on our present lines unconditionally." As soon as one side makes conditions, the other side will object. I understand that the condition which has usually been made by the Federal Government is, "We will talk about anything so long as you renounce your secession in advance." The Biafrans of course, say "No." I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) that there may not be much difference in the end between the forms of words. Many of us would like to see some ultimate confederation, in which the Biafrans get the guarantees they want and there is still some kind of economic and political link.
Is not the present position rather odd? Colonel Ojukwu may, in his own mind, be prepared to conceive of confederation in the end, but says that he cannot admit this straight away, and the other side is also prepared to accept confederation in the end but says, "You must first renounce secession." I wonder whether Her Majesty's Government have used all their power to try to get people to stop talking like this, to persuade them that it is futile and that, instead, they should sit down to talk without conditions.
We must consider the question of arms supplies. When I hear that the Biafrans, with whom I have sympathies in other respects, have gone to Moscow to seek arms, I am a little frightened. I believe that the Russians are a little cynical. I can see them changing their policy tomorrow if they thought that they would get something out of it. I say this as a warning, because once one starts supplying arms to people so that they can fight each other, perhaps on behalf of out 1650 side forces, one is playing a dangerous game.
I do not doubt that the Governments of France, the Soviet Union and many other countries have been interested in oil in Biafra and Nigeria. However, I fear that the same oil has exercised an influence over our policy, too; and, in our position, we are not able to throw the first stone.
I come to the real objection that I and some hon. Members have towards British policy in this matter. Britain has taken sides in this dispute. This was denied at the beginning, when it was said that we were supplying arms as an act of neutrality. The legitimate follow-through now is that we are in a position from which it is claimed that if we were to stop supplying arms to one side it would be an act of partisanship. There must be something wrong with this logic, and I suspect that we have got ourselves in this position because Her Majesty's Government were ill-advised in the first place.
We now admit that we have taken sides. Should we have done so? There are two concepts to be considered in answering this question. The first concerns the unity of a large multi-racial country—which is what Nigeria was; it was peaceful and stable—and the second is the right of five million or 10 million people to say, "We wish a home and State of our own in which we can rule ourselves and conduct our own affairs." The phrase "self-determination" is a powerful and emotive one, and one must consider whether, between these two concepts, one can say, "Unity is better. Away with self-determination" or alternatively "self-determination for all and unity nowhere". I regret that Her Majesty's Government have tied themselves to the concept of unity in Nigeria without considering the fact that the price may be too high and may involve trampling on these other rights.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
Would my hon. Friend agree that, apart from Nigeria, the whole issue has serious consequences for the rest of Africa?
§ Mr. Henig
I agree with my hon. Friend. However, one must consider the difference between the Biafrans, whose population numbers several millions, in a large country wanting to rule themselves, 1651 and some of the smaller already independent countries—for example, in French West Africa—the populations of which are not one-quarter the size of a potential Iboland. My objection to the policy of Her Majesty's Government is that facts of this kind have not been fully taken into account.
All along the Biafrans have used a conundrum which I cannot answer. They have asked, "What does a father do when his two children have a fight? Does he take the side of one against the other, or stop the fight?" Perhaps we should be thinking more deeply about answering powerful questions like that.
§ Mr. Henig
If my hon. Friend will allow me to develop my argument he will see just what I am arguing. Basically, it is that, faced with two peoples with whom we have had the closest links in the past and whom we helped to achieve independence, I do not think that our job is to take sides. Our task today is to do everything in our power to end the conflict; that is, to stop the means with which they can fight each other. We must use all the considerable influence which up to two years ago we had with both sides to try to bring the conflict to an end.
I come to the events of last weekend. I recognise that Her Majesty's Government were worried when they found that their ally, the Nigerian Government—I do not think that there is any doubt about that Government being our ally in this context—were in bad odour with the international relief agencies and, therefore, with the consciences of the world.
The Foreign Ministers were right to try to convene a meeting between representatives of Lagos and Geneva—I use the latter generally—in an effort to hammer out an agreement. Unfortunately, the technical expertise of our Foreign Office went astray on Sunday night because, having got the two parties on talking terms, we let forth a hallelujah and eureka about an agreement having been reached when nothing had been agreed. All that happened was that the International Red Cross agreed to fly in relief in one particular way if it was acceptable to both sides—which, up to then, it had not been.
1652 We made a mistake. I have heard from people coming to this country from Geneva that this claim from us gravely embarrassed the Red Cross. This was, first, because in Biafra it seemed as though the Red Cross was tied to Lagos—therefore making it more difficult for an agreement to be reached—and second, because if the Red Cross protested at our revelation then it would again jeopardise relations with Nigeria.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
My hon. Friend used the word "eureka" in relation to the Foreign Secretary's statement. Would he agree that it was exactly the same statement as was made in the House today and that it contained all the qualifications about the agreement that were made today? Would he further agree that some of my hon. Friends were angered because a statement was not made last Thursday, before there was even anything to report? Since something had to be reported about the negotiations that had been going on over the weekend, my right hon. Friend was right to present hon. Members with a report.
§ Mr. Henig
I do not follow my hon. Friend's argument. Frequently Ministers say, when delicate negotiations are going on, "Nothing can be said at this stage." Hon. Members may object, but that is often the tenor of statements which are made at this sort of time. Perhaps my right hon. Friend would have been better advised to have made that type of statement on this occasion.
The damage has been done, and it is important to consider the fundamental point which I raised at the outset of my remarks. What worries so many of us is the fact that in this conflict there is right and wrong on both sides. The hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton said that it was wrong to refer to either as a "gang", but we must not forget that both are military dictatorships.
I do not know, if one looks at depth into both sides, how legitimacy can be ascribed to either. Colonel Ojukwu came to power by military means. Colonel Gowon came to power as the result of the assassination, by different forces, of two previous leaders. There is, therefore, no legitimacy in either case. Neither is representative of the people. There is no talk of democracy or Government by consent in either case— 1653 [Interruption.]—and I am not aware of any elections having been held in the last two or three years.
Indeed it would appear that one factor in the background to this quarrel is the way in which the last set of elections before that were conducted. However, I do not want to discuss the past. Suffice it to say that in this democratic country we would recognise neither Ojukwu nor Gowon as the leaders of administrations who rule by consent. We would not in Britain consider their Governments as embodying democracy in any shape or form. This being so, the important question to consider is whether it is our duty and right to side with either party.
I wish to move towards a conclusion. Yesterday I sent a memorandum to the Foreign Secretary asking him to make three specific points. They do not meet all our objections. I am not asking him to stop supplying arms, principally because I would probably be wasting my breath if I did so. However, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will consider these three points carefully.
First, as Her Majesty's Government have received high-level delegations from the Federal Government, why not, if Ojukwu is considered the obstacle, invite a high-powered delegation from Biafra to come to London so that we may have talks about possible ways of ending the war? Second, given that the United States is pressing as hard as it can for the river route, will Her Majesty's Government back up the Americans and urge Lagos to agree to the river route being used? Third, will Her Majesty's Government urge daylight relief flights to be established directly into Biafra, with inspection at a neutral point?
I urge my right hon. Friend to accept these three points, which I am expressing in extremely simple terms. I hope that he will answer "Yes" to all three and not dissolve the answers into general statements so that nobody knows precisely what is the Government's view.
Outside Britain an unfortunate picture has grown up of us. It is that while a civil war is going on, we are anxiously supplying arms to one side and that those arms are being used to crush a people who have asked for their freedom.
1654 It is further suggested, I think a little unfairly, that we are interested only in economic factors, influence factors and oil factors; that for these reasons we have given tremendous diplomatic support to this one military Government. This picture which seems to be held fairly generally throughout Europe, has an element of truth in it. I recognise the sincerity of my right hon. and hon. Friends, but people outside the country, who do not know them as I do, may cast doubts on our real motives. I finish on this note.
Britain has supplied arms to the Federal Government, it is claimed, in order to gain influence. I wonder whether this policy has succeeded. If it has, we should have some influence. In that case, the time has come to use that influence in Lagos to get a more constructive and reasonable attitude and, at the same time, by doing so, to make it clear that our aim is to bring about peace and agreement, and not the victory of one side.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)
Many of those who have spoken in this debate feel great sympathy for the tragic results of the war, but sympathy without action is just crocodile tears. Unless we are prepared to do something positive in all honesty, and here I speak of Her Majesty's Government, to talk about sympathy is to use empty phrases.
I cannot claim to have been to either Nigeria or Biafra. I wish that I could. To that extent, I am in the same position as all other fair-minded people in the country who are shocked and appalled by what is going on in the civil war; by the endless cruelties; by pictures of starvation such as we have not seen since the last war; by the sheer enormity of this great human tragedy in Africa.
It is a picture of death by starvation; of death by malnutrition; innocent children dying as a result of war. It may be that the picture has been overpainted and that the propaganda has been too strong, but I saw a French-made film on television and I should seriously like to know whether anyone disputes that that film was an objective account of what is going on in Biafra and whether the people who spoke in it were not honest people giving their views. The picture is one of 1655 death by starvation; of death by bullets made in this country. That is why this is a moral question for the House. The death of those children and those people is somehow a death in which we have an involvement.
Why should the British, such fair-minded people, wish to impose this type of tragedy on Africa, and to what purpose? I submit that the purpose, although we may not accept it, is to break the will of 12 million people and force them to accede to a Government they do not want. I submit that that is the policy which the Government, by supplying arms, have been supporting. It is as though they were deaf to the term "self-determination"; as if they were unable to grasp that a nation prepared to die from bullets and starvation may really care about its destiny, and may therefore be prepared to die to the last man in an attempt to retain something which it holds so dear—
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
My hon. Friend talks of "self-determination". Has he thought of the position of the minority tribes in so-called "Biafra" who do not wish to be dominated by the Ibos, and who are five million as opposed to seven million Ibos in that area?
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I was not aware that they were at present in a state of uprising against the Government of Biafra, but perhaps my hon. Friend knows better than I do. But had not the 12 million people of Biafra—because I believe that we should use that word, and cease to talk of rebels—some right to want to create their own country? It is so easy to fall in with the idea that Nigeria was one big happy country until Colonel Olukwu came along and split away a valuable part of it. The fact is that Nigeria has never been an easy alliance. Since 1914, when it gained some sort of national semblance under our flag, the North has long wanted to dominate most of the rest of the country. I believe that the events that occurred soon after independence, after the murders of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and General Ironsi, gave the Easterner the right to believe that perhaps his position was threatened. He had experience of this after the events of 1966, when a large number of Easterners were massacred and many others forced as refugees to leave the North and go back to the East.
1656 It is important to appreciate that, because it is only by understanding that position that one can realise why Biafra now exists. It is as a result of the clash between South and North; the difference between ethnic groups and religions; and the fears of the Easterners towards the North which they believed would become a reality with the advent of General Gowon, who is a Northerner, and who flew a Northern flag to express his Northern feeling—
§ Mr. Tilney
My hon. Friend says that this is a clash between the East and the North. How does he explain the fact that the Yorubas and all the minorities of the South are in Federal Nigeria?
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
The belief is that everyone was living happily, and that the awful Colonel Ojukwu stands as the man breaking up an otherwise happy country. The fact is that at this moment there are stresses in Federal Nigeria, and those stresses may well come to the fore if this civil war continues.
To be fair, one cannot altogether blame General Gowon's attempt to hold Nigeria together. We should not condemn his Government for that thought, for our own Governments have on many occasions in the past tried to hold on to those who wished to break away. One can think of a notable example in North America. But the fact is that General Gowon could not hold on to the Eastern Region, because the Easterners chose to break away, and wanted to embrace their nationhood. They feared that if they did not, massacre might well be their lot—and certainly domination by the North.
It is at this moment of time, with the creation of Biafra, that we must be fair to our own Government. They were then perhaps, led to believe that those who had created Biafra were just a small group of power hungry men who did not command the support of the 12 million people living in that area. That was, perhaps, a reasonable assumption, but one would have expected that if that were the case the revolt would quickly be put down and Nigeria return to its unity. But the war has been going on for nearly three years—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Interruptions and interventions prolong speeches. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) was heard quietly.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
In that period, nearly two million people have died. It is the bloodiest conflict that the continent of Africa has ever known. The cost in lives and property is vast. It is a conflict in which we as a nation are involved. The supply of arms to Nigeria means that blood is on our hands. What are we trying to achieve by the supply of arms? It must be accepted that we are now trying to help the Federal Government put down the secession of 12 million people who wish to live in a State of their own. We are trying to compel a policy on a people unwilling to accept it.
The argument is always advanced that this policy of fighting the Biafrans to the death is to prevent the fragmentation of Africa into tribal bounds. But who are we to tell the Africans how they should live? When we are talking about the devolution of government in the United Kingdom who are we to tell them that they should live in this way or that, and to supply arms to make sure that they do so? It is their lives and destinies which are at stake. It is their right to choose how they shall live. We have no right to compel them into an association. Therefore I beg that we shall stop supplying arms as much as anything because we as a nation must find a new way to bring influence to bear on both sides.
I remember that during the Suez conflict people talked about world opinion. What are we doing in this country to bring world opinion to bear upon this conflict and to make Federal Nigeria realise that an action started two years or three years ago is now seen as something very dangerous and very terrible which requires a change of policy? We are told that if we stopped supplying arms the Russians or someone else would do so; so it does not really matter. If it matters so little, let us stop supplying arms, because we obviously have nothing to lose.
If we stopped the supply of arms immediately, a new Commonwealth inititive could take place. We should be able to bring a moral presence to bear such 1658 as we cannot do at the moment. Immediately we should make Federal Nigeria realise that her policy was not supported by surely her oldest and most loyal ally. That, in turn, could perhaps bring a situation of cease fire and a roundtable conference. It is a tragedy that no Minister, however junior, has been able or has seen fit to go to Biafra. It is a tragedy that we have been talking about rebels rather than Biafrans. This seems to be an effort to evade the issue and not to understand the reality of this great tragedy.
I want to say a last word about relief. When I listened to the Foreign Secretary's statement on Monday I hoped that, whatever was thought about the flights, the Biafrans would accept them. Yet there was one question which the right hon. Gentleman did not answer and which I hope will be answered at the end of the debate. Who decides how many flights there will be? That seems fairly crucial. Unless we know that enough flights are to go on to help those people who are starving at this moment it becomes another empty gesture, another piece of propaganda in a propaganda-riddled war. But to return to the main part of what I have been saying, now surely is the time for the British Government to take a new initiative and so bring together these two peoples both of whom are our friends and want to be our friends. We can do that only by stopping the supply of arms, and I fervently hope that the British Government will do so.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
I hope to exercise self-discipline and to make a short speech. Much of the speech by the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) I enjoyed, but I hope he will not mind my saying that when he referred to 12 million Biafrans fighting to the death he was not correct. There are only 9 million Ibos east of the Niger. There are more than 4 million under Federal supervision and administration, at school, eating, sleeping and working. It is an exaggeration which the hon. Member and others make when they refer to 12 million on one side. As well as the Ibos in the East there are 5 million in other minorities. They have two States and two capitals, Calabar and Port Harcourt, with public servants and 1659 their own soldiers. Whether we say that people will fight to keep these new States because they have economic interests or not, this is a fact of life.
What worries me is that so many make the assumption that Africa is as they would wish it to be. That is merely wishful thinking. There are cold hard facts about the situation which none of us can wish away whichever side we may think we should support.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
That number of 12 million was given to me only yesterday by sources which I thought were authentic.
§ Mr. Johnson
I do not believe it, having been to the East of Nigeria not long ago.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) made an admirable speech and set the tone for this debate totally unlike the demagogic efforts of the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), who I thought heightened and inflamed the temperature. I shall simply comment on that kind of speech. Nigeria is now a sovereign independent State, yet we here in this chamber are discussing its internal affairs as though we were back in the fifties when it had still colonial status. We behave like neocolonialists talking in this paternalistic fashion about adult peoples who—this is very sad—are fighting a battle in which millions are engaged and possibly millions are dying. We are laying down the law to those people overseas.
I think the B.B.C. has behaved in a criminal fashion when it has reported in "Twenty-Four Hours" and on other programmes the scene in Nigeria. The B.B.C. has been completely and blatantly lopsided in its reporting. I wish it would attempt to portray nearly 60 million people in that vast State building up peacefully their economy. The B.B.C. do not mention the Kainji Dam built at a cost of £60 million, which will supply electricity to vast areas of the country and to the adjoining territories of Dahomey and Niger. The fighting takes place in only 1.1per cent. of the whole territory. In nearly 99 per cent. of the country the people are living and working peacefully. I wish we could get this into perspective. This is what is actually 1660 happening to people under the Lagos Government. I assure hon. Members, and I hope that those who have been there recently will confirm, that this is a nation where in 99 per cent. of the land, people are living a normal life and well over 50 million are working as we expect to work and live in these islands. The B.B.C. and many others who should know better should attempt to get this whole society into perspective.
Nigerians believe that we would never have discussed these events as such if Nigeria were not an African society or a black society. We would never debate like this if it were a civil war in a European community. The Africans do not like this and deeply resent this.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
My hon. Friend should not stick to this point. If the British Government were supplying arms to either side in a European civil war, would not the House discuss it in exactly the same way as it is discussing this matter?
§ Mr. Johnson
I will come to the question of arms as my second point. I was saying that the way in which we discuss the leaders, their behaviour, their actions, and the whole course of events inside this territory is a paternalistic, neocolonialist attitude. I wish we could stick to discussing the supply of arms as such, and not wander off making comments about how people act in this territory, how they are attempting to run their economy and live as an independent sovereign State. That is their business.
I hope that I shall carry a greater number of hon. Members with me in my second point, save perhaps the Monday Club members on the benches opposite. I am very impressed by both sides in this war—by the federal forces and by the Ibo—when one examines their logistics and the way in which they have efficiently organised their forces. The federal army, which was once about 8,000–10,000 strong, has risen to 130,000, with all that that has entailed in work and organisation. The Ibos have shown a fantastic capacity for improvisation in the way in which they have fought and organised to safeguard what they genuinely believe to be their cause.
This bodes ill for a certain gentleman called Smith south of the Zambesi. If this is what the Nigerian peoples can do 1661 in this conflict, what will be their efficiency when it should come to a confrontation of the African States with Smith. We shall see then how he has led his people into this cul de sac, which many of us destest in his apartheid society. I believe history will confirm what a heavy responsibility lies on the shoulders of people like Smith for taking the racialist course they have taken.
Finally, I want to look at the immediate situation. We have heard talk about the war going on for 12 months, for two years, or for longer. I believe that the two sides are deadlocked. I believe that the war could continue for a long time unless we get them together in negotiation. While it continues, thousands are dying of starvation each week. Many people believe that the Ibo guerilla bands could fight on in the bush for some years. I, too, believe this. It is quite possible. There would be numerous pockets of Ibo fighting in the dense bush. I have met no one, African or European, who believes that the Ibo leaders or the Ibo elite—call them what you will—can succeed in their original objective of holding Biafra, this old Eastern Region east of the Niger. This is quite impossible, now that the minorities are soundly established in Calabar and Port Harcourt, as I said earlier in commenting on the speech the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East.
In view of the continuing sufferings of the Ibo peoples, we must come to some relief agreement. This is why I believe in daylight flights: and I earnestly ask my hon. Friends who espouse the cause of the secessionists to be kind enough to appeal to Colonel Ojukwu and his allies, to take up this matter of daylight flights and stick fast to it. I am not happy when I hear some of my colleagues continually putting the blame on to the Federal Government and obviously, by a little spin-off, on to British Ministers.
I believe that it is possible to have international flights out of Cotonou strictly supervised by international observers. I would like to see this possibility explored. My colleagues know where I stand on this Nigerian matter. Some of them have even used the word "committed" to describe my attitude. I accept that I take a particular line, but our job together is to get the fighting stopped at the earliest possible moment. 1662 We must appeal to both sides—to Colonel Ojukwu and to General Gowon. Let some on this side not always chide and deride the Lagos Government. Let us appeal to both sides in the dispute.
I believe that the Foreign Secretary and the Under-Secretary are honourable men. I do not like the manner in which they have been attacked by some of these benches for the way in which they have answered Questions, including the statement my right hon. Friend made last Monday and his opening speech today. I have sat listening to them. I believe that what the Foreign Secretary said on Monday was absolutely consistent with what he said today. There is no one in whom I would put greater faith or trust than my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary in view of his past educational work in Africa, and also in view of his faith. So I am prepared to support my Ministers tonight, because I know them and I believe that what they say is genuine and sincere.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson). I agree almost entirely with what he said. I said "almost". I think that he was right to refer to the slightly odd position whereby we are discussing the affairs of a country that has been independent for nine years. After a civil war or rebellion has gone on for two years it begins to become, if it has not already become, a world problem on which the House has a right to form an opinion, as indeed similar civil wars have always been commented upon in the House, be it the Spanish Civil War or the awful things that happened in the Balkans under Turkish rule or in the Middle East at that time.
I do not think that I am being particularly wise after the event, and I have no wish to regret what I happened to write as long ago as 16th August, 1967, to the Daily Telegraph. I will quote two short extracts from my letter. This was written at a time when some of us feared the horror that had not yet happened, but which was possibly going to happen. I wrote:All Nigerians and vast British interests will suffer from a break-up of Nigerian unity…1663Let us either endeavour to get the Commonwealth to send troops to keep the peace while arbitration is enforced among the warring states or remain out of internal squabbles.In the meantime we should try to get all nations to embargo the sale of arms to the whole area and the British Government should offer our good offices to mediate if asked to do so.Unfortunately that advice was not taken.
I believe that there were two courses open to the British Government at that time. They could have taken an initiative there and then to embargo arms and also to bring the main countries of the world together to try to stop the conflict. Or they could have given whole-hearted support to the federal cause. They decided to give half-hearted support; and so the war has dragged on. I fear—I agree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West—that it may continue for a long time. I say so for three reasons. I have cause to believe that these reasons are right, having seen something of the country a few weeks ago. First, terrain in which four steps taken from a road carry one into the forest helps defence. It is ideal for ambush and ideal, too, for the banditry which may come if all the roads and towns are ultimately held by the federals, as may well happen in the fairly near future. The war may still go on in the vast spaces of bush which cover the whole area on either side of the Niger.
The second reason, a false reason, is the fear of genocide. There may have been local genocide in Kano or in Zaria or in Jos in 1966. I am certain that there is no wish for genocide anywhere in Nigeria today. But the rebels, the Ibos, believe that there will be genocide, and so they go on fighting, despite the fact that many of them have come back, as I saw in Kano, Kaduna, Benin, and in Lagos; many thousands of them. Despite all the efforts in rehabilitation and the records which are being maintained in an effort to keep their houses for them, they are the victims of their own propaganda. I believe that they will, therefore, go on fighting.
The third reason why I fear a long war is the complete disregard, as far as I can see, of all the canons of war among the various divisions, the lack of urgency of war preparation, a "business as usual" attitude to be found everywhere, the lack of decision in high places 1664 and the general incompetence which one meets throughout a land in which the war is still a long way off. As has been said, it applies to less than 2 per cent. of the area of the whole country.
I believe that if we embargoed arms the war would go on. Even if all countries embargoed arms it might still go on, such is the fear and hatred. But we must try to achieve a situation wherein the Ibos can be offered a land in some form of reunited Nigeria, in which they will no longer fear for their lives. It is not in their interest to go on fighting. It may be in the interest of the rebel leaders, of a small clique. It may be in the interest of some foreign governments who want to weaken what may be the most powerful black State of Africa. It may be in the interests of some Governments who want to weaken the link of Nigeria with the Western world, or who want to break up Africa even more than it is today. But I believe that the bulk of the people, rather as did the peasants during our Wars of the Roses, merely want to go back, to till their land and get on with the job of raising their families, educating them, and trading.
One must remember that it was the Ibos who made a push to reach Lagos, who wanted to create their imperial State even west of the Niger, and who nearly succeeded but for their defeat at the battle of Ore. But I do not want to talk about the past. Recriminations do not help. We must look at the present and consider what ought to be done to create a decent future.
What is the situation now? Starvation threatens a large number of people in Iboland. Casualties affect a large number of Federal troops, as I saw in many hospitals from Kano down to Lagos. It must be to the interest of the Federals to stop the war, for they will be the richest and most powerful black African State, with, in due course, the highest standard of living north of South Africa. It should, therefore, be the object of both sides to reach a cease-fire as soon as possible.
But a cease-fire will be feared by the Federals because they will say that the rebels will use the period of cease-fire to build up their arms, only to rebel again. The rebels will fear it because, once they lay down their arms, they will 1665 think that that they may be massacred at any time, because they are the victims of their own propaganda.
The only solution, therefore, is some form of international force. It should be present only in Iboland and, ultimately, in the whole of the East Central State, and it must be there indefinitely. it is no good saying that such a force can go there for a year or so. The Ibos will ask, "What happens when the force is taken away?". I am reminded that the soldiers of Napoleon III occupied Rome for a number of years until the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. Admittedly, this would involve some diminution of the sovereignty of the Federal State, but I believe that the Federal Government must agree to it. Equally, the rebels must agree to some association as an equal State in whatever one calls the unity of Nigeria. After all, a canton in Switzerland has its own laws. So, too, will the States of the Association of Nigeria have their own laws. But they will not be allowed to have a seat in the United Nations, and I suspect that it is this which Ojukwu wants.
I should like the force to be a Commonwealth force, not just a black African force. I believe that such a force would probably be more efficient, and it is efficiency and speed which is wanted today.
My plea, therefore, is that Her Majesty's Government should approach the United States and European Governments to make an attempt, at least—let it be seen that an attempt is made—to secure a modification of the apparently irreconcilable policies of both contestants. Only a little need be given by both for a cease-fire to be arrived at. Then, if we can only bring the maximum pressure internationally on both sides, we shall be able, I believe, to achieve the peace which everyone wants to see. This country and Europe suffered, and still suffer, from the cry of "Unconditional surrender" in the last war. Let this surrender not be unconditional.
A first step towards that object would be an air daylight route, a land route and a river route, by which alone could the bulk of food come in. All of it could well be policed by a Commonwealth force such as I hope to see. The cargoes could be inspected by the Federals inside or outside Nigeria. Both are pos- 1666 sible. The sooner such a force is made ready the better, because when it is wanted it will be wanted quickly. Let us get on with the job.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon (Preston, South)
I have been a member of the Labour Party for the past 46 years and a public representative of that party for the past 36 of those years. There is now no danger of my ever changing political allegiance. But loyal allegiance must never be blind. It is incumbent upon me, therefore, to express the truth as I see it, and as I consider the majority of my constituents see it. Thank God, the majority of the peoples of the world—those with no axe to grind—are beginning to see this soul-searing and tragic holocaust in Nigeria for what it is, unfolding almost before their very eyes.
In the past, most of us have had reason, justified or otherwise, to complain about the Press and television. But on occasion we are in their debt. There are times when it is absolutely necessary to shatter the smug complacency of Englishmen.
For good or evil, when the Government made their decision it must have been on the facts then known. The goal was Nigerian unity at all costs. Were those costs really known? The struggle for and in Biafra is the power game gone mad. It is the modern version of the massacre of the innocents, with women and children first. That is how it is seen on British television and by the Press—a shameful, sacrificial serial story, to be continued in our next and in our next.
What did my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary envisage when he took the stand that he did? Did he envisage anything at all? I pose the question deliberately. Could any—and the emphasis is on the word "any"—other policy have brought worse results? Had there been an alternative policy, how many women and children would have been forced to pay the price? More or fewer?
My right hon. Friends who formulated the policy now know—if they do not, they should—that they cannot prevail against the will of the people, that there will be a day of reckoning and that they will be called upon, in the face of the death by starvation of more than a million human beings thus far, to render account of their stewardship. It may be that 1667 they are ready to render that account. I shall follow my conscience into the Lobby against them to-night.
Plausible argument has been advanced that it is the Biafran Government who are indifferent to the starvation of their own people. Just how naive are Members of Parliament supposed to become? I do not believe that this is so. It is now apparent that the truth can no longer be withheld, and that the Federal army regards mass starvation as a legitimate means of waging war.
I do not support the sending of arms. I do not support the Nigerian will to conquer by starvation. On this issue I will never support the British Government. Nigeria's policy of preventing night flights of food into Biafra is an act of war, reprehensible enough when country is locked in combat with country, when forces of whole continents are arrayned against each other. But in a civil war of a tribal nature to wage war on this scale points to the cardinal sins of presumption and despair—presumption that such a war is necessary, despair that it is not possible to encourage the people of Nigeria into believing that their differences are not irreconcilable.
Left to the people of Nigeria, to the tribes in that benighted country, unable to reconcile their quarrels, to calm their fears, hatred and distrust of each other, even such a war as this, based on such wide division and seemingly irreconcilable factors, would not be of world-staggering proportions. Fifty years ago the world would have heard nothing about it. But where there is filthy lucre, mineral wealth and oil, the participation of the great Powers, and the innumerable and complex spheres of influence, there exists a very unenviable position for a splendid country, which our own dear country is, and with the good, genuine outlook which our own dear country has. With all those attributes to commend it, our country is in a very unenviable position. But here we are once again walking on sinking sands. We must extricate ourselves very qiuckly and effectively or stand condemned in the eyes of the world.
Unfortunately, time is not on our side. The problem could escalate into world-shattering dimensions, with our own beloved country standing condemned in the 1668 eyes of people everywhere. Of necessity, and in the interests of our good name as well as that of our fellow human beings, we must retrace our steps.
I honestly believe that the Government know precisely how this can be done. Unfortunately, the will to do it seems to be lacking, and procrastination is the thief of time. Ernest Bevin would not have waited; this is something that he would not have had on his conscience. People would not be starving. There would be a Biafran airlift as there was a Berlin airlift.
Nigeria's policy of preventing the night flights of food into Biafra is an act of war. Let us face the facts resolutely. Nigeria believes that by this policy it can bring its long war to an end. It believes, for otherwise it would not be carrying on as it is, that Biafra can be conquered by mass starvation, and it may be right. Biafra is vulnerable; but are the British Government prepared to cheer that kind of victory, or to stand in the shadows while that horrible kind of victory is eked out against hundreds of thousands of innocent, impoverished and starving people, hundreds of miles from the battle front?
Is this our conception of nobility? Is this our conception of greatness? Is this our conception of humanitarianism? The pioneers of our movement must be turning in their graves. The Government have already given us the answer. We are prepared to stand in the shadows. We stood in the shadows when the first million people starved to death. Are we to continue leaning on our half-baked self-righteousness while seven million, eight million, nine million people—there are differences of opinion about the numbers—could die of starvation?
The British Government cannot claim that all they have done is stand in the shadows. The plain unvarnished truth—and this is the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife. West (Mr. William Hamilton), who is not in his place—is that these are the reasons why we cannot go into the Lobby with our colleagues of the Government tonight. They are not the facetious reasons which he expressed as being why we are unable to line up with our friends.
The truth is that all along Britain has actively assisted the Federal war effort. The British Government are still giving arms to Lagos. It is the intention of the 1669 British Government to go on giving arms to Lagos. It is my intention on this issue to go on opposing the Government. If the growing weight of public opinion is any criterion, the Government will be in for a very rough time. The trade union movement in this country is the best agency for putting the Government right, and I hope and fervently pray that it will grasp the nettle soon.
I do not believe that the Biafra conflict is in any way or in any part a British war, and yet we continue to warmonger. Like Russia, we are not content to stand in the shadows, for we intend to go on warmongering from the shadows. We are placing ourselves inextricably in the wrong.
I recognise in all fairness that the Government put themselves into this dilemma innocently. We were no more than the traditional suppliers of arms to Nigeria, and yet the argument goes on that if we withdraw our arms we are recognising Biafra. To me it just does not add up. It does not make sense. That sort of argument cannot by the widest stretch of imagination be used to justify or counterbalance the inhumanity of organised starvation.
Our country has come a long way. It has been served in peace and war by its own devoted people. We are age-old in our traditions and diplomacy. My appeal to the Government is to honour those traditions. Let us eschew war and starvation wherever these evils abound. Let us pursue the path of peace throughout the universe—that peace which surpasseth understanding; that peace without which the world cannot live; that peace without which social and material progress is futile and unavailing; that peace for which we yearn; that peace which is the presage of eternal joy.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
It is always a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon), who speaks with such great sincerity. I am only sorry that today it has to be on so tragic an issue. Most hon. Members who have spoken have had personal experience and knowledge of Nigeria. Although I have been in many parts of Africa, I have not been there, and to that extent I suppose my remarks should be discounted.
1670 In disagreeing with the Government's policy, in no way do I want to cast any reflection on the integrity, sincerity or wisdom of those who have spoken from the Front Benches or elsewhere in the House. But what perplexes me is precisely where our policy is leading us, what we are trying to do and what will be the result. I feel that our policy is misguided, is leading us nowhere, is not contributing in any way to the production of peace and that the declared objectives we have set out are not being achieved.
It is suggested that we must have the policy of supplying arms to the Federal Government in order to prevent Russian involvement. It seems crystal clear, however, that Russian influence in Nigeria is increasing and has been for some time. It has also been suggested that by giving arms to the Federal Government we are maintaining influence with them and are able to persuade them to do things which they might otherwise not do. Unfortunately, certainly in the case of relief supplies and other matters, it seems clear that our influence appears at least negligible when judged by results.
It has also been suggested that it is our policy to preserve the integrity of Nigeria as a Federal State. I do not think that it is a sound foundation for any policy of a British Government that we should seek to preserve in Africa, now or at any time, borders of administrative convenience for British colonial rule.
Nor can we deny that we are involved as a nation. It was not so long ago that we were discussing sad affairs in South Arabia, where we had great difficulty although our own troops were there. One thing which interested many hon. Members was that Saladin and Saracen trucks were not permitted to be used by our troops because they would have inflicted substantial civilian casualties. As a result, some of our troops were shot. On the other hand, I understand that we are supplying Saladins and Saracens to Nigeria which have been used in the war and must be inflicting casualties.
I have not the knowledge or experience to say who is right or who is wrong in the Nigerian conflict, but I do see that our policy, which was designed to bring an end to the rebellion and preserve the state of Nigeria, has failed. The war is in its third year, and all the arguments for a quick kill, which were put forward 1671 with a great deal of authority and what appeared to be knowledge, have proved wrong. The war goes on and seems to be becoming even more violent. People, both the innocent and the involved, are suffering starvation and death, and this should concern us a great deal.
If there were any indication that our policy was in any way bringing the war to a speedy conclusion, or was reducing the hatred which appears to exist between the peoples involved, there might be a justification for it. It does not seem to be having this result.
It has been suggested inside and outside the House that the Biafrans are simply a group of rebels led by a warlord and that they have nothing to fight for apart from their own self-seeking. Why is it that this little State of Biafra, if it can be called a State, is continuing to fight even after its people have been bombed and are starving and even though they have been thrown out of their homes and towns and villages? Precisely what are they supposed to be fighting for? As an outside observer, it seems to me that they are fighting for something, and that should be recognised as a basic part of our policy.
The lack of success of the federal forces in putting down what is supposed to be a little rebellion must be due to one of two reasons—either that the war is being conducted in an extremely incompetent way, or that the Biafrans have something to fight for. From all the reports of the bombings of market places and hospitals and of towns changing hands—one which was taken over by the federal forces is back in Biafran hands—it seems that the Biafrans have something to fight for, something in which they believe. If ever one State succeeded in producing a case for its independence or self-determination, Biafra has done so with the blood of its people.
Even if hon. Members disagree with me, the Secretary of State must ask himself how long he is prepared to accept this situation. I sincerely appreciated his comments, and I accept that he is genuinely concerned and believes what he says. However, those with knowledge of the area, like my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), who spoke tonight from his detailed knowledge of the situation, believe that the war will go on for years. 1672 If it does, thousands of people will be faced with starvation, the bombings will continue, and thousands or millions will suffer greatly.
This is not a sound foundation for any policy. Surely we cannot proceed with a policy which will result in the war continuing for years, if there are valid alternatives, and I believe that there are.
I understand why the Government appear to have taken the side of the federal forces in this conflict. The reason is clearly that, after being faced with the collapse of all the African independent States which were formerly British colonial possessions, after the disappearance of all the constitutions which were set up, when "one man, one vote", turned into "one man, one vote, one party", or, "one man, one vote, once", when all our hopes and aspirations for setting up a kind of Western democratic community in Africa have disappeared one by one, Nigeria appeared to be the one white hope for all our policies as the country which preserved democracy and freedom and manged to keep people of different races and different tribes in harmony. Unfortunately, we saw Nigeria begin to crumble and civil war start. In such circumstances, it was understandable that the Government should adopt this policy at the beginning of the war.
But there comes a time when that policy must be thoroughly reappraised, and that time has surely come. We now have evidence, which was not available in past wars, because of television and direct reporting which have shown precisely what is happening in Africa. Now that we have seen the war continue for more than two years, the time has come for reappraisal. The Government would be fully justified in going ahead, having gone so far, if there were any indication that the war was coming to a speedy end, or, far more important, that the feelings of hatred clearly present in Nigeria were being reduced.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)
I am listening closely to the hon. Gentleman. I disagree with the Government on this issue and I will show it later tonight. But the hon. Gentleman puts all responsibility on the Government. It is true that the Government are responsible for carrying out the policy, but his own Front Bench totally disagrees with what the 1673 hon. Gentleman is saying. There is hardly any difference in attitude between the two Front Benches. Why does not the hon. Gentleman criticise his own Front Bench?
§ Mr. Taylor
I was not picking out the Government and blaming them. This is not a matter of acute party politics. I was trying to attack not the Government but the policy. The hon. Gentleman will agree that I take my fair share of attacking the Government when I believe that their policies are wrong, but in this instance I disagree with the policy not because the Government embarked on it for the wrong reasons, or insincerely, or without integrity, but because I do not know precisely where it will lead. I cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel. If all we can look forward to is a war which will continue for years and in which many thousands of people will suffer greatly and when nothing constructive or positive will be achieved from it, I attack the policy.
At this stage, we ought to reconsider our attitudes, reconsider whether we accept as the basis for our policies the retention of the integrity of the Federal State of Nigeria. What would be the result if this country at some international council unilaterally proposed a complete embargo on arms, or took the initiative itself? The present policy is leading to disaster in Nigeria, and all the evidence should lead the Government and the Opposition and all those who have so far supported the Government—and there may have been a case for the policy at the beginning—to a complete reappraisal, because the policy is not leading to a successful conclusion, and as time goes on and as more people are slaughtered, the argument for the policy will become even more untenable.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) has posed one or two of the issues facing the country. He is obviously the essential pragmatist. He thinks that the policy was justified when it looked as though the Nigerians were winning, and he now seems to be saying that because he does not think that they will win, a policy which may hitherto have been justified should now be jettisoned. That seems to me to lack both consistency and honour.
1674 Does he really think that if the British Government unilaterally withdrew support, such as it is, for the Federal Nigerian authorities, that would stop the war? Of course it would not. The Federal Government would merely continue the war without such help as they have had up to now from the British Government.
I am glad to see that the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) is present. Her speech was one of the most interesting and most important in the debate. She asked many questions which are worthy of serious consideration and serious answer. Her experience in the way in which her attitude to the war has changed does not exactly mirror mine. It is the converse in the sense that I started by being more pro-Biafran, if I may use that phrase, than I now am, whereas she seems to have started by being much more pro-Federal Government and has now moved in the other direction. I am not attacking her but paying her a compliment. I want to try to answer some of her questions.
If we are to try to get our policy right, we first have to ask ourselves the difficult question: "In what circumstances, if any, is it permissible for a British Government to supply arms to a country within the Commonwealth?" Or, looking at the converse question, under what circumstances should we cease to be a supplier of arms to a country in the Commonwealth? I tried to get an answer earlier from the right hon. Member the Leader of the Liberal Party to this, but all that he said was that if we had a treaty obligation we ought to sell arms. This would produce the surprising result that we would not be in a position to supply arms to Australia with whom we have no treaty, but we might find ourselves liable to supply Cyprus because we have a defence agreement with that country. That is not, I should have thought, a conclusion that many people in this House would welcome.
I will, however, try to spell out three sets of circumstances in which Britain should cease supplying arms to a friendly, independent nation within the Commonwealth. But first, the hon. Member for Hamilton will, I am sure, agree that the right to independence carries with it the right to defend that independence, and that right must in turn carry with it the 1675 right to try to purchase what is thought necessary to defend it in the markets of the world.
I begin on the basis that prima facie where we find a nation within the Commonwealth with whom we have friendly relations, then we should be prepared to supply them with such arms as we think are reasonable in all the circumstances. But there are three provisos to that. The first is that before we continue to supply arms we must be satisfied that they will not be used against another Commonwealth nation, and it is that which justifies British policy over the non-supply of arms with India and Pakistan. If there is a possiblity of this sort of dispute, then that kind of prohibition is reasonable.
Secondly, we would have to be satisfied that the arms would not be used for purposes outside the Charter of the United Nations. As far as I know, the Nigerian war and the activities of the Federal Government in relation to that war have not been declared to be outside the Charter of the United Nations. As the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon, if attempts were made to raise it in New York it is extremely unlikely that it would get on the agenda.
The third proviso is that those arms should not be used for purposes which we in the United Kingdom would regard as being basically contrary to international law or the normal and accepted tenets of civilised behaviour between nations, even if there is a conflict going on. But having said this then, subject to those provisos, I see no reason why Britain should depart from our normal and accepted policy of supplying such arms as a friendly and independent nation within the Commonwealth might think to be necessary for its defence.
If that is right the question we have to ask ourselves in relation to Nigeria whether there are circumstances, and if so what they are, inherent in the present situation in Nigeria which takes it outside our generally accepted principle of arms supply to friendly nations? Is there anything in what is happening in Nigeria to bring it within one of my three categories and thereby force a change in the British attitude? It has been suggested that there are two matters, both of which have been canvassed perhaps somewhat spasmodically in the debate, 1676 which put the Nigerian civil war in an exceptional category.
The first is that there are allegations of genocide, either being committed, or if that allegation is shown to be unfounded, then being planned by the Federal authorities against the Biafran rebels. The second allegation, perhaps to a certain extent complementary to the first, is that the Federal Government is being wholly unreasonable, for the most malicious reasons, in its attitude to the relief operations. We should examine both propositions very carefully.
Let us take the first—genocide. If this be genocide it is the most peculiar genocide in the history of that crime. The fact is, and some hon. Gentlemans on both sides do not seem to be capable of recognising it, that there are large numbers of Ibos living in Federal territory, and not just Federal territory which has been won as a result of Federal military success, but in Federal territory which has seen no part of the war, and where there has been no military activity.
Ibos are living in Lagos. As far as I know, and all the evidence goes in this direction, not only are they living there, they are working there, carrying on their businesses there and are being treated in exactly the same way as any other Nigerian citizen. They are under no legal prohibition. There are no legal disabilities on the Ibos living in Federal territory, such as the Hitler régime in Germany passed on Jewish citizens there. None of this applies, and yet it is argued that the Federal Government are either committing or planning genocide against these people.
Let us look at this proposition and the absurdity it contains. It cannot be argued that the Nigerian are committing genocide against the four million Ibos living in Federal territory because they are still there, visible and seen. Politicians and journalists go and see them working and living there. They are still alive, and therefore by definition genocide is not and has not been committed on those 4 million. In which case we have the astonishing and absurd proposition that in relation to the 4 million Ibos whom the Federal Government could kill they are not killing them, but in relation to the remainder whom they cannot now reach they are planning genocide.
1677 If this be genocide it is the most astonishing example in the history of this crime. But fortunately it now seems to be almost accepted, except by some of the more extreme proponents and apologists for Colonel Ojukwu, that genocide is not in the mind of the Federal Government.
The second proposition is that somehow or other the Federal Government's posture on the whole relief operation in Nigeria is so extreme, irrational, and unreasonable that it ought to force a change in the British Government's attitude. I have listened carefully to all the debate so far and have tried to read the policy statements on both sides as they have affected the whole scale of relief operations. One point that has been made, which has some substance, is that it ought to be possible—my right hon. Friend said something about this in his opening statement this afternoon—to persuade the Federal Government to accept day-time flights, neutrally supervised, if with Nigerian observers attached, operating from non-Federal territory. This is an acceptable proposition which ought to be examined.
But let us remember, however, what the converse proposition is. In my view it is reasonable further to insist that if day-time flights are acceptable night-time flights are not. From the military point of view the one thing that the Federal Government cannot reasonably be expected to continue to acquiesce in are night-time flights into Biafra. We know that arms are getting into Biafra, and we have some idea of where they are coming from and how they are getting in. A fair quantity is getting in by air at night and the trouble is that if relief planes are going in at night as well, it is impossible for a radar screen on the ground to distinguish adequately between what is a relief plane and what is one carrying arms. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen must not forget that there is a war going on, and that the Federal Government are anxious to bring it to a successful conclusion.
It is grossly unreasonable to ask the Federal Government to acquiesce in the operation of relief flights which only take place at night, since that gives a considerable military advantage to the other side.
My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon) made 1678 an impassioned speech and said how dreadful it was that Her Majesty's Government were associated with… the inhumanity of organised starvation.Even allowing for his sincerity, any suggestion that the Government are involved in organising starvation in any part of Nigeria is grossly improper and untrue, and my hon. Friend should withdraw it. There is a war in this part of the world which has to be brought to an end.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon
Is my hon. Friend suggesting that the million people who have died have died from any other cause than starvation?
§ Mr. Richard
I do not suggest anything of the sort. I suggest that my hon. Friend should withdraw his accusation that our Government are pursuing a policy of organising starvation, or—
§ Mr. Richard
Perhaps my reading of the facts is slightly different from my hon. Friend's.
I began with doubts about the Government's policy on Nigeria. When the war started and we had our first few debates, on the whole I took the view that it was a conflict in which it would be wiser for Britain not to express a view or give any kind of assistance to one side or the other. As the war has gone on, my conviction has, however, grown that, since one may be forced to declare support for one side or the other, it is in the interests of Africa and the whole world that the Federal Government of Nigeria should be successful in this war if it has to be fought to a military conclusion. From the point of view of the well being of that continent, if there has to be a military solution, it is important that the Federal Government should win.
The question which is finally raised is whether it is necessary for the war to go on to that military conclusion. I think that Her Majesty's Government have done almost all that can reasonably be expected to try and get negotiations going. Assuming that relief flights cannot get into Biafra by day and that negotiations without pre-conditions cannot start, then 1679 I am forced to conclude that if blame has to be apportioned and culpability to be attached it does not attach to the Federal Government of Nigeria but rather to the other side.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
I am very glad to follow the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard), because I agree broadly with almost everything that he has said, and, if I may say so, he said it extremely well.
The only point which worries me is that we are debating Nigeria for the fourth or fifth time in a calendar year. We have said it all before from our respective and very different points of view, so I am not sure why my right hon. Friends chose the subject for one of our few remaining Supply days. I am sure that their motives were excellent, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) certainly made his usual distinguished personal contribution.
But I am a little worried that, by debating the matter and making the same points again and again we shall only succeed in irritating the Federal Government. After all, they are the independent sovereign Government of Nigeria, and they may feel that we are being a little paternalistic and patronising with our moralising and in giving them advice as to how they should behave in their own country. I have in mind particularly the contribution made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) and other rather emotional speeches which have been made on this subject. By having yet another House of Commons debate, we may relieve our own consciences, but I do not think that we shall influence or affect what is happening in Nigeria.
I want first to comment on relief supplies. One reason, albeit a minor one, for the present Ibo civilian food shortage may be that, not unnaturally, the Ibo soldiers have the first pick of the relief supplies both local and international and that to that extent, therefore, the Ibo civilians have gone short. I do not find that surprising or even very reprehensible, but it is both a fact and a contributory factor.
1680 More important is the fact that General Gowon has agreed to a land corridor and/ or daylight flights with food and medical supplies, and he has agreed to neutral observers verifying the cargoes on Federal soil to make sure that they are not tampered with. It is Colonel Ojukwu who has so far refused this offer. If he persists in that refusal I do not think that he can escape the very grave responsibility of sacrificing the lives of his people in pursuit of his own political aims.
In effect—and I do not think that I am over stating it—Ibo civilians are starving in Biafra, because their own leaders will not allow them to be fed. We all know precisely why Colonel Ojukwu prefers night flights—because they are a cover for arms running and because he prefers arms for his troops to food for his civilians. That is a perfectly understandable military priority.
But to criticise the Federal Government for wishing to prevent that is naïve and unrealistic. Indeed, it must be almost without precedent for a nation at war to allow neutral observers to umpire its conduct of that war and also to allow food to be flown in to relieve human suffering on the other side, well knowing that it is also being used to sustain the troops on the other side. As the Foreign Secretary pointed out in his recent statement, European wars certainly have never been fought with such restraint, such humanity and such magnanimity. In fact General Gowon could be criticised and has no doubt been criticised for it in Nigeria, because the Federal Government are apparently as a matter of Policy, not really making an all-out military effort, which would normally include blockade. That no doubt is because General Gowon is anxious to avoid the worst features of a civil war so that the Ibos can ultimately be reabsorbed into a united Nigeria. That is a commendable and a wise attitude on General Gowon's part which is credit to his statesmanship. But it is prolonging the war.
On the other side, the supply of arms to Colonel Ojukwu and the supply of food by the great international agencies have also contributed to prolonging the war. Of course relief supplies have saved life, but the lengthening of the war has caused the death of far more people than any relief operations could possibly have 1681 saved. So what has seemed humanitarian has in fact led to greater agony and greater loss of life by prolonging the struggle. I do not think that anybody can deny that that has happened.
I turn, now, to the supply of arms. To ban arms supplies, or to try to do so, is, I believe, a totally unreal policy. To be viable it would have to be universal. For us to ban unilaterally would be ineffective and prejudicial—I do not see why one should not say this—to our commercial and investment interests in Nigeria, which are very large. As the right hon. Gentleman has told the House, Russia has actually stated that she will not stop her arms supplies no matter what we may do. That does not surprise me. Neither the United Kingdom nor the United Nations could conceivably shame Russia into any arms embargo. Russia is not shamed into anything which she thinks conflicts with her own interests. I think it rather pathetic to believe, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone apparently believes, that by our example we could influence Russia to a major change of policy which she does not consider to be in her interests. That is a very naïve point of view. Anyway, if arms are not supplied by Governments they would still be supplied by private interests. I believe that even the Swiss are supplying relief with one hand and arms with the other.
The truth is that both sides in this war passionately believe that they are in the right, but it is not fair to assume that, just because the Ibos have suffered more acutely than the Federals, their cause is necessarily the more just. As I have said before in this House, I do not at present see any basis for a negotiated peace. The aims of each side seem to me too diametrically opposed for that. Therefore, on the assumption that Colonel Ojukwu cannot win the war and I believe that there cannot be a negotiated peace in the immediate future, the only solution is a Federal military victory. I believe that our policies are based, and should be based, on that assumption.
§ Mr. Winnick
Obviously the hon. Gentleman thinks that the most humane way of waging the war is for the Federal Nigerian forces to wage it without restraint and to deprive the Ibos of food because plainly he believes that that will end the war more quickly.
§ Mr. Fisher
It will save a great deal of life if the war ends quickly, and that is the basis of my argument. As I think that it can only end in a Federal victory, I should like that victory to come more quickly rather than be spread over a longer time with correspondingly greater loss of life. Even if in the end the Ibos succeeded in seceding, that would be a very bad solution because it would almost certainly lead to the total fragmentation of Nigeria, which would begin to break up into regional groupings. The future of Nigeria, particularly with the development of its great oil resources, could be so prosperous and so important for all Nigerians, including the Ibos, that it would be a tragedy if it were to break up. That is basically why the large majority of African States want to preserve the integrity of Nigeria and why I and many other hon. Members on both sides want Nigeria to remain one country.
I should like to end on a slightly more constructive note by drawing the attention of the Foreign Secretary to Motion No. 373 on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) and several hon. Members on both sides of the House and by asking him a perfectly genuine question: Does he think that it would be practicable to suggest to both sides the possibility of acceptance by both sides of the injection of a small international force to assist in the distribution of relief supplies and as a reassurance to the Ibos that they will not be massacred, because although I do not think that there is any question of genocide, they think so, and that is the point—
§ Mr. Fisher
I accept that many of them believe it because of the Ibo propaganda. The hon. Gentleman thinks that they are right for a different reason. I accept that they believe this. Therefore, as a reassurance to them, does the right hon. Gentleman consider that he could make this proposal to both sides? If he thinks that this idea could be a starter, will he discuss it with the United States and other Governments to ascertain their reactions, because obviously this would be an international operation and probably we could not even form a contingent for it because we would not be acceptable to the Biafran side? On the other hand, 1683 if he does not think that this is a practical idea—and if he says that I am prepared to accept it because he has thought deeply about these matters—I hope that he will continue and indeed intensify his present policy of supplying arms to the Federal Government to enable them to end the war and the suffering in the only way that it can be ended, as quickly as possible.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
The hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) has a reputation in this House for being a courageous and enlightened person on racial matters. For that reason I found his speech the more deplorable and the more incomprehensive. I found it in extraordinary contrast to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), with whom I also have differences, but who. I thought, took a much more reasonable line on this matter.
The House owes a debt of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), and to my right hon. Friend for pitching the note of the debate on a fairly thoughtful and moderate tone. I find myself in surprising agreement with many of the matters mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, but I feel that although he was very conciliatory, and genuinely so, in the last analysis his conciliatory attitude was contingent upon the whole idea that everything must be subjective to the idea that Federal Nigeria should be re-unified.
I think that I understand this. I understand the dilemma of those who think that if we once concede the idea of secession to an African State—and there are many African States in which there have been fissiparous tendencies in the last few years—there will be no end to this; that if we do this it will not be just balkanisation but the creation of a whole series of Montenegros, tiny enclaves of no significance and total unviability.
To state that is to miss the point that there are already vast differences in size and in economic capacity among the States in Africa. Cheerfully to lump together a country as large as Nigeria with small countries like Gambia, or the Ivory Coast, or Dahomey, or Togo, and to say 1684 that secession in one will be impracticable and therefore it is impracticable in the lot is totally unrealistic.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite chided my party 20 years ago over the division in India. We were criticised, perhaps not unjustly, for not creating an independent Punjab State, and by virtue of not doing so we were in some way responsible for the massacre of a large number of people in Amritsar, Lahore, and so on. Various Governments could be criticised for failing to take account of minorities in Somalia, in Kenya, and indeed, the Karens in Burma, because these are bigger countries. But Nigeria is not only a very large country, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Henig) said, and a multiracial country, but a very artificial creation altogether, even by the standards of colonial Africa. As the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) said, it was brought into existence only in 1914. It is as artificial a creation as, say, Panama, the creation of Teddy Roosevelt, which came into existence more or less at the same time.
This links up with one of the blindnesses of British colonial rule. As the House knows, I was a colonial service officer. I defend many of the things that we did, but one of the things which I shall not defend, and which has bedevilled our relations with many parts of the world, is the way in which we have deferred to Moslem traditional authorities in Northern Nigeria. To some extent we did this also in India, in the Malay States, in Brunei, in Zanzibar, and in those absurd shiekhdoms of the Persian Gulf which we are still propping up the same principle is applied. We were far too gentle, far too inhibited, in our dealings with the emirates of Northern Nigeria, and this is one reason why the Ibos have these fears, and why this present situation has arisen.
My principal argument is that it is not for us to promote or encourage cessation, but if we get a situation, as one has here, where people are fighting in these appalling circumstances—and whatever may have been the intention of the war I do not think anybody deliberately wanted to promote genocide, with the possible exception of Colonel Adekunle—the fact is the inevitable end product is mass death on a scale which exceeds even that in Vietnam. In a situation like this, 1685 putting down this rebellion is bound to lead to a repetition of the same appalling process for many years. The hon. Member for Surbiton is totally wrong, and almost everyone else has disagreed with him. Whatever may have been said in the first place about a quick kill, there is no question of that now. This will be a slow, agonising, atrophying process, with no certainty of when or how it will end.
In those circumstances, we are right to reconsider our position. Even if we were right to treat—I suppose that there were prima facie grounds for treating—Nigeria merely as a friendly, sovereign Commonwealth State, this is no longer the case. Even if one accepts, as I do up to a point, that Gowon could have been and might have been a more ruthless military leader than he has turned out to be, one cannot hope to perform a mediatory function by supplying one side and not the other with arms and then offering one's services as a mediator: they will not be accepted. It is a sheer muddle-headedness for Ministers to delude themselves that they will be able to perform the rôles which they genuinely want to perform. Less difficult men than Colonel Ojukwu would find this position intolerable.
One analogy from our own history is a dilemma which concerned this country much more directly, because we had direct constitutional responsibility, and that was the position in Ireland. I wish that the history of the nineteenth century had been different, and there had been no Irish independence movement. It would be far better, economically and from many other points of view, if we were all part of the United Kingdom at the same time. But it was clear, by about 1910, that, whatever the merits, the force of grass roots Irish nationalism was so strong that it could be resisted only at the price of untold misery and bloodshed. Therefore, it was right to concede.
I wish that the secession of Biafra had never taken place. I wish that the fears that precipitated this secession had never arisen. If that had been the position, we would all be much happier and this dilemma would not exist. But it does, and it is no good trying to gloss over the matter. It is time that the British Government quietly pointed out to the 1686 Nigerian Government the folly of trying to suppress by force a movement which could only be suppressed, if at all, after a long war which is bound to be of the greatest bitterness. The longer that it goes on, the more difficult it will be for moderate Federal Nigerian leaders to restrain their followers and conduct the war in a comparatively humane way.
It is always our experience that, although wars start with a certain amount of humanity, they tend to degenerate. Even in the Second World War, this is evidenced by the growth of mass bombing which culminated in Dresden on the one side and the bombing of many allied cities on the other. Although I want to give due credit to the Nigerians for the restraint which they have shown in some measure over relief supplies, my right hon. Friend is not entirely correct to say that it is unique in history for a Power which is apparently winning, or even one which is not, to make concessions of this kind.
I find an example in the Second World War, surprisingly, when several ships were sent cross the Channel under a flag of truce for the exchange of badly-wounded prisoners of war. In that war we had the remarkable occasion when exchanges took place between the Italian and British Navies following the battle of Matapan so that surviving sailors could be picked up in the sea after their ships had been sunk. There was the truce at Halfaya Pass on the desert front for the passage of medical supplies in the midst of one of the most bitter battles of the war. All sorts of other truces occurred earlier in history, including that extraordinary truce covering the Christmas period on the Western Front in the 1914–18 war. I therefore do not believe that my right hon. Friend was entirely right to vest in Colonel Gowon an absolutely unique degree of virtue in these matters.
The question of air supplies has dominated the debate rather too much in our discussion of relief. Air supplies, whether by day or night, are bound to present problems. If they go by night there is the danger of deception, or imagined deception, with added navigational hazards because of aeroplanes having to land on improvised air strips in the middle of the bush. If they go by day there are also difficulties because, while it may be easier to police their activities, the volume of supplies that 1687 can be flown in is not great enough to meet the requirements of the situation.
I am, therefore, inclined to think that further efforts should be made to try to get the Cross River access open. This would undoubtedly provide more supplies more quickly and be easier to police for the neutral officials who would be responsible for supervising the supplies and seeing that no abuse occurs on either side.
Even with the comparatively fluctuating land front, I still do not believe that it is impossible for some sort of passage to be made in the midst of the land fighting, particularly since there has been a greater measure of stabilisation in the last few weeks and months. One recalls the truce which occurred during the Korean war, for totally different purposes, when it was possible, even during the fighting, to have an enclave around Panmunjon demilitarised. At that time there were military forces on both sides conducting a bitter war of great ideological intensity. That truce was, for the most part, observed by both sides, and it did facilitate the agonising and protracted negotiations that took place, ultimately resulting in peace.
We should not dismiss the possibility of having a land corridor as well. I pin my greatest faith, however, on the opening of the Cross River route, and I hope that my hon. Friend, who I am sure genuinely wants to help, will give due attention to this.
I have criticised the Government, which I was bound to do because of their efforts being based on the dangerous illusion that the Federation of Nigeria must be preserved at all costs. Subject to that, I believe that Her Majesty's Government have gone some way to meet the objections which have vexed so many hon. Members.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
First, I should like to express to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary my personal admiration for the courage and fortitude he has shown in a very difficult situation. I have not always agreed with everything that he has said about the Nigeria-Biafra conflict, but I am quite certain that he has examined his heart and his conscience as well as his 1688 responsibility in this matter, and I express my considerable admiration for the way in which he has conducted his policy.
I want to stress the importance of the British Government making clear to Nigeria the conditions on which, as I believe, we must continue our support for her. Nigeria is surely entitled, as a nation State, to defend her integrity. I believe that the British Government are right to continue to hold out the hand of friendship to her, and if it is necessary that she should have British weapons to that end, I believe that we should continue their supply.
§ Mr. Griffiths
But I believe that we are entitled to impose two conditions on the continuance of that armed aid. The first is that we ought to be able to insist that the food shall go in, and shall go in forthwith. I believe that it is possible that the corridor of Cotonou can be brought into use, and I express the hope that the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will succeed in his negotiations.
The second condition that we are entitled to express to the Nigerian Government is that we must be persuaded that they are doing all in their power to achieve a cease-fire. I realise the difficulties, but I think that, with British opinion rightly roused by the suffering, it is imcumbent on the Government to show to the British public that we are at every stage pressing the Nigerian Government to accept a cease-fire. It is equally important that the British Government make clear to the Biafrans where exactly we stand. I believe that the Biafrans will continue to fight for some time, but I hope that the day will come when they will find some autonomy again within the Nigerian union.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said at the beginning of the debate, we must make it clear to the Biafrans that Britain is anxious to see a cease-fire. At the moment, the Biafrans do not believe this: it is up to the Government to make sure that they do. Second. it is important that we demonstrate to the Biafrans that we, the British, are prepared to support and honour an international embargo on all 1689 arms supplies if it can be negotiated with the Federal union. Third, we must demonstrate to the Biafrans that we want a negotiated peace, and that within that peace Iboland will have a clear identity and, perhaps, a greater measure of autonomy within the Nigerian union. Fourth, and last, we must make it clear to the Biafrans that we, the British, would be willing to be guarantors of the cease-fire and of the settlement which I think will come.
The present situation is a tragedy, an issue of great emotion, but during the debate I have been struck by the contrast between emotion, deeply felt, and responsibility. It is wrong to suggest that those who bear the responsibility lack the emotion.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)
Though many differing views have been expressed in this debate, and expressed with conviction and sincerity, it must by now be clear to the Government that the whole House is uneasy and disturbed by the continuing Nigerian tragedy. There are good reasons for this.
First, there is the widespread feeling that this is one situation about which we should be doing something. We are not involved in the Vietnamese conflict. We could not lift a finger to help the Czechs. But we are involved in Nigeria and, whether we like it or not, we have been involved there from the very beginning.
Second, we are all only too conscious of the fact that it was our country more than any other that helped to create Nigeria, to prepare her people for self-government, and that, after independence, felt a justifiable pride in the way in which the new State began to exert, as she did, a moderate and constructive leadership in African world affairs. It was sad enough to see that creation break apart; it was tragic to witness a nation with so much potential for good plunged into a bitter and bloody civil war; but it is truly shattering for us to have to accept, whatever the reason, that British arms are being used against those for whom we were once trustees.
It is, of course, pointless for us here to argue the rights and wrongs of the matter. 1690 All war is tragic, but the special tragedy of civil war is that it is a question rarely of right versus wrong but of wrong perpetrated by both sides in the name of right. In any event, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said—and this has been echoed by a number of hon. Members—Nigeria is an independent sovereign country in which the issue can be settled only by one side winning an outright military victory over the other, or by an effort of will on the part of both to find a negotiated settlement. From the outset the only question for us should have been how we as friends of Nigeria can bring about conditions for a cease-fire, an end to the suffering of the people, and an honourable settlement.
Some hon. Members have said we should have done better not to supply arms, or at least when it became clear that there could be no early end to the war, that we should have sought a total ban. Hitherto the Government have justified the supply of arms to Federal Nigeria on two grounds. The first is that to have stopped traditional supplies would have been to have taken sides in a rebellion designed to break up a friendly Commonwealth country. Second, nothing would be gained by such a policy since the arms we failed to supply would be supplied by others and we should lose any influence that we might have on the side of clemency and conciliation.
§ Mr. Braine
I am not arguing this, but others have said that by a ban we would lose any influence we have on the side of clemency, conciliation and reconstruction.
As for the first argument, it is clearly in the interests of no one, least of all the emergent African countries, to encourage balkanisation. This is why the Organisation of African Unity has shown such scant sympathy for the rebel cause. With respect to the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Henig), no one has suggested that there is any clear-cut issue 1691 of self-determination here. Indeed, it is clear that secession would not solve the problem of self-determination since many of the non-Ibos do not wish to be ruled by Ibos, and if they were, one source of bitterness would merely be replaced by another.
What is needed, and has so far eluded the peace-makers, is a generous political settlement which recognises the ethnic facts of Nigeria and the need to avoid domination of minority tribes by one or other of the three major tribal groups, whilst preserving a framework of unity within which this vast country can develop its resources for the benefit of all its peoples. Such a solution manifestly cannot be imposed from without; it can come only after a cease fire and a conscious effort of will on both sides. As my right hon. Friend said the kernel of the matter is to get negotiations going for a ceasefire and a new approach is therefore necessary, possibly through the Organisation of African Unity. I gather that the Foreign Secretary agrees.
As for the second argument, the Government are still under an obligation to show that the influence they claim to have preserved as a result of their arms policy is producing results. This is what the debate is about. It is true that they can claim that they have always been ready to help bring the two sides together by supporting wholeheartedly the efforts of the Commonwealth Secretary-General and the O.A.U., and though the talks at Kampala and Addis Ababa were unsuccessful, that is not the fault of the Government. It is true that the Hunt Mission, which they were able to persuade the federal side to accept, accomplished much in the field of famine relief and might have accomplished much more if General Ojukwu had been more forthcoming at the time.
It is true that they persuaded the federal authorities to accept the team of international military observers, who reported that the Federal Government were not engaged in genocide. It is true also that since the shooting down of the Red Cross plane last month they have been doing what they can to reconcile the federal authorities with the voluntary agencies with the object of resuming relief flights.
1692 All this we recognise. I think, too, that the House would want to acknowledge the work that the Under-Secretary, in particular, has done in this connection. But the war has continued to drag on. Foreign arms have been reaching the Ibos in quantity. The prospect of a federal victory seems as remote as ever, and meanwhile the toll of civilian suffering continues.
It seems to me that throughout the Government have been over-optimistic. They have clung to the belief that the end would soon be in sight. Almost a year ago the then Commonwealth Secretary told the House that the secessionists were losing the battle, that the Federal Government were in a winning position. The events of the last fortnight suggest that this false optimism has been allowed to extend to the vital question of relieving starvation in the rebel-held areas.
On Monday the Foreign Secretary told us that the Federal Government were ready to permit daylight mercy flights, subject to inspection in Lagos, or at other points which might be agreed, and on conditions acceptable to the relief agencies; he had seen Dr. Arikpo, the Nigerian Commissioner for External Affairs, who hadconfirmed his Government's willingness to co-operate fully in the provision of relief by air, land or river … as a guarantee against tampering with relief supplies and as an assurance that the inspection procedures would be speedy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July, 1969; Vol. 786, c. 952.]the Federal Government would agree to neutral observers. Anybody who opposed the sending in of relief on this basis would bear "a dreadful responsibility". Those were the words of the right hon. Gentleman.
I listened to what the right hon. Gentleman said today. I accept what he said completely and without reservation. But I thought that he gave the distinct impression on Monday that a sensible plan had been drawn up and that all that remained was to secure General Ojukwu's agreement. Unhappily, this does not appear to have been the position at all. [Interruption.] I am not talking about what the right hon. Gentleman said. I am talking about the impression that he gave. A great sigh of relief was heaved in the House at the time. One got the impression that a plan had been formulated. This is not the position.
1693 The relief agencies reacted strongly. Certainly consultation with them seems to have been woefully inadequate. International Red Cross officials in Geneva were surprised by the Foreign Secretary's statement that agreement had been reached in London between Professor Freymond, the Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Dr. Arikpo. One of their spokesmen commented:The most that can be said is that contacts between the Red Cross and the Federal Government have been re-established".That is good as far as it goes, but it is not a plan.
Joint Church Aid, for example, which organises more relief into Nigeria than the International Red Cross, and which, incidentally, has sent more food into the federal areas of Nigeria than into the rebel territory, claims that it was not consulted at all. As a result, the relief agencies have been complaining bitterly ever since that the Foreign Secretary misled the House on Monday.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
I hope that I understood the hon. Gentleman correctly. He is not accusing me of misleading the House? I hope that I understood him correctly on that.
§ Mr. Braine
Certainly. I said a little earlier—I am sure that the Secretary of State heard me—that I accept completely what he said. Much of the trouble in this life, however, is caused by failure of communication. All I am saying is that the statement he made on Monday created the impression in the minds of a good many people that a plan had been agreed when, in fact, no plan has yet been formulated.
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman is advancing a rather curious doctrine, that a Minister or Member speaking in the House must be held responsible not for what he says but for misleading impressions which other people form from what he says. If any hon. Member chooses to read again what I said, he will see that its meaning is exactly clear. I stand by it.
§ Mr. Braine
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman's attention has been drawn to today's Guardian in which Joint Church Aid is reported as making the clear statement that, 1694Nigeria's plan—backed by Britain—for relief flights to Biafra originating from Federal-held territory is unworkable … Mr. Stewart has been misleadingwhen he told the Housethat relief organisations had accepted the plan".I do not for a moment say that there was any intention on the Foreign Secretary's part to do that. I am talking about the impression which he gave and saying that it indicates an extension of the optimism which the Government have shown in regard to the situation for a long time. The relief organisations have made this bitter complaint. The truth is that, so far, no plan has been drawn up, and the suggestion that General Ojukwu is the sole stumbling-block is not correct. Let us get the facts straight.
Neither is it correct to say that General Ojukwu is opposed to daylight flights. Is is not a fact that he accepted them on 1st January and again on 18th June, subject to the condition that they should not endanger his basic security? I shall return to that in a moment.
On Monday, again—as the Foreign Secretary has invited me, in effect, to go into detail on his statement, I shall do so—why did he ignore the question about relief going in under other arrangements? What about the plea of the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Rogers, that the Cross River route might be opened up? The right hon. Gentleman referred to that today, but when he was asked about it on Monday he completely ignored the question.
The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) spoke of an American ship waiting in Lagos now, laden with relief supplies, which could, I understand, sail to the Cross River at once if permission were given and guarantees provided that it would not be fired upon by the belligerents. Today the Foreign Secretary said that Dr. Arikpo hoped that discussions on the use of this route would be resumed. But this is a means of getting relief almost immediately into the Ibo area. What is holding up discussions? We are entitled to know.
We recognise, of course, that the Federal Government, in dealing with a rebellion, are within their rights in asking that relief supplies should go in under conditions that the aeroplanes do not 1695 carry arms. No one will quarrel with the Foreign Secretary's statement that the Federal Government's readiness to permit relief to go in is a humanitarian gesture the like of which is rare in the history of war. But what we are concerned with in this debate is not good intentions but the practical implementation of a relief plan. Frankly, I do not think that the Foreign Secretary's premature announcement on Monday, coupled with critical remarks about General Ojukwu, really helped.
If lives are to be saved, and quickly, a plan must be devised which is acceptable to both sides, and that means a plan which takes into account the psychology of the combatants and the realities of the situation. What are the chances of finding such a plan? Those who have recently been in the rebel area and have spoken to General Ojukwu say that his fear is that relief planes flying in during the period of a cease-fire may be followed by attempts to seize or destroy the airfield. Although he wants relief supplies, he is not prepared to trade his basic security for them.
One does not have to be a sympathiser with the rebel cause—I most certainly am not—to see that the airfield is Biafra's sole lifeline to the outside world. Moreover, there is the persistent fear in the rebel area that food coming from Federal Nigeria may be tampered with. All this may be unreasonable. I am sure that it is. I believe that General Gowon is absolutely sincere when he says that he wants an honourable settlement and reconciliation with his Ibo brothers. But we all know that tribal fears run deep in Africa. We saw it in the Congo, and we are seeing it now in Kenya. Any plan must take account of them if it is to get off the ground.
It is a tragedy, of course, that the Government have no direct contact with General Ojukwu, although hints were given today that there were means of contacting him. Even if there are such contacts, there appears to be no means of knowing what is in his mind.
The heart of the matter, therefore, is the question of reassuring the Ibos that they will not be utterly destroyed if they lower their guard. This is not a new thought. As my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), 1696 who knows and cares so much about Nigeria, reminded the House, some of us pressed well over a year ago for the setting up of a Commonwealth peacekeeping force which, at the appointed time and with the approval of the Federal Government, could be moved in to give the Ibos an assurance that they would not be wiped out. I believe that if this had been done the situation would have been easier by now. I remember asking a year ago what was being done about the preparation of a British contribution to such a force. The Minister who replied to that debate gave me no answer.
This is not a case of outsiders seeking to impose unwelcome and impractical ideas upon an unwilling Nigeria. In July last year at Niamey, General Gowon accepted the principle of an outside force to give a sense of security—as he put it—to the Ibos once the rebellion was over. A few weeks later, at Addis Ababa, Chief Enahoro went further and proposed a force drawn specifically from Canada. Ethiopa and India.
The immediate need, of course, is to lend our support to a plan which provides not only for neutral inspection of relief cargoes but for neutral policing of the air corridors. I cannot see why the Canadians, who are respected by both sides, who have already helped with relief to both sides, and who have experience of sophisticated organisation second to none, should not now be asked to provide the means of policing the air corridors and ensuring effective inspection of cargoes. Any objections which General Ojukwu might have would then surely fall to the ground.
Surely it is not impossible that some flights should start from outside federal territory? I was very glad to hear the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary concede that thought might be given to this. If such flights were properly organised, notified in advance to both sides and the cargoes properly inspected, there would be no threat to the security of either side. Why was not all this considered before the Foreign Secretary's much misunderstood announcement on Monday? Why try to throw the blame for failure in advance upon General Ojukwu before he, or the relief agencies for that matter, could know precisely what daylight flights would involve, and before all the details had even been agreed 1697 with the federal authorities? We require an answer to these questions from the Minister who is to reply.
There is another consideration—the time factor. When the right hon. Gentleman made his announcement on 30th June he quoted General Ojukwu as having said on 1st June:We seem to have overcome the once imminent danger of mass starvation".The implication was clear. It was that the talk of starvation in the rebel areas was exaggerated. The right hon. Gentleman should have known that this statement completely ignored the passage of events and the cessation of relief flights following the shooting down of the Red Cross plane over three weeks before he spoke.
If, at the beginning of June, relief supplies were feeding 3 million Ibos every day and 1 million once a week, and then those supplies were suddenly cut off, one would surely have expected a serious situation to arise. It has now arisen. The relief agencies tell us that there is now an acute protein shortage. Kwashiokor is spreading rapidly among people who are appreciably weaker than they were before last year's famine. The death rate is beginning to mount, and within a matter of weeks tens of thousands will perish.
The whole point is that the situation will not wait upon arguments between Governments. Let the formula on relief advanced this afternoon by my right hon. Friend be put at once to General Gowon and General Ojukwu. If necessary, empower an authoritative person, with power to negotiate, to go out without delay and see them both. Mr. Malcolm Macdonald has been suggested. I can think of no one better fitted by character or experience to undertake this task.
One feature of this debate is that no one—not even, I gather, my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher)—is now advocating a purely military solution. There is little evidence that such a solution is possible. Indeed, there is evidence that the Ibos will go on fighting because they fear extermination.
That fear, I readily concede, may not be justified but it is there all the same. The trouble in this vale of tears is not what the facts are but what people believe the facts to be. In these circumstances, 1698 should not the Government consider again the idea of an international peacekeeping force which, without putting into question the sovereignty of the Federal Government, might be interposed between the combatants, allowing time for tempers to cool, relief to flow in and a political settlement to be discussed in an atmosphere free from suspicion and fear.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire said that the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary should test the ground at the United Nations on the possibility of a total embargo on arms. This was not a new idea. My right hon. Friend urged it a year ago and in a foreign affairs debate at the end of last year. Hitherto, the Government have argued that the objections to such a course—and this is a weighty argument—are, first, that it might invite a veto from one of the other arms suppliers and, second, that the points of entry cannot be effectively policed unless there is a ceasefire.
The Government may be right on both counts but how can one be sure unless they try? As my right hon. Friend said months ago, if the Russians use their veto the responsibility for prolonging the agony will be pinned where it really belongs. But supposing the United Nations did come out in support of a ban on arms? Would this not perhaps encourage a ceasefire and so remove the technical difficuties about inspection and control which seem to have worried the Government?
Let the Government take new initiatives on these lines and the whole House will applaud them. There was a hint in the right hon. Gentleman's speech that he is ready to consider new initiatives. He must be given the chance to do so. But he must be left in no doubt that the message of this debate is that time is now desperately short; starvation is beginning to take its horrible toll for the second year in succession, and the conscience of the world cries out for an end to this dreadful war.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Maurice Foley)
There have been in the debate—and one can understand it—speeches of great passion because of the human tragedy involved, and I do not 1699 wish to take from anyone their own intense feelings on this subject. The view that many would take is that this is a moral problem and that each of us must be the custodian of his own conscience if we take a moral view of the situation.
I think that first one has to answer the question why we are involved. This was put to me by the Leader of the Liberal Party, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) and others. In the first place, we have to recognise that in the newly independent Commonwealth countries there are residual commitments which one cannot get out of very easily. There is the problem that independence is not the end but the beginning. The people then build their nation and there are commitments, or there is an assumption, that the former colonial power will continue in a relationship until each evolves a new relationship. This is the case in many countries in Africa, where one has seen the pace alter from time to time. But basically one starts by having this involvement that one cannot ignore. It is in this respect that one had no option in terms of commitment to the Federal Government.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
But does not the hon. Gentleman see a difference between our providing arms to an ally and Commonwealth partner to fight some outside enemy and providing arms to such a Government which will be used against people who only recently were also subjects of Her Majesty?
§ Mr. Foley
This is a Commonwealth country whose forces have been trained by us and which has had arms from us in the first instance for internal security as well as external threat. I do not know how these can possibly be divorced one from the other. I am sorry that I gave way, because I wanted quickly to explain why we are involved. First, we could not get out of the commitment and involvement in the early days after independence.
Second, and this, too, is a moral problem—if the 2,000 tribes in Africa south of the Sahara were to be given a chance, or were to be encouraged, to have their own governments and their own parliaments, Africa would be a perpetual economic backwater, and we 1700 have a measure of responsibility in this respect which we cannot ignore. That is not to say that many of the frontiers of these States are not artificial. One of the reasons why they have devised their own organisation, the Organisation of African Unity, is so that they can work out peacefully conflicts between one and another. But in essence the idea of giving respectability to tribal secession is one on which all countries in Africa, with the exception of four, have all turned their backs, and we have a responsibility to support the Federal Government.
In Nigeria, both prior to independence and since, there has clearly been a tremendous economic and social imbalance between various areas—this was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee)—between the Moslem north and the Ibos in the Eastern Region. It was the Ibos who were the most dominant in asking for the creation of the Federation of Nigeria; they were to the fore in that demand.
In the whole history of Nigeria, both prior to independence and afterwards, there was this abrasiveness between the Ibos and the Hausas in the North which I saw with many others, and atrocities were committed. No one can ignore this.
The question we must ask is whether going to war was the way to solve the problem. Frankly, I think that it was wrong. There were legitimate grievances without a shadow of doubt, but going to war to solve the problem was wrong. was folly. What started by being an opting out of the Federation turned into civil war and to the very people who objected to being in the Federation arriving 60 miles from Lagos and wanting to take over the country. This is the reality.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) and my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Henig) asked what we meant by an international arms embargo and a cease-fire. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that we should take a new initiative and seek a total arms embargo. My right hon. Friend explained the steps we had taken and the soundings we had taken at the United Nations and the efforts we had made to discover the minds of the Russians and others. I should like to give an instance of the problems involved.
1701 We are all aware of the recent incident concerning Count von Rosen. Sweden is a neutral country, anxious to live up to its obligations, but civil planes were sent from Sweden to somewhere else where they were changed to military equipment to arrive in Biafra in this conflict. Sweden was not responsible. When the planes were sold they left Sweden as civil planes and it was somewhere else where they were altered, and they arrived as military equipment. Sweden subscribes to the policy of neutrality and would subscribe to such an international arms embargo, but unless the belligerents allowed on the ground a means of controlling what came in, such an embargo would be a gesture and not much more. There has to be participation by both sides on the spot in an arms embargo.
This is the first point. The second is that, if one wanted to achieve an international arms embargo, policed on the spot, it could be done only in the atmosphere of a cease fire which also was policed. There is a history of efforts at cease fire and propaganda initiatives by both sides which have not worked. So the two go together, and to achieve them, one must at least get people to talk, to say that this is what they want. Indeed, if one can get them to that stage and start formal talks, and if the first item on the agenda is the cease-fire and an arms embargo policed on the spot, and the second is the political dialogue, one is making real progress.
This is what we have been trying to do. This is where we are committed, and have been committed, to a negotiated settlement. We have not subscribed to the theory of a quick kill. We believe that, in the short run and the long run, in the best interests of all the people who make up Nigeria, we should do whatever we can to bring them together, sit them down, ease relationships and get a political settlement. This is what we have been working for. It is not true to say that we have no links with any of the leading Biafrans. My officials and I myself see leading Biafrans when they go through Britain to the continent regularly. People visit me every week who are either just coming out of or just going into the enclave.
Equally, if I felt that it was of value at any moment of course I would want to use Lord Hunt and Mr. Malcolm 1702 Macdonald. There is no lack of mediators but only a lack of will to negotiate.
§ Mr. Crouch
Is the hon. Gentleman really trying to persuade the House that Her Majesty's, Government can be an effective mediator in this terrifying civil war when we are a major participant on one side? I cannot accept that.
§ Mr. Foley
I do not suggest for one minute that we could be an effective mediator. That depends on the people concerned, on both sides. What I have said is that we are in touch, and this of itself is of value and might take us much further. This is where one comes to the dilemma that there is a history of mistrust, if one considers the posture of Colonel Ojukwu. He wants a cease fire first and then talks. I can understand his difficulty. He does not want to give up his negotiating posture at the outset of negotiations. Equally, on the Federal side, General Gowon has said that he is willing to enter into talks but is determined to retain one Nigeria.
At the time of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, an offer was made by the leader of the Nigerian delegation that he would meet any senior Biafran who was in London and talk to him without any conditions whatever. They had a senior man here. I saw him for two hours and he, had no mandate to talk. I said, "You have ten days in which you can do something," and he failed to do it. Nevertheless, one must keep on trying. This is an effort at determination which one must keep at. Indeed, the other day, Dr. Arikpo on his tour of Europe in a public statement said that he would meet any representative of Colonel Ojukwu immediately without any pre-conditions whatever.
What one needs to do, clearly, is to hope that, at some time, there will be a response and something can happen. I must say to the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) that there is no magic wand which one can wave to solve everything just like that. We may have a very minor rôle in bringing these people together. We may have no rôle. We can only keep on trying and encourage others to do the same.
I turn now to the basic question of relief and the problems connected with it. There are two major international bodies involved in getting relief into the enclave 1703 and into Federal Nigeria as well. They are the International Committee of the Red Cross and Joint Church Aid, which is an amalgam of the various church groups, Roman Catholic and Protestant. For over a year, they have been flying relief into Biafra at night, though not with any written agreement from the Federal Government. The Federal Government have acquiesced: "We do not like it, but you feel you must, so go ahead." That has been the basis. While those flights were going on, there was this series of negotiations and discussions in Niamey, in Kampala and in Addis Ababa to try and define various routes by land, river and air which could be agreed by both sides. There is an enormous wad of literature on those discussions setting out what was achieved.
In this context, too, there was discussion of a cease-fire with a view to separating both sides for a period to ease tensions and bring about gradually a normality of relationships. Along with others, especially the Commonwealth Secretariat, we have done contingency planning with that in view. But again, it cannot be imagined that we can achieve this in spite of the Federal Government or Ojukwu. One has seen the sad disaster of the Italian oilmen. Presumably because they had white faces, it was assumed that they were mercenaries. Some of them were killed and other taken prisoner. In a war situation, what we all have in mind cannot happen without the agreement of both sides.
That leads me on to why it is that the Federal Government have reacted in the last few weeks in the way that they have. Rightly or wrongly, they believe that relief flights at night give respectability to arms flights. They believe that relief planes and arms planes are mixed up going into Uli airport and that the situation would be much healthier if they were separated.
Equally, they believe—and I believe absolutely to the contrary—that the I.C.R.C. has been involved in flying in arms. I have said publicly and to Ministers in Lagos that I do not believe that there is a shred of truth in the idea that the I.C.R.C. is responsible for, has connived in or been involved in the flying in of arms. Nevertheless, here is a situatin in which the Federal Government be 1704 lieve that the relief agencies are giving help and encouragement to the rebels. They believe that they are doing that not merely in terms of flying in relief. Selected numbers of journalists who are propagandists for the Biafran cause are flying in on relief planes. Some hon. Members of this House, many of whom could not be said to be propagandists for the Biafran cause but others who were predisposed in that direction before they went, have gone in by similar means. Other hon. Members of this House would like to go in but have been refused entry because Colonel Ojukwu decides who will fly in, and no one gets on a plane either at Sao Tome or Santa Isabel unless his face fits.
The Federal Government have reacted saying that this is wrong and that they must do something about it. What has happened is that the Federal Government have made their announcement and had their conference on 30th June. Virtually the first thing that they said was that they wished their own Commission on Rehabilitation to take over the supervising and organising of work in Federal Nigeria. This was being worked out last November with the I.C.R.C. This is nothing new. We know full well that the main problem in the Federal area is less relief and more rehabilitation. Apart from the refugees who come out and require feeding daily, it is a case of giving people agricultural implements and a niece of land and letting them settle down. This is the problem on the Federal side.
So with this meeting of all the relief organisations, with the exception of Joint Church Aid, which was not present. I.C.R.C. was present, although it took no part in the discussions. All the church organisations were represented, as was Oxfam, and they accepted and publicly endorsed the proposals of the Federal Government.
We then come to the second leg of the relief aid—the relief flights into the enclave. The Federal Government have laid down a number of conditions for this to happen. Incidentally, it is of interest that the Federal Government have publicly committed themselves to continuing the relief aid into Biafra. Indeed, far from it being a policy of starvation, this is a public commitment made in Lagos with representatives of all the churches, 1705 the Y.W.C.A., Oxfam and all the relief agencies other than the two major international ones. They are all committed to suporting this policy.
§ Mrs. Ewing
I hope that the Minister, as he nodded when I made the point, will comment on those most alarming quotations which I read from the Daily Times of Nigeria in which the Chief of Staff of the Nigerian Army and Chief Awolowo said that starvation was a legitimate weapon to use against the rebels.
§ Mr. Foley
I recall the quotations which the hon. Lady read. It is a pity that she was selective. If she had taken the newspaper of 30th June she would have seen the published policy document of the Federal Government. It is not unknown—it may not be so in the party that the hon. Lady represents—for Members of the same party to speak with a different voice on different subjects. But the policy statement of the Federal Government is the basis on which they discussed and agreed with the relief agencies, and it is public knowledge. It is a clear commitment of the Federal Government to feed their people in the enclave. The question is the conditions under which this is done.
The Federal Government have said, first, that flights must come in by day, and guarantees must clearly be given in terms of air corridors and effective control from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Secondly, that they will itemise the kind of goods that can be carried. As my right hon. Friend said, these include seeds, clothing, medicine and food.
Thirdly, that the planes must be inspected somewhere on Federal territory. They can fly from where the stockpiles are in Cotonou, Fernando Po and Sao Tome, but they must be inspected on Federal territory, and they are willing to have international observers present.
We then come to the apparent rupture between the I.C.R.C. and the Federal Government. There have been some strong statements made in Geneva and one or two rather odd statements made here. Rather than go into the whole details, if hon. Members are satisfied with the fact that the President of the I.C.R.C. is at the moment in Lagos negotiating, I should just say that if it 1706 was not for our efforts I do not believe that he would be there.
What is he negotiating about? First, the mending of their fences in Federal Nigeria and, secondly, I am sure, the problems they face in feeding their people in the enclave. I assume that this will not be the end of his journey and that he may well go on. If he does not, someone else from the relief agencies will go and talk to the people in the enclave.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Has the hon. Gentleman put it to the Federal Government that they could perfectly well inspect the flights on the ground at Cotonou, which is only a few minutes away from their frontiers, and can fly non-stop?
§ Mr. Foley
I am aware of the geography of the area, too. The Federal Government have taken their policy attitude. Clearly, in terms of getting anything acceptable to the other side, there must be some degree of negotiation and give. I should not have thought that it was helpful for us publicly here to do the negotiation which should be done privately both in Lagos and with Colonel Ojukwu somewhere else. I do not want to exaggerate, but we can take a measure of credit—and I feel that one or two people, rather grudgingly, might give us this—for initiating the beginning of a rapprochement between the Federal Government and the I.C.R.C. Everyone should welcome this because we are deeply concerned with the problem of the plight of the people in the enclave.
The picture which I have of the situation there is that there will be a serious problem in the refugee camps if relief stops altogether. My understanding is that there are about three, four or six flights a night by the joint churches into the enclave. But this of itself is totally inadequate. There will very quickly be a shortage of protein. There is already, and has been for some time, a shortage of medicine and drugs. Therefore, clearly we must all be seized with the urgency of getting something done.
§ Mr. Foley
I am sorry, but I have given way a few times and I have other points to deal with.
One of the problems is that the Federal Government's position has been explained 1707 in the policy document. I have a measure of confusion about precisely what Colonel Ojukwu will accept. Reference has been made to the statement of 18th June. There is the published statement by the unofficial representative in London. There was the statement made in Paris on 5th July by Mojekwu, who is the Home Minister, in which he was rather firm. If it is right, I am most encouraged, because it is the first clear statement that I have seen in which he says, "We will allow daylight flights and surface routes subject only to the proviso that our security must not be hampered". If this is the clear position of Colonel Ojukwu, there are grounds for optimism.
It is not for us but for the relief agencies to see what they can do in working out a compromise. I assure hon. Members that we have urged the Federal Government to be as flexible as possible in their interpretation of the problem.
§ Mr. Foley
The initiative for the Cross River route was taken by Professor Fergusson, who is the United States man specially appointed in this field of relief.
He had discussions with Colonel Ojukwu, and also with General Gowon here in London. He entered into negotiations with representatives of both sides in Washington, and they reached an agreement in principle. The proposal is to use the Cross River route from Calabar, using two Second World War ex landing craft, under I.C.R.C. auspices, with inspection. These craft can take a volume of goods which 25 flights could not 1708 carry. Both sides have accepted the proposal in principle. There is argumentation about the modalities of inspection, and security considerations. We are behind these endeavours, and we hope that the matter can be resolved with urgency. I stress again the sad situation in the enclave, and the need to use whatever initiatives and goodwill we can find to give expression and support to this initiative.
Virtually we come to the fact that the relief agencies themselves must persevere in searching for a degree of compromise and flexibility on both sides to achieve a break-through, either in daylight flights, or in the Cross-River route. One does not deny that they are both needed, and that they are both needed with a considerable degree of urgency.
I ought to mention in passing, because it was raised by the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), the confusion over Joint Church Aid. The right hon. Gentleman implied that somehow we had misled the House in this respect. Joint Church Aid was not present at the discussions in Lagos. Lord Shepherd was asked whether the Joint Church Agencies were all present, and he said that he thought they were. In essence, the churches were present. I have a list of those present at the meeting in Lagos. They included the Roman Catholic hierarchy, the National Council of Women, the Nigerian Red Cross, the Quaker Service, the Save the Children Fund, Unicef, the United Nations Mission of the Secretary General to Nigeria, and the Y.M.C.A. of Nigeria. That is a fair cross-section of all those involved in the activities.
We hope that the efforts which we have made, along with the efforts made by many others, many of whom have probably done much more, and are in a position to do much more than we have been able to do, will, in the cause of humanity, lead to an easing of the situation, and a quick response on both sides, so that one can get relief in on the dimensions of need.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.1709
|Division No. 317.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Goodnew, Victor||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Newens, Stan|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip|
|Barnes, Michael||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Norwood, Christopher|
|Bessell, Peter||Gurden, Harold||Orme, Stanley|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Hastings, Stephen||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Hawkins, Paul||Silvester, Frederick|
|Crouch, David||Heffer, Eric S.||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Hobden, Dennis||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Driberg, Tom||Hordern, Peter||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Jackson, Peter M, (High Peak)||Winnick, David|
|Evans, Cwynfor (C'marthen)||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Ewing, Mrs. Winifred||Lestor, Miss Joan||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Lubbock, Eric||Mr. Hugh Rossi and|
|Goodhart, Philip||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Mr. Stanley Henig.|
|Anderson, Donald||Freeson, Reginald||Millan, Bruce|
|Archer, Peter||Gardner, Tony||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Ginsburg, David||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Molloy, William|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Binns, John||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hamling, William||Moyle, Roland|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Harper, Joseph||Murray, Albert|
|Boston, Terence||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Neal, Harold|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||O'Malley, Brian|
|Boyden, James||Haseldine, Norman||Orbach, Maurice|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hilton, W. S.|
|Brooks, Edwin||Hooley, Frank||Oswald, Thomas|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Palmer, Arthur|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Howie, W.||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Hynd, John||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Carmichael, Neil||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Pentland, Norman|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Chapman, Donald||Janner, Sir Barnett||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Coleman, Donald||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Concannon, J. D.||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Cordle, John||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Rankin, John|
|Cronin, John||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Richard, Ivor|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Judd, Frank||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Kenyon, Clifford||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Lawson, George||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P' c' as)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Dell, Edmund||Lomas, Kenneth||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Dewar, Donald||Loughlin, Charles||Ryan, John|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Luard, Evan||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Doig, Peter||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Dunn, James A.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Dunnett, Jack||McBride, Neil||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwynell (Exeter)||McCann, John||Silverman, Julius|
|Eadie, Alex||MacColi, James||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Edelman, Maurice||MacDermot, Niall||Slater, Joseph|
|Ellis, John||Macdonald, A. H.||Small, William|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Ruthergien)||Taverne, Dick|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mackie, John||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Fisher, Nigel||McNamara, J. Kevin||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Tilney, John|
|Foley, Maurice||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Tinn, James|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Marquand, David||Urwin, T. W.|
|Ford, Ben||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Fowler, Gerry||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Wallace, George|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Watkins, David (Consett)|
§ Question put accordingly, That this House do now adjourn:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 44, Noes 162.
|Weitzman, David||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Wellbeloved, James||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|White, Mrs. Eirene||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)||Mr. Alan Fitch and|
|Whitlock, William||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)||Mr. Ernest Armstrong.|
|Wilkins, W. A.||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|