§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
Before this week, the last time that this House had a foreign affairs debate was on 20th December, so that two months have gone by since it has been possible for the Government to assemble on the Front Bench, in one debate, both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. On that occasion, I took the opportunity of telling the House that we considered that international affairs had taken on so grave a tone that we were not anxious even to appear to be doing anything that might seem to be taking a party advantage of the situation; that we would much prefer to see a policy coming from the Government that we could support, rather than to hear of one that we would have to oppose.
In fact, on that occasion we made what might be regarded as a bi-partisan offer to the Government in this matter. It will be within the recollection of the House, however, that the speech that was delivered by the Foreign Secretary after I had spoken was so disgraceful, and seemed to be so lacking in any adequate regard for the facts of the case, that we found it necessary later to divide the House.
Since then, as I say, these months have gone by, and yesterday we had a speech from the Prime Minister which, on first hearing, appeared to be most satisfactory, but which, on reflection, was cloying in its effects. He indicated that the delay in approaching the summit talks was not the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, but was due rather to the necessity of getting all the members of the caravan to move together. Now, this caravan is moving so slowly that it looks more like a cortege than a caravan, with Mr. Foster Dulles, the Foreign Secretary and M. Pineau occupying the rôles of chief mourners.
The Foreign Secretary told us that the Government rested their main case upon the strength of N.A.T.O. forces. We have now been told in the White Paper on Defence issued a few days ago thatthe overall superiority of the West is likely to increase rather than diminish, as a consequence of the advent of medium-range ballistic rockets. … The possession by Russia of 1406 rockets of equal range will not, for reasons of geography, afford her any corresponding strategic advantage. It would be of no use to her to attack Western Europe unless she could simultaneously knock out the vital strategic air bases in the United States. She could at present have no reasonable hope of achieving this with manned bombers, and it will still take her several years to complete the development of an accurate intercontinental rocket and produce it in sufficient numbers.If we are to accept the White Paper as a truthful description of the present balance of power, it rests with the Western Powers and not with the Soviet Union. In other words, if positions of strength are necessary to get international negotiations going, such a position exists at present, and has existed for the last two months. Why, then, has there been this delay? [Laughter.] I am not sure where the hilarity comes in in this matter. If that giggle represents a failure to appreciate the gravity of the situation, it is not shared outside.
Why, then, this delay? The United States has responded to the situation of Western superiority by enormous new increases of military expenditure. It looks as though the Government have been failing to bring sufficient pressure to bear upon the United States. We are even told in this morning's Press that Mr. Robert Murphy, American Deputy Under-Secretary of State, said in Washington yesterday that world opinion in favour of a summit meeting seemed to be tapering off. He added that such a decline seemed to have come about in Britain and thought that the Soviet propaganda which had been pressing for the conference might have been overdone.
Here we have a statement from Washington, by an official of the State Department, that there appears to be a decline in the demand in Britain itself for a Summit Conference. How he could have gathered that conclusion, I do not know. On the contrary, it may be the Foreign Office which has that view, because there is a great deal of difference in the speeches which come from the Foreign Secretary and the tone of the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday. They might enter into correspondence with each other, or it may be that we could expose the Foreign Secretary to the same civilising influences which have recently influenced the Prime Minister. If the Foreign Secretary wants to go to India for a few weeks, we can easily put up with his absence.
1407 It is time that there was some relationship between what the Prime Minister says and what the Foreign Office says. The Prime Minister made a broadcast on 4th January in which he said:We can start by a solemn pact of non-aggression.I emphasise those words:start by a solemn pact of non-aggression.He added:This has been done before. It can do no harm. It might do good.Hurriedly came the clarification from the Foreign Office, hurriedly to put the Prime Minister right when he seemed to be getting rather too enthusiastic on the eve of his journey to more civilised climes. The Foreign Office said:This passage in the Prime Minister's speech should be read as a whole. It is the relationship between words and deeds he was seeking to bring out … if it would assist at arriving at agreement to have a non-aggression pact, when the Government would feel that such a pact to complement the agreement might do some good.The Prime Minister did not say "pact to complement the agreement". He said that we could "start" with it. A start is a beginning, not the end.
There has been so little correspondence between the thinking of the Foreign Office and that of the Prime Minister in this matter that the Foreign Secretary had to issue a statement which was almost like a rebuke to his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Of course, it is apiece with what we have been having from the Foreign Office recently. We had a speech from the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs last night which detracted very largely from the atmosphere created by the Prime Minister in the afternoon. It was a speech after the character of that delivered by the Foreign Secretary last December. It is necessary that we should get our ideas clear in this matter.
Over and over again there has crept into Ministerial speeches and into publications like the Defence White Paper the suggestion that it is one of the objectives of Her Majesty's foreign policy to prevent the spread of Communism. Since when has -that been an objective? It is necessary that in foreign affairs we should not use language which is ambiguous and which might, in some ears, have a very sinister import.
1408 I understood that the objective of foreign policy, or what should be the objective, as first to uphold the rule of law in relations between nations and to try to foster and promote the authority of the United Nations as the most effective instrument to that end; secondly, to deter any nation from acts of aggression; thirdly, to form such limited alliances as may be necessary to promote peace in definite areas. I thought that those were the objectives of foreign policy. It is not the objective of foreign policy either to oppose or promote any particular ideology, because once that is done one is inducing a condition of endemic civil war.
There are Communists in Great Britain. There are Communists outside the Soviet Union. In the United States of America there are large numbers of people, debauched by McCarthyism, who equate Communism with Socialism. If it is to be regarded by the United States as a part of its foreign policy, in conjunction with ours, to contain Communism, then the more Socialists there are in Britain the more depressed and frightened the United States becomes. In other words, once the objectives of foreign policy are stated in ideological terms, one is unable to think clearly about the international situation.
§ Sir James Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
Would the right hon. Gentleman also apply that doctrine to the conference of Communist countries, who declare that their enduring policy is to bring down democracy in the West by force if necessary?
§ Mr. Bevan
We are not now dealing with what may be the aggressive intentions of Communist nations. As I have said already, we regard it as a part of the objectives of British foreign policy to resist and discourage aggression. But we desire to resist and discourage it from wherever it comes, because it is aggression and not necessarily Communist aggression.
§ Mr. Bevan
Or Fascist aggression. I am always ready to take advice, from whatever source it comes.
It is largely because this has been the posture of American foreign policy that 1409 we have the lunacy of the continued exclusion of China from the United Nations. If we were considering the position entirely on realistic grounds, and secular grounds, if I might use the term, China would long ago have been in the United Nations. But once it is decided that one of the objectives is to contain Communism, or to fight the ideological pretensions of Communism by national policy, there is hardly any end to what we do.
As I said earlier, and I repeat, it involves the possibility of endemic civil war, because these are ideas that not only divide some nations from others, but divide peoples inside nations. There are many people who, while they loathe many of the features of Soviet Communism, nevertheless consider some of their features to be desirable. The capacity for maintaining economic stability will become increasingly attractive as the consequences of Government policy in the industrial sphere are seen more and more clearly.
I am alarmed at the delay in entering into discussions with the Soviet Union. It might easily happen that when the Summit Conference is held it will be held against a background of industrial depression in the West. That would not be a favourable climate in which to have negotiations with the Soviet Union. I therefore implore that when we think and write about these matters we drop this language. If we do not, we shall not be clear about our objectives.
It was one of these considerations that led to a certain amount of embarrassment for me at the last Labour Party Conference. If it is decided to renounce the use, manufacture or testing of the hydrogen bomb on moral grounds, then it must immediately follow from that that we could not rely upon our friends possessing the hydrogen bomb and sheltering behind it. When I said at Brighton that a British Foreign Secretary ought not to go naked into a conference with other nations, I was not referring to the hydrogen bomb. I do not believe that the possession of the hydrogen bomb is worth while from the point of view of negotiation, because it has always been agreed that the possession of the hydrogen bomb can never be an instrument of negotiation.
An instrument of suicide can never be an instrument of negotiation. Even the 1410 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) told us long ago that it was not an instrument of negotiation, but a deterrent. That is not the same thing at all. One cannot leave the conference chamber and say, "Unless I get my own way I shall commit suicide."
There is a very strong argument for the possession of these hideous weapons as deterrents. But there is no argument for them as agencies of negotiation. Against the background of a deterrent, negotiation might be facilitated; but that cannot be a counter in the negotiations. If hon. Members opposite do not realise that, then they are not clear about this matter at all.
I repeat that when I said that we ought not to go naked into an international conference, I meant that we could not possibly throw aside all our allies, all our obligations and all our friends and negotiate with other nations, with Great Britain having no friends anywhere in the world.
§ Mr. Eden rose—
§ Mr. Bevan
The case that I am putting is that we ought not to renounce the hydrogen bomb on high moral grounds, because that involves implications going far beyond the bomb itself. Therefore, we hold an entirely different view. Nevertheless, it might happen in the course of negotiation, if some progress is made towards political settlement and disarmament, that to facilitate further progress in the same direction it might, on practical grounds, be desirable to renounce the use of the hydrogen bomb. But I make a clear distinction between renouncing a weapon on high moral grounds and renouncing it as a means of facilitating negotiation. I do not expect to carry hon. Gentlemen opposite with me, and I shall leave them even further behind shortly.
One of the other reasons why we found the Prime Minister's speech not very 1411 satisfactory yesterday was this. After these months of delay we are supposed to be satisfied, even to be attracted, by the statement that the Prime Minister is in favour of summit talks and would like them to be a success. We are expected, after all this delay, to regard that statement as making progress. If the Prime Minister had said the opposite, if he had said that he was not in favour of summit talks, what would have been the reaction of the House and the country?
The nation, in the last two or three months, has been deeply moved by the opportunity presented by the Russian overtures and has been anxious for the Government to take advantage of them at the earliest possible moment. We therefore consider that to be told now, after all this delay, that we are in favour of summit talks, and would like them to be a success, is not, in our view, sufficient progress in the time that has been available.
The next thing that we want to know is this. Will the Foreign Secretary tell us, when he speaks, when the summit talks are to be held? My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday that they ought to take place in May or June—
§ Mr. Bevan
If they are to be delayed still further then there will grow up once more a suspicion in the mind of the public that the Government are dragging their feet. If these preparations are to be so long prolonged there will be a growing sense of dismay throughout the country because they will feel that a great opportunity has been lost and that we have not taken advantage of the Russian mood at the time when it appeared to be most favourable to us.
We on this side of the House also consider that there is something remarkable about a debate in which all the positive remedies and schemes are put forward from the Opposition and none at all is forthcoming from the Government. Is is the traditional rôle in this House that the Government are responsible for the formulation of policy and the Opposition are responsible for submitting it to 1412 detailed scrutiny and criticism, but the opposite has been the case here. My right hon. Friend outlined yesterday a whole series of proposals, spelt out in detailed, concrete terms. There has been no response, except the long speech last night from the Minister of State attacking one of the main proposals. We had nothing from the Prime Minister beforehand. Are we to have anything from the Foreign Secretary?
We have said here—and I repeat it, because we believe this to be the opinion of the vast majority of the British people and, indeed, of the vast majority of the human race—that Great Britain should set the example to the rest of the world by immediately declaring the suspension of hydrogen tests. I believe that to be the view of the vast majority of the British people, and if hon. Members opposite do not believe it they can easily test it. The Soviet Union has itself declared that it is ready to do that. If, therefore, we do it, it will be very hard for the Soviet Union not to follow suit. Why not try it? We have to try to break this deadlock somewhere, and surely it would be to the credit of this country if it set the example.
Secondly, we have said that in our view it is essential that in the present circumstances we should not proceed with the construction of missile sites in this country until we have seen, first, what arrangements can be made with the Soviet Union. We think that it is unnecessarily provocative to proceed with the construction of these sites immediately before the talks are held, especially in view of the statement in the Defence White Paper that we already have enormous superiority in ballistic missiles and in hydrogen bomb delivery methods. We therefore say to the Government that what we should like to hear from them this afternoon is whether they accept that proposition. That is the second concrete proposal which we make.
The third, outlined by my right hon. Friend yesterday, was that we should enter the discussions with the Soviet Union and be ready seriously to negotiate on areas of disengagement in Europe. I will not go into that, because it was very thoroughly explored yesterday. In the meantime, there have come fresh proposals from Poland, in which it is suggested that there might also be not only 1413 nuclear-free areas but the withdrawal of forces and the introduction of systems of control and inspection. Although it might be correct when President Eisenhower said that the clearance of an area from nuclear weapons does not necessarily alter the relationship between the nuclear nations because of these intercontinental ballistic missiles, nevertheless there must be merit in an agreement by which the two sides agree to withdraw from certain areas, where pioneer experiments in inspection and control could be carried out.
It does not necessarily matter one little bit that there is no military advantage to either side, or that there may be some small military advantage to one side from a proposal of that sort. The essential condition is that we should be able to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union by which both the Soviet Union and ourselves could, for the first time, co-operate and not quarrel with each other. These are deeds, not words. These are proposals for definite deeds. They have been offered by the Soviet Government now ever since 11th December, in one fashion or another. We implore that we should have from the Government more positive reaction to proposals of this sort instead of their shouting one down after the other and creating a sense of dismay and defeatism throughout the country.
When I was in the Middle East last year I was very impressed by the rapid changes that are taking place in the structure of Arab society, changes which, in some respects, can be quite disastrous for us. If a nation earns services and goods from abroad by its own exertions, then it changes its own economy naturally in the process. In other words, if it earns money, then, in the process of earning it, there is a healthy and wholesome change in its own social and economic structure. But if the changes in its structure are a consequence of spending money which it gets from abroad without earning it, then the changes are a consequence upon the way it spends it.
§ Mr. Bevan
It is true internally, but it is very true in the Middle East.
The outstanding fact about the Arab States at present—and I am speaking 1414 particularly about the oil States—is that the whole of their structure is being transformed by the way in which they spend the oil royalties obtained from outside without any exertions on their part to earn them. These changes are extremely serious for us. They are taking place in countries which are traditionally agricultural and pastoral.
As a result of the way in which this money is being spent, an excessive urbanisation is growing in the Arab States. The phlegmatism and lack of communications which are characteristic of rural life are being transformed into large urban aggregations, volatile, easily accessible to each other and capable of being aroused by nationalist feelings, or others, very quickly. This is especially true of nations like Iran and Iraq.
It is of significance, and it is nothing at all for us to be pleased about, that, in the last three years, of a nation of 5½ million people, 460,000 cultivators have left the soil in Iraq and become urban dwellers in Bagdad. Although it is true that the Iraq Government has been the most enlightened, the most far-sighted and the most energetic of all the Arab States, nevertheless such is the attraction of the city for the rural dweller that this migration from the country to the city is going on all the time with increasing rapidity. The same thing is true elsewhere.
I am anxious that right hon. Gentlemen opposite should realise that if this process goes on much longer without being corrected our oil supplies will depend on areas so politically volatile, so undependable, so unstable that Western Europe will not be able to rely upon her supplies with any certainty. That is why I beg that there should be some initiative now.
When I was in the United States recently I met some representatives of industrial, insurance and oil interests and I suggested to them that it would be a good plan if the Western nations offered, of their own volition, an increase in oil royalties to be paid into a pool, not for the oil States alone but for the development of the whole area and invited the Arab oil States to make their contribution to the pool.
I suggested that they could be presented by definite schemes of cultivation, which are known to most of them, and that this 1415 would change the arguments in the bazaars and the streets and elsewhere from arguments whether they should drive Israel into the sea to arguments about the merits of the Western proposals, which would be proposals made at the sacrifice of some Western interests and which would offer some chance of progress in their own nations.
I pointed out that in the absence of that, what would happen would be that the Arab oil States, influenced by the more favourable oil arrangements made between Italy and Iran, through the services of Mr. Mattei, of Italy, would seek to improve their oil contracts and ask for them to be renegotiated. This has already happened since then with Kuwait, and it will happen with one oil State after another. In other words, the end of the story is the loss of the money without any scheme of improvement at all for the area as a whole.
I know that it has been the Foreign Office point of view that we should expect the initiative in this to come from the Middle East. How can it come from the Middle East? I know that the initiative has been expected to come from Iraq. How can it come from Iraq? Is it not more desirable that we should use our present leverage and advantages to stabilise the whole area instead of letting it drift from one crisis to another? These are plans which have been present in many minds for some years past, but nothing is being done.
In the meantime, apparently, the only contribution that we can make towards the stabilisation of the Middle East is the Bagdad Pact, but the Bagdad Pact rests literally upon sand. There is no strength in the Bagdad Pact, but that Pact may stand in the way of any agreement with the Soviet Union because, as we are under an obligation to supply arms to members of the Bagdad Pact, we are unable to accept the Russian offer to ban arms to the Middle East. Therefore, we are erecting barriers against success in the area.
These are not things that can be neglected and about which we can drift around. These are matters on which we should take the initiative. Everybody knows, on that side of the House in particular, because hon. Members opposite have said it over and over again, that the reason why we cannot have a sensible 1416 settlement in Cyprus is our position in the Middle East. Yet we make no attempt to have any long-term policy in the Middle East. On the contrary, we have from the Government highly ambiguous statements about the readjustment of the Israeli-Arab border.
We want to hear from the Foreign Secretary today what he means by that. We understand, and have understood all along, that there is agreement among the Israelis for rectifications of the border where it is foolish. Those rectifications, in some cases would be at the expense of neighbouring Arab States and, in other cases, at the expense of Israel, but it has never been understood by us that we regard the readjustment of the frontiers as involving substantial loss of territory to Israel. As long as we hold out a possibility of that being done, we are always fomenting trouble between Israel and the Arabs.
Therefore, when the Russians invite us, as they have invited us, to consider the reduction of tension in the Middle East, have we any plans? Are our minds prepared? Are we ready to renegotiate the Bagdad Pact if we can substitute something more worth while in its place? Are we ready to discuss with the Russians any agreement on their part to guarantee peace in the Middle East? We have heard nothing from the Government. The only thing that is in the Middle East at the moment is the Eisenhower doctrine, and that doctrine, to the Arab understanding, simply substitutes American imperialism for British imperialism. We have heard nothing from the Government about that.
Leaving the Middle East for a moment, we heard yesterday from the Prime Minister the argument that we could not agree to any reduction in nuclear power unless it was accompanied by a reduction in conventional weapons. The Russians have offered it. A resolution of the Supreme Soviet speaks of a "significant reduction" of armed forces by the three Powers.
Each one of these proposals about which we have been agitated is there on the agenda, or on the suggested agenda. I know that the Prime Minister has said, and it has been said by others, "Why is it that we should accept only the Russian proposals for the Summit Conference and not put proposals forward 1417 on our own?" I understand that the Russians have not refused that. The Russians have agreed to look at our proposals, but is this a conference aimed at agreement or is it a conference aimed at disagreement?
I am afraid that the accusation is against the Government here. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Let us see. At least, I should like to modify that. It is on the American side that there is an apparent attempt at disagreement—because President Eisenhower put forward as his alternative agenda the liberation of Eastern European States. He knows very well that in present circumstances that is impracticable. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Really, no one is here arguing for a moment or defending Russian policy in Eastern Europe. We are seeking to find ways of reaching agreement which will make further agreement easier.
We believe that there are definite proposals which, if adopted and carried out, would of themselves loosen Russian administration in Eastern Europe. We think that that is the right way to go about it, not to encourage people in Eastern Europe to rise against the Russians and then stand on one side and see them slaughtered. It is, in our opinion, criminally irresponsible to keep on conducting propaganda for the liberation of people in Europe, and then, when they respond, to stand on one side. If we do not intend to help, then let us not incite. We know, realistically, that if we are called in we would not go.
If that be the case, those who really want to see these people liberated ought to be prepared to take even the most modest steps that make it easier to bring that about. That is why we earnestly believe that these Soviet proposals, along with the proposals of an analogous kind that we can put forward, will make a very valuable contribution to that end. It is no use the United States talking about the liberation of Eastern Europe when, of course, the Russians, or some of them, have already retorted, "What about Spain?"
§ Mr. Bevan
Does my hon. Friend mean "What about Wales?"
One can quite easily answer, "What about Spain?" Of course, one can say 1418 that Spain is not being held down by a foreign Power, but she is being held down by a Government established with the help of foreign Powers 20 years ago. It is also true that if the Spanish people wish to obtain freedom now they can do so only by revolting, and there are American bases in Spain, so that the Spanish people could only get freedom by creating conditions of political unrest around American bases in Spain, which would not be agreeable to America. It is no use making these charges and countercharges. What we desire to do is to try to take advantage of the offers which have been made by the Soviet Union.
There is one more point. It has been said that the Soviet Union, in advancing these proposals, is merely engaged in propaganda, but, as my right hon. friend said yesterday, why should the Russian propaganda be more effective than our own? It has been said over and over again, as though it is a truism, that it is far better not to have a conference at all than one that fails, but who would be responsible for the failure? Would it be us? If so, the responsibility would rest upon our shoulders. If the Russians, the Russians would have to bear it. It seems to us that there is something tragically at fault in this reluctance to try to take steps to lift this horror from the hearts of man, as it is at present.
I myself believe that the Russians are anxious to have some sort of agreement. I believe that the Russians do not want to see the possession of the hydrogen bomb extended to other countries. I believe that they feel that if that were so the levers of international action might fall from their own hands, and they are anxious to keep them there for as long as possible. They therefore wish to reach agreement with the West to prevent that state of affairs from being brought about.
I also sincerely believe, as I have said earlier and as the Prime Minister quoted yesterday, that the Soviet Union has been brought to see that a third world war provides no political opportunity for it, and that the Soviet Union cannot benefit by it as it did benefit by previous wars that, for the first time, therefore, there has been accomplished a common interest binding both Communist nations and non-Communist nations, and that is to see that a third world war does not break out.
1419 What we on this side of the House cannot understand is why there has been such apparent reluctance by us to take advantage of these offers. One would have thought that if there was any nation in the world that would be eagerly keen to meet the Russians where there was the slightest possibility of agreement, it would be the people of Great Britain.
I think that this House is losing touch more and more with feeling outside. If my postbag goes for anything, it shows that increasing numbers of people in Britain are becoming deeply suspicious of the intentions of the Government. This is a very dangerous state of affairs. It would be a very bad thing for a British Government to enter into international negotiations with the feeling that their own people were not behind them. It is essential that there should be a feeling in the country that the House of Commons articulates the people's wants and desires, but there is not. That feeling does not exist. There is a consciousness of a growing gulf between what the people want and what the Government are doing.
To some extent, the Opposition might share in that guilt, unless we make it quite clear that we do not consider that the Government are following the right course in present circumstances. Whether we divide against the Government or not this evening depends entirely upon whether the Foreign Secretary does not repeat his behaviour of last December. If he is able to give us an assurance that in the immediate future summit talks are to be held with a genuine intention on our part to reach agreement with the Soviet Union, then he can be assured of support from this side of the House, but if we are to have a repetition of delay, if we are to have further evasions, if we are to have what we have had so often in the past—ambiguous generalisations about what we think about the Russians and what they think about us—if we have nothing else but a negative policy from the Government there will be nothing left to us but to divide against them and show our displeasure.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
I want to deal at the beginning of my speech with one or two topics which did not come 1420 into the main stream of the debate yesterday.
First, Tunisia. Ever since the tragic bombing of Sakiet we have been in constant touch with both the French and Tunisian Governments, and have continually urged upon them the importance of restraint. The Government of the United States have been taking similar action. I think that the noticeable easing in tension which occurred may be regarded as partly due to these efforts, but we must realise that there is still plenty of cause for anxiety.
As the House knows, both the Tunisian and French Governments have accepted our offer of good offices, and that of the United States, and it was for this reason that the Security Council decided, on Tuesday, to adjourn consideration of the Tunisian and French complaints indefinitely.
There are certain matters which must obviously be dealt with by the French and Tunisian Governments if they are to re-establish a harmonious relationship, and I will mention two of them. There must be a settlement of the question of the French troops now in Tunisia, and there must be agreement about an efficient method of supervising the frontier between Tunisia and Algeria. With regard to the latter matter, perhaps the best solution would be a mixed Franco-Tunisian Commission.
On the other hand, it may prove desirable to introduce neutral elements, and I think that the help and experience of the United Nations in the matter of observation along the frontiers might also prove useful. There is so much genuine common interest between the two that it is very much in their interests, and, indeed, that of other countries, to get these matters settled. It will take time, and we hope that our good offices will help towards a general settlement.
It has been said that the problems between France and Tunisia derive from the military operations in Algeria, and that no lasting solution can be found until an agreed settlement of the Algerian problem has also been achieved. There is a great deal of truth in that, but first things must be tackled first. I think that the immediate problems to which I have referred are those which require first consideration.
1421 I want to say one final word about Tunisia. I see that in some quarters in France it has been suggested that even in our offer of good offices we were seeking to advance a purely British interest either in the Sahara or in Bizerta. I want to give the most categorical and emphatic repudiation of such a suggestion.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I think that it would be a very poor way to treat our friends and allies, the French, under the guise of an offer of good offices to seek to get some personal advantage for ourselves.
I want to say a word about the dispute between Egypt and the Sudan about certain areas lying to the north of the 22nd Parallel. An appeal has been made by the Sudanese Government to the Security Council and I expect that hon. Members will have an opportunity of reading the terms of the letter which they have addressed. Of course, one must not attempt to prejudge the outcome of that procedure, but these areas have been administered by the Sudan since the very early days of the Condominium, in fact, for more than half a century. So far as I know, this arrangement has worked entirely satisfactorily, has never aroused any protest or complaint from Egypt and, indeed, the inhabitants of these areas voted in the Sudan elections in November, 1953, and those elections took place under the supervision of an electoral commission which included members from Egypt as well as from the United Kingdom.
As the Sudanese Deputy Prime Minister has said, whatever the rights and wrongs of the claim to the territory may be, what the Sudan Government really object to is the timing and the manner of the Egyptian claim. This, he said, was a question which obviously needed study and careful consideration, based not only on the documents but also on ethnographical grounds. I think that there is much force in this. It is a matter which should be settled calmly by negotiation, and a settlement should take account of the rights of both countries and of the inhabitants of the area.
I was asked some questions about the Middle East by the right hon. Gentle- 1422 man the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). I can sympathise—I think there has been continual sympathy on the part of successive British Governments—in the desire of the Arab world for greater unity. It is for the Arab peoples themselves to decide how that should best come about. It is too early, I think, for us to say whether the geographical, historical and economic differences can be overcome by the union of Syria and Egypt. We shall have to wait and see how that turns out.
The Arab Union of the Hashemite Kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan, now announced, seems to be a natural grouping, designed to bring a more prosperous and settled future to the peoples of the two countries concerned. I was glad to hear several hon. Members on the opposite side of the House yesterday refer to this second union in favourable terms. I believe that they were thinking particularly of the economic conditions in Jordan.
I was asked one question on this matter. I do not believe that this new union will result in a greater risk of war in the area, in fact, rather the contrary.
The Leader of the Opposition suggested that we should take certain steps to improve the situation in the Middle East. It is easy to say what we would like to happen. What is much more difficult is to see that it does happen. One matter which the right hon. Gentleman suggested was that we should guarantee the existing frontiers between Israel and her Arab neighbours. I think that a guarantee of the existing frontiers would be bitterly resented and resisted by all the Arab neighbours of Israel. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Is it really suggested that we should seek to impose such a guarantee of permanent frontiers with the help of the Soviet Union? At present, these are armistice lines and, of course, the Tripartite Declaration refers to them.
§ Mr. Bevan rose—
§ Mr. Lloyd
May I deal, first, with this statement? Our position about a settlement is as stated by Sir Anthony Eden, in his Guildhall speech. I was asked about this matter yesterday with reference to what was said in another place, and 1423 I will read Sir Anthony Eden's actual words:The position today is that the Arabs on the one side take their stand on the 1947 and other United Nations resolutions—that's where they are. They said they would be willing to open discussions with Israel from that basis. The Israelis on the other side, they found themselves on the later Armistice agreements of 1949 and on the present territories which they occupy.Now … between those two positions there is, of course, a wide gap but is it so wide that no negotiation is possible to bridge it? It isn't right, I agree, that United Nations resolutions should be ignored, but equally can it be maintained the United Nations resolutions on Palestine can now be put into operation just as they stand?The stark truth is that if these nations want to win a peace, which is in both their interests and to which we want to help them, they must make some compromise between these two positions.
§ Mr. Bevan
This is an extremely serious statement. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has heard debate after debate on this question. Does he mean that this might involve a substantial loss of Israeli territory, or does he mean that it is a mere rectification of frontier anomalies? If he means the latter, I think it satisfies opinion here and in Israel. If it means the former, it is highly dangerous.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The right hon. Gentleman and I had considerable exchanges on this matter in the debate which took place last March, when this ground was covered. What I said then was that I have always refused to put any gloss upon these words. There are several elements in any settlement—frontiers, refugees, the Jordan waters, access and other problems—and the more one party gives on one issue I think it is reasonable that it should be expected to give less on another issue. Therefore, it is wrong for anyone here to pronounce upon, or formulate, a settlement as to how much it would mean and whether it would be substantial or not. The point in that statement which should be emphasised is that it must be, first, a matter of negotiation and, secondly, it must be a matter of compromise.
§ Mr. Frank Beswick (Uxbridge)
The Foreign Secretary said that it must be a matter for negotiation. In that case, what is the possible argument against a guarantee of present frontiers by both 1424 Russia and the Western Powers against a change of the frontiers by force?
§ Mr. Lloyd
That is exactly what the Tripartite Declaration of 1950 is meant to cover, which we have said we still consider to be in operation, certainly as regards Israel. We have said that this is the guarantee, or the protection, of the existing armistice lines and that there should be no change by force. The question I was asked was whether we should guarantee something as a permanent solution. What we have said on that is that the permanent frontiers must be a matter of negotiation.
§ Mr. Bevan
The Tripartite Declaration was a declaration to preserve the existing armistice lines until there was re-negotiation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, in taking up his present position, is really conveying the impression that it might be possible for Israel to agree to the abandonment of substantial pieces of territory.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The situation is now governed by certain armistice agreements. I thought that it was the desire of both sides of the House that these armistice agreements should be turned into a peace settlement. Until they are turned into a peace settlement, the Tripartite Declaration applies. To get a peace settlement, as anyone with any knowledge of the interests involved would realise, there must be, on some of these issues—I am not saying to what extent on any of them—a compromise whereby one side will give something on some and the other side on others. That must be—on these issues.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
There is a very large measure of difference between mutually agreed frontier rectifications, in which the Arab States make some concessions and Israel makes other concessions, and a proposal which by its very nature involves the cession by Israel of a substantial amount of territory. The Guildhall speech said, in effect, that the ultimate frontier should be somewhere between the present lines and the 1947 Resolution lines. Somewhere between those two must mean a substantial concession by Israel.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I have not used the word "substantial" at all. What I have said is that it is the wish of all parties, I 1425 thought, to convert the Armistice Agreement into a peace settlement and that that must be done by negotiation, and our feeling is that must involve some compromise in the position taken up by both sides.
§ Mr. Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
Does my right hon. and learned Friend not think that it might lead to clarification of misunderstanding, genuine or manufactured, which exists on this matter if he were to make it clear that the Guildhall Speech, which has been so much criticised on both sides of the House and about which there has been misunderstanding on both sides of the House, when it referred to a change in these positions, referred to positions of points of view and not positions on the ground and that, therefore, half-way between these two positions does not mean an alteration of positions on the ground?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I think that when the whole of Sir Anthony Eden's speech is read the matter will be correctly understood.
The question of economic development in the Middle East was raised. Of course, we agree with the right hon. Gentleman that economic development is a desirable and, indeed, an essential objective in the Middle East. The question is the method. A great deal of development has been undertaken by Iraq with a considerable amount of help from this country on the technical aspects. We are engaged, under the Bagdad Pact, also in substantial schemes of development. One of the most reassuring things about the last meeting of the Bagdad Pact was the importance that all the members attached to the work of the Economic Committee. I know that it is not very glamorous to talk about particular forms of technical assistance, and so on, which are taking place, but the Report of the Economic Committee of the Bagdad Pact about the work being done in those four countries is well worth while reading by all hon. Members.
I discussed this matter a few weeks ago with Mr. Hammarskjöld, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and he said then that the Secretariat and the staff of the World Bank are studying certain technical aspects of the economic problems of the Middle East countries. That 1426 does not amount to a cut and dried development plan, because if there is to be a development plan I still believe that it must come about through the co-operation and consent of the countries principally concerned. I do not think that a development plan can be imposed on them from outside, but where we can help we are doing so.
I come to the main theme of this debate, and that is the relations between the Communist States and the West. We heard yesterday many hon. Members with different views expressing what, if I may with respect say so, seemed a broad and constructive approach. I think that the emphasis was upon the common ground between the two sides of the House, the wish for security, the wish for freedom, from the fear of war. There was much discussion of possible courses of action.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister dealt yesterday with the pacifist solution, with the renunciation of nuclear weapons by the United Kingdom alone, with the renunciation of nuclear weapons by the United Kingdom and the United States alone, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition also referred to that. I think there was agreement of opinion that this would not produce security. The same, I think, applies to nuclear disarmament by both sides if it is confined to nuclear disarmament, because even if it were possible to control it—and I do not think that it is possible—it would bring no freedom from fear of a global conventional war and in some ways might indeed invite it. Therefore, on the disarmament aspect, I believe that the general view is that balanced disarmament is the best way to approach it.
Before I say more about disarmament I would refer to the question of alliances. Support of them is a basic factor in Her Majesty's Government's foreign policy, and I rejoiced, if I may use that word, to hear the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition about N.A.T.O. He made a very clear and definite statement on behalf of the Opposition:We support N.A.T.O. and the Atlantic Alliance. … Nor do we believe in neutralism. This must mean, as, indeed, the Prime Minister said, either sheltering behind the United States, or the destruction of N.A.T.O. and neither of these things commends itself to us. … Nor do I believe in the possibility of a so-called 1427 third force or new power bloc. … Nor do we favour unilateral disarmament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1958; Vol. 582, c. 1233.]Therefore, I think that on these matters we have a bi-partisan position, and I am glad, because some doubts were caused by some of the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale at Brighton. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] The remark about alliances was the one to which I was referring. I think that a common position between the parties on this matter does make the position of the Government of the day stronger in dealing with other countries.
But I must say this, that this robust endorsement of N.A.T.O. has this corollary: it means we have to bear in mind the views of our N.A.T.O. allies. There is an evolution going on, because no longer is it enough just to give information to the allies in N.A.T.O. or to have perfunctory, brief consultation. There is now taking place a sustained effort to work out a common policy. That was shown in connection with the Western proposals on disarmament, which were worked out in considerable detail in close consultation with the N.A.T.O. allies. There is no question of domination by one country of all the N.A.T.O. allies. They are entitled to state their opinion and to formulate their policy.
The Leader of the Opposition, with the detachment of opposition, stated his position, and it is quite right that he should do so and it is helpful that he should do so, but membership of an alliance imposes on the Government of the day the need to make sustained efforts to reach agreement on procedures and policies before a public announcement.
The Prime Minister's statement about the summit meeting was, I think, regarded as satisfactory. I think that even the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale impliedly admitted that. But it has taken weeks of consultation and discussion before my right hon. Friend could be in a position to speak as he did. That, as I said, is part of the price of working through an alliance, but, of course, the fact that we do believe in collective security and work with our allies is, in our belief, more than compensation for that possible delay.
1428 Much reference has been made in the debate to disengagement and a variety of plans have been put forward. I think that they all require careful examination. I do not believe that disengagement is a kind of creed in which one either believes or does not believe so that one is either a believer or an unbeliever. There is a classic example of disengagement, I think, in this Chamber—the red lines upon the Floor—though not a verbal disengagement, I agree. Sir Anthony Eden put forward in 1955 the first disengagement plan. It was one to come into effect as part of a plan for German reunification. The hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has written a book or, raher a tract—Fabian Tract 311—about a neutral belt. In it, I think he endorsed what I have just been saying, because he said that it was a great mistake to use words like "disengagement" or a "European Security Pact" without trying to work out in detail what was meant. I think that he has done a service in working out a concrete plan.
The hon. Member for Leeds, East, rejected the idea of neutralising Germany alone. He said that he believed in a larger neutral zone. He rejected the withdrawal from Europe of United States and United Kingdom troops; they were to stay, and there should be bases for military operations against a possible military violation of the neutral zone by the Soviet Union. He said that he believed in the capacity for limited nuclear retaliation against violation from these air bases in Western Europe and also, possibly, from missile bases in Western Europe.
The hon. Member thinks that there should be substantial conventional forces of the neutral countries in the neutral belt strong enough to defend those frontiers against local infraction which is not serious enough to call for extreme intervention but large enough to prevent a fait accompli by the Soviet Union, able to start the fighting and keep it going long enough if a Soviet invasion takes place.
The picture that the hon. Gentleman presents in his plan is of a neutral belt—
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am dealing with the plan advanced by the hon. Member for 1429 Leeds, East, because it was really endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition and, therefore, binds hon. Members opposite, I suppose. I should have thought that this question of disengagement is sufficiently important to merit the kind of consideration which the hon. Gentleman did try to give it in his pamphlet.
The hon. Member's idea is a neutral belt in Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia—[An HON. MEMBER: "Hungary."]—and Hungary perhaps—with powerful conventional forces, the belt being backed and guaranteed ultimately by nuclear weapons. He thinks that that will reduce the risks of spontaneous combustion in Central Europe.
The arguments against a scheme of that sort were put by the right hon. Gentleman himself, during his speech. He spoke about the pressure for reunification going on, about the possibility of an East German riot or minor revolution, about West German forces going to the rescue of their East German comrades, about further movements in the satellites, about the Hungarian rising, and a possible Polish revolution.
§ Mr. Lloyd
May I just finish dealing with this point?
It seems to me, in view of those facts in the present situation and those risks, that to have a belt with substantial conventional forces backed by nuclear weapons from outside would be to ask for trouble. It would be, I think, a trail of gunpowder laid across the centre of Europe. There is a passage in the pamphlet where the hon. Member for Leeds, East, talks about where the fighting may take place. Would it take place on the frontier of the Soviet Union and Poland, would it take place on the present dividing line, or would it be more likely to take place on the other frontier of Germany? None of the problems of the use of nuclear weapons would be solved.
The hon. Gentleman said in another article, about two years before, under the engaging title, "When Shrimps Learn to Whistle", that the main danger of war now lies in the possibility that one side or the other will gamble wrongly on its opponent's failure to resist a local 1430 advance in a "grey" area. The confrontation of American and Russian land forces on the Iron Curtain is the best guarantee against such a gamble, at least in Europe.
§ Mr. Healey
I am much obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. I am flattered that he should regard my proposals as the main topic for his speech today. I hope that he will forgive me if I attempt to comment, in one or two sentences, on the points he made.
I answered his last point in the first page of the pamphlet, as he is well aware. The Hungarian revolt showed that there were dangers in the present status quo which were not apparent before the Hungarian revolt, and I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will agree that neither he nor anyone else expected that type of explosion until it in fact occurred.
Secondly, because of the failure of the Western Powers to provide an alternative to massive retaliation, as I recommended that they should seek to do in my article three years ago, so long as the two sides confront one another directly with atomic weapons, a Hungarian-type explosion could produce an unnecessary world war. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is this an Oxford Union debate?"] With respect, the Foreign Secretary gave way, and I believe that he was expecting me to comment upon his remarks.
I dealt at considerable length with the political problems which require solving in order to reduce the dangers of disengagement, and so did my right hon. Friend, in the debate yesterday. Of course, it would be necessary to carry this proposal out by stages. Of course, it would be necessary to solve the major political problems, and I believe that it would be possible to do so—
§ Colonel Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
On a point of order. The hon. Gentleman has already made one long speech yesterday. Is it in order for him to make another speech today?
It is quite in order for him to make a second speech today, but not, I think, at this particular moment.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The reason for my dealing with this matter was, as I said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition adopted this plan and put it forward yesterday. I should have thought that it would be reasonable to consider for a moment or two the disadvantages of a plan put forward by the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Lloyd
On the question of disengagement, I still believe that the best plan for disengagement which has been put forward is that of Sir Anthony Eden. This plan faces the question of German reunification. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in his alternative course, says, also, that it is necessary to deal with the problem of German reunification, and he produced a plan which also is dependent upon the Soviet Union accepting the reunification of Germany. But I believe that the best plan put forward for a form of disengagement is that submitted by Sir Anthony Eden.
One reason against the reunification of Germany, or against expecting the Russians to accept it, which was put forward by the right hon. Gentleman yesterday, was, he said, that it would mean that the military frontiers of the West would come up to Poland. That is what he said. I think that that pays no heed at all to what the German Chancellor has said on that matter. He said that, if Germany is reunified, he is prepared to have the East German zone a demilitarised zone.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman no more wants to make this debate a purely academic discussion of academic ideas than anybody 1432 else, but is he really telling the House that if the Government go to a Summit Conference in Moscow they will not be prepared to discuss any form of disengagement unless it is linked with German reunification? Is that what he is saying?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I shall come to the question of the summit meeting in a moment, but I do not believe that any topic should be excluded. As for the way in which we should deal with the question of disengagement, that is a matter upon which we shall have to work out a common line with our allies. That is the essential part of being a member of the alliance.
I have pointed out some of the dangers in the plan proposed by the hon. Member for Leeds, East and some of the advantages of the Eden Plan. I have also pointed to a third plan, which is that of the German Chancellor himself, and which also involves disengagement. In the course of the debate yet another plan was referred to, namely, the Rapacki Plan.
That plan was amended by an announcement on Monday, and I understand that there has been a further Soviet pronouncement upon it this morning. The Leader of the Opposition put forward certain objections to it in the course of his speech. We certainly do not exclude the consideration of that plan, but it is coming out in driblets, and we shall have to see the nature of it and discuss it with our allies.
On the subject of disengagement plans, I would say that the anti-surprise attack measures contained in the plan put forward by the Western countries in the Disarmament Sub-Committee also provided something which could lead to a form of disengagement. They involved aerial and ground inspection either of a large area of Europe or a more restricted one. The getting into position of the inspection mechanism and the control to guard against surprise attack would itself have been a step on the way to what is called disengagement. But I do not think that disengagement is a creed; it depends entirely upon the practical advantages and disadvantages of any scheme.
§ Mr. Beswick
Having now told us all the possible permutations of plans, does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the country ought to know 1433 what plans the present Government are proposing to put forward at the Summit Conference?
§ Mr. Lloyd
What we now have to do is to try to work out with our N.A.T.O. allies a common policy and plan. That is the whole point of the alliance, and it has been one of the criticisms made of N.A.T.O. that not enough effort has been made to work out a common policy. That has to be done, and done privately, before it is publicly announced.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. and learned Gentleman started his speech by saying how pleased he was that there was common ground between the Government and the Opposition upon certain points. How is that to be continued if we are not to know what proposals the Government will put forward with their allies? Are not we to be privy to these discussions?
§ Mr. S. Silverman
On a point of order. I do not know whether you heard what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just told the House, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. We thought that we were having a debate about the Government's attitude to a most important proposal made at a most critical moment in world history, and considering whether or not hon. Members on this side of the House could support it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has just told us that he has no intention whatever of telling us what is in the Government's mind about any of the matters that we are discussing. In those circumstances, would it be in order to move, "That this House do now adjourn"?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I did try to point out some of the pros and cons of the scheme suggested by the hon. Member for Leeds, East, but I still believe that the Government must retain the right to have confidential discussions with their Allies upon a matter of such importance as this.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the question of a non-aggression pact, 1434 and made some comments upon the Prime Minister's broadcast. This, at last, is a matter upon which without doubt we shall be on common ground. The Leader of the Opposition said that a pact of itself would be of little or no value and the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said thatA pact of non-aggression by itself, without any other definite and concrete agreements, may, in fact, do more harm than good.There is, therefore, agreement that although a non-aggression pact is a form of words, it needs to be accompanied by deeds. If my right hon. Friend's broadcast speech is read again it will be seen that that was the purport of his remarks.
The Leader of the Opposition stated that the narrowest difference between East and West concerned the suspension of the tests, but he agreed that a cut-off was desirable—and essential in the long run. That is the point with regard to what the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said, namely, that without not only the suspension of tests but also a cut-off we shall never get the other countries to abandon their nuclear programmes. That was made absolutely clear during the course of the meetings of the Disarmament Sub-Committee.
The other countries engaged upon or contemplating nuclear programmes want the cut-off as well as the suspension of tests. They want a suspension of tests, and an agreement in principle upon a cut-off. The scheme can easily be worked out in detail afterwards. The Soviet Union has not accepted that, but that is the only way to prevent the development of fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth nuclear Powers, and I think that we are right to insist upon those two matters being associated.
But that is not the point of smallest difference between East and West, and I do not think that that is the view of the majority of those of our allies who have approved our proposals. The area of least difference is in relation to the anti-surprise attack measures. The right hon. Gentleman asked for some initiative. In these matters we are prepared to nominate forthwith a delegation to discuss with the States concerned an inspection system to enforce the suspension of tests. We are also prepared to nominate forthwith a delegation to discuss practical matters involved in the 1435 setting up of a system of aerial and ground inspection against surprise attack.
The right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) suggested the latter possibility in the course of his speech. That would be very good work to get going, so that the results could be considered at a summit meeting. I am not unhopeful of agreement upon disarmament. There was a time last summer when such an agreement, of a limited nature, seemed possible.
In discussing disarmament the Leader of the Opposition referred to the question of missile bases. His suggestions were that we should have an effective veto on the use of these bases. That has never been in dispute. Of course, their use must be by joint decision, which means that we have a veto and the United States have a veto. His second point was that no physical preparation should be made for the installation of missiles until the summit talks had taken place with the Soviet Union. I do not think that that suggestion is a good one, because there is no difference in principle between these missile bases and the bomber airfields or the development of bombers themselves.
To hold up work on one or the other would be a fundamental mistake. In any case, the missiles themselves will not be here for some time—[HON. MEMBERS: "How long?"]—and I think that it is a complete misunderstanding of the Russian psychology to think that this delay would make them more amenable. I believe that it would have the contrary effect. I doubt very much whether the right hon. Gentleman believes in the wisdom of this course. It could be little bit of coming events of the next week casting their shadow before.
§ Mr. Bevan
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that he must not only think of Russian psychology in this matter, but of British psychology? There is deep feeling in many parts of the country that we should not take steps for the physical establishment of these bases until talks have been held with the Russians. There is a very deep feeling about this, however irrational the Foreign Secretary may think it to be. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that the missiles will not arrive for a long time, and we hope that the summit 1436 talks will not be long delayed, there seems no reason to rush ahead.
§ Mr. Lloyd
This is only preparatory work. I do not see any difference in principle, nor did the right hon. Gentleman, between having these missile bases here and airfields for a strategic bomber force.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about the importance of our foreign policy and referred to the pursuit of peace and the preservation of the rule of law. We certainly remain firm in that purpose. We have to try to maintain and gradually to deploy the strength and resources of this country, but not allow an excessive amount to any particular area. That is one reason why we do not believe in a kind of Maginot Line complex in any particular part of the world. We have to maintain our alliances and their effectiveness and try to improve the speed at which the operate. It is easy to be critical, but after all, Government Departments take quite a long time to make up their minds on a common line; and if we have 15 Governments, with their Foreign Offices, Ministries of Defence and Treasuries to be consulted, it takes a considerable time. But I think that we can improve on the present procedure.
We accept the conception of the rôle of the United Nations set out in the Secretary-General's last Report. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke yesterday about the Commonwealth and I wish to say a word about our attitude to the Soviet Union. I think that where progress is possible is in the improvement of the nature of our public exchanges of propaganda and things of that sort. I believe that we can speedily make progress by having more contacts. The present contacts are minute compared with the populations involved. We believe that more trade is possible and that it is of great psychological importance that we should have successful negotiations which end in a real agreement upon something.
At the N.A.T.O. meeting, in December, the idea of a Foreign Ministers' meeting was proposed in the hope that they might agree at least on how to resolve the procedural deadlock over disarmament talks. We felt that from that modest beginning further agreement might be possible. But now that we have accepted either preparations through 1437 diplomatic channels or by a meeting of Foreign Ministers, we are ready to examine on their merits the various plans for disengagement or partial disarmament.
We stand by our Western disarmament proposals, but not in a spirit of complete inflexibility. We said in the N.A.T.O. communiqué after the December meeting that we were prepared to discuss proposals from whatever source. We think those are profitable areas of discussion. But the final question is the method; how we come to a meeting with the Soviet leaders. About that, the Leader of the Opposition said, "Why do you not say 'Yes' at once?" It would be in accordance with our national instinct to say "Yes" at once to an invitation to a conference of any sort. There is a strong temptation to say, "Right, we will meet at Geneva in a fortnight's time." But we have to remember the point made in the Prime Minister's speech, that positive disillusionment might be more dangerous than the preservation even of some tenuous expectation.
I quite agree that we have not to be so timid as to refuse to go unless there is a certainty of success on every point. On the other hand, complete failure—I should have thought all hon. Members would agree—would do a great deal of harm. A psychological success is needed, otherwise tension may increase. Therefore, our position is that we want a summit meeting, a fruitful meeting. We in Britain have everything to gain from the relaxation of tension and from a genuine agreement. But I would remind the House of what I think were the very wise words of Dr. Lange, the Foreign Minister of Norway—and there has been talk about Norway having been more advanced towards a summit meeting and that we were lagging. He said:We do not find the level at which a meeting takes place the most important factor. The decisive thing is that before the meeting we must have the certainty of results through confidential contacts. A new meeting between East and West with a negative result can create only pessimism.The right hon. Gentleman spoke about a regrettable confusion over the purpose of the conference. He said that there were two possibilities, the apex type, which is setting the seal on the work already completed, or the ice-breaking 1438 type, which was the beginning and not the end of the process. He thought that the preparatory work should be about where, when and who should participate and the agenda. There is a third type of conference between those other two for which there should be a reasonable amount of preparation. Although nothing would be excluded from the agenda, as a result of the preparatory work the heads of Government would have a good idea of the fields which are most profitable for discussion. We do not want another Palais Rose over the question of the agenda.
I believe that for the success of the meeting, it would be of great benefit to have a genuine attempt at preparing areas where agreement is most likely. I think it the general view that these meetings would be very much better if attended by as few as possible, and we certainly should be ready to support that. During the visits of Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev, in 1956, there were long meetings of that sort. True, they did not result in any agreement, but the speeches were more frank and useful.
There is a feeling that a meeting designed for propaganda purposes should be resisted. Carefully prepared speeches, made in strict rotation for public consumption, will not help. Therefore, our view is that preparation should proceed at once on the question of a place of participation and with regard, as the Prime Minister put it, todisentangling the points of disagreement, and revealing, perhaps, the most prominent areas of a possible agreement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1958; Vol. 582, c. 1227.]As to the fixing of the date, there are two arguments. If the date is fixed, it might be said that there is no incentive to do any preparation at all—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]. There are two arguments. The first argument is that if the date is fixed, and where the meeting is to take place, there need not be this genuine endeavour beforehand to disentangle the issues. The second argument is that if you do not fix the date you can delay preparations indefinitely. I think that it is six of one and half-a-dozen of the other. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite have to realise that the sanction for genuine preparation may be not to fix the date—the only way in which you are going to get genuine preparation, without which I believe the meeting 1439 would not be the most useful, is not to fix the date. Our view is that this is a matter which must be discussed with our allies before a decision is taken. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly.
§ Mr. Bevan
—may I put this to him? Up to now it has been argued that it would be a good thing to fix the date precisely, because by that announcement there would be an incentive to make effective preparation quickly. If you do not fix the date, all kinds of recriminations will take place—that we are responsible for the delay—and the atmosphere will be poisoned. Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that in the circumstances it would be far better to fix a date which would be a target for all the preparations?
§ Mr. Lloyd
That is a point which we have to consider. I tried to put it perfectly fairly and to put the arguments on each side. This is a matter which must now be pursued with our other allies, who have strong views upon this matter and about the importance of there being a genuine preparation before the meeting takes place.
In spite of this issue about the date, upon which we have not pronounced one way or the other, I think that the House is generally closer together about a summit meeting. I think that we have to balance between us not to raise false or premature hopes and, on the other hand, not to be so cautious as to become completely immobile. We have also to remember that it is easy to be carried away by emotion in these matters. We have to realise that the summit meeting is not the end in itself. There are broader issues.
Perhaps I may quote Lord Attlee, who made a speech in 1950 on a similar topic:The difficulty does not lie in the method nor in the choice of persons to discuss these high matters. All that is required is the will. We on this side of the Iron Curtain have the will to discuss and settle with the Russians.1440 Whatever may be said, for any purposes, by way of misrepresentation, misstatement or misquotation, we on this side of the House firmly have the will to meet the Russians and to try to settle these issues.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
I think the Foreign Secretary has sat on the fence for so long that the rust has entered into his soul. Surely, on both sides of the House, we must have been deeply depressed by what we have had to listen to over the last half-hour. It is not merely a matter of the House but of the whole country.
No one who has been sitting on these benches watching the look of despair on the faces of his nominal supporters behind him could have failed to realise that the time has long passed when action should be taken for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to move out of his office and for someone else to take his place who can give the leadership which, I am sure, the country is longing should be given. Not only was his speech dull and unimaginative, but he seemed to be incapable of giving any kind of coherent picture of future policy to which people both inside and outside the House could look forward. It is a tragedy for the country that we have to endure this kind of speech.
There were some among my right hon. and hon. Friends who, I am sure, welcomed the signs of what one might say was conversion in the Prime Minister's speech yesterday. There were at least indications that the visit to India and elsewhere had done him good. It was valuable and encouraging to hear him make his references to the position of India. One had hoped that the Foreign Secretary might have followed on that speech and given coherence, vitality and life to some of the unexceptionable principles the Prime Minister expressed. Instead, the only positive suggestions have come from this side of the House, and it must be evident that the sooner hon. Members on this side of the House are given a chance to translate their views into practice the better. The sooner this side of the House has an opportunity to take part in these international discussions, the better for the country.
I wanted to deal in a brief intervention with one aspect only of these vital 1441 questions. References have been made, both by the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, to the vital part which India will play in the future—not only India, but the other new, free countries of the Commonwealth in whose freedom we all glory. I hope we can now include the Prime Minister in that statement and that he can join us in glorying in that freedom.
But, if the Prime Minister's cautious but helpful references to India and the uncommitted countries are to be translated into something more and are to be given some reality, surely it is for us on our side to recognise that there is a very clear economic implication in our support for the position of India and the other uncommitted countries. It is no use our merely recognising India's position unless, together with others, we are able to play a fuller part in the economic assistance which we can give.
It is well known that India has played a leading rôle in trying to urge the countries of the world to join together in international schemes of economic aid under the United Nations—schemes such as S.U.N.F.E.D. and others which have been put forward. Unhappily, this country and the United States have always appeared to be dragging their feet on these issues. They have always said that it was an unpropitious time to bring forward these major schemes of economic development.
We know how critical is the position in India and similar countries. India holds on to her democratic processes, and I am sure that we pay a sincere tribute to the way in which she does that; but she is under very severe pressure, and unless greater economic advance can be assured to her, there is no doubt that her democratic position is in danger.
It is therefore of the most critical importance that we in this country do everything we can to try to give leadership for the development of economic schemes, instead of, as it appears, giving the impression to the world that we are doing what we can to block them. I am aware that the United States have recently made new offers for what, in a sense, amounts to a new scheme of technical aid, and I am sure that they will be very valuable.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
Would not the hon. Member agree that, in the last ten years, we have given no less than £1,000 million in technical aid, private investment and other ways to the Commonwealth and the Colonial Empire?
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
I was about to make it clear that I do not deny that we have done valuable work in our Colonies, but we must admit that for a long time we relied very much upon the contributions of our Colonies to our sterling balances. Although the position may have changed in some respects in the last year or two, there is that other side of the picture. The net investment we have made has been very small—one knows the difficulties. The United States have put forward new proposals, which at least offer some chance of expansion, but, in the view of most of us, they in no way meet the real needs of the situation.
The crucial point is to be able to provide enough capital for what has been described by one economic expert as a "peaceful infrastructure". In the past, we have talked about an infrastructure in N.A.T.O. for defence, but what is needed here is a complex of social services and basic provisions which would make it possible for industrial development to take place later. Without those basic provisions, in practice, very little can be done. We argue that now is the time when we must try desperately to give more reality to these international economic schemes of development. Unhappily, our Government appear to have taken up a position of rejection of those proposals. We on this side of the House are committed to a vast expansion of this provision, but we recognise that in all probability it cannot take place without some sacrifice on the part of our people at home. We have said so in our statements and documents.
We also recognise that our people have to be educated to understand how vital those issues are. Those of us who, like the Prime Minister, have recently had the opportunity of being in India, understand the kind of problem there is there—the appalling condition of poverty and misery, and the way in which the gap between our standards and theirs is getting larger rather than smaller. It is hopeless to imagine that we can develop 1443 peacefully in the world so long as that condition continues.
We recognise fully that we have a job to do to bring these issues home to our own people, to make them understand how vital they are and how necessary it is for all of us to make sacrifices to enable this capital to be provided. What I want to know from the Minister of State tonight is what action the Government are prepared to take to encourage the education of our people on this issue. The United Nations Association put forward one proposal—no doubt one amongst others—for consideration by the Foreign Office. It is a modest but practical proposal, which suggests that, under the authority of the International Bank, trustee bonds at a low rate of interest should be issued, to which private people and organisations could subscribe. That money could be used for the assistance of community development projects in India and elsewhere. That is not an attempt to solve the basic economic problems, but to educate opinion in this country. So far, we have not had an answer to that very useful proposal.
I assume that my right hon. Friends will be in Government very shortly. It would be a graceful thing if the Foreign Office were to help the transfer of power in this country by educating popular opinion on the kind of developments that I think everyone—on both sides of the House and in the country—would like to see go forward. I am convinced that in the country there is a great reservoir of opinion, especially among young people, wanting to see this kind of approach made. They are prepared to face some personal sacrifice. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said, it is one of the tragedies that in many ways the House of Commons has become divorced from youthful, live opinion. One of the ways in which the House could be brought back into touch would be provided if this kind of leadership could be given. What makes the divorce between the House and popular 1444 opinion even more certain is the kind of approach we have had from the Government this afternoon.
Another point is related to this. It is clear to most of us that talking about economic development and economic aid to under-developed territories does not make much sense if our trade policy denies to those territories any kind of security in the prices of their raw material products. There are many examples of that. Many of us have been abroad and seen for ourselves the way in which plans for many countries—for example, Burma—are affected by sudden drops in the price of the raw materials, such as rice in one case and tea in another—