§ 2.45 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)
The passages of the Gracious Speech which are concerned with international affairs refer to the United Nations, to aid for developing countries and tothe problems of the Middle East. They refer also to the North Atlantic Alliance, and to the related problems of relations between East and West and of disarmament. Further, they refer to the approach of this country to the European Communities and to the grave African problems of Nigeria and Rhodesia.
I do not think that the House would wish me to attempt to deal with all these problems in one speech. We recently had a fairly full debate on the Rhodesia question, and I do not, therefore, propose to refer to that. There are two topics on which, I believe, the Government's position would be best described after we have had the opportunity to listen to the views of right hon. and hon. Members during the debate. I have in mind particularly the problem of Nigeria and the problem of aid to developing countries. If, therefore, as I hope, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster catches your eye at the end of the debate, Mr. Speaker, he will deal with those matters and with whatever other matters have been raised.
Setting aside those questions, then, as I suggest, I take, first, the reference in the Gracious Speech to the United Nations, the 25th anniversary of which organisation is shortly approaching. For 359 those who take a cynical and defeatist view of the human condition, nothing is easier than to sneer at the shortcomings, disappointments and difficulties of the United Nations. But it is firmly the view of Her Majesty's Government, and, I hope, of the whole House, that the United Nations is an instrument which any peace-loving Government must endeavour to strengthen.
The main principle which must govern one's approach to international affairs is the need to discover a method of peaceful change in human affairs. Scientific discoveries are constantly creating great changes in the problems which face mankind. As the years go on, the relative populations and powers of different States alter and new political problems are created. In the past, the only instrument by which man has been able to effect political changes has been the use of armed force. In the last century, such a problem as the unification of Italy could not have been solved without the use of armed force.
The problem today, in view of the nature of modern weapons, is that man can no longer rely on armed force as a way of bringing about changes. He must discover a method of peaceful change. This, basically, is what the United Nations is for.
As the Secretary-General made clear at the recent meeting of the General Assembly, there is room for much disappointment between what we hope the United Nations can do and what so far it has been able to do.
§ Mr. Stewart
I think that the difference between the hon. Gentleman and myself is that he regards this as something to pleased about, whereas I regard it as something which we must regret and try to remedy.
§ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing
I was merely facing the fact that our hopes for the United Nations have so far fallen down. The right hon. Gentleman said that peaceful change could come about now only through political organisations, but I was mindful of the fact that only last year a massive invasion of Czechoslovakia was undertaken by military means. It is not ameans which has passed from our ken; 360 it is being used today, and being threatened all over the world. One has to face that, too.
§ Mr. Stewart
I take the point, and I shall be referring to that incident. I am relieved to know that the hon. Gentleman does not regard the United Nations' inability so far to live up to our hopes as a matter for pleasure.
The United Nations today in some ways resembles this Parliament when it first met, when it was an English and not a British Parliament. It met in the knowledge that up and down the country there were the great nobles with their private armies with whom the reality of power rested, and it was no good passing laws at Westminster by a majority vote and expecting them to be obeyed. The function of Parliament in those days was to try to get the great centres of power to come together, to see a little further than the ends of their noses, and to see where their common interests lay. That is basically what the United Nations has to do at this stage of history.
For that reason it is important for any peace-loving Government to make quite clear in any practical way it can that it wishes, whatever our disappointments may be, to strengthen the authority of the United Nations. I would therefore remind the House of the actions Her Majesty's Government have taken to that end.
Back in 1965 we made it clear that if ever a United Nations peace-keeping force were needed for any purpose there was already earmarked a British contribution to that force. Since the United Nations was then in financial difficulties we also made an immediate contribution to help it out. I am glad and proud to tell the House that today this country, though not the second most wealthy in the world, is the second largest contributor to all the United Nations agencies dealing with human welfare or the advancement of knowledge. These are not new facts, but they are worth repeating and emphasising, because, whether one takes a hopeful or pessimistic view of the future of the United Nations, I do not believe that anyone who wants peace can argue that we should not do everything in our power to make this organisation a success, and that our Government are doing.
361 Similarly, to increase its authority we have taken the view that by our signature to the Charter of the United Nations we bound ourselves to respect mandatory resolutions of the Security Council. With regard to resolutions of the General Assembly, we bound ourselves to no more than to show respect to them and to endeavour, as far as we thought it right, to go along with them. This line we have steadily pursued. When there have been resolutions of the General Assembly, such as that on Gibraltar, with which we could not agree, we have patiently explained why we could not agree, and the change in the pattern of voting on those resolutions demonstrates that our explanations are carrying increasing weight. But we have also taken the view that it is consistent with this country's signature to the Charter that we should carry out mandatory resolutions of the Security Council, such as those on Rhodesia and the sale of arms to South Africa.
When one goes, as I went last month, to the General Assembly of the United Nations, important as it is to take part in the General Assembly, another great value of that occasion is the opportunity it gives Foreign Ministers of many countries to meet each other and discuss a great range of topics of common interest. At the meeting this year, the topic which more than any other dominated meetings of Foreign Ministers was the problem of the Middle East. We were able there to hold a semi-formal meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the permanent members of the Security Council, together with the Secretary General of the United Nations.
I want now to try to set out Her Majesty's Government's view of the Middle Eastern problem. First, there is an imperative need for a political settlement. If any of the countries in the region imagine that they have anything to gain by merely prolonging the present situation, I believe that they are disastrously mistaken, because as long as the present situation continues there will be a steady hardening of opinion both is Israel and in the Arab countries, which will make an ultimate settlement more difficult. We see this already in certain events that have occurred in the Arab world. I do not think that anyone in this country can have anything but a feeling 362 of great sympathy for the Government and people of the Lebanon at this time. We have long had friendly relations with that country. Its contribution to the whole Middle Eastern area, cultural and material, has been of great benefit to the Middle East, and we must hope that the Lebanese, together with their Arab neighbours—for this is an Arab affair—will soon be able to restore their country to its usual peace and prosperity.
But what is happening there and what has happened in some other parts of the Arab world illustrates that unless there is a political settlement in the near future opinions will harden to the point where such a settlement will never be possible. I think that it is fair to say that the Government of Israel should give particular attention to this aspect of the situation. I shall seek in whatever I have to say not to be a partisan of either Israel or the Arab States, because I believe that the overwhelming interest of this country, not only moral but material, is in an agreed settlement. This matters far more to us, and to mankind, than an attempt to secure some precise advantage on this point or that for one side orthe other.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the basic problems in the whole question of a Middle East settlement is that none of the Arab countries will accept that Israel should exist as an independent State? If they would give that assurance it seems that there would then be a basis for accepting the United Nations resolution.
§ Mr. Stewart
I shall be coming to that very shortly. My hon. Friend has made a valuable and important point.
I was stressing the enormous importance of reaching a settlement soon, before opinion has hardened to the point where no settlement is possible, and saying how that is in the interests of the countries in the area, as the example of the Lebanon shows, in the interests of Great Britain and many other countries, and in the interests of the very many refugees who live in such distress, dependent on international charity.
What are the mechanics by which one could reach such a settlement? I believe that the basis must be the resolution passed by the Security Council in 1967. 363 Ever since then the task has been to try to turn it into a practical timetable of actions to be performed by all the parties concerned, at the end of which the whole resolution, and not just those bits which please one side or the other, would be carried out.
We had hoped that Dr. Jarring's mediation would bring that about, but so far he has not been successful. In consequence, Her Majesty's Government thought it right to take part in the four-Power discussions, the object of which is to try to create by common counsel such a body of guidance and proposals for Dr. Jarring as would enable him to turn his mission into a reality.
For a time the four-Power talks have been in recess while two Powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, have talked together. I believe I am right in saying that they have made some progress but not yet that degree of progress which will produce a settlement. I think that it is right therefore that before long the four Powers should meet again and that we should try to frame effective guidance to Dr. Jarring.
As to what that guidance should be—and here I take up the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer)—it seems to me that an essential item in the content of a settlement, an essential item in any proposals that Dr. Jarring or anyone else can put to the parties concerned, is that there must be, as the Resolution itself says, a just and lasting peace with all that that implies—and it implies exactly what my hon. Friend said—namely, a clear recognition of the right of Israel to exist.
My hon. Friend may have noticed that after the informal, or semi-informal, meeting in New York to which I referred, a short statement was issued. One of the points—and to this all four permanent members committed themselves —was a clear statement of the right of Israel to exist as a State in the Middle East along with her neighbours. It is the measure of the Middle Eastern tragedy that one should regard a statement like that as being of significance. One might have thought that it ought to be taken for granted, but, in the circumstances as they are, to have had that clearly accepted by all four permanent 364 members was, I believe, a significant step, and certainly neither Her Majesty's Government nor any of the others of the four Powers would depart from the proposition that an essential element in a settlement is the undoubted recognition not only of Israel's right to exist but of her right to be at peace with all that follows from being at peace—the use of the international waterways, and anything else.
§ Mr. Will Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
I agree with everything that my right hon. Friend has said. My reason for intervening arises from his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer). My right hon. Friend referred to the content of the Security Council resolution. Is it not a fact that that resolution was accepted from A to Z, in the words of our own representative at the United Nations, by Egypt and by Jordan?
§ Mr. Stewart
That is true. I think that my hon. Friend knows that merely to make that point does not solve all the rights and wrongs of it, but as far as it goes that is so.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
How can there be an acceptance of that proposition by a Government who say that they will not in any circumstances negotiate with the country whose existence they agree to recognise?
§ Mr. Stewart
I have said before that the fact that the Arab countries are not prepared to engage in direct talks with Israel is something that is extremely hard for people of this country to understand.
§ Mr. Stewart
Because this method of direct and immediate negotiations is not available now, I do not think that either we or Israel ought to say therefore that we will not attempt any other method. I think that we have to try to remember that this problem cannot be dealt with in the dimension of reason alone. Behind this lie deep suspicions and hatreds on both sides, which in time we have to resolve. My hon. and learned Friend has presented a splendid logical dilemma, 365 but I do not think that that is the dimension in which this problem, with all the emotions attaching to it, can be solved.
I repeat that I believe that it would be a great advance if the Arab countries would say, "We will negotiate direct with Israel", but I say also that Israel would be mistaken if she said that because they will not do that she will not make any move towards a settlement. That is not the spirit in which the answer can be found.
I have stressed strongly that one part of any useful guidance to Dr. Jarring must be the doctrine of a just and lasting peace. Another part must be secure and recognised borders between Israel and her neighbours. Third—and this will be more welcomed on one side than on the other—there must be no doubt at all about the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territories of her neighbours. It is on this point that the Arab countries have professed profound misgivings as to Israeli intentions. It is to this point that Israeli policy must be directed. Is it possible to marry together somehow the insistent and legitimate demand by Israel for a just and lasting peace and security, and the insistent and legitimate demand by the Arab countries for withdrawal? It ought not to be impossible. The other element that there must be in such guidance is a real move forward to relieve the distress of the refugees.
I do not think that it would be possible to devise a package that would meet all those requirements without some willingness on the part of all the parties concerned to be content with less than 100 per cent. of what they want, and I believe that they all know that. The question they have to ask themselves is: although a settlement might not give them 100 per cent. of what they would really like, is not there within reach a settlement that is infinitely better for them all than the continuation of what is going on now?
It seems to me that this is particularly Britain's concern. We, whose interest, not through any special virtue of our own, but as a plain matter of fact as a great trading nation, in the common interest of mankind, and an agreed, workable, and lasting settlement, have to try, in the four-Power talks, to get enough agreement there to provide Dr. Jarring with solid and useful propositions that he can put to both parties. We must 366 hope that the parties concerned will realise how much they have to gain from immediate settlement, and the ultimate disaster that hangs over them all if they lose the opportunity.
Having spoken of the Middle East, I ought to refer to the matter of British arms policy in this area. Here I must remind the House of the principles that I set out governing the policy when I spoke in the debate on 17th June. First, it is not the practice of Her Majesty's Government to reveal the details of particular arms transactions. We have stuck firmly to that, and I think that we are right to do so. Second, immediately after the war of 1967 in the Middle East we adopted the policy of not selling arms anywhere in the Middle East. We would have persisted in that policy if all the other powers had done the same. Failing that, we have now had to say that we must judge any particular request on its merits, and by "on its merits" I mean two things. First, we do not want a situation to arise in the Middle East in which any one nation is so confident of its military superiority that it may be tempted to quick and violent military action. Second, in deciding to say "Yes" or "No" to any particular request, one thing that we must take into consideration—probably the main thing—is what will be the effect of our answer, whether "Yes" or "No". on the prospects of a peaceful settlement? It would not be right to disclose our decision in each particular case. I must ask the House to believe that when we take these decisions we take very much into account what will be the effect on the prospect of a settlement of whether we say "yes" or "no" to any particular request.
Having mentioned the subject of arms, it is natural for me now to refer to relations between Her Majesty's Government and the new Government of Libya.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
Could not my right hon. Friend try to persuade the four Powers to go a little further than simply to lay down a timetable for implementing the resolution, as he suggested? Could they not also agree to cut off all arms supplies to any country in the Middle East, whether Israel or an Arab country, which does not conform with the four-Power proposals for peace?
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Member will realise that we shall have to get agreed four-Power proposals first before we can talk in these terms. I do not rule out what he has said, and I would hope that if the four Powers can agree on this main basis of a settlement we can also agree on a policy of mutual restraint in arms supplies.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Are we to deduce from that that no initiative has been taken to get four-Power agreement? If I am wrong and an initiative has been taken, can we know who is not prepared to agree?
§ Mr. Stewart
The position is that immediately after the war we took the unilateral decision that we would not supply them. We would have maintained that position if our example had been followed. Since then I have had discussions with, for example, my colleague Mr. Gromyko, from which it appears that if we could get a settlement on the main issues in dispute in the Middle East it might also be possible to get agreement on arms. Frankly, I think it would be difficult to get a common arms policy among the Four unless we could also get a common policy about the main issue. If we could get a common policy on the main issue, I would not be pessimistic about the chance of agreement on arms supplies in general.
I was about to refer to relations between Her Majesty's Government and the new Government in Libya. Hon. Members will have seen reports that the Libyan Government have asked for the withdrawal of our military installations from Libya. Yesterday our ambassador was handed a note asking for negotiations to bring about early evaluation of our forces from Libyan territory. As the House knows, these forces are in Libya under the 1953 Treaty of Alliance. They consist of a Royal Air Force Station at El Adem and a small garrison at Tobruk.
I may tell the House that before we received the Libyan note I had, of course, already been giving thought to this matter. I do not think that this request from the Libyan Government comes seriously as a surprise to anyone. I accept that the way in which they have made the request, by a temperately worded note asking us to negotiate with 368 them about the matter, is a reasonable approach. As I have said, I had this in mind before we received the request. I recalled our ambassador, Mr. Donald Maitland, from Libya and had consultations with him on this subject last week.
Our friendship with Libya has been of long standing, but it is clear now that we have to think out a different basis from that which existed from the 1953 Treaty. That we shall now be engaged in doing, and we shall be studying the Libyan Government's communication in the general frame of mind that we believe that there can be found a basis for a friendly relationship between this country and Libya, but it will have to be on a basis different from that which existed between this country and the former Libyan Government.
§ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing
Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Secretary of State for Defence to consider training and exercise areas in Libya and to consider whether they may be continued or replaced? They are essential to our forces in Cyprus and we can never remain efficient unless we have facilities of that type.
§ Mr. Stewart
I recognise the importance of that point and so does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. This, of course, is one of the matters that must now be in consultation between ourselves and the Libyan Government.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Does my right hon. Friend recall what he said on 17th June? I have it before me. Is he still of the opinion that he was correct in deciding on behalf of Her Majesty's Government to provide the then Libyan Government with Chieftain tanks? Are they still there?
§ Mr. Stewart
The question of the future of arms contracts will have to be looked at again in the light of the discussions which we are now having with the Libyan Government as a whole. My right hon. Friend asked whether the tanks were still there. They have not been supplied. But these are matters, along with many others, which will have to form part of the discussions between Libya and ourselves.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If that is so, why did not my right hon. Friend say so on 17th June? This was what we asked him, but he refused to reply. Now he says that they are not there. If he had said so then, he would have saved a lot of trouble.
§ Mr. Stewart
The debate on 17th June concerned the contract between ourselves and the Libyan Government. What Iam now telling my right hon. Friend is that these matters, together with many others, will be the subject of discussion between the Libyan Government and ourselves.
I have spoken of the United Nations and the conversations one has in New York among other matters while the General Assembly is going on. But overhanging all the problems which one tries to discuss is the great cleavage commonly described as that between East and West, or between the Communists and the non-Communist world. It is this deep ideological cleavage and the association of each ideology with a great power grouping in the world that creates the major tension in the world and that so often makes it difficult to solve almost any problem. I shall try to set out the Government's attitude.
First, there can be no doubt, as the Gracious Speech indicates, of the need to maintain in full vigour the North Atlantic Alliance. This is essential to our security and to the security of many other nations. If there were any doubt about that, the events in Czechoslovakia last year ought to have put it beyond doubt.
But, having said that, I think that it is clearly not enough for this country, or any of the other members of N.A.T.O., to hide behind the alliance, like hiding behind a shield, without any imaginative attempt to move the world forward to an area in which there shall be less tension and less danger than there is now. President Nixon spoke of his hope that we should now enter into an era of negotiation. I believe this to be possible.
The N.A.T.O. Powers have not been idle about this. At the Reykjavik Conference in the summer of last year we clearly indicated our readiness to discusss with the Soviet Union and her allies the possibility of mutual force reductions in Eastern Europe. We have not had any specific and direct reply to that, but we 370 must notice that more recently the Warsaw Pact countries meeting at Budapest issued an appeal in which they set forward the idea of a conference on European security with the hope of getting the world out of the dangerous tension which now torments it.
We in N.A.T.O. are giving the most positive consideration to what was said at Budapest. Let me say this about the concept of a conference on European security: in the first place it ought to be accepted that our security at the moment is colsely bound up with the existence of the North Atlantic Alliance. If it is proposed to enter into a conference on the security of Europe which might suggest some alternatives basis for our security then it must be clear that all our N.A.T.O. Allies should be present at that conference, including those who are on the other side of the Atlantic—the United States and Canada. I hope, if progress can be made toward the idea of a conference on European security, that that would be accepted by the Warsaw Pact Powers—that all N.A.T.O. Powers, as well as all Warsaw Pact Powers, and neutrals, too, would be there.
§ Mr. Heffer
Would my right hon. Friend elaborate about the present conference taking place among the Warsaw Pact countries about the European situation? Can he tell us if we are likely to have a positive response by the Western Powers to this conference?
§ Mr. Stewart
My hon. Friend follows these matters very closely and always seems to be about a paragraph and a half ahead of my speech. I accept the importance of what he has in mind and would ask him to be patient.
As to the concept of a European security conference, it ought to be accepted as a matter of common-sense that all the N.A.T.O. Powers as well as all the Warsaw Pact countries would be there. The second proposition we must lay down about it is that it will need very careful consideration.
Not so long ago it took four years' preparation before it was considered that a conference of Communist States could usefully be held. I do not say that we always need that period of gestation, but I merely say that I would not want mankind rushed into a conference and great 371 hopes raised but, as a result of inadequate preparation, nothing coming out
We are clearly under an obligation to try to get on with the work of preparation and that is what the N.A.T.O. Powers have been doing. In the light of the declaration made at Budapest the N.A.T.O. Governments decided that they must set to work to make a list of the practical issues on which it would be possible to have fruitful negotiations between East and West. I discussed this with Mr. Gromyko in New York, and the Russian Government are also aware of the importance of getting a list of concrete issues which we could discuss.
I turn to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Walton. Today in Prague there is a meeting of the Warsaw Pact Powers. I hope that they in their turn will make constructive suggestions. The timing is fortunate because before long N.A.T.O. Ministers will be meeting, and I assure my hon. Friend and the House that if anything comes out of this meeting in Prague on which we can usefully lay hold with any hope of progress we shall certainly do so.
I hold very firmly to the view that at present this country and all the other members of N.A.T.O. must maintain the strength and vigour of the Alliance. I hold with equal firmness to the view that we must not throw away any opportunities for some more imaginative approach which might reduce the tension that now divides the world. It would be a great mistake to imagine that the West has been laggard in this. There were suggestions at Reykjavik, and what we said at Washington after the Budapest appeal, and we shall readily take up anything offering hope that comes out of today's meeting in Prague.
It would be foolish to take an unduly optimistic view of this. One does not brush aside fears and suspicions that have divided the world ever since the end of the war. There is at least the possibility that 1970 might see a real move forward towards a relaxation of tension and a greater degree of mutual trust. One of the reasons why it is not entirely foolish to hope for that is the progress that has been made in disarmament. We now know that conversations are to begin between the Soviet 372 Union and the United States on the limitation in the amount of strategic weapons which those two Powers possess. We have every reason to believe that these talks are intended by either side to be not a propaganda exercise but a genuine endeavour to reduce the enormous expense that these weapons impose on both of them and to reduce the dangers that they imply for mankind.
It is right to remember that the fact that these talks can begin at all is the result of having brought the non-proliferation treaty into being. There is a clause in that treaty that puts an obligation on nuclear powers to seek a reduction in the massive armouries that they now possess. The fact that this clause is there is due particularly to Great Britain' efforts when the treaty was being negotiated. So 1970 may be a year in which we can advance in this area.
It will also, I hope, be a year in which we can advance in the approach of this country to the European Communities. It is certain that the prospects of being able to open negotiations are better now than they have been for some time. I would put it no higher and no lower than that. I hope that it is common ground in the House, whatever differences of view there may be about this matter, that it is right for this country to seek to open negotiations and to pursue negotiations in good faith and good hope.
This is not to deny that there will be difficulties and serious problems in the negotiations. It would be impossible to enter into an international commitment of this size without there being some disadvantages and drawbacks as well as some advantages. The Government assert that it is certainly right to make the effort. If, on the other hand, this country were to turn its back on Europe and say that we will not make the effort, there would be very grave disadvantages in such a course. I know that I have said that if we could not enter the Communities, if for any reason it proved impossible, we can and would stand alone, but that would mean that many of our problems would be much more difficult to solve than they need be. There is a great opportunity, if the negotiations can be carried through successfully, of our being able to join a Community offering greater prosperity and a greater opportunity of exercising influence in the world.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
There have recently been a number of rumours that as the price of entry the Government will be asked to agree to a joint nuclear command, either with France or with France and Germany, at any rate a European Community nuclear command. Would my right hon. Friend re-state the Government's position of complete opposition to any such plan?
§ Mr. Stewart
This has been stated before, and I say it again: we take the view that there is nothing in the treaty to require us to pay any sort of price for the opening of negotiations, neither this price nor any other. In order to get in, one must make it clear that one accepts in good faith what is said and what is clearly implied in the Treaty of Rome—no more and no less than that. I can reassure my hon. Friend on that point.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
What are the Government trying to do in Europe—to get rid of discrimination against our trade, or to achieve some political objective?
§ Mr. Stewart
We are trying to achieve the objectives set out in the Treaty of Rome. In the economic field, we believe that if reasonable terms can be obtained there are very great economic advantages, both for this country and for the countries already in the Community, in our accession and that of the other applicant states. I believe also that the enlargement of the Community in that way would enable the voice of Europe, and us in it, to be more effective in the world. I should have thought that that was plain enough.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept the view expressed by the Secretary of State for Defence that there should be a separate and distinct European defence capability; and would he agree that that should be nuclear as well as conventional?
§ Mr. Stewart
I certainly shall not say "yes" to the second proposition. I am surprised that the Opposition should raise this point before they have made up their mind what their view on it is. If it is stggested that a commitment of this sort is necessary to our entering into negotiations to join the Community, there is no foundation at all for that. We believe that the European countries in N.A.T.O. 374 have a special job as Europeans to perform. But this has been going on for a considerable time. It is in no way inconsistent with anything that I have said.
The point which I was about to make was that, if this country were to decide that it would not even negotiate, we cannot expect the rest of the world to stay as it is. The E.F.T.A. countries which want to get in will not be content with that. Some of them will make their own approaches. Many countries of the Commonwealth will proceed with what some of them have already begun in making their own approaches to and arrangements with the European Economic Community. That is why it is right to make the approach in good hope and good faith, and we can do this with all the more spirit now in view of the voices from the other side of the Channel which say that it is not merely a question of Britain benefiting but of the Community benefiting by our accession.
The Foreign Minister of France stated that the enlargement of the Community was eminently desirable. There was a recent statement by Herr Brandt, now Chancellor of the Federal German Republic. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] He saidThe enlargement of the European Community must come. The Community needs Great Britain as much as the other applicant countries. In the chorus of European voices the voice of Britain must not be missing, unless Europe wishes to inflict harm on herself.There are also the words of Dr. Helmut Schmidt at the Labour Party conference at Brighton, where he said:We are not looking for a Britain with a cap in its hand, but we are in need of the very stubbornness and self-confidence of a Britain that we German Social Democrats always have seen as a great example of democracy.It is for the German people, as for all free peoples, to choose their own Government. But I believe that I shall be expressing the view of the whole House if I say that we have followed with great interest and pleasure the demonstration of the people of this great nation going through the important democratic process of an election, a change of Government an a firm rejection of those voices that try to suggest undemocratic ideas for the Government of Germany, and that naturally I look forward to cordial co-operation with my colleague the new 375 Foreign Minister of the Federal German Republic.
I have quoted those words which express a welcome and an admiration for Britain. We have now grasped in this country that we are not what is called a super-Power and that we have not a population of 200 million or 500 million and neither the actual nor the potential resources which go with it. But we should make a great mistake if we fell into the opposite extreme and imagined that, although we are not a super-Power, we are not a very considerable power and voice in the world.
I heard fragments of a speech by the Leader of the Opposition in which he talked about people thinking that we were a tired Power. I assure him that that is not what the rest of the world thinks. They know that we are a great Power with great influence in the world, fulfilling with skill and to the best of our ability our responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations; the senior member of a great Commonwealth playing a considerable part in helping other less fortunate sections of mankind whose whole way of life is envied by a very large section of the human race.
That is the kind of part that we can play in the world, and, indeed, the part that we are playing—in the support that we give to the authority of the United Nations, in what we do in overseas aid, in the constructive efforts we have made in the solution of the disputes which torment the world, and in our desire to bring about not only greater unity in Western Europe but better understanding between East and West. Ours is a country which has great obligations to the world and which I claim is resolutely fulfilling them.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
The Gracious Speech is an occasion on which, by tradition,the Foreign Secretary reviews the international policy of the British Government. We are grateful for the information which the right hon. Gentleman has given us over the wide field of his and the Government's activities.
May I pause to say that Her Majesty and the Royal Family are tireless in their 376 duty in this country and outside, and the House will have derived great satisfaction from the prospect of a visit by Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family to two Commonwealth countries of which she is Queen. When the Commonwealth association has been under considerable stress in recent years, these two countries have contributed to its poise and stability and have continued to give it vitality. Many expected that when some members of the Commonwealth assumed republican status the Commonwealth would break. We must admit that there is not now the same identity of approach to world problems which there used to be with the old Commonwealth association. Nor is there the automatic military alliance which brings and binds people so closely together. There is, too, a lessening of commercial dependence in the development of regional trading.
Nevertheless, we should recall—and it is notable—that, against the expectation of many, the members of the Commonwealth have sufficient confidence in each other to wish to continue the various contacts, both Ministerial and official, which this organisation provides. It is, to place its value at its lowest, a conference of partners of every race and colour, who can talk without a veto; and, to put it at its highest, it is a conference where a Commonwealth attitude jointly expressed can make a very considerable impact on world opinion and on the international organisations.
For example—I may take one—the place of investment and of the aid programmes in the developing countries. I recall very well, and the House will recall, the U.N.C.T.A.D. conference of 1964 when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition took the Commonwealth with him in its entirety in a very imaginative proposal. It was that preferential treatment for the manufactures of all developing countries should be given by the industrialised nations of the world. I wonder whether the Chancellor of the Duchy will tell us tonight, if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, what the Government have done to follow up that lead. It is now five years since that conference took place and this proposal was made. I know there has been another U.N.C.T.A.D. conference, but very little has come out of that, and there has been 377 a curious silence on this matter of overseas aid by the Prime Minister, and today, when the Foreign Secretary pushed the matter off on to the Chancellor of the Duchy.
Particularly, I think, hon. Members of this House will want to hear about this matter, because I can recall very well,when I sat in the place where the Prime Minister is now, the taunts and jibes that he used to level at us for what he considered our failure to conclude agreements to stabilise prices so as to keep aid at the level which he thought it ought to reach. That was to be changed with the advent of a Socialist Government, and, remembering that, and against that background, I think the House will find the short sentence in the present Gracious Speech pretty complacent. It is not one—let us face it—of the Prime Minister's or the Government's successes.
In this context I must mention the recent speech—I have given him notice of this—made by the Prime Minister in September at Polesden Lacey when he said that overseas aid had never been cut. The implication of this sentence in the Prime Minister's speech was and is that the aid is high, higher than in 1964. When he made that speech the Prime Minister had before him the figures produced by the former Minister for Overseas Development. They were given on 5th May, and I should like to give them to the House because it was in 1964 that the Prime Minister was delivering his attacks.
Expressed in terms of the gross national product, I think in a manner acceptable to the whole House, produced by the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry, in 1964 the percentage was 0.98; in 1965, 1.03; in 1966, 0.87; in 1967, 0.76; in 1968, 0.83. Therefore, both in real money terms and expressed as a percentage of the gross national product, there has been adecline in overseas aid since 1964.
The Prime Minister, if I may put it this way, has always been regrettably open-minded about fact. But now it seems that by instinct almost he selects facts for presentation which will lead his audience to conclusions which suit him which are very far from the truth of the matter.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
The right hon. Gentleman very courteously gave me notice that he would 378 raise this. I should like just to say to him that the facts and figures on which the Polesden Lacey statement was made were supplied by my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Overseas Development and the exact words I used were checked by him and agreed by him—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—yes, certainly; by his Department, by his private office, if the hon. Gentleman wants the exact detail—in the light of all the figures they had. It is certainly the case from the table the right hon. Gentleman has choosen to take, in one of a whole number of lines—as he has done. Now, what I was referring to is what is called the aid programme. That is the phrase I used—what is called the aid programme. The basic aid programme was in fact not cut. There have been variants in the outturn, sometimes up, and down, as there were under the right hon. Gentleman. The facts I gave at Polesden Lacey were correct. I am now examining all the figures again in the light of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and if there is anything I need to correct I shall have an opportunity in the House, but on the information given to me by Overseas Development what I said was correct.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Well, we shall, perhaps, hear later on what the right hon. Gentleman who was Minister at that time has to say, but I do not think that the Prime Minister can possibly deny that the figures I have given, supplied by his own Ministry, show that there has been a decline since 1964; but what I am saying—I hope the Prime Minister will not mind me saying this—is that the deplorable situation he creates now is this, that his facts are so selective to suit his own case that nobody in the country now takes what he says at its face value.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman was trying to make a case on figures, not the usual Tory abuse we are so used to. I remember the right hon. Gentleman in 1964 saying that the economy had never been stronger. He said the economy had never been stronger when there was an £800 million deficit. But if he wants to select particular figures, the figures he gives now, as I understand it, were the total of official flow and private flow. I think that is right; that the percentage figures he gave were of the total of official and private flow. What 379 I was referring to at Polesden Lacey was the aid programme, as it is known. That is the official flow.
Now, from the table he was quoting, as I read it here, the official flow in 1963 was £164.3 million; in 1964 £194.8 million; in 1967, £208.4 million. So there has been, on the official flow, to which I was referring,a quite considerable increase since 1964, and the right hon. Gentleman will know that the programme for the current year is due to go up still higher. He will also know that those figures do not include certain items of additional aid, which is now increasing. He can make what he likes of the figures, but if he takes the top line he will find that the official flow gross has gone up in that way. The official flow net went up from £176 million to £179 million, and is this year estimated at £178.1 million.
But the right hon. Gentleman, when he quoted his little bit of fun the other day, was not comparing it with 1964; he was quoting it at 1966, as I was at Polesden Lacey.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
At least I hope that we have got the Prime Minister to apply his mind to that, and that we shall get accurate and agreed figures, because on my reading of the figures there has been a net decline.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The prime Minister has at any rate been very quick to greet the Pearson Report as one of the most important documents of the twentieth century. I hope then that the Chancellor of the Duchy will be able to tell us what instructions the Prime Ministers has given for increasing the flow of aid in the years to come.
Leaving the duel for a moment, perhaps we may take comfort from the fact that I think it is the aim of the Majority atleast on both sides of the House that this country should—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Gentleman must sit down.
§ Mr. Heffer
Will the right hon. Gentle man give way? Does not the right hon. Gentlemen agree that the opposition to overseas aid is coming from the grass roots of the Tory Party?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The figures which I have given can be disputed. If the hon Gentleman likes to dispute them, well and good. The figures which I gace were produced by the right hon. Gentle man who was in the Department at the time, and we should like later to hear his interpretations of them.
I think that we may take comfort from the fact that it is the aim of the majority of both sides of this House to raise this country's performance in aid and the development of investment, and therefore I hope that all parties will keep all governments up to scratch on this point.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
There has recently been much public debate on the question of British partnership in the European Community, and the right hon. Gentleman raised it again today. I have little to add. We shall not know much more until there has been a meeting of the Heads of Government of the Six during November; until, if that is successful, the diplomatic exchanges, particularly with the European Commission, to decide whether there is a basis for negotiation and, if that in turn succeeds, until there are the negotiations, the results of which. I take it, will be reported to this House for acceptance or rejection. I can only say now that I do not think that it is desirable or profitable to force the pace in this matter. As the right hon. Gentleman said, there has been 381 some evidence of movement, some evidence that the Six may be willing to start the process of expanding the Market, and I think that it is best to allow that movement to take its own course.
In the wide sphere of diplomacy touched upon in the Gracious Speech, the international field is still governed by the intentions and the policies of the Soviet Union. Its strategic aims have not, on the face of it, changed; the aims to weaken the rival capitalist system, which the Soviet Union has always held would break under pressure; the aim to make of Russia a world Power with access to all seas and oceans.
Until now the Russians have played their hand with considerable skill, although the invasion of Czechoslovakia was, by any standard, a gross error. The Soviet Union calculates that, while the nuclear stalemate lasts, it is safe to stir up minor wars at second hand, and that the issue of collective peace-keeping can be thwarted by non-co-operation in the United Nations and by the use of the veto. So long as the Russians believe that confusion serves Soviet Communism better than political stability, they will pursue these policies, and no blandishments will divert them.
Nevertheless, there are occasions when the Soviet leaders agree to co-operate with others, provided that the situation which they envisage suits their own interest. There are two such possibilities, perhaps three. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned them all. On any rational assessment it should pay the Russians to stop what, in common language, is called the anti-missile missile race. The cost of it is astronomical, the security provided is speculative, and the Soviet Union badly needs to switch investment into industry. The latter is the Soviet Union's Achilles' heel today.
If one travels in Eastern or Central Europe one finds out very quickly that the. Soviet Union today is unable to supply its clients in Eastern Europe with the technology which those countries require to keep within reach of the standards of living achieved by their neighbours in Western Europe. If the Soviet Union cannot meet that demand, then nothing but increased force will hold the countries of Eastern and Central Europe in the 382 Russian orbit. This is a very important, significant fact. Those countries are becoming restive, largely for the reason that they see themselves being held back while others are moving forward so fast economically. Therefore, it is probably in the Russian interest to see concluded the talks with the United States which are opened, although the intricacies and complications of the technical issues are daunting indeed when one talks in terms of the limitation of nuclear arms.
The second possibility, which again the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, is the thinning-out of forces on the Eastern frontier of West Germany, on the frontier where the confrontation is between the N.A.T.O. Alliance and the Warsaw Pact; not the creation of a vacuum; the confrontation would remain, but the forces and the armaments would be withdrawn for a considerable distance behind the front. The advantage of that in terms of lessening tension in Europe can hardly be over-estimated. It would make it virtually impossible for a surprise attack to be mobilised and launched. So there is an enormous advantage to be gained from adopting the Rapacki Plan or the Eden Plan, or a variety of both.
I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman and the British Government will pursue these matters in the Disarmament Conference wherever they can be taken further. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of a conference not only between the Warsaw Pact and the N.A.T.O. Alliance, but extended to include the neutrals of Europe, and I would certainly not be against this. I think it is necessary—and the right hon. Gentleman has stressed this—that such a conference should be very carefully prepared, because clearly the Russians have attempted to look at this as a propaganda platform. If the conference is carefully prepared, it is conceivable that the addition of neutrals to a conference attended by the members of the N.A.T.O. Alliance and the Warsaw Pact might begin to blur the edges and, therefore, to make the possibility of something like the thinning-out plan on the frontiers between the two Germanys more possible than it is today. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman, as he said, will pursue this matter with care, but, nevertheless, with determination to see if something useful can be staged.
383 The final possibility of Russian co-operation with the West, which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with at some length, is in the Middle East. So far, the Soviet Union has sought to stir up trouble wherever it could be found, in the Yemen, in Aden and elsewhere, and to exploit in particular the Arabs' dislike and fear of Israel. But in two respects their calculations have gone somewhat awry. First, they are over-committed in Egypt. They did not mean to commit themselves so far, but they have become over-committed and, what is more, on a losing side. Secondly, the Palestine guerrillas are now less of a threat to Israel than they are to Jordan, Lebanon, and other Arab countries.
The Foreign Secretary gave some account—I understand why he could not do more—of the four-Power talks in New York. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether this might not be made the occasion for an alteration in the policy which Britain pursues of supplying arms to Arabs or to Israelis. I can see no sense in altering the policy at present. But if there were four-Power agreement, then would be the opportunity to ration arms into the Middle East. I think that is what the right hon. Gentleman really meant.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
This should be done, and it is possible that we are moving in that direction.
The Secretary of State once more recommended the United Nations resolution, sponsored by the United Kingdon, as a basis for a possible peace in the Middle East. The intentions of that resolution were admirable. I am not sure that it could have been better drafted. Nevertheless, like most resolution that go to the United Nations, it is capable of at least two interpretations. To the Arabs it means that Israel withdraws immediately and unconditionally to pre-war boundaries in return for a promose of recognition. To the Israelis it means a phased withdrawal to security positions to be negotiated and a complete documentated plan supervised and guaranteed at every stage.
There is a world of difference between those two interpretations. But whether 384 one is pro-Arab or pro-Israeli—and, like the right hon. Gentleman, I hope that I have a reasonable neutrality in the matter—one fact of life must be accepted, because unless it is accepted, there will be no solution. The Israelis will not move from their present military positions unless such a plan is presented and carried through in its entirety. Therefore, it seems that if the deadlock is to be altered by international action, it is necessary to realise that physical security for Israel, on the one hand, and for Egypt, Syria and Jordan, on the other, is the absolute essence of this matter.
Therefore, any international plan—of course, bilateral negotiation would be best, but that seems out of the question—must include demilitarisation of sensitive areas, a United Nations force adequate for the purpose of policing, and this time a United Nations presence guaranteed by the four Powers to stay for the period which would cover the total settlement. But most necessary and vital, indeed, to any settlement whatever would be early warning systems against air attack for Israel on the Suez Canal and for Egypt on the Israeli frontier. I doubt whether we will ever get any settlement without that, because for Israel—or for Egypt for that matter, but particularly for Israel—the difference between four-minutes' warning and 40-minutes' warning of air attack may mean the difference between the life and death of that country, and every Israeli knows it.
Therefore, while I am well aware that international action is very much second best to a directly negotiated peace, and, in a way, less likely to last, if there is to be a peace it must be an international peace plan, and nothing short of the kind of provisions for security that I have mentioned will have any chance whatever of success.
§ Mr. Shinwell
This is intensely interesting, at any rate to myself, and no doubt to other hon. Members. But is there anything in the Security Council resolution which demands the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories which provides, on behalf of the four Powers, a firm guarantee of Israel's security to be implemented in the event of any possible aggression by any of the Arab States? If not, what is the use of it?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman's answer would be—he is obviously acquainted more immediately with the matter—but my answer is that there is no such detailed plan. I imagine that this is what the four Powers are working on. If not, then there will be no settlement. If they can find a plan containing the kind of details and guarantees that I have mentioned there is the possibility—I cannot put it higher—of a peace. But it would have to be a plan dealing with these security matters: a phased withdrawal to eventual frontiers with guarantees.
I come back to a proposition that I have made in this House before. I do not believe that even the four Powers together will guarantee frontiers in an area like this, because we cannot identify the aggression. But I believe they could guarantee that if an international force is put into a demilitarised zone they would ensure that that force was neither attacked nor by-passed. This seems a possibility.
Finally, I should like to draw attention to a significant omission in the Queen's Speech compared with recent years. It is against the background of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, with which I concur, that this country is a substantial Power. I notice that in the Queen's Speech there is no mention of east of Suez and there is no mention whatever of supporting alliances for collective defence.
The House must realise that we still have extensive obligations. For example, we have an Anglo-Malaysian defence agreement to be renegotiated; we are responsible for security in Brunei and Mauritius, the Caribbean territories, Hong Kong, Fiji, Gibraltar and so on. There is a considerable list for which we have accepted obligations.
That leads me to this direct criticism of the right hon. Gentleman. I have often heard him say that defence is the servant of foreign policies. The right hon. Gentleman has undertaken these obligations as part of Britain's foreign policy, but he has allowed the Secretary of State for Defence so to reduce the forces of this country that his own foreign policymay be totally nullified.
How can the Foreign Secretary uphold even a European policy, taking it with 386 those limitations, when disturbances on the scale of those in Northern Ireland lead to a warning that we may have to extract our troops from N.A.T.0.?
How can the Foreign Secretary, who presumably, as part of his foreign policy, authorised the refitting of the aircraft carriers, conduct even an Atlantic policy, let alone fulfil the obligations that I have mentioned, if he allows the Secretary of State for Defence to scrap the aircraft carriers, just when they have been refitted and would have 10 or 12 years' more life, before the Government have authorised the ships which will in future carry the aircraft for the defence of the sea routes in the Atlantic and elsewhere to fulfil our duty to the people on whose behalf we have undertaken these solemn defence obligations?
Recently the Secretary of State for Defence said that there were more troops in Germany today than in 1964. I made some inquiries to ascertain what the interpretation of the figure of 63,094 should be. The answer was that if we meant troops physically stationed in Germany 4,272 should be substracted. What is the difference between "stationed in Germany" and "physically stationed in Germany"? Perhaps the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster can enlighten us later. Perhaps he knows that if the 4,272 are substracted the figure comes out below the number present in 1964. The Secretary of State for Defence is borrowing the Prime Minister's techniques. In this matter, therefore, we must—
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
If the right hon. Gentleman wishes the House to have the full picture presented bythe Opposition, will he tell us what would be the cost of maintaining troops in Germany at the level to which the Conservative Government made the commitment until the end of the century, and what would be the additional cost of maintaining the troops he wishes to see retained in the Far East? Will he give us the figure before he finishes his speech?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The Secretary of State for Defence said, indeed boasted, that there were more troops in Germany now than in 1964. Therefore, he and the Government are apparently prepared to accept the cost of having more there than we had in 1964, and so I do not think 387 that the matter raised by the hon. Gentleman enters into it.
How can the right hon. Gentleman expect to carry out his foreign policy and to give it any influence and authority when he allows the Secretary of State for Defence, no doubt with the Prime Minister's assistance, to run this country's foreign policy? We find him in this respect negligent of national security and the obligations we have accepted to friends and allies.
I am sorry to end on this note, but it is time this was said, because we have reduced our forces to a point where we are likely soon not to have any foreign policy worthy of the name.
There are many things—because we never seek particular differences on international affairs—on which we support the Government, but we must make it plain that, if this country is to have a foreign policy worthy of the name, the Foreign Secretary, and not the Secretary of State for Defence, must be master of the situation.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Reg Prentice (East Ham, North)
Anyone who has just been promoted to the back benches after a five-year stint in office is bound to be suffering from a great many ingrowing speeches and to find a number of topics in the Gracious Speech on which he would like to address the House. But it would be only right for me to speak today as ex-Minister of Overseas Development and merely to drop the hint that there may be other occasions on which I may try to catch your eye in the fairly near future, Mr. Speaker.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) referred to the level of overseas aid, and invited me to throw more light on the different analyses of the aid figures which he and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister exchanged across the floor. I shall come to that in a moment, but I cannot resist saying at this stage that his remarks would be more convincing if a feature of the aid debates in recent years had been more speeches by him and other members of the Shadow Cabinet drawing attention to the subject and demanding a rising aid programme. 388 If they are now demanding a rising aid programme, I welcome this new interest in the subject, but they might have shown more evidence of it in recent years.
The level of our aid programme is an important part, but only one part, of our foreign policy in relation to the developing world. I would like to put my remarks in the context of that policy by saying that I find it disturbing and I hope that many hon. Members on both sides also find it disturbing, that there is a great tendency in this country at present to look inwards to our own affairs and to be uninterested in the world outside our shores, or to consider that our inter national policy must be thought through only in terms of Europe and the North Atlantic area. I believe this to be wrong and self-defeating, even in terms of our self-interest.
A great deal of this debate is bound to concentrate on Europe, and I make no complaint about that; it is absolutely right in present circumstances. But at least as important as the question of Britain's relationship with our European neighbours is the question of the relationship of Europe as a whole, and the rich one-third of the world as a whole, with the two-thirds of mankind with whom our living standards present such a contrast, and between whose way of life and ours the gap is growing.
While I agree wholeheartedly with what my right hon. Friend said just now about the importance of the East-West cleavage—and I think we all share his hope that 1970 will show some signs of an improvement in East-West relations—the North-South cleavage in the world is at least as important as, and probably in the long run more important than, the differences between East and West.
I have been disturbed over recent years about a number of decisions that Her Majesty's Government have made in relation to the outside world, particularly the developing world, quite apart from the size of the aid programme, to which I want to turn my attention in a moment. I think of the decision in 1966 to raise the fees for overseas students; of the decision to extend immigration control to the holders of British passports; of the decision announced only this summer unilaterally to abrogate Commonwealth preferences in respect of textile imports into this country and to have a new tariff on 389 textile imports. I believe that such decisions result from too much of the conventional wisdom in Whitehall and circles close to Whitehall having become obsessed with our relations with Europe and not giving sufficient attention to our relations with the world as a whole. I also believe that decisions of that kind will be damaging to Britain for reasons of ourself-interest, as well as being wrong in general principle.
I found disturbing—I do not know how many other hon. Members share this view—the recent Report of the Val Duncan Committee on the future of our diplomatic representation overseas, which saw fit to divide the world into what the Committee called the area of concentration—by which it meant Europe and North America, with one or two other outposts, such as Japan and Australia, where it was stated that our foreign policy still had a very important rôle to play—and what it called the outer area, in which we no longer had interests or influence sufficient to justify strong diplomatic missions. I am disturbed about that not only because of what was said by the three members of the Committee—which I hope we shall discuss in the House at a later stage but because I feel that they must have been given the impression in some of the Whitehall Departments they consulted that this was really the direction in which British foreign policy was moving. They certainly were not given that impression in the Ministry of Overseas Development, though they may have been given it else where.
We are living at a time when the whole world is becoming more inter-dependent, when both the opportunities and the dangers facing mankind are greater than ever before, and when our own self-interest and survival can be thought of constructively only in relation to that of the whole human race.
I turn now specifically to the aid programme and the reference in the Gracious Speech:My Government reaffirm their support for the efforts to ensure peace and to assist the advancement of less developed countries.I cannot object to those latter words. To the best of my recollection, I wrote them. At least, I was asked to make suggestions, and I think that I suggested something along those lines. But they are merely 390 one more reiteration of the good intentions which have been expressed so often in the past, without the evidence that those good intentions are being fulfilled. Over the years there has been a cascade of good intentions, of worthy resolutions and of eloquent perorations in the speeches of politicians, not only in this country but in other developed countries, about one's concern for the fight against poverty throughout the world.
The time has come for us to stand up and be counted not just on our good intentions but on our actual performance, and specifically, I believe, the time has come for fulfilment within the next few years of the pledge to provide 1 per cent. of our gross national product as a flow of resources to the developing world.
The 1 per cent. pledge has been made many times. It has been made, in particular, in Labour Party circles. It has featured many times in resolutions passed by the annual conference of the Labour Party. It has been discussed in United Nations circles over many years, and specifically it was made at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in New Delhi early last year.
A little definition is called for here. The pledge was a pledge of a net flow of resources, adding together the net value of official aid and the net flow of private investment; that is, after deducting the repatriation of capital.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition intervened yesterday in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary with these words:I committed this county at Geneva in 1964, under U.N.C.T.A.D., to maintain governmental and private aid at 1 per cent. of the gross national product."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1969; Vol. 790, c. 203.]With respect, the right hon. Gentleman was a bit mixed up. He did not do so in 1964. He made a pledge to provide 1 percent. of national income, which is a smaller figure. The raising of the target to gross national product means a raising of the target by approximately 25 per cent. in respect of this country. However, although the right hon. Gentleman did not pledge this country in 1964, I trust that he pledged his party yesterday to support, whether he intended to or not, the higher target, and we shall want to hold him and his right hon. and hon. Friends to that view.
391 A cosy agreement between the two Front Benches, however, is no use unless we have a clear programme for reaching, that performance, and unless we make decisions about the steps by which we shall reach it. It is here that I have some comment to make on the statistical warfare which was going on across the Floor just now. My first comment is that, of course, I am not satisfied with the aid programme of either Government, Conservative or Labour. I remind the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire that his side of the argument was helped by the fact that during the years of Conservative Government there was a smaller figure every year for the repayment of old aid loans. Because our performance is reckoned in international terms as a net performance, a rising aid programme—that is, a rising programme of new aid—under the present Government has not shown up as well in the international statistics since the repayments have been growing and, accordingly, the net figure has not been as good as the gross.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was right at Polesden Lacey to say that there had been an increase in aid in the way he defined it this afternoon, speaking as he did today of the cash value of the official aid programme. But may I say to my right hon. Friend and my other right hon. Friends on the Front Bench now that we cannot congratulate ourselves much about that. If we define the increase in those favourable terms—the cash value, not allowing for rising prices, not allowing for repayments and not allowing for our rise in G.N.P.—it is still only an increase of about 8 percent. between 1964 and 1968. It is an increase, and my right hon. Friend was entitled to call it such, but it is an increase of 8 per cent. at a time when public expenditure generally, in cash terms, has gone up by 52 per cent. and at a time when every other Government Department except the Ministry of Defence has had a larger increase in its programme.
I do not consider that we ought to pursue this sterile argument about figures. [HON. MEMBERS: "We shall."] I see no point in it. I put it to hon. Members opposite, with respect, that what really 392 matters here, and certainly what matters to poor people overseas, is what we do from now on. A point-scoring contest about past statistics is irrelevant. Let us recognise that under neither Governmen have we fulfilled the 1 per cent. pledge or approached near enough to it.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-on-Tweed)
Are the right hon. Gentlemen and the Prime Minister taking devalution into consideration in these figures?
§ Mr. Prentice
The figures which were given were figures in sterling, the cash figures, making no allowance for the rise in prices due to devaluation or to other factors. But what is much more important is the proportion of our grossnational product which we are providing.
§ Mr. Prentice
I have a good deal to say, and others wish to speak. I suggest that it is not a useful exercise for us to continue on that line.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I agree that what matters is the future, but he cannot get out of it by saying that anything said in the past can, therefore, be overlooked. The figures given by the Prime Minister took no account of the actual out-turn in what happened. There was a drop between 1966—in which, he said, there would be cuts—and 1968, the last year for which figures are available. The right hon. Gentleman himself pointed out in lucid and forceful fashion in his article in the New Statesman that if one takes the one thing which matters, which is the proportion of gross national product, there has been a consistent fall in the official programme since 1964. Those are two facts which the right hon. Gentleman himself has emphasised, and they are undeniable. If one then takes account of devaluation in relation to what the aid is worth when it reaches the overseas country, even his 8 per cent. figure no longer holds good. There has been an absolute fall in the value of sterling overseas, and there has, therefore, been a cut.
§ Mr. Prentice
We do ourselves no good by pursuing that sort of argument. If I may pose for a moment as adviser to the Leader of the Opposition, I suggest that he does not do himself or his party 393 any good by bickering over statistics and trying to make points on selective statistics. He compared 1966 and 1968. I shall give him one other pair of figures, if he wants a comparison. I was coming to this point in a minute, but I make it now.
The net aid figure in 1961 was £151 million. The net aid figure in 1968 was £150 million; that is, about the same in cash terms, but this is net, allowing for repayments over the seven-year span in which both Governments were in power for part of the time. The figure for the two years is almost exactly the same despite the fact that our gross national product increased by 60 per cent. during those years. That reflects no credit on his Government for their aid performance, but I say further that I do not regard our performance under the present Government as good enough either.
I suggest that there could be a general agreement that there has been a failure to match our rising gross national product under both Governments to a rising aid programme. I confirm the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman: the official British aid programme was 0.53 per cent. of gross national product in 1954 and 0.42 per cent. in 1968. That is true.
What we should turn to is the prospect for the years ahead. In the last few years this country has had difficulties interms of its balance of payments, its economy, and paying its way. I do not believe that in that context we have given enough priority to the aid programme, but I do recognise that there are reasons why it has been difficult to do this. It has been part of my duty as a responsible Minister at many international conferences to explain those difficulties to other countries, difficulties which they have appreciated and respected.
§ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing
We would not have wished the right hon. Gentleman to think that we were nit-picking, but it is only because there has been a series of figures put out by the Prime Minister and other leading members of this Government which, when we have started to probe them, have proved to be quite false. It is only because we, and the nation, were deceived on the import-export position, and by the Secretary of 394 State for Defence, that we challenged the overseas aid figures since the Prime Minister had said that there had been no cuts.
§ Mr. Prentice
That has confirmed my first instinct not to give way as being correct. I will not give way again,because I want to concentrate on the period ahead. The Prime Ministers's figures were not false; the Prime Minister gave the correct figures. What I am saying, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman agress, is that the performance indicated by those figures is not good enough and ought to improve.
Looking to the future and to a period in which I hope and believe our balance of payments will continue to improve, it will not be possible for us to defend the situation in which the proportion of our gross national product devoted to aid for development continues to decline. There are overwhelming moral reasons for saying this which I do not propose to pursue, because they will be accepted by most hon. Gentlemen. I do not want to make the time of the House in arguing against the "Alf Garnett" attitude in these matters. There are also important reasons of national self-interest involved, including our self-interest as a trading nation. I wish that this were more clearly under stood in the country, and I would invite hon. Members to argue this at greater length. I do not want to take a lot of time over this today but simply to give two figures.
Recent statistics show that the British share of the flow of development aid to the poorer parts of the world is about7½ per cent. They also show that our share of orders for goods imported by the developing countries from the developed countries is about 12 per cent. Of all the countries in the world we have a vested interest in the growth of development and a vested interest in seeing that the richer countries as a whole move quickly together towards the fulfilment of their obligations.
In the context of a foreign affairs debate I want to press upon my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Duchy that there are urgent foreign policy reasons as well why we should declare, and declare soon, 395 that we are to take positive steps quickly towards the 1 per cent. target. This subject is more clearly on the international agenda now. I draw attention to the recent report of the Commission presided over by Mr. Lester Pearson, which has a great deal to say on this subject. I recommend it to hon. Members.
It was an influential Commission consisting of people who might almost be called, without being unkind, establishment figures, people greatly respected in politics and finance. They included Mr. Douglas Dillon, the ex-Secretary of the United States Treasury, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), who was the British member of the Commission, and many other people whose views would be widely respected in their own countries. I am sure that the chairman is respected throughout the world.
The Commission recommended that the developed countries should reach the 1 per cent. performance by 1975 at the latest. It recommended that within that official aid should account for at least .7 of 1 per cent. Our own latest figures were .83 of 1 per cent. in total and .42 for official aid. What is not generally known—I do not think that it appeared in the British Press—is that the Pearson Commission singled out four Western nations—the United States, Britain, Italy and Belgium—as four countries where the proportion of gross national product devoted to aid is falling and where urgent steps ought to be taken to reverse the trend. We should be aware that we were identified among those whose performance is falling, and we should be aware of the fact that the countries in this position are in a minority in the Western world.
My right hon. Friend should also have regard to the fact that the United Nations has dedicated the 1970s as a second development decade, and that within the preliminary discussions the year 1972 is being widely quoted by many of the countries taking part as the year by which the 1 per cent. performance should be reached. My right hon. Friend should take account of the fact that Mr. Ed Martin, Chairman of the Development Assistance Committee of the O.E.C.D., has called upon allmembers of the 396 O.E.C.D. to reach the 1 per cent. target by 1975 at the latest.
In other words, within that international forum where Ministers and officials of this country will be representing Britain in the period immediately ahead the other countries will want to know whether we mean what we say about this and how soon we are to fulfil our pledge. Not only the poorer countries will want to know; the other donor countries will want to know too. France has been reaching 1 per cent. for many years, Germany has just reached it. A number of other countries, such as Sweden and Canada, have declared a timetable by which they will reach it in the early 1970s. In that sort of context we cannot stand out as one of the countries which is not performing as we pledged ourselves to perform.
Coming nearer home, the Labour Party conference a week or two ago unanimously went on record as saying that we should reach the 1 per cent. performance some time between 1972 and 1975. Over 120 hon. Members on this side of the House signed a Motion on the Order Paper last week on similar lines. This morning in London a number of the voluntary agencies working in this area in Britain came together and issued a joint manifesto calling upon the Government to reach the 1 per cent. figure by 1972. I think the House would like to know what those agencies were. They were the Catholic Institute for International Relations, Christian Aid, the Overseas Development Institute, Oxfam, the United Nations Association, War on Want,the Universities Federation on Economic Development and Youth Against Hunger.
Many hon. Members will know from their postbags that a growing number of people, particularly young people, are joining these organisations and are desperately concerned that we should do more about this. These organisations have a fine record over many years of raising money, and they are raising more now than ever before. They are not content with that and are becoming more political in their attitude. They will demand not only of the Government but of hon. Members generally to know where they stand on this issue and whether they are prepared to respond to it.
The case for a growing development effort is usually argued in terms of the 397 needs of the people concerned. It should also be argued in terms of the opportunities. One other reason why this matter is becoming more urgent now is that the development process is becoming more successful and can become more successful in future. A great many new developments in science and technology, particularly in tropical agriculture, have given us opportunities to make inroads into this problem much more rapidly and effectively than in the past, provided that the Governments of the world, in the poorer and the richer countries alike, have the necessary will to take the steps which are needed. It is no coincidence that the first chapter of the Pearson Committee Report is entitled, "A question of will". That is what it is all about.
Finally, I quote one other sentence from the Gracious Speech:A statement will be presented to you of My Government's future plans for public expenditure".As I understand it, the Government propose to issue in the autumn, probably at the beginning of December, a White Paper showing the projected spending of all Government Departments over a five-year period starting with this year and going to April, 1974. This is a new development of Parliamentary procedure which was discussed in the House the week before last, and on general democratic grounds I welcome it. I am sure that this report will be discussed because of many of its contents.
The point on which I wish to focus attention is that the figures included in that White Paper for the aid programme will be the acid test of the sincerity of our good intentions in this field. I make this point to my right hon. Friend who is to reply to the debate and, through him, to his colleagues in the Cabinet: those of us who are concerned in these matters will not be content to see simply some rise in the money figure for these years. The rise in the money figure must be sufficient to indicate a rise in the proportion of gross national product, or what we assume will be the gross national product, over the years in question. The rise should be sufficient to enable us to fulfil the 1 per cent. pledge from the 1970's, and preferably early in the 1970's rather than later, along the lines suggested by the Pearson Report, suggested by the resolution of our own party conference 398 and suggested in other ways which I have indicated.
Heavens knows, I recognise the difficulties. No one who has served in Government for some years can be unaware of the very difficult battle for priorities in public expenditure and the difficulties of accommodating rising programmes to the satisfaction of all those who support those programmes. But the fact remains that this is something to which we have solemnly pledged ourselves. The fact remains that it is something which we ought to do on grounds of general principle and of long-term self-interest. Whatever the economic difficulties which surround this country's affairs and have surrounded them for some years, whatever the economic dangers of future years, I submit to the House that it will be a great tragedy if the verdict of history upon us in our generation is that the rich countries of the world were so obsessed with the money which they owed each other that they turned their backs on two-thirds of the human race.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I am sure that I speak for all hon. Members when I say how interested we were in the speech of the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice). I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy in his reply will pay particular attention to the figures of aid so clearly set out by the right hon. Gentleman. It is essential that an answer should be given to the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) about the difference between troops stationed in Germany and troops physically stationed in Germany. We must have a satisfactory answer. We do not think that a repetition of the figure manipulation which has been so common in the past in many fields will be sufficient on this occasion.
I should like to speak about the paragraph in the Gracious Speech which expresses the Government's determination to press on with their application to join the E.E.C. This is an issue on which the House is divided. Some hon Members opposite hold the view that it would be fatal for us to enter Europe, while other hon. Members on both sides of the House take precisely the contrary point 399 of view. As is usual, when passions are high both sides tend to look down very much upon those who disagree with them, and that means that even worse feeling is aroused. I want to look dispassionately at the European scene and to judge the possibilities of our being able to enter Europe.
Before I do that it is worth pointing out that those for and against our entry into Europe are perhaps more in agreement than they would suppose, because nearly everyone agrees that industrially this country needs wider markets and that it would be in our general interest to be part of a large free-trading bloc. The way in which the opponents of the Common Market advocate our membership of some Atlantic Union stresses that point. These two opinions will sometimes verge and sometimes separate. For example, the economic arguments which are put forward by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) seem to have greater force than the arguments of those who oppose our entry into Europe simply for political reasons. It seems to me that many of the fears that we might be absorbed into a federal Europe are fast disappearing, for if we look at the situation, it seems obvious that members of the E.E.C. are retreating from the concept of a federal Europe.
It is worth looking at the situation in Europe not through facts and figures but through what has happened there. In 1957, when the Common Market was created, France achieved for herself very favourable terms, and she fears that these advantages will be decreased if Britain enters the Common Market. France has always been activated in foreign policy by self-interest, and I can see no reason why she should suddenly decide not to be in the future. Some people say that the veto in 1963 was merely a piece of Gaullist prejudice when it was in fact a safeguarding of French interests.
If we look at the situation in France today we must recognise that in her own self-interest France is likely to speak out as plainly as before. After all, in 1963 General de Gaulle spoke from a plateau of prosperity. President Pompidou is certainly not in that position today. Despite devaluation, the franc is still under considerable pressure, and internally France has many problems. Are we 400 to suppose that she is more likely to wish the further complication which will be caused by our entry than she was in 1963? I see no realistic reason for thinking that that is the case.
What action is France likely to take if we push forward our entry now? May I make it plain that I am not against the Common Market as an idea. I believe in it. The question we must ask is: what action is France likely to take if we push our desire for entry now?
§ Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
The hon. Gentleman talks about our pushing our entry. Does he mean that we should obtain assurances in respect of agriculture—and hill farming in particular—before we push our entry?
§ Viscount Lambton
That is where the difficulty arises. The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) made a passionate speech the other day, saying that we should move forward into France. That language is very unwise, for reasons that I shall come to later. Negotiations must be very slow. Nothing would be more damaging, both in the long run and the short run, than the right hon. Member's statement that we should go full speed ahead now. We must ask: what action is France likely to take if the advice of some of the hotheads on the Government Benches is taken and we push forward now with our effort to get into Europe? One sure thing is that France has no shortage of answers to the question. She can do almost anything to make it difficult for us to get into Europe.
The situation in respect of agriculture was well summed up by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in Foreign Aflairs, when he recently wrote:The increase in Britain's international indebtedness and the underlying weakness of her balance of payments make more formidable the heavy short-term burden which a Common Market and the common agricultural policy as it now stands would inevitably impose.That is the case if France wishes to stand firm in respect of its agricultural market and insists that we must make the contribution that we are now asked to make. I am sure that no one in the House would suggest that we should try to go into the Common Market on those terms. The strength of France's position is that she is there, and she has the opportunity 401 to delay our entry. Looking at all the circumstances, I do not think that she is likely to ignore her opportunities. Even if this difficulty is passed and some sort of arrangement can be arrived at on the agricultural question, France still has endless opportunities to impede our entrance if she wants to.
I do not know how many hon. Members read the article—an article that I thought rather percipient—by Mr. John Lambert in the Sunday Times, pointing out that France still has an opportunity of prolonging the discussions with endless internal questions regarding E.E.C. if she wishes to do so. The question is: does she wish to do so? If she does, she can go on making these objections indefinitely.
The strength of France's position is that she can delay our entry whatever the other five may want. Now we come to the question: will France block our entry again? That is the real politics of the whole matter. I can find no reason to think that she will not continue to do so, at present. We must therefore ask whether, in our long-term interest, this is not the wrong moment to try to create a great impetus for entrance—an impetus which hon. Members on both sides are pressing the Government to create.
I want to quote again from the article by my right hon. Friend. He said:The next step, so far as Britain is concerned, must be for the Six to signify that they are all ready to begin negotiations on our applicationThe important word in that sentence is surely the word "Six", because there is a tremendous tendency for people to believe that if the Five are anxious for us to go into Europe everything will be all right. Unless the Six are united I do not think that we should go further than signifying our willingness to negotiate. Any further action could well destroy the possibility of our entrance at a later date.
Is not this a time for caution, rather than for premature action? If we analyse the situation we see that there is confusion almost everywhere. Just how much confusion there is can be seen by an examination of the problem of signing the Treaty of Rome. The member countries are now retreating as fast as they can from the full implication of the Treaty 402 and becoming more and more nationalistic. Therefore, to say that this Treaty is a guideline to European policy is rather an exaggeration. Nevertheless, tremendous emphasis is being placed by the Six on our signing this Treaty—a Treaty from which they are now retreating. This is somewhat odd. We are being asked to declare an intent to create precisely the type of Europe on which they are now turning their backs.
As this is the case, is the purpose of France and the other members of the Six in pressing us to make this gesture to cause us political embarrassment at home? The situation in which the Six claim that it is essential that we should sign a treaty which they do not intend to follow has about it an element of farce.
But this is not the only anomaly in the situation. Such is the position in Europe that, predictable as is France's behaviour we have reached a very odd situation. Those who are opposed to our entry into Europe and are most vociferous against our going in are probably more likely to help us go in eventually than those who are trying to do precisely the opposite, and who never stop saying that we should make this or that gesture of intent. They are trying to cause us to rush forward, once again giving France the opportunity of trumping our card and causing a third failure, which would surely be too much for the British people.
It is rather negative to say this, but all this confusion and uncertainty surely indicates that we should now adopt a policy of caution—a foreign policy which, while having as its long-term objective our association with a greater trading bloc, entails our doing what is the most tedious of all political exercises, namely, waiting and seeing. Tome, any positive action appears rather dangerous.
Quite often a policy of "wait-and-see" is successful. Let us consider the position of our Ambassador in Paris, Mr. Soames. A few months ago when he was—there is only one way to put it—so degradingly let down by the Prime Minister, it appeared that his use as an ambassador to France was at an end. But he waited. He saw General de Gaulle go and President Pompidou come, and I think that we would all now agree that he has been our most successful ambassador in France for the last 20 years.
403 This is a lesson which many of us can learn. Much can happen in the future. The relationship between France and Germany is a very delicate one. The increasing economic domination of Germany in Europe is a factor which must be taken into account. The time may come when France may need to invite us in without giving us the same sort of savage jolt that it is likely we would get if we pressed ahead at the moment. Surely now is not the moment for any premature action.
I know that it is said to be dull and so on to be cautious, but I can only repeat that caution is sometimes a good policy and, taking all things into consideration, it seems to be the wisest today. In other words, let us make certain that the right moment has come before we enter negotiations and let us be certain that we do not rush them forward at the wrong pace.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)
We have listened to a very negative speech and I do not intend to spend a great deal of time on the contention of the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) that we should simply wait and see. It seems to me that what is abundantly clear is that the one thing we cannot afford to do is to fail to make a decision as to which way we are to proceed. We must come to a conclusion one way or another in the next few years. The noble Lord was mistaken in that he paid no attention whatever to the psychological factors which are the basis of the French attitude today.
It is now more than 20 years since the far-seeing statesmen of the post-war years declared that Europe must unite or perish. No doubt we can take comfort from the fact that Europe has moved perceptibly, if gradually, towards that unity. None the less, the dangers which beset Europe today are different in character and graver in degree from those which produced the first movements towards unity. Our predecessors were concerned with the danger presented by a strong and united Germany; we are more concerned with the danger presented by a disunited and divided Germany. It is a comfort to read that the new German Socialist Government will adopt a far 404 more realistic attitude to these problems than did their predecessors.
But the dangers are not solely those of a divided Germany. That, indeed, is symbolic of the divisions of Europe as a whole between East and West, and the fate of Czechoslovakia is a grim reminder of the need for unity, first in Western Europe and finally in Europe as a whole. That unity becomes the more necessary if the mounting pressure in America to withdraw its forces from Europe gains greater influence over American policy.
But the danger is not only strategic. It is technological in that a divided Europe is incapable of matching the brilliant progress of the two great Powers symbolised by the space race. It is economic in that a divided Europe cannot withstand the American challenge which brings more and more of Europe's industrial power under alien control. To all these dangers the only solution is that envisaged by our predecessors—the unity which can withstand strategic, technological and industrial power. Twenty years later we have still to discover how this unity is to be achieved.
There is not one way but several. Progress through the wide organisation of the Council of Europe has been slow but steady and, given the will and the need, could rapidly expand. The Government must do more than merely pay lip-service to that great institution. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, whose responsibility it will be, is well aware, from his own experience, of the potentialities of the Council of Europe. He must persuade his colleagues and his fellow Ministers to give it the means to carry out the detailed and technical tasks which the members of the Assembly are begging the Governments to undertake.
But if the Council of Europe, embracing as it does members of N.A.T.O., E.E.C., applicant countries and neutrals, can best perform one part and an essential part of the task, there remains no doubt in my mind that the shortest route to political and economic unity still lies in the enlargement of the European Economic Community. It is therefore gratifying to me to see that the Gracious Speech reiterates the Government's intention to pursue an application and to know that all three parties are united in this policy.
405 But I am convinced that the time has come to take a hard look at the situation of deadlock which still exists, and which was mentioned by the noble Lord, and to trace its roots and see whether and in which direction a solution can be achieved. It is no use simply hoping that a solution will appear out of the air. It is useless to persist in beating the closed door of the French veto.
However irrational the veto may be, it is still there so far as we know. Even if the summit conference next month sees its harshness relaxed, the veto attitude of the French will remain—there was some justice in what the noble Lord had to say about that—in the negotiations unless we ourselves take some positive action to soften the attitude of the French.
I invite the House, therefore, to look back to see how this situation of deadlock has arisen. Can it be doubted that both political parties in Government must bear some share of the responsibility? I have no doubt that it began with the Nassau Agreement, which, rightly or wrongly, the General and his followers saw both as an instance of the perfidy of Albion and as an illustration of the close linkage between this country and the United States to the exclusion of France.
There followed the failure of the negotiations in 1963. In 1964 the Labour Parry declared its intention to renegotiate Nassau. For reasons which no doubt were unexceptionable, it was unable to carry out its intention. But one can imagine how this must have intensified the French mistrust, and out of mistrust grows mistrust—on both sides. The Soames incident, to which the noble Lord referred—although in terms which were wholly inappropriate—whatever the rights and wrongs may have been, cannot but have added to that mistrust, for the General, however vaguely, seemed to be suggesting some kind of renewal of the Anglo-French entente of former days, and, rightly or wrongly, he saw his call rebuffed.
I believe that if we are to have any real hope of progress and any real hope of success in our application we must look not so much at the reasons advanced by the French from time to time for blocking the path, reasons which are no doubt supported by little logic and less credibility, but at the basic psycho- 406 logical barrier. That barrier is the product of Nassau—a British nuclear weapon vital not shared with France, now a nation of nuclear capability.
Has not the time come to offer France the opportunity of a joint trust for the benefit of Europe as a whole? There are difficulties, I know, and they were referred to by my right hon. Friend this afternoon in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson). But I do not believe that those difficulties are insuperable.
I believe that such a gesture would attract the essential American good will. I believe that, given the necessary preparation, it would be understood in Bonn. I believe that the complications which are involved in N.A.T.O., which we cannot overlook, would not be insoluble. Such an offer would be one of the great historical gestures of our time. I believe that it could open the way to a new friendship with France without which the road to European unity will be hard and long and beset with obstacles.
I do not ask the Government to announce their acceptance today of such a far-reaching proposal; that would be wholly unrealistic. I urge them, however, not to allow the tension, the prejudices and the national rivalries—which ought today to be obsolete—to impede the achievement of that unity which is the foundation for a new Europe of new strength and new independence.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Sir Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
The hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) referred in his speech to the Council of Europe, on which I served for some years as a member of the British delegation. I hope that he will forgive me if I do not follow him in his remarks, because I do not wish my speech to sound too disjointed.
I begin by echoing what my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said about the visit of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to New Zealand and Australia. I am glad to see that the first paragraph of the Queen's Speech refers to this visit, and is a part of the Speech put forward on behalf of the Queen herself and not on behalf of the Government. I shall say more about Australia and New Zealand later in my speech.
407 I also echo what my right hon. Friend said about the U.N.C.T.A.D. conference, on which the second paragraph of the Queen's Speech says that the Government… will pursue their work towards an international agreement on tariff preferences for the developing countries.Could the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in his reply say what this will mean for the existing system of Commonwealth preferences? Will there be arrangements in the tariff structures of foreign countries to compensate those Commonwealth countries which are to share with other foreign developing countries their markets in this country? This is a worrying matter and will possibly weaken the Commonwealth preference system. Furthermore, are these preferences to be unilateral, and will we continue to enjoy preferences even if we have to share them with other countries? I realise that it is a complicated matter, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make the position clear to the House.
I should like to quote from a report by a New Zealand committee on overseas markets and exporting which was published in May this year. Recommendation No. 65 of the report says:When considering the possible introduction of a scheme of generalised tariff preferences, the New Zealand Government should take into account the implications of the scheme for, first, the existing structure of Commonwealth preferences; secondly, the need to achieve and maintain a tariff structure that will promote New Zealand's development and trade; and thirdly, New Zealand's own tariff responsibilities to neighbouring Pacific islands.I echo those words, and I hope that the existing structure of Commonwealth preference will be seriously considered before we go too far in implementing the U.N.C.T.A.D. proposals.
I hope we may be given more information on a matter about which Board of Trade Ministers were unable to enlighten us a few months ago. May we be told exactly which are the developing countries? I was told that there was no list or definition of developing countries. Surely if we are to grant them preferences, we must know which they are. I hope that the situation will be made a little clearer.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said in his speech that if we do not join the E.E.C. we do 408 not stand alone, and my noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) said that we must wait and see. It is indeed true that we do not stand alone, but if these negotiations do not materialise or go too slowly there is something we can do without waiting and seeing. We can carry out, with much greater vigour and enthusiasm than we have in recent years, a policy of developing the economic relations which we already enjoy with the Commonwealth and which have been continuing in their present form since the Ottawa Agreement.
These relations have been our mainstay in trade policy for 250 out of the past 300 years. They were resumed after the free trade era a century ago through the efforts of the older Commonwealth countries. These countries granted us preferences unilaterally and they were only reciprocated by Britain at the end of the First World War. That system is of great benefit not only to this country but to the primary producers in many Commonwealth countries—from the oldest, like Canada, Australia and New Zealand, to some of the smallest like Fiji, Mauritius and Barbados, which are sugar colonies and which have benefited enormously from the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. It would be monstrous if we were to do anything to jeopardise our relations with those countries which have stood us in such good stead in the past.
There is another point about the older Commonwealth countries which we must not overlook. Mr. Gorton, the Australian Premier, said a few days ago that Australia needs development capital and needs a continual inflow from abroad so that, for example, nickel ore can be mined, oil finds developed and factories in Australia improved. We in this country should take a lead in providing that development capital. We have always done so in the past and we must go on doing so.
I have read a recent report that Australia is seeking a loan in Germany, of all countries, of some 36 million Australian dollars. It shocked me that Australia, which has helped us so greatly in two world wars to overthrow German attempts to dominate the world, should now have to go to Germany, our former enemy, and loser in two world wars, for such a loan 409 instead of to this country. Can we not do more than we are doing to help Australia, or indeed any other Commonwealth country, with loans which they need for development? The United States also is helping Australia, but that is another matter. I should like to see much mere help given by this country in the form of loans and aid to the so called developed countries to continue their development, as well as to the developing countries, to provide the capital which they need.
The value of mineral production in the northern territories of Australia alone has increased by one-third last year as compared with the previous year. Hardly a week goes by without new finds of minerals, or oil, or natural gas being made in Australia or around its coasts. One can say the same of Canada. We heard the other day from Sir Ian McLennan, the managing director of the Broken Hill Proprietory Co., that Pilbara iron ore deposits in Western Australia would be supplying the world steel makers for hundreds of years, that next year it would supply 4 per cent. of the world's output of iron ore, and that the percentage would increase year by year.
I could quote many other examples in the Commonwealth countries. Therefore we should do nothing to impair our relations with those countries but should do everything we can to foster them. We should not take on obligations under the Treaty of Rome which will weaken those relations and certainly should not do anything which may entail our imposing reverse preferences against the Commonwealth instead of our enjoying the present system.
The Commonwealth countries, not only economically but politically, are our best friends in the world today. This was shown, if proof were needed, in the two votes which took place on Gibraltar in the United Nations just before Christmas last year and in the previous year. On 18th December, 1968, the Assembly was discussing a resolution which asked us to leave Gibraltar by 1st October which, thank goodness, we have not carried out. It was passed by 67 votes to 18, with 34 abstentions. I will not wade through the whole list of the 67 nations which voted for the resolution, but would point out that14 of the 18 nations which sup- 410 ported us in voting against the resolution were Commonwealth countries.
Of the four foreign countries which voted against, only two were European countries, Denmark and Sweden. Among the 34 abstentions were most of the countries of Western Europe with which at the moment we are trying to seek political unity. In such an issue as that, and in a previous vote on a resolution which deplored our holding a referendum in Gibraltar, it is unthinkable that the countries of Western Europe, most of which are democratic, should take sides with Spain on the simple straightforward issue of the rights of a small group of people in Gibraltar to determine their own future.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Monmouth)
Is not the hon. Gentleman making a false point? Surely the matter of Gibraltar does not affect the vital national interests of any of the Commonwealth countries which he has mentioned. He would find it very difficult to find a consistent pattern of support among Commonwealth countries on any specific issue in the United Nations.
§ Sir R. Russell
If the hon. Member would go through a list of all the votes in the United Nations, he would find that we received the support of the older Commonwealth countries on nearly every issue which has come up in the United Nations. I was amazed that in an issue of principle as to whether Gibraltar should be allowed to determine its own future we should not have received the support of countries in Western Europe. This shows that our true friends are in the Commonwealth. Therefore, we must do everything in our power to foster those relations and must attempt nothing which will damage them.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tam-worth)
There is a convention in the House that one attempts to try to maintain continuity from one speaker to another. I wish to take up one small point made by the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) when he was eulogising about Commonwealth loyalties to this country. I well remember, when I was in the Ministry of Aviation, the decision of the New Zealand Government to purchase American aircraft at a time when our own aircraft industry had a 411 great need for orders and was producing aircraft which had no rivals in the world. I suppose it was the success of American selling methods in New Zealand which won the day, but we came off second best.
I wish to speak for a short time on a subject to which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary devoted some time this afternoon, namely, the situation in the Middle East. I fully agree with his point that not only is it of particular British concern that we should adopt an attitude of neutrality, but also that in the end there is no answer in any sort of military settlement. There must be a political settlement. The great question is: what is the basis for such a settlement to be?
Things look very different when one visits a country which is the subject of controversy. It is quite incredible that we and the Americans, both signatories to the United Nations resolution, should adopt such disparate ideas on the question of neutrality. It is all right for the Americans to supply 50 Phantom aircraft, but it is wrong for us to supply a small number of Chieftain tanks. The rôle of the British in this matter should be not only to demonstrate neutrality, but to recognise the steps which other countries, be they friendly or hostile to Israel, are taking.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will find that some of his advisers take the view that a great deal of nonsense is talked about the value of our exports to the Arab countries. It is true that those exports are valuable, but one does not see many British cars, for example, in an Arab sheikdom. To a great extent, the statistics are distorted by exports of British capital goods for the exploitation of oilfields, with our own exports of manufactured goods coming off very badly compared with those of other exporting nations.
If one can prophesy, in the end the solution of the Middle East will be on the basis of some form of development of and improvement in the productive capacity of the countries involved. If one considers the expertise which Israel is now demonstrating in places like Sinai for water-boring and exploitation, it is clear that the Middle East as a whole could achieve a great deal by helping 412 Israel to offer to the surrounding countries its enormous resources of technical ability which are not adequately employed in Israel itself. Admittedly the deep water boring in Sinai has progressed only to a limited extent so far. Nevertheless, it has involved techniques of boring up to 800 miles in arid soil and rock, and in one case it is producing water at the rate of one million gallons a day from that depth. In terms of water supply, that is not very great, but it shows that techniques are changing all the time and that what used to be considered the only technique of the expensive lifting of water from lower to higher levels is not only being superseded by desalination but by new techniques such as that which I have described.
It took about 300 years for the rivalry between France and Germany dating from the Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle to develop into the friendship between the two countries of recent years. In the same way the old Anglo-French rivalry took centuries to produce the reasonable friendship now existing between the two countries. With improved international consultative techniques, there should be a way of finding whether there is not a solution to the terrible antagonism which threatens so many countries in the Middle East outside those immediately involved.
Is it not a fact that we are so afraid of our oil supplies and of our sterling balances held by the oil companies that we lean over backwards not to show favour to Israel, which is a small emergent country needing our help? The Arab countries want the destruction of Israel, and the evidence of that is best found in the Covenant to which all the Palestine resistance organisations are signatories. The Palestine National Covenant is their manifesto. It was redrafted in 1968 and is intended for domestic consumption. It goes out of its way to deploy the argument that the destruction of Israel is imperative to their aspirations. Section 6 says:The Jews who normally resided in Palestine before the beginning of the Zionist invasion of it will be considered Palestinians.However, in Chapter C of the official commentary appended to the Covenant there appear the words:Whereas the Council considers that agression against the Arab nation and its territory had already begun with the Zionist invasion in 1917, therefore the annulment of 413 the results of aggression means the annulment of all that has happened since it began, and not merely since the war of June, 1967.In view of that, it seems strange to hear people talk about Israel being an aggressor. It seems that if one sees a man advancing on one's home, armed to the teeth and with grenades slung round his belt, and one takes action to defend one's home, one is labelled an aggressor. It seems that if a nation sees a large number of armoured divisions converging on its borders from the direction of Sinai and it takes defensive action, in some quarters it is branded as an imperialistic nation.
It is very easy to complain against one side or the other. That is an easy argument to deploy. I have no wish to do other than to wish the people who live in the Arab-speaking countries the best possible world in which to live. Those of us who have worked or fought in Egypt know the tremendous poverty which exists in that country, to say nothing of the other Arab States, in spite of their great oil wealth. One would hope that much of the wealth now being devoted to propaganda in this country against Israel might be devoted to more useful purposes in developing the resources and the standard of living of those countries.
Many people have felt hurt and insulted by the article which appeared in The Times the day before yesterday. It was based on an apparent lack of evidence, on downright prejudice, and with a purport obviously intended to do as much damage as possible to those people who are defending their country in the State of Israel. Is it surprising to find that sort of article in The Times newspaper? Those of us who were politically conscious in the years 1938 to 1940 will remember the pretty friendly attitude of The Times to the Nazi Government. I am personally not surprised that that newspaper, which was friendly to the Nazi Government and its sinister and terrible anti-semit ism, should now see fit to publish an article like that.
I feel that one must try and be constructive in seeking a solution for this great quarrel in the Middle East. We are not a substantial military Power in the Middle East today. The great Powers which are now trying to reach some form of mutual policy on the problem are 414 Russia and America. Russia has to maintain her presence in the Middle East, and she can only do it by supplying arms to justify their that presence. With our expertise and our residual influence in the world, our job should be to put forward some new constructive idea which might go towards a long-term solution of the quarrel. I know that it is held in certain quarters that this is not an opportune moment at which to put forward ideas of this nature. I do not agree. If one reads what happened at the time of the publication of the Lowdermilk and Johnson proposition, there was resistance by the Arabs on the one side and hostility by Russia on the other. If one goes further back and reads the Great Water Survey Report by Mr. Ionides in the 'thirties, one can appreciate that water is probably an answer to the economic problems which confront the geographical area lying to the East and South of the Jordan River.
I would have thought that this country could serve a useful purpose by putting forward a proposition to the great Powers, including ourselves, France and the other technically forward countries, that there was a rôle which we could play to increase the fertility and the agricultural production of the area which I have just described. There is plenty of background information to go on and, with the new techniques, I feel that something like that would meet with approval. Certainly it would among Jewish people who wish to use the expertise and the quality of their intelligentsia which lies fallow at the moment.
Travelling from the great kibbutzim in Israel and crossing into the old Arab-held territories, one cannot but be amazed at the poor agricultural development in those Arab territories. I am not blaming the Arabs. I merely say that it is a problem which should be looked at seriously.
It may be that the Arab countries suffer from the fact that their intelligentsia does not tend to go on to the land or address itself to agricultural problems. The intelligentsia amongst the pioneers of Israel, on the other hand, went on the land and converted Israel into one of the most agricultural productive countries in the world. The intelligentsia of Israel went on to the land. That of 415 the Arab countries goes towards the towns and participates in the least desirable forms of political propaganda represented by what I call the Palestine resistance organisations.
Israel does not have the vast resources of money which it is pouring into this country for propaganda purposes. Israel tries to substantiate and justify its existence on the basis of the fact that a long time ago this country was a party to the establishment of a home and a national State in Isael. It does not make very big demands. The immense Arab populations surrounding it could do irreparable damage if they were co-ordinated. What we have to do is to provide at any rate the formula for a constructive idea which could be taken up at the level of the big countries, one would hope through such agencies as those provided by the United Nations Organisation.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)
The crux of the speech of the hon. Member for Lich field and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) is that, as Israel is more economically advanced, that presupposes that it should get more support and encouragement from the West than its less privileged neighbours.
I hope he realises that the logic of his argument means that he must support wholeheartedly the white minority in Rhodesia which clearly is infinitely more sophisticated and economically advanced than the four and a half million African population. It would be difficult to dispute that the Afrikaaners in South Africa are also more economically advanced than the Bantu. If he accepts those facts, his argument has some logic. If he does not, he falls into the conventional double-standard which so many people adopt when they discuss the problems of Israel and the Arab world.
I was pleased that the Foreign Secretary, in his opening remarks, referred to the Lebanon in such friendly terms and that this was taken up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), because the Lebanon has always performed a useful mediating rôle and always tried, where possible, to maintain a peaceful attitude. It was, of course, 416 rewarded for its pains by the Beirut raid in which 95 per cent. of its civil airline was blasted by a group of Israeli commandos. Although the damages were substantially paid by Lloyd's, this operation started the traumatic political development in the Lebanon which is partly responsible for the events happening there today.
To take up the moral point made by the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tam-worth, I see two moral points. The first is that Israel is there as a State, and there to stay. It is recognised by the United Nations and we were substantially responsible for its creation. It is therefore right that we should be concerned to see that in any settlement which is achieved there shall be guaranteed frontiers and an acceptance of Israel in the Arab world. But there is another. The Balfour Declaration had two parts. Part set out the aim of the creation of a national home for the Jews in Palestine, but Part 2 gave a guarantee and a pledge that this would not affect the rights of the indigenous population of Palestine. A large proportion of the indigenous population of Palestine is today situated in refugee camps on the East Bank of the Jordan, and in other Arab countries, and any settlement which considers morality and has any hope of success must take both these parts into consideration.
I am pessimistic, because I see a deteriorating situation in the Middle East, and it is inevitable that this should be so if there is not a settlement. I remember going there immediately after the June war and seeing the appalling conditions prevailing in the refugee camps. I then wrote an article with a colleague in The Times. I was convinced that unless a settlement was achieved fairly soon the situation would inevitably get worse. The Palestine Resistance Movement, to which the hon. Member has referred, was at that time a small force easily controllable by the various Arab Governments, but it has escalated into a major force not easily controllable by anyone and a force to be reckoned with.
I still hope that the formula laid down in the United Nations resolution and first put forward in a debate in this House by my right hon. Friend, which aims at establishing demilitarised zones with United Nations troops situated there and borders guaranteed by the Great Powers, might 417 yet lead to some kind of settlement. But to achieve this the United States of America would have to decide to play a much more decisive rôle in the affairs of the Middle East than it has done in the past two years. It will have to put pressure on Israel just as the Soviet Union may have to put pressure on some Arab countries. We also have a real contribution to make, but perhaps the most important is to convince the United States to act and to act now. I shall be very interested to hear what substantial proposals we have and intend to put forward at the Four Power Conference, which I believe is to start again quite soon.
The hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth made a slanderous attack on the Foreign Editor of The Times, who is an extremely distinguished student of the Middle East, a man of great objectivity. Anyone who knows him is aware that for many years he has tried to work very hard for understanding between Israel and the Arab countries. I believe that his article two days ago, which obviously was so bitterly resented by the hon. Member, helped to bring to the attention of the people of this country the reality of what is happening in the occupied territories. It was much better that it should be written by the Foreign Editor of The Times, who has been there and speaks Arabic, than that we should continue reading the reports written by an Israeli citizen which had previously been appearing in that paper. We then had to turn to Le Monde for the facts.
May I now turn to the prospects for federation in the Gulf, which the Government have been encouraging and which have received active support from the Opposition. I believe, as most hon. Members on this side believe, that the timing of the Government's announcement of withdrawal from the Gulf was extremely unfortunate and that the consquences have been entirely negative. Some of the consequences are still not fully appreciated, but on one point I think we are all in agreement—that we should like to see a federation come about.
On a recent visit to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, before the Conference of 20th October, I was very depressed about the speed of advance towards federation. When the Chancellor of the Duchy of 418 Lancaster replies to the debate, I hope he will say whether he feels that the British Government are doing enough to press for the establishment of the federation. I do not believe it is possible for this federation to come about unless we are more involved in the discussions. Obviously we cannot dictate terms—there is no reason why we should, and we are not in a position to do so—but my impression is that more could be done to help the talks to proceed and we could intervene more actively than we have been doing.
The situation in the Gulf, as everywhere else in the Middle East, is fraught with tension. When we debate the Middle East we are always left with the gloomy feeling that not enough is being done, although good intentions are expressed. Those of us who visit the Middle East regularly feel that the situation is deteriorating, and unless active steps are taken now it may get out of hand again with dire consequences for Britain and the West. I wish I were confident that every conceivable step was being taken to make the United States aware of its responsibilities at this moment.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Why does not the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) come clean for a change? Why does he indulge in pretence and deception? Why does he make a speech in which he pretends to have an interest in the safeguarding of Israeli interests? Does not he recall the letters he wrote to The Times containing anti-Semitic utterances, with the clear indication that, whatever happens, he wants to see the Arabs destroy the State of Israel? Does he forget all that?
§ Mr. Walters
On a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman has indulged in the conventional Zionist form of blackmail, that one cannot criticise Israel without being accused of anti-Semit ism. Should not the right hon. Gentleman withdraw?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not enter into a debate in the guise of a point of order.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Gentleman cannot take it. He has been getting away with this sort of tripe for some time. However, there is nothing to prevent him 419 from leaving. I should be delighted if he left, because I do not like to be associated with him in any shape or form. This may be regarded as strong language, but I am getting a little tired of his type, and it was about time that this was said in the House.
Is it not remarkable that the hon. Member forgot what he said in the debate on 17th June? Why not a word about his encouragement to the Government to provide Chieftain tanks for Libya? On that occasion the hon. Gentleman, along with some others—my hon. Friends the Members for Monmouth (Mr. Anderson) and Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), who is absent—[Interruption.]—who is the hon. Member for Monmouth, then?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Yes, as I thought. I have it all here. I have hardly started yet. I am only just getting warmed up. It is about time something was said to correct the impressions to which these hon. Members give such loud voice. Does the hon. Member for Westbury recall that in the debate on the question whether the British Governement should supply tanks to Libya—to the constitutional Governement of Libya—he was under the impression that the tanks had already been supplied, as were my hon. Friends the Members for Monmouth and for Woolwich, East, as was the hon. Member for a constituency in Yorkshire? I forget the name of constituency, but it does not matter, nor does the hon. Gentleman himself matter very much. Do these hon. Members recall that every one of them encouraged the British Government when the foreign Secretary declared that tanks had been provided for the Government of Libya?
Now we discover that tanks have not been provided at all. I asked my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary today whether the tanks had been provided, and he agreed that they had not. Why did the Government on that occasion, and why did those hon. Members, declare that it was desirable to provide Cheiftan tanks for the Government of Libya to defend themselves against aggressions, without indicating what kind of aggression was likely?
420 What have we got in Libya? It is not a constitutional Government. There is a military, revolutionary junta. The British Government are now proposing to engage in negotiations with them.
I will now mention something from The Times—the story about 160 men of a particular regiment whom the Government desire to remove from Libya to Gibraltar in the first instance and difficulties have been placed in their way by the so-called Libyan Government. What are the Government intending to do about this? What action are they taking? Are they taking it lying down? What are they afraid of? Have not they provided arms for Libya? Are not the Libyan Government a Government whom they like, and are they not a friendly Government? That is what my right hon. Friends said about them on 17th June. It was not a case of their merely being friendly in the past. Here was a declaration about the future—that this Government in Libya would continue to be friendly and accept the treaty provisions that had been agreed some years ago. What hypocrisy.
What I want to say is this, and it may as well be said. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was responsible at least for an error of judgment. I think that is putting it mildly. In the past, within my memory, when Ministers were responsible for errors of judgment they were jettisoned. But now other times, other manners. It is an extraordinary situation. There is no defence for what was said on 17th June. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy can find some defence. I know of none.
I come now to the crux of the question concerning the Middle East. I put the question in an interjection during the speech of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and, indeed, the members of the Government—no doubt my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy will repeat this—stand by the Resolution of the Security Council. They have repeated this ad nauseam. It has been said by hon. Members in various parts of the House.
This in effect means that Israel must withdraw—there must be a gesture from Israel, withdrawal. Moreover, this should 421 be done without any indication whatever, not even an implication, that the four Powers or the United Nations or any organisation or any country would seek to safeguard the interests of Israel in the event of an aggression against her. Yet we are asked to agree that Israel should withdraw to her previous borders—withdraw from Jerusalem, withdraw from the Golan Heights in Syria—and leave herself completely unprotected, without any guarantee of protection in the future.
Is it any wonder that there is emerging in the State of Israel—it was obvious in the elections which took place yesterday—a hardening of opinion? My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said today that, if we do not find a political solution, there will be a hardening of the position and of opinion in the Middle East. This is precisely what may happen in the State of Israel. We have had a very moderate Government in Israel—the Government of Golda Meir—a Government ready to make compromises. Indeed, they said so. The Ambassador to the United States said so more than once in the United Nations. I believe that they meant what they said.
Now there is a danger of a hardening of opinion by a nationalist section in Israel. That was obvious from yesterday's elections. It is a very dangerous situation, because, once they become entrenched, once they make up their minds, once they realise that there is no country—no United Nations—ready to come to the protection of Israel, either by means of defence in the form of weapons or in any other fashion, it becomes a hardening situation. That can only end in conflict and in chaos. I do not blame the Israelis for asking for more weapons in that situation. There is far too much deception and pretence about the whole business.
It may be alleged against me—the hon. Member for Westbury has absented himself now, at my request—that this is a Zionist attack. I have never been a Zionist. I have never associated myself with the Zionist Movement. I became interested in Israel when she resorted to defence against aggression, strange as it may seen, because I thought that it was about time Jews defended themselves.
I did not like what had happened in Germany in the Hitler period. I did not 422 like the idea of millions of Jews being sent to gas chambers. It has always been my philosophy to defend myself by various means at my disposal; and I wanted to see Jews defending themselves. They were entitled to defend themselves against the threats of aggression, the threats by Nasser and the others that Israel would be driven back into the sea. Can anybody doubt that, if the Israelis did withdraw to their previous borders, they would be overwhelmed by the might of the Arab States?
Let me make it clear beyond any peradventure, even if my word is doubted, that I have no animus against the Arabs. Why should I? I want the Arab States to develop and become prosperous. I want the fellaheen and the peasants to live in decent habitations with a standard of living as good as that of the Israelis and of ourselves. I remember when the late Ernie Bevin began to take an interest in the Middle East. I supported his view then because there was far too much poverty there. I have been in Egypt and I have seen it. I deplore what exists there and I want to see a change. It may be that Israel, with her technological and scientific knowledge and economic expertise, could help in the development of the people in the Arab States. I should like to see that happen. However, that will not happen if we rely upon resolutions from the United Nations. I listened to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State talking about the United Nations. It is a very fine organisation, but what effect does it have? Let us be honest about this. Apart from the various agencies on the periphery of the United Nations, dealing with health, welfare and education—I applaud all that and wish to encourage its progress—what achievement is there to the credit of the United Nations?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Take, for example, Czechoslovakia. Here was a case in point where Russia, a member of the Security Council, one of the four Powers, was expected to come to a decision about the Middle East—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am talking about the four Powers dealing with the Middle East. One would have expected the 423 United Nations to step in. We might have had even a gesture or one of U Thant's famous speeches. I would have expected my right hon. Friend, who I know is sympathetic to the Czechoslovakian people—he could not be otherwise because of his philosophy with which we are all familiar—at the Assembly or at the Security Council to have said to the Russian Foreign Minister, "Do not you think you ought to stop this nasty business? Why are you interfering with Czechoslovakia?" Perhaps he has done so—
§ Mr. M. Stewart
If my right hon. Friend will study the speech I made at last year's General Assembly after the Czechoslovakia incident, he will see that I did that.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am very glad to hear that, but what effect did it have? It requires the might of all the elements in the Assembly and the threat of a United Nations peace-keeping force, irrespective of Russia. But how dare we talk in that fashion? It is out of the question.
The same applies to the Lebanon. Look at the situation there. There are guerrillas encouraged by Nasser. I understand,Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it is unparliamentary to say anything nasty about a reigning monarch. However, I can allow myself to think about it, since my views about that gentlemen, if expressed, might not be agreeable to hon. Members. Nasser is encouraging the guerrillas against the constitutional elements in the Lebanon. Does the United Nations interfere? Have we had a word from U Thant about it? Not a word. These pundits, these wise men of the Security Council pass a resolution. It is easy to pass resolutions. I can think of many resolutions passed even by my own party which were not implemented—and resolutions passed by the Conservative Party for that matter. A resolution was passed stating that Israel must withdraw to its own borders, but there was not a word about safeguarding Israel's interests.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
That is not true. The resolution contains many other provisions which, if they were carried out by both sides, would, we believe, provide security for both sides. To say that it is a one-sided resolution merely calling 424 upon the withdrawal of Israel from the territory is untrue.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is the principal element of the resolution. This is the argument that has been used by members of the Government. The Foreign Secretary did so today. He talked about Israel carrying out that part of the resolutionand withdrawing to her borders. If it does not mean that, the whole thing is meaningless. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) can have his own opinion.
§ Mr. Shinwell
One never can tell with some people. There is a difference between making speeches with sound and fury and then, when it comes to the point of facing up to the issue, running away from it. I do not run away from it. I want the people in the Middle East to live in harmony, happiness and contentment.
§ Mr. Shinwell
My hon. Friend talks about resolutions. There are resolutions in the Tribune for which I pay 1s., but they never come to anything.
§ Mr. Shinwell
There are too many difficulties and obstacles. I have no solution to the Middle East problem. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is right, that the only possibility is a political solution. Goodness knows, I do not want to see chaos and massacre out there, with hundreds of thousands of men being killed off. Of course, I do not. Does anybody think that I do? There certainly will be no solution so long as we rely exclusively on the resolution of the Security Council.
I want to say a word about the Common Market. Hon. Members like my hon. Friends the Member for Monmouth, Woolwich, West and Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) want Chieftain tanks to be sent to Libya, and they are all pro-Common Market. The Prime Minister said recently that there should be more public discussion about 425 it. So there should be. We ought to have a debate on the Common Market devoted exclusively to the question "in or out?" I am an unrepentent anti-Common Marketeer. I have made up my mind about it. Some people say that we should begin negotiations. They say "Let us deal with the economic factor, with the question of technological and economic co-operation." Of course, we cannot do that. I recognise that once we agree, we go the whole way, and I do not want this country to enter the Common Market. What does it mean? I know something about European defence. Once we go into Europe there will be a political objective, a political goal, and a defence aim. And in the end, we cannot rely on conventional weapons, and must resort to nuclear weapons, in the situation that exists in Europe and because of the attitude of the Soviet Union. That is what much of the argument has been about.
I hope that my right hon. Friends will not be caught napping by all this talk of Willy Brandt and by his friend, the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown), who is a fanatical Common Marketeer. He seems to have an idea that if we go into the Common Market he may be the big boss. Of course they want us in; of course Willy Brandt wants us in for defence purposes. I can understand his point of view; we have a nuclear potential and it would be useful in an emergency.
They want us in, but the question is: do we need to go in? There has been discussion about the alternatives. My righthon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) has promoted an alternative, a viable Atlantic consortium. I recognise his knowledge in matters of this sort, but I do not care very much about that either. I no more want to be dominated by Rome, Brussels or Paris than by Washington, although that I know the Americans are nice people.
My right hon. Friend said today that we cannot turn our backs on Europe. Why should we turn our backs on Europe? We want to trade with Europe. We are trading with Europe, we export a great deal to Europe and import a great deal from Europe, and that should continue. Of course I want technological 426 co-operation and the exchange of know-how, but it is a different matter when it comes to surrendering our sovereignty. I agree that we have to abandon some of our sovereignty, as we do in the United Nations and in N.A.T.O., but I do not want this country to abandon all its sovereignty. I want this country to be independent, and to co-operate with every other country, not merely in Europe but elsewhere, for the good of the world. I have no doubt that some people will say that this is an old-fashioned idea. It may be an old-fashioned idea, but it is a very good idea. In other words, I stand for Britain. I know that some people say that this is a platitude, a cliché, but I do.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will not take offence if I say that I like every word in his peroration, but I do not care much about the rest of his speech. I will tell the House why. He spoke about this country and reminded himself that this was still a great country. He said that we are a people of character, quality and integrity, and so on. He spoke with great passion, feeling and eloquence about the characteristics with which we are familiar. I agree with every word he said, hut, if we are such a great people, then we can become still greater. Why should we subordinate ourselves to Pompidou or Brandt or anybody on the Continent? I am ready to meet them, to discuss matters and to co-operate with them, but not to the extent of abandoning our sovereignty. That is my decision. If they do not like it they can lump it. I do not believe that it is a good issue at the next General Election.
The Prime Minister said the other day that we should not pay much attention to the public opinion polls, which seem to be veering round against joining the Common Market. But the Prime Minister should not ignore public opinion polls. He likes public opinion polls when they indicate that he is regarded as a much superior person to the Leader of the Opposition.
I cannot understand—perhaps someone will explain to me—why the public opinion polls should be against the entry of Great Britain to the Common Market, in spite of all the propaganda and expenditure. Con O'Neill has been taken back into the Foreign Office, to assist, at a salary of £10,000 a year. Is that 427 necessary? Surely the Foreign Office could have got on as well without him. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy, for whom I have great regard for various reasons, is now seconded to Europe. He is to pay a visit to Israel shortly, but according to The Times, which is never wrong, except when its foreign editor writes a lot of nonsense, he is to go to Israel, to see Golda Meir and so on, but he will resist any demand for Chieftain tanks for Israel. He has made up his mind. How does The Times get this information?
My right hon. Friend is looking after Europe in our interests, but I suggest to him that it would be better to look after British interests in Great Britain, or in Scotland where he comes from. Dundee could do with a little more help. For example, the jute industry is not in a happy condition at the moment. Many things could be done in his own constituency.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire is a wise old bird—not like the Leader of the Opposition. He knows his stuff. He is a professional, not an amateur. He knows very well that going into the Common Market is a lot of poppycock. He knows Scotland would get on quite well without going into the Common Market, and he can run his farms without going into the Common Market, in fact run his farms better than if we went into the Common Market. Why does he then say that one day we might consider going in if negotiations are satisfactory? We can imagine what will happen when negotiations start; we shall be at each others' throats. I do not want to see that happen. Let us stay where we are and make the best of what we have, and I think that we can make a good job of it.
My advice to the Government is this. I am not suggesting that we should send Chieftain tanks to Israel. Now that the Government have decided not to send Chieftain tanks to Libya, it is better to keep them here. But do not let anyone say that we provided tanks for Libya when we did not.
As to the Common Market, forget all about it; it is just a lot of nonsense. This country does not want it; this country can do without it, and, if Europe 428 cannot get on without us in the Common Market, it is just too bad. We will do what we can to help them by any co-operation that we can afford, and leave it at that.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
It would be a terrible thing if the high quality of the speeches delivered from the back benches on the Government side meant that the person making such a speech found his way quickly on to the Front Bench. The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) so often qualifies himself by his speeches, but it would be a tragedy if he were ever to be promoted again to the Front Bench. We have to thank the Prime Minister for allowing him to remain where he is and to make such vigorous contributions to our debates. I do not go with the right hon. Gentleman on those rare occasions when hon. Members on both sides find themselves in the same Lobby on the question of the Common Market, but I respect his views. If he has made up his mind already, and if, perhaps, he gives us the impression that he is not listening to the other side of the argument, at least we know that it is an honest mind, and we know that he is firm and sincere in his conviction about what is good for this country.
We heard earlier today a speech from the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) which also makes one feel that the Prime Minister should be thanked for enriching our back benches on the Government side with wisdom, sincerity and a concern for the under-developed countries of the world. I shall speak now about one area of the world which is under-developed and which is subject to great conflict still.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman so early in his speech. I fully agree with him about the excellent quality of the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), but will the hon. Gentleman agree that what matters is not the quality of speeches when one is not in the Government but what one does when in the Government?
§ Mr. Crouch
Yes, I agree. There is some wisdom in that observation.
429 My concern tonight is Nigeria. The passage in the Queen's Speech which disturbs me is that which refers to the conflict there:My Ministers will remain ready to assist in any way they can to bring peace to Nigeria and VietnamI am particularly glad that the Foreign Secretary is back in the Chamber again and that the Chancellor of the Duchy is here, too. About 18 months ago, I was a member of a deputation—the only one from my party which came to see the Chancellor of the Duchy in his office here in the Palace. Our object was to implore him to reconsider the whole problem of the civil war which had started in Nigeria.
Speaking of the Middle East conflict, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said in his speech today that it was essential for us to maintain a neutrality of position if we were to be able to seek, or to help in seeking, a solution to that conflict. I believe that the same requirement is essential for the Government as they face this other conflict which has not so far been mentioned today.
Last year, we had three debates on the Nigerian war. Seven months ago, on 13th March, the problem of Nigeria was considered with great care. Not only were there pleas for a cease-fire and for relief supplies made at that time, but the House tried to ascertain the reasons for the Government's support for one side in the civil war. We sought from the Foreign Secretary an explanation for their failure to maintain a neutrality of position. The answer given was that there was a danger of giving way to tribal pressures in Africa and of opening the way for fragmentation and Balkanisation.
On that occasion, I tried to show the wrongness of that assumption in the Nigerian conflict, and I shall do so again now. In my belief, we are still supporting an insupportable idea, the idea of one Nigeria, through thick and thin, through force of arms, British arms. That idea has been tried and tested now for over two years in the fire of war, and it has shown less and less sign of ever being true as the Government see it. If Federal Nigeria wins this bloody war, Biafra will remain, forged in the heat of battle, its 430 short history written in the blood of its people, and its meaning written into the hearts of free people everywhere.
I do not believe in the theory of one Nigeria, although I like its aim. It is intended for the common good, for the growth and development, not only economically but politically, of many different peoples in the Nigerian Federation. It is a good aim. This great country which was created in 1960 could have become a great Power in the African continent, and the aim of one Nigeria is still a good aim to take as the standpoint from which to reconsider the whole of the Government's Nigeria policy.
Unity could still just be possible after this war. The Chancellor of the Duchy spoke in the debate on 27th August last year and he referred to the question of unity. I know the right hon. Gentleman's occupation in the Foreign Office is to look towards Europe, but I hope that he will not forget when he speaks tonight that once he looked to Africa, and once he believed in the possibility of unity, though through hideous difficulties. This is what he then said:There are many degrees of federation or confederation, and it must be possible to find from among them a form of society which would enable all Nigerians to prosper together."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th August, 1968; Vol. 769, c. 1445.]I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman made that observation then, undaunted by the hideous and complex difficulties which face the Government in trying to assist towards a solution, especially at a time of war and, above all, civil war.
I believe, as I have said, that it is just possible to see the end of this war and unity emerging again, with Biafra federated, confederated, or linked in some way and not entirely separate. It will be possible if given a chance now, but time is not on our side. The chance will not come from bullets or bombs, and neither will it come from starvation. It will not come from bludgeoning a people who want to be free. It can come only, in my opinion, from a belief in those people that the opportunity for freedom still exists. This is one of the oldest pleas ever made in a free assembly, a plea which has been heard in this House down the centuries.
We could help to create the conditions for a new chance in Nigeria, not only for 431 peace but for unity as well, but these new conditions will have to stem from a new basis, from a new policy altogether, a policy related to the situation in Nigeria now and not recreated from the entrenched beliefs of another age and a previous chapter in Britain's history in Africa.
It is no good basing this new thinking on the original clauses which we inserted into the marriage settlement which we devised for the former Nigerian Protectorates of the north and south at the end of the last century. It was never a happy marriage, and it was never expected that it would be, but the idea developed that out of that union a great nation would emerge, a nation which we subsequently called Nigeria. That was a big idea. Ideas were big in those days of Empire. It was even a workable idea so long as strong British rule was the order of the day.
But out of that marriage came not one child, but 12. The task that we had to face in 1960 at the time of independence being granted to Nigeria was to recognise the difficulties of making 12 go into one, and we have seen the experiment fail and a civil war break out. I must remind the House—and this is the first reference to this subject—that one and a half million people have died, and that people are starving, and still we say that we support the nineteenth century concept that 12 into one must be made to go.
That is why I say to the Foreign Secretary and to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that we must break away from the old concepts, from the entrenched beliefs of British planning for the shaping of nations to inherit the former colonial pattern. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman should turn instead to the task of stopping the war and creating the new conditions which I have suggested, the new conditions of unity which we must hope will emerge when the fighting has stopped.
It was Sir Winston Churchill who issued a memorandum in 1942, at the time of one of the bleakest periods in British history. The memorandum was to the effect that he looked forward to the time when there would be a détente between France and Germany after the conflict. He did not then seek to sub- 432 jugate our enemies, but rather to plan for their re-establishment as nations with their own rights and freedoms, and the same thinking applied to Japan. That was statesmanlike.
What has happened in Britain today? What has happened that the Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Office have failed to give us a statesmanlike lead? Have they forgotten our history? Has the Foreign Secretary forgotten his responsibility to lead his staff and his Cabinet in such statesmanship? Let the right hon. Gentleman give such a lead today, not only to his advisers, but to this House of Commons, to the people of Britain, to the peoples of Africa, and to people all over the world.
The lead that he should give is to stop taking sides in this civil war, to stop the supply of arms to the Federal Government now. Far from this being a loss of influence in Lagos, I believe that it would be a major step towards reestablishing the influence of Britain as a great nation and a great lover of freedom everywhere. I speak very much from the heart. I believe that it could also be the beginning of the basis of a new unity in Nigeria once more, before it is too late.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr (Rochester and Chatham)
I would have wished to speak merely about the situation in Nigeria and Biafra, but this morning I received a letter concerning Vietnam. Its contents are so serious that I felt the House should know of them, and that the various cruelties to which the Vietnamese people are being submitted should be known not only to this House but to the world.
There are 1,400 women in a prison near Saigon—
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
For the convenience of the House, will the hon. Lady say who the letter is from?
§ Mrs. Kerr
It is from women in Vietnam. The prison in question is Thu Duc Prison, 12 kilometres from Saigon, where various methods of torture have been used on women. Some have had their mouths and eyes filled with caustic lime. Some have had their teeth broken. Some have had their faces slashed, they have had sharp-edged sticks pushed into their genitals, and some have been throttled to death.
433 I have the names of these women, and I shall give them to anyone who wishes to know them. I propose to give the House a few examples of what has been happening. Miss Le Tu Cam, a student, suffered the genital torture. Miss Nguyen Thi Bay, a teacher, had her teeth broken. Tran Thi Binh, a girl of 18, was stripped naked and ordered to parade before her torturers. After tying this girl's hair to her nipples, and pulling with all their might. the torturers then laid her on the ground. Her legs were forced apart while Captain Duong Ngoc Minh, the chief warden, ravished her genitals with a sharp-edged stick. Turns were then taken by the men to rape her until she lost consciousness.
On 21st August, at the same prison, because many of the prisoners were on hunger strike they were subjected to even more savage attacks, as a result of which Nguyen Thi Tan, aged 42, and Dang Thi Ranh, a girl of 16, died. Subsequently, the clothes of the older woman were removed and the chief warden trampled all over her body and face in order to intimidate the other women.
I mention those details to the House because I have long opposed the American aggression in Vietnam, just as I have opposed the apparent support of the Government and the Opposition for this war. I think that the American people themselves are now waking up to the hideousness of this war and beginning to recognise full well that they should never have become involved in it. I have given up-to-date examples of some of the horrors. There are many more with which I shall not trouble the House.
I ask that all the women in this prison should be set free. Further, I ask that their families should be allowed to visit them before they are freed. All torture should be stopped, not only in Vietnam, North and South, but all over the world. We know very well that torture goes on in certain Western States which the British Government support. All torture should be banned. The British Government should speak out against torture of any kind. The world has to grow up and mature.
In spite of many difficulties, Britain is still greatly admired throughout the world. Having travelled a great deal, I know this to be true. But there is not much time left. One finds great respect 434 for Britain wherever one goes, but people are disappointed when they turn to us and find that in London and the British House of Commons they do not get the response which they had expected from a Labour Government, or, for that matter, from a British Government of any party.
I will move briefly to discuss my visit to Federal Nigeria and Biafra. I had the interesting experience of meeting General Gowan in Lagos and General Ojukwu in Owerri. I had discussions with both men and I was greatly impressed by the feeling that both seemed to have that the wretched and horrible war in Biafra should come to a speedy end. General Gowon said, "This is a war between brothers and sisters; I want to see it ended".
He is not one of the hawks, but he has hawks behind him. Just as there are hawks in the United States of America, so there are in Federal Nigeria. He said that although he was not himself able to discuss directly with his previous friend, General Ojukwu, the problem of bringing about peace in Nigeria, he would be glad to send his deputies to do so. General Ojukwu feels that he himself cannot leave Biafra while the fighting continues, because he is commander-in-chief, Head of State and the head of the military forces in Biafra.
In Vietnam we have indirect influence, important but indirect. In Nigeria, the largest community in Africa, we have direct influence. So far we have not made the right decisions. I wish to be as constructive as I can. I have no great knowledge of the background of the African situation and I know that one of our Ministers is now in East Africa, in Tanzania, discussing certain matters with people who feel as some people in this country feel about ending the war.
I feel that there is something terribly wrong in the sense that the mass media of this country are playing down the war while the Government are not playing it up to the extent they should. Perhaps 2 million people have died in Nigeria. I have seen dying and wounded soldiers in Lagos. I have seen dying men in Biafra. I have seen in Biafra children whose parents were no longer with them. I have seen tiny children dying.
These things were not brought to my attention emotionally. I felt that I was 435 allowed to see the situation in Biafra fairly. I did not feel that matters were brought to my notice so that I would return to Britain to express an emotional viewpoint. In my discussions with General Ojukwu and his senior Ministers, I sensedan absolute determination on the part of the Biafrans to continue the war. Apart from anything else, they are frightened. The figures quoted vary, but thousands have been murdered, were murdered before the war began. It is said that 70,000 were murdered in the north.
In this serious and desperate situation I am distressed that the British Government should continue to send arms to Federal Nigeria. It was originally thought on the advice of the High Commissioner in Lagos that the war would be over in a few weeks. This was incorrect information. We now have a new High Commissioner in Lagos, Sir Leslie Glass, whom I had the pleasure of meeting. I do not know what he thinks, but he told me that he had been there for five weeks, having come from the United Nations, and was there to learn.
It is time for Britain to take a fresh look at its policies on Federal Nigeria and Biafra and its policies on Vietnam. The people of Britain are awaiting a change of heart, a change of direction by this Government before they will decide to give them their support when the next election comes. War is a disease and we must talk to people in these terms and stop sending arms to Nigeria and the Midle East. We should stop having an arms salesman, and until we do the people of this country will not believe in us. they will not believe in Socialism—and we are here, on this side of the House, as Socialists.
§ 6.50 p.m
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
The hon. Lady the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr) spoke about Vietnam and Biafra. I should like to say a few words about Biafra in a little while. Those of us who have seen anything of the operations in Vietnam do not need the hon. Lady to tell us that this is a hideous war. It is hideous on both sides. I sometimes think that we hear more of the terrible atrocities committed, or said to have been 436 committed, in the South than we do about the atrocities committed or said to have been committed by the Viet Cong. The hon. Lady is quite right. In what Sir Winston Churchill called this terrible 20th century, torture, refined torture, scientific torture is becoming increasingly an instrument of State policy in various parts of the world. This "terrible 20th century" is also seeing the refined and scientific use of propaganda.
I do not know how authentic is the document produced by the hon. Lady. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) rose and sought elucidation he did not obtain it. I do not know what importance we should attach to the document from which the hon. Lady read.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr
If I am able to supply the precise methods by which these women were tortured would the hon. Gentleman accept it?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
What the House is concerned with is the authenticity of the document and the statements contained in it. I agree with her on this, that Her Majesty's Government and the other member Governments of the United Nations are signatories to the Convention on Human Rights which has pronounced against such terrible things. I will also say to the hon. Lady that there is a tendency in all of us, certainly one which I have to watch in myself. When we have strong feelings about causes in different parts of the world, there is a tendency to be less concerned about the methods employed by the side for which one has the greatest sympathy. Certainly the Government is a signatory of the Convention which has pronounced against such inhumanities and I am sure that in replying tonight the right hon. Gentleman will be happy to reaffirm the British point of view.
The Foreign Secretary started the debate on the United Nations. I thought that the discussion of the United Nations was different from other discussions we have had. Time was when one practically had to discuss the United Nations with bated breath. For some people it was almost a counterfeit religion. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire made a 437 speech in the constituency of my noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) and ventured some constructive criticism, not of the United Nations as such, but of the way members of the United Nations behaved within that organisation, he was denounced vehemently and even viciously by the entire left-of-centre establishment.
But times have changed. Still the United Nations has a high priority in the Gracious Speech, but the Foreign Secretary expressed disappointment at the hopes raised by this organisation which have not been fulfilled. The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) was jocular but scathing about the political work of the United Nations, and I emphasise the word "political". Its political achievement has been imperceptible. Mr. Jarring has been working hard in the Middle East but the United Nations is not even seized of the main issues of peace and war and international security, whether it be in Vietnam or Biafra. These are mentioned in the Gracious Speech but are not matters with which the United Nations has felt able to deal.
My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) made an eloquent and moving speech on Nigeria. It is a matter to which he has given great attention. Recently I have been very troubled in my mind about the policy of Her Majesty's Government—I have always been troubled about that—but particularly by the bipartisan understanding which seems to exist on this matter. I can understand the arguments both ways, but if it be that the main argument for not agreeing to a ban on the export of British arms and military equipment is, "Why shouldn't we go on doing this because the other Powers certainly will not desist? For the Russians will supply Federal Nigeria, and perhaps the French or the Portuguese will supply Biafra"—if that is the argument, may I suggest that there be a suspension for a limited period of the export of British arms. This would enable us to see whether there was any response from the other countries supplying arms to either side in this terrible civil war.
The United Nations is, I fear, approaching a state of financial and moral bankruptcy. The right hon. Member for 438 Easington mentioned that one of the permanent members of the Security Council is the aggressor in Czechoslovakia. He also said that there had lately been elected to the Security Council as a non-permanent member the very country which has been an accomplice in the hijacking of an international aircraft and which still detains two of its passengers.
Now for the financial plight of the United Nations. The Foreign Secretary went into this a little when he was in New York and certainly Lord Caradon has said that neither our pockets nor our patience is unlimited. I am told that there is profligacy of expediture in the administration of the United Nations Organisation and that cost of documentation alone last year was £8,300,000. I am also informed that a British official, called Mr. Starkey, is working very energetically and has made a survey of the personnel of the United Nations. The House, custodian of the taxpayers' money—because vast sums are involved —would like to hear something about this.
The right hon. Member for Easington excluded the specialised agencies from his stringent observations on the Organisation, and good work is done by some of them. They, too, are spending a great deal of money. I do not know what are the new offices of the United Nations which are going up at Geneva at a cost of £22 million, for example. I am asking these questions because we do not know very much, and a great deal of British money is devoted to this Organisation and its offshoots. Parliamentary control is extremely difficult to apply. How can member Governments apply much control over the budgeting and expenditure of the United Nations? This is something which we should consider further in the House.
The Gracious Speech boldly says:My Government will maintain their application to become full Members of the European Communities and desire an early commencement of negotiations".Those of us who heard the Home Secretary's speech yesterday would not believe that he belonged to the same Administration, because it seemed to us that he was putting some of the strongest arguments for not joining the European Communities at all. Perhaps the next 439 sentence in the Gracious Speech is more to the point:They"—that is, the Government—will take a full part in promoting other measures contributing to European unity".While it is true that the future of the Common Market is in doubt and certainly the future of Britain's relationship with it is unknown, it is necessary to pursue European unity by other measures.
We know that the Common Market poses as well as solves problems. It poses problems for its own members as well as for those who have been trying to join it. We know that its agricultural policy is in chaos. We know that the Community is being drowned in butter. We know that the Eurocrats have been losing heart and that the workers in the administration in Brussels have been demonstrating because they have been losing faith in the future of their organisation. We know that if M. Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, who I understand is to reorganise the French Radical Party, is correct in his book "Le Défi Americain" which everybody quotes and some people have read, the Common Market has facilitated rather than withstood the economic and technological colonisation of the six European countries by the United States.
But whatever may be the future of the Common Market, and whatever may be the future of negotiations—I do not believe that negotiations are imminent at all—the most important fact for Europe and for the rest of the world has not been mentioned in this debate, namely, the Soviet-American détente and the determination, apparently, on both sides, to improve their relations one with the other. In this there is hope; but there are also dangers. It is a fact of supreme importance to consider when discussing the foreign affairs of Britain that today Washington is closer to Moscow on the big questions than to any Western European capital.
Therefore, while we should not advocate anyone giving up national sovereignty, certainly not Great Britain—because Europe is not a melting pot; Europe is not North America—what we should ask of Her Majesty's Government and of other European Governments is that they should act as European Govern- 440 ments. The Foreign Secretary shows no disposition to do anything of the kind. We are to maintain our application to join the Common Market, but when it comes to the things which really matter to the independence of Europe we are not to do anything. It seems that we are not to dream of a nuclear partnership for the defence of Europe. When it comes to questions like the nonproliferation treaty or reform of the international monetary system, or Nigeria/Biafra—although I must say that the French have a similar problem in Chad—we find that, generally speaking, Her Majesty's Government take the opposite view to the Europeans, and certainly the opposite view to the French.
I pass to a European problem which is dividing European countries—Gibraltar. In 1941, as a very young marine, I arrived in the Rock and was set to work putting up barbed wire in the neutral zone. A few weeks ago I returned to Gibraltar as a member of a Commonwealth Parliamentary delegation and found a similar situation. In 1941, we were preparing for apossible German break through Spain into Gibraltar. Again, today, Gibraltar is in a state of defence.
In what I say about Gibraltar I shall not say anything which is hostile to the Spanish people. I am still a member of the Anglo-Spanish Parliamentary Group. But Madrid's demand for Gibraltar recurs in our history at times of internal stress in Spain or of weakness and ineptitude in the United Kingdom. Spanish pride has always been sensitive to double standards which deny tolerance to her particular form of authoritarian Government and give it freely to the form of authoritarian Government in, for example, Yugoslavia.
The refusal to sell frigates to Spain was foolish.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
But the insult offered by the head of the British Government to the head of the Spanish Government was disastrous. At this time, when the Red fleet shows the Red Flag in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, hitherto the preserves of Western fleets, Spain should be concerting her defence and diplomacy with other European nations and manning the defences of Europe against common dangers.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I should have thought, in passing, that our Spanish friends might give a little thought to the demands which may well be presented for the surrender of Ceuta and Mellila, the two Spanish municipalities on the Moroccan mainland. I have no wish to see them dislodged from there.
But it is a very extraordinary position—and it was remarked on by my hon. Friend—
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I have not, because if I ended at this point my position would not be clear. I propose to complete what I have to say about Gibraltar if the hon. Gentleman will allow me to do so.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) said that it was surprising that so many European countries failed to stand by Her Majesty's Government at the United Nations. It is indeed surprising. Could it be that they are not sufficiently acquainted with the position? The Treaty of Utrecht, in Article X—and other treaties—is perfectly clear to anyone who can read. It states:The Catholic King"—that is, the Spanish King—yielded Gibraltar to the British Crown for ever without any exception of impediment whatsoever".There was the reasonable proviso:And in case it shall hereafter seem meet to the Crown of Great Britain to grant, sell or by any means to alienate therefore the property of the said town of Gibraltar, it is hereby agreed and concluded that the preference of having the same shall always be given to the Crown of Spain before any others.In other words, if Britain gives up Gibraltar, Spain should be allowed to take over.
§ Mr. Mendelson
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that he and his Anglo-Spanish Parliamentary Group, when they gave hospitality to Castiella, who was declared an enemy of this country when he served in the Blue Fascist Division as an ally of Hitler in the war, created the dangerous illusion in the mind of General Franco that we might be a push-over concerning Gibraltar?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I had no part in giving hospitality to or receiving hospitality from Senor Castiella or the Spanish Government. That is the answer to that rather irrelevant intervention. [Interruption.] It is desirable in the interests of this country that we should seek good relations with the people of Spain. I should have thought that that would be agreed on all sides.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
The Spaniards complain that the new Constitution of Gibraltar confers an independence incompatible with the Treaty of Utrecht. This is incomprehensible to me. The new Constitution expressly states in its preamble that Gibraltar is part of Her Majesty's dominions, and, in any event, Spain rejected Her Majesty's Government's proposal of reference to the International Court of Justice.
So we are in this position where we have to stand firmly by the people of Gibraltar in their desire to remain British,and I would hope that the hon Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) will agree with me about that. Does he agree with me about it?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
That the people of Gibraltar have the right to remain British and that we should stand by them.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I was only saying that the hon. Member could have expressed his case for the better if he had not given hospitality to a declared Spanish enemy of Great Britain.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I have answered that allegation, and I do not propose to so a second time.
Having seen Gibraltar recently, I would say that despite the pinpricks and the blockade and the unworthy manoeuvres at the United Nations, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South spoke, the people and garrison of the Rock have shown wonderful restraint, resource and fortitude. Sometimes they get a bit excited and a little worried. It is not surprising if they sometimes suffer from claustrophobia. Whatever may be said, and I have said it again today, about the previous conduct of the matter by the Government, the people and Government of Gibraltar are now convinced that they will not be coerced into departing from their allegiance. It was very comforting to see H.M.S. Eagle and very encouraging to see Dutch ships of the allied navy of Holland also at Gibraltar when the Spaniards were mounting their naval demonstration. The armed forces in Gibraltar are doing a wonderful job, not only in defence but also in helping the civilian population, and particular praise was heard everywhere of the Royal Irish Rangers. It was a refreshing experience to meet Major Peliza, the Chief Minister and his colleagues of the new Gibraltar Government, none of whom has had any parliamentary experience but all of whom are working with energy and devotion. It is a Government made up of the Right and of the Left, and perhaps that is not a bad thing when the territory is in a state of defence to have a left and right barrel to your gun.
The British Parliament and people have stood by the people of Gibraltar on previous occasions and I am sure they will stand by them again till the time comes when, without prejudice to the undoubted sovereignty of Britain, Spain can perhaps be accorded some special position in the fortress, which is of concern to the two countries and to all Europe.
When Europe is so discordant it is not surprising if the United States are weary of their commitments to the defence of our Continent. The United States has always been more a Pacific than an Atlantic Power. It is in the Far East where, if a third world war could start, 444 it might start. It is natural that the Americans should want to hand over, and right that Western Europeans should accept more, responsibility for their own defence.
I return to my earlier point, that whatever happens to the Common Market we must achieve common policies in Europe. European Governments must act as such, and soon. It is only Governments who can act, because Europe is a Europe of States and a Europe of nations, and that is the reality. Europe has got a plentitude of institutions, supranational—
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I was responding to your request, Mr. Speaker, and trying not to speak for too long. I am prepared to give way, if it is the wish of the House, but I think I should press on so as to allow more time for others to speak.
Europe has a plentitude of institutions, supranational and inter-governmental, bureaucratic and technocratic. What is required is common policy agreed by European Governments who understand that if they are going to stand upright they must stand together, and whatever hon. Members opposite may say, this common policy must in the end extend to foreign affairs, defence, both nuclear and classical, monetary co-operation and aerospace.
The forces against Europe are very formidable, but do not let us underestimate ourselves. I am glad that the Foreign Secretary thought there is still some life left in the old country. Let us repudiate the doctrine that our security is beyond our collective means, but a British Government to come would have to do better than this Government in providing forces that are needed. Europeans are more numerous and more ingenious than the Russians. The Russians now find themselves between a restless and resentful Eastern Europe and a chauvinistic China which is directing its racialism and revolutionary purity against the Soviet lead in the Communist world and its claim to lead the Third World. China is asserting its historical claims to Eastern 445 territory inherited by the Bolsheviks from the Czars. Unless the European nations act together not only our future in Europe but that of our Commonwealth partners—Europe for me is not a retreat from wider responsibilities, but a means to their discharge—will be made over the heads of us all by the super-Powers.
§ Mr. Speaker
I would remind the House that I shall be able to call others anxious to speak only if speeches are reasonably brief.
§ 7.18 p.m
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
The difficulty about these foreign affairs debates is that one is tempted to be drawn into a whole series of channels, and it is not appropriate that one should make a long speech, particularly at this time of night. I should, therefore, like to confine myself to the one subject of the British application for membership of the European Community. The debate has dealt chiefly with this subject and also the question of the Middle East.
I would only say one thing about the Middle East, although I should very much like to elaborate on that as well. Anyone who has seen the conditions in the Middle East, anyone who has followed this tragedy, during the war and after the war, must realise that there is an Arab case, but it is not a case which justifies a policy which is pronounced clearly to be a policy for the liquidation of the total population of a country, which is the, declared policy of some of the Arab Governments; and, therefore, so long as that policy exists, one must say that there is also an Israeli case. I shall not go further into that because I want to say a few words about some of the issues that have been raised in regard to the British commitment towards the European Community.
Having studied this question for many years and listened to the changing arguments used to try to prevent our joining hands with our neighbours in Europe, I must say I was rather taken aback when it was suggested, I think by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) that somebody had made it a condition that we should embark on a European nuclear force, as a condition for the opening of discussions on our entry into the Common Market. I do not know who is the person or the body supposed to have made this 446 suggestion or proposition, but it is the first I have heard of it, and I cannot imagine that anybody of any responsibility in the European Common Market has ever made such a proposition. It was, I think, my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) who seemed to suggest that it was the new Chancellor of Western Germany, Willy Brandt, who was making this monstrous proposition.
§ Mr. Hynd
I do not quite see the relevance of that interruption, But I should have thought myself that of all the countries and of all the individuals involved, this would be the last source of of such a proposition. One recalls that Germany has voluntarily renounced any desire to make or to store atomic, biological or chemical weapons, and has repeated this over and over again, even before the election of the present West German Government. One recalls that West Germany is the only country in the world, apart from Costa Rica, which does not have its own defence forces under its national command, and, at its own request and in pursuance of its own policy, is the only country in the Western Alliance which is completely incapable, so long as it is a member of the NATO Alliance under the present conditions, of launching any aggression against anyone, because its command and its resources are distributed throughout Western Europe and America under the direct control of the Americans and the British.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
If my hon. Friend did not want me to intervene, he should not have referred to me. In fairness to the new German Chancellor, it is important to make it quite clear, whatever my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) might have said, that when I intervened earlier I did not have Willy Brandt in mind. The evidence is that a member of the French Government, on British television a while ago, said that the joining of nuclear forces would be an important factor, and Herr Strauss in Westminster Hall not long ago 447 said that he was not interested in Britain joining unless she became a member of a nuclear alliance based on the Common Market.
§ Mr. Hynd
I have not got the words of the French Minister, and all my right hon. Friend said was that the development of a nuclear defence force in Europe would be a factor; he did not say in what. That is not a condition of our entering the Common Market. Perhaps my hon. Friend has overlooked the fact that the Government of which Herr Strauss was a member is no longer the government of West Germany. One might just as well quote one of the odd voices on the Opposition benches as the voice of Great Britain. Please let us be honest about this discussion of the Common Market, and not try to draw red herrings across the debate.
It is interesting to see how those who are determined that in no circumstances shall we enter the European Community have over the years changed their arguments; from the old argument that this was a Catholic plot to set up a Catholic hegemony in Europe. A few years ago this was a serious argument, the logic of which seems to escape those who adduced it. If there were in existence a Catholic bogey-man in Europe, the best way to deal with it would surely be for Britain, Denmark and other non-Catholic countries to join, so as to dilute it. The alternative is to leave this Catholic hegemony in Europe to develop and to become a threat to the pure Protestant world.
Then came the argument about dragging down the British workers to the wage levels of German workers, particularly the miners. This argument is not now used, for obvious reasons. The advance in the wages and the standards of living in most, indeed all, of the Common Market countries has far out-paced the development of the standard of living in our own country.
An opponent of our entry into the Common Market recently sought to draw attention to the high standard of living in Britain by arguing that French and other continental people were able to afford the air fare to London to shop at Marks and Spencers. By some curious logic this was intended to prove that we had a 448 higher standard of living than they had. I fail to see the logic of this.
Now we have the butter argument. Whatever the great objectives of the European Community—the bringing together of peoples in one common endeavour to increase the standard of living in their countries and to establish a basis for future peace amongst them—have been over-shadowed by the fact that the price of butter might go up. This trivial argument dominates the debate at the present time.
During the Recess I spent some time in the north of France staying with an elderly retired schoolmistress with no other income than her pension. She never bought margarine; it never occurred to her to buy anything other than butter. If one mentioned the price of butter she would say that relatively the price of butter was no more in France than in England because the conditions of living in France were better.
One must recognise that the 10s. a lb. for butter is a condition caused by the failure of the common agricultural policy in Europe. The Commission and other official sectors in the Common Market recognise that that policy has failed and that a new policy must be evolved, and they are working hard on it. The price of butter and of everything else will not therefore remain the same if a new policy is adopted. But, even if that were not so and the present agricultural policy were to continue, the target price for the agricultural produce in the Common Market is based on the conception of the Six countries as they are at present, making allowance for the conditions in those countries. That is how the target prices were reached.
§ Mr. Hynd
If Great Britain, the biggest food importer in the world, and Denmark, one of the biggest food producers in Europe, were to join the Common Market, the whole basis of agricultural food prices would be completely changed. Therefore, to argue about possible prices in five or ten years' time if we join the Common Market is to go into realms of unreality. We must decide what are the conditions at the time we enter the Common Market, and what provisions will be made to meet our 449 problems as provisions were made at the Messina and Rome Conferences to meet the problems of the Six.
An argument which was used in the past, and which has occasionally more recently been used by some hon. Members who are opposed to our joining the present European Community, is that we should only join a Socialist Europe. I often wonder what kind of Socialist Europe they have in mind. I hope it will not be the kind of Socialist Europe we see in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and other countries, in other words, a satellite Europe under the domination of the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. Anderson
It is worth reminding those who say "shocking" that social democrats like my hon. Friends and myself were among the first to be thrown into prison when the Socialists came to power in those countries.
§ Mr. Hynd
I am only saying that I hope that is not the case. If that is not the case, then the only alternative must be a democratic Socialist Europe. What does that mean? Must we wait until all the European countries have elected Socialist Governments and we have a Socialist Government ourselves? If it is to remain a democratic Europe, presumably there will continue to be elections to Parliaments, and it might happen that some, even the majority, of the Governments might cease to be Socialist, if only temporarily, after a few years. Do we then withdraw and break up the Community? Or do we find ourselves in the curious position that, if the worst came to the worst and we had another Tory Government in this country, we would be expelled by Socialist countries as unfit to keep company with them?
If one continues this argument, there is no sense in the idea that we will join only a Socialist Europe. If we want a Socialist Europe, then it is our responsibility to get into the Community and work together with the Socialists of Germany, of France, of Italy and of other countries in order democratically to elect a majority which will provide us with that Socialist Europe.
450 The final argument which is used is that deployed against any supra-national authority. Whether or not we join the Common Market, there must be a common approach to world problems by the European powers. We are basically Christian communities, we have the same general conception of human behaviour, and broadly the same kind of cultural development and commoninterests. Therefore, both inside or outside the Community, there must be common policies. How are we to ensure that these common policies are implemented unless there is a common authority to see that the proper decisions are taken and carried out?
It is beyond my comprehension that British Members of Parliament, and particularly Labour Members, should talk about joining a community in which we would accept common policies in regard to trade, commercial operations taxes, social standards, agriculture, transport, energy and all the rest, which involve the raising of considerable funds, but that it should be thought that this can be done without insisting from the beginning that there must be parliamentary control over the Executive which would be responsible for such funds and for such policies.
Many of these outdated arguments overlook, particularly on this side of the House, the fact that there is developing in the European Community the old Socialist conception of the breaking down of barriers between peoples, bringing them together in wider communities and pursuing the declared and unanimous objective of the Labour Party, the aim of ultimate world government. But we know that world government is not practical at present. It is not likely to be anywhere near unless and until there is an acceptance of democratic principles by the different countries of the world, and certainly acceptance of some common principles.
A group of European countries which have experienced two terrible world wars are convinced that they must make a start on some form of unity. And they are making a start. It would break my heart if a Labour Government, and the Labour Party, might prove to be the obstacle in the way of the realisation of this first step towards the old Socialist goal of a worldcommunity.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. John Hynd) has rehearsed many of the arguments in favour of applying for entry into the Common Market. Although I do not agree with everything he has said, I agree that there should be a "common approach to problems by European Powers." We live in an age when we have seen the inhabitants of other continents drawing much more closely together. But each time I go to Europe it is sad to see how far we are divided in Europe on so many issues. Yet in many ways, despite language differences, our approach to problems is the same. This is one of the strongest arguments in favour of our application. We should look to enlarging the Six and to drawing together a community of democratic states in Western Europe. Who knows?—perhaps one day there will be an even wider membership.
As Europeans, although we have slightly different parliamentary procedures and sometimes have to listen into each other's languages with the aid of earphones, we have a great deal in common. We come from similar and fairly old cultures which are distinguished by some fine examples in art, although on the other hand they are distinguished also by far too many wars. We have very much in common if we work together and very much to offer to the rest of the world.
The paragraphs of the Gracious Speech devoted to foreign relations do not evoke any enthusiasm in me since they are so cautious. I understand the need for the Foreign Office to be cautious, but when I checked up on the Queen's Speech of last year I saw that exactly the same wording was used to cover a number of problems with slight differences in punctuation. Could the speech not be more elegantly phrased or put in a slightly different way on another occasion? Even the promise of support for the United Nations is in exactly the same terms. There is a bare reference to the fact that its 25th year is approaching without any reference to any desire to see the United Nations working better possibly with changes in its organisation.
Those of us who remember the League of Nations will know that it had some 452 good features, some of which are not to be seen in the United Nations. Our support for the United Nations was emphasised, but I notice in the Queen's Speech no reference at all to Gibraltar. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs spelled out the difference between a resolution of the Security Council and a resolution of the Assembly. I was left wondering whether if General Franco could somehow fix a Security Council resolution about Gibraltar we should leave Gibraltar and forget all about our principles of self-determination to which many of us in this House have subscribed as have many of our predecessors. It struck me as a slightly dangerous argument.
My real quarrel with the wording of the Gracious Speech is that it gives the impression that there has been little change in Europe in the last year. This certainly is far from the case. We have seen new Governments in France, in Germany and in Norway within the last year. In the case of West Germany, we are likely to see a certain amount of change. I believe that President Pompidou will pursue policies slightly different from those of General de Gaulle, although he will be hampered by having to carry with him the old type of Gaullist.
We have seen a year of Soviet influence in Czechoslovakia, and that influence has been exerted more strongly in the political sense since the military invasion than one would have hoped was inevitable. That must slightly alter our assessment of Soviet intentions.
The conflict in the Middle East is more serious than it was last year. It has reached the stage of almost a perpetual mini-war. Some of the remarks which have been made about the situation are scarcely realistic. I do not take sides in the dispute, but if I were an Israeli I should wonder very much in present circumstances about withdrawing from areas which I occupy at present while other people were uttering the threats which are to be heard.
I come back to the E.E.C., which must be the centre of this debate. Our application is still on the table, but in this respect too things are changing. We have had tangible evidence of sympathy from M. Harmel of Belgium and also from Mr. Luns, who is a powerful figure 453 as Foreign Minister of Holland. Those of us who have had the opportunity to hear him speak will know that he is absolutely genuine in his desire to see Great Britain join the Common Market. We now have more fully on the scene the powerful figure of Mr. Brandt whom many of us have heard speak, and I am sure that these personalities will make a great deal of difference in our application.
On the other hand, it is only fair to admit that there have been certain other changes for the worst. We have seen the difficulties in the French economy and an upward valuation of the Deutschemark which have both threatened the whole of the farm policy of the Community. Remembering that many of my constituents are engaged in farming, the farm policy of the E.E.C. is an important factor in deciding whether or not they want to join. We know that there will be difficult negotiations in Brussels about the future of its farm policy and we shall await the outcome with a certain amount of anxiety.
Although I agree with the Gracious Speech that we desire to see early negotiations, I am sure that the farm policy must first be cleared. I am sure also that the Community itself will want to know more definitely the kind of Government with which they will have to deal in this country. The fact must be faced that, with a General Election likely to occur in the next year or so, whatever preliminary negotiations there may be, it will be difficult for the Community to sign on the dotted line until it knows more about our future.
I turn to the references to N.A.T.O. about which I am rather disappointed. In 1968 we promised to play an active part in N.A.T.O. as an essential part of European security. This year we have the extraordinary sentence which appears to look upon N.A.T.O. as the foundation for a détente between East and West.
I feel that things have altered slightly for the worst in regard to N.A.T.O. We have had the threat of Canadian withdrawals of troops and there are even indications that the United States may try to do the same in some degree. Wren troops are being withdrawn from Vietnam, once the idea starts to gain force and the troops return to the United States, there will be people in America 454 who will wonder whether their commitment in Europe is not too large at present. This is a weakness in N.A.T.O. The line has been advanced and it is questionable that that line could be fully manned. Because of our troubles in Northern Ireland we are having to consider the possibility of withdrawing troops from N.A.T.O. ourselves.
The situation in N.A.T.O is no better than it was a year ago. Some hon. Members had an opportunity during the summer to go to Norway and to inspect the Northern flank of N.A.T.O. From what we could gather of conditions there the general attitude of the Soviet troops across the border, although there are no Norwegian troops facing them, is more hostile than it used to be.
To switch to the Mediterranean flank, there has been the introduction of an increasing Russian fleet into the Mediterranean. We have heard this morning news that military facilities in Libya are to be refused to us in future, and this must alter the balance of power there. When one looks back over 15 or 20 years at the number of bases and training facilities which gradually we have had to give up in one or other part of the world, one begins to wonder where Britain's Mediterranean position rests. We have run down Malta very severely. It may be said that the Mediterranean does not matter any more, because even if the Suez Canal were dredged now the ships have become so used to going round the Cape that that will be the route of the future.
Then we must face up to a dilemma which must concern many hon. Members opposite about the importance of the Cape route. Vast numbers of tankers and merchant ships are going round it at present. They have abolished the South America station so there are no British warships permanently stationed there. It is true that as long as we are east of Suez many British warships on the way back from the east are calling at Cape Town. When that has come to an end there will be few British warships in the area to protect that route, which will become as important to us as the Mediterranean ever was. The situation must be faced fairly and squarely whether or not it fits in with our ideologies and the fact that many of us do not like the idea of 455 apartheid, and we have to face this issue and recognise where British interests lie. I do not know the right solution, but it is very difficult to refuse elementary naval equipment to the South African Government while withdrawing our ships and our own South Africa station so that we are not in a position to safeguard that route ourselves.
§ Mr. Digby
No, I will not give way.
The Foreign Secretary went on to refer to the European Security Conference which has been suggested by the Warsaw Pact countries. Obviously, this is an important proposal, but I was glad to hear him say that a Communist conference had taken four years to prepare and that it was essential to prepare any conference of the kind suggested well in advance. However, I thought that he was a little too favourable to the idea, and I am not sure that the timing of it is not purely tactical.
We all wish to see better relations between East and West. It may be that they will come and that the present difficulties with China will help us. But I am far from convinced that the time has come. Nothing could do more harm than to go into negotiations prematurely and so prejudice the whole future of East-West relations when eventually they could be put on a better basis. Because of the Chinese situation and for other reasons, I see indications that we could come to a better understanding with the Soviet Government and the Eastern zone, but it would be the greatest mistake to rush into a conference which may have been suggested for other motives, such as the attitude in Eastern countries to the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Although one cannot criticise the wording of the Gracious Speech, I am sorry that it has not produced a more positive line on foreign policy and done 456 more to recognise the changing Europe in which we live. It is a Europe which is changing not entirely to our advantage. E.E.C. is important, but it has to be recognised that the position of N.A.T.O. is weaker than it was. If we are unfortunate enough to have the same Government in office at this time next year, I hope that we shall get slightly more positive policies and that we shall not see the same old wording trotted out to describe our relations with the United Nations and the rest of the world.
§ 7.50 p.m
§ Mr. Derek Page (King's Lynn)
I wish to refer to a decision which faces my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary in the very near future. It is a difficult and painful decision which cannot be dodged. My right hon. Friend will have to decide soon how we are to vote on the expulsion of Greece from the Council of Europe.
I will not go into a long catalogue of the brutalities and tortures which have occurred in Greece. Anyone who doubts them cannot have an ear to listen or an eye to see. On two visits within the last year or so, I have seen conclusive evidence and have met people who have been brutally tortured by the Greek régime. These people are not members of any anti-democratic group. They are people who have been long associated with the struggle against Communism, but they are now rotting in gaol and are subjected to beatings and deprivations of all kinds. Their families have been friends of Britain for more than a century and helped us greatly during the war. They are beginning to despair of the democratic process as a means of settling their differences.
The whole centre of politics in Greece is being obliterated rapidly. In the space of a year, it was dreadful to see how many of the Greek people had been mopped up, remembering how like us they are in their politics. Generals are confined in dreadful conditions, often in hotels with boarded-up windows, because they will not give unequivocal allegiance to the régime. University professors of every kind have been ousted from their posts and driven into the mountains to live in villages, even if they have not been put in prison. The whole intellectual 457 stratum of Greek society has been driven from public life and often brutally assaulted.
The position has worsened rapidly in the last year. I deeply regret to say that there is a serious disillusionment among the Greek people. The younger people are tending to go over to the Communists because they are losing faith. I deplore the use of terrorism and bombs, yet Greek people who are lifelong democrats no longer condemn terrorism because they see no other way of bringing their problems to world attention. It is a measure of the desparate situation that people such as Karayiorgas should have been associated with explosions. It passes the imagination how a man could so lose hope in the democratic forces of Western Europe.
A most dangerous situation is developing. With the elimination of the centre of Greek politics and of true democratic forces, there are signs of a polarisation in Greece. On the one hand, the Fascists are in power. On the other hand, the Communists are tending to keep very quiet. This is no accident. We know that there are large numbers of Communist sympathisers in Greece. They had a bad reputation amongst the Greek people after the civil war. However, their reputation is being restored in that they are sitting back and allowing the right wing to destroy the democrats. The Communists are having the job done for them. It is essential for us to show our disapproval in a practical manner. If the Greek régime is not brought down, if democracy is not restored, in the course of a few years from now there could be very real danger of another civil war. I do not want to over-state the case, but the situation has deteriorated to a point where the extreme left wing will not keep silent for ever. They are seeing a lot of their democratic opponents eliminated for them. Once that process is complete and they are themselves ready, the stage will be set for war in a few years' time.
If the situation can be dealt with now, it will be far better than the possibility of our finding ourselves in another five years arguing whether we should be send-in garms to one side or the other. If that situation can be "spiked" now, it will be infinitely more valuable.
458 I know the delicacy of the position and how my right hon. Friend has hesitated to take action, preferring to allow time for the present régime to show that it is progressing towards democracy. However, a key case has arisen recently with the arrest of Dr. Mangakis. The Council of Europe was assured by the present Greek régime that arrests would neither be made in the middle of the night nor without warrants. In the middle of the night, Dr. Mangakis was arrested without a warrant. When his wife protested, she was arrested and given four years' imprisonment for protesting. Dr. Mangakis was a prominent member of the Greek Army and fought against the Communists. He was captured by them and succeeded in escaping. He is a lifelong democrat. It is intolerable that men of that character should rot in gaols without the greatest efforts being made by the rest of us to show how we feel and to attempt to do do something about the situation.
I have tried to be as moderate as I can. I know how easy it is to over-state a case. However, I want to press home the point that the Greek democratic forces which remain are relying on Britain to use her vote for expulsion. It will not be good enough to abstain this time. A positive vote in favour of democracy in Greece by voting for that expulsion is essential if we are to retain any shred of self-respect over the Greek situation.
I want now to pick up one or two points about the Common Market which have been made in the debate. I have always been genuinely in favour of a wider community, but I want to see the objective base of any community making sense. There has been far too much irrationality about the arguments on both sides. I have the warmest sympathy for my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), but there is irrationality on his side, and certainly there is on the side of the violent Common Market protagonists.
I am certain that the common agricultural policy is unacceptable to our industry and our housewives. I welcome the shoal of converts which has come to the surface in the last few months. The price of butter is bandied about as if it did not matter. It is but one example. The price of food matters very much 459 Very few people in this country are involved in agriculture, but we all consume its produce, and that factor cannot be swept aside. Before serious negotiations go ahead, it is essential that we know the price. It is madness to try and buy anything, no matter how badly wanted it is, without knowing the real price. I am appalled that at this late stage it has been found necessary to restart considering what are the costs of entry.
I want to correct one point which has been made several times in the last day or two. Stress has been laid upon the need to go into the Common Market because of the enormous market that it will give to our manufacturers. However, it is not all advantage. Anyone who is in business must realise that the dropping of barriers between ourselves and another group means that we get into their markets easier. But it also means that they get into ours easier. I hope that when the calculations are made the effects on both sides will be taken into account.
A final point which should be taken into account in the calculations, and which has not been taken into account sufficiently so far, is the effect of the extra efficiency record of British agriculture on our balance of payments. We are often told that our farmers need not be afraid of going into the Common Market because they are so efficient. Certainly they are excellent, but part of their efficiency is due to the system under which we work, and if we destroy the system we shall destroy part of their efficiency and part of the future growth in efficiency. The common agriculture policy has produced an agriculture system of about 2 per cent. a year in growth of efficiency less than our system has produced. That is equivalent to £35 million to £40 million extra each year, which is a net saving on balance of payments of £40 million this year, £80 million next year and £120 million the next.
I hope that in the calculations which we are told are going on this very important factor of balance of payments will be taken into account. If our system of agriculture is scrapped, certainly a substantial proportion of our increase in efficiency will go with it, and can we afford that? We have heard time and again of attempts to cost the disadvant- 460 ages of going in, and these must be made. I was a member of the Select Committee which carried out the investigation and which met considerable resistance from certain official quarters which should not have been there. I want to see this irrational attitude knocked on the head and proper calculations made. We want to know not only the cost of advantages. If a case can be made I am willing to be convinced, but I absolutely demand to know what the cost of the article is that we are expected to buy. If this calculation is not done and is not convincing if and when it is done, my vote will not be in favour of going in.
§ 8.2 p.m
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd (Portsmouth, Lang-stone)
At what seems to me personally a long time ago, several years, but probably in the mind of the House is but a day, I remember distinctly a private conversation—which I am sure you will not mind my quoting—that I had with Mr. Speaker when he was Deputy Speaker. I mentioned the long period that I might have to wait before I spoke in a foreign affairs debate and Mr. Speaker assured me that he had waited 15 years before he was able to do so. Therefore, I am sure you will not be surprised at my surprise this evening in finding myself in the very pleasant position of being able to participate, admittedly at short notice, in this interesting and important debate.
I start by referring to a word which was used by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon when he was talking most interestingly about the wide scope of problems which fall within the phrase foreign affairs. He asked that we should use our imagination in our approach to these problems. That seemed a most interesting concept. I think it useful if we ask ourselves, and ask the Government—I hope the Foreign Secretary if he can will reply—whether this Government and other Governments with which we are dealing in the course of international diplomatic relations are beginning to show any sign of results from the extremely interesting work which is being done in a number of centres, possibly centres which are largely if not wholly academic, but centres which nevertheless in which very serious work is being done on problems of resolving international conflict. I believe there is such a centre in one of the 461 universities in the United States and another in Stockholm.
I do not pretend to be able to give any inventory of the work which centres in this country are doing where problems of the relationships between Governments are being studied with the problem of the right attitude to sociological matters. The very word "sociology" is inclined to frighten politicians and very few of us possibly have sufficient knowledge of what the social sciences can contribute to this type of problem. I ask the Foreign Secretary whether we are attempting to draw, however superficially, on the type of work which is being done and trying to apply it when we find ourselves locked in great, important and vital international conflicts, where the problem of understanding is essential to achieving a solution.
The very term which is used to describe this Ministry, the Ministry of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, has in a sense a slightly misleading and possibly offensive suggestion. The very word "foreign" implies that it is something outside which we do not want to know about and would rather keep away from ourselves. Is it not true that a more accurate description of what the Ministry is trying to do would be given if we were to call it—I do not in any way suggest that this is an ideal term—the Ministry of International Human Relations? That essentially is what it is.
We are concerned with the relations and relationships in the broadest sense between people of this country and all peoples with whom they come into contact in their business, private or commercial lives. If all the nations of the world began to think of their relationships with other people, not as relationships with foreigners but as relationships with human beings, we might possibly in that most important psychological sense and sense of attitudes begin to make slow, limited, but nevertheless perceptible, progress in the increase of understanding in that fundamentally important level of society of what a Government can do. If we could do that a very big contribution might ultimately be made.
I turn to the frightfully important question of the Common Market. There is an impression very much abroad at the 462 moment that the political leaders of the three parties in this country should be reacting to: public opinion on the Common Market. This in many senses is a vital concept and we should be reacting to public opinion. No political leader in a democratic society can pretend to ignore public opinion for any length of time. Any political leader in a democratic society worth his salt, knowing at the end of a careful, systematic and sustained examination of a problem of great complexity that the answer is a particular answer which he decides should be the answer, who then abandons that decision and his judgment, not because he feels the judgment wrong but because he knows that the judgment is no longer accepted, is doing treason to democracy.
This point was made succinctly and well by our Ambassador to France not long ago. It is a point which should be made by many more of us here today. A very good example of this came in the so-called Marplan Survey, published in The Times towards the end of last week, in which a series of questions about the Common Market were sent out to a couple of thousand respondents. I imagine that The Times intended us to react to that survey in a certain way. If one looked at the questions which were put one felt that a much more fundamental question was, did those questions really put the issues and therefore were people asked to comment on the real issues as opposed to synthetic issues? We know how many synthetic issues can be created by political interests on both sides of the question, and my answer was, most certainly not. My judgment of this issue, for whatever it was worth, was not affected one jot or tittle by this analysis of so-called public opinion.
The essential point is this. I want to put this very strongly to the Foreign Secretary. I have the feeling that this issue is by no means understood in the country. There is insufficient information. Although all of us believe that we may have spoken in our constituencies in either sense endeavouring to give information which advanced our views either for oragainst, I still get the impression that the penetration of the vital information is skin deep. This is something for which the Government must 463 accept some responsibility, because fundamentally it is only the Government who are able to act on a large scale on the organs of public opinion.
I refer the Government to a publication which reached me a matter of days ago called "Common Market and Common Man", which I have carefully studied. It is issued by the European Community. So impressed was I by this document as a presentation of the facts—no more than that—that I rang up the office of the Community and asked if I could have 5,000 copies of this publication for circulation in my constituency, because I am very anxious that whatever line I take in my constituency, whatever point of view I put forward, should be put forward, if possible, to an informed electorate. Therefore, without in any sense even knowing whether this document reaches a policy conclusion of the one sort or the other—I do not believe that it does—I believe that it is right that this type of information should be made available. The answer that I received from the Community's office was an interesting one. The Community had printed only 30,000 of these for the whole of the United Kingdom. This obviously is a restriction which is imposed on the office of the Community by its own budget.
I suggest that, if not this particular document, then something which the Government consider is on similar lines and is acceptable should be now made available throughout the country on the widest possible scale, because so many of the facts which are being deployed in arguments on either side are, I believe, non-facts.
The hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Derek Page) mentioned the price of butter. I make special mention of this, because I have done some calculations about the price of butter in relation to the Family Expenditure Survey—the most recent figures published—which gives an average weekly family expenditure of about 428s. Of that total the price of butter is less than half of 1 per cent. Are we going to allow a major decision affecting the United Kingdom to turn on an issue of this kind? Yet when one indulges in debate about the Common Market what comes first to mind? What is the first question which is brought up—the price of 464 butter; following that, the price of bread; following that, the price of other food stuffs.—[Interruption.]
The hon. Member disagrees with me. This has certainly been my experience at public meetings which I have attended. He may have a different experience. Housewives regard this as of fundamental importance. Therefore, I have done some more homework. Aggregating all the foodstuffs likely to be affected by the Common Market as a percentage of the family expenditure, the total is 9 per cent. So, what are we talking about—that 9 per cent., or the other 91 per cent. of the Family Expenditure Survey? Of the other 91 per cent. a great deal is not affected one way or the other by whether we integrate with a larger economic community, but a very large proportion is. I shall return to this question in a few moments.
We must be very careful on this issue to ensure that political leadership in Britain does not go off the boil. I sense that the political leadership is going off the boil, because we are all slightly embarrassed, or feel that we might be embarrassed, by the political consequences of taking a strong line on this issue.
Apparently all three parties are united on this question. If we are to carry the country with us we must not go off the boil. We must not demonstrate any lack of confidence, if we do not lack confidence—again, I think that the House as a whole does not lack confidence on this question—and we must take it much more seriously. I hope that the Government, if they do not see their way to circulating this document, will certainly circulate something like it.
I turn specifically to the issue of the Common Market itself. I want to ask a few questions. Which are the arguments which must be reaffirmed? The first, and I think by far the most important, is the argument of generation, the argument of youth. My impression—it may be wrong; I would concede that others may have different impressions—is that the youth of Britain and the youth of Europe think together on this issue. They are non-nationalist.
Precisely how this has come about I would not seek to explain, but that it exists as a profound political fact I have no doubts. I have seen the youth of 465 Europe sitting in the galleries of the Council of Europe Chamber at Strasbourg; they have come from all over Europe to listen with profound interest to the debates there. I am sure that if the young people of Britain were able to go, as very few unfortunately are, to the galleries of the Council of Europe Chamber they would find the European view being taken there, although it is a non-legislative body, of equally profound interest.
They are non-nationalist. I am sure that they are looking to those of us whom they still accept as their political leaders—we all know how limited that may be, unfortunately, in some ways today—for a positive lead. If we do not give it, they will certainly react in ways which may be unexpected and which many of us would find politically extremely embarrassing.
The second argument is the technological and the economic. May I again illustrate this point by starting with a field of interest which has emerged within the last 18 months or two years, namely, oceanography. Many Members may have just heard the word. We are now considering the oceanography of Western Europe. We are looking at the Continental Shelf of Western Europe. We are looking at the techniques which are being employed by Western Europe to exploit its resources and comparing these—those of us who are in a position to do so—with the techniques either being employed by the United States or by the Soviet Union. Set against a massive, monolithic attitude by both the latter Communities, we see a fragmented, patchy effort in Western Europe. We say to ourselves: how can these separate European Governments—to use the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison)—acting together in consultation ever achieve the same effectiveness as a central government such as the United States or the Soviet Union?
It may be that, looking at these issues, seeing the choices and seeing the costs—it is our task to present these clearly—the peoples of Europe will draw back and say, "We would rather be less efficient and we would rather lose our opportunities". This choice must be put honestly and clearly.
May I give the House another example? We know that international 466 communications in space are now moving very rapidly to the use of satellites as a technique. Large Powers have the capacity to develop these—again, alas, the Soviet Union and the United States. To these I would add most recently Japan, because Japan has recently concluded an agreement with the United States whereby the whole of the United States space technology for peaceful purposes is to be placed at the disposal of the Japanese.
What does this mean to the people of Britain and to the people of Western Europe? It means, as I see it, that once these instruments are placed in space those Powers that have the technology to do it will be able to communicate directly their ideas, their political philosophy, their beliefs, their educational techniques—everything that matters—all over the face of the globe.
Already the Indian Government are talking to the United States about the use of American satellites for television programmes in India. Is Europe to sit back and say, "No. We must keep on in our little separate communities, because if we do this, we shall be happy and comfortable" and let these great opportunities escape, let them be taken up and seized by others? Or are we to say that 240 million people in Western Europe—the foundation, the origin, the source, of civilisation—surely have a greater destiny than this, not merely in the field of technology, but in the field of everything which modern technology such as this makes possible and, indeed, demands, from a community of 240 million people? This is the question which I think that we as political leaders, must put to the people of Britain and to the people of Europe, for it is absolutely certain that a greater degree of integration will be demanded from them than perhaps they at this present time wish to achieve, whether political or economic.
Looking at two other fields, if one asks the question "Should this integration take place?" and one answers "No", it is not that question at all. The integration in many fundamental senses has already taken place. We only have to look at the way in which the computer networks in Western Europe are developing. They are spreading throughout the Continent. We are linked in the most fundamental ways with the rest of Europe. 467 Even when one looks at the strategic planning of port systems and container systems, we see that this is being done on a European scale. It is being done on such a scale that anyone in this country who has a general responsibility for devising such a system is likely to find it viable in the next 10 or 15 years. In Europe today there is no political system which corresponds to and responds to that underlying technological and economic reality. This is the challenge to Europe, and this is the challenge which, unless we take this initiative and follow it through, we shall not meet.
Size is not the only criterion. There are many factors affecting the economic efficiency, of which size is one. May I give an example of the way in which size is profoundly important. One of our proudest possessions is the aircraft engine industry. We are competing fundamentally with the United States. Why do we find it so difficult to compete with the United States? It is because firms like Pratt and Whitney and Wright receive massive orders from the United States Government on a continental scale for military and semi-military applications. They start with an order for 400 or 500 engines. Our engine firms start with an order for 40 or 50, or perhaps 150. This difference in scale is profoundly critical. Unless we can put ourselves in Western Europe in a posture where, in such a field with large-scale central government buying, we can think on a European scale, there is no use in pretending that by adopting techniques of a compensatory character we shall be able to place a firm like Rolls Royce, which is now a national firm, in a position to compete with the giants in this field of technology.
There is no escaping this issue. There is no escaping the obligation to put it honestly to the people of this country, for it is they who must see this clearly. We must raise the tone of European political imagination. As I see it, this is the fundamental challenge, and there is no escaping it.
The question of sovereignty has been raised many times and it is certainly an important issue. May I put this question to the House? In what sense, if we are honest, does Great Britain still enjoy a true military sovereignty of the 468 type which we had in 1939 and even perhaps in 1914? If we answer this question honestly we must admit that that type of military sovereignty of an absolute character virtually disappeared with the development of the hydrogen bomb and the spread of the American strategic nuclear umbrella. It does not exist. We have a much more limited and qualified sovereignty in the sphere of defence. Such a limited and qualified sovereignty in the sphere of defence should possibly be rightly and more effectively exercised within a larger European framework than it is now. But I do not regard it now as of any great significance. We only have to look back to Suez to see that view endorsed.
In what sense are we truly politically sovereign? Possibly there are many things which this House can still decide and will continue to decide, but in many fundamental matters now, because the political and the military are closely intertwined, our political sovereignty is qualified.
Look at the economic situation, which is another aspect of this matter. In what sense are we truly economically sovereign? I do not want to make this a partisan debate, and therefore I do not want to refer to the question of our national debts and the people who have, in fact, paid the debts and supplied the resources to enable us to continue, because they have supplied these resources to both Governments in the last 10 years. The basic decision to supply the resources was taken outside the geographical area of this country. This fact is inescapable, and we must accept it.
There are other less important but still significant fields in which our economic sovereignty is qualified. As I understand it, this qualification is moving in on us with every day that passes and there is no point in pretending that by some political initiative we can re-establish the boundaries of economic sovereignty outside the point that they have now reached. We have not got the resources to do that.
The Commonwealth is a very different place from what it was 15 years ago. I have had an experience unique in this House, in having sat on a customs tariffs board dealing with applications in what was then a Commonwealth country 469 against British goods. I can assure the House that this was a profoundly interesting experience. It certainly illustrated to me that people in this position think mainly of themselves and we come a very long way behind.
We are already committing ourselves in the Council of Europe and elsewhere to numerous international legal instruments. This is possibly a sovereign act in this Parliament at the point of commitment, but after the commitment has been made our sovereignty is to that extent more limited. But is this the right criterion to put before the country? If we look at the record of the last 100 years, what profound, enormous and at tines vicious sacrifices have been made on the altar of national sovereignty. I do not believe that this is the right criterion to put before the British people. Sovereignty of a special kind in special circumstances, certainly; this can be justified and there will be times when it will always be justified. But to take it as a blanket condition and say that anything affects sovereignty, even that portion which we still accept exists, seems to me profoundly mistaken.
Coming back briefly to the question of the standard of living and the cost of living, two issues which again are very much confused in the public mind—the ability of the housewife to buy the standard of living which she thinks she ought to be able to afford in a community of rising standards—surely the key issue which must be put is simply this: where is the income coming from? Who is going to provide it? What is the economic structure of this country going to be, with the rising standard of living which we all promise as politicians and which people have a right to expect will be supplied, of which food is an important component?
I again come back to the other 40 to 45 per cent. The statistics are dull and difficult to understand, but their message is dramatic and clear. We have been caught up, we have been surpassed, and we shall not put ourselves back in the same league until we take the appropriate steps to do so. Fundamentally, Europe is now the continent of the sub-optimum solution. That is part of the jargon of the modern systems analysts, but it presents us with a considerable insight into our affairs. We achieve sub- 470 optimum solutions because our problems are fragmented, and we solve half of them at a time. We do not co-ordinate our efforts sufficiently, though we co-ordinate them quite effectively in some ways. We do not look at them on a large enough scale, and therefore we fail, producing solutions which are patently inadequate to the challenge presented to Western Europe today.
This is the challenge of the Common Market. Can we recreate within Western Europe a structure of political and economic development which will enable it, including this island as a part of Europe, to achieve the optimum solution, or as near the optimum as 240 million human beings can make it? We can understand a great deal more about what can be done by looking at the types of solutions used by the very large communities.
§ 8.30 p.m
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Monmouth)
I am much more sceptical than the hon. Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd) is about the systems analysts and conflict analysts who proliferate in the United States and have not markedly led to a diminution of conflict, external or internal, in that country. But I share in his stirring appeal for a new vision in Europe and a new initiative by our Government at this peculiarly propitious time following recent developments in Europe.
I notice that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) is here, and I should like to make one or two remarks about his speech, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Summarised, it was anti-Chieftain, pro-Israel and anti-Europe. I do not think that he would gainsay that. Perhaps I might reconcile those views by saying that I would be in favour of selling Chieftains to the E.E.C., and that I suspect that perhaps all my right hon. Friend's hesitation about Europe would diminish when Israel formed an association with the E.E.C., which is becoming increasingly on the cards.
It is said that the only time one sees Union Jacks in this country today is on the anatomy of various people. if so, I have a dream of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington, and people 471 like him, attired in Union Jacks and perhaps sitting on a throne with a trident, trying Canute-like to stand against the tide of Europe, which is flowing ever more inevitably for our country.
I noticed that this year the paragraph on Europe in the Gracious Speech, which in 1966, 1967 and 1968 was way down the league table at No. 6, has now been moved up to No. 4. This is a significant and very welcome change, and I commend my right hon. Friends on it.
If one has to find a theme in the Gracious Speech as a whole, it is clearly modernisation. On the home side, there is the roll of honour of reports which we are to implement over the next Session—Maud, Hunt, Seebohm and the others. The theme of modernisation is equally applicable in foreign affairs. There is the recognition by the Government that we can no longer play the traditional rôle played by this country, there is the retreat from the old east-of-Suez rôle, and the firm commitment to a European rôle in every possible sphere. This I wholly support.
I felt that the only slight aberration in the Gracious Speech was the mention of Vietnam, as if this country could play a significant rôle in that sad conflict. It is a delusion shared by the extreme Left and the extreme Right in politics in this country to over-emphasise the rôle we can play overseas. Perhaps this mention of Vietnam and the rôle we clearly cannot play is the only blot on the otherwise extremely good policy side of the Queen's Speech.
If one tries to project the trend within this country to five years or so ahead, it is clear that every one of the paths we are traversing in policy matters is leading towards Europe. One can say that every road now leads to Rome. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary talked about the Middle East conflict. In spite of the fact that European interests arevitally involved, we have been unable to play any important rôle because of our divisions. I think that the lesson of that is that if we want to play a significant rôle there has to be a united Europe which can stand increasingly alongside the two super-Powers. The point made by one hon. Gentleman opposite about the United States—Soviet détente clearly only increases the argu- 472 ment for an increasing unity of Europe on the political side. This is the way that one can see that political road progressing.
On the industrial side, whatever may be the fears raised by my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Derek Page) about the other side of the coin, what we might receive back in terms of increased imports from our future European partners, this is not an argument which particularly worries those sectors of British industry which will be most affected by the reverse process. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, having done its own sums and calculations about the increasing competition that is likely to be met from the Fiat, the Citroen, and the Volkswagen, and the likely improved markets from which our industry is likely to benefit, has led the society to reaffirm its enthusiasm for our entry into the E.E.C.
On the technological side, the computer industry, the whole field of advanced technology can so easily be swamped in Europe—and I speak in European terms—if we are not able to sink our differences and work together, faced with increasing United States competition.
Lastly in this quick catalogue of roads which all lead to a European solution, on the defence side the increasing efforts over the past years to have a European element within N.A.T.O., in part, and largely attributable to the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, again suggests that this road is leading to a European solution.
The fact that all roads lead to Europe and that we are at a peculiarly propitious time is the result of recent developments, both political and economic. The log jam in Europe which has held up European development over the past years is now clearly broken. Politically, one has the presence of a new French Government, a far more flexible French Government, who, though clearly going to work hard for French interests, particularly the agricultural interests, have far less political objection in principle to Britain's entry. Again, we have the much friendlier statements by the newly elected German Government. We can refer particularly to the statement by the new Chancellor, Herr Brandt, two days ago 473 in his own "Queen's Speech" which suggests that the German Government are going to put much more steam behind the extension of the Community than their predecessors did.
Economically, as several hon. Members have said, it is being increasingly realised on the Continent that the common agricultural policy will have to be drastically revised. This was mentioned in a very good article by John Lambert, one of the leading European journalists, in last Sunday's Sunday Times. Because the log jam is broken, because the sort of agricultural objections which could have been raised in the past are clearly much more being put in question as a result of the questioning of the C.A.P., we, as an applicant country, have a peculiar opportunity.
We think, too, of the other objections which were raised in the first Commission report on our entry in 1967—the point of capital movement and the flexibility, the pragmatism, shown by the Commission in the face of the Italian difficulties on this score.
In this new context, when for political and economic reasons the log jam has been broken, it is time to pick up again and to go back to the earlier European idea and to look again, for example, at the possibility of democratic parliamentary institutions within Europe, ideas which have been shelved from about 1960 because of the immense Gaullist obstacle in this respect. I hope that the Government will not drag their feet when this question is raised, as inevitably it will be.
Another feature at which I hope the Government will look enthusiastically is that of youth exchanges. The hon. Member for Langstone rightly said that the battle for Europe will be won largely among the younger generation. The admittedly bilateral treaty of association between France and Germany, with its youth exchange provisions, has led to a considerable psychological impact in both countries, sadly often to the detriment of Britain, for in France pupils are far more likely to learn German than English—there has been a diminution in the study of English. If we could form a similar sort of arrangement, we could build a Europe of people and not just treaties and this would clearly have the most significant impact for the future of Europe.
474 Many of the old obstacles have gone. I am sure that the time is ripe for the extension of the Common Market and for its enlargement in terms of new members. One respect in which the Government could play a leading part and in which our future partners expect us to play a leading part will be the democratisation—an awful word—of Community institutions. It may well be that the sort of arrangements reached in 1959 will have to be significantly altered as a result of the addition to the E.E.C. of the new applicant countries, ourselves and the Scandinavians.
But the European tide is flowing and, as a result of recent events, is flowing much faster. This is therefore a very exciting time for us in Britain. I hope that all the decisions made by the Government over the next five or six years will be taken in the light of Europe, in the full expectation that we shall become a full member of a united Europe, decisions on agriculture, taxes and in other respects. This is an exciting time as we now start to progress our application, and I wish well to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster as he goes to represent us in Europe.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
The speech of the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Anderson) was of considerable interest. He made some constructive and sensible comments about the advantages of joining the Common Market if we can negotiate terms which can be seen to be fair. I shall make one or two comments about the Common Market from one angle.
The Foreign Secretary told the House about the situation in the Middle East. I shall comment on what he said and also on the prospects, if there are any, for disengagement, or détente, in Europe.
The Foreign Secretary's views about th situation in the Middle East were of exceptional interest. He struck an extremely fair balance and showed himself much more aware than seems to have been the case during the last six or eight months of the great urgency of trying to get a settlement there, and I warmly welcome that.
I take the view that there will not be a settlement unless the four Powers now concerning themselves in trying to find 475 one work extremely hard. If the Arab countries and Israel are left to their own devices I am afraid that the prospects for a settlement are very slim indeed, so hardened has the situation become. We do not know what the Soviet rôle is in all this, although it is easy to see what influence the Soviet Union has gained in the Middle East in the last few years. Syria is virtually a Soviet satellite and the United Arab Republic, very unhappily indeed, is largely dominated by the Soviet Union, politically, economically and militarily, and it does not like it a bit.
Algeria is greatly under Soviet influence and the same is true in the Sudan. Only a few days ago there was a coup d'état in Somalia, quite clearly engineered by the Soviet Union. These are facts which must cause all of us great concern because the Soviet Union has been able to take advantage of the attitudes adopted by the United States, Britain and France, at any rate until recently, towards the Arab-Israel question, and to move into these Arab countries posing as the friends of the Arabs, which of course they can never be. No good Moslem can ever be a Communist, as everyone knows.
None the less, Soviet influence is very great and one cannot help asking whether, if an honourable settlement were achieved in the Middle East, this would not have the effect of decreasing Soviet influence in those countries, particularly Egypt where it has gained so much in recent years. To a substantial extent N.A.T.O. has been outflanked by the gains that the Soviet Union has made in the Middle East, and I know that this is rightly a matter of concern to the Government and the other N.A.T.O. countries.
It is this which makes me concerned, and I know that my hon. and right hon. Friends share this view, about the timing of the withdrawal from the Gulf. It has never been my view that we should seek to maintain a permanent military presence there, far from it. I feel strongly that the speed with which we are getting out is giving hostages to fortune, and if we look at the other areas in the Middle East where such great gains have been made by the Soviet Union and consider the unfortunate lack of progress that seems to have been made in establishing 476 a Federation of the Arab Emirates, we must be very concerned. This points to one of the very sharp differences between the two sides of the House, the timing of the withdrawal from the Gulf.
As for the United States and the Middle East situation, I had high hopes when the President's personal envoy Mr. Harold Stassen went to the Middle East and made the remark that American policy in future would be more evenhanded. I hoped that American policy, which has always seemed to be swayed by the attitude of the Zionists, who have such influence in America, would change and would be more even-handed. I hope that this will still prove to be the case, because if it does not the prospects for an honourable settlement between Israel and her Arab neighbours are non existent. Undoubtedly America holds the key.
I was interested to hear from the Foreign Secretary that the United States and the Soviet Union are having bilateral talks about the problems in the Middle East. I am pleased to hear that Britain and France will be shortly entering into these discussions again. I feel sure that the Foreign Secretary will keep the House informed about this extremely serious situation in the Middle East. Time is not on our side. We have lost a great deal of time already. That is why I was pleased that the Foreign Secretary showed himself to be well aware of the great urgency of trying to find a solution to this exceptionally difficult and very serious problem.
I am highly critical of the present attitude of Israel. I was very sorry to hear—I was not in the Chamber at the relevant time—that the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) had criticised so very sharply my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) and accused him of anti-Semit ism because my hon. Friend, like me, is highly critical of Israel's policy. It seems that there can be a free-for-all in criticising an Arab country. One can say anything one likes about, and be highly critical of, the Arabs and nobody will say, "You are anti-Semitic". But if even half that number of criticisms is made of Israel, one immediately lays oneself open to the charge of being anti-Semitic, which is a vicious thing to say to anybody.
477 I have no anti-Semitic feelings. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury, I wish to see Israel happy, strong and prosperous, behind secure frontiers guaranteed by the great Powers, with a neutral zone around her and the United Nations playing its rôle in that zone. It was tragic that the tripartite agreement, which might have done something to forestall the events of the last few years, was allowed gradually to fall into desuetude by Britain, France and America. Had not this happened, the Middle East perhaps would not be in its present state. Surely we can learn a lesson from that.
It is very easy to over-simplify the way in which a solution may come. I am not happy about the refusal of Israel's Arab neighbours to enter into direct negotiations. I think that they should do so. But I can understand why they do not do so. The fact that they are unwilling to do so, as the Foreign Secretary said, should not lead us to believe that the prospects for a solution are necessarily greatly reduced. There are other ways in which a solution can be found.
But a solution will not be found until Israel withdraws from the occupied Arab territories, there simply cannot be one. Israel will gain nothing in the long run by humiliating her Arab neighbours. This will merely build up to something tragic on a colossal scale. There must be a settlement involving the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Arab territories to lines which approximate to the armistice line established after the first major clash which, incidentally, many people forget gives Israel roughly one-third more territory than she was allotted in the Palestine partition plan.
The Foreign Secretary was interrupted by an hon. Member opposite who asked which Arab countries had ever said that they favoured the 1967 resolution which Her Majesty's Government sponsored. The answer is quite clear. Three of Israel's Arab neighbours are on record as having made positive statements that they would like to see a solution on the lines of the 1967 resolution. That is often forgotten. Those three countries are the United Arab Republic, Jordan and the Lebanon. Syria is a law unto herself. That cannot be helped, but it is unfortunate.
But what people have forgotten is the really remarkable change which came over 478 the policy of the United Arab Republic, Jordan and the Lebanon only a few months after the unanimous passing by the Arab countries of the resolution in Khartoum which—and I am quoting only from memory—said in absolutely unmistakable terms that there would be no recognition of Israel and no peace with Israel. The United Arab Republic, Jordan and the Lebanon all subscribed to that. Yet only a few months later President Nasser gave his famous interview to Newsweek, and he also made a speech on the same subject, making it absolutely clear that he had changed his mind, and that, provided the broad lines of the 1967 resolution could be carried through, involving withdrawal by Israel from the occupied Arab territories and a solution of the problems of Jerusalem and, of course, the refugee problem—it is easy to include all these things, but, of course, they are all incredibly complicated—it would be the policy of his country and of the other two Arab countries concerned to recognise Israel behind secure frontiers and bring to an end the state of war. This is a fact, and it is far too often overlooked.
Of course, since then fighting has gone on across the Canal. And who can blame the United Arab Republic, in the light of no Israeli withdrawal, for carrying on the fight? Jordanian territory remains occupied by Israel. The same can be said about Jordan. Who can blame any Jordanian Government for carrying on fighting while the west bank remains occupied? Of course, they have got to do so; otherwise the whole situation would be pre-empted by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, or something even more extreme.
So this situation is obviously one which is very grave. I warmly welcome the fact that four-Power talks are to be reopened again before long, and I hope and pray that the Foreign Secretary will be able to bring the House better news about this very critical situation before long.
I should like now for just a couple of minutes to say something about disengagement in Europe. Of course, every single Member of this House wants to see détente in Europe, but I was not at all impressed by what the Foreign Secretary had to say about this, because what he had to say was really only an echo of 479 what his party was saying in 1962 and 1963 in the foreign affairs and defence debates in this House. The Prime Minister himself took a leading part in them; so did the present Secretary of State for Defence.
Then it was the official policy of the party opposite that we should disengage in Europe. From the moment of the Rapacki Plan it was their policy. And how nice that would be. We were regaled with stories of a "non-nuclear club", which was also the official policy of the party opposite when that party was in Opposition. A lot of people have forgotten this. Britain was to form a non-nuclear club and give up all nuclear weapons and disengage in Europe. It was all quite easy; both sides would pull back from the Iron Curtain, and everything in the garden would be lovely, we were told. If anybody thinks that is an unfair paraphrase let him read the speeches of the Prime Minister and of the present Secretary of State for Defence on those occasions. We on this side, the then Government side of the House, were fiercely criticised for failing to make some détente with the Societ Union and for failing to make progress with disarmament or forming a non-nuclear club. None of these things came about after 1964. However much we would have liked them, we did not think that they would.
The fact is that, as far as I know, nothing has been done about these things at all. There are extremely difficult problems about this which the Foreign Secretary did not mention, but everybody knows perfectly well, and he knows better than anyone else, that disengagement on both sides of the Iron Curtain, to pull back, leaving some kind of netural zone, would be a satisfactory arrangement for us, which we could tolerate, only if there is international inspection on which we can rely. Why no mention of this at all? It was all made to sound so easy—"In 1964 if we have a Labour Government we will disengage from the Soviet Union, we will have a détente and disarmament, and all pull back from the Iron Curtain and be friends together"—shades of 1945, the "Left working with the Left." Now, with an election in the offing, we are again told the same thing: "Let us all be friends and disengage in Europe. 480 It is not so easy, as the Foreign Secretary knows very well. What he said on the subject was disingenuous and had a strong election colour about it.
Lastly, may I comment briefly on the prospects of joining the Common Market. As everyone knows, all three parties are officially in favour of opening negotiations as soon as it looks clear that there is a real prospect of their succeeding; in other words, as soon as all six countries of the Community make it clear that they want us to negotiate. That is fine. I have always been enthusiastic for joining the Common Market if we can negotiate satisfactory terms. I have never hadany patience with any of my hon. Friends or hon. Gentlemen opposite who take the view that we should not even negotiate.
The question which people are asked to answer in opinion polls—"Are you in favour of joining the Common Market?"—is a ridiculous question. How can anybody answer it until they know what are the terms? Surely, the first thing to do is to find out. I was pleased that at our party conference a substantial majority, three to one, on a clear issue, which was not fudged as it unhappily was at the Labour Party Conference, was strongly in favour of opening negotiations in the hope of getting satisfactory terms.
I hope that public opinion will not be swept off its feet by propaganda from those who are against entry about, for instance, the price of butter. What matters to people in this country is not the cost of living but the standard of living. There are many interesting figures in this context which I have no time to give to the House and which counteract this argument aimed at frightening people into saying that in no circumstances should we join the Common Market. Had we joined the Common Market in 1958, if our wages had increased in the same proportion as wages on the Continent, it has been calculated that the average weekly wage packet in this country today would be £5 4s. 6d. more than it is today. That would make a great difference to many people. The only Common Market countries in which since 1958 prices have gone up faster than in Britain are France, Italy and the Netherlands, but in all three countries the increases in wages were substantially higher 481 than in Britain. The other three countries, Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg, all registered higher wage increases than Britain and much smaller price increases. These figures are confirmed by an article in the Economist of 27th September.
It is, of course, what one's money will buy and how long one has to work to earn A, B or C that really matters; this is what is meant by the standard of living. So one must not be befogged and bemused by cost of living figures and the price of beef, butter and so on in the Common Market. I hope that people will look carefully at this special pleading at a time when it is easy for the anti-Common-Marketeers to have it all their own way.
I conclude, after this one brief remark about the Common Market, by wishing the Government good fortune in their efforts to reopen the negotiations. I am very pleased that the right hon. Gentleman is in charge of them. I hope that it will not be long before it is made clear by all six of the Community countries that they wish to enter into negotiations with us, and that those negotiations make good progress. I am convinced that, if we can negotiate acceptable terms of entry into the Common Market, it will be in Britain's interests as well as in the interests of the whole of Europe and the rest of the free world.
§ 9.5 p.m
§ Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I should like to thank the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) for indicating that he would allow me to intervene with a few remarks.
I do not reciprocate the views expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) in what he said about the Common Market. I wish to deal with what is said in paragraph 4 of the Gracious Speech about our maintaining our application for full membership. I was astonished to hear the hon. and gallant Gentleman say that he hoped that there would not be too much propaganda from the anti-Marketeers. Certainly we have had over the past three or four years a constant stream of pro-Market pamphlets, leaflets and speeches emanating from some office in London. I do not know who pays for it. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Foreign Office."] I 482 would not agree that it is the Foreign Office.
Despite this mass of propaganda, paid for from some Common Market source, there has been a correspondingly strong anti-Market growth of feeling in the House which has proved itself effective in combatting the pro-Marketeers. I feel that this is a good thing. I deplore the fact that this stream of propaganda literature has had the effect of making up the minds of young hon. Members who have come into the House, such as the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Anderson). They have fallen for the temptation of that literature as an indication of why we ought to join the Common Market.
It has been my experience over the last six months that opinion in this country is rapidly changing. It is certainly changing in the upper strata of the C.B.I., and in the British Chambers of Commerce, and there has been an undoubted change in many other quarters. However, some of us did not need to change.
The hon. Member for Monmouth said that there were changed opinions in the Six. It is, of course, the veto of France which is the deciding factor in regard to this country and its agricultural policy, and the enmity of the French farming community in regard to any change. Although the Party opposite have scrapped any idea of carrying on the support in agricultural subsidy and are putting it on to tariffs on food entering the country, which would cause an increase in the cost of living, I hope that road will not be followed—indeed, I am sure that it will not—by the members of the Cabinet and by my party as a whole. If we were to accept the Common Market agricultural policy which is being so strictly adhered to by the French we should be in a dilemma over agriculture.
I am particularly concerned about Scotland and hill farming, since in the seven crofting counties the agriculture depends completely on Government subsidy. If these subsidies were swept away, further depopulation would take place in hill farms in those crofting counties, as well as in Wales and in Derbyshire.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. John Hynd) spoke about a rise in wage rates in Common Market countries. This is not 483 true, and he has not kept up to date. I read in the Library today, in the Journal of Common Market Studies, an article b Mr. Hans O. Schmitt, on "Integration and Conflict in the World Economy", in which he says:By paying the highest industrial wages, German industry has attracted substantial inflows of labour from its Common Market partners and beyond. At the same time, returns to capital also appear to have been highest in Germany. Both British and American investors were reported to 'have found investment in Germany especially profitable and in France and Italy relatively unprofitable'.So that it is obvious that in the Six they are not getting on so well as we are told. As the Home Secretary said yesterday, the Common Market is in a state of disarray, and I cannot see it getting out of it.
§ 9.10 p.m
§ Mr. Richard Wood (Bridlington)
In our debates on foreign affairs, and most particularly on our debates on the Address, the number of topics raised by hon. Members is so great that it is clearly impossible within a speech of the length which the House finds acceptable, to deal even briefly with them all. All one can try to do is to make a selection. I have made my own selection on the basis of certain similarities and differences between the Gracious Speeches of this year and 1968.
Both Gracious Speeches rightly devote considerable attention to overseas affairs. Careful comparison of the two reveals certain omissions, additions and changes of emphasis which, I suspect, were intended to be significant. Perhaps Gracious Speeches often lack precision, but this year's contains a large number of phrases which have the appearance of mere words, with no underlying substance of reality. The main plea in my speech will be for a greater realism in foreign policy and in the phrases of the Gracious Speech which seek to define it.
This year's Gracious Speech refers, in its second paragraph, to the Government pursuing an international agreement on tariff preferences for the developing countries. My hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) expressed anxieties about that, which doubt the right hon. Gentleman will attempt to answer, especially in relation 484 to the countries of the Commonwealth. But the Government's objective has the support of the Opposition and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) made clear this afternoon, at the U.N.C.T.A.D. conference in 1964, it was my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition who argued strongly in favour of generalised preferences for the manufactured exports of under-developed countries. The recommendations of that conference were echoed by the 1968 conference and the Report of the Pearson Commission; and the second conference resolved to set up an inter-governmental committee to produce a workable scheme by the end of next year.
Meanwhile, in the light of the recommendations from the Textile Council, the Government announced last summer the tariff on cotton textiles from the beginning of 1972, with the expected results, according to the then President of the Board of Trade, that imports from the developed Commonwealth will be reduced, but that those from developing countries, except perhaps from India, will not be affected. Again, my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South asked for some definition of this division between "developed" and "developing".
We all recognise the dilemma in which this kind of policy places Her Majesty's Government. It is one which has been frankly and honestly admitted in the Labour Party pamphlet called "The Fight Against World Poverty". In the light of the rather optimistic generalisation in the second paragraph of the Gracious Speech, we would like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman what specific proposals the Government have, and how they intend to overcome the dilemmas which are implicit in their declared policy of tariff preferences.
Later in the speech, there is a reference to the concern of the Government with chemical and biological weapons. I know that my right hon. and hon. Friends join with me in paying tribute to the patient work of the right hon. Gentleman, who is now Minister of Transport, when he was at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In the Disarmament Committee last July, he tabled a draft convention to prohibit biological methods of warfare, together with a draft 485 Security Council resolution. His proposal had a fairly lukewarm reception. It was criticised on one ground by a number of neutral nations and on another by the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc. Unfortunately, the result seems to be that the Government's no doubt noble intentions have been sullied by the failure to prepare the ground in advance with the United States and the neutral nations. Therefore, the centre of the disarmament stage is now occupied by a Soviet proposal which seems more closely concerned with propaganda than with real progress.
The Gracious Speeches this year and last contained references to Rhodesia, but it strikes me that the paragraph in this year's speech gives the impression of having abandoned all hope of an honourable settlement. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, with all his experience of negotiations in this matter, will assure us that hope still stirs within him. If it does, I would like to ask him whether he really continues, against all the evidence, to base this hope on the final words of the paragraph, which refer to the continuance of the policy of… economic sanctions and of maintaining isolation of the illegal régime until the conditions for an honourable settlement exist.In this year's Speech we have a phrase about overseas aid which is very similar to that used last year, as the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) pointed out. However, it was not that phrase but the speech of the Prime Minister in Surrey last month which took up quite a lot of time at the beginning of the debate today. At the end of the day, I doubt whether I can profitably add anything of value to the controversy which raged earlier, except perhaps to acknowledge the awe and admiration that I feel for the number of clever people here, with whom I have spent most of the afternoon and evening, and who seem to be gloriously confident of their ability to convince the comparatively unintelligent that declining totals and shrinking percentages are not cuts but, as the new Minister for Overseas Development charmingly phrased the matter in answer last week to my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), merelya lowering of the rate of growth in the planned programme.486 I was once unwise enough to yield to the temptation to use some similar phrase in connection with a check in the nuclear power programme. I remember being properly hauled over the coals by those who did not fail to recognise nonsense when they heard it. The best advice that I can offer to hon. Members on this matter is to study the right hon. Lady's answer to a Question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East on 20th October [Vol. 163, c. 734]. After reading it carefully three, four or more times, the great truth may begin to dawn. In fact there has been a decline in aid but, according to the best authorities, there has been no cut.
Whether or not the truth dawns, most of us were impressed by the constructive elements of the very thoughtful speech by the right hon. Member for East Ham, North, and especially by his assertion that what really matters now is the performance of his own Government and—although he did not say it, I would add—the performance of a Conservative Government of the future. I think there are two good reasons for saying this. First, there is the intrinsic importance of aid to the developing nations themselves; secondly, and also very important, the opportunity which it affords to this country, with all its experience and all its myriad contacts in Africa and elsewhere, of making a continuing and effective contribution to peace and stability in the world.
So far I have spoken of policies whose execution has been incomplete or inconclusive, but whose reality and importance are in no doubt. The policy of providing aid and increasing trade is one which the Opposition clearly supports; and the Government's intention to control biological weapons also has our support. These are real policies where Britain can act, and act effectively. What we ask is performance, or promise of performance, which will give substance to the bold phrases in the Gracious Speech.
The Government's adherence to Europe, which appears in the much discussed fourth paragraph, is a real policy—I would go as far as to say a courageous one. The policy this afternoon has received a number of caresses from some of my hon. Friends and others; it received a few hard punches from the hon 487 Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), until the bell went; and a number of good-natured and particularly vigorous kicks from the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). It has featured in a great many of the speeches today. Here,in my opinion, and I think that of my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison), is a vastly important area where Britain has a continuing opportunity to influence events.
The Government, as we know, has called for early negotiations. This is a great and an historic decision which the country must take in due course. The questioning and doubts which have arisen and grow in Britain, I think we must frankly admit, are natural enough; we have been twice rebuffed. But I fancy that historians will find it less remarkable that these doubts exist in all our constituencies than that, in spite of two rebuffs, all three political parties are still committed to entering negotiations. I hope that in the difficult period ahead we shall continue to direct our attention to real rather than unreal arguments, because the concept of European federation is not among the real arguments of the foreseeable future—indeed the Treaty of Rome provides for no such political arrangement to be imposed on member States—but the inter-dependence of European states, both in a political and an economic sense, is already a reality and is likely to increase in importance.
My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) advocated a policy of wait-and-see, but I do not think we need be utterly supine—I do not think he would be—because there are a great many spheres in which we can co-operate increasingly in the various activities in Europe at the present time. The importance of large markets in the modern world, as my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd) said, are clearly necessary to sustain the necessary level of industrial effort. That is another reality; and there are real economic advantages in lowering all barriers between States.
Whatever the outcome of our attempt to join the Economic Community, the support given by successive Governments to the North Atlantic Alliance has been one of the most important realities in the years since the Second World War. We 488 all know that the Secretary of State for Defence shares these convictions, but we have begun to be profoundly worried that the Government's present support of N.A.T.O. is beginning to degenerate into lip-service; and that existing military and naval forces are inadequate to sustain the support which the Government again profess in the Gracious Speech. We see forces which we considered until recently essential for Western defence, moved quietly, or not so quietly, into Ulster. We are bound to have real doubts as to whether the increased military task imposed on reduced battalions remains any longer within their capability. Yet, as my right hon. Friend mentioned earlier, although there is specific mention of our support for the North Atlantic Alliance, silence surrounds our intention towards the other alliances. I hope that the Government are not deserting these alliances. If they are deserting them, what do they intend to put in their place?
My right hon. Friend also asked about our continuing obligation to various territories scattered round the globe. Again, the Gracious Speech is completely silent. He asked, too—I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for reminding him of all these questions, which I expect he already has in mind—about the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement. I think that it was the Supplementary Statement on Defence policy last July which promisedjoint consultations at a later stage".When will those consultations take place? At the moment the Government are still committed, I think I am right in saying, to givesuch assistance as the Government of the Federation of Malaya may require for the external defence of its territory.Is it the Government's intention to renegotiate this Agreement before the end of this Parliament, or will this be a job that they will leave to their successors?
The Far East, mentioned not at all in the Gracious Speech, is one of the areas, and we are convinced that there are other substantial areas of the world, where the Government, if they had the will, could continue to exercise a significant, and probably a decisive, influence upon events. What concerns us about the Gracious Speech is that it appears to devalue a number of important objectives with meaningless phrases. It sets before 489 the country a number of other objectives where fruitful action is almost certainly beyond our capacity. Finally, and perhaps most important, it is ominously silent where constructive steps to promote and maintain peace remain within our power.
Therefore, we beg the Government, before our capacity to act finally atrophies, to identify more clearly the areas where they can effectively act and then summon the necessary resolution to do so.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. George Thomson)
This has been a wide-ranging debate, as is traditional on this day of the debate on the Gracious Speech. Those who have participated in the debate will agree that a notable feature of it was the speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice). The House always listens closely to the first speech of a Member who has recently resigned from a Government.
My right hon. Friend in any case made the kind of speech which would have compelled a respectful hearing from the House. He spoke with the authority of someone who has been responsible for our aid programme for over two years, and he spoke with sincerity on a subject which makes an appeal to the conscience of the House and to the compassionate majority of the British people.
I sensed that my right hon. Friend was obviously enjoying the freedom of making a speech on aid liberated from Treasury considerations which collective responsibility have imposed upon him for so long. I thought that it was a significant point in his argument when he mentioned aid as being linked with defence alone as taking a smaller proportion of the gross national product than in the past. The reason for this is important to us for our judgment on these matters. It is that aid, like defence, imposes a net burden on the foreign exchange. I recognise that the degree of the balance of payments burden is often exaggerated by critics of the aid programme. Nevertheless, the Government have had to give over-riding priority to strengthening the balance of payments and re-structuring the economy.
One of the reasons for the Government's being so anxious to get the 490 economy right is precisely to give us the resources to increase the aid programme and to enable us to fulfil the U.N.C.T.A.D. target of 1 per cent. of gross national product now so authoritatively backed by the Pearson Commission.
My right hon. Friend also expressed anxiety about some of the motives behind the present approach to Europe as it affected some of our aid programmes. One of the main reasons for the Government's believing in an enlarged Community on the right terms is precisely that this will enable both Britain and the rest of Europe to fulfil their obligations to the poor two-thirds of humanity.
My right hon. Friend also mentioned the Duncan Report. I know that this is of general interest to the House.
The House will recall that when my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary welcomed the Duncan Committee's general approach he did not give a specific endorsement to its conclusions. It was felt then that there was a need to go further into the probable consequences of these conclusions and the implications for the standard of the services overseas and their effect on the foreign service as a whole. My right hon. Friend drew attention, as other hon. Members have done, to the Duncan Committee's views about the differences between what is called the area of concentration on the one hand and the rest of the world on the other. Sir Val Duncan himself tried to put the perspective right in a letter to The Times of 30th July which I commend to those hon. Members who are concerned about the matter. The Government have no intention of abandoning their interests and responsibilities in the Commonwealth and in the world beyond Europe and North America. The size of British missions will be governed by the importance and the amount of necessary work to be done, and not the other way round. I hope that will help to reassure hon. Members who are concerned about this important area of policy.
If I may make a final point on my right hon. Friend's speech, I was glad that he, with all his authority as a former Minister of Overseas Development, made it clear that the figures used by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the speech referred to by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West 491 Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) were absolutely correct. The right hon. Gentleman made what I thought was a very uncharacteristic personal attack on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I would only say that no one in this House has a longer record of devotion to the cause of overseas aid than the Prime Minister. As long ago as 1950 he wrote what is still regarded as one of the standard books on the subject of world poverty, and he has played a very notable part, with many other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House, in creating the kind of climate of opinion which has made this one of the major issues for the conscience of the nation as a whole.
On the figures themselves, I do not think it has ever been in question to anybody who has followed these aid matters that the aid programme has declined as a percentage of G.N.P. for some years past. That is absolutely clear from any look at the figures for aid and the G.N.P. The important thing is that despite the economic difficulties of the past few years, the level of aid has been maintained in broad cash terms, and indeed the Chancellor's February paper on public expenditure forecast some increase in cash terms.
The Government recognise that we are now facing a new situation. At the second U.N.C.T.A.D. in New Delhi last year the Government, together with the Governments of other developed countries, accepted the new aid target of 1 per cent. of G.N.P. which embraced private investment and guaranteed export credits as well as official governmental aid. No date was given for implementation and our acceptance was subject to balance of payments considerations. We also have to consider the Pearson Report, whose publication was welcomed by the Prime Minister and the present Minister of Overseas Development, and we must link these to our attitude to the second development decade. The Government will take all these matters into account, together with the assessment of the prospects for the balance of payments and their heavy responsibilities to overseas creditors in settling their policy. Clearly I cannot anticipate this tonight, but my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North properly drew attention to 492 the forthcoming White Paper on public expenditure. An indication of future aid programmes will be given in that White Paper.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire, in another of his more polemical passages, criticised my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence about some figures that he had given.
§ Mr. Thomson
The right hon. Gentleman asked about them, but he did so in a rather sceptical and fairly critical tone. In any case, I can now tell him what my right hon. Friend said and I hope that will end the matter. My right hon. Friend said in a speech to the Royal United Services Institution the other day—this is what the right hon. Gentleman was referring to—thatWe have also substantially improved the manning of the British Army of the Rhine by over 3,000 more than in 1964 and they are operating on much wider margins against the unforeseen.I have had this matter carefully checked since the right hon. Gentleman raised it, and I assure the House that these figures mean exactly what they say.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) expressed anxiety about the degree to which our defence commitment to N.A.T.O. was running down, and here again I have some figures which may help to reassure him. In 1964, the total of battalions deployed world-wide was 66. In 1969, as a result of the defence economies, that figure has been reduced to 59. That is the overall figure. Within the United Kingdom—this is relevant to the question which the right hon. Gentleman asked—as a result of the redeployment which has taken place, whereas in 1964 there were 22 battalions, the total has now been increased to 30. Thus, as a result of the defence economies, we have a considerably greater degree of flexibility for meeting emergencies of the kind we have had tragically to meet recently in Ulster.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
In his inquiries, did the right hon. Gentleman find out what is the difference between being stationed in Germany and being physically stationed in Germany, and about the gap of 4,000 men accordingly?
§ Mr. Thomson
I have found out some of the secrets of these statistics, and I should be glad to convey them privately to the right hon. Gentleman, but it would take a great deal of time to try to disentangle them now. I merely assure the House that the figures which I gave are exact and that the manning has been increased by 3,000.
§ Viscount Lambton
Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear? When he says that manning has been increased, does that mean that the men are actually in Germany or that the men, as he speaks of manning, are said to be in Germany but are, in fact, somewhere else?
§ Mr. Thomson
I think that what is concerning the House is whether the men who are in Ulster at the moment are statistically in Germany. I have investigated that, and it is certainly not so. I am dealing here with the figures of the commitment of manpower to N.A.T.O.
Inevitably, a good deal of the debate has been devoted to a discussion of the threatening situation in the Middle East. The House was, I think, glad to hear that the Government expect the Four-Power talks to be reconvened soon. We hope that these talks will provide fresh and constructive guidance for Dr. Jarring. This guidance will be based on the Security Council resolution of November, 1967.
To reassure my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who was anxious about these matters, perhaps I may refresh his memory of the actual content of the United Nations resolution. It was a balanced resolution. Under it, Israel will not be required to withdraw until her Arab neighbours have entered into clear and firm commitments to recognise her existence within secure and recognised boundaries. I hope that that reassures my right hon. Friend about the nature of the resolution itself.
We played an active part in the international effort which led to the original drafting of the resolution, and since then we have exerted steady pressure on all concerned to recognise that an early settlement would be in their best interests. Britain has been active in the Four-Power talks, and we shall continue to be as active as possible. I myself paid visits both to the United Arab Republic, where 494 I saw President Nasser, and to the Lebanon during the summer Recess. Tomorrow, I am to go on a visit to Israel, where I hope to have talks with the Israeli Prime Minister and other Ministers of the Israeli Government. Her Majesty's Government remain ready to make further contributions whenever they judge that it would be of practical help in securing a settlement of this threatening situation in the Middle East.
A number of hon. Members raised the question of the civil war in Nigeria. The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), in a sombre but moving speech, described very clearly how public opinion in this country has been affected by the way this war has dragged on, with all the human suffering that has been involved. I cannot give the House a particularly encouraging report. Although for some months military activity seems to have been at a relatively low level, this tragic dispute continues, and on the relief front there has been reason for great disappointment. The International Red Cross was able to make an agreement with the Federal Government to get the relief supplies in to those who need them inside the Ibo-held territories. But the refusal so far of Colonel Ojukwu to accept relief for his own people under the impartial scheme negotiated by the Red Cross authorities has prevented that taking place.
Against that very depressing picture, there are two very promising strands. First, there is the latest report of the International Observer team, copies of which I am placing in the Library. The report draws attention to the excellent relations quickly achieved between the Federal authorities and the civilian refugees, many of them Ibos, with whom contact is being made increasingly in the operational areas. The Report also refers to the substantial number of Ibo people now living peacefully under an Ibo civilian administration established at Enugu. I think that the House will take this as positive evidence of the genuine desire of the Federal authorities for peaceful reconciliation, and of the progress being made towards that reconciliation.
The second more promising report is of new efforts by African statesmen to bring the two sides together. The 495 Ethiopian Foreign Minister, who was recently in London, is now in Lagos, together with the Secretary-General of the O.A.U., for talks with the Federal Government. We have always recognised this as primarily an African matter. We keep closely in touch with all concerned, but do not wish to do anything which might cut across these efforts. I think that our position in this matter is generally understood and appreciated by the African leaders concerned. I would not like in any way to gloss over the difficulties in bringing about negotiations that face these fresh African efforts. In the end, everything depends on the willingness of the two sides to settle their differences by talking rather than on the battlefield.
§ Mr. Thomson
I am glad to hear the voice of my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr), because I was about to come on to the point she raised about Vietnam. She read from a letter making very serious allegations of torture in Vietnam, and I wanted to tell her that if she will let me have a copy of the document from which she quoted I will have it thoroughly investigated.
§ Mr. Thomson
What my hon. Friend quoted from the document underlined to me the urgency of making progress towards the ending of the Vietnam war. We believe that the American and South Vietnamese Governments have by now amply demonstrated their determination to achieve a negotiated settlement. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said in a Written Reply on 13th October,We are now anxiously awaiting comparable statesmanship from the other side."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th October, 1969; Vol. 788, c. 6.]Meanwhile, both sides are aware that we are ready to help, either as co-Chairman or in any other capacity, whenever they consider this would be useful.
The right hon. Member for Bridlington and the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire both asked about the mention in the Gracious Speech of our attitude towards the U.N.C.T.A.D. 496 scheme of generalised preferences. Both asked why more progress is not being made, and I think that both mentioned that the origin of the scheme lay in the first meeting of U.N.C.T.A.D., when the British delegation was led by the present Leader of the Opposition. The reason for the time that it is taking to make progress on this can be put most clearly in the words used by the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) when he led that delegation to Geneva in 1964. He said:The preferences we give at present are designed for the benefit of Commonwealth countries. These Commonwealth countries might suffer by sharing them with others unless they obtained compensating advantages in other markets.I think that that is important in relation to the point raised by the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) and the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison). The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:We should therefore need to act in concert with the other major industrialised countries to ensure that this is brought about. Moreover, where present preferences are the subject of agreement with Commonwealth Governments, we could not act without the consent of those Governments.That sets out clearly and fairly the real problems that have to be overcome in making progress on this matter.
Since the New Delhi Conference, to which I have referred, we have taken a full share in carrying this matter forward in the discussions in the O.E.C.D. The reason why quicker progress is not possible is that the United States Government have not been able to decide what preferences they could grant. We are hoping for progress on this front very shortly indeed and that the work of the O.E.C.D. can quickly be completed so that preferences can be implemented by all industrialised countries.
The hon. Member for Wembley, South raised the particular problem, in regard to the European Economic Community, of preferences for the older Commonwealth countries. Perhaps I might write to the hon. Gentleman in more detail on this matter, in view of the time left for this debate today. We are very much aware of the interests of the older Commonwealth countries, and we recently had the pleasure of a visit from the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. John Marshall, who had useful and 497 important talks with both my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and with the Prime Minister.
Having mentioned Commonwealth consultations, perhaps I might mention how glad we were to welcome to this country a day or two ago the new Prime Minister of Ghana, Dr. Busia. I know that both sides of the House will be glad to learn that Ghana has exchanged a military régime for a Parliamentary one. This is a notable happening, and in many ways a unique one, though I hope that it will not be the only one. We had the opportunity of very useful talks with Dr. Busia, and we told him how important public opinion regards these notable developments in his country.
Inevitably, Britain's application to join the E.E.C. has been a recurrent theme in this debate—[Interruption.]—I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) will abide a while in patience. There is not long to go now. This part of the debate is inevitably my main preoccupation at the present time, since it is the most direct of my responsibilities within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I hope that the House will excuse me if I say that on taking over my present duties I remarked that I had a feeling that I had been here before. In 1966 my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and I—he as Foreign Secretary and I as Chancellor of the Duchy—were together charged with conducting the probe which led to the Government making their present application to join the Community.
One hon. Member expressed the view that too little was changing too slowly in relation to the Common Market. In my case it may seem a case of the more things change the more they remain the same, but what struck me on returning to my former responsibilities was a sense that the more things seem the same, the more they have changed. I am not thinking primarily of the change of Government in both Paris and Bonn. Naturally we welcome the new German Chancellor's strong reiteration of Germany's position in his inaugural policy address to the Bundestag when he emphasised that the Community needs Britain. We welcome, too, the statement of the French Foreign Minister to the General Assembly of the United Nations that it was 498 eminently desirable that applications for membership, including the British application, should succeed.
But the change of which I am most conscious on taking up these duties again is the change in Britain's economic position.
In 1966, I was telling a sceptical Community how we hoped to win our balance of payments battle and re-shape our economy to consolidate that victory when it happened. In 1969, I can go back to the mainland of Europe to show results. Our economic position is stronger now than it was in 1966. We have seen the beginning of that export-led expansion which the British economy requires.
This improvement is recognised in the Commission's recently published up-dated opinion on our application for membership when the Commission says that exports are developing satisfactorily in the United Kingdom and in the future they will be stimulated by the vigorous reorganisation of British industry which has been promoted over the last two years by the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation.
This makes the world of difference to our approach to negotiations and I believe to their successful conclusion on terms acceptable to Britain. It was Ernest Bevin who remarked that a million tons of coal would do more than anything else to produce a British foreign policy in the time when he was Foreign Secretary, and I well remember the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire when he was Foreign Secretary, emphasising that economic strength was the essential foundation for British overseas policy. He seems sometimes to forget that a little, because it has been this preoccupation that has lain behind the historic changes that the Government have been making in our East of Suez posture which the right hon. Gentleman has so strongly criticised.
He put some polemical stuff in his speech about how our defence economies in the Far East were destroying our foreign policy. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that this is nonsense. He knows better than anyone else in the House that the only effective foreign policy for Britain is one that stands four square within our economic resources. Our defence economies can make us a more effective ally for those 499 commitments which we are maintaining and which are being reduced in order to ensure that they are realistically within our capacity.
The Tory alternative, if it is more than simply a bit of election flag-waving, is a recipe for the weakness of this country and not a recipe for its strength. Certainly our new economic strength will make it clear beyond argument in the Common Market discussions that the Continent needs Britain just as much as Britain needs the Continent. Our neighbours on the mainland know that we are strong enough to go into the Community if the right terms can be negotiated. Equally, we know that we are strong enough to stand on our own if satisfactory terms are not available.
§ Mr. Thomson
I do not have time to give way.
I do not under-estimate the difficulties and the Government have always recognised that there are important questions to be resolved in negotiation, not least about agriculture. When the negotiations begin, there will be hard bargaining ahead and at the end of the day the House, which so overwhelmingly supports Britain's application, will have to make up its mind whether the results of the negotiations are acceptable to Britain.
Let us make no mistake about this. If there is a failure to create an enlarged Community, that would be a sad second-best for Britain, for Europe and for the world as a whole.
§ Mr. Thomson
If we fail to find acceptable terms for Britain joining an enlarged Community, this would be a sad second-best for Britain, for Europe and the world as a whole. It would cut off the new generation of British scientists, technologists, managers and exporters from the great opportunities that can be available to Britain only if we marry our scientific and industrial skills to a Continental-scale economy.
It would mean that the world would be deprived of the full potential for peace of both the mainland of Europe and in Britain. Britain would emerge in the latter years of this century as an offshore island of a second-class continent. That would be an unexciting heritage that we would hand on to our children. The hon. Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd) laid great emphasis on the place of youth with regard to our Common Market application. It is worth remembering that most of our children will spend much of their lives in the twenty-first century.
I have a feeling that the next few months, perhaps even the next few weeks will be one of those rare periods in political affairs when there are historic opportunities to be seized or historic opportunities to be lost, and if they are lost they may be lost for a long time. We for our part are ready to seize the opportunity. We are ready to fix an early date for putting this fateful issue to the test of negotiation. I emphasise to my hon. Friends that this is all that has been decided at the moment; the results of these negotiations will have to come back before this House. We hope that the present consultations with our European neighbours in the Six will lead to the same conclusion as has been reached by Her Majesty's Government.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Ernest G. Perry.]
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.