§ 11.7 a.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Stewart-Smith (Belper)
I beg to move,That this House welcomes Her Majesty's Government's decision to participate in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.I have selected this matter because I believe that the defence and security of the mainland of Western Europe is of vital interest to the security of this country. Therefore, what is at stake is the very survival of this nation and, indeed, of this House. I declare my non-interests in that I have no relatives in the countries of Eastern Europe or Russia and that I do not line my pockets from the profits of East-West trade. I confess, however, to a certain affection for the people of those countries.
Twenty years ago, at school, I was intrigued by the curious phenomenon in international affairs that the people of my country found the political system on the other side of the Iron Curtain extremely unattractive while the people on the other side of the Iron Curtain found their system totally attractive and ours extremely unattractive.
What relevance has this today? Let us consider our NATO ally Germany and look at its eastern half. On 14th November 1971 East Germany held an election at which the Communist dominated bloc there got 99.85 per cent. of the votes. However, on 19th November 1972, in West Germany there was an election, as we all know, and the Communists 1799 managed to take .3 per cent. of the votes. One of those political demonstrations is totally false and the result of one of those elections is a pack of lies. In my contention that is most certainly not the case with our NATO ally, the Federal Republic of Germany.
At Helsinki next summer there will probably be 34 States represented at the conference; 15 of them are NATO allies, 11 are neutral and seven are Warsaw Pact members. Yugoslavia is in a rather special position. Albania will not play cricket. This gives our diplomats a great opportunity for using the conference to our advantage.
These co-called people's democracies bear a little examination. It was Britain, a very sick Roosevelt and Stalin who, way back in the days of the Yalta meeting, decided what should be done. Britain played a part in this. I will refresh the memory of the House on exactly what was agreed at Westminster in February 1945:The establishment of order in Europe and the rebuilding of national economic life must be achieved by processes which will enable the liberated peoples to … create democratic institutions of their own choice. This is the principle of the Atlantic Charter—the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live—the restoration of sovereign rights and self-government to those people.There will never be peace in Europe until the aims outlined in the Yalta agreement have been achieved. Anyone who thinks that there will be peace in Europe without those aims being achieved lives in a glorious world of unreal fantasy.
My contention is that the security conference is intended to achieve precisely the opposite of what was desired by those who wanted it in the first place. I maintain that the Communist Russian State declared war on every non-Communist State in 1917, and, indeed, on this House and all that it stands for and that the leaders of that State have never wavered in their strategic aims. There is no evidence of a change of aim, but there is distinct evidence of a change of method due to the arrival of nuclear weapons and one or two other factors.
The cold war is not over. It rages on and, I fear, for our people is likely to continue to rage on. Any Western 1800 political leader who solemnly maintains that the cold was is over is deceiving himself and, worse still, deceiving the people of the free world.
There may indeed be change, and we must be alert to watch for it. There is no evidence that there has been substantial change at this time. The USSR is the leader of the Warsaw Pact, which is the biggest and most formidable military war machine the world has ever seen. How right the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. Anthony Royle) was to say in Paris on Tuesday:We must beware of the euphoria about détente.Détente has not yet been achieved. It may be, but not yet.
The Communist Governments are not only in conflict with the non-Communist world. They are in conflict with their own people. They need concentration camps. They need to put their dissidents in insane asylums. It was Peter Yakir only in the last few days within the Soviet Union who has been broken by the Red Gestapo. It is the Russian Empire that controls great chunks of Eastern and Central Europe.
What makes the debate today so relevant is the fact that in a few days' time we start a completely new chapter in our international affairs when we launch into our European venture. I believe passionately that if we are to be Europeans we must be whole Europeans, not half-Europeans. We do not want the soft option of dealing only with Western Europe. There is Eastern Europe too. We must refuse to write off the whole of Central and Eastern Europe as if it was in a glacier.
We are discussing this morning the fate of no fewer than 132 million Europeans. We are not discussing parish problems, county problems or British problems. We are discussing the lives and fate of 132 million people.
My contention is that the political Administrations of the countries that I have alluded to are anti-working class and repressive. Most of them exist because they were imposed on the people against their will between 1945 and 1948 by the Red Army.
1801 After a perod of time, especially with the death of Stalin, the workers—not capitalists and bankers, but the workers—of East Germany rose. They rose against Stalinist functionaries in that Marxist-Leninist Administration. It was the workers who rose in Hungary. The regime's only friends were the secret police and the Russians. It was the same with the Poles in Poznan in 1956. It was the people who supported Dubcek in 1968. Again in Poland in December 1970 it was the dockers, and they are still restless. It was the people in Lithuania and the Ukraine this year.
I will not weary the House by retelling facts which it knows so well. There is an enormous weight of evidence in the possession of the House of a massive anti-regime feeling, from Sakharov in Russia to Dubcek in Czechoslovakia. These people are held down by terror or, more accurately, by the threat of terror.
When considering European security we are faced with a most curious and dangerous mixture of brutal Russian imperialism justified by a thin veneer of Marxist-Leninist ideology. The Soviets have campaigned hard for this conference for many years. I claim that their aim is nothing less than to maintain and legitimise their control over Central and Eastern Europe. They want to eject the United States' presence from Europe and to enhance their political influence in the whole of Western Europe in alliance with those political parties in the West which are gullible enough to do so. One looks at France to see the joint programme that they have got with the Socialists there. The Soviets want to work for the United States' presence from Europe and gradually they can bring under their control and hegemony.
I maintain that the British Government were wrong in 1945 to trust the Soviet Union. There was a minority who voted against the Government then. I believe that the British Government will be totally wrong if in 1973 they attempt to endorse the violations of the Yalta conference.
Let me recall what was said in the House on 26th August 1968. The right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) said this of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia:The action that they have taken in the last few days shows that Communism as they 1802 now practise it is completely incompatible not with what we could call liberalisation but with what Mr. Dubcek would call liberalisation. It shows, too, that the Russian version of Communism is incompatible with the sovereignty and independence of States which are allied to the Soviet Union.My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, said this in the same debate:I do not believe that the House would want the Government to recognise what was obviously a puppet regime …My right hon. Friend the present Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary observed of Dubcek's followers that theironly sin has been to discover for themselves that Communism and freedom are incompatible with each other".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th August, 1968; Vol. 769, cc. 1288–1412.]Every Liberal since childhood has been brought up to believe that to say "Might is right"—as Hitler said—is totally wrong. But a more insidious cliché is coming to be projected today, namely "Time is right". Over a period of time one accepts what "Might is right" achieved. If one accepts that, one endorses that "Might is right".
What was unacceptable as a result of Soviet action in 1945 and 1968 is now, many maintain, perfectly acceptable. Anyone who remains true to the Western ideals of upholding self-determination, democratic institutions and freedom finds himself totally unacceptable. Contemporary appeasement seems to stand truth on its head. In attempting to achieve their strategic aims the Soviets are being helped along by the West.
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
Before the hon. Gentleman turns from that part of his speech, may I ask him to clarify something? I am interested in his concept that we should not legitimise the regimes in Eastern Europe. Does he mean that we should withdraw recognition of them? Does he mean that we should impose some kind of sanctions against them, perhaps trade sanctions? Does he mean that we should move for their expulsion from international organisations? Does he mean that we should try to isolate them from the rest of the world? What does he mean by that extraordinarily vague phrase?
§ Mr. Stewart-Smith
I shall come to that. Under no circumstances do I suggest any sort of policy such as the hon. 1803 and learned Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) has outlined—indeed, quite the reverse. I want the maximum possible engagement.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
When my hon. Friend comes to that point and replies to the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard), will he also allude to the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman who was Foreign Secretary in the former Labour Administration about the legitimacy of the present Government of Czechoslovakia?
§ Mr. Stewart-Smith
Yes. If hon. Members bide their time I shall come to those points.
The treaties between Bonn and Moscow and Bonn and Warsaw are not regarded by the West as peace treaties. The Soviets could clearly defer indefinitely the creation of any sort of peace treaty and at the same time could regard these treaties as permanently binding. The Four-Power Berlin Agreement allowed a Soviet consulate, appointed by Moscow and not Bonn. This seems to indicate that West Berlin becomes a third political unit and East Berlin, therefore, with Western approval, becomes the capital of this Russian colony on German soil. The recognition of East Germany will inevitably come and two Germanies will go into the United Nations. The Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain remain and the shootings that occur across them are regarded as acceptable. Trip wires exist to fire guns automatically on the workers trying to get out of the country. If the German people choose a Government which, in my opinion, violates their basic law, there is nothing that the British Parliament can do about it.
But has the principle of unification and freedom been abandoned? If it has, is not this a violation of the Paris Peace Treaty of 1955? What more concessions will West Germany grant to the East unilaterally? Massive credits, perhaps; bogus repatriations, possibly. Will it go so far as to remove foreign troops? If it means that, that is the end of NATO. Is the West German Government intent on some unification through neutralism? One wonders. At the same time the SALT talks go on, which ensure that there is United States inferiority in 1804 thermo-nuclear weapons. In Switzerland the nuclear balance talks go on as well. If the East is allowed to get away with symmetrical disarmament, it will weaken the West further because of the shorter lines of communication. The Soviets' aim is to create a permanent European Security Council to maintain the status quo in Central and Eastern Europe.
Looking further ahead, their aims are crystal clear. The joint United States-Soviet communiqué said:The ultimate purpose is general and complete disarmament, including nuclear disarmament, under strict international control. A world disarmament conference could play a role in this process at the appropriate time.Americans and Russians would be negotiating over the heads of Europe for their mutual convenience.
Is Roosevelt's naïvety at Yalta to be repeated? Who is using whom, one wonders. There are likely to be Soviet demands at Helsinki next year. The abolition of NATO and the Warsaw Pact has often been mooted in the past. If that happens, the bilateral agreement between Warsaw and the Soviet Union will remain. There seems likely to be a demand for a general declaration of the renunciation of the use of force. This takes up the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court. This could be codified into some sort of treaty signed, sealed and delivered. What is the worth of any signature of the Soviet Union?
Before the West gets carried away and commits itself to a monumental and dangerous illusion, it might consider the report produced by the United States Senate entitled "Soviet Political Agreements and Results" in which the chairman concluded:The Soviet keeps no international promise unless doing so is clearly advantageous to the Soviet Union. I seriously doubt whether during the whole history of civilisation any great nation has ever made as perfidious a record as this in so short a time.One may say that that is a hostile view of a hostile country. Thank goodness the British Ambassador in Helsinki, the leader of our delegation, has said thatPaper guarantees and statements of good intentionswere no protection against military power.
1805 Let us hear a contemporary Russian view of the trustworthiness of the Soviet Government when it comes to honouring agreements and paper undertakings. This is important. Recently 128 Soviet Jews addressed an appeal to the Security Conference as follows:In our view, before proclaiming new declarations, no matter how good they are, it is necessary to attain the undeviating observance of those that have already been adopted. First and foremost, we have in mind the declaration of the Rights of Man, without the carrying out of which no people and no individuals can feel themselves secure. At the same time, it is no secret that certain provisions of this declaration and of the international pact on civil and political rights, also signed by the USSR, are still ignored by the Soviet Union, which is precisely the State that has initiated the summoning of the European Conference. It is precisely the right of every citizen to leave the country of his residence without impediment that is denied by the Soviet authorities who state that they alone have the right to determine at their own will who can leave the USSR and who cannot. This is an indubitable violation of international obligations voluntarily undertaken by the Soviet Union.Where then is the guarantee that those principles that are offered for adoption at the European Conference by the Soviet Union will not also remain merely on paper?There is no guarantee whatsoever. It is not worth the paper it is written on.
There will, of course, be siren voices saying "But it is all different this time." We heard that when the Cominterm was abolished in 1943 and we heard it when the Cominform was disbanded in 1947. We heard it when the Soviet Union tried to put nuclear weapons into Cuba in 1962. Not only was there the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia but there was also Soviet pressure on Romania and on Yugoslavia. There is this massive military build-up on the borders of China with threats of pre-emptive nuclear strikes against China by the Soviet Union. The leopard has not changed its spots. The very men with whom my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is going to negotiate at Helsinki in the summer are the same men who sat down at Cierna and Bratislava and said "Peace, no interference" and then put more troops into Czechoslovakia than the Americans have put into Vietnam. These men are incorrigibly treacherous. They will justify the use of force whenever it suits them retrospectively under the Brezhnev doctrine.
1806 There will be other siren voices saying "We must disarm unilaterally." We must resist this demand for unilateral disarmament. I hope that the Government will not countenance it for one moment. We must maintain and improve our defences. I hope we shall press for the promotion of a European command staff within the alliance, that the Euro-group will be strengthened and that eventually there will be a European nuclear force.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said in Peebles on 18th November:But it would be totally wrong to throw away the hard-earned security which we will have gained through the Atlantic Alliance for the sake of a short-term and illusory détente. That means ensuring that at every stage the balance of power in Europe is sustained.For making a remark like that, the Foreign Secretary was promptly attacked by Tass. I can think of no greater proof that my right hon. Friend was right in defending the interests of free Europe.
It is absolutely vital that Western Europe speaks from a position of strength at the conference. To drop our guard at this time would increase the risks of war. Throughout its history the Soviet Union has shown that the only thing it recognises and understands is force. I shall not weary the House with details of military build-ups. It has been done by people more able than I. But the Soviets have 390 submarines and 60 Polaris-firing submarines, and one nuclear submarine is built every five weeks. I welcome the unpopular but courageous decision of the Government to increase their defence expenditure.
Who is to speak for the people of Central and Eastern Europe at Helsinki next year? Will the British and other Western Governments put their faith in the word of unelected Governments, self-appointed party functionaries? Let us examine those Governments. They survive, in the case of East Germany, by having 20 Soviet divisions. In Czechoslovakia there are five Soviet divisions, and Hungary has four and Poland two. Any agreement entered into at Helsinki which fails to take into account the people and their aspirations is doomed.
How do we know what the people of Eastern Europe want, it may be asked. It is not too difficult to discover. They seek what every other nation seeks—self-determination, peace, prosperity and the 1807 withdrawal of foreign troops. I would suggest that they would probably choose social democracy as a political institution and they would choose to live not in either bloc but in neutrality, wanting the UN Declaration on Human Rights to be implemented in their countries. Perhaps they would wish to rejoin Europe and escape from semi-Asiatic cruelty and brutality. They want nothing more than the renunciation of the Brezhnev doctrine because that is a threat to their security. They would almost certainly want free elections and the establishment of freely-elected Governments and Parliaments like ours. They would also seek freedom of religion, speech, movement and civil liberties and they would seek the rule of law, the abolition of the labour camps and the release of people from these insane asylums.
The principles which the people of Eastern Europe stand for and are striving for are not negotiable. If we were true Europeans we should be helping them to attain and re-establish those principles. We must not agree to the permanent demise of the people of half Europe. There will never be peace until they and the people of the Soviet Union enjoy these principles. It is not natural for any man to live in a state of fear under an inhuman and irrational regime. It is not natural for him to undergo the lies and the terror. It is quite contrary to the aspirations of mankind. The people of Eastern Europe will strive to attain their national interest and liberties no matter what we in Western Europe do. Their aspirations to liberty are self-generating and we betray our ideals if we do not do what we can to hearten them and help them in their struggle.
To the eternal shame of this nation we came to an agreement without consulting the Czechoslovakian people in an earlier era in which we had to deal with another tyranny. It would be worse if we now came to any form of agreement without consulting half of Europe in appeasing today's tyranny. The situation may come about—after all, it has happened before—in which the people of East Germany or anywhere else, perhaps Poland, rise. What would happen then? What would be the position of West European Governments in these circumstances That is what the conference is all about as 1808 far as the Soviet Union is concerned. It wants Western approval for its conquests and Western agreement under international law for the Soviet right to control and crush any revolt which may occur in its empire.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, the British Ambassador in Helsinki and the British delegation to the European Parliament will bear these factors in mind before the conference begins. Helsinki must not be the Munich of our generation. Any agreement entered into by the West at Helsinki is doomed to failure before it starts if it assumes either that the Soviets are no longer imperialists or that they are trustworthy. The very nature of Marxism and Leninism—a most unpleasant subject to have to discuss—means that any real coexistence is impossible. The system is engaged in fighting two civil wars. One is the party in power fighting against its own people and the other is the party out of power—in the West—fighting the Governments of those countries.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said at the United Nations General Assembly on 23rd October 1970:We have seen in the last few years the growth of a cult of political violence, preached and practised not so much between States as within them. It is a sombre thought, but it may be that in the 1970s, the decade ahead of us, civil war rather than war between nations will be the main danger which we will face.Those of us who have been interested in the defence of Europe have been pointing out for years that the Communists have been trying to incite civil war within our society. I accuse the British collaborators with Moscow in this country, the British Communist Party, of inciting a nonmilitary civil war here. In all fairness to them and to give them credit, the Morning Star on 1st January, 1972, said:It is precisely what we exist for and we have never made a secret of it.The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) only a few days ago explained in the House precisely what she and her friends were trying to do in creating civil war in Southern and Northern Ireland.
The Russian Communists and their 81 collaborationist parties make it clear that they regard the victory of their system as inevitable. It is their very reason for being. They believe passionately in the victory of the system in the same way that 1809 a Jew believes in the coming of the Messiah or the Christian in the afterlife. They are on a permanent semi-war footing against the West. They are not troubled by public opinion and they have massive resources at their command to enable them to operate.
At the conference I hope that the Foreign Secretary will remember that there will be continuing and remorseless espionage by the Eastern bloc against us and that there will be a continuation of Communist-inspired subversion in our industry. The most damaging revelations of what the Soviets and their allies are up to will probably not come from Western political leaders. They will almost certainly come from senior defectors from within the Communist State. Western political leaders may seek to deceive themselves about Soviet aims, but ironically the refugees and defectors will not allow this to happen.
In spite of what I have said I am totally in favour of our taking part in the conference. If there is to be a détente, which I hope there will be, it must be seen to operate in Western intersets. If bridges are to be built to the Eastern bloc, whatever goes over them must be to our benefit. Western Parliaments do not fear their people. The people put us here. It is the anti-popular regimes in the East who fear their people, the regimes based on lies and fear of truth. I would recommend therefore, a policy of the maximum engagement of the people of the West with the people of the East. I again praise Mr. Anthony Elliot, British Ambassador in Helsinki, for saying:We do not regard co-operation as meaning only, or even primarily, co-operation between Governments. Co-operation depends ultimately on individuals and it is for Governments to create the conditions in which their people can communicate freely with each other and build co-operation on a firm basis.That was a most courageous and wise statement.
I am not so naïve that I do not appreciate that the Soviet Union has firm strategic political warfare aims. It has central control over its peoples and massive resources of manpower to further its political aims in the West which we cannot match. Nevertheless I press for the maximum movement of people and ideas, of students, workers, tourists and trade unionists—we might throw in a 1810 few Maoists and Trotskyists, which would add a little spice—cultural, legal and sporting exchanges. I recommend reciprocity in the wider circulation of newspapers, pamphlets, books, films and television, and mutual discussions on problems relating to the environment.
I should like to see the Government increase the broadcasts to the Eastern bloc. Why do we not restart the Albanian service? Why should we be prevented from speaking to the people behind the Iron Curtain in Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian? Why not have more stress on Western values, of our literature, domestic institutions, genuine—not bogus—trade unions, our civil liberties and the achievements of our Welfare State? These should be forcefully expressed. That sort of thing would break down misunderstandings and serve the real cause of peace and security in Europe.
But before the West gives grain, credit and technical knowledge it would be foolish and not to our advantage not to seek concessions or exchanges from the other side. Why should the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain be allowed to remain? Why cannot they be levelled? Can there be a genuine détente if German workers seeking to move from one side of their country to the other are shot in the back? It is intolerable. I hope that Western leaders will negotiate to our advantage, unlike the unilateral sell-out that has characterised so much of East-West exchanges that have taken place recently.
Surely it is not asking too much, and we should not be too unreasonable, to demand the formal abrogation of the greatest danger to the security of Europe, the Brezhnev doctrine. That is the minimum for which we should ask. We do not even know whether the doctrine applies to Yugoslavia. It may do.
I accept that in the world in which we live political concessions will have to be made. Undoubtedly East Germany will be recognised. Whether it is done by the exchange of ambassadors or someone not quite an ambassador, I do not know we must recognise it. I do not see why we should not recognise Albania. With the gold we hold, we could come to an arrangement over the Corfu incident. But I hope that the Government will never recognise the de jure control of the Soviet 1811 Union over the Baltic States. Churchill said:We have never recognised the 1941 frontiers of Russia.… They were acquired by acts of aggression in shameful collusion with Hitler.The Baltic States should be sovereign, independent peoples.I support the reported demand by our delegation in Helsinki for advance notice of military manoeuvres, which played such a part in the crushing of Czechoslovakia, and for the stationing of observers each side of the Iron Curtain.
We must not regard the Warsaw Pact as monolithic. With the Chinese dragon breathing down Russia's eastern frontier and restive people and problems at home, there is great scope for our diplomats to help the evolution of less threatening regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, regimes that could become more human and rational and could perhaps be drawn back into the European family of nations.
But I oppose very strongly any move that could be interpreted as approving in perpetuity the violations of the Yalta agreement in international law. I hope that when in Helsinki my right hon. Friend will bear in mind one thing that is so often left unsaid: that he has a duty towards the great, proud but silenced Christian nations of half Europe. Are they to be left in eternal bondage with the approval of West Europeans? Albania is officially regarded as an atheist State. We are a Christian nation. So are Poland and others. We betray our faith if we keep silent over the matter.
I end by quoting the words of a great British statesman:I believe, most profoundly, that it is an essential British interest that we should be seen to preserve our moral standards in international behaviour. When our plenipotentiaries fio behaviour. When our plenipotentiaries go it is true, in command of a great Imperial power, but they also go as representatives of a great Christian people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1945; Vol. 408, c. 1306.]Those words were spoken by my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary himself during the Yalta debate in 1945.
I trust that today the House will support my motion.
§ 11.46 a.m.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
I shall speak in a very different frame of 1812 mind and adopt a very different attitude from that which we have just heard expressed.
British Cabinet Ministers are showing by their current actions that they are not genuinely seeking detente and disarmament in Europe. This week, shortly before the East-West conference to achieve mutual and balanced force reductions, the Secretary of State for Defence announced a huge increase in arms spending—hardly a helpful move. It could be regarded as deliberate sabotage. I only hope that it will not be so regarded by other Governments. If a bridegroom declared on his wedding eve his intention of putting tin tacks in the bridal bed, his desire for a happy marriage would be somewhat suspect. That is the equivalent of what the Government are doing.
The prize is great, and the situation has never been more favourable for reconciliation and international co-operation. Yet the Government are busy kicking the prospects in the teeth. The increase in arms spending will be far bigger than we might think from Lord Carrington's announcement. He talked of 5 per cent. more in real terms. But in cash terms, allowing for inflation at its present rate of 9 per cent. a year, it will mean an increase next March of £414 million for next year's military programme, bringing it to the colossal annual total of £3,268 million. This year's increase in our arms spending is the largest for 20 years, but next year's will be greater still.
The increase comes at the very moment when the housing programme has fallen disastrously, to the lowest for a decade. I shall not depart into discussing that subject, because this is a debate on European security. However, this week I received a letter from a mother who has been waiting for a home for 23 years. The homeless, the young couples, the slum dwellers, the families with rain pouring through the roof, will all have worsened prospects, yet with this year's extra money for so-called defence we could have provided new homes for 90,000 families. Perhaps the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. Stewart-Smith) would like to ask the people which they would prefer.
§ Mr. Allaun
Instead of increasing arms spending the Government should be reducing it. This would lead to a reduction of tension rather than a heightening of it. The resources are certainly needed for other and better things.
§ Mr. Piers Dixon (Truro)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us whether he would prefer to have a home, perhaps not a very nice home, in a completely democratic country or whether he would prefer to have a slightly better home in a country which in 10 years' time might be under a Communist dictatorship?
§ Mr. Allaun
The answer to that is that I believe in democracy not in dictatorships. I certainly do not want a third world war. I am in favour of neither Moscow nor Washington and I do not believe that a third world war, which might result from some of the views we have heard this morning, will provide houses.
What a paradoxical situation we have at present. Agreements have been reached between West and East Germany, Poland and Russia. The election results in West Germany show how popular is this kind of policy. Yet at this moment millions of men in uniform are lined up on both sides of this artificial division down the centre of the country, wasting both the time and energies of themselves and their country.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)
Does the hon. Gentleman not regard it as a matter for concern that the East German Government should have released political prisoners on such a substantial scale with the specific purpose of influencing elections in another part of Germany in its favour? Does that not effect the internal affairs in another sovereign country?
§ Mr. Allaun
I do not think that that comment in any way affects the point I am making, which is that the relaxation of tension between East and West Germany, the series of agreements which have been reached, far from losing votes for Willy Brandt's Government have gained further support for it. I am glad that the German people are looking in this peace- 1814 ful direction rather than in the direction they looked under the Hitler regime.
The Under-Secretary gave the game away about the Foreign Office attitude in his speech to the Assembly of Western European Union this week when he said:We must beware of euphoria about détente".This is an implicit admission of the Minister's knowledge that millions of people are fed up with the waste of the world's resources on armaments and are looking forward to a real result from next year's international talks. I suggest that he was deliberately trying to knock these hopes on the head. That is a shameful thing to do. Why should he, the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence take such an attitude? I believe that they are nice men—nice men with nasty ideas. They are so anti-Soviet that they are not fitted to hold office at a time when the only alternative to peaceful co-existence is non-existence.
They cannot realise that the world has moved on since the days of the cold war. The British military-industrial complex, like the American complex, is continuously exerting pressure for more and more expensive armaments. Because of the vested interests of the military, I do not believe that we should leave the conference on mutual and balanced force reductions to the brass hats on either side. It is like asking a conference of tobacco manufacturers to cut out smoking by the public. They are not best fitted to conduct such talks.
No doubt Lord Carrington's argument to defend his arms increase is the old one—we must negotiate from a position of superior strength. If both sides adopt that position agreement becomes impossible and the arms race gathers speed. I do not believe that NATO intends to invade or attack Eastern Europe. Nor do I believe that the Russians intend to attack the NATO countries. But both power blocs are working on this false assumption. While I am not suggesting that Governments are ready for complete disarmament it would surely be in their own interests to make mutual cuts to a lower level and then devote the resulting savings to providing what their people want.
Another instance of this attempt to stymie further international progress was 1815 Lord Carrington's speech at the Conservative Party Conference. This expressed a contempt for the forthcoming European security conference. He proposed a West European nuclear military force. The Minister is not a fool. He knows that direct or indirect control of nuclear weapons by the German generals is what Russia most fears. With her 20 million dead that is not unnatural. The noble Lord surely did not make the proposal without consulting the Prime Minister.
We have since been told that this is a plan for the more distant future but, if so, why was the announcement made on the eve of these international conferences? Was the timing not an attempt to prejudice their success? Do the Government believe that if the NATO countries increase their arms the Warsaw Pact countries will not do the same?
Although it was ignored by most newspapers the Labour Party programme put before the annual conference in October by the National Executive proposed reductions in arms spending. The question has to be answered: why should Britain spend a higher proportion of her gross national product on arms than any other Western European NATO country, with the single exception of Portugal, which is deeply involved in its colonial wars? The Labour Party statement pointed out that we devote 5.7 per cent. of our GNP to defence expenditure compared with a 4.2 per cent. average for the other Western European NATO countries. If we reduced our spending to their level it would save no less than £600 million per year. If there were mutual and balanced arms reductions this would bring about an additional saving.
§ Sir Brandon Rhys Williams (Kensington, South)
Would it not complete the picture if the hon. Gentleman gave us an impression of the percentage of the Soviet Union national product which is devoted to armaments? Can he confirm that lately the Soviet Union increased the percentage of its product going into offensive weapons?
§ Mr. Allaun
It is true that the proportion of the Soviet gross national product devoted to arms is higher than our own. But so is that of the Americans. The American proportion is 9.2 per cent. I 1816 believe that the Soviet percentage is roughly the same. What I am saying—and I do not think that the hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) has answered the point at all—is that our proportion is higher than that of any other Western European country. One has only to compare our spending with that of a country like Italy, for example. If we reduced to the Italian level we would save not merely £600 million a year. We would save £1,100 million a year—
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)
Surely this is a case where, if Europe is to be defended and we are spending too high a percentage of our gross national product, it would be in the interests of Europe to help share the burden so that it was more equally distributed.
§ Mr. Allaun
I am more in favour of bringing ours down than of bringing theirs up, for good bread and butter reasons.
Meanwhile Conservative Ministers, members of Parliament and the Press issue constant propaganda for greater military spending still. One frequent excuse is the growth of the Soviet Navy. I am not very keen about the Soviet Navy. Nor am I very keen about the American Navy. The Soviet Navy is growing. But this propaganda conceals the fact that the NATO fleet is twice as big. Again we hear talk from the benches opposite about Red ships in the Indian Ocean. We ignore the presence of the American Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. However the kind of attitude that we have heard expressed this morning encourages an escalation by both sides of this fantastic military spending. Three billion pounds a year on our arms programme is out of this world, in the present state of the world and in the present state of our country.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
The hon. Member for Salford. East (Mr. Frank Allaun) is being just a little misleading. No one could suggest that the spending of a neutral nation like Sweden on defence is encouraged either by the West or the East. Yet the per capita defence spending of Sweden is higher than that of any European country, East or West. The greatest personal sacrifice made for defence is made by the Swedes—
§ Mr. Richard
The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) about the amount which could be saved on military spending is, if anything, understated, for two very good reasons. Neutrality is very expensive. It is not cheap. With respect, the argument about Sweden is a nonsense. But in the past 20 years we have consistently spent more on defence than any other Western European nation, and it is time that this was reduced to a sensible percentage. I wish that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would accept, too, that if all the Western European nations came to a round figure of, say, 5 per cent. of their GNP for defence. NATO's financial problems would disappear and we should save money. It seems to me that my hon. Friend's point is an extremely good one.
§ Mr. Allaun
That is such an excellent answer that I do not wish to add to it.
I revert to Lord Carrington's speech proposing a Western European nuclear force. Apart from the fact that it would kill completely the prospects for an East-West détente which I want to see and which I doubt whether the hon. Member for Belper does, I want to suggest another argument against it.
Would not the creation of a third nuclear force destroy the hopes of parity between America and Russia? With two nuclear powers, parity at a lower level is possible. But if a third force in the shape of a Western European nuclear force were introduced, each would fear a ganging up by the other two nuclear powers and, therefore, would say to itself, "We must have not only parity with one of these States, but a nuclear strength capable of beating any of those two in an alliance." I fear that this would dish our hopes of preventing the nuclear arms race.
Both sides are so frightened of each other that they are increasing their armaments for what they believe to be defensive reasons. In that way the arms race grows. Surely this is the time when ordinary men and women should call a halt to this madness. It may be that the international conferences planned for 1818 next month will be the last chance. Anyone who stands in their way is an enemy of mankind.
§ 12.7 p.m.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
My hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. Stewart-Smith) is to be congratulated on raising this matter today. He is unusually well informed on the subject that he has chosen to raise, and I believe that he has done a public service by speaking courageously about it.
It is one of the ironies of the age in which we live, and one which the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches always seem to ignore, that there has been a tremendous contrast in the post-war era between the growth of Russian Communist imperialism and the decline in the British Empire through the granting of freedom to so many countries in every continent which all of us in this House have supported. We should never lose sight of that contrast or fail to remind the Russians of it.
Before I come to the one or two points that I wish to make on my own initiative, perhaps I may reply to some of those made by the hon. Member of Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun). He said that the Government were not genuinely seeking a détente with Moscow. In support of that assertion he used what to my mind was a completely unsound argument, saying that the evidence was that the Government were strengthening our defences and that that prevented a détente.
No one can have lived through the past 25 years and observed what has been going on in the world without realising that if we want peace and if we want to achieve it at the conference table we have to be able to speak from a position of strength.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman clarify that last statement? Does he mean that we must argue from a position of superior strength? If he means that, what does he think the Soviet attitude should be? Will not the Russians say, "We, too, must argue from a position of superior strength"? Is not that a logical absurdity?
§ Sir D. Renton
I think that if the hon. Gentleman will listen to me he will 1819 see that what I mean is that the Russians possess overwhelming military strength by which they are holding the whole of Eastern Europe in bondage, and that they have in Europe land forces which collectively, considering also the air strength by which they are supported, are far greater than the land forces in Europe of the West, and that, therefore, it is not a question of our trying to become stronger than the Russians when we go to the conference table but a question of our being able to speak from some strength instead of from patent weakness.
§ Mr. Allaun rose—
§ Sir D. Renton
I hope the hon. Gentleman will allow me to go on because I am going to answer in detail some of the points he made.
§ Sir D. Renton
No. I think that if the hon. Gentleman will just bear with me for a moment he will find that I shall be answering some of the points he raised and which, I think, he has in mind.
For example, he said that the NATO fleet is twice as big as theirs. It may well be so, but the strategic reality is that the Russian land-based forces are immensely greater in Europe than the forces of freedom of the Western nations. That is the basic strategic fact of the world today—of the world today, not merely of Europe today, because this is the greatest threat of all, in my opinion, to the peace of the world.
The hon. Gentleman, and the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) also, relied upon the comparative figures relating to defence expenditure. It may be that ours is higher than that of other Western European countries. So be it, but the obvious reason for that is that on their behalf we have borne for a good many years more than our fair share of the defence of the Middle East and of South-East Asia, and more than our fair share of maintaining the nuclear deterrent as well.
Our expenditure is nothing like as great as that which the United States bears. We in this House are sometimes inclined not to pay enough tribute to the contribution 1820 to the peace of the world which the United States Air Force is making not only in mainland Europe but also from bases in this country, too. I live in a village on the down wind side of one of the American bases. The Americans have those so-called Phantom aircraft—but they make the most terrible noise. When I am in my garden, trying to cultivate it, I first curse the noise, and then I say, "Well, thank heaven—for if those people were not there I might not be cultivating my garden in peace."
I come to the background of this debate. It is the verdict of the people in two significant by-elections. In both of those elections the candidates in favour of our joining the EEC came out on top. Those opposed to our joining did miserably. At Sutton and Cheam the Labour candidate, who, I understand, was opposed to our joining, even forfeited his deposit. Most remarkable! Today the Labour Party has exhibited its interest in this debate by not at any time having in the Chamber more than three out of its nearly 300 Members. Indeed, now there are only two.
§ Mr. Richard
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is being something of a statistician this morning. I do not want to bandy figures with him, but those two by-election results could just as easily prove that the electorate do not like women. They could prove anything the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants to make them prove.
§ Sir D. Renton
Such a conclusion with regard to the ladies who come into politics is one which I could never have reached.
Of course, the Liberal Party is not here at all, but I suppose it has not stopped celebrating yet. Or it may be that it is suffering from its most terrific hangover since 1906.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belper made a plea for co-operation between Western European countries in their defence against Russian Communism, a plea which I would have hoped Members all on both sides of this House would have supported. Modern warfare is total. It is not confined to the armed combatants. It involves civilian communities completely, the old and the young, the women, the infirm, the handicapped. Everybody is involved.
1821 This is, perhaps, even more true of modern warfare carried on by conventional methods, as compared with nuclear methods; because fortunately, in the wars which we have had since the end of the last Great War, nuclear methods have not been used, but it seems likely that if, by some terrible mischance, they had been used, the dropping of one or two bombs by one side, perhaps in a moment of desperation, and designed to drop so that their effect would be limited to a particular section of one country, in itself might not have had, in that war, such a devastating effect as prolonged war carried out by conventional methods has had, for example, in Vietnam where civilians on both sides have suffered most grievously and have become completely caught up in that war.
So it is, perhaps, for that reason, as well as in the hope of some defence against nuclear warfare, that all European countries except our own—and I would so much welcome the ear at this moment of the Minister—have highly developed and efficient services for protecting their civilian people against the terrors of modern warfare.
We were doing pretty well in this respect until this time five years ago when, following devaluation, the previous Government disbanded the Civil Defence Corps, put the alarm system into mothballs, sold off nearly all the mobile equipment, stopped training, except to a very minor extent, and cut expenditure. Indeed, it was done, apparently, in an effort at economy. We for our part said at the time that it was a false economy.
After that happened the present Prime Minister asked me to chair a policy study group to consider what we should do when we came into power. We made various recommendations which were included in a pamphlet called "Coping with emergencies in peace and war" in which we pointed out that we had less protection for our people than any civilised country on either side of the Iron Curtain. That was the position in 1969, and it is so today, although the Government have started to put things right. Unfortunately, the reorganisation of local government has been the cause of, and it has been used, perhaps justifiably up to a point, as the excuse for not doing enough. I hope that progress will be made and that we 1822 shall not wait much longer for something tangible to be seen in the way of improving training and equipment.
In our report we did not recommend revival of the Civil Defence Corps, although we did suggest ways in which volunteers could play a part. The statement in the Sunday Telegraph one Sunday last month that the Royal Air Force is preparing for defence against bombers carrying conventional bombs, and that that is part of our strategy of defence, is something which should cause us to give further thought to our civil defence arrangements. If we expect and prepare to meet a conventional war of that kind, then we have to improve our arrangements for that. Certainly when we get into Europe and move closer to common defence arrangements our friends on the Continent will raise their eyebrows at the extent to which we have neglected this part of our defences. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Belper will not mind my having extended his interesting discussion in this way, but I think that it is relevant to what he said.
§ 12.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)
I, too, am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. Stewart-Smith) for initiating this debate. From the outset I should like to express a constituency interest in this matter. I have a substantial number of East European refugees in my constituency, and on Sunday 19th November many of them—probably the majority—under the auspices of the Captive Nations Committee, held a public meeting at which they unanimously passed a resolution expressing grave anxiety about the proposed European security conference.
The resolution was transmitted to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and I hope that he will be able to give the considered reply of Her Majesty's Government to it. I say that because these are men and women who have practical, first-hand, personal experience of what it is like to live under the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe. Their attitudes are markedly different from those of many Socialist Members in this House who have had no such experience, and I find that a supremely sobering fact.
1823 These people ask of us above all that we recognise that the principles of democracy and self-determination are indivisible and are rights which should properly belong to all peoples, and not just to those who belong to any particular bloc by the accident of history. These are facts, and I should very much like to bring them to the attention of my hon. Friend.
At this Conference on European Security and Co-operation in Europe one aspect of European security must be borne in mind, and that is not just the military situation on the central front, but the naval situation, too, and in bringing this before the House I ask hon. Members to remember the words of Admiral Gorhskov a year after the Cuba operation in 1963. He declared then:In the past our ships and naval aviation have operated primarily near our coasts…concerned mainly with operations and technical co-operation with ground troops. Now…we must be prepared through offensive operations to deliver crushing strikes against sea and ground targets of the imperialists on any point on the world's oceans and adjacent territories.One might imagine that was all old hat, a relic of the cold war, and something to be forgotten, but naval development in the Soviet Union has gone on apace in the intervening 10 years. In the 1971 Statement on the Defence Estimates there were some extremely relevant paragraphs. The first of these, paragraph 6, drew attention to the exercise activity of the Soviet Union.In April 1970—the White Paper declared—there was the largest ever concentration of Soviet ships in the North Atlantic, engaged in a major maritime exercise. The Caribbean is also an area of increasing activity by the Soviet Union.That exercise of April 1970, called OKEAN, concluded with offensive operations on the Kola Peninsula area of the Soviet Union. It was an amphibious operation designed to exercise the capability of the Soviet Navy to put a substantial offensive force ashore, presumably in northern Norway, and it was for that very good reason that NATO exercised its own capability in the autumn of this year in Exercise "Strong Express" to reinforce the northern flank of the alliance.
1824 If one looks at the southern flank, which is another area that causes grave anxiety, one sees developments in the Mediterranean which are not really favourable to the balance of power. Paragraph 7 of the White Paper spelled this out. It said:In the Mediterranean the position of the Soviet Union has grown stronger through the scale of its penetration of the Arab World and the increasing size of its naval forces. Five years ago the maximum number of Soviet vessels in the Mediterranean was 5 surface ships, 5 submarines and 10 auxiliaries. In 1970, on the latest assessment, this had risen to 30 surface ships, 10 submarines and 25 auxiliaries.I ask my hon. Friend and the Government to bear in mind the ever-growing Soviet preponderance on the flanks of the alliance. There is a grave danger, at this stage of Ostpolitik, of the Europeans becoming so obsessed with détente on the central front and the understandably worthy aim of normalising relations in Central Europe that they ignore developments on the flanks and on the oceans of the world.
While I am on the subject of the oceans of the world perhaps I may remind hon. Members that European security depends on access to raw materials, to markets and on overseas trade generally. In the oceans of the world, again the 1971 White Paper said:The Soviet Union is building up its military capabilities and particularly in the Indian Ocean area.There have been the treaties of friendship with Egypt, Iraq and India. All these developments jeopardise the Western position in regard to access to oil supplies in the Middle East, and this is a matter of vital concern to European security that will not specifically come up at a security conference but which is directly relevant.
Lastly, because it is nearest to home. I remind the House of the words of my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) when he was Minister of State for Defence. He said:The Soviet Northern Fleet, which used to be the smallest in their navy, is now the biggest. It is also the closest to our shores. It has 400 vessels, including no less than 160 submarines, at least 65 of which are nuclear powered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February. 1972; Vol. 831, cc. 1313–4.]If one wanted words with which to refute the irresponsible statements of the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. 1825 Frank Allaun) about the Soviet naval threat, I think that those are particularly apt.
In looking at European security one has to analyse the intentions of the other side. Many of our defensive preparations have been based only on a political analysis of the threat, and have been insufficiently founded on an analysis of the military menace of the Soviet war machine. If one looks at the statements made by Soviet leaders, one sees their intentions quite clearly. For example, Neues Deutschland on 21st April, 1970, contained a statement by Mr. Brezhnev himself, in which he urged Communist comradesto be prepared for any changes in the situation, for the use of all forms of struggle, whether peaceful or non-peaceful, legal or illegal…And there is no doubt that the coming years will witness further severe blows to the fortress of imperialism, which is still dangerous but already doomed by history to ruin.He continued:The Communists should always bear in mind that the last decisive battle for Socialism has still to be waged. Communists are communists because all their forces are dedicated to that which is most important of all—this final aim.I ask the Government to bear the intentions of the Soviet Union in mind. If hon. Members opposite say that that is irrelevant and a relic of the cold war, they should listen to Moscow Radio and they should read Pravda. I know that that is difficult, but sometimes the programmes are in English, and English translations of Pravda are available. There was an interesting talk on Moscow Radio in November 1971 by Mr. Vladimirov, about the conference on European co-operation and security. He alleged that the conference…will deprive Washington of any excuse for keeping its troops on this side of the ocean.He continued:This means that it would lose an important instrument of pressure on its partners in Western Europe…But the intention is clear, it is to produce such an atmosphere that the Western Alliance will be so divided and so weakened in its resolve that it will be prepared to accept the withdrawal of substantial American forces 3,000 miles westwards across the Atlantic to the United States in return for the withdrawal 1826 of Soviet divisions only 300 miles eastwards to the Soviet Union. It is relevant that the outgoing United States Secretary for Defence should have issued words of warning on this point.
If hon. Members want some idea of the latest comments from the other side about the security conference, they should read Pravda of 26th October 1970. An article by Mr. Yermakov says:The NATO ringleaders—that is cold war language if ever there was such language—have not stopped and evidently are not going to stop their intrigues designed to poison the international atmosphere. This is the only explanation for the brazen and provocative 'list of concessions' NATO allegedly is going to obtain from the socialist countries in the course of the All-European talks. Essentially this is an attempt at intervention in the domestic affairs of the Socialist countries, to confront them with such terms for the talks which rather resemble their direct wrecking.In other words—and we have seen this already—the independent individual nations of Eastern Europe will not be able to express their own view if it in any way contravenes the Brezhnev doctrine.
I ask the Government to be extremely realistic in the days ahead. Everybody wants the maximisation of contact, more cultural exchange, better trading opportunities and a liberalisation of the political atmosphere in Europe as a whole. But I draw attention to an excellent article in The Economist of 25th November, 1972, about the freedom of movement, which to my mind is the most important aspect of all. Without that freedom ideas cannot be exchanged and no movement towards political freedom is possible. The article points out quite clearly that in every instance up to now the Eastern bloc countries have been willing to accept tourists from the West and willing to discuss increases in the number of official sponsored tours of musicians, engineers and other groups to the West. But there has so far been no sign of any general liberalisation, in spite of the treaty between the two Germanys, so that ordinary East Europeans will be able to get a passport and visit a Western country, which to my mind is the touchstone of their willingness to liberalise the political atmosphere in Europe.
I am for a policy of dialogue and movement. I welcome the maximisation 1827 of contact. However, I ask that the principles of democracy and self-determination, which are indivisible, and which the Eastern Europeans most admire about our way of life, should not be degraded in Christian Western Europe. Those principles can be safeguarded only by vigilance and military preparedness against the Soviet war machine.
§ 12.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I apologise to the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. Stewart-Smith) for not being present during his speech. Unfortunately I found that I had to make a rapid detour. I wanted to hear the hon. Gentleman's speech because this is a very important subject. I regret that not many hon. Members are in the House, particularly my hon. Friends, to participate in the motion.
Many of us have for a long time been urging that there should be a European security conference, which we hoped would ultimately lead to a European security pact. I think that we must accept that there are great difficulties. It would be regrettable if in approaching the conference we did so on the basis of complete and utter distrust of the motives of the other side. We have a right to be distrustful, but it would be wrong to prejudice the conference on the basis that it should be used as a sort of propaganda sounding machine to attack the internal régimes of East Europe.
The fact is that the Eastern Europe regimes are communist. They do not accept our basic political doctrines of free democracy and elections. But we must recognise that within the communist bloc there are various strands which means that no longer is there entirely the monolithic organisation that there was in the past.
The Soviet Union is, of course, the greatest power in Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, countries other than the Soviet Union are now seeking—and have been doing so for a long time—their own paths whilst retaining the basic concept of communism. It is not right to think in the old terms of a centralised communist bloc centred on Moscow. There are now a number of different centres throughout the world. We must think about China as well as the Soviet Union. 1828 There is the Yugoslav experiment, which is different from other communist régimes. Nagy was always a communist, he never denied that, but he wanted to get out from under the tutelage of the Soviet Union. To some extent the Poles are in the same situation. The Romanians in particular are very keen to pursue any independent path of industrialisation and political relations with other countries, independent of the Soviet Union. In the same way, we in the capitalist world of the West have our differences of approach to the East European bloc. We have our own national interests just as have the members of the Eastern bloc.
Therefore, if we recognise this, we may not approach the conference with the idea of using it as a platform for trying to stir up discontent in the Eastern European countries. There is plenty of discontent there already without anyone in the West trying to stir it up. They must solve their own problems and get their democracy in their own way. If we in the west begin to assume that we would be welcome there and that we could impose the ideas of a capitalist society—not my ideas, but those of hon. Members opposite—that would be counter-productive in relation to this conference.
What I hope will emerge ultimately from such a conference is a recognition that there must be a drawing back of the vast armed forces of both East and West which exist in Europe at the moment. I hope that we shall get an agreement under which Soviet troops will leave Eastern European countries and remain behind Soviet borders, and American troops will leave Europe for America.
This will not happen immediately—it is a long-term prospect—but there is a possibility that, as an immediate step, we could have a joint commission to consider balanced force reductions. I hope that, in the last analysis, both the Warsaw Pact and the NATO pact will be eliminated together. Pacts have an internal logic of their own. If one builds up great armed fronts in the countries of one pact, inevitably the other side decides to get more refined weapons and greater military forces. So the arms race goes on.
I accept that the power of nuclear weapons is so great that everyone is afraid to use them because of the utter 1829 destruction which would result. But the danger is always there that this great military build-up on both sides will produce that terrible result. So we must approach this matter in a sane way, to get a balanced reduction of armaments and ultimately the removal of both pacts.
I welcome the fact that the Government are participating in the preliminary discussions in Helsinki. This is a positive step and something which I have been urging on the House for years. The Foreign Office under both Governments has tended to drag its feet on this—perhaps a little more so under my Government than under the existing one. Coming from me, that is high praise indeed. Nevertheless, preliminary discussions are taking place. Let us approach them in a positive and constructive way, in the hope that we shall be able to lift the cloud of nuclear or any other war and ultimately to reach an agreement that makes military pacts things of the past.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
I join my hon. Friends in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. Stewart-Smith) on his good fortune, which is also our good fortune. Unlike the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) I have heard every word of the debate so far, but like him I have to apologise, since I shall have to leave the debate for a while in order to receive a representative of an allied European State. I shall return as quickly as I can to hear as much as possible of what is said.
My hon. Friend deserved a larger House. I am shocked by the emptiness of the benches opposite. His speech was so lucid and comprehensive that I can be very brief—and I shall not stray to discuss mutual balanced force reductions, as I suspect the hon. Member for Walton was doing towards the end of his speech.
My hon. Friend's motion welcomes British participation in a European security conference. He expressed the hope that the conference could be used to our advantage. I feel sure, therefore, that he took fully into account the point made by the hon. Member for Walton, that we should recognise the dissensions which undoubtedly exist in the Warsaw Pact, and the desire for independence 1830 from the Soviet yoke which is not confined to Roumania but which I believe is general among the countries of Eastern Europe. Of course that would be taken fully into account.
Nevertheless, I feel uneasy about the conference, because as my hon. Friend the Member for Belper said, there has been no change in Soviet aims. Talk about détente can be very misleading. It all depends what the word means. For the Soviet union, "détente" means an instrument of expansionist diplomacy. Peaceful co-existence is exactly what we want, but the statements of Soviet spokesmen show that in their thinking, "peaceful coexistence" is another form of ideological struggle.
I do not think that any hon. Member opposite—if there were any there—would deny that the only safe presumption on which we can work is that the Soviet intention, through the European security conference and through all aspects of Moscow's diplomacy, is to divide European from European, to divide European from American and to secure the premature withdrawal of United States forces from the Continent.
After all, there is only one Soviet Empire and we have Soviet actions throughout the world by which to judge her intentions. The USSR which is willing to smile in Helsinki is the same USSR which arms most of the adversaries of the West, from Ireland to Vietnam, and which, while standing pat in Europe, outflanks Western Europe in Africa, Asia, on the high seas and under the high seas, and which endeavours to envelop North America from Latin America.
So I am a little anxious about what might come from the European security conference, if it is held. There are those who talk of a super-Munich and those who fear a second and greater Yalta. We should take note of what has been said by a Soviet observer of the West, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who said that the spirit of Munich prevails in the twentieth century. That is his judgment on the state of mind of the Western peoples at present. The fact that this debate is so ill-attended shows the complacency, the wishful thinking and the illusions which are current in our country.
In the European Continent, the Ostpolitik and the re-election of Chancellor Willy Brandt arouse hopes but 1831 also arouse fears. The normalisation of relations between the Federal German Republic and Eastern Germany and the improvement of German relations with the USSR arouse fears as well as hopes. After all, the Berlin Wall still stands, Dubcek has been broken and, despite the refusal, for example, of Romania to have Warsaw Pact manoeuvres on her soil, the Warsaw Pact has been shored up.
In Eastern Europe, which is still Europe the status quo of servitude has been frozen. The tendency of the Ostpolitik is to recognise that status quo as permanent, and that involves the permanent denial of freedom, and the continuing persecution of religion, not just of Jewry but of all religion. The sovereignty of those proud, civilised and ancient nations to the east is, in the euphemism of the Brezhnev doctrine, "limited".
If we are going into a European security conference, we must remember that in the end there is to be one Europe. Europe does not end at the Berlin Wall, at the communist watch towers which mark and mock the separation of Germans, and we in the West will abandon the people to the east at our peril. This is a question of honour, but it is also a question of security, and we are thinking of European security. That security will always be in doubt while Soviet forces bestride half of Europe.
I have confidence in my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I am encouraged by the attitude which has been taken up by Her Majesty's Government in the preparatory work for the European security conference. But—and this is the answer to the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), who has made his speech and left the Chamber—the balance of military power in Europe has tilted against the West. This is a most important fact, and again I do not suppose that this will be denied by any right hon. or hon. Member of the Opposition. What is even more dangerous is the softness at the heart of our affairs, which recalls the situation in the 1930s.
I welcome the motion proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Belper that Her Majesty's Government should participate in a European security conference, 1832 but we must give the highest priority to the consolidation of the security of Western Europe. Whatever happens to the Common Market, and whatever views may be taken by different hon. Members about the Common Market, a common defence system and a concerted diplomacy in Western Europe are extremely urgent.
§ 12.54 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)
My hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. Stewart-Smith) has chosen a very good, interesting and extremely topical subject for his motion, because the talks in Helsinki are in progress as we sit here.
The leader in the Daily Telegraph this morning saysA diplomatic battle on a grand scale is now beginning.It refers to the34-nation European Security Conference, conceived by Russia to divide the NATO countries, which for their part seek to induce Russia to mitigate her morbid conspiratorial secretiveness.That sums up the situation in Helsinki very well, and it sums up the predicament which has been pointed out by hon. Members on both sides of the House today.
I should like for a few minutes to look at how we in Britain can best contribute to two aims: first, that of reducing Soviet suspicions; secondly, that of keeping the Western Alliance intact in the face of overwhelming military might and against insidious voices at home which call for détente "regardless." I do not question the sincerity of some hon. Members who have spoken today from the Opposition side of the House who asked for détente for its own sake and for unilateral détente. But the fact is that those are very siren voices.
Russian suspicion cannot be reduced by any attempt to charm the Soviet Government, despite the bladishments of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and his Ministers. We cannot charm the Soviets into a reasonable frame of mind because the plain fact is that the character of the Russian people is, above all, suspicious. The individual Russian is a supicious chap and Soviet Governments reflect this characteristic even more so.
1833 We can make long-term efforts to deal with this problem, first by encouraging tourists from the United Kingdom to visit or continue to visit Russia. It is not very encouraging or cheerful when one gets there. I went to Moscow for the first time in my life a couple of years ago. I have never been to a more miserable capital city. I have reflected since that time what a terrible result the Communist political theory has produced for the man in the street, on whose behalf the revolution in 1917 allegedly took place. It is a miserable result.
The second effort we can make is to ask publicly for students from behind the Iron Curtain to visit the West. When one goes behind the Iron Curtain, the one question which embarrasses people there tremendously and to which there is no answer is "Why cannot your young people shove a rucksack over their back like ours can and trot round the countries of Europe?" Why not? It is a very fundamental question to ask them.
Similarly we can ask for reciprocal facilities for our cruise ships from the West to call perhaps at Leningrad, to take Russian tourists on cruises, in the same way that a number of Russian cruise ships are allowed to pick up passengers in London to take them for cruises—I believe that they give them a very good time, and at reduced rates. This is an important point for my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. We could fairly ask for reciprocal facilities.
Fourthly, we should continue contacts with the countries of Eastern Europe in trade, cultural activities, tourism, and so on.
Another specific point is that we should certainly continue our broadcasts to areas overseas and specifically those behind the Iron Curtain.
From those points of how to reduce Russian suspicion, let us turn to the sector in which we can, perhaps, do more directly ourselves, and that is in keeping the West united. Joining the European Economic Community is a great step in the right direction although not specifically related to defence at this stage. It is a tremendous leap in the right direction. Specifically, in Britain the generation, of which I am one, which has lived through the 1914–18 and 1939–45 periods has a moral duty to the new generation to 1834 emphasise that life is not all beer and skittles, as we used to say. We shall have to think of a more "with it" expression to impress the new generation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Belper said, the cold war is not over.
The leader in today's Daily Telegraph states:The selfish attribution of a higher priority to consumer indulgence than to freedom imperils us all.We must keep up our military strength as a contribution to the Alliance and as an example to our NATO allies.
I want to deal now with the internal difficulties which the Communists would call "contradictions within the capitalist system" but which I believe are simply unhealthy mushrooms growing up as byproducts of the West's soft living and materialistic way of life. I sometimes think that the very comfort of our system anaesthetises us from noticing the wounds being inflicted upon us.
These difficulties are well known. They include the basic threat to law and order. The situation in Northern Ireland could not be a more pressing difficulty for us. I declare a constituency interest because one of the units of the Green Jackets based on my constituency is about to undertake its fifth tour of duty in Northern Ireland. It is easy enough the first time—the bugles blow, the young men are excited, the feeling is that play is over and this time it is for real with guns firing. But the third, fourth and fifth tours cannot be so funny.
The Government sometimes give the impression of trying to run with the fox and hunt with the hounds over Northern Ireland. I say that fully admitting the vast difficulty of the problem. Nobody makes a speech about Ulster or even refers to it without uttering words of praise for the conduct of our troops there. We should do more than praise them. We should support what they are doing to the bitter end. We must get away from the expression which is so often heard, "Let us come home. Let the Irish fight it out amongst themselves. They like fighting." I tell my constituents "if you praise the troops, stick by them to the end and do not advocate the easy way out. That is not the solution. If that easy course were adopted, we and our sons would be fighting urban guerrillas throughout this generation and the next."
1835 Another "contradiction" is to be seen in our industrial relations situation. We must brace ourselves and be much tougher in implementing the law concerning pickets. My legal friends assure me that the law is adequate, but its implementation shows a lack of political will. The Government must stand some of the blame for that.
There is a rising rate of serious crime in Britain and in the West as a whole. I believe that consideration should be given to the reintroduction of capital punishment as a deterrent, certainly for the murder of policemen and prison officers on duty. Again I declare a constituency interest. Winchester gaol is in my constituency. The prison officers have been to see me, not emotionally or rabidly. They say "We do not want to make a fuss about this. We want no publicity. We do not want our names to be bandied about. But please consider how prison officers are from the practical point of view to look after convicted murderers, day in, day out, for year after year, when those convicted murderers know that nothing in addition to the life sentence they are already serving can be imposed upon them."
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) asked for the moral standards in international dealings to be improved. Let us put things right at home. A great erosion of civilised values is taking place with pornography. Film advertisements, let alone the films themselves, are harrowing to the parent of a large family of young children, as I am. What can a parent allow his children to go to see at the pictures? When a child says "Daddy, I am going to the flicks tonight", the parent wonders what the child will see.
I know that it is difficult to legislate, but it is absurd for the Home Office to let matters slide. I told the Home Secretary that I believed that the Government were sleepwalking into a cesspit. We must get our own house clean if we expect to be heard by the rest of the world.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire produced an excellent pamphlet about coping with 1836 emergencies in peace and war. It is regrettable that the Labour Government abolished the Civil Defence Corps and reduced the Territorial Army. In so doing they played ducks and drakes with a worth while volunteer effort.
As there is a Minister present from the Foreign Office, I say that we must brace ourselves not to ostracise Southern Africa because we do not agree with a political system which it has evolved. In the same way it might not agree with our system. Externally let us not join in the efforts made in the United Nations and elsewhere to ostracise Greece and Spain because they have different systems from our own.
The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) and I do not agree about military matters. Although I grant his sincerity, I cannot agree with him—just because I do not believe in fairies.
What threats do we face which make it necessary to keep up our guard and keep our military strength as high as we can afford? The first threat is nuclear. I put that in only to knock it down, because whatever the threat of nuclear warfare may be it is certainly the least likely event. A conventional war in Europe is also a very unlikely event. I cannot see Russian armies striding into Western Europe, because I do not see what they would have to gain by it. Conventional war at sea is just one notch more likely.
I put to the House the concept of what one might call the "Grey War" at sea. I am never happy that the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence are sufficiently in one another's confidence. We often talk to defence Ministers in committees which I attend, and those Ministers seem to be in compartments of their own.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Anthony Royle)
My right hon. and hon. Friends who have ministerial responsibilities in the Ministry of Defence and in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are always in close co-operation and consultation with each other. This applies also to the wise and able officials in those Ministries. I assure my hon. and gallant Friend that there is close consultation and co-operation amongst all those people.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
I am very glad indeed to have that assurance from my hon. Friend. No doubt, as he is in constant touch with the defence Ministers, he will be able to put across to them this concept of the grey war at sea. I have had a good deal of difficulty in getting it across to them.
The Soviet maritime strength has often been mentioned, and there have been estimates of the numbers and types of ships. The Soviet maritime strength has been called by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary the most significant strategic factor of this decade. There are, in fact, 400 Soviet U-boats in full commission at sea now. Why is there a force of 400 U-boats? A force of that size cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called a defensive force.
What threats does this growing maritime force of the Soviet Union exert against Western European shipping? We still depend very largely upon shipping not only for getting our exports overseas and our raw materials home, but most of all for oil. Oil will be very much the key to our security in the future. We have recently seen what a miners' strike can do to the economy of this country when it lasts 10 days or a fortnight. Consider what a serious interruption of our oil supplies would produce.
I refer to the concept of the grey war because I think there is a real possibility of an interruption of these supplies at sea without any formal act of war whatever.
The Financial Times had an interesting article on this subject recently. It said:All that is really needed to exert a decisive influence on events is the control of a comparatively small area of sea for a little time, in one of the many focal points for shipping which exist about the world. A few ships boarded, or searched, or hijacked, or turned back, or, in the last resort, sunk, might well be enough to bring any nation dependent upon the sea to its knees if it were powerless to dispute that control. But once the power and will to dispute is there, any would-be aggressor is faced with the same potential, escalation of the conflict as he would be on land or in the air.Since my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is in such close touch with his colleagues in the Foreign Office, I hope he will take this up and thrash it out with them because I do not think 1838 sufficient attention is given to it at present.
The admirals and the generals are lying in their baths thinking "I must be ready in case the politicians fail to prevent a war." Therefore they go in for very sophisticated equipment and they fall into the trap prepared for them by the previous Government—followed, I regret to say, by the present Government—of admitting a military threat only within the NATO area. That is fine for the professional men, but it does not take account of the reality that the threat to our trade is worldwide, and specifically on the Cape route and in the Indian Ocean. We ought to be in a position to patrol and protect these trade routes far more effectively than at present. More escorts are needed, of course, and in my opinion less sophisticated escorts.
Also required are more Royal Air Force reconnaissance maritime aircraft; a continuation of the ANZUK force based on Singapore, even if the "A" and the "NZ" weaken in their determination to remain involved; and a resolve on the part of our Government to face the world on the Simonstown Agreement which is vital to the defence of this trade route. We have tended to kick this under the carpet, although we heard some brave words about it before the election, about the supply of necessary arms to South Africa.
Lastly—and I apologise here for exercising a hobby-horse of mine—I believe that we can exert or deploy the necessary surveillance for those trade routes without a vast naval building programme. We must have shipborne air surveillance in some shape or other. One way to deploy that would be to subsidise the shipping companies with their huge container ships and ore-carriers to install the necessary communications equipment; and also platforms on the upper deck which could carry helicopters and jump-jets, so that if there were some situation on the trade routes which had to be dealt with, a Sea King helicopter or a development of the Harrier could hop down the trade route from one merchant ship to the next and deal with the situation, and enable the Government to have up-to-the-moment information of the kind which enabled President Kennedy to save the world from a third world war at the time of Cuba. 1839 He was able to get on the hot line with the ace of trumps in his hand only because he had up-to-date information. Surveillance of our trade routes is absolutely essential.
I should like to end with one quotation from Churchill:The Russians will bang and rattle at every door and every window until they find one that is open: And then they will invite themselves to dinner.Nothing in recent years has happened to make it safe for us to drop our guard. I wish it had, but it has not.
§ 1.17 p.m.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
I should like to join in the congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. Stewart-Smith) on having raised this subject and drawn our attention to the forthcoming European security conference as well as the possibilities of some sort of phrased reduction in armaments which we all want.
I am afraid that the public attitude to defence seems to be "Why should we spend any money on guns at all, and anyway who is the enemy?" Those who think like the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) do no service to their country by proclaiming that the present level of spending on armaments is too great and that it is very easy to have substantial reduction and thereby, as the hon. Member believes, improve the building programme—on which incidentally I challenge him. It is not finance which is preventing the expansion of the building programme; it is lack of land. There are others who say that we could do so much more for the pensioners if only we did not spend this appallingly large amount of money on defence. I say that we are not spending enough money on our defence, and I propose to say why.
§ Mr. Richard
It will be interesting to hear the hon. Gentleman develop his argument. Will he face the point which I have put to at least two of his hon. Friends? Consistently we have spent more, expressed as a percentage of our GNP, on our defence than any other European nation. It could be argued that this expenditure was justified at the time when we had 60,000 troops in confrontation with Indonesia, when we 1840 maintained fixed bases outside Europe and when we had Aden and the Gulf to consider. As we are now basing our defence primarily on Europe, as the Government are and as previous Governments have done, what on earth is the justification for our spending more expressed as a percentage of our GNP than our European partners?
§ Mr. Allason
Those are strange questions from a member of an Administration which maintained that level of expenditure. I congratulate them on having done so. I seem to remember that their election manifestos in 1964 and 1966 indicated that they would abandon the nuclear deterrent and bring about a great reduction in spending, and yet their rate of expenditure on defence was very substantial.
§ Mr. Richard
When the Labour Government came to power in 1964 defence expenditure expressed as a percentage of GNP was about 7.6 per cent. When we went out of office in 1970 it was about 5½ per cent. Those are the facts.
§ Mr. Allason
The figure of 5½ per cent. reflected the ending of confrontation with Indonesia and a considerable reduction in the commitments of the forces owing to the reduction in the number of our colonies by the granting of independence. The level of expenditure remains at about 5½ per cent., so I do not think that the hon. and learned Member has produced a good argument.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
Does my hon. Friend also recall the Labour Government's White Paper in 1966 which said that no country with a sense of international responsibility would abandon its position East of Suez without making sure of adequate arrangements to replace it? Nevertheless, the Labour Government did exactly that and simply walked away from it.
§ Mr. Allason
Thank goodness they were not completely successful in doing so and that the Tory victory meant that we still have forces in the Far East. Nevertheless, they are to my mind inadequate and insecure owing to Labour victories in Australia and New Zealand.
I find the public attitude to defence alarming and it is regrettable that 1841 apparently even the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) believes that defence spending in this country is excessive. The public ask who is the enemy, anyway. Anyone would think that we were friends with all the world. We should like to be friends with all the world but when countries are devoted to the destruction of our way of life, enemies force themelves upon us. Russia is hostile to this country and to the other countries of the West which are not prepared to adopt communism. It is doing what it can by way of subversion. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) hopes that Russia will withdraw from the Warsaw Pact countries within its frontiers. I find that a very unlikely possibility because Russia's interest is to maintain the communist system in the satellite countries and we know that that can be achieved only by force, as was proved in the case of Czechoslovakia. Therefore, withdrawal from those countries and the granting of freedom to them to choose their own sort of Government would be quite unacceptable to the Russians.
Russia's aim in the West is to weaken and then to demolish the Atlantic alliance. It has been seeking to achieve that for 25 years because of the success of NATO. It is only because the countries of the West hang together that Russia has not attacked. It has made some very threatening noises but there has been no attack because we were sufficiently strong to defend ourselves. But it does not need a military attack to weaken and demolish the Atlantic alliance. The Russians are also determined to dominate the free countries of Western Europe by maintaining the tension and so causing the West to spend more than it wishes on armaments. There is also the ideological conflict. By subversion and by creating tensions the economies of the Western nations will be undermined.
Subversion my mean unrest and revolt or it may be just a strike where the communists stir matters up to such an extent that they cause grave damage to the economy of this country. Alternatively, it may be in the form of armed subversion such as in Ulster. All over the world, unfortunately, this type of action is taking place. It is no good accusing us of shouting "Reds under the 1842 bed" because we know that these natural forces are being stirred up by the communists. The attacks on the ideology of the students in this country are a deliberate attempt to ensure that in many ways the people are kept unhappy and are therefore ripe for subversion.
As for the more orthodox threat from Russia, it has no great need to dominate the world's sea lanes and yet it is doing so. It has no great need for an immense naval building programme but it has one. That is a direct threat to this country more than to many others because we rely on our sea communications and we are a nation of sea-going traders. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) pointed out, we are particularly vulnerable in the Indian Ocean and around the Cape. It is essential, therefore, that we should be able to protect our merchant shipping anywhere in the world, and I wish it were possible to put my hand on my heart and say that this could be done. We know that this is a weak spot and it seems a little ridiculous therefore to carp at the fact that we are now slightly strengthening our forces before the European security conference. It is quite clear that we should attend the conference in a position of strength and not of weakness, a weakness which genuinely exists, as anyone who cares to study the force levels in NATO and in the Warsaw Pact countries can see.
I certainly wish, as we all do, for an agreement on a reduction of armaments. But that cannot be achieved by our weakening ourselves while the Russians continue the great expansion of all their military forces. The weakness in the Navy of which I have spoken also exists in the other two Services. The difficulty is that we are supplying a substantial volume of the deterrent, which prevents all-out nuclear war; I think there is agreement on both sides of the House that maintenance of the deterrent has achieved that. If we are not to have a conventional war in Europe we must be reasonably strong there, but I think we are not sufficiently strong to maintain the position without the early use of the nuclear deterrent. Therefore, we are relying on the nuclear deterrent. When we moved from the trip-wire philosophy we should have made our forces a great deal stronger than they were. But there 1843 has been a reduction over the years in the spending on our forces.
What is most important of all is to ensure that during the cold war period our forces are capable of dealing with any form of subversion or minor wars. We might say that Ulster has become a minor war, because it is more than a temporary matter of subversion. The urban guerrilla war which is so difficult to fight, but in which victory must be gained, is a grave worry for our forces.
Therefore, what we must do first is to equip our forces with the deterrent. The second priority is to deal with the subversion problem, for which we do not want heavy equipment, which is so expensive, but well-trained lightly-equipped forces.
The Government's first duty—before we give pensions, before we provide education, before anything else—is to maintain the country's security against the threat of external aggression, which does exist, and also against the threat of internal subversion. It is their duty to maintain democracy, the threat to which comes not from any large force but from a small minority determined to overthrow the present system and to substitute a dictatorship, which is totally unacceptable to the country.
I hope that the Government will succeed in carrying out their duty to defend our country. They will be much aided if the security conference can succeed and there can be some form of détente. We wish the conference well, but we support the Government in going to Helsinki determined not to give away the rights of our country.
§ 1.35 p.m.
§ Mr. G. B. Drayson (Skipton)
Few people can have any illusions about life in Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union, or about the system of government operating there. We have all seen pictures on television, films and articles in the Press describing life there. Many people have travelled in Eastern Europe in recent years and have been able to see for themselves what is going on.
I agree that it is essential that we should try to reach understandings with the countries of Eastern Europe if we are to live peacefully together. I remember Mr. Macmillan saying, when he was Prime 1844 Minister, that we served no useful purpose by searching the dictionary to discover additional terms of abuse that we could heap on the leaders of those régimes with whose governments we disagreed.
I also came across in my files a remark made by Mr. Speaker himself in June 1960 when the Daily Telegraph reported:Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, Foreign Secretary, to-day used the neutral air of Vienna to launch a strong post-Summit appeal for coexistence between East and West.'We think that countries of differing social systems can establish a modus vivendi, a method of living in peace together,' he said. 'It is not enough simply to exclude war.'It is interesting to recall that we were talking about a summit conference or a European security conference way back in 1960. Most hon. Members will agree that little progress has been made in the intervening 12 years. But I hope that we have at least reached a time when some progress can be made.
I agree with all those hon. Members who have said that it is essential that the NATO Allies should speak from strength. I have no doubt that they are all fully aware of the statistics quoted in the House today concerning armaments and military manpower in Eastern Europe. One of the most essential points that must be settled at any discussions is how we shall achieve effective inspection and control of agreements. It is on inspection and control that so many conferences break down.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. Stewart-Smith), who initiated the debate, had quite a lot to say about the Yalta Declaration. Many of us feel that the agreements made at Yalta and later confirmed at Potsdam must be regarded today as scraps of paper. It would be interesting to hear from my hon. Friend who is to reply the extent to which the Yalta and Postdam agreements have been fulfilled, and how much is now considered to be totally impossible of implementation.
One of the agreements reached at Yalta was thatIt is our firm intention to destroy German militarism and National Socialism and to see that Germany is never again in a position to disturb world peace.We probably agree that that part of the Yalta and Potsdam agreements has been 1845 achieved. Mention of Germany brings me to the question of the unification of that country, divided since the war.
Before coming to that point I would like to ask the Minister what is the position about a peace treaty with the German people. My understanding is that although we terminated the state of war with the Federal German Republic in 1951, and the Soviet Union did the same in 1955, we have not terminated that state of war with the people of Eastern Germany. It is essential before we decide on the recognition of the German Democratic Republic, to have a peace treaty confirming finally that there is a state of peace between the Allies and the people of Germany.
It might be interesting to speculate where the agreement should be signed. Most of the capitals of Europe seem to have been exhausted—we have the Rome Treaty and the Brussels Treaty and many others. I do not think that we could use that railway carriage in the Forest of Compiegne again; it would be a little old hat. It is essential that we tidy up the situation with the people of Germany by signing a treaty as soon as possible. Is such a treaty in existence in draft and have the terms of it been agreed between the four Allies who would presumably sign it?
I now return to the question of the recognition of East Germany, a possibility that has been much discussed in the Press lately. A headline in last night's Evening Standard said that Britain planned to recognise East Germany. I am one of many who feel that the mere existence of the two Germanys is an important factor affecting peace in Europe. It was in 1960, when a summit conference was taking place, that Field Marshal Lord Montgomery wrote an article in the Sunday Times headed "Brass Tacks at the Summit". He said that so far as he knew no one advocated the unification of Germany under present conditions. Over the years I have taken the trouble to discuss this subject with American Congressmen and Senators and with French Deputies, asking their opinion about the desirability of the reunification of Germany. I remember one Senator saying, "I do not want to see Germany united in my lifetime, my children's lifetime or my grandchildren's 1846 lifetime." It would be difficult to find many French Deputies who would advocate reunification of Germany at present. We all hope that it will happen eventually, but it can only take place when we have achieved European disarmament and the mutual reduction of forces can be adequately inspected and controlled.
We gained very little advantage from our victory in the last war. It will be a betrayal of our then comrades in the Forces if we do not ensure that the present state of the German people should continue for some time to come. Therefore there is no reason why we should not recognise in law the existence of the East German State.
The time has come—and I am glad to see that steps are being taken to that end—when the people of Eastern Germany will have those contacts about which so many of my colleagues have been talking—visiting each other, cultural and sporting exchanges. All of which have been so difficult to achieve in the past.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belper referred to East-West trade and I could not make out whether he was enthusiastic about it. That, again, has a long history. It was Sir Winston Churchill, as Prime Minister in the early fifties who gave the final accolade of respectability to East-West trade when he said that the more the two halves of the world mingled in the fruitful activity of commerce the more would thoughts on military matters be put into the background.
I could quote from the present Prime Minister, when he was President of the Board of Trade, saying that this was a useful area in which contact could be made. In the years when he was at the Board of Trade it was one of our fastest-growing export markets. Although a relatively small percentage of our trade it is important to those who engage in it. One reason why I would welcome the recognition of the East German Government is that it would remove from the commercial scene so much of the cheating that has been going on by our NATO allies in this sphere.
I have had a constant theme in this House when I have drawn to the attention of Ministers the problems created by 1847 East West trade. My theme has been that Great Britain and British businessmen should at least have the same advantage as our NATO allies. Those who have stretched the rules possibly more than anyone else are the French. They have found ways of having close and direct contacts with the régime in East Germany which we have not enjoyed. It has always been easy for an East German travelling to other parts of the world to route himself via Paris and then to hold discussions with French Ministers merely by saying that he was in transit for some other destination. Then, when the discussions had been concluded, he would say that he had discovered that he would not be required in South America after all and that he would return to East Berlin and report on his discussions in Paris. This has been a constant source of annoyance.
I imagine that with recognition we shall see the end of the Allied Travel Office in West Berlin. The sort of thing that used to happen there was that if a technician or company director from the State organisation in East Germany wanted to travel to Great Britain he had to submit his application through the Allied Travel Office in Berlin. His name was immediately passed to officials of the German Federal Republic who would, by their special methods, inquire what business the individual wanted to discuss in Great Britain. Then they would be told, "Why go to Great Britain to buy when you get the same machines or goods from West Germany where it is easier for us to provide you with technical information and servicing?" I hope that all those petty annoyances to British firms, who have tried so hard and in a number of cases been successful, will be swept away when there is recognition of the East German régime.
I couple this with the question of a peace treaty with the peoples of Germany. Perhaps the Minister will tell me that there is no intention, or need, even after this lapse of time, to enter into a peace treaty with the German people thus concluding a conflict which ended in 1945. I would have thought that that was the correct thing, to do.
I am satisfied that at the forthcoming European security conference Her Majesty's Government and her NATO 1848 allies will be fully aware of the dangers and difficulties that they face in any discussions with the Warsaw Pact countries. But I have every confidence that my right hon. and hon. Friends will ensure that we do not give away any of our vital interests.
§ 1.50 p.m.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)
We are all grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. Stewart-Smith) for raising this matter today since it has given us an opportunity to have a fairly wide-ranging debate on what will possibly be the most important subject to come up in the next decade. I believe that the security of our nation is the most important duty that any Government have towards the electorate.
I was interested in my hon. Friend's remarks about Hungary and Czechoslovakia and about the Poznan riots. They are a clear illustration that the peoples of those countries at that time genuinely felt that they wished to have a change in the system of government, and certainly that was my own experience from the events in Hungary which I had the privilege to witness.
The point made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) was even more important. Whatever may have happened in the past and whatever people's feelings may be, neverthless we still have to deal with the Governments which are now in control. That is a very important point.
It is clear that in the forthcoming negotiations we as a nation will go in a position of strength. If one casts one's mind back to the time of Ernest Bevin, one recalls that he said when he was Foreign Secretary that he would be reluctant to go to a conference chamber naked. When negotiating with other countries it is important to do so from a position of strength. Happily, that is the case with our country today.
What is the size of the problem? It is simply that on both sides of the Iron Curtain there are large conventional forces. Unfortunately the Warsaw Pact countries very much outnumber us in conventional forces. The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) underlined this point when he said that both sides faced one another with vast armies. However, the hon. Gentleman 1849 forgot that in conventional forces alone our NATO allies are hopelessly outnumbered by the Warsaw Pact countries. It is for this reason that we are reliant on the nuclear deterrent.
I intend to divide my remarks into two categories. The first concerns what our attitude should be towards the satellite countries. The second concerns what our attitude should be to European defence, and as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) said, that should include adequate defence of the civilian population in the event of the occurrence of an unfortunate emergency.
I deal first with out relations with the satellites. They are never easy. Nevertheless a number of hon. Members today have stressed the necessity for better relations with those countries whatever their present Governments may constitute. Both trade with them and their tourism are of extreme importance. In the long term it may be that they will come to appreciate some of the benefits of Western society.
Perhaps I might cite one small instance which occurred recently in my constituency. Last year during the Windsor horse show we had entries from Eastern European countries, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. It was interesting to have those people coming—with their ambassadors—to see the sort of life we live. I am pleased to say that the ambassadors and teams were entertained by Her Majesty at the Castle. Small though they may be, events of that kind are the beginning of some form of opening up of the differences which undoubtedly exist between the regimes in those countries and what we all recognise to be the democratic society which does not exist in their countries.
We have to ensure that in any reduction of forces we make clear that there is a proper and adequate system of supervision. It is no use our signing treaties with the Soviet Union or with any other Power unless we can be sure that they abide by the agreements they have reached.
That brings me to the importance of European co-operation. The hon. Member for Salford, East complained that we were spending too much on defence. He also compared our expenditure with the 1850 gross national product with that of other countries. It has always been my view, and I am certain that it is shared by the Government, that the proporion of total defence expenditure which has been borne by this nation is far too high in comparison with our NATO allies and European partners. We have to maintain a threshold, but I see no reason why we should bear the brunt of the cost of defence when Western Europe benefits from the umbrella which we provide. I have said that many times before and I make no apology for repeating it.
Despite the tremendous contribution which the United States of America makes to European defence—and it has been reaffirmed recently—there is no guarantee that that degree of help will not in future be reduced as a result of internal political pressures. It is to that moment that we have to look, and it is for that reason that we have to say to our partners in Europe that they must also help in the combined defence of Europe.
In welcoming our joining the EEC and becoming a full member it is also important to remember that, although we are getting certain advantages, our partners are getting very great advantages from our nuclear defence force. I believe that the burden must be borne more evenly by our European allies, and I see no reason why the commercial benefits which will be obtained by us all should not be used to share that burden.
That does not mean that we should close our eyes to balanced force reductions. But we have to face the reality of the situation. As long as there is a military threat it is the duty of Europe to defend itself. We all want to see balanced force reductions and the removal of the nuclear threat. But this is a long time ahead. It will have to be done in stages. To reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Belper said, it is vital that in any agreement there are means of ensuring that those with whom we sign treaties carry them out. Always we have to remember that the nuclear deterrent is the only real deterrent stopping the Warsaw Pact countries using their conventional forces. Without the nuclear deterrent we have no protection.
I turn now to a point to which I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary 1851 will listen carefully. I have said it previously, and again I make no apology for repeating it. We know that the balance of power is changing. We recognise that China is becoming a tremendous force in the world. There is a great worry in the Soviet Union, as there is in Peking, about what will be the ultimate relationship between these great super-Powers. Reference has been made to the conventional forces of the two countries deployed along the very long frontier between China and Russia, but no one can tell whether the Soviet Union will try to take the atomic power at Sin-kiang, which is not really a Chinese province, or whether it will unite with China in the future to form a super power. If we are looking at reduction in forces we have to look at the possibility that Russia, to some extent, is at the moment entangled with China but that at any moment that position could be changed.
The balance of power is changing, but it is not by any means crystal clear which way it will go. It would be very unfortunate if the Government, although they know very much more about what is happening in the background, were to place too much emphasis on the fact that there is a balance and that we need not perhaps be so frightened of Russia, and I say that because none of us really knows what its long-term policy will be. The answer must be a very strong Western Europe which is able to offer encouragement to those eastern satellites of Russia.
I come to another point also made by my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson), and one of the most vital and difficult problems with which we shall be mainly faced, that we have a Western Germany willing to have a rapprochement with Eastern Germany, with possible recognition of Eastern Germany. I put this very seriously, that the problem will be this: what will be the attitude of Willy Brandt's Government and in what sort of position would that Government be put if there were another uprising in Eastern Germany? An uprising by fellow Germans would put that Government in an extremely difficult position. We have to make it quite clear that NATO would in no way be involved in an excursion of that nature, because it could give rise to 1852 tremendous international risks. That I regard as one of the great problems which could arise as a result of Ostpolitik.
Therefore, our duty is to retain NATO. Whether or not we have a European nuclear force in the future is a matter which will have to be given very close consideration, and control of the nuclear force is another matter which will have to be given close examination. What I would say to my hon. Friend is, let us remember that when we go to this conference we speak from strength, and let us not weaken our own position in any way which would allow the Russians to believe that we were dropping our guard. Let us make it clear that we are desirous of having an agreement but are not prepared to have an agreement without proper guarantees to ensure that our own position and the position of Western Europe remains properly safeguarded.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Piers Dixon (Truro)
I was particularly interested by the argument which was developed by the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun). It seemed to me that what he was saying was that he did not really mind how much money was spent by America and Russia on defence so long as the various countries of Europe spent as little money as possible on defence. I am sorry that the hon. Member is not now in the Chamber. I understand that to be his argument. He demonstrated that both the United States and Russia spend much more money than European countries. The figures are that the United States spends 7.3 per cent. of its gross national product on defence and Russia spends 11 per cent. European countries spend less. We spend more than almost any other European country.
The true comparison which the hon. Member should have made is not between what we spend and what the Russians and the Americans spend, but the amount we in Western Europe spend and the amount spent in Eastern Europe. It is true, and I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn), that we as a nation spend more than our future partners in the Common Market we spend about 4.7 per cent. of our gross national product, which is very considerably more than the 1853 proportion spent by the French, 3.1 per cent., the West Germans, 2.8 per cent., and the Italians 2.6 per cent. I would be the first to agree with my hon. Friend that the imbalance should be redressed, but the significant fact is that although a certain amount of money is spent in Western Europe much larger sums of money are spent in Eastern Europe.
For instance, the Czechs spend on defence 5.8 per cent. of their gross national product, the East Germans spend 5.9 per cent. and the Poles 5.2 per cent. So it is not simply the case that the Russians are spending an enormous amount on defence. The other Eastern European countries do so as well. The hon. Member for Salford, East must recognise the fact that the Eastern European countries are spending these large sums. If he wishes to isolate the European Continent from the problems of both America and Russia he should at least allow the countries of Western Europe to spend as much on defence as the satellite countries of Eastern Europe.
I was interested in the gallant way in which the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) rose to the defence and aid of his hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East, but I detected a certain conflict in their arguments. As I understood the argument by the hon. Member for Salford, East, he did not really mind how much money was spent on defence in the other countries of Western Europe, though the less the better. The hon. and learned Member for Barons Court was all in favour of the British percentage going down, but was all in favour of the French, the West German and the Italian percentages going up, which was not at all what his hon. Friend was saying. His hon. Friend was saying that we must bring the British percentage down and leave the Italian percentage down where it is. So in his own party, between the only two Members of his party in the Chamber at the time, there was a clear conflict of argument.
§ Mr. Richard
The hon. Member is very skilful at producing a semantic difference between my hon. Friend and myself when in fact we were fully agreed that defence expenditure should be reduced.
§ Mr. Dixon
That is better than being wrong for the right reason.
The hon. and learned Member for Barons Court also had something to say about independence. I do not recall his precise words, but I think he said that being independent was expensive. He was talking in particular about Sweden. He corrected one of my hon. Friends and said that although the Swedes spent a significant proportion of their gross national product on defence, the Swiss spent more. I think that if he will study the volume of statistics which he has obviously been scrutinising with great care he will find that the Swiss spend a remarkably small percentage of their gross national product on defence. The hon. and learned Gentleman shakes his head. The figure is 1.9 per cent.
§ Mr. Dixon
Switzerland, yes indeed. It spends 1.9 per cent. of its gross national product on defence. By no stretch of the imagination could even the hon. and learned Gentleman suggest that 1.9 per cent. is larger than 3.7 per cent., which is the Swedish figure. No doubt he will at his leisure reconcile these differences.
I would agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman to the extent that being independent is expensive. This is the direction in which Western Europe is moving. Willy-nilly the United States will gradually disengage militarily from Europe. Therefore, in a sense, Western Europe will become a large Sweden and will have to look after itself. We shall not be able, for the rest of our lifetime, to rely upon the umbrella that has been provided by the United States ever since the Second World War, for which hon. Members on both sides of the House should be extremely grateful. Had the Americans not been behind us we know that the whole of Western Europe would now be under communist domination. That is clear. We have so far been able 1855 to rely upon the Americans, but we shall now have to start looking after ourselves.
The advantages of our entry into the EEC have been argued forcefully on economic grounds with which I do not disagree, but already there is a tendency for the Foreign Ministers of the Common Market countries to speak with one voice, and to my mind this is a most favourable development. But having a robust position in foreign policy is irrelevant unless one has the defence resources to support it. It can therefore only be a matter of time before the Defence Ministers of the Common Market countries also work together. I suspect that when, in the fullness of history, one looks back on the beginnings of the Common Market one will see that the main significance of its creation has been not economic, not political even in the narrow sense of the word, but in defence.
I hope that eventually the countries of the Common Market will be within a single defence organisation. After 1st January only one of the EEC countries will not be part of NATO, and that is Ireland. I hope that it will not be long before she is within the framework of a Western European defence organisation and that we shall not have the problem that we had in this country during the 'forties, with the Irish making life extremely uncomfortable for us when we were trying to defend civilisation.
In the same way I hope that every European country that is now part of NATO but not within the Community will join the EEC. It can only be a matter of time before the Norwegians join. It is important that they should form part not only of the military organisation of Western Europe but also of the economic organisation.
Equally I see no reason why the Portuguese should not eventually become part of the Common Market. I realise that their standard of living is considerably lower and that their present form of Government is not entirely acceptable to hon. Members on both sides of the House, but if there is a 10 per cent. shift in the direction of some further form of democratisation I see great economic and defence advantages in Portugal becoming a member of the Community. It is important that her possessions in the Atlantic should be available 1856 for Western Europe as a whole to defend itself.
Again, we must ensure that Greece and Turkey, which are united with us in defence terms within the NATO organisation, have that tie reinforced by the economic and, eventually, political ties of being members of the Common Market.
I wish I could say that the United States forces will constantly and indefinitely be in Europe, but that cannot be said. The Americans are leaving, and when they leave we must be able to defend ourselves. We in Britain cannot afford to spend a smaller proportion of our GNP on defence than we do now, and I hope that after 1st January one of the first things my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench will be able to impress on our new European partners is the absolute necessity for those countries—France, Germany and Italy—to increase the proportion of their GNP which they spend on defence.
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Sir Brandon Rhys Williams (Kensington, South)
The House knows that I do not normally seek to intervene in defence debates, but I have been privileged this week to be one of the British representatives at the 18th Session of the Assembly of Western European Union in Paris and I should like, first, to congratulate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on his important speech there on Tuesday. It was very well received by the Assembly, and it was a particularly happy choice of phrase when he warned us against "too much euphoria over the prospects of détente". I think that perhaps unconsciously he was using words which had been written by the rapporteur of the Committee on Defence Questions and Armaments in the report which afterwards was adopted by the Assembly.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. Stewart-Smith) has done a service to the country by raising this subject today, and I congratulate him warmly on his sturdy speech introducing it. I am sure that his hearers on this side of the House heartily agreed with what he said. It is a matter for disappointment that the benches opposite have been so neglected all day. It is not only a disappointment for my hon. Friend but also a matter of serious concern to us all that the Labour 1857 Party has no interest in national defence, as it seems.
In September I was in Washington, and it so happened that I was present in the Senate when the vote was being taken on the renewal of military appropriations. I was accompanied by a man who knows the Senate and its procedures, and by the end of the vote he was on the edge of his chair because he thought that the Government were going to be defeated. It was a matter of two or three votes which saved the Government on this enormously important subject. That gives an impression of the feelings of the Senate about military expenditure. I was told afterwards that had it not been that Senator McGovern and one or two close colleagues were away in the country on their campaign the Government might indeed have been defeated.
That is just an incident that I recall from personal experience. For a long time I have said that by the time the American elections were completed both the presidential candidates would have undertaken to make a dramatic reduction in the presence of American forces in Europe. What President Nixon has done is more significant than making such a commitment. He has abolished the draft. In Washington it seems to be generally accepted that the significance of that move is that in future, particularly in view of the low morale of the Armed Services in the United States, the Services will tend to be officered by poor whites, and the men will mainly be Negroes who are unable to get other employment.
That may be an exaggeration or a jaundiced view, but we must recognise that power to maintain an effective American presence in Europe is passing out of the hands of the United States President, even if he wishes to do so. In a few weeks' time President Nixon will be coming to Western Europe, and undoubtedly defence will be one of the principal subjects that he will raise.
There is perhaps an over-simplified view of post-war European history which suggests that in 1945 Russia over-ran Eastern Europe and the United States over-ran Western Europe. They met down the middle and the Iron Curtain was built there. Because they then maintained an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation across the Iron Curtain, Europe was able to enjoy a spurious and unsatisfactory stability.
1858 Having confidence in the spirit of democracy, we all thought that if one of the super-Powers was going to get bored by this confrontation it would be the Russians who first lost heart. But unfortunately that has not proved to be the case. It is our own allies who have lost heart and are preparing to withdraw. That seems to me to be the most significant development of 1972. It has become abundantly plain that the Americans have lost interest in continuing the cold war.
Another immensely important event of 1972, the long-range significance of which has not yet begun to be generally appreciated in Western Europe, is the Chinese and Japanese détente. There is an alliance growing in strength between the Communist country which has made its special rôle to bring succour to the poorest countries of the world, and Japan, which undoubtedly is the world's most dynamic capitalist economy. This I foresee will bring extreme pressure on the economy of Western Europe as developing countries learn that they can depend upon economic help and co-operation from the Yen-Yuan area.
The German elections undoubtedly must be recognised, too, as having a particular significance for us. I am one of the most fervent supporters of Willy Brandt. He is a fine man and he has commended himself to British public opinion by his forthright hostility to communism since his days as a distinguished mayor of Berlin. But his Ostpolitik is giving Western Germany fresh ideas.
It is now more than 25 years since the end of the war. There is a new generation in Germany which is vigorous and outward-looking. They are ready for adventure again. German businessmen are also highly expansionist. They have found that the Ostpolitik means immense new opportunities for West German industry in the East. We noticed that the Russians offered a £400 million contract to West Germany on the day before the recent West German elections.
What are the prospects for Western Europe and its standing in the world in the 1970s? It is possible to take the view that on all sides there is nothing to be seen but crumbling resolution and piecemeal retreat. Russia is becoming an increasingly significant naval power. It is worth looking at the different oceans where Russian influence is gaining 1859 strength rapidly and which are significant to us. In the Mediterranean everyone must be aware of the perennial sick man of Europe, our allies in Turkey, where democracy is of relatively recent growth and at the moment is a rather sickly one. Yugoslavia has a long Mediterranean coastline. No one can see the future after the departure of President Tito: but it could happen that Warsaw Pact "volunteers" will appear over the frontier to help the "freedom fighters" if there is to be any renewal of social unrest during the 1970s. The West would be powerless to intervene or might not be inclined to do so.
It is not possible to be too happy about the recent trend in the Middle East. At one time it looked as though the Russian hold over Egyptian opinion and the Egyptian armed services was being weakened. It may be that we have missed our opportunities and that we shall see communism reasserting its influence in Cairo. If we look along the coast of North Africa we find a Russian naval base establishing itself at Mers-el-Kebir. This I found to be of particular concern to the French representatives at W.E.U. who wanted to draw Britain's attention to the fact that Russia is becoming far and away the most important power not just in the Eastern but the Western Mediterranean as well. This week we have seen headlines about Mr. Mintoff seeking ways of reopening negotiations about the future of Malta. These are all matters which the British public must regard with misgivings.
In Paris we heard a long and beautifully delivered speech by the French Defence Minister, Mr. Debré. One had to respect him for his courtesy and his grasp of the subject. But most of us were depressed by the intransigence of his nationalism and the feeling that the French have not changed very much since the days when they decided to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty.
Looking to the Baltic, it is in Helsinki that the discussions about the conference on security and co-operation in Europe are now being held. Many of us are bound to recognise that Finland in recent years has come increasingly under Russian influence. In Sweden the democratically elected Government is dependant for its majority on communist votes. 1860 Denmark, which voted to join the Common Market by such a majority, which we welcomed in this country, has disappointed British opinion by its recent decision, in spite of American pressure for increased expenditure on defence, to make a substantial defence cut.
Norway, no doubt influenced by the grumblings of the incipient cod war in Iceland—which was stimulated at exactly the right moment—has decided not to join the Common Market. Although we see no signs of a Norwegian wish to withdraw from NATO, we must realise that there is a feeling of neutralism throughout Scandanavia. We must also realise that the Russians are actively at work to change Norwegian opinion.
The chess conference, which went on for so long, was an opportunity for Reykjavik to be filled with Russian agents. Their handiwork is now apparent in the renewal of the dispute with Britain and Germany about fishing rights. It is not inconceivable that during the 1970s we shall see Iceland becoming a base for Russian naval power in the Atlantic.
Thus the vision on all sides is not one of optimism on the approach to the conference. When I read the words of the motion I felt concerned, because it suggests that the House should welcome the British Government's decision to partipate. But having heard the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Belper, no one can feel any concern that his head is not firmly screwed on. But we are going into the conference with the anxiety that it should succeed. So, no doubt, are our neighbours to the East. But our motives are very different. I recognise that part of our bargaining posture is that simultaneously with the conference we are asking for mutual and balanced force reduction. However, I cannot help wondering whether there is the making of a bargain with Russia at this time. We can all too easily make concessions. Of course, we want to do so. The Western European countries are not warlike democracies. We are only too glad to deceive ourselves into thinking that the time has come when we can turn our swords into ploughshares.
In the United States the decision seems already to have been taken, as it has been in Vietnam, that peace should be secured at virtually any price. We are asking 1861 that the Communist countries should admit the free movement of people and ideas. That is a good talking point, but we know before the conference begins that they cannot conceivably make such a concession because it would bring their political system crashing down. What we are asking for we shall not get—but what they are asking for we are all too anxious to give. It is right that we should take part in the conference, but it would be wrong for us to hope for too much. Only the passage of time will bring to maturity the spirit of fredom and democracy and the readiness for genuine coexistence in the Soviet Union.
The attitude of the Labour Party to this conference is apparent from their utter apathy over this debate. The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), whose genuine pacifism we respect, was certainly euphoric about the prospects for détente at this conference. I recall that, before the war, the Labour Party were confident that Hitler did not mean war. They consistently opposed British rearmament, which took a lot of explaining away in 1940; and they thought that it was wrong to put Government money into building battleships in the 1930's, in spite of the fact that that would have brought the employment that the Labour Party so much wanted.
In an interesting intervention, the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) said that neutrality was expensive, not cheap, but went on to say that our contribution to defence in terms of gross national product should not exceed 5 per cent.
Another prominent Labour spokesman whom I have heard this week is the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart), who spoke very finely in Paris. I pay tribute to his sincerity and the attention that his speech attracted when he spoke of the necessity for the democratic countries of Europe to have a faith and to stick to it. He said that he thought that for us to try to develop a European nuclear force would be dangerous and provocative. I do not understand why it is provocative for us to wish to defend ourselves, when the Soviet Union is continuously adding to its nuclear resources.
Unfortunately, we have to admit that what will hamper a British Government 1862 in playing their full part in this conference is the fact that there is in Britain, working in the Labour Party, an element which would not be too distressed if our democratic traditions and popular institutions were to disappear.
Looking at this rather gloomy scene, one sees the wisdom of Parliament's decision to enter the Common Market. It was not noticed by many hon. Members that the White Paper which the Government produced discussing British entry put defence before the economic advantages in its first sentence. Possibly Government spokesmen have not placed as much emphasis as they should on the significance for defence of the closer association of Britain with Europe.
The choice which lies ahead for the democracies of Western Europe is unity or disintegration. We must adopt a conscious programme to strengthen the Common Market in the face of the threat from the East. Of course we must maintain the momentum of economic progress—that goes without saying. We must accept the necessity for more expenditure on arms, certainly not less. But I would be the first to agree that we can probably spend what we do spend a great deal more effectively. In Paris, a number of speakers pointed to the need for closer planning of expenditure, the design of armaments, procurement of equipment, and training both on land and at sea.
We should try to bring together our policies within the Community where challenges arise abroad. For instance many people must have been distressed to see the way in which the French Government are seeking to make closer contacts with Uganda, some might say to exploit the disadvantages which we have encountered in our relations there in recent months. The noble Lord who speaks on defence in the other place was right to float the possibility of a joint nuclear force between ourselves and the French. I regret that that initiative does not seem to have made much progress.
In this country, we should reconsider the arguments for and against national service. In particular we should devote our minds to the consolidation of European democratic institutions. We must build a democratic society in Western Europe so robust and united that our 1863 neighbours to the East are forced to acknowledge the futility of their campaign to organise its piecemeal overthrow.
§ 2.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
In many ways this has been a vintage debate, almost one for the connoisseur. Never, in the eight years that I have been in the House, have I heard so many right wing speeches on defence delivered in such a short time and with so little effect. I have been warned continually by hon. Members opposite not to be euphoric. The euphoria which has been engendered in this Chamber since eleven o'clock is so small as to be practically indiscernible.
As for the hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys-Williams), the elements were so mixed in his speech, both as regards the realities of European defence and the possibilities for a security conference, that he started off by saying that we observed that he did not intervene very often in these debates. We did.
If the hon. Gentleman has to talk about pre-war appeasement, it would perhaps be better for him to start with his own Front Bench, his own Foreign Secretary, rather than to castigate any of the present occupants of the Opposition Front Bench, none of whom was a member of the Chamberlain Government who actually signed that agreement. That is the kind of foolish point we have come to expect from the hon. Member and his speech marred what was otherwise a sensible and good debate.
I turn to the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Dixon), who did me the honour of spending at least 10 minutes criticising a speech that I had not yet made, particularly so far as defence expenditure was concerned.
I have here a book recently published called "The Security of Western Europe: Towards a Common Defence Policy", which has been produced primarily by Sir Bernard Burrows, a former permanent British representative at NATO, and by Mr. Christopher Irwin, the Deputy Director of the Federal Trust. I should like to quote two sentences from it to deal with this GNP argument, which does not seem to me to be totally germane to the subject that we have been 1864 discussing but which has been raised a number of times.
Incidentally, if I was wrong about Switzerland, I apologise, but I was always under the impression that, although Switzerland was the most peaceful, the most consistently unwarlike, nation in Europe, it also spent a higher proportion of its national product on defence than any other. If I am wrong, of course I withdraw.
In this book, Sir Bernard Barrows makes two important points about defence expenditure and GNP comparisons. He says, first, that it is wrong merely to take the overall American figure, which is about 8 per cent., and compare that with European figures. A much more valid comparison, he says, would be to take what the Europeans spend and what the United States spends on the defence of Europe. That gives an accurate comparison of what the United States is contributing to European defence. Since the argument that one hears in the United States is so frequently that they are spending so much more proportionately to defend Europe, it is as well to remember that that 8 per cent. is not solely the European figure. If one compares on the basis I have given, one finds that the difference is practically non-existent and that on one set of arithmetic it comes out on the European rather than the American side.
Sir Bernard then goes on:Where there is some justice in the budgetary aspect of this criticism is in the disparity of defence expenditure between European states, for which no very good reason seems to exist other than the varying political difficulties of different governments and the varying degrees of political will to overcome them. In fairness it should be noted that some small part of the defence expenditure of the U.K. and France, who are both towards the high end of the scale, is due to remaining overseas commitments, which in the case of the U.K. are rapidly diminishing. But even so, fairly large discrepancies remain, and it is a commonplace of NATO financial discussion that if all European defence budgets were based on a proportion of 5 per cent. of GNP many of NATO's deficiencies would disappear.The way to reconcile my argument with that of my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) is to remember that my hon. Friend is a pacifist. He is against defence expenditure lock, stock and barrel, of whatever shape it might be. But I am in favour 1865 of NATO and I am in favour of Britain remaining an active member and participating in it. Those hon. Members in the House today who have participated in defence debates in the past six or seven years will know that that has been my position consistently. But I do object to the situation in which the United Kingdom is contributing more to European defence against a common threat than other European nations which are equally affected. It is my belief that it is a perfectly legitimate stand to take for any British Government to say that we should reduce our defence expenditure and that what we should try to get is some greater equalisation of defence contribution among the European members of NATO.
My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East would go further than I. But he wishes to cut it and I wish to cut it. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Dixon), as I understand it, wishes to increase it, and the hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) even wants to introduce conscription, which again was a somewhat bizarre contribution.
§ Sir B. Rhys Williams
If the hon. and learned Gentleman examines what I said he will not find that I suggested I wanted the reintroduction of conscription. I said that I thought we ought to re-examine the arguments.
§ Mr. Richard
If the object of re-examining the arguments is merely to dismiss them, the hon. Gentleman can take what comfort he wishes from that.
I ought perhaps to deal with one other point, before turning to what I thought we were supposed to be discussing, and that is the problem of a European nuclear force. The hon. Member for Kensington, South said that he was surprised to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) say how much he was against the creation of a European nuclear force. I think my right hon. Friend said that it was "provocative". The hon. Member asks why it is provocative for us to defend ourselves when the Soviet Union is spending a vast sum on armaments. The reason why I believe that a European nuclear force as such would indeed be provocative and indeed a step in the 1866 wrong direction is this. For the first time in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks it looks as though the world is beginning to come to terms with the problem of limiting nuclear weapons. At present the Soviet Union and the United States, falteringly, and with difficulty, look as if they might be reaching an agreement. For the nations of Europe now to start some kind of independent nuclear excursion would only complicate the SALT negotiations, perhaps to the point of fatality. If there is one promising and encouraging feature for disarmament negotiations it is the SALT negotiations.
If it is possible to preserve a nuclear balance at a lower level than that at which it exists at present, that is clearly a step in the right direction, not in the wrong direction. At a time, therefore, when the Soviet Union and the United States are in the process of negotiations—and one hears various rumours about how they are progressing and one's hopes from time to time get raised slightly as to whether a result will come from them—the injection of yet another independent nuclear force would be a complicating factor. It would be unnecessary. It would not add to our defence at present, particularly against the background of the existing balance in Europe, the European security conference and the negotiations on mutual and balanced forced reductions. Therefore, I would oppose the creation of such an independent force.
I turn to the European security conference. We have really had quite a run around the park today. The hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) even talked about restoring capital punishment as part of his concept of the moral fibre which, I detected, he thought to be so lacking today. I hope he was no advocating anything of that sort for the agenda of the conference. Or was it merely that we ought to put our own house in order so that we could face the wicked Soviet Union pure, well-scrubbed, shining, ardent and full of faith in democracy and ourselves? I detected that plain and honest puritanism in the hon. Gentleman which we have come to recognise over the years. But that sort of point aside, this debate is taking place today against a background of relative optimism concerning European politics, but, I concede, 1867 with various hon. Members on the Government side of the House of relative pessimism concerning the military side.
In many ways the history of the last 25 years in Europe has been one of a divided continent and a set of divided nations learning to live with the facts of nuclear weapons. We started off in the late 1940s with the situation in which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said on one occasion, all that the Russian Army needed to conquer Western Europe was boots. It was a situation, in 1948 when the Brussels Treaty was signed and when NATO came into existence, in which in many ways the political problems of Europe were simple and the military problems were great. There were no major political problems, among the nations of Western Europe. The threat was obvious. The Russian troops were there. Their armies were large and their air force was extremely powerful. Berlin was in the process of being isolated. Then what one had to do was merely to create one political organisation to establish a military bloc. The military problems of creating the balance were then great, but the political problems were simpler.
The situation now is almost the direct reverse. The military problems in Europe are now much simpler; at least, a balance has been created and it is still there. I have heard nothing from hon. Members on the Government side of the House today which leads me to believe that there has been a serious shift in the balance of power situation in Europe for the NATO Powers. Various hon. Members may say "Tut, tut" but I can detect very little sign in Europe that the military balance has seriously shifted so far as the American nuclear commitment is concerned. There has been no withdrawal, as yet, of any significant number of American ground troops. NATO's present strategy is covered by the troops at its disposal. We can fulfil a strategy of flexible response. We may not have enough frigates in the South Atlantic—that is possible—but regarding the European confrontation over our continent, I have not detected—and it would be interesting to hear whether the Government have—any significant change in the military situation.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman consider the statistics about the balance of forces relatively on the northern flank?
§ Mr. Richard
One knows the statistics, and one has looked at them in various capacities at various times.
§ Mr. Richard
I am not sweeping them under the carpet, but regarding NATO remaining militarily weak and the Warsaw Pact remaining strong, that is just not wholly true. May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman to read one piece of evidence? I have not brought it with me, because I did not think that I would have to argue on it. Perhaps I underestimated hon. Members on the Government side of the House. Would he care to read some of the recent pronouncements of Mr. Alan Eindhoven, who was assistant Secretary of State for Defence when in the State Department but has now, I think, moved over to the Defence Department?
I could mention two or three other authorities. Professor Stanley in another gentleman whom the hon. and gallant Gentleman may like to read. The general conclusion is that, although there is an immediate disparity in terms of conventional forces on the central front—this I accept—nevertheless, taking into account the overall military capacity of the two alliances including nuclear weapons, not only is there a balance but probably NATO is slightly stronger.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
I will read what the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests I read if he will read the recent report of General Sir Walter Walker, recently retired as Commander-in-Chief. Shall we swap?
§ Mr. Richard
I promise the hon. and gallant Gentleman "that I will read anything he wishes me to—within reason.
If I am right, however,—as I think I am, that the military balance in Europe has broadly stabilised itself, the political problems now facing the continent are much more complicated. It is in the political field that we now require the flexibility and a delicacy of approach which was not needed when we were living in the simplistic days of a simple 1869 bloc-to-bloc confrontation and a nuclear strategy of retaliation.
I once read what Marshal Foch was supposed to have said on 30th July, 1914 when somebody asked him "How many British troops do you want in France on the day war breaks out?". Marshal Foch replied "A sergeant will do. One will do, but it is important that he is killed on the first day."
It has always seemed to me that in that thesis lay the total fallacy of the doctrine of massive retaliation. Although it was simple, in that if somebody actually tripped over the tripwire dreadful consequences followed, it was a basically incredible nuclear strategy for anyone to pursue. Therefore, having moved out of that era, out of the cold war era into one of flexibility and one in which a much more delicate approach is required, it is thus the political problems which become all important.
If we are moving out of an era of confrontation into one of negotiation, as President Nixon said recently, we should remember why this is so. The hon. Member for Kensington, South used the extraordinary phrase "Unfortunately the Americans have lost their interest in continuing the cold war." When the hon. Gentleman said that, I murmured "Thank heavens. I am delighted that they should have lost their interest in that." The hon. Gentleman went on to say "Our allies have lost heart."
The reason why attitudes and policies have changed is that the situation in Europe has changed and is changing. I will give the hon. Gentleman some instances since he differs from me: first, President Nixon's visit to Moscow and the resulting communique: secondly, President Nixon's visit to Peking and the result of that on European politics which are deep and profound and as yet not wholly unknown; thirdly, the SALT talks; fourthy, the general process of easing that has gone on in East-West relations; fifthly, the Ostpolitik; and sixthly, the agreement over Berlin. One could continue with developments like these for quite a while.
It is utter and absolute nonsense for hon. Members opposite to shut their eyes to the political process that is going on in Europe and to insist that all that one must do is to go on providing more 1870 and more troops, pouring them into Central Europe, and that somehow or other we will return to a nice comfortable state of cold war-ism.
§ Sir B. Rhys Williams
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way again as he is constantly reverting to my speech?
§ Mr. Richard
It was such a remarkable speech that I feel bound constantly to revert to it. However, I have already given way to the hon. Gentleman enough.
§ Sir B. Rhys Williams
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way once more? It is obvious that the attitude of the Americans has changed. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had been listening sufficiently carefully to my speech he would have realised that that is what I was saying. Has the hon. and learned Gentleman deceived himself, and is he trying to deceive the House, that the attitude of the Kremlin has changed?
§ Mr. Richard
I am saying that the state of European politics has changed in the last 10 years. Anybody viewing the matter with an unbiased mind would be bound to reach that conclusion. European politics are now different from what they were 10 years ago.
In what we are talking about today is the way in which we should respond in military and political terms to the political situation in Europe. That is what the debate is about, and the whole argument about NATO and the defence of Europe is about the common Western response to a political situation. Our response cannot now be the same as it was a decade ago, because we would be responding now in a way which might have been appropriate 10 years ago but to a political situation which has profoundly changed.
Therefore, we greatly welcome the forthcoming European security conference and the fact that the Government are taking part in it. I want to ask the Under-Secretary some specific questions about the conference, because we seem to have got diverted from the subject of the conference into a general discussion of defence in Europe and security generally.
As I understand it, one of the things which is bound to be discussed and 1871 indeed is being discussed at the moment in the preparatory talks is the principles governing the relations between States, including the renunciation of force. It is important to try and strengthen the legal basis of international relations in the course of the conference and to work towards a common understanding of their content and interpretation. I assume that the conference will accept eventually a document in which the participants will undertake to adhere to the principles of international law in order to improve relations among each other and East-West relations as a whole.
It is, I know, difficult to define principles in strict and legalistic terms but there are a large number of unsolved problems in Europe, apart from the German question. I wonder whether the Government have given any thought to whether preference should be given to a convention as the outcome of this part of the conference, or whether there will be merely a political declaration which perhaps more probably accords with the present state of East-West relations.
I assume too that a great deal will be talked about peaceful coexistence. I am not sure whether the Government have decided yet what they would accept as a working definition of "peaceful coexistence". I should be grateful to hear what the Under-Secretary has to say on that subject.
As for the military aspects of security, will the Under-Secretary tell us something about the relationship as he sees it between the conference, on the one hand, and the mutual and balanced force reduction negotiations, on the other? Some of those most sceptical about the value of the conference have been known to say in the past that the only thing it could discuss in meaningful terms would be MBFRs and that if they are being discussed separately, what is the conference being left to do? I should be grateful if the Government would clarify the relationship between the two as they see it.
Thirdly, how do the Government see the principle which will obviously loom very large in these talks of the peaceful settlement of disputes? Do we see it in any sort of judicial sense? The Swiss Government have made certain moves in 1872 this direction recently, with the suggestion of the creation of some kind of independent arbitration, mediation and investigatory commission consisting of independent judges but to be convened ad hoc as and when disputes arise. Are the Government in favour of a new body of this type for the peaceful settlement of disputes?
I hope that at the end of the day what will emerge from the European security conference and the MBFR negotiations will be, first, a general agreement on the principles governing relations between States, including the renunciation of force; secondly, a firm agreement to reduce force levels which would be militarily acceptable to both sides; and thirdly, machinery of some kind for the peaceful settlement of disputes. Then the European security conference would not have been a trap. I should think this result would be something that we should welcome warmly.
Moreover, how do the Government see the various commissions which one assumes will be set up after the first plenary session? How does the Undersecretary see them developing? Does he see a European security conference on any permanent basis? Does he envisage, that is to say, a permanent commission established not merely for the settlement of disputes but for the permanent discussion of European problems? Does he see, as has been suggested in various quarters, not merely a plenary session but virtually a permanent conference to discuss all these matters?
Finally, one should not forget that at this conference 34 nations will be represented. There are the members of the Alliance and the members of the Warsaw Pact. People however tend to forget the large number of neutral and non-aligned nations which will be represented there. They include Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Malta, Sweden, Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Ireland, Spain, Albania if it wishes, and finally I believe San Marino, the Vatican City and Liechtenstein, though I do not suggest that the last three will play a major part in the conference. Nevertheless the number of neutrals or non-aligned nations which will take part in this conference is great. It could be a worthwhile conference, and I was shocked to discover 1873 how few hon. Members on the Government side seemed to appreciate this.
It is high time that we recognised the realities of European politics as they are at the moment. With respect to hon. Members opposite, those realities are not the same as they were 10 years ago. I hope the conference will be a major step forward in recognising that fact.
§ 3.1 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Anthony Royle)
I should like to say how grateful I am to my hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. Stewart-Smith) for bringing this subject before the House and to other hon. Members for their varied and valuable contributions to the debate. Both the subject and the timing of this debate are most welcome to Her Majesty's Government. It gives us all the opportunity to discuss this important subject, and it gives me the opportunity, on behalf of the Government, to expound for the first time in great detail—and I hope the House will forgive me if I make a rather lengthy contribution—on the Government's views on the subject of the European security conference, MBFR, the recognition of Eastern Germany and all those matters which have given so much concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House.
I thought the contributions by my right hon. and hon. Friends were extremely valuable. I cannot say, however, that I go along entirely with the comments made by the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard). Indeed, I thought he was rather discourteous to my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) who, I thought, made a very useful and interesting contribution to the debate. At one point the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court was saying that this debate was full of right wing speeches from my hon. Friends. He then went on to say that the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South marred an otherwise valuable and worthwhile debate. That did not make much sense to me.
I greatly valued the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South, as I did speeches from other hon. Members on both sides of the House. My only sadness—I am sure 1874 it is shared by the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court and by the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun)—is that so few other hon. Members of the Opposition have played a part in this debate.
The issue that we are discussing today is immensely important. It gives great concern to millions of people in both Western and Eastern Europe. It gives deep concern to people in this country—a concern which was expressed at the Labour Party Conference in the autumn when discussion took place on a motion which deplored what was described as the obstructive attitude of the Tory Government on this subject, but went on to urge that the national executive committee of the Labour Party should conduct a rigorous campaign in favour of détente. I have sat here today since eleven o'clock and I have heard three interesting speeches from the Labour benches. Four Labour Members came in for a few seconds and went out again. Otherwise, the Opposition benches have been totally bare of contributions of any sort. I find that sad.
I should like to try to answer some of the points raised by hon. Members during the debate and I start by mentioning the point that was put forward at the beginning of the debate by the hon. Member for Salford, East. He seemed to feel that my right hon. Friend's and myself were in some way making statements both here and abroad which were aimed at undermining what we are all trying to achieve. I find that totally unacceptable. The point that I made when I was in Paris this week and which was also made today by my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South was not meant in the way that the hon. Member seemed to indicate. I said in Paris:That defence situation is not static. The conventional balance of forces in Europe is tilted against the West and, Mr. President, we ignore this at our peril. While we must seek a reduction in tension through negotiations, whether in the CSCE or the MBFRs, we must beware about euphoria on détente".That is the entire context of my remarks which is slightly different to what the hon. Member suggested. I believe that deals too with the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court. He was referring to the balance between East and West overall, but I was dealing with the conventional balance, which was the 1875 aspect my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) was putting forward.
As I have made clear in my remarks so far, the British Government believe that the maintenance of the effectiveness of Western defence is a necessary pre-condition for a successful negotiation of mutual balanced force reductions. Unilateral reductions by the NATO allies would remove the incentive for the Warsaw Pact leaders to negotiate constructively. Evidence suggests that they see no contradiction between increasing expenditure on defence and talking about détente. That is exactly what the Russians are doing at the moment.
I hope that answers the point which the hon. Member for Salford, East was making, although I think that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) and my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. Dixon) dealt with many of the figures which were being bandied about earlier in the debate. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Salford, East missed the contributions by my hon. Friends. I believe that practically every speaker crossed swords with the hon. Member in his absence and I know that he will read HANSARD with great interest tomorrow to see what my hon. Friend had to say.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
I apologise for my absence during the debate, although I returned in time for the Minister's speech. I quoted correctly his statement about being wary of euphoria and I said that it is tacitly recognised that there is still a desire among ordinary people that it should succeed. As for the Minister's point about tilting the balance, he is surely forgetting that America will be represented at the two conferences. Surely he is not suggesting that the Warsaw Pact forces are greater than the NATO forces? I think he must still be under the old illusion that we must talk from a position of strength when we already possess that strength. Surely we do not need to increase it further.
§ Mr. Royle
I dealt with the point quite clearly and I need go no further. There is no doubt that the conventional 1876 balance of forces in Europe is tilted against the West, but the hon. Member will see as I deploy my remarks that those remarks in no way affect our desire to see a successful conclusion to the conference on European security.
In view of what has been said, I should like first to say a few words about the background to the conference and then to attempt to list some of our aims at it.
In my visits to East European capitals last year I soon realised the importance which these countries attach to the convening of a conference. This interest extends beyond the immediate participants. The North African countries, for example, are also concerned that the conference may have implications for them. We shall of course seek to ensure that they are kept fully informed of any developments which might affect their interests. The same interest, though perhaps for different reasons, was also evident at my meetings with Chinese leaders in Peking in June this year. I found the Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs very eager to hear what I had to tell him about the conference. My right honourable Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary was also impressed by the extent of Chinese interest during his own more recent visit to Peking.
The Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries first suggested some years ago that the countries of Europe should meet together at a conference to discuss the problems of security in Europe. We and our allies took the view that such a conference would have to be very carefully prepared. This was not a means of putting off the conference. It was a fact, which we felt very strongly. We saw the conference as part of the continuing process of rapprochement between East and West; and we were determined that certain necessary conditions should be met before we agreed to take part. A hastily-convened conference, which might disappoint the hopes of participants, could well have impeded rather than promoted the development of a better understanding in Europe, something for which we all hope.
What are these conditions? The first was that an agreement acceptable to all concerned should be reached on the 1877 problem of Berlin, which has for so long been such a dangerous source of tension. With the signature earlier this year of the Final Protocol to the Quadripartite Agreement this condition was met.
It was also essential to ensure that the United States and Canada should take part in the conference as of right. Given the vital part which they play in the North Atlantic Alliance, a conference without them would have been virtually meaningless. This condition, too, has been satisfied.
Before we go forward to a conference we shall also wish to be certain that we shall be able to discuss with complete freedom those subjects to which we attach particular importance. I am confident that the preparatory talks which are now taking place in Helsinki will settle this matter beyond all doubt, and I confirm that there is a reasonable prospect that a conference would be successful.
The talks in Helsinki have got off to a good start. They are taking place in a businesslike and informal atmosphere. The smaller countries of Europe, including the neutral countries, are making their voices heard. They feel entitled to their place in the sun, and it is entirely right that they should have it. It is not only the security of the members of the two alliances that is at stake.
It is appropriate that at this point I should pay tribute to the Government of Finland for the energetic and capable way in which they have promoted and arranged the preparatory talks. It is in no small measure due to their efforts that the representatives of 34 countries are now gathered in Helsinki.
We must expect the preparatory talks to last for some time. We do not wish to turn them into a pre-conference by exploring matters of substance in too much detail at this stage. But it is essential to reach agreement on the agenda and on the terms of reference for the committees and sub-committees which will be needed to examine the various proposals we and others will be making. It will also be necessary to settle practical questions such as the organisation and procedures of the conference, and when and where it is to be held. We must avoid arriving at the main conference without being clear in our minds 1878 about what we propose to discuss and how we propose to discuss it.
What are our objectives? Our objectives at the preparatory talks, and our attitude to the conference itself, were admirably expressed in a statement made by Her Majesty's Ambassador in Helsinki on 30th November. That statement has been praised by many hon. Members on both sides. I am arranging for a copy of this statement to be placed in the Library.
What are the main subjects we wished to see discussed? The hon. and learned Member for Barons Court raised several matters. He asked whether there would be a convention or a political declaration of some kind, whether there would be arrangements for peaceful settlement of disputes—"What will it do?" was the theme of the hon. and learned Gentleman's questions.
We see the agenda falling naturally into three parts: political and security questions, economic and technical cooperation and human and cultural contacts between peoples. Much of this was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Belper. Security has its political and military aspects. We are very ready to participate in discussion of the principles which should guide relations between states. Agreement in this area would be bound to improve the political climate in Europe.
But it is one thing to draw up solemn documents, and another to ensure that the ideas they embody are put into practice. Paper guarantees, like paper tigers, provide remarkably little protection against military strength. We therefore think that the Conference should not ignore the military aspects of security. Together with our allies we will have proposals to put forward which could lead to an increase in mutual confidence. I hope this is the answer to the fears expressed by the hon. Member for Salford, East.
These might include the prior notification of military manoeuvres and the exchange of observers at exercises. Such measures would be of general application. We do not believe that it would be appropriate for the Conference to deal with such complicated and difficult subjects as mutual and balanced force reductions.
1879 These are to be discussed separately in a more limited forum. It would be quite impracticable to attempt to handle such a subject within a conference attended by 34 countries. I shall deal with this question in greater detail later.
I now turn to the second area of the agenda—co-operation on commercial economic and related aspects. This is an area in which it recent years the countries of East and West Europe have made significant progress. There are a great many bilateral, commercial and technical agreements. Britain has 13 such agreements with countries in Eastern Europe. More important than the number of agreements, trade has steadily expanded. My hon. Friend the Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson) in his helpful contribution, touching particularly on the trade side, underlined this. The value of British trade with the members of COMECON in 1972 will be something like 10 per cent. higher than in 1971.
But there are still certain obstacles which impede the further growth of trade and we want to remove, or at least to lower them. We do not pretend that differences between the economic structures of Eastern and Western European countries can be ignored. We must accept that for the time being at least these differences will set limits to what can be done. But we believe that the conference provides an opportunity to explore thoroughly all the possibilities of progress on the promotion of trade and on technological exchanges and industrial co-operation. We do not intend to ignore that opportunity.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belper mentioned the environment. We certainly hope that the conference will lead to increased co-operation on environmental matters. Ours is a crowded continent. No European country can afford to take action in this matter in ignorance of what its neighbours are doing. There are some problems which we can only tackle together, regardless of political boundaries.
Lastly, but certainly not least in importance, we believe that the conference should reach agreement on action to promote the freer movement of people, ideas and information. I was glad to note that this aim has the support of my hon. 1880 Friend the Member for Belper. Suspicion feeds on ignorance. The suspicion which even now leads the Warsaw Pact countries to expand their already superior conventional forces might be significantly weakened if all the peoples of Europe were free to travel and to learn more about each other. It would also be weakened if they were free to read each other's newspapers and books and to hear each other's broadcasts. Most of the obstacles to progress here have their roots in the past. There is no reason why they need survive in the 'seventies.
We have discussed these ideas exhaustively with our allies. Much of this consultation has taken place in NATO, where the subject of the European security conference has been under review for many years. It would be impossible to exaggerate the value of the work done in this forum, but it may not be generally realised what a high degree of harmonisation of positions has been achieved within recent months within the European Community, through the medium of the D'Avignon Committee.
Since February this year Britain has been a full member of this group and I do not think there is any other member whose contribution has been more substantial. Our voice has been heard with greater strength because of our decision to enter Europe. Do not let us forget that. It is our arrival as a full member of the European Communities on 1st January which has had a fundamental effect in making our voice heard with greater strength than it would have been if we had not joined the Communities.
I should be very surprised if any question comes up at the European Security Conference on which there has not already been an exchange of views and at least some degree of harmonisation within the Nine. I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South mentioned this. It should not be overlooked by right hon. and hon. Members, especially by one hon. Lady opposite whose views on our relationship with Eastern Europe and whose differing views on our joining the expanded Communities are well known. It is important to realise how much our arrival in the Communities is helping in these matters.
1881 In this way the conference has acted as a spur to political integration, and hon. Members will have seen that in Paris in October the Nine Heads of State and Government agreed that such cooperation should be still further improved and intensified.
I would like to mention one proposal raised by the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court which certain governments have put forward with some insistence. This is the suggestion that the conference should set up a permanent body to continue the work of the conference after it is over. The question of continuing machinery is of course an important and complex one. We believe that it can be usefully discussed only at a fairly late stage during the conference itself.
Only at that point will it be possible to tell whether there are any subjects requiring further treatment and what that treatment should be. Maximum use should clearly be made of existing institutions such as the Economic Commission for Europe which already has considerable experience of East-West economic relations. The regional organ of UNESCO might also be able to play a useful rôle in cultural matters. Where there is no existing body then the conference will have to consider whether a new one should be established. In our view any new body should be provided with specific terms of reference and should be wound up when its task has been completed. I am sure that honourable Members will agree that we must be very wary about creating new international bureaucracies. There are enough in the world already. Someone will have to pay for them.
Having explained our policy on the conference, I should perhaps now say something about the time scale. This again was raised by the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court. Following Dr. Kissinger's visit to Moscow in September provisional agreement was reached with the Russians on a timetable for the various stages of the conference and of discussions on mutual and balanced force reductions. This envisaged that preparatory talks for the Conference should begin on 22nd November, as has happened, and that exploratory talks on MBFR should start 1882 in January next year. The main conference would open in June. To complete the picture, negotiations on MBFR would begin in September or October. We regard this as a reasonable timetable for planning purposes. We do not see it as an immutable sequence of events. So the two sets of discussions are not linked in a formal way. But it would be naïve to suppose that progress—or the lack of it—in the discussions in one forum will not have any effect on the discussions in the other.
As hon. Members are aware, the Government, in association with certain other NATO Governments, have proposed to the Soviet Union and certain of its allies that exploratory talks on mutual and balanced force reduction should begin on 31st January 1973 at a place to be decided through diplomatic channels. Invitation notes were delivered to the Warsaw Pact Governments concerned on 15th November. We have yet to receive any replies.
In our view the aim of these preliminary discussions will be to establish whether there is a basis for serious negotiations. The negotiations could begin in the autumn of next year.
There can be no doubt that it would be to everyone's advantage if we could arrive at agreements to lower the level of armed forces and armaments in Europe while maintaining security undiminished. We for our part look forward to negotiations as an opportunity to try to eliminate what is, in our view, the principal source of tension in Europe: the present—and growing—imbalance between the conventional forces of the NATO and Warsaw Pact countries in Europe.
Negotiations are, however, likely to be long and difficult; we shall need firmness and patience.
§ Mr. Richard
The preliminary negotiations are to start on 31st January next year? Will they be Government to Government? In other words, will all the NATO Governments be invited and all the Warsaw Pact Governments? Or will they be bloc-to-bloc negotiations?
§ Mr. Royle
Above all, and this is very important, we must remain united with our allies on all of this, and I am sure that I carry the hon. and learned Gentleman with me on that. The issues are extremely complicated and we can afford no mistakes. It will be of vital importance to bear in mind the principle that reductions should be the product and not the cause of detente. In our view, this means that negotiations should concentrate initially on maintaining agreement to measures designed to create much greater confidence in the military intentions of the two sides. Only then should we start talking about what reductions might be made by whom. The allies should certainly not think about reducing their own forces till that stage has been reached.
While I am on the subject of force reductions I would come to a subject mentioned on several occasions in the debate, the question of European defence co-operation. This was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Belper, the hon. Member for Salford, East was concerned about it, and my hon. Friend the Member for Truro touched on it. There has been much comment made about reported statements by the Secretary of State for Defence.
We believe in the need to maintain and foster the North Atlantic Alliance and to work for the gradual evolution of a more effective European contribution. I am sure I carry the hon. and learned Gentleman with me on that. Since the Treaty of Rome has no defence content, the enlargement of the Community is not directly relevant. However, as we and our European partners advance towards the development of common foreign policies, I believe that our defence policies will be increasingly aligned, and our administrative practices rationalised. It is too soon to try to forecast the institutional forms which greater European defence co-operation might in the long run acquire.
1884 It seems unlikely that Europe will wish to abandon the nuclear capability it now has, but we shall have to make much more progress in European defence co-operation before it becomes clear whether some new form of European nuclear force is a possibility, and what it might be.
It is impossible to discuss the prospects for the security conference and MBFR talks without saying something about the situation in Germany, and this has become clear during the debate today. I think that if we look at developments there over the last two years both sides of the House will agree that the Federal German Government have made remarkable progress in their Ostpolitik.
There have been treaties with the Soviet Union and with Poland. There has been the treaty with East Germany on transport questions. There has been the Four-Power Agreement signed in June of this year on Berlin—an agreement in which Her Majesty's Government were directly involved and in whose negotiation the British representative played a particularly distinguished part. And there has been the General Relations Treaty between the two Germanies which was initialled on 8th November.
This progress on the Ostpolitik cannot be separated from the Westpolitik. Herr Brandt has always made it clear that his policies in the East are firmly rooted in his membership of the Western Alliance and of the European Community. And his actions in the Westpolitik—not least the support that he gave us in our search for membership of the Community, the support that he gave to the Government of hon. Gentlemen opposite when they applied to join the Common Market in the last Labour Administration, and the support that he continued to give us during our application to join—have clearly shown how firm his commitment is to his Western partners.
I have listed the achievements of the Ostpolitik in the last two years. These achievements have in the main been the Federal Government's. It is right that the Federal German Government should have played the central part. The problems involved were German ones affecting directly the lives and well being of Germans. It is also right for me to pay tribute to that German achievement today but, at the same time, it is right to draw attention to the fact that such 1885 progress could not have been achieved without the very closest collaboration between the Federal Republic, the three Western allies with particular responsibility for Germany, and the Atlantic Alliance as a whole. The handling on the Western side of these difficult issues has been an example, well worth marking, of what can be achieved by close and constant consultation in a spirit of understanding and good faith.
It has been customary for the Foreign Ministers of the Alliance at their half-yearly meetings to take note of developments in the German question, as in other questions concerning the Alliance. I particularly wished to speak at the end of the debate today for many reasons. One is because I wished to hear what hon. Members on both sides of the House had to say on this important matter. Another is that I wanted to be able to tell the House that the Foreign Ministers have just completed their meeting in Brussels and that in their communiqué they have welcomed the news that the Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic intend to sign the General Relations Treaty before Christmas. And they agreed that in view of this individual member Governments might wish to enter into negotiations with the East Germans with a view to the establishment of bilateral relations.
This agreement, in my view, and in the view of the Government, is a welcome one. It opens the way for the individual members of the Alliance to move ahead in their relations with East Germany. It should make possible the fruitful development of contacts—political, commercial and cultural—with the German Democratic Republic. We ourselves look forward, once the General Relations Treaty has been signed, as it will be on 21st December, to opening talks with the East Germans. In preparing for them, and in the course of them, we shall of course want to keep in the closest touch with our allies. If all goes well we hope that it will lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations with East Germany after the ratification of the General Relations Treaty in the spring.
My hon. Friend the Member for Skipton raised the question of a peace treaty. Perhaps I should tell him that 1886 the Western Powers ended the state of war with Germany as a whole in July, 1951. An agreed peace settlement with Germany on the basis of a peace treaty is still outstanding. The signature of the General Relations Treaty will also prepare the way for the entry of the Federal Republic and East Germany into the United Nations, which again is an important matter that has not been mentioned much in the debate. Both are agreed that the form of application to the United Nations must await the ratification of the treaty, and that is expected in the spring. The way will then be open for an approach by both Germanys to the Security Council. As the Four Powers with special responsibilities for Germany made clear in their declaration on 9th November, they will support both applications for membership. Meanwhile, because of the initialling of the treaty, the Western Powers have made no objection to East Germany entering the specialised agencies of the United Nations and achieving observer status.
§ Mr. Richard
On behalf of the Opposition, I very much welcome what the hon. Gentleman has just said. I said nothing about it in my speech as I did not know the announcement would be made. We regard it as a major step forward in European relations.
§ Mr. Royle
I am grateful for the remarks made by the hon. and learned Gentleman on behalf of the Opposition. I think that all our aims are the same. We now hope for a movement towards détente, but, at the same time we must keep our guard up in the months and years ahead.
Certain Members have suggested that our attitude to the conference might have been too lukewarm. Other hon. Members have pointed to the dangers, although fewer than I thought, that are inherent in the conference, and have suggested that we should approach it with the greatest caution. Most hon. Members who made those remarks were my hon. Friends. The divergence of opinion suggests that possibly we are on the right lines. We are well aware of the dangers inherent in the conference and, as I have spelt out our attitude to it today, I feel sure that no one can accuse us of being lukewarm.
There are opportunities to make progress and we intend to seize them.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
I think that the hon. Gentleman must accept that it was a little unfortunate, even from his point of view, that Defence Ministers should a month before announce such a significant increase in our spending. I know that the Russians have increased their spending. However, we would have resented it very much if they had done that a month before.
§ Mr. Royle
I said at the beginning of my speech that the comments being made about increases in defence expenditure of any kind are obviously at the door of the Soviets and Eastern European countries as much as ourselves.
With regard to the future of British defence expenditure, which was raised by the hon. Member for Salford, East, I understand that he has a Question down on this subject for Monday. It would be much better if he puts the Question as he had planned and awaits the answer from the appropriate Minister.
We shall achieve very little if we set out with the view that there is very little that can be achieved. However, it would be foolish to imagine that a conference of this kind will solve all the security problems of Europe. Of course it will not. But we hope to make real progress at the conference and to make progress afterwards.
There will doubtless be an idealistic minority who will seek to endow it with excessive importance and advocate the dissolution of military pacts following its conclusion. But we must recognise that we live in an imperfect world. Conference or no conference, the security of Western Europe will continue to depend on our collective will to defend ourselves. The North Atlantic Alliance, which has been the pricipal guarantor of security in Europe for over 20 years, remains as important to us today as it was in the dark days of the cold war.
We are determined that our contribution to the conference shall be practical and productive. We want to see a conference which will produce practical results. We do not at the end of the day wish to find ourselves with a harvest of empty declarations and no real progress on matters of substance.
§ Question put and agreed to.1888
That this House welcomes Her Majesty's Government's decision to participate in the Conference on Security and Co-operatiaon in Europe.