HL Deb 15 December 1955 vol 195 cc205-54

4.9 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I know that all your Lordships are anxious to hear the next speaker, and I promise not to stand between him and your Lordships for more than a few minutes, but I want to say that I regard this situation as one of the utmost possible gravity. Fortunately, peace has been made in other parts of the world; but here peace hangs by a thread, and I think that thread is being worn almost every day. If war breaks out and it is possible to tell who is the aggressor, we are committed to take part and we shall have to honour that obligation. I warn your Lordships that there will be many people who, if their sons and children have to go to fight, will say, "What concern is this of ours?" Therefore, it is profoundly important for us that war shall not break out. My Lords, I am bound to say that I have never been more anxious over a situation than I am about this situation at the present time. I have no solution; I see no solution in the offing.

The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, said that the Arabs had got to the state of mind where they were beginning to negotiate. Let us be realists about this. They are prepared to negotiate on terms which I understand are absolutely impossible for the other side to accept. Israel is a small country of some 8,000 square miles. She is surrounded by neighbours who have an area 200 times larger than hers and a population some twenty times greater. If it is to be suggested that a solution of this problem lies in taking from Israel something like one-third of its area and giving that territory to the Arab States—and that is what would be involved by acceptance of the 1947 provisions—I can tell your Lordships that it is an impossible solution. Israel would never tolerate that solution and would fight against it to the very end. I am sorry to say, therefore, that I see no break at all in the gloom at the present time.

That being so, what steps can we take at present to try to prevent the outbreak of a war which would have such frightful consequences? As the noble Marquess asked, who can say how and to what extent war will go if it breaks out? Talk about taking a lighted match into a powder magazine! It is obviously a terribly dangerous situation on which I beg your Lordships to think. Heretofore our attitude has been this. We have supplied arms to Egypt to maintain an equilibrium, knowing full well that if one side or the other is likely to have a great preponderance of arms the risk of war is increased. It was right to supply arms equally to both sides under the old conditions; but now Russia has come in. We can disregard altogether this nonsense about a "commercial agreement." for she is obviously doing what she is concerned to do at present, making mischief where she can, fishing in troubled waters and trying to bring about a disturbance. That is the plain fact. In those circumstances she is supplying arms to one of the participants. Egypt. That being so, is it right that we should continue any longer on the old basis of supplying arms to maintain an equilibrium?

I particularly address my appeal to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House. If one wishes to maintain an equilibrium to-day, believing, as we have always believed, that that is the best hope we have of preventing an outbreak of war, can we disregard the fact that Egypt is now getting arms from another source? To maintain the equilibrium, must we not compensate for that fact in our supplies to Israel? The Prime Minister was asked this specific question and his answer struck me as so unsatisfactory that I mention it to your Lordships so that the Leader of the House may deal with it. The Prime Minister said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 546 (No. 59). col. 1264]: I do not think Her Majesty's Government can be blamed, if, with their Allies, they have sought to pursue a balance in the delivery of arms and then another great Power, regardless, I think, of responsibilities, steps in and supplies large quantities to one side.


Will the noble and learned Earl tell me where he is reading from?


From Hansard for November 22, 1955. That was in answer to a question whether, in view of Russian arms supplies to Egypt, we were going to step up supplies of arms to Israel. It is really no answer at all. I am not concerned here to blame Her Majesty's Government. In our time and up to this day we have had a frightfully difficult problem for which, at the present time, I see no solution at all. I regard this provision of arms as merely a method, inadequate but perhaps the best, of trying to preserve peace until, in process of time, wiser counsels prevail on both sides; but I cannot see what sense there is in continuing to supply arms to Egypt when it is known that she is already getting vast supplies of arms from another source. If we want to maintain an equilibrium such as we have had heretofore we must surely pay regard to the circumstance that Egypt is now getting arms from Russia. I hope that the noble Marquis will deal with that specific point when he comes to reply.

I maintain that it is of vital importance to everyone that war should not break out. There we all agree; it is manifest. At present I see no prospect of a peaceful settlement. We can only try to bring about the absence of war. Heretofore we have tried, and I believe wisely, to prevent a war from breaking out by ensuring that one side did not have an arms preponderance over the other. Now that Egypt is to have this supply of arms from Russia, must we not, for the reasons which I have indicated, adjust our position? An equilibrium cannot be maintained by disregarding the new situation. That is the single point I want to raise. I have raised it as forcibly as I can because I believe that at this time we are all confronted with a frightful problem which may bring about shattering disaster to the whole world.


My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Earl one question? I agree with him that it is a very difficult point. Is he advocating that Her Majesty's Government should cease to supply arms to Egypt, or should step up the supply of arms to Israel? It is not quite the same thing.


My Lords, I do not really mind which way it is done.


But it makes a lot of difference.


Let it be whichever may be the right way. I want to ensure that there is an equilibrium, and I ask Her Majesty's Government to bear in mind, in that regard, the fact that Egypt is now getting arms from another source.


My Lords, would the noble and learned Earl go on stepping up deliveries of arms to maintain the equilibrium to whatever level it was raised? Is that his suggestion?


Yes; I do not see what else we can do. I think that an arms race is deplorable, but, on the other hand, knowing what we do of the situation in that part of the world, I believe that if one side manifestly has a preponderance of arms, the result may be to start a war in which, sooner or later, we may be concerned.


Having had some experience and knowledge of those parts of the world, might I ask the noble and learned Earl this question? Should he not give his mind to the fact that the more you step up the arms supply to either side, the more likelihood there is of war breaking gut? As I understand his suggestion, he would be prepared to put no limit on the amount of arms given to either side.


My Lords, I agree. I wish to God neither had any arms! I suggested a year ago that neither side should be supplied with arms. Send them tractors and similar things. I would answer the noble Earl, Lord Winterton, by saying that what has revolutionised the whole situation is this Russian supply of arms. That is the trouble, and, whether we like it or not, Egypt is getting arms from Russia now. That is the situation which we have realistically to face if we want to prevent war from breaking out.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, the grave and statesmanlike intervention of the noble and learned Earl makes us feel how much it s a matter of regret, not only for his own Party but for the whole House, that this is one of the last occasions on which we shall hear him as the Leader of his Party. Hi; great record in this House, however, leads us to hope that he will contribute many more speeches here, to the enlightenment of your Lordships. We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for giving us the opportunity of making ale of the periodic reviews which it is the custom of your Lordships to make of the progress of our foreign affairs. If this debate has any essential purpose, I imagine that it is to enable us to strike a balance of the strategic advantages and disadvantages which have accrued since our evacuation of Suez. That was a sad but inevitable milestone in history. Less than a year ago, I was watching the exodus with some emotion at the ending of an association which reflected great honour on this county.

On the debit side of this balance sheet, I imagine that all of us would agree in patting Cyprus. Its substitution for Egypt as a base has not so far been of great usefulness. The question of self-determination presents itself. It was inevitable, in view of the speed with which we had to leave the Canal Zone and make far-reaching rearrangements, that our attitude towards that principle, which has been adopted as a guiding principle in our Commonwealth, was fogged. But the principle has now been clearly re-enunciated. In those circumstances, it is useless to inquire whether it is correctly applicable or not; it is now accepted. It becomes all the more tragic that there should be a continuation of these incidents which impose upon our soldiers a painful and, normally, inappropriate duty and which exhibit them in a distorted light to the world. It is tragic also that those who, have influence in these matters should permit and encourage the youth of Cyprus to be coarsened and brutalised. Therefore the sooner this state of affairs can be brought to an end the better and the happier we all shall be.

Another question that arises is whether our present responsbility for a military base in the Middle East should continue to be borne by Britain alone. I permit myself to quote what I ventured to say when the question was posed as to what we should do for a base when we evacuated Egypt. The debate in which I spoke took place in your Lordships' House on July 28, 1954. It was about the heads of our agreement with Egypt, and I quote these words only because I think that events have stressed their validity. I said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 189, col. 265]: So I think that the Government have taken the right decision, in the circumstances. But I hope that we are not going to move out one 'frying-pan' into another. I personally think that the age in which individual countries can have bases in other countries by a bilateral arrangement is passing. The positions in the Middle East are the right flank of N.A.T.O. Any base which we occupy should be occupied on behalf of N.A.T.O. That would soften any acerbity or suspicions which might be aroused among the local populations, wherever the base may be, whether in Cyrenaica, Jordan or even Cyprus; it does not matter. If we are acting on behalf of a community of free nations, we remove doubts, suspicions and unfriendliness. I hope that means will be taken to secure this. The advantage of acting on behalf of a community of nations is that the expense is shared and much more can he done for the local populations. I still think that the principle which I enunciated then is valid in the modern world. We should not be incurring the hostility or bitterness of anyone if we could act in conjunction with the other Powers with whom we are associated in the selection and maintenance of any base. Whether or not Cyprus is a correct place for a base or military headquarters I have always thought to be questionable. A base, placed there, is within a confined space; and it is exposed. There is a lack of deep water harbours and of extensive airfields. The best location for a base would be a matter for discussion and settlement, under the conditions which I advocate, by the Western Allies as a whole. Another advantage which would come from regarding this as a collective responsibility would be that we should the more quickly bring about a rapprochement between the Turks and the Greeks, whose relations have been injured by these events, to the detriment of the Balkan Pact and, consequentially, of N.A.T.O. I only venture to suggest to Her Majesty's Government once again that this question when it comes up for review—as it is, indeed, under review in Paris at this moment—should be considered in the light of collective responsibility. So much for the debit side—and there is no merit in obscuring it.

On the credit side, we have the conclusion of the Agreement between Turkey and Iraq which has grown into the Baghdad Pact. To the original Pact Pakistan and Iran have successively adhered, and it is buttressed by Britain. Unfortunately, it is not also buttressed by the United States. One of the weaknesses in our confrontation of Russia is the absence of a united policy at all important points between the United States and ourselves. I hope, however, that that is a defect which can be remedied.

The Baghdad Pact stretches the line of defence from Istanbul to Karachi, from the Golden Horn to the Hindu Kush, a distance of 2.500 or 3.000 miles along the Russian frontier. Those who instigated the Pact cannot be surprised if the Russians regard that as a military arrangement—indeed, the Pact was expressed to be a military pact for defence. Therefore, we should not be surprised at the Russian riposte. They have leap-frogged this line of defence and supplied arms, through the agency of Czechoslovakia, to Egypt, and offered to supply them to Saudi Arabia and Syria. Those three latter Powers, for entirely different reasons, have formed a counter-alliance against this Pact. That again is not astonishing. The old differences between the settled populations of the Nile and the settled populations of the Tigris and the Euphrates have never completely disappeared. The controversy between the Hashimites and the Saudists is still alive, and the Egyptians, the Saudi Arabians and the Syrians could hardly be expected to accept the military leadership of the Iraqi, although I hope that the day will come when feelings will be different.

So we have these two groupings ranged one against the other. That is because the Baghdad Pact, from the beginning, was presented by its sponsors—not Britain—as a military arrangement. The effects upon Israel have already been described, and I do not intend to travel again over the ground which has been covered by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, who opened the discussion so persuasively, and by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt. What effect was this Pact supposed to have upon Israel? The Prime Minister, when he was Foreign Secretary, in announcing the adhesion of Britain to the Turco-Iraqi Pact, as it then was, produced a powerful argument to reconcile Israel to the new arrangement. I am quoting from what he said in another place, as reported in the Manchester Guardian of March 31 of this year. He said that: It was a desirable development from Israel's point of view because for the first time an Arab State was looking in other directions than simply towards Israel. That, the Prime Minister claimed, was a development of real importance. So it is; and if comfort is to be derived from the certitude that this Pact can never be used against Israel, it is to be derived from the association of Britain with it. Britain recognises Israel, as Turkey does, and neither of these Powers—certainly not Britain—would be likely to enter into any concerted arrangement by members of the Pact directed against Israel.

However, that does not prevent the individual Powers, outside the Pact and of their own motion, taking such steps as they will with any arms that may be available to them. The adherence of Britain must be a reassurance to Israel, rather than the reverse, although, as I say, and as I think your Lordships will agree, Britain's adherence does not exclude the possibility of conflict between the Powers operating individually or as members of the Arab League. The Prime Minister, directing his mind to answering the question of whether Israel could join the Pact, excused himself from answering the question at that moment, but agreed there was no doubt tat the most important objective for the Government in the Middle East was to bring about a settlement between Israel and the Arab States.

Then followed the important words: Unless we could do that"— that is to say, bring about a settlement between the Aral; s and the Israelis— there could be no lasting solidity behind the 'northern tier' defence arrangements, good as they were in themselves. I think that that expression of view by Her Majesty's Government that without a settlement with Israel the northern tier cannot be regarded as in any lasting respect effective, is significant and helpful to Israel. If it defines our policy (the noble Marquess will doubtless tell the House this afternoon whether it still does, and I have no reason to doubt that it does), then, if it is a matter of primary importance to make the Pact work it becomes vital in the eyes of Her Majesty's Government to forge the missing link between Israel and the Arab nations. From this point of view, the speech made by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, this afternoon was of the highest significance, if I understood him at one point to adumbrate the hope that such a settlement could be brought about, although he did not commit himself in any specific way. Certainly a year ago the omens were favourable, but they have become less favourable, I should have thought, as a result of the context in which this Pact has been presented —not, as I say. by Britain but by the Powers concerned.


My Lords, if the noble Lord is quoting me, what I said was that the omens at the moment are not propitious.


I was not purporting to quote he noble Marquess, but if I was interpreting him erroneously, I apologise. At all events, a year ago—I make this statement on my own responsibility—the omens were much more favourable than they appear to be at the moment. The speech of the Prime Minister at the Guildhall—I do not think it was intended—was interpreted as meaning that, following upon this Russian intervention and giving of arms to Egypt. Israel was being told to enter into a negotiation committed in advance to make surrenders of territory. If Israel were to enter into an undertaking to make a concession on her frontiers in advance, she would be sacrificing the security which she obtains from the three-Power guarantee, because the three-Power guarantee assures her of the maintenance of her frontiers with the assistance of Britain, the United States and France. However, efforts have been made to dispel that misunderstanding.

It all adds up to this: that the troubles with which we are now confronted ensue from the military aspects of this Pact. What kind of war the next war is going to be—if there is going to be a next war—none of us can predict; but one fact is certain. Should the vital interests which subsist in the Middle East be attacked by Russia, every means will be employed on the most massive scale to defeat the Russian object. In the gust of such a tornado the Iraq levies and the Arab Legion would be as chaff before the wind; there is not enough military strength in these local armies to withstand the Russian forces. In the last war, when the Russians were on our side, we had a base at Basra and six divisions. Then the Germans would have had to come hundreds of miles to get anywhere near our vital interests. Consequently, I think that Mr. Macmillan was right—and Sir Anthony Eden has also taken this line—in putting the military aspects of the Pact into a secondary position and stressing the economic aspects.

It was to those aspects that the noble Lord who opened this discussion drew some detailed attention, and the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, followed the example. It is upon the economic side that our best hope lies. While we do not know what kind of a war the next war will be, we do know what kind of a war we are waging to-day; it is a war being fought in terms of political ideas and economic projects. In the political sphere nothing like enough credit has been given to Britain for the wholeheartedness with which she has helped to lay the foundations of the new age. It is not only what we have done for India, Burma and the Gold Coast, but everywhere our writ runs we have adopted the most enlightened policies; our achievements should be a sufficient counter to the political ideology of Russia. But these achievements must be made more widely known.

In the economic sphere Russia cannot compete with our contribution towards prosperity in the Middle East; she cannot come anywhere near to that contribution. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, spoke of the oil. These countries of the Middle East depend now entirely upon their oil for their Budgets, and also for their capital projects. To take Iraq (I hesitate to speak in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Salter, who has been giving such helpful advice to the Government there) I believe the oil revenue is £70 million a year, of which 70 per cent. goes into capital construction and 30 per cent. to the Budget, and that 30 per cent. is in excess of all the other taxation of Iraq. Am I right?




I am glad to have the noble Lord's confirmation. The whole stability of the Middle East—and in other countries the same principles apply, though not to the same extent—depends upon a largely British contribution, not sufficiently well known, as the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, said. The improving medical standards, the fighting of disease, the housing, the general amenities of these countries and the stages by which they are rising in their standards of life and opportunity are due to Britain. What is a technical institute promised by Russia to Burma, or an oil refinery promised by Russia to Syria—a country which has not any oil—in the scale against what Britain and British companies have actually made available in enlightened assistance to these countries? The word "arms" ["alms"] is sometimes spelt with an "r" and sometimes with an "I"; but whether it be spelt with an "r" or an "I" it is bound to produce barren results in the long run. It is the constructive economic contribution, which we have made and are making, which will bring prosperity and stability to the Middle East and justify the great services which, under the auspices of successive Governments in Britain, we have rendered in this area.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, I want to confine myself to a few remarks on the question of the Israel-Arab dispute. It is unfair, surely, to expect this country to accept blame and responsibility for the unhappy state of affairs which exists. When we were responsible under the Mandate for the administration of Palestine every method, including violence, was used to secure the ending of that administration. The same thing happened in Egypt. Responsibility for the existing state of affairs, therefore, must rest primarily upon the Jewish and the Egyptian peoples; and they cannot evade responsibility by abuse of this country. While we should be ready to use our good offices, either alone or in conjunction with the United States and France, or through the United Nations, it must be clear that a constructive effort in a spirit of realism is necessary from the countries primarily concerned. It is apparently too much to expect at this stage that they should immediately get down to a discussion among themselves, and the most fruitful method Of approach, therefore, would appear to be separate discussions between British and American representatives with the countries of the Arab League and with Israel. As a result of these separate discussions it might be possible—and I think it was of some such line of approach that the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, may have been thinking when he spoke of a glimmer of light—by separate negotiations with the Arab League and with Israel, to evolve a settlement which would be accepted, if not welcomed, by both sides.

Having said that, I want to point out a danger into which, in these days, I think we too readily and too often fall: that of trying to underwrite the status quo. I hope I shall not be misunderstood. So much suspicion exists to-day that minds are closed to reason, but I think this should be said. The world is a dynamic and not a static world. There never was a time when more rapid changes were taking place. Least of all, should complaint be made on this score by those countries of the Arab world which were considered poor but which, for the most part, to-day command natural resources which must transforms their future. The possibilities of development for them through the use of atomic energy are also vast.

The purpose of the establishment of the international Organisation of the United Nations was not to maintain the status quo of the world, or even to assure that national frontiers should for ever be inviolate: the purpose of that Organisation was to assure the possibility of peaceful change, of change by negotiation, with a minimum of hardship and without the tragedy and loss of war. It was to import into the international field the principle of discussion and settlement analogous to the commercial principles observed by developed nations. In passing, I think we might say a word of welcome to-day to those new countries which have been admitted to membership of the United Nations, amongst which Jordan, one of the countries particularly concerned in this dispute, is included. In my view, therefore, it is not desirable, except as a temporary measure, either for a particular member of the United Nations or for the United Nations itself to enter into guarantees of the status quo in relation to frontiers or other questions which are in dispute to between peoples. It is the overriding good of all concerned or, if this is too much to expect, the minimum of detriment and disaster arising from any particular situation that should be the purpose of discussion and agreement.

I should therefore like to see discussed first the problem of the million Arab refugees displaced from their homes in Palestine, Their bitterness can be understood, but their return to their own homes cannot be secured without involving them and others in additional misery. A solution has to be found—if not the one most desired, at least one which is as acceptable as may be. With all the good will in this country, of America, or of the United Nations, this is not possible without some co-operation from the Arab countries. From talks with their representatives I believe that direct discussions between them and the representatives of this country and America could be fruitful. I think that the discussions should first be confined, as I have said, to this problem of refugees. In the atmosphere of greater good will, which the removal of this sore would bring about, then it should not be outside the will of intelligent men to reach a practical solution of the other matters in dispute. I say "intelligent men" advisedly, for of all those with whom I have had the pleasure of discussion, both from the Arab League and from Israel, I can say I could not wish to meet men who are more intelligent individually. If determination to settle the matter is added to intelligence, I am sure that a solution can be found.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, speaking in another place on Monday the Foreign Secretary said that the struggle for power is transferred to the Middle East. I understand that Cyprus is the base from which Middle East planning is done, and therefore to debate tree Middle East without reference to Cyprus would be like eating a yolkless egg. With your Lordships' permission, I propose to say something about Cyprus. I have not spoken on that subject or referred to it in your Lordships' House since, some considerable time ago, I initiated a debate on it and endeavoured to sound a mild note of warning, in which I was supported by my noble friends Lord Ogmore and Lore Listowel. Looking back, I feel even more surprised to-day than I did at the time that nobody from the Conservative Benches took part in that debate—none of them had anything to suggest on the question which I thought was looming up foreshadowing considerable difficulties.

There are two short quotations from the debate in another place which I should like to read. The Foreign Secretary said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 547 (No. 73), col. 839]: Recent events have made us more conscious than ever of the need for rapid agreement. It is quite true that the Foreign Secretary was using those words in another connection, but they are just as applicable to Cyprus as they were to the region of which he was speaking. In the same debate Mr. Morrison used these words (col. 846): … the more depressed about the policy of the Government I became; the more did it seem that the Government have drifted into an unfortunate position out of which they do not know how to emerge. Those words, again, were used in another connection, but no words could be more applicable to the situation in Cyprus to-day. Indeed, the Government have drifted into a most disastrous position, and I think certain members of the Government, past and present, have a good deal to answer for on that score.

It is within my recollection that the present Prime Minister, when he was Foreign Secretary, felt unable, even in an informal and friendly manner, to discuss the matter with the then Greek Prime Minister, which I think was unfortunate. Then the Under-Secretary of the Colonial Office used the unfortunate word "never" in referring to self-determination for Cyprus. He does not appear to know that that is a word which a clever woman never uses. She uses instead the sweetest word in the English language, "perhaps." Then the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, when Colonial Secretary, referred to Greece, an ally in N.A.T.O., as an unstable country. Utterances of that sort, and actions of that sort, were not calculated to make the solution of the Cyprus problem any easier. The other day the Governor was changed, and I confess that I felt a little uneasiness about the change—I need hardly say that my uneasiness had no reference to the character and qualities of Sir John Harding, whose career and personality we all greatly admire.

But what was in my mind was this. When the Central African Federation Act became law the Government sent out to Salisbury to initiate that great change, which had in it the possibilities of certain difficulties and which looked as if it might be a little "tricky" at the time, a Member of your Lordships' House, the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin. He is well known to all who have had any contact with him as a most conciliatory and sensible type of man, with great experience in the arts of government, and he is also in the confidence of the Government. Following upon the abortive conference on Cyprus in London, I felt that if a change of Governor was to be made, similarly a political appointment of a man possessing the qualifications and qualities of the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, might well have been made. I should have liked it for this reason: that such an appointment, following the abortive conference, would have been an indication that the Government still regarded the problem of Cyprus as a political problem, to be solved by methods of negotiation and conciliation, whereas the appointment of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff could be interpreted in the minds of the Cypriots only as a transfer of the problem from the political to the military sphere. I am afraid that that impression undoubtedly was created there.

I spoke about the word "never" having been used in connection with Cyprus. We have now got rid of the word "never"; that has gone, but only, I fear, to be replaced by something possibly worse, because "never" has been transformed into "some time, and under conditions." I assure your Lordships that such a phrase implying that Cyprus shall have self-determination "some time and under conditions" is likely to get us nowhere. If we study the consistent statements which Archbishop Makarios has made on the subject of self-determination, do we really expect him to accept that phrase "some time and under conditions"? I am afraid that it is more likely to exacerbate than to assuage the feelings which prevail at the present moment.

May I here utter one word of caution? I have heard it said, and I think there is a fairly widespread idea about, that the influence of the Archbishop may be waning and that possibly other forces in the background are rather taking his place. Believe me, since the Archbishop possesses the power of excommunication amongst a deeply religious population, I see little chance that the Archbishop will become a waning force. But one thing emerges from this phrase "some time and under conditions." I am rather surprised that it has not attracted more attention than it has. We have now granted to Cyprus the right of self-determination. It is there on record; we have conceded the point that Cyprus shall have self-determination. So that, by our own undertaking, the days of our rule in Cyprus are to end unless possibly, in the passage of time, the Cypriots, in the exercise of their right of self-determination, ask us to remain. But the principle has been granted, and in due course, in the words of the Foreign Secretary, Cyprus will follow India, Bengal, Ceylon and so, on, in exercising self-determination. What has not been sufficiently emphasised is that the principle has been granted; that there is no escaping from the fact that at some time Cyprus will exercise self-determination and that our rule there is likely to terminate. It is only a question of when and how. In the circumstances the sooner that "how" and "when" are settled, the better. Unless they are settled, we shall drift along, as we are at present, with another Malaya and another Kenya on our hands.

The situation, when analysed, is that the Cypriots are carrying on a guerrilla war in order to obtain something which we have granted in principle. We continue to fight to resist this war which the Cypriots are carrying on against us, although we have granted the principle for which they are fighting. I am told that we are fighting to restore law and order. I see the force of that remark, but I am quite sure that we shall achieve the restoration of law and order far more quickly by clothing the principle we have already granted in a solid framework, having regard to "when" and "how." We shall settle it much sooner that way than we shall by a continuance of the fighting. Let us settle "how" and "when" without any more delay than is absolutely necessary. Let us bring those words to a point and not leave them vague. So long as they continue vague, as they are al the present moment, disorder and outrage will certainly continue.

What are we to do? I say: Let as bring those words to a point. But I should not like to say that without trying to make some suggestion on those lines. Would it be possible, for instance, to propose to the Archbishop that a Constituent Assembly should be convened; that a Constitution on the lines of that already offered should be worked out; that Cyprus should then work that Constitution for a period of years and, at the expiration of what was considered a reasonable period of years—three, four, five, whatever might be thought acceptable—she should proceed to the further stage of self-government, excluding foreign affairs and internal security, on which I understand there is no difference of opinion between us and the Archbishop and others who are working with him. I think they would accept the exclusion of those matters and work self-government for such further period of years as proved acceptable. At the end of those two periods, a period of working the Constitution and a period of setting up a Government in Cyprus and working self-government there, it seems to me that we could settle the question of self-determination between the British Government and a Cypriot Government. There would then be two Governments who could meet and discuss and negotiate these questions of when and exactly how Cyprus was to be granted self-determination.

Amongst other advantages I see is one which 1 think is important. It has to be remembered that the Cypriots, in all their long history, have never governed themselves. They have no experience whatsoever of working a Constitution or of self-government. The consequence is that they do not know one great truth, which is that politics is the art of what is possible. They have no conception of the arts or technique of government, but with two periods such as I have suggested, one of working a Constitution with a Legislative Assembly and one of working self-government, they would gain valuable experience and great knowledge which at the present moment they do not possess. They would then be in a position to determine their future and the form that self-determination should take.

If we were to give them self-determination to-morrow, we should be giving it to people who are politically quite unfitted, through no fault of their own but through the accident of history, to decide such vital questions as what form their self-determination should take and how it should come about. Of course, at the end of such a period, and with such experience as I have indicated, the Cypriots might have arrived at quite different views as to what form their self-determination should take from the view they hold to-day. To-day, their only view on the idea of self-determination is that they should be united with Greece. With such experience as they would gain under my proposal, they would be far more fitted than they are to-day to decide what their future would be. I remember mentioning, in the debate of which I have spoken, that it was always a matter of great regret to me that young Cypriots, radiating intelligence and so on, had no wish but to exchange King Log for King Stork. The idea of the joys and the pains of running their own country seemed never to occur to them.

I know that two objections will be raised. The first is, that I am proposing a delay of some considerable time; and the second is: where do the Turks come in, in all this? I recognise the force of those two arguments, but my reply is that, for a country which has never governed itself, the further period of time which I propose before it exercises self-determination is not really very long in the history of Cyprus. Against the background of its history, a further period of some years before actually achieving the self-determination they have never yet had is not very long. I am susceptible to the argument with regard to the Turks, because I remember with great pleasure the complete loyalty of the Turks in Cyprus and the support which their leaders always gave to the work of the administration of the island. One of my happiest recollections is that I was able to do something to improve the general status of the Turks. Perhaps through faulty leadership, they had fallen into a state of apathy, frustration and despair, and I was able to do something to improve their lot. But on this question of the Turks, remember that in such a Legislative Assembly or under self-government there would be time and a much more favourable climate and situation in which to work out the question of the Turkish minority in Cyprus. Settle it to-day under these conditions, and you settle it under unhappy conditions, but when the question is threshed out in a Legislative Assembly and discussed again under self-government, I think there is very little doubt indeed that a solution satisfactory to the Turks could be achieved.

No doubt my offer is open to many severe criticisms; but I claim that it is a fair offer: it is offering the Cypriots what Cyprus has been agitating and fighting for for some time. I think it would be difficult for the Greek Government to raise objections, and I think also that it would be difficult for the Archbishop to reject it entirely or out of hand. He has been the spearhead of the agitation in Cyprus for self-determination, and when he gets a firm offer of self-determination (which he has now got—he has achieved in principle what he has been fighting for, the right of Cyprus to self-determination) and a fair proposal about the "how" and the "when" of the business. I think it will be difficult for him to refuse it absolutely or out of hand. I put forward this proposal with great earnestness and I hope that it may be given full consideration.

When speaking on the Motion to which I have already referred, I said that very few days went by upon which I did not think about Cyprus and try to work out some solution. I have a deep affection for this land and for the people, and inevitably, having been concerned with trying to effect a settlement, I feel a sense of responsibility to go on and again try to think of a solution. The news which has been coming in from Cyprus has filled me, as I am sure it has all your Lordships, with deep sadness. When I was in the island I was told that it was a land in which no Briton had ever been murdered. That is a remarkable record. How unhappy is the contrast to-day! With what pain does one read, not only of our own men being shot, but of a Greek woman being killed and her daughter of ten being wounded in a hold-up at a road block. When I think of these things I must say how futile the last debate on Cyprus in another place seems to me—when the principle of self-determination was conceded, but not one word was said about the conditions under which it could be achieved with us. A Cypriot thoroughly acquainted with the situation, thoroughly friendly to us, wrote this to me about the debate. He said: It did not seem to solve anything. The summing up was glib and rather planless. An air of authority without knowing very much—a little obstinate. If that is thought by a good friend of ours, I wonder what was the reaction in Cyprus to that debate.

I beg the Government, having grasped the nettle of "Never," having conceded self-determination, to get off the dead centre of "Some time and under conditions," and to consider, amongst other things, such a proposal as I have ventured to put forward. I deplore our present policy, or lack of policy, which alienates our friends. For instance, I read with the deepest regret of the resignation from the Executive Council of Sir Paul Parlider. He was serving on the Executive Council when I was in the island, and I remember him as most helpful on the Council and thoroughly well disposed to us. He incurred great odium because he was a member of the Executive Council, and when I read of his resignation I thought it was a very bad omen indeed. Knowing the man, I can quite understand what pain and grief it caused him to break with us.

But this lack of policy tends also to break down the alliance between Greece and Turkey. It gets us nowhere; it is a negative policy. The outward signs of it are, suppressing national aspirations such as we have yielded to in other parts of the world. There are murders, outrages of all sorts, emergency proclamations which lay down completely new forms of punishment, such as whippings, collective fines and deportations. It is not a happy picture. Another feature of it is that up to now the Greek Cypriots have said nothing hostile about the Turkish Cypriots. In spite of all the trouble, open hostility or harsh words have not broken out. The Archbishop has said that if the island achieves self-determination there shall be full guarantees for the Turks. But the more delay there is, the more will be the likelihood of open hostility breaking out between the Greek and the Turkish Cypriots.

My Lords, I have kept quiet for a long time on this subject because, quite sincerely, my only wish has been to help the Government and to help the Governor of the day in a difficult time, and also because I have been thinking that, sooner or later, Her Majesty's Government were bound to come out with a plan. I speak now only because, though self-determination has been conceded, I am convinced that trouble will not cease until time and method are defined. We can but gain in the eyes of the world, and we shall gain valuable friends, if we now take upon ourselves the mantle of decision and reduce our vague concession to concrete terms. It is with those feelings very deeply implanted in my mind that I have spoken this afternoon, and I hope that we may hear from the noble Marquess who is to reply in this debate that Government policy is not so barren and vague as it appears to the outside world and to the lay eye; and that, in fact, Her Majesty's Government have plans in their mind and, above all, have determination, now that the principle of self-determination has been conceded, that "How" and "When" shall be decided with the least possible delay.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, one of the disadvantages of speaking a little late in a debate of this kind is that it is hard to avoid a good deal of repetition; but I will do my best to be brief and to confine what I have to say to my personal experience of six of the eight countries which have been mentioned so far in the debate this afternoon. My experience of them covered about two years, not just flying visits such as are sometimes indulged in by important personages who fly to a place to attend a conference and then fly back again. I spent some time in Palestine, Egypt, Syria, the Lebanon, Cyprus and Greece. I believe that when formulating policy, or even when giving one's views, it is important that a person should know something of the people with whom he is dealing, and what sort of people they are. Otherwise he may make a fundamental mistake. A little later on I will mention some of the misconceptions which arise to-day, in discussing these particular countries, through lack of knowledge of the people themselves—their political leaders may not always be quite typical of them either.

The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, mentioned the danger of an arms race and border incidents and seemed pessimistic on those two matters. He was followed by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, in the same vein. He, too, took a very serious view of the possibility of continued border incidents and an arms race developing, though the noble Marquess apparently felt that the noble and learned Earl the Leader of the Opposition was going a little far in suggesting that more arms should be given to one side in order to "level the score" with the other. Had the noble and learned Earl been still in his place I should have liked to ask him whether he had any reason to imagine that other countries are not in a position to supply, and are supplying, arms to Israel——France, for instance, I put that idea forward suggesting, therefore, that any attempt on our part to "level the score" might well make things worse instead of better. The policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to Iraq and Jordan seems entirely sound, and I was most interested, as I am sure all of your Lordships were, in what the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, said on the oil situation in that part of the world. Much of it was new to me, and I found it most interesting and encouraging.

I believe that there has been an enormous amount of exaggeration in Press and radio reports of "incidents." To take one example, Damascus Radio reported some time ago that a battle had taken place at Al Auja, which is barely a place at all, hardly more than a couple of huts on the edge of the Sinai Desert, about fifty miles from Gaza. The report stated that 200 had been killed and it sounded quite a formidable affray; but when a representative of General Burns's Commission went to look it appeared that there had been no fatal casualties at all. At Tiberias last week we were given to understand, by the Press, that a battle was raging, but subsequent reports showed that it was little more than a bit of sniping over the hills, which has always gone on and probably always will.

I want to try to throw a little cold water on what seem to me to be somewhat alarmist and rather exaggerated views of the danger of these various countries—Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Saudi Arabia—getting possession of substantial quantities of arms. Arms are only as dangerous as the men behind them, and such experience as I have of the inhabitants of those countries leads me to believe that, while the mere possession of arms may do their prestige a little good among each other, and may encourage their ego, I cannot see a major engagement breaking out in that part of the world without very substantial European encouragement—which, of course, might be forthcoming. I cannot see a country like Syria staging any military operation which could be in any way considered as a major one—nothing bigger than a border raid or something of that type. They have neither the equipment nor the inclination; and the latter I believe is very much more important.

One newspaper "ran" a story about a shipment of tanks, and the Secretary of State for War was called in question, the suggestion being that he had apparently been selling tanks to an unspecified destination. People wanted to know the details, how much he got for them, and so on. I have no idea where those tanks went but a possible assumption is that a great many were destined for these Middle East countries. Really, my Lords, the possession of a tank is a grave embarrassment. When you have it you do not know what to do with it. It is most difficult to maintain. The organisation necessary for the operation of armoured forces is immense and possibly only about three European countries can hope to operate armour with success. One might send fifty or a hundred tanks to one of these countries, and I doubt whether one of them would still be "on the road" after a fortnight—at least I should be surprised if they were. I hope your Lordships will not think that I am exaggerating, but I am trying to put an opposite point of view. When this debate opened, and as it continued, I found myself becoming quite nervous over the possibility of war in the Middle East into which we should eventually be brought.

In a debate in your Lordships' House about eighteen months ago the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, spoke. I also spoke briefly. It was at the time when we were leaving the Canal Zone and setting up the Middle East base in Cyprus. I then said that, having spent some part of the war in Malta, I was somewhat allergic to islands in war time, that they give one a sense of claustrophobia, which is understandable if one was there. I then wondered whether Libya was not a better area. I tried to make out that in the opening stages of another war mobility will be of great importance. It will be the only thing that matters, and it might well be catastrophic to be in a place from which one cannot get out. The Libyan Desert is a much more difficult place in which to pin down troops and air forces, for there is much more room there. Though it is an infinitely less congenial place in which to live in peace time, that objection is overriden by other factors. I suggest that, between them, the airfield at El-Adem and the port of Tobruk provide facilities equally good as, and, taking the long-term view, a safer proposition than, Cyprus.

An objection could be made that it is further from the point you would be likely to be attacking. But the range of aircraft is increasing at such a speed that another 100 miles or 200 miles, one way or another, would make very little difference to the time of the aircraft in the air. The range of aircraft is improving. We hear that soon one will be able to travel non-stop between London and New York in four and a half hours. Therefore, the difference between El Adem and Nicosia airfields is negligible. It would in any case be discounted to a large extent by the fact that the political disadvantages in that area might be less. I have mentioned that aspect once before, and I leave it with your Lordships as no more than a diffident suggestion.

If. therefore, I can get it agreed that Cyprus is not strategically important, and will not be strategically necessary to N.A.T.O. as time goes on, the question then arises: Is it then ethically right to pursue the present policy of vague promises, to which the last speaker has referred? Lord Winster has already spoken with great knowledge on this subject. As an ex-Governor of Cyprus he knows a great deal about it—probably more than anyone else in your Lordships' House. Therefore, I shall not repeat his arguments, with nearly every one of which I agree. The debate recently in another place left me exactly where I was before. I was absolutely unable to understand that it made any progress whatever, except for one or two interesting points which came from Back-Benchers. Before I had thought about the matter I was originally opposed to concessions in Cyprus.

Looking again at the facts, and with the scraping off of sentiment and of sensationalism, to which all parts of the Press nowadays are increasingly prone, they are really as follows. To start with, there were not long ago the rather unfortunate statements, to which the noble Lord, Lord Winster, has referred, by the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, and Mr. Hopkinson. A recent recruit to the "brick-dropping club" is the Minister of Education who, from the way he spoke a few days ago, apparently wants to be included in this body. Secondly, Cyprus is as much Greek as any other part, such as Sparta, Corinth or even Athens was until the last century. I think it is not fully realised that it is only a hundred years, in round figures, since Greece first existed as a country, as we understand it. Previously, Cyprus was part of the Byzantine Empire of "city states" in the same way as were Corinth, Sparta and other cities. It was a loose organisation of "city states." It is easy to say now: "Well, they have never been Greek," but that is only going back such a short time. Nor were the other States I have mentioned Greek, in that sense of the word, very long ago.

There is also the point that has been raised, that Turkey would look upon our leaving Cyprus and its occupation by Greece as a threat to them. That really is a puerile argument, if I may say so If you look at the map of the Aegean, you will see that there are a great number of islands much nearer the Turkish coast than Cyprus—Cos and Leros, for example, where a great number of British lives were lost in an expedition during the last war. There are also Samos, Mitylene and others. Some of these islands are as near to Turkey as fifteen miles. So that argument does not seem to me to be very powerful. Then there is the question of the Turkish minority in Cyprus—18 per cent. against 82 per cent. What will happen to them? Will they be ill-treated? I hardly think so. The Greek minority in, say, Istanbul has not been ill-treated so far as I have heard. I do not believe that the Turkish minority in Cyprus would suffer any particular disadvantage. There is no reason to suppose that it will, though there will be plenty of people to say that it will because on these occasions there are always lots of people ready to express sensational and inflammatory views which make a lot of trouble.

So, my Lords, may I sum up my feelings on this matter? In the first place, I urge the Government to give a clear and firm direction and full backing to the Governor in the measures he is taking to restore order. It looks, according to the papers this morning, as if he has in fact had a clear directive and is actively working on it. Secondly, I urge that, as Lord Winster has recommended, one should see signs that self-government is really going to take place, with provision for leasing a Middle East base in Cyprus on the same terms, broadly, as the Americans have bases in Crete. I believe that the Greek Government even stated that bases on the Greek mainland would be quite acceptable to them, which is a proposal which I am sure the Chiefs of Staff have considered. On this question of self-determination, as Lord Winster has said, there should be an announcement of the grant of self-determination in a specific time—whether three, four, five or six years, I do not think matters. I believe that if the Archbishop could go to his people and say: "I have got it; now will everyone quieten down," there would be no more trouble and the Greek Government would be delighted. We should have our friends back again. We should remember that the Greeks are extremely excitable and voluble people. They are also intensely politically-minded. Every man in the street is a politician. And they turn very quickly from being your friend to hating you. Fortunately, they also turn back again very quickly. This might be the great chance to ensure their doing that. Cyprus may well be less important strategically by the time self-government is granted, if it is (for example in five years), and ethically we shall have done the right thing.

Finally, I may be told that there are to be elections in Greece in April and that, pending these elections, it is not politically expedient to do anything or to say too much. I put it to your Lordships in this way. The situation is changing very quickly. It is not changing from week to week; it is changing from day to day. British soldiers are being shot in the back. Their families are in danger, and, as an old soldier, I do not like that—and nor do the British public. I do not believe that there is any question of waiting until April before this thing can be tidied up. I hope that the recent meeting in Paris between Mr. Macmillan and the Greek Foreign Minister, Mr. Theotokis, has perhaps produced more than we have heard about in your Lordships' House. Let us remember that the Greeks are our allies, and so are the Turks. Allies must be friends. They must not be forced into alliances, as happened between 1939 and 1945 with ourselves and another great Power, through pressure of circumstances. The ideal is that allies should be friends. There is an old saying that "Lilies that fester smell worse than weeds."

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, last time I spoke on the Middle East the storm centre was in the Suez Canal Zone. The advice of my friends and myself did not commend itself to the Government, and I shall say very little about that subject. As we warned your Lordships must happen, turmoil has spread over the whole area—from the Sudan and Aden Protectorate in the South to Greece in the North; from the Arab States and Israel in the East right away to the Western Mediterranean, to the French colonies. I think that perhaps the worst features of this result are the drain of British and French troops to the Mediterranean away from the critical areas of Central Europe, and, secondly, the startling fulfilment of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin's horror of a vacuum in Egypt.

I should like to pass now to the subject of Cyprus. I feel that the last three speeches that have been made, dealing largely with Cyprus, have been extraordinarily illuminating. They rather changed my views. For instance, my noble friend Lord Winster made a definite proposal which I should want to think over a little more, but I hope it will receive serious consideration. Like my noble friend, I have a past in matters of this kind, especially affecting Greece. In my first ship I was a notorious phil-hellene—it became quite a joke. It is extremely distressing to me, and I think to every noble Lord, that this dispute should exist between peoples like the Greeks, the Turks and ourselves, who are united by ties of tradition, respect and mutual security. It is a deplorable thing and we must try and find a way out. All of us want security, and Cyprus must want security, too. All three of us are members of N.A.T.O., and it is preposterous that this terrible struggle should be going on in an island which is under our government.

After hearing this debate, I am forced to the conclusion that we must adhere to the principle of self-determination. I do not like self-determination, but if we have committed ourselves, then we must go on with it. We must know what we mean by self-determination, and I am not clear about what we do mean by it. It has never been properly defined and there have been many variations of opinion. Our Greek friends will find that it is not defined in the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, which are illuminating on methods of government, liberty, its use and abuse, and the like; or in the histories of Herodotus, Thucydides and Polybius, where there are many precedents for modern problems. It has happened that since the war I have read all these books and have marked them heavily. One of the points I have always looked for is self-determination, but it just is not there. As the Encyclopædia Britannica rightly says, it was used as a slogan for propaganda in World War One. That is the origin of this famous principle. It was a slogan then and a slogan it remains. It was splendid as a weapon of war for stirring up the subject races of Austria and Germany against their rulers, and that was really its main use. I think that those peoples, after getting their liberty, are little happier or better off than they were when I used to visit those countries more than fifty years ago—without a passport. I do not think that their liberty has brought them a great deal, and now they are practically all behind the Iron Curtain.

I have had a great deal to do with the question of self-determination ever since the Paris Peace Conference. Contrary to the general belief, self-determination did not appear in President Wilson's Fourteen Points. But it did appear in the two drafts of the Covenant which he prepared before coming to preside over the committee of the Paris Peace Conference. It did not have a great success at the Conference. It was first tried out for the settlement of the colonial possessions of Germany and the captured Turkish territories, but the Dominions would not look at it. There was a great deal of discussion, at which I was present. I recorded some of it, and it has all been published. The result was the production of the Mandate system. That system was certainly consistent with the Fourteen Points, but it was rather a wide interpretation of the doctrine of self-determination. Again, early in the conference the attention of Mr. Lloyd George was drawn to the effect that this slogan might have on our own Colonies. He was very quick on the uptake and in a few hours he had taken steps which resulted in self-determination being left out of the Covenant.

The term itself was never defined, though it was used a good deal in discussing the territorial settlement of Europe. It was given the most diverse and extraordinary interpretations and the Conference was brought to hilarity when the Italians used it to support their claim to Fiume. Fiume was a town and port with an Italian population, but all the country for miles around had other populations—Croats, I suppose, and possibly Hungarians because the area had belonged to Hungary. Now the Russians come on the scene. In 1924 the late lamented Mr. Stalin, clever Mr. Joe Stalin, taking advantage of this omission to make a definition, gave this ex cathedrâ definition: Leninism broadened the conception of self-determination and interpreted it as the right of the oppressed peoples of dependent countries and colonies to complete secession, as the right of nations to independent existence as States. I do not know whether that is a definition which we accept. I think it did not come to light at the time, and I do not think it was countered. I never saw it until I read Stalin's Problem, of Leninism, and it appears rather prominently there in the first lecture, about page 60. But that book was not published in English until about 1945.

Unfortunately, as I think, a reference to "self-determination" was slipped into the Charter of the United Nations. It had not been in the Covenant of the League, but it was put in the Charter of the United Nations. I have failed to discover how that happened. I have tried hard, but I am told that there was such confusion that they could not check up everywhere. But—and this point is rather important in the story—it appears not in the Preamble, giving the objects of the Charter and so on, nor in the purposes and principles, nor in any political clause of the Charter, but in the international, economic and social cooperation chapter, where it is perfectly applicable and nobody could contest it. But it is constantly claimed that, because it is in the Charter of the United Nations, it is therefore sacrosanct; and that is not right.

Since then, after Stalin's version became known, the slogan "self-determination," reinforced by a despicable perversion of two splendid concepts, imperialism and colonialism, has been used intensively by misguided friends, as well as our enemies—for extremes meet on this question—to denigrate Europe's great achievements in these fields, and to arouse discontent among populations that were contented and loyal. Some of the cases have been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Winster. The British, French. Dutch and other Colonial Governments have all suffered. Speaking solely for myself, as a non-Party Cross-Bench Peer, without promptings or consultations, I say without hesitation that this mischievous propaganda spread over the years has done more harm to the European colonial Powers—especially Great Britain and France, the chief pivots in Europe of N.A.T.O., and thus to N.A.T.O. itself—than ten years "cold" warfare; and it is time that responsible people on both sides of the Atlantic, who ought to know better, abandoned this practice.

I said at the outset that we are bound to go on with this in Cyprus, but I think we ought to discover definitely what we mean by it; what both sides feel, and what is best for both sides. There should be most careful adjustment to the circumstances of the case, otherwise we are not likely to get a satisfactory settlement. In Cyprus, however, I am not sure that something cannot be done towards helping the definition and making it more acceptable to both sides. I can only throw out some pointers. I agree generally with the proposal put forward by my noble friend Lord Winster, subject to detailed consideration, but there may be some points on which it could be supplemented. The word Enosis was rejected, but I am not sure that we were not rather too early in rejecting it. It means "union," but it does not necessarily mean "political union." In fact, in the case of Greece I am not at all sure that it is very suitable. It may mean union of hearts, union of minds, union of policy, union of ideas and all those ties which bind the Dominions and Great Britain to one another, and which I believe to be far more important than such political ties that remain—apart, of course, from loyalty to the Crown, which binds most of us and is the most important tie.

There are interesting precedents for what I am trying to tell your Lordships, both from ancient and modern Greek history. May I briefly take the ancient ones first? In ancient times, as everyone in this House knows, Greece became a great colonising Power: it was almost a prototype of the modern British Empire, with a vast number of colonies all over the Mediterranean. But where the Greek Empire differed from the British Empire was that the Greek colony, which was usually founded by some great City State, like Athens or Corinth, was always considered politically independent and emanicipated from the control of its founder. There was no political Enosis, but there was a much wider Enosis. For example, there was a close religious union, with its great associations connected with the Temple and Oracle of Delphi, and the Olympic Games, for which only Hellenes were eligible. Actually, they could get together, and they did get together; they got together both for war and for preparation for war. For instance, there was the famous Confederacy of Delos, with its common treasury for naval defence. Above all, they were all Hellenes, and intensely proud of it. In spite of no political obligation, it was a very close tie.

I said there was an example of this sort of tie in modern history, too. On a smaller scale, something analogous to the old system exists today, and the Greeks are entitled to be proud of it. First of all, the King is not styled "King of Greece" but "King of the Hellenes," wherever they may be, all over the world. And abroad, many of the Greeks live in "colonies" in the great cities of the world. In London, Paris, Marseilles, Trieste, Smyrna, Alexandria, Cairo, Ismailia, Cape Town, Sydney, New York—wherever you go you will find an Hellenic colony. These Greek colonies have an organisation which keeps an eye on them called the "Community": that is "Koinotis," a different Greek word from "Enosis," but connected with the same idea. Each colony has its own president. They keep an eye on all Hellenic matters—the church, schools, where they exist, sometimes hospitals, like the magnificent Greek Hospital of Alexandria, arrivals, departures, employment and unemployment, national celebrations, religious or secular, varying, of course, according to circumstances. All who know them will agree that the Greeks in these colonies are both model subjects of the State in which they live, and loyal Hellenes. There need not be any clash between the two.

Those are two pointers—I need not put it higher than that—which, I think, might be fitted into the ideas which my noble friend Lord Winster has posed for trying, in the course of negotiations which will no doubt be prolonged until the time when heads cool a bit. In Cyprus, everything must be done to strengthen the ties which existed in the past between the people's ancestors and Hellas, and which still exist, as I told your Lordships, between the urban Greek colonies in the different nations and the Greeks. By some such system Cyprus could strengthen its security and strengthen Greek security, which is already based on N.A.T.O., far more effectively than by early political union with Greece and they would obtain all the benefits—and they are very great benefits—that they derive from their connection with this country.

6.3 p.m.


My Lords, this debate has ranged somewhat wide, and certainly wider than those of us who were responsible for introducing the Motion ever anticipated. So far as I am concerned, whilst I recognise the great importance of the position in Cyprus and am in substantial agreement with my noble friend Lord Winster, I propose to confine myself entirely to the position of Israel and the Arab States.

The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, in the course of an interesting speech, referred to the importance of the Middle East to this country from the point of view of oil, and he gave some striking figures. I fully agree that we have to look at the conflict which is at present in existence between Israel and the Arab States largely from the point of view of our own self-interest. I do not think that public opinion would accept any other approach. We have had great interests for many years in the Middle East, particularly in the Arab countries, and it is not to be expected that we should relinquish those interests. Nobody in the course of this debate has suggested that we should. We are giving a vast amount of technical advice and assistance, to the Arab countries in particular. We are providing arms, and we are affording them the means by which they can raise their standard of living, which we all desire to do. Nothing that I say should be interpreted as interfering with, or objecting to, that. But I want to put to Her Majesty's Government that we have an equal interest in, and moral resposibility for, Israel. It may not be so obvious, and it may not be so immediate, but if we look at the long-term interest of this country I believe that we are equally concerned with the future and welfare of Israel as we are with the Arab States.

I accept at once what the noble Marquess has said about the fact that we are concerned with securing peace in that part of the world, and I think that every Member of this House who has given any thought to the matter will agree that the situation is extremely grave and that, as my noble and learned friend has said, peace hangs on a thread—and a rather worn thread, too. Our responsibility to Israel is largely a moral one. Let us never forget that this country took one of the finest steps that were ever taken by any country in making the Balfour Declaration and helping to provide a home for Jews all over the world who were in distress. In due course the Declaration was followed by the Mandate, and for twenty-five years we were responsible for the administration of Palestine, in the course of which we carried out an immense number of improvements and raised the standard of living of that country. Anyone who has been to Palestine recently will see marks of the steps that we took during our twenty-five years of responsibility.

Things have changed. We were compelled to surrender the Mandate. But having been in Israel recently, and having had an opportunity of meeting people of all shades of opinion and classes, I should like to assure Her Majesty's Government, if they need that assurance, that the Israelis are not unmindful of what they owe to this country, although they have from time to time been critical of this country's attitude—and that applies both to the time of the Labour Government and to occasions under the present Administration. They realise that but for British action there would have been no Israel and no Jewish home. I was delighted to find that that fact was recognised among all shades of opinion and all classes of the population. The national language is, of course, Hebrew, but I should say that nineteen people out of twenty speak English. English is the second language which is taught, and even the children speak it. They speak it well and with an English accent, I was glad to note, and not an American one.

I feel that, having been responsible for bringing something like half a million people into that country during the course of the Mandate, we have some responsibility for ensuring their welfare. Apart from that, I would ask Her Majesty's Government to bear in mind the interest of this country in Israel. May I briefly remind your Lordships of some of their achievements? In technological education they are about to build a technological university which, in my view, will be unrivalled anywhere in the world. They have 300 acres on Mount Carmel on which this technological university is being built. Some of it is already in existence. They are about to commence a new university building, the existing university having been lost to them on Mount Scopus during their war with the Arab States. They are starting all over again and building a fresh university which will be five times as large as the university they lost. They have the Weitzmann Institute (the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, will probably know something about it) which is carrying out all kinds of scientific research, including cancer research. In my view, it is the most up-to-date institution of its kind in the world. It has attracted some of the most eminent scientists. I believe that, in a short time, from the cultural and scientific point of view Israel will be in a position to benefit not only the whole of the Middle East but the whole world. It can be a centre equal to any other centre in the world, from the point of view of culture and scientific knowledge and research.

In a great many other ways this tiny country is being developed. They are growing cotton and tobacco and producing chemicals. They have discovered oil. Since Her Majesty's Government attach so much importance to oil, and since our needs will be so great, it is quite on the cards that Israel, as well as the Arab countries, may become a substantial producer of oil. So I say to Her Majesty's Government: do not overlook the possibility, even from the point of view of self-interest, that Israel may become a country of importance to Great Britain. In a sense, we have realised that and have tried to hold a balance between Israel and the Arabs. We have recognised the great difficulties which exist and which may continue for some years to come, in getting the two peoples together. The Tripartite Agreement has been an attempt to hold the balance and to ensure that, if either side were to commit an act of aggression against the other, or to attempt to alter, by force, the status quo, at the expense of the other, we should feel obliged to intervene and redress the position.

Until quite recently we have been in a position to carry out this obligation by holding the balance from the point of view of arms, but as your Lordships know the situation has been violently changed in the last few months, as a result of the provision of arms by the Soviet Union and her satellites to Egypt and others of the Arab countries. The question now arises: what is our duty in this matter? It is not an easy question. We are at the moment, and have been in the past, supplying arms to the Arab States. The question is: ought we to go on supplying arms to the Arab States Knowing that they are getting arms, in addition, from the Soviet Union and her satellites? If we have been concerned in the past with holding a balance, are we not, by ourselves supplying arms to the Arab States, as well as allowing them to secure arms from the Soviet Union, completely and violently disturbing this balance? My noble and learned friend Lord Jowitt therefore suggested that it might be the right thing for this country to supply arms to Israel alone for the purpose of redressing that balance. That seems to have shocked the noble Marquess—and I quite understand—who asked whether that did not mean embarking on a fresh arms race. I am afraid that it does. One has to face up to the fact that, if the Soviet Union supplies arms, on the one hand, and we supply arms to the other side, on the other, that may involve us in an arms race.

What is the alternative? The alternative is merely to abandon this balance which we have so far been endeavouring to maintain. If we abandon the balance, what are the likely consequences? Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Arab States have not kept secret their intentions: they have spoken frankly about them—about their intention of driving the Israelis into the sea and of conquering the Israeli State. They have made that abundantly clear from speeches, and even more from their actions, because they have refused to recognise the Israeli State or to take part in any discussions of any kind. Is it not clear that the probability is that when the Arab States, either jointly or individually, feel strong enough, they will attack Israel and that if we honour our agreements (and I have no reason to think we shall not) the Tripartite Agreement will come into operation? I would ask the noble Marquess: if that comes about, are we not involved in probable war? Therefore, unfortunately, we have, it seems to me, a choice of evils—either to allow the Arab States to become stronger and stronger, with what I regard as the almost inevitable consequence, or to try to continue to hold a balance by supplying arms to Israel, not necessarily indefinitely but until such time as the two places can be induced to get together or until such time as the mediation of the Prime Minister can become effective.

I accept the fact that there is a glimmer of hope—I think the noble Marquess who spoke earlier did not wish to put it too high—that the Arab States may be willing to listen, or eventually to talk; but it is over the meantime that some of us are very much concerned. Supposing that it becomes necessary for us to intervene as a result of the tremendous superiority of Arab arms over those of the Israelis. Is it not likely that the whole of Israel, which is a tiny State of 8,000 square miles, may be overwhelmed in a matter of days? What use would our intervention be then—or, at any rate, would it not become much more difficult? Therefore, I ask the noble Marquess and Her Majesty's Government to give further and serious consideration to this question of arms. I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Winterton, who intervened to ask whether the Israelis were not getting arms from other countries. So far as I understand it, they are not; but if they are, that is, of course, a fact to be taken into consideration.

The other point I wanted to raise was that we have bilateral treaties with some of the Arab countries. Is it not reasonable—would it not help to give assurances to the Israelis and perhaps help to create a better atmosphere generally, even in the Arab States—if we entered into similar bilateral treaties with Israel? In fact, if we are to honour the Tripartite Agreement, we are committed to exactly the same type of obligations as we should be under a bilateral treaty, and it may therefore be said that there is no particular advantage in entering into such a treaty. But the advantage would be largely psychological, and I feel that it would give the people of Israel a greater sense of security if they had a direct treaty with this country, in the same way as the people of the Arab States have, ensuring that if they are attacked we shall come to their help.

My Lords, that is all I intend to say, in view of the time. I am quite satisfied that Her Majesty's Government are as concerned as any one of us on this side to preserve peace in that area. On that score, I make no allegations in any shape, or form. The real question between us—it is not a question of principle but one of expediency—is: what is the best thing to do at this moment to ensure stability, even for a time? I think that every month that is gained is of value. In our opinion, in spite of the immensely increased difficulties which have arisen as a result of Soviet intervention, the best way to ensure this stability is to continue to preserve that balance which it has been our policy to preserve in the past. I believe that that would be effective, and I hope that whatever course Her Majesty's Government take, it will have the effect of bringing peace to this sorely troubled area.

6.23 p.m.


My Lords, in replying to this debate I will, I can assure your Lordships, be as brief as I can. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has just reminded the House, the debate has covered a great deal of ground, and therefore I may be obliged to take rather longer than I am sure your Lordships would wish.

My Lords, it may have appeared that there would not be much purpose in your Lordships debating the Middle East at all to-day, because we have had two debates, one on the Middle East and the other on Cyprus, in another place in the last few days. But I am sure it will be agreed by everybody who has listened to our discussions that that would have been far from the truth. We have had a debate to-day which, I suggest, has been both authoritative, by virtue of the experience and specialised knowledge of those who have taken part in it, and also, I thought, particularly valuable for the evidence it has given of the broad unanimity which I think exists on all sides of your Lordships' House over the main policy which should be adopted in dealing with the Middle Eastern area. I do not say that there have not been modifications of opinion on various individual issues; inevitably, not everybody sees exactly eye to eye. But I hope 1 may be able to remove some misconceptions before I sit down. For this unanimity—this broad, and I think wise, unanimity—we in your Lordships' House may fairly take considerable credit.

But, in this connection, I should like to pay a tribute to the speech of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in another place. It seemed to me to be a valuable contribution to thought, for one reason especially, and the reason is this. He was at pains to emphasise—I am sure with this we shall agree, in whatever part of the House we sit—that all facets of the Middle Eastern situation, the position regarding the Northern Tier, the Baghdad Pact, or whatever you prefer to call it; the position regarding the dispute between Israel and Egypt, with which so much of our discussion has been concerned; the position regarding Cyprus; even the position wth regard to the Middle East as a whole, must not, if we are to form a right judgment about it, be regarded in isolation. I would most respectfully agree with what my right honourable friend said about that.

Of course they must be regarded in relation to the vast world-wide struggle for power which, lamentably, is at present going on between the countries which are dominated by Russia—what we call the Communist bloc—and the countries of the free world. It may seem that that is a fairly obvious point to put—a platitude, even a truism. But I am afraid it is too often forgotten by those who have to discuss these topics. They concern themselves solely with local situations, with the result that they leave many of the relevant considerations which should govern their judgment entirely out of account. I am certainly not going to suggest that that was the attitude taken by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, in the speech with which he opened this debate. He did not err in that way at all—far from it. On the contrary, as I understood his speech, his intention throughout was to concentrate on the broad issues which affect the Middle East as a whole, and if he did refer, as of course he had to, to more local questions, he took considerable care to fit them into the main picture. In the few words that I have to address to your Lordships, I should like, if I can, to try and keep to those same broad lines and not, if the House will forgive me, go into too much detail, which I think might tend to confuse and cloud the main current of our thought.

The first thing I should like to say is this: it relates to Russian policy. We must, I am afraid, now face the fact (at least, that is my view) that the main aim of Russian policy remains what it always has been since the war—and, as Lord Strang, with all his experience, has told us more than once that it is—namely, Communist domination of the world. That is their ultimate purpose. Whether their impulse is ideological or imperialistic I really do not know, and I honestly do not think it matters much; the result is exactly the same in either case. What is clear is that at present it is impossible, with the best will in the world, to see any I real change of heart on their part. Of course, that does not for one moment mean that we ought to anticipate an early world war. I do not believe that Russia wants a world war any more than we do—indeed, I think she would be completely mad if she did, because with the weapons which are now at the disposal of the West, even so great a nation as Russia would be immediately and utterly destroyed by the retaliation she would invite.

Nor, of course, do they want to be involved, themselves, in the trouble which they stoke up. They will always remain in the background as long as they possibly can. That has been our experience ever since the war. Their methods are of a much more subtle kind. Sometimes they seem to try to disintegrate the forces opposed to them by stimulating local conflicts and generally weakening the stability of the areas concerned: more often they use what methods they can just to exacerbate any friction which may already exist. But whatever the method, the motive is always the same: it is to undermine the foundations of the non-Communist world in any way which appears appropriate to the special circumstances of the case.

It is in the light of that knowledge that we have of Russian aims and methods that we must consider the present situation in the Middle East, where the position is more fluid and, for that reason, I believe, more dangerous, than anywhere else. It is not surprising that the Communists should have turned their eyes on this particular part of the world. During the first years after the war their main attention was devoted to Europe. Then, after a certain period of time, the situation there crystallised and they turned their eyes to the Far East. There, ultimately, too, there came, with the formation of S.E.A.T.O., what they would regard as a deadlock and what we should regard as a stabilisation of the situation: and it appeared that a further extension of Communist influence in that part of the world would be more arduous and more dangerous than before.

There remained only the Middle East, which, in any case, must have had very special attractions for them. First, as I have said, it was still comparatively fluid; it was protected by no Western defences such as N.A.T.O. or S.E.A.T.O.: and secondly, it is one of the main reservoirs on which the West draws for its oil; arid, as we all know, oil is the lifeblood of the civilised world. Moreover, there are in the Middle East a number of new nations. I will not say that they are young nations, for many have very old cultures; but they are new nations in the sense that they have only lately, with the disappearance of the Turkish Empire, attained nationhood. Relations between some of these countries and their neighbours have not been finally stabilised.

And finally, there is the intractable problem of the new State of Israel, between whom and the neighbouring Arab States something approaching a cold war seems to be a chronic condition. To those who conduct Russian propaganda, the terrain must have seemed almost ideal, and they applied their ordinary procedure and technique of infiltration and subversion. We all remember their first efforts in Persia, at a time when our relations with Persia were not quite so happy as they now are. The result must have come as a disappointment to them. They must have hoped for more than they got. The Persians were far too sensible to be taken in, and they have now come down firmly on our side of the fence. Nor up to now have the Russians achieved any spectacular results with the Arab States. However, I would most strongly agree with what was said by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, that we should be extremely unwise to be at all complacent with regard to the position in the Middle East area. On the contrary, I am personally at one with him in regarding it with considerable anxiety. Whether the situation is one of the utmost gravity or whether that is an over-statement, I do not know; but it is certainly a situation of very considerable anxiety. For in Communist eyes, the prize in the Middle East is a very great one, and we may be quite certain that they will not relax their efforts. And, if we relax ours, we shall wake up one morning and find that the pass has been sold.

This is no time for inaction or for wailing on events, in that particular area of the world. This is essentially a time for moulding events, if we can. It was recognition of that all important fact which led to the creation of what is now known as the Northern Tier, which has been given statutory form by the Baghdad Pact. Like the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, I believe that was a great act of policy. To use his words, "It was a necessary security measure." We have no reason to apologise for that Pact. We can all welcome it. With its economic side, which should go along with its military side, I believe the Pact will prove of great and increasing benefit to its members. If that Pact, or something in the nature of it, were all that we needed to secure the position in the Middle East, the problem would be comparatively simple. But there are, unhappily, some other special problems there, which cannot be automatically solved by any Pact such as the Baghdad Pact; problems which were already in existence in that part of the world, and which provide fertile ground on which Communists and other agitators can work. If I may use the expression, there are smouldering flames which at any moment may break out into open fire.

That is especially true of the position between Israel and Egypt and, to a hardly lesser degree, of the position between Israel and the other Arab States. There is nothing new in this situation. It has existed ever since the original creation of the National Home in Israel after the First World War. To the world at large, as the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has said, Israel is to-day as firmly established among the nations as any other Sovereign State. To all of us its existence is as unchallengeable as any other of the facts of life; and, as far as I know, there is no reason to suppose (as I thought the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was inclined to suggest) that this country has in any way changed her attitude over Israel. Nor do I dispute anything the noble Lord said as to the great material and other progress which has been made in that country. Unhappily, however, it is idle to ignore the fact that neighbouring Arab States have never accepted that position which he so well stated. To them—or to a great many of their peoples—Israel remains an interloper. They feel a deep and abiding resentment that Israel should exist at all, and that resentment, not unnaturally, breeds an equal resentment on the Israeli side.

From every point of view the result is truly deplorable. In that little, but so important, part of the world there is a chronic state of simmering which, up to now, has defeated the efforts of all countries which have tried to eradicate it, and which breaks out all too often into sporadic acts of violence by one side or the other. Such a situation, at the very gateway of Asia and Africa, must present a continuing danger to the people of the world. Of this fact the great Powers of the Western world are, and have always been, acutely aware. As the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, will know, it has been one of the main problems of foreign policy. We have not been able to make the Arabs feel better about the Jews nor have we been able to make the Jews feel better about the Arabs. There are limits to the possibilities of foreign policy, however well it is carried out. What these nations could and have persistently tried to do was to ensure that no side was militarily strong enough to run the risks involved in full scale war. They provided both sides with arms, but tried to limit the amounts which they provided so as to keep an even, and, at the same time, a low, balance. They also entered into an agreement designed to let any aggressor, from whichever side, clearly understand that if he embarked on war the scales would be heavily weighted against him. That, of course, was the Tripartite Agreement of 1950, to which reference has been made to-day by both the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. I would repeat, for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin—if he wants it repeated—that this country remains bound by that Agreement.

Lord Henderson, I understood, said that he thought we ought to go beyond that, and, even if there was nothing that might be called real aggression, we ought to see that an international police force was sent to patrol the border area. To that I would only say that he must not assume that every possible course has not already been reviewed. Secondly, he must not assume—and I feel sure he does not—that it is only we who are concerned in a proposal of this particular character. And, finally, I would reiterate what has already been said by my noble friend the Marquess of Reading as to the practical difficulties which such a course must inevitably present.


May I interrupt the noble Marquess? He will remember, I think, that I said it was a matter for the initiative of the Tripartite Powers and a matter for decision by the United Nations.


I appreciate that. On the whole, I think—and I hope that the House will not disagree—that the policy which the Western Powers have adopted since the war over this terribly difficult question has not worked out too badly. There have been continual incidents between Israel and her neighbours. Lives have unhappily been lost. Accusations and counter accusations have been hurled by both sides. But the final disaster, full-scale war, has been prevented; and the policy, I am personally convinced, was, in the difficult circumstances of the case, the right policy. But within the last few months, as we all know only too well—we have been told of it many times in this House today—a new event has occurred which has seriously impaired the basis on which the whole of that policy rested. That, of course, was the sale of arms on a considerable scale by the Communist bloc, through Czechoslovakia, to Egypt. This was what Lord Henderson I think rightly called a Communist intrigue under the guise of a commercial transaction. If I may say so, I thought that was a very good description.

To the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, may I say that frankly I do not think, as he seemed to think, that this was merely a Russian riposte to the Baghdad Pact. I have seen no evidence that that is the case, and I personally would agree with what I think was the view expressed by both the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, and the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, that this was no riposte. It was purely an unprovoked and mischievous act—typical of Russian policy—which was designed and planned long before the Pact for the purpose of impairing the delicate balance which was so important for the maintenance of peace. I do not, frankly, think that the Western Powers, whatever Governments had been in power there, could have avoided this position, if Russia was so reckless as to want it. Had we ourselves supplied arms, as the Russians have now done to Egypt, the position would have been much the same: and we should have been open to even more criticism, because we ourselves should have been responsible.

The question ready is—it is no good looking back—what do we do now? What is the wise course to take, to repair the damage which has been done by this Russian move? As we all know, many suggestions have been put forward from various quarters. All of them no doubt are well meant, but not all, I am afraid, are entirely sensible. There was the suggestion—I think a hint of it was thrown cut by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, himself; it was certainly said by Lord Silkin—that the West should henceforth deny all arms to Egypt, I myself cannot feel—I may be quite wrong—that that is a wise policy, if out object is to wean Egypt from the Russians. Because, after all, the only result is likely to be to cause them to depend more and more on the Communist bloc for any arms they may seek to get: anti we cannot prevent it. Then there is the suggestion that, instead of denying arms to Egypt, we should increase the supply of arms to Israel. That, I think, was the proposal put forward by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt. I understood him to say that he would place no limit on that policy: he would send as many arms as were required for the purpose, however many those arms might be.

I quite understand the motives that inspire the noble and learned Earl and his great anxiety to re-create the position which preceded the Russian move. But I see this difficulty; and here I am bound to say that I was in agreement with what was said by the noble Lard, Lord Windlesham. I do not think we ought to burke the fact that bleakly to do that would have the effect, in their present mood, of pushing not only Egypt herself but other Arab countries further towards the Communist bloc. There would be no advantage in that for ourselves or for Israel herself. Mind you, I do not think that there is any very good course; I do not believe that there is any ideal solution of this problem. But I believe that the wisest course in this extremely difficult and delicate situation is broadly that recommended by the Prime Minister: that is, to continue to supply arms on the limited scale as before to both sides, preserving in this way our connection with them, and maintaining as far as possible the former balance, while preserving the right to modify that policy in one way or another in the light of the situation as it develops.

At the same time—and I would emphasise with all the force at my command that this remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government—we should urge both sides to get together and settle their difficulties, with such give and take on both sides as may be necessary. I believe that to be, first of all, in the interest of the Arabs; for Israel is, as we all know, both strong and extremely resolute, and if she were forced to fight would give a very good account of herself—I do not think any of us have the slightest doubt about that. And I believe it is also in the interests of Israel; for, however strong, however resolute she may be, she could not permanently prosper if she were to continue year after year surrounded by enemies. Moreover, by the very fact that they were opposed to her, the Arab States, though by their religion and social structure they are entirely alien and opposed to Communism, might find themselves—old, aristocratic States as they are—moving more and more towards the Communist camp. Were that to happen, Israel would find herself increasingly alone, and that I do not think would be to her advantage or to the advantage of any one else.

We have all, in the extremely difficult and critical times in which we live, to frame our national policy to conform with the broad strategy of the free world of which we form part. If I may use a very old metaphor—perhaps it has almost become a cliché——we have to trim our sails with that end in view. And of no country, as I see it, is that truer than of Israel. It is on her capacity to evolve a policy—a wise, restrained and statesmanlike policy—directed above all to ending enmity between herself and her neighbours, that her future, and far more than her future, must depend. It is not for us to say what that policy should be. That is a matter for her and not for us. But we can appeal to her— and also to her Arab neighbours, on whom an equal responsibility lies; we can appeal to both sides to follow, though without weakness, the paths of wisdom and peace. I believe that that is the only way in which this dangerous situation can be ultimately resolved.

I am afraid that I have kept your Lordships far too long, but, in conclusion, I should like to turn for a few moments to one other part of the world, Cyprus. I suggest that considerations similar to those which I have urged in respect of other aspects of the Middle East situation should apply equally to Cyprus. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, in the extremely interesting speech which he made, devoted himself almost entirely to Cyprus, of which, as we all know, he speaks with special knowledge and authority. I can assure him and the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, who speaks with equal authority on all these questions, that everything that they have said will receive the full attention of Her Majesty's Government. But I hope that the noble Lords will forgive me if I do not pursue them or the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, into the intricate internal position in Cyprus, particularly as there is a Motion down on the Order Paper on which that can be discussed in the future. As I am sure your Lordships all know, the situation at present in that country is of the utmost delicacy and I think it would be better if I followed the example—in my view, the wise example—which was set by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, in the restraint which he showed on this subject.

But there is one thing I should like to say, if I may. Apart from the very acute internal problems which it presents, Cyprus impinges on the wider aspects of Middle East policy, with which this debate is directly concerned. Of these wider aspects I would say just this. If Cyprus to-day is not an international question which might have incalculable effects on the relations of other nations in the Eastern Mediterranean, in my view that is simply because we British are there. So long as that situation continues, so long as we remain there, while the international position is as it is—however unpleasant it may be for us; and it is extremely unpleasant and extremely expensive—it will be the direct concern only of Britain and Cyprus. But were we to leave—and here, if I may say so, I profoundly disagree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Winster—while the political and strategic situation in the Middle East remains as it is, I believe that Cyprus would become immediately an international problem, and an international problem of the most acute kind—make no mistake about that. The island would be immediately claimed both by Turkey and Greece. Turkey would claim it on geographical and historical grounds: and Greece would claim it on the grounds of the Greek majority on the island. The relations between the two countries, none too good now, would become even more exacerbated; and only the Communists, who have been to a considerable extent responsible for recent disorders in the island, would rejoice. Moreover, Turkey, who after all is an old and tried friend of ours and, what is more, plays a vital part as the Western bastion of the Northern Tier, would be bitterly resentful.


My Lords, I am sure that the noble Marquess would agree that I was not proposing any immediate withdrawal. On the contrary, I was suggesting a long interim period before withdrawal comes about.


I can assure the noble Lord that everything he has said will be carefully studied, but, as the noble Lord knows, some people are pressing that we should grant self-determination now, and that we should clear out immediately. That, I am sure, would be a dangerous step.


I entirely agree.


In my view—so far as I have any experience of these things—these wider considerations of the Middle East situation should outweigh all others in dealing with this problem of Cyprus. To close our eyes to them and to try to deal with the island itself and its local problems as if these wider considerations did not exist, would be, I feel, to show ourselves quite unworthy of our responsibilities as a great Power. Of course we must go ahead as quickly as possible with the arrangements for self-government, if the Cypriots are willing to co-operate in this—and I hope very much that, on reconsideration, they will. Of course we must proceed with the further stages of the policy which has already been defined by my right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary and the Colonial Secretary. That is our declared intention, and no-one would suggest that we should go back on it. But the actual timing of each stage must depend on the march of events in a terrain which is far wider than one single island. It must key in with the broad strategic plan for the defence of a free world on which, after all, the future free institutions of Cyprus itself must ultimately depend.

Such, I diffidently suggest, is the only foreign policy which at the present time we and the other Western Powers can follow in the Middle East area. It is not a spectacular policy. It may not appear spectacular enough to those who would like something showy. One can almost hear them say, "It is hardly a policy at all." Indeed, some c them have said it. But that is very far from the truth. Quiet it may be and unspectacular; but it is quite definite, and it is constructive. It seeks to eliminate causes of friction and to weld together the States of the Middle East in a single unity for the defence of their freedom. It may take time. It may, and probably will, involve disappointments, and even setbacks; but if we persist, if we refuse to be discouraged, I believe that we shall ultimately attain our goal.

6.58 p.m.


My Lords, if I felt any hesitation about putting down the Motion for to-day so soon after the debate in another place, I think that the debate we have had to-day fully justifies what I did. I am not going to make another speech; it is no use going over the arguments we have had. Although I am entitled to make some observations, I do not intend to do so, except on one point. The noble Marquess has stated the position of the Government. He will not be surprised when I tell him that we on these Benches are disappointed that he did not indicate any intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government to ensure that Israel receives compensating deliveries of arms to balance what Egypt is receiving from the Russian side. The noble Marquess used the words "considerable quantities." Obviously, "considerable quantities" make a big difference in an attempted balance. While I understand that the position, as stated by the noble Marquess, is that it is still the intention of the Government to do their best to keep the balance, I do not understand how a balance can be kept if there is an outside source of considerable supplies to one side in the dispute. I do not want to develop that matter further at this stage, because we have threshed it out thoroughly.


Perhaps the noble Lord will study carefully the words I used—they were chosen with care—and he may not then form quite so depressed a view.


I will certainly study them with great care. I now ask leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.