HL Deb 17 October 1961 vol 234 cc330-58

3.7 p.m.

THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF HOME) rose to move to resolve, That this House takes note of the International Situation. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I was privileged the other day in New York to express on behalf of our country a tribute to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Hammarskjoeld. As this is the beginning of a debate on International Affairs, in which in the past his name has been so often on the lips of so many of your Lordships, and of those in another place, I thought that you would wish me to recognise the greatness of the man who was a fearless servant of peace and gave his life in that cause, and that you would like to send to his relatives at his home our feeling of sorrow and sympathy, and to be asked to be allowed to share in the pride of a life of a very great man.

My Lords, when last I spoke to this House in the debate on Foreign Affairs I said that the state of the world was one of international anarchy. Since then a lot has happened, and very little of it is good; so little indeed, that Parliament has been recalled to debate the impact of events upon the national security. I do not want, in a situation which is clearly menacing, to strike a note of strident alarm, and so I shall seek to deal with the situations which we have to face, the dangers inherent in them and the good apparent in some of them, as calmly and as dispassionately as I can.

On August 13, as if the position in Berlin were already not acute enough, the East German authorities, with Russian assistance, sealed the East Berlin border with barbed wire and with concrete walls. On August 31, when Britain and the United States were still sitting in conference with the Soviet Union and hoping to reach an agreement (which did not seem so very far away) that would bring to an end the nuclear tests, the Russians first of all walked out of the Conference, and almost immediately started a series of twenty explosions in the atmosphere which have added to the poison in the air which we breathe. On September 17 Mr. Hammarskjoeld died on active service with the United Nations in the Congo, putting the whole question of the future of the organisation of the United Nations in peril, the Russians insisting for many weeks, if possibly not now—and I shall come to that in a moment—that there should be no such thing as an impartial, international civil servant, and therefore no one Secretary-General of the United Nations with executive power.

To-day, as I speak, the much-heralded Congress of the Communist Parties of the Soviet Union is taking place. My Lords, it has one, or rather two, purposes. One of them, I understand, is to create a new man who will harmoniously combine spiritual wealth, moral purity and perfect physique—and it struck me that they ought to come and look at your Lordships' House. No doubt the Congress will also prepare fresh challenges for men everywhere, because in international affairs the Russian Government takes its directive from the Conference of Communist Parties of the world; and they, as your Lordships will remember, laid it down last November that the Communist Powers must conduct an eternal struggle against any way of life which differs from that of the Communists, and must exploit civil differences and civil strife wherever they can be found in order to promote the Communist victory. Therefore, my Lords, it is right, I believe, that Parliament should meet and take counsel for the nation.

I will start, if I may, with the related problems of disarmament and nuclear tests, because it is in those fields that we had the best hopes of approaching a saner world but have lately received the roughest jolts; and because the experience of these two sets of negotiations has put the spotlight upon the hazards of negotiating with the Soviet Union when they are in an arrogant mood.

Your Lordships will recall that in the summer of 1960 we were sitting around the table with the Russians and the Americans in Geneva, members of a ten-man committee, wrestling with the problems of general disarmament; that the Western Powers had brought new proposals to put before the Conference; and that the Russians knew they were coming. They chose that point to walk out of the Conference.

In the summer of 1961 the Americans, the Russians and ourselves seemed to be about to sign a nuclear test treaty, and we, with the Americans, had put forward new proposals which, in our opinion, met the Russian demands on almost every point of substance. For every step we took forward they took two backwards. They dismissed our concessions as of no account, and for the first time they brought into the arena of the disarmament talks the conception of a Troika to manage not only the administration of a nuclear test agreement but also that of general disarmament. Then, as I have said, they went out of the Conference: they broke it up, and followed up that step with twenty nuclear explosions, filling the air with "fall-out" and our newspapers with the news. I say "our newspapers" because until this morning, when Mr. Khrushchev gave the news to the Conference in Moscow that he was about to explode a very large bomb, the Russian people knew not one word from their Government that the Government of Russia had started nuclear tests—not one word! So not only were the negotiators duped; not only was the world, which had expected that an agreement on nuclear tests might follow, misled, but the Russian people themselves were deceived.

My Lords, I found it necessary in New York to say to Mr. Gromyko, in the publicity of the United Nations General Assembly, that if, in the minds of one of the most powerful Governments of the world, diplomacy was synonymous with trickery, then not even co-existence would survive.

My Lords, nobody likes being duped; but, at least, if there is a failure on disarmament, it need not threaten the immediate vital interests of Britain. It will not upset the balance of power; and it is on the balance of power that, at the end of the day, the national security of our country depends. But, my Lords, I do not want to be duped on matters where the stakes are peace and war. Therefore, I hope that, later on, in what I have to say I shall carry the House and the country with me on the matter of Berlin, when I say that I want to edge my way forward to a negotiated settlement, making sure at every stage that the ingredients of a settlement are solemnly grounded and effectively guaranteed.

To return to disarmament, in spite of all the setbacks at the nuclear test conference, and in the conference on general disarmament, we must persevere in our efforts to achieve general disarmament, because there is no doubt that the lesson of history is that arms tend to generate a momentum of their own. And the authors of the Charter of the United Nations were undoubtedly right when they said that the security of the world in the twentieth century must really depend upon disarmament coupled with an effective system of collective security.

My Lords, it is fortunate that the Russians and the West are still in contact over this matter of disarmament. The Russians and the United States Government have reached agreement on a joint statement of principles which should govern a disarmament agreement. I have read those principles with great care, and they correspond almost exactly to the principles which were issued after the Meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers which was held in London in the spring of this year. To that statement of principles we can add the really comprehensive, practical scheme of disarmament which was presented to the Assembly of the United Nations by the President of the United States.

My Lords, the purpose of the President's scheme was this: to abolish all weapons of war surplus to the needs of internal security or to the needs of an International Police Force. The opening stages of the President's scheme provide for a substantial measure of physical disarmament, both conventional and nuclear, a provision which would prevent too wide a dissemination of nuclear weapons. The President's scheme makes it clear (and up to now this has been one of the apprehensions of the Russians Which the scheme seeks to remove) that once the scheme had been started it would not be called off at the end of one stage, or at some particular point, provided that all were carrying out its provisions. It would provide a Disarmament Control Authority which would see the scheme through from the beginning to the end. I think that if your Lordships will look at the scheme, which has now been published—and I will see it is made available to your Lordships' House, if it is not available already—you will find that it is the most comprehensive soheme that has yet been put on paper, and it should be one which could be put into effect.

My Lords, so far, so good. But, of course, principles are one thing and practice is another. The statement of principle's issued by the United States' and Russian Governments by-passed—and this was publicly admitted—two vital elements: first of all, the need for inspection; secondly, the Soviet insistence so far that disarmament arrangements should be administered by a Troika. So long as the Soviet Union are a vast "secret society", so long will they have a tremendous military advantage, and also so long will they equate inspection with espionage. The truth is that disarmament can begin the moment the Russians are ready to allow inspection. But the reality, I am afraid, is that it cannot begin one moment before that. Because, of course, unless there is inspection, no country will have confidence that disarmament is being carried out fairly.

In the meantime, let there be no doubt about the United Kingdom's position. We are ready to sign a nuclear test agreement now, and the shape of that agreement has been deposited with the United Nations. So far as general disarmament is concerned, we are prepared to restart negotiations at any time and in any forum which is acceptable to our neighbours, Russia and the United States, who, of course, have the greatest part to play in any disarmament scheme.

The same kind of considerations and difficulties as I have outlined in the case of disarmament apply to the future of the United Nations. It can be no more than a world debating society, with a very limited function in international policing, unless the Russians are prepared to take the risk that some of the majority decisions in the Assembly will cut across their Communist ambitions; and as yet there is no sign of that whatever. On the contrary, it was because the Communist objectives were thwarted in the Congo by the United Nations that the Russians added the Troika to the Veto. Under the pressure of almost universal disapproval, the Russians seem prepared now to allow one man to fill the gap between now and 1963 to act as Secretary-General of the United Nations. That is an advance since I first went to Washington and New York this autumn. But we must be clear about this: that although they allow one Acting Secretary-General, they still insist that no man can be impartial and, therefore, that there can be no true international civil servant. For this reason they seek to surround the Secretary-General with a group of advisers whom he would be bound to consult on all major issues; and those advisers, in the minds of the Russians, would take their instructions from their own Governments.

My Lords, we in this country are perfectly willing to see Under-Secretaries under the Secretary-General of the United Nations chosen because of their knowledge of wide geographical areas. Indeed, there is merit in that proposal. There might be five Under-Secretaries, or there might he seven; or there might be more. But what we are not prepared to accept is the concept that the servants of the United Nations should take their orders from the national Governments of which they are citizens. If that were so, there would be a complete loss of confidence in the impartiality of the United Nations; indeed, it would be the end of the organisation.

I have lately had the opportunity of studying the reaction of the United Nations Assembly to the persistent use of the platform of the United Nations by the Russians and the Communist bloc to advance their own purposes in the cold war. There is hardly a delegation in the United Nations which does not detest Russian policies: the suppression of the independence of Hungary and East Germany; their attitude on nuclear tests: their censorship of all news circulating within the Soviet Union; their attitude to the inspection of armaments. But, my Lords, there are far too few in the United Nations Assembly who stand up and back up their convictions by speech or vote. On the contrary, a sort of complex has assailed the Assembly which compels them to vent their feelings on the democracies rather than on the Communist powers.

Speech after speech I listened to, while I was in New York this year, giving glaring examples of the double standard which is applied. Speeches and resolutions are directed against us, the United Kingdom, as "colonialists". They know perfectly well, particularly the Afro-Asian countries, that we have given independence to 600 million peoples in the last few years, and that that process continues rapidly. Yet resolution after resolution is framed and passed condemning the United Kingdom as colonialist, and there is never a protest against the Russian conduct of their own empire, which consists of one occupied country after another. The same is true of self-determination. That is pursued, so far as the Africans and the Asians are concerned, with a sort of holy fervour; but when it comes to self-determination for the Eastern Europeans, that is said to be something rather different. On nuclear tests, I heard speaker after speaker equating the attitude of the Soviet Union with that of the United States of America, making no allowance for the fact that it was the Soviet Union who broke the moratorium and tested in the atmosphere. But the performances of the Soviet Union and the United States were put by these speeches on the same level. I heard one speech from the representative of a country to whom we have given a great deal of assistance saying that technical aid agreements could be as bad as the old colonialism. I think it is necessary constantly to call attention to this inability of the countries in the Assembly of the United Nations, or a great many of them, to apply principles with impartiality.

This is not a matter on our part of injured pride or of feeling that there is ingratitude for what we have done: we have all lived long enough to know that there is no gratitude in international politics. But the democracies are the backbone of the United Nations. The democracies are the people who observe and support the rules of the Charter. And we cannot remain silent and be made the victims of attacks by people who know that they are unfair but deliver them, and know that they can deliver them safely, because they know that we are nice, tolerant people. We cannot allow—and I have no intention ever to allow—the case of the democracies to go by default, because if we do that in the Assembly of the United Nations any longer, the political standing of this country as a liberalising influence in the world will be fatally impaired. If that were to happen, it would do great damage not only to the United Kingdom but also to the small nations, particularly the Afro-Asian nations themselves. It would deal a mortal blow to their hopes of a just and free world and imperil the organisation which would give them assistance and aid. In the long run, they would find themselves without friends and therefore seal their own doom.

Nevertheless, with all its faults and with all the difficulties it causes for us, I conclude that we must show patience and more patience, and support the United Nations. And we must support it for these reasons: because any organisation which has as its main purpose the strengthening of peace is a British interest; because every move which the United Nations makes (in the words of the authors of the Charter) to harmonise the interests of the nations is incompatible with the Communist plan to divide the world; and because, despite the fact that nationalism and racialism and Communism are to-day in the ascendant, the facts of life are against them and the world is moving very fast towards inter-dependence. Provided we can secure that the United Nations is served by a truly impartial Civil Service, there are functions which it can well perform and which will be of great service to the world. For all those reasons, I come down in favour of the United Kingdom's strong support for the Organisation.

To-marrow my noble friend, Lord Lansdowne, who fulfilled a mission to the Congo, which was not only dangerous but most exacting, with great skill, will talk to your Lordships on his experiences there and in general will give your Lordships the Government's views an the situation in the Congo as it is now. I want to make only three broad references to our policy and to the policy of the United Nations in that country.

The House will remember why the United Nations went into the Congo. They went in because it was necessary to forestall external intervention, which was designed according to the Communist pattern to bring the Congo right into the cold war. And it was according to the Communist pattern for this reason: that the Russians took immediate advantage of a condition of civil war to try to establish a Communist presence in that country. If the United Nations had not gone in, the alternatives were either a Korea situation or an open door to the Communists.

The first objective, to prevent a clash between the big powers in the Congo and the cold war from being imported into the country, was successful. The second objective, to bring the civil war to an end, so that the Congo leaders might settle their own affairs without distraction, was only partly successful—but, of course, it was a much more difficult task. Because private armies were milling around the Congo and making the chances of a constitutional settlement almost impossible, we agreed, on February 21, that in the last resort force might be used by the United Nations to preserve order. I cannot say that at the time I was happy about voting for that resolution, but we did it because we believed that the authority of the United Nations must be sustained. That was the overriding interest. But we made a public reservation, through our permanent representative at the United Nations, which said that while it was proper to use force in the last resort to prevent the spread of civil war, we could not support the use of that force by the United Nations to impose a particular political pattern on the Congo.

We thought that that was wrong, for these reasons; and I have thought about them a great deal. Whatever the merits of the United Nations in its present state of organisation, it would greatly exceed its strength if it tried to do anything of that kind; and if it did get involved and opened itself to the accusation that it was interfering in internal politics, it would excite passions in Africa which would get completely out of control. This was particularly true of the Congo. Lastly, it was true that the role of the United Nations in the Congo was to help to keep order; but its first and most important role of all was to reconcile interests and therefore not to get involved in imposing political solutions by force. I do not deny that this was an extremely difficult resolution for Mr. Hammarskjoeld to interpret, but so certain was I that the advice which we were giving was right (from my knowledge of Africans I know that you cannot hurry them in their constitutional developments) that I repeated this advice to the Secretary-General at regular intervals between February and August of this year.

In my opinion, mistakes were made: mistakes in interpretation of the resolutions and mistakes in their application on the ground; but I hope that the lessons have been learned. The main lesson is not that the United Nations should leave the Congo or that the United Nations should leave Katanga, but that the United Nations should apply all its talents, and they are very great, to helping a reconciliation between Mr. Tshombe and Mr. Adoula.

Let me make clear the United Kingdom's objectives beyond doubt, because I do not want any ambiguity about this whatsoever. We want to see a unified Congo and we have worked hard all the time and have supported the United Nations in that objective. We have never seen a future for an independent Katanga and we see no future for it now. All our influence, therefore, has been and will be exerted to help the Congolese to work out their own constitutional future and arrive at a united federal constitution or whatever their own decision may be, and to help the United Nations to help them to do so. Now, the thing that it is necessary is to assist Leopoldville and Elisabethville to get together. This is no time for pride or prejudice, and I sincerely trust that after all the treasure and blood that has been expended Mr. Adoula and Mr. Tshombe will agree to meet and settle their troubles in their own way.

Important as these subjects are, neither is so important in its impelling urgency and in its dangers as the situation in Germany and Berlin. There, one false step, one failure in communication, even one failure in comprehension, might mean war. It was to convince the Russians of this that Mr. Rusk and I spent so much time with Mr. Gromyko in New York and the Prime Minister saw him again in London. We had to tell him something of which it is, I think, sometimes necessary to remind ourselves: that the reason why there could be war over Berlin is not that there is a particular concern in this country, or perhaps in others, for Germans, and not that we are concerned with the fate of a particular city. I suppose our people do not know the West Berliners, although it is true that we remember they showed their mettle in 1948 and 1949 when they gave a good account of themselves. But that is not really the point. The point is that the Berlin problem could bring us to a fight and to war because the freedom of 2½ million people is threatened with extinction. That is simply not tolerable to other peoples who are free. Therefore, I hope we convinced Mr. Gromyko that it was simply not possible for the Allies to stand aside and see liberties denied to the West Berliners or those liberties whittled away.

There was, too, and there is still, of course, a question of law. There exist quadripartite rights and quadripartite obligations. The Russians claim that by their own act they can end the rights of the other three Allies. We say that that is bad law. Perhaps the greatest gift of the British people to the world has been liberty under the law; and when both are challenged so close to home we cannot have faint hearts. Nor can we forget that when a hostile system begins to encroach upon us the moment to stop it is at the beginning, otherwise each encroachment is worse than the last.

We should agree with the Russians that sixteen years after the war it is time, as they put it, "to draw a line under the last war." But if we have not been able to do so, it is not for want of trying. The noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition will remember that Ministers of his Party sat in the Palais Rose for three months in 1951, and they discussed matters but could not even arrive at an agenda for a Foreign Ministers' meeting. We tried again in 1955, again in 1959 and again in 1960. We must persevere and go on trying; and that we are determined to do.

But I want to set before your Lordships the problem of Berlin and our approach to that problem as I see it now. All our plans for a settlement of the German problem start with the premise that the Germans as much as any other people, are entitled to self-determination. The question whether they should be united or divided should be one for a free vote internationally supervised. The Allies could accept such a free vote with a clear conscience. Then there should be a treaty with one Germany or with two Germanies, as the German people decide, and that could be regarded as a final settlement. But while that is the principle, and we must keep the prospect of reunification open, we could not and should not try to impose it by force. History shows that peoples cannot be kept apart by barbed wire and by concrete walls for long. But if the barriers are to fall, it must be by peaceful political means and the compelling strength of opinion, and not by war.

The immediate problem, I think, can be stated like this. The Russians have decided that they want to take all the steps they can towards the final division of Germany. For that purpose they say they are going to sign a treaty with the East Germans that would purport to give them full sovereignty; and no doubt in the course of time they would put them up for membership of the United Nations and recognition in international society. As I have said, the Allies cannot prevent that, although we think it is wrong.

But what we can do is to insist that, as a consequence of the treaty which the Russians sign with the East Germans, there should be no adverse effects on the lives of the people of West Berlin; that provision should be made that those people should continue to choose their own way of life, to have the right of Allied presence in the city as guarantors of their freedom and to remain with uninterrupted access to their city. We can insist that, if there is to be change, it should be change by consent; and if there is to be change, the result must be a better arrangement, with firmer guarantees than we have now; that the guarantors should be the four Allies, and when the settlement is reached it should be registered with the United Nations.

The purposes in the conversations that we had in New York were to convince Mr. Gromyko that if he handed over the life of Berlin and the arrangements for access to the city to the East German Government, then the chances were that there would be friction; there might easily be a fight which would develop into a war, and no one could say that it would not be a nuclear war; and, therefore, that course must be avoided. Secondly, it was to convince him that the proper way to settle this matter was by negotiation and a settlement, with the Russians guaranteeing that there would be no interference with the city and that there would be free access to the city, to be signed with the Allies before the Russians signed their treaty with the East German Government. I hope that Mr. Gromyko was persuaded. I am encouraged to see, as your Lordships will have seen in the evening papers to-day, that Mr. Khrushchev has said that the end of the year is no longer a necessary date for the conclusion of his treaty with East Germany, although he says that he cannot wait indefinitely, and, therefore, the atmosphere of ultimatum has been —if we are to take his word for it, and we must—removed. That is some gain.

But there is another aspect which it is wise to explore with Russia, and it necessarily carries us into more detail. We are not yet certain whether when we talk about la "free city" and "uninterrupted access" we mean the same thing as the Russians mean, when there are so many examples behind us of failure to agree. Because to the West and to the Communists the same words mean different things, we think it is prudent to make sure that the bases of understanding are set straight before we proceed to a more formal negotiation. We have no desire to waste time; quite the contrary. But we think it will save time, because if we can get the understandings right and really mean the same thing, then later negotiations will have a better Chance of success. Therefore, I am certain that the probing and the search for a basis of negotiation should continue: in other words, that the series of talks begun by Mr. Rusk should go on. I understand that that is also the view of the United States Government, and that the United States Ambassador in Moscow will shortly be returning to his post. I have asked Sir Frank Roberts, our Ambassador, to come back for consultations here this week and to return to Moscow to be available to give any assistance that may be required in further consultation.

There has been a bit of a flurry in the last day or two about the attitude of the French to certain talks which officials had arranged to have in London. I do not want this to be exaggerated. I was in New York when Mr. Couve de Murville said: I think all of us, be it in France or in your country, or in the other allied countries, all share the view, which is the view of common sense, that political problems have to be decided through the normal way of discussion and negotiation. I think the French Government, just as all Allied Governments, know that this problem must be solved, if it is humanly possible, by negotiation. Where there is a slight divergence of opinion, or has been, it is on procedure and timing. So I hope we shall not make too much of this difference of opinion. All I can do is to say that the view of Her Majesty's Government which I have just expressed to your Lordships is quite clear: that this probing and searching for the bases of negotiation should go on, and go on soon. The Russians, in their turn, have indicated that there are certain matters in which they are particularly interested and which they believe should be included in any settlement. I am going to ask your Lordships to forgive me if I do not go into the substance of what might be a negotiated settlement. I explained why last week.

I should, however, like to say one word—because I think a good deal will be heard on it in debates in both Houses—about what is called de facto recognition. De facto recognition is talked about as though it were a kind of status that one government confers upon another. It is nothing of the kind. There is only one kind of full official recognition, and that is de jure recognition. But short of that there are an infinite number of practical dealings between countries which do not fully recognise each other. The forcible separation of East Germany and West Germany is a fact of international life which we have had with us for some time. Indeed, now, the West Germans have a great many contacts with the East Germans, and if there is a question at issue it is: how far in practice in future should those dealings be developed over the months and the years ahead?

There are other matters which will doubtless be raised in this debate: the question of frontiers that some have put into the context of a settlement in Berlin; the possibility of internationalising the Whole of the city of Berlin, East and West, and putting into it either a large part of the United Nations or the whole of it; the possibility of putting United Nations troops into West Berlin alongside the Allies as an extra insurance; and the question of whether it might be possible to create an internationalised corridor giving access to West Berlin. All those matters are proper subjects for debate, and I can promise your Lordships that I will take most carefully into account anything that is said in both Houses which will lead us away from conflict towards a negotiated settlement, which is the purpose Her Majesty's Government wish to achieve.

Not all the news in the world is bad. On Laos I am able to give your Lordships a little more optimistic report. This was a situation in which again war was possible. It seems as though we may be working our way towards a settlement, and if that is so I should like to say that enormous credit must go to Mr. Malcolm Macdonald for the great patience which he has shown through all these difficult negotiations. In Kuwait, we have been able, with the agreement of the Amir, to take our forces out, and they have been replaced by an Arab League force. In accordance with the authority given by Parliament, we are able to begin now discussions—real discussions—with the Six to see whether it is possible for Britain to join the Common Market.

Finally, I will come back again to today's conference in Moscow. I have no doubt that in the next week or two we shall hear an hysterical reaffirmation of ideological aggression. That is as much in the Communist bloodstream as liberty is in our own. What should our reaction be? If Mr. Khrushchev makes a moderate speech, it does not mean that the cold war is abated. If Mr. Khrushchev makes a blustering speech, it does not mean again that nuclear war is imminent. Our reaction should be calm, and what we should try to do, I suggest, is this: to identify here in Parliament the things which it is essential for our nation to secure and the principles which we are satisfied it is right we should follow in all these great international problems which are before us. And having decided them, we should stand by them firm, without being inflexible, and conciliatory without being cowardly. I hope as a result of this debate that both Houses of Parliament will help us to find our way through this dark maze of trouble out again into the light. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the international situation.—(The Earl of Home.)

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, may I at the outset say, that we on this side of your Lordships' House desire to be fully associated with the Foreign Secretary in the regret he has expressed at the loss of Mr. Hammarskjoeld and with the tribute to the service he has rendered to the common cause of the United Nations Organisation and the pursuit of peace. I think it is a very unhappy business that he should have passed like that at this very important time. But we hope that a proper solution will yet be found as to what the Secretariat leadership of the United Nations is to be in the future.

Might I, as Leader of the Opposition for the time being, say how much we welcome the appearance (he has his name down to speak tomorrow) of the noble Earl, Lord Avon, with his experience and friendship with so many of us in the House. We hope that he has sufficiently recovered from the illness from which he has suffered to be continually contributing to the wisdoms expressed in this Chamber.

With regard to the speech just made by the Foreign Secretary, I think the Chamber will agree straight away that it was a tremendous justification for the request of the Opposition that Parliament should be recalled. We had to keep one or two things in mind, not only because of the generally dangerous aspect of the situation which had grown up during the rather long Parliamentary vacation, but also because of the oncoming Business and the start of a new Session in the week after next. We had therefore to try to get the best time in which these matters could be properly examined on the basis of a report of the Minister, who has always had to keep pretty busy during Parliamentary vacations.

I think that this afternoon we shall all agree, in all Parties in the House, that we have listened to an extra-ordinarily able and fair summary of the position, and that the noble Earl has not left us in any doubt as to what his general policy, and that of the Government, seeks to be, and what is the general aim and the achievement they desire. From that point of view, I am quite sure that the Foreign Secretary will not mind if I do not speak at any great length, because so much of what he said in his speech is just a fair statement of things as I see them for myself in regard to this great and difficult international situation which has arisen. Nevertheless, I should like to say just one or two things about the situation in relation to the U.S.S.R. and the position in Berlin.

First of all, I notice that the Prime Minister at Brighton on Saturday seemed to think that those whom he referred to as the "Left Wing" never took very much opportunity to decry some of the things that the Russians do. I do not think that is a fair picture at any rate of what would be called the Left Wing Party in this House or in the other place. It might be applied to a few extremists; it certainly does not apply to the attitude of British labour, and if you go to the record of the Conference which was held only a week before the Conservative Party Conference I would remind the House that it passed a resolution. That this Conference views with grave concern the dangerous situation that has developed in Berlin and condemns the action of the Communists in arbitrarily closing the frontier between East and West Berlin. Therefore, the Foreign Secretary need have no doubt as to what is the official view of the working class Party in this country on this matter. Nor is our record in international affairs, and in the defence of our country in relation to international situations such as would justify an assumption that there is only one Party in the State which is concerned with these matters, for that is not so. But when we come to the actual suture of this Berlin matter there are perhaps one or two things that I ought to say.

I am making no quarrel at all with the general objective which the Foreign Secretary has so clearly put before us. What we are anxious about is when negotiations are really to commence. There is a sort of feeling, at any rate among my friends, that matters which are likely to come within the ambit of discussion in such negotiations had at least by now become sufficiently well known to the leaders of the Parties in the different countries, so that, if there was goodwill among all those who take our side in the matter, as well as on the Moscow side, we could proceed to engage in conversations. I deduce from what the Foreign Secretary has said that this situation has improved. If you are going into a conference of the kind which would have to be entered into, probably at Foreign Secretary level, to come down to real discussions it is important that you must mean, in your recognition of the terms of reference, the same as the Russians are meaning. It is, as the Foreign Secretary pointed out, always useless to proceed with different interpretations of what this statement or that statement actually means. It is for that reason we regret so much that, though the course would seem to me to have been very carefully prepared—and high officials have come into this matter, to make quite sure, in the first place, that all those negotiating from our side truly understand the terms of reference we are going to negotiate, and on what basis we are going to negotiate—at this very moment General de Gaulle should seek to stop there and should cancel the meeting which would have been held almost straight away.

I am quite sure that, in the circumstances, what the Foreign Secretary has said about carrying on conversations of the type he described—that is, between Mr. Gromyko and Mr. Thompson, the American Ambassador, maybe in association with the British Ambassador—is all to the good, and I think that perhaps it may help to undo some of the feeling which is created by the action of General de Gaulle on the other matter. Yet could we not ask if, in fact, this arrangement is the only one you can get at the moment to help to speed up the time when we can begin to negotiate, if the Foreign Secretary gives instructions to our Ambassador to be available, what about the French Ambassador? What about the West German Ambassador? Cannot we make some progress in getting to the point where we can really negotiate?

There are, of course, many things that could be written into and expanded from the Foreign Secretary's speech, especially the last passages, when he said this could be mentioned and that could be mentioned; they are all important. And when we come to the terms of reference, I think that, without endeavouring to do what must always be regarded mainly as wrong—that is, trying to say in advance what should be a Government line of action; it is very difficult to put that into detail, and it does not always help in these negotiations—it would not hurt if we indicated what kind of thing we feel would be likely to be important and useful in negotiations concerned.

I think one might say that there are three first main considerations—to me, at any rate. They are: the freedom of the 2½ million people in Berlin; the question of maintaining Western access to Berlin; and, above all (I am glad that the Foreign Secretary mentioned it) that we cannot accept for one moment that if Russia on her own were to sign a treaty with East Germany, ipso facto, there would no longer be any case for the rest of the Allies to be in Berlin. I think that that is altogether wrong. Therefore we must stick to the point that, until there is a final settlement of peace with the whole of Germany, we have a right, under the existing Treaty, to the maintenance of the Allied forces in West Berlin.

But there are other points which have been under consideration. The question of the form of recognition of the East German authorities has been referred to by the Foreign Secretary. I am not at all sure of the tremendous advantage there might be in a de facto recognition of a state of affairs that has certainly not been the creation of our Allies, and certainly was not justified from the activities of the original agreement at the Armistice. But if progress can be made for a more reasonable atmosphere by a de facto recognition, and provided, it seems to me, that it is in no way going to vitiate the right of the freedom of the people as a whole to their own electoral decision as to what they want for the future of their country, then I cannot see any great harm in a sort of temporary and suspensory period of de facto recognition of the fact that there is a Government there.

Here, I speak for myself alone, but I cannot understand some of the arguments that come from Moscow with regard to East Germany. The idea is that there is some wonderful conversion of these millions of people in East Germany to the complete Communist faith, and that it has happened only in that part of Germany where the U.S.S.R. troops have been in position since 1945. To my mind, that idea needs a lot of explanation. We may reply and say that, while we have done our best, with the other Allies, to create a regenerated condition in Western Germany, and have tried to change them from their old and bad ways into a growing and sensible democracy, we have never taken the line that Russia has taken, in fixing a complete change-over in the system of government, or to have a kind of spurious democracy in which, as somebody has already said, everything is free except freedom. Therefore, I would advise a little caution about this. But, as I have said, I cannot see any harm in having a suspensory period of de facto recognition.

Then there is the question whether we have the readiness to consider any kind of new status for Berlin, provided that complete freedom is maintained for them, and whether in some way it could be actually associated with the United Nations rôle. Discussions have been going on to see whether some of the principal institutions, at any rate, of the United Nations Organisation might be transferred to Berlin. I do not think I can expect the Foreign Secretary to express fixed opinions upon that at the present moment, but I gather from the tone of his speech that he wants the United Nations to be really associated with any final settlements for peace in Europe; and if that is so I can feel very happy about it.

I should also think, from what has been said by the Foreign Secretary, and what has been reported, that at least a strong attempt is being made all the time by the United States and ourselves—and the rest of the Allies, I hope—to see that there is no possibility of getting a final settlement by purely military act and solution. That is not the way. Because in the terms of the weapons of war of the present day that would probably not be beneficial to either side, to put it at its best. If, therefore, before you get into negotiation there could be established between both sets of negotiators a mutual recognition of the fact that there is no military solution of the problem, and that you must get an agreement, I think that would be a very great help.

Then I think that you may have to consider what has been put from different quarters: that there should be an implicit acceptance on both sides of the fact that the settlement must go considerably wider than the Berlin issue —that is to say, there must be some kind of arrangement for general security in central Europe. I leave that point, because, in view of what the Foreign Secretary said, I do not want to add to or subtract from his main objective. I only wish that at the present time, when we speak of strength, and standing firm and the like, we had not made the serious depredations since 1957 upon our own particular contribution to the N.A.T.O. military strength.

I should like also to say a word or two about this terrible decision of Russia to go on with nuclear tests. I am very glad to hear what the Foreign Secretary has had to say about it in general, but here again I have a rather critical word to say about General de Gaulle in this matter. If we take the actual pledges which Russia gave on this matter, they are important, but there was a condition attached to them. I wonder if I might trouble the House by reading them. On August 28, 1959, the Soviet Government announced: The Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union have decided not to resume nuclear explosions in the Soviet Union if the Western Powers do not resume the testing of atomic and hydrogen weapons. Only in the event of the resumption by them of the testing of nuclear weapons will the Soviet Union be freed from this self-imposed undertaking. The latter part is very important now. If you ask my personal view, I think that the Russians have been very wrong indeed in resuming these tests in regard to those people who had already had tests and had gone into the moratorium up to that date when they were making their announcement in August, 1959.

But when we come on to look at the other statement in 1960, we find that Mr. Khrushchev said: Should any of the States, in the present-day conditions, resume nuclear weapons tests, it is not difficult to imagine the consequences of this act. Other States possessing the same weapons would be forced to take the same road. An impulse would be given to resume nuclear arms testing … under any conditions, unlimited by anything … Should any side violate the obligations to which it has committed itself, the instigators of such violations will cover themselves with shame and they will be condemned by the peoples of the world. Only one thing prevents you from hurling that back at Moscow on that basis: they plead now from Moscow that since they made either of those statements the French, against all the requests and views of their Allies, have insisted on going on with their aim of their own nuclear weapon and have actually made tests—which I gather were certainly not all underground: they were in the atmosphere as well. I hope that perhaps these two contrasts, the original pledge of the Russians and their action now, which we condemn, will not be lost upon General de Gaulle, and that some representations will be made to him in that connection.

Perhaps I may turn next to the actual size and power of the development which has taken place in this respect. I read from time to time this periodical, the Soviet News, which comes from the Soviet Embassy quite regularly, and so must be authentic according to them. This is an interview which was published by the Embassy on September 18. The questions are by Mr. Sualzberger, the correspondent of the New York Times, and the answers are from Mr. Khrushchev. I come across a paragraph like this: Let those who dream of new aggression know that we shall have a bomb equal in power to one hundred million tons of T.N.T.; that we already have such a bomb and shall test the trigger device for it. Let them know that if they attack us it will mean certain death to themselves. We have no other way out. As we understand from the Foreign Secretary, that is the enormous bomb which has probably been, or about to be, let off. Yet only to-day are the people of the Soviet informed about it. This is a report issued by the Soviet News here. The extraordinary thing is that we can have this statement issued to us by the Embassy as being the fact, but apparently the Russian people have not got it. If you try to weigh up, as military men can do better than I can, the effect of a bomb of that terrible power, over 100 million tons, you can understand the growing anxiety of the people, and why my other plea holds—that we should do our utmost to speed up the actual basis of negotiations. I should like to add here that I feel I can support wholeheartedly the general lines on disarmament which the Foreign Secretary gave. At this juncture, because there are so many speakers, I hope that your Lordships will excuse my not stating my views in detail, because I am already with the Foreign Secretary on this and there is no need for me to indulge in repetition.

Lastly, among the many matters of moment, there came at the end of the speech the question of our entry into the Common Market. I must say that I think that a good deal too much political propaganda has been made about whether or not the Labour Party, to which I am proud to belong and to represent, are dragging their feet about about the Common Market. Nor do I feel that there is anything on the facts which would justify such a charge. What I do find is that the Labour Party Conference has agreed to the policy of awaiting the result of the actual negotiations which are being decided on by the Government and apparently approved by a majority of Parliament. Until the result of those negotiations, I would defy anybody to say that he really knows what is going to happen as the result of going into the Common Market.

On October 4 and 5 I was looking at two articles, which are most objectively drafted and written, in the Financial Times as to what is likely to happen as the result of our entry into the Common Market. I also read carefully the speeches made at the Conservative Party Conference the other day. And on this matter, which is after all of international importance, I feel most strongly that at present, until we know the result of the negotiations, we are just acting and voting, so far as we have voted, on a pure gamble. The Government do not know exactly where they are going or what they are doing. Nor have we apparently yet taken sufficient account of statements such as those made by M. Spaak, after his visit to Moscow, and his explanations elsewhere, that of course they are not over-concerned with the economics and finance of the thing; that it is a political body. That is more or less the same as Professor Hallstein said in his lecture to the students at Harvard University.

Do not let us have any spoiling of the extent of unity that we can achieve between the Parties of this country in our foreign and defence policy. Unity is necessary when you get into trouble. You really have to face up to these things. There is no need to hurl at us accusations that we have not made up our minds about this question. I think there must be a number of people who have not made up their minds, at any rate judging by the latest popular votes. I hope very much that when we go into the actual negotiations we shall have a little more explanation of what is meant by hoping that these negotiations or our entry into the Common Market will not injure the Commonwealth too much. I think it is fundamental that we should do what we can to help the Commonwealth economy at all points, and to retain the loyalty and the devotion of those who have been with us in so many crises and to whom we always look for help when we are in trouble.

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, we on these Benches, the Liberal Peers, are most grateful to the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary, for the comprehensive survey he gave us to-day, and also for the impartial way in which I think he dealt with the various serious problems which face this country. I am quite sure that the House as a whole is behind him both in the firmness he showed and in his readiness to enter into negotiations, if negotiations are possible.

There is one point in regard to Germany that I should like to make here and now. I feel that it has not been made by either of the two speakers who have preceded me. History did not start in 1945, and I am quite sure that a great deal of the tension in Europe is due to a fear of Germany—a fear of the reunification and the rearmament of Germany. This may be quite baseless. I hope it is. But we must recognise that it is there; and it explains, if it does not excuse, some part of the fear of Mr. Khrushchev and the Soviet Union. I myself have had something to do with the Germans. Many of your Lordships have had far more to do with them than I have, but I must admit that I find the Germans most difficult people to understand. They are a remarkable people—people with tremendous power, with great history, and with enormous contributions to religion, to philosophy, to art, to science, to logic, and yet capable, as we have seen on so many occasions, of the most extraordinary actions with regard to their fellow creatures.

I feel that it is essential for us to keep Germany within the European family of nations. That is one reason why I am a tremendous supporter of N.A.T.O., and why I welcome the Common Market. Like other noble Lords, I have for some years past been going to the N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians' Conference, and I know very well how much the smaller European nations welcome our presence in the affairs of Europe as a guarantee that never again shall Germany march into their territories as she has done three times in the last 100 years.

I hope, with the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary, that the West will meet fairly soon to consider what negotiations they can have with the Soviet Union, in spite of French objections. I must admit that I feel somewhat sympathetic towards the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, in regard to his comments on General de Gaulle in this particular sphere. I notice with pleasure that the noble Earl has said to-day that Her Majesty's Government agree that there shall be a guarantee of freedom for Berlin by all concerned before we accept any treaty between East Germany and the Soviet Union. I am quite sure that is most important. We must guarantee, as he has said, the freedom of the Berliners. And I would, for this purpose extend "Berliners" to include East Berliners as well as West Berliners, because it is a purely artificial line that is drawn for military purposes between the various sectors of Berlin I would ask two questions of whoever is going to reply to this debate. Is there any possibility of an acceptance by West Germany of the Oder-Neisse line? I feel that if that were possible it would relieve to a considerable extent some of the apprehensions now in existence in Europe. And I should like also to strengthen the requests that have been made for United Nations Agencies to be stationed in Berlin. I personally was very pleased indeed that the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary dealt with this question of the de facto recognition of East Germany. I am sure that what he said to-day will go a long way to remove misapprehensions—because misapprehensions there have been.

As he said, in International Law de facto recognition means what it says and what it implies: it is de facto. You recognise by doing something, not by saying something. In the past it has been held in International Law that the mere sending of a telegram from one Government to another is tantamount to de facto recognition. How much more, therefore, has there been de facto recognition in this case of East Germany, where no less than £300 million worth of trade last year accrued to West Germany, and where the Leipzig Fair is held every year, to which businessmen from this country and other countries go! They are not going to a vacuum; there must be clearances from some authority. There is no doubt, I should have thought, that there must be some recognition already.

To move to nuclear tests and disarmament, we are all most disturbed, I am sure, by these tests of the Soviet Union. I feel it is a heartless, reckless and irresponsible act on their part to go in for these tests at this time. I would just draw your Lordships' attention to the second Report of the Medical Research Council, published in December, 1960 (Cmnd. 1225), in which, dealing with this question of the civil use of radiation and not the military use, it is said: As all such radiations are potentially dangerous their use should be the subject of constant and close scrutiny, and adequate justification should be required for their employment on however small a scale. There is a limit to the amount of radiation any population or any individual can accept, and we cannot afford to expend without careful forethought the margin which is now available to us. The Medical Research Council were talking about wrist-watches and things like that. We can imagine how soon the margin will be expended if there is testing of nuclear devices in the atmosphere. I think that simply as human beings, not as members of the East, or of the West, or anything else, we must deplore this action on the part of the Soviet Union.

I was very glad to-day to hear the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary say—and I think he has lodged an agreement to the effect—that the United Kingdom is prepared not to restart testing. Comprehensive disarmament, as he said, is the ideal, if it can be obtained. But even if it cannot—and I imagine that there is little chance of it at this stage, however optimistic we may be—then we might look at lesser aims. The President's system, which he elaborated, is admirable; but if it does not come off, in what way can we help towards disarmament? I think that in the first place we could help by the United Kingdom's surrender of her independent nuclear deterrent. Secondly, we could help by trying to get the various Powers to agree to a control of the production and storage of fissile material under inspection teams from the North Atlantic Powers, the Communist world and the so-called neutrals.

Before I resume my seat I should like to say a word about the Common Market, which question was raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. I think I ought to say a word on this matter, as I am a strong believer in it, which the noble Viscount obviously is not. The Common Market, in my view, is not in any way antagonistic to the Commonwealth countries; in fact, I believe it is the great hope for many of the Commonwealth countries. As things are going now, we shall soon be in very poor shape to offer them any sort of market at all unless we go into the Common Market.

Apart from that, I have gone into most of the products in the tropical Commonwealth, and, so far as I know, they are not grown anywhere in Europe. It does not grow rubber, tea, coffee or the various other products. We can offer our colonial territories a far better market if we are in the Common Market than if we are out. Admittedly, I believe that for New Zealand special arrangements will have to be made, but we can rest assured that there is no danger. No-one has yet been able to prove any to me concerning a vast range of products from our colonial and ex-colonial territories, because, as I have said, they are invariably tropical products against which there is no competition in Europe, except from some of the former colonies of France, which come in under a special arrangement.

There is one point which, as a Parliamentarian, I should like to raise on this question. There are a Council of Ministers and a Secretariat, but, so far as I know, there is as yet no effective Parliament in the Common Market. I would go so far as to say this to the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough—and so far as I am concerned he may take this as granted. Of course the European Community is a political association; it is not only economic. And I sincerely hope it will remain so, because eventually I hope that there will be a World Government and a World Parliament; and this I believe is a first stage towards it. I also believe in Free Trade, and I hope that this will be a first stage towards it. But we must get the Parliament right. We in this country have had a vast experience, the greatest experience in the world, of parliamentary institutions and organisations. Therefore, I hope that the Government and the Opposition will give careful attention to this question: how best can we bring into being a parliamentary organisation, a parliamentary association, in the Common Market which will be really representative of all the people in the Community? As I have said, we have had some experience with the N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians' Conference, which works quite well although it is, of course, not in the same field as this particular one but deals mainly with military subjects. Nevertheless, we could learn by the lessons from that organisation.

Finally, my Lords, I should like to say this about the United Nations. I entirely agree with the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary that it would be going backwards into the past to have this idea of a number of Under-Secretaries chosen from various countries and answerable to their own Governments. It has been a difficult matter to create an International Secretariat, and I am told on good authority that the morale of the International Secretariat as it is has not been unaffected by recent events. I feel that if this principle were agreed to by the great Powers it would strike a shattering blow at the United Nations, at the Secretariat.

The noble Earl, Lord Home, has told us how frustrated he feels at the abuses levelled at the United Nations against the United Kingdom. For some extraordinary reason that has been the case pretty well since the United Nations Organisation started. I was myself a delegate there in 1950. You might have thought that at that time everybody's minds would have been full of the war in Korea, which was on then. But not a bit of it. Most of them seemed to spend a lot of their time abusing us, not for what we were doing in Korea, but for what we were alleged to be doing in our colonies.

I remember that after one tremendous session of the Fourth Committee, which was, and still is, the Colonial Committee, at which I was representing the United Kingdom Government, I was approached by a man from a certain country, which shall be nameless—it was a small country, non-European. I knew that this man had himself been hauled up before the old League of Nations for slavery. He came up to me and said: "Look, I know as well as you do that all this stuff which has been said about you and your country is all rubbish. In fact, I know also, and you know, that conditions in your colonies near my country are far better than anything we have in my own country. The people are far better off, and are far happier. Take no notice of anything I say. I must play along with the boys "—and he did, of course. Now they have been "playing along with the boys" for the last ten or twelve years, and all I can do is to counsel the Foreign Secretary to have lots of patience, because no doubt, in time, virtue will be its own reward.