§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Mr. C R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
Yesterday in the House we raised the question of the bombing of certain power stations on the Yalu River, and one gathered that this action had come as a surprise to the Government. I think, therefore, that the House of Commons should have an opportunity of discussing this matter, first, as to the actual action of bombing these power stations; second, as to the timing of this operation; and third, as to the degree of consultations by the authorities in the field with the United Kingdom Government.
These stations on the Yalu River, as I understand it, supply North Korea, parts of Siberia and Manchuria. They are recognised as having a rather special position. I remember the Foreign Secretary on 29th November, 1950, referring to them in a debate in which he said:Near the Chinese frontier in North Korea lie the hydro-electric installations which supply Manchuria and Siberia as well as Korea. A case can be made for some neutral zone in the area… "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1950; Vol. 481, c. 1177.]That matter passed on, but there is there a recognition of the rather special position of these stations.
2248 For some time there have been negotiations carried on for an armistice, and this, I believe, is the second anniversary of the outbreak of aggression in Korea. Those negotiations have been conducted with immense patience by the United States representatives in face of a great deal of provocation. The differences have been narrowed down to one point, the question of the prisoners. That point has not yet been surmounted, but we all hope that it may be.
I do not want to discuss that issue today, because I want to deal only with this particular matter. Everybody hopes that the negotiations will succeed. In the meanwhile, warfare has been carried on, but it has been minor warlike operations —attacks by Communist forces, seldom, I think, of the strength of more than a battalion or regiment, a great deal of bombing of communications and airfields —and there has been a strengthening of defences by the United Nations and undoubtedly a very heavy build-up of forces by the Communists, but there have been no major operations.
Therefore, this bombing attack on the Yalu electrical stations, which has been described as the biggest air raid of the war, came to us all as a considerable surprise. It seemed that, if negotiations were proceeding, it was strange to undertake an operation of this kind, and the question arose at once as to how far there had been consultation on this.
I shall deal with the matter of consultation a little later, but it is quite obvious, in the first place, that a raid of these dimensions could not have been mounted at short notice. Lieutenant-General Barcus, according to "The Times," said that there had been superb co-operation between his own command and the Navy and the Marines in carrying out jointly these raids, which had been planned with great care and executed with split-second precision.
We all know from experience in the last war just how long it takes to mount an operation of that kind. Obviously, therefore, it must have been decided before Lord Alexander left Korea, and yet he knew nothing about it. That does seem to me to be very extraordinary. The British Minister of Defence, holding a high office in the Government, visits the scenes of operation and is apparently told nothing of this major operation. He is 2249 also a very distinguished soldier visiting a Command in which British Forces, ground forces, air forces, and naval forces, are engaged. He has met another very distinguished general, who served under his command, and yet, apparently, he has been kept entirely in the dark about this, the biggest single raid of the war. That does seem to me to require some explanation, because it is not much good sending off high-ranking Ministers if they cannot have full and frank discussion and be put in command of all the facts.
I noticed that Lord Alexander said that he thought this raid was right. I think it was rather unfortunate to make a statement of that kind. I am not sure whether he was speaking from a military point of view and saying that, as a military man, he approved it, or whether he was speaking as the Minister of Defence on behalf of the Government. That, of course, is one of the difficulties which are apt to occur in appointments of this nature.
The present air operation seems to me to be something quite different from what has been going on during the months of the armistice negotiations. I have no doubt that a case can be made out for saying that these electrical installations serve military purposes in Korea. There is no doubt about that. There is also no doubt at all that they serve the civilian population in Korea, in Manchuria and in Siberia. There does not seem to have been any overwhelming reason for the attack on them at the present time, because the effect of this attack as far as one could judge, would have far greater effect in the civilian than in the military sphere.
In all discussions on this matter of Korea we have endeavoured—and that has been the policy of both sides of the House and, I think, also of the American administration—to try to confine these operations as far as possible to Korea. There were suggestions made at one time that there should be air raids on the industrial cities of Manchuria with a view to destroying the enemy potential. There have been suggestions for a blockade. But these have all been rejected on the broad lines which have been put forward very fully by numerous speakers—by no one more forcibly than by the Prime Minister—that we do not want to get involved in a major war with China.
2250 Therefore, there is at once the question raised as to why this raid was undertaken. I hope we may have some explanation of that, because it may be— I only put it forward as an hypothesis— that the Americans are saying, "We are tired of these long-drawn-out negotiations. We think, therefore, we should strike hard in the hope of coming to some decision." That is a possible line to take but it is not a line which should be taken without full consultation. It does indeed represent a change of policy and the Prime Minister has assured us that there is no change of policy.
The Prime Minister rather inclined to say yesterday that there was no real occasion for consultation on this matter. I think it is worth while looking a little closely at that, because I think he was quite emphatic, when we were in office, on the need for full consultation.
When, two years ago, this matter was embarked upon, it was agreed that the United States should take responsibility on behalf of the United Nations. May I say that we on this side have never concealed our admiration for the prompt way in which the Americans took up the challenge to the United Nations, and the last thing in the world I should wish from this debate would be any causing of difficulty in Anglo-American relations. That would be playing completely into the hands of those who hate us as much as they hate the Americans.
We agreed to the American command because it would have been quite impossible to conduct operations with a large committee representing the United Nations in charge. Campaigns cannot be run through committees. We all know, too, that the United States have provided the bulk of the forces and have sustained the heaviest casualties. But that has never meant that we had no say in the matter, nor has this ever been claimed by our American friends.
We have had a liaison officer at headquarters; we have had a very able representative with the Chiefs of Staff, first Lord Tedder and now Air Chief Marshal Elliot; and there was a pretty constant exchange of views, partly through the ordinary communications between the military, partly through ordinary diplomatic channels and partly through the meetings of responsible Ministers on either side. For instance.
2251 I, accompanied by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, had a meeting with President Truman and his advisers in December, 1950, when we had a very exhaustive discussion on all the issues.
Another example of an interchange of views was alluded to in the debate of 26th February last, in which the question was put to us whether, if there were very heavy air attacks on the United Nations troops in Korea, the higher command should be allowed to retaliate on enemy aerodromes—in Manchuria, and we agreed. That was an example of the kind of discussion that takes place. The broad position was that we agreed that the commander in the field must take all requisite decisions on purely military action, but that there should be consultation where political as well as military issues were involved.
That position was very clearly stated by Mr. Bevin in the debate on 29th November, 1950. He said:It has… been necessary to leave the control of the operations very much in the hands of the United Nations' Commander, provided always that where his plans might involve questions of general policy then there must be appropriate consultation on such matters. I can assure the House that this is in fact what has happened."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1950; Vol. 481, c. 1164.]As I have stated, we took the line that the war should be confined as far as possible to the immediate theatre, and on 26th February last the Prime Minister said that that was also the policy of the present Government. There is, therefore, no quarrel about that. I claim that there has been here action taken which, while it has its military aspects, also has its political aspects.
The fact is—I think it will be agreed— that the vast majority of people in this country, and I think in the United States of America, are ardently desirous that the armistice talks should succeed, and, as I have previously said, very great patience has been shown on the part of the United Nations, and a great many points have been conceded. The negotiations have come down to a narrow point. Now there is suddenly injected into this an attack on these power stations. It may be said—I do not know—that there is some particular military reason for this, but in actual fact it will cause misery and distress to hundreds of thousands of 2252 civilians who are not in the fighting at all. That is, in fact—I am taking the point of view at the moment of the Chinese— bringing the conditions of total war on those people.
It might be claimed that this will make the Chinese at once more reasonable and make them agree to an armistice. That can be argued, but I think it is a profound mistake in psychology, and it is not the first mistake in psychology that has been made in the course of the whole of these events. I think it will exacerbate; I think it will lessen the chances of an armistice and may lead us dangerously nearer to a general conflagration in the East, and if that happens no one knows where it may stop.
I therefore claim that in a matter of this kind Her Majesty's Government were entitled to have the fullest information. They ought to have been allowed to express an opinion as to whether this was wise. To quote from what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in a previous debate,There is a very heavy responsibility upon His Majesty's Government, and the Prime Minister this evening in closing this debate, to reassure our people that things are not running away from them in a direction which the British public does not want."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1950; Vol. 481. c. 1428.]I think that that is the anxiety in the minds of many people.
I confine myself to the single issue —we shall, I think, before long have a chance of discussing the whole of these matters perhaps in a wider context—but it does bring out what I think we have always been conscious of—the difficulty of conducting operations on behalf of the United Nations in which a number of States make their contribution but in which one State has taken the major responsibility.
That was inevitable as far as action in the field is concerned, Throughout, in my experience, we have had consultation, our views have been put forward and have been treated with respect. Obviously I cannot say whether they have been accepted or not. I think that now the position has been reached in which it would be a great advantage if we could get some closer representation both as regards operations in the field and in the armistice negotiations.
2253 I do not want to develop that point today, but I think that everybody has been disturbed over the matter of the prisoners. I think that there perhaps there might have been a better set-up if there had been closer representation. But I am raising this point today because I want to get a clear statement from the Government as to how much they have been consulted in this matter, and whether they do not think they ought to have been consulted, if they were not; and I want the Government, if they can, to give us the meaning of this action. It seems to us that this action is fraught with the danger of destroying all the work that has been done in the armistice negotiations and perhaps of leading to the extension and exacerbation of a conflict which we all want to see brought to an end.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)
I have listened to the statement of the Leader of the Opposition which, if I may say so, was couched in terms of moderation and restraint in which I shall try to follow him in the discussion of a matter which is of real significance to a result we all want to see, the achievement of an armistice in Korea; and also to the close and effective co-operation of Anglo-American forces and thought, upon which the whole peace of the world depends. I shall try as I speak to bear that in mind. I think we should all endeavour, even where we feel that we want to vent criticisms, to remember that if we carry them beyond a certain point they are likely to help others more than they will help the cause in which we in this Committee believe so much.
The right hon. Gentleman made references about which I wish to comment to start with. He paid his tribute, and I was glad to hear it, to the immense patience shown by those who have been conducting the armistice negotiations. This was a well-deserved tribute. I think it is very little understood by the general public what an immense strain it has been attempting to conduct these negotiations under very considerable provocation over this very long period. I should like to pay my tribute, with the right hon. Gentleman, for what has been done in that sphere.
He also referred—and of course it is true—to the difficulty which confronts us 2254 in conducting operations of this kind where one Power is making by far the greater contribution in the military sphere, and where the rest are not made up of just one or two other Powers, but of a large number of other Powers sharing, some of them in a very small scale, in the operation. How is consultation to be made effective? How are all these to be brought into the knowledge of and cooperation in the plans that are made and executed? I shall say something more about that in a moment when I come to deal with the visit of the Minister of Defence and the Minister of State.
So far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, we welcome the fact that there has been the opportunity for this debate, if only that it can serve to clarify some of the misconceptions, and that it certainly can serve to enable us to make plain where Her Majesty's Government stand on the broad decisions of policy which have been taken in the past. And so I would begin by just giving these three assurances to the Committee from the outset.
So far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, there has been no change in our policy in respect of the Korean campaign. It is still our purpose to limit the conflict to Korea; and it is still our policy to do everything in our power to attain an armistice on fair and reasonable terms. We have to remember that the war in Korea was not sought by the United Nations. The one wish of the Americans as well as the British, I am sure, is to see it ended; and nobody can be surprised at that when we consider that the United States of America have already had over 100,000 casualties in this fighting.
Let us come to this question of the bombing on 23rd June which was intended, I understand—I now understand —to be a co-ordinated attack on the power plants of North Korea. Five targets were attacked. Four of them, two at the Changjin reservoir and two at Fusen, were nowhere near the Man-churian border. The fifth station which the right hon. Gentleman referred to as on the Yalu, was at Suiho, which is on the Yalu river. This power plant at Suiho provides no less than 40 per cent. of all the hydro-electric power in North Korea.
As I understand it, the United Nations Commander in North Korea referred the 2255 question of the bombing of this station —not the other four, but this station— to Washington, and the operation was approved. Her Majesty's Government were not informed or consulted. I regret this, and I shall deal with this matter in a few moments in the course of the observations I have to make.
The Committee must bear in mind that all these targets—as the right hon. Gentleman himself, I think, said—lay within Korea itself, and are military targets. I do not think that the Committee realises how extensive is the bombing which has been and is being carried out day and night by the Allied air forces in Korea mainly against the airfields, large supply installations and communications. It extends all over North Korea and it is nothing new. It has been going on for months, ever since the talks began.
It is part of a general plan to try to neutralise the immense military advantage which the Communists have gained since the armistice talks began on Mr. Malik's initiative a year ago. The United Nations' air effort is essential—I do not think anybody would dispute this—for the security of the United Nations ground forces, including our own Commonwealth Division. It is the only means we have to neutralise the building up which has been taking place ever since the talks began.
The Committee should bear in mind the extent of that build-up and what it means in the military sense now. In July last year, the Communist forces in the field were estimated at something just over 500,000 men, in considerable disarray—in fact, a beaten army. Today they are not far short of a million men. The reinforcement has consisted largely of building up existing units to full strength, the fresh troops placed in the ranks being overwhelmingly Chinese. Today the enemy strength in armour and artillery has mounted until they are believed to have over 500 tanks and self-propelled guns. They have built up large stocks of all types of supplies, and their air force, which was about 1,000 strong last July, is now about twice that number, and they have about 1,000 jet fighters.
I say all this because the Committee should understand that the Communists 2256 are now in a position to launch a major offensive with very little warning, and to maintain the initial pressure of their attacks for some considerable time. This raid, let me assure the Leader of the Opposition, was not, so far as its size was concerned, unique. There has also been bombing of airfields and communications ever since the armistice talks began right up to the frontier itself. That has had to be right up to the Yalu, because some of the airfields are actually on the Yalu; and the Committee must picture for itself what the Communist build-up would have been if there had not been this air bombardment by day and by night.
The next thing we have to consider is what is the part played in all this buildup by these power stations which have now been attacked, four of them admittedly in Korea, well in Korea, and the fifth on the Yalu river.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any of these power stations —either the four that are said to be well in Korean territory or the one that is clearly on the border—have ever before been attacked from the air at any time during the two years of operations?
§ Mr. David Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
Were these power stations strengthening the military position?
§ Mr. Eden
I intended to deal with that point. It is one which we have to weigh in considering this decision. [Interruption.]I could not hear what the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) said. Let us have an argument between ourselves afterwards. Four out of the five lie back behind the frontier and they were over-run in the winter of 1951.
But what has happened during these prolonged armistice negotiations is that all these power stations, however much or little damaged—some much, some little —in 1951, have been reconstructed. Their military importance to Korea for the 2257 fighting hardly needs examination by the Committee. They supply power to the aerodromes and all other forms of activity in North Korea, military and industrial. They provide—and this answers the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland (Mr. Logan)—electricity to industry in North Korea which is now engaged in the supply to the enemy forces of war production of all kinds.
When the Committee considers that the enemy admittedly outnumber our forces by a considerable margin and that we are superior only in weapons, hon. Members will see how important a consideration it is whether or not the industrial potential of North Korea shall be freely at the disposal of the Communist forces. As for the value of electricity to the aerodromes, that, of course, is obvious to all hon. Members. It is quite essential to have it for the maintenance of aircraft, for radar defences, for work at night and for a host of other activities. Therefore, I say, dealing with the matter purely from the military angle at this moment, that these power stations are perfectly legitimate military targets. On that I do not think that there can be any challenge whatever.
The only time when I could not follow the right hon. Gentleman was when he said that attacking these power stations was a terrible imposition on the Chinese people. I do not know how many Chinese people have electricity in their houses. I should not think that there are an awful lot. The importance of it from our point of view is that it is the source of power both for industry and for airfields, and also, I understand, for industry and airfields in Manchuria from which the war is carried on at present. When we are considering these power stations——
§ Mr. Eden
That is exactly what we have not done, and I want the Committee to understand the price we are paying for that restraint.
When we are considering these power stations in Korea which also serve Manchuria, we ought to remember the very heavy handicap which our restraint has placed upon us throughout the latter part of our fighting in Korea. The bases, the installations and practically all the aerodromes which the Chinese use today, and 2258 from which they go up to fight our bombers when they come over, are practically all in Manchuria. None of them is ever bombed by our forces. Fighters, can go up to attempt to intercept our bombers and go down again on the Manchurian aerodromes and, because they are on the Manchurian aerodromes, they are not bombed. They are not touched. It is quite a remarkable effort of restraint. All that has to be put in the scale when we are considering the matter which the Committee is examining today. I ask the Committee to consider this point.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
This point is important. We know that there are 1,000 MiG 15s employed by the Chinese forces. Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to indicate that practically all these 1,000 MiG fighters are based over the Manchurian border?
§ Mr. Eden
Yes, Sir. The aerodromes south of the Yalu are largely made uninhabitable by the interdiction bombing which I have described, and the enemy uses these aerodromes over the border which are, therefore, inviolate to our attacks. That is quite a consideration. I would put it to the Committee in this way: it is one thing to respect as we do respect the territory of Manchuria despite the warlike operations and the activity which goes on there, but it is another thing to guarantee a supply of electric power to their territory from stations within the battle area. That is the thought which I should like to leave with the Committee.
Over and above that, the power stations which have been attacked supply between them 40 per cent. of the electric power which is used today in North Korea in support of the Communist war effort. For the moment I am dealing with the military arguments and I repeat that the military arguments for dealing with these stations are doubly strong because the stations supply not only the war effort itself but the stations in Manchuria which are never attacked.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether he knows why, in view of the overwhelming military importance of these installations, they were left un-bombed for a year and only bombed at a crucial period in the armistice negotiations?
§ Mr. Eden
I shall deal with that point in a moment or two. What has been happening, and the hon. Gentleman and the Committee must understand this, is that throughout this long armistice talks period not only have the Communists been building up their forces in the field —I am not complaining: I am stating the fact—but at the same time they have increased their war manufacturing capacity by the aid of these electricity plants. At a time when their manufacturing capacity was not so great, that would not count as so important a factor as it is now. Added to that, they have now organised their air defences from what might be called this Tom Tiddler's ground where they are safe to go down and take refuge whenever they want. Those are all considerations which have increased with the passage of time. I have no doubt, though I do not know, that they were in the minds of the Command when the decision was taken.
Another point which I ask hon. Members to observe is that the dams and bridges across the Yalu were not included in these raids. The Leader of the Opposition will know that these dams and bridges are no less legitimate targets than power plants. But where the river which they straddle is the frontier, as in this case, there is clearly a risk involved in attacking them. They have been attacked in the past, though not, of course, since the armistice talks began. This risk does not attach in the same measure to the power plants now in question, which are definitely on this side of the frontier. No target was within 1.000 yards of the frontier.
Another point is on the question of consultation. The Committee knows that the problem of consultation on all matters relating to Korea, which, after all, we inherited and to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred, has been causing us some considerable concern. I must tell the Committee frankly that I think, in a certain measure, it is insoluble from the nature of the extraordinary features in this case which I mentioned earlier— the overwhelmingly greater part of the contribution is from one Power and a number of others are giving smaller contributions of varying sizes.
Some way to improve it we must seek to find, and that, amongst other things, was the object of the visit of my noble 2260 Friend the Minister of Defence and the Minister of State to Tokyo and Korea. The other object of that visit was to seize this welcome opportunity to visit the front itself, and for the Government to hear, on the authority of Field Marshal Lord Alexander himself, what was the military situation. Although I must not anticipate what my noble Friend will have to say, that report, from the point of view of our defences, is extremely reassuring.
I think I am right in saying that a statement will be made on Tuesday next in this House and in another place, when the Cabinet have had time to consider it and the conclusions to which they will come. I have not the least doubt that the visit of my two right hon. Friends has been an outstanding success. [An HON. MEMBER: "It does not look like it."] It has been welcomed both in the United States and in Canada, but we have not yet had the opportunity to consider the suggestions which they have to make. They only arrived at the airport at one o'clock, and I should have thought that it was reasonable to say that we should have an opportunity for a discussion before any statement is made.
In this instance, we were not consulted. Although there was no specific obligation to consult us, I think that it is to be regretted that we were not.
§ Mr. Eden
I do not know; I think the hon. Gentleman is probably wrong. I do not know; I am only estimating. I think these plans had probably been made for a considerable time. There was always a possibility that this action would be taken and plans for launching an attack made in the lifetime of both Governments in the event of certain eventualities taking place.
§ Mr. Eden
I am pretty certain that the plans must have been laid. If there had been a sudden enemy attack, they would certainly have bombed the aerodromes, as they had been bombed a great many times before, and there is no dispute about that. As to when the decision was taken, I do not know, but I think myself that it was probably after my right hon. Friends had left that area and were in 2261 Canada, but I do not know. We may know about that later. If this matter had been referred to us, no doubt, this would have been done with all the military arguments which guided the United Nations Command in coming to their decision. Now that the decision has been taken, although we are sorry that we were not consulted, we give our Allies full support in it.
It is said that this action is going to prejudice the conclusion of an armistice, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made certain references to that, to which I take no exception. I do not care myself to try to estimate that at all. I think it is a pretty difficult calculation to make. What is the position now? The armistice talks have now lasted 11 months, and during that time, as the Leader of the Opposition said, the United Nations negotiators have done everything possible on their side to try to bring them to a conclusion. We have made one important concession after another, and I will mention one or two.
For example, we have agreed that the activities of the armistice inspection teams, to which we attach great importance in order to know what is going on after the armistice has been signed, should be limited only to certain points of entry and lines of communication. We have surrendered our previous demand for mutual air inspection. We thought it reasonable to ask that, while the armistice is being signed, there should be certain air inspections by both sides, but we have dropped that demand.
We have agreed that the inspection teams, now limited to the ground, should be provided by neutral nations and not by representatives of the opposing military commands, which was the normal and ordinary request. We have agreed that, after an armistice, a number of airfields in North Korea can be repaired to meet the immediate needs of the civilian population, and that is a major concession bearing in mind the efforts which we have made to try to keep these airfields out of use.
I have a feeling that the Committee has a wrong impression of the actual fighting that is going on in Korea, because the Leader of the Opposition thought that it was quite small. Though he was right in saying that the units used have been of no more than battalion or brigade 2262 strength in the Communist attacks, the fighting has been quite severe. I should not like the Committee to assume that it is only the United Nations who are engaged in these hostilities. Recently, something like 10,000 shells were fired against us on the front in a single day.
§ Mr. Eden
I should say that 10,000 shells in a single day amounts to a considerable bombardment. I seem to remember that at one time on the Somme, when there were 6,000 shells in a day, we thought it was pretty heavy, so that 10,000 in a day is quite a bombardment. That has been happening quite lately, so that it is not at all true that all is serene and at peace except for an occasional allied bomber going out and bombing a power station. That is the position as it is today.
If this bombing—our round-the-clock bombing—is intolerable to the Communists, they really have the remedy in their own hands. An armistice could be concluded tomorrow, on terms which satisfy the honour and the interests of both sides, if the Communists want it.
On the prisoner of war issue, which is the only one outstanding, we have made an entirely fair and reasonable offer. If this had received anything like serious consideration by the other side, progress could have been made before now, and perhaps the United Nations Command would not have found this air action necessary at all. I think we take a heavy responsibility if we refuse to take the steps which the Allied Command think necessary to protect our own men.
While some hon. Members may regret, for understandable reasons, the selection of these targets at this time, we have also got to bear in mind how we should feel if a major attack were to be launched against the United Nations positions and the enemy air support had been organised behind a screen of immunity from attack. How should we feel if such an attack had threatened the defensive position of the Allies, and if the weight of that attack had been greatly increased as a result of our giving immunity to these installations?
§ Mr. John Paton (Norwich, North)
Will the right hon. Gentleman clear up one point, which is of very great im- 2263 portance and which many of us are anxious to have cleared up? What circumstances have altered during the last few days which made it necessary to time that attack now?
§ Mr. Eden
Let me tell the hon. Gentleman. We have not been consulted about this, and, therefore, we have not been presented with the arguments; but I have explained the conditions of the Communist build-up and the significance of the full use of these power plants in building up the enemy's industrial war potential. I said that I do not know the arguments for arriving at that decision, because I said we have not been consulted.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The right hon. Gentleman, if he will allow me to say so with great respect, is not really doing himself justice. I think we could all understand him saying, "I cannot answer the question as to what caused the timing of these attacks at this moment, because we were not consulted, and, therefore, I cannot answer." But as, a few minutes ago, the right hon. Gentleman said that, now it has been decided, we support it, he ought to be able to give the Committee some reason why he thinks that is right.
§ Mr. Eden
I must say that I think the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne abuses the right of interruption. I always give way in debate whenever I possibly can, but not in order that an hon. Member should immediately start saying, "You are not doing the job well at all." Whether he does or does not think that, is immaterial to me, but it is not the courteous way in which to behave. I wish now to deal with the second part——
§ Mr. Silvermanrose——
§ Mr. Eden
I wonder if the hon. Gentleman ever reads Congreve's "The Way of the World." I think in the last lines of the first act it says:Where modesty's ill-manners, 'tis but fitThat impudence and malice pass for wit.Now I come to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question. He said he could quite well understand that I should say that I could not give the reasons because we were not consulted, but he went on to ask why, the decision having been take, we should back it. The reason is that we are there with our Allies and the decision——
§ Mr. Eden
Let me sum up again where we stand. It is still our purpose to confine this action to Korea and to seek an armistice. By every means in their power this Government and the Foreign Secretary as an individual are trying to find means to settle this last outstanding problem. I can assure the Committee that there is no topic which takes up more of our days than an endeavour to find our way around this. We are using every means we can, and it may be that we can yet reach a conclusion. I believe the Committee will better help us to get the armistice we seek by showing unity rather than by trying to divide us from our friends and Allies.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
A great deal of heat has already been introduced into the debate, but I think hon. and right hon. Members in all parts of the Committee will recognise that this discussion this afternoon will be followed with great anxiety all over the country, and probably in many parts of the world, because we do not yet know what calamitous consequences may follow from the action taken in Korea.
We are today, I think, rather more aware of the situation than we were yesterday. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has made the position of the Government perfectly clear, and that position sharply distinguishes the 2265 policy of the Government today from the policy of the recent Labour Government.
There can be no doubt whatever that the policy that has been pursued by the American High Command in Korea is entirely different from the policy which the Labour Government supported in Korea. I want to make that quite clear, and I am entitled to do so because I was a Member of that Government for a long time. [Interruption.]Hon. Members opposite will soon have to answer to their constituents and they will not like the result. Therefore, they might listen now to the arguments they will be faced with then; and they may be able to think of a reply, although I doubt it.
The fact is it was always the position that the Labour Government supported the resistance to the invasion of South Korea because we regarded it as an attempt to change the character of the Government there by armed aggression. Therefore, we supported the action of the American Government in reacting sharply against that invasion. But, since that event took place, we are now aware that the situation was very much more obscure than we thought because a good many commentators have expressed the view that there was quite considerable evidence that military moves had been made by the South Koreans.
Nevertheless, as far as one can gather, the balance is on the side that the overt military act was taken by a North Korean invasion of South Korea. On balance, we held the view that this was an act of aggression which should be resisted if the peace of the world was to be maintained. But from that certain other considerations flow. It was also quite clear that there were certain elements, particularly in the United States of America, who regarded these circumstances as an opportunity for counterrevolutionary action.
That counter-revolutionary action has been taken by the United States of America, simultaneously with the fighting in Korea, by the arming and the training of Chiang Kai-shek's forces in Korea. Let us face the fact. [Interruption.]It is no use hon. Members failing to see the other man's point of view and not listening merely because it is unpopular. I will say it here and in the country that it 2266 is necessary to recognise that while the American Government were associated with us and were, in fact, the dominant partner in resisting an act of aggression in Korea, they were, at the same time, inflaming the situation in the Far East by arming and training Chiang Kai-shek, whose declared intention it was to engage in counter-revolutionary action against the established Government of China. No one could deny that.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the material time in question, namely, when the North Koreans invaded South Korea, the Nationalist Forces in Formosa were paying in gold or dollars for outworn equipment from the last war which America was supplying?
§ Mr. Bevan
It really is time that we had interruptions not for the purpose merely of continuing the argument but for the purpose of eliciting facts. That fact to which I referred is not disputed. That is what right hon. and hon. Members must face.
That is what we had to face and that was why the late Mr. Ernest Bevin adopted a specific attitude on this matter. He said that it was very difficult for us apparently to reach a clean solution in Korea because the prestige of a large number of Americans was now involved in Chiang Kai-shek and the prestige of a large number of Chinese was involved in getting rid of Chiang Kai-shek and therefore there existed in Korea inflammatory elements that must be contained if the whole thing was not to spread.
We took the view, to which we all subscribed, that the right thing to do in Korea once we reached the contentious Parallel was to let the fighting die away, to try to contain it as far as possible, to allow feeling to be assuaged in the hope that after a time a real armistice would be signed and peace established without loss of face anywhere.
That is the view we took; and indeed it was not only our view, it was the view also of the United Nations. The Foreign Secretary today has been overstating his case. He appeared to be arguing for most of his speech that the bombing of these stations on the Yalu River and near the Yalu River—1,000 yards away—was, in fact, merely an extension or continua- 2267 tion of attacks which had been going on all the time.
But that is not the view of the Pentagon. That is not the view of the American Administration. Yesterday afternoon I quoted in the House statements made by official spokesmen in America. They regard this as a departure, as a new policy. They do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary. It is too disingenuous to argue that the destruction of these power stations was merely a military effort of the same stature as the other military efforts that had been going on.
On the contrary, the American Administration has made it quite clear indeed, and the right hon. Gentleman himself said that with respect to the power station on the Yalu River itself, that the American political Administration was consulted. He said it just now. In point of fact, that consultation established that act as being something more than a mere military extension, and surely hon. Members must not always imagine that because we are asking that we should be consulted in these matters before these decisions are taken that is evidence of an anti-American bias.
§ Mr. Bevan
It was not correct to say that we are to be able to influence American policy if at no time in this House are we able to express criticism of what is happening without being accused of anti-American propaganda. It is quite clear that the Foreign Secretary was wrong in arguing that this would be an extension on the same kind of action.
But I want to call his attention to a statement made in 1950 by the United Nations itself.[Interruption.]We know the technique which is indulged in on the benches opposite. We have been in the House of Commons too long not to know it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Too 2268 long."] In 1950, the United Nations passed the following resolution:Affirms that it is the policy of the United Nations to hold the Chinese frontier with Korea inviolate and fully to protect legitimate Chinese and Korean interests in the frontier zone;That was the declaration of the United Nations itself. It is in furtherance of that declaration that we are supporting united action in Korea, and yet the right hon. Gentleman today admits that on the frontier zone itself we have destroyed power stations which supply China and Siberia and North Korea. I ask the right hon. Gentleman this question. Does he consider that that action is consistent with the declaration of the United Nations? The United Nations itself laid down that one of the limiting conditions for operations in Korea was that we should not bomb anything on the frontier zone; and yet the action of the Americans has been, in these circumstances, entirely to violate the decision that the United Nations itself made.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question about the position of the Minister of Defence. We should like to know whether the Minister of Defence was speaking on behalf of the Government when he declared that he supported the action, because, if so, he was speaking for the Cabinet as a whole. If he was speaking for the Cabinet as a whole then we are to accept it, and we ought to inform the country of the fact, that the bombing of these power stations is supported by the party opposite.
We should know that, because we must remember that we are speaking not only of the bombing that occurred the day before yesterday but the follow-up of bombing yesterday. After we had discussed the matter in the House yesterday afternoon, the bombing nevertheless went on; and while that bombing went on the American Administration received the encouragement of the British Minister of Defence, so that we did not have yesterday what we have had today from the right hon. Gentleman—the statement that he deplored the fact that we were not consulted. Even though we had not been consulted and the raids were going on, a Cabinet Minister declared his support for the action.
2269 Either the Government as a whole must carry the odium for supporting it or Lord Alexander ought to resign. Or is Lord Alexander, because he is a soldier, exempted from the principle of Cabinet responsibility? Is he allowed to say something about a military action as though it has no political significance at all? It is true—and we have been saying this for some time—that an intolerable situation would be created, and here I agree with the Foreign Secretary, if an offensive took place in North Korea and American and British troops were being bombed from bases in Manchuria. It would be very difficult indeed to restrain action to destroy the airfields from which those raids took place if our people were being slaughtered.
In exactly the same way—and this is the gravity of it—it is argued today by the Americans and the right hon. Gentleman that it is intolerable that we should leave these power stations untouched when they are so important a part of the war-making machinery of North Korea under the Chinese. So the logical, military urgency which is behind the attack on the power stations would be the logical, military urgency that would demand an attack on Manchuria.
It is easy to envisage that it would be accompanied by the same emotions on both sides of the House of Commons. We should be angry because our soldiers were being killed. If it is difficult for us to take a dispassionate view of the situation today, how much more difficult would it be if there were a general military offensive and we were being attacked by planes from Manchurian-based airfields? The same logic would apply.
I think that the way to look at this question is that if no political solution is sought a military solution is the only one that is left and, if that is so, a third world war is on our hands, and hon. Members opposite must face that fact. What the army commanders have done in Korea is to say, in effect, "If these politicians would only shut up, if they would only keep their hands off, if they would only leave use alone, we would settle it all right by military action." That is what they have said.
Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman has almost hinted at it. He said that the 2270 Americans have been conscious all the time of the limitations imposed upon them by the fact that they cannot bomb Manchuria. They were conscious of the limitations imposed on them by the United Nations decision not to bomb the power stations on the frontier. That tension became intolerable and soldiers, thinking as soldiers only of military purposes, ordered the bombing.
But this House is responsible for the political consequences of military acts. We cannot escape them and, therefore, we think it is time that the military activities in Korea were put under effective political control. That is why we deplored the fact that the senior representative of the British Government who went out from this country looked at the situation not from the political angle but from the military angle. When the right hon. Gentleman says that he is satisfied that it was a successful visit, and speaks of the influence which our representatives have had on the local American military Administration, I hope that that influence will not continue, if these are the fruits of it.
Despite the emnity of many people, I pleaded that we should seek a political solution in Korea as quickly as possible. That solution lies in our hands. It is available. If the American Administration will not only resist an act of aggression in Korea—for which we support them—but, at the same time, give effective assurances to the Chinese People's Government that they accept the Chinese revolution as an accomplished fact; that they are prepared to accept China on the Security Council; that they are prepared to disband Chiang Kai-shek's forces in Formosa and not connive—as the Chinese people think they are—in a counterrevolutionary movement at some time or other, the armistice could succeed quite easily.
I should have thought it would be to the advantage of the whole world to say those things plainly, because the British people will not support a war against China. It is necessary for us to understand that and to tell our American friends that we should not get the support of the British people for any action in the mainland of China which looked as though it were directed merely at the destruction of the People's Government of 2271 China and the re-establishment of Chiang Kai-shek.
The lesson of this action is to be sought in the fact that no earnest attempt has so far been made to seek a basic political solution. The armistice negotiations have been narrowly directed to a military objective. Behind the war in Korea stands the whole suspicion of the Far East. Behind these actions in Korea are much more fundamental things than the future of South Korea itself. Do not let us drift from point to point, from week to week and month to month until the impatience of soldiers creates a situation which politicians cannot solve.
I beg and pray the Government to revert to the policy of the Labour Government, to revert to a policy of limiting military action to what is absolutely essential and to press upon the American Administration at the earliest possible time to change their policies in order to bring about peace in the Far East.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Major W. J. Anstruther-Gray (Berwick and East Lothian)
I am rather sorry to find myself following the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) because, although I found much in the last few passages of his speech with which one could agree, I am bound to say that in general I am suspicious of his whole outlook upon these matters. I have a feeling that the right hon. Gentleman is only too ready to use foreign affairs as a plaything in the internal affairs of his own party—and it may be that he is engaged in those internal affairs at this moment—and as a plaything for internal conflicts.
§ Major Anstruther-Gray
I maintain my statement. I think the right hon. Gentleman uses the subject of foreign affairs as a plaything in internal affairs not only against Her Majesty's Government but also in his own party. I am sorry to see that the Leader of the Opposition has gone. If I may substantiate——
§ Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch) rose——2272
§ Major Anstruther-Gray
I am sorry; I cannot give way. I will give way to the hon. and learned Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing) in a moment. I should like to continue with the case of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. I should like to cite, as justification for my assertion, the action which he took yesterday, when his party and, in particular himself, attempted to debate this matter on the Adjournment. Surely it was evident that the Prime Minister was quite prepared to grant time for a debate; and surely it was equally evident that the Government wanted the opportunity of consulting the most up-to-date information which they could obtain on the subject.
When we had sent what I would call the best pair of eyes in the British Empire to learn the truth in Korea; when we had sent a man entirely qualified to learn from what he saw, was it not a crazy thing not to give that man the opportunity of getting home so that he could give the Government the benefit of his impressions, and so that we could have a debate in the light of full knowledge?
We have learned some knowledge today, and I think the more knowledge we can get of that part of the world the better. I have often thought that it would be an advantage to allow one or two hon. Members, or pairs of hon. Members, to go out to Korea. I would gladly go myself, with the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch, who wants to interrupt me, in order to see the troops, to come back to the House and give our impressions, not from the point of view of brass hats but by getting the "low-down" from the lower deck and telling what we learned from our humble point of view.
§ Major Anstruther-Gray
No; I do not think the point is well made on this issue. I think it is irrelevant to which House the Minister of Defence belongs, but I think in any event the Government were most anxious to have the advantage of his personal experience in Korea when he arrived back.
2273 If I may leave—and oh, so gladly—the controversial aspect of this. I will do so, because I am sure that in all matters of peace and war the great body of opinion on all sides of the Committee is for united action. Let me turn to the very welcome and moderate terms which the Leader of the Opposition adopted in opening the debate. I was entirely with him when he expressed his anxiety at the situation, and if ever there were words of his which I feel prepared to echo it was when, referring to the damage which could be done to Anglo-American relations, he said such damage would be playing into the hands of those who hate us; and I commend those words to some of the hon. Gentlemen who sit behind him.
§ Major Anstruther-Gray
I do not know if the hon. Gentleman needs the lesson or not; if the cap fits he is welcome to it. The position, as I understood it before the debate, was exactly the position stated by the Washington correspondent of "The Times," in today's edition:However, so far as can be ascertained, both the State and the Defence Departments were consulted and agreed, and the British Government was informed.We have been told today that, in fact, the British Government were not informed, but I think it is a matter of no little significance that the Washington correspondent of "The Times" should be under the impression that we had been told, and I think it will be found that the great bulk of American opinion is also under the impression that we are going on arm in arm. I believe this was an oversight, which I am sure Her Majesty's Government will do their best to see does not occur again. Perhaps I may make some suggestions as to how that state of affairs could be avoided in future.
§ Major Anstruther-Gray
I do not think that is very fair. I am sure that both the hon. and learned Member and I, from our different points of view, are doing our level best to see that it does not lead into a third world war.
§ Major Anstruther-Gray
Please let me continue making my remarks, which may not commend themselves to the hon. and learned Gentleman, but there is support for them elsewhere in the Committee and I am pretty sure there is support for them in the country. The article continues:It is understood in any case that this was one of the types of action covered by Mr. Morrison's agreement of last September"—that is, the agreement of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) last September—and confirmed during Mr. Churchill's visit in January. But it is an exaggeration to say, as some military spokesmen are saying, that the action has no political implications.I think all here realise that very fully. The article continues:Any new decision taken in Korea must have them, and it is not always clear that the American armed services even yet understand how large a political content any modern war —and particularly this war—has.That, I think, is largely the problem we are up against. I was quoting from the centre page of "The Times," of today's date, from an article by the Washington correspondent. What we are up against is this difficult problem of a military decision possibly dove-tailing with, or even conflicting with, the political policy.
I felt much reassured by what the Foreign Secretary said about the legitimate status of the power stations as a target for air bombardment. I feel in no doubt that these power stations, by supplying electricity to aerodromes and enemy troops, and by allowing the industrial expansion of the enemy, and his re-armament, were being operated to the detriment of our war intentions.
§ Mr. Bevan
The United Nations addressed itself to this very fact and, because these power stations were being used not only by North Korea but by China and Siberia, they declared that we should not go beyond the frontier. This was not only about the power stations; there was a frontier zone. In this action, therefore, the American war machine has gone beyond the Resolution of the United Nations.
§ Major Anstruther-Gray
I follow the right hon. Gentleman's interest in words, but I urge him to face the fact that the 2275 build-up of the Communist forces has proceeded apace during the whole of the protracted 11 months of the armistice negotiations. The fact is—and I commend it to his attention—that according to the military leader on the spot, we have been told that some 2,000 Communist aircraft have now been assembled there and some 500 tanks. Under the threat of attack from that build-up, I find it impossible to criticise a military decision which seeks to strike a warding-off blow instead of receiving the whole weight and volume of that offensive.
I turn now to how we can ensure that we do not again find ourselves in the vexatious position of an action of this sort being taken without the British Government being informed. Could it be by having in Korea a second-in-command to General Mark Clark? That is not without attraction, but we have to face the fact that numerically our contribution to the Korean army is a small one compared with that of the Americans, and the doctrine that he who pays the piper has a right to call the tune, while rather out of fashion in this country these days, has still quite a following in the United States. I am not sure that the appointment of a second-in-command would be the best decision.
I wonder whether a position in some ways analogous to that occupied by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), now Minister of Housing and Local Government, in Algiers during the North African campaign, would possibly be the answer. I do not know that he himself should go; perhaps it could be the Minister of State, who has had the advantage of seeing Korea—it is now more than 20 years since I saw it—and who knows what are the attractions and disadvantages of that country. I think it is worth the consideration of the Government whether a Minister of State, not of military standing but with high tact and of Cabinet rank, could not, if he were resident in the Korean area, save us from just the kind of rather embarrassing complications with which we are faced today.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. David Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
It is very seldom that I have spoken on Far East questions or on foreign affairs at all, but I cannot sit in 2276 this Chamber and listen to some of the points of view that have been expressed today and remain silent. I feel I must explain my view- Looking around the Committee and some of the Members here, with many of whom I could not agree on any subject, I wonder why I should be silent when matters of such great importance are being debated—especially when I remember that my sons and brothers have had to go to fields of battle. What we are debating here today are exactly the same problems we had between 1914 and 1918—and I had dear ones at Festubert and Ypres. Considering all this I should be nothing more than a coward if I sat here silently.
Leaders may come, and leaders can go, but leaders must have people behind them to support them, and it is important today that in this Committee we should know where we are going—and where the leaders would lead us. In the old Roman days "Quo vadis?" was the cry. It is as essential today as it was then.
I want my hon. Friends to understand that I am not really concerned about what is said about me. After all, I am not looking for any position. No one could give me any in this Committee at my age. Therefore, what I say I say with all sincerity and with all my heart—particularly to those on these benches, to the Labour Party, which has a great heritage to sustain—something more important than what are merely political considerations and aspirations.
I heard someone today talking about politicians. What we want is statesmanship. We want statesmanship to be exemplified in the Labour Party, so that in the near future our party can take over and rule the destinies of this land. I am speaking from the point of view of unity inside the Labour Party. I do not believe in having little cliques and circles.
What was enunciated here today was clear and definite. The action taken was necessary. While I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) about many things of which he has spoken, I do say that it was essential that this debate should have taken place today on this important issue. But I would also say that we must not forget that debates are meant to settle matters, not to unsettle them.
2277 I have seen enough of the affairs of the continent of Europe—and I have seen my home broken up by war—to understand as many people in my area understand, the importance of avoiding another war if possible. The way in which some people are going on is not the right and proper way of pursuing peace, and is detrimental to the best interests of the peace of this country and the protection of all that we hold sacred.
I am surprised that we hear always so much about the other country and never anything about the land in which we live. I cannot understand that. I have talked before here about the "Cook's tourists"—the people who go to Russia, for instance, for a week or two," and then come back pretending to know all about the political movement there and the minds of the Russians and all the affairs of Russia. The thing is damnable and nonsensical; there is no logic or reason in it.
I sometimes believe that I am not living in a land of reason and of logic—a land of sane men. For many people words seem no longer to mean what they do —or what they used to do. I am careful to whom I speak nowadays lest the one I speak to does not understand me. Very often I do not understand the point of view of the other man. I find myself rather in an unique position—a position of solitude.
I hope that I shall not be taken to account for daring to intervene in a foreign affairs debate. It will be said— I know it will be said—"Why do you intervene on foreign affairs when you can jump up for five minutes any day and intervene and say what you like? But people can say what they like about me. In fact, as hon. Members know, I do not do that, but today I feel that I must, for I am visualising the homes in my city, of my family, and of families round about.
I say to the leadership of my own party that the sooner we get rid of this internal discussion and get down to building up the Labour movement and making it worthier of the people of our land the better it will be for us all. I do not mind thrashing our opponents; I do not mind having a go at the opposite benches and telling hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite what I think about them; but it is just as well to start telling some 2278 of our own hon. and right hon. Friends, too, where we are and where we are going.
In my opinion, a fatal mistake has been made, for there never should have been this attack without consultation with the British Government. However, I shall not say that to make the attack was an abuse of authority, because I do not know —and I do not think anybody yet knows —what really caused the action to be taken when it was. This much I do know, though, that if we put a military commander in command he must command, and must assume responsibility. Therefore, until we really know all about this we ought to be careful in our judgment.
We have no right to create false impressions in the country. It is all very well to use this Chamber for rhetoric but it must also be used for truth. Men and women outside must feel that this institution of ours stands for the interests of the common people of this country— indeed, of the world, for although our country's powers are more limited now than they were in the past, it is not less important, and, perhaps it is even more important than ever, for Britain to be among the foremost in justice and peace. We are living at a time when it is essential that men should be true to themselves and be true to each other.
We have warned the Americans. We have let them know what we think about the matter. The Foreign Secretary did so in a judicious manner in his explanation. The Leader of the Opposition has done so in the careful and moderate language he used today. We, having listened to both, have sound reasons for not misunderstanding or exaggerating the gravity of the position. What does it matter to me what anybody thinks about me? What does it matter about ambition?—for when one has a foot in the grave ambition goes. But it does matter if, sitting in this House, a man is a coward and is afraid to open his mouth because one or two others may express an opinion with which he differs but is afraid to say so.
I have some influence in some parts of this country. I want to tell some of the people that it is essential that we should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, that we should be able to understand where we are going and what we are fighting for. We are fighting for the betterment of our people, a higher stan- 2279 dard of living and greater knowledge. I have dared to state my mind, because I felt it was necessary. I am afraid of no one in this House, whatever may be thought of my opinions. I owe no apology to anyone. I stand here expressing the view that I have expressed before my God.
We are living in a critical period. The idle words that are spoken here can incite to war. Surely if the negotiators in Korea have spent 11 months dilly-dallying in trying to arrange an armistice, are we on these benches to condemn all and sundry because of an indiscretion by America? Would it not be better if the voices that are raised here were raised in quarters where they might be beneficial, to see whether an armistice could be obtained and peace for our people ensured? I want peace, and I want the people to understand that it is truth that will eventually count in the affairs of our land.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I am sure the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his plea for unity in the Labour Party—and I am sure the Labour Party will forgive me, too. I think Members will have listened with great interest and agreement to his plea that we should face as a united nation the very serious situation which confronts us.
I think that the explanations of the Foreign Secretary about the events of the last two days have considerable force. As I understand it, he does not pretend to be able to say why the attacks were made at this particular time. All he is prepared to do is to point out that these targets, or the great majority of them, were perfectly legitimate military targets and that bombing attacks of this nature have been going on for some time, presumably with the full knowledge of this Government as well as the American Government. He is also, I understand, very much aware of the demand in this country that there should be more consultation; and indeed we, and I would say other members of the United Nations, should have more say at the highest level in determining the political and, indeed, the higher military strategy of the United Nations.
2280 Where I found his speech rather less satisfactory was in regard to the future, because it seems to me that while he has an open mind on whether these attacks at this time were justified, and while he is exercised about the need of this country making its opinion more effectively felt, he did not, so far as I know, lay before the House any suggestion as to how this might be done and how our opinions might be made more effective, nor as to how similar decisions about possibly similar targets in the future might be reached. It seems to me that it is about the future that this debate must be largely concerned.
Two main questions have been raised in this debate. One concerns the particular attacks, and among them obviously the most important is the attack made on the power station that lies near the border, and secondly, there is the question of consultation. I personally would agree with those who say that as far as the military aspect of these attacks is concerned, neither I nor, I would have thought, any other Member in this House is in a position to say whether these targets were proper targets for attack. All we know is that they are targets of first class military importance and that we are engaged in a war of considerable ferocity in which targets of military importance cannot escape attack.
But, of course, the real crux of the matter is that these targets are invested with very considerable political as well as military importance at this time. We are engaged not in a total war but in a war in which we have accepted, I think rightly, very limited objectives. There is considerable opinion in the world that it is not possible today to fight a limited war.
I rather think that Lord Russell, a man who is neither very stupid nor very reactionary, would probably say that with modern weapons and in the state of political division in which we find the world today, it is total war or nothing. Indeed, for the last 60 years most wars on this planet have been conducted as total wars. They have been wars of people against people, and wars in which the victors have been out to establish their overall supremacy and in which the vanquished have expected slavery or something very like it. That type of war is obviously outside the scope of the 2281 operations undertaken by the United Nations.
I think it is of considerable importance that we should realise that this war in Korea is a war waged by the United Nations in defence, paradoxically, of peace, in defence of the freedom of a small country which has been attacked and, therefore, in the hope of preventing or limiting future attacks of a like sort. We know that the last Government and the present Government have accepted the limitation that they would not, except in extreme circumstances, carry the war beyond the frontiers of North Korea. I would certainly have said that if we like we have every excuse for carrying it beyond those frontiers. What the Foreign Secretary said about the use of aerodromes in Manchuria alone has given us at least a prima faciecase, if we put it no higher, for retaliation outside the frontiers of Korea.
But we have accepted these limitations as much in our own interests as in the interests of world peace as a whole. It is clearly in our interest that this war should be limited. It is clearly in our interest that we should find some way of living in peace with China in the Far East. I am perfectly certain that neither we nor the Americans want to have more and more of our resources drawn into that part of the world. But we have obviously to face up to the serious difficulties and limitations of trying to conduct a war which stops at a dead line.
It might have been more satisfactory to say that we would limit our effort to certain objectives. It might be possible to say that we would be content when the sovereignty of the South Korean Government had been restored over a certain area or possibly when troops were withdrawn from North Korea. In a sense we have done that, but we have also placed ourselves under the disadvantage that we cannot advance beyond the Yalu River.
Within Korea itself, like the Foreign Secretary, I do not see how we can accept the point of view that because other countries are supplied by power stations within Korea these stations are to be exempt from attack. That would seem to me to be carrying limitation to a point at which it would make the conduct of a war—and this is a war— virtually impossible.
2282 We must remember that, not only are our men fighting in Korea in defence of peace and liberty, but they are also accepting, presumably, additional casualties because we are not allowed to bomb the air bases from which they are suffering attack. As the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland, pointed out, we owe our men there a considerable debt, and we should take the greatest care that we do not unnecessarily hamper their operations.
Then we come to the second point, that of consultation. The very fact that we are accepting this limited war makes it all the more vital that we should have the very closest consultation at the top level where policy is decided. In the debate so far hon. Members have spoken very much as though the only thing needed was that the point of view of the British Government should be taken into account.
To my mind, it is extremely necessary that the point of view of the Commonwealth Governments should also be taken into account. In addition, we must always bear in mind that we entered on this war for the United Nations, and that is not an Anglo-Saxon preserve. It may be that its nature will alter and a more old-fashioned time of alliance may come about, but this is a war in which not only we and the Americans are concerned, but all the other constituent members of the United Nations.
Clearly, if there is to be consultation at high level representatives of different Governments must be taken into account. If the Foreign Secretary finds it difficult to devise a way by which the British Government can be represented, I am sure I should find it difficult to find a way by which, not only the British Government but also the other constituent member Governments of the United Nations could be represented. Nevertheless, my own feeling is that that must be done, and done at the political level.
It has been suggested that perhaps a second-in-command to General Mark Clark would be a solution. I, personally, think that that would be no solution. I have no objection to the command of the United Nations Forces being in charge of an American, a Briton, a Dutchman or a Turk if he is the best 2283 general to do the job. I quite see, though, that if 90 per cent. of the troops are American there is a very strong case for having an American general. But when it comes to the political decision taken on behalf of the United Nations' organisation, then we must try to work out some means by which, not only are we consulted before this sort of thing happens, but by which when action of this sort is taken it is taken as the joint action of all the Governments concerned.
I must confess, without being unduly critical of the Americans, that I think that on this sort of point their views and their methods differ from those of some other nations. I do not see that there is any harm in saying that. On all these questions of higher strategy, and on the border-line between politics and strategy, different nations have different approaches. Our experience in the last war was that the tendency of the Americans was to throw in everything once the objective had been decided.
I think nobody would deny that on certain occasions extreme military action, taken largely by the Americans and supported by all the Allies, had political effects which, looking back, we should probably liked to have avoided. I can see no harm in saying that, and I think we must insure that American methods and views, and their ways of doing things, do not completely override those of the other nations concerned in the wider political strategy of this war.
But the Foreign Secretary really told us the paramount considerations when he said, that, right or wrong, we are in a war with allies in defence of freedom of liberty—things for which we all stand —against an enemy who has had every opportunity for coming to terms if he wanted terms, who started the war in the first place and who has pursued it relentlessly for two years; and in those circumstances we will naturally support the Americans in any action which can possibly be supported. It is not for us looking back to break away from them and say, "Well, you have gone too far, therefore we draw aside." Nothing, in my submission, could be more dangerous not only to the unity of the Western world but to a decent and moderate policy in the Far East.
2284 Nothing, in my view, could be playing more into the hands of the extremists in America; and nothing would more strengthen the hands of those who support the MacArthur point of view who will say, "Look at our allies, the British and the others of the United Nations. As soon as stresses come and difficulties arise they leave you. You bear 90 per cent. of the burden while the fighting is hot and when, in defence of your own men, you take action of which they disprove they say, ' We take no responsibility for it'." I suggest that such a policy in this country would be absolutely untenable, and that both the unity of the Western world, upon which the hope of survival depends, and ordinary political decency demand that in events to date we support, and support wholeheartedly, the action taken.
But again I say, as the Foreign Secretary said, that that by no means prevents us from attempting to stop similar things happening in the future. It does not by any means release us from the obligation to make our views more generally known. Above all, it does not, in my submission, mean that we approve, step by step, of every action that has been taken. I feel on the case presented to the House, which is the only evidence I have to go on, that very likely it was a mistake to bomb this power station which happened to be near the frontier at this particular time when truce negotiations are proceeding.
But that having been done, the overwhelming case, in my view, lies with the United Nations, and with the Americans, on the side of freedom and order, and not with those who are either conducting this war for which they are responsible for starting in the Far East, or with those who are prepared to make this war an excuse for sowing disunity among the nations upon whom the hope of this world rests.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Hollis (Devizes)
I hope the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) will take it rather as a compliment if I do not follow him in detail, because I was largely in agreement with the argument he deployed though I shall have some passing references to make to one or two things he said.
I wish to return to an earlier speech, that of the right hon. Member for Ebbw 2285 Vale (Mr. Bevan), who I am sorry to see is no longer in his place. I do not think he can ever have made a more unhappy less satisfactory and more embarrassed speech than he made this afternoon. The difficulty he was in, of course, was that he wished to attack the policy of this Government and at the same time, if not to defend the policy of the late Government, at least to make a passable pretence that he agreed with things that he pretended to agree with some two or three years ago when he still held office.
Therefore, he pretended that there was a radical difference between the policies of the two Governments on the ground that the United States was now showing itself the defender of Chiang Kai-shek, and seeking for what he called an opportunity for counter-revolutionary action. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the policy of the American Government towards Chiang Kai-shek, the American Government, as everybody knows, made that declaration about its Formosan policy at the very moment when the North Korean invasion took place, and long before the right hon. Gentleman thought it necessary to sever his connection with the late Government.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
If the hon. Gentleman intends to attack my right hon. Friend, I hope he will attack him where he needs to be attacked. My right hon. Friend did not make his case on the difference of opinion with the present Government on the ground the hon. Gentleman has said. What he said— as I understood him, anyway—was that at the point at which the Americans decided to ask the authority of the Chiefs-of-Staff for bombing the hydro-electric plant on the Yalu River there was a change in policy.
§ Mr. Hollis
Our time is limited, and if the hon. Gentleman can wait I was coming to that point. I can only talk about one point at a time. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale started by making this general remark about American policy. It is perfectly true, as the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has said, that he came on to this subsequent quotation of the United Nations declaration in 1950 that it was their policy to keep the Chinese Korean frontier inviolate. If it had been the policy of the Governments of the United Nations now 2286 to attack the frontier just for the fun of attacking it, I agree that would have argued a very great change in policy.
But surely the change which has taken place between 1950 and now is not a change in the policy of the United Nations in the first instance, but the fact that whilst these truce negotiations are going on the Communist forces have seen fit to use these power stations as part of their defence scheme for building up a vast army of which there is the great danger that it may fall upon our forces and I cannot think that the soldiers in Korea would be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman if they learned that he advocates a policy in which we should do nothing at all to defend them until they have already been killed.
The right hon. Gentleman put forward his policy which was that there should be a political solution of the problem. I do not think that that is entirely original, although the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that it was so, and he thought that it was desirable that the fighting, in the first instance, should come to an end. We all think it desirable that the fighting should come to an end if that can be managed, and for that reason truce negotiations have been going on and are still going on and, difficult though they are, the difficulties are not on the side of the United Nations.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that a political solution is available and it was available, he argued, if we could persuade the Americans to accept the Chinese revolution, allow the Chinese Communist Government to join the Security Council and get the Americans to repudiate Chiang Kai-shek. There is something to be said for our urging the Americans to do all these things. They are debatable points, but there is not one shred or tittle of evidence that if they did them that would bring the Korean war to an end.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I hesitate, in view of the Congrevian inhibitions against doing so, but I think it might be of assistance to the hon. Gentleman if I remind him that in September, 1950, there were very active negotiations going on, and they looked at that time like being very profitable negotiations, for a political settlement of the whole matter at a meeting of the Security Council in New York, at which there were, in fact, Chinese 2287 representatives. Those negotiations broke down completely and wholly, and, I think I am right in saying, solely because of the American refusal to recognise the Government with which it wished to negotiate.
§ Mr. Hollis
If I may add to the hon Gentleman's literary repertoire the names not only of Congreve but also of St. Thomas Aquinas, I would say that what is asserted without evidence can be denied without evidence. He has raised an entirely different point which is quite irrelevant. I am extremely doubtful if these negotiations did break down on that point alone.
We all know, without debating or assessing the force of it, that there has been a vast active revolutionary Chinese policy throughout the Far East, but because that negotiation was said to break down on that one point, that does not mean to say that it did so of fact. What happened to Mr. Nehru's negotiations then at any rate has nothing to do with this particular point of truce negotiations at this moment. I think that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs dealt with that point very competently the other day when we had a debate about the United Nations special organisations, and I think that there is nothing more to be said about it, except that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale amused himself by making up this case for which there is not the slightest evidence.
There are three different propositions which we have to consider this evening. The first is whether this country should have more say than it does have in the affairs of Korea; secondly, whether this particular action of bombing these power plants was justified, and, thirdly, the general question of what are our objectives in Korea and how we hope to attain them.
I think that we should get our minds clearer if we try to separate these points from one another. As to the first point, I think that there is little to add to what the Foreign Secretary has already stated. I, for my part, am certainly strongly in favour of our being consulted as much as we possibly can be consulted so long as our troops are involved, but, on the other hand, I see clearly the difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman pointed out 2288 when the Americans have by far the greatest commitments there.
I agree that it is to be regretted that we were apparently not consulted over these particular incidents; and, as for the complaint of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) that the Foreign Secretary did not tell us the precise details of how we hope to be more effectively consulted in the future, I presume, although I am not in any Cabinet secrets, that the answer is that it is only a matter of courtesy to wait until the Minister of Defence and perhaps the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs have recovered their breath and recovered from their air sickness before we ask them to tell us what success, if any, they have had in negotiations on that point. I am strongly in hope that we shall get the maximum consultation that we can.
On the point as to whether this particular action was justified from a military point of view, I do not think that there can be any argument but that it was amply justified. The Leader of the Opposition condemned it on the grounds that it had brought us nearer to a conflagration and that it was a mistake in psychology. It is anybody's guess how these things will turn out. My guess would be that such actions will make a truce rather more probable than less probable. As long as the situation is that the Chinese are allowed to build up forces without anything happening to them, they have every motive for spinning out the negotiations for a hundred years, and I think that this will have increased the probability of a truce.
I think that what is important, and about which I am more disturbed, is the larger background—about what are our objectives in Korea and how we hope to attain them. It is clear today what we are fighting against, but it is, unfortunately, a great deal less clear what we are fighting for. It is perfectly clear that we are fighting against an active act of aggression.
Between the wars there were many people who made speeches about collective security, but when acts of aggression took place nothing was done, and so, when two years ago, we heard that the Communist North Korean forces had crossed the parallel there were very few people in this country who did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Mem- 2289 ber for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) when he pointed the contrast between the action taken now and the actions taken in the years before the war and claimed that the new policy would vindicate the principles of collective security and show to the world that aggression did not pay.
We supported that action not because most of us knew very much about Korea but because we told one another that this would vindicate a general principle and as a result there would not be acts of aggression elsewhere in the world, and the peace of the world would be brought more nearly to salvation. Most of us, I think, were very ignorant—I was myself until I met a very well-informed person that evening—of what was the military situation in Korea. We thought that the action would be a great deal easier than in fact it has proved to be. We thought that it would be something of the nature of a police action—something like a policeman arresting a criminal. As we know, it turned out to be far from that. It turned out, to begin with, that we could only liberate the South Koreans by a long war, and that to liberate a victim of aggression is a very different thing from merely defending him.
The battle ebbed to and fro up and down the peninsula, and then it was all complicated by the Chinese intervention, and people found it very difficult to see whence a solution could come. When the suggestion was made that there should be truce talks and there seemed hopes that we should be able to obtain a truce on honourable terms, which would, at any rate, prevent the force of aggression from remaining in possession of any territory which they had won as a result of aggression, everybody was delighted.
The first hopes were that the truce would be concluded comparatively easily. But it has not happened like that. The truce negotiations have petered along in this intolerable fashion until nobody can feel any great confidence in the sincerity of the Communist talkers and there is fear that they are playing for time in order to turn a bad military situation into a good one.
The Leader of the Opposition and others have talked about there being merely the one point of the prisoners standing between us and a truce. If we could feel confident that that was so most 2290 of us would feel inclined to add a compromise over the prisoners to the compromises we have made on other points; but can we feel any confidence that that is so? Are we not bound to fear that if we compromised about the prisoners some new difficulty would arise and that there really is no basis for the hopes of a truce?
In Southern Korea there are increasingly disturbing revelations about the nature of the regime which we are defending. When the attack first took place some people criticised President Syngman Rhee's regime, but most of us agreed with the argument used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South. He said, in effect, that it might not be a perfectly good regime but it was one elected under the supervision of the United Nations and presumably it could be changed and there could be another election if the regime was unsatisfactory. He said that it was not our business to say whether it was the best government possible. His view was that it was at least a free government and we should defend it against aggression.
That seemed a reasonable attitude, but now we find that President Syngman Rhee is apparently prepared to violate his own constitution, and our situation is a great deal more difficult. I do not entirely accept the criticisms about foreign statesmen with whom we have to work which sometimes come from the Opposition Benches, for they are occasionally difficult to reconcile with each other. Apparently when Dr. Adenauer does not wish to take the suffrage of his electorate that proves he is a very wicked man and a Fascist, though when President Syngman Rhee wants to take the suffrage of his electorate that also proves that he is a wicked man and a Fascist. What they are supposed to do I do not know.
The Foreign Secretary told us at Question time the other day that considerable Communist guerilla activities are taking place behind the lines in South Korea and that the military forces last April made over to the civil forces the responsibility for dealing with Communist guerilla forces. It is disturbing that that responsibility should be put on President Syngman Rhee and it is disturbing that he is apparently not dealing with it with too great competence. The situation we 2291 must confess, is a confused one and it is not very easy to answer in clear language what it is we are fighting for, and it is still less easy to say in clear language how it is we propose to attain what we are fighting for. There is reluctance to extend the fighting if we can possibly avoid it, and there is the difficulty of seeing how we can win without extending the fighting.
The hon. Member for South Ayshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) would simply cut the cackle and take the troops away. That is a point of view, but those who are not prepared to take that point of view, whether on this side of the House or the other side, have a very grave responsibility, if they are going to ask British troops to remain there long with the troops of other nations, to provide them with conditions in which they have a reasonable hope of survival and a reasonable chance of victory.
If it were merely a question of Korea doubtless there would be a very great deal to be said for the argument of merely evacuating the country, but it is by no means merely a question of Korea. This was put before the world as a test case of the virtues of collective security. Just as it would have been a test case of the virtues of collective security if it had been easily successful, so obviously it will be a test case of its virtues in the reverse situation. If the whole expedition should prove a failure and we should evacuate Korea, in the Far East particularly and all over the world people would decide that the machinery of collective security was incompetent and it was no good to rely upon it, and that the Communist ticket was the winning ticket and that they must make such terms as they could with the Communists. No one can doubt that, apart from the Korean consequences, the whole world consequences would be disastrous.
On the balance of the arguments—I do not think this is seriously disputed in the House—we are certainly compelled to go on with the Korean campaign, and if we are compelled to go on with it, we are also compelled to win it. I wish I had a very much clearer impression than I have of the views of Her Majesty's Government about how we are to win it. There seems to be a great danger at present that the truce talks will be bogged 2292 down and we shall enter into a "Hundred Years' War." We must have some scheme for bringing the war to an end. If we can have a truce in the immediate future, that will be the best method. If we can bring the war to an end without extending the warfare, that will be very good.
But I should not talk too much about not extending the warfare. Who can tell what we shall be compelled to do? Although we do not want to extend it, there is no point in telling the Chinese that, whatever they do, we shall no nothing in return, for nothing is less likely to make them reasonable. I should say comparatively little to the Chinese about what we will not do to them, for that will not help us win the war.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), in replying to what I intended to be a helpful intervention, referred to St. Thomas Aquinas. I never understood how many angels could dance on the point of a needle, nor why anybody wanted to find out.
I should have followed the hon. Gentleman's argument with much greater sympathy if his speech had consisted only of its third portion in which he dealt— I thought, very conscientiously and honestly—with the important question: What do we want out of this war and how do we propose to get it? I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman will think it malicious or impudent if I suggest that no nation in the world and nobody in it, has the right to support for a single moment any modern war with modern weapons, with all that modern war with modern weapons involves, unless he has a very clear idea indeed of what it is that he is fighting for, unless he is very sure that what he is fighting for is worth what the world is paying for it, and unless he is satisfied that it can be done in no other way.
When the hon. Gentleman says, "I do not know what we want out of the war, I have no idea how we are going to get it, and because I do not know and because I have no idea we should, therefore, go on fighting and make sure that we win"——
§ Mr. Hollis
The hon. Gentleman puts in the word "because." What I said 2293 was that I hope to be told clearly by the Government what the position was, but to say that because I have no idea therefore we should go on fighting, is an entire travesty of my argument.
§ Mr. Silverman
I extend my humble apologies to the hon. Gentleman and withdraw. He said that he did not know what he wanted out of the war, and he did not know how to get it. He said that we ought to go on with it, and I inferred that he was implying some connection between those three statements. If he says that he was throwing them out as an intelligent contribution to the debate he is entitled to do so, but it still remains true that the hon. Gentleman does not know what he wants and does not know how to get it, but is in favour, nevertheless—not "because"—of going on with the war and making sure that we win it. I say that that, in a world sense, is an immoral and asocial point of view.
At the beginning of June, 1950, with great reluctance I admit, I supported the then Government in their declaration that they would accept the decision of the Security Council and intervene in South Korea to repel what was held up to be an established act of unprovoked aggression. That was a very definite objective. On the resolution of the Security Council we knew what we wanted. We knew, on that resolution, that the case for it had been established. It was part of the whole basis on which the United Nations was organised—that aggression should be prevented if it were committed by one nation against another by the collective action of all the rest.
I have come to think since—and I believe I am not alone in so thinking— that the facts on which the Security Council based that resolution were certainly incomplete, and possibly in some respects fraudulent, and that the whole action that was founded on it was based on a deliberate attempt to deceive.
§ Mr. W. Nally (Bilston)
That is possibly one of the most important things that will be said in this debate, and we must have no misunderstanding about it. As my hon. Friend says, he speaks for a number of other of my hon. Friends——
§ Mr. Nally
—and he is saying, in effect, that he is now revising his judgment and 2294 that he regards the original decision of the Security Council as having been wrongly conceived, because the evidence before it on subsequent examination has proved not to have been justified, and that the war going on in Korea is wrong, that it was wrong at the beginning and is wrong now, and it ought to be ended now.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not going to attempt to anticipate what the verdict of history may be upon that war.
§ Mr. Silverman
I cannot anticipate it, because I do not know.
What I am saying—and I am sure my hon. Friend will accept it as a fair and honest answer to his question—is that I thought in June, 1950, that the facts were clear and established. Today, I do not know whether the facts are clear and established, and what was clear then seems to be unclear now. I think what has been established since is that a number of important facts that were relevant to that decision were deliberately withheld from the Security Council. I think that that has been established, but I do not want to go into it at this stage.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not want to be led into that aspect of the matter at this stage, but since this question has been mentioned I have to explain my reluctance to deal with it. I do not think that this is an occasion for an analysis of the reasons for the start of this war. What the people in this country and all over the world are interested in at this moment is not how it started, but how to stop it. Since the hon. Member asks for some of the facts which I have in mind I will mention just one, and I beg him not to press me again on this question at this stage.
The one I would mention is this. The Security Council, this House and the world were all led to believe that the facts which established the unprovoked aggression by the North Koreans were facts established by a United Nations Commission on the spot. It is now known—and I think it is not in controversy at all—that that was not the case, 2295 that the United Nations Commission on the spot—indeed, the first telegram on the whole matter rested on this—never purported to be doing anything more than to detail to the Security Council what the Syngman Rhee Government had told them, which is a very different thing. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Certainly, that is so.
I apologise for increasing the length of my speech by speaking on this subject but I was pressed about it, and I hope no one will grumble if my speech is a little longer now. I did not want to deal with it, and I was dealing, when I was interrupted, with the point made by the hon. Member for Devizes, which is a good point.
It may well be true, and I still think it is true, that peace in the world, unfortunately, cannot be established by pure pacifism; I wish it could; but it could be established by the genuine rule of law, and by a genuine collective system acting without political prejudice or taking ideological sides, but acting only to prevent aggression by anybody upon anybody, with the knowledge that no single nation however mighty, will ever be strong enough to withstand the combined might of all the others.
That is where we started. Provided that the facts had been right—and I do not question them for this purpose; I have indicated my own doubts about them— I suppose that the House was right in its virtual unanimous decision to support the United Nations in the war. I have always held, and I think it is now clear beyond further argument, that the moral validity of the United Nations' action was wantonly cast away when the limited objective for which we had entered the conflict, namely, the repression of aggression, had succeeded and the aggressors, if they were aggressors, forced back beyond the 38th Parallel.
All our troubles today and all those difficulties with which the Foreign Secretary was concerned in his speech today would not have arisen—he may not altogether agree with this, though I suspect that at times he has his own doubts about it—if we had not gone beyond the Parallel in September, 1950. Many of the difficulties with which we are confronted today arise directly out of, and are indissolubly connected with, our 2296 going beyond the objective which we knew, and entering a realm where, as the hon. Member for Devizes quite rightly said, we do not know where we are going what we want, or how to get it.
What is the relevance of that to the present situation? My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said that, ultimately, we could not deal with this situation except by a political solution and that we had to deal with the political issues before we could get peace either here or in the Far East. I am sure that he is right about that. I do not want to be mischievous, but I remember that in July, 1950, some 22 of my hon. Friends joined with me—my right hon. Friend was not one of them because he was at that time a Member of the Government—in putting down a Motion about Korea. It contained the suggestion that my right hon. Friend was making this afternoon, that we had to deal with the political issues and get them settled. Curiously enough, it contained precisely the five points which my right hon. Friend recommended to our consideration this afternoon.
I see my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) sitting behind me. Again, without wishing to be mischievous. I remember that I was bitterly attacked for having put that Motion down in an editorial article in "Tribune." I am bound to add that, with its usual courtesy and generosity, it offered me immediate space to reply to the article, and I availed myself of the offer.
If we are having a very limited action, which was then described as a mere police action—the hon. Member for Devizes said that he hoped it was correctly so described—in order to defeat and to repel an act of aggression which, if it had been allowed to go unrepelled must necessarily have involved the peace of the world, then we have to accept certain political and military limitations upon what we are entitled to do. It is not true that the collective action of the United Nations, in a military sense, has ever been as uninhibited as the action of any single nation or of any ordinary orthodox alliance of nations engaged in a war.
Otherwise, we would have the paradox that collective security, agreed to by the majority of the nations of the world in order to prevent war, would have become 2297 merely a system to make certain that every act of hostility was immediately converted into a world war. Instead of being a weapon for the avoidance of war it would become a weapon for the extension of war. That is why those limitations were placed expressly by resolution of the United Nations upon the things that we were entitled to do.
One of the things excluded was an attack, any attack, upon this zone in North Korea which had industrial and other importance for Manchuria, and, indeed, for Siberia, too. It was the violation of that which brought China into the war in the first place. It must be remembered, when we now talk about China committing acts of aggression, and about the resolution branding them as aggressors and about not admitting them into the United Nations because they are acting otherwise than in accordance with its principles, that they did not come into the struggle at all until we had violated the very limitation which, by the United Nations' own declaration, we had no right to violate.
§ Mr. Silverman
To the resolution of the United Nations which was quoted in detail by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Gentleman is always intervening in debates about foreign affairs, and I am not complaining. About this particular matter he made an intervention yesterday which brought a well-deserved rebuke from his own leader. If the hon. Gentleman is going to take part in debates of this kind he ought to equip himself with a basic minimum knowledge of essential facts instead of interrupting other people's speeches in order to find them out.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Reading, North)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the courtesy of letting me make an intervention in his speech. What is the 2298 evidence on which he bases his assertion that the Chinese would not have invaded North Korea when they did? I am asking it as a military matter. Is he seriously suggesting that a military offensive, with the number of men and material that were engaged, was only arranged and brought into effect so as to arrive simultaneously with our going over the frontier? Must it not have been the result of weeks and months of preparation?
§ Mr. Silverman
I will answer the hon. Gentleman's intervention briefly, though to do so will inevitably lengthen my speech. These are among the basic, elementary facts that hon. Members of the House, called upon to express a responsible judgment about matters that might involve the final fate of civilisation and of mankind itself, ought really to have inquired into.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not making any assumptions at all. I am stating well-known facts. [An HON. MEMBER: "How do you know?"] It may be that some hon. Gentlemen opposite assume that everybody who speaks on our side is lying. If they make that assumption, then the answer is that I do not know at all. The evidence I am relying on is the repeated declarations of the Chinese Government itself, prior to the intervention. The evidence does not rest only on their declarations.
It rests on the fact that they were not in the original attack in South Korea. It rests on the fact that they did not intervene when we crossed the 38th Parallel and on the fact that they did not intervene until we got actually to this area which we had declared, by resolution of the United Nations' Security Council, we would not enter. At that point they did intervene, and they drove us back.
The hon. Member opposite who interrupted me asked whether I thought they could have done that without prior preparation. I think no such thing. Of course, there must have been considerable prior preparation when they saw what was happening, and having regard to the fact that when the Japanese invaded Manchuria so long ago, with all that that involved for the history of the world, they 2299 did it exactly through this Korean Peninsula.
The Chinese would have been guilty of great negligence to their own people if they had not been prepared for anything of the kind happening. They intervened, and they drove us back, and we went back; and they sent our prisoners of war home, released them. They withdrew their forces back beyond their own frontier. But we were not satisfied. We misinterpreted their withdrawal. We said, '"Oh, they were only making a gesture, they did not mean business." So we went back again, right to this point, and then they came in and stayed in.
This makes a formidable case in favour of the proposition that I put before the Committee: that but for our violation, not merely of what was right and proper, but of what we ourselves had declared to be the limitations upon our actions, the Chinese would never have been in the war at all.
§ Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)
Assuming that we were wrong—I do not assume that, but the hon. Gentleman was rather assuming it—does he suggest that two wrongs make a right? If we merely approach a border does he suggest that the enemy are right in coming over the border? As one of the other side of the Committee, I suppose he supports that argument?
§ Mr. Silverman
I am only saying—and I commend it seriously to the attention of the hon. and gallant Member, who is a distinguished and loyal soldier—that they did nothing in those circumstances which any other nation in the world, including ourselves, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman, would not have done in the same circumstances.
§ Brigadier Clarke indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot have it both ways. One of the troubles in all this is that the United Nations have been endeavouring throughout to have it both ways. They have been endeavouring to say at one and the same moment that China ought to hold herself bound by the whole system 2300 of collective action, submerging to a certain extent her own sovereign right to determine her action and to act according to international law, merging that in the collective action of a number of nations united in the United Nations organisation. We have been asking them for two years to act as if they were bound by that proposition and, at the same time, have been refusing to admit them into the collective organisation by which we hold that they ought to be bound.
My hon. Friend makes a great deal of play of the fact that China would not have entered the war unless certain things had happened, including our violation of the frontier. Does he seriously believe that when the war began in Korea the Manchurians, the Chinese and the Russians were not backing North Korea in the attack?
§ Mr. Silverman
My hon. Friend is tempting me into a much wider field than would be in order and I will not follow him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] Do not say that; I can easily be provoked into doing so. The point is that China was exercising in its own discretion, in its own right as a sovereign Power in international law, in its own interests, the right to protect the power stations without which the whole of Manchuria could not live, and only protecting them in the area which the United Nations itself have said it would not attack.
§ Mr. F. Macleanrose——
§ Mr. Silverman
No, I think the Committee will acquit me of being reluctant to give way. I have been on my feet a long time and even my speech must come to an end at some time.
The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hopkin Morris)
Order, order. It is undesirable that there should be all these interruptions of a speech. Many hon. Members want to take part in the debate and it 2301 is much more satisfactory that hon. Members should make their own speeches when they are called.
§ Mr. Silverman
I was dealing with the question of whether the Chinese would have intervened and the point I was making was that the United Nations, by its resolution, had deliberately exempted from the area of operations these areas precisely in order to do everything in its power to localise the conflict and to prevent it from becoming world wide or even being extended in the Far East.
This brings me to the point in the speech of the Foreign Secretary with which I want to deal. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman thought there was anything improper in my intervention. It was not intended, and if it embarrassed him in any way I am sorry. However, I judged from his reactions that he was not quite so embarrassed as he would have liked the Committee to believe. What he was saying was that these were military targets, that they were, therefore, legitimate objectives, and in view of their importance to the enemy and in view of their danger to us, nothing could be said against attacking them.
But they had been there all the two years. They had been there all the time since the Chinese intervention. They had been there all the 10 months of the armistice negotiations. They were there at the time of the United Nations resolution to which I have referred repeatedly. All the considerations that the Foreign Secretary advanced have always been part of the argument. They did not arise yesterday or last week or last month. They have been part of the struggle since the beginning of the conflict. Yet, in spite of that, we did not attack until two days ago.
The question which the right hon. Gentleman has conspicuously failed to answer is why, having failed to attack such legitimate military objectives for the whole of the two years, and at times when it must have been very tempting in view of our military fortunes to attack them, we should now have thought it proper to attack them at a moment when only one point, and a small point, and a point on which there is considerable doubt whether we are right, prevents the signing of an immediate armistice. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] But the right hon. Gentleman did say so.
2302 There is no doubt that this attack took place for the first time when we were on the eve—but for one point which the right hon. Gentleman told the House he was hoping to see solved—of an armistice. That moment was chosen for the attack on these excluded areas and excluded objectives. Surely this is a change of policy and a change of policy at the wrong time and a change of policy from the right policy to the wrong policy; and it is done without any consultation.
The right hon. Gentleman says he regrets the lack of consultation and then he goes on to say, "Nevertheless we support it." The right hon. Gentleman grumbles because one intervenes to ask, "If you regret a thing why do you support it?" He explains, after rather indignantly protesting against being asked such a question at all, that when he said he supported it, he did not mean that it was right, he only meant that since it had been done it was better not to quarrel about it now. This seems to me to be the most perilous statement I have ever heard a Foreign Secretary make.
That is saying to our Allies in the United States of America, "We would rather that you consulted us. We regret it when you do not. But if you do not consult us and if you then do something of which we do not approve, even though the result of that may be to land us in a world war which we are all trying to prevent, nevertheless rather than quarrel with you we will support you." That is exaotly what the Foreign Secretary said. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is exactly what he said—"We support it because it has happened and because we do not want to quarrel with our Allies."
Suppose that after the result of the impending United States Presidential election General MacArthur should become Secretary of State, and suppose that he retains the view which he held at the time when he was dismissed, and suppose that he then, without consulting us and relying upon our loyalty to support him in whatever he does afterwards, extends the war into Manchuria or into Siberia or anywhere else. Is the Foreign Secretary saying that rather than have any row about it, we will support such action?
There were no limitations on the right hon. Gentleman's statement this afternoon. He said, "We must support this because it happened. I am sorry that 2303 they did not ask us first." That is a very dangerous thing. If the Foreign Secretary did not mean to go so far— and I suspect he could not possibly have meant to go so far—I hope that, in the interests of our relations with the United States of America, whoever replies for the Government at the end of the debate will take very great care to see that the necessary limitations upon that unlimited statement are quite clearly made.
It seems to me that no one could have supposed that to take this moment to do a thing which, by reason of its peril, we had avoided doing for two years, was really doing it in the interests of limiting the conflict. Some of us suspect that it was done for much more irrelevant considerations not altogether divorced from the fact that a Presidential election is going on in the United States of America.
I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side, in view of the speech by the Foreign Secretary and by the general impression that was to be derived from it—not merely that we will never quarrel with whatever is done, as long as it is done first and we are faced with a fait accompli; and, secondly, that there was nothing very seriously wrong in making this attack at this time—will vote very clearly and strongly against the Government at the end of the debate tonight.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Fitzroy Maclean (Lancaster)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) in order to clear up the point which I wanted to clear up while he was speaking but when he was not so accommodating as to give way.
§ Mr. Maclean
The hon. Member did not give way to me and he did not answer the specific question. All that I wanted to ask him was the date of the resolution to which he and his right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) referred. It is very important.
§ Mr. Silverman
It may save the hon. Member some time if I tell him that the date was 30th November, 1950.
§ Mr. Maclean
If that is the resolution to which the hon. Member was referring, I do not think it can be regarded as 2304 binding on us or on anyone else. In the first place, it was a draft resolution. Secondly, it was vetoed by the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. Silvermanrose——
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member refuses to give way because he knows that that explanation is really a deliberate swindle.
§ Mr. Maclean
I suspected that there was a swindle when the hon. Member did not give way—I could not attribute his refusal to give way entirely to bad manners.
In this debate there are two main questions to be considered. The first is whether it would be a good thing if the United Nations Commander had informed us of his intention to carry out this large-scale bombing. Even though the United Nations Commander had the authority to carry out such an operation without prior consultation, it seems to me a pity, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary intimated at the beginning of the debate, that we were not informed, especially when there were so many opportunities for us to be told. I hope that this debate, which I welcome, will lead to improved liaison and that better arrangements for keeping us and the other Governments concerned informed will be made. If it secures that, our time will not have been wasted.
That, however, is not the real issue that we are discussing.' The basic issue is whether the decision to carry out this particular bombing raid was right. I must say I have been very much surprised by the attitude of some hon. Members opposite yesterday and today on this issue. I am convinced that they want peace; I am convinced that everybody in the Committee wants peace. Why should anybody want war, especially anybody who has had any experience of it? But I cannot help feeling that hon. Members on the other side have been so carried away by their detestation of hostilities and warfare that they have forgotten why we are in Korea at all. And, I cannot feel that the remarks of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne have helped very much to clear up that particular issue.
2305 We are in Korea thanks to a very courageous decision which was taken by the last Government. I think they deserve the highest credit for having so promptly taken the decision to follow the lead given to them by the United States. We are there in order to halt aggression and to support collective security. That is why we are there today, in spite of what anybody says. And that is why this bombing raid on power installations in North Korea has been carried out.
If we accept that aggression is an evil and that it has got to stop, then we must accept the means of stopping it—and strategic bombing is one of them. That, no doubt, is why the Leader of the Opposition, when he was in office agreed in certain eventualities to bomb targets not only south of the frontier, but even, in certain cases, north of the Chinese frontier.
§ Mr. Maclean
I maintain that a hydroelectric installation is as good a military target as an aerodrome.
§ Mr. Attlee
That may be so, but if the hon. Member was quoting what the decision of the Government was, it related to the specific case of large-scale attacks by the enemy air force from airfields in Manchuria and that those airfields might be bombed. I am not quarrelling with the hon. Member, but as a matter of fact that was the decision.
§ Mr. Maclean
I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I was using this example to illustrate that if one is trying to put down aggression one has to take these decisions, and I was giving that as an instance of a decision, again a very courageous one if I may say so, which was taken by the late Government. We cannot go into these things with one hand tied behind our backs. As the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said, by the restraint they have imposed upon themselves up to now the United Nations Forces in Korea have undoubtedly run the risk of incurring additional casualties which they would not otherwise have run.
Some hon. Members opposite take the line that these raids cause frightful destruction, that they go very near the Chinese border, and that they are therefore very likely to upset the Chinese and 2306 the North Koreans. I must say, I hope these raids will upset them. That is what bombing is for. It is meant to upset people. It is meant to make them think twice whether aggression pays, whether it is worth committing further acts of aggression or worth going on with an act of aggression already committed. That is why we bombed the Germans and the Italians and the Japanese.
What I cannot understand is that hon. Members opposite grasped this principle then, when it was a question of dealing with Fascist aggressors, but cannot grasp it now when Communist aggressors are involved. I think there were some who did not grasp that in order to punish aggression one had to have armed forces.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devon-port)
Is the hon. Member now repudiating the whole policy of a limited war, which hitherto has been supported by both sides, and trying to substitute the policy of unconditional surrender, which we assumed in respect of the last war?
§ Mr. Maclean
I am not repudiating anything of the sort. All I am saying is that if you want to stop aggression you have to accept the means of stopping it. The specific point I was trying to make was that many hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot), were extremely censorious in 1938 and 1939 about the policy of appeasement which was followed by the then Government. I am not going into the merits or demerits of that now, but if they felt that way about aggression then, why do they feel differently about it when it is committed by a Communist country?
Hon. Members opposite have advanced another argument. They say that this bombing may upset the truce talks. If that were true, it would be very much more serious. If it were going to prolong hostilities, I do not think anyone would want it. But I am not for the moment convinced that it is going to have that effect and that it will aggravate the situation. What has been happening is that the Chinese Communists, for nearly a year, for a considerable portion of which the late Government were in power, have been spinning out these negotiations on one pretext or another.
As the Foreign Secretary said when he spoke just now, we have made one concession after another and always the 2307 other side have found some reason for not coming to agreement. As we have accepted one stipulation, they have thought of something else. And that has gone on until it is only natural that one should begin to assume that they are doing it for some ulterior motive. That assumption is very much strengthened by the fact that during the whole of this time they have been building up their forces in Korea and Manchuria on a most enormous scale. [An HON. MEMBER: "So have we."] Not to the same extent.
§ Mr. Maclean
It is reassuring because we have air superiority, amongst other things, and because we are now prepared to use it. But the fact remains that they have built up on a very much larger scale than we have and started doing so much sooner. Now, one cannot let them go on indefinitely. There is every reason to suppose that they are doing this because they want, at some moment most convenient to themselves, to launch another offensive with all this accumulated strength. It would not be fair to our troops in Korea to let them do that with impunity.
§ Mr. S. Silvermanrose——
§ Mr. Maclean
I am sorry, I cannot give way; we have only a minute or two to go.
I do not know for certain whether I am right about this or not; I lay no claim to infallibility. But it seems to me, and I have had a certain amount to do with Communists of one kind and another in my time, that a display of strength at present is more likely to discourage further aggression and accelerate the conclusion of an armistice than any amount of appeasement. We shall see what happens. We shall see whether the bombing attacks produce the results which hon. Members opposite have said 2308 they will and whether they do immediately aggravate the situation or do not; whether there is now a large offensive or whether it is nipped in the bud.
But one thing we have learned from past experience is that strength is the only thing these aggressors, whether Fascist or Communist, can understand, the only thing that will deter them. That, after all, is why we are re-arming. We are not re-arming because we want war. We are re-arming because we want peace. And I should have thought there was a certain amount of agreement in the Committee on that issue. That is why I welcome the resolute action which has been taken by General Clark, although I must say that I deplore the fact that he did not inform us of his intentions in advance.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Nally (Bilston)
I think that on both sides of the Committee it is obvious from the speech of the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. F. Maclean) and from the speech which preceded it on this side of the Committee, that whatever may be the difference between us— whether this difference be horizontal or vertical—there is a feeling of sadness and sorrow that it should be even necessary to hold this debate at this time, to hold it in special circumstances in which we lack a great deal of information, but to hold it because there is on both sides of the Committee a sense of grievous disquiet about some recent happenings, particularly the happenings of the past three days in Korea.
I am fully conscious that there are many other hon. Members who want to speak, but I invite the Committee to consider the background of this matter. There really must be no misunderstanding—
§ It being Seven o'clock,The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN left the Chair, further Proceeding standing postponed until after the consideration of Private Business set down by direction ofThe CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 7.(Time for taking Private Business.)
§ Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.