HL Deb 29 October 1957 vol 205 cc548-51

The President and the Prime Minister believe that the understandings they have reached will be increasingly effective as they become more widespread between the free nations. By coordinating the strength of all free peoples safety can be assured, the danger of Communist despotism will in due course be dissipated and a just and lasting peace will be achieved.

3.56 p.m.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Leader of the House for his courtesy in giving us the statement made in another place by the Prime Minister on his visit to Washington. I have listened very carefully hut, if I may speak frankly, I can find nothing very new in it, not because I have previously read in the Press any report of the statement made but because it is now quite academic to refer in statements to the inter-dependence of the free nations. That is what we have been pressing for and pursuing in all Parties for some years now. The only benefit that can arise from this particular statement would be the removal, after the efforts of all Governments in the past have failed, of the inhibition, which arose from the McMahon Act, preventing a full pooling of atomic scientific research. It that matures, then certainly something will have been achieved.

On behalf of the Opposition, however. may I say that we welcome the return of Her Majesty's Government to a more normal procedure in their operations in international affairs than we have suspected has been the case in the last twelve months. The statement does not go very far, and perhaps the noble Leader of the House may he able to arrange that we may have a much fuller statement and further discussion when we come to debate the gracious Speech.


My Lords, whilst agreeing with the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, that the statement does not cover very much new ground, there are two points which we are particularly glad to notice. There is first the question of revision of the McMahon Act—a very great step forward which the President of the United States has suggested he might be able to take. It is also noted that the President and the Prime Minister are to urge at N.A.T.O. an increase of scientific research and development in support of common collective security. I hope that that collective security may also include collective prosperity, so that the present over-military aspect of N.A.T.O. may develop on lines more civil, more progressive and more creative than purely military lines.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Leader of the House one question which arises in connection with this statement, although it did not figure in it? I have read in several newspapers that one of the arrangements made in Washington was that the British Government should maintain in Germany larger forces than had previously been agreed or determined. May I, without wishing to cause embarrassment, ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House (for this is the kind of thing which should not be left in the air) whether in fact any such arrangements were made, and if so, at whose expense they will be carried out?


My Lords., I also wish to ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House a question, and it may be convenient if I do so now. It covers two points. Was the question of the adequacy of security arrangements in this country raised in connection with the revision of the McMahon Act? Secondly, did the President and the Prime Minister discuss the question of the boycott of China?


My Lords, I believe that the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition was wise in suggesting that the great number of questions which may arise out of this statement could probably be more properly dealt with during the debate on the gracious Speech, if that is so desired. In reply to the question of my noble friend Lord Swinton, the size of the forces in Germany was naturally one of the questions discussed, but I think that no pledges were given, and it is a matter which I imagine will be discussed at the next N.A.T.O. meeting. The noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition says there is nothing very new in this statement. While there is nothing much that has not already been in the papers, the Prime Minister has come back having been able to achieve a complete restoration of harmonious relations with the United States of America, which were interrupted last year, and the determination behind each phrase is for absolute co-operation between the United Kingdom and the United States of America over the whole field of international activity; and that is, of course, a great gain. We have, it is true, been pursuing inter-dependence for a long time, and I am not sure that we have always achieved it. I hope that we shall now achieve it in fact.


I asked the noble Earl two questions.


I am afraid that I cannot answer the noble Viscount's two questions just at this moment. If he wishes to raise these questions during the debate on the gracious Speech it may be possible to answer him.


If we bring up these two questions in the debate on the gracious Speech may we look for an assurance, first that a tightening up of our security arrangements was not asked for; and secondly, that the Prime Minister raised the question of the boycott of China? There can be no peace in Asia while China is excluded from the comity of nations.


If the noble Viscount asks the questions we shall do our best to answer, but whether we can give the noble Viscount answers which in form will satisfy him I should hesitate to say.

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