§ 3.8 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)
Our debate on the foreign situation in the context of the Gracious Speech must inevitably be to a large extent an extension of our recent discussions on the situation in the Middle East. The war there, with its heavy toll of casualties and the near involvement of the greatest Powers, brought us sharply up against the fragility of world peace and brought home to us that détente has a long way to travel before it is real.
The fact that there are periods of comparative calm does not mean that the eruptive forces that have threatened us in the past have been permanently laid. In fact, I think all of us could conclude, after the experience of the last 10 days or so, that the veneer of civilised conduct is still paper thin.
I do not therefore propose this afternoon to repeat the analysis I have made of the origins of the dispute, but rather to examine whether there are lessons which 180 we can already learn and apply. The first surely is that the world cannot afford "local wars". It is simply not true that while the super-Powers hold the nuclear balance, others can fight conventional wars without risk to world peace. Vietnam, and now, more dramatically, the Middle East, are vivid illustrations of that.
The second lesson is the corollary of the first. It is that a circle far wider than the combatants is affected by the hostilities and have profound interests in the making of peace.
I said in our debate, well before the last critical days:This war could increase in scale until the Soviet Union and the United States were so deeply involved that neither could diplomatically influence the other."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th October 1973; Vol. 861, c. 426.]A few days later that was very nearly a fact. It was an extremely close run thing, but we can note with relief that the atmosphere of détente has gone just far enough to allow the Russian and American leaders to meet and halt the deteriorating situation. Diplomacy just, but only just, bore the load.
As we have been saved from the worst and there is now a pause—the cease-fire holds and has held for about three days—what can diplomacy do in the difficult period of maintaining the cease-fire and in the period of argument and counter-argument, which is bound to take place, leading up to a permanent peace? In these processes of peacemaking the combatants will play their part. It has been a weakness of the past that they have been at arm's length and unable to talk to each other. It is a good sign that the opposing officers commanding the Israeli and Egyptian forces have met and have talked, and that is the first time that this has happened for many years.
Clearly, too, their principal allies will have to play their part, namely, the United States and the Soviet Union. But there will have to be more than that, because I suspect that neither the combatants nor their chief allies alone will be able to keep the peacemaking under Resolution 242.
The United Nations in recent years has greatly developed the scope of its activities, but it has remained frustrated in its most important function of peace-keeping, and it is imperative that it should fulfil 181 the rôle for which it was founded. Here is one case in which it can do so. I think that the lesson has to some extent been learned in the past critical days—or, at least, partially learned—that what is done must be done under the umbrella of the Security Council.
The cease-fire, after a broken start, now holds reasonably well and it is now policed by several hundred troops collected and sent to the area by the authority of the Secretary-General and the Security Council. Within the next few days further contingents of the new United Nations emergency force will be arriving on the ground. This expanded force should be able to consolidate the cease-fire and create conditions in which certain immediate problems can be solved. These include the delineation of the cease-fire lines of 22nd October and, among other things, an exchange of prisoners-of-war.
This latter problem has, I know, been causing particular concern among hon. Members on both sides of the House and it is my profound hope that considerations of humanity will override other considerations and that an early exchange of prisoners will be possible. We have, been in touch with the parties. In response to the point made last week by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party, I can say that I have also been in touch with the International Red Cross in Geneva, and I welcome the news that the Egyptian Government have agreed to the release of the names of Israeli prisoners in accordance with the provision of the Geneva Convention.
I believe, too, that steps are being taken to ease the plight of the soldiers of the Egyptian Third Army. Nor must we forget the large number of casualties, both civilian and military, who are in urgent need of relief and care. We ourselves are offering a special contribution of £65,000 to the International Red Cross to help meet the immediate extra demand that is coming upon it.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Cannock)
Does the Foreign Secretary know whether there is any truth in the suggestions that certain prisoners have been put to death by the Syrians?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I have nothing to corroborate that.
182 I turn now to the question of the peace negotiations. It is vital that a rapid start should be made. There are a number of contacts which must be made, and hon. Members will have heard that Mrs. Golda Meir is to visit the United States and that Dr. Kissinger is making a tour of some of the Arab countries. But it is of absolute importance to decide quickly upon the procedures to be set up in order to implement Resolution 242 "in all its parts", which, as hon. Members will remember, is the wording of the Moscow declaration. For this, and nothing less, was the task set by the unanimous vote of the Security Council after the Moscow meeting anti nothing less than that will prevent another war.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Have the Government given any consideration to the proposal made by the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. Yigal Allon, that as an immediate step should be withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West bank of the Suez Canal and withdrawal of Egyptian troops from the East bank? This would be a first step towards discussion for finally solving the problem.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
That is one proposal, and there are others. I shall refer in a moment to the question of demilitarised lines and the drawing of lines and demilitarised areas between them, because that is right at the essence of a successful peace policy in this area.
The fact that the commanders of the opposing armies are able to meet is encouraging. No such contact has been made between Israel and Egypt for 17 years. The combatants could proceed to negotiate direct, but I believe that they will need their chief allies. In addition, they will require assistance from one capable of wider perspective, and I am sure that the Secretary-General of the United Nations must at all times be ready to play his part. From the statements he has made, I am sure that he will do so. Others, including ourselves, will stand ready to assist if required. The important aim is to get the result of peace, and to get it fast before all turns sour again, as could easily happen.
There are certain immediate problems. I mentioned the plight of the Egyptian Third Army; that is one. I mentioned 183 the exchange of prisoners; that is another. There is also the question of the lifting of the present blockade in the Red Sea. All these problems are immediate and urgent. We have put forward to all the countries concerned, including the Soviet Union and the United States, ideas on all these problems.,
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
When the right hon. Gentleman referred to the blockade of the Red Sea, was he referring to the Straits of Bab el Mandeb, or is there a wider blockade? Yesterday I raised that question and asked what Her Majesty's Government have done in a matter vitally affecting a British interest, namely, the freedom of the seas, which is what the Straits of Tiran argument was about. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to say more, or is he leaving it at that?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I was intending to leave it at that, except that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is one of the urgent matters that must be settled, and settled quickly as part of a disengagement. I, therefore, hope that this will be a matter which will be talked over by Mrs. Meir and the Americans and also by the Egyptians when they meet Dr. Kissinger. This blockade must be lifted.
It is still true that a settlement cannot be imposed, but after two wars in six years the rest of the world has a right to ask that the combatants should use all the means of conciliation which are open to them. There will be many ideas about the ultimate shape of the peace. I put forward one possibility three years ago. But it is useless to speculate too far until the mind and will of Israel and the Arab countries are known.
We have injected a number of ideas on how progress might be made which we hope will be helpful, and they are in the possession of all the parties. In particular, we have done a great deal of detailed work on guarantees and how they might be implemented. This paper is at the disposal of the peacemakers, whoever they may turn out to be. I believe that it will turn out to have been a useful piece of work.
Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman taunted me somewhat and said that 184 Government policy had only revealed our impotence. I am content to say to him that he has always confused public relations activity with real diplomacy. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that that is a mild retort.
Responding to what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) said just now, I have not varied my view that, following the cease-fire, lines of withdrawal and demarcation will have to be drawn which will keep the combatants at a distance, and that between them there will need to be demilitarised zones policed by international forces. I am certain that this must be the pattern, but this is probably most likely to be achieved by stages. The hon. Gentleman mentioned one possible way of doing this. There may be other ways. I do not wish to commit myself now to saying that the hon. Gentleman's scheme might be adopted. If it is done by stages, it must be a continuing process of withdrawal from occupied territories in return for guarantees of the physical security of the State of Israel. For the present, I believe that these possibilities are best followed up in private exchanges. As I remarked, these are to take place shortly in the United States, and in Cairo and other Arab capitals.
Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke of the alert and the speculation and anxiety which it caused. He made the position quite clear, and I do not propose to add to what my right hon. Friend said, except for one comment. The procedures have flowed from a communiqué issued after talks between Mr. Churchill and President Truman on 9th January 1952, which read as follows:Under arrangements made for the common defence, the United States has the use of certain bases in the United Kingdom. We reaffirm the understanding that the use of these bases in an emergency would be a matter for joint decision by Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government in the light of the circumstances prevailing at the time.That has governed our approach to these matters since then, and I do not see any reason why it should be varied.
Many hon. Members will remember the Cuba crisis. There, the withdrawal of opposing forces was achieved only in the last minutes. This time there was diplomatic contact at the start. It is to the credit of the leadership of both the Soviet Union and the United States that the 185 leaders had got themselves into a position where this seemed the natural, sensible and, possibly, the only thing to do in the circumstances. So détente had made progress. I might add, incidentally, that the alert has been cancelled.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
Reverting to that formula, is it not clear that the spirit of it was not carried out by the United States last week?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
No, Sir. I think that the United States can alert its forces, but if anything were required of a United Kingdom base, or any actions required relating to a United Kingdom base, clearly there would be consultation. This practice has ruled from then until now.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am sorry to press the Foreign Secretary, but we are trying to get the facts clear. Was not the alert applied to American planes operating from American bases in the United Kingdom; and, if so, how can the Foreign Secretary say that the procedure was carried out?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
It was what is called an alert grade 3, and it was applied to American forces in the United Kingdom. That is true. But there was no proposal that those forces should be used. If there had been a proposal that they should be used from the United Kingdom, consultation would have had to take place. The Americans could not have done anything without our consent.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
Will the Foreign Secretary tell us what powers we possess to stop the Americans from using those bases without our permission? When the alert was put into operation in the Polaris fleet in Holy Loch, what control had we over those ships going to sea?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
In ordinary times, the Americans operate under an arrangement with us about ships going to sea. If they wished to use any bases in the United Kingdom in relation to a war situation, which was the situation last week, they could not do so without our consent, and they would first consult us before consent or refusal was given.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
It was clear last week, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) put questions, that the Foreign Secretary seemed to know little about it. He was right in his statement about the activation of bases, but was there consultation before the alert? Would that not be a natural course between allies? Does he not recognise that the previous administration had consultations, even on matters not affecting any rights of ours—the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong for example—and that, for weeks before, the President was sending his own emissaries over to discuss matters with us, even though we did not agree with what they said? Should there not have been consultations as between allies, quite apart from the rights about the activation of bases?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Naturally, consultation runs along the whole time, but when the Americans alert their forces there is no obligation on them to discuss this matter with their allies. If they wish to use a base for any purpose, they have an obligation to discuss that with us. My memory may be wrong, but I do not think that in the right hon. Gentleman's time the question of an alert was raised, in the case of Vietnam.
I was talking about the Americans and Russians being able to come together to take diplomatic action. It is also a gain that the world community has been engaged. The dominant thought in the minds of everyone in the Security Council and the United Nations has been of peace. This dispute and the means of settling it must be kept before the world community and in the Security Council. None of us knows yet what rôle we may most usefully play. That is not a matter of prestige. It is hard to imagine a more thankless task. It is a question of whether we or any other country, or combination of countries such as Western Europe, can make a positive contribution to the settlement. There is a long way to go. We are ready if and when required.
There has, naturally, been speculation as to the effect of the events of the past three weeks on the policy of détente. It would be wrong to deny that there have been moments during recent weeks when that policy has been under strain. But 187 precisely at the most critical moment of tension, when the American forces had been put on a world-wide precautionary alert, and before the Security Council resolution had precluded the permanent members of the Security Council from participation in the emergency force, Dr. Kissinger made a point of emphasising in public that the United States was not in confrontation with the Soviet Union. And since then, of course, the Security Council resolution has been adopted and the crisis has visibly eased.
The situation was obviously critical. The future of détente hung in the balance. But I see no reason to suppose that either the Soviet Union or the United States now regard the Middle East crisis as an obstacle to further progress towards détente. Any judgment must be tentative, and it is always possible that developments may take place which would revive the fears and dangers of which I have spoken. But I believe that both the Soviet Union and the United States are vividly aware of the dangers—perhaps even more so than before—and will strive to avert them. They have different interests in the Middle East and elsewhere, but they both share what I hope will be an overriding interest in avoiding confrontation and in maintaining the momentum towards détente.
As far as Europe is concerned, nothing which has happened during the last few weeks will have weakened our resolve to try to bring about a détente which is real. To be real—we shall be approaching this both in the conference on cooperation and security in Europe and in the conference on mutual and balanced force reductions—and to carry conviction it must be proved by the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe that the détente is, in their view, irreversible. That seems to me to be essential.
I am going to Moscow on 2nd December for a few days where I shall be discussing the whole question of détente in the Middle East, among other issues, with the Soviet leadership.
The clash between Israel and the Arabs, taken together with the ever-increasing Russian military capability, was bound to cause anxieties to countries outside which do not see the Middle East problem in quite such clear-cut terms as the Ameri- 188 cans and the Russians. European and American interests will not always be identical on every issue inside and outside Europe. Certain differences arose between the United States and individual European countries over some aspects of the handling of this crisis. This was probably inevitable. But members of the Atlantic Alliance have a profound and common interest in a peaceful and lasting settlement in the Middle East, and they must work together to try to achieve it. No member has a monopoly of wisdom, power or influence in this respect.
I see virtue in facing the differences that we have, but no virtue in magnifying the occasions on which differing appreciations of the situation have resulted in the advocacy of differing tactics. These differences ought to be, and I am certain will be manageable between allies.
Certainly in our relations with the United States I see no cause for friction. Our consultation has been, and remains, very full. I should say at once that the United States have made a good and vital contribution to the achievement of a cease-fire. Without active American involvement, the cease-fire would not have occurred. I have every confidence that the Americans are genuinely and urgently working for a peace which can be fair and permanent.
Just as the Americans and the Russians have an overriding interest in avoiding overt military confrontation with each other, so we in NATO have an overriding interest in maintaining the alliance in good repair for the purpose for which it was created—namely, the defence of Europe.
In the Community context, too, we have a common interest in seeing that our relations with the United States are redefined in a mutually satisfactory way in the new situation created by enlargement. In the Community we have been successful in co-ordinating and agreeing a common position for discussion with the Americans, and Dr. Kissinger has welcomed the achievement at Copenhagen. Again, I believe that we must not be diverted from our mutual interest in the cohesion of the West by differences which are not fundamental and essential but transitory and peripheral.
The Middle East has dominated our minds in the last few weeks, but other 189 things have been happening in the world. The House is familiar with the situation relating to the Iceland fisheries dispute as we left it in the summer. It was totally unsatisfactory that there should be such a quarrel between friends and allies.
During a visit by the Iceland Prime Minister we were able to work out with him proposals for an interim settlement which were acceptable to the fishing industry in this country and to the British Government. We trust that the Iceland Government will accept this plan. It is certainly our wish to resume our longstanding friendship within the NATO Alliance.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
Of course, one does not want to say too much at this delicate time, but may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will assure the House that, if we are in any difficulties and the Icelanders do not accept this package deal between the two Prime Ministers, we shall stand by our people on this side?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
We do not want to emphasise the differences now; we want to emphasise accord and try to get it. However, the hon. Gentleman is right.
In the sub-continent of India the process of moving large populations to facilitate peaceful relations between Pakistan, India and Bangladesh is proceeding and we have been able to help with transport aircraft.
Here are two examples of disputes—the one with Iceland and the other in the Indian sub-continent—in which the policies of reconciliation look like gaining the day, and I think that we can mark that with satisfaction. Other events in the context of reconciliation will be, as I mentioned, the Conference on European security and co-operation and the mutual and balanced force reductions conference which will run concurrently.
There are other matters of which I could have spoken, but as so many hon. Members would no doubt like to give their opinions and make suggestions for a settlement in the Middle East, I propose to say no more. It has been right to try to see ahead towards the shape of a settlement in the Middle East. Until that is found we shall be diverted again and again by the hostility between the Arabs and the Israelis. Therefore, I 190 hope that we can now proceed actively with the building of that better world—certainly in the Middle East, where the situation is very much better than it has been—and the peace for which all ordinary men yearn.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
We are grateful to the Foreign Secretary for the review that he has given of some of the items contained in the Gracious Speech. It is quite clear, as he said, that the Middle East situation will lie heavily upon all the speeches that will be made. Indeed, I noticed that in the general debate yesterday a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House made it at least part of their speeches, and obviously the aftermath of the conflict will now overshadow many of our preoccupations.
There are a number of unexceptionable sentiments about foreign affairs in the Gracious Speech with which we can certainly agree. For example, we welcome the proposalto ratify the United Nations convention on the prohibition of biological weaponsand the proposal or the attemptto seek an interim agreement on fisheries with the Government of Iceland.We certainly welcome the proposal to maintain anactive rôle in Commonwealth affairsa matter that we believe the Government have neglected in recent years, and we welcome the Government's hope that our relations with the USSR will develop, because certainly after 1971 our relations with Russia were the worst in Europe.
The Foreign Secretary said nothing about our playing a more active part in a new Rhodesian settlement. I take it that we shall be having a debate on that subject when the sanctions measure comes up for renewal. Therefore, I will not press the right hon. Gentleman heavily now. However, as sanctions were obviously being broken, I made a request to his right hon. Friend recently to use the EEC as far as we could to bring to the attention of our fellow members of the Community what is going on. I specified a number of countries where the evidence was clear that sanctions had been broken by them. It seems to me that if the next meeting of 191 the EEC Foreign Ministers is to be of any value one item that should be placed on the agenda is that of sanctions. The Foreign Secretary could very well raise that question. Why are these countries unable to prevent the breaking of sanctions when we are in partnership in the EEC? I should like to press the Foreign Secretary on that matter.
As I said, we welcome the proposal to sign the convention prohibiting biological weapons.
A question arises concerning the Convention of Human Rights in the Council of Europe. In 1966 we accepted Article 25 for an initial period of three years and it was later renewed. This is the proposal under which citizens and others who complain about their treatment by the home country may go to the Council of Europe. We hope that the Government will once more renew this legislation, which gives the right of individual petition to the European Commission of Human Rights. I hope that this evening we may have an answer on that matter.
There is no mention in the Queen's Speech about aid. Foreign affairs are also concerned with that matter. I am glad to see the Minister for Overseas Development in his place. When we talk about the issues that the Foreign Secretary has rightly spoken of today, it is important to remember the individual human aspect and the fact that in the world today there are millions, or at least hundreds of thousands, of men, women and children who are hungry and under-nourished, some of them starving.
There are three recent illustrations of the many which have come to the notice of hon. Members in all parts of the House. There was the story from Ethiopia of the millions of men and women who are affected by famine. Every hon. Member will agree that there can be few things more degrading than the story about General Wingate's school. It would considerably distress that very great man if he knew what was going on. His own boarding school, which is apparently accommodating 1,000 pupils, is next door to another school, and the left-overs from the children's meals in General Wingate's school are made available to the children in the other schools, who carry a little card with them marked, "Scrap Eaters". 192 I cannot imagine what General Wingate would make of such a situation. I do not say that in any tone of regret to anyone, but it is a reminder to all of us of the great distress that exists in many parts of the world today.
I now turn to the question of the Palestine refugees, whose children's educational programme is apparently to be drastically cut and almost dismantled if the UNRWA budget is not increased. Then, some of us saw recently on television a film of the workers on the tea estates in Ceylon. We saw their inspection by doctors, who said to the camera, quite calmly and coolly—I imagine that the workers themselves could not understand what was being said—"If these people are not treated soon they will be dead." Foreign affairs is about this, too. I do not complain that the Foreign Secretary did not mention it, but there is a case here for this country, above all, which has given a lead in so many of these matters, to have firmly fixed in the front of our minds during the discussion of the Queen's Speech, in which we shall be debating our own ills and shortcomings, the needs of so many millions of people in other parts of the world.
Like the right hon. Gentleman, I wish to devote much of what I have to say to the aftermath of the conflict and the next steps in the Middle East. The cease-fire has taken place at a moment when there is neither an acknowledged victor nor anyone who has been vanquished. As a result of the initial attack, Egypt has made gains on the east bank of the Canal which she has held on to, and Israel has in her counter-attack gained territory on the west bank, and I think it is fair to say that at the moment of cease-fire was in a position of advantage. But because of the United States/USSR agreement, Israel did not strike home her advantage which might well have led to the surrender of the Egyptian Third Army and the road to Cairo would then have lain open. But if, as I believe, Israel is concerned with peace rather than with victory, holding her hand and not forcing humiliation on to the Arab armed forces may prove in the long run to be the best course of statesmanship. It was Churchill who said "In defeat, defiance. In victory, magnanimity." On the Sinai front, the result of this cease-fire is that the armies 193 of both sides are in an unstable position, which, militarily, I imagine the command on both sides would regard as unsuitable to hold indefinitely.
The United Nations, in Resolution 339 of 23rd October, urged that the forces of both sides be returned to the positions which they occupied at the moment the cease-fire became effective, for as a result of fighting that took place after the nominal cease-fire the Israelis made certain territorial gains. I do not know whether it is practicable to return to the positions which they were actually occupying at 16.50 GMT on 22nd October—and I doubt whether anyone else does, either—in the heat of the battle. But I noticed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer) pointed out in his intervention, that Mr. Yigal Allon, the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, has suggested that each side should return once again to the Canal as a temporary dividing line. That has some merit. It would involve withdrawals from the east bank by Egypt and from the west bank by Israel, and would unpin the Third Egyptian Army. But it would be unfortunate if a return to the familiar positions held by both sides for the last six years led to a return to the familiar mentality which has prevented direct negotiations from taking place during the same period between those two sides. What is important—I agree entirely with the Foreign Secretary—is that the momentum of peace negotiations should be maintained.
§ Mr. Heffer
I should like to make it absolutely clear that I was suggesting that we should look very closely at the proposal of the vice-premier as a first step, and only a first step, towards further negotiations, and certainly not that it would be a rigid demarcation line from then on.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am obliged to my hon. Friend and I understand that. I think it would be right, since Mr. Yigal Allon has put forward this proposal, that if the Egyptians have some counter-proposals they should put them forward and both sides should discuss them, because I should prefer, if it were at all possible, to leave it to the Egyptian and Israeli officers on the spot to settle, with the aid of the United Nations observers, where the 194 cease-fire line should be. Indeed, the more the Egyptians and the Israelis can be persuaded to settle matters between themselves, the more likely it is that the ceasefire will stick and perhaps give way to a more permanent peace. The United States and the USSR are quite right to bring pressure on both sides to negotiate, but they would make a profound mistake if they imposed a settlement on either or both of the contestants.
The interest of the world, therefore, is to get them to the negotiating table and try to hold them there for as long as it is necessary to reach an accommodation between them. Because they must agree if peace is to be lasting, I do not think it would be helpful, despite the comparative freedom of opposition, for me to pontificate on the detailed form a settlement should take—certainly not on the matter of boundaries. But we can, and we should, indicate our general views, and this I propose to do. These are still best summed up in Resolution 242 of 1967. On this occasion, I was glad to see that it was the Security Council that called upon all the parties concerned to start implementing that resolution in all its parts.
That resolution has positive merits for both sides. For Israel, it recognises her absolute right to exist as a sovereign State and, secondly, her right to use international waterways such as the Suez Canal and—let it be made clear to anyone who proposes to interrupt—to the Bab-el-Mandeb strait and any other international waterway. The resolution is in the plural. It refers to "international waterways" and, although in the past we have discussed it in the context of the Suez Canal, it is quite clear that it goes much wider than that. The advantage for the Arab States is that the resolution recognises the inadmissibility of territorial aggrandisement through war, and the need for a humane settlement of the refugee problem. Everyone in this House—we have been over this ground many times—recognises that a major stumbling block will be the requirement that Israel gives up territory that she has conquered. It is a clash between her concept of her security requirements and Egypt's demand for sovereignty over her own territory.
I think it is impossible to hear without sympathy the cry from Israel that if the latest attack had started from the pre-1967 195 borders she might have been overrun in the first few days. I do not see how one can possibly deny that. But it is here that the importance of point 3 of Resolution 242 comes into play, namely, the need—as the Foreign Secretary said—to create demilitarised zones. If both sides are ready to agree to this in principle, perhaps it can be carried out in stages, as was suggested by the Foreign Secretary, and it will be possible to reconcile the clash between Israel's demand for security and Egypt's demand for sovereignty. But acceptance of the principle involves agreement on the fact of Egypt's sovereignty—I do not think this can be avoided; a physical barrier or corridor between Egyptian and Israeli borders, wherever they are finally drawn; and a real United Nations force capable of keeping the peace to be established and based in the corridor. That is to say, it must be composed of more than observers. The Foreign Secretary referred to it just now as a police force. Our concept of a police force is an unarmed force. I do not suppose he meant that; I hope he did not mean it. I conceive of this as a combat force, able to prevent an incursion by one side towards the frontiers of the other. Unless that is achieved, I do not see how it can be effective.
This combat force—for I call it such—clearly must be drawn from nations which are capable of providing combat units. I do not think that drawing them in penny numbers from a dozen different nations will really provide the kind of force that would be very effective. Therefore, it may be that some of the permanent members of the Security Council will have to be drawn back into the picture. If they were to come back under the ambit of the Security Council in order to provide an effective combat force, I believe that would be a help and would aid in securing peace, and not the reverse. I certainly believe that Britain should be ready to make a contribution towards such a force.
In passing, I congratulate the Secretary-General on the speed with which he and his officers have moved into the field so quickly, despite the difficulties. It was not easy to assemble the men who have been assembled. They have been transported with the aid of this country and others, and I think this House should go on record as acknowledging that in a 196 field where they cannot have had all that experience, the United Nations has done a good job in the initial stages. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I am glad to see from today's papers that the Egyptians and the United States are in discussion and that Dr. Kissinger is about to visit Cairo. That prompts the thought that if Dr. Kissinger is to visit Cairo, why should there not be direct discussions between the USSR and Israel? For example, in the spirit in which the USSR is approaching this, why should not Mr. Brezhnev invite Mrs. Meir to visit Moscow and discuss these problems there? I cannot believe that a face-to-face discussion of this sort would do any harm. It might provoke a better understanding. The more the two duellists—if I may call them that—and their seconds can talk to each other, the more prospect there is that they will understand the feelings of each other.
To sum up, it is clear that it is the United States and the USSR who have the biggest influence at present in getting both sides to come to terms. The USA and the USSR must work together. Our foreign diplomacy has been active—I hope the Foreign Secretary will not mind my saying—with rather meagre results, so far as one can see. But I think that is the inevitable fact, because it is the United States and the USSR who have been playing the major rôle there.
Secondly, the two sides must be kept on the move in the negotiations. They must be encouraged to work out their own solutions and they must recognise that this means concessions by both sides. If these concessions are to be made—and it is hard to ask both Israel and Egypt, as well as Syria, to make concessions—they can be made only in exchange for a permanent peace. That seems to me to be the minimum condition that either side could require for making the very hard concessions that they will need to make if they are to justify them to their own people.
It follows from this that the international community has got a rôle to play in guaranteeing meaningfully the new borders that may be agreed by means of United Nations combat troops occupying a buffer zone between the States. The international community must also be prepared to assist materially and financially in the separate negotiations which 197 will be needed between Israel and the Palestine refugee representatives on the need for a humane solution to the refugee problem. The fact that there is no clear victor or vanquished in this latest round of hostilities gives the countries concerned and the world a renewed chance of removing the poison from the Middle East situation, and the United Nations has its own part to play in this.
I hope we shall not yield to blackmail over oil. We should support the cause of peace, security and justice. Clearly, we do not want to put ourselves into a position of braggadocio and say, "Never mind. Do what you like. We will take it." We should follow a policy that will not endanger our interest more than it need, but there is a difference between that and yielding to blackmail. I feel that the weapon that has been produced by the Arab States will recoil on them in due course.
If some ask—and some do in letters to me, and I am sure to other hon. Members—"Why should Britain interest herself?" our reply must be twofold. There is a problem of common humanity, which was movingly referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan) yesterday, in words which I cannot better. But there is another factor which was summed up by Mr. Litvinov 40 years ago, in the phrase, "Peace is indivisible"—a phrase which the Foreign Secretary echoed in different words this afternoon. That has been brought home to all of us during the last 10 days when, for a brief moment, it seemed as though the two super-Powers were heading for collision over differences on how to achieve a cease-fire. The moment passed quickly and the world breathed again, but some important obstacles were lit up by that sudden flash of lightning, and they must be overcome now.
They are questions which concern relations between the United States and the USSR; the NATO responsibility and response when the United States decides on an armed alert in a non-NATO area and a non-NATO dispute; the prospects for the European security forces, the force reduction negotiations, and the degree of consultation that we expect from the United States when she decides to use 198 troops or aircraft or submarines, nuclear or non-nuclear, based in other countries.
With regret—because I am a firm advocate of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance—I cannot conclude any other than that the United States behaved with brusqueness and insensitivity in her action in setting a state of alert in being. The basis of NATO is that an attack on one is an attack on all. This is something which we must all honour. NATO countries should respond to that. In the case of the recent alert there was no question of attack on a NATO country. The United States has maintained bases overseas since the end of the Second World War, both for our protection and for her own, but she must recall that she occupies these bases with our consent. This is not a matter of diplomatic courtesy. A situation may arise in which the very safety and the lives of our own people in these islands could be called into question. This is why my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was right this after-non in his intervention when he said that surely there is a need for consultation between allies before decisions of this sort are proposed and decisions have to be taken.
It may be that in the recent drama it was a weakness in the use of the United States diplomatic machine which prevented the consultation. Dr. Kissinger certainly has been carrying a heavier burden than any single man could be expected to shoulder. In many ways the world owes him a debt for the remarkable ability which he has shown and for his tireless efforts during recent weeks. It seems to me that he has been taxed almost beyond endurance. But he has got a machine there. He has got the State Department there. It is not purely a one-man band. I hope that Dr. Kissinger will recognise that the events of last week cannot be permitted to recur.
I ask the Foreign Secretary to discuss the whole question again in conjunction with our allies and with the United States on this basis. The principle should be that the United States must give notice to the United Kingdom if she wishes to use bases here for any purpose that might endanger the safety of the United Kingdom, and we must be free to refuse that permission. On that basis confidence could he restored.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
I agree with the criticism which my right hon. Friend has just made, but is not such a lack of consultation inevitable by the nature of nuclear weapons? If there had been a move from stage 3 to stage 5 there could have been no consultation. Not even the Governments of America and Russia could have been consulted. It would have been left to three or four men to act quickly before they themselves were wiped out. Therefore, the existence of nuclear weapons, and particularly nuclear bases in Britain, makes the kind of thing which my right hon. Friend is criticising inevitable.
§ Mr. Callaghan
It is clear that the presence of nuclear weapons in the armouries of the world has heightened the dangers which face the world to an almost limitless degree. We do not wish them away so easily. That is why I support strongly the negotiations and talks which have gone on in what are called the SALT 1 and 2 talks.
There must be a basis of negotiation and agreement between the two sides when Polaris submarines are no doubt aimed at targets in the USSR, and when the USSR no doubt has weapons which are directed at cities in this country. The difference between my hon. Frend the Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) and myself is that he thinks he can get rid of the menace by a unilateral act, whereas I believe that can be done only by negotiation and agreement.
I pass over some of the intemperate comments from the Pentagon and State Department officials, except to say that the kind of language which has been used is not the language of understanding. I do not think that it could be used by people who have lived through the war, and the whole of the post-war period of alliance and understanding between the United States and ourselves.
We wish wholeheartedly to reinforce and strengthen the understanding between the United States and Britain. I genuinely want to do so and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs wants to do the same. However, I do not think that he is right when he says that he can see no cause for friction between the United States and ourselves. 200 That seems to be turning a very Nelsonian blind eye to some of the events of recent weeks and months.
There is a paramount need to restore confidence between the United States and Europe. I sympathise with Dr. Kissinger's expressed opinion, if the newspapers are correct, that Europe has been slow to take action on his proposal made six months or more ago for a new Atlantic partnership, the purpose of which would be to embrace commercial, political and defence objectives.
A criticism which I have made many times, and which I make again, is that the EEC has been so preoccupied with its own problems that it has failed to take notice of the effects of its actions on countries outside the Common Market. That is true of our relations with the United States. It has failed to take Dr. Kissinger's proposition seriously. In my view his complaint is symptomatic of the gap that is growing between the United States and the EEC, in matters both of trade and monetary concern.
I do not think that the Foreign Secretary can say—and I use his words again—that there is no cause for friction between the United States and ourselves. I refer to the reference in the Gracious Speech—whch is perhaps the longest one within the Gracious Speech—to the European Community:…My Government will play their full part in the further development of the European Community in accordance with the programme established at the European Summit in October 1972. This programme includes progress towards economic and monetary union…It is true that it says that there shall be an economic and monetary union—indeed, an irreversible economic and monetary union. More important, it is said, in an EEC communiqué, thatThe necessary decisions should be taken in the course of 1973…It is now 31st October 1973. The communiqué then says:so as to allow the transition to the second stage of the economic and monetary Union on 1st January 1974, and with a view to its completion not later than 31st December 1980."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd October 1972, Vol. 843, c. 808.]That is absurd. Nobody believes a word of it. Of course, I do not want to offend anyone. I must tell the story which came to me recently about the Finance Ministers 201 of the EEC who emerged from a meeting. One of them said, "We seem to be agreed on nothing." Another Minister turned to the man who made that remark and said, "You are wrong; we are all agreed on our dislike for the proposals which have been put in front of us about economic and monetary union." I have seen no proposals put forward for the transitional stage which will start on 1st January 1974. Admittedly, there was another proposal put forward for concerted action among central banks. That is the same Heads of Summit meeting which is referred to in the Gracious Speech. There was to be concerted action among the central banks for the purpose of narrowing the margins of fluctuation between their currencies. That started on 1st April and it was dead six weeks later. That is the only thing which I have seen which emerged. It is like the emperor without any clothes.
Why do Foreign Secretaries, Heads of State, Finance Ministers, although they do it less than the others because they are more close to the grim realities of the situation, and Gracious Speeches talk such arrant nonsense about starting the second stage of economic and monetary union by 1st January 1974? We are deceiving not only our own people but the people of the United States.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
I am not following the right hon. Gentleman's criticism. Who is he criticising? Surely the Opposition has some part to play in criticising what goes on in the EEC? Why do they not decide soon to send some Members to the European Parliament, where something can be done about their criticisms?
§ Mr. Callaghan
That is a separate point. There is a case for saying that the European Parliament might be improved if Labour Members attended. I do not think that it would be worse than it is now if that were so. However, there is another consideration, namely, to what extent we should spend our time on issues over which hon. Members have no control and in pursuit of objectives as incomprehensible and as hallucinatory as All Hallow e'en.
The truth is that a lot of declarations have been made which have no foundation in policy. The proponents of the EEC, faced with such issues would be 202 held in better regard, from my point of view, if they admit, "This is not possible. What we are trying to work for is a free trade area in Europe with as much co-operation in foreign policy and in other matters that we can get." If that were so I should feel that we were on the road to comprehension and common sense.
That is why I object strongly to such rigmarole being put in the Gracious Speech, when everybody knows—the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) can interrupt me again if he wishes to deny it—it simply will not happen. Does the hon. Gentleman think that it will happen? Does he really think so? I notice that he is now much more coy about interrupting me than on an earlier occasion. A plea for realism in this matter does not come amiss.
It seems vital that on all these matters—for example, the future of NATO, the circumstances in which the United States can use its overseas bases and the differences of trade and monetary matters—there should be early meetings between Dr. Kissinger, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and other Ministers of the EEC.
I was glad to see that a number of parliamentarians, led by the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk), have recently been in the United States talking to Senators and Congressmen. I am sure that nothing but good can come of that. In the present delicate state of relations between the United States and ourselves—and I believe the lack of understanding is greater than I can remember at any time during post-war days, except perhaps for a short time in 1956—it is vital for us to establish contacts and conversations between members of the Senate and Congress and Members of our House of Commons at the highest possible level. I hope that the Foreign Office will take up and encourage this attitude. The British-American Parliamentary Association could handle these contacts, and certainly nothing but good can come from closer contacts of this sort.
Despite the temporary rift in United States-European relations, the policy of détente between the United States and the Soviet Union, although buffeted by storms, 203 seems to have survived. Neither has slipped back into cold war attitudes, at least for more than a day or two. It was emphasised both in the speech of Mr. Brezhnev and at the Press conference held by Dr. Kissinger that they are not seeking confrontation. This is entirely different from the situation in 1967, when the cold war was going full blast.
Perhaps because of this different attitude between the two main combatants, the prospects of a permanent peace in the Middle East and of better relations between East and West have improved. A new round of talks on arms reductions began in Vienna yesterday. The talks are bound to be long and difficult and we cannot expect quick results. But I adhere to my view that the burden of arms is not only too heavy for us to carry but is too heavy even for the super-Powers like the Soviet Union and the United States to bear—and it is even worse for smaller countries like Egypt, Israel and Syria. Our interest lies in securing an agreed and negotiated reduction in arms burdens so that our safety is not lessened.
I know that there has been considerable scepticism on the part of the Foreign Secretary as to whether the Soviet Union wish to see a genuine reduction in arms and tension. I believe they do. But I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we shall find out only if we negotiate in good faith. Therefore, this is what we must do. When I read Mr. Brezhnev's speech—which was curtailed in the coverage given to it by the British Press—it struck me that that was their intention, and this is what we must test. Therefore, I asked the Soviet Ambassador in London—I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will not mind—for a summary of what he understood Mr. Brezhnev's speech to mean. The Soviet Ambassador was kind enough to supply me with a note, which I should like to put on record. I shall read it in the form in which he gave it to me. This is his view. Referring to the Soviet Union, he says:We hold that agreement must be reached on a reduction in the region of Central Europe already specified, of both foreign and national land and air forces of the States party to the talks. The security of any of the sides must not be prejudiced and none of them should Rain any unilateral advantages at the expense of others. Moreover, it must evidently be recognised that the reduction should also apply 204 to units equipped with nuclear weapons. How exactly the cut back is to be effected and what method is to be applied—whether it should be a reduction by equal percentages or by equal numbers—still remains to be settled by the participants in the talks. It is our view it is important that the future reduction should not upset the existing balance of strength in Central Europe and in the European continent generally. If there are attempts to violate this principle, the entire issue will only become an apple of discord and the subject of endless debateI have read that very carefully and it does not seem to me to alter the previously expressed views of the Soviet Union, but from my point of view the important thing is that this was repeated again only yesterday, when it was handed to me. Therefore, it reiterates after the Middle East war a position that was held by the Soviet Union before the recent differences took place.
I call particular attention to two points—first, that none of the participating countries must gain unilateral advantage at the expense of others in terms of a disarmament agreement and, secondly, that any future reductions should not upset the existing balance of strength in Europe. We feel that at present the balance is tipped against us. I am sure that this point has been made many times in conversations with the Soviet Ambassador. We also feel that reductions in terms of equal percentages or equal numbers would not be sufficient. Nevertheless, even an equal percentage would be better than no reduction at all, because it would lessen the burden on both sides.
Let us watch these negotiations with great care. Let us play our full part. In my view, the Soviet Union would be extremely shortsighted—and I see no signs of this—if they were to rely on any friction in the NATO Alliance leading to a unilateral withdrawal of American troops from Europe. If such a withdrawal took place unilaterally, there is no doubt that this would increase the pressure to create a separate European defence system, perhaps with nuclear weapons—something to which the Labour Party would be wholly opposed—and perhaps under another Government in Germany, not under the present Government there, even with German participation. The possibilities for mischief in such a development would be almost limitless and the prospect of 205 arousing Russian suspicions would be intense. I can think of nothing worse from our point of view, from the American standpoint or from the standpoint of the Soviet Union, and certainly any attempt at such a policy would be ruinous for Europe. Let us work within the existing alliances to make a success both of the security talks and the arms talks.
Mr. Clinton Davies (Hackney, Central)
Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to say something from the point of view of the official Opposition about the current situation in Chile, bearing in mind that the present Government could well resume military and economic aid to Chile notwithstanding the appalling plight in which the junta has placed that country?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I have expressed my view on other occasions on this matter, and when the Opposition spokesman speaks tonight he will make some comments about that situation and others. I am sure the House will not want me to go on any longer than I have already done. I have tried to concentrate my remarks on the Middle East conflict and the aftermath for Europe which arises out of that conflict, as well as making other general comments. I thought that that was where I could most usefully lead into today's discussion. Therefore, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davies) will forgive me if I do not pursue the matter to which he has drawn attention.
I believe that, paradoxically, the recent conflict in the Middle East could possibly lead to a more permanent settlement than has seemed possible in the Middle East at any time since the establishment of Israel. Again paradoxically, because the great Powers have been brought to the edge of the abyss and have seen what could happen if they were to unleash nuclear weapons, it may be that we are now nearer to agreement on nuclear weapons and on general disarmament than we might otherwise have been. These are optimistic hopes, but nobody should be in politics unless he is an optimist. We must work on because, for the sake of all our people, we must try to translate this hope and aspiration into a reality.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)
I very much agree with the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) when he speaks of the importance of restoring confidence between Europe and the United States. This is indeed a very important matter. But I also believe that this is a time when friends of the United States should speak very frankly about our relations with the Americans and about our feelings over American conduct in the Middle East crisis and also during the important months and years which preceded it.
Nobody—and I know that this applies to my Conservative colleagues—would question the importance of the American alliance, nor would anybody question the desirability of collaborating closely with the United States and of supporting America wherever and whenever this is possible and practicable. This does not mean, however, slavish adherence to all United States policies. In the Middle East the United States has been consistently misguided and wrong. It is not only in our self-interest, and in the interests of Europe, but in the interest of the West generally, and, therefore, of the United States, that Britain and other European countries have dissociated themselves from American policy and will, I hope, continue to dissociate themselves, thereby providing a Western alternative influence to that of the Soviet Union in the area.
In this rather frentic world of nuclear diplomacy it must be said, even by friends of the United States, that it is Washington more than Moscow which has recently been endangering world peace by the policies that the United States has pursued in the Middle East. Hence, the European governments concerned have been more than justified in the clear and independent attitude they have adopted.
§ Mrs. Sally Oppenheim (Gloucester)
Is my hon. Friend intimating that the United States has been actively building up arms in the Middle East over the past six years, as Russia has been doing? If this is not so, how has the United States contributed to the confrontation?
§ Mr. Walters
I was coming to that, but the answer is "Yes"—the United States has certainly been building up, 207 and supplying on request, enormous quantities of strike equipment to Israel, particularly Phantom aircraft. Even in the honeymoon period of Soviet-Egyptian relations of two years ago, the Russians never supplied offensive weapons. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the SAMs?"] SAMs are defensive weapons. The Russian failure to supply offensive weapons was one of Egypt's main complaints, and one of the reasons why the Egyptians were so anxious to buy strike equipment from Britain, and even from the United States, which they did not get.
I was about to say that it is the support which Israel has received from America, and in particular from President Nixon personally—often in controdiction of the policies which were pursued by the former Secretary of State, Mr. Rogers—that has enabled Mrs. Meir, General Dayan and other Israeli leaders to defy the United Nations, to refuse any commitment to withdraw from the Arab territories seized in 1967, and to persist in their illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and their colonisation of other areas, particularly on the West Bank. Sooner or later, as many hon. Members have argued over the years, those actions by Israel were bound to provoke a new outbreak of war in the Middle East.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis
The hon. Gentleman constantly refers to provocation by Israel of a new war in the Middle East. But were not the Arab States, before 1967, bent upon the destruction of Israel? If not, why did they embark on the acts of war which preceded the 1967 outbreak?
§ Mr. Walters
I have on several occasions been through the history, starting in 1917, and I do not intend to go through it again. We are now discussing the opportunities for peace since 1967, involving Resolution 242, the Jarring questionnaire, and the declarations of President Sadat and King Hussein, which conceded all the points which Israel had been requesting for years. When they finally got those assurances the Israeli leaders treated them with absolute contempt.
Indirectly, the United States Government bear much of the responsibility for 208 the renewal of the conflict, because instead of curbing Israeli hawks Washington encouraged them.
The American support for Israel has not been for the sake of world peace. On the contrary, it has done much to prevent a settlement and a defusing of the Middle East conflict. Nor has it been for the sake of Western interests. On the contrary, it has done them immense damage and has opened the door to Russian penetration of the Arab world.
§ Mr. Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)
Is my hon. Friend suggesting that it is in the best interests of this country or of Western Europe that Russia should control our oil supplies? Does my hon. Friend deny that it is the American action that is preventing complete Russian control of our oil supply areas?
§ Mr. Walters
It is in the best interests of Britain, Europe and the United States that there should be a powerful Western influence in the Middle East. If the Arab countries have no alternative but the Russians to turn to, the Soviet Union is given the influence that we wish to deny it.
Nor has American support been for the sake of America's own national interests. American credit, influence and commercial interests have suffered great damage, not only in the Arab world but elsewhere. The Americans have known perfectly well, for a long time, that a new war in the Middle East, apart from the tragedy to the people more immediately concerned, would be more damaging to its European allies than to the United States. But, in total disregard of that, they have given one-sided and ill-advised support to Israel, purely and simply for domestic political and electoral advantage.
Is it any wonder that the European Governments should have turned away from American leadership in the Middle East? When that short-sighted leadership indulges in nuclear brinkmanship, as it did last week, because of partisanship resulting from its internal predicament, is it not the height of absurdity for Washington to lecture its NATO allies for failing to follow the United States' lead?
With all the emotional appeal that has been made about loyalty to the United States in the past few days, it may be worth recalling some of the events of 209 last summer. At the United Nations in June the Secretary-General, Dr. Waldheim, presented a report which set out the efforts that had been made by the United Nations in the Middle East since June 1967. As a result, a draft resolution was put forward which reaffirmed Resolution 242 of November 1967 and endorsed the Jarring proposal or February 1971, which sought an Israeli pledge of withdrawal linked to an Egyptian pledge of peace.
The United States vetoed the resolution, saying that the draft was highly partisan and would overturn the 1967 resolution. That was in direct and sharp contradiction to the British and French support for the draft. The British Permanent Representative emphasised that the draft resolution was fully in line with Resolution 242, and the draft won the support of all other members of the council except China, which abstained on the ground that it did not go far enough. It was the United States, with an indefensible veto, which was out of step with its allies, and, to use the emotive language that has been bandied about in the past few days, was then disloyal to its European allies in refusing to make a common front in the Middle East.
In April 1970 The Times published an important article entitled:A new map to bring peace to the Middle East".If the plan that it set out were accepted by Israel and the Arab countries and by at least a representative body of Palestinians, it could bring about a permanent settlement, the permanent peace that all of us who are interested in the problem so devoutly wish to see.
In The Times today that article was published again in a shorter version. I do not intend to repeat to the House the full article, but it is worth studying. The most salient point is the seting up of a Palestine State, which
would consist basically of the rump that was left after the United Nations proposed partition of Palestine in 1947and after Israel acquired a bit more land after it came into existence in 1948.Palestine would have Gaza with a demilitarized zone showing the United Nations flag reaching from the coast south-west of Gaza right across Sinai, as a buffer between Egypt and Israel".210 There is also a proposal about Jerusalem, which I am sure will not be welcomed by either side but which at least is positive.
Today's article continues:How is Israel likely to regard those propositions today? Since 1970 she has established more settlements in occupied areas.… Most of all, she has, by virtue of being in possession, tightened her grip on all Jerusalem.But one thing has been overwhelmingly proved in the recent war:that geography by itself does not secure Israel's borders; their security rests first on Arab agreement.and on securing a peace treaty which is final and not merely a cease-fire.
It is very important that the Governments of France and the United Kingdom—and of other European countries, but those two in particular—should be in close consultation. I should like to see an Anglo-French declaration at this moment which stated, among other things, that a lasting peace in the Middle East was now within sight, as both my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East have said; that the Arab States concerned are prepared to recognise the existence of Israel and its right to live at peace; that the Arab States are also prepared to enter into negotiation and abide by negotiated settlement; and that the two main obstacles to peace have therefore been removed.
The declaration should add that there remains a third obstacle; Israel's determination to keep and colonise Arab territory seized in the war of 1967, including East Jerusalem. Unless that obstacle is removed as well, the present unique opportunity to bring peace to the Middle East, free its inhabitants from the curse of perpetual war and remove a source of danger from the whole world will be lost.
I believe that the negotiations, if they can be started, have a real chance of achieving peace. I believe also that it is vitally important that any negotiations should be conducted under the aegis of the United Nations and should not be left purely to the supervision of the United States and the Soviet Union. Although the two world Powers must participate, it is important that the Security Council of the United Nations, 211 and, therefore, Britain and France, should be involved.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
The content of the speech of the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters) did not disappoint our expectations. There were some parts of it with which I agree. First, he said that a declaration that the State of Israel was recognised by the Arabs and that they would be prepared to negotiate would remove a problem. How right he is. How much more valuable if both those things had happened years ago. There might not have been this war or the Six-day War. If the Arabs had merely recognised the State of Israel and, by implication, its right to exist, that would have been a great advance.
§ Mr. Walters
The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that that declaration was made specifically in response to the Jarring questionnaire of 1971.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am well aware of it. But it is a long time to have to wait. The State of Israel has existed for nearly 25 years. Even the Soviet Union recognised its existence 25 years ago. We may say that to take 24 years is a long time, but at least that is something to be grateful for.
Since the hon. Member regards the Americans as the villians of the piece it may be possible for him to arrange through the auspices of the Egyptian Government—if not, I am certain that the Israeli Government would be able to arrange it—a visit to inspect some of the captured SAM 6 missiles, some of the T62 tanks and some of the Suchoi planes which have played a prominent part and which, fortunately, are now silenced. Those were weapons of aggression—and they were not provided by the United States of America. I leave the hon. Gentleman to his own curious and individualistic views.
In common with the Foreign Secretary, I view with considerable relief, tinged with continuing anxiety, as he himself was the first to recognise, the present lull in the Middle East. But we in this country should be deluding ourselves were we not to recognise our own position. So long as 50 per cent. of the country's energy requirements depend 212 upon oil, so long as the lion's share of oil comes from the Middle East, so long—certainly if the experience of the last few days is anything to go by—will this country be precluded from taking any action which might endanger those supplies. Britain will be relegated to a neutral rôle, the neutrality of which at times is highly questionable, and certainly a position in which it can afford to offend Israel but nobody else in the Middle East.
Even if that involves an attack upon the State of Israel by two countries within four minutes of each other on the holiest day in the Jewish year, apart from saying, as the Foreign Secretary did, that we hope that that State would not be destroyed, we have fervently to hope that the United States will assist in the survival that we anxiously pray for.
Although we can say in national terms—and I accept this—that we have a greater chance as a result to have uninterrupted oil supplies than some other countries whose consciences move them to act or even to express a view in these matters, we shall be picking up the bill with everyone else who buys in the Middle East to pay for this latest war.
The first lesson of the Middle East war is surely that this country has to give a great deal more thought to its whole energy policy than in the past.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)
Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that even if all our power stations were turned over to burning nuclear fuel or coal, and cars were converted to steam or electric fuel-cell power, NATO security would still depend on oil to propel our ships and aircraft. The right hon. Gentleman cannot just wish away these realities.
§ Mr. Thorpe
If the hon. Member had allowed me to develop my speech I would have said precisely what we should be doing about energy. Whether we like it or not, by 1985 we shall need 55 per cent. more oil in the world, including the Alaskan and the North Sea deposits. We shall reach a stage shortly when we can probably prophesy that oil will be in such short supply that the industries of the West, unless they have changed their system of heating, will grind to a halt.
I must tell the hon. Gentleman that it is no good saying how vital oil is and how 213 we cannot manage without it; I suggest that the day will come when there will be such a major shortage of oil that we should be thinking now how to deal with that situation, rather than wait for it to come upon us. Even the United States, which I think takes only 2 per cent. of its oil from the Middle East, has started an oil rationing system. Therefore, we must look at this matter on a national, a European and an international basis. We have to look at the question of our geothermal energy, the timing of our switch-over from non-breeder to breeder reactors, and at the whole way in which we build houses. With proper insulation, I am told, one can cut fuel requirements by as much as 50 per cent. There is an interesting report which indicates that in industry and in many manufacturing processes savings of up to 70 per cent. may be made. The time has come for the West to look at the whole of its energy policy. The importance of that policy is such that it has dictated the whole of the Government's policy in the Middle East.
I suggested in our recent debate on the Middle East that this matter would be resolved by a Cuba-type confrontation, and that is precisely what happened. One of the most hopeful things—and here I agree with the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan)—is that the détente of the Russian-American alliance has been placed under the most tremendous strain in the past few days and has managed to emerge intact and able to play a positive and peaceful rôle in settling the problem of the Middle East. In every capital in the world there must be enormous relief in that situation. It may be that it is a balance of terror or of mutual advantage. But we do not have to go into that. The fact is that the two super-Powers realise that they have a vested interest in peace, and from what one can gather the pressure they put upon the combatants with whom they were most closely associated has been intense and immense. For that we must be enormously grateful.
In Resolution 242 there is an enormous degree of ambiguity. Were it otherwise there would have been no agreement when the resolution was introduced. I should like to see an international conference rather like the first Indo-China confer- 214 ence in Geneva and latterly in Paris, in which the two sides talk, and go on talking, if necessary month in and month out. The evidence is that the longer they are together the less likelihood there is of an outbreak of hostilities. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that perhaps at the start the "seconds" will have to be present, and hope the situation will develop so that they may withdraw. The talks would have to be under the chairmanship of the United Nations with one of the Deputy Secretary-Generals present and with the Secretary-General coming in from time to time.
I believe, however, that at this stage it is not helpful to suggest what should be done. That is a matter for private discussion between both sides. The dramatic suggestion was put forward by the late President Eisenhower—and I know that it was considered by President Nixon—that a World Bank initiative should be made to bring about an enormous desalination project for El Arish which could probably settle 400,000 people in a Palestinian State. That could be looked into, but we must be certain that the guarantees are firm and that the number of troops on both sides is sufficient to deal with almost any situation apart from an outbreak of hostilities.
I now turn to the position in Europe. In the Gracious Speech the Government tell us that they will move forward in accordance with the programme established at the European summit in October 1972. One of the great priorities in Europe is to make it more democratic and subject to greater democratic control. In his speech at Hampton Court, the Prime Minister poured cold water on the idea of direct elections and said that this was not a high priority. I do not believe that we can or should move towards economic and monetary co-operation until there is democratic control of the institutions in Europe. In his whole attitude towards the strengthening of the community the Prime Minister is, if I may paraphrase Lord Butler, the best Gaullist we have. In his attitude towards Europe he is a Gaullist, and it is hardly surprising that he and the French President so often find themselves in accord.
The Labour Party constantly reminds my right hon. Friend and myself that it was the Liberal vote on 7th February 215 which finally assisted the passage of this country into Europe. We did not vote for the Government's concept of Europe. We voted for a Europe which has democratic institutions and not for a sort of Continental CBI, which is the attitude of the Government towards the institutions of Europe.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The hon. Member is right. That is why I should like to see direct elections to the European Parliament within three years.
§ Mr. Baxter
I am amazed to hear such remarks coming from the Leader of the Liberal Party. Did the right hon. Gentleman make his aim abundantly clear before going into the Division Lobby and did he obtain an undertaking from the Prime Minister that this aim would be carried out, before he betrayed this country over going into the Common Market?
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am delighted to be able to put the record clear for the hon. Member. Starting from 1961, at successive Liberal Party conferences and in this House we made it perfectly plain that we wished this country to become a full member of the EEC. We believed we had to move in on matters where we were critical of the Community. The first was the common agricultural policy, of which we are still critical and which we believe needs drastic amendment. The second was the need to democratise the institutions of Europe by direct elections.
We have a long way to go to achieve these two objectives, but I fail to see that we shall achieve them by keeping Britain out and not using the political pressure we have. That is why I regret that we do not have the advantage of the Labour Party, which is democratic in its attitudes and in political affairs, to bring this pressure to bear upon the European Parliament.
§ Mr. Heffer
Is it not an act of irresponsibility on the part of any political party, and certainly of a leader of a political party, to tell the country that they are voting for some pie-in-the-sky project which might take place in the future if only we can get the whole of Europe to agree to a democratic system, but that in 216 the meantime we are voting for conditions which we thought were clearly and totally unacceptable and which were regarded as such by many Conservatives?
§ Mr. Thorpe
The hon. Member will remember the days when he was an enthusiastic co-European with me. He will remember the advantages we used to outline in this House and he will no doubt remember the occasion in 1960 when the Liberals divided the House on the proposition that Britain should join the Common Market and when the cohorts of the Labour and Tory Parties went into the Lobby against us.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Whether that was a temporary absence or whether the electorate had not got round to it, I do not know. Of course there are advantages in going in. Of course there are advantages in being in the largest trading bloc in the world. Of course there are advantages in co-operating with other democracies and creating a free trading group which could bring in 90 countries if they took up the associational offer. Of course, it is right that we should discuss economic and monetary affairs and share investment possibilities with Europe and have a common economic and financial policy. No one is denying those advantages, or that, if we had the vote again, we should have rather more votes for Europe than we had in 1960.
The Government must use the influence they have in Europe not to create a Gaullist Europe, which is what the Prime Minister is in danger of doing, but to go along with those elements in Europe which want to see democratic institutions strengthened. The hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) has made some extremely promising moves in that direction. I only wish that the Prime Minister would speak with the same enthusiasm as has been shown by the leader of the Tory group in Strasbourg.
The Messina conference was held to take an economic initiative at a time when there had been a failure of political initiative, when the European defence community fell to the ground, partly through our fault and partly through that of the French.
Now is the time when we should be moving towards common foreign and 217 defence policies in Europe. The events in NATO, and the criticisms that have been made of the United States and its alert, make it all the more important that Europe should have a united defence policy.
We would vote again for going into Europe, and we believe that, having done so, we are better entitled than any to tell the Government the direction in which they should be impelled on the Continent of Europe. They are not moving fast enough for our liking.
I come now to two domestic matters which have an international connotation. The Government have told us that there will be a Green Paper on the question whether there can be a greater degree of employee participation. I ask, "How much longer, O Lord, do we wait?" We have had frequent announcements that the Green Paper is to come out, the CBI expresses its horror, and it is delayed still further. I hope that the Government will move at least as far as the proposed European statute. I am delighted that they should wear Liberal clothing whenever possible, but I wish that they would not wait until their own clothes are threadbare.
Second, the Prime Minister received a delegation the other day on the problems of dairy farming. It is a matter that can be tackled partly in a European context. The price of concentrates for feedingstuffs is rising to an astronomic figure, and my information is that there is likely to be a drop of 40 per cent. in dairy production in the immediate future, partly because of the lack of profitability, partly because of increased overheads, and partly because of the added initiatives on the beef scheme. It is perfectly in order for this country to increase its guarantee unilaterally without reference to the Commission, as recently happened in the case of Holland. I hope that the promise in the Gracious Speech to ensure the prosperity of agriculture means that something will be done quickly in this sphere.
We have to realise that during the events of the past few weeks this country has been virtually powerless. We have stood aside like a maiden aunt, trying to offend nobody, with the result that we have betrayed our trust to one country and have not noticeably gained the respect of anybody else. We have done so 218 because of our own economic dependence upon the Middle East. The confrontation between the super-Powers has caused a settlement in the Middle East. If we want a counterbalance in the world—and I believe that we do—it must be a democratic Europe that is outward-looking, united in its defence, its economic affairs and its foreign policy. That should be the Government's objective in foreign affairs.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Lamont (Kingston upon Thames)
This is the first occasion on which I have had the opportunity—and the privilege—to contribute to a foreign affairs debate. I do so to make one central point which I think extremely important to the whole question of obtaining a settlement of the Middle East war. That concerns the treatment of prisoners of war.
I do not wish to touch upon the pros and cons of the Government's general policy towards the Middle East war. But, leaving that question aside, I do want to make one observation about Europe's attitude to the war. I believe it was a pity that there was no voice in Europe prepared to make any remark about the non-observance for a period of the Geneva Conventions by some combatant countries. I cannot believe that to have had such a declaration, merely requesting the combatant countries to observe the Geneva Conventions, would have resulted in our oil being cut off. If it had resulted in our oil being cut off, that would have been a clear indication of the sort of people we were trying to deal with.
If ever there were an area in which a policy of even-handedness ought to apply, surely it is in the area of the Geneva Convention and the treatment of prisoners of war. But we have had double standards in the last few weeks in the requests that have been made to the two sides. We have had pleas in this House and the Press that the Israelis ought to let the Egyptian Third Army out of Sinai and let in supplies of blood, plasma and clothing; and they have done that. However, there is no rule of war that requires combatant countries to treat an army, which is still capable of fighting and which has not surrendered, in this way. 219 At the same time we have had few comments on the treatment of Israeli prisoners by Arab armies.
The difference between the two sides in this war has been amply illustrated in the way in which they have responded to questions about the treatment of prisoners. The Egyptians, for a while, refused to supply lists of prisoners and refused to allow the Red Cross access to those prisoners. Indeed, the Egyptians are still holding some prisoners who have been captive since 1969.
The Israelis have twice daily released lists of their prisoners and they have allowed supplies to go through to the Third Army in Sinai. It is true that the Israelis refused to allow the evacuation of some badly wounded prisoners in Sinai, but that was at the time the Egyptians were still not allowing lists of prisoners to be made available. As at that time the Israelis had the power of life and death over the 20,000 Egyptians in the Third Army. I believe that this was a very moderate response indeed.
We had the news yesterday that the Egyptians now intend to allow lists of prisoners to be released. I welcome that and hope that the Government will be prepared to use their influence to persuade other Arab Governments, particularly the Syrians, to follow suit. This is what the Government say their policy is all about—about using this influence on the Arab Governments. I hope that they will urge the Syrians to comply with the Geneva Conventions. To date, the Syrians have refused lists of prisoners they have captured and have refused to allow the Red Cross to visit prisoners. This has caused enormous anxiety within Israel.
There were reports that, when the Israelis recaptured positions in Mount Hermon, some bodies were found of Israeli soldiers who had been bound, tortured and shot. There were reports this morning in the Daily Express of massacres reputed to have occurred among Syrian-held Israeli prisoners. There was the report by Max Hastings in the Evening Standard, I think last week, recounting how he was in the front line with Israeli troops and of the shock that was felt by Israeli officers when they had discovered the mutilated and tortured bodies of Israeli prisoners.
220 The Israelis remember from 1967 how badly some of their prisoners of war were treated by the Syrians then. I am told that there are people today who have still not recovered from the treatment they received from the Syrians at that time.
I urge the Government to use what influence they have in this matter, because it is of very great importance indeed. It is important, obviously, for humanitarian reasons. We have seen the photographs in the papers of mothers and wives having to visit newspaper offices to look through photographs taken by foreign newsmen of rows and rows of prisoners to see whether they could identify their loved ones.
This matter could also affect the whole question of the cease-fire. Israel is a democratic country, and the Israeli Government are very much subject to pressures of public opinion and are conscious of the anxiety felt by the relatives of those who have been taken prisoner. It would not be surprising if the Israeli Government felt bound to take a tougher attitude as long as the Arab Governments do not treat their prisoners in a civilised way, in accordance with conventions which have been laid down and long accepted internationally.
I promised that I would make only a brief contribution. The Government have been gradually developing a European foreign policy. It is a move which I strongly support. But I hope that they will remember that Europe is not meant to be merely a means of defending our interests. Europe is also meant to stand for certain values.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Sutton)
The central core of British foreign policy should be to try to maintain a relationship of trust, affection, warmth and greater equality between Europe and the United States. The real tragedy of today's debate and of recent events is that that relationship of trust between Europe and the United States is being jeopardised and is showing signs of greater friction than probably has ever occurred since the alliance was founded. I believe that this is of far more potential importance than even the terrible events that have occurred in the Middle East.
221 When we discussed the Government's arms embargo to the Middle East a short time back it was noticeable that, although many speakers talked of the effect on Israel and Anglo-Israel relations or the effect—good or ill—on Arab relations, there was remarkably little discussion of the effect that that policy might have on the Atlantic Alliance.
I should be the first to admit that the Government's arms embargo policy was not the only reason—not even the prime reason—for the deterioration in the relationship between Europe and America. But it would be most foolish to ignore the fact that it was a significant event and had consequences on the Atlantic Alliance. One cannot conduct a policy that was not even-handed, that exposed the United States alone to be the sole defender of Israel in a time of need and put the United States in a position of supplying ammunition for tanks that we supplied to Israel. We supplied those tanks and ammunition in the full knowledge that they would be used to defend the borders won in the 1967 war and the occupied territory. Equally, over those years we had supplied weapons to various Arab countries in the full knowledge that they would be used to try to win back the territories—as they saw them—that had been occupied by the Israelis since the 1967 war.
It is, I believe, possible to take up this position without having been or being now violently committed to either side in the Middle East war, and indeed since 1970 I have been very critical of the Israeli Government for not taking the opportunities that were available for a peace settlement. I believe, however, that the arms embargo policy of the Government was wrong in principle and in fact. In attempting to protect the narrow, short-term oil interests of this country, the Government have jeopardised not only long-term interests but also, most significantly, the short-term interests of this country, because they have chosen one more policy which has put in jeopardy the relationship between Europe and the United States.
I say Europe and the United States because I am not interested in recreating the Anglo-American alliance—that has long since gone. Those of us who are strong and unrepentant Europeans have 222 always believed that a key element of Britains' entry into Europe lay in our using our past history to weld together the Europeans and the Americans and that, in our advocacy of a united Europe, nothing would go against the joint and twin ambition of forging a strong but more equal alliance between Europe and the United States.
In order to do that, our foreign policy in Europe had to be not solely concerned with the aspirations of Europeans, or the short-term objectives of European economic policy, but had at all times to take a wider view of our rôle as Europeans and to look beyond regionally oriented European policies. There has never been a time when the need for internationalism was not just a Utopian dream. It is the very essence of our survival. It is in that simple sense that many of us remain strong Europeans.
Therefore, when the Government attempt a united European foreign policy—as I hope they will, it must not always be that we follow that course which will only get agreement. It has been apparent for some years—since General de Gaulle made the significant shift in French policy to Israel and veered entirely in a pro-Arab direction—that it would be impossible for this country to continue even-handedness in our relationship with the Arab world and the Israelis without alienating French opinion. My main criticism of the Government's arms embargo policy was that they were not prepared even slightly to alienate French opinion in this matter.
But, as I have said, the most serious situation is the European-American alliance. I do not expect the Foreign Secretary to reveal the extent of his disquiet, but the last few weeks must have been very troubling for him. I ask him to look at the reasons why this alliance is in such bad disarray, because the faults lie on both side.
I am extremely critical of some of the American actions. Having seen from a junior position inside Government the most serious crisis—the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968—until this 1973 crisis, I can only say that the spirit of the alliance has not been observed in the past week. Everyone who has ever worked within that alliance knows that 223 to be true. The Foreign Secretary can seek solace in the wording of an old agreement about the operational guidelines but he knows, I know and many others in the House know that the spirit of that alliance goes well beyond words and bits of paper: it is a very close working relationship.
Over these past few weeks there have been big policy differences—differences, I suspect, in the use of Cyprus; differences in the Security Council—and I believe that those differences have not just arise from this arms policy. There have been deep differences between the United States' views of the mutual and balanced force reductions and ourselves.
In this rôle Britain has taken a hawkish stance and any visitor to the United States speaking to Pentagon officials, American people sympathetic to Europe—and there are many of them—cannot but fail to have been struck in the past two years by an increasing divergence in attitudes to the whole assessment of the Soviet threat in Europe. We have relentlessly taken an extremely hard line. It is we who constantly talk about comparisons of divisions and do not put the fair picture of force comparisons. This divergence has led to an increasing impatience with Europe in the United States, and many Americans see us as constantly wishing the Americans to pay all the bills and for us to not live up to our obligations.
There have been other sources of fault. Perhaps one should not apportion them all, suffice that I believe that the faults can be ascribed to both sides. It is now vitally urgent that Europe and America realise that if any form of internationalism is to be effective, these two major areas of the world must work together as partners and forge a more equal partnership than has existed hitherto.
As Europeans we cannot accept an Atlantic alliance that means that we must automatically underline all United States foreign policy, whether it be in the Middle East, Europe or the Far East. Differences there will have to be, but those differences must be discussed by friends in a private atmosphere. The events of the past few days, of Dr. Kissinger's well-reported statement to European parliamentarians, must cause us grave concern, because if 224 we are not careful we will have a unilateral——
§ Mr. Walters
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that, although it is better to discuss these things in private, if every conceivable friendly pressure has been put in private to get a joint policy in a crucial area, and the United States has taken a line totally divergent to the European line, it is necessary at a certain moment to make that public too?
§ Dr. Owen
The hon. Gentleman corrupts the argument. He has come back to the problem that obsesses him, which is that of the Middle East. But these disagreements occur and have been occurring over a wide range, and, as a consequence of the build-up of these disagreements, that mutual trust has been eroded which allows one to speak privately.
I am not against public condemnation. I believe that the British Government should have made clear their view on Vietnam much earlier than they did. The British Government should now publicly make it clear that we should have been given far greater warning and consulted before United States forces were put on an alert. It may well be that the divergence of views over Middle East policy has reached the stage where it must be said openly. I am not against that.
I return to my central theme. We must try to repair this alliance. That is our prime objective—not just to achieve a cosy relationship between Britain and America, but to bring France back into the alliance and to make the French realise that their responsibilities as Europeans also embrace the United States. That relationship will be better achieved by standing up to France and openly declaring its policy to be wrong when it appears to be wrong.
When it was impossible to get an agreed policy on arms for the Middle East, it would have been better for Britain to have stood by the policy it followed in 1967 rather than adopt the present policy, which has caused great moral outrage in this country, outrage which must not be underestimated. But, even more, we have lost our self-respect abroad. When a country loses its self-respect, its foreign policy will soon be in jeopardy.
I turn quickly to the Middle East. I have long believed that the key to any 225 peace settlement lies in demilitarisation, about which I spoke in the foreign affairs debate last summer. I urge people to think of demilitarisation in terms of far bigger areas than is commonly described. The Foreign Secretary called it a "broad" area. I believe that it should embrace the whole of Sinai, and I do not believe that there is much room for reciprocity. The geography of Israel forbids reciprocity over demilitarisation. By all means return Sinai's sovereignty to Egypt, but I believe that the whole of Sinai will have to be demilitarised in order to give Israel justifiable security. Very soon people will have to say that the Golan heights cannot be returned and that a fairly substantial area of the Golan plateau will also have to be demilitarised.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred yesterday to the question of the Bab-el-Mandeb straits. Many of us believe that the Straits of Hormuz, out of the Persian Gulf, and the Bab-el-Mandeb straits, into the Red Sea, are the two vitally important strategic straits for the 1970s and the 1980s, and of far more importance than the Cape. It may well be that the only way to effect some form of demilitarisation and persuade the Israelis that they will have to come to some agreement over Sharm-el-Sheikh is for the major maritime nations, backed by the super-Powers and using their maritime fleets to underwrite the freedom of navigation through those straits.
The Israelis believe that their retention of Sharm-el-Sheikh is of extreme importance in order to maintain open the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb. It is hard to see the exact military justification, but they think that they can extract a price out of any Arab country bordering the Red Sea that interferes with ships through the Bab-el-Mandeb straits.
I believe that the recent trouble affecting free navigation through those straits—we do not yet know the full picture—betokens a growing anxiety and may well be the next major trigger area for a worsening of the situation in the Middle East. It is time that the super-Powers looked at this area now. It may well be easier to have a super-Power maritime force than a super-Power ground force in a demilitarised area in Sinai or in Golan. Only the super-Powers can possibly ensure a United Nations maritime force 226 that would have any effectiveness in keeping open those straits. They are of vital importance and will, I believe, feature largely in persuading the Israelis on any issue relating to Sharm-el-Sheikh.
I hope that it will not be long before the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister openly explain to the country and the House how they propose to improve the European-American alliance, because that alliance is an essential safeguard for this country and for Europe's prosperity. We in Europe have a responsibility to look out beyond our European problems and see our security as one which embraces the United States of America, our close and friendly allies. I have no time for a Europeanism founded purely and simply on Europe which does not see Europeanism as an essential element of friendship with the United States of America.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)
I am glad to take up the comments of the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) on European-American relations. I regard the developments in this sphere as the most significant of all during the past 10 days, which, if we extend their implications, ought to give rise to considerable anxiety among our own people and people in Europe.
Clearly there has been a change of mood in the United States over the past five to 10 years. Defeat in Vietnam, the rise of Japan, the loss of financial reserves and a sense of financial superiority, everything that has happened in recent months and goes under the name of Watergate—whether it be Agnew or Nixon—all this has brought about a desire in the United States to alter its viewpoint and, perhaps, even to change its policies.
Added to all the sources of disagreement which already exist, whether they be financial, monetary, commercial or military, this new divide over Europe's and America's policy vis-à-vis the Middle East has resulted in our reaching a situation in which one can say without exaggeration that the NATO Alliance is in disarray.
What is happening is the re-Americanisation of American foreign policy. By that I mean that it is not a return to isolationism but a move towards a new American nationalism. If 227 that be so, and there is what I call a re-Americanisation of American foreign policy, we must spell out what the implications for Europe may be. The first implication is that the Europeans, faced with a Soviet threat, however diminished, will have to spend more money rather than less upon arms. An alternative to a degree of rearmament within Europe itself would be to acquiesce in our relationships vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. However, history is rarely so clear cut, and were we to take neither of those alternatives we might simply be obliged to rely upon the size of United States investment in Europe to sharpen American interest in the maintenance of the global balance of power.
To discuss briefly whether, how or in what way, Europe might rearm under these new circumstances, it is necessary only to consider the talks on mutual and balanced force reductions which began yesterday in Vienna to see how different are the motives of all the people meeting at Vienna. The British motive has been to exercise some measure of control over the rate at which the Americans will withdraw in part at least from Europe. This is not necessarily the motive of our European allies. The Germans in particular are at Vienna to win considerable reductions of German land forces. This is equally true of the smaller NATO Powers. If the United States withdrew forces from Europe more rapidly as a consequence of last week's events—there have already been hints that this may be speeded up—we must then consider what effect that would have upon the morale of the Europeans. Those who argue that this would stimulate Europe into rearmament are foolish indeed; the opposite effect is more likely.
Our dilemma in Europe is basically that our societies are vaguely pacifist in outlook and intent. Yet we are faced, vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, with a society which still believes in the Victorian virtues of force. Of the two alternatives, it is much more likely that, if the Americans went, this would discourage the Europeans from any kind of realistic rearmament. But if we are successful in slowing down the rate at which the Americans withdraw, extending the first phase of the negotiations over three years, 228 including within the first phase of the negotiations only the forces of super-Powers, and then discussing stationed forces in the fourth or fifth year, it is possible that Europe and America will be able to redeploy forces in Europe, alter their reserve structures and rearm them in a way that would make our forces more efficient in the defensive posture, which is the NATO outlook. If we do not do that—this all costs a great deal of money—it will be necessary to return to the old nuclear theory of the tripwire, which was never credible, has not been credible for 10 years and is hardly likely to become credible again if adopted. A third alternative is a degree of European unilateral disarmament.
The hon. Member for Sutton went some way to encourage the French to come back into the integrated part of the alliance and to take the defence of Europe more seriously. That is an excellent idea with which most hon. Members would agree. But the hon. Gentleman did not talk about the possibility of Anglo-French nuclear co-operation. Here I know I tread on very soft ground in thinking that Britain and France have nuclear forces, small though they may be, and, if I am right in thinking that American foreign policy will become more nationalistic, neither the British nor the French will go out of the nuclear business—make no mistake about that. But there may be some arguments in favour of more co-operation at the lowest level between Britain and France in the whole nuclear area.
It is well known that Britain has probably postponed until 1977 at least the decision to return to the Americans for the upgrading of our own Polaris deterrent. I would like to see from the United States an attitude towards Britain which is the same as its attitude towards France in any question either of the release of nuclear material or of nuclear information. In the first instance Britain and France might get together to make a joint approach to the United States, to see that whatever information or material might be forthcoming would be shared between the two.
Europe is obliged to share her continent with a super-Power which looks upon herself as a European Power and has a great interest in how, for example, 229 the unity of Europe will develop. It is because we have to share our continent with one of the super-Powers that since the end of the war we have preferred to come under the sphere of influence of the United States. It was to our advantage that the United States happened to be 3,000 miles away. None the less, that was the balance which we in Europe accepted.
I do not believe that Europe can aspire to be anything more than an economic super-Power—not a political super-Power—because to be a super-Power of the first division one needs to build or purchase the whole range of nuclear weapons equivalent to those of the Soviet Union or the United States of America. Clearly this is not on. The lead-times are too long, and none of our peoples in any of the countries of Europe would be prepared to spend the necessary amount of money.
Therefore, if we are to be, at best, an economic super-Power in Europe, we have a choice of subservience. We need to seek allies. When the situation is put as bluntly as that, whatever our disputes with the United States, the majority of us would prefer to be "subservient" to the United States than to come under the Soviet sphere of influence.
At root, European security is a factor of how America perceives her own interest, and the genius of European statesmen must be directed in the years to come to reminding the United States that the defence of Europe and America is indivisible.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
As I want to speak briefly, I do not propose to comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley).
What lessons can be drawn from the events of the last few days? They provide, as I intend to show, the strongest argument: for ending the American and British nuclear bases in this country; for pressing ahead quickly with the détente; for slashing arms spending; and for stopping arms exports, including the activities of Britain's super arms salesmen.
We live today but a telephone call away from disaster. That applies to us as individuals, as that is how we might learn of, say, a fatal road accident to one we love. It also applies to the whole 230 human race, with nuclear weapons already in the hands of five Governments, capable of crossing the Atlantic in 30 minutes, with a four-minute warning that they are to be fired. A telephone call from the Pentagon or the Kremlin can lead instantly to the wiping out of mankind.
On the occasion of this particular world crisis, common sense by the two super-Powers succeeded in securing the ceasefire. If it had failed to obtain the ceasefire, none of us might be alive today. But there may be a future occasion on which they fail. Let us take the parallel with 1914. The great Powers did not positively want war. They were, however, committed to backing their satellites, so that when an archduke was assasinated at Sarajevo the holocaust started. We are told by the American Government that the nuclear war alert was called mainly because of the leak that Soviet paratroopers were being flown to the Middle East. That proved to be erroneous. Whether it was ever intended that they should go will probably not be undeniably established. We may never learn the truth.
We know that 2½ million American troops and the United States nuclear forces were alerted. Britain was not even consulted. So if war had started, our country as a major base for United States nuclear submarines and planes would have been wiped out quickly by Soviet missiles. We are a sitting duck. That is why it is not over-dramatisation to say that we are subject today to annihilation without representation.
Yesterday the Prime Minister attempted to defend President Nixon's dangerous move and his failure to consult. It was, he said,a relatively low-level alert, which did not involve the immediate prospect of action. We were informed at a very early stage.It was a Stage-three alert in a series of five stages. When my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) asked him the purpose of a national alert if it was not to prepare a military operation, the Prime Minister gave the weakest of replies. He said thatif there had been any question of operations, it was completely covered by the agreement between the United States administration and the British Government".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October 1973; Vol. 863, c. 36–7.]231 Whatever that agreement says, I am afraid there would have been no time for consultation if the crunch had been reached. There would probably not even have been time for the Politburo and the American cabinet to be consulted.
There are, I believe, three men in each camp who would take the fatal decision. To the Soviet Government the alert was soon known. As Sir Richard Burman of the Centre for Defence Information said,Imagine what they must have thought in the Soviet war room when the big board suddenly lit up.My view is that this action must overnight have strengthened the hands of the hawks against the doves inside the Soviet leadership. We should be immensely relieved that the former did not win, with another twist in the spiral and a further step towards the brink.
There have been other world crises—Vietnam, Cuba, Korea and so on. Unless the détente gathers strength quickly, there will be further crises, and brinkmanship will not always pay. One day the hawks on either side will go a little too far and take mankind over the brink and into the abyss.
Eight years ago I initiated a debate in this House on the subject of the danger of war by accident. I suggested that, apart from some electronic mistake, one of the graver risks was that sooner or later a missile would be launched through some crazy submarine commander or someone higher up in the chain of command. Why not right at the top?
More recently there has been published a novel by a distinguished American journalist, Fletcher Knebel, entitled "The Night of Camp David". Its theme is a mentally unbalanced United States President whose condition is suspected only by two of his intimate colleagues. The story concerns their difficult struggle to prove their suspicions and remove the President before his finger presses the nuclear button. I am afraid that today there are rather more than two people who have doubts about the mental condition of the President of the United States.
§ Mr. Allaun
Whether it is shameful or not, it is true that such doubts exist, and the hon. Gentleman knows it.
§ Mr. Allaun
Paradoxically, the deterrent is more of a deterrent if it is wielded by a madman, because a sane person would never use it, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) has explained in his book. The more mad the person who has his finger on the deterrent, the more fear he can create amongst the other nations of the world.
The cartoon in the Sunday Times last weekend showed President Nixon with his finger poised over the button—perhaps the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) who interrupted me will pay attention—saying "If I go, I'll take you all with me." It might be said that such a thing could never happen, to which the reply should be that if in 1945 Hitler, along with other Governments, had had the H-bomb, he would have used it even if he knew that it meant instant retaliation and suicide, because he was prepared to commit suicide in the Berlin bunker. He would have taken mankind with him.
It is a serious reflection on our Government, on the Foreign Office and on the leaders of the political parties that the solution is not coming from them. The lead is coming from ordinary working people. I refer to the delegates from constituency Labour parties and trade unions who, at the Labour Party conference, carried with a big majority a resolution calling on the next Labour Government to end nuclear bases in Britain and for a reduction of £1,000 million a year in our fantastic arms spending. That is one of the resolutions they mean to see carried out.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mrs. Sally Oppenheim (Gloucester)
Inevitably over the past two or three weeks there has been deep emotional involvement among right hon. and hon. Members on the subject that we have been discussing. I should like to attempt to be both brief and objective, partly because women are often accused of reacting in a subjective manner to almost everything and partly because it is not in the interests of the debate to be otherwise. I want to stick to the facts and the 233 realities of the situation that we are debating. Therefore, I will not discuss principle, honour or moral obligations. If I did, I might find myself becoming a little more subjective than I should wish.
I should like to go back to the events of the past few weeks and the position of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I do not think that any hon. Member would doubt that my right hon. Friend has an overriding duty in this matter to the interests of this country. I believe that in some respects he understated, or was rather modest in stating, the situation, because we have not had it put strongly enough with regard to the serious economic consequences for this country in the short term which might have resulted from a different policy being pursued. I speak not only of the consequences of an oil embargo but of the possible serious monetary consequences, which could have had a traumatic effect on our economy, involving widespread unemployment. With the best will in the world, I do not believe that the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the Liberal Party could have given an undertaking that such a situation would not have been exploited for future political purposes. So my right hon. Friend had every right to consider the short-term interests of this country. However, I believe that he also had a duty to consider the medium- and long-term interests of this country, of Europe, and of world peace.
I was rather disappointed that my right hon. Friend put as his main excuse for the policy that was pursued that it was in the interests of détente, that it was in the interests of pursuing a peaceful solution, when the fact of war was already established. An arms embargo at that stage made no difference whatsoever to the fact of war. It could have made a difference whether Israel won or lost the war, because only today we have read that Israel was a good deal nearer to losing the war than anyone supposed before American intervention. Indeed, it could have had the effect of prolonging the war, because we all know that Israel was prepared to fight to the last man and woman.
We heard disturbing reports today that at that time, before American intervention, planes were coming back loaded with bombs and ammunition 234 which was not being fired at critical moments during battles because it had to be preserved. So if the Foreign Secretary at that time had said, as he had every right to say, "It is not in the short-term interests of this country", nobody would have quarrelled wih him at all. But to say that it was in the interests of our influence in the détente was unacceptable to many right hon. and hon. Members.
I think that, above all, many of us are disappointed—this point was put most eloquently by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen)—that we did not use this opportunity to lead European policy towards a meaningful influence in the events that have been happening recently and are likely to happen in future.
France has dominated EEC policy for far too long already. I say that as a long-established Francophile. I wish that the opportunity had been taken to establish our influence in the EEC. That would have been in the interests of this country and of world peace. If at that time the EEC had spoken with one voice and in unison with the United States and said to the Arab countries "We need your oil and you need our markets", our position and influence in future might have been very different. The reality is that, in a Russian-dominated Middle East, even with European allies motivated by an interest in oil and monetary consequences, that influence will not be very meaningful in maintaining any peace which may arise in future. Above all else, the Arab States now know how powerful their oil sanctions are. We have confirmed this over the past few weeks. This is indeed tragic.
Many of us have been saddened by the policy followed by the Government. I put it no stronger than that, because the history is already written. It is history upon which many will reflect sadly in future.
We are faced with a fragile cease-fire. If it leads to the establishment of peace, that peace will be rendered fragile and more easily undermined because we have not established a strong and meaningful influence in what should have been the third partner in the détente—Europe.
Apart from the tragedies of war, of heartbreak and of loss, one of the greatest 235 tragedies in the Middle East has been that the resources of wealth, talent and ability which Israel has necessarily had to involve in defensive measures could by now have benefited the whole world so greatly. I wonder whether Israel reflects a little ruefully on the help she has given, in fighting famine, pestilence and other problems, to under-developed countries which have now turned against her.
So, apart from moral considerations, and apart from considerations of honour and of principle, I would beg my right hon. Friend to consider in the future moving in Europe and with Europe to the meaningful rôle of importance and significance which, unfortunately, we have denied over the past few weeks, in both the middle- and the long-term interests of this country.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
I think the whole House has enjoyed the speech of the hon. Lady—certainly, I did—but it would be unusual if I did not take this opportunity of saying a few words about the Icelandic situation.
I shall not say much about it, because there has been a delicate climate since Mr. Jóhannesson went home after he and the Prime Minister signed a package deal. But I should like the House and the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to know that, while that deal was accepted by all sections of the deep-sea fleet, and indeed by my constituents and by those in many other fishing ports, we have made some unpalatable concessions. Our catch has gone down to 130,000 tons—a little over if we are fishing well and the season is good; a little less if the weather is bad; we shall have 30 fewer ships fishing there; we shall have no freezers at all fishing off the Icelandic banks; and, above all, there will be unemployment, with a higher percentage in Fleetwood than on Humberside, where I belong.
I interrupted the Foreign Secretary earlier, but it is important to say again that we in the fishing industry expect Her Majesty's Government to stand by us, and, even more important, to stand by their bargain with the Icelandic Government. I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say today that I 236 was absolutely right. I hope that Mr. Jóhannesson will carry both his Cabinet and his Foreign Affairs Committee with him, and I wish him success in what will be for both of us—at least, during the two years until the Santiago conference—a sensible and co-operative time fishing together in the North-East Atlantic.
I now wish to turn to South-East Asia and, in particular, to our unique colony of Hong Kong. I wish to talk about two aspects: the open conspiracy of corruption; and the abortion of democracy, which is almost an indictment of Anglo-Saxon liberalism as we have known it. Matters have come to a head with the so-called Godber affair. He was a former Hastings policeman—and I hasten to add, a very good policeman, indeed, both in Sussex and in Kowloon where he was stationed—who advanced to high office and accumulated about 1 million dollars. Being under suspicion, he was asked to appear before Senior Judge Blair-Kerr within seven days, but, unfortunately, he abused his high position as senior security officer at the airport and left on the fifth day. He bought a ticket and jumped on a Qantas airline plane, and is now basking in the autumnal sunshine at a delightful cottage in Sussex. That abuse of his position is bad for us when we talk to Commonwealth delegates from places such as Canada, Singapore and the Bahamas, at meetings like our last annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in London.
The position of Hong Kong is very unusual, and because of past abuses and well-known difficulties in connection with what is locally-termed "squeeze", the Government passed local ordinances. As the House will know, the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 allows Her Majesty's Government under certain circumstances to return to the dependent territories any persons charged with offences. But the main reason why Mr. Godber cannot be sent back to the colony where an offence is alleged against him—that is, the possession of unexplained wealth by a public officer—is that that does not constitute an offence under English law. Under the double criminality rule, return is possible only when the offence concerned is known to the law in both countries. Nevertheless, when we get this matter into historical perspective we shall find that we 237 owe Mr. Godber a debt. In future we shall thank him, because he has turned the world's spotlight, in both newspapers and television, upon corruption and maladministration in this colony.
It was quite impossible to do anything about this problem in the 1960s. Councillor Mrs. Elsie Eliott, a former missionary ary on the mainland of China, fought for many years on the council. Then I came back here in 1967, initiated a debate and asked for a Royal Commission of Inquiry. This is not at all a party issue, and my own Government were in power then, but I found, as I have found with Conservative Ministers, that apparently they did not wish to know. Possibly, like this Government, who I understand are on better terms with Peking than was the case formerly, they were worried to death by Communist China and by the 99-year lease on Kowloon, which is due to finish in 1997. But it is the queerest marriage of convenience between Her Majesty's Government and the Communists in Peking when bodies, human beings, gold, narcotics and so on are smuggled between the colony and the mainland. It seems to be like an oriental Switzerland.
Today people such as Councillor Mrs. Elsie Eliott, some of my colleagues and myself are fully vindicated by the Blair-Kerr Commission. This gentleman, who has issued a second report upon the matter, is now the Chief Justice of Hong Kong; and I wish him every success in his new office in attempting to clear up this Augean stable which he has found. I believe that it is the sincere desire of the Governor, Sir Murray MacLehose, and his fine chief of police, Charles Sutcliffe, who, by his courage and determination, unearthed the Godber finances, and, I believe, of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Minister, to expedite matters whatever the legal difficulties under the Fugitive Offenders Act.
I admit that at long last we have now got an anti-corruption commission which is independent of the police department in Hong Kong, unlike the abortive old squad which was formed as long ago as 1948 and has not done much in this matter in two decades. The commission is separate from the police department. Nevertheless, I believe that honest officials, civil servants and policemen 238 in Hong Kong may find it difficult to come out openly to give evidence to this commission, since it is under the Hong Kong Government and will not appear to be as independent as it would have been if, as I asked years ago, a commission had been sent out from London, completely independent of anyone in this ancient Crown colony.
May I ask the Minister three questions? First, is it not a fact that Her Majesty's Government—of both parties—for some 10 years have condoned these conditions? There is no doubt whatever that people both in the colony and outside have spoken and given evidence for a long time about the nature and extent of this corruption conspiracy. Judge Blair-Kerr states quite clearly in his report that "corruption is widespread". As has been said in this Chamber in the past, it is absurd to suggest that it exists "only in limited pockets".
Secondly, does the Minister believe that the Hong Kong Government have been vigorously tackling corruption? I do not accept that they have done so, having been out and talked to many people there. We now have an energetic and honest police commissioner there, Charles Sutcliffe, but, as I said, this anticorruption squad has been functioning since 1948 and, without being too tedious, I could quote many cases from the past which have gone to the office in Hong Kong.
Thirdly, how does all this fit into the political administration of the Hong Kong Government? It is an appalling scandal that the Government possess not one elected member, either in Legco or at a higher level, to go on to the Executive Council. What a shop window for British democracy in South-East Asia, so adjacent to the Communist mainland of Peking China! It seems to me essential that elected members should act as a ventilation shaft for the millions of the Chinese masses living in slums, and, indeed also in some of the fine new building estates in Hong Kong. Could we have two members? Could we have four? I do not think this would shatter London or Peking. No one visualises that Hong Kong will go along the path of political development that Ghana or Singapore has followed. But it is impossible for the people to have their 239 grievances dealt with, or even considered adequately, unless there are some members who plead their cause and put their case in public in the Legislative Council?
I know that the Minister is intensely concerned about conditions. He is deeply anxious that we should solve this Godber affair and find out what lies below the stones in Hong Kong, and thus allay the anxieties and suspicions of all these peoples in the colony. I refer not merely to workers at the bottom. I mean the students, the police, the civil servants and, above all, the commercial community. It is vital not only that we act here but that our action is seen to be done, by the people in the colony of Hong Kong.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Cannock)
I do not suppose the hon. Member for King-stonupon-Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) will expect me to follow him into the byways of oriental politics. I was tempted to follow him into northern waters by his opening remarks. As someone who comes from Grimsby and has sailed with a fishing fleet, I endorse what he said.
Neither do I want to talk at great length about the Middle East situation. I think I have made my own misgivings perfectly plain, and I will not dwell on them. I believe the Government have made a fundamental mistake in their policy; it was ill-conceived and perhaps not as well executed as it might have been. I fear that we have lost influence with one friendly nation without really winning over the nations around it. I think we have been guilty, perhaps, of indulging in double standards.
Having said that, it is obviously my fervent hope, as it is of everybody in this Chamber—and what a pity there are not more hon. Members present in a foreign affairs debate—that we should have real peace. But it will be a fragile peace if in the process of achieving it distrust and disunity are spread within the Western alliance. To spread that distrust and disunity is the overriding aim of the USSR. We should remember that. We should also remember that the USSR and its satellite nations can afford to think long term in a way that perhaps 240 we, who are answerable to electorates every five years, cannot afford to think. They can play a waiting game. They have done it in the past, and I suspect that they are doing it now.
I was particularly encouraged by the speech of the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen), followed by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley). They delivered first-class speeches which underlined the essential subject that we should be talking about—the integrity of the West. I do not like to quote newspapers in the Chamber, but I thought that the comment by the Daily Telegraph today about the Queen's Speech was absolutely on the ball. For a Queen's Speech to have to mention that the Governmentwill maintain their support for the North Atlantic Alliance",andwill continue to attach high importance to our relationship with the United States of Americais a saddening thing for me. It should go without saying that those are the two prime and overriding objectives of our foreign policy.
The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), opening the debate for the Opposition, spoke of peace as being indivisible. We all agree with him. He made a very constructive speech. But security is indivisible as well. Without the latter we cannot have the former; and our security depends more than ever upon a strong North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and a strong NATO depends upon a continued and, indeed, a massive American presence in Europe.
Nearly 220 years ago, when this country was involved in the Seven Years War, Pitt talked about winning Canada on the banks of the Elbe. One could say that America has still got to be defended on the banks of the Elbe and in central Europe today. It is the realisation of that enlightened self-interest which has led to America maintaining its proper presence in Europe. However, there is a dangerous tendency in America at the moment to cut back. America is encouraged to do so by two things: first, by the sort of failure of communication and contact which we have seen during the last few days, second, by our harping, as well as their harping, on their internal problems. 241 I do not want to talk about Watergate and all the attendant misfortunes and troubles which are besetting the American people. I was in Washington three or four weeks ago, and I was saddened by much of what I heard and saw.
We are entitled to form our view of other countries' constitutional arrangements, but for the Alliance it must be business as usual. We must concentrate on making our American friends realise that we still regard them as our friends; that we appreciate what America has done for Europe since the war; that we appreciate that we would not be debating in comfortable security today were it not for what she has done for us since the war.
That does not mean that we should be uncritical or that we must subscribe to every American ideal and objective. But America saved Europe by her exertions and by her money, and for that we must all be tremendously grateful. We must face the realities of the situation.
The right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), in a forceful and persuasive speech, talked about the European commitment and European defence policy. That is all right as far as it goes, but we must face the fact that the EEC is not, and nor is it likely to be, any substitute for NATO. I am reminded of Castlereagh's "sublime mysticism and nonsense" when we talk of the EEC as though it would provide the necessary defence, without an American presence, for our European interests. It cannot do so. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot pointed out, the European nations would not be prepared to vote the sort of money which would be necessary to provide the type of defence system which would be necessary if America withdraw.
If we do not face these issues, and if we delude ourselves into thinking that merely because we are in the Common Market we do not need an American presence and the umbrella which America provides, we are doing ourselves a disservice.
There is a lot of talk about détente. Détente is a dangerous and, I believe, a justifiable adventure but only if we stand together. We must always realise that it is the fundamental interest of our potential adversaries to drive a wedge between us. That is what they have been trying 242 to do in the Middle East during the last few weeks, and with a fair amount of success. That is what they will try to do in future.
Détente can be meaningful only if NATO stands together and maintains its complete and utter strength. If that is not done, détente will be exploited under the mask of a spurious coming together. The United States will withdraw from Europe, to the ultimate danger of both herself and the Continent she leaves.
I was recently in Denmark with other parliamentary colleagues. While we were there we saw a museum which the Danes have set up to commemorate the resistance. Denmark was a nation which was over-run. We saw memorials to all the heroic exploits performed by Danes in the last war. We talked to Danes and they said "We always said that it could never happen here." The new mood in Europe is potentially dangerous. We are again in danger of saying "It could never happen here," and that in spite of Czechoslovakia, which was only five years ago. Anyone who has had any degree of contact with the Soviets knows full well that their system is as repressive and damaging to the human spirit and to human endeavour as what happened in other nations in the 1930s.
It might be thought that this is talk by a cold warrior and a hawk, but so be it. Unless we face the realities we do ourselves and our children a grave disservice. We must use every possible endeavour to repair the cracks which have appeared in the Atlantic Alliance during the last few weeks. That must be the first and the incumbent duty upon the Government and upon anyone who seeks to speak for Britain. It is only if we maintain that alliance and maintain that watchfulness that mutual and balanced force reductions will really be mutual and balanced. It is only if we maintain that alliance that we shall be able to pursue a true policy of détente, which, of course, it is in our interests to pursue.
I hope that the damage which has been done during these last weeks, by what I consider to be a misconceived policy in the Middle East, will be repaired quickly. I hope that there will be an early meeting between President Nixon, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister or my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State 243 for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Dr. Kissinger. I hope that it will be a long meeting in which all the real problems can be thrashed out and priorities reaffirmed, for the priorities of 1948 and the beginning of NATO remain the same.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
The hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) hopes that the damage which has been done to Britain's reputation as a result of the events of the last few weeks will be repaired soon. I hope so too, but I very much doubt that it will. During the last few weeks there has crept into the British diplomatic dictionary a new word—namely, "evenhanded". It is a simile for non-intervention. A similar adjective might have been applied to the policies which were pursued in 1936 in relation to Spain. It is a simile for appeasement, which we had in Czechoslovakia in 1938. It is a simile for surrendering to blackmail, and it is a simile for ignominy.
That miserable adjective can be applied equally to our dealings with Chile as to our dealings with the Middle East. Last year I went on a parliamentary delegation to Chile. We were the guests of the Chilean Parliament, which was dominated by the opponents of the Allende Government. We were told that Chile was a land of tyranny. In that land of tyranny we met representatives of the free Press. They were free to indulge—and they boasted of this—in the wildest distortions against the Popular Unity Government. Some of the calumnies which they uttered would make the Conservative Press in Britain when attacking the last Labour Government appear like a veritable George Washington.
In that land of tyranny there were no journalists languishing in gaol. There were no Opposition Members of Parliament languishing in gaol or being tortured. None was shot while escaping arrest. Parliament and the courts operated. There were criticisms, and many of them were justified, of the Allende Government. During our visit we saw an institution called a "Business" School. It was nothing much more than a subterfuge for subversion. We met Nationalist politicians who deliberately distorted what was 244 happening. On one occasion we flew from the south of Chile to Santiago, and during the flight we were told by a prominent Nationalist politician that Allende had cut off milk to the young children. That was a grotesque distortion. We were in some difficulty with our Nationalist hosts, because those Nationalists who accompanied us always spoke impeccable English while the supporters of the Popular Unity Government who were chosen by the Nationalists to come with us could never speak a word of English. This made things rather difficult but we eventually discovered the truth.
We also met President Allende. Following his experiences as a young doctor in the 1920s, sickened by the malnutrition in his country, he devoted his life to fighting poverty and exploitation. He was determined—and Conservative Members of the delegation to Chile were impressed by this—to change Chilean society fundamentally by democratic means. Of course mistakes were made, some of them quite appalling, and very few of us in this House would agree with President Allende's political philosophy. But the situation in Chile was not comparable to the situation in a democracy such as ours. What the Popular Unity Government brought to ordinary working people in Chile was a new dignity, and this was patently obvious to those who saw it.
In the agrarian reform programme—promoted incidentally with considerable Israeli assistance—the new government brought land to the landless. At the same time copper was nationalised, and it was alleged by American companies that they were expropriated. In fact, the Chilean people found that their copper had been expropriated from them over a period of many years and that it was being restored. The United States refused to enter into any meaningful discussions about compensation and demanded ridiculous terms involving a 250 per cent. return on capital. It was impossible to negotiate on that basis with the American companies. A deliberate campaign was unleashed whereby the technical experts in the copper industry of Chile were induced to go to the United States and copper became very difficult to mine.
Today, several weeks after the death—or, as I think, the execution—of President 245 Allende there are imprisoned in the football stadium at Santiago—where, incidentally, in a few weeks' time the Russians, to their shame, are to play a match—trade unionists and socialists, some of whom we met, who are now to be transferred to prisons elsewhere in Santiago. A very large number of Chileans have been executed by the present régime while "escaping when resisting arrest", to use the euphemism under which these executions are carried out.
Yesterday Chile was on the threshold of real freedom. I believe that today Chile is now back in a vacuum of servitude. The whole vulgar, obscene, panoply of Fascism is being paraded. Bribes of £200 are being offered to Chileans to denounce fellow Chileans. There has been the book-burning, the establishment of concentration camps, killings, and also torture which has been vouchsafed by those who have recently returned from Chile. There has been a brutal suppression of all opposition, the extirpation of freedom of thought in the universities, and the dedicated subversion of the parliamentary process. This is what the junta has meant to Chile.
The other day on behalf of the Parliamentary Labour Party Anglo-Chilean Group I wrote a letter of protest to the new so-called Ambassador, Rear Admiral Buzeta, protesting about what had happened. I received a grotesque reply, a passage of which I shall now quote:The majority of the freely elected representatives of the people, in exercise of their legitimate right and duty to defend the sovereignty of all the people, explicitly demanded from the Armed Forces that they should restore the constitutional rights of all Chileans.Some restoration! It is like a bizarre operation in which the surgeon walks away with vital parts of the patient's anatomy! When they talk about the majority of the Chilean people, let it be remembered that 44 per cent. of Chileans—a substantial increase—voted for the Popular Unity Government not long before this catastrophe took place.
For three years under Allende Chile was embattled, besieged and blockaded economically. American multi-national companies plotted to overthrow the Allende Government from its very inception. The record on this is quite 246 clear. Eventually Chile and Allende, and, above all, the aspirations of the hungry and deprived people of Chile, have been asphyxiated by a conspiracy on the part of these multi-national companies and of the Governments which supported them. I fear that our own Government, to their eternal shame, have deliberately aided and abetted in this. They cut off credits, and there was no economic assistance available to Chile. The Foreign Secretary knows that this is so. We recognised the new Chilean Government with unseemly haste. Our Embassy, unlike the Swedish Embassy, has refused admission to political refugees. We have all heard about the scandal involving the four Leyland cars. I should like to know what intervention occurred on the part of the Foreign Office in that instance. No doubt we shall now find that within a matter of weeks aid will be resumed and credits will be re-opened on the pretext that the Chilean people will suffer if this is not done—as though the Chilean people had not suffered in the three years during which this aid was denied to the Allende Government. But we must not forget that we are being "even-handed" in this matter!
I received a letter today from a group of academics who have established an organisation which is designed to assist refugees from Chile. The letter says:There is an immediate need to enable students, workers, academics and others to leave Chile. It is difficult for them to be accepted in other Latin American countries, with the possible exception of Peru and Mexico. Most will look to Europe for refuge. For an individual to leave Chile he has to (a) pay his income tax, (b) pay any debts, (c) obtain a conduct pass from the police. In order to obtain a safe conduct pass from the Chilean police he has to prove that it is a bona fide reason for leaving the country.It is very difficult for any refugee from the régime to get out of Chile, but when they are able to get out I beseech the Government to make it possible for free education and jobs to be readily available and for asylum to be granted.
The Foreign Secretary's propensity for appeasement is unbounded, and was paraded yet again on 6th October. That was a day of infamy which seemed hardly to affect the Foreign Secretary because our representative at the United Nations did not feel it appropriate to cast blame. We know the record because it has been read 247 out in this House by a number of hon. Members. I believe it to have been an act of naked aggression, and it is a mere pretext, as is said by those who speak to the contrary, that the territories were the reason for war. If that were right and if it were simply only about territories, why were the Arab Governments so consistently dedicated to the task of exterminating Israel long before 1967?
The whole history of modern Israel over the last 25 years has been a unique and sombre story of a small people subjected to implacable hatred and a campaign of siege from its Arab neighbours for which there is no parallel or precedent in modern history. Not for a moment has Israel enjoyed the minimal degree of security to which as a member of the United Nations she is entitled.
We all know the sad story of the refugees. But let it be remembered that of the £25 million devoted to UNWRA by Middle Eastern States £5 million has been given by Israel. The fact is that the Arab States—the very same oil kingdoms which today are blackmailing us—have refused to lift a finger to help those poverty-stricken people, the refugees, who have been allowed to founder in a morass of despair simply for political reasons.
I hope that the situation of the Arab refugees can be resolved, but it will need an international effort. It is absurd to suggest that between 500,000 and 3 million people—the figure depends on where it comes from—are to be absorbed into Israel. If that were to happen Israel would no longer exist because those people have been nurtured over the years in a sustained hatred of everything Israel stands for.
There has never been a more pointless war, because at the end of the day there has been inscribed for the first time in the Security Council a resolution the fact that the parties must negotiate. That is something that the Arabs have wilfully refused to do since Israel was born, and territorially, on balance, nothing has been gained. Therefore, the parties must get round the table for discussions.
There emerges from the miserable chapter of the last few weeks the so-called "even-handedness" on the part of the British Government. I do not intend to rehearse what the Government did; 248 suffice to say that when the Foreign Secretary poses as the great neutral his neutrality is warmly applauded by every Arabist in the House and by every Arab Government. That is sufficient testimony.
There is a small incident to which I wish to allude, involving an example of the Government's "even-handedness." On 15th October the Dutch ship "Heel-sum" was to sail to Saudi Arabia with a consignment of 11 tanks and weapons for use on the Syrian front. There were weather difficulties about the sailing of the ship, and part of the crew wanted nothing to do with the consignment, and the dockers at Marseilles were refusing to help. Gaston Defferre, the Mayor of Marseilles and a Socialist Deputy, protested to M. Messmer, the Prime Minister, about the sailing of this ship. Then the British Consul-General in Marseilles intervened, seeking to ensure that the consignment was sent to Saudi Arabia. How did that come about when Britain is supposed to be so "evenhanded"—as we were about tanks to Dubai and 250 Lightnings to Saudi Arabia?
The period through which we are passing is fraught with difficulty regarding prisoners. There have been reports, to which the hon. Member for Cannock alluded earlier, about Israeli prisoners being executed at the hands of Syrians. We must hope that it is not true, but the Syrians do not recognise the Geneva Convention, and torture existed in Syria previously. The Government must investigate these matters urgently.
We must try to ascertain from the Arab States what they mean by "a just settlement" of the refugee problem. That is fine, provided it does not mean the extinction of the State of Israel. We must know what is behind the blockade of the Red Sea, to which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred yesterday, and we must look carefully, and perhaps above all, to the oil blackmailing which has been utilised by the Arab States.
Once we succumb to extortion of this kind, it is enormously dangerous to our entire future. If, for example, there were difficulties between India and Pakistan and we thought, rightly or wrongly, that India was in the right, the use of oil blackmail would again be possible. 249 Another example. If there were a settlement now but the Arab States said that it was not enough, that Israel must absorb 3 million Palestinian refugees, the oil threat might be used again. Once one begins to pay the price of the blackmailer, it knows no bounds.
What is tragic about the right hon. Gentleman's posture is that he has clearly been prepared to pay the price. He may get a can of Castrol oil at the end, but he has sold independence in British foreign policy for it. It is a sad commentary on the Government's attitudes in the Middle East—and not only in the Middle East. I should prefer the right hon. Gentleman to say "You do not agree with me, but what I am anxious to achieve is a real peace. I admit that the rôle of Britain will not be very important, but we hope to promote a situation in which Israel will receive real guarantees." That may mean a prolonged negotiation, because Israel will not accept the word of the right hon. Gentleman or of those who rule Arab States now. I should prefer him to say "We wish positively now to put forward a policy based on lack of bias and partiality." However, the right hon. Gentleman has a great deal of ground to make up.
I yearn for the day, as I am sure the Israeli Government do, when Israel can offer to that barren part of the world so much of the technological expertise that has made so much of her country flourish, and when she can cease to have to devote so much of her economy to the production and use of arms. I hope that that view is shared by most hon. Members.
For me, Israel represents not simply a State about which I have a certain feeling because I am a Jew; it represents a democratic, socialist society which has wrought great changes in that part of the world and can do much for the prosperity of that part of the world.
I hope that we shall have from the Foreign Secretary a more positive and more respectable line than he has adopted thus far.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)
I do not intend to comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) in detail, but I will say that one cannot have a proper understanding of the situation in the Middle 250 East if one takes a violently partisan line. The hon. Gentleman's speech today was somewhat more moderate than his speech last week, but I ask him to read the speech made by his hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) last week, if he did not hear it. That speech was extremely constructive and helpful, but I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman's own speech today adds anything positive to the present situation.
I do not know how many hon. Members who took part in last week's debate or will take part in today's debate served in Palestine at the time of the mandate.
§ Mr. Mather
I am glad to see the hon. Gentleman here, and I hope that he will be able to contribute to the debate.
For a proper understanding of the present situation we need to go back to the time of the mandate. Many of us who were in Palestine then would have been amazed to know—I do not know whether this applies to the hon. Gentleman—that it would be 25 years before the Arabs would make a major comeback, a major offensive such as the last, in which they had any chance of success. Many of us felt at the time that the Israelis were in an extremely isolated position, with isolated settlements and long lines of communication, and that all the cards were in the hands of the Arabs. But nothing happened.
The Israelis had two advantages. One was that they had had military experience with us in the Western Desert during the last war and the other was that they had the experience of attacking us actively when we were carrying out the mandate. There is no better training.
The situation has not always been like that in Palestine. In the period 1936–1938 British troops carrying out the mandate were attacked by the Arab side, so we have had it both ways. There is nothing more even-handed than that.
In view of the time the British have spent in that part of the world, including Palestine, and the great sacrifices we have made there, it was right that many hon. Members should have said, both last week and today, that British interests must come first. We have made great 251 sacrifices to Palestine and to both the Israeli and the Arab causes.
I think that the general opinion at the time of the evacuation in 1948, which was decided upon by the Labour Government, was that it was extremely unwise. We felt that if we left there would be a bloodbath, rather as we say that there would be a bloodbath in Northern Ireland today if British troops left. We have been proved right more than once. There are now greater dangers of the whole world, including the major Powers, becoming involved.
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary for his great wisdom in handling an extremely difficult situation. If we had ended our arms embargo two weeks ago the decision would have been misunderstood; it would have been taken as a sign that we were coming down on the Israeli side, and it could have tipped the scale on the very eve of the cease-fire. We owe my right hon. Friend a great debt for handling the situation so wisely.
The nub of the matter in that part of the Middle East is the lack of confidence between the two sides. Confidence is the missing link. The Arabs suspect the Israelis of Zionist expansionism, and the Israelis will not trust the Arabs to keep any cease-fire or any guarantees. The lack of confidence, which until the outbreak of the hostilities was bedevilling the situation, has been made no better by what has happened since. But there are seeds of hope in the present situation, because each side has taken such a battering and realises the power of modern weapons and the appalling casualties to men and equipment that they can cause.
I turn to the possibilities of a settlement. For the Israelis, the Golan heights are key ground and I cannot see them giving them up under any circumstances. I know the area well. Our own camp was just beneath the Golan heights, and we looked up into the area almost every day. It is a strategic area, dominating the whole of the Huleh Plain and the Israeli settlements below.
The only solution for Jerusalem is to internationalise the city and make it a free city rather on the former lines of Danzig, possibly allowing the Arabs to reoccupy the West Bank at the same 252 time. But the key to the problem is the Sinai Desert. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) said that it was no good having a narrow strip. It would be necessary to have all the Sinai Desert as a demilitarised zone. That is absolutely true, but I would add all the Sinai peninsula. Until this entire area becomes demilitarised there will be no real security. Such a move would also help to reduce friction because it is a bone of contention; it is Arab land which the Israelis occupy. If Sinai were demilitarised it would take the heat out of the politics.
It is not much good simply involving the troops of Sweden and one or two non-committed countries in this area. The peace force would need troops of the secondary Powers who are committed and who are experienced in that kind of rôle. I should have thought that it was certainly a rôle in which Britain and France could play a part.
If all Sinai were demilitarised, this would mean that both the troops and the men of those countries would be able to use it as a training area. A very good training area it would be with its flat desert land and plenty of high mountain areas. Apart from its value strategically it is relatively valueless, being mostly desert or barren mountain country.
I do not take a violently partisan line. I have friends on both the Israeli and the Arab sides. That is the case with Britain too. We have friends on each side and we should try to keep them. That is why I believe that Britain can exert a helpful influence on the future.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)
When I entered the Chamber today I did not anticipate taking part in the debate. I was not sure whether I wanted to reserve my position for the economic debate later in the week. However, I felt generally forced into the debate if only to say "thank you" to my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) for his speech today from the Dispatch Box.
It was one of the best balanced speeches that I have heard on the Middle East problem for some time. It goes a long way to re-establishing some of the Labour Party's stock in the Middle East. 253 It is obvious to those of us who have travelled there that our party's reputation in the Arab countries has been, if not nil, certainly at a low ebb for a considerable time. We shall need possibly good relations with the Arab world when we become the Government after the next General Eelection.
I turn to the speech of the Leader of the Liberal Party, who came in, made his speech and has gone again. He talked of energy requirements and about the need to look at them afresh. I remind him that some of us have been considering the matter for some time. I remember that a Liberal Party spokesman once suggested that we should close all the coal mines in this country as quickly as possible.
I was in Palestine on 15th May 1948. Anybody who served in the area then has a genuine interest in it. Some of the jobs that were entrusted to British troops there will linger in our memories. There is one particular job of which I am ashamed, and one I do not even talk about. I am as pleased with the House of Commons in 1973 as I was ashamed of it in 1967. I wish that the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Sally Oppenheim) were here now. She referred to people speaking with emotion. I appreciate the tenor of her speech today, and I welcomed it, knowing its source. In 1967, in the atmosphere of that time, anyone who attempted to say that there must be a case for the Arabs was classed as an Arabist. But those who did not dot and comma everything in favour of the Israelis were not necessarily Arabists. Some of us have seen two sides to the story for a long time. Perhaps in my case it is because I served in the Army in Palestine. Many British soldiers remained in Israel, as it then became, for some time after 15th May 1948. I was glad to leave, and I left that country backwards taking with me only what I stood up in, heading for a landing craft. I was particularly glad to go.
I welcome the atmosphere in the House today. We are doing substantially more now than we did in 1967. On that occasion the place was full of emotion, and speeches delivered then made what my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) said this evening seem quite moderate by comparison. My only regret is that the late 254 Will Griffiths is not here today. If I stay in this House for another 30 years I shall always remember the scene that day when Will Griffiths tried to make his speech on the Middle East. I should have liked him to be here today to see the House of Commons in a different mood.
I was in this war-torn area in 1948. In 1957 at the time of the Suez crisis I was a Class "A" reservist. I did not have to go to Suez, thank goodness, but I was closely involved. The 1967 situation provided the crux of the issue. The Arabs were humiliated more than defeated, and since that year they have been unable to raise their heads above ground level because of that humiliation.
There have been four conflicts in the area in 25 years. I do not know whether it is wise to say so, but I believe that in 1973 a different attitude has emerged among the Arabs. The Arab soldier, so ridiculed, has regained some of his pride, and that is possibly a good thing. It will make a peaceful settlement relatively easier to achieve. When the Arabs enter the negotiating room, as I hope they will, they will do so on equal terms. They will go in neither as victor nor as vanquished, and there is an even-handed chance that a peace settlement will be reached.
I am disturbed that so many Jewish and Arab lives have been lost and that there has been so much anguish and suffering when the situation has merely returned to almost that of 1948. The same things are being said about the problem now as were said then. Twenty-six years have been wasted and many young Israelis and Arabs killed. I do not intend to put forward my solution. It is not for us to say. My concern is for the climate in the House of Commons. A settlement is now possibly closer than ever. The indictment of us all is that such a dangerous and bloody situation was allowed to develop. If the Americans and the Russians had got together much sooner, as they could have done, the problem could have been settled years ago with the same result as will be achieved in the near future.
I hope that there will be a peace settlement with honour and pride for both sides. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East spoke about 255 peace, security and justice. They have been a long time coming. I hope and pray that this time we get it right.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Sir Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
I had originally not intended to speak in tonight's debate. I had a private constituency engagement which I had hoped to attend, if only briefly. I feel constrained to intervene for two reasons. One concerns the statement of Russian foreign policy by the Soviet Ambassador and quoted by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) in a most interesting speech. The other is a very different speech made in London on 29th August by an authoress named Phyllis Schlafly, at a conference organised by the Foreign Affairs Circle and quoted in the magazine East-West Digest which is edited by my hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. Stewart-Smith) and sent by him fortnightly to every hon. and right hon. Member. What I have to say will be somewhat complementary to some of the things stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack).
I shall quote a few extracts from this speech:The Soviet Communists have a long-range plan for world conquest. The launching of the first Sputnik in 1957 convinced Soviet scientists that nuclear power married to intercontinental rockets could be the key to fulfilment of their Communist dreams. By 1960, the Soviet military elite had developed the strategy of the surprise nuclear strike as a means of sending the capitalist/imperialists to their grave.We know this because the great Soviet intelligence agent, Colonel Oleg Penkovskiy, transmitted to the United States, through his British contact, Greville Wynne, at least 5,000 secret Kremlin documents which set forth this strategy in complete detail. He summarised these official military documents in these words:'A future war will begin with a sudden nuclear strike against the enemy. There will be no declaration of war. Quite to the contrary, an effort will be made to avoid a declaration of war. When conditions are favourable for delivering the first nuclear strike, the Soviet Union will deliver this strike under the pretence of defending itself from an aggressor.… About 100 nuclear charges, exploded in a brief period of time in a highly industrialised country… will suffice to transform all of its industrial areas and administrative-political centres into a heap of ruins, and the territory into a lifeless desert 256 contaminated with deadly radioactive substances.… This plan has been worked out in every detail and is on file in the General Staff.'The authoress then went on to say that Colonel Penkovskiy paid with his life for sending these documents to the United States. She added:The United States Defence Department has never released these documents to the public, but it admitted in writing on 1st February 1972, that they are 'still extremely relevant to current Soviet strategic doctrine and war plans '.We are then reminded that on 6th January 1961:Khruschev made a lengthy speech…which was recognised throughout the world as a Soviet pronouncement of major importance. President Kennedy called it 'a Red blueprint for eventual world domination'.Miss Schlafly went on to recall the Cuban missile crisis and the fact that, despite a promise by Gromyko to President Kennedy that the Soviets would not send nuclear missiles to Cuba, a sortie by a U2 plane revealed that they had done so. The world has learned since that massive United States superiority in nuclear missiles forced the Russians to back down.
The speech then went on to state that in the intervening years the position had been completely reversed, that the United States has disarmed unilaterally and the USSR has done exactly the opposite, and thatNothing in history can compare with the money and efforts the Soviets have poured into armaments since 1962.They have overtaken and passed the United States and the estimates of their superiority quoted by Miss Schlafly are from 5:1 to 8:1, but still they continue to spend 40 per cent. of their gross national product on armaments.
I hope my right hon. Friend can show that all this is not true, that it is exaggerated or that there is something nearer a balance between the two great Powers than this lady claims. I should welcome a comment from the right hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts), who is to wind up the debate for the Opposition, on whether the West is in the position of perhaps being destroyed in a knockout blow by the Soviets. Would such a thing be risked by them? Have they the superiority to try it and thereby wipe out Western civilisation?
257 The authoress ends on an optimistic note by stating
that the US can still overtake the Russians if they have the will to do it.If the Russians have such superiority, would they allow the Americans to overtake them or would they have the power to deliver a knockout blow in advance to prevent them from doing so?
The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said that everybody in politics should be an optimist. I should like to agree with him, but I would rather put it that everybody should be a realist. We must consider the position as it is, and not as we would wish it to be.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)
I hope that the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) will forgive me if I do not immediately follow his line of thought, but I shall touch on it briefly in a few moments.
One fact which has taken a long time to sink into the minds of many people in this country is that on a world issue Britain's voice has little bearing on the action which is taken. This is a sad fact of life. But our inability to exercise any great influence on these decisions does not mean that this country has not got an important rôle—possibly an even more important rôle—in world affairs today.
What saddened me about the Government's attitude over the Middle East conflict is that we seem to have got the worst of both worlds. In a year leading up to an election, when their policy, rightly, in my view, is geared to increasing the gross national product, the Government cannot face the prospect of industry being closed down because of a fuel shortage. I say this without being partisan. One appreciates this and sympathises. I wonder what my party would have done had we been in the same position. These, again, are facts of life which the Government have to face. Therefore, I hope that any criticism I make will be taken against that background.
Shall we come off any better by adopting the Foreign Secretary's evenhanded attitude—or less than evenhanded attitude, considering the circumstances? I have visited both Israel and Egypt during the last two or three years. 258 We have to learn the lesson that countries do not necessarily ignore one merely because one is hostile to them. I found that the Egyptians, although they dislike the Americans intensely because of their pro-Israel attitude, have a tremendous respect for the Americans. I only wish that I could say that they had the same for us. They have not. They felt that we did not know what we wanted. We were not prepared to put our cards on the table when it came to a showdown. This is unfortunate, because the voice of this country has an important part to play, even in criticism.
We must ensure that we are logical and just in a particular situation. What alarms me is that hon. Members have said of one or other that he is "in the Israeli camp" or "in the Arab camp". This should not make any difference to a conclusion arrived at on a particular issue. The issue must be judged according to the merits, and if one's friends are wrong one says that they are wrong. There is nothing difficult about that.
For the main part, I support the Israeli cause. I am not anti-Arab—far from it. If I belonged to one of the Arab States, I doubt that my personal feelings would be any different from the feelings which they have expressed over the last 25 years. Perhaps if we could put the clock back 50 years there would be no State of Israel in the Middle East. But this State does exist, and the fact must be faced. We must look at what has happened since that State came into existence. Israel's position is not that of a State which can afford to lose one war. She can be wrong only once and then cease to exist as a State.
However many military defeats Israel inflicts upon the Arab States, those States will still continue. What is so lamentable about the situation is that the only State in the Middle East which has a Communist Party is the State of Israel, and the Russians are seeking to destroy it.
May I remind the House of what happened when the State of Israel was established by the United Nations in 1948? Immediately, all the Arab States at the United Nations said that they would not accept its existence and that it would be destroyed. That has an important bearing on what we can 259 expect the Israelis to accept as a peace settlement.
When the Foreign Secretary said last week that we had held up a delivery of arms but that, if there had been any danger of the Arab States overrunning Israel, we would have intervened, what did he mean? Did he mean that we would have put British troops ashore to assist the Israelis? I was rather surprised that he should say that, because there is not the slightest doubt that, had an attack taken place on the 1967 frontiers, the Israelis would have been fighting with their backs to the sea. What would have happened then?
The Foreign Secretary's slip last week about Czechoslovakia has been quoted—"We meant it this time". I do not believe that he intended to say that or that that was intended at the time. At the time of the Munich agreement, people here thought that we had led the Czechs up the garden path, that we had made promises which we did not intend to honour. I remind the Foreign Secretary that Munich led not only through Prague but through Warsaw and Paris—and almost came to London. That brings me to the Russian intervention in the Middle East, and the comments of the hon. Member for Wembley, South.
Russian aims have not changed over the last 50 years. Only the methods of achieving the end have changed. One needs to go no further than the events in Czechoslovakia five years ago to realise that, when it suits Russian purposes, force will be used.
When I visited Egypt I found it remarkable that, whatever is thought about the Americans or the British, the Egyptians hate the Russians, for the simple reason that they have not only mortgaged themselves to the hilt—nobody, even of cabinet rank, could tell me what was owed to the Russians for their assistance—but they know that the Russians never intended them to win a war unless it suited Russia to win it.
That is logical. The only purpose of a Russian presence in the Middle East is to keep the pot boiling. If the Arabs won a victory, the first to go would be the Russians, because nobody wants them there. So, too late, the Arab States found 260 that the Russians would provide them with all the necessary weapons, short of winning the war. That is the reason why they are hated so much. One must remember also that Russian aims in the Middle East are not new. If Russia can ferment trouble in the Middle East so much the better for her cause.
What steps shall we take in future? Obviously there will be discussions about the boundaries that the State of Israel should have. Whenever I have spoken on this subject, I have always stressed that no lasting peace arrangement can be made until both parties sit down together. The only reason why the Arab States may fail to do that is that it means accepting the existence of the State of Israel. One must remember that, although the Israelis appear to be arrogant—I have criticised them many times for it—they have a deep and real fear that what the Arabs said in 1948 about driving them into the sea still holds. One can see how the children in the Arab schools on the Gaza Strip spent their time, drawing pictures of Israelis being driven into the sea by Arab bayonets. This is the background to the situation.
Israel will have to give up territory, but I do not think that there is any possibility of her giving up territory which is acting as a buffer unless she is given cast-iron assurances that she will not be subjected to invasion by the Arab States. Merely to say that there should be a buffer of part of Sinai is military nonsense without supervision of arms which may be moving into Sinai. It may be, if Israel is to give up a large part of Sinai, that it will not be sufficient just to have a United Nations force in Sinai, but it will be necessary to have observers along all parts of the Canal to ensure that a military build-up does not take place on the other side of the Canal. I should never advise an Israeli Government to accept anything less than that.
The Golan heights have been mentioned. Anyone who has been there will agree that it is military nonsense to say that the Israelis must go back to the frontiers which they held in 1967. There are Syrian guns trained on the kibbutzim in the valleys. I saw young people there of 16 and 18 who had never known what it was like to sleep in a bed above ground in the whole of their lives. They 261 slept in bunkers below ground because they did not know when they would be shelled.
Those are the realities of the situation. If I were an Israeli, I should feel as they do. The Arabs can lose one war after another and still come back, but the Israelis cannot afford to lose even one. It is for us, as members of the United Nations, to make sure that any proposal for withdrawal is not given with any wishy-washy assurances that the United Nations will take care that that will not happen. I believe that it can be done only by a cast-iron guarantee that, if either party moves, the United Nations will assist the other immediately.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurance Reed (Bolton, East)
The bulk of this debate has, for understandable reasons, been concerned primarily with the dangerous and difficult situation in the Middle East, but I wish to move to another part of the Gracious Speech, namely, that dealing with the Icelandic fisheries dispute, and also to say something about European security in general, with special reference to the position of Iceland.
During the Summer Recess I had the opportunity to visit Iceland as the guest of the Independence Party, the opposition party in Iceland. While I was there I met the Icelandic Prime Minister and other national leaders and talked with them about the fisheries dispute. The situation at the beginning of September when I arrived was much more agitated than I should have expected. Feelings and emotions against this country were running strongly. There were demands in some quarters for breaking relations with us immediately, for closing down the base at Keflavik and also for withdrawal from NATO.
Various people asked me what I felt about the breaking of diplomatic relations with Britain, and I said that I did not think it would serve the interests either of Britain or of Iceland, that if they wanted an early settlement it was important that the lines of communication should be kept open, and that a break would merely drive us further apart and make it more difficult for the British Government to make any modification in their own position, if, indeed, that was their intention.
262 I also reminded the people I met that we were talking only about an interim situation, that is to say, the situation between now and the opening of the Law of the Sea Conference, which is less than a year away. I said that, in my opinion, it was more than likely that at that conference a majority of nations would indicate their view that coastal States should have a fishery jurisdiction of at least 50 miles, and probably rather more.
When I returned to this country I wrote to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and gave him my views about the situation as I had seen it. I do not know whether he took any notice of what I said, although I am sure that my views would have been confirmed by our Ambassador in Iceland and also by Dr. Luns, the Secretary-General of NATO, who was there shortly after me. But I was pleased to note that shortly afterwards my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister took what I think was a bold and statesmanlike initiative in an attempt to get an interim settlement.
I very much hope that the Prime Minister of Iceland will be able to persuade his Cabinet colleagues to accept the arrangement that has been worked out, especially as it is an interim agreement and bearing in mind that there is a strong probability of a majority of the countries favouring wider fishery limits at the forthcoming conference.
The difficulty about obtaining an agreement now is that, because of the events which have occurred between Britain and Iceland during the past 15 months, to the Icelanders the fisheries dispute is no longer just a question of fish or fishing limits. For them it has become a question of their status and their position in the international area. The Icelandic Fisheries Minister has never disguised his belief that his country should return to its traditional policy of outright neutrality, free from all foreign entanglements. A large number of people, particularly younger people, whom I met in Iceland believe that the cold war is coming to an end and therefore support that view.
It may well be that, if the cold war is coming to an end, neutrality is a policy that Iceland could pursue with success and credibility. But if I were an Icelander I should like a little more evidence 263 of Soviet intentions and a little more evidence that the cold war is coming to an end. Neutrality is something of a luxury in the modern world. It has been enjoyed by various countries, but only on sufferance by the great Powers. If a country occupies an important strategic position, or is in an important geographical location in a political sense, it is far less likely that the great Powers will allow it to go in the direction it desires. My fear for Iceland is that, if it were to follow the advice of its Fisheries Minister, instead of enjoying peace and independence of neutrality, it would find itself a pawn in the hands of world politics.
It may be asked why I have this foreboding about a small island in the North Atlantic. After all, America and Russia have established this dialogue which has led to a considerable easing of tension, despite the immediate events of the past two weeks, and to an improvement in international relations between East and West. We had this opening to the East by the Germans. We are even now sitting down at the conference table talking about arms reductions.
It is more than 25 years since the Russians threw the Czechoslovak national leader out of his bedroom window, and it is 17 years since the Russian tanks smashed their way into the capital of Hungary. It is five years since the Soviet goose-step was heard upon the pavements of Prague. Therefore, it may be that we are moving into a more relaxed period and that we can look forward to a time when we can disband the massive armoury and machinery of war that we have created in the West for our own security.
Perhaps countries such as Iceland, Norway and others can think of pursuing a different policy in the international area. For my part, however, I should want a little more evidence than we now have. Why? I do not make much of the fact that the Russians still seem vigorously to be arming themselves. They are, after all, entitled to defend themselves from what they believe is a threat. Goodness knows, Russia has been attacked often enough from the West, and we should not forget that it was the Soviet Union, above all, which suffered in the last war.
264 If the Russians want a strong army and a strong air force for the defence of their country, that is fine. If they want a missile capability to put themselves on a parity with the United States and the West, that is fine. What disturbs me most, however, is the growing power and strength of the Soviet fleet. I find this much more difficult to interpret as defensive.
Russia is a land-based Power. She does not have vast overseas dominions to hold together, and she does not have a vast overseas trade to safeguard. But in the space of 12 to 15 years Russia has succeeded in building up a formidable naval power, second only to the United States of America, and in some areas of the world even rivalling America. Why? My only interpretation is that it is a fleet of intercession and as such presents one of the most formidable threats to the West that we have ever encountered. The West is a seaborne alliance.
Sir Hulton Halford MacKinder, who was a British geopolitician—a word now out of use, and I do not suppose that many will remember his theories—at the beginning of this century formulated a doctrine which said: "He who controls East Europe controls the Heartland, he who controls the Heartland controls the World—Island, and he who controls the World—Island controls the world."
Although I am sure that the West does not go in for geopolitical theorising today, the impression I have is that Soviet naval authorities have taken that doctrine very much to heart. Is it some kind of coincidence that such important diplomatic pressure from Russia is now being put upon those countries which guard the entrances and exits which the Soviet fleet must use to get in or out of the world's oceans—Greece and Turkey for the Dardanelles, Denmark and Norway for the Skagerrak, Northern Norway for North Cape? Why, when in Iceland, did I discover that for a population of 200,000 people the Russians have no fewer than 107 people in their Embassy? Why are they so interested in Iceland? And why when I was there was a whole batch of Soviet equipment discovered dumped in the sea?
This is why it was never in the interests of this country to press the fisheries dispute with Iceland so far that we ended up 265 by giving a carte blanche to the Soviet fleet through the Denmark Straits. Those entrances are absolutely critical in maritime strategy. I hope that the people of Iceland, before they think about a new stance in international affairs, will seek a little more evidence of Soviet good intentions.
I remember my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, in a foreign affairs debate, pointing an accusing finger at the Opposition for their attitude about Portugal and Greece and accusing them of being "careless of British security". I agree with him. Is Iceland any less important in safeguarding the flank of what he has described as a continent under threat? Therefore, as we sit down with the Russians to talk about arms reductions, let us remember that the animal selected as the national symbol of Russia is a bear, and bears do not kill their victims by hitting them over the head. They have a more friendly way of doing it. They hug them to death.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Orbach (Stockport, South)
Like many other speakers I had no intention of participating in this debate. The small attendance in the House has prompted me to speak. I have been interested in many of the speeches, some of which call for comment from those of us who have been interested in foreign affairs for a considerable period. I hope that nothing I say will be emotive and shock Members or in any way disturb them. I am pleased that today's debate has been sound, logical, and rational, so that I can proceed in the same manner.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) appealed for restraint and for avoidance of the sort of emotions that arose in 1967. He referred to the humiliation of the Arabs and the necessity of removing that humiliation. He said that now that they had established that they were fighting men they could sit at the same table with the victors and not as the defeated or vanquished. That is a very strange doctrine.
We fought a war from 1939 to 1945 when at times we faced defeat and there was great anguish amongst our people. But of all the people of the world who had the feeling that they would be the victors and conquer the world, the 266 Herrenvolk, the Germans, were the ones. Yet they accepted defeat. It was a great humiliation. All their pride had gone. The swastika did not rule over Europe but was defeated at Stalingrad and by the people of Britain. If it was possible for the Germans, who believed that their new republic would exist for a thousand years, to accept the humiliation of defeat and sit with others round the table, there is no reason why other people should not do so. The Koran does not say they should not. The Koran does not build up a false sense of pride.
I agree with my hon. Friend that perhaps on occasion there was an arrogance about the Israelis. But there is something I want the House to appreciate. I am Jewish, but I represent a constituency that has, I believe, fewer than six Jewish families and more than two dozen Moslem families. In 1967 when I represented a constituency with a Jewish electorate of about 40 per cent., Willesden, East, I was prepared from time to time to declare that I felt that there were serious things for which the Israelis were responsible that were improper and wrong. I did so in 1956. I had been to see President Nasser on a number of occasions and had made it clear that I thought the conspiracy created between France, Britain and Israel was wrong, improper and immoral and should not have existed. That may be the reason why I lost my constituency in 1959. For four or five years I was out in the wilderness.
I shall not defend the Israelis or the Arabs. I want to make it clear, as one who has visited every Arab country—I have been not only to Damascus and Cairo but through the desert to Fayoum and from Baghdad to Ba'akuba—that I know something of how the Arabs really live. I refer not to their leaders but to the Arabs. I know something of what they want. They want a better standard of living. They have a spiritual basis to their life, and with a better standard of living, with technological help, I am certain that that part of the world could become richer and could make a greater contribution than it has done up to now.
The baleful fact is that from 1948 onwards we have made no serious contribution to peace in the Middle East. I quoted the 1956 adventure. Then, having 267 burnt our fingers, at every stage we have endeavoured to placate either the Israelis or the Arabs, instead of trying to find a true middle way between them, though not the middle way the then Foreign Secretary found on the 1956 occasion.
There will be an opportunity that has not presented itself since, I believe, 1949 for the two parties to sit round the table, argue out their differences and arrive at a conclusion. But there are certain prerequisites to that. They should have the good will of other peoples. They do not have that today, because the Israelis are still condemned as the aggressors in this war by Russia, whose people are completely unaware of what has been happening, just as the Praesidium in Moscow was unaware what was happening after the third day of the war. It believed that the Egyptians had marched right through the Sinai Desert and that the Israelis had been pushed back from the Golan Heights.
At the same time the Americans, I believe, accept the fact that Israel can become for them another outpost of American society in much the same way as they had hoped would happen in South Vietnam. Both those positions are wrong, It is not for me, however, to criticise them and to argue about them. I want to argue about the British position.
The act of not condemning the aggression on 6th October was one thing. The act of open-handedness or even-handedness in not supplying ammunition and spare parts to the Israelis is another. But the matter goes much further back. For four or five years now there has been almost active support on the part of Governments for the Arab economic boycott of Israel, in spite of the fact that at that time Israel was buying more from Great Britain than all the Arab countries put together or than the Russians, whom we now court so assiduously. Each time I spoke to the Foreign Secretary or his aides on this subject, I received the answer that British manufacturers and traders had to accept what the Arab economic committees in the various cities of the Arab countries said. That is another illustration of the even-handedness of the British Government on this question.
We are now being blackmailed over oil. Two matters arise from this. One is that any blackmail, as my hon. Friend 268 the Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) said, leads to further blackmail. The second factor is that we have permitted, and perhaps acquiesced in the nationalisation of British oil interests in Arab countries, and divorced the North Sea oilfields from the British people by giving them mainly to private consortia. Many of those consortia are of a multinational character which can hold us to ransom when the present crisis is over.
§ Mr. Orbach
The Foreign Secretary shakes his head. He has shaken his head on many occasions, but he has made many mistakes, perhaps more than any other Foreign Secretary has ever made. The right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister are not prepared to tell the House the actual figure of the costs they will have to pay in additional revenues to the Arab States over the blackmail. Will it be £300 million? Will it be £400 million? Perhaps even £500 million more will have to be paid, mainly by British industry, so that we may acquiesce in the blackmail for which we were originally responsible.
This brings me to look at Holland for a moment. Holland illustrates a little something about our foreign policy that bedevils many hon. Members. We are, or should be, concerned not necessarily with the economic effects of the EEC but with the long-term political influence that Europe will be able to exercise as a result of this consortium, this closeness, this breaking down of barriers and tariffs. It has not happened.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
I should like to help my hon. Friend. North Sea oil concessions were handled by a senior civil servant and were a virtual give-away to international monopoly companies. For an area of 10 by 4 square miles the biggest tender was as low as £12,000, so it was no wonder that people rushed in with staggering force. When a Minister, who was later promoted, decided that that kind of system would not operate and put the next batch of oilfields out to open tender, the first tender opened, from Shell, was for no less than £33 million. That is the difference. The penalty in commercial diplomatic practice is not knowing exactly 269 what revenue will be gained from a project and having people not specialised in the field handling affairs.
§ Mr. Orbach
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He has buttressed the argument I was presenting concerning the Arabs, and the Government's acquiescing in private and other multi-nation interests in North Sea oil.
To return to the subject of the EEC and Holland, what is the position of Her Majesty's Government? Are we going to assist the Dutch in the difficulties with which they are presented purely as a result of a moral stance that they took? There was no question of any arms embargo to the Arabs by Holland or anybody else. Purely because they believed there was an argument for Israel—there might be an argument for the Arabs—they are being subjected to this stress which in the end is designed to hurt the whole of the EEC.
The right hon. Gentleman, as one who supports the European Economic Community, ought to be very concerned about this matter, because, in addition to all the friends that we have lost, we might very well lose Holland and see the disintegration of the EEC—which I shall not regret one whit.
I come back to the question of the humiliation, the emotion, and everything else. I listened to one speech last week which I thought was, if anything, an outrage. I hope I can carry my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield with me on this point. He regretted, as I do, that Will Griffiths was not with us. I was an old friend of his. My hon. Friend also regretted the division between Arabs and Israelis, Moslems and Jews. However, I regretted the reference by my hon. Friend the Member for Smeth-wick (Mr. Faulds)—I spoke to him about it afterwards—to the suggestion that every Jewish Member of this House was a fifth columnist. If we are fifth columnists, we ought to be told what we are working against and are trying to undermine. My undermining has been 56 years in the Labour Party. Both he and other hon. Members owe their membership of this House to the fact that dozens of us stood on street corners 50 years ago proclaiming what we believed to be the right course.
270 My hon. Friend said that the Israelis believe and accept only someone who comes out of a Jewish womb. For a Christian, that was an outrageous, blasphemous, shocking statement to make. I wish that he were here this afternoon so that I could tell him what I thought of that statement. I am sure that the House in general agrees with my view.
I have tried to make my position clear. I did not want to repeat anything said by other hon. Members. I believe that on this occasion the Israelis were right to defend themselves, and they did not come out of it too badly. The only ones who seem to have suffered are the Foreign Secretary and the Government that he has represented abroad.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeffrey Archer (Louth)
I welcome the Queen's Speech. Rather than reply to the hon. Member for Stockport, South (Mr. Orbach), I should like to reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Laurance Reed), who spoke on Iceland.
I accept that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, quite rightly, will not want a great deal of argument on this matter aired in the House. Equally, I hope that he will accept that, representing a constituency which lies next to Grimsby and which has within it so many trawler owners and workers, I should like to put something on record in this debate.
I was delighted, as I am sure was the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson), when the Prime Minister made his bold and imaginative move to make a settlement in Downing Street. We do not know the full details of that settlement, but we all hope that whatever comes out at the end of the day will be satisfactory to both sides.
It is all very well for my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East to say that the Icelandic people feel strongly about what is happening to them. The Icelandic people may break off diplomatic relations and have deep emotional feelings on this subject. However. I ask my hon. Friend to consider and accept that the same feelings run through the men of Grimsby and Hull and that they have as much right to have those feelings, because the fishing tradition in that area is just as great as in Iceland. It is a tradition to 271 which the Icelandic people cling, as do the people of Hull and Grimsby. Their families go back just as many generations, and there is equally as much deep feeling about the matter.
We in this country have in many ways this wonderful gift of allowing everybody to get the better of us because of our courtesy and history. But there are times when we must stand firm. I hope that the agreement that the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have arranged will be fair to both sides.
§ Mr. James Johnson
Does the hon. Gentleman accept, as I do, or as I believe, that we have made many concessions? Indeed, our people bend over backwards to help the nation and the Government. But there is a limit. We hope that the Prime Minister will stand firm on the package deal that he made with Mr. Johannesson, the Prime Minister of Iceland.
§ Mr. Archer
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. He has far more experience than I have in this area. But he will recall that the amount discussed, 185,000 tons, has imperceptibly crept down to 117,000 tons. This cannot go on. I emphasise the point that we seem to have this great gift for giving away a little more than is sometimes necessary.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East tied his speech together with the Soviet Union moving into Iceland. I should say, on his return to the Chamber, that I thought it an outstanding speech. I enjoyed every moment of it, though disagreeing totally with the first half and agreeing with the second half. I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will read it tomorrow. My hon. Friend argued the point well both academically and politically. However, I do not think that British foreign policy can be based entirely on what the Russians might do if we make certain moves. I agree that we cannot underestimate the Russian position. They may put up poses, but we must not necessarily fall for them. In view of what happened in Czechoslovakia only five years ago, in Hungary 17 years ago, and the many other things that have taken place in between, I have no doubt that the bear will leap again if necessary.
The tragic thing when one visits these countries is, strangely, not the Czecho- 272 slovakias and the Hungaries, but the aftermath of the Czechoslovakias and the Hungaries. It is sad, particularly when one is young and has enthusiasm and energy, to see people in those countries who are not allowed to use their enthusiasm and energy.
I should like to relate a personal experience. It is only one's experience that brings this point home. I have never mentioned this matter before in the House, so I hope that hon. Members will bear with me. I had the great privilege to run in Hungary. In the National Stadium I sat next to an elderly gentleman who spoke very good English. I asked him whether he had been to my country. He spoke with great knowledge, and I assumed that he had. He was the English Professor at the University of Hungary. He described to me my own county of Somerset with a knowledge that an English professor in England would have been proud to possess. He described the Cotswolds and the Pennines. He described moving up north through Cumberland. He described Yorkshire and Lancashire. He described going into the Highlands and the Lowlands of Scotland. He described this country beautifully. Yet he had never visited it.
§ Mr. Archer
The hon. Gentleman glibly says "Go to a travel office", but the description that that gentleman gave was one of love, not one gained from travel offices. But, despite the fact that he had been a professor of English for 47 years, he would never be allowed to visit England. An experience like that makes one fear more the power of the Russian system, and that is what we must always keep at the forefront of our minds. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East on that subject.
I must confess privately—and the Foreign Secretary will be displeased a second time, because he did not want anything said about Iceland—that the decision by the Americans last week about a grade 3 alert did not exactly endear me to the foreign policy of the United States. It is sad that a country which is thought to be our closest friend could not inform us. The Foreign Secretary may not feel that it is possible to inform us of the facts, but I think 273 we should expect those people who have bases in our country, and who describe themselves as our friends, to keep us well informed of their intentions. I thought it did no good to the relationships between our two great countries. I want to see those relationships grow in strength and in confidence, but confidence, as in any family, always involves telling the other side the truth.
I do not want to join the speeches on the Israeli-Arab problem. We have so many experts on that subject in this House that I have nothing to add. I, being neither a Jew nor a Gentile but coming from Somerset, find these problems a little too much for country people. But I must say to the Foreign Secretary that I hope that the one point which has been grasped by Her Majesty's Government, and which we must wake up about, is the fact that if problems such as this occur again we have to be prepared for the fuel problem. That is not a problem which will be sorted out in a month's time, when a decision has been reached about the boundaries and when we are convinced that the war is over.
It is a vast problem. I praise the United States for its decision to invest 500 million dollars in research into the energy crisis. I hope that our Government will also invest large sums in research into the energy crisis in this country and will work out our future, because I am not talking about what will happen in 50 years' time. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East knows more about this subject than I do, but everybody agrees that there could be a major problem within a decade. It is not enough to say that North Sea oil will solve the problem. Although it will help, it will not necessarily solve the problem.
I should like to refer to what is said in the Queen's Speech about Europe. Here I turn to the right hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts), who knows that I voted with him twice after he had spoken at the Dispatch Box, so I hope that he will not criticise me for what I want to say. Many of us younger members, who feel sincerely about Europe, desperately want it to be a success. We desperately want our nation in Europe to be a strong part of a strong group with world leadership, 274 but we are not helped by the present attitude of the Labour Party. We would like to see the Labour Party strongly behind Europe, but there are still great divisions within that party. Whoever wins the next General Election—and do not let us have prophetic statements about who will win, because nobody knows what will happen in a year's time—I hope that the Labour Party will put itself 100 per cent. behind making Europe work, because it is not possible for the governing party to make Europe work only with the backing of its supporters in the House of Commons. I hope that the Labour Party will send people to Europe, and will give it the strength it needs to make our chances far greater.
I want to make a final point to the hon. Member for Stockport, South, who has left the Chamber. I was sorry that he attacked the Foreign Secretary and said what he did about him. I have never yet made a psycophantic statement in this House, but he has tempted me to do so. Having voted against the Government in this Parliament seven times, and having abstained on 32 occasions, I can hardly be accused of desiring to be a new junior Whip. But I would say without any hesitation, as a young man in this House, that when many of us have grown older and the Foreign Secretary has retired we shall look back on him as one of the greatest Foreign Secretaries this country has had, and shall say with pride "We were in the House of the Commons with him."
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)
Would you believe, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I too had no intention of making a speech when I came into this Chamber? I think it is right that the main theme of this debate has been the tragic events in the Middle East, but it is not because I am not a Jew or a Gentile or from Somerset that I do not wish to go along that avenue. I have been prompted to speak as a result of a contribution by one of my hon. Friends, the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson), about the problems of Hong Kong. There were one or two omissions from his eloquent speech which I think he will want put right. He was absolutely right to draw the attention of this House to many 275 of the very deep-seated problems in Hong Kong and to the deep resentment over the recent Godber case felt by the people of that colony, many of whom feel that there has been a lack of action on the part of the Government here. After meeting the Foreign Secretary I am convinced that he is looking closely at the Fugitive Offenders Act, and I do not wish to minimise his problems in trying to make that Act tighter and more relevant.
If, however, the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Laurance Reed) feels that anti-British feeling has been running high in Iceland I can assure him that in Hong Kong also he will find a great deal of anti-British feeling. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West was right to stress the need for elected representatives in the Legislative Assembly. He stressed that point, and it ought to be stressed over and over again in this House because action is long overdue. Perhaps he should have gone further—I am glad to see that he has come back into the Chamber—and spoken about the real need for genuine trade unionism in the colony, because I believe that International Labour Organisation conventions are being ignored daily across the board within industry in this British colony. There is its child labour problem, there are low safety standards and there are tremendous accident rates, all of which we should not tolerate.
§ Mr. James Johnson
During my absence my hon. Friend has obviously been referring to what I said. Since I was out there four or five years ago, there have been big changes for the textile workers and Jack Greenhalgh from Bolton and Ernest Thornton, who was the former Member for Farnworth, have helped in doing a lot in this field. But may I ask whether my hon. Friend has been supporting my point about cleaning up the police? I hope he has done so, because I know that he has been there and I value his support.
§ Mr. Pendry
I can assure my hon. Friend that I have been saying nothing to his detriment during his absence. On this aspect of labour legislation I was saying that I felt it was the most important of all areas, and I hope that the 276 Government will encourage the Trades Union Congress and perhaps the CBI to send delegations to Hong Kong to ensure that some major breakthroughs are made. Nineteenth-century capitalism is rampant in Hong Kong, and all the problems which flowed from that kind of capitalism in this country still exist there today. I hope that something positive will be done and that the Foreign Secretary has taken note of this point.
My quarrel with my hon. Friend—I am glad he is present—is that he did not speak about the optimistic side of Hong Kong. Since I lived there in the 1950s great strides have been made. There are immense problems in Hong Kong. It is a unique part of the world. It has gigantic problems. Neverthless I am convinced that under the new Governor, Sir Murray Maclehose, there is great optimism in the colony now. Therefore, it is in that setting that we have to grasp the opportunity. In Hong Kong we cannot have a revolutionary situation. One has to inch one's way forward if one is to make the progress that is necessary, but inch forward one must.
My hon. Friend might also have mentioned the district officer schemes which exist in Hong Kong—a sort of halfway house between the people and the Government—which are working very effectively, manned by some very efficient young people.
There are many things that can be said on the credit side, but this is no substitute for democratically-elected representatives. I hope that note will be taken of this, because a start must be made now in introducing democratically elected representation into the Legco Assembly.
We should also take this opportunity of congratulating the Foreign Secretary on having taken note of the feelings about corruption in Hong Kong and in setting up the independent anti-corruption organisation headed by a first-class administrator, Mr. Jack Cater, who carries the colony with him. I hope that as a result of this popular and very necessary move a new mood will prevail in Hong Kong on this very touchy problem of corruption.
May I conclude with the earnest hope that we in this House will not have to wait for Godber crises or a crisis of sterling balances in order to bring Hong Kong to the centre of the stage. The 277 people of Hong Kong need our expertise and our guidance. The House must recognise that there is a different mood in Hong Kong now. The second generation Chinese refugees are not, as their parents were, content to live with only a roof over their heads, however inadequate. I believe that they are asking searching questions. They are asking about this place. They are asking for a real say in the running of the colony. We must ensure that they have their say and that they plan an effective rôle in the new Hong Kong. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will give us an encouraging reply tonight.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
The House will, I am sure, be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) for referring to an area of policy for which Her Majesty's Government have direct responsibility and in which they have some hope of influence. I will simply comment on what he has said by saying that last week I received a telephone call from a friend in Hong Kong who was greatly agitated about the matters to which my hon. Friend referred and which underlined the points he made so eloquently. I hope that it will be possible in the course of the winding-up speech for some reference to be made to the difficult situation which has followed the Godber case.
The whole of this debate has been understandably dominated by the Middle East war and it is right to concentrate my remarks primarily on that subject. The war has greatly changed the appreciation by this country of its own rôle in the international sphere. Perhaps since Suez it has never been brought home so forcibly to us how diminished our rôle is and can be in this situation. I suggest that we are in an interim stage of our development in that we are no longer a Power capable of intervening on our own in a situation of this kind. Nor are we a Power which is even required to be consulted by the major protagonists about its views, nor even informed by our most important ally about her responses to the situation until those responses have been made.
This is, I believe, for some people a somewhat humiliating discovery, but it 278 seems to me that it is only a discovery of what ought to have been fairly clear for a number of years. Therefore, I take a somewhat relaxed view of the fact that the United States Government did not choose to inform us until afterwards of their alert, and I regard it at least in part as the consequence of the internal happenings in the United States that they chose not to inform us.
I think the war has not only changed our view of our own rôle—I think that the Foreign Secretary has in his actions so far reflected an understanding of the limitations of our power in this sphere—but it has also changed the attitude of the protagonists themselves in an important respect, so that, notwithstanding the great tragedy of the fighting and of the great losses that have been suffered, it may be possible to look at the situation which has developed and detect an element of diplomatic flexibility following the conflict, which has been sadly missing since the last outbreak of fighting in the war of June 1967.
The Secretary of State today referred, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South-East (Mr. Callaghan), to what he saw as some of the ingredients for a settlement. It is correct to emphasise again that Resolution 242 still provides the basis from which movement must be made. Among the new elements in the situation following the fighting is the recognition on the part of at least some of the leaders in the Arab world that there must be direct negotiations between the two protagonists if a settlement is to be achieved. I hope that there is some recognition on the part of the Israeli Government that the predicament of the Palestinians cannot be excluded from discussion of a peaceful settlement.
It must be recognised, and it has been implicit in some of the reactions of the Israeli Government, that the military strength of the Arabs is at least sufficient to inflict immense damage on the country and that it cannot rely entirely upon its own military force to provide security. It must be recognised that the security of Israel depends to a much greater degree than it did in the past on being prepared to accept international guarantees, the presence of international forces guaranteeing its frontiers and also demilitarised zones.
279 Further, there has been a changed recognition that the long-term security of Israel must depend upon political accommodations which cannot be reached while Israel remains in occupation of what is admittedly Arab territory. While these recognitions are implicit in the attitudes of the Israeli Government, there must now—and I think it is clear from what President Sadat has said—be some recognition that Israel's independence is not negotiable. All these developments of thinking present us with reason for optimism that we are in a state of fluidity which may lead to a settlement more permanent than we have known during the period of military stalemate.
The continuing conflict between Israel and the Arab world means that their preoccupation has diverted them inevitably and necessarily from the utilisation of their resources to bring about the development of their countries. For the Arab world that is an appalling tragedy. It seems that oil, the greatest resource of the Arab countries, gives them the prospects of development, but only for a few decades. Their time for development is now, and development cannot be postponed indefinitely. If they are to utilise their resources to pull themselves up by their own boot straps, the devotion of their entire effort into the war, however understandable it may be, is unutterably regrettable.
Her Majesty's Government's relative impotence in the situation reflects the realities of our power situation, but it must not conceal the basic correctness of the Government's assessment of the techniques for advance towards a more permanent solution. It is probably right that they enjoy a fairly bipartisan measure of support for the postures which they have taken.
We have all too few opportunities of considering foreign matters in the House. The few opportunities which exist must be seized. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East spoke about the part of the Gracious Speech relating to the development of the European Community. I must regret that so far we have not had a greater explanation of the passage in the Gracious Speech which refers toco-operation in foreign policy between Member States".280 We are all aware that there is considerable diplomatic effort being made and that there is considerable discussion taking place between the Foreign Ministers of the Member States. The Davignon Committee is meeting regularly. We are as yet, as is the outside world, largely unaware of the achievements of the discussions and the positive benefits which have been reaped from the co-operation which, we are assured, is being strengthened. It would be helpful to know a little more about that.
We have been told on many occasions that there are areas which are not being considered by the Foreign Ministers. We are told, for example that Rhodesian sanctions are not suitable for European consideration. We are assured that consultation is taking place about the Middle East, but Europe's posture is not clear. There is a major difference of emphasis between Britain and, for example, Holland about the supply of arms. It would be helpful if we could have a little more information about how such developments are progressing and about co-operation in foreign policy.
Europe will not be taken as a serious weight in world affairs until it is not only seen to be co-operating but is heard to be speaking with a clear voice. The mere fact that Ministers get together regularly will not be sufficient. It is for that reason that I reflect that we are in an interim stage. Our power has so diminished that we cannot on our own influence the outcome of such a confrontation as has occurred in the Middle East. Nor are we yet through the collective activities of our new-found partners in Europe, in a position to do so. It would be interesting to hear how these developments are progressing.
There is a radical reference in the Gracious Speech to Southern Africa. It would be interesting to know in what manner and by what method the Government are seeking to implement the principle of peaceful change in Southern Africa. Does that mean anything at all? It is a rather novel reference in a Gracious Speech from Her Majesty's Government. Does it amount to a departure in any respect from policy which has been pursued in the past? It is an interesting inclusion in the Speech. Does it imply some criticism of Governments in Southern Africa? Does it imply a less 281 close association with the Portuguese, whom we have so recently been hosting? Why is it there at all? Does it signify any positive posture in relation to the southern continent?
I think that the only thing to be said on Rhodesia is that, following what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South-East, we must wait for the forthcoming debate on sanctions.
I should like to take the opportunity to say a few words about the current dispute with the Government of Iceland on fisheries. It is the general view of Her Majesty's Government that the approach of the Icelandic Government to this dispute is that this has involved infractions of international law, and as a view this clearly is supportable. Nevertheless, there is a thread of sympathy in this country for the Icelandic position of which the Government must be aware. That sympathy exists for a country which is so heavily dependent, as Iceland undoubtedly is, on the resources of the seas around it.
I merely give voice to this matter since I represent a part of the country which, because of its own location, has a peculiar understanding of the dependence of the Icelanders on the resources of the sea. Plainly this issue will not be finally settled until the Law of the Sea Conference has met, and Her Majesty's Government's attitude to that conference is of great importance. The interim arrangements which have been proposed and taken back by the Prime Minister of Iceland must command our support as measures capable of providing at least a halt in the escalation of the dispute.
Finally I wish to say something about our relations with the United States. Although we recognise that the realities of the power situation dictated last week's events, we cannot look at those events without some degree of regret. It is true that the United States administration is greatly pressed as this time both internally and externally. Therefore, as allies of the United States we must extend to them a degree of understanding. But equally they must understand that our interests are not necessarily their interests. They must understand that we do not have an identity of view and they must not be offended if we say that our 282 interests are to be seen in a somewhat different light.
The fact that the United States Government respond to our independent pursuit of our own interests in a rather unfortunate unilateral way will not meet with complete understanding in this country. It is right that we should attach the highest importance to restoring our relationship with the United States in as close and amicable a way as we can. One must hope that this episode will be regarded as only transitory and will not be taken as in the nature of a change in the fundamental relationship between this country and the United States, which obviously is very close.
In regard to our relationship with the Soviet Union, we would all wish to express our satisfaction at the fact that the Foreign Secretary is to go to Moscow. We hope that this will presage a thaw in the relationship between our two countries which has been somewhat chilly since the episode involving the Soviet spies. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, by his efforts in the Soviet Union, will give some political weight to the developments which are taking place at various conferences at present and upon which the hopes of our country and of our allies for détente in Europe depend.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
On this occasion we are not discussing foreign affairs in a full-dress debate, but are merely discussing the part of the Gracious Speech which refers to foreign affairs and the sort of foreign policy which this country will conduct during the coming year. On the successful pursuit of this policy will depend our economic, diplomatic and other policies. It is somewhat ironic that in foreign affairs we go round and round, sometimes changing the jockeys and on other occasions the animals, for here we are once again facing the same sort of considerations as we have always faced but against a new background.
Coming events, especially in international politics, cast their shadows before them. In foreign policy, shadows are warning signals. Although the Foreign Office may be cognisant of how those shadows will lengthen or shorten, such is the complexity of world politics 283 that we may not be able to do very much about the situation. But there are certain signposts which we shall ignore at our peril in future foreign policy.
Some of us well remember the outcome of the war and the Casablanca, Yalta and Potsdam conferences. We remember what was held out in those conferences in terms of the hope for a new world order of authority. It is too much to hope for a new world order of democracy. There were conferences at which positions were stated and re-stated and where decisions were accepted under international protocol, but they were decisions which subsequently were ruthlessly ignored chiefly by the Soviet Union, which is not subject to the political pressures of democratic societies.
What were some of these milestones? One was the projected Berlin peace conference, a conference which has never taken place. Another milestone involved free elections in the whole of Germany—elections which have never taken place. Yet another milestone was the recognition of the former Balkan and free European States and Governments, a recognition which again has never taken place. These matters have now gone for ever. Can we now rectify the situation? Because of the power blocs it is not possible to change things by diplomatic means, economic sanctions or force of arms. The situation is static. We remember the building of the Berlin Wall, and all that followed it. We remember the imposition of bread rationing in this country, imposed by a Labour Government in 1948, so that the German people could remain alive.
The concerted policies of the various countries of Western Europe have resulted in the situation as we know it today. In this respect the French have been more guilty than any other nation. I had the good fortune last week to be present at a meeting in Paris at which M. Couve de Murville was in the chair. I had waited a long time to meet this man.
Bearing in mind the history of France up to and since the time of De Gaulle, I am astonished that there was no positive French thinking on foreign policy. For a nation such as France, which depended chiefly on American and British forces 284 for its liberation, deliberately to contract out of its obligation to NATO, leaving a policy vacuum, was pitiful. There is still a pitiful lack of concerted diplomatic moves in Europe.
There was also the fiasco of 1956. The French, through their lack of will, or lack of character, have been unable to deal with difficulties which their long diplomatic history should have enabled them to provide for long before issues took control of events.
There are certain milestones in history. Dien Bien Phu was one, when French diplomatic or military will to survive was non-existent. There was also the Suez fiasco. Then there was Cuba, when we saw the imposition of American will and power. Many of us thought that it ws due to the young magnetic President of the United States and his complete grasp of the policy issues involved. We now know differently, for it appears that the advice of the former American Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, was behind what happened. The American stand succeeded, and the Russians went home. If the Berlin wall had been knocked down then, it would never have been rebuilt. British Cabinet Ministers dithered, but one wanted to knock it down. I am told that it was Bevan. That would have been a destructive action for a constructive purpose.
Then there was the wind of change in Africa, and all that it led to. We have had monumental debates here in the past 20 years about the establishment of democratic black African States, but from the Sahara to the Cape there is not a single democratic State now. How much verbiage has been uttered? How many tears of anguish have been shed?
Economic events and slow development pose their problems. One of the biggest mistakes of American foreign policy was the failure to build the Aswan dam. That was a colossal mistake by John Foster Dulles. Great Britain would have been involved to the extent of only £100 million, which we could have afforded. The Soviet Union filled the vacuum, with the results that we have seen.
I said in 1967, and nothing has made me change my mind, that Israel has a right to secure boundaries and recognition. She is a properly constituted nation 285 with embassies in every country of the world, and is a member of the United Nations. She has a right to borders that are recognised and guaranteed. I said then that it was not beyond the power of Jewish finance to give substantial economic aid to deal with the problems of what was Palestine.
The Soviet Union is now in the Mediterranean with a fleet as big as the American Sixth Fleet, if not bigger. It is not possible to remove Soviet influence in the Mediterranean and Middle East by physical means.
We are affected economically and politically by the present situation. Nations that are producers of a single commodity, whether oil or fish, can exercise political and economic power in times of stress, and will do so. That is what is happening.
We are contemplating rationing of oil supplies, though not for the reason given by the Press. The simple reason is that we must use less to save £400 million across the exchanges. The oil-based economy, under any Government, can totter on such issues. Economic policy cannot be divorced from correct foreign policy decisions, especially with our large population, our overstrained resources, and our floating pound, which seems to be floating downwards. It is no comfort to me that other nations are suffering from inflation. They are richer in basic commodities, and most of them feed themselves.
There is not much time. This is why when visiting French nuclear installations at Saclay and Cadarache in the South of France one understands French foreign policy. They will find and raise any amount of cash for these projects. Cadarache consists of a staggering 16 square miles of nuclear buildings.
French nuclear development is not as advanced as that of the United States or, for that matter, ourselves. The French do not pursue a concerted policy on these matters either in the United Nations or elsewhere. Therefore, what could we do? Could we persuade the French, who were formerly present in the Middle East as a colonial Power, to adopt a positive permanent policy of recognition of Israel's borders? Could we extend that through a wider diplomatic initiative to get rid of the Palestine problem? Or 286 do the French want to contract out of that as they have contracted out of everything else?
I can say these things which the Government cannot. I said them last week to Couve de Murville. Time is short. We have seen the position of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Aneurin Bevan, then Minister of Labour, said in 1951, in one of his finest speeches from the Dispatch Box, that Communism had not, and would not, make inroads into any Western society which had an engineering base. But he was wrong. The Communists did not make inroads into Czechoslovakia; they took the country over and imposed their will. The inaction of the United Nations was such that nothing positive could be done.
It may be that within 12 months my right hon. Friends will have to take charge of foreign affairs and foreign policy. The problems will remain substantially the same.
I do not criticise the Foreign Secretary for the way the Middle East issue was handled. All I ask is that our foreign policy, backed by the advice of the permanent officials who must take a more global view of these matters because of their ambassadorial contacts and their relations with countries where we have active missions, should be attuned to take an objective look at the warning shadows which are cast before us, as I explained at the beginning of my speech. They may diminish, but I hope that, whatever happens, the problems they represent will remain within the scope of any incoming Government.
This is not a full-scale foreign affairs debate. I have been pressed into making a speech tonight because we are short of speakers. That is not a pleasant spectacle on a discussion of foreign affairs, upon which our national position rests. I get no joy from speaking to an empty House.
If my party wins the next General Election I believe we could go on to make this country a little more secure and more independent economically and try to guarantee a future for our people.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
I hesitate to intervene in the debate because we have only a short time before our Front Bench speakers are to rise. I 287 should like to make a plea. The other night I voted with the Government in favour of their policy on arms. I did so because I strongly believe that one side of the Middle East dispute is too seldom enunciated in this country. I suspect that if we were to put ourselves more often into the position, into the skins and into the spirit of the people involved in the dispute, while it would not solve the difficulty, it might take some heat out of the situation.
The heat that was generated on both sides of this House, mainly in favour of one side, was remarkable. Since the time when Ernest Bevin was Foreign Secretary I have taken the view that we should at that time have looked more carefully at what was happening. We certainly cannot turn the tide back now to restore the situation which then existed, but it is as well to bear in mind the circumstances which existed then and which led to the present situation.
I well understand the Jewish position. We have a strong inhibition to mentioning the word "Jew" in case we are regarded as anti-Semitic; it is a feeling of shame about the treatment of the Jews. We are almost all dumb when it comes to this question. I begin to get a glimmer of what Jewish people must have felt and still feel, of their tremendous shame at how vast numbers of their people went like lambs to the slaughter. Were I Jewish, I should feel shame and humiliation that my people, almost without resistance, had gone to the slaughter.
Having obtained a foothold in a country that they can call their own, they have gone on to build up military power. I understand their feeling—"We can fight with the best of them". Here is part of the explanation—the tremendous Israeli military power and zest for so small a country has what might be a psychological explanation. I readily sympathise with and understand that.
But on the other side there are the Arabs, an ancient people. Egypt was a civilisation when we in Britain were virtually in our caves. Here are a highly developed civilised people, the Egyptians and the other Middle East people—the very cradle of civilisation.
Grafted on to that ancient civilisation there is a modern, highly technologically 288 developed society. This society begins to act in a way that people less technically advanced would find unacceptable. I use the word "technically" advisedly, because those ancient people are certainly advanced in the arts of civilisation. The highly technologically developed society is acting successfully in a military way that results in tremendous humiliation for the Arabs, and especially the Egyptian people.
It is pointed out that the Jewish people have suffered. The Jewish people did not suffer at the hands of the Arabs. They did not suffer at the hands of the Palestinians. Their country is based in the Middle East. I believe we should be a little more frank in the House, making it clear that we understand the position of the Arabs, and in many cases we should take a stand which could be seen as pro-Arab. I hope I can say that without being anti-Israel. Nevertheless, by taking that stand in the past we might have helped to prevent the present situation arising.
I remember the events of 1967. I was sitting on the benches opposite when the information came of the 1967 war. I rose then and ventured to say to my right hon. Friend Lord George-Brown that I hoped it would be possible for us to act in a way which would bear in mind what a nation could be like which has suffered such humiliation. One of my right hon. Friends nearly came over the bench in his rage at my timid intervention.
We can develop strong nationalistic feelings in matters of this kind, and I feel that we in the House ought not to be so personally involved, to voice such strong feelings—this often troubles me—as if it were the Arab who had caused the trouble, as if it were the Palestinian who had treated the Jewish people in this way through the ages. We can lose nothing by a clear and repeated enunciation that while it is not our desire to return to the 1948 situation—there can be no returning in that sense—nevertheless we recognise that the Palestinian, the Arab, the Egyptian and the Syrian have been getting a very raw deal.
I say frankly, and without animosity towards either side, that I had hoped that the Arab, the Egyptian and the Syrian—the Arab, taking the generic term—would have recovered his self-respect. It is 289 important for a nation and its people to feel that they have "spunk" and courage and are not going to be pushed around. I had hoped that the Arab would have recovered his self-respect and that the Jew might have had a little of his arrogance—I use the word advisedly—his cock-sureness reduced, so that on his side there would be a lessening of the feeling that although his nation was small its larger neighbour could easily be dealt with. I should, as 1 say, hope to see a lessening of that feeling of cocksureness—a good word to use in this connection—and a little more uncertainty about the future, with recognition that he who lives by the sword shall perish eventually by the sword. I feel that what is needed, on the one side is a recognition of that position, and on the other side a feeling that much has been done to eliminate the shame suffered in 1967.
On that basis, my hope was that a situation could have been established in that area leading to a genuine settlement of the dispute.
If there emerge an Egyptian people and a Syrian people suffering from a deep sense of defeat and betrayal, we shall be repeating the conditions that have existed until now. The area is of great importance to Britain and Europe. It is of greater importance for Europe than it is for the United States for we have a greater involvement in the area.
If some people in the United States are expressing resentment about Europe's failure to respond, it is because there is a failure to understand where the real interests lie. It is of major interest to Britain and Western Europe not to antagonise the Arab people, not to drive the Arab people into the arms of the Soviet Union. It is not just a question of oil, for we derive much of our civilisation from this area.
I repeat that Israel should be taken as established, though not with the existing boundaries. But Israel could do immense damage to Western Europe if, through its refusal to recognise the just claims of the Arab people, it caused a continuation of the present situation.
All people who have encountered circumstances such as these find it a matter of pride or a matter of shame. For example—the Foreign Secretary, I am 290 sure, would bear me out in this respect—early in Scottish history one of our patron heroes was William Wallace—not so much Robert the Bruce, for he was too much of an aristocrat. It is still part of our make-up that Scotland was never subdued, never conquered. That is why Scottish nationalism is so different from Irish nationalism and so different from Welsh nationalism in many respects. Scotland was never conquered by the English, and, in any case, Scotland took England over. In that sense it is a very different matter. But when feeling in a nation goes on boiling for generations, as witness Ireland—the feeling of having been defeated, conquered, held down, and of being shamed—there is no remedy until that feeling can be overcome.
I do not pretend to be an expert, but that seems to be the kind of situation we are dealing with in the Middle East. The Jewish people have a feeling of great pride in what they have achieved with small manpower, but they can take their pride too far. My plea is that they tone down their pride considerably and recognise the other fellow's case and realise that, if they have suffered at the hands of many people over many generations, it has not been at the hands of the Palestinians or of the Arabs. They should not make the Arabs and the Palestinians suffer for the suffering of the Jewish people in the past. They should recognise the other fellow's point of view, and on the basis of that recognition perhaps some kind of lasting settlement in that area will be reached.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Coronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
My hon. Friend the Member for Mother-well (Mr. Lawson), in a very thoughtful speech, categorised various nationalisms in the United Kingdom. He tempts me to follow him along that very seductive line of thought. He was not quite sure where to place the Welsh. My compatriots would probably reply that we have always been outnumbered but never out-manoeuvred. It may be that what my hon. Friend had to say, in the right sort of spirit, about nationalism could be translated from the United Kingdom to other parts of the world and certainly to the Middle East. A sense of perspective and certainly a sense of humour are badly needed in dealing with the racial and other differences among the human race.
291 My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), in an excellent speech, referred to the fact that this debate provides a welcome contrast to the last occasion when we discussed the Middle East in that today there is an absence of high tension and recrimination. Consequently I think that every speech—I believe that I have heard part of each speech—has provided food for constructive thought. The fact that we have not had a crowded House or a strident debate does not detract from the value of our discussion of one of the most dangerous situations that have come before us.
Although the House has rightly concerned itself with the crisis in the Middle East, a number of other questions have been raised, to which I shall now refer. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) reminded us that the accession of this country to the Convention on Human Rights, which enables individuals to appeal against Governments, must be renewed before 1st January. He pressed for an assurance that this would be done, and I hope that the Minister will give that assurance.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) raised the question of our relations which Chile. The Government proceeded with indecent haste to recognise a Fascist military dictatorship which deposed by force a democratic Government. In our view, no credit or guarantees of aid should be extended to the Fascist junta now in control of Chile which were refused to the democratic Government that it deposed.
The Minister will, perhaps, have something to say about the pointed question which my hon. Friend put about the Marseilles affair, in which it seems that the British Consulate was involved in a somewhat dubious way. We should be relieved to learn from the Minister that the facts as we have heard them were not as he had to report them to the House. Also, there is the curious affair of the four Leyland vehicles. Was this offer to the Chilean Fascist Government made with the connivance and encouragement of the Government? We should like to know from the Minister exactly how the Government stood in relation to this 292 curious and most unattractive gesture to that totalitarian Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) and the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Laurence Reed) both referred to the unhappy dispute which we have had with the friendly and congenial country of Iceland. Both expressed the prevailing sentiment in the House, and indeed in the country, namely, a true understanding of and sympathy for the feelings and interests of the Icelanders, and a readiness to be generous to the point of some sacrifice, as my hon. Friend put it, in order to help the Icelanders.
The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Jeffrey Archer) quite properly put the point that his constituents and others were not uncritical of the generosity of the terms offered to Iceland, and I cannot myself find it necessary to say that he should not have said that. I feel that myself. I should like it to go from both sides of the House to our friends in Iceland that we in this country feel that we have made a generous offer which we hope the Government of Iceland will accept pending a proper settlement of this and similar disputes in the proper manner in the Conference on the Law of the Sea, which cannot now be long delayed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West and my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) also expressed grave concern, which other Members feel, about the dangers to democracy and honest and effective administration in Hong Kong. I have submitted to the Under-Secretary of State evidence which was sent to me and which closely accorded with the points made by my two hon. Friends. There is increasing concern for this colony, which in many ways has a unique constitutional status, and for the good government for which this country has a special duty, lest matters should finally get out of hand in what is a somewhat explosive part of the world. If it is possible tonight, we should like to hear from the Minister of State some reassurance about this important matter.
No one in the House could quarrel with the reference in the Gracious Speech to the Government's intentionto continue to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.293 But we are bound to ask how effectively the Government can do this when the handling of the situation in the Middle East during this "dangerous month", as the Prime Minister called it yesterday, has been what it has been. I entirely agree with what the Foreign Secretary said 10 days ago about the extrordinary difficulty and danger of this matter. It is probably more difficult to know what is right to do in the latest situation in this area than in almost any other context. We must express serious criticism of the somewhat clumsy evenhandedness with which the Government dealt with the situation, with results which are clear to us all.
A number of disturbing conclusions must be drawn from the events of the past few weeks. Our potential as a contributor to the framing of a settlement in the Middle East and to its implementation has been seriously impaired. Like my right hon. Friend, I hope that this is a temporary position. This country has great resources of expertise in inducing co-operation and in organising international movements. It would be a thousand pities if in due course we were not able to play our full part in the negotiations and in the implementation of what is decided.
In 1967 our position was of major importance in securing a cease-fire, and even more in drafting Resolution 242 and securing its general acceptance as the only possible basis for a just and durable settlement. Moreover, the British initiative in the United Nations on the subject of peacemaking and peacekeeping was recognised and respected as of unique importance. I pay tribute to our own Foreign Office, which over many years has worked hard to perfect practical plans for the implementation of peacemaking and peacekeeping on the ground. I do not think that there is any member country of the United Nations which, through its own experts in New York, has made a bigger and more practical contribution in this vital matter. For this reason, if not for any other, it would be intolerable that there should not be a British presence at some stage in the operation of a peacekeeping move in the Middle East.
What is the position today? To many of us it would seem that Britain is less influential and less acceptable, at least in the temporary term, as a mediator, 294 indeed as a participator, in the settlement of the Middle East. Those who heard Mr. Eban on television on Monday listened not only to a denunciation of our actions during the past few week, which is understandable, but also to something which was almost a strong rejection of any rôle for Britain in the negotiations for peace and its maintenance. I profoundly hope that this mood, which perhaps understandably has obtained in Israel these last few days, will not be maintained, that wiser and more far-reaching counsels will prevail and that Israel, like the Arabs, will welcome the participation of Britain in the implementation and maintenance of a just solution.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I shall not quarrel with what the right hon. Gentleman is saying, but the Israeli position has been consistent since 1967. It does not want our participation in an international force.
§ Mr. Roberts
The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right. If he had listened to that television broadcast, I think he would have agreed with the many of us who were disturbed by the vehemence of the Israeli Foreign Secretary's statements. He is no extremist, and for that reason I and others felt that what he had to say, although understandable, nevertheless caused concern.
I have no doubt that every effort will be made to restore the only possible position between this country and a social democracy like Israel, namely, one of renewed co-operation and understanding.
The Prime Minister said yesterday that he thought the Security Council was right to exclude its permanent members, including Britain, from UNEF—that is, the first phase of peacemaking. That sounded like a case of making a virtue of necessity because we cannot be part of that first phase. However, I echo what the right hon. Gentleman said, that we shall be involved in the second phase, that is to say the effective armed force—described quite rightly by my right hon. Friend—which will maintain demilitarisation and therefore secure frontiers between the two recent contestants.
I therefore hope that the mood in Israel will change. I have every confidence that it will, but I want to say from this Box that we in the Labour Party specially hope that the mood will change and that Britain will be welcomed 295 by Israel in the international movement for which we are all hoping.
The second conclusion that we must draw from the events of the last few weeks is that the relationships of the United States of America with this country, Western Europe and the USSR were placed in serious jeopardy. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen), in a speech of great cogency and clarity, put his finger on this conclusion as one of potentially grave danger for this country, for Western Europe, indeed for the Western world, and for the whole policy of détente. As he said, the special relationship between this country and America has been further eroded. My hon. Friend said that this was probably temporary and that it would be restored. I have confidence and certainly hope that this will be so, because the great majority of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have always believed that this Atlantic relationship has on balance been an overwhelming power for good, for peace and for freedom in the world.
It was profoundly disturbing to see how the United States of America ordered the recent alert, however low level or pre-operational, without consultation with this country. This is not simply a question of amour propre. Unilateral action was taken which might have placed this country in nuclear jeopardy, and without any proper consultation with us. The same applies to the countries of Western Europe.
I do not think that Ministers are satisfied with what has happened. We have been assured in a variety of phrases that there was fairly early involvement. I am not going after that. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all my colleagues on this side, and probably for most hon. Members of the House, when I say that this cannot happen again. It is too dangerous a way of conducting what is supposed to be an alliance when one member sets afoot a nuclear alert—because that is what it meant—without in any effective or timely manner consulting the country which was most likely to be affected if, in the event, that alert had moved into the operational and post-operational phase.
What I have said applies also to NATO. The American action, which has 296 been followed by a somewhat harsh denunciation of the countries of NATO by the Americans themselves, compels us to face up to the serious danger of an estrangement between the two parts of the Western world. If there is an estrangement, if there is a continuing rift between the Americans and Western Europe, the consequences for détente and ultimately, possibly, for world peace could be catastrophic. It is clear that NATO needs to be re-established on a much firmer basis on the understanding of mutual obligations by its members and that its provisions for consultation, especially in emergency, have to be reexamined and strengthened.
In this connection, one is tempted to ask "Whatever happened to the Harmel Report?". The Harmel inquiry, and the report which issued from it, may well point the way to a more effective international instrument of co-operation in the economic and political fields, as well as in the military field, than NATO has proved to be. It is certain that a good new look must be taken at NATO by the Americans, as well as by the other members of that organisation.
The third conclusion in that détente was undeniably imperilled, at least temporarily, by the events of the past few weeks. The Foreign Secretary said today—I think to our satisfaction, and certainly to our profound relief—that he believed that détente had survived intact, but he added that it was a near thing. If there is an overriding British interest, it is in the progress of détente. It is, of course, an overriding interest of every country, especially of those in Western Europe, but it is a paramount British interest that dôtente should proceed and should progress, coupled with an advance in the SALT talks, however slow, and in the discussions on mutual force reductions, whether balanced or not.
The fact is that the Government's Middle East posture was not dictated by this overriding British interest. There was a posture of playing for the short-term gain and advantage at the risk of sending the more fundamental long-term interest near the brink—indeed, until it became a very near thing. If the world slides back from détente, the consequences might well be not regional disaster, bad as that would be, but universal catastrophe. It is not strictly necessary 297 for the peace and security of the world for détente finally to succeed. It is vital, however, that it does not begin to recede. Any movement in the continuity of discussion, however little is gained in practical results, is an encouragement, a help, towards further progress.
When such an undertaking as this stalls, halts and begins to recoil on itself, that is the time when the greatest possible danger, not only to one area but to the whole world, will supervene.
We must, therefore, be active in the immediate future in three directions. They are, first, the rebuilding of confidence, co-operation and consultation between this country and the United States; second, the revitalisation of NATO as a truly co-operative organisation devoted not only to purely defensive military purposes but also to progressive political action designed to build peace, not only on arms but on understanding with countries outside the organisation; and third, the promotion of détente and forward policies in the discussions on European security and co-operation and on mutual force reductions.
Of course, we must also speak very clearly in the next few weeks on the essentials of a just and durable settlement in the Middle East itself. There have been a number of extremely interesting and useful ideas brought out in this debate, many more than in the last debate. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have clearly been thinking very hard about how they can contribute to a settlement by way of ideas and suggestions, and I think that this debate today, more perhaps than many previous debates, will bear careful reading tomorrow in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
I do not need to retread the essentials of a settlement. They are there in Resolution 242, which still remains the only possible basis for a proper accommodation. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East put them to the House with admirable clarity and force. They are, first, the recognition of the State of Israel within secure and guaranteed boundaries, boundaries which will also satisfy the Arabs' claim and deep feeling for the restoration of lost territories. The second is the solution of the Palestinian and refugee problem. I do not know what the figures are by now, but they 298 keep on increasing. There are not far from 1,500,000 who could fairly be described as refugees in the Middle East. This is a problem that must be settled. I am confident—I think we are all confident—that given the proper negotiations, a cease-fire which moves rapidly, as the Foreign Secretary said, on to concrete negotiations, we shall find the Israelis as keen and as effective as anybody in helping to solve this long-standing and tragic problem of the Arab refugees.
The third essential is the effective assurance of the freedom of the seas as spelled out by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition yesterday and repeated by some of my hon. Friends today. This is vital not only to future commerce in the Middle East but to future good feelings. In my own visits to the area I had a very strong impression that the economic argument is probably second to the psychological argument for insisting on complete freedom of the seaways of that area.
Further, there should be international guarantees enforced by an international presence on the lines described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East. I repeat that I greatly hope that as a permanent member of the United Nations we can take part in a UNEF. I hope that we may still take part in the policing of the demilitarised zone for the preservation of peace on the basis of the new frontiers to be agreed.
We have noted what was said yesterday by the Prime Minister and by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. We note their undertaking to watch carefully the oil position. They said that they would decide as soon as necessary on some form of control for conservation. We hope that the Government will not shrink from introducing some scheme for conservation and even for rationing because that would be unpopular. It would be more unpopular if they delayed doing so until such time as the impact of a scheme of control proved that much less bearable for our population.
Members have asked me to put to the Government that, although we have 73 days supply of oil in the country and 20 days en route, some industries are already having difficulty in obtaining oil 299 for processing. There is such an instance in my constituency, and I have sent the details to the appropriate Minister. Can we have an assurance that the position will be closely watched not just from day to day but from hour to hour? We cannot afford a situation to arise whereby, because of fear of scarcity, suppliers withhold from essential services and from industry the oil which they need. I imagine that the Government will wish to give an assurance on those lines.
Among the many admirable points which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East mentioned, he reminded us that, despite our internal difficulties, we should spare a thought for other areas in the world where millions of people are suffering cataclysms unrelated to war. He referred to the Ethiopian famine, the details of which have horrified us all, particularly those who have seen film and met people who have been in the area.
We think of the West Africans. We think of our fellow members of the Commonwealth in other parts of the world—for example, those in the Indian sub-continent. We think of the many millions suffering from famine, drought and flood. What a contrast there is between the delays and deficiencies which mark rescue operations in such cases and the speed, the efficiency and the generosity with which thousands of tons of death-dealing weapons were rushed to both sides of the Middle East in the past month.
It seems that it is still impossible for the international community to organise emergency rescue operations when millions of people are innocently afflicted by natural causes. But, given the stimulus of war, the problems of logistics disappear and instantly thousands of tons of material are made available. Many hon. Members have said that they have a feeling, which I share, that the dreadful events of the past month may well have given the world the opportunity of a new approach to the terrible continuing crisis in the Middle East.
There is a feeling that a new approach, a new beginning, is possible. That new approach must be based on the United Nations. It must be an international approach, and we, through our Govern- 300 ment, must make our influence and presence felt in the negotiations and, if at all possible, in the process of maintaining the peace that will follow those negotiations. If it is properly handled, there is new hope for a settlement of this age-old problem. If Her Majesty's Government approach this matter in a really even-handed manner, they will have the full support of the Opposition.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Julian Amery)
The right hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts) ended his remarks by referring to the problems of famine and the aid contribution required, just as the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) opened his speech by referring to the plight of the Ethiopians. In the last two or three weeks our minds have been concentrated on the human suffering imposed by the Middle East war. But it is salutary for us to be reminded that the disasters of nature can take as heavy a toll of human life as can the results of wars.
On the subject of the Ethiopian famine we are in action with Oxfam. Medical supplies, basic foodstuffs, chemicals and first-aid of different kinds have been sent to Ethiopia; two or three plane loads went last week, and another goes tomorrow, and a further flight will leave on 6th November. We have already offered the Ethiopian Government £100,000 immediately for famine relief, and this is in addition to £1 million capital aid, as well as some £700,000 technical assistance. We have said that if suitable projects can be found in 1975–76 we should like to make £3 million available for capital projects.
The right hon. Member for Caernarvon referred to Chile. I can only say that in recognising the new Chilean Government we have followed the policy habitually adopted by Conservative and Labour Governments over the years—most recently in Latin-America, when the Labour Government recognised a former Argentinian Government under General Ongania as I recall.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) raised a point about Hong Kong and said that 301 it was an important matter. I cannot say a great deal about it this evening. The Governor of Hong Kong was recently in this country for consultations, and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, Sir Alastair Blair-Kerr has been appointed to an investigatory body which is quite separate from the police force. I do not think the problem should be exaggerated, but it must be recognised that it exists. What is important is to discourage and to punish corrupt individuals. We must do our best to see that this is done.
§ Mr. James Johnson
Is the Foreign Office working on possible changes in the Fugitive Offenders Act so that we may get this man Godber back again to face the people in Hong Kong?
§ Mr. Amery
We are giving considerable thought to this matter. Perhaps I ought not to say very much about it at the moment.
The hon. Gentleman made a helpful contribution on the question of Iceland. That matter is at a very delicate stage, and I would rather not add anything to what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon.
I turn to the main theme of the debate.
§ Mr. Amery
The time is very short and I must get on. No doubt I shall be dealing with the hon. Gentleman's point a little later.
Let me turn to the main theme of the debate, which has dealt with the problems which have arisen in the past few weeks and which were mentioned by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East and also by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen), in a remarkable contribution. I refer to the problems that bear on Anglo-American and European-American relations. On the question of the alert the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said that the principle should be that the United States should give notice to the United Kingdom if it wants to use its bases in the United Kingdom for any purpose which might endanger us and that we must be free to withhold our permission. That is the position now, and it is the position which was defined by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister yesterday.
302 The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton said that the embargo, the use of British bases, including Cyprus, and the ceasefire proposals in the Security Council were important not so much in themselves as in their bearing on Anglo-American relations. We discussed the embargo thoroughly last week, and I need not return to that. The United States never asked to be allowed to use the bases in this country or Cyprus for the movement of supplies to Israel, so no question of refusal ever arose.
The question of the cease-fire proposal in the Security Council was prominently mentioned in one of the newspapers this morning. It was suggested to us that we might table a resolution. We were satisfied that such a resolution would not be accepted by the two belligerent parties, and an inquiry by our American friends confirmed that our original judgment had been right.
The Leader of the Opposition left me under the impression yesterday that he thought there had been insufficient consultation between us and the American Government. I do not think that that is so. We have an extremely capable Ambassador in the person of Lord Cromer, to whom I pay tribute. My right hon. Friend saw Dr. Kissinger not only when he passed through London the other day but at a meeting of the United Nations quite recently. There is close contact between us, closer perhaps than is sometimes understood. After the Cuban crisis we were sometimes taunted by those who said "Although you are a nuclear Power, you did not have much influence in this crisis." I suspect that it was only when the last volume of Mr. Macmillan's memoirs were published recently that people realised how close consultation had been.
In discussing these matters with our American friends, we are dealing with an extremely complex situation. There are two distinct but sometimes converging adversary relationships. There is the adversary relationship of Israel and her Arab neighbours, and there is the adversary relationship of East and West. The adversary relationship between Israel and the Arab countries has its own distinct historical origins. The position of all British Governments from the very beginning, even going back to the Mandate, has 303 been even-handed, and as long as it remains a purely Arab-Israel problem that should be our position. But in the adversary relationship between East and West we are four-square with the United States. There is no doubt about it.
Sometimes the adversary relationship of the Arabs and Israelis converges with the East-West adversary relationship, as it did after the 1967 war, and some might even think before that war.
It has been argued for some time that the Egyptian Government for one were anxious not to be wholly dependent upon the Soviet Union, and that was confirmed to the world with the expulsion or sending home of the Soviet advisers and forces who were established in Egypt in large numbers after the 1967 war.
We believed when the last outbreak of fighting occurred that it was not an East-West conflict but an Israel-Arab conflict. It may be that as a result of the war there is again a degree of convergence, but we still think that it is the wish, certainly of at least two of Israel's Arab neighbours, and probably of Syria as well, not to be completely dependent upon the Russians.
The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said that he thought that our so-called even-handed policy had impaired our ability to help. I believe that the contrary is the case. By keeping ourselves detached and not supporting the claims of either side we are in a position to help if an opportunity arises. We could not have done so if we had not pursued an even-handed policy. Incidentally, I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Sally Oppenheim), who remarked that the phrase "evenhanded" was becoming a little suspect in this country, that the phrase is regarded as pro-Israeli in Arab circles.
The cease-fire is only the end of the beginning of what will be a long process. We now enter a new phase. It would be appropriate to pay tribute to the contributions which our American friends and the Soviets have made in bringing about the cease-fire—and to the Secretary General of the United Nations for getting forces in place at short notice. I am sure the House will also wish to pay tribute to the RAF for getting the truce forces in place so quickly.
304 We now face a number of immediate problems such as those of the prisoners and the Egyptian Third Army and the Bab el Mandeb straits—immediate irritants which have to be got out of the way as quickly as possible. After that it will be a long process, however great an impetus we have, to build up towards negotiations. There are already the beginnings of a force in place to supervise the truce. I agree entirely with the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East that neither we nor the super-Powers can impose a settlement. All will have to do their best to work towards one.
In this the United Nations will have an important, perhaps critical, part to play through the Security Council and the Secretary General. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon say that they endorsed my right hon. Friend's view that in the longer term it will be necesary to have effective guarantees for any settlement that is reached and that these guarantees are likely to involve an international force sufficiently effective to prevent any renewed breach of the peace.
I was also glad to hear the right hon. Gentlemen say that we also believe that, if we are wanted, we in Britain ought to contribute to such a force. We certainly have every interest in seeking to help bring about a settlement. Europe is more concerned than anyone outside with a settlement in the Middle East. It is not just a question of oil. Geography and history link Europe to the Middle East, and always will, even when the last oil well has dried up.
I do not underrate the importance of oil. The right hon. Member for Caernarvon was right to stress it, and I gladly give him the assurance, that we shall be watching the situation carefully from day to day and even from hour to hour. We could not afford a drying-up of that muscle in our industrial make-up. The importance of oil is clear.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East that we must not let our policy be influenced or directed by what he called oil blackmail. The prospect of oil blackmail is not likely. The Arab oil producers and the majority of the moderate Arab leaders know very well that the Soviet Union is 305 not in a position to deliver Resolution 242, or progress towards it. They know, because they are wise men in many ways, that progress will come only through their own efforts in co-operation with the United States and Europe. It is only when guarantees have been secured which are acceptable to Israel and the more moderate Arab forces that there will be a settlement and progress can be made towards the implementation of Resolution 242. The Arabs realise that to injure their friends in the West would be counterproductive from the point of view of achieving their aims.
§ Mr. Laurance Reed
My right hon. Friend has said that we should not allow the Arabs to influence our policies through the use of oil blackmail. Does that mean that the British Government will be prepared to give assistance to Holland in its hour of need? The Dutch have been good friends to us, and if European solidarity means anything——
§ Mr. Amery
I said just now that moderate Arab leaders, who represent the bulk of the Arab oil producers, would realise that it would be against their interests and that they would not attempt a policy of oil blackmail.
The subject of Holland is of great importance. There are regular meetings in Brussels, in the European Commission, of experts who discuss these questions, which are constantly under consideration, and we are in touch with all our partners in the European Community about them.
As did many hon. Members, the right hon. Member expressed anxiety about the repercussions of the crisis for West-West relations, the relations between Europe and the United States. He referred in appropriate terms, which I would certainly endorse, to the comments that have emerged from the Pentagon and the State Department since the end of last week.
Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom. We have to remember that our American friends have gone through a lot in the last year, and, perhaps, in the last weeks. Whatever else we do not have, we have far too much experience to take offence too easily. We remember in this House, on both sides, that the issues at stake are much greater than any momentary difference or expression of resentment. What is at stake, as 306 has been said by several hon. and right hon. Members, is the security and future of the free world. The differences that have been highlighted by the crisis in the Middle East go not deeper but rather broader. They are part of the process of adjustment in transatlantic relations which has resulted from the enlargement of the European Community. Personally, I would rather that we had not been in too much of a hurry at the time to define the new relationship which is taking place. It was Dr. Kissinger, in his speech on the Year of Europe, who invited us to do so, but, looking back, I am glad that he did ask us to because he made us face up to the whole complex of problems in trade, monetary, defence and foreign policy relations which had been growing up over 25 years. As a result, a great deal of work has been done by the Nine, both within the Community proper, which is concerned with matters of trade and finance, and operating in different forums in the GATT, the International Monetary Fund, and in the North Atlantic Alliance, both working together in the security conference and at ad hoc meetings to discuss matters of common interest.
It is worth noting that in the recent crisis there have been regular meetings of officials representing the Nine Governments to discuss the developing crisis. There has been particularly close contact, largely by accident, with the French and the German Governments. We have kept in very close touch with France—deliberately and intentionally—but we also had the advantage of the visit of the French Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Lipkowski, during the crisis, and, as the House knows, President Pompidou is coming to see the Prime Minister soon. Chancellor Brandt was here when the crisis broke, and I was lucky enough to have Herr Bahr as my guest over the last two days, and he also saw the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend during the course of his visit.
Just as this crisis was breaking out, we had President Pompidou's proposals for more regular meetings of Heads of Government and our own Prime Minister's response in his speech at Blackpool. Now the House will have seen on the tape this evening President 307 Pompidou's proposal for a summit meeting before the end of the year.
Therefore, I think we can say that there is a considerable momentum behind the movement to get closer European political co-operation as well as trade and financial co-operation.
Where the present crisis is concerned, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, said that our diplomacy had been active but meagre in its results. We are only at the beginning of what will be a long process. The right hon. Gentleman remembers from the days when he and his party were in office Resolution 242 of 1967. A long time has gone by and no solution has been reached. I hope that we shall be able to do better this time. When I say "We" I mean not only Britain but all of us who are concerned.
But we could be only at the beginning of the process and I think that our diplomacy has not been lacking in activity, nor do I think that it will prove lacking in results. If we had tried to rush the fences faster, we could not have done any better than the super-Powers, but we might have cut ourselves out of a position from which we could have influenced events at a later date.
Meanwhile, the most important thing that we can do, if we are to influence events, is to accelerate the development of European union from being simply a trade and payments area to being a political union and ultimately a defence union.
The right hon. Gentleman said that détente had survived the crisis. It is even arguable that it has been strengthened because it has been put to the test and survived. Détente springs from the recognition that with nuclear parity global war is unthinkable. But it has also meant that because of nuclear parity there is perhaps a greater risk of local wars. We have just had one, and a pretty nasty one at that.
The most dangerous local war that one could envisage would be in central Europe, not just because of the economic importance of central Europe, its populations and industry, but because of geography. Central Europe has no proper frontiers and if a local conflict started there it could be very difficult to contain and limit. This has been recognised both 308 in the Atlantic Alliance and in the Warsaw Pact.
The Soviet approach to the problem has been through the security conference. I think that the Russians have been anxious to achieve a ratification of the status quo in Eastern Europe and also credits for the development of their own economy which has been sadly lacking in achievement, not only in agriculture but in a great many technologies which are taken for granted in the West.
But we in the West would be equally in favour of détente if it was possible to achieve it. That has been the Americans' view, particularly after their experiences in Vietnam and their financial difficulties with the dollar. Indeed in the United States, as the House knows, there have been calls from influential people for a unilateral reduction of armaments. But the general Western approach has been a practical one.
We do not want to create an organic link between the security conference and the Vienna conference on mutual and balanced force reductions, but clearly the declarations of principle which may emerge from the former will be tested by the latter. The proof of the Geneva pudding will be in the eating of it in Vienna. The fact remains that, although the Soviets are on record as having made some very forward-looking statements about co-operation internationally, particularly in Europe, their forces on the ground are formidable and still growing. Perhaps I should say a word on that subject.
The Soviets are so deployed that they are better poised to attack than we are to defend, largely because our forces in central Europe are located very much where they were at the end of the war and for convenience and economy have remained there. Our communications run not directly but obliquely because of the contraction out of the organisation of our French friends. Above all, there is the problem of reinforcement. The Russians can reinforce from nearby whilst our reinforcements would have to come across the Atlantic. There is also the enormous disparity in fighting power. On the Warsaw Pact side there are more than 15,000 tanks to our 6,000; there are 200,000 American troops and over 450,000 Soviet troops.
309 One cannot help asking oneself what is the purpose of this Warsaw Pact force. Why is it there in such large numbers and why is it still growing, despite the fact that a much larger establishment has been built up on the Chinese frontier? Clearly those forces are not there for self-defence. They are far too numerous and their composition does not suggest that defence is their rôle.
I am not suggesting that, as we sit here tonight, there is any question of the Soviets wishing to launch a surprise attack or even to apply political pressure to us, backed by force of arms. Their military disposition points to one conclusion, and that is that they wish to keep open the option of using their military establishment, either as a means of applying political pressure or, in the last resort, of proceeding to attack. That option is not compatible with our understanding of détente. Detente cannot be achieved with the Sword of Damocles hanging over one's head. It is no good meeting a man who has one hand outstretched if behind his back one sees that he has a very big club. That is why we attach great importance to the talks which began yesterday in Vienna, because we shall see whether the principles and the declaration which the Soviet leaders have made can be put to the test.
The right hon. Gentleman read out to us a very interesting statement from the Soviet Ambassador, which I suppose we in the House should salute as the Soviet Ambassador's maiden speech and accordingly treat it with proper indulgence. I can only say that Mr. Brezhnev's recent declaration has not been very encouraging for us, because he has turned his back very firmly on any question of asym- 310 metrical reductions—that is, the Soviets reducing by more than we do.
The right hon. Gentleman thought it might be better to have equal reductions even if they were not asymmetrical. The trouble is that in this game, while all reductions could be equal, some would be more equal than others. If a 400-mile front is to be held, there is a limit beyond which one cannot go unless the potential attacker goes a good deal further. Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the fact that the conference is taking place. The very fact of the conference, the publicity it will attract, and the public interest it will arouse mean that the strength of the Soviet forces in Europe will be brought to the attention of the public all the time. This must be just as clear to the Soviets as it is to us.
The fact that the Soviets have agreed to embark on this exercise gives some hope that perhaps they, too, wish to see it yield valuable and constructive results. At any rate, we go into it determined to do everything we can to obtain genuine agreement, which would enable us to beat swords into ploughshares, but determined on two things as well—first, to maintain the unity of the Atlantic Alliance, and, secondly, to ensure that nothing is done to prevent the evolution of the European Community from a trade and payments area into a political and defence community.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Hall-Davis.]
§ Debate to be resumed tomorrow.