§ 12.6 p.m.
Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by Lord Birdwood, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
LORD HENDERSON rose to move, as an Amendment to the Motion for an humble Address, to add the following words:
but, in view of the grave international situation, and of the divisions of opinion in the Commonwealth regarding Your Majesty's Government's policy in Egypt, call upon Your
Majesty's Government to convene immediately a conference of the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth, in order to arrive at an agreed policy in support of the authority of the United Nations.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Amendment to the humble Address. It is, of course, very unusual in your Lordships' House to have an Amendment moved to the humble Address, but we are dealing with exceptional circumstances. We had a discussion last week on the Middle East situation. We made our position of strong opposition to the Government's policy of armed intervention in the Middle East unmistakably clear. I do not want to restate our case in detail today. I can put our position in a summary form, without repeating the arguments. We have been opposed to the action of the Government from the beginning, because, in our judgment, it was illegal, contrary to the principles of the United Nations Charter, politically disastrous, and also because it involved this country in a rejection of the authority of the United Nations.
§ The noble Marquess the Leader of the House, in his speech on September 12, said that we must support respect for international engagements. I fully agree with those words, but we do not support and strengthen respect in this sphere of international life by violating our own engagements. No nation has the right to take the law into its own hands and to constitute itself, by independent decision, an international policeman. The situation has become more hopeful in recent days. Hostilities have ceased and a general cease-fire is in operation. From now on, the responsibility for handling matters will be exclusively in the hands of the United Nations.
§ These important developments are welcomed with profound relief and satisfaction. But what next? There must be a speedy introduction into Egypt of an International Police Force competent to take charge of the situation by securing and supervising the cessation of hostilities. That International Force is now being organised. Many of the Member States have offered to contribute to it. It will be composed of national contingents, under the command of Major-General Burns, acting under the authority 121 and control of the United Nations. But none of the permanent members of the Security Council is to have a contingent in the International Police Force. We regard that as a correct decision. I hope that this country is not insisting on contributions from the permanent members.
§ It seemed, from a statement made this week by the Foreign Secretary in another place, that our acceptance of the plan would be conditional on our making a contribution. There should be now no question of our continuing to press for that. Were we to do so, we may be sure that Russia would make a similar demand. A British contingent is not essential; neither is a Russian contingent, which would, moreover, be particularly undesirable, not only on broad political grounds but also in the light of the murderous repression conducted by Soviet armed forces in Hungary. What is vitally important is that there should be no delay in getting the International Police Force actually on the ground in Egypt. There will be uneasiness and 'uncertainty until it gets there, and everything should be done by 'Her Majesty's Government to assist in making that possible.
§ The General Assembly has again called upon Britain, France and Israel to withdraw their armed forces from Egyptian territory without delay. We should like to know from the Government—this is a matter of importance, and I hope the noble Marquess will take note of it that they intend to act as requested by the United Nations. There does not seem to be any practical reason to justify our staying on, since it would take some time to complete the evacuation, and before then the International Police Force, or at any rate an important part of it, should have taken up position. There is a further reason why we should accept. If the British Government refuse, it may encourage Mr. Ben-Gurion to persist in his refusal to withdraw from the Sinai peninsula. Mr. Ben-Gurion's stiff attitude could endanger the whole position, and we ought not to provide him with any excuse foil- refusing to obey the call of the United Nations. What the British and French Governments should do is to bring very strong pressure to bear upon Mr. Ben-Gurion to persuade him not to defy the authority of the General Assembly's latest resolution.122
§ My Lords, our basic position is that we want finally closed the unhappy chapter of forcible action by Britain in disregard of t le demands of the United Nations. W want to open a new chapter in whist our country will be found resuming her old rôle as a vital force for peace in the councils and agencies of the United Nations. That is what the nation wants and expects, and will insist on having, from whatever Government may be in power. This we regard as essential to the recovery my of our national unity. I do not know whether that is the Government's intention. The gracious Speech makes no specific reference to the United Nations. This is the first occasion since the end of the war that that is so. One wonders whether the Government, in the light of what has been happening, found it embarrassing to reaffirm, as they did last year, their belief that the United Nations is essential to the furtherance of international concord and their declaration that thee would give it their "wholehearted support."
§ We on these Benches believe that the sooner a start is made in restoring the shattered confidence in Britain's loyalty to the principles of the United Nations and in our support of the authority of the United nations, the better it will be for us and for world peace. The Amendment calls: Mention to the divisions of opinion which the Government's action has product and calls upon the Government to convene immediately a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers, in order to arrive at an agreed policy in support of the authority of the United Nations. That is a constructive proposal and it needs to be treated as a matter of urgency.
Every noble Lord must be aware of the grave divisions that have been caused. A great deal of evidence was given in the course our debate last week, and I do not intend to repeat it today. I need mention only one new statement which was made by the Canadian Prime Minister, in a televised broadcast to the Canadian people on Sunday evening. He said that the present crisis in the Middle East had
strained bosh the Western alliance and the bonds of the Commonwealth more than any event since the Second World War.
Though Canada recognised the vital importance of the Suez Canal to the
economic life and international responsibilities of the United Kingdom and France
we could not but regret also that at a time when the Security Council was seized of the matter the United Kingdom and France felt it necessary to intervene with force on their own responsibility.
Noble Lords will also have read statements from Asian members of the Commonwealth—and these have been far more outspoken.
§ While the Governments of Australia and New Zealand have ranged themselves with Her Majesty's Government in this country, there is, as here, a strong Parliamentary and public opposition to their stand. My Lords, immense damage has been done to Commonwealth unity and we must all deplore it. It will take time, perhaps a long time, to mend this damage and to heal the divisions, but we consider that immediate efforts should be made to restore unity, mutual confidence and effective co-operation; and in our opinion the best basis for it is an agreed policy in support of the authority of the United Nations. The means to try to achieve that agreement lies, we suggest, through a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. That is the proposal in our Amendment. As I have said, it is a constructive Amendment and one which Her Majesty's Government and the whole House should welcome and find themselves able to support.
§ Clearly, there are lessons to be learned from the Middle East dangers which have confronted us, just as there were lessons to be learned from the Korean war. Those lessons have to be turned to practical account. I believe I am right in saying that the question of revision of the Charter in the light of experience could be considered after ten years. That period ended last year. but the Revision Conference has yet to be held. When it does take place, an opportunity will be provided to face up to the lessons of experience. As noble Lords know, there has long been talk about the need to put some "teeth" into the Charter and to provide the United Nations with a permanent International Police Force. There is a growing acceptance of this idea. The ad hoc formation of the proposed body of national contingents to deal with the present situation emphasises the importance of facing up to the need for Charter 124 revision, so that the United Nations may be equipped to deal with such sudden emergencies in the future. That is a matter to which Her Majesty's Government and Parliament should address themselves as soon as the present crisis is over.
§ I want to finish with a word about Hungary. The rest of the world has been compelled virtually to stand impotent while Soviet Russia has been engaged in its most brutal repression of Hungarian freedom and her heroic defenders. There has taken place behind what has been an almost impenetrable iron curtain of secrecy one of the world's epic struggles for national independence and personal freedom. It was a nationwide movement by practically all sections of the Hungarian people, including the Army, to escape from under the iron heel of Soviet Russia and to live their own life according to their own choice, just as we ourselves do. This national revolution was sparked into a white-hot flame of national patriotism by the successful bid of Poland to achieve greater freedom and independence from Moscow. The Polish struggle was more in the nature of a Tito secession, without any break from the Soviet military alliance, but in Hungary the patriotic movement was not only seeking independence from Moscow and the withdrawal of all Soviet armed forces; it was struggling for internal freedom, with free elections on a multiparty basis and neutrality on the lines of Austrian neutrality. It wanted to be outside all military alliances.
§ Under Prime Minister Nagy the movement made dramatic progress, and an important step was taken when an all-Party Government was formed. Noble Lords are aware that negotiations were opened with the Russians. It is obvious that the opening of discussions was designed by the Russians as a time-wasting manœuvre while they massed their armed forces for an all-out attack. That attack has been proceeding since Sunday and has been carried on with a weight of modern military strength beyond anything ever used to crush the struggle for freedom in a small country. The Soviet Union has defied the United Nations' call to withdraw, and instead has plunged Hungary into a blood bath. It is a monstrous event which has horrified the rest of the world. It is not yet ended, 125 and the slaughter and damage inflicted by the Russians must be immense. The United Nations has again called upon Russia to desist from further armed interference and to withdraw from Hungary.
§ It is when one realises the full extent of the iniquity of Soviet action in Hungary that one feels revolted at Russia's pretence to be playing the role of peace and of a defender of small nations in the Middle East. Russia's satellite empire is cracking, and while it may be held together by sheer brute force nothing can hide the fact that neither Communist control nor Communist armed might can extinguish the spirit of freedom among the captive nations. The tragedy is that there does not appear to be any effective action that the United Nations can take, because the Soviet Union will either veto its recommendations or defy its authority. Nevertheless, the General Assembly should press on with the proposal to have observers sent to Hungary to investigate the situation.
§ It would seem that the world is to face another season of bitter cold war. We welcome the action taken by Her Majesty's Government in sending speedy relief through the International Red Cross. We are also very gratified at the decision to give a haven to 2,500 of the unfortunate refugees from Hungary. But much non, is needed. This is a matter which calk; for the special attention, at once, of the General Assembly, in order that they may mobilise and canalise the practical assistance in a variety of forms for the relief of Hungary and its refugees. In particular, financial and other resources should he made available without delay to Austria. which is carrying a very heavy burden and over-taxing its capacity in performing its good-neighbourly and humanitarian duty.
§ I return to the Amendment which I rose to move at the beginning of my speech. I now beg to move.
Amendment moved, al: the end of the proposed Address, to add:
but, in view of the grave international situation, and of the divisions of opinion in the Commonwealth regarding Your Majesty's Government's policy in Egypt, call upon Your Majesty's Government to convene immediately a conference of the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth, in
order to arive at an agreed policy in support of the authority of the United Nations."—(Lord Henderson.)
§ 12.29 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, as your Lordships know. contrary to our usual custom in this House we have decided this year no to have a general debate throughout the whole of our discussions on the gracious Speech, but to devote one a day entirely to international affairs. I hope your Lordships w ill agree that that is wise; for though I do not agree with everything noble Lord, Lord Henderson. I do agree that events in this particular sphere are at the present time of exceptional gravity and urgency. That, of course, is important to all of us, for it is only if the situation in the outside world stable and secure that our own situation here in this country can be stable and secure, too.
The Amendment which the noble Lord has moved s, as I am sure he would agree, of a fairly limited character. But I understand that noble Lords opposite would like the debate to range over the whole sphere of international affairs, or at any rate those parts of the world which are at preset t of the greatest importance to us all, and I shall proceed, if I may, on that basis. I should like to begin straight away, with the Middle East. My Lords, when I was first thinking of what I should say to your Lordships on the present occasion, the situation was different in some respects from what it is this morning. At that time Her Majesty's Government were still engaged in active operations—operations of which I know the Party of noble Lords opposite did not approve—and the Opposition, as they were perfect y entitled to do, gave strong indications at that time that on the main course of action of the Government they were in powerful disagreement with us.
Now, my Lords, the purposes for which the Franco-British police action were instituted—that is, to bring to an end the war between Israel and Egypt and to prevent that war from spreading into wider areas—has been completed: and, as the House knows Her, Majesty's Government have made a communication to the Secretary-General of the United Nations saying that they are prepared to agree to a ceasefire, and that cease-fire, as your Lordships 127 know, is, in fact, already in force. I take it, therefore, that even if we are not at one about the past, there may at any rate be a measure of general harmony about some, at least, of the latest actions of Her Majesty's Government.
At the same time, new events have occurred of very considerable importance, and I think that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, was evidently quite right in thinking that this new turn of events does not make it less desirable that we should have some discussion of the Middle East in this House. For one thing, we must not assume that we are through all our troubles in that troubled area yet. Apart from difficulties which are still being experienced with both Israel and Egypt over the immediate situation, and apart altogether from the new and menacing attitude of Soviet Russia, it is not in any case going to be easy, either for the United Nations or for anybody else, to work out a basis of enduring peace in that area.
And I believe that the reason is that this trouble between Egypt and Israel. which has been simmering so long and has now burst out into flame, arises from no mere local territorial dispute between neighbouring states, such as history has often recorded in the past. It springs, I believe, from causes both far more fundamental and far more sinister. It is, indeed, just one manifestation of a cancer which is at present poisoning a large part of the world. It is of this, my Lords, that I propose to talk to the House to-day, and I hope as non-contentiously as I can manage, because I do not want to be contentious. And I am the more anxious to do so because, having been laid up for several weeks. I have had time to indulge in that rather rare luxury for a Minister: time to think about broad policy.
One of the things I have been trying to discover in my mind is what is the real cause of the present unrest which is so grievously affecting the world and, in particular, this part of the world. For, unless we can find out the cause we shall never find out the cure. As I lay in bed, I was driven to two conclusions, which I wrote down and of which I now make bold to speak to your Lordships. What has happened since, and especially in the last few days, has not made me in any way modify them.
First of all, I believe that what the Middle East is suffering from is an un- 128 healthy stimulated spirit of nationalism—in the case of Egypt, a nationalism which has been inflated into imperialism; and secondly, I believe, we must face the fact that this spirit is not a natural growth, but has been deliberately inculcated as an instrument of policy by the present rulers of Russia. Ever since the war, as we all know, the Russian Government—not because it believed particularly in freedom or independence, but because it had formed the view that to stimulate national movements in countries they did not control would be in the interests of Russia—has conducted a deliberate propaganda designed to make the peoples outside the Russian sphere more and more impatient of what are described by their propagandists as "foreign exploiters" and, in particular, "Western exploiters." We all know the jargon—we have heard it a hundred times—" Imperialism," "anti-colonialism." "exploiting nations" and so on.
They have preached this doctrine with assiduity and ingenuity throughout Asia and North Africa; and not without considerable success in some quarters. We had one good example in the speeches made during Marshal Bulganin's and Mr. Khrushchev's tour in India and Burma. And what they said openly has been whispered incessantly by Russian diplomats and agents in the ears of rulers and peoples from the Levant to Morocco. Everywhere, the fires of nationalism have been stoked up, and now we see the results. It is undoubtedly this propaganda, I think, which has been mainly responsible for inflaming Colonel Nasser's own ambitions and engendering in him the dream of an Arab-Egyptian Empire to stretch from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf, a new imperialism covering a portion of Asia and the whole of North Africa; and it is that dream which is mainly the source of our present troubles, for it was that dream which first threw him into violent opposition to us and all we stood for in the Middle East. These are, I think, matters which perhaps the British people have not even yet realized enough. I do not think it is always recognised in this country how violent. how virulent and how continuous Egyptian hostility to us has been in all these parts of the world. Day after day. week after week, the radio in Cairo and the Egyptian newspapers have poured 129 out a steady stream of poison designed to undermine our position in Aden, in the Persian Gulf and throughout all those oil-bearing areas which are so vital to our existence. That is the message which, incessant and malignant, has been blared out clay after day, night after night, wherever Arabs meet, interlarded with pictures of this great Arab Empire and adulatory praise of its leader. Crude propaganda you may say, my Lords; I have read a great deal of it. It is extremely crude, and I do not think it would appeal to many of your Lordships; but how effective with simple and untutored folk! That was the first phase.
With the taking over of the Suez Canal we came to a second phase. That action was, no doubt, intended partly as a spectacular gesture of strength on the part of Egypt. But it also gave to Egypt a status, as we all know, which would enable her to cut our lifeline from East to West whenever she wished, and I believe it to have been a definite part of what one may call the Russo-Egyptian plan. The third phase—and they have made no secret about this—was to be the obliteration of Israel. It is all part of the same great, grandiose scheme.
I do not think that this picture is a mere figment of my brain. It will be borne out. I am certain, by many with far greater knowledge of the Middle East than I have. That was one of the reasons why we and France a short time ago thought it so vital to try to arrange for the continuance of the international control of the Suez Canal: that, no doubt, is what above all goaded the Israeli Government to strike at Egypt before the dice were. too heavily loaded against them. They had tried again and again, as your Lordships know, to get justice from the United Nations, and they had failed. So they took the law into their own hands. You may say that they were wrong. Perhaps they were very wrong. But I cannot honestly say that I think they were entirely to blame. I thought that in his speech the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, was less than just to Israel in this particular matter.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, if the noble Marquess will allow me to intervene, may I say that I deliberately did not go over the ground which I 130 covered in the last debate. I think that if the noble Marquess will look at the report of the speech I made in the last debate he will find that I was careful to explain the position of Israel. I would not call the Israeli action unprovoked aggression. I think there never was a nation more provoked.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I am very sorry. I certainly diet not mean to misrepresent the noble Lord. who is always scrupulously fair. I was not present on the occasion of the previous debate when he spoke. But, at any rate, whether the Israelis were right of wrong there is no doubt that their action faced the world with a situation of extreme and urgent peril. Russian and Egyptian propaganda had done its work, and the whole Middle East was in a dangerously inflammable state. Once the conflagration started, no one could tell how far and how fast it would spread. If the Israeli invasion of Egypt continued, the whole Arab world was likely rapidly to be sucked in it. If police action had to be taken, it had to be taken immediately. There was no time for a debate at the United Nations or anywhere else. And we and France had every reason to take action, for, as we had explained during our earlier dispute with Egypt over the free passage of the Suez Canal, which is still unhappily unresolved, that Canal was a vital national and imperial interest for us.
Throughout that earlier debate, I think I can fairly maintain—even, perhaps, almost to the satisfaction of noble Lords opposite—that we had acted with strict propriety. Indeed, When I had a rather sharp passage with the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in the last debate in this House—if I was too hot I greatly regret it—his charge, as I understood him, was that we "had not gone fast enough." We had, he suggested, hung about too long over Article 33 of the Charter. We had been too slow in bringing the mater to the Security Council, under Article 37. I am not going to make any apology about this. If the framers of the Charter had meant member States always to go straight to the Security Council under Article 37, why was Article 33 included at all? It was included just because the Security Council was intended to be the last resort and not the first.
131 Moreover, I think it only fair to point out that when we did get to the Security Council, this panacea, which was so confidently recommended to us, did not turn out to be such a panacea at all. We went to the Security Council; we got an almost unanimous vote in our favour: and then we had any action vetoed by Russia. So I should like to put to the Opposition a question—I do not ask them to reply immediately, but I should like them to turn it over in their minds—is it their policy (I have never been certain about this myself) that all disputes should be referred to the Security Council?—with which I agree. though I do not rule out, as your Lordships know, certain prior action where immediate steps are vital. Or is it their policy that we should only take action approved by the Security Council? It is not the same thing. There is a very important difference. If, as I suspect, it is the latter—and I was confirmed in that view by what was said yesterday by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, who, I think, talked about the "permission" of the Security Council—then I think we must all, if we are honest, face the fact that in the present circumstances that means that the Western Powers can never take any action at all. For any resolution that proposes any positive action which is likely to be of any advantage to the free countries of the West is bound to be vetoed by Russia. That is the hard fact. and. if I may say so. I thought that the only weak point in the admirable speech which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, made this morning was that he seemed entirely to ignore that fact, so far as the present is concerned. He did say—and I was glad to hear it—that he was in favour (at least that is what I understood him to say) of a revision of the Charter in the future. But that can be only in a very uncertain future for, as he knows, an agreed revision of the Charter is going to be an extremely slow and difficult business. At present, I repeat. the United Nations are in no position to take action in circumstances such as I have described. That, to my mind. and I am sure to the minds of many other noble Lords, is much the most formidable fact in the present position. The only exception to the rule I have stated was the case of Korea, and in that case, as the House knows, positive action was approved by the United 132 Nations only because Russia had incautiously walked out of the Security Council. That is an error which she has never repeated. and I shrewdly suspect that she never will.
However, that dispute over Suez, important though it undoubtedly is, has been temporarily overlaid by another and a quite different dispute. as the noble and learned Earl. Lord Jowitt, rightly stressed yesterday—a far more urgent matter. I refer, of course, to the Israeli-Egyptian conflict and the action which we and France have felt compelled to take. And, as I see it. a solution of the earlier problem of the Suez Canal will have to wait upon the clarification of the present confused situation, though I trust that a solution of the Canal problem may be achieved along with the achievement of a general settlement in the Middle East, for which we all hope. Indeed, my main reason for mentioning this earlier dispute at all is that it has already been referred to—I think it was referred to in passing by the noble and learned Earl. Lord Jowitt, yesterday. Moreover, it has this relevance to the action which Her Majesty's Government and France have felt obliged to take with regard to the conflict between Egypt and Israel. As the House knows. the Government, rightly or wrongly, were driven to the conclusion that, as things are at present, there was absolutely no chance of such rapid or effective action by the United Nations as this particular occasion rendered necessary.
The Opposition have stressed on many occasions—I have no doubt that they did in the last debate at which I was unhappily unable to be present—that there should have been prior consultation with the United States. But one must recognise that on this particular problem there have been very different angles of approach between the two countries, and to a certain extent I am afraid that there are still differences of that kind. That, I think, is clear from a letter from an American which some of your Lordships may have read in The Times this morning. If we had consulted the United States, had time permitted of it, and lengthy exchanges had resulted. not only would vital time have been lost but very likely there would have been no Western policy at all in this emergency where immediate action was needed, or, at best, a policy of drift. And in my 133 view, it is just because the Western Powers have allowed things to drift so long in the Middle East that we have come to the present pass. Things could not be allowed to drift any longer without complete disaster.
In any case, I hardly think it is for noble Lords opposite to chide us so severely as they have done for "putting a strain on Anglo-American relations". I am not going back into the past, but I can call to mind a few years ago another issue on which the Government of the day took strong action against what they knew to be the convinced American view, and I remember that at that time I made the strongest appeals to the Government to alter their attitude, and got very little change out of them. If I may say so, I think it is very gratifying that they should have changed their view on this matter so much as they have done.
Then I am told that we have divided the Commonwealth. That was said by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, just now. But I am afraid that if we had to wait for unanimous agreement between the members of the Commonwealth on every occasion and on every issue, we should be very unlikely ever to take any action at all. It is indeed a virtue of the extremely elastic relationship which exists between members of the Commonwealth that, though broadly speaking—and this is vital, of course—we do represent a common point of view, we can afford to disagree on this or that issue. I should like to remind the House, for instance, that India, at the time of the earlier Suez problem of a few weeks ago, did not find itself even in agreement with the Eighteen Power proposals, which were approved by the vast majority of the Security Council. I am not complaining of that. India is entitled to her view just as much as we are; I only point to it as an instance of how difficult unanimity is in practice, though it may appear so easy in theory. Actually, I should be ready to wager that if our action should lead, as I believe it now will lead, to the stationing of a United Nations force on the Canal—and nothing else would have brought it about—most of the members of the Commonwealth would be profoundly glad. The specific proposal made in the Opposition Amendment for an immediate meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers I am 134 going to leave to my noble friend the Commonwealth Secretary, who is to intervene later. He will, he tells me, come in for a few minutes at the end of the debate.
Finally, we are always being told that the steps we have taken are a great gamble. I have heard that phrase used again and again. But, my Lords, all foreign policy is to some extent a gamble—I am stile that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, would agree with that statement—yet I believe that it was much less of a gamble for us to take a bold line now than to let the situation slide right away, as was the alternative. That would have been contrary to all our national and imperial interests. Indeed, if the result has been to stimulate the United Nations to take positive action to bring about peace in this part of the world, I believe that we shall have performed a police action of inestimable value, from which the whole world will benefit.
We all welcome, I know, the news that a cease-fire has been finally agreed (and signed) on both sides. But, clearly, a truce by itself, and that is what a ceasefire really is, is not enough. After all. there was a truce in existence over the whole period before this last Israeli-Egyptian war; yet, as we all know, that did not prevent incessant attacks by Egyptians en Israelis and by Israelis on Egyptians, which led up to the recent conflict. What is needed, clearly, until a solid peace is signed, is some international force interposed between the conflicting parties. That is the purpose and function for which British and French troops were landed. I am very glad to see—and here we shall all be at one—that the United Nations have come to the same conclusion and now have voted firmly in favour of an International Force. On behalf of the Government, may I say that the sooner that Force arrives the better we shall be pleased. I would add that it does not seem to me to matter very much whether the Great Powers form part of that Force or not; tilt important thing is not the composition of the Force but the functions of the Force. In the meantime, we must continue to stay where we are. Nothing that has happened since will alter our decision about that. As soon as the United Nations Force is ready to arrive, and as soon as it moves in, we shall be ready to give place to it. But to leave the country before that would only lead, 135 I am afraid, to renewed troubles and difficulties.
Now, my Lords, I should like to turn to another not so distant area of the world, where the smouldering embers of nationalism have equally flared into flame. On this matter, at any rate. I am happy to find myself in absolutely complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson. Of course, I refer to Eastern Europe and especially to Poland and Hungary. There the spirit of nationalism has taken the form of a struggle of free peoples against a despotic imperialism. In Poland, I gather, where apparently a pre-arranged plan was in existence and alternative leaders seem to have been ready to take over, the change towards greater independence seems to have proceeded quietly and smoothly, and success has, we may hope, been achieved without bloodshed. In Hungary, where unhappily all the alternative leaders (at least according to my own information) had already been ruthlessly liquidated during the Russian occupation, the revolt was without direction and for that reason the transition was far more violent and was marked, as we know, by shocking barbarities on the part of the Russian occupying troops. There can be none of us in any part of your Lordships' House who has not viewed this heroic struggle of the freedom-loving Hungarian people against oppression without a mingled sense of horror and profound admiration.
Sometimes we complain, even in this country. of the increasing intrusions of the State in the life of the individual citizen: and of course, it is quite right that we should ail be vigilant about this. But, broadly speaking, the air we breathe is still very much the air of freedom, and I am sure that it is the firm resolve of all of us that that shall long continue to be the case. Therefore, for us to see a nation, which merely asks for the restoration of those free institutions which for so many centuries we have enjoyed, bludgeoned and tortured by a great Power that has lately posed, and indeed is still posing, as the main champion of anti-imperialism, is a shocking and revealing spectacle, which I am sure will have a profound effect everywhere.
What influence these events will have on the future of Europe I am afraid it 136 is far too soon yet to say. But two comments I think I may fairly already make. I should like to think that what has happened in Poland, at any rate, will go some way to dissipate the rigid barrier between East and West which was set up by Russia after the Great War. That would be an immeasurable step forward towards more normal times. Secondly—and this is a more general but, I believe, an equally important reflection—I believe we may now accept as an established fact how indestructible is the instinct of freedom in the minds of men. I think the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, said that, too.
That had always been accepted in the past; but, lately, my Lords, in the minds of many people, doubts had arisen. The efficiency of the Communist machine, the complete obliteration not only of all political Parties but of all personal opinions but Communist, had led to a fear that the instinct for freedom had been entirely stamped out in Eastern Europe and that human men and women had been turned into mere robots. Some of your Lordships will have read a terrible book on that theme by George Orwell. But now I think it is clear, and, I hope. clear for ever, that the pure flame of freedom may be trampled on, but it cannot be stamped out; and, given the necessary conditions, it will always burn again as brightly as ever. That I believe to be a fundamental fact which is deeply encouraging, and it may well prove of far greater importance even than those transient events that I have been discussing earlier, however important they may seem to us at present, and however much they may fill our minds.
Now, in conclusion—and I am sorry to have kept your Lordships so long—I should like to return for a moment to the fundamentals of foreign policy, and to recall to your Lordships some words spoken in this House 140 years ago by Lord Liverpool and, I believe, relevant to our present situation. We do not hear much about Lord Liverpool nowadays, but he was Prime Minister of this country over a long and difficult period of our history. He was a statesman of ripe experience, and this is what he said:The greatest principle of all government, in its domestic or foreign relations, is self-defence, either against direct attack, or against probable or premeditated danger. … Certainly it is to be allowed that in common places the internal concerns of a particular nation ought 137 not to be meddled with by another nation; but if these concerns affect the very existence of other nations, then it becomes a duty to interfere, for the same reasons which justify the interference of a third power between the quarrels of two contending countries. If a house is in flames, does either morality or law require that a man shall wait till his own house catches the conflagration, instead of rushing forward at once to extinguish the danger?That is what Lord Liverpool said in this House. I believe that those are wise words, and that, whatever other changes there have been in our international machinery, they are as relevant now as they were then. They enshrine a profound truth: a truth which has had to be faced on this particular occasion by body Her Majesty's Government and by the Government of France. That, is precisely the reason why we have done what we have done in these last few weeks. I am deeply convinced. if I may say so with all deference, that our actions will be justified—and amply justified—when the history of these times comes to be written; and I can only pray that our American friends and Allies, who; Are as vital to our existence, as I believe we are to theirs, will be found standing at our side, as so often before in times of extreme peril, if not now, at any rate before it is too late.
§ House adjourned during pleasure, and resumed by The LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ 1.5 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF HALIFAX
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has placed the House under a considerable debt of gratitude to himself, not only by reason of the way in which he introduced this Amendment but also for the part his speech played in eliciting from my noble friend the Leader of the House the speech to which we have just listened. On such an occasion as this the Houses of Parliament always have a double function to discharge. In part, they can use the opportunity for a review of the past, And for an expression of their judgment upon the manner in which Her Majesty's Government may have conducted their policy; and it is also the privilege of Parliament to offer such advice as it may deem appropriate to Her Majesty's Government about what should be their conduct in the future. With your Lordships' permission, I should like to offer a few observations on both of those 138 lines, the second being, obviously, much more difficult than the first.,
I have no doubt that it is true, as my noble friend Lord Salisbury said, that many of your Lordships will feel more free to discuss the affairs of the past to-day, when we are in the presence of conditions of somewhat greater outward calm. Many of us in these past days have certainly felt difficulty in forming what we could assure ourselves was a sound judgment, having regard to the limited knowledge available to the ordinary Member of your Lordships' House of the background against which Her Majesty's Government had been obliged to act. I think that not the least valuable part of the speech to which we have just listened from the noble Marquess has been the indication that he gave, not perhaps even yet complete, of the background of thought against which all the decisions and judgments and policy of Her Majesty's Government were, perforce, constructed.
That difficulty, with its sense of frustration, as we ordinary Members of both Houses felt it, was, of course, in no way confined to this country. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, referred to the fact to-day, or on an earlier occasion. that one of the greatest misfortunes about all this business has been the misunderstanding that has arisen, not only for our own people, hut also for the sister peoples throughout the Commonwealth, as well as for our friends in the United States. I must frankly admit that, having, with the noble Marquess, been one of the last to remain on behalf of the United Kingdom at San Francisco, and having signed there with him t le Charter of the United Nations, when Her Majesty's Government first took the action they deal, I shared many of the doubts and anxieties that were felt in other quarters; and I was acutely conscious of how much harm, in the twilight of knowledge that then prevailed, was being done every minute to our good name and to our influence in many quarters. I was particularly sensible, with many others of your Lordships' House, of the tragic coincidence in time between these events and those of Eastern Europe, to which my noble friend Lord Salisbury referred, which have brought to every one of us who had imagination that tormenting cross-examination of conscience as to whether our action was avoidable or not; 139 whether it had, or could have had, any influence, however unwittingly, in making more easy that continuing programme of barbarity in Hungary.
Those anxieties were, in my own case, largely counterbalanced and dissipated by my knowledge of, and my confidence in, Her Majesty's Prime Minister and the members of Her Majesty's Government, with whom I had for many years worked in terms of closest intimacy and confidence. It is utterly impossible for me to visualise them as cruel and unscrupulous buccaneers, as in many quarters they were represented to be—not by noble Lords opposite, but in many other quarters. For that reason, it was impossible for me not to feel that there was much more behind their decision than had yet come to light, and the conclusion of that on my mind was to make rue feel that, if I had known all they knew, my judgment would probably not have been greatly different from theirs. Another effect was to leave on my mind the conclusion that one of the principal seedbeds from which has sprung such vehemence and violence as we have felt around us has been not so much the action that has been taken but the way in which the decisions were taken and the way they were represented to a public that was only partially informed.
In spite of what the noble Marquess has said to-day. I still do not feel wholly convinced that time could have been so pressing as to make it possible for countries of the Commonwealth to say that they had no effective consultation; for President Eisenhower to say that he had read it first in the Press reports, or for anyone to say that we had flouted and ignored the United Nations Organisation. The Government have plainly suffered—I offer this thought only in passing—from that which is apt to be one of the most cruel incidents of politics and of political responsibility—that is, that the decision is so often a hard and bitter choice between evils. The evils that you incur by decision are, to the general public, inevitably more obvious, more immediate and more objectionable than the evils that you avoid by your decision, which are not so close and not so clearly observed. I think the Government have suffered from that to the full. I would add that, whether we agree or not with the action that Her Majesty's 140 Government have taken, I do not believe that any Member of your Lordships' House would grudge payment of a tribute to them for the courage with which they have chosen, and adhered to, a course which, however unpopular it might be, they themselves judged to be dictated to them by the facts of the case and to be right.
That is the end of a phase, and the predominant problem with which we are concerned now is the future. When one touches the future, I am conscious that one can do little more than indicate to Her Majesty's Government what may be the general lines on which we should wish them to endeavour to proceed, because the future is obscure; it changes from day to day, and we hardly know at any moment what the definite position may be in six hours' time. I was glad to hear what the noble Marquess said in regard to the latest United Nations Assembly resolution. There may be some persons who would say that he had again failed to conform completely to it. If that is so, I am glad that he has, because to leave a vacuum at this moment would seem to me to be an act of political folly and suicide.
I can express in a sentence my own thought in regard to what we ought to do. We should do everything we can to facilitate the earliest possible arrival of the Force and when the Force does come, I hope that we shall not find it necessary to insist upon our membership of it. I rather gathered that the noble Marquess did not see any great difficulty about that matter. When that Force does come, I hope that it may be instrumental in doing two things: first of all, it will serve, I hope, as a physical reminder to all concerned of the commitments that all parties, on paper, have accepted, and will therefore so operate as a check upon any resumption of hostilities from any quarter. But, more than that, I hope that it will lead the Organisation of the United Nations, and all its members, to appreciate that, in this world of power politics in which it is our lot to live. words alone are never going to be enough to ensure an orderly and peaceful society. Therefore, something more than words is required to make collective security more than an idle label and hope.
I confess, however, that I begin to wonder what I can substitute, and how 141 I can, as the phrase goes, "put 'teeth' into the Charter." I fall back, I am afraid, upon what has been my own simple thought from the time we first began to talk about these things ten years ago. It is that if the great Powers are in agreement, there is no trouble; if the great Powers are not in agreement and are not always scrupulous, no words that we could use in any Charter will protect us from possible evil cones-quences. It is a chill and depressing thought, but I believe it to be bleakly true. If that is so, let us not delude ourselves into supposing that all our anxieties are over.
As the noble Marquess reminded us, we have still to achieve a Canal settlement; we have to see the position between Israel and Egypt adjusted; and, a have all we have to create, if we can, stability and confidence in all that Middle Eastern Area. Therefore, there are very testing days ahead of us, and the principal burden of them must fall, as I see it, upon the United Nations, which we shall do our utmost, I hope, to support and strengthen. For that reason, I cherish my other principal hope—and this is the last word that I shall say—that we may all, while appreciating the difficulties of honourable and right honourable Members of the Opposition. feel the necessity, as the noble Lord, Lord Henderson stressed, of doing our utmost to re-create that essential unity which ought to prevail in Parliament and in the country. without which no nation car prosper. and without which this nation certainly cannot play the part in the difficulties of the future that its history and its character and its qualities all combine to call it to offer to the world.
§ 1.20 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I am sure that every noble Lord who has listened to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, will wish to re-echo his concluding sentences in which he pleaded for unity at this time of crisis. I can assure him that. so far as we are concerned, our opposition is not in the slightest degree factious. We have felt very strongly indeed, even if we have not expressed it in this House as strongly as elsewhere. that the action the Government were taking was wrong and contrary to the 142 best interests of our own country; and we felt it our duty to say so. But this opposition will not be merely for the purpose of opposition: we stand united, so far as we possibly can. The changes that are taking place are so rapid that any speech, even that one had prepared yesterday, might well be out of date by to-day. For instance, we did not know yesterday what was to be the attitude of the United Nations on the various resolutions that were before it.
I do not propose to revive at this moment the dispute as to whether we were right or wrong in taking the action that we took. Obviously, one has not heard the last of it, and some time there will have to be a stock-taking; but to-day I do not think one can profitably say very much more I should like to say to the noble Marquess that, while we fully appreciate everything he said to-day, he was merely making the speech that he would have made last week if, happily, he had been able to be with us. I am sure he would have made it with equal vigour and we should then have had an opportunity of dealing with it. I do not think that it would he profitable to reopen the arguments which he put forward, because they were, after all, the arguments which confronted us at that time. I will merely make one or two comments on what he sail
First, there, was the question of urgency. Of course, nobody would accuse the noble Marquess of talking nonsense—of course not; there is a strong basis of reason in everything he says, and it is so often a case, as it was here, of a balance of evils. The noble Marquess referred to the question of urgency. I should like him to consider, not immediately, whether, on reflection, the advantages from his point of view of the Government's acting promptly ware not over-balanced by the disadvantages of acting without consultation. My own view is that, granted that there was an element of urgency—though I do not entirely accept it as so—were not the disadvantages of having acted without consultation with our friends, with the United States and with the Dominions a far greater evil? The noble Marquess sad that he was aware that the United States were not in agreement with us, or would not be likely to be. I should have thought that that was all the more reason for letting them know what we 143 were doing and not exacerbating the difference of opinion or the possible frictions that existed. That is one thing I want to say and I hope the noble Marquess will agree that that is a fair reflection. One cannot always be wise at the time. One can always be wise after the event, and I would suggest that this was one of those things that, on reflection, the Government might very well have done.
The other matter I want to refer to is this. The noble Marquess asked us certain questions about the United Nations, whether we would have gone immediately, and so on, or waited, though I do not think he would expect a reply now.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
That was not exactly my question. I do not expect a reply now. My question was whether the Labour Party thought that action should be taken to refer all matters to the United Nations or whether action should depend on the approval of the United Nations. That was the question I asked the noble Lord.
§ LORD SILKIN
Yes. I do not think I should be asked to give an answer to that at this moment, but of course we realise that that is a question which must be answered, and about which we all have to make up our minds, in relation to our attitude to the United Nations.
§ LORD SALTER
May I ask the noble Marquess whether he does not recognise that there is, after all, an intermediate position between that which he suggested was his and that which he ascribed to the Opposition? In a number of cases it is, I suggest, incumbent, in the absence of such an emergency as makes it impossible, to refer to the United Nations: but if. through the Veto, for example, the United Nations is unable to reach a valid decision, then I suggest that signatory members have a freedom which they have not in the first instance.
§ LORD SILKIN
That is a possible answer, but I would rather not commit myself even to that. The other matter I should like to put to the noble Marquess is this. He referred to certain vital interests of ours, oil-bearing areas. Is not the principle he put forward rather a dangerous one as a justification for the kind of action we have taken? He quoted Lord Liverpool 140 years ago. It was no doubt a most estimable precept in those days, but those days have gone. We have a United Nations to-day, and our business should he to try to make it work and not to try to act on the precept of Lord Liverpool.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Lord says there are differences between these days and Lord Liverpool's days. Lord Liverpool's system did work. What I am unhappy about is that our present system does not work, and the noble Lords opposite will not recognise that.
§ LORD SILKIN
Of course Lord Liverpool's system could work in the days when our power was supreme in the world, and when we had the authority and the forces to impose it; but those days are gone. and we are, perhaps unhappily, no longer in that position. Nor do I accept the analogy—analogies are always dangerous—of a house on fire. There was no house on fire. There was an outbreak of war; there was an attack by Israel. But I can see no desperate urgency for acting without any consultation at all. In fact, we did go to the United Nations, but we did not wait for the decision. I should like to ask the noble Marquess this question: supposing that our interests in the Suez Canal had not been involved at all and this had been merely an attack by Israel upon Egypt, should we have thought it necessary to intervene?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I would answer that by saying this. I think we thought—and the noble Lord may not agree with me—that a flare-up and a continued warfare between Egypt and Israel raised immense dangers to the whole world, partly because of the supply of oil and partly because of the uncertain position in the Middle East; and that therefore, if it was to be stamped out, or anyhow isolated, it should be done immediately. I think that is the answer. 145 It is not purely a national thing; I think we were performing an international duty.
§ LORD SILKIN
Well. I accept the noble Marquess's answer. Once more, one is faced with the difficulty that the noble Marquess can make a perfectly strong case on this, and nobody can do it better than he can. I am not surprised, therefore, that he came this morning to put that case to-day which, in other circumstances, he would have put a week ago. On the other hand, in my view there is a much stronger case against the action that was taken, and we all have to judge.
I would just say this to the noble Earl, who decides this thing on the basis of his personal knowledge of the character of the members of the Government concerned. Certainly in this House there has never been any imputation made against the honesty or sincerity of the people who had to make a very difficult decision; therefore, I hope that the House can eliminate that altogether from its consideration. But if the noble Earl looks at the people from all Parties who have taken a contrary view, people of most impressive character, I think he cannot but be influenced also by the fact that there is a great weight of opinion against the action that has been taken. That, I agree, still makes it very difficult to make up one's mind
As I have said, I do not think we can profitably pursue this matter further to-day, and certainly I do not propose to do so. But the question of the future does arise and perhaps we can spare a few moments in considering that matter. There are a number of issues. One is the immediate question of how this particular issue is going to be resolved. It is easy for us to say that we want the dispute between Israel and the Arab States to be settled once and for all and this running sore in the world to be healed for all time. The noble Marquess will know that this dispute between Israel and Egypt goes back a very long time—it goes back to the days of the Bible and the destruction of Pharaoh, and it is going to be a difficult matter to eradicate all that history. I do not know whether the Egyptians are still suffering from resentment at the treatment of Pharaoh in those days, but if there is anything of that kind it will need a great deal of tact, to put it 146 no higher, to solve the problem. But it must be solved, and I think it can be solved only if the two parties come face to face and come to an agreement. In my view, no imposed settlement will really be of lasting value, and our efforts and those of tie United Nations should be directed to getting the parties concerned together
There is also the question of the Suez Canal itself There, I must confess, my sympathies are with Her Majesty's Government in desiring some form of international control. After all, the very thing which we feared has taken place: that if and when it suited Egypt to block the Canal from traffic, even against her own interests, she was in a position to do it, and she has done it. It is true that she has done it on this occasion as a result of action which we have taken, but, equally, she could well have done it as a result of any action that displeased her. Therefore, I think that there is a strong case for some kind of international control. That, again, is a matter which we ourselves cannot impose, but I imagine it will he a matter which the United Nations will have to take very seriously
These are short-term questions which will have to be settled. But there is the long-term question to which the noble Earl devotee some part of his speech—namely, how these matters are to he dealt with the future. We all realise the dilemma to which he refers, of the case where the powerful nations disagree. What is to happen then? How are disputes to be dealt with'? Some of us tried to face this problem before the war. A Member of this House formed an organisation called The New Commonwealth; Sir Winston Churchill was the President and a number of Members of this House were actively associated with it. I was on the Council of that organisation and it had as its object two very simple propositions—namely, an International Equity Tribunal and an International Police Force. We Lave come back to the International Police Force as the immediately practical step for solving the present problem, and without some such force we shall never be able to deal with any dispute that may arise. What is essential in addition to an International Police Force, is some speedy means of coming to a determination on questions at issue between the nations. It may be that the Security Council, deprived of its Veto 147 would be a satisfactory agency; but some such agency is essential
That brings me to the question of the revision of the United Nations Charter. I am convinced that without revisions which experience has shown are essential, both for the settlement of disputes and for an International Police Force where such decisions are defied, then the United Nations might just as well become merely a pleasant debating society. It may be that some nations would oppose such a revision—possibly the Soviet Union. I would throw out the thought—I say it entirely on my own responsibility and without committing anybody—that the United Nations would be stronger without, if necessary, the element of the Soviet Union or anybody else who was not prepared to abide by decisions, and with the Veto abolished, than with them inside and the acceptance of the Veto. As we all know, this Veto has been exercised on several hundred occasions—in fact, every time that the Soviet Union disagreed with the decision, even though such decisions have been virtually unanimous. No international organisation can function adequately in that way. Though, obviously, this is not a matter on which I am expecting a reply, it is a matter which I think it is essential should he considered urgently: how can the United Nations possibly be made effective in future and how can this kind of difficulty—not merely the invasion of Egypt by Israel but the difficulty over Suez itself—be resolved? It can, I believe, be resolved speedily and without resort to force.
Coming now to the Amendment itself, I believe everybody in this House would regret the fact that we acted without consultation with the Commonwealth and, I would add. with the United States, whether we take the view that we were forced to act or not, or whether or not there was ample time for consultation. It seems to me, therefore, that one way of making good that omission to-day would be to convene a meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers at the earliest possible moment and put this difficulty before them. It is gratifying that none of them has taken this badly. Even where they do not agree with us they have shown an understanding of our difficulty, and I believe that the breach which has resulted is not irremediable if we try to put it right at once: but if we 148 wait, feelings may well become accentuated. Whenever there is a difficulty in the family the best solution, I am sure, is to get together and talk it over. I hope therefore that Her Majesty's Government will see their way to accepting this Amendment and to acting on it without any delay at all.
§ 1.43 p.m.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, I have only two substantive points to put to your Lordships, but before I do so may I say how entirely I subscribe to the speech of the noble Leader of this House and the views which he expressed about the action of Her Majesty's Government? I believe that the Government acted reasonably. rightly and well. My only regret was that in the first instance they did not act more quickly on the first seizure of the Canal Company's property and the threat to put foreign subjects under restraint. I believe we missed an opportunity there. Probably there are reasons why we could not act, but we did get tied up, as many foresaw that we should, in a series of conferences and delays. The wrongdoer in the meantime "got away with it," which I thought was a great pity. So much for that.
As regards the second crisis, when the Israeli-Egyptian conflict broke out we acted at once and I believe that we acted properly and rightly, like a householder who sees a fire in his backyard, seizes a bucket of water and pours it straight over the fire, puttting it out. He does not worry about his insurance company or getting authority before acting, but reports the matter later and obviously earns approval by having avoided something much worse. I believe that in this particular case something said by the Prime Minister in another place the other day has not so far been sufficiently developed; at least, I have not seen it referred to. I believe that our prompt action undoubtedly prevented the conflict from spreading, because it is a curious fact that beforehand we had heard a lot about common action by the Arab countries, and so on, but that has not happened. I do not believe that that is entirely accidental. What many feared, a general conflagration. Arab-Israeli, has not happened, and I believe that is a direct consequence of the prompt action we took.
149 There are many ideas that one would like to develop, but I do not propose to do so now; for instance, there is the need to overhaul the machinery of the United Nations, a need which stands out at arm's length. One hopes that in the fullness of time that will be tackled, though it is a terribly difficult problem, for it involves such things as the definition of an "aggressor". The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, yesterday gave us various definitions out of Oppenheim but I never knew before that there was any really good or accepted definition of an "aggressor". It is a very difficult thing to establish, just as it is difficult to know how to define a "defensive weapon". That has always puzzled me. Those are big questions which I hope will come up for proper debate in the fullness of time. I also feel strongly that our handling of relations with the Israelis has not been particularly skilful in the past. I have had strong views about that for a long time. There was, for exam, our abstention from letting them have arms, and talk about an arms-race, when in fact any arms-race was all over long before, because the Russians had given arms to the Egyptians. I thought that cur altitude was futile.
My Lords, I said I had only two substantive points, but in fact both have already been put by the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, who took the words out of my mouth but put them very much better than I could have done. The first was the resolution which apparently was before the United Nations last night, with the idea of summoning us to get out of Egypt at once. I do not know whether I have this quite right, for things have been happening so fast, but as the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, so truly asked, can one imagine anything more unwise than to leave a vacuum on the Canal at the present moment? That is the only word to use, and I think there must be general surprise that it should seriously have been suggested, if indeed it was. By all means let the United Nations get on with the immediate constitution of their Police Force, and the quicker the better; but I believe it is a quite impossible and very unwise suggestion that we should get out before that Police Force is ready to come in and is installed.
My second point has also been made by the noble Earl. Speaking from these Benches, I could not help remembering 150 the debate we had in September when the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, who unfortunately is not here to-day, made what I thought was a very strong and moving appeal. With your Lordships' permission I propose to read it to the House because I so) profoundly agree with what he said. These were his words, in the special Sitting [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 199, col. 755]:I am profoundly grieved to see great national and international issues like this taking on the shape of a Party struggle. I have worked hard and faithfully for all your three Parties: I did my utmost for you all. Perhaps you will allow me very humbly to give one more warning and that is that if we persist in disunity we may lay up for our people another terrible price such as we have paid in the past. I hope to God we shall avoid that!I felt just fled in repeating that appeal because, it the light of the most sinister and disturbing news of to-day from Eastern Europe, I stand very much in the same position as the noble Lord. Lord Vansittart. I have served various British Governments for roughly forty-five years and I feel very strongly that this is a time of national peril, for there are about ominous and insistent sinister signs which cannot safely be ignored. If ever there was a time when we ought to have national unity and solidity in the face of a most sit inter threat, surely it is now. My Lords, anything I can say has very little effect; indeed, why should it have? But I feel most strongly that if somehow we could get back to more Party unity and close the ranks in view of something—a threat—which is quite new, after all, surely now is the time when we should try to do so.
§ 1.51 p.m.
§ VISCOUNI SAMUEL
My Lords, I had the honour of addressing your Lordships' House in the previous debate last Thursday, and I shall only supplement to-day what I was endeavouring to say then. The situation changes so rapidly front day to day that some observations that I made then with regard to the defence of the Canal in present circumstances have already been thrown out of date. I asked then why we should be eager to remain in our present military position because there was no one who was likely to attack the Canal. Certainly the Israelis would have no reason to do so. and I could not conceive that the 151 Egyptians would wish to sabotage their own Canal. But I had not allowed sufficiently for the irrationality, and indeed extreme incompetence, both in political and military matters, of Colonel Nasser. For they have now again and again blocked the Canal, and if they were left free to wreak their will upon it no doubt great and possibly prolonged irreparable damage might be done. Therefore I agree with what has been said by the noble Lord. Lord Killearn, that it is not possible for Her Majesty's Government and the French to withdraw their forces immediately, as desired by the latest resolution of the United Nations.
I will come later to my lines of criticism of Her Majesty's Government, but let me say at once that I not only agree with their attitude at this moment on that subject. but I also was not one of those who condemned them for their military preparations when Colonel Nasser stole the Canal. I think he is the only depredator known in history who has ever stolen a Canal. If the Government had not taken steps at that time, and if he had shown the qualities which he has since displayed, of unreasonable anarchic destructiveness, and if the lives of our fellow-citizens had in fact been jeopardised, and indeed sacrificed; as they were in Cairo and in Egypt generally some years ago when the forces of anarchy were let loose, then Her Majesty's Government would have been unanimously blamed by the whole country. And no doubt the present Opposition would not have been backward in complaining and asserting that the Government must have known what was possible from a Government such as that of Egypt to-day and that they were highly remiss in having taken no military precautions to have a force in readiness to preserve our rights and the lives and property of our fellow-subjects.
At the same time, I disagree with those, mostly amongst the supporters of the Government, who thought they would have done better to be more prompt and more energetic even than they were, and that the right moment to intervene was the very moment when the Canal was seized. That, I think, would have been quite wrong. It would have alienated the world at large and a large part of 152 our own people, even more than has in fact been done. They were right, I think, not to use force at once, but at the same time I cannot refrain from criticising, as I have done previously, their reluctance to proceed straight away to the United Nations for their intervention in the matter.
The Government were at fault again. in my judgment, in issuing the ultimatum in the way that they did and at the moment when they did. There I agree entirely with the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, with whose speech in general I found myself in large agreement: that their proceeding so rapidly to a state of war and what has been called the brutal ultimatum, which they must have known for certain would not be accepted by Egypt, has aroused against this country a maximum of opposition in the public opinion of the world, and also here in our own electorate, and has enlisted the minimum support. Their purposes were excellent: they wished to keep the combatants separate. But they have put a strain on our relations with the Government and people of the United States and with a very large part of our Commonwealth which is most lamentable. Moreover, they have brought upon themselves condemnation by an enormous majority in the United Nations Assembly. All this was the outcome of that ultimatum and the action that followed upon it. I would say—and I am using the mildest word in my vocabulary to stigmatise it, because I have no desire to become rhetorical or to engage in vehement opposition to the Government—that their diplomacy was inept. In fact I think seldom could a more unwise course have been followed than that pursued by the Government from the time of the military action of the Israeli Government and Army.
But taking the military situation as it is, the suggestion that there should be an immediate withdrawal—the word "immediate" having been used; that means to-day or to-morrow—seems to me misconceived. It would leave, as the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, said, using a word that I had intended to use myself. a vacuum of authority. If the British and French forces were to be withdrawn to-day or to-morrow, what would then be the situation on the Canal? The United Nations Force would not be there, and 153 even if it were there it would be little more than a token Force. What is left of the Egyptian Army is now apparently massed on the West Bank of the Canal, and unless there are strong forces there, an anarchy of destructive sabotage might be begun and continued by the Egyptian Government, which has already blocked the Canal. Saboteurs might wreak havoc.
In the case of Port Said itself we remember that the military commander had assented to the cease-lire, but he was for the time being overruled by Colonel Nasser. As for the Israelis, if they were left to themselves they might be able to overcome the remnants of the Egyptian Army, but that is not certain. It would be a very arduous task. It would be a war of position which for them would be much harder than a war of movement I therefore agree with what was written by my friend Dr. Gilbert Murray, with the Master of Balliol and others at Oxford; that it is not possible for this country reasonably to agree with the word "immediate" if the word "immediate" is used with regard to the withdrawal of forces. If we were to withdraw. we should have overthrown Egyptian rule, and pretty nearly paralysed it. but done nothing to replace it.
If the International Police Force were even there in token—a small token skeleton force—immediately, they could arrive at no decision which could be effectively applied if resistance was offered to them. We should have overthrown the de jure Government of Egypt arid established no de facto power along the Canal in its place. This resolution of the United Nations appears to me to have been adopted hurriedly. On reflection. one would believe it would be found by the United Nations itself not to be practicable. On the other hand, and as the Government have themselves already declared, we do not wish to establish ourselves in enduring occupation on the banks of the Canal. We do not regard it Os the duty of one Power, or of two, to attempt to perform such a duty; we feel that the matter should rest with the United Nations.
That brings me to my second point. The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, speaking last Thursday, did me the honour, in connection with my speech that day, to ask what course 154 I. myself would have adopted if I had been in the position of the Government. Would I have allowed the situation to develop, doing nothing when, as I say. Colonel Nasser stole the Canal? To my mind, you cannot begin to answer that question accepting the situation as it then was. The fault arose through the failure of the present Government and many other Governments—and the present Government in this country have been in power for a number of years—to move the United Nations to take effective cog-nisance of the whole situation as regards Israel and her neighbours, and deal with it in an effective fashion. One hears voices of speakers at the United Nations recognising that the Western Powers and other Powers have been at fault for years past in allowing matters to drift, as the noble Marquess the Leader of the House has said today, and that they cannot be exempted from blame on that score.
The point at issue has really been whether Israel has any right to exist or whether it is an interloper, thrusting into the Arab world and thereby committing an injustice through its very existence. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House said that, on reflection, during his illness (which we all so much deplore, and which we are all so glad to know is now over), he came to the conclusion that there were certain world forces which had teen at work, and particularly the intrigues and ambitions of Communist Russia, which had bedevilled the situation in the Middle East. That is perfectly true, but I do not think that, fundamentally, it applies to this case of Israel and Egypt, where Egypt denies that Israel has the right to exist and claims that it should, in justice, be wiped out.
Governments of all Parties in this country were concerned in the measures, beginning with the Balfour Declaration, of which the outcome was the Jewish National Home that developed afterwards into the Jewish State. In this country, the general movement aiming at that consummation was supported with enthusiasm by three British Prime Ministers, Mr. Lloyd George (as he then was). Lord Balfour and Sir Winston Churchill. And a fourth Prime Minister from the Commonwealth held the same view and actively promoted the same movernent—General Smuts, whose statue was unveiled yesterday in the immediate 155 neighbourhood of this building. General Smuts, that fact recalls to my mind, was an enthusiastic supporter of the recreation of a Jewish Home in Palestine, and I well remember how, in November, 1949, he paid his last visit to this country. He was here only a few days, and he came specially to assist a Zionist movement for the planting of a forest in Palestine in memory of Dr. Weitzmann I had the honour of being his chairman. His enthusiasm was symptomatic of that which prevailed among a number of British and other statesmen.
The Jewish National Home was established under Mandate of the League of Nations. Then, after that Mandate had been abandoned by this country, the Israel State was set up, and a war immediately started. It was not because the Jews attacked the Arabs but because the Arab States attacked the Jews. There was a bitter war, in the course of which the Jewish side suffered the loss of no fewer than 4,000 killed, which was a large number out of so small a population. But it ended in their complete victory. So when the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor asks me what I would have done, I think the answer is that when the Egyptian policy developed, the Israeli Government should have formally indicted the Egyptian policy before the United Nations, and, subject to any defence that might have been offered, that action should have been supported by the Western Powers. Britain might legitimately have said that three Powers, Britain, France and the United States, had guaranteed the boundaries of Pales-time (Israel as it then was) and forbade any infringement of them.
The course of events was such as would have been likely to involve the exercise of that guarantee, and for that reason these countries would have had a right to call Egypt to task for the course of her policy. Egypt, as your Lordships are well aware, has never made peace with Israel since the war took place. She has denied the right of Israel to exist; she has refused to negotiate on any subject whatever: the resettlement of refugees or any other matter, including the use of the waters of the rivers of those areas—a vital matter. And Egypt has insisted on declaring that she is at war, and therefore entitled to blockade the trade of Israel through the Suez Canal and 156 through the Gulf of Aqaba, and by every means that she can.
My view is that the United Nations at that time ought to have declared that this notion of unilateral war is a mockery of International Law. One cannot conceive international jurists recognising a state of war between two parties which is only claimed and practised by one of them. When Israel engaged in reprisals against the attacks that had been made continually against her, it would have been perfectly legitimate for the United Nations to have said to Egypt, "Are you at war or are you not? If you are at war, you cannot complain of being attacked. If you are not at war, you must conform your policy accordingly and cease your blockade." And when they secured that an Egyptian general should have command of the army of Jordan and the army of Syria. and when they sent fedayeen as marauders to commit outrages and sabotage upon Israel, then was the time for the United Nations to have acted.
I think it is unfair to say that Israel is an aggressor because she has mobilised her armies and sent them across the boundary; whereas, it is an act of aggression to organise saboteurs and marauders to go into another country, it is a deliberate threat of aggression to organise combined armies with the intention of attacking whenever the moment is propitious and it is an aggression to organise a blockade. The noble and learned Earl. Lord Jowitt, yesterday, in a very important and interesting speech. pointed out that under International Law an act of war is committed by a blockade against the trade of a country or by organising gangs of marauders to enter the territory of another State. These things have been done by Egypt. Therefore, the United Nations was very careful not to stigmatise Israel as an aggressor because her armies had crossed the boundary. The North Koreans were stigmatised as aggressors in the Korean war, and China as an accessory, but the United Nations has not now designated Israel as an aggressor. Unfortunately, Mr. Gaitskell used that word and I think that it was unjustified in the circumstances.
If, after the last world war, when hostilities had stopped, there had been some State in Europe across the North Sea which had persisted in continuing, 157 not to conduct military hostilities but to declare that it was in a state of war, and if that State had used every means to blockade the trade of this country and had sent across the Channel saboteurs and marauders to murder the farmers working in their fields in Kent and to blow up installations in Sussex, this country would instantly have said that all these things are a casus belli. We should have said, "We cannot tolerate this. What can we do but to take action?" And if the United Nations, or any third party, had not intervened. unquestionably it would have been regarded as an act of war and reprisals at least would have been engaged in. But the Israelis are forbidden to exercise any reprisals by destroying the military posts from which these marauders set out to commit their crimes. As I asked a week ago, what, in the opinion of noble Lords, were the people of Israel to do in the face of these provocations, month after month and year after year, continuing to this very clay, scores of people being killed by these fedayeen, carefully organised by the Egyptian Government who have appealed publicly for volunteers to carry out these outrages?
When the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor asks what I would have done in the situation as it presented itself when the Canal was seized, I would say that I do riot accept that situation as the starting point of the present controversy. The starting point was much earlier, as the noble Marquess said in effect this afternoon. if 1 may introduce a lighter touch into a very serious and grave debate, it reminds me of the well-worn story of the tourist who had lost his way in the hills in the neighbourhood of Cork and asked a local man by the roadside what was his best way to get to Cork. The answer he was given was most elaborate—-instructions to turn left and turn right and do this or that at the crossroads, until at last the man said, "Well, sor, as a matter of fact if I wanted to go to Cork, I wouldn't have started from here at all." That is precisely the answer one would give here. This is not the right starting point to deal with this matter. It ought to have been dealt with long before.
Yesterday I said that Colonel Nasser had made every possible fault of policy except one, and that was in connection with the Aswan Dam. There he touched 158 upon a matter of vital importance to his people—namely, the exceeding poverty of the Egyptian peasantry and the terrible pressure of over-population in the narrow ribbon of fertile soil along the banks of: he Nile. His efforts to help the peasants, although very little effective has yet been done, are most praiseworthy, and the centre point of the whole scheme was the great high dam to be built at Aswan, which would have enabled a vast area to be brought into cultivation and provide homes for this rapid increase of population. That scheme is admirable in itself and to assist it should be part of the whole policy of the Western nations, on the same lines as our Colombo Plan, or of President Truman's Point 4, and of the welfare agencies of the United Nations which are doing so much admirable work in so many countries of the world, and also of the World Bank. All that help was to be given. Then. very abruptly, the definite promise, of financial support were cancelled, on the initiative of the United States. I think that, both in manner and matter. that was a mistake. It increase greatly the animosity of the Egyptians. And I would venture to suggest that in any general settlement the restoration of the scheme of the Aswan Dam should have a leading part and that the economic assistances that had been suggested by the Western Powers should certainly be implemented.
But with regard to these more permanent measures I would emphasise, lastly but strongly, that Her Majesty's Government would be well advised not to attempt to settle great political issues at this moment. We cannot now lay down conditions with regard to future boundaries or forms of government or any of the ether matters which should be part of a settlement after the present wars are over. When the time for calm contemplation has come, in the United Nations and elsewhere, great issues ought to be settled. The future administration of the Canal could, perhaps, be settled on the lines approved by the eighteen Powers; and the rescue of the Arab refugees, which is a vital matter, should certainly not be lost sight of.
But all these things ought not to be tied up with the creation of a police force to act in p ace of the armies that are at present in that part of the world. The people of Israel cannot be expected at 159 this moment to undertake to agree to a permanent settlement which would be to their detriment. They have suffered two wars. The first was not of their provoking; and the second was not primarily, but only secondarily, of their provoking, because the Egyptians claim that it is still the original war. In both wars they have been victorious. In the first war, as I think I mentioned, they suffered 4,000 casualties. Therefore, they arc not likely to agree voluntarily to any readjustment of boundaries, or other changes, that are seriously to their detriment. This is not a moment when these questions could be settled. I think Her Majesty's Government and the United Nations would be mistaken if they were to lump these together as matters for decision at this moment, November, 1956, or to attempt to deal with them at the same time as and as part of the creation of the International Police Force. For we want to arrive at a settlement, when it is arrived at, which is likely to endure.
§ 2.23 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, I have not taken part in any of these debates which have gone on since September, and I should have been content to support the Government at this time without speaking, but I think perhaps it would be wrong if those of us who have for many years in the past been concerned with these problems and have had some responsibility in dealing with them were not to offer to the House such counsel as lies within our power. As to the Amendment. which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has moved in such a pleasant speech, I must say that I think it rather an odd one. I hope that I shall not be accused of imputing motives if I say that it occurred to me—and after all, I have sat in a good many "Shadow Cabinets" as well as a good many Cabinets—that in finding some difficulty in knowing what sort of Amendment to put down, the Opposition had agreed upon this rather odd, if somewhat anodyne, Amendment.
I do not think the suggestion put forward is really a very useful one at this moment. I certainly—as I am sure the House will agree—should be the last person to depreciate the value of Commonwealth Conferences. Ever since 1922, until a year or so ago, I continually had the privilege of sitting in a great many Commonwealth Conferences, and I agree 160 that they are enormously valuable. But it really is not for this country—we enjoy what used to be called Dominion status, too—to give order to the other Commonwealth countries, who have exactly the same rights as we have. It has always been the practice that it should be a matter of agreement between all the Commonwealth Governments whether there should be a conference, and where and when it should take place. If the Commonwealth Governments thought that a conference would be of value. I am quite certain that Her Majesty's Government would be only too glad to welcome such a conference here, or to attend such a conference in some other place—in Ottawa. for example—if that were more convenient
Frankly, and speaking from long experience of both conferences and consultations, I think it is doubtful whether any Commonwealth country would welcome a conference at the present moment. Apart from the fact that Foreign Ministers will. I understand, be meeting soon in the United States. I should have thought the last thing that any Commonwealth Prime Minister would want at this moment would be to leave his own capital, where he probably has, as Her Majesty's Government have here, daily meetings of the Cabinet, and where, after all, the decisions must be taken.
I am not going into whether there could or could not have been more consultation. But I am sure there is the fullest consultation now. So far as conference, consultation and information go, it is perfectly possible for the Government—and I am sure they are doing—to give every Commonwealth Government, hour by hour, the fullest information, and to be, by telegraph and telephone, in the closest consultation with them. Therefore, I do not think this is a particularly fertile suggestion. I would only add this—and I pick up something my noble friend the Leader of the House said. We all agree on the importance of consultation; and we all agree on the value of agreement within the Commonwealth when we do consult. But I must add this—and I think I echo my noble friend's thoughts and observation. We must not be precluded from action unless there is complete unanimity among every country in the Commonwealth. If we were to try to insist upon any such unanimity rule. it would be disagreeable to every 161 Commonwealth country—and after all, it would be most embarrassing, because we have suffered, to some extent, in another organisation under a unanimity rule, and I do not think we want to establish in the British Commonwealth of Nations a power of veto.
I am sure we are all grateful to my noble friend the Leader of the House for his full and frank speech. He has given us a great deal of information and a great deal of background, both of which are essential to a full understanding. Bearing that in mind, and bearing in mind, too, all that has happened—and the situation, as Lord Samuel said, does move and change from day to day—is it not our duty in this House, at this moment, to face the position as it is to-day, and to consider how best we can help our own country and the United Nations? After all, what are the facts of to-day?—that is what we are concerned with. The United Kingdom have accepted the cease-fire, provided, of course, that our own forces are not attacked. Here, may I say something with which I feel, whatever differences there may be in this House, we can all agree: we should wish to pay a tribute to the gallantry, the brilliance and the restraint of all three Services of the Crown in these operations.
The United Kindom Government have accepted Mr. Lester Pearson's proposal for a United Nations Police Force. This is not the first time Mr. Pearson has well served the United Nations and N.A.T.O. It will be in all our minds—certainly those of us who were in it at the time—how Mr. Pearson, when it looked as if N.A.T.O. might easily break up and the whole of free Europe come to grief, ranged himself with our own Foreign Secretary and did much to save the Organisation and the free world. These things have happened, but the basic facts of the situation are still the same. The fundamental problems have still to be solved, and I think it is important, indeed essential, that we should see those problems in their true perspective. That is where my noble friend the Leader of the House has helped us a good deal to-day.
On the last occasion, the most reverend Primate said that we ought to try to see ourselves as others see us; that that was wisdom and common sense. Even before the cease-fire was accepted. I think there 162 was a clearer understanding of these facts in some quarters of the United States than in some quarters here. I do not know whether your Lordships read the New York Times and the New York Herald-Tribune. Both of them are worth reading. I do not wish to delay the House, but I think it is important that we should see at any rate what a good deal of considered and informed opinion in America is feeling. I should like first to quote from a leading article in the New York Times of November 3. It says:But even that step"—that is, the creation of the United Nations Police Force—would he only a temporary remedy and a preliminary to more enduring measures. Such measures demand, first of all, that the Arab States finally recognise the existence of Israel, stop their constant threat of force to destroy it and agree to negotiate a permanent peace settlement, long demanded by Israel. Indeed, as long as they continue to flout both the United Nations Charter and the United Nations decisions which created Israel, even their right to seek the protection of the United Nations is subject to challenge. This is equally true of Colonel Nasser's high-handed seizure of the Suez Canal in violation of an international treaty and the established international order, not to speak of his whole programme of Arab imperialism. The test of Egypt's good faith in this matter must be Egyptian agreement to international control of the Canal which will guarantee it against overt or covert misuse in the interests of Colonel Nasser's imperial plans.That does not stand alone. In the New York Herald Tribune, Mr. Walter Lippmann, one of the most distinguished publicists in that Continent, or indeed in the world, wrote two articles, one on November 5, and the other on November 7. En the first, Mr. Lippmann says:Had Nasser been reasonable, moderate, and statesmanlike after his victory in the Suez affair"—by that Mr. Lippmann meant after he had seized the Canal—this explosion would probably not have occurred. But he is the typical aggressor dictator who will not stop until he is stopped. That is why once again a policy of appeasement has failed to preserve the peace.Only yesterday, Mr. Lippmann wrote:Therefore, in the interests of the United Nations, which is also a vital interest of the United States, let us insist that it"—that is, the United Nations——be an organ for the solution of the problems, of Suez and Palestine and not a tribunal of judgment.163 I thought those comments were worth quoting to the House as showing what a great many people in America are thinking, and were thinking, even before we had accepted the cease-fire and the suggestion of a Police Force. Is it not true what those writers say? The need for the solution remains. If the Government were to let the situation slip back, it would be absolutely impossible for the United Nations to do its double task—the task of policing and peace-making.
There has been a great deal of legal argument, and I do not want to pose as a great legal authority, or to go very closely into that aspect to-day. But I suggest that it is possible even for lawyers to take too narrow a view. If those are right who have asserted—as, indeed, I thought the late Lord Chancellor, the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, asserted yesterday—that no action is permissible unless U.N.O. acts and acts promptly, then I am driven to the conclusion that there is really no effective way in which a wrongdoer can be restrained. Et ego in Arcadia vixi. I did make my living at the Bar, and had a few cases to advise on International Law, but I am not claiming to speak on that ground.
I was, however, a Member of the Government concerned in accepting the Kellogg Pact, and, with many of your Lordships, of the Government which was concerned in the framing of the United Nations Charter. As a member of those Governments, I think I am entitled to say that the suggestion that there could be no action unless U.N.O. or some other body had authorised it was never contemplated, or intended, by the authors or signatories either of the Kellogg Pact or of U.N.O.
Let us take the Kellogg Pact. It was Mr. Kellogg himself who said, or wrote, that he thought it unnecessary to mention self-defence in framing the Pact. because it was so obvious. His words were:The right to use force in self-defence is so inherent and universal that it was not deemed necessary even to insert it expressly in the text.One cannot have much better authority than the author. What was more, every country which signed the Kellogg Pact made, not reservations, but declarations of what they intended to do and, after all, it is the intention of a Treaty which counts. You do not have to construe 164 these things like a will taken into the Court of Chancery, where the judge can look only at the written words. In International Law you have to consider what was the intention as evidenced by the surrounding circumstances. At that time, in accepting the Kellogg Declaration (I remember it well; Sir Austen Chamberlain was Foreign Secretary at the time), we made a pretty long statement. including these words:There are certain regions of the world the welfare and integrity of which constitute a special and vital interest of the peace and safety of Great Britain.Everybody who was in the Government at the time knows that Egypt and Palestine—for which at the time we were still responsible under the Mandate (I succeeded to that particular responsibility a year or two later)—were regions which were particularly in our mind when we made that declaration.
We do not have to pray in aid only our action, but I think it is worth remembering what was drawn attention to by the Master of University College. Professor Goodhart, formerly a Professor of International Jurisprudence and one of the greatest international jurists in the world incidentally, he is still, I think. an American citizen. He drew attention to the fact that the United States Government and Congress, the authors of the Kellogg Pact. though they did not have to take it. fully approved, with the Kellogg Pact and the United Nations Charter well in their minds, of independent action in Quemoy in advance of anything the United Nations could do.
Let me bring the point a little nearer home, and a little nearer home to the Opposition Front Bench. Very rightly, in 1950 the Labour Government signed with France and the United States the well known Tripartite Declaration to give security to the States of the Middle East. Nobody who reads that can doubt that that Declaration, made, of course, well after the United Nations Charter was in force, contemplated immediate and separate action. Let me quote one very important sentence from it:The three Governments, should they find that any of these States was preparing to violate frontiers or armistice lines, would, consistently with their obligations as members of the United Nations, immediately"—not waiting, but immediately—take action"—165 now observe these words—both within and outside the United Nations to prevent such violation.They were perfectly right to sign that Declaration; and when they signed it they meant what they said. They meant that, if need arose, they would take immediate action, and that was wholly consistent with the Charter of the United Nations.
§ LORD HENDERSON
I understand the noble Earl's interpretation of the Tripartite Declaration, but he will realise that it was the three who would take action, and that the three have not taken action under the Tripartite Declaration in this connection.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
I am not saying that this action was taken under the Tripartite Declaration. The noble Lord is not following rile. The contention which was put forward, and which certainly was put forward by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, yesterday, was that the Government were not justified, because of the United Nations Charter, in taking independent action in advance of action by the United Nations. I am not saving that this action was taken under the Tripartite Declaration—it was not. I am citing the Tripartite Declaration which the noble Lord's Government made—and he was a member of the Government at the time. It was made with the express declaration that, if aced arose—and they were the judges of whether need arose—action would be taken inside or outside the United Nations; and immediate action at that. Therefore—I am not arguing whether the action of the Government was right or wrong—what 1 am arguing is that I do not believe any lawyer ought to contend that the Government, in doing what they did, were acting illegally under the Charter.
§ LORD HENDERSON
If I may again interrupt the noble Earl, the Declaration surely referred to taking action against aggression. The trouble about the Tripartite Declaration hitherto in my discussions with leaders in Israel has been that, when we said "But here is a guarantee that you will not be aggressed," they said that no action would be taken.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
I hope the noble Lord will forgive me if I say that I think that is splitting hairs.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
Of course there was a danger. There was the danger of aggression, the danger of a flare-up. I am not apportioning praise or blame. What was it? Will the noble Lord listen to this quotation?
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
The three Governments, should they find that any of these states was preparing to violate frontiers or armistice lines …Those were the conditions in which they claimed the right to take action. Whatever you may say about the Government, can anybody for one moment say to-day that for years past now President Nasser has not beet not only preparing to violate frontiers but has been violating them? I do not want to keep the House too long, but I am citing this Declaration in order to justify the contention that whet the Governs rent have done, be it right or be it wrong, wise or unwise, was certainly not illegal, illegitimate or improper action under the Charter. I think, therefore, the legal justification is there.
But I world put the case on a higher and broader plane. Surely n these great international instruments we must look at the spirit as well as the letter of the law. There is certainly high warrant for saying that you should look at the spirit. What it the overriding spirit and purpose of the United Nations Oganisation, just as it is of N.A.T.O.? Surely it is to preserve peace. It is to create conditions fair, equitable and secure in which just and lasting peace may be established among all nations t and surely. to this end, to prevent a major conflagration which would make all this impossible. I feel sure that it was the sincere desire and purpose of the Government to act in that spirit. Criticise them, if you will, on timing or on some particular aspect of Government action, but in criticising ought two not to try to put ourselves in the Government's place, with their duty. their responsibility and their knowledge? That is as important as seeing ourselves as others see us.
Surely to-day we should all do well to accept the wise advice of Professor Gilbert Murray and his co-signatories—the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, referred to them—for nobody speaks on matters of U.N.O. with a greater authority than 167 Professor Gilbert Murray, when he wrote this:We feel the Government deserve patient but, if necessary, critical support in order to ensure that British and French Forces provide an impartial police force between Israeli and Egyptian armies until the United Nations assumes this task itself.I am glad that in what has been said in the House to-day there is so much agreement on that matter. In the situation to-day, the Government cannot quit—they cannot leave that trench until they are relieved. If they stand firm and we stand united, as a nation, we shall be giving to the Organisation of the United Nations the best support and encouragement in our power in discharging the task that the United Nations has accepted—that of preventing further conflict and establishing a just and lasting peace.
§ 2.51 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I know that we have all listened to the noble Earl with great interest, because he speaks with the authority given him by an enormous experience in a wide range of governmental activities. I should like to reply to one of his comments on our Amendment. We are not suggesting, as I think the noble Earl indicated, that Her Majesty's Government should give orders to other Commonwealth Governments to attend a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. We know that these things are done by mutual agreement. We know that, just as well as the noble Earl. That is the way these things should be done. All we are suggesting is that Her Majesty's Government should take the view that such a conference would be worth while. If they take that view, then they should invite other Commonwealth Governments to subscribe to the same view and to ask their Prime Ministers to attend a conference wherever it may be convenient.
I shall address my few remarks—and they will be few because we have a long list of speakers—to the Amendment on the Order Paper. I think we are somewhat at a disadvantage in dealing with the Amendment, although I do not blame the Government for this I am sure it is an accident and not the intention of the Government. The disadvantage is that we shall not hear the views of Her Majesty's Government until the end of the debate, whereas if we had had them it the beginning it would perhaps have 168 been easier for us and the rest of the House to deal with the arguments that Her Majesty's Government will put forward.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (THE EARL OF HOME)
My Lords, if it is a question relating to the Commonwealth which the noble Earl has in mind, may I say that I put myself down to intervene at the end of the debate because I thought that that might meet the convenience of the House. If it is your Lordships' desire that I should intervene earlier for five minutes or so, merely to deal with that point, I will certainly do so.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
Speaking at any rate for noble Lords on these Benches, I think that it would be an advantage. For example, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, will wind up for our side, and I think it would be of advantage to him if he could hear the Government's views (if that meets with the convenience of other speakers in the debate) before he rises; but that is entirely a matter for the noble Earl opposite and for the convenience of the House.
I should like to make one further comment on the Amendment before I deal with its terms. This Amendment has not been put down in a Party spirit. We consider that such a conference would be in the best interests of this country and of the Commonwealth; that is the reason why we have put down the Amendment. I hope your Lordships will consider the Amendment on its merits and will form your judgment of its value simply as a contribution to Commonwealth understanding at the present time. The purpose of our Amendment is to restore, if that is, as we all hope, still possible, the broken unity of the Commonwealth. I think that all your Lordships will sympathise with this purpose and wish to see it carried out. Indeed, the Prime Minister said in another place the other day something which suggested that the purpose we have in mind must be shared by those noble Lords opposite who belong to the Government. The Prime Minister's words are these:As we emerge from this crisis and our motives arc more understood, both the Commonwealth and our American friends will understand the reasons which motivated us in taking the course we did.169 I infer from this statement of the Prime Minister that he takes the view that we shall be able to persuade the Commonwealth that our policy has been the right policy, whatever view may be taken at the moment in parts of the Commonwealth, and thus to remove all differences and misunderstandings between us and other Commonwealth Governments. Therefore, if I am correct, we should all agree on the purpose of the Amendment, and the only difference would arise about the method whereby it is to be carried out.
We shall listen with great interest to the views of the Government when they express them, about the particular suggestion which we on this side of the House have put forward in the hope that it may be helpful. Whether or not: the Prime Minister is right in his estimate of Commonwealth opinion—I am sure that we all hope he is, much as some of us may fear that he is unduly optimistic— there can be little doubt that no time should he lost in trying to bring about the understanding to which he referred and in trying to remove differences that have arisen. The need for an immediate effort to restore Commonwealth unity is shown most clearly if we consider the deep cleavages that have in fact—and these are matters of fact and cannot, I fear, be disputed—taken place in the last few days. Your Lordships will remember—my noble friend Lord Henderson referred to it—that Mr. St. Laurent, the Prime Minister of Canada, said that our action in Egypt had placed a greater strain on the bonds of Commonwealth—and he went on to refer to the Atlantic Alliance—than any event since the war. I suppose this was the first time in history that a Canadian Prime Minister had publicly criticised Her Majesty's Government in such grave terms, and the fact that this criticism comes from our oldest Commonwealth partner makes it all the more necessary for all of us. on both sides of the House, to examine the differences that have arisen and to consider without delay how they can be most speedily and effectively removed.
I think the facts show that Commonwealth relationship has been strained—indeed, strained almost to breaking point. How do we stand in relation to the Commonwealth about the war in Egypt? We have the open and declared support of only three out of the eight Commonwealth countries whose Prime Ministers 170 attend the conferences of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. Australia, New Zealand and the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland have been consistently on our side in this matter, although, of course—as again my noble friend Lord Henderson pointed out—public opinion in Australia and New Zealand is divided, as it is here. Canada and the Union of South Africa have not voted at the United Nations against resolutions that we lave had to oppose. They also have criticised our original intervention. But we hope now—and I trust that we may hope with a great deal of confidence—to have their full support in substituting the action of the United Nations for that of France and the United Kingdom in restoring peace in Egypt.
Far more serious than Oleic differences has been the attitude of our three Asian partners, India, Pakistan and Ceylon. Not only have they not supported us in the divided and neutral position between us and our critics in the outside world; they have gone much further, in that they have openly condemned our policy and shown every sympathy with the country with which Nye are in hostilities. Old friends of ours in India are even saying that India should leave the Commonwealth. I fear that nothing illustrates the seriousness of the rift in the Commonwealth. more I, vehemently than the attitude of these three Asian countries. We have never before teen engaged in what at any rate unsophisticated people regard as a war with another country and found our motives questioned by those who speak for and represent the vast majority of the Commonwealth's inhabitants. I will say nothing more about the Asian attitude or the reasons for it, because my noble friend, Earl Attlee, who has just returned from that part of the world, will be able to speak to your Lordships from his own recent and first-hand experience. I would only add that, however much we may regret or even sometimes resent the strictures of our Asian partners, f hope we shall try to understand their point of view and recover the respect and good will we have lost in so short a time.
I hope we shall not lose sight of the great importance of Indian good will to the future of our own territories in Africa and South East Asia. The emergence of a free Asianbloc at the United Nations shows that African and Asian countries 171 in the free world will look increasingly to Asia and not to Europe or to the United States for leadership. We have three important territories in this area, West Africa, the Gold Coast and Nigeria. and, in South East Asia. the Federation of Malaya, and they will soon have self-government. They will then be entirely free to choose between independence inside and outside the Commonwealth. I think there can be no doubt that Indian statesmen will have far more influence when advice is sought in this crucial area than any political leaders in this country or any other part of the Commonwealth.
Now we want to be as constructive as we possibly can, although without the knowledge and information of Her Majesty's Government it is much harder for us to put forward constructive proposals. In our view, two things are required to restore Commonwealth unity. The first is to re-establish the old confidence in the machinery of Commonwealth consultation. The second is to bring their policy in Egypt fully and continuously into line with the decisions of the United Nations. The practice of consultation and exchange of views with other Commonwealth Governments before important decisions are taken has really become the essence of the Commonwealth relationship. It distinguishes the Commonwealth relations more sharply than anything else from relations between foreign countries. We have lessened confidence in this practice by failing to consult the Commonwealth before we decided about our ultimatum to Egypt. The fact that we had time to consult a foreign country, France—a close friend, of course, and an ally of ours, but still foreign—while we had no time to consult our Commonwealth partners must have aggravated for them the sense of grievance caused by our oversight.
Surely the best way of showing that we still believe (as I am sure we do in all parts of the House) in the principle of Commonwealth consultation would be to convene a Conference where the political leaders of the whole Commonwealth could meet face to face. There could he little doubt that such a meeting would do much more to remove misunderstandings and to promote agreement than telegraphic bombardment between Whitehall and the other Commonwealth capitals 172 which, so far as one can see (unless the noble Earl suggests anything different). is the only alternative to the proposal that we are making.
The Canadian Government, by proposing at the United Nations that an International Police Force should be set up to go to Egypt, have initiated a policy which has at last brought the Commonwealth into line and has also placed the Commonwealth in accord with the moral judgment of the outside world. But this Canadian initiative is surely not enough. It does not and it cannot absolve us in the United Kingdom from our special responsibility for removing differences which have arisen as a direct result of our policy. Now, whether that policy was right or wrong—and in your Lordships' House and elsewhere there are bound to be differences of opinion about that—I do not think anyone can differ from the view that it has resulted in grave differences of opinion in various parts of the Commonwealth. Surely it is for Her Majesty's Government to do their utmost to make sure that these differences do not impair our relations with other Commonwealth countries in the future or prevent the concerted action we now need for restoring peace and order in the Middle East.
My Lords, if the Government reject our Amendment, if they say that this is not the right method for securing an objective that we all share, then I think we ought at least to hear what better alternative Her Majesty's Government are asking the House to accept. I hope that, as the noble Earl himself suggested. we shall be able to hear his views at the earliest possible moment in this debate.
§ 3.6 p.m.
THF EARL OF HOME
My Lords, it might be to the convenience of the House if I were to say a few words now on this subject, although I had wished to wait until the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. had made his speech. as I know he has so recently returned from India. But the impact of the events of the Egypt-Israel situation has, perfectly properly, been a matter of concern to a number of speakers in this House and, of course, to a great many people outside. That is a right and natural thing because the wellbeing and the cohesion of the Commonwealth must be our constant care, as its oldest member and founder.
173 The Commonwealth, of course, consists of a number of free and independent countries, and while there is a broad and basic and firm unity (and I believe that it still holds on broad political and economic questions), it is only to be expected that there will at times be differences between the different members. The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, was quite right when he reminded your Lordships that, there could not be in the Commonwealth society. from its very nature, a unanimity rule. That is the -difference between a free association of nations and a dragooned association of nations. It is, in fact, if I may put it bluntly and fairly, the difference between the Russian Empire and the British Commonwealth.
There have been differences of opinion. I remember that at the very beginning, when the question of the organisation of the Security Council and the question of the Veto were being discussed at San Francisco, there were differences in the Commonwealth approach; and recently when we were discussing the future of the Suez Canal, India took a very different view from the beginning. We have always been in close touch with Mr. Krishna Menon, however, and let me say at once that, throughout all the difficulties which faced us in the Suez Canal dispute, I can say with a clear conscience that we have consulted and given information to the Commonwealth almost every day, either here in London or in their capitals overseas; and as to the views which we have had from the different Commonwealth countries, ranging from the personal help of Mr. Menzies, in London, and of Mr. Macdonald, of New Zealand, to that of other Commonwealth representatives in London, whether we have agreed or dithered, the proposals which they have put forward have always been constructive and always of great assistance to Her Majesty's Government in trying to solve these difficulties. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, will no doubt tell us, from first-hand experience, that the differences between India and ourselves over the Suez Canal have been intensified since Israel, after accusing Egypt of aggression, marched into Egyptian territory. Nevertheless, though we have difficulties, it must be our purpose to seek a broad identity of view and, above all, to know each other's minds and to 174 be able to speak our minds frankly, as between Governments.
Our consultation and our information is continuous and intimate. Noble Lords are aware of the machinery. In each country there is a High Commissioner who is in the closest touch with the Government and has direct access to Ministers. For instance, I, as Commonwealth Secretary, always meet. the High Commissioner of another country whenever he asks to see me, which is very frequently. That is reproduced overseas. Your Lordships may have some idea of the volume of exchanges between the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth Governments when I tell the House that last year there were over 20,000 different outgoing. telegrams from this country to the different Commonwealth countries; and that is altogether apart from the personal contacts which are made between High Commissioners and the Governments concerned. During the Suez Canal dispute contact has never been closer. When we come to the actual day or which Israel attacked Egypt, as I have already told your Lordships, it was, literally, physically impossible for me or any other of Her Majesty's Ministers to let Commonwealth Governments know or to consult them in advance. Your Lordships will remember that the noble Earl reminded us that the French had to come here that morning, and the conversations with the French Government took a considerable time to finalise. I actually had Mr. Casey with me that day, and I brought him into the Chamber so that he should have the earliest possible information. Earlier consultation really was not possible at that particular time.
I want to emphasise, however, with all the emphasis and authority I can give, that although there have been these difficulties, and once or twice lately, during this crisis with Israel, it has literally been physically impossible to consult Commonwealth Governments, there is no (flange in the British Government's policy of pursuing the most intimate consultation; and if any other Commonwealth Government can suggest to me any way in which we can improve the machine: y and make better use of it, no one will be better pleased than myself. because although during this last year and a half I personally have done everything I possibly can do, I. am always willing 175 to do more to strengthen the personnel in our High Commissions overseas and keep the closest contact; for that is the essence of Commonwealth unity.
The Amendment makes the particular proposal that a Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference should be called, with a view to finding a common approach towards matters concerning the United Nations and collective security. Her Majesty's Government are, of course, most ready to propose such a meeting if the Commonwealth Prime Ministers desire it, and they fully appreciate and deeply value these meetings and the exchange of views which they represent. But, let us face it, there are considerable practical difficulties in the proposal in the immediate future. The Commonwealth Prime Ministers have only lately been in London and, as the noble Earl has suggested, may well feel in these critical days that they cannot leave their own countries at such short notice. Next week, however, the Foreign Ministers of all the Commonwealth countries, the Ministers responsible for the foreign relations of those countries, will be gathered together in New York. I suggest to your Lordships' House that that will be an appropriate occasion and opportunity for an exchange of views on this and other topics of Commonwealth co-operation. and I should like to make the proposal that the Foreign Ministers should be allowed to meet and discuss all these problems next week.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, would the noble Earl allow me to interrupt him to ask whether the Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth countries have now been definitely invited to meet at New York?
THE EARL OF HOME
My Lords, the Foreign Ministers are all going to meet in New York. They were going to New York anyway and they will all have this opportunity to meet.
THE EARL OF HOME
No. They were all going there in any event, but the practical thing is that they should meet in New York: and, quite clearly, they will discuss this situation. They could not do anything else. I do not wish to detain 176 your Lordships, so I will not analyse the feelings of the different Commonwealth countries about this Egypt-Israel dispute. I think the noble Earl has fairly analysed the situation as to who has been in continuous support and whose attitude may have varied. I just want to tell your Lordships where we are now.
I believe that the objectives and motives of Her Majesty's Government are being understood much more widely now in Commonwealth countries, particularly since it became clear that our object from the start has been to get the United Nations to put a competent force into the Canal Zone in order to keep the combatants apart; and as the Prime Minister said yesterday, we shall not insist on this country being a member of that force. Her Majesty's Government then accepted a proposal which really originated with ourselves, although it was brought before the United Nations by Canada—I refer to the proposal for an International Police Force. Yesterday we voted for an Argentine resolution which contained that conception. Every country of the Commonwealth. with the exception of South Africa, which I think has not yet had time to make up its mind whether it has anything available, has offered to send a contingent to that International Police Force if it is needed. I think I can say to-day that, although there have been these differences of opinion among free and independent peoples. the Commonwealth countries are beginning to understand the motives of Her Majesty's Government and that we may be all together in supporting the United Nations in taking effective action to end the Israel-Egypt dispute and to bring peace to that sorely tried area.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ LORD BRAND
My Lords, I have only one or two remarks to make to your Lordships. One is in connection with the particular point that has been under discussion between the two noble Earls for the last half hour or so. I was going to express my regret, as an ardent supporter for many years of the British Commonwealth, that it had not been found possible to inform and consult, not only the United States but the different Commonwealth countries, before the recent military expedition was actually determined upon. I am not quite sure whether or not the noble Earl, Lord Home, has 177 explained that the Commonwealth countries had been asked about this particular expedition before it was made. I daresay that there were considerations of secrecy and so on that made it difficult; nevertheless, I think it was a very great shock to a good many of the constituent parts of the Empire, and in particular Canada, and I feel sure that it ought not to be repeated. 'This country is not in a position to go along by itself or even to go along alone with France. The days are past when we were rulers of the sea and when we could send expeditions wherever we liked. Now we are not among the greatest Powers and our chief strength must consist in tile alliance of N.A.T.O., in the support of the United States and in the support of the different Commonwealth countries.
I perfectly agree that we cannot expect to have unanimity always in the Commonwealth. It is quite clear that Mr. Nehru, for instance, does not always speak the same language as we do, and does not expect us always to agree with him when he certainly does not always agree with us. Nevertheless, while there cannot always be unanimity, it is absolutely necessary, to my mind, to pursue a policy of keeping them informed, not only on the twenty thousand subjects discussed in the twenty thousand cables to which the noble Earl referred, but on such a vital decision as that which was, for instance, recently taken to send a military expedition to Egypt. I am not competent to judge on all the enormously difficult problems that have arisen out of this action. I only wish to make a plea that, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned and so far as the United States is concerned, it is worth any delay in almost any circumstances to obtain their concurrence before we take such action as we have taken.
The only other question on which I should like to add a few words is on our relationship with, U.N.O. I think the Opposition in another place have taken an extreme view of the value of U.N.O. and of the protection that U.N.O. gives to us. I remember, as your Lordships do very well, the years of the League of Nations and "collective security," when the British nation was not prepared to arm itself or to meet trouble because it was, it thought, protected by something called "collective security." During those days I spent six weeks every year 178 from 1931 to 1938 in the Reichsbank in Berlin, negotiating with German bankers. During those years I saw the whole Hitler development, the lunatic condition of Germany and the extreme danger, almost the certainty, that war would result. Hitler was, I believe, very much helped by the fact that he knew that the British public were bemused about "collective security" and were not making preparations to meet him. Indeed the League of Nations, I think, actually helped to create Hitler's power. It would be a great mistake now for us to rely on U.N.O. as a source of power. We must support it as far as we can. We should support it in every possible way. But we must not depend on it for our defence or think we can get along without allies, without N.A.T.O.; our only salvation, indeed, is to keep in the closest touch with the United States and our Commonwealth, while as far as we can supporting U.N.O.
That brings me to my last point, which is to express my opinion on the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, as I understood it, that U.N.O. should have a permanent Police Force. That idea has always: Teen mooted ever since the League of Nations started, and certainly during the period of U.N.O. I have never believed in it. Certainly on occasions like this, to bring together from the forces of other countries sufficient troops and armaments, paid for by those other countries and put under U.N.O. for the time being, is possible and very desirable. I am all in favour of. this Police Force going to Port Said. But can one imagine in any difficulties, say, with the Soviet Government, that U.N.O. will be in a position to send to Petrograd a police force which would be of any value whatever? It is quite impossible to turn U.N.O. into a Government which has armies, navies and air forces; quite impossible that U.N.O. should ever compete with the military forces of the United States, of Russia, ourselves, France or any other large country. I think the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, made this same point this morning: that we must not lock on the United Nations as a means of providing large military forces. You cannot turn U.N.O. into a Government. A Government, to my mind, depends in the main on two supports. One is that it must possess the unquestioned prior loyalty of its 179 citizens. But their first loyalty is to their own Government. The first loyalty of no citizen in the world is going to be to U.N.O.—at least so far as we can see ahead—rather than to their own country.
The second vital point in the case of U.N.O., if U.N.O. were to be a Government, is that it would have to have complete power of taxation over the whole world. Can one imagine such a thing? People talk glibly about a World Government. Has one ever imagined what a world general election would be like, what would be the political parties concerned or what would be the questions asked or the political problems before the different communities? We must make the best of U.N.O., and in certain circumstances, like the present, a police force is admirable; but we must not think it can take the place of Governments, or that—and here I am repeating what my noble friend Lord Halifax said this morning—U.N.O. can give us peace as long as the great nations of the world are deeply divided.
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ LORD COLERAINE
My Lords, I must first of all ask your Lordships' indulgence and pardon for not being here at the beginning of the debate and for not, indeed, being in my place when my name was on the Paper. Unfortunately, when the hour of the debate was changed it was impossible for me to get out of a business engagement which I had, and I came along here as quickly as I could. The fact that I was absent was my great loss because I unhappily missed the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, my noble friend the Leader of the House and my noble friend Lord Halifax, which is a great loss to me.
In the past ten days there have been running through my mind some lines that were written by a great English writer a generation ago. They were written during the first World War at a time when the youth of Britain was being cut down in its hundreds of thousands in France and Flanders. The fins are these:If any question why we died.Tell them—because our fathers lied.Now the poet did not mean, I think, that the politicians of the day deliberately 180 spoke untruths, and, through those untruths, led the nations of the world into the First World War. What I think he meant was that, by having illusions themselves, by deceiving themselves, they deceived the peoples, and the war was the result. I do not know whether that was true of the First World War. I have no vivid memory of that. I do know from my own experience and my own recollection that it was definitely true of the Second World War.
My noble friend Lord Brand just now referred to the incantations we all used to make about collective security, and spoke of the effect that that had, in his view, and certainly in mine, upon Hitler and the Government of the Reich in those days. I am quite sure that the politicians told lies to the people—well-intended lies, well-meant lies—in the years between the wars. And I am sure, for my own part. that if we have a third and, no doubt, a last world war, it will be for the same reason.
Every public man in this country, with hardly an exception—every public man. not excepting myself—has declared for the past ten years that the United Nations is equivalent to the rule of law, and that the creation of the United Nations Organisation meant that in international affairs the rule of law had taken the place of the international anarchy which had prevailed hitherto. For ten years past we have declared that there is an abstraction called "world opinion" which is capable of seriously influencing international relationships. For ten years past we have declared that there is an abstraction called "moral force", which, by itself, can guard us and preserve us and avert the dangers by which we are surrounded. Not one of those propositions is true. In politics you cannot separate moral force from physical force. Indeed, the only way by which you can express moral force is through physical force.
Take, for example, the agonising tragedy, that we have witnessed in the last few days, of Hungary. I have heard people say—and I have seen letters in The Times to the same effect—that the action of Her Majesty's Government over Egypt forfeited our right to bring moral pressure upon Russia to withdraw from Hungary. That may be so I do not know. What I do know is that you cannot get Russia to withdraw from 181 Hungary or from anywhere else by moral pressure. To pass resolutions in the General Assembly condemning Russia over Hungary is not an exercise in moral force; it is an exercise in futility. if you want to deploy moral force to save Hungary there is only one way to do it—that is, by physical force. If you are willing to expel Russia from Hungary by force of arms, with all that that would entail of death and destruction—not in Hungary but here, in New York, all over the world—then, and only then, would you be bringing moral force to bear. I am not recommending that we should take that course; I am only saying that to talk, as so many foolish people do, as if there could be moral force without physical force, if it is not hypocrisy is the extreme of confused thinking and muddle-headedness. We are told that we must bow before world opinion. For what purpose? And what reason have we to suppose that world opinion is any less confused, any less divided, any less ill-informed than public opinion here at home? Surely you cannot leave these great issues to an abstraction which you call world public opinion.
Then there is the question of the rule of law. Some weeks ago I listened with the greatest admiration to what the noble Lord, Lord McNair, told the House about the legal position, what our legal rights were, and where we had overstepped them. It was an argument that—without being a lawyer—seemed to me to be formidable and impressive, and, indeed, as I heard him, it seemed to me to be unanswerable. But it seemed also to me—if I may say so to the noble Lord with the greatest respect—to be entirely irrelevant to our situation. Because what is the position as a great jurist like Lord McNair outlines it? We have a complete system of International Law. It is logical, it is consistent. it is ascertainable—in fact, it is quite watertight. There is only one thing that is wrong with it: the wicked will not obey it, and the righteous will not enforce it. That is not international law; that is a sham, covering up international anarchy. And under that system of International Law all you are doing is giving an open general licence to the criminal.
My noble friend Lord Swinton said something with which I very much agreed—he said many things with which I agreed but one with which I agreed in 182 particular—and that related to the spirit of the United Nations Charter. Everyone is telling the Government that they are acting. contrary to the spirit of the United Nations Charter. I wonder whether what they really mean is that the Government are acting contrary to the letter of the United Nations Charter. The other night I refreshed my memory by reading the United Nations Charter. It was clear to me, after reading it, that the spirit of the United. Nations Charter was this: that under the United Nations the nations would obey the law, and the Organisation would enforce it. At the time the Charter was written that, in the mind of nearly all of us, was what gave the United Nations Organisation its great superiority, as we hoped. over the League of Nations.
One superiority—and a great blessing it has been—was that the United States was a member of the United. Nations, as they were no: of the League. and the other superiority was that the United Nations had what the League never had—that is, power to exercise force swiftly and decisively to put down breaches of the law. The use of that power has not happened. It did not happen in Poland, in Czechoslovakia and. as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, reminded us this afternoon, in Israel. long 'before the present crisis when Colonel Nasser seized the Canal, and it did not happen even with the seizure of Kashmir. In the light of that record, is it possible seriously to maintain that either the rule of law exists Lt-day in any effective form, or that Her Majesty's Government, by their action in Egypt, have weakened it'? For my own part, I am absolutely convinced that throughout the action of Her Majesty's Government has been designed not to 'weaken the rule of law but to uphold it.
Let us look, for a moment, at the facts of the situation, at the reality. The United Nations does not and cannot enforce its writ over the whole world. if it sought to do so, it would mean the third world war. But the United Nations could have enforced its writ in the Middle East. It never did so in any effective way, and this sore has gone on festering for the best part of a decade. Since that is the fact, were Her Majesty's Government to sit by and watch ever-increasing anarchy developing in that part of the world? Of course not. If they had taken that supine and helpless 'attitude, I have no 183 doubt that those loudest in criticism of the Government to-day would have been equally loud then.
There is one fact that is clear to-day, and it is a shocking fact: it is that the United Nations Organisation, as a political entity, is dead. It was not the action of Her Majesty's Government that killed it. What Her Majesty's Government did was to pull down the sheet of pretence and illusion and reveal the corpse beneath. I have no doubt whatever that in its present form the United Nations is dead. But the need for it is there. I believe that the need has never been greater. I believe that unless we can revive the United Nations or substitute for it some effective form of international organisation, no power, human or divine, can ensure the future of this planet. It has got to be done somehow. some time, soon. We have got to establish on earth the effective rule of law or, at any rate, establish it in those parts of the world where we can make our will effective. It seems to me that it is towards that question, rather than towards recriminations and accusations, that our minds ought to be directed now.
I think that there are one or two questions that we must ask ourselves. First, is it possible to have an effective international organisation of which the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics is a member? I think that that is a question which we have to face. We have never really faced it. In my judgment, another question we have to face is this: can we, in this country, as tile leading nation of the Commonwealth, in fact bring to bear in an international organisation the influence which is needed unless, as well as being head of the Commonwealth, we are also head of a united Europe? It seems to me that we should be wise to consider these questions in the days and months ahead, because I feel, and no doubt your Lordships feel, too, that there is not very much time.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
My Lords, listening to the gracious Speech I rather regretted that it contained no reference to our sympathy with the people of Hungary in the terrible ordeal they are going through, but I am sure that what has been said on all sides of the House expresses the deep 184 and profound sympathy which the country feels. the atrocities which are being committed in Hungary are worse than those reported in the newspapers. The rebellion was apparently entirely of young working class people between the ages of 20 and 25, who have no memory of or connection with pre-war Hungary, and who found that life under a Communist régime was utterly intolerable. That makes nonsense of some of the glowing reports we have read in the last few weeks of how happy Hungary was under Communism. The great danger is of wholesale massacre. and possibly the wholesale deportation of the male population to the Soviet Union. Therefore it is necessary, if the Russians have any interest at all in the opinion of the rest of the world, that we should keep our eyes on Hungary and give what aid we can.
We are most grateful to the Government for their contribution to the International Red Cross and for promising to take 2,500 refugees in this country, but 1 hope that the Government will consider further the suggestion I made, which I thought was brushed off rather cavalierly by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, if I may be permitted to say so—that we should make an immediate substantial financial contribution to the Austrian Government on whom the main immediate burden falls.
THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE MARQUESS OF R EADING)
I am sorry to intervene, but I think the accusation that I brushed it off cavalierly is a little unfair. What I said was that, having had no notice that the question was going to be put, I could not answer immediately. But I did point to the fact that we were taking a number of refugees to relieve Austria.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
All I am interested in is that the whole question is still open. and that the Government will give it their serious consideration. I should like to congratulate the Government, also, on their action in stopping these visits of the Ballet, and so forth. It would have been wholly out of accord with the opinion of this country had they been proceeded with.
On the question of Egypt, whatever any of us may have thought about the action taken last week, there is a completely new situation this week, and it is no use 185 wasting our time talking of what happened in the past. I propose to devote the few words I have to say entirely to what I hope will be constructive proposals for the immediate future. In saying that, I think that, whatever opinion we may have had of the wisdom or timeliness of the action of Her Majesty's Government, nobody imputes any improper motives to them for what they did. I think we should express our admiration, also, for the brilliant staff work of our Forces and for the way in which the armed action was carried out by all three Services. Then from all sides we should support the British Government in maintaining their troops in their position until the United Nations Force is ready to lake over—and all we hope is that the interval will he short.
Our first duty must be to re-establish the unity of the Commonwealth. Whether the method proposed in the Amendment is the right one or not, that is the main task, because one of the wisest and most pro-British of Asian leaders told me the other day that there was a real danger that Pakistan, India and Ceylon might have left the Commonwealth if action had not been taken. Secondly, there is the re-establishment of Anglo-American unity, in which we have been powerfully aided by the actions and words of Comrade Bulganin. I know how everybody has been somewhat exasperated by the actions of Mr. Dulles over the last few weeks: but perhaps the fact that he was a very sick man may be an explanation for what occurred. However, I would remind the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, that one cannot entirely take the New York Times and Mr. Lippmann as typical representatives of American opinion in this present crisis. It is a grave danger that there should he a breach that needs to he repaired.
The third thing is the re-establishment of our friendship with the Arab world, which is vital to us. We owe Israel support on humanitarian and on historical grounds, so that they may live undisturbed within their frontiers. But even if every Israelite should be 100 per cent. pro-British, our economic and strategic problems would not thereby he relieved. Over the next twenty-five or thirty years we shall have a steadily increasing demand for power in this country, a demand which must be met; and even on the most optimistic estimates of the 186 Coal Board, or the most optimistic predictions of the Atomic Energy Authority, it will be impossible to meet that demand without oil. We must have the oil, and under our present system, to can come only from the Arab countries of the Middle East. At the moment the Canal is blocked, the pipelines art blown up, and Syria and Saudi Arabia have severed diplomatic relations with us. The re-establishment of good relations and economic co-operation between us and the Arab world is the primary British economic interest ahead of us.
There are three possible courses open to us. First, there is the re-establishment of such good relations; secondly, there is a drastic decline in our standard of living; and thirdly, we could give up our independence and go into the dollar area as a forty-ninth United State, depending on dollar oil and losing what independence we have. Therefore, it is essential that, in the political settlements which lie ahead of us, we should show the most scrupulous fairness and impartiality between the two sides. Otherwise, the Arabs will be confirmed in their suspicions that Israel is a pawn of the West which we can pity when we feel like moving the piece forward, and in their suspicions that Israel is an expanding imperialistic country which is for ever looking for an opportunity and a pretext to increase her territory. That is the deep suspicion of every Arab country neighbouring Israel. It is essential, if we are to recreate the proper climate, that the Israeli forces should return to within the frontiers from where they started. It is also necessary that, when Egypt is a conquered and defeated nation, Israel should not be allowed to have the type of direct negotiations with Egypt which Mr. Ben-Gurion mentioned yesterday, and that any settlement between the two should be a settlement made under the auspices of the United Nations, with both Powers present, and the troops having gone back to their own starting points.
When that is done, it will be necessary and proper to have a local readjustment of the frontiers of Israel. There are many small points on the frontiers which are wholly anachronistic—they depend on where troops happened to be at the moment when the cease-fire came. It 187 needs rational, objective and sane readjustment, with no major changes in population or area to the detriment of either side. That, I think, is the proper thing to have. If the United Nations can sponsor so objective and fair a settlement of the Israeli and Egyptian borders, I do not think we need fear that Israel would stand out against it, because they, more than any other country, depend on economic and financial support from the important members of the United Nations.
Then we have to re-establish the moral authority of this country which has been diminished by an action which so profoundly divided neutral opinion. I do not entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, that moral authority is nothing. Surely, it is moral authority and not physical force which maintains us in our position as the leader of the British Commonwealth of Nations. If they were looking for money, or if they were looking for arms, they would turn to the United States or to Russia. If they stand by us, it is because they believe in our wisdom, our justness, our mercy and our fairness. It is that moral force which gives us leadership and which reflects itself in the physical force of having those nations as part of the Commonwealth.
I suggest that one of the first steps we should take to re-establish our moral force, to show the vast difference between ourselves and other people accused of aggression, is that we should say that we will accept neutral arbitration on a settlement of the dispute over the Suez Canal within the six points of agreement which were reached at the United Nations, and that within the framework of those agreed six points we are prepared to accept mediation and arbitration if Egypt is prepared to do the same. To do that would put us at once in a highly strong position and re-establish our moral superiority.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
I mean if the United Nations set up a committee of nations not primarily interested in the dispute.
§ VISCOUNT ASTOR
In the dispute. Then I should hope that this would do a lot to re-establish national unity in this country, because, from a purely Party point of view, we have lost the support of those organs of opinion which one might say represent the "egg-heads," but it is the "waffling" voters who are the people who put this Government in, and who will put us out unless we get them on our side again. That is a basic fact of politics.
Finally, is not the last lesson this?—here I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine. We cannot get immediately a World Government which the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, regards as an ideal. The United Nations, with Russia in it, cannot be a fully effective force. Is not the lesson that we should do more to activate and make real N.A.T.O.. the British Commonwealth and the western European Nations? Those are practical steps that we may take, and which, if we carry them further, will prevent us from ever being caught in a position of moral isolation. Meanwhile. I wish the Government all success in the steps they have now taken.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ LORD HORE-BELISHA
My Lords. I disagree profoundly with the central theme and tenor of the noble Viscount's speech. I do not admit that in any way this country is in need of the reestablishment of its moral authority. On the contrary, I think that when the smoke has cleared away the moral authority of this country will be found to stand as high as it has ever done in her glorious history.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, rendered a service to the House, not so much in supporting the Amendment which the Opposition have put upon the Paper, as in drawing the noble Earl. Lord Home, to his feet. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and those who sit with him (who have been very restrained in their observations this afternoon) will agree that the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Home, completely disposes of this Amendment. The Amendment calls for a conference of the Commonwealth to discuss policy, or to arrive at an agreed policy in support of the authority of the United Nations. We are told that the Ministers for 189 External Affairs of all the Commonwealth countries are to meet in a week or two and will have an opportunity of devising, if they can agree, precisely the plan which is suggested.
In any event, I think this Amendment—which I assume will now be withdrawn—begs all the questions which we have to answer. It does not tell us what the agreed policy should be, but calls in an airy way for an agreed policy about the United Nations. The Commonwealth, as we have already been told, is not a unitary State, and it is little to be expected that there would ever be a complete concordance of view. The remarkable fact is that the Commonwealth does survive in spite of these differences of opinion, and all members of it stand broadly for the same ideal, however much they may differ in method.
This debate has been the most constructive to which it has ever been my privilege, since I have been a Member, to listen in this House. It has helped to explode many misconceptions which have been indoctrinated in the public mind, one of them being the misconception enunciated again by the noble Viscount to which I have just referred. But, standing luminously above all controversy, is the military aspect of these events. We have, indeed, reason to be proud of the efficiency and chivalry of the Services. The landing of the tanks and troops, the precision bombing, which had to be prepared to meet a risk which did not in fact eventuate—namely, interception by the MIG fighters—are all deserving of the highest eulogy. The operation, indeed, has opened a new chapter in tactical history. The bringing into action of a whole Commando by helicopters is quite a novel undertaking, even in modern war.
But there is another aspect of the military events which I think we should recall, and that is the morale of our forces. They were subjected to adverse influences. For some time past, the Reservists have been told by people who ought to have known better that it was unlikely that there would be any need for their services, and, indeed, that their whole call-up was a wicked mistake. They resisted, I am glad to say, that influence; but I hope that Her Majesty's Government. now that their policy in being ready has been proved to have been justified, will remove for the future any 190 possible leg[...]timate grievance that the Reservists may have on financial grounds, so that they will be properly compensated for the dislocation of their private lives.
The second adverse influence under which our troops were operating was the violent propaganda, ranging from Trafalgar Square to the Albert Hall and not confined alone to another House, suggesting that they were engaged upon an immoral enterprise. That influence, too, they wire, happily, able to resist. They were told that they were going into an action the cause of which was not supported by any of our friends throughout the world. I am glad to see that there is no foundation for that suggestion in so extreme a form.
Dr. Adenauer, in a meeting with M. Mollet, after a discussion on these Middle Eastern events, has just said that they call for a reaffirmation of the solidarity of the West. The Italian Foreign Minister. I am glad to see. has just stated in the Italian Parliament that he rejects accusations against Britain and France that these countries were oppressors of freedom and justice, and he upholds the motive of our two countries in serving the cause or justice in difficult and obscure situations. He has also said that he reaffirms the Italian Government's belief that the Suez Canal should be internationalised and safeguarded as an international waterway outside the power of individuals, nations or power groups. If that policy comes to be established. it will be due to the action of -Britain and France.
The noble Lord surely is not denying that the action of Her Majesty's Government has been condemned by world opinion. He is not trying to disguise that fact surely.
§ LORD HORE-BELISHA
I am certainly denying it, and I have cited the speech of the Italian Foreign Minister, who repudiates and rejects and thinks completely out of place the sort of charge with which the noble Lord evidently wishes to associate himself. He says he does not admit that in this matter we have acted as oppressors of justice or liberty. On the contrary, he sustains the motives of our action and he says that he hopes that our policy of achieving 191 the internationalisation or the re-internationalisation of the Suez Canal will be successful. My observation on his speech was that, if that is brought about, it will be due to the action of Britain and France and not to any action taken by the United Nations.
It is next said that, whether we be right or wrong in our motives, we have in some way flaunted the United Nations. I want to ask the noble Lords opposite to be precise about this, more precise than the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, this afternoon, who wanted the best of both worlds. He accused the Government of defying the United Nations and then went on to argue that the United Nations proposals were completely futile. He cannot have it both ways, but I think that before this debate is over—
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I did not say anything of the kind with regard to the United Nations proposals. I said that the one proposal that the troops should be withdrawn immediately was misconceived.
Yes, exactly; that is my point. That is a criticism of the wisdom of the United Nations. Surely the noble Viscount is not disputing that he is making a criticism of the United Nations?
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
It is one thing to make a criticism: it is another thing to accuse me of saying that the United Nations are entirely futile.
But they made futile proposals! Perhaps I should have put it in the singular: that this proposal is completely futile, because it would leave a void in which all kinds of disasters which the noble Viscount examined would accrue. I think that the country is entitled to a very clear explanation from noble Lords opposite because their colleagues have stirred up public feeling to a degree unparalleled since the South African war. Her Majesty's Government have been accused of all kinds of misfeasance, and I want to press—and I do it with good will because the object of the debate is that we should clarify our minds and purposes—first of all for replies to the two questions put by the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House. They were very fair questions; they were certainly pertinent questions. Is it the case 192 that all disputes should be referred to the United Nations? Or is it the case that no action should be taken upon disputes unless in accordance with a United Nations decision? I think that fairly summarises the two questions put.
I want to ask the noble Lords in addition: At what point do they consider it proper that action should be taken? Has a country to consent to the complete undermining of its economy while it is waiting for the United Nations to take action that it can never take? In 1951, the United Nations pronounced upon the Suez Canal and upon Egypt's interference with the freedom of passage through that Canal. That is five years ago. No solution of that problem has been found. Nothing was done to implement the resolution. When Egypt seized the Suez Canal entirely, what contribution of a constructive nature was made by the United Nations? Were we to see our interests jeopardised and our future as a Power in the world compromised by a series of arbitrary actions of a dictator? If not, at what point should we intervene, or should we not intervene at all? These are pertinent questions. When we come to this dispute, I want to know whether the noble Lords opposite consider that the contribution of the United Nations has been helpful or not.
When the lid of the kettle blew off, the United Nations passed a solemn resolution that it should be put back again. That was their first action. There was no other proposal for getting the kettle off the boil. They simply said, "Everything should be as if it had not happened", that the Forces should withdraw and presumably apologise to one another and call it off. That is all the United Nations did. It really does not, and cannot, evoke the respect of statesmen throughout the world. Now what is the United Nations proposing to do? Its action has been completely negative. If I may depart from the kettle, it has here in this matter, as it seems to me, put the cart completely before the horse. It solemnly states that there shall be a United Nations force. For years, this question has been argued without any clear-cut conclusion about the status of such a force or the principles upon which it should be assembled. It is now decided that there is to be such a force.
193 But, if you send in the police, you must send them in with a very clear policy. How is this force to be assembled? We may get some late information on that matter this afternoon. How long is it to stay? Is the United Nations intervention to he confined to the despatch of a force, which may remain for an indefinite period in what was a theatre of operations, or has it some constructive proposals to remove the causes? All the United Nations has said so far upon this matter is that the forces should be withdrawn whence they started. But Egypt was in Gaza in defiance of a United Nations resolution. Gaza is not part of Egyptian territory. Is the United Nations now to go back upon its earlier decision in respect of Gaza and say that it has suddenly become Egyptian territory, just because the Egyptians have been extruded?
My Lords, the problem has to be thought out. Is the United Nations going to insist upon the internationalisation of the Canal as a sine qua non, or not? I think Her Majesty's Government have been right to be circumspect before they accept this force unconditionally. Otherwise, if we withdraw with no agreement about the future of the Suez Canal signed, sealed and delivered, all our ardent efforts will have been in vain. We shall be back again in a morass of futility. I sustain, and I think the House and Parliament and the country should sustain, Her Majesty's Government in insisting that that policy of internationalisation of the Canal shall be a sine qua non of any withdrawal of our forces. We did not send them in lightheartedly and for nothing incur these risks on behalf of civilised mankind, and I think that is the least we are entitled to expect.
While I am on the subject of the internationalisation of the Suez Canal, what about the other international waterways? What about the Gulf of Aqaba? You have not solved the problem by internationalising or re-internationalising the Suez Canal. The right of unimpeded passage through the Gulf of Aqaba has always existed, but it has not. been implemented because Egypt has stationed herself in a military posture upon the Island of Tiran. Before we abandon this whole matter to the good offices of the United Nations, I think we should know quite precisely what the constructive aspects of their policy may be.
194 My Lords, that is the real purpose of my intervention in this debate: first, to support any measures of a constructive kind that may be proposed, whether by the Opposition or from any other quarter, for making the United Nations an effective force and keeping our powder dry until these proposals can be made operative; and secondly, to know upon what conditions we will give up the positions that we occupied with so much courage and so much difficulty. For the rest, before I leave the question of international waterways, if it be suggested that it would be logical to include the Panama Canal within the principle of internationalisation, I think there is less ground for resisting thin proposal than: here has been hitherto. I think that even when we have dealt with international waterways which are means of communication for all of us, we shall not have solved this problem. I think the action taken has simplified the difficulties which have extended over months, if not years. But we must look further. The perils to which our oil supplies have been exposed have stimulated scientists and technicians everywhere. We must press on, of course, with our atomic development so that the centre of our industrial power does not remain so largely in the Middle East. We must build more capacious tankers, and we must enlarge our ports we must find alternative means of supply and communication while there is yet time, for it may well be, as was said by my noble friend beside me in his admirable speech, that we have other and greater difficulties to face. If we have, then they would have occurred in any event. If we do not have to face those greater difficulties, I firmly believe it will be largely because of the demonstration of strength and of spirit in the cause of justice shown in these events by Her Majesty's Government.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, with your Lordships' indulgence I should like to say a few words about those broad principles of defence upon which the successful conduct of foreign affairs must depend. Lord Coleraine, in his very interesting speech, spoke of the link which must always exist between moral force and physical force, and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Henderson, who moved this Amendment, would agree that 195 where the Commonwealth is concerned consultation and co-operation in defence matters is of the most vital importance in maintaining good relations. May I say that I greatly admired the noble Lord's skill in adapting his speech to a situation which is changing with almost kaleidoscopic rapidity?
Before moving to this question of defence I should like to say just three things, very briefly, about the course which the debate has taken so far. First of all, I should like to endorse as strongly as I can the hope expressed last night by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, that unity might little by little be restored in this situation in which we find ourselves. I myself feel most strongly about that. I respect the views which are held sincerely and from conscience. but we must all hope that little by little unity will be restored. For myself, I hope that I may never be constrained to feel that I must vote against the Government of the day when our forces are actually deployed in the field.
The second thing I should like to say is this. I feel that there is one good thing coming out of this troubled time—that the United Nations is being forced to look itself in the face and to realise that it cannot continue as it has been doing in the past, salving its conscience by eternal talk. I remember, it must be ten years ago, when we were debating in this House the actual formation of the United Nations, that I ventured to express some doubts about it, and the noble Marquess the Leader of the House—I will not say rebuked me, but chided me gently, and said that I was a Jeremiah. As I have always understood it, the great point about Jeremiah was that he was so often right, and I think the fears I then expressed about the future of the United Nations in its present form have largely been justified.
The third thing I want to say is that I feel that at this particular moment we should all bend what powers and energies we possess to the restoration of good Anglo-American relations. We should act upon those noble words spoken by President Eisenhower, when he said that he felt those relations can be restored and can, in fact, become stronger than ever. I feel that all of us with any power or influence at all should devote 196 our efforts to that end. In that connection, the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, who is no longer here. in a speech, I thought. full of robust common sense and based upon a wide experience, quoted some words of Burns about "seeing ourselves as others see us." I think that is one of those hackneyed quotations which we are apt to repeat without analysing it. I myself have no wish to see my country as Mr. Nixon sees it, or in fact as Mr. Nehru sees it; nor have I any wish to see it in the distorting mirror in which Mr. Dulles (whom we all wish a happy and speedy recovery) so often appears to see us. I think we must think a little before we say that it is such a good thing and so helpful to see ourselves as others see us.
To get back to the main topic about which I want to speak. there has been yet another change at the Ministry of Defence. Sir Walter Monckton, after serving for what, for a Minister of Defence, is the unusually long period of nine months, has resigned and has been succeeded by Mr. Head. We have had six Ministers of Defence since Labour went out in 1951, and we have had four while Sir Anthony Eden has been Prime Minister. I do not think the word "scandal" is one which should be lightly used, but I think that these bewilderingly rapid changes at such an important Ministry as the Ministry of Defence have something almost scandalous about them, when one thinks of the responsibility which falls upon that Ministry.
I noticed that Sir Walter Monckton, in resigning, said he had been feeling his responsibilities too much for him, and that in acknowledging his letter the Prime Minister said he had known that for some time. In my view, with that particular office, the moment the fact becomes evident that the Minister is not equal to his responsibilities a change should be made, practically forthwith and not some time later. Sir Walter Monckton's health seems to suffer great vicissitudes, and it is perhaps regrettable that he undertook an office requiring great stamina and great continuity. As regards his successor, Mr. Head, I had the impression that at one time people were looking for his resignation rather than his promotion, but he has apparently found that the path of failure leads to glory and not to the grave.
197 It seems to me that these rapid changes at the Ministry of Defence show how little grasp the Prime Minister has of some affairs which are outside the sphere of foreign affairs. Otherwise. I cannot believe that he would have changed his Minister of Defence four times in eighteen months. But I do not think at any time, either under the Labour Government or under the Conservative Government, we have been very fortunate in our Ministers of Defence. it is an extremely difficult office to fill and I do not feel that. since the departure of Sir Winston Churchill, we have hit on the right man for the office. I remember one who was known to members of his staff as "the gem-shy bulldog" and generally, as I say, I do not think we have been very fortunate in appointments to that office.
What I want to put forward now is in no way a criticism of our men in the Forces. who have in Egypt, as has been said in the course of this debate. earned our admiration. They have done their job with their usual courage and efficiency—in fact it is so usual that we are in some danger of taking it always for granted. But my criticisms go rather higher up. I have already mentioned Mr. Head, who was formerly Secretary of State for War. With an army of 360,000 men the War Office. under his direction. had to call up 20.000 Reservists in support of the Government's policy in the Eastern Mediterranean. Mr. Head charged us £470 million for our Army this year. but when a job of work came along for the Army to do he had to get in extra help. which is a very expensive proceeding indeed. I see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already been—perhaps I ought not to say complaining, but murmuring, about the strain which it inflicts upon our finances. The War Office have been getting the majority of the men who have been called up for National Service and have been getting the greater part of the money, yet still they have not been able to meet the emergency from those resources alone. I hope that Mr. Head will prove more successful as a Minister of Defence than perhaps he did as Secretary of State for War. The fact remains that he was not in a position to produce complete self-contained fighting units, ready for a call, without having to rely upon the Reservists.
LORD STRATHEDEN AND CAMPBELL
I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but in my speech yesterday I did go into that subject. There are, as the noble lord I am sure is aware, certain units which do not exist in peace time but which, when an emergency or operations are imminent, have to be produced.
§ LORD WINSTER
I greatly regret that I had to be out of the House for an engagement at the time when the noble Lord was speaking—I recognise the authority with which he speaks upon this subject. However, without going into detail I think there is force in the broad lines of what I have said.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
May I say one word? I must not be taken, if I do not reply immediately, as accepting the strictures that have been levelled at my right honourable friend. The criticisms of the noble Lord are really more appropriate to a defence debate than to this debate. but I am sure there will be an answer— and there is a very good answer—in due course.
§ LORD WINSTER
I entirely agree with the noble Marquess that the details of these matters are appropriate to a debate on Service Estimates. That is why I am confining my remarks, as I said at the beginning to certain broad issues which emerge. My Lords, for two years we have been hearing about building up a mobile Army Reserve. When the call did come, we found that the Air Force had not got a Transport Command fully able to lift that Reserve. What good is a mobile Reserve if it does not possess the very highest degree of mobility? This question of a Transport Command has been raised repeatedly in your Lordships' House, bat unfortunately what has been said about it has fallen on deaf ears. It has always seemed to me that Transport Command should be peculiarly the province of the Minister of Defence, since a Transport Command must exist to serve all three of the Fighting Services.
Then again, we have recently had very depressing news about the Air Force from Air Commodore Banks. I thought he was rather sweeping in some of his statements. He said that we are now fourth, coming after Sweden, though I should not like to go so far as that. I think he was on more secure ground in saying that, unless we devise a system whereby we 199 get more of the things that we really want, we run the risk of having only a token Air Force. The Air Commodore would not accept that we have either the quality or the quantity of what we require. But this, I think, is the important point: he said that we have dropped into the habit of regarding seven to ten years as the period required to design, develop, and bring a bomber to the production stage. He asked for improved research, improved experimental facilities, larger specialist, technical and engineering staffs in the firms and an improved ordering process. In this connection, I would remind your Lordships of some recent remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, who, speaking out of his great experience in this matter, expressed a deep discontent with our present system of ordering.
All those are matters which have been bought to the attention of Her Majesty's Government over and over again, yet we find little, if any, improvement in the situation. It is still the case that in this country a requirement must first be considered by the Defence Research Policy Committee, then by the Air Defence Committee and after that by the Cabinet Defence Committee. And according to the Air Commodore, the chance of any decision at all being made was small, and the chance of its being the right decision "almost zero". He said thatsomething has to be done quickly to get us out of our pre-war state of mind, feebly grappling with problems transcending anything. even of the war period.These criticisms have been made over and over again, and yet to-day, in the situation in which we find ourselves, we are forced to recognise how little has been done to meet those criticisms.
The last words I wish to say are about the Navy, and here I warmly endorse the tribute which the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, paid yesterday, especially to the Royal Marines. The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, has just left the Chamber, but it must have warmed his heart to hear what the First Lord said yesterday about the Royal Marines, led as they were by a General who holds no fewer than three D.S.Os. I think your Lordships might be interested, and possibly amused, to hear something that came to my ears only last Monday. A retired Royal Marines officer heard a ring at his doorbell at half past ten at night, and when 200 he answered it he found two old Royal Marines on his doorstep who said, "Cannot you get us out there, sir?" That is the spirit which animates that Corps. But in his Trafalgar Day speech the noble Viscount the First Lord had not very good news to give us about the Navy. He said that we must put up with a smaller Navy than we would like, and seemed to admit that the little we have is either obsolete or obsolescent. He said that our shipshave hulls which will be worn out by 1965 or 1970.I have heard of weapons and equipment wearing out, but it is a rather new one to me to hear of ships' hulls wearing out.
The noble Viscount pointed out that the strength of our Navy is less than a quarter of that of the United States and that we have a much smaller Navy than Russia; and although he called our attention to these depressing facts I did not feel that he put before us any very encouraging proposals for remedying them. It seems to me that over a period of ten years Ministers of Defence and Service Ministers have really been fumbling with the new conceptions and doctrines of strategy, tactics, weapons and equipment. Nothing clear-cut has emerged. It would puzzle anybody to know what is to-day the doctrine of any of the Ministries that I have mentioned.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, this is a rather odd occasion on which to attack the efficiency of our Fighting Services. I should think they had never been shown to be so great as in this last operation.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, the men concerned were doing what they did because they were properly led and because the operation was properly conceived.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, it may be possible that they did what they did in spite of certain deficiencies. I repeat, I feel that we are still without a clear statement of doctrine from the Ministries which I have mentioned. We are still gazing in the crystal ball and consulting mediums. I never wish to quote the 201 United States of America against my own country, but I follow pretty closely defence affairs in the United States, and it is undoubtedly the case that there they have arrived at certain doctrines and certain new conceptions. In the gracious Speech Her Majesty's Government have used these words:My Government will pursue their policy of adjusting the structure of My Forces … to changes in the world situation in the light of scientific and technical advances.My Lords, so far, that pursuit has been rather in the nature of a stern chase, and I am not sure that we have not been falling behind, rather than closing the gap. I hope that the deficiencies to which I have called attention will now be considered in the light of Mr. Bulganin's threat to launch a rocket attack upon us, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will now pursue with increased speed the overhaul of the structure of our defence.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, I am afraid that in what I am going to say I am going to adopt quite a different spirit from that of the noble Lord who has just sat down. I am immensely proud of my country. I ant immensely proud of all the things that he seems to describe as being perfectly hopeless. I entirely agree with what the noble Marquess the Leader of the House has just said in regard to the efficiency of our Services and the speed with which, when the decision was made, this most effective operation took place. Before 1 go any further, I should like to ask the noble Lord. Lord Pakenham, what he meant when he got up and interrupted the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha. I was not quite sure whether he was fundamentally supporting Her Majesty's Government. or whether he rather felt that he could not bring himself to praise or help us in any way. I do not want to misjudge the noble Lord and I may be rather stupid, but I am somewhat disturbed about his attitude.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, is aware that there was a Division last week. I spoke at some length in winding up for this side of the House, and, so far as the past is concerned, I do not think I need add anything to my speech or my vote. As to my attitude this week, that has 202 been explained by at least four speeches from this Front Bench, so I do not think I need add to what has been said by my colleagues. The particular point which I raised this afternoon was whether tae noble Lord, Lord Hare-Belisha, did not agree that: we had been condemned by world opinion. I was not at the moment passing comment on world opinion bat asking whether he believed we had been condemned. Surely, the noble Lord does not deny, as a statement of fact, that the great majority of world opinion has condemned our action.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, I am afraid I do not at all agree with that attitude. I think that noble Lords on those Benches, and, incidentally, my erstwhile colleagues who appear not to he on their Benches at the moment, have very much exaggerated the feeling in this country a id in the world that WC have not done the right thing. I entirely agree with what was intimated by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, that we have not done so badly. I believe that the world is coming gradually to that view. Indeed, Mr. Gaitskell, who leads the Party opposite, took a very strong view that we were right in the beginning and now has altered his mind. I feel that all, or a great many in this country, who criticise the Government, will be doing the same thing, every day more so.
I must dissent from what the noble Lord has said about Mr. Gaitskell. I am not scheduled to speak in the debate and I must not delay the House. But what the noble Lord has said about Mr. Gaitskell is, in my view, utterly remote from the facts.
§ LORD TEVIOT
The noble Lord has evidently forgotten what he said in the beginning when the Prime Minister made his statement. He has quite forgotten that.
§ LORD TEVIOT
He and I differ on that point, which does not matter very much. Noble Lords sitting on the Liberal Benches (I see Lord Samuel has returned) and noble Lords Opposite will not agree with what I am going to say now. Quite definitely, I am sure that we have saved the world from an appalling disaster. The House is so small at the moment that I de not hear the 203 applause that I hoped would arise from that statement. But that is my opinion. As time goes on I feel that that will be more evident in many parts of this country and the world. I must say that amongst the people I associate with—I suppose they are very curious people but they are the sort of people one comes in contact with every day—I do not find this feeling that the Government have done badly. I feel that an immense number of them—I should not like to say what percentage—are gratified to see the attitude the Government has taken. I believe that that will gradually come out, and I am full of hope that noble Lords opposite, and I hope my erstwhile colleagues also, will in due course, say. "By Jove! they really have done a very big thing." I am quite certain that that is going to happen.
I am sorry that Lord Coleraine is not here. I am sure noble Lords who heard him will be of opinion that he made a most splendid speech. full of very high sentiments with a grand spirit in them. and I should like to put it on record that I congratulate him. Coming towards the end of a long debate. it was a very fine oration on his part.
My Lords. I want to say one or two things that I do not think have been said to-day. Can anybody dispute that the important things in regard to the present situation are. first. that our quick and successful action was designed entirely to ensure pacification between the various nations in the Middle East? That was what we went out to accomplish and we have gone quite a long way towards doing it. Then we wished to protect the economic rights and interests of others besides ourselves in that area. because we are not alone in this. We are not going all out to help ourselves; we are going all out to help not only ourselves but all those nations in this terribly dangerous area. We ask no privileges at all. We do not want oil at a cheaper price than anybody else. We do not want any privileges in regard to the Canal.
It has never been our intention in any way to institute or use any force to ensure that the nations living in that area should be governed in certain ways or should conduct their own internal affairs in any other way than they thought fit 204 and best for themselves. Let it be a matter entirely for their own choice. All we insist upon is that peace should be kept and world economic interests should not be jeopardised. Perhaps that sounds very bombastic, but it is a fact if one gets down to brass tacks on this subject. The noble Lord opposite always laughs. because he thinks "Poor old chap!" At ally rate. there is one thing I am very proud of and it is this. It has been mentioned, but I do not think quite in the way I am going to put it now: that, for the first time, the United Nations have come into the picture and are really an entity of great importance in world affairs, and that is entirely due to the action of the present Government.
I am not going to refer to Hungary. Noble Lords have referred to that appalling situation, and I am glad that from all sides it has been agreed that we have done the right thing, and we hope we shall be able to do more to help those poor people. Then there is this suggestion that we have lost our prestige. I do not see it. I think that our prestige stands higher to-day than it did a year or two ago. I think that the world's populations say, "Well, here is the old British lion. When he thinks a thing is right and proper and for the general welfare of the people of the world, he is going all out to do something to benefit them."
Now the question of the rule of law has been mentioned again to-day. Can you apply the law in every eventuality of the life of an individual or the lives of the people? Suppose one of your Lordships finds himself in a corner and being attacked. Is he going to say to himself, "No, I must not punch this fellow on the nose; it is against the law"? What nonsense! The law is all right up to a point, but if we are going to sit down and do nothing when the law is unable to function properly in the world, where will civilisation go to then? I am asking noble Lords opposite, what would you have done if you had been in office at the particular psychological moment when this trouble began? I thought my noble friend on the Woolsack put the question very well the other day when he asked: "At what moment would you have washed your hands of the whole thing?" Would you have done that? I do not believe you would. I believe you would have done very much 205 what we are doing now and stood up to the situation. I believe you would have made certain that that condition was not going to continue because it was going to wreck the whole world.
I know there are many others of your Lordships who wish to speak, but those are matters that are particularly in my mind. I spoke the other day, and I do not believe in repeating oneself if one can help it. Nor do I believe in repeating what has already been said by noble Lords who have made admirable contributions to this debate. I am not shaken by anything that has been said by the Opposition. I am fully in accord with what the Government have done, and I believe that where now people are criticising the Government. in the end they will he praising them.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords, I had intended to make a few remarks on general matters raised in the gracious Speech, but having listened to the debate to-day I do not feel that it would be the wish of your Lordships to be deflected from consideration of the all-important subject to which most of the debate has been devoted. I will therefore confine my remarks—they will he very few and will touch on only one or two points—to the Middle East situation.
I think it has been recognised for years—indeed, almost ever since the United Nations came into existence—that one of the greatest dangers, one of the greatest threats, to the United Nations was that it would be given impossible tasks to carry out. I remember that that was clearly recognised when I went to the United Nations headquarters four years ago, at The time when the Korea battle was raging. It seems to me that the situation that has now, arisen was bound to come sooner or later. As the United Nations went on, repeatedly passing resolutions, good in themselves but quite ineffective to deal with the situations which arose from time to time, it became clear that a time would finally come when it would be felt that some action was necessary and that we could no longer rely on ineffective resolutions. And it was, I am sure, to the eternal credit of this country, and to its Government, that we had the courage to take action at a time when, clearly, the United Nations was again getting out of 206 its depth. It was surely best that that should happen, rather than that once more the United Nations should he restricted to passing resolutions as to what should happen but be quite incapable of putting those resolutions into force.
I still cannot see, in spice of all the Opposition have said, what we have to be ashamed of. What is the immoral action we are supposed to have taken? Is it that we ought to have been afraid of what world opinion thought of us? Because you are doing what is right in the eyes of other people you are not necessarily doing right. Because others may criticise you, you are not necessarily doing wrong. It seems to me that that is entirely irrelevant. What you have to do is to size up the situation that arises and then do what you think is best. That, surely, is what leadership is. It is the essence of leadership to lead from in front, rather than to do what I submit the Opposition have been suggesting we should do—that is, see what public opinion wanted us to do and then do it. As a result of our energetic action, we have changed the whole situation for the better. The problem now what is the next move?
I strongly support the action that has already been taken in agreeing to the cease-fire. There has been criticism that we ought to have carried on further. I do not believe that that is right. I only hope that this cease-fire is not a ruse to deflect us from our purpose while others are re-equipping and recovering. I have no doubt that Her Majesty's Government are keeping a close watch on that possibility. It was clearly wrong, in my view. for the United Nations to demand that we should move out of this zone before they had an effective force to put in. That would be giving every opportunity for "seven devils" more evil than the first. to move in, and the last situation would be far worse than the first. I hope that we shall stand fast to these principles which the Prime Minister has already enunciated: that we shall riot move until an effective United Nations Force is ready to move in and take over from us.
Finally. I cannot agree with what the Leader of the Opposition aid the other day, to the effect that the only bright spot in the last few difficult weeks had been the opposition put forward by his Party and his friends. A bright spot, a 207 flaming torch, has been the courage and resolution of the Prime Minister—which, to my mind, has been beyond all praise—in what must have been one of the most difficult situations that has ever faced a man. The black side of it has been the faint hearts of the Opposition and their friends, who have given such encouragement to the enemies of this country. Surely it is time to close our ranks behind the Prime Minister who is bearing such a very heavy load of responsibility. Our action has already achieved most valuable results, but we have a very long and hard road to travel before we can be sure of a lasting peace. I am quite certain that that road has been considerably shortened by the action which Her Majesty's Government have taken, though I have no doubt that, for the time being, it is going to make that road a good deal rougher.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, yesterday we were listening to some remarks on the reorganisation of the House of Lords. To my mind, this debate supplies a very good answer to those who decry it. This debate has certainly been, in my view—and other speakers have said the same thing—most enlightening. It was introduced or introduced so far as the Government's case was concerned—in a most brilliant speech by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, whom I, with others, very much welcome back to this scene. After hearing that speech I felt that the case for the Government's policy, in its recent phases, was so strong that I would not try to-day to "paint the lily." Neither shall I.
I am not going to be tempted away from what I consider the main issue of this debate by the many attractive bypaths that have been opened up. The Royal Marines, defence, organisation of defence, international organisation—these are all the epitome of my professional life. I am going to confine myself to a matter with which, as I have mentioned before, I am connected as a director of the Suez Canal Company—namely, the Suez Canal. Now what we want to get on this question. if we can. is unity, or something much nearer unity than we have got as yet. If your Lordships will permit me, I am going to recall a historical precedent which I think might 208 be, to some degree. helpful to those who feel very strongly on this subject. It means taking your Lordships back to the year 1882, when a great pacifist, Mr. Gladstone, was Prime Minister. Not only was he a great pacifist, but his greatest friend in the Cabinet, John Bright, was an even greater pacifist. Yet, with that strong persuasion behind him, Mr. Gladstone, in the case of Egypt, found himself absolutely compelled to resort to force.
The two cases are not so very dissimilar, because in Egypt at that time there was a gentleman called Arabi Pasha, who was making a great deal of trouble. After the bombardment of Alexandria, when John Bright resigned. Mr. Gladstone wrote him a letter. With your Lordships' permission, I will quote a short extract from it, although the whole letter is extraordinarily pertinent. After addressing Brightas one who detests war in general and believes most wars to have been errors (in which I greatly agree with you)",Mr. Gladstone continued:The general situation in Egypt had latterly become one in which everything was governed by sheer military violence. Every legitimate authority—the Khedive, the Sultan, the notables, and the best men in the country…had been put down, and a situation of force had been created which could only be met by force.Before using force, Mr. Gladstone's Government made desperate efforts to achieve a settlement by the international method. They tried to get other nations to join with them. At the beginning, France was in with us in a kind of condominium, exercised through the Khedive, but France ran out at Alexandria and we had to see it through alone. That was in July, 1882. Ten days after that, the Government of the day decided that more must be done and it would be necessary to go to Cairo. Once more they tried the international method. They tried France, who was willing to defend the Canal but not to go further. They tried Italy. They discussed the whole question with Germany and Austria, and made an effort to bring in Turkey, who nearly came in, but ran out in an exasperating way at the last moment. Once more we had to "go it alone". One other point, which hears on a different aspect of the question but which I think is worth mentioning, is that Mr. Gladstone insisted strongly, before the Battle 209 of Tel-el-Kebir and in Cairo after the battle, that we must withdraw as soon as possible. In fact, we stayed in Egypt for seventy-six years. Absit omen.
After that venture into history, which I checked up carefully from several hooks, including Morley's Life of Gladstone, I will come to the immediate future. The question of the immediate future is to get the Canal cleared as soon as possible. It is badly blocked. How wise the Government were in making the declaration that they could not tolerate a situation in which the Suez Canal fell under the control of one Power, particularly an unreliable Power like Egypt—I am paraphrasing. Because it was a lighthearted action by Colonel Nasser, even in his own interests, to do all this damage to the Canal. It is no good concealing that this damage is very great. I am informed that twelve ships—they call them block-ships, but I suspect that only some of them are blockships and many are ordinary ships—have been sunk, and the Ferdan Bridge is down. The Ferdan Bridge and the two most important block-ships, and some other ships at the Suez end, are all beyond Kantara, which is the limiting point which our Forces have reached, or nearly reached, so that means that clearance will he slow starting.
I do rot think that it would be wise for me to go much further into the details of unblocking, because I do not really know enough about the position of the ships. But I would remind the Government that there is no responsible organisation in the world which possesses the same experience of clearing the Canal that the Suez Canal Company does. I say that because, while I read in the Press of all sorts of people who are going to deal with this question, I never see the Suez Canal Company mentioned. They are "de-blocking" all the time. I was on board the "Pasteur", the biggest ship to use the Canal—she was carrying troops to Indo-China—when she blocked the Canal. It looked very serious at first, but the Canal people knew how to deal with it. The soldiers had all rushed over to the side on which the ship had gone aground, and all that was done was to switch all the men over to the other side and the ship was brought off by the tugs.
210 But every job is different, and all this work is a technical business. Ships are constantly going aground, and nobody hears anything about them—I have a list of them put in front of me every month. Not only that, but the hardest job in this new damage is the removal of the Ferdan Bridge. The job is more formidable than it has been before—for this reason: the bridge was reconstructed and was a much heavier and stronger one. The Canal Company has twice, within my knowledge and experience, had to remove a broken Ferdan Bridge. They have every sort of experience of that sort of thing, and unless it has been destroyed, they have remarkable material resources, into which I shall not enter now.
That brings me to another point. In a previous speech I urged that when the time came for a final settlement the Suez Canal Company's claims should he considered. I pointed out that up to that time—and it is true still—they (lid not seem to have been considered. But this is only one example where the Govern-merit will find themselves getting great help from the old Suez Canal Company. Directly it is desired to start traffic up again it becomes a ticklish business. It is necessary to consider, exactly how large a ship can be allowed through file first gaps made. All that is a technical business, and -requires that the transit department is brought in.
A company like the Suez Canal Company does not depend only on individuals who are especially clever. It happens that we have an engineer-in-chief who had the unique experience in France of clearing Bordeaux, where the Germans had made the most frightful mess, arid he is a very able man. But we work in teams; and they are not only teams of experts. There are teams of experts who do the planning, but there are also the people who have to do the work on the ground. There are 5,000 Egyptians, and we. know who they are. Naturally, they have had to work for Nasser, but I am certain they would come back, if the old Company were restored. with the same loyalty and good teamwork that has existed in the past. I do not profess to know the reasons why the Company has been rather cold-shouldered, but I do ask that it may be carefully considered. I think it is going to be an important factor in the final settlement—and there must 211 be a final settlement about the Suez Canal. Several noble Lords have spoken about the need for considering it, on broad lines, and I myself ventured to send a letter to The Times not long ago which gave an outline of a plan that I had worked out from long experience and consideration, and which I commend to your Lordships.
§ 5.25 p.m.
My Lords, at this stage. in the debate it would be inappropriate indeed, and unwelcome, if I said more than a few words, and the shorter the better. I do not propose to go through the general questions of policy and principle which have been threshed out so interestingly in all quarters of your Lordships' House: I do not think we can go much further into them. However, I have taken great heart on hearing from all quarters of your Lordships' House a real support for the principle of the United Nations, even though the United Nations have apparently in some measure failed to satisfy many of the ideas of a number of your Lordships and Members in another place. I am glad that even the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha, who thinks that our position in the world never stood so high and we never had so many admirers before, and seems to insinuate that the sixty-five members of United Nations all voted in the wrong Lobby by mistake, supports that body.
There is only one point that has not been raised, and as it is rather a hobby horse of mine, perhaps your Lordships will forgive me for raising it. I feel that in the cold war that has been going on for so long between ourselves and our chief antagonists in that cold war, Russia and Egypt, they have employed a means which we have, I think much to our detriment, neglected, and that is the means of propaganda or overseas information. Those of your Lordships who have been out in the Middle East—I have not been out there recently, but I have spoken to many who have—and those of you who have listened to General Glubb on his return from there, will know that in every little village throughout the Middle East there is a receiver on the ground, the people are crouched around it and they hear the most vituperative and misleading statements, hour after hour. day after day. and day and night 212 about the British Empire and its wicked ideas and intentions.
This is, an old issue between the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and myself, because I say that he should persuade the Treasury to spend ten times as much as they do on our overseas information services. I press it still. There was a Motion down for your Lordships' consideration in the last Session—I think it was the noble Lord. Lord Tweedsmuir, who was going to initiate it—and I hope it will come up again. I press strongly that we could have an immense effect by a far greater range of overseas propaganda, which might, I venture to suggest, make it unnecessary for us in the future to spend as much as we are proposing to spend on defence and armaments.
The point of view from these Benches has been described by my noble friend Lord Samuel, with whom I agree entirely. I agree with him that the demand for our immediate withdrawal from the Canal is probably hasty and ill-conceived. It would leave a vacuum. But if it left a vacuum, it would leave it at the north end of the Canal. These Anglo-French Forces, as we understand, have not penetrated the whole length of the Canal. is there not now a vacuum at the south end of the Canal? I should be grateful if Her Majesty's Government could explain what is the function of the Anglo-French Forces now in Egypt. Is it purely a police function? if the Government could give us an assurance that the Forces now there represent in shadow or in advance the International Force that is coming, and that they arc no longer a task force, an attacking force or an invasion force, we shall all find it much easier to support the Government on that point.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ EARL ATTLEE
My Lords, I have been away from this country in India for nearly four weeks, so I have been rather outside the range of these controversies, and I do not intend to try to cover the ground that has been so well covered by others. However, I should like to give a few impressions of how this affair looks from outside this country. I cannot help recalling that on the last occasion I spoke I was rebuked by the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury because I did not accept, and my colleagues did not accept, a formula put 213 forward by the Government which was supposed to say that they would act only under the United Nations. The most [...]Primate is satisfied with that. However I think it shows that on this Occasion, as on others the children of this world are wiser than the children of light, because we were perfectly correct in not accepting this formula, which had an obvious gap.
As I say. I have been away in India and. receiving this news from various newspapers, one had to form a general impression. What struck one was this. When I was going round India I was frequently asked about the Suez Canal position. At that time there were discussions going on, and I said, "Well, I hope that the gap is not really great." I thought that, as it was going on so long. there would not be a recourse to force. and that I might expect the trouble to be settled. Therefore, when we had this sudden action it came as a shock to me and to everybody that I met
We had what I can describe only as a series of disingenuous statements. There was the excuse of protecting the Canal. Out there, it seemed to us—and I think I can speak for many—an odd way of proceeding, because it appeared that the danger to the Canal was from the Israelis. Yet we sent in our forces and proceeded to strafe Egypt. It is understandable now, when I hear quite a different tone given to the whole of this argument. Apparently, what we were really doing was to stop the war between Egypt and Israel. and for that purpose it seemed that the danger was from Egypt's air force, and in effect we "Pearl Harboured" it. This was a profound shock to opinion in India and Pakistan
There is in India I am glad to recog— recognise it—a profound respect for this country; a belief that this country does act on moral principles. We have heard a lot about moral force this afternoon, and whether there should he moral force alone or physical force alone. I agree that you have to have physical force to back up moral force, but physical force without moral force puts you in a very weak position, particularly in this country, where action taken by a Government that does not commend itself to the moral sense of the community is bound to be disastrous. The same effect occurs elsewhere in the Commonwealth. 214 There is an id[...]what Britain stands for. One sometimes hears it said: "What about Kashmir?" But in India Britain is not judged on any ideas of other people; we are always judged on what are believed to be our own moral ideas
There is also in India a strong support for the United Nations. I was asked to speak at a meeting in Jaipur, where one did not expect to get much of an attendance. but I found a gathering of about 6,000 people whom I addressed on the United Nations. The shock was all the greater from the fact that the present Prime Minister has always been regarded as a strong supporter of the United Nations and the rule of law. A question seriously asked me was: "What has happened to the Prime Minister? How can he be acting so contrary to all the principles that he has professed?" They were very difficult questions to answer
Then I went to Pakistan, and there, of course. the feeling was still worse. There was the feeling that this was an attack on Islam. You may say that it is quite wrong, and it is a mere accident that Nasser is a Moslem. But one has to face the fact that the whole of this trouble is filled with bitter hatred for the Jews by the Moslems, and the feeling which exists that we have turned round and attacked Islam. That is a very dangerous position. because Russia has been courting the Moslems. It is a Power friendly to Moslems, and the fact is that our action, so far from stopping the influence of Russia in Moslem countries, has helped her. So far from checking Nasser—he was not overpopular—he has been exalted into the hero of Islam. Of course. there was great feeling there. In every community in India and Pakistan this action came as a bitter shock to the members of the British community. I met a number of them, and the feeling was so great that people said they were quite ashamed to go round because of this falling away from what Britain stands for. The danger is that there is growing, as a result of these events, strongly Pakistan and quite observable in India,. I an agitation to leave the Commonwealth
I listened to the defence of the noble Marquess this afternoon with a considerable feeling of regret. It seemed to me that in his quotation from Lord 215 Liverpool, and from the whole tone of his speech, he was putting up the same excuses for action as have been put up by every aggressor—by Austria in relation to the Yugoslavs in 1914; by Germany in respect of Belgium, and by Hitler in respect of Czechoslovakia. Once you accept that action of this kind can be taken because think your national interests are at stake then away with U.N.O. and away with the conception on which our British Commonwealth has been based
It is true that we have differences in the Commonwealth. but the thing that keeps it together are common ideals and common moral principles. I thought that the noble Marquess, despite his decorous language, was really giving a cynical exposition of real politics. Actually, I think the action taken was wrong, and also I think it was extra-ordinarily stupid. Again. I may not have the full information, not having been at home, but this seemed to me an extra ordinary occasion to take action. There have been many occasions in the past when action might have been taken against Egypt, and I gather that the thought in the Government's mind was that the danger from Egypt, hacked perhaps by Russia, was getting greater and greater, and as someone has said, that it was necessary to lance the boil
There were occasions when our ships were fired upon by Egypt in the Gulf of Aqaba. No action was taken then. The same thing occurred to Israeli ships: and again no action was taken. There has been a continuing "tit for tat" in the raids, first from one side and then from the other, during the past few years. One of those might have been an occasion to take action. The curious thing is that the Government take action when the Israelis are the aggressors. They also chose to take action at a time which, in my experience of international affairs, is always a hazardous time—in the middle of an American Presidential Election. The result was that they managed to line up against us in the United Nations, not only the Arab world, not only Soviet Russia. but the United States of America and a large proportion of the Common wealth. It seems to me that that cannot he called clever. I think it was extra- 216 ordinarily stupid an [...] extraordinarily bad timing
Moreover, the [...] was said, to preventation was take it blocked. A hypot[...] Canal from being Nasser has resulted [...] blocking by our own action. The actual blocking by of oil to Britain [...] threat to supplies [...]was put forward as an [...]excuse—and now, apparently, we have stopped the oil because the pipelines have been cut! But much more serious than that is the damage to the United Nations and the damage to the Commonwealth and Britain. We played into the hands of our Communist enemies. The horrible events of Budapest have actually mitigated the damage done to ourselves. If Russia had not taken action against Budapest, she would have been in a position to represent herself, with considerable success, as the friend of the Arab people; but, after the events of Budapest, I think there is enough knowledge in the East to prevent that
Now we come to the question of what is to be done in the future. I am not going into that, but I would say one thing: that the damage to the Commonwealth is serious. It will take time to repair and I am very doubtful whether the present Government can repair it, Wherever I went, people were saying, "When are you going to have a General Election?" I have heard noble Lords in this House deploring the disunity in the country, but I would assure them that it is the disunity in the country that is saving the Commonwealth, because the people in India, Ceylon, Pakistan and elsewhere know that this is the action of the Government but not the action of the whole nation. They have pretty strong grounds for believing that the Government's action does not represent the majority of the nation; that the action of the Labour Party, the Liberal Party and the reports in the Press may have done sufficient to maintain the Commonwealth which the rash and wrong action of the Government has done so much to damage.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, with great respect I should like to ask him this one question. Would he and his supporters, at the time the Government acted, have done nothing at all in those circumstances?
§ EARL ATTLEE
It is easy to ask question of that sort: "What would you 217 have done?", when there has been a whole series of actions before. We should not have been put into that position to begin with. It is a silly question.
§ 5.43 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, we approach now the end of a debate which sprang from two extremely interesting and able speeches when the Address was first considered by your Lordships. We have devoted to-day to the particular aspect of foreign affairs. As my noble friend Lord Swinton said at an earlier stage this afternoon, it seems peculiar, looking at the Order Paper, to observe this curiously misshapen Amendment standing in the name of the Opposition. It looks very much like an operation which is sometimes carried out by addicts of jig-saw puzzles when they get a number of pieces strewn before them and the moment comes when they have to try to make up their minds which is the next piece to fit in and, having tried a number of pieces and failed to fit them in, they finally loose their tempers and rap with their fist a piece which is not meant to go into place at all because they cannot find the right place for it. I must say that this Amendment bears a curious resemblance to that situation. The actual terms of the Amendment have been dealt with by my noble friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, and I do not propose to go into those aspects of it.
This is the second debate within a week or so that we have had primarily on the subject of the situation in Egypt. The subject has indeed been discussed almost continuously in another place during that time, and it has not lacked ventilation in the Press both here and abroad. Reference was made at an earlier stage this afternoon to a letter which bore, amongst others, the signature of Professor Gilbert Murray, and to the particular phrase—again, I think, mentioned by my noble friend Lord Swinton—which said that, in the view of the signatories of that letter, the Governmentdeserve patient but, if necessary, critical support.That is what I imagine any Government is entitled to regard as perhaps the maximum that it gets from its opponents, but Perhaps it is also entitled in some degree to claim that that is the minimum which it deserves. Though I am not in any way 218 pointing to noble Lords opposite, I think it is true to say that in the course of these past weeks we have received a great deal of impatient and uncritical opposition. I believe also that the action that Her Majesty's Government took is now being more calmly approached and more widely approved as events or arguments clear some of the major irrelevances and inaccuracies out of the way.
When the happenings of the past fortnight are looked at objectively—and we must try to look at affairs of so much moment to the future of this country as dispassionately as we can—it is surely apparent that Her Majesty's Government's policy has been concentrated upon two interconnected purposes: the first, to separate Egypt and Israel and bring the fighting between them to an end; the second, to continue to hold them apart until a settlement has been reached which has at least a reasonable chance of establishing sanity, security and stability in the long-tortured and turbulent region of the Middle East. That was our predominant aim in launching ourselves upon this task, and to that everything else has been subordinate.
I do not propose to go backwards into past history which we have already discussed at length, except in so far as it is relevant to comments which have been made in the course of to-day's debate. There are two questions which have been raised by noble Lords in discussing and criticising the Government's action, two questions which I think we must briefly consider. The first is: was there a situation when these events started which required immediate and drastic handling? If there was, were we justified in intervening? The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, in the speech which he has just delivered—and we are glad that he is back with us, although we regret that he has had to tear himself away from elephants and other delights of that kind—said that our timing had been all wrong. He pointed to various things which had happened in the past: that a British ship was shelled in the Gulf of Aqaba, that there had been an Israeli ship stopped in the Canal, and so forth, and he said "Why not then?" In comparison with the danger which was hovering above us when we launched this operation, each of those previous occasions is of minute importance in the whole scale of danger, because what we were facing here was the urgent and 219 imminent risk of an outbreak of hostilities throughout the whole of the Middle East. That was the situation that we had to face and it was against that that we took our preparations.
When we came to announce our decision, it was asked, why did we do it in such a hurry? The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said in reference to the phrase which has been used about a Fire Brigade operation that there was no house burning. Was there not? Was there no danger threatening? It was not only that there was the gravest risk of a spreading conflict but, by the time that we acted and announced our decision, Israeli forces were already on their way to the Canal. After all, distances in modern warfare are as nothing. Leaving out air operations, leaving out airborne operations, as we all know, armoured vehicles can cover areas of ground in which 100 miles is a matter of practically no concern at all. There were these Israeli Forces moving forward; and as far as paratroops are concerned—this was our information and we have no reason to think that it was inaccurate—they were almost on the Canal.
What were we to do? The Canal is what one might, I think, not unfairly call the solar plexus of the whole of that area, and if that is struck, it is likely to prove a knockout blow. Could anything be a more serious blow than the outbreak of general hostilities in that area? The Israelis were already within striking distance. What we asked for was that there should be a cease-fire, first, by both parties—it is important to remember that—and only then, after both parties had agreed to the cease-fire, should they he required to withdraw to a distance of ten miles on either side of the Canal.
§ EARL ATTLEE
May I ask the noble Marquess, as I am rather new to this matter, why, if it was the Israelis who were advancing on the Canal, they were not attacked? Why was the attack on Egypt?
THE MARQUESS OF READING
I can perhaps answer that. If the noble Earl had been here, perhaps he would have read that the Israelis agreed to accept and the Egyptians refused to accept. The Israelis agreed to accept the terms conditionally upon the Egyptians also accepting. We were left then with a situation 220 in which, as we considered, the Canal was the vital point, and we thought it was our duty to safeguard that Canal, so far as we could, not only in our interests—the selfish interests, if you like to call them selfish interests, but anyway, the essential interests of this country—but also in the interests of all other countries who use the Canal by their ships and who get their means of livelihood borne on the ships which pass through the Canal. That was the purpose of taking action. It was necessary to keep the Canal open as far as we could.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
We did not block it; the Egyptians blocked it. It has been said by my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State that it is, and has been, the policy of Her Majesty's Government to ensure that Israeli forces withdraw from Egyptian territory. The situation on the spot is, we hope, passing in the near future—and the nearer the better—into the hands of a United Nations Force. When noble Lords on the other side criticise, one is always told if one asks, "What would you have done?", that it is an unfair question; but perhaps this is not an unfair question. I sometimes wonder whether they think we ought just to have sat still and watched these events, in regard to the seriousness of which we were deeply impressed, unfolding, in a mood of contemplative indifference. If we and the French had not moved, nobody else was in a position to move. No one else had any troops within reach, and time was of the essence of the situation.
The Security Council, were, it is true, sitting at that time. We had, in following up a pledge which was given in both Houses of Parliament during the emergency Sitting that we had in September, gone to the United Nations; and it is perfectly true that when the announcement of our intention was made plain the Security Council was still sitting. But the long history of Middle East affairs has, alas! shown conclusively that no combined will and no concerted force to handle effectively and immediately a perilous situation was vested in the United Nations, and that there was, unhappily, at that moment little to be expected except discussion and delay. If we had in our minds the imminent 221 threat of an unlimited spread of that conflict throughout the Middle East, whatever noble Lords opposite may think, we were not prepared to sit impotent and watch that conflict spread.
I observe that Mr. Bulganin in his letter to the Prime Minister wrote:An aggressive predatory war is now unfolding against the Arab peoples with the object of destroying the national independence of the States of the Near and Middle East and of re-establishing the régime of colonial slavery rejected by the peoples.If that amiable statement is true, how is it that we have hastened to express our willingness to hand over the task that we had undertaken so thanklessly to the United Nations Force—and not only undertaken to do it. but been the first to propose that that action should be taken?
My Lords, it is said that by doing what we did we have in some way made it easier for the Russians to carry out the appalling work upon which they have been concentrating in Hungary. We surely have enough experience by now to know that the Russians do not look around for excuses for their policy. They did not look before East Berlin; they did not look before Poznan, and they are not concerned to look before Hungary. They do what they conceive to be in their own interests without the slightest concern for the interests or the opinions of others. They have no more regard for justification than they have for justice itself. If they seemed at one moment to be withdrawing their Forces from Hungary, and then later returned, it was not because of anything that we and France had done. It was either because at first they misjudged the character and extent of the Hungarian uprising, or because they wanted to give the Hungarians the opportunity to proclaim their faith and purpose openly and to think that they had succeeded in their endeavour in order that they, the Russians, might then more effectively turn upon them when they had been taken off their guard.
So far from drawing any parallel with our action or suggesting that by what we had done we had set the Russians free to follow some example, let us remember that they represent their own actions in wholly different terms. I happen to have seen a report of a recent speech by 222 Marshal Voroshilov which is perhaps worth quoting briefly. This was while proceedings in Hungary were going forward, within the last few days, and he said:The Soviet Union. true to the Leninist principles of respect for the rights and national independence of all peoples great and small, has always been and is guided in its relations with other countries by the principles of mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, non-aggression, non-intervention in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefits, peaceful co-existence, and economic co-operation.The appalling cynicism of those glib phrases rings hideously enough in British ears. What must it sound like in Hungarian ears?
It will be claimed by some people that we have stopped now under the compulsion of Russian menaces and confined our operations to an earlier stage. We have stopped short because we are now firmly established in control of the position that we think necessary. In answer to the question which the noble Lord, Lord Rea, asked me, may I say that he will not forget that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has declared that our Forces will not move forward from the situation in which they are, and that in those circumstances it can be taken that they are there for the purpose of exercising the functions of control and not for the purpose of carrying an invasion further into the heart of Egypt.
We have always desired in this matter to cause as little destruction as possible, and in that respect we have been mercifully successful. In the same letter to which I referred just now, Marshal Bulganin referred to the barbaric action of the British Government. Perhaps he will remember that, even at some risk to the success of the operation itself, even at some hazard to the lives of our troops, we took every possible precaution to reduce the number of casualties involved and to give the people of Egypt the fullest possible warning of any danger that might be threatening any particular zone. If the Russian Government want to follow our example. there is an example that they might more fruitfully follow than any other. And yet we cannot rid our memories of the events in Hungary of which I have from time to time during recent days tried to give 223 your Lordships some very moderate and restrained account.
It is very much to be hoped—and I think the expression of that hope has been general among your Lordships today—that the United Nations Force will arrive swiftly, and that, however it is composed, it will remain in position until a real and lasting settlement in the Middle East has been reached. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, in opening this debate, seemed to think that there was much to be said for the idea that our troops could withdraw from that area before the United Nations Force had been introduced. So far as I could make out—and for once he was not quite so lucid as he generally is—he seemed to envisage a situation in which there was a son: of two-way traffic of our troops going out and the United Nations Force going in. I should have thought that was an extremely hazardous and quite unnecessary operation.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Marquess? He will realise that the position as laid down by the United Nations is that the British troops should come out now, and not wait until the United Nations International Police Force arrives. I tried to suggest that perhaps if the evacuation took place now it would coincide with the arrival of the International Police Force. There are important political considerations involved in the early withdrawal of British and French forces.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, I suppose it depends to some extent on whet we mean when we use the expression "now," but if the noble Lord is advocating that we should withdraw our forces immediately, and before there are any United Nations forces to take their place, then I must say that that is a situation which we cannot accept. We have not made all that effort with what we consider—whatever noble Lords opposite may feel—good justification and good purpose behind it to pull out and leave these two contending Powers, with nobody between them, to resume their conflict, with all the immense potentialities of further casualties, of further destruction, of greater embitterment that that situation could well create. That is rot a situation we are prepared to contemplate. But at the same time, when 224 the United Nations Force does come in—and let it be soon—the United Nations will have, I hope, a supreme opportunity to consider and to arrive at a settlement of the numberless causes of strife which have bedevilled that area of the world for the past years.
I do not propose to turn aside to dwell on what can be the possible moves towards peace either in the short term or the long term, but I am sure that this is a moment which the United Nations cannot afford to miss if they are going to rid themselves of what has been for many years (and unless they deal with it now will continue to be for many years in the future) one of their gravest preoccupations. By studying in retrospect the events which halve led up to the r resent situation the United Nations may well come to realise the defects in their existing machinery and take steps to remedy them so that such a situation as the present may not he likely to arise again. We have had quotations from leading United States papers. May I add ore from an influential Canadian paper, the Toronto Globe and Mail, which, a few days ago, said in a leading article summing up the situation:So Britain intervened—and rightly so. She has gone into Egypt not to make war but to make peace…to do the job that the United Nations ought to have done.The rule of law is not one to he lightly set aside. I am not going to plunge into the vexed area of International Law. I have never been an international lawyer, and I have long ceased to profess even to he a national one. But that we do attach great importance to the rule of law remains our firm conviction. It is a little difficult to represent President Nasser as the arch-upholder of the rule of law. The course that Her Majesty's Government have folk wed does not for one moment imply that we no longer uphold the basic principles set out in the Charter of the United Nations. It means only this; that a situation, a desperately dangerous situation, had arisen which the United Nations had not the power to resolve and which, unchecked, might have done far more enduring harm to the future existence of the United Nations than anything that we have done or could do. It means only this more: that since the necessary: preventive machinery has not yet beer!' devised to meet a crisis so heavily 225 charged with explosive as that which confronted w; in the Middle East, there may still he a moment when resolutions count for less than resolution in the final judgment of history.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, the debate has now come to an end and the House is no doubt waiting to know what we propose to do about our Amendment. Our decision has to be taken in the light of the reply by Her Majesty's Government to our case, which we submitted, in favour of special efforts to restore the unity and cohesion of the Commonwealth. If we were to judge by the gibes about the Amendment made by the noble Marquess at the beginning of his speech we might be tempted to take a decision without reference to the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Home. Fortunately it was the noble Earl who dealt with the substance of our Amendment. He made it clear that he recognises the importance of restoring Commonwealth unity and the fact that divisions have been caused.
We had proposed an immediate meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. The noble Earl, Lord Home, informed the House that the Foreign Ministers and Ministers for External Affairs of the Commonwealth countries will be meeting in New York next week, and will be dis- 226 cussing, or attempting to get, an agreed policy within the United Nations.
THE EARL OF HOME
My Lords, I do not want to put it too highly or to mislead the noble Lord. The Ministers are meeting in New York next week, and it seems to me inconceivable that they should all be there in New York without discussing the situation in which we find ourselves.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, I recognise that, and I also recognise that no doubt the noble Earl will inform his colleague, the Foreign Secretary, of the views expressed here this afternoon. I understand that the Foreign Secretary will be going to New York, and I cannot imagine that he will miss such an early opportunity to proceed in the direction of again getting Commonwealth unity within the United Nations. In these circumstances, we do not intend to press our Amendment, but will was t to see what results emerge from the New York consultation. I therefore beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente: the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.
§ House adjourned at thirteen minutes past six o'clock.