§ 2.13 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL, (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY) rose to move to resolve, That this House supports the policy of Her Majesty's Government, as outlined by the Foreign Secretary on 3rd December, which has prevented hostilities in the Middle East from spreading, has resulted in a United Nations Force being introduced into the area, and has created conditions under which progress can be made towards the peaceful settlement of outstanding issues. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I rise to move the Resolution standing in my name, and in what I have to say I would assure your Lordships that I shall try to be as uncontroversial as possible on a subject which. I am afraid, has been all too productive of controversy. For I do not, personally, believe that much advantage is to he gained by a further slinging of mud, such as we have witnessed, not perhaps, indeed, in your Lordships' House, hut in some other places which I could possibly mention. We all know that the Government have clone a number of things which have deeply shocked noble Lords opposite; and we all know equally that the Party of noble Lords opposite have done a number of things which have deeply shocked us on this side of the House. We had surely better leave it at that. My object, therefore, in speaking to your Lordships this afternoon will he not so much to answer charges that have been made against us, or to make countercharges, as to tell the plain unvarnished story, as I see it. of why we did what we did, when we did, with regard to recent events in Egypt, and to suggest, very diffidently. the lessons which I believe can be learned from those events.
§ I think it is necessary that I should emphasise, if there is to be any true understanding of the actions of the Government, that there have been over this period not one crisis but two crises. There was the crisis of July, which resulted from Colonel Nasser's seizure of the Suez Canal; and there was the crisis of October, which resulted from the Israeli attack on Egypt. Those crises, of course, are allied very closely in all our minds, for they were both concerned with Egypt and the Suez Canal. But they 846 were, in fact, different in character, and they have required different treatment.
§ First. I should like to say something about the crisis which arose from Colonel Nasser's seizure of the Suez Canal. That, as Her Majesty's Government at have consistently maintained, was essentially an international problem. For the Canal, as me all know, is a great international waterway, and any interruption of the free navigation of the Canal was a problem not to be tackled by one or two nations alone, but by all those countries for whom, since the introduction of oil as a great industrial fuel, the Suez Canal has become essential to their very existence. That, at any rate, was the view of the British Government and the French Government last July.
§ In those circumstances, as we all know, they did two things. First, they sent sufficient forces to the Eastern Mediterranean to deal with any emergency that might arise—and that, I am sure, was a very proper precaution, whatever policy we proposed to adopt. From my experience in the Foreign Office (and I expect that the noble Lord. Lord Henderson, would bear this out). no foreign policy, whether a national or an international foreign policy, can be effective without material force behind it. Secondly, by agreement with the United States of America. we called a meeting of the chief users of the Canal—which was a very proper course under Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations. From that meeting there emerged what have now come to be known as the 18-Power proposals, which had the support of the main users of the Canal. Those proposals were, in due course, submitted to Colonel Nasser by the Menzies Mission, and in due course they were turned down.
§ The subsequent events, I am sure. are fresh in the memory of us. all, and I therefore will not elaborate them. There was, first, Mr. Dulles' scheme for the Users' Association; next there was the Franco-British appeal to the Security Council, and a consideration by that Council of our resolution, which asked support for the 18-Power proposals; and finally, there was the vote on our resolution, which emerged, as your Lordships will remember, from the Security Council in two parts: one, which approved the 18-Power proposals, was vetoed by 847 Russia; and the other, which put forward six principles as a basis for negotiation, was passed unanimously. That was the position when the second crisis arose.
§ The negotiations on the basis of the six principles had not yet begun when the news was received of the Israeli mobilisation, which clearly portended some military action. The dangers which were likely to flow from military action by Israel, however great might have been the provocation which led up to it, must have been obvious to all. For if war broke out in that very inflammable part of the world, the Arab countries, who were allied with Egypt, were likely to be drawn in; wherever the attack took place, there would have been a general movement throughout the Arab world, and what might have started as a limited war would have been likely to spread throughout the whole of the Middle East, and possibly far beyond. On receiving news, therefore, of the Israeli mobilisation, as I think the House already knows, Her Majesty's Government urged restraint in all directions, and, in particular, gave warning, as they were bound to do, that if Israel attacked Jordan. Britain would act by virtue of our obligations under the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty. Her Majesty's Government also took such measures as were necessary for the protection of British interests anywhere in the area. When, ultimately. Israel launched an attack on Egypt, Britain and France. in concert, sent an ultimatum to both the two Governments concerned. For in their view it was essentially a case for immediate police action, and Britain and France were the only Powers in position to take that action.
§ I will not trouble the House this afternoon with the whole of that ultimatum, but I think it is important to remind your Lordships of some relevant portions, for these define clearly what is now, I am afraid, often forgotten: what were the purposes, and what were the limits, of the police action which the two countries thought it proper to take. They first explained to the Israeli and Egyptian Governments that the main purpose of their intervention was to bring about an early cessation of hostilities, and to safeguard the free passage of the Canal. They then requested both Israel and Egypt, first to stop all war-like action by land, sea and 848 air forthwith, and, secondly, to withdraw all their military forces to a distance of ten miles from the Canal. Israel accepted those conditions; Egypt refused.
§ Now such, and such only—and not those far wider objectives which we are now so frequently told should have been achieved—were the reasons for our landing in Egypt. I have felt it necessary to remind the House of those very simple facts because they have been the basis of all our actions throughout this difficult period. In the limited task which they set themselves, I think Her Majesty's Government and the French Government may fairly claim that their policy had a full measure of success. First, and most important, it stopped the war which, without their intervention, would, in our view at any rate, almost certainly have spread throughout the Middle East. But the policy also achieved two other results which will prove, I believe, very important for the future. First, it exposed how close was the link-up between Egypt and Russia. which we had always suspected. but the scope of which was realised only as the result of these events. The great quantity of aeroplanes which were destroyed, mostly Russian of a most modern type; the tractors and the self-propelled guns of Russian origin which have been found in Port Said without adducing the material which was found by the Israelis and which is relevant to my main argument—these were not sent there for nothing. That, then—the exposure of the long-suspected Russian infiltration in Egypt—was, I believe, the first and certainly a very important by-product of our action.
§ Secondly, we brought the United Nations force into the Middle East. One thing is quite certain: nothing but our action would have done that. Certain things, indeed, we did not accomplish which it is now said we should have done. We are often told that before we ceased military operations we ought to have gone to Suez or to Cairo; that we ought to have got rid of Colonel Nasser; that we ought to have enforced a long-term solution of the Suez Canal problem or the Arab-Israel problem, and so on. Your Lordships, I am sure, have either heard or read such suggestions. Those are all objects for which I am sure there is much to be said in themselves—that I am very ready to concede. But they were none 849 of them a matter for one country or two countries alone: they were matters, as we had consistently held since the seizure of the Canal in July, for international action. The most that we and the French Government could properly do was to take immediate ad hoc action of a police character to bring the war to an end and to protect the free passage of the Canal from the hazards of that war. If we failed in the second object—and we certainly did fail—it was not because the Canal was damaged by the hazards of war. We failed because the Egyptian Government itself, quite gratuitously, sabotaged the Canal—and this, by the way, is, I think, the proof, if any proof is needed, of what we had always said in connection with the earlier dispute over the nationalisation of the Canal: that Colonel Nasser would not hesitate to close the Canal whenever and for whatever reason he wished to do so.
§ But we did, at any rate, succeed beyond expectation in our first objective, for hardly had we landed in Port Said than both combatants agreed to an unconditional cease-fire. That, of course, was the reason why we, too, ceased our military operations. It is sometimes suggested that if we had gone on for twelve hours more, or twenty-four hours more, we could have got to Ismailia and Suez. But, my Lords, in my view, for what it is worth, we could not with any shred of honesty have gone on after the objects far which we had landed had been achieved. Morally and politically we should have put ourselves entirely in the wrong. Our main purpose had been concluded: the Egyptian-Israeli war had been brought to an end.
§ From the moment of the ceasefire, and the cessation of that war, the main question at issue was what were the conditions, which would justify us in concluding that our task had been completed, so that we could retire from Egypt. Over this, I think we have throughout made our position quite clear. There must be an adequate United Nations Force to take our place, and carry out the terms of the resolution of the United Nations of November 2. We steadily refused to move from that position, in spite of what I can only call virulent attacks in the United Nations and a lack of support from some of those from whom we might naturally Lave expected to get it. it was 850 only when we received ass trances which we considered adequate that we decided to withdraw our troops.
First of all, there was to be a United Nations Force in the Middle. East to take our place adequate to perform the duties which were mentioned in the resolution to which I have referred. And. that, I would repeat, was something that was never even contemplated before we welt in. Secondly, we were satisfied, by conversations which had been held with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, that the clearance of the Canal would begin as soon as it was technically possible, and that it would not be dependent on other considerations. That view has since been fortified by a forthright: declaration by the United States Government on December 3 which said:
Every day of delay in restoring the Canal to normal use is a breach of he 1888 Treaty.
§ From that I think that one might quite fairly assume that the whole vast weight of the United States will be thrown in against delay. Thirdly, on the future of the Canal, the Secretary-General gave an assurance that he would promote as rapidly as possible negotiations on the basis of the six principles in the Security Council resolution of October 13 and the letter of the Secretary-General of October 24 which, as your Lordships will remember, was accepted by the Egyptian Government. Here, again, the United States Government have made a public statement that they consider it essential that arrangements should be worked out without delay to ensure the operation of the Canal on this basis.
Finally, to quote once more the words of the statement of December 3. the United States Government came out with a declaration:
That the United States is determined (through the United Nations and in other ways) to assist in bringing about a permanent settle-mom of the other persistent conflicts which have plagued the Middle Eat over recent years.
§ My Lords, how happy should we have been if we had got a declaration like that before the crisis began!
§ I have tried to tell—I hope plainly: and obiectively—the story of the actions that have been taken by Her Majesty's Government in the Middle East and the results which have flowed from those I actions. I fully appreciate that there nay 851 be criticism as to the individual steps which Her Majesty's Government took, or failed to take, at one juncture or another in that long chain of events. That, I suppose, is always true in moments of crisis. One has to act quickly, or one would be too late, and it is always possible to feel afterwards that this or that might have been done differently. But the really important consideration to my mind is should we have acted at all. It would no doubt have been very much easier for us to do nothing, and to let the Israeli attack go ahead, with all the risks to general peace which would have been involved: or, alternatively, we might have contented ourselves with bringing the matter before the United Nations and unloading our responsibilities in that way. That. I know, is a course that has been advocated by many people of deep sincerity and high integrity. They argue that by following it we should have fulfilled our obligations under International Law, and that was all that could be required of any nation.
§ My Lords, I wish I could take that comfortable view, but I know, and we all know, if we are frank with ourselves, what would have happened—indeed, we have a very good example at the present moment over Hungary. In that case, we and the other nations of the Western World—indeed all the other members of the United Nations—did exactly what we are now told we should have done over the Israeli-Egyptian war: we brought it before the United Nations; we asked the United Nations to take action. What has the United Nations done? It has done precisely nothing. It has passed resolution after resolution; it has made condemnatory speech after condemnatory speech. But it has not even succeeded in securing the introduction of observers into Hungarian territory, much less preventing the rape of the country. I do not think we could fairly blame ourselves, as a nation, for not having done more in the case of Hungary, for there was nothing we could do alone; but in the case of the Egyptian-Israeli conflict, it so happened that we and France were in a position to perform one of the main functions for which the United Nations exists, the stopping of war.852
§ The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, in, I think, the last debate we had in this House, described our action as aggression, by which I must presume he meant unprovoked attack for the purpose of furthering national interests. That is what I understand aggression to mean. I do not believe that that will be the verdict of history. History, I believe, will recognise, as we in Her Majesty's Government have had to recognise, that the United Nations as it is to-day is in no condition to do all that its founders intended. In the Security Council it has been frustrated by the Veto; while the Assembly, I am afraid, has now become a kind of stamping ground of conflicting Power groups, some actuated by one motive and some by another, but very few concerned with the moral merits or demerits of the issue actually before it, and most of them coming to their decision merely on general considerations of national policy.
§ It is idle to shut our eyes to these harsh realities but, at the same time, to say that is, of course, no reason for writing off the United Nations as a dead loss. That. I believe—and here I agree with the Opposition—would be a counsel of despair. On the contrary, it seems to me a compelling reason for looking forward and not back, for getting together with other like-minded nations and seeing what can be done to give to the organisation that life and strength without which it would not be a protection but a danger to the world. That, I believe, is the first lesson that we must learn from these events.
The second, which I believe to be equally important, is the vital necessity for both countries to get closer cooperation between the United Kingdom and the United States of America. That is something for which I have, as some of your Lordships know, consistently pleaded in this House ever since I have been here; and I have not changed my mind. Over this issue of the Middle East (and in saying so I do not, of course, refer only to the period since the seizure of the Canal in July last, but for many months before) the two countries—and we all know it—have not been marching in step. For this the last thing I want to do to-day is to apportion blame. There have no doubt been faults on both sides. My Lords, it is indeed
a thing, I think, which can always happen from time to time, even between the oldest and truest friends; but there is an old saying, which may be familiar to some of your Lordships,
The falling out of faithful friends, Renewing is of love.
§ That must be the spirit which must inspire and inform us on both sides of the Atlantic from this time on. To look back, to harp on our past differences will only be to condemn our relations permanently to frustration and bitterness. It is on a better future that our eyes must be fixed, and I believe the will is there in both countries.
§ I think we should gratefully recognise this afternoon that our American friends have already done much, and show signs of doing more, to make clear that this is true; and we, for our part, must do the same. The times are far too dangerous for us and the United States to quarrel. I have no doubt that there are serious difficulties still facing this country, especially in the economic sphere. We live in an age of oil, and any interruption of the flow of oil is bound to affect us in many spheres of our national life, as we all know only too well But if hardships are incurred in a just cause—and I believe that this is the view of the majority of the British people—I have no doubt our people will be willing to face those hardships with the courage and cheerfulness which they always show in times of stress; and it is quite evident, I think, that it is the wish of the United States to do everything in their power to alleviate our difficulties.
§ That, my Lords, is the broad picture that I should like to put before you to-day of those stirring events which have occurred in the Middle East during recent months. I have tried very hard in doing so not to exacerbate feeling or to arouse controversy. Noble Lords opposite feel, I know, that the losses which have resulted from these actions which Her Majesty's Government and the French Government felt it right to take have been greater than the gain. I do not share that view. Apart from the immediate result of stopping the war in the Sinai Desert, the war between Israel and Egypt to which I have already referred, our actions have led, as I said earlier, to an exposure of the full extent of Russo-Egyptian plans in the subjugation of the 854 Middle East, and also, I believe, to the disruption of those plans.
There are those, I know, on the Benches opposite who have taken the view that, on the whole, this episode must be counted a Russian victory. I believe they would find a very different view being taken if they were in the inner counsels of the Soviet Government in Moscow. I believe they would find this episode regarded as a most unwelcome upset of their long-term schemes. Nor, I am sure, will Russia welcome the increasing evidence that statesmen on the other side of the Atlantic arc determined to concert a firmer policy for bringing about peace and stability in the Middle East, and beyond, than has ever been the case before. They will have noted the words of the Vice-President, Mr. Nixon:
We do not want to go back to the armed truce of two years ago.
They will have seen the statement of that experienced statesman, Mr. Lester Pearson:
The shock treatment the Western Alliance has received may in the long rim bring about an all ante stronger than ever.
§ I do not believe that remarks of that kind will bring much balm to Russian hearts.
What is the truth? Throughout the last years, as a result of the inaction of the Western Powers the Middle East has been slowly and steadily sliding away into the abyss of Communism and now a new chance has been given for the United Nations and the United States, for all of us who believe in freedom, to preserve it from that disaster. That is the view not only of Her Majesty's Government but of many thanking people in many lands. I should like to give only one quotation from an Austrian newspaper. This is what it says:
It must be emphasised that under the salutary shock of events in Suez, new and quite unusual life has been injected into the United Nations. A project which has been played about with for years is at last reality—a United Nations police force. Who will deny that this is a great step forward? Who will dispute that only a force such as this can bring an end to the ceaseless massacres on Middle Eastern frontiers which altogether have cost far more sacrifice than the whole military effort of the two Western Powers?
§ That, I believe, is the supreme justification for the action we have taken. It is for that reason that we offer ourselves with confidence to the judgment of this wise and experienced House. I beg to move.855
§ Moved to resolve, That this House supports the policy of Her Majesty's Government as outlined by the Foreign Secretary on 3rd December, which has prevented hostilities in the Middle East from spreading, has resulted in a United Nations Force being introduced into the area, and has created conditions under which progress can be made towards the peaceful settlement of outstanding issues.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, the noble Marquess said in his opening remarks that he would try to be uncontroversial. Whether or not he has been successful it will be for the House to judge, but I cannot hope to follow his example. I am afraid that in what I have to say I am bound to be controversial, although I hope that I shall not say what I have to say in a manner which will offend the dignity of this House. We here are accustomed to debate our problems in a manner which is worthy of the occasion and on the highest possible level. I hope to be judged by whether or not I succeed in that objective, but not on the strength of what I have to say. I am afraid that, like the noble Marquess, I shall have to tread on well-trodden ground. After so many debates, both in this place and in another, it is going to be difficult to find anything really fresh to say. If that is my own position, I feel very sorry for the fiftieth speaker in this debate tomorrow evening. I wish the noble Earl. Lord Home, good fortune, and I hope that he will find something.
Now that we are in the process of withdrawing from Egypt, I think this is an occasion when we might try to form some kind of assessment of the gains and losses that have resulted from our action. The noble Marquess referred to this aspect of the matter and suggested that the gains were greater than the losses. I hope to prove that the reverse is the case. The Resolution before the House asks for support for the policy outlined by the Foreign Secretary on December 3, and repeated in this House on the following day, and asserts that there were three gains from that policy. The first is that itprevented hostilities in the Middle East from spreading";856 the second, that our actionhas resulted in a United Nations Force being introduced into the areaand the third, that itcreated conditions under which progress can he made towards the peaceful settlement of outstanding issues.As the noble Marquess knows by now, we profoundly disagree with, and deplore, the policy which has been carried out by the Government. We regard the month of November as one of the most disastrous and humiliating in our history. We have already expressed our opinion in several debates that our action in invading Egypt—and I hope the noble Marquess will not quarrel with the term "invading"—and in bombing their population was morally wrong and without any justification, moral, legal or otherwise.
If that is the case, the question of gains and losses becomes irrelevant. Gains and losses become relevant only if we are arguing the case for our action on the basis of expediency. I propose to deal with that aspect, too, but if our action was fundamentally and morally wrong, then the question of gains and losses is really not a relevant factor in the matter. We acted in breach of our obligations under the United Nations Charter and of our other obligations to refrain from armed aggression. We set an example which, in the months and years to come, we may well have cause to regret We created ourselves as self-appointed judges and executioners in our own dispute with Egypt, in which we were only one of many nations concerned. There are a very large number of nations that could have acted on the grounds upon which we ourselves acted. The noble Marquess merely stated that it so happened that we had our Forces conveniently available in order to take action. But, if other countries had acted in the same way as we did in July and August, they also would have had their forces conveniently available to take action, and we could have had the whole world stepping into Egypt in order to stop what we allegedly went in to stop.
But, in fact, the whole world and a great many people in this country believe that the dominating reason for our intervention was our intention to settle the dispute over the Suez Canal by force and to impose our own solution on Egypt. Incidentally, the noble Marquess has 857 linked together the two crises, the crisis over Suez and the crisis that arose through the action of Israel.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
If I may say so to the noble Lord, all I said was that they were linked only by the fact Mat they both affected the same part of the world. I did not link them in any other way. I went to considerable lengths not to do so—and rightly, in my view.
§ LORD SILKIN
Never mind. I was not intending to misinterpret the noble Marquess: I was going a stage further. I was saying that he did link them together in the respect in which he says. I have linked them together, because I believe that the second action on our part was a direct consequence of the first. The general belief—the noble Marquess can test this all over the world, including the United States of America—is that, having been prevented, by public opinion here and abroad, from the use of force in August and September, we then seized on this occasion. We acted without consultation and without giving the United Nations any opportunity of commenting on our proposed course.
The noble Marquess may well say that nothing would have happened if we had consulted them. I do not believe that that is a justification for not having consulted them; nor does it follow that the United Nations would have taken no action. Admittedly, the United Nations is impotent when dealing with one of the great Powers; but in this case it was not, and the United Nations has frequently succeeded in dealing with troubles all over the world where one of the great Powers was not involved. It does not in the least follow that, if we had gone to the United Nations, the combined action of the whole of the world would not have been instrumental in stopping the crisis that arose in the Middle East. We did not notify the United Nations. Even worse, we failed to notify, still less to consult with, our ally, the United States of America, and with our Dominions. Indeed, we actually vetoed a United Nations resolution in the Security Council which, among other things, urged all members to refrain from the use of force or the threat of force in the area, in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.
858 One of the reasons given (the noble Marquess did not give it, for nut informing the United States, was that there was no necessity to get their prior agreement. Let there be no misunderstanding. We on this side are not suggesting that we in this country have to follow the United States in any action that we choose to take—that we must get their prior agreement. We do not allege that. What we say is that the Government ought to have consulted our ally and taken them into their confidence I want to point out that our ultimatum to Israel and Egypt was given on October 30. On October 29, the very day before, we were in consultation with the United States of America. Noble Lords may have seen a statement in the Press yesterday, to the effect that M. Monet, the French Prime Minister, was interviewed on television in Paris by a number of American journalists, and among other things he said that the sole reason why the United States had not been consulted before the attack on Egypt was the fear that she would have prevented it. That is a statement by somebody who is in the best possible position to know; and, until the opposite is proved, I shall believe that that is the case. I should be very glad if, when he comes to speak, the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, who is no doubt familiar with the position, could give us the information on M. Mollet's statement, either to confirm or to deny it.
In that connection, I should also like to ask the noble Marquess, or the noble Earl who is to reply to the debate, to say quite categorically whether or not they admit that they had fore-knowledge of the proposed attack by Israel. The statement that is going around is that there was actual collusion. In the very first debate on this question in which I took part I repudiated the suggestion of collusion—I could not believe that this country would be guilty of such an act. But since then the story of collusion has been going all round the world, and to a great extent in this country. It is due to the honour of this country that we should either have this statement completely and unequivocally repudiated, or that the facts should be staled. I think that is due to our honour, because we are alleging that we went into Egypt to separate the two antagonists and to stop 859 the war, when in fact the allegation is being made that that war was actually instigated by us. That is a serious charge; and whilst I do not for a moment associate myself with it, I think our good name depends upon this statement being fully, finally and categorically dealt with.
The statement of policy which we are asked to approve says that a vitally important result of our actions has been that Russian designs have been exposed and dislocated. The noble Marquess gave information to the House as to what was found in Egypt, by Israel and by ourselves, in the way of arms. But does that come as a complete surprise to the noble Marquess? He seemed to imagine that we had no knowledge at all of the fact that the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia have been supplying arms to the Middle East in large quantities. We on these Benches had been stressing this for months, and advocating the supply of arms to Israel, so that they could build up their forces to the same strength as Egypt. This has been known by everybody and it should not have come as a complete surprise; certainly it should not have necessitated the invasion of Egypt in order to find out the position. In fact, we did nothing in the many months that Russia was piling up arms in Egypt. We took no action at all, either by strengthening the position of Israel or by raising the matter in the United Nations, by ventilating it there, or in any other manner.
In my opinion, it is not the fact that, by our action, we exposed and dislocated the position of the Soviet Union, and Russian designs in Egypt. I think that this matter was, if anything, exposed and dislocated by the action of Israel, and did not need any invasion on our part.
§ LORD SILKIN
What I am saying is that if Israel had made the claim that she had dislocated and exposed Russian designs, she would have had some justification, but I do not think that justification lies in our mouth. I have stated the reasons why we cannot support the policy 860 outlined by the Foreign Secretary on December 3. The Government might conceivably have felt justified in their action, and in seeking support from this House, if their action on the ground of expediency had met with complete success—that is, if they had achieved all their objectives without undue sacrifice. But they have failed miserably, and I am going to give the House some of my reasons for saying that.
The three gains referred to in the Motion are disingenuous and, at the best, extremely debatable. We do not agree that our action prevented hostilities from spreading in the Middle East. By the time our troops had landed in Egypt, hostilities had, in fact, come to an end. Egypt was beaten. There were no Arab forces coming to the aid of Egypt, and to all intents and purposes the objectives for which Israel had attacked Egypt had been successfully achieved. Noble Lords will know that their purpose was simply to destroy the bases from which raids had from time to time been made into Israel. They had completely achieved that; they had captured a large quantity of equipment and, so far as Israel was concerned, the battle was over and it did not need our intervention, or that of the French, to separate the two.
But I am going further. I say that our intervention was a highly dangerous one and might have caused hostilities to spread. They did not spread, but only because we undertook to withdraw within a very short time. We were threatened by Russian "volunteers", and everybody knows what that means. There was quite a possibility that had we stayed on the whole of the Middle East, instigated by Russia, might have flared up. It is my sincere belief that our action in intervening, with France, might well have caused the serious war in the Middle East which we say we went there to prevent.
Another alleged gain is that our action resulted in the introduction of a United Nations Force into the area. Of course our action resulted in the intervention of a United Nations Force, just as the action of every burglar in this country results in the intervention of the police. Naturally, a police force comes into operation when there are lawbreakers about.
My Lords, it could hold good. We have made no serious effort and we are not in a position to do so because we have taken the law into our own hands. To claim credit for the fact that by our wrong action we were instrumental in introducing a United Nations Force into the area is really too disingenuous for words. It was never our original policy to withdraw in favour of the United Nations. That was not one of the aims which we set out to achieve.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I must interrupt the noble Lord. I never said what the noble Lord has said. Our policy was to stop a war and I still maintain that we stopped a war.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I hope the noble Marquess will not imagine that I am suggesting that he said these things, for I am not. He has not said that this afternoon. But I am taking the grounds on which we went to war, and I am saying that the question of a United Nations Force does not enter into it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, will the noble Lord tell me of, or give, a quotation from a Leader of the Conservative Party who has said it? The noble Lord has made this suggestion. Can he quote?
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords. I cannot quote at this moment, hut the whole tenor of the propaganda about the United Nations Force is in the direction of saying: "There you are! But for us there would have been no United Nations Force. We brought it into operation." If that is not what the noble Marquess and others have been saying, I fail to understand why they: are asking for a vote of confidence in this House on the fact that a United Nations Force is in operation. Surely they are saying that they brought it about; otherwise why do they want to be patted on the back for it?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, all we said was that but for us it would not have been there. And I think everybody, in his heart of hearts, really thinks that.
§ LORD SILKIN
I will concede that. But I also say that, but for the murderer, the hangman would not have been there. I do not think a murderer can claim any credit—or a vote of confidence—for 862 having brought into operation the activities of the hangman. As to the third ground for support of the action of Her Majesty's Government, it is quite untrue to say that we have created conditions which will facilitate a peaceful settlement of outstanding issues. I think quite the contrary is the case. I believe we have created conditions which are going to make it far more difficult to get a peaceful settlement. We have aroused the hostility and animosity of the whole of the Arab peoples in the area. We have been instrumental in giving Russia a place in the Middle East which, but for our action, she would have found it more difficult to secure. We have encouraged the Arab peoples to look to Russia as their friend and to seek Russian help; and it may well be that, far from creating conditions which are going to make it easier to effect a peaceful settlement, such a settlement will be made more difficult.
What of the other results that have followed from our action? I have already referred to the breach with the United States of America and to the fact that we have endangered the existence of the Commonwealth; and we really have. Here I will quote Mr. Lester Pearson, since the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, did so. Mr. Pearson has said that there was a time after the Anglo-French landings in Egypt when the Commonwealth was on the verge of dissolution. Am I using too strong language in saying that we have created a danger of the break-up of the Commonwealth? We have caused discussions to take place in a number of countries, members of the Commonwealth, as to whether or not they should remain. Happily they will remain, and I am delighted that it is so; but I do riot think it is a healthy thing that we should act in such a way as to give rise to these questions in the minds of members of the Commonwealth.
The fact that we have been twice condemned as aggressors, practically unanimously, by the General Assembly of the United Nations, has caused our moral position in the world to fall to zero. We have lost the good w ill that we gained by granting self-government to India and other Asian countries; and my noble friend Lord Attlee, who has recently returned from. India and Pakistan, will be able to give the House 863 some information as to how those countries feel about our action. At the outset we stated, on October 30, that we had two objectives only. We said our objectives were to stop hostilities in order that free passage through the Canal should not be jeopardised, and that we were out to stop the fighting so that ships actually on passage, and their crews and passengers, might not be endangered. Those were the only two objectives that we had in mind, as the noble Marquess quite fairly said. But the result of our action has been to cause Nasser to block the Canal. Far from keeping the Canal open we have jeopardised it and have completely closed the Canal to traffic. Furthermore, we have made ourselves desperately short of oil, which we have often referred to as "the lifeblood of this country", through the destruction of a number of pipelines, and that has placed us in a grave position economically. These are some of the byproducts of our action.
And that is not all. I have no doubt that the Government will receive the support they ask for in the votes of noble Lords in this House, although I could not help sensing that a considerable part of the noble Marquess's speech was directed not to this side of the House but to his own friends. And I can well understand that they may feel somewhat apprehensive about the whole business, though I doubt whether it will be reflected in the vote, when the time comes for voting. We, of course, shall not support the Government, but I thought it right that we should state fully our reasons for our attitude to the Resolution before the House. I hope that I have done so in as restrained a manner as is possible in the circumstances. We have put down an Amendment to the Resolution and it will be moved tomorrow by my noble friend Lord Henderson—the House will, of course, be acquainted with its terms.
But before I sit down I should like to say that I think it may be possible to act with general agreement in regard to the further course to be taken. I said at the outset that I thought it right that we should assess the position as it is at this moment. But there is a future, and we have to look to the future and to see that the effects of what we have done are minimised to the fullest possible extent. 864 There is no dispute as to our objectives: they are common to all parties. But whether this Government have become so divided and discredited as to be unsuited for the task of reconstruction is another matter.
First and foremost, we must restore and rehabilitate our country from the effect of the grievous blows which Government policy has inflicted upon it. I can assure the noble Marquess and the House that, to that end, we will co-operate to the fullest possible extent. We want to see created a peaceful state of affairs in the Middle East, a solution of the long struggle between Israel and the Arab States. We want to help all those States to develop their resources to the full, in order to raise the standard of living of the people in that area. We want to create a sense of independence and security and general confidence in the future, so as to distract these people from their attitude of extreme nationalism and xenophobia. We must, by agreement, if that is at all possible, secure international control over the Suez Canal while not derogating from Egyptian sovereignty. The world cannot accept the position—and here I agree fully with the noble Marquess—that the Canal can be blocked whenever Egyptian policy seems to the Egyptians to justify it. And we must restore confidence in ourselves by loyal adherence to the policy and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
We must, in addition, use our influence to strengthen the United Nations so as to make it really effective in carrying out its tasks. Here, of course, I agree with the noble Marquess, that the United Nations is at present ineffective to deal with crises of this kind. Two things are required. The first is a speedy method of resolving differences between nations—an International Court of Justice, if you like, which can give decisions binding on all parties and all nations. Secondly, there must be a strong and effective and permanent International Police Force, under the control of the United Nations, ready at all times and at short notice to step in and enforce the decisions of the International Court. This is not a time to elaborate these proposals, and I realise that they are not exactly short-term proposals. But if we decide that that is to be the policy of this country, and then work for it, I believe that, gradually, the 865 good sense of the world will cause it to realise that the only hope for civilisation is some form of effective World Police Force, which can take action whenever called upon to do so, and an International Court of Justice which can settle differences between the nations in an equitable manner. As I ay, this is not the time to elaborate these proposals, but I am confident that, of peace is to be preserved in the future, the United Nations must he made to work, and to work effectively. We must give serious and urgent thought to the question, and not allow it to drift when this crisis is over.
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ LORD LAYTON
My Lords, I listened to the speech of the noble Marquess with two reactions. There was, first, my reaction to the earlier part of the speech, in which the noble Marquess recounted the series of events and drew some immediate conclusion from them. Upon that part of the noble Marquess's speech, I find myself almost entirely in agreement with the comments of the noble. Lord, Lord Silkin. There followed the second part, which related to remedies—and, incidentally, remedies which find no place in the Resolution on the Order Paper. It is largely from that point of view that I wish to make some comments. Indeed it is on those aspects of the problem—which I believe to be far and away the most important aspects—that the Liberal Party have put down an Amendment on the Order Paper.
Our Amendment is the same, textually, as that put on the Order Paper by the Liberal Party in another place, and it will be moved at the proper time by my noble friend Lord Rea. But I propose to say something on the content and the idea behind that Amendment, rather than to follow in detail any of the arguments put forward by Lord Silkin in regard to the statement of the noble Marquess, because I agree that there are many Members of this House—and I think many amongst the public also—who have had enough of post mortems, and are anxious that we should, now, with the utmost vigour, set about the task of trying to regain ground lost as the result of the events of recent weeks.
The Liberal Party Amendment is placed on the Table of the House as a substitute, and not simply as an addition or a small Amendment to the Govern- 866 ment Resolution; for many of us are not prepared, for reasons which we have heard explained by the last speaker, to express unqualified approval of the policy contained in the statement made by the Foreign Secretary on December 3. It is true that there are, in that statement, some extremely important points of which we heartily approve—notably the decision to withdraw our forces without delay from Port Said. It was a right, if painful, decision. But comments which have been included in the Resolution, and which have been repeated in the speech of the noble Marquess, suggesting that the Government are entitled to the credit of having brought into being a United Nations Force, are statements which many of us cannot possibly accept. I can see no reason why these should be included in the Resolution which is, in effect, a vote of confidence.
I have little quarrel with the terms of the Labour Party Amendment, but the first part of it seems to me to be backward-looking and the second half, I suggest, is not nearly vigorous enough The Amendment invites us… to restore Commonwealth unity, recreate confidence between our Attics and ourselves …But (and this is the main point I wish to make to the House to-night) it is not nearly enough to get back to the situation as it was six months ago. We shall achieve very little if we merely do that. There will be no permanent solution of the outstanding issues in the Middle East, or anywhere else, unless the nations are prepared to undertake obligations and share commitments in a way they have never done before in history. The question is: Are we really accepting that position, arid are we prepared to act upon it? That is why the Liberal Party have asked your Lordships House to accept that. Amendment, which makes no reference to the past, but says simply that we cannot survive unless the international structure of the world is radically strengthened.
The only consolation I can gather from the sorry events of the last two months is that this truth is at last widely realised and that we are presented now—almost, in a sense, by good fortune—with a new and unique opportunity. So the question is: where do we go from here? This opportunity—which I am not suggesting has anything to do with the past events in 867 relation to Egypt—is especially laid on our doorstep because of our long tradition, experience and knowledge in international affairs. In the past ten years, during which a revolutionary change has been taking place, we have put forward many ideas. And, make no mistake about it, my Lords, a revolution is taking place, from a world of many sovereign independent States to a world in which international collaboration is an imperative necessity. If, perhaps, we have done less than we might have done, I think it is due to the fact that it is not easy for a proud people who for a century have kept the Pax Britannica fresh throughout the world to accept the consequences of political interdependence. Yet we are coming to recognise that that is, in fact, the situation with which we are faced.
In the course of a recent speech a high Foreign Office official observed that:In this century a new conception of sovereignty has come to replace the old-fashioned thinking of the nineteenth century … There is surely nothing that any country need feel ashamed of in voluntarily surrendering a degree of sovereignty by joining in an international co-operative system which will be to the benefit of all.These are not the words of a theorist or a dreamer. I heard them spoken by Sir Pierson Nixon, on the last day of September this year, in New York, in the opening speech he made at the World Congress on Nuclear Energy. Do we accept them? And are we really about to act on that principle? The practical task of bringing order out of confusion and correlating the scope of operations of our international institutions—and they are in confusion—is a complex one, but it is the essential. No. I task in the immediate future.
I would make this suggestion to the Government: that we ought to have a planning cell in the very centre, in the heart of the Government, to think out ways and means of developing and coordinating the apparatus of international collaboration, covering the political, economic and military fields—because these are not separate: they are all one. One of the first items on the agenda of such a body would be the question, which is not an academic one: What are we going to do about the United Nations Force. Has it got to be disbanded as soon as certain events happen or are we thinking of changing and developing it 868 in some future direction? What is the relationship between such an International Force and troops of an intermediate kind—for example, the troops under the direction of N.A.T.O. The list of items on the agenda of such a body is tremendous, and I do not propose to follow that matter, though it is a fascinating subject. I want only to make one or two points on each of the aspects of this problem.
First in importance, as the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, has said, is the question of the maintenance—the restoration, if you like․of the American Alliance. It must surely be axiomatic, in the present distribution of power throughout the world, that it is the height of folly for any country to challenge the Soviet Union unless it is assured of the support of the United States. And, just because that is the case, surely it is clearly out of order for us to take risks in some other minor way, risks which may lead to disturbance, without first informing the United States, who may be pushed into a position of the greatest gravity and importance. This doctrine does not mean that we must all become the satellites of the United States. I fully appreciate that close partnership between Britain and America may at times be a difficult art, but it can be mastered, as has been proved in two world wars and it was by no means always the American view that prevailed in that fruitful collaboration. Moreover, we may often carry a weight of authority far greater than our population and resources would suggest. It is true that if we play a lone hand, we are heavily outweighted; but if and when we are in line with the Commonwealth, and with Europe, there is a combination which is nearly equal in resources with the United States and which far outweighs it in population.
We must all rejoice, as the noble Marquess has said, at the signs following one another, in recent days, almost hours, that Washington and London are coming closer together again. To those signs which have already been mentioned, I would add, the fact that Mr. Herter has been appointed deputy to Mr. Dulles in the State Department, and that another distinguished American, General Gruenther, is now, as it were, in the precincts of the White House. So that we have in Washington to-day people 869 who understand, who have learnt through their own work to understand, the situation on this side of the Atlantic. Mr. Nixon's speech in Washington the other day, in which he said that there arc faults on both sides, is a gesture calculated to bring a healing of the breach.
But what we need to remember is that the United States, who are now carrying on their shoulders a greater responsibility towards the rest of the world than any country has ever done before—and I stress those words—have put all their faith in the United Nations as the instrument with which they can carry out their task. We may think that an insufficient instrument, but, for that reason, we must bend all our energies to make the United Nations a going and efficient concern, both on its merits—and I think that most noble Lords wish to see it, on its merits, the organisation of the future—and also because it is only on that basis that we can hope to keep in step with the United States of America.
'There is one way (I cannot touch upon this matter except quite scrappily) in which we can help to strengthen the organisation at New York. Speaking in a recent debate, I think in this House, I pointed out that one of the defects in the working of the United Nations is that, whereas there are many national groupings in that Organisation—for example, the South American bloc, the Bandoeng States, the Arab League, the great monolithic Powers and so on—there has never been in New York an organisation of the European nations. We can best strengthen the United Nations by the consolidation of democratic Europe. The defect is, in part, due to lack of organisation in Europe on the political plane. In N.A.T.O. Europe possesses one of the most effective military organisations, and perhaps the most effective military organisation of its kind that has ever been known, though even N.A.T.O. has geographical limits which some of us think are too narrow—that emerged in the debates here on Cyprus.
Some progress has been made in the economic field—for example, in the liberalisation of trade under the direction of O.E.E.C.; and the discussions taking place about a common market, a free trade area and nuclear energy are a move forward in that direction. But the countries of Europe have not yet contrived to 870 reach. a common policy in international political affairs. That is greatly needed; for a military alliance such as N.A.T.O. is unlikely to continue indefinitely if—and this is only one reason—the international policies of its various members are at sixes and sevens. If that state of affairs continues, the days of N.A.T.O. are numbered.
I have indicated, also, that a common policy is necessary in Europe so that. Europe may speak with one voice in the United Nations. I would suggest to our political planners, who I have indicated ought to face this great question, that they can best achieve the welding that I wish to see by setting up a top level Committee of the Ministers of Western Europe. It should have as its titular members the: Prime Ministers of the countries concerned. I believe I am right in saying that there has been no meeting of Western European Prime Ministers since the war, or indeed, since some time before the war. Some Prime Ministers have attended meetings of Foreign Secretaries when they have held the double office, but there has been no meeting of Prime Ministers.
The Prime Ministers' Committee would supersede or have the overlordship of the existing, and often competing, ministerial committees; it would, of course, meet rarely, and would carry out the direction of the various agencies through appropriate deputies. A single Committee of this kind is, I am sure, the only way to prevent overlapping and duplication. I would add, finally, that it must have as its Secretary-General a public figure of high political standing. Let me remind your Lordships of the part that is being played by M. Hammarskjoeld at the moment, and of the fact that the most permanent of many of our international organisations—for example the I.L.0.—owe an immense amount to having the right Secretary-General. I suggest that the right figure could help to create what the late Mr. Ernest Bevin described as "a Cabinet of Europe", which is what he had in mind when he signed the Statute of the Council of Europe. Finally, there is the Commonwealth. The apparatus of consultation exists, arid say nothing on that, except that I share the view of noble Lords on my left, who are urging that an early conference should be held so that the rifts that have emerged may be healed.
871 My thesis is not that the Labour and Conservative Governments in the past ten years have done nothing in this field. On the contrary, there has been a surfeit of international experiments. My complaint is that the steps taken have been too timid and without proper organisation and coordination. Recent events have taught us that we are not faced with a number of separate problems for which we must provide ad hoc answers, but that our difficulties are part and parcel of one single evolutionary process which is demanding from us imagination and radical changes in our traditional methods and habits. If we agree that these changes are necessary in order to secure an ordered world, we must he prepared to pay the price. For he who wills the end must will the means.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF HALIFAX
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down has made, as he always does, a speech replete with thought, suggestive, and containing much that no doubt demands the assent of all your Lordships. I do not intend to follow him over much of the ground that he traversed, because my purpose is somewhat more confined and more precise than the general survey to which we have, to our profit, just listened. As to the past, I agree with my noble friend who introduced the debate this afternoon that there is little to be gained by an attempt to prove a case on the one side or the other. I reflected, as I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that probably the most ardent champion of Her Majesty's Government to-day would not be tempted to deny the grim character of the balance sheet that emerges from a stocktaking on paper of the events of recent months; indeed, to sit down and assess the different items in that account is to engage upon a study of unrelieved gloom. I do not suppose there would be any great disagreement among many of US as to that.
The only conclusion that I think many of the facts seem to support is one that comes back to me over the years. It came from an old friend of many years ago whose financial affairs were somewhat embarrassed, and who invited me to help him in an examination of them, with the object of seeing whether and where some reduction in the expenses might be possible. We went laboriously through all 872 the figures of country house and agricultural estate expenditure, failing completely to find any point at which economy was possible. My friend was distressed, and we were both silent. Then, suddenly, his face lit up, and almost gaily he said, "Well there's one thing worse than having an overdraft, and that is to 'worrit' about it. Let's think of something else." I must confess that more than once during this last month I have been inclined to fall back upon the same escapist method of relief. Therefore I do not attempt to draw the balance sheet in detail—and that for two reasons. The first is that, especially after hearing my noble friend who leads the House, I doubt greatly whether anybody who is outside the Government has enough knowledge of it to draw that balance correctly. Secondly, as I hinted just now, I do not think that this measuring and calculation of loss and gain is the most immediately important thing to which we might profitably apply our minds.
May I say one word on each of those points? As against everything that has to be entered on the debit side, of which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, spoke—the blocking of the Canal, the loss of our position in the Arab world, the rupture of American-Anglo friendship, and so on—I can yet suppose, when I have said all that, that there may be real force behind what fell from the noble Marquess, who is in n a much better position to know the truth of it than most of us. He made two points. If I may repeat one of them without risk of getting into argument with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, it is: Would the United Nations ever have been able to get a start with all that it is now doing—and that may conceivably open the way to its becoming a more effective instrument of world peace; I do not put it higher than that—unless it had had this admittedly rough jar and jolt from the Anglo-French action? Secondly, if it is in fact true that, by the forcible stopping of a little war, the Government have in fact stopped a big one, then that obviously weighs heavier than anything that may be put on the other side. But that is not something which the ordinary citizen is in a position to judge.
More important, I suggest, than any attempt to measure that kind of loss and gain—certainly more important than any attempt, from which this House has been happily free, to measure Party loss 873 or gain—is the task of trying to rebuild as much as we can of that Anglo-American comradeship which has been so badly shaken. It is remarkable that every speech made in this debate so far—and I have no doubt the same will he true of all the fifty speeches that will yet be made—paid tribute to the importance of that work.
I wish to say a few frank words on that topic which are the more easily said to-day because, as has been said more than once this afternoon, the last week has happily brought significant evidence from more than one direction of the start that has been made on the other side of the Atlantic with the rebuilding that is necessary. It is therefore easier to talk frankly to-day than it would have been a week ago. If things have been done or have not been done of a sort or in a way to cause deep resentment in the United States, responsible persons in the United States would have made a great mistake if they had failed to realise the counter-feeling aroused in this country by some of the things said and done on the other side of the Atlantic.
I would gloss that statement with two observations. The first is one that is really of no interest except perhaps to myself, and that is to record my own surprise that, at a moment when many of our people here—we have all heard them—were professing the greatest indignation at the attitude or action of Americans who up to then they had judged to be friends, it did not occur to them, these voluble, indignant people here, to wonder whether it might not have been partly we ourselves who were responsible for this sudden and unwelcome change of temper among the Americans. That struck me as very odd. It shows, I suppose, how egocentric we all naturally are.
The other observation is this. Perhaps it is not a had thing that the account against both countries should be thus balanced, because we can, as I think the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, said, recognise that there have been faults on both sides, and it makes it easier to start building the bridge from both ends. That, of course, is the task of diplomacy, which is the recognised official instrument of civilised intercourse between nations, but which does demand a high degree both of willingness and of ability 874 to understand the motives of other people. During the past weeks Anglo-American relations have been marked by an almost total breakdown of such understanding, and, in spite of competent and trusted Ambassadors in both countries, the diplomatic structure has proved barely capable of supporting the strain that political actions imposed upon it and the loss of mutual confidence which, in spite of everything we may say and do here, is going to take a long time to make wholly good.
The elements, as I see of this lack of confidence on the British side may be bluntly stated. A substantial section of British opinion has believed that the United States for a long time has been contributing to the uncertainty and, finally, to the crisis in the Middle East, by lack of a definite policy in that area, arid I think I am with those who believe that there is a good deal be said in support of that view. In addition, during these last months, when all these doubts arid difficulties have conic to a head, many here, as we all know, have found sharp fault with what they have thought to be the evasive and prevaricating tactics pursued by the official spokesman of American diplomatic policy, the Secretary of State, who has been cast for the role of principal villain. The picture was that, for one reason or another, Mr. Dulles was not too sorry to see our country in difficulties; that most of what he said or did that we disliked was inspired by domestic considerations, and that he was all the time far more concerned with the United States election than he was with anything else.
I have not doubt that Mr. Dulles has often said things that he would wish later to have expressed differently. There are not many of your Lordships, even if you sit on either of the Front Benches, of whom the same might not he said. And no doubt we shall all do it again. But, having said that, I believe that, by and large, the sort of criticism that fastened itself on Mr. Dulles was quite unrealistic and wholly unfair; and the usual conclusion that Mr. Dulles hay no love for this country f believe to he quite mistaken. I have no doubt at all that, from the start, he feared that our belligerent activities would not serve their purpose and would only exacerbate the situation; and it is very hard to claim that there is 875 no substance in his doubts. I think it right to say, as far as my judgment goes—and I was glad to see Sir Roger Makins express the same view a day or two ago always—at the top of Mr. Dulles's list of purposes has been the preservation of Western unity and the co-operation of our two Governments. I have no doubt whatever that subsequent negotiations will more and more tend to confirm that view.
Anyhow, my Lords, that is the job that stands out a mile for our two Governments and two peoples to do. The channels of confidence have been blocked. The waterway between Suez and Port Said is not the only waterway that needs urgently to be cleared. As Lord Layton said, the British Commonwealth needs the United States; but the United States, in other ways no doubt, needs not less the British Commonwealth.
During the war, when I had the honour to be in Washington, my right honourable friend, the Prime Minister, came over to Washington, and that grand old man of then American politics, Mr. Cordell Hull, entertained him at a private dinner. At the end of it he used some words which I think are even more true to-day than when he used them ten or twelve years ago:I will not say that if our two nations are in accord all our problems can be solved; but I will certainly say that without that condition none are soluble.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRUCE OF MELBOURNE
My Lords, it is possibly within the knowledge of some of your Lordships that in this country I have no political affiliations whatsoever. I may have had them elsewhere, but here I have none. As I propose, contrary to my usual custom, to cast a vote in favour of the Government on this issue. I thought I ought to offer some explanation. I gave some thought to what form it should take, and it seemed to me that, although it would mean painful reiteration, one had to deal with the happenings of the last three or four months. Happily, the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, has rendered us another incomparable service: he said all I wanted to say, and I am not going to deal with the past at all. I am going to deal with the present and with the future.
Obviously the greatest problem of the present moment is the one to which the 876 noble Earl who has just spoken referred: Anglo-American relations. He has dealt with them in that cultured and delightful manner in which he always deals with everything. I propose to deal with them in rather a rougher and more brutal manner. My reason for doing so is that for four years, as independent chairman of the World Food Council, I went to the United States about four times a year. There seems to be something between the rough Australians and the Americans which finds a sort of touch. As a result of my meetings with the Americans, I am quite certain at this moment that if we are to get back to good relations, the last thing we should do is to stand in a white sheet and fawn upon America. What they want from us is exactly what we think and feel. They like plain speaking. So far as I am concerned, they are going to get it.
The first point that I would put to the Americans is this: "You have uttered the most virulent and violent criticism of us because we have done something—namely, going into Egypt to protect what we believe was a vital interest of ours. Have you not done it in the past, at Panama and Guatemala? Would you not do it again if you thought that one of your own vital issues was concerned?" It is essential that we should say that to the Americans.
For a considerable time we have been criticised in every way by America regarding our policy in the Middle East. I venture to say that during that period America has done everything to thwart us and make our position more difficult. I do not wish to suggest that the American policy has been influenced by the oil lobby, nor do I suggest that they had any reason other than the highest motives for the attitude they took up. The real reason is, in my view, that their policy in the Middle East has been about as inept as anything ever was. And the last result of their foreign policy has been to reinflate the bullfrog Nasser when he was hopelessly defeated and completely discredited.
The other point I want to put to them is this: "Within the record of this century, with our part in the two wars, the unfailing support we gave to you in Korea, the way we have been the best and most loyal friend that any country could have asked for, do you not think 877 you might have shown a little more tolerance and understanding of the difficulties and troubles we have been up against?" And, finally, I put to them this: "You have said a good deal about us. Suppose you had taken some action you thought vital and we had said anything like as much about you as you have said about us, would you not have been consumed with anger?" I finish by saying: "Let us forget the whole business. The time is over for recrimination. We must now get together almost to save the world and preserve humanity. We must forget these things and start again."
What about the future? The present position is that Great Britain and France have withdrawn or are withdrawing from Egypt. The United Nations has sent an International Force into the Middle East and has taken over the position. Now the great and difficult problems of Egypt and the whole Middle East are "on the plate" of the United Nations. What I often wonder is, does everyone quite realise what that means? Do they really understand what are now the responsibilities of the United Nations in that area?
The first and fundamental responsibility of the United Nations is to ensure that its authority is observed. That is vital. If that is so, it is possible that force may have to be used, because the United Nations cannot take this over and then have its authority flouted. It may be that force will have to be used. Does everybody realise that fact, and that, if force is used, it must be effective force? There is this International Force in Egypt to-day, but it is a token force. Nobody pretends that it has great military value. Does anyone believe that a ruffian like Nasser, or a nation like Russia, with her record, will take any more notice of a token force than they have of the hundreds of resolutions that have been passed by the United Nations? I will return a little later to this point as to the use of force, but for the moment I want to deal with the obligations that are now "on the plate" of the United Nations and which must be dealt with.
The first one has been mentioned—to clear the Canal. In that respect, I am encouraged by some of the statements that have been made to-day; though whether they will be lived up to I do not know. The point is that the Canal must 878 be cleared, by every possible method and means; and all possible equipment must be used. The United Nations must not sit down under the impertinent ultimatum of Mr. Nasser, that British and French equipment must not be used, and that the work must not even start until the last one of the French and British troops is out of the country. The Canal is blocked by Nasser's wanton, deliberate and unnecessary action, and if the United Nations are going to acquiesce in his action in telling them what they can and cannot do, it seems to me that the position is utterly impossible.
The second point is to bring about an agreement on the future of the Canal. It is perfectly clear what the basis of that agreement must be. The noble Marquess referred to the vote in the Security Council and the resolution passed on, I think, November 2. I thought it was passed by seven votes to two, but the noble Marquess said that the second Resolution—that is, the six points that were made by the Security Council as being the basis of the settlement for future agreement as to the conduct of the Canal—was carried unanimously. However, it was carried; that was the will expressed at the United Nations. Is Mr. Nasser going to be allowed to hold that up so that we cannot get an effective measure of control and conduct of the Canal? If he does again, we are simply letting this "tin-pot" dictator hold the whole world to ransom. We have seen in these last weeks the effect of the Canal not operating, and operating efficiently.
The third obligation that the United Nations have to face is the future of the Middle East. Involved in that is the control of the Russian menace, the ensuring of the security of Israel and the settlement of the refugee problem. There has been a considerable brushing aside of this Russian menace—an attitude that anyhow, if it happened we have known all about it for a long time. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, speaking from the Opposition Front Bench said, "We knew that arms were going into Egypt. We told you so and we said that you ought to send them to Israel as well to balance it." Does he suggest for one second that anybody had the faintest idea of the extent of the build-up that had gone on until we got in and discovered it there? Did he know that they had got a million blankets 879 there? Did lie know any of that? Of course it was not known. That menace is there and it is no good our blinking our eyes to it. The Egyptians had also acquired £150 million worth of arms; and it is known that during the last year. £20 million worth of arms and equipment have gone into Syria. I think that is a gross understatement of the position. Syria and Jordan have now gone Communist. At any moment there might be an attack on Israel from Syria, with Russian personnel and Russian equipment helping. What are the United Nations going to do then? Are they going to sit by and let them go in? I say that it is unthinkable that they could, now that they have assumed responsibility.
The next point is the future of Israel. We have had Mr. Nasser saying that he controls the troops of Egypt, Jordan and Syria; that he was going to be the emperor of the Middle East and was going to sweep Israel off the map. But this idea that all the Arabs are working together now is really nonsense. A number of them hate Nasser. They would be quite ready to see this Communist menace in Jordan and Syria cleaned up; but the fact is that it is there. The Arabs who were bitterly hostile in the beginning to the establishment to the State of Israel have enough sense to grasp now that the Israel State is going to stay. They would welcome a settlement which defined, definitely and with certainty, the boundaries of Israel and also gave to the Arabs a reassurance against their haunting fear of the progress of expansion by Israel. I believe that a settlement is possible—but, again, that is "on the plate" of the United Nations.
Then there is the settlement of the refugee problem. That, surely, is a blot on the whole of our civilisation and an absolute challenge to the United Nations. Those are the jobs of work that now lie in the hands of the world, if I may put it that way. The point is, who is going to do the job? Will it be the United Nations, who are now in control and who have undertaken the task, or will the job have to be done by Anglo-American cooperation, the strengthening of the Baghdad Pact and other steps towards the same end?
We have to examine the United Nations position. It must be clear, from what I 880 have said, that force may be necessary. The United Nations can command the force. The United States has thrown its great mantle over the United Nations, and the United States, Britain and France could provide the United Nations with all the effective force needed to tackle any situation that might arise in the Middle East. But would the United Nations allow the use of that force? Mr. Nehru has told us that his force is in the International Force only so long as Mr. Nasser desires it to be there. There may be numerous other nations in the same position. If that is so, the position might arise that the United Nations was completely impotent to do anything at all, even in this relatively small area of the world. Here I would say a word of warning. The noble Lord, Lord Layton, drew a picture of the future, in which we might have an International Court and a permanent World Force under the control of the United Nations. I agree that that is the eventual ideal of the world, but at the present moment I can think of nothing more dangerous than to have large armed forces at the control of the United Nations, as it is at present, when God knows how they would act or what they would do with them! However, that is a little aside from what I was saying.
The point is, it seems to me, that the United Nations must realise that they may have to use force. They must be prepared to use it, because I believe that if the United Nations, having assumed this responsibility, now "fall down" in an area like the Middle East, where they could handle the situation and where they could have whatever forces were necessary, then this, added to their lamentable failure in regard to a great Power, as Lord Silkin observed, and to do anything in this tragedy of Russian aggression against Hungary, will mean that we shall all have to think twice about the United Nations. We shall have to ask ourselves whether we arc going to let millions of people who still have the greatest faith in the United Nations, who believe that it is the great instrument of peace in the world, and who believe that the small nations can rest happy and content because they will have the protection of the United Nations, be disillusioned. If they have to be disillusioned that will be sad and tragic, but it would be far more 881 cruel to let them go on living in a fool's paradise. If the United Nations are to be saved—because the world to-day is at the crossroads—it will be by the cooperation of the United Kingdom and the United States; and I believe that that will be forthcoming.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I hope it may not be disagreeable to your Lordships if, on the occasion of my maiden speech, I should preface my remarks by saying that I am deeply conscious of the fact that I am following in the footsteps of one who was a Member of your Lordships' House for more than half a century. Tributes paid in this House to my father described him as… a House of Lords' man in the very best sense of Ale words, who served your Lordships well.Many noble Lords, in all quarters of the House, have told me, in most kind fashion, that over that long period of time he earned for himself the reputation of a speaker of unusual eloquence, rare lucidity of expression and remarkable memory. I can, and will, attempt to emulate the example set me, but I cannot aspire to those heights of eloquence with which he was able to hold your Lordships' close attention. Therefore, at least, on this first occasion, I must humbly ask for your Lordships' rather special indulgence.
In the last few weeks and months we have heard a great deal about Afro-Asian opinion and how we have mortally offended A, not only now hut perhaps for all time. Unfortunately, this loose form of expression "Afro-Asian" conveys to many people that all African opinion is suspicious of this country and is actually hostile at this particular moment in history, whereas, in fact, the "Afro" part of this curious political agglomeration refers only to the Arabs of North Africa and not to the Africans who live south of the Sahara. I should like for a moment to consider the effects of the action of Her Majesty's Government on East and West and Central Africa.
For the last five years I have been living in Southern Rhodesia, and during that time I have interested myself in the problems of that area and travelled throughout the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and further afield into 882 East and South Africa. The inhabitants of those vast regions, both black and white, believe that what happens there in the next twenty-five years will have great significance for the rest of the world and may even help to shape its future course for a long time to come. Emerging rapidly from a primitive state and reaching forward eagerly to grasp the political and economic techniques of Western civilisation, East and West and Central Africa must have the utmost tranquillity if they are to fulfil their great promise, Any alien influence which may disturb or disrupt the orderly progress of the development of those parts can spell ruin for their inhabitants. This refers particularly to the emergence of an Arab Empire dominated by an Egyptian dictator to their North.
It is true that there are African leaders who declaim loudly against colonialism and whose words occasionally lead to unfortunate incidents. Yet these same men proclaim continuously their loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen. I believe in their honesty, and I have no doubt whatever that when the time comes for them to obtain self-government and eventual independence, as in the case of the Gold Coast, whether it be under a wholly African Government or under a multiracial one, they will not wish to exchange British influence, which was once British domination for the domination any other race, whether Arab, Indian or Russian.
That this is in fact the opinion of thinking Africans is borne out by the letters I have read from Africans in the African newspapers. There is one letter in particular which your Lordships may have seen, which was written by a Nigerian in Britain and published in the Sunday Times. With your Lordships' permission I should like to read a few extracts from that letter, as follows:
… Britain's recent action in the Middle East is justified for many reasons … it stopped between Israel and Egypt a war which might eventually have led to a world war; it gave birth to a United Nations force which is bound to be a big contribution to the maintenance of world peace. These two points, together the fact that Britain seeks no sovereignty in that area, make it abundantly clear that she not guilty of aggression The principles of the United Nations Charter could be expressed in these few words: 'To prevent another world war." That is exactly what British action has achieved. Of all the Great Powers of the
world, Britain has always been the most sincere and helpful friend of Africa and the other coloured races.
This Nigerian ends with these words:
If Hungary can be so brutally treated by Russia, then woe betide any African territory which has the misfortune to be under Russian domination.
By checking Colonel Nasser in his stride, by preventing a conflagration in the Middle East and by revealing the true extent of Russian involvement, Her Majesty's Government have done an inestimable service to the African people, many of whom are under our protection.
§ Before saying a brief word about the rest of the Commonwealth, I want to make one general observation. Ever since the nationalisation of the Suez Canal, it has seemed to me that the struggle has been not as it should and could have been, between the children of light and the children of darkness: it has been between those idealists who quite sincerely believe that moral values alone are sufficient to overcome the frailties of human nature and the nationalist vices which stalk the world, and those other idealists who, equally sincerely, believe that effective action is necessary in order that these frailties of human nature and nationalist vices should not prevent the attainment of their ideals and the ideals of both groups are, of course, in the long run, the same.
§ In this connection, I would only say that I believe it is important to realise that this deep division of opinion is not confined to this country alone; for there have been, in this country, interests who would like to isolate Her Majesty's Government and their supporters—the majority of the nation—from the rest of the world. But there is sufficient evidence over the past month to show that there are millions of people throughout the Commonwealth, in Western Europe, and even in the United States of America, who approve and support the action which Her Majesty's Government have taken both on practical and on moral grounds.
§ We have had very recent statements from the Australian Prime Minister and Sir Eric Harrison, the newly-arrived Australian High Commissioner, and also from Mr. Lester Pearson of Canada. Between them they have said that they agree with these very terms which Her Majesty's Government have put down in 884 this Motion: that in fact Her Majesty's Government have prevented hostilities in the Middle East from spreading and that a United Nations Force is there as a result of the Government's action. We hear from Sir Eric Harrison that the Australians believe Her Majesty's Government were quite right, and had the right, to act alone, without consultation, in a crisis of that nature. From Mr. Lester Pearson we hear that the rift in the Commonwealth is not so serious as some quarters would have us believe, and that it is confined very largely to the Asian members and particularly to India.
§ I believe it is a large part of the case of noble Lords on the opposite Benches that we have offended India deeply. I would suggest to your Lordships, however, that it was hardly the fault of Her Majesty's Government that that rift originally was created; for when Colonel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal it was India who supported the action of an Egyptian dictator who had flouted international law, and she was actively hostile to the rest of the Commonwealth, Western Europe and the United States of America who were attempting to reach a reasonable settlement by negotiation.
§ I realise that a most serious rift exists, but I find it rather hard to reconcile active hostility on the part of one member of the Commonwealth with the spirit of the Commonwealth purpose as a whole. I feel sure that if Mr. Nehru and his colleagues will do their share in healing this rift, Her Majesty's Ministers will do, and are doing, theirs, so that finally the Commonwealth may make its united effort to ensure that the United Nations Organisation shall cease forthwith from diminishing the power and influence of peace-loving nations and law-makers, and cease forthwith from encouraging the rise and continued prosperity of tyrants and law-breakers.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I am sure that, if nothing else that I say in the course of my speech appeals to every one of your Lordships, what I am now going to say will certainly do so. I would tell the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat how very much we have enjoyed his speech and how warmly we congratulate him upon it. We have had some of the directness and clarity which always characterised the speeches of his noble 885 father, to whom we were all glad that he referred; because not only did we hold his noble father in the highest respect but I think we held him peculiarly in our affection. I am sure, therefore, that I am expressing the view of all of your Lordships when I tell the noble Lord that I hope we shall see him in his place in your Lordships' House and hear him just as often as, or even more often than, we had the pleasure of seeing and hearing his noble father.
I do not wish to follow the noble Lord in his speech, except to say that l could not altogether agree with some of the animadversions he made on the conduct of India in these recent weeks. I have not altogether agreed with what has been done there, but I cannot for a moment agree with the noble Lord when he says that the conduct of India has been hostile to the Commonwealth. As I shall, during my speech, have to make a number of observations somewhat critical of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in recent weeks, I should like to begin with a word of praise. I think that the decision of Her Majesty's Government to withdraw our forces from the Suez area was absolutely right. I feel that it required considerable moral courage on their part to take action, not only because pride was involved (and it is always difficult, and a rather humiliating business, to "climb down", especially in politics), but also because there was a very strong element within the ranks of their own political supporters which was hotly opposed to the policy of moderation. I am therefore a little sorry that the difficult position of Her Majesty's Government has not, perhaps, been properly appreciated on this side of the House, and that they have not received quite the commendation which I personally. at any rate, think is their due. What they have done, though they were a little tardy about it is in striking contrast to what has occurred over the last week or two in Hungary. There the obduracy of the Government of the U.S.S.R. has been in striking contrast to the action of our own Government.
I think it is a great pity, however, that this access of moral courage has rather tended to ooze away out of the fingertips of Her Majesty's Government when it comes to their explanations of their conduct. Instead of frankly admitting that they made a mistake, which I had hoped 886 they would have done, they halve treated us to a whole set of what I can regard only as miserable excuses, excuses of the kind that psychologists call "rationalisations". I understand a "rationalisation" to he some thought-up explanations some action which one took on an emotional basis. These explanations have differed from day to day, and, indeed, from speech to speech; and they have become more unconvincing as they go on, each more unconvincing than its predecessor, and the last the most unconvincing of all.
Take the way they have been trying to "cash in" on the unpopularity which the Government of the U.S.S.R. have been earning over their conduct in Hungary, by throwing all the blame on Russia, and inventing this Russian plot for the capture of the Middle East. I cannot see that any evidence for that plot has been produced at all, apart from these sales by Czechoslovakia and Russia of arms, over the past year or so, to the Government of Egypt. And these were well known to everyone, as Lord Silk in has pointed out. Indeed, The Times military correspondent, in an appreciation of the situation a week or two ago, said that the quantities of arms which had been found in the Sinai Peninsula were a good deal smaller than estimates had indicated. I believe that one of the spokesmen of the Foreign Office in another place made a statement which was really in direct opposition to that of the Secretary of State.
I think that we ought to attempt a dispassionate appraisal of the Russian intervention in the Middle East, because it is an important matter and one which requires a good deal of attention. In the first place, any student of history is perfectly well aware that the Russians have historically a very old-established interest in that part of the world. The Communist Government, no doubt, since it carne into power, has been, on the whole, too much occupied with events at home to attempt to revive this until very recently. It is understandable that we should feel annoyed that it has been revived, but if we try to look at the situation objectively I do not think we can say that we have any genuine grounds of grievance, particularly as I think it way our own conduct in fostering, building up and eventually joining the Baghdad Pact which 887 led to the Russian intervention with regard to Egypt and the other parts of the Middle East.
Before the Baghdad Pact came into being, there was little sign of any intention on the part of the Russians to intervene in that part of the world. But when the Baghdad Pact was established the Russians made it clear that there was, in fact, going to be a very great deal of difficulty and ill-will. The Pact was clearly aimed at Russia. We said it was defensive action. But to the Russians—and if one tries, as surely one should, for a moment to put oneself into the Russian shoes this must be apparent—it seemed that they had strong cause for suspicion that it was something else. To them it appeared to be nothing more or less than aggression. I do not know what happened when the Russian leaders were here in the Spring, but these matters surely must have been discussed. It is said that the Prime Minister made it clear to them that we had no intention of climbing down in the Middle East and they made it clear to the Prime Minister that they had their interests in the Middle East to which they would cling tenaciously. In April they issued a very important statement in which they offered to discuss the whole matter and to try to come to a modus vivendi. So far as I know, that offer was never taken up by our Government or by the Government of the United States. After that cold-shouldering of the proposals the situation has grown exacerbated, and it seems to me that we have only ourselves to blame.
I return to the Government's explanations which, as I have said, appeared to me to be merely rationalisations. What we really want to do, it seems to me, is to discover the emotional drive which caused the Government to take the action they took. I think they were obeying instinct. Conservative Governments tend to obey instinct. In this matter they were obeying an instinct which told them that Colonel Nasser was a danger to peace and in particular a danger to the British Empire. And they were also moved by very natural anger at Colonel Nasser's conduct in seizing the Suez Canal. But instincts are not always, a very reliable motive force for policy—in fact very often quite the reverse, though I must say that I think there was a great deal of truth in 888 the Government's instinct on this particular occasion, because I agree that Colonel Nasser is a danger to the peace of the world. He has been compared with Hitler. I do not really think that he is a Hitler, but I think he is a typical military dictator and that his actions since he came into power have been the sort of actions which a typical military dictator takes.
But one ought to remember that, just as Hitler had, so did he have a number of grievances, most of them imaginary but some genuine, which enabled him to get a great deal of support in his own country, because Egyptian pride has obviously at one time or another suffered sorely at the hands of the Western Powers, and particularly at the hands of our own country. It seems to me that it was instinct which led the Government to lash out blindly at Colonel Nasser as soon as he seized the Canal. That brought their temper up to the boil. It is understandable that their temper should come to the boil, but it is very dangerous to take action in politics when one's temper is at the boil. It is often followed by disaster, as I submit it has been in this particular case.
In my view, it is never more important to keep one's temper completely than in a situation such as that which has existed in the Middle East over these last few months. That is a very old and very typical area of power politics. I remember that when I mentioned power politics some time ago, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham—who is, unfortunately, not with us this afternoon—gave me a little lecture in which he said that all politics are power politics. One knows that the expression "power politics" has a certain meaning: it means politics based on power and power alone, not on justice and moderate counsels. Humanity at the present time, in my submission, is engaged on the Promethean task of attempting to put an end to, or at any rate to curb as closely as possible, the era of power politics which comes right down to the modern age. The technique which has been used is the technique of the United Nations which gives very considerable rights to small nations which in the days of power politics had no chance, except when they could tie themselves on to the apron strings of some very great Power.
889 These rights which small nations have under the United Nations Charter are certainly in no sense commensurate with their power, and it is a constant temptation to them to abuse those rights. They realise perfectly well that they can play the game, so to speak, up to a considerable point; that they can commit all sorts of illegalities in the pursuit of their own objectives, about which they are often quite unscrupulous, and which the ponderous and at present imperfect machinery of the United Nations can never catch up with and never punish. I think there has never been anything more typical of this attitude, never been a more cynical "cashing in" on it, so to speak than the conduct of Colonel Nasser over the last year or so. This has been intensely galling to nations like ourselves—and not only to the Government, for we on this side have also appreciated how very dangerous it is, from the point of view of the building up of the United Nations, that this sort of thing should be allowed to go unchecked, because it leads to the attitude which was made clear in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, this afternoon; one which is typical of the attitude of a large number of people in this and other countries.
I think that, to a considerable extent, we shall have to be long-suffering, for some years, of this sort of thing. It is a great pity, but I think the cause of progress requires that we should have to put up with a good deal of illegality and wickedness of this kind. It is to some extent to be regarded as our reparation—reparation we owe to the world for the exploitation of small nations by ourselves and other first-class Powers over a long period of time. They are now using the United Nations to get a bit of their own back; and, up to a point, we must put up with it. But I do not subscribe for a moment to the view, which has been accepted in some quarters, that unless the United Nations take action to redress a grievance, no action must be taken by any other State. So long as the United Nations have no force at their disposal to enforce their dicisions, it may from time to time become necessary for groups of member nations to assume responsibility for doing to. This is an unorthodox opinion, but it is one which I have held for some time.
890 May I take an example? When Egypt disregarded the plain ruling of the United Nations that Israeli ships must be admitted through the Suez Canal, I should have been prepared to support the Government in any action they might have deemed it advisable to take to organise other nations and enforce the; decision of the United Nations. The fact that we let that wicked infringement of the legal rights of Israel pass with no more than a protest is one of the factors that have led to the present position. Since the action of the Egyptian Government did not seem then directly to damage our position we took no action against them. It is an old observation of anyone who has anything to do with the administration of criminal law that a criminal who finds he can commit his depredations without molestation from the police soon embarks on more frequent and more grievous crimes. And that is exactly what has happened with Nasser.
The Resolution which we are debating this afternoon is couched in somewhat narrower terms than those which are usual in connection with foreign affairs debates, and it restricts us, in a sense to this narrow area. I can well understand that the Government, who are pleading their case before the bar of the nation, are anxious to justify what they have clone and to make a case. I could wish that the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, had dealt rather less with the past and told us rather more of hew the Government proposed to deal with the future and with the situation with which the nation is confronted, which I submit is a serious one. I understand that the Government's case is largely this that they admit that they have got the affairs of the nation into something of a mess, but the only alternative was the much worse mess of a great war, probably of a world war. I cannot see that they have made out their case, but I admit that this is a matter of conjecture. Noble Lords will have seen a remarkable article in the current issue of the American magazine Foreign Affairs, where the writer says:The impossibility of escaping conjecture is the tragic element in foreign policy.That seems to me a very pertinent remark. The writer continues:After the objective ascertainment of fact, there always remains a residue of uncertainty 891 about the meaning of events or about the opportunities which they offer.It is because of that uncertainty which is left that we are debating these matters here this afternoon.
When it is a question of conjecture about what might have happened, there is also an element of futility in the discussion. I feel that tragic blunders have been made, particularly over these last weeks, by which we have forfeited the moral leadership of the world which we have been building up in the ten years since the end of the war. We have done so by abandoning the process of the legal adjustment of disputes, which is the whole basis of civilisation, in favour of violent remedies of self-help, which no doubt were perfectly legitimate in the past but which, since the advent of the United Nations, should be no longer maintained.
I do not wish to pursue this inquiry any further. Other noble Lords have pushed it a good way this afternoon. I want to use the rest of my time in examining the mess in which everybody agrees we are in, to discover its extent, to find out whether there are any redeeming factors and to ask the Government for assurances on how they propose to deal with it. There is not time to discuss all these points, but I should like to say something about two or three of them.
First of all, there is a matter which has not been discussed a great deal in recent debates and which I should have thought was one of the most important and deplorable aspects of this mess: namely, that the Government have made so little attempt—indeed, I think no attempt at all—to preserve what has been called bipartisanship. That is a nasty word, but I cannot think of any other which expresses what I mean. Bipartisanship was a notable element in the foreign policy of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin. The Government, in the face of what, even on their own showing, they knew to be the severe and profound opposition of a very large part of the nation, persisted in making this war in Egypt. I think that that is a serious matter. I do not believe that it is possible for political Parties whose principles are based on profoundly differing philosophies ever to agree 100 per cent. in regard to the direction of foreign policy, but I do believe that it is 892 important that we should agree so far as possible.
There are many matters on which it is obvious that we should be in agreement; there are others where there is an evident necessity to secure as much agreement as possible. I submit that this position of Egypt and the Suez Canal is one in which there is obvious room for discussion and that the Government of the day ought to have paid careful attention to the sincere views of their opponents, as Mr. Bevin always did. For this it is necessary that they should be in touch with the Opposition and should have respect for their convictions. After all, we are all in this together. We shall have to help to foot the bill, just as much as noble Lords opposite. If the head of a household gambles away the family fortunes on the Stock Exchange, the other members of the family stand to lose just as much as he does. Therefore I suggest that it is a most unfortunate thing that the Government have pursued this policy in complete disregard of the profound views of a large section of public opinion and without any sort of attempt to continue the policy of bipartisanship.
Another obvious ingredient in the mess is the breakdown of our understanding with the United States—the temporary breakdown, because I am sure that that is all it is. This has been mentioned by every speaker, but I should like to say how much I appreciate what the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, said about it. What he said will carry much more weight than anything I say. I agree with everything he said on that score. I should have been glad to leave it at that, but unfortunately I do not feel it is possible. I think we should have a categorical assurance from the Government that they will not act in this way again; that is, without prior consultation with the United States. In my view, consultations are absolutely essential. As the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, said, it does not follow that we in this country shall always accept what the Americans want us to do, but it seems to me absolutely essential that we should consult with them before taking action of this important and dangerous character. The sad thing in this case is that Her Majesty's Government clearly have a conscience about it. It was not because there was no time to consult with the 893 United States; it was because they knew very well that if they did so, the United States would make it clear that, in their view, Britain was doing wrong. Everybody knows that it is typical of human frailty that you do not ask the advice of an old and much respected friend when you know that he will tell you not to do what you have already made up your mind to do. I suggest that that applies to Governments as it does to ordinary individuals. I think there was a lack of moral courage on the part of the Government at that time.
One of the most upsetting aspects of this deplorable business is the complete lack of regard shown by Her Majesty's Government for General Eisenhower, who had just come back as President of the United States by the greatest majority in the history of that great country. I am sure that nobody in America has a softer spot in his heart for this country than has that great man. Some years ago, when he was still President of the University of Columbia, I had the privilege of a tête-à-tête talk with him for a few minutes, and I was impressed by the obvious affection and good will that he had for this country. We were in a difficult position at the time, and his solicitude and affection for this country was very touching. I can imagine how hurt he, the old leader not only of the American Army but of ours, too, during the most critical years in the history of this country, must have felt that he should have been flouted in this way. Fortunately, he is one of the most magnanimous men in the world, and I am sure he will not hear malice; in fact, he is already working hard on the restoration of the earlier position. Informed public opinion in the United States, as has been pointed out in several speeches, certainly blames the United States Government, to some extent, for what has gone wrong. I entirely accept the view put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, in regard to this matter: that the Americans must, as a result of their lack of a consistent and intelligent policy in the Middle East, accept a good deal of the blame for the fact that a position was reached in which Her Majesty's Government felt it necessary to take this action. So much for the United States.
894 There are a number of other matters that I should like to discuss, but to which I will refer only briefly. I feel that, so far, the speeches from the Government have not been particularly constructive. They have dealt with the past. They have told us hardly anything of what they are going to do, and they have not given us any assurances about the Commonwealth. I am sure that we on this side of the House acquit Her Majesty's Government of any deliberate intention to break up the Commonwealth; obviously, nothing was further from their minds. But the way to hell is often paved with good intentions, and when a statesman such as Mr. Lester Pearson—who was referred to in eulogistic terms by the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House—makes a statement of the gravity quoted by my noble friend Lord Silkin, it shows that, whatever their intentions may have been, the Government went a good way in that direction. I refer to this matter again only because I hope that the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, who is to reply for the Government, will give us strong assurances that, in future, this sort of thing will not be done without the other Commonwealth Governments being told of the action proposed and without time being taken to have effective consultations with them.
The financial and economic situation in which this conflict has plunged the country is obviously a serious one, and only in one small field has it been explored in some detail—namely, in connection with petrol economies. That is typical of the economy of this country in many other ways. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a much more realistic speech, in my submission, than that to which the other place was treated by the Foreign Secretary, indicated that the situation is a difficult one. But unfortunately he was unable to go far in showing how he intended to handle it. I suggest that a much more detailed and careful survey of the steps which must be taken, if we are to get our economy back on to a stable keel—and it has been on a knife edge, as noble Lords on both sides of the House have often pointed out in debates which we have had here in the matter—should be given. I do ask Her Majesty's Government to tell the nation, as soon as they possibly can, what they propose to do in order 895 to restore the economic and financial situation.
Studying carefully the debate in another place, I felt that, here again, little in the way of constructive proposals emanated from the Government Benches. We are to have the advantage of hearing a number of speeches later in this debate from noble Lords who are members of the Government, and I hope that they will repair those omissions. From the Opposition Benches in another place a number of constructive proposals were made, some of which have been touched on this afternoon. I was in complete sympathy with that part of the speech of the noble Viscount. Lord Bruce of Melbourne, in which he referred to the position of the refugees in the Middle East. I am sure that that festering sore is one of the most important, if not the most important, of the causes of exacerbation and in the Middle East. I think that sore has had salt rubbed into it deliberately by Colonel Nasser and others of the leaders of the Arab States. It seems to me that we now have a position in which the United Nations Organisation is in a position to grasp that nettle firmly, and to deal effectively with this refugee problem. If the whole thing is allowed to slide back into its earlier state of hopeless chaos. a great opportunity will have been lost.
I suggest that the proposal which has been made, that the Gaza Strip and a substantial belt of Sinai should be taken over by the United Nations and operated for the purpose of preventing the sort of underground warfare which has been going on during the past years between Egypt and Israel, should also be taken seriously. That is a constructive suggestion. From the point of view of International Law (I wish the noble and learned Lord, Lord MacNair, who I see in his seat, would tell us about this) it seems to me that the Egyptians have no right whatever to the Gaza Strip, and that their right, in law, to the Sinai Peninsula is a dubious one. So that, in law, there would be a great deal to be said for action of this kind being taken by the United Nations.
There is also the problem of oil, because, after all, that is the reason why this matter is so important for our country. That area of the Middle East is the richest oil-bearing area in the world— 896 that is well known. Would it not be a good opportunity to attempt to come to some sort of pooling arrangement in regard to these great reserves of oil in the Middle East, an arrangement which could, perhaps, be sponsored by the United Nations Organisation? These are some of the detailed constructive proposals which have been made during the course of this present crisis. I think that the Government should take them seriously. The Government should exert their influence, and should persuade the American Government to use its influence, with the United Nations to see that serious consideration is given to these proposals.
The noble Marquess the Leader of the House has admitted this afternoon that it had not been in the mind of the Government that a United Nations Police Force might come into operation as a result of their action. I thought that was a frank and honest admission on his part. It is a case of good coming out of evil. I think that in some other ways, perhaps not so important, such as I have suggested, good may also come out of evil. The situation is undoubtedly one fraught with great danger, and full of evil. But if we do our best we can, to some extent, understand each other's points of view, and we may be able to pluck some flowers out of the evil pool of despond into which we have got ourselves during these last weeks.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CHERWELL
My Lords, I should like, in the first place, to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, on his admirable speech. I say "admirable", not only because I agreed with practically everything he said, but because of the clarity and persuasiveness with which he put his thesis forward. I was also impressed by the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne. Once again I was in almost complete agreement.
I should say at the outset that I support the Motion of my noble Leader. I think I have to say this, because I intend to deal mainly with one particular matter, the United Nations Organisation, which I think ought to be analysed, and at which I shall not be able to throw quite so many bouquets as most speakers seemed to do. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, I hate living in a 897 fool's paradise, and though, like everyone else, I wish U.N.O. could work, I have come reluctantly to the view that in its present form it cannot. It is composed, of course, of men full of the best intentions, and its admirers are equally well-meaning. But I cannot help feeling that people tend to overestimate its power for good and to underrate its potentialities for evil. We know all too well nowadays how easy it is for people to fall victims to phrases, to be hypnotised by slogans, and I am afraid that that is what is happening in the case of U.N.O. "Send it to U.N.O." is becoming a sort of incantation. In many quarters it seems to be treated as a shibboleth. You have only to mouth the words and go through the ceremonial, and all will be well.
There are obvious psychological reasons for this curious attitude of mind. During the war many men in the Forces positively revelled in the fact that they did not have to think out the consequences of their actions and that all they had to do was to obey. It seems to me that something similar is happening on a bigger scale. People in authority—and in a democracy we are all involved—have to take decisions, and sometimes terrible decisions. How tempting to unload this burden! If slavish obedience to U.N.O. is regarded not merely as respectable but positively meritorious, what a splendid way of escaping from these awful responsibilities! I cannot help feeling that some sort of subconscious longing of this sort may be at work in many minds.
We are often told that U.N.O. is the only hope of the world for avoiding war and, therefore, that we ought to believe that it must and will succeed in this laudable object. I wish I could see the logic of this. One might just as well say that if a man's only hope of avoiding bankruptcy is in winning a football pool, all right-thinking people ought to believe that he will do so. Somehow, the proponents of U.N.O.'s infallibility have managed to persuade themselves that anyone who does not put his complete faith in the Organisation is not anxious to maintain peace—in fact is almost a warmonger. Some of them have reached a hysterical state of mind in which merely to question whether U.N.O. will succeed in establishing peace in the world is con- 898 sidered wicked. No doubt I shall incur their severe displeasure, for what I intend to do is to attempt to analyse dispassionately the utility and value of this important—I said "important" not "impotent"—organisation.
First, what is this super-body to which we are to confide our fate? U.N.O. consists of some seventy-nine nations supposed to be sovereign and independent, though in some cases this is a somewhat dubious claim. They range from the giant Powers, Soviet Russia and the United States, to tiny entities like Panama and Iceland. The population of the biggest is more than 1,000 times greater than that of the smallest. The discrepancy in wealth and power is far more than ten thousandfold. Yet in the Assembly, which is the ultimate governing body of U.N.O., each has an equal vote. Thus barely 5 per cent. of the world's population can carry the day against the other 95 per cent.; and 10 per cent. could claim a two-thirds majority in the Assembly. Or, to put it another way half the population of the world is represented by four delegates, and the other half by seventy-five delegates. What is more, these nations are represented in the Assembly by any group or body or individual which may succeed in seizing power.
There is, it is true, a so-called Credentials Committee. But it does not appear to be at all strict in making the delegates show that they represent the views of the majority or of any properly elected or selected Government. Anybody who has seized power—I believe, for instance, Mr. Kadar in Hungary—can, and does, send a delegate to vote on his behalf. In fact it is even worse than I have said, for these sovereign independent nations vary enormously in their standards of education and outlook. Some are the most highly civilised and educated countries on the planet. The inhabitants of others can scarcely read or write. Yet no attention is paid to this fact. Only recently, there was a very close vote for the Vice-Presidency of the Assembly (I think it was) between Italy and Liberia—ltaly, one of the oldest and most civilised cultures in history; Liberia, a small artificial State which has been in existence barely a hundred years, and very few of w hose inhabitants have any conception of the outside world.
899 This is the Assembly, as I have said, the ultimate governing body of U.N.O. We were recently told that it is "the highest tribunal in the world", whose decisions all must obey without hesitation or question. As I have said, and, I hope, shown, the constitution of this body is utterly indefensible. If the vote of each nation were weighted in accordance with its population, there might be some semblance—though a very poor semblance—of logic in it. But this is not so, for the vote of 400 million Indians or 160 million Americans is equated to the vote of 4 million Bolivians or 100,000 Icelanders. Icelanders are admirable people, but I do not think the discrepancy between their culture and ours is as great as all that. And, of course, the 600 million inhabitants of Communist China have no vote at all. I do not suggest that weighting votes by populations would turn the Assembly into a tribunal. On the contrary, it would turn it into a sort of Volksgericht. The long and short of it is that justice cannot be found by counting the votes, however weighted, of interested parties.
This brings me to the word "tribunal," in the phrase "the highest tribunal in the world." Nothing could be more inept as a description of the Assembly. There is no pretence that it is a judicial body. No sworn evidence is taken or is obtainable; there is no judicial summing up, or any recognised body of law to which nations have an obligation to conform. The Assembly is split into a number of blocs. There are the Afro-Asian bloc, the South American bloc and the Iron Curtain bloc, the members of which tend to vote together on their likes and dislikes, in accordance with instructions from their home Government. No one pretends they are influenced by the evidence or the speeches. Practically always the repercussions it will have on the government's own position and interests decides which way a delegate votes: often votes are cast according to some bargain or arrangement; sometimes it is said they are to all intents and purposes peddled about. Judicial impartiality is the last thing that seems to matter. To describe a majority vote of such a body as "a decision of the highest tribunal in the world" is simply laughable. To pillory as criminal any nation which 900 hesitates to comply with its decisions is monstrous. A judicial decision is one thing; a vote by a number of interested parties, without pretence of impartiality, without evidence or a body of laws to guide them is totally different.
Yet it is to this body that the Leader of the Opposition, only a few days ago, told us to say, "We obey you. We accept whatever you say." The absurdity of the constitution of the Assembly was, of course, recognised from the start by those framing the Charter of U.N.O. No nation could be expected to submit unquestioningly to such a body. Only if the great Powers were in agreement would there be any chance of its decisions being respected or enforced. If they were, it was hoped they could prevent small local wars among the minor Powers. If they were not, it was realised that it would be useless to expect the machine to operate.
To ensure this a sort of executive body, the Security Council, was instituted, on which the five great Powers had permanent seats. Six more seats were allocated for two years at a time to other nations, selected by the Assembly. It is perhaps typical that, at the recent moment of crisis, apparently Siam presided over the meetings of the Security Council. According to the Charter, whilst the Assembly can recommend, only the Council can act. All the signatories of the Charter undertook to accept and carry out the decisions of the Council, but not those of the Assembly. Since what were at that time regarded as the five great Powers had a Veto in the Council, obviously action could never be taken against one of them, because no nation was under obligation to obey resolutions of the Assembly. This sensible intention appears now to be cast aside.
When the Charter was concocted, the great Powers, with the exception of Germany, were allies, and it was hoped that their mutual good feeling and their common objectives would ensure that they would, in general, be in agreement. Unhappily, this idealistic hope was not fulfilled. Every time any controversial question arose, Russia interposed her Veto. Often she was alone, but usually any Iron Curtain country, which had managed to get elected to the Security Council by the Assembly, voting in the 901 curious manner I have described, supported her. Russia applied her Veto, as I have said, on scores of occasions in the Security Council. No one seemed at all shocked. Our Left Wingers regarded it as a more or less amiable idiosyncracy, unfortunate but not to be taken amiss. England and France used the Veto on only one occasion, but the outcry, not only by the Fellow Travellers and Left-Wingers, but even by neutral ideologues, as Napoleon used to call them, has been deafening. There is a great deal that one could say about the special case that has caused so much stir but that would carry me too far.
In view of the persistent use of the Veto by Russia, a procedure was introduced which was not originally contained in the Charter of the United Nations. This consisted in convoking a special meeting of the Assembly and obtaining a recommendation in the desired sense by a two-thirds majority. Though no nation was, or is, under an obligation to obey such a resolution, this procedure could give a veneer of U.N.O. respectability to action which America or other nations desired to take against Russia's wishes. Now it has been invoked against us, and, of course, the considerable, and very vocal, body of people who always think England must he wrong have been howling about her delay in coming immediately to heel. Thousands of people have rushed into print parading their alleged shame because we have failed instantly to obey a resolution passed by the Assembly—a weird body voting on no known principle, actuated by the variegated principles which I have mentioned. They accuse us of breaking our word under the Charter. I do not suppose that 1 per cent. of these people have read the Charter. If they had, they would have seen that we have never undertaken to obey the resolutions of the Assembly. I have not counted on how many occasions other nations have flouted Assembly resolutions. To do it seems to be the rule rather than the exception, and no one seems to worry very much. It is only when England fails to obey that the pack gives tongue.
The Assembly's activities in recent months raise a broad question which the Government spokesmen will no doubt be able to clear up. So far as I can see, this procedural change, namely, the agreement to call the Assembly together out 902 of season, on the demand of seven nations, has been used to insinuate sub silentio a very vital change into the constitution of the United Nations as laid down in the Charter. As I have said, according to the Charter the Assembly is purely and simply a deliberative body. Provided that the Council is not dealing with it, the Assembly can discuss any matter and make recommendations. But if action is required, it must be referred to the Security Council.
According to the Charter, executive functions are the province A the Security Council. So far as I know, the Charter has not been amended, and any executive powers which the Assembly claims seem to have been assigned to it by itself—indeed, in recent months it seems to have usurped functions that it was never intended to exercise. It has instructed the Secretary-General, so far as I can see, to raise a military force to negotiate with Nasser, to clear the Suez Canal, and generally to take executive action. I can find no warrant, in the Charter to which we all subscribed, for such action by the Assembly. It is as though the House of Commons were to instruct the Clerk of the Parliaments to raise a private Army, to negotiate with the Mau Mau leaders, and to settle the dispute with the Argentine about the Falkland Islands.
I now turn to the question whether U.N.O. ever could work except if the Great Powers are unanimous in enforcing their will on the smaller nations. We are told that the intention is to substitute law for war; that that is, in essence, the whole object of the United Nations. It is another of those comfortable slogans expressing a desire felt by all of us in rhyming monosyllables, which seem to have an almost hypnotic effect. Of course, we all want the rule of law amongst nations; but what are the laws which we wish to rule? Evidently, it is not the laws accepted in principle for thousands of years—the fulfilment of contracts and the sanctity of treaties. Rather it seems to be commandments promulgated ad hoc by the Assembly whenever differences arise. That is submission to an arbitrary body. It is not law.
But even if this monstrous interpretation of the word "law" were taken, how is it to be enforced? As everybody knows, law is useless unless it is backed by a police force. It is no use magistrates 903 finding a man guilty if they cannot compel him to make restitution or send him to prison if he refuses. Thus even if we accepted this weird U.N.O. body, with its odd form of voting, as the ultimate tribunal, it would be no good whatever unless it had some way of enforcing its decisions. We are told that in that case all we have to do is to endow U.N.O. with a police force. Indeed, my noble Leader seems to be greatly encouraged because a beginning has been made in doing this in the last few weeks. I think, on analysis, that this also is a case of wishful thinking.
A police force can operate because, on the whole, people are more or less equally strong, so that one policeman can arrest one man, and, again, because the proportion of criminals in the country is comparatively small, so that a police force of reasonable strength can cope with any gang it is likely to have to deal with. A U.N.O. police force would have a very different situation to confront. What sort of police force would be required to turn Russia out of Hungary, or America out of Formosa, should the Afro-Asian bloc, voting with the Latin-American or the Iron Curtain countries, secure a vote to this effect in the Assembly?
We see how helpless U.N.O. is on the Suez Canal. Egypt, in flagrant breach of her Treaties, has blocked it from end to end. What has U.N.O. done about this? It has voted that Britain and France, who have troops available, should not intervene, and has sent a scratch selection of a few hundred soldiers from thirteen or fourteen different countries, speaking different languages, and without artillery or tanks, to preserve the peace. Even so, Colonel Nasser, who has refused again and again to obey U.N.O.'s behests, is allowed to dictate terms, to say what troops he will allow to form part of the police force and to decide when and where they should arrive and where they should be stationed. The so-called police force is merely a token which could be swept away by one brigade of Israelis and probably even by two or three divisions of Egyptians.
A police force, to be of any use, would have to be stronger than any nation or combination of nations. In fact, it would have to be more powerful than the Russian and American Armies combined. How, otherwise, could it impose the will of U.N.O. in case those Powers happened 904 to be on the same side? To contemplate such a huge force is, of course, simply absurd. It would cost at least £10,000 million a year to maintain it would have to be backed by shipyards and factories capable of producing the fleets and aircraft the arms and ammunitions, it required, which would cost thousands of millions more; and it would have to recruit many millions of men and train and officer them. On top of all this, nobody has explained where these gigantic armies, navies and air forces would be stationed, or how they would be transported. Once the facts are faced, I do not think anybody will seriously maintain that a police force capable of imposing U.N.O.'s will on the Great Powers should they object, can be contemplated seriously. Nor, for my part, should I like to see it. For who would care to put an overwhelming military force at the disposal of an Assembly constituted and voting as I have described?
A new factor has come into the picture with the development of nuclear weapons. Any nation to-day which possesses hydrogen bombs can impose its will on any nation which has none. Though in the future there will be others, at present only two nations have a reasonable supply of these weapons, the United States and Russia. As long as they are on opposite sides, peace between them may be maintained, because each of them knows that a nuclear war would spell complete annihilation to one side or the other or, probably, to both. But if one of the two is uninterested or even lukewarm, the other can impose its will on any of the other nations of the world. For it is little use hoping the opposing possessor of H-bombs, whatever his initial attitude, will come to the rescue in due course. There will not be any due course. In the last two world wars it was possible for America to haver for years before coming to a decision. Next time, the whole thing will be settled in a matter of days, perhaps even of hours.
Thus, all the other nations, whatever they deem to be their status, must attach themselves to one or other of the H-bomb Powers. Unless they can get support from their protector, they will just have to give way. I do not think there is any means of escaping this painful conclusion. Nor is there any end in sight to this 905 situation—nations glaring at one another and bluffing more or less successfully about their power and readiness to annihilate one another.
If force is ruled out, what about economic sanctions? The objection to these is that they can be applied only against some nations while others are immune. What is the use of enactments which can be enforced against one part of the community but not against the other? We, unhappily, are one of the nations most vulnerable to economic sanctions. But what would be the use of trying to impose them on Russia? Only nations which have built up an artificial economy, which depends upon the rule of law and on the observance of the sanctity of treaties as it existed throughout the nineteenth century, are vulnerable to such sanctions. Autarchic systems are immune. Cutting off their imports or exports scarcely affects them. Napoleon discovered that 150 years ago.
Finally we are told that no nation can stand out against world opinion; that we can rely upon the moral forces of the Assembly's resolution. Surely this is more wishful thinking. What is more, it is flatly contradicted by experience. For several years now U.N.O. has condemned Egypt for refusing to allow the passage of Israel's ships through the Suez Canal in direct conflict with its obligations under the 1888 Treaty. Has the moral force of this condemnation had any effect on the Egyptians? None whatever. By a huge majority U.N.O. has called upon Russia to withdraw its troops from Hungary. Has the moral force of this resolution had any effect? Ask the Hungarians. If the Russians do not comply, we are told, they will be branded by the Assembly. The trouble is, that they have been branded already, and they do not seem to mind.
But, we are told, "Look at the great triumph of U.N.O. in stopping the North Koreans over-running the South Koreans." Nothing could be more misleading. America was able to obtain U.N.O.'s blessing for warlike action on that occasion simply owing to the fluke that the Russian delegate had retired from the Security Council in a sulk, so that he could not interpose his Veto in time. What would have happened if he had been present? The use of armed force would have been vetoed. Does any 906 body believe that the United States would simply have let events take their course and abandoned millions who had put their trust in them to be massacred? Of course not. With or without U.N.O.'s approval, they would have taken action; and quite right too. We should have thought less of them if they had flinched.
If all the nations in the world adopted Christian principles, of which there does not seem any immediate prospect, moral, force might become effective. But this would happen only if nations had the feeling that they were being treated with justice. How can anyone talk of justice without sworn evidence and penalties for perjury, without the possibility of testing witnesses' statements by cross-examination? Even more important is that nations would have to be convinced that their case has been heard before an impartial tribunal and that the judges had given their verdict without fear or favour. Finally, it would be essential for the nations to be convinced that they were all equal before the law and that judgment would be enforced upon everybody, great or small. Ai I have explained, none of these vital conditions is fulfilled by U.N.O. in its present form, and I question whether, in the state of mind obtaining in almost all the countries of the world to-day, with their inflamed ideas of national sovereignty and dignity, any system can he invented which would fulfil these essential conditions. My view is that it is nonsense to demand that nations should submit their vital interests to the decision of a body constituted in such an absurd manner as the General Assembly of U.N.O. Any Government which did so would be neglecting its duty. Civilisation is built up on the basis that contracts and treaties must be, and be, observed. As I have said, the United Kingdom relies for its very existence on this principle.
We depend, unhappily, to a great extent upon imports of oil. We may have been foolish to allow our industries and national life generally to develop in this way, but it has happened We cannot allow our people to go cold and hungry just because some people who claim to speak for world opinion have suddenly arbitrarily introduced some novel concept of national sovereignty which apparently permits the Government of any country, 907 at its own sweet will, to repudiate its obligations and refuse to honour its promises. In the old days the victim of such maltreatment would have insisted upon its rights, if necessarily by armed force. But this, we are told, is quite out of fashion it would be "gunboat diplomacy." We must not use force: we must negotiate. You might as well say that, if someone snatches your watch in the street, you must not resist, still less take it back. You must negotiate with him. I suppose that, if you are lucky, you may recover the chain. If I believed that the Socialist leaders, who presumably one day will have charge of the nation's affairs—I hope not for a long time—could not grasp this simple train of reasoning, I should despair of the future of this country. Of course it is no doubt tempting to snatch a Party advantage by making sanctimonious speeches, and generally by taking what purports to be the high moral line in these matters; but it really shocked me that, when it was suggested in another place that the Government spokesman had in mind the protection of our oil supplies, he was greeted with boos and jeers. The Government actually, it seems, were trying to safeguard the vital interests of their country. What a terrible accusation!
It is easy for the Socialist Party, in Opposition, to take such a line. They do not seem to mind very much whether we have two or three million unemployed, and our people suffer from cold and other distresses, so long as they can blame the Government. They seem to think it quite all right that we should be at the mercy of what the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, called a "tin-pot dictator"; that he should be free to impose petrol rationing and other hardships on 200 million Europeans who have spent centuries fighting for freedom from tyranny. They say that all we should do is to chant in unison the magic syllables "U.N.O., U.N.O." although they know perfectly well that it never has availed, and never will avail, to compel a nation protected by a powerful friend, preferably with a Veto, to honour its obligations. As things have developed, U.N.O. is used as a device behind whose gimcrack facade a thief can shelter as long as he contents himself with stealing from nations which can be prevented from retaliating by one of the two great Powers.
908 To sum up, I do not think that U.N.O., at any rate in its present form, can work. The governing body, the Assembly, consists of a heterogeneous collection of so-called sovereign States, some of which are thousands of times more numerous than others, and tens of thousands of times more powerful and wealthy. Some of them are highly civilised; others are all but illiterate. Yet they all have an equal vote. Their decisions are given with no attempt at impartiality. They act on no known laws and have no rules of evidence. Their decisions can be enforced only if supported by at least one of the States with a store of H-bombs, provided that it is not faced with another State with an equally devastating store of weapons. Economic sanctions can be put into effect only by certain States against certain States. Others are immune. The moral force of public opinion has been proved to be utterly ineffective, even in cases of petty States like Egypt or Albania.
In these circumstances, nations, especially those dependent upon the sanctity of treaties and contracts for their survival, cannot be expected to entrust their fate unconditionally to U.N.O. It is an organisation which can be exploited by nations who wish to break the law, provided that they have powerful friends who will interpose on their behalf. It is a conception which we all wish could work, but it is plain to see that it cannot. It is high time that these facts should be stated plainly, unhappy as they are; otherwise, we may continue to be lulled into a false sense of security and hope by the eloquent, ardent and often high-minded, but, I fear, misguided, advocates of this forlorn experiment in idealism.
What I have said will, I fear, arouse indignation in some quarters. That is always the way when comfortable emotional beliefs which cannot be sustained by evidence on logical grounds are challenged. The magic syllables "U.N.O." have acquired the status of an invocation, almost of a prayer. To cast doubt on the Organisation is considered akin to blasphemy. The rÔle of the iconoclast is always hateful, but facts and logic cannot simply be brushed aside. I therefore think it my duty, as one not linked in any way with the Government and still less with the Opposition, to refuse to foster what I believe to be a dangerous 909 delusion which is rapidly becoming a snare. Noble Lords are entitled to hear the facts. I only hope that they will ponder them dispassionately. For sooner or later we shall be compelled to face them.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, I am quite sure the whole House will welcome hack to our counsels (because he has not been with us for some time) the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, as his old astringent self. He has that trick of gaiety, vitality arid courage that enables him to say things that many of us would not dare to say but with which most of us find it extremely hard to disagree.
I suppose we are all feeling that there is practically nothing to say about Suez that has not already been said, or is not about to be said in the speeches that arc to follow in this debate. I personally should like to take the lead given to us by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, and say that this is not the time for looking back or for recrimination. I should lice to take him so much at his word as to spend no time at all on defending the Government for taking a course with which in fact, I most strongly agree. In order to be useful we must look ahead, and I think perhaps it would be even more useful a debate where over forty of us are speaking, if, on the whole, we tried to concentrate on just one point. If therefore, I concentrate on just one point, I hope your Lordships will not think that I imagine that it is the only one. Having said, that we must look ahead, it is perhaps slightly paradoxical to say that, in my view, the first step we have got to take in looking ahead is to realise that we are now back in the cold war, and that what we have most suffered from in these unhappy last few weeks and months is the fact that many of us feel that our rational case has not been sufficiently stated to the world for men's minds in this country and in other countries.
At the present moment we are spending £1,500 million a year on defence, on providing arms that on the whole, we possibly dare not use—or, at any rate, if we do try to use them, we submit ourselves to heavy criticism from the United Nations. We are spending £12 million on propaganda, some of it, I venture to suggest, small sum though it is, a little doubtfully—as for instance, going to the trouble 910 of translating Mr. Gaitskell's speech, or great portions of it, into Arabic in order to broadcast it to the Middle East.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
Is the noble Earl sure that that was not Egyptian propaganda, rather than British propaganda?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I know that it went out over the B.B.C., and that it was not the full speech but consisted of some of the choicest parts. But that is merely by the way. What I ask your Lordships to ask yourselves is whether at the present moment, and as things are, the balance of expenditure between £1,500 million on defence and only £12 million on the cold war is the right balance. Surely, if we look at the realities of the situation, we must realise that for some time we have been "losing our" in the cold war, and not only to Russia.
Here, if I may say so, I strongly agree with the noble Viscount. Lord Brace of Melbourne. I am going to say something about America, and I ask your Lordships to believe that if I speak frankly about America, as did the noble Viscount, it is because I believe that the only hope of our getting back into true friendship with America is that she should know what some of us think. We certainly hope that America is-and I think there is every indication that she means to try to be—our friend. But let us face the fact that, for the last few years, she has been a friendly rival; and that, however friendly she is, there has been nothing more profitable to her, or more harmful to us, than what we are asked to accept as the highly idealistic view that she takes of what she likes to call our colonialism. If I have any criticism to make of Her Majesty's Government it is certainly not on policy, but it is that I believe that they have been out-manœuvred and have allowed this country to be out-manœuvred en the statement of our case. In this connection, I am critical not only of this Government but of other Governments.
My Lords, what are the problems that are facing us in this cot text'? What must we work towards in our statement of our case? First, I think it is quite clear from what has already been said by the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, and other speakers, and from the way in which those speeches were received, that 911 we are all convinced that our first task is to re-lay the foundations that are essential for rebuilding Anglo-American relations—that is vital. But the more essential we realise Anglo-American understanding to be, the more important it is that those foundations should be the right foundations. At the moment America is all friendliness; but let us face the fact that we as a country are really "done" for years if we re-start our friendship with her on the wrong basis. That is why I particularly welcome some of the things that the noble Viscount. Lord Bruce of Melbourne, said
We are not the prodigal son creeping back into the fold, ashamed of ourselves. After all, we have a long history, even in this century, of facing reality and fighting for freedom. We saw the challenge to freedom in 1914, many years before the Americans did, and we took action about it. We saw the challenge in 1939, before they did; and, again, we took action about it. We have warned them for the last seven, eight or nine years of the dangers in the Middle East; and finally, in desperation nothing being likely to happen, we took action. Forgive me if I emphasise this point rather strongly, but, as I see it, at this moment and for some weeks to come, we are in real danger of suffering damage from which we shall find it hard, if indeed it is possible, to recover. We must not submit to being labelled as having behaved in a lawless and ill-advised manner, as having been rescued from the situation by the wisdom and firmness of the United States, and of now receiving the benefits from United States magnanimity. This must not be, and it need not be, if only we can unite to state our case.
The real facts of the situation are that we have created the conditions in which America and the United Nations can now function; and without that action all of us including America, would be wallowing still in the delays and the intrigues of the United Nations. However much we value American friendship, we must not allow her to "get away with" this now; because, if we do, our prestige and influence is going to suffer for years, and, indeed, our value as an ally and a friend of America is going to suffer. Friendship can be of value only if it is between two self-respecting and mutually-respecting nations. And let us remember that this 912 is a battle of time. The case has to be made now. It has to be put over now, because it may well be only a matter of weeks in which public opinion on this matter is finally formed; and once it is formed it will he very difficult to alter.
There is, surely, something else that we should "get over" to the world very much more than we have: that it is the United Nations and not ourselves that has failed in the Middle East; that it is the United Nations that for years has shelved the problem of the Middle East; that not one of the (I think it is) 200 resolutions on this very subject of the Middle East which have been before the United Nations has resulted in action, and that it is no thanks to the United Nations that forces were available in the Middle East at the time of the outbreak of hostilities which could prevent hostilities and, above all, prevent them from spreading. We and France stopped that, at any rate for the moment. Who dares to prophesy whether we have finally succeeded? We and the French—and no one else—have, for the moment, stopped the Soviet-Nasser plot.
Ministers in this House and in another place have made extremely good, clear statements on this subject; but who reads ministerial speeches? I want to ask noble Lords: where is the machine for putting our case out to the world, the kind of machine which Russia and the United States of America use and which Nasser is able to use to get his case across? There is another point with regard to what should be going over that machine—I will not stress it, because the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, has already made it. I was going to ask, what is being done to bring to the notice of the world the more general weakness of United Nations, which, of course, is the background of this whole unhappy issue that we are meeting here to discuss? I was particularly encouraged by something which the noble Marquess the Leader of the House said. I think I am right in believing that he did give us an indication that Her Majesty's Government were prepared to take a lead in facing this problem and persuading other nations to face it. That is important, because at the present moment it is vital that we should find ourselves on the offensive in giving the world the lead and, if possible, making 913 the United Nations mare effective, rather than standing on the defensive, being lectured by appeasers, neutralists and even aggressors.
Those are only some of the points that need to be put before the world. There are countless others, like the issue which is dividing the United States of America and ourselves at the moment more fundamentally than arty other—the subject of colonialism and anti-colonialism. But, wherever we look, we seem to be playing at the whole subject of our national public relations. I have heard most distressing stories of Ambassadors and Governors who, at the time of the attack, had nothing at all in their hands from our Government to brief them. Why was that so? If we take public opinion seriously, every representative of ours, in every part of the world, ought to have had in his hand, at the time when there was even the possibility of something like this happening, a statement of what the British Government really felt about it, and what they wished to have put out to those people whom our representatives were amongst. Our neglect of this subject seems to me to be complete and utter folly. It is not as though we do not know how, for during the war it was generally admitted that we had the best propaganda of any nation.
Rightly or wrongly, immediately after the war we disbanded the Psychological Warfare Department. I must admit that at the time that did not seem to me to be wrong, but now it seems to me to have been most regrettable. Cannot we revive that Department or replace it with something of the same character? If we go on playing at this problem, I cannot believe that any millions we are likely to spend on defence, or even the best and wisest foreign policy, is going to succeed. If need be, let us transfer £100 million from defence to propaganda straight away. We live in a world where things and policies must not only be right but must seem to be right, and must be known and felt to be right by thinking men and women and, I am afraid, very often by great masses of unthinking men and women too. It is time we woke up to the problem and accepted the challenge, not; as a sideshow but as a major condition of our continued existence as an effective force in the world.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, if I heard him aright, the noble Marquess when he opened this debate seen-led to deprecate the idea of controversy. I can well imagine that. Anyone with a bad case is always anxious to avoid controversy. But the noble Marquess was optimistic in saying that, because he then proceeded to move a most highly controversial Resolution, and the Amendment which my noble friend Lord Henderson will move to-morrow is also highly controversial. In discussing this matter there must, of course, be contra-versy, but what we are avoiding, as one would expect, is what I would describe as hysterical recrimination, which has been rather an unfortunate feature of the Suez debates. I cannot agree with the two propositions in the Resolution. We have yet to see whether we have, in fact, prevented hostilities from spreading, and we have yet to see whether the introduction of the United Nations force has created conditions in which the United Nations' objectives can be achieved. On this point, the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, has expressed doubts which I fully share.
Our relations with the United States of America have been frequently mentioned in the course of this debate so far, and I should like to say a word or two upon that matter. The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, is not here to-day so I will not say much but, having thought about it, I. must say that I consider his speech at Oxford a great mistake. He said some things which were very wounding to American pride. Strangely enough, he also said:It is easy to recriminate and to call had names. It is less easy to recognise the only by not recriminating can the human race be saved from destruction.I thought that came very queerly, on top of the other remarks of the noble Viscount. But there was a pretty swift transition from "Philip drunk" to "Philip sober", because in his next speech he said that he did not despair about the Anglo-American Alliance. The Alliance, he said, was:a partnership based on solid interest and cemented by powerful ties of sympathy, law customs, language, culture and ideals.With that statement we can agree, but it is difficult to believe that it was made by the same man who had made the earlier speech at Oxford.
915 As I have referred to the change of tone on the part of Lord Hailsham, perhaps I should say that Mr. Nixon has also undergone a similar sort of conversion. Not so long ago, he was hailing the split with America as:An American declaration of independence from Anglo-French Colonial policies.Recently, however, he has made a very understanding and conciliatory speech. He may have had a "rap over the knuckles" from Augusta, or a hint from Augusta—perhaps Lord Hailsham has had a hint too—but it is also the case that, apart from Mr. Nixon, we are hearing a great deal less from America about "trickery and deceit." The tone is altering, and we even hear admissions that American foreign policy has been "equivocating and fumbling." So a change of heart does seem to have taken place.
The only comment I wish to make about the anti-American Motion, which has been supported by, I think, one-third of the Government supporters in another place, is that it must surely have escaped their attention that we are relying so greatly on America to come to our financial aid and to get us out of the difficulties in which the Suez affair has landed us. For instance, we are apparently asking America to waive the current instalment of interest on the debt we owe them. So I think that an anti-American Motion at this moment is really a case of biting the hand that feeds one. Lord Hailsham also, in his later speech, spoke about a "cheap price." Referring to the financial difficulties we are in, he spoke of them as being:a cheap price to stop a war.But, of course, the United Nations has never accepted the story that we were trying to stop a war, and I cannot find any concrete evidence that a war has, in fact, been stopped. But however that may be, however cheap the price may be, we cannot pay it without American aid. The noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, also in a recent speech, said that:We are a proud people and will be dictated to by none.Those were resounding words, but I am afraid that we have to swallow some of our pride and accept a loan.
The last thing I should like to say on this matter is that, in spite of one or 916 two rather gloomy things that have been said this afternoon, I think it is remarkable what progress has already been made towards healing the split which occurred between us and America. And the progress has really been so rapid, from the President downwards, so different is the language now used in America, that I think we can look forward with confidence to the split being fully repaired, perhaps much sooner than at one time we thought might be the case.
Now a word about this claim that our action stopped a war. There have been efforts, rather late in the day, to build up a case on that matter. Very late in the crisis, Mr. Thorneycroft and Mr. Lennox-Boyd revealed to us a Russian plot to set the Middle East ablaze. Later, Sir David Eccles said:The world will soon realise that the British and French have changed the course of history by exposing the Russian threat to the Middle East.But, in spite of what he said, the world obstinately declines to realise anything of the sort. The noble Earl, Lord Home, also laid a brick, and gave some assistance. He said:When the Middle East was about to burst into flames, the United Kingdom used her power. A general war has been stopped, a Communist plot forestalled.I think we should have more details about this "plot". What I find very remarkable is that, so far as I can trace, neither the Prime Minister nor the Foreign Secretary, who one would have imagined would be the members of the Government to speak about it, and to speak about it in detail, has said anything about it. When did we first get wind of this "plot"? Surely, had there been such a plot we must have heard about it long before our intervention; and if we had heard any reliable evidence about such a plot it was our duty at once to inform our Allies and also our fellow members of the Commonwealth. It is quite a different thing from informing America and the Commonwealth about an ultimatum. I say that if such a plot really existed, and came to our notice, it was our bounden duty to inform our Allies of what we had heard.
Where is the concrete evidence that Russia had plotted to promote a war, and had prepared bases, stores and arms which necessitated our taking forestalling 917 action? Mr. Thorneycroft, on November 8, said of Syria and Egypt:Our intervention disclosed that they had been armed to the teeth by Russia."Armed to the teeth," my Lords! We know about the million blankets, but "armed to the teeth" goes a great deal further than that. I must say that, if Egypt had been "armed to the teeth," the events show that Colonel Nasser does not appear to have owed anything to Russian arms. I must ask again, why did the Prime Minister, so far as I have read, give every reason for his actions but this one about a Russian plot? If it is true that there was evidence of such a plot, all I can say is that the Government were very bad foresters, because they failed to inform their Allies of the spark in the undergrowth which might grow into a forest fire. What is the truth about these arms deliveries, of which Mr. Thorneycroft spoke on November 8? A statement on Russian arms deliveries was given to the Press on November 11, and Commander Noble, Minister of Slate for Foreign Affairs, said:All the information given was in the Government's possession on October 29.That was the date on which Israel attacked. So how is it that it was only our intervention which revealed these facts, as Government speakers asserted? The conclusion I have come to is that the story about this "plot," and about Syria and Egypt being "armed to the teeth" by Russia, is really too thin to tell even Lo the Marines.
But a related matter to this also raises the question of the heads of our missions, our ambassadors and ministers in the Middle East. Did any of them "get on" to this Russian plot in the areas where they are our representatives t and, if they did, did they report it? It is very curious if all this could go on with all of our representatives in the Middle East being completely unaware of it. But perhaps it is not more peculiar than the fact that, according to The Times report from Nicosia, none of these ministers arid ambassadors was informed of the action the Government intended to take. If it is really the case that they were not consulted, and not even informed, it is remarkable indeed. Certainly everything goes to show that, when our diplomatic representatives did hear of what was happening, they were aghast at the news 918 and felt that it had undone all the work they had been patiently doing, year in and year out, to try to maintain our influence in the countries to which they were accredited.
As to the objectives, that is a very tangled story indeed. I think that all one can say with certainty is that the Government have been unable, in the action we have taken, to enforce our real objective. We now hear of a great many other objectives, but I think the real fact is that the two objectives were to get rid of Colonel Nasser and to establish international control of the Suez Canal. We have succeeded in neither objective. I could recount some of the objectives, which Colonel Nasser has achieved. The mischief is spreading wider and wider, for now Jordan has denounced her treaty with us, and Syria has moved into the Soviet orbit. And none of us need be surprised if we see the campaign against France in Northern Africa resumed.
I should like, in fairness, to mention one thing. I have heard references this afternoon to Mr. Lester Pearson's having said that the Commonwealth had been brought to the brink of dissolution, but Mr. Pearson has since explained that he was referring to Asian members of the Commonwealth. I believe it is right to call attention to that fact. At any rate, the Commonwealth is intact to-day. I really cannot agree with Mr. Gaitskell in saying that N.A.T.O. has been dealt a "death-blow," any more than I can agree with him that we must now take our orders from the United Nations. While I think that N.A.T.O. has no doubt sustained a shock in this matter, and will require considerable underpinning in future, it looks to-day as if that repair work has already 'been taken in hand. Certainly I should not go so far as to say that N.A.T.O. has received a "deathblow."
The Prime Minister justifies his intervention by saying that it limited a war; that it halted that war and that it gave the world a chance to work out a solution. That we halted a war is somewhat hypothetical. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, has referred to the great of the situation still existing, so I think the assumption that we halted a war is a little hypothetical at the moment. And if, by his comment about our action giving the world a chance to 919 work out a solution, the Prime Minister meant that the United Nations can work out a solution of the Middle East troubles, all I can say is that I very much doubt whether they can. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, said, that is to put more "on the plate" of the United Nations than we can expect that Organisation to be able to digest. The real truth is (the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, mentioned it, in his devastating speech) that the United Nations to-day, with the advent of the Afro-Asian bloc, is swayed by self-interest, not by idealism. Yet the whole basis of the Charter is idealism, and it is absurd to imagine that to-day that is the animating motive in the United Nations.
It would be interesting to know what are the precise objectives and functions of this United Nations Force. What are they expected to do, and what are the limitations under which they work? What power has Colonel Nasser to interfere and prevent them from doing the work with which the United Nations have charged them? I hope that one thing at least which the United Nations will make clear, and one thing the United Nations Force will be able to ensure, is that there is no intention whatever of letting the State of Israel disappear. We know that Colonel Nasser's intention all along has been to destroy the State of Israel. I hope that we shall be able to make it clear that that is not going to be done. In the end, we have witnessed an ignominious finish to one of the shortest wars in our history, with little to show for it. The results achieved do not justify the risks which were taken or the financial loss which has been incurred. Much more has been lost than has been gained, and if Colonel Nasser suffered a military defeat at the hands of Israel, there is no question that he has inflicted a political defeat upon Great Britain and France.
What are the lessons to be drawn? We all want to get this mess cleared up. The trouble is past; the water is over the dam. What lessons do we draw for the future? I think that the noble Lord, Lord Strang, in an article in the Sunday Times, has given us two valuable pointers along the road we must travel in future. He wrote:The fact to be recognised is that Great Britain and France have not sufficient strength to try to carry through a policy of armed intervention to which the United States are opposed.920 And again:A policy of veto and ultimatum is quite out of keeping with the behaviour we expect from the United Kingdom in these times: it is not surprising that we should have shown ourselves to be not very skilful in pursuing it.I think that these are two extremely valuable lessons to which the noble Lord has called our attention. The facts are that the test of a specific foreign policy may be reckoned in terms of morality or in terms of success. Whichever test we apply to the Cabinet's policy, that policy has failed.
We have also gone against another old cardinal principle of foreign policy, in that we have produced a combination against us. It used to be a principle of our foreign policy to avoid raising up such a combination against us. Our failure teaches us that only a super Power can "go it alone," and, whether we like it or not, Britain and France are not such Powers. The effect of the fiasco on our status will be worldwide, and the philosophical cause of freedom has had a severe setback. The Conservative leaders may have convinced their followers—at any rate, if they did not convince them they got them into the right Lobby, from their point of view—but whom else have they convinced? In the Press, the Church, the universities, and amongst the Middle East experts they have raised up a great cloud of witnesses against them. To me, it is a tragic thing indeed.
Mr. Butler, a few days ago, trying to put a good face on it, said:We are on the edge of achieving a great act of international statesmanship.And Mr. Selwyn Lloyd has said:We have created a situation of great opportunity.We are on the edge of a cliff; and we have lost opportunities of which other people, some of them our enemies, have been quick to take advantage. The truth is that we are back at Dunkirk, but this time it is a moral, political and economic Dunkirk. For eleven years we have been working hard to push the stone of our economy up on to that "plateau of stability" about which the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke; and now, like Sisyphus, we see the stone rolling down again to the bottom, and the weary task of trying to push it to the top has got to begin again.
921 It is, indeed, a hard task ahead of us. Some people say that only a reconstruction of the Government could give the nation the confidence needed for the toil. How do you reconstruct? Apart from The Times, which points out that everybody in the Cabinet is either too old or too young, the fact remains that the entire Cabinet went along with the Prime Minister, and, from the point of view of those who opposed the Cabinet's policy, all are tarred with the same brush. There are, of course, rumours of dissentients inside the Cabinet, but, unlike so many political commentators, I have not got a tape recorder underneath the Cabinet table, and I am unable to say anything about those rumours. All I know is that Sir Winston Churchill raised us to a great pinnacle of fame in 1945, when our name was renowned throughout the world, and now we are toppled off that pinnacle; and, by the irony of fate, which almost reminds one of a Greek tragedy, we have been toppled off that pinnacle by the successor whom he himself chose. In this task of reconstruction we must not go forward in the spirit of the Resolution that we are debating to-day, a Resolution which implies that we have won considerable victories; we have to go forward, if the job is to be done, in the spirit of learning the lessons of a great failure.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, I came down to the House this afternoon with a voluminous bundle of notes and the intention of making quite a long, reasoned and analytical speech to your Lordships. I find that I am the eleventh speaker on the list, it is now twenty minutes past six, and there are twenty more noble Lords who wish to speak to-day. One of the, perhaps, beneficial results, of that has been that I have decided to scrap what I was going to say and to say something on quite different lines and at much shorter length.
Like many other noble Lords, I have considerable searchings of the heart about the Resolution before us to-day, which is in rather positive terms. Having spent some forty years, or more, in the Government service, my natural instinct is always to back the Government of the day in their foreign policy. I have been brought up to do that it is one's instinctive reaction, and really, I think it is 922 quite a good instinct to have. But in this particular case my view has never varied from start to finish. I think that we have done the right thing, in the wrong way, at the wrong time. If we could have taken action in July, when this trouble first started (just as, when the child sets fire to the curtain, you put the fire out and then you spank the child—although you may get into trouble for it) that, in try view, would have been the right thing to do. But we did not do that.
There is one point I should like to make before I continue, and I have made it before in your Lordships' House. I find it rather shocking that when this happened we were apparently caught by surprise. We should riot have been caught by surprise. In 1954, when we evacuated, it was as plain as a pikestaff that the Canal was going to be the next item on the nationalistic programme. I think I called attention to this is July, 1954, but I have not the paper by me. Two years elapsed before anything happened. What seems to me to be the most unfortunate feature of all is that two solid years have gone past and, so far as I know, and so far as the world knows, no plan was made in that two years' interval. I should not mind if a plan had been considered and turned down as not feasible. We do nut even know that. But, apparently, we were caught completely unawares. As I say, I have made that point before, but I make it again because I hope that if anything like this ever happens again we shall not be caught without a plan.
The stealing of the Canal took place in July, and then finally there were hostilities, and we got in. Quite frankly, I thought: "Better late than never". But if you get in, you have got to get on, or else you have to get out. Personally, I do not like getting out at all, but in the present situation there is no option to getting out. As I say, you get in, get on or get out. That is how this thing has ended, and I think it is unfortunate. To go back to certain aspects, we get out leaving the Canal problem, which was the original fons et origo, unsettled; and if ever there was a case of self-defence, I should have thought that that was one, as events have since proved. Another point that has come up in the last few days is that we are getting out leaving British subjects to be hounded out of 923 Egypt like pariahs, and losing all their property. I think we had the figures given to us a few days ago, and they were that 8,000-odd Maltese, many of them of the third generation, have been entirely dispossessed of all they have in the world.
§ LORD KILLEARN
It may be 6,000, but I was told 8,000; at any rate, it makes little difference. Rich and poor alike have been deprived of their possessions. We have decided to get out, and we are leaving these people to the tender mercies of the Egyptians. I do not like it, and I do not think the House can like it, let alone the case I have raised lately of the poor unfortunate British subjects accused of espionage, languishing in gaol. It is not nice. I will be brutally frank. As it strikes me, we went in to do a job, and it is a bungled job, if ever there was one—"Not an impressive performance", shall we say.
On the other hand, I hasten to add that we are always told that there is a silver lining to every cloud. Well, I hope in this case there are such linings, and I believe frankly and sincerely that there are. I have listed the ones which struck me. In the first place, I am convinced that our action did avert a general Arab war. It is a matter of individual opinion, but it is a fact that the Arabs, despite all their tub-thumping, sabre-rattling and all the rest, did not move. I believe that, but for our intervention, they would have moved and there would have been a general conflagration in the Middle East I believe that is very much on the positive side. The second thing I put down is that the whole of this affair has shown up the futility of U.N.O. as at present constituted. I do not think anybody in this House will deny that. It has been positively harmful. The noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, addressed a telling speech to us on the subject to-day. It must be inevitable that, out of this unfortunate affair, some time or other, somehow or other, the whole organisation. machinery and concept of U.N.O. will have to be overhauled. I do not quite know in what form or how it will come up; but that, of course, is a big question.
The third asset I have put down is: it unveiled a Communist plot to possess themselves of the Middle East. The 924 noble Lord who preceded me poured considerable water on that. I personally believe it was so, and it has always seemed to me that there is confirmation of it in the blocking of the Canal—these forty-nine wrecks, or whatever is the number, which have been sunk. It is not an amateur's job to go out and sink forty-nine ships. Was it purely on Egyptian initiative? Was it not part of the scheme that failed, to cut our jugular vein—the oil supplies? I think it may well have been, and I suspect that it was. I differ from the preceding speaker, and I take that view very seriously. The fourth asset, to my mind, is that this affair has brought home to the world at large, and to the United States in particular, the extreme gravity of the situation. If it leads to a more positive and realistic approach to things like, for instance, the Baghdad Pact, that, in itself, is a great gain.
I have only two other points to make. One is about the status of the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt's title thereto. I had hoped to get down a Question concerning it before to-day's debate, but the Order Paper was full, so the Question appears in to-morrow's Business. As I shall then get an Answer from the Government spokesman, I had better leave that alone, except to say this. There is a general suspicion that Egypt's title to the sovereignty of the Sinai Peninsula is possibly rather doubtful. That might have various effects, legalistic and otherwise. If, for instance, the whole of this area is what I believe in legal parlance is known as res nullius, it is just the sort of place into which to put U.N.O. or some other organisation to keep the peace. Until we know the facts, I shall say no more about that.
I do not know how many of your Lordships—probably very few—have ever seen, a book written by General Abdul Nasser. It is called The Philosophy of the Revolution. I have been searching for this book in the last few days, and I have succeeded in getting a copy here. The Librarian very cleverly sought it out—I think he got it from the House of Commons, but I am not sure. It is distributed by the Press Information Office of the Egyptian Embassy. I have here a few short synopses, some of the things our friend Nasser says in this book. Like Hitler and Stalin, he has published to the 925 world the essence of his idealogy. It is based on an ambitious soldier's ideas of Egypt's opportunities, on hatred of Imperialism in general and of Britain in particular, and a conviction that imperialism and Britain are on the decline. I quote:Imperialism is playing a one-card game in order to threaten only. If ever it knew there were Egyptians ready to shed their blood and to meet force by force, it would withdraw and recoil like a harlot.That is on page 14. On page 41 he says:Our forefathers used to say 'O God Almighty! Send the Osmanly to perdition!'This has been changed to, "O God Almighty! Would that a calamity betake the English!"
He says, on page 66:Power is to act positively with all the components of power.He explains that the components of Egyptian power are, first, as one of a group of peoples, the Arabs, closely bound together by spiritual and material bonds: secondly, Egypt's position on the map—the meeting-place, the crossroads and the military corridor of the world; thirdly, petroleum, the vital nerve of civilisation. The Egyptian policy revolves in three circles. On page 69 it says that the firs: circle is the Arab circle which I. have just mentioned. Now this is rather good:… we cannot, even if we wish to, in any way stand aside, from the sanguinary and dreadful struggle now raging in the heart of Africa between five million whites and two hundred million Africans. … The people of Africa will continue to look up to us, who guard the northern gate of the continent and who are its connecting link with the world outside. We cannot, under any condition, relinquish our responsibility in helping, in every way possible, to diffuse the light of civilisation into the farthest parts of that virgin jungle.Then he refers to the Sudan as… our beloved brother, whose boundaries extend deeply into Africa and which is a neighbour to all the sensitive spots in the centre of the continent. It is a certain fact that Africa at present is the scene of an exciting ebullition. The white man, representing several European countries, is trying again to repartition the continent. We cannot stand aside in face of what is taking place in Africa … I shall continue to dream of the day when I see in Cairo a great institute for exploring all parts of this continent.…He then goes on to what he calls the Moslem circle on page 70:… the circle that goes beyond continents and oceans.926 The value of the Mecca pilgrimage is that it is to be a regular political congress and a universal Islamic Parliament. He speaks of;… 80 million Moslems in Indonesia, the 50 million in China and the several other million in Malaya, Siam and Burma and the 100 million or more in the Middle East and the 40 million in Russia, as well as other millions in the distant parts of the world. When I visualise these millions united in one faith, I have a great consciousness of the tremendous potentialities that co-operation amongst them all can achieve.My Lords, those are rather telling quotations. I shall not burden you with any more. The book will be in the Library, if anybody wants to look at it.
My Lords, there are just a few words in conclusion. I am reminded of the Latin tag Quo vadis?—"where are you going?" Where are we going? It seems to me we have a long, long pull from the present dark valley, to put it figuratively. The first step is to get rid of internal bickering. It is not worthy of the British people, which still remains a great people, and if we could only pull together as a nation it would obviously be much better. I confess I find much attraction in the idea of a Commonwealth consolidation. I do not want to appear flippant, but we do not want to run the risk of a rather well-known disease, "Menon-gitis". It would be unfortunate. Surely it is essential, by straight talk and straight thinking, to concentrate on convincing Washington of the importance of a Middle East solution and to try to eradicate the suspicion that still lingers on the other side of the Atlantic. I am half American myself, and I have often wondered whether that suspicion does not date back still to the traditions and memories of the times of George III.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, in putting forward some ideas into the wealth and welter of argument which has been lavished in this debate, and which will, of course, continue to be lavished tomorrow, I shall say little about the Canal. Instead I want to confine my remarks almost entirely to the enduring, perennial, eternal contest as between Arab and Jew which, somewhat to my surprise, I find huts hardly been touched on yet in this debate. I am assuming that we accept as a cardinal point of policy from now on that the United Nations Force is on the 927 ground until it has seen this particular issue through to its logical conclusion.
In regard to the Canal, I would say only this: that if the United Nations is to be permitted to base its Force only at the behest and on the sufferance of Egypt, then a precedent will have been created of the most outrageous negation of international justice we have yet witnessed. There is not a line in the Charter of the United Nations to sanction such a monstrous proposition, and it is just this kind of collective moral ineptitude and cowardly approach which has enabled the Soviet to introduce their forces into Hungary, sheltering behind the lie that they are invited in by the Hungarian people.
Only now that we are away from the Canal, or about to go away, do I find myself able to accept the weight of the argument which says that we must from this moment onward concentrate on strengthening the United Nations. I say this in spite of the devastating and forceful attack which Lord Cherwell delivered, highlighting the many ineptitudes and anomalies of the United Nations. As I see it, we must now try to strengthen the fabric so that it may assume that authority without which justice, so far from being supported, will be defeated. It is against that kind of background that I would turn to this dark spectre of Arab-Israeli relations which for so many years now have haunted the world, and I would ask your Lordships' indulgence if I recall one or two of the landmarks in history because it seems to me that these landmarks are forgotten and they form the essential background of any effective presentation of the present case to-day.
On a recent occasion the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, forcefully reminded us that the two dominating influences in the Middle East have recently been, first, the rising tide of Arab nationalism, and, secondly, the slow and creeping encroachment of Communism inspired from Soviet Russia. It is with deep respect that I would add a third element which, as I see it, goes to the root and core of the matter. Here I realise that I run the risk of falling out with some of your Lordships who may hold very different views—falling out, I hope, only as a matter of temporary dispute. I say the third element has been 928 nothing less than the creation of the State of Israel itself. I should like to make one point clear, and that is that I hold nothing but the deepest respect and admiration for the spirit that animates the State of Israel. Nevertheless, from what had been that nebulous "National Home" there emerged suddenly in 1948 a sovereign, independent State, and those who knew the Middle East saw the course was set for a long journey of darkness and despair.
May I, at the risk of labouring my point, take your Lordships back to 1917 and the momentous Declaration:His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jews; and will use their best endeavours to further the attainment of that object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall prejudice the existing rights and privileges of the non-Jewish communities.Apart from noting the dishonesty in referring to the Arabs, who were at that time nine-tenths of the population of Palestine, as "non-Jewish communities," what surely bewilders us is that after thirty-nine years one still asks the question, what was meant by that term "National Home"? Some number unknown were to be moved to an area unknown over a time unknown; and during all those years between the wars we were floundering on to an unknown goal. Your Lordships will need no reminder that at the time of the Balfour Declaration the Arab world had been led to believe in its coming independence, under those commitments usually associated with the notorious McMahon-Hussein correspondence.
I am drawing attention to these landmarks in history because it seems to me that if we are now moving into an area of international dispensation, more particularly if the United States are to become the new Western heroes in the Middle East, then we can hope and expect, and perhaps make it our duty to see, that these new agencies and authorities are briefed on the past. Not without some bitterness, one wonders how many Americans to-day have ever heard of the McMahon-Hussein correspondence, the Sykes-Picot agreement or even of their own King-Crane Commission set up in 1919.
In our search for a way out there are certain dispensations which the United Nations and others must have before 929 them. The first is that Egypt was never included that area in which Arab independence was to be recognised after the First World War. The second is that ever since 1916 Arab unity has represented the dreams and hopes of Arabs of discrimination, and that to-day one will find Arabs who regard that Arab unity in much the same sense as the Canadian or Australian looks at the British Commonwealth. Thirdly, Arabs raised in, shall we say, the tradition of King Abdullah of Jordan or King Feisal I of Iraq were never anti-Semitic. They would remind you that for centuries in Baghdad a Jewish minority of 100,000, the greatest minority of Jews in any capital city in the world after New York and London, lived in perfect peace and tolerance with their Arab neighbours at a time when Christian Europe was busy persecuting international Jewry. It is not anti-Semitism but anti-Zionism which has driven the Arab to desperation, and that distinction must be appreciated by any international dispensation if its wisdom is to be applied to finding the final solution.
May I turn, finally, to some ideas around that solution? Some of your Lordships may recall that the late Lord Davies devoted the greater part of his life to writing and thinking about an International Police Force, its composition, its location, its administration and its command. I find it rather prophetic to discover that, writing twenty-five years ago, he put his International Police Force into Palestine. I will return to that theme in a moment, but first I would ask your Lordships to note actually what has been achieved on the ground at this moment.
A Force of some 4,000 infantry, without supporting arms, organised, as one understands, in two combat brigades, has been introduced; and, not unnaturally, it has been criticised as quite inadequate to its task. Personally, I do not take quite so, gloomy a view as that. It is true that if either Egypt or Israel chose to by-pass it, to attempt to attack each other, it. would probably be unable to prevent that action. In itself this Force is certainly not sufficient to prevent Egypt from attacking Israel, or vice versa; but it is a token on the ground. It is something more than a few observers, and we surely have to believe 930 that if it were flouted or ignored or ridiculed, the United Nations, to pat it quite simply, would have to do something about it. It is not therefore the Force itself, so much as the authority behind the Force, to which many of your Lordships have drawn attention. It is that authority which causes anxiety. We seem to have slipped into this curious habit of regarding the General Assembly as some kind of enlightened, objective repository of justice, whereas we all know that it is a breeding ground of intrigue and of national and regional self-interest. Yet, my Lords, we have to believe that only through experience will it, and must it, learn; and if that is true then that token party of rather bewildered bits and pieces on the ground in the Canal area at the moment will surely, if it is challenged, be forced to expand. It would be forced to expand and do what it should do now; that is, to take over the whole of the Sinai Peninsula.
There is at this moment, I believe, an all-Party Motion tabled in another place, supported by forty-six Members of Parliament from all sides, connected with the Parliamentary Group for World Government, and drafted in terms of a suggestion that the United Nations should purchase the whole of the Sinai Peninsula. There are forceful arguments behind that suggestion. There is the doubtful legal ownership of the Peninsula, to which my noble friend Lord Killearn recently drew attention; there is the construction of that second canal, which would be a concomitant of the internationalisation of the Peninsula. Perhaps the Christian world might be stirred by the reflection that the St. Catherine's Monastery, the home of the greatest of all Christian manuscripts, the Codex Sinaiaticus, would rest on international soil. From every viewpoint there is the prospect here, as I see it, of planting the seeds of a great idea.
But policemen alone, of course, will not be sufficient to solve this age-old problem of Arab and Jew if that is ever to be solved we have to face the fact that someone has got to suffer. Someone has to abandon much of claims already regarded as confirmed; and someone has to abandon claims which perhaps it is desired to confirm in the future. Once again I can 931 see the answer only in terms of some long-term, imaginative, forceful planning by the United Nations. If it is true that the largest refugee community in the world arose out of the creation of the State of Israel; and if, in turn, the State of Israel derives from the suffering of world Jewry; and if that, in turn, was caused by international crime, then it must be beyond dispute that there is an international obligation not to rest until this sore is healed.
I can see no other answer save in terms of turning the whole of the present State of Israel and Jordan, west of the river, not perhaps into an international State, but into an international enclave, with self-governing cantons of Jews and Arabs, not united in common institutions as was the suggestion under the 1946 plan of the Anglo-American Commission, but responsible to an international authority, firm in Jerusalem, with, if necessary, international constabulary sprinkled over the country to support that authority. Simultaneously, there must be the settlement of every refugee who wishes to be allowed to go back to his home under the encouragement and support of international finance, coupled with the proposed development of the Jordan Valley, again under international assistance, and the reversion of the Kingdom of Jordan to the compact homogeneity which it enjoyed before 1948. If it helps to create a healthier atmosphere for that kind of drastic treatment, then by all means set up, further to the West, an International Nile Valley Authority, again with financial assistance from the World Bank.
It may be I am quite wrong about this. It may be that, if there is no further provocation, and with German reparations to Israel ceasing next year, with some of the African Jews coming in—people who speak Arabic as their mother tongue, and not Hebrew—in the distant future Israel may be regarded as more acceptable to the Arab world, in which case the chances of direct negotiation may be more real. If so, the somewhat sweeping proposals which I have put forward may prove quite unnecessary. If so, I should be the first to admit that I was wrong, and to welcome the fact that time was proving some kind of healer. The difficulty of people who study this matter in some mild spirit of inquiry is that when 932 they turn to the real expert, the real Arabist, who perhaps has been a Palestinian servant and has studied it all his life, they find that he says there is no answer to this problem. So I have felt justified in advancing my own reasoned conclusion, although it may seem unconventional.
Your Lordships will note that a far wider involvement of international authority than has yet been suggested is contemplated. Many might wish that we might continue alone to shoulder the burden of this great responsibility. Had we ever felt that American aid was coming forward under that Tripartite guarantee of 1950, we might have considered remaining in the Middle East in a big way, either politically or physically. But as it is (I put this in the form of a question to Her Majesty's Government) do we quite presume that this guarantee is now dead; and, if so, would it not be just as well to say so openly? Do not many difficulties arise by leaving the loose ends of these international agreements lying about?
I have attempted to paint a picture of increasing international authority as the only logical alternative, but I feel that it would be quite wrong to watch that increasing authority in any sense of resentment from the touchline. As I see it, we shall be worthy of our past only if we set ourselves the task of strengthening and encouraging this authority in the rather hesitant start that it has made. After all, these institutions which the world erects for the better management of its own affairs do not fail: it is the people who misuse and abuse them who are the failures.
One is reminded of the young man who looks at an Italian masterpiece and offers to buy it for the price of the paint which it contains. He receives his rebuke. "Young man, when you look at that picture, it is not the picture or its painter that is on judgment; it is you who are in the dock; it is you who stand your test."
So I feel, as I think the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr said, that it is for us to look forward to our test and to see that this movement that was set afoot with the arrival the other day of a small, miscellaneous collection of contingents in the Suez Canal area blossoms into something in which we and our children may take pride. There, surely, is work well worthy of our endeavours. If we approach the 933 future in the same spirit of mission which we have so often devoted to the past, I am convinced that we shall command the respect of both the Commonwealth and the world.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, as the first speaker from this Front Bench since my noble friend Lord Silkin spoke, it falls to me to say a word of congratulation to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, on his interesting and promising speech as a maiden effort to-day. I am sure that in the remarkably full House which he had for that maiden speech there was a good deal of interest among those who followed the career of his late father. They wondered, perhaps, how well up to that example the present holder of the title—I think the twenty-first holder of the title—would shape. Although I must say I often found myself disagreeing with the results of his mental activity in corning to his conclusions, nevertheless he made such a speech of order and presentation to the House as makes us all desire sincerely to hear him often again.
The debate to-day has been said to be just another one of those debates upon something which has been the subject of inquest several times already. I myself have no desire to prolong the proceedings of your Lordships' House at any undue length to-night by going over too much of the old ground; but, of course, the fact is that we are faced with a Motion, put down in the name of Her Majesty's Government and introduced by the noble Marquess to-day, which in itself deals with the events of the last three or four months. It is asking the House to give their approval to what has taken place, and especially to the policy of Her Majesty's Government. It is obvious, from the views held by Her Majesty's Opposition, which have been so freely expressed in the Press, in the country, in all kinds of demonstrations and in meetings, there was created such a division in the country that a Motion of this kind was bound to be controversial. We shall have to go into the Lobby against it, whatever may be the fate of the Amendment or Amendments on the Paper.
I think that the noble Marquess to-day endeavoured, as far as possible, to be non-controversial. Whilst he was not 934 prepared, he thought, to go into controversial questions which might be raised., he just wanted to make a statement of facts. I listened carefully to the statement of facts. In the last few days we have been presented with the bill which the nation has to pay—and, unfortunately, not only this nation bat the whole of Europe is suffering from the economic results of the action taken in Suez. When we are presented with this bill, we remain unconvinced by the Government's earnest efforts, through the Press and debates of this kind held in another place last week, to make out that instead of its being a dire defeat for this country, it has led to a series of successes which they have summed up this afternoon in three points.
I am not going to debate those three points at length. I am quite unable to bring myself in accord with the idea that these policies of the Government either have been correct or should be supported by the nation as a whole. On the contrary, I believe that they have created a division in our State which ought never to appear at all. If the Government were going to take action overseas in a warlike fashion, which they now say was attended with such grave risks, they should first have satisfied themselves that the country as a whole was likely to be behind them. Indeed, they should have gone so far as to have such consultations with the leading members of the Opposition representing as they do a substantial part of the votes cast at the last Election for representatives in the country, to make quite sure whether they were going out on a sound course. That is one of the charges that has not been answered by the Government. They moved into a position of grave risk, at any rate, without first satisfying themselves that they would have the wholehearted support of the nation.
When I look at the results, I begin to compare in my mind the circumstances which have produced these results with the sort of situation we faced in 1939–40. I remember in 1940 the attitude I the Church to the war How different is the attitude of the Church to-day to this last essay into overseas trouble by the Government! Then, the Church was able to say to the people "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Is there anybody who would say that the Church in the country to-day could have put such a position to the people regarding 935 this military adventure in the Middle East? Of course not. It is on that sort of basis that many people in the country are talking to-day and considering their judgment upon the Government's policy.
I would say to the Government to-night, that, while I have been absent from the House during all the discussions, I have studied with great care the Reports of your Lordships' debates, and particularly did I study the speech which was made in September by the noble and learned Lord, Lord McNair. When I hear the kind of explanation which has been given by the Government to-night as to why they took their ultimate military action on October 29, I fear that the feelings of Lord McNair upon our legal sins in amassing forces near the part of the world affected by the Suez Canal seizure have come true. I particularly fastened on this passage, in which Lord McNair said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 199, col. 662]:In all sincerity and humility, I would beg the Government to reflect upon my attempt to state the present rules governing the threat and the use of force and to examine and to check it … I think they are … bound to come to the conclusion which I have reached, which is as follows: that so far as the events in the present controversy up to date are known to us, I am unable to see the legal justification of the threat or the use of armed force by Great Britain against Egypt in order to impose a solution of this dispute.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Lord McNair was dealing with quite a different subject. Lord McNair was dealing with what I described as the first crisis: the question of the internationalisation of the Suez Canal. As I explained in my speech, the circumstances in which the Government took action were quite different. The noble Lord, Lord McNair, spoke before military action was ever taken.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Yes, but I say that the fear which was being felt in peoples' minds as to the use or the threat of force were realised when events in October came to a most convenient conclusion for the Government, and they felt that they had to move, they having already assembled a force close enough to go in at once. That is just the kind of thing that countries in that area which did not hold our views have reason to complain of; and they were as much entitled as we 936 were then to go to the United Nations, if they wished to do so, to complain about the use or the threat of force against them in relation to the Suez Canal. In my view, we ought to have made immediate complaint to the United Nations about the aggression of Nasser in seizing property that did not belong to him by force majeure, without notice and without negotiation.
Now, all the events that have taken place since leave in our minds certainly this thought: that, while the Government may well argue that they went in only, as the noble Marquess said to-day, to stop the spread of war, the argument of supporters of the Government up and down the country has been such that no-one has been able to dissociate the Government's action from the fact that they were seizing a convenient opportunity to try to get a clearing up of the Suez Canal position. That remains firmly fixed in the minds of a large number of people in this country and, probably, in a much wider sense, in many parts of the world as well.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I hope, at any rate, that I have managed to clear up the misapprehension in the noble Viscount's mind.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
That is just what I say the noble Marquess has failed to do; he has quite failed in his endeavour to do that. Then, instead of actually being able to protect the Canal, we have had the spectacle of ships being sunk in the Canal, to bring much greater disaster upon this country and upon the rest of Europe who rely upon supplies coming through the Canal. Those, I think, are the actual facts. I do not want to go over any of the other questions, because that would take too long, but I want to point out that the bill for this intervention in the Middle East is enormous. The figures that have already been mentioned are enormous, and in the view expressed to us by many business men in this country, who are still apprehensive as to what is going to happen in regard to its payment, the bill is a great handicap.
I think that what our country needs at the present moment is for the nation to pull together in order to retrieve the situation. How is that going to be done? It 937 seems to me that we can do it only if confidence is restored in the Government of the day. That can be achieved in two ways. It can be achieved by a reconstruction of the Government—a matter upon which we have heard precious little from the Ministers themselves. On the other hand, it can be achieved by whoever remains as Leader of the Government obtaining the view of the people as to what confidence remains in the Government in leading us in one of our greatest tasks—namely, to recover from the position into which we have been placed.
We have to restore our proper relationships with the United States. I greatly regret that I did not hear the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, and, as I am told, his strong remarks, if not attacks, upon the United Nations. If the impression of his speech which reached me meant anything at all, it is that if the United Nations is not going to be successful, is the answer to return to a purely balance of power philosophy? If so, how are you going to arrange your balance of power? Or is it intended to rely entirely upon our own judgment and, whenever necessary or when we feel it is necessary, to "go it alone"?
§ VISCOUNT CHERWELL
I do not know whether the noble Viscount expects me to produce, out of a hat, a blue print for the government of the world. All I am saying is that the present system is no use.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
Then we had better have a look at one or two of the other matters. The position has not changed in regard to our power quite so much as one would suppose from some of the speeches made. We still have a good deal of power.
But, as I think many people have pointed out in the past, the fact is that for 200 years we have never won a war of a really major character without allies—and powerful allies at that. In our escapade in the Middle East, we did not deal a very good blow in connection with the need for keeping a sound and working alliance with the United States and with the other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Those of us who were more responsible than some of those people who support the present Government for setting up the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation greatly regret the 938 blow which was dealt at it. We rejoice that so many Americans are not taking the view which excited such criticism in this country three or four weeks ago. But the kind of motion which was put on the Order Paper in another place by a large block of Conservative representatives was not exactly the way to get back on to an even keel with the United States of America.
I cannot understand why the Government did not consult with America; I cannot understand why they did not have better consultations with the Dominions, and, in view of what might possibly be the risks of their escapade in the Middle East, I cannot understand why they did not consult their fellow members of the Treaty organisations to which this country belongs. We are having to stand severe criticism from our other Allies, although we got a few to support us in the United Nations; but in the case of the Baghdad Pact, a Pact concerning the particular area in which we were going to make our military operations, all other members of that organisation condemned our action. Why was there no previous consultation with them before we made this essay of policy into the Middle East?
If we are going to have strength against aggression of the kind that we have been aware is possible, even probable, from certain sources in the world; if we are to be able to deal successfully with that aggression, is it not essential that we should have some means of co-operation and collaboration between the allies who have been drawn into these organisations? If not, why set them up? It is very hurtful indeed to those of us who were responsible for setting up the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (we did not set up the other one; that was more a matter for the present Government) that it should have been dealt blows such as have been indicated in the last few weeks.
I am not going to say any more tonight, but I would just remind the House that on November 4 Mr. Gaitskell, the leader of the Labour Party in another place, said, I believe in a television presentation of the case, that he would be prepared to support any Prime Minister who would really seek to bring to an end the situation from which we were then suffering. It is in that spirit that I submit to your Lordships' House to-night that, if we want the confidence and support of all 939 sections of the community, first in getting the restoration of our proper relationships with our allies and with other members of our Commonwealth and, secondly, in tackling the enormous economic burden that we, in common with the many other countries affected by the closing of the Suez Canal, have to face, then we need to be sure that Her Majesty's Government have the confidence of the country. We ought to be told, first, whether there is to be a reconstruction; and, secondly, that, if that reconstruction does not appear to be satisfactory to the country the present Government will go to the electors for an affirmation of their belief, or otherwise, in the Government.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, the noble Viscount who has just sat down reminded the House that his speech was the second major speech from the Opposition Front Bench, so we have come to something of a milestone in this debate. I also gathered from the noble Viscount that this was the first time that he has addressed your Lordships' House on this subject since his return from illness, and I am sure that noble Lords on these Benches would wish me to say how pleased we are to see him back so fit and, as it appears, ready for exercise in the Lobby to-morrow afternoon.
I did not have in mind to comment in great detail upon what the noble Viscount has just said. His concluding remarks would be for the Front Bench and not for Benches behind, and I would take up only one remark which he made —that under conditions of this kind we could not go ahead without allies. Well, my Lords, it has happened in history before, and those who can cast their mind back to 1940 will remember a speech in another place, where, if my memory serves me rightly, Sir Winston (then Mr.) Churchill, just after becoming Prime Minister, said: "We will carry on and if necessary, alone." That may have been in the minds of members of the present Government when they did what they did do.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, the difference was that the Prime Minister then was already assured that the country as a whole was behind him.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, nobody can be quite certain that the country was not behind Her Majesty's Government this time. The pattern of this debate can be reduced to fairly simple terms, and I am not going to speak for a long time. Her Majesty's Government have said, and not for the first time that on the basis of the information which they had (and the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, has reminded the House that that information was likely to be more full than was possessed by other people outside of the Government) the action which they took was the only way of averting war. Those who believe that Her Majesty's Government had that information and that they acted from the motives which they have given, will accept it; but one of the features of this debate has been the persistent refusal of a number of noble Lords who have spoken either to accept that Her Majesty's Government had such information or that the motives on which they acted were right. And, of course, they are entitled to their own opinions. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Winster, who has now left the Chamber, appeared to take the line that as he and his friends did not know of the information which Her Majesty's Government said they had received therefore that information could not have been true. That is a contention which I, for one, would dispute.
The other impression which I think one can draw from this debate is that many noble Lords who have spoken, particularly those on the opposite Benches, seem to have taken the line that the issue on which we are talking is finished. I do not believe any such thing. We are actually in the middle of a volume—a particularly sticky volume if you like—of the history of the Middle East, a history which might have been called, as was another history, The Endless Adventure. We have come to the end of one chapter. This country decided to "go it alone," and now we are starting another chapter, with the United Nations having decided to assume what were, all the time, its responsibilities. But the volume is not yet finished, and I think it would be very unwise, from any point of view, to attempt to judge the success or failure of the action of Her Majesty's Government on the strength of what has happened up to the time of going to press to-day.
941 What we do know is that war has not broken out, and I think that that is something about which even the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, can be pleased. He might even think that the cost to the nation, had war broken out, would have been greater than what, I admit, is the heavy cost to the nation caused by events as they have happened. However that may be, by the time we adjourn to-morrow night we shall have finished the period during which political post-mortems will be useful; or rather we shall have finished it until about fifty years' time, when statesmen will have written their memoirs, documents will have been published and someone other than ourselves will be able to judge the whole matter with all the information in front of them. But I certainly hope that, although we may put a term to political post-mortems we shall not, for the same reason, put a term to the technical, military and Service postmortems that I hope are now going on. Problems which will have to be investigated on the technical level (I am not speaking now of the political level) are very considerable.
At the risk of appearing to criticise noble Lords in front of me, I would say that the problems range from the ridiculous incident of troops in the Suez area being charged higher prices for N.A A.F.I. stores than they would have paid in Cyprus or Malta (and I am bound to say that the explanation given in another place was not convincing) to other, bigger problems which I hope are now being seriously studied. I hasten to say that I do not expect the noble Earl, Lord Home, to give me any answer on this point during this debate. For example, there must be a great many lessons about the right way to handle these problems, first at Cabinet level and then at a lower level again.
There is another question to which I should dearly love to hear the answer, but I am afraid that it must be denied to us in this debate—that is, how changes which were made recently in the Ministry of Defence by putting Sir William Dickson as Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff have worked out; whether these arrangements in practice have justified themselves, or whether they have turned out, in practice, to be not so satisfactory as the arrangements which Sir Winston Churchill, as Prime Minister, had in the last war, when the Ministry of 942 Defence and the Chiefs of Staff Organisation were so largely and so successfully looked after by the noble and gallant Lord. Lord Ismay. I am not making any criticism; I am merely saying that these are points on which a great deal of experience will have been provided: that they are most important from the point of view of the direction of affairs in this country, and, I hope, are being studied.
Another problem—and it has been touched upon by the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr—is whether our defence expenditure, in which Lord De La Warr included political warfare and propaganda, is properly balanced in the sort of conditions which are likely to occur as between a hot war and a cold war and, if you like, to "put over" our national aims in peace time. All these things will have to be considered, and it is just as well that they should be, because I am certain that these problems will recur. I very much doubt whether we can safely take the view that, because we have got round the corner this time (as I think we have), we shall no: have further problems of the same sort in the future.
I am bound to say that I am still not convinced that the United Nations have learned the lessons, not merely political lessons but also technical lessons, which they should have learned from this affair. This is the point. If you wish to exercise influence you must have the means to exert pressure. I, for one, am not convinced that the collection of well-intentioned faces now representing the United Nations in the Suez Canal area are, in fact, capable of undertaking operations of war (highbrows must not mind my using that expression, for that is what they are: operations of war) which may prove necessary if at any time either of the two nations which were separated from war before, or indeed any other nation, fails to respect the authority of the United Nations despite the presence of the United Nations Force in that area. I wish that I could take a more rosy view, but I do not think it would be right, either in or out of this debate.
All of us here, I think, are engaged in trying to see—whatever our views on past affairs—how affairs can be conducted in the future. We know well that we have had lessons of the kind that I have just mentioned. We know equally well that 943 our handling of Commonwealth affairs has given rise to problems quite different from the problems of twenty years ago, when Indian opinion was represented not by the Indian Government but by the India Office here, and when opinion in Ceylon was represented by the Colonial Office. It is no good deceiving ourselves into thinking that every nation of the Commonwealth, every self-governing nation, can be expected to hold identical views on every subject of this sort. We have to face the fact that they cannot, and we must adapt our handling of Commonwealth affairs so that we can learn the lessons of this time and see what improvements, if any, are necessary in the handling of Commonwealth relations so as to deal equally satisfactorily with the affairs of nations like Australia and New Zealand, who supported us so magnificently in this last crisis, and with the affairs of nations like India, Ceylon and Pakistan who have other and conflicting problems to face at a time of this sort.
Before I leave the Commonwealth points I would remind your Lordships that we shall come back again to them tomorrow, because both the Amendments deal specifically with the Commonwealth problem. I am sure it is well that they should do that, but I think it is rather a pity that the Amendments are drawn as they are. I do not think noble Lords on this side could very well accept them. I tried, in thinking of them, to cut off the head of the Amendment standing in the name of Lord Henderson, and I also tried to cut off the tail of the Amendment standing in the name of Lord Rea. Even so those two Amendments would not quite fit, though I would say that the sentiments behind them probably fit very much better than their words.
Coming now to the question of the United Nations—about which I mean to say very little, because so much has been said, and so wisely said by people like the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, and the noble Viscount. Lord Cherwell—however much we may dislike it, we are faced with the lesson that exhortation and resolutions and things of that sort will not in themselves cause United Nations policy to prevail, except possibly in very small and limited instances. Therefore the United Nations, like any other national or international body which wishes its policy to prevail, 944 must have the requisite amount of "teeth." We may think that the hurriedly collected and well-intentioned United Nations Force now in the Canal area is sufficient. I sincerely hope that it is, but my training as a professional soldier leads me to doubt it very much. All the same, that is the lesson: that a United Nations Force cannot count on being able successfully to implement the policy of the United Nations, whatever it may be, unless it has "teeth." That is merely another way of saying something which one noble Lord said or implied just now, that United Nations intervention will not be successful unless it is backed by at least one of the big nations—the United States, if you like.
Under those conditions, United Nations action will be successful, but how much more successful will it be supposing that we can heal these breaches between us (I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Winster, that they are being rapidly healed) and we can all come together again on this business of restoring order in the Middle East. We know that the influence of the United States and the power that she can deploy is very great. We also know that we and France have longstanding experience in the Middle East which we can bring to bear for the good of the cause. We also have Armed Forces, which have been used once already and can be used again—this time, I hope, in support of United Nations policy. There they are. They have done the job once. They have come out at the proper time, and they are now being re-grouped. Let us hope that they are available again for use in a good cause. I should be the last to take the view, which Lord Chorley appeared to take that we have come out with our tails between our legs; that we are now something in the nature of penitents or pariahs, and that British forces—and French forces, for that matter—should never be used again in the Middle East. As I have said, the volume is not finished, and never is a long day. I would hope that, before long, British and French influence, and British and French forces, will again be used to good effect as part of the United Nations plan. In my opinion that may yet be so.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ LORD CLITHEROE
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, who has just addressed your Lordships, always 945 contributes a great deal to the value of our debates, and a little later on I should like to teach upon one or two points which he has raised. Not that I am going to detain your Lordships very long. I spent practically the whole of November in the United States of America, and travelled from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast. In some respects I might consider myself fortunate not to have been here. I had an opportunity of meeting a great many people and finding out their attitude. I should like to stress what the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, said about the desirability of plain speaking. My outstanding impression in in the United States was that the American people had far greater sympathy with our position than had the American Government. That was my first impression, and I think that that was true not only of confirmed Anglophiles but also of the rank-and-file of Americans, even on the West Coast. I think it was generally appreciated that America had made many mistakes. I confess that for my part I did not hesitate to tell my friends what I thought of them—and they told me what they thought of us.
I think it is fair to say that there is a general desire and anxiety to repair the damage that has been done. Here I should like to say how fair and balanced the New York Times was throughout all this controversy and I noticed particularly that it said:The verdict of history will no doubt be fairer to Britain. France and Israel than their allies have been.Of course, it is true, and it is no use trying to say otherwise that the general feeling in the United States was that we had made a very serious blunder, and that Britain and France were wrong to strike at the time and in the way they did. That is all 1 ant saying. I am not saying that the general opinion expressed was that it was wrong to strike, but that it was wrong to strike at that time and in that way. The Americans were, of course, critical, as were some of our Commonwealth friends, of the failure of the Government to inform the President of the United States and the leaders of the Commonwealth. Many actually felt that the President had been misled. I think that that was a matter which caused me as much distress as anything. I am sure that if he was misled, it must have been entirely unintentional.
946 By the time I left America I felt that a great change had taken place in the attitude, particularly of Washington and the people closely associated with Washington. I think that the President clearly had recovered from his anger. He and many other of his colleagues were most anxious to do what they could to repair the damage, to be helpful and to begin to rebuild the alliance. When I came home at the end of last week, what struck me most was the great division of opinion here on the propriety of our actions at different stages. The differences of opinion did not appear to be based on Party lines at all. Families, households and firms were divided in their views of what had taken place. I am bound to say that I was also struck by the condemnation of the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition in another place and some of his followers, which seemed to be widespread.
I have met here no one who doubts the sincerity of purpose of the Prime Minister in issuing the ultimatum and in his strong conviction that immediate action was then necessary to stop an Arab-Israeli war and to safeguard the Canal. I have heard no reasonable person suggest that this action was in any sense an imperialist move, using that word in its current degraded and most unsympathetic sense. I am quite sure that no reasonable person suggests that it was that sort of action. But many people feel that to have taken this action without telling our Commonwealth partners and American Allies was most unwise. They criticise the way it was done rather than what was done.
I cannot conceal from your Lordships my own opinion that grave mistakes were made and that a serious under-assessment of the risks involved was made. I notice that the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, referred to 1945, and that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, challenged him, saying that at that time the people were united. That would not have been my answer to the noble Viscount. My answer would have been that at that time the Commonwealth was united.
§ LORD CLITHEROE
I think that that made a tremendous difference to the decision that was made and to the calculations which I think went awry. I will 947 not dwell on the consequences of what happened, and their seriousness. That will emerge as time goes on. I have been critical of the Government's policy in the Middle East for some years. In July, 1954, when I was in another place, I took the extreme step for a very loyal Party man, which I always have been, of voting against the Government's decision to withdraw from the Canal Zone. I thought that that was wrong and I expressed my views in a speech on July 14 in that year, a week or ten days before the treaty with Egypt was made. I said then [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 530, col. 540]:When, the West withdraws, a vacuum is created, and into that vacuum Communism goes and will go in future. There is no doubt about that. The Communists have fairly substantial and organised influence in the Egyptian Army to-day, especially in the artillery and in the armoured units. … But the weakness shown and the concession to pressure by terrorists is bound to lead to more pressure in other places and especially in those places where our redeployment takes place, for example, in Cyprus and Libya. That is where the heat will be turned on.I mention that, because in reply to that criticism in my speech the Prime Minister, who was then Foreign Secretary, said on July 29 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 531, col. 811]:Then there was this reference to a vacuum There is no vacuum because, as a result of these arrangements, we shall be able to re-deploy our forces and make them mobile to an extent that they have not been hitherto.Later in his speech he said [col. 814]:Our ability to return in the event of crisis is a strengthening element which will enable us to defend our position in the Middle East, …Those of us who expressed our anxieties then were assured, after the numerous and persistent representations that we made—most numerous and most persistent—that all steps would be taken in a military sense to enable us to intervene immediately should the necessity arise. When Colonel Nasser seized the Canal in July of this year, immediate action to safeguard our rights and international rights under the Convention of 1888 might have been reasonable, but apparently the necessary military arrangements for swift intervention had not been made after two years, and that is what I find very hard to understand. I think the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, touched on the point, and I should also like to ask whether the machinery of the Defence Committee is working properly—indeed, whether the 948 Defence Committee is or has been working properly, or at all.
It is regrettable that after the decision had been taken, rightly or wrongly, to send forces to Egypt—and I myself complain of the way it was done rather than the fact—they had to be withdrawn, as I agree they had to be, before proper safeguards had been obtained with regard to the future of the Canal and with regard to the lives and property of British subjects in Egypt, about which I feel very deeply. This is a point which the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, referred to earlier. On balance, therefore, the history of the last few months so far as the Middle East is concerned is an unhappy one. I fully understand and agree (and I have frequently stated it in America) that American pressure was very much to blame for this. It was American pressure which persuaded our Government, more than anything, to leave the Canal Zone in 1954.
I should like here to say one thing; it seems to me that it is most unwise for the Government, and for Government speakers, to be anything other than candid at the present time. It is no use pretending that our policy over the last few years with regard to the Middle East has been wholly successful, and I regret that in the past I have been unable to support the Government's Middle East policy, a Government which, normally, I support most strongly. I believe that this country will have increased confidence in leaders who admit that there were miscalculations and who explain to the people the genuine reasons why those miscalculations were made.
I was glad to hear the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, expressing the view to-day that no doubt mistakes had been made on both sides. I feel it only fair to suggest that miscalculations were, to some degree, caused by the tremendous pressure and rush of events—at least, that is how it strikes me. With a Government that is harassed all day in the other place, and harassed all night in the United Nations, and with communications as they are, it is not surprising that Ministers were not able to find time to sleep, or to consider the facts and the implications of a situation which must have been changing like a kaleidoscope all the time. Such circumstances, I should have thought, would 949 lead to the necessity of even greater caution than usual in coming to decisions. But I know that the path of duty for all who have had to bear a part in these decisions in recent weeks must have been very rugged indeed, and one cannot fail to have the greatest possible sympathy with Ministers and others in the service of the Crown who had to take part in these decisions. Though not wholly agreeing with the views he expressed in New York, I should like to say, as one who was there at the time, that I admired greatly the gallantry of our Foreign Secretary under extremely trying circumstances and conditions.
The great thing now is to restore unity at home, and in that connection I feel that a policy of frankness with the people is the most important element, though I recognise the point which the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, raised. I feel That being candid is the best way to get the confidence of the people, and it is certainly the best way to rebuild confidence with our Commonwealth partners and our allies. I am sure it is right to make admissions when miscalculations have been made, just as we want frank admissions from our allies on the other side of the Atlantic for the errors of policy they have made over recent years. I think they arc prepared to make those admissions, and it is right that they should. The problems which we face are innumerable, and I will not dilate upon them tonight. I want to close by saying that I hope that all Parties in the State will contribute in every way they can to help find solutions for these problems.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ LORD BRAND
My Lords, like other speakers, I do not intend to detain your Lordships for long; and, like the noble Lord, Lord Clitheroe, I want to talk almost entirely about our relations with the Commonwealth and the United States. I feel bound to express my opinion on these matters, because I have in the past known the United States and Canada very well indeed. I spent seven years in two wars in Washington, and I have been concerned with co-operation in the Commonwealth for nearly fifty years as a member of the Editorial Committee of the Round Table, which has groups in every Commonwealth country 950 and has attempted to secure the unity of the Commonwealth throughout hose years. In a recent debate in your Lordships' House I said that I did not agree with the Government in taking action without consultation with the United States and the Commonwealth. I feel that I must express that opinion again, after all that has happened, and not-withstanding the eloquent speech of the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, at the beginning of this debate.
I am not going to discuss the economic problems raised by this action of the Government. We in this country always find the greatest difficulty in maintaining our economic balance. We are always living on the edge; we never seem able to get, our reserves up to the point to which we must get them. We had hoped that the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the monetary policy were going to do a great deal in this respect in the next year or so, but I am afraid that that has all more or less gone by the board for the time being. But how serious this is depends almost entirely on the opening of the Canal: how soon it is opened, or how late it is opened. Therefore, it seems to me rather useless to discuss what the effect of our action will be until we know more about this matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must. I feel, be suffering from bitter disappointment, so far as own sphere is concerned.
I come back to the question of consultation with the United States and the Commonwealth. I believe that everybody will agree 'with me that what has happened recently must not happen again. I do not think we can afford to take action like this again, so far as lie Commonwealth and the United States are concerned. I believe I realise fully what the consequences of consultation in this instance would have meant. Consultation would have meant considerable delay, and, on the assumption—which I think is reasonable—that the Israeli forces would have moved, anyhow, and gone on, it is quite clear that a position of great danger would have arisen. The Israeli forces might have gone far further into Egypt, or they might have been driven back. My own view is that, whichever of those two things happened, the United States would have been forced, notwithstanding the Election, or anything else, to 951 have joined with us in some action to prevent anything worse happening. I believe that they would have joined with us, and I personally do not think that a Third World War would have started, if the circumstances had been these.
I feel that the consequences, not only in the Middle East, but in this country and throughout the world, indicate that our action was mistaken. One thing that looks clear is that as soon as we get separated from the United States the Soviet Government feel perfectly free to threaten us in the most violent language. They see that the United States is not by our side, and they use, to say the least of it, the most undiplomatic language in threatening to send over guided missiles, or whatever it may be, to indicate their power over us. This is unfortunate, because we are bound to consider whether they really mean what they say or not. So far as the United States are concerned, I admit that, during the last weeks before we took this action, the United States Government itself may have been almost non-existent so far as foreign policy was concerned. Mr. Dulles was ill, or away in Florida; the President was occupied elsewhere, and the State Department was very weak. Undoubtedly the Prime Minister and his colleagues may have felt almost at their wits' end to get any definite answers out of the United States Government. But still, I do not think that great statesmen can give way to exasperated feelings. They have to consider the consequences of their action.
My firm belief is that the safety of this country depends on close co-operation with all our Allies, and the frankest consultation always indeed, that is the lifeblood of the Commonwealth. I believe the custom is to tell all of them almost everything. We heard recently from the Government Front Bench how 60,000 cables arc exchanged with Commonwealth countries in one year; and I can well believe it, because it is essential to keep every one of them fully informed. I know that there are difficulties about consultation with the Asian countries, but these must be overcome. India often takes a different view from us. Nevertheless, I believe that, even in so far as the United States are concerned, it will be useful to India and to us that she remains in the Commonwealth. The United 952 States is going to pay a great deal of attention to India, because they feel their weakness in relation to Communist China, and therefore are particularly anxious to make close friends of so great a State in the Asiatic Continent as India.
I believe also that the United States must, in her relations with the United Kingdom, play her part fully. She must understand—which I do not think has always been understood in Washington lately—that she cannot be our ally only in the North Atlantic and pursue any course she likes in the Middle East. She must be our ally for all purposes, whether in the Middle East or in the Atlantic. I should like, if your Lordships would allow me, to quote one or two things that a great friend of mine of forty years standing, Mr. Walter Lippmann, has recently said in one or two articles in the New York Herald Tribune which I dare say some of your Lordships have read. In the first article his subject was, "On making new friends." He said that Vice-President Nixon had given voice to a notion that the great obstacle to understanding and good co-operation with the Afro-Asian countries was "in our relations with Great Britain and France." That is to say, the further off they kept from us because of our Colonialism, the closer they might get to the Afro-Asian countries.
Mr. Lippmann went on to say:This notion is very misleading. To believe that it is true is to forget half the world—to forget the Far East and Pacific. The United States is present there in force. It is present in the mandated islands in Japan, in Korea, in Okinawa, in the Formosa Strait, in South Viet Nam, and in the mandated islands, the so-called Trust Territories. Mr. Nixon is deceiving himself mightily if he forgets all this and hugs the illusion that the Afro-Asians accept the position toward which we have expanded as a result of the Second World War … We should have no doubt that the Afro-Asian nations challenge our position in the Far East, and will raise the issue as and when the opportunity arises. They will raise the issue of our refusal to let the Red Chinese take the Chinese seat in the United Nations They will raise the question of the status of Formosa. They will raise the question of the detonation of big nuclear bombs in the Pacific Islands.It is because of all this that America is looking for friends on the Asian Continent, because the American Government realise the need.
In the second article, Mr. Lippmann says how little Mr. Hammarskjoeld seems to have achieved in Cairo. Mr. 953 Lippmann said that the fundamental idea was that there were great and dangerous issues in the Middle East, which had caused an explosion, and that the paramount function of the United Nations was to bring about a settlement—but the United Nations had been pushed into a position which seemed to be that of restoring conditions as they were before the explosion, and this meant that the weight of the United States had been added to that of the countries of the Soviet orbit and the Afro-Asian bloc in their unqualified support of Egypt. He went on to say:If anyone imagines that in supporting the Egyptian-Soviet line, we are gaining influence and prestige which can be used for a settlement he should lave been in New York"—this is the interesting point—at the General Assembly at the end of last week. He would have seen there that the initiative and the power are not in our hands, and that we found ourselves doing what we did not want to do, and explaining that it was not so bad to do it, and that we could not help on-selves. … The root of the trouble is in Washington, where the fundamental decision has been fumbled—whether to treat the intervention as a case of unprovoked aggression to be repelled or as an explosion of conflicting forces that need to be pacified and reconciled. The President has said things which suggest that he was groping for the second and truly statesmanlike course. But for some reason, be it that le has lacked lucid and resourceful advisers, he has allowed us to drift into the other course. That course is proving in practice to be nothing more than to play second fiddle to the Soviet-Egyptian axis.I think these are very interesting accounts of opinion of an expert onlooker in Washington, and show in what a bad way the American Government policy was at that moment.
I deeply deplore that this whole episode has led to the burst of anti-American feeling in sonic quarters in this country, though not, I believe, among the sensible public. I deplore, as did the noble Lord, Lord Winster, Lord Hailsham's outburst. I am bound to say that I profoundly disagree with him. I personally have the greatest regard and affection for the American people. I remember reading a comment of Professor Whitehead—the great mathematician and philosopher of Cambridge who after living years at Harvard, towards the end of his life, said that he found !he American people the most friendly and generous in the world. That is my opinion, too. In any case it is foolish to curse a whole people. I think it was Burke who said that "You 954 cannot indict a nation." Americans are, of course, frail human beings, as we are; and sometimes also, as has happened to us in the past, they have Governments which function badly. I repeat, however, that, above everything else, a restoration of out ties with the Commonwealth and the United States is by far the most important objective.
I should like to add one word on a totally different matter and that is on U.N.O. I very much sympathise with the views expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, arid I must say that I. get a very cold feeling in my heart when I read of Mr. Gaitskell saying, or hear him say, that we must be obedient to the United Nations. You cannot be obedient to an institution of that kind. You must abide by whatever you have agreed to, whatever you are bound to in the Charter; whatever you have signed you must do your best to obey. You must work for the strength of the United Nations. But we are far from being able to regard it as a satisfactory Organisation. I myself have the gravest doubts—indeed complete disbelief—about the United Nations being turned into a great military Government, with air forces, armies, navies and so on. Indeed, I have very little faith in the value of the United Nations Police Force. We shall see how it works out. But the United Nations is not a Government; it will not become a Government; it is an organisation where all the nations of the world can meet and discuss and try to agree. The United Nations may possibly coerce very small nations by a Police Force; they can do nothing more by such means. It is not in the direction of giving the United Nations power to coerce nations chat we can expect the Organisation to succeed in the future.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ LORD GRANTCHESTER
My Lords, I feel that in the discussions in another place too much attention was paid to the military operation in Egypt and insufficient attention to the wider issues. The recent military operation has highlighted some of these wider issues. One of them, I think, arises out of the pronouncement of the Labour Party at their Blackpool Conference not to co-operate with the Government on matters of foreign policy. En view of this pronouncement, I fail to 955 understand the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, earlier in this debate, on divisions in this country. I suggest that this decision not to co-operate was immediately disruptive and is likely to be more disruptive in its long-term effects upon the influence of this country than anything that has happened recently. I wonder whether, if it had not been for that decision, and if there had been consultation with the Government, and the Opposition had expressed strong views before the operation rather than after it, Her Majesty's Government, for good or ill, might have hesitated to take the action they did. I am surprised that Her Majesty's Government have not hammered home the tragedy of this decision of the Opposition to evade responsibility. I would characterise it as the most unpatriotic act of our time and the most calculated in its consequences to destroy this nation as a power and influence in the world.
A lot has been said in this debate about healing splits. I wonder whether it is not possible to heal this split. Perhaps the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, were meant to be directed to this possibility. Anyway, I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government for an assurance that they will not neglect the opportunity, when important decisions on foreign policy have to be made, at least to confer with the Leader of the Liberal Party.
The recent military operation, viewed in perspective, will, I think, be seen to be but one episode in a series of major moves in the Middle East in the past ten years. An increasingly disturbing and disruptive part has been played by Russia, using hate of Israel as a lever. This Russian influence has been made more effective by the vacillating policy of the United States which has been markedly unhelpful to Britain. Most Americans one meets in the Middle East seem to assume and take it for granted that British influence should be on the wane and the major share of commercial development should be left to them. If the Atlantic Alliance is to survive, it is necessary that we should know precisely where we stand in the Alliance in relation to the problems of the world. For instance, I found during my recent visit that the failure of the Americans to 956 support the Baghdad Pact was very strongly criticised. I think it is time the people of this country should know how far the American people are committed in the defence of the free world, and I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government at an early date to issue a White Paper making clear the definite commitments undertaken by the United States.
Is the position even in N.A.T.O. quite clear? Is the United States committed automatically and immediately to act if a N.A.T.O. country is attacked, or is it necessary to await a vote in Congress before American troops are committed? What is the position in relation to other free countries outside N.A.T.O.—for instance, the countries in the Baghdad Pact, where I gather there is no commitment, even if there is in N.A.T.O.?
It seems to me that our disagreement with the American Government over Suez has brought out deficiencies in the arrangements with the United States. I have referred to this matter on more than one occasion in your Lordships' House. To be sure of agreement and common action, a joint political authority is essential, and unless such a joint political authority can be established I cannot see how, in peace time, satisfactory decisions can be taken on such matters as the location of N.A.T.O. forces or other forces, or the location of American bases in territories outside American territory, or how, if there is a threat, the necessary dispositions can be taken to counter it. If the alliance is to survive as we all desire, surely we have a right to know where we stand and to be able to rely absolutely upon mutual support.
There is one other matter I should like to raise. We have an experience of many years' friendship with the Arab peoples, as the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, has said. I believe this old friendship can be maintained provided we go out to assist the Arab countries in their aim of closer integration. The future development of these Arab countries is largely dependent upon the oil supplied to this country and Europe; their oil is not of great importance to the United States. The fact that not only this country, but Europe, needs the supplies of oil, emphasises the desirability of our pressing on with European integration, as my noble friend Lord Layton has already pointed out, so that the European countries can speak with 957 one voice. But in view of our past friendship with the Arab countries it is natural that they should expect us to assist them in the problems of inter-investment and development.
I suggest that the first step might be to try to get together a committee along the lines of O.E.E.C. in Europe—an "O.E.E.C." for Arab countries. I should like to see Her Majesty's Government sound the representatives in London of the Governments of the countries of the Arab League, and bring in the protected territories, Kuwait and the Trucial States. I should like to see that sounding, if it is found to be acceptable, followed by an invitation to a conference as soon as an Israeli settlement is reached; perhaps the first conference might be held in Malta. I think we miss the representative of Saudi-Arabia in London. Could not Her Majesty's Government let it be known that they would like him to resume his duties in London?
How to achieve greater unity in this country on important issues of foreign policy; how to reach a basic understanding with the United States on which both can rely, and how to further prosperous development of the Middle East: these are the great issues which must exercise our minds. The incident at Suez has highlighted these issues it did not create them.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords. I wish to deal tonight with three topics, on all of which I think there are widespread and dangerous illusions. They are the United Nations. Anglo-American relations and the Russian assault on Hungary. First, however, I would say that I cannot agree with any of the three Motions on the Order Paper. None of them appears to me to be realistic. But I must confine myself to that which has been already moved. That Motion expresses the view that the whole policy of Her Majesty's Government has been a success, and that the United Nations Force now in the area provides some guarantee of future progress and will lead to the peaceful settlement of outstanding issues. My Lords, I cannot share this optimism. In fact I thought the most conclusive reasons against it were given in that magnificent speech of my noble friend Lord Bruce of Melbourne. Let me say at once that if there were any 958 Motion on the Order Paper that enabled me to express my admiration of Mr. Menzies I should support it with alacrity.
There is, however, a second reason why the Government Motion is, in my opinion, inadequate. It does not, directly or by implication, mention Hungary. I firmly believe that what is now being done and suffered in Hungary concerns and may decide the future of the world. I shall listen carefully to the speeches of Ministers to-morrow. I have no older friend in politics than the noble Earl who is to wind up the debate for the Government, and none whom. I more respect. But am bound to say that, unless I am converted from my present view, I shah, for the reasons which I have given, abstain in the Division on the Government Motion to-morrow, though I shall, of course, vote with alacrity against the Labour Amendment.
It will be my first abstention on an important issue for nearly twelve years. I last abstained in the debates on the Yalta Conference on February 28 and March 1, 1945. I regarded the Yalta decisions on Poland as unprincipled and wrong, refused to support them and resigned my office in Mr. Churchill's Government. From that date to this have never mentioned the matter in Parliament. I do so to-night for one reason only: because I believe what there is an imminent danger of the same mistakes being repeated. In the Press, both here and in America, it is beginning to he suggested that the West should now again negotiate with Russia. But Europe cannot survive a second Yalta; nor, my Lords, would it deserve to.
The Yalta Agreement constituted one of the great blunders of history. It led quickly and foreseeably to the enslavement of Poland. This is not a case of wisdom after the event. My argument at the time is on record in a speech to the Norwich Conservatives reported in the Eastern Daily Press of April 7. 1945. In 1945, we did not have to wait long for the Russians to show their hand. The Yalta Agreement had provided that the Lublin Committee was to be reorganised by the inclusion of democratic leaders from Poland and from Poles abroad. For this purpose there w ere to be consultations in Moscow. By e. trick, which then was novel but which now constitutes part of the grammar of Communist treachery, the Russians obtained 959 from us the names of the Polish underground leaders whom we thought suitable candidates for the provisional Government, invited sixteen of them to Moscow under promise of safe conduct and promptly flung them into prison. This was in March, 1945. But the Russians did not disclose what they had done until the beginning of May, when they suddenly blurted it out to our representatives at the San Francisco Conference who were engaged in forming the United Nations Organisation.
What happened? Did the disclosure of this abomination cause the assembled statesmen to break off negotiations and to revise their plans? Dear me, no! Let me tell the House what happened, in the words of the News Chronicle of May 7, 1945:Shocked and startled though they have been by the Russians' sudden disclosure that the missing Polish leaders have been arrested, statesmen gathered here for the United Nations conference are showing to-day a general determination not to let this unhappy piece of news interfere with the work of the conference.When I think of the folly and blindness of the statesmen described in that extract, I hope I may be forgiven if I call to mind a saying of my friend, the late Desmond MacCarthy:The authorities were at their wits' end, nor had it taken them long to get there.The facts that I have related completely dispose of a widely held myth. It is not true that Western statesmen, when they formed the United Nations Organisation, believed that Russia was going to behave like a civilised Power and that her subsequent conduct disappointed them. More than two months before they signed the United Nations Charter Russia had informed them, by word and by deed, that she was proceeding to the enslavement of Eastern Europe, and she had shown exactly what use she would make of the Yalta Agreement.
There are other illusions about the United Nations which I would dispel. The first concerns the so called Veto in the Security Council. Many people imagine that the Charter mentions something called a Veto, which, for some reason, it is slightly immoral to use. The Charter does nothing of the kind. What it does is to provide by Article 27 (3) that most decisions of the Security 960 Council are made by an affirmative vote of seven members including the concurring votes of the permanent members. If a permanent member does not concur, there is no decision of the Council. Whether in any particular case a permanent member is right or wrong not to concur depends, of course, on the merits of the matter on which the vote is taken. To say that it is always wrong for a permanent member not to concur is equivalent to saying that it is always wrong to be in a minority. Is there any noble Lord in any quarter of the House who really believes that?
Nevertheless, this provision of the Charter naturally caused difficulty, because it so often prevented the Security Council from reaching a decision. This caused the General Assembly in 1950 to approve the so-called "Uniting for Peace" procedure under which an emergency special session of the General Assembly can be held on short notice and make recommendations by a two-thirds majority. The Assembly has no executive power, and even a resolution of recommendation can be blocked by one vote over one-third. The position was carefully explained by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor in his masterly speech on September 12 of this year. It is under this procedure that the Assembly has recently made recommendations with which Her Majesty's Government and the French Government are complying.
I beg the House again to study that speech of the Lord Chancellor. Noble Lords will be the victims of illusion if they think that international law or the rule of law will be advanced if some great Powers treat recommendations of the Assembly with respect and obey them and others treat them with contempt and defy them with impunity. Further, the rule of law will not be advanced but will be set back if the Assembly's recommendations are used only to check the use of military force and never to remedy or prevent even the most flagrant illegalities and breaches of treaty such as Colonel Nasser's purported nationalisation of the Canal.
Since the nations in the Assembly generally vote in blocks, it may on many subjects become as impossible to obtain a two-thirds majority in the Assembly as it is to secure a decision of the Security Council. A very important thing follows 961 from that. If a great Power should ever decide to proceed only within the United Nations and never outside it, it will be decreeing its own impotence. If America really makes such a decision while Russia remains free to use the United Nations or to ignore it at its pleasure, the cause of freedom will be doomed.
I turn to Anglo-American relations. For years I have done what I could by speech arid action to further Anglo-American friendship and co-operation. I believe in it both for its own sake and for the sake of human freedom, which, without it, cannot hope to survive. To-day, my Lords, that friendship has received a shattering blow, but from that blow it can certainly recover if both countries are wise. I do not believe that that friendship will recover unless each country understands how much it has shocked the other by its conduct and seeks to avoid a repetition. For more than forty years I have always had American friends, and my view entirely confirms the much more expert view given by my noble friend Lord Bruce of Melbourne and others, that you never lose an American friend by plain speaking. In my belief, we have clearly shocked the Americans by taking a step of great international importance without consulting or even informing them; and we have shocked them all the more because they believe that that step was wrongful. But the Americans must realise, if our friendship is to be repaired, that they have no less shocked our own people, both by what one of their own commentators has described as the perfidy of their conduct over Suez that preceded our action and by their actions after it.
Let me try to explain why. My task is made easier by the fact that our case has been brilliantly stated again and again by Joseph and Stewart Alsop in the New York Herald Tribune. If Americans wish to understand our indignation at their conduct preceding our action, let them study the article, "Who's to blame?" in the issue of November 7. Perhaps f may quote—because I think it will be useful to have it on the record of Parliament—an extract from that article:Were they"—that is, the English and the French—then, justified in keeping us in the dark? The answer perhaps lies in their reason for doing so, which was their conviction that the American Government had already behaved toward them with something really very like 962 perfidy. The Suez crisis itself was made in Washington, by Secretary Dulles's arrogantly brutal withdrawal of the Aswan Dam offer, which he had previously pressed the British so hard to join in. The immediate responsibility for starting the trouble lay right here.On top of this, the subsequent history of the Suez crisis has been a history of repeated British and French decisions not to take immediate steps on their own, because of American promises which were then promptly broken. At the first London conference on Suez, Secretary of State Dulles promised strong, unqualified American support for the scheme to internationalise the canal. Bur he withdrew that support as soon as the mission headed by Prime Minister Menzies ran- into trouble in Cairo.Before the second Suez conference Secretary Dulles himself took the initiative in proposing a Canal Users' Association with teeth in it. He pointed proudly to the teeth in his first communications to Paris and London. But within four hours after his arrival in London, the teeth were thrown away, and again by Secretary Dulles himself. Finally, the salvage of the second London meeting was a residual scheme for employing the Users' Association as an instrument of gradual economic pressure on Egypt, by denying Colonel Nasser most of the Canal revenue.Then, when this third scheme had to be implemented, Secretary Dulles explained that he would of course encourage American shippers using the Canal to pay their fees to the Users' Association․but only if the bulk of the money was then paid over to the Egyptian Government.My Lords, those are not the words of an Englishman; those are the words of some of the best-known and respected commentators in America, in a newspaper very friendly to the American President himself.
What of American action after Her Majesty's Government took the action that is the main subject of this debate? If the Americans desire to know the cause of British indignation, again they can ascertain it from the Alsops, particularly from their article on November 26, called "Fabulous contrast." The article describes what happened when Mr. Dulles suddenly withdrew the offer to build the Aswan Darn. Like my noble friend Lord Brand, I do not wish to weary the house with extracts, but perhaps I may summarise what they said by saying this: that the State Department, at the time of the withdrawal of the Aswan Dam offer, gave an off-the-record talk or hand-out to the American Press, and the reason they gave, as stated in the article, wasthat Nasser and Egypt had now 'passed the point of no return' in their relations with the 963 Soviet Union; and that both man and nation must therefore be considered as complete captives of the Kremlin's policy.Having recognised, as long ago as the date when the Aswan Dam offer was withdrawn, that Nasser was completely subservient to Russia, Mr. Dulles became so anxious to injure the English and French that he went out of his way to rehabilitate Nasser and wholly ignored the world's interest in the Canal and the Russians' attempt to turn the flank of N.A.T.O. in the Middle East.
My Lords, let me record my own conviction. If Mr. Dulles wishes firmly to re-establish the Anglo-American alliance—as I hope and believe that he does—he will now certainly bring the necessary pressure to bear on Nasser in order to compel him to undo his illegal nationalisation of the Canal. This is certainly within American power, and it ought to be the American wish, if they care for the rule of law and wish to enforce it generally, and not only against Britain and France. He will also end the long-drawn-out scandal or tomfoolery which still to-day is holding up the clearing of the Canal. I believe that one thing is absolutely clear, if the fleet that this country has assembled—the most competent in the world for clearing the Canal, which is a need of the whole world—is not used, the British public will not blame Nasser, of whom it has never had any hopes, it will blame the American Government; and in my view it will be right.
My Lords, it is not only in the Middle East that Russia is striking at the West, directly and through her agents; she is striking with her usual devilish ferocity against the heroic Hungarians. Of course, there is nothing new in the action of Russia. She acted similarly against the risings in East Berlin and elsewhere; she long ago I murdered the Baltic States. What is new is the epic heroism and incredible toughness of the Hungarian people against almost hopeless odds. Are we really right to do nothing for them, beyond showing charity to those who escape and sending futile notes from the Assembly of the United Nations?
Some very strange things have been said about Hungary, particularly by Mr. Nehru in the Indian Parliament on 964 November 16. Let me quote from The Times next day.Defending at length India's vote against the United Nations resolution on Hungary, Mr. Nehru said that the most objectionable part of the resolution had been the demand for elections under United Nations supervision. This would he contrary to the Charter and would reduce Hungary to less than a sovereign state; also he declared, amid applause, it would set a bad precedent, which might be utilised in future for intervention in other countries.I do not for one moment doubt the sincerity of his concern for his own position in Kashmir. The cruelty and infamy of the speech which I have quoted really defy comment. Not even the Dean of Canterbury has been more nauseating.
It may be asked: What more could we do? I could mention several things, but first I will mention what we should certainly not do. We should certainly not meet or talk or negotiate with the Russians about anything whatsoever until they have withdrawn from Hungary and returned all the men, women and youths they have deported. When, with their hands dripping with Hungarian blood, they put forward disarmament proposals it is wicked folly to discuss those proposals. It seems barely credible, but I believe it is true, that our Prime Minister is still due to pay a courtesy visit to Russia in 1957. I hope that it will not be long before the British public hear that this visit has been cancelled.
Like so many of your Lordships I have tried to find out what I can from those who have returned from Hungary or from the Hungarian border. The fighters for freedom in Hungary believe that we in the free world are behaving like cowards and fools—cowards because we do not help them, and fools because we do not see that it is our battle that they are fighting. Greatly as I respect the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, I disagree profoundly with what he has recently written. Let me read a few sentences:The united moral conscience of mankind has been more effective to aid Hungary than any armed intervention at this moment could have been. Its voice has brought comfort, encouragement and strength to the heroic people of Hungary: it has disrupted Communism in the West; it may, perhaps, even be compelling Russia to pause.My Lords, nearly every sentence of that is, in my view, untrue. I cannot detect any evidence whatever of a "united moral 965 conscience of mankind." On the contrary, many have defended Russia's action, and millions are indifferent. No comfort has been brought to those still fighting in Hungary. On the contrary, the American President coldly says that the United States of America has never advocated open rebellion by an undefended population against force over which they could not possibly prevail. It has certainly not disrupted Communism in the West, though, as on previous occasions, some have left the Communist Party and many others have been instructed to go "underground." It certainly has not caused Russia to pause.
Your Lordships will remember the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Priest, the Levite and the Good Samaritan came on the scene after the thieves had finished their horrible work. Suppose they had all arrived on the scene while the thuggery was still proceeding. What do your Lordships think that those who passed by on the other side would have done? If the free and powerful nations of the world decide to pass by on the other side, let them at least not deceive themselves about what is happening. I will not shirk the question that will be put to me. It will be asked: do I think that the Powers, perhaps the Powers of N.A.T.O., should now go to war over Hungary? No, I do not; but I think that they ought immediately to consult together to discuss what sanctions, not excluding force they should take forthwith against Russia; and they should not be deterred from so doing by the risk that this might conceivably lead to war. If, at the very outset, we say that the only help that we will give is all help short of war, we are saying, in effect, that we shall give no help at all.
I admit that these problems are problems of appalling difficulty. I think our answer must depend on our deepest conviction, what we believe about God and man and about the Divine purpose. I can only state my belief. I believe that it is wicked for the nations to stand by while Hungary is destroyed before our eyes. I believe that we should do all in our power—I repeat, power—to stop this abomination; and I believe, further, that if we do nothing we shall not avoid a Third World War. It is not true that we shall avoid war by dishonour. We may quite easily have both. I beg noble Lords 966 to consider what is meant by that word "expendable" of which our American friends are so fond. Is Hungary expendable? Is all Eastern Europe expendable? In a year or two, when America has developed her longer-range missiles, will all Europe, including ourselves, in her eyes become "expendable?" I believe that the time has come to resist the enemies of mankind, even at great risk. I believe firmly in the Divine truth that "he who would save his life shall lose it."
§ 8.58 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, in moving the Motion which is now before the House, said that there are serious difficulties still facing us, especially in the economic sphere. The Times said a few days ago:Mr. Macmillan gave a wise lead yesterday by treating the economic consequences of the Suez affair as a grave matter.It is from that angle that I desire to-night to approach the subject of this debate and to show Her Majesty's Government how, in some measure, they may improve the economic situation with which they are faced, by steps leading to an increase in our trade with China.
Now a few weeks ago, I asked the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, this question: whether he was not aware that it was urgently necessary that British engineering markets should be made less incalculable for buyers of British goods, particularly in view of the enormous requirements under the Chinese five-year industrial plan. To that the noble Marquess gave me a reply, and then he added this:I am never quite sure that it is as extensive"—he was referring to the China market—as some people seem to think.With great respect to the noble Marquess, I suggest that that is not a view held by British industry generally, and particularly by British engineering industry.
In order to support that point which I make, I must ask the House to listen to one or two quotations. In the Statist of December 1, there is an article which gives reasons for anxieties in relation to our exports to the Middle East. It goes on to say:Some firms in the van of our export drive are likely to be seriously embarrassed as the 967 result of the Suez crisis. A month ago the outlook for 1957 was rosy after a very good year in 1956. Now it is rather bleak. Alternative markets are not easy to find. One with a large potential is China.I come next to an article in the Electrical Review of November 23, under the headings: "Activity in China"; "Vast possibilities in an Underdeveloped Country, China". I hope that the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, will note those words "Vast possibilities in an underdeveloped country, China". The article states:China's second Five-Year Plan affords vast opportunities for the United Kingdom electrical manufacturer, particularly in connection with the proposed multi-purpose schemes on the Yangtze, Sungari, Sinan and Yellow Rivers.The articles goes on to point to the large market there would be for distribution and tele-communication equipment in connection with the planned electrification of the large collective farms. Then, again, the Federation of British Industries, representing a great number of important industries in this country, said two years ago, in their report on East-West trade:it is clear … that there are in fact considerable opportunities, especially in China, which, if neglected by the United Kingdom, will be seized by our competitors.Now I come to the question of the competition with which we are faced, and I turn back to the Electrical Review, which says this:Competition in the Chinese market"—
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Viscount to ask him whether he could confine his remarks to questions relating to the Middle East. This is a long debate and there are many noble Lords who still wish to speak.
In answer to that, I must give an explanation. I am dealing with the economic difficulties to which the noble Marquess himself referred. If the noble Marquess will allow me, I will explain what has happened. I asked the noble Marquess whether his Motion would be framed in such a way as to allow discussion on the Far East, and he said it was extremely doubtful.
We will not quarrel about words. I think the noble 968 Marquess said: "extremely doubtful," but we can find out what was actually said from the OFFICIAL REPORT. My feeling is that he said "extremely doubtful" but it does not matter—"extremely doubtful" or "extremely unlikely" is much the same thing. So when the Government Motion was put on the Order Paper and the Amendments to the Motion were put down, I looked through them and decided that I could speak of the economic difficulties arising out of the Suez crisis on the Opposition Amendment, which referred to the consequences.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
If I might interrupt the noble Viscount. I would point out that we are not discussing the Opposition Amendment at the present time; we are discussing the Government Motion.
When I arrived at the House to-day, I found that I had been put down to speak on this Motion and not on the Opposition Amendment. I must say, as I have been held up in this way, that I wrote to the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and said that I was going to speak on the Opposition Amendment. Finding myself put down to speak on the Government Resolution, I then went to the Secretary of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House. I said that I was surprised to find myself put down to speak on this Motion; would it be all right if I spoke on the Motion in relation to this subject of trade with China? I took it—I do not want to misrepresent anything that was said by one who is so highly esteemed in this House—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I would only say to the noble Viscount that I am responsible for anything that happens in my private office, and I am quite ready to accept all responsibility for what was said. Actually, I do not think that the noble Viscount's speech would be in order on the Opposition Amendment, or on the Amendment of the Liberal Party. No-one, least of all myself, would wish to stop the noble Viscount from making a speech. I would only appeal to his good nature. There are still about ten speakers all of whom wish to speak on the Middle East. Would the noble Viscount not postpone the 969 remainder of his remarks to a general Foreign Office debate, when everything he says would be entirely appropriate? I am not seeking to prevent the noble Viscount in any way from speaking, but I think it would be for the convenience of the House if he would do as I suggest. It is what noble Lords in all parts of the House would wish.
Naturally I should not wish to do or say anything contrary to the wishes of the House, but I hope the noble Marquess will take it from me that I felt that, as the result of what happened, I was in order.
Now may I just say this? As the result of the economic difficulties to which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, has himself referred, and looking to the very anxious time that lies ahead for the British exporters of capital goods—especially in the engineering classes—following on the Suez crisis, I urge upon the Government, first, to make much more extended use of the exceptions procedure of which the Prime Minister said, on February 13, 1956, in the House of Commons, the dominating principle was to be:the extent to which it served the interests of the free world".secondly, to abolish in toto the "end-use" practice, which makes business between the British exporter and the prospective Chinese buyer of an irritatingly unpredictable character and loses business to British exporters; and thirdly, to work unceasingly towards the complete abandonment of the anachronism of the China embargo.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ LORD AILWYN
My Lords, I rise to make only two observations. In the endless discussions during the last few weeks in Press and Parliament there has been one curious omission: namely, any comment on the fact, well known but perhaps not realised in its fullest implications, that the whole economy of this country is utterly dependent on a commodity which does not exist within our own shores and the transport and delivery of which from abroad is not in our power to safeguard or guarantee—an uninterrupted supply of foreign oil. Is it not rather singular that the existence of this Achilles heel, so violently and starkly revealed by the events of these last weeks, 970 has received no mention, and that nobody, so far as I know, has attempted to point a moral, which would appear to me to be that investigations should be initiated without delay into the possible ways and means of reducing this complete dependence of ours on the good will of the foreigner to supply us with the lifeblood of our industrial, defensive and domestic life.
Obviously, this is not the occasion to develop the subject and I mention it only as being an important by-product of the tribulations lately suffered by us in the Middle East. The one bright spot in an otherwise rather gloomy and lowering situation has been the courage and persistence of Her Majesty's Government in carrying out what they believed to be the correct and wisest policy for this country to pursue. If the frustrations and disappointments which have beset us in the execution of this operation lead us to examine afresh the incidence of our precarious oil situation; if it could only result in something in the nature of a "Back to the Mines" campaign, and lead us to new and fresh thinking as to the possibilities of extracting and using more British coal, stocks of which lie in inexhaustible quantities beneath our feet—that treasure upon which the prosperity of the British Empire, if such a word may be used these days, has been built—then some material benefit will nave accrued from our misfortunes. We had a number of debates in your Lordships' House on this subject before the war. At that time many people were fully seized and not a little disturbed at the potential dangers of our fuel situation. Tentative measures were taken in certain directions towards amelioration. The war came; we survived; nothing really adequate has since been done. We have been warned.
My only other observation is this. I think it would be a mistake to overstress our differences of opinion with the United States of America on this Middle East mess. I believe there is a considerable amount of sympathy and understanding with us in America; and in this connection I think the following short extract from a New York Times editorial given cause for encouragement. It says:It would be ridiculous to permit Colonel Nasser to pose before the United Nations or the world as the innocent victim of aggression, or to hold a protecting hand over him. On the contrary, in so far as there is any one man guilty of aggression, it is the Egyptian 971 President. For he has waged war against Israel, Britain and France by propaganda, by gun running, by infiltration of murderous bands, by stirring up rebellion in French-North Africa, by seizing the Suez Canal by force and scrapping a Treaty in the same manner in which Hitler marched into the Rhineland, by blocking the Canal for Israel's shipping in defiance of the United Nations orders—finally, by his whole loudly-proclaimed programme of throwing Israel into the sea … and creating an Arab Empire under his hegemony, which would expand his influence in concentric circles to all Africa and the whole Moslem world. …Not a bad answer to some of the criticisms and strictures of Her Majesty's Government which we have heard in certain quarters. Perhaps there is some truth in the remark of the Washington correspondent in the Daily Telegraph that:There is enough blame in this Suez pot of stew for everybody to have a good helping.Be that as it may, I shall find no difficulty in recording my own vote to-morrow in support of Her Majesty's Government.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, it is no pleasant task to break old political friendships, or to depart from time-honoured family associations. If it may salve in any way any bitterness that may be felt among my former friends at my action, I will say this: I took the counsel of three former Chiefs of Staff who wrote a letter to The Times newspaper urging that no steps should be taken in any way to break the national unity while the military operations were in progress. I have timed my actions accordingly.
I have thought out my own position. I have endeavoured to weigh as carefully as I might the arguments put up by Government speakers. There is only one speech that has considerably helped me to clarify my own mind, and I am glad to have the opportunity of paying tribute to it. I allude to the very moderate, very sensible, very clear speech on the first day of November by the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. I oppose Her Majesty's Government's actions on conscientious grounds, not on legal or on political grounds. Therefore, I shall say little or nothing in my speech about the United Nations. I am interested in principles. I have been taught that it is wrong to 972 support a Government in an unjust war. I have come to the conclusion that our armed conflict with Egypt was an unjust war.
There are, I believe, four tests which can be applied to a nation's action to determine whether it is or is not just. I will venture to give them to the House, and I feel that they will commend themselves to most sensible men who have thought about international relations. In order that you may claim to be fighting a just war you must show that your action satisfies these four tests: first, that it has a just cause; secondly, that it has an adequate cause—in other words, that the cause should be proportioned to the war which you are likely to have to fight. The third requirement is that it is morally certain that you cannot obtain your just objective by any other means except war. The fourth test is that there should exist a real possibility of obtaining your object by war.
In my judgment—and this is a matter which every man must judge for himself—the war (may I call it by that convenient shorthand, though I know it is only an armed conflict?) against Egypt fails to satisfy the requirements of the last two tests. Let us examine the motives from which Her Majesty's Government entered this conflict. We are now told that there was only one object. A Minister (I regret he is not present to-night) has been loud in proclaiming that we sent our expedition to Suez simply and solely to stop the Israeli-Egyptian conflict. Other arguments, however, were used on November 1. We were told by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack—I do not in any way want to criticise him for saying what he undoubtedly believed at the time to be a good and valid defence of the Government's action—that we acted for three good grounds: danger to our nationals; danger to shipping in the Canal; and the danger to the enormously valuable installations of the Canal itself. It is natural enough that we no longer hear those arguments used in defence of Her Majesty's Government's action, but they were a substantial part of the reasons that led the Government into the action against Egypt.
When I knew that the noble and learned Viscount had used those words, I trembled, because at that moment our fellow subjects in Egypt were at the 973 mercy of a man who had no very high reputation for moderation or for the scrupulous observance of international conventions. I wondered—and I think we must all have wondered—what was happening to our nationals. And now we know. But did we not consider, when we entered Suez, what actions would result, as regards our fellow subjects, from our intervention? I trembled, too, for the safety of the Canal. We were told that Colonel Nasser was planning to block the Canal: we knew it before we took any action against Egypt at all. We were told that there was a blockship loaded with cement ready to be sunk in the Canal. Whatever may have happened to the attempt to sink that particular blockship, surely we could credit Colonel Nasser with enough ingenuity to find other shipping, and other ways of blocking the Canal, and blocking it far more effectively and with far greater lasting effect than could possibly have been accomplished in the course of the fighting between Israel and Egypt.
I. suppose that in the course of that war a few shells, and possibly a bomb or two might have fallen on the Canal. But what damage would that have done, in comparison with the damage that has been done? Had we not enough foresight to realise that of course Colonel Nasser would take every step in his power to retaliate for our action by doing that very thing which would most annoy and trouble us? What amazes me about this affair is that no attention seems to have been given at the inception of the adventure to the courses likely to be taken by Colonel Nasser. When I was a subaltern I was taught, as all subalterns are taught, to make a military appreciation; and the one feature to which we had to devote careful attention was courses open to the enemy. If anybody in Whitehall or Downing Street was invited to make an appreciation of the courses that could be, and probably would be, taken by Colonel Nasser, his paper must have been pigeonholed in great obscurity. So far, then, as that line of defence is concerned, I would say that it fails to satisfy my fourth test of a just war. There was no possibility of obtaining our just ends as regards our subjects, or their property, or the Canal itself, by the war which we waged.
Now I come to the grounds on which Her Majesty's Government are now de- 974 fending their action, and they, of course, are quite different. We are told that it was a police action, without any ulterior motive. I am not denying that there is much truth in this claim, but I am denying that it is the whole truth, and I would justify my position by making, or attempting to make, four points. In the first place, I call your Lordships' attention to the preparations involved. We have heard from the noble Marquess the Leader of the House (and I entirely agree with him) that it was perfectly natural for us to station our paratroops and bombers in Cyprus. And it was perfectly natural, in view of the danger of an explosion in the Middle East, for us to pit our landing craft and commandos on the Island of Malta. But where I think the case breaks down is in respect of the French action. Far too little attention has been paid in this country to the position of our French Allies in all this.
Let us consider what their position is—a singularly unpleasant one. France is facing one of the gravest menaces of her history, and that history has not been immune from dangers. But to-day Algeria is on the verge of armed insurrection; Egypt has been arming the rebels in Algeria, and French European citizens in Algiers are in grave danger. France has a. much stronger quarrel with Egypt than we have. Am I asked to believe that we invited the French to send their paratroops to Cyprus in a purely precautionary role? Were the French likely to lock up the flower of their army—some 6,000 men I have been told—in Cyprus, and to keep it waiting indefinitely in case some trouble arose in the Middle East which would justify armed intervention? That, my Lords, is at present beyond my powers of belief. I believe that we invited the French to send their troops there in order to take part in an expedition against Egypt, and that the Israeli-Egyptian war was merely a proximate cause, little more than the occasion for that intervention. If that is not so, let Her Majesty's Government publish the Notes that were exchanged between them and the French Government. Indeed, I should very much like to see a White Paper published on this incident.
My second point relates to a question that seems obvious to me, though it has not received much attention this after- 975 noon. Why did we not invoke the Tripartite Pact of guarantee? The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor dealt with that point in his speech on an earlier occasion, but I am afraid that I could not understand it. I could not understand why Egypt's repudiation of the benefits of that Pact should in any way invalidate it. That was what I understood the noble and learned Viscount to say. I think the better line of defence, and the one now adopted by Her Majesty's Government, would have been to explain that there was no time; that time would have been lost in summoning, and in the deliberations of, a conference between America, France and ourselves. I question that very much.
In the first place, considerable delay occurred, in any case, while our transports and landing craft ploughed their slow way from the distant island of Malta. Was there such a desperate hurry to intervene? The military situation in Sinai hardly seemed to justify such an assertion. The Israelis had made a raid in force—a little classic of military strategy it was, too—across the border. Surely, we may discount any thought that they intended to lengthen their lines of communication across a desert road and to penetrate much further than they did. Surely the Israeli strategists were satisfied with the damage they had done to Egypt, and there was every military reason to expect that there would then be a lull in the fighting while Egypt, perhaps, mounted her counter-attack.
During that time, an international conference of Britain, America and France—and how quickly these conferences can be summoned; how quickly they can reach decisions!—could have decided on a tripartite intervention. It might have been thought improbable that they would decide that our method of intervention was the best. On hearing the British and French strategic plan, America might have endorsed it, in which case we could have undertaken our intervention as agents for the Tripartite Powers, and with the full financial and moral backing of the United States. But I do not think that would have been the kind of intervention that would have appealed to America. And it may be because we calculated that America would not endorse our plan, that 976 we did not summon the meeting of the Tripartite Powers.
My third point is quite simply this. Was it the duty of France and Britain to "go it alone", even with the beneficent object of stopping the war? We have described ourselves again and again as "policemen." Who made us the "policemen" of the Middle East? Might not both Israel and Egypt have replied, "Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?" That is a quotation from the second chapter of the Book of Exodus. I see that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, recognised it.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
That chapter contains the story of an earlier intervention in an Israeli-Egyptian quarrel—an intervention that did not turn out very happily, and did not win much gratitude from the Israelis. We should sympathise with Moses. He had to flee to the land of Midian; he had to make an evacuation.
My fourth point, which I think is most decisive, concerns the armistice terms, the cease-fire terms, which we imposed on Israel and Egypt. I asked myself whether, if we really wanted to stop the conflict, we should have imposed those terms, terms very favourable to Israel, the attacker—I will not say the "aggressor" for we could dispute for a long time what "aggressor" means. The attacker was to be allowed, having achieved what was probably her military objective, to rest on her arms, immune from fear of counter-attack, while her rear echelons completed the destruction across Sinai and destroyed the Egyptian ports. They were to be allowed to rest deep in Egyptian territory, and Egypt was to suffer the supreme humiliation of withdrawing ten miles the other side of the Canal.
Did we, in fact, expect any country in the world to accept terms like this? No, my Lords. I think that if we had been sincere, and with a single mind devoted to our policeman-like work of stopping the conflict, we should have imposed terms more like those which were suggested by the Security Council of the United Nations. In other words, we should have insisted on the withdrawal of Israeli troops behind their own armistice 977 line. I cannot accept as just the action taken. Yet we are now invited by Her Majesty's Government to congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the presence of the United Nations Force in Egypt. One of the most curious features of this debate has been the number of noble Lords who attach great value to the United Nations Police Force and very little value to the United Nations. That seems to me a position that is very difficult to defend in logic. How can a United Nations Police Force be more useful than the body which controls it?
I hope indeed that all will turn out for the best, and that the United Nations Police Force will prove very valuable, but if we are going to look at results let us look at all the results—or since it is perhaps a little late at night for that, let us look at some of the results. I have been invited during the debate to look from the standpoint of fifty years hence, but I can comment only on what I read in my paper. What do I read? I read that there is some discussion going on between two parties in Libya, a kingdom which we created. One party thinks that they must repudiate their treaty with Great Britain; the other party is more moderate and insists merely that the treaty should be most drastically revised. I read that Iraq—our one friend among the Arab States, a country that has no love for Egypt, a country bound by ties of friendship and stronger ties of common interest—condemned our action in Egypt at the very height of hostilities. I read the other day—and although I cannot vouch for the truth of it, it seems likely—that in the little Arab towns on the Persian Gulf Arab shops are putting up notices: "British and French not served here."
I say that the most obvious result of our action is a terrible collapse of what remained of British prestige in the Middle East, and a considerable fall in our popularity throughout Islam. I ask myself, who will be the gainers from our loss of prestige. It seems to me that the answer is Russia. We know very well that it was a mere coincidence that we ceased our advance on Ismailia within a few short hours of the publication of the Russian Note. Of course we know they had no connection. What will be the opinion on that in the bazaars of Arabia and the Levant? Do we not know that there are plenty of agents in those place 978 who will make it their duty to explain to the Arabs that Britain stopped her advance only because of Russia?
I think when Russia writes her balance sheet and profit and loss of these events, and when she writes off on the debit side the loss of some tanks and of quite a number of MiG.s shot on the ground, she will say, "There are plenty more where those came from, but there is not much more credit left to the British Government in the countries in which we are interested."
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, judgment on the Suez events is, as so many noble Lords have said, of particular worth in so far as it can teach us any lessons for the future. The debate we are having these two days end the many views that have been sincerely expressed show how extraordinarily difficult it is to judge whether the Government action was right or wrong. I say this, after listening with the greatest respect and admiration to the speech of the noble Earl. Lord Iddesleigh, who has just sat down. I realise, as I am sine your Lordships all realise, with what heartsearchings he has reached the decisions he has expressed.
For my own part, I still cannot make up my mind whether the Government were right or wrong; and if I vote against the Government Motion tomorrow it will be on one particular point which has been raised by various noble Lords and which I believe is of paramount importance, namely, that we did not do our duty towards America when we did not tell her of the ultimatum before it was delivered. This. I believe, was both wrong and unwise. It is the best way in which I can show what I sincerely believe: that relations with America are of overriding and paramount importance to this country. I say this, not only out of self-interest but also because of a deep friendship with and a deep trust in the American people.
Let me elaborate on why I fear that our action was wrong. I would refer to the Tripartite Declaration of 1950, which has been mentioned by several of your Lordships. In that Declaration, France, America and ourselves announced that we would together keep the peace in the Middle East within or without U.N.O. 979 This was no idle Declaration, forgotten in subsequent events and developments. Rather did the Government again and again reiterate that it stood behind this Declaration and that its policy was based thereon. This being so, surely we were under an obligation at the very least to tell our American partners what we intended to do before we and France acted. I can think of many good reasons why we did not tell them; other noble Lords have also mentioned some of them—for example, that we realised that it would serve no purpose in the light of the American policy of the previous month; or again that it would have embarrassed and, indeed, have proved a disservice to the American Administration at the time of the Election. Or again, it has been argued that in some way, about which I am not very clear, the Declaration did not apply between Israel and Egypt.
My Lords, none of those reasons satisfies me, and I repeat that I believe we were bound at least to tell America, as the third partner in the Declaration, what we were going to do, even if we made it quite clear at the same time that we were going to act regardless of what they said. But I believe with Lord Brand, that if they had been put up against it in that way they would have been bound to come in with us, in some form or another, that would have been more satisfactory to us all. I fear that the action taken is indefensible, and that it may be a long time before we can re-establish the real trust and confidence of the American Administration. The implications of this, I suggest, call for much Government heart-searching.
Not only do I believe that it was wrong, but I believe it was unwise, for on our relations and friendship with America our existence and way of living depend. As an example, when Marshal Bulganin threatened us with rockets, how we all breathed a sigh of relief at the riposte of General Gruenther. Whether it was off his own bat or prompted by the American Administration I do not know, but what is quite certain is that if America had not been behind us, the statement would have had no value and we should have been in a very awkward position. The lesson must always be kept in mind that the Western world depends on America. This does not mean we must always sing 980 in tune and must have no difference of opinion. But things must be discussed frankly and openly, and in an atmosphere of trust.
Now I wish to turn to my main theme—namely, that now is the time for a re-appraisal of our foreign policy and our country's position as a world Power. Foreign policy, my Lords, is like charity; it begins at home, hut must not end there. In any re-appraisal, therefore, things at home are of first importance The three ingredients, I believe, that make up foreign policy are the strength of our Armed Forces, the strength of our economic position, and the strength of our moral position. Let me take them in turn. So far as our armed strength is concerned, it is possible, for a time, to have guns and to forgo butter—but only for a time. Something will explode internally or externally. Dictatorships are apt to choose this course, but it is not necessary for us.
We should, I suggest, carefully reappraise our expenditure on our Armed Forces. We must make a proper contribution to N.A.T.O. and have over something to come to the rescue, if need arise, of our Commonwealth friends, and to act as police or to keep law and order in the Colonies of the Empire. I believe that we have been trying to do too much in the past year and that we must examine our foreign commitments, with special reference to the drain on our foreign exchange resources. Should we, for example, continue to have such a very large force in Germany?
That brings me to the second of the ingredients—namely, our economic strength. If. as I assume, there are savings from the review of the position of the Armed Forces, such savings should be used to increase our capital investment at home and our services, such as shipping. Consumption at home must, meantime, be kept in check. Our position in the world and our strength abroad, particularly within the Commonwealth, depends in large measure on the knowledge that we are prosperous at home and can and will contribute abroad. This is a hard world, and even our best friends slowly will drop us, however great the sentimental ties, if association with other areas and countries is more to their advantage. Let the Government at this time work out and make known to the 981 people an economic programme, a five-year plan similar to that on which they have already worked in relation to agriculture. I will not develop this theme further to-night; it is late. But I would ask the Government to give us an early opportunity to consider the economic consequences of the events in Suez of the past month and to indicate their programme in relation to it.
The last of my ingredients is moral strength. This is difficult to define. In the eyes of the world we have recently acted wrongly—witness the United Nations vote condemning us as aggressors. I find it a hard word for our action. We should not take it too tragically, knowing that fundamentally we stand for what is right and just. Let us, however, not lose sight of the fact that world opinion is a force and a growing force. In that connection, I support all the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, said about the importance of propaganda at the present time. We must be among the leaders of the world to whom all instinctively turn for moral guidance on what is the proper thing to do. To-day, and in the foreseeable future, our enemy is Russia and Communism. This is the central fact which we must never forget, and which must dictate all our policies. The events of Suez demand of us a re-appraisal of our present position as a Power and point the need, above all else, to develop our economic strength at home. They demand the determination to rebuild the confidence of the Western Nations in us. If we, the Commonwealth and the United States fail to act together, through U.N.O. and otherwise, Russia and Communism alone will gain.
§ 10.0 p.m.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, I should like in the first place to associate myself fully as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, has done, with the suggestions made by the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr. I have recently been a great deal in the Middle East and I know of the difficulties under which our Information Services have been struggling. I sincerely hope that your Lordships' House will be permitted to have a special debate on that subject.
Steps really must be taken to "put Britain over" in the world, but in a debate such as this I feel that we should 982 somehow contrive to step aside from the day-to-day events of the last months and try to see, as I think the noble Earl, Lord Perth, is also trying to see, how the British foreign policy should evolve in the coming years, and not be unduly influenced by the most recent earthshaking events. Without, therefore, forgetting the specific importance of the Suez crisis and of the savage Soviet coup against the Hungarian people, for whom, I might add, some young British would gladly fight, let us remember that perhaps an even more significant event was Bulganin's statement at the height of the Suez crisis that, if she wanted to, Russia could take Western Europe with ease, and he hinted that she could attack Britain with rocket missiles.
In this light, and in the light of the Soviet threat to the Middle East, let us try to perceive what are the most important basic factors upon which our foreign policy must now be based. A distinguished American senator, with whom certain distinguished noble Lords had a conversation recently, said that he did not think it profitable on either side if we examined our respective actions and policies of the last few months too closely under the microscope. If, in Anglo-American affairs, we started to do that, there would be no end to it. It was no use the Americans saying: "You did not consult us; you did not even inform us", any more than it was fruitful for us to say, "You started it all by refusing aid over the Aswan Dam", or, "You told us to leave the Canal in 1954." If we do that, we can go further back and further back in our recriminations, until we finally come to argue the merits and demerits of Lord North's policies, or lack of them, in the American War of Independence. I am not going into them tonight any more than I am going into the merits or demerits of the present Government's policy in the Middle East. I gave my reasons for supporting the Anglo-French action in our debate on November 1. As the American senator said:Let us now go forward together on the basis of what does still exist which holds the free world together.What are these factor which are beginning to integrate the free peoples of the earth? They are not negligible. First of all, there is the Commonwealth. 983 None of us doubts that the British Commonwealth, or a large part of it, can still be a great force if it acts, or if the greater part of it acts, in unison. In the gravest of grave crises, perhaps it might still do so; but it did not do so over Suez. If, then, we cannot be certain that the Commonwealth will always follow us, where else should we look for unity? I have no hesitation in saying that the next most important factor in our foreign policy after the maintenance of solidarity so far as possible in the Commonwealth is the development of Western unity. It seems to me that the instrument, above all, through which such unity can best be developed is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. There are other Western organisations, it is true, such as the Council of Europe and the W.E.U.—your Lordships probably know that that stands for the Western European Union and that it was formed after the demise or the stillbirth of the E.D.C. There is also the O.E.E.C., but I feel that N.A.T.O. must provide the general framework within which all these organisations should work.
As a result of the efforts of the O.E.E.C. and other agencies, there are those who believe that we in Western Europe are already beginning to achieve economic unity through the proposed common markets. This is an immense step forward and must surely be welcomed, hut, as the noble Lord, Lord Layton, implied, it is not only economic unity which we need—it looks as though we may be getting that—but political unity, too. Some might like that political unity to emerge through the W.E.U., thus creating a kind of Western European third force in the world. Personally, I feel that we have already gone beyond this. Strictly. European economic unity, I agree, is desirable, but political and military unity seems now to have become virtually indivisible in the free world. That is why I believe that N.A.T.O. is the principal instrument we should use for this purpose, and that its machinery should be strengthened on the political side.
It is excellent that the North Atlantic Council, the permanent Council, meets regularly every week on the official level and occasionally at higher levels. It met regularly even during the Suez crisis. I 984 am very glad it did. It shows that the Atlantic Alliance had not completely disintegrated. But I feel that high-level meetings should be more frequent—meetings not only of Foreign Ministers, Defence Ministers and Service chiefs, but also of Prime Ministers and Finance Ministers. I make this suggestion in all humility. Ministers of Commerce, of course, can no doubt best meet and discuss their affairs within the framework of O.E.E.C., and sometimes Finance Ministers too. I also feel that there should be further Parliamentary machinery to watch, support and discuss the work of the N.A.T.O. Council and the Secretariat.
If it is not possible—I do not believe it is—to constitute an Atlantic Consultative Assembly, perhaps merged with the Council of Europe at Strasbourg, then I believe that the Conference of N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians which has now been formed should meet more frequently. So far they have met only twice—once a year in the last two years. I believe that more frequent meetings would be an immense power for good. For example, at the last meeting of these Parliamentarians in Paris which took place during the Suez crisis, it was possible for the British and French Members of Parliament fully to explain directly to American Congressmen Anglo-French points of view in 'regard to our actions in Egypt. The 'Americans were able to explain to us 'their point of view, and there is no doubt whatever that this N.A.T.O. Parliamentary meeting contributed greatly to bringing together divergent attitudes and greatly helped to hold the Atlantic Alliance together.
As a result of this meeting, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the American Senate, Senator Green, of whom I spoke before, came over to Paris and later to England. He had these useful talks with several noble Lords. As a result, Senator Green went back to America far more fully aware of British points of view in the matter of Suez than he otherwise would have been. I have a letter which I have just received from his aide saying that he has been quoting noble Lords constantly every day ever since. Had it not been for the N.A.T.O. Parliamentary conference he would never have come to this country. It was purely by chance—he had two days to spare, so he came and had lunch in the Dining Room 985 here. I personally feel that this Parliamentary conference ought to meet quite as often as, if not more often than, the Consultative Assembly in Strasbourg which, through being removed from the centre of things and not including American or Canadian representatives, has become little more than a kind of European academe in which sometimes rather unreal discussions are held with only very few, if any, responsible Ministers on the Front Bench.
As the noble Marquess the Leader of the House has said, in order to conduct a successful foreign policy forces must be available to implement it. N.A.T.O. has "teeth"; Strasbourg has not. W.E.U. may perhaps he said to have "teeth"; the United Nations may be 'beginning to cut theirs—but more of that later. N.A.T.O. has the best. "teeth", and I believe that only by expanding the scope of this N.A.T.O. Parliamentary body can we make the Atlantic Alliance politically viable. Only thus, and working as far as possible with the Commonwealth and with members of the Baghdad Pact and S.E.A.T.O., can the peace of the world really be assured. I must admit that I like the idea of the Pakistan Foreign Minister, supported I think by his colleagues in the Baghdad Pact, that the three treaty organisations I have mentioned should be on the same level, so that an attack on one shall be considered to be an attack on all.
Some Englishmen, I know, mistrust all international organisations. They say that the United Nations cannot work because the Security Council is hamstrung by the Veto, and they feel vaguely that somewhat similar disadvantages are inherent in all international bodies, b including N.A.T.O. I do not believe this. N.A.T.O. has been working and the Veto is not used in that body. Moreover, all the countries which are members spring from the same civilization; they believe in the same democratic and humanitarian principles. That is not the case in the United Nations. I feel therefore that the sphere of N.A.T.O. should, either in itself or through he Baghdad Pact and S.E.A.T.O., be extended to include all those parts of the world in which their member States have vital interests. If the N.A.T.O. area had been wider and the United States had been full members of the Baghdad Pact, I believe it might 986 have been possible to agree a Middle Eastern policy with them.
I hope that Her Majesty's Government will do everything within their power to persuade the United States to become full members of that Pact. If the United States really believe in containing the Soviet Union, surely they should be willing to give full, and not merely partial, protection to their Middle East flank. What is the use of having a front in Europe if your flank is left open? American adherence to the Baghdad Pact would greatly stabilise the situation in the Middle East where, since our first withdrawal from Suez, there has been a dangerous power vacuum. However we look at it, there should, to my mind, and as the noble Lord, Lord Layton, suggested, be one main council of the principal free nations of the world, conducting a global and not a purely regional strategy.
I consider that the North Atlantic Council should be strengthened to fulfil this function. I am convinced that that is the direction in which we must work. The effect of the Anglo-French action in Egypt may not therefore merely be that it brought into being a United Nations police force, but that it will make the N.A.T.O. Powers recognise how very necessary it is to strengthen their own position in the world if some of their weaker brethren are not to fall under the kind of savage tyranny that we have seen in Hungary. That is one of the reasons why I support the Resolution moved by the noble Marquess. There must be occasions on which we must be allowed to act alone. America did in Guatemala. I believe that the Anglo-French action in Suez has brought the rest of the world to recognise the new realities. It must be largely through the three great treaty organisations that the Soviet Union is contained and the main peace preserved.
It may be—I think Lord Birdwood would agree with me in this—that at the same time a United Nations Police Force may find useful fields of action not only in the Middle East but also perhaps in such situations as Kashmir, where it may not be possible for the Commonwealth or one of the three treaty organisations to operate. But who in the long run is to give orders to the commander of the 987 United Nations police force? Would it be the Security Council, hamstrung by the Veto, or the Assembly, in which a block of Powers can also render action abortive? Or is one of these bodies to delegate powers of command to a godlike Secretary-General or a restricted military committee? I do not see this happening yet. As other noble Lords have stated, Hungary has proved that the United Nations is incapable of operating in countries over which the Soviet Union wishes to retain undisputed sway. It can never act in those cases. Even United Nations observers have not been accepted there, let alone United Nations police. That is why I think we must put our faith and place our main hopes in the treaty organisations I have mentioned, and put all our weight behind them.
I hope that at the present N.A.T.O. meetings in Paris—very important meetings, I am told—something in this direction may be achieved. Strengthen N.A.T.O. geographically and politically, expand the Baghdad Pact to include the United States, and fortify S.E.A.T.O. in every way possible. I am certain that these three organisations, with the Commonwealth, can keep the peace. Everything possible must be done to increase the effectiveness of the North Atlantic Council as an instrument of common policy. That is the face of the new earth; let us not forget it. We must indeedfind out new heaven, new earth.My Lords, I suggest we find the new earth first, for the old earth has passed away. Therefore, while I would say as loudly as anyone in your Lordships' House, "Long live the Queen!". I would also say "Vivat pax Atlantica."
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords. I am not sure that it is either wise or seemly that at this late hour such a very Back Bencher should take part at all in this debate, which has been so enriched by so many experienced speakers, but I hope that noble Lords will bear with me while I deal briefly with one point which I feel is of some importance. One result of recent events in the Middle East has been to create a division of opinion in this country on what should be the basis of our foreign policy in the future. This cleavage of opinion has come about 988 because it is alleged by some that the outcome of our intervention in Suez has shown that any independent action by this country cannot be effective. Therefore, the argument continues, we must now accept the fact that we are no longer a great Power, and we must always look to America and willingly follow her lead.
I do not for one moment subscribe to such a defeatist attitude; nor do I believe that many other noble Lords do. But, unfortunately, it is a line that is being followed by a number of leading newspapers in this country. It seems to me that it is also the logical outcome of the policy of the Opposition, though I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, deny that that was their intention. Further, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman said, this particular chapter of history is not yet finished, and such a policy, if it were accepted, could have a disastrous bearing on future events in the Middle East. For these reasons it cannot be dismissed as idle chatter.
It is true that we are now weaker than the United States, both physically and financially, but to argue from that that we must never again take an independent line is both unwise and dangerous. This country has far greater experience in foreign affairs than any other country in the world. Our experience and our success in world trading, in administering overseas territories, in teaching backward peoples how to stand on their own feat in the modern world, and in dealing with outbreaks of violence and fighting with a minimum of bloodshed, is unrivalled; and it would be utterly wrong for us to withdraw in favour of others with much smaller and shorter experience. In passing, may I say how deeply I agree with the noble Earl, Lord De la Warr, who pointed out that we must ensure that our case and our policy are put before the world far more clearly.
We must frankly recognise that many of the present difficulties and problems in Eastern Europe stem from errors of judgment by the American Administration at the end, and after the end, of the last war. The seeds of the present trouble in the Middle East were sown at Abadan and in our withdrawal from the Suez Canal base. Now we are reaping the harvest. Nor is there any doubt that American support for what is called anti-colonialism has stimulated an 989 unhealthy nationalism, the effects of which have created a dangerous vacuum in the Middle East. To mention such facts as these is not to be anti-American; nor do I seek to show that America is always wrong. Far from it. America acted quickly and courageously in Korea. Her support for N.A.T.O., in men, equipment and money has been far-sighted, generous and effective. We in this country have much for which to be thankful, and I, for one, have the greatest admiration for the American people, for their love of freedom and their generosity. Nevertheless, such considerations as those I have mentioned indicate clearly that she is not infallible and that we still have a vital part to play in guiding and leading world opinion—if necessary, and in the last resort, by independent action.
If we abdicate our responsibilities and become virtually a "Yes man" to the United States of America, does anyone imagine that we shall gain respect or influence? No-one has much use for a man who is never prepared to back his judgment by striking out on an independent line of his own, and no-one will have much respect for this country if we become like the 49th State, expressing opinions on world affairs but never able to act independently. It cannot be denied that there are many attractions and strong logical arguments behind the case for giving up our position as equal partner in the Western Alliance, and retiring to the position of senior clerk, with no say in the determination of policy. But history would be very different if nations and individuals had always based their actions solely on logic. David would never have fought with Goliath; the British Commonwealth would never have stood alone against Germany in 1940, and certainly the miracle of Dunkirk would never have happened; and the Hungarian people would not today be defying the armed strength and barbarity of Russia. All these episodes are characterised by courage, determination and imagination, and it is these attributes that should guide our foreign policy in the future, as they have always done in the great periods of our history.
Let us not rely too much on cold logic as our guiding principle. Millions of people in this country look anxiously for a bold and imaginative policy which will fire enthusiasm and, if need be, 990 encourage the acceptance of some temporary sacrifices in our way of living. If the lead is given, I do not doubt that the majority of people will support and rally behind Her Majesty's Government. If, however, we allow our defences to run down, our economy to depend more and more or, charity, and our foreign policy to drift smoothly along in the wake of America's, then indeed we shall lose all initiative and enthusiasm, all hope of ever overcoming our present difficulties, and, finally, we shall lose both our self-respect and our standard of living.
We are now at an important crossroads. Shall we turn one way and lean more and more heavily on charity, and so lose our right and ability to shape our own destiny? Or shall we take another road, and in company and in co-operation with those friends in the Commonwealth who, lei it be remembered, never deserted us in all this recent turmoil, go forward, poorer financially for a time, but infinitely richer in self-respect and influence in the world? Surely there can be no doubt which road we should take, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will make it clear once more that they have chosen to continue straight ahead along it.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ LORD JEFFREYS
My Lords, first of all 1 must say how very much I agree with the noble Viscount who has just sat down and also with my noble friend Lord De La Warr. Having said that, may I add at once that I support the policy of Her Majesty's Government, a policy which in a very short time put an end to a war which otherwise might have spread throughout the Middle East. Incidentally, the action of he British and French Governments not only stopped that war but saved the Egyptian Army from probable destruction by the Israelis.
Success means a very great deal in the East: it means much more than right or wrong, much more than justice or injustice. And as soon as it was evident that: the Egyptian Army was defeated and unsuccessful, the other Arab States which had been prepared to join Egypt abandoned their intention of coming in, whilst the Russian armaments supplied to Egypt had been largely either captured by the Israelis or destroyed by British bombing. To my mind, the unfortunate 991 thing was that we had the cease-fire at the time it was proclaimed. Without the gracious permission of the United Nations we had landed a force at Port Said, given the Egyptians a nasty knock and established ourselves ashore. Why, in those circumstances, did we not go ahead and at least establish our troops in a stronger position, or, best of all, occupy the whole of the Canal Zone? Surely we ought to have done so, and surely we should have gone on the principle of "in for a penny in for a pound." In that case we could have at once got on with the clearing of the Canal.
It is not as though such action would have involved heavy losses, for the Egyptian. though a good rioter and an expert thief, is not, and never has been, a good fighting man If he were a fighting man. I wonder how this polyglot United Nations Force, unused to working together, with different patterns of arms and different types of ammunition, would have got on against him? In fact, if it had not been for the interference—and it was interference—of the United Nations, our forces and those of the French might well have established themselves and established a lasting peace in the Middle East.
As I have ventured to observe before in your Lordships' House, we ought never, in the first place, to have recognised Neguib and Nasser without a very clear understanding of all sides, a clear understanding as to, for instance, the debts which we had, in fact, incurred to Egypt. I hope we shall not pay them now. The Egyptian Government at that time were not a legitimate Government, but an illegitimate and revolutionary Government, and we should have dealt with them accordingly. It was further, in my view. a very great mistake to allow Nasser to "nationalise" the Canal, as he called it. Who is now going to see that the Canal, the property of the Canal Company, constructed by European enterprise and European skill, is cleared of obstructions at the earliest possible moment? Is it not probable that Nasser will be entirely unhelpful, as he has been in the past, and that the United Nations Force will be ineffective for the purpose of clearing the Canal? Then there is the question of using British ships and British gear. 992 Surely, it would be entirely wrong if, out of some sort of consideration for Nasser, who is entirely responsible for having blocked the Canal, we did not use the British ships, British personnel and British gear which are on the spot.
It seems to me that we derive no advantages but many disadvantages from membership of the United Nations. The United Nations includes a number of what I might describe as semi-civilised States—for instance, the Afro-Asians—States without a sense of responsibility, without resources or means, excepting their tongues, which they use freely enough. We do not want advice, still less control, from such States. The United Nations, like its predecessor, the League of Nations, was the conception of a former President of the United States who knew very little of the world outside the United States. And, like the League of Nations, the United Nations is now quite discredited. No nation, if it is inconvenient, takes any notice of the United Nations. which has no force with which to enforce its wishes or directions. It was, in fact, only the action of the British and French Governments that caused the United Nations to create a so-called "Police Force" for the Canal Zone; and the efficiency of that force, even against Egyptians, remains to be proved. I wonder how long the law in this country would be enforced if there were no courts, no police, no penalties and no prisons to back it.
Moreover, no nation refers to, or takes any notice of, the United Nations if it is inconvenient to do so. Did the United 'States refer to the United Nations before 'entering Guatemala or before invading Korea? Did Nehru take any notice of the United Nations over Kashmir? And quite recently․and most scandalous of all—did Russia take the smallest notice of the United Nations, or heed what it said over this question of Hungary? No it is only poor Britain who is expected -to do as she is told by the United Nations. And the principal function of the United Nations is to waste lime by talking—they do plenty of that—when it is action that is needed. It is absurd, for instance, to talk of consulting the United Nations before taking action that we did over the Canal. That would have been giving a long notice to everyone concerned of what we were going to do, 993 and it was essential, in the interests of our troops and our men, that we should act quickly and decisively once we had made up our minds to act at all.
I wonder whether the United Nations will attempt any action over the importation of arms and explosives (there has been plenty of that) into Port Said, that sink of iniquity (there is no other term for it), much of which was burned by the Australians at the end of World War I in retribution for the misdeeds of its inhabitants. And the burning was thoroughly deserved. Is there, in fact, any reason why we should continue our membership of the United Nations, from which we derive no benefit whatever, and never have done—only restrictions, questions and endless talk, and of which other nations, if affected, take no notice? I hope against hope—because we always follow the United States—that we shall leave the United Nations and have no more to do with it, for it is perfectly 'useless. There is no other word for it. Some say that this would mean a break with the United States. I do not think that it would. I agree with every word that the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, said about that a minute or two ago. We want to work with the United States, but the United States know very little about the East, arid they regard the Canal and the Middle East from totally different points of view from ours. For once in a way, they should see our point of view and work with us—not merely we work with them.
If any international organisation is required (and I think an international organisation of some sort is needed), it should be a much smaller one composed of Powers with similar aims and ideals—preferably mostly European Powers. Possibly an extension and strengthening of N.A.T.O. might be considered. The old concert of the Great Powers of Europe, which we knew more than a generation ago, was, in its day, effective. The concert did not always play in tune, but there is no question that it did play together and did produce results. And though there are few great Powers today, some concert of the major Powers might be attempted and, I think, might be of use. I support the Resolution moved by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, and I hope that the House may confirm it by a large majority.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ LORD PETHICK-LAWRENCE
My Lords, at this late hour I do not propose to take up a great deal of your Lordships' time, but I have listened to a great many of the speeches, and particularly I have listened with great interest to those coming from the Benches opposite. I cannot help being somewhat amused at the way different Members are proposing to support the Government Resolution for reasons entirely different from those put forward by the noble Marquess who introduced the debate. That, it seems to me, applies particularly to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Jeffreys. During nine-tenths of his speech, he explained why he thoroughly disagreed with the policy which the Government have pursued, and he ended by saying that he was going enthusiastically to vote for them to-morrow afternoon. He is only one of several speakers who have displayed the same divergent views that were noticeable in another place. We have had Members on the Government Benches explaining that they disagreed with the Government for going into Egypt, and others explaining that they disagreed with the Government for coming out, or for not going farther in than they have done; and some of them have explained why they are going to support the policy of the Government. When the Division is taken, it will be interesting to see how many of them troop in behind the Government and cast their votes in the Government Lobby.
I am afraid that the pious wish expressed by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, in opening this debate, that this would be a debate, not of controversy but of sweet reasonableness and an attempt to look at the future, cannot be Before I sit down, I shall certainly try to meet, to some extent, the latter part of his wish, but the Resolution on which this debate is taking place makes it quite impossible for it to be uncontroversial. It could not possibly be otherwise. I have no wish to tread over again the ground that has been so well covered by several speeches from this side of the House, but in winding up the debate this evening from this side of the House, I want to say one thing in general, and to pick up several little things from noble Lords' speeches.
The larger point I want to raise is this. It has been said frequently by the 995 Front Bench opposite that the Government supporters are on one side of the House and the opposition comes from this side. But in fact that is not at all exclusively the case. This matter has divided the country from top to bottom. It is true that most of the opposition comes from people who think the way we do in politics in general, yet it is not solely from our side. I know members of my Party up and down the country who favour the action that the Government have taken. I also know quite a number of Conservatives, in this House and elsewhere, who take a view very different from that of the Government. This matter has divided the country and will divide the country for years to come. I do not suppose that it will be settled in my lifetime. Even the Boer War, which happened sixty years ago, and which at my age I remember quite well, divided the country and has divided the country to this day—the dispute has never been settled. The policy which the Government have adopted over Egypt will, unhappily, divide the country for years and years to come.
I propose to say two or three words about several speeches in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, put forward a sincere and powerful appeal on behalf of Hungary, but I confess that I saw little relevance in it to the subject matter of this debate. The only relevance it could have had (though this was not the noble Lord's point of view), was that the Government ought to have done something different from what they are doing. It may be my own stupidity, but I do not understanding what he really thinks the Government ought to have done.
The noble Lord, Lord Ailwyn, considered that he had a complete answer to our attack on the Government's action in going into Egypt when he said that Colonel Nasser had acted illegally and improperly in seizing the Canal. I think that that is wholly irrelevant. There is no division of opinion in this House or, so far as I know, in the country as a whole about the misdeeds of Colonel Nasser. But the fact that a man is burgling your house, an improper thing to do and about which you are entitled to feel very angry, does not justify you in sending your son round to his house to burn it down. In fact, that is what the noble and learned Lord, Lord McNair, said in a recent debate. He said that 996 Colonel Nasser had acted improperly and illegally, but that that in no way justified what the Government were doing then, which was to make a show of force in the Near East. Then I come to the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, who said that what we wanted on this side of the House was that we should always toe the line to the United States. That is entirely untrue.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords, I specifically said that I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, deny that that was the intention of the Opposition.
§ LORD PETHICK-LAWRENCE
When the noble Viscount comes to read his speech, I am convinced that he will find something which would justify my view that that was his opinion of our position. Of course it is nothing of the kind. What we do say is that what was actually done to President Eisenhower and the State Department was a perfect insult. While Mr. Selwyn Lloyd was actually in consultation with the American Ambassador, not a word was breathed to him of the intention of putting forward the ultimatum which was issued within a few hours of that consultation. The feeble and impossible excuse was made that there was no time to inform, let alone consult, the United States. I think that that was an affront which the American people have a perfect right to resent, and it is not surprising that some of them resented it very bitterly. That is not to say that we have got to be the "Yes men" of the United States—the phrase the noble Viscount used. He said that we on this side wanted the Government to be "Yes men" to the United States. We want nothing of the kind. There have been many occasions on which my Party and I have disagreed with the actions which the Americans have taken, but that is not for one moment to suggest that the Government did right in not even mentioning to the Ambassador, when they were in consultation with him, such an important fact as the proposed ultimatum to Egypt.
I want to leave the more directly controversial issue with regard to the past and come to another aspect of the question—that is, not whether the Government were right or wrong but what are the consequences of the action that was taken. These consequences are 997 many, but I am not going to deal tonight with all of them; many of them have already been fully dealt with from this side of the House, I want to take only one or two of the consequences which seem to me important at the present time. The first is the cost of what has been done. I will begin with the purely material side. It was stated in another place by members of the Government that the actual direct cost of the operations will be something in the neighbourhood of £50 million.
To that we have to add the loss of the oil profit from the blocking of the Canal, which I think may be taken to be not far short of a further £50 million. Then there is the loss of dollars we are going to suffer, which will be a considerable figure. Finally, there is the loss of potential production owing to the shortage of oil. There is no doubt whatever that all those factors, taken together, will run well into nine figures, but how far into nine figures it is much too early to say. It will certainly be well into hundreds of millions of pounds, but how many hundreds of millions I should not like to prophesy.
In the second place, apart from the direct monetary loss in that way, there is the loss of our credit and financial confidence. Sterling has been dragging along in the exchange near the bottom of its gold point, and forward sterling has gone well down. The Chancellor of the Exchequer recognises that, quite frankly, and he has proposed and taken certain steps to try to restore the confidence. Personally, I am not so sure that the steps he has taken are sound steps. He has borrowed money from the International Monetary Fund; he is going hat in hand to the United States of America to say that we are so poor that we must get a waiver of the interest that we should pay to them year by year. And he is doing that at a time when a large part of the Government Party have put forward a Resolution which, in effect, is a vote of censure on the United States of America. Ft is one thing to take such an attitude when you are standing on your own feet, but if you are going to a man to ask him for money, it seems to me an odd time to curse him for his disagreement with yourself on fundamental matters of policy. We shall see what the result will be.
998 But beyond the loss of financial confidence, there is the loss of confidence in. a wider sense that has resulted owing to this action. I say that for this reason: that because the British Government have acted as they have done with regard, first of all, to the Commonwealth and then to the United States of America, in being something very much other than frank, the parties concerned never know when some future British Government may behave in the same way again. I had a good deal to do with India in the course of my political life, and I found that every single man in India who took a prominent part in opposing British rule in India had started off in that attitude because of some insult that some bad-mannered Englishman had shown to him. I never found a single case where that was not the beginning of the trouble. The man never knew, when he met an Englishman, that he would not be treated in the insulting way in which one Englishman had treated him, perhaps years earlier. That is the position in which we are putting members of the Commonwealth and the United States of America: in consequence of the action of the Government in this affair, they will never know that they are not going to be subjected to similar treatment in future. It is that sort of confidence which I think is a serious thing to lose, and much more important than the mere financial cost to which I have already referred.
How long will it be before the United Nations forgives us for having used the Veto in the Security Council? I should like to ask the Government what they really think of members of their own Party—we have had illustrations here tonight—who definitely state that they regret our position in the United Nations; who think that the United Nations ought to disappear. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, Who is looking so anxious about that matter, was, happily, absent when the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, definitely said that he wished we had no connection with the United Nations; that he thought it was a bad body, and that the sooner we were out of it the better. I hope that before this debate is over a representative of the Government—perhaps it will be the noble Earl, Lord Home, who I see sitting in his place, and who I understand is to wind up—will 999 repudiate these anti-United Nations sentiments that have been expressed by some noble Lords sitting on the Benches opposite.
§ LORD PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I think it hardly sufficient. I will go further and say that I am quite aware that the noble Marquess and I noted it with great interest—said, in defence of the policy of the Government, that he would not have supported the action of any Government if they had not ceased fire when they were instructed to do so by the United Nations. But that is not what has been said by many noble Lords who have stated that they are going into the Lobby tomorrow evening in support of the Government, and have stated, at the same time, that they thoroughly disapprove of the action of coming out and disapprove of the United Nations. The noble Marquess will have the opportunity of reading some of those speeches, and particularly that of the noble Lord who preceded me. I do not wish to pursue that point further.
The next thing I want to say is with regard to this cost, the financial cost and the cost in lack of confidence in the world. That is a tremendous price that has to be paid as a consequence of the actions that have been taken in Suez. We recognise that we who have been utterly opposed to this policy, as members of this great country that we love, shall have to take our share in paying the price. We do not resent that. As members of this country, we realise that we have to pay our share of any price exacted from us. And when it comes to asking us to combine with the Government in the future, we say. "Yes"; that 1000 we will fight to support sterling; we will fight to recover the confidence of the world; we will fight on the side of the Government—provided that they repudiate the kind of attitude that they took in failing to consult with the United States, and in failing to unite with the United Nations.
I do not want the Government spokesman to get up and say they are sorry for the things they have done: I want them to say that they will not do them again. If they do not say that, then, clearly, the kind of support that will be given from this side of the House to the foreign policy of the Government will be totally different from what it has been in the years gone by. I do not say that, even so, we will not do our utmost to support sterling. We will. But it was said in another place, and I repeat it here, that we cannot have anything approaching an all-Party policy with regard to foreign affairs unless the Government are prepared at least to say that our consultation with the Commonwealth and with the United States, and our attitude toward the United Nations, will be such as has been hitherto, the settled policy of this country.
There is only one thing more I wish to say, and that I address particularly to that rebel group, the Suez group, in both Houses of Parliament, who want us to do the kind of thing to which even the Government are opposed. They really are living fifty years ago. They think that we can do today what was considered right fifty, sixty or seventy years ago. The noble and learned Lord, Lord McNair, when he was speaking in an earlier debate on Suez, said that the kind of things that are talked about were the recognised method of dealing with affairs sixty or seventy years ago, but they cannot be done today. That seems to me to be undeniable. This country was a great country in years gone by. It was great because it ruled the sea, and it gave us the Pax Britannica: it possessed a wonderful power to keep the peace throughout the world.
This country can be great today, but not by the same means by which it was great in days gone by. We have not the physical power. Our Navy, Army and Air Force are not capable of preserving the peace of the world by dictating to the other Powers. This country can be 1001 great today because of our wisdom, our judgment and our understanding of the laws that bind men and women together, and have made the nations in the past great nations. But the members of the Conservative Party who are asking us to go back to the policy and the methods of fifty or sixty years ago are crying for a world that has gone. It is impossible to have the sovereignty of a single country at the present time. We shall have to yield our sovereignty, and it is only if this country recognises the facts of life as they are today that we can be so great, in our own way, through our Commonwealth and through our relations with other nations of the world, that we can ever hope once again to take the place on the pedestal which we once occupied.
§ 11.3 p.m.
My Lords, it falls to my rather unenviable duty to be the last speaker to-night in a very long debate, which is all the more regrettable because the noble Lord who has just sat down has trailed an economic coat in front of my feet which T should dearly have loved to step on if the time had not been so late and if the subject matter of the debate had been our economic situation, which it is not. Indeed, the noble Lord, with whom I have crossed so many friendly swords in the past, and with whom I find myself usually so much in agreement, obviously tried, either from me or hereafter, to provoke some comment on the economic situation in which we find ourselves as a result of what has happened in the last six weeks. But the debate has already ranged over so many fields that have nothing to do with the Resolution moved by the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, that I will refrain from the temptation.
We have discussed China, Hungary, West European arrangements and, finally, our own economic situation in the course of two or three speeches. But the subject matter of this debate is the Motion moved by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury:That this House supports the policy of Her Majesty's Government as outlined by the Foreign Secretary on 3rd December"—and then there follow three points—which has prevented hostilities in the Middle East from spreading, has resulted in a United Nations Force being introduced into the area, 1002 and has created conditions under which progress can be made towards the peaceful settlement of outstanding issues.In the very few minutes that are left to me, I should like to address myself to the Resolution.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, at the beginning of this debate, expressed doubt about whether our intervention in the Middle East had in fact resulted in the limitation of hostilities. Other speakers have expressed the same doubt. I myself believe that our intervention in the Canal Zone and in Sinai did in fact stop the spread of hostilities. I have as evidence to produce before your Lordships a statement made by the Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Army who ought to know what he is talking about in this context. On November 30 he made a broadcast, of which I propose to read certain extracts because it seems to answer the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and many other speakers on that subject. The commander is MajorGeneral Al Hakim Amir. He said:During the year 1956 Egypt became bound by military agreements with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan, the Yemeni Kingdom and the Syrian Republic. ….I shall not read every sentence, although I can, if your Lordships wish, but I do not think it is relevant, and it is rather late. He wont on:When the Israeli aggression opened against Egypt on the evening of October 29. in my capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the joint Arab forces, I issued instructions to put into effect the plans prepared to meet this treacherous aggression. On the evening of October 30, Syrian armoured units began to move from their concentration points to areas allocated for their operations within the territory of the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan. The Saudi forces were assigned to move to the Jordanian-Israeli front to undertake a joint operation with the Arab Jordanian army and the National Guard.You will note. my Lords, that no reference is made to any Yemeni forces or, indeed, to the Lebanon or Iraq, two other members of the so-called Arab League, to which I will come in a moment.
He went on:The nature of these movements required that they should he accomplished in complete secrecy and that the operations should begin as soon as the common enemy exhausted his military potentials in his attack on Egypt.In other words, when the Israeli forces had been defeated in Sinai by the Egyptian troops, further operations on the 1003 Israeli border should begin by other members of the Arab League. He went on:… After the Anglo-French ultimatum to Egypt on October 30 … the Egyptian Government decided not to involve the Arab States in military operations, … Orders were therefore issued to the commands of the joint forces to avoid taking part in substantial military operations.There then follow two other sentences about the battle against imperialism not yet being ended, and so on. The Commander-in-Chief of the Arab Forces, as he so describes himself, should presumably know what he is talking about when he says that as a result of the Anglo-French ultimatum he countermanded the operations which had been launched.
I would conclude from that that the first point in the Resolution moved by the Government can be substantiated from Egyptian sources. The second point is that a United Nations Force has been introduced into the area. I personally am glad the United Nations Force has been introduced into the area. I am delighted that the United Nations has taken positive action and not confined its activities to resolutions, as in so many other cases, and I share with the noble Lord who has just sat down his views about what the United Nations could do and ought to do. I shall, nevertheless, go into the Lobby in support of the Resolution, because I am glad that, as the Resolution says. United Nations Forces have been introduced into the area. If one is sceptical about the results that may produce, that is a matter of personal opinion, but it is, nevertheless, a good thing, to use a colloquialism, that they should be there at this moment.
The third point in the Resolution is perhaps a little more difficult to deal with in a few words. It is that the policy of the Government has created conditions under which progress can be made towards a peaceful settlement of outstanding issues. Two points here are, I think, involved, and I am afraid I must touch on both of them. The first point deals with the Arab Group. It has been customary to speak about the Arab Group and the Arab League, and of all Colonel Nasser has been trying to do to unite them, as if they were a group of Arab States. A more correct description of that Group would be that they are 1004 a group of Arabic-speaking States, which is by no means the same thing as a group of Arab States.
In the first place, there are many Arabs—and here I mean Arabs—'who do not consider that the Egyptians are Arabs but that they are Egyptians. They are, nevertheless, Arabic-speaking. There are, further, many people who have assumed, as Colonel Nasser wished them to assume, that the people who inhabit North Africa north of the Sahara as far as the Atlantic, are Arab States. They are, of course, for the most part, as some of your Lordships will well know, nothing of the sort; they are Arabic-speaking Berbers who were there a long time before the Arabs got there and, in many cases, still speak their own tongue as well as Arabic. In many cases they do not like the Egyptians any more than certain other Arabic-speaking people, such as those in the Sudan, like the Egyptians. The same might be said to be true of many inhabitants of the Lebanon and elsewhere.
The Arabic-speaking group, over which it is clear that Colonel Nasser has many ambitions, is a dream. It is a dream because it is not coherent. It has shown its lack of coherence by the lack of support that Egypt has had in the, happily, very short fighting which took place. The talk is of a unification of the Arabic-speaking people who in certain respects extend right up into Persia and from Persia to the Atlantic and from the Mediterranean into Central Africa. It is a dream which, as many of your Lordships will remember, at the end of the First World War certain politicians in Eastern Europe dreamt—a Pan Islamic movement. That was described by one who was possibly one of the greatest friends of the Arabs—and I mean the Arabs—that this country ever produced and whose comment on the Pan Islamic Movement was that it was the dream and the last word of a bankrupt politician when he had nothing else to talk about. That seems to be very much what has overtaken Colonel Nasser. In trying to achieve these ambitions it is. I agree, a matter of opinion how far he was supported and instigated by Russia, how far he asked for help. and how far help was thrust at him.
I do not think any of us can be dogmatic about it, and that is why I would 1005 not wish to be dogmatic on what is called the Russian plot. I agree there are several opinions that can be held about it. What seems now obviously to have happened is that, whether or not Colonel Nasser overran his finances or his means, he accepted help. Whether he asked for it, or whether it was proffered, I do not know, but he had forgotten the old adage that gifts can sometimes compromise the taker, and as he took he took more, and he was given more until he finally got his fingers so pinched in the Russian door that he could not get them out without losing his fingernails. Hence the trouble he has brought his country into, a trouble and tragedy that I frankly feel very much. I have been concerned with Egypt and Egyptian affairs since, I understand, the age of two weeks. I have not any clear recollection of that moment, but I understand that that is the first time I went and drank the waters of the Nile. I am resentful that people who fundamentally were, and I believe are, friendly to this country, should be so badly led and be put into a position in which they: have become a byword of odium and dislike and all too frequently contempt, which they k not deserve but which their leaders do. That is the situation which I believe should be more widely known and it is certainly one that I believe is not known in America as it should be.
The first point is that Nasser's dream of the unification of the Arabic-speaking world has evaporated with a headache after a rather "thick" night. The second point is a much more serious one: namely, that our of this has arisen a most tragic misunderstanding between the United States and ourselves. For the last thirty years, I have been intimately concerned with America and American things. I go to America frequently, and I like it. I have the greatest possible admiration for Americans' integrity of thought—not always: heir knowledge, but their integrity of thought—for their generosity, and for their desire to help and do good things for other people. Very often they do them clumsily; nevertheless, the desire is there. I bitterly regret that the situation in which we now find ourselves has led them to think evilly of us and us to think evilly of them. I agree with what the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, said and, in that context, with what the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, said. It is idle to conceal from our American 1006 friends today that people in this country, in all walks of life, and whether or not they agree with the policy of Her Majesty's Government, feel bitterly hurt at the treatment which they conceive we have had at the hands of the United States.
I do not believe that that treatment would have the whole support of the United States, by any manner of means, any more than I believe that the whole of this country is opposed to the policy of Her Majesty's Government, as so many people have tried to tell America. Public opinion is very difficult to gauge, even in the country in which one lives oneself; it is much more difficult to gauge in a country in which one is not living. I do not know what the majority of people in this country think. I believe—I do not know—that the majority of people in America are still friendlily disposed to us, but puzzled. I believe that a great deal of the antagonism, annoyance and exasperation which has caused the hurts which undoubtedly exist on both sides is to a large extent the product of personal feelings of pique amongst certain people, the feeling that they may not have been a success, that they may not have been understood.
I suppose that in the last month I have been as angry, as annoyed, about what the United States Government is believed to have done as anybody in this country; and yet I am convinced that the only hope for Western civilisation, for ourselves and for the United States, is that this Anglo-American alliance should be rebuilt. That does net mean that the cracks which have taken place, the fissures which have appeared, can be patched up with soft soap and plaster. They have to be recognised to be mended. The Americans must know that we are hurt, profoundly hurt, and that charity is no balm for a deep-seated and painful wound. When that is recognised, and that element of pique and of annoyance which has undoubtedly permeated and poisoned the atmosphere among people in public life, official life, Parliamentary life and elsewhere, can he overcome, let those who can forget do the rebuilding, and let those who cannot forget keep out of politics, keep out of publicity and keep their mouths shut. The rest of us will spend our time rebuilding that wall which is the bulwark upon 1007 which the whole of the safety of Western civilisation and freedom must depend.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Henderson, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Earl of Lucan.)
§ On Question. Motion agreed to and debate adjourned accordingly.
§ House adjourned at twenty-four minutes past eleven o'clock.