§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order), on the Motion moved by Lord Henderson yesterday: That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for Papers, relating to the international situation.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, I rise to resume the discussion on the Motion on foreign affairs which was introduced, if I may say so, in a typically admirable speech by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, yesterday. As your Lordships know, it has been the custom during recent years for the Leader of the House to speak first in foreign affairs debates, to paint the broad picture, and to leave the details to be filled in at the end by the noble Marquess who speaks for the Foreign Office in this House. We decided this time, as your Lordships know, to vary this procedure. I thought it desirable—and I am sure the House will agree—first, because the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, has given, as we all know, a great deal of thought to the international problems of the day, and it is only right that he should have a chance to put them in their proper perspective; and secondly, 331 as was pointed out yesterday in several speeches, because he has himself taken a prominent part in many of the events which we are discussing, both at Geneva and elsewhere, and can therefore speak with more authority than anyone else on a good many of the topics with which we have to deal. But if that is true, it is equally true that it is only the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, who is in a position, from his day-to-day work in the Foreign Office, to deal with many points of detail which are likely to be raised. He has therefore been good enough to say that he will intervene again, by leave of the House, at the end of the debate.
My purpose in rising is merely to make some observations on some of the important speeches which were made yesterday, and, if I am able, to knock some of the nails home. I saw the other day, in an article in the Press, the word "turbulent" used in connection with the present world situation; and I think it is a very good word to describe the century in which we have been fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to be born. No doubt, even in the past the surface of the world situation was never quite so still and peaceful as, looking back, it now seems to us. There always were wars and rumours of wars; there always were individual nations passing through periods of national ebullience which made them a danger to their neighbours. There is nothing new about all that. What is new is the immense scale of these areas of disturbance, and the immeasurable catastrophe which must ensue if the uneasy surface of the peace is broken and total war again comes to engulf the world. As I see it, we are like people crossing an Alpine slope at a time when avalanches are apprehended. In such a situation, as I am sure any mountaineer would tell us, it is necessary to move with the utmost delicacy, because an incautious movement, even a loud shout, may precipitate catastrophe. Similarly, in the present situation, it is evident that we all have need both of a frank recognition of the extent of the dangers which are facing us and of the most patient diplomacy with which we must approach them.
That, I believe, was the main purport of a remarkable maiden speech yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Strang, 332 whose analysis of the international situation, I know, so greatly impressed your Lordships. Whether it is necessary for all of us to take such an uncompromising view of the position as he did is, of course, a matter of opinion; but I think we should be unwise lightly to dismiss what he said to us. The noble Lord has spent his lifetime in the Foreign Service, and spoke from the wealth of a lifetime's experience. What, in effect, did he say? He had no illusions about Russia. He described the position there as he saw it, frankly, objectively and without passion; and the conclusion he drew—or I understood him to do, and I hope that I am not misrepresenting him—is that in the present rulers of Russia the world is faced, for the first time in modern history, with a régime based upon a philosophy, almost a religion, if one may use such a word in this connection, of which the main purpose is to establish that faith throughout the world by peaceful means or by force, as seems most feasible to the rulers of the country at the time.
It was not to be supposed, as I understood from the noble Lord, that thinking as they do, the rulers of Russia are likely to be converted easily to the alternative philosophy which is supported by us. He did not think that any early change of heart was probable. In his view, the best hope of ensuring that they would be deterred from violent action was to make them realise that any attempt to impose by force their own faith on the world, in present circumstances, was doomed to failure; and that for Russia herself the risks involved were likely to be greater than the advantages which were likely to be obtained. It must, therefore, as I understood the view of the noble Lord, be the aim of Western policy to make that fact clear to the rulers of Russia. If we succeeded, we should at least create in the immediate future pre-conditions for what the Foreign Secretary has described as "peaceful co-existence," at any rate, in a negative sense of "co-existence without conflict"; and that, as the noble Lord pointed out—and I personally agree with him—would be much better than nothing; indeed far better in these days of hydrogen bombs. For such a breathing space might well enable us—if I may be allowed to go back for a moment to my Alpine simile—to pass safely across this dangerous slope on which we are now 333 embarked and come through to firmer ground.
This forthright, and indeed, if I may say so, bleak statement of the position, I think, shocked some noble Lords. The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, gave a faint indication of the pain it caused him, and I believe that his view may well be shared by others. But, personally, I found it neither shocking nor unduly depressing. On the contrary, in some ways I thought it rather encouraging, for the noble Lord, Lord Strang, evidently thought that a basis for a "peaceful coexistence," in the sense that I have described it, could be found. I do not think I am misrepresenting him if I say that he thought it already exists, if we do not live in a world of rosy illusions and if only we are ready to recognise that, in the world as at present constituted, war can be prevented only if it is made too unattractive. After all, my Lords, there is nothing so very new about that policy: it is, as I see it, the old policy of striking a balance of material strength between differing combinations of nations. That was the logical conclusion, as I saw it, of the noble Lord's speech; and I find myself in considerable sympathy with that view.
I would make it clear, however, that by "a balance" in this context, I mean—and I imagine the noble Lord himself means—a true balance; that is to say, a balance so even that no one in any country, or on either side, is tempted to embark on a policy which could lead to a world war. That, I think, is an important point. If we can achieve that, though no doubt local disputes will continue—and I am afraid that nothing is likely to prevent them—I still believe that the final catastrophe of a Third World War can be avoided. I suggest, therefore, that the immediate aim of our policy must be to secure and maintain that balance. It is in relation to that main aim that we must consider our attitude to the various problems that face us to-day.
Take the European situation. I am going to say only a very few words about it; I am going to use it only as an example of my main theme. I do not propose to-day to speak in any detail about the E.D.C. The noble, Marquess, Lord Reading, has already dealt pretty fully with that matter. Moreover, I have often in the past said to your Lordships 334 that I believe that the E.D.C. is by far the best method that can be devised of reducing any dangers that might flow from German rearmament; and I have in no way altered that view as a result of recent events.
As your Lordship know, a new factor has been introduced into the situation within the last few days by a Note which has been presented by the Soviet to the Western Powers, making suggestions as to the future of Europe. It would be very improper for me to attempt this afternoon to pronounce upon that Note, because it is still under consideration by the Western Governments. But I think I may say this. Judging by any proposals on this subject, from whatever quarter they may come, it is surely essential that we should remember that there is no real balance of power to-day in Europe alone. The true balance with any combination which includes Russia must include the United States; and no proposal that did not recognise that could, in my view, be regarded as a very serious contribution to peace. I would suggest that the same consideration of its relation to the essential balance must apply equally to our policy in other parts of the world. Everywhere our basic aim must be the maintenance of this essential balance between the two great blocs of which the noble Lord, Lord Strang, spoke.
That, of course, means, in plain words, a continuous, close and confident co-operation with the United States. In that, I would agree most wholeheartedly with what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and the noble Lord, Lord Strang, and other noble Lords who spoke. By that, I do not mean, of course, any more than Lord Samuel did, that we must always agree with the United States on every individual issue. As was pointed out yesterday by one speaker, their minds often work in quite a different way from ours, and we must recognise that fact. The American people, for instance, reacted rather differently from us over the Geneva Conference. We—that is, the British people: I am not speaking of Government so much as of peoples—believed on balance that it was better to get a cessation of hostilities in Indo-China on the terms that were obtained, with much saved which might otherwise be lost. We feared that the alternative to such a settlement would be continued 335 hostilities and probably steadily increasing tension.
On that particular issue, we had to agree, as your Lordships know, to differ from wide sections of American opinion, though those wise and moderate words by Mr. Bedell Smith which were quoted yesterday by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, show that our point of view was at least understood. Whatever differences there may be between us and the United States from time to time on individual issues, broadly speaking I think it would be undeniable that we share the same point of view. We speak, in the widest sense of the term, the same language—not merely in words, but in the way our minds work. That is why, as I see it, that great nation, which was only lately so traditionally isolationist, has, with a wise and far-seeing statesmanship—the vital importance of which to the future of the world we are only now beginning dimly to recognise—abandoned all those past traditions and thrown in its full weight on the side of the free world. In such circumstances, I am quite certain that noble Lords on all sides of the House will agree that the closer we can work with United States, the more constant the consultation between them and us on all matters of mutual interest, the better for us, for them and for the world.
The same thing, of course, applies to our other close Ally, France—that old and tried Ally of ours with whom we fought so long side by side. I feel that one of the happiest developments of recent months has been the close collaboration which has been established between Mr. Eden and M. Mendès-France, both at Geneva and elsewhere. That, as the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, said yesterday, is a happy augury for the continued life of the Entente Cordiale which has already survived fifty years of unparalleled international storm and stress.
In conclusion because I am making only a very short intervention to-day—I should like to say a word about Egypt which, not unnaturally, occupied so large a portion of the debate yesterday. On Tuesday, as the House knows, as a culmination of months of weary discussion, agreement was reached between the two Governments touching matters at 336 issue between them. In some quarters of the House yesterday that agreement was welcomed as a wise and statesmanlike act. In other quarters of the House it was regarded as a tragic defeat and a bitter humiliation. The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, indeed, went so far, when paying a tribute to Conservative Members of Parliament who opposed it, to say that they had the courage to put their country before their Party. If he will allow me to say so, I rather wish that he had not lent his great name to what I can only regard as a rather unworthy jibe. Does he really think that those of us who came to a different view have not put the interests of our country first? I should not like to think so.
If I may say so to him, I feel that it is we, rather than he, who have faced the full facts, who have weighed the full considerations which have had to be taken into account in reaching a wise and right decision. It was a remarkable fact that in all his references to Egypt yesterday the noble Lord made no attempt, so far as I could see, to weigh our position in Egypt against our position and our commitments in other parts of the world. He appeared to regard this question as a completely isolated issue, divorced from all others. I got the impression—I hope wrongly—that for him it was an article of faith that British troops were to stay in Egypt; an article of faith which needed no supporting argument and no defence. But we in the Government, and many others in the Conservative Party, who have had to study this question, have not been able to afford to take such a detached and so Olympian an attitude as that. We knew that our military resources are stretched to the utmost. We have troops in Germany under a definite obligation to N.A.T.O. We have troops in Malaya; we have troops in Korea; there are troops in Kenya and in Guiana. We have a far larger number of troops abroad than ever before in peace time in the whole history of our country, and we also had 80,000 troops in Egypt for the defence of the Suez Canal and the stabilisation of our position in the Middle East. We were bound to ask ourselves: was it really necessary to have so large a number as that for this purpose?
The conclusion to which we were driven—and I think it was borne out by the military opinion that we sought—was that what made these forces necessary 337 (and we were told that it was necessary) was the fact that the Base was actually situated on the Canal. And then we were bound to ask ourselves the further question: was the Canal itself, under modern conditions, the only, or indeed the best, Base, strategically, for the performance of a task of safeguarding passage through the Canal and exercising a stabilising influence in the Middle East? As I understood it, to that question the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, and the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, would unhesitatingly have answered, "Yes." I think it is extremely doubtful whether modern strategists would have held their view. I was reminded, as I listened to those two noble Lords yesterday of a famous remark made by the late Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, then Mr. Baldwin (not Lord Hankey's Mr. Baldwin, but our own) that "the frontiers of Britain are now the Rhine" I could not help feeling that to the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, and the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, that remark was very shocking indeed. If they were consistent with their views about the Suez Canal, they would no doubt have retorted that it was the white cliffs of Dover that had to be defended and it was there that our Forces should be massed. Lord Baldwin's remark has, I believe, been generally approved by students of modern strategy—indeed, I think it is generally considered to have been one of the wisest things he ever said.
Similarly, I suggest in this particular case, with all deference to noble Lords, that, if the troops were to be of any value for the purposes for which they were intended, it was quite useless to pin them down permanently on the banks of the Canal itself. To be of real value in the Middle East there was, as the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, said, need of mobility and flexibility; and I am sure that is right. The noble Lord, Lard Killearn, spoke of a "vacuum," as if we were abandoning the Middle East altogether. There is no question of a vacuum. As I understand it, we are likely, when this operation is completed, to have just as many troops in the Middle East as we had before the war—and probably more. The difference will be that they will not be in the same place.
Actually, I believe that, in their heart of hearts, what has been worrying noble 338 Lords like the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, and the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, and those who think like them, has been not the threat to the Canal or to the Base, but the fact that in any circumstances our troops should leave Egypt. Here, I think there are a good many of us who would have considerable sympathy with them. We are all sad that our troops are leaving Egypt where they have had many happy memories in the past, but we believe that their presence there in the times to which I have referred has probably been to the advantage of both our countries. I should not dissent from that at all. But that is a very different thing from saying that it is the best thing for them to stay there now, living in conditions of the utmost inconvenience, in a kind of armed camp, away from their wives and families, amid a hostile population. That, I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, would hardly redound to the prestige of Britain. I truly and sincerely hope that these arrangements which have now been made may lead to a better relationship with Egypt than we have had in recent times.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, may I ask whether the noble Marquess has considered the alternative proposal that I made. I asked why we did not have some deployment of these troops in other territories, leaving some men to form a protection for the Base, within easy reach. They could be easily stationed in Egypt. I never wanted 80,000 troops in Egypt: it is too many.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I quite appreciate that. But I would only say to the noble Lord that all the military advice we have received was that it was impossible to keep the Base, the attitude of Egypt being what it has been, with less than the number of troops that we had there. It would have been no good to withdraw half the troops and to attempt to do the same job with them under similar conditions. That is why we had to make this difficult decision.
§ LORD KILLEARN
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Marquess, but those of us who have taken the line which we have taken over this matter have agreed that it is not in the least necessary to have 80,000 men there. We have been so told; but we challenge the view of the General Staff. We think that 80,000 339 is a gross over-estimate and we still think so. I quoted a speech of some years ago in another place to show that it is not always the case that the views of the General Staff are right or sacrosanct.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Nobody has ever said that the views of experts are sacrosanct. There is no doubt that, in this particular case, it is in the light of the advice that we have been given—and it is the advice to which the very important person to whom the noble Lord has referred has come round—we have been able—
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Nonsense!
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not think the individual to whom reference has been made is at all susceptible to Treasury pressure. I would hesitate to say such a thing, but, if I had to choose between the advice of the noble Lord and the advice of the General Staff on military matters, I should be inclined perhaps to take their advice. In diplomatic matters, of course, the position would be different.
§ LORD KILLEARN
I do not want to pursue this point. The only point is the one I made—and it is as true now as it was in 1946—that no Government should shelter behind the advice of the General Staff. In fact, if I remember the actual context, I think the line was taken that the reasons of the General Staff should be submitted to Parliament. That is the only point. Obviously, my view against that of the General Staff is as nothing. I admit it fully.
§ The MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I agree that no Government should shelter behind the General Staff, but that does not involve generally disagreeing with them.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not think we can carry this point much further. We can all retain our views about the General Staff, but let me say, too, that it is not merely the views of title General Staff that have influenced Her Majesty's Government. We have had to 340 get the views of the General Staff—any Government would have to do that—but it is right that we should take the full responsibility for the decision that has been taken. That is ours and ours alone. On balance of considerations, therefore, I am sure personally that the decision was right, and on a clear view of all the manifold necessities that confront us at the present time I believe it will be approved by history.
Now I would return for a moment to my main theme. As I said, I believe with the noble Lord, Lord Strang, that in the present situation of the world, with its two conflicting blocs, Communist and anti Communist, the only practicable policy is to preserve some sort of balance between them. Only in that way, I believe, for the time being at any rate, will peaceful co-existence be possible. But within that main policy there are no doubt many steps that can be taken to eliminate causes of strife. There can be more trade between East and West, there can be more communication between East and West. Co-existence, as I see it, means what it says. It means not complete segregation one from another; it means, so far as possible, living together. Everything possible in this direction I am sure we should do.
Nor is that, as I see it, the only way in which, in these days in which we live, nations are likely to be deterred from major wars. It seems to me—I know we are venturing on rather controversial ground—that the new weapons which have been discovered, by the very fact that they have such an appalling power of destruction and that in these days of air power no nation, however vast, can be immune from their effects, may of themselves, paradoxical though it may seem, prove an additional buttress to peace. I am not asking anybody else to believe that. I see the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, shaking his head.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
The noble Marquess must have noticed the alarming reports which leaked out in America of the views of the American General Staff on this matter.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
We have just been told there is no necessity for Governments to take the advice of General Staffs. At any rate, I am expressing it only as my belief. I believe from what knowledge I have of this 341 subject—and I have now a certain amount of knowledge—that no nation that is not completely insane would lightly run the risks now involved in total war. Let us then, with other like-minded Powers within the ambit of the United Nations, stand strongly together, not blinking the dangers of our time, but cautiously and patiently working to avert them. In this way, I firmly believe, we may, like the Alpine party to which I referred earlier, without disaster, pass by the present dangerous slopes on to the firmer ground that lies beyond.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I know the House will welcome the innovation which has been introduced by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House in his having spoken at this stage in the debate rather than at the beginning. He has heard what has been said by a large number of other speakers and it is of value to the House as a whole that we should know his views and his reactions to those earlier speeches. This has so far been a very remarkable debate, in that we have had a large diversity of opinion freely and frankly expressed in a way which justifies, in my view more than anything else, the existence of this House. On a memorable and most important occasion such as this—and I hardly remember a period since I have been a Member when the position has been so urgent and important in relation to international affairs—it is important that there, should be a forum from which people can speak freely and frankly in what they believe to be far the best interests of the country.
I want to comment on a few of the subjects—I cannot hope to deal with them all—which have been dealt with in the course of this debate. I should like to say first a few words about the Geneva Conference. I was rather surprised that on this subject there was less controversy than I had expected. I had expected to hear from some quarters the opinion that there had been appeasement, that we had given way to the Communists and that we had made a very bad transaction. The only voice which sounded a little like that was that of the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, who did express some doubts about the outcome of that Conference. He first accused my noble friend, Lord Henderson, of having 342 spoken too favourably about it in terms which he said could not be justified. I have read my noble friend's speech again and I must say that I can find not one single sentence that would justify such an opinion about it. Indeed, subject to what the noble Marquess who is going to reply will say, I thought the views on the Geneva Conference of my noble friend and those of the noble Marquess were very similar indeed.
The noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, referred to the fact that we had set the seal upon China as a first-class Power. Really, a Power which has a population of 600,000,000 does need the setting of a seal to convert it into a first-class Power. It is, I should have thought, by the very size of its country and the very wealth of its population, a first-class Power, and it would be exceeding folly not to recognise that fact. He also said that China had gained important concessions; but, after all, we must recognise—and I am sure that the noble Marquess who is going to reply is the first to recognise—that in these particular negotiations we were not negotiating entirely from strength. We were in a position where, if it had been so desired, the result might have been very much worse than it was. I want to pay my tribute, as others have done, to the great skill and patience with which Mr. Eden conducted those negotiations and to congratulate him about the outcome. I think it is a really remarkable achievement. Of course, it could not have happened at all but for the co-operation of all parties; and I hope I may be allowed to be frank and say that, at any rate so far as these negotiations are concerned, some tribute is due to our opponents, Mr. Molotov and Mr. Chou En-lai, without whose co-operation it would not have been possible to arrive at any agreement at all. But, looking at the facts as we know them, and realising that what one has lost on the battlefield one cannot redress entirely at the conference table, I believe that Mr. Eden has done extremely well and is to be congratulated.
Three things stand out as a result of this successful negotiation. The first is that it is possible to negotiate with the countries behind the Iron Curtain. Agreement is not necessarily impossible and we have not always to be making all the concessions. The exercise of patience and skill and, I agree with the noble 343 Marquess who has just spoken, also an equal balance of power (I think that is a most important factor in negotiation), can together lead to successful negotiations. It would be a great mistake to assume that negotiations with the countries behind the Iron Curtain are bound to be unsuccessful.
Another outstanding thing of which to take note—and here I am perhaps treading on dangerous ground—is the fact that this agreement was arrived at in the absence of the United States of America. Now I do not want to say for a moment—it is not part of my case—that that is a good thing. On the contrary, I agree with every word that has been spoken in this debate about the great importance of our co-operating entirely with the United States. But I do feel that, in a sense, to have carried through these negotiations without the United States of America, and no doubt in opposition to their wishes, does free the soul of this country. It puts us in a much higher position. I think it has raised our status with the world as a whole. I feel that we can look the world in the face much better by reason of the fact that we have taken an independent line in this matter and have been shown to be right, than if we had acted against our better judgment and in accordance with the views of the United States. Indeed, I believe our prestige in the world has been immensely enhanced as a result of these negotiations. My third point is that, having regard to the success that has been achieved at Geneva, there is every hope for recommencing the negotiations as regards Korea, and with far better chances of success than we have had previously. That is all I think it necessary to say about Geneva.
I should now like to say a few words about Egypt. I support the decision which the Government have arrived at as regards Egypt. I do not think it is materially different from the decision which the Labour Government had arrived at in 1950, a decision which was so seriously criticised. I have not available the terms which were being discussed at that time. The noble Marquess who is to reply may be able to correct me if I am wrong, but my impression is that those terms were not at all different from those which, quite rightly, have been 344 accepted by Her Majesty's Government. I am not aware that the circumstances were any different at that time than they are to-day. No doubt the Government are to be congratulated in this respect: that the two years that have elapsed and the change in conditions in Egypt may have made their task a little more difficult than the task of the Labour Government; but, at any rate, I am delighted that they have effected a settlement on terms which I think are again the best that could have been achieved and which, on the whole, are reasonable to both parties.
My noble friend Lord Henderson intervened in the speech of the noble Marquess and asked for certain information as to the meaning of guarantees of freedom of navigation through the Canal. I did not think that the reply of the noble Marquess was entirely satisfactory. I should have thought that "freedom of navigation" meant exactly what it said. There is apparently no qualification in the Heads of Agreement, and I should have thought that that phrase must mean that there would be freedom of navigation for all ships sailing through the Suez Canal, whatever their destination and whatever their contents. But apparently there is a reservation, and I should like to be much clearer than I am at the moment as to how it comes about and in what form this reservation is going to be left. The reservation concerns, of course, the right of the Egyptians to carry out a blockade of any ships that are carrying goods and which have Israel as their destination. But if we are going to make an agreement for the freedom of the Canal, surely there ought not to be any exceptions in that respect. I hope Her Majesty's Government have not said their last word on that subject, and are not going to leave in the air this most vital question for the peace of that part of the world.
There is one other point that I should like to mention in connection with Egypt, and I am sure the noble Marquess will be aware of it—namely, that there is a considerable apprehension in Israel as to what is going to be the effect on them of this Agreement. Are we, as part of the arrangement, to provide arms to the Egyptians? I understand that the United States of America are going to do so. Is it not a fact, and have not the 345 Egyptians said it openly, that it is their intention at the first opportunity to have another round in Israel? If the noble Marquess can give us some assurances on that matter, I am sure he will be rendering a great service in regard to the peace of that part of the world, because there is great apprehension in those quarters. In that connection may I ask him this question too? We are entering into an arrangement by which if any of the members of the Arab League are attacked we will discuss with them the question of going to their assistance. As the noble Marquess knows, there are daily incidents between Jordan and Israel. Shots are being fired, and it is not always easy to see from which side aggression takes place. Suppose that it were held that in the course of these frontier incidents the aggression had started with Israel, in the view of the noble Marquess would that be a case where we might be required to intervene? I agree that we have already committed ourselves with the United States and with France to preserve the peace in that part of the world, but we do not seem to be able to do that very effectively.
The next subject on which I should like to say a word is Germany. I am not going to repeat a speech I made last March on the question of German rearmament. I think those noble Lords who did me the honour of listening to me will know where I stand on that subject, and I have had no cause to change my views up till now. I will not repeat what I said then, if for no other reason than that the case was put so admirably yesterday by my noble friend Lord Archibald, and I do not think it needs repeating. But I recognise that events are moving on and that Her Majesty's Government have taken a certain line on this question. I understood the noble Marquess yesterday to say that if by some date, roughly August 15, the French Government had not ratified E.D.C., then we and the United States would feel at liberty to act. I gathered, however, from a subsequent intervention by the noble Marquess, that all he meant was that we should then discuss with France the question as to what steps should be taken.
THE MINISTER OF STATE, FOREIGN OFFICE (THE MARQUESS OF READING)
I said that at the beginning, and repeated it later.
§ LORD SILKIN
I know the noble Marquess repeated it; but I looked at his speech again and I did not gather that that was what he said originally. I do not want to make any point on that; I accept that if he did not say it as clearly as would enable me to understand it, it may have been my own fault and not his. But that is the intention. Of course, as an occupying Power, France has an equal right with ourselves and the United States to object to the grant of sovereignty to the West German Government. The matter is, I take it, perfectly open. These discussions, of which I do not complain at all, will take place, and, as I understand it, the position will be perfectly open. Perhaps in his reply the noble Marquess will confirm that there is no, commitment beyond the view that has been expressed and that the matter will really be discussed with France on the basis that some action has to be taken or that it is desirable for some action to be taken.
I will put to the noble Marquess a question put by Mr. Attlee in another place. If, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, it becomes necessary to take action, either contrary to the view of the French Government or, alternatively, along a course not so far discussed or considered by Parliament, will Parliament be convened in order that the matter may be discussed before any final decision is made? The noble Marquess will be aware that feelings upon this matter are exceedingly strong. In the debate last March I was relieved to hear the Leader of the House say that he approached the question of German rearmament with considerable doubts, and that he had arrived at his conclusion on balance. I have arrived at a contrary conclusion, also on balance. Anyone who does not see the difficulties either way must be very blind to realities. There are difficulties whichever course one adopts; but the country as a whole is greatly divided on this question. It would be quite wrong for Her Majesty's Government to take a final decision on this matter during the Recess without Parliament having an opportunity of expressing a view.
On the Soviet Note, my last subject, I recognise that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Strang, was a maiden speech; and one is in some difficulty in dealing with it in a non-controversial manner. The noble Lord speaks with tremendous 347 authority, and he made a most important speech. In some ways it is a pity that he had not broken the ice a day or two earlier, so that his speech could have been put into the arena. As it is, one is a little hamstrung. The noble Lord, Lord Strang, put forward a view of "peaceful co-existence" which I regard as the most important subject discussed yesterday in your Lordships' House. What do we mean by "peaceful co-existence"? The noble Lord appeared to take an exceedingly gloomy view. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, said that he did not take quite so depressing a view, but I thought that his view was not materially different from that of the noble Lord. Both take the view that the Soviet Union have made their plans; that they are determined, by fair means or otherwise, to spread Communism throughout the world and that that is the thing we have to accept. Those noble Lords feel that if we are strong enough so that the two forces—the Soviet force and the resisting force—are equally balanced, Russia will not be so foolish as to start a war; and that the right thing in present conditions is to strive to create a kind of balance (obviously a position of unstable equilibrium) and thus in some way prevent the actual outbreak of war.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
I went rather further in my last words: I said that I believed it important that we should do anything we could to achieve better relations. I suggested increased East-West trade and communications, and a general whittling down of the Iron Curtain. I have not yet seen any evidence of a change of heart in the Soviet Government. I do not think I am alone in that view.
§ LORD SILKIN
But the noble Marquess starts with the same premise as the noble Lord, Lord Strang. Is it really going to be in the least effective to start with the idea that "This is what Lenin said," and "This is what the Soviet Union intend?" Does the noble Marquess really think that buying a few more goods from the Soviet Union, or selling them more, or even having a few drinks with them, will make any material difference in their outlook? I find that difficult to believe. The real difficulty is the premise from which we start. If we start with the view that their intention is 348 to spread the doctrine of Communism throughout the world then the only logical course is to hold war off as far as possible. There is nothing else we can do. We shall certainly not effect a change of heart in that way. That is a premise held, quite sincerely, by many people; but there is a premise held by others, equally sincerely. Either may be wrong or partly wrong.
I do not believe that it is the intention of the Union or China to spread the gospel of Communism throughout the world. They will, of course, resist any attempt to encroach upon their ideology, but I believe that to-day they are prepared to "live and let live," and have no intention of spreading the gospel of Communism beyond their own confines. The negotiations for disarmament, for some kind of accommodation in Europe and for settling the German question can have a real meaning only if I am right. If we do not believe that they intend to act peacefully, to "live and let live," then there is no point in negotiations. The attitude of the United States is more logical than ours, for they frankly believe the first doctrine and are acting accordingly; they have no desire to negotiate and no confidence in negotiation. We are taking a different view, and it would be more realistic, if we take the view of the noble Marquess, if we acted in accordance with it. Nobody is prepared to speak with dogmatism on that view. The Soviet Union may be really desirous of living at peace and may have no intention of forcing their own ideology upon other people. It is better, surely, to work on that hypothesis until the contrary is proved.
That seems to me to be a justification for making every possible attempt to arrive at a peaceful accommodation with the Soviet Union, and even to try to secure a considerable measure of disarmament. After all, the view of the noble Marquess of a balance of forces is really a counsel of despair. Where there are two enormous forces, equally balanced, in the world, one can never be sure, with the best will in the world, that something might not happen to cause one to topple over and bring about the disaster which we all fear. Therefore, I feel that the most valuable thing Her Majesty's Government can do at the present time is to persevere with the policy of securing disarmament to the 349 fullest possible extent—complete disarmament, if possible. If they could achieve that, it would be a solution to the German problem as well. I had hoped, therefore, that the noble Marquess and the Government would have looked at the Russian Note with rather more sympathy than the words in the noble Marquess's speech would lead us to believe, when he talks of a voluminous Note.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, I said "voluminous." This is the second time I have been called to account for having used the word "voluminous" —as if there were some sinister significance about it. I think the Note is voluminous, because it is sixteen pages long. In my view, for the normal diplomatic Note, that is voluminous. I think I may leave it at that.
§ LORD SILKIN
Coupled with the other adjectives he used about the Note, I took it to mean that he was being extremely critical of it.
§ LORD SILKIN
Oh, no, if the noble Marquess will look at his speech, he will find that he used a word like "aspersion."
§ LORD SILKIN
That does not sound to me as if the noble Marquess and the Government are going to give this Note the sympathetic consideration which I think ought to be given to an offer to negotiate.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
I think the noble Lord is making a false point here. He suggested that something I said indicated that we are not going to give the Note fair consideration. In my criticism the use of the word "asperity" was directed not towards the substance but to the form of the Note. I said it was unusual in the asperity of its language. That does not mean that we 350 are not going to give it careful consideration.
§ LORD SILKIN
I am very glad to hear it, but with the greatest respect, I think the noble Marquess would have been better advised, during the period in which the Note is being discussed, not to use language about it which sounded at all critical. If it is intended to reject the Note, I cart understand that one can use all sorts of reasons for doing so, But during the period when the Note is sub judice, so to speak, I should have thought it would have been better to leave it alone, because it does lead to a certain amount of misunderstanding if, in the end, it turns out to be the Government's intention not to carry on with the negotiations. That is all I want to say. The debate has shown one thing: that we are all united in our desire to achieve peace with those countries with whom we are not on the best of terms at the present moment. So far as my judgment goes, the events of the last few years have shown that it is possible, with patience, with skill and with good will, to bring about results which will bring that end nearer. Having achieved one success at Geneva, I sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Government will not tire of good works and will continue, however difficult it may seem for them at times, with the objective of securing similar agreements on all other matters which are subjects of dispute.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ LORD LAYTON
My Lords, I shall not attempt to cover the tremendous area covered by the debate up to date. Certainly I have no intention of adding to the growing Press file of the Ambassador of Peru. Like the previous speaker, I shall refer to only one or two points. In regard to the evacuation of the Canal area, speaking for myself and for the Liberal Peers who sit on these Benches, we consider, on balance, that the military arguments are in favour of the course taken by the Government, and that that decision is immensely strengthened by the enormous difficulty in maintaining a base in a hostile country. Those negative considerations, though important, are perhaps in the long run even less important than the positive consideration that a settlement at this time should lead to infinitely better and more friendly relations between Britain and 351 Egypt; and if those friendly relations really develop we may be considerably nearer the point where it will be possible to establish an international defence system for the Middle East, not with the hostility but with the approval of the parties concerned and with such assistance as they are able to give.
I am very much tempted to pick up the admirable speech of my noble leader, Lord Samuel, yesterday. His broad survey of the last fifty years and his projection into the future was interesting and inspiring and we should all reflect upon them. I should like to add one point to what he said. Speaking of the possibility of the development of a Second Elizabethan Age, he expressed the hope that the younger generation were going to achieve that. I do not believe that that will happen unless Europe contrives to change its character from that which has been responsible for the outbreak of two world wars in the first half of this century. My noble friend put a most powerful case for the development of unity in the sense of the positive collaboration—military, economic and cultural—of the peoples of Europe who, after all, have spread civilisation throughout the world.
There was another background speech which has been referred to by almost every speaker since—I refer to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Strang. It has been commented upon by both speakers this afternoon, who have taken different views of his main thesis—which, in the shortest possible terms, is that the co-existence of the East and West is possible in the sense of an absence of war, but that in present circumstances it is not possible in the sense of harmonious collaboration, so long the declared objectives of Russian and Communist policy remain as they are. Both the previous speakers find that a pessimistic view, and I do, too. But the qualification I should make of it is this—and it is not perhaps something that can be concretely expressed—that it leads to the position that all we can positively do is to maintain our strength.
But there is something else. Speaking for myself, I have a deep conviction that no totalitarian system can for ever go on moulding human beings, containing, that divine spark, into a standard pattern, and permanently prevent independence of 352 thinking and the desire for liberty from springing up again. If the democratic and Christian ideals underlying civilisation are really nearer to the truth than Marxism, sooner or later changes will take place within the countries behind the Iron Curtain. Somehow the change will come, and the problem will be resolved from within. I believe that there were signs of something like that happening after the death of Stalin. The change of policy that appeared to take place seemed to me to emerge from something that was created by the sentiment and opinion of the people—of course, this is all speculation. However, I should just like to make the point that I do not see the end of this very bleak road unless a change comes from within. I do not know whether it will be a long or a short time coming. But science and the elimination of distance are on our side, because there is no way of keeping ideas out of the air; it is not possible always and for ever to isolate an area and prevent it from knowing what is happening in the rest of the world. I put that as my personal qualification to the otherwise pessimistic thesis of the noble Lord, Lord Strang.
From that I should like to go on to a reference to the Indo-China settlement. I am afraid that some of my friends on the Labour Benches are apt to indulge in a little wishful thinking and draw a wrong conclusion from what happened at Geneva. There are, of course, good features about the settlement at Geneva. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, referred to the cease-fire, and we must all take that as a most important fact. Then there is the recovery of the prestige of European diplomacy, and particularly of the diplomacy of Britain and France. In the case of France, there has been something of a revolution of feeling since the change of Government took place. From the long-term point of view, that is extremely important. Furthermore, I believe it is a good thing that this important achievement has come about independently of the United States. I hope your Lordships will not think for a moment that I underrate the importance of close relations with the United States, but I am convinced that there should be a diplomatic movement which springs from its own internal rightness and strength. That, I believe, has improved the situation diplomatically. United as 353 both Britain and America are, that united action policy should spring from, and draw its strength from, all the sources of thought and experience of the free world, and not merely from copying what the United States thinks to be the right thing at the time. The very fact that we call it "the free world" means that there are various streams of thought and various experience which can contribute to the whole.
But there is another aspect of this Agreement. When full account is taken of the positive advantages, there are also some disadvantages, which were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha. The word "success" has been used—it was used by my noble friend Lord Samuel. It is in certain ways a success; but I wonder whether, if Asia is considered alone, the balance sheet is a positive or a negative one. In any case, I have a feeling that the use of the word "success" is perhaps strange when such a suggestion is made, as was made in the New Statesman this week. They say:Is there any good reason why renewed negotiation with the Russians should not stand as good a prospect of success as we had in Indo-China?Before we accept that point of view, surely we must remember that in Indo-China the free world has had a setback; it has been in retreat. Secondly, although by great patience and diplomatic skill we "got away with"—and I think this is the right way to put it—the lesser of two evils, that fact is, without question, due to the armed might of the United States in the background. To borrow a phrase from the leader writer in this week's Economist:British diplomacy was pivoting on a fulcrum of American power.That is the sheer and naked truth of the situation. We may hope that we are in a period when agreements of the type so well described by the noble Lord, Lord Strang, can be made with the Soviet world, and we must never relax in the slightest degree in our efforts to reach those agreements. But in the world as it is to-day, all these hopes depend upon our understanding that both military and moral strength are necessary—and I underline that it is both military and moral strength that we must have.
This brings me to the question of E.D.C. and the rearming of Germany. 354 Several speakers have expressed their opinion about the prospects of the ratification of E.D.C. We are all conscious of the deep emotions that are aroused in France by this question, and I should not care to be dogmatic about what will happen. However, if I had to make a guess, I should expect that the French Prime Minister will ask for ratification of the Treaty in August, but with some qualifications, which may take the form of a protocol, modifying perhaps some of the supranational factors in the Treaty; and I should guess that he will get the ratification from the French Assembly. What I think we may certainly take for granted is that the French Assembly will be asked to reach a decision next month. I should like to give some of the reasons why the need for a decision is so desperately pressing. First, the existing cleavage in France is politically devastating to that country, and all the leaders of France thoroughly understand the tremendous drawback under which at the moment they are suffering. Secondly, for many months the cleavage on E.D.C. has been preventing the attention of France from being devoted to some extremely pressing internal political and economic problems. Thirdly, there is a warning against delay in the situation across the Atlantic, where there is an election pending—an election which will be in full swing at the end of September.
That election may have important effects and repercussions in Europe. The pundits and the forecasters are freely asserting, and asserting very positively, that the Republican Party are going to lose control of both Houses in Congress—in the lower House by a large majority against them, and in the Senate by a small majority against them. That situation would create difficulties for the President, even if he were of the political facility and ability of President Roosevelt. If, when the election takes place, the situation in Europe has not yet clarified and is still seen from across the Atlantic to be in confusion, it may well happen that many of the Congressmen and Senators who are returned in November will return having taken on awkward commitments with their constituents with regard to Europe, and particularly, perhaps, with regard to France. I know that that situation is known and appreciated by many of the leaders of French opinion. 355 Those are some of the reasons why I think that the issue will certainly be brought to a decision next month. There are others. The technical position, too, about the E.D.C. is complicated. It might seem at first sight that there is an easy alternative by bringing Germany into N.A.T.O., but the objections and the difficulties of that course are well known in this House, and I need not develop them; I have referred to them many times before. Clearly, if Germany were to be brought into the N.A.T.O., it would be necessary to have important modifications of that organisation. Indeed, it might almost be said that it would have to be re-negotiated on a basis which would make a different covenant for the European members from that which applies to the United States. All that would involve delay.
There is also the position of other participants. We sometimes forget that the E.D.C. Treaty has been ratified by four of the six countries, and that one of them has had to go to work to alter its Constitution to enable it to do so; and that our near neighbours of Holland and Belgium, after immense heart-searching, faced with precisely the same problems of being overshadowed and brought into the ambit of a strong Germany, have nevertheless decided that that is, all things considered, the best course to take, from the point of view of their own future security. All that apparatus of legislation has taken place, and to throw it overboard entirely and start again from scratch would be extremely unfortunate and undesirable. I think that that consideration was not entirely forgotten by the leaders of French opinion.
Hesitation and delay are most important from the point of view of Germany. The effects of the Second World War are fading with the years. Neutralisation is an attempt to put off decision. It is not a final answer; it is postponement. It is a solution which involves policing Germany by British, French and American troops. Nobody has yet suggested an adequate economic counterpoise to the burden which would be carried by Britain, France and the United States in defending Germany and in maintaining their troops on the German Eastern frontier. It is impossible to conceive the situation ten years' hence, and even if it were possible, neutralisation would be 356 only a postponement. The lessons of history, surely, are very clear indeed. Such a solution is conceivable only on the assumption that, at the end of it, we shall have arrived at a substantial, perhaps complete, disarmament agreement with the East. But in the light of past history, is that assumption really tenable? Is it sane to base our policy on such a far-reaching assumption? We have only to think of what happened after Versailles, and our promise to the Germans to disarm, to realise how very brittle any such hope is. On the short view, at the moment the danger signals are out in the Far East. Planes are being shot down and the Korean problem is unsolved. The best that we can hope is that the conviction of the great Powers that war would not suit them will suffice to prevent the outbreak of a Third World War, and to ensure that the sparks are trodden out before they lead to an explosion or a conflagration.
Looking a little further ahead, there is still some ground for misgiving. We have travelled a great way in the international sphere since the war. International discussion, collaboration and interchange have developed enormously, but there is some reason for fearing that the momentum is slowing down. The danger is that we may have reached the peak and that, provided there is no renewed fear of war, we may slip back into the old, established ways. I believe, for the reason I have given, that the United States are going to have a difficult year politically. If E.D.C. is rejected, Europe will be starting its negotiations all over again, and in a very disordered state. But if it is approved, then the bringing into existence of the European Army can be made the basis on which to develop further in the direction of unity—not necessarily precisely in the directions already planned, but in similar directions.
I think our best hope is that, next year and in the years immediately ahead, the great areas of the world will be free from disturbance, and so give time for consultation. There are good reasons why Russia and China should wish to turn their eyes inward at this stage. To a certain extent, the United States will be preoccupied. If France takes the decision with fairly general consent—as there is certainly a hope that she may do—then, during that breathing space, the evolution and development of Europe which 357 is so essential could take place. I believe that the passing of the E.D.C. Treaty is the crucial issue. I believe that for many reasons. I believe that military solidarity, with economic solidarity growing up behind, gives the military and moral strength to Western Germany which will provide the condition for an understanding—not necessarily of peace in the full sense that the noble Lord, Lord Strang, was talking about—but for an understanding, a standstill if you like, between the free world and the Communist world. It is the best basis for getting it. When we have that understanding—and only then—shall we have the basis for disarmament. In that basis, and on that basis only, is there the possibility of the unification of Germany. Therefore, I suggest to your Lordships that ratification of the E.D.C. in something very like its present form is the first of the steps which will lead down the long vista that may end in permanent peace.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ LORD COLERAINE
My Lords, if I may do so without seeming to patronise him—and certainly it is the last thing that I am in a position to do—I should like to add my congratulations to Those which my noble friend Lord Strang has already received from your Lordships for his brilliant and penetrating analysis of this turbulent world in which we are living. Like others of your Lordships, I have had the opportunity in the past of working closely with the Foreign Service, and I have never taken the view, which I know is fashionable in many quartets, that merely because members of the Foreign Service are, in the main and in general, men of outstanding ability, great attainment and vast experience, therefore, and for that reason alone, they are poltroons and cowards whose advice must be brushed aside and rejected on every occasion. Having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Strang, yesterday I am fortified in my belief that in this case the view which is, as I say, fashionable in some quarters is not the right one.
Just now, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, thought that the noble Lord, Lord Strang, took too gloomy a view. He differed from Lord Strang's view of what was meant by "peaceful co-existence." The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked: What do we mean by "peaceful co-existence"? He gave, 358 perhaps, a more comfortable answer than Lord Strang. But I do not think the real question we have to ask ourselves is: What do we mean by "peaceful co-existence"? I think what we have to ask ourselves is: What do the Russians mean "peaceful co- existence"? My noble friend the Leader of the House, earlier this afternoon attributed the phrase "peaceful co-existence" to the Foreign Secretary. I speak subject to correction, but I do not think it was the Foreign Secretary who invented the phrase "peaceful co-existence"; I believe that it was Marshal Stalin.
I sincerely wish that I could share the optimistic view of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and I have no doubt others of your Lordships, about this last Russian approach. It may be that some noble Lords feel that it is probably a genuine approach. I am afraid that I do not believe that for a single moment. This new Russian Note, this "voluminous" Note, seems to me to be too "pat" and too "slick." It seems to me to be so patent an attempt to sow dissension between the peoples of the West that I think we ought to beware. I was very glad to hear the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, say yesterday, at the end of his speech, that Her Majesty's Government, whilst they had not finally made up their minds, were treating this Russian initiative with some reserve. After all, it is not as if we were without experience of Agreements made with Communism. Our experience has been bitter and, I think, shows that Communism uses an Agreement not as a bridge of confidence and friendship but as the base for further hostilities. Before we agree to pick up the hand of friendship which has been offered to us again, I think we might look over our shoulder at some of those who took that hand before—Czechoslovakia and Poland, for example. A new Agreement, which we all welcome, has been made with Communism over Indo-China. Let us see what happens there first. Let us see what happens in Indo-China before we agree to follow that success—and it was a success—by trying to make a new Agreement in Europe.
I want, primarily, to speak this afternoon about the Egyptian Agreement. I know, and the Government know, that there is much disquietude in the public at large over this Agreement. There is 359 much misgiving among public men, men of great repute, like the two noble Lords who addressed the House yesterday, two noble Lords whose experience is so great that one must certainly pay heed to what they say. There are friends of my own in another place, whom I know well and whose judgment I respect, who have a first-hand knowledge of this area that I cannot claim, and who have considered the problem of the defence of the Mediterranean far more deeply than I have. I cannot conceal from myself that there is a considerable body of criticism of the Government's actions—considerable in every sense, in its experience and in its detailed knowledge of Egypt and of the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, I am profoundly convinced that the Government are right. That does not mean that I, any more than the Leader of the House, like the circumstances which have necessitated this Agreement; but my view is that in the circumstances this Agreement is necessary.
If I may say so, without disrespect to the two noble Lords whom I know to take the opposite view, I believe that in the final analysis their attitude is based far more upon emotion than upon reason. I say that because I share those emotions. I resent tremendously the changes which have come about in the past generation in the might and power of Britain. I remember the days when peace was secure, or seemed to be secure, behind the shield of the Royal Navy, and when those who were called, impolitely and, I think, improperly, "the lesser breeds without the law" knew their place and kept it. I regret the passing of those days. I think they were better days than these. I think they were better for us and for the world. I resent the loss of the Indian Empire and, in particular, the loss of the Indian Army, whose stabilising influence would have been so great to-day. I resent the fact that Egypt has turned against us, who are, in a sense, the creators of modern Egypt, and who did raise Egypt from the dust.
I have the feeling that the attitude of many of the critics of the Egyptian Agreement is really based on that kind of emotion which I have tried to describe. It is as though all the frustrations and humiliations and disappointments of the past generation, and especially of the past ten years, have come to a head in 360 a determination at all costs to cling on to this particular patch of sand. It is a gesture, as it were, of defiance at the unkindness of fate. It is a gesture not without nobility, but I do not believe that it is a gesture of much practical value. I can well understand the feelings of those who oppose this Agreement, but I cannot see as clearly as they do the facts which justify their opposition.
First of all, it appears that the Base is of relatively little military value. I understand that it is useless without local labour; and local labour is not, in fact, available. I understand that it is useless if it is in the centre of a hostile population. But it is in the centre of a hostile population. I understand that a concentration of this kind would probably be highly dangerous if war broke out, and that in the meantime it is highly wasteful. These, my Lords, are matters on which I cannot form for myself an independent judgment, but I understand that, generally speaking, what I have tried to say represents the best military opinion of the day. As my noble friend said earlier, I should be only too glad to defer to the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, on other matters, but on matters of military judgment I think I would sooner defer to those whose experience of military matters is more direct.
I cannot, as I have said, form for myself an independent judgment on these military aspects of the problem, but there are other aspects of it on which I think I can form judgment, though I do not claim for a moment that it is necessarily a right judgment. To maintain the Base as it is at present constituted is obviously a serious drain upon our manpower and a serious drain upon our economic situation. But we are told (we were told by Lord Hankey this afternoon) that we can ease the strain by reducing the size of the Base and the number of troops stationed there. Surely that must be sheer fantasy. It is surely the most extraordinary argument. Let me just summarise the argument. I will try to do so briefly, but not, I hope, unfairly. The argument of the noble Lord, as I understand it, is this: that the Egyptians have behaved badly; British troops are being murdered; the British position in Africa is being undermined by broadcasts in Swahili and other native dialects; the safety of the Canal is in danger. 361 This has got to stop. That I think is the noble Lord's argument in the main.
§ LORD HANKEY
I can hardly accept that as my argument. My argument is in what I said yesterday. It would detain the House too long for me to repeat it.
§ LORD COLERAINE
I did not think I was misrepresenting what the noble Lord said yesterday, but if I did I certainly withdraw it. But that is certainly the argument that has been put by other opponents of the Agreement.
So far so good; it is a perfectly logical argument. But what is the next step? All these evils are coming about, and all this has happened when we have 80,000 troops in the Zone. How many troops do we need to prevent these things coming about?—100,000, 200,000, 300,000? Not a bit of it. Ten thousand or 20,000 is the figure suggested. Now that does seem to me to be a fantastic argument. Twenty thousand troops would have all the exacerbating effect of 80,000 troops, and 20,000 troops would obviously be far less powerful, far less able to influence what is going on than 80,000 troops. It really seems to me that the logic of the situation is this. Either we must make this kind of Agreement or we must reoccupy Egypt. I do not think there are any other alternatives. The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, says that the Canal can be safeguarded only in an atmosphere of security. I think that is true. But does he describe the atmosphere of the past two years or so as being an atmosphere of security? How is he going to make the atmosphere more secure than it has been, except by getting control again of the Egyptian Government? The noble Lord says that the broadcasts must stop. I quite agree. But if we cannot stop them by agreement with the Egyptian authorities, what other way have we of stopping them, except by occupying the broadcasting stations and taking control of them ourselves?
My Lords, the conclusion that I have reached in this very difficult matter is that, whether we like it or not, we must make a new assessment of our position in the world. Our position has changed. It has changed as the result of new weapons; it has changed as a result of the loss of India; it has changed as the 362 result of economic weakness. Those are facts, and I do not think that to admit facts is a sign of weakness or defeatism. On the contrary, I believe that it is only if you face facts that you can have the strength to overcome them. What we have to do, and what I think many of us have never really done in our minds, is to fit our policy to these new and highly unpalatable facts. What we have to do is to realise that the defence of the Eastern Mediterranean, like the defence of other parts of the world, is no longer an operation we can undertake single-handed. I think, in justice to those who differ from me, that we all do realise just that. I think the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, said as much yesterday.
§ LORD COLERAINE
But the noble Lord's complaint, as I understood it, was that while he agreed that we must organise a new system of collective defence in that part of the world there should be no vacuum.
§ LORD KILLEARN
May I intervene for a moment? This phrase "there must be no vacuum" is not mine at all; it is Mr. Bevin's, and I was quoting Mr. Bevin's phrase as a convenient one. It is a very good phrase: it represents, apparently, exactly what is going to happen. But it is not my phrase.
§ LORD COLERAINE
I was not suggesting that the noble Lord had invented the phrase, but he used it, and the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, asked the Government whether they approved of a vacuum. I do not know what the Government's view about a vacuum may be, but as a part of nature myself I abhor it. The plain fact of the matter, as it seems to me, is that what Mr. Bevin pledged some years ago was overtaken by events, and I would say that, for all practical purposes, there has been a vacuum in that part of the world for the last two years or more. The only thing is that it has been for us a terribly expensive vacuum.
§ LORD COLERAINE
A vacuum full of bodies whose lives consist, in the main, of defending each other, rather than defending the Canal.
363 I do not want to say any more about the Canal, and I do not want to detain your Lordships for more than another few moments. I should just like to say a brief word or two about the Geneva Conference. I agree with my noble friend Lord Strang that in the main the achievement of the Conference really amounted to substituting a lesser evil for a much greater evil. But in my judgment that is a considerable achievement, and I think we owe an enormous debt to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and to the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, for the part they have taken in bringing this about. There are advantages in the Geneva Agreement. One advantage, I think, is that it has brought us much closer to our French Allies and friends. Another is that, for the first time since 1939, there is peace on earth. That peace is very precarious; nobody knows whether it will be lasting, or how long it will last.
Some of your Lordships have taken a gloomy view of what my noble friend Lord Strang said, because he seemed to look forward to such a long period of tension. I am inclined to agree with him. I think this may be a very long haul indeed. I feel that we are faced now with something like the Muslim invasion of Europe—something that may go on for generations. I do not know. I do not think that war is inevitable; I am not sure that I think it likely. But there is one thing that could make war inevitable, one thing that would unfailingly produce a Third World War—namely, a serious rift between the United States and her European Allies, in particular between the United States and this country.
There is no doubt that the Geneva Conference imposed a strain upon our relations with the United States; but those relations, we may well believe, are so firm and so friendly that they can stand that strain. We must not, however, strain them too far. In my judgment, it is not only the neutralists to whom Lord Pakenham referred yesterday who are straining our relations with the United States. If I may say so, with the greatest respect, I think that some of us who know a lot better are tending sometimes to do the same thing. Lord Silkin said that our prestige has risen as a result of our success at Geneva. He described it as a success which was independent of 364 United States policy, and in some senses opposed to it. He said that our prestige had risen as a result of that.
§ LORD SILKIN
Not as a result of it. I said that our prestige has risen as a result of the way in which we handled the Conference.
§ LORD COLERAINE
I am glad that I misunderstood the noble Lord, if I did misunderstand him, and that he has made his position clear.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
I do not know if it would help the noble Lord. I took a note of what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said. What he said was that we had carried through the negotiations at Geneva without the United States and in opposition to their wishes, and that it had raised our status in the world as a whole.
§ LORD COLERAINE
I thought that that was what the noble Lord had said. It is very nice to have our status raised; it is very nice to have increased our prestige; but one can sometimes buy prestige too dearly. My own view is that we must at any cost have a common policy with the United States. We have different approaches to these problems; we form different views about how they should be dealt with—all that is true. Nevertheless, those views have got to be compromised—a compromise has got to be reached if civilisation is to survive. I myself would go as far as to say that a less good policy pursued in the closest collaboration with the United States would be much better, for the safety of this country and for the hopes of mankind, than a better policy pursued independently.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I am afraid the noble Lord, Lord Strang, must be suffering from a surfeit of compliments, but it is most difficult to speak in this debate without referring to that notable speech, so provocative of thought—a speech to which one will wish constantly to return when considering these matters. For myself, the part of the speech which rang strongly in my ears was one which has, I think, not been referred to, and it concerns what the noble Lord said about America. I agree that while American politicans very often irritate us and it is extremely difficult 365 to know what value or what interpretation to put upon statements by the American Secretary of State and others, in the event, however wildly disturbing it may be, American policy, just like the compass needle, eventually settles down pointing to its North point—which is the conception that policy must be based upon law and moral principles. While that is the case with that great Power, I think it gives us considerable confidence when we have to think about and face the future.
As regards the rest of the speech, I feel a little difficulty in believing that co-existence with Communism is in fact eventually possible. To me, the belief of seems incompatible with the open, avowed Communist aims, about which they make no secret. The spirit of Communism reminds one of the doggerel of Lord Macaulay, aboutOne of us two, Herminius,Shall never more go home.I think that is the spirit which informs Communist beliefs. Then the noble Lord spoke about "calmness and confidence" and about "a positive spirit of harmony and concord." I ask myself, how those desirable things can exist when living in what the noble Lord called a state of "co-existence with conflict." The ideas seem to me to be somewhat incompatible.
This afternoon I want to speak particularly about the question of Germany. I was a little surprised yesterday when the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said something which seemed to envisage the bare possibility of our going back on promises made to the Germans—those were the noble Lord's words—or that we might let Doctor Adenauer down. I think those are not very fortunate suggestions to put into the air. To begin with, they are unjustified by our record in regard to our pledged word, and they are also irreconcilable with the recent Anglo-American declaration, that failing ratification of E.D.C. we intend to find a way to accord to Germany the benefits of the Bonn Treaty. That, I think, is clear evidence of our good faith; in fact, Anglo-American studies have been undertaken with a view to finding the best way to bring that about.
In regard to E.D.C. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the noble Marquess, Lord Reading for the 366 reply which he has been good enough to give to what was a rather complicated question. I have not yet had time to study the reply. At a cursory glance I can see what great trouble has been taken in compiling it, and I express my gratitude to the noble Marquess. The ques-of Germany and the E.D.C. must be considered in the light of a declaration of belief by M. Herriot, that France will never ratify E.D.C. and that M. Mendès-France can produce an alternative acceptable alike to the French people and to the Allies. I cannot answer for the French people, but from many declarations I have seen some high Allied authorities are extremely averse to struggling to find an alternative to E.D.C.; they would not so much mind the struggle to find a suitable and effective alternative if there were any prospect of success. Juridically, if E.D.C. is not ratified the Bonn Treaty falls. But, as I have said, America and Britain intend to find a way to give Western Germany the benefits of the Bonn Treaty.
That Treaty, with two or three exceptions which are not of major importance, gives Western Germany complete sovereignty. Let us look ahead to the day when Germany is unified, even though that may be looking a very long way ahead. We can see how the mind of America and Britain is working. When Germany is unified we are to conclude with her a freely-negotiated Peace Treaty. Now we can hardly give a unified Germany less than we have expressed our willingness and intention to give to Western Germany; and we shall already have conceded everything to Western Germany. There is this difference: the Bonn Treaty imposes a certain responsibility upon Western Germany. She is to contribute twelve divisions to the European Army. But we have already also conceded that a unified Germany will be free to stay in or to leave E.D.C. as she chooses. In the event of a unified Germany coming out of E.D.C., it is agreed that she will be free to set up national armaments of whatever types and on whatever scale she pleases. It should also be remembered that while we have, in principle, restored to Germany all our rights, Russia has announced that she retains her rights of every description in Germany. So as between the unified 367 Germany and Russia, the unified Germany will already have milked the Allies dry of everything they have it in their power to concede to her; but at the same time she will have much to hope to gain from Russia. We shall be dead metal, whereas Russia will have a magnet in her possession. Which way will Germany be attracted—to the Allies, who have conceded everything to her; or to Russia from whom she has much to gain?
There are two thoughts on German rearmament. First, to agree to German rearmament, having regard to the past, is to take upon one's self a very dread responsibility. Secondly, Germany has great faults about which we have good reason to complain; but she is not a nation you can put in leading strings. The idea held out in this last Russian Note, of a neutralised Germany, is moonshine. Some time, somehow, Germany will rearm with national, independent armies. Would we not be better advised to let that come about in it own way? It might, in the future, be highly inconvenient either to have sanctioned German rearmament or to have opposed it. There is much to be said for letting what, I believe, must come about, come about in the natural course of events. Why must we put a finger in that particular pie? To sanction rearmament, or to put in train events which must lead to rearmament, will inevitably bring us into conflict with France, either openly or below the surface. It will cause strong feeling. The noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, was rather hard on France yesterday. I infinitely preferred the words used by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, when he spoke of keeping in "complete harmony with France." The noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, appeared to have written France off completely. Let us not despair of France too soon; let us not do anything which may give rise to thoughts that we are courting Germany at the expense of France. Let us stand by France in every way we can in her time of difficulty and bitter reverse.
On foreign affairs generally, I come back to what the noble Lord, Lord Strang, said. The essential point is that, short of entirely surrendering our own point of view, we must get back into step with America as quickly as we can. That will not be achieved by dismissing 368 as "misunderstandings" quite irreconcilable disagreements on policy. The Angel Gabriel could not come down to earth and persuade America to recognise China or admit her into the United Nations. That is not a misunderstanding or something to be glossed over as a misunderstanding. We have seen that, in spite of his great efforts, the Prime Minister has been unable to convince President Eisenhower on that point, any more than he was able to convince him about the value of top level talks with Russia. So long as America does not recognise China, the idea of an Eastern Locarno will not produce stability; it will only stiffen China's intransigeance and incite her to underhand methods.
The proposal for an Eastern Locarno is based upon a completely mistaken belief that one has only to give Communist countries what they call their "rights" and they will then settle down. The record shows only too clearly that that is not the case. Nor is it the case that the issue in South East Asia is which country lies in which sphere of influence. That is old-fashioned, to talk about spheres of influence. The Communist aim is not spheres of influence; it is complete absorption of small and powerless neighbouring countries. The task of the Allies is not to deal with Communist "rights" and Communist "spheres of influence," but to defeat the Communist expansionist policy, which goes far beyond spheres of influence. It is being simple-minded to assume that Russia and China will be content with a slice of Asia as their sphere of influence. Do the Simple Simons really believe that, having won in Indo-China, Chou En-lai will say, with Hitler, that his territorial ambitions are now satisfied and will renounce all naughty thoughts about Siam and Burma and Malaya? Russia progressively swallowed Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Rou-mania, East Germany, Bulgaria, Albania, Esthonia, Latvia and Lithunania. That is the Communist way of going on.
Nor do I believe that the signing of a non-aggression Treaty would deter Peking from aggression at a convenient moment. Not, of course, that any Communist country has ever admitted that it has committed any aggression. All the victims of Russia which I have enumerated, of course, asked to be taken over. There was never any suggestion of such 369 a vulgarity as coercion, or subversion, or intimidation. No, they asked Russia most kindly to be good enough to take them over. Red China, of course, would never violate a non-aggression pact, but would act in response to what she would call "spontaneous outbursts of public opinion" or, "armed popular movements" in favour of Big Brother taking the country over. That is where I think certain misconceptions exist in regard to what should govern our policy in Asia.
A word about Egypt. We are to debate that matter on a separate Motion and I think that will be the time to bring forward the main arguments, and I will say only two or three things today. First, I intensely dislike the carrying on of negotiations under duress and I feel that these negotiations have been carried on under duress to a large extent. I also have little faith, if any, in Agreements which are come to with countries which are notorious for their bad faith, and which in the record of history can point to hardly one Agreement which they have honoured. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, in the debate on the Navy Estimates, rightly deprecated the making of speeches on political subjects by high-ranking officers in the Forces. I entirely agree. I think it is right that they should make speeches on professional subjects. They are entitled to do that and it is often helpful to the country if they do, but I think it is better that they should "lay off" politics. I notice this morning in The Times that General Keightley, Commanding Officer in Egypt, has made what I should call a distinctly political speech. It would be deplorable in any case, but I think it is more than ever regrettable because Parliament has not yet had the opportunity of discussing the matter with which the General has dealt.
Another point about the Egyptian Agreement that I should like to make has reference to Cyprus. Cyprus is 300 miles from Alexandria. An agitation has been conducted for some time in the island by the Archbishop, who is a very determined and in some ways unscrupulous opponent. He carries on his agitation for the cession of Cyprus to Greece in alliance with the Communist Party of Cyprus, which is the best organised and most positive Party in the island. I should not be surprised if the 370 Archbishop were to say to the hot-heads of his entourage, "You see what is happening. The British are marching out of Egypt. The British never showed a sign of doing that until" (what he will call) "some fine, patriotic Egyptians started a campaign of agitation against them, which included murder, violence, sabotage and propaganda directed towards aiding Britain's enemies." He will say, in the privacy of his sanctum, "Of course, I could not possibly advise you to do anything of the sort in Cyprus. I merely call your attention to the fact that the British are marching out of Egypt in response to such an agitation." That is not what we think. We know our motives. But the Agreement with Egypt has this drawback: that it will inevitably encourage those who are already too ready to say, "The only way to get rid of the British is to conduct an agitation, a murderous agitation, against them. That is the only language to which they listen."
I have nothing else to say about Cyprus except this. When the matter was discussed in another place yesterday, Mr. Bevan spoke of the people of Cyprus as a hostile population. That is one of those shouts about which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, spoke this afternoon, as likely to start an avalanche. If the noble Marquess were here I would tell him that that old legend arose merely because the Swiss guides did not want their clients to open their mouths. For the same reason, they invented the legend that if a climber keeps a pebble in his mouth during the climb he will never feel thirsty, the object being to keep the client silent during the climb. I think it was unfortunate that Mr. Bevan should have spoken of the population of Cyprus as hostile. Perhaps I know a little more about them than he does, and I know they are not hostile at all, but extremely friendly to the British, most courteous and most hospitable. I am not quite sure of my ground here, but I remember being told that Cyprus is the only British Colony in which an Englishman has never been murdered. At any rate, there is no question whatever about the general friendliness of the population to us.
A survey of the field of our foreign affairs to-day is rather a melancholy spectacle. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, spoke of the century in which we have been fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to live. I recall 371 the saying attributed to Mr. Trotsky, that if any man was looking for a quiet life, he had made a mistake by getting himself born in the twentieth century. I think that is very true. The prospect is extremely black at the present moment. As we are in a good many troubles, I would mention this to the noble Marquess. A short time ago a leading article in the Manchester Guardian ascribed a great many of our troubles in the field of foreign affairs to the fact that the Foreign Office does not think ahead sufficiently. Well, the pressure of work is very great, but I seem to have noticed for many years now a tendency on the part of the Foreign Office not to deal with a matter until it begins to come into the "In-tray." I think the criticism that there is a certain absence of thinking ahead there has some justice in it. It is certainly a long time since a Foreign Secretary has announced any good news to us. Mr. Eden has been at the Foreign Office a very long time indeed, and I can think of few occasions when he has brought any bacon home, although he may have had some influence in preventing even greater troubles. I feel that we must be realistic about some of these things. We were told that the Berlin Conference was a great success, because at last we knew what the Russians are really like—a thing that I should have thought we knew long before that—and also because it had fixed up the Geneva Conference. Now the Geneva Conference is being represented as a great success, because it has produced an Agreement. Certainly it has not produced "peace in our time," nor, in my opinion, has it produced "peace with honour."
There are perhaps not now many possibilities in the field of foreign affairs. We seem to have little power of independent action: our actions are conditioned by the Atlantic Charter, by our membership of the United Nations, by our obligations to our Allies and so on. What are called "foreign affairs" seem to me largely to take their course, whatever we try to do, because we have so little independence of action in regard to them. That is why I have been thinking for some time that perhaps our economic affairs are more important than our foreign affairs, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be a more 372 important man than the Foreign Secretary, because in the realm of economic affairs we have independence of action, and the results there depend upon our own efforts and upon facts which it is in our power to control. I end on this last thought: that if the distinction I have drawn between foreign affairs and economic affairs is not agreed to, at any rate I am quite sure that our foreign affairs will go better once we have set our economy on a sound footing and are standing on our own feet in that sphere. Then our words will carry far more weight in the world when discussing foreign affairs.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, we are coming to the end of this debate, which I think has been a remarkable debate and in which we have traversed a wide region. You can, as I think, having listened to the whole debate, "pay your money and take your choice" as to what is going to happen to us in the future. You can be an eternal optimist, with the boyish enthusiasm of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, who thinks that we are confronted not with a sunset, but with a dawn; or you can agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strang (I am sorry, but I must refer to his speech; everybody else has done so, and I must be in the fashion), that the prospect that confronts us is a grievous prospect, but not so grievous as total war. Whether the optimistic survey of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, or the rather pessimistic view of the noble Lord, Lord Strang, is right, I have no doubt that, as a practical piece of realism at the present time, we must pay regard to the advice which both those noble Lords gave us—namely, that, whatever may be the outcome in the future, at present we must be defensively strong.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I must interrupt my noble friend to disclaim the word "optimist." I resent that accusation. I am not an optimist; I am a meliorist.
§ EARL JOWITT
I accept that—at any rate, the noble Viscount is not a pessimist. I feel that all sensible people will agree that, however grievous the cost may be, at the present time, we must, in conjunction with our Allies, see that our means of defence are strong.
I do not like these prognostications into the future. No one can speak with 373 more authority than the noble Lord, Lord Strang, as to the past, and indeed, as to the present; but he does not claim to be a Nostradamus who can see what is going to happen in the future. I remember, in one of the first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, a gentleman called Gamaliel, whose advice was asked as to whether some activity should, or should not be vigorously put down; and he gave the advice:… if this … work be of men, it will come to nought.But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it. …I would humbly say, with Gamaliel, that I think there is a great deal of good sense in that. I believe that if we can have a period which does not involve open war the fallacy of Communism will become plain to be seen. I believe that Communism is of man, and is founded upon a wholly false philosophy and false doctrine. Therefore I cannot bring myself to believe that Communism, as it was expounded in the days of Lenin, is necessarily going to continue into the future in, the same way. I believe that it will be following a course which is quite common in history with regard to revolutions if it modifies itself and becomes more reasonable. However, that is a question of the far, indefinite future.
It may be that Mr. Malenkov to-day has advanced some way from where Lenin stood; and it may be that the Mr. Malenkov of the future will advance further still. It is problematical. I entirely agree that we must look at the reality of the situation as it is to-day, and in doing so we must certainly bear in mind the advice given to us in the notable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Baillieu: that while we should remember the truth of the saying, "He travels the fastest who travels alone," yet without American aid and American assistance we should, indeed, be in a very sorry position. When I say that, I also re-echo the advice which was given by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, and the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, with regard to France. For goodness sake let us remember at all cost to keep in step with France! What the world would be like without a strong, active and vigorous France I just tremble to think.
The Government are going to have, so far as I am concerned, and indeed have had, a rather easy debate. I am glad 374 to say that there are few matters of outstanding criticism; and I do not apologise for that at all, because I think it is a good thing with regard to foreign affairs. In my view, the more the two Parties can act in concert in that sphere the better. I believe it to be an enormous source of strength to this country if, when one Government goes out and another Government takes over, it does not mean a change in our foreign policy. Long may it continue that there are no serious points of difference between the two Parties on foreign policy!
We have had from this side of the House notable speeches. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, a sort of tour d'horizon, to which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, has already referred, was up to his own very high standard; and we have had from the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, too, equally notable contributions. Therefore, I am not going to trouble your Lordships at any great length. However, I want to say this about Europe and the E.D.C. It is only some nine years since the war ended. If anybody had told me that within ten years after the war I should be standing up and publicly advocating the rearmament of Germany, even to a most limited and qualified extent, I should have thought that he was mad.
Reading again, as I did last night, some of the incidents of those days, it seems to me that we have travelled right round the circle in a most extraordinary way. Why have we all changed so much? I can remember the day when one of our two most distinguished soldiers asked me to go and dine with him. I was only a lawyer: I was in the Cabinet, and I was not concerned primarily with military matters. He then told me, quite frankly, that if Russia wanted, she could walk through to the Channel ports—and that was the position. I used the word "walk." We had at that time no effective resistance whatever. That is the explanation why so many of us have changed our views about German rearmament. To my mind, it was, and still is, essential that we should be able to put up some sort of defence so that the progress of the Russians at any rate should not be a walk, and so that, as the noble Marquess who leads the House said just now, the risks of war would be so 375 apparent that no one would wish to undertake them.
If we are to put up any sort of defence, it must be a reasonably effective defence—to this extent at any rate: that the aggressor must realise that he may, in due course, be met by serious forces, and that his task is not going to be too simple. Then we started arming, and a year or so afterwards I was told (and I have never been told anything different by the military men): "It is not possible to have your defence against that walk-through really effective unless you have some contribution from Germany." I regret to say that I believe that to be the unpalatable truth.
What is the position to-day? I venture to make this criticism of those who talk about E.D.C. and who so often discuss the matter quite disregarding the fact that years have passed, positions have altered, undertakings have been given, and that the whole matter cannot now be considered as if it were res integra. It is not only the Benelux countries, who have reason to know what German rearmament may involve them in, who are deeply concerned about this. They have expressed their view. Germany, in her turn, has expressed her view. There remain France and Italy. Italy, I think, is due to ratify in September—I forget the exact date, but I think the matter comes up for consideration in September. Everything depends on the attitude France is going to take. I would say this. Let us do everything to avoid putting France in a difficult position. Do not let us, as it were, hold a pistol at her head and say, "If you do not do it by this date, then you will be deprived of this, that and the other." I do not believe that is the way to act. I appreciate this difficulty. If France agrees to ratify E.D.C., then I think the noble Lord, Lord Archibald, and those who spoke with him, will agree that, in view of what has happened, we should have to honour the bargain.
But if France does not ratify E.D.C., what then? It seems to me, in view of the position which the various countries have taken up, that it is impossible to go back to the situation as it was four or five years ago. I think we are bound to have some measure of German rearmament. 376 Certainly Dr. Adenauer's Party want it. The noble Lord, Lord Archibald, said definitely that the Social Democratic Party were opposed to it. He has this justification for his statement. I think there is on record, and still standing, a resolution against it; but, on the other hand, they had a meeting recently, and their leader, Herr Ollenhauer, and other leaders, said quite definitely in their address to Congress that they thought that, unless an Agreement with the Russians, with the Communists, could be arrived at, the time would come when Germany would have to make some contribution to Western defence. Although it is true that the Social Democratic Congress did not agree or pass any resolution to that effect, yet they did, after these speeches had been made, re-elect their leaders; and they did say that these matters should be discussed in full detail before some further conference.
Therefore, I think it would be wrong to say, categorically or definitely, that the Social Democratic Party in Germany are definitely opposed to rearmament at the present time. I do not believe they are. I believe, therefore, that we may get this position. We may get both the Parties in Germany determined to embark upon rearmament. If that happens, who is going to stop them from doing it? Certainly not America, because America, as we know, is strongly in favour of it. That being so, I cannot see where we should get to. I should have thought, therefore, that there was everything to be said for having this measure of control by E.D.C. which, after all, was a French plan, devised by the French and accepted by some of us—of whom I was one, I say quite frankly—with the greatest reluctance. I accepted it because I realised the strength of the argument on the other side. As the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has said, it must be a question of balance of convenience.
If I am not troubling him too much, I want to ask the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, who is to reply to us, this question: Supposing France does not ratify and comes to a definite decision not to ratify, is this Parliament going to be called together to deal with the situation before the Government are committed? That seems to me to be a very important matter. I quote from column 229 of 377 yesterday's OFFICAL REPORT when the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, said:… 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.Not, "as to the plan"; not "as to what is to be done," but "as to the method of putting this plan into operation"—a plan which, if I understand aright, was arrived at without the French being there.
I am sure that the last thing the noble Marquess and the Government desire to do, is to treat France in any way unfairly, or without the most complete consideration. But I do suggest to them, most respectfully, that for these countries to agree among themselves upon a plan and, when they have agreed it, to tell France what the plan is; and then to say to France, "If you do not ratify by August 15, we shall meet together to discuss with you the method of putting into operation the plan which we have agreed," would be to throw the whole thing open. We should then have to consider exactly where we stood, because the project of unfettered German rearmament fills me with some alarm and surely, too, would fill the Benelux countries and France with misgivings which ought to be considered. Therefore I ask the noble Marquess to tell us categorically, if he will, whether, in the event of the failure of France to ratify, he will see that this Parliament is summoned before the Government have so far committed themselves that they are morally bound to carry out the plan.
That I say because I so firmly desire to carry France with us in everything that we do. Because I am a friend of France, as I always have been, that does not prevent me from being a friend of Germany, too. I think it is only right to say this. After the war I was very much concerned with the trials of the war criminals in Germany. We found that we had so many of the minor criminals on our hands that it was impossible to set up English courts of any sort or kind to try them. Therefore we tried the experiment of setting up German courts to deal with their own offenders. I am bound to say that the German courts dealt with these cases very fairly and satisfactorily. Therefore, I can say that I believe that in Germany to-day there is a real change of heart from the bad days of the past. 378 But that is not to say that I should be prepared to embark on completely unrestrained and uncontrolled rearmament without careful consideration.
I should like to ask the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, a question. It may well be that he will not think fit to give me an answer, and if he does not refer to it I shall know that it is probably deliberate and that it is right that he should not answer it. I should like to know whether he has anything he can conveniently tell the House about the negotiations relating to Trieste. It is a sore spot and it would be an excellent thing if it could be cleared away. We used to advocate open covenants, openly arrived at. I regret to say that I have now come to the conclusion that I am in favour of open covenants but I think they are much better if they are secretly arrived at. I think you are very much more likely to get your covenant open, as it should be, if you do not have to discuss it before the gaze and the microphones of the whole world. If the noble Marquess can say anything about that, I shall be grateful. If he cannot, we shall fully understand.
I pass to Egypt, or rather to the Middle East. I say at once—and I speak with no sort of expert knowledge whatever—that I am glad that the Government have taken this course. I believe it is right. I express no opinion as to the military reasons or the views of the Chiefs of Staff; I know nothing about them. What has always concerned me about Egypt is this. In the archives of the Foreign Office, if they have troubled to keep such documents, there can be found large numbers of letters written by me to Mr. Bevin and from him to me about this matter. What I am always concerned about is that our right to stay in Egypt is based on Treaty, and, except for that Treaty, we have no right there at all. That Treaty stipulated that the number of troops that we should have in Egypt should not exceed 10,000. For very many years past we have had many more than 10,000. At the present moment, we have 80,000 troops there, though I think that number has been comparatively recent; it was between 50,000 and 80,000. I am not happy now about this matter from the point of view of the legal side of the problem—and I do not apologise for using the word "legal." After all, the 379 contrary sense to the use of force is agreement, and agreement and treaty depend on law. I have never been able to see that we were justified in basing ourselves upon a Treaty limiting us to 10,000 men, when we were staying there with numbers of men vastly greater than 10,000 and when we were told by our military advisers that it was no good having only 10,000 men there. That was the problem and, in the circumstances, I am glad that we are setting an example and dealing with it in this way. I do not know whether or not we are giving up a great deal from a military point of view. I can well understand that a base surrounded by a hostile population (if they are a hostile population) is not a base of very great value. I am satisfied, for my part, that the Government have taken the right line in this matter.
But I am bound to say this. If we had still been sitting on the Government Benches and noble Lords there had been sitting here, what should we have heard about "Scuttle"! I remember when we were confronted with a similar situation in Persia and a question arose not about a Treaty but about a contract between a British oil company and the Persian Government. Let me say, at once, that in my view, the Persian Government were breaking that contract in a most flagrant manner. What were we to do? Of course, we could invade Persia; we could occupy Persia, or try to; or we could say: "This is a deplorable thing; we must refer this matter to some arbitrary tribunal." We took the latter course. I was responsible in this House for announcing that to your Lordships, and I was accused roundly of the policy of "Scuttle," because we did not go to war with Persia, in spite of the fact that the Leaders of the Party opposite knew perfectly well that we had had the strongest possible representations from the United States of America making it quite plain what their wishes were. Although those facts were known, still I was accused of a policy of "Scuttle." I am sorry to remind noble Lords of that fact, but, now that we are doing this, as I think rightly, in Egypt, just as rightly as I think we were in taking our line in Persia, I must point out that if my Party or the Liberal Party had done anything of this sort, we should have been held up to ridicule, hatred and contempt.
380 I want to ask only two questions about this Treaty. Both questions have been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, but they have such importance that I make no apology for referring to them again. Article 8 of the Treaty provides that the freedom of navigation of the Canal has to be continued as it was. It states:… the determination of both parties to uphold the 1880 Convention guaranteeing the freedom of navigation"—
THE MARQUESS OF READING
When the noble and learned Earl talks about "the Treaty," he means "the Heads of Agreement"?
§ EARL JOWITT
I am much obliged; I mean the Heads of Agreement. It is Article 8 of the Heads of Agreement. Of course, the 1880 Convention, as we all know, was a Convention which guaranteed freedom for navigation on the Canal, and for some years—I do not remember how many now—Egypt has been forbidding Israeli traffic to go through the Canal. Therefore, when this point arose at the conference table and it was asked: "Now what about the navigation of the Canal? Shall we go on with that?" and the reply came, "Yes, that is all right," surely someone must have said: "But what about the Israeli traffic?" I can hardly imagine that that was not discussed. That traffic is the very thing they have been stopping for years past. Here I must say that, with the greatest respect to him, I thought that Lord Reading's answer yesterday was thoroughly unsatisfactory. He said [Col. 221] that this question isin 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.Now why? Imagine yourselves sitting round a table negotiating this thing and agreeing about free navigation through the Canal. Then somebody says, "But what about the Israeli traffic?", and someone else holds up his hands and says, "Hush! That is a matter that was 381 discussed in the United Nations and therefore we must not say anything about it." I can hardly believe that that matter was not discussed. Of course, one would not necessarily come to a decision, and one would not come to a decision without telling all one's friends about it; but in view of the fact that this traffic has been blocked for years past I cannot think that it should not have been and indeed was not discussed to see what the position was going to be. I ask the noble Marquess whether he can in any way expand that answer or give us any indication or impression as to what the attitude of Egypt is going to be with regard to Israeli traffic—namely, is she really going to honour the Convention of 1888?
The other matter I want to ask about is this. We had the Three-Power Declaration of May 25, 1950, in which we, the Americans and the French made it quite plain that we were unalterably opposed to the use of force between any of the State in the area. What is the position of Israel at the present time? As the noble Marquess knows—I am not going to quote any of them—there have been some very uncomfortable things said by some of the leaders of the Arab States and also by some of the Egyptian leaders as to what they are going to do with regard to Israel. Now of course our negotiators knew of those statements. Did they ask for any assurance on this point? Has it been discussed? Do we know whether or not they contemplate, when the British soldiers leave Egypt, that that will give them the opportunity to start an attack on Israel? Because this matter—and I am not being alarmist at all—is causing considerable apprehension in the minds of people in Israel.
Lord Glyn made a speech yesterday—I nearly always agree with what he says and I wholeheartedly agreed on this occasion—as to the necessity of our getting together with the Arabs. My Lords, the only obstacle to our getting together with the Arabs in the old happy way is Israel, which is an awkward fact but it is a fact. If only we can get that difficulty settled in some way or other and out of the way, what an enormous source of strength would come to us and how much happier and more prosperous would be the whole of the Middle East! I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, however, that it is no good to speak of 382 the matter as though that difficulty were not there and were not a very cogent and real difficulty. I therefore say that we must lend our good offices in every way we can and even spend our money to see if we cannot help to settle some of this refugee problem. But let us at all costs try to see that the source of bitterness between the Arab countries and Israel is ended, and let this Treaty, this happy beginning of a new relationship, as I believe, between Egypt and ourselves, be also the beginning of a happier relationship between Israel and the Arab countries.
Now I have nearly finished what I want to say and I am compressing it into as short a time as possible. The next thing I want to say is something about the Far East. Lord Hore-Belisha made a remarkable speech yesterday, and as I had a small passage of arms with him the other day about some minor Amendments may I say how much I, and indeed the whole House, welcome his incursions into these debates on large topics; he paints so well and he paints on a large canvas. He called attention to the fact that the Geneva Agreement represented a very considerable gain for the Communists. I think that is true. I hope that no one is going to say that France was wrong in concluding that Agreement. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Winster, did not mean that France, in saying that she had not achieved peace with honour, meant that she has in any way sacrificed her honour. After all, we must look at the position. France has been waging this war alone, without any assistance from anybody else, for the last eight years. It has been a terrible drain on her. Her young men have been going out there and dying; her money has been spent on a huge scale out there, and things had gone badly for her. M. Mendès-France was realist enough to recognise those facts and make the best deal he could. I quite agree that it was a bitter price for France to pay—that is what he himself said. If it was a bitter price for France to pay, it is a bitter price for the whole Western world to pay. But I cannot think that those of us who did not go in and help France in her fight have any right to criticise her for having taken these steps to get out of her difficulty. I think mistakes were made.
383 With regard to the Eastern countries I have come to this conclusion: that, as Lord Coleraine said, one must realise that we are now living in a new and different world. I believe the fact that the Labour Government took the course they did just after the war with regard to India, with regard to Pakistan, with regard to Ceylon and with regard to Burma, has been an immense source of strength to us. If we had taken any other line in those countries who knows but that we might have been involved in all sorts of wars and rebellions, all bleeding us to death. Instead of that, we went with prestige high, with full honours, and treated the whole thing as a natural development. I mention those things because I saw in a newspaper yesterday that a lecturer at the Overseas League had been saying with what horror he realised that, in the year after the war, the Labour Party were concerned to give away the Empire. Well, thank God we did! And I hope we shall do the same in Malaya, too, in the near future, following the logical course, so that all over the world we shall add greatly to our credit and, in due course, have these countries as independent members of the Commonwealth. First, it will be necessary to give them some measure of help, some measure of assistance, some measure even of tutelage; but the whole thing must be progressive. That I feel sure is natural and right.
Now we talk about China. I have always believed, and I believe firmly, that China ought to be admitted to a seat at the United Nations. China is one of the original members of the United Nations. China is entitled to a seat. The only question is, who is China? It seems to me—and I think this is true of the majority of my countrymen—not to be a realistic point of view to pretend that China is Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang Kai-shek is not China. Chiang Kai-shek is Formosa—if indeed he is that, which is doubtful. I realise that at the present time, as Lord Winster says, it would be quite impossible to get such a policy over in America. That being so, we must not press it unduly at the present time. Moreover, owing to the situation in Korea, we are still technically at war with Communist China.
384 But I agree with Lord Strang: I never believe in trying to obscure the differences that arise with America. I believe he was right when he said that the right thing to do is to bring those differences out in the open for everyone to see. After all, if two people are going to be friends, surely it is the essence of friendship that they can criticise each other's policies and outlook; otherwise what does friendship mean? I hope that we shall ultimately convince the Americans to our point of view. I realise that that will take time and tact, and will need consideration for each other's point of view. I should like to say one thing more about China. We all saw in the newspapers—I think it was to- day—reports of an address given by President Syngman Rhee. I think that President Syngman Rhee would advocate, here and now, an outright war against Communism. Well, I would not. I am not prepared to fight Communism by force of arms. I am prepared to fight Communist aggression by force of arms, but not Communism. It seems to me foolish to contemplate that you can fight Communism by bombs or guns or anything of that sort, any more than you can fight poliomyelitis by that means.
The way to fight Communism is surely this: by means of proper use of your economic resources to try to lift up the standard of living in those parts of the world where the living is all too low; to try to increase the standard of education; to try to make people realise that life under the Western outlook and régime can be, and is, a life worth living. Of course, that line of attack must always go hand in hand with the other line of attack—namely, that you must be pre-pared, if necessary with your arms, to fight, not Communism but Communist aggression. My Lords, I hope that we shall show that we are fighting Communism by doing everything we can, throughout out our dependencies all over the world, and in other countries too, to try to try to raise the standard of living and to make life for so many people a little happier than it is to-day.
§ 6.4 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, there have been a good many entries for this particular "two-day race." I do not know whether it ought to be described as a Grand International or a Tourist Trophy, but certainly we have 385 had a long and valuable discussion, as was only to be expected in view of the questions of considerable gravity which have been before the House. I do not propose to try to make a further, what I may call, consecutive speech, but to do my best, speaking on this second occasion with the permission of the House, to answer a number of the questions which inevitably have been put in the course of the discussion.
May I deal first with the question which has troubled a certain number of noble Lords in the course of the debate, on the position which I tried to make clear in my original speech regarding the situation if France either rejected or unduly delayed ratifying the E.D.C. Treaty. A number of noble Lords have expressed anxiety in the course of our discussion lest some irrevocable step in regard to the rearmament of Germany should be taken if the French National Assembly failed to ratify the European Defence Community Treaty before it began its Summer Recess. I should like to repeat what I said yesterday on this subject—namely, that if, as Her Majesty's Government certainly hope will not be the case, the French National Assembly should rise without taking a decision on the European Defence Community Treaty, Her Majesty's Government will consult with the other countries concerned, and of course with France and the United States in the first place, about the steps which should be taken to restore sovereignty to the Federal Republic of Germany.
There may be in the minds of some noble Lords some confusion about the relationship between the restoration of sovereignty to the Federal Republic of Germany in certain hypothetical circumstances, and the rearming of Germany. They are two different things. As I tried to explain yesterday, the process of restoring sovereignty before the European Defence Community Treaty is ratified is one thing; but, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in another place on July 14, it is clear that the discussions to which I have referred, if it were necessary to discuss the plan, would necessarily entail the deferment of German rearmament for the time being. Her Majesty's Government, however, remain of the opinion that Western Germany should be enabled as soon as possible to 386 play her proper part, in agreement with other countries, in the defence of the West. I can give your Lordships this assurance, which I think is what the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, and others wanted: that before any Agreement which may become necessary to separate the Bonn Conventions from the European Defence Community Treaty is ratified, Parliament will be given an opportunity to debate the matter. I think that is what the noble and learned Earl wanted to know.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, having dealt, in a way, with that matter, may I also try to elucidate a little further, although possibly not to the entire satisfaction of noble Lords opposite, the question which several noble Lords have put to me on the Egyptian Heads of Agreement concerning the passage of Israeli ships through the Canal. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, first asked the question as to whether these ships were now free to travel through the Canal. They are not. As noble Lords know, the dispute between Egypt and Israel is an international issue, which has in fact been debated many times in the security council and in the General Assembly of the United Nations; and Her Majesty's Government deemed it inappropriate to attempt to deal with this dispute in the Agreement which we have just concluded with Egypt. The late Government decided to deal with this dispute by international action at the United Nations, and Her Majesty's present Government have followed that policy.
Noble Lords will remember that the Security Council in a resolution of 1951 called on Egypt to terminate the restrictions that she had imposed. That resolution still stands and a further resolution on the same subject was vetoed by the Soviet Union in March last. Her Majesty's Government held the view that Egypt was wrong in ignoring the resolution of 1951. The Egyptian Government, as noble Lords will know, based their action on their alleged right under the Suez Canal Convention to take measures for the defence of Egypt; but I would emphasise that measures taken for the defence of Egypt do not affect the 387 general principle of freedom of navigation. The Egyptian restrictions on shipping in the Canal originated in the hostilities between the Arab States and Israel. All Governments who wish the Middle Eastern countries well are ready to do everything in their power to reduce the tension which, as the noble Earl, Lord Jowitt, said, still exists between the Arab States and Israel. Her Majesty's Government feel sure that these Heads of Agreement now concluded with the Egyptian Government will help to reduce that tension and will enable this country, with an increased influence in that part of the world, to counsel wisdom and moderation.
I will continue with other speeches which have been delivered in your Lordships' House, answering the questions which arose in the course of them. The noble Lord, Lord Strang, followed immediately after me, and I propose to embarrass him as so many other noble Lords have done by paying a very sincere compliment to the extreme interest and wide vision of his speech. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, who always enjoys a little dig at the Foreign Office when opportunity offers, said that his impression was that the Foreign Office did not look very far ahead. He then graciously sought to excuse them on the ground that they had a good many other things to do. During the nearly three years that I have had the privilege of serving as Minister in the Foreign Office, my experience has not coincided with the noble Lord's. I have found that, heavy as the pressure of work is, there has always been time—and there have always been people whose explicit business it is to look ahead. Certainly I recall with pleasure numerous occasions on which I attended in the room of the noble Lord, Lord Strang, meetings the sole purpose of which was to consider a particular survey of some area of the world which had been carried out expressly for our consideration, in order that we might not be accused of having failed to look ahead. I hope our future discussions on foreign affairs will again be illumined by contributions from the noble Lord out of his long and valuable experience.
The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, confined himself largely to Egypt and his points have been largely dealt with by my noble friend the Leader of the 388 House. There are one or two points in his speech upon which I should like to take him up. Though the noble Lord asked no particular questions on it, he said, in discussing the settlement (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 189, col. 254):There is no advance towards peace in Korea, and the Communists have gained an appreciable success in South-East Asia.And the noble Lord went on to say:It is not a particularly good moment for subjecting the Western Powers to further criticism such as will certainly come in South-West Asia and in France, and in many other countries, over this new Agreement.I do not share his certainty that that criticism will be likely to come from the quarters to which he refers. I should expect the reverse to be much more likely, that the Agreement will be welcomed in those particular quarters of the world.
The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, asked me a number of questions to which I will endeavour to reply, although the noble Viscount has informed me that, not having realised it was to be a two-day debate, he was unable to be here so late on this particular afternoon. The noble Viscount expressed some fear that if we moved our garrison from the Canal Zone to Cyprus we might be merely solving one problem by creating another; and there have been echoes of the same apprehension from other noble Lords. We must bear in mind that the prospect ahead is not the transfer of the entire garrison which has been occupying the Canal Zone to Cyprus, but will merely include Cyprus in plans for the deployment of troops now stationed in the Canal Zone. The noble Viscount painted a pathetic picture of these men in a position in which they were wanted by nobody, and he suggested we might now reduce our period of National Service and take other steps to deal with that situation and comfort these forlorn and forsaken troops. The majority of these troops will return to this country for the express purpose of enabling us to do what we have long wanted to do, to create a proper strategic reserve. That is, from the military point of view, one of the most valuable results which we hope to get from the arrangement to which we have now come with Egypt. There must be great advantages from the points of view of strategy, economy and the efficiency of the units and the individual soldiers who compose 389 them, when they have been released from the conditions in which they have been serving in the Canal Zone.
§ LORD HANKEY
Was not the Army always in reserve in Egypt? Did we not reinforce Korea repeatedly, when troops had to be sent there, from the Zone? I was there and some of my own regiment, the Royal Marines, were sent out. Did we not reinforce Kenya from this very handy reserve, and has that not always been argued by the military authorities as one of the reasons for holding it—that it was a reserve in a convenient place? I agree it may be useful to redistribute the garrison.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
The fact remains that for some time past now we have been unable to accumulate a strategic reserve, because so long as we were holding that Base on that scale we could not take the men away to any considerable extent. Our primary preoccupation was with Suez. Another great difference from the past is that we can now reinforce rapidly and effectively on a considerable scale by air, and if we have a strategic reserve where the military authorities think it can be best situated, which for the moment is in this country, we are in a position to transport it, in the case of emergency, to whatever part of the world it may be required.
The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, also asked me about a provision in the Heads of Agreement which was causing him some apprehension. I think it need not bother him. With reference to the second of the Heads of Agreement he asked what was the significance of the provision that the two Governments would consult together during the last twelve months of the duration of the Agreement on the arrangements which would be necessary when it came to an end. He seemed to think that there was some hidden "catch" in this provision which would be released at a critical moment. The provision means exactly what it says—no more and no less. It means that during the last year of the agreement, during the seventh year, Her Majesty's Government and the Egyptian Government will consult together, and it will be for them to decide whether it is in their common interest that the Agreement should continue for a further period at the end of the seven years or whether it should come to an end.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, the point at issue is the defence of the Canal; that in 1956 we should discuss how far Egypt is able to take over or assist in the defence of the Canal.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
The 1936 Treaty, I know, dealt with that. What was troubling the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, was the second of these Heads of Agreement. It may be that, in putting the question, he had in mind something in the nature of (I think it is) Article 16, in the 1936 Treaty. All I can say now is that there is no question of continuing beyond the specified period of seven years unless there has been, in the course of the last year of those seven, an agreement between the United Kingdom and the Egyptian Government—
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, I think my noble friend Lord Stansgate had in mind the Article in the 1936 Treaty about the position that would arise in 1956 when the Treaty came to an end. He wanted to make sure that there was no question of the Heads of Agreement being in the same position as that Article, on which I understand there has been a legal dispute as to whether the Treaty would come to an end in 1956 or would stand even if there were not an agreed amendment.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
I am obliged to the noble Lord. I think there was some recollection of that dispute in his mind when the noble Viscount put the question. What I was trying to say is that no such ground for dispute exists in these Heads of Agreement; and this Agreement, of course, will supersede the 1936 Treaty.
The noble Lord, Lord Killearn asked me a question which he had already asked me on a previous occasion and which, in spite of his doubts on the subject, I hope I understood when he first asked it. He asked me, both yesterday and at an earlier date, about the possibility of adapting out direct and indirect obligations under the Suez Canal Convention of 1888 into an effective guarantee of the freedom of navigation of the Canal. The noble Lord will, of course, have it very much in mind that this is not a question Which Her Majesty's Government can decide for themselves. There are a number of other countries involved. If one reads the preamble to 391 the Convention, it reads rather like a pre-1914 Almanac de Gotha. A number of the countries which signed it have disappeared and their places have been taken by others. It is not a question which the Government can decide for themselves. The Suez Canal is an international waterway, and the Suez Canal Convention which regulates it is an international Treaty. Actually, our view is that the provisions of the Convention are still so clear in their expression that there would be little to be gained, and maybe indeed something to be lost, if we set about trying to re-negotiate it to-day. One of the difficulties would be this list of signatories the identity of whom has completely changed.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, I hope I do not spoil the noble Marquess's train of thought by interrupting, but the inherited obligations which were transposed from Turkey will remain as they are now.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
I do not quite follow the noble Lord's point. The Heads of Agreement we are discussing now, apart from one reference to its being a free waterway, do not affect—
§ LORD KILLEARN
The point I make is this. If we are to leave Egypt, what about our guardianship in the second degree, or whatever it is called, which we inherited from Turkey? Shall we just carry on as under the old Treaty? We inherited these rights from Turkey, and now we are going out. What about our guardianship? Do I make the point clear?
THE MARQUESS OF READING
We were never under any obligation under the 1888 Convention to put or keep troops in Egypt. It is true that we inherited the Turkish obligations, but that does not involve us automatically in any duty to put troops in Egypt or maintain them there.
§ LORD KILLEARN
May I, with all respect, refer the noble Marquess to the case which Sir Alexander Cadogan put before the United Nations, in which he made the point that there was an obligation on us to be there? He made it very clearly. I had the volume with me yesterday; I have not got it to-day, but it is available.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
I can tell the noble Lord only what I believe to be the position at this moment. We inherited the obligations which Turkey had under the 1888 Convention, but there was no automatic duty upon us to put troops in Egypt and keep them there. We are under an obligation to bring in troops, if we are called upon to do so by the Egyptians. That is my recollection of how the matter stands—
THE MARQUESS OF READING
Perhaps it would be more convenient if I finished the sentence. That position under the 1888 Convention remains. These Heads of Agreement do not overrule, and do not alter, anything contained in the 1888 Convention.
§ LORD KILLEARN
But surely that is just the point. If we are going to withdraw all our troops under these Heads of Agreement it is quite impossible to carry out the inherited obligations which were Turkey's and are now ours under the 1888 Convention.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
Assuming, for the purpose of the noble Lord's argument, that we are still under obligation (I am not going to argue this point at length this afternoon), we are not going to put the troops we are removing from Egypt either in the Antarctic or at the North Pole. We are putting them in other parts of the Middle East. With today's transportation—
THE MARQUESS OF READING
Possibly if the noble Lord had allowed me to, I could have given him the answer some minutes ago.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear!
THE MARQUESS OF READING
Anyhow, that, I think, is the position, and I hope that that, for the moment, satisfies the noble Lord.
A number of other questions have been raised by noble Lords who have spoken. I remember, in particular, that the noble Lord, Lord Macpherson of Drumochter, at a latish hour last night, turned his and our attention, very properly, to Ethiopia, and inquired about the prospects of a 393 Treaty there. We are anxious—I believe this will give the noble Lord some satisfaction—to conclude with Ethiopia a Treaty of trade and of friendship. We are looking forward with great pleasure to the visit of His Imperial Majesty the Emperor in the autumn. As your Lordships know, he has many friends and admirers awaiting him in this country who made his acquaintance and admired his fortitude in the years of his residence here during the war. A draft of such a Treaty as the noble Lord had in mind is already now being negotiated. But there are, I must admit, certain political and economic problems involved in it which may make it a rather more long-drawn-out process than we should wish, and I cannot give a guarantee that it will be ready before the visit of His Imperial Majesty. But as I say, the Treaty is in negotiation, and we hope that it will be possible to bring it before long to a successful conclusion.
Certain noble Lords argued, both yesterday and to-day, against the European Defence Community. We have had a good deal of discussion on that particular subject in the last two years, and I do not think that the House will expect from me—or would welcome—an attempt to reargue that case; indeed, I think the speeches which have been made in support of the European Defence Community have already achieved the task without any contribution from me.
As to the speeches which have been made to-day, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in a passage to which reference was made by my noble friend Lord Coleraine, said, in dealing with Geneva, that there were three points of satisfaction: that agreement had been arrived at there in the absence of the United States; that we had carried through negotiations without the United States, and in opposition to their wishes, and that the agreement had raised our status in the world as a whole. I only want to say this, as one who was present at Geneva: it is possible to over-emphasise to a remarkable extent the differences which there arose. We were working in constant daily contact with the United States' delegation—and not only in daily contact, but in friendly contact. I think that any attempt to exaggerate the differences, which fluctuations of policy must from time to time introduce, into a triumph on our part 394 over the American delegation at Geneva is not an attitude which is likely to be of permanent service to the relations between the two countries. The noble Lord also said, in his third point, that, as a result of Geneva, he had every hope of successful negotiations in Korea. I made some attempt to deal with the difficulties there yesterday, and I do not propose to go over the ground again.
In speaking of Egypt and these particular Heads of Agreement the noble Lord said that we were making an agreement for the freedom of the Canal. We were making no such agreement. The Convention is there, and has been there since 1888. All we were doing here, as I have said in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, was to re-assert our belief in the value and the principles of that particular Convention. I think that that was the right way to deal with it.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, also put a question with regard to the question of Israel and the raids which have been going on along the Israel-Jordan border, and as to the responsibility which lies upon the Government of this country. He also referred to threatening passages in the speeches of various Arab personalities on the subject of what they intended to do to Israel. I said yesterday—and I will repeat it, if it is any satisfaction to the noble Lord—that Her Majesty's Government stand entirely by the terms of the joint statement which was issued, together with France and the United States, in 1950. As I said yesterday, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has been in touch with both of those countries and has received from them assurances that they equally abide by those terms. These Heads of Agreement that we have now made do not alter the position which is covered by that declaration. The obligations upon this country which it contains stand, and amongst them is the obligation that if the three Governments find that any of the States is preparing to violate frontiers or armistice lines, they will, consistently with their obligations as members of the United Nations, take action both within and outside the United Nations to prevent such violation.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, went on to deal with the question of "peaceful co-existence," and he thought that I had dealt rather harshly with the most recent 395 Soviet Note. I do not want to rebut again the accusation that in using the word "voluminous" I was somehow being offensive to the Soviet Government. What I did say—and I will say it again —is that the Note was in language of unusual asperity. However, that is a criticism of the form of the Note and, as I said, does not mean that we shall not, as I promised we would when I made my speech yesterday, give it careful consideration.
§ LORD SILKIN
I do not want to pursue this point, but I would ask the noble Marquess to look at what is reported in column 230 of yesterday's OFFICIAL REPORT. He may find that he went rather further than he suggests. However, as I say, I do not wish to pursue it unless the noble Marquess wishes to.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
I have no particular desire to pursue it. I merely thought that I was entitled to point out that I did not think I had been so critical or so doctrinaire in my commentary as the noble Lord tried to make out. But let us leave these questions of personal use of phrases out of it and go on to something more substantial.
When the noble Lord was dealing with "peaceful co-existence" I could not help wondering whether he had remembered that the Berlin Conference had ever been held at all. He seemed to be talking as if the situation now was that the whole ground with regard to Germany was completely open to discussion. Again, I am not pre-judging the second Note, but I do want him to remember that all these matters were carefully considered not very long ago. Then the noble Lord went on to say that to talk about the balance of forces, as my noble friend the Leader of the House did, was a counsel of despair. I am bound to say that I should feel much less desperate if I felt that my forces balanced those of the other side than if I felt that the other side's forces greatly exceeded my own. I should have thought that, having started from a situation in which, surely, by all acknowledgment, the Russian forces were considerably larger than our own, it would have been not a counsel of despair but a comfort to the noble Lord to feel that the gap between the size of the forces on the one side and the size of the forces on the other was, by the operation of 396 N.A.T.O. and other means, being rapidly reduced. I do not wish to take up further time arguing that matter.
I do not know that the noble Lord, Lord Winster, in his interesting speech, put to me any particular questions, but he did deal with the question of spheres of influence and the difficulty of preventing by force the spread of Communism in those areas. I would entirely agree that everything possible must be done to counter, by other means than force, the spread of those doctrines in those areas, just as the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, at the end of his speech emphasised what I may call the social and economic aspects of it. With that approach I would entirely agree. The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, asked me a particular question which he thought I should probably not answer. The noble and learned Earl is always intelligent in his anticipations as in everything else, and as regards Trieste I would prefer at this moment, for obvious reasons, to say no more than that negotiations are proceeding; and the House hopes, I have no doubt, that they will come to a successful end. The noble and learned Earl dealt with a good many other matters with which at this moment I think I had better not begin to deal. He asked me, in particular, about the opportunities which Parliament would have of discussing the E.D.C. arrangement, but that point I think I answered at the outset. I am personally grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, as I am on repeated occasions, for raising these debates and for presenting with so much clarity the situation as it seems to him. I am always grateful to find that the situation as it appears to him differs so little from the situation as it appears to me.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, I am going to take only two or three minutes before I ask the leave of the House to withdraw my Motion. First, I should like to express to the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, the apology of my noble and learned Leader who could not sit throughout the noble Marquess's reply because of a personal engagement. Since the noble Lord, Lord Strang, made his speech, every speaker has referred to it, and because of my long personal association with him I should regret it if I 397 did not take this opportunity at the end of the debate to pay a personal tribute to him. I think noble Lords will agree that it was a remarkable maiden speech. It has been referred to either approvingly or with hints of a desire to criticise if it had been appropriate to do so. I think, that is the test of the impact which the noble Lord has made with his maiden speech. He will understand me if I say that his personal Parliamentary success would have given great joy to one who is not here.
I should like to thank the noble Marquess for the assurance which he gave with regard to E.D.C. I was disappointed at what he had to say about the freedom of navigation of the Canal. The breaches which are being made by the Egyptian Government are having a serious effect upon the life of Israel. I should have thought that in the reaffirmation by the two Governments of the Convention of 1888, there would have been some opportunity to secure or to influence the Egyptian Government to call off the violations. The noble Marquess said that Her Majesty's Government would counsel wisdom and moderation. I would only say that I think many people will be surprised that, at the moment we are recognising the full independence and national traditions of Egypt, Egypt is not reciprocating in the same way as regards Israel. I hope that, despite the fact that the matter could not be dealt with, as the noble Marquess says, between the two Governments, some means will be found of bringing about the reopening of the Canal to Israeli shipping.
There was one other point with which I had intended to deal—namely, some misapprehensions on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, regarding the early portion of my speech. Fortunately for me, and without my foreknowledge, my noble friend Lord Silkin covered the point effectively, and I do not feel that I need take any more of your Lordships' time by dealing with it myself. Having said that, I think we shall all agree that it has been a remarkable debate. I opened the debate with a sentence that I felt sure that many noble Lords would be glad of the opportunity of discussing international affairs. I did not realise how many noble Lords would be interested in it. We have 398 had a very interesting debate, covering many important subjects. It was particularly timely to have had it on these two days, in view of the fact that your Lordships' House is dispersing to-morrow for the Summer Recess. With those few words, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.