HL Deb 21 December 1955 vol 195 cc425-46

12.45 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to recur to the question of Cyprus. I feel that I should apologise to your Lordships for speaking twice on that subject in the course of a week, but we are adjourning to-day for a month and the situation there gets no better. There are signs that it may get worse, and if it does so it is likely to prejudice our international relations in certain aspects. Replying to our debate last Wednesday, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, was kind enough to say some flattering things about my speech. I regret all the more, therefore, to have to say that I did not find his own speech at all convincing when he was speaking on the subject of Cyprus. For instance, I could not agree with the noble Marquess that Cyprus to-day is not an international question. After all, it directly concerns America, Turkey, Greece and ourselves. It is a question which is discussed at the United Nations Organisation and one of great importance to all the N.A.T.O. countries. Yet the noble Marquess said that it was not an international question and gave as his reason for saying that [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 195 (No. 47), col. 251]: "because we British are there." I think that Cyprus has become an international question largely because we have kept it, or have endeavoured to keep it, a purely British affair, instead of bringing N.A.T.O. into it as, in my opinion, we should have done, or tried to do, long ago. We are not in Cyprus in pursuit solely of British strategy. We are there in pursuit of N.A.T.O. strategy.

Again, the noble Marquess said [col. 251] that the problem is "the direct concern only of Britain and Cyprus." If that were true, why did we invite Greece and Turkey to the London Conference? It is obvious from that fact alone that Cyprus is not the sole concern of Britain and Cyprus, but of many other countries also. The noble Marquess "profoundly" disagreed with me over something which I never said. He said that if we left the island, it "would be immediately claimed by Turkey and Greece." But Turkey now knows, after the debate in another place last week, that we stand for the Cypriots' deciding for themselves to whom the island is to belong; and there is not the least sign that the Cypriots are likely to opt to belong to Turkey.

We are going to leave the island—we have given our word for that—but who in his senses would suggest leaving the island before the future of the island had been settled? Certainly I did nothing of the sort; nor do I suggest, as the noble Marquess intimated, dealing with Cyprus as "an isolated problem in the context of Middle East policy"—I think those were his words. Quite the contrary. I want the problem of Cyprus settled because of the gravity of the Middle East situation. I do not want 14,000 men locked up in an indefensible island while the situation in the Middle East is so threatening, and I do not want a N.A.T.O. ally estranged at such a time because the Cyprus question is unsettled. Nor do I want Middle East planning to be carried on at a base surrounded by hostile population, which could not be held in the course of a nuclear war. In the last war, before vie were confronted with nuclear weapons, we held Malta only "by the skin of our teeth." Over and over again, it looked as if Malta might go. There was also the instance of Crete where, in spite of a well-planned and resourceful defence, carried out with remarkable courage, we failed to hold the island. So who could imagine that now, confronted with nuclear weapons, we could possibly hold Cyprus in case Of a major war? I certainly do not want us to be threatened there by a stab in the back in the event of such a war; and from every aspect of Middle Eastern policy it is advisable to get the question of Cyprus settled.

The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, speaking for the Government, said: … we must go ahead as quickly as possible.… But could we not be told something of what is being done to the end of getting the question settled "as quickly as possible"? Certainly we were not told in the course of the debate in another place—a debate which, I notice, had a unanimously bad Press. What exactly is being done to get this question settled? May I ask for instance whether Mr. Macmillan's important and vital declaration, that we now admit the right of Cyprus to self-determination, which hitherto, until the time of that speech we had stubbornly refused, has been communicated by our Ambassadors to the Turkish and Greek Governments? It seems to me that it certainly should have been. May I ask, also, whether the Governor of Cyprus has been instructed to bring it to the notice of the Archbishop? Again, I feel that that certainly should be done—and I should be almost surprised if I were told that the Governor had not been given such instructions. No signs of our going ahead quickly seem to be visible. Instead, we see the horrid calendar of repression in progress—whippings, punitive curfews, searches, collective fines and so on—while British residents now find soldiers with Sten guns in their gardens defending their houses and their lives—a very sad thing to think of happening in what was such a peaceful island.

That leads me to ask another question to which I hope there may be some reply. The local correspondent of a London newspaper writes as follows: At Kyrenia Castle a joke execution was held by a British Army lieutenant. Twenty schoolboys detained during disturbances were told that three of their number were to be shot. They watched as three boys were led away and later they heard three shots. Then a soldier returned with three empty cartridge cases. It was all a practical joke. And says the correspondent: I agree with the Army spokesman who said to-night that this officer showed a misguided sense of humour. I am the last man to credit all that I read in the Press, but that report is cabled home from a correspondent in Cyprus, and I venture to ask whether any inquiry into those statements has been made. If they are untrue, I suggest that it is a matter which might be brought to the attention of that rather abortive body which concerns itself with the ethics of the Press. But if it is true, I think that the gravest notice should be taken of such a performance, so likely to exacerbate the situation in Cyprus, already bad enough. If it is true, it would not surprise me to hear that the officer in question is to be court-martialled.

For the reasons that I have mentioned, briefly—because I know your Lordships are anxious to adjourn—I find it difficult to feel confidence in the Government's handling of the situation at present. I think it is profoundly disturbing for Parliament to be adjourning for a month while affairs in Cyprus are in such a mess, and I hope sincerely that the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, will be able to give us some reassurance, supported by facts, that the Government really are handling the matter as the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, said, with a view to going ahead as quickly as possible.


My Lords, it will be convenient if the House adjourns now during pleasure until a quarter past two.

[The Sitting was suspended at three minutes before one o'clock and renewed at a quarter past two.]

2.15 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to raise one or two points with regard to the forthcoming visit to this country of the two Russian leaders. I suggest to Her Majesty's Government that this visit must be reconsidered, in the light of what has taken place since the invitation was issued. It was issued after the first Summit Conference at Geneva, in which it appeared that there was some good will on the Russian side and that fruitful negotiations were likely to take place at the subsequent Foreign Ministers' conference. Since then, the situation has changed. At that Foreign Ministers' Conference, Mr. Molotov took a more intransigent attitude than anyone could have expected. Since then, the Russian leaders have gone on tour of the East, indulging in insult and innuendo against this country. Surely, therefore, it is a matter for consideration as to what the purpose of this visit may he, and, if it takes place, what should be its form and content.

Because the two Russian leaders may appear to us to be carrying out various antics, it does not mean that they have not been extremely clever men and made a considerable effect on those countries where they have been. It can well be argued that it shows a lack of dignity in this country to offer a welcome to people who have gone out of their way to insult us. None of us who gave an invitation to somebody to enter his own home, and found that the visitor subsequently abused him in such a way, would be likely to keep that invitation open. We must think of what will be the effect on the oppressed people of Eastern Europe, who still maintain a resistance against Communist domination, if they see pictures of Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Krushchev being welcomed with flags and banners in this country. We must consider what the effect will be on countries less politically sophisticated than our own.

It is easy enough for us to take a sophisticated view, but we must think of the effects upon the unsophisticated countries. We must also remember what the Russians themselves have said: that personal cordiality bears no relation to contradictory policies. The Russians are most amiable people personally. The Russian leaders have always been prepared to indulge in happy convivial evenings with the leaders of the West without modifying their policy or changing their inherent hostility. The right reverend Prelate was speaking earlier to-day about the necessity for organising moral force. But is it not rather difficult at one moment to say that we stand for all these freedoms and, at the next, to welcome representatives of the countries who are actively oppressing freedoms over a large enslaved portion of the old world's surface and making constant attack on the Christian religion?

If, however, in spite of these considerations, Her Majesty's Government decide to continue with the visit, may I suggest that it cannot be of the same form as it might have been if there had been any genuine signs of good will on the other side. It would be wholly inappropriate to put out the flags in the same way as we do when we welcome loyal and friendly allies, as we did recently the President of Portugal. The visit should be marked by restraint and civility, rather than by gushingness. Public speeches should be severely limited, and it should be made quietly clear to our guests what embarrassment would be caused if there are attacks upon our allies, either in Europe or the United States. That is the most, I think, that this country, with dignity, could give; but one hopes there may be occasion for quiet talks.

Surely one of the lessons to be taken from this tour is that we must not forget our friends in the East. We have been perhaps too inclined to treat friend and neutral alike. And now, at a time when our friends and allies in Pakistan have been subject to these demonstrative attacks by the Russians, would be the moment for a further gesture of increasing our arms and military aid to that friendly and great Dominion The way in which our influence has diminished in the East since the war is incredible. While in many ways we all admired Mr. Bevin, it is strange that he should have managed to get out of the Middle East and Palestine without the friendship of either the Jews or the Arabs. So far as the safeguarding of any Christian interest was concerned, he made Lord North appear a great diplomatist. Surely, we have to make sure that we send men of distinguished personality to deal with Eastern countries and not make merely routine office appointments. If there is one part of the world where personality counts, it is in the Eastern countries. The Government should consider making appointments in the East from that point of view and whether the organisation of Ministers of State which, surrounded by good officials, worked very well in the last war, should not be revived, both in the Middle East in connection with M.E.C.O. (I suppose it is called) and in the Far East with S.E.A.T.O.; and whether they should not have a political personality rather than a Ministerial routine Civil Service appointment.

But I would submit that in the present state of the world Europe is still the key, and Europe is weaker now than it was two years ago. We have had a weakening of the position of France through the troubles in North Africa, by which most of the French divisions have had to be withdrawn from Europe to Morocco. We have had the collapse of French policy in the Saar. We have had its weakness in the ability to form a Government. We have had a Germany which genuinely tried to collaborate with France in building up European institutions, seeing a great deal of those efforts come to naught and many of the opponents of the Western Alliance saying, "May we not do better by direct negotiations either with Russia or with Eastern Germany?" Quite rightly, after the war, to build France up we left the initiative in building up the European system to France, and many fine French statesmen tried their best. It is no fault of M. Schuman and others that they did not succeed.

If we are to build up a solid buttress in Europe, which is the key to the world, it will be done now only under British initiative. We have to realise that we cannot do it on a very narrow "little Europe" basis; it must be based on the wider organisation of N.A.T.O.; that the building, extending and strengthening of N.A.T.O.'s organisation is the primary political task in front of us; that N.A.T.O. must not be a purely military organisation but must be able to deal with political and economic problems; that it must not, as it is at present, be confined purely to the home countries involved, but that it should include consideration of their overseas territories.

I will give your Lordships three examples of how this is necessary. First, let me take Cyprus. The whole N.A.T.O. strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean is in danger because of political quarrels over Cyprus. We have had to tackle it, in fact, on a N.A.T.O. basis, bringing Greece and Turkey into the consideration of this matter. Secondly, there is North Africa. The whole of the American strategic air force support for Europe may be endangered if the political situation goes wrong in North Africa. There is every hope that French statesmanship will solve these problems. We should congratulate the French on the flexibility they have lately shown in a new approach to the problems of North Africa, and wish them well in their efforts.

Thirdly, may I mention Africa. One thing I know something about is the Benguela Railway, which goes through Portuguese West Africa up to the Congo and links up with our copper belt. That railway, which can carry to the Atlantic the products of Rhodesia and strategic materials which at present go to the Indian Ocean at Beira, would have immense importance in time of war, cutting out sea journeys of thousands of miles and enabling ships to avoid the great submarine danger area, which has always been around the Cape itself. Whether that railway and that port should be developed for war-time strategic reasons could not be considered by N.A.T.O. because N.A.T.O. has not been allowed to deal with the overseas territories of its members. Surely it is time that that unnatural limitation should be stopped; because in a war there would be no boundaries and the N.A.T.O. Command would have to deal with all the resources of its members and not merely the metropolitan resources.

Then, surely, it makes no sense to exclude Spain from N.A.T.O., especially if the North African bases may be subject to political danger. As the son of a Virginian, I know what fun it is to re-fight the civil wars of the past and to keep up these memories; but that is an unprofitable form of sport. Surely the form of government in Spain is not much different from that in Portugal. There is a slight element of hypocrisy in keeping the differences alive. If war came the Spanish forces would have to be integrated with the N.A.T.O. forces, and aeroplanes would go from one base to another. Surely it would be better to get Spain firmly into N.A.T.O. If we get the organisation of N.A.T.O. stronger and take leadership there, it will do a great deal to increase our prestige with the United States. The great danger is never American imperialism; it is always American isolationism. There is always a danger that America will get "fed up" with the results of its efforts in men and money abroad. We do not want America to be disillusioned by what is done in Europe. Surely if we can take a lead to strengthen N.A.T.O. and the forces of freedom, we shall at once assume primacy in the councils of our great American Allies. These considerations apply just as much to S.E.A.T.O. and to the Middle Eastern organisation as they do to N.A.T.O. Each must be strengthened and some form of organisation worked out to cover all three.

I believe that British Governments have been too frightened of their own electorates when it comes to closer union with international organisations. Having fought three Elections since the war, I would say that one cause of the return of the Conservative Government in 1951 was the line that Mr. Churchill (as he then was) had taken about the closer union of Europe with the Commonwealth and United States. It showed a new outlook and hope, where previously there seemed to be little. I think the opposition generally comes from within the Government organisation itself. I can say from my experience that, if one were to put the case for giving up some of our powers to friendly international organisations, the response of the British elector would be entirely different from what most people think. If there is one criticism one would make of Sir Winston Churchill and the present Prime Minister, it is that the promise of greater British leadership in the unification of the free forces of the world, which Sit Winston made when in Opposition, has not been entirely carried out. So I think we can hope that the new Foreign Secretary, who I am sure everyone in all parts of this House will congratulate on his elevation, will make good in his performance. If he will take his courage in both hands and give a British lead, I imagine that he will have far greater support in the world and in this country than anybody.

House adjourned during pleasure, and resumed by THE LORD CHANCELLOR.

2.34 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, will forgive me if I do not follow him in the major part of his thoughtful and interesting speech. Indeed, if I may be permitted to say so, I think that this debate has been remarkable for the thoughtful and common-sense speeches to which the House has listened, amongst them being that of the noble Viscount who has just sat down. I had not intended to give my views on the forthcoming Russian visit. It is only the remarks which fell from the noble Viscount which impel me to do so. Whether or not the invitations for this visit of Marshal Bulganin and M. Krushchev would have been issued in present circumstances is beside the point and does not arise. It was issued, and up to this moment it stands, and I for one welcome it. I think that the bulk of the British people have a desire to see these gentlemen, and I think, too, that they ought to see the British people. If they were to indulge in any of the verbal antics to which the noble Viscount has referred and which characterised their visits to India and Burma, then I think they would have the greatest surprise of their lives, for undoubtedly they would cause a roar of laughter throughout this Island which would have a most stimulating effect on them.

Passing from that topic, I take a leap across to the Pacific and to China. At the outset I should like to say that, as it seems to me, the position in the Pacific shows a tendency towards less tension than existed, certainly two years ago. If there is anyone who has played a notable part in that diminution of tension it is the present Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, most ably assisted by the Minister of State, the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, who sits opposite. My feeling is that the lessening of tension results directly from the statement made by Sir Anthony Eden at the Bangkok Conference. He withstood all pressure, and said, in effect, that neither side—neither the Pekin Government nor the authority on the island of Taiwan (Formosa)—should retreat from the positions which they had taken up, but that, whilst not retreating, from those positions, they should, at any rate, agree not to engage in hostilities. I think that statement had a remarkable effect upon the position; that it was welcomed by both sides; that it was welcomed throughout Asia, and that it had a great effect in increasing our prestige throughout the Asian Continent.

On more than one occasion I have drawn attention in your Lordships' House to the subject of British trade with China. In that connection, may I welcome the initiative recently taken by Her Majesty's Government vis-à-vis British trade and the question of its relation to matters connected with "Cocom"—the Consultative Group in Paris—as portrayed in recent approaches by Her Majesty's Government to Washington. Perhaps, as it would be helpful to me, I may be allowed to quote to your Lordships from an article in the Sunday Times of two weeks ago in which the Washington correspondent of that newspaper reviewed the effect of British approaches to the United States administration. The article begins: The Eisenhower administration fears that the sands on which its China policy is based are beginning to shift too soon and too fast for comfort on the eve of the Election year … It goes on to deal with four recent events which have tended to accentuate that feeling. While that may be so, I am sure that British traders, particularly in the export market, who are so vitally affected in this matter, are extremely glad that Her Majesty's Government have not waited until after the Presidential Election to make these approaches. The article says that one of the events was: Britain's desire, communicated to the State Department lately, that she is anxious to ease the stringent restrictions on trade in non-strategic goods with Communist China, which at present are much more severe than those enforced against Russia. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, will remember that this is one of the factors which I have several times taken the liberty of stressing in this House. The difference between the Rusian embargo and the China embargo places our traders at a disadvantage with others from foreign countries who, as I have shown on one or two occasions, have been able to obtain licences for their goods ahead of British exporters. I do not want to spend much time on this particular point but I will thank Her Majesty's Government for the steps they have taken in Washington and express the hope that those steps will be continued and in no sense marked down.

In this debate there have been frequent references to the position of what is called "East-West." Despite what has been said by some noble Lords, I believe that British power and prestige in Asia are very high. Unquestionably the British word is trusted throughout Asia, and I believe that Her Majesty's Government have done much to help that situation. While wishing that in every sense our relations with the United States may remain firmly based on the same bonds of friendship and strength as in the past, I feel that we should not forget that for two centuries Britain has been, in effect, an Asiatic Power. In this country to-day there are many who know China and Japan, families who have remembrances of, if not relations in, various Chinese Treaty ports, and who have Chinese friends there. When the present state of tension disappears they will again take up those relations, with the greatest advantage to Britain and the world at large.

It is useful to remember the overall position in the Pacific. The same jockeying for position that has gone on for the last half century is going on there to-day. Russia is still desirous, as she is perennially, for the warm water port which took her southwards in the early part of the century from Vladivostok to Port Arthur. Japan is always fearful lest a major Power be located in Korea. The China of to-day is occupied in securing her frontiers and is doing what, in effect, every other Power is doing—pushing back her frontiers as far as possible against any likelihood of attack. To-day China has secured herself against the U.S.S.R. in Tibet, in Sinkiang and Inner Mongolia, and is determined to do the same in the North.

Let us see what is the present position in Formosa, an island to which I was first introduced when I landed on it after being wrecked in a typhoon on the other side of the Formosa Straits. An article, again in the Sunday Times of March 13, 1955, includes a description of Formosa by Mr. Iain Lang, a gentleman who has a great knowledge of the Pacific. He called it, "Isle of Make-Believe." Knowing the island, and having a little knowledge of the position that obtains there to-day, I feel that this article gives a graphic description of Formosa and its problems.

Mr. Lang wrote this: Formosa is indeed an island of make-believe. A fragment of 13,000 square miles making believe that it is 'the Republic of China.' A Police State making believe that it is a 'bastion of democracy in the Far East.' Its army of 300,000 men makes believe that it is preparing to recapture the Chinese mainland from Mao Tse-tung's massed millions. However, one or two hard certainties do emerge from this amorphous background. One is that exile has not changed the essential character of the Kuomintang régime"— That régime, as noble Lords will remember, was set up to carry out the ideas of the late Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who was the principal initiator and carrier-through of the Revolution of 1911. The régime was taken over in 1924 by Chiang Kai-shek, whose ideas differed somewhat from those of Mao Tse-tung, who finally broke away from him and marched north— though it has modified some of its grosser abuses. Unlike the Bourbons, Chiang Kai-shek has learned something, but, like them, he has forgotten nothing. He is still the same kind of Oriental despot as he was in pre-revolutionary China, and still relies on the same political techniques as he did in Chungking and Nanking. My Lords, I will not bother you by reading any more of this article but it seems to me to give a very graphic description of Formosa as it is to-day. As to the future, of course one cannot prophesy; but I am very hopeful that with the help of Her Majesty's Government—and, in this matter, in my view, they can be extremely helpful, as they have been in the past—this Formosa question can be amicably settled. I think that both sides may be ready to settle, particularly looking to the lessening of claims as months go by on the island of Formosa itself. I stress that hope, and I again congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the part they have played in the Far East to date. I feel sure that their efforts in the future will be fruitful.

2.54 p.m.


My Lords, the difficulty about speaking in these general Foreign Affairs debates is that on each occasion one finds oneself saying the same thing over and over again. The reason for this is obvious enough. The situation which we are discussing is still, in essence, the same situation, however much appearances may seem to change and whatever facet of the situation is uppermost in our minds at the moment. The position is quite plain, or, at any rate, it seems quite plain to me. It can be described in half a dozen sentences. Western civilisation still faces the supreme challenge of its history. The Soviet power is bent on the destruction of the free world, as we call it. The Soviet power will take its own time in trying to achieve its purpose. Its purpose is implacable, and the methods employed are kaleidoscopic in their variety. The Soviet power is not to be appeased or bought off. The end, it holds, is inevitable. The capitalist world, it says, will be finished off by the march of history, with a measure of well-directed assistance from the Communist Parties in each country and, if need be, with the support of the Soviet Armed Forces.

We should not overlook that all this destructive process can be carried on progressively in the presence of the present deadlock of what I might call mutual nuclear deterrence That is the position, and it will remain, I think, until there is a real change in the Soviet outlook. And of this change there is as yet no clear sign. After Stalin died there was a great deal of talk about a "new look." There have been several "new looks" since then, but none of them seems to be much of an improvement on the old look. In his day Stalin took risks: he took a risk in Berlin in 1948; he took a risk in Korea in 1950. But whatever the anxieties of those days—and they were grievous anxieties—it was possible to think it unlikely that a man so shrewd and so wary would carry the issue to the final extreme.

I remember discussing this point two or three years ago in London with a former official of the Soviet Service whom I had known well in Moscow some years before. He said that Stalin's claim to a permanent place in history would lie in the fact that he had brought about the massive industrialisation of the Soviet Union just in time, and that he had led Russia victoriously through what was perhaps the most terrible ordeal in her history. Stalin, he said, was conscious of that and would do nothing to put to hazard the achievements of the Revolution, or to forfeit the place he had won for himself in history. So long as Stalin was there, this man thought, there would be no resort to general war. But when Stalin died and power passed to other hands, he could make no such confident prediction. No-one could tell what would happen then.

We can now see into what hands this vast Soviet power has passed. Can anyone say that the world is any safer for the change? Stalin had to build and rebuild his power with pain and travail. Krushchev has merely had to pick it up, and it looks as though it may have gone to his head. However that may be, there is among the Soviet leaders as a whole a new confidence, a new arrogance, as though they saw themselves the masters of the world. They are throwing themselves with a new zest and a new abandon into their campaign to draw the neutrals, the uncommitted Powers, into their orbit. It is natural enough that, in doing so, they should vilify and misrepresent this country. They cannot fail to have seen in India and Burma how widely spread and how deeply rooted are the material and moral benefits which the British administrators have left behind them. Clearly, they had to make this their first point of attack.

I do not myself altogether regret the speeches which have been made on their travels by the Soviet Prime Minister and the Communist Party boss. The more plainly the Soviet leaders can be led to state their real minds, to reveal the extent of their delusions, to disclose the distorted view which they hold of the world, the better, it seems to me, the rest of the world will know them for what they are, When they come here next spring, I think it might do our people good, as for example it did the Yugoslays good, to see M. Krushchev as he really is, but I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, that perhaps an attitude of reserve might not be out of place on the part of their hosts. I would say that if our visitors disregard the rules of hospitality, as they have done elsewhere, on occasions when any of Her Majesty's Ministers are present, it is to be hoped that the latter will not hesitate to make an immediate riposte; and if there are occasions when no immediate reply can be made, it might well be that an official statement could be put out with Ministerial authority with the least possible delay. There are things about free elections, about the enslaved peoples of Europe and about the Soviet colonial peoples in Central Asia that could usefully be said, if we were provoked to it.

In the same way, it seems to me that one of the chief advantages of the Foreign Ministers' Conference at Geneva was that Mr. Molotov dispersed the roseate hues of the Summit Conference and stated the Soviet position in such unbending and unequivocal terms. It is to be hoped that our own public and the public of the rest of the free world will not be too quick to forget the lessons of that Conference; and those Ministers of Asian countries who are now so hopefully consorting with the Soviet Union might do well to reflect on the fate of Dr. Benes. As Sancho Panza used to say: Many a man has gone out for wool and has come home shorn. That is how I see the situation. Once again, as so often before, we ask ourselves: If these are the dangers, how best can they be met? What ought our policy to be? Fortunately, our policy is, broadly speaking, on the right lines. The defensive coalition is in being, backed by the nuclear deterrent. N.A.T.O. is working smoothly and although our combined ground forces in Europe are painfully inadequate, yet the Supreme Commander and his staff are alert to perfect the mechanism and to increase the cohesion of his forces. On the political side, the Foreign Ministers meet to keep the situation under periodic review and make known their conclusions. The policies on which the three Western Powers took their stand at Geneva were fully explained at that Conference. They are intelligible and well-founded policies and have received wide approval, and I see no reason at all why there should be any modification of them. They are well-conceived and well-explained but, as the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said, at the moment we are passing through a difficult and dangerous period. The new Soviet campaign falls within the period of an American election; France is grappling with difficult external and internal problems; opinion in Western Germany after Geneva is taking stock and testing once again the foundations of Dr. Adenauer's policy of unification in freedom, in partnership with the Western Powers. In those circumstances, a special responsibility lies on the United Kingdom to give stability and continuity. Happily, these are the things which Her Majesty's Ministers—the new team as well as the old—are well qualified to provide. So much for Europe.

What about the debatable lands, the neutral areas in the Middle East and in South-East Asia? Here, again, it is possible to say that our policy is on the right lines: that is to say, first, respect for independence; secondly, collective defence agreements where possible; and thirdly, the supply of economic and technical assistance on the lines of the Colombo Plan. But we ought not to suppose that economic and technical assistance, however generous, which we and the Americans may make available, are in themselves alone an effective barrier against Communism. Revolutions, though they may be facilitated by human misery, are not made by human misery alone. France was flourishing and in full economic activity in 1789. Czechoslovakia was not in material distress or want in 1948. Revolutions result, I suggest, rather from a breakdown of authority, from the disintegration of the functions of government, brought about by the concerted action of a skilful and resolute minority and exploited by that minority to seize power for themselves. The technique of this kind of operation has been exhaustively studied. Its exponents are well-trained and they are at work in all lands. From This I suggest that it is clear that communities which are the target of Communist threat or blandishment require not merely material welfare; they require also inner moral strength, and we must make it our business, so far as we can, to supply this kind of reinforcement also.

In this matter, we in this country not only can rely on what we can do in the present, but can also draw on what we have done in the past. The good that men do lives after them and is not merely interred with their bones. The majestic British achievement of the past century and more has not only brought the Commonwealth of our own kin into being, but it has led, and is leading, a whole range of peoples of varied races and creeds towards self-government and independence. This process is going on in full flood before our eyes, in all its variety and ingenuity of resource. Of course, some peoples come to self-government and independence before, on a cool assessment, they are ready for it. Then we hear talk about a "policy of scuttle." Sometimes, on the other hand, we may hold on too long. Then the criticism is: Too little and too late." But, by and large, even when the achievement of self-government may be held to have been premature, the result is usually a good deal better than one might have expected. Peoples do, in fact, make shift to govern themselves in their own way, and they do it the better if they have a good model to follow.

We can have good hope, for example, that the devoted work of the Sudan Civil Service has not been wasted. Sir Stewart Symes, a former Governor General of the Sudan, wrote a letter to The Times the other day, in which he said: Those of us who believe that standards of honest and efficient government set up by British administrators in the Sudan will not easily be overthrown may retain our optimism undeterred by inevitable growing pains of a young and inexperienced State. These seem to me to be words of great wisdom. It so happens that the weight of the new Soviet offensive in the debatable lands, whether by threat or by blandishment, is in a number of cases being brought to bear on communities in whom the British tradition has been implanted. I believe that, from this very fact, they will find a reinforcement of their own inherent strength the better to meet the challenge. It is now, when, for example, India, Pakistan and Burma are independent, that the free world may, in fuller measure than before, reap the benefit of the faithful work of the Indian Civil Service and of the officers of that magnificent body, the old Indian Army. Some years ago, in Delhi, I asked one of the most revered of the elder statesmen of India what the British would leave behind them in India. He replied that we had given great gifts to his people: these were, he said, the rule of law, the heritage of a great literature, the freedom of the individual and an instinct for liberal democracy So, my Lords, I say we can play our part by what we have done in the past, as well as by what we do now. But, in the long run, these newly enfranchised peoples must save themselves. That is what independence means. And if, in the exercise of that independence, they opt for neutrality in the great contest, they should not, I suggest, forfeit our sympathy or be shut out from our support, in so far as they are willing to receive it.

What about our own people here at home? We usually say, comfortingly, to ourselves that the heart of the people is sound. That may be. But we shall need all our soundness of heart and all our steadiness of judgment in the long-drawn-out trials in the international field in the months and years to come. It is true to say that we have managed our affairs pssably well since the war, for six years under one kind of Government and for four years under another kind of Government. We are making a successful attempt to solve the perennial problem of reconciling liberty with order. But, like the other peoples of the free world, we must in the last resort save ourselves, because it is the people themselves who make and unmake Governments and who, in the largest sense, determine policies. Our people have shown themselves to possess many shining qualities, but they are not immune from threat or temptation that may impair their inner strength. One such threat, as it seems to me, is the persistent debasement of public taste and sense of responsibility by the extreme vulgarity and irresponsibility of some of the most widely circulated organs of the Press. The values which these newspapers inculcate are not conducive to good citizenship and can only weaken the body politic.

Then, again, there is the danger that the common man, in the innocence of his heart or at the prompting of evil counsellors, will persist in buying present ease without recognising, perhaps without caring, that the price of present ease may be future disaster. That is apt to be the besetting sin of the common man. It can lead in the international sphere to what is called appeasement; it can lead in the domestic sphere to what we know as inflation. Governments, it seems to me, have a plain duty here to educate and counteract, and Oppositions, too, have a responsible part to play. As regards resistance to inflation, all our Governments since the war, perhaps out of undue tenderness for the susceptibilities of the common man, have done all too little. As regards the avoidance of appeasement, they have done a good deal more, and the Russians themselves have helped them. But the siren voices are still there, and to counter them the public needs to be kept constantly informed about the state of the world. This can be done in a number of ways. It can be done by Ministerial broadcasts, like that of the former Foreign Secretary the other evening; it can be done by maintaining close relations with the Press; and it can be done by debates in Parliament. That is one reason why I feel we should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for bringing the international situation once more before your Lordships to-day.

3.16 p.m.


My Lords, first of all, I should like to refer briefly, in my turn, to the recent Conference at Geneva and to the attitude adopted there by Her Majesty's Government. While sharing the general disappointment at the lack of progress, I must say that, things having turned out as they have, I feel also a sense of immense relief. There is always a strong temptation at high level international conferences of this kind to appear as having achieved something, however bleak the result, so as not to disappoint public opinion. That is a most dangerous thing, and I was more than relieved when it became clear that the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues had resisted that temptation and had not sponsored some face-saving formula which, far from adding to our security, would only have papered over the cracks between the Western position and that of the East. Indeed, it is much more than cracks which divide us—it is a chasm; and it is healthier, I feel sure, that everybody should see that it is a chasm.

The danger of these political conferences at high level is that people at home may be misled—not the Governments, but plain people; our own people, the people of France and the people of America—to suppose that because the leaders are so often in each other's company, and making such friendly declarations, and appear so smiling in the photographs, they can relax and safely go back on the hard sacrifices which they are making and must make if the strength of the Western front is to be maintained. While, therefore, obviously it is necessary and desirable that the Allied leaders should be ready to meet and discuss with the Soviet leaders at regular intervals, it is equally necessary that the results of such talks, whether positive or negative, should be left in no doubt. No agreement at all is better than a dishonest agreement. The fact is that it is not possible at the present time to reach agreement; the gap between the two systems and the two policies is far too wide. We should be very careful not to blur the edges.

If, therefore, I think there is cause for relief at the more clear-cut position in the East-West situation as it was left after Geneva II, the situation in other directions, I am afraid, has certainly not improved. Indeed, I believe there is cause for much fresh anxiety, especially as regards the internal position in Western Germany herself. I believe the situation there is slipping. Dr. Adenaur, great statesman that he is, is getting older and his team is getting more unruly. He has suffered, as the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said, severe set-backs in his European policy, first, by the rejection by France of the European Defence Committee, and then of the Saar Settlement by his own Parliament. A further and perhaps fatal blow would come were anything done to weaken the High Coal and Steel Authority at Luxembourg.

None the less, German nationalists and industrialists, the neo-Nazis and also German Socialists now seem united in advocating very dangerous doctrines. Though of different origins, some good and some far from good, they all have this in common: they all lead back to autarchy and neutralism. The argument all these dissidents use comes roughly to this: that since Soviet Russia will not agree to German reunion whilst Western Germany is allied to the West, therefore the Federal Government should renounce its Western connection and should become neutral and demilitarised, after which there would be no objection to the two Germanies reuniting. That argument seems to me altogether too simple and begs far too many questions. One thing is certain, and I think everybody should know it: a neutral Germany, balanced between East and West, would be as great a menace to stability in Europe as a divided Germany. It would be a perpetual menace to peace. I doubt whether such a situation could be tolerated any more by Soviet Russia than by the West.

Now what does neutralism amount to in German eyes? Above all, it means that there should be no foreign bases, Soviet Russia retiring over the East frontier and the Allies over the West frontier, and Germany becoming a sort of "no man's land." But the pressures to which she would be subjected would be quite unequal. The Russians would step back a few kilometres, but where would the Allied forces be able to stand? Is it likely that the United States would allow her ground forces to remain in the narrow zone between the Rhine and the Atlantic? And what of our own troops? The withdrawal of Western Germany would entail an entirely new conception of N.A.T.O. The defence of Europe would have to be recast and might have to become entirely peripheral, Western Europe being defended by air power alone from the edges. Germany would become a vast neutralised zone, demilitarised and open to invasion or bombing. I doubt whether that would suit Germany any more than France or Britain. The more the idea of a neutralised, demilitarised Germany is looked at, the more unrealistic it is seen to be. Some Germans may fondly imagine that Germany would be so powerful that she could hold the balance between East and West and remain free of both. How long does anyone suppose that such a Germany would remain demilitarised? A reunited Germany, with a population of 60 million or 70 million, would be far too big and her outlook far too dynamic for her ever to be neutral. She is not an Austria or a Switzerland, and she can never be an India. Neither the East nor the West could possibly tolerate it.

To-day, it is a commonplace that no Power, however great, can stand alone. Germany must stand in with the West or with the East; she must make up her mind to which side she belongs. She must make her choice between the Communist bloc and the free world: she cannot be neutral. It is for her to make a decision. We, for our part, have no doubt that Germany is, and should be, one of the Western nations, having been civilised and Christianised from the West and forming part of Charlemagne's dominions. We believe that it is our duty —and I think we are doing it—to do everything possible to strengthen her Western ties and her European ties. We should obviously do everything to make Germany feel at home with us. The Western Defence Community, alas! has gone, good plan though it was, but N.A.T.O. remains; and here everything has been and is being done to make Germany feel at home and that her contribution is welcome. There also remains the High Authority for Coal and Steel at Luxembourg, which also stands for a great political conception. Here, I regret to say, our record has been much more hesitant, but I hope that no effort will be spared now to strengthen our participation and influence there.


My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord for interrupting his most interesting speech, but your Lordships will know that on the Order Paper there is a Royal Commission at 3.30. Therefore, I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.—(The Earl of Onslow.)

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.