HL Deb 22 July 1959 vol 218 cc389-435

3.21 p.m.

LORD SILKIN rose to call attention to the urgent need for a revision of the Charter of the United Nations with a view to incorporating in the Charter provisions for promoting world peace through the development of enforceable world law; to urge Her Majesty's Government to take all possible steps to secure that a Charter Review Conference be held by the United Nations in 1960; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, when the war came to an end the nations of the world, both those defeated and those who were victorious, hoped that that was the last war the world would see. The victorious nations got together and they started the United Nations. The League of Nations, which had failed us, was thrown over, and it was hoped that the United Nations would be an organisation which would for all time be effective in preventing a third or further world war. The high hopes which were at that time entertained are enshrined in the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations, from which I should like to read one or two short extracts: We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind"— and for various other purposes including To practise tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and To unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and To insure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest…have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims. Those words are contained in the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations, to which to-day eighty-one nations have subscribed. The first Article puts this in positive form and sets out the main object of the United Nations, which is to maintain international peace and security, and so on.

We are now fifteen years from the time when the United Nations was formed, and it has achieved much. It would be idle to pretend that the United Nations has completely failed us, but it has stopped very far short of the noble objective which I have just read out and which is contained in the Preamble. Far from having established a world where peace and security reign, we have to-day fears and threats of war which are greater than ever in the history of the world. The powers to annihilate populations, to devastate large areas and to create world destruction have made enormous progress—far more progress than the material progress which we have made since the end of the war. The testing of nuclear weapons has become a grave threat to health and even to the existence of future generations.

Now why has the United Nations failed? It has failed partly because the Charter of the United Nations has proved to be ineffective for the accomplishment of the task which it had set itself. Perhaps I might mention three respects in which the Charter has failed. First of all, there is the Veto, which was insisted upon at the time both by the United States and by the Soviet Union. The effect of the Veto is that any one nation on the Security Council can defeat the combined views of the remaining six. There is, secondly, the method of appointment of the General Assembly, where nations great and small have equal representation. Thirdly, and in my view most important of all, there are no means by which effective collective measures for the removal of threats and for the suppression of acts of aggression can be taken. The United Nations may pass resolutions objecting to the use of force or threats of force, but it has no means by which its views can be enforced.

Instead of collective measures, the nations of the world have divided themselves into armed camps, each camp vying with the other in building up stronger and more destructive implements of mass destruction. Even more frightening is the fact that, whereas at present only three Powers possess nuclear weapons, in five or ten years time there may well be twenty nations, or even more, possessing these frightful weapons. At the best, by a process of mutual impoverishment and delay in dealing with the less developed areas, we may preserve an uneasy and temporary balance. At the worst, there may be set loose forces which could destroy civilisation as we know it, together with a great part of the population of the world.

What hope then is there for the world? A number of interested persons throughout the world have created various organisations for the purpose of trying to induce the world back to sanity and salvation. Chief among these are, first, an organisation called the World Federalists, which is, broadly speaking, a people's popular movement. Secondly, there is what is known as the World Parliament Association, which is an international organisation of members of various Parliaments spread over a wide number of countries, whose purpose it is to keep this matter alive and to draw to the attention of their respective Governments the problems with which we are confronted. In this country we have a branch of the World Parliament Association, a British branch, of which about one-third of the Members of Parliament are members. They come from all Parties. I should not like to say which of the Parties predominates in that group, but it is probable, at any rate, that the Labour Party and the Conservative Party are about equal.

At the last Annual Conference of the World Parliament Association, which was held in Versailles, in the Palace of Versailles, under the patronage of the French Government, it was decided to set up an International Committee to consider and report as to what changes were required in the Charter of the United Nations to make this Charter effective for the purpose for which it was created. There is no quarrel whatever with that purpose: our only concern was to make the Charter effective for that purpose. A strong international Committee was set up consisting very largely of international lawyers, and I was appointed as its chairman. I think the setting up of this Committee was timely, because the Charter itself provides that at the end of ten years of the existence of the United Nations the members of the United Nations were to get together and to consider what amendments, if any, had been rendered necessary as a result of the ten years existence of the United Nations. Two years ago they did get together, and it was decided to set up a Charter Revision Committee, but to postpone action for two years. The United Nations is meeting again in the autumn of this year for the purpose of deciding whether the function of revising the Charter should now be put in motion, and this will be decided by a majority vote of the members of the General Assembly and by a vote of the Security Council.

One of the objects of the Motion which I have put down is to persuade Her Majesty's Government to give their support at the General Assembly to the holding of a Charter Revision Conference, and I hope very much that Her Majesty's Government will see their way to use whatever influence they have, both by vote and otherwise, to ensure that the Charter Revision Committee is set up; and I hope that the noble Marquess who is to reply will be in a position this afternoon to give us the views of Her Majesty's Government on this very vital question. The object of the revision of the Charter must be, as I have said, to make the Charter an effective instrument to carry out its original objective. Nobody wants to amend the Charter just for the sake of amending it. The Committee over which I preside had this in mind throughout its deliberations, and we have produced a draft report which is being submitted to the next Annual Conference of the World Parliament Association, which is to be held next September in Switzerland, in Berne.

I should like to tell the House some of the recommendations which we have made. First, we propose that a World Parliament should be set up to take the place of the General Assembly. One of the main differences would fee in its composition. The General Assembly has an equal number of members from every nation that has a membership of the United Nations. Whether it be Iceland, the United States or the Soviet Union, they are equally represented. We propose that representation should be weighted, partly on the basis of population and partly on the basis of the political importance of the different countries.

Calculations have been worked out giving our ideas as to how the representation should take place, and we propose a membership of about 600. There would also be a Second Chamber of about 200, constituted in much the same way as our House of Lords and having similar functions. That is to say, it would be a Revising Chamber, and it would be a Chamber which could, for a short period, hold up any proposals made by the World Congress; but eventually, in the last resort, the views of the World Congress must prevail. There would also be a World Executive, carrying on the day-to-day work of the World Government, which would act as a sort of Cabinet. It would take the place of the Security Council; its decisions would be by a majority vote, and there would be no right of Veto on the part of any member of the World Executive.

The function of the World Parliament would be to make enforceable world laws, which would be binding on the nations of the world, for the purpose of regulating the external relations of the nations. It would not be concerned in any way—and I want to emphasise this—with the internal administration of the various countries, except, of course, to the extent that anything done internally in any country might endanger the peace of the world. There would be International Courts to settle disputes as to world law, and there would be Regional International Courts.

There would also be an Equity Tribunal to settle disputes involving matters where there is no law in existence governing the rights of the nations involved. The Equity Tribunal would be there to define what are those rights. A good example would be the fishing rights of nations such as Iceland and Norway, which have in recent years caused some difficulty. At the present time there is no effective machinery for dealing with matters of that kind. Our method of settling our dispute with Iceland is to send gunboats. That is not the most satisfactory way of dealing with a problem of that kind. There ought to be some tribunal—and we propose that there should be—at which a matter of this kind can be settled; and once a decision had been made it would be binding upon all parties. Another instance is where there is national discrimination against any particular country. Any country which felt that it was being discriminated against, whether by way of trade or in any other way, would have the right to go to the Equity Tribunal and get a decision from them.

The World Parliament would be in a position to make enforceable laws, as I have said, which would be on the basis of majority decisions. Having made those laws, there would have to be provisions for enforcing them and it is proposed that there should be an International Police Force which would be recruited from the different nations but which would be answerable to the United Nations itself. It would have power to take action, not only to restrain aggression but to deal with individuals who were responsible for committing breaches of world law. There is a very interesting precedent for that in the case of the Nuremberg trials. There was some doubt at the time of the Nuremberg trials as to whether there was any juridical justification for carrying out those trials. We should put this beyond all doubt, and it would be open to the World Authority, through its police force, to take action against individuals who were accused, and who were found guilty after trial, of action which was calculated to cause breaches of world law.

It would, of course, be axiomatic that there would be complete disarmament of the individual nations. Indeed, once there was an authority which was capable of taking action and which had the force to preserve the peace, there would be no possible reason for individual nations to burden themselves with forces for the same purpose. We have a parallel in the domestic arrangements of the different countries. There was a time when people walked about fully armed in order to ensure their own personal safety. To-day it is an offence to walk about armed. We trust in our police force and, generally speaking, with complete justification. There is no reason except pure conservatism why we should not approach international problems in exactly the same way. Of course, nuclear weapons could be destroyed completely. They would no longer be necessary, even in the forces of the International Police Force.

These, very broadly, are the mechanics for the revision of the Charter from the point of view of preserving world peace. The Report also refers to existing agencies of the United Nations which should be under the supervision of the World Parliament. But we think that there is a strong case for the re-examination of the functions with a view to securing better co-ordination between them. There is a considerable amount of overlapping and unnecessary expenditure on the part of a number of these agencies and we think that there is a case for co-ordination.

A world organisation will need finance, not only for the purposes of administration and the maintenance of the police force but also to relieve poverty and raise the standard of living in the underprivileged areas of the world. Obviously, the size of the police force will be far less than the aggregate of the armed forces of the different members of the United Nations to-day. Nevertheless, money will be required, and it is proposed that the World Executive Council should prepare an annual budget and decide how much would be required, and an amount would be levied on each member. Having notified every member of the amount required of it, it would be left to the member to decide how best that amount should be raised within its own boundaries.

These suggestions—and they are only suggestions—are put forward with all modesty, but they are intended to give the lines along which we believe the only hope for the preservation of the world lies. Obviously, it would be foolish to be committed to all the details, but if the Commission which I am urging the Government to support is set up, they would have to decide upon these and many other suggestions which they would have before them. There is nothing novel about the proposals; in some cases, they were made centuries ago. I believe that Alexander I, the Emperor of Russia, made a similar proposal after the Napoleonic Wars in 1816.

The aims of the World Parliament Association, which we have never disguised, have been approved in writing by many distinguished statesmen. Of the many in this country who have expressed their complete approval of the organisation's aims, I should like to name a few. There is the Prime Minister himself, Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, Sir Anthony Eden and Sir Winston Churchill, who not only is a keen supporter of this organisation but was actually the President of a similar organisation which existed before the war known as the New Commonwealth. Mr. Duncan Sandys has written expressing his approval and we have even had some encouraging words from the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham.

In other countries many leading statesmen and even Heads of State have indicated their approval of the course that we are taking. It is interesting to note that a Motion similar to the one I am to-day moving has been moved in the United States of America, both in the House of Representatives and in Congress. Among those who have put their names to the Motion in the Senate are Senators Clark, Humphrey, Javitz, Kefauver, Kennedy, Morse and Symington. I ask your Lordships to note that not only are these representative Senators from both the political Parties in the United States, but at least four of them are being canvassed as possible candidates for the Presidency at the next Election. The resolution has been debated in both Houses in the United States and has now been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. I suppose that it is not possible in your Lordships' House to do something similar, but I hope that we shall not be behind the United States in indicating our general approval of the purposes of this Motion.

I now want to deal briefly with two of the main objections which I have heard raised to our proposals. The first is that it would involve a surrender of sovereignty. I agree that it would, to a certain limited extent: I think no more than we have voluntarily agreed to surrender in a great many cases, and no more than we have actually agreed, if we were to adhere to the terms of the Charter of the United Nations. But it does involve some surrender. I would submit that we have agreed to a surrender of sovereignty even in the case of our agreement to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, where we have surrendered our right to impose tariffs on certain goods of other nations coming into this country and have generally accepted mutual restrictions in the interests of trade. We are proposing to accept some limitation of our sovereignty in connection with the Seven Power Agreement which is at present being negotiated. So I do not feel that this is too great a price to pay if we are really going to achieve the purposes for which we are proposing to sacrifice this limited amount of sovereignty

The second objection that is frequently raised is often expressed in this way: "This is all very fine and, of course, we admire the purpose you have in mind, but you are visionary This is idealism. This may come some day, but it is not to-day a practical proposition". Coupled with that, it is asked, "What about the Soviet Union? Will you ever get them to agree to it?" On the latter point, I would say, let us start at home. Let us agree. Let the United States agree. Then I believe that the common sense and the inevitability of the proposals that I have put forward will equally find their way in the Soviet Union. But I would ask: is it more practical to engage in the interminable wrangles taking place at Geneva and elsewhere on petty points, with little hope of reaching really worthwhile decisions? I hope I am not throwing cold water on the negotiations in Geneva; I very much hope that they will succeed. But at best, what do they amount to? We shall still be left with arms; there will still be an armaments race. There may be some reduction in arms, and there may be some kind of tenuous, but certainly not stable, agreement in connection with Berlin; but it is quite too much to hope that there will be any agreement at all about Germany. Is this the line of the practical people? Are the realists content to go on as now, with the world on the brink of disaster? Are not bolder and extraordinary measures called for?

I would ask your Lordships to consider all the great and successful movements that have taken place in this world. They have always appeared visionary and idealistic at the time; their advocates have always been branded as foolish, impractical and unrealistic. Yet many of the things they have advocated have been achieved within their own lifetime. If we begin with Christianity, I need not elaborate, but that was the work of one man who was an idealist, and he gradually got a large part of the world to his views. To come down to more modern times, Wilberforce started as a voice in the wilderness advocating the abolition of the slave trade, and within his lifetime he saw it ended. Then, many of the things advocated by Lord Shaftesbury, the great social reformer, must have seemed at the time to be highly impractical and idealistic. The eight-hour day, which of course he did not live to see realised, would have been regarded as an impracticable dream. Yet we have it.

I would mention one other thing. For over 2,000 years the Jews have advocated a return to Palestine as their national hope. One man, Dr. Weitzmann, came forward and made that his life's work, and within his lifetime a Jewish State was established and he became its first President. I knew Dr. Weitzmann, and I knew a great many people who regarded him as a visionary. Of course, he was no such thing; he was a very practical man. Most people would have thought his objectives were quite visionary, idealistic and impossible of attainment. But they have been attained. So I am not unduly depressed or impressed by the fact that we are called visionaries.

As to the Soviet Union and other East European countries, I know that they are interested—they frequently send observers to our conferences—and I have high hopes that if a movement came forward in which we all "came clean", so to speak, and sought no advantages for ourselves, but were prepared to throw in our forces on condition that they threw in theirs, they would be prepared to come in. We have to-day the support of many Asian, African and South American countries; it is certainly more than a European idea. We in this country have been in the forefront of a movement for a world authority for promoting world peace through the development of enforceable world law. What a great thing it would be if this country took the lead in urging and advocating it before the United Nations. This is the psychological moment. Let us not be afraid to be thought idealists. The tough-hearted, practical men, the realists, are in Geneva and in the Foreign Offices of the world at this moment. They are, I fear, not getting us very far towards the goal that we want to achieve. We are as distant as ever from the objectives of the Charter of the United Nations—security and world peace, which every man, woman and child longs for. Let us give the idealists a chance. I beg to move for Papers.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, I rise wholeheartedly to support the Motion that has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. After the excellent and detailed introduction that he has given to the Motion there is no need for me to go into details. I should like to begin by expressing my agreement on two of the main points of the Report. The first is that one should try to get peace by amending the United Nations Charter rather than by replacing the United Nations; and secondly, that an absolutely vital amendment, without which you can do nothing at all, is to abolish the Veto system in the Security Council which gives five Powers a Veto upon any effective action. That Veto rule is often described as something that puts five Powers above the law made for all others. That is a gross understatement of its harmfulness, because what it does is to put above the law made for all others every friend of any one of these five Powers, who can be trusted to use the Veto to defend the interests of his friends. In fact, that Security Veto, which was agreed, alas! at the Crimea Conference in 1945, is the short way to a Third World War by building up alliances and blocs of nations throughout the world. That has to be abolished, whatever else is done or not done, if the United Nations is to be an effective organ for substituting justice for war between nations.

Subject to that there are certain definite merits of proceeding by amendment of the United Nations' Charter. It gives the chance of making improvements of detail as you go along. It gives the chance of testing the possibility of success for this Motion; the chance of success in attempting to make the United Nations what it is not now—namely, an effective organ for substituting justice for war between nations.

The one point to which I want to devote most of my interest to-day is to ask how we in this country, and all who believe in and want peace, can make the chance of success in this effort the greatest. My answer to that can be given in a sentence: by bringing home to all peoples the difference between the price of peace and the cost of war. Just when the United Nations was being born I wrote a book The Price of Peace. That was in 1945. I did not think it necessary to say anything about the cost of war; I had just lived through World War II, as I had lived through World War I. It seemed to us obvious that the cost of war must be far greater than any possible price of peace.

Let me first say a word about the price of peace. All ordinary men in the world desire about equally two things: the one is peace, and the other is to have their own way of life, if possible their own self-government. My answer to that is that it is almost ludicrously easy for all men in the world to get both those things, together, if only they adopt the right methods. Let me say at once that they cannot get them by negative methods. No evil in the world can be abolished by entirely negative methods like shouting "Disarmament!", or "No nuclear weapons!" As an old person who lived through two world wars and saw my friends being killed and all the suffering that occurred, I feel rather sad for the young people who get excited at the idea of abolishing nuclear weapons and leaving everything else still open to anyone who chooses to use it. It is youthfully natural, but it is also frankly absurd.

Still more absurd is unilateral action in disarmament. Disarmament must mean something which prevents both us and everybody else from making war. You cannot get rid of war by negative methods; you must have positive ones. The positive methods fall under three heads. There must be a new authority in the world to substitute justice for war. That means a court to declare what is justice between nations when they differ. It means a police force to enforce both disarmament and justice when it has been declared. And there is a third need: there must be some power in the World Authority to reduce want and inequality between nations, which is a frequent cause of unrest that may lead to war.

Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to illustrate the problem of want by something with which I was once concerned, Getting rid of the evil of want illustrates admirably the need for positive rather than negative measures. Did we, in accepting the Beveridge Report, set out to abolish want by negative means and sending to prison anybody who was poor? We did nothing of the sort. We put the alternative positive of social insurance. I want to repeat quite generally that evils cannot be driven out; they must be replaced by positive good. Let me add that there is the highest possible Scriptural authority for this view in the Gospel of St. Luke. Your Lordships must allow me to read it as it is so apposite: When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Our positive needs are a World Authority for these three purposes: of declaring justice between nations, of enforcing justice and of reducing want by such financial aid as is necessary. But let me go on and say that it is essential that this World Authority should not have powers beyond this purpose of substituting justice for war. There is a grave danger of misunderstanding in some of the words that many of us use who favour action to stop war. There is danger of misunderstanding in "World Government", though I have used it. There is even, I think, danger in the words "World Parliament" which come in this Report. Such words suggest to unthinking men, or even to thinking men, whether in Britain, Patagonia, China or Iceland, that their way of life is going to be prescribed for them by a conference sitting, say, in Timbuctoo. I do not know anything about Timbuctoo, except what the late Bishop Wilberforce told us; he said that it was a place where cassowaries "eat missionaries…hymn books, too". That sort of thing may be all right for the people in Timbuctoo. If they like that way of life let them have it, but do not force it upon me in Britain—I do not want it.

That illustrates what really is the most important theme I want to put. Every nation should be left by the World Authority to manage its own affairs and have its own way of life—to be democratic, authoritarian, Socialist, Communist, King-led, President-led or Lamaled if it wishes, until it chooses to make a change. On these terms, peace requires only that all men in the world should surrender what no man except a few lunatics and lusters for power desire to keep: the right to organise mass murder against other people or to be murdered by them. Is there anyone who does not want to surrender that? I really get rather sick about this talk of sovereignty. That is not what sovereignty means. That is only what the lusters for power and the theoreticians think about. Ordinary men want peace and would give up all that is necessary to get peace on the terms that I have put before your Lordships. The price of peace for all sane people to-day is a trifle. All people in the world can have both their strongest desires: both peace and their own way of life.

Then we come to the other side of the comparison, the cost of war. I have already said that in my book The Price of Peace, urging the methods to peace I did not even trouble to mention the cost of war. It is unfortunately sad that the victorious Powers at the Crimea Conference also did not think about the cost of war; but preferred having their own way to justice, even at the risk of war. That is what I call the crime of the Crimea Conference. It is a crime against all humanity and all those who suffered in World War II as well as World War I. World Wars I and II, I can assure your Lordships from experience, were dreadful, beyond the ideas of the young who merely shout "anti-nuclear" now.

I want to suggest to those who are anxious to substitute justice for war throughout the world that the most important service anyone can render to humanity to-day is to bring home to all people in the world the cost of war. The cost has two elements. There is what is being spent now in preparing for war; I think it is 16 million dollars or 16 billion dollars—I do not know which it is, but it is some fantastic sum. But, of course, behind that are the results, appalling beyond any imagination, and irremediable, that would happen to ourselves and to others—all of us—if we got into actual war. Those who desire to substitute justice for war between nations cannot aid their cause better than by showing in the simplest possible terms the cost and the nature of war as we have it now. There is something about that in the book written by Messrs. Granville Clark and Sohn; they give the figures of what one megaton bomb will do, and so on. I suggest that somehow we ought to set to and publicise these facts, to bring them home to all people in all countries in the world in the simplest possible language.

That needs research of all kinds. May I say that I can make no contribution to that research at this moment, through personal reasons which I need not go into. I have been desperately busy with other things. I have been engaged in getting three books published in this one year on three different subjects, one by my late wife and two by myself, and I must apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and to many of my friends for having been so negative about attending meetings of associations for stopping war. That does not mean that I believe that anything compares in importance with doing that. I can only say that now that I am getting free I shall regard the giving of any help I can to bringing home to all people in the world the cost of war as the most sacred duty that I or any man in my position could give.

I have only two final points. Science in the past centuries has given immense benefits to mankind. It has lengthened life, it has increased material wealth and leisure, and it has replaced dangerous heavy toil by use of machines. It has saved children's lives by the million in many countries. It has brought men together in hours over distances that used to take months. The services of science to humanity are immense, but all the past services would be almost as nothing in the balance against the service that science could render if it could prove to all the people in the world that substitution of justice for war was now unavoidable because war is too impossible to consider. That is the lesson that science really could bring home to us, and I hope we shall learn it. The price of peace as it is set out in the report before us or as I have tried to put it to you is a bagatelle. Any statesman anywhere in the world who feels in his bones or elsewhere that this price is too high and that mankind had better continue to risk the cost of war, ought to go and see his doctor at once, and, having seen the doctor, take a rest from public affairs until he feels better again.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, first I should like to be allowed to express my apology to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for my absence during the first part of his speech. He was very kind in giving me some idea of the lines on which he was going to speak, and I express to him by warmest thanks. I am sure that we have all been moved by the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, who speaks from his heart. We know him as one who is a great lover of humanity, who has rendered notable service for the betterment of mankind; and his plea here to-day is one that strikes a responsive chord in our hearts and increases our admiration for him.

I have come here to-day to speak in a very simple way. First I am motivated by a sense of the importance of this subject that we are debating. Indeed, as I take a broad view of the world and the strivings of mankind across the world, I am sure that there is no subject that has a greater importance than the one we are discussing at this time; first because the United Nations stands for something that appeals to the idealism of the best elements in all nations, and also because it stands there as something that allays widespread fears in the hearts of men everywhere; and it is an agency to which the highest aspirations of men of all races and colours could be harnessed. I say that because it is an attempt to settle disputes otherwise than by war. And war has so developed, and has become such a destructive thing, that we are no longer, as I have said in this House once before, confronted with the alternatives of peace or war: we are confronted with the alternatives of peace or destruction.

We are becoming a little familiar with that statement, and there is a danger in familiarity, but I should like to think that this debate in this House would speak to the whole world, emphasising that we regard the ideal of the United Nations as the most important thing on the human level that we could discuss in the interests of all the nations of the world. We are faced with an urgency, the urgency of finding an alternative to war. I would ask noble Lords to inquire what is there except the United Nations on the human level to-day which offers a better hope of settling disputes. I know of no agency that offers any greater hope. I am disappointed with the efforts that have been made in recent years by the United Nations, yet I still have faith in it. It has failed in some respects, but I believe that it is capable of being improved, enlarged and, by the experiences that we have had, of becoming an effective instrument whereby the disputes between nations can be settled.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, I have tremendous sympathy with many young people who have grown up with little remembrance of the war and who feel tremendously frustrated by their experiences in life. They want a future; they long for a future. Yet they realise that they may have no future; and they are anxious to direct their energies towards anything which offers hope to mankind. The United Nations has in recent times lost popularity to some extent through the experience of failures. If this debate can help to bring again to the notice of our people, and to other nations, the possibilities of the United Nations becoming an effective agency, I believe that it will offer to the minds of the young people whom we have in mind, not only in England but in most other countries, a focus for their adventurous idealism—a focus to which can be directed their energies for seeking a full life, one that is full for them and helpful for all who journey with them.

Last year I had the privilege of attending the Lambeth Conference. I should like here to draw attention to something in the Report of that Conference. Part of the Report urged the revision of the United Nations Charter, and it urged the setting up of some kind of International Court of Justice that could win the confidence of nations. It also urged that the United Nations should have a force adequate to enforce the decisions of this Court. Such a revision of the Charter is, I think, urgent, and I understand that room for it has been made under Article 52 of the Charter. I ought to say that that Conference, in drawing attention to the United Nations and urging the revision of its Charter, was representative of leaders from all over the world of nearly every nation and every race—leaders at any rate in one sphere of life's activities. Your Lordships may be interested to realise—I do not think it has been sufficiently emphasised—that one Bishop in every ten at the Conference last year was a coloured man; and that Conference, international, inter-racial, made emphatically in its Report the suggestion that there was need for a revision of the United Nations Charter. It urged all Christians and well wishers to give renewed support to what the United Nations stood for in the world.

But, my Lords, if this revision is to take place, then, as has already been emphasised—I will not go into it in detail —it is necessary for us to realise that there must be some surrender of national sovereignty. There can be no effective World Parliament (as one could call it), World Court of Justice or World Police Force without the surrender of some national sovereignty. Along with that Court of Justice, and in addition to that Police Force adequate for the needs of the United Nations, there needs to be a Council that will give itself continually to the positive pursuit of peace. The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has said that it is not enough to be negative; indeed, it is futile to go on concentrating on the banning of this and the banning of that, when it is the banning of war itself that we need. But we shall never be able to find peace without positively pursuing it; and if we are to pursue it positively we need to be continually investigating the causes of war. The only way I know by which we can really pursue this pathway towards peace is by a close examination, again and again, of the causes of war. While we know that now and then it may be caused by the lust for power and other ingredients in human nature, nevertheless in a great many cases the causes are economic, and they could be carefully examined so that the "haves" may be able to share more with the "have nots", and settle disputes before they arise.

Some may say, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, indicated in his speech, that all this talk is idealism and airy-fairy. Well, it is certainly idealistic. Some may say that it is building castles in the air. I do not mind. I want to declare my conviction that we can never have castles erected on the ground unless they have first been built in the air. They exist first in the vision, in the minds and in the hearts of men; and the United Nations, in spite of its imperfections, has, I believe, the possibilities of developing into an effective agency commanding the confidence of nations, possessing a Court of Justice, the decisions of which will win respect and which, with the aid of an adequate police force, will be able to ensure that those decisions will be respected.

I wish to support with all my heart the expression that is contained in this Motion, and to say again that I believe that on the human level there is no other or better alternative before mankind at this moment than the United Nations. Having said that, I hope that I may be allowed one further sentence. I believe in the unity of mankind, not because of what I see in the world, a world full of divisions; not because of what I see around me, but because of the conviction that this unity of mankind exists in the mind and heart of the Creator and sustainer of life, and that man's highest ambition is so to strive that he may bring down to earth what is there in the heart of the Author and Giver of life.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, may recall that it is just over six years ago that he and I were associated in this House together in a debate in which he raised many of the important points that he has raised to-day. It so happened that on that occasion I made a maiden speech, and I felt it appropriate that perhaps to-day I should make some further comment on these problems. Not unnaturally, I found myself comparing my ideas in 1953 with my ideas six years later, in 1959; and I found, I think, that only in one respect had I modified my previous views.

Six years ago I thought that Great Britain and the Soviet Union, in respect of their very contrasted ideologies, might still be able to move forward gradually towards some kind of a compromise. If that were so, it was obviously wise at least to prepare the blue print of Charter revision, hammered out, if possible, by as many members of the United Nations of a like mind as we could find, so that when the moment came when it could be said that the gap between us and the Soviet had narrowed—that point when perhaps a two-way traffic in ideas could pass freely between us—there would be ready a plan for the better conduct of the affairs of the international family to place before the Soviet. Perhaps the mere mutual discussion of the world order in itself would help to break down the barriers.

Since then I have found that which I had not previously understood—and here I have to disagree with the noble Lord. Lord Silkin. First of all, it is a fact—and we cannot get away from it—that the Soviet opposes every move towards Charter revision; and, secondly, whereas we have been ready to look at the necessary abandonments or relinquishments of sovereignty, the Soviet Union and those with them will not look at any relinquishment of sovereignty. Those are just facts, and they have to be faced. That does not mean for a moment that I do not see real value in continuing to discuss and plan for the future. There are, as I see it, less ambitious advances which the United Nations could make; and in that sense this afternoon I am supporting a more cautious approach. But it does imply that the grand overall plan for Charter revision, putting the Veto position right, and all that kind of thing associated with it, planning for a comprehensive, well-equipped, well-organised permanent police force, must, as I see it, be put into cold storage for another day.

If I may anticipate the noble Marquess who is to reply, it may be useful if I give my understanding of the present factual situation. I think it is relevant to remind your Lordships that on July 10, 1957, in another place Mr. Arthur Henderson asked whether steps could be taken to strengthen the authority of the United Nations without waiting for Charter review. On that occasion the Foreign Secretary's reply was that, in view of a refusal of any change by the Soviet Union, he did not think it was wise to put forward positive proposals in the face of such a negative attitude. That negative attitude continues; and I would say, quite objectively, that it will continue so long as the Peking Government is not represented at the United Nations.

I think it is also relevant to the factual situation to remind your Lordships of a comment that I found in The Times. A meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers was held at the United Nations on July 1, 1957. The Times said that while the Prime Ministers agreed that the United Nations, with their admitted failures, had to be supported, and indeed, if possible, strengthened, they also agreed that this could not best be done at present—and I stress "at present"—by pressing amendments to the Charter or by pressing for the admission of Peking. I should like to ask the noble Marquess: what is the Government's attitude to that situation to-day? The factual position, in 1957, as I see it, was this: that the Political Committee of the United Nations, with 81 members at the time, passed a resolution deferring Charter review for two years; that is to say, until the XIVth session, which starts in September. I think we should all welcome some information from the noble Marquess as to the factual position.

With so many unknown quantities it is extremely difficult for a layman such as myself to comment intelligently on this situation. I feel personally that it is right to push this matter of Charter revision along all the time. I also feel that there may be factors of which I know nothing; and, quite frankly, I do not like the idea of two possible Vetoes at the United Nations instead of one. I find that possibility quite terrifying. Yet I feel that this question of China's admission has to be faced up to at some time. For the purpose of this debate I should like to leave all those issues in the form of a great question mark.

I turn with a little more confidence to the matter of a World Police Force, because it seems to me that here we have some facts on which we can hang our theories—some known peg on which to place the theories. I should like, as a not very successful soldier, to put before your Lordships one or two technical points. Assuming that there were no political difficulties to prevent the best kind of force from being raised for the job, what sort of a force would a commander-in-chief of a World Police Force ask for? I think he is faced with two broad choices. On the one hand he can ask for a citizen volunteer force, based entirely on individual enlistment, a kind of International Foreign Legion, with the men of all nations rubbing shoulders together in international brotherhood; or he can ask for a force made up of national contributions, national contingents, but also raised on a basis of volunteers. If we assume that States which contribute a contingent have those contingents permanently on call for any need that might arise, I think we can further assume that the personnel enlisted into those contingents enlist for a specific purpose, and as such can be regarded as volunteers for the job.

Now there are many advantages and disadvantages in both these aspects of a World Police Force. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has quoted to us the work of Mr. Glanville Clarke and Mr. Louis Sohn, of the United States, and they have prepared a full scheme which represents a compromise. They recommend a standing component of some 400,000 professional soldiers, organised in units and supplied mainly from the smaller nations—very obviously one can see the logic of that—and a reserve of partially trained individuals to be called up in time of need. Those who support the voluntary army of individuals argue that only on the individual basis do you meet that element of reality to the claim that the Force is truly international in its composition and in its individual loyalty. They also point to the problem that it would be rather difficult to order a contingent supplied by a nation to move against that nation.

But, my Lords, of those two choices, at this moment I have no doubt whatever what the choice of a commander-in-chief would be. He would obviously at this moment ask for the national contingents. He would say that the available time is the deciding factor. If I may give an example, supposing that war were to break out to-morrow between two South American republics—perhaps not an unusual sort of event which we might anticipate—it is only on the basis of a national contingent force that an effective United Nations force could be moved to the site in time; and for that reason I suggest that, for years to come, that is the basis on which we must think. If we were to start to-morrow to organise a Police Force based on a loose, individual, voluntary basis, I submit that, with all the difficulties of language, of assembly, and of training—and all these things, as I see it, would have to be centralised—it would be at least six or seven years before we could say that it was available and fit for its task. So for several years, as I see it, second best is to be regarded as better than the best. I therefore suggest that, instead, a practical step is to have national contingents earmarked now, with perhaps their nucleus staffs and their controls worked out on a regional basis. That, as I see it, would permit the foundations of the more idealist kind of Force (if one can refer to such a Force as idealist) to be laid in the meanwhile.

Of the need for the "policemen", I think this much can be said. Provided that the great problem of the ideological division of the world can be kept out of the particular political issue which causes the threat to peace, the need for this Police Force will continue for many, many years. That it can be effective can, I think, be assumed when we recall that only a very small force took over from us in the Sinai Peninsula in the winter of 1956, and it has not yet been seriously challenged. It is significant that it is a small force. I do not think that the value of the force is necessarily to be judged by its size. The fact is that once you have placed a rifle into the hand of one man who has international sanction behind him, the State which attacks that one man attacks the United Nations; and on the visible evidence I think that has been hitherto an effective check on aggression. I can think—I am sure we can all think—of many similar, isolated occasions when a force of such a nature would have been effective had it been on the spot.

I always return, my Lords, to the great question mark which, as I see it, surrounds (his problem. It is the question mark which surrounds a very logical concept, and that is as to its political control. I think it is reflected immediately when you come to think who would be the commander-in-chief which one would choose to command such a Force. A number of Conservative Members of Parliament quite recently published a very detailed pamphlet on this subject, elaborating the military machinery with great logic. I think an Admiral took charge of the setting out of the pamphlet; but, if I remember aright, there was one doubt, when we got down to discussing this pamphlet, and that was where the Russians would come in on it. Quite frankly, my fear is of a different nature. I ask myself: what happens if the Russians do come in on it? —not what happens if they do not come in on it.

I am as certain as I am that night follows day that once the Communist bloc become really associated with the enlistment, maintenance, and the general management of an International Police Force, we can say goodbye to its use for the enforcement of international justice whenever there is the slightest hint of their own interests being in any way affected. Many members of the public have expressed to me the view that the United Nations should have acted in the case of the betrayal of Hungary. Certainly, without an International Police Force, it is very difficult to see what international action could have been taken—unless the Secretary-General had been prepared to jump into an aeroplane and fly into Budapest and face the consequences. But of one thing I am quite certain: that had there been an International Police Force ready, and had the Soviet Union in any way been associated with such a Force, not one man could have been moved so far as the saving of Hungary was concerned.

My Lords, Englishmen by their nature are slow to decide their loyalties, but once they have made that decision they are very firm to those loyalties, and they will not be shaken. To attain certain objectives we set up certain institutions —the North Atlantic Treaty; the United Nations itself; the Inter-Parliamentary Union; the whole great concept of World Government, with its idea of a World Police Force to enforce the law; and in lending our support to these institutions we are apt, in our traditional way, to retain loyalty to the institution itself, sometimes losing sight of the objective which was behind its creation. I personally can never forget—and here I would yield no sense of ideology to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who would infer that it is ideology which supports a different view—that the world is divided by two concepts of social order in eternal conflict. If these two concepts could find some compromise in the mellowing, healing influence of time, then I would say that we have nothing to worry about. It might be that in those circumstances we could even afford to borrow something from the ideas of the Communists. But we are up against a code of behaviour which does not permit of any compromise; and against that background, as I see it, we have to judge all these institutional proposals for a world order. Meanwhile, my Lords, let us agree that, where the smaller decisions are involved, decisions which can be kept outside the range of the ideological issues, by all means let us continue, shall we say, to look after the pence, believing that eventually the pounds may look after themselves.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, it is always a privilege to support the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in anything he moves and does, and I am never more secure, morally and politically, than when I am acting as his train-bearer. Certainly he has been at his most impressive this afternoon, and the high standard has been maintained throughout, if I may say so respectfully, by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, who has just spoken, the right reverend Prelate, and, of course, by my old master, the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge—that great servant of humanity. I hope I may be allowed to say to him that his speech this afternoon will have brought joy to all who hold him dear, whether they be with us still or with us no longer.

My Lords, the very significant Committee of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has produced a blue-print for a system of world government which, in its outlines at least, is quite precise and unambiguous. If it were carried into effect, as I hope one day something of the kind will be, it would not abolish national States but would turn us all into members of a world federation. This would leave us internal freedom, but it would certainly reduce very markedly, and I think rightly, anything that could be called sovereignty in foreign policy. As stated in the document, there would be complete disarmament of all national armies, leaving nations with only such police forces as might be necessary to maintain internal order. The point I particularly liked in the document when I read it was the fact that, once that happened, existing nuclear weapons would be destroyed. The world police force would not require any nuclear weapons of its own in order to preserve peace and law and order. To-day my noble friend has not urged us to go so far. He is calling for a world conference in 1960 with a view to revising the United Nations Charter, and I certainly support him. He does not expect, I imagine, to see a World State set up on the morrow of that conference, but he hopes, as I would, that important steps would be taken in that same direction.

There are two topics which I should like to discuss: world government, which many of us would like to see, and any reforms which could reasonably be hoped for from a world conference revising the Charter in 1960. Perhaps I may be forgiven if I deal with them together. It seems to me that three questions at once arise. First of all, is this world government a desirable ideal? Secondly, is there any hope of achieving it in the foreseeable future? And if the answer to the first question is, "Yes"—that is, if we do regard it as a desirable ideal—and at the same time the answer to the second question is hesitant—that is to say, we are doubtful whether it can be achieved in the near future—ought we to persist with this world conference for review of the Charter along these lines or should we reject the idea of a conference on the ground that it would defeat progress of a more practical and limited character?

May I consider, first of all, the question of whether world government, not necessarily precisely in all its details in the manner suggested, but in some such form, is a desirable ideal? Let us take it in its application to ourselves in any foreseeable future, and I think that that was very much in the mind of my noble friend throughout. I think it is certainly not a question of, "The Russians would never swallow it"; the first question is, would we ourselves, the people of Britain, agree to it? I certainly think that most British people would consider that world government in any form in which it is so far understood would involve the payment of a heavy price. It would certainly represent a far greater interference with our cherished national independence than was ever proposed, at any rate as an immediate possibility, by those who founded the Leauge of Nations or the United Nations. The authors of the present plan intend to leave us free in our internal affairs, a point very much stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. But they argue, and I am sure rightly, that a redistribution of wealth between the richer and the poorer countries is essential to ultimate international concord, and this means in practice that large sums will have to be collected by the taxation of the citizens of all members of the new United Nations. That is bound to involve some interference with their internal economies, and, as my noble friend Lord Silkin recognised, there must be some interference if world government is to mean much in practice.

What are the main arguments which may convince us, and the British people generally, that this price is worth paying? We are not discussing this, of course, in an abstract way—whether any price was worth paying, for example, in 1914 or in 1939. The question is, whether it is worth paying this price today, in the light of modern developments and of the fact that more than one State, and perhaps soon a number, will equally have the power to wipe out civilisation from the earth. This is an altogether unprecedented situation; there was no parallel to it in 1914 or in 1939, which everybody regards as dangerous and somewhat disastrous years.

The overwhelming appeal of world government to-day is the argument that without world government we shall have world destruction, and have it before many years are out. That conviction is a very large part of the case, as I understand it, though I do not say that it is the whole case. The world government champions are surely entitled at least to ask: what is the alternative? If anybody refuses world government because he does not want national sovereignty to be interfered with, because he wants an old-fashioned independent Britain, what is the alternative, if world destruction is not to be long prevented? There is the policy of our Government, which I readily concede is hard-working and well-intentioned—I certainly did not come down to make any Party points this afternoon. But hardly anyone supposes—I do not think that even the noble Marquess would claim—that the policy of the present Government is likely to bring about a revolutionary change in the next few years; and if it does not do that, it might well be too late.

There is the policy of my own Party, the Labour Party, associated in its most recent form with the Non-nuclear Club. I personally endorse, for what my endorsement is worth, the Non-nuclear Club as an aspiration. I welcome the proposal. I particularly admire the courage with which it is stated, towards the end of the policy document, that under this project we should be making some sacrifice in power and influence but (as it goes on to argue) this sacrifice would be abundantly justified in order to prevent the spread of nuclear production throughout the world. It faces the fact that we must actually lose power and influence ourselves in order that the world may exist. I take it to mean an immediate loss of power and influence. It is a case of casting our bread on the waters. It would seem from the document that the Party is prepared to take the risk. Even if there is to be a partial sacrifice, that is justified in the interests of world peace. But he would be a bold man who would stand up at this Box or in any public place with his hand on his heart and say that he confidently expects to see the Non-nuclear Club realised in exactly the form proposed, in the immediate future. And even under the working out of the Non-nuclear Club, the United States and Russia would retain their H-bombs and the world would continue to live under the threat of neutral annihilation.

If I may sum up for myself—and I am offering only my personal conjectures—I am not very pessimistic about world peace in the next five years, even if we do not do any better, as I might say, than we are doing now. Nor am I particularly pessimistic about the five years after that; but I hesitate about the ten years from then on. I am very pessimistic about that period if we cannot achieve something quite different from anything that seems likely to be achieved at the moment. Speaking broadly, amid all the uncertainties attending all human predictions, I would say that world government can save the world from destroying itself; and unless world government or something like it is achieved, probably nothing else can. The price that world government demands is heavy—from certain points of view very heavy—but not only is it worth paying; it is a terrible responsibility to refuse to pay.

If the ideal in this sense is desirable, something which we in this country can accept, is there any chance of its being achieved in the near future? The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, who has had to leave, dealt with the organisation in a thoroughly realistic—or, if you like, from our point of view, pessimistic—fashion. No doubt there are many strong arguments that can be brought forward by the sceptics upon the possibility of achieving this. Here I agree with my noble friend Lord Silkin, who put this point better than I am likely to do. If world government is the means and, in a human sense, the only means of world salvation, and if we believe in any degree at all that the world is capable of sanity, in its wish for survival rather than self-destruction, we must believe that, given sufficient moral and intellectual leadership the world can be brought to accept its only hope of rescue. Where is this moral and intellectual leadership to come from? Everybody in public life can do his bit. Those who are more influential can do more than the humbler ones. But in the last resort, looking round the world, there is no centre or organ or source of leadership for this purpose to compare with our own British Government, and we should be guilty of a shocking dereliction of duty if we were convinced that the ideal was right and at the same time failed to bend every energy to lead others towards it.

It may be said, to come down to the concrete, which is the form before us this afternoon, that when we attempt to secure in 1960 a Charter revision along the lines suggested we shall be distract- ing attention from much more promising movements. I happen to be the honorary treasurer of the United Nations Association. I am speaking in a personal capacity this afternoon, but I must certainly mention that the official policy of the Association differs in certain respects from that put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and to that extent differs from what I am trying to say to the House. The United Nations Association agree 100 per cent. with the need for some kind of world authority, and they have put themselves on record to that effect in various resolutions. They differ somewhat, however, from the line taken by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and others of us this afternoon as regards the question of how to get there and as regards timing.

They fear that any Conference held in the near future to discuss far-reaching amendments to the Charter would result in bitterness—though I feel that their fears are exaggerated. They would like to see the Government seek out ways of moving in the right direction by new and agreed interpretation of existing clauses, rather than by formal amendment, until the time is ripe for an agreement on such amendment. I mention their views because it is my duty to mention them, but I hasten to point out that I stand here with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. I agree with what the Association say, as do many of us—and we may hear it from the Government—as to the tremendous importance of getting a permanent United Nations Force established.

Members of the House will recall that I was associated with a plan of that kind, and I certainly agree that there is no subject more promising for progress. Of course all of us on this side of the House lay the greatest stress on any disarmament that may be effected and on any success that may be achieved in inducing the nations to work together in joint programmes of social and economic welfare. All those views have been stressed, and rightly stressed, and will be stressed again in many foreign affairs debates. I take the point of view which I have associated with the United Nations Association, though it is associated with many other bodies and individuals—it is a point of view that I profoundly respect—that we cannot expect very much from a Conference demanding Charter revision in 1960, and that it might positively retard other projects. But, at the end of the day, I repeat that I am behind the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and those who beg the Government to launch a movement now for the reform of the Charter in the direction of the World State.

I have stuck to what I suppose could be called a reasonably material line this afternoon, though I have paid close attention to all that was said by the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Carlisle. I make no apology for talking in material terms. After all, the destruction of the physical universe, which is by no means impossible if we go on as we are doing, would be quite a material event by any standard that may be imported. But there is also tormenting many of us a moral dilemma, which increases rather than diminishes with each month that passes and every new destructive achievement of science. I was refreshing my memory on the debate we had in this House on February 11, at which I was not present, but during which some very powerful speeches were made. I have not given the noble Earl the Leader of the House or the noble Marquess who is to reply to this debate notice of a quotation from a speech of the noble Earl at that time, but I can assure them that it will not be in any way embarrassing because it is entirely complimentary.

The noble Earl, towards the end of his speech on that occasion, when he was rejecting the plan for the Non-nuclear Club and speaking in general terms, said [OFFICIAL REPORT. Vol. 214 (No. 37), col. 85]: Each must decide for himself, but when danger to human life is at its peak, and when we in this country have done so much to promote the way of living in the world, I do not believe that we can wash our hands of these matters and abdicate our responsibility. He went on to say (col. 86): If we stand aside and turn our backs on these matters…I do not believe that we shall salve our consciences or we shall save out national soul, or that we shall gain peace. He spoke on the lines of constructive proposals for maintaining the deterrent and, I take it, in the last resort, using it. On the other hand, in the same debate the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester and various other Bishops pointed out the great and increasing difficulties that must afflict the Christian conscience when faced with this possibility of using the deterrent, even when someone else has used it first. I will quote only one sentence from the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester—I mentioned to him that I was going to make this quotation, but he has now had to leave the House. He said (col. 157): …I feel bound to go with those of the conviction that the consequences of having these weapons of such indiscriminate destructive power are such that I cannot reconcile them with justice. I take it that there are many who rejected what one might call the old pacifist case but who have not made up their minds about the new pacifist case in the light of these terrible weapons. In traditional Christian theology there have been various conditions which it is said must all be satisfied before a war can be justifiable, and the majority of Christians—though some have always thought otherwise—have found these conditions justified in the case of many past wars. Is it certain, is it even likely, with modern weapons of mass indiscriminate destruction, that these conditions will ever again be satisfied in the case of a major war? I do not try to answer that question: I just say that it is a tormenting issue, one which afflicts those who try to follow the precepts of Christianity, I should think more poignantly with every month that passes. Whilst I support the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, on many grounds, I should like to add this. It seems to me that not the least—it may even be the greatest—of the blessings held out by world government, is that from this agony also, not only from the material precept, but from spiritual desolation and bewilderment, it will rescue us as nothing else can.

5.8 p.m.


My Lords, I cordially agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said in opening this debate. If world peace is to be attained through the United Nations it is most important that its Charter should be modernised. In a civilised country to-day the vast majority of people want domestic peace and safety of life and property; and, on the whole, they get what they want. There is an elaborate code of laws, a police force to arrest offenders, and judges and magistrates to deal with offenders when arrested. If this system works nationally, why will it not work internationally? It is for the very good reason that a country makes its own laws, which are generally accepted by the people, and it pays for its own police force and judiciary; whereas internationally there are no generally accepted laws, nor even any agreed code of international ethics and morality. International police forces cannot control in the absence of any internationally accepted legal code. So I think we must all agree that enforceable world law is "a consummation devoutly to be wished."

Whether this is practical politics today is another question. It is only natural that the Governments of the world, which exist ultimately by the will of their peoples, should take as their principal aim the prosperity of their people: that is, success in the trade war; a higher standard of living than that of their neighbours; access to raw materials of the world; immigration controls, and so on. By all means ask the United Nations to I formulate an enforceable world law—I only hope that the effort may succeed—but I am very much afraid that international jealousy and suspicion may bring the effort to a standstill. I am afraid that in its present state the world is not quite ready for this.

In the meantime, what can be done to bring the nations closer together? It is the curse of Babel which stands in the way. In his imaginative masterpiece With the Night Mail, Kipling created an aerial board of control with the motto, "Transportation is Civilisation". This is a truth, but only a half-truth. Communications involve mental contacts as well as physical transportation. A Londoner can to-day go to China in less time than it would have taken him to go to Edinburgh 200 years ago, but when he gets there he is a stranger among strangers. He is a "foreign devil" whose contacts must be made through interpreters. He cannot realise the atmosphere of Chinese life, nor can he convey to them anything of his own mentality. It is, in fact, easier for the British to maintain mental contacts with New Zealand than with France.

Therefore it seems to me that an essential step in making contact between nations and the enlargement of the political unit must be the creation of a common language in some shape or form. For some obscure reason, advocates of a universal language are generally labelled as cranks. Why this should be I do not know. What is fantastic or unpractical in the suggestion that every nation should retain its own language, teach it in its schools, and teach one other language, that one to be the same everywhere? Some nations teach three or four languages in their schools as a matter of course. The idea is simple enough in essence; the difficulty lies in persuading all the nations to accept the same language. This choice is essentially a political one. I can well believe that national pride and national prejudice might prevent the acceptance of any existing language if it were a widely spoken language. But it has been suggested that some dead language might be revived, with an artificial extension of its vocabulary to meet modern needs. Perhaps the most promising suggestion is that Esperanto should be the choice. This language has been making steady progress without any official assistance, and is perhaps ripe for general adoption.

As I say, it is idle to discuss this question in abstract. It all depends on what the nations can be persuaded to accept, and that essentially is a political question. But, quite apart from its value in bringing the nations together in amity, nobody can deny the advantages of a common language to the traveller, the scientist and the trader. Anyone who has had anything to do with an international conference would bless the day when a common language was adopted, and the United Nations Organisation itself would find its deliberations immensely simplified. Not the least grateful, perhaps, would be the Commander-in-Chief of the International Police Force for this help in the control of his heterogeneous constabulary. So, whatever recommendations may be made to the United Nations Organisation by Her Majesty's Government as a result of this debate, I venture to hope that the claim of a common language to a high priority may not be overlooked.

5.18 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat has stressed a matter of great importance—that is, the means of communication between peoples. I think that undoubtedly that will be of ancillary importance to any rule of law throughout the world. My noble friend Lord Silkin has set out very clearly the ideas of those of us who are advocating the rule of law in the world, and we start with what we have got, which is the United Nations.

Now I am one of the survivors of the founders of the United Nations. A little over fourteen years ago I was in San Francisco with Sir Anthony Eden, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and others. We then endeavoured to try to form what I think we said at the time was a better League of Nations. Many of us had been strong supporters of the League of Nations in the inter-war years. We had seen that breakdown, and I do not think we fully realise the reasons for that breakdown. One reason was that we were attempting to build a rule of law without any cession of individual sovereignty. Looking back, I think that perhaps we could not have done anything different from what we did then; but we must now review the matter again.

Those days in San Francisco were only a few weeks off Hiroshima, and from that came the immense development of weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivery. At that time in 1945 isolationism was still a possible policy in the United States of America. They were 3,000 miles away from Europe. They were apparently fairly safe, out of reach of the enemy. We had quitted that happy position some time before. When I was young we were quite secure behind our moat, and glorious isolation, as the then Marquess of Salisbury, our Prime Minister, used to preach, was a practical proposition. It ceased to be a practical proposition with the advent of aircraft. American isolation has ceased to be a practical proposition with the development of the long-range rocket.

What that means is this: that all the nations are now too closely linked for isolationism to be a practical policy for any of them. If we look at our own domestic affairs as individual persons, we find that as soon as we get propinquity we then get inevitably, if we are to avoid anarchy, the rule of law. People scattered over the face of the earth could do just what they pleased, but as soon as they live in a closely integrated society, they have to give up all kinds of freedom. We live in London and we give up all kinds of freedom that we could exercise if we lived in a desert. I am claiming that that is a realistic picture of the world to-day, so that we have got to develop some kind of rule of law.

I believe that it is still popular to look at pictures called "Westerns", full of galloping horses and armed sheriffs and armed bad men. Some people think that such things still exist in America; I am told they do not. The rule of law eventually came in and disarmed both the bad men and the sheriffs. It came rather earlier in this country, but there was a good deal of opposition at the time. A lot of opposition came from Barons who had to give up private wars. I am told that there was even a great deal of opposition by some of our predecessors in this House when they had to accept being ordered about by plebeian policeman, as arranged by Sir Robert Peel. But to-day we all accept the peaceful rule of the police in London and we do not feel as an awful degradation the loss of individual sovereignty which our ancestors had years ago, when their own stout footmen could keep their own safety, whatever happened to law and order.

My contention is that to-day the world is in a condition of anarchy, and that anyone (if your Lordships can imagine such a thing) coming from another planet and looking at our world to-day would consider that we were ruled with extraordinarily little common sense. 11 he came to a town and found all the inhabitants walking about with instruments of mass destruction in their pockets and no magistrates, he would think that state of affairs would not last long. I am often told that we are in too much of a hurry over the rule of law, and I ask myself how much time have we. When I was young we used to think that the world was progressing very peacefully. The world war came on us; and then a second world war. We did not expect it. I wonder whether we can go forward slowly to-day. My view is that we must work for the large thing. I know that it is easy to say, "Why not just do a little here and a little there?" but I think there are occasions on which one has to take a big step.

What are the facts of the world to-day? The fact is that there are two enormously powerful countries, the great continental Powers of the United States of America and the U.S.S.R. I am by no means agreeable to saying that they are the only Powers, or that all power depends on the possession of atomic weapons. But they are the two great Powers in the world, and the trouble is, that (hey are both full of fear. I do not think the Americans are aggressive; they may appear so, but they are not. I do not even think that the Russians want war. But the two nations are mortally afraid of each other; each thinks it is going to be attacked. They represent rival ideologies. I believe each of them would be very glad to be rid of this danger. You cannot get rid of it by merely piling up weapons. Still less can you do it by extending weapons to all the world. It is as if you had two rival gangs in London prepared to murder, and you thought the best thing was to give everybody knives and guns. That would only increase the possibility of a number of fools who might let off something and start the whole show going. I have come to the conclusion that, so far from its being starry-eyed idealism, the practical policy to-day is to work for a world authority.

That does mean a certain surrender of sovereignty. But it does not really matter so much. If everybody is going to surrender his sovereignty, one will not feel so bad about it. The fox would not mind losing his tail if all foxes were going to lose their tails. Therefore, I do not think we need worry too much about that. But we can set beside it the enormous advantages. We are seeing to-day unexampled piling up of armaments. I do not think you can watch nations continue to pile up armaments and not expect to have an explosion. To-day we are spending in the world immense sums, and yet all thinking people realise the immense amount of work that is needed in the world.

I was very much impressed by the extremely able speech we had this week from the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe—I never heard the case put better. And yet if you talk even of 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. of our income, we are told we are going to make an enormous sacrifice. If we could realise for the policy outlined by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, only part of the enormous sums spent on armaments, we could get rid of one of the causes of war, the grinding poverty of half the world. And we should be just as safe as we are now—because we are not safe. I do not think there are really very serious technical difficulties. There are plenty of able lawyers who can work out the law on these things. There are plenty of able technicians. I have never found in my experience that it is the difficulties of getting a thing working that is the trouble; it is the will power. If you have the will power you can get it through. It is the will power that is lacking to-day. I do not think it would be too difficult to devise a Constitution. I am sure it would not be too difficult to raise a World Police Force, something I remember I used to advocate, along with Sir Winston Churchill, in the days before the Second World War. T do not think that any of those technical difficulties stands in the way; it is the will power.

The problem I am faced with at once is, "Can you expect that the Soviet will submit to any relaxation of their own individual will?" If you think that the Soviet are resolved on a war, then they will not. But I do not believe for a moment that the Soviet to-day want a world war. They might have wanted one in the days when they were not so far advanced; but they have had great technical successes, and they are confident to-day that their methods will conquer the world by example. They hold an entirely materialistic creed. I think they believe that their material success will enable them to win in a peaceful competition. If so, why should not they enter that peaceful competition? I, for my part, am equally confident that our ideas of freedom and human dignity, given a fair field, will conquer. I am not the least afraid of meeting the Communist ideals in the field of ideology. On the field of battle we shall both go down. In the field of ideology I am confident that we can win. Equally, the Communists are confident that they will win. Let us have that test. Ideas can only be conquered by ideas, though I suppose it is possible if your ideas convert themselves into instruments of mass destruction, that all ideas may go.

It is my feeling to-day that we have not a great deal of time, that there is too much dangerous stuff in the world. There are always too many fools about—trigger-happy idiots and the like. We should have a clear idea before us of what we want to build up. We want a world not of uniformity but of variety, as we have here in this country. But we also want a world of reasonable safety: I do not mean a "feather-bedded" world without any adventure-it will always be an adventure—but of reasonable safety for people. If we want to get that, we must have it as our aim, and" not imagine that we can get it by tinkering about.

I should like the initiative to come from this country, but that may not be politic; it had better come from some country outside the main area of conflict. This year I paid a number of visits to half a dozen different European countries and talked to their Prime Ministers, to see whether we could get the initiative going. It may be that the initiative will come from an Asiatic Power; it may be from one of the smaller European countries, or, indeed, from anywhere. I believe that if we get that initiative going at the start, we can try to make our United Nations, which is, after all, in being, something that will work. It does not work to-day. I remember very well taking part in the action of the United Nations over Korea. That was an advance over the old League of Nations because there you had action taken against an aggressor. But, as everyone knows, that was a fluke—the U.S.S.R. were not there; otherwise we could never have had that demonstration. We did have a demonstration that something could be done. That was one advance. But since then, despite all the excellent doings of the United Nations, they have not brought peace and security to the world.

When we talk of the United Nations, it is no good saying, "Ah, but they have done this, that and the other." It is no good if you want a full meal to say, "The vegetables were wonderful, but we have got no meat." We must get down to the meat in this problem, and the meat is the peace of the world. We have put this forward because we believe, and an increasing number of people in many countries believe, that only if we accept a diminution of sovereignty and the building up of a world order, a world of law, with a world force to protect it, can we shift the fear of war from our people.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, I must first beg your Lordships' pardon because when I came here this afternoon I had no intention of speaking, and even to cause the briefest interruption in such an important debate calls for an apology. I must also thank the noble Marquess for so kindly allowing me to gate-crash on this occasion. My reason for doing so, very briefly, is something which was said by the noble Lord. Lord Silkin, in introducing this Motion. He said that there were a number of people who had written to organisations dealing with world government saying that while they agreed with the objects of the organisation, they felt that it was not practicable at the time—it was something very desirable, but in the future. Of course, the noble Lord was not talking about me—at least, he did not think he was talking about me; but in fact he happened to score a bull's-eye without knowing it, because I had belonged to a Parliamentary Organisation dealing with world government, and some years ago I wrote to the Secretary very much in that sense. I have had in my life many misguided moments, and I dare say that even in your Lordships' House I am not alone in that, but I think that that was one of the most misguided. As the noble Lord pointed out, if all our great religious leaders, our doctors, our scientists, and our statesmen, had just sat down on their hunkers and said the same thing, we should not to-day have much of our culture, many of our benefits, nor indeed many of our freedoms.

Many of your Lordships may not agree with all the proposals which have been put forward by the World Parliament Association—I doubt whether I agree with them all myself—but what I wanted to say to your Lordships was this, and particularly to the noble Marquess who is going to reply. Even though he may not agree with the details and all the proposals, all that this Motion really does is to urge Her Majesty's Government to take all possible steps to secure that a Charter review conference be held by the United Nations in 1960. I hope to hear that the Government will do that much, because even if we get only a partial revision of the United Nations Charter that would be something. Even if we got only the removal of the Veto—because I firmly believe that the Security Council as far as its main purpose goes, with the Veto, is not a safeguard of the peace of the world, but a snare and a delusion—I think that it would be better to have half a loaf than no bread.

5.39 p.m.


My Lords, I embark on my speech on behalf of Her Majesty's Government with a sense of great respect to the ideals that have been expressed by noble Lords who have spoken before me. I think that all your Lordships in this House, must feel grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, as I am personally, for having put down this important Motion and for having brought before your Lordships the carefully considered views of the World Parliament Association, of whose Council he is chairman. We have also this afternoon had the benefit of thoughtful speeches from eight other noble Lords, some of them men who speak with particular authority and experience of the subject under review.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in his Motion has used the words "urgent need for a revision"; and we all appreciate (and this, I think, was emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham) that this sense of urgency is greatly increased by the realisation of the horrors that would ensue from a major atomic war. War, my Lords, has always been the enemy of man, and throughout history we can read of the miseries that man has inflicted upon man; and sometimes, when one considers the relatively limited killing capacity of the old armies, one is staggered by the colossal carnage that our forbears were none the less able to achieve.

We talk in terms of total destruction, but I sometimes wonder whether perhaps that phrase does not forget something. I do not believe, even if such a Nemesis were to descend upon us, that the spirit of man could ever be utterly destroyed. And here I must say that, like the right reverend Prelate, I believe that the strongest defence against war must always be in the minds of man. No Charter, however perfectly conceived, however ingeniously reinforced by power, can ever supply the ultimate answer. None the less, my Lords, we should not despair. The fact that we are this afternoon having this debate, the fact that there exist in the world such organisations as the World Parliament Association, the United Nations Association and other similar organisations is surely some evidence, at least, of an improving outlook.

Let me ask you to consider just for a moment the 4,000 miles border between the United States of America and Canada. That border is guarded not by soldiers; it is guarded by an attitude of mind. Even in this little island of ours, where there is still the strong rivalry between the country from which I am proud to come and the southern half of the United Kingdom, the barrier which had to be maintained, Hadrian's Wall, no longer exists. But, alas! vividly in our minds, vividly in the memory of all of us in your Lordships' House, is the thought of the Maginot Line. Now, my Lords, I believe that the frontier between peace and war is determined only by the limits of man's folly.

We in the West long for a world at peace, governed by law and abiding by the principles of justice and respect for the individual man. We try ourselves to uphold these principles; and in the great Commonwealth of which we are a member, albeit imperfectly, we live by these principles. But we understand from the Marxian doctrine that the final objective of Communism is to achieve world government. The world government that Communism seeks to achieve is, I submit, of a type which none of us could ever accept. Alas! we have to face the fact that at present there exists in the world a political cleavage and an apparently irreconcilable difference in moral outlook.

While in no way wishing to belittle the aims and ideals of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, which indeed in all essentials we share, Her Majesty's Government cannot but agree with the very profound statement made by the distinguished Secretary-General of the United Nations when he was in this country in April of last year. With your Lordships' permission I will quote his words. He said: Some are tempted to seek for a solution in constitutional reform which would turn the United Nations into a world authority enforcing the law upon the nations. While respecting the goal of those who advocate such a course, most of us would agree that the political realities with which we live, rooted as they are deep in the disparate histories and cultures of many peoples, make this course impracticable for the foreseeable future. There is in the world to-day a strong nationalistic sense and with it an unwillingness to accept the principle of compulsory supra-national jurisdiction such as would pertain in a perfect world where the final court would be the International Court of Justice. It seems to me that man has still to learn to distinguish between the virtues of patriotism and the vices of a selfish and exclusive nationalism. If I may again for encouragement turn to the new world, is not the St. Lawrence Seaway a magnificent example of national co-operation between two great nations, a co-operation carried out both with common sense and with patriotic pride?

We in the United Kingdom are pledged to the use of the United Nations as the instrument for establishing conditions under which International Law and fundamental human rights can be maintained. The drafters of this Charter were realists: they accepted the facts of life; they realised that the major world Powers, having alone the means to enforce peace, had to have the greatest responsibility. But, of course, responsibility can be abused. The power of veto can be abused. Her Majesty's Government do not believe the United Nations Charter to be perfect; and like the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and other noble Lords who have spoken, we believe that a revision of it is desirable.

Let me remind your Lordships, however, that under Article 108 of the Charter no amendments can be brought about unless they are adopted with the agreement of two-thirds of all the members of the United Nations including (and this is the important part) all the permanent members of the Security Council. I think that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was slightly in error when he was describing the machinery which lies ahead of us. As I understand it, the first phase would be that we should have to refer the question of revision to what is known as the Committee on Arrangements; and that Committee could decide by a simple majority whether it was desirable, and when it was desirable, to call a further Committee, which would be the Charter Review Conference, to which the noble Lord referred. Then the findings, if a Charter Review Conference were to take place, would, in fact, be subjected to the voting system which I have just explained to your Lordships.

So, my Lords, an essential prerequisite in any revision of the Charter is a major improvement in the relations that exist between the permanent members of the Security Council. It may be that we are approaching an improvement in these relations. At least we are moving into a stage where contact between East and West is becoming far more frequent and far more natural. Behind the Iron Curtain, for so long almost impenetrable, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister was able last March, with the co-operation of the Soviet authorities, to give a nation-wide broadcast to the Russian people. The visit of Mr. Mikoyan to the United States of America was headline news: but gradually we are becoming less surprised by these contacts between the leaders of the Western World and the leaders of the Soviet Union. We have been growing accustomed to talking in terms of a series of Summits, and of frequent meetings between Foreign Ministers; and the visit of Vice-President Nixon to Soviet Russia is not being looked upon as an extraordinary event. We believe that we can play our part by doing everything in our power to create in the world an atmosphere and a climate of public opinion which might encourage a less rigid and—let us admit it frankly—a less frightened attitude by the member States of the United Nations.

Now in considering the desirability of the revision of the United Nations Charter we have most seriously to take into account the risk of damaging this admittedly imperfect instrument by pressing for improvements at a time when no chance of their achievement might be possible. Let me remind your Lordships that last year, when a resolution was put forward in the Assembly calling for the enlargement of the Economic and Social Council, many Asian countries, though they themselves would have been the principal beneficiaries, did not support the resolution because they believed it was a hopeless one. They believed that, in view of the Soviet attitude at that time, it was being pressed merely as a cold-war manœuvre. We must consult carefully with other members of the United Nations before deciding to press now for any revision of the Charter.

We favour the holding of a Review Conference, but always with the proviso that such a Conference would not increase existing tensions and be misrepresented as a propaganda exercise. I think, however, that we should not be pessimistic in our approach to this problem, but rather should be modest in our ambitions. And, above all, let us not be depressed by those who say that the Charter as it now stands would provide the right machinery if only the nations of the world had the will to abide by its principle. Clearly, there is truth in this contention, but none the less we believe that in the changed circumstances of fourteen years after its original drafting some amendments to the Charter might usefully be made. For instance, Her Majesty's Government would welcome an increase in the size of the Security Council and of the Economic and Social Council in order to take into account the considerably increased membership of the United Nations as a whole. As noble Lords are aware, in the past we have supported resolutions, both in the Economic and Social Council and in the General Assembly, calling for an increase in that Council's membership.

There are other limited objectives which might be achieved through a better understanding between the permanent members of the Security Council. These objectives would relate mainly to the strengthening of the Security Council by limiting the use of the Veto—when, for example, the admission of new members to the United Nations is being discussed. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, he brushed aside the question of the Veto as though it were just a simple matter: but surely noble Lords are as well aware as I am that it is far from a simple matter. We have got to achieve a degree of trust and understanding. Otherwise, these suggestions, with many of which I personally, and Her Majesty's Government, agree, all fall to nothing.

In conclusion, my Lords, may I revert to the point at which I began? I believe that the success of international and supra-national instruments must depend upon our attitude of mind. I believe that coming generations may be just as inspired by the idea of serving in an International Force as we and our forbears have been proud to serve in the forces of our own particular country. I believe that such a thing may happen more quickly than many scoffing cynics would allow. We know now that the expression "a good citizen of the world" is not an empty phrase: it is a reality. There are men to whom one can point as being good citizens of the world. The thought of an international civil service, of a service of international technical advisers, has already been translated into a fact. Think of the International Labour Organisation; of the Food and Agriculture Organisation; of the World Health Organisation, and so on. My Lords, let us all, individually and as Governments, strive to promote this growing sense of inter-dependence between nations and a sense of duty of man to man.

5.58 p.m.


My Lords, in the course of his speech the noble Marquess has delivered himself of a great many sentiments with which we should all agree; and in a very guarded manner he has even expressed some approval of the efforts of those who, like myself, are desirous of establishing a world authority, through the United Nations, as quickly as possible. But I am bound to say that I am exceedingly disappointed with the general tenor of his remarks. He indicated no sense of urgency; no realisation at all that the matter really might be urgent. My noble friend Lord Pakenham said that he did not think there would be war in five years, and that the odds were against anything happening in ten, but he would not like to say for certain. But would anyone like to prophesy that there is no danger of war at the end of ten years? Indeed, would not most people be prepared to say that the odds were that there was grave danger of war at the end of ten years from now? And does that not indicate that there is an urgency in doing something?

The attitude of the noble Marquess is, "Yes, you are perfectly right, but let us wait until the general tone is better". But is there any evidence that the general tone is improving? It is one thing for people to get together, but a lot depends on what happens when they do get together. They may meet together and become more friendly, and they may meet together and the reverse happen. It seems to me that the idea of Foreign Secretaries living together, having meals every day with one another, first at one place and then at another, may not necessarily have the consequences one would like.

I could have hoped that the noble Marquess would go at least so far as to say that while the Government have reservations, while they may not accept everything that has been put forward, they do realise that this is an urgent matter and that, for their part, they will do their best to ensure that there is a revision of the Charter at the earliest possible moment along lines which will help towards bringing about a state of greater security in the world. The noble Marquess has not seen fit to go even so far as that, and I must confess that I am profoundly disappointed. However, there is nothing more that I can say that will improve the position. I would only thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I think that it has been worth while, and in that, at any rate, the noble Marquess and I agree. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.