HL Deb 13 March 1958 vol 208 cc212-31

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, the debate has gone on longer than we expected and I fully understand the reasons that have led a number of noble Lords to leave the House for important business elsewhere. I should mention that, among others, the noble Earl the Leader of the House and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, who have both spoken so eloquently, made apologies for the fact that they will not now be able to be with us. We have had, I think, it will be generally agreed, an important debate, and I am sure the distinguished seniors who have spoken will not mind my saying that from these Benches, at any rate, we were particularly gratified by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald. I feel that that should be said at the beginning in case I do not deal with all the points made by the noble Lord.

Just before the adjournment, the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, was disturbing our minds with many statements which, for the most part, and leaving out his personal criticisms of my colleagues about which I will say a word in a moment, are difficult to refute: that is to say, they were, so far as I can judge, factual. Certainly the noble Lord, Lord Cones-ford, is well entitled to speak about the sufferings of those behind the Iron Curtain, as we all bear in mind his honourable sacrifice of office at the time of Yalta—it is something we have never forgotten in this House.

I am bound to say that I thought his remarks about some of my colleagues were a shade indiscriminate. If they were here, no doubt they would answer for themselves. I think, in particular, the suggestion that the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, was to be associated with some kind of lunacy was going far beyond the sort of criticism that we expect from the noble Lord, Lord Conesford. Some words of Pascal come to my mind here, particularly at a moment when so few of us can see light in this very dark situation: Men are so necessarily mad that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. If the noble Lord wishes to apply any part of that to himself and the other to the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, he can take his choice as to which refers to whom. I can only feel at the present time that none of us, even the most sane, can really begin picking out relative degrees of alleged insanity among our political opponents.

I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, but not those two noble Lords alone, feel a deep sense of personal responsibility—not that they are to blame, of course—for what occurs behind the Iron Curtain; and that, I think it is fair to say, is shared by all of us. I should myself be inclined to submit that the reason why disengagement has appealed to so many in the Labour Party, and elsewhere—we in the Labour Party defer to no one in our idealism—is the very fact that, however large or small an area is affected by disengagement, some area within that total extent of territory is bound to be liberated from the Communist yoke, which we so much deplore. That is one great and legitimate attraction about all forms of disengagement. I know that the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, sees it that way, and I should tope that the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, does, too.

If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, who has had his say, and a very good one, too, from a well understood point of view, although there was a Royal Commission and it was difficult for him to continue speaking, I felt that his speech was incomplete. He denounced the Russians, and I think quite justly. But where does that help us? He wants peace; we all want peace. What is the noble Lord's policy for peace? I hope it will not be fifteen months before we hear another speech on foreign affairs from the noble Lord, and I hope that the next time he will tell us how he would advise the Government—it may be the same Government or, of course, it may be a different one—to make peace with these people. I fully appreciate what has been said about the position of people behind the Iron Curtain. How could we forget it when so recently we debated Hungary, and the blame for Hungary falls on Russia?


My Lords, I should like to respond to the noble Lord, who is dealing with this so fairly. I am in favour of the Summit conference on the terms that Her Majesty's Government have expressed. But I should be wholly against it if the Russians insisted on their exclusion of the satellite countries from consideration.


I will not continue the argument with the noble Lord about those aspects. I think, if I may say so, that he is too modest about the distance his words carry. If he thinks that nobody hears what he has to say, then perhaps no harm is done, but I do not take that view of the noble Lord's impact. I feel that the Russians are inclined to regard him as a representative speaker in this country. Unbridled views, without showing the way to any practical solution, even though they are justified, cannot help the Government and might well hinder them. I hope that the noble Lord will not mind my saying that clearly.

The topic of disengagement has been dealt with thoroughly by various speakers, and on that I would make two points. I do not imagine that anybody would seriously advocate disengagement—about which I had interesting discussions last week with Mr. Kennan in Oxford—if he thought it was going to be resolutely objected to in the end by our American and German Allies. It would then be impossible to proceed with it. But that does not prevent us from advocating it now, and it does not prevent us from trying to carry our Allies with us. I appreciate that the noble Earl said that the Government can hardly be expected to state a policy apart from those Allies and our other Allies. But we on the Opposition Benches are not inhibited in that way, and we are entitled to comment upon it and may express the hope that the Government will do all in their power to see that something is begun.

I feel that there are many objections which can be levelled against Mr. Kennan's particular proposals, or some aspects of them: they were brought out in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Strang, to which all of us listened very carefully but which we shall wish to study more than once. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has pointed the way to make a start in his support of what Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick has suggested in the Sunday Times. No one is going to say that Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick is—I was almost going to say a woolly idealist. Everyone knows that he is an idealist, but not woolly. Anybody who has been head of the Foreign Office, either the noble Lord, Lord Strang, or Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, cannot be just dismissed as a long-haired dreamer. While I appreciate that it is early for the Lord Chancellor to say something definite to-day about Sir Ivone's proposals, I hope that something can be said revealing that the Lord Chancellor does intend to see that they are carefully considered by Her Majesty's Government as a start towards something wider. That has been one of the great issues in the debate.

I would not myself feel that there was much difference between the various sides of the House, or between the speakers, on the mood in which we should approach this conference. If I may say so, the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, depressed me rather more than the noble Earl the Leader of the House yesterday. But when I was an Under-Secretary I think I depressed people even more than when I was a Minister. Therefore, I make the requisite allowances. That is bound to have that effect on all of us. I hope that when the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor (who is perhaps in a rather stronger position for making a statement) speaks to us at the end, he will reveal that we do go into this conference with a good measure of hope. We all realise the need for caution, as was stressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, and others. But do not let us admit that we are beaten before we begin. I hope that the Lord Chancellor will be able to end on a reasonably sanguine note this evening.

I realise that the time is late, and that the whole question of the hydrogen bomb was thoroughly discussed last week. But it would be difficult, at any rate for some one like myself, who has thought, as we all have, so much about that subject, and who was not able to be present last week, to pass that whole question by without one or two words. Through being called away to Oxford. I was unable to hear the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, which I think all of us will agree was a model of how a great topic of that kind should be wound up in fourteen minutes. I hope that I do almost as well to-night.

I missed, of course, hearing the speech of the noble Earl the Leader of the House, which will be remembered for a long time to come. Naturally I read it, and I think it was clearly the speech of a man who faced the ultimate difficulties in this matter, who had reached his own conclusions and was prepared to sacrifice his own life and ask others to do the same. It was a speech of great leadership. Nevertheless, bearing in mind that speech, and bearing in mind the speech to-night of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee (who explained that he was called away to debate this very question, I think, on television—which explains why the galleries are a little empty) both of whom, I think, treated the division that exists to-day as pretty simple, I would say this. It is hardly going too far to say that it is a division, and I will not deny that it is. But the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, divides the country into those who follow the White Paper and those who follow the white flag. I think that that is too simple a distinction.

If one is in touch—as I was last week in the University of Oxford—with a good many of the young people (and we have heard one or two younger Peers speaking effectively to-night) it is interesting to see what they are thinking. I have also happened to address undergraduates in Swansea, Birmingham and Liverpool in recent times. And, though I claim no special privileged expertise, it would be wrong in my opinion to take the kind of view expressed in The Times to-day by a distinguished man, the late Attorney-General, Sir Lionel Heald. His view is that the young men are sound at heart, and that the people who are making all this noise are not truly representative. He goes on to say that he is, in a sense, speaking favourably of the young generation, and I do not want to "guy" his argument which is set out at some length in The Times. But he says that he thinks the great majority of young people would repudiate as strongly as their fathers and uncles did before the last war the attitude attributed to them to-day.

I was a university don in Oxford before the last war. I remember now, going back to 1933, how I was associated with the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, in trying to get the "King and Country" resolution expunged. It was a failure, and we were overwhelmed with stink bombs and driven from the hall. Sir Winston Churchill has put all that into perspective. I have not had time to look up the exact words, but I think this is the meaning: Little did the foolish boys who passed that resolution realise that in a few years they were to conquer or die gloriously and prove themselves the finest generation in Great Britain. But, my Lords, it was not one lot who died gloriously and one lot who passed the resolution—they were the same lot. In fairness to the youth of to-day, one must not distinguish between the two—one going about their duties and doing all the respectable things, and others not very well washed and trying to pass all sorts of crazy resolutions.

The truth is that the younger generation to-day does not consist entirely of members of the Bullingdon. There are others in Swansea, Birmingham and Liverpool. In the younger generation to-day there is great disquiet—I think one cannot deny that. It is not just hysterical. It is not confined to the youth. One finds it in many circles throughout this country, but I am most conscious of it among the youth. There is a feeling that things have changed very greatly in the last few years, but there is no visible alteration in policy to keep up with that change. There is the feeling that the older men—and I am old enough to be regarded as that—are saying the same old things, and that unless there is some change of attitude, some greater sense of urgency, the young men may once again be hounded to their deaths. That is the feeling; it can be called jitters, but: I do not think it is the white flag; there may be a bit of the White Knight about it, if we follow Sir Stephen King-Hall, another gifted author whose book I, have with me. But I think one can say that they are striving for some nobler ideal than they can exactly express or than the Government can at the moment point the way to.

Take the H-bomb itself. I find very great difficulties about the use of the H-bomb in any circumstances. On balance, I am satisfied—provisionally satisfied, but I would not say more—that there are circumstances in which it would be a Christian duty to use it. But I can only just arrive at that conclusion; and I can imagine changing it. I think, therefore, that one must not assume that this feeling, this new pacifism, if you like, or the tendency towards it, is simply selfish. I think there is great concern about the whole ethical question as to whether the bomb could be used. I speak as someone who is prepared to share responsibility for a policy, broadly similar to that of the White Paper, with various refinements and qualifications which have been explained by my Party leaders. That is my attitude.

But I would myself feel that there is a difference, not only in degree but in kind, between conventional weapons, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, weapons which might blot out the whole of our civilisation; and that is intensely felt by the younger generation and by all of us on these Benches. If one feels that, one cannot be satisfied with the White Paper; one can accept it, if you like, as a second best, because at the moment it seems to be difficult to offer anything very much better. I would regard that as a very negative policy, as a policy at this date, 1958, which cannot give us much pride if that is the best we can arrive at. I think the younger generation feel this with particular force.

I want to try to emulate the example of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, when he summed up so effectively but so briefly last week. I would reaffirm what has been said so authoritatively and so analytically by the noble Lords, Lord Henderson and Lord Silk in, who explained the attitude of our Party. But my final thought is this—it will take me a moment or two to explain it, and it takes us into a rather different field. It is rather a surprise to me, and not, if I may say so, an altogether pleasant surprise, that we have heard very little about the United Nations in this debate. We have heard very little about world government. The views of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the noble Lords, Lord Henderson and Lord Silkin, are well known on that question. They have all gone on record about it more than once in recent times.

But I feel that we are entitled to ask the Government whether they can give us any encouragement at all in connection with this question of world government. We had a debate last year when there was widespread support in this House for the idea of an international police force, for making a small start, if that was all that was possible at the present time. I would feel satisfied that the only way in which we could give effect to what I would call the frustrated idealism of the younger generation in this country would be if we could make it plain that we were moving towards a world police force as part of world government.

When I see young men to-day—undergraduate age, for example—and compare them with the young men I was teaching as a don before the war, I think the prospect of to-day's young man is better. As one saw the young men before the war one could not help feeling that war was certain and a high proportion of them were to be killed. That was what occurred. I do not take that gloomy view to-day. I was giving tea the other day to a number of young men from one of our great provincial universities, and they were talking about the H-bomb, not in a panicky sense but as people morally disturbed. I asked a most distinguished man, very dear to most of us in this House though not a Member of it, what his opinion was about the future. He said that his opinion, speaking as a soldier—and he is a great soldier—was that the future was bright; this fear of nuclear extermination would prevent war. I believe that is true for a number of years, but I do not forget what the noble Lord, Lord Salter, said yesterday and others have said: that the years will not last indefinitely in which this fear of nuclear extermination will act as a bulwark.

It is said that France will have the H-bomb in six months. I am not suggesting that they will do anything wrong with it. Other countries will soon have the H-bomb. If we look on over the years ahead it is very difficult to take the same kind of optimistic view. As I see it, it is not in the next year or two in which the real mischief will occur. The final damage, if it comes, I do not believe will come in the next few years. I cannot see war breaking out within five years or ten years. But I feel that the leaders of this generation, whatever their Party—and I know that in this House we respect one another personally, apart from Party considerations—have a very heavy responsibility, the same kind of responsibility as the leaders had twelve or thirteen years after the first war, in 1930 or 1931. War did not break out in 1933; it broke out in 1939. The real question is, what plans are we laying for peace eight, nine or ten years ahead? I conclude with the thought that permanent, lasting peace can come about only if we establish world government, and the most effective step in the meanwhile is to move towards a world police force.

I end by saying to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor that I never know what unity means as between politicians, but there is a common patriotism in this country; there is great good will towards the Prime Minister and his colleagues in their attempts to make these talks a success. In so far as anything the House of Lords can do—and I am sure I speak for all—to further great achievements in these Summit talks, it will be done, and done gladly, from the heart.

7.10 p.m.


My Lords, I must at once thank the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, for those words with which he closed his speech. It is my desire at the end of this very full debate to extract the main points which have filled the minds and troubled the thoughts of noble Lords and concentrate my speech on them. If I miss other points that are in a more specialised field, I will gladly seek another opportunity or method of giving my views upon them—that applies particularly to the points the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, raised with regard to M. Gaillard's Mediterranean proposal and to Indonesia. Let me say at once that I accept the ruling of a source I shall quote again, that the temper of this great national debate, of which the four days' debate in your Lordships' House has been a part," is of first-class importance. I agree that it is not a matter for histrionics or dramatisation, and I think it is in that spirit that Lord Pakenham made the speech which we have just heard. I said it was not a matter for histrionics, but it would be strange if the future of our country, and indeed all mankind, did not touch our hearts and minds very deeply.

My first point is one that has been apparent in many speeches, but noticeably in those of my noble friends Lord Templewood and Lord Strang, and it arose again in the thoughtful words of Lord Pakenham a moment or two ago—namely, the danger of anyone outside these Islands being misled as to the resolution of the people inside them. My noble friend Lord Templewood said that we should succeed only if we had a common programme and a united country, and Lord Strang pointed out, with all the force of his unvarnished moderation, the danger of defeatism turning into surrender. He supported it by a most apposite quotation on Soviet methods by Professor Kennan.

On Saturday The Times said, I think robustly, of the mind of Mr. Khrushchev on this point: He cannot fail to be struck by the measure of agreement there is, even where these disputed matters are concerned, between this and the only other possible British Government. Only if there was a sudden wave of hysteria or complete national loss of judgment could any future enemy or present ally fail to see the essential determination of Britain. I agree with that diagnosis, and I believe that this debate has proved that it is absolutely true of your Lordships' House. I should say this, in answer to what Lord Pakenham has just said—I do not think it is so much an answer as a supplement or complement to what he has said—that I believe it is our common duty, as leaders of Parties (because, after all, Parties are our democratic instruments of service to the State) to prevent that hysteria and obviate that loss of judgment. But I agree with Lord Pakenham that it can be done only by a leadership that extends hope and not by mere disapproval.

Therefore, I think it is important, as I sum up this debate, if I say in words which cannot be disputed the extent of agreement between the Parties. There could be no better evidence of that field of agreement than the actual words of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Gaitskell, as quoted in his presence by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on December 20. These are the tie quotations which I think should go out to the world: First, we support the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the Atlantic Alliance. Secondly, nor do we believe in neutralism. Third, neutralism must mean, as the Prime Minister has said, either sheltering behind the United States or the destruction of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and neither of these things commends itself to us. Four, nor do I believe in the possibility of a so-called third force or power bloc. Five, nor do we favour unilateral disarmament. To that Mr. Gaitskell added that the Labour Conference had rejected a resolution asking them to pledge a future Labour Government neither to test, use nor make nuclear weapons. Having quoted these things, I think there is not much support for the defeatist or the wedge-driver in that forthright support of N.A.T.O., the rejection of neutralism and the rejection of unilateral disarmament.

My Lords, I pass now to the subject which has received a great deal of attention in this debate—namely, disengagement. My noble friend the Leader of the House remarked on the many schemes of disengagement that had been put forward. Apart from those with which we are most familiar, we have heard during this debate of another from my noble friend Lord St. Oswald, and we have heard, first from Lord Silkin, and then from Lord Pakenham, about Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick's proposal. I was most interested by Lord Pakenham's support of that proposal and I promise him my personal earnest study of it as well as the consideration of my colleagues. He said that he had been slightly depressed by some of the things that my noble friend Lord Gosford had said. I am sure he was not depressed when Lord Gosford said, quite categorically, that Her Majesty's Government were not opposed to disengagement as such. Therefore, as I say, I promise him an earnest study by myself of what I thought was a most, interesting proposal. It is all the more important as it has received the support of Lord Silkin and Lord Pakenham.

I think everyone has appreciated the difficulties which the Prime Minister said constituted the conditions of bringing a scheme of disengagement into effect. As indeed Lord Pakenham quoted, it could not be put forward until the scheme had been agreed in detail with the countries most affected among our Allies. It was Mr. Herbert Morrison who pointed out that we cannot lightly throw away the security system which we have built up over the years. Mr. Morrison was talking primarily of N.A.T.O., which balances and takes the remote risk of a nuclear war against the certainty of everything we hold dear being destroyed in the other eventuality. It is our duty and it is our intention to discuss these schemes with our Allies who are most specially concerned. All are concerned, but of course Lord Pakenham, after his experience in regard to Germany, appreciates that the Federal Government of West Germany is probably more concerned than anyone else, and we must also discuss it with our N.A.T.O. Allies. For I say again, only putting into slightly extended words what Mr. Herbert Morrison has said: that nothing could be worse for world security than to have as the result of the dissolution of N.A.T.O., the loss of Germany and the drawing back of the United States into isolation.

I want to come now to what I believe is the principal subject—the approach of Her Majesty's Government to Summit talks. Again I believe that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister spoke for everyone in this country when he asked: was there no alternative to the dreary prospect of continued tension, great expenditure, more terrifying weapons and a sense of insecurity and horror? I believe that we shall all agree—at least it would appear so from what I have quoted—that that cannot be found by throwing away our defence. It is important that we should repeat that neither Great Britain nor the West have any intention of starting an aggressive war. And we ought also to remember—and to make the world remember—that the United States, when they had absolute atomic power, did not use it to bend the Soviet to their will. These are things that should be remembered and put on the side of hope. We now hope that in Russia it is being conceived that so long as the West keeps up its guard there is nothing to be hoped for from aggression.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said more than once, and I repeat to-day, that he hopes for Summit talks; he hopes that they will be successful, and that nobody would be more pleased than my right honourable friend if they were. He also says that there should be the proper preparatory work, but that matter has been kept flexible. We showed that we were prepared to have the preparatory work done through diplomatic channels had there been objection to the Foreign Secretaries' meeting. I believe no one can say that we have been rigid on that; but we do want to get at the top of the agenda subjects on which there will be a reasonable chance of getting a reasonable and favourable result. I do not believe that that falls within what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, criticised, for it seems to be common sense to try to get our most hopeful subjects to the top of the agenda. As the Prime Minister said, although we cannot solve every problem we can make some progress in a limited field.

May I just say to my noble friend Lord St. Oswald (because he asked me a specific question about the people of the satellite countries) that it is our intention and objective to create in Europe a state of affairs in which the peoples of all countries, including those that he mentioned, can settle their own affairs peacefully, by free elections and according to their wishes.

I come now to the limited matter that we think most hopeful: what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister called balanced disarmament. That does not mean that other subjects will not be discussed, or cannot be discussed at a future meeting. I believe that what my right honourable friend said last week was most important: that he did not regard the present meeting as necessarily the last, and that other subjects could be discussed on future occasions. In that way we can make an advance on the subject, so that there is a chance that a continuing process of loosening tension and removing pressures would be begun.

That leaves the point put with great force by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, on the basis of the arguments supported by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and referred to by my noble friend Lord Salter: whether on the historical record there is any hope of sincere effort to get a joint agreement. When one has to consider the general point (and I have had to consider it, like everyone else) I have always been impressed by the words of Edmund Burke: I do not know the method of drawing up an indictment against an whole people"— because it is not only the whole people at one time: it is the change that may come to a whole people as their history develops. Be that as it may, when one looks at the practical point, at the need at least to try to reduce the amount, and power, of weapons and force, surely there is this point: they form the present background to the possible inability to resile from a position which a man has taken up.

I always remember the words of my noble friend Lord Salisbury a long time ago. The danger is that some man, somewhere, at some time, may feel unable to resile from his position. I believe that that becomes much more difficult if the man has been the leader who has led a country into an even greater and more powerful weapon policy. I also believe that the point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, concerning the accidental matter that he had in mind, is worse against the background that we have had to consider here. And there are, of course, the obvious difficulties which I believe the Soviet began to see some two years ago—that these weapons form a pressing burden which prevents the consumer from enjoying his

The noble Lord, Lord Winster, also raised the question of the propaganda risks, as did the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. Clearly, he is right in saying that there are risks both ways. So often in modern politics it is a question of the choice of two risks. I believe that the noble Lord eventually came down on the side of agreement with me in the view that the lesser risk is involved doing everything we can to have a conference, even if it is regarded on a propaganda basis.

There is one other point which I hope your Lordships will bear with me if I mention. Apart from that primary matter of disarmament, and other great issues that may be taken with it, there are relatively minor points which may lead to a better result on the greater points. My noble friend Lord Gosford has spoken on the importance of trading, and I was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, mentioned the real content of that rather vague phrase, cultural relations, which always makes the practical among us shiver slightly when it is first brought up. I hope you will cease to shiver, however, because it is on that that one gets what I think is the real possibility of individual understanding; and that is, the functional approach between people who do the same job or have the same interest. I always found it was a great help, as well as a great pleasure, in the course of the working I had to do with the Russians some twelve years ago, to make them realise that Tolstoy and Dostoevski and Pushkinmeant much to us; and that we did understand that we had respective streams of culture: we appreciated theirs, as they obviously appreciated Shakespeare or Burns, from the immense number of books and performances of their plays. Therefore, I am glad that my personal experience bears out that an understanding of the history and literature and music is something which may help—I do not want to exaggerate it or to be sentimental about it—in leading to agreement on the other point.

My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will not be too distressed if I say one or two words about disarmament, because I think it has been a central feature of our debate. I ask your Lordships to consider again whether those disarmament proposals approved by the United Nations, by that large majority, are not reasonable and practicable proposals. I say that they are. Our object, and the object of all the Western Powers, is perfectly simple: we want to put an end to international competition in nuclear and conventional weapons, with its incalculable danger and crippling cost. Of course our ultimate aim and objective is comprehensive disarmament. If a workable and effective plan for comprehensive disarmament could be found which was acceptable to our friends and to the Communist bloc we should be delighted. But we must face the fact that there is at the moment no immediate chance of this happening, and we must not therefore be put off our effort towards a phased disarmament as a first stage.

Those of us who bear the responsibilities for the country's affairs must keep our minds on the limit of what is practicable and the consequences of that policy. It is almost a truism to-day that the peace of the world depends on a precarious balance of power, but it would be quite wrong to suppose that we should diminish the risk of war by upsetting that balance. Our aim is quite different. It is to reduce the weights on both sides of the scales which are at present being increased at an alarming and a horrific pace; and Her Majesty's Government believe that such an operation is a practicable possibility.

My noble friend the Leader of the House explained yesterday the six principles on which our policy is based. I am not going to repeat them, but I wonder how many in this House realised that it was last August that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, in a remarkable speech at the United Nations, supported these principles. I do not like to make any wrong inference, but I felt that when Lord Home stated them yesterday there were many people, even in your Lordships' House, to whom they were news. In this debate these principles have been little criticised; they have been repeated with approbation by my noble friend Lord Temple-wood, with all his great and varied experience, and they are not only before us: they have been approved by the United Nations, they are before the world and they are before the Soviet Union. Of one thing I am completely certain: unilateral disarmament in any form, which has been firmly condemned by Right and Left opinion in this country, would be a betrayal not only of our own people but of our countless friends and Allies who have supported us throughout the last decade.

We now come to a point which I think we have to face. We have always taken the view that the only practical way of achieving anything useful is to reach an agreement which can not only be enforced but can be seen to be enforced, and which will have some real effect. My noble friend Lord Home explained yesterday how such an agreement for the control and inspection of nuclear material could be made and enforced. Everything that has been said in this debate reinforces my view that this is a most hopeful line of advance. It has been suggested that an agreement of some sort of control of nuclear weapons should be the first step, and that we should later come to an agreement covering conventional weapons. Once more I remain convinced that my noble friend Lord Home was right when he said that nuclear and conventional disarmament must be linked together. I believe that to be vital to our security. The West (as my noble friend reminded the House) and the United Nations have approved a proposal for a practical scheme for the limitation of the numbers of conventional forces. If this scheme could be put into operation it should not be beyond the bounds of possibility for more detailed agreement to be arrived at.

Then there is a further point which we must face. If we are to have disarmament, I think almost the most important factor of all is that the agreement must be enforced; and without inspection there can be no effective disarmament at all. I am not entirely without hope that inspection, and effective inspection, may be a possibility. My Lords, we have propounded schemes, and the Russians have done likewise. Although we see many defects in their suggestions, in particular that they would leave vast tracks of Soviet territory immune from observation, there is some common ground. Here I approach the view which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, stressed so much. That surely is the real crux. Without mutual confidence, disarmament will be a sham. There will be confidence only if we can all see for ourselves what is going on upon the other side of the Curtain. And I say to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, by "all" I mean "all", including the Russians. That is, the Russians will see what is going on on our side of the Curtain, too.

My Lords, I hope that after this debate no Member of the House will think that the Western Powers are dragging their feet. Our proposals may be six-fold, but they are honest, fair and workable; and, as I have said, all at once they have been overwhelmingly endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations—an Assembly which includes many who are not particularly friendly towards us. I emphasise this because if we can convince the Communist bloc that we are genuine about disarmament, they may look at our proposals again and find them not altogether unreasonable. That is why I have ventured to put them before your Lordships and dealt with the difficulties, because I believe that all these difficulties having been dealt with, sincere and practical proposals remain.

I do not think that agreement is out of the question. If it were achieved, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister would have been proved to be overwhelmingly right when he said at the end of the debate in another place: However small the chance, an immense change would come, because there would always be the expectation and the possibility of moving on from that to some further step. I think that that is the answer to Lord Pakenham's desire that, as a step towards a better international organisation, the United Nations Organisation should be improved and made more real and dynamic in the minds of men. If the Russians will look again at these proposals or, of course, at some modification of them after discussion, and if these proposals form a real, practical advance, teen I believe that the whole of the international machinery will improve at the same time.

I come to one other problem—your Lordships will be relieved to know that it is my last. My noble friends Lord Strang and Lord Salter emphasised the importance of our own moral position and of our own actions. My noble friends Lord Hastings and Lord Colville of Culross emphasised the importance of conveying to the world, especially the non-committed world and Africa, real information—it was more information than propaganda about which they were anxious. My noble friend Lord Gosford said that he would provide my noble friend Lord Hastings with the technical information for which he asked, but I should like to assure both my noble friends that this is a suggestion in which we, as a Government, are intensely interested. I always remember my right honourable friend Sir Anthony Eden saying, when he was Foreign Secretary, that this was an essential part of the foreign policy which he was there to advance, and I should like to assure my noble friends that I shall report what they have said and the strength of their feelings to my colleagues with a real sense that they have dealt with an important point.

Much as I should have liked the opportunity of giving my answer to the attacks on Britain's achievements on the usual grounds of imperialism and what is now called, quite unfairly, colonialism, I am not going to inflict this on your Lordships, but I should like to put two points before your Lordships, because, in my view, they may well provide part of Lord Hastings' information and may be some answer to the anxiety of my noble friends Lord Strang and Lord Salter about our moral position. I think also that it is important because Professor Kennan, who has been quoted often in this debate, has informed us in his lectures that one of the great troubles of the world is misunderstanding of our motives, intentions and actions.

Will your Lordships allow a mere lawyer to make these two points? We have produced a system of law which puts justice above everything, including truth wrongfully obtained, and which is redolent with the importance of the dignity of the individual human spirit. What is much more important is that we have not kept that law, so redolent of freedom, for ourselves, as a preserve of our own; we have given it to a third of the population of the world. When they were under our rule, we gave them the law of freedom; and since the time when we left some of them, they have kept the law which we bequeathed.

Secondly, Britain has created communities with three qualities—first of all, an ethical system, independent of a religious faith, which transcends political convenience; secondly, the right for ordinary people to think for themselves; and thirdly, even-handed justice between the poorest citizen and the most powerful official. That is our contribution to world improvement. I emphasise that it is a contribution and not an exclusive possession. And I cannot think why anyone should fear the more to discuss with us because we have done that. We have done it because we believe that these things are the inalienable heritage of mankind.

7.48 p.m.


My Lords, we have now reached the end of our two days' debate on foreign affairs. I must confess that I had some little apprehension when I put down this Motion, because, as I said at the beginning of my opening speech, there have been four two-day major debates in both Houses in the last month, covering the same ground. But my noble friend Lord Pakenham said that it has been a good debate and the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor called it an important one; and I think, in view of the number of Lords who have spoken, that there has been a considerable interest in our discussion of foreign affairs during the last two days. Perhaps the point that has been emphasised most is the broad and not insignificant area of agreement between the Government and the Opposition positions on important matters of policy. Of course, there are differences on one or two matters that have been discussed to-day, and I might be tempted to make some comments had my noble friend Lord Pakenham not said, three quarters of an hour ago, "It is getting late." The noble and learned Viscount has promised to consider carefully the question of limited disengagement. I am going to give him an example of how easy it is to get agreement on limited disengagement by asking the leave of the House to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.