HL Deb 31 July 1952 vol 178 cc511-609

3.45 p.m.

THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE MARQUESS OF READING) rose to move to resolve, That this House approves the contractual arrangements between Her Majesty's Government, the Governments of France and the United States of America, and the Government of the German Federal Republic concluded at Bonn on the 26th of May, 1952, and the Treaty between Her Majesty's Government and the European Defence Community together with the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty which were signed at Paris on the 27th of May, 1952; and affirms that these instruments give effect to the policy set out in the Declaration signed by the Foreign Ministers of France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America at Washington on the 14th of September, 1951, and pursued by successive Governments of the United Kingdom for the inclusion of a democratic Germany, on a basis of equality, in a Continental European Community, which itself will form a part of a constantly developing Atlantic Community.

The noble Marquess said: In September, 1951, the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, the United States and France—Mr. Morrison being at that time the British Foreign Secretary—issued at Washington a declaration to which reference is made in this Motion, the final words on the Paper being, in fact, a direct quotation. At the same time they issued a covering communiqué in which they stated that they had instructed the Allied High Commission in Germany to proceed to negotiation with the Federal Government which will, it is hoped, culminate in early agreements—and I stress the word "early"—between the four Governments to enter into effect at the same time as the projected European Defence Community agreement. It was specified that they were to be mutually acceptable Agreements, the effect of which was to transform completely the relationship between the three Allied powers and the German Federal Republic. After many months of arduous negotiation, the Agreements then contemplated have now been achieved and were signed at the end of May. The purpose of my Motion to-day is to invite the House to approve them and thus to clear the way for their prompt ratification.

There are in all four main documents, signed at Bonn by my right honourable friend on behalf of the United Kingdom on May 26 last, and two signed in Paris on the following day. The European Defence Community Treaty does not itself figure in the list, since the United Kingdom is not a party to it, but the two documents signed in Paris which I have cited are evidence of our close association with it. It is not my intention to occupy an unnecessary time by expounding these various agreements in any detail. They are all set out in full in a series of White Papers, and I shall content myself, and I trust the House as well, with an indication of their purpose and a summary of their more important provisions.

The master document of the Bonn group is the Convention on Relations between the Three Powers and the Federal Republic of Germany which, in effect, terminates the Occupation Statute. Its chief provisions include an Article by which the Three Powers retain their rights in relation to the stationing of armed forces in Germany and the protection of their security in regard to Berlin and in regard to Germany as a whole, including the unification of Germany and the peace settlement. There is also an Article by which the Three Powers may proclaim a state of emergency in Germany if the security of their forces is endangered. It publicly binds the Federal Republic to conduct its policy in accordance with the democratic and international procedure to which the free world is committed. Annexed to it is an undertaking by the Federal Republic to continue material, financial and economic aid to Berlin. Also annexed is the Charter of the Arbitration Tribunal. That Tribunal is to consist of three Allied members, three German and three neutral and is to have exclusive jurisdiction to settle disputes arising out of the operation of the main clauses of the Agreement except for certain disputes which are excluded from it. It is also empowered to give advisory opinions.

The second document is a Convention Concerning the Rights and Obligations of Foreign Forces and their members in the Federal Republic. So far as the United Kingdom and the United States forces in Germany are concerned, this has the same sort of objectives as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Status Agreement, but for the very reason that such large forces in Germany are stationed in a forward area it does impose upon Germany the duty to give away more rights and provide more preferential treatment than North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries are prepared to concede to one another. But that, surely, is only logical in the particular circumstances. It goes on to detail the legal status of individual members of the Forces and their dependants and enumerates their rights and obligations and the measures to be taken to safeguard their security.


Does that mean the right of being tried by their own military courts; that, for example, the rights of British military personnel are the same as for Allied personnel in this country?


Not entirely, but to a very large extent. There is an Annexe to the document which the noble Lord will see and which specifies certain offences which are not at present offences under German law but are made offences under this Treaty so that they can, if necessary, be tried by German courts in certain circumstances. I did not want to go into details on this matter. The noble Lord will find that the whole situation is very carefully set out, and I think he will find that adequate protection to the Forces, is given in the particular document.

The third document is a Convention on the Economic and Financial Participation of the Federal Republic in the Western Defence. That document has very important objects. The first is to confirm an agreement which was reached with the Federal Chancellor in February last, that in the year ending June 30, 1953—next June—the Federal Government would provide 850,000,000 Deutsche mark (which is the same as £72,000,000 sterling) monthly as distinct from 600,000,000 Deutsche mark (or something like £51,000,000 sterling) which is the rate at present in force. All this would be provided to cover the costs of the Allied Forces stationed in Germany and as its contribution to the European Defence Community.

The second object is to lay down the division of this sum between the German and the Allied Forces. The third object—to which I would direct particular attention—is to bind the Federal Republic to make a continuing contribution to Western Defence comparable to that made by the other member countries and within this contribution—not as an extra contribution but within this contribution—to assist in meeting the Deutsche mark costs, the costs in Germany, of the forces of non-European Defence Community Powers which are stationed in Germany. That is important, particularly from our point of view, because our forces and the American forces are forces of non-European Defence Community Powers stationed in Germany. Its further object is to lay down that in future years the amount provided from the German contribution for the support of the forces of non-European Defence Community Powers will be determined by negotiation between those Powers and the European Defence Community and the Federal Government.


Can the noble Marquess give us any figure showing what effect these financial arrangements will have upon our Budget?


I was going on to say a little more upon that. As I indicated just now an object of the Convention is to establish the payment of this sum of 850,000,000 Deutsche mark until June 30, 1953, and it is our view that that increased payment on the part of the Germans will suffice to cover us against any additional expenditure in Germany between the coming into force of these arrangements and June 30, 1953—the date I mentioned. The amount payable after that date will be decided by the same method as was applied to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries' contribution—that is, an assessment by what is called the Temporary Council Committee—colloquially known, I believe, as the "Three Wise Men."

It is, I think, clearly impracticable to fix that figure at the present stage, since we do not know, first, when these Conventions that we are discussing to-day will come into force in all countries which are involved. Moreover, we cannot at this stage assess independently our own probable expenditure after June, 1953, and we must wait until the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Defence Survey for 1954 has been carried out. And even if we could make our own estimate we should still have to await the figures for the other North Atlantic Treaty countries; for they, like ourselves, are all bound to submit to the same procedure, an obligation which was accepted on behalf of this country by the late Government. That is the procedure. The effect of it after June 30, 1953, will depend on the result of the negotiations which, under arrangements which have been made, and to which we are committed, will then have taken place.


I am very grateful to the noble Marquess, but I still do not know what he estimates will be the cost to the British Budget of these changes after June, 1953.


That depends upon the result of the negotiations. My recollections of Budgets is that the Budget deals with the expenditure for a particular year, and it is not easy for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to anticipate what his commitments and what his resources will be until the particular year for which he has to estimate comes round.

The fourth document is the Convention on Settlement of Matters Arising out of the War and the Occupation. I should perhaps call particular attention to one Article of this document. The general purpose of the Convention is to arrange for the winding up, or alternatively the continuation under German control, of certain of the programmes put in hand by the Occupying Powers as part of their policy in Germany during the period of Occupation. There is a chapter of general provisions and a large number of highly technical matters, into which I do not propose to enter. There is attached to that another Annexe, which is a Charter of an Arbitral Commission on Property Rights and Interests in Germany, which is established in order to decide disputes which may arise out of two particular chapters of this Convention—those upon external restitution and upon foreign interests. This Commission will be judicial in character—again consisting of three Allied, three German, and three neutral judges, and its decisions will be final.

The particular Article to which I said I desired to call attention is Article 6 of this Convention. This is the one which deals with war criminals, a matter in which some of your Lordships have taken, and I have no doubt will continue to take, particular interest. As regards their custody and the execution of sentences, the three Powers retain their existing rights until the Federal Government themselves are in a position to assume these responsibilities. There is established a Mixed Board of six members—three German and one from each of the three Powers, the United States, France and ourselves—to exercise clemency, but not in any circumstances to examine the validity of the convictions. The Government of the country which originally tried a prisoner will exercise their discretion where a recommendation to clemency is made by a majority of the Board but will be under a duty to accept and carry out a unanimous recommendation. Surely that is not an ungenerous provision, especially since a British Clemency Review has already been at work in our Zone for many months past. I should add, perhaps, that this procedure does not apply to those persons who were convicted by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

That concludes the four Bonn documents and the two Annexes to which I have referred. There are a number of what I think are quite minor, incidental documents with which I do not think it necessary to trouble your Lordships. Then we come to the Paris documents. First, there is the Treaty between the United Kingdom and the Member States of the European Defence Community. I think the relevant article of that Treaty is so short that I can read it as quickly as I can paraphrase it. It is this: If at any time, while the United Kingdom is party to the North Atlantic Treaty, any other party to the present Treaty which is at that time a member of the European Defence Community, or the European Defence Forces, should be the object of an armed attack in Europe, the United Kingdom will … afford the Party or the Forces so attacked all the military and other aid and assistance in its power. The second Article is reciprocal and lays down that if the United Kingdom are attacked, they will have the same succour from the countries of the European Defence Community. The last of these individual documents is the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty—the second of the Paris documents—and the content of that provision is that armed attack on any member of the European Defence Community in Europe, or within certain other specified limits, will be considered an attack on all parties to the North Atlantic Treaty.

These are the various Agreements binding together the whole fabric of the negotiations which have been going on for a number of months, and there, in necessarily tabloid form, is the content of these various Agreements. As will be seen, they are both complex and comprehensive. As your Lordships will readily understand, they have come into being only as the result of prolonged, anxious and skilful negotiation, and great credit is due to the zeal, patience, and resource of Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick and those associated with him who carried out this very onerous task on our behalf. It is now for the British Parliament to decide whether the fruit of all these labours, which has at last come to maturity, is to be promptly utilised, or whether it is to be rejected for good or stored away against the unpredictable happening of some unspecified contingency, perhaps in the autumn which, for some unexplained reason, is thought to make that season more opportune and propitious than the present time. As I have indicated, these Conventions and the European Defence Community Agreement must come into force simultaneously, and I imagine that noble Lords opposite will not contest the theory that their real objection is to the coming into force without delay, not so much of these various Treaties and Coventions which I have mentioned, as of the European Defence Community Agreement itself. Therefore, let me address myself to that situation in the light, or perhaps I ought to say in the twilight, of the Amendment standing upon the Order Paper. The setting down of it was frankly not a very subtle move. It is too transparent an artifice, too manifestly designed to give a spurious and transient air of unity to the deeply divided ranks of the Party opposite.

We are perfectly sincere in our willingness to hold discussions with the Soviet Government, but we believe that they are more likely to take place and more likely to be productive if we deal with the Russians on a basis of strength and determination rather than of feebleness and vacillation. If we are wrong on that issue, then our whole policy as regards Europe over the past years has been utterly wrong—Mr. Bevin's and Mr. Morrison's no less than ours. We did not invent the idea of a German military contribution to defence. Mr. Bevin said in another place as long ago as November 20, 1950: If Western Germany is to be defended, it seems to us only fair and reasonable that the people of Western Germany should help in their own defence. In February, 1951, Mr. Attlee prescribed certain conditions, referred to in the Amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, which, in Mr. Attlee's view, ought to regulate the application of the policy of German rearmament. They were no doubt pru- dent considerations and in our view they have now been broadly fulfilled. I say "broadly" because I assume that Mr. Attlee meant broadly, and not that he was insisting that every Allied soldier must be supplied with a bayonet before any German soldier had one. But these same conditions have now been seized upon in some Opposition quarters as a heaven-sent escape clause, to help them out of the morass of doubts, fears, inconsistencies and tergiversations into which they have since plunged, and to uphold their efforts to extricate themselves from the policy originated by their own Party. They are now busily engaged in doubling back on their tracks and trying to obliterate them as well. Therefore, they have been driven to invest these conditions with a sort of inexorable mystique, which was probably very far from Mr. Attlee's mind when he propounded them.

Nevertheless, let me examine them and inquire whether the state of affairs which Mr. Attlee specified has not in practice now been attained. The first two dealt with priorities and can conveniently be discussed together. His first condition laid down that the rearmament of the countries of the Atlantic Treaty must precede that of Germany. The second was that the building up of the forces in the Democratic States should precede the creation of German forces. These requirements are already eighteen months old and in the interval the efforts of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries themselves have been supplemented by nearly 3,000,000 tons of American equipment, no inconsiderable accretion of strength. Moreover, at Lisbon last February agreement was reached upon a figure of fifty divisions, first line and reserve, for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces to be provided by the end of this year; and in that figure no Germans were included. It is worth remembering, in this context, that only the other day Mr. Shinwell, the former Minister of Defence, was proclaiming that we now had such a wealth of trained men at our disposal that we could afford to cut down the period of national service. We do not agree with him, but his views at least show one reaction of the Opposition in regard to this particular condition.

Again, the European Defence Community Treaty has not yet been ratified, and will probably not be of full force and effect for several months to come. During that interval the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Powers will continue with their rearmament and recruitment, but Germany cannot even begin hers. And even when she does start she will be obliged to rebuild her forces from the beginning, after an interval of nearly ten years. Herr Blank, the German representative on the European Defence Community negotiations, has stated that the first call-up is unlikely to be feasible before early 1954, and that even then a further period of six months to a year would be needed before the units reached effective strength. Those, therefore, who are beset by fearful visions of a new German army springing out of the ground overnight can solace themselves with the reflection that, especially under the physical and mental stress of military service to-day, ten years is a very large slice out of a soldier's life, and those who were newly joined when the war ended are already, by modern standards, ageing men.

Mr. Attlee's third condition was this: that the German units should be so integrated in the defence force as to preclude any re-emergence of Germany as a military menace. On that aspect I may perhaps remind the House of what I have already explained in an earlier debate, that convincing precautions have been taken to prevent the re-establishment of a self-sufficient German army. There is to be no homogeneous national formation larger than a division of 13,000 men, who will be purely fighting troops, dependent for all ancillary services upon other sources of manpower. These divisions will be assembled in corps which, under the terms of the Treaty, must be composed of divisions of various nationalities. Training, administration and recruitment will be controlled by the Board of Commissioners, which will also lay down and administer a common armaments programme for the force as a whole, and control the production, import and export of raw material. As Mr. Attlee, the author of these conditions, stated in another place on May 14: (OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons Vol. 500, Col. 1482): The European Defence Community is, in my view, a way of integrating the German contribution of forces without raising the danger of a German army. It must also be remembered that the European Defence Community forces will be only a part of the aggregate under the command of Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers, in Europe, which will also comprise the vital element of British and American troops.

Mr. Attlee's fourth condition, that there must be agreement with the Germans themselves, is of course accepted and, indeed, is implicit in the whole conception of the European Defence Community It is an agreement, not a "Diktat." Nor can your Lordships afford to disregard in this connection the guarantees afforded by the Treaty and the Protocol signed in Paris on May 27, the essential terms of which I have already given to the House. I therefore submit with confidence that, in practice, those safeguards which Mr. Attlee wished to ensure have now been effectively provided.

But there is no doubt a body of opinion which views with apprehension and repugnance any revival of German armed forces, even upon a limited and controlled basis. Nor are the memories of any of us so short as to make it difficult for us to understand and sympathise with those reactions. I have heard recently of a process common in the China of to-day, to which—with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham—university teachers appear to be peculiarly subject. It is known as "brain washing," and consists in obliterating from one's mind all previously held opinions. It may well be that not a few of us have had, under the stress of circumstances, to cleanse our minds, however gradually and reluctantly, of our former approach to this problem. But what alternative course is open? That Germany should have no armed forces? Such a situation can be secured only by the indefinitely prolonged presence of an army of occupation, with all the resentment that their presence would arouse. A resentment which could only play into the hands of those elements at either extreme in Germany whose resurgence we least desire to assist. It is surely better that our troops should be welcomed in Germany as allies than hated as intruders. Nor, looking back, were our efforts to prevent Germany from rearming after the first war one of our more spectacular successes. Moreover, unless we are prepared to sit and watch a defenceless Germany being overrun by the Russians, the line of resistance must be upon the Elbe and not upon the Rhine. And if we and our Allies are, in case of need, to protect Germany from invasion, it is not unreasonable to ask the Germans to make some contribution towards their own security. Or is Germany to have a compact and independent army of her own, as the Russians propose? That surely would be the last development which those who are hostile to German rearmament would desire to see.

To us the wise and realistic course seems to lie in the provisions of the European Defence Community Treaty, to accept the need for some measure of German participation in the defence of the West but to ensure that it is made in such a form as will embody the German contingents into the European army and thus subject them to the control of the Board of Commissioners of the European Defence Community in common with all other countries associated in that community. Surely such a strictly regulated agreement is preferable to the alternative for Which some people plead—a so-called "neutralised" Germany, a great area in the heart of Europe, admittedly impotent to attack others but equally unable to defend itself and thus a constant temptation to predatory eyes. These various interlocking compacts seem to us the most fruitful measures that can be taken in the present unhappy situation to preserve the integrity of Western Europe.

As I have said, we hope sincerely that the Russians will accept the invitation proposed in our last Note to agree to take the first steps towards a relaxation of the prevalent tension by discussing with us and our friends the question of how best to ensure the holding of genuinely free elections in Germany. Such a meeting would, we trust, be a prelude to the ultimate reunification of Germany. There is nothing in the documents which we are now considering to qualify or to invalidate that invitation. But noble Lords opposite—or at least a powerful section of their Party—seem to have convinced themselves or each other that there is some gain to be expected from deferring ratification. On May 14 last Mr. Attlee said in another place, at a time when Notes were already being exchanged between Russia and the three Powers (OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons; Vol. 500, Col. 1481): While we welcome every approach to Russia I believe … that if there is a more favourable attitude"— on the Russian part— it is due to the fact that we have been getting together in the West and building up our strength. I am a little surprised to hear noble Lords, who set down and are about to support this Amendment, applauding that sentiment on the part of Mr. Attlee.




Wait a minute—let me follow it up. To welcome every approach and at the same time say that if there is a more favourable attitude it is due to our strength, and then to bring forward an Amendment, the effect of which will be to defer the measures which confer that strength upon us, seems to me to be a thoroughly illogical attitude.




Noble Lords will have several hours afterwards to justify their differences of opinion on the subject. To-day, Mr. Attlee and his followers—if "followers" be the right word—protest that to act now would jeopardise the prospects of accord with Russia; or that we should wait until elections have been held in Germany; or, some of them, until the German Federal Constitutional Court have pronounced upon the constitutional aspect of these proposed agreements. Incidentally, the Federal Constitutional Court only yesterday declared its inability to pronounce upon the question submitted to it by the Social Democratic Party as to the compatibility with the basic law of the constitution of the Bills to ratify the European Defence Community Treaty and the Bonn Convention, on the grounds that it could not pass judgment on future legislation.


The Court did not rule out their power to reject it later, when it became legislation.


They did not express any view on that. What they said was that they could not deal with a hypothetical case; they must wait until the law had been passed. I have no doubt that those noble Lords who desire to see delay would welcome that decision as possibly extending still further the period of delay in regard to that particular aspect. It is not for me to speculate whether, in putting down their Amendment, the Opposition had their eyes on Moscow or Morecambe. But of this I am very sure—that we shall get no favourable reaction from the Russians if they are given cause to think that we are flagging in our efforts or are halfhearted in our resolve.

What victory do the Opposition hope to achieve by delay? It can only suspend—if, indeed, it does not destroy—the momentum of our present plans. Inevitably the Russians do not welcome the creation of the European Defence Community. Inevitably they have reacted sharply against it, though theirs alone, by their truculence and intransigence, is the responsibility for the situation which has made it necessary. Nevertheless, if it suits the Russian book to come to a general agreement for the unification of Germany on terms acceptable to us, they will follow that course, whether the European Defence Community has come into existence or not. But if it does not suit them what then? Are we to embark upon a second Palais Rose, with its endless delays, or are we to reintroduce the Potsdam régime? Or are we humbly to accept such an agreement as the Russians may deign to offer? Or are we painfully to make a fresh start, dragging behind us the dead weight of our own and our friends' lost impetus? Whatever the future may produce, the one certain thing is that the conditions of to-day will never recur, and the one utterly unprofitable course at the moment is to doubt, dither and delay.

It is not our business to tell the West German Government at what stage—and the earliest could not be till the end of this year—they are to hold their internal elections. Nor is it for us to suspend action until the Federal Constitutional Court has at some undefined future date pronounced its judgment. These are, after all, primarily Dr. Adenauer's preoccupations, and it is not his delaying Amendment with which we are dealing in this House to-day. Indeed, in commending these Agreements to the Bundestag, the Lower House of the Federal Republic, on July 9, the Federal Chancellor said this— The question whether these Treaties should be approved or not is the question whether the Federal Republic desires the reunification of Germany in freedom within a free Europe, or is prepared to accept the partition of Germany or her unification in bondage. The choice before Germany thus expressed is not one which admits delay. Yet the Opposition here seem to be taking their cue from the Opposition in Western Germany. But our negotiations have been with the freely elected West German Government. If the main lines of our policy are right—and the Opposition can scarcely dispute them—shall we best help those in Germany who share our view by dragging our feet or by pressing on? Moreover, the Senate of the United States have already ratified, and unless the Party opposite are prepared to concede that the entire policy initiated by them was wrong, surely we can and must give a lead to Western Europe by carrying that policy to its bold, logical and effective conclusion, rather than hang back and wait upon events instead of striving to mould them to our purpose.

There is at present establishing itself in Western Europe a movement towards closer accord between the constituent countries, of which the Schuman Plan, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation, and the European Payments Union are all, in their varying degrees and on their different scales, gratifying evidence. And now there comes to be added to that list a European Defence Community in which the old arch enemies in Western Europe, France and Germany, are partners. Is it so small a gain that these two countries should be ready to inter their ancient rivalries and join together at last in a common cause? Are there so many hopeful signs in the world to-day that we can afford to frustrate or even to retard this one? I beg noble Lords opposite to realise that even a strongly supported attempt to delay matters here may well bring confusion, if not consternation, to our friends in Europe.


But they are in no hurry to ratify.


I said "may." I should have said the chances were reasonably good, if the noble Lord wants me to put it any stronger.

No action that we take now is a bar to the unification of Germany unless the Russians choose to make it so; and, in our view, their choice will be determined not by considerations as to whether or not we have ratified these particular Agreements but by their estimate of the balance of advantages or disadvantages front the point of view of their carefully co-ordinated policy throughout the world. And one of the main factors in that estimate will be their evaluation of our growing strength in the West. As the result of great, urgent and constant efforts that strength is growing. But it is still well below the standard of sufficiency; and to argue that we can afford the luxury of procrastination is to forget that it is not merely against the fluctuating menace of armed Soviet aggression but against the whole subtle, persistent and disruptive weight of Communist, power that the West must be solid, secure and strong. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That this House approves the contractual arrangements between Her Majesty's Government, the Governments of France and the United States of America, and the Government of the German Federal Republic concluded at Bonn on the 26th of May, 1952, and the Treaty between Her Majesty's Government and the European Defence Community together with the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty which were signed at Paris on the 27th of May, 1952; and affirms that these Instruments give effect to the policy set out in the Declaration signed by the Foreign Ministers of France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America at Washington on the 14th of September, 1951, and pursued by successive Governments of the United Kingdom for the inclusion of a Democratic Germany, on a basis of equality, in a Continental European Community, which itself will form a part of a constantly developing Atlantic Community.—(The Marquess of Reading.)

4.33 p.m.

LORD HENDERSON rose to move as an Amendment to the Motion, to leave out all the words after "House", and insert "while accepting the aim of the inclusion of a democratic Germany on a basis of equality, in a Continental European community, which itself will form a part of a constantly developing Atlantic community; and while accepting the principle, subject to proper safeguards and conditions, of a German armed contribution to an international system of collective security, rejects Her Majesty's Government's present proposal as inopportune, particularly at a time when attempts are still being made by the Western Powers to discuss the German problem with the U.S.S.R., and reaffirms the conditions first laid down in the House of Commons by Mr. Attlee on 12th February, 1951."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper. I should like to begin by making one or two brief preliminary observations. The second part of the Government's Motion, as the noble Marquess reminded us, takes the form of an affirmation. What is affirmed is a statement of fact. It is a statement of aim, which is drawn from the Washington Declaration of September 14 last. I hope noble Lords will have noted that the same aim, the inclusion of a democratic Germany on a basis of equality in a Continental European Community, which itself will form a part of a constantly developing Atlantic Community, is included in the Opposition Amendment. I mention that point because it underlines the fact that this important policy aim continues to have the united support of all the political Parties in this country.

Let me give two quotations, which I take from the recent statement on Labour's foreign policy: The Labour Party believes that close co-operation with the United States is vital to Britain and to the Commonwealth as a whole. It supports the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, not only as an instrument for solving temporary problems, but as an expression of a common inheritance linking the peoples on both sides of the Atlantic.

That is the first quotation. The second is: The Labour Party recognises that some European countries may wish to form a closer union than Britain herself could join. In that case Britain should place no obstacles in their path and should seek the closest possible association with whatever union they form. These were essential principles of foreign policy when Labour was in Government. They continue to be principles of Labour's foreign policy now that we are in opposition. I want to make that clear at the outset.

Now let me come to the purpose of the debate. The noble Marquess has explained the several documents which, in their Resolution, Her Majesty's Government are inviting the House to approve. There is nothing in the Amendment which can be held to suggest that we oppose the general policy of those documents: to suggest that would be untrue. As I am sure we all recognise, the timing of actions and decisions in foreign affairs is usually a factor of importance, and sometimes of considerable importance. The decision as to what is the right time often involves a consideration of a number of factors; and different judgments may be formed by different minds—and I hope without the imputation of ill-intent or insincerity. Let me assure the House that the noble Marquess is quite wrong when he suggests that our position is due not to a question of timing but to opposition to the European Defence Community. I am sorry the noble Marquess made that charge.


I do not think I did. I said that what the noble Lord's Party were concerned about was to postpone the forming of the European Defence Community. I did not say they were opposed to it.


There were a number of what I may call polemical or partisan references in the noble Marquess's speech of which I do not propose to take any notice; but I think it necessary to correct the noble Marquess on that charge.

The conflict of position disclosed by the Government's Resolution and the Amendment which I am moving is a simple and clear one. The Government wish to ratify the several Conventions at once. We regard immediate ratification as inopportune. It does not seem to us that there is any sufficient reason to justify the Government in pressing for ratification at this particular moment. The Bonn Conventions require to be ratified by four Governments—those of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. The European Defence Community Treaty has to be ratified by France, the Federal German Republic, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg. At this moment only one Government has ratified—the United States—and immediate ratification by them was dictated, in part at least, by the fact that the United States Congress was about to adjourn for several months, and it will not meet again, I believe, until some time next year. We have not that problem because we shall be meeting again after the Summer Recess.

In Federal Germany, as we have been told, Bills embodying the Bonn Convention and the E.D.C. Treaty have had their first reading and have been referred to the competent committees of the Bundestag. The Bundestag has adjourned for the summer recess and will meet again in September, when it will proceed with the second and third readings of the Bills. It would, therefore, seem that, in the most favourable circumstances, ratification by Federal Germany cannot be completed before October. I use the words "in the most favourable circumstances." For all the other nations, ratification is a straight political decision, but the process of ratification in Federal Germany is complicated by constitutional issues. As the noble Marquess told the House, the S.P.D. have challenged the constitutional right of the Federal Government to undertake to raise an armed force unless it secures the approval of a two-thirds majority in the Bundestag. The S.P.D. have submitted that issue to the constitutional court.

At the same time, the President has invited from the constitutional court an advisory opinion as to whether he would he constitutionally entitled to sign the Bills if they were carried through the Parliament. The noble Marquess referred to the decision of the constitutional court at Karlsruhe yesterday, in which they declined to give what they called an anticipatory veto over legislation in the Bundestag. That is a position which many of us expected them to take up, but it leaves the constitutional issue unsettled until after the Bills have been carried through. If then the court rules that a two-thirds majority was constitutionally necessary, there seems little likelihood of effective ratification for months to come, and it may even be necessary for the final decision to wait upon a general election, which normally, under the Basic Law, could not came until about the middle of next summer. On the other hand, if after the Bills had been passed the Court were to rule that a bare majority was constitutionally sufficient, it is probable that the German ratification would become constitutionally effective some time in October or November.

Now let me turn to France. France has to ratify both the Bonn Convention and E.D.C. Treaty, but the French Parliament has already adjourned for the summer recess, and the earliest that ratification by France could be expected would seem to be some time the late autumn. But there has now been a development which may seriously prejudice the chances of ratification even in the autumn. Noble Lords will doubtless have read that the United States Government has finally refused the French request to guarantee an additional 624,000,000 dollars' worth of off-shore purchases over the next three years. Off-shore purchases are an important dollar aid form of mutual aid from the United States. I am not concerned here with the merits of the decision, but only with its possible effects for France. In commenting on this decision, the Paris Correspondent of The Times stated yesterday that, to meet the new difficult situation created for France, the French Government will have to choose between three courses. The first will be that they can close down certain factories producing defence equipment for which they have no orders from America—and that would involve 30,000 workers being thrown idle. The second course is for them to ask the Assembly to vote increased taxes, and the correspondent adds that it would be no exaggeration to say that the request would be ill received. The third course—and here I quote textually from The Times Paris Correspondent: … would be to reduce the funds voted in the Budget for the raising and training of the 12 divisions and 27 air squadrons which, it was decided in Lisbon, were to be the French contribution to western defence up to the end of 1952. This would involve going back on an international undertaking, which is bad enough. Even more serious is the fact that any reduction in the forces which France could put in the field might place her in a position of inferiority in relation to the forces raised by Germany. The balance of forces proposed in the European Defence Community has already been criticised for the lack of guarantees it provides against this danger; if the French contribution were to be reduced, the chances of ratification of the E.D.C. treaty in the autumn would dwindle almost to nothing. I need not stress what a serious matter that would be for Western defence if it should happen. So far as the other four nations who are signatories to the E.D.C. Treaty are concerned, I do not know of a single one that has yet taken the first step towards ratification, and it seems reasonable, therefore, to assume that their ratifications will not be forthcoming until some time in the autumn.


I just want to get this argument right. Am I to understand that the argument of the noble Lord is that in no circumstances must we give a lead in this matter?




That is the argument the noble Lord is putting forward.


No. My Lords, all these are matters over which Her Majesty's Government have no control and which, so far as I can see, they cannot influence—not even by immediate ratification of the Treaties now before the House. For this country to have deferred ratifying the Treaties until the autumn would not, so far as I can see, have deprived the West of a single soldier, a single tank or aeroplane, or anything else in the material sphere of European and Atlantic defence. Nor do I see on what ground it could be considered as likely to create uncertainty about British intentions and resolution or the future of Western defence. Indeed, I should have thought the suggestions and criticisms made by the noble Marquess against the Party to which I belong were much more calculated to create doubts as to the intentions of a large and important section of the political life of this country.

On the other hand, the course which I have suggested, ratification later on, might have had a helpful political and psychological value. The heart of the international problem is the problem of Germany, and it does not appear likely that there can be any real improvement in the international situation until the Four Powers are able to come together and reach a fair settlement on that problem. Her Majesty's Government have made positive proposals for the holding of a Conference. These proposals have the approval and support not only of the free peoples of the West, including Federal Germany, but also, I believe, of the vast mass of the Germans living in the Russian Zone. I have no doubt at all that the idea of Western Germany getting near-sovereign rights, as provided under the Bonn Convention, and becoming an equal partner in the community of free nations, makes a great appeal to a considerable proportion of the population of that part of Germany. I know that from my own personal experience. But, my Lords, the idea of unity with freedom for the whole of Germany makes a transcending appeal to them.

I was in Western Germany recently; I visited several places and talked with many Germans of different political and religious faiths, and I can assure your Lordships that the strongest impression I brought back with me was of the general anxiety that no reasonable chance should be missed of bringing about talks with the Russians. The West Germans hate the idea of 18,000,000 of their fellow-countrymen being left indefinitely under Communist domination, subject to ruthless control and compulsory indoctrination. They are very alive to the grave long-term dangers that would be involved for the future of Germany and of Europe, and they are anxious to avoid appearing to be reconciled to leaving these millions to the tender mercies of the Communists. I do not believe that the average German can reconcile himself to the present division, and if that division has to go on he needs to be assured that the West have done everything possible to bring about reunion. I have little doubt that the definite but limited proposals put forward by the West in their last Note have done much to convince the German people of the sincerity of our efforts, and have increased the confidence and support of democratic German opinion generally.

My Lords, I agree with the view expressed by Mr. Attlee—quoted by the noble Marquess with, I thought, some scorn—


Not with scorn, but as an argument in favour of the proposition that I was putting, which seemed to me now to put noble Lords opposite in some difficulty.


Not at all. I think the noble Marquess quoted Mr. Attlee in his support, with a certain amount of corn towards those of us on this side of the House. However, I agree with the view that the resolute way that the free West has looked to its security and is building up its collective defence against aggression has had a notable influence on the tough minds of the Russian leaders. I believe that it has played a large part in the Soviet decision to propose the holding of a conference on the German problem. But I do not believe that if ratification had not been brought up until later in the year, the delay would have had the slightest weakening effect upon our present negotiating position.

The Government will, no doubt, be receiving in the near future the Soviet reply to their latest Note. If it should show any evidence of a forthcoming and favourable attitude, might it not be possible to get things moving more speedily now that the new Soviet Ambassador has arrived in London? For if the Russians are ready to talk on the basis proposed, it should be possible to get a conference going and decisions taken in a reasonable period. But if Russian intentions were found to be insincere, and her approach to the West merely another tactical move, I believe the knowledge that that was the case would be a spur to the resolution of the Western nations, not only to ratify the Agreements but to bring them into operation as speedily as their constitutional processes would allow. Therefore, it seems to us important that what Russia has in wind should be put to the test as early as possible. If there are no talks, it must be clearly seen by the ordinary peoples of the West, including Germany, that the Russian approach is not a genuine one, and that they never intended to co-operate in a settlement of the German problem, except on utterly unacceptable and impossible terms.

If the talks are arranged, so far as I can see there is no reason why they should occupy a great deal of time. Noble Lords opposite can be sure that I have no more desire than they have that talks should be allowed to drag on and on. I spent five weeks in Paris at the last meeting of the four Foreign Ministers. The two principal subjects under discussion were the reunification of Germany with freedom and the Austrian State Treaty. Three years later we have still to attain these two objectives. We do not want propaganda talks. What are wanted are talks which will be conducted in a practical way and which will lead to practical results, with reasonable speed. That should be possible if there is a genuine spirit of co-operation. But if the talks were to turn out to be just another Soviet manœuvre, another time-consuming exercise, we should not allow ourselves to be dragged along in a profitless discussion. While I have no undue optimism, I consider it necessary that the Western Powers should press on with their present efforts to get the Russians into talks, for I believe, as I have said in a previous Foreign Affairs debate in your Lordships' House, that whenever Russia is ready to make an agreement that readiness will be disclosed only in some form of direct talk.

Let me make this clear. I have no doubt at all that the Government are anxious to get talks going on a proper basis if there is any real chance to do so. I am quite sure that is the case. We all know that if it were possible to get Four-Power agreement for the reunion of Germany with freedom, democracy and independence, the greatest single cause of world tension and trouble would be removed. But if ever there is to be success there must be a first stage; and if there is to be a first stage there must be talks. For this reason, also, we regret that the Government should have chosen this particular moment, when they are still making efforts to get talks started, to bring the Treaties forward for ratification. We do not believe that delay would have had the adverse affects upon Western defence to which the noble Marquess referred. I have confined myself to two main general arguments in support of our view that ratification should not have been pressed upon us at this moment. They are related arguments, and I submit that they justify the position which we on these Benches take regarding the timing of the Government's proposals. There are other supporting arguments, but I do not want to occupy too much time, in view of the long list of speakers, and I have no doubt that those arguments will be advanced by some of my noble friends who will speak later in the debate. I beg to move the Amendment in my name to the main Motion.

Amendment moved, Leave out all words after "House", and insert "while accepting the aim of the inclusion of a democratic Germany on a basis of equality, in a Continental European community, which itself will form a part of a constantly developing Atlantic community; and while accepting the principle, subject to proper safeguards and conditions, of a German armed contribution to an international system of collective security, rejects Her Majesty's Government's present proposal as inopportune, particularly at a time when attempts are still being made by the Western Powers to discuss the German problem with the U.S.S.R., and reaffirms the conditions first laid down in the House of Commons by Mr. Attlee on 12th February, 1951."—(Lord Henderson.)

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, I regard it as a great privilege to be able to speak for the Liberal Party in this most important debate, and to say on their behalf that we shall support the Motion proposed by the noble Marquess and oppose the Amendment moved by the noble Lord who has just spoken. I shall refer in a moment to some of the points raised by the noble Lord, but his argument in favour of delay entirely failed to convince me. I cannot see how postponement, how refusing now to ratify these agreements, is likely to help France to get more aid from the United States. It would only prove that not only one country is hesitant but that two are hesitating. His whole series of arguments seem to me extremely unconvincing.

This is a most important debate, as I have said, for the House is asked this afternoon to approve a Convention which restores to Germany "full authority over its internal and external affairs." The Occupation is to cease and the Control Commission and the High Commissioners, and all the apparatus and paraphernalia of Occupation, are to be replaced by Ambassadors. This new autonomy is subject to certain provisions in the Convention relating to such matters as the status of troops left in Germany. But those troops are no longer "occupying troops." They remain with the full approval of Germany as part of the defence of Western Germany as a whole. In that defence Germany is to take her part under the terms of the Treaty establishing the European Defence Com- munity, the setting up of which is an integral part of the new regime for Germany. Our vote this evening will, therefore, approve the rearming of Germany in this international framework.

As the contractual Agreement also deals with reparations, restitution and refugees, financial claims against Germany and counter-claims, liquidation of the legal and administrative organisation set up by the Occupying Powers, this group of documents constitutes, in effect, a Peace Treaty, so far as the Western half of Germany is concerned. It is, in fact, a Treaty with Western Germany; but it is much more than a Peace Treaty of the traditional type. The Treaty of Versailles was drawn up in seven months. The present Convention has taken seven years since the shooting stopped; and the delay has proved the wisdom of those who urged in 1945 that it would be a mistake to make a hasty Peace Treaty but that the new status in Europe should be reached stage by stage. This difference in time—seven months as against seven years—corresponds to a profound difference in the character of the two events. Versailles was an imposed Treaty. The Bonn Convention, with all its associated documents, comprises a negotiated Treaty. The Convention, with its related Conventions, is a positive attempt to group the Western Community of Nations in which Germany will take her place on an equal basis.

Let me contrast one or two of the leading features of the Versailles Peace Treaty with those of the Convention. Your Lordships are familiar with the terms of the Peace Treaty. In spite of vague expressions of intention to disarm by the Allied Powers, it was in fact a unilateral arrangement, so far as armaments and forces were concerned. But the E.D.C. is based on equality. There is no discrimination against Germany. But the present system has a more positive virtue even than that, because, for the first time in history in time of peace, it institutes an international military régime instead of control of Germany's national armaments. Even ten years after the First World War the picture was one of 100,000 men in Germany, voluntary troops, with no aircraft and no artillery larger than 105 cm. howitzers, in a Continent of substantial armies. In 1930, even the Polish forces could easily have overwhelmed the then German Army. To-day, Germany is invited by her European neighbours to take a part which may be equal to that of France in the European Defence Force. The contrast between these two pictures is the measure of the profound change of attitude between 1919 and 1952. The change which has taken place is undoubtedly partly due to the Russian menace but it is due also, I think, to the fact that the world has been wise enough to learn that the negative type of imposed Treaty cannot last.

I do not propose to delay your Lordships with the economic clauses, but the contrast is precisely the same, and there, too, the Convention brings out the great difference in point of view. In 1919 what was the order of the day? "Back to pre-war" "Return to the Gold Standard"; "Return to the freedom of trade existing before the war." To-day we have in the O.E.C.C. an economic machine for continuous consultation which not only involves continuous consultation in a desire to get general agreement and a common policy but involves—and this is an important point—"accountability" and the duty to explain to our neighbours what each of us is doing. The contrast in that respect, again, is most striking. Again the Treaty of Versailles said nothing whatever about the internal régime of Germany. In those days it was regarded almost as an impertinence to talk about some other country's internal policy. To-day that view is not accepted.

In this Convention, under Article 3, the Federal Republic agrees to conduct its policy—and that means internal as well as external policy—in accordance with the principles set forth in the Charter of the United Nations and with the aims defined in the Statute of the Council of Europe. At present, this committment is in general terms, but it has been much more sharply defined in the European Convention on Human Rights. As soon as ten ratifications of that Convention of Human Rights have been deposited, Western Germany will be bound by her own Act to conform to the Convention in company with the other countries of Western Europe. It covers only a limited number of conditions, but they are vital to the democratic character of the régime we desire to see in Central Europe as against the régime behind the Iron Cur- tain. It deals with the right of trial, the right of free speech, freedom of religion—about half a dozen items, including the obligation to hold periodical elections. And Germany has ratified that Convention within the last few weeks, just as Great Britain did last month.

Under that Convention, countries which are parties to it accept the principle of accountability in the matter of democracy and agree to be taken to court or to a tribunal of the other Ministers of the Council of Europe, and to accept a majority decision. Thus, Germany has agreed in the matter of democracy already to grant a continuing right—not under compulsion or anything of that kind, but a continuing right—of intervention to see that she is adhering to the primary principles of democracy. That, again, is an extreme contrast to the Treaty of Versailles. I should say, in passing, that in making this contrast, I have no wish to underrate the great deal of idealism that went into the formulation of the Treaty of Versailles. The contrast with 1919 is made complete by the Treaties of Guarantee which have been referred to by the noble Marquess. The Treaty of Versailles was made only because America and Britain persuaded France with the bait of a Treaty of military guarantees, which was never ratified by the United States; and, because the United States failed to ratify, our guarantee did not arise.

How do we stand to-day? As we have heard this afternoon, some four weeks or so ago, the United States ratified the guarantee and Britain will ratify the guarantee if we reject the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and pass the Government Resolution to-day.


I hope the noble Lord is not suggesting that there is any desire by our Amendment to prevent ratification. It is ratification now which we oppose.


I fully understand that, and that is a matter to which I am coming in a few moments. I mention those points to support my main theme which is that we are talking not about technical or legal or administrative matters but about the ratification of a Peace Treaty with Western Germany. We shall support it from these Benches because we believe it to be not a perfect Treaty but the best available in present circumstances. The Labour Party also believe that, as is shown by the terms of the Amendment and by the speeches we have already heard from representatives of that Party. It will no doubt be made still clearer in speeches which we shall hear from subsequent speakers. Unhappily, the Labour Amendment shows that the Party is not prepared to ratify the Agreements at the present moment, but considers that that should be done at some other time. The main reason that has been given is that we should wait while discussions proceed with the Soviet Union. The Amendment also mentions conditions laid down by Mr. Attlee eighteen months ago. I venture to think that the decision of the Labour Party to vote against ratification now is a profound mistake, comparable, to my mind—I sense a similarity of background—to the mistake committed by the German Socialist Party when they voted against the admission of Germany to the Council of Europe. It seems to me that it is a vote which may have the same type of consequences, and I deeply regret it.

I said at the outset of my remarks that we have arrived by stages at this Treaty. But when you have reached a definite stage it is very important to seize the opportunity, for opportunities have a trick of arising in certain circumstances and then slipping away from you if they are not seized. The great danger is that that is the position to-day in regard to Germany. I suggest to your Lordships that time is no longer on our side. If the Opposition were to carry their Amendment this afternoon, in my judgment it would certainly increase the possibility that neither Germany nor France would ever ratify the Treaty establishing the European Defence Community. I do not say that that result would certainly follow, but I do say that the chance of it would be increased; because our refusal would certainly be regarded as proof that Britain is drawing further apart from Europe. I have never emphasised unduly the part played by the Labour Government and the reasons for the feeling in Europe that the Labour Government was not sufficiently forthcoming in its relations to Europe. But the feeling is there. If the postponement proposed by the Labour Party were in fact to prevail here, I am certain it would have the effect in Europe of creating the impression that Britain is going to draw away again. Uncertainty about the Treaties has, after all, lasted for a long time—far too long. Further doubt and distrust would certainly spread if this Amendment were passed.

Consider the state of things within Germany. It is so much easier to do nothing in the psychological atmosphere after a great war. We have twice seen that happening. We have twice seen how old habits tend to re-assert themselves, and how the slogan "Back to pre-war" appeals to the public mind. The new impulses fade, and unpleasant memories are forgotten. Germany is expecting soon to regain her autonomy. Economic discomforts are disappearing with the extremely rapid rise of production in Germany. The fear of war seems to be receding. All the conditions are favourable to delay and inaction. And that is the moment chosen by Russia to put forward her proposition, because it is precisely delay that she is seeking to obtain. Surely it is obvious that that is the strategy of Russia. The best thing that could happen, from the Russian point of view, is that we should delay ratification. The Russians are perfectly aware that the hope of the unification of Germany makes a tremendous appeal, which stems in the main not from any political motives but from personal considerations.

Ten days ago I was in Germany in a family where I realised how close the personal contacts are. There is scarcely a family in Germany which has not relations or old business contacts in the Eastern Zone, and that plays a large part in German thought. Of course, the unification of the country is the No. 1 consideration. At the same time. I gathered the impression that, in spite of that strong feeling, Western Germany will ratify the Treaties after the summer holidays if other countries, including ourselves and France, ratify them. But I do not think that frame of mind will last indefinitely. It will weaken. Other considerations will emerge and we shall be giving an opportunity for vested interests to arise—for example business interests who do not want the Schuman Plan, and opposition groups of all sorts.

I have said that the Russian strategy is obvious. It is to use delay in the hope of breaking up the coalition of the West and, if possible, to get the Americans out of Europe. Are my friends in the Labour Party really prepared to allow this uncertain situation to continue for a considerable time? Do they really think that if we do not take this opportunity for getting the Peace Treaty based on an international military régime and on human and democratic rights, the prospects of doing so will be better later on? I think it is impossible to take this view. Surely the Russian tactic is the tactic of the Palais Rose, of the Austrian negotiations and of the Korean discussions. But even if the Russians mean business, I would ask the Opposition to consider whether they really think it better to go into an East-West conference with the West entirely unorganised, and, if so, what kind of Agreement do they think would emerge? The picture of the Conference, the mise en scène, is clear from the negotiations and correspondence which have already taken place between Russia and the major Powers. Germany would go into the Conference entirely uncommitted and open to offers on both sides. The much publicised integration of Western Europe would be in suspense, with none of the Western democracies knowing for certain what the ethers were going to do. And all we know about the solution is that the one item acceptable to the Russians is that Germany should have a limited but national army.

Surely the only hope of getting anything like the terms which we desire and which we could tolerate for free Europe is to have all the Western countries committed in advance to the major principles of democracy and international defence before we go into consultation, not afterwards. That policy does not condemn Europe to permanent division What it does is to make clear exactly what is the type of world with which Russia will have to deal. I do not claim that there are no dangers associated with the rearming of Germany, but, as the noble Marquess has said, I do not think the alternative of keeping her unarmed is open to us. If we do not seize the opportunity, my fear is that it might never recur. At all events, it would recede more and more into the distant future.

In the middle 'twenties, Sir Austen Chamberlain once told a public audience that the vote he most regretted in a long political life was the one he cast in 1906 against granting self-government to the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies. I sincerely hope that my friends in the Labour Party will not have cause to say that in two or three years' time of the vote they propose to cast this afternoon.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, the tabling of the Government Resolution and the Amendment of the Opposition side by side show the first sign of disagreement in an important matter of foreign policy, even though in the main the disagreement may be one of timing. This fact in itself is significant of the perplexities by which we are all confronted. On the last occasion when your Lordships discussed the future of Germany, in April, before the Convention at Bonn, I ventured to speak strongly for the unification of Germany. I questioned the right of German rearmament and I pressed hard for negotiation between the four Powers at the top level. To-day, when we meet after the Bonn Convention, facing ratification, I am as strongly convinced as ever of the need of a united Germany. I affirm that the partition of East and West is against nature and that the re-establishment of a united Germany should be a major concern of the statesmen of Europe.

As to German rearmament, I am aware of the risk of rejoinder. I also yield to none in the strong desire for unrestricted and full discussion between the four Powers as soon as possible, without which, as it seems to me, we cannot make much progress along the path of concord and peace. But if there is one thing certain about the next few years it is this: that they will not be years of tranquility. As the months pass and policy is shaped, the question we have to ask ourselves when some particular decision has to be made—for example, on the approval of ratification to-day—is: Will this move delay or will it, by ever so little, advance the rule of concord and justice?

We are not now considering whether we ought to make a Convention. Bonn is a fact, and the process leading to that fact is a process in which the late Government took an active part. The Federal Chancellor, Dr. Adenauer, having so far the majority of the Bundestag behind him, said at the very moment of the signing of the Convention at Bonn: At this hour we remember especially our German brothers in the east and we give them the assurance of our deepest conviction that what we are doing is the first step to reunification and peace. And in the very statesmanlike speech about the Treaty which the Chancellor made on July 9 at the Bundestag, to which the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, referred in his opening speech, he said: First and foremost it is directed to making war between the peoples of Europe impossible for fifty years. It is tragic that seven years after the conclusion of hostilities there is no Peace Treaty with Germany in sight. I believe that this is the first formal step in that direction, and it is because of that belief that I am in favour of the Motion for approving ratification.

Russia speaks glibly of her longing for peace and for the restoration of a united German State. But, though there has been perhaps some progress in recent months, the attempts to agree on procedure for free elections throughout Germany and for an all-German Government are continually frustrated. The Western Governments are constantly baffled by the imposition of ambiguous or impossible conditions. The terms in which offers are made are far from encouraging to hopes of any real chance of success. Russia insists on building all her plans for peace and unification on the Potsdam platform. All four Governments, they say: will be guided by the provisions of the Potsdam Agreement, particularly in the question of the frontiers of Germany, as the Soviet Government already pointed out in the Note of April 9. And, with regard to the Soviet Government itself: As regards the all-German Government and its powers, it goes without saying that this Government must also be guided by the Potsdam provisions. Reunion of Germany on the Potsdam basis is impossible. Potsdam taken like that is an impossible platform.

If we turn from the words to the deeds of the U.S.S.R., we have to remember, as we evaluate present moods, that at the very start after the closing of hostilities it was Soviet Russia who created this huge schism between East and West, partly by the unprecedented expulsions from the Eastern Provinces. Quite early in the occupation they sought to assimilate the Russian Zone to the other Eastern territories under their control. They imposed a system of Government utterly contrary to the wishes of 90 per cent. of the inhabitants, and more and more totalitarian—to say nothing of the unforgotten 1,500,000 German prisoners in Russian prisons. During these last three months, far from closing the gap between East and West, Russia has widened the partition in most drastic ways. She has created a new forbidden zone; a deep trench has been cut all along the frontier; and the collectivist system in schools and universities, as well as on the land, on a Communist pattern has been and is being intensified.

There are plenty of words heard in Eastern Berlin, in Leipzig and elsewhere, about recruiting the youth. For example, on June 1, President Pieck told the police force, which was celebrating its seventh anniversary, that their "power of defence" must be expanded with the finest material in the Communist Youth Movement and with the best weapons and armaments. On the same day, Herr Ulbricht, Secretary-General of the Socialist Unity Party, urged Communist youths at Leipzig to equip themselves as marksmen and in the general use of arms. During this present month, day after day there have been appeals to the free German youth which become more and more strident. Can one wonder at the increase in the number of refugees from the East to the West—1,000 a night over the Green frontier?

It is said—I think we have to take the whole document, and not simply the timing—that the Russians are afraid of a resurgence of militarism in Germany, and with the warnings of German militarism in two world wars such a suspicion must not be lightly set aside. But Russia herself is far too powerful to be attacked, and the addition in due course—and, as we heard from the noble Marquess early this afternoon, that due course is quite a long way off—of some twelve German divisions to the European Defence Community does not inflict very great terrors on Russian arms. And it has to be remembered that, in any case, Germany cannot feed her own people, but has to import 40 per cent. of her food or starve. It is also said that the Russians are afraid of American imperialism seeking their destruction. As we were reminded in the last debate, there would be no American rearmament, no British, French or German rearmament, were it not for the almost unabated might of Russian armaments since the end of the war. If Once Russia would say: "We cannot go on indefinitely with our arms. We are coming to an end of our raw materials. We must stop"—what an immense sigh of relief would mount up to the heavens all over the world! We could then all agree to a general stop.

But, my Lords—and the point has been made this evening by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson—there is a fear that ratification may have untoward results from another very different quarter if the Agreement is ratified, it is suggested that the division now existing between East and West in Germany will become absolute, and that the Germans in the East will be completely forgotten. If that were to happen it would be a tragedy beyond words. But it is unthinkable that such should be the case. The very fact of the presence of these 18,000,000 Eastern Germans on the other side of the Curtain, must, where there are 50,000,000 Western Germans, be more and more deeply felt. There must be and will be a continual knocking at the door, and while one-twentieth of the millions of refugees from the East remain in Germany; while one-twentieth of the prisoners confined in Russian camps remain in Russia; while one son of a Western German remains in exile doing forced labour in Siberia, it will be impossible for the West to forget the East and for the West not to strive by all peaceful means in its power to reunite the East with itself.

I understand the perplexities of this decision. I do not pretend that the problem is a simple one to solve. But there is one argument which seems to me of decisive importance. Having gone so far, we cannot waver now. Our own earnestness and our own sincerity is put to the test. To hesitate at this juncture, or to show signs of any wavering now, would mean inevitably a tremendous sweep forward for the Communist cause. Your Lordships will remember the occasion of the Berlin blockade some four years ago. The Russians then did everything in their power to force the British and the Americans out of Berlin. Had we yielded, the effect of that surrender on the Germans in the Eastern Zone and, indeed, on the Germans in the Western Zone, and on British and American prestige everywhere, would have been absolutely disastrous. But because we stood firm a great moral victory was achieved. To hesitate now, after all that has been done, after going so far along this road—whatever weaknesses, as the noble Lord, Lord Layton, indicated, we may think and believe to exist—would inevitably be taken as a confession of weakness, and would be exploited by Russia and by Communists all over the world. Therefore I believe that, in all the circumstances, it is right to ratify.

I must say that I, like the noble Marquess, was a little surprised by the argument advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. It is not for us British people to wait for other countries: it is for us to give a lead, especially in Europe. Why should we wait? If we refused to approve ratification now, if there were a strong body of opinion in favour of delaying ratification now, it would lower our position arid our opportunity for leadership in Europe. That opportunity, and that position of leadership in Europe is one of the greatest assets we have—a moral asset far greater than the military asset. We have an asset in moral and spiritual things far bigger than we can now claim in military and economic affairs. But we must be quite clear as to the spirit in which our approval, our ratification, is made. Here is no kind of move in any war, hot or cold, against Russia. Here is no thought of threats, no thought of imperialism or of aggression. It would be calamitous if ratification were to lead to a hardening of the Western Powers. There must be nothing in this action, or in the words which accompany this action, to weaken the determination of our Government, by all means in its power, to press for and engage in unrestricted discussion with Russia for the purpose of securing a full Treaty of Peace with Germany and peace in the world.

I would say that our responsibilities for pursuing negotiations with Soviet Russia are greater after ratification than they are before. Our statesmanship must be a flexible statesmanship. We must be ready to seize the least opening for a reduction of the present tensions, and our policy must be not only the re-integration of a united Germany in the European family, but also the re-integration of Europe, including Russia, and the re-integration of Asia, including Russia and China, in a world more tranquil than to-day of law-abiding and peace-seeking nations.

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, I was very glad that my noble friend Lord Reading mentioned in the course of his speech the debt we owe to all the diplomatists and the technicians who must have carried out very long and exacting work before they were able to produce a complicated result of this kind for Parliament to discuss. I myself should not try to intervene in a debate like this unless I felt that there was a fairly important strategic aspect to this whole problem which we are discussing to-day. For that reason I hope the right reverend Prelate will excuse me if I do not follow him closely in what I am going to say, beyond saying that I feel that the state of unity and peace which he advocated, and for which we all long, is more likely to come on the basis of a sound strategic set-up than otherwise. Perhaps I should be more correct in saying that if we do not have a sound strategic setup in Western defence, the unity of Germany will come the other way—the way which would be very bad for the Germans and not too good for us.

The line I am about to take will, I believe, bring me finally very much to the same place as the noble Lord, Lord Layton, ended. I want to talk about the strategic side for a little, all the more because I could not detect any mention of that aspect of the situation in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, when he was moving the Amendment—which he did, if I may say so very temperately; or perhaps I may put it that he played very well a hand which was not overburdened with Court cards. It is at least three years since this problem of German rearmament in relation to the safety of Western Union came to the fore. I remember well that we were discussing it at the time when the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, was concerned with affairs in Germany, and that is a long time ago. It is quite that time ago that the attitude of the Soviet Union to European conditions forced us to study this problem of security in Western Europe, around which this Motion revolves. That of course, is perfectly true. Strategy must be the handmaid of policy. But it is also true to say that whatever diplomatic arrangements are made, and whatever we agree to in Parliament this evening, those arrangements and those plans will never be more than paper plans, unless it turns out to be physically possible to secure intact those countries of Western Europe which have to be defended. Therefore the political arrangements now before us can, in the words of the Motion, "give effect to the policy" only if we conscientiously say that the plans for the defence of Western Europe are such that they are adequate to forestall any possible attack. That, I think, goes without saying.

It does so in two ways. First, we must control sufficient space, sufficient sea room, land room and air room in Europe in which we can plan our defence and, if necessary, fight—and win—our defensive battle. And as the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, said, in terms of a frontier the defensive front line means the Elbe and not the Rhine. Then again, the Powers that form Western Union, the European Defence Community, the United States and ourselves, must surely be certain that they have sufficient forces for the purpose—that is to say, sufficient forces to fight, and if necessary to win, a defensive battle should that prove necessary. As I have said, all that has been quite plain from the time when it was clear that Western Europe would have to be regarded as a separate and defensible entity until it was possible to unify Germany and to hold free German elections and get to the state of a united Europe. And that is not yet. We must, therefore, if our plan is to work, take credit for German territory and German manpower. If we do not do that, if we think that we can put up an adequate defence of Western Europe without using German territory or German manpower, then we are living in a fool's paradise.

We have been living in something of a fool's paradise for some time, and we have been making the fool's paradise rather worse, I suggest, by continuing for so long these war crime trials. That subject has been mentioned many times in this House. My noble friends and I myself have tried to show that it was not very wise, in view of the strategic situation which was building up, that we should go on antagonising the Germans unnecessarily with, for instance, such episodes as the Manstein trial. That was made very clear to me when I made a short visit to Western Germany last year. The same point as the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, mentioned just now was put to me—the question of pardons. I was asked more than once during my short stay whether it would be possible o have new trials. I said that I doubted that, and that I thought the proper way to deal with the situation was on the basis of an amnesty, or something corresponding to the Royal pardon in this country. I repeat that now, because I am certain that this question of war crimes has a great deal to do with the question of building up the self-respect of the Germans now and their willingness to cooperate with the European Defence Community countries. So I hope that what Lord Reading has said means that we shall soon "put paid" to this question of relatively unimportant German war crimes. I use those words "relatively unimportant" with some reserve; I am quite sure that we should not seek to interfere with such decisions as those made at the Nuremburg trials but that we should soon finish with war crimes, which should come under the ordinances.

Now, my Lords, let us look at the territory we have to defend—The Elbe, and not the Rhine. Any noble Lord who has the map of Europe in his mind will see how impossible is the position of Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries, supposing that Western Germany, as it is now, should be occupied by a hostile Power. The whole strategic conception of the European Defence Community surely looks very precarious when one has this in mind. But apart from that, anyone who carries his mind back to the battle of France in 1940 must remember how unsatisfactory it was that we had to begin defending the countries we were supposed to be going to defend, Belgium, Holland and France, by starting the war on their frontier. Anybody who tries to introduce conditions in which that state of affairs is repeated is surely utterly and completely wrong. If we try to do that again we shall be doing what military experts so often advise us against—that is "preparing for the last war."

Noble Lords may say that the only difference between "preparing for the last war" and what is happening now is that we are dealing with a potential and not an actively hostile enemy, a neutral Germany. I do not think that that matters very much. Then again, we are dealing with manpower. Any calculation of the length of line to be defended—or if you like, in more modern terms, the extent of the area to be defended—must show that the fifty divisions, or whatever it is, that are going to be available to Western Europe, excluding Germans, are nothing like enough. Even if you take into your calculation the purely military forces and do not calculate anything resembling the Todt organisation which the Germans had in the last war, you have to include in your armed forces the very large number of civilians who are working on aerodrome construction, port construction and so on. Without Germany and the Germans you simply cannot do the sum.

Another thing we have to bear in mind is that several countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have other commitments—in some instances large commitments—outside Western Europe. If the United States, France, and ourselves could put all our forces into Western Europe, and needed to defend nothing else, it might be a different state of affairs—though I rather doubt it. But we all have major strategic commitments in other parts of the world. Therefore, in order to stand on our own feet we have to see not merely that Western Europe is properly defended but that we are not drawn into a state of affairs in which we have mortgaged too many of our forces in the defence of Western Europe at the expense of other theatres which are squally important. That, as shortly as I can put it, is the case for German rearmament.

That is not to say that there are not plenty of arguments on the other side. We must consider them carefully. I personally feel, and perhaps other noble Lords feel the same, that when we decide on this Motion to-night we shall have come to what one might call the point of no return. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, that we can put off ratification and still retain freedom of action. I will come to that in a moment, if I may. I feel that, however we may like it or dislike it, to-night's debate and to-night's decision will decide whether or not we go ahead with this plan, because it will be an indication whether this country is or is not in earnest. Let us look at some of the other arguments which have been put by several noble Lords already—I will not repeat them—against rearmament. You can say: "Why not take a middle course, the course of neutrality for Western Germany?" There are two things about that. The first is the point I have made about neutrality not being satisfactory strategically if Western Europe is to be defended. The second and, perhaps, historical point is this: does anybody suppose that the West Germans as a nation will remain neutral for any length of time? History does not support that view. They may go one way or the other; they have changed sides before now, but never have they remained neutral for any length of time. Nor do I think they will.

To go back again to 1940, anybody who studied the position of Belgium in the years immediately before that time, and the view taken in Belgium, that neutrality might avoid or forestall war, will know by now that neutrality on that occasion was not enough; nor would it be again. Then there are the risks. Shall we, by this step, precipitate aggression? That is a risk which we shall have to take, but it is a risk, I think, which increases the longer we wait. It does not decrease the longer we wait; the longer we wait, the better it will be for the Powers in the East. Let us consider what has been happening in Korea. It is over a year ago now, as I think the White Paper said, since the talks about the desirability of an armistice started. I wonder whether the noble Lords opposite are as convinced now as they were then, and I wonder whether our American friends are as convinced now as they were then, that that was the right course to take. I wonder what the military experts say about the comparative strengths of the North Korean forces now, as compared with then. In my view the risk if we act now is not great; from the point of view that I have mentioned, the risk of delay is infinitely greater, because surely one has every reason to suppose that the same tactics would be adopted in Eastern Germany as were adopted in North Korea. That, at any rate, is my view.

Now, what about the Germans? There again, I feel that any delay now, any sign that we are hesitating and not meaning business, will do a great deal to discourage the Germans, and particularly Dr. Adenauer and his Government. After all, we have gone a great step forward in getting any sort of willingness on the part of the Germans to come into the E.D.C. It is idle to pretend that Dr. Adenauer has an easy time. My feeling is that we shall make it a great deal more difficult unless we show quite clearly tonight that, in our view, the Treaty should be ratified and that the job should be got on with as quickly as possible. And so, to my mind, the risks look no more than "even money"—and the odds may be more favourable. There is a risk the other way. Not only will a long wait, or even a short wait, discourage those Germans who support Dr. Adenauer, but surely it will make it even more difficult for him to resist the action of all sorts of people who would like to make this time of indecision a happy hunting ground—the neo-Nazis, the old type of German general and so forth. Every day will increase the nuisance value of those gentry of Germany, and therefore will make it more difficult for the present German Government to make good the undertakings which are mentioned in this Motion.

But, be that as it may, surely the whole picture has changed since the conception of the European Army became a thing of fact: in other words, the strategic counterpart of what the Schuman Plan is in the economic scene. After all, the French have accepted it. That is a very great step forward. It is much more important than whether or not the French are willing to pay their taxes, as the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, mentioned. The French have accepted a principle just as they have accepted the Schuman Plan, and they have accepted something which really makes this plan of the European Army workable—namely, national units up to divisional level, because, believe me, whatever anybody may have thought about units of a lower level, brigade or battalion, being magnificent as diplomacy, it certainly would not have been magnificent in war. To have even a corps of different nations and languages is difficult enough, from the point of view of matters like signals and what the Americans call "logistics." However, we now have something which is politically agreed on and which is militarily workable. We have achieved a fair balance between strategic necessity and those other imponderables, like the need to restore German self-respect and to acquire and retain their genuine friendship. That view, as I say, was confirmed on this short visit that I paid last year.

There will be long-term difficulties: there are bound to be long-term difficulties, so long as there is a chance of the old Reichwehr and the neo-Nazi element getting the upper hand. But, as I say, I cannot believe that those difficulties will solve themselves by keeping. I have said all this bearing in mind that nobody who took part in either German war, or in both, would say the things I have said, or take the views that I have taken, without looking at the problem very carefully; and I am sure that that applies to anybody else in the same position. I do not know how long Dr. Adenauer s Government will stand up to events if it is not protected by real support from the nations of Western Union. I do not know how long the Germans will care to stay between, if you like, the "devil" behind the Iron Curtain and the "deep blue sea" of Western indecision. I do not think they can stay there for long. But, for the reasons I have given, I think there never was before, and never will be again, a time so favourable to get on with the job and make the obligations which we, with others, have undertaken for the nations of Western Union a reality (which they have not been up to now), in the sense that they will stand up, f need be, to the test of war. That is really the only test which one can apply to any diplomatic arrangement: will it stand up to a threat if the threat conies? If so, well and good. Then people can go about their work in peace but until the defence of Western Union becomes a reality neither Western Germany nor any of the other nations of Western Europe can go about their affairs in peace, because they will not, until then, have the confidence that the defence of Western Europe can be made good.

I have tried to put as clearly as I can before your Lordships the issue concerning this Motion to-day, in particular the case for German rearmament within the framework of the European Defence community. To-day I think we have got to conic down on one side or the other, and I think any friend of Atlantic Union would feel as I do, that whatever risks there are—and there are certainly great risks—ought to be faced to-night. Either we must face them, or we must acquiesce in a state of affairs where we support a Western Union which cannot he defended. I do not want to go into the economic side to-night; that is no part of my business. I want to say merely that anything that is done in the case of German rearmament will strengthen the economic state of Western Union. Finally, there is the point which my noble Leader made in an interjection to Lord Henderson's speech—namely, that if we feel as we do, and if we agree that to take time by the forelock now is a fair risk, surely it is equally prudent to take the lead, or as nearly as we can. If the Americans have ratified we cannot take the lead, but we can run second; and that is what we should do. But to wait to see what happens in the summer holidays, or what other nations of Western Europe do, will, to my mind, get us nowhere, and may indeed cause us to pass the critical moment which I think has been reached this afternoon.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the noble Viscount who has just resumed his seat will not expect me to follow him in his interesting survey, so expert from the military standpoint. I should like to join him in attaching much importance to this question of war criminals, and I am sure we shall both listen with particular attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, who has done so much on that subject, is going to say to us this afternoon. My purpose is much more general and, if I may say so, somewhat more delicate. After consultation with my noble Leader, I am venturing to address the House from this Despatch Box. I think that that: will be an appropriate course, in spite of the somewhat unorthodox line that I find myself bound to take. But, for the record, I should like to explain that I am speaking entirely for myself. I am compelled to differ in at least one important respect from the official line of my Party. I may say that my Party are doing something which in my experience they hardly ever do—they are making a mistake. That is so surprising, coming from my colleagues, that it has rather taken my breath away. But I believe in my Party without attributing to them infallibility. In that spirit I am venturing to address the House to-day. I should really have obtained some guidance from the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, the grandest of all "rebels," but I gather that he is on the side of the big battalions on this occasion, at any rate in so far as they are available on this side of the House, and I am sure that he will benefit from their propinquity.

The proposals before the House surely have a double aspect. That was brought out by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, who is temporarily absent, and therefore I will not join issue with him on any particular points he made. I think on an occasion of this kind it is rather usual, in order to conceal one's own embarrassment, to begin belabouring the other side rather irrelevantly; but I shall not adopt that course with Lord Reading, except to say that I felt that some of the rather partisan remarks he made about my Party did less than justice to the great anxiety which we have experienced in recent months. Lord Reading spoke with his usual ability, but it seemed to me that at times he went out of his way to provoke us when no provocation was required.

As I say, these proposals have a double aspect. In the first place, they bring Germany back into the comity of nations. It is true that it is only Western Germany, but that is no fault of ours, or of the Germans. Also (naturally, of course, this is the more controversial aspect, and more attention is centred on it this afternoon), they pave the way to a European defence system to which Germany will make a military contribution.

Surely, in the first respect, we can from all sides of the House and whatever our views, express our pleasure at this further stage which has been reached in the gallant struggle of the German people to prove themselves good Europeans and to redeem themselves in the eyes of the world. May I say that there is no one in this House and, I venture to say, no one in this country, who is more entitled to express that pleasure than the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, who was Minister for Germany for more than three times as long as I was. There is no Englishman alive who has done more than Lord Henderson to make this day possible in its constructive aspect. It seems to me that there is another pleasure and a duty which we ought all to perform—namely, irrespective of Party politics, to express a welcome to that great European, Dr. Adenauer, and, through him, to the German people, at this moment of rebirth and regeneration.

So much for a side of things upon which I do not think there is any difference in the House to-day. Naturally, in my fairly brief remarks I must concentrate on the controversial aspect. The difference between those who support the Government's proposals and those who support the Amendment can be narrowly presented. It was narrowly and, as it seemed to me, from his own point of view very effectively presented by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. It seemed to me that he reduced the difference to a very small compass—simply to this question of ratifying now or of waiting until after talks with Russia. I think I am interpreting the noble Lord correctly.


I should not like it to be recorded that I was advocating delay in ratification until after the talks with the Russians had started. I wanted the possibility of talks with Russia to be tested definitely before the autumn. That would be carried through before ratification came up, and therefore there would be no delay at all. We could consider the situation as regards ratification at that stage, because if a new situation were created it might affect not merely the ratification of the documents but the armaments of the world. There might be created a new situation which would call for an entirely different or a new policy. But, of course, that is not what is likely to take place.


Of course, I entirely accept Lord Henderson's account of his view, and it was in fact as I understood it. I put my remarks crudely. I apologise, because I understood him in the sense in which he has just expressed himself. Therefore, there is a fairly narrow difference as presented from this side this afternoon. Lord Henderson has not stressed the need for fulfilling the Attlee conditions. I think they are agreed on both sides of the House. They were accepted by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, in his opening remarks. In an earlier debate, I think Lord Henderson offered the information that three of those conditions had already been fulfilled. As to the fourth, the approval of the Germans, I gather that the fact that that has not been fully obtained is not in itself a reason for delay. So we come down to this, really: whether we ought to wait until the autumn, by which time we shall have seen where we are in these talks with the Russians.

I think we can narrow the difference still further. Indeed, it has been narrowed in this way by Lord Henderson himself. He says he has no desire whatever to delay German rearmament. He says that, so far as that goes, he stands, I presume, where he stood in an earlier debate. It is not a question of delaying German rearmament; it is a question whether German ratification will be imperilled. There is something to be said in favour of those who want to go ahead now. It would surely be more normal, and in this respect I must agree with the Government. These Agreements were signed in May. We are now at the end of July and we, including the Government, are all going off, I hope, for a reasonable vacation. I see that members of the Government shake their heads, but if I may venture an opinion some of them need a good holiday.


They deserve a good holiday.


I did not say that they had earned a good holiday; I said that they needed it, which is ever so slightly different.

It would be more normal to go ahead with ratification, and I feel that in the field of diplomacy, unless there is some adequate reason for departing from the normal, then the normal should be pursued. That is why I support the Government's Motion rather than the Opposition's Amendment. But one must ask oneself whether there are good reasons for departing from the normal procedure, and there are two criteria which have to be applied here, two questions which must be asked. One is, will delay in ratification diminish the chances of success in the Russian talks or will it increase them? And there is the further question: will it diminish the prospects of ratification among the other countries? As regards the effect on the Russian talks, I do not myself feel able to offer a very solid opinion and I very much doubt whether even if I had the privilege of office at present I should be much more competent to say what would happen, one way or another. It is possible to argue the matter either way quite reasonably. You can say it is rather odd, on the eve of talks with the Russians—if we hope to have them—to ratify an agreement which clearly presupposes the complete failure of the talks. That is one way of looking at it. On the other hand, you can say that in view of recent experiences in the last few years there is a good deal of force behind the argument of the noble Marquess, that what the Russians understand is effective action and, above all, strength. I am speaking for myself, and that observation can be argued either way. It is a very speculative affair and does not itself offer strong or sufficient reason for departing from the normal course.

I do not want to be dogmatic; I do not say that if we postpone ratification until the autumn it will thrust ratification into grave peril. I do not think that that case should be put very high. But I have considered my words and I believe that postponement of ratification will tend to diminish rather than increase the prospects of ratification. That is as far as I should wish to go. And, surely, if we look at Europe, that is bound to be the case. I am not in possession of any special information to form an opinion on the attitude of Dr. Adenauer, M. Schuman or any of our friends in Europe whose ratification we hope to secure; but in the absence of any other evidence I should be astonished if they were anxious to see delay on our part. I believe that they would feel that their hand would be strengthened if we ratified now rather than in the autumn. I know, speaking as a Socialist, that my own Party might have to some extent a divided mind on this point. Some of us in the Labour Party might feel that we should not be so much influenced by what, say, Dr. Adenauer wants or what would help him to secure ratification. But I believe that if the S.D.P. were in power in Germany they would pursue the same policy as Dr. Adenauer. That, of course, is a personal opinion, not susceptible of proof.

We are entering upon these Agreements with certain Governments in Europe and, as a matter of ordinary, good dealing with those Governments, it would seem natural to assist them to carry through the common policy, rather than hinder them. I do not say that we ought to adopt a slavish attitude, simply finding out what other countries want and then doing it; but if we want this ratification to go through if we do not get anywhere with the Russian talks, then we should do what we can to assist the Governments in those countries, irrespective of Party considerations. That is an important point of view and I feel, personally, that those Governments would be assisted in carrying out ratification if we ratified now. The arguments about the effect on talks with Russia are highly speculative, but, on balance—and it is still my personal view—they tend, if anything, to increase the argument for ratification. They provide no solid reason for departing from the normal course of ratification before the summer recess.


May I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? I believe I am right in saying that it is only in the last fortnight that it was decided to bring this Motion before the House at all, and I gather that the noble Lord was under the illusion that it would not be brought up until the autumn recess.


I cannot recollect having indicated that particular illusion to the noble Lord. I may have said at one moment that the Government might not be bringing this to the House before the autumn. If he assures me I was under that illusion I will take it from him, but I cannot remember being under it, although I have often been under illusions. This may be one of them.

I think the Government obviously have to make up their own minds, and I offer a personal opinion that if we ourselves had been in power—the Labour Government—this summer, and we had signed in May, and the situation were what it is now, we should have found ourselves forced by circumstances to bring the arrangements forward for ratification before the summer recess. I am simply offering a personal opinion, in view of the circumstances at the present time, as to what might have happened if we had been in power. This is a difference of opinion based upon speculative considerations, if you like, and in this I do not know that the degree of difference would justify me in invoking the conscience clause of my Party, declining to support the Amendment and abstaining from voting on the Amendment this evening. I am bound to say—and here I touch on imponderables—that I am less happy about the necessity for this Amendment than has been suggested by the narrow difference which I have expressed to your Lordships and which separates the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, from myself.

In one sense, my Lords (I hope the House, and my own colleagues in particular, will allow me to speak to my friends behind me in these last few remarks), in the sense of affecting the timetable, the postponement of ratification might not make much difference. It might not make any difference at all; I will concede that readily. In any case, as Lord Henderson brought out so well, the Conventions will have to be ratified in France and Germany before any German rearmament can take place. In any case, whatever we, the Labour Party, do in this country, I assume that ratification will go through, both in this House and elsewhere.

I am not going to adopt the masochistic attitude, or call on my noble friends to dress in sackcloth and ashes. I am not going to describe our failure to support ratification immediately as a tragic error, because I believe that that would be an exaggeration, in view of the fact that it may make no physical difference at all. But I do say that it is a great pity; it may weaken for a long time to come the influence for good in Europe of the British Labour Party, and weaken it just where it should operate most beneficially. I am not casting reflections on the Party opposite but simply referring to our own internal affairs. When I joined the Labour Party in 1936 I believed that, where all Parties in Britain wanted peace equally, the Labour Party possessed an outstanding clue in its doctrine of international brotherhood. I do not say that we possessed that clue exclusively, but I think we possessed it in a pre-eminent degree. I believed that then and I believe it still in respect of our ultimate intention. When I go about, speaking and writing and saying that the Labour Party is a Party of international brotherhood, I am asked how that squares with our attitude to Germany, and I find myself avoiding that question.

Most of my colleagues in this House have been in the Labour Party far longer than I have, and many have made sacrifices that I have never made. Some of them, particularly Lord Strabolgi, and Lord Stansgate, stood up for the Germans after the last war (Lord Strabolgi moved the rejection of the Treaty of Versailles) when that required far more courage than any sympathy for the Germans since the recent war. In that spirit I ask my colleagues seriously whether, in this case of Germany, we are not in danger of wandering from our true path. If we have done or are in danger of doing so, I believe that it is a result of an understandable and, indeed, noble impulse, something in its origin very profound and altogether creditable, the yearning to leave nothing undone that might contribute to peace between East and West, and between ourselves and. Russia in particular. But in pursuit of that lofty ambition I believe there is a real danger of treating the Germans, not as criminals—there is no disposition to do that on our side, or anywhere in this House—but as pawns on a chessboard. The Germans may be a problem—so are most of us to someone or other at some time or other. But they are above all a people. It has become almost a platitude to talk about the struggle for the soul of Germany. But there is profound truth enshrined there, if we realise that it is not just a diplomatic struggle but a struggle to prove to the Germans the superiority in every sense of the spiritual ideals of the West.

The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has done far more to bring Germany on to her feet than I have, or than anyone else in this House, to the best of my belief, except perhaps Lord Douglas, who did great work there at the beginning. I believe that those who are anxious to delay these Agreements are acting from the highest motives, but I believe that they are impairing the prospects of reconciliation between Germany and the West.


Or between the East and the West.


I did not hear the interruption of the noble Lord and the noble Lord will have his chance. I know he feels strongly about these matters and, if he will forgive my saying so, so do I. I ask the noble Lords behind me to consider whether there is anything or nothing in what I have said; and if there is anything in it, I beg them when this debate is over to consider the possibility, in this matter of Germany, of returning to what seems to me the truer, the higher, international idealism of our Party, and to follow the banner that floats nearest the sky.

6.37 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support the Motion put before the House by the noble Marquess. Our primary concern to-day, I take it, is not so much to consider the detail of the various instruments before us as to concentrate attention on the broader issues, to consider the effect these instruments are intended to produce, and which I personally think they will produce, on what I may perhaps call the twin problems of Germany. The first is the historic problem, created by the unification of Germany through aggression over a long period of years, and the imposition on Germany of an autocratic Government. This, as we know only too well, resulted eventually in two world wars, when this aggressive autocracy turned from unification to expansion, finally resulting in the catastrophe of the rise of Nazism. The second problem is the division of Germany and the position of Germany in the front line of the cold war. In this sense Germany has become the epitome of the division of Europe and indeed, of the world. I put it to the House that the effect of the instruments now before us on both these inter-related problems should tend to the furtherance of our policy, the relaxation of world tension, and the restoration of a united democratic Germany to play its full part in building up a prosperous, peaceful, Europe.

In 1945 an attempt was made at Potsdam to tackle the first, the historic problem. The Agreement made at Potsdam aimed primarily at de-militarisation, denazification and decentralisation, in order to qualify Germany once more to participate as a helpful, respectable member of the family of nations. The implementation of this policy rested on the assumption of continued Four-Power agreement and co-operation. But, alas! that has failed. If I may use the expression, Russia has run out, and proceeded to treat her Zone as a separate unit, from the economic and from other points of view. In the Western Zones, on the other hand, the United States Government and Her Majesty's Government were under the necessity of subsidising the local German economy to save the population from the shadows of starvation. Russian intransigence had made it necessary that even if the programme of unification could not be agreed upon for all four Zones, some programme must be adopted and carried forward in the Western Zones. But it was never intended that this should in any way be a prelude to the division of Germany; rather, on the contrary, that it should serve as a basis upon which the Potsdam Agreement for the unification of Germany could be carried out. Our measures in the Western Zones became the basis on which Western Germany could at least play her part in the economic reconstruction of Europe. Unhappily, lack of co-operation shown by the Russian Government in Germany proved to be merely symptomatic of the attitude adopted by them on a world-wide basis, rapidly degenerating into what can be described only as the policy of worldwide political aggression backed by massive armed force.

Despite every effort to meet Soviet complaints, it became obvious that the only answer lay in the creation of strength through the extension of collective security. It became clear that to negotiate successfully we must negotiate from strength. Our policy, therefore, has been to build up a position of strength from which to negotiate a settlement with the Soviet Union. In this settlement we aim, of course, at the inclusion of a united democratic Germany capable of playing a full part in the creation of prosperity in a peaceful world. As part of this we have all, however reluctantly, accepted that Germany should contribute in the military sphere, as well as in the economic and political spheres, to the strength of the Western world to which she properly belongs. We have all accepted that this full participation involves, subject to specified safeguards, the necessity for the German people to have full rights as a natural consequence of the obligations which Germany has shown that she is prepared to shoulder and, indeed, is capable of undertaking. It is on this basis that the Conventions and instruments now before the House have been negotiated. The German Federal Government is, thereunder, to have full powers, subject only to the retention of specific safeguards by the three Western Powers, which, as the German Federal Chancellor has stated, it is in Germany's interest that they should retain until Germany can be reunited and a peaceful settlement concluded.

Remember, my Lords, that the method by which Germany is to make her contribution to Western defence has been so drawn that it becomes part of a larger concept which is not concerned purely with defence but has as its aim the creation of a free, prosperous, united Europe, in which a democratic Germany can play her full rôle. The idea of the German contribution to Western defence is a step in this direction. And there are others—steel and coal, for example—with which I do not propose to overburden my remarks to-night. I believe that the solutions envisaged in the instruments now before us present a workable solution of the double problem which I ventured to postulate at the beginning of my remarks. They should ensure the participation of the German Federal Republic and the creation of a position of strength. We should continue to hope to secure an eventual settlement with the Soviet Government, including the establishment of a united democratic Germany. The integration of the German Federal Republic into a European community is in itself a part of the developing Atlantic Community, thus ensuring that the Liberal and democratic Germany, now existing in the Federal Republic, can be maintained to make her full contribution to the peace of the world.

So far, I have confined my remarks to Germany. I hope that I shall not be out of order if I throw in an observation on another matter. Even if it is not strictly germane to the subject under discussion, or may be slightly irrelevant, I cannot refrain from observing that I wish with all my heart that some such system as we are now discussing could be extended to the Far East. I have just returned from a three months' tour in that part of the world. To anyone who makes such a tour—and perhaps even without making it—is borne in ever more strongly how important, even dominant, is the rôle in this post-war world which is being, played, and inevitably played, whether we like it or not, by the two principal ex-enemy countries—Germany and Japan. Therefore, although, as I say, this may not be strictly germane to the topic under consideration, I suggest that it really has a direct and major bearing on the whole question. Speaking for myself, I most insistently and earnestly urge that at sonic time, at an opportune moment, our attention should be turned, a little more perhaps than it is now, to developments in the Far East. I trust that we may see some such machinery and some such system being established for that part of the world, as well as for Europe. I end as I began by saying that I support the Motion of the noble Marquess.

6.48 p.m.


My Lords, I do not often address your Lordships' House. I am not supposed to speak on the one subject about which I think I know something—that is civil aviation—nor do I feel I know enough about many of the topics that are discussed in your Lordships' House to justify my airing my views upon them. But I consider that on this occasion I am entitled to put forward my views on this very difficult and vexed question of the rearmament of Germany, for I spent two and a half years in Germany between 1945 and 1947, and during the last eighteen months of that time I was the British Commander-in-Chief and Military Governor of the British Zone, and British representative on the Control Council. So I think that perhaps it will be agreed that at least I have a right to speak upon this matter.

I have listened with great interest to the speeches which have been made from both sides of the House this afternoon, and I have, I hope, kept an open mind on this question. But I find that I do not entirely agree with any of the speakers who have so far spoken. My doting mother would probably say: "Every one is out of step except our Willie." But I am now speaking for myself. I am sorry that I do not find myself agreeing entirely with what was said by my noble friend Lord Pakenham, because during a great deal of my time in Germany he was my Minister over there—and, if I may say so, a very good Minister too—and I have the greatest respect for his opinions.

I think that everyone will agree that there are grave dangers in rearming Germany. Even noble Lords opposite, and those on this side who believe that we should go ahead with that rearmament, view the prospect with at any rate some misgivings; and, of course, there are a large number of citizens of this country who are bitterly opposed to German rearmament. We have to recognise that. After all, it is only seven years since we were engaged in a deadly and horrible war against Germany, a war which was stared by German aggression. It seems ironical, to say the least of it, that after only seven years we should again be rearming the aggressor, having spent a good deal of the intervening period in disarming him. I remember that some five years ago I was severely criticised for not getting on with the disarming of Germany quickly enough. Therefore, it goes to my heart to feel that we should start rearming Germany again. It may be that we shall have to put these ideas in our pockets and face up to the rearmament of Germany, but I do not think we should do that until we have done everything possible to avoid what can be described only as a startling volte face.

Again, what guarantee have we that, when Germany is rearmed, she will stay on our side? It is only thirteen years ago since Germany made a treaty of alliance with Soviet Russia. Are we sure that she will not do so again if it suits her book? There are two things on which all Germans of all political views agree. One is the unity of Germany. Every German wants to see Germany united: that is quite natural and proper. The other point on which there is general agreement is the impossibility of accepting the present Eastern boundary—the Oder-Neisse line. Russia certainly could hold out to a rearmed Germany a most attractive bait—both unity and the rectification of the Oder-Neisse line—if she were ready to change sides and go over to Russia. On the other hand, it is argued with considerable force that without a German army it is impossible to defend Western Europe against Russian invasion. I know this is the view of my friend General Eisenhower and also, obviously, the view of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, who has just spoken. As an airman, I am not sure that I entirely accept that view, but we will not argue that this afternoon. But even if it is correct, it is a purely military, strategical view. The struggle against Russian Communism is not wholly a military problem. It is even more a political struggle that we have to win.

That brings me to my next point. I have done a lot of arguing with the Russians in my time on the Control Council in Berlin, and many much more distinguished people than I have engaged in innumerable wrangles with the Russians ever since. But always up to now, so it has seemed to me, we have been arguing from the weaker position. The strong cards have been in Russia's hands. But now, at last, we have a really strong card to play. It is obvious that the Russians loathe and detest the idea of a rearmed Western Germany. Why should we not try to use this card to our advantage before it is too late? Here is an opportunity, I suggest, to strike a bargain with Russia. "You do not want us to proceed with the rearmament of Western Germany. All right. What will you do for your part if we don't?" This may seem to be an over-simplification of what I admit is a complex problem but, after all, the Russians are realists. Personally, I should not even reject entirely the idea, which the Russians themselves have mooted, of all the Allies clearing out of Germany and leaving her as a sort of buffer State between us. Of course, there would have to be adequate safeguards—the disbandment of the para-military police force in Eastern Germany would be an essential condition, for instance.


My Lords, for the purpose of clarification, I should like to ask the noble and gallant Lord where our forces and those of the Americans would then be based? Would they have to leave the Continent altogether?


I am just coming to that point. No doubt we and the Americans should have to maintain adequate land and air forces within easy reach of Germany's Western frontier. No doubt this would be a diffi- cult solution, but I am not sure that it would not be preferable in some ways to the present situation, with ourselves and the Russians glaring at each other across an imaginary frontier line. At any rate, that would achieve the unity of Germany.

What I feel is that, before we finally commit ourselves to the rearmament of Western Germany, we ought to try for one more straight talk with the Russians. It may be that we shall not be able to get agreement—I am not particularly optimistic, I admit—in spite of our strong bargaining counter. Very well, then, if we do not get agreement, obviously we must proceed with what I regard as the unpleasant step of rearming Western Germany. But at least we shall have made a sincere attempt to resolve the present impasse. What is more, unless we do that I do not believe we shall carry the German people with us. There is great opposition to rearmament in Germany, especially among the German youth. Moreover, as I have already said, a great number of people in this country do not like it, and we have to take them along with us, too. What I am pleading for is one more attempt to strike a bargain with the Russians before we commit ourselves irrevocably to this step. For this reason, I shall support the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Henderson.

6.59 p.m.


My Lords, I am no debater, because I am not experienced, but I feel I must make some answer to the speech which has just been made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside. Even if I had not heard the overwhelming case of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and of the noble Marquess, Lord Reading and the strategical case that was made later, the arguments for ratification seem to me overwhelming. The great outstanding point is our own national security, the international security of Western Europe, including Germany, and the security of the whole of Western civilisation. We are not so forward in our arrangements that we can afford any delay.

The case has been most exhaustively considered by two British Governments, by successions of Chiefs of Staff here and in the United States, with all the advice and the intelligence at their disposal, and the conclusion has been reached by N.A.T.O. that we require this Treaty. Of course, there are risks: there are always risks. Machiavelli said that there are no safe choices in politics. But the risks have all been weighed and the decision has been taken that our security requires this Treaty. We cannot afford delay. As my noble friend Lord Bridgeman showed, fifty divisions is not a terrific force in the vast areas of Europe. Just think how divisions require relief: they get knocked about, and have to come out of the front line to be reconstructed. Fifty divisions does not leave a very large reserve to play with—and we have not yet got fifty divisions. I say that if we need this German collaboration, we need it logistically, and we need it from the strategical, territorial point of view.

The argument against it is that we are asked to delay while we negotiate again with the Russians. Have the Russians shown the smallest sign of change, in Berlin, Germany, the Far East or U.N.O.? They might come into new talks, but they are masters of tergiversation. They could delay those conversations interminably, as they have always done—as they did at the Palais Rose in Paris, and as their dupes are doing now in Korea. That would be terribly dangerous. Another reason why we need the Treaty now is to show that we are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Americans: the biggest flagship has hoisted the signal "Ratification"; it is up to the second flagship to hoist it, too, in order to give a lead to all the slower ships of the line: and when the time comes the signal will be broken and there will be ratification—the manœuvre will be performed. Then we need it, above all, I think, to show the Germans that we really do mean business, and that we mean to stand with them shoulder to shoulder. If we are going into this, do let us go into it wholeheartedly. We stand in a unique position. There is no other nation in the world, not even America, that stands in a position to rally and bring together once more France and Germany. We can do it when we have got the ratification of this Treaty. But we must "jolly" them both along: we have to "jolly" along the Germans, and we have to "jolly" along our old friends the French. Therefore I stand strongly for ratificaton. But in order to get that cordial co-operation with the Germans we must show the utmost good will. When you are asking a man to come into partnership, you do not remind him of dark chapters in his previous career.

That brings me to the subject on which I intended to speak, and on which some of my friends, with a sort of second sight, guessed that I should wish to speak—namely, the German war criminals. I make no apology for bringing that subject into this debate, because buried very deep in this document (Command 8571), as though we were ashamed of it on pages 80 to 82, is the description of the arrangements, to which I think my noble friend Lord Reading referred, though it was just before I was able to reach the House. I raise the matter, first, because it is amongst the documents, and secondly, because it is one of the major factors in the settlement. It is a major factor because it is human factor. It is one that touches closely the honour of the German nation, their reputation and self-esteem, in which, of course, every decent German is interested. If we want their co-operation we have to treat them in that respect as well as we can, or we shall not get that effective military co-operation which will give N.A.T.O. the strength sufficient, not only to resist aggression in case of attack, but, what is far more important, to enable us to negotiate from strength.

The scheme agreed with Dr. Adenauer at first gave a good deal of satisfaction, more, on the whole, here than in Germany. The Germans were inclined to be rather suspicious of it. What they felt was that it left a veto to any Power to obstruct the work of the Commission; and the fact that only a unanimous vote would ensure release would encourage an obstructive nation to refuse. They thought, therefore, that it was really "eyewash." They also said from the first—I saw it in the German Press; I see a good many German newspapers—that it would be very slow in coming into operation. The reason why I and so many of my friends were so pleased with the arrangement was that we thought it was coming into operation soon—we were given to understand not later than April or May, or perhaps I should say May or even April. But the weeks and months have passed, and it is as far off as ever, because now, for reasons with which I am not familiar, the Mixed Board has not yet been formed. Somewhere and somehow the conclusion was reached that it could not possibly be formed until the other Treaties were signed. So we are practically at a stalemate.

The reason why I am speaking to-day is that I want to offer two suggestions for improving that situation. Last month I asked a Parliamentary Question about this matter, and I wish to acknowledge the prompt and complete answer given by my noble friend Lord Reading. Among other questions, I asked whether the Four Power Mixed Board would have power to settle questions of procedure, of which I gave five examples. I need not repeat them all, because they have appeared in the Parliamentary papers. The answer on that point was very satisfactory to me, because it was that: All the matters listed under this heading appear to be open for consideration by the Board in drawing up its rules of procedure. I understand that, constitutionally, the Board cannot meet now, but I am sure the formulation of these rules of procedure is going to take a long time. Therefore, I want to take a leaf out of what was done—not a precedent of which I am very fond—before the Nuremberg Tribunal, when the prosecutors elect were put into a committee to complete the Charter. I shall not go back on that very controversial question, but, all the same, I think it would be a useful precedent if the prospective members of this Board—who must surely have been selected by this time—met together informally in some place selected to prepare a draft of their rules of procedure. That draft, of course, would have no validity whatsoever until the Board met and approved it or amended it. That course would have two great advantages. It would save a tremendous amount of time when the Board does get to work; it would also be of considerable satisfaction to the Germans, and it would take away that criticism which they made that the Board would have to spend a great deal of time on procedure and perhaps never get to business.

That is one suggestion. The second suggestion arises out of Article 6, Clause 4, of the Convention, which provides that the three Allied Powers retain their rights as to the custody and carrying out of sentences on war criminals until Germany is in a position to accept their custody—rights which include review of sentences in their respective Zones. They are going on with such reviews, although I do not think they have shown very much result yet. The latest figures that I have seen—which is the German estimate, published in The Times a few days ago—is that there are 1,069 still in the custody of the Western Powers. I think that is a very high number, seven years after the end of the war. According to my own calculations, the British-held prisoners still number close on 130. My exact estimate—I watch the Press very closely—is 127. According to the estimate in The Times, the Dutch have now 72, and the number I verified last January was 100, so they have done rather well. There has been a report—I saw it in a Paris newspaper—that the Danes are giving a good example by releasing the last of their prisoners, a batch of 15.

Dr. Adenauer, in rather a pitiful statement on July 10, was able to record of Her Majesty's Government only that they had already given instructions for a review of all the war criminals detained at Werl. They have been doing that ever since 1949. Then, according to Dr. Adenauer, the French High Commissioner had promised release of a large number to mark July 14, but later, according to The Times report, the French High Commissioner seemed to whittle it down by announcing that 18 would be released before the expiration of their sentences. I have scoured the Press to find any mention of there being a big release, but without success. But the High Commissioner added that 29 appreciable reductions in sentences would be made. Taking it all round, I think that that is rather a shabby result.

Here, again, I should like to offer a suggestion, and that is that in order to help Dr. Adenauer—who is an earnest and loyal man up against a difficult situation—we should give a lead to our Allies, not in the endless judicial reviews which always come up against the somewhat discredited Charter, but as a good send off to our ratification, by a generous measure of political amnesty based on common sense. History provides a great many examples of that, beginning, I believe, with the history of the Thirty Years War, which was an even more horrible war than the last. I believe that if the review were conducted on those lines, and if we could persuade our Allies to do the same, that would have a very great effect. I believe that we are free to do that so far. I do not know whether the Belgians consulted us about letting out General Falkenhausen and I do not know whether the French consulted us about releasing General Ramcke. I should have thought we could do a great deal on our own in this direction without violating any agreement. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Henderson has left the House. I believe that Mr. Arthur Henderson, his father, framed the slogan, "Taking the lead at Geneva," which was followed by every Government of every Party. I ask that we shall take a leaf out of his book and take the lead in this matter.

7.18 p.m.


My Lords, in the few remarks I shall venture to address to your Lordships, I shall express my own opinion, and the House will have an opportunity of seeing from our Party that truth has many facets. I should also like to say at the beginning how much I was touched by what my noble friend Lord Pakenham said about the moral content of this thing. I am afraid that the remarks I had prepared were more in the nature of a forecast of what I think will actually happen. I myself am deeply stirred by the moral background, but I am not sure that in politics it is not a forecast more than a prophecy which may serve the national interest. If I say things which appear disagreeable and tart, it is not because I want to do it, but because I think the best service one can render is to tell the truth as one sees it.

This matter of the ratification of these Agreements is, of course, very important to us. It is vital to France. Yet the real decision is not here nor in France. As one noble Lord said, the flag is hoisted on the flagship and we have to follow. We are not in the position we occupied fifty years ago; we are in a secondary position, and in this matter, so far as Europe is concerned, we shall be a bad third by the time these arrangements are complete. The issue is being decided in the United States—and, of course, it will be extremely good news for the State Department that the British Parliament has ratified these Agreements. Unfortunately, whereas for France it is a vital issue in the United States it is only one issue in a big field in the great conflict which is going on, mainly in the domestic sphere, to settle who is going to be, not, perhaps the dictator but the leader of the material might of the universe. If we remember that the most we can ask of our Foreign Office is how we can most effectively bring our opinion to the notice of the State Department, that is a good basis upon which we can construct a policy.

If we look at Europe as it is to-day, what do we think would be the best thing from our point of view? Europe has boundaries which were created by the war leaders, Mr. Churchill, President Roosevelt and others. They are not satisfactory but I should imagine that sensible people in this country would like to see the crust harden, and do not want to see eruption coming up from underneath. However bad an old boundary is, it is better than a new boundary which means bloodshed. Therefore, surely the best thing would be to let things settle down.

The second thing I want to say is that in my judgment this country is not engaged in a war against Communism. In the first place, we do not know what Communism means—it means so many things to so many people; in the second place it is far beyond our strength; and in the third place, armed might is not the way of meeting it. When people speak of the machinations of Russia here and there in various parts of the world, there is really in the back of their minds a notion that in some way we are called upon to apply armed might to these convulsions in the world. We should, of course, study these convulsions. In the recent Sachs case, for example, the judge said that if you advocated racial equality in South Africa that was Communism and it brought you under the anti-Communist law. Therefore our interest, I suggest, is to try to get Europe to settle down and try to secure a breathing space to solve the problems—which will, of course, remain.

Then there is the threat of Russian aggression. It is difficult to know what the weight of this is. Under-Secretaries are the only people who seem to know it with any exactitude. At one time we are told that at any moment atomic bombs may drop in the Middle West. The next day the Generalissimo who commands our forces against this threat is able to put off his uniform and put on a civilian suit and go away and become a Presidential candidate. It is puzzling; it does not look as though Armageddon were on the doorstep. We meet this situation by saying that we will not be caught napping next time and that we will have all our military arrangements complete, so that if such a thing happens we shall have our forces merely as a non-aggressive organisation which, we hope, will check any threat from any quarter.

If that is what we want, let us look ahead for a year or two and see what the actual prospect is to Europe. The three main countries are, of course, Italy, France and Germany. I remember Italy when she signed the Triple Alliance; I remember her when she signed the Treaty of London and I remember her in the Steel Axis. I remember the Badoglio Government. Happily, she is now our friend. But with a Communist voting strength which is growing you could not consider that the military position there was strong, certainly for any forward tasks. Then there is France—dear France—which is nearer to us than any country in Europe and which has made the greatest contribution to the liberty and culture of Europe. What is her position? She is utterly dependent on the other side; and for some reason she has to let her financial and military strength be sapped by a war in Indo-China which takes 200,000 of her men. She is in a pitiable plight. When we talk about filling gaps against Russia's possible aggression in Europe I think we are entitled to ask why Frenchmen are fighting a war in a distant sphere and in circumstances which have never been fully explained.

What, then, is left in Europe? There is Germany. I would not say anything at all against Germans. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and I have stood up for Germany many times. I can remember when the whole House of Commons rose to cheer the Treaty of Versailles.


Not everyone: all but about half a dozen.


Well, all but about half a dozen. I can also remember the time when everybody pushed before the camera to welcome Mr. Neville Chamberlain back from Munich. With these memories I am not greatly shaken by the fact that I may be in a minority. Germans are the most virile people in Europe. The first time that I became conscious of them was when I saw the Kaiser riding behind Queen Victoria's coffin. I can remember after a debate in another place Balfour, George Wyndham and Asquith calculating over a table at the House of Commons what the Kaiser meant by "Our future is on the water." I remember how we carried the main burden in the beginning of the war, in which we defeated the enemy, and how we thought that that was the end of it. I remember the occasion when Ribbentrop was giving a lunch party in London—and that was on the very day when the German tanks were rolling into Vienna.

I remember the Sudetenland, the occupation of the demilitarised zone, the million tons of cement—the end of the Versailles Treaty. I am not saying they were right or wrong, but I am saying that these people were Germans. They are the only real force in Europe, and when you have signed this ratification all you will have left in Europe will be Germany. She will be the centre of armed military might in Europe.

Noble Lords will say: "Ah, but what about the European Defence Community?" The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, has been good enough to explain part of the document—I do not know what the military terms mean. I understand that at first it was said that they could not have more than a brigade, but now they have a division. It is not convenient to have a corps, a lot of divisions together, without a common language. What we are really saying is: "You are having a Germany Army." That is the beginning and the end of it. You are having a German Army. It is idle to pretend that the little bits of string that you tie on the Germans will prevent them from becoming the most massive force in Europe. They have the direct patronage of the United States, as never before. The United States has an immense German population. It is behind the whole of this business. As the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, said, they have run up the flag. There will be a German Army in Europe.

The Germans are not civilised in the sense that the French are civilised, but, with the power of the United States behind them, what you have to face in the next year or two is Germany as the strongest Power in Europe, and the domination of the world by the United States. We do not know what is happening in the Kremlin, but in Europe the first Power will he Germany supported by the United States and, so far as we are concerned, we come an extremely modest third. But, of course, we have to pay. We have to keep our troops there. I tried to get the noble Marquess, in his very interesting and able exposition of these documents which pleased and won the approval of the whole House, to say what it is that we shall pay. He said something about remembering the disasters that had happened to Chancellors of the Exchequer who had anticipated the Budget. He did not say—I shall be corrected if I am wrong—that once these things are passed it will cost our Budget £200,000,000 a year.


In dollars.


I must leave that.


But it is different.


It is money. I do not know much about that. My noble friend, Lord Pakenham, could explain that. But it will have to be paid for by somebody and when the taxes are calculated that tax has to be added to the cost. That is the situation as I see it. I do not think that anything I have said is untrue. If I am wrong, I will gladly be corrected.


If the noble Viscount will allow me to make the interruption which he has invited, I do not say that anything he has said is wrong, but some of what he has said may be misunderstood and do a great deal of harm through misunderstanding. After recounting the militarism of Germany in the past, he said that in the immediate future Germany would be the greatest military Power in Europe, supported by the United States. Supported for what?


No, I am only saying that. Germany will, in the course of a few years, be the greatest military Power of the European Powers. I am coming to that. She will not get military support from the United States but she will get the good will of the United States, who are extremely sensitive to German influence.


Surely she would not have the support of the United States if she were to revive the policy which the noble Viscount previously recounted in his speech.


Of course, the noble Viscount is perfectly right. I am not suggesting they would get military support from the United States for any of these courses, but I am saying what is undoubtedly true: that the reason these things are happening, the reason why Germany is being rearmed and why this Treaty is being put through, is the major reason that Germany has the support of the State Department of the United States.

Now a word or two as to what will be the designs—I must be very careful, because the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has quite rightly corrected me; I must be very careful to differentiate between what is actually a fact and what is a design. When they have got their army, what will they want to do with it? Everybody assumes that they are enthusiastic about the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and are only yearning to join it and help us with these great ideals. That may be so, but I think one must examine the position more closely and ask, what will the Germans want to do with the large forces which we shall put at their disposal?

First of all, what leaders will they have? Where are they going to get their officers? I have sympathy with the kind heart of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey. I, too, am sorry for anybody who has been in gaol. I often wonder why I am a free man myself. What sort of leaders will they get? Of course, the people who will lead them—and this is the reason why they are resentful about the war criminals, who are their own people—are the class of people who were the gross offenders among the people who led the German Army. They are these very folk. When we read about the champagne and roses that greeted Alfred Krupps when he finished his sentence and was liberated, I say that we are seeing something that is very real in Germany—that is, their leaders. What is the first thing they want? You can read of this in the newspapers every day. The first thing they want is a rectification of frontiers. When it was suggested that they should join in N.A.T.O., what was the reason given by the French against it? It was: "They cannot join in N.A.T.O. because nobody should be in N.A.T.O. who has an irredentist claim." That would exclude the Germans because on their borders they have land which they say is theirs and which they want to have back. Everyone knows that the Germans have lost their homes and want to get back their land which is in the occupation of some other country—Poland or Sudetenland and even East Prussia. But what support would they get from the United States of America? A great deal depends upon the tone of the opinion prevailing in that great country.

After the Republican Convention, Mr. Dulles was asked what would be the difference between their policy and the policy of the Democrats, and this is what Mr. Dulles said: Liberation versus containment—that will be the No. 1 issue. The positive dynamic approach of the Republican Party will come into headlong collision with the negative and defensive policy of containing Communism. That is a policy, and people believe in it. It would be rather encouraging to Germans who hold the same view and who have recently been armed. The only comfort we can get is from a report from The Times which said: None of this will mean much once it has served its purpose of collecting the votes of those who have relatives and friends in the countries to be liberated. So that one of the large elements in this matter in the dominating partner is the necessity for getting the support of the people who sought refuge in America from the effect of Russian aggression.

The second point is this: what will be the effect upon the surrounding countries—what one may call the "safety belt" which the Russians have tried to spread round themselves? It is an amazing thing that the Poles should suffer the Russians. The Poles in 1914 did not mind so much about the Germans; they did not mind so much about the Austrians; but the Russians they detested. No doubt one of the weak spots in the safety belt that the Kremlin has is the dissatisfaction not only of the Poles but of other countries as well. The moment you arm the Germans you provide the Russians with an immediate argument that they can say to all their neighbours who have suffered horrors—the Balkans and all the satellite States—"Look, the Germans are being rearmed. Do you not think that, on the whole, you are better where you are than attempting to intrigue or to weaken the Kremlin Government?" I would put this question, again purely as a layman: Are we quite sure that when this has been done and the Germans have been armed (if you like, put in morale too), we shall be better off? If you arm Western Germany, of course Eastern Germany will arm. The morale of the satellites will be increased, and presumably the numbers of the troops of the satellites will be increased.


May I interrupt the noble Viscount, simply to remind him that Eastern Germany was rearmed some time ago?


Well, I wish there were time and that I had the documents to take that up, because months ago I had conversations with Dr. Niemoller on this point. Dr. Niemoller knows Eastern Germany very well indeed. He said that the cadres were but that the armament was not there. But as a matter of fact, that does not affect the validity of my argument, that we should have to discount the Western soldier by additional Eastern Germans who would be armed.

Perhaps your Lordships will think this fanciful, but supposing the Russians say: "We do not want war, but we want trouble. We do not want to fight but we want to see trouble." That is what has happened in the Far East. We have heard this wonderful argument that the Russians understand nothing but strength. All that I have seen of the success of that policy in the last four years has been the consolidation of 400,000,000 Chinese in the bosom of the Russians. In Korea never has a Russian had a scratch. They have sold their MIG.15's, no doubt at a great profit, but you never hear of a wounded Russian. Supposing trouble arises in Central Europe and the Russians do not want war. Who is going to do the fighting? We shall have to do the fighting and suffer the casualties. And, as with the air lift, it is to be remembered that however much we are determined, we shall have to pay. Who reaped the benefit of that struggle? This is an observation which I put forward with great diffidence to the military experts and great diplomats who are here to-day, but is it not possible that one of the ways in which we can be involved is not by a major war at all, and not even by the spread of Communism, which is spreading itself in its own way, but by the causing of trouble centres, which means a constant running sore or wound in our military strength?

Finally, when we have armed the Germans, what do they want? They do not care a fig about the things that we have been talking about. What the Germans want is a united Germany. That has been the German policy for a hundred years. That was Bismarck's policy. In the days of Hitler, whatever they had against him, the one thing that they did say about him was that he had united Germany; and the one thing in the heart of every German to-day is a hope that their country will be reunited. That is not a Nazi ideal at all; it is everybody's ideal. When they have got their army the Germans will regard it as a means of getting their way, which is to get a united Germany. What will they do? What will they have to face? The main thing that they will have to face is that the Russians are there. You cannot get rid of chat fact. The Russians are in Eastern Germany, and they will not go away. How are you going to get them to go away?

At one time, Mr. Byrnes had a plan which involved getting all the friends he could and fighting the Russians out. That was a long time ago, before the situation hardened. The noble Marquess is sure to remember Mr. Byrnes' bock, Speaking Frankly, in which he said the only thing we could do with the Russians was to call together the Security Council and, if the other people would not join, we should take what we could and should fight them out. I do not think it is at all likely that the Germans themselves will take that view. They will do what they did before. What the Government are pursuing is a Munich policy. Munich did not consist only of appeasing the Germans. That was not the beginning and end of Munich. The essence of the Munich policy was to try to mobilise the Germans against the Bolsheviks. That is exactly what we are doing to-day. This is a Munich policy. What I have said is nothing more than a contribution of imagination, and some experience, but it is possible that you might find what you found in Moscow, when we had our delegation waiting and the people who came out with the signed paper were the Germans who had, in fact, made a deal with the Russians, and we were sunk.

My Lords, for these reasons, I do not think there should be much hurry about signing this paper. It does not very much matter whether we do so or not. To begin with, we do not know about E.D.C Suppose the French Parliament will not accept E.D.C. in its present form. We shall have signed the paper in blank. Does it come back to us at all, or what happens? It is very indiscreet to sign in blank and to hand over the papers, when the conditions on which the signature is given have never been concluded. Certainly I think it an observation of sense to suggest that before ratifying this Treaty it would be far better 1o wait until we know who is ruling the United States of America, which we shall know within a few weeks.


May I intervene, to inquire whether the noble Viscount is against ratifying now, or whether he is against ratifying at all? All his argument has been against ratifying at all and against rearming Germany at all. He has now got back on to the wording of the Motion, saying "Do not do it now." What does he really mean?


Of course, this is a controversial opening to an entirely new debate. What I am saying is that I am against ratifying in present conditions. I have described the conditions, and I say that in those conditions you should not ratify. When, later, you come to ratification, if the conditions have altered perhaps the noble Marquess himself will not want to ratify. Supposing the E.D.C. is not approved by the French Parliament, what doss the noble Marquess say would happen? He does not answer my question; he asks another question. He is very wise. But he is going to speak later, and I shall be very glad if he will tell us what will happen if we ratify these papers and then find that the conditions of ratification are not fulfilled. But I certainly think that to ratify this Treaty at this moment, without having all the circumstances before us, would be an act which would not commend itself to wise men.

7.48 p.m.


My Lords, I was sorry to interrupt my noble friend, but the point was rather important. Perhaps I may address the question in a slightly different form to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, who I understand is to intervene later in the debate, because I think we ought to have an answer to the point, which is of some importance—namely, what are we expected to pay for our armies in Germany over and above our present commitments, after June, 1953? The figures are vague. There is a long and most interesting account in The Times of the 28th of this month, which gives as the cost of the British troops now in Germany a figure approaching £200,000,000 a year. But I understand that a more moderate figure will probably fall at about £120,000,000 after June, 1953, as the sum we must find to pay for our troops. The point of my interruption—and if possible I should like confirmation of the point from the noble Marquess—is that, as the costs are incurred in Germany, and the costs had to be paid for in Germany, dollars and not pounds sterling have to be provided. I think my noble friend Lord Henderson has already confirmed that fact this minute. Therefore, we have got to find at least £120,000,000 worth of dollars—perhaps more—after June, 1953. I do not know whether the present Government will be in office then—I hope not—but some wretched Chancellor of the Exchequer in any case will have to deal with the situation more fully; some overlord like Lord Woolton will have to deal with this widening of the dollar gap, and I can only say that I much prefer another solution altogether by which the rate of dollar spending can be very greatly reduced, which will follow upon an all-round settlement between the four great Powers and a reduction, or indeed removal, of all foreign troops.

I am speaking more independently even than my noble friend Lord Stansgate, if that is possible, when he was asked, "Are you in favour of eventual ratification?" If that question is put to me, I say that I hope circumstances will arise in which ratification is not necessary at all. I want to see a united Germany. That would be the way to peace. It is inevitable anyhow, by war or peaceful means, in the long run. A united Germany must have an army, of course. It is part of the attributes of sovereignty. You cannot have a nation like the Germans or any great nation in Europe to-day without permitting certain arms. You cannot deny the fact that eventually they will have a national army. That is what the Russians have offered them—no doubt as a bait if you like—but it was realistic. And I do not think we should hold up everything because of that fear.

This debate has developed in a singular way. We have had, I may say, brilliant speeches from Lord Pakenham, Lord Henderson, and Lord Reading. But the first note of realism in this debate was struck by Lord Douglas of Kirtleside. From him we had the stark truth of a man who knows at first hand. He had been in Germany, saw the problems, and was faced with them. It is all very well for Lord Henderson, whose work we all recognise, and for Lord Pakenham, who tried in the face of great difficulties to make some sort of a bridge between the British and German peoples—they were advised by their officials and made visits—but my noble friend Lord Douglas was living right among the problems. He was the man responsible; he was the man on the spot. If I may use the expression, his speech was invaluable. What he said was that you will not get the German youth with you unless you can make them believe that you have made a real, an honest and sincere attempt to come to agreement with the Russians before we are faced with the inevitability of war. What he says is that you will not carry the German youth with you unless you make that demonstrably clear; and I say that you will not carry the British youth or the French youth with you in war unless you do so. I do not think any British Government would stand or last twenty-four hours unless they convinced the people that they had made the last and most honest attempt they could to avoid war.

Now I must refer to the speech of Lord Pakenham. My noble friend earned admiration by his high idealism, by his expressions of humanity and brotherhood. The Germans are a people who require moral uplift and it is good business, apart from common humanity and decency, to help them to recover their morale. But there are also human beings in Russia. There are little children, simple country people, working in the fields, great masses of the people who are not concerned with the government of their country or politics but who are trying to reconstruct that country after sufferings and devastations; after the sufferings of two terrible world wars in which they were invaded; after the upheaval and chaos, and a terrible civil war between the two world wars—the great Russian revolution. I sometimes wonder whether it might not be a good thing if those who have a much more potent and powerful voice than I have, and influence in the councils of the nation on either side of the House, tried to create an atmosphere of humanity and brotherhood—not, of course, towards the twelve wicked men of the Kremlin (they are the modern "bogy men," and I say nothing about that), but there are 180,000,000 people not unlike ourselves. I have not been to Russia for many years—did the noble Marquess comment?


All I said was that it is rather difficult to get at them.


Not at all.


Why do you not go and get at them?


There is a Peer who has been there twice recently, my noble friend Lord Boyd-Orr. I was invited to go to the Economic Conference in Moscow—


Why did you not go there then? It would have helped.


There were reasons—I do not want to go into that. They would be of no interest to the House. I was only answering an interjection "Why not go there?" I have seen many people who have been there—honest, sincere as any of your Lordships; people of the highest character; and they are all convinced about one thing: as much as any noble Lord who has come back from Germany is convinced that they want unity, so the mass of the ordinary people in Russia want peace. They are against war. They dread it. They have suffered abominably in two wars and one vast civil war and revolution—and they want peace. It might be just possible that the rulers of Russia, realising that, might consider it worth some effort and sacrifice to bring it about. If we help to create the atmosphere it may help, but if we have nothing but abuse and insult it will not help.

I wish my noble friend Lord Pakenham would turn his attention a little to Russia and draw upon those: wells of humanity in regard to those Slavs—the Slavs have also contributed much to the world in literature, art, music and science—


I am not quite sure whether the noble Lord is suggesting 'that I was hurling insults at the Russians. His two statements came out close together. If you will show me how to be kind and friendly to the Russians I will do everything in my power to follow it out.


My noble friend never insults anyone, but his attitude—if he will forgive my saying so: I hope I misunderstood him—was that we could talk a little about negotiations at the Four Power Conference but we must not take it too seriously; that nothing would come of it.


I did not say that.


Then I wish the noble Lord was a little more emphatic in coming to some conclusion.

In that respect I use my rights to make one very slight criticism on the Amendment itself as put forward and moved by Lord Henderson. I refer to the third line from the bottom when attempts are still being made by the Western Powers to discuss the German problem. I do not like "still" We should go on talking to the very last second of the last hour—I do not know how long these conferences may take, nor can I measure the nervous strain on the noble Lords and other Ministers who do their duty at such conferences; but let us go on talking till the last—it is better than shooting. Lord Woolton has been accused of bribing the people of the country with promises of "red meat." So far as I can make out, some people want to bribe the country with red blood.

In regard to these questions of the negotiations I will explain what I mean at once. There appear to be three schools of thought. I think this is very important; I do not usually speak at any length but I hope your Lordships will bear with me a few minutes. There are those who consider (I am a humble member of this school, and so are the bulk of the Labour Party in another place—I am glad to say, the vast overwhelming bulk of them) that there is a chance of agreement and it should be tried out. I myself have ventured on a few reasons why it is just possible that the Russians might come to an all round agreement. Those who say, "Ah no; Communism has to spread itself, if necessary by force of arms" are thinking of the entirely false analogy of the French Revolution. The "rights of man" and the liberation creed of the French Revolution was spread by the force of arms and enforced on various countries, to use the modern term, after their liberation. But to-day a war is not a matter of small-bore cannons and muzzle loading firearms and swords. To-day, that sort of policy of spreading a doctrine by force, which the French Revolutionary leaders carried out, means the most devastating and complete destruction of civilisation with modern weapons, and I think the men in the Kremlin realise that as well as anyone else. You cannot make revolutions by force to-day "on the cheap"; you open yourself to the most frightful reprisals by atom bomb and possibly hydrogen bomb; and in any case total and devastating war. I think my noble friend, Lord Stansgate, put it plainly. You cannot fight the spread of Communism by weapons. Nor, I believe, can you spread Communism by weapons. You are just as likely to bring about Fascism as Communism. For those reasons and others, I believe that there is a chance now of getting some agreement, and I believe that it would be a better chance—if it is true; I do not know if it is true or not—now that the Russians themselves have the atom bomb, so that they are negotiating in a much more equal position. I think if both sides have the atom bomb we can rule it out altogether and that no one will dare to use it.

Then there is the other school of thought which says that there is nothing that can be gained by negotiations, but that we may as well try. I hope that I am not misrepresenting Lord Pakenham, but I rather gathered that was the sense of his observations, that we should have negotiations, and what would help negotiations was heavily armed strength. We have heard this argument in this House; we have heard it elsewhere, and read it in the newspapers; we have heard it again and again in the United States, especially at the recent Conventions at Chicago: "You must have armed strength and then you will be in a better position to negotiate. Get the armed strength first and then start the negotiations." I hope that is not a misrepresentation of my noble friend Lord Pakenham.


I can set the noble Lord's mind at rest. It is a misrepresentation. I say that we should make a genuine effort (and I do not think anyone dissents) to reach agreement with the Russians this year. I am rather pessimistic myself, but I am not quite without hope. But if we cannot get agreement this year we must certainly go on building up strength. The noble Lord is completely wrong if he thinks I am against a genuine effort this year to settle with the Russians.


I am sure anything my noble friend is responsible for would be genuine, but he does not think it would succeed.


No I do not think so.


I think we should do our best and be determined to make it succeed, and go on discussing and negotiating up to the last minute of the last hour. In the meanwhile, if we accept this doctrine that the only thing that matters is strength, we are going to ruin ourselves, as we are doing, in the process of building up vast armaments and carrying on the cold war with the States behind the two Iron Curtains, one in Asia and one in Europe, which will ruin our trade. Then there is the third school of thought, which I describe as the lunatic fringe. They do exist. They are vocal and they are influential. There are plenty in this country—I hope not in this House—and there are plenty in the United States, who regard open war as inevitable. They regret it but they regard it as inevitable, and therefore they say, "Let us get it over. Let us have it now and be done with it." Some of these arguments were discernible even at the Republic Convention at Chicago. Let us hope that it is only for Election purposes, but I should not like to take the chance.

I want to put forward, if I may, an additional reason for not ratifying now. I was very impressed by what Lord Reading said: that no Germans would be called up, he was told, until January, 1954; there would not be any fresh German troops put in uniform before January, 1954. My noble friend Lord Pakenham did not, I think, quite follow my interruption when I said the Government themselves decided only quite recently—I believe I am right there—on inviting ratification before we rose in the summer. Of course these things depend on the Parliamentary time-table and that kind of thing, but it was only quite recently—that was our information—that they decided they would ask Parliament to ratify. Therefore I think there is no hurry. I see an additional reason, and a very important additional reason, if it is valid, as I believe it to be: until we have ratified we have got some bargaining power left with our friends on the other side of the Atlantic. Far be it from me to say anything that would give the impression that I am in any way anti-American. I do not think that in my whole public life I have ever made any sort of attack on the policy of the Government of the United States. I attack certain bad elements in the United States, who sometimes find themselves in very powerful positions; they control certain of the newspapers, they control much of the radio and television, and in some ways they control the Government. Against them there are the quite different elements, whom we all know and respect, and who, I am glad to say, have so far been in the ascendancy. Until we have ratified we have got some bargaining power, and we can insist that there is a genuine and honest attempt to reach agreement with Russia as between the three or four Powers. For that extra reason I think there is a strong case for not ratifying.

One noble Lord spoke of the new Russian Ambassador in this debate. A new Russian Ambassador who is a man of very great stature in his own political world has been appointed to the Court of St. James's, and his first pronouncements, as reported in the newpapers, have certainly been pacific. I cannot imagine that he has come here, as has been put about by the more vulgar anti-Russian elements, to make mischief. I believe that he has been sent here to try to come to a peaceful arrangement. At any rate, we ought to look upon it in that light. I would beg some of my noble friends, whose sincerity I realise and respect, on this question of our relations vis-à-vis the Eastern World—because it is not only Russia and her satellites; it is all China; it is a vast bloc now, from the frontiers of Poland right away to the Pacific—to try to create some better atmosphere. My noble friend says "How"? By occasionally throwing out a word of sympathy for a people terribly devastated and abominably treated by the Germans. You have got to go through the Russian devastated areas to see what the Germans can do when they are in power and in the ascendant.

These poor people are trying to re-construct and redevelop their country so badly damaged. They are in some ways a more primitive people than ourselves. They were under the rule of the Tartars for three centuries, and Christianity did not reach them until some centuries after we had embraced it. They have not had the same chances that we have had in the past. Many Russians have fine personal qualities, and I believe they can be good friends. Let us try occasionally to see the better side of Russian character, the character of those millions of Russians who have nothing to do with politics, whom you can blame neither for war nor for atrocities. If you would take the same attitude towards them as you are now doing with regard to Germany; that is to say, if you would sometimes try to see their better side, then I believe a great change might occur. We might even have a change of view on the part of the "lunatic fringe," both in the United States and this country. Above all, we might enter into conference—a conference of tremendous importance, for it is not too much to say that perhaps the fate of civilisation may depend upon it—with some real hope of success.

8.11 p.m.


My Lords, the proposals which are before your Lordships for agreement this evening have, to my mind, one main object, the deterring of aggression, from whatever quarter it may come. But also, I believe, they form part of the larger movement which is being made to try to unite Europe after the rifts that have been caused by two world wars. I do not think it can be denied that, although we in this country are so close geographically to the Continent of Europe, there is a big difference in many ways between our outlook and the outlook of the Europeans living on the Continent. We tend to look outwards towards our Empire, but the Europeans tend to look inwards towards each other. I think that does affect our views upon many things to-day, and I feel that we ought to try to look at these particular problems, which we are now considering, more front their viewpoint without having slavishly to follow their desires—which clearly we do not always want to do. If we have had doubts regarding the rearming of Western Germany, how much more strongly must Europeans have had doubts, since they themselves have so recently seen their countries overrun, and since the experiences which they suffered must still be very fresh in their minds!

It might be thought that the pledge of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries to guarantee Western European countries protection from attack, from whatever quarter it might come, would be sufficient. Certainly, I am sure that in the view of most of us that pledge is sufficient for us here in this country. But I believe that for the Europeans the matter goes much deeper than that. I think their fear is that Germany could dominate Europe, not only in time of war but in time of peace as well. Therefore, they think that mere membership by Germany of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation could not be sufficient without Germany being also a member of the European Defence Community. For if Germany is not to be a member of the European Defence Community—if any such thing comes into existence—but is just a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, then she would have an enormous independence in Europe and could dominate that Continent with impunity, short of going to war.

I believe that we in this country are inclined to regard movements towards federalism in Europe with a good deal of suspicion, because we fear that we might ourselves be dragged into them also, and thus our rôle as the centre and leader of the Commonwealth, upon which we so much depend, would be severely impaired. But I consider that we must realise that the integration of Germany and Western Europe is the only basis upon which sufficient confidence can be developed by the other Western European nations to enable progress to be made in most plans. It is only in that way that an equal footing can be maintained, and the control of the new armed might or economic power shared between various countries of Western Europe and Germany. In that way each one would have part of the responsibility placed upon its own shoulders for preserving the peace and its own future security. I must confess, with all respect, that I do most strongly differ from the views of the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, as he expressed them in speaking about German rearmament. I gathered from what he said that he had no other proposals to put forward in place of the proposals that are at present before your Lordships' House. I do not know whether the noble Viscount would prefer that, instead of those proposals being implemented, nothing should be done. If nothing is done, and the present proposals do not go forward, I am certain that it will create a vacuum in Europe which will provide a great temptation for the Russians—a temptation which we should certainly be most unwise to offer. I must say this because I feel very strongly about it. I think the view which the noble Viscount put forward is a negative one. Certainly, it is one which I myself find quite unacceptable.

Now I should like to turn to my second point—the question of uniting Europe. I believe that real European unity goes further than just the integration of armies and other organisations. To my mind, it involves the development of mutual confidence and trust between the various countries of Western Europe and Germany. The fact, as we all know, is that Germany, France and the rest are geographically close together. They will always be like that, and they must at some time—the sooner the better, I suggest—find a modus vivendi between them. I think it is to a certain extent true that countries which have been occupied during the war have, to some degree, lost their self-confidence, and to a greater extent than is really healthy have lost their will to keep up the struggle. Unless they regain that self-confidence and the will to go on, I believe that it will be very difficult to make any plan work. But I believe that in these plans of the European Defence Community, there lies a real opportunity for the European countries to grasp the nettle which has been hanging in front of them; and by doing that they can do more to restore their self-respect and self-confidence than in any other way. I believe that that, more than anything else, is the answer to Lord Stansgate's argument. I believe that one must have trust in human nature on this occasion, and that once the plunge has been taken the position will be much better.

I do not believe that the European countries should listen to the voice of the Opposition as expressed in the Amendment, because, in my judgment, a delay such as is suggested would be a bad mistake; it would be entirely wrong. It would be like a man standing on the edge of a swimming pool in rather cold weather, staring down at the water and trying to give himself the courage to plunge in. He goes on looking at the pool and eventually thinks the water is too cold, and that he will not go in. I do not think we want that parallel carried into the Western European nations of the European Defence Community. We have to look ahead to the day when outside aggression has gone. There is no question that the Russian threat is a cement uniting the Western Nations. The fear of the wolf outside the door tends to keep them together. But we must see to it that, when that fear has been removed, Europe does not fall apart again and that the framework we are now trying to create will be clothed with a real desire to work for each other's benefit and not for our mutual downfall.

Finally, I should like to say a word about the Amendment itself. I believe that it is a real mistake. While the Amendment says that the timing of the Agreement to these proposals is inopportune, I think the Amendment is itself inopportune. Although the United Kingdom is not a participating member in the European Defence Community, none the less Western Europe looks to us for a lead and encouragement and it is in our interests and in theirs to see a European Defence Force backed up by a self-confident Western Europe. I believe that this plan can do much to pull the Western European countries out of the grey shadows in which they have been for some years past. The Labour Party Amendment to the Motion, whether carried or not, makes us look half-hearted as a nation in ratifying these proposals and in giving the lead which is expected from us. It will be hard to get these proposals ratified on the Continent and this Amendment will make the job harder still. I believe that it is a disservice to the peoples of Europe.

We have found by experience that we can negotiate with the Russians only from a position of strength. Whether or not we do that, they certainly will do so themselves, and if they are not already creating an Eastern German army, they are certainly creating the framework for one, as has already been said today. That must show their real intentions. And they have not just started this; it has been started some time ago, if not in years, in months. If we were to accept the Opposition proposal and delay our ratification of this scheme while we sought negotiations with the Russians, I am certain they would use these negotiations to delay and put off the day when we could put the scheme into action. We should play into their hands and that would not be a good thing. I wonder how many noble Lords opposite really believe in the Amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, made a courageous speech this afternoon, and I wonder how many more feel like him. I feel that there must be a few noble Lords opposite who would be quite upset if there were any chance of the Amendment being carried.

8.25 p.m.


My Lords, there can be no doubt that anyone who is in charge of foreign policy at the present time has a task confronting him of the most appalling difficulty. The choice which he has to make on so many matters is bound to involve risk. In any line he takes he cannot avoid risks. The only problem is, as the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, has said, which risk to take. There is a story of an ass who muddled between a bundle of hay and a drink of water and finally succeeded in dying both of thirst and of starvation because he could not make up his mind which to get. We have to remember that we do not avoid risks merely by doing nothing. We have to decide which is the right course to take.

I have always said, and I hope I always shall be able to say, that it is very desirable, in the tremendous difficulties with which we are confronted to-day, that we should have a common foreign policy. I believe that this country will speak with much greater strength if we can say that whoever is enunciating our foreign policy speaks for all of us. If we are going to have something like we have had on the Transport Bill, with one Government passing one measure, the next promptly reversing it and the Government which comes after that reversing it in turn—if we are going to have foreign policy conducted on these lines, then this country will not count for a great deal in the councils of Europe. Of course, there comes a point at which it is no good trying to blur the fact that there are genuine differences. It happened to us in the last Government. On the whole the Party opposite gave us very good support on our foreign policy, but times arose—Persia was one and the recognition of Communist China was another—when they raised differences of opinion, as they were perfectly entitled to raise them. Surely that is all to the good. We cannot conduct a satisfactory foreign policy in a democratic country by not stating with complete candour what we think.

I come to the present proposal. The choice confronting the statesmen of this country has been a very difficult one: are we to rearm Germany or not? If we do not, it can be said truly that we cannot have anything between the Russians and the Channel ports that would hold them up at all and the Russians could get to the Channel ports, if they wanted, in a matter of weeks, even days. On the other hand, if we contemplate the rearming of Germany, as it has been tersely put, are we quite satisfied on which side they are going to fight? There is the dilemma. I want to make it quite plain that, so far as the Labour Government were concerned, from the days of Mr. Bevin onwards, we accepted broadly the policy which is being pursued by this Government. That is the fact. But I also want to say, as has become quite obvious, that I believe that in my Party and in the country as a whole this policy has been accepted with very considerable misgivings and doubts. If the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, will not mind my saying so—and I am not going to be the least controversial—I rather wish he had left out of his most interesting and able review some of the taunts, or the Party cries, to which he gave vent. I wish it for this reason. As I have just said, I still hope that we may get back to a common foreign policy in order that this country may speak effectively in the councils of Europe.

The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, wittily observed—and I remember Mr. Baldwin saying it once when all his Ministers had been saying different things: Truth is many sided. That is true. As I see it, analysing this problem, there are really three schools of thought. You get the school of thought which was stated by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in his most moving and interesting speech: "Let us ratify now." You get the school of thought which has been outlined by Lord Stansgate and Lord Strabolgi in their most forceful and interesting speeches—I will not say, "Let us ratify never," but "Let us not ratify while the world is in this sort of condition." Finally, you get the point of view which may be expressed, I think, in this way: "Let us not ratify at this particular moment"—and that point of view was expressed plainly by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and in the most interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, who, of course, speaks on this subject with great knowledge.

As I see it, and submit to the House and to the noble Marquess who is to follow me, it is plain that this reasoned Amendment is an Amendment hearing on the third point I have mentioned. It rejects the present proposal as being inopportune, and particularly at a time when attempts are still being made by the Western Powers to discuss the German problem with the Soviet Union, and confirms the conditions laid down in the House of Commons by Mr. Attlee on February 12, 1951, which were, in fact, a policy of rearming Germany, subject to certain conditions. That is the reasoned Amendment. So far as the official Amendment of the Party is concerned, it is not a question of "Never," or "So long as the present conditions in Europe remain," but a question of "Not at this particular moment."

I take that view, and I will tell your Lordships why. First, I would point out, as my noble friend Lord Henderson pointed out, that the withholding of ratification until the late autumn—I should think until the end of the year, but I do not know—does not involve a day's delay. These Treaties do not become effective until everybody has ratified, and I imagine that there is not the slightest chance that everybody will have ratified by the end of November. Therefore, if it were delayed until after we come back, or until the end of November, there would not be a day's delay. In my submission, it is not true to say that this is going to cause delay. The real point, I think, is the one raised by the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House: that there is no reason why we should not do it now to give a sign of leadership, if that is desirable. Is it, therefore, a sign of good leadership to do it now; or is it, on the other hand, the case of a fool rushing in too quickly where an angel would fear to tread?

I suggest that the conclusive consideration is the fact that we are at the present time hoping to get negotiations with Russia. I am not, as somebody said before, very optimistic about those negotiations succeeding. But they may succeed. When I used to answer for the Government on foreign affairs in this House, and used to go along and talk to Mr. Bevin, I remember his saying to me: "Always remember this. Never bang any doors, and have infinite patience." Those, I think, are the two conditions of a successful foreign policy. Therefore I am not without hope, though I do not for the moment say that I think it is likely, that we shall get a satisfactory agreement with Russia. But I do believe that the one way in which we can get pacification and stability in Europe is by getting East and West Germany together—I believe that is far more important than anything else—and that can only be done if we can get some kind of terms with Russia.

I do not really know enough about it to say whether Russia will be more likely or less likely to be reasonable and come to terms and discuss with us if we ratify now. The noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, who knows the Russians much better than I do, has expressed the view—and I confess that there is much to be said for it—that we have here something in the nature of a good card, and that we should make a mistake if we ratified now, because we should play our trump card too soon. But what has influenced me in my view that this is a mistake now is something rather different. It may well be that we should not get our Treaty with Russia, or satisfaction out of the talks with Russia, if we got talks. But, my Lords, beware lest foreign countries attribute that failure to us, for our too early ratification of this Treaty. The Germans may say: "We have not succeeded with Russia, and there is no chance of getting some union between the East and the West. Why has the whole thing broken down? It has broken down because the British rushed in and ratified." They may say that. This, at least, is certain: that if the Communists are not going to do anything and want a scapegoat, they will say that and spread it about. That being so, surely we should be wise not to do this now.

So far as the official Amendment is concerned, it does not ask for a day's delay, because these Treaties cannot come into force until the others are ratified. But it does seem to me, just at the moment when we are proposing to Russia that something should be done about this matter, to bang the door—because that is how it will be represented. To say that we shall ratify now, before we begin to talk with them, would be to make a profound error. That is the point of view which I officially, and the Amendment, put forward. But I do not in the least apologise for the fact that various members of the Party from this side have slated differing views. In a day when we rather tend to be all marshalled and dragooned in one way, I think it is wholly to the good that a Party should be sufficiently strong to allow, and to welcome, different points of view being expressed from its Benches. I feel that the different points of view which we have on our Benches, which I believe noble Lords opposite also have on your Benches and which is deeply reflected throughout the country, is to be expected in the face of the appalling difficulty which confronts us as to which is the right risk to take. I believe that I go more safely in the middle, and, therefore, I submit to your Lordships' consideration the Amendment which stands on the Paper.

8.39 p.m.


My Lords, before I come to what I might call the substance of the debate, it may be for the convenience of the House if I deal with one or two points which I do not think bear strictly upon the main issues and, in particular, say a word or two about the two questions which were asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, regarding war criminals. I do not propose to follow him into the main theme of his speech: at this very late hour for your Lordships' House, I propose only to answer quite shortly the questions he asked. First, if your Lordships remember, the noble Lord suggested that as the mixed Board which is to consider the question of war criminals cannot meet yet, the members should be allowed, by agreement between the Powers, to meet informally to work out their rules of procedure. In answer to that question, I would assure the noble Lord that Her Majesty's Government are most anxious that the Board should begin to function as soon as possible. The present position, as I understand it, is this. We have, by virtue of our desire to make progress, already chosen our member. So far as I know, the American, the French and the German members have not yet been selected. But we are quite prepared, so far as we are concerned, to give full consideration to the noble Lord's question that there should be preliminary and informal meetings of the Board as soon as it is constituted, for the purpose of looking at their rules of procedure.

The noble Lord then made one other point (I hope I have it right), that there should be more drive put into our own reviews of individual cases. The answer to that, I think, is that our clemency review is always continuing, and there will be no unnecessary delay. Indeed, I think I may fairly say to the House that, whereas last September our war criminals numbered 214—that is, our own war criminals—they are now reduced to 130, which shows that there has been no procrastination in the work. I would emphasise that this work—and I am sure I shall have the House with me here—must be based upon the true principles of clemency and not on mere favouritism, because were we to descend to favouritism or a desire merely to curry popularity, we should undermine all the principles on which clemency can properly be exercised.


One of the primary objects of my question was whether there was a political element in the clemency review. There is a political and a legal side to clemency. That was my main point.


I should not be prepared to suggest advising clemency for purely political reasons. I can see what the noble Lord has in mind, but I do not think, taking the long view or the true view, that it would be wise.

Now I come to the main issues of the debate, and I shall confine myself to those and not, I hope, allow myself to be led astray into mere matters of detail; for after all they will not influence our votes, if this matter comes to a vote. In the speech with which he opened the debate this afternoon, my noble friend Lord Reading explained fully, first, the nature of the instruments for which the Government are asking the approval of the House and, secondly, the reasons why we consider it vital that that approval should be given now. I do not propose in my final words to re-traverse the ground which he has already covered; nor, I believe, is it necessary; for though the wording of these instruments is necessarily long and complicated, the issues are really very simple ones. As I see it, they are these. Is it or is it not the view of Parliament that Western Germany, to quote the words of the Motion, should be included on a basis of equality, in a Continental European Community, which itself will form part of a constantly developing Atlantic Community"? If so, if we take that view, should we take the necessary steps now to give effect to that policy? And, further, as part of that policy, should steps be taken to enable the German Federal Government to co-operate in the defence of the West? Those, as I see it, are the main issues and that is, quite briefly, the purport of the Government Resolution.

In the very interesting speech which he delivered to your Lordships this after- noon, the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, expressed doubts—at least, so understood his speech—as to the whole idea of the rearmament of Germany. Of course, I would agree with him, and with the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, who has just spoken, that this is a very difficult question, on which, I suppose, there is not one of us who has not had preoccupations. I could well understand it if the Labour Party had taken, rightly or wrongly, the view that Germany should not be rearmed. I think, on balance, I should not agree with it—in fact, I do not; but I can understand it. But, in fact, they did not take that view. On a balance of considerations they came down quite clearly on the side of German rearmament. That was the policy of Mr. Bevin, and that was the policy of the present Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Attlee. They did not agree with the kind of view which was expressed by Lord Douglas, and which was expressed in a rather more Delphic manner by the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate. They believed that German rearmament was the only way to ensure the security of Western Europe. That was the whole tenor of the declaration of September 14, 1951, to which, as I have always understood it, both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party alike are pledged. I had hoped, therefore, that our Resolution would be entirely non-controversial; for, after all, we are merely carrying through to its logical conclusion the policy to which the late Government were already committed. Indeed, as your Lordships know, the words I have already quoted were taken verbatim from the declaration to which they put their name on September 14 of last year.

I would also remind the House, if they need reminding, that in sharp contradistinction to certain things which were said by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, this afternoon, the purpose of that policy, and the avowed purpose of that policy, was to lead to an early agreement. The word "early" was specially inserted. That was the definite policy of the Labour Party rather less than one year ago. That, if I understood aright the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, is in essence their official policy now. After careful thought, when they were in power with all the resources of the Foreign Office at their disposal, that was the conclusion to which they came, and that is the conclusion to which we too have come. On broad lines of policy it appears, therefore, that, at any rate so far as our official utterances are concerned, there is no difference between us.

In these circumstances, I must say that I find it—and I am sure the whole country will find it—both unfortunate and somewhat bewildering that noble Lords opposite should have thought it necessary to table an Amendment which can only give the impression abroad that there is a division of opinion between the Parties. Why have they done this? We have been told again and again by various speakers that the time is inopportune for the ratification of these Agreements. We have had the most elaborate explanations why that is so. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, who opened the debate, has, if I may say so, the affection and esteem of us all, and I must say that I was deeply sorry for him in the position in which he was put to-day. He was forced, if he will forgive my saying so, into an almost incredibly laboured argument, which was really painful to listen to, to show why this decision should be put off as long as possible; why at all costs we should avoid taking a lead in the matter. He said that Belgium had not ratified and Luxembourg had not ratified. Only the United States had ratified. Actually, Canada has ratified too. But anyway the United States have done so. But I would say this: although noble Lords opposite may sometimes appear to doubt it, we are still, like the United States, a great Power, a very great country; and the primary duty of a great Power, as I have always understood it, is to give a lead in international affairs. The United States have given their lead and Canada has given hers. Is it really the policy of the Labour Party to approximate ourselves to Luxembourg, rather than to the United States? If so, we had better know it now.

Then it is suggested in the Amendment that the conditions for German rearmament which were laid down by Mr. Attlee in his speech of February 12 last year have not yet been met. What are those conditions? I thought it was interesting that, although they occupy practically the whole of the Opposition Amendment, these conditions were hardly mentioned by any speaker. But I am going to talk about them myself, if I may revert to this apparently delicate subject. Mr. Attlee first of all stipulated that the rearmament of the countries of the Atlantic Treaty must precede that of Germany. If the right honourable gentleman meant that a broad priority must be given to Atlantic Powers in the matter of rearmament I think that all of us would agree with him; and, indeed, that policy is already being carried out. Since the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation decision at Brussels in December, 1950, just over a year and a half ago, as I think the noble Marquess Lord Reading pointed out, nearly 3,000,000 tons of United States aid have been shipped to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Powers. Further, at Lisbon in January of this year the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation Council approved recommendations which provided for fifty divisions by the end of this year. During the whole of that period the Germans had received nothing at all. Nor is it likely, in any case, that the first call-up in Germany could begin before the beginning of 1954. If that is not the practical application of Mr. Attlee's first and second conditions I do not know what it is.

But if Mr. Attlee intended to imply that there should be no armament for Germany at all until the Atlantic nations—and not only the Atlantic nations but all democratic States—had received every gun, every 'plane, every button on every tunic which they required, that really means that Germany would never be rearmed at all, and the whole of the Labour Party policy would have been a hollow sham. I think too well of Mr. Attlee to believe that he meant that, and I am driven to the conclusion that he has been merely "chivvied" into this unhappy position by a section of his colleagues.

Then there is the other main condition put forward by Mr. Attlee, that German units should be so integrated into the defence forces as to preclude any reemergence of Germany as a military menace. We should all agree with that too. But I need not deal with this, for I think he himself said in another place, on May 14 of this year, that the condition was already met by the arrangements now being made. Finally, there was the last condition: that there must be agreement with the Germans themselves. That is no doubt an essential prerequisite; for, after all, you cannot make the Germans rearm if they do not want to. But surely that does not absolve us from our own undertaking, that if they do wish to rearm, then, within the framework which we as the signatories to the instrument have approved, we should make it possible for them to do so. That undertaking is surely implicit in the whole policy of the late Government and of this Government; and it would be disastrous if we gave the impression that we were going back on it now. Moreover, noble Lords opposite should remember that the Government of Western Germany is freely elected and is just as competent to ratify as we are. Why should we put restraints on their actions, such as that there must be an election first or that there must be this or that? They are a free Government and we ought to treat them as we should expect to be treated ourselves. No, my Lords, I submit that the pleas which have been put forward for delay in ratifying these Agreements, which have been based on the Attlee conditions, will not stand up to serious examination.

Nor are the other arguments which have been advanced this afternoon in favour of the Opposition Amendment any more impressive. Take what may be called the "Russian argument"—that it is wrong to take any steps about German rearmament at a time when attempts are still being made by the Western Powers to discuss the German problem with the Soviet Government. I think that that is the oddest argument I have ever heard. If it is true now, it was true a year ago—unless noble Lords opposite suggest that during their period of office no attempts were being made to discuss the German problem with the Soviet Government. I am sure they would not maintain that. Actually we all know that every Government in this country since the war, whatever its colour, has always been ready to reach an agreement with the Soviet Government on all outstanding issues, if there was any reason to suppose that the Russians really meant peace, on a basis honourable to all. And it is just because they were driven to the conclusion that that appeared too much to hope for at present, while the West was so weak, that the Labour Government decided—and I do not dispute their decision that the forces of the West must be strengthened. It is for that reason that they decided, with their Allies—on a balance of con- siderations—that the Germans should be rearmed.

Mr. Attlee said on February 12 last year: Everything goes to show that the purpose of the Soviet Government has not been to promote peace, but to cause trouble. Those were Mr. Attlee's own words. Do noble Lords opposite suggest that there has been, since then, evidence of a change of heart on the part of the Soviet Government which justifies the scrapping of the whole policy on which they agreed last year, and which was based on the desirability of getting an agreement as soon as possible? Do they really believe that to postpone the rearmament of Germany is likely to bring the Russians—in deference to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, I will say the Russian Government, and not the Russian people, for it is the Russian Government with whom we have to deal—to a more accommodating frame of mind in any prospective talks? I would add that I know of none at present that have been fixed, although there has been an assumption in various speeches from the other side to-day that they are to take place in the autumn.


Since the noble Marquess has mentioned my name and asked a question, may I give him an answer? The answer is surely this. Whatever we do now does not hasten German rearmament. The noble Marquess and the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, have said that there would not be any beginning until January, 1954. But to postpone ratification would be a gesture now; it would create an atmosphere, and that might be important.


I think it would make a bad impression in other quarters, and that is a very important argument in favour of our doing it now.


It would have no material effect.


Just such an effect as would be created by the noble Lord's argument on the other side. He thinks it would create a good effect, but I do not think it would make a ha'p'orth of difference to the Russians, and it might, on the other hand, make a very bad impression on the Germans and on other nations. Lord Henderson, who used this argument in support of his thesis, produced no evidence that there had been a change of heart in Russia, nor did the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt.


I have said several times in this House and again to-day that I did not believe there would be any evidence of a Russian change of heart until the talks had taken place—that it would not happen in advance.


That is an awful gamble, if I may say so. I would assure the noble Lord and the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, that I thoroughly respect their intentions. But in fact, I believe that it is only wishful thinking on their part, and in my view this is not the time for wishful thinking. Indeed, it may equally well be argued that it is the fact that the Western Powers have decided on German rearmament which has brought the Soviet Government to its present slightly more accommodating attitude, and that a further postponement of that rearmament would only confirm them, as the noble Lord, Lord Layton, said in the very impressive speech he made this afternoon, against concession or compromise of any kind. I agree with the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, that this is, of course, a matter of opinion, but on the view of his own Party last year, it must be the right conclusion for us to draw.

My Lords, I recognise that the arguments which noble Lords opposite have put forward to-day are the best they could do in the circumstances. But they are surely not of a character which could justify an indefinite postponement of the bipartisan policy which has been hitherto pursued in this country. Indeed, as I have listened to their speeches, I have been driven to the conclusion that the Amendment is not a serious one and is not based on any deep-seated conviction. I am bound to say this, controversial though it is—and the rest of my speech will, I fear, be controversial—not as a taunt but because it is a vital aspect of this problem: and, after all, the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, himself said this afternoon that it was our duty to "tell the truth as we see it," however unpleasant that truth might be.

I believe the Amendment to be a mere expedient to conceal from the country the deep cleavage which exists in the Labour Party on this, as on many other subjects. It is an open secret—what the French call a sécret de Polichinelle—that there are widely differing opinions held in the Labour fold on this question of German rearmament. There are those—the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, is one—who take the official view, represented by the declaration of September 14 last year, and who favour the rearmament of Western Germany, with of course suitable safeguards, as part of the defence of the West and as a contribution to the unity of Europe—I hope that I am not misrepresenting the noble Lord's view. There are others who take a different view, a violently contrary view, who dislike intensely the rearmament of Germany, on the grounds both that it is too dangerous and that it is too provocative of Russia. And, of course, there are innumerable gradations between those two extreme schools of thought.

Even the noble Lords on the Opposition Front Bench were, I thought, to-day in continuous and violent controversy with one another. There was the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, who said, as I understood him, that we should ratify in the autumn. There was the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham—and I think he was right—who said that we ought to ratify at once. Then there was the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, who was against ratifying at all until the whole German character was changed—and that may take some time.


That is not a bad idea.


It will not happen before the autumn. Then there was the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Kirtleside, who would not, as I understood him, ratify at all in any circumstances. If I may say so, there was such a Babel of disputing voices that we on this side of the House hardly got in a word edgeways all the afternoon. The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, thought that that was a sign of strength. That is a matter of opinion. At any rate, in these rather delicate and unhappy circumstances, no doubt the decision of the Government to table a Motion approving these instruments did put the Opposition Leaders in both Houses of Parliament in a position of some difficulty. If issue were to be joined with the Government on the substance of the matter, the Party, on form, would have been split from top to bottom. The question before the Leaders—I can quite understand their difficulty—was how to avoid the exposure to the public eye of these deplorable divisions on a matter of the highest policy. So they arrived—and I admire their ingenuity, if not their heroism—at a decision to go into battle on the issue of "timing": "Do not do it now. This year, next year, some time, never. But do not do it now." This ingenious formula raises no fundamental principle and, therefore, it has provided—at least, they hope it has provided—a ground, and the only ground, on which they could all go into the same Lobby. I have given that explanation because I believe it to be the true one. I am quite certain that that, and not the tortuous, tortured arguments that we have heard this afternoon, is the real reason behind the form of this Amendment.

My Lords, I do not for a moment suggest that the question of timing is never important. Of course it is. But I do say that only too often it is used as an excuse for avoiding embarrassing decisions and obtaining a period of delay—not on the merits of the case, but for quite different reasons. And yet delay, if it be unduly prolonged, may be absolutely disastrous. It may give an impression of weakness and vacillation, and even of bad faith, which might in the present case utterly destroy our authority as a nation in international affairs. Moreover, in addition to showing signs of vacillation at this time, it may result in a weakening of the forces of moderation in Russia itself, if they exist, and a strengthening of the forces of extremism. It is one of those occasions when, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, said this afternoon, there may be risks in action, but the risks of delay are infinitely greater. My Lords, I would repeat that there is nothing new, there is nothing unexpected, in these two instruments which we are asking your Lordships to ratify to-day. They are the logical conclusion of past policies which were initiated and approved by the Labour Party itself.

Of course, it is not for me to attempt to dictate to noble Lords opposite their attitude on this or any other subject; indeed, it would be a gross impertinence if I tried. Moreover, if they do commit themselves to a catastrophic bloomer—as I think they are going to in a few minutes—I suppose from a mere Party point of view we ought to welcome that. But, my Lords, foreign policy has always been above Party politics, and for that reason I would, even now, appeal to noble Lords opposite not to press this most regrettable Amendment to a Division. I appreciate as much as they do the importance of Party unity, however oddly it may be achieved. But there are things yet more important—for instance,

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

On Question, Resolution agreed to.