HL Deb 30 April 1947 vol 147 cc244-89

2.58 p.m.

THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK rose to ask His Majesty's Government what progress, if any, has been made towards securing international control of atomic energy; and to move for Papers. The most reverend Primate said: My Lords, it is a somewhat sudden transition from chewing gum to the atomic bomb, but it is a happy illustration of the variety of subjects which are the concern of this House. I am asking the Government a perfectly straightforward question. My question does not contain any veiled censure of the Government or any member thereof. I want to know what progress, if any, has been made in bringing atomic energy under international control. I am speaking chiefly, almost entirely, of the use of atomic energy for warlike purposes, and the answer to this question will be one of vital interest to every man, woman and child of this nation. Let me give the reasons which make me ask this question. They are quite simple. I am no man of science, and I shall not attempt to use any scientific terms. If I did so, I should probably use them inaccurately.

The facts are quite plain. Eighteen months ago a bomb was dropped on a city of the size of Hull, and, in a few seconds, it killed 80,000 people and wounded and mutilated another 100,000. A day or two later, another bomb was dropped on a smaller city, and over 40,000 people were killed. The Commission which we sent out to estimate the damage done by these bombs estimated that if such a bomb had been dropped on one of the cities of this country about 50,000 people would have been killed at once. Since that time, we have been told that larger bombs have been manufactured. I do not know whether that is true or not, but I think it is undoubtedly true that much larger bombs, with far greater destructive powers, could be manufactured and used. The fact is undeniable that if any country launched a Sudden and treacherous attack on a neighbour, within an hour or so hundreds of thousands of people in that country would be killed, its industries would be destroyed, its harbours rendered useless, and its means of communication disrupted. If other nations joined in, and the war continued for some months, all that had been built up by our civilization would be reduced to ribbons, and the survivors hiding in caves would come out to engage in a struggle for bare existence.

For the first time in man's history he has in his possession a weapon which he can use for self-annihilation. I know there are some who will feel that the description of the possibilities which I have given are simply fantastic. They are not fantastic; and the more people know about the bomb the more they will recognize the reality of the danger. I know there are some who will say that no civilized nation would ever dream of using such an awful weapon. The answer is quite simple: the two most civilized and most humane nations in tile world already have used that weapon. Others will say that an antidote will be found, because antidotes have been found for most other weapons of war. But here we are dealing with a weapon which is unique. Nothing has ever before been discovered which could bring such mass destruction, and I have not heard of any responsible person who holds out any hope of an antidote being discovered in the near future.

From the very beginning, the very day this weapon was used, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States realized the danger that it created for the human race, and decided to do their utmost to build up some ramparts of defence against it. The most practical of the proposals which have been made is the one made by the United States, and this proposal contains three principles. The first is that there should be brought into existence an atomic development authority which should own and control the manufacture and use of atomic energy, either for industrial or for warlike purposes. The second principle is quite vital—that such an authority should have powers of inspection in every land. Unless it has far-reaching powers of inspection, there will be no security; no nation will feel certain that its neighbour is not secretly preparing this weapon for use. The third principle is that this authority should be able to use sanctions against any State which disregarded its rulings or used atomic energy for warlike action. I suppose this means that the authority itself would possess a sufficient number of bombs to deter and overawe any possible aggressor. There have been many discussions over this proposed authority, which is briefly called A.D.A., and it looked as if there might be some general agreement reached upon it. But Russia has all through been doubtful, and on March 5 Mr. Gromyko stated the difficulties which his State felt towards this proposal.

I have read his speech in full and his opposition was not nearly so positive and definite as some of the abbreviated accounts made it appear. More than once in his speech he made it clear that his State was prepared to accept international control and international inspection. He said: Sometimes we may hear statements as if the Soviet Union were against strong international control and against international, inspection. Such statements have absolutely no basis. But he goes on to say that his State stresses first of all that there should be a convention completely outlawing the use of the atomic bomb. I think in an earlier speech he also said that this must involve the destruction by the United States of the bombs which it had either finished or which were still in an unfinished state. Quite naturally, the United States has the gravest hesitation in destroying the weapons it possesses unless there is in existence some authority which will prevent other nations from manufacturing this bomb. I do not feel that this particular objection raised by Mr. Gromyko is necessarily entirely fatal. It is possible that some arrangement might be reached so that the destruction of bombs which were not handed over to the authority took place as soon as the authority was effectively established. But no doubt others will be able to throw some light on that.

The second objection which he raised was, I felt, more serious—namely, that inspection should be very strictly limited. He said: Effective inspection is a necessary component part of the system of international control. He admits that, but he went on to say: At the same time, this strict international control and strict inspection should not develop into interference in those branches of industry which are not connected with the production of atomic energy. And again: Strict regulation of power and duties of a control organ should exclude the unlimited access for inspection purposes to all equipment and operations.

So far as I can understand, he is prepared to accept inspection by the authority of the recognized establishments which are dealing with atomic energy, but excludes from the inspection any industries over and above those which are openly connected with atomic energy; that is to say, it might be possible for atomic energy establishments to be carefully and scrupulously inspected but at the same time to have other industries, under other names, in remote parts of the country, carrying on the production of these bombs without any kind of inspection or detection. This seems to me to be the most serious difficulty of all the points which he raised.

Thirdly, he objected to the use of sanctions by the atomic authority. He recognized that the veto need not invariably apply in the day-to-day decisions, but if there were any question of using sanctions against a nation which was threatening to use the atomic bomb then this should be decided by the Security Council where, of course, the veto applies. Those three objections have resulted—at any rate, for the time being—in deadlock. Various attempts were made to find a way out, and eventually the whole matter was referred back to the Atomic Commission. So far as I know, at the moment there does not seem much possibility of the Commission finding some way out. The situation, therefore, is profoundly unsatisfactory. We in this country may feel perfectly content with the knowledge that the bomb is now in the possession of the United States and the United States alone. But that sense of satisfaction is not shared by all the other nations of the earth. It is not shared by Russia. No doubt Russia has been alarmed by that highly-advertised exhibition of power politics, by the explosion of these bombs in the Pacific and also by the statements which are made in America by quite irresponsible people and newspapers about preventing war; and the Russians, not realizing how irresponsible people do sometimes speak in countries where there is freedom of speech, are inclined to attach undue importance to those statements.

But sooner or later the bomb will pass into the possession of other nations. It has been said that within five years other nations may possess it. But, whether it is within five years or ten years, the time will come when other nations will own it. The psychological effect of that upon the people of this country will then be very great—and not only upon the people of this country but upon the peoples of the world. They will feel that hanging over them is the shadow of doom. There will be widespread fear and suspicion. Nation after nation will be living in a state of tension, wondering whether an attack with atomic bombs will be launched upon them suddenly and treacherously; and when there is a state of veiled hostility between two nations the tension may become so great, the war of nerves so unbearable, that one of the nations, in hysterical fear, will decide to end the situation by using the atomic bomb. Then, at once, there will be retaliation and the world will be plunged into disaster.

Those are real dangers unless an international authority is brought into existence as soon as possible. Such international authority, if it is to be effective, must to some extent override national sovereignty. The objection which was made very largely by Mr. Gromyko was that the proposals for A.D.A. would interfere with national sovereignty. But that is quite unavoidable. You cannot have any effective authority unless it is able to overrule international sovereignty, at any rate, to some extent. I know it will be said that this is unprecedented, but we are dealing with an unprecedented situation. I admit that somewhere it is said—I cannot remember where—that there are times in man's history when instead of walking forward he has to jump forward. This is one of those situations when, if he is to save his very existence, he must jump forward so as to forestall the use of the atomic bomb.

I therefore come back to my question, and I ask His Majesty's Government whether they can tell us what the present position is. Has any progress been made towards international control? If the deadlock is as I am afraid it is, what steps are they taking to bring it to an end? Are they fully realizing the gravity of the position? Are they doing everything in their power to find some way out, and to reach some agreement with Russia on this matter? It is a question of the most urgent importance to us all. It is quite true that some will say that if you have in existence an atomic authority it will not stop war, nor will it stop the use of weapons which may be as deadly in their effect as the atomic bomb. But it is a very great step in the right direction.

As a test case, if you can put up an authority to control the atomic bomb you will be able to build up authorities controlling every form of warfare, and behind the rampart built up by this authority we shall have time—and time is the very essence of the matter—to build up stronger defences against war itself. I am one of those who believe that as long as there is war there will always be the possibility of the atomic bomb being used, and what we really have to aim at is the abolition of war. But we must go step by step, and the first and most practical step in that direction is the creation of an authority with real power of control and inspection. All our plans for the future will come to naught unless this matter is dealt with. We are building castles on the sand which will be swept away with the first blast of the atomic bomb.

The question we are dealing with, of course, is partly moral. The position has arisen because man has a weapon in his possession before he is safely able to use it. Man has made immense advances in scientific knowledge, but he has not made corresponding advances in moral stature. It is therefore possible that man may destroy himself with this weapon. We sometimes speak as if our civilization were so stable that it must necessarily endure. There are over twenty civilizations which have passed away, and their, ruins are to be found beneath the sands of the Middle East or on the shores of the Mediterranean. Our civilization may join that pathetic and tragic wreckage. Those of us who belong to my generation are not likely to see this destruction, though events move so quickly that no one would dare to prophesy with confidence even about that. It is all the more our duty to do everything in our power to obtain security for those who will come after us. I beg to move for Papers.

3.17 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the whole House has listened with the deepest attention to the earnest and moving words of he most reverend Primate. On the two or three occasions on which I have addressed your Lordships on this subject I hope I have left no doubt as to my own attitude. In the autumn of 1945 I spoke about the possibilities of controlling this new weapon, and I have nothing whatever to withdraw from what I then said. The release of nuclear energy his put into man's hand, as the most reverend Primate said, for good or evil, powers far exceeding anything that we have dreamt of for centuries. The explosion of one of these atomic bombs exceeds in power the explosion of the biggest bomb dropped in this country during the late war, in about the same ratio as the explosion of an antipersonnel mine exceeds the explosion of the percussion cap. As the most reverend Primate said, obviously we are only at the beginning of these developments. I would not take the same definite line as the most reverend Primate about the certainty of bigger bombs being made, but it would be very surprising if bombs more violent by many orders of magnitude could not be designed and produced within a number of years The prospect of war even with the existing bombs is grim enough, but if their destructive power were advanced by one hundred or even one thousand times it would certainly mean the end of civilized life on this planet.

As the most reverend Primate has said, the fact is that the advance in our scientific knowledge and our intellectual progress has outstripped the advance of the moral sense of humanity. Nobody can be trusted with the overwhelming power which modern technique puts at the disposal of any adventurer who manages, by fair means or foul, to secure the suffrage of the people. There is no reason to believe that modern dictators are any worse than their predecessors. It is only because their machinery is more deadly that they create holocausts where their forerunners could perpetrate only minor massacres. Nero would no doubt have liked to murder millions of Christians, but he could not do it. Hitler wanted to murder millions of Jews, and he could do it. It is terribly dangerous to magnify man's powers to do evil before we have reduced his desire to do evil. This is what we have done by putting at man's disposal the nuclear energy formerly congealed in safety in the heart of the atom. Not all inventions, by any means, help humanity in the long run. The invention of gunpowder, for instance, probably did far more harm than good, though some men of vivid imagination and engaging optimism may have thought at the time that gunpowder might be used to drive explosion motors which could operate the mills when the wind failed to blow or the streams ceased to run.

How will history assess the effect on mankind of the liberation of nuclear energy? To-day, it seems to me, there can be no question but that evil consequences are in the ascendant. How the balance sheet will stand in ten, twenty, or a hundred years time, I should hesitate to predict. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, of course, is full of rosy hopes. He told us when we last discussed these matters that he foresaw a prospect for the next and succeeding generations of the supply of the necessary comforts and amenities of life in abundance, for very much less labour, and of the enjoyment of leisure carried to a point which has never been conceived as possible in previous ages. Of course, it is always pleasant to be optimistic. Were it not for this, I fancy the Liberal Party, which the noble Viscount leads with so much distinction, might have disintegrated like some of the products of uranium—whether by fission or not, I do not think really matters—some time ago.

I will not weary the House by attempting to controvert in detail the noble Viscount's pious hopes. I think it will be sufficient to say that in the American Atomic Scientists' Bulletin—and American atomic scientists are not prone to under-estimate the importance and possibilities of their subject—it is stated that the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes might make a difference of between 1½ per cent, and 2½ per cent, to the nation's standard of life. Of course, this is worth having, but it is little more than the average increase due to the normal improvements in manufacturing methods in one year. Against this not very glittering prospect we must set the threat to civilization implied in the staggering possibilities of destruction which the most reverend Primate outlined to us with (as I think) great accuracy, and obviously with the greatest force. So far, at any rate, it seems to me that the evil outweighs the good. But the harm is done; the bombs have exploded and the knowledge has been spread abroad.

Here I come to one point on which I should like to express disagreement with the most reverend Primate. He says that the experiments at Bikini were an exhibition of power politics. I do not think he was being quite fair to the American Government. It was absolutely necessary for them, so long as wars had not been abolished, to know the effect of the atom bomb upon ships, and it was therefore necessary to conduct experiments. What would have been said if they had been done in secret, and if no one had been allowed to see them? If any one nation was allowed to go and see them, then surely all nations had to be allowed to go and see them. It would never have done to select a certain number of observers and not to allow all the other nations to go. I admit that all the advertisement and all the Press campaign were somewhat nauseating, but that is the trend of the times. You must give the public all the sensation they can possibly absorb. I do not think it was really the fault of the American Government that it happened in that way.

The question is, what can we do to prevent the cataclysm which the use of this weapon in another war will involve, engulfing civilization? As the most reverend Primate has said, this question has been studied with anxious care. It was discussed, as he said, for many months by the Atomic Energy Commission which was appointed by the United Nations. He gave us a very accurate account of the plans which were there put forward. The Russian plan was simply to destroy all existing atomic bombs and to outlaw their use. This plan, frankly, seems to me I utterly inadequate and unrealistic. It is only twelve years ago that the nations agreed to outlaw war, yet within five years the world was involved in the most destructive war in history. What is the use of destroying all existing atomic bombs? It merely means that everyone will be put on an equality, so that everybody will be tempted to start making them. The plan could only work if all the Governments of all the nations of the world were not only completely and absolutely trustworthy, but also were absolutely trusted by all the other nations. Of course, if this were so, all our difficulties would vanish. We should not need any international courts of justice, or the Security Council or U.N.O. We should all be living once again in peace and plenty in the Garden of Eden—in the theological sense, I might say, and not in the political sense.

Unfortunately, the premise is false. Nations, as the last ten years have proved, cannot be trusted not to resort to force, to fulfil all their promises and to subordinate what they are pleased to call their vital interests to the interests of the world as a whole. Nor are all Governments completely trusted by all other Governments. The Russian Government have not shown themselves particularly ready to entrust their security to assurances and undertakings. Even the Kremlin has now outgrown the age of innocence.

The American plan is much more realistic, detailed, and carefully thought out. Personally I think there is every hope that if we proceed along the lines there outlined we may come to some workable arrangement. It is quite true that the Atomic Development Authority would have to employ a large number of inspectors to traverse the world to make sure that no uranium or thorium was being worked up privately and that no factories were being erected in which fissile components or derivatives of uranium or thorium, were being prepared or manufactured. Above all, the American plan requires, as the most reverend Primate said, that the Atomic Development Authority should have power to impose and operate sanctions against any offending Power without the violator of the law or anybody else having the right of veto. That seems to me to be fundamental, and, what is more, it ought if possible to be made automatic. It is no use relying on the circumstances of the times, because there will always be an excuse for not doing anything, and for waiting and seeing. Of course, many matters remain to be worked out in the American plan. I do not think they have carefully discussed the constitution of the Atomic Development Authority, how and where it is to have its seat, and above all, how it is to operate sanctions should it be necessary to impose them. Those are very difficult questions, but I feel convinced that if once the plan which is outlined were accepted they could be resolved.

Most countries, so far as I can make out, were prepared to accept this plan in broad detail. For a long time, Russia and Poland opposed it in toto. It was argued that inspection was derogatory to the sovereignty of the inspected State; and as for sanctions which could not be vetoed, they were unthinkable. In the end, in New York, I understand, Russia withdrew her objection to inspection—as the most reverend Primate said—and was even prepared to forgo the veto in the case of detailed obstruction of inspectors in the execution of their duty. But it seems that she has since gone back on this concession. I hope the Government will be able to give us more information about this, but in any case Russia was steadfastly opposed to any idea of sanctions being imposed without maintaining the possibility of a veto—and this, of course, is of the essence.

It seems to me that so long as nations continue to harp on the inviolability of national sovereignty it will be very difficult to achieve any useful result in these negotiations. It is a fetish which must always stand in the way of progress, although personally I am inclined to think it is little more than a fetish. After all, what everybody desires is freedom from fear. The idea that this will be achieved by sovereign independence is a fallacy. In a civilized community man is not free from fear because he is absolutely free and independent vis-à-vis his fellows. If everybody were absolutely free to do anything he felt inclined to do, nobody would be free from fear. I myself might feel quite anxious, walking out of this House, if I thought some of the noble Lords opposite were behind me and at perfect liberty to do whatever they felt inclined to do! The reason we can walk about without fear in a civilized land is that we have all had to sacrifice a part of our sovereign independence and submit to the law which prohibits assault and battery, and, in addition, that there are a number of policemen about—rather an unusually large number in the precincts of this House, I am pleased to note—ready to deal with any offender.

Nations are in much the same position. If they insist on maintaining complete sovereign independence to do whatever they feel inclined to do, every nation will be in a state of perpetual anxiety. How can any nation, and especially any small nation, have the slightest sense of security if it is surrounded by a lot of neighbours who claim complete sovereign independence and the right to do whatever they deem proper, they being the sole judges of what is proper? Does any one really believe that international morality has advanced to a stage when this is sufficient? Do events all too familiar in recent years support such a thesis? The present condition of the nations, in my view, may be likened to that of the Wild West mining camp in the middle of the last century. If someone infringed the accepted code, the only remedy was for the victim to collect a gang of friends and lynch the criminal. Although not very satisfactory, this sort of thing could be made to work in the Wild West so long as you had a code to which the majority, at any rate, paid lip service, and thirty or forty men, more or less equally well armed, available to enforce it. But de facto the international position is far worse than this, on account of the enormous difference in military power between the odd fifty or sixty so-called independent sovereign States.

If in the mining camp there had been only two or three men armed with revolvers, a dozen or so with knives and two or three dozen women or children, everything would have depended upon the good will of the men with the revolvers. Unless they were saints—not a very probable supposition in a mining camp—each of them, having made sure of the support of some jackals among the less well armed people, would have gone on his way with little regard to the common weal. So long as gang warfare could be avoided the camp might have enjoyed, or suffered—whichever it may be—some sort of uneasy existence, although there would have been precious little sovereign independence for anybody except the two or three men carrying firearms. Even they would have to be on the look-out all the time lest they were "bumped off" by one of the others. Occasional camp meetings would have availed little to safeguard peace and freedom, even if technically everybody, including the women and children and babes in arms, had been treated as equal and had been allowed an equal vote. It would have been all too obvious that whatever was demanded by the men with the revolvers would in the last resort have to be conceded. Only when an impartial outside authority, the State or Federal Government, stepped in and deprived everybody, whether he carried a revolver or not, of some part of his sovereign independence, could this sort of situation be ended. I fear it is much the same with the nations of the world.

Of course, there are idealists who think that our moral sense is already so well developed that the nations will accept this figment of sovereign equality, that Russia will allow her vote to be cancelled by the vote of Luxemburg, and that the U.S.A. will allow her vital needs to be overridden because Albania takes an un-favourable view. I fear this is an illusion. Impossible stresses will always arise if voting strength diverges too far from actual strength. Only if there is some supra-national authority, with power to impose sanctions on those who break the code, can we hope that right will prevail over might. Without some authority to enforce the law standing above all the members of the community, the best laws in the world are of little avail. That is what is lacking in international affairs, and that is what the American plan, or the Baruch Plan, endeavours to provide, at any rate so far as this one crime of preparing to use atomic bombs is concerned.

In history we have at least two clear examples to guide us. Ever since the dawn of history, ever since the various tribes and nations could get at one another, the Mediterranean Basin has been racked and torn by war. The Minoans invaded Egypt, the Egyptians fought the Assyrians, the Persians attacked the Greeks, the Greeks fought the Romans, the Carthaginians attacked the Sicilians, conquered Spain and fought Rome, the Gauls and the Germans invaded Italy, the Germans and the Swiss invaded Gaul; in short, there were scarcely two neighbouring nations who had not been at war with one another, usually time after time. This went on from about 3000 B.C. until the beginning of the Christian era. From then on, after Augustus had assumed the purple, peace reigned throughout this enormous area—practically the whole of Europe—for 400 years. To my mind that was simply because the whole region was under the domination of Rome. It is true that Generals periodically marched on Rome to try and seize the Imperial Diadem, but broadly the Pax Romana reigned in the civilized world and a major war between Spain and Italy, or Greece and Egypt, or even between Britain and Gaul, would have been unthinkable.

Another example nearer our own times is to be found in India. Only when a strong Central Government was imposed upon this sub-continent did the harried people of that land enjoy a reasonable measure of peace. When the Moguls were strong, the factions were kept from one another's throats. When the power of the Moguls dwindled, and the various entities were able to give rein to their sovereign national independence, the country was torn and ravaged from end to end; and this in a community most of whom were bidden by their religion—in which they most firmly believed—in no circumstances to kill even an animal. When the British Raj replaced the Moguls, peace and order returned. A war between Indian Provinces or Indian Princes would have been just as unthinkable during the last hundred years as a war between Yorkshire and Lancashire. What will happen when the impartial Central Government crumbles and the British troops are withdrawn we shall see. But the lessons of history definitely presage a bloody awakening for the ideologues who are so ready to make the vast toiling inarticulate Indian peasantry the victims of this rash experiment.

With these examples before us, I think it would be very rash to trust that recommendations by the Assembly or suggestions from the Security Council, not backed by sanctions, will be able to preserve the world from war with atomic weapons. The prospect is too grim for us to be content with such inadequate safeguards. The American plan, however many details remain to be filled in, provides at any rate for some sort of supra-national organization to deal with this one specific, overwhelmingly important problem. For that reason, if for for no other, I support it warmly. But, as the most reverend Primate said, in the long run an even more important result may emerge if only it is accepted. For if once some such authority is established to deal with one particular danger, it may be hoped that its functions will be enlarged and its powers expanded, and that it may ultimately form the germ of some world organization which will prevent not only war with atomic weapons, but war in any form.

This is the real answer to the world's prayer, and this should be our final objective. Unless the nations can agree to transfer some part of their sovereign independence to some authority able to administer the law and enforce order, it seems to me certain that wars will go on in the future as they have in the past, and that they will be far more devastating because ever more powerful weapons will be at hand. If this happens it may be that ultimately one nation will prevail over the rest and impose its rule on a weary world, giving in return to this troubled globe a Pax Americana or a Pax Russica.


Pax Brittanica.


Although this is a consummation few of us would seek, it I may well be the only alternative to chaos, if nations refuse to sink their amour propre and accept the restrictions which any decent ordinary citizen takes for granted in private life. In general I warmly support what the most reverend Primate has said, and I hope, but do not expect, that the Government will be able to make a reassuring reply.

3.42 p.m.


My Lords, there is no matter that could come before your Lordships' House more momentous or more urgent than this subject which is again brought to our attention by the most reverend Prelate. On certain points there is, I think, complete agreement among all your Lordships: first, as to the reality and the gravity of the peril that overhangs us and all mankind through the invention of the atomic bomb—it is unnecessary to dwell on the details of that. Secondly, it is impossible for the atomic bomb to remain a secret weapon monopolized by a single power. Already en[...] Governments are actively at work exploring the possibility of the use of atomic energy, either for military or industrial purposes. The United States, Soviet Russia, ourselves, France and Canada are all busy on this work, as well as several of the lesser Powers. As we know, £50,000,000 has already been allocated by us and the work is actively proceeding. No one thinks it will be possible—and, apart from the noble Lord who has just spoken, not very many think it would be desirable in the long run—for any use of atomic energy to be prohibited. The noble Lord spoke about my rosy optimism. I might retort that it might be better than the somewhat jaundiced pessimism with which he is accustomed to depreciate the possibilities of the progress of mankind, a spirit which has brought him down from his former sphere of usefulness as an Oxford scientist and researcher, rendering most useful service to mankind, to his present location on that Bench.


I think the noble Viscount's abandonment of his philosophical studies might be subjected to the same censure.


I am able to proceed with such studies as I have ventured to undertake and devote to them as much time as I have ever done. As to the possibility of any defence against the atomic bomb, there again there is general agreement. No one would say it is absolutely impossible; but so far as we can at present foresee it is improbable, and at all events it is not in sight. No one would venture to say that it would be safe for us to gamble on the possibility of an antidote being provided in time. Some say it is useless to engage in these discussions and that nothing is worth while except to concentrate on a world-wide effort to abolish all war.

I had the opportunity, when visiting Copenhagen last summer, of a long conversation with an acquaintance of mine, Professor Niels Bohr. As your Lordships know, he was, with Rutherford, one of the principal pioneers of modern fundamental physics and was one of those chiefly engaged in the development of this recent use of atomic energy. In a very long conversation he impressed on me repeatedly that the atomic bomb must compel the cessation of war, that there is no alternative, and that this invention must result in the disappearance of war from among human institutions. He had in view further developments of the atomic bomb, making it even more formidable—if that is possible—than is now the case. As a scientist he feels responsibility for this invention, and for the uses to which it is put, and he is convinced that the total abolition of war is the one thing most worth striving for. In that he is not indifferent to, nor does he depreciate, the efforts now being made to control it; but ultimately he holds that that is the only solution. There are those who say that it can be achieved only through some formal federal world government being created, or, failing that, at least a European union, an organic political European union of the nations of Europe, either with or without Russia. That is a wide problem which might well be discussed by your Lordships' House on some other occasion. It is not the moment to discuss it now.

It is perfectly clear that we cannot wait for the achievement of such schemes and for their proving themselves to be effective before acting to control the forces that now threaten us with destruction. We cannot sit back and concentrate on that point. As George Meredith once said, "England cannot afford to invest her all in the millennium and be ruined if it delays to come." Happily the United Nations has come into existence just in time. Had it not existed, the first thing we should have had to do would be to create it. There, in my view, at this stage of affairs, we must concentrate our efforts to secure that the United Nations will be successful and will deal effectively with this problem. If there is any one issue which an organization such as the United Nations should deal with it must be this. There could not possibly be a more urgent occasion for them to exercise their powers, influence and authority. Perhaps, later on, the United Nations might gradually grow to something more definite in the way of world government; but that is not for our generation to accomplish.

In the present situation the greatest encouragement we can derive is from the attitude of the United States of America. Isolationism had been the very foundation of American policy ever since the foundation of the Republic, and after the First World War the American people, it must be said, did less than their duty to mankind in relapsing to their former position of isolation Now there has been a dramatic change, and the Government, and apparently the great majority of the people and Congress, realize that they cannot hold aloof from the trials and troubles of the rest of mankind, and must play an active part in endeavouring to secure more wisdom and more morality in the conduct of world affairs. The action just taken by President Truman over Greece and Turkey, and apparently receiving the sanction of the Legislature, is an indication of that change in policy.

We all read the speeches of Mr. Henry Wallace when he was in London and other parts of the country. It is not for us—least of all in one of the Houses of Parliament—to enter into any discussion relating to American internal politics, or to comment upon his accusations against his own Government of ruthless Imperialism; but when he purports to interpret British opinion that is another matter. I observe that there was quoted in The Times, a few days ago, an extract from an article by Mr. Henry Wallace in the New Republic, in which he speaks of "Britain's retreat from friendship" with America, and says that Britain is retreating from her friendship with America because of policies which she distrusts and fears. I think it is only right and proper that those of us who speak for various sections of political opinion in this country should say that those for whom we speak are not conscious of any desire to retreat from friendship with America, nor do we regard the United States as engaged in policies which we distrust and fear.

On the contrary, so far as atomic energy is concerned—though that was not one of the matters in respect of which Mr. Wallace criticized his own Government—we are convinced that we, and the whole world, are receiving the greatest possible help in our common purpose by reason of the action which has been taken by the United States in this sphere. They have declared publicly, in the presence of all, that they are prepared to transfer to an international authority all that they know about atomic energy, and, apparently, the stocks of bombs that they possess, together with all their facilities to ensure methods of future production, if that is so desired, on one condition. That condition is a very proper and, indeed, an indispensable condition. It is that if they are willing to forgo the independent use of atomic bombs against others, they must have a real assurance that others will not be permitted either to prepare or to use atomic bombs against them. Nothing could be more legitimate than a condition of that kind.

But when we come to trying to apply in practice these principles, there are some who say—and one can well understand the view being held—that any attempt at international control will prove illusory and worthless They say: "Look at the efforts made hitherto—look at the Kellogg Pact, outlawing war, which was signed by all the great nations of the world, and recall how within a short interval it was followed by the most disastrous, destructive and cruel war known in the whole history of mankind." They point to the recent war in which Germany and Italy tore up almost every international obligation. There are various people who say that all these undertakings are not worth the paper upon which they are printed. In a book which I was reading lately, an interesting and incisive book, with the title of "Man and the Atom"—it attains the quality of incisiveness largely from over-statement, I must say—the writer. Mr. Vulliamy, in one passage, states: The principles that once regulated the conduct of war have been renounced for ever. This renunciation is general. No protest or pretence has a scrap of meaning. Morality and humanity do not exist in modern war, whose avowed aim is total destruction. That, to my mind, is totally untrue. It is undoubtedly the case that in the recent war there were many infractions of international law, and that some States did regard it with complete indifference, but, viewed as a whole, the facts contradict such sweeping assertions. Take, for example, the matter of the treatment of prisoners. In ancient times, in those days to which the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, referred, it was the custom of even the more progressive and more civilized States to slaughter their prisoners as a matter of course, and often men, women and children, were all included in the slaughter. One reads in Thucydides, or, for the matter of that, in the Old Testament, how in ancient times it was regarded as a usual practice; and even down to the Middle Ages the treatment of prisoners was quite barbaric.

Now during the last war, and in the recent war, though indeed there were certain infringements and acts of cruelty, on the whole the treatment of millions of prisoners taken by ourselves, by the United States, by the British Dominions, by France, and even by Germany, and, to some extent, by Japan, was far removed, indeed, from wholesale massacre. The prisoners were fed as the soldiers of the Power by whom they were held were fed; they were allowed to receive Red Cross parcels; they were permitted to study and to pass university examinations if they wished. They were nursed in hospitals, if wounded, and almost all over the world, with some exceptions, the Red Cross conventions in that regard were observed. Some hospital ships were sunk, it is true; but how many hospital ships, fully lighted and marked with a Red Cross were allowed to pass without interference? If there was one case of an infraction there were, perhaps, a hundred cases of observance.

Again, with regard to the use of gas, each of us at the beginning of the last war was furnished with a gas mask. Those gas masks never had to be used. There were reports, occasionally, that gas was being used here and there, but those reports were untrue, and we, the United States, France, Russia and other countries would not in any circumstances have used gas. The Germans may have been deterred by the fear of reprisals—probably they were. But if there had been no convention outlawing the use of gas all of us might have been compelled to use it from the first day, in so far as it could have been effective. The same may be said to be true of bacteriological warfare. I have mentioned Russia: Russia and many other States all did their best to observe these conventions. This gives the lie to the assertion that in the present state of the world we are back in the jungle and that no one pays any attention to any international regulation.

With regard to the atom bomb—and with it most of us would include bacteriological welfare, in all measures taken in connexion with that bomb, and other methods of mass destruction—I think it is generally anticipated by those now discussing this matter at the United Nations that of course there would be a risk of infringement. We cannot indulge in wishful thinking in this respect, and depend merely on signatures of those who undertake not to use it. There must, in my view, be in reserve the power to use the atom bomb against those who are prepared to use it, who might be preparing to use it by surprise and who would be ready to use it. I do not think it would be safe merely to out. law the atom bomb absolutely, unconditionally and in all circumstances. That might mean that some nation, as has been already suggested in this debate, might secretly manufacture it and use it suddenly and by surprise, with catastrophic effect, thereby bringing to itself instant victory with no possibility of reply from the victims. A risk of that kind cannot be undergone.

The consequence is that there must be some international force which, in the last resort, should be empowered to use the atomic bomb, but only as a measure of reprisal against those who themselves have used or are preparing to use it. That is the proposal that was made in your Lordships' House in one of the earliest debates on the subject by the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay of Birker, on March 7, 1946, when he declared that the right policy would be an absolute outlawry of the atomic bomb except for purposes of reprisal against those who infringed that rule. I think that could properly be done. Indeed it is not a suitable weapon for any ordinary purpose in which the international military force may be called upon to engage

To take a case that is undoubtedly a possible one, Italy and Yugoslavia may come to blows over Trieste, and it might be held that one of them was the aggressor. One cannot conceive the Security Council saying that, as a penalty for this, they are going to drop an atomic bomb on Rome or Belgrade and wipe out their population. The penalty would be too terrific. As in those cases in which the only penalty for certain crimes was capital punishment, where it was thought there might be some mitigating circumstances, juries would not convict. In the long run it conduces more to lawlessness than to the maintenance of the law if your penalty is of excessive character. If the atomic bomb were barred from ordinary use by an international police force, it would be more likely that the Powers in general might come into this organization, and might be ready to participate even in the use of force against those who are aggressors.

Our task to-day is to consider how best we can help such a state of things to be brought about. I heard the most reverend Primate say that our business was to see what could be done to assist in the establishment of the Atomic Development Authority, or "Ada" as it is called. When I heard that, there came to my mind an incident which occurred more than forty years ago when I was on a journey in Africa and a companion of mine continually hummed what was then a popular music hall song: We must proceed to search for Ada, If she be above the ground. Apparently that is the present situation with respect to the control of atomic energy. The United Nations Commission was established in June, 1946, and your Lordships will not wish to examine here the course of the discussions that took place. But I would like to add a few words to what has been said by the most reverend Primate with regard to the attitude of Russia. That attitude has been misinterpreted in this country. There were favourable expressions by Marshal Stalin and Mr. Molotov, and it was thought that on March 5, 1946, Mr. Gromyko completely threw them over and repudiated the whole process of control.

The first brief accounts that appeared in this country certainty gave rise to that interpretation, but if one takes the verbatim report of Mr. Gromyko's speech one finds it is of quite a different character. On the contrary, he says that: Mr. Molotov, and later, the Soviet representative on the Atomic Energy Commission and on the Security Council have also clarified the position of the U.S.S.R. on questions of inspection, without which, as is clear, no strict, effective, and real international control is thinkable. Then follows the passage which was read by the most reverend Primate. It is clear that what Mr. Gromyko objected to on behalf of his country may be condensed into the three points already mentioned by the most reverend Primate. The first is that, in Mr. Gromyko's view, the Atomic Development Authority was to be given powers much too extensive. He said: One could not imagine such a situation in which a control organ would possess establishments in different countries, decide the questions whether to allow or not to allow the creation of such establishments on the territories of these or other countries, and would have the exclusive rights to carry on scientific research in the field of the production and the use of atomic energy. If that is really the purpose, then it may be open to legitimate criticism. If we envisage some few establishments using atomic energy here and there for a particular purpose as something exceptional, then we might envisage all of them being under the control of the central world authority, but if, as I anticipate (though the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, does not), that in the course of a generation or two atomic energy will be the normal course for producing power, even in countries which have natural resources such as coal and oil or hydro-electric power, but still more in countries which have not got them, then you may have thousands and tens of thousands of enterprises using atomic energy. I can then understand that the Soviet Government might feel some objection to all these establishments, and the necessary research for maintaining them, being vested in some international authority and not in their own national authority. That is the main objection in the matter of inspection, so far as I realize it.

Then with regard to the veto, although the Russians hold firm that decisions on questions of policy must be arrived at unanimously and that any use of sanctions by the forces of the United Nations Organization must be agreed to by the Security Council, Mr. Gromyko declares quite definitely in his speech that he does not mean that to apply to the ordinary control. He uses these words in that connexion, and they are quite specific: The position of the Soviet Union on this question has already been stated more than once. If it is necessary, I am prepared to repeat that such an organ"— that is the organ for carrying on the day to day control of tin whole of atomic matters— must have the right to take, in appropriate cases, decisions by majority vote. Then there is the third point, that the Russians consider that the first step should be to draw up a general convention dealing with atomic power, and these questions of the method of control and inspection should follow after. They are not prepared to go definitely into the matter without first dealing with the principle which is to be attained by such methods of control.

I confess that that seems to me a not unreasonable attitude to take up. Why should there be objection to deciding first the methods of outlawry, and, afterwards, to seeing how they are to be fulfilled? It is true they both must come into force simultaneously. You cannot first out- law, and then leave to later consideration where there should be effective control, because that would give rise to the danger that some criminal Power might repudiate the outlawry and adopt the method of surprise. Consequently, inspection and control must come from the beginning, but there is no reason why the provisions of the outlawry convention should not be decided first and the later part of the convention be taken second.

Those are the main points to which I would wish to draw your Lordships' attention. All are agreed as to the gravity and the urgency of the matter, that adequate defence is improbable, or, at best, uncertain, and that international control is essential; but I hope your Lordships will also agree that the outlawry ought not to extend to prohibiting reprisals against those who disobey the decree of the outlawry. It is quite true that in the long run, viewing the matter as a whole, there cannot be any absolute protection except the abolition of all war, and so long as—in the words of H. G. Wells— "Peace remains a mere name for the resting place between wars," so long can there be no absolute security. But meantime it is our task—or it should be our task—to convert the desire for peace, which prevails among all peoples, into the will to peace and into the power to enforce that will; and it is for the United Nations to evoke, to organize and to apply that will to peace.

4.11 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for any very great length of time. I find myself indebted to the most reverend Primate for having introduced this subject. I approve—I think entirely—of everything that he said and of his asking for further information, if the Government can give it, on what is actually being done. I do not think it is necessary to go, at any rate very generally, into the particular proposals that have been made before the Atomic Commission. Broadly speaking, the proposal is to set up some international authority which would control the use of atomic bombs and, indeed, their manufacture. As I understand it, the great dispute that arose was as to the way in which that control should be enforced and, in particular, whether it would be necessary to have some form of international inspection. So far as that is concerned, I am absolutely convinced that without international inspection it would be perfectly useless. Merely to have a general acceptance by the nations of the world of the desirability of not using atomic bombs, and even an undertaking that they would not manufacture them, would be quite insufficient to give anything like a sense of security from the possibility of the complete destruction of our civilization.

Moreover, I rather want to impress upon your Lordships that, so far as I understand it, those proposals, even for inspection, do not, and indeed cannot, go very far. They propose that there should be no manufacture of atomic bombs for military use, and they set out that that should be secured in the way that I have described. They do not say —and indeed it is obvious that it cannot be said—that no one is to investigate the atomic energy question; that no preparations are to be made, and that no experiments are to be conducted. One cannot say that. It would be quite impracticable to attempt it. We were told just now that in this country £50,000,000 has been devoted to the further study of these questions. That will go on, whatever the operation of the new authority and whatever the prohibition of the use of bombs for military purposes. I was very much interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, in that respect. He says that the probability is that what I believe is correctly called the development of nuclear energy will be carried a great deal further than it has been, and that the bombs which we have seen will be as nothing compared to the violence and destructiveness of the bombs that will be invented; and the inventiveness of inventors is still as great as ever. I have been thrilled—though rather ignorantly thrilled—with the description of the terrific developments of flying, of how machines have been constructed which will go faster than sound and will be at the use of anybody who likes to have them. That is not of direct assistance, perhaps, to bombing, but it is of indirect assistance; and it means, among other things, that the Atlantic Ocean, from being a real barrier against war, has become a very imperfect obstacle to it in the future, and indeed, as a defence, it is not of much more use to us than the English Channel was 100 years ago.

That being so, it seems to me that the hope that there will be any diminution in the threat of the atomic bomb is quite untrustworthy. If we succeed in forbidding the manufacture of the atomic bomb, and have inspection to prevent its being manufactured, that will mean some protection against what the most reverend Primate called the great danger of sudden unprovoked destruction by nations which have the atomic, bomb of their peaceful neighbours. But once the war has begun, none of these precautions will be of any use. Once the war has begun, each nation will be straining every nerve, not only because they desire to defeat their adversary, but because they desire to maintain their own national existence. They will strain every nerve to develop—by invention or in any other way they can—the effectiveness of their warlike weapons. Suppose the war goes on for a year or two. All our precautions will have completely vanished. Each of the two or more belligerent nations will be manufacturing—to the best of their ability—something in the nature of atomic bombs, in order, in the first place, to destroy their adversary, and, in the second place, to protect themselves. Once the war begins, there does not seem to me to be any precaution which can be taken that will preserve us. Both my noble friends, Lord Cherwell and Viscount Samuel, seemed to hope that we might have some provision by which some international authority—I suppose the Security Council of the United Nations or something of that kind—would be entitled to use atomic bombs as reprisals or as coercive measures against any belligerent who seemed to be ready, or preparing, to use atomic bombs or other similar inventions in their own warlike proceedings.

I confess that I am a little hesitant to express a very strong opinion on that proposal. I should like to see reduced to the cold print of provisions in a proposed international document what exactly is conceived of such an international authority, how it is to operate, and who is to say whether it is entitled to operate. All these are very difficult questions. If an entirely new authority is to be created, with these exceptional means of destroying a belligerent because that belligerent proposes to utilize nuclear energy in its warfare, I confess that I cannot but feel some doubt as to whether even the very able advocates of this proposal have thought out in detail exactly what it would mean in the event of war breaking out. To my mind, it must begin much earlier than that. The only possible defence against these weapons, and similar weapons which will undoubtedly be produced, is the maintenance of peace. I am sure that once it is said that nations can go to war, but must not use this or that weapon, we shall fail as we have failed in times past. It is impossible to make war a decent occupation. War means destruction of your adversary by every means that yon can use, and it is of no avail to say that he may be destroyed in one way but not in another. I am convinced that that will never provide a satisfactory solution to this question. The only possible course, in my judgment, is the maintenance of peace.

I was interested to hear from both the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, a great many of the arguments which have been familiar to me for the last thirty years. I only wish those arguments had prevailed twenty-five years ago. Let me finish with a few observations on where we stand now. What hope is there for the preservation of peace? What chance is there that we can induce the nations to abandon war definitely and for ever? That seems to me to be the real question that faces us at this moment. I do not mean to say that I believe in any immediate war. I agree with those who have said that there is no prospect of the nations again indulging in war until they have recovered from the effects of the last war a good deal more than they have recovered at present. But I am afraid that that will be only a temporary pause. How long it will last no one can tell. I think anyone would be very rash to say that it would last for more than twenty years from the time at which we are now speaking. During that twenty years, is it possible to build up so effective a machine against war as will practically prevent aggression at the end of that period?

I do not deny that there are disquieting symptoms against the possibility of that being done. Almost every day in the newspapers we read of the attitude adopted by the Russian Government. I do not think we ought to put that too highly. What the Russian Government seem to think is that the United Nations Organization has been created to protect the interests of those who form part of that great organization, and particularly the Soviet State. That is a view which has often been taken by those who have taken part in any international organization for peace. They tend to take the attitude: "Peace is the essential thing, but what we mean by 'peace' is that we should be protected from any attack by others, and we should be entitled to carry out what we think is reasonable in our policy." I think I can give, from my own personal knowledge, instances of that being true of other nations besides the Russian nation. That attitude is, of course, quite fatal, and if it continues it will eventually destroy the whole conception of any international organization for the prevention of war. No doubt that is the danger of the Russian attitude.

I hope, and believe, that there is some chance that it will be perceived by the Russian Government that that attitude will be fatal to the existence of the United Nations, and fatal to the existence of peace, and that they will abandon it sooner or later. I believe that they do, genuinely and with conviction, desire the peace of the world, and, therefore, I think there is a hope of that being achieved. I confess I am a little more perturbed by report that I saw the other day as to the declining interest of the United States in the whole idea of the experiment of the United Nations. It was said that a poll had been taken, and a very large proportion—I think it was 50 per cent.—of those who answered said they no longer believed in the effectiveness of the United Nations. I hope that was only a passing phase. It would be quite untrue to say that there has been in this country a general decay in the belief in the United Nations, but I can say, from my own experience, that there is a very large amount of apathy and indifference. There is a feeling about that "this is a matter for the Government" (a hopeless attitude on any question), or that "It has all been tried before in the case of the League of Nations, and as it failed then what is the use of trying it again?" That is an attitude that is of the utmost danger.

Then, of course, there are also all the other competing political interests—the interests of food, the interests of housing, the interest of wages, and all the rest of it. Those are very close to every man's mind, and there is a tendency to put aside the larger question of how peace can be preserved for questions which are not of the same urgent importance. That seems to me to be the thing for which we ought to be striving every hour. To the utmost of our power we ought to be pressing on our fellow men the enormous danger which exists, and the enormous importance of getting an international organization accepted—and not only accepted but supported by every nation belonging to it to the full extent of its power. It will be the attitude of the peoples of the world which will count, and not the attitude of this or that Government, or this or that statesman. It is the public opinion of the world which counts. That is what we have to persuade and to make effective. It depends—I am sorry to have to say it—on idealism. It is idealism which moves people; and it is the only thing which does move them. They cannot be terrified into being peaceful; they have to be passionately anxious for peace. That is what we have to aim at. How it is to be done would take too long for me to explain, and it would try your Lordships' patience too highly if I were to try even to sketch the machinery which ought to be employed for that purpose.

I will conclude by saying that I have been greatly encouraged by, and appreciate most deeply, the statement made in Germany the other day by a noble friend of ours (who is not here tonight; no doubt because he is better employed elsewhere)—namely, the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham. He said definitely (and it is what we ought all to be ready to say) that he came to Germany with the purpose of applying the principles of Christian morality to the reconstruction of Germany. I am quoting from memory. That is the only hope we have, and until we get that accepted and believed in, I do not believe that any ingenious construction of documents, treaties and organizations will save us.

4.33 p.m.


My Lords, I listened with the most complete and absolute agreement to the speech of the most reverend Primate, so much so that I nearly decided not to speak at all, because it seemed there was not much left that I wanted to say, but in the course of the debate some points have arisen about which I would like to speak. Like the most reverend Primate and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, I read the verbatim report of Mr. Gromyko's speech, but I must confess that I did not draw from it quite such optimistic conclusions as those drawn by the noble Viscount opposite. It seemed to me that Mr. Gromyko was trying to make the most of certain concessions, although he was aware throughout that the concessions he was making were not such as would serve the purpose we have in view, and that he would make concessions only if he knew they would not do any good. That was the impression I received from his speech, and that raises the whole essential problem, which seems to me to be so extraordinarily difficult.

I must say that I am surprised at the paucity of interest in this question in this country, because, after all, it is perhaps more vital to this country than to any other in all the world. The interest in the subject in America is very much greater than it is here. I suppose that is partly because the Americans feel a sense of responsibility in the matter; but at any rate they are very much more alive to all the issues than the general public in this country. Here I find, for instance, even the Council of British Atomic Scientists prepared to acquiesce—or so it seems to me—in an attitude which is one of hopeless pessimism. They say, in a Report issued last January: It must be admitted that an effective system of control acceptable to all concerned is a very doubtful proposition in the present state of distrust between nations, since it must contain, at least in embryonic form, a measure of world government. It is felt by some of our members that we can scarcely expect any effective agreement on the control of atomic energy at the present time. If that really is the last word to be said in the matter, then I think our situation is entirely hopeless, because so far as there is peace in the world at the present time it only exists because one nation has atomic bombs. As soon as a number of nations have them, there will no longer exist the only motive for peace—which, in the absence of the idealism we should all like to see, is fear. Fear is the one thing that is preserving us at the present time. If we are to preserve the peace of the world beyond the time when America ceases to have a monopoly of the bomb—which is not very distant—it must be done by having the bomb completely controlled by some one authority, and it cannot then be a national one. The period during which it can be a national authority is necessarily brief, and if the control does not pass straight from a national authority to an international authority, then we shall inevitably get an atomic war. We all know what that involves, and it is not necessary to go into it. It seems to me, therefore, that we have only this brief time in which somehow or another to establish international control over atomic energy. I entirely agree that controlling atomic energy alone is not enough, and that ultimately we mast have an international authority which can prevent war. But it is a step, and the machinery that is required in the one case is similar to the machinery needed in the other.

It could grow, and it would be an object lesson, showing what could be done in the way of international control. But—and this is a question to which I should very much like to know the answer—what is to be done, in view of the objections that Russia seems to have to any kind of international control? Are we simply to sit down under those objections? Presumably we should try every method of persuasion that we can, and make every concession that is not a concession of something vital, in the hope of producing some agreement. But if all that fails, as I am inclined to think it will, and Russia, for example, still continues to object to any adequate or sufficient inspection, what are we then to do? Are we to do what I think would hive to be done in that case—namely, to try to organize all the nations of the world which are in favour of international control into a somewhat tight alliance, giving them all the advantages that America at present possesses, and trying then to frighten Russian into joining that association, with all the privileges it would entail? Or are we to go on, leaving Russia outside, with the certainty that if we do so an atomic war will result? It is a very difficult choice.

I should very much like to know both what is the attitude of our own Government, and what is the attitude of the American Government. I cannot here and now find out the attitude of the American Government, but one does see that they seem to be drifting very fast towards an attitude which will lead towards coercion. In fact, I was told only recently by a man just returned from America that in that country any person who favours the United Nations is labelled as a dangerous "Red." That is going very far, but it seems to be happening. I confess that I cannot have much faith in the United Nations, and never have had since the veto was decided upon, because so long as you preserve the veto it is nothing but a debating society where you can meet and exchange opinions. What people's opinions are does not matter, because they go on as if they had not met. I think it would be necessary to create a tighter organization of nations who are prepared to forego the veto—an organization which should be open to anybody, which might gradually by-pass the veto and arrive at the same results as if the veto had been abandoned. I do not see what else is to be done if we are to establish a real international government; and if we do not establish an international government then it is the end of everything.

We have only a few years during which this can be done, and I think it would involve something rather like an attempt to coerce the Russians, because I do not believe that they would willingly submit to inspection. From all we know of Russia, inspection is the one thing they cannot stand, and I do not think they will accept it willingly. They allow inspection of a factory which is dubbed a factory for the creation of atomic energy, but not a factory which is dubbed something else. That is what Mr. Gromyko said, and it does not amount to very much. It only means one has to put a different label over the factory and it is safe from inspection. Do you think you will get the Russians to acquiesce at all easily in what is necessary? I hope with all my heart that they will, but I do not expect it.

Then the question arises, how much pressure of one sort or another it will be proper to use against them in order to compel them to act in a way which, quite clearly, is as much to their interest as to ours, because I am persuaded that they are completely mad and foolish in their opposition to this scheme. This is in the interests of mankind and ought not to be measured in national terms at all. Can man go on existing in the way he has, or is he to become a hunted animal? That is not a nationalist question; it is not a question of Russian interests, American in- terests or British interests; it is a question of human interests. If only the Russians could see it in that light we might be able to get some agreement with them, but I have very grave doubts as to whether it will be possible. In the absence of that, I think the question will arise as to what degree of coercion it would be right and proper to apply.

4.43 P.m.


My Lords, may I begin on a frivolous note, and say how much I enjoyed the unexpected pleasure of agreeing with almost every word the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, said? I omit his few remarks on a curious race of people whom he calls idealists, who seem to believe things I never really found human beings believing in.


I said "ideologues."


I think the noble Lord said both but that is frivolous. Like other noble Lords in this debate who have followed the most reverend Primate, I should like to begin by saying that I am in complete agreement with all he said. I want to take the point a little further than it has already been taken by the noble Earl who has just spoken. We are, of course, immensely further on since last we discussed this, not only by the publication of the Lilienthal Report, but by the official adoption of it by America. I rejoice to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell—who knows far more about this than I do—that he thinks that a practical Report. I also rejoice to find him agreeing that the points on which Mr. Gromyko has stood out are, nevertheless, essential points. We must insist on inspection and we must insist on sanctions.

I find, with very great regret, that I cannot agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, said about that. I see no escape from an arrangement where it is clear that if anybody uses atomic energy destructively he shall have it used destructively upon him. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, in saying that the use of that must be almost automatic. There are difficulties in working out the ways in which that should be used, but I do not think they are as impossible as the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, sug- gested. It seems to me that two essentials of any plan dealing with this problem are preserved in the Lilienthal Report. It aims at insuring that the atomic bomb shall never be used for any purpose except to prevent its being used. Secondly—and here perhaps I may differ respectfully from the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell—it ensures that the constructive side of atomic energy should go along with the destructive side. Although I am aware that the constructive possibilities of atomic energy are much smaller than has been suggested, nevertheless they are something, and they are not entirely negligible. I think it is worth our looking at the vision—I think a hopeful vision— which the Lilienthal Report offers, of producing for the first time an international agency which is there not only to prevent things being done, but also has obvious tangible benefits in its hands.

It seems to me analagous to say that if you come into this organization you get something out of it, and I think the working of the constructive side, even if it did not go very far, would do more than almost anything in the world to make international authority a reality in people's minds. The difficulty about these international organizations is not just the wickedness of man, but the smallness of man's imagination. A high degree of education and considerable leisure are required in thinking about world organization or world affairs; and they do not come home to the ordinary person. If you have something which will be producing things all the time, I think that may make more difference than anything else to the strength of the international ideas in people's minds. Let noble Lords reflect how much it takes to have a really active concern in a thing like the United Nations. It is very difficult to ask people to have that, because it is a rather vague necessity and a far away idea. We do it by propaganda, and nobody has done it more than the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood. We do it, but it is not easy to make it universal, and it is very hard indeed to make it so real in the minds of many nations which have not a population so concerned and so capable of dealing with these large external questions. That is the real trouble about it. If you could produce an international organization which was giving you something it would stamp it in people's minds and make it a reality.

There follows from that a certain practical moral It is this. Do not let us say: "Let us first set up an all-competent international authority, one with the veto completely removed and quite satisfactory; because only such an authority will be able to deal with the menace of the atomic bomb." Let us rather deal with the problem of atomic energy internationally and constructively. We shall thereby do more than anything else to establish a real, active international authority. I think this danger might be a blessing. That is the way things always go in international affairs. That is why we are confronted with this frightfully decisive point. The philosopher Hobbes—I wonder if I am right in supposing that the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, has been reading him; or is it only an instance of great minds thinking alike?—maintained that in any society where there was no reigning authority you might say you were prepared to act as other people would wish you to do, but where there was no such authority, your actions were based on the principle "Do to others as you expect others are going to do to you; and do it first." That is the real peril involved in the atomic bomb.

The distinction to which I referred a moment ago, of trying to deal with the atomic problem not by international control but rather by first saying: "Let us abolish all war; let us do away with the veto; let us have a completely competent international authority," is relevant to the last and most serious point I want to make. It has already been made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. Recent events have made some people—many people, I believe—ask: "Is U.N.O. to be an instrument of international action, or is it to be an instrument for preventing international action?" I think that some of the ways in which the Russians have used the veto can only thus be described. What interests them in the United Nations organization is that they can prevent international action. There are, of course, all sorts of reasons for that. There are all sorts of historical reasons why Russia is suspicious. There are all sorts of reasons why Russia objected to the proposals contained in the Lilienthal Report.

I do not feel we can sit down and say: "It will be all right; we have only to have a little more patience and they will agree." I think we have to ask ourselves: "Supposing the veto proves to be used, and goes on being used by Russia to prevent international action in this matter, and to prevent the setting up of an Atomic Development Authority, what are we going to do about it?" We must do something; we cannot just sit down and say: "Well, well; have patience; have patience." Time is running out. I suggest two things. Let us make every possible effort to see that Russia's special difficulties are met. Russia's Constitution and special circumstances make some of the provisions of the Lilienthal Report—or any plan worked out by other nations—especially difficult for her to accept. Her difficulties should be carefully studied and met, in so far as essentials of this plan allow.

I agree with the speaker who preceded me, but at the same time it may be necessary for those nations who do accept the plan to go ahead without waiting—on the old principle which was behind the foundation of the Congregational Church and the Reformation, without tarrying for any—to organize an A.D.A. without waiting for universal agreement, making it clear that this organization is set up only in order to become an organization of United Nations, and that it is set up in such a way that at any time any dissentient nation may come in on equal terms. I hope that may not be necessary, but it may. But whatever happens, we must not let his unique chance of doing away with world anarchy be lost by the action of a single Power or group of dissentient Powers. In the. word of that wonderful chapter in the Book of Deuteronomy, "There is set before us this day blessing and cursing, life and death; therefore choose life that both thou and thy seed may live."

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, it is unusual for three supporters of His Majesty's Government to speak in succession, but on the other hand this is a subject in which ideas are not canalized, and I do not think there is any orthodox approach yet laid down for the Labour Party with regard to the future control of atomic energy. Therefore if I proclaim some heterodox views, I hope noble Lords who sit on these Benches will take it in good part. In speeches which have so far illuminated the proceedings there has been very little hope, and (may I say with respect?) very little faith in what we are to do in this undoubtedly difficult stage which the world has reached. I am looking forward with great pleasure to the reply by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, and I trust I shall have both hope and faith. I know that His Majesty's Government adhere to the United Nations organization and we have always put that in the very front of our policy, ever since the plan for United Nations was mooted. Where I am going to differ from what other noble Lords who have addressed the House this afternoon have said is this. I do not myself—and I speak for a good many other people who have studied these subjects—put too much faith in international inspection. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, spoke of the factories that could be camouflaged in Russia and which under present arrangements could not be inspected. But even if Russia now said: "We are going to allow complete investigations and inspection," unless we have faith and trust and good will between the leading peoples it will be possible for concealment and evasion to be practised somewhere, and to hide the plant for making this deadly, destructive explosive. The Americans could do it in their vast areas in the South Western states, the Canadians could do it in their vast north-western territories, and I would ask your Lordships to consider the immense almost uninhabited wastes of Australia, which are now being made the scene of experiments with another terrible weapon, the long-range directed rocket; not to mention the wastes of Siberia and the almost unexplored areas of the Amazon and Central Africa. I believe it would be easy, given ill-will and ill-faith, in spite of all the inspectors you could possibly employ, to hide these factories and plants from the controllers. The only ultimate solution, really, when we come to it—and this was certainly hinted at, to my great personal pleasure, by Lord Cherwell and the right reverend Primate—is some system of world federation. Several noble Lords approached this point but I think that I am the first to step over it. I think that a system of world federation must come in the end; although I agree that we must be patient and be prepared to wait some time for it, while seeking to find some constructive policy in the meantime.

If I carry your Lordships with me so far, I would go on to ask, what are we then to do? How can we prevent the present suspicions that exist between the great Powers from increasing and how can we dissipate and remove them? Since this Motion was pot on the Order Paper by the right reverend Primate we have had long, weary, patient weeks of negotiation in Moscow, with, as everyone admits, very little result. The situation now has deteriorated to that extent since the right reverend Primate first proposed to debate this question in your Lordships' House. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, talks about it being necessary perhaps to frighten or coerce the Russians into coming into an international organization for the control of this terrible weapon. I do not know whether you can coerce a people into doing something that they do not, in their hearts, wish to do, and yet retain their good faith in your future actions or your good faith in theirs. After all, a coerced nation, a nation that has been frightened into a course of action, whether it is the Russians by ourselves, or we, in a few years time when the Russians have the atom bomb, by the Russians, cannot be relied upon, when opportunity occurs, not to break its agreements. Therefore, I suggest that that would be a very dangerous policy to pursue. I further suggest that some completely new departure is needed and I propose, if I may be allowed to take up a few minutes of your Lordships' time for the purpose, to suggest one.

But first, with regard to what the noble Viscount who leads the Liberal Party in your Lordships' House said about a certain attitude of mind in America, I must say that I was much alarmed and disturbed, when I was in the United States last October, by the loose talk in not altogether irresponsible quarters of the possibility and even the probability of war. There was far too much of it. It did not come up only in the newspapers. In the United States they have an institution of wireless broadcasters, commentators who have immense audiences. They have a great following, indeed, for they are listened to, literally, by millions. They have all the tricks of tickling the appetites and the emotions of their audiences, and I am sorry to say that they have very great influence. They arc continually harping on this very policy of the preventive war. And you cannot describe those people as irresponsible, because of the undoubted influence which they possess. In some ways the radio in the United States has more influence than the newspapers.

The question that I used to ask Americans, people who had served in the recent war, men in important business positions and one or two politicians as well, was this: "All right, yon go to war with Russia, as you think may be necessary. Presumably, you win that war by dropping atom bombs on twenty or thirty big cities and forcing the Russians to surrender. What is the next step?" I never got an answer to that question. I would put this to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, in case his theory about coercion should go too far. After the surrender of Russia I would ask my American friends: "Would you proceed to occupy the whole of Russia in Europe and Russia in Asia?" I never received any reply to those questions from the people to whom I put them in America. Usually they would either change the subject or reach for the cocktail shaker.

Now the suggestion which I have to put forward is this—and I want to epitomize very much what I am going to say. I have followed the whole of the discussions that have taken place at the meetings of the Security Council in New York, and at the recent meetings of the Foreign Ministers in Moscow. I have read the reports and I have tried carefully to follow the arguments on both sides. It seems to me that the crux of the whole problem to-day is the economic weakness of Russia. I am told that unless one has actually seen the devastation in Western Russia it is impossible to realize the immense, widespread and scientific destruction which the Germans perpetrated. They deliberately set out to rain the whole of Western Russia, from about sixty miles west of Moscow right up to the old Polish border—and they succeeded very well. Then followed severe droughts and two bad harvests in Southern Russia, with serious damage to the food position. Added to this Russia has suffered the loss of 7,000,000 people, soldiers and civilians, killed. The result of it all has been a state of very great economic weakness in Russia. As I said to American friends, over and over again, the idea that in the economic state of this country or in the economic state of the U.S.S.R. either of us could go to war again at the present time is absurd. Neither of us could pos- sibly mobilize. We have not the economic reserves or the foodstuffs available. Your Lordships well know that that is true about this country, and I have reason to believe that it is true about Russia.

This great state of weakness creates a fear mentality—a fear psychology, if you like—and that is the explanation why it has been so difficult to get agreement with Russia on all these great questions including that of control of atomic energy. I think it is also the explanation of the insistence by the Russians at the Moscow Conference—which I gather did more than anything else to make the Conference abortive—on very large reparations from Germany. The Russians are afraid that the Germans may be able to recover economically and industrially before they can, and that a recovered Germany may well again become a danger to the peace of the world and particularly to Russia. You may say that that is absurd, but it is what people believe, and especially the governing classes, that matters. The question is how to overcome that. I believe there is one way to overcome it which would restore good faith and would create an entirely new and better international atmosphere.

The industrial potential of the United States to-day is enormous. During the Second World War not only did they maintain armed forces of 7,000,000 men with the most elaborate and intricate equipment, not only did they provide numerous allies with very elaborate and intricate equipment as well, but during all that time the industrial machine of the United States functioned in such a way that the standard of living of the American people was raised to a height which had never before been attained. Through all the strains and stresses of the greatest war in history there was this immense industrial activity proceeding in the United States; and that vast industrial machine remains. How is it going to dispose of its products in future? Many people want the things which are being produced in the United States, but they have not the dollars with which to pay for them.

Many thoughtful Americans discussing this matter with myself and others have agreed that the only way in which the potential industrial surplus of America can be disposed of is by loan, and if that loan could be made—I do not want to shock your Lordships; I have been leading you up to this point—an international loan, in which we would later participate when our own economy is to some extent restored and we have no longer the luxury of a sellers' market to enjoy; if it could be a loan made to Russia for reconstructional purposes to enable her to import the power plant and other plants, the railway equipment, the agricultural machinery and other materials that she needs so desperately, I feel confident that that gesture would have the effect of changing the whole mentality in Russia and would sweeten the whole of international relations between the leading members of the United Nations organization.

From that change in mentality I believe we would get agreement with regard to the control of atomic energy and many other matters which are troubling the minds of all thoughtful men at the present time. If you put the idea crudely to the ordinary American to-day I am afraid he would get a very severe shock, but if it is explained to him that, after all, such a loan for constructive purposes would be cheaper than another great industrial slump—in other words, commercial depression—in the United States, and infinitely cheaper than another war, he begins to see reason. The American economists, and the more educated among the political people. I used to meet in the United States and here, quite openly agree that it is the only way in which another great depression (of which they are all desperately afraid) can be warded off and, at the same time, a new departure made in international affairs, thus avoiding this terrible deadlock which may become dangerous, with the results so vividly described by the mover of this Motion and other noble Lords. I throw this seed out but I expect nothing to grow for some little time, though I hope it does not fall on barren ground. The noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, is one of those responsible for the welfare of this country and the future survival of mankind as a civilized animal, and I hope that some of the seed may take root.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a discussion which is thoroughly characteristic of your Lordships' House. We have heard many fertile and thoughtful suggestions in the course of it, and I would pay tribute to the suggestion made just now by the noble Lord behind me. I entirely agree—I think every one of us does—with the description given by the most reverend Primate of the horrors behind this problem, and that an obligation accordingly rests upon us all to do everything that is humanly possible to avert them. It is true, as my noble friend Viscount Cecil said, that it is the heart of man that decides this question—the heart or the mind. Like him, I am never ashamed of ideals, but every one of us must be impressed in a case like this with the imperative necessity of not losing any time in developing any useful suggestion that is made.

The noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, said that he hoped for, but did not expect, a very reassuring reply. I am afraid that that will be literally correct. I will take the truthful course and inform your Lord ships as well as I can of the present position of international discussion in this matter. It is not altogether discouraging, and some real progress is being made. I think I shall best meet the wishes of your Lordships if I confine myself more or less to a factual relation of what has been done and what is being done, rather than speak more widely on the great issues involved. We all agree on these issues, so there is no point in repeating them. There are some features of the work that has been done which are somewhat encouraging, but there are others of great importance that we must also bear in mind.

Your Lordships are aware that this business, so far as the United Nations are concerned, began with the visit of the Prime Minister to America in November, 1945, the agreement there reached with President Truman and Mr. Mackenzie King, and the joint declaration which was made. I would like to remind you of that declaration. It recommended that the United. Nations should set up a commission authorized to make specific proposals, first, for extending between all nations an exchange of basic scientific information; secondly, for the control of atomic energy to the extent necessary to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes; thirdly, for the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and so on, and fourthly, for effective safeguards by means of inspection. That was subse- quently agreed to at Moscow, and then the United Nations set up the Atomic Energy Commission consisting of the members of the Security Council plus Canada. At their first meeting in January, 1945, came the proposals from Mr. Baruch, and these proposals have been referred to many time s in the course of this debate. They were definite proposals for the creation of an international Atomic Development Authority, with powers for an adequate system of control, for penalties and so on. That scheme was based upon the Lilienthal Report, and received general support at the meeting, but Russia and Poland did not agree, and put up the counter proposals which have been mentioned this afternoon by more than one noble Lord.

That is how matters stood at that time, and it was evident that some step had to be taken to get out of she impasse. The proposals then made were that these plans should be referred to technical examination. There, I am glad to say, we can report a certain amount of progress, and an efficient start was made on this subject by the technical people in the autumn of last year. We have had from them a unanimous report. That is the first report that has been unanimous. Of course, the importance of a unanimous report depends upon the subject on which it is unanimous, but when I tell your Lordships some of the things that have emerged, I think you will say that it was of great importance. One of the findings of this unanimous report is, I think, of first-class importance. It has not been mentioned in the course of this discussion, but I should like to read it to your Lordships. I am looking at the report in question It is stated that you cannot really separate (I am not speaking in scientific jargon) the use of this material into peaceful purposes as apart from war purposes, because in both cases the basic material is the same.

This very important finding is recorded: that whether the nuclear fuel be destined for peaceful or destructive purposes, the productive processes are identical and inseparable up to a very advanced state of manufacture. That is a finding of great importance. It means that the segregation of the two purposes (which some people have imagined was possible, but which the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, has more than once pointed out is not) is not an attainable reality. This technical committee made a number of recommendations which came before the Atomic Energy Commission on December 31. I will remind your Lordships of some of the unanimous findings of this body. They agreed that it was possible, scientifically and technologically, to extend amongst all nations the exchange of basic scientific information on atomic energy for peaceful ends; Secondly, that it is possible to control atomic energy to the extent necessary to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes. That again is a very important conclusion. They also agreed that: It is possible to ensure the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons. That is yet another important conclusion. Further, they say that: It is possible to provide safeguards by way of inspection and other means to protect complying States against the hazards of violations and evasions. Those are four unanimous findings of this body. It is true that they do not get us practically very much farther. But it is of vast importance that this technical body are unanimously agreed that it is possible to devise ways and means to control atomic energy to the extent necessary to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes. About that they are agreed and we have now to strive to work that out in practice. At all events, it is some little step further forward that this technical body, set up by the Atomic Energy Commission, has unanimously come to those four vital conclusions. And that Commission includes all the States. This Report, which I have now epitomized, came before the Security Council on March 10. That is getting a little nearer the present day. The Security Council came to the conclusion that it was sufficiently encouraging. They said: The findings of the first report, whilst limited to the more technical aspects of the control of atomic energy, provide a basis for further progress by the Commission towards the fulfilment of the terms of reference. The Commission has now been asked to resume its work. That is where we are at the present moment. It is true that the Commission is involved in technicalities, but, so far as it has gone, a certain unanimity on practical ends that are possible of attainment has been arrived at.

I can give your Lordships no more hopeful account than that. At all events, it represents some little progress—I put it no higher. It is a great advantage that these technical experts have told the Assembly of the United Nations that those four vital things can be done, and that they are prepared to suggest—and indeed do suggest—ways and means by which they can be done. That is as far as we have got at the present moment. It may not be—as the noble Lord opposite anticipated—a very reassuring reply; but, at all events, it is better than none. Some advance has really been made. I think that is the best one can say. I agree with every noble Lord who has spoken that these four objectives, which are now declared to be attainable, can only be attained by international co-operation of a complete kind. I agree with everything that the noble Lord opposite said, that they cannot be realized, or even begin to be realized, if the world is to be obsessed by the narrow nationalism which makes their practical application impossible. The removal of such distrust is certainly a slow business. It must be a matter of years; it must be a matter of infinite patience before it can be removed, and we must take into account the sort of consideration mentioned by my noble friend behind me, that the world—especially some parts of it (I agree that Russia is amongst those nations)—is held clown by centuries of traditional distrust, a distrust which will not be dissipated quickly. It is impossible to expect that it will be.

I am sure that we in this country are at one in this matter. We must put the whole of our faith and effort into developing to the utmost possible extent the organizations and the work of the United Nations. So far as this matter is concerned, it is, I believe, the only hope of the world. There need be no misgiving as to the attitude of His Majesty's Government in that respect. Moreover, I am perfectly certain that this is not a Party question. It is perfectly evident that all of us must do all we can to seek to make the co-operation of the nations for the achievement of those ends a reality. And, after all, it depends upon the mind of the people. It is the mind of mankind that will decide this question. These things will be made to work—as they can be made to work—only if the people of the world decide they have got to be made to work. That is what it will depend upon, and there can be no success without it. I think that this discussion, depressing as some parts of it are—the subject is depressing; the realities are depressing; the dangers are depressing—will perhaps have done something to educate the minds of our fellow-citizens as to the necessity for the widest possible co-operation and determination on this matter. So far as it contributes to that end it will be useful. I am sorry that I can say no more than that His Majesty's Government will persevere in utilizing every helpful suggestion that is made, and we certainly intend to persevere in encouraging this Committee, which has now been sent back to its labours, to prosecute them in the hope that they may soon make further helpful and practical suggestions. That, I believe, is the only line of advance that is open to us, and in it we should persevere without hesitation.

5.31 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for the reply which he has just given. I think this debate has brought out three or four points very clearly. First, we are all of us convinced of the gravity of the position; secondly, we realize that some progress has been made, and that there are possibilities on which this Commission agrees; thirdly, those possibilities cannot be carried out unless there is some restriction of national sovereignty; and, fourthly, whatever we are doing must be done quickly. It will take a long time before the minds of the peoples of the world generally are changed. During that time other nations will be in possession of the atomic bomb. Therefore, I would end by once again—if it is necessary—pressing the Government to regard this matter as one of extreme urgency, and by asking them to do everything they can to get some international authority established which will control these awful possibilities. I thank the noble Viscount for his reply, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.