§ 2.45 p.m.
§ LORD HENDERSON rose to call attention to the Middle East; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Middle East, unhappily, has been an acute crisis area for a long time, the centre of persisting conflict and deep-rooted disputes and a threat to world peace. One of the focal points has been Cyprus, about which there have been important developments recently, and Cyprus will be one of the subjects of our two days' debate. But I intend to confine my observations to the Arab-Israel-Suez crisis, which is still, I believe, the dominant issue in the immediate world situation. There has, of course, been some easing of that crisis in recent months. Armed conflict has been brought to an end. All foreign armed forces have been withdrawn from Egyptian territory. United Nations Emergency Forces have been deployed, both in the Gaza Strip and at Sharm el Sheikh, on the Gulf of Aqaba. The Suez Canal has been cleared. Diplomatic efforts about the future of the Canal are being actively pursued, especially by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and by the United States Government.
§ Nevertheless, most of the problems which are the causes of the crisis have yet to be solved. It would be a grave miscalculation to regard lightly the danger of renewed armed conflict so long as the basic causes of hostility, tension and resentment continue to bedevil Arab-Israeli relations. The key problem to the entire situation is. I believe to be found in Egyptian insistence on the continuation of a state of war and 1155 belligerency in relation to Israel. Once Egypt renounces belligerency—and I do not think it matters greatly at this stage whether it is by means of a formal declaration or simply by quietly discarding it in fact—there would no longer be even a spurious legal fiction to cover hostile policies, and there should be a cessation of the raids, blockades, inflammatory propaganda and other provocative activities. I do not suggest, that this is all that is needed. It would not represent a complete settlement or a stable peace; but it would, I believe, end bloodshed and armed clashes, rapidly reduce tension and progressively produce a situation in which, at a later stage, more far-reaching negotiations would be possible.
§ Egypt ought not to have it both ways—to enjoy the protection of the Armistice Agreement in relation to her presence in the Gaza Strip whilst at the same time disregarding the Armistice Agreement in relation to its prohibition of further hostile acts and belligerency. The United Nations prevailed upon Israel to withdraw her holding forces both from Gaza and from Sharm el Sheikh. It is only fair and just that similar efforts and pressures should be exerted to ensure that Egypt desists from any acts whatsoever of unilateral belligerency and fulfils her obligations under the Armistice Agreement.
I hope that the Foreign Undersecretary or the Leader of the House may be able to tell the House something about the present state of negotiations on the future of the Suez Canal and the prospects of getting a basic agreement. Noble Lords may have read what purported to be Colonel Nasser's draft plan. According to Mr. Dulles, the United States believes that, with certain changes in phraseology, the Egyptian draft might be converted into what he called a multilateral agreement. Diplomatic negotiations on this matter have been proceeding between the United States Government and the Egyptian Government—with what result we do not know. But it would appear that some progress may have been made. The United Nations Secretary-General, according to The Times of April 5, has expressed the view that
there was no conflict between the latest "—
I emphasise "the latest"—
Egyptian memorandum on the operation of the Suez Canal and the proposals contained in
his letter of October 24, setting forth his understanding of how the six principles previously accepted by the Security Council and Egypt should be applied.
Is that also the view of Her Majesty's Government?
§ I assume that the United States Government has in this matter been speaking and acting on behalf of the user Governments, including Her Majesty's Government, who will have been kept fully informed and whose views will have been clearly represented to the United States Government. In the absence of information regarding those negotiations, it is difficult to discuss specific points on which there may be continuing disagreement—such as, for example, the payment of canal dues. But if the statements I have quoted are a correct assessment of the Egyptian draft proposals, it seems to me reasonable to expect that present discussions should lead to an early agreement on all broad principles. That would open the way for further negotiations by conference between the Egyptian and the user Governments, or between the Egyptian Suez Canal Authority and the International Chamber of Shipping, representing the ship owners of the eighteen nations who control the great majority of ships normally using the canal. Perhaps both conferences would be desirable.
I am sure that none of us would dissent from the firm view expressed by the International Chamber of shipping that
the working of the Canal, and even more, its development to meet future needs, cannot be satisfactory unless there is close consultation between the ship owners who use the Canal and the Authority charged with its operation.
It is obvious that regular consultation on commercial, technical and other matters of common interest would be of material benefit to both operator and users.
According to the text of Colonel Nasser's draft memorandum, the Egyptian Government declare their unaltered policy—here I am quoting their words:
and firm purpose to respect the terms and the spirit of the 1880 Convention, and the rights and obligations arising therefrom.
I have studied the context of that Convention and, if I understand its terms correctly, there is nothing in it which authorises the Egyptian Government to block the Canal last autumn, or which entitles them to deny freedom of passage to Israeli shipping. On both counts the
Egyptian Government have acted in contravention of the 1888 Convention. What is of importance to all nations, both in Europe and in Asia, is that there shall be no future breaches; that free passage shall be unqualified and uninterrupted: that in fact the Canal shall be effectively insulated from the politics of any country. Guaranteed and dependable freedom of passage is clearly an indispensable condition of world confidence in the future operation of the Canal.
§ The Canal has now been cleared of its last obstruction, and when it is again in general use by world shipping the real test of whether there is dependable international freedom of passage and of whether operation has been insulated from national politics will come when the first Israeli ship enters the Canal. I do not think there can be any doubt that Israel will seek to exercise her rights, and that she will not be satisfied with anything less than equality of treatment. And she is entitled to it. It would be unwise and unrealistic, for the Egyptian Government or any other Government, to suppose that Israel will continue patiently to suffer discrimination regarding freedom of passage through the Canal or in the Gulf of Aqaba—I shall have something to say about the Gulf of Aqaba later—especially as it is this denial to her of international rights which has enabled Egypt to persist in her policy of economic blockage and boycott.
§ If Egypt stands by her illegal breach, and, as Cairo Radio threatens, attempts to destroy any ship that Israel sends on a test run, a serious international situation will arise. In my judgment, the United Nations will be bound to face up to its responsibilities and deal promptly with the matter in such a way as will make it clear beyond doubt to Egypt that ownership of the Canal does not carry with it any arbitrary power over the rights of nations; and the United Nations must not hesitate to apply whatever pressures are required to make its will prevail. I repeat that guaranteed and dependable right of passage is of the highest importance to all nations whose oil or trade ships pass through the Canal. The world has had experience of what it means to have the Canal closed to traffic, and this country, in particular, has had a bitter taste of what can be involved by any serious interruption of our oil supplies. It 1158 is true that we carry our own share of blame for it, but I do not think it likely that any future British Government would attempt to repeat that "go it alone" folly.
§ But let it not be forgotten that what an Egyptian dictatorship has lone once it might be tempted to do again as a measure of national politics. If Arab-Israel relations were to continue embittered and hostile, and armed provocations were renewed, it is possible that Israel might invoke Article 51 of the Charter and resort to armed action. And if the Israeli forces again speedily advanced up to the Canal, would Egypt block the Canal once more as a measure of so-called military defence? I do not assert that that would happen, but I do not know what powers exist to prevent such an illegal operation or what collective sanctions would be threatened or resorted to to prevent its happening. The least that should be done, it seems to me, when agreement is reached about the future of the Canal, is that any such international treaty or convention should be registered at the United Nations, and that the United Nations should be accepted and designated as the international authority responsible for ensuring that its terms are loyally and fully observed by all concerned.
§ I read a statement the other day by M. Georges-Picot, Chairman of the Suez Canal Company, that, according to calculations given to the Company by an American firm, the oil traffic through the Canal, which was 69 million tons during 1955, is likely to rise to 254 million tons in 1968, and to 335 million tons in 1972. That is to say, at the end of the next ten years oil traffic is expected to be three and a half times what it was before the recent crisis and the number of ships using the Canal daily will be doubled. A development programme had been devised by the old Company to enable this enormously increased traffic to pass through the Canal. Colonel Nasser stated in his Memorandum that this development programme will be carried through by the new Authority, but to what extent and in what time it will be accomplished remains to be seen. It must be obvious to all of us that any serious interruption of oil, commerce and shipping in the coming years would bring consequences far more serious than those which the nations have 1159 felt in recent months. There is therefore, in my opinion, a great deal to be said in favour of constructing new pipelines to the Mediterranean and building an adequate number of large tankers so as to decrease our dependence on the Canal and to reduce the consequences of possible interference with the short-haul traffic.
§ At the same time, I believe that it would be a wise step for Her Majesty's Government to take the initiative, through the United Nations, to get an International Oil Convention for the Middle East which would ensure a just distribution of oil to consumer countries, as well as a fair deal for the oil-producing countries. "Oil politics" have been a disturbing factor in the Middle East situation over many years, and they have definitely contributed to the lack of accord on policy between this country and the United States of America regarding the Middle East. It is not through "oil politics" and oil company rivalries that there will be created in the Middle East conditions which will bring about political and economic stability there and assure to the consuming nations security for their oil supplies.
My Lords, I have mentioned Aqaba. Freedom of passage through the Gulf of Aqaba also needs to be firmly established. I find it difficult to understand why any of the maritime nations permitted Egyptian interference with their right of free passage there. The Egyptian Government are on record as having officially declared, in 1950, that the Tiran Straits, the only practicable passage through the Gulf of Aqaba:
will remain free, as in the past, to innocent traffic; which is in conformity with International Law practice and the recognised principles of International Law.
That is a clear and categorical statement of international right and practice; yet ships—and not only Israeli ships—carrying cargoes to the Israeli port of Eilat have been denied free passage through the Gulf. That is surely an intolerable position for any maritime nation to accept. It has been the position for some years and it is time that it was ended. Ships of all nations, including our own, should exercise their full rights. Israel, for her part, has made it absolutely clear that she will no longer submit to any further interference with the free passage of her ships. There has been some speculation whether
the first sign of recognition of these international rights has been given by the Egyptian Government in not interfering with the American tanker, on charter to the Israeli National Fuel Company, which has taken a cargo of oil through the Gulf of Aqaba. I hope that that is the case, but I personally feel that we should avoid making any hasty assumption.
§ When the Israeli forces drove the Egyptians out of the Gaza Strip, they destroyed the whole apparatus responsible for the incessant fedayeen raids into Israeli territory. At the behest of the United Nations they withdrew their own defence forces behind the Armistice line, and it is perfectly clear that they counted on Gaza remaining a full United Nations responsibility. If my recollection is right, that was also the desire of Her Majesty's Government. In the result, both Governments have been disappointed. Nevertheless, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will press for some additional instrument of United Nations authority to be set up so as to increase United Nations' control for the peace of that area. In practice, the United Nations has taken a firm stand on the terms of the Armistice agreement and the rule of law. I do not criticise that; but immediate benefits have thereby accrued to defeated Egypt. Egyptian civil administration has been restored, though no doubt it will be a long time before the battered Egyptian armed forces are in a condition to return. The United Nations Emergency Force now patrols the Armistice line. The Secretary-General of the United Nations considers that these arrangements will help to keep a check on fedayeen activities in the Gaza area. But that is likely to be so only as long as the Egyptian Government and authorities enforce a shut-down on armed raids.
§ I would urge upon Her Majesty's Government the desirability of supporting the Israeli proposal for the erection of barbed wire entanglements along the whole frontier patrolled by the United Nations Force. This would be an additional safeguard and protection against raids. I take the view that it is the duty of the United Nations to see that the Armistice agreement and the rule of law are applied impartially both ways—not merely for the rights of Egypt but also for those of Israel; and so long as Egypt maintains a policy of unilateral belligerency it would 1161 be unsafe to assume that armed raids will not be attempted. This is an additional reason for maintaining the Emergency Force in the area until danger has finally been eliminated by an Egyptian-Israeli agreement.
§ Even if the policy of belligerency is dropped, and there is a cessation of fedayeen raids, I do not think it will be possible to make effective headway towards a reconciliation of the Arab States and Israel until provision is made for the problem of the refugees to be taken firmly and effectively in hand. On several occasions since 1951 Israel has offered immediate negotiations on the refugee problem alone—if necessary, separate from a general settlement. Israel has also offered to take back tens of thousands of refugees if this would help towards a peace settlement, and, at the same time, has offered compensation to those who could not be taken back. At no time has there been any Arab response. No one need doubt the sincerity of Israel in making these offers, which I am sure still stand; but there is obviously a limit to her capacity under both heads.
§ I have never believed that a solution of these problems could be found simply through what Israel was prepared and able to do. Something far beyond Israel's resources is required. The magnitude, urgency and complexity of the problem of resettling the hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees is one that calls for special international action Colonel Nasser is reported to have told American journalists that Egypt would, prevent Israeli ships from passing through the Suez Canal until the Arab refugee problem was settled. Although he referred to Israel, he surely cannot have meant that Israel must solve the problem. He knows that on that basis the problem could never be solved. And we know there could never be an Arab-Israeli settlement so long as the refugee problem is left to fester. The United Nations has carried for years the liability of keeping the refugees on a bare care and maintenance basis. That has been a valuable service, but it has not touched the heart of the problem. But for Colonel Nasser to declare that the Arabs want the refugees reinstated in their rights, property and land is altogether illusory if his sights are set on Israeli territory. He must turn his sights elsewhere, and he 1162 should be enabled to do so under the influence, the guidance and the assistance of the United Nations.
§ It is impossible for the many hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arab refugees to find a future in present-day Israel. It is equally useless to think in terms of a cession of Israeli territory. In this connection, it is, I think, most unfortunate that both Sir Anthony Eden and Mr. Selwyn Lloyd have made statements which, whether intended to do so or not, have encouraged the Arab States to look for territorial concessions by Israel. We know that that is not going to happen. I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government to be more precise to-day, and to make it clear that what they have in mind are border rectifications to remove admitted absurdities and anomalies on both sides of the line, and that the process of rectification should be carried through on the principle of mutual give and take. If that is broadly the Government's position, much misunderstanding would be removed by a clear and positive statement to that effect. I invite the Government to make their position clear in this debate.
§ I come back to the refugee problem. These Arab masses must be resettled and re-integrated into the economic and social life of the Middle East. This calls for urgent action by the United Nations, and steps should be taken under its auspices to examine the whole problem, to study the facts, to devise plans for re-location and resettlement by stages, to assess the cost of the enterprise and to suggest ways and means of financing it. The long-term solution is linked with projects for economic development (such as co-operative schemes for the Jordan and Nile rivers), and we, on these Benches, again urge upon the Government—as we have done on several previous occasions—the need for a United Nations Middle East "Colombo Plan" to aid and encourage the Middle East States to work for their own economic salvation and prosperity. That, however, does not mean leaving the refugees to linger indefinitely in their present poverty, misery and hopelessness. Theirs should be treated as a priority problem. A United Nations Commission, with which the Arab States and Israel cooperated, should be able to get practical resettlement measures and plans worked out that would give confidence through-out 1163 the Arab world that a positive international effort was being made to provide, by progressive stages, a new opportunity for life and labour to the million Arab refugees.
§ The last point to which I want to refer is the question of the future supply of arms to the Middle East. It was the introduction of Communist arms that destroyed the attempt by the West to keep a reasonable balance. In the light of that, I would ask Her Majesty's Government whether they regard the Tripartite Declaration as being still operative, and what value can be attached to it as a means of helping to prevent a new arms race in the Middle East. Soviet Russia has now gained an advantageous foothold, and she cannot be ignored in Middle East affairs. British influence, on the other hand, has been seriously weakened, at any rate for the immediate future. To-day the United States and Soviet Russia confront one another there, contending for supremacy as they do elsewhere. The stake is whether the Arab world will develop in mutual co-operation with the Free World or in association with (and ultimate subordination to) the Communist world.
§ The best hope the West has of winning this vital contest is by frankly recognising the legitimate aspirations of Arab nationalism, helping it to become a constructive force that will apply itself to the creation of stable political conditions and to economic developments that will lift the Arab peoples out of their present poverty. The Baghdad Pact provides a forward shield against direct Communist aggression. It has, no doubt, been strengthened by the United States joining the Military Council. On this, I should like to ask the Government what difference there will be between our obligations as a full partner of the Baghdad Pact and those of the United States as a member of the Military Council. The Pact will still, however, have only one Arab State member. The others continue to refuse to have anything to do with it, and Israel is still excluded from it. In any case, the Baghdad Pact cannot prevent conditions of unsettlement and near-conflict in the area behind. And if that situation is worsened by a new arms race, with the United States and Russia in open competition, the dangers to peace will be considerably sharpened. 1164 There are cogent reasons, therefore, for avoiding a new Middle East arms race.
§ I believe that there is now an opportunity to direct the minds of the Middle East States away from armed conflict and armaments. The extent to which that opportunity is seized will depend largely upon the four Powers who control the supply of arms. There is clearly a need for a new agreement—and only a Four-Power Agreement will suffice—not only to prevent a fresh Arab-Israel race in armaments, but also to bring conditions of peaceful co-existence to the area and the chance for the Governments to devote their energies and resources to raising the living conditions of their peoples. As my final word, therefore, I ask the Government to take the initiative in proposing an early meeting of the four Heads of Government, with the object, among others, of getting a Four-Power Agreement on the Middle East. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ LORD GRANTCHESTER
My Lords, I will not follow the noble Lord who has just spoken into the many matters of detail to which he has referred, and which he has subjected to such an illuminating analysis. I feel that there are certain overriding considerations which are more important than any detail, and I should like to refer briefly to two such considerations. The first is our relationship with the United States; the second is the rôle which we expect to be played by the United Nations. The closeness or otherwise of Anglo-American relations, of Anglo-American working, at this juncture must profoundly affect the whole position in the Middle East. On a recent visit to the Middle East I was appalled at the carelessness with which American political officers and American citizens, operating under what is called the Point Four Programme, expressed themselves at a critical and explosive time. Any British initiative or enterprise was dubbed "colonialism", and as such assumed to be "on its way out". At that time, in several Middle East countries Britain alone was carrying precise obligations under definite commitments. It is gratifying that the United States have now joined the Military Committee of the Baghdad Pact and have to some extent repaired the greatest cause of confusion and misunderstanding in that area.
1165 But what I have indicated is only the expression of what I must call the malaise of Anglo-American relations since the end of the war. In spite of the confident tone of the Prime Minister, I cannot feel that the latest Conference at Bermuda has established Anglo-American relations on a satisfactory footing. The real basic trouble, surely, is that neither this country nor America has been willing to work out a joint policy. Each has tried to reserve its right to independent action. The Americans have exercised this right but have recently shown that they will take grave risks to prevent any independent action by this country. I do not think that that is a satisfactory position, and I do not believe that it has been cleared up at Bermuda. I listened very attentively to the apologia of the Prime Minister last week. He protested that he had not accepted a position of greater dependence on the United States than that which had been accepted by the previous Labour Government. But this is not the point: the question which stands unresolved is whether this country and America can work out a joint policy.
I should like to see this problem frankly thrown into the arena of discussion and, if necessary, into the arena of public discussion. I hope that the Press will not be afraid to discuss this question a little more fully and frankly. I want to ask for the establishment, on a very high level, directly under the two Foreign Ministers, of a joint Anglo-American Committee to try to coordinate policy. I want to see established at once in the political field the equivalent of the Chiefs of Staff Committee which existed during the war. That was not achieved, so far as I can understand from the communiqué and the report of the Prime Minister, at Bermuda. I do not believe that anything less will be of any real use in the present very difficult situation in the Middle East.
The trouble is that the Ministers have no time to think. They live under the continuous pressure of events; ad hoc decisions are taken, inadequately thought out, and these come to be accepted as a policy. No one, for instance, has questioned or thought out the implications of the American method of helping underdeveloped territories. The Americans claim that their economic system is the 1166 product and guardian of free enterprise, but the American method of helping under-developed countries often has the most detrimental effect on free enterprise. Generally, its effect is to place the Governments of those countries in a position to nationalise enterprises which have been established through European investment, and to retard the extension of free enterprise. If it is continued, it may well bring, at no distant date, the same end to American enterprises now being established as it has clone to other enterprises, such as Abadan and the Universal Canal Company. This is a serious problem, and one which needs consideration and study.
I suggest that we in this country should benefit from consultation with some of the European countries, particularly with France, Italy and Germany. France is involved extensively in the Middle East. The Italians are rapidly obtaining increased influence and agreements in Middle East countries. The Germans are building up connections in the Middle East, and we noticed their representatives in many places ready to negotiate agreements. An interesting study has recently been published by a German society to advance the protection of foreign investments. This matter of the protection of foreign investments is one which must be considered if there is to be development and progress in these less developed territories. I doubt whether this matter, which I consider to be one of the most important in the field of Anglo-American relations, and which includes the conditions under which grants and credit are to be made available to less developed territories, was even mentioned at Bermuda. Obviously, the Prime Minister had tackled with great determination the intricacies of nuclear terminology, but the financial aspects of American policy do not appear to have been mentioned.
A policy of financial inducement is the spearhead of American penetration of the Middle East. It is the lack of understanding and agreement with this country that gives American policy the appearance of being designed to drive British enterprise out of the Middle East, if not completely, at any rate to the extent of relegating it to a position of very minor importance. In his speech last week, the 1167 Prime Minister said this [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 568 (No. 84), col. 40]:The President made it abundantly clear to me that the United States, so far from wishing to reduce British influence in the Middle East, is anxious to see it reinforced.All I can say is that if that is the intention of the United States, they have expressed their intention in quite unintelligible language and made everyone believe that their intention was the precise opposite.
The second overriding consideration to which I should like to refer is the rôle of the United Nations as it affects the Middle East. Perhaps in this matter, the rôle of the United Nations and what it is expected to do, I take a slightly different point of view from that of the noble Lord who has just spoken. As I understand it, the United Nations Organisation was established and equipped to take action if, and only if, there was agreement between the great Powers represented on the Security Council. In matters where this could not be achieved the United Nations was reduced to "talk." I know that it is fashionable to-day to decry "talk" and to praise "action." But those who planned the United Nations Organisation were practical men, and perhaps wise men. I prefer to use the expression "talk," not in any derogatory sense—indeed, rather the reverse. I prefer to speak of "talk" rather than of "recommendations" of the Assembly, as the word "recommendation" immediately raises the question of the value to be attached to it. I prefer to use the word "talk" because it shows that we are not dealing with questions of International Law or of the moral law.
The difficulty among the nations to-day is that there is as yet no coming together of opinion on any acceptable standards of judgment. What was attempted in the institution of the United Nations was to provide machinery for action if there was agreement between the Great Powers and to provide the machinery for talk, for consultation where there was no agreement, in the hope that out of the discussion between nations who have different traditions and different ideas, who accept no common standard, there might gradually be evolved some acceptable standard of judgment which would be recognised by members. Until this 1168 happens, it is difficult to see how the United Nations, except when there is agreement between the Great Powers, can really exercise authority outside the Security Council—that is to say, authority which will be acceptable to those concerned.
The Prime Minister comes back from Bermuda and says, in effect, that the United Nations Organisation is just a collection of imperfect Governments; that if Governments do not know how to behave individually how can they do so collectively? That is quite true, but it is only part of the picture. He also says that the United States of America and ourselves understand each other's point of view about the United Nations much better and more clearly. But there is nothing in what he has said to make us believe that this fundamental conception of a search for acceptable standards of judgment is sufficiently appreciated either by the British or by the American Government, or that this problem was really brought out, or even stated clearly, at the Bermuda Conference. I think this problem must be recognised and faced if the United Nations Organisation is not to become just a centre of intrigue. The danger is that these matters which are before us to-day may be allowed to drift until another Conference is summoned. I believe that more positive steps must be taken without delay to secure Anglo-American co-operation and that the vague good will expressed at Bermuda must give place to practical action.
Before I sit down, as I do not wish to trouble your Lordships again tomorrow, I would conclude with one suggestion on Cyprus which arises out of a recent visit that I made to Istanbul. I would suggest that Her Majesty's Government should invite the Patriarch, who has the care of some 100,000 Greek Orthodox Christians in Istanbul, to take part in any negotiations. He is, after all, the spiritual superior of Archbishop Makarios, and as head of the Orthodox Church, and from his vantage point in Istanbul, he may be able to view the problem in a wider perspective. His authority and knowledge might be of the utmost assistance in working out a happy solution of the particular problem with which Her Majesty's Government are faced in Cyprus.
§ 3.35 p.m.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF GOSFORD)
My Lords, I do not propose to deal with all the problems that have been raised in the interesting speeches to which we have listened from the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, who moved the Motion, and from the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. I will take some of the points and I will try to paint to your Lordships the picture as Her Majesty's Government see it. I had better say here and now that I shall not be discussing the problem of the Suez Canal, which will be dealt with later in the debate by my noble friend the Leader of the House.
I would take, first of all, the problem of Israel's relationship with Egypt. Her Majesty's Government certainly deplore all statements to the effect that a state of war exists between Israel and Egypt. The Armistice Agreement signed in February, 1949, was specifically intended to promote the return to permanent peace in Palestine. The United Nations have already taken up a clear position on this point. On September 1, 1951, the Security Council, in a resolution on freedom of navigation through the Suez Canal, considered that neither party to the Armistice Agreement could reasonably assert that it was actively a belligerent since the armistice régime, which had then been in existence for nearly two and a half years, was of a permanent character.
On January 24 this year the Secretary-General presented an important report to the General Assembly. In this he drew particular attention to Article I of the Armistice Agreement, which provides, among other things, that no aggressive action by the armed forces of either party shall be undertaken, planned or threatened against the people or the armed forces of the other; and also establishes the right of each party to its security and freedom from attack by the armed forces of the other. The Secretary-General commented that this Article assimilated the Armistice Agreement to a non-aggression pact, providing for mutual and full abstention from belligerent acts.
The General Assembly took note with approval of this report. On February 2 it adopted two resolutions. In the second of them it considered that after Israel's full withdrawal the Armistice Agreement 1170 should be scrupulously maintained and indicated the measures that should be taken to this effect. These were that the United Nations Emergency Force should be placed on the demarcation line and that the United Nations Secretary-General should consult the parties on other measures to be taken to maintain peaceful conditions. The possibilities include stationing the United Nations Emergency Force in Israel territory, as well as in Egypt; mutual and full abstention from belligerent acts in line with Article I of the Armistice Agreement; the limitation of forces on the frontier area and the demilitarisation of the El Auja Zone. On March 8 the Secretary-General reported that Israel had completed her withdrawal and that this put the operative paragraphs of the second resolution of February 2 into effect.
The present situation is that the General Assembly has called upon the Governments of Egypt and Israel to observe scrupulously the provisions of the Armistice Agreement. It has also endorsed the Secretary-General's interpretation of Article I of this as providing for mutual and full abstention from belligerent acts, and I think this is a very clear indication of the General Assembly's views. As the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has already said, the United Nations Emergency Force is now in position at the Armistice demarcation line. Its first task is to assist in preventing incursions and raids across that line. The Secretary-General, although now back in New York, is engaged in the somewhat delicate task of consulting the parties on the further measures to be taken for the maintenance of peaceful conditions in the area. While the Secretary-General is engaged on this task, I do not think I should comment further.
That brings me to the problems of Israel's rights of free passage in the Gulf of Aqaba. Her Majesty's Government's position on free passage in the Straits of Tiran was slated to the United Nations General Assembly by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs on March 4 of this year. He said:It is the view of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom that the Straits of Tiran must be regarded as an international waterway, through which the vessels of all nation; have a right of passage. Her Majesty's Government will assert this right on behalf of all British shipping, and they are prepared to join with others to secure general recognition of this right.1171 The American representative made an almost similar statement. And the representatives of a number of other maritime countries spoke in support of the principle of free and innocent passage.
It has been argued that the Straits of Tiran are not an international waterway but are similar to waterways such as the fiords of Norway, the Hudson Bay in Canada or the Hudson River in New York. This argument, however, overlooks one vital fact: that, unlike these three waterways, not only are the Straits of Tiran bounded by two countries, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but the Gulf of Aqaba itself contains at its head the ports of two further countries, Jordan and Israel. The problems are not the same.
As Your Lordships are aware, the matter was discussed at the Bermuda Conference. The Prime Minister stated in another place on April 1 that both Governments considered that there existed a right of innocent passage for all ships through the entrance to the Gulf, even though the entrance passes through Egyptian territorial waters. The two Governments considered that under the Armistice this applies equally to Israeli ships and to the vessels of other nations plying to, and from Israel. The presence of the United Nations force at Sharm el Sheikh is an added guarantee that this rule will be respected. The Secretary-General has furthermore indicated that if there is any proposal to remove the United Nations Force from Sharm el Sheikh he will refer it first to his Advisory Committee, which will decide whether to bring it before the General Assembly.
Passage is, in fact, free at present. Her Majesty's Government have not heard of any attempt to interfere with the ships that have recently sailed through the Gulf, and are acting on the assumption that this state of affairs will continue. Nevertheless, we are considering what we should do if an attempt were made to interfere with this free passage, and we shall naturally consult our friends on this. But the House cannot expect me to say now what we should do in this hypothetical situation.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord. He said that there has been no interference with ships that have been going 1172 through. Have these ships been going to the Jordan port or to the Israeli port, because that is the crux of the matter.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
I take the noble Lord's point, which he made in his speech, that the questions of Israel's rights over the use of the Gulf of Aqaba and the Suez Canal and the settlement of the refugee question are distinct. Nethertheless, I think it is encouraging, if the report is accurate, that Colonel Nasser is prepared to consider the various matters involved in a general settlement of the Palestine question. We should not, of course, let slip any opportunity for moving towards a solution of the refugee problem. As the Foreign Secretary has said on previous occasions, we want a settlement based on justice.
§ THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Earl, but it seemed to me that he said something of great importance in what he understood to be the position of Colonel Nasser. I wish he would elaborate that, and explain to us just when Colonel Nasser gave that undertaking or that satisfactory impression.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
I will try to get the exact wording. I understand that Colonel Nasser stated a little while ago that he would consider Israel's right of passage through the Suez Canal only in conjunction with the subject of the resettlement of the refugees from Israel. I am merely stating that the fact that he has mentioned the subject of the refugees at all is possibly a small glimmer in the distance which we would like to take hold of.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
I entirely agree. I think I was saying that the Foreign Secretary has said on previous occasions that we want a settlement based on justice. We hope that the United Nations will do all in their power to bring about such a settlement; and this, I think, means that there must be some regard for the United Nations' resolutions 1173 in the matter. The resolution of December, 1948, for example, said that the ref ugees wishing to return to their homes, and to live at peace with their neighbours, should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return. In other words, the solution should be based on the two principles of repatriation or compensation. It may be that by no means all of the 900,000 refugees would wish to go and live in Israel.
The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has, I think, gone rather far in interpreting Israeli offers as they stand at present. In fact, I think that a new and concrete generous offer by Israel on the problem of the refugees might go far towards opening the way to a solution of other aspects of the Palestine problem. At the same time, Her Majesty's Government would welcome it if greater progress than hitherto could be made with the resettlement and removal from relief of those refugees who do not wish to be repatriated. Many could no doubt be reintegrated into the economic life of the Middle East and opportunities for productive work found for them. It is regrettable that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency has so far been unable to do much in this direction. It has the necessary authority from the United Nations General Assembly, but it requires also the co-operation of the countries of the area in this aspect of its work.
There are, of course, a number of projects for water development in the area. When these come to fruition they should make a contribution to providing work and homes for some of the refugees. In August, 1955, the United States Secretary of State pledged United States help towards solving the refugee problem. This statement was welcomed by Her Majesty's Government, who said that they would also be ready to make their contribution. In November, 1955, Sir Anthony Eden repeated that we would offer substantial help, financial and other, over the tragic problem of the refugees. I do not need to say that that offer still stands, but it requires the co-operation of the countries involved.
Turning to the question of oil, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, that it is vital to the economy of this country that there should be stability 1174 in the Middle East and that there should be free access to the oil supplies of that area. The noble Lord will be aware that the principal international oil companies met recently in London to consider means of expanding and diversifying the facilities for the transport of Middle East oil by pipelines. The companies have set up a number of expert committees to consider the details of how this may best be done. When the companies have formed provisional plans it will, of course, be necessary for them to consult with those Middle East Governments through whose territory any projected lines will pass. Her Majesty's Government would naturally view with favour any new pipeline project, since it would both increase the available means of transporting the expanding quantities of Middle East oil to the West and reduce our dependence on any one route.
During his recent discussions with President Eisenhower at Bermuda, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister discussed the possibility of securing the flow of oil by pipeline by means of treaties to which interested Governments would be party. Further study is being given to this proposal. Her Majesty's Government are also conscious of the need for building larger tankers that could economically carry oil around the Cape. The noble Lord has also suggested the conclusion of an International Oil Convention for the Middle East. I regret I cannot at present go further than what the Prime Minister said in another place on April 4 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 568 (No. 87), col. 577]:…there is a great deal of discussion going on about these possibilities…but it would not be right for me to make any precise statement, especially as the countries concerned have to be brought into any such negotiation.Finally, I will turn to the subject which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson mentioned, a "Colombo Plan" for the Middle East—an interesting suggestion. We should certainly welcome a development whereby all countries in the area would co-operate with each other and with us, and whereby a solution for refugees could be found and the living standards and economic situation of all the people concerned be bettered. I fear, however, that the noble Lord has lost sight of one fact—that the original Colombo Plan, which grew out of an 1175 association of four members of the Commonwealth, is based, and any future Colombo plan must be based, on the willingness of its members to work with each other and with us. Unfortunately that situation does not exist throughout the Middle East. The Arabs are certainly not ready to work with Israel, and Egypt's policy of imperialism tries to prevent the other Arab States from working together (unless, of course, they are satellites of Egypt herself) let alone working with non-Arab countries. Nor is there such a lack of money in the area itself that it only needs the West to dangle a golden bait for all the countries concerned to come together in such a plan. I am therefore afraid that the basic agreements necessary for such a plan are simply not there.
Against this, we are fortunate that there is in the area a nucleus of States—the members of the Baghdad Pact—who are wise enough and far-seeing enough to see that in the world to-day international cooperation is what really counts. It is quite wrong to look at these associations as merely a military shield against Communist aggression. The Pact means infinitely more than that. It means that certain countries of the area are, by daily contacts and consultation over the widest possible field, showing that it is possible to live co-operatively. This, I would say, is the strength and the importance of the Pact. We ourselves occupy no special status, nor do we wish to. Our relationship with the Pact countries is one of an equal partner engaged with our allies in a great co-operative effort to build up the security and above all the prosperity of the area by our joint efforts. Surely this is the sort of relationship which we should have with the countries of the Middle East.
§ LORD HENDERSON
May I again interrupt the noble Earl? My suggestion was a Colombo Plan not by this country but through the United Nations. All that the noble Earl has been saying about the limited scope of the Baghdad Pact justifies the point that I have made. Most of the Arab States will have nothing to do with the Baghdad Pact, whereas you might get them into a United Nations arrangement for the economic development of the whole area. So I regard the 1176 Government's position on that proposal as extremely disappointing.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
It is up to the countries themselves to get together for their own betterment to solve their own mutual problems. We cannot possibly force them. Any countries who show signs of doing so we shall help in every way we possibly can. I should like, however, to say a little more about the activities of the Baghdad Pact because it seems to the Government that not sufficient people are aware of what I call the non-military side of the Pact, the good that the Pact does in other fields. On the economic side, possibly even more important work is going on for the future than is suggested by mere defence. The Economic Committee and its sub-committees and working parties have done valuable work in studying the most urgent economic problems of the region and in recommending the best ways for member countries to co-operate in overcoming them. The Economic Committee has studied the problems involved in expanding the agriculture of the region, overcoming disease, exterminating pests, building up inter-regional trade, improving communications and harnessing new means of providing energy. At the meeting of the Economic Committee in Teheran in 1956, the United Kingdom offered £250,000 to be spent on technical assistance in the next five years.
Perhaps the most striking example so far of economic co-operation between member countries is the Baghdad Pact Nuclear Centre, which was opened on March 31 of this year by King Feisal of Iraq. It is a real example of mutual aid. The Government of Iraq contributed the building and also helped materially in equipping it. The British Government has given enough specialised apparatus to start teaching work at the Centre on the same lines as that of the Isotope School at Harwell, and has also provided expert staff from Harwell. All member Governments are contributing to the local running expenses and the four regional countries have each agreed to lend two professionally qualified members to the staff of the Centre, and will also have an equal right 1177 to send students to the Centre for instruction. All these activities must help to raise the standard of living of the inhabitants of these countries, thus helping to inoculate them against Communist blandishments, which is every bit as important as military defence. The noble Lord, if I remember aright, seems to find it wrong that the United States' position in the Pact is not the same as ours or that of the other members.
§ LORD HENDERSON
The noble Lord is inaccurate there. I do not find it wrong. I asked whether, in view of the difference between our position and their position in the Pact, there was any difference in the liabilities and responsibilities we carry in those two different forms of association.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
No; I think I can assure the noble Lord that in this respect there is no difference. The actual physical difference outwardly is this. The United States Government are already members of two of the three main committees, the Economic and the Counter-subversion Committees, and they have now, as your Lordships are aware, indicated that they will shortly become; full members of the third committee, the: Military Committee. Their position in these Committees is, and will be, exactly as that of other members. Practically speaking, this means that it is only in the Council of the Pact that the United States will not in fact be a full member. But there she enjoys observer status, and as such takes part in Pact discussions. I do not really think that we need worry unduly about the slight technical difference in status.
The noble Lord asked me for more details about ships passing through the Straits of Tiran. Our ships have so far been going to Jordan in connection with the evacuation, and, as I believe the noble Lord himself mentioned, a United States tanker has just arrived at the Israeli port of Eilat. I do not know whether that answers the noble Lord's question. Those are the only details which I have.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
My Lords. I am afraid I have covered only a very few points, as I said at the beginning, but I hope that I have painted a picture 1178 upon which some of what is to follow will hang.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, before the noble Lord finishes his speech, may I raise one point? I did not want to interrupt his speech. I wonder whether he could throw some light on this, matter. In his speech he dealt with the hopes of Her Majesty's Government on the functions, duties and responsibilities of the United Nations forces on the Israel-Egypt frontier. How does he reconcile those hopes with the statements which we have read, that those United Nations forces are there only on sufferance and with permission of the Egyptian Government, and that the Secretary-General of the United Nations has accepted that particular view?
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS AND LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE EARL OF HOME)
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to answer that question in some detail when I reply.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, I think it will be generally agreed that we in Europe, and in this country in particular, welcome the recent evidence that the United States is going to interest herself to a much greater extent in the Middle East, and the statement after the Bermuda Conference that the United States Government and our own are agreed on upholding and enforcing settlements of matters in the Gaza Strip, in the Gulf of Aqaba and in the Canal. I have a feeling that that approach to the problem is rather like dealing with a surface rash on the skin and ignoring the underlying cause. In the same way, I have a feeling that the Eisenhower doctrine which was announced recently again ignores the disease from which countries in the Middle East are suffering, in order to take some long-term measures of precaution against some infection which may, in the future, attack those countries.
It seems to me—and I must say that everything that has been said by the noble Earl who has just sat down confirms; this view—that the situation in the 1179 Middle East, which still causes an imminent threat of war and which has, in fact, in the last six months resulted in war, is due to the high political temperatures generated in those countries. Therefore I feel that the efforts of this country and of the United States, and, indeed, of the United Nations, should be directed to trying to reduce the temperature in those countries. To drop the medical metaphor, it seems to me that the state of affairs and the relations between Israel and the Arab States should be taken in hand as soon as possible.
Last year, in the course of a short visit to Jordan and Israel, I found that all the evidence and all the statements made confirm the situation as it is known to us from the newspapers and from the declarations of all these statesmen. There is, first, the intense tide of Arab nationalism. I doubt whether that tide has yet reached its flood. It is a tide in which President Nasser in Egypt, on his own initiative at first but I believe now with the general consent of the other Arab countries, is the guiding influence. Secondly, in all these countries there is a positive obsession with the dangers of an Israeli aggression. They point to the unlimited immigration into a small country and they are convinced, rightly or wrongly, that it is Israel's intention to expand and occupy large areas of the Middle East now occupied by Arab States. We may not agree with that—it may be entirely false; but the political fact is that that is what is believed in those Arab States; and until that belief can be eradicated or allowed to subside relations will be strained.
Lastly, there is in all these Arab countries a quite unrealistic belief that if they are sufficiently firm and intransigent Israel can be destroyed or removed as an independent sovereign State. They echo the words of the Roman of some twenty-three centuries ago about Carthage. On the other hand, in Israel there is an attitude which I think can best be expressed in the words of Sir Douglas Haig at the height of the crisis of the First World War:With our backs to the wall, and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on.That, I believe, is the spirit animating the people of Israel. When there are feelings of such intensity on the two different sides 1180 in those countries, that surely is an explosive situation. It is to that that the efforts of the world should be directed.
Of course, the immediate troubles must be settled—the immediate aftermath of the unfortunate Israeli action of last autumn. But to go back merely to the status quo of last October will surely get us nowhere. It does nothing to relieve tension; if anything, tension is heightened. To say that there is a high state of feeling between two countries is to use simple words, but I do not know whether your Lordships are aware of the almost childish lengths to which this Arab-Israeli hostility goes. In a pamphlet which the Jordan authorities give to visitors to Jerusalem, encouraging tourists to visit Jerusalem and spend Easter there, there is a paragraph about the necessity for passports and other documents which says:If you are a tourist, all you need is a valid passport, a certificate of Church membership and a certificate of smallpox inoculation.In other words, tourists are to be barred from visiting Jerusalem if they do not belong to a Church or if they belong to the Jewish Faith. That, surely, is carrying things a long way. We know, too, of the absurdities of the double passport. No Arab State will recognise a passport bearing an Israeli visa. These are the small things, but behind them there is the vicious economic blockade designed to strangle Israel and to blackmail commercial concerns and air and shipping lines who would serve Israel but who are not allowed to do so if they deal also with these other countries.
The noble Earl who spoke about the Baghdad Pact perhaps forgot the intensity of this Arab feeling. That Pact is certainly a nucleus, but there is little sign of other Arab States following that road; indeed, there is a kind of blackmail among the Arab countries. No Arab leader would dare to get up and take, towards Israel, a line any softer than that customarily taken, following the note set by Nasser and others. I believe it is asking too much to expect other Arab States to accept the terms of the Baghdad Pact. It is significant that Jordan which, until a few weeks ago, was linked by treaty with Great Britain, should have welcomed the ending of that Treaty, although it provided for a handsome subsidy, which represented the major part 1181 of Jordan's annual budget. Jordan willingly gave that up because it came from an outside country and was a relic of "colonialism". Now Jordan willingly relies on neighbouring Arab countries to make good the financial loss; and, though their standards of living may fall, it is a characteristic of nationalism, wherever it exists, that economic considerations take second place to national prestige in the minds of those countries.
Many declarations have been made and many resolutions have been passed, but I do not seem to remember that it has ever been said categorically that Israel is there to stay and that the State of Israel will remain as a sovereign State and a member State of the United Nations. Presumably, our country would never consent to the extinguishment of Israel. We, who were so instrumental in setting up that country, would not do so, nor do I believe that the Western European Powers would willingly see this outpost of Western ideas democracy and culture in the Middle East come to an end. And surely the United Nations, which itself set up the sovereign State of Israel, would not permit it to be destroyed. Why is it never said out loud, and repeated, that the rest of the world will in no circumstances see Israel destroyed or put an end to as a sovereign State, certainly not by force? If that view were to be clearly and repeatedly put forward, I believe that it would remove a large part of the motives for the statements by Arab leaders.
More than that would be wanted, however, for it would be necessary to remove the fear of military aggression that exists in Israel and the Arab countries. The Anglo-Jordan Treaty made provision in this respect so far as Jordan was concerned, but that Treaty is now at an end. It should be made perfectly clear by the United Nations, and, if necessary, reinforced by individual guarantees from the United States of America, that any attempt to alter, by force or the threat of force, the present boundaries in that area will be treated as aggression and will be met by force. I believe that if the situation were to be cleared in those two ways, the temperature would have a chance to drop; and with a lower temperature there would be a chance of the initiation of negotiations between Israel and the Arab States.
1182 The big question that would then be first on the list for negotiation would be that of the refugees, which is not only a political but a humanitarian problem. It is a curious fact that when the public mind and imagination are touched in a certain way, there is no limit to what the British public will contribute for relief, as was the case with Hungarian refugees; but the Arab refugees, of whom there are far more, have been there for eight or nine years and other European refugees have been exiles since the end of the war. Yet the United Nations Association had the greatest difficulty in raising £150,000 for that cause in a nation-wide appeal. I must not, however, detain your Lordships with considerations such as those.
The refugees are being locked after by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and no one who has seen any of the camps in Jordan can fail to be moved by intense admiration for the staff of the Agency, by pity for the wretchedness of the conditions under which the refugees are living, and by exasperation at the perversity of these passions which are the only things that prevent a solution from being found, because with cooperation the Agency could undoubtedly go a long way towards solving the problem. But that co-operation from the Arab States, unfortunately, has, in a large measure, been lacking. There is a reluctance to do anything to assist resettlement for fear that it might reduce refugees' chances of repatriation.
Lack of co-operation goes to such extraordinary lengths that the Agency has been unable—or perhaps, as my information is not up to date; I should say that a year ago the Agency was unable—to obtain facilities for a re-registration of the refugees under its care. The budget of the Agency is limited by the United Nations, and, therefore, the facilities and the number of rations that can be supplied are limited. In Jordan alone there are half a million refugees. Children are being born every year, but children cannot be fed until the dead have been struck off the list, and, the Agency have been unable to get permission from the Jordan Government to conduct a thorough re-registration. One can only suppose that this is because there might thereby be brought to light the large numbers of people now receiving relief who are not entitled to it. Over a period of four 1183 years the total number of deaths officially reported was 3,600. A simple calculation based on a population of half a million shows that the death rate in four years would be bound to be something of the nature of 40,000. Yet all those rations are being misapplied and the children who are being born are failing to get the benefit of them. That is the kind of situation with which the Agency has to deal. As the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, has said, you can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. Admittedly, the powers of persuasion, the sanctions, at the disposal of International Law and morality are very slender these days. Still, it does seem that the whole weight of the United Nations and the Great Powers should be directed to remedying this state of affairs.
I should like here to endorse what my noble friend, Lord Henderson, said to the effect that Britain, France and the United States are not the only Great Powers interested in the Middle East. Russia is, also. Have we ever asked Russia to cooperate in these measures for pacification in the Middle East? It seems to me clear that that is desirable, not only for the ending of the arms race—though goodness knows that is urgent enough!—but for the general pacification of the area. It is no good trying to pacify with one hand and to carry on the cold war with the other. And that is what seems to be going on. There is one field in which, I think, the temperature might be assisted to fall in those countries, and that is in dealing with the waters. In the case of the Jordan waters, which affect Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel, it is the suspicion and hostility between those countries which prevents the reaching of any rational agreement for the use of the waters. So a consequence, one hopes, of relaxation of tension, would be that some of the well-known and thoroughly worked-out schemes for using Jordan water could be carried into effect, with enormous benefit to the refugees and the riparian countries themselves.
Another river affects politics in the Middle East and that is the Nile. It has often been said—it was frequently said last year—that the detonator which set off the explosion of Egyptian nationalism in July was the refusal by the United States and Great Britain to provide funds for the high dam at Aswan. 1184 That may be so; but it seems to me that the initial mistake was not a refusal of funds but the offer of them in the first place, unconditionally, to the Egyptian Government. A more barefaced piece of political bribery would be hard to find. The Nile Valley is an enormous unit, and, on rational grounds, it should be treated as a unit, with consultation between all the countries concerned. Not only the Sudan would have been concerned with this work on the Nile at Aswan; Ethiopia, the Belgian Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika are all affected by the controlling of the Nile waters. Schemes were worked out many years ago, but any idea of international co-operation over the Nile waters seems to have been effectively stymied by this unconditional offer to President Nasser last year. Is it too late for the United States and Great Britain to reconsider that and to offer help? I suggest that it would be worth offering help on a very large scale in the development and utilisation of the Nile waters—to the enormous benefit of Egypt and the other countries on the banks of the Nile—as a condition of settlement between Israel and the Arab States. It seems to me that something like that might well be a factor in inducing a more rational attitude between the Arabs and the Jews, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will have that, among other things, in their minds, and that they will do their best to reduce this tension.
§ 4.28 p.m.
My Lords, this being the first time that I address your Lordships' House, may I ask for that indulgence which your Lordships so kindly extend on these occasions? I think it must be about forty years since a member of my family last addressed your Lordships' House, but even after that long interval I shall not ask for many minutes of your Lordships' time this afternoon. My grandfather used, I believe, to make telling and witty speeches in your Lordships' House, and he had a reputation in Parliament which I am most unlikely to equal. I believe that one of the few criticisms made of him was that the best place from which to hear him speaking in the House of Lords was the House of Commons. I am very conscious of the fact that I also have a loud voice, but I shall do my best this 1185 afternoon not to let it inconvenience your Lordships.
The Motion before your Lordships this afternoon calls attention to the Middle East, and my purpose in intervening in the debate is to underline one particular aspect of the situation in that area. I have no doubt that Her Majesty's Government are fully alive to the dangers, the difficulties and the problems in that area, but I wonder whether the people of our country as a whole really understand them, more particularly where they concern our supplies of oil. It is that aspect of the subject that I want to put before your Lordships in the next few minutes. Last week we had a debate in your Lordships' House on the future of the fuel and power industries on a Motion put down by the noble Viscount, Lord Hall. Many of the facts and figures put forward in that debate are relevant to the argument that I am about to put before your Lordship, and no doubt they will still be fresh in your Lordships' minds.
We are thirsty for oil. We get more thirsty every year. The demand for fuel and power still rises steeply, and what applies to our country in this respect applies to the other industralised countries of the world. Nuclear power, on which we have embarked on a prodigious programme, will one day help us out; but let us make no mistake about it: it will be many years before that new form of power can possibly equal rising demand. Coal production, our main source of power supply in this country, is running at a high level; and we hope and believe that it will improve still further. But, here again, there is no chance of its catching up with the rising demand. In the debate last week, the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, referred to natural gas, but the problems of getting that natural gas to this country are so far unsolved; and even when they are solved, it will not make a very great difference to our oil requirements. So it is perfectly clear that, whatever we may do, we shall for years to come require large imports of oil.
From where is that oil to come? America, by far the greatest producer in the world, has changed from being an exporting country to an importing country. The Iron Curtain countries produce enough for themselves, but no more. Venezuela, a large exporting country, has most of her surplus taken up by the 1186 United States. Now let us look at the Middle East. I do not want to trouble your Lordships with a lot of figures, but perhaps I may give a few, as I think they will be helpful to supplement those given by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson.
Before the war, in 1938, the Middle East supplied about 5 per cent. of the world's requirements of oil. To-day it provides about 25 per cent. Do not let us forget that in that interval of nineteen years world production of oil has much more than doubled, so that the 25 per cent. as the Middle East's share in world production represents a colossal figure. It is not unreasonable to expect that in the next eight years, up to 1965, Middle East: production may rise to 35 per cent. of world production; and by 1975 it may be as high as 50 per cent. That is looking only eighteen years ahead. In addition, as your Lordships are doubtless aware, the Middle East has enormous reserves of oil. Of the total proved oil reserves in the world, the Middle East contains over two-thirds. Two further figures to illustrate the magnitude of the problem: in the next eight years, our demand for oil in this country is likely to rise as much as 50 per cent., and during that same period the westward movement of oil from the Middle East, mostly to Europe, will probably have much more than doubled.
There is no doubt where our oil must come from: it must come from the Middle East. That is certain, and it is vital—may I underline that word "vital"?—that we have that oil. Surely it follows from this that our relations with the countries in the Middle East must be so conducted, as far as is possible, that the supply of oil remains secure. Yet how is this to be done? The last few months have shown only too clearly how unstable are our relations with countries in that area—at present, indeed, they are highly unfavourable. Yet a solution has to be found. I will not attempt this afternoon to suggest to your Lordships how this is to be done: there are many noble Lords who are far more competent than I am to point the way. But if I may keep your Lordships another few minutes, I should like to suggest what I might call a safeguard. There is nothing new about what I am to suggest: it does not solve all our problems, but I believe that it will help to secure our oil supplies. It concerns the transport of oil. Up to last October, the vast bulk of our oil came 1187 through the Canal and through pipelines to the Mediterranean coast. Since then it has come round the Cape.
I would make a plea this afternoon for a policy of tankers by the Cape, if I may put it that way. Over the last few months, we have seen only too clearly how, when the international situation deteriorates, our supplies of oil through the Canal and pipelines can be stopped. The pipelines are hundreds of miles long. The Canal itself, in round figures, is 100 miles long. Everyone knows where the pipelines are on the map, and can see that it is not very difficult, in peace or in war, to damage them sufficiently to stop the flow of oil. On the other hand, tankers are a mere few hundred feet long. In war, they can be diversively routed, so that to begin with, it is quite impossible to find them. Over the more dangerous parts of their voyages they can be escorted by ships and aircraft. Some will be sunk, but many more will get through; and though the supply of oil may be slowed down, it will not be stopped. Tankers are flexible. The Canal and the pipelines most certainly are not.
I am not advocating that we should discard the use of the pipelines and the Canal; we certainly should not do so while they are available. While the international situation allows, we should use them, for, of course, it is cheaper than sending oil by the Cape. What I am advocating is that we should plan our affairs in such a way that when, for one reason or another, the use of the Canal and the pipelines is denied us, we can switch at once to the Cape. I am simply saying that it would be a prudent insurance to build big tankers now. This, of course, will cost money; but where we have a requirement that is vital, it seems to me that it would be most unwise not to take out an insurance policy to cover it. We are a country surrounded by the sea. We have lived by the sea for centuries, and we have men who know and understand the sea better than anyone else in the world. So let us use the sea, and go on using it, to bring our oil all the way home, from whatever source it may come. I am aware, of course, that Her Majesty's Government are fully alive to the absolute necessity of getting oil from the Cape; and I am sure they must also appreciate the enormous advantages of a policy of tankers via the Cape. But these seem to 1188 me to be such cardinal points when discussing the Middle East that I hope I need not make any apology to your Lordships for bringing them to your notice this afternoon.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, it falls to my fortunate lot to compliment the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, on his maiden speech. I am sure your Lordships will agree that seldom have we listened to a better-informed or more interesting speech, and we look forward to other highly useful contributions to our discussions by the noble Lord on many occasions in the future.
I propose to approach the subject of this debate on rather more general lines than previous speakers have done; I do not want to get drawn into great detail, of which there is, of course, an infinite amount, but to deal with the matter in a rather broader way. First of all, I wonder whether your Lordships saw in the Sunday Press, as I did, a quotation which seems to me to be particularly apt to this discussion. It is a quotation from one of the Sunday newspapers of something said by Mr. Robert Menzies. We in this House know Mr. Menzies well; I think we all have an immense admiration for him, and we are well aware of how every time he has come to this country he has given us a desirable fillip on the lines of extreme common sense. I confess that I am one of those who have often wished it were possible for Mr. Menzies to play a bigger part in domestic politics in this country. But fate has decreed otherwise, and he is now Prime Minister of Australia.
With that preface, I will read to your Lordships what Mr. Menzies is reported to have said:Only if humbling Britain and France and strengthening Soviet interest in the Middle East can be considered successful can Suez be considered a success for the United Nations.I put it to your Lordships that that is devastating, but true. Mr. Menzies, as Prime Minister of Australia, could not add what I should like to add: that the same thing exactly can be said about the State Department policy in that area. That is a hard thing to say, but I believe it to be true. Is it not far better that both the British public and the American public should know that? Is it not better to be absolutely frank? 1189 I propose to be frank, and I start off by saying that surely in Egypt we have plumbed the depths of national humiliation. That is not a very popular thing to say; but it is true. Is it not better to accept that unfortunate and regrettable fact as the basis of our assessment of present affairs in the Middle East? Some people may think that I am being a little hard in what I say about the policy across the Atlantic, but, like other much greater men, I can claim to be half-American myself; my paternal grandfather and grandmother were pure Americans—he was instrumental in laying the first cable across the Atlantic—and on that account I have always felt a little more liberty to speak freely about my American cousins, and I may say here that I have found it difficult to understand American policy, unless it was, intentionally or unintentionally, to destroy British and French positions in North Africa. I refuse to believe that it was intentional, and therefore, presumably, it was unintentional. But, in fact, it is what has happened
Our memories are not always completely accurate, but your Lordships will remember the affair of the Aswan Dam—I go no further back than that. I was one of a number in this House who felt that it was unwise to follow in the way that we did the American lead about backing the Aswan Dam. It was at a time when things were rather tricky, and I personally felt—and I think I said so in this House—that it was an odd time for us to be backing a venture of that kind. The American Government came in and heavily backed that project, I believe for £80 million. We ran behind docilely and, as I thought: and said at the time, wrongly; and I got snubbed for my pains, as usual, by the Government Front Bench. Well, we accepted that—and presumably the Government knew best. We ran along behind, and what happened? Suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, and, as I believe, without a word of warning to us (the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, would be rather embarrassed if he were in the House, because he would not be able to corroborate that, as he was at the Foreign Office at the time; but; I believe we had no warning) the State Department went back on that guarantee of the provision of funds for the Aswan Dam.
1190 What happened? Whether it is truly reported or not I do not know, but we were given to understand that the reaction of Nasser—and I suppose he reacts pretty quickly on such things—was to seize the Suez Canal. My belief is that that plot was laid on long before, and that ever since we left the Canal in 1954 (when we ought to have known better, in my humble opinion) this coup had been in preparation. I felt strongly, and I warned the House at the time—I do not want to over-emphasise it—that we had not only certain privileges in Egypt but certain duties, as well. One of them was to ensure, under the obligations which we had inherited under the Convention of 1888, the freedom of navigation of the Canal. There, again, as we were accustomed at that time, we were brushed off from the Front Bench and told not to ask silly and tiresome questions. I proposed that there should be some re-bushing at that time of our obligations and commitments under the Convention of 1888. If your Lordships care to look it up you will find that I was brushed off—I think that is the best word. I was told that it was not a question I should raise: it was awkward at that time of delicate negotiations, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
What would have happened if we had had the sense to call some form of conference on the lines of the 1888 Convention? The objection which was given outside this Chamber, in the Lobby, was: "That would have meant the inclusion of Russia." Why in Heaven's name not? Russia was one of the initial signatories. I merely mention this in passing because I think we missed a golden opportunity, and possibly none of this mess in the Middle East would have occurred. I do not know; I cannot say; because, as I said before, I believe Nasser was after the Canal long before. It was a prepared coup, and the running out of the backing for the Aswan Dam merely gave him the pretext for which he was looking. Then, instead of acting at once, as I have always maintained we ought to have done—in another place even the Opposition said, "Meet force with force"—we did not. I presume that we over-estimated the military resistance of Egypt. At any rate, we did nothing. Three months dragged by, and at last we acted, and acted at a most inopportune moment, when our action synchronised with the victory of 1191 Israel over the Arabs, and every Arab thought it was collusion, which was absolutely untrue.
The reason for our humiliation, which is undoubted, is to be attributed in the main, I suppose, to U.N.O. But U.N.O. is not a thing on its own; it is a composition of the Powers that make it up. I think it is well known that U.N.O.'s action was inspired from across the Atlantic. So I revert to my thesis, which is that we have been ousted from our predominant position in the Middle East, and we had better recognise it. We had better "take off" from that assumption. We have done so. We had also better realise that, wittingly or unwittingly, we have been replaced by America. The other day somebody compared our action over Suez to what they call "Lord North's folly", since when there has been nothing so disastrous in British history. Be that as it may, that folly eventually produced something of great importance—the United States of America. I do not think anyone will pretend that out of this mess anything comparable is going to emerge. But comparison has been made, and there are certain similarities.
The result is that we have had to drop out of the front line in the Middle East, and we must reconcile ourselves to the fact that we are playing second fiddle. That leaves the part of first fiddle, and we all know who that is. The result is that the first fiddle is left with a difficult and puzzling problem ahead. First of all, there is the problem of Soviet infiltration, which in itself is a very big question. Secondly, there is the problem of reconciling Israeli and Arab aspirations. I am approaching this matter from the American angle. In America this is a particularly difficult question because, as we all know, Israel has special ties with America, just as she has with us, and, at the same time, there is the problem of oil. So you have the Soviet, Israel and the Arabs, and it is not going to be an easy hand to play. It cannot be. In fact, I think it is extremely difficult.
It is true that, having said all this, I am not entirely pessimistic, and I hope your Lordships will not believe that I am, because there usually comes a time when, after a sufficient number of muddles at the hands of the various people playing the first rôles in these things, there is a revulsion. It is not so long ago that 1192 we saw one of these revulsions. I refer your Lordships to the history of Persia and Mossadeq. There came a time when Persia, in a sense, turned back to us. This is all very speculative, and possibly wrong-headed, but I cannot help having a feeling that, given sufficiency of time, there will be a revulsion. I hope that here there will be a revulsion of a somewhat similar kind, because our constructive work in the Middle East goes back a long time, and I hope that that will begin to exercise its effect. There is no sign of it at present—at least, no sign that I can see. The only factor that I would suggest is that this alliance between Egypt and the Arabian States—I might call them the "Oil Princes"—can hardly be a genuine one if, as we believe, Egypt, under its present leaders, is gravitating more and more towards the Communist camp. I can hardly see that being very acceptable to these oil Princes. So I hazard a guess that it will not be very long before the solidarity of the so-called Arab world will not be so solid as it seems, outwardly, to be at the present moment. But that is for the future.
I do not want to get drawn into more discussions about Suez—that is all "dead meat"—but I am sure your Lordships will remember the words used on July 30 by our then Prime Minister—they are worth repeating. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 557, col. 919]:No arrangements for the future of this great international waterway could be acceptable to Her Majesty's Government which would leave it in the unfettered control of a single power which could, as recent events have shown, exploit it purely for purposes of national policy.That was surely an admirable summary of the principle which ought to inspire us. I do not know how it is to be carried out, because we have dropped out of the front rank. How it is to be done by U.N.O. I cannot imagine. The other day, someone said that U.N.O. is the "washpot" of Nasser—and they were not far wrong. The way the Secretary-General of the General Assembly has been careering round as a sort of super diplomat is most peculiar.
I do not know about United Nations affairs—and the noble Lord, Lord Salter, is not here—but many of your Lordships do. One thing which has always mystified me (and perhaps the noble 1193 Earl when replying could give me an answer on this point) is how it is that we regard as binding a recommendation by the General Assembly. So far as I know, such a recommendation does not have any binding effect. Surely, it is only the decisions, and not the recommendations, of the Security Council that have a binding effect. We scuttled out quickly enough; yet when there was a decision of the Security Council, about five years before, about Israeli ships going through the Canal, what happened? Nothing at all. Those are points I do not understand. As I say, I am quite sure that your Lordships will regard what I have said as defeatist. I do not think it is. It is realist.
Let me turn to something rather different, and I hope that this is perhaps a little more positive. I have always felt that we have been too weak and too wobbly in our attitude towards Israel. I say that the more readily as I was one of the ardent supporters of the Arab League when it first started, when I happened to be in Cairo. We had great hopes, but things turned out differently from what many of us expected. The fact now is that we have a very active, efficient, patient and, I hope, enduring Israel. I believe that we should reorient our policy considerably, and in one specific direction—I know that it is difficult. The direction I have in mind is the Baghdad Pact. I do not believe, and never have believed, that the Baghdad Pact can be complete unless, in some shape or form, Israel is associated with it.
Having said that, I would add that I know very well what the difficulties are. I believe that in fact we are formally estopped (I think that is the word) from having any "truck" with Israel in the Baghdad Pact. But that in itself shows that there is a flaw in the Agreement, because it is obviously common sense that that Pact should be completed by having some form of agreement with Israel. I still feel that that should be our line. I rather hope that, as the events of this difficult period sink home, Her Majesty's Government may come to the same conclusion. There was all the nonsense (if I may use such a term) about the arms race: that we could not do this and we could not do that. There was no arms, race, yet we refused absolutely to give the Israelis any help. The arms race was 1194 over long before—and we know it. They got all the arms they wanted from the other side. If I may say so, I thought that that was a most dishonest way of running out of a difficulty. If I may, en passant, refer, as somebody did to-day, to the Tripartite Agreement, it has always struck me that it was a most dishonest agreement. It pledged the three parties, ourselves, American and France, to take action against any aggressor. How can one define an aggressor? Has anybody ever defined a defensive weapon? It cannot be done. I thought that we took shelter at that time behind a dishonest formula.
I have said all I want to say, my Lords. It is rather pretentious, I am afraid. There is only one other factor on the Middle East upon which I have not touched, and deliberately; and that is the rôle of Turkey. I imagine that everyone of us in this assembly knows perfectly well the importance of Turkey in the whole of this problem with which we are confronted. Nobody is more convinced than I am how essential it is to build up and maintain a solid connection with the Turks. I purposely have not brought that aspect into what I have said to-day because I hope that other noble Lords will deal with it.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, I sometimes feel that in these debates on foreign affairs we are rather like monkeys let loose in a sweet shop: we snatch and grab at many attractions from a dozen or so scattered situations all over the world, We are very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for having narrowed the terms of his original Motion and allowed us to concentrate this afternoon on the Middle East. Even so, it seems to me that the area is running true to form and that it is difficult to see the wood for the trees.
I hope to avoid anything n the nature of a post-mortem, but I am permitting myself one reflection on a point also touched upon by the noble Lords, Lord Grantchester and Lord Killearn. We have been reminded that there was in May, 1950, a tripartite guarantee. That guarantee has been quoted freely over the past six years, in public speech and in public document. The conclusion is that it was just never worth the paper it was written on. Whether one regards 1195 Her Majesty's Government's action last year in November as wise or foolish, as courageous or disastrous, that fact emerges. So far as the United States are concerned, it seems to an outsider that they were never prepared to move a man towards its implementation. I trust that anything I say will not be misinterpreted as a mere wild abuse of the United States. After all, the test of true friendship as between great democracies is to be able to give and take criticism. It is in that spirit that I am making my comments.
The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, questioned the position of this guarantee. I would say that the days of the guarantee are over. But has the lesson been learnt—the lesson that vague, shadowy understandings, based perhaps upon a background of wishful thinking as between ourselves and the United States, really gets us nowhere? Henceforth we have to work together in precision, and indeed honesty, if we are to achieve a joint policy so far as the Middle East is affected. I raise this matter now because at this late hour with the Bermuda Conference only just behind us, there are disturbing signs that all is not well. May I cite an example to your Lordships? On April 1, the Prime Minister in another place said this [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 568, col. 41]:British shipowners are being advised to avoid using the Canal. Similar advice is being given by the American Government, among others.On the very next day, April 2, Mr. Dulles was reported as saying this:we have no pressures in terms of military threats or boycotts of the Canal or the like,There is complete bewilderment for such a man as myself who looks to Anglo-American relations as the cornerstone of an effective policy in the Middle East. Far better, surely, to disagree openly than to pretend to agreement based on what amounts to just a fog of words and contradictions.
I make this point in introduction because I am convinced that we shall never achieve that justice and equity which is our due in a matter such as the Suez Canal unless we can carry the United States with us. We all know what we want. We should like, of course, if we could, to get back to those original proposals that Mr. Menzies carried to Cairo. 1196 If we cannot get that, we want at least that we and the Americans shall stand solid on those six principles which were, with some difficulty, squeezed into the Security Council resolution of October 13 last year. There is a view that if only we, the French and the Germans, and those of a like mind within the Users' Association, would decide together on collective action, we could somehow present our ships at Port Said and enter the Canal. But you cannot just wander into a Canal. The Egyptians, through technical means, without ever firing a shot could negative that kind of action. The alternative is that we should place the onus of prevention fairly and squarely on Egyptian shoulders—and that kind of development might have its advantages. But without following up all the things that might or might not happen in hypothetical circumstances, I return always to the conviction that, without United States backing, action by a single Power, or any group of Powers, will not get us anywhere.
So, my Lords, turning to the United States, what do we find? As I see it, we find that the policy seems to sway first one way, then the other: one day it is chasing its own completely independent line; the next day it is falling back on the United Nations. Reliance on the United Nations is no substitute for a policy. Above all, it seems that there must on no account be any embarrassment of the United Nations. Only those issues that are quite certain of achieving the two-thirds majority at the General Assembly, and those which suit United States policy, must be presented. Again, I do not think I can do better than quote the words of Mr. Menzies only a few days ago. He said:Every great Power must get to understand that, if it goes to the United Nations, it must go with its own ideas, with all its thoughts hammered out so that it can move in and say ' we have considered this. This is the right thing to do '".So it comes to this: that in this dilemma of the Suez Canal we are assured that the United States are with us in support of those six principles I have mentioned. We accept unhesitatingly that to-day the machinery of the United Nations is there to be used, if necessary—it cannot be evaded. We and the other users, therefore turn to the United States, 1197 and we say to them: "By all means continue these bilateral secret negotiations, over the Canal "—and in the nature of the problem, of course, they must remain secret; we all face that—" but if those negotiations fail, then please do not hesitate to go to the United Nations, taking the issue to the Security Council, suffering the Russian Veto, passing it to the General Assembly "—and this is the important point—" risking failure," but fighting this battle, if necessary, within the United Nations, on our behalf, with all the power and prestige which the United States can command.
If they would do that for us, as I see it, one of two things would happen. Either they would succeed—in which case I suggest there would be far-reaching ramifications, in relation to both the internal situation in Egypt and the Suez Canal, or, secondly, they would fail. And then, surely, that day, which is so much in our minds, when we should have to face drastic action collectively, not in relation to our own failure but in relation to the failure of the United Nations, would be just a bit nearer. So one hopes and prays that this irksome delay, this kind of dilemma, when apparently we are going through a process of deciding to use or not to use the Canal, is being used to persuade the United States to stand by us in this way, in the belief that this is the only way eventually to get international justice. What if the United States should fail us? Perhaps it is inappropriate to refer to failure at this stage, but I think one can say this much. If they do fail us in this way; if, in some humiliation, we have to accept the terms of a dictator in regard to the use of the Suez Canal, let it go on record that we were forced into it by a Power which, seemingly, preferred international popularity to international responsibility. Those are harsh words. I certainly should not like to think that they will in any way damage United States relations with this country. I hope that, if they go any further, they will be taken in the constructive spirit in which they are offered.
My Lords, I now turn to a quite different aspect, across the Mediterranean, to the position of Turkey. If there was one passage which much impressed me in that sad letter which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, wrote announcing his resignation, it was the part in which he 1198 drew attention to the possible effect in Turkey, our staunch friend, of the release of the Archbishop in the particular circumstances obtaining. I need not remind your Lordships that Turkey to-day is the strategic bridge—the waist which joins the whole North Atlantic Treaty system with the Baghdad Pact conception. If you and I believe that in Europe we have created a "Thus far, no farther" line; that Europe to-day has saved herself by her own action, and that the Baghdad Pact is but an infectious kind of reflection of the whole of that philosophy, then surely the importance of Turkey as a friend becomes tremendously significant. Important as is our friendship with Greece—goodness knows! it is always important to keep friendship with a good friend—if it comes to an unpleasant choice as between good friends, I would say that the friendship of Turkey is indispensable, more especially, perhaps, when we consider that in a few years' time Turkey may be carrying a pipeline, on her safe soil, through which oil from Iran and Northern Iraq will flow safely to a port on the Mediterranean, destined for Western Europe.
Your Lordships will forgive me if, while I am noting conditions in this Northern Tier, I draw attention to the position of Iraq, a country which I believe is hardly understood in this country. I put it in this way: that if Egypt's Colonel Nasser can be regarded as Public Enemy No. 1 in London, in just the same way Israel's Ben-Gurion is Public Enemy No. 1 in Baghdad. I would ask Her Majesty's Government to weigh up all action and policy in relation to its effect on Iraqi leadership, always with one eye on what Iraq is thinking. That leadership was tested to the full the other day; and it came through the strain which was put upon it by events in complete solidarity between Eastern philosophy and Western realism. We owe it to them to watch the effect of policy in the future.
So, when I hear it rather loosely said, "Let us put our trust in Israel; let us throw in our lot with little Israel—an island of confidence in the middle of a sea of Arab confusion", ray answer is just this: it would be quite impossible for any British Government to adopt an open policy of alignment with Israel and at the same time hope to keep her 1199 friendship with Iraq. If you lose the friendship of Iraq, you risk breaking down the whole edifice of the Baghdad Pact and wrecking the supply of world oil. If I may put the issue in a more concentrated form, any Iraqi Government which did not break with a British Government who adopted such a policy would not last a day: and any Iraqi Prime Minister who did not support such a break would, in fact, risk assassination. Those may sound harsh words—very reprehensible and stupid; but in my belief they are absolutely and objectively true. If one can reduce the matter to one of mere material interest, I would say that for the West it is a matter of weighing up the potash of the Dead Sea, and some oranges, with the future flow of oil.
I should hate to leave the impression that I am thinking only in terms of material oil values. One of the sad penalties of the process of history is that so often good leadership on both sides—there is good leadership both in Israel and on the other side—is thrust into a position of antagonism from which those concerned cannot retreat. All I ask is that Her Majesty's Government shall remember this and shall not let down their friends at the expense of those who have not yet proved themselves, on the whole, quite so friendly at times. I am afraid I must profoundly disagree with my noble friend Lord Killearn when he suggests that there might be some future solution by harnessing Israel to the Bagdad Pact. Article V of that Pact was specifically framed to exclude Israel, and had there been any question of including Israel I am afraid the Pact would never have developed at all.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to intervene? That is exactly the flaw in the Pact which I criticised. I feel it is obvious that a Pact which has to have in it an exclusion clause of that kind is, in one sense, a weak Pact and one which is not complete.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, I would quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, that if by any chance a magic wand could be waved and Israel could be included under the umbrella of that Pact, we should all be extremely happy; but I cannot see that happening. And had 1200 there been any such suggestion at the time that the Pact was developing, as it did in the formal arrangements between Turkey and Iraq, I do not believe the Baghdad Pact would have emerged.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, I do not wish to intervene again, but has the noble Lord ever heard of the saying, "Circumstances alter cases"?
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, if by that the noble Lord means that circumstances might one day come about by which Israel could be included, I should certainly welcome that day. As to the general settlement, I repeat that there is no magic wand which one can wave to-day to bring agreement out of what amounts to a competition in hatred. One searches for a starting point. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and others have rightly drawn attention to the terrible refugee problem, but Colonel Nasser from his own point of view has skilfully linked that with the issue of the Suez Canal.
There is one important point which has been missed. In defence of their altitude towards the refugees, the Arabs always quote the original Security Council decision of December 11, 1948, which was reinforced in December, 1950, and which put on the Statute Book that Arab refugees should be permitted to return to their homes. But there was this important qualification: that they should live at peace with their neighbours. If the Arab world could be persuaded into giving some kind of guarantee of that peace, and that returning Arab refugees would live in peace with their neighbours, then we might begin to see a fresh start ahead of us. But the lamentable situation is that nobody seems to take any initiative about this matter. Since 1950 no single Power or individual at the United Nations has mooted any kind of initiative action. Year after year, here and in another place, there are debates in which the fate of the refugees is referred to; but nothing happens. It is the one case in which, I believe, positive action is not demanded of us, because in this connection I am going to suggest that the best thing we can do amounts to inaction. I believe that the Israelis might be held to that original promise of theirs, to take back 100,000 Arab refugees, a promise which I believe I am right in saying has substantially been withdrawn.
1201 I also fully agree with the noble Lord that something very imaginative in the form of international financial assistance—not in terms of a few million pounds, but of hundreds of millions—should be offered to the area for the settlement of refugees. There is, however, no magic wand which we can wave to bring agreement out of so much disagreement and hatred. The Prime Minister in another place, on April 1 last, referred to a mere absence of incident as the tonic which the Middle East needs. Arabs, Jews and ourselves have all been through a kind of process of nervous breakdown. In those circumstances a doctor advocates either shock treatment or a long rest. We administered the shock treatment, but it did not work, perhaps because the shock was not great enough or was administered in the wrong place. The only course left is a long convalescence. To ensure that, we have this United Nations force. To-day it is only a six-pound baby, but perhaps if it were attacked it might grow. I would remind your Lordships that a noble Lord, I believe the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, referring to the position in the Gulf of Aqaba, found some confidence in the fact that a ship flying the American (not the Israeli) flag had sailed through the Gulf; but at this moment the United Nations force sits on the Straits and the Egyptian batteries are out of action with their guns shattered, so there could be no question of such shipping being held up. I feel that it is far too soon to place confidence in the belief that ships will be allowed to sail up the Gulf of Aqaba.
If I may be allowed a last reflection, it is that some of the recent trouble arose from the fact that we do not appear to have consulted sufficiently our men on the ground. Something went wrong with our intelligence—I am referring not to our mental ability, but to our information, or lack of it. To-day we have a Foreign Secretary, two Ministers of State, and two Under-Secretaries. Would it not be possible for one of them to take time off and go round the Middle East, not in Foster Dulles fashion, but leisurely, talking to oil men, oil sheikhs, ambassadors, British residents, political agents and political leadership on both sides, so that Whitehall may be "in the picture" of what is happening in the Middle East? I believe that somewhere in the Book of Proverbs it is written: 1202Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.Without any suggestion of criticism of any particular individual, I would suggest that, with some use, those words might be written into some of the Middle East files in the Foreign Office.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, your Lordships have been invited to discuss this subject at a time when it must be extraordinarily difficult for Her Majesty's Government to tell us very much about what is going on. The British Government have lately been expelled, for the time being at any rate, from the most critical area in the Middle East, and the United States Government, which has forced us to abdicate our position and which is now the only Western Government which can exercise any effective influence on the future course of events, has so far shown very little sign of understanding either the nature of the problem or the character of the men with whom they are trying to deal.
Perhaps it would be fair to add that American public opinion in many quarters seems to be a long way ahead of their own Government. The American public are fully alive to the danger of Russian control in the Middle East, but all that the American Government have done so far is to promise help in the event of direct Russian military aggression; and that is not the present method by which the Russians are pursuing their policy. I could hardly agree with the noble Lord who introduced this Motion when he said that the situation had cased. On the contrary, I am afraid that in the last few months a great deal has been done to strengthen the prestige and confidence of the friends and agents of Russia in the Middle East who may well succeed in achieving their object without any major war at all.
The Suez Canal is of value to the West as a means of transportation, but not as a means of production. If the sources of oil production were to be brought under Communist control, then the Canal would be largely irrelevant, and so, indeed, would all those alternative methods of transporting oil by tankers or pipelines. For if the actual sources of production were controlled by the Communists, then the Communist Powers would be able to strangle the 1203 economy of Western Europe in time of peace, and in time of war Western Europe—Britain, France and Germany—without Middle Eastern oil, would be of little value indeed to our American allies.
Though the oil-producing Arab countries like Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrein, and Saudi-Arabia may be a long way from Suez, I think their political future and their alignment in the struggle for world freedom may easily depend on the manner in which both the Suez question and the Israeli question are handled by the Western Powers in the next few months. Most of those oil-producing Arab countries are ruled at present—although perhaps they may not continue to be ruled for very much longer—by moderate Governments who want to make money by selling oil to the West.
Iraq, which is ruled now by a conscientious sovereign and a wise Prime Minister, Nuri es-Said, who is the object of Colonel Nasser's bitter and implacable hatred (Ben Gurion may be public enemy number 1 in Baghdad, but Nuri es-Said is public enemy number 1 in Cairo) is one of the most progressive of the modern Arab States. The Government is using three-quarters of its oil revenues for the social and economic advancement of the Iraqi people, and they are greatly assisted by the enlightened policy of the Iraq Petroleum Company, which is spending very large sums on the re-housing and education of its workers and which is prepared to advance generous loans to the Government when they are required. But this Government of Iraq, although it is the most progressive and enlightened of modern Middle Eastern Governments, is gravely threatened, not by invasion from abroad but by the strength of the Arab Nationalist Movement which is now a pro-Communist movement within Iraq itself. Your Lordships will remember how a few months ago the Iraq Government had to proclaim martial law in several provinces, and the whole topic of discussion at the local meeting of the Baghdad Powers which was then held was how to prevent these rising and spreading pro-Communist demonstrations.
I think that perhaps the principal thing about the Middle East which Western nations sometimes fail to realise is the nature of this modern Arab 1204 Nationalist Movement, which is growing stronger and which permeates every country from Morocco to the Persian Gulf. Modern Arab nationalism is not a liberal movement. On the contrary, it is one of the most hideously perverted movements of the twentieth century. Like Nazism, it is inspired by the most crude, vicious and militaristic xenophobia, and, of course, it is most sedulously fostered by Communist propaganda. In every Arab country Communists have highly paid and skilled agents who keep up an unremitting stream of propaganda by print, raido and speech. I am afraid that sometimes they know better than we do the most effective way of appealing to an ignorant and excitable people.
Arab nationalism does not particularly want to sell oil to the West, nor is Arab nationalism in the least interested in improving the social conditions of the peasants and the workers. What Arab nationalism does want above all other things is the extermination of Israel. That is a thing which the West cannot give. But Russia can and will do everything possible to give it. Russia will never for a moment—and has never for a moment—relaxed her efforts to build up in those Arab countries which are subservient to her interests overwhelming stockpiles of armaments, which are later intended to be manned by Russian volunteers. And the volunteers are very important, because the Arabs have shown that they are not always very good at using those weapons which the Russians have supplied. It is not intended that Russia will be a belligerent. Your Lordships will remember that twenty years ago Hitler and Mussolini were not belligerents in the Spanish Civil War. They sent their troops with military equipment into Spain under the title of "volunteers."
That is the precedent which Russia now intends to follow in the Middle East. If a sufficiently powerful force backed by Russian personnel could be assembled to annihilate Israel, in a very short time Russia would then be established as the champion of Arab nationalism all over the Middle East, and it would then not be necessary for Russia to invade Iraq. All these moderate Arab Governments would very quickly be liquidated by revolution and replaced by nationalist pro-Communist Governments who would align themselves with the Communist bloc. 1205 My noble friend has suggested that it might be rather dangerous if we even appeared to do anything in favour of Israel, because it might so easily lead to the assassination of the Iraqi Prime Minister. What is going to happen if, with the aid of Russian volunteers and weapons, the Egyptians drive the Jews into the sea? The whole Arab nationalist movement will rise up and assassinate everyone who does not support the Russians. You will have the whole Arab world aligning itself with the Communist bloc. That would permanently alter the balance of world power against the free world. Russian volunteers could, of course, very quickly be flown in to the scene of operations by modern troop-carrying aircraft. From the Caucasus, it would not take them more than a few hours to arrive at their destination. It is a different matter with heavy war material—heavy artillery, munitions and armoured fighting vehicles. They cannot be flown in in a few hours. It takes a very long time to build up a stockpile of armaments.
I am not going to indulge in any kind of post-mortem upon the Anglo-French intervention in Egypt last November. I suppose I must have made forty or fifty speeches about that in Canada and the United States where I was at that time when it was happening. Possibly this intervention may have been ill-timed. Perhaps on the military side, in some respects, it may have been bungled—I do not know. On the public relations side, I think that certainly our case was not always presented in such a way as to enable the rest of the world to understand what we were doing. But this Anglo-French intervention did unquestionably have one most valuable result: it destroyed all the Russian armoured fighting vehicles and aircraft which had been accumulating in Egypt for more than twelve months, except for a fairly large number of them which were captured by the Israelis without the slightest difficulty in the Sinai Peninsula. So we did in that respect gain very valuable time. But it seems to me that the time which was then gained is now being lost and frittered away while the United States Government and Mr. Hammarsk-joeld (on whose personal endeavours United States policy seems to depend), 1206 are being led up the garden path by Colonel Nasser.
I do not know whether my noble friend will be able, or whether he would think it right, to answer this question, but I should very much like to know how many Russian ships with cargoes of war material have passed through the Bos-phorus in the last three months on their way to Egypt and Syria. Another tiling I should like to know is whether all the Russian technicians who were in Cairo last autumn, and who are believed to have withdrawn to the Sudan in November, have now returned to Cairo. And I should like to know how long we may expect it to be before this new build up against Israel is likely to be ready. How long have we to wait, and how long has Israel to wait, before there is assembled on both sides of Israel enough war material to crush them if manned by efficient Russian troops?
If the moment should come for the enemies of Israel to strike, as they undoubtedly intend to do, do rot let anybody imagine that they will be prevented for one moment by the half-dozen battalions of United Nations troops, many of whose countries are not at all unsympathetic to Communist aims. What we should need would be at least one armoured division and a large number of aircraft standing by, sent by some Power or combination of Powers whose loyalty could be relied upon. If Israel is going to be asked to wait month after month while her enemies are preparing once more to attack her, and if she has nothing more than these ambiguous assurances that so far have been given, can anybody blame Israel if she again seeks to save herself before the build-up is complete, as she did last November?
The United Nations will not help her; and as for the American guarantee against aggression, if American troops are not there to begin with, but if they have to be assembled and dispatched to the scene of operations, the war may well be over before they arrive and the whole of the Middle East may have fallen into Russia's grasp. If there is any country in this world which has learned by experience to doubt the wisdom of relying on the protection of the United Nations, that country is Israel. To go back only so far as the beginning of the present crisis, within the last few months the 1207 requirements of the United Nations have been obeyed by Britain and by France, and now finally, under protest, by Israel herself, but they have never been obeyed by any of Israel's enemies, nor for that matter have they been obeyed in Hungary or in Kashmir. What reliance can we expect any threatened nation to place on the protection of an international institution which enforces its laws only on those who are willing to comply and never upon those who are unwilling? Surely that is the negation of all law, which can only create derision among those who want to break the law and, what is perhaps worse, deception amongst those who are disposed to observe the law.
I am afraid that hopes of getting a solution of the Arab-Israeli question by agreement are very slender in any case. I think that there is no hope at all of getting a solution through the United Nations, which is laughed at by its enemies and distrusted by its friends. I think that the only way in which we could get a solution, as the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, suggested, in a speech with which I hope he will allow me to say I agreed very much, is to make a greater effort to have a combined British-United States foreign policy. Indeed, it is the complete lack of coherence between the foreign policies of our own country and the United States which has led to this Middle East crisis and to the tragic decline in Western influence in every part of the Middle East.
At Bermuda, the Prime Minister reached agreement with the President on a great number of questions, of which we are very glad to hear, but they did not reach agreement about the Middle East. I do not know whether the Government tonight will be able to give us any hope about this; whether they will be able to tell us how much longer we shall all have to go on being hustled along, quarrelling and protesting amongst ourselves, before every Communist advance in the Middle East which the Western Powers have been too preoccupied to foresee and too divided to resist. But I am sure of this: that the policy of appeasing Arab nationalism in the hope of securing our future oil supplies is a policy which is bound to fail. That can never succeed. The nationalists will take whatever we give them and give nothing in exchange.
1208 The only policy which I believe can succeed is one of firmness, a policy which will give visible and effective protection to the State of Israel, which will assure that Israel, as well as all other nations, will be able freely to use the Suez Canal, a policy which will plainly stop the imperialist ambitions of Colonel Nasser. It is largely a question of prestige among the Arabs. Although a policy of this kind may not be enthusiastically agreed to by all the other Arab Governments, it is only in this way that we can prevent the rise and ultimate triumph of reactionary militant nationalism, and the only way in which we can strengthen and preserve the progressive and moderate elements in the Arab world, whose survival is necessary both to save the Arabs themselves from Communist tyranny and to save Western Europe from economic collapse.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CHERWELL
My Lords, I entirely agree with practically every word said by my noble friend Lord Dundee. He has said all I wanted to say much better than I could, and therefore I will not venture into those realms in detail. The point I propose to consider is the part played, I may say the harm done, by the United Nations in the Middle East in recent years. As the noble Earl said, the root of our difficulties goes right back to the Balfour Declaration. At the time it was made it did not seem unreasonable. Allied arms had liberated the whole of Arabia, a region nearly as big as Western Europe without Russia, inhabited by only a few million people. In the circumstances, it did not seem unfair to establish a Mandate over Palestine, an area no larger than Wales, and to promise that the Jews, who had helped us honourably all through the war, should be allowed to make a national home there.
Perhaps we should have seen that this Mandate would ultimately become the State of Palestine, under Jewish rule. Perhaps we should have realised that it would be very hard to reconcile the Arabs to such a development. But at the time, and for years thereafter, these prospects seemed remote—until Hitler's persecution of the Jews raised the pressure of would-be Jewish immigrants to an intolerable level. It is easy to be wise after the event. Rightly or wrongly, Israel is now a fact, which can be 1209 obliterated only by exterminating the Jews. And as my noble friend Lord Dundee said, I can scarcely imagine that any Member of your Lordships' House would wish to sponsor such a programme.
As has been said, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, it was only in the 'thirties that what happened in this part of the world began to matter very much to the West. The reason is the economic importance of the oil deposits on the eastern coast of Arabia. By the expenditure of vast amounts of capital, and the untiring efforts of English and American engineers, it has; been possible to raise this oil to the surface and make it available to the world; and much of Europe's and British civilisation is built up on the assumption that we can count upon plentiful and regular supplies.
I must say (though this perhaps will not fall into line with what some others think) that I have often been rather surprised at the way the local sheikhs are conceded complete control and ownership of the oil pumped up from the depths, merely because their forbears and a few camels have been roaming about on the surface for some centuries. If a mountain of uranium 235 were discovered: in New Guinea, I wonder whether we should feel bound to let the local pigmies decide what should be done about it. Anyhow, the point is rather academic, for nobody has raised it; and civilised countries of the West have been prepared to pay the local rulers huge sums so long as they did not interfere with our getting the vital liquid fuels. Other inhabitants of Arabia have been paid large amounts of money for graciously allowing the oil to be exported, at no cost to themselves, by pipelines running through their countries; and, of course. Egypt has gained enormous sums from the tolls paid by tankers transporting this oil to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal, which was built in the main by European enterprise and capital.
It may be that we should have foreseen the danger of allowing our economy to depend so much on these oil imports. Perhaps we ought to have realised that within a generation of the Balfour Declaration it would have become fashionable, indeed habitual, to break 1210 contracts and to tear up treaties. Bat I do not think anybody could have imagined that an international body, the so-called United Nations, would be set up by our joint efforts, which would allow, not to say encourage, little, insignificant, so-called nations to fly in the face of all their treaties and agreements, and to hold the whole of Europe to ransom. The harm that can be done by allowing organs such as the Assembly of this body to extend their activities far beyond the limitations imposed by the Charter is shown most clearly precisely by what has happened in the Middle East.
I do not propose to examine all the various steps that have led to this unfortunate result: the pressure that was put upon us in August to endeavour to come to an agreement with the Egyptians, after they had confiscated the Canal, so as not to compromise the position of the United Nations; the way action was inhibited for months by threats as to what the United Nations might or might not do if we did intervene; the violent outcry when we did finally send troops to try to restore order—and as I personally hoped, to re-establish our rights on the Canal; the collection of 2,000 or 3,000 heterogeneous troops to form a so-called United Nations force to maintain law and so on. All these complicated issues have been dealt with—and very much better than I could deal with them—by other noble Lords. Like the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, all I will say is that I wish we had sent troops in much earlier and forced Nasser to respect the treaties and contracts which he was treating with such contempt. For without respect for contracts and treaties, modern civilisation cannot survive.
Some people, of course, say that that would have been very improper. But under Article 51 of the Charter we are told that nothing should impair a nation's inherent right of self-defence if an armed attack occurs against it. Surely to repudiate unilaterally a solemn treaty on which the life of a country depends, and to enforce such a breach with armed police, is just as much an act of aggression as to send armed forces across the frontier. To claim the power to cut a nation's lifeline is just as bad as to claim the right to occupy its fortresses. Otherwise, any nation might claim and assert the right to blockade, say, the Thames Estuary or the entrance 1211 to the Baltic. It is as though your neighbour, through whose land your electricity mains run, suddenly insisted that he would put in a main switch with which to turn the current on or off as he desired. Any nation has the right to resist such an act of aggression by force, if the other party refuses to accept reasonable arrangements which would safeguard the position. But all these considerations have been brushed aside. Throughout the Assembly, one-third of whose members belong to the Afro-Asian bloc, has been playing politics, with no pretence of being impartial or of seeking justice. The noble Earl, Lord Gosford, said we want justice. We shall not find it there.
Perhaps the greatest outrage in the Middle East is the way the Israelis have been treated in comparison with the Egyptians. That this has been allowed to pass with so little protest must, it seems to me, be due to the anti-Semitism, conscious or unconscious, which, unhappily, exists in so many circles. I personally hold no particular brief for the Jews. There are good and bad Jews, just as there are good and bad Englishmen, or even good and bad Scots; and, for all I know, the percentage of bad may be greater in one case than in the other. But whatever the facts, I consider indiscriminate anti-Semitism altogether deplorable There is not even a difference of colour to explain this violent prejudice which crops up so often in such unexpected places. Whatever the reason, nobody can deny that bias has been shown in the way the Israeli-Egyptian conflict has been handled by the United Nations.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
Perhaps the noble Viscount would permit me to make one comment. I think it only fair to make a clear distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. The countries concerned would claim that they are not anti-Semitic, but they are definitely anti-Zionist.
§ VISCOUNT CHERWELL
That may well be. As I have said, we liberated the whole of Arabia from Turkey, an area of millions of square miles; and we set aside one little corner, the size of Wales, to enable the Jews to make a national home there. If you think it right and proper to drive them into the sea, then I agree that that is the only line to pursue; but I do not think you will 1212 obliterate them in any other way. As soon as the British forces left Palestine—and I should like to assure the House that I condemn as strongly as anyone the disgraceful behaviour of the Jewish bands which caused us to give up the Mandate—the surrounding Arab countries fell upon the Jews, in the hope of liquidating them. As everyone knows, they were not successful; indeed, they might themselves have been defeated, had not the Security Council of the United Nations, which all members are pledged to obey, intervened and arranged a truce. In the course of hostilities the Egyptian troops had managed to advance some thirty or forty miles along the coast beyond their northern frontier, and had occupied the so-called Gaza Strip. From this strip they have organised, during the last eight years, numerous armed raids into Israeli territory, burning property, and murdering the inhabitants.
Meanwhile, Israeli ships have been barred from the Suez Canal, through which they had a right to free passage under the 1888 Convention, on the pretext that Egypt was at war with Israel. The Security Council passed various resolutions calling upon the Egyptians to desist from such action, but they took not the slightest notice. During all these years we heard none of the highfalutin talk which has nauseated so many of us during the last few months about the sanctity of the United Nations Charter and the importance of all countries rallying round to enforce it. Egypt continued to defy the Security Council without any action being taken. After all, it was only Jews who were being hurt. But when, finally, the Israelis, finding that the Egyptians were openly proclaiming their intentions of liquidating them, decided last autumn to make a move to defend themselves before it was too late, and reoccupied the Gaza Strip and moved into the Sinai peninsula, there was a most terrific outcry. They were labelled as aggressors, and the whole paraphernalia of the United Nations was mobilised against them.
The Egyptian claim that they were in a state of war with Israel was forgotten. The Israelis were vilified in the Press, and every conceivable form of pressure was brought to bear to force them to retire, not merely beyond their real legal frontier but right out of the Gaza Strip, to which 1213 the Egyptians had no claim whatsoever, except that: they had occupied it in the war they unleashed against Israel in 1948 and which, according to their story, still persists. Only Egyptians, apparently, are allowed to break the conditions of the truce. Israelis must fulfil them to the last iota. I can understand a strong anti-Semite taking this line, but it is amazing to find so many honourable people adopting it without any explanation.
Similar arguments, of course, apply to the Gulf of Aqaba. Egypt's refusal to allow Israeli ships to proceed to the only port they have on the Red Sea is alleged to be justified because it is said a state of war exists between the two countries. But when the Israelis advance along the coast and dismantle the Egyptian batteries, we are told that they are behaving scandalously and that they must instantly retreat. I must say that, to me, a unilateral "state of war," in which one country is allowed to take belligerent action, while the other country is forbidden to reply, is a very strange new conception.
Now why have so many decent people combined to force the Israelis to stick to the letter of the truce and to withdraw their troops, whilst the Egyptians are allowed to break it right, left and centre? Rude people, of course, say that it is because the Egyptians are closely linked with the so-called Governments of the oil-rich countries in Arabia. I am sure that in many cases, at any rate, this is not the deliberate, conscious reason. Rather, I think that many of them take this course because it is recommended by the Assembly of the United Nations. If this is really so, and not merely a rationalisation of anti-Semitism, it is surely conclusive proof of the absurdity of allowing this organ of the United Nations, which according to the Charter is merely a platform on which the various members can air their views, to seize control and initiate action. I believe that, as the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, said, it would be laughable, if it were not so serious, to see the way they send the Secretary-General scurrying about the world, endeavouring to placate Oriental despots and dictators with oil-rich friends, and trying, usually unsuccessfully, to persuade them to fulfil their clear obligations; to see him charged with raising an 1214 army and directing its movements; to see the Foreign Secretaries of major Powers hanging on his words and begging him to insert favourable phrases in his reports.
As I have said before, the fact that the leaders of some of the greatest nations in the world have put their consciences in pawn to this weird body is one of the greatest dangers of our present situation. For anybody who imagines that he will get moral guidance, or even unbiased advice, from the Assembly, cannot have studied the antics of many of its members during recent months. Clearly, international organisations can do useful work in matters in which all nations' interests agree—for instance, in fixing up worldwide postal arrangements, in tracing criminals, in preventing drug smuggling and countering the white slave traffic. Incidentally, I deliberately specify "white slaves" in the technical sense, so as not to offend the susceptibilities of a certain King who appears to be held in such high esteem in many influential quarters.
Unhappily, it is becoming increasingly clear that the world cannot rely upon the effectiveness of the United Nations if vital interests of various major countries conflict. It is easy to state in comfortable phrases what is required to maintain peace which the peoples, if not the Governments, of the world all desire. All that is needed is some impartial supermen to agree upon a just solution and to impose it on the nations concerned. While this is easy to say, it is impossible to do. What is a just solution? It is not merely a matter of interpreting an existing body of laws, for usually no such code exists for the really important conflicts upon which a nation's very life may depend. How is a just solution to be defined? Is it just that a nation should be free to block established air routes by suddenly refusing landing rights on its territory; or to close a canal which has been built by foreign initiative, with foreign capital, on which free navigation in peace and war has been guaranteed by a treaty? Was it just to allow scores of thousands of Jews, many of whom risked being murdered in their countries of origin, to settle in a small corner of Arabia, the whole of which we had liberated from the Turks; or had the previous inhabitants, who had been ruled for centuries by the Pashas from Constantinople, an absolute right to prohibit this Jewish immigration? I mention 1215 these questions merely to illustrate how difficult it is to lay down broad general principles of natural justice which any tribunal can be adjured to maintain when interests of nations clash. Almost always we are faced with the choice of evils.
Probably the best we can do at present is to insist on adherence to the pledged word or the sanctity of contracts. But even this has its troubles, for in the modern world words change their meaning very quickly. Fifty years ago a franc was something very different from what it means to-day. But supposing we could solve these difficult questions of principle, where are we to find the impartial supermen who are to form our tribunal? The United Nations Assembly is, of course, the very opposite of an impartial tribunal. The representatives of the various nations are selected, not for their unbiased judicial attitude, or even for their knowledge of International Law, but for their ability to put their country's case forward effectively. They are told by the home Government how to vote, often as the result of bargains made in the corridors, quite irrespective of the merits or justice of the case. There is no pretence of a proper collection of evidence; nor, of course, is there any definite rule according to which they act. Naturally, any glib politician—at any rate one from a foreign country—who is allowed to make untested, unchecked assertions the basis of his argument can make sententious speeches which appear to show that his Government's actions, however self-interested, accord with the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount or any other set of ethical principles.
The system by which every nation or pseudo-nation has an equal vote, no matter what its form of government, stage of civilisation, population, or what part it is able to take in enforcing a judgment, is, of course, perfectly ludicrous. Any petty dictator can cancel out the vote of the democratically-elected president of a great world Power. The most civilised countries on the planet are equated to tiny States many of whose inhabitants are fetichists who cannot even read or write. Nations containing 5 per cent. of the world's inhabitants can get a majority in the Assembly. With 10 per cent., a two-thirds majority could be achieved.
1216 It has been suggested that this trouble could be overcome by weighting the votes of the various nations according to their populations. This would be, if possible, even more absurd, for the most populous countries are composed, as it happens, of individuals most of whom have the smallest knowledge or comprehension of international affairs. Not one Chinese or Indian in a thousand has probably ever heard of the Suez or the Panama Canals or understands what a satellite country is. Yet, if we could weigh it by population, India's population, nearly one-seventh of humanity, would cast its vote through Mr. Nehru, and China's population, nearly one-quarter of the total, would cast its vote through Mr. Chou en-Lai. These two men, though they may have managed to achieve domination for the time being in their countries, have no right to claim nearly two-fifths of the weight of the whole world for their personal views. Even if, by hook or by crook, they have succeeded in getting hold of the reins of government, it does not make them wiser or more impartial in international affairs than the next man.
Even if all the people on the planet could have a plebiscite, it would be worth very little: We have seen what the peoples' courts are like in China, Germany and elsewhere. And, as I have said, the ordinary Indian peasant, or Indonesian in New Guinea, or Pigmy in the Congo has no more comprehension of international affairs than a three-year-old child. In any event, the idea of holding a plebiscite among the 2,500 million inhabitants of the earth to decide the justice of the claims of one side or the other in a dispute, say, about Okinawa or Cyprus or what proportion of the Suez Canal tolls should be paid to Egypt is too fantastic to consider. Clearly, there is no hope of finding an acceptable body of jurors or judges capable of giving a just verdict, quite apart from the impossibility of defining what is "just".
I will not enlarge upon the fact that, even if just solutions could be found, they could not be imposed upon all nations alike, without which they would be of little use. As I explained at some length last December, moral, economic or armed force cannot be exerted by the Assembly save in special cases. Moral force has little weight, whatever people may say. We have only to remember the 1217 way in which Albania has been "cocking a snook" for years at the Hague Tribunal—the most respectable Tribunal in the world. Nor, I trust, is it true, as has been said, that we withdrew our forces from Egypt because of moral pressure. Immoral pressure if you like—in fact Party pressure—may have played some part. But the real cause, I believe, was economic pressure, especially the economic pressure exerted against us by America who seems to have been led up the garden path by the siren voices of the Assembly of the United Nations. Unfortunately, economic pressure can usually be applied only to highly civilised nations, notably Great Britain. It would be quite useless against many others, especially if they were backed by Russia. And a mechanism which allows decisions to be enforced only against selected members is clearly unacceptable.
There remains armed force, the celebrated United Nations police force to which some people pin their faith. This, of course, is mere day-dreaming. A police force capable of imposing decisions on all alike would have to be more powerful than the armed services of Russia or America, or even both combined. I need not labour the point of how absurd that is. But, even if it were feasible, I can scarcely believe that anyone in his senses would desire to entrust the government of the world to a body whose decisions were reached in the weird, and in some cases scarcely reputable, ways I have described. Considered unemotionally, therefore, I fear that to tie the policy, when major powers disagree, to some international body is to follow a mere ignis fatuus.
As I have said, Middle East affairs have been bedevilled by the interference of the Assembly of the United Nations. Somehow, many people in this country and leading personalities in America seem to think that they will not go to Heaven unless they accept its decisions. Even if they are not under a legal obligation to do so—and they are not—they seem to believe that these decisions have some valid moral force. Thanks to the cooperation of America and Russia, we were forced last autumn to refrain from insisting on our rights. But, when America and Russia do not agree, as ill the case of Hungary, the United Nations can do nothing.
1218 In the old days, Egypt would not have ventured, in breach of all treaties and agreements, to confiscate British and French property and to throw the world's shipping into disarray. Now they know that they will find sufficient support in the United Nations to prevent any action from being taken. Even the Yemen, whose tribesmen have been quarrelling and fighting with those in the Aden Protectorate for generations, has discovered that it can find many anti-English votes at the United Nations and is trying to put the blame on England. Everywhere these wretched little pseudo-nations, banking on the irresponsible antics of the United Nations Assembly, are seizing the opportunity to make trouble. Instead of being an agent for peace, it is the world's great trouble-maker. Many other nations all over the world have looked on at the difficulties created for us and France by this disastrous body with a certain amount of Schadenfreude. But it is a risky line to take. To paraphrase a well-known saying, I suppose "an honest nation is one that stays bought". Hitherto, honesty in this sense has prevailed amongst many client States. But disenchantment lurks round the corner. Volte faces have happened before when attractive counter offers were made. If the Assembly, for instance, ordered the United States out of Formosa or even Panama, I am sure that the determination of the American Government to make her policy conform to the United Nations Charter would be subjected to an agonising reappraisal.
To sum up, no international organisation can preserve world peace when vital interests of the great Powers conflict. There are no general agreed principles according to which just solutions can be found. There is no hope of finding acceptable impartial judges; and, even if there were, there is no chance of enforcing verdicts on all alike, by moral, economic or armed pressure. This has been amply proved in recent years in the Middle East. I can only hope, therefore, that the major Powers will soon realise it and will disentangle their policies from the irresponsible and, to put it mildly, often inelegant interventions of the Assembly of the United Nations.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords. I shall be extremely brief because I know that the noble Lord, Lord Strang and the noble 1219 Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, are to speak, and I want to give my noble Leader plenty of time to answer. I am going to make a few remarks in regard to a particular question which I hope will be answered, perhaps not to-day but to-morrow. Unfortunately, I cannot be here to-morrow as I am going to Edinburgh to-night.
Let me just refresh your Lordships' memories a little over what happened in Cyprus at the beginning of all this trouble. The sequence of events was this. The Field Marshal and his advisers, and the Government here, decided that it was necessary to expel Archbishop Makarios; and that was done. The outstanding evidence against him must have been most serious for them to take that step. Your Lordships will remember that, subsequently, it was completely corroborated by the diary of General Grivas, who was the Archbishop's right-hand man. Your Lordships can have no doubt that the statement which the Archbishop has just made—an arrogant statement—shows that he has no intention of carrying out the one thing that we stood by during his incarceration—namely, that he was to say quite definitely that he was against terrorism and murder.
According to his own and other statements, no one can deal with the terrorists except Makarios. It would appear that he can stop the murders. No doubt the Field Marshal considered that, because he has always said "Will you make a definite statement in regard to these murders? Say that you disapprove of them; then we can get round a table and discuss matters." But he has never shown the slightest sign of doing that. We have made every possible overture to bring about peace. Even now, Makarios has refused to help. What is the hope of peace under those conditions? We must either be firm or lose more prestige. We must not shake the bloody fingers of these murderers. They have committed and connived at the most appalling crimes.
We were told quite recently that we had Grivas absolutely surrounded. Here is the question I want to put to my noble friend. We are surprised that, suddenly, Makarios is released and Grivas is told that he will be given a safe passage out of Cyprus, and pardoned. What was the cause of this sudden, complete 1220 change of policy by the Government? People I know in all walks of life want to know the answer to that question. They cannot understand how this sudden change came about. There must be a strong reason for taking such action. I hope that my noble friend will be able to give us some information in regard to the question which I am putting to him. In Makarios' statement, which is at the Printed Paper Office now, there is no contrition at all—no attempt to emerge from his appalling state of mind in regard to terrorism and murder. I hope that we shall be able to do something, instead of running away from the tremendous responsibilities which we have in that connection.
My Lords, there is one other question that I want to ask—it arises out of something that noble Lords who have already spoken said in regard to Egypt. I think I am right in saying (I hope my noble friend will correct me if I am wrong) that Nasser has never taken back his view that he is in a state of war with Israel. I believe that that is the situation at the moment. If I am wrong, I should like to be definitely corrected.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ LORD STRANG
My Lords, one would hope, by intervening in this debate, to be able to say something constructive and helpful about the Middle East, but unfortunately it is very difficult to do that. Speaking from my own experience in the Foreign Office, I can say that nowhere did I find problems more baffling than they were in that part of the world; and as time has passed the problems have not become any easier.
Her Majesty's Government have been accused of having had no clear policy in the Middle East. Every critic has had his own pet policy to propound, and in sum total these policies have been found to cancel each other out. We are told, on the one hand, that we ought to have made common cause with the Israelis against the Arabs; and we have been told, on the other, that we ought to have made common cause with the Arabs against the Israelis. We have heard that particular argument to-day in this House. Some say that we ought to have foreseen the rise of Arab nationalism and, from the outset, come to terms with it. Others have said that we ought not to desert our friends in Arab countries who have done 1221 their best to stand against this new subversive and disruptive force. Some say that we ought never to have got out of the Sudan and the Canal Zone; others that we ought to have got out long before. Some say that we ought to have launched our Suez expedition sooner, more expeditiously and carried it to its conclusion; others that we ought to have left it entirely to the United Nations. And so on and so on.
We all know what we want in the Middle East. What we here in London would like to see is peace and harmony and good order in these countries. We should like to see obligations fulfilled and International Law observed. We should like to see the oil flowing freely and smoothly from point of production to destination, through the Canal or the pipelines. We should like to see progressive Governments, attending to the welfare of their peoples, and using the great new oil revenues for development projects of all kinds, for the benefit not only of the oil-producing States but of the whole Arab world. That is easy enough to say. To state a policy, even though it is a good one, solves nothing. The whole difficulty lies in the execution. The question which is always so difficult to answer is: What is the next step? What do we do now? That question is not now, and never has been, easy to answer in respect of the Middle East. Neither we nor the Americans have ever been able to set a steady and consistent course. There is good reason for this. At the point we have now reached, the situation has been bedevilled to such a degree that it is hard to see a way out. I use the word "bedevilled"; it was used a little while ago by the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, and it is a good word by which to describe the situation.
There is, first of all, the Arab-Israeli conflict. I do not propose to go into the rights and wrongs of that conflict: all I will say is that I believe it to be irreconcilable in any foreseeable future. I think it is irreconcilable because it is not a conflict of right against wrong, but one of right against right; and meanwhile it poisons the relationship between the Western Powers and the Arab States. It is largely responsible for the intervention in the Middle East of the Soviet Union. By that very fact, quite apart from all questions of right or wrong, 1222 and by mere process of political dynamics, it creates a situation which may, sooner or later, spark off a major conflict. That is one of the bedevilments.
Here is another—and this is a fact of geography. Egypt possesses the Canal; she is in a commanding geographical position. Naturally she is exploiting that position. That is what we must expect. Not for the first time we see a weak Power putting the screw on stronger Powers in virtue of natural advantages, and playing off great adversaries one against: the other. We need not be surprised at this. It has happened before. The problem is a familiar one in history, and is not one which need cause us to lose our heads or our temper. In diplomacy that is never a good thing to do. It is rather a challenge to our coolness, our skill and ingenuity, and, above all, to our patience.
There is a third factor which bedevils the situation. Egypt is a law-breaker. She has violated international law and transgressed the provisions of the United Nations Charter. Now the United Nations Charter purports to provide for common action against a threat to the peace or an act of aggression; but the Charter provides no equivalent remedy for the kind of international delinquency which Egypt has committed. Indeed, it restrains the injured State from seeking its own remedy. In any event, quite apart from that, Egypt would be protected against United Nations decisions by the Soviet veto in the Security Council, and against United Nations resolutions by a faithful anti-colonial bloc in the General Assembly. So it is of little use going to the United Nations for justice in a case of this kind, as Israel has found to her cost and may well find in the future to her cost. By a curious topsy-turvydom, the delinquent in New York is able to pose as the injured innocent. In this respect, also, therefore, whatever may be the situation in other respects, Egypt's position for the time being is strong, at any rate in the short run.
The question is: in view of all that, is there any remedy? We have tried intervention by force, and for one reason or another it has not been successful. The Secretary-General of the United Nations is doing his best, on the basis of an imprecisely worded and rather wishy-washy Assembly resolution, to find a solution for 1223 immediate Arab-Israeli problems. Side by side with that, the United States is acting diplomatically in Cairo trying to bring Nasser to reason on the subject of the Canal. Here, again, I think we ought not to allow our expectations to rise too high or our resentment to be too bitter if our expectations are not fulfilled.
We ought not to expect the Americans to see things exactly as we do. Their problem is very different from ours. Events have laid a terrifying responsibility upon the Americans. Upon the United States of America there lies the main burden of defending the whole free world, as well as themselves, against the menace of the Soviet Union. That, and not the defence of British or Western European interests as such, will be their prime objective. In Washington this policy is not regarded as involving the United States in the rôle of universal policeman. They would say that that rôle is, or ought to be, the rôle of the United Nations.
Strategically, for the purposes of defence, the important areas for the United States are the Atlantic and the Pacific. It is only with reluctance that the Americans have come into the Middle East, and they have still not become full parties to the Baghdad Pact as they have to the North Atlantic Treaty and the South-East Asia Collective Security Treaty. The Middle East is not as important to them as it is to the countries of Western Europe. They do not rely on Middle East oil or the Suez Canal in the same measure as we do. They view the Middle East as an area which is threatened with Communist infiltration; and their policy is to try to woo the Middle East States from the appeal of Moscow. Anything which cuts across this main direction of American policy, anything, for example, which tends to throw the Arab States more closely into the arms of Moscow, will inevitably be ill-received in Washington. That was one of the reasons (although not the only reason) why American reaction against the Anglo-French operation at Suez was so strong—it cut across the main direction of their policy. I say this, not in order to whitewash the manifest shortcomings and equivocations—one might almost say blunders—of American policy in the Middle East which have been mentioned by several noble Lords 1224 to-day, but in order to suggest reasons why, even at the best, we should not pitch too high our expectations of what the Americans may be able to achieve in Cairo in satisfaction of our own interests and of those of other Western European countries.
Then, one would ask: in these circumstances what should be our own policy? I believe that we must first face the fact that our supplies of oil from the Middle East are in future going to be more precarious than they have been in the past. That is an undoubted fact, the importance of which has been driven home most effectively by the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, in a maiden speech to which we have all listened with such pleasure. Those supplies may be threatened by local political conditions or local Government action, either at the point of production in the oil fields or in transit through the Canal or the pipelines. I suggest that our response to this should be threefold.
In the first place, in the long term, we must make ourselves somewhat less dependent on oil by developing other sources of energy. That we are doing by our much-expanded atomic energy programme. Secondly, as a medium-term measure in the period when our requirements of oil are still increasing, as they are bound to do, we must, as far as possible, by-pass the Canal by using larger tankers and supplement existing pipelines by lines less vulnerable to political interference. These measures are also in hand and their importance, too, has been emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne. Thirdly, the immediate problem is the short-term problem—how best to secure the transit of our oil through the Canal and the Arab pipelines, both now and until these alternative channels can be constructed.
It may be worth looking back at an earlier case of a similar kind and seeing what happened. It is the case to which reference was made by my noble friend, Lord Killearn—that of Persia. When Mossadeq nationalised the installations of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1951 we had two courses pressed upon us. One course was military action. The Government of the day rejected that. They foresaw what the political consequences would be, and in any event did not think that a refinery could be run 1225 at the point of a bayonet. In passing, I would add that I do not think we could have run the Suez Canal at the point of a bayonet either.
The other course was one which was pressed upon us by the Americans. They thought that Mossadeq was going to last, and that we had better cut our losses and come to an agreement with him at something close to his own terms. That also (and very rightly) the Government declined to do. They thought that it would be better to make no agreement at all than to make a bad agreement which might become a damaging precedent at other times and in other places. They decided to wait and see what would happen, meanwhile maintaining the means of financial and economic pressure open to them. Mossadeq had been willing to ruin his country if only he could get the foreigner out. The Government in London thought that self-interest might in the end assert itself in Persia, and that others would come in in Mossadeq's place. In good time, that is what happened. The Americans, as they often do, came round to our view and a tolerable settlement was secured.
I do not say that the circumstances of the two cases are analogous. For one thing, it soon became evident that the world could do without Persian oil: and it is not so evident that in any near future the world will be able to do without the Suez Canal, though it may net be quite so important as at one time we thought. And, all round, Nasser may be in a stronger position than Mossadeq was, if only because he has the Russians behind him. Certainly, the main users of the Canal should maintain their financial restrictions and economic pressure. Certainly, they should refrain from using the Canal so long as they can. Certainly, they should be in no great hurry to make a new agreement with Egypt. Even Nasser may, in the end, not be entirely blind to self-interest; and, like Mossadeq, he may have feet of clay. Egypt, as a single-crop country, is economically vulnerable. Time can sometimes be an effective ally.
Meantime, we shall no doubt have to use the Canal; and we may have to acquiesce for a while de facto, under protest, in certain Egyptian requirements 1226 in regard to the use of the Canal. However, that is no reason why we and the other main users should be in too great a hurry to accept these arrangements de jure as a permanent basis for the future. But in the end, I must confess, I do not think that we shall be able to put the clock right back. We shall not be able to get all that we want. Egypt, in virtue of her position and in virtue of the present climate of world opinion, will probably be able to make good some part of her claims, however unjust these may be. The result will be determined by the pressure and counter-pressure of political and economic forces, not by process of law, because the grim truth is that the world as it is today is not organised for the maintenance of justice. And the strong right arm of enforcement can no longer be used so freely by law-abiding States.
Moreover, we should recognise that this situation is in part of our own making. We have embarked upon what has been called "the liberal experiment." We have promoted the growth of self-government and independence, and we have brought new Governments into the word. We have worked for the establishment of a new code of international behaviour which limits our freedom of action. We are doing our best, by financial and technical assistance, to strengthen the economies of underdeveloped countries. We have entered upon this experiment, in pan because it has been pressed upon us by the spirit of the age, but in part also because it is the expression of a moral idea which is near to the heart of our people. No one can say what the results of this experiment will be. Some of them are, at this early stage, distinctly disquieting. Indeed, one of our most respected and liberal-minded publicists, Sir Norman Angell, has gone so far as to call this process "the suicide of the West"; while another, a man of the ripest wisdom, Professor Gilbert Murray, has seen in current events what he describes as "the shadow of barbarism." Let us hope that this will be a passing shadow.
What is at issue is the whole question of the relationship between the more advanced countries, on the one hand, and the less developed countries, on the other. While the more advanced countries are growing vastly in wealth and technical 1227 skill, and are on the eve of a new Industrial Revolution, the less developed societies are growing in political consciousness and in political influence. They also seem to be beginning to have their own conception of International Law, a conception which differs in some degree from that of the system of International Law which, as they may see it, has been built up by the dominant States in the past. The question how best to harmonise these two great and potentially diverging movements, how best to harness them for the benefit of human society as a whole, is now plainly before us. It is one of the pressing and urgent problems of our time.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, towards the end of a very long debate one is anxious not to detain the House too long. First of all, I should like to say how grateful I am to my noble friend and colleague, Lord Henderson, for the manner in which he introduced this Motion to-day, a Motion which has led to such a well-balanced debate in your Lordships' House. Then I should like, before I go further, to say a word of congratulation to (if I may so call him) the Naval Lord, Lord Ashbourne, an old friend who only a few years ago showed me more of the Rock of Gibraltar than I had ever seen before, and introduced me to some of its secrets. I thought his speech to-day, as a maiden effort in your Lordships' House, deserving of the highest praise. We shall hope to hear a good deal more of Lord Ashbourne in the future.
The fact that strikes me, when I rise during the sort of debate we have had today, is that we have to start off in this country from such an unfavourable position in approaching those very important tasks which Lord Strang has just placed before us. We are not at the moment in a position of supremacy or, indeed, in a position specially to influence strategy in the world. We have made some serious mistakes. We in this House have been comparatively light in our criticisms of the Government which made those mistakes, but the results are coming home to roost, and we have very difficult problems to face. I think it is a very great pity that we are denied the presence of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and the benefit of his great ability. I regret that he will not be joining in the 1228 debate to tell us more about his side of the situation which has arisen. I hope that not many weeks will elapse before the noble Marquess returns to the House, and that, when he does, he will give us something like an explanation of how all these things have come about. I think he is far too great a personality, and he has far too great a record of public service, to slide out of the situation which has now to be tackled in the world, and that he should deal with the late crisis, which seems to have gone off like a damp squib. I hope he will not take that too much to heart, and that he will come back as soon as possible and tell us exactly where he stands in the matter.
The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, in what I thought was a very well-balanced speech, put some questions to the Government which I hope the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, will be able to answer in some detail when he replies to the debate. Not the least important question which Lord Henderson asked was whether the Government agreed with the most recent statement of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Organisation. My noble friend stressed the word "latest" in regard to Colonel Nasser's proposals, reported in The Times of April 5. These "latest" proposals of Colonel Nasser do not seem to be very different from the principles which were embodied in the statement of the United Nations Organisation of October 24. We want to know especially whether the Government agree with that statement of Mr. Hammarskjoeld. Is there any difference or not? In the debate of April 1 it was made perfectly clear that the Minister regarded the Nasser document which he had before him as unsatisfactory (I am referring to column 41 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of another place), but he said that he did not wish to enter into details about it at a time when he was still discussing it with other Governments. What I want to be very clear about is whether this comment in The Times refers to that draft memorandum from Colonel Nasser, on which the Prime Minister was commenting in the debate on April 1, or whether Mr. Hammarskjoeld is dealing with some other "latest" submission. If it is one and the same document, I think that it is very necessary for our Government to make urgent representations to the Secretary-General that we fundamentally disagree with the sentiment 1229 expressed; and the sooner that is done, the sooner there will be a move towards a settlement.
The second matter raised by my noble friend which I want to follow up is the question of refugees. What a great point Colonel Nasser has made of this! I would say that it is almost like a piece of blackmail. He has made a great point of attaching to the question of further progress in settling this difficult situation between themselves and Israel the settlement of the refugee problem. He asks to have that problem settled before he agrees to Israeli ships going through the Canal. I think that it is vital that we should make it clear, to whatever Party we belong, that we cannot possibly consent to such an approach to the matter. The United Nations Organisation have a great and grave responsibility for seeing that the decisions they have arrived at in the past about the Middle East are carried out, not excluding those decisions in regard to proper treatment of the refugees.
I am inclined to agree largely with what the noble Lord, Lord Strang, said about this Arab-Israel conflict being a struggle between right and right. I see exactly what he means. I am not so sure but that I agree that the prophecies in the Bible about the history of the future are likely to be fulfilled, but I think that many of our fellow countrymen would be well employed in studying the Bible prophecies concerning the future of this great and potential area in the world. From the past historical view, the great number of years in which the Arab people have occupied this territory, and in which the Israelites have been absent, almost totally absent, provides a strong basis upon which it could be argued that the Arabs have some right upon their side. They certainly have some right. If one is persuaded of their case that they have been hurried out of their possessions with little compensation for their loss; that they have been kept in a state of suspense and not properly cared for by the Powers who enforced this general policy in the Middle East.
I take the view strongly that after the 1914–18 war, having freed the people of this great area from the domination of Turkey, the Powers were not doing very much harm to the nations who had gained their freedom by their action in giving a reasonably small part of that territory to 1230 house those people of the Jewish faith who wished to come from other parts of the world. I have always been what I call a reasonable supporter of that policy. I hope very much that, when we come to the real struggle in any well-advised United Nations Organisation, if it is going to be well-advised in this matter, we shall do our level best as a member of the United Nations Organisation to see that justice is really done now. I agree with my noble friend Lord Lucan that it is impossible for any thinking person to consider that we can go back to the status quo ante of last October, after all that has happened and with Egypt still insisting that she is in a state of belligerency with Israel and is going to remain in such a state. If that is still the position, then there has been no settlement made whatever.
The third point raised by my noble friend to which I want to refer and which has been raised more than once during the debate is vital to the future security of our oil supplies—namely, the question of what is going to be done with regard to the supply of arms in the Middle East, especially having regard to the fact that there is so much tension remaining and so much underground activity going on behind this growing spirit of nationalism. I would support strongly the case put by my noble friend for the initiative to be taken—by this country if necessary, although it is not so easy for us at the moment to be able to enter into a strong initiative, not until we have re-established ourselves a little in public opinion throughout the world, but at any rate in company with the other main Powers who have been in the position to supply arms to the Middle East—in calling a high-powered conference to try to come to some understanding in the matter. I hope that the noble Earl the Leader of the House may be able to say something upon that point before he sits down.
I could not hear the whole of the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, because sometimes his voice did not carry in this direction, so I cannot take up every one of his points, but I must say that I was clear about the general drive of his argument, which to me was that the United Nations Organisation is no good in its present, form at all, either to us or to any Power of any real growth, education, stability and 1231 experience. I felt like saying at the end that that is the old kind of argument that we used to have in our elementary trials and debates at school, when we would end up by saying: "What's the good of anything? Why, nothing." There would be no moral progress in the world if we were always at the stool of the professor and adopted the kind of views he has advanced to us to-day. That is how I felt at the end of the noble Viscount's speech.
§ VISCOUNT CHERWELL
My Lords, I only wished to convey that I do not believe that any of these international organisations will be able to do any good when major Powers conflict.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I can well understand the noble Viscount's approach. But we took a prominent part in forming the United Nations Organisation. Both Sir Anthony Eden and my noble friend Lord Attlee, under the direction of the then Prime Minister in 1944–45, entered into the representation of this country, and were very prominent and responsible for our share in forming the United Nations Organisation.
VISCOUNT CHER WELL
If we had stuck to the Charter as it was written and signed and passed by the Parliaments of the world, the difficulties would not have arisen. It is because they have gone outside the Charter and let the Assembly take charge instead of the Security Council that trouble has arisen.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
We could soon get into a long argument about the history of the United Nations Organisation. But I must say that there have been times when I felt, after repeated and extraordinary use of the Veto, that there was something to be said for enabling one of the smaller nations to get some justice by going to the General Assembly. It is a pity we have not yet reached that position in dealing with the real problems of Israel, because if there had been strong action by the United Nations, carrying out their instructions, in support of the right of that country to save herself from blockade and to bring her ships through the Suez Canal, we might have had a different situation from the one we have to-day.
1232 What I want to say to the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, is this: I am quite willing to let the people of this country decide, on the basis he has put forward, their real attitude to this matter. I am sure that what the noble Lord, Lord Strang, said is right: that we have been acting in this matter in accordance with the moral principles which the majority of our fellow countrymen want us to exercise. On that basis, I am quite prepared to take the vote of the country at any time. Our own position is that, having signed the Covenant, and having experienced some of the abuses on the part of certain nations in the Organisation, we broke away from it on one of those points where undoubtedly there was a spirit of aggression against us, although in the Organisation, in the Covenant, in the practice, there was no actual precedent for using force in those circumstances.
§ VISCOUNT CHERWELL
I take it that the noble Viscount means the Charter when he says "the Covenant".
§ VISCOUNT CHERWELL
According to the Charter, nobody is compelled to obey the resolutions of the Assembly.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I think that is modified, to some extent, by the decisions of the United Nations Organisation. However, I do not want to argue with the professor, who is usually most careful about these documentary facts; I will look at it. But I am quite certain of this: that our reputation in the world is very low at the present time, because we took the action we did, and there was not sufficient remedy otherwise under the United Nations Organisation.
I want to say this, too. Because we had to support the point of view of the United Nations Organisation from our side of the House, that does not mean that we have any use for the blackmailing, dictatorial methods of this person called Colonel Nasser. I was shocked to read one statement of his the other day, when I was thinking about the steps that would have to be taken to come to some reasonable agreement upon the future international management of the Suez Canal. I have here a note of what 1233 Colonel Nasser is reported to have said when he was commenting upon the future control of the Canal, and referring to the holding up of Canal dues, as they were being held up at that time. He said:Egypt can afford to wait, because our living standards allow us to continue an indefinite resistance.In other words, this dictator, who had promised his people almost everything under the sun in physical benefits and improvement of standards, is quite prepared to keep them on their present basis just to get his own way in the things he has entered into. So I have not the slightest use for him in this matter. But surely that means that we must ask the United States of America for a far better measure of agreement than seems to me to be apparent from the communiqué issued after the Bermuda Conference.
I have never heard the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, make a more powerful and impressive speech than he made to-day. If he will forgive me for saying so, when I remember his rather more nervous approach to the Box in the House of Commons in the old days, as a Scottish Member, and how he has now expanded, I must congratulate him. I do not agree with many of his conclusions as to how we should deal with the present crisis; but I did agree with him on some of the things he said, and not least on what he said about the fumbling and tumbling of the attitude of the United States of America. I feel that we are entitled to have from the United States at the present time a firmer expression than they have yet given of where they intend to go and what they intend to do in the Middle East. I think that is vital.
While what has been said to-day is true, that the United States are not so dependent on their supplies of oil from the Middle East as some other countries such as ourselves are, nevertheless, the oil lobby in the United States has never let up from going out to seek the largest portion of Middle East oil it could possibly get—and not without success. If we are to look for some other means for the security of our oil, we are entitled to say to the United States that we as a country have done our best to get a union of the freedom-loving countries of democracy to be able to defend ourselves and our principles. We had not got a lead 1234 from the United States at the end of 1945. We had not got much of a lead in 1946, at the Paris Peace Conference. Mr. Byrnes, at that time, in my view, was still largely hoping that he would be able to pull off a special deal between the U.S.S.R. and America.
In 1947 (I think my noble friend Lord Attlee would agree with this), when we had to make all the running to get some combination of freedom's forces into some reasonable position to defend security, the United States were rapidly demobilising. At one time, ever Sir Winston Churchill asked me why I was not demobilising faster than I was—that was in the House of Commons, a; late as 1947. The situation then was that, having got National Service, from which, apparently, we are now going to retire rapidly, and having, with the help of National Service, persuaded the Benelux Powers to join the Brussels Treaty, we then got the United States to come in on the same front and build up the beginnings of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. When we look back at the history of what that has done for the world in the following years—and much more to the benefit of the United States of America than anybody else—I think we are entitled to say to them that, whatever mistakes our Government have made, it is about time that we got on to a better level of agreement as to what is going to be the common action in the future for the defence of freedom in general, and for the future vital supplies to the freedom-loving countries.
If we look at the situation in the Middle East—nobody has said it outright to-day; at least, not in any speech that I have heard—we find that the turning of a dictator like Colonel Nasser to Russia is not stopping there. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, suggested that we might get information from the Government about how many cargoes of material, which might well be war material, had passed during the last three months to Syria and Egypt. As I read the despatches, and especially the Jewish Press which sometimes contains many things which do not appear in the daily Press here, I find that Syrian troops have moved into Jordan, and that, although for the moment King Hussein has been able to manage to hold on in Jordan and that Saudi-Arabia is now coining to his assistance against the left wing in his own 1235 country, there is still serious danger there. So there is still a great deal to be done.
I do not wish to take up any further time, and we shall be able to deal with some of these matters when we come to the defence debate. But I beg the Government to take every possible step to get the closest co-operation with the United States of America, because, with all my criticism that the Americans have been failing to face facts, without an active alliance with the United States of America to-day there is not much hope that Western democracy will be able to defend itself to the end. That is the position. I felt that, with Mr. Bevin and my noble friend Lord Attlee in 1947–48, when they were setting up the first foundations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I see no reason for departing from the conclusions to which we came then; but we certainly require that, in the present circumstances, the United States of America shall play a little more on our side than they have in the last two or three years. I believe it is just as well that Mr. Dulles should know that some of us who have opposed this Government upon their abandonment of the proper practice under the Charter of the United Nations with regard to Egypt, still desire to see that he gives us fair play in our future foreign relationships.
§ 7.14 p.m.
THE EARL OF HOME
My Lords, this is the first debate on foreign affairs since the turbulent events of last autumn when Her Majesty's Government and the Opposition were sharply divided on an issue of foreign policy. Foreign affairs may involve the life and death of a nation, and in a democracy we may have to face occasions when there is a deep division of opinion between people as they are represented in Parliament, but I think that none will dissent from the proposition that identity of view between the Parties in Parliament very much strengthens the hand of the country in foreign affairs and that continuity of foreign policy between Governments is greatly to the country's interest. Therefore I hope, while not in the least suggesting that any of us has altered his view about what has passed, that we have now reached a point, both in foreign policy and in defence, where there may 1236 be substantial agreement between Her Majesty's Government and Her Majesty's Opposition; and that hope has, I am bound to say, been reinforced by the speeches that we have heard to-day from the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, who opened the debate, and from the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hills-borough, who has just spoken.
The Opposition have chosen to concentrate this debate upon the Middle East, and once again the range of problems which have been ventilated by all the speakers has underlined the economic, political and military significance of this area to the United Kingdom and to many other countries in the world. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, rightly called attention to oil; and the necessity to bring oil from the Middle East to the United Kingdom and the rest of Western Europe has underlain the speeches of many noble Lords. If I may say so, and join with others, the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, in his admirable maiden speech, convinced all of us of the urgency of this problem. He reminded us that when we come to the year 1965 our consumption of oil will be something like one-quarter of our total consumption of energy. That means that one of the primary objectives of British foreign policy must be to secure the steady flow of oil by all means from the Middle East. And when I say, "by all means" I mean that we should consider alternative pipelines and large tankers and any means which will increase the flow to meet our constantly increasing needs over the next few years. Because on this steady flow from the Middle East depends not only the prosperity of this country, but our very existence.
This area of the Middle East is, of course, essential also as a means of rapid communication by sea and air between the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries, and the recent crisis has not only shown how important this is to Australia and New Zealand, which immediately come to our mind, but also illustrated the economic loss which can be inflicted upon India, Ceylon and Pakistan by even a short closure of the Suez Canal, and the greater losses which could come upon them if any system were adopted for the Canal which allowed discrimination against any nation. 1237 Thirdly, the Middle East, as my noble friend, Lord Dundee, illustrated so graphically, with its political instabilities and divisions, is a standing invitation to international Communism to intervene and interfere in the internal affairs of the different countries. If the Communists were successful in the Middle East, they could at one stroke isolate the Indian sub-continent from the West, deprive Europe of oil, and open the African continent to penetration. Neither we nor our allies, particularly the United States of America, can ever ignore these prime objectives of Soviet strategy. I saw the other day that the Vice-president of the United States, Mr. Nixon, drew attention to the fact that the advance guard of Communism was already active in the African Continent.
The reaction to the external threat to this area of the Middle East is the Baghdad Pact. I think it is worth recalling that this Pact was the spontaneous answer of the countries which were threatened by the Soviet menace from the North. It was not, as is so often believed, in origin a British conception. The original members of the Pact were Turkey and Iraq, and they were joined by the United Kingdom, Iran and Pakistan, thus completing what is known as the northern tier concept. The United Kingdom joined the Pact and is a full and convinced member of it, first, because it is the only way in which these countries who are free and are our friends can be defended. In isolation, each would be eaten up in turn; together, they can resist aggression. Secondly, because a firm and steady alliance between these countries, Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Pakistan, reinforced by the United Kingdom and now by the United States, can contribute to the political and economic stability of the area. Thirdly, because, from a military point of view, it is in the mountainous northern area that any physical attack from the North must be broken and held.
We in this country have always recognised that the Baghdad Pact could not fulfil its promise, either military or economic, unless the United States would commit their resources to it. To persuade the United States to commit their resources has been an urgent objective of the Government's foreign policy. Now, late but by no means too late, the United States have guaranteed the independence of the member countries. My noble friend 1238 Lord Dundee, said that there were two threats—physical aggression from outside and subversion from within—to which these countries were subjected. I would remind him of what President Eisenhower said on November 29 of last year: that, apart altogether from the external military threat,a threat to the territorial integrity and political independence of members of the Baghdad Pact would be viewed by the United States with the utmost gravity.Since then, the United Stales have, in fact, agreed to join the Military Committee of the Baghdad Pact. I think that these developments, the guarantee of the independence of the member countries, the United States joining the Economic and Development Committee and the Military Committee of the Pact, are of the highest significance, because in this most dangerous and unstable area American and British power are once more united with independent countries willing to defend themselves, in a regional pact under the United Nations Charter. A fusion of United States and British power and influence has, I believe by common consent, been the factor which has saved Europe in N.A.T.O. and South East Asia in S.E.A.T.O., and there is an opportunity now for the Baghdad Pact to save the area of the Middle East and to play a similar rôle. These regional pacts are not aggressive; they are not directed against anybody, but they exist to create stability in the area and to meet aggression, should it come. Nor is the Baghdad Pact exclusive. As its security and economic advantages become apparent to other countries outside, we trust that the membership of the Pact may increase.
The noble Lord asked me some questions about the importation of arms into the Middle East. His suggestion was—and I do not dissent, although I shall qualify it a little in a moment—that the importation of arms into the area causes friction, adds to the difficulties in the area and heightens tension. He asked whether we could not come to an agreement with the Russians for a limitation of arms imported into the area. I want to make one distinction here which I think we should make. It is not the arming of the Baghdad Pact Powers against the threat of Communism which causes the tension; it is the reckless supply of arms to Israel 1239 and her immediate Arab neighbours. I think it is well to make that distinction clear, because it is that action which lays the train to the powder keg. Russia tries for her own purposes to confuse the two. The Russians say, in effect, to the United States and ourselves, "Give up arming Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan against the Communists and we will consider whether we shall stop arms to those countries which are involved in the Palestine dispute."
If noble Lords think that over, I believe they will see that we could not make such a bargain at the expense of our friends who have a legitimate fear of Communism and a legitimate case to be armed against it. The Baghdad Pact and the aggression which it is designed to resist have nothing whatever to do with the Palestine dispute. Therefore I think that the basic hypocrisy of the Russian position becomes plain. The way is clear for them to co-operate if they wish to do so. The West is operating in this respect under the Tripartite Declaration, and the object of the Tripartite Declaration is to restrain the importation of arms into the area. In fact, until Colonel Nasser entered into the arms deal with Czechoslovakia, there had been only a trickle of defensive arms to either side. It is perfectly true that the importation of arms into this area is a real danger all the time. I will convey the feelings of noble Lords to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and see whether he thinks it is possible to add any kind of machinery to the Tripartite Declaration which would lead to the real limitation of arms. But if Russia would give up this business of bargaining the arms for the Baghdad Pact against arms for Israel and her neighbours, then we might be able to do business.
The debate has been, naturally and largely, concerned with the chronic instability created by the refusal of the Arabs to recognise the existence of the State of Israel. Since the State was established—and it is worth recalling that it was established by the United Nations—attempts at mediation have been met with prejudice so deep that it has been impossible even to discuss a permanent settlement with any hopes of arriving at a reasonable agreement. Indeed, the declaration of Egypt and her allies that 1240 their object was to extinguish Israel was, only a few months ago, the cause of Israel's going into Sinai; and yet, if ever there is to be peace in the area, this fundamental question of difference between Arab and Jew must be settled. However, I agree with noble Lords opposite that the first thing is for everybody to realise that the State of Israel is there to stay.
History forbids undue optimism. There is some evidence that, under the shock of events, the Arab neighbours of Israel are beginning to realise that Israel is a fact. But one must agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strang, and with others who have spoken, that we are not at the point where an agreement to live together peacefully could be put into a comprehensive treaty. Therefore, the best for which we can hope is that individual points of friction may be smoothed out and an atmosphere created which is more propitious to a general settlement. The United Nations has assumed large responsibilities in this area, and in this task of smoothing out the points of friction they will certainly have our full cooperation.
My noble friend Lord Gosford has given the House some facts about the Straits of Tiran. It seems that freedom of navigation in those Straits is likely to be established. Then there is the right of passage for Israeli ships through the Canal—clearly an international responsibility under the Convention of 1888. It is clear under that Convention that there should be no discrimination, and it is for the United Nations to see that that Convention is upheld. Let me say at once, in response to the Leader of the Opposition, that Her Majesty's Government see no connection between the passage of ships for Israel through the Canal and the problem of refugees.
The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, were surely right when they said that if a resettlement plan for the refugees could be arrived at, it would be the greatest contribution to accommodation between Israel and the Arabs. It involves, as they realise, problems of land settlement and financial compensation of the most daunting proportions. There are nearly 1 million refugees. With the best will in the world—and that has been conspicuously lacking—no more than a small proportion of them 1241 could be resettled in Israel. There are plans in existence—there is the Jordan Valley Plan and the Sinai project. All I can say is that these questions are being explored by the Secretary-General of the United Nations at the moment; but so far as the problem of refugees is concerned, the United Kingdom has already pledged financial support for resettlement, and that pledge stands. So too has the United States of America.
My noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye asked me a question about the Gaza Strip. I think he has had to leave, but perhaps other noble Lords might be interested in the position. Her Majesty's Government's view is that the best course, indeed the right course, is that the Gaza Strip should become a United Nations responsibility. It is a fact that under the Israel-Egypt Armistice Agreement the Strip was left under Egyptian occupation. Nevertheless, we believe that it is for the United Nations Force to see that the terms of the Armistice are scrupulously observed, and, in particular, that raids into Israel are prevented. In the United Kingdom Government's view the United Nations Force should not leave Gaza until this task is fulfilled beyond any doubt. The second task of the United Nations in this area is to find a general settlement and a permanent solution for the Strip. It would seem that in any long-term settlement it is desirable and inevitable that there should be some kind of United Nations participation in the pacification of all Israel's frontiers.
On all these matters of friction and dispute the Secretary-General is having exploratory talks both with Israel and Egypt. It must be hoped that constructive policies will emerge. It will then be for the United Nations, with the assistance of the great Powers—who I hope will be in agreement on these big issues—to fine the will to put them into execution.
§ LORD HENDERSON
If I may interrupt—I am most interested in what the noble Earl has said—there is just one point that I should like to raise. Do not the noble Earl and the Government agree that the first step to be taken to provide a basis for developments on the individual problems to which he has referred is for the Egyptian Government to fulfil its responsibilities under the Armistice 1242 Agreement and to drop its policy of a state of war and belligerency against Israel? That seems to me to be the first step that they should take.
THE EARL OF HOME
My Lords, I did not deal with that became my noble friend Lord Gosford had already answered that point in his speech. But I certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, on that point.
My Lords, the last series of questions which I have been asked deal with the Suez; Canal and the United Kingdom's interest in it. Again, I do not think I detected any difference between the two sides of the House on the right and proper course—namely, that when it comes to a final settlement, it should be a settlement in co-operation with the users of the Canal; that the Canal should be insulated from the politics of any one nation, and that any user should be protected against discrimination. The 1888 Convention went some way towards that; but quite clearly, in view of Colonel Nasser's earlier action, it needs some reinforcement. Her Majesty's Government's position has been consistent, and I hope it is clear beyond a doubt that we wish to see an agreement within the six principles which were unanimously agreed by the Security Council.
In regard to the Suez Canal to-day, as I speak at this moment the position remains inconclusive. The, Egyptians have shown to various Powers, but not to Her Majesty's Government, a draft declaration on the régime which they propose for the Canal. The United States Government on April 2 described this document as unsatisfactory, and as inadequate to meet the six requirements of the Security Council to which I have just referred. Their Ambassador in Cairo has been instructed to seek clarification, and to see whether the Egyptian Government are prepared to meet the requirements of the users. The outcome of these talks is expected to be known very soon, and the United States Government will then be in a position to discuss the Egyptian reply with us and with the other Powers concerned. It will, I hope, be generally agreed that this important matter should not be settled by means of a unilateral declaration by Egypt. We have always made it clear that we are prepared to take part in a negotiation on the basis of the six principles and 1243 of the exchange of letters between Mr. Hammarskjoeld and Dr. Fawzi of last October and November. Since these have been accepted by Egypt, we do not think that these documents could be described as an unreasonable basis for discussion and settlement.
Perhaps I might here answer the question which the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, asked me about the comment of the Secretary-General on the Egyptian note and declaration. I think the Secretary-General has been misreported, which is not uncommon for any of us in public life. He referred to his letter of October 24, which developed the six requirements of the Security Council, and said that the test was if the Egyptian memorandum met these requirements; and he said that it was not for him to say whether it did or not. In our view, the Egyptian proposals do not go far enough, in so far as we know the contents of the declaration.
In the meantime, Her Majesty's Government have advised British shipping companies to avoid using the Canal until the position is clear; and I should like to say how grateful we are for their cooperation under what we must all recognise have been most difficult circumstances. We are pursuing this policy in co-operation with a number of our friends, including the United States of America, the Netherlands, France, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Scandinavian countries. Also, on April 5, the International Chamber of Shipping, representing eighteen countries, stated:It is…the view of the majority of shipowners that the immediate use of the Canal is of less importance than…guarantees concerning its use and the undertakings of the Canal Administration concerning its technical upkeep and development.I have tried, in that rather condensed passage, which noble Lords will be able to read to-morrow, if they wish to do so, to answer some of the points raised in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson—namely, the position of the United States in the exploratory talks; the principles which in the view of Her Majesty's Government must govern a permanent settlement; the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to negotiation, and the desirability that negotiation shall be within the framework of the Security 1244 Council resolution and registered with the United Nations as a permanent international agreement.
On the question: "What would Her Majesty's Government do if Egypt's answer were not in accordance with the six principles?", I feel your Lordships probably would prefer that I should not try to forecast action without pre-knowledge of the final Egyptian proposals, which we have not yet got, and without knowing how near or far they are from the six principles. But broadly speaking, there seem to be two alternatives so far as the Canal is concerned. First, it can be run, as the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, has said, as a great international waterway, equipped to serve the increasing traffic needs of modern commerce—and that can be done only with the active co-operation of the principal users, including the United States of America, if only for the reason that finance for development cannot otherwise be available. In those circumstances, the Canal could be an asset to Egypt. Or, secondly, it can be run without any guarantee to the users, with no adequate re-equipment, in which case it will most surely be by-passed and will decline until only a trickle of to-day's traffic goes through. In other words, the confidence of the users is the essence of the Canal's prosperity. For a reasonable man, there could be only one answer to this choice of alternatives.
Since our last series of debates, there have been developments upon which noble Lords can place their own valuation. Colonel Nasser's claim to lead and to rule from Iran to the Atlantic has been exploded as the boast of a bombast. American power is committed in the Middle East, as a contribution both to physical security and to economic development. Following upon the Bermuda Conference there is, I trust, a new appreciation by the United States of the objectives of the United Kingdom in the Middle East; and, following the frank discussions which took place there, a realisation that unless Anglo-American policy is reconciled and is constructive in every field of activity, the fight against Communism is lost. Upon Anglo-American unity will depend, to a great extent, the effectiveness of the United Nations in settling disputes which are so prevalent in the world; for it is really no foreign policy to throw all the problems 1245 of the world into the lap of the United Nations without having any clear view of one's own national objectives.
My noble friend Lord Cherwell conducted an enjoyable dissection of the United Nations this afternoon, and clearly the Organisation has its imperfections and its dangers. It could be fatal to the United Nations if it were, in effect, to uphold the lawbreaker and put those who keep the law at a permanent disadvantage. But must we accept that that need be so? It seems to me that it is a major British interest to build the United Nations into an organisation which can assist people by promoting justice. For it is not only a matter of moral principle, although there is a strong moral case in it: I have always considered it is also a case of self-interest, because if we can combine the majority of the countries of the world against the aggressor, that is the most certain insurance for a country like ours, which is one of the most vulnerable of all in a state of war.
I must not stray into this wider field, although one day, no doubt, we shall come to debate the form of the United Nations and adaptations which may be necessary to enable it to fulfil its task in the interests of the peace-loving nations and those who keep the law. But, for the moment, I am inclined, as I hope your Lordships will be, to take the wise advice of the noble Lord, Lord Strang: that in this matter of the Middle East we should proceed with patience, with always in the back of our mind the knowledge that all our policy must be directed to sustaining and securing the steady flow of oil on which the life of our country depends.
1246 We are only half-way through our debate on the Middle East, and it was thought well to divide the debate into the wider question of the Middle East and to concentrate to-morrow largely on the question of Cyprus; but I hope that to-day's review by your Lordships who are most knowledgeable on these questions has been useful. I think it as well that we should from time to time survey British foreign policy in these various areas of the world. Certainly Her Majesty's Government gain much knowledge and encouragement as the result.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Attlee, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Earl of Lucan.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.