§ 2.46 p.m.
LORD HENDERSON rose to call attention to the international situation; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The Foreign Secretaries have reassembled at Geneva and to-day they resume their Conference on the Berlin problem after three weeks' recess. I think it was a wise decision to have an adjournment. It provided, as the Foreign Secretary said,
a brief interval to take stock and decide what the other side has really been saying, or, perhaps more important, been meaning.
I think most of us would agree that when vital interests are at stake a short interval for this purpose is sometimes a necessary part of the process of negotiation. It helps to avoid the hardening of misunderstanding and misconception which can so easily thwart efforts to reach agreement. I have no doubt, therefore, that both sides have benefited from a break for reflection.
§ Study of the proceedings of the last day of the Conference before the formal adjournment shows that there was a danger of misunderstanding. On that day the Soviet Foreign Secretary handed to his Western colleagues a new Soviet paper on Berlin. It represented an important development in the Soviet attitude. But the significance of these revised proposals was not fully appreciated by the Western Foreign Ministers, whose response was that they "constituted no change in the previous Soviet position" No real harm, however, was done, since a few days later Mr. Gromyko took the opportunity to issue a special statement in the course of which he amplified and clarified the modifications in the Soviet position. I will come to them in a moment.
§ What I want to say at once is that the Western delegations have now had time to study and analyse the Soviet new proposals, to assess their value as a contribution to an agreed basis for an interim settlement, and to prepare themselves for further discussion on them at Geneva. There surely can be no doubt that the Foreign Ministers will begin the second stage of their work with the knowledge that the gap between the two 1019 sides has been appreciably narrowed. This should ensure that they resume their discussion in a more favourable atmosphere. There is now reasonable ground for hoping and expecting that further progress will be made towards an agreed basis—enough to satisfy President Eisenhower's test for attending a Summit Conference and to enable the date for that meeting to be fixed and announced in the near future.
§ We all know that if there is to be an interim agreement on Berlin, the final stage can be settled with Mr. Khrushchev personally only at the Heads of Government meeting. Bearing in mind the history of the present crisis, Mr. Khrushchev's position can be summed up in a few words: "My agreement only at the Summit". But, my Lords, the indispensable step towards the Summit must be taken by the Foreign Ministers. They have to discover the elements of an agreed basis. The view that the prospects are hopeful is based on a comparison of statements on Berlin which are published in the White Paper on pages 39 to 43. On June 18 the Western Foreign Ministers put forward three proposals: first, limitation of their combined forces in West Berlin to the present strength, armed only with conventional weapons, and the possibility of reduction as soon as the situation permits; second, German personnel to operate the procedures for free and unrestricted access, and difficulties to be settled by the four Governments acting through a quadripartite meeting in Berlin; third, reciprocal measures to avoid, in both parts of Berlin, activities which might disturb public order or seriously affect the rights and interests of others.
§ The Soviet Foreign Minister countered those three proposals in his paper of June 19. He proposed: one, reduction of Western occupation forces in West Berlin to symbolic contingents; two, termination of subversive activities from West Berlin against the German Democratic Republic and other Socialist States; three, non-location in West Berlin of atomic and rocket weapons. My Lords, it is surely unthinkable that renewed discussion on these points should fail to produce agreement. There should be little difficulty for the West to agree to make a token reduction in their present 1020 forces stationed in West Berlin, since they are only symbolic now; or for the Soviet Government to agree that measures to avoid "subversive activities" shall apply to both parts of Berlin. Prestige should be no obstacle, since each side would be making a concession; and if an agreement on Berlin is achieved, the easing of tension which would follow will be worth the price of a token reduction by the West.
The Soviet Foreign Minister also proposed an all-German committee on a parity basis
to discuss and work out concrete measures for the unification of Germany and consider questions pertaining to the preparation and conclusion of a Peace Treaty with Germany.
Our view is that the West should accept parity. Their own proposal for such a committee was twenty-five members from West Germany and ten members from East Germany. Decisions were to be taken by a three-quarter majority. As the West German representation would not constitute a three-quarter majority, it would have to rely on a breakaway from the East German side to get the necessary majority. It would be futile to expect that to happen. Decisions will not rest on the counting of votes. They will come by agreement or not at all. Here, again, no question of prestige should be allowed to intervene. At the Geneva Conference itself there is parity. The East German Foreign Minister is there for consultation; so is the Federal German Foreign Minister or his deputy. We expect that the resumed conference will be able to agree on parity.
§ As originally put forward by the Soviet delegate, this all-German committee was to reach an agreed decision within one year. The same time limit was to apply to the West's carrying out what they called "minimum measures" in regard to West Berlin; otherwise, the Soviet Union would not confirm its agreement to the continuation of the occupation regime in West Berlin. This time limit was regarded by the West—and rightly regarded—as arbitrary and wholly unacceptable because of its threatening nature. In his later paper, Mr. Gromyko stated that the question of a time limit was a matter neither of major importance nor of principle to the Russians. He indicated that a time limit agreeable to all sides concerned could be agreed. 1021 and suggested a year and a half. Agreement on this issue should not, therefore, be difficult—say, a time limit of two years.
The strongest objection to the Soviet proposals was set out in the Western paper of June 19. I quote from the White Paper, page 41, the middle two paragraphs:
Although the latest Soviet statement extends the time limit of the proposed agreement from one year to a year and a half, it reserves to the Soviet Union freedom of unilateral action at the expiration of that period. Moreover, it is clear that it is the Soviet intention that the Western Powers upon signing such an agreement would acquiesce in the liquidation of their rights in Berlin and the abandonment of their responsibility for maintaining the freedom of the people of West Berlin.
The statement went on:
It is true that there is provision for a resumption of the consideration of the Berlin question by the Four Powers during or at the end of the year and a half period. But if no agreement has been reached in the meantime the Western Powers would enter into any negotiation at the end of that period without any rights at all so far as Berlin or the access to it were concerned.
The points raised here by the Western Foreign Ministers are of vital importance, and it is essential that they should not be left in any doubt. But if these objections were based on doubts as to the real meaning and intention of the Soviet proposals, those doubts have surely been largely removed by Mr. Gromyko's special statement on June 28. Mr. Gromyko said in the course of that statement—and here I will quote from a text issued by the Soviet Embassy in London:
If we envisaged only a one-sided solution of the problem of the rights of the Western Powers in Berlin now or immediately on the expiry of the term of operation of the interim agreement on West Berlin, we would not be suggesting the joint working out of an interim status for West Berlin and the settlement of the question of guaranteeing this status, and the setting up of a four-power supervisory agency. Nor would we be proposing a resumption of the joint discussion of the Berlin question if the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany do not agree in the all-German committee Thus, the Soviet Government prefers to reach, and this also refers to the new proposals, an agreed decision—I repeat, an agreed decision—concerning West Berlin, a decision which, of course, must accord with the present situation in Berlin and in Germany and which must not and cannot proceed from a desire to perpetuate the occupation regime in West Berlin.
§ I quote those words from what I suppose I can regard as an official text of Mr. Gromyko's speech. That statement appears to answer, and to answer satisfactorily, the objections advanced by the West. It certainly clarifies our position, and in the resumed discussions the Western delegates will be able to clear up any remaining doubts and ambiguities. There has been, and there is, no difference between Her Majesty's Government and the Opposition regarding the need to maintain our basic rights in Berlin and our duty to stand by the West Berliners in preserving their freedom. But so far as I can see, there is nothing in the elements of an agreed basis which I have been discussing that would prejudice or sacrifice those two vital interests.
§ I pass from the Berlin problem to the wider issues of German reunification and European security. A study of the Western Peace Plan and of the Soviet Draft Treaty shows that the two sides remain far apart on these issues. They approach the wider German problems from opposite poles. The Western Powers want reunification by free elections and then a peace treaty; the Soviet Government want a peace treaty first and then some form of reunification, and they clearly have in mind a confederation of the two parts of divided Germany. It is quite clear, I think, that a definite objective of Russian policy is to gain legal recognition of the Communist regime in East Germany, and to have a treaty signed either by both parts of Germany or, if necessary, by East Germany alone. Thus deadlock continues, with nothing to suggest that fundamental differences are likely to be narrowed in the near future.
§ There seems no alternative at present but to recognise that more time must elapse and that more progress must be made in other directions before there will be any chance of a comprehensive agreement. It is not surprising, therefore, that this first phase of the Conference was abortive. I cannot believe that the Western Foreign Secretaries themselves had much hope of progress when they put forward their four-stage plan as an "inseparable whole". The best part of the plan was the set of proposals directed to enabling reunification to be achieved by free elections. This was a definite advance on previous proposals, but it found no approval from the Soviet Foreign Minister. That rejection is not 1023 surprising, if Mr. Harriman is correct in reporting Mr. Khrushchev as having said that he would agree to no reunification of Germany which did not provide for a Communist system.
§ There are two other aspects of the Plan which provoke disappointment. Insistence on a reunited Germany being free to join N.A.T.O. is a permanent stumbling block. We have discussed this proposal on many occasions, and I do not propose to go over the ground again to-day, except to say that Her Majesty's Government must surely be convinced by now that the Soviet Government will never agree to it. Then the proposals for European security impress me as being confused and largely academic. Ideas about gradually thinning out foreign military forces, a nuclear-free area and progressive disengagement find no place at all. European security is made to depend on the achievement of German reunification and agreed measures of general disarmament. Even if the Western plan for reunification had been accepted, it would take at least two and a half years, according to their own timetable. One wonders why problems concerning general disarmament, hitherto dealt with through the United Nations Disarmament Sub-Committee, were dragged into the Western "package deal." It is not easy to understand what practical value this could have brought to the discussions.
I want to turn from the disappointing position on these wider issues to the favourable developments at the Geneva Conference on the cessation of nuclear tests. I am sure the whole House will welcome the progress that has been made. It is surely now clear, from the real concessions that have been made by both sides, that there is a genuine desire to reach agreement. One hopes that this mood will prevail during the remaining weeks of what may be difficult negotiations. It seems that there are two main problems to be solved: first, the composition of the control teams; and second, the circumstances under which on-site inspections can be carried out. There has already been a move towards compromise on the composition of the control teams. The Soviet Union, which had originally insisted that all personnel of control posts should be nationals of
the country concerned, has now conceded that seven at least should be recruited from other countries. The Western Powers, who first said that all should be foreign nationals, have now conceded that four should come from the home country. A compromise must be reached, and we must recognise that neither side will be satisfied with the number that is eventually agreed upon. As The Times said in its leader on July 3:
The West in their search for a foolproof system of control will want a higher number than the Russians, with their fear of espionage, are prepared to concede… It is also clear that there will never be a moment when the scientists are satisfied that their methods of detection are perfect.
A final compromise must be a figure approaching parity between foreign and national members of the team. The control team would be hamstrung if it were not to have the confidence of the country in which it is operating; and, equally, its effectiveness would be destroyed if the nationals of the country concerned were to hold control.
§ The Western Powers must also be prepared to compromise on the number of Veto-free inspections. After all, the fact that there will be a number of these inspections to which the Veto will not apply will ensure, so far as possible, that violations of the treaty are in the gravest danger of being caught out. It is quite unnecessary to insist that there should be an on-site inspection of every unidentifiable earth tremor. It is also impracticable. Even one in ten should be adequate to ensure compliance. It must be recognised, however, that it will be a long time before the control system is operating. Quite apart from the difficult negotiations which lie ahead, even when the control system is agreed upon it will be necessary to recruit and train a large number of personnel and to establish control posts with highly technical equipment. This cannot but be a long process; and it is vital, therefore, that nothing should happen between now and the establishment of the control system which could cause either the negotiations or the operation of the control system to break down. Having got so far towards agreement it would indeed be a tragedy if any of the three Powers should give in to pressure from their military advisers and break the truce 1025 (perhaps I should call it an abstention from tests) which has been so encouraging a feature of the last eight months. A solemn declaration that the three Governments will not resume tests would be a valuable contribution to achieving agreement at the Conference.
§ But, my Lords, it must be recognised that the present negotiations affect only three nuclear Powers. So far they have discussed only control posts on their own territory; yet the report of the experts urged that control posts, numbering 160 in all, should be set up throughout the world. What action will be taken by the Government to bring other States into the proposed present agreement? Can we imagine that the system will continue in operation if other countries begin testing their own nuclear weapons? Are we, for instance, prepared to say that we should stand by the Treaty if China, Czechoslovakia and East Germany were to conduct tests? Would the U.S.S.R hold herself bound by agreement if France, Belgium and Canada were to conduct tests? Just to pose these questions shows the terrible prospect which faces the world if more and more countries decide to manufacture their own nuclear weapons.
It is for this reason—because we dare not ignore the prospect of a new round of nuclear tests, with all the frightening consequences that could have for mankind—that the Labour Party, while rejecting unilateral nuclear disarmament, propose a new initiative from Britain. On February 11, in a debate in this House, I stated the official Labour Party policy as expressed by the Leader of the Opposition at the Labour Party Annual Conference in October of last year. These were his words:
If it were really a choice, if we in Government knew for certain that only our continuing to manufacture these weapons stopped this agreement, which would finally freeze, as it were, the distribution of nuclear weapons to those two Powers (Russia and America), I know my colleagues and I would regard that as a very powerful argument indeed, and I give that undertaking.
§ Since that time the danger has become more acute. We are authoritatively informed that twelve countries now have the technical and economic ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, and that another eight countries will be in that position within the next five years. It is 1026 in these circumstances that the Labour Party Leadership has decided that a Labour Government would seek an agreement with all countries, other than the Soviet Union and the United States of America, not to test, manufacture or possess nuclear weapons. The agreement would be subject to complete and effective international control to ensure that it was carried out. We, for our part, would join them, ceasing our manufacture of nuclear weapons and depriving ourselves of our own stocks.
§ We believe that this agreement would be an effective safeguard against the spread of nuclear production and weapons and thereby facilitate our main objective—a multilateral disarmament agreement covering both nuclear and conventional armaments. Our proposal would in no way weaken our support for N.A.T.O. or our readiness to accept the continuance of American bases in Britain, subject to joint decision for operational use in an emergency. We recognise that there are difficulties. Who can say that France, China and others would agree to join in such an agreement? But how can we know the answer until we try? And if we do not try, then what other proposals have the Government to make to ensure even that an agreement to end tests is not overtaken by events?
§ My Lords, we on this side of the House have repeatedly criticised the Government for failing to follow up the one moment of hope in the United Nations Disarmament Sub-Committee when Russia appeared to have substantially accepted the proposals which Britain and France made in 1954–55. Surely one of the most urgent and vital tasks at a Summit Conference will be to set in motion once again negotiations towards multilateral disarmament. Here is a great opportunity for a British initiative. If problems of procedure could be cleared away at the Summit Meeting, then the United Nations Assembly this autumn could get to grips with the problem of disarmament in an atmosphere which would be more likely to lead to success.
§ Finally, let me say this. I have been able to deal with only two or three major aspects of the international situation which are likely to receive attention at the Summit Conference. But there are others which should receive attention at 1027 the same high level. There is the problem of the Far East and the question of Communist China's membership of the United Nations. There are problems in the Middle East: its dangerous unsettlement; the question of the freedom of passage through the Suez Canal, to which the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, referred in a Question in this House last week; the question of the resettlement of Arab refugees, which has been the subject of a valuable and constructive report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. These are problems which cry out for solution, and much of the responsibility for finding agreed settlements lies with the four Powers working together in harmony with the Charter of the United Nations.
§ I think it is recognised that one Summit Conference will not settle even the European problems. There will have to be a series of such Conferences. If progress is to be made over the wider field of problems to which I have referred it seems to me that the heads of Governments should bring both the Far East and the Middle East within their compass, and co-operate to bring about the removal of the causes of dangerous tensions in the other parts of the world. If the coming Summit Conference can succeed in making a Berlin settlement and in setting up an all-German committee, tensions will be greatly eased and a more favourable climate created. I do not wish to seem unduly optimistic, but I believe that the way would thereby be opened for further co-operative efforts to advance the cause of peace and security in other directions. It may be that the world is going to be taken away from the brink by gradual steps. If reason and common sense and the interests of peoples are allowed to prevail, it may be that history will be able to point to the coming Conference as the real starting point. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.20 p.m.
My Lords, once more we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for initiating a debate on foreign affairs, and for again doing so in the moderate, objective and comprehensive manner we have come always to expect from him when he pleases us by his intervention in our deliberations. He has touched chiefly on two aspects of 1028 the German question, Berlin and German reunification; and the third part of his speech dealt, to some extent, with the general question of nuclear force. Because it seems to me that in all aspects of foreign policy everything is so much dominated at the moment by nuclear developments, I hope your Lordships will bear with me for a short time if I deal mostly with that aspect of the matter. For in foreign affairs, even the major aims and ideals—those of prosperity, health, freedom and a concentration upon the advance of civilised philosophies—are nowadays all forced to take a dangerously subservient place when their fount and origin, humanity itself, is at stake.
I do not propose to sift through the kaleidoscope of views which are held about the H-bomb, for these are so various, so numerous and often so individual that no Member of this House, I suggest, speaking from any Party Benches or from the Episcopal Benches or from the Cross-Benches can hope to expound the views of more than a section of the world's or this nation's population, which is so divided, so puzzled and so anxious about the whole matter. It is no secret that within the Conservative Party to-day honest men and women of good will and intelligence take conflicting views upon the moral responsibility and the material effect of what may or may not be undertaken in respect of nuclear potentialities. It is no secret that within the Liberal Party agonising appraisals do not conform to one solution. And in the Labour Party the position is, I understand, even less of a secret.
This problem, to my mind, is no Party matter at all; and with the prospect of a General Election before us the genuinely conflicting Party views upon foreign affairs (in the conventional sense of that phrase) cannot, it seems to me, honourably be attached to a nuclear problem so colossal and so universal that no political creed or dogma has any direct relationship to it: it is a matter of individual conviction or individual hope, unrelated to the electoral and historical practice of trial and error by one or another political Party. It is in this context and in the context of the recent appeal made by the Lord President of the Council to all political Parties to realise their joint as well as their distinctive responsibilities 1029 that I make a plea for freedom of individual conscience unallied to some hard and fast Party proposals.
Recrimination between opposing lines of thought is totally unhelpful on this matter. To attempt to put a dividing line between what is sometimes called sentimental wishfulness, on the one hand, and experience in bygone eras, on the other, is to cloud the problem in prejudice—and prejudice is the rock upon which innumerable good international intentions and plans have foundered. My own greatest problem is a deep conviction that the responsibility facing the generation which is alive in the world to-day is totally new, both in character and in its implications, each of which is almost beyond human comprehension. In the old days, a declaration of war meant in general terms that a country was willing to expend the lives of a fairly large proportion of its younger manhood in furtherance of its national aims, whether they were defensive or offensive; and that decision involved one generation only and allowed national recuperation to the enjoyment of things both of the future and of the past.
To-day, however, a declaration of war is surely likely to lead to the expenditure of all, or nearly all, human life—men, women and children—and to wipe out additionally, as has been often pointed out, the future untold generations and all that they might enjoy. But I would add this—and it is, I think, a point which has not been so much stressed: that it would also wipe out the past. That remark may sound a little paradoxical, but the past exists as a mental conception of what has gone before; and if no conception of it is allowed to persist, then all the philosophies, all the art and civilised progress, all the painful centuries and aeons of development and improvement, all the inspiration and work of Confucius and Christ and Buddha and Mohammed, and of their millions of devoted followers over the years—all these things are wiped out, too. That seems to me to be a responsibility of decision which no single generation, passing through this world only during its own infinitely short existence, can take as a current political gambit. It therefore seems to me that a deterrent whose use can only bring about this complete catastrophe is one that is morally unacceptable.
1030 What is the alternative? I suggest that there are two choices One, which is perhaps more relevant to this debate, is to bend every effort, nationally and internationally, towards enlightenment and information and persuasion and a sense of human proportion throughout the world—the highest aim, surely, of all foreign policy and of all foreign affairs. Here I am convinced that we could give a far greater lead in devoting much more of our limited national resources to these international aims, and in spending much less on armaments whose vast cost is already crippling our ripe trade—and prosperity—potential, and adding little more than a token contribution of amour-propre to the nuclear defences of the Western bloc whose interests I think we could serve much more effectively in pacific and constructive leadership.
The other choice is to let matters take their course and to face the chances of this country being overrun and conquered. To me this latter choice is utterly repugnant; and, far from being a pacifist, I, and millions like me, would again (as we have done already twice in our lifetime) gladly offer our whole energies and our lives in the protection of our country. But this offer of the lives—even of all the lives—of Britain's total manpower seems to me to be the limit of what we, living in this transient generation, are entitled to sacrifice: we have to-day no mandate to take upon ourselves the decision to extinguish humanity and all its future and all its past. In the last resort—and the general use of the H-bomb would be the last resort—I think it would be better that we should, if necessary, be overrun and conquered, just as we and almost every other civilised country in history have been in the past overrun by unacceptable adversaries and have survived and have assimilated; and have emerged, different perhaps, but with civilisation still around us, the wealth of the past still behind us and the building of the future still there, with foundations and with hope.
My Lords, I have addressed myself to matters of nuclear armament because, as I say, that is the international preoccupation which overshadows every country's movements in foreign affairs. But I hope to hear in the course of this debate exhortations to Her Majesty's 1031 Government to strike out on a fresh idealism of purpose in many less all-embracing fields: the need to give moral backing to the rightful and overdue recognition of China—as the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, mentioned—in what should be an all-nation organisation, the United Nations; the need for a sensitive and sympathetic understanding of France's new, tentative and difficult resurgence; the urgency of always working towards a prospect of independence and freedom for the enslaved satellite countries. And I would urge them to remember, in their dealings with America and Russia—two nations whose parity with the civilised world is less than three hundred years old—that we are coming to the end of a long era when physical power meant influence and dictation, and are about to enter a new era where physical power is a boomerang and means death. And, perhaps most immediately important, is the need to meet Russia and to face Russia, neither on her terms nor on our terms but on new approaches which should replace tradition by improvisation, suspicion by careful experiment, and uneasy contest by a mutually reliable co-ordination which must come about if the world is to survive.
§ 3.30 p.m.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (THE EARL OF HOME)
My Lords, while the present conferences at Geneva on the future of Germany and on the discontinuance of tests of nuclear weapons have been in progress, we have had a number of debates in this House all of which have been opened by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, who always opens these foreign affairs debates to the delight of your Lordships.
As I stand here to-day, when the Foreign Ministers are reassembling in Geneva, I am not yet able to announce to the House any final or concrete results. But that is not to say that there have not been some genuine gains. For instance, we have moved—and we have moved by the general consent of those who are negotiating—away from the atmosphere of immediate ultimatum into that of negotiation; negotiation which is tough and hard, but, nevertheless, the countries concerned in the future of this part of 1032 Europe are talking. We are perhaps too close to the picture to see it whole, but I recall that only a few weeks ago, when Mr. Menzies visited this country he called public attention to the value of talk on matters in dispute in the world. In the course of his travels he had seen most of those engaged in these talks, and he drew attention to their value and to the effect on the negotiators themselves, on the one hand, and on the world outside, on the other, a world which has to be educated on these issues—because there is no escaping the fact that the repercussions of any particular international quarrel are world-wide at the present time.
Again, if at times we feel frustrated, and if we see the path blocked in ways which seem to us to be unreasonable, I always recall the negotiations for the Austrian Peace Treaty. Your Lordships will remember that time and again they seemed hopeless and endless, but in fact they did end, and with a settlement which has been lasting. So the Foreign Secretary, who returns to Geneva to-day, goes there with the intention of persevering for a settlement on the issues and matters which are the subjects of these two conferences.
May I take first the conference which is dealing with the future of Berlin and the wider question of Germany? The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has pointed out, perfectly truly, that although all the parties in discussion state that they are agreed on certain principles—for instance, on the ultimate unity of Germany, or again on the holding of free elections—nevertheless we are unlikely to be able to come to any agreement on those wide issues now. Hopes for the unity of Germany must be hopes deferred. In time, these issues must be settled; but there are short-term objectives, valuable in themselves, which, as the noble Lord indicated, might well bring long-term settlements nearer.
The important issue in the immediate forefront of the stage in the present Conference is, of course, the future of Berlin and any arrangements which may be made for Berlin in the context of the Russian threat to withdraw her Four-Power participation. I will not rehearse to your Lordships the plans, both the plan of the West and the plan of the Russians, which have been put forward. 1033 Your Lordships will have read them in the White Paper, a fuller edition of which I may perhaps remind the noble Lord is being produced. Within those plans there are, of course, matters to be settled such as the level of forces which might remain in Berlin, questions concerning espionage, access to Berlin from the West, and so on. These matters, as the noble Lord indicated, should be capable of settlement.
The main point of difference which still has to be resolved is this—and the noble Lord put his finger upon it. The House will remember that the Russian plan proposed an interim status for Berlin lasting some eighteen months, during which time a committee of East and West Germans would meet to extend the contacts between the two parts of Germany and to work out measures for reunification and for a peace treaty. The point of ambiguity is this. Under the Russian plan, what happens if the committee of East and West Germans fails to agree in the interim period? Do the Foreign Ministers at the end of that time resume where they left off? Is the committee to sit under an ultimatum which expires in eighteen months' time when the Russians will say that the right of the Western nations to be in Berlin has expired? Those who prefer the speeches of Mr. Gromyko and Mr. Kozlov have one interpretation, and those who have read the interviews of Mr. Khrushchev with Mr. Harriman, or his speeches, another.
Although we may speculate, what matters is what Mr. Gromyko says and what he is prepared to agree to at Geneva. I do not know whether your Lordships have seen an amplification of the Russian statement which Mr. Gromyko himself made after the Conference had adjourned three weeks ago. He was saying that he did not quite know why the West had put the interpretation on the Russian proposal that at the end of the term there would once more be an atmosphere of ultimatum. What he said was this:Why is such a conclusion drawn? The fact that the Soviet Union proposes that on the, expiry of the term set in the agreement fresh negotiations on West Berlin should be held, if the all-German committee does not succeed by that date, speaks for itself.If we envisaged only a one-sided solution of the problem of the rights of the Western Powers in Berlin now or immediately on the expiry of the term of operation of the afore- 1034 mentioned interim agreement on West Berlin, we would not be suggesting the joint working out of an interim status for Berlin"—that is what the noble Lord has said—and the settlement of the question of guaranteeing this status, and the setting up of a four-power supervisory agency. Nor would we be proposing a resumption of the joint discussion of the Berlin question if the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany do not agree in the all-German Committee. Thus, the Soviet Government prefers to reach, and this also refers to the new proposals, an agreed decision—I repeat an agreed decision—concerning West Berlin, a decision which of course must accord with the present situation in Berlin and in Germany and which must not and cannot proceed from a desire to perpetuate the occupation regime in West Berlin.There may still be ambiguity there, but if Mr. Gromyko's statement is taken at its face value, one would hope that agreement is possible. I profoundly hope that it may be so. However, as I say, speculation is really fruitless until the Foreign Ministers get down to work again. So, my Lords, one would hope that in this Conference the areas of disagreement would be sufficiently narrowed to be taken to a Summit Conference where they might be resolved.
I turn now to the second of the Conferences mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, the Conference on the Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapons Tests. I think it is well once again to remind ourselves of our objectives. The first is the hope that we may prevent the pollution of the atmosphere, as the cumulative effects of explosions may add up to a danger to the health of mankind. The second is that we have the opportunity to pioneer a system of inspection and set a pattern which might extend beyond this particular field into the field of wider disarmament. The third is that if we can find ways and means of measuring explosions in the upper atmosphere and underground, the full prize of the abolition of tests altogether may be within our reach. Those are the objectives with which our negotiators have gone to Geneva.
A good deal of technical progress has been made. I think your Lordships probably know that in the last day or two as far as the high altitude tests are concerned the experts are agreed on practical ways and means to measure them. We now hope, therefore, that the Russians will join us in examining the possibility 1035 of detecting underground tests and the way to control them. Indeed, over this whole field, as the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, said, without raising any undue hopes, quite significant progress has been made which ought to form the basis for an agreement.
Here again there is one matter of principle involved, of which I must remind your Lordships, and which we have always made clear to the Russians: that the abolition of tests would be absolutely valueless without inspection. Only a system of inspection agreed between the parties concerned will bring the necessary confidence to the world outside. We have always made it clear, too, that a system where one party had an absolute veto on the inspectors would be equally valueless. But, of course, we are sufficiently realistic to know that Russia will not accept an unlimited number of inspections; nor may they be necessary. It was to break that jam and to find a method of conducting inspections which was at once practical and effective that the Prime Minister, when he went to Moscow, made the proposal for a quota of inspections in each year. Little progress has been made on that proposal, but it still seems to us the proposition most likely to bring us near to agreement. The gains of an inspection scheme, if one can be worked out, are so infinitely great that again our negotiators will use infinite patience in exploring every possibility; and if the differences here, too, could be brought within a narrow compass then again the problems could be transferred to a Summit Meeting which one might hope might settle them.
I think it is worth reminding ourselves—and I remember saying this in at least one debate before—that the abolition of nuclear tests is not disarmament. But its significance lies in the fact that it is undoubtedly the gateway to general disarmament. It is, I am sure, a mistake if we are obsessed by the nuclear picture alone, and if we allow ourselves to forget the appalling destruction which conventional weapons can wreak to-day on our country, and indeed on any country which is the victim of war. Things have not stood still since 1945, and although in the short term to-day we are going all out for an agreement on the aboli- 1036 tion of tests of nuclear weapons, nevertheless we have not in any way lost sight of the goal of general disarmament, and I hope that that, too, may be a matter which a Summit Meeting might profitably discuss.
The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, was, I thought, a little shy of dealing with the question of the "non-nuclear club." I do not want to press him about it to-day. I am just wondering, if he compares his speech to-day with the one he made on the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, not long ago, whether they exactly coincide. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, if I understood him aright, made a plea that we should all be allowed to make up our own minds about the nuclear bomb and its use. Of course, we must, but I thought that his speech almost elevated indecision into a virtue; and that we really cannot afford in a matter which affects the peace of the world and the future of mankind.
I am not going to argue with the noble Lord to-day where the members of his "club" are coming from. I do not see a rush to join, but I am going to say this: that I simply do not believe that the people of our country—indeed I myself hold this view very strongly—with all our Imperial and Commonwealth responsibilities, will allow us to stand aside and surrender the right to play our part in guaranteeing the peace of the world in this nuclear age. I do not much fancy myself the other "club" either, which as I understand it, will consist of the United States and Russia, two Powers with all the nuclear strength in their hands and none in the hands of any other nation. Therefore, although the United States is our greatest friend and we are most deeply indebted to her, I do not believe it is right that any two Powers alone should monopolise the nuclear power of the world. The right solution, which I should have thought was strongly in the interest of the Russians and the United States and of ourselves, is to arrange a cut-off of fissile material, which will prevent the spread of nuclear power to other countries—the dangerous spread which noble Lords rightly fear.
Therefore to-day, as the Foreign Ministers reassemble in Geneva, I think the prospects can be described as moderately hopeful, and at any rate the Foreign Secretary as our representative will persevere to get results. Maybe we shall 1037 fail to make headway with the Russians, and the temptation to them to pursue the policies of international Communism may be too great. If that is so, the world will have to endure the burden of the arms race, the risks inherent in a nuclear balance of power, and fear will remain the best deterrent against the aggressor and against war itself. Whatever happens, we shall do our duty as a nation by the free world. But I must make our choice clear beyond doubt. Our choice as a nation is the way of negotiation and the way of disarmament; and to this task we are dedicated, because we seek to lift fear from mankind and to try with all our power to bring security and peace nearer in this way.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, whatever the merits of the proposals for a non-nuclear club, I am sure that some of your Lordships would wish to have a non-nuclear debate. It is an unfortunate fact these days that, whenever we come to debate the international situation, we are inevitably obsessed with this awful problem of nuclear weapons and their control. I do not propose to detain your Lordships very long. We have had an interim report from the noble Earl on the progress at Geneva both in regard to Germany and in regard to control over nuclear tests. I should like to congratulate the Government, and the Foreign Secretary in particular, on the measure of progress that has been made.
When we debated this subject two months ago, there was little appreciation—indeed, some of my friends and some noble Lords on the other side, I think, had not fully realised—just how significant had been the Prime Minister's initiative in regard to on-site tests. Although we have not yet reached a point where agreement is in sight, there is no doubt that there is every prospect of there being such an agreement in the long run. This is one quite striking advance, one encouraging factor, in a world which usually presents a uniformly gloomy appearance in the matter of international agreement. The Foreign Secretary—I understand it was his initiative that, to a large extent, led to the recess in the Geneva conference—said at the time in a debate in another place that he found it helpful that the statesmen should take the opportunity to consider the various issues which they had been debating and pos- 1038 sibly to look at their own views and see whether or not they were showing an unduly restrictive approach. He did not say it in so many words, but I am quite sure that that must have been in his mind.
In the matter of the other conference, on the control of nuclear tests, I think the British position has been perfectly clear. It is obviously impossible to agree to anything which is scientifically not established. Clearly we have to get agreement on the type of signs and readings and indications, on the basis of which inspections can take place. The Russian Government, having made a step forward, then undoubtedly became most suspicious that the British and the Americans were stepping back, because new scientific data became available to complicate the situation. But I have every hope that, providing we stick as patiently as I hope we are sticking to the views we are putting forward, we shall get the sort of agreement which has now been obtained in the matter of tests in space. This was the point on which I questioned the Government in our last debate, and it is most encouraging that in the last few days once again agreement—it seems that scientists are able to reach agreement whatever statesmen can do about it—has been reached on a method which they obviously consider will be proof against the testing of atomic weapons way out beyond the atmosphere.
I think the situation is one on which we may really take some encouragement. But I agree with the views of noble Lords on all sides, that the control of tests is not by itself a solution to the problem. It is a tremendously important step forward, but we are none the less in the long run faced with the need to get some form of agreement on armaments. I should like to stress again the position which I hold, and which I still believe to be the position in my Party: that it is not just a question of an agreement to ban atomic weapons; we must have a comprehensive agreement on weapons. It is not the slightest use our being mesmerised by the horror of the atomic bomb; to relax in the thought that we have agreement on atomic weapons; and then to expose ourselves to all the horrors of a conventional war—much worse than the horrors of the last war—even if atomic weapons are not used.
1039 I hope that noble Lords, particularly those opposite, will take the proposals that have been put forward in regard to the non-nuclear club rather as the Prime Minister did in the other place the other day, quite seriously. I must admit that I myself am not yet convinced of their practicality, nor am I convinced that they are right; but I do believe that it is highly necessary that somebody, at some point, should start trying to think of solutions. I would assure noble Lords—because many of us have had much heart-searching on this matter—that it is not simply an electoral device. I believe that those who have put it forward have put it forward not in order to dish Mr. Cousins but because they see a danger in this proliferation of atomic weapons among countries who at the moment have not got them.
I confess that, on the whole, I have a slightly comfortable feeling about the international situation to-day. It is obviously full of all sorts of dangers, but so is life generally, and on the whole the situation is frozen. There is no overwhelming reason in the world why there should be an outbreak of atomic war. The degree of counter-threat and threat, with the consciousness that the use certainly of the ultimate weapon, the hydrogen weapon, would lead very largely to the extinction of civilisation, has, I believe, had the effect of turning the thoughts of mankind, for the first time in history really, adamantly and firmly against the idea of war. But there is a further danger that these weapons may get into the hands of too many people, and I believe no more than 20 lb. or so of plutonium is required. Plutonium is a material easier to separate than the old uranium 235. It is merely a different chemical isotope of uranium. It is perfectly possible that many countries in the world will be driven in the way that France is driven now, because they wish to seek their own position of privilege in the nuclear club, in the direction of creating nuclear weapons. Therefore, while I do not yet go the whole way in regard to the non-nuclear club, and it would be wrong for me to pretend that I do, I hope that noble Lords will look seriously at the proposals, because somewhere, sometime, agreement has to be reached on this question. It may well be that an ultimate inter- 1040 national agreement—possibly one which will be sanctified under the United Nations—will be along these lines, whereby we recognise that there are certain Powers in the world who will be given the particular responsibility of keeping the peace of the world, acting as a kind of super policeman.
My Lords, this is something which I know is not going to be particularly popular with the British electorate and it is not going to be an easy one to understand. If I thought that it would lead to the break-up of N.A.T.O., and if it is shown to be destructive of interdependence, then I would say that the price was too high to pay at the moment. But it is up to the Governments of N.A.T.O. to do a great deal more than I think they have done to explain the principles that motivate them, to give more confidence and understanding to their own anxious peoples and to their own anxious politicians.
Quite recently there was a meeting in London of the Atlantic Congress. It was a meeting which certain Members of the British Parliament had played a big part in bringing about—the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in particular, and honourable Members from another place—and at that Congress all of us. I think, of all nations, found ourselves caught up very much in the idea of the community of the Atlantic. It was not a negative community at all. Comparatively little was said about defence. A great deal of it was concerned with the positive contribution the Western Community could make to building a better world. I would ask the Government, as they have been asked before (I think particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, and certainly the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has said it), that they should devote more efforts to putting across in their own country and abroad the positive ideas that inform and encourage the Western democracies.
In particular there was one proposal that came out of that Congress, and that was the proposal for an organised, international effort along the lines of the Colombo Plan for raising living standards in the rest of the world. This is the obverse side of this awful problem of the nuclear bomb. This is the non-nuclear club in which I should like to see this country taking a lead, and it is 1041 along these lines that I hope the Government, when they get time to get away from these Summit discussions, will lead this country and will encourage other people in the rest of the world. I would say only this: I hope that the Prime Minister will continue his efforts, rather unrewarding ones, on advance towards the Summit. He may not have got very near it yet, but at last there are some shafts of sunshine on the down-land where we have got to-day.
§ 4.3 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, it is only proper that your Lordships should have the opportunity of expressing your views on the situation before the discussions—if discussions be the word, rather than disputations—resume at Geneva. I do not propose to deal with the minutiae of proposal and counter-proposal, not because they are unimportant but because they have already been dealt with in this debate and will no doubt be dealt with by other speakers. I intend to confine myself rather to general observations.
So far as it is possible to judge at this distance, and without being able to analyse the atmosphere on the spot, I would certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, that the Foreign Secretary was wise in suggesting an adjournment of these talks last month in order that delegations might have a pause in which to recover their breath. I do not intend to speculate or prophesy in any way what the results may be, now that the delegations have their second wind. I can only hope that they will be more productive than the first phase. But, my Lords, I certainly mean no possible disrespect to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, who has borne with fortitude, wisdom and patience the major weight on behalf of the West in these discussions up to date, if I say that perhaps I never expected any very sensational or significant results from the discussions of the Foreign Ministers. I have always thought that it was the Russian view that the Foreign Ministers' talks were a tedious and superfluous knock-up before the real match began, and I am therefore not acutely disappointed if the results so far have not been all that some people may have hoped.
1042 It may be that some of your Lordships think that if the Russians are as anxious as I think most of them are to pass to the second stage of the Conference, why do they not hurry to take every possible step to sweep away the preliminaries and proceed to that second stage? My Lords, that is not their technique. I am by no means alone in this House in having had some experience of negotiating with the Russians, although possibly my experience is more recent than that of other noble Lords: but I have watched with close interest the familiar pattern being followed on this occasion, just as it has been followed in the conferences which I, and I expect they, knew, and which has indeed been followed for the past 300 years at conferences which the Russians have attended. One of the most powerful weapons in the Russian diplomatic armoury is time. They quite deliberately spin out negotiations for the purpose of breaking down the resistance of their opponents and driving them in the end to accept the unacceptable from sheer mental and physical exhaustion.
I observe that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, in his speech in another place the other day, used the word "exasperation", and I think those who have had experience would agree that that is the apt word. But if the proceedings are long-drawn-out it is not, as some people are prone to think, because the Russians have no sense of time; it is because they have an extremely astute sense of time as a tactical manœuvre in order to exhaust and to exasperate their opponents. They are extremely expert at it, and they seem to enjoy it. Indeed, if they set their minds to the task they can make Fabius Cunctator look like a flash of lightning. I think it is also true that the somewhat bewildering process by which suddenly they advance a few steps, and then, equally suddenly, retreat a larger number of steps, is all part of the same design. The intention is that by the advance the other side should be led to say to itself, "Ah! At last they are beginning to give a little ground"; and then when the withdrawal comes, the effect, of course, of the sudden collapse of its hopes, is only to intensify the ensuing impatience and frustration and wrath. It is all part of the same plan.
1043 I think it is also right to say that generally they set up a decoy at the beginning of a conference but never show their real offer till the last possible moment, when it appears that there is nothing to look forward to except final and irretrievable deadlock. I recall that at Geneva in 1954 we spent three months on Indo-China, and I think it is safe to say that if the Russians had moved or had said that they were prepared to move in May, even to the extent to which they finally moved in July, we could all have gone home in ten days. I do not doubt for a moment that they knew from the beginning approximately how far they were ultimately prepared to go, but they preferred to play out the game in the hope that they would only have to go that distance if every other alternative failed and if the campaign of attrition was not attaining its objective.
My Lords, another thing that I think one has to bear in mind is that the particular proposal by which, in the end, some degree of success is achieved must originate with them. I have seen them reject a proposal from us, or from one of our friends, with indigation and contumely; and then, within two or three days, blandly bring forward the same proposal themselves as an example of their own resourceful inspiration. Again, they must have the last word. Mr. Gromyko's issue of a statement in the middle of the night on the day before this present Conference adjourned was absolutely characteristic and true to type—just as was the subsequent statement to which the noble Earl the Leader of the House has referred—coming out after the deliberations were at the moment at an end. These things are well known to those dealing with the Russians and I mention them only in case they might throw some slight ray of illumination on those of your Lordships who have not undergone the experience of actual negotiation with them.
But, my Lords, having observed that at this Geneva Conference up to date the rules of the game as played by the Russians seem still to be of full force and effect, I should not be surprised if, at the last second of the last minute before the Conference appears to be coming to a conclusion, the Russians 1044 come forward with a proposal which will make a Summit Conference possible. Indeed, I greatly hope that that may be so. I believe that they want a Summit Conference and nothing but a Summit Conference; and, that being so, they are not disposed to let anything very vital emerge from any discussions at a lower level. If that be the reason, my Lords, it seems to me essential that we should strive as far as in any of us lies to achieve a Summit Conference, because only in that way shall we know at least a portion of what their real intentions are.
I have seen some reference to the fact that a Summit Conference is supposed only to ratify the decisions reached at the Foreign Ministers' Conference. I believe that that is a profound error. If that is all they are going to do, the great men might as well exchange autographs from their respective desks. A Summit Conference, if it is going to justify itself in any degree, must be a far more flexible and a far more widespread discussion than that. It must cover—if not this time, at least in the future—the sort of points which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, indicated at the end of his speech.
I think it is true to say that the running commentary by Mr. Khrushchev on the proceedings at Geneva has been neither very helpful nor very hopeful. The production would have been a better one without a compère in Moscow. Perhaps I saw as much as, or more than, most people of Mr. Khrushchev when he paid his visit to this country in 1955. I would judge him to be a very vigorous, a very shrewd, a very determined, but, at the same time, perhaps a slightly mercurial personality. With him, the conversational temperature seldom remains normal for long. My Lords, I think that the Prime Minister has been absolutely right to emphasise that it would be an appalling mistake to inflate a possible Summit Conference now into a Summit Conference to end all Summit Conferences rather than as one in a regular series of such Conferences. If it succeeds, it will be a beginning: if it fails it must not be the end. My Lords, the hydrogen bomb may be a deterrent against war, but so, too, in their way, are high-level talks.
1045 I would end, my Lords, by expressing two hopes. The first is that the countries of the West, even if they do not attain all they have hoped or desired from the Foreign Ministers' conversations, and even if the olive branch which is held out to them at the end contains few and wizened fruit, will, at the same time, not allow considerations of national prestige or amour proper or pride to stand in the way of an acceptance to attend such a conference. My Lords, to mount a high horse now may be to ride for a very serious fall. As regards the second hope, I realise that it is necessary to placate, to keep in step with, and to agree with our Allies; but I would hope that we should not go to this resumed Foreign Ministers' Conference, or to a succeeding Summit Conference, brandishing a bundle of proposals which we and everybody else know perfectly well the Russians cannot possibly accept. That, my Lords, is the negation of negotiation. It may well be that those proposals are essential to any long term solution, but that does not mean that they must be brought into the forefront of the discussions at this moment. In diplomacy, if I may slightly adapt a well-known legal phrase, timing is of the essence of the contact; and you may well have in your hands proposals which, before you can come to a final settlement, must be put forward, but which at the same time can well be put away for the moment into the diplomatic deep-freeze in order that they may not, by being exposed to the thundery weather, go sour. After all, my Lords, the point of all these discussions is one short, sharp point: the immediate task is to find not battleground but common ground.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, I am sure we are all very grateful to the noble Marquess who has just sat down for what I might describe as a "behind the scenes view of the Soviet technique". I am sure, also, that we are all very conscious that perhaps it is a precedent that we should have an important debate on international affairs on the eve of Geneva; and we should wish that nothing said here this afternoon will in any way hinder the task of the Foreign Secretary. At the same time, we do not live in a totalitarian State: we live in a free State, which allow 1046 free speech. It may be that it could serve a purpose not only to indicate to Mr. Gromyko at Geneva (that is, believing that Hansard finds its way there) the methods of a country which recognises free speech, but also to draw attention to the anxiety—and, indeed, the bewilderment—of great sections of the British public at some of the more recent manifestations of Soviet policy. The noble Marquess has referred to Soviet technique, and when I come to this aspect of Soviet policy it is on Soviet intention that I shall hope to lay emphasis.
I intend only to say a brief word, if I may, about the Middle East before coming to the maze of negotiation at Geneva. Within these last months Her Majesty's Government have had to face the charge that perhaps in the Middle East we have drifted into a kind of political vacuum, without objective, without leadership and without direction, and it is against that kind of charge that I should like to offer the Government some mild defence. It cannot be too often emphasised that all we require of the Middle East—indeed, all we have ever required—is two things: first, bearing in mind that the great artery of Empire and Commonwealth has always passed through the area, we want to be able to move backwards and forwards through it on our lawful occasions without hindrance; and secondly, and far more recently, within these last few years, we want to know that the oil for Europe and the West will flow out of the Middle East and will not be subject to every passing political hazard of the day. Those two requirements, which might be described as the twin pillars of a policy, surely, in turn, depend on what I think is a third requirement—that is the goodwill of the people of the area.
Those who are inclined to thump the table and demand one clear-cut, clearly defined, positive policy to blanket a number of very different situations, to blanket what is a complex of different loyalties, should ask them selves just this question: Will such a policy guarantee the goodwill of the people? When put in that way, I think that your Lordships will see that perhaps it is not a policy at all that is required; it is more an attitude of mind. It is an attitude which would watch and wait and be ready to help. The doubts in some of your Lordships' 1047 minds will be whether, in these circumstances, such a policy, which is negative, will prevent the area from falling eventually under the control of the Communists. If the problem were one of uniformity, if all the people in the area were all going the same way under the same leadership, such a policy to-day might make sense. But with so many imponderables, I consider that it would be a grave error to commit ourselves either to the support or to the suppression of any individual or any group. It is in the knowledge, I submit, that our help is there for the asking, that we are more likely to preserve this area for sanity. Let others who come in make the mistakes. Let the Soviet discover, as perhaps we have discovered, to our cost, that when one makes friends in one area in the Middle East, one makes enemies in another.
To-morrow, July 14, it will be just a year since the Iraqis assassinated their King and Prime Minister. I am told that the Iraqi Embassy have sent out invitations to celebrate the event. What exactly is going to be celebrated I would not know, unless it is the stimulation of watching a so-called "legal court" which has become an insult to civilisation, and which is recognised as such by all Iraqis of discrimination, whatever their affiliations were previously. The Iraqis I have encountered who have come out of Baghdad are certainly prepared to regard such a process with horror and dismay. But the occasion does serve to remind us of the uncertainty of the future. I have yet to meet the Englishman who came out of Baghdad immediately after July 14 of last year, whether expert Arabist or otherwise, who would not have predicted that within a matter of weeks Iraq would have been a third limb of the United Arab Republic. Within the last three weeks, I have encountered three Iraqis out of Baghdad. Each submitted a different kind of development as governing the future, and each development demanding a different kind of policy from this country. In such circumstances, surely patience is the only virtue.
It is not easy to speak of this objective approach of good will and friendship, when we hear of the things that continue to be said about us. I refer particularly to Major Salem in Egypt. He seems to 1048 have transferred the nimble manipulation of his limbs to an equally agile play with words. In a signed article in a prominent Egyptian newspaper he seriously puts forward the idea—and presumably it is believed—that a combination of Iraq, Israel and Jordan—a strange kind of brotherhood, in all conscience, in the Middle East!—was working under British direction to destroy the United Arab Republic. I mention this matter because we have the impression that today Her Majesty's Government are, rightly, as I believe, hoping and striving for better relations with the United Arab Republic, and with Egypt in particular.
There are practical reasons why we should come to a better understanding with Egypt—not that true friendship is ever based on practical premises. But at least a practical understanding is a start, and I believe that the time has come when we can afford to turn to President Nasser and tell him that we should like to develop a more reasonable understanding with a view to establishing friendship. There may be obstacles on both sides. One obstacle, from our point of view, is the continuation of the fairly venomous Press campaign against us. I would only suggest that in a country where presumably both Press and radio are subject to strict Governmental control, it would be easy to switch the great publicity machine to the support of better Anglo-Egyptian relations. I feel that if that much could be done in Cairo, Her Majesty's Government, on their side, might be quick to respond.
If I may come to comment on the discussions at Geneva, may I take the matter of the all-German committee set up to achieve German reunification. There is one great difficulty—that is, that hitherto the Federal Government of Germany have refused to sit at the table with the Eastern German representation. I think that in so doing they deserve our full sympathy and understanding. It is not enough to say that we have recognised the Peking Government in Communist China as the de facto Government of that country and that they should just do the same here. We could, I think, compare their position more to that of Norway had the Norwegian Government been asked after the war to negotiate with Quisling, or to a Government in Whitehall asked to settle the fate of this 1049 country in negotiation with a Government in Birmingham. That is the kind of thing we are asking Western Germany to do. Nevertheless, I believe that the time has come when perhaps this is the wisest advice we could give to the Adenauer Government. If I sound a note of pessimism in regard to Geneva, it is not because I do not appreciate the value of the advances which the Foreign Secretaries strive so valiantly to make; nor that I do not hope that those advances will be made. It is that I fear that in making them there may be perhaps an abandonment of principles. That is my fear. As I see it, at Geneva we face a challenge to all normal rules of free democracy. What are those rules? Our belief is surely just this: that the will of the simple majority prevails over the will of the simple minority. In other words that 51 prevail over 49: and how very irksome it can be at times! With that in mind, and turning to the Soviet proposal for Germany, what do we find? We find that, having refused for ten years free elections in East Germany, having set up and held up a Government in East Germany which, if the Soviet force behind it were removed, would immediately disappear, they then demand parity of representation, one for one, as between East and West. This is where I find myself in profound disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, who has apparently sanctioned the system of coming to agreement on a basis of parity.
The Western proposals for the setting up of an all-German committee have, as we have been reminded, been put forward on a basis of a representation of twenty-five for the West and a representation of ten for the East, based on comparative populations. The interesting feature is that the decisions have to be taken by a three-quarter majority which, if my arithmetic is correct, means that two of the East. Germans would, in any decision, have to vote with the West. As I see it, the East German Government thus have their safeguard in the application of a normal but perfectly fundamental principle of democratic representation.
But now, apart from a denial of justice in the Soviet proposal, there is another and much more profound reason for treating any system based on parity with the very gravest suspicion. It is here that I am raising the ideological issue, an 1050 issue I have raised before. I should like to put the matter once again, and perhaps in a slightly different way. Anyone who studies the parallel operation of Communism and a free democracy cannot fail to note that whereas the one insists on the united approach and indeed is unable to tolerate any form of dissension in its own ranks, the other regards argument, dispute and dissension as merits inherent within its system. If that be true, it is quite easy to see the kind of fear the West Germans have of a committee which bases itself on parity of representation. Sooner or later they fear—and it has been put to me by West German leaders—that control would inevitably drift over to the other side. That sounds like an uncomfortable admission before the event, yet it is a very real fear in Germany—the fear of a technique which has many successes to its credit ever since Lenin pointed the way to the winning of power, not by a majority, not even by an equal number, but by a minority; a hard, disciplined core of dedicated men hacking their way through to power as a minority. This fear is what we have to face in this matter of setting up an all-German committee. Far better to go on with existing conditions, with existing loyalties confirmed, than to yield in this matter.
Where, then, can there be hope? Where can we yield a little? We all recognise the value of flexibility in this situation. Your Lordships have noted that the Western proposals are in the nature of a package deal. Rightly, we appreciated the advantages of being able to gather up every aspect of the international situation under one formula in the hope that the fate of Europe will be settled once and for all, and as a by-product, the world may be set on the path to disarmament. It is clear from paragraph 25 of our first proposals, where we relate the establishment of an all-German Government to the creation of a zone comprising areas of comparable depth and size on either side of a mutually agreed line: a zone in which both sides would reduce their troops—in other words, a thinning out, which in itself would be a very great advantage.
Therefore I am suggesting that to some extent we can afford to relax this concept of the closely-knit package deal, 1051 and attempt progress in those spheres, such as thinning out, where it seems that the Soviet are interested. In effect, I am suggesting that the egg can to a certain 'extent be unscrambled and that agreements can be reached on some of the very important ingredients, such as the noble Earl, Lord Home, quoted to us, of agreement possibly being reached in the matter of using satellites for testing nuclear explosions in the higher altitudes.
Finally, I should like to go back to the hard core of the problem, the ideological division: the roots which are the causes behind these surface moves. It is now about forty years ago since Lenin gave to the world the pattern for the future. Out of many possible quotations I have chosen one from his works, Volume 24, page 122:We are living not merely in a State, but in a system of States, and the existence of the Soviet Republic side by side with Imperialist States for a long time is unthinkable. One or the other must triumph in the end. And before that end supervenes a series of frightful collisions between the Soviet Republic and the bourgeois States will be inevitable.Since then that kind of assertion has been elaborated over and over again in varying terms. The actual prediction of war may be absent, but the implication that Communism will at all costs prevail is always there. It was recently reaffirmed by Mr. Khrushchev in 1957 in a programme from Moscow that was televised all over the United States. It was repeated by him in Tirana a few weeks ago, and repeated more certainly to Mr. Harriman. In Tirana his assurance merely presages the intention:Communism would inevitably take over from capitalism because it constituted a higher stage of social development.To Mr. Harriman he was more precise and we are in debt to the Hendersons in both Houses for reminding us of what he said. He said just this: that he would never agree to a reunification of Germany which did not provide for a Communist system. We have been repeatedly told that this voice of Mr. Khrushchev is the only voice that matters.
But before I return to this aspect, I would ask your Lordships to note the play on words: "Socialism and Socialists", "Communism and Communists". They appear to be interchange- 1052 able. In the above case, in the interview with Mr. Harriman, The Times used the words "Communist system" and the B.B.C. used "Socialist system". The Communists regard the words as interchangeable for a deliberate purpose. One service the Party opposite could perform for us, having in mind that we all share a common problem, is that they could repudiate the right of the Communists to label themselves with the word "Socialism". Where it has been deliberately used I ask that it should be deliberately refuted.
To return to Mr. Khrushchev, surely the time has come when, alongside arguments and the physical moves, we are entitled to know whether the objectives of Lenin still govern Soviet policy? Are not our leaders entitled to ask that question at Geneva; and is not the British public entitled to know the answer? Let it be clear that if Mr. Khrushchev means what he says, the implication is that he expects us to lie down meekly and allow our free democracy to be destroyed. In those circumstances, let the world know where the responsibility lies for an increase in international tension.
For myself, sometimes I wish that we could have a little of the technique borrowed by the Western leadership and we could hear from them thatfreedom will inevitably take over from Communism because it constitutes a higher stage of social development".We need the stimulus of words, whether in peace or in war. Words are the media by which this peace of nerves is to be lived out in the future. No less an authority than Sir William Hayter reminded us that we faced a period of ten years in which we should have to face a barrage of words which would be put down in order to divert our attention away from such things as suffering Hungary and suffering Tibet, and directed to playing on our far more accommodating sentiments in regard to the controversial effects of H-bomb explosions and to diverting our attention away from the mental and physical cruelty which exists now by exploiting our doubts surrounding human folly not yet known and certainly not yet effective.
If within that context we could send a message to Geneva, I suggest that it should be of this nature: Let us hope and pray for agreement on this move 1053 or that; for an all-Berlin Council or an all-German committee. But if you cannot achieve that, do not despair. Pass these problems to the Summit; and if they fail, do not despair. Let it be clear—and this is a point on which I should like an answer from the noble Marquess who is to reply—that we will never drop the first H-bomb I say that because there seems to be some doubt about this point, and I make a clear distinction between an H-bomb which destroys whole areas and a tactical weapon used in the field, which I think a commander is entitled to use if he sees his own command in sudden danger. It is against that kind of background that I suggest it would be far better to retain the status quoin which basic principles remain intact than to move forward to agreements only in the name of relaxing tension—and, incidentally, in so doing, as I see it, abandoning the cause of Hungarians, Tibetans, Poles, Czechs and others, whom I for one, and I am quite certain the majority of the people in this country, could never regard as lost.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I propose to follow the example of the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and devote most of my speech to that rather general appreciation or attempted appreciation, of the situation, and particularly in relation to Berlin and the German problem. But perhaps I ought to say a word or two in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, who raised a matter which has been a conflicting subject for philosophers ever since philosophy started—namely, the problem of the meaning of words. We all put our own interpretation upon the words that we use for the purpose of attempting to convey our thoughts or our meanings to our fellow human beings. I think that, just as some people, who in my conception are not democrats at all, are entitled to style themselves as democrats, if they wish, so is Mr. Khrushchev entitled to regard himself as a Socialist. His conception of Socialism is not mine; and neither of our conceptions of Socialism is the conception held by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood. I do not feel that one can push it much further than that, at any rate, profitably.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
I am obliged to the noble Lord for allowing me to 1054 interrupt him. Does he imply that there is no distinction to be made between Socialism and Communism?
§ LORD CHORLEY
I have just been attempting to explain that one interprets these things according to one's own philosophy: that people with diametrically opposed views of what is meant by democracy style themselves as democrats, and in the same way people with differing views as to Socialism style themselves as Socialists. I do not really think there is much profit to be gained out of this attempt to condemn Mr. Khrushchev for calling himself a Socialist. After all, his socialism stems from Marx, and few people would have said that Marx was not a Socialist. Yet there is another brand of Socialism which can equally well be worked out from a great deal of the truth which is contained in Marx's famous book. If we were to pursue this subject we should be here for a long time, and I do not think it would profit us a great deal. I did feel, however, that I should say a word or two in reply to the question which the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, put to noble Lords who sit on this side of the House.
I suppose that Berlin is the most sensitive spot in foreign affairs at the present time, and I think it is all due to the fact that a serious mistake was made at the very beginning, after the end of the fighting in 1945, when that great city was divided by the conquering Powers into two halves. I think one might say that it was more than a mistake; it was a blunder. It was a blunder of the same type, although a more serious one, as that which was made at Versailles, when Prussia was divided into two halves, one half being handed to Poland and the other half being handed back to Germany. That act had in it the seeds of war, just as the division of Berlin also has in it the seeds of war. And it brought about a more serious situation, because quite obviously it was done to create in the centre of Europe a hornet's nest. The only surprising thing is that in the intervening period the hornets have not been buzzing around more viciously than they are buzzing around at the present time. We did, of course, have a rather had scare at the time of the Berlin blockade and airlift some ten years ago. We got over that with considerable difficulty, but it must have been fairly obvious that 1055 the same sort of situation would arise again, and probably in an even more acute form.
It seems to me that this blunder was made, as so many of the great blunders in international history have been made, through the jockeying for position which seems to be inevitable among the conquerors after the successful termination of a great war. The Western Powers were anxious to create a new Germany in their own ideological image which might be a bulwark—and which I think was intended to be a bulwark—against the surprisingly powerful Communist U.S.S.R.; whose victories took the Western Powers almost as much by surprise as they took Hitler's Germany. I think the Western Powers also felt that if they could get a good foothold in Berlin they would have something more than a bulwark against Communist U.S.S.R.; they would have a spearhead for attack in the event of attack proving necessary. It is unrealistic, in my view, to suppose that there were not voices raised in this country, and still more strong voices in the United States, of people who felt that the time would not be far distant when the Western armies would have to cross over the Russian frontier.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
Would the noble Lord answer one question? If that is the case, how does he account for the fact that in 1945, on the order of President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower, the United States forces were withdrawn several hundred miles from the positions they then occupied.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, that was surely done under an agreement which had been entered into; and they did not break their undertakings quite so obviously as that. I myself talked to very high American Generals whose view was that before long it would be necessary to attack, and that Berlin would obviously be an important point. What other purpose was there in having Berlin broken up in this sort of way except for the basis of a position of power? The Russians were at the same time establishing East Germany in exactly the same way as a bulwark against a possible attack from the West—which they feared just as much, and possibly with just as much reason—and not only to create a new East German State, which 1056 would not of itself have given them much of a bulwark. Their aim was to create a new East German State in their own ideological image, and to get it closely knitted up with their own power complex and their own industrial complex.
They had, of course, the advantage that there were already strong Socialist and Communist cadres in existence in the great industrial areas of Brandenburg and Saxony, which, from their point of view, had the advantage of being Protestant rather than Roman Catholic, as are the industrial areas in the Rhineland and in Bavaria. So the project of creating a Communist East Germany was just as feasible, though, no doubt, it would take longer to carry through, because of the comparative lack of resources in the U.S.S.R. as compared with the Western Powers, with their much greater undamaged resources, particularly in the United States of America, in building up Western Germany. I have no doubt that both the camps were governed by considerations of power politics and the furtherance of their own interests, and not by any real sense of the requirement of the solution of the problem of making peace in Europe.
It is because of this approach to the problem on these perennial lines that we are in the difficulties which we are facing to-day. It has left us, of course, with a disunited Germany, and it has left us with the problem of reuniting Germany, which is as big a problem in foreign politics as ever statesmen have tried to handle. As anybody objectively studying the position in Western Germany over the last twelve months or so will know, it is certainly not to be solved by military re-conquest by the West German armies. That possibility, unfortunately, has become certainly as large as the cloud of a man's hand on the horizon over the last months. That, undoubtedly, would result in the war which everybody wishes to avoid.
It is quite obvious, I should have thought, that there is no immediate prospect of the reunification of Eastern and Western Germany. Eastern Germany has too many and too great advantages, not only to the U.S.S.R., in particular, but also to Poland, as well as to the preservation of peace in Middle and Eastern Europe, because it is obvious that if East and West Germany were reunited to-day into the same sort of 1057 German Empire as existed under, shall I say, Bismarck, the Weimar Republic or Hitler, the frontiers of Poland and the integrity of Poland would immediately be menaced. Therefore it is quite obvious that neither Poland, nor the U.S.S.R., nor the complex of States in Eastern Europe are going to allow a reunited Germany to be re-established without tremendous safeguards and without a very great quid pro quo. It is obviously a task of Herculean proportions for Western statesmen, or for statesmen anywhere, to provide those safeguards and also to provide that quid pro quo.
That initial mistake has had built upon it a number of other mistakes. The mistake of rearming Western Germany has, in my submission, been the reestablishment of a powder magazine in a position where, when it blows up, it can do the most widespread destruction possible. We have only to contemplate as a Conservative Member of Parliament is contemplating in The Timesnewspaper this morning, the military history of Germany from Frederick the Great, who first made war a trade in Germany, through Bismarck, through the Emperor William and through Hitler, to appreciate the sensitive fear that exists throughout Eastern Europe in respect of a re-militarised and rearmed Germany. We have only recently got to know that no fewer than 25 million Russian soldiers lost their lives as a result of Hitler's invasion of Russian in 1941. Is it to be wondered, as The Timessaid in a remarkable leading article, that there is in the U.S.S.R. a real apprehension of a re-militarised Germany? Is it to be wondered at that there is a burning longing for peace?
This fear, this longing for peace, is not peculiar to the Russians. It exists in all those other countries. It exists particularly in Poland, whose people fear the iron heel of the invader even more grimly that the Russians fear it themselves. Moreover, it is feared also in the present Eastern Germany, because, as I have already said, there are indications that Adenauer's Germany is building up its forces once more, not only for the purpose of resisting a possible aggressive attack from the U.S.S.R., but also as a possible method of possibly reuniting the two Germany's together. The ugly head of the German Eagle is clearly raised 1058 once more in Central Europe. Only the other day I read in the Press of a great rally in Germany in which the orators had contemplated the re-establishment of the frontiers of 1938. What does the re-establishment of those frontiers mean? Quite obviously, it can be done only by force of arms. It means that the German armies are again to be on the Vistula; that Sudetenland is to be brought in again. Obviously, if these things are to be achieved, Europe will be drawn into war, and the world will become an armed camp again.
I suggest that we made a great mistake in deciding that we would rearm Germany in order to strengthen the forces of N.A.T.O. No doubt France must accept a great degree of responsibility for that decision, because the French have chosen to employ their forces in trying to quell independence movements in Algiers, which it has been beyond their power to do, although every few months they tell us they are on the point of success. One had hoped that when General de Gaulle took over power in France a year ago that there might be some possible prospect of a new dispensation in Algeria which would enable those people who have been struggling for all this time to secure self-government, the Arab population of Algeria, to be met half way, and that something might be done to bring about peace in that unhappy country. Unfortunately, as the months have gone by there has been little prospect of that consummation being achieved, and it has filled us all with despair. What will be the result if French arms do succeed eventually, at the cost of untold blood and treasure, in eliminating the freedom movement in Algeria? Only a ruined country. They are endeavouring to make a desert in order that they may call it peace.
I have always thought that what we ought to have done was to neutralise. Germany at the end of the war, and in this way we would have removed the running sore of militarism; we would have relieved the peoples of Eastern Europe—and, indeed, we would have relieved Western Europe, because we have suffered from German militarism over all those years just as much as anybody else—by the establishment of a great neutral area in Central Europe. We would have provided something which is 1059 a great deal better than the sort of military barrier which the statesmen at Potsdam were attempting to set up against each other. It is true that we might have given to the Germans great advantages in industry and trade; but even a Germany more prosperous and wealthy than any other country in the world could hardly have been purchased too dearly if peace could have been established over all that part of Europe.
It might be said that it is not for us to decide whether the Germans should have arms and armaments; that it is wrong to deprive a great nation of the power of armaments. But the history of Europe over the last 200 years to which I have referred, from Frederick the Great to Hitler, surely has meant so much in the way of danger to peace-loving peoples that it is not wrong to require that that country should be neutralised. You may say, "This is all old history; it is too late now to do anything about neutralisation; neutralisation is no longer a possible policy to pursue" And, clearly, as the years have gone by and the other type of policy has been built up, the taking of it to pieces and the establishment of another policy in its place has become more and more difficult. It could not be done immediately or very easily, but there are undoubtedly strong forces in Germany, both in the East and in the West, which would welcome proposals of this kind, and while complete neutralisation may be a long way away I feel that in modified ways a great deal could be done.
The Rapacki Plan, which would have established over most of Germany and a good deal of Eastern Europe a nuclear-free area, would have been a step in that direction. The prevention of the giving of facilities to the West German Government to build up fissionable materials and to make atom and hydrogen bombs—which was almost hinted at in the speech of the noble Earl the Leader of the House—would be another step in the same direction, and in this and other ways I think it might gradually be possible, if not to build up complete neutralisation of Germany, at any rate to go so far in that direction that to a great extent the fears of the U.S.S.R. and other countries would be relieved.
In the meantime, obviously we have to look for some kind of temporary solu- 1060 tion to the problem of Berlin. The Russians have made the proposal that Berlin should be a free city. Free cities are not easily established and not easily kept going when they are established, and it may be that it is not a completely viable proposal, but it is at any rate a proposal which is, in my view, well worth discussing. Indeed, a proposal coming from the West which has gone quite a distance in that direction is that at any rate for some period of time the Government of Berlin should be handed over to the United Nations. That is a proposal which has been put forward in the United States just as strongly and warmly as it has by interested groups in this country and in other parts of Western Europe. It is not, of course, a long-term solution. Obviously the long-term solution is far away; it is the reunification of West and East Germany. But it may provide a breathing space during which a modus vivendicould be worked out. And a modus vivendi must be worked out.
When Mr. Khrushchev said he would not let East Germany go, so to speak, without Communism being safeguarded, I do not think he meant what the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, was suggesting that he meant, namely, that he must have a wholly Communist Germany. I think that what he was after was some situation in which the Communist State could work, so to speak, in a larger Germany. We in this country—it would be quite unrealistic not to face up to it—are faced with the problem of working a mixed State. The Opposition party, the Government of to-morrow, is a Socialist Party which, during its period of power and office, socialised a good deal of the productive industries of this country. The other great Party, the Conservative Party, which is in power at the present time, believes with sincere conviction in a completely different economic and industrial set-up. We have to work out, and we are in the process of working out, some sort of modus vivendibetween those two conflicting outlooks. I think the Russians appreciate clearly that they are faced with a similar problem, and there is no place in Europe in which it is more important to achieve that modus vivendiand where its working out is so pressing and urgent a task for statesmen. Let us address our minds to these things and let us attempt, by going step by step, 1061 to achieve the peace and prosperity which by more ambitious projects we have not been able to bring about.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD GLYN had given Notice of his intention to ask Her Majesty's Government if a full statement can now be made regarding the matters in dispute between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Saudi Arabia, and how far the new set of proposals that have been under consideration since July 6, 1954, have helped to bring about a lasting solution. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to ask your Lordships to look at the Order Paper, on which you will see that I had put down a Question to be addressed to the Foreign Office in regard to Middle East affairs. I do not propose to follow the noble Lord who has just sat down in his dissertation upon the general situation, but shall concentrate more upon the position in the Middle East. That position is surely one where we can hope for a solution in the near future, whereas I am afraid that this debate has shown, as so many debates have shown, that we cannot expect much in the way of settlement for some time to come in regard to the affairs of Europe and so on.
§ I want to mention this question of the Middle East because some of us have had something to do with that part of the world. I believe that in the past British prestige was gained by decent behaviour out there, and that we had the trust of the Arab peoples. All that seems for the time being to have gone. Two years ago I put a Question in this House asking Her Majesty's Government what progress had been made in the negotiations which, I had been told previously, were set on foot. I was told that they were progressing, it was hoped, satisfactorily. There are two points in regard to this matter which I feel are of vital importance. Some of the Arabs are most anxious for good relations to be restored, especially between Saudi Arabia and this country. Saudi Arabia is an enormous territory. Its future we do not know; but we do know that there are peoples who have the use of the Russian wireless in Cairo, and the indications are that they want to keep up this vicious campaign of antipathy to anything British.1062
§ One of the things that surely matters in this day of uncertainty in great affairs is that we should try to get hack, so far as we can, where we can, to a position where we shall regain the respect of, and I hope close co-operation with, the Arab countries. It surely can be no good to us or to the Middle East that this running sore in Saudi Arabia should continue to exist year after year. It was due to the misunderstandings over the Suez affair that we lost our position there. Prince Feisal, who is the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, has said over and over again that he is longing to find some bridge whereby good relations can be re-established.
§ I think there are people in the Foreign Office who believe that it is necessary to eliminate as far as possible causes of disagreement in any part of the world. If that is so, why should we not make a beginning during this period, when apparently we cannot do anything very striking, at Geneva or anywhere else, and try on a small scale to get back to something where I believe we can achieve some success? For I believe that we can get a success in Saudi Arabia; and with such a link-up, I think we shall get better understanding of what the Egyptians are trying to do. I do not know that we are quite sure what their policy is. We surely know that to-day there is one man who is risking everything to try to bring his country round to a situation where the poverty in the country can be eased through the development of oil. As I understand it, he is willing to continue oil arrangements with the British, Americans and others who have for many years been engaged in gaining oil from that part of the world.
§ All I want to try to impress on your Lordships to-day is that it is now exactly two years this month since Her Majesty's Government gave me the answer in this House that there was a new set of proposals in regard to Saudi Arabia to which they attached importance and in regard to which they had great hopes. After these two years I thought it might be a good thing to try to discover the present position; because there are those interested in Middle East affairs who believe that the opportunity to bring about some sort of settlement which we have publicly announced as our desire may not recur. It is rather difficult to 1063 make a speech about a Question when one expects to have an answer before speaking. That is my position to-day, because I thought the Question would be answered before I should have the opportunity of addressing your Lordships. But if the answer of the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, is favourable, nobody will be more pleased than myself.
§ 5.15 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Rea, I propose to concentrate most of my remarks this afternoon on the matter of the bomb. But even my great affection for him will not persuade me to take up the same attitude or place the same emphasis. I think that those of us living to-day in the West, who are in touch with affairs and also in touch with reality, have geared ourselves to an uneasy epoch, to a, frankly, dangerous century. Without many illusions, we intend to survive. By that I mean that we intend to preserve our existence and our freedom, both of which are threatened to some extent. The dilemma of such a situation is that those who are obsessed exclusively with one of those dangers invite the other, and we are bound to be hustled from time to time by both obsessions. That is endemic to the situation, and it must be accepted, together with the occasional crises provoked from either side.
There are those who believe that the only escape from Communist domination lies in a preventive war and dropping the bomb. Others think that the only escape from the bomb is to ban it ourselves, in the cherubic hope that everyone else will follow suit. The advocates of the preventive war take little account of those living in the preventive area, or of its certain outgrowth from that area. The bomb-banners take little account of anything, it appears to me, except their own human but suicidal despair. Our survival depends on keeping both these factions under control, and of course I mean keeping them under control by persuasion. This has nothing to do with the freedom of conscience required by the noble Lord, Lord Rea. Our survival depends on keeping our heads, and I am sure that it can be achieved.
1064 I think that we can feel reassured this week that we in this country have a Prime Minister and also a Leader of the Opposition who are determined to keep their heads. Anyone would find it hard to keep his head if he believed that the only way of stemming the advance of Communism was by dropping the bomb. I believe myself that our possession of the bomb is essential to prevent its use by others. But there are other less obvious and far less explosive weapons in the armoury of the West, which we must exploit to the full, and show ourselves ready and determined to exploit. Sometimes we have done so and sometimes not.
At first sight, partly because of its centralised economy, the Soviet world appears to be better fitted and better poised for both hot and cold wars. The discipline of terror gives it an ominous edge in both. But whereas we have not known slavery, the Russians have not known freedom in living memory. The reactions of free men and free nations continually perplex them. They were taken aback by that reaction in the case of the Berlin airlift, in Korea, and by the response of Turkey's Allies to the Soviet threat two years ago. Now they are puzzled, undoubtedly, by our firmness over Berlin again. Why should we feel so sentimental about freedom, they wonder, when it merely concerns some Germans whom we were fighting a few years ago? I think it beats them entirely, and I think that must be to the good.
But it also wakens some ironic echoes in other quarters, and this I feel bound to mention as an example of Western failure to exploit advantage. I should be the first to affirm that one of the great physical assets in Western defence, a growing asset, is the new Germany. On this point I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, who spoke a few moments ago. On the other hand, I come, I feel, nearer to Lord Chorley's way of thinking than I am ever likely to come again, when I say that morally, in the eyes of a great number of Russia's opponents, Germany is a liability. It is not seen as a new Germany at all. There are nations in Europe behind the Iron Curtain which have suffered both from the Germans and from the Russians, and the former suffering is not by any means forgotten: it is still vivid in people's minds 1065 and memories, sharpened often enough by remaining bodily pain.
These silent millions of Allies behind the Iron Curtain have seen Germany accepted into the West in return for positive gestures, gestures directed exclusively to the West, to the nations which suffered least at German hands in the course of the war. These gestures are not so convincing behind the Iron Curtain—we can hardly expect them to be—and there is a certain perplexity, even bitterness, among those people, most of whom are more positively anti-Communist than we can ever be, as they see the solicitude of the Western Powers towards their savage and defeated, but now triumphant, foe whose reparations have not reached or touched them at all. I suggest that there are acts, not acts of weakness but of generosity, that Germany could make towards the East as well, which would be of the greatest benefit to our cause to-day. There are still many thousands of victims of Nazi oppression, of concentration camps and medical experiments, uncompensated by the new Germany, and nearly all with relatives behind the Iron Curtain, receiving and spreading gratuitous anti-German propaganda which colours their attitude to Germany's new partners, the N.A.T.O. Powers. There is also the question of the Oder-Neisse frontier, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley; the frontier between Poland and Germany, which the Germans refuse to recognise, backed, up to now, by ourselves. This is a stronger card in Khrushchev's hands than the geography of Berlin.
Just as I believe that it behoves the Germans to make a larger moral contribution to Western strength, I believe it behoves us to maintain and even increase our physical contribution, even against the impassioned counsel of some in our midst, whom we are bound to respect. It would be more stupid than insulting to impugn the sincerity of men like the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and Mr. Cousins. And yet, in March of last year, the noble Earl, Lord Russell, considered all nuclear defence as "insane fanaticism." He reasoned as follows:If the Communists conquered the world it would be very unpleasant for a while, but not for ever. If the human race is wiped out, that is the end.1066 My Lords, at least by my reckoning, that is not sober reasoning; it is near hysteria. It assumes, on the one hand, that those who possess the bomb are bound to use it. It ignores, on the other, that life under Communism is not life as we know it and demand it. It ignores the dread fact that millions of people living to-day under Communism, millions who know it at first hand, would rather die than believe that no hope of release lay ahead, if not for themselves, at least for their children and their children's children. But that is the fate to which this undoubtedly kindly and brilliant man would commit not only the slave nations of to-day, but the whole of humanity.
In the same way Mr. Cousins declares that no one can make him regard his children as expendable, and the hearts of millions of parents must be drawn to him by that declaration. But has he any idea of what happens to decent, un-corruptible, courageous, Left-wing leaders and to their families in a Communist conquest? It is not pretty. Let him read the fate of Petkov and Pastukhov in Bulgaria, of Maniu, Hategianu and Titel Petrescu in Roumania, of Jan Masaryk in Czechoslovakia. There are not many of us in this House, I believe, not many in Parliament or in the political life of this country, who would not wish their families dead in such a circumstance, rather than at the mercy of the N.K.V.D.
The loss of freedom, this death of a nation, may be harder for us to imagine than for some others, so that an extra effort is required from our imaginations. The key to survival is the will to remain free. If this wavers, or even appears to waver, we may be lost. If the enemy concludes at a given moment that we will not take a risk to remain free, that moment could be the last we know of freedom. The smallest uncertainty among any of us, endangers us all.
To-day the Labour Party is in, at best, a state of polite pandemonium on this question, and it seems likely that even the politeness may wear thin in some quarters in the days ahead. I take no pleasure whatever in that prospect, at least in the present context, so serious and so important to us all; because even though we are opponents politically we are partners in survival, in this plan to 1067 survive. Those who can see only one threat to our survival, one danger to be avoided, imperil us all. It sometimes seems to me that the Labour Movement contains those who know most about the menace of Communism and those who know least: the most alert and the most blind; and it is by no means always true that in the Country of the Blind, the one-eyed man is King. The denizens of that country are most likely to follow the blindest among their number, or the one who can most lucidly justify their blindness to themselves, especially if it be the blindness of panic or even of dull hopelessness, of which they are secretly ashamed.
There is a note of panic, even a basis of panic, in much of the "Ban the Bomb" propaganda. The so-called March to Life in London two weeks ago, which if it could obtain its object would be in fact a March to Slavery, was a demonstration of this point. I witnessed no more of it than a few recorded moments on the television screen the same night, but they were enough to convey the tone of hysteria—hysteria skilfully provoked, infectious and perilous to the community or the country which it touches. There is no doubt, I think, that this hysteria was deliberately engendered by the only force which stood to gain by it, by the Communists. The only extensive prior publicity given to the demonstration was in the Daily Worker; I saw no mention of it in any other paper. Yet 10,000 people marched; nearly 10,000 of them innocent dupes. Not all their leaders were Communists; some were the true, the typical representatives of the blind and frightened mass. They are perhaps the most dangerous; they are the ones that all of us, but I think perhaps most of all noble Lords opposite and their colleagues, must cope with. I take it that all, or nearly all, of those who marched in that procession were Left Wing supporters, and for that reason more open to persuasion by members of the Party opposite than by us. In my own estimate, the persuasion that I have heard from noble Lords opposite should be strong enough, but it seems not to be.
In a debate five months ago, mentioned by my noble friend the Leader of the House this afternoon, the noble 1068 Lord, Lord Henderson, was replying to a Motion from the Benches behind him, a Motion very similar to the present proposals of Mr. Cousins. I hope the noble Lord is aware of the personal as well as the political respect with which I always listen to every word he utters, and that day was no exception. He demanded [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 214, col. 169]:I ask quite seriously: does any noble Lord really believe that the object of Lord Simon of Wythenshawe is realisable in present circumstances? Does anyone really believe that it is realistic to think that all nations, apart from Russia and the United States, would join a non-nuclear club? Does anyone believe that France and China would join such a club? France will soon have the bomb: she will soon afterwards begin to test it. Both France and Britain are members of N.A.T.O. What, I ask, would be the effect upon N.A.T.O. if these two nations were to renounce the manufacture, ownership and use of nuclear weapons in present circumstances? Would such unilateral action as is proposed be taken without prior consultation and agreement with N.A.T.O.? Then, further, would it bring this country greater security? This island would still be in the front line in the event of a major war, and the horrifying consequences of nuclear bombardment would still have to be reckoned with unless (and I repeat 'unless') we excluded American bombers and bases from our soil—and perhaps even that would not protect us.He asked: did anyone really believe what they were asked to believe by his noble colleague? It appears that what they were asked to believe is now believed by the Labour Party, but I am certainly not here to taunt the noble Lord on that in any sense whatever. Far be it from me to speak against an increase in optimism. But what does disturb me, and disturbs me deeply, is that some of his Party are ready to believe, or are desperately anxious to believe, so much more, that they seem to me to part company with reality. It would be folly to describe Mr. Cousins as hysterical, because nothing I have ever heard about him would warrant saying that. I hesitate to call him blind; but who can avoid the feeling that there is a blind side to the understanding of this robust, intelligent, and straightforward man? Is it, I dare to ask without knowing him, an ingenuousness more to be feared than even cowardice, with which he has never been, and I am sure never will be, indicted?
I say again that the Labour Party are in a better position than ourselves to study 1069 Communism and to describe its dangers—and that opportunity is by no means ignored. They are in daily, hourly conflict with Communism in the unions—a conflict we can only watch from the sidelines. The most detailed and damning evidence of these activities comes from trade union sources, in the publications of I.R.I.S., the Industrial Research and Information Services—in my humble opinion, one of the most important and patriotic institutions in this country today. I assume that the leaders and members of the Party opposite are in closer touch with that institution than I am. That being so, it must be axiomatic that they know more than I could possibly tell them of the methods and aims of Communism. They, more than I, know of the vital need to confront this force, that seeks to engulf us if we are weak or if we weaken.
So it may seem strange, and even impertinent, to your Lordships that I should have taken up the time of your Lordships' House with an appeal from these Benches to the Party opposite, however respectful that appeal. I beg them to spurn again any further tempting, but perhaps calamitous, compromise, even with the most valued elements and individuals in their Movement, on this particular issue. It seems to me that such a compromise—a further compromise, because I must look upon the advocacy of a non-nuclear club as some form of compromise—even if limited in intention to a form of words, might subtract a crucial grain of confidence from this side, the side of freedom, while adding a crucial grain of audacity to the other. The balance is so very delicately set. I think we might all thank our stars—as I do, at least—that there are men at the head of the Party opposite who know what weakness leading to defeat might mean. It might mean the abolition of everything that we hold dearer—yes, dearer!—than life itself. They have rejected that invitation in the past few days, and I pray that they always will.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ LORD STRANG
My Lords, like some other noble Lords who have spoken, I do not propose to follow the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, in a detailed discussion on the present state of the negotiations in Geneva. I propose rather to touch on a topic of more 1070 general scope. It is fashionable among some of those who write for the newspapers to pretend that we have lost our influence in the world, and that we now count for little in the councils of the nations. That is far from the truth, as a glance at the record will show; and it would be well if our present-day Jeremiahs would look at contemporary events with some regard for historical perspective. Of course, it is true that we are not now as influential as we were, say, in the heyday of Palmerston's early tenure of the Foreign Secretaryship in the 1830's and 1840's, but we were never at any time omnipotent. We could never get all that we wanted. We never found it so easy to get our way, even in the nineteenth century, as popular tradition still seems to suggest. Of course, again it is true that we cannot to-day rival the United States or the Soviet Union in power or resources.
We could not, as we have done in the past and as the United States did during and after the last war, carry the great coalition upon our shoulders. We could not, as the Soviet Union did in Hungary, go our own way undeterred, in defiance of strong, world public opinion. But, as we all know, material power, indispensable though it may be, is not the sole basis of international influence; and though our power has declined, we have certainly left our mark on international history in the postwar years.
My Lords, let us have a look at the record. It was the initiative by Ernest Bevin that gave the first impulse to the working out of the Marshall Plan, that most successful and beneficent of all the post-war international enterprises. Bevin was one of the first, if not the first, to see the need for a North Atlantic Treaty as the basis for our post-war security, and was one of the first to work for it. It was Sir Anthony Eden who salvaged Western European Union from the wreck of the European Defence Community. It was Eden's plan for Germany that engaged the attention of the Berlin Conference of 1954. It was that same plan that formed the basis of the proposals put forward jointly by the Western Powers at the Summit Conference of 1955. It is that same plan again, modified to meet the new circumstances, which was jointly submitted by the Western Powers at the earlier session 1071 of the present Geneva Conference of Foreign Ministers in May last—and it is true to say, I think, that we played no small part in shaping those modifications. Let us recall, also, that the meeting of the 1955 Summit Conference itself owed much to British initiative. And, as the Prime Minister justly claimed the other day, the convening of both the Geneva Conference on Nuclear Tests and the Geneva Foreign Ministers' Conference was largely due to the initiative of Her Majesty's Ministers; and if a Summit Conference now follows, the Prime Minister will have played no small part in bringing it about.
And, my Lords, that is not all. In the economic sphere we have been perseveringly active. When the six Western European Powers, by the Treaty of Rome, largely under French impulse, set up the exclusive European Economic Community, it seemed to us that this would split Europe and undo some of the work of the past. Our first attempt to remedy this—the wider Free Trade Area, embracing all the O.E.E.C. Powers—did not succeed, largely owing to French opposition. Our second attempt, the organisation of what has been called the "Outer Seven", now promises well One of the major obstacles has been removed by our projected agreement with Denmark. We can now hope to work out a new synthesis between the association of the "Outer Seven" and the community of the "Inner Six", for the benefit of all.
Now it is worth noting, I think, that all these initiatives of ours have one common characteristic. They have all been designed to promote international agreements. By helping to bring them about, we have, of course, served our own interests. That is the first duty of any Government. But we have tried also to serve a wider, international interest. Historians have rightly pointed out that this double objective—the attempt to serve both the national interest and the general interest—has been a consistent mark of our own foreign policy. It has been imposed on us as a maritime and trading community with vulnerable interests in all parts of the world. That is why the characteristics of our foreign policy have usually been caution, compromise, patience and a long view.
1072 In our time, the mark of the post-war international scene has been the formation of the regional association, or community, for common defence. In that community we have found our post-war security. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said, we may hope to move on a common basis into other fields. And I think that we have been wise enough to see that by serving the community, by being a good member of the association, we are most likely to exercise our full influence. Membership of a community certainly limits freedom of independent action, but within those limits it opens up a field for useful initiative within the community. It gives an opportunity for the weaker as well as for the stronger members to have their say. It tends to reduce inequalities among members.
There certainly can be special relationships within the community. Our special relations with the United States have been the cause of some jealous concern on the part of some of our European associates, and undoubtedly we have a special relationship with the United States. It is based on historical fact. It is based also on intimate war-time cooperation. It is not always a harmonious relationship—indeed, it is because we are so close that we sometimes differ so much. But at its best, it can and does strengthen the international community; and I think it is fair to say that this is the way we ourselves try to use it.
One of the complaints we have heard recently is that we are, or have been, too ready to compromise with the Russians. In some quarters there have been what seem to me rather foolish murmurings about "another Munich." There is no parallel whatever between 1959 and 1938. In the 'thirties, we were weak and disunited, at home and abroad. Now we are united and armed. We have done what Winston Churchill said that we ought to have done in 1938: we have armed to parley. In recent months, we ourselves have put to our allies our ideas about the great problem of our time, as it seems to me we have the right and duty to do. Some of these ideas have been accepted; some of them have not. But we and our Allies have, in the end, moved forward together on an agreed and united basis for our parley with the other side.
1073 There is another difference between 1959 and 1938. In the late 1930's, war seemed inevitable: there was an impending sense of doom. I do not think that that is the situation to-day. Khrushchev, unlike Hitler, has no need to go to war, and the balance of nuclear terror is making both sides very cautious about running the risks of any kind of war. The differences between the two sides in the general negotiations are vast. The area of possible immediate agreement is narrow. But—and this seems to me to be important—both sides seem to be agreed upon seeking agreement upon the narrow basis as the first of a number of possible succeeding steps. In point of procedure, of course, there is no reason at all why the Foreign Ministers themselves should not reach agreements, if these were possible, both on nuclear tests and on an interim solution for Berlin, provided that they were given the necessary day-to-day instructions and the necessary final authority by their Governments.
But since it appears to be true that at any rate one of the Heads of Government wants himself to conclude any agreement, if there is to be one, a Summit Conference seems to be called for. I have never been a supporter of Summit Conferences, because they have tended to raise delusive hopes and because they have been a forum for long public propaganda speeches. But this time these disadvantages may well be avoided. The Foreign Ministers have set a good example by getting down to real negotiation, in a calm atmosphere and in private, and it is to be hoped that the Heads of Government, if they meet, will do likewise. As the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, has reminded us, it has been suggested again and again by the Prime Minister—and not by the Prime Minister alone—that at the next Summit Conference there should be a narrowly limited objective and that, if this objective is achieved, it will be the first Summit Conference of a series. On this basis, a Summit Conference may well take a significant step towards international harmony; and we must all hope that it will.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Strang, speaks with tremendous knowledge and experience, and one 1074 is tempted to follow the path which he laid down in his speech the whole way and to take up practically everything he said. I think that it would be most useful if we could have a debate at some time on the lines that he has laid down, not because we necessarily disagree with most of what he said—indeed, there is a great deal with which I would agree—but because we are concerned to-day to deal with the narrower question of how we can best help, if we can, in the discussions that are starting at this moment in Geneva. I propose to confine my remarks to that subject, rather than to follow the tempting but more widely ranging path laid down by the noble Lord.
I would mention, however, two things to which the noble Lord referred. One is the question of British influence. I think that he is right in the instances he has given, like that of the Marshall Plan, of the effect of British influence. But if we are going to relate the possibility of our not having the voice we should like to have, we must look at the other side as well; and recently there have been many cases where, by our actions, we have lost a great deal of ground. I do not want to carry this aspect any further, because this is just the kind of topic which we might well discuss at some other time, when we are not primarily concerned with what is happening at Geneva at the present moment.
The other point is that, though it may well be there is considerable agreement among the different Powers at the present time, it does not in the least follow that this agreement is agreement which would be the wish of this country. We have, it is true, agreed with the other members of the West, but it does not in the least follow that on each occasion it is the view of our people that has been accepted. Indeed, on many occasions we have had to give way to the views held by the other side. But I want to deal with the question which is coming before the parties at Geneva at the present time.
The noble Earl, Lord Home, dealt with differences of opinion in the Labour Party. I think he dealt with this matter very gently, and I make no complaint of his having done so. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, also referred, though with rather more approval, to the difference of 1075 opinion in the Labour Party at the present moment. I fully agree that at some time the Labour Party has got to come to agreement over this question. But I think it is right, and a good thing, that we should discuss any difference of opinion freely, openly and courageously, and then come to a decision. We have the machinery for doing so, and we shall come to a decision at the Annual Conference, provided that the Prime Minister does not order his Election before we have it. In that case we may be put in some difficulty.
Assuming that we have an Annual Conference, I can promise the noble Earl that the Labour Party will come to a decision, and a firm decision, on our policy; and I think it will be accepted by the Party as a whole. I would submit that that is a proper, reasonable and fair way of making up one's mind on what is a very, very difficult problem. It would be ridiculous to suggest that this is an easy problem, on which everybody on this side ought to be in agreement, and that everybody on that side of the House ought to be in agreement too. I would take a bet on with the noble Earl that there is as much difference of opinion on his side of the House as there is on this side. The speeches that have been made this afternoon do not indicate complete agreement on the other side of the House. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, is not one that I should imagine the Leader of his Party would accept in toto. I think there was a difference in emphasis, a difference in approach and a difference in detail; and I think he would be the first to agree. I do not blame him in the least; he is perfectly entitled to put these views forward. But do not let us assume that disagreement on this subject is on one side only. We are all thinking, and eventually each Party must come to a decision.
I want to start off my consideration of this matter by taking the view that no side wants war and that no side intends war. The noble Earl and noble Lords may have read an article in The Timeslast Wednesday which dealt with the grave losses incurred by the Russians during the war. It referred to something like 45 million of the population. I think that figure is rather fanciful, but 1076 it is a fact that the population of the Soviet Union to-day is less than it was in 1939, and that, whatever calculation you make, they have lost something like 20 million of their people, mostly men, which accounts for the fact that a large number of women are obliged to carry on occupations which normally would be carried on by men. That has been kept a secret for some time, I understand, but the facts have now emerged.
A country that has lost 20 million of its population in a normal war is hardly likely to be enthusiastic about starting another war, or even contemplating another war. This was a war in which they were victorious. In a war fought under present conditions we can all consider and make up our minds what the losses would be. Those who take an extreme view say that the whole nation would be wiped out; but even if one takes a less extreme view, it would be far, far more than 20 million lost. Therefore I rule out, for the purpose of our negotiations with the Soviet Union, the possibility either that they want another war or that they are prepared to make another war, either as an instrument of policy or for any other purpose. And I think we must accept the fact that we on our side are not prepared to make another war, although our losses were not so heavy as those of Russia. Neither does any other country want war. Therefore we all start on that footing.
Accepting that, I would look at the matters which are under discussion at the present moment, to consider how far it is possible for a reasonable agreement to be reached. I would say first that it is a mistake to take the view that for every concession you get from the other side you have to make an equal and opposite concession. I do not think that is negotiation at all. There are cases where we have taken a line which I think we could not reasonably justify, and there we ought to be prepared to give way without necessarily asking for some concession which is going to be very difficult to find. For instance, there is our contention that when we come to open discussions between East and West Germany we should be represented at the rate of three to one, or something of that kind. I take the view that that was an unreasonable suggestion to make. If we give way and agree to equal representation I do not think it is reasonable 1077 to suggest that we ought to get some quid pro quofor that. On the other hand, there are many matters where it is possible to argue either way.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE)
For the purpose of clarification, is the noble Lord referring to the German Mixed Committee?
§ LORD SILKIN
Yes, that is the Committee to which I am referring. The noble Marquess knows better than I do that it is proposed at those meetings that matters should be settled by a three-quarters majority. But, of course, it is so arranged that neither party can get a three-quarters majority unless there is cross-voting. So there seems to be no particular point in putting forward this gross inequality of representation at a conference where voting is not going to be a determining factor. They are not going to pass resolutions; they are going to have discussions and discussions only. It seems to me to get this sort of meeting off on the wrong foot if you start off with one of the parties having two or three times the representation of the other. When we do eventually agree—and we have given some indication that we are prepared to agree to this—it does not seem to me to be a matter on which we should want an equivalent concession elsewhere.
On the other hand, there are matters on which the two parties have a perfectly legitimate point of view which each can maintain and sustain, and there it is necessary to compromise; and the ideal form of compromise is for the parties to meet each other halfway. But this idea that every time you make some concession you must necessarily get an equal concession from the other side does not seem to me to be the right and honest way of carrying on negotiation. Let me say at once that this applies both ways: it does not apply only to the West; it applies equally to the East. They have put forward certain claims which cannot be justified. For instance, they are asking us to agree to certain things in connection with arms. But they must be prepared to do exactly the same thing, and it would be quite unreasonable that they should ask us to make concessions because we are insisting on refusing some 1078 claims that they ought never to have made at the outset.
There are three main questions which I imagine are going to be discussed at the present Conference. The first is the future of Berlin. The noble Earl the Leader of the House was not clear as to what was the intention of Germany if these discussions broke down. He read out a paragraph from the statement of Mr. Gromyko, and it seemed to him that that paragraph was capable of clarification. But he did not read the next paragraph, and as it is a short one, I hope he will not mind my reading it. It says:Critics of the Soviet proposals go to the length of attributing to the Soviet Union intentions to absorb West Berlin, to deprive the citizens of freedom. Such strange assertions were made for instance in Mr. Herter's broadcast upon his return from Geneva to the United States. Need one say that such arguments do not contain a grain of truth and cannot attest to a desire to interpret the Soviet Union's position fairly?It is not a polite form of carrying on a discussion, but I should have thought that that paragraph makes it abundantly clear that, if it is not possible to arrive at a settlement after the discussions, the West have not surrendered their position,
I agree very much with the speech made by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, on the other question as to the abolition of tests and inspection and the matter of the reunification of Germany. I agree that it is desirable if we possibly an, to reach some kind of agreement on the abolition of tests and on inspection for that purpose. But let us be under no illusions: that is not disarmament. I suppose that any kind of agreement we can arrive at with the Soviet Union at the present time is worth having for its own sake, because of the atmosphere it creates; but it does not go very far towards disarmament, and in the last resort it is disarmament that we want, rather than a limitation of arms, inspection and so on. Indeed, it seems to me that it will be almost easier to arrive at an agreement for complete disarmament than to lay down conditions and rules as to testing and inspection. But noble Lords may have seen that I have a Motion down for next week in which I hope to enlarge on this subject, and I do not propose to do so further to-day.
I would say that if we are to go along the lines we are discussing, for want of anything better, any conditions that we 1079 try to make as regards the Soviet Union's arms—inspection and so on—must apply mutatis mutandisto ourselves We must be prepared—and I hope we are—for the same kind of inspection and rules as regards inspection of our arms as we are claiming for the other side. I have no reason to think that we should not agree to that, but in all the discussions I have seen in the Press it has never been clearly stated. It is always that we are claiming the right to inspect the Soviet Union's weapons; never that we are prepared to accept the same condition. I hope that the noble Marquess will be able to give us some assurance on that point, because it is most important.
One of the disturbing features about nuclear weapons is the threat that before many years have gone by a large number of countries will be wanting to use them. If we are to arrive at an agreement it seems to me that the only effective kind of agreement is for the complete abolition of these weapons. I think that any kind of control and inspection in the light of what is likely to happen in the near future is bound to be useless. We have France, Germany and China—and even Egypt and Israel have been mentioned. I leave it to your Lordships to imagine what might happen if these smaller Powers were in possession of dangerous weapons of this kind. Whether they would have the necessary restraint I should not like to say. I am convinced that the only hope for the world is not restriction and control, but complete abolition of these weapons. If only we can secure agreement among ourselves I think that at the present time it is not too late to ensure that complete abolition would be available throughout the world.
The third point upon which discussions will be taking place is the re-unification of Germany. I would suggest that at the present moment this is an almost impossible task. Noble Lords may have read an article by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, in yesterday's Sunday Times, I wish he were here. I wish he were able to make that speech in this House, at any rate before publishing the article in the Sunday Times, because it would be very interesting to have the noble and gallant Viscount before us so that he could be tackled on what he said. 1080 Nevertheless, he has come out pretty strongly about the question of the reunification of Germany and its difficulties. He has placed these difficulties fairly and squarely before us; namely that the West cannot allow a reunified Germany to be in the Eastern bloc—of course they cannot—and that the East will not allow a reunified Germany to be in the Western bloc.
Let us be quite frank about it. We are pressing for a reunified Germany because we believe at the present time that such a Germany would come into the Western bloc. What would be our attitude if we thought there was the slightest danger of such a Germany being in the Eastern bloc? I do not think we should be anything like so enthusiastic about a reunified Germany. I hope that I am not being unduly offensive to Germany, but we have no guarantee that Germany will not to-day or to-morrow be in the Western bloc, and the day after join the Eastern blocif it should suit her purposes. I think we are very shortsighted if we support the reunification of Germany on the basis that she is going to come with us permanently. I would suggest that that is one of the matters we might leave alone for the time being. It is not practicable. The Soviet Union will never agree to reunification unless she has good reason to believe that the reunified Germany will come over to her side.
So I would suggest, in conclusion, that we must not be ambitious in these discussions, and we must not be in a hurry. We must be patient, and we must be at least as patient as the Soviet Union is reputed to be. Nor must we take up any attitude from which we cannot retreat—better still, an attitude which we cannot justify. I myself—I ask your Lordships to forgive the personal note—have spent many years of my life in negotiations, and I have always adopted a policy which I have come to the conclusion is well worth while. I never take up an attitude that I cannot fully justify. It means, of course, that there is less room for negotiation, but I do not mind that. If one is sure that one is right at the outset, there is no reason why one should make concessions merely to ease negotiations; and if it became known that we had taken up this sort of line—that we had given careful consideration to it and were not putting 1081 forward anything we did not conscientiously believe was right—then there might still be room for negotiation and concessions. But there would be all the more reason for their being mutual.
The road is long, tedious and wearisome, but let us go on talking. Go on talking as long as it may be necessary. It is better to talk than to cease talking. The choice before the world is destruction or life. The efforts to arrive at an agreement are to-day efforts towards the greatest achievement in which any nation can take part, and I hope that we shall be as patient as may be necessary in order to arrive at an agreement on these difficult problems.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I am sure that once again we are all very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for having put down his Motion, and for having set once more the tone he did, which has been followed by all the subsequent speakers. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has repeated a theme which seems to have been running throughout the course of this debate. The noble Lord appealed for patience. Earlier on, my noble friend Lord Reading alluded to the shrewd sense of time which the Russians have, and the need for patience to negotiate with the Russians. The noble Lord, Lord Strang, from his vast experience of foreign affairs, also referred to the need for patience. I do not want to be flippant, but I am going to ask your Lordships for a little more patience this evening to listen to me.
One of the things for which I think we in this country must be profoundly grateful is that the conduct of these extremely difficult and important negotiations is in the hands of two men, both of whom are endowed with exactly these qualities—the qualities of infinite patience. The Prime Minister, among his many other remarkable qualities—I think noble Lords on all sides of the House will agree—has perhaps the deepest sense of history of any man in public life at the moment. I believe that my right honourable and gallant friend the Secretary of State, fortified by the advice which he receives from the Prime Minister, has been able to produce an atmosphere of calm common sense throughout these long, laborious negotiations.
1082 Let us just think for a moment about where we might have been. We have got right away from the November 27 idea of an ultimatum. By May 27 something very unpleasant might have been going to happen. Quietly and patiently we have worked the thing through, and we are, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, still talking, and are very gradually making a little progress. I should like to remind your Lordships of certain observations made by the Prime Minister in another place in the very short speech which he made in winding-up the foreign affairs debate. He drew the attention of honourable Members to this fact. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 608 (No. 142), col. 1494]:On the Western side we meet continually. We make journeys and see each other, but there is a kind of gulf fixed between East and West.Well, my Lords, I submit to you that the Prime Minister has done everything in his power to bridge this gulf, and it is certainly the policy of Her Majesty's Government to do everything to bridge this gulf. We do not have strong doctrinaire ideas against contact with the Russians; the reverse is in fact the case.
I think I might at this juncture say one or two words about the creation of an organisation of which your Lordships are, I think, aware. That is the Great Britain—U.S.S.R. Association, of which the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, is President. This is an Association which has been created for the purpose of increasing contacts between our country and the U.S.S.R. The members of this Association are drawn from the major political Parties, and it is an Association which is genuinely representative of this country, It has, as your Lordships know, only recently come into existence, but here again is an earnest of the attitude of mind of Her Majesty's Government to seeking how we can learn to live with Russia and how perhaps Russia—and this is equally important—can learn to live with us. There is a real effort being made. The same thing applies, of course, in the realm of trade.
In winding up a debate such as we have had to-day I will try, if I can, to draw together the threads of the various speeches to which I have listened with very great interest. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, referred to the question 1083 of parity on the German Mixed Commission. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, also referred to this question, as did the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood. I would simply say this: that this obviously is a question which is now under discussion and an important one, but I should like to remind your Lordships of what was said by Mr. Herter at a Press Conference in Washington on July 9. He expressed the view that the numbers involved on each side in the constitution of an all-German committee was not a matter of primary importance, and that view is a view which is shared by Her Majesty's Government. We do not consider that this is a question of primary importance, and I perfectly take the point made both by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that the thought of prestige and pride should not be allowed to fog this issue. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, referred in the course of his remarks to a new approach to Russia. I think that what he was saying is very much in the minds of the leaders of the political thought of Her Majesty's Government, and this one instance that I have given you is one of many. It happens to be the most recent and I think is one which will be of increasing importance—that is, this Great Britain—U.S.S.R. Association.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, the noble Marquess did not say whether this Association had Government support. He said it was under the Presidency of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, but that does not necessarily mean that it is supported by Her Majesty's Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I had anticipated that the noble Lord might ask that question. Suffice it to say at the moment this Association has the blessing of Her Majesty's Government. The exact form of that blessing I shall be able to tell the noble Lord, I hope, later on, but not to-day.
In the speech of my noble friend the Leader of the House I was particularly glad to hear him say that the abolition of tests is not disarmament. He followed that up by saying that our choice, the way in which we go, is the way of negotiation; and that I think has been abundantly proved by every statement which 1084 has been made by Government spokesmen. We are for negotiation. But here I find myself in a difficulty with the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. He said that it is safe to assume that we do not want a war and that Russia does not want a war. He drew our attention to the immense losses of life that had been sustained by Russia in the last war, as did the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. Whether it was 20 million or 25 million is of no consequence, but it was a vast figure. And the noble Lord would have us believe that because of that desperate carnage, because of the suffering Russia has had, it is inconceivable, and we must not bring into our thoughts the possibility, that she may make a war. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, I cannot agree with that. Are we completely to disregard the observations of the avowed leader of Russia, Mr. Khruschchev? Was he making a joke in bad taste when he was talking with Mr. Harriman? Can we completely disregard that sort of talk? I submit to noble Lords on the other side and in all quarters of the House that we cannot do that, but we can all accept the premise that we do not want a war. There I am in total agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. But it is a false assumption to think that because we do not want one a war could not be brought about. Therefore, alas! we have to take the steps necessary to protect ourselves against such an eventuality.
Perhaps this might be the proper moment for me to answer the question that was put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood—namely, the question of the use by ourselves of the atomic weapon. As this is a most important and delicate matter, I think your Lordships will forgive me if I read, word for word, from a Defence White Paper of 1958. For reference, it is Command 363, and I am quoting from paragraph 12:…it must be well understood that, if Russia were to launch a major attack on them, even with conventional forces only, they would have to hit back with strategic nuclear weapons. In fact, the strategy of N.A.T.O. is based on the frank recognition that a full-scale Soviet attack could not be repelled without resort to a massive nuclear bombardment of the sources of power in Russia.I think that that answers the question which was put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, perhaps the noble Marquess will allow me to intervene on this very important point. I had rather understood that Government policy had changed somewhat, and that there was now the possibility of repelling a major attack, possibly with conventional weapons, or with tactical atomic weapons. It seems to me that the noble Marquess is making a most important pronouncement on behalf of the Government which is slightly at variance with what has been recently said.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I think, if he will cast his memory back, that he will observe that I used these words:… they would have to hit back with strategic nuclear weaponsI then went on to use the words which he may have thought were at variance with present day policy—namely, the reference to:… a massive nuclear bombardment of the sources of power in Russia.Those words are taken from a Defence White Paper of 1958, and so far as I am aware there has been no alteration of opinion in that regard.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, has there been any change of opinion in N.A.T.O.—in the meetings that have taken place in N.A.T.O. since—with regard to N.A.T.O. strategy? I agree with my noble friend. I thought that N.A.T.O. strategy was to begin with the use of tactical and not strategic nuclear weapons.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I think the noble Lord is perfectly correct. I started off with "tactical"—I beg your Lordships' pardon, "strategic"—and then went on. Those are the words which I have taken some pains to transcribe accurately, and I think your Lordships can take it from me that they are accurate.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
It is Command Paper No. 363 of 1958. Of course, if I am wrong, I will at once take steps to correct this statement. Naturally, I will report back to your Lordships without fail.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Marquess? What he has just said would imply, would it not, in meeting the objections of Mr. Frank Cousins, that we could quite honestly say that we would never drop the first H-bomb indiscriminately against directives which had not a military significance? That is the implication in the demand of Mr. Cousins.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I think that as we are talking about a matter of the most vital importance it would be most unwise and improper for me to depart from the form of words which I have already given. Therefore, I should be grateful if your Lordships would not press me on this matter further. I gave the answer to the best of my ability and I should prefer not to be drawn further into this discussion. I think it would be unwise.
The noble Lord, Lord Glyn, who was good enough to bring his Question into the body of this debate, has put me in a slight difficulty. I took it that the Question that he was asking me referred back to the Question which he originally asked, I think in July, 1954, because the words that he has used on this occasion were almost identical to the words that he used then. I hope that I have not misunderstood the Question, but, judging from the observations of the noble Lord afterwards, I think that I am in a position to reply. I would say at once that Her Majesty's Government entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, and we wish very much indeed that friendly relations with Saudi Arabia should be restored. That is what we have been trying to do all along. I do not want to go into past history, with which the noble Lord is entirely familiar. I feel that to rake up the past will not improve the prospects for the future. I can only say this: that if, as the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, has told us, Prince Feisal is anxious to build a bridge, to find a way, we shall be more than pleased, and will do whatever we can within reason to help him build that bridge.
But there is one thing that I think I must say to the noble Lord. Lord Glyn, and that is that we cannot consider "buying back", if I may use the expression, our diplomatic relations by making concessions at other people's expense. I 1087 am quite certain that the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, would not wish us to do anything of the kind. From the knowledge that I have, the attitude of mind of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman and of the Ruler of Abu Dhabi is opposed to taking the differences that exist at the moment to arbitration. So there we are in a difficulty. But we are in constant touch with the Saudi Arabians, and I think that the noble Lord can rest assured that the Foreign Office is far from being unaware of the importance and value of the traditional old friendship that we have with the Saudi Arabians, and that we are doing everything in our power to restore that friendly relationship.
The noble Lord, Lord Strang, reminded us that material power was not everything. He reminded us of the initiatives that have been taken as the result of the thinking of British politicians—I deliberately say "British politicians" for the noble Lord, Lord Strang, was not referring to the men of any particular Party. He reminded us of the initiative taken by Mr. Ernest Bevin with the Marshall Plan and the N.A.T.O. Alliance. He reminded us of the initiative taken by Sir Anthony Eden at the time of the collapse of E.D.C., by the creation of W.E.U. He reminded us that in 1955 it was thanks to the initiative of Her Majesty's Government that that Summit Conference took place. He reminded us that it is again largely due to the initiative of Her Majesty's Government that both the Conference on Nuclear Tests and the Foreign Ministers' Conference are taking place at all. So I think that we need not feel too gloomy about the position of the United Kingdom in the world. Even, as it is doubtless true, if we have lost a great deal of our material power, we still have a tremendous influence in the counsels of the world. That is why it is so important that we should retain our balance and our calm and our patience. I remember the noble Lord, Lord Strang, described British foreign policy as being based on caution, compromise, patience and a long view. Well, I hope that in the present negotiations we are living up to that admirable description, as I think it, of British foreign policy, and I believe we certainly are.
I do not wish to weary your Lordships by going into any flights of fancy 1088 of my own. I should like to conclude by simply saying this—and I am repeating what has already been said by other speakers in this debate. I believe that what is going on at Geneva is just a beginning and, as the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, said in his opening speech, we must look forward to a series of conferences at the highest level where outstanding problems, such as those that the noble Lord himself enumerated and others that I could add to them, will be discussed. The Prime Minister has made it clear all along that it was his hope that there should be a Summit Conference; but, equally, he has made it perfectly clear that he never believed in a Summit Conference as being an end in itself. He has said to us that probably, if a Summit Conference can be brought about, the most hopeful area in which we can work will be exactly the question of general disarmament. I am quite certain that, thanks to the careful handling of affairs in Geneva, the close co-operation of the Allies and the frank statements that have been made in Westminster, we have got a proper sense of proportion over what this Geneva Conference is and over what the Summit Conference may perhaps give us.
I felt earlier on that there was an exaggerated idea about the possibilities of the Summit Conference; and I think that the warning we were given to-day by my noble friend the Marquess of Reading was justified: that we should not inflate (I think these were the words he used) the idea of the Summit Conference but should realise that it might be only one in a series. The noble Marquess also allowed himself to offer a very serious piece of advice to Her Majesty's Government and to those other countries negotiating at present. He said: let not the ideas of armour propreinterfere with reason. Let us not ride high horses out of pride, because this could lead to a serious fall. He advised us against brandishing a bundle of proposals that we knew the Soviets could not accept. He was very much in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin: do not hurry, be patient, do not be proud, do not consider that every concession demands a counter concession.
My Lords, I think that this excellent advice will be taken. With great respect, I am not convinced that all this advice 1089 was necessary, for I feel that our affairs are being conducted in the most admirable, patient and skilful way and I am quite certain that, before I sit down, I can say that I know that from this House, from every corner, the good wishes go out from all of us to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. We all wish him well in his negotiations, and we all pray that he may hang on to the qualities of patience, imagination—for I believe that to be a quality which is very necessary too, so as to be able to appreciate the problems of the other side, to which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was drawing our attention—courage, loyalty to principles and steadfast work with our Allies.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, perhaps the noble Marquess would allow me to put one question to him arising out of his extremely interesting speech. Implicit in that speech, quite clearly, was the fact that Her Majesty's Government can draw no valid distinction now in the event of a major attack upon the West by Russia between the use of tactical atomic weapons and the use of the major strategic weapon, the H-bomb. I happen to think that that view is absolutely right. I think that if there were any misapprehensions on this business, if it were felt that you could draw a valid distinction between the use of the tactical atomic weapon and the strategic hydrogen weapon, we might all blunder into a Third World War largely based on that understanding. But it is, I would suggest, an observation of the greatest possible importance. I do not think all of us were quite aware that that was the clearly held view of the Government—it has been my clearly held view for a very long time—but it is an announcement of tremendous importance, and as the noble Marquess himself suggested, if there is any inaccuracy about it he will come and inform the House. I simply want to get this point clear, because I think it is frightfully important not only for this country but for the whole world.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord has had the same experience as I have on occasions; to find that a letter was dull 1090 throughout but was interesting in the postscript and that the postscript was perhaps the important part of the letter. I am not prepared to add a postscript to my observations.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, I have risen to ask leave to withdraw the Motion. I want to take little time in doing it, because I understand that there is more Business to follow the withdrawal. I should like just to make two points. The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, in the course of his speech made the suggestion that a precedent was being established to-day by having a Foreign Affairs debate on the eve of the Conference. I hope that no other noble Lord will think any precedent is being established, because I personally should be very strongly opposed to such a precedent. It so happens, by the accident of circumstances, that the White Paper on the first part of the Geneva Conference was not available until some time early last week. That was followed by a debate in another place in which the Foreign Secretary, who is conducting these negotiations, had his own statement to make. The earliest day this House could have had a debate was today, when the Conference is reassembling. If we had missed to-day, we should not have had a debate: and I think that, although it was getting very close to being dangerous, we have had it without any ill-effects upon the Conference, and I do not think that anybody will complain.
The other point was a personal reference made by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, who quoted from a speech which I made early in the year in a debate on nuclear disarmament. He need not have quoted the speech for my benefit; I am very aware of it. But if, tomorrow, he will look at the speech I have made to-day, he will see that I did give a reason why there was some modification in the position which I took up then. I admit that quite frankly: but I do emphasise, as I did then, the difficulties with which we should be confronted in seeking to give effect to the policy to which I have referred. I should like to point out, however—because he did not quote this part of my speech, which I 1091 think is important and relevant—that I did say [OFFICIAL REPORT, VOl. 214, col. 167]:We want to see all weapons of mass destruction outlawed everywhere. We want to see a complete shutdown of the production of nuclear weapons. We agree that an extension of the production and ownership of these weapons would increase the existent menace to humanity. We want to achieve a ban on tests. Indeed, we want to go further; we want comprehensive controlled disarmament over the whole field of armaments.I think that if the noble Lord will do me the honour of reading my speech against this statement, he will find that the variation is not so great as he thought.
LORD ST. OSWALD
I hope the noble Lord did not think for one moment that I was quoting his speech against him. He knows how very uncharacteristic of me that would have been.
§ LORD HENDERSON
No. On the contrary, it was a perfectly fair comment. There is a difference between the speech of to-day and the speech I made in February. Having said that, my Lords. I ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.