§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
I think the whole Committee will feel that this Debate is very much due. It would, indeed, normally have taken place a good deal earlier but a number of circumstances have combined to delay it. We all wished to hold it, if we could, at a time convenient to the Foreign Secretary. We were all distressed at his recent illness and operation and we are glad to see him with us to day. We hope that the further operation, which we were distressed to learn this morning that he has to undergo, will finally set him on the road to complete recovery. There was, of course, also the inevitable delay because of the meeting of Foreign Ministers in London, but we thought it might be advantageous in some respects to wait for that meeting since we hoped that the position might be clarified both by events here and by the outcome of the Sydney Conference.
2071 I should like to begin my comment with some reference to events in China. Last January, when the Foreign Secretary was on his way to the Colombo Conference, and before that Conference assembled, His Majesty's Government decided to recognise the new Communist Government of China. I must say that I did not think then, and I do not think now, that that decision was fortunate either in its timing or in its method. There is, of course, no dispute between us, let me emphasise, that recognition does not entail any kind of approval of any particular Government. It never does; it is largely a matter of practical convenience between the two countries concerned for the conduct of their affairs. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made that quite clear in his speech last November.
At the same time, as my right hon. Friend also emphasised, it did seem important that we should move in step with our partners in the Commonwealth and with the United States of America. I emphasise this, not merely as a matter of sentiment or from the general desire we all have to work together, but for the practical reason that unless we are in step when we take decisions of this kind there is an inevitable temptation on the part of the Communist Government of China to try to play off one of the Governnments concerned against the other. That is precisely what has happened in this case. The truth is, and I think the Foreign Secretary would admit it, that recognition has in fact brought out no advantage at all today.
Meanwhile, it is admittedly embarrassing, to put it no higher, that neither Australia, nor New Zealand, nor Canada nor the United States, nor France has recognised this Communist Government of China. This does show a certain divergence of opinion, although I would add, that too much ought not to be made of it because our underlying unities are much stronger, much more important than a divergence of this kind, unfortunate though I think it is.
More important than the past are the present and the future. What is the position now as between the Chinese Communist Government and ourselves? Recognition has beer given but diplomatic relations have not been established. 2072 All kinds of conditions are being put forward by the Chinese Communist Government and those are, as I understand, being resisted, and I think rightly resisted, by His Majesty's Government. No doubt we shall be told today by the Foreign Secretary how this matter stands, and I imagine it will be made abundantly clear that there cannot be any question of making concessions in order that diplomatic relations should be established and that the persistance of the Chinese Communist Government in insisting on these conditions will only result in a failure to establish such relations.
The chief Communist conditions, as far as I have seen them in the Press, are concerned, first, with the property owned by the former Chinese Government and, secondly, with the position at Lake Success where the Soviet Government are attempting by methods of boycott to force a decision. The official communiqués issued after the London conference of Foreign Ministers the other day made no reference at all to this vexed question of the representation of the Chinese Government on the Security Council, but it is obvious that the subject must have been discussed. I have seen a Reuter message, published in the "Manchester Guardian," which I think came from several other agencies as well, that Washington officials had said that the Foreign Ministers in London were not prepared at present to make any movement in respect of the admission of Communist China to the United Nations. I do not know whether that is accurate, or not; perhaps the Foreign Secretary can tell us.
There is in truth an awkward dilemma as a result of the varying shades of attitudes taken up by friendly Governments and, indeed, Governments within the Commonwealth, towards this Chinese Communist Government. I should have thought that this dilemma in which we now find ourselves might, without much difficulty, have been anticipated. Indeed it was almost bound to arise once we took isolated action in regard to this Chinese Communist Government. Moreover, the Committee will, I think, recall that the Russians began their campaign to force the admission of Communist China on to the Security Council as long ago as last December, so that we must have foreseen our difficulty when we decided to recognise it in January.
2073 Therefore, it seems to me that if the Commonwealth and our immediate allies were not able to move together with us, we would probably have been wiser to hold our hands for a little while and see whether we could not make a united front on this issue and take our decision together, when it would have been at once more effective and more rewarding. I am not, of course, for a moment suggesting that there was anything either improper, or still less dishonourable, in the Government's decision to recognise. Of course not, but I do think that in the timing and the unfortunate lack of unanimity that move was of doubtful wisdom. However that may be, I am sure we are all agreed that there is nothing to be gained now by giving way step by step to a series of Chinese Communist conditions.
Our commercial interests in China are of immense importance, not only to this country but, let it be recalled, to China too. They exceed those of any other foreign country and we are frankly concerned about them. But the present Communist Government of China would, I think, be wise to recognise that they will gain nothing for themselves by treating our commercial interests with harshness and injustice. No doubt British firms are today, many of them, faced with decisions of the greatest complexity and gravity. I feel sure the Foreign Secretary will do all he can to help and assist them, but the point I would make to the Committee is that it will advantage no one—not those firms, nor anyone else—to embark on a policy of appeasement which, as our own bitter experience has shown in so many parts of the world, can be so ruthlessly exploited at our expense.
Now I want to say something about Malaya. Of course it is true that the victory of the Chinese Communists in China and our recognition of that Government have had an influence upon events outside China, notably in Indo-China and in Malaya, and throughout South-East Asia. This new factor raises with increasing urgency the need for a co-ordinated policy in this area where we, France and the United States are all committed separately, if not together. The most urgent British interest is focused in Malaya, the most urgent French interest in Indo-China, while the 2074 American decision to give aid to Indo-China indicates that the State Department regards the struggle there as one of the situations of weakness which require, to use Mr. Acheson's words to be made "situations of strength."
This state of affairs, I think the Foreign Secretary will agree, also calls for a concerted effort towards unity amongst themselves by the peoples of South-East Asia. We are constantly assured from all quarters, and I have no doubt it is true, that the overwhelming mass of opinion in those countries is anti-Communist. It is admittedly the duty of the Western Powers to do all they can to help, but our resources are not unlimited and this country has certainly carried exceptionally heavy burdens, not only during the war, but since. And so it does not seem unreasonable to look for an effort of statesmanship among those countries of South-East Asia—Siam, Indo-China, Burma, and Indonesia—to co-ordinate their own endeavours so that the help that can be offered for security and economy from the West can be used to the best advantage.
I was in Malaya for a short time last year and I should hope I would not make the mistake of thinking that a few days in any country allows one to speak with authority upon it. It most certainly does not. But I did have the opportunity then of meeting a number of those on whom responsibility lies, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, Sir Henry Gurney, the commanders of the various Armed Forces and many representatives of the Chinese and Malay communities; and, not least let me add, the planters and tin miners upon whom falls the burden of their daily work in conditions of anxiety, tension and danger. I am not sure how far hon. Members are aware that the majority of these men had, previous to this ordeal, themselves been for many years prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese. They and their families are surely deserving of our sympathy, our understanding and our support.
There is, to the best of my belief—I stand to be corrected by the Government if I am wrong—virtually no Communism at all among the Malays; nor do I believe that the number of Communists among the Chinese in Malaya was at all signi- 2075 ficant a year ago. It is probably true to say that then the internal position, though still very serious, did show improvement, but that improvement, as surely the Government must have known, was entirely dependent upon the general situation outside Malaya. So long as that showed no deterioration the process of gradually pushing the guerrillas into the more remote recesses of the jungle, breaking them up, and finally eliminating them, could continue.
What are the reasons for the admitted deterioration of the situation since then? I understand that at the beginning the guerrillas started their operations sooner than they had intended. They suffered accordingly, and have reorganised their ranks to some extent since then. Certainly another cause of the deterioration is the inevitable reaction to the Communist victories in China and, I fear, the recognition by His Majesty's Government of that Communist Government.
The question to which this Committee has now to address itself is: Is there anything further that we can do to help this situation internally? There are one or two assurances that I should like to get, either from the Foreign Secretary or later in the Debate. I should like to be assured that every military step that is necessary in Malaya and that our power and resources can command, is being taken. There have been some rather disturbing delays. One case was mentioned to the Committee the other day in respect of wireless equipment. The Colonial Secretary, answering an interruption in this House said:I am speaking for the moment about the wireless equipment…I said that the orders were being urgently dealt with and assembled, and were being flown out by air."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th April, 1950; Vol. 473, c. 1400.]That is all right. We are glad they are being flown out by air, but why only now? It seems strange that, after all this period of operation, there should be at this moment a shortage of wireless equipment. Then about armoured vehicles. I remember hearing a year ago of the need for armoured vehicles and whether ordinary vehicles could be armed to some extent. I saw an answer from the Secretary of State for War in which he said that armour plate and bullet-proof glass had now been sent out. 2076 That was on 21st March this year. One wonders why it was not done on 21st March last year. What has been the cause of these long delays before these arms were assembled?
There is the question of helicopters. I remember raising it about a year ago with the Minister. He said that the matter was being tackled with energy and vigour at the time but that helicopters were not available and would not be available for a year. I think three are now there. I did see that they were expected to be useful in respect of wounded. I do not know whether that idea has worked out but it would be interesting to know whether it is contemplated to send more of them. I see that the Dean of the college in which I had the honour to be in Oxford has been actively gyrating in a helicopter. I am strongly in favour of it, but if the helicopter is needed in Malaya I would rather see it there than carrying the Dean of Christchurch.
In all these things we should like to know whether the necessary priorities are being given to Malaya. There again, the Colonial Secretary was by no means clear in what he said. He was questioned about priorities—I have a quotation here—by the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Blackburn) who asked:May I take it that, in general, priority is given?The Colonial Secretary answered:I should not like to make a general statement of that kind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th April, 1950; Vol. 473, c. 1400.]Why not make a general statement of that kind? Why not say: "Priority is given to Malaya at the present time"? No doubt it should be. I hope before this Debate is over that the Government will declare clearly that in respect of all the supplies and services we can command, we give priority to Malaya where the need exists in Malaya.
There is one other point about aircraft. Can we be assured that there are sufficient of types of aircraft suitable for jungle warfare available in Malaya? That does not mean necessarily aircraft of the highest performance. That type of aircraft may not be of most service for that type of warfare. We ask for an assurance from the Government that priority is given to Malaya, and that everything needed is supplied to the maximum extent to which we are capable of supplying it. It is not 2077 a cold war that is being fought in Malaya but a very hot war indeed. It is the major military activity in which this country is engaged at the present time.
As I am speaking about British interests I must make reference to Hong Kong. We trust that the Government, despite their preoccupations in Malaya, will continue to ensure beyond a shadow of doubt that the necessary forces are available for the security of Hong Kong. I have already recalled how deeply the Communist victories in China have influenced events in Malaya. That applies still more strongly to Indo-China where a bitter struggle is being carried on between the French and the Government of Bao Dai on the one hand, and the Communist forces of the so-called Government of Ho Chi-minh on the other.
This latter Communist Government, or administration, or whatever one like to call it, is recognised by both Russia and the Chinese Communist Government. That is worth recalling. We, of course, have recognised the Government of Bao Dai, to the disapproval of the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg), within the French union. So have the United States and so have a large number of other countries. The French have deployed a considerable military force in support of Bao Dai.
We have to determine where we stand clearly in this matter. It is encouraging news that the United States is now proposing to give military supplies as well as economic assistance in Indo-China. So far as one can learn of the local situation, it would appear to be very serious. While the Government of Bao Dai appears to be in control of all the more open territories and while communications are still being maintained between the chief centres, the hilly areas of Indo-China, principally in the north, are admirable terrain for guerrilla warfare.
Whatever the feelings of anybody in this Committee may be about the internal events in Indo-China—I have often watched with respect the manner in which hon. Members follow events in the remote parts of the world—we must not disguise from ourselves the fact that if Ho Chi-minh and the Communists were to triumph, the consequences that would certainly follow in South-East Asia and 2078 Malaya would be such as no Member of this Committee could possibly wish to contemplate. I know that there are hon. Members on the Benches opposite who, in the past, have criticised the Government for recognising Bao Dai. I can leave that point for discussion among them, but I did notice with some interest in a paper with which I do not always agree, "Tribune," last week some comments on this situation which seemed to be worth quoting. It said:The Labour movement should make up its mind honestly as to where it stands. It cannot like the idea of assisting the French in a Colonial policy which would never be tolerated in this country.I am not sure that that is quite fair to the French. It goes on:At the same time, it would seem to be a worse evil to allow Communism to sweep to an easy success in an area from which it could threaten the whole of our position in South-East Asia.I agree with that entirely. If we are all agreed about that, it is the foundation from which we can move forward to the next step. What is the next step? What can be done if that is what we want to do? Did I hear the hon. Member for Maldon? I did not understand whether he was murmuring agreement or disagreement.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
I was murmuring disagreement to an hon. Friend in front of me. I am listening with great interest to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Eden
I see. I apologise. We can now come to the Sydney Conference. Let me say a word about that Conference. Nobody would deny that there are really two problems interwoven into the whole of the South-East Asian situation. One is security and the other is economic, the standard of life. In my judgment both are equally important, but the solution of the first—that is, security—must be short-term and the solution of the other can only be long-term. I submit to the Committee that we should be de luding ourselves if we thought that by concentrating solely on the economic problem we could resolve the situation in South-East Asia. We could not. As I have said many times——
§ Mr. Eden
I said both together. Let us try to keep this in perspective. I said earlier that it is quite useless pouring economic aid into a country if there is no internal security there. These conditions have to be created, otherwise the payment of millions of pounds could have no effect at all.
There are a number of organisations and activities on the economic front which I have no doubt can do good work. One is the Sydney Conference about which I hope the Foreign Secretary will tell us something when he comes to reply. I am sure that we have all welcomed—certainly I have welcomed—the initiative shown by the Australian Government at Colombo and since. I attach much more importance to this display of keen interest and activity by our Australian friends than to any transient friction which there may have been in the handling of these matters at any one conference. The great thing is that everybody should wish to take their part, and if they have diverse views as to how it should be taken it is to reconcile those that conferences are held, so I think that is all to the good.
There seem to be two spheres of activity for economic help at the moment if I am right. One is the outcome of the Sydney Conference and the machinery which has been set up there and the other is the American help under Point 4. It is desirable—I hope that the Foreign Secretary can show us that there is some plan—that these two methods of help should be brought together and reconciled and that we should be working together on a common plan.
It seems to me that the effect of these various activities in the economic, political and security spheres ought to be brought together as soon as may be and that we ought to try to agree among ourselves on a co-ordinated policy, and that covers not only arms, fighting and economics, but such things as propaganda and information services and all those things which should be closely co-ordinated if we are to have the fullest effect throughout that area. No doubt to do that will entail some rather difficult decisions about priorities, but that issue had also better be faced, and the sooner it is, the greater will be the benefit for everybody concerned. While I think we agree that economic plans on any scale that we can contemplate cannot be immediately effect- 2080 tive, yet joint security plans could be devised fairly rapidly and their influence could be immediately felt. I hope that is what the Government will seek to do.
Before I sum up, I should like to put to the Foreign Secretary one or two questions on the subject of Japan. What is the position about Japan? What are the prospects of a treaty such as we know that our Australian and New Zealand friends are so anxious to see concluded? I fear that the position is more involved than ever. Events in China have simply added to the tangle. I do not see how it is possible at present to make any progress towards a treaty, desirable though that no doubt is, but perhaps the Foreign Secretary will tell us what is in his mind. Meanwhile, there is the question of Japanese trade, which has its immediate importance to this country. I hope that before the Debate is over we shall be told something about this and given some information about the reports of the British Commission on their recent talks with the Japanese textile industry.
I will now sum up. These South-East Asian events taken as a whole are of a significance not easily to be measured and certainly not easily to be traversed in one single speech. Today they seem to me to have an importance at least as great as, and possibly greater than, our problems in Europe. They certainly call for as much thought and attention. I have endeavoured to open this subject so that the Committee can collectively apply its mind to these most urgent issues. I do not pretend that I have even surveyed more than a part of the field, but if, as a result of this Debate, we ourselves understand all the more clearly the gravity of these problems and can assist the Government to constructive policies to resolve them, this will not have been one of the least valuable Debates of the Session. As I see it, we have to analyse our problems, set them in their true perspective and determine our course of action together with our friends. We have to apply to the solution of these problems a sense of determination and a sense of urgency, and it is my hope that this Debate will help our country to do just those things.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
I want to express my appreciation and thanks for 2081 the very kindly reference which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) made at the beginning of his speech. I join with him in expressing an earnest hope that his wishes will be fulfilled and that I shall be cured. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have discovered that pains can be more severe in certain parts of one's body than in one's head.
I welcome the opportunity for this Debate too, because I realise that there has been little opportunity for dealing with the very complicated matters which have arisen in the Far East. First of all, I will take China. In the days of the Coalition Government this country gave up all extra-territorial rights there. We took as our policy the restoration of China. Things went a little wrong, I think, at Yalta when we entered into agreements to hand over some Chinese territory to Russia. We did not like doing it, but, as an act of appeasement, we did it. I have to share responsibility for this with others. I do not deny that such an agreement was' made. I think that everybody regrets it now. It has made the situation more difficult. No one wants to indulge in appeasement, least of all myself. Right from the close of the Great War there has been civil war in China. The situation has changed from day to day, and there has been this emergence of nationalism not only in China, but right throughout the Far East.
I myself think that this country can take great credit that the national desires for independence have been fulfilled with such ease and with so little strife in such large areas of Asia. There have been troubles in Pakistan; there have been troubles in India. But one cannot now deal with the problems of South-East Asia without taking into account not only the opinion of the United States but also those of India, Pakistan, Ceylon, which are now great Powers in this part of the world. In the days before the war the U.K. Government acted on behalf of those countries and therefore, apart from consulting its representatives there, the formidable public opinion of those countries did not count as it does today. I was faced with this difficulty.
Clearly, in so far as recognition is concerned, the right hon. Gentleman is right. You cannot inject into that problem 2082 the question of the political colour of the Government concerned. It is not for us to consider this. In China the People's Government had won the civil war. We had large interests in China. We had large numbers of British personnel there and we had problems ahead of us which might have led—as all those interested in the China question will admit—to very serious troubles indeed. On top of that, the Indian Government had decided to recognise much earlier. I will here ask the Committee, in consideration of the Far Eastern problems, always to keep in the front of their minds the fact of the emergence of the new Indonesian Government. The situation in Indonesia will be one of the deciding factors in the Far East.
Then there was Burma, in which I am happy to say law and order are being restored much faster than they were some time ago. If everybody friendly to Burma will encourage the Karens to settle their differences with the Government, law and order may be restored at an early date. We must not, from outside, accentuate the differences between these races or else the civil war will continue.
But returning to the question of the recognition of the People's Government, I discussed this matter with Mr. Nehru. I got his point of view and, by arrangement, there was a delay. During that period of delay I discussed the problem in Washington with Mr. Acheson and it was quite clear that, with our different responsibilities, there was bound to be a divergence of opinion. I could not reconcile what members of the Commonwealth wanted to do with the very aloof attitude of the United States. This was a difficult decision to make, and it must be remembered that in this country at that time there was pressure on the Government from all our China interests and experts to recognise. In fact, if I remember—and I am speaking from memory now—the Leader of the Opposition rather pressed me to recognise during the last Debate, though he asked me to try to keep in step with America.
§ Mr. Eden
The Leader of the Opposition is not coming until later and I do not wish that there should be misunderstanding. I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that what I said was entirely consistent. My right hon. Friend was careful to say that it 2083 must be together. I am not making a big point of this, but it is important, and it seemed to us strange that on the way to Colombo, where the other representatives were to meet him, the right hon. Gentleman recognised before he got there.
§ Mr. Bevin
I am coming to that point. Our policy of recognition had been communicated to Commonwealth Governments before I left London for Colombo. The Colombo Conference did not have this question definitely on the agenda. The reason it did not was that there was divergence within the Commonwealth. What we did in Colombo was to exchange views without commitments, but clearly there was a definite difference of view both as to timing and principle. I explained at that Conference the British attitude—why we thought recognition was desirable—and I do not think that we took a wrong step. One cannot judge the outcome of an action in international affairs immediately. I believe that we were right at that time to recognise the Peoples Government and not to leave the Russians to assume that, although it is a Government based on Communist principles, they were the only country which would do anything at all for China. That is a very important factor to be kept in sight.
While there was some criticism in the United States about our action, we were at the same time being asked to take charge of their interests. Supposing we had said, "No, we will not take charge of your interests. You are going out of China, we will do nothing, we are going out too," I really think we should have thrown away our position in the Far East for ever. That was my opinion, and although it was an awkward decision to have to take, yet, at the same time, I searched my conscience as to what alternative there was. I came to the conclusion that the advice I gave to the Cabinet was right and, in a few years time, I think it will turn out to have been right.
Of course the right hon. Gentleman knows—he has had this job himself—that the difficulty one is always in is whether a decision will have the desired effect in 10 or 20 years time, not the next morning. I think that is a fair statement. You have to project your mind 2084 forward and ask, "If I take this step, what situation will it produce in 10 years?" It is not an easy thing to be able to arrive at a decision under such conditions, and I can only say that the advice I tendered to the Cabinet I believe to have been correct.
Then I have been asked what has happened since we accorded recognition? I think Mao Tse-tung has been receiving advice from Moscow—his is the same kind of attitude as Moscow's. I did not expect that our representative would go up to Peking and settle everything in a moment. What is happening at the moment is that the Chinese are attempting to raise side issues which may be annoying and irritating to a country of this character. To that we have no intention of submitting. First of all questions have been raised about some aeroplanes whose ownership is in legal dispute. I decline to discuss that in the context of the establishment of diplomatic relations. What has happened is that these planes, so it is alleged, were sold to Americans by people who were connected with the Nationalist Government. It is not for a Foreign Secretary of this country to determine whether those planes have been sold legally. I will not undertake such a task. Neither will I step in and say, "I will do this, that or the other thing as the price of getting your agreement to the establishment of diplomatic relations." I cannot do that. What we have done is to make arrangements for the process of law to be carried out properly, and we stand or fall by whatever are the decisions of the courts. But this is a separate and distinct thing altogether from the establishment of diplomatic relations. My message to the Chinese Government is that I would not imitate these bad practices from elsewhere.
Then the question has been raised of our failure to vote for admission of the representative of the Peoples Government to the United Nations; that is the second point. As far as I know, there are only two. When we recognised the new Government we felt that its admission to the United Nations ought to be dealt with in the Security Council according to the rules. However, we could not in the transition period come to a conclusion to throw out one representative and to take on another. I think that the sponsors of the new Chinese Government have 2085 really created the present difficulty, for the first thing that happened was that Russia walked out because at the immediate moment of recognition we were not ready to admit a new Chinese representative and we had not completed our negotiations for the establishment of diplomatic relations with the new Government of China. We had simply announced that we were ready to negotiate the establishment of diplomatic relations, and the Soviet Government then sought to force us to implement what they regarded as the consequences before these negotiations were completed.
There was a good deal of discussion going on in United Nations circles as to how this change was to come about. The question of the legal position was being examined, and Russia walked out. Since then, we have been able to do nothing. The onus of keeping China out of the United Nations is on Russia. They are not present and taking their part. They must return to work pending negotiations. What it amounts to is that they are on strike. They are holding up the work, and that will not do. I cannot agree to being told that I must promise to do this, that or the other thing unless someone else is to fulfil their functions also.
I am of the opinion that during the time that this occurred there was an assumption on the part of Russia that if they did it, everybody else would get frightened or would yield. We have not done that. America, with all her feeling with regard to China, has in my view adopted a very fair attitude. She says, "We will not vote for. We will not veto," which I think is a very good decision for a country with feelings like those of the United States. But they say, "If there are seven members who vote for, then we will accept the decision." Two of the members Russia is keeping off the council by refusing to function; one is herself. There are five already and there is this stagnating of the United Nations as Russia herself has placed herself in this rather embarrassing position. We have tried, quite frankly, to see if we could get this cleared up by seeing whether seven votes could be collected, our main object being that we think it is better for the New China to be inside the United Nations. We do not want to ostracise anyone on political grounds. We 2086 believe that future association for these countries which are emerging is a good thing, and we are proceeding on that basis.
I do not know what France would have done, but France was put in a most embarrassing position. She was in difficulty with Indo-China, and largely through Russian influence the rebel authorities who had no claim at all to success, not even a 20 per cent. success if the country is taken as a whole, were recognised by one member of the United Nations and by China. What could the French do? the French, I think, came to the conclusion that this was really a direct attack upon them, and it prevented them functioning as they would have functioned had this event not taken place.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me whether this question was discussed in the tripartite meetings. We did not discuss it in the sense that I can make a report about it. We exchanged views and we have instructed our people in New York to keep in touch with one another when they are handling the United Nations problems, and we are ready to take advantage of any development which these two countries might adopt which enables us to function with dignity and at the same time does not put up positions which are intended to humiliate, which we are not prepared to accept. I think that that deals with the Chinese situation.
Of course, there is another side to the problem, and that is the blockade by Chiang Kai-shek from Formosa. The British interests in China have been hurt more by that than by what the Communists have done. The Communists have taxed them, charged them and done all sorts of things, but I think that in all probability their difficulties could have been got over if the blockade had not been put in operation. The United States are as much opposed to it as we are and we think that with that great country, after these years of civil wars and strife, we all ought now to co-operate, to give China a chance. I cannot believe that all the Chinese have gone Communist overnight as is suggested.
There is one thing which all these countries are looking for and which is exploited: that is, a desire really to have peace and to live their own lives. These marauding armies create the situation that 2087 if anyone comes along who is strong enough to enable people at least to avoid the marching of armies through their territories, the people are apt to turn to them; and that is quite understandable. The next point which was made with regard to the Far East was Malaya. I think that the Government have given support on equipment and the other factors which have been needed. I know of no incident where the Cabinet have rejected or refused anything which has been shown to be necessary to bring this thing to a successful issue.
I am not too sure that the success of the new regime in China is the cause of the recrudescence of the guerillas—I do not think so. What happened was that they were not successful, and we know that a new technique has been worked out which, in my view, would have been worked out in any case, whether the Communists had been successful in China or not. This information is coming from sources which we well know, and it does involve us. Our Forces have not been trained in guerilla tactics to the same extent, but our armies have applied their minds to this matter.
We have definite evidence at least that for some time during the lull the whole question of the guerilla tactics was being considered, and of course we were keeping as closely in touch with it as we could to see what would emerge. Among the things that emerged, I understand, from the Home Office expert out there was a request for more, and a different type of, wireless sets. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, this is not within the province of my Department, but the information which I have is that these sets were ordered and are being got out as quickly as possible. It was a new type of radio set that was essential.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the Malays have not adopted Communism, and there is no sign of any great development so far as the people there are concerned. Perhaps the greatest evidence of their resistance to it was that the Malays rallied enthusiastically to the Malay Regiment and the police. That is the best test we can apply. Of all the South-East Asian territories we can say that the local inhabitants who have been called upon to defend their country against these tactics have shown that they 2088 prefer the British with their political system, and the undertakings that we have given, and are anxious to carry out, of proceeding step by step towards complete self-government. It must be remembered, however, that we cannot force self-government on a country where there is trouble, and we cannot leave them in a position where they cannot defend themselves. But once this thing is over we shall proceed once again to extend—indeed, we are extending—in every possible way we can the social, political and cultural development of Malaya.
The next place referred to was Indo-China. The French Colonial System, as the Committee knows, is rather different to ours. I do not deny the fact that His Majesty's Government have tried in a friendly way to get everyone, Dutch, French, and others, to recognise the emergence of this nationalism coupled with economic development, and the reason we adopted that as our policy throughout that territory was with a view to getting people interested in government and taking the responsibility of government. By that method is produced a new psychology and a new acceptance of responsibility, especially by people who have hitherto been controlled from outside.
Everyone in this Committee is committed to working for self-government, and it is a question of stage and degree as we move along, as well as what we are able to do. The French system is rather different. They proceed to a kind of independence in the French Union. We have taken the view that it would be better if all of us proceeded along the lines that we did in India, Pakistan and Burma, so that the basis upon which nationalism emerges will be of such a character that there will not be a diversity of systems, but we will be able to bring the people together in that cooperation of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke. There has to be in South East Asia a great co-ordination of effort by the people themselves and particularly by the Governments.
At Colombo when the Spender Plan was evolved, we took care to make provision for all the countries concerned to be associated with it, whether they were in the Commonwealth or not. It is said that we must go for security as well as economic development if we are to win. 2089 With that I agree; but, on the other hand, the question is—where do we get the security? It has been suggested that the United States have agreed to take military action. I have not read or heard of that. There have been indications that they are taking a greater interest, and that money is going to be voted, and all that kind of thing, but I have not heard that they are going to take part in troop movements.
§ Mr. Bevin
I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for that correction, but that was the impression he left with me. He was following on what he said in regard to Malaya where our services are in operation, and I thought he meant the same kind of thing in Indo-China.
We went very carefully into the question of the recognition of Bao Dai. I think it was right to do it, but we were anxious that rather more independence should have been given to the Bao Dai Government than has, in fact, been given. I gather from the French that they have the situation constantly under review. They are trying to create a situation in which they can achieve that, and the handicap is the civil war which is going on. This is a difficulty of which there is no previous record. There is no record of civil war being used as a set instrument in foreign policy. We met it for the first time in Greece and I was subject to a good deal of attack on that matter. In the end our policy was proved to be right, because we have established the fact that a Government from outside a country cannot come in and create civil war between a people as an instrument of policy.
Hon. Members no doubt this morning read about the protest in Berlin about the arming of the East German Police. Again, I think the development is significant. There may be no challenge to us directly as a State, but there may be an attempt to use this force in a very brutal, civil war, a situation which we have to watch extremely carefully. When we look at the map of the world we can see how troublesome it could be if there were a big civil war in Indo-China and one in Europe at the same time. It could be a 2090 very nasty thing for the rest of the world. Hence, other countries are watching with very great interest what is developing. I thought myself that the Russians were going to start it more than they did when the Berlin blockade began. There again they had to re-study the problem, and I suppose they are trying to create new tactics and new methods.
On the other hand, there are signs that even my Russian friends are not satisfied with the results that they are achieving. Therefore, I feel our task in the Far East is to strengthen our position. I must include the South as well as South-East Asia, for it is all one territory right the way down from Afghanistan. The methods and the activities cannot be separated. Every time a move is made consideration must be given to the Moslems, Hindus, and other religious groupings, and to the question as to whether action taken here might cause an outbreak there. It is really one great area, in which this country has very vital interests indeed. I believe that as a result of the policy we are following we are building up great friendships, and the friendship to us in that territory is better than it has ever been. We have had to give up occupation of some countries, and that tendency sometimes leaves memories and difficulties. However, in this case, they all disappeared in the night, and this country's standing is very high, indeed, in that part of the world.
I have not seen the full report of the Sydney Conference, and I am sorry, therefore, that I cannot give a complete answer to the questions that have been raised about it. I can undertake to give the fullest information that I am permitted to do as soon as it arrives, but I should like to put on record that the Conference was virile and I am extremely glad that it started in Australia. This country has benefited very much in our relations with the United States by having Canada acting as a bridge in the North Atlantic. I have always been anxious that Australia should play a similar role in the Pacific, and so keep our country, the Pacific and the North Atlantic group together. Australia is to be congratulated on the work she has done.
Equally I think that Lord Macdonald has done a very difficult job indeed. Our attitude to the matter before the Conference was that it had nearly drifted into 2091 a discussion on what the right hon. Gentleman referred to as long-term and short-term action. Our last advice to our delegation before they went out was, "Do not be drawn into discussions as to long-term and short-term action. There is no classified dividing line between the two." One can have an objective which is long-term but in the carrying out of which everything one determines is probably short-term action.
There are some matters in which by short-term action a foundation is laid which ultimately leads to a long-term development. So if we get into these discussions of trying to classify what is short-term and long-term and then deciding what category action should come under, a conference is apt to be spoiled. We urged our delegation to have regard to what the right hon. Gentleman said were our commitments and our financial responsibilities. It is no use promising what one cannot carry out; it is no use misleading people. We said, "If you do that, go as far as you can in order to collaborate with your fellow members of the Commonwealth to try and get busy at once to stabilise and improve the situation." That has been the spirit in which they have worked.
I should like to make one comment about disagreement. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said. The Press has a peculiar habit. A conference is called because the parties to it are not agreed as to what to do, and they sit down together to agree what to do, and because they tell each other that they have different opinions, out come headlines saying that there are disagreements. It is all very peculiar. If there is agreement one might as well send a postcard and not go at all. The solution to the world's future will be decided by conference. There will be regular meetings and closer meetings. To take our situation in the West, from the Brussels Treaty to the Atlantic Pact meeting last week, we see that the more we meet the more we understand one another and one almost forgets what party one belongs to.
We discuss a problem, and when there are these great problems to be faced it is the solution of the problem that is the thing that grips one, and antagonisms are broken down. I have found that in some 2092 of these meetings I have had to shake myself. I have found the most conservative people making revolutionary proposals and I have wondered what would happen to them when they got home if their party only knew. As I say, in these international affairs it is the problem that grips one, the problem to which an answer has to be given and to find a solution to which those taking part have to strive.
The next point raised was the question of Japan. That is a very difficult problem. His Majesty's Government took the initiative in 1947 in trying to see whether it was possible to lay the foundation of a treaty with Japan. A conference was held at Canberra, and while those participating in that conference did not design a treaty, there arrived from over the whole area of the British Commonwealth some concrete ideas as to how such a treaty should be constructed. This is a matter in which we cannot move without the United States. They are the prime factor in the whole business.
Then came another problem: how and who should construct this treaty? We wanted the countries that fought in the Japanese war to make the peace treaty. We still adhere to that view, and there is nothing in the Potsdam Agreement or in anything else which is against it. I think that view is perfectly reasonable but it is argued that because a Council of Foreign Ministers was set up to deal with Europe, that Council must make the treaty. The countries which participated in the Japanese war will not accept that. I cannot, and I do not think that His Majesty's Government would attempt to say to Australia, for example, which was in the thick of the fight, "You shall not come into the conference room to make a treaty which is to affect Japan, your nearest neighbour." That has been a further factor.
A third factor has been—I have to be very careful in what I say—that there has not been, I think, absolute agreement in the United States itself as to the form the treaty should take. I notice in the Press that the Secretary of Defence has gone out there now. From the defence point of view the position is that we have beaten Japan and demilitarised her, and having done these things, we have to take some steps to see that what we said we 2093 would do has been done. We intend to maintain what has been done and to prevent Japan from again being an aggressor. In that, the biggest role has to be played by the United States, and it is no use disguising that fact.
We have placed at the disposal of the United States our own views and those of the other Commonwealth Governments. We discussed this matter at Colombo and thought that a very good method, without having to wait for another conference to be called, was to have a committee appointed under the High Commissioners in London who could be in contact with His Majesty's Government as the process went on. That committee have held their meetings and have reached their conclusions. Their Governments are now considering the whole problem.
I can only say, in conclusion, in regard to the South-East Asian problem that a new era will have to be created and can be created only by close association with the West. It will be the biggest area for capital development goods. The standard of life in it has to be raised. It will not be an area in which any of us should embark upon exploitation, but rather there should be a great co-operative effort to try to make up some of the leeway in the standard of life that exists as between East and West. This is a very important matter indeed. While I do not minimise the necessity of security, whether by supply of arms or whatever it may be, we take the view that the economic development of the area is very vital indeed, and that co-ordination right through with all these countries can probably give us, if handled aright, one of the biggest stabilising influences in maintaining the peace of the world.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Somerset de Chair (Paddington, South)
We are all glad that the Foreign Secretary has been able to take part in the Debate today. If his mind functions with such clarity on occasions like this, when we know he is speaking under difficulties, we feel that when he returns to the House in still better health there will be no holding him. We on this side of the Committee are particularly glad that the Government have agreed to have this Debate today on the situation in the Far East, because there has been a growing recognition in all parts of the Committee 2094 that the real menace to the peace of the world may lie in the Far East. Although we in Europe are accustomed to think of our world wars as starting and taking place in Europe, it is quite possible that if another war breaks out, it will break out in the Far East, with the first major clash between America and Russia in the Far East, and be fought out in the early stages over China; and the whole of that aspect of our foreign relations has to be considered very carefully in that light.
The Foreign Secretary made a great point about the recognition of the Government of China, but what he did not explain to the Committee was why it was necessary to recognise the Government of China on the eve of the Commonwealth Conference at Colombo, If there were disagreements within the Commonwealth on this point, as indeed there were, would not it have been better—and, certainly, have looked better—if he had waited only a few days until the Conference had taken place? Then, even if he was unable to secure agreement at the Colombo Conference, at least the Empire and the Commonwealth would have felt that when His Majesty's Government took that step it had been after placing all the facts before the other members of the Commonwealth and after due consultation. Whereas it had all the appearance of a precipitate recognition on the eve of the Conference, which had unfortunate results.
Today is Empire Day, and it is a melancholy fact that on this occasion there is an empty seat at the table, that of Burma. I felt that the Foreign Secretary was altogether too complacent about the way in which events have developed and are developing in Burma. No doubt the Government hoped that by their approach to the problem of the independence of Burma they would have been able to achieve the same result as they achieved in the case of India and Pakistan; that by giving to Burma a perfectly free choice, she would decide to remain within the Commonwealth.
I know that was the hope of the Government, but conditions in Burma and India were entirely different. Whereas Burma had been the scene of savage fighting, and the country had suffered all the dislocations of war, India had been spared that and as a result it would 2095 have been better to delay the constitutional transfer of power in Burma, however difficult that might have been to achieve, until such time as a new climate of opinion could have established itself in Burma after the war.
The situation in Burma has almost completely disintegrated. The Government is in control of the immediate capital and environs, but we cannot describe that as law and order. We have a deep debt of honour and obligation to the Karens and the Government were extremely precipitate when they handed over the frontier areas to the Government of Burma in this constitutional transfer of power. It would have been quite practical to leave Lower Burma to achieve independence while retaining some control over the frontier areas. At all events, it seems to me that this is one of the tragedies of the last five years for which the Government must eccept responsibility.
We have recently had a Debate upon the subject of a Commonwealth loan to Burma, and I do not propose to cover that particular ground. I will confine myself to saying that the Government are complacent in supposing that this money will necessarily provide an effective defence against Communism. A Burmese friend of mine said that the British Government had not merely been double-crossed by the Burmese leaders, but trebled-crossed; and in point of fact they had played to a large extent upon our fear of Communism in South-East Asia in order to secure the loan. My informant was the brother of a former Burmese Prime Minister, who, admittedly, was recently hanged for over-stepping even the elastic limits within which party politicians operate in Burma. Nevertheless, he was clearly of opinion that the Government were giving away the money without any certainty that they would achieve the object they have in mind.
We have now to consider a shift in our whole position of defence as it affects the Commonwealth. The Foreign Secretary said it was impossible to consider South-East Asia isolation, and that we have to take in the whole area as far as Afghanistan. He could have gone even further west, because the disintegration of our position in the Middle East from a defence point of view has gravely 2096 affected our position in relation to the defence of the Commonwealth. We have, to a certain extent, to fall back to an entirely new line of defence. Whereas before, our main line of defence for South Africa and Australia was the Middle East position, with India buttresing it further east, now we have to fall back to a much more uncomfortable part of the world, from Freetown in West Africa, through Kenya to Colombo and on to Malaya. That is why Malaya achieves a nodal position in our defence of the Commonwealth and why Russia is using every opportunity to weaken our position at the very point where it is important that it should be stable.
I wish to say a word about the position of our troops in Malaya. Like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) I do not pretend to speak with authority upon these areas merely because I have recently visited them. But I think that the position of the troops themselves should be improved. The cost of living of the troops in Malaya is extremely high compared, for example, with the cost of living of the troops in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong dollar and the Malayan dollar buy approximately the same amount of goods, whereas the British "Tommy" has to pay about 2s. 6d. out of his weekly pay for the Singapore dollar compared with 1s. 4d. for the Hong Kong dollar. If the Government could subsidise the Malayan dollar for the troops, so that they could get a special rate of exchange to enable them to live more easily in Malaya, that would be a real service to troops who are serving under very difficult conditions.
The importance of prestige throughout the Far East is one to which the Government have not devoted sufficient attention. The impact of the Japanese war lowered the prestige of the white man throughout the Far East. If one had established, for example, a cricket ball in a pagoda for many years and secured the reverence of the people for it, and then a General like Yamashita came along and knocked it for six, it would not be sufficient to restore the cricket ball to its former position and expect the people to treat it in the same way. British prestige did suffer a disastrous rebuff and the same fact applies to the members of other white nations in that area.
2097 I feel that the Government underestimate the impression made in Far Eastern waters by the appearance, for example, of battleships and large aircraft carriers. After the recapture of Hong Kong the Americans were very quick to send there "Valley Forge," one of their largest aircraft carriers, and if we could send some of our larger capital ships to the Far East it would help to restore our prestige in that quarter. I was struck, when in Singapore, by the impression created by the first jet aircraft which appeared there. A single jet aircraft screaming about over the roof tops in Singapore did more to impress them with our advance in aeronautical science and our superior position in military affairs than the presence of a great many troops on the ground. I hope that although we want special types of aircraft for jungle warfare, that will be considered.
There is this difficult problem about Chinese recognition. There are differing points of view in the House as to whether the Government were right in recognising the Government of China. As I have pointed out, I think that it was done at the wrong moment, just before the Colombo Conference, but I am bound to say that I think the Foreign Secretary was right to recognise the Government of China fairly soon. He is correct in thinking that we must look 10 or 20 years ahead, and the situation is not incomparable to that which existed when Chiang Kai-shek first appeared on the scene after the First World War and was regarded as a rebel and guerilla leader by many people. It was one of our diplomatic officials in Pekin who, at that time, took the first step to contact him and to make a friend of him, and that friendship proved of value to this country for many years afterwards.
By taking an early initiative in the recognition of China, I believe that in the end we may benefit as a result of our relationship with China. Perhaps it is more difficult for us in this matter than it is for the Americans. The British holding in China is about£300 million which, I think, is about 10 times the size of the American holding. Therefore, the question of the recognition of China achieves a greater importance for the British Government than it does for the American Government.
2098 It is a matter of disastrous inconvenience for us that we should have to recognise China at the very moment when we have a Communist war on our hands in Malaya. For example, the question of the opening of Chinese Communist consulates in Malaya would undoubtedly present a very grave problem for us in the development of the campaign in Malaya. But when all is said and done, the Russians have got consulates in Malaya, and so long as we are maintaining diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and the satellites of the Soviet Union it seems to be inconsistent to boggle at having diplomatic relations with Communist China itself.
I think that when the Foreign Secretary made his case, every word he used in regard to recognising an effective Government in China could have applied with equal force to the recognition of the Government of Spain. If he was thinking in terms of security and the most effective defence arrangements for the West against the spread of Communism, he might well have considered simultaneous recognition. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is recognised."] When I say that, I am referring to the withdrawal of the Ambassador from Madrid and the difficulties that we have had over that. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have made similar efforts to get Spain into the Western Union defence arrangements. However, he did not. We have recognised China, and we should make the best we can of the business, and not give the Chinese the impression that we do not want to have friendly diplomatic relations with them.
I was most impressed, when I was in Hong Kong and the Far East, by the fact that the people who know China best were those who were most reluctant to believe that China would necessarily remain a loyal adherent of Moscow or that Communism would easily adapt itself to China. In those circumstances, I think that the Government were right to take the difficult decision and I am only sorry that they could not get more general agreement upon it.
The Foreign Secretary pointed out what a complicated area South-East Asia is. If we could have placed any credence upon the report in a German newspapers which said that a reporter had had an interview with Martin Bormann, who said that 2099 Hitler was living in a monastery in Tibet, we should have had a final complication which it would be enchanting to contemplate. As an author, I am almost tempted to digress for a few moments to consider a day in the life of the Führer in this Tibetan monastery, if he really exists. One would imagine that breakfast would be rather late. Presumably, the news papers would arrive rather late and no doubt Hitler is just reading that M. Schuman has made his offer of a super- cartel for steel in France and Germany. We may imagine that that would lead to a slight agitation on Hitler's part. No doubt Eva Braun would suggest a picnic on a particularly high mountain so that the Führer could munch a few snowballs and dash a bit of snow into his eyes to work off that feeling. He would then address the distant Himalayas for an hour or two——
§ Mr. de Chair
No, the distant Himalayas. No doubt he would return, in due course, to the monastery for tea of a bowl of sour butter followed by a period of "teppich-fressing," before going off for a good night's rest. We may hope that the world will be spared the nightmare of a reappearance of Hitler in Tibet. It is sufficient to think of the problems which South-East Asia places before us.
I only hope that we shall not find ourselves embroiled in a spreading war throughout South-East Asia. That will depend upon the success with which we stamp out the Communist guerrilla forces in Malaya now. If that can be done and if the French, with American assistance, are successful in Viet-Nam in resisting the spread of Communism there—if all that is done promptly and effectively now—a cordon may be drawn around South-East Asia which will contain the spread of Communism and thus prevent, possibly, the outbreak of a third World War.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
I hope that the hon. Member for Padding-ton, South (Mr. S. de Chair) will forgive me if I say that after listening to him it is with some relief that I consider that he and his friends have not been in charge of the direction of our affairs in South-East Asia for the last five years. I should 2100 imagine that, if they had been, the chaos now reigning in that area would be indescribable. His policy for Burma has already been exploded in previous Debates, and I do not think that we need waste much time on it today.
I was particularly interested in his remarks about prestige which he appears to think is something one can buy at the local store, and it turns out in the event to be a cricket ball, which, of course, is all too laughable for words. That may have done for 1900, or 1895, but it will not do for 1950. I was pleased to note that most of his colleagues did not register much enthusiasm for most of his policy.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I am very glad to have that assurance.
I believe that this area is important for three main reasons, and what happens there is important for us for those three reasons. The first is the obvious economic reason that if we do not have some control over part of South-East Asia or some living connection with it, we shall lose our valuable export markets in that area, which will play a great part in the future economic stability of this country and we shall also lose much of our dollar earnings for the sterling area.
The second reason is strategic. Not only do we have two new Dominions, India and Pakistan—and Ceylon as a third—in South-East Asia, but the whole of South-East Asia is, so to speak, on the way to Australia and New Zealand. The area does, in fact—as hon. Members will see if they look at the map—divide the world in half. Therefore, if South-East Asia were to be dominated by a Power which was hostile to us, we should find it very difficult to maintain communications between one part of the Commonwealth and another.
The third reason is political which, in a sense, is distinct from the strategic reason. South-East Asia today is the principal scene of the great contest between Communism and democracy. Nowhere is it being waged so furiously and so earnestly as it is in South-East Asia. It is with the political aspect that I should like to deal first.
I believe that South-East Asia is usually taken to be Burma, Malaya, 2101 Indonesia, Indo-China, and Thailand, but I find it difficult to consider these countries without also considering India and Pakistan. If India and Pakistan go down, so will these other countries of South-East Asia, and if these other countries of South-East Asia go down, so, inevitably, will India and Pakistan. They must be taken, therefore, as a whole.
The obvious obstacle between close association with the West and South-East Asia is Communism. But if we are to defeat Communism in this area, it is important to try to consider for a moment what appeal it makes to the people of this area. Why is Communism a menace to the West in South-East Asia? In the first place, most of these countries are newly independent. It was not until after the war that the Western nations made substantial moves towards granting these countries their independence.
The politically active and politically aware people of the area believe that this delay in granting independence and self-government was due to the dominance of the commercial interests in the counsel of the Governments concerned. They believed it was the big business houses, the big commercial interests, which held up their independence. They believed that imperialism in that part of the world was an indissoluble link with capitalism, and that to get rid of the one meant getting rid of both.
The interlocking of capitalism and imperialism is, of course, the classic Marxist concept; hence the immediate attraction of Communism to the politically aware people in these countries who desired the independence of their country. Therefore, all the nationalists in this area tended to move towards the Left very much more than towards the Right, because the Left was so very much more obviously against foreign domination. Because these countries lack the sort of trade union movement we have in this country, the kind of political work in a Socialist and democratic labour field, it meant that those men who wished to do something drifted into theory rather than practical work, because there was no really practical work to do. Rightly or wrongly, the dominating countries of the area did not encourage trade union movements and did not make possible the conditions under which such people 2102 moving towards the left could do constructive work, with the result that Communism, with its twin attack on imperialism and capitalism, made a great appeal.
That appeal was reinforced by the appalling poverty of so many people in this area. Very few people who have visited these parts of the world can have failed to wonder to themselves whether anything less dramatic and less overwhelmingly revolutionary than something like Communism would really be sufficient to turn the earth fast enough to create decent conditions for the people who fall below any imaginable poverty level we can think of in this country. That was a further inducement to turn towards Communism.
Having said that, I think we should consider what are our possible assets against Communism in South-East Asia. I think that we have more assets in these areas than we sometimes believe. The first asset is the tradition of democratic government and Western culture left behind in this part of the world by the Western nations, mainly by this country. It is astonishing perhaps, that in a climate of authoritarian rule by unbridled princes democracy should have got a hold at all in this part of the world. It is not something that Western visitors, some 200 years ago, would have thought possible. However, it has strangely caught the imagination of the leading politicians and those politically aware in the area who are considering how to establish a form of democracy on the Western pattern. It is a remarkable tribute, particularly to this country, that that should be so. It may be an astonishing fact, but it is a fact.
The second great asset we have is the willingness shown, principally by this country, with a Labour Government, directly after the war, to assist the achievement of the national aspirations of the peoples of this area and then afterwards to help their Governments. France and Holland very regrettably tarnished the reputation of the West in this respect immediately after the war. Holland, with her long and carping delay over Indonesia, in which country, fortunately, we were able to be of considerable assistance to the Nationalist movement, is now redeeming herself a little, whereas France has shown very little sign of redeeming herself at all in Indo-China.
2103 The third asset has been our great willingness and, indeed, our eagerness to help these countries after independence. The Government's immense release of sterling balances, its loans and gifts to Burma and Malaya, has been a tremendous contributory factor in maintaining stability in South-East Asia. I was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) did not pay tribute to that fact, because I am sure he appreciates, although maybe he is thinking of the coming General Election, and did not wish to recognise the effect it has had. It is because the Government, against the repeated opposition of Members opposite, have insisted on releasing sterling balances in such a large quantity that South-East Asia is today in a far healthier state than would otherwise be possible.
How are these assets we have in South-East Asia to be improved upon and benefited from? The first thing we have to recognise, without any reservation whatever, is that the mood of the area is one of intense nationalism, and that none of these countries will accept any aid at all from the West if there are any political strings attached, or if they think that there are any political strings attached. They would sooner risk turning towards the Soviet block than lose, even in their imagination, any particle of the independence they have newly won. The approach for giving assistance must be that we believe this area deserves assistance, because the conscience of the West is stunned by the appalling poverty level of so many of the people in that area, and because it is right to come to the help of this region rather than that we wish to gain any political advantages from it. If we approach the matter in that spirit, we shall get political advantages we should not otherwise get if we left that attitude out of account.
The second thing is to treat this area as a whole, not to try to distinguish too much between one country and another. I believe that one of the main reasons why our policy in Malaya falls short of what is needed is because we do not sufficiently link Malaya with the rest of South-East Asia. Malaya is a country moving rapidly towards self-government, yet it is a country that is under the Colonial Office and dealt with in a separate compartment 2104 by the Government instead of being a part of the whole pattern of South-East Asia.
Worse than that, it is administered by civil servants who have no understanding of the complex political situation involved. These people are, no doubt, very worthy and good people, but they make mistake after mistake because they do not understand that they are living in the midst of a highly-charged political situation. I believe that the High Commissioner of the Federated States of Malaya and the Governor of Singapore should, at the very least, be political persons. I can concede that I would sooner see some Members opposite occupying these posts than the present incumbents. Although hon. Members opposite may not like the idea of trade unions, they know we have to have them, and they know how to deal with them to some extent, and so it would be more valuable to have even a Conservative minded politician there than not have a politician at all. That is one of the things we have to face.
I believe Malaya ought to be put immediately under the Commonwealth Relations Office or a special department of the Foreign Office. That would, in itself, give great encouragement to the people of Malaya, who do not much care for their country being looked upon as a colony. It is absurd that we have not acted more rapidly in Malaya in constitutional reform than we have. The absurd situation has now arisen in which Trinidad and Tobago have a democratic constitution under which the Governor cannot override the Executive Council, the majority of whom are elected members. That is quite an advance. Yet in Singapore we have not got anything like as far as that. We cannot say to the Chinese in Singapore that they are more backward intellectually or politically than the West Indians.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
Would the hon. Gentleman contend, then, that the Government's experiments in appointing politicians as Governors in other British Colonies in the last four years—in Cyprus, the Leeward Islands and Malta—has been successful?
§ Mr. Wyatt
When I say "politically minded people" I do not necessarily mean full-time politicians. One can have 2105 an awareness of what the political situation is without necessarily being a Member of the House of Commons, and there may be people with more resilience than civil servants who could be drawn from other walks of life.
We have not encouraged the trade union movement in Malaya as much as we ought, and we have attempted—or our officials have—to prevent the juniors there getting into the political field. It is important they should be able to enter the political field if they are to be able to stand up against the Communists. We are in a fair way to losing Malaya for the Commonwealth, although there is great good will for us there, and a great desire to remain in the Commonwealth, because we have lamentably failed to adjust our administration of the country to post-war needs, as we have done in other parts of South-East Asia. It is probably because the Colonial Office still retains control of the country, instead of its being regarded as a part of the general South-East Asian problem; and in South-East Asia, as I said before there is, as a whole, a mood of intense nationalism.
I should like to turn for a moment to Indo-China, where we have the scene of a Churchillian policy carried to its logical conclusion. It is, as we now know, a situation in which the insurgents against the French authorities are by far the majority of the country, and the only way in which they can be held back is by obtaining American arms and equipment.
§ Mr. W. Fletcher
Would the hon. Gentleman give some facts in support of this statement that the insurgents are in a majority? I believe that a really careful check of the facts shows the contrary.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I do not think either of us is in a very good position to check carefully the facts in Indo-China, but my impression certainly is that the general support of the country is for Ho Chi-minh and his Government rather than for Bao Dai, who finds it extremely difficult even to form a Government. Indeed, I believe he has had to issue an order conscripting people to serve in his Government, which is a rather remarkable state of affairs.
However, I am not going to attack Bao Dai particularly today, because what I want to do is to follow up some remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member 2106 for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) in his quotation from "Tribune," because I quite agree with that quotation, in that I think we cannot have this situation both ways. The fact that the Americans have come to the aid of Bao Dai with arms and equipment has greatly stiffened the people of Malaya and of Burma, because they feel confidence that they are not to be deserted should there be an armed clash. So I think it is important that we do not take the benefits of such a policy and then run away from backing the French at this moment. I think we have to face up to that honestly.
However, we know that Bao Dai's regime is a puppet regime; and because the Americans have offered these arms and equipment to help the French there, and because we have given our approval—which means more than anything else in South-East Asia today—by giving recognition to the Bao Dai regime, we and the Americans, and India and Pakistan, which are the biggest Powers in that area, have the right and the duty to summon some form of conference with the French to decide what is to be done about Indo-China. We cannot have a situation dragging on indefinitely in which we pile arms and equipment into Indo-China, with the French going on fighting this losing battle year after year. That is something which we cannot tolerate.
We have split the Nationalists and the Communists elsewhere. We have done it in Burma. It is done today in Malaya. It certainly ought to be possible to do it in French Indo-China. I think if we were to insist with the French that the Bao Dai Government should be fully democratic, or, at any rate, fully independent—I do not know that we can insist upon its being fully democratic—fully independent, and that talks should be begun or should be offered to be begun with some of the leaders of the insurgents, with a view to their joining the Government also, we might then find that those two elements, the Nationalist and the Communist elements, in Ho Chi-minh's ranks could be split now, as they will split eventually. If we do not, there will be no hope for the West in Indo-China.
At the moment, I think that the battle between Communism and democracy in South-East Asia leaves us with the situation in which both sides are about level. In Burma and Indonesia conditions are 2107 relatively stable and encouraging, and so they are in India, Pakistan and Siam; but we can maintain that situation only if we can move with rapidity in improving the living standards and the conditions of the people in that area. We have fulfilled so far a large part of our task in showing our sympathy with the nationalist forces in that area. Hence, of course, the obvious importance of the Sydney Conference. However, I believe that the matters discussed at the Sydney Conference will take far longer to develop, far longer to achieve, than some of the delegates at the Conference seemed to think.
The problems are so vast they cannot be considered in terms of quick-return plans spread over the next 18 months, and I should think that the investment needed would be somewhere nearer£10,000 million rather than£1,000. It will take a large number of years for this development to come to fruition. We have the whole time to remember that Pakistan and India have got to be helped at exactly the same pace and time as the other countries of South-East Asia.
I think we have shown that we can do this job with South-East Asia. The Labour Government, by the help they have given in South-East Asia, have shown it is possible for the West to continue in association with this region, to give support to it, and to buttress it up against Communism. If we continue with this type of policy—which has had little enough support from the Opposition—in the future, as we have continued it in the last five years, there is a very good chance that we can resist the onward rush of Communism until such time when, as is not at all improbable, the régime of Mao Tse-Tung goes the way of Tito.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)
I am very glad we are having this all-day Debate on the Far East, but the subject is so vast that we can deal only with a particular aspect of it. I should like once more to refer to the position of China, particularly as that position is reflected in the deadlock at the United Nations.
§ The question of recognition of the Chinese Government was covered very adequately in the speech of the Foreign Secretary. It is no use bewailing now that premature recognition was given to the 2108 Chinese Government by His Majesty's Government. I do not think that that recognition was in fact premature. It is a strange thing that no one has yet pointed out in this Debate that recognition of the Chinese Government at that time by the British Government was strictly in accordance with the rules of international law. At a time when it is so important to base world relations on the rule of law, it is vital that in these matters we should base our practice on the rules of international law.
§ After all, recognition of a new Government is not a question of political approval. It is a legal process, and recognition should be given always in accordance with the well-established rules of international law. The generally-accepted view is that if a Government enjoys the confidence of the mass of its subjects, and is in effective control of the national territory, it is entitled to recognition. I do not think it can be denied that the present Government of China has satisfied these conditions. How it obtained that control or what its political complexion may be are not relevant questions. They may be relevant to the extent of the diplomatic relations we have with that new Government, but that is another matter.
§ Indeed, refusal of recognition would mean that the British Government would be unable even to begin to try to use the ordinary international methods of protecting British nationals and British interests in the territory of China. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said that it was awkward that other States and certain members of the Commonwealth have not recognised China, but he did not really explore the full extent of how awkward this divergent practice is, nor did he indicate what we might do about it.
§ The real difficulty is that China is a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations, entitled to a permanent seat and the right of veto over its proceedings; and it is still the old Nationalist, powerless, Government of China that is occupying that seat. Accordingly, although I deplore the fact that Russia has walked out of the Security Council, I must say I have a certain sympathy with Russia's point of view. After all, why should they sit round a table at which there is represented a Government which has no control whatsoever 2109 over the territory of China, but which can veto the whole proceedings at any moment? The continuance of this position is becoming absolutely farcical, and it can add little to preserve, or indeed enhance, the respect in which a body like the United Nations should be held.
§ The Foreign Secretary indicated that, although the United States of America are not prepared at the present time to accord recognition to the Chinese Government, nevertheless they are prepared to take a reasonable attitude in this matter in that they will not exercise their veto if the question of the admission of the new Chinese Government to the United Nations is brought up for discussion. What can we do in that situation? I regard it as imperative to resolve this deadlock forthwith. There could be no more dangerous tendency in the world than the discrediting of the United Nations. Whatever criticism we may have of that body, it is vital for the peace of the world that it should be kept intact as perhaps the only permanent meeting ground of countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
§ According to a report in the "Manchester Guardian" of 23rd May, Washington officials said on 22nd May that the British, United States and French Foreign Ministers had decided at their recent London meeting not to make any move, at present, for the admission of Communist China to the United Nations. It would be most regrettable if that were so. I understand that that position was not correctly stated by those officials, from what the Foreign Secretary said today, but I should like to have an assurance from whoever is to reply for the Government that the British Government will use every endeavour to persuade other members of the Security Council to admit the new Chinese Government into the Security Council. The United States, consistent with the position they have taken up, have made it easy for the British Government to give a lead in that respect and bring the Chinese Government into the agencies of the United Nations. Unless we do this, we shall not get the Security Council working again or have any other agency of the United Nations functioning.
§ I do not wish to cover the rest of the vast field, but I say that, taken by and large, the policy of His Majesty's Government since 1945 has been right and 2110 has been statesmanlike in the Far East in granting the wishes of the people of India, Pakistan and Burma.
§ Mr. Roberts
I believe that if a Conservative Government had been in office since 1945 there would have been far greater bloodshed in the Far East; in India—there might be bloodshed today—and in Burma. I praise the Far Eastern policy of the Government for according independence to India, Pakistan and Burma. Of course, we would wish Burma to stay inside the Commonwealth, but that is a matter for the Burmese people themselves. British Colonial and Imperial policy at its best has always declared that the future of any far-flung territory should be for the people of that territory themselves to decide.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Colonel Cyril Banks (Pudsey)
I beg the indulgence of the Committee. I shall endeavour to summarise in a comparatively few minutes what has taken me a number of weeks to collect together.
I have been concerned for many years now with food. To many hon. Members that may seem very wide of the mark in this Debate, but it will not seem so to those comparatively few who are closely concerned with it. I find that where there is an under-fed population in any part of the world, there is great difficulty in maintaining law and order. Where there is an under-fed people, Communism can spread very rapidly. This country and the world today must face the very rapid spread of Communism unless we do something in the areas which I have investigated.
The countries of South-East Asia and the Middle East cannot be divided. They are as one. If one brackets together Egypt and the Middle East, Persia, Afghanistan, Saudi-Arabia and Iraq into one zone, and Burma, Indo-China, Siam and Malaya into another zone, they make a V-shaped formation on the map. In the first zone there is a population of 38 million. That is in Persia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi-Arabia and Iraq. In the other area, French Indo-China, Siam and Malaya, there are a further 66 million people, making a total of 100 million people. The conditions in which these people in these areas lived before the last 2111 war were, on the whole, deplorable. They have lived on the edge of starvation for centuries, and one might reasonably say that they are content to live at that level.
Even though these people may be glad to live on a pre-war level, it should be appreciated that at the present time they are far worse off than they were before the war started. There are countries in the Western Hemisphere which have not done too badly since the war finished; some of them are enjoying rations as good as pre-war, in quantity at least, and some are exceeding the pre-war quantity.
When we consider that people in the countries I have mentioned are living on a calorie scale which is about half the scale that applies in this country, then we can have some conception of just how near these people are to starvation, and can appreciate how gladly they will receive anybody who will bring them food, whatever be their creed. It is time that the free countries in the world took stock and said what they are going to do for these people, not only in the interests of these people alone but in the interests of peace and of putting down Communism.
I have given some consideration to the food problem and to what can be achieved. It is not possible to say that we will give a large amount of food to ICO million people. We all know that the stock position in this country does not permit of anything of that kind. But if we wished to provide for these people an uplift in terms of calories—I know the Minister of Food does not like the word, but I am talking of the balance between cereals and animal fats—if we were to give an uplift of 500 calories to 100 million people, it could be done. In terms of quantities of food it is very large; in terms of world production it is largely insignificant.
For instance, taking zone A, which comprises Persia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi-Arabia and Iraq, with 38 million people, 4,620 tons of meat and fats a day would give those people an increase of 500 calories a day. That is not an impossible figure. In zone B, Burma, Indo-China, Siam and Malaya, with 66 million people, 8,025 tons would provide an uplift of 500 calories for those people. I suggest that we could afford from the stocks of food in this world the amount 2112 of food necessary to give them this necessary uplift.
I further suggest that if that uplift were given to those 100 million people, we would have better citizens in the world; we would have people prepared to resist Communism because they would be happy with the people who were caring for them. If the free countries in the world were to give careful consideration to lifting the calorie scale and raising the standard of living of the people in those areas, they would find the finest defence against the advance of Communism. I am certain that unless something is done for these people, not only in that part of the world but all over the world, Communism will continue to spread, and I do not think there is any hope for the world unless we take care of people who are in such a plight.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Paton (Norwich, North)
It falls to me to perform a very pleasant duty, and that is to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Pudsey (Colonel Banks) on an extremely able and interesting maiden speech. It was a speech delivered obviously with very deep feeling and sincerity, and with great fluency, and to me it had the unexpected charm and advantage of approaching these tremendously important problem." of the Far East from an entirely new and important angle. I am sure the Committee will agree that it was a valuable intervention in our Debate, and I think hon. Members will equally agree that they will all have much pleasure in hearing the hon. and gallant Member on some future occasion.
The second duty that I should like to discharge, as a back bencher who has been extremely critical of certain aspects of our foreign policy on many occasions during the last five years, is to say how pleased I am that the Foreign Secretary is able to be with us again today on the occasion of this Debate, and to express my own deep feeling as a back bencher that, however much we may differ on matters of policy and however much we may clash, I myself—and I am certain I speak for every back bencher in the Committee—am most anxious that the further treatment which he is to have next week will be speedily and fully successful and will restore him to the health that is necessary to him in carrying on 2113 the very heavy responsibilities which he bears. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I welcome this Debate on the Far East, and I welcome particularly the sense of urgency that seems to pervade the speeches that have been made upon it. I welcome also the spate of conferences that have taken place during the last few months, which shows that something of the importance and urgency of Far Eastern questions has at last emerged in the centre of the stage. Two or three other hon. Members and I have been, for more than four and a half years, trying to get the House to appreciate the enormous significance of these problems that face us in the Far East, with, I am afraid, very little success up to now. I have always held the view, and I have expressed it in the House on former occasions, that the problems that emerge in the Far East, the fundamental issues that have to be determined in this great area comprising half the world, are probably ultimately of far greater importance than the very important questions that we have been discussing so frequently relating to European affairs and European policy.
These great movements that have been surging to the surface in the Far East have not done so merely since the end of the war. These movements, which are changing over half the world the pattern of society which has been static for centuries, contain within them forces which will profoundly change the whole history of the world, and will inevitably change for ever—in fact, has changed it now—the old relationship of the white nations to the coloured peoples of the world. These movements with which we are dealing in this Debate are, in fact, an expression of something that is not even confined to the Far East but which stretches right across the whole world, affecting the Middle and the Near East and even great sections of the peoples in countries like South America. We are in the presence here of one of the great movements of all time, which will profoundly affect the whole world. This movement in relation to the problems of the Far East is of very peculiar significance and paramount importance, and I felt today as I listened to the Debate, as I have felt on many occasions when reading comments upon these problems of the Far East, that there is a profound misunderstanding running through the whole discussion.
2114 It is my belief that we are approaching this problem, as I think almost everybody has approached it in this Debate, excepting the hon. Members for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) and Aston (Mr. Wyatt), with the idea of containing Communism, and, if that is so, I believe that we shall utterly fail in our endeavours, and deserve to fail. That is wholly the wrong approach, and it betrays what I think is the fundamental misunderstanding underlying the approach. What we are facing in the Far East is not a collection of problems that have arisen because of Communist propaganda or Communist pressure. Communist propaganda and pressure merely exploit the situation which already exists.
The fundamental problem in the Far East and over a great area of the world is the one mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Pudsey—the problem of poverty, and an intensity of poverty that we in the West have never known. My hon. Friend the Member for Aston attempted an analysis of this underlying cause, and he indicated that there was this pressure of the literate few, who, in revolt against racial subjection, are leading a movement for national emergence. My hon. Friend also indicated that there was the accompanying movement by the poverty-stricken masses against economic subjection, so that we have two main impulses, one for freedom from racial subjection and one for freedom from the economic subjection to which these people have so long been victims. It is these two main impulses that underlie the whole of these movements which have given us so many headaches and so many problems to solve.
Everybody in the House is perfectly familiar with the fact that all over the East the basic need of these people, because they are peasants, is land on which to grow their food, and, having grown the food, to be allowed to eat it themselves. I realise that this is extremely elementary, but nevertheless it seems to me to be extremely necessary to say it, in view of the many other things that seem to me to be wrong in this Debate. If these are the basic needs over these territories, it seems to be essential that the British Government and their allies, in their approach to the problems presented in those territories, must be prepared to accept new social patterns and forms of 2115 a kind with which we are quite unfamiliar, and certainly might have to accept, so far as Conservatives are concerned, Socialist forms and patterns of society which they so much dislike.
If only the Western nations will make up their minds that there is no greater folly than to imagine that we can force Eastern peoples into the mould and pattern of American democracy, we shall begin to make real progress. We have to make up our minds that the only way in which Communism can be stopped—and that is not, of course, the main purpose—is by giving these peoples in the Far East and in South-East Asia some dynamic conception that will appeal to them with at least as great a force as the Communist conception. For most of the peasants, after all, the landlord, the merchant moneylender and the harsh tax-gatherer are the forces and symbols of evil, and it is exactly those forces which Russian Communism promises to destroy, and thereby hangs its appeal.
It is no good, therefore, for our own Government, in association with other Governments, to try to formulate policies for these countries in the Far East and South-East Asia which are merely intended to buttress and support the old tyranny. It will not do, and therefore, I ask the Government, particularly since it is a Socialist Government, to get back in this matter to its own first principles and join in the movements that are in evidence in these areas tending towards the liberation of the people by bringing about systems of social justice. I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary give expression to these ideas this afternoon.
It seems to me that it is against this background that we must assess our effort and plan our purpose, and against that background it is very obvious that the mere granting of dollars will not be enough. The material aid that is promised from the United States and from our own Commonwealth countries will, of course, be of quite tremendous value, but we must supplement it in other ways, and one of the most effective ways in which we can really force the effect of the material aid that we promised to give is by supplying technical assistance and advice which is so very badly wanted all over the Far East today.
2116 Again, this is an old idea of mine, but I was gratified to see that it was one of the ideas that came out of the Sydney Conference, although, unfortunately, that Conference apparently wanted it at this stage only in a token form. I believe that this is one of the most urgent things to which we could possibly put our hands. We want teams of technicians, and it would help very greatly in this connection if we considered whether we might now draw on Japanese resources for technicians to work with technicians from other countries of the world. After all, in Japan there will in future be a surplus of technicians of all kinds, and they might be put to very useful work in helping to develop some of the Asiatic countries which they raided and destroyed.
I want now to pass quite briefly to talk about two other matters. One is our attitude to China, and I was very glad that the hon. Member for Merioneth said that he was in support of the Foreign Secretary's policy. I wholeheartedly accept the Foreign Secretary's policy in the recognition of China. My only regret was that it was delayed as long as it was. I thought that it should have been done earlier, and, despite all the difficulties that have arisen since, I am convinced that it was the right decision and that, as time goes on, it will be seen very obviously to have been the right decision.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
Will the hon. Gentleman explain to the House what benefits we have received hitherto out of recognition?
§ Mr. Paton
The question of recognition and of entering into diplomatic relations between nations is not one of a bargain. It is not a question of assessing profits and losses; it is a question that is decided, as the hon. Member for Merioneth said, partly on legal grounds. It is based on trade grounds and on grounds of general convenience, but, as I say, it is not something which one can assess on the lines of a profit and loss account.
So far as the recognition of China is concerned, I think that the action of the Foreign Secretary was right, but I now want to make a criticism of what accompanied it. Although that recognition was the right thing to do, we then almost at once destroyed a large part of its value by failing to develop any kind of policy 2117 that had the least consistency or logicality. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) told us that in his view that recognition was wrong in time and in method because, apparently, it was not a recognition acceptable to the whole of our Western Allies, although acceptable to some. It was not acceptable to Australia or New Zealand under their new Governments to which, unfortunately, they succumbed a little before the decision had to be made. But it was acceptable to India, a country which in this area of the Far East and of South-East Asia is surely of no less importance than the Dominions of Australia and New Zealand.
Where we did wrong was not in making the decision at our own time and by our own methods, but in allowing ourselves subsequently—under pressure, no doubt, from our own Allies, the United States and France—to be led into other courses which completely bedevilled the whole situation with regard to Communist China. About a week after we gave that recognition, we went to the United Nations, and when the issue was raised there in sharp form, Great Britain, which had already taken the courageous decision to recognise Communist China, sat on the fence and did nothing. We helped to play right into Russia's hands and gave Russia an absolutely first-class excuse for paralysing practically every organ of the United Nations organisation.
Then we rushed in to recognise Bao Dai, a Westernised play-boy who is just a puppet of the French Government, a man who is called the ruler of Viet Nam. It was particularly significant to note in this connection the words used by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington. It struck me at the time how significant and revealing it was that he talked about the Government of Bao Dai and the so-called Government of Ho Chi-minh——
§ Mr. Paton
The right hon. Gentleman has lost sight of the fact that, at the moment, I am in a critical frame of mind with regard to the Foreign Secretary.
2118 It is no use blinking the facts. Bao Dai is merely the so-called head of the Government because there are 170,000 French troops fighting in Viet Nam to try to keep him on the throne. France is involved in a colonial war of a most disastrous and destructive kind. For the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington to imagine that because this French action in Viet Nam is being supported by a great mass of troops and at ruinous cost to the French Exchequer, he is thereby seeing something being done to strengthen the buttress against Communist infiltration, absolutely paralyses me with astonishment.
§ Mr. Paton
No, on the contrary. Ho Chi-minh's whole record, up to a point—[Laughter.] It is always inadvisable for hon. Members to find amusement in a statement they have not yet heard. Ho Chi-minh was not a puppet of anybody or of anything, at least up to a certain point in time. There is no doubt at all that he, although a Moscow-trained Communist, was not for a long time—and it is doubtful whether he is even now—leading Communist forces. There is no doubt that whatever we may think of him as a Communist, Ho Chi-minh is, in fact, leading a definite nationalist movement. It surprises me that the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher), of all people, and with his knowledge of the East, should seek to challenge that. He must know perfectly well the effect of the history of French nationalism in Viet Nam and in French Indo-China over many years. It has certainly not been to create a nation in love with the French Government or the French colonial system. Therefore, I believe that there is no doubt that Ho Chi-minh was unfortunately pushed into the arms of Moscow by a policy which I thought all wrong.
I think that the recognition by all Governments of Bao Dai immediately following our recognition of China was a blunder and a mistake. We must also remember, in connection with the Chinese attitude, that while we have been having talks in Peking with a view to the exchange of diplomatic representatives, these have been accompanied by the thunder 2119 of exploding American bombs, dropped from American planes in the service of Chiang Kai-shek, our ally—the Chiang Kai-shek with whom we maintained consular relations on the island of Formosa. Is it any wonder that the Chinese Government look upon us and our approaches with grave suspicion? If we were going to take that step in China, then we ought to have followed it up with a completely logical and consistent policy, and maintained that line in the United Nations and elsewhere.
I have already talked longer than I intended, but I must say a word or two about Japan. The big single issue which we face in Japan at the moment is the question of her rearmament. I heard what the Foreign Secretary had to say about the desirability of a speedy peace treaty, but the difficulty, of course, as we all know, is to get it. At the moment there is on the question of the rearmament of Japan, an issue of first-class importance and of extreme urgency. It is very necessary that in the course of this Debate we should try to obtain from the Government their view of where they stand on this matter. We know that, with regard to the rearmament of Japan, there are now at least three different American opinions. There is the view which appears to be held by General Eichelberger, General MacArthur's chief military aide, that Japan should be fully rearmed; there is the view held by others that America should establish and retain bases in Japan, and then there is General MacArthur's own view, reiterated again only a few days ago, advocating the neutralisation of Japan.
It seems to me that if there is such a conflict of American opinion on this subject, a decisive lead given by the British Government might have a tremendous effect in the right direction. It would be monstrous folly to allow Japan to rearm. She is, by the constitution that we imposed upon her, a completely demilitarised country. The whole object of the political planning that has been done over the last five years has had the purpose of developing a democratic and peace-loving people in Japan, and if we now, because of the development of American hysteria with regard to Communism, take this fatal step of abandoning all that we have stood for hitherto and decide to rearm Japan, 2120 wholly or in part, we shall have destroyed everything that we stood for during the war.
It would be a tremendous mistake to imagine that the old nationalism which dominated Japan is dead. It is true that it is underground, but it nevertheless still lives, and I can conceive nothing more likely to bring it forth again in its full flower and vigour than the creation of a Japanese national army, and the creation of Japanese arms generally. It would be a betrayal of all that we fought for in the war; it would mean the re-creation of the standing menace of Japanese power over the whole Pacific area, not least to our own Dominions of Australia and New Zealand; and it would mean inevitably, eventually, another world war.
I, therefore, hope that in this matter the British Government will be able to speak with an absolutely clear and vigorous voice in opposition to the whole idea of rearming Japan because, after all, this is completely unnecessary. General MacArthur himself has made it quite clear that in his view America already possesses all the sea and air power, based on impregnable bases on the islands scattered all over the Pacific, which gives her complete supremacy over the whole of that area. I am only a layman in these matters, and I have been quoting General MacArthur, but so far as one can see there would not even be any practical advantage in this proposal that we hear coming from America for the rearming of Japan. I hope that the Government, through their spokesman tonight, will be able to give us a clear view on that matter.
I have already spoken longer than I intended—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—much to the impatience of certain hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I know so well what it must have been for them to endure my speech. Nevertheless, I hope that in putting forward these ideas I have put forward, besides the critical matters I have raised, something which may be of constructive value, and which I hope the Foreign Secretary will consider.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
It is not my intention to delay the Committee for more than a few moments, your own pleasure at which, Mr. McLeavy, will 2121 even be exceeded by that of those hon. Gentlemen who are waiting to speak. I should like to spend just 30 seconds of that time in adding my own hopes regarding the recovery of the Foreign Secretary. I wish I could feel that operations in Malaya were likely to improve what he complained of concerning the pain in his head which these had given him. I can only hope that operations elsewhere will be more successful regarding the more remote pain to which he referred.
The object of my remarks, which will be brief, is solely to draw the Committee's attention to one matter which in my opinion, especially in the Far East, is of paramount importance. I believe that this country and the other countries of the Western World have failed to grasp the immense importance and implication of propaganda and the whole question of political warfare, especially in the Far East. I believe that this failure to grasp its importance and our adherence to what are now often out-of-date ideas is fundamental in our failure to grasp the full implications of the Far Eastern situation today. That belief is reinforced by the fact that, despite common knowledge that political warfare, propaganda and psychological warfare are perhaps Russia's main weapon throughout the Far East, that subject was not even once referred to by the Foreign Secretary in his speech today.
Perhaps I ought to start by defining, or attempting to define, what I mean and what field I am attempting to cover. The ground which I am attempting to cover concerns those steps taken to influence peoples and communities other than by armed force, and not of course including economic measures: that is to say, propaganda, psychological warfare, political warfare and the encouragement and assistance of supporters, both in countries whose Governments are still friendly to our own and also in countries which have been overrun or are dominated by Communism.
I think that much of what I say applies equally to the situation in the West—a fact which is coincidental, and which for that reason I hope will not be considered out of order. I believe that when historians look back on these uneasy five years since the end of the war, they will be struck particularly by the immense 2122 success and expansion which Russia has achieved by a bold and ruthless use of propaganda and political warfare. They will be equally struck, I think, looking back retrospectively, by the lack of response which, anyhow so far, there has been among the Western nations in perfecting or creating any machinery to counter this ruthless propaganda and political warfare carried out by Soviet Russia. It is a most remarkable thing, somewhat parallel to the rapid rearmament of Germany and the lack of response by the Western Powers at that time.
Perhaps the most outstanding of all contemporary events is the amount that Russia has staked on this technique—the amount of energy, money and manpower that has been expended on it, and the amount that she has achieved by that policy. In the Far East, with which I am concerned, she has obviously a very fertile field for this technique. This, of course, is much better known to some of my hon. Friends who will be speaking. They know the Far East much better than I do. The seeds of doubt have been sown throughout the Far East by the Japanese occupation against previous authority, which the Western nations maintained in those areas before the war. In the Far East they have a very low standard of life, and yet despite all these defects, and despite Russia's success—and success is the greatest asset to any propaganda machine—there is still, I believe, a potential field of goodwill, provided we make known what we intend to bring to the Far East, what our policy is, and that we mean to stand by and to support those who wish us well, both materially and throughout future policy.
Up to date there has been no indication of that being so. What has happened is that the voice which has been reaching the Far East has been a divided one. There has been American propaganda pursuing, in many instances, a markedly different line from our own; there has been our own line; and there is now a third voice added, which is the station from Munich. It is largely controlled and has a policy dictated by emigré Governments, much of whose propaganda would, I think, be considered reactionary even by my hon. Friend the Member for 2123 Orpington (Sir W. Smithers). That divided counsel, lacks co-ordination and is small in quantity.
I believe that the reason we have failed to realise the importance of this weapon is that our whole method of thinking about the situation in the Far East reverts to our past experience. Is there trouble in the Far East?—send troops; make up the local police; send some Navy to show the flag, and it will probably be all right in time. Now, that is the old method of considering the difficulty, especially in the more remote corners of the world. Furthermore the Foreign Office is concerned with establishing cordial relations with all foreign Governments, but in the Far East there are very few Governments prepared to establish cordial relations with us.
We ignore the possibilities which now lie open to us of influencing communities as a whole in their opinions through this new and far-reaching propaganda machine. It is my contention that we have entirely neglected that new chance. It is no good thinking that we are going to do frightfully well with this or that Government in China, Indo-China, Malaya or elsewhere by some good old Palmerstonian notes and so forth from the Foreign Office. If we influence the people who support these Governments, that influence will be reflected in the Governments themselves. We do not have to go to the Far East to know that. One can take a sixpenny bus ride to Dorking to find that out.
Not only are we outmoded in that, but also in the other question of military intervention. We often hear in the House people saying that we must "hold the ring"; in other words, we must send troops to ensure that the geographical boundaries and frontiers of these countries are not violated and that the countries geographically retain their integrity. This new weapon of which the Russians have made so much use, cleaves right across geographical frontiers, because it lives and works in men's minds. Although it is important to retain the geographical integrity of the country, it is equally important to ensure that we are countering this other weapon. I believe that when we look back on this period, it will be considered just as illogical to 2124 send troops to Malaya without the support of an efficient political warfare and propaganda machine as it would be considered illogical to send troops to a "hot" war without any air support.
I commend that to the Government for very serious consideration indeed. It is already plain to some of our troops that our projects, our policy and our ideals are little known to the people with whom they are coming in contact in Malaya. I believe that a further reason why we have failed to build up a machine is that the Government have clung to the hope and belief that after a few months or even a year, the situation will be cleaned up and we shall be back to the status quo and therefore that this machine is hardly worth creating. That I believe to be fundamentally wrong. This situation is here to stay and it will only end in victory or defeat on one side or the other. We are not going to clear it up by just sending troops or gunboats.
Unless we take positive action and create some sort of propaganda instrument, however many troops we send and however much of the Air Force we send the situation will gradually deteriorate, because whether we get success through our troops, our policy or our diplomacy, we shall be incapable of exploiting it by propaganda. The instrument will not be available for that purpose. When we bear in mind these facts and the immense effort in the whole field of political warfare and propaganda being made by Russia in the Far East, it is indeed disturbing to examine and reflect on the instrument which we now have available for that purpose in the Western Powers, and particularly in this country.
Hon. Members may remember the position during the war. We had a Ministry of Information, the Political Warfare Executive, certain para-military organisations and the Office of War Information in America; and all these organisations were co-ordinated both between America and ourselves and between the Chiefs of Staff organisation and the Foreign Office. They created an extremely efficient machine of immense influence in the war, and I think that the prestige and status of the B.B.C. overseas broadcasts towards the end of the war were immensely high and had a considerable effect in the general prosecution of the war. That was all wound up with a 2125 rapidity that exceeded even the disbandment of our Armed Forces, and there remains today very little of that organisation. What we have is our own organisation and the American organisation unco-ordinated and the organisation at Munich which is of a type which cannot be fundamentally reconciled with the present psychological outlook in the Far East. That is all that is left, and the entire responsibility for this desperately important subject is vested in one small Department of the Foreign Office.
It is called the Overseas Information Department and its full responsibility comes under an Under-Secretary. I do not mind how capable and excellent a man he is—and he is that, I understand—an Under-Secretary is too low in the scale of the hierarchy to be in charge of that responsibility, and I believe it to be fundamentally wrong for that responsibility to be vested in the Foreign Office itself. The whole of our thinking and our machine in this respect is out-of-date for this reason. In peace-time, or twilight peace or half war, we have the Foreign Office dealing with the establishment of friendly relations with foreign Governments on matters of diplomacy and the Minister of Defence dealing with matters of defence for a hot war, and in between the two there is nothing.
Our ideas and propaganda should be getting at the communities of people in the Far East to counter the Russians. Very often that policy will be in opposition to the Foreign Office policy of establishing friendly relations with foreign Powers, and a project may come up in the Far East and the Foreign Office may say, "If you tell them that, the projected dear in that area won't come off because Wing Wang Woo won't like our saying that," or something like that. The Foreign Office should not be responsible for that because they are particularly interested in one limited aspect and I believe that this responsibility should to some extent be taken out of the hands of the Foreign Office and that the lines of responsibility of P.W.E. which we had during the war, should be re-created. Further, it should be closely integrated especially in the Far East with American policy and a much stronger instrument could be created for propaganda throughout the Far East. I beg the Government to consider this matter. I think that we are out-of-date in our thinking and that 2126 if we continue to neglect it, whatever effort we pour into the Far East, we shall never be able to make the best use of it owing to the failure to create an adequate policy making and propaganding machinery. I hope that the Minister on the Front Bench will recognise that and that urgent and early consideration will be given to the matter.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
I am rather glad that this Debate so far has not tended to develop, as some of these Debates do, into a series of disjointed contributions on special, limited subjects. We are concerned today with great fundamental issues, and the Debate has ranged, quite rightly, very widely indeed. Therefore, I hope that I shall not be accused of indulging in vague generalities if I try to sketch some of the wider considerations which underly this vast problem. Indeed, unless we can see such problems as these in the light of certain general principles, we shall inevitably be confused, and our efforts to tackle them will be uncertain and vitiated by what has been called "horrible ad hoc-ery."
There are two major problems in the world today, or two aspects of the same major problem. The first is what is usually summed up, in short, as the East-West clash. The second is the question of the relationship between the races of mankind. The deep division between the Western democracies and the Soviet bloc is the most tragic of all the developments which have followed the last world war. I remember well an eloquent speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) in this House towards the end of the war, when he said how tragic it would be if the victorious Allies should fall apart and start quarrelling over Germany or other things. Unfortunately, this has come to pass, although he seemed at that time to think, and we all certainly hoped, that it would not.
The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech today, defined the two main problems as being problems first, of security and, secondly of economics. That is a different definition, in a sense, from the one that I have just essayed, but there is a certain overlapping between the two definitions. The first of the problems, as I say, is the East-West clash. The second is that of relations between the white 2127 peoples of the West and the colonial, or subject, or coloured peoples in Asia, Africa and elsewhere—racial relationship, in the broadest sense, social, economic, human.
Only the former of these two problems—the East-West clash—arises in Europe; and here, for the moment, the position seems to me to be almost hopeless. There seems to be practically nothing that we can do to solve it here. There is this rigid demarcation, this "Iron Curtain." In the East, the position is far more fluid, and, therefore, at once more dangerous and more hopeful, potentially. It seems to me possible that in Asia, in trying to solve the second of these problems—the social, economic, racial complex—we might find ourselves on the way to solving the former of the two problems, the division between the two halves of the world. For what is the essence of the problem? It is simply this: that we have got, pretty quickly, to convince the peoples of the East that we really mean what we say when we talk about freedom, self-government, human rights and equality of opportunity.
I know how difficult it is for people in this country, particularly people who have never been to the East and seen for themselves the conditions under which people there live, to make the imaginative effort that is needed to look at the world, as it were, through the eyes of an undernourished Chinese peasant. To people such as the hundreds of millions of people in the East, living in squalor and in that hunger that was described so eloquently in the maiden speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Pudsey (Colonel Banks)—to people who have never enjoyed the benefits of what we call democracy—our democracy is not automatically and self-evidently the ideal way of life. There were some extremely wise words about this in the report of a conference held two years ago, about which many hon. Members will know, the Conference of the World Council of Churches, at Amsterdam. These remarks were addressed primarily to Christians of the various churches, Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox, represented at that Conference. This is what was said:Christians should ask why Communism in its modern totalitarian form makes so strong an appeal to great masses of the people in so many parts of the world. They should 2128 recognise the hand of God in the revolt of multitudes against injustice that gives Communism much of its strength.They go on to say, and this is particularly apposite to the point I was trying to make:Christians who are beneficiaries of capitalism should try to see the world as it appears to many who know themselves excluded from its privileges, and who see in Communism a means of deliverance from poverty and insecurity.One sees so clearly, if one thinks it out on these lines, why these millions in the East may be attracted to a Communism that seems to promise them a short cut to a material Utopia and also, which is equally important, assistance in achieving national independence. We all know about these tremendous nationalist pressures, these movements that have blazed up in the last decade or two all over South-East Asia and elsewhere. Self-government is perhaps, of all the "Western" human rights and ideals, the one which has "caught on" most intensely among the hitherto subject peoples. It may seem very wrong-headed to some of us, it may seem foolish to those who feel, perhaps, paternal about them, but there are quite a lot of people in the world who would sooner even misgovern themselves than be moderately well-governed by others.
I should like to illustrate what I mean by one or two special points. First, I do not think that any one who has studied it at all can be really happy about the situation in Hong Kong, which is very much a key place in the Far East, the shop-window, as it were, of Western democracy. In Hong Kong there are not the "two nations" of Disraeli, but three nations. There are the British, the rich Chinese merchants, and the vast mass of the Chinese workers, who, I am afraid, have largely lost confidence in us because of our slowness in bringing about the necessary economic, social and constitutional reform and improvements. I quite realise, as perhaps some hon. Members opposite may remind us, that, on the whole, wages in Hong Kong are relatively high, compared with wages elsewhere in that part of the world. None the less, the average labourer in Hong Kong has absolutely no sense of belonging to a society that he can be proud of, or any real citizenship in that society, whether he is a British subject or Chinese by nationality.
2129 There is a great reluctance in official quarters in Hong Kong to extend proper recognition to trade unions, or to consult them fully about matters that they should be consulted about. The status even of our own excellent labour officers there does not compare with their status in Nigeria and other Colonies within the Commonwealth. Extraordinarily little seems to have been done—I know that something has been done—to cope not only with the economic difficulties, but with such matters as illiteracy and the provision of education. Some schools have been provided, but there are still at least 50,000 children who never go to school. One cannot stress that too much in the present conditions, because of the tremendous influx of refugees from the mainland; but it is a point worth noting. Finally, on Hong Kong, I cannot help feeling that the situation there should be more closely integrated with the whole South-East Asia set-up, if that is practically possible. I sometimes feel that Mr. MacDonald is not as fully informed as he might be of what is going on in Hong Kong and what the position is.
Nor, indeed, to come to a second special point, was he particularly well informed, in my opinion, if it was he who. as I gather it was, reported favourably to His Majesty's Government on our old friend the Emperor Bao Dai. In my view, also, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was profoundly misreading the situation in Indo-China when he seemed to imply—it was not quite clear what he meant, but I thought he implied—that the war in Indo-China was mainly or largely a civil war created by external Communist influences. As my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. J. Paton) said, this war and the campaign being waged by Ho Chi-minh contains at least a substantial element of a genuine struggle for national independence.
I am not going to repeat all that I said on the Adjournment Debate on 4th April on this particular subject, but I should like to remind my hon. Friend the Minister of State, whom I see listening with his usual courtesy and attention, that he gave us an assurance towards the end of his speech, in reply to a remark made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), that he would continue to press the French to develop what he rather optimistically called "the present state 2130 of considerable independence into a state of full independence." I wonder if he can tell us whether any further discussions with the French have taken place or if any further pressure has been applied?
Although I know he did not like my remarks, almost everything I said on that occasion has been substantiated since by everything we hear from Indo-China. He has perhaps seen, for instance, the very moderately expressed, sensible editorial in a politically moderate American newspaper, the "St. Louis Post Despatch," which says, among other things:Quite apart from the moral question of using American power to bolster European colonialism in the Far East virtually every correspondent who knows that area reports that any attempt to do so would be doomed in advance. Thus Philips Talbot, 'Chicago Daily News' correspondent, recently wrote, 'United States support for Bao Dai is caught in the dilemma that he cannot now hold power in Viet Nam without the help of the French Army, and yet he cannot win Viet Namese nationalist support without rejecting French rule.'The "St. Louis Post Despatch" goes on to comment:There is one possible way out. That is for the French to do what Britain did in India and Burma, and what the Dutch did in Indonesia—voluntarily abdicate a power which can be temporarily held only by excessive force and, in the long run, cannot be held at all. Unless American policy is grounded firmly on that principle, we are not likely to gain friends in South-East Asia, and the dollars we spend will be largely, if not entirely, wasted.From the American point of view that is absolutely true, and corresponds with what I feel our attitude should be vis-a-vis the French on this question of Indo-China and Bao Dai.
The dilemma indicated in that editorial is a true one. It is the whole dilemma of the Western Powers in the East. Unless they encourage, positively and sympathetically, the Nationalist movements, and thus put an end to their own empires, in the old sense of the word "empire," then they will lose, anyway, and they will lose not only power but prestige, influence, and friendship. There seems to be a kind of irony in history that forces some nations and empires to take courses that produce results exactly the opposite of the results that they desire to produce. I hope that we ourselves shall not be trapped by that historic irony. The Foreign Secretary stated the correct policy 2131 today—economic and constitutional reform; but success is dependent on the speed with which the reforms can be put into effect, and, personally, I do not think that the speed is like anything adequate at the moment.
My last special point is this. Surely, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) said, the Chinese Communist Government ought now, or very soon, to be represented in the various agencies of the United Nations—the Security Council U.N.E.S.C.O. and the other agencies. It seems quite illogical to extend recognition to that Government and to say, "You are, in fact, the Government that represents and speaks for the majority of the Chinese people," and yet say, at the same time, "You must continue to be excluded from the councils of the United Nations." No action could be more calculated to encourage that reciprocity, for which we have been anxiously waiting for some time from the Chinese Communist Government, than steps by His Majesty's Government to secure their admission to the United Nations.
An hon. Member opposite asked what we had got out of it in exchange for recognition. One answer is that recognition is extended for legal reasons rather than as a commercial bargain; but I think it is fair also to say that there are very great prospects of trade with China, which we need and can get if we have good diplomatic relations with the Chinese Communist Government. The Chinese people are, on the whole, friendly disposed towards this country and ourselves, and they certainly need the things that we can send them—machinery, consumer goods and many things which they cannot get, for instance, from Soviet Russia.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said he had been "assured" that the overwhelming majority of the peoples of South-East Asia were anti-Communist. I do not know who gave him that assurance, but, frankly, I do not think that it is a very sound generalisation.
§ Mr. Driberg
I thought he was speaking of South-East Asia generally, and if I misquote him I apologise. We shall see in HANSARD tomorrow morning. In any case, it does not affect the point that I want to drive home.
The generalisation that I would venture to make on South-East Asia is that the overwhelming majority of the peoples are not anti-Communist so much as non-Communist. They are beginning to be interested in Communism; they are attracted to it in some ways, for reasons which I explained earlier. They are prepared, and indeed likely, to become pro-Communist if we fail to face the challenge of the times.
We keep on hearing and using that phrase "the challenge of Communism." We talk about "checking the onward rush of Communism," and so on. A lot of the rhetoric about it is nonsense. A dynamic idea, even if we consider it a warped and wrong idea, cannot be stopped either by military means alone or, despite the extremely interesting and thoughtful speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) who preceded me, by counter-propaganda alone, or by military means and counter-propaganda combined.
The challenge of Communism is not fundamentally, in my view, a challenge to war; it is a challenge to a competition in making peace. Here, again, I am going to quote briefly from one other ecclesiastical document, the report of another great conference that was held in 1948, the Lambeth Conference of all the archbishops and bishops of the Anglican Communion throughout the world. They had something to say about Communism, which seems to me to be extremely sensible. It is addressed to Christians, of course, and it is part of the formal resolutions of the Lambeth Conference. Here it is:The Conference believes that Communism is presenting a challenge to Christian people to study and understand its theory and practice, so that they may be well instructed as to which elements in it are in conflict with the Christian view of man and must therefore be resisted, and which elements are a true judgment on the existing social and economic order.That seems to me a sane and well-balanced attitude, very different from the hysteria that prevails in some quarters.
2133 I refuse to believe that the situation in Asia or anywhere else obliges us to regard as inevitable a future war against Russia, or the continuation of that global neurosis which we call the "cold war." We ought not to acquiesce with equanimity in that process. Indeed, Asia—through our friends in India, perhaps through the Chinese Communists, or through our friends in Burma, with their unique spirituality and intuition, if I may so put it—might yet provide some measure of healing this terrible schism of the world which may lead to the ruin of all civilisation.
As other speakers have said, the Labour Government must be praised for the outstanding statesmanship of their actions in regard to India and Burma. I only hope that the recognition of Bao Dai and some other recent events do not indicate any retrograde step in our foreign policy in the Far East and South-East Asia—what I should call "a swing to the Right." If we go that way we shall never establish peace in the world—peace as defined recently in an interesting article by Mr. John Foster Dulles, an American statesman with whom I do not always find myself in agreement. Peace, he told his fellow-Americans, is not a self-contained isolation; nor does it mean a world dominated by American ideas or run in accordance with American wishes. Peace isa condition of community, of diversity, and of change.We had better get moving with those changes—but fast.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Lord John Hope (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
I wonder whether, at the beginning of what I hope will be a short speech, the Committee would mind if I referred briefly to a matter which has come to the knowledge of some of us here. I refer to the death of that most distinguished servant of this country, who served the Far East and his own country so well in peace and war, Lord Wavell. I know a little bit of what was involved in the burdens of Viceroyalty, because I saw it. I think I may say, and I believe the Committee will join me in saying, that we only hope that the strength and the service which that distinguished man gave, and gave in full measure, will not have been given in vain.
2134 This is one fight, whether we look East or West. It is difficult sometimes to remember that fact, because we must divide our debates; otherwise, we should go on interminably. In that fight there are two possible false moves. Certainly, they are false moves which the enemy hopes we shall make, and which may yet be made by the West. The first is to suppose that there can be any neutrality in the struggle. The conception of a so-called third force, however well meaning it may have been, is disastrous and I hope that it will be dropped from now on. The second false move is confusion between the long-term and the short-term remedies for the situation. That is a convenient confusion, especially for those who are in responsible positions, but it is very dangerous. It is summed up in a phrase which has already been referred to in the Debate, "the standard of living."
About the rising standard-of-living argument, as I call it, I want to make two short points. The first is that Communism, whatever the idealistic nature of its foundation may have been, is now a racket, well established everywhere. Communism is, for instance, more powerful, I believe, in Australia than in any other country in the Empire. But there is practically no poverty at all in Australia. That point might be pondered. The second point is that the short-term necessities of military and of political security must now come first. On both sides of Committee we should have the courage to say what we believe to the people. These necessities undoubtedly pull against the possibility of a rising standard of living in the West for some time. That, too, must be faced. Perhaps I may refer, in passing, to a speech I once made in this House. I remember making that point in the same sort of terms, and it received a reference from the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg), who was good enough with his eloquent pen, to write that in saying it I had "spilt a mouthful." Well, I spill another one willingly, because I believe it to be a profound truth.
Let us concentrate for a few minutes upon the short-term policy. I have no time to go into the long-term ideal of raising the standard of living. I know that that is a matter which has to be faced in the end, but I have no time, in a back-bench speech, to cover the whole of the waterfront. It has been suggested, not only in this country but in 2135 other countries in the Commonwealth, that we should try to form a Pacific Pact. I am wholeheartedly behind the idea of a Pacific Pact, but it will take a long time for any such pact to come into being. The authors of the idea of the Pacific Pact must be thinking of the Atlantic Pact, but I cannot help feeling a little despondent about quick results when I compare the weakness and inexperience—there is nothing derogatory in either of those adjectives—of the new Eastern Governments with the relative stability of the countries that signed the Atlantic Pact. There was a great deal of drama and a certain amount of indecision before that pact was signed even by so many experienced Governments. That kind of indecision will be but intensified when it is a question of these new, young Governments of the Far Eastern countries having to sign up.
Reference has been made, I think rightly, to the newly released nationalism of Asia. That will make it terribly difficult for these Governments to make commitments with the West, debarred, as they must be, from wanting to express their willingness to do that by the fact that only so recently have they gained their freedom from the domination of the West. How difficult, too, it will be for these Governments to come out openly and bravely against Communism. There is the background of the Communist triumph in China—whatever may happen in the future it is no good anybody pretending that up to the moment it has not been a Communist triumph—which will help to make those Governments delay before openly asking for or welcoming help from the West. We should bear in mind the great courage of Bao Dai in Indo-China, Songgram in Siam and Hatta in Indonesia who, in coming out so openly against Communism, carry their lives in their hands every day.
Never mind if the East is not ready for a Pacific Pact yet. Let us go ahead as best we can and get as near to the benefits of such a pact as we can. In that respect I welcome more than I can say the initiative which the United States of America are now taking in the East. I do not pretend that His Majesty's Government could not have taken more initiative than they have taken and are taking in the East, but, apart from that, 2136 I think it is undoubtedly much easier for the United States to take the initiative in the Pacific.
There are three main reasons. The first is the economic reason. That is an obvious one. They have the money and manpower which we and others have not. Secondly, there is the historical reason. The United States have been in the van of the movement to free colonial peoples from the dominion of the colonisers. Whether they were right or wrong is purely academic; it is a fact that they have been in the van. Thirdly, there is the political reason. The United States have been alone in their undeviating and unequivocal attitude towards Communism.
The Americans have taken the initiative in a big way and in the right place, and that is in Indo-China. The hon. Member for Maldon was wise in refraining from dwelling in any way upon the speech which he made not long ago attacking His Majesty's Government's recognition of the Bao Dai regime, attacking Bao Dai and attacking the French. It was an unfortunate moment to make it. There are weaknesses and there are things which are unattractive about the situation which obtains there, but it is our job to do the best we can in the public assemblies of the democratic world at this moment of great crisis.
I put Indo-China first because if that goes, I believe that everything will go. It is no use pretending that we can hold Malaya if Indo-China goes. Malaya will go, Singapore will go, Burma will go and Siam will go and I believe that Indonesia and the Philippines will also fall. Then what of India, out-flanked as she will be and with her food supplies cut off? I do not believe that that is an over-statement of the case. Indo-China has to be held, and I am glad that the United States at least are determined that it shall be held.
I have read that the United States have to support "an uncomfortable paradox" in deciding to help the French Army in Indo-China. It is so. However, the United States know that if the French troops go from Indo-China, then South-East Asia is done. It has always been the test and the duty of leadership to face uncomfortable paradoxes. This is not the first one, and it will not be the last one; we have had to do it for a long time. I believe that the Americans 2137 are rising to their responsibilities in a great manner. If the United States decide physically to go into Indo-China in order to save it I hope that they will waste no time in doing so should it be necessary.
What about the Commonwealth reactions to America's new "total diplomacy," to use Dean Acheson's phrase? Whether we like it or not, this has been welcomed by the Dominions in a way which His Majesty's Government have certainly not echoed. It is extremely significant that the Australian Minister for External Affairs has called for a partnership with the United States of America in unmistakable terms. Mr. Doidge, the New Zealand Minister, says that the situation demands an organisation wider than the British Commonwealth, and I believe that the speech of Mr. Pearson, of Canada, at the Pilgrims' dinner went a very long way along the same path. I am not afraid to welcome American initiative and the enlargement in every way possible of comradeship, brotherhood and union between the United States and the United Kingdom.
I want to say something else about the relations between His Majesty's present Government and the United States. I said that one reason why it was easier for the United States to take the initiative in the Pacific was that they alone have been undeviating in their opposition to Communism. I want to make this appeal to His Majesty's Government. It is an appeal about which it is quite easy to try to make a perfectly legitimate party point. I do not in the least mind doing that in the normal case, but I make my appeal with all sincerity. Do the Government realise that they have never yet stated unequivocally what the difference is between Socialism and Communism? It is very important that they should do so. I wonder if they could find a difference. The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations smiles and then looks, somewhat embarrassed, at his fingers, but it will take him all his time to find an answer.
Now I must refer very briefly to statements written and made in the one case by the Secretary of State for War and in the other by the Minister for Defence. I do not suppose for a moment that either of those Ministers is really a Communist. Of course they are not; they have both said that they are not, and one must 2138 accept it. The fact remains that only last February the Secretary of State for War wrote in the "Tribune" that Communism was a lily among the weeds. He added that it was a festering lily, it is true, but the fact remains that it was a lily among the weeds. He now goes out to strengthen the case against Communism in Malaya. On 10th January the Minister of Defence said that he had "no particular quarrel with the objects of Communism" and that what he quarrelled with was "not their objects, which could be quite reasonable but their technique in trying to achieve their objective." That is not an unequivocal opposition to Communism, whatever anyone may say.
I hope that His Majesty's Government will respond to that appeal. I will say no more about it except this: it is no good the Labour Party trying to persuade the people of this country, through its speakers and its Press, that the present Administration in the United States is really a Socialist Administration. Poor President Truman is having to stump the country to deny that his Administration has anything to do with Socialism, which he referred to in a speech the other day as "that old bugaboo." I can find no more fitting description than that from every point of view.
Let the Government, therefore, take its courage in both hands, and define what it thinks Communism is, and define the enemy. Then we may once again, as a country, play some part in rallying the free peoples and in preventing their destruction. I believe that the road along which the Government must try to lead us is that road towards an invincible Atlantic community, which alone will save the peace of the world and keep it.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Awbery (Bristol, Central)
I want to deal with one of the problems of the Far East. The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) made one or two statements to which I want to refer. He said there is political warfare going on in the Far East and that we have done nothing to counteract it. During my speech I shall suggest some methods by which we can counteract the political warfare now going on. I would say to the hon. and gallant Member that for many years we have been too busy making profits in the Far East while the Communists have been busy converting 2139 people to Communism. That is one reason why they are succeeding in fostering Communism to the extent they have done in Malaya.
The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), in opening the Debate, said a number of things with some of which I agree and with others of which I must disagree. For instance, he said there are no Communists among the Malays. To a considerable extent he is right, because among the Malays themselves there is a very small number of Communists. The Communists in Malaya are Chinese. The right hon. Gentleman also said that there has been a great deterioration in Malaya since we recognised China, that the events in that country have influenced the events in Malaya, that prior to a year ago there was little Communism in the Peninsula of Malaya. I do not think that statement is correct because there was Communism in that country long before the war.
I want to trace the position as this Government found it in 1945 and then, as quickly as possible, to trace the historic development of the Communist Party and see why we have not succeeded in crushing Communism, as suggested by the Opposition. I am afraid that hon. Members opposite are not aware of the fact that in Malaya we are now fighting a machine which was created by ourselves and we are fighting men who were trained by our own officers during the war. I hope to prove that as my speech develops.
Like the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington I have paid a short visit to Malaya and have had an opportunity of meeting a large number of trade unionists in the Peninsula and in Singapore. I also had an opportunity of meeting some of the men who are now in the jungle fighting against us, because they were sitting on the committees we interviewed when we held an inquiry two years ago into the development of the trade union movement in Malaya. So I know something about both sides of the picture, and I want to express my opinion as to what should be done. In the past, when we have talked about Malaya we have usually had in our minds tin and rubber, products and profits, rather than people. If we had turned our attention more to the people of Malaya rather than to the 2140 profits from tin and rubber, our position would be more substantial there today than it is. Perhaps it would have been better for the people of Malaya if tin, had never been found, and if they had never grown rubber in that Peninsula. Certainly they would have been saved a great deal of trouble.
We cannot deny the fact that when the war ended, a revolution was proceeding among the common peoples of the world. It was apparent that all colours and races of people had been seeking a new way of life. The process has been slow, but it was accelerated by both world wars. By 1945 people had learned this better way of life and, in Malaya particularly, were demanding access to it. After the Japs left, we found that a political ferment was proceeding among these people, they were seeking an outlet and were trying to obtain the freedom about which they had heard so much. We sought, and as a Government I believe we sought rightly, to give direction to this new-found feeling of the people of Malaya.
I agree that we have played an important part in the development of the backward peoples of the world. In some cases we have played a noble part, but in many cases we have played an ignoble part. We now hold Malaya as the trustee of the people of that country and not for a few industrialists. Not many weeks ago reference was made here to the people of Malaya losing faith in this Government for fear we would leave them. I got it from one of the highest people in the Peninsula that the only people who fear in that direction are a few industrialists who are afraid of losing their profits in rubber and tin.
We have helped in health, we have helped in education although in the past we have neglected the latter. When my colleague and I went to one trade union, we saw in the large office there a number of children and a teacher. When we asked them what they were doing, they said, "This is our school. There is no school to which the children can go, so we have established a school of our own." [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] My hon. Friend says, "Hear, hear," but we found they were training the children in the dogmas and ideas of Communism. If we allowed all the trade unions to establish classes and schools to teach Communism, we would be in a difficult position 2141 in a short time. However, we have helped in education, we have helped in research and we have helped in labour welfare.
We have given much to our Colonies and Dependencies but we must not forget that we have also taken a great deal from them. As I have said, we are there as trustees, and that trusteeship must develop into co-partnership; we must share with them their victories and defeats, their joys and their sorrows, and their advantages and their disadvantages.
I want to trace, if I can, the picture of events during the war. Since the war, the position in Malaya has been very disturbing, and naturally so. The Japanese were in occupation for nearly four years, during which time they were preaching anti-British policy amongst the whole of the people by means of wireless and other forms of propaganda. As a result, when the war ended there arose in Malaya a fight between Communism and free democracy. My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) said that Communism cannot be destroyed by military force. I believe that we can destroy it by putting something better in its place. The only way of removing an ideology is to replace it by one which is better.
During those four years of the war the Communists were busy establishing themselves, and I think it is necessary that we should know something of the history of Communism in Malaya. It started from the old Chinese secret societies; it was established in 1928 and remained as a secret organisation until 1940. When during that year the Russians entered the war, the Communists of Malaya came out of hiding and offered their services to the British Government to help in the war. That offer was accepted by the Government because we could make use of the Communists to help to defeat the enemy.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
The hon. Member will agree, will he not, that the Chinese Communists in Malaya flatly refused to support the war effort until Germany attacked Russia?
§ Mr. Awbery
That is just what I said. They did not enter the war until Russia did so. Before the entry of Russia they took the view that the war was an imperialist war, and they were creating strife, discord and discontent in the plantations and in the mines. Immediately 2142 Russia came into the war, however, the Communists of Malaya offered their services to the Government. Most of these Chinese had been trained in Kwangtung, the stronghold of the militant movement in China, under Sun Yat Sen. They came across into Malaya, bringing their ideals with them. That was the position as far as the Communists were concerned.
What was the general position of the trade union movement? Before the war, it did not exist in Malaya. Instead, there were mutual friendly societies and social clubs, which took the part usually played by the trade union movement. In 1939 there were 427 of these organisations, 357 of which were mainly Chinese. In 1940 the trade union ordinance was passed which permitted the establishment of trade unions, but this was rendered ineffective by the invasion of the Japanese.
During the war we encouraged the Communists. They went into the jungle and formed seven different armies, mostly of young men. The young men whom I saw were inspired with the great motive of helping the British to defeat the Japanese, but when they got into the jungle they found themselves, trained week after week in Communism, in a veritable hothouse. They were told that they must prepare for the period when the war was over, when they would establish a Malayan Communist Republic. They were formed into the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army and the Anti-Japanese Union. One of these groups worked in the jungle, the other worked underground.
Their training in the jungle under military and political commanders continued for three years, during which time they were being taught and trained in Communist tactics and education. They were told that when the war ended they must infiltrate into the workers' organisations, industrial establishments and places of employment; and that is what they did. These are the men, who were trained more or less under our supervision in the jungle, whom we are now fighting in Malaya.
When the liberation arrived, the people of Malaya found a new sense of freedom, which gave to them a tremendous upsurge and feeling of liberty. Gone was the oppression of the Japanese, and now they were seeking something which as 2143 yet they had not found. For four years they had had no rights except the right to starve and to die, and they saw the establishment around them of strong political organisations by the Chinese in the Malayan Communist Party and the Indians in the Indian Independence League.
That was the position which awaited the arrival of the guerillas. They found a people who were prepared to receive their doctrine of Communism which they had been learning in the jungle, and the two groups started to work. They infiltrated into the trade union movement. The British Military Administration, which arrived in September, 1945, to prepare the way for the civil Government which was to follow, called upon the guerillas to disarm and to disband. Some of the guerillas did so because they were under the jurisdiction or control of British officers, but others refused to give up their arms and went back into the jungle and to their dumps of arms. The British military organisation had the difficulty of maintaining a balance between the aspirations of the Malayan people and the policy of the new Labour Government which had been set up in Britain. They encouraged, therefore, the establishment of a responsible and democratic trade union movement in Malaya and endeavoured to destroy those movements which were undemocratic. The British military organisation, as has been said from this side of the Committee, set up a trade union advisory department, and advisors were sent out from this country to give assistance.
The choices before the British Government at that time were, first, whether the responsible trade union movement in Malaya should be established and encouraged; secondly, whether we should leave this field open entirely to the Malayan Communist Party; and thirdly, whether the trade union movement should be made illegal. The Government, I believe, followed the right policy in adopting the first of these courses and deciding to establish and to assist trade unions on democratic lines. The trade union ordinance became operative, and the trade union movement became legalised once more. Labour departments were set up and trade union advisers sent out from this country.
2144 The trade union advisers were specialists in trade union movements, trained in this country, and knew the job, not from books, but from practical experience; they were men who had experience of operating conciliatory machinery and knew something about industrial legislation. When I saw them two years ago these men had been doing excellent work. I am afraid we do not appreciate what these men are up against in the work they are doing, not only in Malaya, but in other countries also. They have prevented numerous strikes and have created a better feeling between employers and employees.
It was not an easy task. In Malaya there are three distinct nationalities—Chinese, Malays and Indians—and they had to adapt themselves to the circumstances of those three nations living as one. They also established native trade union advisers. I met some of them in the House when they came to this country to have their training here. They are doing exceedingly well and deserve our thanks for the work they have done. The result is shown in the returns from the plantations and the mines. The production of rubber and tin is continually increasing.
§ Mr. W. Fletcher
Will the hon. Member say to what extent he thinks the production has increased, in figures?
§ Mr. Awbery
Yes, the figures are available, but I did not bring them. The hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher) is associated with the tin and rubber industry——
§ Mr. Awbery
—and he may be able to give the figures. He knows that there has been a substantial increase year after year during the last two or three years. The position in the industrial world is far better today than before. A Whitley Council has been set up for the railways. The railwaymen are operating trains in Malaya and have to drive at night through the jungle where the guerillas are. There is still much to be done, and this Government must not "let up." There is much to be done by way of improving workmen's compensation, factory inspection, the prevention of accidents and improving the negotiating machinery.
I received a letter from a friend in Malaya a fortnight ago. He said: 2145There are still some troubles out here. The troubles are caused because the workers have put in an application for increases in wage rates. The employers are saying, 'Now the men who caused the trouble are away in the jungle there is no fear of a strike and we need not bother with the demand.'If we want to maintain peace in industry in Malaya, we must deal more expeditiously, as employers and as a Government, with the demands which are being made. Employers in Malaya, and, incidentally, in this country, must not dub every man a Communist because he expresses dissatisfaction with industrial conditions which exist. There are industrial grievances which are real, both in this country and in Malaya, and they should be dealt with before they reach the stage of a strike and not delayed until a strike takes place. The energy and zeal of the young men in this new Federation should be directed into a democratic way of life, and I believe we can do that.
I hope I have not implied that all the employers are bad. I met good, bad and indifferent employers in Malaya. I met some who said they wanted to employ whom they liked, when they liked, and where they liked and pay them as they liked, but others wanted to use conciliatory machinery and to come to agreement with the men. Progress has been made in Malaya from an industrial point of view and from a trade union point of view. One hon. Member said that we wanted to see politicians appointed as governors in the Federation. I do not think it is necessary to have a politician. What we want is a man with great human understanding who can grasp the problems which are presented, whether he is called a politician, an industrialist or anything else. I met Governor Gent, who unfortunately was killed in an air accident. His death was a great loss to this country and to Malaya. There is a fine body of trade union advisers in Malaya and a fine labour department, and we should do all we can to encourage them and recruit more advisers to send out to the Federation.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
In the short time I have been in this House I have heard many remarkable statements by hon. Members in all quarters but I must frankly confess that I have to award the prize to the statement of the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) 2146 which implied that it would have been better for the Malayans if no rubber or tin had been discovered in Malaya.
§ Mr. Awbery
I think the hon. Member got me wrong. I said that it might have been better if no rubber or tin had been found there.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
I find it difficult to believe that any hon. Member should even say that it might have been better. I ask the hon. Member to reflect for a moment when he talks of social reforms and the improvements in trade union organisation which he thinks are necessary. Surely none of these things can come about, until and unless we win the shooting war.
I think this Debate is most important, not least because it is overdue. I know there have been reasons why the date of the Debate has been postponed but, at the same time, I have the impression, and I think the public outside have the impression, that for far too long, in the minds of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite the emphasis on the Far East has been on the word "Far." It is a long way away and is not "news." Dr. Fuchs is "news," because he is here, but the Far East is far away. We have had one or two incidents, such as that of the "Amethyst," which captured the public imagination and which were news for a little time, but the public are too complacent about the Far East except, of course, the relatives of the troops engaged on active service. I use the phrase "active service" deliberately. We hear a great deal about the cold war, but we must never forget that the war in Asia is far from cold.
I am not a professional strategist, but I challenge any hon. Member to deny that what we may be witnessing is a gigantic pincer movement on a worldwide scale. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary referred to that by implication. The right paw is on Germany and Central Europe with its immense industrial and military potential and the left paw is on the unlimited man-power of Asia. As the Foreign Secretary said, it would be awkward if there were a civil war in Europe and a civil war in the Far East, and that suggests a pincer movement on a very large scale.
What I am sure is fatal is any tendency to put the hot and the cold wars 2147 into two watertight compartments. The two cannot be separated. They are not just bits of a jig-saw puzzle lying about on the Cabinet table in No. 10, Downing Street. They should be fitted together to make one whole pattern. There are, surely, two requirements. The first is a co-ordinated policy in both the military and the economic sphere. The second is a perfectly clear distinction in our minds between our short-term and long-term objectives. The short-term objective must surely be to win the shooting war in Malaya, so far as Britain is concerned, and in Indo-China so far as France is concerned, for it is in those two areas that British and French troops are involved.
I hope that, in reply, the Minister of State will give us a little more information about what is going on in Malaya. We had a short Debate not long ago, and a Debate has taken place in another place. I read that Debate; I do not think it was particularly satisfactory from the Government's point of view.
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, Northfield)
I am getting a little fed up with this business of Members of this House not being allowed to say anything about another place, whereas they are allowed to say things about this House. The hon. Member, I suggest, might in such circumstances refrain from taking advantage of a Debate in another place to make the comment he did about the Government in relation to a Debate there.
§ Lord John Hope
On a point of order. The hon. Member is talking absolute nonsense. Surely we are allowed to refer to another place, but not allowed to quote; that is all.
§ Mr. Blackburn
Further to that point of order. As the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Lord John Hope) has chosen to use characteristic and discourteous phraseology, may I point out that the matter I raised was that we are not allowed to refer adversely to another place although Members of the other place do in practice refer adversely to this House. I was merely suggesting to the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) that it was quite wrong to refer to a Debate in another place and say that the Government came off badly, because we are not allowed to go into 2148 detail into the circumstances of Debates in the other place.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Frank McLeavy)
According to the rules of the House the position is that Members are allowed only to refer to Government statements in another place.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
Subject to your Ruling, Mr. McLeavy, I was merely referring to the fact that a Debate had taken place in another place.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
I do not think that the hon. Member can object to a reference to a Debate in another place, whether he agrees with my view that the course of that Debate was satisfactory or otherwise to the Government.
All I was about to say was that we have had far too many contradictory statements about Malaya. On his way to Australia six months ago Mr. Malcolm MacDonald pronounced the situation as being very serious indeed. He used the word "deterioration." When he got to Canberra he told a Press conference that the British Forces were adequate and well-equipped. These statements do not quite tally. Just over a year ago in London he spoke rather optimistically of the defeat of the Communist terrorists and of the steady decline in the enemy's morale. It is not surprising that the public are a little bemused about what is going on there.
I wish to ask the Minister one or two questions about the situation in Malaya. Would he tell us first, when he comes to reply, whether the Government are satisfied that the reinforcements to Malaya from Hong Kong will leave Hong Kong adequately defended, because nothing could better suit the Communist hand than to oblige us to ring the changes by reinforcing Malaya from Hong Kong and then to turn on the heat in Hong Kong and oblige us to reinforce from Malaya? That is a typical Communist technique. I should like to know whether in spite of the reinforcements sent from Hong Kong to Malaya, the Government are satisfied that Hong Kong is still adequately defended. I hope that we shall have a reply on the questions of equipment, notably wireless sets and 2149 helicopters, which were raised earlier in the Debate by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden).
To turn to my next point, if it was considered necessary that a Director of Operations, which, I think, is the title of General Briggs, should be sent out a month or two ago—and we all welcomed the appointment—surely there was all the more reason for having sent him or some other senior general out to do precisely the same job well over a year ago. Why wait until 11.55 p.m. to do something which should have been done at 9 a.m.?
Perhaps the Minister of State will also have a little information on the question of Indo-China. So far as I have been able to discover from Press reports, the situation there is something like deadlock. The French are reported—I do not know if these figures are correct—to have 130,000 troops. Their casualties are alleged to be about 1,000 a month, and the situation is not too good. Their equipment is very old and out of date. I understand that they are short of uniforms, among other things. I noticed in a newspaper the other day that the Ministry of Supply were selling off large quantities of khaki cloth and other khaki clothing which was of no value to us. Was this surplus of any value to the French in Indo-China? Was this khaki cloth and clothing unsuitable for the type of warfare going on in Indo-China, and was it offered to the French Government? Was it refused as being unsuitable? We should like to know whether any sort of co-ordination of this kind has taken place between the British and French Governments in respect of Malaya on the one hand and Indo-China on the other.
From the long-term point of view I see little sign of co-ordination. We have got ourselves into a humiliating position over recognition of the Communist Government in China. That decision was one of doubtful wisdom at best. If we intended to recognise Communist China I cannot help feeling that we should have taken that step not only in conjunction with the United States but after not before the Colombo Conference. I know the arguments in favour of recognition—that we have enormous assets in China, computed, I believe, at about£300 million. I know that certain business 2150 interests in Shanghai and elsewhere took the view that the only chance of preserving and safeguarding our industrial and commercial property in China, particularly in the ports, was by representations made by a properly accredited ambassador. But what have we got out of it so far? We have been humbugged and humiliated. We have made an offer to send an ambassador and it has not been accepted, so that no representations can yet be made on behalf of any British interest in China.
The Foreign Secretary told us that one of the reasons for recognising Communist China was his desire not to ostracise anyone on political grounds. I know that this Debate is about the Far East; otherwise, I should be tempted to ask him how he squares that statement with his attitude towards Spain. It would surely have been wiser to have waited, in the first place, to see if the Communist Government in China was really independent of Moscow. There is a heap of evidence to show that it is not. It would also have been wiser to have paid very close attention to the effect on morale in Malaya of that offer of recognition. This aspect has been ignored altogether. Here was an admirable opportunity for coordination with the U.S.A. and the Dominions. His Majesty's Government threw it away, and promptly proceeded to introduce an element of discord.
I wish to refer to the question of coordination in another direction by taking up a point made with great clarity by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head). We have learned in the West, to our cost, that in certain circumstances propaganda is a much more effective weapon than bullets. Is not it time that there was a coordinated policy between the B.B.C. and the American broadcasting services?
Have the Government thought about setting up a political warfare executive? Have any attempts been made to get together with India and Pakistan—who are facing a similar threat of Communism—to put out some co-ordinated propaganda on the air? Has any such inquiry been made; has any such proposal been turned down, and if it has may we be told something about it? What about the Hong Kong radio? I may be wrong, but I am informed that, for a very small expenditure, 2151 about£200,000, which is a drop in the ocean compared to the cost of the war in Malaya, the Hong Kong radio station could be made infinitely stronger. Has any decision been taken about that?
Finally, I come to the question of economic assistance. In this respect the American decision to help is very welcome indeed, and most important, but we must get firmly fixed in our minds the relative priorities of the short-term and the long-term plan. Even in Western Europe where, on the whole, the powers have something like a common form of government, and certainly a common background of civilisation, economic assistance alone was not thought to be enough. In the present state of the world the real strength of O.E.E.C. lies in the conception of the Atlantic Pact. It is the Atlantic Pact which gives some teeth to O.E.E.C. How much more difficult is the problem of economic assistance in South-East Asia where these countries have no common background of civilisation and no common form of government.
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite continually tell us that the real bulwark against Communism is to raise the standard of life of the people in the threatened areas. I agree that that is one of the bulwarks, but the time factor is vital. Unless we can win the shooting war there will not be time for results to be achieved by economic assistance designed to raise the standard of life of the peoples. Here, we must make up our minds what we want to do.
We have to ask ourselves some very searching questions which raise some very difficult problems. It would be quite wrong to refuse to admit that this is so. Is security and stability for the new Governments to take priority over the economic plans to raise the general standard of living, or is it to be the other way round? I do not think anybody would seriously suggest that the granting of independence to Burma has resulted in an improvement in the standard of life of the Burmese. On the other hand, Pandit Nehru still maintains his policy of antagonism to French interests in Indo-China; and this raises acute problems at both ends of the scale. Here is a real test for the statesmanship and leadership of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It provides a real opportunity for displaying 2152 just those qualities with which, unfortunately, the Almighty has not unduly endowed them.
The Communist threat to Asia is no less dangerous than the Communist threat to Europe. The scene with which we are confronted is not that of two landscape pictures back to back, so to speak. The whole canvas has to be unrolled so that we get a proper view of the panorama. Communism is something more than a political philosophy with which we may disagree or otherwise. It is a creed, vital, insidious, dynamic, demanding a degree of uniformity, subservience and discipline the like of which has not hitherto been seen in history. Where the war is hot we must fight it with bullets. Where it is cold we must fight it by pooling to the maximum extent our general economic resources. There must be overall strategy and overall planning, but in the last resort something more is needed if both Asia and Europe are to be saved from Communism. Marshall dollars may provide food for the body. What is required, in addition, is a little more food for the soul.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
During the Debate we have several times heard that a huge revolutionary movement has taken place in Asia and especially in South-East Asia. I entirely agree with that point of view. When I was living in that part of the world 20 years ago, I recognised it and I gave as my advice that the only solution was to hand over responsibility and power to elected leaders of the native peoples. I can well remember that I understood the risks of what might happen, but in my opinion we had to take that risk. The Donoughmore constitution in Ceylon accepted my views.
When I came to this House I adopted the same views regarding India. In my opinion the reason there was so much trouble with us in India was because the Government of this country could not make up their mind whether to quit or not. They were dilly-dallying about handing over power to the elected representatives of the people long before the present Labour Government made up their mind and agreed to hand over. I would say, in response to some of the remarks made about actions taken in Burma and India and Ceylon, that the Labour Government have done a tremen- 2153 dous job in meeting this demand for independence and self-government. It is true that disasters have occurred in India and Burma, but the situation would have been ten times worse if the Labour Government's policy had not got us out of the mess and prevented us from being mixed up with the bloodshed.
Anyone who has studied Eastern history, or who has lived in Asia, must have realised that in recent times most of the trouble in the East, which used to be static, was caused by the dynamics of Western civilisation. Then the wheel went a full turn, and, at the request of the peoples of Asia, the Europeans who revolutionised life in Asia are now retreating from the East and handing over the countries to the native inhabitants. And the wheel has gone round again, and the West is going back to save the East from Communist imperialism.
At the London Conference the other day it was claimed by implication that the plan for the Atlantic Pact extended far beyond the Western countries. In fact, it is recognised that peace and war are indivisible, especially at a time when we have a dynamic force like Communist imperialism, which plainly proclaims its intention to conquer the world. We cannot preserve peace by preserving it only in the Atlantic. It has to be preserved in the Pacific as well.
This new Communist imperialism is not due to a lack of social justice in the Eastern countries concerned. There was a lack of social justice there for the last 3,000 or 4,000 years and yet there was no insurrection of a Communist nature. It is said that Communism cannot be stopped by force. I ask those who say that whether it is possible to destroy democracy by Communist force? One need only look round Europe today to see the number of democracies which have been destroyed by force. I suggest, also, that Communism can be destroyed by force. I do not say that that is the only way to contain Communism, although I hold that it is absolutely necessary for us to contain Communism.
If these Eastern countries fall, with their enormous resources and their great strategic positions, our turn may come and we may fall, too. Peace is indivisible and war is indivisible. If we intend to save ourselves from Communism, as we 2154 all do, because it is a pestiferous system, then we must also save the rest of the world from Communism. It is part of the policy of protecting ourselves. The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) said, rightly or wrongly—I do not know—that our propaganda against Communism is weak. I know that Communist propaganda is very strong and first-class. We should not contain Communism merely by fighting. We must contain it also by a war of propaganda.
Again, it is said by some people that the East is allergic to Communism. That is wishful thinking by people who believe that ideas will stop bullets—a belief with which I do not agree. In the East religion dominates the whole of the life of the people. Religions are a way of life. All the great religions of the East—Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Hinduism and Confucianism—are allergic to Communism, but that will not stop Communism. We need a combination of the whole lot. It is necessary for us to be wide awake and alert in all respects.
The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) made a statement today with which I entirely agree. There is no good in simply thinking that ideas can cure this evil. Of course, we must have ideas before we act, but ideas alone are not the cure. The right hon. Gentleman said today that the first priority in South-East Asia is defence. I entirely agree. One cannot get away from that. We cannot stop Communism, which in the last resort, relies on force, without fighting in Indo-China. We cannot prevent a war without being ready to fight. Even that may not prevent a war; but if we are not ready, the war will not be prevented, and if it should occur it will not be won.
A country which I know well and for which I have a deep affection is Turkey. I quote the example of Turkey—which, after all, is in South-East Asia—to the other countries of the East. The fact is that the whole of South-East Asia, from the Adriatic to the Timor Sea, is threatened, and defences against Communism do not exist there. The morale or the bullets or the force do not exist there to save all these countries. From what I know of the Turks, they would rather die on their feet than live on their knees. They have the morale, the backbone. They are willing to fight and to die. The 2155 other nations of South-East Asia must also be willing to fight and to die if they are to be saved from Communism.
I have read in responsible journals messages from correspondents in the East who say that in most of these countries the people are simply waiting to see what the West will do. I think that is the truth. Most of the people are helplessly waiting to see what the West will do. That will not save them, and it will not save the West. They must come into unity with the Western Powers, economically and strategically. It is useless to sit on the fence. Also, we know that some of these countries preach neutrality and say that they are not concerned with the cold war or the hot war. They say that they intend to be neutral.
That will not save South-East Asia or them. They must be ready as we are ready, and still preparing at enormous expense and sacrifice, to fight if necessary. That is the only possible chance of preventing a world war as we in the West know it. There is safety in numbers. I suggest that these people who talk pacificism or neutrality, to save themselves and the world must openly join with the Western powers who are their friends.
I quote another country which I know well, the little island of Ceylon. During the last war the people there did not try to be neutral or to preach pacificism. They came into the war fully and struggled along throughout. They did not object to European troops being in Ceylon. They have not asked us to clear out and to give up the great naval base of Trincomalee or the airfields. They made a sensible agreement with us that these great defences against attack are to be preserved unless both parties agree otherwise. I quote the example of this little island to other nations of the East who have not got the statesmanship which Ceylon has shown. Here in Britain we have American forces. Are we disgraced because we have them here? Are the countries in Asia, from Japan to the Mediterranean who are asking white troops to quit, statesmanlike, or is Ceylon statesmanlike because she keeps the troops and works on the friendliest terms with them?
All sorts of suggestions have been made about what we, America and the rest should do. That is all very well, but it is 2156 not enough. I suggest to the people of South-East Asia what they should do. They must save themselves. They must join in, economically and otherwise, or we shall all sink. I have quoted the examples of Turkey and Ceylon. They show statesmanship. They are people willing to die rather than live on their knees. Other countries must show the same spirit. It is no use shirking facts and advocating a barren philosophy which gets nowhere. The Communists have made a wonderful study of propaganda. They know that there has been, and still is, in coloured countries a strong objection to white rule. They are cashing in on that and posing as the champions of the coloured people.
We in the British Empire have already shown the true solution which is that, as soon as these peoples do not want us to stay, we quit. The policy of the Labour Party, and I think the policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite, is that as soon as possible we should give self-government to the remainder of our Colonies when they have produced people who can possibly run the show. Everyone knows that we are willing to hand over control. That is the greatest obstacle to Communist propaganda, which sets out to liberate everybody from white rule and then to liberate the rest from native rule in order to establish Communist tyranny. What is needed in South-East Asia is leadership. The people must produce men of calibre, men or morale who will face facts and not live with illusions. Unless they do that, they will sink.
A great deal of the Debate today has dealt with one of the few things in Marx with which I agree, and that is that one gets revolution from increasing misery. The Communists in every country of the world have tried to increase misery by creating turmoil and civil war. I have seen one proposal—I do not know whether or not it was official—that the West must put down£6,000 million to redeem South-East Asia. One hon. Member opposite said that that would not do. He said that£10,000 million would be required. The West poured out a lot of money during the last war, and we ourselves poured out enormous quantities of wealth, to rescue Europe and other countries from post-war misery. But there is a limit to what the unfortunate taxpayers of the West—even those of rich America—can do. I have read an account of what happened at the conference in 2157 Sydney. There seemed to be a proposal, "Throw in enough money and let go." I think we must be sure, first of all, that there is pre-planning and I believe our representatives were right to see first what we are going to do with the money, even if it is available.
I do not know exactly what has been planned, but the task in South-East Asia is certainly colossal. We have to deal with enormous territories and with the ignorance, poverty, squalor and conservatism which exist in those countries. It is a colossal task and people who have not worked within those countries and dealt with them have no idea of the enormous task involved in doing anything at all. Here, again, I quote the example of British Ceylon. During the period of British rule about one million acres of land were brought under cultivation to grow rice, by big irrigation schemes. But today Ceylon is not stopping there. The Cingalese have brought American engineers out there and are opening up vast irrigation schemes to increase the food supply of the country. Ceylon has to depend on imported food to an enormous extent, but they are trying to overcome that problem themselves.
We are going to tackle the regeneration of the whole of South-East Asia. At the present time large tracts of those countries are threatened with famine and the first thing we have to do is to assure the people in those areas, by some means or another, that they will get enough to eat, enough to keep body and soul together. When people who do not understand the tropical regions talk about the squalor, the famine, the poverty and all the rest of it, they do not realise that those countries double their population every 30 or 40 years, and it takes quite a bit of statesmanship to cope with a problem like that.
Little was thought here about the great famine relief code of India, but it was a wonderful achievement which, by semi-socialistic schemes and by pre-planning, provided that nobody died through the famines which resulted in India when the rains failed. It was an enormous achievement to prevent people from dying of starvation. That is the sort of problem which we have to face in many countries of South-East Asia and it is a colossal task. Even if we provide the money and pour out the riches, the task 2158 will still be enormous and I suggest that it will be a complete failure without the positive co-operation of the leaders in the countries of South-East Asia themselves.
Obviously, if these schemes materialise we cannot have a situation like that which happened in China, where America poured out hundreds of millions of pounds which went down the drain or into the hands of the Communists in China. We have to deal with Governments which are not very strong and are very touchy, and the organisation required to carry out these schemes needs to be exceptional. In any case, the project for raising the standard of living in South-East Asia is a long-term project. Even if we had£10,000 million available tomorrow, it would still be a long-term problem.
Things move very slowly in those parts of the world, and in the meantime Communist imperialism is advancing. It is knocking at the door in Indo-China. It is not for us to quarrel whether the French system is right or whether our system is right; I think ours is the right one and that the French system is wrong, but that is not the issue here. The issue here, as has already been said, is that if Indo-China falls then the whole of South-East Asia may follow. While we are devising long-term projects we have to organise at once for the defence of South-East Asia, in co-operation with the people who live there.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Fitzroy Maclean (Lancaster)
I agreed with many of the things said by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) and, of course, the hon. Member speaks with great knowledge of those parts of the world which we are discussing today. That part of his speech with which I agreed most was when he reminded us that peace is indivisible. That is something which the Russians have always borne in mind. I remember that when I was in Moscow they used to have it written on the pats of butter at the Kremlin banquets. I think we do well to remember it.
We on this side of the Committee are very glad to have the opportunity of a Debate on the Far East. Certainly, when we consider how bad things are in the Far East, we must reflect that we have had a long time to wait for such a 2159 Debate and also a long time to wait for any statement of Government policy on the Far East, if there is such a thing. I think it is most important that we should not fall into the habit of treating the Far East as a separate problem, because it is not a separate problem; it is all part of the same problem—that of how to check the advance of Soviet Communism in the world.
We have to remember that Russia is an Asiatic Power just as much as she is a European Power, and when her progress is temporarily blocked in one part of the world, she seeks an outlet in other directions. That was always the case, long before the revolution. The Soviet advance in Asia is a danger against which we have been warning the Government for the last five years, but unfortunately our warnings have been ignored. The Government have gaily gone ahead evacuating the position which we once occupied in Asia. They abdicated their responsibilities; they just cleared out and left behind them a power vacuum.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek) rose——
§ Mr. Maclean
I am sorry, but I cannot give way; there is very little time. Like nature, the Russians abhor a vacuum and the result has been that the expanding force of Soviet Communism is filling that vacuum and filling it very quickly.
§ Mr. Maclean
The hon. Member says, "Where?" What has happened in China in the last year or two has completely upset the whole balance of world power. Today, with Russia and China linked as they are, with the policies of both directed from Moscow as they are, Asia is dominated by a massive bloc of 600 million human beings, backed by immense material resources. It is only a matter of time before the pressure brought to bear by that bloc on the rest of the Continent becomes unbearable. Already the heat is being turned on in South-East Asia and the cold war there has become a hot war, a shooting war; and the shooting war is going very badly for the forces of democracy.
That is a very disturbing situation. Elsewhere, in America and in the Dominions, people realise how disturbing it is and, what is more, they are doing 2160 something about it, but here that is not so. Not only have the Government given no lead themselves, but they have not even responded to the lead which has been given to them by others. Their attitude started by being negative and it has remained negative. We shall be told, no doubt, that there was the Colombo Conference. So there was, but what did the Government contribute to it?
The chief contribution of the Foreign Secretary, so far as one can gather, was made not at Colombo but on the ship going there, and that was the moment he chose to announce the recognition by His Majesty's Government of the Communist Government in China. That was a decision which, whatever else it might do, was bound to serve to encourage all Communist and pro-Communist elements in Asia, and bound to discourage anyone who was disposed to resist Communism. Yet the Foreign Secretary took that decision while on his way to an Imperial Conference which, it was supposed, was going to stem the advance of Communism in South-East Asia. He took it without regard to the views of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America.
I do not want to dwell for any length of time on this question of recognition, but I think it needs tidying up. I hope that the Minister of State, or whoever replies to this Debate, will tidy it up, because the Foreign Secretary left a lot of loose ends. My own view is that we should not have rushed into recognition; I think we should have waited until there was reason to believe that we were dealing with a genuinely independent Government, and not just a puppet of Moscow; secondly, that by recognising the Chinese Communists we should not be prejudicing the conduct of the cold war in the Far East; and, finally, that we could take this step in conjunction with the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
As it was, none of these conditions was fulfilled, but that did not stop the Government from trying to go ahead, although they have not made much progress so far. It is now nearly five months since they first approached the Chinese Communists with the object of establishing diplomatic relations. We are told that during that period procedural and preliminary discussions have been going 2161 on; but, said the Minister of State the other day, it takes two to make a bargain. Why should there be a bargain? What are we bargaining about? It seems to me quite wrong that the establishment of normal diplomatic relations should be made the subject of a bargain. If the Chinese Communists are not prepared to accept the British Ambassador in Peking on terms long established by international usage, then we should make up our minds not to send one, and we should inform the Communist authorities accordingly. It is really time that we showed that there is a limit to what we are prepared to put up with in this way.
At first sight, what the Foreign Secretary said about all this sounded very robust. He said that he was not going to be bullied, and so on, but that does not quite fit in with what is happening. It is not so long since he sent instructions to our delegation at Lake Success to lobby the delegates of Ecuador, Egypt and Cuba to try to get them to support the Soviet demand for the exclusion of the existing Chinese representative. That, it appears, was one of the conditions imposed for recognition. To respond in that way looks very much like appeasement, and it is not at all reassuring.
There are other conditions being imposed. There is a report that one of the questions being raised is that of British property in China. Another is that the Communists have raised the question of Hong Kong; they are trying to make that a condition of recognition. That is why I hope that when the Minister of State replies he will be a little more explicit than his right hon. Friend has been. I hope he will tell us what all these negotiations have really been about. If they were not about that, perhaps he will say what they were about because we have been left completely in the dark on that matter. We were told—and the Foreign Secretary hinted at it again—that recognition was going to help our trade in China. We were told that it was going to win Mao Tse-tung away from Moscow. Of course, it has done nothing of the sort. Our trade prospects in China are worse than they were before, and Mao Tse-tung is closer than ever to Moscow.
All that has happened is that we have lost face, and lost it in a big way. For our pains we are now being abused daily 2162 over the Peking radio. To my mind, the Government's conduct in this matter has been typical of their Eastern policy as a whole, so far as they can be said to have a policy. They have taken the line of least resistance; they have appeased, and they have drifted. With things as they are, we cannot afford to drift; we cannot muddle along on our own. We and our allies must have a strong, concerted policy. To my mind, there is only one hope. We must reproduce in Asia and the Far East a sort of security system such as which we are gradually building up in Europe and the West. Lenin once called Asia and Africa the back-door of the capitalist and imperial Powers. It is no good barricading our front door if we leave our back door open. To balance the Atlantic Pact, we must have a Pacific pact.
That is going to take time, and in the meanwhile we are confronted with an immediate military problem in Indo China and Malaya. I shall not attempt to talk about Indo-China, except to say how very thankful we should be for the American help that is going there; that is a very important and very encouraging step. But I should like to say a word or two about Malaya, because unless effective action is taken, and taken soon, we shall lose it altogether—and if we lose Malaya it may well be that the rest of South-East Asia will be lost with it, and the basis for any Pacific pact will disappear before that pact has come into existence. I suppose that we should welcome the forthcoming visit of the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Secretary of State for War to Malaya. We have got to assume, I suppose, that it shows that the Government are beginning to take rather more interest in what is happening. It will also, I suppose, be an interesting experience for our troops in their fight against Communism to be visited by so ardent if so recent an anti-Communist——
§ Mr. Maclean
It will be interesting for them to be visited by so ardent if so recent an anti-Communist as the Secretary of State for War. They will find in him, no doubt, the proverbial enthusiasm of the convert. But I am afraid that rather more is needed than a fortnight's visit by two Ministers of the Crown, how- 2163 ever interesting their ideological pasts may be.
There is a widespread feeling in this country today, which has found expression over and over again in this Debate, that an entirely new approach is needed in Malaya. Of course, it would be foolish to under-rate the difficulties involved. In many ways Malaya is a country ideally suited to guerilla warfare, and in the past two years, while the Government have been doing little or nothing, the guerillas have had time to get a very firm hold. Even so, I cannot help feeling that there are a number of ways in which we could make the task of our troops there easier; and I think that is very important, because they have had a very bad time, and by all accounts they are getting very tired indeed.
People are inclined to think that Regular troops are at a disadvantage against guerillas, but that is not necessarily the case. I have had a certain amount of experience of guerilla warfare from the guerillas' side, and I can say, and say with feeling, that Regular troops can make life very disagreeable for guerillas if they set about it the right way. Guerillas, if they are to succeed, have got to retain the initiative; they have got to remain on the offensive and not allow themselves to be forced on to the defensive; they have got to avoid pitched battles; they have got to keep on the move; they have got to have plenty of room to manoeuvre; they must never on any account present a target at which the enemy can strike back; and, finally, they must have the support of the civilian population—one of the most important things of all.
Now, the first object of an anti-guerilla force must be to deny those advantages to their adversaries. They have got to try to pin them down; they have got to try to force them on to the defensive—because once they have been pinned down, the guerillas are a fairly easy prey. After that, it is largely a matter of superior armaments, and there the Regulars have the advantage. We have to assume that our troops are already operating on these lines. But I wonder whether they have the necessary equipment and the necessary backing to achieve their object, because a lot depends on that. If the guerillas are pinned down, 2164 then our troops ought to be able to seal off the areas in which they are operating; otherwise the guerillas simply flit back into the jungle and come back at them another day. As we have to try to stop that happening, guard the frontier with Siam and guard the coast, we necessarily have to drive strategic roads through the jungle and establish strong points.
Our striking force must also be properly equipped for their task. I hope that when the Minister of State replies, he will say something about the number of jeeps and light armoured cars that are available. I hope he will also say something about whether our troops have sufficient automatic weapons to ensure that their fire power is always greatly superior to that of an equivalent force of guerillas. I hear that they are largely armed with Sten guns. I do not think that the Sten gun is a suitable weapon for that sort of operation. Have they enough mortars, and, above all, are they being properly equipped with wireless sets and wireless operators? I hear that at the moment it takes three men to carry one wireless set. That does not make for mobility. There is a perfectly good set in existence that can be carried by one man and which has the necessary range. I have carried one much further than I like to remember. Why are our troops not equipped with these sets?
Then there is the question of air support. The aeroplane, if properly used, can be a most effective weapon against guerillas, but are our aeroplanes being properly used? Are there enough of them? One hears of Lincoln bombers being sent to Malaya, but surely heavy bombers are not needed for this kind of operation; the guerillas do not present a suitable target. What is wanted are rocket-firing fighters and fighter bombers and light aircraft for reconnaissance and helicopters for collecting our own wounded.
Another thing, and the most important of all if we want to win the war in Malaya, is that we must have the support of the civilian population and deny that support to the enemy. No guerillas, least of all in a country like Malaya, can exist of they have not the help and support of the local population. There are. I believe, only 3,000 or 4,000 guerillas all told in Malaya, and a force like that can do very little indeed on its own, but 2165 it can do a great deal if it has civilian support; that is why I think we have to give the local population every possible inducement and incentive to help us and not the guerillas.
There should be no difficulty about that because, basically, the Malayans are perfectly loyal to us and the Chinese are not necessarily disloyal, but we cannot expect them to give us the help we need unless we can offer them some sort of security and give them some reward for the help they give us. At the present moment, the position is that anyone who helps us is pretty certain to get "bumped off" by the guerillas, whereas anyone who helps the guerillas gets off scot-free, and gets a good mark for the future. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laugh, but it is not so amusing for our troops. The hon. Member finds it very amusing, but he would not be so amused if he were out there himself.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
On a point of order. Is it in order for the hon. Member to assume that I was laughing at our troops, when I was merely saying that what he said was quite logical?
§ Mr. Maclean
We shall be able to protect our friends and those loyal to us only if we establish an effective occupation in the areas that have been cleared by setting up a proper civilian administration, which is not the case at the present time. More important still, we have to restore confidence. We must show that we really mean business. We must make it quite clear that we are in Malaya "for keeps" and are not going to allow ourselves to be pushed out. The inhabitants might well be excused for imagining that we are, after what has happened in India, Burma, Palestine and elsewhere.
I beg the Government, when they act in Malaya, to act with speed. I beg that their programme shall be on a sufficient scale, because this is not the time for half-measures, delay or procrastination. This may well be democracy's last chance in Asia. This is not a local problem. If Malaya goes, or if any of the surrounding countries, for that matter, go, the rest of South-East Asia will go, and if 2166 South-East Asia goes, then India and Pakistan will be the next on the list. Already the ground is being prepared all round the fringes of the Indian subcontinent, in Sinkiang, Tibet, Persia, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. These are vast areas, it is quite true, with vast populations, but China also is a vast area, and China went in a few months. We have to remember that Asia is particularly vulnerable to Communism, and that things are likely to move there very fast. If the whole of the Continent of Asia comes under Soviet domination, as well as half of Europe, then the Russians will have gone a very long way towards winning the cold war.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
My time is very limited, a minute for almost every year I have spent in Parliament. This Debate is taking place on a Supply Day, not in Government time. That is my first condemnation of the Government and their history in dealing with South-East Asia and the Communism there during the last five years. On every occasion these Debates have taken place on Supply Days, which is Opposition time. Before the trouble started in Malaya, I used to ask the Lord President of the Council every Thursday whether we could have a Debate, but the reply was always "No." It was only when the danger we foresaw and forewarned the Government about burst upon us, and we very nearly lost Malaya, that we were able to get a Debate.
Those interested in Asian problems know that there has been far too little interest taken by the Government in this matter. Let me try to etch, in a few words and phrases, some of the problems we have to face. We can talk endlessly about the theory of Communism and its long-term and short-term problems, pinpointing the problem in each area. Let me start furthest away, that is, in Japan. Four and a half years ago I pointed out that a cloud no bigger than a man's hand had appeared—the danger of Japan becoming a highly technically equipped dumping machine of greater danger than she has ever been before. Now, we hear, in every speech, about the danger of competition by Japan and Germany. What has been done about it? Nothing.
What is the situation in Japan? There is danger on two sides. It seems obvious 2167 that America is thinking of withdrawing sooner or later. There are dangers which are becoming apparent, the first being the danger of Communism, which has now appeared in Japan for the first time. This danger is now creeping in. These are factual reports which can be checked. At the other end of the scale, the old reactionary families who used to control the big firms and retired in the hills, are now raising their heads again. Therefore, on balance, democracy in Japan is only rearing its head, and is in danger of being attacked from both flanks.
Not a word had we from the Foreign Secretary about this problem. The great bear came and rumbled, but never produced a policy. Possibly the Minister of State, the Brumas of the Government, in the statement he is to make tonight, will particularise a little bit more. The question he must answer, as far as Japan is concerned, concerns textiles. The mission on textiles that went there very recently came away empty handed, because what was proposed to them was an area, in which Japan should be dominant and out of which we should be pushed, affecting every Lancashire constituency. This was not agreed to by the Americans because of one of their trust laws. That is entirely negative.
What is the position and what is the remedy? The position is that in every part of the world where textiles, manufactured in and exported from this country, are being sold they are faced with low-priced textiles produced in Japan. We cannot get away from it. The quantity may not be so very great now, but it is low priced—being an export of the low standard of living in Japan—and is sufficient to be a threat. I find myself, to my surprise, at one with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) on this matter, though he is a long way behind in the queue.
How is that to be dealt with? It is no use the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs saying, as he did the other day about German exports, that they are not big enough. They have now become so big from Japan that they are a real threat. I suggest that the only way of dealing with it is in the form of a sort of Schuman plan as applied to the iron and steel industry in Europe. Such a plan would be applied to the Japanese 2168 textile industry. In other words, the marketing of this production, which cannot be stopped, should be handed over to an international body, which will see that the production of essentially low standards of living in Japan which cannot be stopped—they will continue to live in flimsy houses and so on—shall be handled in that way.
Let me now turn to China. On the question of recognition and non-recognition, a great deal has been said on both sides of the Committee, and it is possible for it to assume more importance than the act will duly justify. It has assumed real importance not because of the effect in China itself, but because of the by-products, which we have had in Malaya and other countries, and of the increasing Communist morale in those countries. But when we are taken to task by America on this question of recognition and non-recognition, it is only fair to remind the Americans that they recognised the Vichy Government and had an ambassador there during the time when, in the war, we were recognising De Gaulle and the Free French as the French Government. That suggests that two nations, which are as closely associated as this country and the United States, can pursue different courses towards the same ends.
It is possible that if we think not of recognition or non-recognition as a policy but as a means to an end, we may get the thing in its right perspective. That presupposes that there is a policy, and we have got none in regard to China. The only policy I can remember the Foreign Secretary producing was over a year ago—he hinted at it again today—when he said that his policy for the whole of South-East Asia was a policy of containment. That is the very bankruptcy of policy. The only policy of containment that I can remember in China goes back a long time and led to the building of the Great Wall of China. The only comparable one in more recent times was the Maginot Line. As far as Communism in the Far East is concerned, we are in danger of getting into a Maginot-Line, Great-Wall-of-China way of thinking. We cannot produce a policy of containment in South-East Asia that will work. We have got to think in terms of taking the new offensive.
We are accepting far too easily that China has been conquered by Communism. It has not. To the intense surprise 2169 of the northern Communists, who differ so very greatly in ideology and outlook from the people of south China, there is no resistance. A thin veneer of red paint has been put over China, but below it there are great movements which, if they are properly fostered, will lead, as we have seen in South-east Europe, to other powers arising which are anti-Communist.
There is no such thing as a nationalist movement in China. There never has been. The unit of government in China is the province and not the central Government. There are already signs that that discontent with Communism, which always grows very rapidly with an individualistic people like the Chinese, is beginning to stir. The currency has lost its value and the dislike of the south for the north is becoming very apparent. A very sharp eye ought to be kept on the whole question of what is happening inside China, so that we do not too easily accept it as one centrally-governed, Communist-controlled area. Look how long it took the Communist Government to mount a small and simple operation like the capture of Hainan Island. I happen to know that area very well and it was astonishing to me to see how difficult an operation it was. That was the sign of very slight control, easy to be upset. It can be upset very easily.
I have not time to go more deeply into these matters, which I had an opportunity of studying during the war. The key to South-East Asia is Indo-China. The defence of Malaya is in Indo-China. Do not forget that during the war, when Indo-China fell, air bases were established and the penetration of Siam took place. That was the death knell to Malaya. That is equally true today, but there is the opportunity given to us to co-operate with America whose swiftly and imaginatively accepted the French Union because the French situation is balanced on a knife edge in Indo-China. The best move that we could make is to co-operate in every possible way, it may be by sacrificing arms that appear to be needed elsewhere. If we have an overwhelming success—and we need success against Ho Chi-minh. It is perfectly possible, because he has not been very successful and he is not very powerful—and if we can give a knock-out blow, we open up the whole of South-East China. We draw a line which will prevent Burma and Siam from penetration and protect 2170 Indo-China. We shall have sealed off to a large extent the great danger of attack in Malaya.
It is obvious that if we try to create a common front against danger, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) made abundantly clear in his opening speech, if we do not separate these problems at all, and if we think of them as one problem, we shall see that the kernel of the problem, in Indo-China, is, at the moment, the most urgent.
I would like to say something about Indonesia, where we are seeing a tragic thing from the economic point of view. That country is the richest in South-East Asia, the most highly developed and the least difficult in racial problems. It has the lowest proportion of Chinese to Malays. It has achieved self-government with the only really genuine nationalist movement of any magnitude in that area. We are seeing a decline in economic power there and a lack of sense of responsibility to the rest of the world in fulfilling its function. That is a great amber light, a danger signal, against giving way too easily to people who are going to be interested only in their own particular corner of the world and have not achieved a sense of world responsibility. We may see a 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. decline in the production of Indonesia in things that the rest of the world wants. That will mean a fall in our own standard of living and that of the rest of the world. I cite that quickly, as something that we must watch.
Two minutes on Malaya, as my right hon. Friend has very kindly suggested I should be allowed to have. The problem in Malaya is, first of all, to make our own position quite clear. I want to take this opportunity to correct something I said in a Question and which gave a wrong impression. The first thing we have to say is that we are there for a generation, not for selfish reasons but because we think it will take at least a generation before that sense of responsibility to which I referred just now, can possibly be developed. It is five years since the war ended, and we have a basis on which to judge.
Then we must say—it has not been said yet—that the protection which we have to give by the introduction of 2171 martial law to the police in particular and some of the others there, which has not been given them so far, will be given if it is found necessary. The police in Malaya have been put in an extremely difficult position. They have not had adequate protection and when they have embarked upon preventive measures, which are necessary in a war of this sort, they have been condemned for it.
The next thing we have to do is to think not only in terms—very important terms they are—of the actual shooting war but of knocking out the centres which are supplying the food, the information and the direction of the war from dozens of towns and villages throughout Malaya. That we can only do by counter-measures which are well known to hon. Members. We may have to devote a great deal of time and money to it, but until we can make it quite clear that it is not worth while for people to be put under tribute and to contribute to the Communist bandit effort, by shooting and putting to death people who are shown to have aided them, we shall not have persuaded these people, who, alone, can help us to get over this trouble, that we are able to help because we are going to win.
We have to reaffirm the will to win not by negative methods but by positive methods in Indo-China and Malaya. Until we have done that, all the talk about raising the standard of living, all the talk about our great responsibilities and all the stratosphere verbiage into which we so easily stray will mean very little. A short sharp task and a short sharp lesson m those two areas will, in the end, not only defeat Communism in Asia but be its death knell in Europe as well.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
The main theme of the Debate has been the general desire that there should be some concerted action in regard to the problems of South-East Asia, and I think that, on the whole, we have had a valuable Debate which has been distinguished by some very interesting speeches.
I should like, first of all, to make reference to the condolences which have been offered by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Lord John Hope) to the relatives of the late Lord Wavell who, unfortunately, passed away 2172 this morning His is a name which is reputed not only throughout the world but particularly in this part of the world and in India, and I feel that the Committee would be with me in expressing their sentiments of great regret at his passing.
The Debate has also been distinguished by the maiden speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pudsey (Colonel Banks). He not only betrayed a knowledge of the subject, of a kind which is unfortunately, becoming very obvious in all the maiden speeches that we are having in this House and is making some of us who have been here some time, sit up and revise our knowledge, but was also enlivened by a very great humanity. I hope that further contributions to our Debates will be made by my hon. and gallant Friend.
There have also been other speeches on both side of the Committee which have followed the line which we are now coming to expect in these Debates. For example, the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) feared that perhaps the Labour movement and Labour policy were swinging to the Right. I understand, through his weekly contribution to "Reynolds News," that he was one of the many who attended the house party at Dorking, and no doubt he has betrayed in the Debate the fear he attempted to keep silent in his article on Sunday. At any rate, we are ready to face Labour policy in whatever direction it may move, and if it moves rather more to the Right in this sector of the world, we shall not be sorry.
§ Mr. Driberg
I do not know that I ought really to rise or to be drawn on that, but the right hon. Gentleman will realise that in my speech this evening I was referring specifically to the Labour Government, which is to be distinguished from the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Butler
I am glad that this Debate has served an even more useful purpose than we at first anticipated, because it has revealed that split between the Government and their supporters which we were already aware existed in the country between the Government and public opinion. That certainly means that this may well be one of our last Debates in this Parliament on this subject, because I do not think the Government will long be able to continue 2173 if the hon. Member for Maldon is proposing to lead a revolt against the present Administration. I hope that that revolt will shortly be evident in the Division Lobby.
I have been impressed by the simple fact that today is Empire Day, and I think it is not inappropriate as we see the flags flying and as some of the uninitiated ask what the flags are flying for that we should be discussing this subject. We remember that this Debate has a special significance in that we are today considering far-flung outposts of what it is still permissible to call the British Empire, where many people are defending the rights and liberties of the Empire—or Commonwealth as it is now called—against the inroads of Communism.
We remember the position in Hong Kong—and here I would not for a moment accept all the strictures of the hon. Member for Maldon about the administration in Hong Kong at the present time. We remember, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said, the heroic efforts that are being made not only by our own troops in Malaya but by the planters and other residents there who are doing so much in our present struggle; and we are determined to have no compromise with the Communist menace, wherever it may be found.
One thing that we regret in this Debate is the evidence which comes from certain hon. Members opposite of their muddled thinking on the subject of world Communism, managed as it is from a central point and having a central and total idea. It is most important to rebut some of the speeches that have been made which attempt to prove that Communism, as it is seen in the Northern parts of Indo-China or in many parts of China at the present time, is different from the Communism which is world-controlled from the Kremlin. I do not doubt that in the course of history the geographical and racial conditions in China will cause some modification perhaps of the Communist philosophy and the Communist idea, but the fact is that unless we face this menace in a downright way, we shall not defeat it in South-East Asia or in the Far East, any more than we shall defeat it in Western Europe.
2174 The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, who plays Ivy to the Brumas of the Minister of State, was in one of his most conversational moods. Anybody who is an expert in foreign affairs would be able to pick out from the engaging personal speech of the right hon. Gentleman certain profound remarks on the subject of the foreign situation, but to the mere ordinary man like myself, and to many other hon. Members in this Committee, the right hon. Gentleman said absolutely nothing. While we have been pressing for this Debate for a long time I fear that many of my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the Committee will go away tonight bitterly disappointed that their knowledge of Far Eastern affairs has in no way been increased by the speech of the Foreign Secretary.
That is an unfortunate situation because those of us who are in opposition, at any rate for the time being, have to obtain our information from the sort of sources which the Prime Minister knows perfectly well were available to him when he was in the desert himself; that is to say, we hunt through the newspapers, we see friends who come from the part of the world which we are discussing, we obtain information at every corner we can and, finally, put together our remarks. However, we do hope occasionally to have a treat, and when we come to the House and arrange tickets for our friends to hear the Foreign Secretary, we hope we shall get some authentic information on the foreign scene. I must honestly confess that, leaving aside all personal considerations—because I am the first to agree with the Committee that we were delighted to see the right hon. Gentleman in good trim and we wish him well in the future—unless the Foreign Office can give the Committee and the House more information, these Debates will not have the value they ought to have.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to Burma and he did on this occasion make some reference to the Karens, which was a great improvement on the speech of the Minister of State in the recent Debate on Burma, when he made a speech without any reference to the Karens at all. I am glad to welcome the observation of the Foreign Secretary that there are contacts with the Karens and his appeal that peace shall be made with them so that there 2175 may be order and stability restored to Burma. I hope that the Minister of State will be able to enlarge upon that and to indicate further what contacts there are with the Karens and what opportunity there is for restoring stability to Burma.
In this connection I should like to say what a pleasure it was to many of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself not only to see, but also to entertain, the Prime Minister of Burma on his recent visit. A more able and attractive personality it would be hard to meet, and we can only say that we wish him the best of good fortune in returning to his country to face the very difficult situation which undoubtedly confronts them at present.
The first big matter upon which I want the Minister of State to give us some more information is the Sydney Conference. The Foreign Secretary said that he could tell us nothing about this conference because he had not yet read the papers. Surely the Foreign Office must have some telegraphic system still existing. I served for several years in that august building and during that period we reformed the whole telegraph room, as it was then called, in a highly up-to-date and modern way. When I was a Minister in the Foreign Office it was very difficult to get through the telegrams, which were put before me as my daily repast, during the day.
In those odd functions which some of us have attended in the last two weeks at the kind hospitality of the Government, we have been informed by the Minister that the situation in regard to telegrams is much worse than it was when we were in power. That means that there is more paper and less sense. If there is more paper, then for goodness' sake let the Minister of State give us an indication of the results of the telegraphic exchanges between the now almost deified Lord Macdonald and the Government. As it is obviously impossible for the Government to send one of their Members away from this House, and as they have now found in Lord Macdonald—we all remember him as the former hon. Member for Ince, and a most charming and most able personality—an Ambassador at large, for goodness' sake let them vouchsafe to the Committee a few of the telegrams which he or his advisers must have sent home on this occasion.
2176 Let the Government tell us, for example, whether the Sydney Conference has faced up to any of the real problems of South-East Asia, and whether there was anything in these reports, which the Foreign Secretary pooh-poohed and pushed on one side, about disagreements—we only hope that that may be the case. Let them tell us whether the Americans are standing outside the South-East Asian scene and hoping eventually, with their great generosity, to make grants and to give financial help, or whether there is an integrated plan, such as that in the Middle East supply centre during the war, for the various nations involved to understand the liabilities, to understand what assets are available, and above all, to understand to which corner of this immense theatre the aid will go first, and what priorities are to be established. Let us have some information of that sort so as to give some indication, leaving aside the near or the long-term aspect, as to whether the Sydney Conference has had a practical effect upon the problem of the South-East Asian region.
The Foreign Secretary said that Australia might well play, in that part of the world, the part that Canada has played, and I hope will play, in the North Atlantic sector. I know that Cecil Rhodes used to say that Canada would be the keystone of the arch of empire in the north, and it is indeed refreshing to have noted the initiative taken by Mr. Spender and the present Australian Government at the Sydney Conference. Is this initiative going to be seized and carried forward with enthusiasm that it deserves by the Government? Perhaps the Minister of State will tell us.
I, personally, have always been, and shall always be, interested in another great nation member of the Commonwealth, namely, India. As I see it, the problem of South-East Asia ranges right away from Pakistan and India and right through and round to the Far East and Japan. This Debate has, therefore, an immense scope, and the problem seems to me to be how to encourage the growth of nationality and to establish the budding nationalism and, at the same time, to fuse all this into a greater whole. Unlike Western Europe, the operation has all to be done at once. We have not only to encourage the growth of nationalism and see that it is growing in the right ways but to 2177 fuse that into a greater whole, almost before the nationalism has had time to grow. Therefore, it is an immensely greater effort than we have to face in Western Europe at the present time. That is why we would like a little more information, why we would like a little more colour, a little more life, and a little more "kick" on the subject of the Sydney Conference and what it achieved.
The importance I see in the Eastern theatre is that we should associate closely the new Eastern Dominions of Pakistan, India, and Ceylon and the West. I read Mr. Nehru's last speech in the Indian Parliament on 17th March last and he said that the resurgence of Asia was "the biggest thing in modern history." He reminded us that after gaining her independence, the United States of America took great care not to get herself involved in undue commitments because she was a growing nation. Mr. Nehru is setting out on a tour of the South-East Asian regions and I can only hope that from his experience of that tour he will see that it is essential for India to move faster than the young United States did immediately after her independence, because the problems which India has to face today are even more complex and difficult than those which the early United States had to face.
The Pax Britannica upon which the whole of that region rested is no longer existing in the same sense. India is, in many ways, the long arm stretching out of the Imperial policy which has in the past done so much good to mankind, but an arm which is quite independent and which we realise is quite independent. Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar, whom many of us know, the representative of India at Sydney, told us that colonialism of the old-fashioned kind cannot survive. I would say to Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar that the real danger today is not colonialism in the old sense but Soviet colonialism in the modern sense. It is that Soviet colonialism that has to be fought in a more virile and active way than was suggested, for example, in the speech of the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt). I fully understand the principles which guide his conduct and his remarks, but I think it is essential to face the fact that unless Malaya and Indo-China put up a stand and defeat Soviet colonialism, the 2178 peoples of those countries will be subjected to greater indignities than they ever think they have suffered in the past.
Sir Ramaswami Mudaliar finished his speech at Sydney by saying that the Indians would approach the whole problem by a human approach. That is the approach we can adopt and which we have to adopt in the face of the slant put on this problem by the "Daily Worker," and to some extent by some hon. Members opposite, that we are simply in the South-East Asian region to save the capitalist gains and riches there. I think the picture is exactly opposite to that painted by Goldsmith when he said:Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.What is happening is that men are accumulating and wealth decaying.
If we look round on the whole of the South-East Asian theatre we find that Japan's population is increasing to 100 millions and that, with demographic problems of an extreme severity in Indo-China, makes the whole problem exactly opposite to the famous adage of Goldsmith. This problem of population raises the whole question of food supplies and hon. Members must remember that unless we can deal with the food problem through the Sydney machinery or in another way, we shall be faced with the very severe problem of famine, which is almost certain, at any rate, to take place in China, judging from the reports I receive, and will quite likely cover other parts of that area. There is a need, therefore, for a synthesis between the human and the purely economic approach.
The next point I wish to get quite clear is that this area, for which many of our young men are at present fighting in Malaya, is not only one of great human interest and great political interest. We must face up to the fact that the standard of living of the average British worker depends as much on exploiting, developing and saving the resources of South-East Asia as it does in developing and saving our coal here or destroying the whole thesis of the hon. Member who has recently gained notoriety by attacking our agricultural policy. The riches of South-East Asia are vital to the economy of the British and sterling group and to the economy of the world.
2179 To put it in simple terms, to anyone who may be listening to this Debate and who is not particularly interested in South-East Asia, there is not a leaf of tea grown within 6,000 miles of London. Our tea resources come entirely from the area which, broadly, we are considering today. Malaya is the chief dollar-earning country in the Empire. Its exports to the United States exceeded the total exports from the United Kingdom to the United States last year. The exports consisted almost entirely of rubber and tin. Malaya being the greatest rubber-producing area and providing half the world's supply. Without these commodities, it would be impossible to balance the economy of the sterling area or save the economy of this small island.
Therefore, let us dismiss, once and for all, the evil attacks upon our policy which claim that we on this side of the Committee or anyone who stands up for the saving of the riches or resources of this area, are doing it for what may be described as old-fashioned reasons. Not at all. We are doing it for our economy and for the standard of living of our people.
The position in Malaya was referred to in almost sufficient detail by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington. Indeed, after hearing his speech, I was in some doubt whether I could add anything at the conclusion of this Debate. I should, however, like to add these two thoughts about action in Malaya. The Foreign Secretary said that the Cabinet had never failed to support any suggestion put forward for increased action or increased supplies in Malaya. All I can say is that that is far too negative an attitude for us on this side of the Committee If the Government are sitting back in a sort of contented manner, waiting for schemes to be put up to them and then graciously deigning to let them go through, that is not the spirit we want to see in the conduct of this campaign in Malaya. There should be a far more positive and active attitude to this question than is shown today.
The Foreign Secretary gave us no description of General Briggs's views on this matter. Perhaps the Minister of State can do so. I understand it to be the view of General Briggs that there should be administrative cadres forming a network 2180 over the whole Malayan peninsula, once areas have been gained by military action, so that they do not fall back into the jungle. If that is a sensible view, as I believe it to be, let us hear that the Government intend to second men from the Malayan Civil Service who are in non-vital jobs and utilise men from outside, some of those for whom the hon. Member for Aston, I and others have been fighting, ex-members of the Indian Civil and Police Services. The administration in Malaya has to be increased and this network advanced over the whole peninsula, if we are to consolidate the gains made by our gallant men.
The hon. Member for Aston referred to a change of central control. He appeared to think that politicians should be sent out to control the situation, but he also appeared to be very dissatisfied with any politicians which his own Government have ever sent abroad. He therefore turned to these benches and asked for recruits. He qualified his observations by saying he wanted only half-time politicians. I can only suggest that he offers himself and goes out to this area to assist in administration. Seriously, I would draw the attention of the Committee to the remarks made by a distinguished ex-Commissioner-General of that area on the situation in Malaya and suggest that any danger of this area falling between two stools, between the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office and the different types of administration in this country, must be avoided. There must be no great diversity of authority at the top.
On the subject of China, I will only add this to the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington. One hon. Member pointed out far more clearly than we can do, the immense muddle in which the Government have got themselves over this question. It is clear that they did not think out the total results of their policy. It is quite clear that they did not think out the results of this recognition on their policy at Lake Success. It is quite clear that by their abstention at Lake Success they have been playing a sort of waiting game and a game of going all out in China on the lines of recognition. Of course, their diplomacy has been found out by Mao Tse-tung and his fellows in China and the fact is that 2181 the Government should have realised, when they adopted the policy of recognition, the consequences that would result both in Formosa with Chiang Kai-shek and at Lake Success especially, at Hong Kong, in Malaya and elsewhere. They did not think out these things ahead, and now they are hoist with their own petard.
What are we to do about it now? This country, there is no doubt, has immense commercial interests at stake and it is important that this Committee at least should let the Chinese people know that this action of recognition was taken as an honourable step by the British Government on behalf of the British people. It is most important that the Chinese should realise that our integrity in this matter is above question. But do not let the Government further aggravate the situation by any further concessions they may make in response to the blackmail to which they are undoubtedly being subjected from Russia.
One matter which has come quite clearly out of this Debate is the control of Russia, not only in the China situation, but throughout the whole area. It is clear that Russian influence, for example, has started Sino-Soviet agreements with joint stock companies in Sinkiang. Russian technicians, literally in thousands, are reported in Shanghai and the Russians, as the Foreign Secretary rather disarmingly remarked, are now causing the Chinese to speak with their voice.
Let us remember that in any action we may take in the future in China we should not make things worse by further muddle, but realise that we are dealing with the Kremlin in that area as much as we are in the West. The chairman of the China Association has stated that what is at stake in Shanghai is gradually withering. He wonders whether a further transfusion of funds to preserve those assets there is justified. My answer to him and to the Government is that we should keep up our courage in these matters. Let us be clear that whatever assets there are, it is never worth departing from a moral position in defending them. That, I am sure, will serve not only those who have so wisely husbanded our resources in the Far East but, also, will be a source of comfort to Government policy as a whole.
2182 I wish to press the Government to give more information about Japan. We have had Debates in this House and in Committee for nearly five years, without obtaining any information at all about the policy of the Government in Japan. The Japanese situation is a very peculiar one. Under the umbrella of the MacArthur régime there is no doubt that the Japanese are developing their strength to an enormous extent. There is no doubt that they are, for example, now producing 93 per cent. on average of what they produced between 1932 and 1938. I agree that they have fewer cotton spindles than they had, but partly as the result of the Anglo-American Commission they are to be allowed another half a million spindles. Japanese trade in the world is steadily increasing and hon. Members representing Lancashire constituencies want to know whether anything can be done, in the first place, about the wage situation in Japan, to which reference has been made by the secretary of the textiles workers; or whether there is any opportunity of getting together some export price-supporting agreement, by the modification of postwar anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws.
I ask the hon. Gentleman those two questions to see if, in dealing with Japan, a practical aspect will be taken and if he will give an answer to the question put by my right hon. Friend as to whether the British have a policy in Japan or whether they do not like to state their policy because they do not want to offend somebody else. If the latter is the case, they ought to think again and endeavour to produce a policy which will interest us and which will be to the benefit of the whole area.
My time is up. The hon. Gentleman wants to have time to reply. I will, therefore, sum up by saying that we have desired to hear of more positive action in regard to this area. We have desired to see a more virile approach to the problem of this area. Had the Government had the wisdom to get together an Empire Economic Conference at an earlier date, and to resolve our own Empire difficulties first, they might have been able to give us a better report from the Sydney Conference and to instil more courage into our hearts in facing; the problems that lie ahead.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of State (Mr. Younger)
Perhaps before I reply to this Debate I might be allowed to add, on behalf of all of us on this side of the Committee, my condolences, in the same way as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) did, to the relatives of Field-Marshal Lord Wavell, who has just passed away, and to pay my tribute to his great services to this country in the Eastern theatre as well as in many other theatres of command.
We have had a very interesting Debate on an extremely wide subject. The speeches have covered a large number of different territories; and some of the speeches have covered them in detail. I have been asked a great many questions and, in the time available to me, I want to answer as many of them as I can; but inevitably I cannot deal with all the lesser questions which have been mentioned in the speeches of hon. Members. It has seemed to me at some moments in the Debate, particularly when hon. Members were deploring the unfortunate situation in certain parts of this area and implying that His Majesty's Government were at fault in the way they were handling it, that hon. Members have sometimes underestimated the immensity of the problem which is covered by today's Debate. They have spoken as though we were merely maladministering some territory over which we were in full control.
Therefore, I make no apology in starting my remarks tonight with a few general observations which I think must be kept in mind when one is judging the particular problem of any part of this area. I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Paton), who pointed out that in all this area there have been, not just in the last months or recent years but over 25 years, convulsions and changes such as dwarf anything which has happened in Europe even during the last war. An area which was once socially static and backward suddenly awoke and began to resent European intervention which had gone on for 100 years or more in a more or less peaceful and advantageous manner. A wave of nationalism and revolutionary fervour swept through the area. It was there even before the last war, in varying degrees, in all the major sections 2184 of the area we have discussed—Japan, China, South-East Asia.
All this has occurred against a background of extremely low living standards and a technical backwardness which has been very great in all parts of the area, with the one exception of Japan. Japan has been something of a portent in this part of the world because of its great technical and industrial development and the immense contrast, therefore, between it and its neighbours. It had great population pressure which led to a form of imperialistic expansion which brought it into conflict with the mainland of the Continent and in turn stimulated nationalism and the process of change in China which was already going on.
Therefore, even without the immense results of the recent war, I think it would undoubtedly have been necessary for the Western world to re-orientate its whole attitude towards the East. With the war, as the hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. S. de Chair) pointed out, Europeans were driven by an Eastern people from a great part of this area, with consequent loss of prestige. The attempted new order of the Japanese crashed, but it did not leave conditions in which the old order could be restored, and the situation which had to be faced at the end of the war was something in the nature of a vacuum—the complete collapse of the old system, the collapse of the new system of the Japanese—and what next? It might have been almost anything.
I think the Committee will agree that this situation had in it all the elements of a major division and of increasing estrangement betwen the East and the West, and the possibility that a hard and fast barrier might arise between the new Asia and the West, whose presence in many respects it had resented. Such a development would, in the first place, have undone the considerable technical progress which had been achieved during the 100 years or so when Europeans had been going to this area and would have wiped out the whole legacy of incipient democratic feeling which had begun to take root in certain parts of that area.
Moreover, from the point of view of a country like ourselves, which subscribes to the policies outlined in the Charter of the United Nations, such a division, if it were to become complete, would 2185 render entirely impossible the sort of rational adjustment of world resources to world markets, the sort of collaboration between industrially advanced countries and technically backward countries, and the sort of world attempt to raise living standards and productivity which was envisaged in the Charter. For all those reasons, therefore, an entirely fresh view had to be taken of this great problem.
I think that in the last four or five years no one has done more than this country to cause a shift in Western opinion in its attitude towards the East—in recognising the new nationalism more quickly than perhaps anybody else, in giving perhaps more help than anyone else has done to the establishment of new national States and new national Governments and in seizing the unique opportunity offered by a Commonwealth which contains within it Pacific Powers, Asian Powers and Powers in the West. No one else was so well placed as was Britain to maintain, despite the difficulties to which I have referred, East and West relations and friendship and to prevent the two worlds from splitting apart.
I think it is fundamental to realise that in our policies from now onwards the destiny of the East can only be satisfactorily settled if the Asian countries themselves take a great share in the initiative. We can do a great deal. We have accumulated experience, we have many links with the East, but it is very largely from the Asian countries themselves that initiatives must come if this very disturbing and very dangerous situation is to settle down and if living standards, productivity and so on are not to suffer even more seriously than they have suffered during and since the war.
In all the remarks I have made so far, I have deliberately not referred to Communism. I have not referred to it so far because I think it is important for us to realise that a great part of the problem which we face in this area, though aggravated by the Communist menace, would in fact exist even if there were not world Communism, even if there were not the cold war, and even if the policies of the Soviet Union were quite different from what, in fact, they have been.
Having made that point, I do not want to under-estimate the gravity of the Communist menace which is doing so much to add to the difficulties of the very 2186 difficult transition and to put a very great extra burden on countries like ourselves which have great responsibilities, in some cases direct responsibilities for administration, within the area. In South-East Asia, in particular, the Communist menace threatens what is in many parts of the area a very promising democratic development of new, independent States. It is hindering the progress towards self-government of others not yet independent. We cannot emphasise too strongly that it is doing no service to any of these areas, or to any of the nationalist movements, to allow them to fall under a new foreign domination, and in that respect I subscribe to what the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden pointed out, that it is not only the old colonialism, but the new that many of these peoples have to fear.
I now wish to come to the main questions put to me. Obviously, China is one of the central problems within this area. The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden said that in recognising China we did not think out the consequences. At a later stage, he appealed to us not to make concessions or to give way to blackmail. I am not sure what he was referring to in those last remarks. My right hon. Friend indicated quite clearly that there has been no question of concessions and that there will be none, and as for blackmail, I do not know to what that refers.
As regards the point about not thinking out the policy, that again, I think, is unfair and incorrect. It is, of course, true—and it was realised that it would be so at the time—that recognition has carried with it many inconveniences. When we recognised, we knew that not all other countries were recognising, and that the United States, in particular, were not recognising. Whichever course we took, there were bound to be grave inconveniences, but because they have occurred, it does not mean that we had not thought them out and were not prepared to face them. We thought, and still think, that the recognition of the Chinese People's Government, which had, in fact, gained complete and, as far as one can judge for any length of time, irrevocable control of this vast area and these vast populations, was really no more than the recognition of a fact which we could not help, and that it was the only way in which we could avoid creating a complete 2187 barrier around China—a complete blackout between China and the rest of the world.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
Can the hon. Gentleman assure the House that the recognition of a Communist China was entirely supported by the administration in Malaya?
§ Mr. Younger
They were fully consulted on this, and it was supported by the administration in Malaya. Of course, there are possible dangers in relation to Malaya, and we propose to face them if they arise, but they have not so far arisen. I have dealt with this point in a previous Debate. It is, of course, probably true that these successes of the Communists in China have aggravated the situation in Malaya and in other parts of South-East Asia, but I would be very surprised if the act of recognition by some Governments had much to do with it.
The timing of the recognition has also, to some extent, been criticised. On that I can do little more than repeat the reasons given by my right hon. Friend. There had been very long consultations with all members of the Commonwealth before the Colombo Conference. It was clear before the Colombo Conference that if a decision was to be taken at all in the near future, it would have to be taken by the individual members of the Commonwealth. There was no possibility of an immediate agreement at that time if it had been left over until the conference. In fact, certain members of the Commonwealth—India and Pakistan—had recognised before us, and as we considered that, according to international law and the actual situation in China, recognition was fully due, I think it was quite right that we should have granted recognition in the way we did.
It is true that we have not yet full diplomatic relations, but it is also true that contacts between our representative and the Chinese Government do exist, and that discussions do take place. In fact, at the present time our representative is approaching the Chinese Government and making representation—we cannot say with what results—on behalf of our interests in China which have been suffering so severely. Whatever else one may say about it, it is, I think, clear that if we had not recognised and if we had no representative in China, the position of 2188 our interests certainly could not be better; it may be that they might be worse; nobody can tell; that is hypothetical. At any rate, it seems to us that it is an advantage that we should have a representative there, and, as my right hon. Friend pointed out in his opening speech, we are in fact looking after American interests in so far as we can, which appears to indicate that at any rate they, too, attach a certain value to our having a representative in that capital.
As regards China and the United Nations, there is not much that I can add to what my right hon. Friend said. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) referred to a statement in the Press which had indicated that there had been some kind of decision at the tripartite talks that nothing should be done. That, I can assure the Committee, is not correct. There was an exchange of views; full agreement upon the problem was not reached, but there was no restriction upon the action of those taking part in the talks. In fact, as my right hon. Friend made clear, we have been anxious to see this matter solved; we have been trying to get support in the relevant bodies of the United Nations for a course that would bring the People's Government into the United Nations, and there is no restriction upon our activities in that regard during the coming period.
I might perhaps now turn to some of the problems of South-East Asia. We have had a number of Debates about various parts of this area fairly recently We have had two Debates on Burma, and I do not think there is really anything further that I can add to what my right hon. Friend said earlier on, either generally on the situation in Burma, or with regard to the Karens. My right hon. Friend made it clear that what he was saying was what he had gathered from his conversations with the Burmese Prime Minister. It is really not a matter with which I can deal, to say exactly what contacts exist between the Burma Government and the Karens. All I can assure the Committee is that our information has been that contacts do exist, and my right hon. Friend has urged that there should be reasonableness on both sides, not least on the side of the Karens, to lead to an agreement.
2189 Some of my hon. Friends said some rather harsh things about Indo-China. I think myself that those speeches greatly under-estimated the difficulties which faced our French friends there. They also greatly under-estimated the Communist orientation of Ho Chi-minh, which I thought was fairly clear from the very start. I think it is, to say the least of it, doubtful whether any handling of any kind of Ho Chi-minh by the French Government could have prevented him from adopting the fully Communist attitude which he now adopts. Whatever mistakes may have been made—and no doubt mistakes have been made—I think that our French friends have gone a good long way to putting them right in the course of the last year. I think all the critics ended their speeches by saying "We must help the French." All I can say is that I thought they went a very funny way about it. I certainly think that from our point of view it would be no solution at all if the French were, either voluntarily or under compulsion, to go out. The consequences in Malaya, in Burma and elsewhere in the area have already been made clear by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, and I am entirely in agreement with what was said on that subject.
Much has been said about Malaya, on which we have had a Debate fairly recently. As everybody knows, there has been an increase in the activity of the Communists. I can only repeat the assurance that the military force which is considered necessary by the military advisers is given there, and also the administrative powers to which the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher) referred. There is no lack of powers available to the Government. The question of martial law is a different question, and it is, I think, the considered opinion of most people that martial law would add nothing to the powers which already exist, but would in fact put fresh burdens upon the military which at the present time they are not required to shoulder, with the consequence that they are more free than they would be under martial law to carry out their military duties.
I would point out that this Malayan problem is not purely military. It is the opinion of General Briggs and many other people that this is as much an administrative as a military problem. The popula- 2190 tion of large areas of this country is Chinese-speaking, and I think I am right in saying that these areas were not administered at all, or, if they were, only very lightly, before the war, and there is a great problem in recruiting and setting up administrative and police services composed of a sufficient number of people speaking Chinese to be able to deal with this problem.
§ Mr. W. Fletcher rose——
§ Mr. Younger
I cannot give way, as I have only a few minutes left. I would emphasise that, although much has been said about the need for vigour and military support and equipment and all the rest of it, and while we subscribe to that, we must appreciate that it is only a part, and perhaps not even the greater part, of the problem of getting a settlement in Malaya.
There were some very unjustified attacks unsupported by evidence against the Governor of the Federation of Malaya and the Governor of Singapore and other civil servants engaged there. I think there has been a considerable measure of progress in Malaya. The critics ignored the division between the population of Malays and Chinese and also ignored the strong support given by nearly all the Malays and by an increasing number of Chinese.
On the Sydney Conference, which was one outcome of the Colombo Conference, there are two principal points that I should like to make. The first is that the occurrence of a conference in this area is something new, and something which has created a great impression in the area. The second thing is that it is a collective Commonwealth effort, and an initiative which is very much to be welcomed, and probably is the first occasion on which a serious attempt has been made to study not merely short-term measures of relief and aid, but also to get a solid basis for long-term development.
The hon. Gentleman is quite right in thinking that the telegraphic system of the Foreign Office is still in existence, and perhaps I might be allowed to give a very brief summary of the resolutions which we have received, and which, I hope, will satisfy him. The main recommendations were these. A realistic programme should 2191 be prepared covering a six-year period to June, 1957, that programme to be submitted by 1st September. Preparations are being made for that in questionnaires, and so on, in the hope that we may get comparable information from all the territories concerned. In addition, there was a recommendation for a Commonwealth technical assistance scheme being established at once at an estimated cost of£8 million for three years, and all the countries at the Conferences are likely to contribute to that in various proportions. Assistance would be available to any country in the area, including the British colonial territory of Malaya.
There is a Commonwealth bureau to be set up in Colombo immediately to act as a clearing house; that is to say, for putting the people requiring technical assistance in touch with members of the group who can best supply it. It is not an elaborate organisation, and it is the only immediate standing organisation which was set up at this conference. The question of the association of other non-Commonwealth countries is being dealt with at once, and invitations have been issued to the non-Commonwealth countries concerned.
I have been asked particularly about the association of the United States with this. I think that the Committee are probably aware, in general terms, of what the attitude of the United States has been to this. We have previously stated in the House that they have shown an interest in this area, and perhaps the best thing I can do is to quote two sentences from the American Secretary of State's speech on the subject on 15th March:American assistance can be effective in South-East Asia as elsewhere, when it is the missing component in a problem which might otherwise be solved. When the will and the determination exist, when the people are behind their Government, American help may be the indispensible element required to produce those results.I think that makes it clear, this concept of the missing component, that in the view of the United States it is for those concerned with the area first to see exactly what the needs are and to do what they can with them, and then, if that is done, there is an indication—I put it no higher—that if the United States are convinced that the work has been truly accomplished, they may be prepared to 2192 associate themselves with the task of finding the missing component. I have not the time to say anything further about the Sydney Conference, but I hope that will give the right hon. Gentleman some of the information for which he asked.
The other sequel to the Colombo Conference is related to the preparation of a peace treaty with Japan. I think the right hon. Gentleman appreciates the position I am in and that there is nothing very much I can tell the Committee on this problem. We have made it quite clear to all concerned, and I think we are in agreement with all the other members of the Commonwealth, that we think a Japanese peace treaty should be achieved as soon as it can be achieved.
The right hon. Gentleman indicated that he thought the difficulties were very great—the difficulties of procedure, what sort of conference should be summoned, who is to participate, and so on. My right hon. Friend pointed out that the United States have very special responsibilities in the matter, that the United States must have very special weight, and he indicated that the United States is in some difficulty about precisely what policy should be pursued. We are in discussion on this matter with them, but at the moment I am afraid I cannot take it any further than that.
As regards Japanese competition, I was asked to deal particularly with the Cotton Textile Mission. That is a non-Governmental mission, and I am afraid that as yet I have no information.
§ Mr. Younger
I would point out that this is an industrial mission and not a mission of an official nature.
There is very little I can say on Japanese competition beyond what was said in a recent Debate by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. It is a matter which will have to be dealt with in any negotiations, whether for a peace treaty or not, with Japan. The problem has to be seen in the light of the Far Eastern situation, the fact that Japan is the only highly industrialised nation in that area and that there is a desire for Japanese goods in the Far East. We hope that in these negotiations with Japan, or the occupying Power we can 2193 get safeguards against the malpractices familiar before the war. I entirely agree about the desirability of bringing Japan into international agreements. An Eastern Schuman Plan has been quoted as a possibility, which is the type of way these problems might be dealt with.
My time is up, and I hope I have dealt in part with most of the questions which have been raised. This is an immense problem, to which there is clearly no quick or easy solution. We think that our policy in China in the long run will prove to be a wise one, and that in South-East Asia we are shouldering our responsibilities to the limit of our powers. We believe that we are gaining increasing good will among the people there as our attitude is appreciated. In the light of the political developments I have referred to, we believe that this may well prove to be the deciding factor.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
Can the Under-Secretary reply to the point made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) about political and psychological warfare in the Far East?
§ Mr. Younger
The hon. and gallant Member went very wide and referred to our services all over the world. As far as Malaya is concerned, I can assure him that there is a considerable organisation and that a considerable amount of propaganda has been put out. The question whether that is the best propaganda must be a matter of opinion, but the organisation is there and the propaganda is being put out.
§ It being Ten o'Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.