§ 3.32 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)
I will begin by saying something about the Middle Eastern situation. I will then state our views about the meeting of Heads of Governments.
With regard to the situation in the Middle East, I have had discussions during the last few days with Mr. Dulles, with Mr. Sidney Smith, the Canadian Minister for External Affairs—I was particularly grateful to him for coming from Ottawa to Washington to meet me there—and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
First of all, the Lebanon. The latest facts about the Security Council position is that the United States resolution, the terms of which will be known to hon. Members, was vetoed on 19th July. That resolution called for the development of United Nations activities in' pursuance of the Security Council's resolution of 11th July. That was the Resolution which referred to observers to ensure that personnel and material did not go into the Lebanon from outside. It said that the Security Council agreed to the development of such activities as might be necessary to protect the territorial integrity 228 and independence of the Lebanon. That was vetoed.
The Security Council is now discussing a Japanese resolution which requests the Secretary-General to take measures additional to those under the resolution of 11th July to ensure that the territorial integrity and political independence of the Lebanon should be effective and to render possible the withdrawal of United States forces. That resolution has received general support among the representatives there, except from the representative of the Soviet Union. He, however, has not yet declared how he will vote. We hope that the resolution may go through without a veto.
So far as observers are concerned, I think that the Committee is familiar with the reports of 16th and 17th July. There has been full access to the frontier at all points since 15th July. The observer group has made a request for ground patrolling, for unarmed troops and for the provision of more aircraft and night reconnaissance equipment. We hope that they will be speedily built up so that they can, by their observation, ensure that the infiltration of men and material cannot continue. I believe that the buildup of the observer group will take place.
With regard to the longer-term view—for the action taken in the Lebanon is surely emergency action—I think that the Committee is familiar with the special historic position of the Lebanon since the massacre of 1860. It has been a semiautonomous régime, even under the Ottoman Empire and the Christian Governor, and the delicate balance has been preserved between Christian and Moslem. I believe that the Lebanon's position in the future can be safeguarded by some special international status under the United Nations' auspices which would preserve both the traditional detachment of the Lebanon and the delicate balance between the religious groups in the country. Such a position would have to be achieved, of course, with the consent of the people of the Lebanon themselves. I think that this status would be very much in their own interests, but I am not formulating proposals. I am simply indicating a way along which I believe progress might be made.
In Jordan, matters are proceeding very smoothly. The situation is quiet, but tense. The first purpose of the British intervention, the foiling of the coup d'état 229 organised from outside the territory, has been achieved, but the purpose remains of safeguarding Jordan from armed aggression from Syria and of creating conditions under which she will be able to stand up to direct or indirect aggression.
Sir Pierson Dixon, our representative on the Security Council, made a statement there yesterday about our position. He repeated what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said about readiness to withdraw British forces from the territory of Jordan if and when effective arrangements could be made by the United Nations for the protection of Jordan against external threat. He said that the Government proposed, as a first step, to explore urgently, with the Secretary-General, the possibility of devising some form of effective action by the United Nations. That would be done in consultation with the Government of Jordan and other Governments.
The object of these consultations would be to work out proposals under which assistance could be given by the United Nations to the Government of Jordan to ensure the preservation of Jordan's territorial integrity and political independence. I had a consultation with the Secretary-General myself in New York, on Sunday.
I have nothing to report about matters in the Persian Gulf. There is no foundation at all for certain rumours which I believe are current. [HON. MEMBERS: "What are they?"] Rumours of British military action. Now I come to the situation in Iraq. I will make a statement about the present position there.
After the burning of the Residence no further material damage has been done. From all we hear, the authorities have restored order in Bagdad. Contact by telegram has been established again with Kirkuk, Basra and Mosul. Reports that we have received from the Consul-General are that no injury has been done to British lives and no damage to British property, but arrangements are being made for people to leave Iraq if they so wish. I think that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign Office, referred yesterday to assurances received from those in authority concerning the safety of British lives and property, and the desire to pay compensation for the damage done by the mob.
230 As to the future, we are examining carefully the statements of those in authority and, what is perhaps more important, their actions. In all this, it is important that we should move in step with our Allies in the area. I hope that it will be possible to discuss these matters with the Heads of the Governments of Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, towards the end of this week. The Prime Ministers of those three countries are coming here as, I believe, also, is Mr. Dulles.
Before I leave the subject of Iraq, there is one thing that I think the Committee would wish me to do. I want to refer to the deaths of King Feisal, the Crown Prince and Nun Said. I have not done this before, because we felt that there was not sufficient certainty about the fate which had befallen them. I do so now with great regret. Many right hon. and hon. Members have met and worked with them. His Majesty the King was educated in this country and had shown, in addition to a singular charm of manner, great capacity. I know that he was devoted to the welfare of his people; the keen interest which he took in the work of the Development Board was proof of that. I believe that he would have been a great ruler had he lived.
The King's uncle, the Crown Prince, had an eventful life. He was always, throughout the many vicissitudes, a staunch friend of this country. I think he cared, above all, that his nephew should be a worthy king. That was his abiding interest, and his work in steering Iraq towards independence and preserving it should never be forgotten.
Nuri Said was a great Arab patriot and nationalist. His part in the Arab revolt in the First World War is well known. It was falsely said by those who surrounded him that he was a servant of the British. That was absolute nonsense. Anybody who had to deal with him knew of his robust independence, his toughness and his determination to get that which he thought was best for Iraq. It was due to him that, first, the mandate, and then the Treaty of 1930, were ended and he guarded and guided the independence of Iraq. He was responsible for the policy of spending the oil revenues so wisely. He laid the foundations of what we still hope will be a stable and prosperous Iraq. This country has lost three trusted friends, and I wish to put on record our 231 profound sense of loss and our deep regret for the manner in which they met their deaths.
Now I come to the conference of Heads of Governments. The Committee is familiar with Mr. Khrushchev's invitation and the terms in which it was couched. One wonders whether the invitation was couched in such terms so as to make it difficult to accept and so enable Mr. Khrushchev to score with public opinion. We, however, propose to treat the proposal on its merits and with seriousness. Therefore, we have seriously to consider this question of a meeting of Heads of Governments. We have also to consider carefully the relationship of the United Nations to all this.
When I was in the United States, during the last few days, I discussed the Article 28 procedure, to which the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) referred yesterday. According to that procedure it is possible to have a special meeting of the Security Council at which members of the Government or specially designated representatives can attend. It seems to us that there are great advantages about this procedure. First, it will keep the matters with which we are immediately concerned, the situation in Lebanon and Jordan, within the United Nations framework because, whatever may be said about a four-Power or five-Power approach, Middle Eastern settlements must be secured within the framework of the United Nations. I believe that it is quite unrealistic to think that we could get a settlement outside the United Nations.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am glad to have the Committee with me so far.
The reason for what I have just said is that the United Nations has already a significant rôle in the area in regard to the armistice agreements between Israel and the Arab States. It is vitally concerned in U.N.W.R.A. and with the functioning of the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organisation. It is concerned with the placing in position of the United 232 Nations Emergency Forces and now it is concerned with the operations of the observer group in the Lebanon. Therefore, I believe that any settlement of these matters must be found within the United Nations.
My hope is that because of the emergency action which was successfully taken it may be possible to find a solution within that framework. It would not have been possible to find a solution within the framework of the United Nations had the independence of those two countries fallen at the beginning of last week. The Soviet Union appears to accept this because in its suggestion for a meeting of the Heads of Governments it suggests the presence of the Secretary-General and the preparation of a report to the Security Council.
The second advantage of this method is, as I said a moment ago, that it is possible for Governments to be represented by a member of the Government or some other specially designated representative. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has asked me to say that if it were agreed that there should be such a special meeting he would certainly attend it himself.
The third advantage is that this procedure would not only be in accordance with the Charter, but it would also be extremely flexible. The Security Council can meet in restricted session. There is considerable flexibility about the attendance of other countries which are not actually members of the Security Council. There would be the possibility, for example, of other States, such as India, attending in accordance with the procedure. There is also the advantage that there is no fixed term for any such meeting and it could be part of a continuous process, which I believe is necessary to solve these problems.
Fourthly—and what I think must be very much in our minds—such a meeting would provide the opportunity for private meetings of an informal character between the heads of leading delegations, meetings which would not be bogged down by arguments about the agenda and the whole paraphernalia about publicity, communiques and all the rest. To be successful there is one other factor about such a special meeting which would have to be taken into account. I think that it should be regarded as a 233 meeting for discussion, and not for voting. It is not our purpose, in putting forward this suggestion, to put the Soviet Union in a position in which it is constantly in a minority of one. Therefore, we would be prepared to go to such a meeting on the basis that no resolution would be put forward unless it was agreed that it should be put forward. That would mean, in fact, that only such resolutions would be put forward as were certain of passing. As I say, it would not be regarded as a meeting at which votes would be chalked up by one side against the other.
I know that there are practical difficulties and no doubt the ingenuity of hon. Members will suggest them during the debate. I do not think that it is for me to mention them. I had a discussion with the Secretary-General about them on Sunday and I do not think that they would be insurmountable. We are discussing all this with our friends and Allies, and it was felt that advantage should be taken of this debate for us to state our position clearly and affirmatively. An interim reply has been sent to Mr. Khrushchev and a further reply, containing the suggestions I have outlined, is being sent this afternoon.
The immediate objective of this meeting should be settlement over the Lebanon and Jordan but, of course, there are longer term objectives in the Middle East. I said last Wednesday that we are not enemies of Arab nationalism. We have played a greater part than anyone else in securing Arab independence, and by our backing of the Arab League, when it was founded, we showed clearly that we were in favour of Arab unity. Exactly what form that unity should take is for the Arabs and not for us to decide, but to portray this as a conflict between Arab nationalism and the West is to distort history and to pervert our present attitude.
There are wider settlements which could easily emerge from the kind of approach I have suggested. I do not think that it is wise today to specify the nature of those settlements. Anyone who has had any responsibility over the last thirteen years for affairs in the Middle East knows the intractable nature of some of the problems. The course that I am recommending to the Committee today is, I believe, a practical method 234 whereby we may start along a path which might lead us a great deal further towards peace and security in the area as a whole than at present some may think feasible, and I therefore commend it to the Committee.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I believe that the policy that the Government have now decided upon is one which will be supported in all parts of the House. We were delighted to find that, following the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition last week, about the necessity for having a meeting with the Russian leaders, Mr. Khrushchev sent out his invitation to an urgent meeting.
It was, of course, rather unfortunate that he surrounded his invitation with a little bit too much invective, but that is a Russian habit, sometimes imitated elsewhere. We are delighted also to find that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Foreign Secretary and his hon. Friends have now been converted to the importance of using the machinery of the United Nations. It is also a source of very great gratification to those of us on this side of the Committee that the conversion appeared to be universal, if for the moment it appears to be slightly inarticulate.
We sincerely hope that Mr. Khrushchev will accept the invitation. I entirely agree with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, that the machinery of the United Nations would provide excellent auspices under which to have both informal and formal discussions. We attach the utmost importance to these opportunities for private contact because, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman quite rightly said, the more informal the conversations are the less likelihood they have of being broken off at awkward moments, which always happens when there is a formal conference with an agenda on which no agreement has been reached.
May I also be permitted to say, perhaps in a lighter vein, that I hope that Mr. Khrushchev will realise that he probably will be very welcome in New York. I am sure that he will enjoy American hospitality. I know that his ebullient temperament will respond readily to the warmth of the welcome he is bound to receive when he goes there and I hope 235 that he will have the opportunity of addressing the New York Economic Club.
We also earnestly hope that the Russians will not veto the proposal to increase the observer force in the Lebanon. We want to get the American troops out from there as quickly as possible. We want to get the area settled, and we are glad to hear from the right hon. and learned Gentleman that his proposal will seek to start the process of disengagement in the Middle East by preserving the neutrality and autonomy of the Lebanon.
I am bound to say that I have very great misgivings about Jordan. Of course, it is an impeccable decision to invite the United Nations in now to enable us to get out. The great problem for us is: having got in, how to get out and how to get out with loss of face—[HON. MEMBERS: "Without loss of face."]—without loss of face. That is a lapsus linguœ
How we are to do it, we do not know. It seems very strange that the United Nations should be invited in to be a bodyguard. It is a curious function for that organisation to perform, because the United Nations could hardly be invited into Jordan with the responsibility of preventing the Jordanian people from expressing their own political ambitions. That would not be a function that the United Nations could conceivably perform. Therefore, we are likely to be stuck for some time, unless we can find some other way out, but, at the moment, of course, our position is that if the United Nations will relieve us of our embarrassment we will be delighted to be relieved of it. So there also we believe that we shall have to work our way towards a much more satisfactory solution.
The time has come when the House should begin to consider the outlines of its Middle Eastern policy. In fact, it is more than time—it is getting very late. I realise that it will not be easy, but it is better to have a chart that is hard to read than to have none at all. So far, the only policy that we have had has been one of drift from disaster to disaster, accompanied by desperate and unrelated attempts to shore up a rotten and crumbling fabric. We believe, however, 236 that it is now necessary, the House of Commons having become seized of the situation, that we should make up our minds where we want to go, and how we want to get there.
There are four principles that seem to us to form the basis of a framework for the area as a whole. The first is, the great Powers to agree that the Arab States of the Middle East should form an area in which the Powers would not seek military allies, or foster the formation of military blocs. Secondly, to guarantee that the existing frontiers of the States in the area, including the State of Israel, should not be altered except by mutual consent—including an undertaking to go immediately to the defence of any one of the States faced with armed aggression.
Here I am speaking about the guarantees to be given by the great Powers. These guarantees should be, as has been said over and over again, under the auspices of the Charter of the United Nations. These territorial arrangements should be supplementary and not in opposition to either the spirit or the letter of the Charter of the United Nations. That has been said over and over again.
The third principle is a willingness to facilitate the coming together, by peaceful negotiation, of any of the Arab States wishing to do so. The fourth is the setting up of an economic commission, preferably under U.N.O., furnished with sufficient finances to assist any scheme of economic advantage either to the area as a whole or to any part of it.
I should now like to go through those principles, if I may, one by one. First, the great Powers to agree that they should not seek to recruit allies in that area. It is our view that one of the reasons for the existing situation is that the area has been divided by plots by the Powers to recruit allies for themselves in that area. It is perfectly true that when, in 1955, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, then, I think, the Foreign Secretary, recommended the Bagdad Pact to the House, we did not divide against it. He has reminded us of that on several occasions, and I should like to remind my hon. Friends that when the atmosphere of debate has dispersed, and months have gone by we are always liable to be reproached that, on a particular occasion, we did not vote. It is the vote that stands out on the record.
237 The present Prime Minister, asked about the Bagdad Pact, said:The Bagdad Pact was not too early. I almost feared it might have been too late. At any rate, it was only just in time. Its character, like that of N.A.T.O., is defensive and non-aggressive. Its functions are not exclusively military. It is a union of like-minded people, determined to defend their freedom, their economy and their way of life."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th December, 1955; Vol. 547, c. 834.]It is my view, and the view of many of my hon. Friends, that preoccupation with the Bagdad Pact has been one of the things that has stood in the way of a settlement in the Middle East. We expressed this view, as a party, as early as January, 1956. The Executive of the Labour Party, representing, as it does, the whole Labour movement, issued a statement, in January of that year, calling for a reconsideration of the whole situation. We believed that that Pact had two very grave disadvantages.
First, it pretended to divide the Arab States the one from the other or, at least, to divide the members of the Bagdad Pact from Egypt and from Syria. Secondly, it was a provocation to the Soviet Union without providing any additional military strength. It was from the formation of the Bagdad Pact, that is to say, it was from the active policy of trying to recruit help in the Middle East by the two great Power blocs, that most of the recent trouble has stemmed.
We therefore hold the view that one of the most effective ways of trying to pacify the Middle East—and our primary interest is not in obtaining military allies there, but in the pacification of the whole area—must come from its complete neutralisation. We do not believe that we can rest secure in obtaining what we need—the oil—if the area is continually disturbed by the consequences of rival military alliances. Therefore, we believe that what the great Power blocs should do is to have a self-denying ordinance; that they should not seek, in any respect, to foster military formations, and should realise that neither of them will be made any stronger by having allies in that area. That is the first principle, to which we attach the very greatest importance.
We would also like to emphasise that, in this new period, nothing would give a greater sense of security than if it were found possible in the major settlement for the great Powers to guarantee the 238 frontiers of Israel, and to guarantee the frontiers of Israel's neighbours—with such rectification of the frontiers as may be mutually agreed. Israel has always been prepared to wipe out, or to eliminate, certain obvious faults in the drawing of the frontier line.
We believe, too, that if the Arab States were given to understand that the great Powers were behind that guarantee we would remove from the area one of the principal sources of political combustion. Those moderate Arab leaders who have always, privately, stated that they are prepared to recognise that Israel is there to stay, would have an answer to the more extreme of their followers if they had such a guarantee to point to. And I always include Russia when I speak of the great Powers, because now, at last, we are being compelled to realise what we were so reluctant to realise before; that Russia has an interest in the area, and that we could pacify the area only by agreement with the Soviet Union.
The second principle is a guarantee that existing frontiers could not be changed except by mutual consent, including, of course, immediately, a guarantee that we would go to the defence of any one of the States faced by aggression. That seems to me to admit of no argument. There cannot be peace in the area if the frontiers of nations are attempted to be changed by armed aggression of one sort or another.
The third principle is something of the utmost substance—a willingness to facilitate the coming together, by peaceful negotiation, of any of the Arab States wishing to do so. I do not believe that the best interests of this country can be served by attempting to perpetuate the division of those States that desire to come together. It seems to us that we must now make up our minds—and not only make up our minds, but make the decision a principle of action—that our best interests can now be served by obtaining oil from the Middle East by normal commercial methods and not by the use of outmoded imperial greed.
I notice that some hon. Members opposite smile but, really, it is time that we began to face the realities. The Russians have made the mistake all the time, it seems to me, of sticking too bitterly to Karl Marx, but hon. Members 239 opposite have stuck too bitterly to G. A. Henty. It really is ridiculous to assume that we shall be able to ensure a supply of oil by military adventures. It has been made clear, over and over again, that we can get this oil only by the active co-operation and friendliness of the people of the Middle East themselves. That has been said before, I know, but it is not only necessary to say it but to make it the guiding principle of our strategy in the Middle East. This, we have not done. We have said it, and then we have gone in the opposite direction.
I heard rumours this morning that there were troop movements from Great Britain, or from stations under our command, in various other directions in the Middle East. I am glad to hear from the right hon. and learned Gentleman that that is not so, because it seems to me that there is nothing hostile to the interests of Great Britain, and of Europe generally, if there is a further coming together of the Arab States among themselves. There is nothing fundamentally hostile to us in the formation of an Arab federation, or an Arab union—and I shall try to explain why.
Those who have been able to visit the Middle East have always been very much impressed not only by the sense of unity existing among the Arabs, but by the appalling consequence of the fact that, by Providence, some of the Arab States have access to considerable oil revenues, and others have not. The unfortunate fact about the division of the Middle East between ourselves and the rest of the world is that we have the alliances with the rich States, and the others have them with all the poor ones. So long as that exists, not only will Egypt and Syria attempt to disrupt any alliances that we may form, but also, of course, they realise that there is no economic future for them unless they themselves have access to some of the oil revenues. And it is in our interests that they should have that access.
I have been getting out some figures of national income per head of population, expressed in U.S. dollars. Iran has less than 100 per annum; Jordan, less than 100; Yemen, less than 100; Egypt, less than 200; Libya, less than 200; Syria, less than 200; Iraq, over 300; Lebanon, over 300; and Israel, over 300. 240 But those figures themselves conceal the appalling disproportion of the distribution of that income inside each country.
The poverty in Egypt is quite indescribable, and the poverty in the Yemen, I believe, is in some respects as bad, if not worse. It is absolutely incredible that a situation of this sort should continue undisturbed. It is absurd that small kingdoms like Kuwait should be able to enjoy such enormous revenues, at the same time as their populations are drawn from Egypt and Syria to a large extent, and to expect that situation to be stabilised. It is inevitable—hon. Members must face it—that they should come together. It is, I repeat, of the utmost advantage to us that they should come together, because to the extent that they do, the oil revenues will be more equitably distributed, there will be a lessening sense of grievance, and, I believe, an end will slowly be put to the indefensible opulent spending of a few sheiks in the area.
All this is to our advantage. Therefore, my other principle is that we should facilitate the peaceful coming together of the Arab States in whatever form of union they should desire. Indeed, when I was in Bagdad last year I had a long discussion with Nuri es-Said. However much I may disagree, as I do, with his policies, nevertheless it is for me a very sad reflection indeed that he should have met his death in so bruital a way. I said to him that it seemed to me that one of the first steps that could be taken towards the formation of an Arab union on a small scale was a union between Jordan and Iraq.
Jordan and Iraq, Arab States, were friendly to each other. There was plenty of unemployed labour rotting in the camps of Jordan and there was plenty of need for the labour growing up in Iraq. So it seemed to me that if there could be a union between those two countries, it would be possible slowly to take labour from those stagnant pools in Jordan and spread it over the whole of Iraq, especially as all kinds of important problems were arising in the Middle East, which they must be helped to tackle.
I mentioned to the House before, and I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I emphasise again, that one of the problems of the Middle East is that in a certain sense of the term some of the 241 States become the recipients of large revenues without earning them. By "without earning them" I mean not earning them in the same sense that British landlords do not earn many of their rents. They own the land, and because they own the land we have to pay royalties. But the difficulty lies here, that the economies of those countries are changed in the act of spending the revenues and not in the act of earning them. That is a very important difference indeed, because it produces all kinds of temporary problems which are highly disturbing to the whole area.
I saw it myself. Nuri es-Said took me around the urban areas of Bagdad and showed me the awful camps that had sprung up in the course of the previous two years when 450,000 out of a population of 5¼ million migrated from the land in the south and settled in Bagdad, drawn there by the meretricious attractions of the city, leaving the land where they were so badly needed, the same thing happening all over the whole area, leaving the areas around Mosul, Basra and Bagdad and making Iraq into three cities—Mosul, Basra and Bagdad. These were the urban proletariat, uprooted from the countryside where their families had lived for countless generations without any proper contacts, with no sense of political responsibility, and many of them living a spiv-like existence.
It is from those newly-created urban formations that much of this disturbance has arisen. This is, therefore, a situation which is quite unique. We had it, but it was spread over many centuries. We also had a landless proletariat. We also had a very considerable urbanisation, but nothing like as quick, and our political institutions were able to adjust themselves; even so, they adjusted themselves with great difficulty, as my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee know very well. We also experienced this, not under a democracy but under class dictatorship. The industries of South Wales and other parts of the industrial areas of Great Britain were built with the wages that our forefathers went without.
The situation in the Middle East is far worse, because it is much more volatile. The political institutions are less stable, and therefore it is an area where we cannot expect political stability to 242 arise indigenously. It has to be helped from outside.
I come to the next point. I believe that it is absolutely essential that we should now create an economic commission which would have the task of financing the development of the whole are. Hon. Members who wish to continue to enjoy what they have been enjoying in the Middle East can no longer sit back and hope that it will happen. Something has got to be done about it. It was a very great mistake to have brutally withheld finances for the Aswan Dam, in Egypt.
I admit at once, and I said so at the time, that President Nasser made a very great mistake in the way in which he set about some of his plans. I remember saying to him that if he wanted to be courted he must always have three mistresses courting him at the same time, because if he had only two and one deserted him he would be a victim of the other. He thought that he was being courted by America, by the West, and by Russia. Of course, he found himself in great difficulty when it was discovered that what Mr. Shepilov had said had no foundations. He therefore found himself having to rely upon the generosity of the West and, having been rebuffed, it was not forthcoming.
But this was a mistake. The Aswan Dam had become a symbol of the economic regeneration of Egypt, and I consider that we must now retrace our steps and establish an economic commission, furnished with finance. We should make it apparent that the West is not only friendly with the Middle Eastern peoples, but is prepared to co-operate with them—is prepared not only to take things, but to give things. We should not look upon the area merely as one of imperial exploitation, but as one of providing the opportunity for a big experiment in international co-operation.
We believe that if this plan were forthcoming, if they could see blueprints, if they could see physical evidence of schemes being carried out after having been formulated, if they could listen on the radio night after night not to fulminations always against Israel or against each other, or by Russia against us or by Egypt against us, but to explanations of schemes for their welfare 243 and, not only that, at the same time providing for it in a way which treated them with respect, which allowed them to have their own national aspirations, which did not treat them as of an inferior status—if that could happen, I am sure that we could transform the climate of opinion right throughout the Middle East. It is no use having these principles unless we ensure them.
I want to end as I began. I believe that whatever criticisms we have made of the Government—and we have made them and shall continue to do so—nevertheless we would be only too ready to co-operate and to give every encouragement to a plan somewhat on the lines that I have outlined. There are great difficulties in the way. There is a great deal of bad blood and a lot of suspicion, but, nevertheless, I think, as has already been evidenced, that there is nothing fundamentally hostile to the welfare of Great Britain and the people of Europe in what has happened in the Middle East.
The statement yesterday of the spokesman of the Iraqi Embassy in London, "You have our oil, and we will have your pounds" represents a lever of the utmost importance for the pacification of the whole area. It is a bond of union which subsists beneath all the turmoil, bitterness and irritation. It is that there is a fundamental interest not only in the maintenance of peace, but in seeing that the welfare of the people of Europe and that of the people of the Middle East march peacefully together.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas L. S. Nairn (Central Ayrshire)
It is, Sir Charles, an ordeal to have caught your eye so early in this debate, following the speeches of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), and during a period of exodus of hon. Members from the Chamber. I am, however, very glad to have this opportunity of being the first person on this side of the Committee to say how warmly we welcome the calm words of the Foreign Secretary and the decisions which he has announced today. I am also delighted to be the first to welcome what seems to me to be the first appearance of the achievement of general agreement throughout the Committee.
244 The words used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale will be warmly welcomed on this side of the Committee. They were of very different tone from the words he used the other day and, although he may have had to stretch his imagination to suggest how this change was brought about, I believe that it was brought about by the calm way in which my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have dealt with the situation. I will not pick out the points which the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with now, but I will try to meet some of them as they appear during what I have to say.
I shall not go over again all the moral and legal issues involved in our going into Jordan, but I am convinced that the people of this country are satisfied that we did nothing illegal, and I am also sure that they are satisfied that we would have done something morally wrong if we had just shrugged our shoulders and passed by on the other side. Before I come to consider whether what we have done is wise, and before going on to consider what our future policy should be, I should first like to look for a moment at what has happened in Iraq and what is happening in Jordan.
The timing of the revolution in Iraq took Nuri by surprise, but no one knew better than Nuri himself that he was in danger of being overthrown by revolution, at any time, before he was able to demonstrate to the people of Iraq that what he was doing would be in their best interests. Nuri warned us time and time again that unless we brought forward some positive policy, some policy which he could use to demonstrate to his people that we were not against Arab nationalism or against Arab patriotism, then sooner or later his downfall was inevitable.
The tragic events of the last week proved that Nuri was right. I believe that our policy of inactivity in the hope that time would find a solution must bear some part of the responsibility for Nuri's death. I do not think that it is any coincidence that the people now in control in Iraq are all people who at some time or other fought on or around the boundary of what was Palestine.
In Jordan no revolution has yet taken place, but no one believes that that is 245 because the Government of Jordan is universally popular or can survive as it is for ever. I believe that two things have prevented revolution in Jordan today. The most important, I believe, is the universal popularity of King Hussein himself. King Hussein is a brave man, wise above his years and liberal-minded in the best sense of the word. He has won for himself the love and respect of all the people of Jordan. But he too has found himself in exactly the same grave position as Nuri found himself in, and for the same reason—our failure to realise that time will not solve the problems of the Middle East.
Today, the King of Jordan is protected by a British force which went in at his request. That force, would never have got there in time if the King of Jordan had not himself been universally popular. But, popular as King Hussein is, we must remember that in the Kingdom of Jordan there are one million Palestinians and that 700,000 of the Palestinians are refugees and are located in camps around the main towns of Jericho, and Jerusalem, Amman, and Hebron. In addition to the 700,000 refugees there are 300,000 Palestinians, employed or self-employed. Against that there are only 350,000 genuine indigenous Jordanians.
That is a dangerous situation for any king to have to face. I do not believe that the Palestinians in Jordan would wish to harm King Hussein, but if we had not sent troops into Jordan at the time we did, it would have been only a matter of days before the refugees started to march, not with the intention of overthrowing the King but with the intention of overthrowing his Government.
People may say, "If the King is so popular and his Government is not, why does not he change his Government?" The answer to that is that he cannot in present circumstances, because the only alternative would be a Government composed of people who insisted on attacking Israel. No one in this Committee would approve of his changing his Government if that were the result.
At the very least, and for the moment, we have prevented the obliteration of a Government whose policy is not to try to start a war with Israel. We have prevented an episode which might in the fury of the moment have enveloped King Hussein and we have won time for calm consideration of the situation.
246 That is the background against which we must consider whether it was wise to go to King Hussein's assistance. There is no doubt in my mind, so far as our limited human intelligence can see into the future, that it was wise to go to his assistance, at least in the short-term. But, as it has been rightly called, this is only a breathing-space. It may last days, it may last weeks, or it could last months, but a breathing space is no solution to the problems of either Jordan or the Lebanon, far less is it likely to re-establish friendship and understanding between ourselves and the Arabs.
It must be remembered that the opportunity given by this breathing space is a two-edged knife. If we do not use it to carve out a solution, it will cut the other way; it will cut the sinews round which we could hope to build a solution. Then, instead of doing good by going in, we should have created an even greater danger. If this greater danger is created, then, I fear, there will be no alternative to war.
I entirely agree with the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that the time has come when there can be no more delay. We must face the issue squarely. What has made one Arab State after another turn away from the West? It is not Nasser. If Nasser went tomorrow, somebody else would be there, and if he took Nasser's view he would be equally as great a leader in a matter of days. It is not Pan-Arab nationalism in the sense of wanting a union of all Arab States. That is not a natural growth. It is certainly not Communism. Communism is a doctrine even more alien to the Arabs than it is to the people of the Western world. These three things are the results, not the causes, of the present unrest.
The cause of the present unrest is the failure to solve the Arab-Israeli problem. At least one hon. Member opposite has not yet appreciated that. The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), in the Daily Mirror today, says:… the only way to avoid disaster is to adopt the policy advocated by Mr. Gaitskell for the Labour Party… We should announce that, if the Arabs want a united Pan-Arab federation along the lines Colonel Nasser has been fighting for, we have no objection—on the one condition that they leave Israel alone.That is an impossibility—unless the Arab-Israeli problem is first solved. The 247 Pan-Arab federation would be built on one policy and with one object only, the extermination of Israel.
To say that the failure to solve the Arab-Israeli problem is the cause of all the difficulty is not to say something which is pro-Arab or pro-Israeli. It is something which has been well-known and recognised equally by all Jews and by all Arabs for a long time. The only place where it has not been fully appreciated is the West. It is absolutely fundamental. There can be no peace, there can be no end to emotional upheavals and there can be no stability until some long-term solution is found which will, first, enable Arabs and Jews to tolerate each other and then, eventually, learn to live together in friendship. Until that is done, it will not be possible for any Arab Government to survive for long unless it adopts an anti-Israeli attitude.
The danger is now so great that both Jews and Arabs must surely realise that there must be a reconciliation between them. Some Arabs may believe that it will be possible to drive the Israelis into the sea. Some Israelis may imagine that they can extend their frontiers to the Persian Gulf, Neither of these things is possible and neither of them could even be attempted without drawing both Russia and the West into the ensuing conflict. These are terrifying prospects for the world.
All British influence from this moment on must be concentrated on one objective, finding a solution to the problem which came into existence with the creation of the State of Israel. I am sure that Israel wants peace. I am sure that, even in the circumstances of today, four out of five Arabs want peace. I believe that, if the British nation, and, with it, the whole Commonwealth, declared that our primary objective was the solving of this problem, that alone would go a very long way towards creating stability in the Middle East.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
The hon. Gentleman is making a very good speech which has made a great impression upon most of us present, and I hope that the Committee will continue the debate in this harmonious way, especially after the constructive speeches we have had from both sides. But I 248 should like the hon. Gentleman to address himself to the time factor. Is not that the supreme issue?
§ Mr. Nairn
I have said so. I entirely agree with the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that we must face the issue now, but we must have clearly in our minds what the heart of the issue is. I say that the heart of the issue is the solution of the Arab-Israeli problem. As a preliminary measure, the United Nations should, I think, guarantee the frontiers of Lebanon, Jordan and Israel and, if necessary, should put forces there to do so. Where shall we look for a solution?
I do not believe that there are any prospects of success in Britain, America or Russia trying to work out a solution. Their motives, however honest, would be suspect even before they started, by one or other of the States involved. We all agree with the cheers which greeted the statement from the front bench opposite that these things should be worked out through the United Nations. I believe that the only chance of finding a solution now to the problem lies in the United Nations forming a committee of small nations, not immediately involved in the Middle East, which should be told to work out a fair and honest solution. I disagree on one point with the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. He said that no frontiers could be changed except by mutual agreement. In my view, if such an independent committee said that certain adjustments of frontiers were necessary, those adjustments, in order to achieve a lasting settlement, should be enforceable by the will of the United Nations.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
My hon. Friend refers to the will of the United Nations, that this should not be done by the big Powers but by groups of small Powers, and that the protection and guarantee of frontiers and so forth should be under the aegis of the United Nations. Who will do it? Does my hon. Friend mean a world police force or does he not? Does he mean a conglomeration of forces under the United Nations? If so, who will command it, who will run it, and who will be in control of the area?
§ Mr. Nairn
I have often found myself in disagreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell). I am afraid that we must face this issue now and find a solution somewhere. It may 249 be that the United Nations might say, We cannot put forces in ourselves. We will delegate it to Sweden, Norway, Australia or countries of that kind."
§ Mr. Nairn
The United Nations would delegate it, to keep the peace while the effort to work out a solution is made. If we do not go ahead now and do not find any solution, we shall move straight towards disaster.
I believe that Britain, the United States and Russia—this is why I welcome the prospect of an early meeting with the Russian head of State—should say now that, if such a committee produces a solution which is fair and just, we are all willing to commit ourselves in advance to support it. The stage has been reached when nothing else will do. To reach agreement should be the target of any Summit Conference. Failure could well change danger to disaster.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
Many of us on this side will agree with a good deal of the very thoughtful speech made by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Nairn). At the same time, I am bound to say that his justification of the sending of British troops into Jordan was not altogether convincing.
I share the doubts expressed last week by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). I feel that unilateral intervention is not the way to deal with this kind of problem. It sets a precedent. If one country does it, there is no reason why another country should not exploit such action in its own interests on a subsequent occasion.
We on this side of the Committee welcome the announcement which was made this afternoon by the Foreign Secretary, because we see that as a much more sensible way of dealing with the problems which admittedly exist in the Middle East and the solution of which we are so doubtful about if we are to seek to deal with them on a unilateral basis.
I have on previous occasions drawn attention in the House to the fact that 250 Heads of Governments do not seem sufficiently interested in the United Nations to attend its meetings. My mind goes back to the inter-war years, when it was the regular practice of Heads of Governments to attend meetings of the League of Nations Assembly. But I think I am right in saying that during the past twelve years the only head of Government who has attended the Assembly of the United Nations is the President of the United States.
I thought I heard the remark on the other side, "Look what happened to the League of Nations". But that is just the difficulty that I have in mind. Some hon. Members opposite will not give the United Nations the opportunity and the support that is essential if it is to achieve the purpose for which it was established. We, therefore, welcome most warmly the proposal for a meeting utilising the machinery of the United Nations.
On the other hand, merely for five or six Heads of Governments to journey to New York and to meet either formally or informally is not likely to produce results unless there is a policy upon which agreement can be sought. I thought that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale had great merit, in that it was constructive and laid down certain principles which could form the basis of an agreement at the forthcoming Summit Conference. I think that all hon. Members would agree that during the past few years we have been witnessing the inter-play of power politics throughout the Middle East. There has been the Tripartite Declaration of the Western Powers, which, incidentally, I do not criticise, because I think that it was a wise move at the time and may still have some value. But the attempt to exclude one of the greatest Powers in the world, the Soviet Union, from active participation in the affairs of the Middle East was, in my opinion, doomed to failure.
What happened? We failed to get a conference to agree on an embargo on the supply of arms to the Middle East, and in recent years the Soviet Union has supplied very powerful armaments both to Egypt and to Syria, to say nothing of the smaller countries of the Middle East. Today, the Middle East is a seething cauldron which might well 251 precipitate a world conflagration unless something constructive is done.
While I support the holding of a Summit Conference, and while I stress, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, the need for a concerted policy, I realise that there are difficulties which it would be folly for us to ignore. Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary referred to the new technique of indirect aggression. I think that it is a serious flaw in the United Nations Charter that there is no provision for enabling action to be taken under the auspices of the United Nations to counteract what is called indirect aggression. The modern methods of infiltration, the smuggling of arms, and the use of radio calling upon people in other countries to murder and assassinate can bring about a situation which may be of even greater potential danger than the result of a direct attack across the frontiers of one country by another.
It seems to me that the United Nations will have to face up to this new problem. I hope that the Government will not merely draw attention to the existence of this problem in speeches, but will go to the Security Council and to the General Assembly with definite proposals for strengthening the authority of the United Nations to deal with this problem. It may be said that any proposals are almost certain to be vetoed if they are put to the Security Council. Fortunately, there is an alternative authority in the United Nations where the veto does not apply. I hope that the Government will go to the General Assembly if they are vetoed in the Security Council.
As the Committee knows, if a two-thirds majority is secured, authority can be given to the United Nations and its agencies to take action under the United Nations Charter. I believe that the time has come when, to enable the United Nations to carry out the fundamental reason for which it was created, namely, the task of maintaining peace and security, not only for the great nations but for the small nations, who are much more susceptible to indirect aggression than the great nations, it is in the interests of world peace that some action should be taken.
On the other hand, I am very disappointed with the Government's 252 attitude to the question of the observers in the Lebanon. I do not understand how we can build up the prestige and influence of the United Nations if we are to denigrate the work of its officials when they are sent to different countries to carry out their responsibilities. I was extremely sorry to hear the Foreign Secretary refer last week to the fact that, according to information from the Lebanon, some United Nations observers were reluctant to carry out their responsibility of detecting infiltration and the crossing of the Syrian-Lebanon frontier.
I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary is not here, but I only hope that we shall be told that he was not seeking to impugn the good faith and sense of loyalty of the 91 observers from 11 countries who, today, are stationed along the Lebanon-Syrian frontier. How can we expect the United Nations to fulfil its purpose if we destroy the confidence of public opinion throughout the world in its reliability, in its sense of loyalty and, above all, in its impartiality? I do not know what the reasons were if this information was correct, but, according to the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State, yesterday, and relying upon Press reports, the Government have associated themselves with this grave charge against United Nations officials.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is hardly being fair to my right hon. and learned Friend. Barely three minutes ago, he was calling attention to the need to create a United Nations force which would bear in mind this process of infiltration and which would be sufficiently powerful to cope with it. All that my right hon. and learned Friend was doing was agreeing with the right hon. and learned Gentleman's earlier contention and pointing out the deficiencies of the United Nations in this respect.
§ Mr. Henderson
The noble Lord has completely misconceived what the Foreign Secretary said. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is on record in HANSARD. If the hon. Gentleman likes to go to the Library he can see what the Foreign Secretary said and put the matter right from the Foreign Secretary's point of view. The matter was raised in the House yesterday, and it was clear from 253 what the Minister of State said, that, while Her Majesty's Government were not themselves accusing these observers of having been reluctant to carry out their responsibilities, they were relying upon Press reports. For example, The Times leading article stated that reports had been received of the suppression of air photographs showing convoys crossing from Syria into the Lebanon.
I ask the Foreign Secretary, or whoever replies for the Government tonight, to make clear that while there may be some evidence which we have not been given that one or more of these 90 observers have been failing in their duty, they are not impugning the loyalty and reliability of the great majority of these United Nations observers and that they still believe that we can rely upon the main body of those observers.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ian Harvey)
I think that it would be for the benefit of the Committee if I said at once that the observations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman reflect the true position. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary made the position quite clear today and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State made it clear yesterday.
§ Mr. Henderson
The Minister of State made it clear yesterday that the Foreign Secretary's statement was based upon Press reports. He produced no evidence. All I am asking is that the Foreign Secretary will make it clear that the Government do not impugn the good faith of the vast majority of the observers at present stationed in the Lebanon.
§ Mr. Henderson
I am glad to hear it. That is another reason why the statement should never have been made. It has been published all over the world and it has not been substantiated. It reflects a most unfortunate sense of proportion upon the Government for ever making the statement.
I should like again to refer to the importance of the proposals which have been made for strengthening the United Nations observer corps and the development of the United Nations Emergency Force into a permanent one. Time and time again, we are having instances when, if the United Nations had had a force 254 at its disposal, it would have been possible to take immediate action instead of having the vacuum which has existed in the Middle East and which has caused our Government and the United States Government, no doubt with the best of intentions, to consider it their duty to send their own troops into Lebanon and Jordan.
I think that it would be agreed on both sides of the Committee that if a United Nations force had been in existence a week or two ago, it would not have been necessary for the two Governments to send their troops into these two countries. It seems to me more evident day by day that one thing that the United Nations must do, and do quickly, is to consider the establishment of a much stronger observation force and a much stronger police force, and on a permanent basis, so that it can be ready for any of these eventualities.
The great merit of the conference which, we hope, will take place during the next few days is that it will give another opportunity to the great nations of the world to come together on a basis of co-operation, not outside the United Nations, but within the United Nations, and based upon the principles of the Charter.
§ Mr. Fell
The right hon. and learned Gentleman speaks about the United Nations force and puts it very reasonably. He keeps on talking about expanding this force which would come under the United Nations. How big is this force to be? What is it to cope with? Is it to be able to cope simply with holding down Arab nationalism? For instance, could it really have done anything to save what happened—
§ The Chairman
Order. The hon. Member has interrupted twice. If he hopes to speak in the debate, he has a poor chance of doing so.
§ Mr. Henderson
I was about to conclude; I know that many other hon. Members wish to speak. May I deal with the point—
§ The Chairman
Order. I have given my instructions. The hon. Member must either resume his seat or leave the Chamber.
§ Mr. Henderson
If the hon. Member had followed the discussions which are taking place, he would know that those of us who have advocated this proposal have in mind as a beginning something in the nature of about 20,000 men. The hon. Member smiles, but we must be serious about this. We have 2,000 men in Jordan and there are 7,000 or 8,000 Americans in the Lebanon and 4,000 or 5,000 men in the Gaza Strip. That totals less than the 20,000 that we advocated several years ago should be the complement of a United Nations force.
Of course, a force of 20,000 is not expected to maintain the peace of the world, since most of the great countries have large armies, navies and air forces hopelessly outnumbering anything in the nature of 20,000 men. What we have said is that as we disarm the world, we should build up the United Nations force, which would then have the responsibility of maintaining the peace of the world. In the meantime, all we say is that if the United Nations had had a force of this size in existence, it would have been possible to avoid all the complications which flowed from the sending of troops into the Lebanon and into Jordan.
I hope, therefore, with hon. Members on both sides, that at the forthcoming Summit Conference it will be possible to get an agreement based on co-operation between East and West, the absence of which augurs badly for the future of mankind.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
I particularly welcome the two statements which we have had this afternoon. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has told us that the proposal is going out that Mr. Khrushchev, or whomever he likes to send, will be met in the Security Council of the United Nations and that this Summit Conference on the Middle East will take place under those auspices. We have at last got into the position where we must have a categorical reply from Russia proving whether she is in earnest in this respect or is only bluffing.
256 The second statement which I particularly welcomed was my right hon. and learned Friend's remarks concerning the future status of the Lebanon. I am fortunate in knowing a number of Lebanese. They have long rather proudly described their country as the possible Switzerland of the Middle East. Its future special status under the auspices of the United Nations may go some little way further to confirm that position for this unusual and peculiar small State.
The right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) will forgive me if I do not follow his remarks immediately, although I wish later to take up one or two things he said. I wish to refer for a moment to the comments of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who rather spoilt some of his interesting speech. Like Mr. Khrushchev's communications, much of what the right hon. Gentleman said was so wrapped up with contentious material that the merit of most of it was thereby lost.
There are two or three points which I should like to take up with him. His second point in the four-point solution which he put forward to the problem of the Middle East, and I am paraphrasing it, went roughly like this. Guarantees should be made of all frontiers in that area, including the frontiers of Israel, and—and this is where I may have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman—any Power would have the obligation of interfering to prevent armed aggression. I think I have him right, but would the right hon. Gentleman please correct me, if I am wrong?
§ Mr. Bevan
I am sorry if I was not clear, but what I said was that as it was necessary that there should be effective guarantees in the Middle East, the great Powers—and when I say great Powers I am referring to Russia, France, the United States and Great Britain—should, if the area is neutralised, guarantee the existing frontiers against armed aggression.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
The great Powers should guarantee the agreed frontiers against armed aggression—
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
Yes, under the Charter. Then, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman this question. What is the difference between 257 such a guarantee and what has happened in recent days, when the United States and Britain, under Article 51 of the Charter, have intervened at the request of Governments which felt that their integrity and their very existence were threatened? What is the difference between the one and the other?
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
I think perhaps the right hon. Gentleman might at some time explain that difference, because I am sure that we have not finished with this problem.
Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman went on to talk of obtaining oil by normal commercial methods. Surely, he has been out in that part of the world recently enough to realise that the agreements with the oil-producing countries are of a commercial nature, and that they are based on figures of production—not just an overall payment for a concession, but, in fact, a payment on annual production? What could be a more normal method in commerce than that?
Thirdly, the right hon. Gentleman talked of brutally withholding the money for the Aswan Dam. If one is to withhold something, one presumes that it is available, and we in Britain, at least for many years now, have been complaining that we have insufficient resources to invest in our own Commonwealth, in Canada, in Africa, in Australia and elsewhere. How then are we to find sufficient money for the far more chancy investment of the Aswan Dam with the present Egyptian Government?
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman permit me to answer that question? Is he aware that Great Britain had already undertaken to provide its proportion of the guarantee until the day after the Americans withdrew theirs, so that we assume that it was available?
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
We undertook to honour a certain obligation to the World Bank when the whole matter was still under discussion. I think that if the hon. Gentleman consults the record, he will find that that is true.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
No, indeed, but when one is considering one investment with another, it is only prudent to take the lesser risk.
Now I should like to return to what the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton said about the United Nations observers in the Lebanon. I think it is important to get the sequence of events in their right order. May I remind him that it was on 8th May, when a certain newspaper proprietor was murdered in the Lebanon, that the whole of this violent insurrection really started? On 13th May, five days later, Mr. Malik, the Lebanon representative at the United Nations, protested to the Security Council, and made certain accusations against the United Arab Republic. It was not until 12th June, very nearly a month later, that the first United Nations observation group arrived in the Lebanon.
During all that time, a great deal of subversion, crossing of frontiers, landing of agents and such like, could and did take place. There is no doubt about the facts of that case. A great many international newspaper correspondents were on the spot, watching developments from day to day, and those of them who are honest admit that the situation was thoroughly confused. On the other hand, they all assert, without any doubt at all, that subversion of every sort was taking place daily.
§ Mr. K. Zilliacus (Manchester, Gorton)
May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman why, if the situation was so menacing all this time and so well known, the United States and British Governments, which are permanent members of the Security Council, did nothing about speeding up the sending of a force?
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
That, of course, rests with the machinery of the United Nations, which, as we all know, is inadequate to cope with this situation, and that is our major complaint against it. The idea is good, but the means of working out the idea are not by any means perfect.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but I have given way quite a lot to many 259 of his hon. Friends, and really must be allowed to make my own speech.
It was not until just under a month later that the first observation group arrived in the Lebanon, and on 22nd June, ten days after, the force could be said to have been made tolerably effective. On that day, 69 United Nations observers arrived to join that first observation group, and, today, according to the latest figures, the force, consists of 113, of whom 99 are active observers employed on the frontiers.
Let us for a moment look at the physical size of this problem. There is a seaboard of 150 miles, not all of it impossible for the landing of boats and agents. In fact, much of it has most favourable coves and beaches for such operations. Then, there is a land border of approximately 50 miles with the State of Israel. Then, there is a 200 miles land border with Syria through barren, mountainous inhospitable country, which, covered with thick scrub and other cover, is the ideal kind of country in which to smuggle people quietly and secretly across the frontier.
The United Nations observers were at least honest. They said it was impossible for them to operate at night; they had not even tried to do so, and they always qualified their early claims about what they had found and seen, with the statement that they concerned only daylight hours. For hon. and right hon. Gentleman in this Committee to assert that injustice has been done to this very small force trying to patrol 350 miles of coast and inhospitable country is, I think, verging on the ridiculous. It was a physical problem quite beyond their capabilities.
§ Mr. A. Henderson
As the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to me, would he allow me to say that he has completely misquoted what I said? What I criticised the Government for doing was associating themselves with the expression of view that this observer group was reluctant to report what they had seen, and I was only quoting what the Foreign Secretary himself said:There was a feeling in the Lebanon that the observer body were reluctant to report these movements."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT. 16th July, 1958; Vol. 591, c. 1250.]Earlier, the Foreign Secretary was referring to columns of vehicles crossing 260 the frontier from Syria into the Lebanon. That is what I said.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that, but the opening words of that sentence are:There was a feeling in the Lebanon—I think, quite possibly, it was a justifiable feeling in the Lebanon that so much, apparently, went unseen. On the other hand, when the members of the observer group themselves were honest enough to say that by night they were so ineffective that it was not worth operating at all, I think the situation can be fully understood.
I hope that the Japanese resolution, which, I understand, is to make the observer force far more effective in observation and possibly also to strengthen it so that it could intervene if necessary, will get through the United Nations.
The other matter to which I want to draw the Committee's attention is the sequence of events immediately before the revolution in Iraq. I think it is extraordinarily significant that on 11th July, the Friday before the murders in Bagdad took place and the revolution took its course, Mr. Khrushchev was in Berlin on a visit to Eastern Germany. He was expected to be there for several days. On that Friday morning he made an important speech and left immediately and unexpectedly to attend as The Times said, to pressing work at home. I think that it extraordinarily significant. Almost at the same moment President Nasser was in Brioni conferring with Marshal Tito, and was said to be leaving for Egypt by sea over the weekend. In fact he flew to Moscow to see Mr. Khrushchev. That also is extraordinarily significant.
The question we have to ask ourselves is, does Khrushchev ride the Egyptian camel or does Nasser make the Russian bear dance to soft oriental music? It is quite possible that each thinks he is doing just that to the other, and that, I think, makes the situation far more dangerous.
I feel that it is probable that Nasser went to Moscow to implore Khrushchev to keep out of this affair in the Middle East, the plot which had long been laid, because Nasser wanted all the credit, and, what is more, he needed the credit for his prestige. Was the original plot a 261 simultaneous rebellion in Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan with many troubles elsewhere, or was it aimed at Iraq, the key to the northern tier of defence with feints in Lebanon and Jordan to distract attention?
I ask the Minister of State if he can give us confirmation of the report that the new Government in Iraq intend to remain in the Bagdad Pact. If this is so, it seems to me curious. We have always been led to believe that one of President Nasser's main hates of Westernism in general and the British in particular was because there was this Bagdad Pact from which, largely at his own choice, he had been excluded. It may be, of course, that the new Government in Iraq are deliberately to be kept within it in order to wreck it. That is a possibility of which we must be very careful in the future.
We have three problems to solve in this area; though perhaps they may be divided more properly into four. Obviously first and foremost, as was put so very much better than I can put it by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Nairn), is the future of Israeli-Arab relations, a peaceful settlement with international guarantees of frontiers and, with that, a solution of the refugee problem; secondly, a just and lasting understanding with guarantees on oil; and lastly, some security pact, some arrangement for peace in the future which will take into account the existing organisations such as the Bagdad Pact, and also, last but not least, the old relationships which we have long had with the sheiks and other rulers of the Trucial Coast and those smaller Arab States scattered around the Arabian Peninsula.
If we can achieve agreement and lasting peace on all those matters then this crisis will have brought us to a point of real advance.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
At last, at long last, we seem to be within a measurable distance of the Summit Conference. For many months we have been told that we could not have a Summit Conference because it meant a long period of preparation. Judging from the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon), these adventures in Lebanon and Jordan are part of the necessary preparation. However, we welcome the Summit Conference because we believe 262 that it is essential that Mr. Khrushchev should be answered in the affirmative.
What could the Government do? The leading organ of the Government in Scotland, The Scotsman—[Laughter.]—yes, in Scotland it is the leading Tory organ—said yesterday that it was a superb piece of propaganda on Mr. Khrushchev's part and no Government dared refuse a Summit Conference. So, with every excuse gone, now at last we are to have a Summit Conference.
I see the Americans have dropped a million leaflets over Lebanon explaining to the Arabs "Why we are here." No doubt the Arabs will keep and preserve them for their posterity. I do not know whether the Joint Under-Secretary of State intends to drop a million leaflets over Jordan or not. However, it does seem that we are now face to face with a Summit Conference and we all hope that it will have a great measure of success.
At the Summit Conference will be some very formidable personalities with very definite ideas. General de Gaulle will be there, and General de Gaulle may be asking awkward question about why France was not consulted before the going into Lebanon, Lebanon whose currency was based on the French franc. General de Gaulle appears to be a realist who is not prepared to be pushed around by the Pentagon and the gentlemen at the head of N.A.T.O.
Then there will be Mr. Khrushchev himself. It appears that it will be his first personal appearance in New York, but his ideas must be familiar in New York because it was in the New York Times that he started one of his first series of arguments for the Summit Conference, and in his famous interview with Mr. James Reston of the New York Times he outlined the Soviet attitude with which we are now familiar. Mr. Khrushchev believed that a Summit Conference was absolutely imperative to stave off the menace which would come to humanity if war broke out in the nuclear age. He stated his arguments quite clearly. He thought eight months ago that the conflagration might start in the Middle East, and he appealed to the statesmen of the world to come to a Summit Conference so that they could avert the potential threat and danger to humanity.
263 We know Mr. Khrushchev's argument. It is clear cut. He believes that neither capitalism nor Communism can gain anything from a new war and that we should try to come to a compromise which he calls "co-existence". Personally, I do not share Mr. Khrushchev's choice of the word co-existence". I prefer the word "co-operation", and I believe that, given the will, the initiative and the consciousness of danger in the Middle East, the assembled statesmen in New York could work out a policy such as has been outlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan).
Where are we going to be in this? It certainly will be a test for the present Prime Minister. Up to the present there has been the suspicion that the right hon. Gentleman is not a great international statesman at all, but a survival from the Edwardian era—a very good actor, but not a person with the outlook of a great international statesman. Here is his opportunity.
Why should not the British Government outline for the Middle East a positive, constructive policy which will settle the problems of that area and make available the oil of the Middle East for the benefit of the industrialism of the West? If the Prime Minister were to come forward with a ten-year peace plan for the reconstruction of the Middle East on the line suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, he could certainly give Mr. Khrushchev something to think about.
The Russians believe in long-term planning. If Great Britain had a plan whereby the economic commission would send to the Middle East the technicians, the machinery and the necessary industrial experience that would raise the standards there above the poverty level and offer the hope of a permanent solution for the peoples of the Middle East, then the Prime Minister would certainly take his place as the first person in that conference to give humanity a message of hope.
I am quite sure that if that prospect were offered to the Russians they would say, "Yes, this is another idea based on our five-year plan." As I have said, the Russians believe in planning, and I believe that if the British Government had the imagination at this conference to 264 outline a ten-year plan for the Middle East, not only would they achieve a success, but they might even win the next Election. If they brought peace to the world we might not even grudge them that.
I suggest, however, that we have to meet the arguments of Mr. Khrushchev face to face. If he comes along and says, "Let us divert some of the immense amount of money which we are now spending on the preparation for nuclear war in order to develop the Middle East", what can the Government say? Will the Government refuse? If they do, then they will not win the next Election.
I suggest that this conference gives hope to humanity. All over the world people are looking forward to some kind of agreement at the top which will dispel the nightmare of a third world war. Mr. Khrushchev will take every opportunity of explaining his point of view at the conference. It must be remembered that he is the person in the world most listened to by hundreds of millions of people in Asia. People in Europe are listening to him, too.
Let the Prime Minister take this opportunity. Let him go to the conference with a message and let him do his best to work out a constructive policy which will give work to the unfortunate people immured for so long in the refugee camps in Jordan and which will bring hope to the Middle East and to the whole of humanity.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Medlicott (Norfolk, Central)
It is not always easy, but, nevertheless, it is a great pleasure to try to follow the arguments of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). There is always in his speeches a buoyant cheerfulness which is welcome.
This is one of the occasions on which one is inclined to agree with the philosopher who said that the one good thing about the future is that it only comes a day at a time. For some of us, nevertheless, today has brought very acceptable news in the statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and, in particular, in his references to the United Nations. I am an unrepentant, enthusiastic and convinced believer in the United Nations. I believe that if this organisation, which the nations set up after the last war fails 265 we shall only be compelled to try again. The necessity for some kind of international machinery is now accepted in almost all parts of the world. Our great task is to make it effective and successful.
It is perhaps worth mentioning that without any consultation, and, as far as I know, with very little discussion between those of us on this side of the Chamber who disagreed with the Government over Suez, we all found ourselves in complete agreement with what the Government have done in relation to Jordan.
One of the criticisms made of us at the time of Suez was that we were a collection of woolly-headed idealists obsessed with high-flown moral ideas. I do not necessarily dissent from that description because I believe that we were, in fact, influenced by what appeared to us to be considerations of international morality. But we did not question at all the right of our colleagues to take a different view of the situation. We were, however, not quite as woolly-headed as was suggested. There was hard realism in one direction, that is, in our realisation of the unwisdom of embarking upon such an enterprise without the powerful aid of the United States of America. In practically every great struggle in which this nation has been engaged in history we have, generally, not only been in the right, but we have also been in the right company. Neither of those two considerations was satisfied two years ago.
I want to make only one other comment in relation to the Suez phase, because it has been agreed, I think quite sensibly, that there is no advantage in dwelling upon the events of eighteen months ago except in so far as we may profit from doing so. It is frequently said that all would have been well if only we had gone on. I am not so sure about that. It is so easy to assume that if we had done something else all would have been right, and that if we had seized the Canal the whole of the problems in the Middle East would have been solved.
It has been said that no garrisons are so safe from attack as the defenders of castles in the air. That is one of the situations which exist here. We should have found ourselves strung out along the length of the Canal at costly expendi- 266 ture in a bitterly hostile country, conditions which, I understood four years before, were the very reasons why we withdrew from the zone.
The real tragedy of the Suez situation was one which could also be the tragedy of the present situation, although I do not think it is going to be, because we are already doing better. It was the uncertainty about our motives at the time of Suez. The most serious question raised by the landing of troops in the Lebanon and in Jordan is what conclusion will be arrived at by Arabs and Russians about our real motives. I believe that our motives are of the highest and that this is police action in the best sense of that term, but nowadays the world is so bedevilled by suspicion of other people's motives that it is almost impossible for the Russians or the West to move troops anywhere without the gravest anxieties being aroused.
I want to add what is to me a depressing note. In my humble opinion, one of the less favourable features of the world scene today is the hostility of America towards Russia. I say this deliberately as one who is strongly pro-American. Like most hon. Members, I have had my fair share, and a very pleasant share, this year of entertaining American visitors. Almost without exception they seem afraid of Russian intentions. They are hostile to the whole way of life as expressed by Russia and they seem surprised and shocked that we do not appear to share that point of view.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
A moment ago my hon. Friend quite pertinently described this as police action. Is he aware that even in the House of Commons a disgraceful comparison has been made between this police action and what happened in Budapest?
§ Sir F. Medlicott
I do not think that that fits into the actual point which I have now reached in my speech.
The hostility of Russia towards the West is something that we take for granted, but it is only half the picture. As a result of reading American newspapers and magazines and talking to Americans, we must face the fact that the hostility of Americans towards the Russians is an outstanding and unfortunate feature of our time but one which we hope will be lessened as time goes 267 on. This attitude of the Americans towards Russia is due to two factors. In the first place, America is a highly capitalistic country. The Americans are alarmed even by the British Labour Party, and they are disturbed and anxious about the British National Health Service and what are to them its rather sinister implications. The Russian economic system is so different from that of America that the Americans cannot even begin to come to terms of understanding it.
Furthermore, the Americans are a religious people. I do not mean that they are deeply religious, but they are widely committed to loyalty to Churches of one kind or another. To them the official godlessness and atheism of Russia is shocking and incomprehensible. In passing, I find myself in some difficulty in understanding the real attitude of the Christian Church, both in America and in this country, towards Russia. If, as I understand, the Christian faith is one which includes all nations, all creeds and all colours and all men and women in its fold, then surely Russia should present to the Christian Church here and in America the greatest challenge of all time, but it is a challenge to conquer not by the sword but by the spirit.
It is because of the exaggerated suspicions which are abroad in the world today that I want to follow up a point to which reference has been made in this and previous debates. It was warmly commended by the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson). It is the absolute necessity, which I consider vital and urgent, of placing armed forces at the disposal of the United Nations. Some of us hoped that in the upheaval which followed the Suez intervention the world had learned the lesson that the United Nations force which was assembled and sent to the Middle East had performed an outstanding service. We hoped that that would have encouraged us to go further. It is said that we learn from history that we do not learn from history. That rather depressing thought emerges at the moment. How many people know that the United Nations Force is still in Suez? How many remember the name of its commander? Who is taking the slightest interest in the welfare of its 268 troops and in seeing that they are given a square deal and are properly looked after?
It has been said in the debate that risks are involved in setting up an international police force. I can imagine the same argument being used when the revolutionary idea of setting up a police force in this country was first announced. But risks are involved if we do not set up such a force. We are almost all agreed that the immediate objective is to prevent or confine small conflicts. A task force of 20,000 to 25,000 men would be quite adequate for that purpose. In this country, in Belgium, France, America and elsewhere, millions of £s are poured into great commercial, military and other enterprises. At the moment, almost without noticing the expenditure, nations could build permanent military headquarters for a United Nations force, preferably in the Middle East.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
Could my hon. Friend explain one point? Even in recent weeks, if there had been a United Nations police force of the type he mentions, who would have given the orders, who would have supported resolutions on what? On what assumptions would the force have gone in to do what?
§ Sir F. Medlicott
I shall not be deflected from the one point which I am making—that if the United Nations organisation is to be fully effective it must have this means at its disposal. I am sure that my hon. Friend would be the first to agree that some such means are necessary if political action is ever to become effective. It would be impossible for me in a short speech, or even in a long one, to provide answers to the whole question of how to improve the machinery of the United Nations. I am fully aware of its shortcomings. It is clear that many efforts will have to be made in the days to come to improve it, but I want to emphasise the necessity of enabling the United Nations to have at its disposal the immediate powers necessary to make its decisions effective.
This force must be recruited on a regular, permanent basis. It should be properly equipped. The men should be given uniforms which they would be proud to wear. I think that Britain could afford £100 million a year as its 269 contribution towards this force. Every year we spend £1,500 million on education and the National Health Service. On defence we are now spending nearly £1,500 million. Altogether, nearly £3,000 million a year are being spent. I believe that, without any difficulty, we could afford £100 million as a contribution towards this force.
I agree that such an enterprise requires boldness. I should like to see a really great soldier placed in charge of it, so as to give it prestige from the beginning. Its advantage is that it should appeal to both the idealists and the realists. It has the enormous advantage also that its motives would be free from the suspicion that is aroused by the intervention of purely national forces. There should be no great difficulty in recruiting. Fortunately, there are in the world thousands of men who are more ready and anxious than some of us to live an adventurous life, and judging from the state of the world today, this task force would certainly never be short of adventure and of movement. It must not be a closed shop and it would be necessary to convince the Americans that the task force must include Russian troops as well.
My final point is a general one. It is that we must take into the Middle East something more than security. We must take there an understanding of the aspirations of the Arab people. In particular, we must show a general understanding of their attitude towards the oil itself. After all, it is their oil and, although we pay a good price for it, there must be great psychological difficulties arising from the fact that this rich natural resource is being sucked away from the countries of its origin largely to support the way of life of the Western world. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] My hon. Friends say "Nonsense", but I beg them to look at this from the point of view of the people who live in the countries from which the oil comes, because it is only by doing this that we can come to terms with the problem. We certainly have nothing to complain about when we think of the standard of life that we enjoy as a result of the oil which comes from that part of the world.
It has been said that one of our objectives should be to double our own standard of life in the next twenty-five years. I beg to suggest that we would be better employed, and that in the long 270 run it would pay us better, if we tried to improve the standard of life of the people in the Middle East, which now is indescribably poor and unenviable.
I end by saying that I believe we have moved into Jordan from the best of motives, but we have only made a beginning and we must do all we can to establish the fullest confidence in our intentions. The Government have acted with courage, but I hope and believe that they will also act with understanding. The Egyptians, the Arabs, even the Russians and the Americans, have a point of view. In the long run, hostility and suspicion are poor guides and companions for mankind as compared with good will and a determination to secure justice and fair dealing between all nations, irrespective of their creed or their colour.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I would like to associate myself and my party with what was said by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs about the murder of the Royal Family of Iraq and Nuri es-Said. I cannot help feeling that this crime will not only be resented outside the Arab world, but that it will be bitterly regretted within the Arab world when they look back on the fact that Nuri was one of the creators of Arab freedom along with the British.
I also welcome the conversion of the Foreign Secretary to a belief in the efficiency of the United Nations. When we look back on past years we realise that this is, indeed, a change of tone. I must say that there appears to be a rather curious attitude in the party behind the right hon. and learned Member. We have heard speeches this afternoon to the effect that the United Nations observer group in the Lebanon was inadequate for the job. We are entitled to ask whether the Government and their supporters have been pressing for the last two years to make the United Nations more efficient and to supply more adequate forces for such jobs as they undertook in the Lebanon. Of course, they have not.
I attach the greatest importance to creating a United Nations observer force as suggested by the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Sir F. Medlicott). I support that strongly, but it is also true 271 that with it we must have the machinery to bring it into play. So I beg Her Majesty's Government to bring their minds to bear on this problem and not merely to say, when the crisis is with us, that it is unfortunate that the United Nations is too weak. We must strengthen it in between the crises.
I also welcome the apparent conversion of the Government now to the view that it is necessary to have some policy. The Lord Privy Seal made a strikingly candid speech last Friday in which he said that what impressed him most about the Prime Minister's speech was that his right hon. Friend could not see what would be the outcome of all this, though he indicated that this was a debt of honour. As reported in The Times, the Lord Privy Seal went on to say:I trust it will give us just that extra breathing space, in company with the United States Administration, to form a long-term policy.I find it alarming that we should have gone on this expedition to enable the Lord Privy Seal and his colleagues to have a breathing space to formulate their policy. Luckily, we have got out of this difficulty through the United Nations. I beg hon. Gentlemen opposite—I exclude the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central, who is a wholehearted partisan of the United Nations—to consider whether they and this country has not had every reason to bless the United Nations twice within the last two years. I will not say anything more provocative than that.
If we look round the Middle East I do not think that we should assume that Colonel Nasser and the revolutionary Government in Iraq are seeing eye to eye and standing shoulder to shoulder. Like one hon. Member who spoke earlier, I think it is significant that Nasser was in Yugoslavia when all this happened. But I think that the significance was that he was not in the confidence of the revolutionaries. I also think that he would not have been in Yugoslavia if he had been confident that Russia was wholeheartedly on his side. So we should be careful about making generalisations about the Middle Eastern nationalists. I do not know much about them, but I think that they are a mixed bag. They run from genuine idealists right through Fascists and Communists down to good 272 old-fashioned thugs, and they are apt to change rapidly. I do not mind betting that at this moment in Bagdad there is a conspiracy growing up against the new Government in Iraq.
We must bear in mind that people come and go very fast in the Middle East, so we should beware of creating a climate of opinion about a totally unpredictable area. I remember going with a distinguished member of the Labour Front Bench to see a man who was then dictator of Syria. We were convinced that he was the one stable element in the Middle East, that he knew exactly what was going on, that he had control of his country, that he would remain when all else was gone. Then, a month or two later, I read in the stop press of an evening newspaper that he had disappeared, and he has never been seen since.
Then we come to Mr. Khrushchev. I think that he is finding it necessary to reassert himself in the Middle East. I think that he feels that he has been left out of all this, and it may also be that he is genuinely nervous about what is going on close to Russia's frontier. Again, I do not think that we should feel, or give the impression, that Russia necessarily will gain enormously from the events in Iraq. Further, whether we approve of it or not, we now have an obligation to the Lebanon and Jordan and the serious question now is: how do we get out of Jordan?
The Government must tell us what are their ideas on that. Clearly, we have an obligation to the Hashemite dynasty now and we also have an obligation to Israel. We must get out of Jordan on terms that we do not turn over that dynasty to an exasperated people, and I suspect that anti-Western feeling in Jordan is stronger now than when we went in. Also we must not leave the frontier between Jordan and Israel in a state in which it is bound to lead to an outbreak of hostility.
§ Mr. P. Williams
The hon. Member has said something serious. Could he tell the House whether he has any evidence that there has been an increase of anti-Western feeling since we went into Jordan?
§ Mr. Grimond
My common sense tells me that, because it has happened again and again in the Middle East that we have gone in with arms and have left behind 273 us an increased hatred of foreigners. It may not happen, I hope it will not, but it is a danger and we have an obligation.
What we have to discuss today are the terms on which we go to the proposed meeting. It will be a very important meeting indeed. We are bound to go to it and, when we go to it, we should be clear that we accept Russian involvement in the Middle East. Incidentally, I understand that it has been a cardinal point of British foreign policy for 100 years to keep the Russians out of the Middle East. We must face the fact that the Russians will now go into it.
§ Mr. Harold Lever (Manchester, Cheetham)
Could the hon. Member develop this point and explain to the House what, apart from the security of its own frontiers, is the interest of the Soviet Union in the Middle East?
§ Mr. Grimond
The security of its own frontiers is quite important and if we are to have high-level discussion of the sort of points which have been outlined, with some approval in the Committee, by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), then we have to face the fact that Russia will be involved in all these points. She will have to be involved in any economic plan and will, no doubt, be involved in any general international guarantee of frontiers. It must be appreciated that if there is to be a meeting of this kind, Russia will be involved in the Middle East. I do not necessarily welcome that, but it is the logic of what the Government have done.
We should beware of believing that mere agreement to a meeting solves anything. We should beware of believing that it absolves us from having a very clear policy. We must face the fact that the meeting may fail. After all, for a long time the Government and others have cast great doubt on the wisdom of having a meeting of this kind without an agenda. Now there is to be no agenda, yet the Government are apparently setting off with great optimism to solve a whole set of problems which are not very easy of solution.
I want to take up one comment of the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central, who referred to the state of American opinion. It is not a question of the Americans disliking the Russians. On the whole, the Americans, including the leaders of both 274 the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, do not believe that there is a deal to be done with Russia. I do not know whether we can assume that their view of this summit meeting will be in any way the same as ours.
I want, therefore, to ask some questions of the Government. Do I understand that when the Foreign Secretary spoke this afternoon he was giving us a view agreed with the American Administration? Secondly, is it clear that this meeting is to be confined to discussing the problems of the Middle East, or may it cover other questions?
As I have said, we must go to the meeting with a policy. As I said something about this in the last speech I made on the subject only a short time ago, and as some of the ground has been covered more fully than I could attempt by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, I will not refer to the matter in detail. It seems to me that as soon as we can we have to hand over to the United Nations forces in the Lebanon and Jordan.
I fully agree with the Foreign Secretary that we should try to get international agreement about the Lebanon and give it international status, if the Lebanese want it, but what about Jordan? We must face the fact that the only solution for Jordan is to have free elections and abide by the result. That might mean the Jordanians deciding to go into some form of confederation, possibly with other Arab States, possibly with Syria. That cannot be prevented if it is the freely expressed wish of the people. We must assure, however, that there is an effective guarantee of the Jordan-Israel frontier and that we do not leave the King and our other friends in the lurch.
If we are to give economic aid to the area—and I agree with the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that it should be given—the Russians must contribute and we must make that quite clear. I am much encouraged by Mr. Khrushchev's suggestion that we should limit the supply of arms to the Middle East. It would be difficult to persuade Israel totally to disarm, but it is greatly in her interests, as in the interests of the Arab States, for there to be an agreement with Russia not to keep piling up arms, first on the Arab side, and then on the Israeli side.
275 I agree that we must buy oil and get it by commercial means, but there is something to be said for broaching the question of some sort of international guarantee of the pipelines at the forthcoming meeting. If we can get some confederation of Arab States, the oil revenues will be automatically shared round. That will get rid of the friction between those countries which have oil and those which have not.
For practical reasons, I favour trying to cut in Egypt and other countries which do not have oil on some of the oil revenues, but I am bound to say that it is a little difficult to know where to stop. There are many poor countries which do not have oil, and I dare say that the Sudan would like its share and that Turkey would take a cut if offered it.
There are difficulties, but one has to face that for purely practical reasons—
§ Mr. Grimond
The Orkneys have very important oil depots. The Orkneys ought to be full of oil.
We cannot continue seeming to discourage Arab unity. I do not share the view that Arab unity is contrary to the interests of Israel. On the contrary, I take the view that the rivalry of the Arab States to see which can outbid the others in hatred of Israel is one of the most unsettling features in the Middle East. Arab unity would get rid of that to some extent. Nevertheless, if we encourage Arab unity on the lines of a confederation, leave the area militarily and accept the result of free elections, there must be an effective guarantee of Israel's frontiers.
Those are the sort of items which ought to be on the agenda for this meeting. However, we cannot lay down exactly what is to be agreed and the form it will take. No doubt the Prime Ministers and Heads of Governments will meet in the first place to agree the broad outline and then the lower officials will meet on details. Obviously, at some stage the Arabs and Jews must be brought in. The rest of the world cannot be seen to fix the Middle East without paying attention to the wishes of the people of the area. Clearly, they have to be brought in at 276 some stage, and at a stage before everything is settled.
Further, because we are going to the meeting that does not mean that we should stop treating with the Arabs in Iraq. I do not see that we should be estopped by Mr. Khrushchev from any settlement which we can make in the Middle East with Egypt or Arab countries. We should certainly make this broad declaration, which I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary make, that we are not opposed to Arab nationalism, and I hope that we are not opposed to Arab unity, if the Arabs want it. We should then leave ourselves free to act if there is a chance of a settlement.
I will not revert to the need for changes at the United Nations. I will only reiterate that I do not think that there is any country in the world which now has a greater interest than Britain in making the United Nations more efficient and in creating the sort of force about which the hon. Member for Norfolk. Central spoke.
In the past, the British have had a long tradition in foreign affairs of taking things as they came and acting empirically. That was a possible method of conducting foreign affairs only when we were if not the strongest Power, at any rate among the strongest Powers. This country is no longer in a position to make excursions into areas like the Middle East hoping that, somehow or other, we can play the whole thing by ear as events come along.
For instance, we should now have some indication from the Government of their policy towards Kuwait and the other Gulf States. We were assured that nothing was happening in Kuwait, but it is a little threatening that the Sheik of Kuwait is in Damascus. I should like the Government to state that they will defend Kuwait from attack, but will not in the long run prevent Kuwait from reaching a democratic form of government and settling its own future, with an assurance so long as the oil will be safeguarded.
In this whole problem of the Middle East we must again make use of the people of the Commonwealth. I am very glad that India is going to this meeting and I hope that in our dealings in the Middle East we will try not to appear simply as an old ex-imperialist country of the West, but will show that we are a member of a Commonwealth, which 277 contains large Moslem populations and which has a tremendous interest in building up a community of nations.
After all, the strength of the Russians is that they appear to be successful underdogs among underdogs, whereas we appear to be an unsuccessful top dog. We want to change that and appear as a member of a great Commonwealth of nations which includes not only Europeans but Africans, Asians and, as the hon. Member for Norfolk. Central said, people of all races, colours and religions.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)
At one point the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) referred to Arab nationalists as "a very mixed bag". I could not help thinking that he might have been describing the Liberal Party and its approach to this problem, since in contrast to his attitude only last weekend in the neighbourhood of my constituency a Liberal candidate, presumably claiming to speak on behalf of the Liberal Party in this context, came out violently in support of the action of the Americans in the Lebanon and the British in Jordan. It may, of course, be that that was a very good example of the proclaimed Liberal future freedom of all control of any central organisation on overall outlook. If so, perhaps we must welcome it in that light.
I want to revert to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk. Central (Sir F. Medlicott). A number of us would have loved to interrupt him at various Kages had we not conformed to a collective self-restraint not to stand in the way of others wishing to speak. However, I now want to say what I would have said by way of interruption, and I welcome the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) in this context. His remarks brought the matter down to earth a little.
It would be interesting to know what possible rôle this force proposed by the hon. Member for Norfolk. Central of 20,000 or 25,000 men could have played, or could play in the occupation of Hungary. Fundamentally, the whole problem about this United Nations force is not whether we subscribe £100 million or £50 million, or whether we allow Russian troops in, or whether the force weal their own uniform, or whether they are proud of it. It is simply that no such 278 force is possible in use unless there is agreement among all the great Powers. And if all the great Powers are in agreement, there is no need for any such force.
A number of comparisons have been drawn with the events of Suez. Some have said that this affair is quite different from that of Suez—and they included my hon. Friend the Member tot Norfolk, Central. Others have claimed that it is all part of the same militarist policy. It is not for me today, however useful it would be, to go back to arguing the Suez controversy, but I should have thought that there was at least as much evidence that those who supported the Government at that time were not altogether wrong, as there was evidence for the other point of view.
In so far as there is any comparison, I find it very difficult to appreciate why hon. Members opposite came out, as they did last week, against our intervention in Jordan, and, yet in a lesser sense, against American intervention in the Lebanon. Before these debates, I took considerable trouble to read the speeches and reasons against our action in Suez.
Many speeches suggested that one of the awful things about the British and French action in Suez was that we were all alone against the rest of the world. That cannot be said today, because the United States and ourselves have received at least a not unfavourable verdict so far from the Security Council and maybe we have to await the verdict of the wider forum. However, no one can complain that we are alone against the world.
Another objection at Suez was that we were destroying the Bagdad Pact. At that time, hon. Members opposite placed great value on the Bagdad Pact, incidentally, quite different to now. The Bagdad Pact countries include two Moslem, Asian nations, Pakistan and Persia, which have come out very strongly in favour of the present British and American action. That objection therefore falls down.
Another criticism was that we were breaking up the Commonwealth, because all the Commonwealth was against us. That was not strictly true, because two of our most loyal partners, Australia and New Zealand, supported us. This time, there is even one Asiatic member, a Moslem member, Pakistan, which is with 279 us, and it is clear that Canada and the rest of the Commonwealth are with us, with the probable exceptions of India and Ceylon. I do not believe that Ghana has yet expressed its views finally, but it is clear that the Commonwealth in the majority is with us this time as it may have been against us last time.
Another fundamental criticism made at that time was that the wicked Tory Party was splitting the Anglo-American alliance. On this occasion the criticism seems to be that we are cementing the Anglo-American alliance. There has been a complete upheaval on that point, and we ought to receive some explanation about it. When eighteen months ago it was said that the one really wrong thing for the British to do was to act without consulting the American Government, it is a little hard now to say that we should not have gone in with the Americans and, presumably, should have split with them. For if we had taken the Socialist attitude we should have had a very serious split.
I now turn to the legal position. I do not need to spend more than a few minutes on it. Hon. Members opposite have admitted that in respect of both the American and British interventions we have a completely secure legal position. One aspect of this matter makes all the more relevant the Prime Minister's final remark last week, when he said that he could not understand why the party opposite failed to vote against America one day and then voted against their own country the next. As far as I can understand the legal position, we have an even better legal right to be in Jordan than the Americans have to be in the Lebanon, since there is no question of our troops having gone there to quell or help to quell an internal revolt, because one does not exist.
Therefore, if there were any logical grounds in the argument of the party opposite, its members should have voted against the American action and abstained over the British action, because it is much more possible, theoretically, legally, to criticise the American action than our own. But for reasons best known to themselves hon. Members opposite once again decided to vote against their own country. We used to be accused of adopting the old slogan "My country right or wrong". Last week the Party 280 opposite seemed to be adopting a new slogan, "My country always wrong, so long as there is a Conservative Government in power."
One other criticism that has been made has taken the form of a comparison between our action in the Middle East and the Russian action in Hungary. Not many of us take that criticism very seriously. A fundamental fallacy about it is that whether or not we like President Chamoun and King Hussein—and I happen to admire both these friends of the West—they were the lawful heads of Government at the time they invited our forces in. Thay had a perfect sovereign right to do so, whereas in Hungary, quite apart from all other considerations, it was Kadar who asked for Russian intervention, and he was not Prime Minister. Mr. Nagy was Prime Minister. In that case it was the equivalent of a junior Minister in the Government asking for foreign intervention. There is therefore no possible comparison on any legal or ethical ground between the Hungarian uprising and what has happened in the Middle East.
We have heard a good deal about Israel's attitude, and many speeches have been made suggesting that Israel ought to be pleased at developments leading towards the establishment of a United Arab Republic because she will find it easier to deal with and that in any event it would be in her best interests to realise that her future lies in coming to terms with the Arab world. I do not know where the hon. Members who made those speeches get their information, but they certainly do not get it from Israel. No Israeli spokeman supports that point of view. On the contrary, Israel is making special arrangements to allow plane-loads of British forces and supplies to fly over her territory. For a country which, according to hon. Members opposite, would prefer that Jordan ceased to exist, that seems to be rather odd behaviour. If I were an Israeli, in view of Nasser's present declared intentions upon Israel the last thing that I would want would be any further extension of that gentleman's influence in that part of the world.
If, in fact, British influence is removed from that part of the world and only Israel remains in the position of a small bastion, I do not think that our 281 people would support the contention that if Israel were threatened we should have a moral obligation to launch even a third world war in her defence. I am in no way anti-Israel, but I say that it is primarily on behalf on Britain that I am interested in our remaining in the Middle East. Only secondarily am I concerned with supporting Israel. There is nothing unfriendly in that statement. The Israelis would be properly quite capable of saying that their first consideration was the defence of Israel, and that the maintenance of their links with friendly countries were subordinate to that.
There seems to be very serious risk in this loose talk about "coming to terms with the Arab world." First, if we declare any such intentions prematurely, whatever may work out in the years ahead we shall certainly lose our remaining friends in the Middle East. It is not much fun being a friend of Britain in the Middle East at the moment from the point of view of keeping one's head, quite apart from any other consideration. If our remaining staunch allies in that part of the world get the idea that we shall forsake them, we shall see some very rapid moves—for which we shall have no right to blame the individuals concerned—in the direction of coming to terms with the Arab world or with Communism, which may not suit our book.
The second danger of this hose talk about coming to terms is that there is a total unreliability about the promises and forecasts of Nasser and his associates. The protestations that we are now getting from the new Iraqi Government are on the same lines as those we heard when Nasser came to power. I should want much more convincing evidence than has been supplied so far before I would dare to imagine that we could place any more reliance upon the new Government of Iraq, associated as they are with Nasser.
Whereas what happened over the Suez Canal and the other troubles with Nasser may have been an economic tragedy, it would be a total economic catastrophe if similar deprivations in our oil supplies took place on this occasion. Nothing could be more foolish than to imagine that the Arabs would continue to sell their oil to the West because they know what suits their pocket-books. That is a particularly futile argument, because 90 per cent. of the Arabs have a miserable standard of living, and the loss of some oil 282 revenue for a few months—which would be enough to bring this country to its knees—in pursuit of a crazy dictator's ambitions, would not seriously affect the standard of living of the mass population of these countries. We learned that lesson at the time of Abadan, when many of us were misled by the argument that Dr. Mossadeq could last only a few weeks, because he would have to sell his oil to the West.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
These alarmist statements should not be allowed to go forth. There are plenty of reserves on the other side of the Atlantic. We could do quite well without Middle East oil for years.
§ Mr. Bennett
I should hardly have thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman would be the one to talk of alarmist statements, in view of the general tenor of his speeches in the House, with some of which we agree. In any case, in this instance I should think that there was not only the question of supply but the question of paying for the oil, and so long as there is a dollar and a sterling world—and I dislike the way in which the hon. and learned Member always skates over these mundane features of life—these facts have to be taken into consideration by those who are handling the economic affairs of our country.
I do not know now whether I speak with any support, but I feel a little indignant at the fact that we should be contemplating a Summit Conference solely to discuss the Middle East and the replacement of British and American forces in the Lebanon and Jordan. If we are really going to talk about unsettled conditions, and the occupation or stationing of foreign troops in other countries, I should think that, since the Soviet Union now seems to be so keen upon the ideals of the United Nations, this might be a very good occasion to raise the question of the continued presence of Russian troops in Hungary and elsewhere. Perhaps we could ask the Russians too to make a gesture, and to say that if the British and Americans got out of Jordan and the Lebanon they would reciprocate by moving their troops from Hungary in favour of a United Nations force of some kind. It might be a good idea to raise that subject in the course of our discussions at the proposed Summit Conference.
283 In those circumstances, providing that we do not throw away the advantages that we have gained by our decisive action recently, I welcome the Government's new initiative—but I hope above all that we shall never lose sight of the need to maintain our awareness of the underlying situation where the Soviet Union is concerned. I do not believe that I am saying anything to be ashamed of when I say that I always feel deeply suspicious of the Soviet Union. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central spoke of the Americans in condemnatory terms because they were suspicious of Russian intentions. I am also suspicious, and I think that most hon. Members surely should be in view of all the examples that have been put before us. But provided the Government go to these talks equally wary, I wish them the best of luck in their new initiative.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)
I hope that the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. F. M. Bennett) will forgive me if I do not follow the main line of his argument, but I want to reply to one thing that he said about hon. Members on this side of the Committee. He wanted to know why we came out against the American expedition to the Lebanon and our expedition to Jordan. I do not want to go into this controversial matter more than is necessary, because I would rather see both sides of the House coming to some understanding and so cooling the atmosphere, but we are entitled to say that bayonets are no policy in themselves. Having gone into Jordan we ought to know where we are going from there.
§ Mr. F. M. Bennett
The hon. Member has quoted me, but he could not have heard what I said. I did not query the Opposition's attitude towards both expeditions; I questioned the reason why a certain attitude was taken over the American intervention in the Lebanon in contrast to the attitude taken over the British action in Jordan.
§ Mr. Price
British lives are involved in Jordan, and not in the Lebanon. We are often accused of not being concerned about British lives, and about our young men in the Army, and I hope that that is one good answer.
284 I do not want to create heat between the two sides of the Committee on this matter; I would rather turn to the statement made by the Foreign Secretary, which goes a long way towards putting right the feeling which was created by our action last week, which hon. Members on this side felt to be unwise. I am glad that the Government have taken the line that they have about the possibility of meeting the Russians, but I want to consider the question of the Middle East in a rather wider sense, so that we may have some guide as to what we ought to do.
The best way to arrive at the most favourable line to take is to try to discover the nature of the Arab movement today. Many of us felt very resentful about the behaviour of Colonel Nasser and the Egyptian policy generally after the revolution. At first, I was hopeful that we might come to some understanding with Egypt, but as time went on it became quite clear that that would be very difficult. We had the feeling that the more we did to try to arrive at such an understanding the worse Colonel Nasser became. There was the trouble over Suez, the Sudan, and the Israeli borders. On the other hand, we saw in Iraq—in the Government of King Feisal and Nuri es-Said—a Government friendly to the West, with whom we could get on.
It was very easy, from that, to come to the opinion that our policy was to oppose Colonel Nasser everywhere and to give every support to the Iraqis. Up to a point that was right, but only up to a point. We failed to see what lay behind all this. As it has turned out, the truth is that a great part of the young educated Arabs were not really behind Nuri es-Said and the King of Iraq. That is a strong thing to say, but I believe it to be true.
I was last in Iraq in the autumn of 1956, just before the balloon went up in Suez, and I noticed while I was there an undercurrent of sullen anti-Westernism and pro-Nasserism. The professional middle classes and the intellectuals were very largely against us. The sheikhs, the imams, the big landowners were behin2 the King and his Government. I had an uneasy feeling and said to myself, Are we not living on a volcano?" On 19th November, 1956, the Manchester Guardian published an article of mine from which, if the Committee will forgive me, I will read an extract.
285 I wrote this from Bagdad:A section of the middle classes of the towns of Iraq are definitely pro-Egyptian, I was rudely made aware of this in Bagdad one day when, after being in Government offices all morning and hearing criticisms of Colonel Nasser, I ran into a young lawyer who told me, quite casually, that he hoped Colonel Nasser would get his way over Suez because anything was good which humiliated Britain and FranceI went on:The danger, to Nuri Said may come from a coup d'état arranged by Nasser and Russian agents.I think that I was wrong about the Russian agents and I will state my reasons for thinking that in a few Moments. But I was not wrong over the rest, and I wrote that nearly two years ago.
The truth is that the whole tone of young Arabia has been made by many of the young Arabs who come here and learn in this country. I know one man who is now Minister of Finance in Bagdad. He was a student at the London School of Economics.
§ Mr. Price
Well, what about the Sorbonne? What about Yale and Harvard? Plenty of the young Arabs go there.
They go back with Western ideas which we have given them; and, just as the French Revolution in its day roused nationalism in Eastern Europe, so, today, Western ideas are rousing nationalism right through the Middle East.
§ Mr. Price
After all, in 1860 all the Liberal element in this country stood behind Garibaldi and supported the Italian Rissorgimento. I do not think that Nasser and the Arab leaders are Hitlerists, although I admit again that a year ago I called him a "petty Napoleon". I would like rather to think of him as a leader of the Arab nationalist movement, a Garibaldi if hon. Members wish; but a coarse, ruthless and very unprincipled Garibaldi. Unfortunately, as I think Mirabeau said, revolutions are not made by angels.
Ever since the fall of the Abbasid Caliphate and the sack of Bagdad in the 286 thirteenth century all educated Arabs have been dreaming of a union of their peoples. One often hears it said that the Egyptians are not really Arabs, that they are a mixed crowd racially, and that is true. But that does not matter. The things that matter are religion, language and history. That is what is making this young Arab movement today. It is no use our supporting a régime of sheikhs, imams, big landlords, and Bedouin chiefs with their picturesque retainers. I have been among them and know them and I like them. But they are not the Arabia of today; they are the Arabia of yesterday.
I feel very bitter, however, about what these young Arabs have done, about the murder of the King and of Nuri es-Said. I do not know whether that is the work of the intellectuals there. It is probably the work of the Bagdad mob, which is the scum of humanity, the worst in the Middle East, as anyone who has been there will know. Only a few years ago—it seems like yesterday—old Harrovians in the House, including myself, gave a dinner to young King Feisal which was attended by Members of both Houses of Parliament. I think of that time and of the many talks I have had with Nuri es-Said when I have been in the Middle East, and how I appreciated and valued his wisdom. We cannot excuse what has happened, but at least we can try to understand, and not put ourselves in the position of trying to roll back the ocean tides.
Although I think that there is no evidence whatever that Russian agents have played any part in this—as I have said, I think I was wrong about that two years ago—of course, the Russian bear will always put his paws into nice, sweet honey wherever he can find it. I am not at all sure that the Arab nationalists are anxious that he should. I should like to see the paws out of the honey, and that may be done if Nasser is properly handled; and we have to handle him properly.
It is no accident at all, in my opinion, that Colonel Nasser has been to see Tito at the very time when Tito has been bitterly attacked in the Russian Press. It is clear that the Arab leaders will not let themselves get into the embrace of the great bear in the North if they can help it.
287 I remember hearing Lenin, during the Russian Revolution—and I was there at the time of the great October revolution—make many speeches in which he was constantly saying that Communism would spread through Asia via nationalism therefore, the business of Communism was to support nationalism everywhere and to try to turn it into Communism. It is the task of Western diplomacy and Western nations generally to make Lenin's prophecy untrue. We need not, of course, run into the arms of Nasser. At the same time, we need not boycott him. Here and there we may begin to do business. Particularly is that true of the new Government in Iraq. We learned the other day that an agreement was signed with the Egyptian Government over the Suez Canal. That was a beginning, and we shall have to talk further about oil.
There is no doubt, from what I can see and hear, that the new Iraq Government are very anxious to keep the oil agreements going. At present, at any rate. Of course, one never knows what may happen. But even though they may want a change, I do not think that it will be any more than what the Persians asked for, and got, with qualifications. We have at present a fairly good arrangement over Persian oil. A lot of it is sterling oil. We might have to come to a similar arrangement along those lines. But if things go on as they are, so much the better.
One thing is clear, and here I disagree entirely with the hon. Member for Torquay, who spoke as if we were in a serious position over oil. We have cards to play in this matter, certainly we have. The oil cannot be worked without our help, as was realised in Persia during the Mossadeq régime. Then, Abadan was kept going but that was all. The Persians could not produce any oil worth selling.
I believe that it is the same with the Arabs on the Persian Gulf and in the Middle East generally. We can come to an understanding with them. They want that oil sold, and the Western countries are willing to buy it. Oil is not such a very easy thing to sell as it was a few years ago. We can play up to that. Our big tankers can go round the Cape in the event of trouble, as they did two years ago.
288 I see no likelihood of the Arabs of the Tigris and the Euphrates Valley wanting to play second fiddle to the Arabs of the Nile. They never have done so in the course of history and they will not do it now. Some hon. Members have quite rightly developed this point and I wholeheartedly agree with them. There is a very good chance, in spite of their very strong nationalist feeling, that the Arabs in Iraq will want a very considerable degree or right to manage and run their own affairs. We may have to face the possibility of a federation of the Arab countries. I do not think that is anything to be frightened of.
We must be realist and recognise the new régime in Iraq and try to deal with it. The country may want to enter an Arab federation, and it is not for us to say, "No" if we can get an agreement about oil. I am certain that we shall have to do that. We can keep our oil interests safe now only by diplomacy and not by force. The same is true of those isolated bodies of Arabs for which we are still responsible in places like Aden. We must try to associate the Arabs there as much as possible with the government of the country and thereby stem the rising tide of Arab nationalism which is bound to affect the position there.
I am sorry that I cannot agree with my right hon. Friend, the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) about the Aswan Dam, in Egypt. We ought to be careful. I know from the time I spent in the Sudan, three or four years ago, that we cannot ignore the interests of the Sudan. The whole question of the Nile waters has to be considered in a much wider framework than that of just the Egyptian interests. It has to be looked at in relation to the whole of the Nile Valley and the countries further south. Therefore, no settlement over the Aswan Dam should be accepted by us, and there should be no assistance by us, unless we are assured that the settlement has the support of the Government of the Sudan.
I am afraid, also, that I have not always seen eye to eye with my hon. Friends on these benches about the Bagdad Pact. I supported it in the early days because it came into existence very largely as a result of Russian and Chinese aggression in Korea. It was felt then that Russia had a policy of military aggression and of extending Communism 289 by force. That has not very often happened in Russia, which is certainly not doing it now. Russia was not doing it before the Stalin period, which was the worst period of Communism. The Bagdad Pact arose out of a feeling that the countries on the southern borders of Russia should come together to see what could be done in the event of military aggression.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
Is it not historically correct that the Bagdad Pact was made because we could not achieve M.E.D.O. in Cairo, so we had the Bagdad Pact instead?
§ Mr. Price
That arose too, but the general psychological atmosphere was the result of Korean aggression. That, of course, has gone.
In recent years, the Bagdad Pact has been mainly an instrument for exchanging information about subversive activity and economics in the Middle East. That was the information that I got when I was in Bagdad two years ago. I believe that the old Bagdad Pact has gone, but I still believe in the Northern Tier and that Turkey, Persia and Pakistan can mutually agree to give military aid to each other where necessary. Persia is the weakest link, but the position is better than it was owing to the able and progressive régime of the Shah there, who is trying to introduce reforms of all kinds into his country.
Another weakness is the Turco-Persian frontier. The Khurdish tribes there are always susceptible to subversive movements from Russia. When I was there in 1950 I formed the impression that some form of co-operation between Turk and Persian was very desirable. It is less important now, because the Khurdish tribes have settled down much more than they have done before. Nevertheless, a Northern Tier is desirable and ought to be supported by us if we are asked. We can give it at least moral support.
There is nothing to fear from a federated Arab group, even if it is neutral. In fact, I think it would be rather better that it should be neutral. The Northern Tier can manage quite well if it has a neutral bloc behind it. The difficulty before was largely because the young Arab nationalist movement did not want to enter any camp, either Eastern or Western. Why should that matter now, so 290 long as it is neutral? The trouble is that we have been trying to make a section of the Arab world come into a military pact. That was supported by Nuri es-Said and the King, but events have shown it to be a broken reed. Never mind, the Northern Tier will go on.
Let us be sure that we have a really sound neutral bloc which will not be subject to Russian interference. The old Middle East is going and a new Middle East is arising. We must be quite sure that we recognise it.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
I welcome the welcome that the Opposition have given to the Government's admirable and original proposals for a meeting of Heads of Governments. I also am glad that this meeting will be different in form from the last Summit Conference. Then the West fell over itself in its efforts to prove to the Soviet rulers how anxious it was to preserve the peace of the world. As a result, I believe as a direct result, the Soviet Union increased its pressure in the Middle East with the consequences we all now see. I hope that at the next meeting of the Heads of Governments we shall make it clear to the leaders of the Soviet Union that we do not intend to scuttle from our best interests in that part of the world, and I hope that it will be followed by a diminution of Soviet influence in that part of the word.
Although hon. Members opposite have welcomed the meeting of Heads of Governments, I think that for the last week or so they have helped to weaken the position of this country when we go to that conference. I do not refer to their decision to divide the House of Commons. They will have to answer to the electorate for that, but I mean their consistent effort to run down all those in the Middle East who take our part. The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) and the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) know perfectly well that Nuri es-Said was a great patriot as well as a great friend of this country. I believe that the right hon. Member for Belper also realises that this is not basically a clash between this country and Arab nationalism but a clash between those Arab nationalists who are prepared to co-operate with the West because they see that is where the best interests of their people lie and those 291 Arab nationalists who are malignantly opposed to the West and wish to eradicate its influence in all its forms.
I am sorry that hon. Members opposite seem only too ready to call those who wish to stay out of Colonel Nasser's web corrupt, reactionary and feudal. I am sorry the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) went out of his way to insult the leaders of Jordan and referred to the brave young monarch there as a "kept King."
§ Mr. Zilliacus
Is not it a fact that King Hussein dissolved the parties and trade unions in his country, established himself as a dictator and thereby received 12 million dollars from the Americans, who hailed him as a champion of the free world?
§ Mr. Goodhart
King Hussein received some money from this country, I understand, and he has the promise of some money from the United States of America, but I would remind the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) that President Tito also received money from the United States of America. Does the hon. Member believe that Marshal Tito is a kept dictator? The mere fact that a man receives aid from a country does not necessarily mean that he is kept.
It surprises me that some hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Gorton, are so willing to run down the defence forces of the West, and yet when we consider the Middle East, they are only too willing to believe that any dissident colonel, captain or member of a military clique is the true spokesman of the new spirit of the Arabs.
§ Mr. Goodhart
I should prefer to point out that those on the other side are bloodthirsty thugs than to be constantly pointing out—
§ Mr. Goodhart
—as hon. Members opposite constantly do, that our friends 292 are sometimes reactionary and in a way feudal.
I want to return to the point about popularity. I was in Port Said during the Suez operation. On the day following the cease-fire I remember going on a patrol to the prison to find whether there were any British citizens held there. As we marched through the streets we came across a large crowd of Egyptians who had been trying to loot a warehouse. As we passed, there were cheers and cries of, "Me Jock MacGregor", and "We hate Nasser". I am not trying to say that we were popular in Port Said, but at that moment the mob in Port Said thought we had won and, therefore, they were willing to cheer us.
Perhaps a more important example of popularity occurred in April last year when King Hussein of Jordan was faced with a revolt, inspired by his supposed friend and chief of staff, Major General Nuwar. At the moment when the plotters were preparing to strike against King Hussein the King left the palace, drove to the largest armed camp in the vicinity of the capital, and showed himself to his troops. The troops cheered him wildly and followed him back to the capital city. The chief of staff and the other conspirators fled the country the next day. Suppose King Hussein had been struck down as King Feisal was struck down. Suppose he had been assassinated before he got to his troops and established the fact that he was popular. Hon. Members opposite, perhaps the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale himself, would have suggested that he was a "pathetic little puppet" who was unpopular, but he was able to prove that he had got a following and could turn on the conspirators.
The Leader of the Opposition and the spokesmen on foreign affairs among hon. Members opposite have been bold and put forward their plan for dealing with this situation. I think it right to look at it this evening. The Leader of the Opposition said that basically we must try to come to terms with pan-Arabism, to come to terms with Nasser. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale gave more details this evening. I wonder about this guarantee for Israel, which clearly is the nub of the whole affair. They may mean well but at the same time the oil of the Middle East is to be in the hands of the 293 United Arab Republic. Suppose Colonel Nasser, or the then leader of the United Arab Republic, says to this country, "Unless you withdraw from that guarantee and abandon Israel to her fate, we will not sell you any more oil," would hon. Members opposite abandon Israel? Would they strike at Nasser, or would they go into a quiet decline?
§ Mr. Goodhart
Colonel Nasser does not see it exactly in those terms. If I may be allowed to go on with my speech, I wish to deal with what I think is the most damaging part of the Opposition's plan for the Middle East. I had planned to ask the Leader of the Opposition whether he was determined to protect Kuwait and Bahrain from absorption and subversion by Colonel Nasser. Now it appears that hon. Members of the Opposition are anxious to push Kuwait and Bahrain under the control of Colonel Nasser—
§ Mr. Goodhart
They want them to unite themselves with the movement for Arab union, which appears to me to be absolutely absurd, because there can be no doubt that this country is dependent for its economic lifeblood on the oil which comes from Kuwait. Certainly, there is plenty of oil across the Atlantic in the Western hemisphere, but it is all dollar oil and we have to pay dollars to get it. It would mean that we in this country would be entirely dependent for economic assistance on the good will of Colonel Nasser and Mr. Dulles. If Colonel Nasser at any moment wished to interrupt the supply of oil we should not be a fiftieth or a fifty-first State of America, but a sort of glorified Puerto Rico.
I hope the Government will make every effort to keep Kuwait and Bahrain out of the clutches of Colonel Nasser. I shall not ask about troop movements, which may or may not be taking place in those areas, but I ask what action the Government are taking to counter the 294 propaganda of Cairo Radio and of the Egyptian teachers there. I ask them not just to sit back and contemplate their very considerable wisdom in the last week, but to remember that the new Government which has come into power in Bagdad has blood on its hands.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
I would merely say to the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) that the best justification for the criticisms which we on this side of the Committee have made of the policy of the Government has come from the Government themselves with the change of front they have presented this afternoon. If the Government mean what they say, that they now intend to seek a solution to Middle East problems within the context of the United Nations, they are in fact putting the whole of their policy of the last few days into reverse.
I noticed that the Foreign Secretary's speech this afternoon was greeted with uproarious cheers from this side of the Committee and with very painful silence on the benches opposite. I am not surprised about that because what the Foreign Secretary was doing was to eat a lot of words of his hon. Friends—[An HON. MEMBER: "Including his own."]—including his own, but I was thinking particularly of some speeches made on Wednesday and Thursday last week. I was thinking, for instance, of the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) who told us in no uncertain terms on Thursday:It would have been far better had we never started this operation"—our venture into Jordan—… unless we were determined to carry it through to its logical conclusion and end the rebellion in Iraq as soon as possible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th July, 1958; Vol. 591, c. 1551.]
§ Mrs. Castle
I agree with my hon. and learned Friend there.
I am sure that we see their side are all quite genuinely and sincerely prepared 295 to welcome with open arms any policy that comes from the Government that seems likely to avoid a world conflict. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said last week that we on this side were afraid. He was jeered at by hon. Members opposite, and he told them that anyone who was not afraid in this situation was an ass. I would say that anybody who in this situation does not put a peaceful solution above party is an ass, too.
I am afraid. I was looking at television—on one of those rare occasions—on Saturday, and in the news bulletin of the B.B.C. were pictures of the buildup of the American forces in Adana, in Turkey. There were the jet bombers. We were told that they were all armed with nuclear potential. Looking at that massive build-up in Turkey, on the American side, and hearing of Russian troop movements near the borders of Persia, the pincers moving in, the gap narrowing, I think that anybody who would not put first and foremost the necessity for avoiding an exacerbation of that situation would be unworthy of membership of this House.
Having said that, I am afraid that I must sound one discordent note in the acclaim given to the Foreign Secretary's speech tonight. I am not so sure that we are by any means being offered the sort of solution that we think we are being offered. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech was packed absolutely full of omissions—if I may use an Irishism. What alarmed me about it was what it did not tell us—
§ Mrs. Castle
I am much obliged to the noble Lord for making my point for me. I must incorporate him in my claque.
What, exactly, is involved in this statement by the Government that they will solve this problem within the framework of the United Nations? They say that they are replying to Mr. Khrushchev's request for an emergency Summit Conference of five Powers by a superior answer—to allow top-level discussions to take place within the framework of the Constitution of the United Nations. That, on the face of it, sounds highly com- 296 mendable, but I think that it is packed full of political difficulties.
The very great advantage of the Soviet Union's proposal was its simplicity. All of us would agree that the language of Mr. Khrushchev's note was not Parliamentary, in our sense of the word, and that there were phrases in it to which we would object—to which I would object. None the less, in its concrete proposals, there has been fairly universal agreement that it was remarkable for the length to which Mr. Khrushchev went in order to avoid raising political difficulties.
It was noted, for instance, that he did not suggest inviting China—"his" China—to the conference. It was also noted that he did not suggest inviting Egypt, as he might well have done in order to get the acclaim and popularity of the Arab world. He did not suggest the presence at the conference of anybody who could have embarrassed either us or the United States of America. That, therefore, was something that ought to have led us to welcome the proposals as having a certain sincerity.
In order to bring the meeting within the terms of the Charter, Mr. Khrushchev proposed a simple, top-level emergency meeting of the five Powers—including India, whose presence would be acceptable to both sides—and that it should report to the Security Council any agreement that it might reach.
That has been rejected by the Government in favour of—what? We are told that we are to take action under Articles 28 and 31 of the Charter. Those are Articles that provide for special meetings of the Security Council at which heads of Governments can take the place of the normal, permanent representatives. Such a meeting can be called anywhere for emergency purposes, but it is still a meeting of the Security Council.
The first thing that I would point out is that, at any meeting of the Security Council, although Russia did not propose that "her" China should come into her Summit Conference, she will have to negotiate with, and accept the vote of "our" China, whom she has never accepted as being the rightful voice of China—
§ Mr. J. Hynd
When my hon. Friend refers to "our" China, I presume that she is talking of "America's" China.
§ Mrs. Castle
I welcome that correction because, of course, we on this side would accept this Russian objection to the present Chinese representative. I was using the word "our" in the sense of the West.
I think that that is quite intolerable. We talk a lot, these days, about self-determination, but one of the big stumbling blocks in the way of any United Nations solution of any really controversial question today is the fact that, sitting in the United Nations, we have a representative of a Chinese Government that is a direct mockery of the meaning of the word "self-determination". It is high time that we faced it. It is no good prating about expecting the Soviet Union not to veto this and that when every day we are vetoing the right of the existing Government of China to have the vote in the Security Council to which she is entitled.
It has been suggested that, in association with Article 28, we should also take Article 31 for this special meeting of the Security Council. That Article, of course, provides that any member of the United Nations that is not a member of the Security Council may participate, but cannot vote, in the discussion of any questions that are brought before the Security Council, whenever the Security Council considers that the interests of the member are specially affected.
If we are to say that we reject Mr. Khrushchev's simple proposal for an emergency, ad hoc meeting which can then report to the Security Council, and say, "No; we must work within the framework of the Charter," we shall be faced with the problem of deciding which Powers will be most directly affected by any discussion on the Middle East today. Clearly, one is Egypt and, clearly, any meeting of the Security Council under Article 31 ought to include Egypt. Are the Government prepared to agree to that, at the moment? Another obvious participant at a meeting held under Article 31 would be Iraq.
By rejecting the Soviet proposal and substituting this one of our own, we have ourselves raised all sorts of political difficulties and compelled, perhaps, the Soviet Union to raise the question of the admission of Egypt to the meeting, which it might not otherwise have done. If we then turn round and condemn Russia as 298 destructive for having done so, the position will have been worsened, not improved. I should have thought that we might well understand and sympathise with any fears of the Soviet Union that our formula is a political trap, and not a genuine attempt to make progress, not only in the letter but in the spirit of the United Nations Charter.
There is a second point that the Foreign Secretary sketched over very superficially today. He said that a Japanese resolution was at present before the Security Council. That Japanese resolution calls for extending the observer corps so that it could go into the Lebanon and make unnecessary the presence there of American troops. We are supporting that resolution, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, once again, that he hoped that the Soviet Union would also do so—
§ Mrs. Castle
My hon. Friend asks "Why not"? Again, on the face of it, it looks common sense, but the Japanese resolution is open to two interpretations. The resolution itself merely asks that such arrangements may be made as are considered desirable in order that the United Nations should be able to function in the Lebanon and make the presence of American troops there unnecessary. The point is, what additional arrangements we consider desirable.
Earlier, the United States had put before the Security Council her own resolution, in which, in addition to indicating her own action in the Lebanon, she called not only for the continuance of the observer corps in the Lebanon but wanted… additional arrangements, including the contribution and use of contingents …and so on. In other words, what she called for was an armed force, a force entirely additional to the present observer corps.
What line have we taken on that? How do we interpret the Japanese resolution? Are we backing the American interpretation, or that of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who has quite categorically said that, in his view, the recent expansion of the observer corps, with such additional equipment as it has already asked for, is quite sufficient to deal with the situation in the Lebanon? The observer corps has asked for its force 299 to be increased to 200 men, with the additional help of aircraft and helicopters to enable it to undertake aerial surveys. It has certainly not asked for a massive armed force—
§ Mr. H. Lever
As I understand it, the Japanese resolution at no point calls for armed forces to go into the Lebanon, but is in precisely the contrary sense. Perhaps the hon. Lady will enlighten me. The Japanese resolution demands a strengthening of the unarmed observer corps of the United Nations so as to remove any sort of justification for the presence of foreign militiary troops. Surely, we should all support that. It would be a most helpful and peaceful thing to do.
§ Mrs. Castle
I am obviously not making myself clear. The Japanese resolution asks the Secretary-General to make arrangements at once for such measures, in addition to those envisaged up to now, as he may consider necessary—
§ Mrs. Castle
Of course, the Secretary-General has said that, in his view, the observer corps, with the recent small additions, is entirely adequate to do the job. What I am asking is whether we accept his interpretation.
Really, we are in a very ludicrous situation—and so is America if she accepts the Secretary-General's interpretation. There are about 10,000 American troops in the Lebanon at the moment to preserve its territorial integrity—massive forces, with nuclear potential, pouring into that little country. Are we now prepared to say, in agreement with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, that 200 unarmed men could do the job just as well? If so—let us face it—we are making the United States of America look complete fools, and I hope that we shall have the courage to do so if necessary.
Finally, what is the reaction of the Lebanon to these proposed solutions? It was suggested by the Foreign Secretary that the Lebanon ought to have some special international status. But it is not for us to say. It is for the Lebanon to say. Who are we to come along with a nice international solution of that kind? All we know about the Lebanon at the 300 moment is that the entry of American troops into that country has consolidated the Parliament, even those deputies who were pro-President Chamoun, into hostility towards American intervention. Last week the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, backed by some thirty deputies who were formerly pro-Chamoun, issued a Press statement demanding the withdrawal of American troops.
What are we going to do under the United Nations? How long is the United Nations force to stay, and with whose agreement? Surely, the first and overriding necessity in the Lebanon is for us once again to practise the principle of self-determination, to permit free elections there followed by new presidential elections, and then for the Lebanese themselves to decide whether they want a United Nations force, and also what their status shall be, whether it shall be a status of neutrality or one in which they choose freely to ally themselves with whom they wish. It is not for us to misuse the name of the United Nations in order to enforce tidy solutions which we consider satisfactory.
Another question which I should have thought was of outstanding importance at the moment, and on which the Foreign Secretary never touched, is that of Kuwait. He told us in an airy aside that the rumours relating to Kuwait are unfounded. To which rumours did he refer? Was he referring to the rumour that British troops are to be dispatched to Kuwait? I hope that rumour is unfounded. There is another rumour on the tape this evening, and that is the rumour that Kuwait has applied for membership of the United Arab Republic. Is that the rumour which is unfounded? Before the Committee disperses tonight we should have some more information on that point.
What do the Government know about Kuwait? What will the Government's reactions be if that rumour turns out to be correct? Are we going to try to stop Kuwait joining the United Arab Republic? If we are, it is no good saying that the Government have come round to a United Nations solution. We have no right, power or authority to stop Kuwait deciding her own international alignments.
What is this long-term solution which the Government have got for Jordan? 301 Even if we were to get this extended United Nations observer force functioning and going into Jordan, what is that force to do? According to Press reports, it is said that it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to work for a neutral Jordan. But the trouble in the Middle East has arisen from the fact that the whole policy of Her Majesty's Government has been to compel Arab States to take sides in the cold war. What is taking place, if only we would allow it to work itself out, is a great natural movement towards neutrality throughout the whole of that area.
The trouble in the Lebanon is that under President Chamoun it was becoming too pro-West for the natural feelings of its population to bear. That is why the trouble broke out in the Lebanon. It is widely thought that what precipitated the revolt in Iraq was the belief that the Iraqi Government were coming to the help of the pro-Western forces in the Lebanon. If we want a neutral Jordan, let us consider the matter in the whole context of a neutral Middle East.
What the Government overlook is the fact that nationalist movements are by their very nature movements for independence. They are led by people who passionately want to be free to decide their own destiny, instead of being pushed around all the time by somebody more powerful from outside. Far from such nationalist movements being pro-Communist, if we only allow them to work out their natural spirit of independence they will turn out to be the best buffer bloc that we could hope to have between the contending forces of the world.
I wonder how many hon. Members have read the interesting statement issued by Ghana on the problem of the Lebanon and the Middle East as a whole. I have a copy of that statement here. Ghana is a country where the spirit of nationalism has been strong, and has found its way to independence. Does she come out against the West or attack American aggression? On the contrary, her opening statement, having expressed alarm at the situation which has developed, is:At this stage of events the Government of Ghana does not believe that anything is to be gained by attempting to assess blame for the events which have taken placeFar from being a destructive anti-Western document, it is a positive con- 302 tribution suggesting that a United Nations force should be sent to the Lebanon, that free elections should be held and that then the United Nations force should be withdrawn.
On Jordan, too, we must ask whether it is a United Nations solution that we are talking about. How do we know that Jordan wants her territorial integrity guaranteed by us? How do we know that that is what her people want? She herself had surrendered some of that territorial integrity in her alliance with Iraq. How do we know that that has been broken? An independent Jordan is a contradiction in terms. Jordan to be viable must unite with somebody else. If she does not, she will become dependent on somebody else. Do not let us have this double talk. If it is a United Nations solution that we are talking about, there must be free elections in Jordan which can leave her freely to decide whether she gives up her present territorial boundaries in exchange for some greater and more viable amalgamation.
I ask the Government whether they will answer two questions in particular tonight. How soon is this special meeting going to be held? We are in a very inflammable situation, with the nuclear potential piling upon both sides. Let us have a sense of urgency. Secondly, may we have a little more information tonight on what policy the Government are going to put forward to that meeting when it is held? The Government must not only work within the framework of the United Nations. They must have a policy in the spirit of the United Nations.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) has questioned whether the Government wish to have a United Nations solution to this problem. If past experience is any guide, she ought to remember that last week her party, including the hon. Lady herself, agreed that the action of Her Majesty's Government in supporting the American intervention in the Lebanon was entirely morally and legally correct under the aegis of the United Nations.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
The hon. Lady expressed herself against armed intervention of any kind. I wonder, therefore, whether she supports the views put forward by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) this afternoon who, at one time, we are told, was the leader of the hon. Lady's political group, and who said that the frontiers of the Middle East should be guaranteed by the great Powers under the United Nations. Of course, if there is trouble, to guarantee a frontier must involve the use of force.
The hon. Lady asked further why we do not allow this Arab nationalist movement to work itself out. It is to that point that I should like to address myself, because if we are to have a Summit Conference we should try to be clear on what is the nature of the Arab movement and how we view it in the context of British interests and of our Middle Eastern policy as a whole.
W have been inundated lately in the Press and in speeches not only in this country, but all over the world, to the effect that we should try to make terms with the Arab nationalist movement. I would submit to the Committee, with some experience of having lived some years in Egypt and of visiting the Middle East as often as I can, that there are a great many distinctions and variations of what is called Arab nationalism.
There are, perhaps, to draw it down to its most simple forms, two sides. There is the pride of race and religion which is what one can call Arabism. It is most strikingly and clearly shown by the orthodox Moslem preacher who, when reading from the Koran, does so with a drawn sword by his side. It symbolises that Islam is ever at war with the non-Muslim world. On the other hand, there is the pan-Arab movement, which, fed by Cairo Radio propaganda, stirs up a form of xenophobia which is common to all countries. We have it even in this country—a hatred of all strangers, such as the anti-American attitude which we sometimes hear, or even the gloriously insular British attitude that so long as we are this side of the British Channel everything is all right. [An HON. MEMBER: "The British Channel?"] Yes, the British Channel, that is just it.
Arab nationalism as it is fermented by Cairo Radio is really a kind of fascinated revulsion about the West. Fascination 304 because of what we can offer in our skills and techniques and way of living and revulsion for many individual instinctive reasons. I believe that if Cairo Radio were quenched a great deal of the most difficult forms of what we call Arab nationalism would go with it. One can be a patriot and love one's country but not hate one's neighbours, and one can be a nationalist, love one's country and also hate one's neighbours, and I would suggest to the Committee that there is an immense difference between the two.
All Arab rulers, of course, without exception, want their countries to be great. Yet the pan-Arab movement, led by Colonel Nasser, does not acknowledge that because it seeks to melt the independent States into a whole. It is a cloak borrowed by Colonel Nasser to further his own designs for Egypt.
There is one thing in common, and that is the declared intention of all the Arab States to drive the Israelis into the sea. Therefore, when we are told that we should come to terms with the Arab nationalism I would say that we must never forget that from the practical sense there was no more striking example of coming to terms than the partnership in Iraq between our skill and our finances and Iraq's natural resources.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale spoke movingly about the poverty of these countries. Of course, there are immense extremes of poverty and of wealth. Where we do, as in Iraq, see at least a determined measure of improvement in the standard of living, the mere swiftness of it coming from a mediaeval age into the twentieth century must bring immense strains of its own.
In countries that are fed by Cairo Radio it is far easier to find politics a great deal more exciting than economics. It is very difficult to raise a fiery cross about a dam. Agitators can never agitate for moderation, and that is something that one must take into account. It is said that we are bolstering up autocratic régimes, but all régimes in the Middle East are autocratic, and not least that of Egypt today. Power does not lie, as some suggest, in the will of the people, but in those who happen to possess the loyalty of the Army.
In Western countries we sometimes talk of politics as "jobs for the boys". In the Middle East, it is very much jobs 305 for the Army officers and surely no one would suggest that a revolt led by Army officers can really represent the will of the people. If we translate that argument to our own country, we may as well say that a revolt led by officers of the Brigade of Guards truly represents the will of the people.
Some say, quite sincerely, that they prefer a republic to a monarchy, because they believe it to be more democratic, but, even so, no one can possibly condone the murder of a king. It is said that the only way that these régimes can be altered is by revolt, but I would ask those who put forward this argument to try to translate it into their own position.
Imagine, for example, if one day, in the distant future, right hon. and hon. Members opposite formed a Government and perhaps, in the years ahead, they were subverted by intrigue from outside and threatened to be overthrown. Then the elected Prime Minister—although I would not have any idea who it would be—asked for help from outside and it was denied. How would they feel when their friends preferred to clear their consciences and so condoned murder, treachery and revolt against all the laws of civilised States? I would have thought that it was a coherent principle of British foreign policy that we should stand by our friends.
I believe that that view is held by the overwhelming majority of people in this country. What we do now is, after all, an acid test for Britain. It is being watched from Singapore to Africa, and not least by our friends in Persia, Turkey and Pakistan. I should like to ask the Minister of State whether there is any strength in the rumour that the Ruler of Kuwait is shortly to enter into league with Syria and Egypt.
Many Arab rulers, many of them of small States, have put their faith in us voluntarily at great risk to themselves. We take a great risk in supporting them. This has been clearly shown in the debates today and last week, in fair arguments from both sides of the Committee. Of course, in all the great decisions of life, there are always five reasons for doing a thing one way and four reasons for doing it the other. If that were not so we would not all of us be so very anxious today.
306 I would say that it is also a major British interest to stand by our friends so far as capital investment in those countries is concerned. After all, all people who risk their capital in building up great enterprises overseas depend on political stability and the Government honouring their international agreements. While it is true that we get 8 per cent. of our oil from Iraq and 30 per cent. from the Persian Gulf, we are just as revolted by the murder of an entire royal family, whether our trading interests are large or small.
Then, above all, there is the British strategic interest. I take, therefore, something which was written, which applied at the time of the Suez crisis and which is more vividly, I think, applicable today. It was written by Professor Gilbert Murray, who, hon. Members will remember, was one of the first vice-presidents of the United Nations Association. He said:The real danger was that, if the Nasser movement had been allowed to progress unchecked, we should have been faced by a coalition of all Arab Muslim, Asiatic and anti-Western States, led nominally by Egypt but really by Russia; that is, a division of the world in which the enemies of civilisation are stronger than its supporters.I believe that to be true.
When people say that we must come to terms with Arab nationalism, they really mean, surely, that we must understand it for what it is. We must not give way all along the line. We learned to understand the nationalism of Hitler, but it took us a long time, and many well-meaning folk in those years—this is recent history—asked us to come to terms with Hitler's territorial demands. To some extent, since 1945, we have understood Russia and she has understood us. She has stirred the world against us in many ways, but, at least, we have come to recognise what she does for what it really is. The trouble has always been that the free world has not spoken with a united voice.
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said last week that we would not "go it" with the Americans. There was an extraordinary vote the other night against British troops in Jordan, but supporting American troops in the Lebanon. [Interruption.] I have not got it the wrong way round. It was a vote against British troops in Jordan and supporting 307 American troops in the Lebanon. That is what right hon. and right hon. Gentlemen voted for.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen did not support that, why did they not carry their disagreement into the Division Lobby? They cannot get away with it like that.
To my mind, that vote exactly sums up the extraordinary confusion about our attitude to America which exists on the benches opposite. There are some who genuinely believe that America should be our shield. There are hon. Gentlemen opposite who say quite frankly that Britain cannot afford to be, and should not be, more than a sleeping partner in the alliance. There are those who do not want the consequences which will follow from that attitude. They do not want to face the fact that he who wields the power must take the ultimate decisions. I should have thought that one of the great achievements of the Prime Minister in the last few months has been the very close Anglo-American co-operation which he has brought about.
It has not been said in these debates yet, but I believe it to be an act of great moral courage on the part of President Eisenhower to show to the world that he recognises that America did not appreciate the troubles of the Middle East two years ago. Had America been with us then, this debate now would not have been necessary. This is something else which the British people instinctively realise, however much we may, in our private lives, of course, grumble about American influence on our way of life. Instinctively, people realise that we must cast our lot in with America if we are to live, and that means taking our share in the Anglo-American partnership.
§ Sir F. Medlicott
Will my hon. Friend deal with the very disturbing situation which arose eighteen months ago, when the great majority of hon. Members on this side showed the strongest anti-American feeling, which a small group of us resisted, at the cost of our political careers?
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I will very gladly deal with that. It exactly sums up what 308 I was trying to say. The majority of us on this side recognised and believe very strongly that the situation in the Middle East was very serious, that we had to go in, since nobody else would, to stop a war between Israel and Egypt which would have ended in catastrophe. Anything said against the Americans was directed at the non-intervention of our American partner. That is the exact reason that we welcome the very firm association between us now.
There is also prevalent an attitude which I will call the neutralist approach—"Leave it all to the United Nations". If the United Nations is impotent, as the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Arthur Henderson) so rightly said, we are told that we should try to negotiate. But peace, like everything else, must be won. It does not just happen. It seems to me that it will ever elude us if we do not understand that if the United Nations cannot or will not act, someone must act until it does.
The United Nations is not an alibi for evading responsibility. It is not a reflection on the United Nations that it has no machinery for enforcing law and order. It is a reflection on the member States, on us all. It is no breach of the rules of civilised society that a man who sees someone drowning should dive in to help rather than run off to the police, half an hour away. I support our recent action because I am firmly convinced that it averted what would have been greater disaster later.
As the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price) said, we must not mislead people into thinking that a Summit Conference is bound to succeed. If we want peace, that does not automatically mean that the wish for peace is in the mind of the other man. I hope, above all, that we shall be utterly determined, with our Allies, in all the conferences in the months ahead, to see the world as it is and not as we should like it to be.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
This debate began in an atmosphere of harmony and hope, but we have since had a succession of speeches from the benches opposite of increasing combativeness and gloom. There has been a tendency on the part 309 of hon. Members opposite to fight old battles, not so much with us as among themselves, about Suez. Those who were wrong at the time, like the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), have spent some time excusing themselves. Those who were right about Suez at the time, like the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Sir F. Medlicott), have spent a good deal of time telling us so. One of the pleasures of hearing the Foreign Secretary this afternoon lay in realising how the Government and the Conservative Party are swinging behind the foreign policy which the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central so consistently recommended. I hope that that fact has been noted by the Central Norfolk Conservative Association.
The speech of the Foreign Secretary has been widely welcomed on both sides and I am rather reluctant to express certain reservations about it. I agree entirely with him that a meeting should take place under the auspices of the United Nations, for all the reasons he gave—because the United Nations has an important job to do in a crisis, because to bypass it would greatly undermine its prestige and, conversely, because to associate it with these meetings would increase its prestige.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not mention it, but I think that another reason is that having Mr. Khrushchev at the United Nations in New York might help, perhaps, to bridge the gap in Soviet policy between the extremely co-operative invitations to summit talks which Mr. Khrushchev makes in the Kremlin and the extremely stubborn attitude of Mr. Sobolev when it comes to action in the Security Council. For that reason, it might not be a bad idea at all to try to get the Heads of Governments to meet near New York.
Nevertheless, I hope that the important and numerous meetings which will be necessary, will take place privately and not in the Security Council at all. I cannot think of a worse body for the Heads of Governments to meet in than the Security Council, even with the Heads of Governments in their respective chairs. There is a bad tradition of disagreement and obstruction in the Security Council. The membership of the Security Council, as has been said, is wholly unsuited for the discussion of what will surely be on 310 the agenda. China's representation is thoroughly unsatisfactory to Mr. Khrushchev, Iraq's representation is another problem, and India is not a member. In addition, the Security Council has far too many members to discuss this question with any success.
Surely the great appeal of the idea of summit talks is that they involve discussion of the big subjects outside the normal hard-used channels of negotiation. Surely that is why they have an appeal in public opinion and why one puts their chances of success rather higher than those of negotiations through the normal channels of diplomacy.
I am, therefore, frightened that the one benefit which we might get from a meeting of Heads of Governments might to some extent be dissipated by placing them in an environment where there is deadlock, disagreement and disharmony. I believe there is a story that during the war a group of resistance leaders were flown into France at night and dropped by parachute in the middle of a German concentration camp. I would be very sad to see the Heads of Governments dropped into the middle of the Security Council. They should be given a better run for their money.
My point, therefore, is that if the Security Council meets formally under Article 28, the meetings will be too formal for the job to be done. If I understood the Foreign Secretary aright, he said that there would also be private informal meetings, but that again is misconceived. Mere private discussions between the Heads of Governments when they get to New York will be too informal. If progress is to be made, a body with responsibility and a certain consistency in negotiation is needed. We need a defined group of Powers to whom other countries can look as those responsible for dealing with the job. I should like to see a working party set up by, and under, the Security Council consisting of Mr. Khrushchev, President Eisenhower, Mr. Macmillan, and Mr. Nehru, with Mr. Hammarskjoeld as a full member, so that the business could be continuously carried on. Indeed, it is not too much to hope perhaps that if ever a working party were to succeed in dealing with problems of the Middle East, it might have some use in the future in discussing 311 other vital questions of world affairs outside the Middle East.
The other point that I should like to make concerns the agenda. Here the Government have gone from one extreme to the other. Having said that under no circumstances would they meet until the agenda had been properly prepared and everything connected with it had been agreed, a point of view with which I have some sympathy, they go to the other extreme and seem to have no idea what the agenda will be or what they will try to make the agenda in New York.
I very much hope that a clear distinction will be made by the Western Powers between the two sets of problems which have to be dealt with at the forthcoming conference. First, there are the problems which arise directly from the actions and aims of the great Powers, the Soviet Union and the Western Powers. Then there is the set of problems that arise from pan-Arabism, as defined by the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South. It is most important to draw a distinction between these sets of problems, and it is most important to ensure that the conference concentrates on the first set of problems rather than the second.
I hope that the first set will include means to prevent the dispatching of troops of the great Powers to other areas of the Middle East, in particular Iraq. Here, surely, it should not be difficult to reach agreement. On the one hand, it seems plain that neither we, the Americans nor the Jordanians have the ability or indeed the present intention of any form of move against Bagdad. Certainly that would be an outrageous move. Similarly, the Soviet Union apparently has no intention of doing so either, not only because that would increase the tension acutely, but for the very good common sense reason, which we have overlooked, that to do so would provoke Arab nationalism against them. Thus, on this point it should be possible to reach agreement not to increase the area occupied by the troops of the great Powers within the Middle East.
The second question on the agenda should be the withdrawal of American troops from the Lebanon and British troops from Jordan. The third and most difficult and dangerous problem which 312 has been referred to by a number of hon. Members on both sides is the attitude of the great Powers towards the Arab-Israeli conflict. This is the real danger. The British landings in Jordan and the American landings in the Lebanon were, in my view, folly, but they were not a crime. Suez was a crime. Jordan, in my opinion, was merely a piece of lunacy. But the real danger is the danger of a Soviet-backed war by the United Arab Republic against Israel. Surely at the conference we should make all efforts to get the Soviet Union to show its hand on this point. It is high time that we discussed it with the Soviet Union. We should have discussed it with them years and years ago, and I hope that the opportunity will not be missed when it comes. We should not miss an opportunity directed towards an arms embargo and a joint international guarantee of the frontiers of Israel.
We should be wise at the conference not to give priority to the question of the spread of pan-Arab feeling throughout the Middle East. Let us discuss, if necessary, the question of mass infiltration, but that is not the problem in the Lebanon and Jordan. I was in both countries earlier this year and the problem there was not of men, money or agents, but of political ideas mainly broadcast by radio in these two countries. The West must surely recognise at this conference what is and what is not practicable in resisting the spread of the present pan-Arab idea in the Middle East. It is neither practicable nor proper to set ourselves up as a barrier to the spread of these ideas at present. If the conference sets that up as one of its objectives, it will not only fail, but it may have its attention diverted from those other items on the agenda to which I have referred which should be discussed between the Powers and where agreement, though difficult, is possible.
Of course, it is true that there is the problem of indirect aggression to which a number of hon. Members have referred, such as radio broadcasts, bribery, intrigue, and so on. When I was in Jordan early this year, I thought that if I were King Hussein I would swop six British parachute divisions for one really good radio jamming unit. That is what is needed in Jordan. That was Nasser's trump card in Jordan, not the agents, nor the threat of any movement of troops, but constant broadcasts from Cairo radio which were 313 direct incitements to sabotage, subversion and assassination. The motto of the B.B.C., "Nation shall speak peace unto nation", must be about the worst forecast ever made.
Looking round the world today one finds that practically every broadcasting system is spreading deliberate lies and fanning hatred and prejudice of one people against another. Sooner or later, the nations must face this. We shall have to evolve a code of behaviour in international broadcasting. It might be a good idea, even now, to have a United Nations report on this question periodically and to debate the report from time to time in the General Assembly. The United Nations might not be able to do much about it, but that would at least be a start.
At the same time, we must realise that these régimes in Jordan and Lebanon have their own radio and their own police and have control of their own Press. When the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South and others with her say that we must support our friends, the question is not whether one should support one's friends in trouble—on that we are agreed—but to what degree of support we should go. When régimes like those in Jordan or the Lebanon, which have control of their own Press, their radio and their security police, and which have the arms that we have sent them and the economic aid and diplomatic support that we have given them, nevertheless cannot maintain themselves in their own countries, we only make bad worse by sending in our troops to prop them up. Therefore, it is not sufficient merely to say that we must stand by our friends. There are certain situations in which the sending in of troops is neither a moral obligation nor, in many cases, have we a moral right to do so. We must face the fact that there are régimes of this kind in the world today.
Those people do a bad service to their friends who lead them up the garden into thinking that in certain circumstances they will support them with troops when it is not practicable to do so. I am talking not only about the Middle East, but of Asia as well.
In general, our attitude on this problem towards the peoples of the Middle East should be more detached. I recall a conversation in that respect with a couple of 314 Left-wing Jordanians, who were saying to me in January, "You British must give us more aid, otherwise we shall collapse and go in with the Communists and you will get no oil." In the same conversation a short while later, they were saying, "Of course, every extra dollar that the Americans give us in Jordan only makes them more unpopular." Towards that attitude, which is quite common in the Middle East, the only answer is to detach oneself, not to run after that kind of opinion, not to accept their premise that we cannot do without them, but to say to them, "If as a country you wish to go Communist, we do not believe in intervention. All we would say, from our experience in Europe, is that you should not ask us to liberate you when you find out what it is like. Take our advice and do not ask the Red Army in." We should not be put in the position the whole time of being blackmailed by countries in circumstances like that.
I hope very much, as we all do, that the conference will be successful. I hope that it leads to a complete revision of British policy in the Middle East. Looking back over the last few years, there has been a succession of disasters. The influence of the Soviet Union has grown immensely in the area, not because the Russians have landed troops anywhere but, on the contrary, because they have not done so. If they wished to destroy their influence in the Middle East, they could not do better than send some units of the Red Army into Bagdad tomorrow. They have found out what the Arabs demand and have associated themselves with that demand.
The Arabs have demanded unity and so the Russians have attacked us as dividers over the Bagdad Pact. The Arabs demand equality and racial equality, so the Russians flaunt their own racial record in the Soviet Union and attack the colour bar in Africa. The Arabs want aid without strings, so the Russians give it to them, although not too much of it. The Arabs want freedom from occupation troops and the Russians point to our troops occupying their countries and to their own record of not occupying them. The Arabs want to see the West humiliated and again the Russians oblige. It is not military force which has obtained for the Russians the position they now have in the Middle East and which forces us to accept their 315 membership of a conference to discuss the Middle East. The reason is that their diplomacy has been far superior in every respect to the diplomacy of the West. Therefore, if the conference leads us to revise the appalling errors of our policy in recent years, it will be a success.
We all know that it will be difficult to reach agreement. It is certain that whatever form of compromise one tries to get with the Soviet Union in these matters, there will be many risks attached to it. What we have to remember is that it is not really a choice, and it never has been, between agreement with the Soviet Union and disagreement. The choice has always been between dangerous lack of agreement, on the one hand, and dangerous compromise, on the other hand. The compromises that we reach are bound to have risks in them, but what we have to weigh is the fact that failure to reach any kind of agreement year after year with the Soviet Union has not brought us safety, but has brought us nearer and nearer to catastrophe. That is the spirit in which the British Government and all the Governments of the West should enter the conference, which all of us, on both sides, heartily wish success.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
I cannot follow the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) in his rather Oriental line about the affairs in the Middle East. To me, the Middle East is as essential to our economy, to our strategy and to our survival as are the constituencies of the hon. Member and myself to our very homeland itself. In saying that, I hope I can go on to the next stage of implying that in years gone by there were moments—and there may still be moments in the years to come—when we could bring some of the States of the Middle East into rather closer association with the Commonwealth of Nations than they are at the moment.
Even at this critical hour, when affairs in the Middle East are changing so rapidly, one must not altogether turn one's back on the idea of the States of the Persian Gulf, for example, the States around Arabia, coming into some form of alliance or closer association with the Commonwealth of Nations.
§ Mr. Williams
If the right hon. Gentleman does not understand the common parlance, I will try to help him.
I should like to bring together two ideas propounded by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East, together with one which was mentioned earlier in the debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Sir F. Medlicott). The hon. Member for Woolwich, East spoke of the two prime dangers of the Middle East. He mentioned the danger of an Arab war led by Nasser against Israel and he mentioned the problem of indirect aggression. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central told us how a United Nations police force should be able to operate and look after situations of this kind. Even if I were to go along with the idea about a United Nations police force, the proponents of this idea have not sufficiently thought through the problems which must face them.
The right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson), earlier in the debate, said that the United Nations was impartial. That was an astounding contribution. I have always assumed that the opinions of the United Nations can be no more than the assembled party political judgments of the member Governments. If that is impartiality, then the Government in this country is always impartial, but I would not have thought that that was an idea which would appeal to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
This idea of a police force is one which I have not fully understood as yet. Where lies the political power? Where is the centre of decision? In an issue such as this in Lebanon or Jordan, who would take the decision? What would the troops of the United Nations have been committed to do, and for whom, and at what moment would withdrawal take place? I do not think that this idea of a police force, glib and easy though it may sound, has been sufficiently thought out by those who put forward the idea.
317 Looking back over the last decade of developments in the Middle East, one rather gets the feeling of watching a play which is taking place in slow motion and moving towards a very dangerous and extremely critical climax for the solvency and safety of our nation. It is not really true that we are watching a scene which will end inevitably in the elimination of British forces, British power, British commerce and influence from the Middle East. That is not the inevitable end.
When hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about coming to terms with Arab nationalism, on which I will say something in a moment, they talk as if it was inevitable, as if the tide were coming in and would continue to come in for all time, and never recede. Surely the tragedy of our situation in the Middle East is that we have in the period since the war tended to fall between two stools; indeed, it might well be called the failure of the middle way." Surely, in the last decade, we have been faced with two alternative policies in this area of the Middle East, which is so vital, strategically and economically, to Britain and the Commonwealth.
First, as hon. Gentlemen opposite are repeatedly saying, we could have come to terms with Arab nationalism. Secondly, and I suggest that this is a direct alternative, we could resolutely have stood by our friends and helped them to resist the onrush of disorder and destruction. A number of hon. Members opposite, and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), have debunked a great deal of this phrase—"coming to terms with Arab nationalism"—and the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) the other night used a phrase in relation to something else. He said that a lot of this is "poppycock". Arab nationalism is largely a force which has been diverted from its true purpose by Nasser to serve in the destruction and elimination of Western influence.
§ Mr. W. Yates
Why does not my hon. Friend use the correct title? He is the President of the State and nothing else.
§ Mr. Williams
When my hon. Friend wishes to refer to the President of the Arab Republic, he may do so. I will choose my own terms, and use them whenever I wish.
318 Our trouble in this country is that we have failed to pursue either of these two alternative policies, either the idea of coming to terms with the leaders of the mob, on the one side, or of standing firm beside our friends, on the other. In fact, we have followed neither line, but rather have we tried one course irresolutely and the other one half-heartedly.
The other night, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale talked of our rights in the Middle East as if we were there in the old-fashioned, nineteenth century imperialist sense. He talked as if Iraq, Persia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the other States of the Middle East were governed directly from this House of Commons. He talked as if we had not achieved anything in the Sudan in the years gone by. But our tragedy surely is that, while helping and forming these countries, bringing them forward to self-government and giving them self-government, we have done very little from that time to preserve their security and safety. Indeed, the matter of our policy a few years ago over the Sudan shows completely the many things we have done or have not done.
One day, we gave self-government to the Sudan without expressly inviting that country to join the Commonwealth, and, the next day, did a deal with the imperialists who wished to swallow it up. From time to time, my hon. Friends and I on these benches have tried, perhaps unsuccessfully, to persuade the Government to adopt a firmer policy designed to give greater comfort and greater support to our friends in the Middle East. Even at this stage, I do not believe that it is too late to pursue such a policy, for it is certain that unless we can give greater security to our loyal and trusted friends, the whole arch of Middle Eastern politics and the whole fabric of society will crumble and collapse, just as surely as the heads of our late friends in Iraq tumbled in the recent revolution.
There are a great number of matters which have not been covered in this debate, which deserve some reply at the end. I hope we shall have, in the relatively near future, a declaration of the Government's approach to the régime at present in occupation of Bagdad. I hope they will not recognise it. I hope they will not be bluffed by the apparent present reasonableness of this régime. 319 We have been through all this before. We have seen it with Neguib and with Nasser, a moment of reasonableness followed by the moment of unreasonableness. In this country, repeatedly, we are led away by bluff and soft words without realising that our own interests are being eroded.
What is the future of the Bagdad Pact? This is obviously too early a moment for the Government to commit themselves in a matter of this nature, but it is satisfactory in the extreme that certain countries—one from the Commonwealth, Pakistan, Persia and Turkey—should so quickly and forthrightly have approved the action of this Government. But what is the position in the Gulf? A number of hon. Members have mentioned the uncertainty of the position of Kuwait. Are we sure that our oil supplies and commercial interests, which are of great importance to our survival, are secure and safe for the years to come?
What of the Arab Union? Do the Government now regard King Hussein as being the legitimate head of the Arab Union, and, if so, does this not commit us to certain inevitable consequences in Iraq should an awkward situation arise there? I do not believe that the Arab Union was torn up by the revolt in Iraq. I do believe positively that, King Feisal having been killed, King Hussein is now the legal Ruler of the Arab Union. In view of the fact that we have already said that we will support him, I believe that there are certain inevitable consequences which flow from that. My noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton), speaking in the debate on Thursday last, used these words:Unless we hold Iraq, it will be impossible to maintain our troops in the Lebanon, Jordan and Kuwait. It would have been far better had we never started this operation and never gone in unless we are determined to carry it through to its logical conclusion and end the rebellion in Iraq as soon as possible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th July, 1958; Vol. 591, c. 1551.]It may be that the moment for action of that nature has temporarily passed, but if we are committed to supporting King Hussein in Jordan, I believe that the Government must inevitably face up to the consequences of that decision.
In this whole context of the Middle East, and more especially at a moment 320 like this when we are within the shadow of a Summit Conference, we should be perfectly clear what we in Britain want and what we demand. The first thing that I believe we should demand is that the area of the Middle East is traditionally an area of British interest, and that our position there, in the past and at the moment, is damaging neither to the Americans nor to the Russians, nor even, indeed, to the Arabs themselves, but rather the reverse.
Secondly, any encroachment by America or by Russia into the Middle East is not only damaging to Britain but also potentially productive of a third world war. That is why I have a certain reticence about an American advance too far into the Middle East. There is a rôle which Britain has to play, and I believe that our rôle is the re-establishment of our situation in the Middle East and to persuade America and Russia to hold aloof, to hold aloof while we in Europe, with our traditional, normal and logical friends in the Arab world, can effect a settlement which will be fair both to them and to Israel as well.
It is on a basis such as this that I believe the Summit Conference should proceed, but I have the same hesitation which the hon. Gentleman had about the complications of the machinery of the United Nations. The whole panoply of the United Nations may be, unfortunately, a way of frustrating the success of a venture of this nature.
In conclusion, I would express the hope that we in this country can do something to re-establish our traditional friendship with the Arab world, to re-establish our military position in the Middle East, and that we can persuade the Americans and the Russians, so far as possible, to hold aloof, for the moment they come cheek by jowl in the Middle East the advent of a third world war is that much nearer. I believe it should be the ambition of our foreign policy today to re-establish the position of Britain in the Middle East.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot (Ipswich)
There is one point, and only one, I think, in what the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) said on which I agree with him, and that is the need of a clear policy in the Middle East. It is because we have for years not had a clear, coherent policy that we find ourselves in 321 the position which we occupy today. In this debate the question which, as it seems to me, we ought to consider is not whether the Government were right when they decided send troops into Jordan, but how we arrived at the point at which such a decision had to be taken.
I have a very vivid recollection of the days of Munich, to which one hon. Member opposite referred. In particular, of course, I recall the occasion when Mr. Neville Chamberlain was speaking at that Box after his two visits to Germany. During his speech a message arrived from Hitler inviting him to pay a third visit, which took place, to Munich. I remember how when he announced the news hon. Members opposite let themselves go in a frenzy of enthusiasm.
In the debate which took place a week or two later the question was constantly put to us on this side: what would we have done had we been in Mr. Chamberlain's place? We were asked whether we would have accepted or refused that invitation to go to Munich when it came. Our answer, the only answer we could make, was that this country ought never to have arrived at the point at which such a decision had to be made.
So I suggest not so much that the Government, were wrong last week, although I think theirs was a miscalculation, but that what was wrong was the whole policy which led up to it. It has always been my opinion that during the last thirty-five years at least we have made almost every possible mistake in dealing with the Arab world.
That has been partially due, at any rate, to the pre-occupation of hon. Members on both sides of this Committee, first, with the national home in Palestine and, later, with the State of Israel. I am certainly not in any way anti-Semitic. I do not think that I have ever been accused of racial prejudice. Nor, for that matter, am I anti-Israeli. I think we would all agree that the setting up of the Jewish National home in Palestine and the creation and the survival of the State of Israel represent one of the most amazing achievements in recorded history. But it could be accomplished and was accomplished only at the price of tremendous injustice to the Arabs of Palestine.
I used to sit through all the debates on Palestine—and there were a great many of them—during the 'thirties. If the Jews 322 in Palestine had any grievance it was almost immediately raised and most effectively raised in this Chamber, but until the disturbances of 1936 and the Peel Report, in 1937, the case for the Arabs went almost by default. We were constantly reminded of the terms of the Balfour Declaration, but the pledges to the Arabs, pledges which were no less clear and categorical, were not officially published until 1937, roughly twenty years afterwards. They were perfectly well known throughout the Arab world, but I am certain that a great many hon. Members, even some deeply interested in the problems of Palestine, had never heard of such documents as the Hogarth Memorandum or the Declaration to the Seven.
We all know the explanation. Almost every hon. Member was deeply concerned about the treatment of the Jews in Nazi Germany. We were all desperately anxious to do anything that we could to relieve the situation, and the expansion of immigration into Palestine seemed the obvious and easy way in those days. I am not putting this forward as an attack on or criticism of anyone. In those days I think that there were a good many hon. Members on both sides who were willing to believe that Jewish immigration into Palestine on almost any scale could be encouraged without any unfairness or injustice to the Arab population.
The conditions have changed, but to some extent the attitude still persists, and it was apparent in some of the speeches in the debates last week. I take, for example, the speech by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby). He was greatly concerned about our responsibility for the State of Israel. He may be perfectly right when he argues that as we, the British, were responsible for the creation of the national home which led to Israel, therefore we have a moral obligation to preserve the State of Israel today. But there are several hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees on the Israel frontier, and our obligation to them, historically, at any rate, is no less than our obligation towards the State of Israel.
They are where they are today, no less than the Jews in Israel, because of the policies which have been pursued by successive British Governments over many years. But our mistakes in relation to the Arab world do 323 not end with Palestine. For example, we may be quite certain that nearly all the Arab peoples are passionately on the side of the Arab rebels in Algeria. Yet it was only two years ago that Her Majesty's Ambassador in Paris was publicly proclaiming that in Algeria our sympathies were with the French. This is what he said on 14th July, 1956:We are on your side in Algeria. We understand your pride in your civilising mission, in your political success, in the peoples you have led to autonomy, and your rejection of accusations of colonialism. For our part, we desire ardently the success of your efforts in Algeria.Presumably, the Ambassador acted on instructions.
I am not at this moment arguing whether we should concern ourselves with Algeria, but at a time when the French are regarded throughout the Arab world, and, indeed, throughout Africa south of the Sahara, as being oppressors of the Algerian people, and when they are pursuing a policy which is very widely different from the policy which we adopt towards subject colonial peoples, need we go out of our way publicly to identify ourselves with them?
Finally, there was the crowning blunder of Suez. I am not going to argue at this time whether that was right or wrong. As Lord Tedder pointed out during the Suez debates in another place, the really serious feature of that adventure was the appalling miscalculation; the miscalculation in supposing that Colonel Nasser would fall as soon as force was invoked. I wish to say a word about Colonel Nasser, The mere mention of his name seems to arouse the most violent antagonism among many hon. Members opposite and, indeed, among many people outside this House. Were I an Egyptian or an Arab, particularly were I a young Egyptian or a young Arab, I have little doubt that I should be on Colonel Nasser's side.
§ Mr. Foot
I agree entirely with what was said by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Nairn), that even were Colonel Nasser to disappear, we should have someone in his place occupying a very similar position. Whether we like it or not, there he is, and he is someone 324 with whom, sooner or later, as I believe, we shall have to deal.
What I am asking for is this. There must, I believe, be a complete change of attitude on our part, and indeed, on the part of the United States, towards the Arab world. Otherwise, a summit meeting, whether it takes place in the form that the Russians propose, or whether it takes place in the Security Council, will avail us nothing. It will merely enable the Russians to score another propaganda victory, and they have had a good many in the last year or two.
I wish to make this suggestion, which, I am sure, will not command universal assent, that Her Majesty's Government should propose to the other interested countries, particularly to the United States and to the Soviet Union, that Egypt should be invited to be represented at the summit talks, whether in the Security Council or elsewhere. I think that that could be done under Article 31 of the United Nations Charter, which provides for the invitation to a meeting of the Security Council of a country, not a member of the Council, where the interests of that country are especially affected. I should have thought that under that language it would be possible to bring in Egypt.
When we consider the particular position occupied by Egypt today, I think that it would be entirely wrong to have a discussion—I am not concerned with the form of it, or whether it is in the Security Council or elsewhere—to try to settle these matters over the heads of the people principally concerned. Sooner or later, they have got to be consulted; and even if agreement was reached among the great Powers that agreement would be worth little unless it commanded general assent among the Arab peoples. Therefore, I believe that at some stage we have to bring in the principal spokesmen of those peoples.
May I end on a slightly less sombre note? It seems to me, and, I think, to many of my hon. Friends, that this could be a great opportunity. For a long time we have been asking that there should be a further summit meeting. But even if it had taken place no one imagines that it would have solved all our problems. We shall probably need a whole 325 series of summit meetings and I dare say that we shall have them in the future. But what we must hope for at this stage is simply to find some area of agreement between East and West, an area which can be gradually enlarged. We had hoped for it in the realm of disarmament. That hope is denied us, at any rate, for the time being. But if we can reach agreement about the Middle East it could very well lead in time to a wider understanding on many other topics as well.
I do not believe that that can be accomplished unless there is a change of policy and a change of outlook on the part of the Governments of Britain and America. There are certain things which we can and should do. They were enumerated today by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). We should make it clear that any guarantee we give to Israel will be designed not only for the protection of Israel, but also for the protection of her Arab neighbours. There is a very real fear of Israeli expansion among many of the Arab peoples and I believe that such a guarantee in itself would go a long way towards easing the situation.
There is the vexed question of frontiers. I would make this suggestion. We know that the frontiers of Israel are not necessarily immutable. The Israelis themselves think that there must be some form of adjustment. It seems to me that there would be a greater chance of acceptance on the part of the Arab countries if we had something in the nature of a boundary commission under the authority of the United Nations. I believe that that suggestion might well commend itself to the Arab peoples rather than the present boundaries, which were reached simply as the result of the armistice.
Secondly, we should consider what measure of economic aid we can give, and it may well be worth while for Her Majesty's Government to suggest to the United States Government that between them the two Governments should reconsider the project of the Aswan Dam. Above all, it matters that we should convince the Arab peoples that, so far from being hostile, we would positively welcome an increasing measure of unity throughout the Arab world. I have always thought that one of the great tragedies of the years in which we have been living is the gulf that exists between 326 the Arab peoples and the West. We may have the opportunity, if we change our outlook and our policy, of bridging that gulf once and for all.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil McLean (Inverness)
When the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. Foot) was speaking of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the merits of their respective cases in the 'thirties, I was reminded that at that time I was a soldier in Palestine. I remember reading some of the speeches made in the House of Commons at that time. I do not say that I read them religiously, but I saw the effect that they had on the Palestine problem. I will not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman in his discussion of this question, but I entirely agree with him that the British Government were responsible for creating Israel and for creating the problem of the Arab refugees, because the British Government, when they gave up the Mandate, were morally responsible for a great deal of the suffering which was then caused. I hope, as I am sure do hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, that, whatever solution is found to the Cyprus problem, we shall never see the same things happening in Cyprus as happened in Palestine.
When the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich said that, were he an Egyptian or an Arab, he would probably be pro-Nasser or in favour of Nasser, that may well be. Were he not, I am sure that he would be wise to keep pretty quiet, or otherwise he would find himself in trouble.
Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have shown that there is a wide measure of agreement with the proposals of the Foreign Secretary for summit talks. At the summit talks, I hope that our Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister will make it clear that Britain and the West intend to stand up for their interests in the Middle East. The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) said that such conferences usually led to a scuttle by the West. I hope that we shall be spared that sort of thing at this conference.
All of us, the Soviet Union, ourselves and all the Governments of the world, and indeed the peoples want peace. No one wants war. In this conference, however, we must not be carried away by our hopes for peace nor be depressed by 327 our fears of war. I do not think that total peace or total war will follow this conference or any other such conference. The Government and the Prime Minister at this conference, if I may use a metaphor, ought to have their heads above the clouds of confusion and talk and take a wide view, but at the same time they ought to have their feet firmly on the ground. I hope that the feet of our representatives will be firmly planted on the ground although in the Middle East it may be amidst that awkward shifting sand.
What are the intentions of the Soviet Union in the Middle East and in proposing a Summit Conference? I believe the intention is to get into a conference on the Middle East and to have the legal possibility of intervening more openly and using her influence in that area. The Soviet Union already has great influence through diplomacy and subversive activity, and now it wants a legal position to continue to expand its power. The Soviet Union is realist and nothing else. It realises the vital importance to the Western world of the oil and the strategic position of the Middle East. It wants influence in the Middle East so as to detach it from its political, economic and military ties with the West.
What are the Soviet methods and possibilities of doing this? The methods are those of which the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) spoke and they show how successful the Soviet Union is in the propaganda and diplomatic methods which it uses.
The Soviet Union has gone a long way since its first conference in Baku in 1922, when the Soviet Foreign Minister was asked what he thought of the Asians. He replied, "I do not know much about Orientals, but if we give them a conference and ask them to come and eat sheep, and pilau they will always come". The Soviet Union has to a great extent outwitted us although we have a great deal more experience in the Middle East and in other parts of Asia. It has used propaganda with great skill as well as money, agents and even volunteers to forward its policies, and the influence which it hopes to get.
I do not think that the Soviet Union can go or wants to go, to total war about the Middle East, whatever may happen there. I do not think it even wants a 328 second Korea in the Middle East. If there was, although none of us wants it, the Soviet Union would find itself on very difficult ground, fighting over such long distances from the Soviet Union, with Turkey and Persia physically between them, which would block their troop movements—unless, of course, the Soviet Union invaded those countries; but in that case, there would be total war, and I am sure that the Soviet Union, like all other Governments, does not want that.
§ Mr. McLean
I do not know whom the Soviet Union would get to fight its battles in the Middle East. It might have to recruit Tartar and Turkestani volunteers from the Soviet Union. The bases would have to be in the Soviet Union territory, for that is the only place on which it could base its own forces.
Let me turn away from this wide picture of Soviet intentions to the recent tragic events in Bagdad. The terrible and barbarous killing of the King, his uncle, the Prince Abdullah, and the Prime Minister have shocked all of us, whatever our opinions on the merits of that Government may have been. I was very glad to hear the Foreign Secretary offer condolences and great sympathy on these sad events. I, and I am sure many other people, regard those who were killed not only as people who proved themselves great Arab patriots in a difficult period and believers in their own country, but great friends of this country. They created Iraq with our help.
Of what crime were they accused? They were old-fashioned but they were friendly to us. That is all; they were hated for this by the officers who killed them. I cannot help recalling in the war the coup d'état which was made under Raschid Ali, in favour of the Nazi Germans when this country was at its lowest ebb. I am sure that those who struck at us are among those who are striking us now, not in the interests of Nazism as before, but of Communism.
The Hashemites in Iraq who were wiped out have always showed great personal courage in time of danger and distress. King Hussein in Jordan has shown it in the last crisis in Jordan, and 329 I am sure he will show it again in times of danger. The Arab expression applies to these Hashemites. I do not say that this is an exact translation but it is, "The coward dies a thousand deaths; the brave man dies only once".
What will the new Government of Iraq do? None of us knows. We can be sure that Iraq is a difficult country to rule, while Egypt is an easy country. Iraq has a mixed Turkish, Kurdish and Arab population and it has a division in religion between Sunni and Shia. The Iraqi Government may be able to rule the country efficiently but only by sheer violence and force. After all many of these problems can be solved by force. Stalin solved many a difficult national question by the simple method of killing off the leading exponents of the nations concerned. The internal political difficulties which the new Iraqi Government will face will be very real and they may be forced to shed more blood in order to survive. The people of Iraq are also very warlike with violent emotions. They and the Government may have a very rough time, and a great deal of killing may go on. This reminds me of something that a much earlier Governor of Iraq—the Omayad Governor of the time—once said. He said, looking at the Bagdad crowd, "I see heads ripe for cutting. I see blood between the turbans and the beards". Iraqis do not now wear turbans and not many of them now have beards, but they are still a warlike and rough people and the new Government will have a very difficult time with them. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) aptly described the new rulers as "A lot of bloodthirsty thugs."
The Government of Iraq have so far used soft words. They have said, "We will give you our oil and we will take your pounds." They have even told the Turks that they want to remain in the Bagdad Pact, while telling the rest of the world at the same time that they wanted to join with the United Arab Republic. They will use many soft speeches such as Colonel Nasser used to us in the early days, when he came to power. Our Government took Colonel Nasser at his word when he said he was not against us. But within five weeks of the last British soldier leaving Egypt he grabbed the Canal, and he has not looked back since then.
330 We may well find that the new rulers of Iraq will co-operate with us to begin with because they fear that the West may be able to destroy them. Once they feel strong enough, they will push out in the same way as Colonel Nasser did, until with him they can form their great Arab empire stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic and, in the final process, eliminate Israel.
Hon. Members opposite who say we must come to terms with Arab nationalism should realise that there are many forms of Arab nationalism. In its present form it is led by Nasser and the extremists. If in the final analysis they attack Israel—and they also have control of the oil, what will hon. Members opposite do? Will they sacrifice Israel or will they still want to remain on terms with Arab nationalism? The choice will come if this brand of Arab nationalism is allowed to flourish and gain control over those areas. Many fine figures have led the Arabs in great conquests, but I do not think many of us in this century admire the methods of rule by the Mahdi in the Sudan in the last century or would wish to see that kind of totalitarian rule again.
Turning for a moment to some of the immediate dangers as I see them, I think there was an immediate danger in the Lebanon of Colonel Nasser getting control. There was also a danger in Jordan. Both those dangers have been temporarily stopped, although Iraq has fallen under the control of a pro-Nasser extremist Arab force. What of the future? I think Nasser and the Soviet Union will continue their present policy by diplomacy, propaganda and infiltration, of expanding their power. I think there is grave danger that from Syria there will be increasing pressure on the Lebanon and on Jordan. I do not know whether the United Nations will be able to deal with that. I hope the United Nations can, but if they cannot, I believe it incumbent on the Western Powers to see that the necessary steps are taken so that the Lebanon and Jordan are not engulfed in this extreme form of Arab nationalism.
It is easy to be wise after the event. Hon. Members opposite have often pointed out that it seems the Government act after the event has taken place and are very adept at locking the door after the horse has bolted, but I am sure it is not easy to foresee what might happen 331 next. There are many inhibitions and difficulties about the Government taking action, not least among them the attitude of hon. Members opposite on certain occasions. I hope that the Government will take the precautions that they feel are necessary in the Persian Gulf and, more especially, in Kuwait. Obviously the Government bear these matters in mind. I hope that in discussion with the ruler, or acting ruler, of Kuwait they will take precautions so that we are not caught out once again, and the thing blows up in our faces and we then have to take more difficult and dangerous action to try to put it right afterwards.
I believe there are these great dangers in the Middle East, not so much of a world war at this stage, or of open Soviet intervention, but of the Russians getting their way without having to fire a shot. People can analyse the faults on our side and on the American side, but, unless we have the courage to stand up for what we believe is right and also to stand by it in unity in this country and with the United States, whatever policies we may follow in the Middle East, within the next couple of years we shall be out. Whether the Middle East will then remain neutral is anyone's guess, but the leaders of the Soviet Union are very realistic. I do not think they would miss a chance of taking political power in an area where they saw there was a vacuum and which is so important. The first step we have to take is to have some form of unity in this country, although it is very difficult to achieve, on our Middle East policy and on all the greatest issues of foreign policy.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Lever (Manchester, Cheetham)
I will follow the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. N. McLean) to the extent of saying that I also believe that in these crucial international matters we should, where possible, carry with us a united country, but I am afraid that he and the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) are so clearly and firmly labouring under the belief that nothing has changed since the nineteenth century that it is impossible to conceive of any policies of which they would approve which could have the support of hon. Members on this side of the Committee.
332 I know they speak with deep sincerity and I do not wish to be discourteous, but those with minds which appear to have stopped thinking on the basis of the facts of the last century should not venture to treat the Committee to proposals to unify us on foreign politics. They would be better advised to move to the Treasury or the Bank of England, where the possession of this immutable view that the facts of the last century still hold offers great possibilities of promotion, and not to address themselves to international and world affairs where the first essential is to realise that things have changed and institutions are changing, that modern policies are required to suit modern events.
I wholly endorse the statesmanlike, very moderate and, if I may say so, deeply understanding speech made on behalf of the Labour Party by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). I am greatly gratified that none of the divisions and clashes which marked the occasion of the Suez incident have occurred on this occasion. I think there is a great deal of unity of opinion and I think that masterly—[Interruption.] I wish my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale had not arrived at this moment as it rather inhibits the fluency of the compliments I was about to address on his masterly and informed analysis of the situation and the problems which face us. He brought a modern mind to bear upon them in the interests of this country and the area concerned, and possibly in the interests of the peace of the world. That was very reassuring in the atmosphere of the Committee this afternoon.
This permits me a certain possibility of making desultory comments, not necessarily in entirely lucid connection, on the situation which faces us. The first thing I would say is that we are living in a period of world history in which the stream of events has suddenly become a torrent. One exciting and disturbing event follows hard on the heels of another and it is difficult to find one's bearings. We do not often sit back and attempt to reassess situations with which we were familiar years ago. It seems only yesterday that the Labour Party was chivalrously intervening to protect the infant Soviet Union from the depredations of the imperialists when it stopped the "Jolly George" at the docks.
333 Any attempt to assess world affairs in the belief that this infant revolution needs the protection of the chivalrous efforts of the back benchers of this party would be beside the point, because the most startling and striking aspect of the post-war world is that, in the last thirteen years, there has been an amazing transformation in the power relations existing between the Soviet bloc Powers and what I will call, neutrally, the traditional Powers.
It is quite possible to take the view that the Soviet bloc now represents the most heavily armed, most politically compact, and, economically, the most efficient bloc of Powers that the world has ever seen. It is against that background that one must survey the detailed problems that present themselves on the world scene.
One of the consequences of this transformation in world power relations, accompanied as it has been by the discovery of nuclear power, is that the grapple that is taking place between the traditional Powers and the rising, advancing force of the Soviet bloc, necessarily takes place in a largely non-military and peaceful way. It is no longer possible for these two blocs to grapple it out in a major war to enforce their wills, because both sides are heavily equipped with nuclear weapons which would bring about the destruction of the whole world if they were fully employed. It follows that this grapple is conducted largely in the fields of political and economic strategy.
Those of my party who believe as I do, must bear in mind especially that our kind of society cannot exist economically on the basis on which it survived before the war, when unemployment, the destruction of the resources of society and the like were the every day stigmata of that society; but that it can survive only on the basis of industrial expansion, and the provision, within the framework of our democratic institutions, of a free, happy and prosperous life for our people.
On us, especially, falls the duty of examining the world situation to see that nothing happens to our interests—and which we may legitimately prevent—which undermines the basis on which a free society here can offer its citizens a standard of living, a progressive economy, and those developments that will win their loyalty.
We have, then, to look at the Middle East with these considerations in mind, 334 and the first thing that may be brought to our minds is that the Soviet Union claims to have an interest in the Middle East. It is perfectly plain to me that we have to come to an understanding with the Soviet Union on all world problems, and such an understanding can be achieved only on the basis of a genuine respect by us for their real interests, and a genuine respect by them for ours. No other understanding will endure.
If I want to come to some sort of agreement with the Soviet Union on the Middle East, it is my duty, in friendship and sincerity, to discover what are its real, legitimate interests in that area. It is perfectly plain that it has one, and one only that I can recognise as legitimate, and that is the protection of its frontiers. It has another, of course, of which it might approve, but it cannot meet with the approval of anyone in this Committee, and that is the purely negative one of undermining the position in that area of the countries of the West, and doing damage to their interests there.
As to the Soviet Union's only legitimate interest, that of preserving in safety those of her frontiers that abut on countries in the Middle East, no one in this Committee is more anxious than I that the Russians should be reassured, and have their interests respected. But, leaving aside all questions of the wisdom or rightness of the American Government's action or the British Government's action, does anyone who examines the matter honestly think that the Soviet Union seriously believes that its security would be put in jeopardy by the penny-packet landings of troops that the American and the British have made in the Lebanon and Jordan? One really has to have a very naïve view of the matter if one thinks that the Soviet Union has any genuine fears on that score that it needs to have allayed.
I hold myself to have been, and still to be, a great friend of the Soviet Union, in that I desire to come to a full, peaceful understanding with her, but I do not think that that is achieved by this propensity, which is all too common, of urging that gestures may be made; gestures, incidentally, that usually cost us some vital interest. People must really get it into their heads that attempting to woo Mr. Khrushchev with gestures has about as much chance of success as an 335 attempt to win the favours of an expensive courtesan with a love poem. In each case, one can say that it is a triumph of desire over calculation. What Mr. Khrushchev wants is real negotiation upon the tangible needs of the Soviet Union.
I am prepared to give him what he requires, namely, the security of his frontiers. I am not prepared, however, to make any concession whatsoever to his desire to cut a figure in the Arab world and, still less, to undermine any legitimate interest we may have in the Middle East, and in its oil supplies. I may also say that my view, which has been corroborated by recent events in the United Nations because, of course, the Japanese are being supported by the Americans in their demand for more observers in the Lebanon in order to remove the American troops.
It is an extraordinary burglar who promotes action for calling in the maximum number of policemen in order that he can go home without the booty. That is what would be the case if the Americans' real purpose in the Middle East was to launch an attack on the Soviet Union. If I may vary the metaphor, it is as if the imperialist tiger, red in tooth and claw as we are told it is, has launched itself upon the Soviet lamb in the Middle East, and has then voted itself a cage, and that curiously enough the proposed victim is opposing the arrangements that are being made for the tiger's departure. So much for that aspect of the matter.
I want to deal with the Arab nationalist position. We are told—and it does not come upon me with quite that startling novelty that it appears to have done on other hon. Members—that we ought to be friendly with the Arab nationalist movement. Ever since I have been in the House of Commons I have known British Governments who have been continuously friendly with the Arab nationalist movement to the point of toadyism, to the point of betraying all our legitimate interests and to the point of betraying our own honourable responsibilities to other people. Sir Anthony Eden had a long career of toadying to the Arab nationalists, which finally came to an exasperated end in somewhat exciting circumstances a year or so ago. He can hardly be accused of not having con- 336 sidered friendship with Arab nationalism even in the form which it has taken under Nasser.
The Americans even carried their attempts further. They went so far that even when so devoted a friend of Arab nationalism as Sir Anthony Eden had lost all patience and was ready to throw things at them, the Americans were so keen on supporting this policy of friendship that they stabbed in the back their own most loyal and staunch ally at a crucial moment in its operations. They now seem to have come to the point of view that the possibilities of friendship with Arab-Nasser-nationalism are not so easy as they may have thought.
Not that I despair of understanding with Arab nationalism. But one does not always promote peace by offering friendship without any sanction for hostile destruction or damage to one's own interests. Let me make it plain that my view of an offer of friendship is a hand always offered to be shaken, and not of a rump always turned to be kicked—which is the posture which we have adopted in the Middle East for so long. I do not despair of coming to some understanding with the Arab peoples and with their legitimate national aspirations; nor do I believe that our own legitimate interests in the Middle East in oil need be written off.
For my part, I believe that there is a very interesting and morally justified position between imperialism, on the one hand, which takes the view that the whole bag of tricks belongs to us and that we are going to exploit the natives and take what we want, and, on the other hand, what is sometimes called the socialist position—that is to say, let the population of Kuwait take a plebiscite on what they will do about the oil investments which we have made at great sacrifice not only in the distant past by our grandfathers but in more recent times; let them take a plebiscite of the wandering tribesmen of Kuwait and if they vote for a Nasser Government and want to kick us out, then, like good democrats, let us be kicked out.
It will not do to suppose that those are the only two possibilities open to us. There is the third position where we realise that we have an obligation to the people of Kuwait. We are not entitled to trample upon them. Nor are they in 337 their present stage of development in a position freely to express what we call an electoral will. We should use the oil not to their prejudice but to their advantage and to ours. It need not be a one-way agreement on either side. I am not prepared to exploit the peoples in the Middle East for their oil in any imperialist way, but I am prepared to enter into a partnership which gives recognition of the sacrifice and exploration which we have made in the area. I do not think I am taking up a reactionary position, but a realistic and progressive one.
I want, finally, to deal with the position of Israel. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Foot) has said, and he said it as if it concluded the argument, that if he had been a young man or an Egyptian he would have been on Nasser's side. I only say that something a little more conclusive would be required before I could wholly endorse that policy. I would beg my hon. and learned Friend not to come openly on Nasser's side until one or other of the qualifications which he made as prerequisites for his support has been fulfilled.
So far as Israel is concerned, let me try to knock on the head, in a sentence or two, the mischievous, obstinate, parrot claptrap which I constantly hear from Tory benches mainly, and occasionally echoed from this side—sadly enough by my hon. and learned Friend on this occasion—that it is rather reminiscent of Hitler's slogan: "The Jews are our misfortune." In this case we say: "The Israelis are our misfortune." If only we had not brought Israel into being, the Arabs would have been so decent and we would have exploited the oil and everyone would have had a good time, for ever and ever, amen. Apart from the immoral aspect of this argument it is not founded in truth.
I should like to ask those who canvass this parrot view what the Israelis have done to inflame the situation in Algeria, where the French are not allowed a moment of peace. I do not think that the Algerian Arabs are altogether inflamed by the thought of the occupation of part of Palestine by the Jews.
I should like to ask hon. Gentlemen opposite who hold this complacent view, whether the spear which entered Nuri es-Said the other day was entered by one 338 of his Arab Nationalist friends because of his known passion for the State of Israel and everything he had done to facilitate it. Would they not really stop blinding themselves and realise that their are two cardinal tenents in the Arab Nationalist movement under Nasser. The first and most important is to boot British and American imperialists out of the Middle East, and the second is to exterminate the Israelis to the last man, woman and child by driving them into the sea.
I want to conclude by dealing with the attitude of the people of Israel, which I visited for the first time a few weeks ago. Any policies which are based upon the sacrifice of the Israeli people are liable to founder because the Israelis have not the least intention of being sacrificed, and they have no disposition whatsoever to commit suicide. The Israel I saw was a country which was preaching and practising, in a manner which I have not seen equalled in any other part of the world, the highest ideals of Western democracy and Western civilisation. The Israelis recognise that they can only survive as a nation if they make their economy work and give their people a decent standard of life to make them loyal to their democratic institutions and their State. They recognise on the other hand, that they have to be continuously ready to defend themselves and to defend their society against military attack.
I suggest to my hon. Friends that we can learn a lesson from that. It is very easy to look patronisingly upon the Israelis, but as the world situation develops it might occur to some hon. Members that our situation in this country is not wholly different in principle from that of the Israelis. Unless we learn to transform our society within our democratic institution so as to build up a free and prosperous economy for our people, on the one hand, and, on the other, are prepared with realistic readiness to defend, if necessary with our lives, the right to our State's independence and the institutions of our own country we may find that we will not be looking pityingly upon the Israelis but with some sadness on ourselves.
The reason why the Israelis have taken up the position they have, I venture to suggest, is this. It is that in that land, wherever one goes, that one finds people 339 to whom the threat of totalitarian tyranny is not some hypothetical notion but a reality which they have experienced. I shall never forget speaking to a Pole there whose happiest memory of Europe was the day when he scrabbled through the corpses of children outside the concentration camp and was able to find the child who had been killed in front of his eyes and give it a decent burial.
Those people, at least, have not forgotten Belsen and Auschwitz, whatever the rest of the world may have done. They know what totalitarian government means, what the torture and torment of tyranny means, in almost every land under the sun. They are gathered there with a full understanding that the free society in which they live has to be defended to the very last drop of their blood and the very last ounce of their strength. I would that people in other parts of the world valued freedom and the right to live and develop the kind of society they want as highly as they are valued there. I pray that we shall not wait until we have lost what we cherish before we truly value it.
I believe that this party has presented a realistic proposal for grappling with the situation in the Middle East which corresponds with the needs of the British people, with the need for peace, which respects the legitimate interests of the Soviet Union and which also offers the Arab people fulfilment economically and fulfilment of all reasonable national aspirations. I believe that if the Government shows willingness to go to the United Nations on this matter and seek its counsel in pursuing a policy of neutralising the Middle East and bringing peace to that area it will bring prosperity not only to those lands but, in turn, to all of us who depend upon them.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I will begin by saying that we do not intend to divide the Committee tonight. Our cheers this afternoon showed very clearly with what warmth we welcomed the Foreign Secretary's words about a special meeting of the Security Council under Article 28 of the United Nations Charter.
For my part, I have always thought that that was much the best form that 340 any summit meeting could take. As I listened to the Foreign Secretary describing its advantages this afternoon—its flexibility, the possibility of inviting other interested nations to come in, the ease with which informal contacts can be made and talks take place at any moment "behind the Speaker's Chair," the advantage that one has no fixed term for the meeting, that there is continuity and an organised machinery to carry on between sessions—all this made me regret that the provisions of Article 28 have not regularly been used in recent years.
I hope that this summit meeting will take place very soon. I believe that every delay may be dangerous. I hope, with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson), that this will be the beginning of a change in the way in which the machinery of the United Nations is used.
The Foreign Secretary criticised the letter in which Mr. Khrushchev launched his invitation. Of course, we could all do the same, but I believe that the Committee should register the fact that Mr. Khrushchev was extremely flexible, not to say accommodating, in the substantive proposals which he made. He said. "Any time, any place". In suggesting the three Western Powers and India alone, he was deliberately putting the Soviet Union in a minority. This attitude gives us cause for hope that Mr. Khrushchev will now accept the Government's proposal, the more so as the Foreign Secretary very rightly said that the purpose of the meeting should be not to pile up a big majority against a minority of one, but to reach agreement upon the problems to be faced, not only the problems of the interventions in the Lebanon and Jordan but the wider problem of a general settlement in the Middle East, with which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) dealt so admirably this afternoon.
Unless these wider problems are dealt with at the meeting with Mr. Khrushchev, I venture to think that a great opportunity will have been missed, and, incidentally, the difficulties of dealing with the Lebanon and Jordan will be much increased. Those difficulties will be formidable, as I shall show. They will be more easily dealt with if the broad 341 problems of Arab unity and co-operation, of security for all nations and of economic development for all, are considered, and are boldly and generously faced.
For the immediate difficulty in Lebanon and Jordan, we hope, as my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, that the Japanese resolution will provide a way out. I most urgently hope that the Soviet delegate will do what he did only five weeks ago, when he voted for the original dispatch of the United Nations observers to the Middle East. I hope that he will make a genuine effort to show that he means to co-operate by dropping any doctrinaire objections and helping to make the Japanese resolution a swift and genuine success. May I say in passing, what a happy and auspicious beginning it would be to the new Japan's return to international life if their proposal proved to be the opening of a gateway to the path of peace.
Let me come back to the difficulties to be resolved in the Lebanon and Jordan. In what I say I hope that hon. Members opposite will not think that I am speaking in a spirit of recrimination, or that I am trying to score a party point. I want to deal with the issues which arose in last week's debates, on which we are in disagreement with the Government. It is vital now to understand how these issues look to the Arabs, to the Russians and even to our Allies in the N.A.T.O. Pact and it is not less vital that dangerous precedents on these issues should not now be set.
I do not quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. H. Lever) when, in a brilliant speech—he always makes a brilliant speech—he referred to the "penny packet" demonstrations which the United States forces have made in the Lebanon. Last week, the United States landed 11,000 soldiers on the beaches at Beirut, together with 50-ton tanks and heavy guns. They assembled 70 warships on the coast and hundreds of combat aircraft in the air, and the American commander announced that every unit in their forces had a nuclear capability—that is to say, it was equipped with nuclear bombs.
It must have seemed to many people, not least, I think, to Russia, that the purpose could not simply have been to stop the infiltration of arms from Syria, but 342 that there must have been a wider purpose—perhaps to intervene in Iraq and to suppress the revolution there. The Russians made it known last week by every means within their power that if we had intervened in Iraq they would have sought to do the same. If that had happened we should have been in genuine danger of a major war.
That gives a grave significance to the points that I want to raise. On Thursday night, the Prime Minister, in referring to the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, said:I think that is satisfactory to both sides of the House and la the country to feel that, whatever the question of the wisdom which we are discussing, there is a broad understanding that we have acted within the letter and spirit of international law."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 17th July, 1958; Vol. 591, c. 1568.]With great respect, the right hon. Gentleman went far beyond anything that my right hon. Friend had said. Here are my right hon. Friend's words about international law:I am afraid that it is not entirely clear. … But I believe it is right to say that if there is a state of war, and there are clearly two sides involved and no evidence of outside intervention, then, according to international law, it is, to say the least, extremely doubtful whether intervention at the request of the Government in question is justified."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th July, 1958; Vol. 591, c. 1257.]The point was dealt with by a learned writer, Dr. Lauterpacht, in the "International and Comparative Law Quarterly", in January this year. This is what he wrote:A number of writers of authority have declared in clear and unequivocal terms that intervention in a civil war, even upon request, is unlawful.He cited Hall, Lawrence, Hyde and Oppenheim, and he said:The opinions of these authors reflect the principle that the inhabitants of a State enjoy an inalienable right to determine their own political future; and that if the course they choose is one of revolution against the established government, no other State has the right or the duty to oppose the expression of the popular will.Of course, Dr. Lauterpacht made it plain that there must be a genuine revolution, The rebels must hold a substantial part of the territory of the country, they must observe the laws of war, and so on. In other words, whether an intervention is legal depends upon the facts.
What were the facts in the Lebanon? There was a genuine revolution begun 343 for identifiable and well-known political reasons, of which one hon. Member on the Government side spoke this afternoon. There was the murder of the editor of an Opposition paper, the widely-held belief that the last elections had been unfair, the refusal of the President to say that he would not stand for election for another term and the fact that, if he stood, he was upsetting an accepted constitutional convention. In other words, there was a genuine revolution for political reasons.
The rebels held a considerable part of the territory of the country. They had considerable popular support. The hon. and gallant Member for Pudsey (Colonel Banks), who was there last week, told us in his valuable speech that one-third of the people in Beirut were against President Chamoun and two-thirds in the rest of the country. The Times summed it up as 60 per cent. Above all, the Lebanese Army steadfastly refused to fight, so that the United States forces are in the extraordinary position of intervening in a civil war in which the Lebanese Army refuse to take part. So I think it by no means easy to argue that the American intervention was in accord with the established rules of international law, when it happened on Tuesday last.
And since the Americans arrived, Lebanese opinion seems to have turned sharply against the President who invited them to come. There has been no cease-fire, as was at first reported. The rebels are more resolute than before, the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament has invited the Americans to go away, and it is reported that two-thirds of its members Share his view. The commanding officer of the Army has called upon them to leave. The Arabs, the Russians and our N.A.T.O. Allies are well aware of all these things.
Let me turn to a cognate point in last week's debate. Speaking of the revolution in Iraq, the Prime Minister said:The argument for standing aside and doing nothing would be different if these movements were genuine, popular and constitutional changes. But this is not a process of genuine evolutionary change. It is part of the pattern of conspiracy and subversion of which … I told the House yesterday …"…[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th July, 1958; Vol. 591, c. 1619–20.]I venture to separate the Prime Minister's adjectives; "genuine" and "popular", 344 on the one hand, and "constitutional", on the other hand. I am speaking now of Iraq.
Of course, the change in Iraq was not constitutional. How could it be? We all deplore the killing of a brave young King, of the Crown Prince and of General Nuri, whom all who knew him think of as a great man with a great record of service to the Arabs and to his country. But no one could say that General Nuri was a great defender of the Iraq constitution.
Iraq used to have a Parliament. It worked as well as other Parliaments in the Middle East, except, of course, for Israel. Parties were developed. An Opposition was taking form. In 1954, however, General Nuri abolished the parties and since then no political activity of any kind has been permitted. In May this year, he had a general election. Nominations were made by his permission. There were 145 seats to be filled, and the electors returned 130 supporters of General Nuri and 15 Independents pledged to give General Nuri their support. There was no possible outlet for political evolutionary change, and, in spite of the admirable economic development programme, there was in Iraq a great deal of discontent.
I wonder whether the Foreign Secretary saw a letter from an Iraqi professor at the Bagdad Institute of Fine Arts, in The Times yesterday? He sadi:The Nuri Government was a dictatorship founded upon the power of the large landowners or sheikhs, who owned most of the land of Iraq. That is why Iraqis like myself are rallying to the support of the new Government.Did the Foreign Secretary also see, on Friday, the account of the revolution's success sent by The Times correspondent in Bagdad? He said:The revolution, it is claimed, has been a complete success, and the Kassem Government is in complete control. Most informed foreign observers thought for a long time that, if a change were to come, it would be brought about by the Army, which widely shared the general hostility to what was described as the feudal and oligarchic social system upheld by Nuri es-Said … Whether the Iraqis are going to get the sort of Government they want remains to be seen, but the public generally appear to think that they have got it, and there is no question but that it has a large measure of popular support.There has been much other evidence not only that the revolution swiftly succeeded, but that there was no substantial opposition and that no troops marched 345 from the north against it. On the contrary, the troops were obeying the orders of the new Government to come out of Jordan. In the light of these facts, can anybody really suggest that this revolution in Iraq was carried out by indirect aggression, by foreign arms, by volunteers from Egypt or elsewhere?
I believe that the truth is that most of the weapons had come from Britain, that it was carried out by men who had been trained at Sandhurst, and that it was, to use the Prime Minister's adjectives, a "genuine, popular" movement, which it would have been a flagrant violation of international law to suppress or in which to intervene.
Yet, in spite of that, last Wednesday, the Foreign Secretary said this:Unfortunately, the plot was not found out in time in Bagdad. I believe that the world must face up to this problem of dealing with this kind of effort to interfere with the integrity and independence of nations.I can only recall what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said in immediate reply:What I do say, with all the emphasis I can command, is that these treaty obligations cannot, in our opinion, be extended so as to protect a particular Government from internal revolution"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th July. 1958; Vol. 591, c. 1254 and 1264.]That was the basic fact in Iraq a week ago. It is the basic fact in Jordan now.
The Prime Minister said, on Thursday last:It is quite true that Jordan is not a democratic State in the modern sense of the word. But Jordan has at least a form of Parliament. The Senate and the House are both elected. They were elected two years ago."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 17th July, 1958; Vol. 591, c. 1569.]Yes, they were elected two years ago, in October, 1956, in what The Times correspondent in Amman called one of the fairest and quietest general elections the country had ever had.
And what happened? The majority of the Jordan House, newly elected, belonged to parties of the Left. They formed a Government under Nabulsi. Within a matter of weeks King Hussein, who is certainly very brave, began to quarrel with Nabulsi. By the following April he had driven his Ministers from power, dissolved all the political parties by royal decree, and since then has governed the country in virtue of the right claimed here by King Charles I three centuries ago.
346 Let me cite an impartial witness, Brigadier Longrigg, who has spent forty years in the Arab countries, who has written standard works on their history, their economy, their administration. In a paper written for Chatham House, in May, before the present events happened, Brigadier Longrigg said:In Jordan the Anti-Federation Group"—that is, the pan-Arab group—must beyond doubt represent a specific majority; one may well suppose that not more than one-third of his subjects are loyal supporters of King Hussein and his régime.It is no part of Britain's duty, and it can serve no British interest, to use British arms to keep in power régimes which the majority of their subjects do not loyally support. If we try to do it we simply give the Kremlin carte blanche to intervene on the flimsiest pretext. I submit that we must treat this whole conception of "internal aggression" with very great reserve. With respect, the Prime Minister seems to me to have made the old mistake of identifying a nation with its Government or its king.
It is very plain that the evacuation of our troops from Jordan will not be easy. I believe that much the best hope of making it swift and bloodless is to make it plain that we are ready to see the people of Jordan join with other Arab nations if they want to do so. Whether, even on that condition, Jordan can now be changed into a constitutional monarchy again is quite a different question and it will certainly be much harder to do it than it was two weeks ago.
I venture to repeat what my right hon. Friend said this afternoon. The acceptance of Arab unity is really the first and vital principle of the wider policy for a settlement which is now required. If we accept it, as I believe we must, it means that we must restore relations with the Arab leader, President Nasser, and for my part I wish that we had done it long ago. With him, with America, with France and Russia we must work out an agreement for an' arms embargo in the Middle East and for a system of frontier guarantees. These two things, an arms embargo and frontier guarantees, go together. In considering both we must, as always, faithfully protect Israel's future, as we are in law and honour bound.
347 But on those conditions I am convinced that my right hon. Friend was absolutely right when he said today that the Arabs will agree to live in peace with Israel once we help them to achieve the reasonable aspirations on which their hearts are set, such unity of the Arab peoples as they desire themselves to achieve, such political advance as they want to make, such action against the grinding poverty of the Middle East as we all recognise to be long overdue.
We must do these things. But I believe that, above all else, we must let the Arabs see that we mean to treat them as we treat other nations of the world, that the Middle East is henceforward not to be a sphere of British interest, or of Russian interest, but a sphere where Arab influence is supreme. [HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] In peace with Israel. There are 40 million Arabs and 2 million Israelis, with more, I hope, very soon. I believe that there is no hope for Israel—as my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) said in an eloquent speech the other day—unless they can live in peace and friendship with the Arabs and it is now the task of the Government, with the opportunity before them, to make that come about.
An Arab friend said to me the other day, "Why cannot the British treat us as equals?" When I asked what he meant, he said, "When anything happens, you think that you have only to send a gunboat, or tanks and aircraft, and the Arabs will give way." I believe that this myth that our military prestige will overawe the Arabs, that that is the right way to deal with the Middle East, has been the fundamental error of the last few years. Our oil, our trade with Arab countries, will be as safe as our trade with Europe or South America when it depends not on British military might, but on friendship and good understanding, and on the common interest which all trade involves.
That means, as the, Foreign Secretary said this afternoon, that we must deal with the Arab nations as equal partners and within the framework of the United Nations. Remembering Suez and innumerable incidents since then, Oman, and the fighting on the Yemen border, I was very glad to hear the Foreign 348 Secretary use those words. I hope that the Government will so conduct their policies that the Arabs may quickly come to believe that the Government mean what they say. If so, a new epoch of real hope will dawn, when we can work together with Israel and the Arabs, and, to our mutual benefit, can build up the rule of law.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Commander Allan Noble)
I was very glad to hear the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) say that the Opposition do not intend to divide the Committee tonight. I am sure that all hon. Members were very glad to hear that. During my speech I will answer some of the points made by the right hon. Gentleman, but it seemed to me that part of his speech—quite a lot of it—was part of a speech which he expected to make last week when the Opposition did vote against the Government.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
If the Minister of State is suggesting that the considerations which I have put forward will not be in the minds of the Russians and the other nations in the forthcoming meeting he is making a great mistake.
§ Commander Noble
What the right hon. Gentleman said may well be, but all I said was that some of the right hon. Gentleman's speech would have been much more suitable last week.
I think this has been what one could call a good House of Commons day.
§ Commander Noble
It shows that there is very little between us in our desire for a settlement in the Middle East, a problem which has been troubling us for many years. I thought that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was in very good form. He said that the Opposition were delighted that Mr. Khrushchev had taken up their suggestion for a meeting. I hope very much that Mr. Khrushchev will take note of what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon about the advantages of a summit meeting under the auspices of the United Nations and that it will lead him to accept our invitation.
§ Commander Noble
No doubt Mr. Khrushchev will also have noted what the right hon. Gentleman said about traditional American hospitality. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman and his party speak with great knowledge of arranging stimulating entertainment for Soviet leaders. [HON MEMBERS: "Cheap."]
Perhaps I might now say a word about the Lebanon. The Committee may like to know, with reference to what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon, that the Security Council met this morning to discuss the Japanese draft resolution, that the Russians proposed an amendment and that the Security Council adjourned to enable it to be examined. The Security Council was meeting again this afternoon and is probably sitting now. I understand that it is on the tape that the Russians have vetoed the Japanese resolution.
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale expressed misgivings about our position in Jordan. He said that it was an impeccable decision to invite the United Nations in, in order that we might get out, but I would ask him not to forget that it is through our immediate and swift action that the United Nations has an opportunity in Jordan in the same way as it has in the Lebanon. Had we not acted as we did, I believe that the State of Lebanon would have been swept away and that the United Nations would not have the opportunity that it has today.
It is just beginning to be realised that the United Nations does not, and indeed cannot, act very quickly in such matters. In the past, in spite of the Resolutions of 1949 and 1950, which have been quoted in our debates in the last few days, the United Nations has been primarily concerned with aggression when the aggressor actually puts a military force across a frontier. Naturally there has been a built-in majority in the United Nations against the use of force. I think it was the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) who said today that there had been very much less opposition to subversion, infiltration and other activities short of aggression. Many nations have now realised the potentialities of such matters. The result has been—I hope that the Opposition will not say that this is a joke 350 because it is not meant to be one—that the policeman has tended to be unpopular while the international burglar has been a little inclined to get away with it.
Now, for the first time, the United Nations is seized of these matters and has further opportunities to deal with them. We have been chided by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and other Opposition Members about what has been called our "conversion" to a belief in the United Nations. I reply straight away that there is no question of a conversion, because we have always supported proceedings through the United Nations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Suez."] Perhaps we more than most have realised the difficulties to which I have just been referring.
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale put forward four principles which he suggested should be the basis of our dealings with the Middle East. On the surface there was much to be said for them, but when the right hon. Gentleman remarked that there were great difficulties in the way, I agreed with him. His first principle was that the great Powers should not seek to build up military blocs or to form alliances within the area. This principle developed into what I might call an attack on the Bagdad Pact. That Pact came about, as the Committee knows, because of the threat which countries in the Middle East saw before them. The Pact is serving a good purpose, and is still in existence. It still has a part to play until the kind of stable situation which the right hon. Gentleman outlined can be achieved in the Middle East.
It is very easy to talk about the stability of the area; it is a very different thing to achieve it. However, that is the object of the meeting which we hope will take place in New York. I agree with what the right hon. Member said about there being a basis of mutual self-interest in our relations with the Middle East, on which we should try to build. It is quite true and obvious that the Arab countries want to sell their oil and we want to buy it.
The right hon. Member's next point was that, under the auspices of the United Nations, the great Powers should guarantee all the frontiers in the area, and the right hon. Member for Derby, South also referred to that. As the whole Committee 351 knows, that is the heart of the Middle East problem. What the right hon. Member has called for is a great Power guarantee. The question therefore is whether all the great Powers are in fact prepared to do this. I think this is just the sort of thing that could usefully be discussed in New York.
His next point was that we should try to facilitate the coming together—I think the words he used were "the coming together"—of the Arab States. He said that visitors to the Middle East were always shocked by the difference between the oil rich and the oil poor countries of the area. He suggested that fusion between such States would obviate this. I must say I was a little surprised that he should have mentioned the union of Jordan and Iraq as an example of how this should be achieved. He said he had recommended this sort of development to General Nuri and it seemed General Nuri took his advice. Certainly unions such as that which existed between Iraq and Jordan, peacefully arrived at, have the full support of Her Majesty's Government. What we do not want to see is that Arab countries should be brought together by violence and subversion. What we want to see is a process of peaceful co-operation for constructive purposes.
The right hon. Member's fourth point was that countries outside the Middle East should give as well as take, and he suggested that there should be some sort of economic commission that could be set up for this purpose. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Hammarskjoeld, has shown an interest in the economic problems of the area. I certainly hope that in due course some scheme can be worked out in co-operation with the Middle East countries.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
In view of the fact that the Minister has now accepted my right hon. Friend's four points, would he suggest taking him with him to be the Prime Minister's adviser?
§ Commander Noble
I have not accepted categorically the right hon. Member's four points. He said there was considerable difficulty ahead of them and I agreed with him, and I have pointed out some of the difficulties which I thought it right for me to point out.
352 When we are talking about this I do not think we should forget what has already been done by way of assistance to the Arab countries and done mainly, I think the Committee will agree, through the close ties and partnerships between the countries of the area and the more industrialised countries of the West in which the United Kingdom has played a prominent part. A major contribution has been the large sums we have subscribed to the maintenance of the Palestinian refugees to whom the right hon. Member referred. A certain amount has been done to rehabilitate and supply them, but it has been strictly limited by the political difficulties. There are more than 900,000 of those refugees and their plight has always been a matter of great concern to the Government of this country. If a political settlement in the area could contribute to the solution of this great human problem it would be very welcome to us.
Of all the countries in the Middle East, probably Iraq has made the greatest strides in the development of its economic well-being. I would say, however, that a considerable contribution to Iraq's economic progress has been made as a result of the close and friendly co-operation which Her Majesty's Government have extended to her and of the large numbers of British technicians, engineers and so on who are working in the various departments of the Iraq Government. Jordan, as the right hon. Member said, is not so happily endowed with natural resources. Nevertheless, some progress has been made towards developing the country and Her Majesty's Government have been contributing to that progress by interest-free loans ever since 1950. Hon. Members will recall that, despite the temporary difference between ourselves and the Jordan Government a little while ago, those loans have continued.
In the Persian Gulf, also, our advice encouragement and "know-how" have been at the disposal of the Gulf rulers, and Kuwait in particular has spent great sums in the improvement of the living standards of its people. I agree, therefore, with the right hon. Member that economic development is one of the keys to peace in the Middle East, but I would ask him to admit that the old system of individual or collective friendships between countries has not been entirely unfruitful in the past.
353 Finally, Her Majesty's Government are very glad that they have the support of the Opposition in this idea of a summit meeting within the framework of the United Nations. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, the method that we are suggesting is a flexible one, and is not tied to formal meetings of the Security Council. This was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South just now, and it also answers the point made, I think, by the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and also that raised by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew).
I think that my right hon. and learned Friend make it quite clear today that we did not want to build up in the United Nations a purely formal procedure of voting and resolutions, but wanted to make the whole system flexible. I myself have spent, as have some other right hon. and hon. Members on both sides, a period with the United Nations. I have been there now for two meetings of the General Assembly, and I think that it is true to say that the United Nations very often does its best work in quiet diplomacy, and not necessarily in any public forum—
§ Mr. Mayhew
I quite agree that the meetings should take place under the auspices of the United Nations, but is it proposed that the Heads of Governments should actually take part in the formal meetings of the Security Council? Is the Security Council, with its traditions of disagreement, its large, rather unwieldy numbers, and its inappropriate composition really the best possible environment for the meetings of Heads of Governments? Are private meetings the only alternative, or is there to be some special group or working party for the Heads of Governments?
§ Commander Noble
I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale put the position of his party very clearly in regard to this matter. If the hon. Member can think of any other forum under the auspices of the United Nations, it would, of course, he very nice to know; but I think that it has been made quite clear that in such a matter the Security Council can be used in a variety of ways.
354 The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) asked if this policy was an agreed one with the United States of America. I can assure him quite categorically that it is. Since he made his speech, he will probably know that President Eisenhower this afternoon put out a statement in Washington, as follows:A United Nations Security Council meeting of the character suggested by Foreign Minister Lloyd is clearly within the contemplation of the Charter. If such a meeting were generally desired the United States would join in following this orderly procedure.I might add that the Commonwealth Governments were told of our views on Mr. Khrushchev's proposal. It would be contrary to the usual practice of the House for me to make public the comments that they have made in return, and of which we have, of course, taken account in the preparation of our answer. However, I think that the House may take it that there appears to be a very substantial recognition within the Commonwealth of the desirability both of accepting any reasonable proposal for discussing the Middle East situation and also for safeguarding the position of the United Nations.
I will quote only from Mr. Diefenbaker's statement in the Canadian House of Commons yesterday, when he said:We believe a meeting is necessary at top level, and I feel, too, that the United Nations Security Council in session offers possibilities I will not elaborate at this time.Hon. Members will also have seen that Mr. Nehru, in his reply to Mr. Khrushchev has said that he would welcomea peaceful approach by negotiation in the United Nations or its Security Council or otherwise with a view to helping the United Nations to take steps to end the conflict in the Near and Middle East.Finally, we hope that Mr. Khrushchev will accept our suggestion. Mr. Hammarskjoeld has expressed his willingness to take part if there is agreement to such a meeting. I am sure that, with his assistance, and within the framework of the United Nations, there lies the best hope of an early, high-level meeting to achieve some real progress towards peace 355 and stability in the Middle East. It is, I am sure, the wish of the whole House that it may succeed.
§ Whereupon Motion made and Question, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again—[Colonel J. H. Harrison]—put and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.