§ 3.34 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)
I am grateful for this opportunity to give the House some account of the Geneva Conference. I propose to outline the sequence of events, and to describe the position now reached at the Conference. I shall also say something of the background against which our actions must be judged.
The House will recall that the Conference was convened by the Governments of France, the United States, Soviet Russia and ourselves in accordance with a resolution which was adopted in Berlin on 18th February last. Its purpose, in the words of the communiqué, was to be that of reaching a peaceful settlement of the Korean question and to discuss the problem of restoring peace in Indo-China. This political Conference on Korea followed many months of patient work at the United Nations in which my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State played a conspicuous part. So far as Indo-China is concerned, the main credit for the Conference being arranged at all belongs to M. Bidault, then Minister of Foreign Affairs of France.
429 Of the two tasks entrusted to the Geneva Conference, that concerning Indo-China has been the more urgent, if only because war is being waged in that country, with all its attendant perils. The interest of the French in a peaceful settlement in Indo-China is direct and obvious. They are themselves involved in war. But our concern is also pertinent. We have both responsibilities and friends in South-East Asia, and I have seldom known a situation in which the risks of a wider conflagration should be more apparent to all. We have, therefore, very good reasons for wishing this Conference to succeed.
This was the responsibility which the Berlin agreement, to which I have already referred, laid directly upon us. We have, in fact, done everything in our power to get agreement. This has involved quite a lot of work and patience, both before and outside the Conference.
In our discussion of the Korean item—if I may begin with that—I must reluctantly report to the Committee that we have made no real progress towards reaching a settlement. All that can be said is that we have brought out more clearly than before the real issues of principle which have divided the two opposing sides.
The Committee will have seen the White Paper which contains the main speeches and documents about this part of the Conference. The purpose of my first speech on Korea, which is quoted on page 46 of the White Paper, was to try to get the Conference down to the business of negotiation after the opening set speeches had been made. I there set out the common ground which appeared to exist between all parties at the Conference, and sought to analyse the major differences.
The points of agreement were, first, that Korea should be unified by peaceful means; second, that elections should be held throughout the country; third, that conditions should be established for the withdrawal of foreign forces; and fourth, that the eventual settlement should be safeguarded by appropriate international guarantees.
But we were, and we are, divided on the methods to be employed to give effect to these principles, and in the subsequent 430 meetings, after much discussion, it became clear that these differences were very deep and were not to be reconciled. Therefore, in my speech of 11th June, I concentrated on the two main issues which the course of the debate had brought into sharp relief.
Attacks had been made by the Communist Powers on the authority of the United Nations because the United Nations had intervened in Korea to resist aggression. It was said on that account that the United Nations had lost its authority to help in promoting a settlement. The United Kingdom delegation replied that we rejected that contention.
The second important issue was free elections. We insisted that the first step towards uniting the country must be genuinely free and effectively supervised elections. The Communists put forward proposals, the effect of which would have been either that elections would not have been held or that they would not have been free. Those Communist proposals about elections had certain specious attractions, and I think that the Committee should have an explanation why we could not accept them.
The North Korean proposal of 27th April provided for the withdrawal of all foreign forces as a first step. Then an all-Korean commission was to be set up, composed equally of members from North and South Korea, which would prepare and carry out elections throughout the country. This method of approach, the Committee will recall, is very similar to the Soviet proposals for the unification of Germany which were put forward in Berlin. What would have been the inevitable result? It can be very simply stated. It is quite impossible to believe that the two halves of the country unreconciled after three years of bitter war and in the 'vacuum created by the withdrawal of foreign forces, could ever reach agreement on anything of importance to either of them. That, I believe, to be the reality of what must have occurred.
Later, on 22nd May, the Chinese delegation proposed, as a supplement to this North Korean plan, the appointment of a neutral nations supervisory commission to assist in the supervision of elections. It was made plain at the same time, though, that this neutral supervisory commission was to be composed of representatives from Poland and Czechoslovakia, 431 Sweden and Switzerland in the same way as the commission for the supervision of the armistice in Korea.
Experience there has taught us that a commission composed of representatives of two Communist States and two real neutrals simply does not work. The neutrals are neutral and the Communists are Communist. That is all that happens. The result is that a supervisory commission so composed cannot possibly achieve anything.
On 5th June Mr. Molotov put forward a draft resolution, but it was an essential part of his proposal, too, that we should agree to the same machinery. It was in those circumstances that the representatives of the 16 nations who contributed forces to the United Nations Command in Korea once again consulted together, as we did frequently during the Conference. We decided unanimously to present to the Conference the declaration which will be found on page 100 of the White Paper.
Though we have failed to reach agreement to unite Korea, the offer to continue negotiations remains open. But the two principles upon which we must insist still stand and will, I hope, be upheld by the House. These are the authority of the United Nations and the holding of genuinely free elections. Meanwhile, the armistice remains in force. The results of the Conference will now be reported to the United Nations—that is in accordance with the General Assembly's resolution passed last August. But it is still the view of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom that the United Nations cannot expect to settle the Korean question without the agreement of China as well as of the two Koreas.
Now, I shall speak of Indo-China. The story is an intricate one and I apologise to the Committee for that fact. A most encouraging feature of it from our point of view has been our intimate co-operation and consultation with the other Governments of the Commonwealth. Australia, New Zealand and Canada were all members with us of the Korean Conference. We were most grateful for their help and advice on Indo-China as well as on Korea. I was myself particularly indebted to my three colleagues, Mr. Lester Pearson, Mr. Casey and Mr. Clifton Webb.
432 Although our Asian partners in the Commonwealth were not represented at the Conference, we were able to keep in constant contact with them at every stage of our work. This also was quite invaluable to us because, in my view, there will never be any real security in South-East Asia without the good will of the free Asian countries. If peace is once restored in Indo-China, then I believe that these countries will be willing to take their part in supervising and guaranteeing the settlement. If so, there will be a good chance for that settlement to last. If also we succeed in negotiating some form of permanent South-East Asia defence organisation, it will not be fully effective without the understanding and support of the Colombo Powers. These thoughts have been much in my mind during the many discussions which I have had about South-East Asia over the last two and a half months.
I must now ask the Committee to allow me to give a brief account of these discussions—if only to enable me to correct one or two misconceptions which have established themselves in certain places. I have seen it suggested that the possibility of creating a united front of anti-Communist Powers in South-East Asia has been in some way prejudiced or delayed by the attitude of Her Majesty's Government. The facts are these.
There is no dispute that on 13th April Her Majesty's Government stated that they were ready to take part with the other countries principally concerned in an examination of the possibility of establishing a collective defence in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific. The House was so informed. But the membership and the method were also important, and neither was then decided. Nor do I see how they could have been, since the French Government—whose views on the matter were clearly of importance—had still to be consulted. It was agreed in London that if a question were asked about the membership I should reply that this was a matter for further consideration. In the event, I was not asked. However, in a reply to a supplementary question in the House on the same day, I said that the effective outcome of this examination of the possibility of establishing a collective defence would be greatly influenced by what happened at Geneva. Neither then nor 433 later was any criticism made to me about this reply.
When, therefore, I learned that an initial gathering of a number of Powers was to be held in Washington on 20th April, it seemed to me that this fact must inevitably prejudge the question of membership at the outset, and I thought it important not to do this. I said so, and the meeting was accordingly transformed into one of the Powers concerned with the Korean Conference. I think that I should add that at no time in these proceedings did this much over-publicised misunderstanding extend to our relations with the French Government who were, of course, deeply concerned and who have shown, in their public as well as in their private declarations, a full understanding of our position.
I hope that we shall be able to agree to an international guarantee of any settlement that may emerge at Geneva. I also hope that it will be possible to agree on some system of South-East Asian defence to guard against aggression. In other words, we could have a reciprocal arrangement in which both sides take part, such as Locarno. We could also have a defensive alliance such as N.A.T.O. is in Europe, and, let me add, such as the existing Chinese-Soviet Treaty provides for the Far East so far as the Communist Powers are concerned
That is the kind of plan that should develop. These two systems, I admit, are quite different, but they need be in no way inconsistent. My belief is that by refraining from any precipitate move towards the formation of a N.A.T.O. system in South-East Asia, we have helped to create the necessary conditions in which both systems can possibly be brought into being.
Here let me say something else. The idea of a pact for South-East Asia and the Pacific is really not a new one. It has been canvassed for many years in the past by myself, amongst others, and, I know, by other right hon. and hon. Members of the House. It is quite wrong to suppose that it suddenly sprang into the light of day a few weeks ago, fully armed, like Minerva from the head of Jupiter. It really was not so. Its relevance to current events must not be exaggerated. It could be a future safeguard, but it is not a present panacea.
434 During our discusions is became increasingly apparent to us that some preparatory work was, in any event, required at once
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way, as this is a rather vital matter? It is a very important issue, and we cannot brush it aside. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman a direct question, and it is this. Was our Ambassador, Sir Roger Makins, telephoned on 18th April and told not to attend the talks with Mr. Dulles and others on the phrase "United action in South-East Asia"?
§ Mr. Eden
When the hon. Gentleman studies what I have said, he will find that that point has been clearly covered. I do not want to go back on my words and I should not like to improvise on them, but I thank the hon. Gentleman will find that that point has been covered. I considered that a meeting of the particular kind that was then proposed might have prejudged the membership. That is why I said that it should not take place.
During our discussions it became increasingly apparent that some preparatory work had to be done at once, and it seemed essential that a military study should be made of all the possible situations which might arise in South-East Asia on the various possible assumptions about the success or failure of the Conference. As a Five-Power staff agency already existed which included the United States, Australia, New Zealand, France and ourselves, with terms of reference which covered South-East Asia, I thought that the military representatives of these five Powers should meet as soon as possible to examine the various situations with which we might be faced, but of course without any commitment to the Five Powers.
This was the best contribution, in my judgment, that could have been made towards organising "united action." These proposals were accepted by the other four Powers, and they began in Washington on 3rd June. As a result of these discussions, we shall be better equipped for any decisions we may be called upon to take.
Her Majesty's Government have also been reproached in some unofficial quarters for their failure to support armed intervention to try to save Dien Bien Phu. 435 It is quite true that we were at no time willing to support such action, for three reasons which seemed to us to be good, and still do. First, we were advised that air action alone could not have been effective. Secondly, any such military intervention could have destroyed the chances of a settlement at Geneva. And thirdly, it might well have led to a general war in Asia. I should add that we have at no time been reproached by our French allies for our decision, in spite of the fact that the burden of it fell upon them.
I now turn to the actual discussions on Indo-China at Geneva. The section of the White Paper which deals with this part of the Conference is shorter than that dealing with Korea, and I apologise to the Committee because it is not complete, since many of the sessions about Indo-China took place in private. These discussions have been long and extremely complicated, but I do not think that anyone who has studied the question could have expected anything else.
For instance, at the very outset we had to decide what we were to discuss and who was to discuss it, because we realised that the Vietminh had to be invited as well as the great Powers and the three Associated States of Indo-China. But we were not prepared to prejudice the negotiations by admitting representatives of the so-called "resistance Governments" of Laos and Cambodia. Fortunately, this request for their presence at the Conference was not maintained.
Then we were also able to agree fairly early in the proceedings that we would discuss, first, how to bring the fighting to an end, which seemed to us the most urgent task, and later how to devise a political settlement, which is the topic which all international conferences always so greatly enjoy.
Our next task within this accepted framework was to isolate the subjects for detailed discussion, and I can assure the Committee that this was far from easy because even drawing up an agenda for only this part of our work required concessions at every stage by one delegation or another.
In a war without any clearly defined battlefront we had first to seek ways of separating the opposing forces. For this 436 we had to bring about, if we could do it at all, detailed military discussions. Eventually everyone agreed that representatives of the opposing commands should meet for this purpose, but that was only a part solution of our problems, because after that the difficulty was to agree who these commands were and what principles should guide their discussion.
The Communists argued that the French command should negotiate with the Vietminh and with the so-called resistance movements in Laos and Cambodia. They also wanted the military representatives of the two sides to discuss plans for regrouping the opposing forces in all three States, thereby implying that the fighting was of the same character in all three States. These proposals seemed to us to ignore the legitimate Governments of the three Associated States, and they took no account of the fact that in Laos and Cambodia the Vietminh were foreign invaders. But after much discussion the Conference accepted the proposal which the United Kingdom put forward on 29th May.
This provided that military talks should begin with Viet Nam, and left open the arrangements to be made later for Laos and Cambodia. Representatives of the commands of France and Viet Nam on the one hand, and Vietminh on the other, accordingly met on 2nd June, and their discussions are still going on. I hope that they will soon submit to the Conference detailed recommendations for the separation of the opposing forces in Viet Nam and for their concentration in clearly-defined areas.
This was an important advance. It allowed the parties directly concerned, for the first time since the Conference began, to get to grips with the practical problem of ending the fighting in Viet Nam. Thereafter we had two other main issues upon which to concentrate. The first was the question of supervision for the whole of this fighting and the second the cessation of hostilities in Laos and Cambodia. Everybody accepted the need for supervision; there is no dispute about that. The difficulty was to decide who should perform the supervision and how they should perform it. The Communist delegations, as the Committee would expect, proposed an arrangement modelled on that of Korea. This would have given 437 the main responsibility to joint committees on which the two military commands would have been equally represented.
They also proposed an international commission comprising representatives of India, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Pakistan, but that commission would not have had any authority over the joint committees. These proposals inspired very little confidence in the remaining delegations. It seemed to us that joint committees of that kind would be useful only as long as there was no disagreement between their members—and after eight years of fighting that seemed a rather improbable proposition on which to base our work. To avoid deadlock we thought that the international commission should have powers to arbitrate and powers to resolve the differences as they arose. That, in turn, meant that we must have a genuinely impartial commission, and it must be able to reach decisions by a majority vote.
For that purpose the United Kingdom proposed the five Colombo Powers—Burma, Ceylon, India, Indonesia and Pakistan. That proposal was supported by the United States and by France. But we could not get agreement on this difficult question of supervision, nor was it possible, for a long time, to make any progress towards practical negotiations about the other two countries, Laos and Cambodia. The Communist delegations refused to admit that a Veitminh withdrawal was an essential condition for the restoration of peace in these two countries, nor would they recognise that these two countries had independent Governments enjoying the support of their peoples.
Repeated discussions in restricted session produced no results and were followed by three days of sterile and often acrimonious debate, in plenary session, from 8th to 10th June. On the last of these days I felt compelled to set out our differences in detail and to issue a warning that if they could not be resolved it would be the duty of the Conference to admit its failure. There followed an interval without formal discussions on Indo-China.
Negotiations were resumed at the beginning of last week in a better atmosphere. The eventual outcome was the agreement reached by the Conference on 438 19th June. This provided for meetings between the military representatives of the two sides for Laos and Cambodia. Their purpose is to bring about an armistice. The military commands will begin their examination by studying questions relating to the withdrawal of all foreign armed forces and all foreign military personnel from the two States. Therefore, the present position is this: There are three sets of military discussions either proceeding or about to begin. One is for Veit Nam, which has been going on for about three weeks, and the other two are for Laos and Cambodia. All three have been asked to report to the Conference at the latest by 10th July. It will then he for the Conference to pronounce upon their work.
Once this had been agreed, we thought there was little purpose in the Foreign Ministers themselves staying at Geneva, but it was understood among us before we left that we would consult together as soon as the reports of the military representatives were received. We would then decide about our return to Geneva in order to complete the work of the Conference. I, for my part, am ready to go back if by doing this I can make any contribution to peace. Meanwhile, the Conference itself continues in session.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
On a matter of clarification, can the right hon. Gentleman explain what is meant exactly by "foreign personnel" in relation to Laos and Cambodia? He may have seen that there was some discussion in this morning's "Manchester Guardian" concerning a dispute between us and the Americans on this point.
§ Mr. Eden
The terms of the communiqué are that they shallstudy the questions relating to the cessation of hostilities on the territories of Cambodia and Laos, beginning with the question concerning the withdrawal of all foreign armed forces and all foreign military personnel….The hon. Member will realise that these are terms of reference to allow military contacts between the two sides. It will be for the military contacts to work out, if they can, a solution of these matters, but, whatever their proposals may be, those proposals have to come back to the Conference for its approval. Therefore, nobody is now committed to the outcome of these discussions. All we have done is to make it possible for the 439 two sides to meet upon these terms of reference. If we had not done that there would have been no meeting at all.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the word "foreign" includes the French?
§ Mr. Eden
It might certainly be held to do so, but I think the fair answer to give would be that this is just one of the matters that can be argued out in these meetings. The Committee must face the fact that in a document of this kind we can hardly ask one side to give the whole of their case and the other side to give none of their case. What I think this document fairly does is to give the staffs and commands an opportunity to talk to each other. If, as there may well be, there is a will for agreement behind these talks, they can reach it. If there is no will to reach agreement, they will not, but at least we have given them the chance to meet and I am absolutely sure that we were right to do that.
Before I close, I should like to give the Committee some personal reflections about the Conference. I know there are many Members of the House who are familiar with conferences, but I think this one had many peculiarities. The mechanics of the Korea part of the business worked smoothly, with the three Chairmen, Mr. Molotov, Prince Wan and myself taking turns in the chair, and the secretarial arrangements for Korea also worked well. But with regard to Indo-China the position was very different. We got over the difficulty about the chairmanship by agreeing that Mr. Molotov and I should alternate. Because many of the meetings were secret, a great part of the work of arranging and deciding on the agenda fell inevitably upon the two Chairmen. I should like to pay my personal tribute to Mr. Molotov for his help in settling these procedural matters: indeed, it is a fact that unless we had kept in the closest touch the Conference simply could not have functioned at all.
A further complication in connection with Indo-China was the absence of normal diplomatic relations between a number of the countries who were represented at the Conference. That position is quite unique in my experience, and I devoutly trust will never be repeated. 440 Someone had to provide a channel of communication, even at the risk of being called a "Municheer," and if no one had provided a channel of communication we should very soon have been completely stuck. That task fell to the Chairmen: there was no other way of doing it.
There is no doubt that one result of the Conference has been an improvement in Anglo-Chinese relations. This has already had a number of consequences of which the Committee is aware. I was glad of the opportunity to meet Mr. Chou En-lai. The contacts between the two delegations in Geneva were undoubtedly of value. I know there has been criticism of them in certain quarters, but in my opinion they have already proved of benefit to this country and a real contribution to peaceful co-existence, which is still our aim and object, with every country.
I have spoken about the Commonwealth. Throughout the Conference we also had daily contacts with our United States and French allies. Our consultations were in fact continuous. For many weeks General Bedell Smith, whose distinguished military record and disinterested services to both our countries are highly valued by us all, was the leader of the United States delegation. We worked closely together, and not even sensational rumours, of which there were one or two, ever affected, I am sure, our co-operation.
As the Committee knows, the Prime Minister and I will take advantage of this interval in the work at Geneva to accept the invitation of the President of the United States to visit Washington. We are very glad to be going again to discuss in freedom and frankness, as is our custom, the many problems which we have to face together. On my way home from Geneva I was glad to have the opportunity of meeting M. Mendès-France, the new Prime Minister of France, in Paris. He has courageously pledged himself to seek a settlement of the Indo-China question within a month. I feel sure that the Committee will wish him all success and will welcome the fact that he is to meet Mr. Chou En-lai today.
But final agreement at Geneva will not depend upon us and our allies and associates alone. It should be clear to all that the hopes of agreement would be 441 jeopardised if active military operations in Indo-China were to be intensified while negotiations for an armistice are proceeding at Geneva. If this reminder is needed, I hope that it may be heeded. If it is, then I think that there is a chance—I do not put it higher than that—there is a chance that, with continued patience, these long and difficult negotiations will produce an acceptable result. Any agreement reached must, of course, do more than simply bring the fighting to an end, urgent though that is. It must pay regard to the wishes of the peoples of Indo-China and to the legitimate rights of France. Such an agreement, if we can get it, will provide a basis upon which to build the security of South-East Asia. But it will do much more than that: it will greatly strengthen peace throughout the world.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
The Committee is greatly indebted for the very clear and informative statement of the Foreign Secretary, and particularly, I think, its latter stages in which he gave us those personal impressions, for although he was good enough to circulate the speeches made at the Conference, because those speeches seemed so often to be made for effect, for restating positions that everyone knew about, one really did not gather much of the atmosphere of the Conference from them.
I think that everybody is indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for the efforts that he has made at the Geneva Conference. Certainly one had the impression that here was a matter where the personal efforts of the Foreign Secretary had wrought a great deal. I was also pleased at what he said with regard to Mr. Molotov, for I think it was quite clear that Mr. Molotov also worked for the Conference to succeed.
I do not think any of us underrate the difficulties that face a Foreign Secretary at any conference. He always has to start off with the difficulties of people who say "No" all the time. I think that in these days that is particularly true. The right hon. Gentleman said that he was able to work very cordially with the French. It is difficult these days when French Governments seems to have such a fugitive life. One hopes that 442 M. Mendès-France may succeed, but I think it is right that we should say to our French friends how sad it is that when we want France to take her rightful place in the world this eternal breaking down of the Administration does frustrate all our efforts.
The right hon. Gentleman has to deal also with our American friends, and he is going over to America. I have no doubt that, as he says, there will be some frank speaking. I must say that sometimes it is awfully difficult to understand just what the American line is, as between what members of the Government say and what senators say, and sometimes what generals and admirals say. I am quite sure that this journey to Washington will be useful if we can get a rather more coherent view.
The right hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out what our interest is in this matter. Our interest is simply to get such conditions in Asia as will enable its various peoples to develop harmoniously as free nations taking their full part in the world. This Conference was concerned with two vital matters. One was Korea, which, after all, manifests the determination of the world to stop aggression. We all regret that further progress has not been made there. The other was Indo-China.
Indo-China is rather a different matter. Indo-China I would describe as part of the process of bringing to an end obsolete colonialism. I think it is right to realise that from the point of view of Asia. We witness in our day the rising up of the nations of Asia, and now we have this very, very difficult task of trying to get them their right positions in the world and to prevent the kind of things arising in Asia that have arisen in Europe. I think the most notable thing, perhaps, about this Conference is that it is the first Conference in Europe in which the real rulers of China have taken part.
It is really a farce still not to recognise the present Government of China as the effective Government of China. The right hon. Gentleman said how difficult it is to have a conference when people do not even recognise each other. I am hoping that soon the realistic approach to China will be made by other nations, including in particular our American friends. I think the real obstacle to a settlement in Korea is the failure to recognise the 443 Chinese position and to allow China to have her proper place in the United Nations. Reading the Chinese speeches at Geneva one can see, when they talk about the United Nations, that the Chinese will not accept this or that from the United Nations because they are excluded from the United Nations. If China were in the United Nations, I think we might get a greater acceptance of the kind of provisions set up for demilitarisation, armistice and all the rest of it, but as long as China is obstinately kept outside the United Nations, she always and inevitably regards that as a hostile bloc.
I think it is quite obvious today that there is no question of a military victory in Indo-China. There has to be a settlement. I think there was a considerable advance in some of the statements by Chou En-lai in recognising that there was a different position in Viet Nam from that in Cambodia and Laos, and I am quite sure that the right line, with all the difficulties, is to press for free elections under proper conditions in both Korea and Indo-China, our object being an all-round settlement.
I regard as perhaps the most important part of this Conference the contact which has been made with the Government of China. I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman stressed the point of the close contact which he had had with and the help which he had had from our Commonwealth friends, because I believe that is a vital factor in the whole situation. When one looks at Asia one sees stretching right across, in the north, the influence of Chinese civilisation, but in the southern belt one sees the influence of Indian civilisation, which goes right across, through Cambodia and out through Indonesia. I do not see any reason why there should be a clash between those two civilisations. What we ought to be aiming at is a modus vivendi in Asia. The right hon. Gentleman struck a hopeful note. It is no good being over-sanguine, but there is a hope, because in every one of these countries there is the most urgent need for them to apply themselves to their own domestic problems, particularly by raising their standard of life.
One hears about Chinese imperialism. There is a danger. There is always a danger that a flushed nationalism may turn to imperialism. We saw recently that 444 they have 603 million people to look after. Surely that is enough for any Government.
I am quite sure that the key to many of the problems of Asia lies in keeping in close touch with our Indian friends. I was attracted by the idea which was hinted at by the Foreign Secretary of a kind of Locarno in Asia, an all-in pact, not with two great blocs lined up against each other but a kind of security pact among all these countries of Asia so that they should avoid what happened so often in Europe—the tearing up of the whole continent by war. The true interest of all of them obviously is peace. I say again that there is the prerequisite of a proper appreciation of the position of China.
May I say a word or two about the pending visit to Washington of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary? They can both be assured that they go with the good will of all the people of this country. I particularly welcome the fact that the Prime Minister has said that they are not going on a fixed agenda. Necessarily, detailed points will arise, but I think that here is an occasion for taking a broad sweep of the whole horizon of the problems facing the world.
I hope we may clear up some differences in point of view. I do not think we ought to be at all ashamed about the fact that we have differences in point of view with the United States of America. Partly, those are historical; partly, I think, they are geographical. I do not think we often realise how America feels about the fact that, from her Pacific Coast, she is facing what may be another great insurgent land mass. But I am quite sure that from the American point of view an Asia which is peaceful and joined in a pact is a far safer defence than any outside barrier of islands. It is a different conception. One can quite understand the position. We must try to enter into the American point of view and, equally, they should look at our point of view. I hope we shall get a union of minds on that.
One thing which I hope will flow from that is some approach to the question which we ventilated in the House the other day—that of a talk, also, with Mr. Malenkov. I should like to see that take place here in London. After all, it is a very central situation. Why should we always have to go abroad? I think the 445 right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister is fully entitled to be host. It would be an enormous advantage if in this country, in the centre of the Commonwealth, fixed between those two great land masses, there should be a meeting of at least the three—perhaps a wider meeting, but at any rate of the three—leaders of their countries at the present time to deal with those vital questions—I will not elaborate them again—which lie at the back of so much of the fear which obsesses the world.
I do not want to say any more, but I hope that in the course of any reply which is made today something will be said about the position in Central America, which is causing a good deal of disquiet in many minds.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
We have listened this afternoon to a very great speech from the Foreign Secretary. As we heard that earnest, straightforward statement, he left it to our imagination to understand the tremendous amount of work and thought which must have been undertaken by him and his colleagues at Geneva. We know that he has not spared himself in an all-out effort to bring about peace and an agreement which might bring a long and fair peace in Indo-China and in Korea and ultimately, perhaps, in the whole world.
There was a time when we feared that the Conference would end not only without any agreement but also without even any step being taken towards an agreement, and as far as we can judge it was due to the Foreign Secretary alone that the Government of China were willing to stay and to talk. Without the friendly approach and friendly attitude of the right hon. Gentleman, I doubt whether Mr. Chou En-lai would have made any proposals of any kind.
I am sure it is the desire of all of us to treat those proposals—as, indeed, they have been treated by the right hon. Gentleman—with genuine good will. We hope that all countries will do the same and will not look at them with deep and abiding suspicion. We should not begin our negotiations with China by fearing the Chinese, and still less by fearing them when they make proposals or bring gifts. By his efforts, by his friendliness and by his good nature, the right hon. Gentle- 446 man has won for himself a unique position, and we are sincerely grateful to him, as, indeed I think are all countries. Peace is indivisible, and we know that if war persists, even in a small area, it has a tendency to extend beyond that area so as to involve the whole world.
I do not wish this afternoon to enter into details. I think that it would be unwise to do so, when negotiations are going on and the position is so delicate and so fraught with danger. But I have to mention one matter. Unfortunately, the plan for E.D.C. seems very near abandonment. I believe that safety lies not in national forces but in international forces.
Undoubtedly there have been divergences of opinion between the United States and ourselves, and I believe—and believe it without a shadow of doubt—that our attitude towards the Chinese Government and the Chinese people has been the more correct. We could not go on ignoring 500 million people and their Government, however much we might disagree with that Government or the way in which it obtained power. It is the Government and it does control, and control directly, the destinies of 500 million people—one-fifth of the people of the globe. It is dangerous to pretend that the Chinese Government does not exist, and exist as a Government.
At long last, thanks to a large extent to the right hon. Gentleman and his work, our patience has been rewarded, and not only has Mr. Chou En-lai attended the Conference, made proposals and taken part in the debates, but now, at long last, we are to have China represented formally and legally in this country. That is a most important step which China has taken towards a better understanding. Now we are seeing this being followed by meetings between Mr. Chou En-lai and the new Prime Minister of France and with Mr. Nehru. I hope that these meetings will lead to better understanding, and also that they will lead to two other steps which have just been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.
If we are to achieve peace, and achieve it by the road of reason and not under the avalanche of war, then two steps must be taken. One is that the Government of China should be recognised by all, including the United States of 447 America, and, secondly, that that Government should take its proper place in the councils of the United Nations. We know, of course, the sacrifices that the United States and its people have made, and we appreciate and respect their feelings. Let it be remembered, however, that we also have made gerat sacrifices in two world wars and also in Korea, but we have learned that it is necessary to go on living with and working with our past enemies, although they have cost us irreparable loss.
One thing is quite certain—no peace can be assured in South-East Asia, as the right hon. Gentleman has himself emphasised to us, unless there is concurrence in any action and any agreement with the Governments of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon. They are the people most nearly concerned, and any action, however well-intentioned, taken against their desires will not only be harmful but might have very dire results.
There is a Motion on the Order Paper which seeks to congratulate the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on their action in journeying to America for consultation with the President. I myself do not think that this is enough. They deserve more than our congratulations; they deserve, especially the Prime Minister, our most sincere and grateful thanks. I am sure that the proposal for the meeting initiated with him, for he made the suggestion last year, or the year before, when, unfortunately for him and for us, and unfortunately for the whole world that is hungering for peace, his health broke down. It is a noble enterprise which he is undertaking, and one which, at his age, is fraught with considerable risk. It is an enterprise, if I may say so, not only on behalf of this country and its people and the Commonwealth, but on behalf of humanity. I certainly believe that his true, real and great ambition has yet to be achieved—that he should take a hand not only in the designing but in the building of the permanent Temple of Peace.
The right hon. Gentleman has gifts which are rarely granted in any generation to us very ordinary mortals. Hon. Members on all sides of the House, in all parties, and people not only throughout the country and Commonwealth, but throughout the world, realise how much depends on him, on his great knowledge. 448 on his experience and on the high standing which he has in the respect and affection of all men. We await anxiously, but at the same time we await hopefully, the result of his great efforts.
Whether the Geneva Conference will end in agreement or disagreement, we do not know; but whatever be the outcome of Geneva—agreement or disagreement—the free countries must keep together. We know the need for unity—unity of purpose, unity of thought, and unity of action—between ourselves, the Commonwealth and the U.S.A. I think that it is apt here that we should quote the words of President Eisenhower in a memorable speech which he delivered in London on 3rd July, 1951, when he said:This unity of ours in fundamentals is an international fact. Yet, on more than one occasion, it has been obscured in Britain and in the U.S.A. by concern with trifles and small disputes, fanned into the flames of senseless antagonisms. May we never forget that our common devotion to deep human values and our mutual trust are the bedrock of our joint trust.In connection with that, we feel that there should be on record the great words used by the Prime Minister himself in his speech the other day. They ought to be not only on our records but known in Russia, in the United States and, indeed, everywhere. He said:Humanity stands today at its most fateful milestone. On the one hand, science opens a chasm of self-destruction beyond limit. On the other hand, she displays a vision of plenty and comfort of which the masses of no race have ever known or even dreamed. We in the West know which we would choose, but, also, that we can only reach it at the price of eternal vigilance. While persevering at great sacrifice and cost in building our military strength, we must never lose sight of the importance of our peaceful and friendly prime aim, namely, the settlement of our differences with Russia.The Prime Minister spoke on behalf of us all. Settlement by reason and agreement and not by war—that defines our position and expresses the earnest wish, I believe, of all peoples. That is the policy of Britain. I feel that we are on the eve of momentous events, which we all hope may lead, not only to better understanding, but to permanent peace.
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary set out on this journey as missionaries not only on behalf of the people of this country but on behalf of ordinary people everywhere. In all reverence I, and I am sure all of us, wish them god-speed.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
The Committee has listened with immense interest to the account given by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary of the Geneva Conference. The Conference got off to an unpromising start; and it is due to my right hon. Friend more than to anybody else that it has survived until today.
Mr. Dulles, still talking of American intervention, marked his disapproval of the whole affair by walking out at the beginning; and Mr. Bidault, buoyed up to some extent by hopes of American military support, avoided direct contact with Vietminh in the opening days. And so, as my right hon. Friend has hinted, he was the sole link at that time between the Communist and the Western worlds.
The hopes inspired by Mr. Dulles were soon to be dispelled, because a short period of reflection in Washington induced him to lay down fresh conditions for American intervention. These were, first, that other nations which had an important stake in the area went along with him; that the United Nations gave any intervention its moral support; that the purpose of any action should be the defence not of colonialism but of liberty and independence; and, last but not least, that Congress should approve that action. This was a somewhat different tune to that which he had played a little time before.
I want to add my tribute to those that have been so rightly paid to the Foreign Secretary's achievement at Geneva. All the time the Vietminh forces were going on from one military success to another; and in the circumstances it really is nothing short of a miracle that he was able to keep the Conference going, and finally to achieve a positive and substantial measure of progress. We cannot say that it will succeed, but we have got a definite advance, and my right hon. Friend did it single-handed. But for him, the Conference might not have lasted, and certainly would never have made any advance. I know of no comparable diplomatic achievement during the past 25 years.
Truth to tell, American policy during recent weeks has not been very helpful. I do not think it does any harm to tell the 450 truth in these matters, although perhaps it comes much better from back benchers, who are generally held to be comparatively irresponsible. I think, as between friends, that it is a good thing from time to time to state quite bluntly the differences of opinion that exist. So I might as well point out that, first of all, that the Americans were originally opposed to negotiations of any kind. They did not really like the Geneva Conference at all. The next thing they did was to ask us to intervene in what might develop into a major war in order to retrieve a military position which, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out, had already been lost. Having thus raised false hopes in France of American intervention in Indo-China, they proceeded to deny them; and this led directly to the fall of the Laniel Government
Finally, when, under strong pressure from my right hon. Friend, the Communists at long last did put forward constructive proposals for a compromise, they were described on a Tuesday. I think it was, by Mr. Bedell Smith as "restrained and sensible," and two days later by Mr. Robertson as "unreasonable and unacceptable"; although, in the interim, there had been no change in the proposals. It is this sort of thing that gives rise to doubts as to whether the Americans really want a peaceful settlement of any kind. And I am quite sure that expression should be given to these doubts in this House.
What is the cause of the trouble—the trouble which the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are going straight over to Washington to face? I suggest that, once again, Walter Lippmann has got to the root of the matter—he has been writing, as hon. Members know, very well lately—when he says that the root cause of the trouble is the division within the United States Administration between those who think that it is necessary and desirable in the long run, and preferably in the short run, to make war on China; and those who want to contain the expansion of Communism without precipitating a third world war. Both those groups are to be found within the American administration.
We have listened with increasing dismay to a babel of conflicting views from the other side of the Atlantic—for example to Admiral Radford, who is 451 known to believe that a war against China is ultimately necessary but who, in Walter Lippmann's words,cannot be the military leader of a coalition because he wants to go places where nobody in Europe, no great power in Asia, and mighty few Americans are willing to go along with him.Nevertheless, he remains the principal military adviser of the President.
We have also listened to what can only be described as conflicting statements from Mr. Dulles himself. We have listened to Senator Knowland saying that we are an undependable ally and that the United States will have to go it alone"—that was his phrase. On the other hand, we have listened to Senator Kefauver saying that intervention in South-East Asia is unthinkable without the united support of the British and South-East Asian countries concerned. And, last but not least, there was a most significant speech by Senator Johnson, of Colorado, in the Senate the other day, in which he said:Whether every one of the 24 million people of Viet Nam is a Communist or whether not one of them, is not the question …. What is to be accomplished by sending 10 American divisions there to make them live as we want them to? … Have we so completely lost our perspective, have we so willingly denied the legitimacy of our own birthright, that we demand this war? What kind of people have we become?It is therefore not altogether surprising that, when we listen to all these formidable, authoritative and conflicting voices from the other side of the Atlantic, some of us are apt to become a little confused.
Nevertheless, I think that through the confusion—through the fog, if you like—some definite conclusions can easily be reached. What are they? First, surely, that there is no chance, under existing conditions, of organising a united front for a preventive war against China. We could probably all agree about that; and I believe that the great majority of the American people would agree with it; because, despite all the verbiage, we ought not to forget the great Jeffersonian tradition which has put that great country on the side of peace for the last two centuries.
The second conclusion is that, in these circumstances, we must surely continue our efforts to negotiate, first, a truce, and then a political settlement. The third is that we must surely recognise that we 452 are no longer negotiating in this affair from strength. We are negotiating in the aftermath of a considerable military defeat, and also in face of the fact, which is not denied by them, that in Viet Nam, as against Laos and Cambodia, the French do not have popular support; and you cannot win a civil war without popular support. We shall therefore have to face the necessity of compromise. But compromise does not, in this case, mean surrender or anything like surrender.
I want now to say one word about M. Mendès-France, who seems to me to be the key man, more even than Mr. Dulles or my right hon. Friend at this juncture, because he represents the only Power that has fought, is fighting, or seems likely to fight in Indo-China. He is the man who represents that Power; and, therefore, upon him rests the primary responsibility for the decision which will have finally to be taken.
I think that M. Mendès-France is a great man. The more I have followed him—and I have followed his activities very closely for the last few years—the more deep has my admiration for him become. During these post-war years he has played very much the same rôle in France as M. Reynaud played before the war and, on a less cataclysmic scale, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister played in this country before the war.
M. Mendès-France has been the warning voice on many issues, domestic, economic and foreign. It is a voice to which I have often wished that the French Assembly had paid more heed. He has now been given a great chance; and I am quite sure that we should give him all the support and help that we can. For one thing is surely clear: Neither this country nor the United States has the right to prevent the termination by negotiation of a war in which we are not ourselves prepared to fight. That is really getting down to the guts of this question. We have no moral right to do anything to prevent a settlement by negotiation of this war, unless we are ourselves prepared to send ground troops in to fight. And we might also bear in mind that we need a strong France in Europe more than a weak France in the Tonking Delta.
I was very interested to hear my right hon. Friend mention the possibility of a pact for the defence of South-East Asia; 453 and draw the distinction which he did, and which I thought was sound, between a Pacific pact for the defence of British. American, Australian and New Zealand interests, covering vital strategic points in South-East Asia, and a comprehensive South-East Asian pact which should include India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma. There is a great difference between these two. I think we want both; but if we continue, as do some of our American friends, to confuse the two, we may get neither.
We are in fact on impregnable ground. I would remind the Committee of A.N.Z.U.S. It was the first Pacific pact, and when it was negotiated the then Labour Government asked if we could go along and we were told, "No, just wait a hit." Then the Prime Minister suggested that it might be a good thing if we were associated with it. There was a further pause, and we were then told that our attendance at that party was not desired. Therefore, we are in quite a strong position in regard to A.N.Z.U.S.; and we can say to our American friends that if they would now like us to come along, and if they invite us in polite terms, we will certainly consider joining it. That is a fair point. On the other hand, there is no use giving guarantees under a South-East Asian pact to countries which do not want them; and we must be quite sure, if and when we embark on negotiations for this that we have the approval of the countries in South-East Asia such as India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma.
I must turn for a moment to E.D.C., a subject which was mentioned by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). I have many faults, but I never say, "I told you so." So I will content myself by reminding the Committee that I have told the House and the Assembly at Strasbourg for the last three years that this was really no go. Once again I find that I have been right and many other people have been wrong. But this, as I have often said, is no new experience for me.
Incidentally, it is amusing and rather characteristic that the Labour Executive should have come flat out at last in support of E.D.C. two days after it has been finally buried in Paris. Their interest 454 in E.D.C., I think, has been governed more by domestic than by objective considerations.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Without expressing any opinion on the merits of E.D.C., because that would lead us into a very long prolonged debate, may I remind the hon. Gentleman, in order to correct any misunderstanding, that at two annual conferences of the Labour Party the proposals for E.D.C. were carried by large majorities.
§ Sir R. Boothby
I was only referring to the latest pamphlet, which is the strongest expression from the party opposite in support of E.D.C. that I have seen.
§ The Prime Minister (Sir Winston Churchill)
Does not my hon. Friend think that it is a rather fine thing on the part of Members of this Committee and members of former Governments that they should adhere to great acts of policy in which they have been concerned even after they ceased to be responsible, even if there is no popularity to be got out of them? I have paid compliments to those who have gained a great deal of help and support from Dr. Adenauer and have not cast acts of faith away as if they were worth nothing.
§ Sir R. Boothby
I am not at all adverse to Governments sticking to policies which they have adopted, but I am quite sure, and I have always taken this view, that a much better solution of the problem of European defence would have been if the Labour Government of the day had associated themselves at the very outset with the project for a European army. They refused to participate in the discussions which led to the formation of E.D.C.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. Again I do not wish to enter into the merits of the question, but there are varying views. In point of fact, the proposal for E.D.C. came originally from the French delegation at the conference in Washington several years ago and was eventually accepted by the Labour Government. From the Government Front Bench Mr. Ernest Bevin and myself, as Minister of Defence, and from the other side of the House the Leader of the Opposition supported the idea.
§ Sir R. Boothby
I have this matter very fully in my recollection, and what happened was this. The French Government produced a draft E.D.C. treaty under strong American pressure for the rearmament of Germany.
§ Mr. L. M. Lever (Manchester, Ardwick)
On a point of order. Are we discussing the projected visit of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to the United States—
§ Sir R. Boothby
This is of absolute vital importance, because we have now to discover some alternative to E.D.C., on which the whole future of Europe depends. I am only saying that in that debate in the House—and I was present on the occasion and took part—my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs begged the Labour Government to take part, not merely through an ambassador, but at Ministerial level, in the discussions which ultimately led to the E.D.C. draft treaty. I have a full recollection of that. The right hon. Gentleman refused to do so. He refused to take any part in the discussions which led to the E.D.C.
§ Sir R. Boothby
The right hon. Gentleman may say that I am talking nonsense, but I will send him the evidence this evening, and I shall expect a full public apology tomorrow morning.
I myself have always taken the view, and I am sticking to it—I am not going to back down on it—that E.D.C. was not the best way. I am apparently in hot water now from both Front Benches. All I say is that the Prime Minister has himself been in hot water from both Front Benches simultaneously in his day, and he stuck to his guns. I am going to stick to mine. I have always said that it was a great mistake to try to re-arm the Germans before we made peace with them. This is the primary cause of the immense deterioration that has taken 456 place in Franco-German relations during the past three years.
The issue now is not over the E.D.C. Treaty as such; it is over the conception which underlies it of a six-Power Continental federation, in which Federal Germany would be dominant, and from which Britain and the Scandinavian countries would be excluded. That is what frightens France; and I do not blame them for being frightened.
There is an alternative solution. A looser and more flexible European defence force, on the lines originally suggested by the Prime Minister in the Strasbourg Assembly, in which we could participate, and which would itself become an integral part of N.A.T.O. That, I believe, to be the only solution of the problem. General Koenig, the present French Minister of Defence, has been thinking along those lines in recent years, and I am sure he is thinking along them today. This would go far to restore confidence in France and revive the confidence of the United States in Europe.
I do not think there is any other safe road. Our interest in the defence of Western Europe is no whit less than that of the Low Countries. Federal Germany or France; and N.A.T.O. is the only organisation in existence which is capable either of defending Western Europe with success, or of containing the German military potential without risk. That has been my firm conviction for years, and it remains my firm conviction today.
§ Mr. Shinwell
This is an important and vital matter. I happen to have been present in the earlier stages. I am sorry—
§ Mr. Shinwell
As a matter of historical interest, at the Conference of foreign Ministers and Ministers of Defence in New York and the subsequent N.A.T.O. Conference at Washington, the French definitely stated that they would not accept Germany in N.A.T.O. That is their position still.
§ Sir R. Boothby
On simple terms, just like that—bringing the Germans straight in, by themselves. That they will not accept. But I am certain that there is strong French support for a European defence organisation, in which this country would play its full part, and which would then become an integral part of N.A.T.O. That is quite different from what the right hon. Gentleman has just put forward.
Let me add this. It is no good the Committee thinking that they can escape altogether from the problem of German re-unification, which is also of vital importance. There can indeed be no solution to the problem of Western Europe, other than an ephemeral solution, so long as Germany remains arbitrarily divided and partitioned along a line which makes no sense from a political, military or ethnical point of view; and so long as the Federal Government of Germany has a perfectly legitimate political objective, namely the recovery of the lost Eastern Provinces. We must never forget that, although many of us would like to do so.
At Berlin the Western Ministers declared that the Bonn Government could not bind the future Government of a re-united Germany. What does that mean? It means that Federal Germany, unless we bring her into close association with the Atlantic Alliance, will be under a continuous temptation to negotiate an independent settlement with the Soviet Union for the return of those Eastern Provinces which only the Soviet Union can give her back. She has done that twice in the past, at Rapallo in 1922, and at Moscow in 1939. Personally, I should much prefer to see German reunification achieved by agreement between the Western world and the Communist world, between the Atlantic Alliance and the Communist world as a whole, than by a separate agreement negotiated between Bonn and Moscow. That is a point we must bear in mind, and take very seriously.
The truth is that there is no purely European solution to any of the problems, political, military or economic, which confront us. Mr. St. Laurent, the Prime Minister of Canada, made a very pregnant observation the other day when he said: 458Perhaps the time has come to consider whether some of the steps towards closer integration which we must take if our concept of civilisation is not to perish should be taken within the larger framework of the North Atlantic Community.I believe that we have to get back, in the end, to N.A.T.O., the most successful peace-time military organisation which has ever been created. It is where the real strength and power of the Western democracies resides, and the only place where it resides. It is an organisation which has already restored a balance of power not only to Europe but to the whole world. I would remind my right hon. Friend that the Council of Ministers of N.A.T.O. in April, 1953, said that:Convinced that in unity lies their greatest strength, they are resolved to broaden cooperation in every field, economic, political and social, as well as military, and so make the Atlantic Community a lasting reality.We have not yet done it.
We are at the present moment trying to conduct a global struggle against the forces of Communism without any central organ of decision to direct the political policy or military strategy of the Western world as a whole; and, as a result, we have no common policy, nor even a common estimate of the dangers that confront us everywhere in the world today. There have recently been a series of unfortunate misunderstandings, due largely to imprecision, as a result of this and because we have not, in fact, had any clearly defined political or military objectives.
Admiral Carney, Director of Naval Operations in the United States, said the other day:The real and fundamental problem is to develop a strategy which is a true long-range counter to the centralised overall strategy which is directing the moves in the campaigns for Communist expansion against us.I think he got to the heart of the matter here. It is not a question of a hot world war. This is a political struggle between the Communist and the Western worlds very largely for the minds of men. In this struggle it seems to me that we are dissipating to a great extent our resources and our strength, because we have no central organ of political decision and no common policy.
Therefore, in conclusion, my plea is for a closer co-ordination of the political, strategic and economic policies of the Western world, by means of some improvement in the methods of sustained 459 consultation. We have not got enough of that at the highest levels, and we have never had it since the war. That is the major problem which confronts the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary when they go to Washington.
There is no basic conflict of interest between the countries comprising the Commonwealth, the Council of Europe and the Atlantic Community; and as the only country which is a member of all three, we still have a vital part to play in welding them into an organic union which is strong enough to meet the Communist challenge, and at the same time to maintain world peace, which is the primary objective of N.A.T.O. and of the free world.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
If the Foreign Secretary was the bee who pollinated the flowers at the Geneva Conference and brought about some harmony and possibility of agreement, the hon. Knight—not yet "the hon. Baronet"; and perhaps he never will be after this afternoon's speech—the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) seemed the element about to produce disharmony in the House. I was reminded of the occasion recently when he left the Chamber during a speech by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I thought this afternoon that the Prime Minister was going to leave during the hon. Member's speech.
At Geneva the Foreign Secretary followed what was very largely a Socialist foreign policy. The Foreign Secretary cannot, of course, agree with such an assertion or he might find himself unpopular with his own back benchers. However, no one before the war could imagine the Foreign Secretary of a Tory Government listening to advice from Mr. Nehru. The Prime Minister himself only seven years ago said thatin handing over the Government of India to the so-called political classes, we are handing over to men of straw of whom in a few years no trace will remain.However, they are still there today, and the Prime Minister is very glad to have their support and advice and no longer regards them as men of straw.
Nor does the Tory Foreign Secretary, I have no doubt that at those exciting private meetings of the Tory Party, of 460 which we do not read quite enough, there are some hon. Members opposite who are heard to utter, "He is no better than a Socialist." We have heard their very sharp reaction to him over the negotiations in Egypt and to his attitude towards forming a South-East Asia defence pact.
Because the right hon. Gentleman adopted this new approach, the approach brought to our foreign affairs by the Labour Government after the war, he was able to get near to some sort of settlement and was able to get the negotiations as far as he did without losing the sympathy of the South-East Asians. He was also I think—perhaps this was almost his most important achievement at the Conference—able to get clear the issues on which both sides stood so that the world could understand, as it certainly could not understand at the beginning of the Conference, what the argument was all about.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will persevere in the negotiations as he has indicated he will. I hope he will remember that the Chinese are extremely slow negotiators. I believe that when they arrived in Geneva they booked hotel rooms for six months, which was rather longer than our Foreign Secretary intended to stay there. Our national game is, after all, cricket, and we ought to be able to understand the wish of the Chinese to conduct negotiations at a rather leisurely pace. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will not be deterred and will continue to re-visit Geneva as and when necessary to take the negotiations a little further each time.
The two immediate problems of Asia, or South-East Asia, seem to me to be both related to each other and yet, to some degree, to be divisible and unrelated to each other. The first problem is what sort of settlement, if any, are we to get in Indo-China? It is not certain that we shall get one there at all. The second is, do we want a defence pact in South-East Asia, and if so, what sort of defence pact do we want?
The Foreign Secretary has taken us one step further in obtaining an admission from the Communists that there is a distinction between Laos and Cambodia on the one side and Viet Nam on the other. I think it possible that the Chinese 461 may be willing to have those two countries as buffer States between Viet Nam and the rest of the free world. I think that they will insist—and I do not think it unreasonable that they should—that there should be no foreign troops of any sort there, and no foreign bases, and that these should become, as it were, neutralised States between themselves and the rest of the free world.
If we can get that much agreement out of Indo-China we shall have salvaged something considerable, because our position in Viet Nam is really extremely weak. Ho Chi-minh has the weight of public opinion behind him and his forces, if the military fight continues, cannot fail to win in the long run, even if it takes them some years. Undoubtedly, if free elections were held in Viet Nam today the Vietminh, Ho Chi-minh's supporters would win easily.
Our assets towards getting a settlement are, first, that the French Army are still fighting in Viet Nam and, second, that there is a new Prime Minister of Viet Nam, whose name I will not attempt to pronounce, who has a long anti-French nationalist record and who, I think, would not have assumed the premiership if he had not been convinced that genuine independence from the French would arrive.
The third factor is that Russia and China fear what America may do if there is any settlement in Indo-China. If we do get a settlement there, we must in all honesty admit—although we find much disagreeable in what Mr. Dulles says—that he will have made a contribution to getting a settlement; because it is fear of what American policy may be if there were no settlement which is making the Chinese Communists and the Russians more agreeable to some sort of compromise. I am afraid, although it is very charming, that they are not doing this for the Foreign Secretary's smile alone. They are doing it because they feel that there is a mailed fist somewhere in the background about whose activities they are not certain.
It seems to me that the best hope of a settlement in Indo-China is for there to be some form of partition of Viet Nam exactly as there used to be in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Partition is no new thing. It existed for 150 or 200 years. Roughly the northern country was the area occupied by Tonking and the 462 southern country was the Cochin-China area. As I am sure the Foreign Secretary knows far better than I, the natural physical divisions in Indo-China would make it far easier to divide Viet Nam than it was to divide Korea. It is a much easier thing to supervise a division than to try to regroup forces all over the country, because no one can ever be certain that the groupings will be properly observed.
One should remember that Viet Nam is not necessarily, even if it becomes entirely Communist, going to become a satellite of Communist China. There is a long record of hostility between the Annamese and the Chinese which was only interrupted by the French arrival in the 1860s. If the French do leave and if the Vietminh obtain control of the entire country we need not necessarily assume that a satellite of China will arise there. I should also think that part of such an arrangement would be that there should be elections in due course in Viet Nam. We should have to accept the results of those elections in good faith in exactly the same way as we ask the Communists to accept the results of elections in Korea. In Korea the elections would go our way and in Viet Nam they would go the Communist way.
If Laos and Cambodia are separated from Viet Nam it should be possible to persuade India, perhaps with the other Colombo countries to guarantee such a settlement at Geneva. That might be the beginning of a kind of Asian Locarno and a sort of defence pact. But it may not be possible to persuade India to do that, or alternatively there may not be a definite settlement in Indo-China which anyone can guarantee. But, in either case, we must consider the problem of a defence pact in South-East Asia. The object of such a pact—and there can be but one object—is to defend South-East Asia against possible Communist aggression.
Before coming to the actual terms of the pact, one must ask oneself if it is likely that there will be Chinese expansionism on a far larger scale in the future. There may, or there may not be. No one can possibly answer that question definitely. But at least it would be wise to take precautions. It may be that there will be a 10-year breathing space in which the Chinese, as my right hon. Friend 463 the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, will try to look after the 603 million people who live in that country. But they have shown expansionist tendencies in the past and it would be foolish to ignore that possibility in the future. The Chinese and the Russians have already a similar pact the other way round, which they signed in 1950, and therefore they cannot complain if other countries have a pact no more aggressive in design than their own.
The great difficulty about helping South-East Asia is the fear of the people of those countries that action may be taken which the Chinese might consider to be provocative. The test of that will not be an objective test but a subjective test applied by the Chinese. They are also not yet so afraid of Communism as they are of the old-fashioned Imperialism, only recently abandoned by the present Prime Minister, which is very fresh in their minds. It is very significant that today in the Indian Press the question of Pondicherry, where the French still insist on hanging on, has almost excluded the views from Geneva and about other things happening in the world. The events in this comparatively insignificant place has driven everything else out of their minds. There was great suspicion over the Thailand approach to U.N.O., which South-East Asia felt to be instigated by America, and they have no great confidence in the Thailand Government.
In all this attempt at building up confidence in South-East Asia we have the problem that the South-East Asians take everything happening in the world into account and not merely the things happening in Asia. That is why it was unfortunate that the British delegate to the Security Council agreed to the American suggestion that the Guatemala dispute should be referred to the American organisation which the Guatemalans had accused of being the instigators of the trouble. The moment we did that we vitiated our case in South-East Asia. The South-East Asians then say, "They are all the same as each other. Look what has happened in Guatemala. Whatever is going on there they do not propose to have a free and fair investigation." That has done immense harm and gone a long 464 way to undo the patient and good work of the Foreign Secretary at Geneva.
Even this afternoon something that happened here will attract great attention in South-East Asia even though it will not in this country. The Foreign Secretary should really look into the affairs of the Colonial Secretary, because they are connected with his own, and note that the Colonial Secretary is denying again and again to the accredited political leaders in Malaya their modest claim for a higher number of elected members to the legislative assembly in Malaya. This is something which is of great significance in South-East Asia, because from all these little facts they try to piece together our general attitude and we have to remember that whatever goes on in the world it has repercussions in South-East Asia.
§ Mr. Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
In order that the description of what the Colonial Secretary said at Questiontime—
§ Mr. Summers
Inasmuch as the point was raised by the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) a moment ago quite inaccurately, surely you would permit a correction to be made?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I was seeing how far the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) was going, but I cannot allow a Colonial Office debate on this Motion.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
The hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) misquoted what the Colonial Secretary said. My right hon. Friend said that he was always ready to have further consultation and has not shut the door.
§ Mr. Wyatt
This is the great difficulty into which we have all sunk. We think there is some distinction between colonial affairs in South-East Asia and foreign affairs in South-East Asia, but in reality 465 there is no distinction although our own rules force us into making such a distinction. I should be happy to reply to the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers) if our own rules had not put colonial affairs out of focus.
Despite the very grave suspicions that people of South-East Asia have of us, nevertheless there have been some significant changes lately. It is interesting to see that in Burma at the Kalaw Conference recently, which was a meeting of Asian Socialists, the Burmese Socialists argued strongly that Communist imperialism—they had in mind particularly China—was far more dangerous than the old form of colonialism whose protagonist they considered to be America. Whilst the Indian Socialists queried this view, it is very important that the Burmese Socialists, who have taken an extreme position on internal matters, should feel that Chinese Communism was a greater threat to them than old-fashioned imperialism.
There is no doubt that apprehensions are arising in South-East Asia. It has been interesting to note the slight change in the tone of Mr. Nehru, revealed in his acid comments on the use of military force by the Communists in Indo-China to prejudge the Geneva Conference before it got under way. This is our opportunity as well as our difficulty. What we have to do is to find the least embarrassing way of helping South-East Asia to defend itself.
I suggest that it would be better not to ask the countries of Asia formally to join a defence pact at all. We certainly should not ask them for bases in any case. What we should do is, with America,—I leave out Australia and New Zealand and will say why in a moment—we should state clearly that any external aggression or assistance from outside to internal revolt affecting either Burma or Siam will be regarded as more than a local act and would bring in its train all the consequences that would arise from something which is far more than a local act. I would leave out Australia and New Zealand for, if they were included in such a formal statement and declaration of intention, that would look rather too much like a general pact in Asia from which Asian states were excluded.
466 What I have in mind is something like our guarantee to Poland in 1939. I know I shall be told that the guarantee to Poland was ineffective in that it did not save Poland. That was because Hitler was extremely foolish in believing that we would not back our word. But, after the painful history of the last 20 years, the Chinese Communists would be in no doubt that we would back our word on this occasion and I do not believe them to be as foolish, politically, at Hitler was. Therefore the guarantee would be a real and effective protection.
In fact this is the only effective form of protection which is possible because we would never get enough troops in any case in time to Burma and Siam to save them from an initial attack. If either of those two countries were attacked, even if we had bases in those countries, neither ourselves nor the Americans have enough troops to put into that area to be able immediately to resist an attack. Therefore, the knowledge that such aggression would lead to a far wider conflict would form the effective protection.
I believe that Burma and Siam would welcome such a declaration. They would not publicly ask the Foreign Secretary for such a declaration because they would feel that would be provocative to the Chinese, but it would be quite different if we made a firm statement of our intentions in the area as a whole—a statement in which they have not been consulted. It would not then carry the odium of something which had been initiated by them and might annoy the Chinese. We know that Siam would be willing to accept such a declaration. There might be public statements against it in India and Pakistan, but I do not think they would seriously object to it.
Then, with the Americans, we should gather together the countries of South-East Asia to discuss ways of giving that area economic aid without any mention of defence whatever and without bringing into the discussions defence, bases, or anything of the kind. This at the same time would provide an inoffensive way of guaranteeing South-East Asia as well as giving the means by which the democratic Governments there could prove to their people that they have more to offer than the Communists; because if they cannot offer more they will be overthrown in any case.
467 All this is set against the great world problem referred to by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, this great conflict of ideas and forces in the world. On the one side we have the Russians and Chinese. I believe that the Chinese are not under the control of Moscow. I think that was clearly brought out at the Geneva Conference. One thing which stood out more than anything else at the Geneva Conference was that, whether the Americans like it or not, the Chinese have now got on to the world stage and no further negotiations can take place about Asia without their being included. Even though they are not in the United Nations, they will be joining in any discussions which take place. I think the Chinese have a slight tendency to behave in relation to Mr. Molotov as Mr. Dulles sometimes behaves in relation to our Foreign Secretary. On both sides we have the problem of the more sober statesmen restraining the enthusiasm of their more energetic or enthusiastic colleagues. On our side we have America, Britain and France.
I want now to refer to France, the weakest link in the three leading Powers on the side of the free world, in somewhat similar terms to those used by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire. France is now at a period when we could help her if we were to take decisive or even dramatic action. In this House we have all prayed again and again for a stable Government to arrive in France. Now, for the first time, a Prime Minister has arrived there who has been brave enough ever since the end of the war to say exactly what he thought without engaging in many of the internal intrigues to which many other Prime Ministers have been forced in order to form a Government. It is our duty to help him to get past this one month's probationary period he has set himself.
We have damned France in Indo-China, and I think rightly damned her, because it was her own folly which brought about the present situation there. But, having done so, we must help her in Europe, and so far we have dismally failed to do so. On the whole, I agree with most of the charges made by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire this afternoon about the E.D.C. Treaty. The falling fortresses of Viet Nam are the 468 background to the funeral of the European Defence Community Treaty.
I do not think that we need have any illusion any further about that and M. Mendès-France has hastened that funeral, himself being an opponent of E.D.C. Yet we have still produced no alternative solution, and some of us in this Committee have been pressing the Government for years to produce one in readiness for such an occasion. The Foreign Secretary has done worthily at Geneva, but he has done extremely badly on E.D.C. It was our absence from the initial discussions that led to the evolution of an unsatisfactory E.D.C. Treaty. Now it must be our presence that will make possible an acceptable form of European Army.
We should try to catch this moment in French history and put forward a suggestion by which Britain can take part in a modified form of European Army which would fall roughly halfway between the present Treaty and the arrangements under N.A.T.O. We could easily find some half-way house which would be acceptable to M. Mendès-France and to Germany. I see the Foreign Secretary nodding his head.
§ Mr. Edenindicated dissent.
§ Mr. Wyatt
I am quite prepared to come and talk to the Foreign Secretary and once again put forward suggestions to him which I am sure would be acceptable to M. Mendès-France. Some of us have had the opportunity of meeting M. Mendès-France and have some idea of the way in which his views would go on this point.
If France is the weak link in the triple alliance of the free world, America is sometimes too strong a link. America has the power of the alliance but has not yet found a way of displaying it without causing almost as much alarm among her friends as among her enemies. It is now that Britain has a decisive rôle to play. That rôle is to civilise the power of 469 America. We should not imagine that we can do without her power, but we must channel it and make its use acceptable to the free nations in South-East Asia in particular, and if we do that it will be acceptable to the rest of the world as well.
It is a sad commentary on America's foreign policy that during the war years President Roosevelt was able to tease the Prime Minister by calling Britain an imperialist nation in front of Stalin. Today, it would be quite impossible for any American President to do that, so far away from the original ideals has American foreign policy in Asia gone. Today, Britain is the respected free nation in South-East Asia and I am afraid America is the discredited nation. This may be very painful to Americans, but they should look into the causes of this change if they want to find themselves popular once more.
If the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister can perform this great task of civilising American power—and I think that the Foreign Secretary went a long way in that direction in Geneva—that is the way also to show Russia and China that we are not only strong but peaceful, and that there is nothing to be afraid of in us, provided that we are not attacked.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
I am grateful to the Chair for calling me to speak for the first time in this Committee. I have discovered that it is not easy to decide the right time at which to try to speak. I have listened with interest to much that has been said by hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the Committee during the debate so far. I ask the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) to forgive me if I do not follow from where he left off, since, as may be understandable, I am only going to make a few observations of a more general nature and shall confine my remarks to as short a space of time as I can. I hope that I shall do so in a way which will not be regarded by anyone in this Committee as being deliberately controversial, and in doing so I ask the Committee to extend to me the same courtesy and generosity as I have already observed hon. and right hon. Members extend to hon. Members who are speaking for the first time in their midst.
470 I have recently had the good fortune to have fought two Parliamentary by-elections in two rather differing constituencies, but I was aware both from the brisk exchanges of the Harrow Road and the somewhat more dignified discussions at Bournemouth that the people generally in both areas were concerned, as I am, about the continued spread of Communism throughout the world.
First of all, I should like to say that I am anxious to join with hon. Members who have already spoken in praising the leader and members of our delegation at Geneva for the great tenacity and patience that they showed in trying to find some basis for mutual co-operation and agreement with Communist Powers. They were tireless in their endeavours to try to find any formula on which there could possibly be built the foundations of a peaceful co-existence in Asia, but I have certain doubts in my mind and I feel that this debate, at this time when we are at the cross-roads of our dealings with the Communist Powers, is the right time to try to speak them.
Having watched Berlin and the talks now still hanging on at Geneva, I do not believe that the Communist Powers of either Russia or China have shown a very great or genuine change of heart. I do not believe that they are very anxious to alter in any major way at this stage plans which have for so long brought them so many successes. I find it difficult to believe that any coup or attempted coup in any part of the world, sponsored by Communism or by Communist agitation, is in any way an isolated incident. I believe that they all form part and parcel of an over-all and carefully premeditated plan which finds its source of inspiration either in Peking or in Moscow.
Unfortunately, we are now only too familiar with the pattern of Communism. No matter at what part of the world we may look, we have seen how Communist agents go about their business, and their business chiefly is that of territorial annexation. We have seen how, in order to establish a Communist government, in many cases political infiltration is sufficient but at other times it may be expedient and necessary to bring in an armed force to act, as they would have us believe, as liberators anxious to free the people of the smaller countries from the yoke of Western colonialism. I am sorry 471 to think that this particular pattern is becoming now more and more familiar to us.
I wonder, as indeed I am sure that other hon. Members must wonder also, for how much longer this process can go on. How many more countries are thus scheduled for "partnership" in the Communist world? How many more countries are now being softened up and indoctrinated in preparation for the next stage of implementation of Communist plans? Where does it all end? Where does it all lead to?
These are questions which we should consider very seriously. I am naturally concerned about the future and what it may bring. I believe that it is my right to ask these questions but that also, as a Member of the Committee, it is my duty to try to answer them. I find it all too easy to believe, so anxious am I, as we all are, that this should be so, that the Communist Powers have finally seen the error of their ways; but I think that wishful thinking on these lines is a dangerous and indeed a suicidal policy for those who indulge in it.
Surely we have learned our lesson well enough from recent history. Surely we have learned it from our own history. We need go back not too far to find a reasonably parallel case when Disraeli warned us against… cajoling France with an airy compliment and menacing Russia with a perfumed cane.I think that we should do well to consider former examples which are still recent history. Certainly, minor concessions have been made by the Communist Powers, concessions which in varying degree are naturally important—important in that they indicate a certain inclination to change their views and their outlook and to come to terms with the Western world.
But we should do well to remember in this connection a little story so graphically told to us by Lewis Carroll of how, in spite of all the sobs and the tears, the innocent oysters were still eaten up—every one. I think that we are now, not only in this country but in the world, facing probably the greatest challenge that we have ever had to meet. There is, after all, a ruthless régime deliberately trying to establish its authority over the 472 peoples of the world. One by one the innocent countries are being eaten up by the Soviet walrus and the Chinese carpenter. We must stop the feast before there is nothing left.
Countries which were once free and which had the same privileges of freedom and valued the same traditions as we do in this country, and which we take for granted, are now enslaved and imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain. It is not easy to imagine life behind the Iron Curtain under Communist power. It is all too easy to ignore the plight of the people and to forget their existence.
I believe that the Geneva Conference has played an extremely valuable part in that it has to a very great extent brought round and enlightened public opinion both in the West and especially in Asia. I remember when I was serving in the Armed Forces during the war and I was stationed on the Russian and Chinese frontiers of India that I was well aware then of the forceful activity of Russia in the Sinkiang and Kazakistan regions. Since then we have witnessed the tragic episode of Communist invasion of Tibet. I cannot help wondering how much closer the Communists are going to come in their encirclement of India, how much longer India is going to wait, and just who is going to be the next victim on the list. I believe that it is becoming increasingly impossible for any single country to stand alone, thereby hoping that it can escape the turbulent convulsions of the world outside.
I do myself subscribe to the views which have already been expressed that we should aim, at an early date, to bind in ever closer alliance all those nations which are still free from Communist influence and control. I hope sincerely that the informal talks which are due to begin in Washington will lead us a step nearer towards a realisation of some global defensive organisation, for this is a global struggle. The attack is on a global front and we must surely be prepared to defend ourselves on a global front.
There are, of course, many obstacles in the way before this can be achieved, but I am convinced that only when faced with a powerful, determined and united opposition will Communist dictators really seriously reconsider the desirability 473 of pressing on with their plans. It is absolutely essential to build up military strength, but at the same time I believe that we must not and cannot afford to neglect the improvement of the material conditions of the many different races and peoples that look to us for guidance and assistance. We have a glorious opportunity in our own Empire and Commonwealth. By directing with a greater sense of urgency our energies and enterprises to developing the many and powerful resources still dormant in those territories we will be showing that we are prepared and anxious to raise the standard of living of the peoples who live there.
It the measures which I have only sketched over and hinted at are to be in any way effective against Communism in the long run, I believe that the Governments who are required to carry them out must be supported not only by people militarily strong and materially wealthy but by people who are spiritually determined. I believe that at this juncture we should do well to review our own standing as regards Communism in the world. I would go so far as to say that we should have a complete change of outlook among the people of our country and that they must show by their own pride in the institutions and traditions of our country that they are not prepared, again in the words of Disraeli, to… saunter over the destinies of the nation and lounge away the glories of the Empire.We must be a spiritually determined people.
As my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) said earlier in the debate, this is no ordinary struggle between one military Power and another. It is a part of a carefully planned and insidious attack against the fundamental rights of man and the fundamental teachings of Christianity. I believe that it is in that way that we should do well to consider the questions that confront us today, because only when there is a powerful military organisation, backed up by contented and spiritually determined people, will we have the surest means of halting Communism and of preserving peace. I am certain that we must halt Communism. We cannot any longer allow further acts of aggression to take place unchallenged. I believe that the 474 questions that I have posed raise a very real challenge. It is our duty to meet it.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
The Committee has had the pleasure of listening to the hon. Member for Bournemouth. West (Mr. J. Eden), and I am quite sure that the speech which we have just heard was in the great tradition which we would expect from a man who has a great Foreign Secretary for a relative. I would add that the quiet, dignified eloquence to which I have listened—and I always envy quiet, dignified eloquence—was all the better in so far as the hon. Gentleman did not quite carry out the rules of the House and speak non-controversially. How can a man be listened to if he is not a little original? It was the originality and the quiet, dignified eloquence of many of his statements, with which I may or may not have agreed, that compelled me to listen to his speech from the beginning to the end.
I hope that the House on many occasions will have the benefit of the hon. Gentleman's guidance and his speeches, and, coming from an hon. Member from this side of the Committee, what better can I say than that I also hope the hon. Gentleman will be with us in the House for many years to come, and that ultimately he will have the opportunity to deliver speeches like that with the responsibility for carrying out their effect?
May I now turn to the short speech which I wish to make? I will try to be brief. There are many things that should like to talk about, but I will abandon the idea of tracing the history of the Chinese war or tracing the history of the South-East Asian problem, because these are facts which are on the record. I think, however, that, now that our Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary are going to Washington, it would be right to say from both sides of the Committee that we wish them both god-speed, but that we will have them understand that, on this side of the Committee, many of us who signed the Amendment to the Motion on the Order Paper on Anglo-American cooperation in the names of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite believe that a formula for co-existence in the modern world must be found.
I think it is an axiom that any modern Government, whatever political colour it may have, could not move into a war 475 unless it carried with it the opposition, whatever political party that opposition might represent. I agree entirely with the grave words which the Foreign Secretary quietly uttered today when he said that he considered the position indeed very grave and one that could result in dire possibilities if the problem of South-East Asia is handled wrongly.
What are the three outstanding facts in Asian history since World War II? I think the first fact, which had an astounding effect on the oriental mind, was that the might of the Western world suddenly collapsed before Japan. When today we in the Western world—and we use the phrase "free world" very loosely—look towards Japan for help in building democracy, let us remind ourselves, and let the great democratic American people remind themselves, of a passage from a brief history of the war which was supplied to the troops in October, 1945, on page 9 of which we find these words:After months of truculence, Japan now came into the arena. Her plan aimed at the destruction of allied seapower in the Pacific by the seizure of its bases.It goes on to show that, without any declaration of war, but like a thief in the night, the Japanese struck at the American people.
When we are talking about the logistics of the Pacific Ocean, it would be good for our military people to remind themselves of the position of Hong Kong. Whatever Pacific Pact may come about, we could not hold Hong Kong for 12 hours. It was deprived of water on Christmas Day, 1941, and cut off from the mainland, and, without the firing of a shot or the use of a single aeroplane. Hong Kong became useless in that period. Hong Kong is in exactly the same economic and strategic position today. It would be useless as a base against the People's Republic of China. There are certain facts which we must bear in mind when we look at this problem, and that is one of them.
To come back to my first fact, however, a great change in the destiny of mankind and in the course of human history in Asia was made when, to the amazement of the world, the Japanese fighting forces defeated Western man in a short period of time during World War II, and, for the first time in their history, instead of having the French, the 476 British, the Dutch and the Germans as their imperial masters, into these parts of the world—Siam, French Indo-China, Indonesia and Malaya—came these mighty Japanese fighting forces. They offered co-prosperity to the people in these areas.
It is no good our hiding our heads in the sand on this question. Let us remember that, as far as the oriental is concerned, he does not care which imperial master he has; he will fight any of them ultimately to secure that dignity and freedom from contempt which the Christian world is due to give him.
The second great fact in the history of Asia was created by the Government of the party to which I have the honour to belong when India, Ceylon, Pakistan and Burma were given their independence and the right to make their own mistakes in Asia. When these nations were given their independence, the British people, through the Labour Government then in power, gave them an indication that they were going to honour their pledge on the emancipation of South-East Asia. The third fact of paramount importance was that Chiang Kai-shek was defeated in 1949 by the Communist forces of Mao Tse-tung.
These three outstanding facts—the defeat of the white man by oriental man in World War II; the freedom of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon; and the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek's forces by the Communists of China—have entirely altered the logistics of Asia and the outlook for the Pacific Ocean.
What are our Foreign Secretary and our Prime Minister going to do in Washington? Any scheme that they apply to South-East Asia must answer two questions: Will it ensure a reasonable peace? Will it bring freedom for the peoples concerned? Do we expect to get a reasonable peace in South-East Asia if we exclude the fact of Chou En-lai, the other fact of Mao Tse-tung, and the third fact of the Chinese People's Republic? We cannot ignore those facts, because they are there.
The first thing that our Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister must do at Washington is to press for the inclusion of China on the Security Council, whether American State officials like it or not. The American people understand the reality. They do not want war in Asia. 477 Those of us who have had the honour and privilege of speaking in America know that the American mother is very much concerned about her boy being at home. In a poll the other day, 80 per cent. of the people in America were against any war in South-East Asia. If the people of America speak like that, why do not the leaders of the American people represent in their speeches some of the basic thoughts for peace that are in American minds?
There is something that the British nation must learn. If we talk of a pact in South-East Asia, what is the value of the British Navy? Have we forgotten the "Repulse" and how it was sunk by the Japanese forces off that base at Singapore that cost us £36 million, even in the old type of war?
§ Sir Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
The Repulse" was not sunk anywhere near the base but was right away up to the north. Let us have some accuracy.
§ Mr. Davies
That is the meticulous accuracy of the Conservative mind. I happened to say that it was sunk. The hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Sir W. Fletcher) does not deny that it was sunk, but because it was sunk at spot X it makes it completely different. The very fact that it was sunk demonstrates that the mighty battleship was unable to resist the forces of Japan. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen who want to say something may have the opportunity to catch the eye of the Chair. If they really want to ask me a question, I will willingly give way. I am putting the serious point that the British Navy would be useless in any South-East Asian treaty organisation. It had already begun to be useless by the time World War II had broken out. In these days of the hydrogen bomb, if the Conservative mind cannot see the truth of this point, what is the hope of leadership from that side of the House when we come to questions of war.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
Apropos of the sinking of the "Repulse" and the "Hood," is not the hon. Gentleman confusing one or two points in the issue sea versus air power when he says that the Royal Navy would be impotent in South-East Asia? Is it not a fact that those vessels did not get the air power to give cover to surface warships? Is not 478 the hon. Gentleman thoroughly reactionary in his point of view?
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Gentleman has fallen right into my hands. It is on record that the ships went down because they could not get the air power there. [Interruption.] I am making my speech in my own way and am pointing out the fact. The American people are thinking that they will get a string of friendly nations right from the borders of Baluchistan to the farthest point of Indonesia to gang up solidly behind the free democratic world. There will he nothing of the sort. We would not get a single base.
Perhaps hon. Members will go to the Library and read in this week's "Newsweek," a military view of the United States position in South-East Asia. This magazine says that it would require 150,000 American troops in French Indo-China alone to protect American air forces. We could not guarantee any safety of air bases anywhere from Pakistan to the furthest points of Indonesia. The writer, Mr. E. K. Lindley, says:If we have to fight to stop Communist expansion in South-East Asia, most of our military experts would favour fighting Communist China in ways and at points of our own choosing. These might include (1) naval blockade, (2) putting Chiang Kai-shek's troops on the mainland with the support of American naval power, air power, supplies, and gold.Is it not pathetic? This means "Let Asians fight Asians and we supply the gold." I see hon. Members on the Government benches smile at the fact that we live in a society that cannot give employment without war. The Americans, even in Korea—[Interruption.] I see that I am upsetting hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth): rose—
§ Mr. Davies
I am sorry; I cannot give way any more. I am very sorry that I am upsetting hon. Gentlemen opposite. [An HON. MEMBER: "Doing it on purpose."] I did not want that stab in the back. I merely said that hon. Gentlemen would find this serious statement if they would go to the Library and read "Newsweek." I will take them into the Library and show them the "Wall Street Journal" and other American financial magazines which pointed out that the tailing off of the war effort in Korea had 479 meant the possibility of an economic recession in the United States. There is no arguing about that.
§ Mr. Davies
No, I cannot. I was quoting from "Newsweek," which goes on to say:(3) air bombardment of Manchuria and other industrial and transportation centres, (4) resuming the offensive in Korea.Note that this brings in the "old gentleman," which is how the "Washington Post" of 27th June, 1953, described the puppet Syngman Rhee. This newspaper said:One danger in the present situation is that we will feel forced to make such concessions to Dr. Rhee that we shall never be able to get him off our back.He will be like the old man of the sea. Listen to this, from the same paper:It is infuriating to watch a stubborn old man, whose aims are attainable only in enlarged war, defy the world's hope for peace. It is clear, however, that no amount of emotion or invective on our part can change matters very much.I quote that from an American newspaper. I am thinking of British boys and British men and women being called into a so-called security pact in South-East Asia to support that old man of the sea, Syngman Rhee, and Bao-Dai, who was dragged out of the night clubs of Hong Kong and the ambassador, William C. Bullitt, former United States Ambassador to Paris, went to see him. This was in 1946. Ho Chi-minh at that time was prepared to negotiate and here, for a war that may never happen, we are trying to build up some kind of treaty that is supposed to be like N.A.T.O.
Who are the people who signed willingly? Thailand and the Philippine Islands. President Magsaysay of the Philippine Islands will willingly join this defensive pact and Thailand, the very nation that declared war on us when we were on our bended knees, and marched into French Indo-China, into Cambodia and into Laos, is being held up as the great protagonist of democracy in South-East Asia.
Let us get rid of these silly ideas. The point is that South-East Asia is on the move because it is hungry. South-East 480 Asia is on the move because it wants to break away from the old imperialists. French Indo-China is on the move because, like Guatemala, the country has been run for the Bank of Indo-China, like Malaya. Perhaps the British people had better realise that we would only be able to buy half the food we are buying from America today if we were not exploiting the tin and rubber in Malaya. There were 28 companies operating in Indo-China in 1946 who made in the neighbourhood of 294 million francs, and by 1951 their profits amounted to 7,630 million francs.
At that time one of my hon. Friends asked a question about the devaluation of the piastre which at that time could be bought in French Indo-China for 8 francs and taken to Paris and sold there for 17 francs. Bao Dai himself, according to an official report of the Indo-China Exchange Control, transferred for himself and his wife 176 million francs to Europe. I will have nothing to do with this kind of set-up, which is pretending at this great turning point of human history, that Bao Dai. Syngman Rhee and Chiang Kai-shek are the people who are carrying the message of Socialism, or freedom, or the message of my party in the Far East.
So we are left with this problem: what can we do? We had better face it that we cannot do anything in the Far East unless we can bring pressure to bear on the great American peoples to allow the Chinese People's Republic to become a member of the United Nations security pact. No security pact in South-East Asia without India, Pakistan and China will ever be a reality. And so my final word—
§ Mr. Davies
The three things I mentioned at the beginning of my speech are giving a terrific impetus to the national movement of South-East Asia, and it is no use applying the word "Communism" to all these events. The leaders of the nationalist movement in South-East Asia have no constructive understanding of world affairs. To them the first reality is their independence, and the reality of their independence depends upon the assertion of their racial equality, 481 the assertion of their right to political power and the assertion of their right to tight for economic independence.
These things will take a long time and they will only be discovered if we find a modus vivendi by which the great nations—the United States of America, Great Britain. China and Russia—can learn to live side by side. To talk in militaristic terms about winning any war in the Far East is logistic rubbish at the moment. I urge the House to say in no unwavering terms when the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary go to Washington, that unless we get the alliance of India and China in a South-East Asia security pact, this nation refuses to be committed.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
Last time I had the good fortune to follow the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) I ventured to observe that in his speeches the hon. Member always entertains the House, sometimes interests it, and occasionally instructs it. I do not want to take back anything of the compliment which I paid the hon. Gentleman on that occasion, so I shall merely observe in regard to his speech this afternoon that it was as colourful as some of the periodicals from which he quoted and about as relevant to the subject matter of this debate. [An HON. MEMBER: "Cheap."] But not nasty.
The Committee will agree that the Government have a hard and heavy task in the circumstances of today, because they have been faced recently with the simultaneous aggravation of the two major causes of difficulty in the postwar world. First, the unbalance of power in Europe in the post-war period, created by the territorial and military preponderance of Russia, has been aggravated by the likelihood of failure to implement E.D.C. The second major cause of difficulty in the post-war world, the transference of China to the Communist camp, has been aggravated by the military successes of Vietminh and the difficulty of achieving practical results at Geneva.
In these challenging and intractable circumstances the record of the British Government has been a good one. As I understand it, they are following, in Its application to these circumstances, the broad principle which animates their approach to world problems. These are, 482 first, the effort to combine the pursuit of peace with the preservation of liberty and national sovereignty in the world and, secondly, the building up in association with like-minded nations of a strong defensive equipment, combined with a readiness to negotiate from a position of reasonable strength.
Of course our policy in this country should be aimed at the avoidance, if humanly and honourably possible. of a third world war; in addition, we should, if humanly and honourably possible avoid being committed on a large scale in the Far East, even short of a third world war, because such commitments add to the pains and perils of war a diversion of resources from what is our nearest and perhaps main strategic theatre.
Nevertheless most hon. Members of the Committee will agree that it is necessary to halt and to limit the Communist advance in the Far East because we cannot disguise from ourselves that, if they are so minded, the field of potential advance in the Far East is so wide and rich as to make the pre-war advances of Germany and the post-war advances of Russia look like a game of hopscotch. One of the primary tasks at Washington will be to decide where and how that advance can be and will be limited.
As far as Indo-China is concerned, I must confess that I see no obvious satisfactory solution. It appears that it is probably not practical to expect the total defeat of Vietminh without intervention on a scale so massive as to provoke the likelihood of an equally massive intervention from Communist China. Of course, quite apart from that, there would be the adverse moral effect if such massive intervention from outside were mainly or exclusively non-Asian in character.
At the same time, there seem to be very practical difficulties in the way of any solution by partition, which has from time to time been canvassed. It is a difficult question as to whether Viet Nam could survive if partition were put into force. Other questions trouble many of us: for example, where would the Red River delta be if such a policy were applied? Would it not entail an adverse strategic effect on Laos and Cambodia, and how would their survival in such circumstances be guaranteed?
483 On the broader aspects of the position in the Far East as a whole, it seems to me that our Government have three duties at the present time. The first, as expressed in "The Times" leader this morning, is to examine and define our irreducible interests in the Far East and the resources available with which to defend them; secondly, to initiate satisfactory arrangements for the collective defence of South-East Asia, and, thirdly—and this is peculiarly a political matter—to seek to wean the cause of legitimate nationalist aspirations in the Far East from the cause of Communism.
I think that we can probably only succeed in doing the second of these things, which is to initiate satisfactory arrangements for collective defence in South-East Asia, in the long term if we are also able to make progress with the third requirement. I think that our Government are quite right in wanting to bring India, Burma, Pakistan and Ceylon into such collective defence arrangements, in addition to the rightist Governments, Siam, Japan, South Korea, and so on, upon whom the United States have up to now principally relied.
I think it is true, as the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) said earlier in this debate, that in recent months there has been observable a change of attitude on the part of these uncommitted Asiatic Powers in weighing the respective merits and demerits of colonialism, as they call it, on the one side, and Communism on the other. Our aim should be to make the uncommitted non-Communist nations of Asia anti-Communist, not in the aggressive sense, but in the sense of effective defence and containment and we should seek to make them an effective barrier against Communist aggression instead of potential victims of it. Our policy in the Far East and in Asia generally should ultimately be directed towards Asia for the Asians; and they should be led to understand that this is a different and far better thing than an ultimate fate of Asia for the Chinese or Asia for the Communists.
I wish to say a word on this question of the recognition of China, which is a matter, as has been observed in the debate, that gives rise to so much difference between ourselves and our American friends. I wonder how far it 484 understood in the United States—I am sure it is understood by the American Government, but by the generality of people in the United States, and perhaps by Members of Congress what is the principle which has always animated British Governments in applying the de jure recognition of other Governments.
It has been the long-standing tradition of this country to accord recognition on a practical basis to the Government of a foreign country when it seems apparent that that Government is exercising and will continue to exercise, effective sovereignty and control in that country. That does not imply any moral approval of what that Government is doing or how it is constituted, because this country has always pursued the theory of noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries. That is our tradition.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Would the hon. Gentleman explain how it is, if we have never intervened in the affairs of other countries, that we are in all these places?
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I am talking, of course, about our relation to other sovereign countries, certainly in the 19th century, concerning which it has been the practice of this country to adopt a policy of non-interference in their domestic concerns and beliefs. If the hon. Gentleman will dig a little more deeply into history, he will find that our policy of recognition has been applied in exactly the way that I have ventured to suggest to the Committee.
At the same time, I think that we in this country can and should understand and sympathise with the American point of view with regard to the question of the recognition of Communist China. After all, it was clearly inappropriate that Communist China should occupy a seat in the United Nations at the time when the Korean conflict was going on and when that country was in armed conflict with the forces of the United Nations. We have to remember that the Americans bore the chief brunt of that conflict, and suffered very heavy casualties in consequence.
Further, it would be wrong if Communist China were to pursue at the end of the Korean conflict the policy of simply transferring that aggressive effort is to other theatres. While I believe that 485 in the long term it is obviously appropriate that China, which has been properly recognised by the British Government on the principles to which I have referred, should occupy a seat on the United Nations, there is a duty upon that country to dispel the doubts which it has inevitably provoked by its conduct over the last few years.
I now wish to say a word concerning the matter of Anglo-American co-operation, in regard to which there is a Motion on the Order Paper in my name and the names of many of my hon. Friends to which reference has already been made by the hon. Member for Leek. To that Motion an Amendment has appeared in the names of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and other hon. Members opposite, after the word "co-operation" in the following passage of my Motion:and reiterates its firm belief that close and continued Anglo-American co-operation is essential to the satisfactory solution of world problems.to insert:for the purpose of promoting a policy of peaceful co-existence between the nations, increasing world trade, and extending and strengthening the authority of the United Nations.These, of course, are all admirable and impeccable objects, of which I heartily approve. If, however, they are intended to be all-embracing and to exclude other purposes, then rather a different situation arises. If they are intended, by specifying those objects, to exclude co-operation for collective defence in South-East Asia or in Europe, then I must dissent from the exclusion implied by the Amendment to my Motion. In my view, it is essential that there should be close and continuous Anglo-American co-operation, both in regard to collective defence in South-East Asia and in the matter of German rearmament in order to safeguard the European position.
There have been many references in this debate to the present position in regard to E.D.C. and German rearmament—because that is obviously one of the vital questions which will have to come under discussion at Washington. With regard to the general question of German rearmament, all in this Committee would like to think that with regard to Germany in the mid-20th century we have arrived at the same position as 486 with France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—that, after many wars, they had learned that war does not pay and have let their better selves, which have always been there, come to the top.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
That is what we would like to think. I am not so optimistic as to say that we can be certain that it is so. We hope that it is so; but I do not think that we can say at this stage that it is a certain assumption.
That being so, the question of German re-armament is regrettable, but is a regrettable necessity made a necessity solely by the intransigent attitude of Soviet Russia in the post-war years. Had they followed a different policy the re-armament of Germany would not be a necessity at all. After all, here it is not a question of taking the course which we like most, but of taking that which we dislike least. It is clearly impossible to have a vacuum in Germany next door to Russia with her great forces—we were told in this House the other day of 82 divisions in the West alone—combined with a possible hostile intent.
We are now faced with the position that it does not look as though E.D.C. will go through in the form which was hoped. So far as Washington is concerned, it is clear that it has become urgently necessary—if it is right that the prospects are that E.D.C. will not, in the event, reach fruition—to seek a satisfactory alternative. It is early days yet, but it appears that M. Mendès-France has in mind the possibility of some substitute solution short of a full ratification of E.D.C. That would probably be based on an association of strength rather than integration. It seems rather difficult for us in this country to dissent from such an approach as that, having regard to our own attitude in the matter. In Washington, no doubt, our Government will pursue with the President the possibility of alternatives which will combine the maximum deterrent effect to the Soviet with the minimum danger of independent German action, and which will provide the necessary measure of German rearmament in a form of which the French can approve.
In conclusion, may I say, on the eve of the departure of the Prime Minister 487 and the Foreign Secretary, that we can reflect with pride on their great services and the high standing which they enjoy in the world as a whole. They take with them on their important mission, I am sure, our confidence in their judgment and good intent, and the good wishes not only of those who sit on these benches but of our people as a whole.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
The timidity I naturally feel in making my first speech in the House of Commons is considerably lessened by the fact that it follows so soon on the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. John Eden). I found that speech very pessimistic and though I shall try, as far as possible, to be non-controversial, perhaps I may be permitted in some slight measure to comment on its content if not on its tone.
I thought that the hon. Member was very gloomy. Certainly in looking at the world today there are many factors which could lead one to a gloomy outlook, but for myself I would prefer to present a rather more optimistic picture. Though very many disastrous things have happened to us, we have reached the stage—as I do not think has happened before—where there is an appreciation of the problem. We are at least beginning to understand the real nature of the problem of eliminating war and of bringing the nations together into permanent and willing co-operation.
When one knows that a problem exists, one has taken a long stride towards its solution. That is to be seen in many fields. At one time the methods of tackling such diseases as plague included incantations, blood-letting, and waving burnt pieces of paper. That showed no understanding of the problem and could not possibly offer a solution, but when disease began to be linked with sanitation, pure water and the existence of microbes, the back of the problem was already broken. The same was true of the problem of poverty. Until quite recently one could say that the bulk of people would have thought of poverty as something in the very bones of nature and society; that its cause was to be found in the nature of man himself, in his improvidence, and even perhaps in his tendency towards excessive fertility. 488 Here were factors outwith man's control, and therefore this problem of poverty could not be eliminated.
I believe that certainly on this side of the Committee we have grasped the solution to the problem of poverty. We understand that it can be solved through the collective, determined, planned effort of society—what we generally regard as Socialism. I believe that that is the solution. Certainly hon. Members opposite would agree that we are no longer justified in thinking that poverty cannot be eliminated from mankind. We concern ourselves with the fact that millions of people are starving. Mankind has always been faced with starvation, and while men were not concerned with that in the past, we are greatly concerned about it now. Because we are concerned about the problems of starvation, poverty, disease and war, we are well on the road towards their solution.
I recognise that the times in which we live are immensely dangerous, that we are equipped with the means of destroying ourselves. I recognise, too, how difficult it is to bring the nations together so that they may work peaceably and in co-operation. But while I recognise the immense gulf which separates men in many respects nevertheless we have cause for reasonable hope that, as we are on the way to solving these other major problems, so we are today in a fair way of solving the problem of war.
When I recall the events of Korea, I do not think that enough has been made of the fact that, while it was impossible to prevent the outbreak of war there, nevertheless the efforts to confine the war to Korea were successful. I think this was a remarkable achievement, the importance of which escaped many people. It may be said that wars in the past have been confined to small localities. But the circumstances are different. In the past armies were largely immobile, certainly compared with these times. It was a case of two armies fighting; whole nations were not involved. War was not total. Nations were not equipped with the means of spreading war as they are now.
In Korea there broke out a war that involved the major countries. It meant acute suffering, certainly to one of those major countries, and because of that acute suffering immense pressure was brought upon the Administration of that country 489 to take wider and wider action. Yet it was possible for that war to be confined to the country of Korea. We ought to commend in the most generous manner possible the United States Government because it was they, apart from the people of Korea, who were bearing the brunt of that struggle, yet they restrained themselves in a manner which I have not known before.
There are similar examples of restraint to be found. The possession of the atomic bomb and the refusal to use it, as it could have been used, indicates this same restraint, this new tendency to think beyond the immediate action. In the past, when the guns had begun to fire, there was nothing to prevent nations from going further and further. Before the 1914–18 war the mere fact of mobilisation seemingly brought into existence conditions that could not stop. But here we had an example of a nation embroiled in a war, possessing a weapon which could have been used, and yet restraining itself from using that weapon. I am not suggesting that the weapon may not be used in the future, but this is an example of the restraint which has been observed so far.
There is evidence that in the minds of millions of humble people throughout the world—yellow, black and white—there is this great concern for the solution of the problem of war. Because there is this concern, I hope that we shall solve the problem and not find ourselves involved in another general war.
This does not mean that we should abandon all effort and simply talk in terms of a change of heart. I am all for having people change hearts and change their points of view, but I believe, with my party, that if we are to secure and maintain the respect of other nations we must be in a position to defend ourselves. The same thing applies to other people. For example, nothing so transforms the status of a nation as the spread of political power. Nothing has so altered the white man's view of the coloured man—I use those terms in no derogatory sense—as the rise to military power of the coloured man.
It may be regrettable, but we have to recognise that there can be no respect between the very strong and the very weak. The very strong can have no respect for the very weak. So long as 490 many people are weak and an effort is made to keep them weak, so will there remain that great difference in status. So far as men are concerned—it may be different with women—more important even than getting food to eat is the question of the respect with which they are treated by their fellow men.
The working people of this country up to 100 years ago were treated as degraded beings. Then they began to rise to their feet. They acquired a power in society which put them on a par with any other section of society; and now we see how different is the attitude towards them and how respected they are because of their power.
So with the people of Asia. China has now become highly respected, and so has India. We wish to see the Africans highly respected. Let us not talk so much about feeding them as helping them to achieve their aspirations and this respect which means the right to run their own countries.
The fact that an immense power has grown up in Communist China is in many ways not altogether a bad thing. Communism is by no means invulnerable. It has shown fairly clearly that it possesses the means to hold down a people within a large area almost indefinitely, and prevent organisation and opposition, thereby stopping people overthrowing it. But it has shown that it cannot always do this in countries where a very strong nationalist feeling burns. Yugoslavia is a case in point. It is a small country but, because of certain favourable circumstances and a very strong nationalist feeling, which is concerned more than anything else with the interests of Yugoslavia, the Communist régime there has taken steps to get rid of the shackles which Soviet Russia sought to impose upon it.
I should say that the so-called Communist bloc will remain a bloc only to the extent that we ourselves drive Communist peoples into presenting to us a common and united front. There must be innumerable, immense and deep-rooted differences between Communist China and Russia. Communist China will go her own way. We should base our policy on this fact as well as upon the other facts which I have mentioned.
I want to refer to another point which was made by the hon. Member for East 491 Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) concerning the struggle of ideas. I mention this point last because it is more controversial than the others. The conflict in the world today is between two sets of people embroiled in different degrees, understanding world problems differently, and standing for ideals which are poles apart. The struggle is not between America and the Soviet Union, or between Capitalism and Communism. To my mind Capitalism is on the way out, in seven-league boots. The real struggle today is between those who stand for a planned society accompanied by dictatorial methods, a totalitarian planned society which is not concerned with individual human values—in which camp go the Fascists, Nazis and Communists, irrespective of the colours of their shirts—and those who stand for a planned society which will perfect democracy. In this camp we have the Socialists and the increasing number of people who are thinking along those lines.
I put it to hon. Members opposite that this is the real division in the world today, and that they cannot prevent this planning from taking place; it is international as well as national. Everywhere the State is increasingly intervening in the affairs of the people. It may be possible to make it difficult to achieve this planned society and to try to turn back the clock, but to the extent to which people succeed in making it difficult or turning back the clock they will make it that much easier for the authoritarians to succeed. Although I know that this last point is one about which there will be considerable differences of opinion, I know that the Committee will extend its usual courtesy to this maiden speech of mine.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)
I hope that the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) will allow me to congratulate him on an objective and thoughtful speech. He stood back and looked at the baffling current scene as an historian and in so doing injected a very valuable sense of proportion into the debate. I thought particularly timely his statement that the most encouraging feature of the present scene is that 492 people are beginning to recognise the dangers which the world is up against. That is the beginning of wisdom.
One could apply that to what has been happening at Geneva and, earlier this year, at Berlin. If nothing else were to come out of the conferences which have taken place, it would still have been worth holding them, if only for the private and informal conversations which have taken place between Western leaders and leaders of the Soviet camp. We may not reach agreement; we may still differ, but at least each side now understands the position of the other.
The last time I intervened in a foreign affairs debate I expressed some disagreement with the Middle Eastern policies of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. It is therefore especially pleasant to me to be able to offer him my wholehearted congratulations on his work at Geneva. He certainly had no easy task. The defeat at Dien Bien Phu and the fall of the French Government must have made the work of negotiations very difficult. They cannot have been helped, either, by the departure of Mr. Dulles at an early stage, or by the booming contradictions which followed his return to the United States. I could not help feeling some sympathy with the wish expressed by Mr. Adlai Stevenson that certain persons in Washington might have been stricken with a temporary painless but virulent dose of lockjaw. At least it would have been better if they had followed the example of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and taken occasional refuge in metaphor and evasive action.
It seems to me that the Foreign Secretary has done a very great service to the Commonwealth and the whole free world by his work at Geneva. I have no time for those on either side of the Atlantic, who compare the Geneva Conference with the Conference at Munich in 1938, but it could be said with truth that my right hon. Friend has secured the advantages of Munich without paying any of its price. His patience and perseverance have kept the Commonwealth in a state of mutual understanding, if not in step, and have made known, well beyond the Commonwealth, the sincerity of Britain's desire for peace. All this has been achieved without any loss of territory and without neglecting any preparations. For that, if for 493 nothing else, we can all express gratitude and take encouragement.
This debate inevitably turns, above all else, upon the question of South-East Asia and Indo-China. How far is Indo-China expendable? Many contradictory views have been expressed on this question. I do not believe that it is expendable. The main communications from Communist China to Siam and Burma run across Indo-China. If Indo-China were to pass beyond the Iron Curtain the pressure on both States would become very heavy. Hon. Members must judge for themselves how far either Siam or Burma would be capable of withstanding that pressure on their frontiers.
Another consideration that is, perhaps even more important is that the French Army in Indo-China is the only modern army in South-East Asia. To say that is not to disparage our forces in Malaya. Our battalions there are fully occupied with the internal security commitment. If the French Army were to be withdrawn from Indo-China there would be a power vacuum, in the whole area between the Chinese and the Indian frontier, and that would be a pretty serious situation for us to have to confront.
What are we to do in this situation? What should our objective be? It is probably too much now to hope for a clear-cut victorious solution of the problem in Indo-China. The time for that is passed. Equally, to withdraw the French Army from Indo-China or to abandon the whole of Indo-China to the Communists would be to sacrifice too much. Is there some half-way settlement that can be found? If so, on what conditions? I would suggest that the essential conditions are these: first, that Laos and Cambodia must be kept out of the Communist camp so as to insulate Burma and Siam as much as possible from Communist pressure; second, that the French Army must retain, in Indo-China, bases strong enough and so located that it could go to the help of its partners in the French Union—the three Associated States of Indo-China—if the war were to be resumed.
Within limits of that kind there is room for considerable concessions to Vietminh that might amount to some kind of partition. How far partition is really practicable, and along what lines it should be drawn, I do not propose to speculate tonight. Plainly the French cannot expect 494 to hold much more than they have been able militarily to defend. But neither can they be expected to give up so much that they would not be able to make the territory that remained politically or economically viable. We must all hope that a settlement on lines of that kind can be made effective. If it cannot, I for one see no alternative to taking any step that may be necessary to keep the Communists within bounds, even if this involves intervention with all its attendant risks.
The American view, as I understand it, is that the best way of getting a settlement is to form a South-East Asia treaty organisation at once in the hope that this may give pause to the Communist advance. I see the force of that argument, but I think it is an over-simplification. If we reach an agreed settlement we shall need a South-East Asia treaty organisation. If we have to intervene we shall need a South-East Asia treaty organisation. They would, however, be different organisations in either case. If we reach an agreed settlement we can still hope that India and Pakistan and other Asian countries will be prepared to underwrite that settlement. If we had to intervene in Indo-China we should, no doubt, have to count on a rather narrower circle of active friends. I therefore think that the Government have been quite right in saying that the decision as to what kind of South-East Asia treaty organisation should be formed should be postponed until the outcome of the Geneva Conference is clear.
This question of a South-East Asia treaty organisation, as the Foreign Secretary has already told the Committee, is no new one for us in this country. It was first taken up, I think, with the United States in the days of Mr. Ernest Bevin. In those days the United States rejected it on the ground that they could not accept commitments on the mainland of Asia. Indeed, it was on that ground that they refused to admit us into the Anzus Pact. Britain, through Malaya, they said, was a continental Power in Asia, and, therefore, to admit us to the Anzus Pact would be to extend United States' liabilities to the mainland of Asia.
Plainly, this objection to our joining the Anzus Pact—and it is the only plausible one I have ever seen—now falls to the ground, and I hope that when they go to Washington my right hon. Friends 495 will make it clear to the United States that either we must now join the Anzus Pact or that the Anzus Pact must be merged with a S.E.A.T.O., if there is to be a S.E.A.T.O., or that it should be indefinitely shelved.
I think we must also ask that our American friends should show more understanding of our attitude towards India. The desire to keep in step with India, as I understand it, does not spring necessarily from agreement with this or that policy that may be in vogue in Delhi at any time. It springs from something much deeper. Whatever we may think of the method and timing of the grant of independence to India, we all, on both sides of the Committee and throughout the country, desire and are determined to make our free partnership with India a success. India, as the Commonwealth Power most concerned with what is happening in South-East Asia, has a right to expect that her opinions on South-East Asia should receive due consideration here.
There is another reason that may appeal more to the "realism" Mr. Dulles has so often advocated. Before the war, peace and a balance of power were maintained in South-East Asia because of the existence of the Indian Army. That army is still there. If, soon or late, it could be brought, through the Government of India, to underwrite any settlement reached at Geneva, or later of the South-East Asian question, the whole balance of power in that part of the world would be transformed.
I think my right hon. Friend has done no greater service at Geneva than the service he has done in, I will not say bringing the Asian Dominions into step with us—we have not got that far yet—but in getting them at least to admit that colonialism is less dangerous to them than Communism, and in getting them to ask themselves whether their proper place is not on our side. The United States should show more appreciation and understanding of this question. For 150 years after they achieved independence they retired into a shell of isolation, and their thinking is even now obscured by a miasma of prejudice about colonialism, or what they think colonialism was like in the days of George III. India has not 496 yet been an independent State 150 months. Surely a little patience and a little understanding could be shown.
It may still be a long time before any Asian country is lined up in a common organisation with us. Meanwhile, everything depends on the power to resist and the will to resist of the French Army in Indo-China. Unless it can maintain itself there is no chance of keeping the war localised and of reaching a settlement. If, unfortunately, a settlement should become impossible, then it is only upon the French Army that an effective collective defence could be built. I do not pretend to know how serious the military situation out there is. The French still have powerful forces in Indo-China, and the appointment of General Koenig as Minister of Defence is an earnest that the spirit at the top is sound. But it is up to us and up to the Americans to give the French all the moral and material support we can.
We have not much material to spare, do not let us stint moral support. Above all, let us desist from the continuous attacks against French colonialism that we hear so often on the other side of the Atlantic and sometimes on the other side of the Committee. The Leader of the Opposition, at the beginning of his speech, touched on this subject. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, might remember that when they were in power, their Government was saved from insolvency only by the dollar exports of our Malay colony, and that these in turn were protected from Communism only by the existence of the French Army in Indo-China. It is a mistake and ungenerous, when France is fighting with its back almost to the wall, to tease it on this point.
The question of Indo-China, as recent debates in the French Assembly have shown, is intimately linked with and cannot be separated from the question of the European Defence Community. What has happened to many Frenchmen is, I think, this: Indo-China has brought home to them the problems of the French Union more clearly than anything else since the end of the war. Many of them feel that they cannot fulfil their overseas commitments to the French Union and at the same time hold their own vis-à-vis Germany inside E.D.C. For those and other reasons, very close to the reasons 497 which have led us to refuse to participate in a tight system like E.D.C., they have turned the treaty down. It is now clear that there is no majority in the French Assembly for ratification of the treaty. It even seems likely that a majority of the non-Communist deputies is against it.
We may regret the demise of E.D.C. but it is a fact; and I do not think all the king's horses and all the king's men can put it together again. What, then, are we to do? I suggest that the first thing is to stop nagging and, above all, to persuade our American friends to stop nagging the French Government into signing an agreement which they are determined not to sign. Nothing could do more harm to the unity of the free world than repeated statements from across the Atlantic saying, "No dollars unless you ratify E.D.C."
But what are we to do next, because the need for German troops is not less urgent than it was before, as the French Prime Minister, M. Mendès-France, himself has recognised? Is there some other framework into which they could be fitted? I think there is—but on one condition only: and it is that Britain participates fully in that new system, whatever it is to be. I see no reason why the European idea should be abandoned or should fail just because one specific plan for its fulfilment has had to be dropped.
Plainly, any scheme or system into which we go will have to be rather looser than that which has been envisaged so far by the six nations signatories to the E.D.C. treaty. What I should have thought was reasonable was something on the lines of N.A.T.O.—a European N.A.T.O. within the framework of the existing N.A.T.O. but with the clear recognition that it was intended as even more permanent. Let me explain my ideas more fully. Hon. Members opposite have sometimes expressed the view that Britain should enter into no commitments on the Continent beyond those accepted by the United States. I think that is to fly in the face of the argument. The Channel is narrower than the Atlantic. We may regret it, but it is a fact. The American interest in Europe is to prevent another non-European Power from overrunning it.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I was hoping that the hon. Member would develop that point. He said that 498 hon. Members on this side of the Committee took the line that we cannot take any further commitments in Europe. Since the war the overwhelming majority of members of his own party, including his leader, have taken that attitude, in contrast with what the Labour Government did in the matter of the Council of Europe, the Brussels Treaty and the rest.
§ Mr. Amery
It is kind of the right hon. Gentleman to remind me of that point, but I was expressing my own view to the Committee on my own responsibility. What I was saying is that hon. Members opposite have sometimes said that we Should not go further than the Americans in Europe, and I was saying that that is to fly in the face of the argument. I was putting the argument forward to explain what I had said earlier about a European N.A.T.O.
If one day, by some magical success of our diplomacy, the Russians were to leave Europe and the Americans were to leave Europe, too, we should still be vitally concerned in having a stable system on the Continent of Europe, and that is why we have to accept, and to let it be known that we accept, commitments over and above those entered into by the United States. We have the same interest in Europe as they have, but, in addition, we have another.
Personally, I believe we ought now to return to the conception first outlined by the Prime Minister at Strasbourg in 1950. I believe profoundly in the truth of what the Foreign Secretary said in a debate on an analogous subject, the Schuman Plan, in the House in 1950. If I recall his words, he said that if these proposals were not to succeed nobody denied that it would be a calamity for peace. If they were to succeed without us, there would be real danger for us, political as well as economic.
I think we might go back to that plan. I realise, of course, that when this Government came to power it felt that it was impossible to do so because the six countries signatories to the E.D.C. had already initialled the Treaty and because the Americans feared that any revival of what I might call the Churchill concept would only delay German re-armament. German re-armament has in fact been delayed for nearly three years, and we 499 are now faced with the necessity of working out an alternative plan. Here is a chance for us to take the lead. You do not often get a second chance in history, but I think we have a second chance here. I hope we shall not fail to take it.
I know that formally and technically speaking it is up to the French Government to propose an alternative plan, but I trust that our diplomacy will be active in letting the French know the kind of proposal which we in this country could accept. I hope our diplomacy will also be active in Bonn to counteract any ill-effects which the French rejection of E.D.C. may have. It seems to me extremely important that we should make clear to the Germans that what has happened in Paris in no way weakens our determination to establish a lasting partnership with them within a European system and within the Atlantic community.
These questions of South-East Asia and of the E.D.C. will no doubt be discussed very fully at the Washington Conference, as will others, although I hope not too much will be said and nothing, I trust, settled on the question of the Suez Canal. But the most basic question of all will be that of the future of Anglo-American relations. Heaven knows, they are not quite in the state they might be at the present time.
There was a rather disturbing article in "The Times" about a week ago which said that the leaders of the United States Administration were becoming increasingly concerned by being associated with two colonial Powers like Britain and France. For American leaders to talk like that when the Guatemala incident is in progress may savour to some of the pot calling the kettle black. I express no view on this. But logic apart, if the United States want to work closely with the Commonwealth—and I am sure they do—they must try to understand us rather better or else restrain their comments upon our system a little more.
I have hesitated to say this before in the House but, looking back, the American attitude towards British interests in the Middle East, as at Abadan and over Egypt; the American attitude towards our co-operation with India; the American attitude over the Anzus Pact and over the question of the Mediterranean and 500 Atlantic commands and the American desire to restrict the system of Imperial Preference—all these have raised a question in people's minds. It is a question which has caused a lot of anxiety to many who would naturally be friends of the United States, and it is this: do the United States want to work with the Commonwealth as a whole or would they rather work with its members individually in a world system of their own? Personally, I have always been convinced that there was no conflict whatever between unity of the Commonwealth and a good understand with the United States, and I am sure that wise opinion in the United States cannot wish to weaken what, after all, is the only strong force, outside the United States, in the free world.
But I think the time has come when the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, when they go to Washington, might make it clear to the leaders of the United States that there will be effective co-operation and good understanding with the United States only if the United States agree to recognise and respect not just the interests of Britain individually but also the interests and the unity of the Commonwealth as a whole.
Our relations with France, though of a different order, are no less important than our relations with the United States. I hope that when my right hon. Friends return from Washington an opportunity will be taken to talk over our problems in an informal way with the new French Government. Can we look beyond that? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has raised the question, first raised by the Prime Minister in his speech last year, of a meeting at the highest level. I do not know whether the informal contacts at Geneva have shown that such a meeting would be useful at the present time or not. Certainly there has not been much encouragement for it from the Soviet side. I cannot help feeling, however, that the effort is still worth making, for two reasons.
So long as the Western Powers still enjoy supremacy in nuclear weapons—and I understand that we still do—there is relative immunity from attack from the Soviet side. We can negotiate from strength. From the Soviet point of view, would there not be an advantage in negotiating with us before Germany and Japan 501 are re-armed, and force their way to the conference table to stake out their own claims? I do not know whether they see things in that light, and it may be wise to restrict oneself to the Prime Minister's advice of jumping one fence at a time. Let me therefore close by wishing him and the Foreign Secretary a good clearance and safe landing over the brook ahead.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. David Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
I know that it will surprise most hon. Members to find me entering into a debate on foreign affairs. When I was looking in a little drawer at home, I saw many things which reminded me of foreign affairs—many medals with ribbons lying there that members of my family, at various times in their lives, had to wear: medals obtained for service at Vimy Ridge, at Ypres, in Burma and at Dunkirk—and then I thought of the memorable occasion that was to take place in the House of Commons today, when two representatives of this country, not before their time, would be taking the initiative in the affairs of the world.
I believe that it is no use talking about apprenticeship in regard to politics. I think that we should go to those who are a little older than apprentices, who have been through life and who are able to understand the game of life. The House appears to me to be nothing less than the game of life, played in many parts. 'Shakespeare, I think, had no greater characters than the House produces. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is Hamlet?"]
I want to speak on the important matter which is now before us. It calls for all the skill and diplomacy and for all the manoeuvring of the men who have the welfare of the nation at heart. Let us have more of the pro-British in regard to our affairs. I have reached an age when I have regard to no man's opinions. I have reached that stage in life when whatever anyone thinks about me is immaterial to me. The thing is: What do I think myself? When one has made up one's mind, then what one believes one ought to say, and I think that this is the forum in which to do so. This is the place where men, elected by the people, ought to be able freely to speak their minds, without caring whether those who sit next to them will criticise what they 502 say. Believe me, I do not care whether I am criticised or not.
My time in life will be very short, and I began to wonder whether I ought to be silent. I have been in the House for 25 years and I am 82½ years of age, and I wondered whether I should speak on foreign affairs. I claim that I have that right—and, believe me, if I could not claim it, I should take it. I do not think that this is the place for timid people. I think that the sooner we get rid of timidity, the better. The sooner we call a spade a spade the better we shall be able to understand each other. The sooner those who take a six months'' course in economics understand how other people have to live and manage their affairs, the better it will be.
Today we had an example unparalleled in my 25 years in the House. I saw today unanimity—if one can see unanimity, which is a rather abstract term to use—in this Committee which has not marked our proceedings for many a day. I remembered the crisis at Munich. I remembered how people felt in the House and how they felt in the country about the danger of war. I know the feelings of the people in the neighbour—hood in which I live, where men go down to the sea in ships and their sons had to fight in the war, where our streets were visited for eight consecutive nights by bombers and 40,000 of our homes were wiped out. Then I realised the importance of the debate today.
We have not had speeches today about what people used to do in their childhood or by those who have made a Cook's tour to foreign countries and think they know all about them. We have had speeches on the practical side of life. I was never more pleased to listen to the Foreign Secretary than I was today when he got up and made his statement. We live in funny times and we are funny people in the House. We are told never to speak ill of the dead. I have found here that what we are really told is: never speak well of the living. That may seem a contradiction in terms, but when we hammer it out we find that it is so. It is as problematical as the rise in Members' salaries—I had to get that one home. What do we find today? We find the Foreign Secretary—a man of experience, a trusted Member of this House, well-versed in diplomacy, playing 503 his part in the world, voicing the views of England and coming back here to meet the Prime Minister.
I hope no one on this side of the Committee will think that I have joined the Tory Party. That would be the last place I should ever think of going. But that does not stop me giving praise to a man who is second to none in the world today. I do not know any leader—and I have read a bit of history and have never found one—who is so prominent and whose word will count so much in the bringing of peace to the world as the present Prime Minister.
I am not one of those who wish for the right hon. Gentleman's early demise, because I think that at the present time it would not be good. We on this side would not come into power straightaway, but we would in a few more months, and if he will wait for a few more months we will then be able to take over the reins of office. [An HON. MEMBER: "Are you going to take over?"] It is about time that we were brightened up. We want a Billy Graham here, I think. When I looked round and saw how low-spirited everybody was getting, I began to think that if I made a collection everything would be all right. But this is the wrong place, I decided, because they are all beggars, and so I decided that I would not do that but that I had got to do a turn somehow.
The Prime Minister intervened today, and I thought he was very good. But I want to compliment my own leader. It is the first time in the House that I have ever complimented the leader of the Labour Party, and I do it now because I feel that it is in consonance with the views of the majority of British people that what he expressed today, England thinks today.
We feel that the journey to Washington ought to bring peace to the world—we are hoping for it. The only thing that mankind can expect to do any good is peace, if it comes along. Without peace, nothing is of any use at all. I am convinced that when the Foreign Secretary goes with the Prime Minister—who, after all, is only a youngster of 80 years of age—great good will come from their two or three days' chat and personal contact.
I believe that thanks will be given to the Labour Party which, through its 504 leader here today, has given a solid, honest expression of opinion coming from men and women who are honestly and sincerely concerned for the nation's good. I wish both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary god-speed, and I trust that in a few weeks' time they will be able to come back to the House and report that we have not only success, but peace for a long, long time.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Sir Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
We have listened to a really Shakespearean speech from a really Shakespearean character. It is refreshing indeed to think that one can arrive at the age of the hon. Member for the Liverpool, Scotland division (Mr. Logan) and have the mentality of somebody so much more youthful and to have managed to maintain one's respect for the standards by which he has clearly lived all his life. But it makes it rather difficult for me, because I am going to do exactly that thing which the hon. Member suggested should not be done. I am really going to talk about Indo-China and the Indo-China question from a very technical point of view.
I join in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on the enormous personal triumph that he has achieved at Geneva. In the language of the insurance world, he has "taken the lead." Therefore, when he goes to Washington, he does so with power added to what he says that would not have been the case two or three months ago. The moral ascendancy that he has achieved will not be detracted from in any way because I join issue with him very much indeed and disagree with the result of Geneva and some of the methods adopted there and some of the policies initiated.
It fell to me during the war to have the peculiar job of running one portion of the underground movement in China all along the Indo-Chinese border. I think that among Members of the House of Commons I can claim to have probably as intimate a knowledge of the subject of Indo-China, which I have kept fresh since the war, as anybody. I have always believed in the bi-partisan approach to these matters, and during the time that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power I went on occasions, not only to the then Prime Minister, but to the Minister of Defence and 505 put forward certain ideas as to what would happen in the North of Indo-China and Indo-China generally.
What was astonishing in the Foreign Secretary's speech was that he did not express at all, as I think he should have done, some regret that we and America should have left to the very last moment, and even beyond that, the essential job of helping France to fight our war in the Red River Delta. I am on record for eight or nine years as having put forward this view; as having pointed out that there was nothing except a few cardboard compartments, of no substance whatever, between the North of Indo-China and the Middle East. I therefore am possibly entitled to make that reproach at the moment.
It has been touched upon by other hon. Members, but there is no getting away from the fact that informed opinion was fully aware—this was before Communism had a hold in China, or, at any rate, in South China—that this area, the Red River Delta, would be the last place in which a stand could be made against Communism in that area. Nearly all this trouble arises from a lack of precise knowledge of the local conditions. Without wishing in any way to lecture, I should like to give a few points of real fact which have not been mentioned in this debate but which should be stated.
First, there is the fallacy that there is such an entity as China. North China and South China are totally different. The men of North China live in a cold climate on grain. The men of South China live in a warm climate on rice, and they are totally different beings who have little in common, who have always disliked each other and who never worked together. The hold of Communism on South China is very slender, even to this day. It is more than we expected, but through lack of precise knowledge and our lack of willingness to take advantage of it, we have lost opportunity after opportunity in that area of mobilising our friends who were anti-Communist.
The same applies to Indo-China. Indo-China is not a Chinese nation at all. The Khmer Dynasty that lasted for 300 years round about 1600 was not a Chinese dynasty; it was largely Indian. If one looks at the Cambodian—the words are 506 used in the House but nobody seems to realise the picture they conjure up—one finds that the Cambodian is a red man, not a yellow man at all. He is rather like some of the northern Indian people, the Nepalese. The same can be said of the men of Laos and of the men of Kochin and Tonking. All the inhabitants of Indo-China are in different percentages not Chinese, are hostile to China, have never had any desire to be taken over by China, and always have wished to be protected against it.
The first question I used to be asked when going up and down that frontier during the war was, "At the end of the war, are you going to hand us over to the Chinese in some way?" We always had to say "No." The same was true of the provinces of South China. This history of the provinces of South China—of Sze-Chwan, Kwang-Si. Kwang-Tung, and particularly Yu-Nan—has always been of hatred and distrust of North China who periodically stole their food. Yet we have never attempted to bring these masses of friends of ours to assist us against Communism. There has been a lack of knowledge, a lack of initiative and inertia which I think does not redound very much to our credit.
This was looked upon as a French problem. It has never been a French problem, and it is not today entirely a French problem, but what have we done to try to redress the disastrous situation? We can do nothing military at this particular moment, but we, the United States and France, the three primary Powers who are really interested, are unable to agree. I hope as a result of the visit that is going to be made to Washington that we shall get nearer agreement. I will talk a little later about what France thinks and has thought about it.
But what did we do? We brought the so-called Colombo Powers into the matter. The word "Power" presupposes a people willing and able to defend themselves and economically self-supporting. That is not true of these Powers. Let us take them in order. First there is Indonesia. The writ of the central government does not run throughout the territory. Java and Sumatra are more divided than ever before. If we were looking for help from this ponderous mass in any organisation against Communism, what could we expect? We would not get very much.
507 Let us take Ceylon. It is a marginal member of the Empire and has flown in the face of the wishes economically of this country on many occasions. It is approaching something like a crisis, because it will soon be unable to sell its main products at the high premiums it has been getting from China. Not much help is to be got from it. Then there is Siam. In 1941 our Ambassador produced a document which as a written assessment of local conditions, is a classic and makes the "Failure of a Mission" pale into insignificance beside it. Siam has a tradition of not being able to help anybody on any occasion.
Burma is a little more helpful. At least the Burmese representative on returning from Colombo said this: "If we are going to have a policy for East Asia we must have something with which to implement it." That is a great step forward, and there is much more hope for Burma in the future. India and Pakistan are the other two members. The two parts of Pakistan would be at each other's throats but for the thousand miles intervening. India is just beginning to have a growing problem of Communism, and Mr. Nehru's position is nothing like as strong as it was. These are the Powers that we have called in aid.
We have increased our numbers but have we increased our strength? It is difficult to create a great body like the old League of Nations, the United Nations and this new body, S.E.A.T.O. It is harder still to get it to come to a decision and it is utterly impossible to dissolve it. It is always changed into something else. We have created the typical democratic machine which is essentially slow in arriving at decisions of any sort, and we are going to pit that against the typical authoritarian machine such as there is in Russia, to some extent in China and which existed in Germany before the war. This has the immense advantage of taking quick decisions. That I cannot consider to be a really progressive step in any way.
Let us examine for one minute what the situation in China really is. The Central Government in Peking has had a very considerable success in reforming, but that success has been very much in the North. In the South success has only 508 been achieved by massacre and repression. One of the great troubles I am afraid is that the Foreign Secretary has been advised throughout almost entirely by those who have the Peking mind but who do not understand South China in the least. But the difference between North and South China has to be underlined and emphasised to understand the problem.
I get occasional copies of the vernacular Press from South China. In the provinces that I have already mentioned there are at least half a million anti-Communist guerillas, probably most of them armed. We could have mobilised most of them against the Communist aid which has been given to Indo-China. The advantage that the Chinese have afforded to the Vietminh throughout has been that they would take them over the Red River re-equip them and send them back while the French could not get much relief. That we should have allowed that to go on is some measure of our blunder. These things could have been stopped. We organised it during the war, but the steps that we took were supposed to be hush-hush. However there is nothing hush-hush about them now, judging by the number of American films that have appeared about them.
Our organisation during the war was responsible for getting the remaining 6,000 French troops from North Indo-China at the last moment when the Japanese wanted to put their hands on them. It was possible to do these things because we used the right methods. It has been possible to do them for eight years, but we have been blind. When I spoke on the Red River Delta in other days—eight years ago—I used to have powerful friends in the House. Some of them now sit on the Front Bench and the muzzling order for Ministers is preventing them giving me that support now. We all know we could help, but we took no action. The previous Government, and to some extent this Government, have a heavy responsibility in this respect.
These are our two basic troubles. First of all, there is the belief that if some people in a province or in a country shout loud enough for self-government and it is given to them they automatically become a nation or a Power. That is not so. It has got to mature for a long time. It has got to build up its economy and 509 it has to stand on its own feet. Look at the harm that has been done in Indo-China. That country has been broken into fractions in a way that makes neither ethnological, economic nor historic sense. In other words, we have prepared beforehand for the well-known Communist method of allowing one plum to be picked off the wall after another. It has been fractioned entirely for their benefit, and it is perfectly incapable of defending itself.
If we have an election in Laos or in Cambodia, what will be the result? Nothing. The ballot boxes will not defend the electors against bullets. They will not even give them any further immunity from invasion. We shall simply erect a puppet Government, which is the easiest possible prey on which the Communist will batten. It is tragic that we should not have seen this from the South Chinese point of view; it is even more tragic that we should have left it until so late in the day.
But all is not lost, by any means, though there is certainly a great deal to be done in a little time. First of all, let us realise this. In the decade before the war, there was a great deal of controversy between every hon. Member in the House and a great many people outside as to what was to be the chief weapon in fighting a war. Some said it was going to be the air weapon, which would make other weapons obsolete while others asked, "Would it?"
Today, we ought to be thinking on the rather same lines, but in a slightly different form. We are fighting throughout the world a cold war against Communism largely with hot war weapons. We have had a picture drawn for us of drawing a line somewhere in Indo-China and saying, "So far, and no further; you shall not pass this line." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) mentioned it in a speech over the weekend. But, as in the Budget, everything important happens "below the line"; so it does in Communist affairs.
The whole of the success of the Communists since the war has been due to underground activities, and that is where we have failed lamentably. We are thinking entirely in terms of surface weapons, atom bombs and so on. We have got to think of beginning to fight Communism with Communism's own 510 weapons, which are underground weapons, and, unless we do so, any arrangements we make are doomed to failure. It is no good drawing a line and saying "Here, and no farther," when we know perfectly well that the sewer rats will work below the line.
We have got to do one of the most difficult things for the people of this country to do in any way at all, and that is to adopt the same dirty methods against Communism as Communism itself uses. There is nothing more repulsive for the average man of this country—and I can think of no two men to whom it could be more repulsive than the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of Defence—but there is a form of higher patriotism by which we have to give up the things which we hold most dear in order to achieve a certain aim and safeguard them.
Let us take the history of the satellite States—the propaganda, the bumping off, the bribery and corruption—all those things which we have worked so hard to get rid of in this country in order to get a decent standard of living for our people. Now, all the things which we have achieved are in jeopardy unless we are willing, and unless the British people are willing, to fight against this menace with the same weapons that Communism uses. We have seen how the satellite States in Europe were taken over by underground methods—vast propaganda and psychological war.
The Russians have not fought since the war; they have got the Chinese to flight, but they have not fought themselves. All their success is due to the use of underground methods, and we and the Americans and French have to make it clear that we ourselves, though we hate it, are nevertheless willing to use these weapons as our defence against the insidious attack which we know will take place upon us. These things can he done. All our anti-Communist friends are only waiting for a start. All the guerilla troops in Northern Indo-China, as well as those in South-West China, dislike the Northern Chinese and, not being Communistic in feeling, are waiting for some manifestation from us. Is it to be a manifestation of bigger-scale open warfare, or the sort of dirty warfare, 511 which I do not like any more than anybody else, by which the Communists fight. It is a horrible thought, and my sympathy goes out to the Foreign Secretary, who must have seen this before he went to Geneva.
The Americans realise this, they have sent an ambassador to Siam, General Donovan, who headed the American underground secret service during the war—the O.S.S.—to see what can be done. Whether he will report back that something can be done, I do not know. I do not like it myself, because it is not the sort of thing with which I am very anxious to have my name associated, and my name is held in some respect in the places where I have worked, but, from personal knowledge obtained during the war, I know that the suggestion which I am putting forward in regard to underground methods is correct.
France is also beginning to realise this. We are a little unfair to France. It is true that she has followed wrong policies on many occasions, but, as occasion arose, she had the right man at the wrong moment. General de Lattre de Tassigny went out to Indo-China, and there radiated out—as happened in Malaya with General Templer, and these are two instances of what can be done—a new spirit of hope and optimism. That can be done now, and it is to the credit of the Foreign Secretary that the will to peace has radiated from his activities at Geneva. I spent the whole of last week in Paris, and I have many contacts there, and, in my offices, I was speaking to people who had just come from Indo-China. I was less pessimistic on leaving there than I was on arriving. M. Mendès-France, who once came to this House and addressed some of us, has been advocating getting out of Indo-China for many years. I always thought that the French saying "reculer pour mieux sauter" was appropriate to him, but, after listening to him I was not certain that it ought not to be—"reculer pour mieux reculer." Today there is a much more hopeful point of view, though he has done something which is grave and possibly dangerous in setting a time-limit of four weeks in which to attain a certain objective. When we are face to face with the most frightful procrastination in the world—people who are perfectly able and willing to dig their toes 512 in and do nothing, yet with a bland air of goodwill, this sort of occasion may have its dangers, but what is a good deal more worrying is that, if we do not succeed—and there is still a chance that we may—in arresting in the North of Indo-China the clear run of Communism to the West, then the Communists will begin to say that there is only mopping-up to be done, and they will turn their attention to another sphere.
The next area likely for Communist trouble, started by the usual underground methods, will be North Africa. If we are having a very difficult time in Indo-China and the Far East, and that is followed up in North Africa by serious outbreaks of trouble deliberately provoked by the means which I have tried to bring to the attention of the Committee, this situation will be a desperately dangerous one. Think of it alone in terms of Italy and France. We do not devote enough time to the practical thought of what Communism, which is quite relentless and unchanging in its objective, may do next. It is sad to think that 10 years after the end of the war we still have not learned the lesson of how to fight it.
I hope, as one who sends his good wishes to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on their visit to America—and I have studiously refrained from saying one word which might harm their chances there in any way—that when they are there they will get down to studying some of the methods which I have suggested and also no longer believing that what we call the giving of freedom and self-government to provinces and nations means very much when they are not able to defend themselves and are ripe to be plucked when in turn the Communist thinking machine decides that they are the next on the list.
In France, there was a moment of recrudescence of the old spirit after the magnificent military effort in the Red River delta, but it flickered out when the political machine in France failed to function in any way but as a stumbling block against the will of the French people. Let us hope, and it is not at all impossible, that the present difficulties that exist between the three great Powers will be sufficiently got over, possibly in the two or three months which the weather may provide us with in the Red River delta.
513 Let us also hope very deeply indeed that we do not rely on anybody but those two powers and ourselves for any real form of aid—moral aid by all means, but moral aid has a way of being much too late. I hope that when visits are made to China and received here from China Members of the Committee will remember the great difference there is between the two halves of China and the great difficulty there must be in solving the Indo-Chinese problem unless we remember the real basic facts of the case, which in this debate have not come to the surface until I have ventured to mention them.
God-speed to the two right hon. Gentlemen who are going to America, and let their discussions be on a very practical level, not only on the ground but also on what can be done by the other methods which, greatly daring, I have ventured to adumbrate to the Committee.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Winterbottom (Nottingham, Central)
I think the whole House envies the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Sir W. Fletcher) for his first-hand knowledge of South-East Asia. Too many of us must study that part of the world through the columns of the newspapers;we see through a glass, darkly.It is a great problem to many of us to find the truth.
While considering what the hon. Gentleman has had to say on the subject of the need for fighting the cold war in reverse, I feel that he has been less than fair to either the Labour Administration or their successor in saying that we should at some earlier time have taken active steps to help France in her difficulties in the Far East. Surely the point has been that France, suffering from the humiliation of her occupation in the last war, has tried to find her solutions in her own way, and would not have thanked us for attempting to influence her policies, particularly in Indo-China, though obviously she would have welcomed whatever help we could have sent her.
Surely the problem which we and the Foreign Secretary are facing is that the war in Viet Nam—I say specifically Viet Nam—is politically a lost war. That is to say, it was politically lost before the 514 military situation took the most unfavourable turn which it has reached. The position, as I see it, is that the French have been forced to take part in a civil war, and a significant part of the Vietnamese population has been neutral or openly hostile to them.
I was impressed by a newspaper quotation of what was said by a member of the Viet Nam delegation in Geneva, that the problem was that the Vietnamese did not want the Americans to come because they feared they would bring the atom bomb; they did not want the Chinese to come because they did not want Chinese imperialism; and they did not want France because they did not want to retain their colonial status. They wanted a strong and powerful Viet Nam but did not want to take the necessary steps to make it so. There was a complete lack of the will to win among that section of the Vietnamese people with whom the French might have co-operated in fighting this civil war.
The other problem which makes this war so politically difficult is the fact that we could not expect the support of a great deal of Asia if we—that is the N.A.T.O. Powers, the European Powers—brought direct military aid to the French at this stage. That was clearly brought out by the Foreign Secretary in replying to his American friends. We cannot at this stage bring military aid to the French because it would antagonise a great deal of the rest of Asia. We might, in fact, even stabilise the military position in Indo-China, but at the same time behind our lines we should lose the political struggle for the other Asian countries.
That is why the Foreign Secretary has deserved the praise which he has received from both sides of the House on his achievement in the negotiations up to date. He has been playing a most difficult hand with almost no court cards. In spite of that position, he has produced some results. First, he has managed to get talks started on a military cease-fire; that is at least something. He has managed to get it generally accepted among the negotiating parties that the position in Laos and Cambodia is separate and different from the fighting in Viet Nam.
Lastly, he has, I think brought the other Asiatic nations to a clearer understanding of the threat that exists to their 515 own safety and newly won independence. I am only surmising, but I feel that he would not have proposed the Colombo Powers as supervisory Powers for a commission unless he had approached them and received their agreement. If they had reached a stage of offering their support in maintaining peace once a cease fire had been achieved, quite clearly they were gaining an increased understanding of the need for co-operating with the European Powers in protecting their own vital interests.
What stage have we reached now? The talks at Geneva have been suspended until such time as the military conversations have reached some conclusive or inconclusive results. M. Mendès-France is negotiating under continuing military pressure in Indo-China.
We must ask ourselves, what are China's intentions at the moment, because I think that clearly it is China who decides. It is noticeable that the first contact made by M. Mendès-France is not with the Vietminh delegation, but with its masters the Chinese Communists. Who knows what are the Chinese intentions; whether they are limited to creating a buffer State, or liquidating a colonial power on her perimeter, or whether they are in fact unlimited and part of the Communist world revolution. That is why I think every meeting of minds between the Communists and the Western world and the unattached Powers of the world is of value, because it helps us to understand the mind of our enemy even if it does not bring any result or lessen the tension.
That is one of the reasons why I welcome the visit of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and other members of my party to China. It will at least bring a meeting of minds, and certainly in the case of the Leader of the Labour Party it will not be a mind influenced by uncritical enthusiasm for what he will see there. I am certain that he will be able to see through a great deal of the lavish hospitality which will be showered upon him and which he will have to enjoy. As he himself said, as we feel out and try to understand the intention of the Communists in China, one of the things that indeed is necessary to understand their true intentions is the acceptance of their existence, or rather to 516 persuade America to accept their existence as a de facto Government, and to bring them back into the United Nations, and then to see how they behave.
Once this important political objective has been achieved, it may be that we shall find that their grievance that they are treated as outside the United Nations—and regard that organisation with suspicion—will disappear. That may happen but I am somewhat sceptical that it will be so. In China I think there is a very considerable amount of xenophobia because of the humiliation China has received from the West. Quite consciously the Chinese Communists have taken over the leadership of Communism in Asia. Indeed, their activities have not been directed only to areas where the Western world has been impinging on their interests.
We must not forget the absorption into the Chinese system of Tibet, a country whose basic philosophy is more peaceful than most Christian pacifists, where everyone believes that life is sacred. We can see penetration into Nepal, and the affairs of Burma and Indonesia also have been affected and used by Communist strategists. They are pressing outwards, not only against points where the Western world touches on their society, but also against nations which have been independent for many centuries or have recently achieved independence. I shall believe their good intentions when they cooperate freely with those independent Asiatic countries to put down subversion within those other territories. When I see free co-operation to end Communist subversion within Asiatic countries, I shall believe in the good intentions of China.
Having voiced that somewhat sceptical view of Chinese intentions, we must ask ourselves what we must do if the outward pressure from China continues and if we achieve no important cease-fire situation or a half-peace in Indo-China. If that point is reached we must be prepared to make a stand. A line must be drawn beyond which we cannot accept that Communist penetration shall pass. I feel that that line must be drawn in Burma and Siam, one country with a long history of independence and one which has recently gained its independence. I feel that those are countries where our vital interests are affected; where any attack by 517 the Communists would be clear aggression; where the issues would not be clouded up by accusations of obsolete Colonialism and where we have responsibilities and interests. We have given Burma independence, but that does not mean to say that we have ceased to be responsible for seeing that that independence is maintained.
The question is, how? We have had a very interesting series of contributions to this particular point. I think that the Foreign Secretary is quite rightly thinking in other terms than of a South-East Asia North Atlantic Treaty. It is quite clear—
§ Mr. Winterbottom
My right hon. Friend corrects me. The rather ugly abbreviation—"Seato"—is used and I was trying to avoid it.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
Quite clearly, any organisation of the N.A.T.O type is completely unsuitable for the political situation in South-East Asia. We have to find other ways of bringing military assistance to that part of the world without everyone climbing into the same bed. To have Asiatic Governments and European Powers in one imperial military organisation in my opinion is not possible.
I think that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) who suggested that quite a different sort of organisation should be brought about whereby we are prepared to provide both military material and men and then to inform those countries who have called upon us to do so that we should be willing to go to their aid to prevent either invasion or subversion. When created, that organisation must be one which is there to serve these people to be called on in case of need. The initiative must come from the free and unattached nations of Asia, because they must not fear that, by some sort of crypto-imperialistic move, we shall restore our position and influence in those countries which have recently been released from it.
Perhaps the most important step we should take in creating this new type of organisation is to support the Siamese 518 application to the General Assembly of the United Nations that a group of observers should be sent to the Siamese-Indo-Chinese frontier. The Committee will not forget that when Siam made this proposal at the Security Council, the Russians employed their veto for the 60th time and turned down the proposal on the grounds that those observers would constitute a threat to the people of Indo-China. It would, of course, only constitute a political inconvenience to Communist intentions.
I feel therefore that as a first step towards building up a security organisation in South-East Asia the Foreign Secretary should press within the United Nations Assembly for the acceptance of the proposals of Siam. As I said earlier, this battle must be fought politically as well as militarily. If we have to fight, the battle is politically possible because we shall have behind us the complete moral and physical support of the other countries of Asia.
Now I should like to turn to another aspect of the problem which has been raised by other speakers today, especially the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby). The problem we are facing is that another victim of the Indo-Chinese war is the European Defence Community Treaty. I regret this deeply because I have supported the concept of a German defence contribution within the European Defence Community. I am afraid, however, that, in spite of having supported that concept in the past, we cannot blink our eyes to the fact that our chances of getting E.D.C. in its present form have almost disappeared. That is a matter of regret, and it does not mean that the matter can be left lying there.
The Germans are a dynamic people, and they will demand a say in their own affairs, which means their own defence force. If we are to salvage something from the confusion around the future of the European Defence Community, we must accept the fact that more will be demanded from this country rather than less. The fact that the European Defence Community in its present form is slipping quietly over the horizon does not mean that the problem is solved.
The reason why I say that the European Defence Community is being sacrificed lies with the peculiar situation in 519 France and with the policy of M. Mendès-France in the past. He has committed himself to an extremely tight time-table. If he fails, he will fall and the Government which succeeds him will not have the strength to push E.D.C. in its present form through the French Assembly. This means that in the autumn of this year we must expect American and German representations for a change in our present policy. Neither of those countries will wait forever and I am surprised that anyone can think that the Germans will acquiesce in their present colonial position for very much longer. They are much too powerful a people.
The hard fact is that we are in the saddle in Germany at the moment by the consent of the horse. If the German people turned against us tomorrow and used the classical techniques of revolution to turn us out, it would have a most surprising effect. I doubt if we could maintain our position in that country. Therefore something must be done about the situation there.
Again the situation is desperate if the negotiations should succeed in South-East Asia because, if M. Mendès-France succeeds, and let us hope that he does, his position will be stabilised. His Government will last for a long time. As hon. Members will have seen, he is already initiating negotiations with General Koenig, who is an opponent of E.D.C. and a member of the M.R.P., to find a compromise way out. For both these reasons E.D.C. is not likely to continue in its existing form and we must be prepared to find alternatives.
I am glad that so many hon. Members of this House are turning their minds towards bringing Germany into a still wider organisation in which we, too, will have to play our part. We cannot contract out easily from the situation in which we find ourselves, and we must ourselves be prepared to shoulder additional burdens if we are to assist France to get through the confusion and disaster which she is facing at the moment.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
I had not intended to speak so early after having made my maiden speech in the House. However, because I have spent a considerable part of my time in both 520 China and Japan, and have also had a great deal to do with Far Eastern affairs, both at home and in Washington, I am grateful for the opportunity of intervening in this debate.
First, I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on having so ably negotiated with the Communists and the Chinese at Geneva. It is no easy task to negotiate with the Chinese but one of his great achievements for this country, though perhaps a negative one, is nevertheless very real. It is that my right hon. Friend brought home, as none of us has been able to bring home, to the countries of the West the seriousness of the present Far Eastern situation. Also he has brought home to free Asia the fact that, in spite of the anti-colonial propaganda which is put out so much by the Communists and the left-wing spokesmen—one of whom was speaking this evening, the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies); in spite of that anti-colonial anti-American propaganda, the Foreign Secretary has got home to the people of free Asia our sincerity in not only wishing to seek peace in that area but also our desire to raise the standard of living of the people there.
What of the present situation with which we are faced? What is the relationship between the military problem, the economic problem and the political problem? It is easy, but in my view misguided, to say that it is entirely a military problem with which we are faced in South-East Asia today. It is easy to say that we are faced with an alliance of 800 million people, 10 million of whom are under arms, who occupy a land frontier of 20,000 miles, and who can strike anywhere from a central position along that line. That is the situation which the military strategists have to face, but in my view it is not by any means the whole problem.
Since 1945, the Communist way of working has been to precede military action by political and economic action. The pattern has been one with which we are all familiar. Political instability, economic distress and low standards have afterwards led to the military action. This has happened not only in Europe, but in the Far East as well. For it was the political corruptness of Chiang Kaishek's régime and the low standard of living of the Chinese people that eventually led to the victory of Mao Tse-tung 521 in China. Nevertheless, we must be clear that he achieved his victory as well by making promises to the Chinese people.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
if the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my argument, I will deal with his red herring in a moment.
This technique of softening up politically and economically was followed in China, in Korea, and in Indo-China as well. Therefore, is it possible to say that by stopping the economic and political causes can one stop the military action? That is possibly the logical argument that follows and it would be all right but for one factor in the Far East which is very problematical indeed, and that is the mood of China herself.
I know that many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee are thinking very deeply about the mood in which we find Communist China. The hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) said that the Burmese Socialists were more frightened of the imperialism of the Chinese Communists, than of the old-fashioned Western imperialism.
I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary say that since Geneva our relations with China had improved. However, I well remember coming back across the South Atlantic in 1943 on my return from training West African divisions which were going out to Burma. With me was a Chinese doctor from Amoy, who had been sent out to train these divisions in malaria precautions. I remember him saying, "You must realise that for a generation China has known nothing but war and force as a means of settling disputes." I listened carefully to those words spoken 11 years ago, and as I look hack on them I cannot help feeling the truth of them.
In the Far East they have a saying that "He who mounts the tiger cannot dismount." While at one time we applied that to the Japanese imperialists, today I am not so sure—though I hope it is not so—that we can discount the fact that it could be applied to Communist China. The soldier is at the head of the social scale, and no longer the scholar, as those who have read Chinese culture will know used to be the case.
522 As I was saying before I was interrupted from the benches opposite, Mao Tse-tung achieved his position by making promises to the Chinese people.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
The Leader of the Opposition said that he should be perfectly satisfied with governing 603 million people. But it is one thing to govern that number of people and quite another to find the goods which one has promised them when the country which one rules produces only 1½ million tons of steel a year, as against 17 million tons in this country and over 100 million tons a year in the U.S.A. We know of many cases in history where foreign dictators similarly placed to Mao Tse-tung have embarked on foreign adventures in order to satisfy the people to whom they made such promises. I trust that the Chinese leaders will not be so unwise as to embark on any foreign adventures, because I am sure such a course could only end in the greatest calamity in the Far East.
Faced with this threat, what action should we take? First, undoubtedly, we must work for a collective defensive pact in the Far East; for, whatever happens in Indo-China, we must decide the line beyond which any advance by the Communists would conflict with our interests. The hon. Member for Nottingham, Central (Mr. Ian Winterbottom) said that we have to decide that line, and I am very pleased that from the other side we have agreement on that.
Secondly, as well as a defensive pact we should think also of collective combined political and economic action so that, if necessary, we can in some way get an understanding with the Chinese on economic affairs, but only in co-ordinated direct dealings with them. I am sure that Mao Tse-tung is a student of Sun and Wu, an ancient Chinese military writer, one of whose precepts is that one must never force one's opponent to such desperation that he must leap at one's throat like a rat in a corner.
Thirdly, as we are building up this defensive pact and this political and economic alliance, we must also fight as hard as we can against the Communist propaganda which is put out not only in this country but in Asia. I noticed the disparaging remarks which the hon. 523 Member for Leek made about Singapore, about Hong Kong and about America. Such remarks, which try to discount everything that we have done in the past, do a great disservice to those people in Asia who are trying their utmost to create peaceful conditions and to find means of co-existence.
We should be very proud of what has been done in the past. In Singapore we have created a fine city from what was once a marsh. In Hong Kong we have created one of the most modern trading cities in the world from what was a Chinese fishing village. Does the peace of the 19th Century, which we maintained with our Fleet and with only a handful of military men, count for nothing? Those are the points which we must make forcefully in the East if we are to create the conditions of peaceful co-existence which I know we all want.
Here I would ask hon. Members to consider what is the next threat which faces us in Asia. I know that many people think that the next threat from China, if there is one, may come in Thailand, Burma or Malaya. But I would ask the Committee to consider the position of Japan. That country, although it has 80 million people, has not been considered at all in this debate. Japan alone in Asia has the industry to satisfy the promises which Mao Tse-tung has made to the Chinese people. This is a nation of 80 million people living on four small islands. Her population has increased since 1945 by a population equal to that of Australia. Her position economically is very precarious. Her natural markets have been taken from 'her by the Bamboo Curtain.
Returned prisoners of war from Manchuria indoctrinated by the Communists and discontented business men may create the conditions for the Communist softening-up process with which we are only too familiar. We must realise that the political position in Japan does not change from one moderate party to another similar party, but the past shows it goes from one moderate party to extremism. That is why we have to be very careful indeed to see that when we are discussing the Far Eastern situation we do all we can to encourage a moderate friendly Government in Japan. That is why I attack very strongly the intention of 524 the Leader of the Opposition to visit China. He is discounting the very susceptible feelings of the Liberal Conservative Government which is at present in power in Japan. This is a point which the right hon. Gentleman should weigh up very carefully indeed before he embarks on that mission, although he may have very sincere ideas of peace, in his mind.
I was in Tokio in 1939 when the late Sir Stafford Cripps visited Chungking and Tokio. Any good that he might have done in encouraging our friends in Japan to come in with us was destroyed because in the first place he visited Chungking and Chiang Kai-shek. Not only is the visit of the Leader of the Opposition having that detrimental effect on some who might be friends of this country, but it is undoubtedly having a bad effect on the Anglo-American alliance.
Having worked a great deal in the Far East and having studied the Far Eastern situation, I would say that the greatest factor for peace in the Far East is that we and the Americas speak with one voice.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
Does the hon. Gentleman think that it is all right for the Foreign Secretary to meet all these Communist leaders, but that nobody else should meet them?
§ Mr. Ridsdale
No, I do not think so at all. I am trying to put the point of view of Japan and the effect that the visit of the Leader of the Opposition will have on moderate friendly feeling in Japan to this country. I am sure the hon. Gentleman realises perfectly well that when the people of Japan see the leader of one political party in this country visit someone else, it is an entirely different thing from the Foreign Secretary visiting them in conference.
In my view, the basis of peace in the Far East is the Anglo-American alliance. When we have moved out of step in the past it has had the most grave consequences. We saw the unhappy results in the case of Manchuria in 1931 and in 1941 during the months leading up to Pearl Harbour, and also over the recognition of Communist China in 1950.
In the Far East we face a long pull towards the goal of peace which we all most sincerely desire. Somehow or other we have to work out a policy of live and let live with China. If we are to trade with China, as we must, we must do so 525 directly and not via Russia. We must be careful not to allow China to get into a desperate situation, where she feels that the only way she can get the economic goods she needs is by embarking on some foreign adventure. However, until she shows her peaceful intentions we must do all we can to work out defensive arrangements with our friends in Asia, and a common political and economic trade policy with all the allies we can find. Then, and only then, will we get peace in the Far East.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
I promise to be very brief, because many hon. Members have been waiting all day to speak. I hope that the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) will excuse me if I do not comment on the points he made in his speech, except to say that he will not expect me to agree with his remarks. On the other hand, I should not like the speech of the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Sir W. Fletcher) to go unnoticed. It was a quite outrageous speech. We heard from him today the British equivalent of the American "China Lobby."
It seems amazing that people will never learn that the same kinds of mistakes which were made in 1917, after the Russian revolution—the foolhardy schemes of intervention of the present Prime Minister—are exactly what the American "China Lobby" has been advocating in the Far East, and what the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe has been advocating today. The only illuminating remark he made concerned his high hopes of the American Ambassador in Siam, who apparently goes under the name of "Wild Bill Donovan." That was a most interesting, satisfactory and illuminating piece of information.
Rather than continuing to discuss these side issues, I want to deal with the speech of the Foreign Secretary. In the debate today, and in the British Press for some weeks past, he has received general praise for the way in which he has conducted the Geneva Conference. It is important that it should be understood abroad, especially in America, that this praise for the Foreign Secretary has come from people in every part of the British political spectrum, and that much of what he has been doing has merely been in accord 526 with the accepted policy of united British opinion.
The unanimity of that policy, however, is not the only important point. Another important question is what he has been doing in Geneva to earn the applause which has been given to him by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. What really matters is the nature of the work he has done. The Geneva Conference opened in the worst circumstances. We had the rushed and hurried visit to this country of Mr. Dulles, who expressed the belief—and I must confess that it was also my belief at the time—that the Foreign Secretary had agreed to a policy of united action and the setting up of an Asian N.A.T.O. before the beginning of the Geneva Conference. Diplomacy was being conducted across the world not only at the double but at the shout. A very dangerous situation resulted. Then it was announced on 27th April by the Prime Minister that the British Government would not consider an Asian N.A.T.O. and would not enter into any new military commitment in advance of the outcome of the Geneva Conference. Mr. Dulles found, too, that he could not command support in his own country for some of the logical consequences of his own policy.
There was a collapse. The bluff was called. The logical assumption of all that is that if the policy of negotiation from strength, the tough policy, was the only policy, our position at Geneva would have become immediately impossible. That is the natural assumption in the light of events as they have turned out. It would have prejudiced and undermined the Western position. It might have been assumed by those who believe in a tough policy that the discussions would then be pointless because of our disarray and disunity at Geneva, but the new situation created by the loosening of the Western alliance was what actually made the Geneva Conference, was what enabled the Foreign Secretary to exercise his initiative at the Conference. That is the complete vindication of all those who advocated an independent British policy within the Anglo-American alliance, and I think that it is important for us to realise exactly how that set of conditions arose which has enabled us here today in this Committee to give unanimous support to the Foreign Secretary's policies and actions at Geneva.
527 It is true, of course, that the progress of the Conference was very slow at the beginning, but what has to be remembered by the Committee is that this was China's first appearance at a great international conference. It was quite natural that China would want to be cautious in those circumstances. If I had been leading the Chinese delegation I should have wanted to have been very cautious in those sort of circumstances, at the first appearance of my country at a great international conference. It has to be remembered, too, that time and again discussions had to wait upon the resolution of the French internal crisis.
In addition to all that, there was the form of the Conference, to which the Foreign Secretary referred. As he said, every meeting had to be specifically organised. If there was to be a meeting next day he himself had to ring up Mr. Molotov and say, "Can we have a meeting tomorrow? Will you get your people on your side of the Iron Curtain there, while we get the Western side there?" And then he had to book the room. That was how the meetings were arranged, and it put a great weight of work on the go-betweens, the chairmen, of the respective sides at the Conference, and it slowed progress considerably. However, it also meant that there was a great deal more room for manoeuvre and discussion, and there was not the same rigid position taken up There was not the same sort of rigid trench warfare from prepared positions, as there was at the Berlin Conference.
It is my firm impression, based upon talks I have had with many of the Communist delegates at Geneva, that what has emerged as a result of the loosening of the international discussions is an event of profound significance and historical importance. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) said, this was China's first appearance on the world stage. A further interesting thing about it is that this is China's first appearance as a complete equal. I emphasise that—as a complete equal. This means that the Geneva Conference of 1954 will always be known in the history of international politics as the occasion on which there was a new alignment and a new relationship 528 amongst the Communist Powers of the world. It is important for us of the West to ponder that deeply.
It could not have happened had there been a rigid line-up on the Western side, which would have compelled a rigid line-up on the Eastern side. It could not have happened if there had been the same rigid form that was at the Berlin Conference. It is worth pondering deeply and in detail by those of us who have been endeavouring to disillusion people who believe that Communist policy is plotted by a small group of men in some building in the centre of Moscow, by a small group sitting in the Kremlin.
The proof of what I am saying about the new alignment among the Western Powers at Geneva is to be found in the activities of Mr. Molotov himself, and in the tribute so rightly paid to him by the Foreign Secretary today. We have been so busy saying that the Foreign Secretary has done well at the Geneva Conference that some of us have forgotten the indefatigable efforts of the Russian Foreign Minister, fulfilling a similar position on the Eastern side and acting as a go-between for the two sides.
An additional fruit of the Geneva Conference and of the loosening of the Western attitude has been a loosening among the Communist Powers. This is applicable only to the Indo-China part of the Conference. When we come to the Korea part of the Conference, which had its rigid secretariat and rigid format and rigid line-up, absolutely no progress was made and nothing was achieved. That was as a result of the intransigence of both sides. I am not saying that we are in any way to blame, any more than are the Communist Powers. I was seized of this intransigence even more forcibly during a two-hour discussion with Mr. Nam II, the North Korean Foreign Minister. During it I realised the toughness and the hardening of the political situation in Korea which makes it so difficult to have any kind of negotiation.
The third point I want to make, which is very important, is that a line-up leads to a line-up. The loosening of the Western alliance, while still maintaining its basic essentials—and I am not attacking those this evening—leads not to an increase in strength on the Communist side, as people said would be the case, but to a corresponding loosening on their 529 side. That is the third lesson which I think we should be wise to learn as a result of the Geneva Conference.
None of these manifestations would have been possible had we followed the old Berlin format. All the praise which we have ladled on the Foreign Secretary, all the achievements which have come out of Geneva so far, as a result of this change which took place in the international situation, were a result of the British Government's decision to stand firm and incur no commitments in advance of the Geneva Conference and not to proceed with the Asian N.A.T.O. talks until the outcome of that Conference was clear.
I turn from the Geneva Conference to the next stage, which is that of the Anglo-American talks in Washington and the Anglo-American alliance. There has been a lot of loose talk lately about a show-down with the Americans. There has been strong resentment in this country of American policy, and some people have been asking how important is the Anglo-American alliance. For myself, I consider it absolutely vital, because it gives this country a chance to influence and guide the policies of the American Government, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aston implied in his speech. If that alliance were once broken, the chance of preventing American policies from doing irreparable damage to the world and to the American nation itself would be lost. That is why it is essential that the Anglo-American alliance should be retained but that British independence within the alliance should be asserted.
Reference has been made in the debate to the necessity for the recognition of China and for some of the differences between ourselves and the Americans to be understood. I do not want to go over that ground, because it has already been covered and time is getting short. The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby) became involved in a fratricidal conflict with the Prime Minister. If he is in any difficulty with his Front Bench, I can put him in touch with a good business consultant who can advise him on greater productivity in his recalcitrance. Before he became involved in this conflict he asked about the fundamental differences between ourselves and the Americans and said that the trouble 530 lay in arguments within the American Government itself.
I do not accept that. I think it goes much deeper. The first difference springs from a fundamentally different approach to Communism. The American quarrel with the Communist countries is based on the fact that they are Communist countries. Our quarrel is not based on that fact but on the fact that again and again we have found that Communist parties in non-Communist countries have been used as an instrument for the policy of the Communist countries. That is a fundamental difference of approach and attitude and the central difference in our argument with the Americans, in our approach to China and our recognition of China, and in our acceptance of some of the legitimate claims of Mr. Ho Chiminh. I personally feel that the use of the Communist parties in the non-Communist countries as instruments of Russian policy and now, may be, of Chinese policy, may well in some cases have arisen as a result of aggressive intentions, but I think that it goes back a good deal further than that. I think that it really arises—and this is where it originated—from their own fears for their own security in earlier days. It arises partly from the kind of interventions and advocacy of the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe in the "China Lobby."
The Russians feared that after the 1917 Revolution wars of intervention would be mounted in their country, and all they have been doing is using the Communist parties outside their territories to turn the thing over the other way. I think that we have to call a halt to this situation, see what we can do to remove their fears and build up Communist confidence in the sincerity of the Western Alliance for Peace.
I think that if I had been sitting in the Kremlin or in the Foreign Ministry at Peking, I would have been extremely doubtful about the sincerity of the Western Alliance for Peace, in view of the statements made recently. That is why I speak about the British Government having an essential part to play in the building up of Communist confidence in the Western security for peace. They can only play that part by exercising their undeniable right in the Anglo-American alliance and acting as a hinge between East and West.
531 The Americans are convinced that the Chinese revolution, the Korean War and the Indo-China War are all products of the plotting of a few power politicians. We, on the other hand, with our much greater experience, appreciate that some of these things are internal upsurges, springing from uncontrollable social movements and directed against corrupt and despotic règimes.
Sometimes this takes the form of a revolt against Western imperialism which began with essentially nationalistic characteristics. That is why the surest way of spreading Communism in Asia would be to adopt the policy of a Western planned, Western dominated and Western instigated military alliance in South-East Asia. It is the surest way of bringing people in the political no-mans-land into the Communist camp, because it makes the Communists the champions of Asiatic nationalism, and it is because we, on this side of the Committee, do not wish to preside over the Communisation of Asia any more than hon. Members opposite, or any more than the Americans—but because we see the logical outcome of these policies—that we have expressed our grave fears about the dangers of an Asian N.A.T.O
I think that we have to make it clear to the United States Government that the problem of Communism in Asia is distinct in some ways from the problem of Communism in Europe, because the economic situation is very different, the standard of living very different, and the problem is essentially a social one. I think that it is essential for the Foreign Secretary to make it clear that, if we feel as we do about Communism, it is no good talking in terms of military containment of Communism, and that we have to do more than pay lip-service to the Colombo Plan and to Mutual Aid, and do more in raising the standard of life of the Asiatic people. In propagating this policy, I think that Her Majesty's Government have to draw on something of the same kind of imaginative approach as led to the British Government giving freedom to the peoples of India.
If necessary we may have to "go it alone" in advocating this policy and doing what we can within our capacity to achieve it. In conclusion may I add that, in saying these things, I emphasise 532 the complete right of this country to assume the guiding rôle in the Anglo-American alliance. This country has a tradition and an indigenous capacity for leadership which gives us that right. It is also essential for the future of mankind that we assume that rôle at the earliest possible moment in order to save mankind from the dangers and outcomes of the dangerous policies which have been advocated in the U.S.A.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) paid tribute to the fact that much praise has been lavished upon the Foreign Secretary from all quarters today, and it is a striking feature of the day's debate that we have heard probably less about truckling to the United States and less about the evils of colonialism in South-East Asia than on any previous occasion.
I, for one, was surprised and a little puzzled that we did not hear the oracle of the Welsh mountains, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). who, I am sorry to see, is not in his place, since he took such a decided line on this whole problem not so very long ago. But the critical fact is that we are now on the eve of a visit to the United States capital, in which the bases of our collaboration with the United States are to be worked over afresh. It is in that context and under the shadow of that forthcoming visit that we have been debating today.
I should like, rather than to follow the hon. Member for Pembroke, to revert to one of the two maiden speeches which we heard earlier and which came from my own county in Scotland—namely. Lanark—from the newly arrived and hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson), who represents a constituency just beside mine. I was greatly impressed by many things that he said, to one of which little attention has been paid in the debate and to which we could well pay further heed.
The hon. Member referred to a certain element of restraint in the world situation and cited, as an example, the fact that the fighting has, anyhow, stopped in Korea and has not been resumed. I believe with the hon. Member that that is a feature of enormous importance, the significance of which we should not overlook and certainly the meaning of which 533 should not be hidden from us by the fact that precise diplomatic accord was not reached with the opposite side al the Geneva Conference.
I suggest that the fact that there was no accord at Geneva was not the reason that matter has been overlooked in the debate today. It is rather that there is in fact no fighting and no movement in Korea and that the opposing spheres of influence have become stabilised, by whatever means or whatever agreed silences it may be.
In South-East Asia it is a very different story. We might indeed with Goldsmith relate thatTrade's proud empire hastes to swift decay,As ocean sweeps the laboured mole away,While self-dependent power can time defy,As rocks resist the billows and the sky.It is the Chinese purposes in South-East Asia which we are considering and upon which many of us have still to form a firm judgment.
It might be said that China has economic purposes in dominating, supporting, advising, assisting and giving moral help to the Viet Minh operations for a considerable time. Anybody who studies the map—and any hon. Member who knows the ground well can confirm this—will observe that the Red River Delta provides a very natural and agreeable outlet to the warm seas for a network of rail communications that are going forward day by day up to Chungking, and from Chungking north-west to the Soviet frontier to join the Turk-Sib Railway, which itself links Soviet Central Asia with the Trans-Siberian Railway. On another railway coming down, if my memory serves me aright, to Nanning, in Kwang-si, there is already—and there has been boast of this in the Chinese Press—a through train service all the way up to the Manchurian frontier.
The Red River Delta provides a very natural economic outlet to those lines of communication which are developing. It could be that those of us who are not blinded by ideological prejudice might conclude that a natural imperialist Chinese purpose in Indo-China could well be to secure that opening to the seas and that this was the main purpose in the foreseeable future.
There is, of course, a different interpretation, and in its crudest and baldest form it was inserted in the Congressional 534 Record on 29th April by Senator Knowland. For what it is worth, I should like to condense it.
That insertion purported—and I emphasise "purported"—to be a summary of Premier Chou En-lai's own views as stated in December of last year. According to this purported interpretation the Chinese object in South-East Asia is to force the French out of Indo-China within a short time, at any rate within the next year, by means of an armistice followed by Popular Front coalitions and all the rest. Then the programme lists Burma and Thailand, to be followed by Indonesia, described with some literary licence, no doubt, as a ripe plum. It points out that Malaya would then be encircled and suggests the British would take fright and run out. Then, of course, India would be open to assault, not by direct military attack but by the infiltration methods with which we are familiar in Communist tactics.
I am not saying that this is a correct interpretation of the Chinese purpose. But I believe it is important none the less that we should know that such an interpretation exists. The programme as quoted by Senator Knowland proceeds thus: Once India has been penetrated, then all the régimes of the Middle East and in Africa would be open to subversion, revolution and collapse until finally the Western Powers were left to capitulate in humble and servile submission.
I have quoted these as two extreme interpretations. Whichever of them is correct, I believe it is vital that we should continue, in estimating Asian affairs, to take moderate, reasonable and respectful counsel with our Asian friends, who may be best fitted to estimate their neighbour's objects.
Again, if there is one feature which has stood out in the debate today, it has been the common gratification that throughout the Geneva Conference my right hon. Friend has contrived not only to maintain but, I think we can say, to deepen the confidence in which he is held by our Asian partners in the Commonwealth. It may perhaps be inferred from what he said that that contact with New Delhi has led to a very important distinction that my right hon. Friend disclosed in his opening speech.
535 He spoke of the "support and friendship" of the Asian countries in the event of our succeeding in forming some defence agreement on our side to counterbalance the Sino-Soviet Alliance. This implied the Colombo Powers would not necessarily be invited or expected to join formally. Then he also spoke of some system of armistice control to maintain peace in Indo-China, which, if it could be brought about, would be ably assisted by our Asian friends—indeed they would be the leading operatives.
What is quite certain is that the importance Which we attribute to India is also attributed to India by China. The Chinese Prime Minister is to visit New Delhi, and that will, no doubt, give some satisfaction, though it may also give some cause for anxiety here and there. We all know that the Chinese diplomatist is an expert in that field. Indeed we have from a distance observed the Chinese Prime Minister—a personality of astonishing ability, resource and skill.
We can picture him arriving in New Delhi and some of us will wonder if Pandit Nehru will in that event remember Ito recall the moral of the history of Chiang Kai-shek. He began as a militarist and revolutionary. He has ended, one might say, as an outcast. It may be well for some in Asia, who look with longing admiration at Premier Chou En-lai, to reflect on the consequences that can ensue in the course of the years through too intimate an association with quarters of that sort.
It has been said that the purpose of diplomacy is to do and say the nastiest things in the nicest way. At the end of this quite extraordinary Conference, held together and kept running by the Foreign Secretary, I feel that we can signalise a series of distinct advances. I opened my remarks by referring to the deadlock, stalemate or truce in Korea—at all events, the lack of fighting there. We now see proposals come from the other side that Laos and Cambodia should be neutralised, and we see the French Prime Minister proceeding to conversations with the Chinese Prime Minister, and some of us are bound to hope that there will be a settlement, though we believe it can only be by partition.
The conclusion that I draw from that situation is that, as power is building up 536 on opposing sides, so it is settling down to a kind of checkmate. As it has done in Korea by more violent means, so it is also happening in Indo-China, if on a less cataclysmic scale. At all events, I am quite certain that the Foreign Secretary's work has been to bring the two sides together and make possible some kind of line where spheres of influence will be stabilised.
Again, the Foreign Secretary has made—what I am sure we all welcome here—a very promising and encouraging start in the resumption of tolerable relations with China. The fact that a Chinese Diplomatic Mission is to come to London has not perhaps received sufficient attention, but it is none the less one practical and welcome result of the Conference.
Again, I found his words felicitous as he referred to "co-existence" with China. It is indeed co-existence that we are looking for. Let us not talk about China being admitted suddenly into the United Nations. These things are complex, and, perhaps, beyond the ambit even of the Washington discussions. The practical ad hoc basis of co-existence may well be sufficient to tide us over a phase of difficulty and danger.
At Washington, the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary will be seeking to steer some kind of middle course between those who say we ought to do nothing until all Asian nations are in agreement with us and those in the United States who say we ought to do everything to the point even of intervention, whether the Asians like it or not. What we would say, on the eve of the departure of my right hon. Friends, is what Shakespeare said in "Henry IV":A peace is of the nature of a conquest; For then both parties nobly are subdued, And neither party loses.The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary will traverse the Atlantic with a heartfelt god-speed from every man, and not least with the good wishes and prayers of the trembling millions of the vast purple reaches of the Orient.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
My first pleasant duty is to mention the two maiden speakers who have graced our debate this afternoon. My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) made an excellent speech entirely in smooth-running Scots 537 accents, which are always pleasing to me as a Cockney, with possible Scots blood in my veins a long time ago, though I cannot prove it. Such accents are always pleasing to me to hear.
Then we had the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. John Eden), and we were very glad to hear the thoughtful, quiet speech which he delivered. It is true that his accent, temperament and line were not on all fours with those of the Foreign Secretary, but, after all, there is no obligation on a nephew to agree with his own uncle. If he is off the rails a little, we excuse him—we even welcome it, and we hope that there will be some degree of family conflict in the future which might easily shake the present Government to its foundations. We shall be glad to hear both hon. Gentlemen in our future debates.
We were also pleased to hear the speech of the Foreign Secretary, which was a straight account of what had happened and left us with some restrained hope for the future. We cannot go beyond that, and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would wish us to do so. Nevertheless it was an account with some degree of encouragement about it.
He was followed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who always shames me by his capacity to say an awful lot in a very short space of time. I wish I could do so as well as he can. I am sure that a number of my hon. Friends behind me wish they could do it—and hon. Members on the other side of the Committee too. I have brutally cut myself down to 20 minutes, but I shall not reach the record of my right hon. Friend this afternoon.
There were some encouraging things about the Geneva Conference, as I think there were about the conference at Berlin. It seemed almost inevitable, in earlier conferences in which the Western Powers and the Soviet Union took part, that there would be a fair amount of slanging and of abuse and a shocking amount of obstruction and waste of time. There was a little plain speaking on this occasion at Geneva, but it was not the good old-style stuff, and as this happened both at Berlin and at Geneva, it may be that, like the old-time obstruction in the House of Commons of 538 the really vigorous, time-wasting sort which used to exist but which appears to have substantially gone—of course there are times when this Government do the maddest things and we have to pull them up, but on the whole it has gone—this old traditional obstruction and abuse at these international gatherings has gone. At all events, it was really absent from Berlin and substantially absent from Geneva.
That is a very encouraging circumstance. And business was done. The Geneva Conference took a fair time, but business was done. There has resulted no full agreement. As I say, we must not be too optimistic about the Conference, but at all events it has not dissolved. There are some threads left which can still be picked up, and we all wish the Foreign Secretary well in the continuance of work which he has usefully begun; and we wish him every success in future consultations and deliberations.
The right hon. Gentleman has taken much the line that we should have taken had we been in office. In those circumstances, I can never see the point—in anything really, but particularly in foreign affairs—in a Government and Opposition disagreeing merely for the sake of disagreeing. It is too serious a matter. If there is disagreement, if there is a divergence of opinion, we have the duty to state it with clearness and vigour, but when there is broad and general agreement I think it would be mischievous and contrary to the well being of the country that we should invent an artificial dispute.
I agree with the Foreign Secretary, and I was glad that he said it, that British military intervention in Indo-China, at the time it was talked about, would have been not only undesirable but impracticable, and I am sure that it would not have been tolerated by British public opinion. Therefore, we on this side of the House took the view that it should not occur.
There are some lessons to be learned from this grievous tragedy and sad conflict in Indo-China. To the surprise of all of us, there was mention this afternoon of a period of seven or eight years. This has been going on for eight years. It does not seem like it, but no doubt they have been long years for the people involved in that part of the world. It is extraordinary how years pass and conflicts go on.
539 I am sorry to say this, because I am a lover of France and, I hope, a good friend of the French people. But I think that the French politicians, the French Parliamentarians, have, over these eight years, been much more light-hearted about this business than they should have been. It was not taken sufficiently seriously until France was on the verge of defeat, and that is not good.
I think that the French Parliament and Government should have realised, as did the Labour Government in this country between 1945 and 1950, that the old Western imperialism had gone. That was why we left India, Pakistan and Ceylon; because we believed it was impossible to maintain the situation as it then was. Above all, we left because we believed that it was morally and ethically right that we should do what we did. I think that practically everyone will agree that it has worked out in a way which has proved not only that it was a right thing to do at the time, but beneficial to British and Asiatic relationships which are of such great importance at this moment.
It was not that the British colonial record, at any rate for many years, was a terribly had one. We were not bad colonial administrators. We are much better colonial administrators today; indeed, we are pretty good. But, nevertheless, the fact must be faced—and our French friends did not face it—that the old Western colonialism is going, if it has not gone. It is impossible to maintain it. We wish France well, but, of course, these are facts which have to be taken into account.
In particular, we wish the new Prime Minister M. Mendès-France well in the burden he has undertaken. If it turns out that there is some stability in the French Parliamentary Government, no one will be more delighted than we shall be. But, in any case, we wish the new Prime Minister success in his handling of this problem of Indo-China.
Having said that the old Western colonialism is dying, or dead, I would add, in all fairness and, I believe, righteousness, that we of the Labour Party have no desire for the development of a new Eastern or Communist colonialism or imperialism, and there are possibilities of that. We cannot look at 540 Eastern Europe without seeing what has happened.
In the Far East the incident or happening in Tibet is not something about which we can possibly be cheerful. It was an unhappy event, and the earlier military intervention on a large scale in Indo-China, even though one can give an explanation for it, may be regarded as a pity. I think therefore that the lesson which comes out of Indo-China is that the West must learn that there is a new East. They must accept that as a fact. It is no use going on as if the old East or the old colonialism continued to exist.
On the other hand, the Communists of the East must not, and should not, make the colonial mistakes—which they could make—which the West have made, even though in the case of the Communists the political method might be different. Otherwise that would be a danger for the freedom and progress and development of these peoples in the underdeveloped countries. I think it is the wish of this Committee, certainly of hon. Members on this side, that we want the peoples of the under-developed countries to make material and social progress, to increase in political stature and in self-respect. We believe that is not only good for them but that it is one of the important factors of the future peace of the world.
May I now mention one or two considerations in connection with our relationships with the United States of America? I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) say that, in his judgment, Anglo-American co-operation is vital. I am sure that it is; I think it is an element of importance in the peace of the world. Moreover, there is the wealth of the United States, which she has been using generously in many parts of the world to help under-developed areas and which, it must not be forgotten, she made available to Communist Europe itself if it would take it. Those are generous gestures.
The trouble is that sometimes the United States does not quite understand what it is all about and what the technique is. But I am firm for friendship with the United States, I hate anti-Americanism and, come to that, I thoroughly dislike anti-Britishism coming 541 from the United States. They are both wrong. But it is an error to assume that the United States is always wrong and that the Communist Governments are always right. That is not fair. It is not right any more than it is right to assume that the British are always wrong. Heaven knows, we are a self-critical people, but we are not as wrong as all that. Neither is it right to assume that the Communist Governments are always right, though, on the other hand, I will say in fairness than it would not be right either to assume that the Communist Governments are always wrong and that the American Government is always right.
§ Mr. Morrison
I knew that would draw a sympathetic cheer from my hon. Friend, who enjoys being in a minority. I agree that it is an enjoyable situation being in a minority as long as one does not want to be in government and to be responsible for the government of the country, which I rather like being.
Sometimes I think we and our American friends expect too much that we ought to think exactly the same way and that the same thought processes ought to animate each of us. I feel sometimes that if only the Americans spoke a foreign language our relationships might thereby be improved; because if they spoke a foreign language we should not expect them to think the same way as ourselves, or the other way round. Because, however, we both speak the English language—we have our own pronunciation and adaptations of it from time to time—we assume that we have to agree with each other all the time when there is really no obligation to do so.
We have to accept the fact also that the United States is a younger country, backed by pioneering efforts, and that she sometimes lands out—if I may put it that way—rather roughly in international affairs—I am not talking about physical landings-out but language landings-out—which cause misunderstanding and apprehension in a number of quarters Whereas the British, if anything, get misunderstood because we are so restrained and so afraid of upsetting anybody.
Therefore we ought both to feel that it is not an obligation on either of the countries always to agree in exactly the 542 same way or always to say the same thing. It is also necessary to feel that, because we are good allies, we can afford some plain-speaking between ourselves privately, and even publicly, from time to time.
We have also to take into account the fact that the United States adopt an attitude towards so-called advanced politics which is somewhat different from ours. I remember how the word "Radical" was used in the United States a few years ago before Communism came along. It was a term of fear and opprobrium, and to be called a radical in the United States was a terrible thing.
I do not mind the United States disagreeing with the Communists—I disagree with them myself, and have had my share of rough and tumble with them—but when a nation gets it into its mind that Communism is something with which one cannot have physical contact in international affairs without something going wrong, and without it being, so to speak, a sin against the Holy Ghost, that is another matter. It is then that it becomes a danger and a bad thing.
The tendency of Americans in many cases is really to get the jitters when Communism is mentioned, or when a Communist is met with. That is not the way in which to deal with the matter. And yet the Americans are so near the best remedy for Communism in these under-developed countries, namely, that of giving them help of one sort or another.
The Foreign Secretary mentioned the possible South-East Asian Pact. I only say that we have not accepted it. We cannot, because we do not know enough about it. There must be discussion with other countries, especially Asian countries, and we must see whether enough of them are willing to consider such a pact. Therefore, I say that we are not in a position to accept it. On the other hand, there is no reason to reject it as a point of principle. It is consistent with the United Nations, but we must reserve judgment on it until we know more about it.
Finally, may I join with other hon. Members in wishing every success to the Prime Minister and to the Foreign Secretary on their Washington visit? We hope 543 that out of that visit good will come. As my right hon. Friend has suggested from time to time, we should have liked there to be a third party present, namely, the head of the Russian Government, but it is not a bad thing that this friendly, direct talk between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, on the one hand, and the President of the United States and Mr. Dulles, on the other, should take place. Indeed, it is a good thing.
Therefore, we wish both right hon. Gentleman well and good luck, and if they should require to stay longer than this very short weekend, I hope that they will not hesitate to do so. I think that I can promise on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Opposition Chief Whip that if they want an extension of time in the United States he will find pairs for them. That is an example of the amenities of British Parliamentary democracy. I hope that they have a good time, that good and useful things will come out of their visit, and that the talks at Washington like, up to a point—and only up to a point—the talks at Geneva, may lead to a helpful development in relation to that great purpose to which we all subscribe, the peace and progress of the world.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Eden
I wish first to join with the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) in the congratulations he has offered on two maiden speeches. I find my task a little more embarrassing than his. I will start by saying how much I enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson), and that I hope we may often hear him again. I would offer my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. John Eden) a sincere, but I hope not prejudiced, congratulation. At the same time I cannot tell him that I enjoyed his speech. In fact, I was infinitely more nervous in the course of it than I was at any time during the Indo-China Conference. I am sure that my hon. Friend will observe how very skilful a Parliamentarian is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He was trying not only to divide the Conservative Party—an activity to which he is generally used—but to extend the division within the family itself. I should like to assure the right hon. Gentleman that, however much 544 he may succeed in the former, he will fail in the latter.
I must thank the Committee for the very generous way in which it has treated this debate. I begin by thanking the Leader of the Opposition for a characteristically tolerant and statesmanlike speech which does really help us in the work which we have to do. Then there are the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South, who has just spoken in the same theme, my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) and my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery)—who does not always agree with the Foreign Secretary—the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly)—all and many others have made really constructive speeches in a debate which has not really been a debate at all but an expression of a national feeling in a situation which commands national unity.
If I had a quarrel with the hon. Member for Aston at all—and tonight I am trying to be non-controversial—it would be when he said that he felt that I was carrying out Socialist foreign policy. My only hope is that at the next conference I shall not be asked to explain what Socialist foreign policy is. I might be taking up too much of the time of the conference—but that is my only controversial remark. I want to thank, in particular, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland (Mr. Logan), who is so universally respected in this House, for the encouragement which he has given to us.
The hon. Member for Aston, and others referred to the significance of the economic factor in this whole South-East Asia problem. Of course he is right, and so are the other hon. Members who mentioned it, but none of them proceeded to describe what we are already doing. I do think that in this respect the Colombo Plan is a remarkable example of what can be done by Commonwealth countries and others to try to meet exactly this need. The fact that some of those taking part in it are not all that wealthy makes the plan all the more significant and useful.
Before I pass to other matters, it is necessary that I should say a word or two about the E.D.C. because my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby)—who I gladly 545 admit in this matter has been entirely consistent, which does not mean that he has necessarily been consistently right—and others who have raised this topic have told us that, owing to French Parliamentary events, E.D.C. is dead and will we please find an alternative to it. They even suggested that the Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary were extremely inefficient because they had not already done so.
I must first say that the E.D.C. is not the business of this country alone, or even the business of this country mainly, and secondly that the treaties have been signed by all the countries concerned, including France, two years ago. They have been ratified by many of them, including this country, all the Benelux countries and Germany. Those are all factors which we have to weigh in the scale, and it would be immensely serious for the future of Western Europe if we had to contemplate a situation in which the ratification and the carrying into force of the E.D.C. had finally to be abandoned.
I want the Committee to understand very seriously what I feel and why I feel it. It is just that for long past we have tried to find conceivable alternatives, and I tell the Committee that we have been unable to find any really workable alternatives. [An HON. MEMBER: "There is one."] The only one, to which I presume the hon. Gentleman refers, is the alternative of Germany in N.A.T.O. Does anybody really believe that when they come to reflect on that alternative, the French nation will feel that, without any of the safeguards which exist in E.D.C., Germany with a national army of unlimited size and a general staff is to be preferred to the E.D.C.? I do not believe when the time comes that they will feel that at all.
What my hon. Friends are searching for—and I understand it—is something between the two with which this country can be not merely associated but of which this country can be a member. I have understood that feeling, and I have been searching for this particular thing against this situation. I would only say that I and the Foreign Office—and we really have the most loyal and able servants in the Foreign Office—have examined every formula that we can find, and I have not been able to find a workable alternative to the E.D.C. which gives anything approaching the safeguards which the 546 E.D.C. gives for the future of Europe. We really cannot ask the Germany of today to put her name now again to precisely those things that Germany put her name to two years ago. Maybe she will. Even with a strong German Government, it is asking much having given up, as she did give up—
§ Mr. J. Hyndrose—
§ Mr. Eden
Let me finish. I want to follow my own thoughts. Having given up for the sake of this particular European conception certain rights and privileges which she might well have thought she could in the future enjoy, I do not want the Committee to think it is going to be an easy thing to negotiate some other agreement which has the like results. Frankly, I do not believe it can be done, and that anything else we may try to do, I say with regret, is going to be much less statisfactory than the E.D.C. That is why I say to our French friends once again, "With your clear, logical minds do look at the alternatives before finally saying that you cannot vote for E.D.C."
§ Mr. Eden
I really do not think that would be the answer or even, if that offer were made, that it is the answer. After all, we have offered a military contribution. We have offered as much as France and the other E.D.C. countries have done. The strange thing in this situation, which I have discussed with most of the statesmen in Western Europe, is that not one of them has said that it is up to Britain to do something more. They used to. Under the new guarantees and agreements, I do not think it is Britain's position. It is the psychological position within France, and it would be impertinent for any British politician to tell them how to resolve it.
The Leader of the Opposition asked me some questions about Guatemala and what is happening there. We have reassuring reports as to the safety of British subjects. The only incident which affects British interests is, I am told, that the Shell plant was hit in Guatemala City 547 yesterday morning by machine-gun fire from a solitary unidentified fighter. So far it is by no means clear how operations are developing and what is likely to be the course of events. As to the United Nations the House will recall that the Guatemalan complaint was first considered by the Security Council on 20th June. A resolution was then unanimously adopted at this meeting, calling for the immediate termination of any action likely to cause bloodshed and requesting all members of the United Nations to abstain from giving support to any such action. A further meeting of the Security Council has now been called for. I am told it is likely to take place tomorrow. I cannot forecast what will happen at this meeting, nor am I prepared to say what instructions I have sent to our representative—
§ Mr. Eden
Because I think he should have a chance to play his hand for himself—but I should like to repeat what the United Kingdom delegate said on 20th June, namely, that in our view it is clear that the Security Council cannot divest itself of responsibility for this situation. It is seized of the matter, which must remain before the Security Council. We ourselves shall continue to treat this issue objectively, on its merits, and in the letter and the spirit of the United Nations Charter.
Here I want to take issue with those who criticise the suggestion that this matter might have been handled by the organisation of American States. I must draw attention to Article 52 (3) of the Charter, which reads:The Security Council shall encourage the development of pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements or by such regional agencies either on the initiative of the States concerned or by reference from the Security Council.There was nothing whatever wrong in asking a regional council to handle this matter. What would be wrong would be to ask it to handle it exclusively, and for the Security Council to divest itself of any interest in it.
§ Mr. Eden
That is not the issue. The Latin American observers at the Council advocated this course, and I do not think 548 it was wrong for us to have supported it, provided that it was not handled exclusively and the Security Council did not divest itself of its responsibility. Our policy is that this dispute should be handled in accordance with the United Nations Charter, and that is the policy which we shall pursue.
For the remaining minutes I should like to say a word about two topics; first, the general topic which has been mentioned more than once in this debate, of negotiating with Communist China, and secondly, the question of Anglo-American relations. It has been suggested once or twice in this debate that by negotiating with Communist China we should be in danger of weakening ourselves. I do not believe it, unless we have no faith in ourselves. If that were so, it would be true, but negotiation in itself does not weaken us, and if the Committee believe, as I do, that though we probably cannot get complete, even and smooth international relations between the Communist and non-Communist worlds we can get a measure of tolerable agreement, then we must be able to talk to each other. As the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, it is a fact that both the Berlin and Geneva Conferences, apart from anything else they may or may not have done, did reduce international tension, and have, in a certain measure, opened up possibilities which we perhaps did not even know were there before. They have made possible new tasks in which we can share together.
Let me give the Committee just one example. Supposing an agreement were reached on this vexed Indo-China issue, rather on the lines suggested by the right hon. Gentleman; suppose that everybody agreed that Laos and Cambodia should lead their own lives, and that whatever other arrangements were agreed to about Viet Nam should be guaranteed; suppose an Asian circle, consisting on the one hand of China and Soviet Russia, and, on the other, of France, America and ourselves—and perhaps India and other countries, too—could guarantee the arrangements arrived at. That would be something entirely new in our international experience. I do not say that it is likely to happen, but I think that it is possible that it might happen, and surely it is something worth while trying to get.
549 Of course, we are not so foolish, any of us, as to believe that that would resolve the problems of the world for all time, or that it would mean that the ambitions of certain Powers would be satisfied, but it might mean that everybody concerned thought it desirable for reasons of coexistence—if I may use the phrase again—to make some such arrangement. And, it having once been made, it might last. That is what I mean by the need to keep as open a mind as one can in these approaches.
I come now to another question mentioned, the differences between the great Powers, the free great Powers and the Communist great Powers. Differences between the Communist great Powers, I believe, exist. I have as much reason for knowing about that as anybody in the Committee. I believe they do; but, of course, they are not canvassed. Ours always are, and not only canvassed but magnified. It is not news to say that relations between Britain and the United States are good. The slightest divergence, of course, is food to what one may call the battle of the columnists. So that is the difference. They have their divergencies. We know nothing of them. We have ours, which may be less serious, but we know all about them—and know about some that have never existed at all.
So I think we have to keep this in perspective. As I look over the last few weeks I really do not believe that our differences with the United States have at any time been of any real significance. They have mainly been differences of assessment and differences of timing. Yet they raised a pretty hullabaloo. The only reason that I am worried about this is that this kind of difference is bound to go on taking place between free countries. 550 Because we are free countries we are bound to have different points of view about those kinds of things. I hope that we can learn to treat them with restraint. That seems to me the main message of this debate.
Everybody in this country, or almost everybody in it, believes that understanding between us, the British Commonwealth, and the United States is the foundation of world peace. It is in that spirit that we are asked to go across the Atlantic. I think the Committee's message tonight may be described as being, "Do all you can to have the best possible relations with the United States, but do not forget what the House of Commons wants you to do"—what our American friends might call a tough assignment.
At any rate, we go to do it in the confidence that our American friends understand as well as we do that the relationship we have to maintain is not maintained merely because we like each other, though we do, but because unless we can deal with our differences in a friendly spirit the chances of the peace of the world become slender indeed. Therefore, I say that this Committee should send to the United States of America tonight this message: We may have differed in the past; no doubt, from time to time we shall differ in the future; but these things are nothing beside the great flow of human endeavour in which we want to join to establish the peace of the world.
Whereupon Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again"—[Mr. Kaberry]—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.