HL Deb 27 April 1966 vol 274 cc129-62

2.43 p.m.

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved on Thursday last by Lord Cohen of Brighton—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:—

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."


My Lords, before I start on the main theme of my speech this afternoon I should be grateful if your Lordships would allow me to say a brief word on one other topic. When we were exchanging civilities last week I expressly did not mention my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne since he was not in the House at that time and I particularly wanted him to be here when I spoke of him. I must, of course, be very careful about what I say in case it should sound like an obituary. As your Lordships will observe, my noble and learned friend is far from dead. I will therefore confine myself to saying how much I personally owe to him in the period when he was Deputy Leader of the Opposition and also when he was Lord Chancellor and I was the Leader of the House. Certainly nobody could have worked harder and nobody could have given me greater support. I very much hope that in his new geographical position my noble and learned friend will not be too silent and that the House will still hear him sailing into action, sometimes bristling with indignation, and at other times cooing like a dove. But, my Lords, wherever he chooses to sit he will certainly remain the noble and learned friend of all of us.

There is always the danger, in a speech on foreign affairs, of trying to cover too much ground, and since it is now some time since we had a foreign affairs debate there is a great temptation to discuss many of the issues which have arisen in different parts of the world in that intervening period. I shall, however, confine myself this afternoon to two issues: first of all, Europe—the Common Market, and the situation which has been brought about by General de Gaulle's declared intention to stand aside from NATO—and, secondly, the situation in the Far East, and in particular Vietnam and Indonesia. These two areas highlight the question I which has been in the minds of a great many of us in the last few years—namely, what is Britain's rôle in the changed world and in her changed circumstances.

Your Lordships will recollect that some years ago Mr. Dean Acheson made a speech in which he suggested that Britain had not found a rôle for the years since the change of Empire into Commonwealth. He made perhaps some rather unkind observations about this. At the time, that speech gave a certain amount of offence to certain people, and no doubt, to some extent at any rate, it was exaggerated, although there was obviously a basic element of truth in what Mr. Acheson, who could not by any standard be called an enemy of this country, had to say.

It is as foolish for Britain to pretend that her position has not altered, that her military powers and responsibilities have not diminished, and that the emergence of the independent States of Africa and Asia, together with the rise of the new Commonwealth, has not greatly changed her position, as it is small-minded and selfish to say that, because of these facts, Britain ought to retreat into her own island to live, if possible fat and comfortably, without regard to events in Europe or in the world and without trying to influence them. Though the Government, a little unexpectedly, in the light of certain speeches they made when in Opposition, have shown a robust determination to retain a British presence East of Suez, they have not, at any rate until very recently, given the appearance of being ready to accept that British membership of the E.E.C. is the key to our national future. And I believe that it is the key, and in part the answer to Mr. Dean Acheson's question.

I am, and always have been, and always shall be, an unrepentant advocate of Britain's joining the Common Market. Even in those days when it was considered that our membership would gravely undermine the Commonwealth, not only did I not share that view, but I thought that it was largely due to a misconception of the new rôle and form of the Commonwealth, and also an excuse for timid thinking and lack of imagination. We on these Benches have made our position clear, as indeed have noble Lords on the Liberal Benches. I do not intend to repeat this afternoon the reasons why I consider it vital that Britain should go into Europe. We have heard them—both the political and the economic reasons—over and over again; and the more I hear them, the more convinced I am that they are unanswerable. But, alas! neither the Conservative Party nor, of course, the Liberal Party are in a position to put into the practice the policy which they advocate. It is only the Labour Government who can do this, and this afternoon I wish for a moment to question the noble Earl the Leader of the House on where the Labour Party really do stand on this issue.

Your Lordships will remember that, as a result of the Western European Union meeting in London, the matter of entry into the Common Market was widely discussed during the Election campaign. At the W.E.U. meeting, the Foreign Secretary thought (though it has since tran spired that he was mistaken) that the French delegate had made a new and forthcoming statement about British membership of the Common Market. As a result, he himself made a rather more encouraging comment than was usual among Foreign Office Ministers in the last Parliament. Subsequently, no doubt as a result of what was said during the Election campaign by Mr. Heath, and others, the Prime Minister made a speech in Bristol on Friday, March 18, in which he set out the Labour Party's attitude towards membership. To say that that speech was disappointing is to put it very mildly. I do not know what the Prime Minister had in mind. It is perhaps conceivable that he intended his speech to be regarded as a great deal more forthcoming than in reality it was. But anybody who has even a fairly elementary knowledge of the problems of Europe must have realised that the theme of his speech, and the conditions he set, made British membership absolutely impossible.

At a Press conference a week or so earlier he had also said that it was impossible for the Labour Party to accept the agricultural policy of the E.E.C. This statement, combined with the Bristol speech, undoubtedly disheartened those of our friends in Europe who had hoped that if a Labour Government were reelected there would be a change of policy. It is perhaps a mistake during an Election campaign, when the pressure on the Leader of any Party must be great and when the temptation to make Party points is irresistible, to pay too close attention to the actual words used. Let us, therefore, if we may, forget that speech.

Some of what has happened since has been a good deal more encouraging; some, I think, a little more doubtful. Let us examine what is said in the gracious Speech. The actual words are that They"— that is the Government— would be ready to enter the European Economic Community provided essential British and Commonwealth interests were safeguarded. That statement can mean a great deal, or it can mean absolutely nothing. Those words could be an excuse for inaction or a springboard for a further effort at joining. I may be quite wrong, but I think it is the latter. I very much hope so, and I trust that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will tell us so later this afternoon. Certainly Mr. Brown, the day before yesterday, told us that the political will was there. And this is an important factor, for one of the most vital things the Government have to do is to convince the people of Europe that they, the Labour Party, really are serious about joining the Common Market; and, in particular, they must convince the French of this. For I do not believe that the French, or indeed many others, yet believe that the Government are in earnest, or that the political will is there.

I would judge that the words that I have read out from the gracious Speech will not be construed in Europe as being very encouraging: the formula is too familiar. They may well be taken merely as a reiteration of the five basic conditions upon which the Labour Party have frequently insisted, and which, of course, make our membership impossible. My Lords, the Six are not going to change their agricultural policy because we do not like it. Nor are they going to make special terms for Britain which they were not prepared to make for themselves. Why should they?

We must remember that since 1962 there has been a good deal of thought given to, and a good deal of experience of, the working of the Treaty. There will thus be less likelihood of a change just to suit our convenience; though change to ease our real difficulties is a different matter. It may be, too, that the very fact that the Treaty has been working for three or four years may iron out some of the difficulties which we envisaged during the negotiations in 1962. But one thing I hope the Government will recognise, and that is that we are not going to be treated specially and uniquely. They should not expect it. Though, naturally, there must be negotiation.

Therefore, it comes down to this: what exactly do the Government mean when they say that they will join the E.E.C. subject to essential interests being safeguarded? What would they consider (this is in general terms) to be adequate safeguards? We agreed very largely in 1962 what we thought those safeguards were. How do the Government differ from us? What are the essential interests which they think must be safeguarded?

What would they consider to be adequate now, in 1966? I have a suspicion that it is a forlorn hope to ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House to answer these questions, because the Foreign Secretary declined to answer them yesterday in another place; but surely it is upon the answers to those questions that the test of our intentions will be judged. I thought it very disappointing that in an otherwise encouraging speech the Foreign Secretary declined to be drawn further. It is easy enough to say that you want to join the Community, but it is the provisos with which you surround your intention which cause the misgivings among our European friends. I hope (it is not a very strong hope) that the noble Earl will be able to go a little further this afternoon, for the misgivings of our friends in Europe are still shared by a good many of us. The answers to these questions will show us whether or not the Government mean business.

Allied to the problem of the Common Market is the problem of NATO. I think there are some—and some in this House —who seem rather lightly to discount the importance of NATO. They say that they cannot conceive of any situation in which force could be used in the European area, and that it is so unlikely that we should remove a large proportion of our forces from Europe and consequently dismantle some of the complicated framework and infrastructure of the Treaty Organisation. My Lords, I do not share that view; at least, I do not share the view that you can dismantle NATO. It has always seemed to me that one of the chief reasons why there is so little likelihood of war in Europe is precisely because NATO exists. Surely the break-up of the Treaty, the disappearance of American troops from Europe, the re-emergence of individual armies, navies and air forces and the end of integrated command would be much more likely to lead to a recurrence of the dangers of the 1946–49 period than to a continuance of the comparative stability that we have enjoyed in the last seventeen years.

But, my Lords, that is not to say that the organisation of NATO is perfect: indeed, it would be very odd if it were. The Treaty was formed in 1949, and circumstances have greatly altered since that date. In 1949 Europe was poor, war-weary, not at all well armed or equipped, and the spirit of some of its countries was pretty low. To-day all that has changed. The prosperity in Western Europe rivals the prosperity in the United States, and the morale and spirit of its peoples are high. They are, therefore, much less likely to accept without demur the dominance of the United States in the Alliance. All these things are well known, as indeed is the attitude of General de Gaulle. He has not, so far as I know, changed his views about NATO for a long time, and his action of a month ago could hardly be called unexpected.

I cannot pretend that I do not regret his action. I also cannot pretend that I believe that, in this age of complication and sophistication in warfare and in weapons, it really is possible for an alliance to be convincing and to be a deterrent to a potential aggressor unless there is integration on a large scale, and particularly integration in command. The absence of the French from that integration must seriously weaken the Alliance. Nevertheless, I think it would be wrong to dismiss General de Gaulle's criticisms of NATO out of hand. We should be equally wrong to criticise the Americans for the lead they have taken in NATO over these past years. On the contrary, we should be very grateful to them.

Account must be taken, however, of the importance, and growing importance, of the individual members of the Alliance, and whatever the rights or wrongs of General de Gaulle's case or of the Americans' case, this difference of opinion surely offers a splendid opportunity of having a new look at the organisation, of reviewing the whole Alliance, and working out a system more in keeping with the situation in the late 'sixties and 'seventies. I know that this is what the Foreign Office have been wanting to do for some time; and, having read the speech of the Foreign Secretary in another place yesterday, I do not think the Government or the Foreign Secretary would dissent from that. It may be that General de Gaulle's action will make a review easier. I hope that we shall hear from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, this afternoon what steps the Government propose to take in this matter, because there is urgency. I do not share the view that NATO has out- lived its usefulness, and I am sure that its weakening fills most of us with grave misgivings.

Lastly, my Lords, I turn to the Far East. I am glad to think that we are to hear this afternoon a maiden speech from my noble friend Lord Head, who has a very wide knowledge of this area. I know that there are many, on all sides of the House, who are gravely perturbed about the situation in South Vietnam, and they are worried about the United States getting more and more deeply involved in a situation which is becoming more and more serious, and looks less and less capable of solution. It is, of course, very easy for people to criticise the United States, to forget what they are doing, to criticise and say that they should have done this or should not have done that; or to go hack to the days of President Diem and to say that the original mistake was to let him be overthrown. All these things are, I suppose, to a greater or lesser degree open to argument. But the fact remains that the United States is in South Vietnam, and deeply committed.

I am at a loss to understand those who advocate that the United States should abandon South Vietnam. How can they possibly extricate themselves from that country at this moment without a loss of face—and a loss of face which would have incalculable effects on the remaining independent States in that area? The effect, for example, on Thailand and the Philippines, not to mention Cambodia and Laos, would very likely be catastrophic—no less tragic, perhaps, than the effect on China, which could interpret the American withdrawal only as a total victory for Communism. Our friends would be gravely disheartened, our enemies triumphantly encouraged. This is not an action, surely, which any American Government could contemplate, nor do I think that the United States would be morally justified in abandoning the South Vietnamese. It is, of course, perfectly true that the South Vietnamese are heartily sick of the war, and heartily sick of their military Government. This is not surprising when one considers that they have been fighting for over twenty years in one form or another, and against one enemy or another. Nevertheless, I do not believe for one moment that if the bulk of the people of South Vietnam wanted a North Vietnamese or Viet Cong victory the Americans would be able to bolster up, as they are doing, the military régime and continue to fight the Viet Cong.

It surely follows that there is still a considerable resistance in South Vietnam to the Viet Cong and, although war-weary, they are still determined not to give in. I, for one, do not therefore see that the Americans have any choice other than to continue, as they are continuing, to fight for a military victory but, at the same time, to make it abundantly clear that they are prepared to negotiate without prior conditions. I was glad to see in the gracious Speech that the Government will continue to use all available means to achieve a negotiated settlement". It is, I think, rather doubtful whether at this moment we are in a position to be of much use in this direction, but if the opportunity arises we should certainly take it, for in negotiated settlement must surely lie the solution to this problem for the United Slates. I have noticed that there has been some comment, both in the United States and in Australia, that we have not been doing our fair share in the Vietnamese war. It was, of course, agreed, both by this Government and by its predecessor, that we should concentrate in containing the Indonesian confrontation while the Americans were occupied in Vietnam; and there has been a very large British effort to that end. All of us must have been encouraged to read of the change of régime, or perhaps more accurately the change of executive authority, in Indonesia. While President Soekarno was in charge, there was not much hope for the end of confrontation. I think it is too early to say what the new Indonesian Government proposes to do, though Government spokesmen may perhaps may be able to tell us later on what their assessment of Indonesian intention is. But I think we should remember this. Ostensibly, the excuse for confrontation was the retention of the British base in Singapore, together with the incorporation of Sabah in the Federation. It was really nothing of the kind. President Soekarno had made such an appalling mess of the economy of Indonesia that some diversion was necessary, and a diversion which had patriotic over- tones, colonial overtones, European overtones, was, of course, highly popular and suited him down to the ground. We should be making a mistake to suppose that the "crush Malaysia" campaign was not popular with the people of Indonesia and, in particular, with the army. It may well take some time for a change of policy to be brought about, if indeed the new rulers of Indonesia wish that to happen.

The overtures which Indonesia has made to Singapore seem to be not so much a slackening of hostility towards Malaysia, as another means of embarrassing her, so I think we must be careful in assuming that confrontation will automatically cease, until we see an expression of good faith on the part of the Indonesians. But one thing we can certainly be pleased with is the total defeat which the Chinese have suffered in Indonesia. The breach with China must surely be wholly good, and a great encouragement to hopes of peace in that area.

My Lords, I know that there are some in the Party opposite, and all in the Party on my right, who would like to see Britain withdraw from her role East of Suez and, in particular, in South-East Asia. Most of them, as I understand it, do so on the grounds of expense, for which I do not have much sympathy. It seems to me that we are spending a great deal of money on all sorts of things which are basically much less important than the commitments which we have in that area. There are others who feel that our presence in South-East Asia is unnecessary for a totally different reason. They feel that the Chinese are not themselves expansionists, and that talk of domination of South-East Asia by the Chinese is unrealistic. They go on to argue that the presence of Europeans on the South-East Asian mainland is more likely to lead to difficulties than to act as a deterrent to aggression. Nobody yet knows whether this theory about the Chinese is right or wrong. We certainly have no evidence to support it; and such evidence as there is seems, if anything, to contradict it. I should therefore be disinclined to base the whole of the foreign policy of this country in that area on the assumption that the Chinese were going to behave themselves. There is far too much at risk, and the prospect of a South-East Asia together inevitably, I should have thought, with India and Pakistan as a solid Communist bloc, is not one that we can contemplate lightly. It is, of course, a perfectly fair speculation, but I sometimes wonder whether speculations of this kind do not have some undesirable effects.

I noticed in both The Times during the week and the Observer last Sunday a report that the Australians had declined to allow discussions of alternative bases on the mainland of Australia, since they believed that we should at all costs remain in Singapore. I do not know whether that report is true, but to anybody who knows the Australians there will be an immediate recognition of the vital importance of Singapore to that country. It would be difficult to overemphasise the effect on Australians of the surrender of Singapore in 1942, and it would be equally true to stress the continuing mistrust of British intentions to stay in the Far East, a mistrust fanned by the kind of speculation to which I have been referring.

I can well imagine—though perhaps it is untrue— that Australian reasoning is on these lines: "We believe that Singapore is vital to the defence of our country. We are not going to make it easier for the British to get out by offering them alternative accommodation, because it is in our interest for them to stay there for as long as possible." I must say that I think it is in the interests of the Western World that we should stay there as long as possible—with, of course, the proviso, with which we all agree, that we cannot stay there if we are not wanted. I shall be very interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, can tell us about the progress of the negotiations which the Government have had with Mr. Lee Kuan Yew over the past week.

Whatever speculations there may be about the future let us make one thing abundantly clear. No British Government—not even a Liberal Government—could possibly abandon its solemn obligations and commitments in South-East Asia. Nevertheless, we must obviously look to the future, and we all look forward to the day when there is no need for British or American troops on the soil of South-East Asia, and when each individual country in that area can defend itself by itself, or in conjunction with its neighbours, or underwritten by the West.

My Lords, I started off my speech by recalling Mr. Dean Acheson's words about Britain's rôle in the world. As I say, on the whole I am encouraged by the speeches made by leading members of the Government in the last few days. I think that as a nation we are beginning to realise that our rôle in the world must be in conjunction with our European neighbours: not, of course, exclusively so, because, as I believe I made clear, we still have an important rôle to play East of Suez. I do not think that those two roles are contradictory, for Europe, with Britain playing a major part, must of course concern itself with Asia and Africa and not exclusively with its own problems. I believe that we are moving in the right direction, but I also think that we must go faster than we have been doing in the last two years or so. I very much hope that the noble Earl the Leader of the House, who has a splendid opportunity this afternoon, will be able to say that the Government will press on with their Common Market negotiations with real urgency, and with a real will to succeed, for time is getting short.

3.13 p.m.


My Lords, when we discuss foreign affairs in general, and not any particular specific subject, I think that we ought to try to concentrate on the wood rather than on the trees and, as I think the noble Lord who has just spoken indicated, try to look at the subject as a whole. So I will endeavour to follow his example. But before doing so I think I should comment to some extent on what he said about specific subjects, and notably about NATO and Vietnam and our policy East of Suez from the point of view of those who sit on these Benches.

With regard to NATO, I do not think that we here would criticise at all what the noble Lord said. We would agree with his comments. With regard to Vietnam, I have, of course, considerable sympathy with what he said about the desperate predicament in which the Americans find themselves. But what he did not say, and is obvious, is that it is not so much a question of the undesirability of, and the catastrophic results which would follow, the Americans' abandonment of the South Vietnamese, as of what would happen if the South Vietnamese refused to continue to stand by the Americans. This is a dilemma which is becoming increasingly apparent in the United States of America itself, and I do not think that we should seek to minimise the importance of that possibility.

With regard to our rôle East of Suez generally, I need not say very much, as I think the attitude of our Party is quite well known. It is not entirely on the grounds of expense that we recommend cutting down as much as possible on our obligations East of Suez, although it is very largely so, because the amount we spend there is very nearly equivalent to the foreign exchange deficit on our balance of payments in this country; and when we have to borrow that from international bankers it seems rather absurd to go and spend it East of Suez. At least it seems rather paradoxical to me.

What we on these Benches have suggested is that we should try to do fairly soon in the Persian Gulf what the Government have already done with regard to Aden. No doubt we shall have to go on for some time with our obligations in Malaysia. As regards Malaysia, and Singapore in particular, we have in fact never said that we should get out immediately, or even in the near future. But we have said that we should try to assist every possibility that exists for ending the confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia; and there now seems quite a reasonable prospect of doing so. Perhaps the noble Viscount who is to speak later will elaborate on that. But if there is such a prospect then I think undoubtedly we should have to decide what to do with the 50,000 men we now have in the island of Borneo. If we took them out we could not put them all into the base at Singapore we should have to bring them back here.

As to Singapore, nobody would suggest that we should stay there longer than we are wanted, and I should therefore have thought it imperative that we should discuss with the Australians what would happen supposing the local inhabitants do not want us to stay on in Singapore any longer. So I think it is short-sighted (of the Australians rot to discuss with us the possibility of building up some kind of base facilities in North Australia.

Also we have suggested from these Benches that we should try to work out with the Americans and the Australians some general scheme for the defence of the area as a whole. It may well be that that would be after the Vietnamese war had ended, and when in fact we had had to abandon Singapore, and that would possibly involve also a discussion on the communications going West-about and not East-about, as they do now over very doubtful Middle East and islands in the Indian Ocean.

Having said that, my Lords, I should like to say a few words on the general issue. I think there is now general agreement in this country that we have three broad options open to us during the next decade before, as Mr. Acheson said, and as we always quote, we eventually "find our rôle". These three options, if we forget for a moment our self-appointed rôle as leader of the Commonwealth (because, although the Commonwealth will undoubtedly go on, "leading it" is not one of the options for us for the future), are, as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Carrington hinted, neutralism, presumably connoting a highly directed economy in this country; drifting ever closer to the United States of America, or, in some way joining Europe. I think it is the last which is now, happily, the most favoured in this country. But there is no doubt that it is still vigorously opposed by a large and quite influential group in the Labour Party. I think they hold, broadly speaking, that joining the European Economic Community might prevent the accomplishment of what they always refer to as "Socialism in our time". Perhaps even more important, as they think, it might ruin our relations with the Soviet Union and the Communist East.

I think also there are certain Tories who are not at all happy about the European solution although they may accept it. They are certainly not happy about our signing the Treaty of Rome, and that for quite different reasons from the anti-European group in the Labour Party. They are concerned with our ancient traditions and our relationship with the Commonwealth countries, which they think has a greater future than I believe is the case. But broadly speaking, I think the chances of our going for the first option—that is to say, shrinking into ourselves, despite the fact that a certain number of people would like this country to do just that—are not very great. On analogy, it would be equivalent to a star which I believe the astronomers say after a period of intense activity suddenly becomes what is called a "yellow dwarf". I must say, I do hope we shall not become a yellow dwarf.

Yet indeed after four hundred years of nationalist expansion, during which we founded an Empire on which the sun never set and spread the new ideas of our Western civilisation, of Christendom, if you like, with great success throughout the world, we might follow Spain and Portugal and indeed most of the Empires since time began into a period of political eclipse, concentrating on our own affairs, sensibly directing our economy on clever Schachtian, or perhaps one should now say Baloghian, lines, not attempting to play any great or decisive role, in fact a hedgehog reflex, not inconsonant with trying to play one super Power off against the other, but entirely consistent with the desire of a considerable section of our people who want to get on with what, as I say, they call the achievement of Socialism in our time. It is possible, in spite of Gaullist insistence on what the General calls her "rang", her position in the world, that this may also be the eventual fate of France. There may not be very many people who favour this solution, but, as I say, the tendency certainly exists.

There are many more, I am sure, who feel that we may well end up as part of some Anglo-Saxon federation, the logical centre of which could hardly be anywhere else than Washington, although I believe there is a school of thought, which I think is wrong, that it could now be situated, along with NATO or the remains of NATO in London. The present moves against NATO by General de Gaulle, and indeed against the European Economic Community, will undoubtedly help this tendency towards an Anglo-Saxon bloc, and it might be reasonably acceptable to many people here, perhaps even the majority of our countrymen. For it would be, after all, quite compatible with the maintenance of our peculiar forms of Government and ancient traditions. It is even possible that such a federation might include some other European States, though not I think those of the Latin culture, while the future of Germany would be quite obscure. In the end she would probably be absorbed in the famous "Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals", that is to say, I suppose, a congeries of States in which the dominant Power would be the Soviet Union.

All this appears to be implicit in the serious proposals recently put forward in the United States of America about what they call Atlantic Union. These seem to be making some headway, chiefly owing to American impatience with Europe and desire to find some justification for their Western policy other than President Kennedy's famous partnership, which many of them seem to think is entering into a sort of decline, thanks to the determination of de Gaulle that the European partner should not be a genuine community but only what he calls a Europe of States, under, of course, French leadership. So it is possible if Europe really cannot be formed, that is to say if the Brussels machine really does break down and all the members of the Community recover their complete freedom of action, that the General's nightmare of an Anglo-Saxon bloc dominated by America, with France in a weak position between the two super-Powers, might come about after all. At all events, the present French policy seems, for reasons it is really very difficult to understand, to be working towards this end, whether in Europe or in the sphere of the North Atlantic Treaty.

Happily, of course, the third or European option for Britain is still open. Like the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, I do not propose to elaborate on the reasons why it still seems to be the best solution. But the sad truth is that it cannot be taken up with success for so long as the French pursue their present policy. This option lies, of course, in our joining the European Economic Community, in building it up into a real community, and not a mere Europe of States, and thus forming on this side of the Atlantic a union of a novel type more suited to our ancient nations than any form of Atlantic union, which in default of the creation of Europe could only be an association between an elephant and a number of much smaller beasts, that would of course in practice have to be run by the elephant—there would be no other possibility. There is no doubt that in a genuine European community Britain would have a leading r ôle, as indeed would France. By the time we reached the point where German reunification might be possible we might, hopefully, have arrived at the stage where the self-contained and totally independent European nation state, the bane of Europe since the Reformation, had in fact disappeared, though the individuality or "personality" of the existing European countries, including our own, might in no way be affected.

The chances of German reunification, "in peace and freedom", of course are slender indeed if there is a continued Soviet-American confrontation, and slenderer still if the intention is to achieve the reunification solely or largely on the basis of some deal between France and the Soviet Union. So for those reasons those who believe in the necessity, and it is a necessity, of ending dangerous tension in a nuclear world should firmly contemplate the desired European goal and not fall for any second best solution unless and until it is absolutely certain that old-fashioned nationalism has finally triumphed and that therefore we must adapt ourselves unfortunately to the resultant anarchy.

In these circumstances what we Liberals would above all else desire is some definite announcement by the Government that, by and large, it accepts these premises which I have outlined and wants not only to join the European Economic Community but also to build up a European political community, using the same techniques as those so admirably embodied in the present famous Treaty of Rome. We were therefore encouraged, as I think was the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, by the increasingly European sentiments expressed by our excellent Foreign Secretary and, indeed, many other members of the Labour Government during their first term of office, and even by what they said, or some of them said, during the Election.

Then we were absolutely shattered by the Bristol speech of the Prime Minister, which appeared to be conclusive evidence that he favoured the Europe of States as formulated by General de Gaulle, not a European Community as conceived by the great architects of European unity from The Hague Congress to the present time. Again, we were moderately encouraged—or, rather, we recovered partially from our discouragement—not only by the expression in the gracious Speech of at any rate a definite desire by the Government to enter the E.E.C. without at least any insistence on the famous five conditions of Mr. Gaitskell (this is the first time so far as I know the Government have ever officially and expressly said any such thing), but also by the appointment of two Cabinet Ministers of known European tendencies and great abilities to conduct operations in the event of our being able to resume negotiations. We were, in addition, encouraged, on the whole, by the remarks of the Prime Minister when he embroidered the other day on the relevant passage in the gracious Speech in another place, and again by the general tenor of the speech read out on Monday last to Mr. Cecil King's editors' conference (over which I had the honour to preside) by Mr. George Thomson, acting for Mr. George Brown.

Finally, we were especially encouraged by what the Foreign Secretary said only yesterday in another place; namely, that the Government did not question the institutions set up by the Treaty of Rome, but only felt that provision should be made for the safeguarding of our essential interests "within the framework of those institutions". That is what he said. He added that it was true that there would also have to be adjustments in some of the working rules of the Community."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 727 (No. 7), col. 562.] Perhaps the noble Lord, when he comes to reply, will tell us what that means. I am afraid that I have no idea what it actually implies. Later in his speech, replying to a question asking whether he subscribed to the ideal of European political unity—a question coming, incidentally, from his own side—the Foreign Secretary said that in his view membership would involve acceptance of the objectives and ideals that were in the mind of the framers of the Treaty. Well, politically speaking, there is, of course, no doubt what those objectives and ideals were.

In view of these recent statements, it is obvious, I think, that the Government have now come close to making that Declaration of Intent which I suggested should be made nearly two years ago; and that of course is very good—at least we think so. But—and this is the point—they have still not said explicitly what their objective is; that is to say, whether it really is to work for a genuine European Political Community. The essential object of my intervention to-day is to ask them, if they can, to take this little further step.

After all, if as they now announce, they want to join the European Economic Community, they should quite clearly say that they do not favour a Europe of States, and that if they sign the Treaty of Rome it will be, as I hope, with the firm intention of allowing the Commission to carry out the important and independent role assigned to it under the Treaty, and of accepting the verdict of a qualified majority vote in the Council of Ministers whenever the Treaty so decrees. In any case, we should have a legal obligation to do that if we signed the Treaty. Naturally, if we go in we should, as it were, fight our corner, as indeed, of course, all present members do, and no doubt with our great influence and our admirable civil servants we should have quite considerable success.

Naturally, too, there are some things which must be settled before we go in. Nobody doubts that; certainly we do not. One such thing is the length of the transitional periods which we and, of course, New Zealand should have before we pass over fully to the Common Tariff and apply the main principles of the Community's agricultural policy, subject of course to any derogations that may be jointly agreed upon in advance. Indeed, the recently expressed intentions of the Government on the broad nature of the concessions that they should seek seem to be reasonable. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that they might be specified a little more, but I feel, perhaps contrary to what he thinks, that the Government cannot go too far in that direction before they begin negotiations.

In other words, I think that the concessions which they now seem to be seeking would be reasonable, though, naturally enough, they cannot at the moment make them absolutely clear. But to say that we must insist on always importing our foodstuffs free of duty, and on conducting a completely independent foreign and domestic policy just does not, with great respect, make any sense, on the assumption, that is, that we want to sign the Treaty, as the Government say they do, and to enter the Community as a full member, as the Government say they want to do.

What we suspect—it is only a suspicion —is that the Government are now suffering from schizophrenia, a kind of split mind, so far as Europe is concerned. We therefore greatly hope that the Government will rid themselves, or try to rid themselves, of this unfortunate psychological complaint and make it quite clear that what they want to join is a real Community, and not a mere alliance of the old-fashioned sort with strong anti-American overtones; in other words that their objective is an autonomous Western Europe firmly within the Western Alliance, and that they are in no way attracted by the Third Force and nationalist theories and principles of the present Government of France. If they do this, they may, it is true, delay our entry into the Community for a year or two; but if they go in on the other tack and join, or even if they profess to favour, a Gaullist Europe, there is small hope for this country of ours, and less for an enduring Western Alliance and the possible wider Atlantic Association of the future.

The blunt fact is that there is little prospect of de Gaulle allowing us to join the Community unless, if he can—and it is a large "if"—he has reduced it to a sort of French-led Confederation, largely outside NATO, and perhaps in some special relationship with the Soviet Union. If he does achieve this end, I suggest there would be small inducement for us to join. Indeed, I should imagine that, among other things, we should find it quite impossible to subscribe to the prospective foreign policy of such a group. I hope that I am wrong in these gloomy forebodings, but I feel I may not be.

To resume (this is my last word), as we see it, all the Government should do is to say, quite simply, that they do not want to join a Europe of States and, subject to the broad conditions to which I have referred, that they do want to sign the Treaty of Rome and faithfully abide by its terms while remaining true to the Western Alliance. If only they could give such a lead, if only they could say just those few words, I assure them that they would change the whole foreign political situation for the better and also, I feel, be able to rally the nation behind them in the pursuit of a noble aim and a genuinely common cause which, I believe, would have the enthusiastic support of a large majority in all political Parties in this country.

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, it is a privilege to follow two statesmanlike speeches such as those of the noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Gladwyn, even if the latter could not divest himself of some, as he himself called them, "gloomy forebodings ", to which I shall return later on. It is also a pleasure to speak in front of the noble Viscount, Lord Head, who is to make a maiden speech which I believe he has pondered now for six years since he was raised to the Peerage, and which we are awaiting with exceptional interest. In the meantime, he has rendered outstanding service to this country in various parts of the globe. I should like once more to join in the tributes paid by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, to the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne. The noble Viscount is not here, but I am sure that we on these Benches would regard him as a Member of the House who will always command our deep respect, even when we disagree with him, as is bound to happen from time to time; but the House would not be the same place without him.

The noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Gladwyn, have raised the whole question of our attitude to the European Economic Community. I will try to say quite a few words on that subject, leaving some at least of the other topics, particularly NATO, to my noble friend Lord Shackleton, and some of the other issues to my noble friend Lord Walston, who will reply at the end of the debate. Lord Carrington was trying to interpret the recent utterances of Ministers in an encouraging sense. I hope he will continue to do that. I feel that he is fully justified in doing that, according to lights which, in this matter at least, I share with him.

Last year the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, opened a debate on the whole question of Europe, to which I made a long reply on behalf of the Government, and which I myself thought would please him, would mollify him, would generally increase his sense of wellbeing; but he found it most discouraging at that time. I am not quite sure that anything that could be said on the subject of Europe would ever satisfy Lord Gladwyn.


My Lords, I was grateful for small mercies generally.


Last year the noble Lord was not grateful for anything. On this occasion, if one follows his words closely, he takes a pessimistic view of the situation, as if in some way it would all be transformed by a few magical words delivered by some humble figure like myself this afternoon. I feel that that is not quite realistic, but I will reply to his line of argument later on. I hope that when I have finished and when other Ministers this afternoon have made their contributions, both the noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Gladwyn, will feel encouraged by what the late Cardinal Newman would have called our development of doctrine. I hope that both noble Lords will feel that things are moving on in a way which they would applaud.

Let us put our attitude clearly and concisely. We in the Government agree entirely that it would be to our political and economic advantage to join the Community. We are all aware that in a modern industrial world there are many leading industries, particularly the more modern ones, which need a wide economic base if they are to be developed to their full potential. In the rest of the world there are three major economic complexes which have emerged and which command large home markets. The addition of the United Kingdom and EFTA countries would provide a combined market in Europe with a total population approaching three hundred million, which would be more than five times our own market at present. The benefits which would accrue, in our view, would accrue not only to Britain. We believe our world-wide trading connections and our large domestic market would be of great value to an enlarged Community. It is not a question of our asking a favour of somebody and offering nothing in return. Such an outcome would help to heal the present division in Western Europe into two economic groupings, quite apart from Eastern Europe. Unless something is done, and done rapidly, this division will tend to grow very much as time goes on. There are many imponderable political and cultural advantages which I would not seek to discuss, but I think I have said enough to indicate that the Government yield to nobody in their appreciation of the possible benefits.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, wants to be quite sure that we are serious and genuine in our desire to join. I can give him that assurance solemnly and unequivocally. There is no doubt a consensus of opinion in this country, and certainly in the Government, that we ought to join. The decision of principle has been taken. The question now is not one of ends, but of means. The issue is not whether we ought to go in, but how we can get in on the right terms. I hope that those statements will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and also the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, at, this stage. If words mean anything, this starting point should satisfy anybody who wants to go in, though anybody who does not will find this sort of proclamation a good deal less exhilarating. This is a free country and those who do not want to join the Common Market have as much right to express their opinion as those who do. I hope that what I have just said represents the statement of intent for which Lord Gladwyn has pleaded so eloquently; though I myself have never known why he attaches such world-shattering importance to that particular phraseology. Surely nobody, even Lord Gladwyn—indeed he made this plain in his speech—will argue that we must make no effort to secure the right conditions. Surely everyone, including Lord Gladwyn, would agree that some safeguards must obtain, again as he in fact said in his speech. I do not suppose that noble Lords opposite if they were again in office would in practice commit themselves unconditionally to negotiate for British entry into the European Economic Community. I do not want to argue about the conditions which they made before, but although this is a rather uncontroversial occasion, at least so far, I would point out that they failed to get in. So I am afraid that we cannot turn to them for information as to how entry should be secured, but I quite agree About the genuineness of their desire to enter.

Let us all agree that no Government in this country would contemplate some move of this kind designed to alter our whole future economic and commercial problems without a profound examination of all the implications, without using every possible endeavour to see that the necessary safeguards were secured. So far, that must be common ground among those who want to go in. That, then, is our initial approach. I would remind the House that this approach—this approach of being anxious to go in but also being determined that the minimum safeguards should be secured—was an approach of the six present members of the Common Market when they were negotiating among themselves what has now become the Treaty of Rome. They fought very hard for their own essential interests. They took good care to see that all those interests were properly safeguarded, and very long and hard were the negotiations involved. Therefore, I am quite sure that nobody would seriously argue that we should not bargain and argue as strenuously as they did. If we failed to take these precautions, it would not only be a great wrong to the British people but a grave injustice to our friends and allies in the Commonwealth and in EFTA.

I hope that this afteroon I lay proper stress on our moral commitments both to the Commonwealth and to EFTA. Just as we need to make a considerable adjustment in our own arrangements, so we should regard it as fair that the members of the Community should, where necessary, make adjustments in theirs. Again, in so far as we use words in public which I am sure express genuine attitudes, I repeat that I cannot believe that in principle what I am now saying should be different from the attitude of any responsible British Government.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, asked me what we mean by "adequate safeguards". The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, paid a generous tribute to the speech of the Foreign Secretary yesterday, but found him a little disappointing on this particular point. Lord Carrington is too experienced and skilful a negotiator to be unaware of the difficulty of answering that type of question in any detail in public. If I set out the full list of conditions which ideally we should like to see satisfied, as has occurred before, we might be accused of discouraging our European friends at the outset. On the other hand, there is hound to be a good deal of amicable bargaining on the most optimistic assumptions, and the noble Lord would not expect me, in advance, to throw away any cards which we hold. Therefore, I must, I say with great respect—risking some slight loss of his esteem, but not, I hope, a permanent loss—be forgiven for not going into more detail than the Foreign Secretary went into yesterday. But I would say straight away that there can be no question of taking lightly our commitments to EFTA. This, particularly at present, is something that one must say with a great deal of emphasis, though I myself do not believe that the problem there is likely to be anything like as difficult as seemed possible at one time. I would not expect grave difficulties to arise there.

Of course, agriculture must be examined with particular caution. It may not be so difficult, though it is obviously essential to safeguard our own farmers. The effect on the cost of living, however, cannot be brushed aside at all lightly, and the same is true in the expert view nowadays—and perhaps ever truer—about the effect on our balance of payments, which is bound to arise at every point of the discussions and particularly here. Again, it would be grossly irresponsible to ignore the impact on the Commonwealth. It seems almost certain that New Zealand, which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, mentioned, must be treated as a special case. I am not trying to give a comprehensive list but am singling out the kind of points which any Government here would be hound to place in the forefront. But, in our view, the difficulties have diminished since 1962.

I am very pleased, indeed, that the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, is speaking this afternoon, think I that sometimes Mr. Hugh Gaitskell's name is used here in a somewhat misleading fashion. Mr. Hugh Gaitskell, as a man and as a statesman, has left an immortal legacy to our people and to many peoples outside this country. I would suggest that, as the years pass, his stature will grow ever larger, but the facts upon which he based his five points have changed a good deal since 1962. If he were with us to-day he would be the last to claim that these conditions, formulated in that particular way in 1962, were a sacred and unalterable text which could never be reinterpreted in the light of changing conditions. It would be tremendously unlike Mr. Gaitskell to take that attitude.

Perhaps what is more relevant is to point out that it would be quite wrong to embark once again on formal negotiations to join the Community in such a way as to risk a second rebuff. It seems certain, therefore, that we shall need a period of intensive preparation and of consultation with our Commonwealth and EFTA friends. Some of the problems—I have mentioned agriculture, in particular, but other problems, also—seem formidable at first sight; but that is no reason for being downcast. We must make sure in advance, after careful soundings, that there will be a sympathetic and welcoming response from all our future partners before we embark on formal negotiations. But, given such preparation, given the goodwill, I am personally very hopeful that our efforts will be crowned with success. I want to leave no doubt in any mind—I am sorry if I am being repetitive, and perhaps the noble Lord will forgive me for that—that success in entering the Common Market is the firm objective of the Government.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, may feel that he has not been altogether answered on one or two of his main points. He raised the very delicate question of supranationality, but, with proper respect, I beg him not to defeat his own purposes. I think that when progress is taking place along lines which he clearly welcomes, he might not in fact be serving the purposes which he had in mind if he kept asking always for a little more; above all, if he tried to insist on recantations at critical moments. I was not sure that that part of his argument was going to further the cause which he and so many of us have at heart. I would return rather to that fine book which he himself has written about Europe It is a small classic, if I may be allowed so to describe it, in which he says that, first, there must be the will, then the concept and then the act. I think he is convinced now that there is the will and also the concept, and I hope he will feel that the act is in a fair way to being performed.


My Lords, I thank the noble Earl very much for what he said about my book. But the concept does seem to me to be extremely important and the main thing which you want to get right. What I fear is that if you go on with one concept you may encourage the triumph of nationalism, which will defeat everything you are now trying to achieve.


My Lords, the noble Lord made that point just as clearly a little earlier. But I would remind him of something which was said by the Foreign Secretary yesterday—and, really, it could not have been said more plainly—which the noble Lord himself quoted. The Foreign Secretary said yesterday that membership would involve acceptance of the objects and ideals that were in the minds of the framers. The noble Lord asks: Can he really mean that? Frankly, I think the noble Lord has gained so much reassurance in the last few days that he might be content—if I may respectfully say so—for another 48 hours.

I yield to no one in the warmth of my good will towards the Common Market, but the Common Market is not Europe. Europe is something a great deal bigger than the Common Market, as was so wisely said in another place by Mr. Gordon Walker. I hope that there is no rule in this House which prevents us from congratulating another House on the return of one of its Members. I am sure all of us here rejoice at the thought that so admired a public figure as Mr. Gordon Walker is once more in full play. I have already insisted on the need for working in the closest harmony with our EFTA partners, and we must never lose sight of the aim of reunifying the whole of Europe, even if that seems a long way off at the moment. The E.E.C. countries have sometimes been criticised for being inward-looking, for being a divisive, rather than a unifying, force in Europe and the world. Certainly, I am not denying that there have sometimes been dangers of that kind, but at the moment one can point to strong and beneficent tendencies of a different sort. The West German note of March 25 this year is a striking example of one E.E.C. country's efforts in the search for a wider unity. There is a readiness there to make sacrifices for the sake of reunification, and there are a number of other constructive proposals. I think we can see in that Note, if we were not so sure of it before, that the concept of Western European Union, as interpreted by the Germans and other countries, is in no way incompatible with the concept of full European unity. The one leads naturally to the other.

Indeed, I would go a little further. Later I shall say just a few words, when I am finishing my speech, about the ideal of World Government and the necessity of working towards that through the United Nations at all times. Here, again, there is nothing incompatible between a European approach to a World Government, and a United Nations approach to a World Government. The great difficulty in the world to-day is to get any group of nations to agree to anything important for more than about five minutes at a time. That is the world problem in a nutshell. Whatever temporary difficulties the E.E.C. countries may be experiencing, we must recognise that the European Common Market has represented a large increase in the amount of agreement in the world, and if we can now expand that measure of agreement to our own presence and that of our other friends, we shall not be undermining the ultimate world aspiration; we shall be rendering it an indispensable service.

I do not wish to speak too long, so I must leave Vietnam to the noble Lord, Lord Walston, but I should just like to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation of the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, spoke about the problems of our American friends, to whom we owe so much, in the world scene as a whole.


£900 million.


I was really moving on a higher plane of thought.

We shall all want to hear from the noble Viscount, Lord Head, about the Far East, and I will not seek to reply on that subject at any length now. I should just like to repudiate (I think that is the right word) any suggestion, in any paper, however reputable, that there is something going on between us and the Australians which can be called a dispute. There is no disagreement, I am assured, between Australia and Britain over the need to examine the possibility of alternative facilities in Australia in case the Malaysia-Singapore base becomes untenable. The examination is continuing at the present time in, I am informed, an amicable atmosphere. The Australian Government, and we ourselves, want Commonwealth forces to stay in Malaysia and Singapore as long as they are welcome there. May I add that the Australian Government are, I believe, very pleased at the results of our Defence Review as outlined in the Defence White Paper? So I hope that this word "dispute" will not be brought in to cast a shadow over discussions which are proceeding in a very friendly way. I do not think the noble Lord used the word "dispute", but the article to which he referred was headed with a rather glaring reference to an alleged dispute.

My Lords, I will try now to look at matters a little more widely without repeating too obviously what has been said in another place in the last 24 hours, and, as old hands at this particular task will discern, that is not the easiest of problems. When we stand back and take a broad view of British foreign policy we must surely distinguish between our longterm goals and our interim programme. I say that, but we realise that it is on the latter, on our interim programme, that we have to depend for many years for our self-preservation and for the maintenance of peace. I was reading again in the last few days that splendid History of British Foreign Policyby the noble Lord, Lord Strang, which I hope is compulsory reading, or very happy voluntary reading, for all Members of the House.

On page 343 the noble Lord reminds us: After the war it was clear to Mr. Bevin"— whom he served so faithfully— that past policies would no longer serve. It was no good talking about naval predominance or the balance of power. Britain could not stand alone, and the Commonwealth could not be self-sufficient. The United Nations could not guarantee security at that stage"— and, of course, that is still the position at the moment. In the words of Lord Strang, writing about that post-war period: Security must be sought by supplementing the United Nations, but in a manner in harmony with the United Nations principles, and"— bearing all that in mind, under the leadership of Lord Attlee and Mr. Bevin, supported by a highly patriotic Opposi-tion— Great Britain departed from previous policies and took the decision to join a regional community, recognising the fact of beneficent American power". All that is summarised in Lord Strang's book when describing the policies which inspired us just after the war and which have inspired us, with one or two aberrations, ever since. I do not intend to dwell on those.

But, with all its virtues, this policy has been, after all, a policy of the second best. It has been a palliative rather than a cure for the prime disease from which the world has been and still is suffering. I am referring to the threat of a catastrophic, annihilating war which has hung, and still hangs, over us all. If the threat seems slightly less urgent at the present time, we should not think only of ourselves but of our children —and there one cannot pretend that in the long run, with the growth of nuclear Powers, the danger is any less now than it was a few years ago. All of us on these Benches—and, I am sure, far outside them—are convinced there can be only one long-term remedy which can make peace secure, not only for this generation, which may struggle through somehow, but for generations to come. Certainly we on these Benches are convinced that the one aim which must override all others in the defence field is the establishment of an international police force in a disarmed world as the precursor to the final establishment of World Government. That is the longterm aim.

But, in the meanwhile, of course, we have to defend ourselves by ordinary military and diplomatic methods in conjunction with other peace-loving States. In the long view of history, our success or failure in these next few years, the years immediately ahead, must be judged by our progress, or the lack of it, towards the establishment of the United Nations, far more effectively than hitherto, as a peace-keeping system and one which mobilises much more effectively than hitherto the resources of the rich to help the poor. That is our aim, and it underlies, or should underlie, everything we seek to accomplish in the years we are passing through.

However, we are obliged to recognise that certain fundamental prerequisites for such far-reaching developments are in present circumstances beyond our grasp. We cannot just insist on the establishment of an effective international police force. We can take a lead, as we have been trying to do, but in the last resort we cannot control international affairs as we can temporarily control matters within this country. It is to this long-term work, and yet to turn to the more limited objectives which lie on the way to it, that we are directing our earnest efforts, in the hope that we shall be able eventually to strengthen the United Nations to the point where it can take over the defence of peace.

I will not dwell at any length on our achievements. I am not saying that it is a Party matter. We take special pride in what we have done, but we are not the first to embark on this course. I need only remind the House of the burden in men and funds which we in this country are willingly shouldering in a common effort to create a favourable atmosphere; of our contributions to the United Nations development programmes; of our standing offer of logistic support for military operations; and, not least, of the substantial additional voluntary contribution of ten million dollars we made towards the elimination of the Organisation's financial deficit. In addition, this Government is, I suppose, unique in having within its ranks two Ministers who are giving their undivided attention to the work of the Organisation in one case, and of disarmament in the other. I know Lord Caradon and Lord Chalfont, who have already achieved a high measure of world-wide fame for their services for peace, would wish to be present this afternoon except that they are engaged in urgent discussions elsewhere.

My Lords, before I close I should like to say a word on one very wide question linked with what I have just said but going a little outside it. This question contains a strong moral element—although, as always in politics, the moral and technical factors are inextricably intertwined. The question I have in mind is the whole issue of the nature and extent of the sacrifices which we are prepared to make as our contribution to world peace. This issue is being represented—confusingly, as I should think, though not with any deliberate intent to confuse; but certainly far too crudely—as the question of whether or not we ought to remain East of Suez. That practical question of whether we do or do not play a particular part East of Suez arises, but as I see it there is a wide principle at stake. A week or two ago there appeared a powerful article in the Observer by an author for whom I have as much respect as I have for anyone in public life, though I disagree strongly with that particular article. He is a member of my own Party, but I do not think that concerns us very much here, because leading men of other Parties have shown themselves equally critical of what is called the East of Suez role. But, at any rate, the author of this article argued passionately against what he called "the decision to stay East of Suez in the 'seventies".


What is his name?


I will ask the noble Lord, who is a man of preternatural intelligence, to guess. But it is not a question of personalities: I am taking the theme. He wrote: The world has changed. Our old role as peacekeeper is no longer appropriate or within our power. In the 1970s we can and should lay down the white man's burden with a clear conscience having made during this century sacrifices for peace and sanity far beyond the call of duty. That point of view, while held by a relatively small minority, perhaps, in both Houses of Parliament, is expressed by some of its exponents, with knowledge and vehemence and certainly with immense sincerity. It deserves an answer if only to clarify the fundamentals of the Government's policies. I am not at this moment concerned to argue for or against any particular defence commitment, whether East of Suez or anywhere else. We dealt with some of those particular problems in the last Defence debates and I have no doubt we shall return to them often again. In a particular case many points of defence policy may be involved, and of course the whole question of what we can or cannot afford to spend overseas is wrapped up with our economic success or lack of it.

But there is one general aspect of this article and this thesis which I must resist as passionately as its authors propound it. I refer to the suggestion I have just quoted that, … having made during this century sacrifices for peace and sanity far beyond the call of duty", we should now withdraw—and these last are my own words—to an easier way of life and then go on to recognise, as the author suggests, that our role as peace-keeper is no longer appropriate or within our power.

Let us see what element of truth is here contained among much which seems to me quite mistaken. It may well be that we can no longer aspire to the role of individual peace-keeper. I believe that our function in that direction in the past has been somewhat exaggerated. But let us agree that we ourselves cannot aspire to be an individual peace-keeper over wide areas of the world. This is, indeed, beyond the capacity of any single Power to-day. But surely our contribution to collective peace-keeping is more urgently required now than at any time during our history, and within our economic limits, which can never be ignored, this is a role which must be played where the need is greatest, whether East or North or South of Suez. This is what is meant by a world-wide policy—and it is a world-wide policy, on behalf of the Government, that I am defending this afternoon.

Speaking for myself—and this is a personal reflection—I would suggest that if we were considering our national interests in isolation, in so far as that is possible in the modem world, if we were actuated by purely selfish considerations, by rather Machiavellian considerations, it would be highly advantageous to pull in our horns and spend as litter as possible overseas on helping others militarily or economic ally. Certainly it would make a wonderful difference to our balance of payments when we reflect that there has been this colossal increase in our Government overseas expenditure in the last ten years. But if we did that we should be blatantly shirking our duty, to the world. Of course, in the first place (and we discussed this an, earlier debate) there are particular legal and moral commitments, promises we have entered into; but that-is far from all. I am patriotic and nationalistic enough to believe that whether or not the United Nations ulti- mately realises our hopes depends on our country more than any other country except the United States, and possibly in some respects, in view of our Commonwealth leadership, on us even more than on her. In physical terms, the United States, with a population four times ours, is quite indispensable to all these purposes. When we judge any particular programme of peace-keeping in this phase of history we must judge it not ultimately by whether it enhances British or American prestige, but by whether it keeps the peace for the moment and leads on to the day when the United Nations itself will be strong enough to bear the load.

After no little heart-searching, because the force of the other argument has appealed to me on more than one occasion in the past, I am utterly convinced that the present world-wide policy of the Government—supported, as I believe it to be, by leaders of the other Parties and by the nation as a whole—is not only a necessary element in peace-keeping today; I am sure that it is the only policy which will enable us to lead the world to a system of world government in law and to a system of human brotherhood in spirit. That is what we have always stood for in one way or another, in spite of many differences in my own Party, and that is what I believe the House as a whole will stand for increasingly as time goes on.