§ 4.5 p.m.
THE MINISTER OF STATE, FOREIGN OFFICE (THE MARQUESS OF READING)
My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like to make a statement on the Note which Soviet Russia yesterday delivered to the Governments of Britain, the United States and France. Her Majesty's Government will consider the Soviet Note in consultation with the United States and French Governments, to whom identical Notes were also addressed, and with other directly interested Governments. Her Majesty's Government will arrange to publish as a White Paper a translation of the full text of the Note as soon as possible.
There are, however, certain preliminary observations which I would offer to the House. A large part of the Note is concerned with criticism of the European Defence Community and N.A.T.O. as at present constituted, in similar terms to those employed by Mr. Molotov in Berlin. The possibility of a German contribution to the European Defence Community is denounced, while the existence of German military formations in the East Zone is ignored. The creation of "military groupings" in the West is condemned, while Soviet Treaty arrangements with the satellite Powers and Eastern Germany are passed over in silence. N.A.T.O. is described as an aggressive Treaty directed against the Soviet Union.
But the House will remember that N.A.T.O. was the answer to Soviet policy and not the cause of it. N.A.T.O. was brought into being by the free nations of the West in an effort to prepare their joint defence in response to overwhelm- 932 ing Soviet strength and to the menace which Soviet policy and action represented. In these circumstances, Soviet membership of N.A.T.O. would not of itself be a sufficient assurance to the members of that Organisation, who well understand that its continued existence is their surest guarantee of a free life.
Moreover, N.A.T.O. is something more than a purely military arrangement. As the preamble states, it is founded on the principles of individual liberty and the rule of law. Article II pledges the parties to strengthen their free institutions. It is not yet clear to us from the Soviet Note whether the Soviet Government are now willing to subscribe to and to practise these requirements of membership. Her Majesty's Government are at all times willing to examine proposals to reinforce European, and indeed world, security. They have shown themselves anxious to pursue disarmament by agreement. It is their conviction that for the purposes of world peace and security the United Nations, if used in the true spirit of its Charter, affords the best forum and the most hopeful opportunity. Her Majesty's Government are not convinced that new associations of a broad and general character such as are proposed in the Soviet Note can, in present conditions, replace the free partnership of likeminded nations.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Marquess for making his statement, and particularly for promising to give us a White Paper. He will not expect me to make any observations about it—indeed, I think that when suggestions of this sort are made it is much better that nobody should make observations about them until they have been translated and carefully considered.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, first may I say how much we welcome the statement by Her Majesty's Government that the Russian proposals are to be discussed with all the members of N.A.T.O. I understand that is the intention. But is it not to be regretted that a very important member of N.A.T.O. should issue a unilateral statement before consultations have taken place—a statement which seems to express a judgment? And is not that prejudicial to the proposed all-round consultation?
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, this lengthy document was received by us only last night, and the process of translating it is still going on. I confess that I am not informed as to the reference which the noble Lord has just made, but I would rather, if I may, follow the example of the noble and learned Earl, and postpone all further discussion at this stage.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, I should just like to make it clear that the statement I am referring to is an authorised statement by the State Department. I think it regrettable that any such statement should be issued prior to full consultation with all the members of N.A.T.O.
§ EARL WINTERTON
My Lords, is it not equally regrettable that in your Lordships' House there should be criticism of the State Department of a friendly Government before we are in full possession of all the facts?
THE MARQUESS OF READING
.My Lords, I still think we had better leave this subject at its present stage.