§ Debate resumed.
§ 3.21 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has given us once again one of his thoughtful and comprehensive surveys of the whole international scene. As the official spokesman of the official Opposition, he is expected to make a comprehensive world-wide survey—"from China to Peru," one might say. In parenthesis, it may amuse your Lordships to know, with regard to that much-used and hackneyed quotation, that the Peruvian Ambassador, who happens to live next door to me, told me once that, of the batches of cuttings that he received day by day from a cutting agency, a very large part consisted of parts of speeches of orators who on various occasions surveyed the scene "from China to Peru." I am under no obligation to undertake a survey of the 205 present equivalent, of Indo-China to Guatemala—to the relief of the House and to my own relief I propose to choose only two or three of the more salient points among the matters that are in the minds of your Lordships when you come to a discussion such as this.
Like Lord Henderson, I naturally put in the forefront the success—for success it was—of the Geneva Conference. We have been so accustomed to international conferences ending in failure, that it is a relief, and almost a surprise, when one of them leads to a positive result. The Conference on Korea did succeed, if it succeeded at all, by ending the fighting and by providing a settlement of the difficult question of the prisoners; but it has made no provision for the future settlement of time unhappy peninsula. The Austrian Conferences have been proceeding for years, with a wholly negative result so far as the advantage of Austria or any other country was concerned. The Berlin Conference on the future of Germany ended in a failure so complete that everybody has already forgotten that the Conference was ever held. And the Geneva Conference was faced by difficulties so great that it is highly to the credit of all the parties that they should have arrived at a positive result.
Diplomatic negotiations cannot undo or ignore military decisions. The struggle for Dien Bien Phu, the contest which we watched with such harassing anxiety, ended in a total defeat, and a battle for Hanoi seemed unlikely to yield any other result. All the more credit, therefore, is due to those at Geneva, and particularly to the two chief protagonists, Mr. Eden, our own Foreign Minister and M. Mendès-France who brought about the successful organisation of the settlement; and one would add also, as Lord Henderson has done, our measure of thanks to the noble Marquess who is to follow me in is debate for the share which he efficiently rendered in the accomplishment.
A few days ago, when the results of the Conference were announced, I said a few words in your Lordships' House. I said that the results showed how wrong were the pessimists who were continually saying that there was no possibility of an accommodation between East and West. The noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, did me the honour in yesterday's issue of The 206 Times of taking up that observation and contesting it. He said that he had never heard anyone say such a thing, that a temporary accommodation was impossible. He said that… the West give way enoughaccommodation can always be achieved, and he went on:… it has been reached at Geneva by handing over more than half of the inhabitants of Viet-nam. Accommodations were likewise reached at Yalta, at Potsdam and on other occasions"—he also mentioned Munich. He continues by saying:Perhaps Lord Samuel is confusing pessimists with realists who say that no durable or abiding settlement—not accommodation—is possible with any totalitarian Power unless There is a fundamental change in totalitarian aim and behaviour.Of course, we should all agree that no lasting and permanent settlement is possible; but that is not to say that, until that comes about, our only policy should be the negative one of inaction. Would Lord Vansittart favour a policy of a preventive war, since he considers that no settlement is possible unless there is a change of heart among the Communists? That doctrine is one which I am certain that not even the most ultra-extremist would advocate in this country. If that is so, what other policy is there, if there is no change of heart among our opponents? He would say, quite rightly, that we could agree to maintain out defences, to fortify N.A.T.O.; and he would say (and here again I would agree) that it would not be possible to leave the development of atomic weapons either to Germany during the war or to Russia since. But to say that and to stop there is not enough. That we should have strong armaments ready to repel attack?—agreed. But is there nothing more to be done? Is there no hope whatsoever of any progress in any direction towards some kind of settlement?
Two alternatives have been advocated. One is that the leaders of the five great Powers should get together round a table and, without any elaborate diplomatic apparatus, arrive at a settlement of the principal heads which are in dispute. Five men round a table, each with a half sheet of paper—a very delightful ideal. I am afraid, however, that the affairs of the world are far too complicated for us to be able to feel any great assurance 207 that such a meeting would produce a satisfactory result, unless, indeed, the ground had been thoroughly prepared beforehand and the main points privately decided. The other possible alternative is that we should proceed as best we can, stage by stage, piecemeal, one thing after another, gradually removing the outlying and, later, the central causes of dispute. Call that accommodation or call it easement—call it what you will—that has been the course taken by Her Majesty's Government; it is the course supported by the Commonwealth Governments, and it is one which I feel sure the great majority of your Lordships would also approve.
It has had a setback within the last few days in the most shocking outrage in the Chinese seas: the attack on a peaceful civilian aircraft belonging to Britain, and the murder of several of its passengers. To the credit of the Chinese, be it said, they have not sought to deny or to evade responsibility. We have been accustomed, in not dissimilar cases, to receiving a denial of guilt or a prolonged delay in procrastination before any settlement is even thought of. That has not been so here. Immediately, the Chinese Government confessed that the action was carried out by Chinese planes; they apologised, and offered to give proper compensation and redress. It is all the more lamentable that, only a few days later, they commit a similar offence in an attack upon an American ship and planes which were undertaking the work of rescue. All this is greatly to the discredit of the Chinese Government. If that is the sort of civilisation which the new China is offering to the world, the less we have of it the better. It offends against the conscience of mankind—and, as has been well said, a nation, as a man, cannot succeed if he has "the hiss of the world against him."
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Viscount, and I agree with what he has said. But I think that, to make the picture complete, he should give some account of the operations of the forces of the Formosa Government in this area.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
No, I do not think that was any justification. It is true that these seas are to some extent in a warlike area, on account of the con- 208 flict that continues between Formosa and the mainland. But that is not a justification for mistaking a clearly marked British 'plane for a Formosan bomber. It is certainly not a justification for immediately attacking it when it was in the air, without taking any steps to warn it off, and still less a justification for pursuing it as it fell through the air, firing again and again, apparently in the hope that no survivors might be left to give evidence of what had happened.
The main issue that has caused anxiety throughout the Geneva Conference has been the divergence of policy exhibited between Britain and the United States. That is perhaps the most serious event that has taken place within the last few years; for upon the unity of these two Governments the future hopes of the world must largely depend. There has been a very definite divergence between British and American policy with regard to China during the last twenty years, almost continuously. We in this country have had a great deal of experience of relations with China. In the nineteenth century we found ourselves in a war in China—the Opium War, as it was called—and there have been other prolonged disputes and constant difficulties. You have there a vast country, one might say inchoate and amorphous, now with 600 million people; and surely it must be obvious that it must be for the Chinese people to work out their own salvation, or the reverse.
The United States has adopted a different policy. In the civil war that arose between the Communists and the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek, the United States definitely took sides, and still insists that the de facto Government of Formosa should hold the seat in the United Nations which the Charter of the United Nations allocates to China. The revolution in China has undoubtedly, from all reports reaching us, the support of the mass of the Chinese people, not only the peasants and the workers but also the educated classes, the universities and the patriotic youth of China. That revolution is no more likely to be undone than the Russian Revolution of 1917. It would have been no friendship on our part towards the United States if we had not made clear that public opinion in this country would not allow us to slip gradually into a position in which we found 209 ourselves involved in an all-out war with Communist China. We may feel just indignation and resentment at this incident of the 'planes; but that is not a reason for adopting excited policies which are doomed to failure. It is a mistake to think in headlines. The American humorist, Alexander Woollcott, said of us:The English have an extraordinary ability for flying into a great calm.It is often afterwards found that that course has been very useful and highly successful.
I am not proposing to touch upon questions relating to Europe, for my noble friend, Lord Layton, will take part from this Bench in the debate to-morrow, and he has an expert (one might almost say a technical) knowledge of the European Community and all that relates to it which is equalled by few and excelled by none in this House. I have to remember that speeches of undue length are strongly disapproved of in your Lordships' House; and I entirely agree with the opinion held so firmly by each one of us that everyone else's speeches are much too long. I shall therefore try not to fall into that disservice but will end my speech (I am still some little way from the end) as quickly as possible. I think there is no word in a speech so objectionable as that word "Finally" when it is afterwards forgotten. It only arouses false hopes.
I will pass to more general observations on the background of the particular problems which we are discussing to-day. I am impelled to do so by the fact that this day is an anniversary. We in this country are accustomed to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War on August 4 because it was the date of this country's entry into that conflict; but the war began on this day's date, July 28, 40 years ago. On that day Austria declared war on Serbia, bombarded Belgrade and invaded the country; and then began the events which have changed the world. It is a common experience that memory is most vivid of events in which one has taken part and which one has observed under great emotion, and my own memory of the Cabinet meetings during those days—the Cabinet of which I am the only survivor in your Lordships' House—is very vivid, particularly when 210 I recall how the course of events gradually unrolled and disaster came closer and closer.
At that time, at the end of July, Sir Edward Grey was labouring desperately to hold off from one another Austria and Russia, then at the edge of war. He was trying to form a combination of two friends of Austria (Germany and Italy) and two friends of Russia (Britain and France) to act as mediators; and at first things seemed to be going well. There were acceptances, but everything depended upon the decision of Germany. We had the most intense anxiety to know what that decision would be. I remember vividly, as it were this morning, going into the Cabinet room rather early before the meeting and finding Sir Edward Grey there alone. I said to him, "What is happening about your mediation proposal?" and he said, with a passion in his voice that I can never forget, "There is some devilry going on in Berlin." Austria was in a war fever, determined to attack Serbia in order to punish them for the assassination of her Crown Prince, and Germany was either unwilling or unable to control her. And so events took their course.
On July 28 the European war broke out. At that time the Five Powers of Western and Central Europe controlled the affairs of the world. Russia, huge and incalculable, was in the background, but too backward in her civilisation to be among the leaders. Now that predominance of Western and Central Europe has disappeared. After the social and political revolution of 1917, Russia has become active and dynamic, her people no longer illiterate and with the mentality of serfdom. She is busy developing her material resources and her armaments. For good or for ill, she is one of the major factors in world politics. China, then and since the victim of anarchy at the centre, and in the provinces of the rule of war lords who were bandits, preying upon the people; her civil service riddled with corruption, her peasants oppressed by landlords and usurers, a land of floods and famines and misery. She suffered the crowning disaster of the invasion by the Japanese and of occupation of a large part of her land, to be followed by open civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists. All that has now been changed, and, again for good or for ill, there is in 211 China a powerful and effective Government. That vast population, with its immense potential resources, is now another new factor in international affairs.
Then, since July 28 forty years ago, there has been another emergence—that of the United States of America. Since the foundation of the Republic and the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine the United States had kept isolated and aloof from European conflicts. That policy she has found impossible in the modern world, in face of German militarism and Russian Communism. And then there has been a fourth emergence: Asia and Africa, forgotten for centuries, are now coming into the forefront of the scene, demanding political freedom and individual welfare and happiness. Such is the world as it now is, to which we have to accustom ourselves. Such is the world to which we have to adapt our policies. Such is the background of the present problems we are discussing to-day—forty years after.
We in this Island throughout that period have taken a prominent part for the sake not only of our own safety and the security of our lives and liberties, but also as a centre of a vast conglomeration of peoples covering a quarter of the globe. With much sacrifice and much suffering, I think on the whole we may claim that we have done our duty. Two or three years ago Sir Winston Churchill said that he had not accepted the office of Prime Minister in order to preside over the dissolution of the British Empire. Now, after a lifetime of service, he finds himself, perhaps to his own surprise, presiding not over the dissolution of an old Empire but over the construction and consolidation of a new Commonwealth, including the peoples of many races and religions, all of equal status and liberties. And if this Island is still the leader of that Commonwealth, it is not because we have been able or are desirous to cling by force of arms to the rule of territories, which is no longer needed, but because of the excellence of our institutions, the strength of our resources and the qualities of our people.
And, looking overseas at the nations that are still associated with us, we see Canada increasing before our eyes her population and her productivity, and raising her culture also, with such rapidity 212 that she will soon be one of the foremost and happiest of nations in the world; and Australia and New Zealand, their destinies bright with hope. South Africa, if she becomes more tolerant, more merciful and therefore more harmonious, may yet have a great and happy future before her. And India, who has so fully justified her independence—progressive, humanitarian, taking a leading part in serving the practical ideals of the United Nations: India who first inaugurated the Korean Conference, who undertook the charge of the prisoners, who afterwards supervised the elections in Sudan, and who now is the principal trustee of the settlement in Indo-China. With her are Pakistan and Ceylon. The question of the Sudan has been settled. To-day we have news that the Egyptian controversy is settled. Malaya is on the way to settlement. The states of West, Central and East Africa are rapidly advancing along the path of political freedom and social progress.
As I have said before in your Lordships' House—I have been criticised for saying it, but I insist upon it—your generation may be inaugurating a Second Elizabethan Age. My generation has passed away; only a few remnants remain. The Prime Minister is the only other survivor in Parliament of that great Cabinet of forty, and nearly fifty, years ago. You may be, not merely the witnesses, but perhaps the creators of that Second Elizabethan Age. And if you have to fight an Armada, an Armada of the air more terrible than the first, you will face it and defeat it. But it is more than likely that it will not be so, for no one wishes or desires a third world war. Everyone abhors it. So this coming age may be adventurous, constructive, liberty-loving, brilliant in the arts, materially prosperous, above all soundly moral, let us hope, and spiritually great. In Britain and in the Commonwealth, as I have said to your Lordships before, your generation may now be watching not a sunset but a dawn.
§ 3.50 p.m.
THE MINISTER OF STATE, FOREIGN OFFICE (THE MARQUESS OF READING)
My Lords, it will, I think, be for the convenience of the House if some Government speaker, in this particular case myself, takes part in the debate at 213 this stage. My noble friend the Leader of the House will make an intervention (the description is his, not mine) at the beginning of to-morrow's discussion, and then, with the permission of the House, I will at the end of the debate reply to the more detailed questions arid arguments raised, so far as time, information and ingenuity will permit. It is, of course, most desirable that we should from time to time discuss in this House the course of foreign affairs. Her Majesty's Government, as the House knows, are not only ready to give to noble Loris as full information as the circumstances of the moment permit in regard to policy and performance in those many parts of the world where British interests are closely concerned, but anxious, also, to benefit from the accumulated experience of the House in these matters of high international import.
When one listens, as we have just listened, to an example of that accumulated wisdom and experience, such as was contained in the speech, both restrained and inspiring, of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, one begins to realise how rich this House is in personality. I imagine that even half a century ago such debates as these were of some rarity, evoked largely by the sudden emergence of some momentous and contentious issue. Now, momentous and contentious issues are almost a daily occurrence, for if the world has become, as a result of many inventions, a more compact place, it has scarcely become a more companionable one. As your Lordships know, negotiations have been proceeding for some time past for the settlement of several most important problems, the progressive removal of which from the field of controversy would materially increase that relaxation of tension which we profoundly hope will flow from the agreement reached at Geneva with regard to Indo-China. Certainly some, if not all, of these negotiations have been protracted, but questions of great delicacy and complexity were involved, and the issues are far too weighty to be the sport of impatience. It so happens that agreement upon two of these questions coincides with this debate.
I am glad to say that we have now reached agreement, in principle, with the Saudi Government regarding the terms 214 on which the frontier dispute on the Trucial Coast shall be put to arbitration. The Arbitral Tribunal will consist of five members, of whom one will be nominated by Her Majesty's Government, acting on behalf of the Sultan of Muscat and the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and one by the Saudi Government. These two will then choose three neutrals. This Tribunal will be asked to determine the common frontier between Saudi Arabia and Abe Dhabi, and sovereignty over the Buraimi zone. The Saudi official, Turki, and his party is to be withdrawn to Saudi Arabia and we on our side shall withdraw the posts which we put out after his appearance in the oasis. Each side will then contribute fifteen men to a police group which will be stationed in the oasis to maintain law and order during arbitration. As for oil operations, the disputed areas are to be divided into two parts separated by a neutral zone. In the, northern part our companies will continue their operations, and in the southern the Arabian American Oil Company will be free to prospect. This, of course, will be without prejudice to the claims of the parties at arbitration. The arbitration proceedings will take time. But I am sure that the House will share my warm satisfaction that it is now possible to go forward to a solution of this long dispute and to the full restoration of our traditionally friendly relations with Saudi Arabia.
I am glad, also, to be able to say that, as your Lordships know, we have reached agreement, in principle, with the Egyptian Government on the future of the Suez Canal Zone Base. The full text of the Heads of Agreement and of the annex on the organisation of the Base will be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and will also be made available as a White Paper to-day. Meanwhile, I should like to give a short summary of their provisions. The Heads of Agreement provide that those parts of the Base which we require shall be kept in efficient working order and capable of immediate use in the event of an armed attack by an outside Power on Egypt, or on any member of the Arab League, or on Turkey. If such an attack takes place, Egypt will afford to the United Kingdom the necessary facilities to place the Base on a war footing and to operate it effectively. In the event of the threat of an attack on any of the countries 215 that I have mentioned, there will be immediate consultation between the United Kingdom and Egypt.
The installations we are retaining are required to assist in the supply and maintenance of Her Majesty's Forces in the Middle East in peace. They will also hold certain war reserves. They will be operated by civilian labour through firms, British or Egyptian, under contract to Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. These contractors will be afforded by the Egyptian Government all the facilities which they require for their work. Her Majesty's Government will also have the necessary facilities for the inspection of these installations. The Heads of Agreement have been initialled by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War, to whom Her Majesty's Government are much indebted for the decisive part he played in the final stages of these difficult discussions. Negotiations for a formal Agreement will now begin. Our forces will be withdrawn from the Canal Zone within a period of twenty months from the date of signature of the formal Agreement. That Agreement will last for seven years from the date of its signature. There is provision for consultation between the parties during the last year of its operation as to what arrangements are necessary on its conclusion.
The Agreement will also include a clause recognising the economic, commercial and strategic importance of the Suez Canal, and will express the determination of both parties to uphold the 1888 Convention guaranteeing freedom of navigation. There is also a clause providing for overflying, landing and servicing facilities for aircraft under Royal Air Force control. There will be many points of detail to be worked out in the drafting of the Agreement itself, but it is the conviction of Her Majesty's Government that this Agreement will preserve our essential requirements in this area in the light of modern conditions. We are convinced that in the Middle East, as elsewhere, our defence arrangements must be based on consent and co-operation of the peoples concerned.
I should like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the intention of Her Majesty's Government to abide by the terms of the Tripartite Declaration of May 25, 1950, relating to peace and stability between 216 the Arab States and Israel. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has discussed this point with the French and the United States Governments and finds them both equally determined to uphold that declaration. It is our hope that it will now be possible to reestablish our relations with Egypt on a new basis of friendship and understanding. Her Majesty's Government believe that this is also the intention of the Egyptian Government. The Agreement should thus contribute to a reduction of tension in the Middle East as a whole.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
Before the noble Marquess leaves Egypt, may I ask him when it will be convenient for anyone who wishes to ask particular questions? Should they put them to the Government now or during the debate?
THE MARQUESS OF READING
I believe that the noble Viscount is himself going to take part in the debate. If I am to reply to questions, it would certainly be more convenient if he raised them in the course of his own speech.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, may I ask the noble Marquess how far, as a result of this debate, the House will be committed to the Agreement?
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, this is perhaps a matter which the Leader of the House ought to answer. I had understood that there were a certain number of noble Lords who wished to have an opportunity of testifying to their views in the Lobby. I am therefore arranging that an Amendment shall be put down to the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, asking the House to approve the Heads of Agreement which have been signed in Egypt, so that if noble Lords wish to challenge that Amendment they will have an opportunity of so doing.
§ LORD HANKEY
May I ask the noble Marquess whether that Amendment will be put down during this debate, or will it be during to-morrow's debate?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I have already handed it in at the Table, 217 and I am ready to give the noble Lord the terms. I do not know whether it would be proper for me to do that now.
§ EARL JOWITT
I think it would be a good idea if the noble Marquess were to give us the terms of the Amendment as soon as the Paper is available.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I think I can give the Amendment. I am not quite certain that it is absolutely correct, but it is practically correct. The Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, will stand as it is and we shall move to add the following words:in particular, to move that this House approves the Heads of the Agreement initialled in Cairo on July 27 between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Egypt.Those are the words and their purpose is to give the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, and those who feel like him, an opportunity to testify to their views.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, this seems to me a very drastic procedure. We have not yet seen this Agreement, and we have not yet heard it read. We have seen reports in the Press from Cairo which give different accounts—not very different, and on the whole much the same account—but surely it is rather "stiff" that we should be asked to agree at such short notice. I have been asked by certain noble Lords who generally co-operate with me on this question to make it clear that we cannot approve the statement on the Suez Canal Zone at such short notice and that, before ratification of any Agreement on this subject, we shall ask for an opportunity for a debate confined to Egypt and untrammelled by a wider debate on international affairs.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, may I support what the noble Lord has just said? We are told that we are being invited to-morrow to approve certain Heads of Agreement of which we have been given a verbal description. The White Paper is to be issued to-night. Half the House is not present to-day. I suppose the Amendment will be circulated in the Papers to-night, but how are the Government going to get in contact with noble Lords who take an interest in this matter? It seems to me pretty quick work, and I should have thought it would have been much better if something were done on the lines which the noble Lord has suggested. It is really a "pretty fast one," if I may use the expression.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The action which I took was entirely in order to meet the anxieties of these noble Lords. I was told of their anxieties, and that they wished to express their views, if necessary in the Lobby. I have sent intimation to other noble Lords that this subject was to be raised. I do not know what the noble Lord is suggesting. The House is rising on Friday. There will be no opportunity for the long and detailed examination unless they wish Parliament to sit longer, and I do not think that would be the wish of the great majority of this House. The Agreement is being discussed to-morrow in another place. Of course, it is always open to noble Lords, when the House meets again, to raise the matter. Anyone can put down a Motion. I cannot tell noble Lords for certain the date of the actual signature of the Agreement: it is impossible for me, at the present stage, to do that. I have done my best to meet the wishes of noble Lords.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, may I ask whether the noble Marquess would elucidate a little more? Is there not to be a ratification clause? If my recollection is not at fault, as it sometimes is, I think we have been told that there would be. There was a slight "mix-up" over the Sudan, and the House was given to understand on that occasion that there would be a ratification clause; but in fact there was not. Arising out of that, I think there is on record somewhere a pledge or an undertaking that in the case of the Suez Canal Base there would be a ratification clause, in which case the Agreement would come before Parliament for discussion before ratification. I am speaking from memory, but if that is correct—and it will have to be checked—then we should have a normal discussion before ratification, rather than be rushed into it. I do not use the phrase offensively, but it is pretty short notice. I heard news of this Agreement at eleven o'clock last night on the wireless; we are to get the White Paper circulated tonight, and to-morrow we are to be invited to oppose or confirm approval of the Heads of Agreement. After all, this is an important subject. Egypt is not just an ordinary "muck and ruck" matter, if I may so put it. As I see it, it is a matter of vital international im- 219 portance. While thanking the noble Marquess for his consideration in putting down the Amendment, in order to meet us at our convenience, I think it would be much better to have a regular Egyptian debate when we meet again. I agree that it is impossible to hold Parliament for this purpose.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I am entirely in the hands of the House. If the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, and the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, and others do not wish to have the opportunity of testifying to their views in the Lobby to-morrow, I shall be happy to withdraw my Amendment, and then the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, will stand exactly as it is. The noble Lord asked about the terms of Agreement. They are not known yet. All we have done is to initial the Heads of Agreement. When the terms of the Agreement are known, then no doubt there will be another opportunity. Whether there is to be a ratification clause, or what exactly will be the form of the Agreement, I cannot tell the noble Lord to-day. I am speaking first tomorrow, and perhaps I may then be able to give the noble Lord a little more information.
§ LORD KILLEARN
Perhaps then the noble Marquess will have checked the previous Papers, because I believe there was an undertaking that there should be a ratification clause in this case, and that consequently the Agreement would come before Parliament.
§ LORD HANKEY
I think I can give a slight explanation of that. My own impression is not that the Heads of Agreement had to be ratified, but that the final Agreement had to be ratified. I do not remember any statement that the Heads of Agreement which, up to the last two or three days have been the subject of informal talks, have to be ratified. It is the ultimate Agreement come to after conversations of weeks or months, as I think, that will require ratification.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I understood that what was agreed was that Parliament should debate it before the final Agreement. I feel I have a certain grievance against noble Lords. I received a message just before the House met to-day that the noble Lord, 220 Lord Hankey, was seriously disturbed because there was to be no opportunity for him to vote to-morrow, and therefore, to meet his wishes, I took the opportunity, at short notice, of producing an Amendment to the Motion. I have sent messages to inform other noble Lords that there was this Amendment, so that everybody possible should be given the opportunity of knowing and of coming. Now I am told that noble Lords do not want an Amendment at all to-morrow. All this was done in order to please them.
§ LORD HANKEY
I do not know where my noble friend the Leader of the House gets his information about my thoughts on this subject, but I certainly had not the slightest desire that the matter should be discussed with a view to a Division to-morrow, because I do not think we have had time to consider it. Those who hold my view—and there are a good many in this House—are not expecting to come for a Division to-morrow. We cannot get in touch and we have not all the machinery of Whips, and so on, that the Government have; we have nothing. If we were to have to argue for a vote against an Amendment to-morrow, we should be arguing unprepared, on something we have never seen, even up to this very moment. If I may venture to say so, I do not really think it is right and proper procedure to rush it.
§ LORD KILLEARN
I was not associated with any suggestion such as the noble Marquess has just put before us. I am sure it was done with the best will in the world to help, but I certainly had no knowledge of any such move having been made.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Very well. I take it that noble Lords do not want an Amendment to-morrow. In that case it will not be moved, and the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, will proceed as it at present stands.
§ LORD HANKEY
But the statement I made about the desire of my group not to be considered as committed will remain on the record of the House.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, when this interval began in what I was endeavouring to say to your Lordships, I was just starting to say that in any case I did not propose at this stage to argue the merits of this Agreement, 221 but only to say this: I was never more sure of anything ray own mind Man that the Government's policy and actions in this regard have been wise and right. Some noble Lords, it is evident, may take a different view. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, asked me in this Egyptian context two questions, one of which I think has already been answered by the terms of the statement which I made. The other, which concerns the Suez Canal, is, I think, in rather a different category, because the question of transit of Israeli ships through the Canal is a matter which arose out of a discussion in the United Nations, and from that point of view it would surely have been an unsuitable matter to discuss merely between us and the, Egyptian Government in the course of the negotiations which have recently taken place. In any event, there is, as your Lordships have already been told, a clause in the Agreement which covers the position in general. But it would not have been suitable to deal with the particular instance to which the noble Lord referred.
§ LORD HENDERSON
In the Agreement it is laid down, quite specifically, that both nations agree to the freedom of navigation in the Canal, in accordance with the 1888 Convention. Presumably that is the intention of both sides; and, moreover, it is merely recognising the legal position which obtained before the conflict in the Middle East. It seems rather strange, therefore, that one of the passages in one of the Heads of Agreement should be this joint statement and that what we consider and have always considered a violation of the 1888 Convention is to be carried on.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
All I was saying—and I think it is surely correct—is that this matter was dealt with on the international plane by the Security Council, and it would have been a rather strange action if we had proceeded to deal with it from our point of view, unilaterally, in our negotiations with the Egyptians. I would say no more for the moment about Egypt. We may have other questions to raise in later stages.
In one other quarter of the world—and that not the least inflammable—an accord has been reached which has at least put an end to eight years of bitter internecine strife and opened the door to a prospect of a happier and more stable 222 future for the sorely tried peoples of Indo-China. I do not desire to exaggerate the favourable aspects of the Geneva Agreement, but I certainly do not wish to depreciate them. I recently gave your Lordships a summary of the main features and I do not propose to expand or recapitulate them to-day. But when I made that statement the Leaders of both Opposition Parties were good enough not only to welcome its contents but to charge me to convey to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary their congratulations upon his personal contribution to the results achieved; and he has greatly valued their tributes. I should like to take this opportunity, from the viewpoint of one who was in close daily touch with him for the first nine of eleven weeks during which the Conference lasted, to say that I am sure that there was not a single delegation that did not feel itself under a profound debt of gratitude to him for his unfailing patience, resolution and resource. I would desire also to express my personal thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, for having been good enough to include me, however undeservedly, in their remarks.
There are, of course, critics of the Geneva Agreement who contend that we could and should have got more favourable terms and ought not to have accepted those which we could and did obtain. Let those critics consider what might so easily have been the price of failure, and reflect that there were moments when the storm clouds of a third world war hung heavy and menacing upon the horizon. Perhaps the shrewdest comment on that school of thought came from General Bedell Smith on his recent return to the United States, when he said:I might point out that when we analyse and discuss the results of Geneva, it will be well to remember that diplomacy is rarely able to gain at the conference table what cannot be gained or held on the battlefield.And has not Monsieur Mendès-France recently told the French Assembly that the terms of the settlement are such as would have been accepted by French military opinion at any time during the past three years?
It is as well to remember that, when the Geneva Conference opened, a war had been raging for nearly eight years; had been responsible for infinite 223 slaughter, havoc and devastation; had absorbed large quantities of men, money and material; had cost France the flower of her Army, and was showing no signs at all of a victorious end. Indeed, we met at Geneva under the sombre shadow of the siege of Dien Bien Phu, which fell after an epic resistance, when we were still engaged upon the opening exchanges at Geneva.
As the situation developed, our policy at the Conference crystallised into certain precise objectives: to obtain a ceasefire; to arrange for the subsequent sorting out and regrouping of the two sides in Viet-nam—and I would only interject here that perhaps the use of the word "partition" by the noble Lord is not entirely correct in the circumstances—to establish the integrity and independence of Laos and Cambodia; to set up an International Supervisory Commission so composed as to give promise of impartial and efficient working; to secure the continued interest in the maintenance of the terms of settlement of those countries which participated in the Conference and to associate with them such of the neighbouring Asian countries as might be willing to take that course.
Looking back upon the proceedings, I think we can fairly say that those objectives have been substantially achieved, though the position in this regard of the neighbouring countries is still under discussion with them. India, Canada and Poland have been requested to serve upon the Supervisory Commission and it has been proposed that representatives of these countries should shortly meet in Delhi to discuss detailed arrangements. As the House knows, we had hoped and striven for the Colombo Conference countries to be invited to form this Commission, since they possessed the merits alike of both propinquity and impartiality. But in the face of stubborn opposition to our original proposals, we ultimately accepted the last-moment alternative put forward by the other side. The invitation to India and Canada was conveyed by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, and we are most grateful to these Commonwealth countries for their consideration of it. We can only trust and pray that the high hopes cherished by so many people all over the world, that Geneva marked a significant milestone on the rough and uphill road 224 towards peace, may be justified by the test of time.
Her Majesty's Government have not receded from the position taken up last April in regard to the need for a defensive organisation in South-East Asia but, so long as the Geneva Conference was in progress, they were reluctant to take any step which might in any degree impair the prospects of success. We have, however, certainly neither shelved nor neglected the problem, and representatives of the Armed Forces of Australia, New Zealand, France, the United States and the United Kingdom—the United Kingdom having been represented by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff—met in Washington early in June to examine and advise upon the military factors involved. Later, after, and as a result of, the Washington talks, a United States-United Kingdom study group was instructed to prepare and submit plans to the two Governments, and those plans are now under consideration. The creation of any such system obviously requires careful examination and close consultation in advance. Moreover, Her Majesty's Government are most anxious that as many countries as possible in South and South-East Asia and the Western Pacific should be invited to adhere to such organisation as may come into being. Any project of this kind may, of course, be looked upon with disfavour by the Communist countries, but in face of the Treaty which exists between China and the Soviets they can scarcely find justification for complaint.
It is to be noted that, almost simultaneously with the opening of the Geneva Conference, there opened at Colombo a Conference initiated by the Prime Minister of Ceylon and attended as well by the Prime Ministers of India, Pakistan, Burma and Indonesia. This meeting, the first of its kind, was warmly welcomed by Her Majesty's Government, and close contact was maintained between the two Conferences, so long as the Colombo meeting lasted, and later between the United Kingdom delegation to Geneva and the respective Prime Ministers of the Colombo Conference countries, a contact which has been most valuable to us and I am sure most acceptable to them.
But Geneva was planned with reference not only to Indo-China but also to Korea, and if, in the event, Indo-China appeared 225 the more urgent problem, it was because there were men dying in large numbers every day in Indo-China, whereas in Korea the hardly-won armistice still prevailed. But that priority does not mean that the Korean aspect was in any way overlooked. Indeed, we sat through many hours and days of Communist oratory on the subject, though at the end of it all they had scarcely budged, in spite of all argument and appeal, from the position taken up almost on the first day by General Nam Il, the Foreign Minister of North Korea, who had been one of the leading figures at the endurance test of Panmunjon.
The unwavering contention of the Communists was that the other fifteen countries had lent themselves to an aggressive war launched by the United States under the shelter of the United Nations, and that the peace of an inoffensive North Korea had been brutally violated by the South Koreans, who were now striving, with their associates, to win in the conference room what they had been unable to gain on the battlefield. Their thesis was that the United Nations, having thus itself been involved in aggression, had forfeited all claim to exercise authority over the arrangements for, and the carrying out of, the elections which were to be the prelude to the formation of a Central Government for a united, independent and democratic Korea. By the North Korean plan, these elections were to be arranged by an All-Korean Commission, composed of equal numbers of North and South Koreans, although some four-fifths of the population of Korea as a whole is situated in the South and only the remaining, one-fifth in the North. The effect of this arrangement would of course be that, in the event of disagreement between the two halves of the Commission, the North and the South halves, the North Korean half would have been able to impose a veto and block the holding of any elections for all time. Nor did the prospects of such disagreements between North and South appear very remote, for in our meetings the North Koreans and their friends lost no opportunity of referring to the South Koreans in vitriolically opprobrious terms, and it cannot be pretended—or perhaps expected—that the South Koreans were always fulsome in their compliments in return.
226 One concession was ultimately made: that a Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission should control the actual holding of the elections, though without any voice in the preliminary planning. But it was insisted that this Commission should be again composed of Swiss, Swedes, Czechs and Poles, as in the similar Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission set up under the terms of the Armistice, an arrangement which in the Communist view had apparently given complete satisfaction but in the view especially of the United States, who had had the most and worst experience of it, had been rendered largely unworkable by Communist intransigence. The trouble, as my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has said in that connection, is that in those circumstances the neutrals are neutral and the Communists are Communist; and it would have been futile to accept a second time any such frustrating arrangement. When, therefore, a series of plenary sessions brought no advance at all, the sixteen countries decided that there was no alternative but to bring the proceedings to an end and to incorporate in a declaration their reasons for so doing. But at that last meeting it was made very clear that this was not the end of discussions, which must be resumed at some suitable point of future time, when the atmosphere might be more propitious than had been found still to prevail so soon after the end of active hostilities.
Meanwhile, the Armistice remains of full force and effect. The next step is for the sixteen countries to make their report to the United Nations, on whose behalf and at whose behest they took up the Communist challenge, though obviously no final decisions as to the fate of Korea can be reached except at some further conference at which North and South Korea and the Chinese People's Republic again attend. I recall that the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, last week put in a plea for the resumption of negotiations on Korea. I can only assure him that, had he been present at Geneva, he would have been satisfied that more time must be allowed to elapse before there can be any real prospect of a favourable outcome. It would be unwise to risk a second failure so soon upon the heels of the first.
My Lords, if no success rewarded our efforts on Korea, the same is, un- 227 fortunately, so far true of the recent Conference in London on disarmament. The countries of the West there represented put forward carefully and honestly conceived plans, comprehensive in character and effective in design. My right honourable friend the Minister of State submitted a reasonable and practical phased programme for reduction of armaments of all kinds. The Soviet delegation proved, however, to be adamant in their opposition. They either reiterated their already only too familiar point of view or refused utterly even to discuss the Western proposals, or to advance new ones of their own. It was not an encouraging performance, and one can only hope that the present discussions in the Disarmament Commission of the United Nations may prove more fruitful. Certainly Her Majesty's Government and their associates have not given up hope of an ultimately successful issue and will continue to strive towards that end.
In Europe the most important problem which faces us concerns the future of Germany, and in particular the means by which the Federal Republic can make a just contribution to the defence of the free world. When your Lordships debated the international situation in March, many speeches were devoted to these questions. There was, if I recall aright, a large measure of agreement that some way must be found of permitting a certain measure of controlled German rearmament whilst preventing a revival of German militarism. Her Majesty's Government still believe that the conception of the European Defence Community is the best way in which Germany can be enabled to rearm and play her necessary part in the schemes for Western defence. Her Majesty's Government welcome the steps which the French Prime Minister is taking to reach an early decision on this subject.
Should France, however, either reject or unduly delay ratification of the Treaty, then a difficult situation would arise, since under present conditions the Bonn Conventions, which bring the occupation of the German Federal Republic to an end, can become effective only at the same time as the European Defence Community Treaty. This is at the present moment a hypothetical situation and we sincerely trust that it will so remain. But should it become actual, then the United 228 States Government and Her Majesty's Government have decided that it would be right to separate the Bonn Conventions from the E.D.C. Treaty and thereby to restore to the German Federal Republic that authority over their own affairs which the course of events during the past years has fully entitled them to resume.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Marquess whether, at this stage, he will say a word about the effect of any such arrangement upon the vital question of German unity?
THE MARQUESS OF READING
Perhaps the noble Viscount will allow me to continue with a statement which requires some precision, so that I do not fall into any error on the subject.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
Should that step come to be taken—that is, the restoration of authority over their own affairs, as the result of delay by the French Government, the operation of the European Defence Community Treaty would remain for the time being in abeyance, but it would still be our hope that the European Defence Community would ultimately come into being as the result of French action to ratify the Treaty within a reasonable further period of time.
If France rejects the European Defence Community, or unreasonably delays its ratification, then it will become necessary to consider alternative methods of securing a German contribution to Western defence. It would be wholly wrong to regard the adoption of this policy as the best means of dealing with a situation which we trust may never arise, as being in any way a threat to France. At the time when the study group set up as the result of the Washington meeting was working in London upon the problem, the newly installed French Prime Minister and his colleagues and advisers were devoting their energies to a settlement on Indo-China with a single-minded determination which we deeply admired. As soon as the studies were complete the French Government were promptly informed of the new plan, and it was made entirely clear to them that Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government most earnestly wished for their collaboration in putting the plan 229 into effect if the situation against which it was devised did, in the end, come about.
§ LORD HENDERSON
Could the noble Marquess say whether the timing of tine new plan is related to a decision, or no decision, by the French Parliament before it rises for the simmer recess?
THE MARQUESS OF READING
It is related to a moment when it would be the view of the Governments of the United States and of Great Britain that undue time had been allowed to elapse, That, in turn, is related to the present session of the French Parliament.
§ LORD HENDERSON
If I understand the noble Marquess correctly, if there is no ratification in the French Parliament before August 15, or by whatever date it goes into recess, it is then intended that the new plan should come into operation. Is there a possibility that the new plan may be brought into operation during the Recess of this Parliament?
THE MARQUESS OF READING
Yes, that is so, in so far as the plan would not come into effect on August 15; but if there had been no ratification by August 15, then the countries concerned would enter into discussion with the other countries concerned as to the method of putting this plan into operation.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
May I ask the noble Marquess whether the French Government was informed of this plan before or after agreement had been reached between Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government in Washington?
THE MARQUESS OF READING
I thought I had made clear that they were informed immediately after the study group had terminated its deliberations.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
If full sovereignty is restored to the West German Government, is there any obstacle to their going ahead and doing what they like about an armed force?
THE MARQUESS OF READING
Yes, there is. For one thing, there is the fact that the European Defence Community is not disposed of if this arrangement comes into operation. For another thing, there are all kinds of undertakings which, in certain circumstances (which I am not 230 now going into), might be asked for from—and given by—the German Government in that regard. I had just been dealing with the suggestion which has sometimes been made that this was in some form a threat to the French Government. I hope I was successful in dissipating any suspicion of that kind. I believe that at this moment, when the fiftieth anniversary of the Entente Cordiale has so recently been celebrated, the relationship between this country and France should be a source of rightful pride and satisfaction to those who laid the foundations of an understanding which has so vigorously survived the stresses and strains of time.
As the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said, we have chosen—I am sure it is the right course—to proceed in these matters, not by an attempt to make some comprehensive, dramatic gesture covering the world for the moment, but stage by stage. It may well be that in peaceful co-existence lies the best hope for the immediate years ahead. But even the most peaceful existence is made more secure by a policy of insurance, and the best insurance of our continued existence lies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the combined strength and resolution of our partners in it. That organisation threatens nobody and challenges nobody. It's motto might well be the old slogan, "Defence, not Defiance." It does no more than bind us in mutual self-protection with our great Allies the United States, with France and with other countries of Europe, so that in association we may command not fear but respect.
Its mission and its motives are none the less regarded with suspicion in some quarters, and we have, as your Lordships know, recently received yet another voluminous Note from the Soviet Government directed largely both against the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Defence Community. That Note is framed in language of unusual asperity, a scourge rather than an olive branch. But we shall, of course, give it careful study in conjunction with all the interested Governments, though at first sight it reveals no new features likely to strengthen the prospect of peace. In the end, peace is the dominant objective of all our foreign policy and all our international relations. And not a peace 231 debased to propaganda uses, to the accompaniment of community-cooing by massed Picasso doves, but a peace deep-seated in the common interests, common aims, common hopes and common prayers of the peoples of the world, a peace not merely upon the lips but in the hearts of mankind.
§ Following is the Text of the Heads of Agreement and of the Annex on the organisation of the Base, referred to by Lord Reading: